Friday, December 23, 2005

Yule-tide Greetings

When I was about 7 years old, my cousins and I discovered the art of card-making. Instant thrill! We could finally wish everyone we knew (about 3 people) with a personalised card, hand-made to their specifications. A hand-made card said, in the nicest possible way, “I'm thinking of you”. It also said that we had too much time on our hands and not enough entertainment... We didn’t discriminate: everyone got their own card. Mostly the kind of card that’s sure to give you a paper cut - badly cut, created by folding a sheet of chart paper and running a knife down the creases. Crooked cards, that stood only with support from other cards, and that never, in all the years we persevered, fit any envelope.

Diwali inspired flames, leaping from red and gold diyas on muddy brown earthen plates. Not-quite-believable sparklers and tubris (anars) spat sparks all over the white paper, and chorkis spun across the landscape, narrowly avoiding upsetting the diyas and causing carnage. Lacking the capability for accurate representation, we decided to settle for flamboyance: our flames made up in colour - red, orange, yellow, blue, green - what they lacked in credibility.

There were no cards for Pujo (we knew better than that, and scornfully corrected non-Bengali classmates who had the gall to wish us “Happy Pujo”). Pujo was new clothes and “thakur dekha” - going from pandal to pandal to see the different protimas and murthis (earthen images of the goddess Durga, her 4 offspring, her vahan and the asur she’d killed. The asur always looked defiant, even with his chest cut open and spurting blood. Durga herself always looked serene and peaceful, and it always impressed me that after having battled for so long, she didn’t look scarred and bloody, that her expression never reflected the wrath of god. But that was as far as my spiritual wondering went. Pujo was less about religion and more about that particular colour of light, when the sunlight turned to sunshine; about riding endlessly on Ferris wheels in fairs after a cursory pronam to the protima occupying the same park. (Many years later, it would be about wandering around the city all night, eating indiscriminately from food-stalls, commenting on the resemblance of the asurs to the demons of the day - at various points, the asurs in Calcutta pandals looked like Saddam Hussain, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush, etc.)

But the approach of December was when the home-made paper card industry really boomed. All month, we’d be busy drawing crooked, cactus-like holly leaves and berries, none of which we’d ever actually seen. Attempts to draw Yule-logs blazing merrily in fireplaces were beyond our artistic abilities and died a natural death. But on occasion, and only for very special people, we would persevere with an almost completely inaccurate “Christmas tree”. This always took weeks and many drafts to create, dusted with what we fondly imagined looked like lightly fallen snow (but what, in fact, looked like some strange and virulent form of white fungus that was slowly engulfing large sections of the branches) and decorated with enough round, shiny ornaments hanging from the branches to make the tree collapse. (It never occurred to us that a tree was unlikely to be covered with snow and ornaments at the same time.) The piles of wrapped presents under the tree was where we really went to town – hideous wrapping paper and red ribbons emerged from our hours of effort, making us almost salivate with vicarious glee. “The kids” - younger siblings - got cards with torturously mis-shapen Santas creeping through the snow, reeling under the weight of huge sacks bigger than themselves. Occasionally, Santa would be sitting in a mysterious vehicle that looked like a chair with runners, but turned out, after much examination and huge leaps of imagination, to be a sled. A magical, self-propelled sled (in the manner of the Knight Rider), because reindeer, too, were beyond our ken (Irish for "can do").

I can’t remember the last time I even sent someone a card… or made one for them, though, in my mind, it still ranks up there (with the making of mixed tapes) as a way of showing abiding affection. It’s been a while since I’ve sat on sheets of chart-paper strewn around the floor, surrounded by scissors and crayons and rulers. And I suddenly wondered if I could still, at a pinch, draw a semi-believable Christmas tree and gifts. So here you go – this one’s for you. Merry Christmas. :)

By the way, the strange thing behind one of the presents is a puppy – something I asked "Santa" for every single Christmas, until “he” finally caved in under the unrelenting pressure of my “I have been a good girl this year” letters, stopped worrying about pee on the carpet and fur everywhere, and got me one.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


a. If affection is to be judged by the volume of email one gets from someone, then the only people who truly love me are someone-Volkswagen, something-or-other-Honda, la-la-la-Toyota and whoop-de-do-Kia.

b. It is strangely liberating to watch a movie on one's own at a theatre. No worrying about your sweaty palms or someone else's. No interruption from someone leaning over and asking you to explain something. No distraction in the form of frissons of pleasure from your knee touching someone else's. Nada. Just you and the big screen. Everyone else fades into oblivion and you sink into the movie.

c. Of course, when it comes time to get pop-corn or a drink, it's more fun when someone else is there.

d. Even when it's not snowing, it can be @#)!%$* cold outside.

e. Speaking of which, feeling cold is partly psycho-somatic. 15 degrees F doesn't sound too bad, until you do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation and realise it means MINUS 8 degrees C. That's when you really begin to freeze.

f. Nothing tastes better on these freezing nights than green chillies, added by the pound to everything you cook. Of course, the chillies rather drown out the taste of other masala you put in, but that's sort of the point.

g. There are few things as wonderful as hearing friends' voices from across the oceans, even when you can also hear the sounds of their morning ablutions over the sounds of your laughter. Happy birthday, T. :)

h. It is possible to get really tired of listening to "jingle bell rock". Really, really tired. Claw-out-the-damn-radio-and-throw-it-out-of-the-window tired, because every%!_)*! channel is playing it.

i. Procrastination is bliss.

j. Russell Peters rocks.


What he said.
The internet is fascinating!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Secret World

Sitting at the office, working on a humongous project, I plug in my ear-phones and slide in a CD I haven't heard for a while. (Secret World Live, in case you were wondering.) It's been a while since I could concentrate on work with music playing in the background - the habit I carelessly took for granted through school and college seems to have rusted out.

Today's an exception though. For some reason, the concentration is unflagging.

Perhaps because some albums, particular pieces of music, bring up sharp, distinct memories, strong enough to assault you. Memories that make you take five minutes off from work to remember and laugh, send a quick email to people associated with the picture in your mind, and then return peacefully to work.

This particular album is one of those... the first time I heard Peter Gabriel was at my friend T's house. T was a year senior to me in college, and given that I attended college once in a blue moon (at my viva, I was asked, "are you sure you belong to this class?" - and I can tell you it was tempting to say, "No, sorry, my mistake," and walk right out of there - which, in light of the carnage that followed, might have been the intelligent thing to do), it was a wonder that we became friends... but we did. Right from my first day at college, when he singled me out from the others being subjected to somwewhat un-inspired ragging, to make me treat him to a coffee and smoke.

T lived reasonably close to college, and on winter afternoons, when the desire for some good music pushed the desire not to attend classes over the tip of the scales, we'd go back to his place to listen to generations of rock, drink hot, sweet tea, sneak smokes on his balcony (conveniently hidden from view by large-leafed trees) and talk about life. (Mostly, since he had an inconveniently good memory, we'd discuss my exploits, which he'd drag up at every opportunity, and I'd rue the day I'd ever told him about... but that's another story.)

T and I haven't met too often since we left college - we've been playing the "gechho dada" game for too long. So, when I was in Bombay, T was in Cal. When T moved to Bombay, I moved to Kozhikode. When I finally moved back to Bombay, T moved back to Cal. And so on.

T's not much of a talker on the phone either, so we haven't spoken much over the years. But each time we've met, after we've shared a drink and a smoke and updated each other on our lives and the new music we've discovered, T's managed to dredge up, from the depths of my chequered past, incidents that even I don't remember, incidents that I've then spent years erasing from my memory.

Until I meet T again, that is. Even when they remember things about you that you'd rather not - or, who knows, perhaps precisely for that reason - thank god for old friends.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

B Flat Minor

You know how it is when you have a particular tune running through your head, over and over in a loop, stuck inside your mind without your even being aware? It plays itself out all day, barely causing a ripple in your consciousness... just a pleasant sense of something different about the day. You go about your work, letting your mind dance to a different tune. You drive home listening to the radio, but as you drive, the tune starts taking over, making itself heard over everything else until, by the time you reach home, you've turned off the radio, and you're humming it. Almost on auto-pilot, still not entirely aware of it.

