Friday, December 31, 2010

This New Year .......

The scene from the corridor where I sit now is panoramic. Its lush green wherever your eyes can see. It is a sight for sore eyes and tired limbs. I feel invigorated here.

My blog is screaming for attention. I haven’t written anything for long.

I have been ordered by a few diligent fans to write something. One could be coincidence, two could be a remarkable coincidence but three! Let me flatter myself and wallow in a sense of importance. Readers do miss me. Their wish is my command.

This was a totally unplanned hiatus. My delightful English teacher would describe me and planning as oxymoron. (God bless her soul. If she were alive she would have used a hardworking PM as an example) But I had lost my creative juices. I try to find them in this serene greenery. I adore this place. I keep pinching myself to see if I am still alive or am in heaven.God let me die here.

Since yesterday I am barraged by one question. Where am I celebrating the new year! The project team from Bangalore were in a hurry to return last night in time to join the revelry. I let them go. I knew my staff wouldn’t like to waste their evening with me.

So I was treating my staff for a lunch and packing them off early. One precocious kid asked where I would be celebrating. I countered him with how do they celebrate. he said we will drink. I said I drink every day. he said we will eat out. I said I do it every day. he gave up. I know they think I am weird. They haven’t seen a guy who lives on bread, cakes and biscuits, drinks black tea and listen to strange sounding music.

Last evening I went down to check my gas bank and as I was crossing the cellar I saw a young construction worker sitting alone. My apartment owner is coming up with one multiplex and a shopping complex . so there are a lot of construction workers around. So coming back to this young man, he had hurt his foot. A carelessly thrown nail. We aren’t very particular about health and safety in india. he was down but not out. He was still grinning. He looked at my bottle. I was carrying a mineral water bottle. I felt guilty. I asked him if he wanted a drink. He said yes. I went to my apartment and brought some cookies and bananas for him. The sunshine paled in front of his large grin. He spoke halting hindi. I asked him where he came from . ‘ Chikamagalur’. He asked me if I knew it. I answered yes. PM Indira Gandhi represented it. he didn’t know. I wouldn’t blame him he was only 19. I asked him if he knew who was the PM now. He didn’t know what was a PM. he asked me what does he do. I cynically replied nothing. He missed my sarcasm.

Now as I sit here I think about the new year eve. I suddenly get an idea.
I go down the cellar and meet this kid. I ask him what he likes. ‘ Fish’ he grins. Which one. ‘ Bangda’.

Great. I tell him. Join me for dinner.

I call one of my staff and ask him to get me some nice fried Bangda and any other fish. He suggests angel. The rice that they eat here is different. I tell him to get that as well. he looks at me strangely. I ignore it. some bananas please. Anything else? 100 pipers. I change my mind. Blenders pride will do.

So here I am now . waiting for my guest. There will be no music. No candle light. We shall have no champagne. We may perhaps sit on the floor and eat. I will try eating rice with my hands.

By the time the celebrations reach its crescendo, the only music I would hear would be my snoring. But I don’t care. I had quite a few wild new years in my life. I always woke up with a hangover. This time I am sure I would wake up with a different kind of hangover.

Here’s wishing my dear readers a very happy and a prosperous new year. May your life be filled with happiness and sunshine.

And to those lovely people who still read my posts, drive safe, wear helmets and if you are walking , be sure to use a pavement. You guys are precious.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Of Bats and batting.

This has been one batty week.

Today early morning we had an unusual visitor. It must have been around five am. I was working on my laptop when there was a knock on my door. Young Tony’s mother appeared pretty nervous.

“ There’s an animal in the sink in the kitchen.”

I was surprised. We live on the second floor. Which animal could possibly enter the house.

As I went inside the kitchen, I closed the door behind me so as to not allow this visitor to enter the house.

At first he looked like a frog. I picked up the broom and thought I would pack him in a paper bag and drop him in the park. But as soon as the broom touched , he let out a gentle squeal and then spread its wings. I almost jumped out of my skin. There lay a cute baby bat all furry and vulnerable with both its wings spread.

It was still alive. So now how on earth was I supposed to see it off?

The bats traditionally have poor eyesight. They navigate themselves by a process called echolocation whereby they emit sonar waves and navigate according to the echo they receive from any obstructing object.

I know very little about bats. But the baby looked very delicate. I was afraid that I might hurt it. So I tried some gentle prods. But the baby stuck to the basin with its wings. it was almost like it glued itself.

I tried all I could but it just wouldn’t move. I went and brought Tony’s encyclopedia. Maybe I would get a clue. As I sat on the floor adjusting my glasses, I suddenly saw two dust pans inside the closet. Eureka! I got a brain wave. Maybe I could somehow pick it in the pan. It was plastic, so wouldn’t harm the baby.

I tried using one. But the baby was adamant. The wings just didn’t lift.

I thought maybe I could lift both the wings together. Then the bat would be helpless. So I took both the pans and gently eased it below both the wings at a time.

The bat squealed once, scaring me again. They have a very sharp pitched voice. Did I hurt it?

After a few minutes I tried again. Gentle yet firm. Suddenly I succeeded. The baby was now trapped between both the pans. It screamed again. But now I knew. It was more of a cry of frustration.

I opened the door of the balcony and released it. It flew away with one graceful flutter.

That reminds me of another dominating bat, this one on the field. Will we soon forget the sublime and mellifluous batting of VVS Laxman against the onslaught of the resolute Aussies? It was an innings of great character, courage and theatre. It has brought viewers back to cricket. It was such a tense match, I must consider myself lucky to have survived the excitement.

Unfortunately VVS is the most underrated batsmen. I remember Alan Border’s comment when he was dropped once. “ Wow ! You must be truly having an amazing batting line up to drop such a player.” But then our selectors play their own little games. These games are definitely not called Cricket.

Just like the CWG officials. Those corrupt men understand the psyche of the Indian people. Give them a spectacular and dazzling opening and closing ceremony and play on their patriotism. No one will really worry about the silly games!

Sweeten the bitter pill. Its easy to swallow .Corruption will bury itself in one of the big gaping ditch still left uncovered from the sham called construction.

. No wonder no corrupt politician is ever punished. I can hedge a bet on that.

Next week is Manipal again. A snag in the vehicle made me cancel today. Got barely five working days before the festival of Dusehra.

Going down to the wire! Hope the good man doesn’t finish last.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Yin and Yang of it.

I do not know what will be the Ayodhya verdict. I am not even sure how the country will react? But I do know that it cruelly cut short my idyllic visit.

There were two school of thoughts. Some friends said that I was too inconsequential for anyone to harm me. I agreed. But others said that the frenzy of a mob doesn’t discriminate. So don’t take a chance. I agreed to that too.

But it isn’t a pleasant feeling to come back leaving your work half done. I left Manipal praying that things are good and I can return soon.

Manipal is a remarkable city built around the dreams and vision of one single man. I cant think of any other city with so many class educational institutions built with the vision of one single man. Its reputation brings an amazingly diverse student population from across the world. Old Mr. Pai can rest in peace. He did a good job.

There is something very endearing about Karnataka. The people are very charming and hospitable. I remember the last time I had stayed in Karnataka. It was another lovely town, Mysore. The year was perhaps 2008.Onal was doing her MBA and she wanted me to visit it once before she graduated.

Bengalaru is notorious as far as the traffic goes. It took me more than an hour to simply move out of the airport. Onal warned me not to take a taxi to mysore but board the bus as it would move faster. Smart advise. But I reached around midnight tired and hungry.

As I was checking in the hotel, the kind receptionist enquired if I had eaten anything. I told him that I was so tired that I wouldn’t mind a drink even if I had to go hungry. He apologized and said that their restaurant and bar was closed. My bad luck. I just grinned and said. He asked me to wait. He talked to the kitchen, I guess ,and told him that he had a guest from north and requested him to help. The man on the other side too was a thorough gentleman. He cheerfully obliged. I slept happily well fed. That is Karnataka for you. They would go the extra mile to help. I found the same hospitality here.

Coming to Manipal, it is a modern town yet uncorrupted by traffic and pollution. The eclectic crowd gives it a very cosmopolitan look. Yet it doesn’t have the ugliness of a large city.

The students are an active lot. I learnt it the hard way. A localite advised that ‘ The Blue water’ was the best bar in town. I decided to unwind there. Imagine my surprise when I found that the whole bar was reserved by some student’s community! That night all the bars had the same story. Finally I was banished to the annexe of the bar. A small room but very elegantly done. The good thing was that I had it whole to myself! The Yin and the Yang. The Chinese philosophy. The good and bad are two aspects of a single reality. How true!

