Wednesday, 23 December 2009
And again the fact of me being out-of-sync stared me in the face.
I do not know, but this is not how I remember the times- certainly not when speaking of joy. Achievement and joy, though interlinked, have always been separate to me. I am not saying an achievement does not make me happy. It does, has and always will.
But if I look at moments of true joy, they have always been about small acts..everyday acts. Somehow I feel the joy in them is more pure, with no hidden agendas of proving anything to anyone (including yourself). Inspite of growing up in a middle class family, where academic achievements have a very vital role in your life, my memories of joy are full of such moments - moments of acts, rather than achievement.
Moments spent walking in the rain , moment spent playing football daylong in the mud and then getting spanked-but-still-smiling, moments of discovering a myna's nest in the stairwell, moments spent in the backyard jungle looking for edible flowers, stealing our way through barbed wire to wallow in the lake of the protected park, three friends staring at a crow skull and wondering how to take that home, drinking rum out of a saucepan, hitchhiking on top of trucks, stuffing ourselves with wild strawberries from the hillside; returning with my sis, tongues hanging out, looking for the nearest tube-well, after a hot and fiery session of phuchka; winter night spent sleeping in a tea stall, boat rides on the river, cycling for hours to a lake in search of birds, bonfire-winters and music, sitting on the pavement and waiting for the first subway back with a bottle of beer after a night spent seeking music, lost in the forest in heavy rain and hoping to see the red panda and not the bear, paperboats, kites, litter of pups to the street dog, smoking jute stems under the water tank,...
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
This is alarming. Discrimination based on lifestyle choice is still discrimination, no matter what you justify it with. Are we using health and productivity concerns to forge a new racism? Inspite of all theories supporting the health/productivity concerns, should not the employment decision be based more on the individuals productivity/merit rather than debunking him/her right away for being a smoker. This generalisation is as alarming as saying people of ethnicity A have been shown to be less productive than people of ethnicity B, hence people of ethnicity A need not apply.
A company/organisation is within its rights to keep its premises free from the threat of second hand smoke for its non-smoking employees, by designating a smoke free work space or specific smoker-zones. However, the complete denial of employment to smokers is trespassing into the private rights of the individual.
Does an employer have authority over its employee's activities [ as long as they do not constitute illegal activities] and choices in his personal life?
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Friday, 16 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
This was a difficult resignation, in the emotional sense. We all try to be professional about our colleagues (esp. bosses) but end up being emotional. Which is what made this resignation so difficult.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Somehow all the people that are in most people's "not-to-invite-to-any-party-even-if-they-are-the-only-people-alive" list have ended up on their invitees list. A crowd of wannabes hog the dance floor and you can expect to be forced into wanton "i-am-so-macho-i-pee-testosterone" brawls by rich kids of well connected dads.
Monday, 21 September 2009
Monday, 14 September 2009
The good part is that after this non-stop work fortnight, I leave for home for 11 days. A much needed break.
However the week is taking its toll and my plans for everything else have been postponed till the time I return from home.
P.S. I am currently reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami, and I think I am already in love with Sumire..
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
No..not my dream fullback one..I still do not have the money for it *sigh*. But another of those smaller ones..just an addition to my already tattooed left upper arm.
I got meself an artist too. She comes with recommendation from a friend.
If only I can pin down the design now...
Thursday, 3 September 2009
A lot of us remember Mowgli and the cartoons that came from Disney franchise. However, much before "Jungal jungal baat chali hain.." had captured the heart of every kid, there was this one anime series which had an equally endearing story and an equally catchy tune to it...
I do not know how many remember it, but for a long while it was THE song for me. So here it is...Taro the dragon boy...
Do you remember the song, or should I youtube it for you?
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Monday, 31 August 2009
I heard this guy for the first time on Mnet TV and so much did I like this song that I actually bought his CD...
P.S. He is fast..
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
...of staring at the phonebook and wondering whom to call to share the joy of waking up to find rain on my terrace..
...of hanging on to a 9-6 job and waiting for the day I do what I have always wanted to...
...of being away from my beloved hills far too long..
Sunday, 16 August 2009
I have done nothing, except read, watch movies, stare at the rain while sipping green tea with honey and lemon, stare some more while lazily dragging on the cigarette and venture out to the nearest cafe and read till the closing hours. I shall be finishing it off today with a nice dinner with a few friends, the only "weekend" activity I shall indulge in this weekend.
I did not get much sleep though, thanks to my near-insomniac tendencies ( imagine waking up at 7.30 on a rainy Saturday morning after going to sleep at 5.15), but I have no reason to complain, that's just me.
Last weekend was crazy, we partied like mad. Between Friday evening and Sunday evening last week, I had been in no less than 5 parties. What ensued was lots of fun, catching up, drinking, but little rest.
All credits to Joseph and Reshmi for arranging a GREAT party where for the first time in the history of house parties, the fridge was still full of beer even after everyone had had their fill of all kinds of alcohol at 4 in the morning. How they managed the exemplary feat, I have no clue. Respect.
Also for the records, the arrival of a friend from Calcutta ensured a 6 hour drinking marathon at Blues which started with beer and ended with Grand Marnier.
So of course, this weekend of rest was much needed.
But, it was not what I had planned. What I had in mind was throw a house party where we all drink the soju I got. But, the evil that dwells in the house played spoilsport.
For quite some time, the guest room of our house has been turned into a carton room by various friends who had come to Delhi in search of accomodation. Some got accomodation, some left for another city, but the cartons of either haven't left our house.