You walk up the stairs, dump your bags and coat on the floor as you walk in, take a shower, make some hot tea with ginger and look out the window at the first snow of the season. Still humming. Still unaware.

And suddenly, the tune goes into Dolby stereo mode, with full Technicolour effects, and you sit up, half delighted, half nostalgic, and start humming it, na-na-NA-na-na-na, and remembering others that went "with" it.

There are times I've had awful tunes stuck inside my head - like that awful song, "no life without wife" from that awful movie, "Bridge and Prejudice" (yes, yes, I AM prejudiced). But for the last few days, it's been Chopin. Conjuring up a storm inside my head with a Prelude I can no longer identify, though my fingers, through some form of mystical physical memory (perhaps we're all made of memory foam?) remember the ebb and flow of it.

I went through a whole day of routine without noticing its sudden presence. It was only that night, reading in a yellow glow, that it came crashing through the fog and accosted me. Distracted me. Disarmed me. Twisted me around a corner and whirled me into the sounds.

And now, I can't get it out of my head. I've been googling desparately for a couple of days, trying to find some free downloads of Chopin's Preludes and Etudes. No success. Perhaps I should just get a piano and the score and start teaching myself all over again. Meanwhile, the tune goes na-na-NA-na-na-na - if you can identify which Prelude it is, please let me know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

So This is Hell

On a hypothetical Friday evening in the hypothetical month of December, a mythical woman sits at her desk at the office, poring over an 80 page document that she must - MUST - (hypothetically, of course) clean up and send out to her hypothetical client.

On page what-feels-like-three-hundred-and-seventeen-and-a-half (hypothetical documents being allowed to have "half" page numbers - though undoubtedly, imaginary numbers might suit them better), she reads the following:

"Hypothetical-company-name follows the above mentioned methodology in general for all application developments and can be further tailor made to suite the specific client requirement, whatever it is. One of such tailored execution approach is depicted below"

Incorrect. What's below is my hypothetical head after I put it through the shredder.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Karmic Chaos

Observing the behaviour of some of the people around me, I marvel at their ability to do certain things. Things I consider heinous, or at best, unforgivable - with complete nonchalance, a casual flick of the wrist, a flash of eyes, a half-contemptuous turn.

And suddenly wonder: What if my conception of things is entirely, irrevocably wrong? What if I'm the stupid one, unable to comprehend that the path I want to be on can be reached only by going through a thick web of dishonesty?

Worse, what if they're "right"? What if "lying" and "cheating" are in fact "good"? Rather like Calvin's dream of a Santa who gives toys only to naughty kids? What if my karma is upside down, inside out, right-side wrong?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dogs & Niggers Will Not Be Served

So I went to New York City weekend before last, to meet up with S, who was visiting from London, and some other friends. And after we had eaten our fill at a cozy place down the street, we went to a pub called Uncle Ming's, at 225 Avenue B. And one of their bar-tenders not only refused to serve my friend R, but even gave us his "reason" for the same: "I'm racist, what will you do?"

Not only that, when N argued with him about this incident, he actually called the bouncer to evict N from the premises. Upon which, we all followed N down the stairs behind the bouncer, talking loudly about racial discrimination.

And here's the next twist: there were actually cops standing on the stairs, listening to us tell the bouncer what had happened, hearing the term "racial discrimination" over and over again.

Test question, to see if you know what the world is about: Did the bouncer, on hearing the story, or the cops, on over-hearing the story, ask us to go back inside? Did they apologise? Did they, as a matter of fact, do anything?

If you answered "yes", you're sadly naive. Nobody did anything.

And, eventually, neither did we. Our objective was to make the most of our evening, and our priorities elsewhere. It did leave a bad taste in our mouth though, that hasn't entirely gone away. Perhaps because we let it slide too. Perhaps we should have done something, though I'm not entirely sure what.

Any ideas?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Survival & Insanity in the USA

So recall an earlier post where I'd spoken about not wanting to room with a "ree-ree-ree" flatmate? Well, it appears I don't learn from experience. I decided to share an apartment with her in the US, and well, I sure learnt my lesson, when she almost ran out on me with a full 700 bucks. $, not Rs. Not a funny story, and below this blog's dignity to go into in detail.

That and other things have been sort of occupying the lion's share of mind-space, so things that I meant to write about have not been written about. But coming up soon (I hope) is the survivor's guide to the US - truly, How To Be A Legal Alien (with all due apologies to George Mikes and Sting).

Right now, though, there is just the unutterable delight of having my own space, warm wooden floors, soft lamplight glowing, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong crooning about the Autumn in New York, and some good books by my side. Life seems to be falling into place again.

Monday, October 17, 2005

And In Other News Tonight...

Shubho Bijoya (a trifle late, but I'm not fond enough of worms to be the early bird).

The spammers have found me. Apologies, but this blog has no option. Spam-protection in the form of word verification is now enabled here.

A wonderful, restful week at home, with home food and dogs and peaceful afternoons and my room filled with green leaf sunshine. That particular shade of sunshine. This is what I know, I kept thinking, a city I can negotiate in my sleep, old hangouts and friends and conversation that range over the impossibly important and to the completely inane. Cups and cups of coffee and tea; phuchka (distinct from and far superior to both gol gappas and pani puris) from the phuchka-walla outside my house who greets me fondly each time I return. Pujor abhawa - a sense of mild festivity and goodwill towards all in the air, and children in spanking new clothes walking down the road, foodstalls selling fish fry and kochuri and radhabollobi and ghugni on street corners and in parks, ferris wheels and hurdy-gurdies and Chicken a la Kiev at Mocambo with catching-up conversation glinting in the lamplight, and warm doggie fur against my leg as I sleep, and warm breath on my face as one of the doggies tries to stare me into waking at 5 in the morning.

No wonder, then, that email and blogging were ignored and put aside for later while I wallowed in peace.

But we're back now, and making resolutions and doing things. This blog will come to those, in due time. For now, though, the rutted roads and darn traffic of Bangalore are already driving this blog to road rage. And this blog has some paperwork to do as well.

Ah'll be beck.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Magic Box

Planning to buy a digital camera.
Any suggestions / recommendations?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Life, or Something Very Like It

Conversation 1
B: (to friends at large) Why don't you come over for lunch on Sunday? My cousin (that's me) will cook something.
F-a-L: Sure. We'll be there.

Conversation 2
B: (to other friends at large) Why don't you come over for lunch on Saturday? My cousin (me again) will cook.
F-a-L: Sounds good.

Conversation 3
B: (to her friends-at-large - people I barely know) Have dinner with us on Saturday night. My cousin (by now you know who this is) will cook.
F-a-L: Great.

There's a pattern emerging here, I just know it.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Packing my stuff - to leave behind, to carry back home and bring back again - takes a few hours. As I'm sorting through stuff and trying to fit it into bags, I'm suddenly tired. I feel as though I've been packing all my life, all my life, packing, packing, fitting things into bags, getting on trains and planes and buses and into cars, leaving. Suddenly, I can't face packing any more. Instead, I go downstairs and stand outside the hotel and look up into the night sky. No Mars, but some stars and a sickle moon and clear air flood my head with my earliest star-gazing memories - on trips and treks, sitting outside in the cold cold air and breathing in the calm fullness of the place.

My Air India flight to Bombay via Paris takes off 1 whole hour late - apparently all systems at Newark have shut down. I imagine skynet or whatever it was in the Terminator movies, or the whole Matrix phenomenon. Machines taking over the planet and deciding to shut down un unison. Incoming flights frozen in the void, temporarily bullied out of existence by Newark's IT failure... else reduced to circling the airport endlessly.

