Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leave Mr. Bachchan alone

The good thing about Americans is that they do everything in the open. So I saw a lot of huge billboards advertising adult sex toys and other such things as i drove through the Midwest. Ironically, there was one board next to one such board, obviously from the church, sermonizing that if we repent for our sins honestly the lord will forgive us. perfect placement!

With all the sex abuse cases coming up against the church in various parts of the worlds , the Vatican city is now becoming adept in the art of seeking forgiveness. Though one question still begs answer. If an individual performs this heinous crime, he is dubbed as a paedophile and rightly gets the strictest punishment while if a group does the same it is called a church and can escape with a mere sorry!

Unfortunately for us, the ruling party doesn’t even have to say sorry for anything. They have a servile press which can dub a Modi as a mass murderer but see no wrong in the sikh genocide. I have yet to see any English paper calling Rajiv Gandhi a mass murderer. So what is good for the goose may not be right for the gander. Specially if the goose happens to feed their greedy mouths.

I remember as a child, my father made us sit and read all the newspaper editorials. The editorial was the most important part of a newspaper. The editors were men of integrity. Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar MJ Akbar. one may not agree with them. but they were men of intergrity. Today I would be worried if the children read editorials. They are nothing but inane drivel of self serving limpets masquerading as journalists.

It is alright as long as these people play there dirty little games between themselves and the politicians. The Modis and the Gandhis are capable of taking care of themselves. But it irks when someone like the Big B is targeted for no apparent reason.

Lets accept it. He is the tallest among the tall stars of Bollywood. He conducts himself with dignity which is more than what can be said about our brothers and sisters from the other two professions. He did some mistakes. But what the hell. He is a citizen and not a politician.

What the Congress did to him was utterly shameful. You can’t invite a guest and then humiliate him. Is this too complex to understand? I read Amitabh’s Blog. He has uploaded all the invitations sent to him. What did he do wrong? As if that was not enough they removed Abhishek Bachchan from the WWF because the Delhi CM was to attend it. Sheer pettiness.

The press too was very lopsided. Look at the comments in all the papers. No one really has the courage or want to openly denounce the ruling party. So you have some one like a Vir Sanghvi calling the congress silly but balancing it by calling Modi a mass murderer and criticizing AB for hobnobbing with the Modis and the Amar Singhs and that he became the brand ambassador because Modi gave his film tax exemption. he cant make the masters unhappy. I would like to ask if he ever went to any television show for free? Then why should we expect an actor to do so? Well, the main issue is totally lost in a pile of rubbish.

Read Nikhat Kazmi in the TOI and you wonder what the hell is she writing! I give up.

Fortunately the Big man has guts. He just rolls on.

But the bigger issue still remains. When will our press and politicians behave responsibly.

Gandhi taught us that a long time ago ( I mean the real Gandhi!). BOYCOTT.

It worked then. No reason it wont work now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The March Madness

Once a long time ago, I was traveling in a public transport. A construction worker, perhaps late for his work enquired with a foreigner, sitting next to him, “what is time!”

The portly foreigner , apparently on a vacation, smiled at him and replied, “Well my friend. That is a profound question. Many philosophers and thinkers have tried to find the answer for this esoteric question.” I am sure he must have been from England.

But the man was unaware of one of the brutal truths of life. Philosophy and subtleties of English language are not appreciated on an empty stomach.

The worker clearly not amused, thought this guy was a jerk and turned to another guy, this time his Indian brother, and got the right time.

I remembered this story when I asked some one the time in Kentucky. I was on my way to Minnesota. My car clock and mobile were showing different times. USA is a big country with many time zones. Any one on a long drive can tell how much difference an hour can make.

The man replied oh these aren’t happy times. I agreed and replied that more the reason for keeping track. Good times come and go. But the bad times stick on. He laughed heartily and gave me the correct time.

March is marching on. I am not even in Texas. So can’t blame it on the Sun. But it has been one crazy month. If some one had hedged a grand as a bet on the things I am doing now, I would have laughed. But here I am doing all crazy things.

I lasted just four days in the new job. I am still unsure if it is just some psychological imbalance or some real physiological problem. But each time I looked at the screen, I would go blank looking at the excel sheet. My hands and feet were cold and I would feel a knot in the stomach. I just felt all exhausted and tired. In one meeting I barely kept awake. Time to seek professional help.

If that was not strange I even did a DIY ( Do it yourself) job at a friends place. He has recently purchased a beautiful house in Orlando. We went and purchased a massive table for his study. The table comes in knocked down condition with detailed diagrams. I am very bad in these things. It took us a lot of effort figuring out what was the dowel end or which was the bracket and which screw fitted where. But finally the table stood up, albeit a bit shakily, like a new born foal. Another feather in my worn cap!

