Thursday, December 10, 2009


Do you remember the sparrow and the hay story? A sparrow at the Bangalore International Airport is going to need some. I settled down with a plate of idli and a bowl of spicy chutney and a book on the other hand and when I turned to dip a slice of the idli into the chutney… guess what? There was a sparrow feeding on it. A handful of sparrows have made the airport their home and they are unmindful of the people around as they fly and feed unperturbedly.


Found a man dressed in a Silk Shervani, Jodhpuris and carrying an orange leather briefcase at the airport at five in the morning. He quietly walks and positions himself at the beginning of the airport waiting line. And when I reminded him about the people in the queue… he coolly says ‘I know. I’m standing in the queue too.’ Dude!!


The ladies queue at the security check of BIAL is the best place to spot the branded beauties. Last time around it was a 25-ish something with a LV Speedy and what seemed like the Vaio pink-crocodile skin laptop. This time around another short 25-ish something was dressed obnoxiously in Burberry from head to toe – scarf, shirt, handbag and shoes. Fortunately she stopped short of wearing plaid pants too.


Did Chennai airport get a makeover or what? When I got down from the shuttle I almost thought I had taken the wrong flight. Shiny interiors, no dogs around, and baggage was already there when we arrived! The pre-paid taxi counter is now inside the airport itself… impressive! Two hours later I was back to haggling with the auto-rickshaw driver on prices – not impressive.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

District 9

Not having heard of many good movies around the block, M suggested a slightly older one that we had missed during the year and we settled for 'District 9' to watch over a late Sunday evening. You should know that we've been living without a television for the past 6 months. Earlier it was about finding a good house to settle in and then picking up a good TV. But now it's been more than 3 months since we found a beautiful place and we've snugly settled in and a TV is not yet in the horizon. So our daily entertainment is chiefly from books, friends, drives, shopping, eating and movies! Oh well, the whys and the why nots later, back to 'District 9' now.

The movie was supposed to be a disaster right from the story line - Aliens on earth, a UFO, gory scenes, aliens with worm like thingies on their nose, a dumb looking actor. I mean, please, whoever thought this would be as brilliant as it turned out to be. There were a number of times at the beginning of the movie we wanted to turn it off thinking it was too violent for our taste but fortunately we didn't.

District 9 is not just another alien movie – it’s not MIB and it’s not The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It’s actually the most human movie that’s been made in a long time. It shows the truth about how human (or inhuman if it helps you understand better what I mean) we can be. The basic plot is about aliens who find themselves stranded on earth and how as humans we deal with the circumstance. We kick them around, we try to grab their technology, we treat them like unwanted citizens, we conduct medical experiments on them… When we treat our own fellow beings like this why should aliens be expected to be treated differently? As the movie unfolds in Johannesburg, I begin to wonder if the makers really meant it to be an alien race or just another human race.

One scene touched the cord for me. After deciding that the aliens need to be moved to another place away from the city, the protagonist goes around each alien home serving eviction notices and making them sign the notice. The understanding that it’s perfectly okay as long as you just take the legal course – I guess that’s as human as it can get.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being human... not

We got to the service center to get some repairs done on our car. I chose to remain in the car and M went about all the coordination. You should see this service station... It's small yet completely packed for one thing. During the time we were there at least a hundred cars would have come in and another hundred would have left the place. Cars move in and out of small gaps like they are toys. The washing area rolls out at least six cars every fifteen minutes. All cleaned and polished manually. And during all this time, not a single accident, not a single scratch. The flow, the process seemed incomprehensible to a lay observer's eyes. But there was a pattern, some process - for everyone seemed to know what to do and continuously went about it.

