Sunday, December 16, 2007

Now, a Movie Maker...

Two movies which I submitted for the PFCOne competition.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kids Nowadays

Are too smart for their own good. There I was sitting, well, not peacefully, maybe a little pensive, inside the American Consulate in Chennai where I had gone to get my H1-B Visa. A little earlier, I had got drenched outside when it had rained for a bit. Then there had been a narrow escape at the prescreening on some technicality which I won’t try and explain. So there I was sitting and calming my nerves, trying to figure out what to do next.

He would have been not more than 5 years old. A dark chubby fellow with mischievous and intelligent eyes, he had trundled to the chair beside me.

“What’s your name?”

Against my better judgment, I replied honestly.




“What kind of a stupid name is that?”

Pause. Now I was asking for it.

“What’s your name?”



“James Bond”.

I am getting married next week, to the day in fact, to a girl called Meera. Those vaadiyars will be asking my name every alternate minute.

I am going to be tempted.

By the way, if you are reading this, and I haven’t yet invited you, you are invited now.

Which means you can congratulate me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My First Screenplay

I wrote ‘The End’ on it a couple of days back and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I couldn’t write the last few pages fast enough. I mean, writing an action sequence is no fun, in my opinion. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning, flashback and all that you know- Imagine the page dissolving right in front of your eyes…

There I was, in one of the small bookstores in Banjara Hills out here in Hyderabad when I chanced upon the book titled ‘The Screen-writer’s Workbook’ by Syd Field. Now, I am your regular cinema junkie who can only dream about an alternate career in cinemascope while his immediate reality is dealing with day-to-day issues in his 2 to 10 IT job (9 to 5 in UK). But here was a chance. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. I mean, instead of procrastinating against my family who nudged me into a mainstream Engg+MBA rather than a liberal arts education, I could have so easily done this so much sooner. Looking at the scripts that Bollywood churns out as regularly as Ajit Agarkar does length balls which go for a six, I didn’t think I could do much worse. By the time I reached home I was already visualizing a couple of scenes and licking my lips.

The book is an interesting read by itself, even if one is not trying to write a screenplay. It’s a step by step procedure and about how even a novice like me can take a good shot at writing a screenplay. Each chapter ends with an exercise which I think if faithfully done does help a lot. Anyway, I read the whole book (200 pages of it) in a couple of sittings and then sat down to actually ‘do it’.

The first thing which the author asks you to do seems pretty simple. Condense the story into three or four sentences focusing on the subject, action and character. I did that except that what I wrote seemed pretty lame. Lets move on now, next chapter.

Next couple of chapters focused on the structure and what Syd Field calls the ‘Paradigm’. He is really big on that word and keeps harping on it time and again. Essentially he asks you to split your story into three acts and two plot points. This was a very useful exercise as it helps you to keep track and not lose your way when you get into the meaty part of actually writing the damn stuff. ‘When you are in the in the paradigm, you can’t see the paradigm.’

Four pages- that’s the next chapter. Write the story in four pages. This took some time. It turned out that I was really clear about Act 1 and Plot point 1 in my head but was pretty vague about the rest. It took some effort, but I managed it. Though now I was already beginning to see why this was not going to be the cakewalk that I had initially imagined this to be.

The next three chapters talk about creating characters and you end up writing character biographies for your main characters up to the point their role begins in the movie. I wrote the biographies for the three main characters in my story. This took close to a week or even more I think and I ended up with about 15 pages of their collective life stories till the time my story begins. I didn’t really understand why I had to write about the character’s parents when they didn’t even figure in the main story but I was going with blind faith. By the time I finished those biographies, I was starting to ‘live’ with those characters in my head and later whenever I seemed to get stuck with my writing, they did all the writing for me.

That’s Part 1 of the book called Introduction, by the way. Now we move into Part 2, called Execution.

Sorry, this has already become a longer write-up than I imagined it would be, somewhat like my Act 1, so I think I will stop here. Anyway, it’s not important. What is important is that 45 days and 122 pages later, I have finished the first draft. It’s been a wonderful adventure and an extremely satisfying one. A couple of friends have told me that I am completely wasting my time but I disagree. Writing is its own reward. I am never gonna be a rockstar but it’s not going to stop me from strumming my acoustic guitar, I tell them. Same difference.

The last couple of chapters of the book deal with the rewrites. But I can no longer bear to even give a complete reading to my screenplay anymore. I don’t know why it’s like that at all. I am completely sapped of all energy; almost as if I regret that the whole project has almost ended. Not sure what the future holds for this story of mine, will it ever see the light of day or will it for ever be confined within the depths of my hard disk?

Hey, but I will always have Dazed and Confused.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I wrote this post a few months back and somehow managed to forget all about it.

T was leaving his company where he had worked for the past 10 years.

We had taken away his job.

That is, my company, not moi per se. His job was the last one to be off shored to a techie now sitting in Hyderabad. For the past six months, my team and I had worked closely with him on all aspects of support and development of the IT systems that he was a crucial part of.

I understand a little better now, the expression ‘a stiff upper lip’ that the British are famous for. I had anticipated a certain degree of hostility when I, along with my team, first landed up in their office in Bristol on a cold Monday morning in December. Fortunately, we found T and others to be courteous and cooperative, which was frankly more than we had expected. I had been forewarned from at least a couple of people back home who had executed similar transition projects in the US that it might not be a pleasant experience.

Actually, pleasant, it was not. But we were pleasantly surprised with what we got, so I guess I’ll go with pleasant as the adjective. They were polite, courteous and cooperative, yes, but friendly, no. I found that out pretty early as T and others politely declined our offers to join us during our coffee breaks. They never invited us as well and we let it go at that. The rules of engagement were well defined and we worked satisfactorily, if not happily, within those. A few months later, I had a feeling that if a similar offer were renewed, it would not be declined, but I did not take the trouble to find out.

We have superior techno-functional skills. When it became apparent, I saw first disbelief, irritation, consternation and finally grudging respect as we delivered better service levels consistently. But our delivery would not have been possible without his help and cooperation for which I am grateful. I like to think that in the last few months we helped him to improve his skills as well. We involved him in the enhancements that we performed on the applications and he thus broadened his technical skill sets. On the last day, he asked me for a configuration document that I had prepared. I knew he would probably pass it off as his own in his future job applications. But I didn’t have to think twice before I sent it across. He sent back some code he had written which he said were some special shortcuts to specific problems we might face in future.

We were even.

