Monday, September 21, 2009

EID happens only in India!!!!!!!!

While in school, two of my favorite stories were Somerset Maugham’s The Luncheon and Munshi Premchand’s Idgah. I can’t remember how many times I read both of them.

Munshi Premchand was the master of understatement. His signature style was his simplicity. Idgah is the sublime story of a four year old orphan’s conquering of his temptations on the Eid day and sacrificing his idi in buying a pair of tongs for his grandmother. I can only think of ‘ The gift of Magi’ which captures the sacrifice in love so brilliantly.

Sadly in our eclectic circle we didn’t have any muslim and so till I entered college, eid was something we only watched on the television. Everything changed when a muslim friend came to live in our colony and they became family friends. Eid became as much a part of our lives as Diwali. I remember the fun we had going to his dad for Idi. He would buy some gifts for us in advance.

We used to wait for the Eid ka Chand and the subsequent declaration by the Imam of Delhi.

One Eid there was some confusion. But I was a real hog and always greedy for the tempting sheer korma. So I woke up early morning switched on the radio and rushed to their house to wish. The startled family woke up to a commotion which was rare in their house. we were summoned to get milk. The milk had vanished from the market. His father went to buy meat. We scoured the whole city and brought the milk from far. I was sitting behind on the motorcycle clutching the can like a trophy and this guy zooming like a rodeo. That evening as we sat for the meals, there was a lot of laughter. It was the most satisfying we ever had.

Later when I moved to Hyderabad, Ramzan and Eid became a big part of our social calendar. A new world of mouth watering delicacies were introduced. Haleem and nihari along with the biryanis and mirchi bhajjis became synonymous with Hyderabad. ( I was notorious because I used to remove the mirchi and eat only the fritter! My hyderabadi friends hated me for that but I cant eat Mirchi to save my life!)

We were busy during the ramzan days exploring places like the Grand Kakatiya and Hotel Viceroy. Now this hotel has been taken over by the Marriot.

Hotel Niagara also was one popular joint. But I never went there much.

Once one local friend derided us as elitist and snobs and offered to take us to the most happening place, the Charminar in Old Hyderabad. I must confess that if you discount the unhygienic conditions , it has the most delicious food available. So we carried our own water but at the last moment our defences crumbled and so got the whole thing packed and ate it at home. It was heavenly. I did eat there once though and it was heavenly. I remember once we were not in Hyderabad and while returning kept discussing about haleem in the car. Imagine when we reached the outskirts , our friend orders the driver to Charminar and as people were having their morning tea, this guy sat and ate haleem at 4 am much to our amusement.

Even the haleem packaged by pista house was a hit.

‘Tabla’ was the one to go for Biryani. I know the local hyderabadis will wrinkle their noses. But Hotel Niagra doesn’t serve Beer! On second thoughts , even Blue fox was good. To be fair enough there are so many wonderful joints , its impossible to really pick.

When I moved to UK, my neighbours were all Pakistanis. They used to send very aromatic and delicious sweet rice full of dry fruits. My mom always was scandalized. She used to warn me don’t eat their food. I must say , they were the finest neighbors we had. Ignorance breeds hatred. I once saw one Restaurant owner from Lahore who was fondly feeding a sikh youngster who had just arrived from India . Later he told me that he was from Amritsar before the partition and this youngster reminded him of his home in Delhi.
We must remember that the blood flowing in everyone’s veins is red.

Perhaps festivals could be a good way of reducing the animosity between two communities.

The delectable cuisine from the Muslim kitchen could easily warm the cockles of any Hindu’s heart just as which muslim could resist the aromas of a hindu rasoi.

I am blessed to be born in a rain bow country where every diversity vanishes in the cauldron of a unifying sheer korma.

Eid Mubarak.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I felt famished as we landed. I eyed the chipotle hungrily and ordered for one. Bread Sourdough , Chips Jalapoeno , drink – Pepsi. I couldn’t believe my ears that was me ordering. There was no way I was going to eat all that. I had never done that before.

I did. But then I could barely stand up. I wasn’t sure if I should feel happy on my achievement or feel sorry for my predicament. I had a meeting at 4.00 and all I wanted to do was sleep.

I am in Texas. Home of the lovable George Bush. You would know about him if you loved Disney.

The cab driver was a ruddy old cowboy with a hat larger than anything I had ever seen.
He tipped his hat a bit, bent his massive frame a bit more and his creased face broke into the warmest smile I had seen. He became ruddier as he smiled. I imagined a beetroot with a hat on.
I wasn’t the only one smiling though.