So the Great Weekend Plan consisted of getting all the cartons to the garage downstairs, because sure as hell am not throwing a party with cartons stacked up in a room in the house. But then it rained. The cartons did not get shifted and the party did not happen.
But it will, and soon. Only, the cartons need to go first, see, cause I am a bit of a cleanliness freak. So hang on there my dearies, we shall celebrate the Great Carton Migration with soju...
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Sunday, 2 August 2009
I had managed to travel as much as I hoped, okay, maybe a little less, cause I missed out the DMZ.
The evenings at Chongechon, feet in the water, watching psychedelic lasers shows being projected on the walls and the water, the rainy day climb to Namsan, the chat with the flautist at Insadong, are memories that I will fondly cherish.
At Namsan, near the Seoul Tower, thousands come to tie locks commemorating their love. The area near the tower is a forest of locks of all sizes and shapes..chains, locks, handcuffs...a forest of the bonds of love.
At Insadong, the Korea of yore comes alive. The traditional tea houses serving tea and sweetened rice cakes, called ttok, take you to an age lost but not forgotten. I visited a couple of them, yet the one I enjoyed the most, was less traditional compared to the others.
Perhaps it was the books. This one had a book rack from floor to ceiling which was stacked with books, mostly old, in all languages. And the ceiling itself was punctured by numerous skylights that filtered in beams of light. As the light beams traced their path on the spines of old books, and jazz music played in the background, I sipped on my Ginseng tea.
On a particular Sunday, I went hiking to Achasan. I had gone there in search of a fortress, the Achasanseong, which held an important place in ancient Korean history. After hours of hiking, finding an awesome riverbank, that I had not expected, and some more hiking, I found the fortress or what remained of it. Beyond barbed wires, lay the excavations of the fortress, not walls as I had visualised, no wonder then, that the locals were not able to give me directions when I asked them for the "fortress". While coming down, I saw something even more heart warming. All the locals had gathered at an open auditorium in the hill and a concert was going on. Every Sunday the locals here climb the mountain, and on their way back, there is always a concert awaiting them.
One perception that I came back with, is there is a lot of love in Seoul. Couples of all ages can be seen hiking, cycling, sipping coffee or simply chatting in a quiet corner. Till the wee hours of morning,they are out on the streets...unafraid, undisturbed.
Will India be ever so tolerant to lovers, I do not know.
In fact one of my friends made an interesting observation. He said, "Seoul's streets have couple entry."
Finally, I will always remember the bombshell. A devious mix of soju and beer, consumed as a shooter. If you want to get drunk quickly and without fail, this is your drink of choice. Little did I know of its potency when I downed 20 shots, but when I tried to get up...well, well, well. Suffices to say, I somehow tottered back to the hotel and spent half the night sleeping in the toilet.
P.S. Pardons for the inactivity, but the Delhi heat and humidity is taking its toll.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Murphy got to me again. After roaming around for an hour for a new place to have dinner, I landed at a restaurant and ordered this. To my horror, I had landed up in the wrong restaurant. This was probably the only purely vegetarian restaurant in entire Korea, so I was served some rice cake like stuff, without even an iota of anything like egg or meat. In fact they were missing from the entire menu card of the restaurant. I had made a mistake, while Thop is pork, Thok is this rice cake thingy. So there, any Jains visiting Korea, you know what to order...
Solo dinners and Taekwondo master
Since my colleagues here have decided strictly that they shall cook their own food because -
a) it is "their" kind of food
b) they want to save money to take back home
I end up having dinner alone everyday.
So there I was, one night, peacefully having my take away dinner of bulgogi-rice-squid kimchi in front of a convenience store, when I suddenly had some company. As his wife went in to get water from the store, he suddenly sat down at my table. Soon he smiled at me, asked me where I was from and introduced me to his wife. We had quite an interesting conversation, the three of us, for about half an hour, during which I had been called a "baby"(on account of my age), asked to quit smoking and encouraged to take up Taekwondo. He ran a Taekwondo school nearby and asked me to come visit him.
It is such moments which makes any trip worthwhile, I guess, these strange connections you establish with complete strangers. A traveller relishes these moments. A tourist will never understand...
Sunday, 28 June 2009
But last Friday was an exception, it happened to be the Club day for Hong-ik university. One of the Korean designers strongly recommended that we attend it, "You find young crowd there..like you..all night club open..you like" (sic). So we go there, me and Bali.
And it was amazing ! For 20,000 won , we bought our passes for the night. The pass entitled us to unlimited free entry to 22 clubs in the area for the entire night. We were also given a map marking the clubs (which was insanely out of scale, we found out later) and a complimentary coupon for a single drink (how I wish it was a drink at each club, sigh).
So through out the night we roamed the streets of Seoul, club hopping, listening to a mad melange of rock-n-roll, hard rock, k-pop, j-pop, reggae, finally ending up for a fabulous performance by a jazz quintet. By 2.30 hrs, the live acts were over, so we went a-hopping in the dance clubs, were people jived to everything from Hip-hop to rock-n-roll ( they played The Knacks ). At about 5.30, we came out, and i was all thirsty, the free bottle of beer had only made me more thirsty. So I got myself a one-litre bottle of beer (yessiree) from a convenience store, and we were out on the pavement, drinking beer and waiting for the first train back. All around, young Korea was busy shaking off the night of frenzy...
Here are some snaps from the night,courtesy Bali..