On his last evening, he invited me for some drinks along with the couple of managers whose jobs were safe and a couple of others who had already left the company, their jobs already off shored. I knew by then that T was a kind of a beer connoisseur and he took all of us to three pubs where he declared one could find quality authentic English bitters. All three were small, old taverns with a great old worldly ambience. I enjoyed the beers too; they were quite different from the usual lagers that I would usually choose. As for the conversation, it was jovial and spirited. I asked T what his most memorable day was working with the company.

“Today!” he said and asked for another pint.

All of us trooped over, a little drunk, to an Indian restaurant for a ‘Curry’ dinner. I answered the usual questions about India. They all seemed to be a little surprised that I was a bit eager to go back home in a few months time.

T doesn’t have a job yet. He mentioned that he will take the opportunity to get his garden in shape before searching for his next vocation.

I wish him well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Behind the Blogging Vacuum

It’s 4.01 AM on my computer toolbar and I have been unsuccessfully trying to convince sleep for the past two hours, shifting and rolling uncomfortably on another strange bed. I don’t know if it’s the jet lag or whether it’s the indulgently long afternoon nap which is to blame.

I am back in Chennai by the way, taking a short holiday at home before resuming work in Hyderabad. Bristol already seems like a distant memory in a different world, if not a different life. It will all come back, am sure when I open my official email a few days from now, cluttered with users asking for this and that.

The blog has been neglected recently, I am aware of that. For a long time -it’s almost 18 months since I started- I blogged in a routine, trying to put up at least a post a week. I was trying to put my life in order again, trying to chop it off into smaller manageable bits over which I had control. Somewhere along the way, I thought the answers lay within me and the more I put out, the better I would be able to make sense of what was happening around and inside me. The blog’s not a hideout. It’s public knowledge, even my mom knows about it now. But it has my secrets in it; I like to think, hidden behind ordinary phrases and inconsequential incidents.

And slowly and steadily, it has happened, this change, without my noticing it. I have been looking outward a little more now, reading, listening and thinking of things which no longer involve me. To the extent that writing about stuff which concerns me seems quite, you know, pathetic almost. I lack the confidence and really the false assurance required to write about topics which I am only beginning to discover for myself and so I find myself in a limbo, between disinterest at one end and lack of confidence at the other resulting in a blogging vacuum.

Anyway, it’s time to set up routines again. Soon, a new address in Hyderabad, a new flat mate, a still new relationship (?) a search for a new job maybe, who knows.

Things are changing again. But this time, the answers will be easier to find.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

For the tiger...

Hope on to this link below and do what you can...

The Case of the Incidental Rat

Like any other weekday, I came in by around 7 PM, changed and logged on. I checked out my usual websites, fiddled around with my guitar till I couldn’t ignore the rumblings in my stomach any longer. Of course, to cook you need clean dishes and so I proceeded with the ones in the basin and switched on to the news channels in the telly. You ignore Paris Hilton at your own risk.

Soon after, when I was eating and trying to figure out why my sambhar tasted sweet, I suddenly saw the rat. I had heard some noises before in its general direction but had learnt to ignore such sounds. A lot of wood is used in the construction here which is not really conducive to sound proofing and odd noises from neighbor’s filters through often. But this wasn’t a neighbor I was looking at eight feet away from me. This was a huge rat which had made its way from my bathroom into my living room and was now considering future course of action.

I acted first. I closed my mouth which was agape with a mixture of astonishment, confusion and puzzlement, put my spoon filled with my sweet sambhar rice back on the plate and blinked. Fortunately, before I could put my feet up on the couch and say ‘uhudhfgu’, the creature decided that it had had enough of a foreign realm and retreated back into the darkness of the bathroom.

I think that I pride myself on being prepared for any eventuality. For example, I know that if I were mugged, it will take me only 2.4 seconds to take off my wallet, watch, mobile and ring in one smooth movement. Or for that matter, not to use a deodorant when I am journeying in the forest so that I don’t have to lie down and play dead when I encounter a bear. But this, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s not that I hadn’t encountered a rodent in my house before. I remember a small mouse looking trapped, trapped as it was in a mousetrap when I was six. I remember mom not being very keen about me adopting it as a pet. And for good measure, it was decided that the mouse should be released to terrorize other families in a colony a few miles from my house, so that it couldn’t find it’s way back. There was nothing I could do except give it some company before I saw it disappear for ever from my life.

Then of course, was the unforgettable experience at the Rat temple, I think, somewhere in Bikaner, Rajasthan, where the whole place is infested with the lot of them. If ever there was a Rat Heaven that would be it. Being a temple, you couldn’t wear your shoes in the place (a logic somewhat lost on me as the place couldn’t have been more disease prone than already) and I remember me and my college friends tying plastic paper bags around our legs with rubber bands before venturing in.

Cut to the present though and it was pretty clear to me quite immediately that my past experiences were not going to teach me anything of any significance on how to deal with the current predicament. Anyway, self defense and fortification being my first thought, I immediately closed the door between the bathroom and the living room and considered the gap between the floor and the door. It didn’t look very big but a determined rat could squeeze through, was what my grey cells were telling me. As I considered further moves to safeguard myself, I unwisely decided to calm my nerves by drinking gallons of water. Soon enough, I had to take a leak. It is amazing how a man can gather his courage where taking a leak is concerned. Armed with a broom, I gingerly made my way into enemy territory and placed my ass on the usual place. Those twenty seconds when I was at my most vulnerable passed away uneventfully even though I had morbid thoughts about what happened to Saif Ali Khan’s character in ‘Ek Hasina Thi’.

Further investigation of the bathroom revealed no presence of the rodent any longer. Wherever it had come from, it had gone back and hopefully was at peace with itself. There were a couple of crevices in the bathroom which seemed to lead into some dark depths but never for a moment did I consider making a closer investigation. The next day, when I encountered this experience to my unflappable letting agent, he did express some sympathy.

“It’s rare for them to show up at a first floor flat. Let me know if it shows up again, otherwise we will just forget it as an isolated incident.”

I told him that I was having visions of rats partying away in my house while I was away at work but he just nodded and attended to another customer. But, to his credit, I must say that he might have been right. I haven’t seen any more signs of the rat two weeks hence and have stopped carrying a broom with me every time I want to pee.

Wait a minute, what was that sound now?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

‘Upper Castes’ should Convert to Buddhism

So by now, 30 people have died in that needless violence which has followed the Gujjar’s demand to be given the ST status. Is it just me or do you think as well that today’s India is being torn apart by the overwhelming presence of the caste system and its dynamics now then ever before in our coherent lifetimes?

As much as many of us are impatient to embrace the India which is growing at 9 plus percent, we cannot ignore the fact that there are weighty questions to resolve. And only when the questions affecting the multitude of masses which are out of our vision and earshot are answered, that we can hope our country to have a future we want for it.