I missed out the beach because it was raining. There is an added attraction to Manipal. Goa is hardly six hours from there. We have our roots in Goa. Its been a while since I have visited the Mangeshi temple, our Kul Devata ( the guardian God of our clan!). Perhaps I would be lucky enough to visit the next time.

Lata Mangeshkar, the melody queen is 81. She was everywhere on the television giving interviews. I was totally charmed. So much achieved and yet so modest. She has an aura which is hard to explain. There are so many octogenarians who look so graceful even now. I am sure they will bury us before they die.

Its all about Yin and Yang. They have more of Yang and less of Yin. I have more of Yin and less of Yang. Or is it the other way?

( Probably I must stop eating Chinese food! )

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Then and Now.

How time flies! For me it flew faster than the plane I shall be boarding soon!

A very loyal reader has complained that I did not write anything on the Ganesh Puja this time. My sincere apology lady. But you will agree that unlike a cat, I do not have nine lives. I had squeezed out every ounce of experience about the various Ganesh Pujas in my life in one previous post and I doubt if there was anything new to add. But your wish is my command. So I am uploading a picture I took from the gallery of our apartment.

I looked at the merry dancers and marveled at their high energy. God is omnipresent and omniscient. He wouldn’t mind my not being in the procession. So I seek my blessings from the comfort of my home. Farewell, Lord. We eagerly await you next year.

The immersion or the Ganesh Visarjan as we call, has always been my favorite because I had got the chance to hold the hand of my first crush when I was lost in the crowd when I was a ten year old and this girl,accompanied by her parents, too was following the procession. She spotted me and held my hand! How I had prayed that the procession never ended and I was never spotted by my parents! The procession ended but the memory stayed.

Today the only hands I get to hold is maybe an old lady needing help to cross the road.

Development need not always be good. At least for a maverick like me. I find this whole air travel an affront to the joy of travel. Give me the old fashioned train travel any day. Train was so much fun. The joy of planning, the eager wait, the avalanche of human beings when the train arrived and then the long laidback travel. Reading novels and magazines, munching snacks and listening to music till sleep took over. Mumbai was where my business took me the most.

I remember the Grand Hotel and its large tubs.It used to be so relaxing to soak in the nice warm bath and feel all the muscles loosen. We joked that we should keep the door of the bath open else we could die if we slipped in it with no one to help us get out.

Getting down at the VT station and walk till the hotel was so much welcome after a long travel. A quick shower , break fast at the udipi and off to work. After finishing the work, we would explore the city. Distances were never a problem. We would travel from one end to the other. Signing off at night meant fruit juice at Haji Ali and back even if we were at Nariman point or santa cruz. Didn’t matter.

In the last one year, I went to all the major cities- Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and now Bengalaru. Alas, all my favorite cities. Lots of happy memories attached. But each time it was just going by one flight and returning by another with a lunch thrown in. It really didn’t matter which city you were in since all you saw was the interior of some hotel.

Today was no different. I am sitting in the airport lounge in Bengalaru and thinking wistfully of Brigade road and the popular pubs and the lovely restaurants on MG Road. I have even forgotten the names. Its been so long. Never thought time would be at such a premium.

The boarding announcement has been made and I have to sign off. Tomorrow off to the serene and pretty Manipal, Karnataka, the educational city. This would be my first time and am naturally excited. I have the whole weekend in that idyllic place. No rush rush .I am so happy. Heard so many good things about the scenic beauty there. I cant wait.

Sister warned me to be careful as the Ayodhya verdict is due tomorrow. Does it matter any more? why are we in such a time warp? we are marching towards prosperity. why squabble over petty issues?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A date with Happiness!

What is true happiness? Wallowing in worldly comforts and living in an artificial utopia or minimal existentialism in the lush green nature?

This weekend experience was such that I was led to delve myself into this exaggerated philosophical drivel.

It was a spur of the moment decision. We were sitting and having our customary drink in the evening. Friday was a holiday. Saturday was Ganesh puja and Eid and Sunday was ,well, Sunday. The million dollar question was what do we do.

Suddenly a friend remarked why don’t you guys go to Srisalem. I had only a fleeting idea about it. But the moment I googled it I became hooked. The friend did warn that getting accommodation may not be easy and it would be prudent to book the Tourism guest house. Alas, when we called them, it was booked till Sunday.

But I was now hell bent. The lush jungles had captivated my heart. It is biggest tiger reserve in the country. I was willing to sacrifice anything to be in that natural habitat.

Srisalem is a sleepy little town about 250 kms from Hyderabad. It is famous only for its shiva temple. naturally only vegetarian food is served. The food is delicious but brace your self for some real spicy stuff. I could have done with a little less!

For the nature lovers, this trip is absolutely a resounding yes. Rains bring out the best in the nature. It has a very well fed and rich look. The green is a typical lush which can be seen only in the rainy season.

We were unlucky in that we didn’t spot any tigers. But monkey we did in dozens. There is also a deer sanctuary. You are allowed to feed them leaves which are sold by a young child for Rs.10 a bunch. Tony, our eight year old hero couldn’t feel satisfied. He must have purchased at least ten till the deers got bored. The monkeys got all our bananas apart from the peanuts that we purchased specially for them.

It’s a pleasure to watch the deers stand up lazily and come majestically to pick the leaves as if they are obliging you with a huge favor.

There was a bunch of godmen there. We definitely didn’t want to look racist or discriminating . So gave them a 100 bucks too. They all raised their hands in blessings. It was a picturesque moment. A dozen smiling , weather worn ,saffron robed men with snow white beard and long snowy tresses, their hands raised in unison. Unfortunately I missed it. That is the only picture which is hazy. Maybe they want you all to spend your money to admire it! That is why we call them god men!

The dam may not be very large (We have seen Bhakra Nangal before.) But it is captivating. I can even now close my eyes and feel the soothing gossamer spray of the water vapors against the skin.

The only downside is that there are not many hotels. Apart from the tourism hotel which is good, there are two other ones. But getting a/c room is impossible because of the queue. These run on donations and naturally the donors get priority.

I suggested we go to the forest. There are very pretty cottages in the forest too. But again even they were all booked. Finally we had to do with a very basic room inside the holy city of Srisalem. That too because we were Brahmins! Never knew that my caste would ever come to my rescue! Next time I may even try it in Boston. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase ‘ The Boston Brahmins’.

There is magic in the air which I think can be captured better by the pictures rather than by my slip shod prose. But if even they feel to capture the essence, remember, they were captured by me! it still doesnt take anything away from that paradise.

All I can say is that I plan to go much prepared next time I visit India and spend at least a week in the wilderness. This time I shall be careful to book the Air conditioned cottage.

After all there can be nothing more pleasing to the ears than the hissing of an a/c along with the chirping of the birds and a drink in hand would be better than two in the bar in Hyderabad.

And that drivel about minimal existentialism. Let us let it remain a drivel!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Through the Prism of an eight year old Picasso


I have known this artist for the last eight years. He is my favorite. Though I don’t know much about art but I rate him higher than Picasso. Picasso can never reach the heights this artist can. He can climb to the top of the hillock and leave me panting behind.

He is quirkier than M.F Hussain. While Hussain prefers walking bare feet, this artist prefers running around buff naked after his shower.

He has held no exhibitions so far. His art doesn’t sell for millions. But the happiness he provides is worth a million bucks.

He doesn’t carry any baggage. When I was booking my ticket for going back to USA, he requested me to stay back for the Ganesh Puja. When I shook my head, he bribed me with this wonderful sketch of Lord Ganesh. How could I say no!
It doesn’t matter if the cow is not red or the tortoise is not green. His is. That is final.

His interpretation is what matters. So when Lord Vishnu blesses his disciples, you can actually see the aura.

He has a hundred questions. Why do I need to go to USA? Don’t I have money ? he feels I am lying because he has checked my purse. It has enough to buy his cookies and candies. That is more than enough.

I promised him that when he grows up, we will hold his exhibition. He doesn’t know what is an exhibition. So I explain that lot of people will admire them. But he says he doesn’t keep them. He gifts them to his friends who make paper planes when they are bored with them.

So we buy him a file. He promises to draw many more till I return next year and save them in his file.
I am not sure whether he will sustain his interest next year. He has too many diversions. He loves dancing. Karate, playing organ. He is learning Spanish. Maybe next year there will be something else.

But I have to keep my promise. So Querido Tony ( his friends think that Tanmay is too long. So now he is Dear Tony!) I dont know what the future holds for you. but today let's celebrate your immense talent in a modest way.
With love and un abrazo ,
from your loving Tio ( That’s uncle in Spanish).

