Saturday, February 07, 2015

Flowering of the Mango Tree

It is not easy for me to write about things that happened long ago. The details are lost. A bit like the old, ill maintained photographs you can see at some of the museums. At times, however, something triggers the resurfacing of these old memories.

Spring in India is short lived. The transition from winter to summer is 15 days, a month if you are indulgent. In North India, spring generally falls in the 2nd week of March. The weather is pleasant, steadily growing warmer towards the heat of April to June/ July. The mornings and evenings are cool. This the season when the best kept gardens show their best blooms. In fact, gardens are created with herbs/ shrubs that simultaneously bloom in spring creating a spectacular rainbow.

This is also the season in which the Mango trees bloom in my home town. Bhagalpur is known for its silk industry, or far more infamously for the riots or the blindings. But for me, it will always remain the Mango district. There may be more famous mangoes in this country, every one in India has their own favorite mango variety. However, I haven't traveled to any part of the country with such a profusion of mango trees. As you enter the district by train, all you can see are mango trees. There were three mango trees in my backyard, 4 huge mango trees in the graveyard next to the small field in which I played as a child and my school was right next to a full blown orchard. Mango flowers are called Manjar or Manjari. Though in fact its more accurate to call them "Aam Manjar/ Manjari" because if you look up at the dictionary meaning of Manjari, it just means flower. Now, the smell of the manjari is something. Words fail me in describing it. It is strong, sweet and intoxicating. If you pass by mango tree in flower, it may take you a while to discover the source; the fragrance may have so enveloped the area. It is a smell that reminds of school vacations after year end examinations; of mornings and evenings spent playing cricket in the March holidays, of the summer vacations that will arrive in May after the short session of the new school year when the Mango flowers will result in delicious mangoes.

In Pune, the mango blooms in late January/ late February, hence the mangoes also come early in April, instead of late May or June. Recently I realized that there are two mango trees in my office compound. I would never have looked up to see them but one day, in late January, while passing under one of them, the fragrance of the mango bloom came wafting back to me, rekindling the fading memories of childhood. In pleasant surprise, I looked up and to my child like delight, I saw a mango tree in full bloom. Every time I passed under those trees in the last 15 days, I was rewarded by the most enriching fragrance. It seems, one must always remember to look up in life. For while life is mostly lived with the head down and body intent on purpose, many rewards may be waiting if we only stop to look up.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My grandparents were teachers

My grandparents on my father’s side were teachers. My grandfather was a teacher. Both women he married were teachers. I never met my father’s mother, she died eight years before I was born, but my grandfather and my second grandmother lived to see my wedding. It will always be the lasting relief of my life that they saw my wedding. They had expressed the desire often. And it was a close run thing. They both died within a couple of month of my wedding last year. On days when I am a Karmic Hindu, I feel as if they were waiting to see me married.

I had been meaning to write my obituary to them for some time now and September 7th, which happens to be the death anniversary of my grandfather, was the deadline I had set myself. With time, one forgets many things. Even more quickly than incidents, emotions fade away. In the rush of life, we may file away several emotions for future, never to go back to them again. More urgent matters of action keep taking precedence until the emotion can no longer be reasonably recalled. I didn’t want that to happen. And this morning, on my way to office, when I heard on the radio that it was Teacher’s day, I knew I had to write it today. I mean, they were teachers.

Records show that my grandfather was born in 1929. He himself believed that he was born in 1927- they were not very particular about the dates back in the day. His father was a sub inspector in the police who married three times and had 9 children; all but the first girl were from his third wife. My grandfather was the 7th child. His oldest brother was 20 years older than him and their eldest sister was older still. My great grandfather did not survive into my grandfather’s adulthood and my grandfather was brought up partly by my strong willed great grandmother and partly by his second eldest brother. He never said so himself, for he was an immensely proud man, very proud about our family history but I sensed that there were some financial difficulties in his school and college years. Nothing drastic, for the family was from the landowning class, but cash was difficult to come by.

My grandfather was in class eighth when Quit India movement happened. He was listening to a public meeting in Patna when the police opened fire and a fellow student near him was shot in the leg. I remember him telling me how High school education in state schools (there were none other) was entirely in English. I also remember him saying how wearing shoes wasn’t considered manly and yet was compulsory at school. The dilemma was resolved by carrying the shoes and putting them on just before entering school. He was a B.Sc student of Mathematics and newly married when India gained Independence. Shortly after, my father, the eldest child was born. There were to be three more children.

