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.)