Friday, September 3, 2010

They save their Butts, we ours.

What a week!

Poor Salman Butt. He is smart. He is articulate. He is tainted. Only he is born in Pakistan If he was born in India he would now be an MP.

Better still, if he was Italian , he could have been elected unopposed as President of the largest party of India. So much for democracy!

Sonia Gandhi thanked her party men for electing her unopposed. Lady you can have all the party you want, but show me if there are any real ‘ men’ in your party!

The Janmashtmi was celebrated with its gaiety and fervor. There were dahi handi competitions everywhere. There was staggering money to be won.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad has announced the highest cash prize of Rs 65 lakh. Awhad's arch-rival, Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik's Sanskruti Yuva Prathishtan will give away Rs 55 lakh, of which Rs 25 lakh will be handed over to govindas forming the 10-tier pyramid. Congress leader Ravi Phatak's Sankalp Prathishthan has also announced a total cash prize of Rs 25 lakh. NCP leader Devram Bhoir has announced a cash prize worth Rs 10 lakh.
I have one suggestion though. Instead of the dahi handi hang the corrupt officials of the CWG. With their coats and pants full of money ,more money would fall even if the Govindas are able to shake them.
I was chatting with a friend yesterday and he asked me why didn’t I comment on either the CWG or the match fixing. There is nothing to comment really.
We take hypocrisy to the level of art and shake our sanctimonious heads at the brazen corrupt Pakistan coolly forgetting our own humongous scams. What will happen?
Nothing much . There would be another edition of IPL.
The CWG will come and go. Lots of money would be pumped in the opening and the closing ceremonies. No one would even bother about the games. The games would be declared successful.
The government would pat its own back. The great scam forgotten.
Pakistan would go in somewhat similar lines. Blame India.reject the proofs. pictures can be morphed. our guys are clean. Pat on our back.
Pakistan would save their own Ejaz Butts and Salman Butts. The Indian Government would save Kalmadi’s Butt.
The channels would have found something more exciting and spicy.
Life would go one as usual. We are Teflon coated. Nothing really sticks.
Not even corruption. However brazen.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green with envy.

I love the rains. Travelling in this season can be very painful as well as a very pleasant experience. Painful with all the potholes and traffic jams and pleasure to see the mother nature at its resplendent best. The greenery and the sudden burst of colors is a treat for the sore eyes.
It has always been my fantasy to live in such greenery far from civilization and the madding crowd. I am glad I could live it for at least a day.
Yesterday we went to a client’s upcoming unit which is about a hundred miles from the city. the road was lined with some remarkable trees. The emerald green grass, the black ominous clouds and the empty roads with a serenity, not found in the cities, created magic.
My friends suggested that we could stop somewhere on the road side dhabas for our lunch. I wasn’t that hungry. Suddenly I saw this pretty dhaba and screamed to the alarmed driver to stop. He was driving at a whopping 120 kms/hr. I am sure he cursed me under his breath as the car lurched to a stop.
It was my lucky day. appropriately even the Dhaba was called Lucky.
Earlier dhabas were food joints on the road specially meant for the lorry drivers. No chairs or tables were laid . instead you had charpoys made of jute where the drivers could rest till their food was prepared. Then a wooden plank was laid on the charpoy itself on which the food was served.
It used to be a very basic food joint. But the food served was hot and fresh. The funny part was when the driver and cleaner ordered tea. They ordered ‘ ek paav’ or ‘ adha kilo’ which meant that the tea was brewed in that much milk. No water was mixed. Difficult for someone like me who drinks black tea but people swear that it was the best tea they had ever had.
Over the years, the concept of dhaba has changed. Its not mere cosmetic changes, but even the clientele changed. In Hyderabad specially , they are now like family outings with camels, horses, henna, tattoes and other entertainment for the kids. Gone are the days when liquor meantt some earthy Bonny Scott or Aristocrat whisky was available. Now one can get premium scotch there.
Now coming to this ‘ Lucky Dhaba’, it was like walking into a veritable park. The walkway was a square with a beautiful fountain in the centre. The walkway was lined with ornamental hedges. The inside was lush green with Burma grass. There were separate green and white cottages with clean tables laid in.
That the food was delicious was a bonus.
But I just loved the day in the midst of such greenery. Everything looked so serene and happy.
I could swear that even the trees were smiling.
sadly all the pictures I took inside the Dhaba were shaken.Good in a way.

It will help retain some of the mystique!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When the Gods ran out of Cats and Dogs

3.30 am. I woke up with a start. The rains have come in torrents. The sound of the rain drops falling on the roof top is magnified at night. I looked out . couldn’t see much . its darker than what it normally looks like. I have a glass of water and try and to sleep.
4.00 a Once again shaken out of my slumber. This time it’s a ear shattering lightning. My friend too comes out of his room. we settle for a warm cup of tea. We go down for a walk in the corridor. The rain is incessant. It is all kittens and puppies yet. We try once again to steal a few more winks.
5.00 am. the door bell rings with a bit of an urgency. Strange. We never have a visitor at this ungodly hour. it is the milk man. He informs that the water level is rising in the cellar and if we have a car, to remove it from there. my friend and I rush.
We have a feeling that we are in Mumbai instead of Hyderabad. This is unprecedented.
As we reach the cellar, we retract our steps. the water has risen in cellar till the first step. All the cars are submerged in water. A few motorcycles are floating.
The water is is knee deep and muddy. We are worried about infection. But there is no option. The water level has reached the door. it takes some effort to open the door. but as soon as it opens, water gushes in. luckily the car starts in the first try.

5.30 am The situation is a bit chaotic now. Worried families are trouping in. the kids are enjoying. One man is complaining about the security and how they are useless and need to be changed. I know by the time his car has reached the safety of the road, he would soon forget about the security. India manages to go unchecked from one scam to another because of this mentality. The same government is elected again and again even though it is corrupt, ineffective and irresponsible.
A man is taking pictures. That gives me the inspiration. But the first step is to ensure that our car is out of the cellar.
My friend asks me to get a mug to remove the water. I get an opportunity to bring the camera.
It is dark. The pictures aren’t clear. The roads are also not visible as we see cars half immersed. The community has first class drainage. They fail because of the fury unleashed. When the nature gets angry, there isn’t much you can do.
6.00 am we go up, clean ourselves and try to sleep once again. The door bell rings. It’s the security informing us about the rain. They are like the police men in the bollywood movies. Always reach the site of the crime late. We thank him. My friend says it no use trying to sleep. So we venture out of the community. The main road is flooded. The cars are wading. We take a few more pictures. They do not look as dramatic now. The power has been switched off. there is nothing we can do. We decide to go to office early.

8.00 We wade to the office. The floor is soggy. I have a meeting. I am worried about my shoes and shirt.

8.20. need not worry any more. The car is stuck in the middle of the road. I have to go and push it. I remove the shoes and keep it on the seat since the floor is all wet. we plan to send the car for servicing.It feels more like a raft.
Good bye clean shirt. Forewarned is forearmed. There is a fresh one in the bag. Now only if we can reach office!

A lesson learnt. I always complain that Hyderabad is not a 'happening city' and that I dont have much to write. But I wouldn’t want another such adventure again.
Its better to be alive and blogless!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And the Indian Idol is ...... Amitabh Bachchan!

“ Uncle did you vote for Sreeram?” This was from a nine year old today morning when dropping Tanmay to his school. This summed up the mood. A state' upset last year because their favourite Karunya lost the race as there was not much awareness, and hence not much voting, came back with a vengeance.

Most of the Telugu channels were continuosly appealing to all its audience to support Sreeram. Our community had also a notice near the lift requesting everyone to send their vote. They had arranged for a giant tv screen showing the live show.

And when he won, was there a celebration! The whole Hyderabad erupted in joy. He was the first Winner from south. Is this the beginning of a more pan India appeal? (But should the winners be declared based only on voting? will the real winner always win? Your guess is as good as mine.)

Sreeram was a worthy winner. He should have won even without such a concerted campaigning. I haven’t watched the show much because of the timings.
But Sreeram shone through the crowd. He has made our city proud. Well done.!

We were able to watch only the end of the show as there was no power for most of the evening. It was raining mighty cats and dogs the whole evening. When the power came, the TV was on. So we just surfed out of habit before switching off. Boy. It was worth it.

To me the star of the show was none other than Amitabh Bacchhan. And not because he is the Big B. I was floored by the way he prepares himself and comes for any show and the dignity with which he conducts himself.