In 1951, he started teaching Mathematics at Bhagalpur university and stayed at the same college for the next 40 years. He was very good teacher; my uncle tells me that people from other colleges also came to attend his classes. A more objective assessment of his worth was the large number of students who came to his tuitions at home. He also published a course book for Inter Mathematics but it was only moderately successful. My memories of my grandfather start from the late Eighties. We had moved to Bhagalpur and were staying with him. Though he never taught me, by the time I reached college, his faculties were declining but I had seen him teach. He did not need books, he taught from memory, as did my grandmother, as did all the best teachers I know.

He was a silent, important man, Head of the department at the college. He was also a very dominating man and didn’t take disagreement lightly. But he was very well read and well informed. He would read widely and his choice was quite academic. As a bi-product, I grew up reading Science Reporter, a monthly popular science magazine, which I found is still published, to my amazement.

In 1991 he retired. Those evenings in the early and mid-nineties, after he had retired, when I hung around while his friends and others came to visit and talk were an immense education: on India, on India’s post-independence history, on our politics, on law, on agriculture and crops, on international history. I believe I have always had greater general awareness than a lot of other people because of the head start I got in those days. He was my own personal Wikipedia, much before time. Another thing about him, his mastery of the written English language was formidable. I never found out a word whose meaning he didn’t know. He started a kitchen garden where I grew everything with my own hands: potato and tomato and onions and brinjals and ladyfinger and radish and carrot and many other vegetables.

My grandfather could be quite partisan. Like a lot of other teachers I have known, he loved achievers and his regard for his own children and also grandchildren was also in proportion to their achievement. He would help everybody but he would love and regard only the achievers. I could only win his regard once he felt I had achieved something, after my board results, after JEE, and after IIM. The only exception to this rule, which I know of, was my brother who was the apple of his aging eyes.

In 1998, I moved away for plus two and then college. He began to age rapidly, his health started failing. A botched up Hernia operation hastened the decline. His coherence of thought would come and go. He had to stop driving. Then, he had to discontinue his morning walks in the local ground and had to restrict them to our own drive. However, he became more emotionally expressive, before then he was always quite closed. I would like to believe that towards the end he found contentment: his grandchildren did as well as any of his brother’s grandchildren; you must remember he cared a lot about achievement. He saw four of them get married. Death of my grandmother, who died a month before him broke him down but he didn’t suffer for long. I don’t think the end was sorrow less but it wasn’t bitter, he had a full life.

My grandmother had an eventful life. She was born in the later twenties/ early thirties. Nobody knows her real age because in those days age of girl’s was not recorded anywhere, not in schools, not in colleges, not in jobs. Only in post-Independence India, did age of women started getting recorded. She was married at an early age and widowed at an early age. All without formal education I believe. While a widow he educated herself to a bachelor’s degree and became a teacher of Hindi in a girl’s high school. My father’s mother and my second grandmother were related and also taught at the same school. When my father’s mother died, my grandfather married her.

She was the grandmother I knew. The first I remember of her, she was depressed after a dental procedure gone wrong (both my grandparents suffered from simple procedures which were mismanaged, possibly a sign of primitive facilities around my home town). She had been the Principal of the government high school where she taught. When depressed, she went on long leave. There was also a court case when another teacher was appointed Principal while she was on leave but it is boring reading. Gradually she recovered and started teaching at the school again. She loved teaching and was quite popular at her school. My grandfather never taught me but my grandmother did. Hearing her explain Hindi poetry was a joy: she knew and explained the multiple layers of meaning, the background the poem was set in, socio-political landscape of the time and the poet’s own leanings. And she did all this without referring to books and so on. She knew all these poems. They were part of her.

She was a deeply religious lady, vegetarian, given to fasting, prayers and rituals. Also, she was very kind. When her school gave her a citation on her retirement, they fondly remembered how many people she had helped out of monetary difficulty. She also tried to be equal/ fair to her grandchildren. She had no children of her own, but we never felt that we were not related to her by blood. She adopted us as her own, and, she became ours.

Almost to the age of seventy, she was a tall, upright lady. Then she began to hunch over but had no illnesses. The hunch made her susceptible to keeling over and falling. However, as she grew older, she also became more and more beautiful- my mother-in-law who saw her in the last year of her life was struck by her beauty.