“ You got a strange accent there.”

“ Yes strange.”

“ strange as in?”

“ accent”

“ which country do you come from?”

“ India”

“ as in red India”

“ No as in brown India.” Fortunately the hotel wasn’t very far.

I love the hotel. Its elegant.

I showered, shaved and put on a crisp white Oxbridge shirt to go with my suit. I eyed myself critically as I knotted my tie. Must make a lasting impression.

This time Frank gave me an appreciating look.( I have my own quirks. Like to hire the same cabbie for the whole day. So Mr. Beet root has a name.)

Austin convention centre.

He looked at me incredulously. “You going there?” “yes why?” “You don’t look that type?”

“ as in?” I was learning his language fast. “Well they all are a bunch of unwashed, unkempt gangly kids there. The school going kind.”

This was weird. I thought conferences are all suit and tie affair. So what if it’s a Gaming one. Alas , Frankie was right.

They were staring at me as if I had walked into a nude beach with a tuxedo on. Wake up uncle Rip Van Rinkle. Things changed while you were sleeping.

Thank you Frankie. YOU are more my kind than THEM. so I invite him for a drink in the evening. He takes me to a charming quaint bar. More cowboy hats and ruddier faces greet me. I feel like I walked into one of my childhood favourite series Olivier Strange’s Sudden.. I am waiting for some one to pull out a revolver and shoot.
But they all are warm and boisterous. I explain to a bunch of guys my predicament since morning. Well we have an unofficial motto “ Keep Austin weird” one guy explains as they break into another round of laughter. “ welcome to Austin”. I smile. This is home territory. Anyone who drinks will understand what I mean. All the beer guzzlers are united by a common bond of brotherhood. Nothing is weird anymore. not even Big Ole frankie who gets ruddier as he drinks.

But wait. The night is not yet over. I enter the elegant hotel and meet with the charming manager. She changes my room as the internet is not working in this room. Again after another one hour I notice that the faucet is not working. She apologizes and now gives me a massive double room instead as a gesture. We can learn customer service from these guys.
This room is perfect. I set the alarm for four and go to sleep. Its been a great day.

The phone keeps buzzing gently. Far from the shrill ones when we were young. The one which made you jump out of your skin. Surprised I pick it up. As I say a sleepy hello, choicest of abuses are hurled from the other end at me for being a two timer and a jerk and then silence and then sobs. Another round of abuses as I tell her that she is talking to the wrong person. “ you a%^*&. Why didn’t you say that before?” before I could explain that she never allowed me, she slams the phone.
Its 3 am. I try to sleep again. Before I fall into the arms of Somnos, the god of sleep, the alarm goes off. Time to shower and leave. Got to catch sleep in the flight.

As I am having coffee, frank calls from the reception. I am pleased as punch. He’s bang on time.

I shut my laptop , switch off all the light and as I am leaving on an impulse return back and switch off the ac, my groggy brain too blank to realize that they will all close automatically once I remove the card. Bingo! That triggers the fire alarm making me jump a feet. I am horrified. I jab every button inside the room. Nothing happens. I rush with my things to the ground floor wary of the guests next to my room. The sound is deafening. But the reception is locked. Recession. Cost cutting. No manager in the night shifts. They only come at 7am. No security either.

Frank roars with laughter. “ This is a big hotel. Someone will take care. Let them earn their bread.”
He says non chalantly.

As we reach the airport, I offer my hand for a shake. He brushes it aside and covers me in a massive bear hug. I feel for a few crushed bones.

Its my turn to grin. I love Weird. it’s the normal that scares me.

I love you Austin.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Austerity in Gandhi Land!

Oh!East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.

Shashi Tharoor, our dapper Minister of state for foreign affairs is learning it the hard way. So while a President Obama can not only get away by calling Kanye West a Jackass, he is applauded for his wit, Tharoor finds himself in a hole because of his witty remark on twitter. He may be learning two things soon. That while Delhi chatterati twitters, they neither chat nor twitter! Confused? Well, life is more complex in Delhi than in the United Nations, Shashi!. What you see , you unsee and what you unsee is what you really see.

The other thing is that in Congress you do not joke about anything but it is ok if you yourself become a joke. Ask Abhishek Singhvi. He looks normal till he goes ballistic about his Madam Supremo. Take a look at his discussion on ibnlive. You would think that the next thing he would do is declare Madam Sonia as the Mother of the Nation.

