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!