When requested to come and say a few words on stage, he recited a poem he had written specially for the occasion. As most of the readers may know, his father the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a great poet. He wrote the evergreen ‘ Madhushala’. I love it because I had won first prize in school for reciting it. This poem that AB wrote, used the same template. Wonder where does he get all the time. It was remarkably fluent. I have seen and heard him on many occasions and his preparations come across as truly professional. There is always a lot of thought that goes into his speech.

His modesty, too, is truly awe inspiring.

When Sreeram was lost for words, he went and wrapped his arms around his shoulders and helped him give a thanksgiving speech.What a man! They don’t make people like him any more.

To me he is the real Indian Idol!

Another show that caught my attention was again a snippet that we were able to catch just at the end of the show. There is a children’s music show where kids from India and Pakistan come together. A kid from Pakistan , who wasn’t even aware that there is a language called marathi, not only learnt the lyrics but sang the song in chaste marathi much to the delight of the Judge Legendary singer Asha Bhonsle. His diction was perfect and so was his singing. Real talent that one.

The PM’ independence speech didn’t disappoint.
He was truly uninspiring and boring. What a waste of talent.
Whoever said, truly talented men seldom make great Prime Ministers ( me I guess!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should we even celebrate Independence day?

Tomorrow is Independence day, a day for the illusionists. The government, like David Blaine, would try to create an illusion of well being against the backdrop of corruption of unbelievable proportion, rising prices, uncontrolled violence and inefficient governance.
The spin doctors in the congress are better in spinning than even our spin bowlers. But even they would find it hard to look convincing with a PM who can even put coffee to sleep.
India Today has come up with an opinion poll which shows that only 1 % people support the PM. show me those 1% and I will show you the reason why we have bad governments year after year. ( I was proud to see that most citizens considered Dr. Abdul Kalaam as their role model)
So is there really anything to celebrate? should we then put an end to this farce of celebrating our Independence day?
My answer is a resounding no. here is the reason why.
Long back I was in Lome, the capital of Togo, a small country in West Africa. My escort had done a real good job. So I wanted to take him for a drink.
I was shocked ,though, when they stopped him at the entrance of a five star hotel. No natives allowed. I pleaded in vain. Finally, we went to an African joint. The locals there were shocked to see a foreigner. But when my escort explained, there was a big cheer. I had a great time there and came out glassy eyed with all the beer those kind hearted people offered.
This story becomes poignant when you are celebrating your Independence day.
We may have many drawbacks. There’s a lot which needs to change. But thank our stars. We are free.
I am unhappy with my government. But I have freedom to protest. I can write whatever I want. I only understood the value of it when I went to Africa and saw what was happening in Kenya or Togo or Zimbabwe. Later when I went to Venezuela, I felt the same gratitude for living in a free country. one word against Chavez, the dictator, and you will be arrested.
But are we really free? No we aren’t. What does freedom mean to me?
For me freedom means being free from poverty, free from hunger, free from disease and free from illiteracy.
We are angry today. But does our anger give us the freedom to act irresponsibly.
Freedom brings responsibilities . My dad was smart. We never had any restrictions when we were growing. But we never ever crossed our limits. Not because we were angels. Far from that . we were little devils willing to try anything out. But every time we tried to say sneak out for a movie, or smoke with friends or had booze parties, some where something tugged at our heart strings.
We were outsmarted by a wise man I guess!
If it worked in a home, why cant it work in a country. if we are unhappy with a government, we have the option of choosing another one. Violent protests or trolling on the internet is definitely not the answer.
We got our independence thanks to the sweat and blood of a lot of people. we are where we are today because of the hard work of a lot of people.
The architects of our nation, the planners , the builders, our able defence officers , scientists, sportsmen , musicians, writers, actors and above all the unsung heroes, the common men and women of the country.
They withstood hardships, they withstood attacks but never gave up.
We bow our head to all.
Does that mean I will listen to our PM’s Speech. Yes I would. But only late in the night.
I am an insomniac. As I said , he can put even coffee to sleep.
Let him at least earn a day’s wage. Sounds cruel? It is the sad truth.
I am an atheist. But when I see this government, I want to believe in the power of God. It is His benevolence that we are still alive!

Greetings to all. Happy Independence day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slurp, Burp and be happy! Nothing is rude.

I was on the morning Kingfisher flight to Mumbai yesterday. Must admit that Kingfisher is reinventing the culinary offers on a flight and trying out new things in a very creative way taking care of the local tastes into consideration. Since we were leaving Hyderabad ,it was sambhar vada for breakfast.
The aroma of the delightful sambhar excited my fellow traveler, a garrulous and portly businessman from Chennai . “ I love to eat with my hand.” He said sheepishly. “ Somehow I don’t feel like I have eaten when I eat with fork and spoon.” I smiled. I have lived long in Hyderabad to understand that.
He enquired how I managed in USA. I assured him that even Americans eat fried chickens with their hands. It set me thinking about how some customs , considered rude in one country , could be proper etiquette in another country and vice versa.
Any American house wife would be delighted if you leave nothing on the plate but never make the mistake of polishing off your plate if you are in China. It is considered rude. It is like you don’t get enough to eat at home!
Never ask for Ketchup from a French chef. It means that you didn’t like his food. I did that once and got ketchup and a stare!
Slurping is indeed a poor etiquette right? Wrong if you are in Japan. You are only showing your appreciation. And don’t forget to burp if you are invited in a Inuit house in Canada.
I have enjoyed some of the finest Polish food in London. There was a good restaurant close to our office. There was nothing gourmet about it.The people from Poland are a hard working lot and love to eat a hearty and wholesome meal. But remember never to flip a baked fish while eating. They are very superstitious about it. it means that you may capsize the fisherman’s boat.
We were taught by a British teacher Mrs. Brown in the primary school. She laid a lot of emphasis on good manners and etiquette. We were told that if you are invited to someone’s house and if you even find a fly in your soup, you should rather gulp it rather than embarrassing the host! I remembered her when I was in Togo, a west African country and saw webbed feet of chicken floating in the soup. I chose to forget Mrs. Brown. Sorry Mam. I am much older than a third grader now.
and by the way,don’t wait for the evening if someone invites you for dinner in Scotland. You may get only get bones and crumbs. Yes, some Scots call their lunch as dinner.
My Bengali neighbor, true to his blue blooded Bengali blood, loved his fish. But he would never carry his raw fish in the right hand. That was totally inappropriate. Fish was always carried in the left hand while returning from the market!
My nephew is a great foodie and an expert on eating etiquette.
When there is chicken on his plate , he has two advises. Don’t try to share and don’t disturb while he’s enjoying!
I guess this would work in any part of the world.
By the way Indians would love to be in any Spanish bar. There it is not considered inappropriate to throw anything on the floor. They have a custom of cleaning everything in the end.
That leads to my maxim, “ Whatever be your quirks or idiosyncrasy, just hold the globe and turn it around. There would surely be some country some where in the world, which may just be right for you.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

I am Jealous of a nine year old. !!!!!!!!!!!!

I am jealous of Tanmay. Doesn’t matter that he is only a precocious nine old boy.

This is the reason why:

He leads a much more happy and wholesome life while I try to find the meaning of my life.
When I look at the rains, I am grumpy and worry about getting my clothes muddied. When he looks at the rain, he sees a holiday, hot pakoras and paper boats.
When I say I don’t have money , he grabs my wallet and checks it and smiles impishly that it is full. Full enough to buy him plenty of dairy milk and cheerios. He is happy with a wallet full of money I wouldn’t be happy with a bank full of money.
While I am just making a living, he dreams of a career. Never mind if it is a pilot, or an engine driver or a doctor depending on his mood.

While I play with him and fall down, the doctor warns me to be careful of my tennis elbow; which means no play. When he falls and breaks his shin, it heals in a day and he is ready to play and ready for another fall.
The politicians don’t depress him. He wants to become an MP so he can have fun in the parliament and throw chairs and flower pots.
The CWG bothers him too. Because his dad is watching the news making him lose precious time of watching Ben 10 and aliens or Hatori or chicken stew.
While I eat tasteless sprouts for breakfast, he orders noodles, aloo paranthas and thickly buttered toast.
While I see gloom, he sees happiness.

While I would be unhappy to lead a company of 300 employees , he is happy to be a bench leader even if it means minding just three boys including himself on his bench.
While I take a pen to write checks to pay my bills, he draws colorful pictures.
He still believes that Dr. Kalaam is the President of India because his book says so. I do not correct him because I wistfully wish he was right.
He confuses about the duties of the President and the PM. I Know he unwittingly is right. Both are rubber stamps.