M parked in the middle of two rows of cars and got out to talk to the in-charge at the reception. I stayed behind and started reading a book. A couple of lines later a man with crisp and clean blue and white shirt and trousers and an air about him that indicated that he was the supervisor around stood in front of the car waving his hand clearly displeased at something. He gave a sweeping look inside the car - it felt like he was looking through me than at me. May be the glass was reflective and he couldn't see me. Soon another man wearing overalls opened the car and sat on the driver's seat and pulled the car into a snug parking slot. All the while completely ignoring my presence. It suddenly felt inanimate that i was not acknowledged.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Waking Up

Sorry about the long hiatus. The last six months have been crazy! Moving cities, moving home twice, getting started, getting settled, finding a schedule… well, guess what… it doesn't promise to get better any sooner. We crossed a major milestone last week after finally settling on a couch design that both of us liked and it was available and it was available in the colours we wanted and we didn't have to wait for three months. It's not yet delivered so we're still keeping our fingers crossed before jumping ecstatically. I didn't realize shopping for contemporary furniture in India would be so difficult and trying to stick to a palette theme would be even more difficult.

It's been exactly a year and a half since we moved back from Calif. While M is still finding his footing, I'm absolutely enjoying the move back. It is definitely challenging for someone who has spent almost a decade and especially the early formative adult years abroad. The traffic, the noise, the personal distances, the bureaucracy, the inefficiency and many more - just creeps into your daily life. That apart, there have been so many many changes in the past few years alone that you can no longer complain that you don't get the things you get abroad right here in India. You get everything and some of it is even cheaper. Just like yesterday, I was in the mood for an East Asian dinner. I dropped in at M K Retail for a usual pick up of vegetables and a few other items. I looked around at the sauce section and sceptically asked for Sambal Oelek. Surprise, surprise!! He not only had Sambal Oelek but had it in a couple of brands too. That encouraged me to ask for some more exotic ingredients and I asked the grocery section for Bok Choy. Guess what… he coolly picked it from the refrigerator and handed it to me. Well, all is not well… a pack of Kraft Mac and Cheese dinner was retailing at Rs. 150. When did 99 cents become Rs. 150?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why are we oblivious?

Another drive; from one end of this city to another. Always in a rush as if in a race. Honk; gain an inch; stare; honk; huddle; creep; quick; accelerate; honk; brake; it’s like we all know the purpose, the destination; it’s like we’re always late. How we hurry through the day; eating without tasting, looking without noticing, hearing without listening… In such a hurry to burn the candle, in such a hurry to reach the end.

Sometimes we need to stop, need to look around… notice that man pulling the heavy cart, notice that plastic cover thrown carelessly, notice that cringe on your colleague’s face, notice the kid crying on the footpath, notice the light bulb that wastefully burns, notice that old woman trying to cross the road, notice that chap who fell off his bike, notice the motorist riding down the wrong direction, notice the shop-keeper cheating a foreigner, notice that overflowing tap… notice how much we contribute to this chaos, how much it is our own doing.

In other words, why do we react this way… more appropriately… why do we refuse to react? Why don’t we find a way to change? Why are we afraid of change? Why can’t we change the world within our reach?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The wire-rimmed glasses

It’s off. It’s on. It’s off. It’s on. That was the war on Times Now and CNN-IBN on Thursday night about whether Mahatma Gandhi’s personal effects were going under the hammer or not. It was odd to see two different channels breaking opposite versions of the same story. Don’t they have a corner in their office with rival channels running all the time?

‘Oh! They’re saying it’s on… Go verify your story! Are you really, really, sure it’s off?’

‘They’re saying it’s off… are you sleeping? Go check with your source!’

After 30 minutes of comedy central on prime news, I abandoned the interest only to wake up the next morning and catch the latest news of the auction. It did go on after all in spite of Otis saying that he was going to abandon it and all. The auction was closed in seven minutes flat and lo and behold… who did the bidding?? Vijay Mallya! What an irony – Gandhi all his life fought for the prohibition of liquor in the country and Mallya every year loses sales on “dry day”. And this very man had to bring Gandhiji’s things back to India.

