Saturday, January 31, 2009

Facebook Is Calling, Where Are You?

I wasn’t a big fan of Facebook earlier. Found it very user-unfriendly. Felt there was way too much going-on (the homepage when you log in is quite cluttered).

I also found it extremely annoying that whenever you want to accept any of the requests that one of your friend sends you, or take a quiz, or play a game on Facebook, you have to first navigate through numerous pop-ups, including having to add a list of friends whom the request/quiz/game would be forwarded to. I never had the patience for all of this. Even now I have, like, 100 requests pending. I used to barely manage to accept request from friends to add them to my Friends’ List.

Orkut, on the other hand, was much simpler to use! A friend leaves you a scrap, you scrap them back. It’s easy to get to newly uploaded pictures of friends. No annoying pop-ups to deal with!

Then I realized that all my friends from the US, who I had lost touch with after college (mainly b/c we were lazy to mail each other), were on Facebook! So I was forced to become friends with the social networking website, and the more I started using it, the more I started liking it.

For one, there are no creeps on Facebook who keep asking you to become friends or leave you unsolicited messages. Secondly, it made it very easy to stay in touch with college friends – scribbling on their wall is much faster than writing a mail! And people are quicker in scribbling back on your wall than replying to your mail.

I got to know the whereabouts of so many friends I’d kind of lost touch with. For instance, one of my friends who was perpetually confused about what she wanted to do in life is now studying to become a doctor! Now, medicine is a profession you need to be very sure you want to take up, due to the sheer amount of patience and dedication required to see yourself through med-school.

Another friend, a triple black belt in Taekwondo, has his own Taekwondo studio now where he teaches the martial art to kids. Another friend has gotten into Child Therapy, helping kids deal with trauma. Yet another friend went on to study Cultural Anthropology at Yale. She went to Tanzania for 3 months on a scholarship program which required her to do some primary research among people of a particular ethnicity in Dar-es-Salaam. And another friend – hold your breath, you travel lovers – went on to study Archeology at Stanford and is gallivanting all over Europe doing excavations! I remember her trying to break her head learning Greek & Latin in college, so she'd be able to do this. She now hovers at all the historical places in Italy & Greece that I’ve always dreamt of going to. I live vicariously through her pictures.

Moral of the Story? Some things in life take getting used to, for everything else... :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I've Had Better Days

Woke up with:

  • Eyes itchy, watery & swollen like round puffy buttons
  • A congested nasal passage
  • A sinus-type headache

My years in Bombay have left me with an upper respiratory allergy (nose-throat area), which gets aggravated during the winters thanks to lower levels of humidity...which leads to a larger number of dust particles & pollution-whatever-you-call-it suspended in the air.

I’ve been waking up with itchy, watery eyes & a clogged nasal passage most days this winter. Sometimes it is accompanied by congestion & irritation in the throat as well, depending on how cold it is & the amount of dust & pollution outside.

What follows is a ritual of steam inhalations, hot water gargles, nasal decongestants & eye drops, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Today is one of those severe symptom days. I’ve been told eucalyptus & camphor oils are also effective in clearing the nasal passage.

A drug I swear by is Allegra. It works like magic! But it's a strong drug, so I avoid taking it unless I'm in really bad shape.

It’s a pain, I tell you, living with this condition. It’s irritating to say the least. Sometimes I hate big city living.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Eastside Story

Mumbai, the city we all LOVE, has an ugly underbelly and it's about time we accepted it.

'Slumdog Millionnaire' is a beautiful movie & it takes a very special person to make a movie like this.

The initial few scenes in the movie may be a bit overwhelming - the intense poverty, the sight of a boy covered in human excreta, all for an autograph of Amitabh Bachchan, shots of kids sleeping on a pile of rubble, the luring & decapitating/blinding of slum children by gangs intent on putting them on the streets to beg - these might be repulsive to some, may give goose pimples to others, may make yet others to cry. But these things happen in the world which we try to distance ourselves from as much as possible, and which we love to pretend does not exist - just so our own existence doesn't become uncomfortable for us. They have been beautifully captured by Danny Boyle on film. Within minutes into the movie you get so engrossed in the characters and the story, you forget about the grossness of it all.

Did I feel the movie is overhyped? No, not at all. The only actor who I thought was overhyped was Freida Pinto. Her character has less screen time than the other protagonists, and Freida Pinto herself did not have much to do in the film.