That gave me some confidence and now I am on a new adventure. Driving 1500 miles, all alone, in Midwest. Well there is no age for madness. There is always a time for the first.

I watch the landscape change like a kaleidoscope, from vast parched expanses to brilliant velvety green, the roads sometimes meandering like a drunk or sometimes undulating dangerously reminding of the Disney world. It was a foolish adventure. But I am not complaining.

As I took a customary break , an elderly man heard me order coffee and started fishing his pockets. When I reached for my coffee he tapped me from behind and offered me a free coupon. He apologized for being just that moment late but hoped maybe I could use it somewhere on the way. I profusely thanked him and promised to use it during my next break. It was the hospitable Midwest at its best.

I decided to stay overnight at Mt. Plantain, Mo. The hotel was very elegant with a warm bath and a massive comfortable looking king sized bed. I eased myself into the hot tub and felt all the tension and ache slowly go away. Two stiff shots of Johnny walker and a warm meal and I crashed like there was no tomorrow. I always claim that I am his special child. As I was fishing in my trunk for my leather bag, I suddenly saw this bottle lying there like a surprise gift. It was what I really had wanted after a long and arduous journey! Praise the lord! I should start visiting temple more often. I cant remember buying it.

There are different kind of people. for some it’s not the journey but the end while for some it’s the journey and not the end which is more important. As I was staring hard and drove more by instinct , trying to look through the massive fog with almost zero visibility somewhere in Tennessee, a thought struck me. I almost apologized myself for all the time wasted. I thought of all the dreary hours in the office!

Its cold. I have no warm clothes. Why is it that I always find myself in such situations. Year after year I was carrying jackets, jerseys and heavy coats looking like an idiot in the warm and sunny Florida. This time I left all of the warm clothing in India! Just a lounge suit with me. It feels strange wearing one on the weekend!

Murphy has competition. Only Kekre’s Laws doesn’t sound that great.

I am glad that just two days left in march. Hope the madness ends and I soon find myself back on track.

Monday, March 22, 2010


There are a few things I cannot live without. Red Wine. Coffee. And maybe internet. I am collecting my thoughts to write something. But the sheer happiness of finding internet and coffee makes me dumbstruck. I am feeling the key board gently like a teenager on a first date!

I am in the Toyota service station. I was told that it would take at least three hours. Toyota had recalled the gas pedal and it had to be replaced. Moreover, I had been traveling a lot and the servicing was long overdue. But three hours! I asked if they had a complimentary shuttle. The affable man shook his head. It was a Saturday. No shuttles. But you can sit in the lounge and have a coffee and some cookies and watch television. I hate television. its aptly called the idiot box.

Then casually he mentioned. Almost apologetically. There’s a wifi too! I almost screamed with delight. If they had arranged wine, I could stay there till the next morning.

So here I am tapping happily on the keyboard.

But there are a few things I could love to live without. One of them is clichés. As much as I avoid them they keep coming to haunt me.

So if its at the Chinese restaurant and you order a curry, she jumps with delight. “ ah you are Indian! You love cully!” “ NNNNNNNNNNNNNNO”. I want to shriek. I am a human being. And human beings cannot eat rice without a curry!

I am not even spared by Indians. As I explained to the kindly owner of the Motel, the Gujarati gent, that I may have to sit for some time in the lobby after checking out, he tries to make me comfortable. “ open you laptop and watch. There’s a cricket match going on”. “ Sir , Most don’t watch IPL even in India !!”

All I needed was someone to ask me to defragment his laptop as I am an Indian so naturally must be good in computers!

Earlier his wife was scandalized that I was in the room for three days and wasn’t watching the television in my room. And how did she know? There was no remote in the room.

To make her happy I watched Oprah and was spell bound. A very powerful story was being unfolded. An uncle had murdered his brother and his wife leaving the children orphan. These children were meeting their uncle for the first time after fourteen long years just when he was going to be shortly executed. I was struck by the poise and maturity shown by the kids. The daughter said that he ceased to be her uncle the day he killed her parents. But she doesn’t want him to be executed. Taking away a human life is not the answer. It cannot bring back her parents.

It was a very powerful viewing as they faced each other without any television audience. The daughter told her uncle that she forgave him because she didn’t want to live with all that hatred. But when he killed them , he did not take away her parents. He took himself away from them. Tremendous.

He was in prison for fourteen long years. A life wasted!

Soon he was executed.