A few days earlier, I had read news articles about one lakh people converting to Buddhism in Mumbai. One lakh! Most people who were part of the mass conversion were nomadic tribals and Dalits.

What a contrast! At one end you have a set of people who want to be given the ST status and are willing to hold a state to ransom to achieve that end. And then you have a whole bunch of people (One lakh, remember) who one would think are mostly ‘STs’ wanting to escape the clutches of a religion which they believe can do them no good.

Dalits and lower castes converting to Buddhism has stopped being a big story unless the numbers are big enough. The reason is that most mass conversions are perceived as being less of a matter of choice and more of an easy escape route from a desperate existence. A sort of a short cut, perhaps. There is nothing noble in that. Let’s go to Page Three.

So I think its time for us so called ‘upper caste’ intelligentsia to step up and do something for a change rather than expend our arm chair expertise on the ills of our country.

Give up our ‘Upper Caste’ status, Convert to Buddhism, what say?

Why, you ask? If you are from an ‘upper caste’, give me reasons why you should be proud of that fact which are of any relevance in today’s age.

If you say that you couldn’t care less about being an ‘upper caste’ but also see no reason to take the trouble of doing something as obscure as a conversion of faith then I give you a couple of reasons. They are full of noble-idealistic bullshit.

-You will express your solidarity with the lowest of the low in our caste system.
-It will be a slap on the face to all those people who are earning their living by cutting up our country on the basis of caste.

But why Buddhism?

Now that’s a good question. Well, there’s no point in joining the Gujjar’s and clamor for an ST status for yourselves as well, even though your reasons (mentioned above) maybe noble and all that. Nobody will believe you or take you seriously.

There are other options as well. There’s the ‘Arya Samaj’ organization which is the watered down version of Hinduism without all of its caste trappings, idolatry etc. I will leave it to you to explore them if you want to. But Buddhism has a clear modern history as a vehicle to deliver the lower castes from their unwanted religion. It is a natural choice if you want to join hands.

Of course, you should know what Buddhism’s all about and only take the plunge if you are convinced. Here’s a link. Click.

Am I convinced? Am I going to convert? I don’t know. I know, it’s very unlike me to take the trouble and do something about anything. Maybe I’ll just forget pretty soon how I am feeling right now and go back to eating my curd rice and worrying about my career.

Or maybe I’ll just dwell on it for some time (I’m sure the Buddha would have liked that)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I watched the three movies which make up the Apu Trilogy over the weekend. Initially, I was a little apprehensive if I was ready yet for Ray’s movies. Though I have been watching a lot art cinema over the past year or two (and enjoying most of them), I was not sure if my taste in cinema had reached a level where I would be able to appreciate Ray’s oeuvre.

Thankfully, that was not the case. Pather Panchali took my breath away in the first few scenes itself and Apur Sansar could match any movie for its emotional roller coaster ride. And you cannot help but cheer Apu on in Aparajito as he leaves his drab existence behind to find a new one in the city. My only regret was that I didn’t know Bengali enough to appreciate the nuances in the dialogue more. Subtitles can only do so much. Fortunately, Ray almost always conveys more through his style, music, and motifs than just through the dialogues in his movies. I remember reading in his book ‘Speaking of Films’, which is a collection of essays from the great man that he considered the use of dialogue to convey emotion only as a last resort.

My understanding of art cinema or any good director’s movie has been greatly helped by the resources which are part of the special features contained in the DVD. In this DVD for instance, there are interviews that Ray gave to the BBC on the movies in question. On Apur Sansar there is also a wonderful discussion of the movie between Mamoun Hassan and six students of the Film and Television Institute of UK. It is only when one sees that that one realizes that there are so many nuances in the movie which has escaped one’s eye. For example, what was the need for the pre title scene in Apur Sansar? Why particular scenes are shot the way they are- the wedding night scene, of Apu in his room, of the mad groom in his palanquin? In as much as the tragedy in the movie is supposed to come as a shock to us, does Ray leave hints for the discerning viewer to anticipate what is going to happen?

In some contemporary excellent movies, it is a privilege to hear the director’s scene by scene commentary. One gets an opportunity to look from the director’s point of view and get that additional extra insight into the finer points of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the commentary in some movies like, ‘The Whale Rider’ by Niki Caro, and Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. I haven’t yet seen a similar feature in the DVD’s of Hindi movies yet. One movie which I would really like to pick the brains of the director would be ‘Eklavya’, which is easily my favorite Hindi movie of the year yet. There are so many shots in the movie which I would like to know why they were shot the way they were because there is so much which the movie conveys at so many levels.

Bristol has been good for me in a couple of ways. I have been able to expose myself to a whole lot of wonderful World Cinema thanks to the DVD collection at the Central Library and also given myself quite a bit of time to hone my guitar skills. There’s still some way to go yet on either vocation and I might not get enough time when I get back home which I shall, hopefully, in July. But I have never yet worried about reaching the end on anything now, have I?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Class Act

I have been hanging around YouTube a lot nowadays. There’s a lot of amazing stuff on that site that I have come across. I had read about Sanjaya Malakar and his tryst at the American Idol show and just clicked on a link which fortuitously came my way. Apparently, apart from a couple of songs, the kid’s performance (he is 17) on the show was quite below par when compared to the other contestants.

But inexplicably, he was a hit in the US and wasn’t getting voted off.

Now this seemed to puzzle a whole lot of people in that country. I don’t think this would have been a surprise to us in India. I mean aren’t our Indian Idol and such shows infamous for partisan voting from the contestant’s states? As contestant after contestant kept getting voted out of the hit show, the jokes on Malakar kept getting louder and louder in all the talk shows across America. The judges kept getting nastier and nastier, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t good enough to continue in the competition on the strength of his talent.

Throughout the whole tamasha, he kept smiling.

He made it a habit of appearing with a different hairdo every week. One of them, called the Ponyhawk, raised quite a stir. He became the first contestant to sing in Spanish, and even managed to make a 11 year old girl cry at one of his performances.

The jeers kept getting louder.

On YouTube, one female got quite a bit of publicity when she announced a hunger strike till Sanajaya was voted off the show. At least one video response mentioned that she could do with losing some weight. Websites professing to be a meeting place of Sanjaya Haters came up asking people not to vote for the guy. People who hated the show in the first place exhorted people to vote for Sanjaya as they proclaimed that the show would thus lose all credibility of claiming to throw up genuine singing talent. One of the judges, the famously nasty Simon Cowell declared that he would leave the show if Sanjaya became the American Idol.

Sanjaya was finally voted off the show on the Top Six episode. On his last day on the show, he sang ‘Let’s give them something to talk about- other than hair’. But that’s not the point.

