Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Me, Dad?!"

In the movies, whenever Rajesh Khanna and Shammi Kapoor found out that they were gonna be fathers, they would lose no time to inform everyone from their doodhwaala to their neighbor’s kid in their elation about their good fortune.

But I think, most of us (am talking of men here) in the real world seem to greet this news with also a good deal of trepidation. It’s almost as if somebody has told us that from tomorrow, we need to do Dr. Manmohan Singh's job.

Now Ashu, a good friend of mine, has kept quiet about this piece of good news for more than a few months. When I eventually found this out, thanks to Kripa, who happened to be a friend of Mithali (his wife), I called him up.

"Actually, I've not told anybody" he says.


"I don't know. It's just that..."

"I know, you are feeling utterly incapable of doing this new role"

"Exactly", he says.

"Well, you still have __ months to get ready for it"

He seemed a bit relieved at that thought. Almost as if somebody had told a poorly prepared student that the CAT had been postponed for a few months.

Most guys seem to be content with sending a two line terse mail in the egroups which says,
"You will be glad to know that me and ___ have been blessed with a baby____. (The second line)."

Another friend of mine, Abhinav, took longer than that and casually mentioned in one telephone conversation that he was now father of a 4 month old son.

I think nature has been biased to men in giving us a good lead-time to don this new role. Women generally handle this so much better, though I guess they would prefer to get the whole thing done and over with more quickly.

Hey Ashu, you told me you wouldn't mind me spreading the word around!

Friday, January 27, 2006

What is a Celebration?

Got this in an email from Rohan couple of weeks back. Remembered it after last night and appended my own celebration in the end. Read on...

Maggi noodles.
A hostel room.
4.25 a.m.

A winter evening.
Four friends.
One barsaat.
Four glasses of chai.

Hundred bucks of gas.
A rusty old bike.
And an open road.

3 old friends.
3 separate cities.
3 coffee mugs.
1 internet messenger.

Rain on a hot tin roof.
Pakoras deep-frying.
Neighbours dropping in.
A party.

You and mom.
A summer night.
A bottle of coconut oil.
A head massage.
Gossiping about absent family members.

You can spend hundreds on birthdays, thousands on festivals, lakhs on weddings, but to celebrate all you have to spend is your Time.

And mine...

One Hotel Room in Hong Kong.
Two business travellers.
Music playing in the laptop.
MTR Upmaaaaa....!

It doesn't take much after all.

Chethan and Anand go to Hong Kong

To the Nunnery

Now Chethan had got himself a tourist brochure titled "Hong Kong sightseeing for businesstravellers". Needless to say I was pretty impressed but was even more impressed when I looked and found that they had categorised the "Do it yourself tours" into 3 categories

Less than 3 hr. sightseeing
3-5 hr sightseeing
More than 5 hr sightseeing

Amazing customer orientation, I think. Athithi Devo Bhava, Hong Kong style.

Its good that Chethan was along coz, even though the brochure was impressive, the weather was not and yours truly would have happily spent the weekend, dazed and confused.

So as we were nearing one of the "places of interest" chosen by Chethan (Less than 3 hrs. obviously), me rubbing hands in the bitter cold says,

" So, whats a nunnery anyway?"

" I think that's a place where they keep lots of plants and bushes and stuff"

"Thats a nursery", me says.

"Ohh..." says Chethan.

"Well, maybe we'll get to see some nice nuns", I say happily.

In the end, we saw more bushes and plants than nuns, no nuns actually at the Chin Li Nunnery (Not sure of the name now, they all seem the same to me). Chethan said they might be behind a huge locked door which said 'No Admission'.

We took some snaps (Patel snaps, Chethan said) and came back. I think we did it under 2 hrs. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vegetarian Meat with Vegetarian Salted Fish

We were in a Chinese 'Vegetarian' restaurant which we had foolishly entered for dinner. The title of this post was one of theitems on the menu which had Chethan a little perplexed. He blinked. Twice.

"Maybe vegetarian restaurants mean that they also cook vegetables", I said helpfully.

In the meantime Chethan got an sms from home telling him that the Chinese considered insects as vegetables.

We searched and found a couple of dishes which sounded vegetarian, Chethan double-checking with the waiter if his order hadany fish in it, me asking the waiter to get us spoons, not chopsticks.

I could barely finish half of mine, but as usual was amazed with Chethan's propensity to finish off anything 'vegetarian'.