He dreams of colors. I sleep dreamless with sleeping pills.
Green for him is emerald green of the lush green grass. I see green as in envy. The red for him is the sun rise. I am red with rage. Blue for him is the ocean. I am blue when I am sad.

He is tired of learning. I am tired of being wise. He is tired of being young. I am tired of being old.

Lets make a deal son.
Here are my car keys, my cheque books , my apartment and my adulthood.
Let me barter it for your youth, your cheerfulness and your innocence.

( Both the pictures have been drawn and colored by him.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pakistan, Porn and Diplomacy.

These days Pakistan has been in the news in a big way. None very complimentary.
A few days back an article had caught my attention. A study, it claimed, revealed that the country which does the maximum sex related searches on the net are Pakistanis. Not unexpectedly , it drew a lot of derision and comments from the readers.

I am neither surprised by the finding nor fazed by it. As I had remarked earlier, I get regular visitors from our neighbors reading posts with the word sex in it.
I have no problem with them. after all they are indulging in a pretty benign game than what their petty politicians are playing. At least their indulgence is not killing any one.

Right from the days of their ex president Musharraf to the now sillier Foreign Minister, all they have indulged in is petty one upmanship and sabotaging peace. In fact if I were to describe their politicians in one word I would call them uncouth. The behavior of FM Quereshi was totally abominable and much against the tenet of decency and diplomacy. No one behaves with his guest the way he did. Not many would agree but I felt that our Minister fortunately had the good sense of not retaliating and mudslinging. Very dignified. It wasn’t a sign of weakness but of good diplomatic sense. (Hillary Clinton rightly disapproved Quershi’s tone and tenor though she messed it up by bringing in the Kashmir tangle.)

But Mr. Krishna could have done well if he had registered his protest against the rather uncharitable comparison of the foreign secy by the Pakistani Minister.
A question does beg answering. Why were we in such a tearing hurry to visit Pakistan. Wouldn’t it be better if some homework is done by the backroom boys away from the annoying glare of our media.

It was a totally ill timed and ill conceived visit. Was it just a way of deflecting attention from all the domestic problems. Or are we giving too much importance to a pesky neighbor? Do we really achieve anything except mindless jingoism? Why waste time.

Pakistan is crumbling under the pressure of its own contradictions and no external influence can help. America can keep pumping billions of dollars but cant wean away the influence of ISI and Military on their civil government which thrives in having bad relations with India. instability suits them.

Their once strong and proud cricket team is now a sad caricature thanks to this motley crowd. When I was in Bangkok, I saw the Pakistani channel and it was shocking to see that apart from anti Indian jingoism, they didn’t have much else to offer. No soaps, no movies, no discussions about education, industrialization or development or health. I feel sorry for the Pakistanis. They deserve better.

I lived among Pakistanis in Manchester, UK for two years. I found them very friendly and extremely good neighbors. They rued the interference of Army in their country. Many have relatives in india and have a soft corner. The local video parlor, though Pakistani , carried more hindi movies than Pakistani. Even in Miami , I used to pick up my desi grocery from a very kind and friendly Pakistani store. He always regretted the hand dealt by the army.

Alas,the army is not in a hurry to loosen its hold.

That is why we must leave the Pakistanis alone till they are prepared. Whether they are the gun toting army or the porn watching commoners.

Its just not worth our time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It was a Mad World cup!

This was a bizarre world cup where nothing went right.The reputations went for a toss, the seedings were meaningless, the balls were of poor quality, the referring bizarre and there was more off the field entertainment than on field. Just like our government.

I didn’t understand why did they present the golden boot to Thomas Mueller. England , France, Italy Brazil already had been booted royally. Perhaps England ‘s exit could be aptly described as the golden boot. The golden boot lost its meaning after that.

I was rooting for Spain for two reasons. One, I live in Miami where the Spanish population abounds. So the Hispanic connection did make me feel soft for them. But the major and larger reason was undoubtedly , and I am sure my hips don’t lie, Shakira. When Shakira shakes her derriere , she could make me root for even Nepal, if they were playing.

Yet she doesn’t get my vote for the entertainer of the cup. It undoubtedly goes to the one and the only Maradona. He’s what Shane warne is to cricket. God’s gift. Life can never be dull with these guys around. They have exceptional talent on the field and equally exceptional talent off the field to match. I specially enjoyed his spat with Pele and his comment, “ Pele should go back to museum.” Priceless. So was his comment to the press after Argentina won the qualifier. It was obscene. It was in poor taste. But it was a hit on the internet. Or maybe that’s the qualification for anything to become a hit on the net!

Maradona’s outburst has already become a sensation with Internet sites selling T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “They can keep sucking it”.

Wish I could say the same to the Indian press. One man would definitely stand taller than me and agree whole heartedly. He calls himself Amitabh Bachchan.

This was the tournament of the mediocre. Even the final was a disappointer. Tender mercy that the better team won. Five yellow cards in the first thirty minutes! I thought that the dreaded yellow fever of the continent had hit these hapless players hard. But no worries. ALL EEEEEZ WELL.

So what would I like to take back from this cup?

The vuvuzela and paul the clairvoyant. Paul can go and sit in the NDTV and predict the polls. He has more chances than Prannoy roy to get it right.

Perhaps the vuvuzela can help wake up this somnolent government. Or will it?

Can you believe it when the whole world was awake watching the cup, this government was still sleeping! I have no hope.

I have a better idea than blowing them vuvuzelas. Throw them instead.
Maybe someone in the government will really be hit hard and wake up!

The world cup is over. Now lets wake up to our problems. Price rise, Fuel hike, non governance! our cup brimmeth over.!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are We Indians Over sensitive about frivolous issues?

The monsoon has arrived with a bang. I too felt the bang and was down with fever for the last two days.

I had to avoid using my laptop to avoid straining my eyes. With nothing much to do I turned to the Idiot box to kill time. Just as I was surfing, a debate caught my attention.

There was a debate going on about an article in TIME magazine about American Indians.
(http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1999416,00.html). I was amazed to see the hyper and somewhat vitriolic comments. The panel was frothing at its mouth and branding it racism of the worst kind.

My thoughts went back to a couple of years back when they were showing a clip of a documentary made in India on the BPO business on CNN in the USA. In one of the call centers, the team leader was exhorting his trainees to be patient. He was giving them a formula suggesting that the mental age of a 35 year old American is less than that of a 10 year old Indian. ( not sure about the exact words but it was something to this effect). Imagine if the reverse had happened. We would have branded that nation anti Indian, racist an what not. But the newsreaders took it very sportingly and were smiling and making jokes about it and left it at that. I waited for someone to object. Nothing of that kind happened. The news deserved the respect it got. Now notice our response.

One agitated member of the panel ( I couldn’t get his name) suggested that half the amercians are poor and cant afford TIME and half of them are illiterates. The only people buying this magazine was Indians residing in New Jersey and the TIME magazine would do well to remember this. Perhaps he doesnt know about the demography of the indians working there.Most of them are software engineers who prefer reading it online rather than buying. Besides, lets stop being churlish. America is a big country and TIME is a big magazine.

If this wasn’t silly enough, the response of the moderator was sillier.

It left me wondering. We had problems concerning the spiraling price rise, there was a successful opposition sponsored bandh in which for the first time after a long time all the opposition came together, there were law and problems in J& K.

Here we were sitting and discussing a silly article. We can debate about it being in bad taste. But Racism! No way. It was just a spoof.

Are we really that frivolous and over sensitive of non issues?

Another instance that comes to mind is the shilpa shetty episode on Big Brother. It wasn’t as if Shilpa Shetty didn’t know what was in store for her. She did it for money. But journalists asking about this to the PM of UK was really silly. There were other serious issues like Immigration and its effect on Indians, about world economy, recession.

The third issue was stopping of Shahrukh Khan at the Newark airport by immigration officials. The response was incredible. It was as if it was a huge diplomatic row was commited. Racial profiling is nothing new. They have been attacked once. Besides, if they are careful about their country’s safety whats wrong? Again the actor had gone there not on the invitation of the country but to further his business. If he has a problem, he can stop visiting it in future which I doubt he will.

Surprisingly the response was much muted when a similar incident happened with the President of India, who in my opinion is truly an icon. We could have condemned it more vehemently but we didn’t care.

But President Kalaam being President Kalaam ,unlike the actor, downplayed it in his signature dignified way.

Even in the case of Greg Chappell, our response bordered on hysteria.

Instances are many. The question remains the same. Are Indians over sensitive about frivolous issues?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More sex please ! We are Indians !!