By the time we lift off, passengers' stomachs are growling so loudly that they could be doing sound effects for a whole other airplane. To prevent us from eating them, the crew hastily throws packets of chips at us. As they put dinner together, the smell of fragrantly spiced mutton curry almost drives me crazy.

After dinner, I try to sleep. But a stewardess has other ideas. Each time I start nodding off, she jumps to my window and snaps the shade shut. The sound wakes me. I open the shade again, send unpleasant thoughts and quelling looks-that-kill in her direction and try to drift off into dreamland again. (Repeat from beginning of paragraph for 4 hours to understand the true meaning of endless night.)

We're flying into daylight and into timezones ahead of ours, so dinner, breakfast and lunch all take place in the span of 9 hours. Part of the time, I read Tears of the Giraffe - the second book in Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series - set in Botswana, and highly recommended. But mostly, I'm just jumping in my seat with anticipation, can't wait to land in Bombay.

And when we finally do, I can see rain beating against the sides of the plane, and I think, "shit." So much for the anticipation, the anxiousness to be back.

Immigration, baggage claim, and out the door. The humidity hits me like a solid wall. The rain is a snivelling drizzle - the type I hate most. A is nowhere to be seen (turns out later he's waiting at the wrong terminal). I've lost my phone and can't call or message. Welcome home.


After a warm, cozy weekend, I leave Bombay on a sticky grey Monday morning. A sees me off at the airport and a grey sheen hangs over the city and our goodbye. My flight breaks through the cloud cover and Bombay suddenly vanishes, just like that. No long last looks over one's shoulder. Perhaps that's as it should be.


Bangalore sucks.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


1. Toilet paper can scratch your ass raw.

2. Seasons change real quick. One day there's bright sunlight, the next, you remember old geography lessons as you watch the morning light slant across the park.

3. It's dangerous to go within a 1 mile radius of Cheesecake Factory.

4. It's even more dangerous to get caught in a corridor with Cheesecake Factory on one side and Cold Stone Creamery on the other.

5. If you can survive the temptations of the corridor, you will, inevitably, reward yourself by giving in to temptation at the Barnes & Noble at the end of the corridor.

6. Hotel rooms are difficult to keep clean. It's not your's, so you don't care.

7. It's eminently possible to live like a slob for 2 months, washing dishes only when the fungus starts to creep out of the sink and attack books on the counter.

8. American ads really suck.

9. Speaking of which, there seem to be, broadly, 4 categories of products advertised on TV here:

  • Automobiles
  • Telephone network providers
  • Medication (mostly for penile dysfunction and post-partum depression - and you have to wonder about cause-and-effect here)
  • Insurance
10. It's always nice to get a dosa. Even one that costs 4 bucks, USD.

What Was I Thinking?

Spring Fest, 1996

Perhaps it was the effect of all the un-imbibed dope lingering in the air...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Seeing Red

See the red planet! The closest we've ever seen it. The closest Mars has ever been to the Earth in recorded history. Closer than it'll be in the forseeable future. Let's call this "The International Doorstep Astronomy Week". Night sightings. Daytime sightings. A big red orb hanging in space. Opening up debate about the Zone of Life theory again... See Mars, as big as the moon (actually, it's a whole lot bigger, but you know what I mean). It's like a bloody fiesta.

I just have one question: WHERE THE !@#!% is it?

I've been looking, I really have, and I'm yet to see it, and it's already past 27th August (the day on which it was supposed to have been closest to Earth). Would someone please point me in the right direction?

I have a dirty suspicion, though, that I'm not actually going to get to see it. Years later, people will ask me, "how could you not have seen it? The whole world saw it." And I'll say, "Ummm." Really. These things happen to me.

Years and years and years ago, when Halley's Comet was doing it's once-in-70-something-years fly-by visit, we decided that those who planned ahead and prepared and got to a good sighting spot, saw. So in we piled, family and extended friends, into a couple of cars. Aluminium folding chairs in the boot (yes, it's a boot, not a trunk), gallons of coffee in flasks (and, possibly, jerry-cans). Stomachs full of food (luchi and alur dom, I suspect), and hearts filled with adventure and a sense of momentousness, off we drove to Diamond Harbour. And over the course of a long night, we waited and watched, and played word-games and I-spy (note to G: and some of us worked out 2 to the power 52, manually, something for which we will some day get our own back at the people that made us do it). Unfortunately, nobody spied the malevolent comet. Really. So I've got to wait for another 50 odd years for another shot at that.

So please, I'd really like to see Mars - up close and personal. If you have any information about where it is, please write in and tell me. I'll pay for the information. And oh, btw, it looks something like this:

Photograph courtesy

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Big Con

I learnt a lot today.
Mostly about how to make things up and sell them to peo... whoops, sorry, I meant about consulting.

Here's how: A couple of days ago, I went ahead and told a prospect something that I thought we could do for them, based on a briefing session by the head of consulting (HOC). And I provided numbers and everything. The same numbers the HOC gave me.

Me: Sure, we can save you 20-25% of ongoing ___ cost. As a matter of fact, we're already doing this for a, y and z.

Client___: (getting interested despite himself) I don't see how you could do that. I mean, there's not that much to do on an ongoing basis... ummm... are you sure about these numbers?

Me: (full of righteous salesmanship, basing my statements on the rock that I think my HOC is) Of course I am. In fact, let me do something: I will send you, by the end of the week, a roadmap, showing you how we're doing this, and then we can talk numbers, and see what we can do for you.

Client___: Sounds excellent.

Me: Alrighty then.

So, bursting with pride for getting somewhere selling a fairly new, unknown service, I go to my HOC, and tell him I need specifics - numbers and roadmaps - to send out to Client___. And he tells me, "Just speak to A, and get the numbers. She's the dude when it comes to this. And oh, if she can't get you good numbers, just ask her to make them up. I mean, she's better equipped to make them up than you are."

When I get over my coronary attack at hearing this, I spend 3 days chasing A and team (who ignore my pleas for information and keep saying, in an appalled manner, "you believed numbers that HOC gave you? Why, for the love of god, why? He's a consultant, he'll say anything!). Finally, with self-imposed mailout-deadline-cum-professional-suicide hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles, at 6:00 p.m. today, said team and I get into an empty conference room. We spend 45 minutes making jokes about the consulting profession (yes, they are consultants), throw some numbers around, do some tweaking, decide to call them real, and put them down for posterity.

No, the mail hasn't gone out yet - it'll be in Client___'s mailbox before he gets in on Monday morning. But next time, I'll be less worried about sending out information like this, secure in the knowledge that if I don't actually have information from consulting, I can just make them up. After all, whether they're making them up or I am can hardly matter.

Oh, and btw? These numbers are now going to be used to sell this same story to other prospects too, now that we have them.

Meanwhile, thinking of all this reminded me of one of the coolest columns ever: Fast Company's Consultant Debunking Unit. Here you go. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

That Thing That Makes The World Go Around

This is an ironic title for this post. Because, truth be told, I have no idea what that thing I've blithely put in the subject line is. None. Is it friendship? Music? Alcohol? Good conversation? Pink Floyd? Hot home-cooked food? Laughing till your sides ache and your jaw gets stuck?

Whatever it is, it's working for me, at least for now. My weekend was one delightful, delightful extended moment in time, with all the above. The kind of weekend whose essence you want to distill and store, safe in a stoppered glass bottle in a cool dry place, and take out to sniff once in a while - but delicately, delicately. Imagine a 5 hour journey, with conversation about everything and nothing and whatever lies in between, a hot, home-cooked meal and good vodka at the other end, a room draped in shadow and shards of light, someone plays a guitar while others sing everything from hyms to Floyd, and somewhere along the way, the first song they ever remember trying to mumble the words to, ever spotless, ever pure, melody and harmony. Imagine excited conversation and the meeting of old friends and dear, squeezing together into one small bed and laughing into the night and everything has changed and nothing has changed and I thought I saw Mars out the window on the long way home and isn't the world wondrous?