Any normal being can see the frivolousness of Sonia’s Economy travel. It wasn’t economical by any stretch of imagination. But we can forgive Singhvi or Sonia. Maths is not their strong point. Imagine booking first two rows for her. Mama mia! You could have traveled first class lady. That would have been real austere. And if you had left the three SUVs which cost 3 lakhs in transportation! But oh security. Isn’t there a more austere thing to do. Down size the jumbo cabinet. You could have the whole jumbo jet.

Reminds me of the queen who was puzzled that why don’t her people eat cakes if bread was scarce. Way to go Sonia. Not to be outdone the baba traveled by train. I am not sure how many seats were reserved for him.

Looks like it requires more money to keep the Gandhis poor. Remember Sarojini Naidu’s immortal comment on Mahatma Gandhi’s austerity. She had commented that it requires more money to keep the mahatma poor. Things haven’t changed much.

But this is not about the Gandhis or the Congress. They both are incorrigible. But it is about a suave and educated Tharoor. Will he be removed for one silly joke which went horribly wrong?

Well he could be the latest Sacrifice on the altar of populism. Sometimes I confuse BJP and Congress these days. They look like the two sides of the same coin. Remember Jaswant singh?

There’s nothing much we can do. Jinnah would surely agree.

On a more somber note, it was sad that Patrick Swazye finally succumbed to cancer. he was not just a brilliant dancer. He was a wonderful human being too. He had an Indian connection too. He acted in ‘ The city of Joy’ and was a great friend of Om Puri.

May his soul rest in Peace.

Tail piece : some one wrote a comment in a leading newspaper that they should write only about the people he knows. This was against an article on Kanye West’s recent meltdown.
Brush up your knowledge mate! If the paper goes by your advise, the editor wouldn’t know what to do after the first half of the front page!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


No this is not about Amitabh Bachchan. He is a great star but still I am not going to build a temple for him. There are several reasons for that. It has nothing to do with his talent. He would certainly stand tall in front of a Khushboo ( no pun). But I am not from south. Again he isn’t half as sexy as Khusboo. And imagine the height of the temple to accommodate this towering man. Logistic nightmare really.!

Well this is about an unsung god. Lord Bacchus and his celebration. Why hasn’t anyone thought about it yet?

Lord Bacchus is the god of wine. I can say with confidence that he has more followers in India than any part of the world. Show me an adult who doesn’t drink and you have shown me the eight wonder of the world ( ok that’s an exaggeration).

We have often come closer to giving him the respect due. I can see bacchanalia during every procession starting from as sacred as the Ganesh immersion or as mundane as a municipality ward winners.

Think about it. What will our politicians bribe with if there is no booze. Rooh afza?

What about corporate meetings?
We tried one meeting with a client over a plate of idli and coffee. As expected the meeting finished in twenty minutes and the client insisted that he forgot his visiting card at home and that he lost his mobile in the morning. When his mobile suddenly rang, he cheerily replied, “ wow I must rush to the temple and pray. I have just seen a miracle.”

Sarat Chandra would have sold his idea of Devdas to some Punjabi writer if he had a devdas who drank lassi in the memory of his paro.
Dilip Kumar would have become Adnan Sami, before completing that movie.

Can you imagine Harivansh Rai Bachchan, that talented poet who wrote the immortal
‘ Madushala’. Would he have been able to bring out all the philosophies of life so beautifully if he had written ‘a ganne ka ras bar’ instead ?

I propose that we have something like the famous beer festival in India too.

Here's my hic hic love story. Thank you Lord Bacchus for being there whenever i need you.

Sunday Morning
Saw her at the mall.
Thousand stars sparkled even in the hot stall.

We met she smiled.
She said you are fine.
I gave her flowers; we had wine.

Tuesday evening discotheque.
Funky music but me two feet
The strobe lights on she Pranced like a deer.
I watched hypnotized and guzzled some beer.

Wednesday evening dialogues corny.
She was coy I was horny.
As night wore , we were frisky.
What better drink than a peg of whisky.

Thursday come.
All passions gone.
All serene.
We wrapped each other in our arms
And drank some gin.