I did not like Anil Kapoor too much either as the game show host. I think SRK would've been a better choice. He did a splendid job of hosting KBC, and I think he would've brought the required amount of arrogance and meanness to the character. SRK talks with a flair, something Anil Kapoor was not able to do to the required degree inspite of putting on an accent. SRK would've done it naturally.

This is definitely a movie I would like to own. Come to think of it, it took a foreigner to come to our country and make such a touching movie on our people. We could never have made this movie because we wouldn't have found the concept to be saleable enough. And that is why we it's highly unlikely we'll make it to the Oscars anytime soon. We don't have a vision & we're not able to take risks in life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

From New Zealand

I was watching a show called 'Footloose' last night on Travel & Living. They were showcasing New Zealand, and guess who was taking the host & crew of the show around? None other than the Prime Minister of New Zealand herself!!

Can you beat that? She went rafting with them, mountain-climbing, bungee-jumping, camping, took them to meet the Maoris. She was with them for 5 days straight!

Yes, we're talking about the Prime F***ing Minister of New Zealand. She really must not have much work to do! After all, how difficult can it get managing a country where the sheep population outnumbers the human population 10:1?

Let's move to New Zealand!!

To Bollywood

Have you seen the new Airtel ad with Saif Ali Khan & Kareena Kapoor where he's engorssed in a video game and she wants to download a caller tune on her cellphone? It's a disaster! There is zero chemistry between them, besides the fact that the content of the ad itself is pretty silly. And it shows Kareena Kapoor in all her bimbette splendour! If I were her, I'd be kicking myself in the butt for appearing in such an ad.

I didn't like the Airtel ads with Madhavan & Vidya Balan either. Loved Madhavan, didn't like Vidya Balan at all. I generally don't like her. She's got something very prudish about her, and her character in the ad was so bossy! Especially the one where she's calling her husband from the cab and asking him to clean the house, set the table, make salad etc.

On the other hand is the Tata Sky ad with Aamir Khan & Gul Panag. I don't like their chemistry too much. She looks sort of a misfit with him but overall, the ad works.

Four ads have already been aired, I think - one where he's doing the dishes, the second where he's making tea for her, the third where he's speaking to his mother-in-law, and the fourth where he's lecturing his friend on how to keep one's wife happy! The ads are really witty without being over the top.

To The Gym

I love the idea of going to the gym.

Please note - I love the idea. The act, not so much. Of course, I love the results too - both short-term (the rush of endorphins right after you've finished working out, the feeling of having released all pent-up & negative energy, the satisfaction you get from a good rigorous workout) & long-term (the weighing machine becoming friendlier, dropping a size or two, dropping inches, a toned body). But the entire process of dragging myself to gym after work, changing into gym clothes and starting the work out is something I don't look forward to. Of course, once I start I'm in it completely.

I'm thinking of exploring Power Yoga & Kick Boxing but they'll have to be alongside gymming. I've paid for a year, afterall.

My favorite part of gymming is weight-training. That's something I really enjoy because I love a toned look. I don't like cardio - for the simple reason that I DON'T LIKE RUNNING LIKE A DOG AND GETTING NOWHERE! That's what you do on the treadmill. You run like a dog, and even after half an hour you're at the same spot! It's so pointless. If I'm running like my life depended on it, I'd at least like to GET SOMEWHERE. Maybe to an ice-cream parlor or a cake shop or a place I can get piping hot chocolate. Du-uh!!

I like the cross-trainer more. Atleast there's no illusion that I'm going somewhere! Plus, I tend to burn more calories on the cross-trainer than on the treadmill, and that definitely is more encouraging. Out with the treadmill, I say!

And Gym Parties

My gym is having a party. But first we have to take this fitness-endurance test where they will check how long you can run at a stretch, how much weight you can lift (on different machines) - basically checking strength, stamina & endurance levels. Which is OK. The more difficult thing is getting out of the party.

Now, I go to a branded gym. One of the two major branded gyms in India I would say. Accordingly, the crowd that comes there comprises mainly of two kinds of people - the swish wannabe-Calcutta-Times-Page-3 set & the rich fat aunties from business families who come there to socialize with other rich fat aunties, do timepass & go back home and eat puris/pakoras deep fried in ghee - neither of whom I identify with.