Her death was sudden, almost accidental. Our house maid had left the job over some disagreement. In her absence, my grandmother tried to sweep the house (she was reasonably active to her last day) and had a fall. She had had numerous falls and everybody thought it was another one of those. In fact, I spoke to her twelve hours before her death and asked her to eat well, not realizing that I would never speak to her again. I’m glad I spoke to her then. My father had called in the middle of the day and I was irritated when he asked me to talk to her. I remember thinking at the time that I can always give a call back later- I would have never forgiven myself had I done that. She had had a heart attack. Doctor could not diagnose it but she knew. She died on July 29th, early morning. And my grandfather went in another month and ten days.

My grandparents are gone. When they were alive, I had bitter words with them at times. I have always spoken my mind and have also been rash- so there were times when I disagreed and spoke out, often not pleasantly. But it is also true that apart from my brother, among their grandchildren, I lived the longest with them and cared for them. Towards the end I could do a couple of things to show my love. It’s not nearly close to what I wanted but it will have to be enough. My grandfather’s dearest possessions were his house and his old Maruti. The car is sold and his house is getting sold in a few days-the house in which my brother and I grew up. But it’s OK, it’s the cycle of regeneration. After they were gone, the house was unbearable the couple of times I went home. My parents have shifted away to Patna and my ties to my hometown are temporarily cut. I sincerely hope to go back and do something in that town- for I’ll always be Bhagal and if I don’t go back something in me will die.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Train Journey: my favorite essay topic inlcuding the future

On Sunday nights in the months of August, September and October of the year of their Lord Twenty Hundred and Ten, I am to be found travelling by train. It is always the same train (I'm loyal: my dhobi, tailor, shoe brand, jeans brand, shampoo have been steady for a while as well): Dakshin Express, numbered 2722 by the guys at the Railways, or by their forefathers. If you are guessing that the train goes all the way south to Madras, which is anyway what South means, you are dead wrong: good for my self esteem. The train goes to Andhra but if I were to ask where, you would again be wrong. Pleased smile. The train doesn't go to one place at all. If you are imagining things like a surprise destination every day, well, things haven't evolved as much yet. Thing is, somewhere down the railway line it splits in to two, one part goes to Hyderabad and the other to Vijayawada.

I don't go that far. Journey begins in Delhi, quickly crosses over to Haryana (curiously, I live in Haryana), flirts with MP, trundles for an incredible length of time in that chicken's neck of UP that is forever in MP's iron grip, finally breasts the tape to enter MP proper and dies just thereafter. In case you are underwhelmed by the lack of grandeur of the journey don't be. For the journey transverses some impressive territory. It of courses starts in that seven time reborn capital of ours, never mind commonwealth. Agra, of the Taj and the original red fort; Gwalior of the Scindhiyas and Jhansi of the Rani are on the way. No bad for a night's journey, isn't it.

Normally, I enter the train, invigorated by excitement, make a phone call to wifey and/ or family, wait for the train to start, some times eat pantry egg biryani (it isn't biryani but they call it that), spread out my bed roll and sleep off. I always get the side lower berth, which because of the thick curtains, doesn't give the winter snow feeling that air conditioned compartments of Indian Railways normally provide but the rest is business as usual. Wake up two-three times to visit the loo, use the occasions to check on my baggage lest some do gooder had decided to lighten my worldly load and I was at my destination. I was becoming increasingly complacent. Fate played it's proverbial hand and I'm out of practice in poker/ teen patti.

This time, in seats facing my permanent side lower, berth number 35, were what seemed to be members of an office group returning from some off site/ country level mela. For a while, I was regaled by their office gossip, then bored, then irritated as sleep began to descend. At this point I made bleating sounds. I see you smile. Yes, bleating had no effect. Then I roared, or so I thought. They say something about dogs in a pack hunting the lion. I was cornered. A black coat appeared and all the years of greasing the palms of the black coats all over our great country, paid off. Silence or rather train's rhythmic sounds reined. This was at 1 am. The good times lasted till we arrived at Jhansi at 5:45, pre dawn as per me. High noon as per the modern day Rani who alighted at Jhansi. Her high pitched, high decibel out pourings would surely have made many a generals quail. I had no recourse but to do Suryanamaskar for the first time after first year ragging at IIT. Had tea when the vendor arrived and a headache for the rest of the day. God give good sleep to my fellow passengers on my train journies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Heat... as evidenced by ambient temperature

When does it become hot for you? At what level of the mercury, does the very air become stifling for you. The response should vary depending on where you have spent your life: latitude, altitude, distance from the sea, special geographical features. It should also vary by the amount of time you spend in air conditioning versus in the 'shade' under forced draft cooling versus in the sun. Notwithstanding variations, I expect you start feeling hot some where between 25 and 30 degree celsius. A notable exception is my young cousin. For her, 17 degree celsius supported by forced draft cooling is the upper limit of pleasant.