Saturday, 20 June 2009
As I sit outside Cafe Pascucci, on the streets of Gangnam, sipping my cappuccino, Seoul walks under umbrellas. Black, checkered, blue, pink ; Seoul is a garden of umbrellas today. Me, I am a bit drenched. I take a puff, my blue-grey raincoat on the chair across me. It wasn't much of a help,more of a hassle rather, taking it off every time I enter a building or go into the subway (metro, if you will), and then putting it back on for going outside. But the rain or the inconvenience of the raincoat has not been able to stop me our my colleagues to look around the city on this weekend.
It's been four days that I've been in Seoul, most of it obviously, has been and will be spent, inside the office and the hotel room. Much as I wish, that I had come here without an agenda, as a traveller, the fact remains that I'm here on official business.
However, on a personal level, I am attempting to "travel" as much as I can. Evenings have been spent in long walks in neighbouring areas. Mostly I have gone out alone so far, walking down unknown alleys, trying to understand what the city is about. Sometimes, my colleagues accompany me. Last night Bali was with me as we covered about 5 km before heading back to the hotel.
Seoul, on first glance, looks to me like a suburb of Tokyo. Or maybe it is just my love for most things Japanese, that colours my view of her. The same busy mornings, the same bacchanal nights. Nights are whiled away in bars of all types. Hard working men and women drowning their days in bottles of Soju; kawai women ( I do not know how to translate the concept of kawai to any other language, it is quintessentially Japanese) beckon you into the bars. Sharp dressed men in clean cut suits, fashionably dressed women in their stilettos, cruising down the streets of thirst, gliding in and out of various watering holes. So Tokyo. But not quite.
Tokyo has its punks, its otaku, its gothic lolitas - shades of bright crimson hair or dark clothed mascara eyes that impregnate the orderly power-dressed crowd with a tinge of chaos every now and then. Haven't seen that so much here yet.
Each night, I go out into the streets, sampling the city - its people, its sounds, its smells, its tastes. I have been on a strictly local food diet, barring the coffee of course. It is strange how many of us fail to see this opportunity to try out local food. Many end up looking for their safe choice in food, their own cuisine. Some even resort to cooking their native food. Ironically, when these people return, they would pay a king's ransom to try the same ( the local food) at an up-class restaurant or hotel which serves exotic cuisines.
As I expected, I am enjoying the variety of food here. So far, I've had sunde khukh phaph - a light pork and Korean blood sausage soup, served with rice and kimchi for dinner on two occasions. Lunch today was nakji, small octopus in a spicy base, consumed with a generous dose of soju. The other night, while walking down yet another newly discovered alley, I had stopped by a Japanese joint. Sushi and miso soup made for a sumptuous dinner.
I also had the chance to taste Vietnamese food. Rice paper and sea food soup ( squid, octopus, oyster, with noodle thrown in). Having rice paper with chopsticks was difficult. The flat metallic Korean chopsticks, which are more difficult to handle than the square section Chinese counterpart, made it near impossible.
In the days to come, I am looking forward to more exploration. Tomorrow I go to Itaewon..
Sunday, 14 June 2009
45 days of absence. 45 days in a place where I should be happy to go to. But I am not.
Too many unfinished tales I must leave behind, too many untied ends.
Life thrusts me into this hiatus...
Friday, 5 June 2009
So let me put it all down for you..
1. The Brown man's burden
Stop bowing down to everything that is foreign. Stop licking every foreign ass that you come across. Why is it that we fail to recognise a talent unless it comes with a "foreign-approved" or "foreign-return" label on it.
2. The Proud traveller
Stop obsessing and gloating over business trips overseas. You were working there, were you not, and as a cheaper alternative to the indigenous labour if I'm not mistaken. Basically it does not mean shit to me. How many marks you have on your passport does not necessarily make me look at you with respect. Oh, so you went to the fancy getaway on your day off..wow, am thrilled.
3. The Non-Indian
So you think you are a nationalist, eh? The way I see it, you are still too caught up in your own regional vibes to be national. You huddle together in regional groups, speak your own language without being considerate to others, demand your kind of food be available in every nook of the country . You demand that others follow your customs and idiosyncrasies when in your region. You believe that your regional identity is the epitome of everything that is Indian.
4. The Victim
You are responsible for your choices and everything that happens as a consequence of that. Take responsibility for it. Grow up. Unless you are a true victim ( rape, war, abuse), stop posing as one over trivial matters.
5. The Denouncer
This is the best of the lot. You, the denouncer, will disagree against all prevailing logic that the above truly exist.
It is easy to just find problems, the difficult part is to propose solutions. I have had several discussions on this topic with various friends, some amicable, some heated. After much debate, I have come to believe that perhaps the only way we can sow the seeds of true national pride in our generations is by implementing a brief period of compulsory conscription.
Please be warned though, national pride involves being comfortable and proud of the fact of who you are, it is not "national" to deride/reject other cultures, that is jingoism.
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Since my early years, I guess, I have been a Romantic when it came to products. Products inherently have an emotive value for me. My reactions to a product is also coloured by my perception of its emotive value.
Hence my current state of enormous dissatisfaction.
I have always loved Zippos, dreamed of getting them since college days, got my first one the day I got my first pay cheque, built up a collection of 5 over a period of about 4 years. And I love all of them to bits. But one of them is troubling me.