So I have no friends at the gym, and therefore going to the party (that too on a Saturday night when I could be doing more fun stuff with friends) does not make sense to me. We can even get other friends to come. The entry fee is Rs 500 per person, and if you get friends along, they get 3 days of workout free at the gym. Like it really makes a difference to people! Would you want to go to a party organized by your friend's gym (!!) paying 500 bucs just so you can get 3 days of free workout? I think not.

Now, b/c of the revenue that is being generated from the entry fee, every trainer has a target in terms of the number of people they must convince to attend from amongst their clients. My trainer has been chewing my brains to pay up for the past 1 week. Till now I was being non-committal but today I decided I'd had enough & I told him I was not going to come b/c I did not want to! He seemed upset but he'll just have to deal with it. You can't force people to attend parties they don't want to attend!

To The Big B

I read Amitabh Bachchan's blog on & off. Moonshine has a direct link to his blog on hers. He rambles on and on and on. The last post I read was about how the media twisted his 'Slumdog' comments out of context, then Anil Kapoor called from Slumdog's India premiere to talk to him and AB asked to speak to Danny Boyle, which AK promptly arranged for. Then AB spoke to DB and explained what he meant, on which DB had a hearty laugh and they promised to meet each other the next time DB is in India. Then back to media bashing on how they troubled him first on the Bofors issue, then during his son's marriage, and then during the 'farmer' issue etc etc. In short, he rambles about irrelevant stuff.

Ofcourse, he has the right to ramble endlessly (Freedom of Speech be evoked), and I have the choice not to read his blog. Which is all well-understood & well-taken. I'm not challenging his fundamental right to ramble at all.

All I'm saying is, he seems to be losing it. And it's painful to see! It's painful to see one of your favorite actors lose it & make a semi-mockery of himself. As my ex-roommate, who is a BIG BIG fan of Amitabh Bachchan, says: "The Bachchan family has lost all their equity which they had built up so laboriously over all these years, and has started acting in a demented fashion ever since Abhishek Bachchan decided to marry the dumbf**k he's married to!"

I'm going to go with that explanation :) Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is definitely the reason Amitabh Bachchan has started rambling. Afterall, isn't she spotted spending more time with him than with Abhishek Bachchan? Ah, it makes so much sense now!

Ramble on, Mr Bachchan. It's not your fault.

Finally Resting at a 4 Day Weekend

So how come I had the time to write so many posts today?

Simple! Because I have a 4 day weekend, that started last night! Yayyy!! :D

Today is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Happy Birthday, who is to West Bengal what Chhatrapati Shivaji is to Maharashtra, so offices are shut. I have a nice four day weekend to chill, unwind, sleep, watch movies, blog, gym, read - not necessarily in that order though. And it's a very nice, calming feeling this - to know you have four days off with nothing to do.

So take care, you people. I'm sending you all a care bear :) Have a good weekend & keep the faith. In blogging, that is!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Liberated Woman of the 21st Century

"He has to take the decision. I take permission from him even if I have to go for coffee or dinner with friends. My priority is my family. He will decide if it is right or not right for me."

- Manyata Dutt on being asked whether she would contest the elections on a SP ticket if Sanjay Dutt was not able to

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Culmination of Obamania

I was watching the inauguration of Barack Obama to the Presidential office last evening. Apparently some 2 million people had gathered to watch the oath-taking ceremony, battling sub-zero temperature, the largest congregation ever at a Presidential inaugural event.

There’ve been numerous arguments in office on why we in India, the Indian media etc. are making such a big deal about what’s going on in America. It’s a historical moment for America, not for us. There’s change being heralded in America, not in India.

My argument is that Obama being elected the President of United States is not only a signal of change in America, it’s a signal of change globally. It's a harbinger of change in race relations, change in how Africans/African-Americans are perceived, an impending alleviation of the doom that is swallowing up economies, improvement in relations between the Middle East & the rest of the world, and possibly as a fallout, a reduction in the number of terror attacks in non-Muslim countries.

In the US, African-Americans have had a bloody history. They have faced slavery, the Civil War, inconceivable discrimination and segregation (where they wouldn’t be served at the same restaurants as whites, they had to sit at the back of buses while whites rode in front, enter through the back door only and give up their seats in case a white demanded it, where their children couldn’t go to the same schools as whites and their own schools being significantly poor in terms of infrastructure and quality of education, where they couldn’t get treated at the same hospitals as whites etc.)

