Thursday, September 29, 2011

R Bole Toh Rockstar

The 18th letter of the English alphabet is a repository of more secrets than the CIA. It’s perhaps the most overlooked and under analysed subject of our times. The Japanese to this day, haven’t figured out how to utter it. Truckloads of speech therapists make truckloads of money in trying to cure Rhotacism (the technical term for imperfect pronunciation of the r-sound). Brand managers do everything in their means to acquire the ® symbol. And at least 50 countries have anchored their monetary fortunes to currencies that are in essence R-words (Rupee, Rupiah, Rouble, Riyal, Real, Ringgit & Renminbi)!

So what’s with ‘R’? Why does it dominate our lives? To get a definite answer, it’ll help to ask a few searching questions. What is the world’s most ancient text? Rig Veda. Who’s considered the father of the Egyptian gods? Ra. Who’s regarded as the Mother of Gods by the Greeks? Rhea. How have humans populated the Earth? Reproduction. How do we breathe? Respiration. What is the one faith that has been guiding billions of people over many millennia? Religion. What were rulers called in India? Rajas and Ranis. What do you call dramatic events that change the course of history? Revolutions. Which is the most popular form of government across the globe? Republic.

Some of you may be tempted to assume that I am selectively lining up words to get buy-ins for my theory that there’s something magical about ‘R’. The evidence that I am going to adduce further should hopefully seal the deal.

Which tennis player has won a record 16 Grand Slam titles? Roger Federer. Who was the first Indian to win two Oscars? Rahman. Who are the three greatest Brazilian footballers in recent times? Ronaldo, Rivaldo & Ronaldinho. Who is the superdupermegagigastar of Indian cinema? Rajinikant. Who was the first person to be named ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ twice by People Magazine? Richard Gere.

Add Rani Mukherjee, Rihanna, Rafael Nadal, Robert Plant, Roger Waters, Richard Feynmann, Ranbir Kapoor, Russell Crowe, Ratan Tata and Ridley Scott to the power-list above and you’ll understand why Revlon, Rolls Royce and Ralph Lauren are still rocking!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Charm of 3 Letters.

Andhraites are the ultimate alchemists. They are in a forever quest to turn anything into gold. Be it coal, land, power, pickle or their sesquipedalian names. Observing the man in the white shirt, white pant and matching white shoes is the easiest way to sniff the next big thing in any domain. That’s exactly how, I figured why SRK likes to be called SRK. And believe it or not, it’s got everything to do with the mystical power of the Three Letter Abbreviation (TLA)!

Late Tamilian heartthrob MGR pithily summed up the potency of the TLA with the ‘Moonrezhuthil en moochirukkum, adhu mudindha pinaalum pechirukkum’ song in the movie Deiva Thai. The everlasting spell cast by his diminutive is proof of his theory that ‘3 letters have a life beyond life’.

Perhaps Franklin Delano Roosevelt was privy to this concealed truth when he decided to milk his initials ‘FDR’ in the 1936 Presidential Election. He gave his then Republican opponent Alf Landon, a shellacking, by trouncing him with the third highest margin in a hundred years!

This insight proved very useful for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Election and no wonder he had no hesitation in switching to the more endearing ‘JFK’. His opponent Richard Milhous Nixon somehow failed to see the merit in deploying ‘RMN’ in his campaign. And may be that’s why he’s still seen as a joyless, frosty leader.

Chandrababu Naidu is guilty of committing the same error. Being the custodian of NTR’s party TDP (another three letter word), he chose to take the path less travelled. He chose to play up his full name. His opponent Y. Rajasekhara Reddy spotted the chink in Naidu’s armour and ambushed him in 2004 with YSR. The rest is itihaas.