Remember when Priyanka Gandhi went and met the assassin of her father. Cynical that we are, we gave it a political twist. There might just be one small chance.

She felt the same way too.

Taking away one life cannot bring back another.

I wanted to end with something really compelling. But I am afraid of clichés. They keep coming back to me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Desi songs, videshi flavour

There isn’t much to do here near my hotel. I was hungry and tried to explore and found this delightful Chinese joint. The charming girl was smiling from ear to ear as she saw me. she was naturally happy to see a repeat customer specially after I had bought my dinner on her recommendation. Today she promised a lot of vegetables. I loved the vegetable shrimp combination. The Chinese cooks are amazing. They can toss unbelievable food. I asked her to put some extra broccoli. Amazing stuff.

I washed all the vegetables with my favorite red wine. I know red wine doesn’t go with the shrimp. But no matter what I just cant have white wine. Not even champagne. But who cares! Even the queen drinks vodka! To hell with propriety if she likes it she drinks it. And if the queen can do,why cant mere mortals!

I was listening to my favorite ‘unchained melodies’ when suddenly I remembered this man.

Its not often that you dedicate a post to some one who hated you. but I am making this exception. This one is for the old man who I know will never read this post. Sir, May you live long and may I never reach your age for I wouldn’t have your fortitude!

Hyderabad to Gwalior is a long journey. It can be tedious if you don’t have any thing to read or some good music to listen to.

Sometimes I feel claustrophobic in the first class. There are only four people. That kind of proximity kind of puts me off.

So here was this old man traveling alone. This was his first visit to the south and he looked pretty happy going back to his own kindred. That made him very boisterous and a pain in you know where.

My bad luck that I was the only one who spoke hindi. As the train picked up speed this garrulous man became more and more articulate. He was competing with the machine!

When he saw that I wasn’t paying attention, he asked me to show what I was listening. It was like showing a red cloth to a bull. He saw the book on the table and asked me when was the last time I read a hindi novel. I racked my brain and told him when I was in school.

He was not just angry! He chose the choicest invectives and abused my lineage. I tried to explain that literature or music cannot be slave to human boundaries and there is some very fine literature in English. Also I wanted to challenge him if he had read more hindi literature than me. but he was old. And I was polite.

Today suddenly a though struck me. some of the finest songs in Hindi ( I said SOME !) are either straight lifted or inspired by some popular English songs. But to be fair,some of the hindi songs , I dare say, are better than the original.

I would have loved to give some of the original and the Hindi versions. But I am not sure if the bandwidth will permit. So giving just one.

Some of my favorites Usha Uthup singing ‘ Hari om Hari’ lifted straight from ‘ one way ticket’ yet her rich voice bringing in a rare freshness. Frankly I love both. Or who can forget the song from ‘ maine pyar kiya’ ‘ I just called to say I love you’.

Or five hundred miles! ‘ jab koi baat bigad jaye’ or sochna kya from ghayal and compare it with ‘ lambada ‘ examples are countless. But lets give to them. they all make us happy. That is what music is meant to do.

Sir, I would like to narrate one story. In 2005 when I was in UK, we sponsored ustad Amjad ali Khan’s nephew in Scotland. It was an amazing experience. As he started to play, the string broke. But the Scottish are nothing if not patrons of arts. Every one sat in silence as he explained that the sudden cold weather may have resulted in the strings breaking. They waited patiently as he replace the broken string. When he started playing , it was magic! When the show ended the applause was deafening. He confessed to me later that he had never seen such beautiful audience before. each person from the audience came and praised him for his skill. He was overwhelmed. and so was I .

Music or literature has no boundaries. Two movies. Both by my favorite author. Eric Segal. Alas! He is no more. Masoom. Man woman and child. Love story. Ankhiyon ke jharoken se. Sir, it was a tribute to your genius language not withstanding. Both movies handled subtly yet adapting to the Indian flavor. Whichever language it is made, you will be appreciated.

Plagiarism? Not by a mile. Tribute. Most definitely yes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good bye Miami!

Four days in Miami and now it was time to move on. Couldn’t procrastinate any more. I am sure I will miss every thing there. But time to move on.

My kind host reminded me to fill the gas full tank before I left. He had a reason. The other day as we were entering the freeway his car suddenly stuttered and stopped as we both looked horrified. He called the AAA and the man on the phone was nonchalance personified as coolly he remarked that there wasn’t any big problem. Fill gas and you should be fine he said.