Amidst all the jubilation of having got those things back to India, there’s one thing that fails to dawn on me. It was two Indians who remained in the auction process towards the end, the price was $1 million and the two successfully managed to put another $0.8 million into Otis’ pocket. Now if they were fighting to get the items back to India as we all like to believe, why didn’t they just stop when they knew that the other bidder was Indian too?

I like to believe that this was like any other auction. The highest bidder got the prize. Nothing to do with India, with our sentiments, culture, etc… I’m still surprised at why it turned out to be such a big deal. We can’t forever expect that these items have to belong to India alone. Tomorrow Otis and his professor friend will auction Gandhiji’s blood sample and ashes. Are we going to dole out another few millions in the name of our past? Would the Father of Our Nation have approved us going behind items that he had no significance for rather than follow the values he sought to spread?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Balance or Imbalance

There are certain times during which certain books should never be read. Actually, I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to read these books. May be you should read them when you’re totally exhilarated and you need something – a jolt to bring you back to earth. Yes. There are the sad ones, the depressing ones and the ones that reek of despair – ‘A Fine Balance’ is the latter. To straighten out things – it’s a bloody good book, an enthralling one at that and Mistry is a master storyteller; but then that’s exactly why I picked the book up in the first place.

I read it; read it through breakfast; every evening after a long day at work; every night till my eyes gave way to the brutal force of sleep; read it through the weekend trip on the bus as long as the light permitted me to; even snatched a few minutes in the loo, at the parlor and while waiting. All the while, I was reading just to get a glimpse, no – a shimmer, that vaguely resounded of hope and something nice to come. Rohinton Mistry offered none; not at the beginning and definitely not at the end.

Poverty is worse than a disease. Because it never dies with the individual; it spreads across generations. If Rohinton was just talking about the misery of poverty, it would have still kept me sane. But his cauldron has more in it – the absurdity of political injunctions, the grotesque display of the narrow mindedness of the rich, the mutilation of justice, the widespread corruption and twisted providence – the final straw. Every time you convince yourself that things cannot get worse than this for the protagonists; that their Karma Grand Total is well above the minimum mark, he does it all over again; pushes them further and further into desolation till in the end they are far, far worse than they seemingly started off as. A Fine Balance is full of imbalances.

With all the traveling over the past month, I had kept aside Dostoevsky for a while thinking I’ll read something lighter and get back to him. My pick couldn’t have been worse. I definitely wish I had read one of Mistry’s happy ending books (if he’s ever written one) before picking this one up. Now I’m at cross roads; I definitely love his style and after a long time here’s an Indian author I feel like I could be so obsessed with, as I was once with Salman Rushdie. But the truth is I’m not that enterprising and I don’t want to go by that road again – not any time soon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting Back in Touch

A week long marathon of churning out presentations ended on Saturday morning at 5 AM. That’s when I pressed the send button. It was worth it; it meant that the weekend was my own. After waking up from a weird dream late that morning, I realized that I needed to go shopping to pick up a canvas or two. I opened my acrylic tubes to see if they were still in a usable state after a cold cross-Atlantic flight and nearly twelve months of not being opened. Luckily, they were. Some more things got added to the list and the only thing missing was company. Not that I hate shopping alone; It’s the best way to get things done fast. But I was in no hurry and I’d been longing for company.

Scrolling down my contacts list, the fact that I have such a pitiful social life slowly dawns on me. I begin to miss M all over again. Damn the social life; if at least he was around... I went back to scrolling. The friends I had promised I would call over the weekend were either too busy this weekend or were not based in Bangalore to entertain my request and the colleague I usually hang out with was off visiting her hubby. I scrolled again. Found some school friend whose number had changed; a college friend who was busy on her way to some wedding. With no choice left I called AN again; half waiting to hear the Oz Boy’s voice in the background.

‘He’s landing this evening,’ she said.
‘Let’s go shopping then!’
‘Ok, see you in an hour.’