It was a good change anyway, from the poor indian fare that we have been eating at some of the Asian restaurants around.

It was at one of these restaurants where we were digging into some indian type food that Chethan says,

"What are these Kalus doing around here?"

There were quite a few blacks around in this particular complex. I had wondered about it too.

"Maybe they too are business travellers, like us", I said, between mouthfuls of black lentils, naan and palak paneer.

"Are you serious?" he said, and as an afterthought added,

"Maybe they are here on some OTHER kind of business" and laughed. Wink wink.

I continued eating.

Where is the limit?

There's this scene in the movie 'Satya' where Urmila's charactar checks out Satya's home and says (translated)

"Wow, what a nice kholi, you can at least see the sky from here."

I don't think she would have liked Hong Kong. I was reminded of this dialogue looking out of the windows of my hotel and the office here. I have decided to record my poor impressions of this city so that I do not forget them. Now I am strictly nitpicking here, so you will bear with me

1. Saw 2 beggars till now (or wait, was it the same guy i saw 2 days in a row?)

2. The view from the plane while landing was very poor since the airport is quite far from the mainland (though you wouldnt guess that from the time it took me to reach the hotel)

3. I have already talked about the view from the ground (looking up, I mean).

4. The weather! Has been extremely gloomy (But should I really hold it against the city?!)

Writing a post on this blog has never been so tough. I think I will stop now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Indian Way

Now, if you have been reading my previous posts on this blog, you would know that I have made a few unkind remarks about Hyderabad. It really seemed that the whole municipal corporation was digging roads. It was as if someone had told them...ummm...

"Go, Dig!"

Now along with the Nawabi style of driving that everybody follows out here, (“I mean, how dare can I be expected to stop just because of some dumb signal?!”), it makes driving on these roads a unique experience.

But suddenly after the last weekend, the roads are amazing! So something finally did come out of all that digging. I mean, I know it eventually had to, but I thought it would take another six months or something like that. There's this beautiful six lane road from Jubilee Hills to Madhapur and there is another six-laner from Kothaguda Junction to Gachibowli.

But who's going to teach these drivers lane disciple, now that we have some lanes to talk of? My bus driver in the last few days seems to be equally excited and confused, almost like a pet German shepherd let loose on a prairie. Earlier, where his vehicle used to hog the whole road, now he finds himself in a position where he could be overtaken by two other buses, at the same time! So he proceeds to cover all the 3 lanes every 50 m in this stretch.

We are not ready for this, I think. But hey, you guys in Bangalore and Bombay, come and take a look!

This reminded me of another statement made by the man who is now famous for saying, "Thomas, the playing field is being leveled". When asked by Time (I think) about infrastructure bottlenecks in India compared to China (That bogey again) he said this as far as I remember,

"It is a different model. In China, 4 people get together in a room and decide to build a sixteen lane highway from Shanghai to Beijing. In India, we will buy 200 planes, and when these 200 planes keep circling in the air, because there is no space to land, there will be a huge hue and cry and then airports will get modernized and infrastructure gets added. It’s a different model, but it’s a model."

I found that very funny and very true, especially when I notice in the context of all these demolition drives in cities and the hue and cry about airport modernization, all of which is long overdue.

India is an elephant, we will never be like the Asian tigers, but we are taking slow but sure steps forward through the jungle, crushing lots of stuff.

It’s an exciting time.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tulleeho Gaya!

I attended an amateur bartending workshop this Saturday conducted by Smirnoff and Tulleeho. So as you can guess, I had a great Saturday and a miserable Sunday. I don’t think I would make a good bartender since I ended up drinking everything that I could prepare-

1. Cape Roshka
2. Cosmopolitan
3. Bloody Mary
4. A Green Apple Martini
5. I don’t remember the last one.

Now if you include the welcome drink, a few too many test tubes of Smirnoff with Sprite and top it off with some vodka shots in blue flames to finish off the evening, memories are fresh enough to make this effort at even recording it not very enjoyable.

Mr. Lama, who was one of the instructors during the evening, said that one reason youngsters prefer Vodka, is that since it is odorless, one can go home safely without getting into trouble. But when you have had as much as I did, odor or no odor doesn’t make much of a difference. I think I will leave out the part of how I managed to drive home and park my car because frankly I don’t remember.