All of us love a few things. Unfortunately, we can never be really good at it, leave alone the best. So we either forget about them or if we are lucky, nurture them in secret. We cloak our passions in the veneer of mediocrity in everyday life and hope that we won’t be discovered for the hopeless romantics that we are. Very few of us have the guts to embrace those things, in the full knowledge that we will be berated, humiliated and eventually defeated. And only a special few can make this arduous journey keeping one’s dignity intact as people all around you are losing theirs. It requires a philosophical and fearless attitude, a hallmark of people, one of whom was referred by Jay Leno as ‘A Real Class Act’.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The weather’s heavenly nowadays. Sunny skies, a cool breeze and a temperature which hovers benignly between 18 to 20 degrees. It’s almost a crime not to head out on a Saturday and enjoy the day. P complained of a slight indisposition but changed his mind after a while.

The SS Great Britain had been awarded the museum of the year in UK for the year 2006. It’s actually just a very old ship, built in the year 1843 and is known as the world’s first great ocean liner. It transported around 700 people on each trip, across the Atlantic, to Australia as thousands went to start their lives in that new continent then and also to Asia and India. It was also involved in the Crimean War and the 1857 Indian war of independence as it transported troops. The sea routes at that time were very pretty long and treacherous. One had to round off the choppy waters of the Cape of Good Hope to get to India and Australia and Cape Horn to get to San Francisco. Suez and Panama canals were still to arrive. In 1861 she carried the first ever English cricket team to tour Australia. After she was no longer suitable as a passenger ship, she transported coal and wheat between Europe and the Americas. She ran aground in the Falkland Islands at end of the 19th century where she was abandoned till the 1960s when a massive restoration exercise was undertaken in light of her historic importance to bring her back to the Bristol Dockyard where she was born.

The walk along the dockyard was quite pleasant as we watched the boats lined up all the way on the banks and a team of girls who were rowing away in a canoe. I was suddenly reminded of a visit that I had made to see the INS Viraat in Cochin, where I was working then, almost four years ago. A friend of mine had a contact among the crew and he showed us around the massive aircraft carrier with some pride. I remember it was dusk then, when I was standing alone on the airstrip on that ship looking out into that Arabian Sea of nothingness, rapidly descending into darkness. Those were my last few days in Cochin and I would miss the beautiful state soon. It was a serene moment, with the waves timidly lapping the huge monster of a ship, a few raucous crows overhead and the last glimpses of the orange sun setting on the western horizon. My mind was preoccupied with other thoughts and plans that year. Life has changed a bit since then.

I took quite a few photographs on the Great Britain, on her deck, dining rooms, living quarters and the old boilers and engines. We both thought that the bunk beds on the ship seemed to be too small for a comfortable lie down. P mentioned that the toilet facilities even a hundred years ago were quite up to date. I told him that those facilities were meant for us tourists and did not exist a hundred years ago. Thankfully he had not entered the ladies washroom in his enthusiasm. We had some coffee and doughnuts in a café nearby and took a ferry back to the city center.

Back home, I cooked some Veg Pulao . Didn’t come out too badly considering it was a first attempt. Also watched a French movie called Nelly and Mr. Arnaud, a film by Claude Sauter.

Good timepass.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

London Day Trip

Last Saturday, Prasad and I undertook another day trip to London, my second, his fifth. This time we booked ourselves a return coach trip instead of the train to save ourselves a few bucks. I surprised myself by getting up at the right time (In fact I even had time to change the playlist in my mp3 players with some recent songs that I had downloaded) and we found ourselves at the bus stop well before time. The journey was a little more than two hours and was quite comfortable.

It was a beautiful day. Actually, I must mention that the summer has now well and truly arrived with the temperature hovering around the 20s most of the time. Anyway, we had to get to Madame Tussaud’s which was first on our agenda. We hadn’t booked our tickets as Prasad in his infinite wisdom from his previous visits to his city had concluded that if we queued up before 10 AM we wouldn’t have to wait long. Unfortunately, it was the Easter weekend and we ended up standing (and sometimes sitting) in the queue along with many other tourists, mostly European, for well over two and a half hours. Reminds me of Tirupati, I told Prasad. He told me how their family gets a special treatment at Tirupati because they know somebody there. Doesn’t everybody?

Finally, we did get in. The place was jam packed. I didn’t like it immediately. The whole idea of the place is that people can act funny with life like mannequins of well known people and take photographs. Prasad hugged Jennifer Aniston while I tried to get intimate with Nicole Kidman. But she was quite a stiff (sic). Shahrukh Khan, who was a recent addition, occupied a pride of place and we rubbed our shoulders with him. Prasad became really excited on seeing Aishwarya Rai in a traditional saree and made his way torpedo-like towards her. But when I was about to click a momentous photo which would have been in his family’s photo album for generations, the battery ran out. Prasad was quite inconsolable. I was actually quite worried for him when he emitted a long sigh on seeing Princess Diana.

But the truly enjoyable part of the visit was the ‘Chamber of Horrors’. This is the section of the tour where they have images from the French Revolution, graphic description of various methods of torture and dismemberment. The live tour takes the cake where in a dimly lit scary section with appropriate sound effects are live actors dressed up as scary ghosts and corpses etc. who tend to give you quite a scare when you least expect it. An elderly couple in front of us refused to complete the tour by themselves and asked us to shepherd them out, me in front and Prasad behind them. It was quite a thrill and I had a blast. The rest of the tour was quite uneventful by comparison.

After lunch, our next stop was at the Sherlock Holmes museum at Bakers Street. I had read all the short stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle by the time I was a 15, and the museum and all its artifacts took me back to those memories. It could have been a much better organized tour than it was though, and people who haven’t read Doyle wouldn’t find it engaging.

We then went on to take a leisurely walk in the Regents Park. It’s quite a huge park and we almost lost our way trying to get back to where we started from. Our next stop was at Eastham, which is like little south India. Prasad wanted to go to a temple there where he went round and round the place and did about 30 namaskarams. I took the opportunity to rest my feet and sat down on the cool floor. Our next stop of the day, was the most important and anticipated one, Saravana Bhavan. I had Sambhar Vada and Masala Dosa while Prasad hogged some Idlis and Uthhapam. Topped it off with some filter coffee, of course. Next stop was at a shop selling pirated CDs of South Indian movies. Prasad is multilingual (he speaks all the four Dravidian languages) and he picked up a few CDs that I hadn’t heard of or even knew what the titles meant. I picked up Veyil, a Tamil movie which I had heard was invited to screen at the Cannes film festival.