An essential part of the satisfaction of the Zippo, is the distinctive click with which the lid opens.In fact, it is that auditory feedback that makes the whole process of lighting it that much enjoyable. A friend of mine once remarked how his cigarette intake increased for the first few days after he got a zippo. He would have more cigarettes just to hear that click. Sceptics would say that a click need not be followed by lighting a cigarette, but the satisfaction of the entire drama, the click and the puff, sigh, cannot be explained logically. You need to feel it. You need to be a Romantic.
No wonder then, that Zippo's website is called zippoclick.
Which brings us back to my distress.
Over the last couple of days, one of my zippos, the youngest one of the collection, fell down and hurt its hinge. It hasn't been clicking after that !!
It still opens, lights as usual in a single strike and closes with a snap.
But no click when it opens ! Oh, the murderous silence !
In fact, I have been so much traumatised by it all, that I have resorted to a matchbox. I can't bear the silence of my zippo.
So anyway, I shall make the journey to the India distributor of Zippos this weekend, who happens to be conveniently located in Delhi, and exercise my free lifetime warranty. I also plan to bring in a new 6th member into the family, just to soothe my click-deprived frayed soul.
You are welcome to pray for the recovery of my zippo and send me more zippos as consolation.
As a parting thought, I give you a glimpse of the family. The last one is the one who is click challenged as of now...
Friday, 29 May 2009
You who poached kisses with me
in the subway
Do you remember the taste of rain drenched ice cream ?
uniform clad, walking in alleys forgotten by the city,
laughing merrily atop a bicycle.
Riverside evenings, forbidden whiskey,
tears on a railway station.
You who took me to the lake
and shared the piper's tune
Can you deconstruct longing ?
dazed, glazed, high on poesy,
planning to run to the heart of the Amazon.
Soccer frenzy, arthouse getaways,
an auto ride to oblivion.
You who travelled for a stranger
with smiles as gifts
Did you find the hidden brook ?
bathed in moonrays, scaling the gates of a sleeping city,
morphing the night into a single telephone call.
Stolen weekend, candle lit cosiness,
a call from the past.
You who promised a new world
lush and green
Do you still dream of sun kissed groves ?
soaked in music, yearning for green on the red stone streets,
smiling through the hookah haze.
Pork curry rice, electric blues laughter,
an old urge to travel.
You who wove dreams
in my hair
Have you stopped running ?
stoned smile conversations, painting dream song graffiti,
walking across to the sunset utopia.
Crowded bus kiss, volatile strings,
an unclaimed CD.
You who seldom noticed
Do you remember me ?
glassy eyed foolish, hankering for a glimpse,
digging up joy in simple things.
Many faces, many dreams,
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Well the entire past week, two songs have just refused to leave my head, they won't go.
I have tried all remedies, even the haunting voice of Taarja...
So here, I think I'll be a bit evil and put them into your head as well..
Thursday, 21 May 2009
I was smoking outside the office building, my before-starting-work smoke, when he approached me. Dressed in saffron, full of rudraksh necklaces and a snake wrapped around his arm.
He muttered something about the Mother goddess and asked for some money. I usually do not entertain such beggars who roam around trying to raise money in the name of religion. But I wasn’t thinking, rather, I was in a hurry to get back to work. So I gave him a 2 rupee coin, hoping to get rid of him.
He did not go. While I was taking out the coin, he saw the money in my wallet.
" Take out your largest note and touch the snake with it. Your wishes will be fulfilled."
Again, I wanted to get rid of him fast, and I made a big mistake. (Why was I not thinking ?)
I took out a 1000 rupee note and as I was about to touch the snake with it, he stopped me. He took the note from my hand, touched the snake with it, crumpled it up in his palms and muttered some words under his breath over the closed fist.
Then he fetched out a rudraksh from his pocket and gave it to me !
"Here, your wishes will be fulfilled. Devi ma has heard you and accepted your gift to her."
I was stumped. Suddenly (and thankfully), my thinking faculties returned to me.
"Give me back my money" I demanded sternly.
He looked at me with a look of disbelief, " The snake has eaten it, it is with the goddess, your wishes will be fulfilled"
" WHAT ?!?"
"You saw me, I fed it to the snake. It will reach Devi ma, go home and rejoice. Your wishes will be granted in 3 days”
" Do you want me to call the guards?", I threw the rudraksh to the ground.
"Call anyone, call the cops, slit my throat, but the money is with Devi ma - "
"I’ll take the snake then", I grabbed the snake and started to pull it free from his arms.
He tried to hold it back, and in doing so, opened his fist by a little.
“There, the note is in your hands, give it back to me, NOW ! ”
Caught in his amateur sleight of hand act, he returned the money back to me – a highly crumpled 1000 rupee note. He was silent. All his Devi ma crap was now missing.
But I was not done. In all this commotion, the guard had come.
“Take this man to the police, bloody cheat”
The guard heard what happened but did nothing. He let the man go free.
I got a call and had to rush inside. But somewhere I feel dissatisfied. Yes, I got my money back, but I wanted to hand this guy to the police.
I was lucky. I am not afraid of snakes, in fact I love them. Unburdened by fear, I could do what I did.
What about the common man on the street? Will he be able to get over his fear of the snake to catch such conmen?
More importantly, will he be able to get over his fear of religion to engage such “religious men” in an altercation?
Would the police stand by him if he did? They are also god-fearing humans after all.
How long will religion and its spokesmen use fear to con people?
How long will we obey the dictats of god men who tell us how to breathe?
How long will we delay buying a car/house by looking at auspicious days?
How long will you friggin' stop because the cat crossed the road ?