What is your attitude to heat? Do you live in a cold country and welcome the short period of hot weather? You love hot weather, you declare a holiday on a warm day, take off your clothes and head for the beach.

I live in a very hot country and hot weather is my default state of being. I am conditioned to look at a clear sky with portents of a baking sun later in the day and sigh. I understand my cold country brethren however. I long to see snow, it doesn't snow ever in any of the places I have lived in; while you are probably sick of it. I expect you are programmed to dislike cloudy, snowy weather. No ill will brother.

Do you like dry heat or humid heat? My country, or at least inhabitants of its two premier cities, are sharply divided on this issue. Humid heat is safer, you won't dehydrate. Dry heat is better, sweat will cool you and won't be permanently bathed in it. I have experienced and understand the merits of both. Of course, as a consultant, I can rest after framing both options clearly and letting others decide. So I desist from deciding.

Monday, January 25, 2010


There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
- Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

I m reading "The Last Mughal" by William Darymple. The Last Mughal is about the last years of the rule of the Mughal dynasty, the rule of Bahadur Shah II 'Zafar', and its demise with the 1857 war. Its an eminently readable book but there is one passage that in particular struck me. There was a day in the siege at Delhi, when the outcome of the war was in the balance. Of course, in the long run, it was all going to be futile. British were the dominant power on Earth, with the whole weight of modern science behind them; while Mughal India was wallowing in the dark ages, at least from a scientific standpoint and sooner rather than later India was to go under British rule. However, the outcome of that immediate war was definitely in balance that day. Indian soldiers after tremendous urging had persuaded the Badshah to lead them to the battle. There were 70000 of them, not all well trained but nevertheless 70000. Facing them was a much smaller British army, made of white and mercenary Sikh, Afghan and Gorkha soldiers. The Badshah started out from his palace but courage failed him and he turned back. And the war turned. Badshah lost his shot at glory and the chance of an honorable death in the Delhi that he loved deeply instead of the traceless grave he got in Rangoon.

I also watched the movie 'Gandhi' yesterday. To me India's freedom struggle led by Gandhiji is remarkable for two things: original thinking and courage it demanded and engendered in its soldiers and leaders. To think that non-voilent, active non-cooperation is a powerful enough tool to dislodge the British empire was pretty original thinking: counter intuitive to the thinking of the day, of times before and of times since. And to carry out this thinking required great amounts of courage: of conviction, to face physical pain. Also, very importantly, this kind of struggle based on a deep understanding- of world order, human nature, India's truth and its needs; and on immense courage produced a first generation of leaders for Independent India with the education (in the holistic sense) and mental strength to lay the foundation of a fairly successful nation. Indeed, India has done much better than a lot of other nations who gained Independence from colonial rule at around the same time. Also, India's performance in the first 15 years after Independence was much better than China, notwithstanding the loss of the 1962 war. It was Indira Gandhi who undid a lot of good work and let the momentum dissipate by inaction and/or counter productive action while China forged ahead in the late seventies and early eighties under Deng. Fact is modern China was born out of war, therefore was much better in terms of military might and strategy but much worse in taking care of its citizens or laying the foundation of a strong nation in the first decade or so of their and our existance as a modern nation compared to India. India's didn't see the death from stravation of millions of people post Independence like China saw during Mao's big leap.

Most men have no Delhi or bloodline's glory to protect or a country to free or run. Yet, we all need courage and decisiveness. Moments I regret in life are not moments of grievious misfortune or of abject failure but moments lacking in courage and in decisiveness. And moments that require true courage and decisiveness are often important moments in life. And its no use saying that what's past is gone and let's look forward. Regret lingers. Next time may I be courageous. And may the times come soon. For, otherwise, life is grim and full of past regrets. Soul needs some pride.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Decade of spin

In Cricket, it has been the decade of spin. Four of the top five wicket takers this decade are spinners: Muralidharan, Warne, Kumble and Harbhajan. Ntini is the only quick in the top 5. If you look further down, 7 of the top 20 and 12 of the 35 bowlers who took 100 or more wickets in the 2000's were spinners. If these last two numbers don't look impressive, consider that most teams play only one spinner in the side made of four bowlers. So while spinners playing the game make up one fourth of the bowlers, they make up more than one third of the top bowlers. Anyway, at the very top, the numbers are indisputable.