We were getting late and hurrying back when Prasad remembered that he had to buy jaggery to put in the sambhar that he cooks at home. That took a few more minutes and consequently, we were looking at out watches every two minutes after that to see if we would make it back in time. We didn’t. The bus left just in front of my eyes (the drivers here don’t wait for late passengers) and I informed Prasad of the same as he came huffing and puffing to the coach station a couple of minutes behind me. Luckily, places were available on the next coach a half hour later and for a rescheduling fee, we were on it on our way back home to Bristol.

I was home by midnight and watched Veyil. It’s a very good movie. Watch it if you know the language or are able to get your hands on a version with subtitles.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Namesake- Movie Review

I loved The Namesake. I haven’t read the book yet but hope to read it someday soon. Tabu and Irrfan Khan are superb and Kal Penn (Kalpen Modi), of Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle fame does a reasonable job. But in the end it’s a director’s movie and Mira Nair has just bettered her effort from Monsoon Wedding. I can’t believe that the same person made the trashy Kamasutra movie. I can’t be too critical of it though. If I were 19, I would probably still bunk classes to watch that movie. I haven’t watched her other acclaimed movies though, neither Salaam Bombay nor Missisippi Masala (make mental note).

The risk with English movies having Indian characters is the language. In a movie which obviously wants to portray real people, how does the filmmaker balance the language necessities along with realism? In this movie Mira Nair just about gets it right, mingling Bengali with English now and then, though I wished there was a little more sprinkling of the native language in the communications between Ashoke and Ashima, Irrfan and Tabu’s characters in the movie.

The movie is beautifully shot, especially in Calcutta as the director’s camera caresses the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city capturing its myriad details as those who have lived in the city can identify with. The totem of bridges is consistently seen throughout the movie drawing a parallel with the lives that the characters lead across the continents. The pace of the movie is set early and one settles in quickly to view a story unfold unhurriedly across cities and generations.

Irrfan is brilliant as the caring husband and the uncommunicative but clearly doting father. He does the difficult job of conveying his character to the audience through minimum lines at his disposal with aplomb and the right measure of gravitas. But while Ashoke remains true from beginning to end, it’s Tabu who has to depict Ashima’s travels from a spunky girl to an eager-to-please wife, to a frustrated and irritable mother and finally, a widow who moves on and finds life on her own. This, she does, and how. Kal Penn is funny and cool as the rebellious teenager and understandable as the young man who tries to ‘fit in’ (which he does successfully) to the adopted country of his parents. Though he acquits himself well, you kind of feel that he doesn’t have the range which his role demanded and the movie slacks (just a bit) because of this. The other actors do their parts without messing anything up.

The score by DJ Nithin (I think) is a pleasing blend of the east and west and accentuates the mood and pace of the movie. Almost every scene in the movie is a treat but here’s the trailer along with this memorable scene for you.

Go see it!

A Visit to the Bristol Zoo

On Saturday, Prasad and myself decided to heave ourselves out of the rut of laziness that we inevitable descend into on weekends and do something to blog about (in my case). We were an hour late (thanks to me) but time is an inexpensive commodity on weekends and is dispensed generally with disdain. Prasad kept me entertained on the way with the story of how a group of five including him had made an earlier attempt at the zoo but had changed their minds at the ticket counter on the mention of a 11 pound entry fee. No such mishaps this time around and we were in.

Chandra and Moti were a couple of Asiatic lions who immediately had me busy with the camera. Unfortunately, I being a dummy with a camera, a lot of images came out blurred, but a few were alright. There was also a very friendly bird with a red beak which had me quite captivated. People kept offering their fingers to RedBeak and he happily kept pecking at them. There were also a couple of huge turtles who actually moved. I think I resemble a turtle in many ways, laboring away, one step at a time, living a long life. Prasad says turtle shells can take the weight of an elephant and live to tell the tale.

There were other interesting creatures as well, fishes, flamingos, a gorilla family, a whole lot of kids and their parents, an odd couple here and there. Overall the whole experience, though not mind-blowing, did leave me feeling that everything was organized a lot more professionally than the zoos that I have seen back home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

World Cup Tragedy

I was going to write a post regarding my reminiscences of the past world cups but then I happened to read about the violence at Nandigram. I am quite ashamed to admit that I came across the story only four days post the tragedy, lost as it was in the cacophony surrounding the World Cup. As I read report after report of the event, I am filled with anguish about the needless loss of lives. Now the whole thing has degenerated into political one-upmanship with L K Advani reportedly comparing the incident to the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The only silver lining seems to be the progress that the CBI seems to have made in the case. Hopefully a semblance of justice and normality will be restored to the situation.

This also seems to be a big blow to any market reform initiatives in West Bengal, a state which has been under the long shadow of trade unionism for decades under the Jyoti Basu rule. Buddhadeb seemed to be the new hope and the man who many believed would steer the state into a future which it richly deserved. Now the Nandigram debacle will definitely ring loud and long for many state governments who would give a second thought before they promise land to private investors through the controversial SEZs. Already we see the Jharkhand government adopting a more cautious approach. Kamal Nath is right when he says that Nandigram should not be the reason why an investment policy should be debunked. Obviously the fault lies in the execution and not necessarily the policy itself (but that’s another debate).

There are learnings for India here as it rushes forward to meet its golden inevitable future. Unfortunately, the road is long and hard if our growth has to be inclusive, as it must be. I don’t mind, as long as it’s not littered with blood.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Killers- Read my mind

Came across this song online. You can view the video here (Some people think the lead vocalist resembles Freddie Mercury a bit). And if you don’t want to listen to my pathetic version on my guitar, you shouldn’t click here.

On the corner of main street
Just tryin' to keep it in line
You say you wanna move on and
You say I'm falling behind

Can you read my mind?
Can you read my mind?

I never really gave up on
Breakin' out of this two-star town
I got the green light
I got a little fight
I'm gonna turn this thing around

Can you read my mind?
Can you read my mind?

The good old days, the honest man;
The restless heart, the Promised Land
A subtle kiss that no one sees;
A broken wrist and a big trapeze
Oh well I don't mind, if you don't mind
Coz I don't shine if you don't shine
Before you go, can you read my mind?

It’s funny how you just break down
Waitin' on some sign
pull up to the front of your driveway
With magic soakin' my spine

Can you read my mind?
Can you read my mind?

The teenage queen, the loaded gun;
The drop dead dream, the Chosen One
A southern drawl, a world unseen;
A city wall and a trampoline
Oh well I don't mind, if you don't mind
Coz I don't shine if you don't shine
Before you jump
Tell me what you find when you read my mind

Slippin’ in my faith until I fall
He never returned that call
Woman, open the door, don't let it sting
I wanna breathe that fire again
She saidI don't mind, if you don't mind
Coz I don't shine if you don't shine
Put your back on me
Put your back on me
Put your back on me

The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun
When you read my mind

Sunday, March 04, 2007

When the going gets tough...