Even now there are fewer blacks at high posts in corporate America, there is much more poverty among them than among whites, their living standards are much lower than those of whites, American ghettos tend to be teeming with blacks, and crime rates are higher among them than among whites due to poverty & lack of opportunity.

In spite of the abolition of slavery and a tremendous improvement in race relations since the Civil War, even today blacks are a race that, at some level - sometimes implicitly, sometimes blatantly - are discriminated against (including in India which I think is one of the most racist countries in the world).

So a black making it to the most powerful office in the world is a BIG thing, not only for America but also for the world!

The 2 million people gathered at the Capitol Hill to watch the inauguration because Obama’s election brings hope to America & the world. It might also bring along an end to the war in Iraq and peace in the Middle East, as Obama has pledged to recall American troops from Iraq and leave the country (responsibly) to its people. It might lead to a decline in global terrorism, which to a certain extent was fuelled by George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ declarations & ‘Shock-N-Awe’ policies. It might also lead to an easing of the global financial crisis because, like it or not, most economies in the world, especially those of developing & under-developed countries, depend on that of America.

These three challenges are topmost priorities for Obama, as he mentioned in his inaugural speech. These, and cleaning up America’s image in the world and improving it’s corroded relations with other countries (thanks again to George Bush's invasionary, half thought-through policies) by letting them be, by not trying to demonstrate America's might on them, and by working with them based on mutual understanding and respect.

Obama’s views and proposed policies on these issues are refreshingly different from those of George Bush, who the world has had to endure for the past 8 years (thanks to 537 confused "elderly" voters in Florida!!) and whose antics the world has grown completely weary of over time.

Obama brings with him hope, and that is why the entire world, including Indians, is making a big deal about him becoming the President of the United States. That is why each one of us should care, because let’s face it, what that one man does sitting on Capitol Hill will affect the lives and careers of all of us.

Gone are the times when Indians could afford to be ignorant of the happenings around the world. We need to be more aware of the goings-on, we need to be more involved in world affairs. Our perspective on world affairs is zero, which is painfully exposed when we travel outside India and interact with people from other countries. Our views on life and on people & cultures that are different from ours are largely - if not completely - ethnocentric. We don’t have a perspective because we don’t care. It is because of our ‘it-doesn’t-affect-us-so-why-should-we-care’ attitude that we haven't been able to break out of our narrow mindedness and limited perspective.

We need to start caring about what's happening in other parts of the world because we aren’t insulated from world events anymore. If you remember, our economy was ‘opened’ in the 1990s.

It's about time we became aware. The world has become smaller, more cohesive and inter-locked than it was earlier, and what happens in America is bloody well going to affect us. It does already, the impact will only become stronger in times to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Sanjay Dutt seems to have lost it completely after having married his item girl wife. I was reading one of his interviews in the paper this morning, where he’s telling his sister (Priya Dutt) that a girl MUST assume her husband’s last name after marriage & all the responsibilities that come with it, instead of hanging on to her parents’ last name.

He also said that there’s only one Mr. & Mrs. Dutt at Imperial Heights, Pali Hill, and that is him & his wife.

All this apparently b/c Priya Dutt doesn’t like his wife Manyata.

Sanjay Dutt has married an item girl. Why would she not take on his last name? He’s a Dutt after all!!

What’s sad is that he said his wife is more important for him than his sisters! And that unfortunately, his thinking still belongs to the Dark Age.

Another one bites the dust. In love that is.

Heights of Conformity

We are supposed to swipe our ID cards while getting into & leaving work, and that is used by our admin to track attendance. There is a senior manager in analysis who takes the card swiping business very seriously. He swipes in & out even when he is going to the bathroom!!

That is what I call the heights of conformity.

Incidentally, he just bought a car. A brand new Ambassador!!! :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


From the title of this post, you know I'm not going to be writing about something happy or funny. So read on only if you're in the mood to put up with some raving, ranting & whining (for completely self-inflicted problems).

It’s that dreaded horrid time of the year. The time to declare all the investments you made during the past financial year (or the lack thereof), produce the lease agreement, rent receipts ya di ya da. And needless to say, I suck at it. BIG TIME.

I’m generally bad at financial stuff. I can just about deal with managing my bank account. I’m positively pathetic at figuring out how much to invest where & at storing my important documents in an organized manner. I’m careless, disorganized & completely clueless when it comes to financial paperwork, and the day before I’m supposed to produce proofs of investment, I go scurrying around trying to locate the documents! In the end, I somehow manage to pull through. Rather, things pull themselves through for me. This happens every year without exception.