Look at it another way, the top 5 spinners by wickets taken have all played this decade: Muralidharan, Warne, Kumble, Harbhajan and Vettori. Of course the top three are the top three wicket takers among all bowlers. True, there have been more matches for them to play but their wickets per match is also better, atleast for the top 4: 4.3 for Harbhajan, 4.7 for Kumble, 4.9 for Warne and a whopping 6.0 for Muralidharan. The best from the earlier era, Lance Gibbs, Bedi, Benaud, Chandrasekhar averaged around 4 or less. Grimmett is an exception but he played his cricket before WW II. Similarly, Vettori among the current lot is an exception but he has to contend with extremely spin adverse conditions at home.

Whichever way you look at it, the top three: Muralidharan, Warne and Kumble are the top bowlers of this decade and the top spin bowlers of all time. Given they are three highest wicket takers of all time, some may even claim them to be the top bowlers of all time.

Other spinners have come to the fore as well. Danish Kaneria, for all its fast bowling potential, has been the leading bowler for Pakistan. Before him was Saqlain Mushtaq. Very different from the glory days of the W's. Similarly Stuart Macgill did excellent work when he got the opportunity, even outbowling Warne in the matches they played together. Sad for him that his career coincided with Warne's. Tellingly England have had two spinners who have taken more than 100 wickets this decade, Giles and Panesar and a third who has been taking five fors in recent times, Swann. And these after the barren days, remember Min Patel, of sometimes belied potential, remember Phil Tufnell. Even West Indies now have a spinner who plays regularly and takes more than an odd wicket for the first time since Lance Gibbs in the form of Sulieman Benn. Indeed South Africa have been the only country without a spinning force for most of this decade while Australia has been struggling post Warne and Macgill retirement.

Why has this decade been so dominated by spin? Pitches have become better: even those in India are no longer dustbowls, bats and batsmen have become muscular: mishits go over the ropes, boundaries have come in. So why? One arguement is that we just had three of the greatest spinners of all time playing this decade. Second, the fast bowling stocks this decade weren't all that great giving spinners more opportunity to take wickets: certainly true for India and Sri lanka. Third, better batting surfaces meant that fast bowlers couldn't dominate and collapses against pace (which mostly comes first in an inning) were much less frequent. Fourth, a lot of innovation has come into spin bowling this decade: doosra and the carrom ball. Fifth, batsmen are more aggresive and a spinner relies on batsmen making an aggresive mistake more than a pace bowler: stepping out and getting stumped, getting caught in the deep on a mishit. Any other reasons?

Post script: A friend of mine asked me to compare strikes rates. I decided that averages should be considered as well. In terms of strike rates, Muralidharan and Warne are third and fourth among bowlers who have taken atleast a hundred wickets this decade. Shoaib Akhtar and Dale Steyn have significantly better strike rates (around 40 as compared to 50 for the two spinners). Raw pace does take wickets in fewer balls but it can bowl fewer balls as well. Kumble's strike rate is around the mean. In terms of averages, Murali is second behind Mcgrath. Warne is around 25 which is the new 22 this decade. Kumble is around 31, which again is around the mean.

The other comparision would be to compare spinners across ages. Murali, Warne, Kumble, Macgill, etc. have vastly superior strike rates than their predecessors. The verdict on averages is much more mixed, with Murali next only to Laker among major spinners but Warne and Kumble being back with the pack.

If we consider all four variables: total number of wickets, wickets per match, strike rates and average; still the three spinners come across as formidable if not as the all in winners that they seem based on the number of wickets taken. Paragraph 3 needs to be modified. I would consider them the greatest spinners of all time and the most influencial bowlers of this decade. After all to win you have to take 20 wickets and bowlers who can take more wickets per match are defintely better as long as the time and runs cost are not much higher: as is the case with Murali and Warne, and in the context of the Indian team, Kumble. Besides, paragraph 4 cannot be denied: South Africa are playing Paul Harris in Kingsmead Durban and Swann was the highest wicket taker in South Africa's first innings.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Modes of travel

I am at the airport, going home. Flight to Kolkata, then an overnight train to Bhagalpur. From warm and humid Mumbai afternoon to cool and more humid Kolkata evening to sub-teen, foggy, humidity neutral Bhagalpur morning. Travel, ofcourse, would be in theoretically neutral air conditioning making all the changes sudden. At one point considered taking a direct train from Mumbai, a 2000 kilometre, 36 hour journey across India's belly. However courage kept faltering, and the time to make the call came and went. Tiredness wouldn't have been a problem, airconditioned travel on Indian Railways is fairly comfortable. Vague ideas of boredom are what kept me away, in hindsight quite unfounded.