Friday night.
Fcking night!
She broke my head I broke her heart.
She was teary I all pain.
The whole bar shouted champagne champagne

All alone Sunday noon. Swatting flies nothing to do.
Thinking of the past. Bloody whole week.
I wanted to cry, gimme my fun.
Drowning sorrows, coke and rum.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Go Harbhajan Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Picture this guys. There are no Harbhajans or no Shoaib Akhtars or Symonds. The teams all comprise of the Sachins and Dravids. I would rather read my moral science lesson.

Ask any kid. They love the lions and tigers in a circus. But it’s the joker who steals the show.

To be fair enough, these guys are never given their dues. They are what I would call full whole some family entertainers. Don't for a moment mistake them for ordinary cricket players!

Think about Shane Warne and his colorful antics. He was the perfect balance to the gentlemanly Kumble. What an entertaining duel!

I know a lot many will be scandalized. Cricket is a gentleman’s sport. They are role models. They should conduct themselves with dignity.

Well life is a rainbow. Imagine what would happen if you were to eat healthy organic food all your life. No chaat, no spicy pav bhaaji. Naah you say. Not possible.

So you don’t want to sacrifice your mirchi Bhajji but don’t mind crucifying our dear bhajji with a temper like a real mirchi!

Accept it guys! The most endearing image of Sourav Ganguly at the Lords was his baring his chest and spinning his shirt. But for that, I would have forgotten that match by now.

Can you ever forget Sreesant doing the Jig after hitting six against his tormentor Andre Nel.

Don’t feel sorry for the camera man. He will have his ass whooped any way. Hasn’t he heard of something called a zoom. If it is not Bhajji , there would be someone else.

Also, I have one advise to all those screaming, hysterical out of breath reporters who pretend like they have just walked out of a convent and are seeing such bad behavior for the first time. They should pay 20% of their earnings to the bad boys and girls. They would be jobless otherwise.

Imagine if there was no Rakhi Sawant.? They would have to conduct their own swayamvars and go and cook for their 9/5 working hubby.

Finally my advise to Harbhajan. You were just ok. A push is not enough.
You need some real professional help.
There’s a guy who was one up on you. Don’t go on his mad ass laughing on the Laughter Challenge show. He could kick some real ass with his bat. He answers to the name of Navjot Singh Sidhu.

And to all the detractors. Yes I adore Sachin and Dravid. But then I want Harbhajan too.

If we liked Amir Khan did we stop loving a Mogambo or a aahoooooo Shakti Kapur!
Grow up guys. These tabloids too have to make a living. So they will keep fingering all the bad boys.!

Loosen your belt, remove your shows, get out your popcorns and watch the fun. The sky isn’t falling.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

To Sir with love.

Today is the teachers day. Wonder how many people remember that? Wouldn’t blame them though. Now we almost celebrate everyone’s day.

But push your valentine for a moment and give this soul some space.

The teacher leaves behind an indelible mark on us. ask me!I can slide my hand inside my pant and feel. The marks are no longer there. but I can still feel the pain!

We belong to the era when it was not fashionable to spare the rod.

Each teacher had his own school of thought. But they all agreed on one point. The only way these brats could be disciplined was by being generous with the cane.

Well all teachers weren’t so predictable. Some were quite innovative.

Some progressive and technologically advanced believed in missiles. My Maths teacher used to throw duster if he heard even a whisper from any direction. The students soon became adept in ducking. Some became good catchers too. Wish our cricket players had such teachers!

I did my initial schooling from St.Johns’. The father there was an environmentalist. He didn’t believe in tampering with nature. So the use of scale or duster was kind of anathema to him. He had , what then was called a ‘tappu’ a long swinging bulbous weapon which he tapped on the head leaving the victim teary eyed. Mother nature was a cohort too.

Then there was one sadist. He used to insert a pencil between two fingers and give the fingers a squeeze. The shrieks of the hapless student were enough to scare the day lights of the other students. No wonder, his assignments were always submitted on time.

I remember a pretty teacher who unfortunately had to teach our class as her first assignment. Bad luck for her. It was the most notorious class. She was a very sweet and kind hearted lady. Maybe she was warned in the teachers’ room to carry a scale.

But when the time came to use it, her hands faltered. She gave a kiss of the scale on one of our class mate’s hands leaving the class rolling on the floor. Soon this news spread in the school. Today I can imagine the torment she must have gone through. For once even our Principal couldn’t hide his smirk when he came to our class to advise us.