Every time it happens, I get lectured by my mom on how I shouldn’t be so careless & disorganized in life, and how I need to have a file to store all important documents. What follows is a yelling match, obviously. When I’m in a crisis, I need a solution, not a lecture on what I should have done! Because I KNOW I should’ve done it but I didn’t, right? So let’s drop it!!

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm proud of this habit of mine. It's a terrible habit to have, and every time it happens, I promise myself I'll try to be more organized in the future. But somehow that just doesn't happen.

The other bad habit I have is to procrastinate over things & leave them for the last moment. Making investments, booking tickets (if I need to travel), taking print-outs of the tickets, packing...I leave everything for the last minute. My mother is just the opposite! She will make her travel reservations months in advance, keep the tickets ready, and start packing at least a week before she's supposed to leave! All her important documents are filed in a meticulous manner. I mean, seriously, she couldn't be more organized if she wanted to!

Anyway, I'm digressing. The point is - tomorrow is the last day for submitting all investment proofs and like every year, I’m scurrying around trying to gather them. Not to mention having to put up with stress I could really do without. Will I ever learn?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It was a moment of pride for India. ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ took centerstage at the Golden Globes, winning all the 4 awards it was nominated for, including one for A R Rehman.

Bollywood is exulting for obvious reasons. Everyone is raving about what the award means for India & for Mumbai in particular. It sure as hell means a lot. The story of an underdog who wins big - a story right from the slums - has swept most of the major Golden Globe awards, usually considered a more-or-less accurate predictor of the Oscars. We’re basking in the limelight & seems there’s going to be more of it to bask in.

My question is, why did it take a foreigner with little knowledge of Indians & their way of life (before he embarked on the journey of making this movie, that is) to come to India, wrap his head around the sights, sounds and smells, the beauty and horror, the opulence & abject poverty, the celebrity & namelessness of the sprawling seething metropolis of extremes that is Mumbai? Why can’t we expect such a movie from an Indian director or producer?

Surely it’s not due to a lack of infrastructure, technology or finances? There was practically no infrastructure or path-breaking technology used in ‘Slumdog…’ As far as finances are concerned, there are big budget movies being made in India alright. These days movies are being made at astronomical budgets, most of which goes into paying the “stars” who anyway keep on doing the same bloody sh*t again & again. With the exception of Aamir Khan, and maybe Amitabh Bachchan to a certain extent, how many actors really put in an effort into their acting? And the actresses…let’s not even tax our brain cells trying to think of what they do!

The reason such movies don’t come out of India is simple – WE ARE SIMPLY NOT INTERESTED in making movies that are different and have some substance. It is a matter of lack of inclination, and not a lack of technology, infrastructure or finances. The big-time producers would rather spend their time, energy & resources making mindless movies, and yeah…can’t even think of a movie without an item number these days, most of which are a waste of time & useful only for taking bathroom breaks.

So, we need a Mira Nair or a Danny Boyle to come and make an outstanding piece of cinema on India. We shall just sit & hail them.

Interestingly, Danny Boyle’s take on Mumbai is that “it is a city extremes…it’s too hot, the tea is too sweet, there is fantastic wealth right up against the most extreme poverty…and that’s wonderful for drama”. He also says that “(making the movie) was an overwhelming experience…the sights & sounds of the city can be captured on celluloid but ’smell’ is the biggest thing you can't do as a filmmaker. And that smell is everywhere you go - the smell of human excrement. It's the most democratic thing about the city because no matter how rich you are, that smell is everywhere and you're breathing it in.”

Mumbaikars then wouldn’t be squirming in their seats in disgust when they see a small boy from the slums jump up in joy holding an autograph of his idol Amitabh Bachchan & covered in human excreta. Or would they?

Waiting anxiously for ‘Slumdog…’ to release & those of you who haven’t yet checked out the soundtrack of the movie, please do so. It’s brilliant. Time to be proud of AR once more. Till then, Jai Ho!!

PS: For the uninitiated, ‘Jai Ho’ is a track in ‘Slumdog…’

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weighting for Spring

By now the whole world & their dead forefathers know that I’m at constant war with my weight. Every now & then I flip out majorly because I think I’ve put on wayyyyy too much weight.