I miss long train journies. They are excellent for a lot of things: reading, reflection, eye soothing scenery, new perspective: conversations of and with strangers. To watch the evening descend on Indian rural life from a train window is a cathartic sight. On a recent journey from Bhagalpur to Patna, I overheard ( wasn't participating) a well informed arguement from a deputy superintendent of police on law and order, development and politics in Bihar. I always feel excited before train journies. In my grand father's time, during British rule, 'A train journey' was a common essay topic: not without reason.

In comparision, air travel is uncomfortable and sleep inducing, even a 30 minute delay is irritating. Seats sometimes seem insufficient for even small me. In the innumerable flights I have taken in the last three years I wouldn't have spoken to my neighbour five times. There is no exposure to the country one is travelling over.

Like a lot of things that make life faster, air travel too takes away its pleasure.Speed- dash it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Random thoughts

Just as I sat in the car on exiting the airport on Friday evening (a ritual consultants like to follow), I looked up and saw the moon, still in its first few nights. I realized it has already been more than a month since Eid when I had similarly seen the moon, travelling in a car, though in Barmer. This feeling of time flying ever faster has been with me since the 1st of January 1988 when I had thought that 1987 went away much faster than 1986. I think it happens because as we grow up, we take note of fewer things, store fewer moments.

I live in an area of Mumbai which 10 years ago was salt pan country. There are a few in the vicinity even now. Its a thoroughly unfashionable part of town, as has been said by numerous friends, acquaintances and passer bys. However the advantage of the location is space. Space, as you know, is the primary scarce commodity in Mumbai. So the fly, when it exits my house, does not land in the middle of headlong traffic, to be promptly mown by a BEST bus, as is the case with many a Mumbai house in the more fashionable parts of town. Did you turn up your nose at the mention of the lowly fly, dryly remarking that no such creature is granted admittance to your UV cleaned house? Well, then, change it to butterfly. But you get the drift, right. The set of buildings, of which my building is one, are on a private road and there is a 25 acre garden behind these buildings. I really like these gardens, they are very nice for peaceful walks.

Drivers of road public transport in Mumbai are the leaders of a generally rough bunch. Everytime I start on a drive, after the first cuss, I resolve that I will be patience itself. However, what is my resolve when pitted against the recklessness and brigandry of numerous BEST bus drivers, auto rickshaw and taxi waalahs. I fail everytime and return home spent. These drives are an excellent test of your BP and blood cholestersol levels. If nothing happens on these drives, tuck into your chicken tikka with impunity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On a rural desert road

On a 50 km ride on a one lane road in rural Rajasthan, I saw (This is all I saw on the road; there were other things on the sides):
1. One tractor without a trailer yet with 9 people sitting on it
2. A bus with four children hanging from the ladder at the back that goes up to the roof. They were a few men on the roof. Whether they were good men or not is between them and their providence.
3. A truck, which was moving so slowly up a slope that only on close inspection could you ascertain the fact that it was moving up
2. Two motorcycles with two men each in spotless white dresses. Where’s the water?
5. Another bus: coming from the opposite direction, so couldn’t see who were hanging from the ladder...
6. A SUV, non descript

I also saw:
1. Two women with their herd of goats and a herd of goats without their attendant woman.
2. A troika of cattle, a cow and its two calves, one of whom wasn’t very keen on moving off the road. They were all skinny and looked fit for long runs.
3. A pair of sheep, evidently lovers, took the cake, or the cud, what ever they like, in terms of not being keen on moving off the road
4. In fact, sheep in general weren’t very keen on moving off the road. There was another bunch, which showed marked reluctance and confusion while clearing off

Further, I also saw stretches of road covered by sand up to a foot deep. In fact, I m assuming there is road underneath.

A well made one lane road in rural India is like a bed sheet spread over a lumpy mattress. The surface is smooth but undulating. If the lurches were to any rhythm one could have likened the experience to riding a beast of burden.