I also met some interesting people on my table and was reminded of something that I had read in some sociology note. It said that if you put 4 women in a room and lock them for a few hours, they will come out chatting as if they were the best of friends. But if do the same with 4 guys, there is a good chance that they might come out sulking without having exchanged a word. Which I thought was very true as I sat at my table with 3 other strangers and there was this uncomfortable silence. But as an addendum to that theory it only took the first test tube for smiles to become really broad at the table and all of us went, "Cheers!"

They even gave me a certificate and a cocktails book. It is a pity that I can’t find it anywhere now.

Consequently, couldn’t finish the Jeffery Sachs book that I have been reading. But I did get some shopping done for a trip which I might end up going on in the last week of this month.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Calling up decisions

Yesterday night I had about 15 minutes to kill till my company bus came to pick us up. Called up sis but she wasn’t picking up. Must've left her mobile in the Scooty again (at least that’s what she's been telling me!). And decided to explore my phone book for long lost friends. So the scrolling continued...

1. Nope, not him. Spoke to him just 2 days back.
2. Nope, not him. Haven’t spoken to him in 5 yrs. Don't know why I've still kept his number.
3. Nope, not him. I wish I had his job, though and I think he knows that.
4. Nope, not him. Didn't pick up my call last time and didn’t even call back.
5. Nope, not him. Nice guy, but I think he will find it strange me calling up now and all...
6. Nope, not him. We work in the same building but hardly speak to each other, don’t know why.
7. Nope, not him. I think reason no. 5 again.
8. Nope, not her. She's now married and all, probably having dinner with her husband, if not worse...
9. Nope, not him. Probably drunk and won’t recognize me.
10. Nope, not him. Just lost his job. Uncomfortable.
11. Who's this guy???
12. Nope, not him. Didn’t go to his wedding, and didn’t even explain. He must want to kill me.
13. Nope, not her. Forgot to wish her on her b'day. She had remembered mine.
14. Nope, not her. Haven’t returned her calls for some time.
15. Nope, not him. He didn’t even return my 'happy new year' sms.
16. And nope, not her...Too uncomfortable.

And so many other inane reasons. What has happened to me? These were people I could wake up in the middle of the night and get them to apologize for taking so long to pick up my call or open their doors for me.

Had to scroll till Rohit's name came up and called him up. He almost didnt pick up, said it was in silent mode. We talked about the usual stuff, our jobs, common friends and how we haven’t kept in touch, I cribbed about Hyderabad a bit and gossiped about who has made how much money and how they have all moved away to different parts of the world. Time flew. Ended up talking to him till I reached home.

Close call.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Laborers and Us

There is a construction boom going on in Hyderabad too, like in most cities in India. In fact, I think there's a big apartment complex coming right next to the building where I stay in. And lots of buildings coming up in the Madhapur area here, near Cyberabad. Many of my friends seem to be buying houses of Rs.30-40 lakhs. I am sure the builders are making lots of money.

But I still see the laborers the same way as far back as I can remember. They are still dressed the same, they don’t wear any uniforms or protective gear. Their kids still play on the mounds of earth and pebbles. Their shanty huts with the blue waterproof covering still appear the same as they used to when I was a kid in Delhi. And they still warm themselves in these winter nights out in the open with small fires.

Well, maybe there's no cosmetic change, maybe there's a real difference? Maybe they earn more money? Maybe they have some insurance??? Maybe they aren't too different from the rest of us. If they are immigrant laborers from out of town, maybe this is their onsite project and this is their onsite package. Maybe they go back home a little richer, a little better off and party in their own way? Maybe just like us consultants and professionals, they feel the bad food, the loneliness, the travel is worth it. Does this add a bullet point in their CV? And do they go back and talk about Hyderabad just like we would talk about Houston?

Who am I insulting here, us or them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Go Parimarjan Go!

This guy is the new new star on the Indian sport scene. I don’t expect you, my dear reader to know since chess is not really a popular sport in India, which is a pity. At 12 years and a few months Parimarjan Negi has collected his first GM norm and is on the way to becoming the youngest GM in the world soon. Which means that he can whip my ass on the chess board, 9999 times out of 10000 (that’s my ego there).

12 Years!

Koneru Humpy is the World's 2nd highest rated woman player after Judit. In how many sports do we have someone like that? Sania, for Pete's sake, is 35th, if she hasn’t slipped a couple of more places already. Yes, but she has a better wardrobe, I will give her that. I hope Humpy has found sponsors after Bank of Baroda dumped her for Rahul Dravid. Not that I have anything against Dravid, but I were Mittal (steel, not telecom) I would turn my attention to chess and chess players (talking about his sports trust).