I gymmed regularly for about 8 months in 2007-2008, lost weight & then I stopped going to the gym. Not because I thought I’d lost all the weight I wanted to…I just stopped going. And the thing with gymming is that once you stop going, it’s very difficult to go back. The thing with gymming also is that once you stop going, you tend to pile on all the weight you had lost & even more!!!!!

Needless to say, I re-gained all the weight I had lost and more.

After tremendous prodding from those who’re close to me & tremendous-er (I've taken the liberty of coming up with this word) self-motivation, I joined Talwalkar’s in Calcutta at the end of November. I went religiously for a month, worked my a** off, lost a little bit of weight, became slightly leaner and then…..

Disaster struck.

MY MOTHER CAME VISITING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Need I say more?

An Indian woman who gets to see her child for say, a week, every 3-4 months will undoubtedly & relentlessly feed her child with the richest, oiliest, fatteningest ghar ka khana she can cook!

What followed my mother's arrival was 10 days of parathas (all kinds…aaloo ka paratha, gobi ka paratha, peas paratha, paneer paratha), puris, gajar ka halwa made in ghee (it’s winter after all, THE SEASON for gajar ka halwa), kheer etc. etc.

I had a situation - that of over-nourishment - which was exacerbated by the fact that December was holiday season. So there were different types of cakes & chocolates being brought into the house what with Christmas, New Year et al.

There was plum cake, rum & raisin cake, chocolate cake, dark chocolate cake, hazelnut chocolate, macademia nut chocolate, dark chocolate ya di ya da. There was no time to go to the was here only for 10 days afterall. Hadn't seen her since Diwali (which, errrrrrr, was only 2 months ago but the point of moving to Calcutta was to be able to see my parents more frequently, right?)

As a result THERE HAS BEEN POSITIVELY NO GYMMING SINCE DECEMBER 25th. Even though mommy dearest has gone back, it’s so cold, cloudy & gloomy in Calcutta, and it gets dark so early (like, 5pm!!) that I just can’t bring myself to go to gym after work.

All I want to do is go back home, wrap myself up in a comforter with a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate (You see! Why can’t I just sip something like milk-less green tea or aloe vera tea or some exotic crap like that which will not only NOT make me fatter, but will also do some of the anti-oxidation/detoxification stuff it's supposed to do to my blood) & either read or watch television/movie.

This is a dangerous trend & it’s scaring me shitless because I don’t want history repeating itself so soon. So what I need is for the weather to get warmer so I stop finding excuses to miss the gym. But then I love winters, no?

I guess I love Spring as well.

Sigh….Why must life be so complicated?

PS: There are so many IIM graduates that go on to become entrepreneurs. Why can't any of them come up with a machine which can suck all the fat that you want to lose out of your body & prevent you from gaining it back ever? Come to think of it, it will be such a brilliant & useful invention. I mean, there hasn't been a single useful invention since the invention of electricity. This could be right up there with the World's Most Useful Inventions of All Times. People go around inventing useless things like butter sticks (similar to glue sticks), solar powered flashlights (didn't whoever invented it stop even for a second to think WHY SOMEONE WOULD NEED A FLASHLIGHT WHEN THERE IS SUNLIGHT AROUND???), non-stick cellotape, black highlighter pens, water-filled bras etc., and no one, not a single b-school graduate, can think of inventing something so relevant as a fat-sucking machine!!! I mean, what's wrong with this world????? I'm losing my faith in the human species.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All In A Day's Work

We stumble. We fall. We get up. We gather the pieces. We move on.

We go to bed after a shitty day. We wake up. We hope it will be a good day. It’s a shitty day. We shrug. We go to bed.

We suffer heartbreak. We cry. We wipe our tears. We vow never to fall in love again. We learn our lessons. We fall in love. We smile.

We’re sad. We’re happy. We’re angry. We’re mellow. We’re excited. We’re depressed.

We’re hungry. We’re stuffed. We’re thirsty. We’re satiated. We’re craving. We’re satisfied.

We’re bruised. We’re healed. We’re broken. We’re mended. We’re battered. We’re good as new.

We doubt. We believe. We question. We follow. We distrust. We trust. We fight. We make up.

We repel. We attract. We expel. We let in. We exclude. We include.

We shun. We hug. We reject. We embrace. We escape. We confront. We take. We give.

We detest. We love. All in a day's work. We’re one thing at many times. And many things at once.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Did Arvind Adiga deserve the Booker for ‘The White Tiger’? I’m not quite sure.