Talking of beast of burden, on the side of the road, and this is the only thing I will mention which wasn’t directly on the road at the instant I saw it; I saw a camel with a man and his child on its back. And this wasn’t a touristy ride but a real ride of business: such as which made the camel the ship of the desert.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

As time goes by

As time goes by, I am less and less sure. There was a time when worldly wisdom suggested it was the right thing to happen. They said it was a sure sign of evolution to grow unsure, surety about anything meant a simplicity, lower level of gyan. And I believed them, until very recently. Now I am not so sure about this as well. This is getting loopy , sorry. But all this vagueness, of explaining everything that doesn't agree by ,"Well you can't be sure. That's another world view", is disquieting. May be, I am just becoming indesicive, lazy. May be, I have gone too far and its time to constrain a few things, become sure about them.

One thing I am least sure about is other people's feelings. Many people are so inscrutable. They will keep smiling through cyclones and orgasms. And its becoming more and more important to understand those feelings, for more and more people come into my life from circumstances- present and past, and motivations that are not in sync with mine and therefore they may react quite differently from me to the same stimuli. Nor do I have time and occasion to know their circumstances and motivations, given the little time we spend together. It happens at work and at play. What has fundamentally changed is the amount of time I spend with people. Till I joined work, I spent time with only a few, all friends of one's own age, and spent lots of time with them. Now I spend time with a wide variety of people and only a little with each of them. To understand them through these glimpses is critical and also what is most difficult for me.

To solve this I decided to pick up a little psychology a little while ago, the scientific study of human behaviour. Sustained struggle, however, is not my forte and after the initial sally, progess has been that of a sail boat in the doldrums. Let's see

Friday, March 27, 2009

An early morning watching test cricket

I don't like test cricket on flat pitches very well. Matches I like most are where top innings score is about 300 to 400, two batsmen score centuries and a couple of bowlers take five fors. Basically I like the perfect test matches most. Fairly remarkable, one would say, isn't it. Matches I like second best are ones where a team is bowled out for under a hundred and the other team gets out for 189 and so on and bowlers end up with ten fors for the match. Run fests come a distant third. Of course, T20 comes after all this and they should just eliminate one dayers, now that they are neither here nor there.

In this context, waking up at 3:30 in the morning to watch the third day of the Napier test match was an unusual decision, particularly after a sloshy Friday evening, thanks to Vikram V. But I had reason, Tendulkar and Dravid were batting. 110 runs in 31 overs for the loss of 1 wicket reads pretty unspectacular but, boy, was I rewarded. Shots of such exquisite beauty are rarely to be seen in a two hour passage of play. Securing these memories is the reason why I want to describe these shots knowing fully well that words will never describe what was experienced.

Let me begin with Tendulkar, as all cricket conversations have begun in India for the last 20 years. There were the two cover drive to begin with. Commentors described it very well when they pointed out how Tendulkar moved his feet to make the cover drive into a straight drive. Then a pulled/ hooked a ball off his face, my favorite shot of his for the morning just because he doesn't play the shot all too frequently. I knew he was in nick. When Patel came on to bowl there was the delicate deflection that entirely his invention. Then there was the slog sweep and the cover drive against the spin in that same over of exhilarating batting against spin.

Dravid began with an on drive, his signature shot. Then there was the cut between gully and point, hit down in the ground. There was an excellent camera shot of how Dravid had rolled his wrist to keep the ball down. It was also the only shot that infrared showed to be not hit of the middle in the two hour session but just slightly off centre towards the ground. At this point, I was pining for the pure square cut hit perfectly perpendicular to the pitch. It was once, in the middle to late nineties, when Tendulkar used to play it a lot, my favourite shot. And guess what, I got it. In the very next over. Once again it was hit straight in the ground. Dravid rounded off the session with a cover drive of his own.

Laxman was at the crease for only 20 minutes or so but he had four beautiful strokes of his own. The first two were wristy on drives off the spinner Patel hit through increasingly narrow gaps between mid wicket and mid on. Then there was the square drive off the first ball of the last over of the sesion. And just as the over was winding down, I was wishing how a straight drive would make it a perfect session. I must have done some good somewhere for, for the second time in the space of an hour my wish was granted. Of the last ball of the over Laxman hit the most thumping of straight drives.

None of these shots were hit with brute power. Even the slog sweep, which is necessarily a shot of violence went all the way for six on the strength of timing rather than power. In fact, the camera showed that Tendulkar had tried to hit the ball down. All but the first square cut from Dravid were hit off the middle of the bat. Each shot seemed to contain exactly the right amount of power. It was classical batmanship at its very best.