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Our voices echoed in the pit of silence. All hope appeared to be lost.
But then,under the shade of Ygdrassil rose a new Behemoth. One that can claim to take on the Leviathan. The Behemoth was our champion, champion of the dream impaled, our new monster.
After scourging the unholy bowels of the cyber realms, drifting recklessly on the information highway and taming numerous trojans, I have finally achieved to locate what seems to be our next Holy Grail.
Yes, me talketh about the free alternative to the once free-for-all Last.fm.
So here it is..for your pleasure...an alternative.
And do not forget to add me as a friend..so we can sample each other's channels..
Behold fellow music lovers...Jango!!
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Sometime ago, my mother had been faced with a similar threat. However, what saved her (and me as a consequence) was the ambiguity of the nature of my profession.
Woman : So, when is your son's wedding ?
Mom : I don't know. He says he needs some more time.
It's up to him, I have told him, "You are free to find yourself a girl".
Woman : No girlfriends ?
Mom : God knows what he does. I tell him to go out and meet girls.
Woman : But he is a designer, no ? There must be lots of pretty models he meets...
Thankfully, this is where the conversation takes its turn. Soon my mom was explaining to the woman, what kind of a designer I am. Explaining, the only kind of models that surround her son are made from wood, clay or foam and are seldom, if ever, anthropomorphic.
There in lies the blessing and the bane of my profession. Most people in this country have no idea, what is that we, industrial designers, do.
People who have known me from earlier and know that I was studying architecture once, naturally presume that I design industrial buildings like factories and warehouses. Others just presume whatever it is that they want to.
The first presumption is quite prevalent though. I know of a real life instance, when a student of architecture chose Industrial Design as elective course, because he wanted to specialise in making factories. The poor soul had his dreams shattered the very first day.
Awareness of our profession is so low that in job sites like Naukri and Monster (India), there is no job category for Industrial Designers. You must be content with selecting Others as a category. And then you shall be inundated with mails promising lucrative jobs as welders in the Arabian shores or as sheep shearers in the Kiwi meadows.
Perhaps,this lack of awareness about our profession is not limited to our country alone. I believe the awareness of a profession in a certain culture can be suitably gauged by the instances of that profession or professionals in pop culture. In order to evaluate how much a profession has been assimilated into the consciousness of a people, we must look for it in its movies, music,fiction, etc. Hence my hypothesis.
We find doctors, engineers, scientists in the movies from Bollywood. Of late we even find fashion designers and architects. But the industrial designer is missing.
Even Hollywood, remains marked by its abstinence in the portrayal of industrial designers. Though microbiologists and paleontologists make it to the mass consciousness thanks to Jurassic Park and the likes.
The only instance I remember of the portrayal of an industrial designer is in Runaway Bride. But even that is wink-and-you-miss type. Only once in the movie is it mentioned, that Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) was studying Industrial Design before she came back to run her family hardware store. No wonder that most movie sites, including IMDB, make no mention of it.
Such is the nature of the devil; while Ipods sell by the millions, our profession remains largely unknown.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Memories of those 70 days in 2007, when I had quit my job, packed my bag and left. Left for the Himalayas. 70 days of walking and hitchhiking. Mostly in Sikkim and North Bengal and somewhat lesser in the Himachal. My original plans involved the Arunachal and Meghalaya, but bomb blasts in Guwahati had forced me to turn back to Calcutta and then proceed to Himachal.
The memories of those 70 days, though logged dutifully on a diary with hand drawn maps, will probably not make it to this blog because of my laziness to type it out. This is but a brief glimpse of this very day two years ago, an excerpt from my hand written journal.
1st, May - Gangtok
Early in the morning, on our way to Sonam's office, we faced a taxi problem on account of Labour Day. Little did I know, this problem would come back to haunt me later.
After reaching Sonam's office, Sonam, Sanjog and me mapped out the routes I would be travelling into the North and West. Each of the routes would take me at least 2 days even if I availed a jeep. Plus for the North I required permits. So I spoke to a friend of Sonam's , who runs a travel agency, to arrange for my permits. This meant that I had another two days to spend in Gangtok before I leave for Yumthang. I decided that today's destination had to be Rumtek - one of the richest monasteries in the world, both in terms of heritage and artifacts.
Since I had much time on my hands, I decided that I won't take a pizo, but instead walk to Rumtek. Sanjog, suggested that I take a pizo to Martam, a small village beyond Rumtek and walk back to Rumtek.
"It's a nice walk" , he assured.
Martam was 8 km from Rumtek and Gangtok was another 24 km.So I parted company with Sonam and Sanjog and boarded a pizo for Martam. I reached there around noon.
The walk from Martam to Rumtek was indeed beautiful. Martam was a quiet village. Some houses scattered here and there, groups of school children thronged the road, while old men peered at me curiously from their porches. After I got down from the pizo, I had bought a couple of cigarettes - a local brand , to last me for the walk ahead. Cigarettes wrapped in a makeshift newspaper packet, camera hanging, I started out on my walk to Rumtek and then beyond to Gangtok.