I never thought I would be here in USA walking all the way to the gas station and asking for a can. But the Americans are smart people. they have figured out every single way in which a man can make a fool of himself and found out a solution for that, ripping the hapless victim in the bargain. Filling gas on the exit to the high way is liking playing a video game. You require the same skill. Sharpness. Keep an eye on the coming speeding cars and get on the kerb. Getting killed by a speeding car is perhaps the stupidest way of dying. Remember President Reagen’s comment when he was shot! “ Honey I forgot to duck!” here you wouldn’t be alive to tell that to your wife.

Ever been in a car driving for six/seven hours alone? I did . every messed it up. I did. As I was crossing Ocala, thought of having a coffee. It was already eight in the night. I was already behind the wheels for over seven hours, thanks to huge traffic hold ups in west Palm Beach and Naples. To my horror as I was exiting the highway , fatigue took over and I entered the wrong direction. I only realized it when I saw cars coming from the opposite direction. Suddenly I wondered if I was in India!. luckily there was no mishap. Lucky there were no cops around. or perhaps my bad luck was fatigued and had taken a break! Shaken , I decided to sleep in a motel. Unfortunately the only motels there were the richie rich ones. The Hiltons and the Marriot kinds. The receptionist told me that I could find something cheaper if I went a few more miles. I told her better to be alive and poor than to be rich and dead! She didn’t understand a word. Nor cared. The Americans can take Buddhism to another level!

Thanks to that wise decision , I am still writng!

Sometimes in life you wonder if the wound is deeper or the hurt. When I narrated this incident to a friend fishing for sympathy , he nonchalantly remarked, “you are incorrigible”! Ugghhhh?

When I opened my laptop, saw my sister’s message, “ Happy Gudi padva” the Maharashtrian new year. My adopted home Hyderabad calls it Ugadi. As a kid I remember we used to hang the gudi outside our home. I still remember the creamy srikhand that mom made. It lessened the pain of eating neem leaves first thing in the morning. The neem was meant to purify the blood. We just hated it!

Jacksonville is the largest city in the USA in terms of land area. I entered the city through downtown. Any idiot can tell you that it’s the trickiest place in a city. But not me! and so I spent a good one hour going through a maze of small lanes,my GPS incapable of shooting commands that fast. And so invariable the command came only after I had negotiated a wrong turn. There is virtually a turn every few feet! Its like a honey comb.
So here I am cooped in a hotel still not got a place to live. The owner of this motel is expectedly a gujrati. Its virtually a Patel invasion. Every motel is owned by them. almost like Motels are meant to be owned by a Patel just as every corner shop in UK has a Patel stamped on it.! It’s a tribute to their ingenuity and hard work. I daresay they give value for the money they charge.

Hopefully shall find a place in the next few days. The room in the motel is so comfortable that I am almost reluctant to leave.

But motels can never be home.

Even for nomads like me. Inevitably I too would have to find a home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Of love and one and a half men.

Dear Tanmay,

Just nothing was going right. Not my fault altogether. There were some sudden emergencies to be attended . After all I don’t control the municipality and they didn’t take my permission to stop water. And so arranging mineral water for drinking was an extra chore. Again while getting ready for the office, the pant wouldn’t fit. And you wouldn’t want your uncle to go to USA looking like an over stuffed duffel bag would you? so I had to rush for some emergency shopping.

I could still have managed if you wouldn’t have tried every trick in your book to try and make me miss my flight. I couldn’t imagine an eight year old rascal had that many tricks up his sleeve. You tried convincing that it was only Tuesday and I was packing a day early. When that didn’t work you started obstructing me while packing ( I was honestly worried that you would hurt yourself with the pair of scissors or the blade. Remember once I left my razor after shaving and you cut your chin trying to shave your invisible beard!) later taking me for the badminton game and prolonging the game by refusing to win! then going to the superstore and buying on and on and finally just refusing to sleep. Your father called up from his work site, choking with anxiety. The cab was already there. hurry or you will miss your flight, he was screaming.

I guess only two people would have been happy if I had really missed the flight!

As the plane taxied, my fingers touched my cheek and could feel the softness of your small palm caressing. It was easier when you were younger. You would bawl and I would take you out till you slept. But now you have learnt that annoying habit of controlling your tears and staring blankly. I am just unable to deal with that naked blank and silent look in those eyes. I wish you would cry like other kids.

But tonight as you finally slept and I bent to kiss your cheek my lips felt salty. I was torn. your blank and accusing look hurt less than this.

Your mom warned me not to call you often. She said you take time to adjust but once you receive a call you are irritable and silent again.