In words that only some people who read this blog will understand, and that might make others who read this blog stop reading this blog, I am dzust laabh.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The suicide rate among cold-callers must be sky-high.

This from B, 25th August 05:
Why have you stopped blogging? Spending all waking hours thinking of innovative ways to commit suicide?

Monday, August 15, 2005


It's thundering and lightning-ing outside. A bad-weather front that was not supposed to touch the coast has indeed struck the coast, and New York City was treated today to a deluge, a real storm. During which I was stuck at Penn Station, waiting for the North-East Corridor Line to be made functional again, and thinking to myself, nothing really changes... had I been in Bombay, I might have been stuck at Churchgate, waiting for the Western Line to be made functional again after heavy rain and flooding.

But now I'm back, and cozily sitting in my room, and thinking of the godawful workday I have tomorrow. And still smiling, because I picked up a couple of very exciting books from the Strand Bookstore today. "Over the Edge of the World" - the story of Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, by Laurence Bergreen, and "Mercator - The Man Who Mapped The Planet" by Nicholas Crane.

And also because, this time while I was there, I saw signs for Bourbon Street and Bleecker Street. It's fascinating when street names from songs suddenly appear in front of your eyes, unbidden. Bleecker Street didn't look bleak, and the moon wasn't over Bourbon Street (it was a dark and stormy night...) but I still grinned like an idiot when I saw them.

Tomorrow will mark the first time I'll be working on the 15th of August. It'll be strange not to attend a flag-hoisting ceremony somewhere, sing the national anthem - I can't remember a time when I haven't. I'll miss the cars going by with little paper flags stuck in their bonnets, kids waving them around everywhere, shops selling flag pins to stick into blazers and collars. So distance does matter, after all.

Here's to all the flags that get stuck at half-mast, those that refuse to unfurl properly and that have to be taken down and re-hoisted... and the burst of pride one feels (even if one is a global citizen) each time one sees the flag open out and ripple in the wind.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

On The Road Again

So before you ask, let me tell you that
a. I didn't screw up at the meeting. (In fact, I barely spoke!)
b. It went OK (we agreed to have a meeting with the real buyer, and that will be where we stand or are shot to pieces. Imagine music from spaghetti westerns here. In fact, imagine me dressed in a shabby green poncho, squinting down an office corridor, my hand hanging by my side, hovering next to my Blackberry Handheld, ready to beat my opponent to the draw, the noon-day sun beating down outside the air conditioned office... But I digress...)

I had one heck of a day: 11 hours traveling or in transit, for the sake of a one hour meeting in the middle of the day. Holy Toledo! (hah! managed it!) And since it's the journey and not the destination that matters... here's an account.

To begin with, managed to catch an express on the NJ Transit, without realising (this blog is dedicated to the retention of Queen's English, at least as far as spelling goes) it. And guess what? The damn express doesn't stop at Newark Airport... only at Newark Penn Station. What kind of dimwit country has express trains which don't stop at major stops like an airport? It'd be like a fast train on the Mumbai western line not stopping at Santa Cruz or Parla, the closest stops to the airport... oh, wait. Umm. Hmmm. (Embarassedly drawing circles in the dust with my big toe.)

So anyhow, had to pay an extra 7 bucks to get back to the airport... found my way to the right terminal, boarded. Measured out my time with Sierra Mist. And then, looking down, saw this familar shape - a huge water body, shaped like a diseased pancreas... Lake Michigan! (I still can't get over the coolness of seeing things straight out of a geography book live and in the flesh - if from a height of 30000 feet). I'm told that in winter, the lake freezes over enough for people to drive trucks and buses over it (instead of all the way around).

Disembarked at Detroit, and made our way to Hertz to rent a car to drive to Toledo. Detroit is much as I'd imagined it in my mind: bright blue skies with wisps of cloud and noon-day heat shimmering over sprawling concrete. But we weren't there for long - just long enough to rent a car and get the hell out. My boss told me conversationally that we were just 10 minutes drive from the Canadian border, and since he's lived in Toronto and keeps talking about what a great place it is, I wondered for a few moments whether he was going to make a dash across the border (what a great movie this would have been: high-noon, the good the bad and the ugly and the three fugitives all rolled into one). But he didn't, and we set course for Toledo.

Over the course of the 1 hour drive to Toledo, Ohio, I could see how easy it would be to fall asleep at the wheel on highways like this. Long, straight highways, heat-haze making me squint and not much around. The sameness of what you see can drag, pull ones eyelids down slowly. A friend of mine drives from NJ to Washington DC every week, and he tells me that music on the radio alone is not enough - he sings, to keep himself awake.

The coolest things about the drive, though were:
1. The hertz direction finder - a device that maps roads, shows you which turns to take and where you are... you programme it to where you want to go, and it guides you... so you keep looking at it, and take the turns indicated, and voila, you're there! I could barely keep my eyes of it, but eventually got distracted when we passed a sign for
2. Telegraph Road!!! There's almost certainly no link between this road, one of the major thoroughfares in Detroit, and the Straits song, but there's an ironic link between the words of the song and the economic situation in Detroit and other such towns.

And so, driving down the highway, we finally came upon a sign that said "Welcome to Ohio" and soon after, Toledo. Toledo seemed a small town - Calicut might be bigger - with tired peeling old brick buildings and a depressing air. I concentrated on our meeting, then left. I'd ordered a car from a place which ran out of smaller cars and sent me a limo! Unfortunately, the driver of the limo was a total conspiracy theorist, and for the one hour drive back to Detroit airport, regaled me with how George Bush was a CIA agent, or ran the CIA, or was run by the CIA (depending on which particular story he was telling); how if only the world knew how many murders Clinton had ordered, his image would be different, and so on... finally ending with how he wanted to go to Goa, and live in India for a year, and how he thinks India is the best democracy in the world. I don't know whether to be touched or just plain scared for the country when he lands in Goa.

The rest of my trip back was a crazy mishmash of varied versions of Murphy's law: my flight was delayed due to bad weather and we were told we'd have more information in 30 minutes, then, as I was buying coffee somewhere, 10 minutes later, I heard the last boarding call, forcing me to sprint the rest of the way to the gate with laptop, purse, wallet and coffee all over the place. Some disgusting passenger had spilt some gunk on the floor of the aircraft, as a result of which my laptop bag strap is soaking wet and smelly, and the padded part will probably discolour my clothes if I put it against my shoulder. NJ transit trains were running late, so I had to wait at the platform for 20 minutes (grumble grumble in Bombay there are trains every 4 minutes) when all I wanted to do was sink into a bath. NJ transit lines lost power while I was actually on the train, so that we were stuck on the track, with the air conditioning and lights out (grumble grumble at least the Bombay locals have ventilation).

Finally made it back at about 8:30 p.m. Staggered in, checked my mail (how I love wi-fi), and slept for a straight 12 hours.

Enjoy your weekend. I'm sure going to enjoy mine!

Friday, August 05, 2005

A for Anticipation

So I have my first client meeting tomorrow.
In Toledo, Ohio.

Scared shitless, hoping I don't screw up.

Excited, raring to go. Don't think I'm going to get a wink of sleep tonight.

Of course, given my history of work related gaffes, there's every chance that I'll screw up royally. Say something completely inappropriate, in an utterly FRIENDS moment.

So watch this space. The potential for mass entertainment looms large.

And until then, Toled-le-oo.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On Second Thought...

The continuing saga of Christopher Columbus' daughter, many times removed.

People. Friendly, after all. So not everyone's a customs official. "How're you doing" greetings bouncing off the walls. Perhaps with fewer people than back home, it's possible to individually greet everyone whose eyes meet yours.