Chess has been one of the passions in my life. I love everything about it, the history, the politics, the personalities, games, theory and new developments. It has revealed its beauty to me gradually and every time I improve my understanding, there is a wow feeling. There's this new thing among non enthusiasts who say,

"Hey, anyways nowadays computers are better than humans at chess, so what’s the big deal".

But now I have a good answer, which I admit is not mine, but borrowed.

"The slowest cars are faster than the fastest human, so should we stop athletic events?"

There's place for everyone, even silicon chips.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Am Alive

Every now and then I hear a song which I end up listening over and over for a few days. Heard promos of this song on TV and it was love at first...what, note?

Efforts spent in downloading the mp3 and lyrics were well worth it. A song like this gives a high like no other.

Here are the lyrics:

Yeh Meri Kahani (Strings- Zinda Soundtrack)

yeh hai meri kahani
khamosh zindigani
sannata keh raha hai
kyun zulm seh raha hai

aik dastaan purani
tanhayi ki zubani
har zakham khil raha hai
kuch mujh se keh raha hai

chubtay kantay yadoon kay daaman se chunta hoon
girti deewaron kay aanchal main zinda hoon

bass yeh meri kahani
be nishaan nishaani
aik dard beh raha hai
kuch mujh say keh raha hai

chubtay kantay yadoon kay daaman say chunta hoon
girti deewaron kay aanchal mai zinda hoon

(john's Part)..

bajay pyaar k shabnum mere gulistaan main
barastay rehtay hain her simt maut k saye
siyahioon say ulajh perhti hain meri aankhen
koi nahi .. koi bhi nahi jo batlaye
main kitni der ujalon ki raah dekhoonga
koi nahi hai koi bhi nahi
na pass na duur
ek yaar hai
dil ki dhadkan
apni chahat ka jo ellan keay jati hai
zindagi hai jo jeay jati hai
khoon k ghoont peay jati hai
khwaab kaanton say siye jati hai

ab na koi passs hai
phir bhi ahsas hai
syahiaon main uljhi pari
jeenay ki aik aas hai
yadoon ka jangal yeh dil
kanton say jal-thal yeh dil

chubtay kantay yadoon kay daaman say chunta hoon
girti deewaron kay aanchal main zinda hoon

Monday, January 09, 2006

Triggers and Fertile Imaginations

Some alcohol or weed is good enough for most of us to do something that we wouldn’t, normally. Or do something that we have been putting off for quite sometime. Or get it off our chest and into put it out there. But then that’s a physical stimulus, right?So if a piece of art or say a book can make us do something similar, then it must be really special, as far as we are concerned.

Saw "Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi" last night and ended up typing out some stuff on my comp. Good that the stupid VSNL broadband wasn’t working or else might have sent it on an email. But then there was some scotch inside of me as well last night so where does the credit lie?

Yesterday, over scotch, vodka, Bacardi Breezer and a Cinderella mocktail (guess who had what) myself, Raman, Nandu and Thoks got together and discussed mainly on various ways that Mandu's upcoming wedding could be sabotaged:)
1. Thoku doing his push-ups on the Mandap.
2. All of us getting sloshed on thunderbolt beer and puk..g on the mandap every time pondy completes one of his pheras.
3. Hiring a White Maruti Omni with dark tinted glasses and kidnapping Pondy the previous night.
4. Just keep the Omni handy and motivate Pondy to run away, a la Pooja Bhatt in 'Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin'.
5. Borrowing a yacht from Nanda Reddy's to-be father-in-law from Vizag (yes even Nandu was not spared), get it to Orissa, get pondy on the yacht and...
6. Get either of the couple's previous 'friends' to come to the wedding and object vehemently. In Pondy's case, I guess that would qualify some of us?
7. Hire an actor/actress to do the same mentioned in Point No. 6.

That is all I remember, the morning after so the others could remind me if they do.Pondy, if you dont invite any of us after reading this, we will still be there!!

And if any of you have not watched "Hazaaron ..." as yet, grab the DVD today!!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Soul Music

In the last two days both the autos that I got into, I had to listen to the song "Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan", from the Raj Kapoor movie 'Mera Naam Joker'. I hadnt got into the same auto for sure on both days and this wasn’t a recently famous track. Was this song something that these guys identified with? Behind the loud and hustling exterior, were they despondent about their lives, like in the song- "Hum hain wahin, hum the jahaan"?