I have this friend from IIT who was one of the drivers in starting my blog. He has been giving me valuable inputs and had been instrumental in improving the aesthetics of the blog.

He is a brilliant statistician and now and then keeps quantifying and educating me about the readers response. He had this interesting piece of statistics.

The maximum response I get is either when I write about humor or sex. The next one is movies and then cricket. He asked me what did I infer? Well I am appalled!!!!!! Sex and humor? What am I supposed to infer? He cheekily advised write more about sex since you definitely have a poor sense of humor and your knowledge about movies is pathetic.

He did have a point. But I am no Prakash Kothari. Nor a dirty minded Khushwant Singh.

Also, he had this interesting piece. The guys visiting my blog from Pakistan invariably reached there by googling sex! wow!and I thought that i had a cross border appeal a la Sania Mirza!

In Togo, I once saw a lot of blue films selling on the street. My interpreter with a twinkle in his eyes told me that yes the kids buy them a lot. What! Kids! He looked at me strangely. “ yes. What would adults do with them. Sex is something you do. Not watch!”
I felt like I was in the august presence of a sex guru.

As a natural corollary I may add its something you do. Not read.

But the statistics cannot lie. Does it mean we have more sex between our ears than between our legs.? I don’t have the faintest clue.

Have you heard about Banta singh whose son came up with two sheets of paper and asked him, “ Dad, I want to know about sex.”

Banta Singh thought its high time I perform my paternal duty. Patiently, He brought a Barbie doll and a male toy and took two hours explaining as lucidly as he could.

The young boy scratched his head and asked, “ How do I write all that you explained. There are only two choices Male/ Female.” It was an application for summer hobbies workshop.

Won’t I end up being a muddle head like Banta Singh. I am lost.

My British friend is amused. “ Why are you surprised coming from the land of Kamasutra and a billion people.” Oh yeah loser. Cricket originated in your country and does it surprise you how well you play?

Wise cracks notwithstanding, I am still ignorant.

From the younger days of “ No sex please we are British” to my older days of “ More sex please we are Indians,” life has come a full circle for me.

The question remains. Is Sex a three lettered dirty word or the three lettered sure shot ( as the scholarly IITian puts it ,‘Hit’.

Any erudite help?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Corporate Memories- Narayan Murthy and ME!!

The pre monsoon showers flattered to deceive.Its hot as hell's kitchen here.My lima bean sized brain refuses to work.
In the last post, I was complimented more for a post written a year back.I am tempted to, therefore, reproduce another one. This was dated April 21, 2009.

****************************************************************************


I had a long and illustrious corporate career. You could bracket me right up there with the great Narayan Murthy.

We both were men of vision. While I don’t know his , mine was called long sightedness.

I use the past tense because Narayan Murthy is now the Ex CEO and I am also leading an almost retired life. I see myself as the Matthew Hayden of Corporate world. A great career abruptly cut short!

We were great motivational speakers( No not Mathew Hayden. He suffered from a large foot in a larger mouth syndrome. I am talking about Narayan Murthy)
We could motivate the listeners to aim higher heights.

Again I don’t know about him, but I remember when I once spoke, one of my juniors suddenly climbed right up the chimney. He claims he went to help a cat. But my detractors say it was my boring speech.
Jealousy is as old as civilization. We cant do anything about it.

And we both have great bank balances. I can walk through all the zeros with him.
And that would be almost a mile I am sure. Not bad you will agree. Even walking 80% of his balance is not a mean achievement.

Now what separates him and me? Well , two things. One the government has appreciated his contribution and awarded him the Padma Award. And two he wrote a book.

I will receive the padma award next year. The MP from the chambal ravines has it worked out. He is sure that UPA or NDA with 20 coalition partners and 12 outside support will still need one independent to form a government. The third fourth and fifth front will have the same predicament. Only the permutations and combinations will change. But he will be the tilt. No one can ignore him. So as he becomes the Defence Minister, I get my reward for loyalty to him.

In case you have wrong ideas about me, this dacoit was habilitated by the Arjun singh Government and now sells milk in our colony. We have been buying from him for the last 18 years.

So now what remains is that small thing of writing a book. And then I am in the same hall of fame.

My Book is ready for release.

Like all great writers, I release a few excerpts from my memoir before it is printed. It has various chapters providing an insight into my multifarious talent in handling various departments. This one is the heart of the business: Finance.


THE FINANCE WIZARD:

I was so involved with work that the boundaries of office and home diffused and there wasn’t much difference between office and domestic work which the colleagues did with equal enthusiasm. My eyes moist as I remember the delicious biryanis that my colleague cooked. Not for nothing was he awarded the best worker of the month.

We faced a lot of challenges during my turbulent years. But I was always there, the captain of the ship, an embodiment of corporate leadership.

There was this time when we had a difficult client who after a lot of threatenings and proddings gave us a cheque. The accountant took the cheque home promising to drop it in the bank on his way to the office the next day. We celebrated our great achievement. $40,000!!!!!!

Imagine the next day when we got a sheepish accountant with the remnants of the cheque which his dear son and his dearer dog used instead of the ball and now was only 1/10th of the original left the other 9/10th safely in the pet’s stomach I presume. Well you win some and lose some. Narayan Murthy will agree. What was important was the team work and the satisfaction of achieving the impossible.

Once I remember there was a cheque from another very difficult client lying on the table waiting to be deposited the next day. A junior brushed it aside as the customary beers and chicken nuggets arrived.

Now beer for a human body is like gas for a car. It triggers the right buttons and the human body can work with amazing speed.

And so one enthusiastic co-worker cleaned the table and threw the leftovers in the trash bag. The soiled envelope carrying the cheque also went with it. The other one with lightning speed went out and threw it in the dumpster.

When I remembered it the next day I phoned all my colleagues and we all rushed to the dumpster. It stood regally , in all it splendour a good 7 feet tall.
We had a hurried brain storming and we all agreed.
The decision was unanimous as usual. i ordered and they agreed. like the congress party.

I feel humbled.

KK was the tallest one. Unfortunately he was the heaviest too. He had to be lifted so he could reach inside the dumpster. I reminded all that we were team players and this was team work.

But trust me it isn’t easy to be gentle when you are dealing with some one that fat.

So this push became a mighty shove as 4 pair of enthusiastic hands gave his massive butt a propeller thrust. We screamed with delight as he plonked inside like a rocket on fire , his glasses flying and face into a pepperoni pizza , some one’s leftover dinner, and his hand clutching the ubiquitous cheque.

Team work can do wonders!

East met West and an ardent vegetarian got converted into an ardent non- vegetarian.

I look back with pride many such achievements. Space is short and the achievements many.

My steps may seem radical but they were effective.

That is what the leaders are supposed to do. Provide stellar leadership.

Like me and Narayan Murthy.

Amen!

( Three months after release : My book is next to ‘ what they don’t teach you at Harvard’ on the best sellers list)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mere Paas ........Baap hai!

I jumped as the phone rang shrilly. It was onal asking for her dad. “ Happy Father’s day dad.” She wished her dumbstruck dad with an expression which you would have if you saw an alien and wouldn’t know what to do or say. He mumbled something incoherently and kept the phone down.

“ what does this mean?”. He was kind of bewildered. He is still trying getting used to all the spate of Days. ( he enquired if there was a mother-in-law day too? I said I will check next time I am in Archies. Bet they do!!)

Again he had one more question. “ will Yugesh call?”

I thought about it. “ When did you recharge his ATM Card?”

“ Day before”

“ well I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

My brother grinned. “ me too.”

Now Yugesh may treat his father as an ATM but I wonder if all his frequent trips to the ATM would remind him of Father's day!Fat chance. when you are hungry and withdrawing money the only picture that comes to mind is that of a chicken as in
" Chicken Biryani".

I can imagine a red faced Yugesh calling angrily. “ I don’t call only when I need money. what about that call when I needed a cover for my ipod? Or when I need a new battery for my mobile? You guys unnecessarily malign me.” Point to be noted.

Well a father has never been given his due. Granted I am not a movie buff, but still I could barely remember one dialogue about father. “ Rishtey main to hum tumhare baap lagte hain.” And only one song , “ Papa kehte hain” maybe because the kid barely ever gets to listen to his papa’s voice. How on earth would he know what are his father’s views?

I was thinking about writing a tribute to my father. But a young reader pointed out that I have almost written all I can about him. Would I have anything new to say? I guess not.