New Jersey. Clean, wide roads. Greenery. Woods. Backwoods, actually. Life here revolves around Route (pronounced to rhyme with "pout") 1 and Route 9, call-a-cab services, watching traffic zoom by on the highway, exits 131 and 130. And road signs. Every 5 yards. Still no people though - except, perhaps, at Metropark station, waiting for trains or cabs. Indian suburbs - filled with Kanha sarees, Dimple Fast Food, Dosa Express (muy excellente dosa) and Subzi Mandi.

New York. May-the-lord-be-praised-it's-a-city. I see land. Smelly. Noisy. Dirty. Tall buildings. Bars. People. Activity. And smack in the centre (center) - or close enough, Central Park. This is my heaven. Complete with two of my temples: 59th Street Bridge and Central Park. Fire engines passing by with shrieking sirens every 15 minutes. Confusing and chaotic - I bet this is how all non-Indians feel when confronted with an Indian city. I feel like the quintessential tourist, staring with open-mouthed wonder at the mythical monster. And recognising (recognizing) in it the family pet.

Hmmm. Yep, as long as I can get a weekly dose of The City, I think I'll make it.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Bharat's gone.

I can't believe it, it's not real. Even after two days, every ten minutes or so, it suddenly hits me again. And again. And again. I'm thinking of a funny story, telling someone about our crazy days together, and saying, "Bharat is this totally something guy..." and suddenly I realise that he isn't any longer - he was.

It's unreal. An Omen-ish quality of nightmare: blue skies and light wood and sunshine and laughing people getting on with their lives and all the while, a voice inside me is repeating no NO NO it's a mistake it can't be true it's a horrible horrible mistake and I'll wake up tomorrow and the world will be normal again and all 7 of us will be whole and alive and still ready to conquer the world - as we were 7 years ago, the unstoppable team ready to change the universe. And all the while, in my head, a refrain plays itself over and over again: And then there were six.

How long it's been, the road we've travelled together. Seven years ago, seven kids set out to conquer the planet. We were kings, lords, the world was our oyster and we knew we could do anything - anything at all; we were family, we drank together and starved together, and burnt the candle at both ends together and pulled each other through rough patches. And when the year was up, we still held on to the threads, wherever we were, as went our own ways. And now there are only six, scattered, shattered, drawn together in a virtual group hug of sorrow and solace and shared tears and memories - team days and team building, but Bharat's not here, never will be and oh god it's so unfair and pointless and stupid and there's nothing anybody can do and the world no longer makes any sense.

I don't know whether I believe in the immortal soul. But I think I believe that somewhere, Bharat's sitting on a cloud in the sunshine. Drinking some good whiskey, smoking a cigarette, relishing his butter chicken. Looking down to tell us, "chalo, koi nahin." And as squints into the sun and takes a drag on the cigarette, he slaps his thighs and laughs out loud - with his particular guffaw - at the absurdity of the world.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


1. "Funspecs" aren't fun.

2. Delivery isn't as delivery does.

3. Happiness could be a warm gun.

4. Something's turning.

5. Laundry relaxing. Soft and warm the clothes out the dryer.

Off to New York tomorrow night. Other kinds of learning. And to meet some very old friends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Days Like This II

1. Spilt water all over pantry floor (including on pants of poor guy who was giving me gyan about cold calling. He stopped.)

2. Spilt coffee on my pristine white shirt. My NEW pristine white shirt that I like so much. Spent about half an hour scrubbing it with handsoap in the pantry, and I suspect the stain hasn't gone - it's just lying there, dormant, until the shirt dries, when it'll resurface with a roar.

3. Boss tells me I have to start cold calling (that awful first step to Sales) on 1st August. 1 full month of cold calling. And I have to have my script ready by next week. And the script is based on the industry, obviously. And I know nothing about the industry I've been assigned, so I have to read up about that... and about the ITES and BPO industries... and about a hundred other things... besides shadowing 2 proposals that are currently on.

When oh when am I going to read Harry Potter? Do my laundry? Learn to drive on the right hand side of the road?

I should have been born rich instead of beautiful!


I came home and spilt orange juice all over my counter.

Some days are just like that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Looking Back

I keep minimising everything else on my screen to take a look at this image...

Campus. Not being there takes a lot of getting used to.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I get by with a little help from my friends

I might have moped all weekend. I could have sat in my hotel room, mournfully, eaten inedible micro-wave dinners, watched TV and fallen progressively further and further into utter and complete gloom while the world draped itself in sinister shadow and rattled its bones in the chill wind and under the darkling skies ghosts shuffled along paths laid with dead leaves.

But N came over Friday night, bearing food for the stomach, beer for the soul and conversation for the brain. And M and V followed on Saturday, and whisked me off to warmth and laughter and home and family till I more or less totally forgot that I was far from everything dear and familiar and felt like I was home again, and completely confused all my "here"s and "there"s.

Bless them, bless 'em all.

There are more impressions forming, but for now, while I'm still drunk on weekend contentment, let them rest. Peace on earth and goodwill to all; I hope you had a wonderful weekend and managed to get your hands on the Half Blood Prince.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Something I heard a while ago that I suddenly remembered.

Did you hear about the guy who dreamt he had written The Lord of The Rings?

He woke up and realised he was just Tolkien in his sleep.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

First Impressions - the epic version

Unfriendly. Unfriendly people at the customs and immigration desks, no please-thank-you no smiles though I'm smiling like an idiot. And they treat me like one, talk to me like one till I want to tell them, Listen, you schmuck, my toe-nail has a higher IQ than you so don't you talk down to me, don't you condescend to me. But instead, I smile, answer questions-meant-to-rile succinctly and clearly, wait for my visa to be stamped and walk into the wilderness.

Alone, everything new and strange seems newer and stranger. I can't understand the announcements. There's no tonality for me to pick out, no nuance, and the words, amplified by the PA system, having a booming quality in the middle of my quiet panic. I want to turn around and go home now, but I get through Customs and to the Arrival Hall.

To find that I have to pay a whopping $3 (over 120 bucks!) for a luggage trolley - something that's absolutely free in any airport in India. Con-men, I think, forking out the money, and take my trolley to the luggage carousel with a sign for AI191 and some other flight. I watch the same luggage go round and round on the carousel and mine seems to be nowhere in sight. As I begin to panic, I notice that lots of luggage has been taken off the carousel and placed neatly to the side, so I push my trolley past all these bags, round the carousel, eyeing each one hopefully, but no, my stuff's not here either. After 15 minutes of doing this, I discover that there's another carousel, also with luggage from the same 2 flights. Is it just me, or is there something really stupid about splitting up luggage from 2 flights across 2 carousels instead of dedicating one to each flight?

I pick up my luggage and head out. Find a taxi ($42 + tolls - 1600 bucks! I could go from Delhi to Bombay for 1600 bucks!) driven by a Sudanese guy who asks me if I know where Sudan is. Of course I do, I'm not American, I think, before I remember not to generalise (generalize). As we wend our way to the hotel, we make some wrong turns, and I look for people to ask directions from. But the roads are frighteningly empty of people. Cars zoom by, windows rolled up, like through a freakish ghost town. Around me, familiar names whiz by, a landscape of malls and shops - JC Penney, Home Depot, McDonalds, Buick, Pizza Hut. Familiar yet strange.

Finally, we make it to the hotel, which has to hunt for my reservation. No, they don't have an international call facility, so I'll have to go to Wal-Mart to buy a phone card. My room is lovely, inviting, and after 24 straight hours of traveling, I'm desparate to have a bath, but even more desparate to hear a known voice, to ensure that I haven't fallen off the planet into nothingness.

Wal-Mart is a 10-minute walk away, but it takes me nearly 20, because I lose my way and there's nobody to ask. Finally, a woman smoking a cigarette outside a building seems me peering across the road, explorer-style, and asks me what I'm looking for. I'm new here, I tell her (to explain my solitary presence on the un-peopled road). Wal-Mart - can you tell me where the nearest one is? Right over there - she points across the highway. But you can't cross that. So she directs me around and I find my way there, constantly worried that I'll be arrested for jay-walking, crossing roads any-old-where, feeling like a character in a Kafka novel.

