Sunday, 28 June 2009

Episode 2 - Hong ik University Club day

Most of my time in Seoul so far has been spent walking around in the 8km radius, sipping on americanos in cafes and making abstract graphics on my notebook (which in my opinion represent the city),reading, hunting out new food joints, weekend travelling of a places to get the idea. Obviously, being tied down with office-the-next-day and colleagues-who-are-tired-by-the-weekend, meant not much chance to see the nightlife of the city.

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 you..all night club 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

Diary of a business tripper - episode 1

Seoul weathermen know their weather. For the first time in my life, I have come across an accurate weather forecast. They said it would rain today. And it is raining since morning.

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


We partyed till the wee hours of the morning. Drank like fish, smoked like chimneys, ate like dogs. The music was ambient, the laughter loud. Happy that some friends made it, sad that some could not. I am leaving...

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

Things that peeve me about you

There are certain things about you, my fellow citizen, that peeves me to no end. Unfortunately, lately, I have been more than once inclined to say it on your face and occassionally did too.
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, 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

Romancing the Z

When I was 16, I came across the concepts of Classical and Romantic perspective towards a product, thanks to Robert Pirsig. But the concepts had always existed in my life, as ghosts, to use Pirsig's terminology, before they found expression or a name.

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 proce
ss 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 zipp

Which brings us back to my distress.

Over the last couple of days, one of my zippos, the youngest on
e 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...