I had only one father and he didn’t have nine lives. So I take his advise and simply print the link to one of my earlier tributes.

hamarichaupal.blogspot.com/2009/03/to-dad-with-love.html


All you young fathers. Don’t crib that your kids neglect you or don’t care for you. doesn’t matter if he lives with you. doesn’t matter if you daily share the same breakfast table. But if you want to connect with him, dont look at his mother; Look at your lap top instead.

No point in trying to talk , spare your breath, instead get on the facebook, use sms , join twitter. Learn the high fives, lol when you want to laugh, try being them. They are not bad kids. Its just that their way of expressing love has changed.

They may not have time to write eulogies like me, but they too care. If you ever get a single sms or twitter mentioning you are kool, take a printout , frame it and keep it on your office table. Your son has given you the biggest compliment. !!!!!!!

For the more sentimental kind of you, Here’s Keith Urban singing “ Song for Dad”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mithun Da Rocks!

I get recurring nightmares of the shrill and grating Jayanti Natarajan trying to break glass with her screeching. We cant really blame her. she is trying to defend the indefensible. When logic or arguments fail, the only thing left is to try and shout down the voices of reason.

How can any one defend Rajiv Gandhi in the fleeing of Warren Anderson? If the news that it was Ronald Reagen who put pressure on the Indian government is true, then even a five year old can tell you that when the President of America calls he doesn’t speak to the collector of Bhopal.

The average congressman is smart. He knows that the only way to survive is to defend the Palace. Doesnt matter if you sound absurd.Doesnt maater that the reasoning is foolish. You should be heard defending the Family. You will be rewarded.

It could have been funny if only it wasn’t so tragic. So many people’s life was destroyed. Even today many are still suffering. But politicians bank on amnesia. The memory of Indian public is short lived. Confuse them, delay by setting enquiries and consign it to the dustbin. All this ofcourse with the help of a very pliable English media.

Its so pathetic, I have stopped watching the news.

So these days I am trying to look at some of the entertainment on offer. Its been a while.
I miss ‘ Two and a half men’. Hope some day star world brings ‘ still standing’ another very hit show in the USA.May not be as successful as 'Friends' but then friends are made once in a life time.


There are three shows eminently watchable on TV.

While I am no big fan of daily soaps, I am drawn to the irresistible ‘ Balika Badhu’. The story may be weak but it’s the acting. Every one is giving a powerpacked performance. Specially the old lady. Hats off to the director for choosing a cast which is very credible. Not one of them is overacting. A must watch.

For those who understand marathi, there is a serial called ‘ Anubandh’ ( contract)which deals with the complications of surrogacy. A childless couple opt for surrogacy. The serial deals with the complications that come in the life of the childless couple and the girl who accepts to become the surrogate mother because of money. Her boy friend accepts her but is unable to accept the interference of the real father who is drawn to the child. Both the families suffer immensely because of it. It is a very convincing story with very brilliant acting. It can happen to anyone.

Wish the national television could come up with such wonderful serials instead of the annoying soaps with conniving women dressed as peacocks and rich and stupid men.

The third and my favorite show is a dance competition by kids choreographed by some very talented dancers from the senior competition. The kids are simply amazing and some of the choreography is breath taking.

But the icing on the cake is Mithun Da, the star of yesteryears. Whoever said that stars of yesteryears fade gradually. This one seems to be reinventing himself like another star of yesteryears, Anil Kapoor. He is like old wine. Seems to get better with age.

I remember a few years Mithun came with a movie called ‘ Gunda’. A friend from IIT recommended it. Its grown into a cult movie with lots of websites dedicated to it. The ratings as far as I remember in the IMdb was never below 9. It was the whackiest and senseless movie ever made. All the actors speak in couplets with double entendres.

Very few people know that Mithun started his career with a national award in ‘ Mrigya’.
He won the award three times. He later became popular for his dancing.

However , we knew him more as an actor of B grade movies that did more business in the smaller towns and villages.

But his presence in this show changes that.

Just when everyone thought the his career , he comes up with this brilliant show DID where he is the super judge. He is dapper, compassionate, discerning and funny with a very keen eye. I was impressed when the two judges had almost rejected one girl. He differed and said that she is a class. Wait for her in solos. Surely when she came alone, she simply dazzled.

The kids enjoy him as much as he enjoys with the kids.

Sample one below and see the standard. Probably one of the most romantic choreography ever seen. Outstanding.

We must surely thank him for producing such a brilliant show and setting the bar so high.

Way to go Mithun Da.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Football time Folks!

So finally Nadal proved that he is the king of clay. I am very happy for him because he is my favorite player. I not only like his tenacity and fighting spirit but also his humility.

There was a whiff of disappointment too as Leander Paes lost the doubles. A time was when we were happy to see our players reach the quarter finals. But Mahesh and Leander changed that.

A few days back I was chatting with Yugesh and casually asked him what was he doing. Downloading the world cup anthem.

So now the focus is truly and totally on football. Unfortunately the World cup always overlaps my another favorite tournament , the Wimbledon. I always had a hard time keeping awake watching both the tournaments.

My all time favorite was Stefan Edberg. I am yet to see any one so elegant on the grass. I hardly remember a tournament of his which I missed. Tim Henman , another elegant player never played to his potential. we called him Tiger Tim. But all he did was purr like a cat much to our disappointment. But i would still watch him play any day. what elegance! totally sublime.

My mother hated both the tournaments because they were always transmitted at night. we used to have our classes the next day. Luckily we had a very sporting Dad. So we all sneaked into the drawing room and watched these games carefully closing the doors, switching off the lights and keeping the volume to a minimum only to find mother knocking the door with steaming tea.

There were many stand out moments etched in my mind. Maradona and his hand of God. The Colombian player who was shot in his own country because of a self goal which cost their team the loss and so many others.

Later I moved to UK and saw the madness there. football is almost like a religion there. The football players are almost like god. But their fans can be a real pain. Football hooliganism is something that always scared me.

I was on my way to Belfast, Liverpool had reached the finals of the Euro. The police force at the Manchester airport was seen to be believed. there were liverpool shirts everywhere. The police just watced.There were drunken fans everywhere. it looked as if there were riots. Luckily noting untoward happened.

Another time I was mistaken by some rowdy fans in a hotel for the manager and showered abuses. Not their fault though. who wears a suit on a weekend. But i was coming from an event. However they soon redeemed themselves by offering me a pint of beer. A tempting offer but one look at them, i decided to take a rain check!

once as I was buying my train ticket from London to Manchester , the garrulous officer asked me which team I supported. I was smart by now. Chelsea I said. “ Good. If you had said Man united I would have charged you two pounds more.” He said. “ well so its true what I heard.” I said. “ that Chelsea fans are stupid. How did you expect me to live in Manchester and not support my home team.” I smiled wickedly. He pretended as if he was taking my picture. “ Beware the next time.” He laughed.

This time my money is on England ( Oh yes! Rooney , Gerrard , Lampard could be any better! ), Brazil, Spain and Argentina. England team has, Like Tim Henman , has always underperformed on the big stage. Hope this time they banish the ghosts.

I love Shakira. But waka waka is a let down. Agreed her signature hip shakes are there. but the song lacks vigour.


Using the Football analogy , I feel we were kicked hard by the Union Carbide.
I bow down with shame at the worst capitulation by the Indian Government in the Bhopal Gas tragedy. Its worse than freeing Quatrocchi. How low can this government go?

While a lot of bloggers are freely using President Obama’s “ Kick their ass” generously, they fail to understand that its his ass if he fails to kick the BPs. Can we say the same thing about Manmohan Singh’s?

My Thoughts go out to the poor people of Bhopal.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A spark neglected ...

2am. There is a short circuit. The sparks burn the paper plates and cups in the chat market which in turn account for the cylinder blast. Within a few hours the Victoria market, the largest books and stationary market in Gwalior is burnt to char. Sad indeed. Along with the loss to the property, we have lost a great Monument. The Victoria market was built in 1905. It carried a lot of history. The duke of wales gave his first press conference from this building.

The collector has declared that the building is now unfit for use and shall be developed as a heritage building.A very sensible move.It is indeed a heritage building.

But something has to be done to rehabilitate the shops as soon as possible.I am sure with the new school session, there is going to be a shortage of books, notebooks and other stationary.

I remember going to the Victoria market as a school boy. No visit was complete without the mandatory aloo tikiya. It wasn’t just a gastronomical delight. It was a visual delight too as the cook expertly fried many tikias at a time and when ready used to throw it high in the air and catch it in the leafy dona. I grew up watching it with a mischievous prayer to see him miss the target. But it never missed. He too smiled at us when he saw us. we used to try diverting his attention. But the guy was a pro.