The idea of the fat American is clearer to me now. Wal-Mart has no carts smaller than me, and everyone walking out has a cart-full of stuff that they haul, waddling, to their cars. Nobody walks, everybody drives, and most people are humongous. I wonder about the direction of causality here.

Like pretty much everything else, Wal-Mart is huge. Like 4 football fields put together. I feel small, dwarfed. I want to disappear. But I take a cart and walk down aisle after aisle, searching for groceries (milk, juice, bread, cheese, vienna sausages, corned beef and a couple of micro-wave pasta dinners) and a phone card. There's a self-check-out counter, but I'm too scared to try that, so I queue up with all the others. $23 (for almost nothing). Walking back, through my disorientation I can feel the excitement of seeing firs - firs! - and little wooded areas, and all my white-christmas fantasies are awakened.

But the weather now is much like Bangalore weather - about 25 degrees C, cloudy, a little humid so that I'm sweating as I walk back with my bags.

Back to the room, a couple of quick calls home and to A later, I check the clock to find that it's already 8:30 p.m. (my watch is still on IST, a faint connection with the familiar). Dinner (bread, cheese, sausages and juice), a long hot bath to wash 24 hours' grime off me, phone call from home and quick chats with N and V, promising to meet over the weekend. Flip through channels (all universally boring) and turn out the lights on my disorientation, hoping the darkness and some sleep will bring relief.

And the disorientation is everywhere. It's not just about driving on the wrong side of the road. Everything is the opposite of what I'm used to. I had to fill up the INS form 4 times, because I'm used to the instruction being below the writing space, whereas on these forms, it's above. The lights turn on when you flip the switches upwards, not downwards. The flush handle is on the left side of the cistern. At 8:30 p.m., it's still light out, and at 9:00 p.m., it's dusk. When I wake up at 5:00, it's already light out. Where is the darkness?

I wake up early (3:00 a.m., 3:40 a.m., and so on) and eventually get out of bed at 5:30. Some unpacking and arranging of stuff, breakfast, and out at 7:30. A ride from X, who works with us, for Y and me, who are both staying at the same hotel. X drives like an Indian, changing lanes abruptly and taking U-turns where they're not allowed. We get to office - a grey stony building from the outside. Inside, work-spaces are large and big windows look out on the road and greenery. But I have no laptop yet, only a workspace, and the dis-orientation continues. X and Y log in and start up and get onto calls. I get a cup of hazelnut flavoured coffee and check my mail and log into the blog, waiting to see how events unfold.

First Impressions

1. Speed.
2. Open spaces and greenery - including coniferous trees- firs, the kind you imagine snow falling on at Christmas. Exciting.
3. No people anywhere. Nobody from whom to ask directions, share a smile, standing on street corners aimlessly.
4. Stranger in a strange land. I'm in a movie, this isn't, this can't be real.
5. NJ is supposed to be full of Indians, but I'm yet to see one.
6. That mattress is soft!
7. Flying over Europe was exciting. Shapes I thought I recognised from atlases. Was that the Caspian Sea? Were those the British Isles? How small they are!
8. I don't quite miss home yet, but that's because everything feels surreal so far. I don't think I've quite got it. Across the world, somewhere, my parents are having a drink, my dogs are frisking around, my world is lying still, a snapshot, frozen in the instant of my leaving.
9. Walmart to find an international phonecard. Huge beyond belief. I could get lost there.
10. Hazelnut flavoured coffee, a window overlooking the street and green trees.
11. Early to bed, early to rise, jet lag still there. I'm functioning on Paris time, I think. Early to office, barely anybody here, I'm the only one without a laptop, without work. Waiting for the office administrator to get in and orient me. Becase I'm disoriented.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Frog Will Have Left The Building

This will be the last post I'll be writing from India for a couple of months, I suspect, unless Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport in Mumbai lays claim to deserted cyber-cafes open for all-night use. In the quiet morning, then, there will be more words. Insha-allah.

Friday, July 08, 2005

New Mastercard Commercial

OR The story of our weekend in Goa
  • 3 days stay in romantic room in cozy little hotel: Rs. 3600
  • Para-sailing together, high above the world, where only we exist: Rs. 800
  • Food and drink consumed all day, sitting in a shack and running down to gambol in the waves: Rs. 500
  • Having to run, in little blue trunks and tight blue swimsuit, respectively, to the Government Medical College after the waves gamboled with A and dislocated his shoulder: priceless!

GMC Goa, in Bambolin, is unbelievable, and in a good way. It's clean, the doctors (at least those in casualty) are efficient and quick and have a great bedside manner to boot. There's no harassment, even the helper guys - who would be touts in many other places - are helpful. My advice is, if you must have a mild incident that requires casualty medical treatment, do it in Goa. As the T-shirt says, "it's better in Goa."

Vignettes, zimbly.

Bangalore is cloudy, with a grey mist hiding the sun even at 6:00 p.m., when it's annoyingly hot and sunny in Mumbai. In another city, this would be gloomy. Here, it just is, and you bask in it.

Big yellow sign-boards of concrete, resting on two columns and with a temple-architecture top and black squiggly kannada script, stand at the corners of well-ploughed streets.

A prominent hoarding tells reckless young bikers, sternly, "You have only one head. Wear a helmet. Courtesy Bangalore Police." Sage advice. The roads here are twisted with traffic, badly maintained ruts of red mud and dust over which helmet-less boys play a modern-day version of hopscotch with their bikes, swerving in and out through the overwhelming, crawling, stinking traffic, play-acting at being characters in a video game.

Last weekend, I went to Koramangala - to an area that is less than a 5-minute walk from where I used to live a few years ago. And it's unrecognisable. All the open grounds have been taken out, and apartments and banks of concrete and steel and glass put in. I'm appalled, but had Forum been around when I was staying there, at least going to the movies would have been easier.

The surge in population and traffic have an inverse relationship to the road surface area. Going anywhere inspires sheer dread. The bus to work bumps and grinds down roads that could second as a Himalayan-biking track. No question of sleeping on the way there, but the body adapts and dozes, and wakes up just as we take the last right turn, just as I would always wake up just as the train approached Churchgate in the morning. Mercurial.

Through the grey, smoky, impenetrable haze of a mal-nutritioned city shooting up without being able to balance its growth, its hard to find positives to focus on. Perhaps because the positives I seek in coming "back" somewhere are so tied up with my own past... "This is where I used to live and look what they've done to it."

What they've done is this: They've removed the trees and mown down the houses; injected tall buildings and covered up the fields; removed my friends and brought in strangers. And in the process, razed my memories to dust.

Viva la progress, viva la change.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Maverick. He got me.

also bib·li·o·phil (-fl) or bib·li·oph·i·list (bbl-f-lst) n.
~ A lover of books.
~ A collector of books.
bibli·ophi·lism n. bibli·ophi·listic adj.

So here goes.

Books I own:
Quanta mean nothing. It's the flavour that counts.

To create frog's book cupboard, start with a solid grounding of Little Women... The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh... All the Mowgli Stories, the classics... muchos Enid Blyton (end to end)... William... Jules Verne and HG Wells... Satyajit Ray... Tolkien... Gerald Durrell... Tales from Long Ago.
Add juice of Alistair Maclean, Louis L'amour, Michael Crichton, Ken Follett, Ludlum. Fold and pour in essence of Maya Angelou, Simone de Beauvouir, Ayn Rand, Margaret Atwood, Steinbeck, Updike.
Generously add Agatha Christie, Paul Auster, Peter Hoeg and Muchael Cunningham; Garcia Marquez, Blake and Neruda, Antoine de St. Exupery, Richard Bach, Grahame Greene, Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee.
Sprinkle chopped Ian McEwan, Pico Iyer, Alexander Frater, Paul Theroux and add a pinch of Roald Dahl and Saki.
Garnish with Watterson, Goscinny and Uderzo, Rowling, Fielding and Hornby and store in bottles away from light and dust to take out and sun twice a year. Pore over when putting back. For best results, open and sniff on long cool afternoons with the sun shaded behind curtains at windows opening onto green leaf sunshine, or in the still night when the house slumbers deep and a sleepy dog cocks one ear at the sound of the cupboard door being opened and settles in for a long night of it.