Why do you love me so much? I have asked myself this question many times. Remember last week when you felt sick suddenly and we had to rush you to the doctor and you just wouldn’t leave me. your mom and dad watched anxiously as you hugged me hard and tried to sleep. Your mom’s voice was all moist as she said that you missed me whenever you were ill. Your love transcends petty relations.

The other day one of your friend’s father at the bus stop asked me if he was my son and I had said yes he is the son I never had. Then he asked whether we are related. Then he went on to say that only the blood relations help when you are old. I felt sorry for your friend. He is a smart lad. But he was orphan the day he was born. He did not inherit a father but a scum bag who treated everything in terms of profit and loss. He doesn’t see his son as a son but as a fixed deposit. What can I say! People like him should breathe less so that some good person may live longer.

He doesn’t know that you have given enough happiness in these eight years that he wont be able to give in his life time. His son is that much poorer.

Maybe you can teach all of us adults a lesson in love. We are too grown up to unshackle our narrow minded manacles. Blood for us is thicker than anything else.

I feel a rustle and touch the paper in my pocket. Your tiny left foot is imprinted there. You have given me strict instructions on what kind of shoes to buy. Soon I would be going to China to source some material from there. I guess that would be easier than buying your shoes! Your quality control is far stricter than any that I have ever come across in my professional life.

The travel was uneventful. The ride was turbulent and bumpy after Frankfurt. Miami at this time is very muggy. There was a tornado warning as I arrived. No. It wasn’t about the one brewing inside me.

The immigration officer was very friendly , warm and polite. He smiled and welcomed me back in spanish. I tried a sunny smile and said Gracias. I wish I knew more Spanish and had a sunnier smile than that. Suddenly it felt good to be back in Miami. I thought everything will be alright.

While I was unpacking , I reached for the suitcase with which you were playing and as I opened it, I suddenly stared. There was a picture painted by you between my clothes. In the blue sky among the white clouds was a plane flying and a man looking out of it. A small boy was waving from the ground.

I felt a drop on the paper. No silly. I wasn’t crying. Like you I am grown up too and can handle emotions well. Its just that I am allergic to musky room freshners. I try to wipe off. But the tears keep welling. I must go and wash my eyes. Damn allergies!

You take care. Shower all your love on your friend. Perhaps he needs it more. His father will try teach him how not to live. You unteach that !

There cannot be a better teacher than you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Kalends of March

Kalends is the first day of the Month in the Roman calendar. Ideally I would have preferred it to be the ides of march. At least it has some history even though it’s dark. Kalends , on the other hand, signifies the day on which the bill was due. Makes me feel all oily like the village baniya!

But then you can’t decide on the day you would like to be born. And since it is the accountant’s day , a check on the life’s balance sheet is inevitable.

To be fair enough, Life has treated me well. For a non believer, ( I dislike the word atheist. There is some kind of a finality to it.) God has been pretty kind to me.
If given a choice I would still like to lead the same life. I may not have much to show in terms of worldly possessions or much to brag about. But I lived life on my terms. My professor discouraged me to take up marketing since he thought I lacked marketing skills. My astrologer said I had no foreign travel in the lines of my palm and my mom was worried that the Gods will never forgive me for not praying.

Well I make a living by marketing and traveling to various foreign countries and the Gods all over the world have been more than kind to me. There is no joy in proving some one wrong. But it always feel good to have the Gods on your side!

Thank you dear Lord ( in any language). I am glad you understood me!

Each year I thank my mom or my dad or my family. But this year let the good lord know. He is special for me too!

• Like all , I had my ups and downs in life. Last year was a financial disaster. Yet I still managed my daily quota of two glasses of wine. Thank you lord Bacchus.
• When my dreams started dying, God gave me a potent tool – insomnia. No sleep no dream. Thank You God Morpheus.
• When I was being created, God was in a bad mood ( or was it my mom!). So I wasn’t made particularly dashing. But he made it up by putting me in so many embarrassing situations that now I am a veteran in carrying off such situations well. Thank you the God of whatever!
• And thank you Goddess Mnemosyne for not even looking in my direction. With a short memory I am able to forgive all the guys who use me, abuse me or take me for granted.( Don’t look at my middle finger guys. I never said I am a saint! )
• Thank you Hermes. The god of travel. With your benevolence , I have something to show on my passport if not on my resume!

The Gods are many and their benevolence uncountable. And I am not dying! So others can wait till I sober!

Well, I had a special bottle of a Greek drink Ouzo and an Italian wine gifted by two very special friends and decided to celebrate with them. So perhaps the handsome invisible Greek God in me took over!

(I remembered this post after almost a week and still can feel the hangover. So posting it without any editing. )