After that weekend of despair, I realized that I must have quite a few friends in Bangalore, since I grew up here, studied here, et al. Well, some of them have flown the nest owing to studies, work, marriage, etc; about the others – don’t be alarmed if an unknown number calls you one of these days just to say ‘hi’.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bye, Bye, Hyderabad!

Once again, it’s time. Did 2008 really fly by or was it just me? It just seems like yesterday. Walking into this apartment with our luggage; going shopping for some household stuff; setting up the house; making friends. And now, it’s already time to move out; pack everything; and bid adieu. Hyderabad turned out to be one of our favorite cities in the world – apart from being the first (and only) Indian city that both M and I seem to agree about a long term future.

Reminding me of Grissom’s exit from the lab and the slow motion movement with which he notices the things around him, all the things that I took for granted all these days seem like the things I’ll miss the most. The walking around the lush green campus, the peacocks and the other wildlife, the shopping at the MORE store, the periodic visits to the city, the learning at the swimming pool, the lazy lunch at Goel’s, the late night library sessions, the punctual housekeeping staff, the numerous parties, Ten Downing Street, Satish’s backyard... Life gave us one more chance to great college fun and we absolutely loved it!!

A crooked twist of circumstances takes me back to my home town – Bangalore, where I shall continue to fight the traffic, the pollution and the damned infrastructure.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The truth and only the truth

Well… I’ve been debating whether to write this or not. Then I finally picked up the courage to tell M about it.

I asked him to guess.

And he guessed it!

‘What shit!? How does he do that?’

He laughed.

‘So it’s a fake? Do they know it’s a fake?’

‘Of course it’s not a fake. What do you mean it’s a fake? I did slog for it. Well, a little bit…’

It all started that Wednesday morning; that tainted Wednesday morning. After going down a couple of wrong roads, I reached the building thirty minutes after the appointed hour. It was still early during the day; the market was doing ok so far. There were even talks of the market ending up higher by the end of the day given the positive signs from the global market and some FIIs returning; even the rupee was rising. My meeting went off rather well. It was just another meeting. And I was even wearing my lucky data collection dress – it ought to have gone rather well. I got the information I wanted, pocketed the business cards and said adios. Ten minutes later, M calls.

‘You’re not going to believe this! Ramalinga Raju has quit.’

Oh! How long is this Maytas trouble going to last? Get over now! I think to myself.

‘He admitted to fraud.’

‘Fraud? What Fraud?’

‘Inflated accounts, cash, profits… the works.’

‘Oh! This is big!’

I get back home with doubts in my mind about the relevance of the morning’s meeting after all this. What if I had decided to go tomorrow instead? I make a mental note to personally wash the dress, lest it gets spoilt by the maid’s regular beating. Then something else gnaws my head. Something about that guy – something. We talked later the next day – AN and I; just some general catching up.

‘It’s so funny. Do you know how many of our convocations and functions he’s attended? I guess next year they’ll have to bring someone else!’

Oh yeah! Of course!! That’s it! He was there and I was there. He gave me my certificate. Well not just me, he even gave the gold medallist in our batch her certificate. I even have a photograph. The photograph that parents typically, proudly display in their living rooms. The photograph that I’m supposed to show to my kids and grandkids. The photograph that later in my life is supposed to get me all nostalgic about ‘those’ days. Well, this changes all that – the photograph has Mr. Ramalinga Raju and me in my smart graduation robe receiving my MBA degree from him… Does it really change all that? I called UV, for a quick ‘did-you-know’ conversation.

‘It’s ok sweetheart! That doesn’t change anything. It’s just weird, that’s all.’

Ok ok… I’m convinced.

‘It’s not fake, ok?’ I tell M.

‘Oh, wait till I call your boss and you tell her that.’ He teases.

I’m not worried about my boss. But this does rule out something. I guess I’ll never be able to make it to Infosys and oh… nor will M. Tainted and all. Not that I wanted to, but it’s nice to know there’s an option.