Still want numbers?

Last few books I bought:
Clearly, the last few memorable books I've bought
1. Maximum City - Suketu Mehta
2. Couples - John Updike
3. Leviathan
4. Agatha Christie - Autobiography

Last book that was gifted to me:
The IDEO book

Last book(s) I've read:
1. Maximum City
2. My Family and Other Animals (for the umpteenth time)
3. High Fidelity
4. Cause Celeb
5. Bodily Harm
6. Euclid's Window - The story of geometry from parallel lines to hyperspace
7. Impossibility - The Science of Limits and The Limits of Science (again)

Five books that mean something to me:
1. Congo (For reasons I can't fathom. And even on the 100th reading, it's un-put-downable)
2. To Kill A Mockingbird.
3. Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow.
4. Little Women
5. 100 Years of Solitude

6. Winnie-the-Pooh
6. Agatha Christie - Autobiography
7. A Home at the End of the World
(I know, I know, I can't count...)

Books I plan to read soon
1. If, on a winter's night...
2. Siddhartha

And finally, people I hope will respond to the clarion call:

Mobius Tripping

Meanwhile, a parting thought.
The universe is not made from atoms, but from stories.

warm glow evening

light rain-laden evening breeze drifts over balcony through doors wraps itself around golden lamplight drapes itself around us cradling coffees and teas and smokes variously conversation flows connections happen memories flutter awake laughter and light and warmth and Baileys feet up on the couch silver glints in soft light welcome to the machine but here for an instant take a break fall back into timeless friendship no words needed being there is enough the air pregnant with shared pasts left behind listening to Shirley Bassey I don't give a damn about lost emotions and for once our ghosts don't crowd us and there is peace and laughter and wonder that this can still be

Monday, July 04, 2005


So Kraz tagged me sometime recently, sneaking up on me in the middle of the timeless afternoon and screaming, "You're it", before running off into the sunset, leaving only the sound of his shrill laughter behind.

Alright, so I'm it. So here goes:

Films I own (the ones I'd like to name)
Monsters Inc., My Fair Lady, Gupi Gayne, Bagha Bayne. Does Yes Minister count too?

And hey, I started buying films only recently, so let's talk about the films I'd like to own:
Singing in the Rain, The Untouchables, Life is Beautiful, American Beauty, Pather Panchali, Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, The Lord of the Rings (all three - I think Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job on a fundamentally unfilmable book), Gone with the Wind (ditto), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (ditto)

Last Film I bought
Murder on the Orient Express (all star cast, and great story).

Five films that I watch a lot or that mean something to me:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
My Fair Lady
Sleepless in Seattle (yeah, yeah, I'm a sucker for it)
Singing in the Rain (we apologise for the repitition)
Die Hard (I can watch it over and over again...)

Hah! Now to find new victims. Prey. Pray:

Get cracking, people.

Book tag will follow shortly. And if you have comments about what movies you feel I must must must see, please write in!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Tale of 2 Cities

Actually, one's a city. The other is a village gone bad.

So here's what it's like when you move from Bombay to Bangalore:

In Bombay, my life revolved around train timings.
In Bangalore, it revolves around bus timings.

In Bombay, I traveled an hour to work each day.
In Bangalore, I still travel an hour to work each day.

In Bombay, things work. Autos follow meters, cops help when they try to gyp you, people are uninterfering and genuinely helpful when you ask for assistance.
In Bangalore, nothing - not one thing - works. Autos try to con you constantly, meters are for decoration only, and cops run away when you ask for help - if they're there to begin with.

In Bombay, the flyovers have already been built.
In Bangalore, they're being built... resulting in endless traffic on narrow, crowded roads.

But but but... oh, the weather. Awesome. Windy, cloudy, maximum temperature of only around 28 degrees C, perfect for tea and conversation and perhaps some Scrabble and definitely some cuddling-up-with-a-good-book-and-a-cup-of-steaming-hot-chocolate. You know?

So now that we've covered that bit, here's a quick update:
1. Quit job.
2. Had pleasant day dealing with movers and packers, ending with my throwing a fit at the way they were trying to pack my music, which in turn has probably resulted in their unloading my cartons at top speed (R17) from the maximum possible height.
3. Said tearful-cheerful goodbyes to Bombay - Bandstand in the evening and Colaba any time of day or night, Leopold's for a last chilli beef and coffee, my favourite Tibetan restaurant in Juhu for atmosphere and delectable food, last drinks with friends.
4. Flew around the country - Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore in the span of a month. And tried out Spicejet and Kingfisher - which, added to my earlier experience on Air Deccan, now makes me the country's fore-most expert on which low-cost airline to take. A post on that soon!

And of course, Kraz and Maverick have tagged me for movies and books, and I need to respond to those, so that too will happen soon.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Packing, Moving, Posting and Pending

Pending posts:
1. how we made a new mastercard commercial in Goa
2. packing it in in Mumbai

Be patient, all shall be revealed.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Coffee Spoons

I'm a compulsive list-maker. I make lists of things to buy, to do, to throw away, to return, to get back from borrowers, to see, to remember, to make lists of...

So when it's time to take stock of possessions, contact packers and movers, ship everything off to unsuspecting and long-suffering friends while I traipse around the country a bit, what better way to kick off the process than by making a list? So here's the first list of the process. These are the things with which I've measured out my life over the last two years.

1. Music system, double deck (I still believe in making mixed tapes for people) and Disc-man, 1 of. Somewhat battered from 2 years on campus, but still going strong.

2. DVD player, 1 of. First investment after I started working, shows my priorities.

3. TV, 21 inches, 1 of. Brought home in a cab in the pouring rain, and carried up, pictures taken of it being installed in its new home, the modern day deity indeed!

4. Bean-bag, large, 1 of. Comfort-a-mundo!

5. Books, carton, 1 of. Boasting most volumes of Asterix, Calvin & Hobbes, and the rest, an esoteric, ecclectic collection representing book-buying whims over 2-years.

6. Music, carton, 1 of. Rock mingles with jazz, the blues light up the room, and through all of that, childhood favourites - Boots Randolph, Roger Williams and Disney tunes from The Jungle Book.

7. Lamp, tall, black, with orange shade, 1 of. Casts warm glow in shadowy room. Goes with orange bed-spread from Dilli Haat and rust-coloured curtains. Cosy!

Yep, I think it's a good collection of stuff to set up house with again. Looking forward to making new spaces mine. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In Which We See That Experience Is That Thing We Don't Learn From

And learn that things sometimes work out in the end.

My experience with flatmates has always been... well, a little [ imagine Psycho theme here] reeee-reeeee-reeee [Psycho theme over; if you're still hearing it, you've got issues].

So what made me think it would be any different this time? Well, perhaps the fact that I've barely met them, and this is just long-distance communication... And yet, already it's reee-reee-reee. Forcing me (and we're coming now to the crux of the matter) to be witheringly, lifetime-scarringly sarcastic. Screwing up, therefore, my chances of someone finding me a home before I actually move.

I'm almost sorry.

So anyway, what this post hasn't mentioned yet is that social gaffes are no longer an obstacle to winning jobs and influencing employers. A change is as good as a feast, as Margo said! The papers are in, the word is on the street, and there's a spring in my step.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Days Like This...

"Hello, Rabbit," Pooh said, "is that you?"
"Let's pretend it isn't," said Rabbit, "and see what happens."
"I've got a message for you," said Pooh.
"I'll give it to him" said Rabbit.