A friend of mine told me a bit of his story today. His dad lost almost all his wealth and spirit in an ill-fated venture into a restaurant business in the eighties while he was in school.

“I have been paying my own way since high school.”

He learnt typing and screen printing while he was in school.

“I worked four years as a night receptionist in a lodge in Bangalore while doing my engineering.”

He used to get up every day at 6 AM, catch the bus out to his college 29 kms. away. Come back at 4, sleep till 10 and work as a receptionist till 5 before it was time for a brand new day.

“Yeah, Sundays were off till the third year when we had to stay back for lab on Tuesdays.”

He earned extra money making ID cards for 3000 students of his engineering college students and staff. He charged Rs. 4 per card while it cost him 28 paise.

“It was good money”, he smiled.

Both of us are not the type who would naturally gravitate towards each as we have nothing in common. But in a foreign country one grabs whoever one gets, I guess. Just a couple of nights back I found myself opening up to another temporary but convenient ear and say things I haven’t told many.

Tough times teach us a lot and mould us in more ways than we realize. Keep them coming.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Food and Attention

I am neither finicky about food nor enthusiastic about cooking. I think if the world invented tablets to keep one healthy and hunger away, I wouldn’t mind spending money on such tablets. But till that time, I need to find ways and means to solve the problem.

Breakfast is managed easily enough as long as I don’t sleep late which happens once in a while. Toast, apples, juice, coffee, butter, jam- that I can handle. Dinner is taken care of thanks to ready-to-eat dishes. MTR, Kitchens of India, are life savers along with frozen chapathis. Mention also must be made of electric rice cookers

Which leaves lunch. My Indian colleagues cook and bring their own lunch. I visited a Subway. And since I am not so finicky about what I eat, I used to order the same menu item on a daily basis. It got to a point that if there was an award for a customer speaking the least words while ordering food inside a Subway, I would have won it hands down and mouth shut.

A recent conversation-

Subway Guy- Hey, alright? 6 inch veggie patty, right?
Me: Nod
Veggie patty goes into the oven.

Subway Guy- Italian Bread? Cheese and Toasted, yeah?
Me: Nod
Italian Bread with Cheese goes into oven. Move in front of Subway Girl1 who takes out my patty and bread from the oven.

Subway Girl1- Lettuce, onions, cucumber and jalapenos for the salad, right?
Me: Nod
Subway Girl1- And ketchup for the sauce?
Me: Nod

My sandwich gets packed and I move parallel to it till I reach the cash counter in front of Subway Girl2 who has a packet of ready salted crisps ready for me along with the sandwich.

Subway Girl2: 3.44 please, and you are eating here, right? (She doesn’t have to give me a bag meant for a takeaway)
Me: Yes, Thanks.

Now you may think this is all great but it’s actually very uncomfortable for me. Coz, though I am not finicky about food, I am finicky about attention. And I hate it when people know more about me then I do about them. I was seriously considering ordering a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki the next time but I did what I usually do in such situations. I quit.

I started frequenting a small Indian place offering a very average fare at completely-not-worth-it rates. And though I tried my best to disguise my voice each day and even shaved alternate days to remain incognito, I was found out. Before long, the proprietor wanted to discuss the weather with me and also tell me the recipes of the dishes which went into the Veg Meal that I ordered every day. Didn’t he realize that I obviously couldn’t care less?
And this did it-

Indian Restaurant Guy- Don’t you have Indian friends at your office?
Me: Yes (What does he want now? Can’t you just take the money?)
IRG- Why don’t you get them along with you sometime?
Me: They bring their own food.
IRG- Aaah!! They have their own taste. (Suddenly getting excited) But this is home food, isn’t it?! You come here every day!!
Me: Yeah, but I can’t cook.

That shut him up. Anyways, I quit again. Now I frequent an Italian place. But this time I am ahead of the game. I alternate my orders between a Veg Pizza and a Veg Pasta Bake (with cheese, peppers and white wine) and it seems to be working. Though yesterday, the proprietor did smile and look at me strangely.

But I am not worried. I am planning to get a haircut over the weekend.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Snow and Global Warming

I saw my first snowfall last week.

February is the coldest month around here unlike in India where this month signals the end of the mild winter. (As an aside, I don’t think that after this I would ever be impressed by the usual Indian winter, unless am near the Himalayas for some reason.) It doesn’t snow much in Bristol but nevertheless, snow was forecast early one morning. My friends got up early, I mean really early, went out and took photos. I am not built like that. But when I got up, I did see snow flakes raining down out of my window. By the time I was out on my way to office however, it was all over.

On another day, it started snowing during the day when I was in office. Myself, Prasad and Peter gathered at the window and took in the scene.

Prasad- “It’s pretty heavy isn’t it?”
Pete- “Naah! When it’s heavy, you wouldn’t be able to see that building over there.”
Prasad- “Shit! If it’s that heavy, then how can one even walk?”
Myself- “You don’t. You stay at home.”

On the whole, according to the local people, it’s been a warm winter and everybody seems to know the reason. Global Warming. It’s quite surprising how an environmental issue has come into mainstream parlance. I guess it hasn’t remained just an environmental issue any longer. The threat of Greenland melting down and submerging cities of Europe seems very real to people around here. I see the issue in newspapers and on the news in the rare occasions that I switch on the telly. This is not a problem that is going to be solved in a hurry though, and along with terrorism, is going to be the issue which is going to dominate world politics and economics in the coming decade or two.

If you don’t know what Global Warming’s about, an entertaining and educative place to start is the documentary called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ starring Al Gore, who didn’t become President of the USA in spite of getting more votes than George Bush. He is now become the chief face of the ‘Save the World from Global Warming’ Campaign. If I have to say one thing about the documentary which I liked, it would have to be the no nonsense way in which he identified the US and Americans as the chief contributors to the problem. For a politician, it takes guts to do that. Is he ahead of his time? At any rate, I bet he is more likely to win a Nobel than George Bush as things stand today.

And speaking of today, I am now in the middle of a sunny spell. I can see blue skies outside my window, white clouds behaving themselves and staying in their place.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Boring Weekends?

People stay in a houseful of inmates and say they are bored stiff on weekends. They ask me how I manage to fight boredom myself, since I stay by myself and almost never seek company.

I don’t know.