On the road, I came across beautiful rock formations and reluctant brooks trickling down the mountains, appearing and then hiding away under the bushes. My path curved around the hills, it would be sunny and warm along some stretches and then take a turn into a cool shaded nook. But this constant change in temperature and the terrain took its toll and soon I felt dehydrated. I had made the cardinal mistake of not carrying any water and this long uninhabited road meant it would be quite a while before I would find any drinking water, maybe even not before Rumtek. There were hardly any settlements as far as I could see and turning 3 km back to Martam was not an option. When I had almost abandoned the plan to walk anymore due to increasing dehydration and was thinking of waiting around for a passing pizo, about 1 km ahead, I found a small shop near the 4 km milestone. I guzzled down two litchi drinks and rejuvenated, continued my walk to Rumtek. This part of the road was comparitively inhabited and the silhouttes of houses on distant hilltops were reassuring.
After 3 km, I saw a building that I thought was Rumtek. I happily entered only to find it was not, and that Rumtek was still 1 km ahead. ( I later learnt that this was the original monastery which has now been converted to a residency for the monks).
Finally when I reached Rumtek, all my tiredness was gone. There is a special kind of joy when you reach a place after almost 2 hours of trekking. The trek prepares you to view the place in a special light. This feeling can never be achieved by hiring a cab and just reaching the destination. I feel any destination has more to offer to a traveller if you can grasp the "story". To reiterate a cliche, it is about the journey, rather than the destination.
I spent quite a lot of time at Rumtek. At the inner courtyard, where the pigeons surround you, I saw the sun preparing to sink into the mighty backdrop of the Himalayas. This place had a serenity and mystic aura to it in which you could drown yourself for an entire lifetime. I sat there, oblivious to the usual noisy group of tourists, listening to the flutter of pigeon wings and the chantings of the lamas. I saw the various halls and heard the lamas debating outside with their quaint style of slapping one hand on the other. Finally I forced myself to get out, it was 17.30 and Gangtok was 24 km away. I was not in a mood to walk back, it would be dark soon and there was no way I could make it to Gangtok before dark. I should have started earlier.
Outside Rumtek, there were no pizos. Labour day ! All pizos had stopped operating for the evening. There were a few cabs outside, all reserved by tourist groups. I waited around half an hour for any pizos to pass by, but had no such luck. So I called up Sonam from a shop and told him about my predicament and started walking back. After about 10 minutes of walking, I got lucky. One of the cab drivers had come to know that I was looking for some transport back to Gangtok. He agreed to talk it out with the tourist group who had hired him and take me back for 100 Rs. This was double the pizo fare I had paid for Martam, but I agreed, given the situation.
I reached Gangtok at 19.15. The journey was full of interrogations by the family that had hired the cab. Where do you come from? Why are you alone? When is your birthday ? ( I have no clue how the last question was even relevant). I met Sonam and was told that his mom had made dinner for us. Dinner was amazing - pork curry and rice. Now I am at Sonam's house, the guest room on the top floor that overlooks a smallish forest of bamboo. Beyond the forest, the river flows down in the valley. At this time of the night, you can hear the murmurs from the river as they ride the breeze that rustles the bamboo shoots.
Tomorrow I'll be meeting Gary,Ashi and some more friends in the evening for a smallish party before I leave Gangtok. Sonam tells me that a local band will be playing Dylan, Clapton, CCR and the likes at the joint.
Sikkim, timilai maya garchu.
This post triggered off my memories.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Why do vegetarians assume that it is perfectly acceptable to entertain non vegetarian guests/friends with strictly vegetarian cuisine? Yes, we (the non vegetarians) are a more inclusive group when it comes to food we eat. But assuming that we would not want to continue our heathen carnivorous ways because we have the pleasure of your saintly company is pushing it a bit too far.
Would you like it if I turned the tables on you? Would you be as gracious if I called you home and offered you only kebabs and bacon?
Your saintly souls ( God bless them) are sensitive to the needs of all living things (somehow excluding plants and fungi from the scheme, which are living things too, the latter being akin to animals ). Yet you choose to be insensitive to the dietary preferences of others.
Now do not get me wrong here, my satvik friend. I understand your need to be more sensitive to some living things and less to some others.
All living things are equal. But some are more equal than others.
All I ask is that you ask me rather than assuming that I shall see the light by the grace of your company. And do not try to guide me to a better life through your words of wisdom. Leave your Veg man's burden at home.
Freedom of choice is the least you can offer, yes?
Sunday, 19 April 2009
"Yeah man" I said, " it’s like life is taunting us by throwing short haired mannequins at us".
You know your romantic life has hit a rock bottom when you have such conversations over mannequins. When you stop and stare at them.
But life wasn't always like this..wasn't always about mannequin conversations. At least not till last year, when my last "affair" encountered a roadblock in the form of future life plans.
I wanted to start my business, make money, buy a Harley, retire to a log cabin hidden in the hills. She wanted to go to Europe, start a hippie village and spread love and world peace, and wanted to do it all in the next month. So we decided to be "just friends".
We still are. She didn't go to Europe yet. I started my business, haven't made much money yet.
Anyway, after that, my love life has been fairly non existent. It's not that I don't try (as my mom thinks and often reminds me "Go out. Meet someone. Settle down."). I do. I did twice, during the past year.
But obviously it did not work out. I was too slow and steady for them. The first romantic interest found someone else. The second is all set to leave the country in a week to return to her home country and might not come back at all. So I am still just "a very good friend" of both.
In my days of early youth ( I am talking pre twenties here), I wasn't this slow and steady guy. I was quite the opposite. Half the people to whom I had declared my undying love, I did not even know for even a week before I reached the conclusion that they were my soul mate. Needless to say most ended disastrously. One however, did work out and lasted for 9 years before geographical distance decided otherwise. A couple of short lived romances later, I was this slow and steady guy.