After the chat we drank thick mango shake. I still feel that apart from Haji Ali in Mumbai, no other place could serve such thick and tasty shakes. The taste of the shake was enhanced by the dollop of cream on it. Those were the carefree days when calorie count was not in our dictionary.

It was only after we were full did we enter the market. The book shopping took lesser time than the eating. The same shopkeeper had supplied me books from my school till the engineering. The guys in the market were smart. They had all the books for various branches neatly stacked. I can bet that the shopkeeper’s knowledge of the authors and the books matched the professors. All you had to tell them was your professor’s name and he would come out with the books. If you were short of money, never mind. Take the book and pay later.

But by second year, Nayi sarak in New Delhi replaced our old fashioned Victoria market. It wasn’t that the books weren’t available. It was just an excuse for us to go and have fun in the glamorous and attractive capital.

So the chaat was replaced by the succulent stuffed malai parathas of the parathe wale in chandni chowk or fish pakoras in karim hotel in jama masjid , old delhi for lunch and a milk shake in the nirulas in CP.

Later when my dad expired, I came to know that it was the one place to get everything required for the thirteenth ceremony.

I was walking out straight from the pooja and was wearing a dhoti and a shawl. My head tonsured. As I walked through the narrow lanes inside the market, people mistook me for a swami. Folded hands, bent heads, we were given way. My friend whispered that if ever I was jobless, this could be an alternate source.It may seem an insensitive remark. But my friend is one of the most caring guys in the world.It was his way of alleviating the pain and diverting attention.

There was a small cloth market right at the entrance.Even it has been charred beyond recognition.

All these memories remind me of the glory of that forgotten market. I feel guilty. Its been almost a decade since I visited it. Now street eating is almost scandalous. I have left college long back.Besides, the shopping malls in our area has made bada almost redundant.

The authority has offered some compensation to the beleaguered shopkeepers.I am not sure if it is enough. But a large part of the history of the city has burnt to ashes yesterday. The loss is incalculable. Bada will lose some of its majesty. Wish I had taken some photographs.

I remind myself. I must visit the forgotten parts of the city at least once again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In the French open season, the Congress plays' The Italian open'

Never mind it’s the French Open. Never mind that it’s the most open of open tournament. All the top guns are out. Federer out, Djokovic out, Henin, the William sister, Sharapova out. Should be the most exciting open.

Not really when more exciting things are happening back home. It is the Italian open. And when we say Italian , mama mia only one name comes to mind.

First the rules. There are no rules. And no upsets. The star has to win anyway. She doesn’t even have to play. She gets to watch the game, referee and clap while her ball boys run around picking balls which really should be hanging somewhere else!

What’s interesting about it? Well! the way the game is played and how the unforced and forced errors are declared as winners. We dumb people have to just switch on our ACs, push back our chairs, grab our pop corns and applaud every winner.

You heard of Rajneeti. I mean the movie. Ninety percent yes. And the red saree? Ninety percent no. The lucky ones are people like me who read Shobhaa De’s Blog regularly. (Its a Book, a novel in fact, in spanish on .....yes you guessed right! Sonia Gandhi)
She had visited Italy last month and already warned all to grab their copies before it was banned. What a star! She deserves more respect than all the sting operators combined!

Enough of Rajneeti. Every one knows about the arm twisting and the way some words were censored. Shouldn’t the chairman of the censor board, the dimpled Sharmila Tagore go back to acting since she really doesn’t have to do much anyway. Are we really proud of our democracy? wouldn’t be a good investment to send tickets of ‘ The Queen’ to all these kill joys and educate them about the meaning of freedom of speech. Often friends accuse me of being partial to the English people. Here’s one reason why. This movie was not only released without a fuss in the UK but also went on to win critical acclaim and awards with the Buckingham Palace maintaining a dignified silence. no such luck here.

Well I guess that is too much of an ask for us poor brown, uneducated souls. We deserve to be censored.

Javier Moro is one happy man. His ‘ Red saree’ will soon be laughing its way to the bank thanks to the bulls in the party who charge when they see RED! In total honesty, it was a book, if the congress was smart, to leave it alone. There was nothing earth shaking in it. http://www.javiermoro.com/images/pdf_sari/The_Red_Saree.pdf

The Gandhis have more skeletons in their cupboards.


But it was bad publicity. It was highly embarrassing to hear Javier comment on the democracy in India. It’s a shame indeed. The Congress really does no favor to itself or the country by such stupid paranoia. India is a far more solid democracy than the perception created by such mindless acts.

We shall definitely have a new winner in the women’s singles in the French open. Raphael Nadal is still standing there between Robert Soderling and the crown.

But no such luck here. The only loosers are poor we. From the days of the ‘ andhi’ and ‘ kissa kursi ka’ things have changed much. have they?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sex, sleaze and Godmen.

I was on the net around midnight when this message flashed on the news. “ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar escapes bid on life.” I felt at least there was one swami who followed his own preachings. The heading should have been “ Swamy follows his own art of living!”

But the genial swamy is not above a little showmanship. He said he forgave the gunman and invited him to his ashram only to embarrass himself when the DGP announced that the gun was shot not at him but between two rival camps. The gun was fired even after the convoy had left.

But seriously why should anyone want to kill a god man who says he is trying to bring happiness on people’s lives. If you don’t want to smile just go in a corner and sulk. Killing is definitely not an option.

But there is something about these swamis that they attract a lot of glamour, money and sex and finally get trapped in their own fame and get shot at. Remember the attempt on Sathya Sai Baba a few years back.

I find this whole swamy business in India very interesting and have done quite some research. It is interesting. They all attain fame, loads of money and live the life of a movie star. Somewhere they become trapped in their own aura and feel they are invincible. I mention only three. All these three are/were larger than life figures, have a very loyal and huge following. The strange part is that all have the following of very intelligent and highly educated followers. But when it comes to their respective swamis all rationality and commonsense goes for a toss. They act like dumb sheep.

Acharya Rajneesh, Sathya sai Baba and now Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ( the second sri is ostensibly to separate himself from the renowned sitarist). Each are such larger than life pictures , that they deserve a separate post each.

“ Sex to Salvation”. That was how I knew Acharya Rajneesh. He had more Rolls Royce than we could count. We were college students and sex definitely was a glue. But he was different. He made spiritualism interesting.He was the most flamboyant of the three and had a lot of foreigners as his disciples. The introduction of Sex in the drawing rooms discussions in the 70s was unheard of. He had very revolutionary ideas. Somehow it sounded very convincing from his mouth. His theory of libertine permissiveness immediately attracted the west and consequently became a big hit there. The young generation in India also was attracted. Sadly, As expected, his ashrams became havens for drugs and fre sex and soon became a big nusicance . BBC has done a beautiful documentary on this unique phenomenon. A must watch.

At the height of his fame, India today did a cover story on Sathya sai Baba, “ The test of Faith/ A god Accused. He was accused of being a psychopathic paedophile and there were shocking stories of serial abuses. But he had very powerful followers- Presidents, Prime Ministers, Civil servants. So expectedly this story was brushed under the carpet. He was said to bring out vibhuti, and rolex watches out of thin air which a prominent magician tried to prove as mere trick. But his blind followers never ever tried to analyse and nothing really stuck.

But he also does a lot social service. A 250 crore water project was a commendable job where even the government had failed. He also provides free heart surgeries in his hospitals. As a child I did attend a few of his bhajans and seen the frenzy and madness that went through the crowd. However, if he was really innocent, he should have come clean. India today is a reputed magazine and they had done their homework thoroughly. What followed from his followers were plain gibberish which couldn’t even be called rejoinders. If faith can turn people such, I am better off without it!

Now coming to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I find him the cleanest of all. His right hand men are from the IIT. I have exchanged emails with them and found them very warm and open. I read their blog regularly and it makes a very interesting read. They are not preachy, talk the youngsters’ lingo and are quite entertaining. They invited me to the ashram. I really liked them for their sense of humor. When I accepted his invitation and said that I would like to visit them once, he remarked that you can’t. and then with a smile , he added that people keep visiting again and again.

Maybe I shall visit them. only out of sheer curiosity though.

I write this post in the airconditioned comfort of the train, plugging the laptop into the power socket in the train. our trains have gone such a transformation.

The Kolkata municipal elections have been dubbed as their semifinals. I pray to god that Mamta Banerjee wins both the semi and finals. At least that way we shall have a whole time Railways Minister.

Our gain maybe Bengal’s Loss. But Bengal is doomed anyway. A choice between the communists and the TMC is hardly any choice!