I haven’t read ‘The Sea of Poppies’ which was the book that was expected to win the Booker, but considering ‘The White Tiger’ independent of other books, I think it might have been over-estimated.

It is an interesting book no doubt. The letter format, short-chapters & style of writing all keep the reader engaged. I have this bad habit of dropping a book midway if it fails to hold my attention. I was racing through ‘The White Tiger’, but maybe in terms of story it isn’t as superlative as it’s supposed to be. As in, I’m sure there were other books written by other authors in 2008 that deserved the Booker more.

Anyway, everyone already knows the story of ‘The White Tiger’ so I will not go into it.

Adiga highlights the differences between the Darkness & the Light very well – metaphors for the cities & villages of India respectively. The differences in their attitude, mindsets, lifestyles, cultures, and most importantly the grip that the caste system still has over those living in the Darkness in India…how it still dictates what people can & cannot do…how it curbs their ambitions & achievements…how it keeps them bound to the fate they were born into & prevents them from reaching out to a life they want to build for themselves.

Adiga offers some brilliant insights on China & India, the two behemoths of the 21st century, and why he thinks India can never equal China in terms of development. For instance, he says that China is far ahead of India in every respect, except that it doesn’t have entrepreneurs. India, on the other hand, does not have basic amenities such as drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transport, hygiene, discipline, courtesy, punctuality etc., but it has thousands & thousands of entrepreneurs! Sadly, entrepreneurs in India need to be two things at the same time: straight & crooked, mocking & believing, sly & sincere, because India per se does not reward entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have to pay their way through to success - they have to pay the Government, the politicians who are not part of the Government etc. to clear the numerous hurdles they face, and things can still backfire at them.

Adiga also says that despite its triumph in drinking water, sewage & Olympic gold medals, China still doesn’t have democracy. India might not be able to provide basic amenities to its citizens, but its billion plus citizens have the right to vote and to choose their own future. However, is the process credible? Are the elections free & fair? What about the politicians that stand for the elections? They are mostly criminals…do they work for the development of this country & its citizens? So even if we have democracy & the right to vote, are they of any use to us? Shouldn’t a country work at providing basic amenities to its citizens before it tom-toms it’s (false, dysfunctional) democratic set-up?

Adiga also shares some interesting anecdotes on India. For instance, he says that India is two countries at the same time: an India of Light & an India of Darkness. The ocean brings Light to India where as the river (Ganga in this case) brings Darkness. All places situated near the ocean are in the Light where as places situated along the Ganga (UP, Bihar, Bengal) though extremely fertile, are still plunged into Darkness. Secondly, there is such discrepancy in the social status of the master & the servant in India (inclusive of house help, drivers, peons etc.) that in order to get a job in the Light, a man from the Darkness can even be forced to hide his religion from his masters & worship Gods of another faith!

There are two things I didn’t like about the book. First of all, it shows India in a very poor light. I tend to have problems with this attitude of most post-colonial Indian writers. Their favorite topics are either those related to the Raj, or expounding on the miseries & misfortunes of India. I can't help but get the feeling that they pick these topics with their eyes on the Booker & other such awards. But then, one might argue that that’s the reality once you look beyond the gloss of the malls, multiplexes & glass & concrete buildings of India.

Second of all, it is an exaggerated account. Not everyone who manages to become an entrepreneur has to commit murder on his way. Agreed they have to face numerous hurdles, but being forced to commit murder is an extreme scenario.

However, I would definitely recommend reading ‘The White Tiger’. It’s humorous – humor that’s subtle, black yet hits bulls eye! And it makes one think…are we really such a great nation as we are made to believe by those in positions of influence, such as the Government, the school textbooks etc? Or is it all a myth, a great story based on fallacies created to attract the attention & investment of Western nations?

You decide.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tales of Teadle the Tard

I apologize for the retarded title to this post. I was trying to draw inspiration from J K Rowling (on whose books I’ve spent thousand of Rupees) & get a little creative!

Anyway, this post is about tea, my love for the beverage & how it forms the core of my existence.

The fact is…I am dysfunctional without tea. As it is, I’m not a morning person. I am grumpy and not at all sociable in the mornings, and without tea I am at my irritable best. Tea is my poison. I can’t start functioning without a BIG mug in the mornings, and having a cup in the evenings when I come home after work is like closing the chapter of the day!