Do not rush into it, I told myself. And so here I am, all too slow and steady talking about mannequins.
But there is still Hope.
It was early 2004, me and a friend of mine (the other one who shall also not be named) were wandering in Lajpat Nagar. I was in a relationship.He just got the news that the love of his life, whom he had been trying to woo for the past five years, has found love in someone else. Obviously the world was a dark place for him to be in. All was lost. I watched helplessly as a bright mind descended into the infernal dark depths of sorrow.The Lajpat trip was part of the "Cheer the Boy" campaign. I hoped, some soul healing food (Golden fiesta sandwiches, ooh yeah) and PYTs out shopping, might help him through such dismal times.
Then it happened.
Out of the darkness, shone a twinkle in his eye.
" I want to take back this mannequin with me" he said, pointing at one staring at us through the glass entrapments of the salwar shop.
"Right" I said.
"No man, lets.."
Half an hour and three sandwiches later, I managed to convince him of the social and regulatory impediments of keeping a mannequin in his hostel room.
The girl changed her mind. He is married to her and living happily in the Queen's backyard.
So perhaps mannequins do signify something. Maybe mannequins are that lowest point of your Romantic Bell curve after which the curve rises again. Maybe..
"Let's come back later and free some mannequins" he said ( the one..).
"Yeah, we can. By the way, she was looking at us"
"That's a good sign. Shit, another hot one.."
P.S. I could not help but notice, most mannequins are Caucasian. Does anyone have any information about short haired east asian mannequins? Just curious..
Monday, 13 April 2009
But that is a discussion for another day. Today we shall discuss the malaise I have named PRS.
A subject suffering from PRS, would exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
1. He would remark how everything in the concerned phoren land (CPL) was better. This would crop up even in the most innocuous of conversations.
e.g. ---“That’s a beautiful red flower”
[PRS patient] “ Yeah. But the flowers in ________(insert CPL) were such brilliant red. Indian flowers just don’t have that shade of red in them.
2. Normal conversations would include references to places/people/anything in CPL without provocation.
e.g. ---“That’s a nice jacket. I saw a similar one in _______ at __________(insert CPL).
3. For the next few days or weeks, the patient will wear or carry only those articles that have been bought from CPL. Usually the articles would have evident signs of their origins on them. If not, and if you do not ask, you will be informed of their land of origin nonetheless.
4. A lot of conversations would start with……”When I was in__ “or “ In ___”
5. Patient’s online status would be “ Back from ___” or some variant. Profile pictures would be changed to those with CPL setting and social networking sites around the globe would be full of Patient’s photos in front of some CPL landmark. In the absence of recognisable landmarks, other methods are employed to indicate CPL..usually photos taken under road signs or pubs, etc.
Several other minor signs are also observed. It is usually observed across ages and socio-economic classes. Through years of research and painstaking statistics, I have compiled these few thumb rules regarding this highly infectious disease.
One rule about the nature and duration of this disease is that –
The extent of PRS that afflicts a person is inversely proportional to the time spent at phoren land. The more time you spend at phoren land or the more frequent you go to phoren land, your PRS susceptibility reduces.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this evil that corrodes our Vedic pure souls, kindly get in touch. I would be happy to explain over a cup of coffee.
Sunday, 5 April 2009
That's all there is to it. I don't know what to make of it.
Monday, 30 March 2009
The city hunts me down, tries to seduce me with its neon promises and untimely rain. But I must..I must answer to the primal urge. Every sight, every sound, every spot of green, every bend in the road makes me want to yield to this indomitable desire.
Must steal time from the urban dream.The Himalayas beckon and I have to answer.
"..no matter, the road is life."
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Today, I was listening to Japanese music whole day. While a part of the playlist consisted of artists I had heard before, the other part was a new artist (for me) a friend brought to my notice a couple of days ago.
The first part deals with the age-old Japanese music form called Enka. You may have heard it as part of the Kill Bill soundtrack. This is Meiko Kaji ( Lady Snowblood, Scorpion series) singing Shura no hana or Flower of Carnage. She began her career with the Nikkatsu studio then moved on when Nikkatsu shifted to pinku eiga..
The second is a musical duo called Yoshida Kyodai who perform the traditional musical form called Tsugaru shamisen. Thanks to Sahil for bringing them to my notice.
Now as the Japanese would say :
Sugoi desu ne...
Sunday, 22 March 2009
They didn't give me adamantium inserts though *sigh*. I could have been the next Wolverine, albeit a tusked version.
After two weeks of being extremely careful and surviving on food which exists only in the fourth physical state of matter, my agonies are over. I can now, provided an opportunity, chew on mastodon bones.
The apex of my traumatic dental life of the past two weeks, was the time I had gone to this expensive-as-hell hospital to get the annoying wisdom tooth treated. I spent a ludicrous amount only to learn that the belligerent tooth must be surgically removed and was asked to report two days later. I promptly called up my health insurance guy and was informed that my official health insurance did not cover dental. Well I am pretty sure even if it had been something else, like euthanasia, it would have been out of the purview of my official health insurance plan. Official health insurance plans have this knack of avoiding just the malaise that you need it to cover at any particular instance of the space time continuum.
So whatever, I decided a la John Wayne, " a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".
Two days later, I promptly landed up at the site of the massacre. Now, at this point , I was like at the threshold of life as I knew it. From where I stood, all that lay ahead of me was days of survival sans proper food. My future meals from here on promised foreboding pictures of cerelac and such non-food. To say nothing of the emotional trauma of losing a wisdom tooth, maybe it would make me dumb,paralyse me from carrying on future voluntary motor activities.