If someone thinks that these teachers were the watered version of Atilla the hun, you have another think coming. They were the most kind hearted and dedicated people I have ever seen. I can say they did a very good job. If there are some lacuna, the fault is totally ours.

I remember how when I had to return to my old school mid term and the new principal refused to accept my application asking me to return in the next year, my chemistry , English and biology teacher went in a delegation and convinced him. To top it, my chemistry teacher even got me scholarship so I didn’t pay any fees for the last two years of my school. Teachers , I bow my head.

I was away from home for my last two years of school. I was almost adopted by the teachers there. They were my parents, my guides my everything. Much to my embarrassment, the home science teacher often brought lunch for me and made me sit and eat in the teachers room. I used to shudder because it used to be followed by a lot of ragging from my class mates. Sissy boy!

I once met my vice principal after a span of almost ten years in a book store while I was buying books for my nephew. As I bent down and touched his feet , he was visibly moved. He wanted to say a lot, but just a few tears rolled. I too drove back home misty eyed.

The exigency of work , the pressures of modern life and sheer laziness; I have practically lost touch with my class mates. We didn’t have the benefit of internet then. No emails. It was still old fashioned post cards. We weren’t different than the youngsters of today. We never wrote to each other.

One old friend somehow reached me after almost twenty years! the first thing he shared was that our Physics teacher came to attend his wedding and he was the most important guest for him.

Immediately after my mother’s death, my sister was unable to teach her students. I taught them for a month. When I was leaving for USA, a shy teenager came and presented me a clock. It had four simple words. “ To Sir with love.”

That was the best gift anyone had ever given me. even today it sits proudly on my table.

I can never claim that I was as good a teacher as my teachers. But it still felt good.

Wish I could roll back the time and do the same for my teachers too. Tell them that our wickedness didn’t mean a thing and that you were the best thing that happened to us.

Alas! His clock has only one direction. It only moves forward.

All I can do is rub my seat and remember the indelible mark they left.

Teachers ! You are priceless. May you live long!

(Yes I know the Title says Sir but doris day looked so pretty.couldn't resist!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mafia wars - facebook else face the book!

It is one of the most popular game on Face book.
“ Start a Mafia family with your friends, run a criminal empire and fight to be the most powerful family.” Screams the heading. I was first introduced to it by a friend. It has die hard fans all over the world. On last count they must be numbering close to 20 Million!
Somehow I just avoided it. Its very time consuming. And very competitive.
I left competitive sports when I was 15 years old. When my ass was whooped by a 14 year old in a badminton zonal competition and my class mates, who came to cheer me, were so ashamed of me that they pretended they were from his school and started cheering him of them was my girl friend.
The position at the top can be very lonely. Ask Roger Federer. Or Raphael Nadal.
It can be very lonely at the bottom as well. Ask me!.
But crime doesn’t pay. It needs no Albert Einstein to understand it.
To become a Don, you need two things. The brain the size of a lima bean.
Two as Don Vito Genovese would say, “ balls!”
I positively failed on the second count. The first I hopefully did too.
I may now be searching for a rental apartment every month, but thankfully my address wouldn’t ever read Chanchal Guda or Tihar Jail or some county jail!
Why do the rich commit crime?
There are three most compelling reason for crimes. Money, Power and sex.
To me the most compelling one is money. money brings an illusion of power. Power brings in the abuse of sex.
The fourth reason could be self destruction.
Three Indians. All in different parts of the world. All three rich. (One perhaps a tad too rich.) all drunk in their power and over confidence.
Ramalinga Raju , one of the top CEOs. Shiny Ahuja,( A budding talent. I recently saw the movie Metro. He did a fine job in it). Anand Jon, a mover and shaker. A budding fashion designer. Had Paris Hilton and Oprah as his client.

What did they lack? perhaps their lima beans had shrunken further. Or perhaps they took their Mafia war game too seriously!

One rapes his company, the other his maid and the third anything that wears a skirt and walks on two legs! why is common sense so rare?

The irony is that Anand Jon’s sister wants the Indian government to intervene. He has been sentenced to 59 years for sex crimes. Some of his victims were even minors as alleged. Wonder how would the government proceed?
Borrow Jesus ? “ Father ! forgive them for they do not know what they do!”

I don’t know whether the officials in the Ministry Of External affairs have heard of Mafia games. But if I were them, I would have preferred playing this rather than the real thing. Its easy defending a criminal on the facebook than in real life.

My friends and fans of the Mafia wars. Hope you create your empire only on the board.