~ A. A. Milne

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Oh! Kolkata!

Originally uploaded by progga.
Cal. You gotta love it!

And btw, proof of being a true bong lies in knowing exactly where this signboard is located!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Since last morning, I've been feeling as though all my bodily fluids have turned to phlegm. I'm sneezing 10 times at a time - body-wracking, ribcage-cracking reverberating sneezes that start at my toes and rumble their way up. I spent most of last night awake because I had to keep getting up to blow by doze. And I'm surviving on hot soup and comfort cocoa.

I think this is an allergic reaction to Bombay. To work. To having to wake up in the morning and drag myself onto a train instead of hollering for someone to make me some tea and then going and sitting outside in the morning sunshine while the doggies cavort around me chasing imaginary squirrels and cats, or get me to throw them the ball. To having to sit in an office with no natural light, instead of spending the morning doing The Telegraph Quick Crossword (By arrangement with The Guardian) To getting home when daylight has died.

Livin' la vida loca sounds suspiciously like "Living in the Virar local."

Co-incidence? I think not.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Thoughts From An Airplane

Vignette 1

Mumbai from the air, at night, looks like a glittering sea creature of mammoth proportions, sprawled across the ocean. A jewel-encrusted starfish with gold spurs and tiny, shimmering, now-you-see-them-now-you-don't blue suckers. Extravagant, with tiny ant-cars and ant-people moving - rushing - to and fro, stringy highways full of absurd traffic crawling their way out of sight as we bank and turn.

How terribly exciting to be able to look down as we swoosh into the air and recognise the roads. To look down and say, "OK, there's the highway, that's the train track (and I bet that's a fast train)... and if so, then that's SV Road and that, Linking Road and hey, wow! That's Juhu Tara. Hurrah, I can see where I live from the air.

Why have I never been able to identify these roads before? Is it just that suddenly, everything seems more momentous?

Vignette 2

Lightning bolts around us. we've flown into mildly bad weather. Can lightning strike - and decimate - an airplane wing? And if it can and does, could an aircraft continue to fly, or would it sort of keel over sideways and fall into the sea? (It must be the movies - I never think of planes crashing on land - only the sea, with a great splash and gurgle and Davy Jones' locker. Death by shark.) No, no, go back to thinking positive thoughts - it's my optimism and faith that keeps this thing in the air.

Vignette 3

The difference between Business Class and Economy is that "in the event of an emergency landing on water", business class passengers have a greater chance of survival. They have life jackets. We have a "Seat Bottom Cushion for Floatation." So when we're all floundering in the sea, they'll be all cushy and inflated and possible passing out the cocktails, while we'll be hanging on for dear life. And if, by chance, a great white shark or other-scary-deep-sea-creature-associated-with-horrific-death-at-sea-about-whom-movies-have-been-made happens along to startle you and you lose your grip on your Seat Bottom Cushion - well, you'll have to hope someone lets you share his. And while you're jerking out of your cushion in horror, Business Class passengers can use their hands (opposable thumbs, hurrah!) to do something useful to scare the shark away and protect themselves. Perhaps they can throw your Cushion at it.

Vignette 4

Passenger next to me just too a wad of gum (less likely) or paan (more likely) or similar gross item out of his mouth and wiped it into the folds of a newspaper in his seat pocket. Lesson: always ask air hostess for fresh newspaper. And never open or touch the seat pocket or its contents again. Ever. Steward, could you please drown me in Dettol?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

How To Wreck An Interview

or, Snatching Defeat from the jaws of Victory: A Dissertation

1. Walk in 1.5 hours early.
(How needy can you get?)

2. Carry a book. A Gerald Durrell, for heavens' sake, as though you were on your way to a picnic.
3. Send intermittent texts to the coordinating Catbert-ess, asking to meet your interviewer's boss.

4. Make your interviewer fetch you coffee before the interview begins.

5. At the end of the interview, just before stepping out, turn to interviewer and say, "Thank you for coming" so that he has to revert by saying, "No, no, thank you for coming."

Oh, well, at least it's good for a laugh (or many) over beer.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Delightful Sentence!

"Women are irrational, that's all there is to that. Their heads are full of cotton, hay and rags. They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vascillating, calculating, agitating, maddening, and infuriating hags!"

~ Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Why I Want To Go Back To College

a. Taking the day off for "women's problems"

  • College: you can just ditch going to college for the day.
  • Work: you need to think of an excuse to tell male boss why you need the rest of the day off, or else you spend the day smiling brightly at dumb CXO who has neither class nor brain and who deserves to be put in the blender except for the fact that it'd be a waste of a good blender.
b. Watching movies during the day
  • College: you can just ditch going to college for the day(see 'a'). Or walk in / out when you please, scheduling your attendance around movie timings.
  • Work: You work to buy the DVD player you can watch movies on when you finally have the time to watch them, having missed them at the big halls (that are no longer showing them) by reason of having been too busy with work.
c. Reading during the day
  • College: You can sit at the back of the class, put your book on your table or against your knees (as you lean back against the wall with your feet on the desk) and read. As long as you look up once in a while and nod intelligently, most profs won't suspect a thing.
  • Work: Lock yourself into the toilet and read the book you're carrying in your purse. And if you have only one toilet for the entire female population of your office, you can't do this for too long either.

d. Timings

  • College: From any-time-you-want-to-walk-in to any-time-you-wish-to-leave. Usually, a couple of hours a day (averaged out, clearly, since there are so many days on which you don't attend because of "women's problems" or because there's a good movie on, or a good book to read in bed, or a great sale somewhere... or something).
  • Work: bloody concentration camp. In at 9, but never out at 5.

e. Duties / Responsibilities

  • College: Socialise with batchmates, beg them to give you their notes, even take your exams for you in exchange for 0.075% of the rest of your life's earnings (which you - and they - are convinced will never add up to much). Drink a couple of cups of cheap tea and bum a smoke off a slightly more affluent friend.
  • Work: Sign-in. Smile at assorted CXOs. Pretend to like it. Fiddle with computer. Send up prayers for the Internet. Visit,, and various friends' blogs. Pretend to visit work-related sites. Keep a few of these on your favourite's list for emergency cover-ups. Drink cups and cups of free tea.

f. Juniors

  • College: Rag them. Make them fetch and carry for you. Raise hell when they make mistakes. Make them treat you to cups of cheap tea to show them who's boss.
  • Work: Show them the ropes. Take responsibility for their mistakes. Take them out for expensive lunch to show them that boss can also bond.

g. Personal space

  • College: 400 kids on a 40 acre campus. Red brick brings out the effect of space.
  • Work: 4000 employees sitting on each other's laps in a 0.1 acre 1-storey building. Red brick closes in on one.

h. Food

  • College: Expensive - 20 bucks for gourmet specials like cutlets (made from chicken parts that would otherwise be thrown away); 15 bucks for chicken soup for the soul on days when the air is pregnant with philosophical discussion.
  • Work: They've never heard of cutlets. And you aren't supposed to have a soul.

i. Friends

  • College: 10. You do everything together. You go from canteen to canteen together (on those hours of those days that you're actually in college), settling in each one like a swarm of locusts until you exceed your credit limit and have to move. You could be a political movement in your own right, if only you were interested. Instead, you prefer idle discussion about Marx and Engels, Keynes and Smith.
  • Work: None. Instead, you have 2 colleagues with whom you have a hurried lunch and discuss work before returning to surf and pretending to hunt for critical functional information on the Internet (may it be the mother of a hundred sons).

j. Language

  • College: Intellectual jargon. Your speech abounds with words like fundamentalist structuralism and non-parametrism. And (this is important) you know exactly what they mean. So do the people you say them to.
  • Work: Management jargon. Your speech abounds with terms like paradigm, engagement, transformation and integrated hyper-metropic fiscal neutrality. And neither you nor the people you say them to have any idea what you mean. Or what they mean. But you have these conversations anyway, and then you all go back to googling.