My ex-roommate & I used to live for & bond over tea. On weekends when the two of us had time to chill at home, we used to have 4-5 mugs of tea in a day. You will rarely see me say 'no' to a cup of piping hot tea, be it anytime of the day!

So how do I like my tea? Actually, I’m not very fussy about it except that it shouldn’t be too milky or too light. I like tea that is strong, so I just love the tea you get at roadside stalls or dhabas. I absolutely detest the tea that my mom has. You know, the leaf tea that needs to be brewed in a pot & is ‘Oh so English!’ It’s watery, light & has a taste that stays in your mouth for hours!

I prefer having tea at other people’s places rather than coffee because honestly, I feel people in India, especially North India, do not know how to make coffee! They make it very milky. The general perception is that the milkier the coffee, the better it is. Whereas I like coffee that is strong & bitter.

I am pretty much a caffeine addict but the way I justify it is by telling myself that I could be addicted to much worse things in life.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Year That Was

2008 promised to be a great year when it started. It started with infinite happiness, optimism & possibilities. 2007 had ended on a very positive note. Personally, I was on cloud 9. Professionally too I had a clearer idea of where I wanted to be, in say 5 years’ time. Looking back, 2008 was:

A year of change – I quit my job of four & a half years at a company I found amazing to be part of on hindsight (don’t we always appreciate the good side of things once we’ve left them behind, or them us?)

I joined a new company which I think I was destined to join. For how else do you explain the fact that I ended up joining a company I had promised myself I would never join?!! Destiny has plans for each one of us...I can already see what it has in store for me this time!

Seven months into my new job and I still haven’t been able to become a fan of this place…I still have my moments of disterss...still struggle with my decision sometimes…but don't we all do that sometimes? Don't we all wonder whether what we chose to have is worth what we gave up? Overall I think I made a good decision professionally.

My job wasn’t the only thing that changed in 2008. I also relocated from Bombay to Calcutta. Purely for personal reasons. I wanted to be closer to my family, which is settled in the eastern part of India, closer to my sister who got married last December & moved to Calcutta. Also wanted to be closer to someone who was a very important part of my life at the start of 2007, but as luck (or life) would have it, figures nowhere in my scheme of things now, and I’m happier for it. Again, as luck would have it, my sister moved to the UK 3 months after I moved to Calcutta! Thank God my parents are east Indians who are happy living in east India and have no plans to relocate to any other part of India!!

I’ve noticed that every fifth year is a year of tumult & emotional upheaval for me. 1998…moved out of home (and my protected, sheltered, convent educated upbringing) for the first time…that too, all the way to the US where I had to fend for myself completely…right from cleaning my own bathroom to laundering my own clothes to vacuuming my house to managing my finances…terrible year it was but guess what, I learnt to swim! Woh kehte hain na, when you get thrown into the deep-end and it's a question of sinking or learning how to swim, you learn to swim!

2003…moved back to India…experienced depression for the first time in life as I’d left my life in the US behind…the comforts, the convenience of living, the not having to struggle to get small things done, the not having to deal with inefficiency, corruption & bureaucracy…left all my friends behind (as they say, the friends you make in college are the friends you have for life)

2008…moved to Calcutta…HUGE paradigm shift…this is such a different place compared to Bombay…needed to make quite a few adjustments…went through personal upheaval…

Guess I should dread 2013 now & can afford to embrace 2009 with hope, happiness & smiles :)

A year of finding love, losing it & finding hope again

A year of meeting new people – The best part about moving to Calcutta, apart from the fact that I’m much closer to my family, is that I got to meet some wonderful, fun new people!!

A year of lessons learned – Many lessons. Mostly personal. There is no concept of ‘always’ or ‘forever’, so never let go of your rationality. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Every one who says they love you does not necessarily do so. People are selfish & self-centered…everyone’s looking out for their own back…you better look out for yours!

2008 has been annus horriblis not only for me but for many people I know. I’ve had bad years before but there’s something about the start of a new year that makes me excited, hopeful & happy! Maybe it’s just the thought that with the end of the previous year, things that had gone wrong are over & done with. Maybe it’s my eternal optimism…my belief that each new day brings with it possibilities.

So, I’m hoping for a better year…a year that not only starts on a happy note but also ends on one…a year where I’m able to consolidate certain relationships...become a better human being …a year of many many more smiles than tears…but most importantly, a year of humanity, faith & hope.

Happy New Year to all of you.