I never have enough time on weekends myself. In fact, this Thursday, on my usual weekly visit to the Central library, I eschewed borrowing my usual two DVDs since I thought it would give me more time to finish the E M Forster book which I have already reissued once, but am only halfway through. Doesn’t look like that plan’s gonna work though. Half my weekend’s already done and I haven’t touched ‘My Last Journey’.

Now let’s see what happened today. I got up around 10 AM. By the time I was finished with my weekly calls home, it was already lunchtime (please note that I didn’t have time for breakfast). Grabbed a quick lunch and then spent some quality time with Monica (that’s my guitar, by the way). Then it was time for my weekly run in the Eastville Park. I am slowly getting used to running in this weather now (but that’s another post). I was back in an hour, caught my breath and went into a long hot shower.

It’s now 6 PM and I am writing this along with munching some sumptuous chocolate chip cookies, downing it with some pure orange juice (no concentrate) and Johnny Cash. If you are still reading me, you are probably stuck with boredom yourself.

Release yourself. As for me, I will head for that damned book.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Stillborn Attempt at Fiction

He couldn’t remember when he had met her for the first time. Was it at the office or at her apartment with the others? Or had it been on that first trip to Nice? No, he had definitely met her before that trip, but for the life of him, he couldn’t pinpoint the exact occurrence. That irritated him. Almost as if the first meeting would have been insignificant. That couldn’t have been. He believed in love at first sight.

He looked out of the window. It was quite dark now and the bus rolled along merrily on the new highway. The lights of shops on the busy highway zipped past. Now and then a petrol pump would emerge out of the kaleidoscope of images and seemed to stay for a fraction of a second longer than the rest. He was glad nobody was sitting next to him and patted himself mentally for traveling on a weeknight. His bag lay on the seat next to him. He opened it and took out a book of poems that he had purchased at ‘Crosswords’ the last weekend. He never read poems. But one of his acquaintances at the last party he attended had claimed to be enthralled by them and had gone into a long and fascinating monologue of his favorite poets and the beauty of their individual works. And so the next time that Vikram had gone to his favorite bookstore, he finally looked at the poetry section and picked out a thin book of poems from an Indian author whose novels he had read earlier and liked. He had flipped through a few pages right then and had thought- ‘This doesn’t look so bad’-and paid up. But he hadn’t gotten around to reading it as yet. He had been avidly following the football world cup on television these last few days. Everyone seemed to talk about it everyday. One couldn’t be in a position of being ignorant about such an important event. He had made a mental note of even watching the English Premier League next season.

The reading lights didn’t work. “Shit”, he muttered. He considered drawing the conductor’s attention to the malfunctioning bulb but then decided against it. What if he asked him to move to a seat where the reading light worked but which happened to have a fellow traveler seated next to him? He would then be in an uncomfortable position to refuse. Vikram mentally weighed the pros and cons of that situation and decided that he preferred to sit in isolation without his book of poems than share his immediate personal space with a stranger. What if that stranger turned out to be an inquisitive busybody and quizzed him endlessly about his book, life, career and the objective of his trip to Jaipur? Vikram was truthful and polite and frequently found himself drawn into conversations where he was an unwilling participant. His only means of defense was avoidance.

Fuck it, he thought, and put the book back into his bag and took out his iPod. Book and iPod, Vikram never traveled without either of them. A seasoned traveler, he was now ever cautious of boredom, which used to hit him quite frequently earlier when he wasn’t wise enough. Nowadays he carried spare batteries.

Dire Straits, one of his all time favorite bands. He loved Knopfler’s voice, his lead guitar work and the simple lyrics. He yawned. It had been a long day and he was still suffering from jet lag. Wait, no, it couldn’t be jet lag. It was almost two weeks since he had returned from Paris. It had simply been a very long and stressful day; he decided and closed his eyes.

He had definitely met her at the office the first time, he thought, and slept.

Books and Movies

There’s no TV in my house yet. But thanks to the Bristol Central Library I am surviving on a steady diet of books and movies. It’s back to fiction again as far as books are concerned and am trying to discover authors whom I have only heard of before but never read. I read John Updike’s ‘Villages’ and John Mortimer’s ‘The Sound of Trumpets’. Loved Mortimer, reminded me of the many Wodehouse stuff that I read when I was in school, except that Mortimer is a few shades darker. Updike was good too, but the novel reminded me of ‘The Sea’ in structure and sadly Updike kind of paled in comparison with the other John who went on to win that Booker last year. Currently I have my hands on E M Forster’s ‘The Longest Journey’. Quite an oldie.

As for movies, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is a very good way to start the New Year if you haven’t watched the movie already. I watched the movie four times over this weekend. Twice just to get the hang of what was actually going on, watched it another time with the subtitles and again with the commentary of Kaufman and Gongry, writer and director respectively of the movie. Also picked up a very entertaining documentary on ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’. Another one called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on Global Warming which had Al Gore (remember him?) who was quite a revelation. ‘United 93’ was another movie, about the plane hijacked during the Sep 11 attacks which apparently didn’t find its target. A very sensitively handled take on what is a difficult subject.

The local theatre in the city centre is called The Odeon. Today went and saw a movie called ‘The Holiday’. I almost regretted the decision. There’s too much saccharine in the movie, if you ask me. Diaz looks great but can’t seem to come out of her Charlie’s Angels’ skin. Winslet’s much better of course, except that her character is quite pathetic for most of the movie. A ‘Bridget Jones’ role but without the funnies. The guys don’t have much to do but am glad for Jack Black. The guy should get more meaty roles like this.

A song from the soundtrack of the movie ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Beck.

Change your heart
Look around you.
Change your heart
It’ll astound you.

I need your lovin’
Like the sunshine
And everybody’s gotta learn sometime
Everybody’s gotta learn sometime
Everybody’s gotta learn sometime.

Good Night, and Good Luck. I am going to watch that one now.

Hobbies and Risks

I believe that people who have a better quality of life assiduously work towards it. Of course ‘quality of life’ could mean different things to different people. Some people want to party every weekend with friends and so in a new place they need to reach out and make new friends they can party with. Others are happier to just settle into their weekends with a nice book and so they need to go out and buy or borrow some.

Bristol has a well organized chess league with a number of clubs around the place. This was something I had checked out before I came here. On the 28th of Dec, according to the local website there was a tournament called ‘On the Buzzer’, organized at the Downing Chess club.

I was almost half an hour late, what with the small difficulty of finding the place, but luckily for me, it was still the first round in progress. My soon-to-be opponent who was enjoying a beer as a consequence of what he thought was a first round bye was suddenly introduced to an opponent who ‘had come all the way from India to play him and called himself Anand!’