So what’s with 3? Why are people increasingly opting for names like GMR, GVK, OLX, KKR, CSK & STR? Indian numerology offers a clue. ‘Three’ connotes planet Jupiter, the god of gods, and it stands for power, prosperity and prestige. Understandably, entities donning TLAs are cockier and are prone to mouthing the SRK punch line: Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Double Whammy With Triple X

Except for the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Rakhi Sawant, not many Indians lose sleep over their carefully-cultivated brand image. That’s why a lot of us still upload unphotoshopped, unflattering passport-size photographs with oily hair, untrimmed mousch, dishevelled shirt, plastic smile, yadda yadda yadda to matrimony sites. Looks like, we’ll have to drop our don’t-give-a-damn stance soon. Because come December 6th, the top level domain name XXX will go public.

If you’re wondering how that’s gonna affect you, consider this scenario: Let’s say you’re single and more-than-willing-to-mingle and your name is Beemboy Beemboy. For a moment, let’s also assume that you’re trying to charm a chick into saying ‘I do’. Just when you thought, you’ve impressed the girl with your hard-earned credentials and cheesy SMS-forwards, what if she decides to google you? And what if, horror of horrors, she discovers a porn site called Won’t that be a big turn off?

That’s the worry, the honchos at ICM Registry, are hoping to ride on, to milk additional revenues from the .xxx domain name. Their game plan is simple. 69% of humanity wouldn’t enjoy the prospect of being perceived as porn stars. So people would pay anything to block the possibility of perverts abusing their names!

Tapping into this insight, ICM Registry has made an offer, no one can refuse: ‘Pay up $150 to $300 and we’ll ensure no one books’ If you ignore this offer, you get jacked. If you take up the offer, you may have to cough up a few hundred bucks. Either way, the Triple X Company will guffaw all the way to the bank. And you will end up getting jibbed. Wicked trap for the aam aadmi. Wonderful business plan for a start up.

India isn’t aware of this double whammy yet. Ash wouldn’t want an right? Maya Memsaab would throw a fit if she sees na? would cause a national unrest, will it not? So my gut feel is a lot of Indians will opt for a Triple X. Even if 0.1% of our nation succumbs, ICM will pocket an orgasmic $150 Million for doing nothing!

Friday, September 9, 2011

How Tamas Became Thames.

The armchair is easily the most under-appreciated place in the world. If you ask me, I’d rate it on par with Archimedes’ bathtub, Krishna’s chariot, Newton’s Apple Tree and Siddhartha’s Bodhi.

It’s got that mystical, magical power to transform any occupant into an almost-credible theorist for a brief eternity of one minute. You hit upon the fanciest of ideas sitting there and the universe conspires to supply you with all the factoids to back your notions.

I discovered the power of the armchair recently when I was researching river names. I started with Thames in London. Many respectable and dubious sources have come to agree that the murky Thames could have flowed from the Proto-Celtic word Temeslos (meaning dark water). Now Temeslos seems like a step-brother of Latin Tamases and Sanskrit Tamas. That set me thinking. Are the Celts of Indian origin?

Take the word Druid (Celtic equivalent of the Brahmin class). It seems like a derivation from Deru (Sanskrit for tree) and Vid (knowledge). Thankfully renowned Celtic scholar Peter Berresford-Ellis shares the same view.

His extensive investigation of the similarities between the Ancient Indian and Irish tongues, points towards the possibility of a shared ancestry. For example, Budh is planet Mercury in both the lingos. The sun diety is Sulios which sounds very similar to Surya. Setu is the Sanskrit word for bridge/highway/path while Set is old Irish for road. Bhojan and fochan mean food. And Angar is Welsh for fire - doesn’t that ignite a very Hindi word in your mind?

See how our fluvial pursuits helped us meander into a large reservoir of evidence in support of our Everyone-Was-An-Indian-Once theory. That’s the beauty of the Armchair. It lets you leap into unexplored domains with just a springboard called hunch.

Let me give you one more nugget that should stir your imagination wild. Are you aware that, unknown to us, a 480-km river named Komati gushes through South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique? What’s interesting is Komati translates to ‘cow’ in the Swazi language. Doesn’t that sound like the Sanskrit Gomati? Isn’t that a strong data point to prove that my armchair theory holds water?