A few years back, Altaf Raja's songs were a major rage- Qawwali type songs, again songs with a lot of hurt, betrayal kind of lyrics in his song. An article in a magazine said the album was a major hit with the truck drivers in the country!

We share our joys more easily than our sorrows and failures, that’s a no-brainer. Do such songs touch a deeper chord within us?

In the movie, 'Almost famous', the protagonist’s mentor tells him that all great art in this world is the work of ‘uncool’ people. It is only from betrayal, anger, hate, hurt and premature ejaculation that great art stems from.

So I looked into my mp3 player and looked at some of my recent additions:
'This Love'- Maroon 5
'In the end'- Linkin Park
'Numb'- Linkin Park
'You'r beautiful'- James Blunt
'Na Jaane Kyon'- Strings
'Hoshwaalon'- Jagjit Singh
'Tum Itna Jo'- Jagjit Singh
'Punjab'- Karunesh
'No Fear'- The Rasmus
'Love is all around me'- Wet Wet Wet
'Woh Lamhe'- Zeher

Naaaaah!!!! Nonsense!!!!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dream Job

I guess all of us grow up with different versions of what they want to do with their lives. As the case with many of you I guess,I had absolutely no idea. In eighth std. I remember I told a teacher that I wanted to be an archaelogist just to piss him off. The guy was going on and on about how everybody just wanted to become doctors and engineers. He asked me what an archaelogist does, a question which I hit for a six after which he stopped his attempt at career counselling.

In XIth, I remember I told my mom that I wanted to study English Literature, since it was my favorite subject for at least 5 yrs. by then and I was already heavily into reading English Classics thanks to my Dad. She didnt discourage me but mentioned something vaguely about how I might end up as a school teacher with no money.

So I became a Civil Engineer with as much knowledge about buildings as a homo sapien who lived in 20000 B.C. Ended up with an MBA degree since I knew I didnt want to remain a bad engineer and became a sales and marketing professional because...I think it might be because I did a sales and distribution internship. Somehow, the investment banks didnt seem to fancy me. There's this song which has the line, "The most interesting 40 yr. olds still dont know what to do with their lives". I dont know whether I will be an interesting 40 yr old, but am sure that I will remain dazed and confused for life.

For sometime, last year I was seriously considering writing the Civil Services. Thankfully, better sense prevailed or maybeI am just too old and tired to start all over again at 28.Nowadays, if someone asks me about my dream job, I tell them That it is to have the job of a clerk and the pay and bonuses of a CEO.

By the way, nowadays I am an IT consultant.

Monday, January 02, 2006

2005 & 2006

Happy New Year!!

Personally 2005 for me was a fair year. I am now in a job which pays me less but also bothers me less. I am in a city I don’t like so much but more about that later. I am in a house I like at least 25% less but I am paying 50% lesser rent too.

Overall does that mean that my life has changed for the worse??

I have thought about it and I think the best thing that has happened to me last year has been the gym. It’s been 11 months since I started and except for a brief 6 weeks in the middle, I have been pretty regular about it and it shows. I have not turned into a superman or anything (far from it) and have not probably gained much weight but definitely my body is much more toned and muscled. I think it has also helped my confidence and I know that I look better in T shirts now than I ever have done in my whole life. I think that last year was notable in the fact that in the last 6 months I have put my well being first in a lot of decisions that I have taken.

Looking forward to next year, hopefully the gymming will continue. I also hope to read at least 25 books next year. Since I have decided to be relatively passive about my career choices, I think books offer the only solace to expand the horizons of thought. I also hope to build a pretty decent VCD/DVD collection, no numbers planned here as yet, let’s see. And this is definitely the last year that I can hope to remain single without any significant effort from my side. Things will definitely get tougher on that account in 2007.

Oh yes, 2006 is going to be action packed!

On more mundane matters, sis dropped in from Chennai for the weekend, finished Garam Masala (horrible!) and also watched Hyderabad Blues (below expectations actually). We went shopping and I ended up buying a Swatch for sis. These luxury brands definitely are swindling their customers and I plead guilty as a party to the crime!Also started reading a fantastic book which I will talk about later when I have finished it. Suffice it to say as of now that I never imagined that a book on development economics (or clinical economics as the author says) would be such a racy read.

C ya next week!