‘On the Buzzer’ turned out to be another name for what is more popularly known as ‘Lightning Chess’ where players have less than 10 seconds to make every move. I am notoriously bad at speed chess (not that I am much better at the longer versions) but after three rounds and six games with three opponents, I found myself on the second board as a consequence of a score of 4.5/6. Of course it was all downhill from there.

It was pretty late when I left the club clutching my reward for my effort which happened to be a nice-looking table clock. It was past eleven and I thought I had missed the last bus home. I asked about the nearest taxi stand at an Indian restaurant called ‘Tamarind’ who were winding up for the night and was heading in the direction indicated when I saw the bus I wanted come into view. My lucky day, I thought.

“Last stop.” It was only when the driver said that that I realised that I had taken the bus in the opposite direction and was now further away from home. I was now stranded by myself at a deserted mall next to what seemed like a highway. It was windy, cold and quite dark. Everything at the mall seemed to be closed and I was beginning to kick myself at my own stupidity.

Thankfully, there was a lone pub with a few final customers on their last dregs of beer which was still open. The bartender who happened to a bright looking girl with black framed spectacles and a high forehead was quite helpful and dug out a call taxi phone number.

“Thanks, but could you tell me where I am?”

She didn’t understand my question and said, “Oh you don’t have to worry. They are very reliable, our customers use them all the time and we have them all checked out.”
“No, no. Where am I? Where should I ask them to come and pick me up?”

“Oh, you are at Millson’s pub on Emersons Green.” To her credit, if she was surprised, she didn’t show it.

The taxi was booked but couldn’t pick me up for another half hour, which was at a quarter past twelve. Millson’s pub closed at twelve and their last drunk customer and staff weeded out. I waited in the cold outside the pub and when it was quarter past twelve with not a soul in sight, I started looking around for a corner where I could possibly shrivel for the night as my phone was dangerously low on battery.

I don’t think I ever felt happier on seeing a cab when it turned up a couple of minutes later and never gladder of my own name when the cabbie called out, “Anand?”

I cooked dinner after I reached home. I hadn’t partaken of the buffet dinner at the club since I couldn’t recognize any of the items on offer.


One of the big reasons why onsite opportunities are craved in the IT industry is the potential of making and saving money. Many Indian IT majors are forced to pay minimum wages abroad for the skills that our engineers bring to the table which our enterprising engineers in turn find quite plentiful enough.

Though I like making good money, I would rather it came to me by its own accord whilst I pursue a higher ambition, whatever that means. On the way I hope to enjoy a comfortable, that’s all I ask, comfortable life.

There are few things I would rather not do. One of them is sharing rooms, if I can avoid it. Somehow, I have been a bit lucky in this regard. Dad was making enough money by the time I was 14- an important age, I tell you- for me to have my own room. Providence made me join engineering and B school hostels with that same circumstance. So apart from the odd occurrence here and there, I – or others, depends on your opinion of me- have been well shielded.

The point of all this is – apart from trying to sound cool, that is- the fact that while six Indians in my client’s office –two from my company- are sharing a 3 bhk flat, I have taken separate digs in Bristol in a 1 bhk. Soon enough, the two colleagues of mine wanted to move into my place as they couldn’t get along with the others. I said fine as long as I could at least keep the bedroom for myself. I think they got “Don’t come near me” vibes and changed their mind. Pity, could have learnt some culinary skills from them.

Coming back to thrift, sometimes it could go to ridiculous levels and when you are staying in a group and want to make decisions for the whole group, the lowest denominator always prevails since the cost has to be shared. So the cheapest rice is bought, which results in poor results in the kitchen, though I am the last person who should be making a comment like this. Sometimes, it’s even competitive, who spends the least, or even, you spend more, you are a fool.

As for me, it ensures an entertaining stream of conversation.

“D&C, the other day the four of us went looking to buy plates. We saw the cheapest offer at buy three, get one free. When we decide to go for it, D decides that he no longer wants to eat out of a plate but will manage out of the small bowl that he has. Next day, I see him eating out of OUR plate. I could have almost hit him.”

I laughed and laughed.

“D&C, even I am getting worse by the day. The other day, after reconciliation, he owed me nine pence, which he was writing off. I said – I want my nine pence back!-.”

We were going out for lunch everyday. But for the last few days, we have been eating tortillas and yoghurt, not the best combination. After one such repast, my colleague calculates and says happily,

“We have managed the lunch in 90 pence each.”

I just stared back. I had thought we were eating this shit to avoid going out into the cold.

I didn’t give him the ninety pence.

At the Bus Stop

‘Mallik’s’ is a store which I had noticed from the bus on my way home on earlier occasions. ‘Asian Food and Spices’, it boldly stated and since I have no other choice left nowadays but to fend for myself in the kitchen, I had decided to give it a look over.

Half an hour later, I emerged from the shop clutching my bag of Asian food and spices and stood at the bus stand in the cold that I am getting slowly used to. Eight o’ clock in
Bristol is a pretty late time. Streets are empty and there is hardly any movement on the roads, making the night seem much darker. Mallik’s seemed to be the only shop which was open in quite a stretch. The cold always makes the wait seem longer than it is.

“Is there a bus coming?” I hadn’t noticed but a short, stout, middle aged black woman had been standing a few feet away. I craned my neck but couldn’t see a bus coming.

“On the board, is there a bus coming now on the board?” Just in front of my eyes on the board on the bus stand were the timings when the buses were supposed to land up on that particular bus stop.

“Oh man, it’s freezing out here!” she said to no one in particular.

Mallik’s shop-hand was now lifting crates of Asian fruit and vegetables and shifting them back inside the shop, preparing to shut down.

“What did he pick up now from the ground? Was that tobacco? Man, must be his lucky night!”

“I saw a woman earlier drop something”, she continued. “But sometimes when you try to help somebody, you get into trouble? So I’ve stopped doing that. Man, what’s happening to me?” She shook her head.

“Man, this country’s going to the dogs, I tell you. Everything’s closing early, even the pubs! Everything’s getting tighter, too much security, I tell you. The council! Even the council closes early. Do you stay in a council flat?”

I mumbled my ignorance.

“Man, it’s cold out here tonight! Am gonna have some hot soup when I get home.”

“At last, there’s a bus coming!” She exclaimed.

I couldn’t see any but sure enough a second later, the bus came around the bend and fully into view.

“Oh hell! Its full, the damn bus is full!” she exclaimed in disgust. Sure enough, as the bus came nearer, it became evident that all the seats had been taken.

“Am not getting on this. You can go if you want”, she said.

Of course, I come from a country where a bus is not full unless it leans on one side at an angle of thirty degrees.

“Yes, I’ll go”, I said and climbed in.