Evidently at such delicate precipices of life, you need some moral support...like say a nurse from Nurse Me or a doctor to whom you can smile and say "Yeah! Go right ahead Doc, remove my lower jaw bone, I do not mind at all".
But no, what I got instead was nurses who had sideburns longer than Wolverine's. As for the doctor, well she was sweet and all, but this piece of conversation that happened between her and her attendant while I was lying tranquilised and open jawed, was unsettling, especially when you are at their mercy:
Doc: The tooth is not coming out. Give me larger tools.
Att: Ah ok.
Doc: It is too firm.It's not moving. Maybe we need to cut the jaw bone. Get me the bone cutter.
Att: Bone cutter?
Doc (smiles at me): Don't worry. You've been very co-operative so far. Just raise your hand if it becomes too painful.
Att: Here's the bone cutter.
[My jaws which were already open were about to hit the floor at this point, evidently she notices the expansive effect of the bone cutter]
Doc: Ok. Lets try one more time before we cut the jaw bone.
[Oh Merciful Lord, thank you, thank you.]
Thankfully, the bone cutter was not required. However the next few days I was on a non-food food diet. As is the rule of the cosmos, all parties, happened just during this phase. So there I was feasting on porridgey stuff, while all the kebabs and tandooris taunted me.
Today I was released from my serfdom to porridgey food. Bring on the pork ribs!!
Saturday, 14 March 2009
This post is not about the good things of life, it is about the bad. Very bad. So bad that it makes even the most pacifist of us contemplate on buying a double barrelled shotgun.
Yes, I am talking of forwards. E-mail kinds. The only forwards I tolerate are the football kinds, that too, those wearing the same jersey as me. E-mail forwards, on the other hand, make me very nervous, like a cat-in-the-corner nervous.
Being a fiercely carnivorous pacifist by nature, obviously dealing with forwards causes some practical problems. A genocide of forward mailers maybe too stern a measure.
( amputation?..hmm...must ponder on it)
Anyway,hence I have devised a method to deal with the problem. It is a bit inspired by the rules of football. It is like the yellow card - red card system used by referees.
When a friend forwards a mail to me for the first time, I give him a benefit of doubt, and ignore it. Second time, is yellow card. I take a mental note of the person and add a splash of displeasure. Third time baby, and it is time for the red. Out of the field you go!
The name is promptly added to a mail filter that diverts all future mails from the sender to a folder labelled " Pardon me for polluting the global gene pool, I am so stupid I need someone to help me commit suicide".
There you go, it is pure sadistic pleasure from here on. No more forwards from the life form concerned ends up in your inbox. You can just sit back, relax, check how many "red cards" you doled out this day, and press the delete with a smile of accomplishment. Three red cards, and whaddya know, life form concerned is officially in the "Hall of shame". Sharing space in the block senders list with its retarded buddies.
For best results, the delete button should be pressed, while nursing a whiskey or sipping on a steaming cup of coffee.
If you have nothing to mail about, do not mail. But do not forward mails to me. Unless of course you're a closet masochist.
One of my favourite Korean movies I had seen, was in Gangtok. It is a movie called " A Moment to Remember". It is a heart-rending tale of two people in love. The first time I saw the movie , I shed tears during the movie. Last night, I saw it again, and I almost shed tears again.
Woo sung Jung and Ye-jin Son pull off fabulous performances in this sad sweet love story. Sung jung is as convincing as the cold and quick tempered foreman in the first half as he is as the emotionally wrecked husband in the next. Jin son looks oh-so-to die for. And her performance as the sad and bewildered wife trying to come in terms with her state breaks more than Sung jung's heart.
A fabulous movie. Brilliant and heart breaking. A must watch, but do keep your handkerchiefs handy.
Saturday, 28 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
A street side vendor selling tea and paranthas. His "stall", a cart, is flanked by three four cars, a motley crew of people and a police jeep. Everyone is busy digging into their late night parantha or sipping their lazy glass of tea.
Enter me,with waist length hair, with two friends; Sahil- a 6'3" fellow with a rattail, Prabhat - with a tiny ponytail.
The police eye us, talk to each other..
Police man : Hey you.Where are you from ?
Us : This neighbourhood.
Police man : You don't look like you are from this neighbourhood. Men from our place have hair that befit men.
Other policemen snigger inside the jeep
Prabhat : We are from this neighborhood. We stay at ..
Sahil : I am from Bombay.
Police man : Oh. That explains it. [looks at me] And you ?
Me : Calcutta.
Looks of acknowledgement and profundity exchanged between the policemen in the jeep.
Police man : Why do you have such long hair ?
Me : I have made a vow for wish fulfillment at the temple.
Police man : Which temple ?
Me : Kamakhya, in Assam.
Silence descends on the policemen in the van. Another one comes up with an observation.
Police man : And the goatee ? That is a vow too ?
The other policemen snigger again.
Me : No, that is for no reason. Just felt like it.
Silence again. Yet another observant policeman quips in.
Police man : Why do you wear ear rings ?
Me : I am a Brahmin. In our region, you are supposed to pierce your ears during the sacred thread ceremony.
Police man : Here only lower castes wear ear rings.
Me : [faking amusement] Oh ok.
Vendor : Your tea is ready.
We proceed to the tea stall. Fake smiles and good byes to the policemen.
Sahil : It always works..religious bullshit.
Me : It does.