The past and the future stretch interminably on both sides of the narrow isthumus of the present. Hence, life is half memories and half hopes. However, at times like these, when the present is so beautiful, it carves out its own space. And the delicious thought of these memories staying for ever. Ah!

Friday, March 13, 2009

House Help

My house help is a remarkable person. Now, one may call it a womanly topic but we are a household of men and somebody ought to introduce the wider world to the remarkable aspects of our house help. Also, people living in parts of the world other than India may completely miss the point, so please ignore.

Our house help believes in a five day week, although is not averse to take complementary offs on weekdays if you insist on service over the weekend. I sense though that she considers the Sunday evening as sacrosanct. She believes in all the world's religions and celebrates all the festivals, big or small, that these religions have to offer and refuses to work on any of them. All the world's children are hers and when you have so many and they are children one or the other is liable to be sick at every point of time. To take care of this, she has 30 casual leaves and medical leave of course is unlimited.

Her working style is not the only remarkable thing about her, her cooking is no less. Regardless of the vegetable she cooks, she can make them all taste alike. I believe its the strength of the process that inspite of widely varying input she can churn out consistant output, day in and day out. I heard the Japanese did something similar and earned a big name for themselves making cars. Our house help is just waiting to be discovered. She is not just after the Japs, the Russians are also on her radar. Her chapatis are almost like vodka, they are odourless and tasteless. I think she is working on making them colorless.

Our house help is very reasonable in terms of her pay increase demands. She has simply linked it to the indices. In 2007, it was the equities, through most of last year it was the Brent crude while currently she is tracking Gold.

Now tell me, shouldn't have I told you about this remarkable woman.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ode to a girl

Meeting extraordinary people is life’s reward for so many things we bear. There are four things that strike me about these people. Firstly, they show you what one ought to be. Yet, their quality is such that they do not belittle you with the realization. You can celebrate their greatness without feeling small yourself. Secondly, there is no prototype for extraordinariness. All extra ordinary people I know are of different kinds. Thirdly, not all kinds of extraordinariness result in performance or achievement. People can exhibit/ experience extraordinariness without performance and/ or achievement. Lastly, there are far more extraordinary people that one would think.

I once met such a girl. As I think of this girl, I am reminded of Ganga in Bhagalpur where I spent many an evening watching the river flow by. Here, after Ganga has already travelled more than 1000 kms from its source, she has a calm beauty, maturity; dignity and inner strength (ask somebody who’s tried rowing a boat through the apparently sluggish waters).

Of course, this girl is beautiful. And she smiles a lot. It’s what attracted me to her in the first place. But it’s the least of what makes her extraordinary. There are many more beautiful people than extraordinary people. It’s the other three qualities that she shares with the river and in such measures, which make here extraordinary. In a place where attention seeking and self promoting behavior are rampant, in deed have been converted into an art form and are considered necessary for success, she never resorted to them. She may be the star of a show but she would never be in the limelight. Not once in my two years of knowing her, was her behavior anything but dignified.

She takes her time to open up. I don’t think she ever opened up to me. However, were you to talk to her, ask her questions, her responses would always be considered and full of common sense. She would participate in and enjoy the many idiosyncrasies of campus life but you could see that she knew them for what they were. Such balance and measure is rare from anybody and on first observation, particularly from her, one who had led such a sheltered life. She shattered the misconception I had around tough life experiences and perspective.

Where I met her, she was clearly out of her depth, initially. She persevered, never indulging in self pity. Hers would be the light that burnt the longest; she would be the last in the group to give up. The challenge she overcome required immense strength of character and she has it.

I haven’t met the girl in six months, haven’t spoken to her at any length for two years. Things are likely to remain this way. Yet, she, the way I know her, is one of those people that help retain faith in human kind. Thank you!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh Captain! My Captain!

Sourav Ganguly retired today. For my generation of Indian cricket followers, it is, as aptly put by Sidhartha Vaidyanathan on Cricinfo,, like the beginning of losing my religion.

To begin with, Sourav was a quota selection, from the then unsporting east. Not once, but twice. The first time is best not spoken of, the second is too often recounted. Even after that dream start, I took my time to warm up to him, having always been a sucker for technical virtuosity. Rahul Dravid, excepting this last phase, has always been my favorite. Sourav was God like on the off side but was always susceptible to give third slip or gully catching practice. He couldn't get a run on the leg side. Then there were the problems with the short ball. There was a period around 2000 when Sourav was most certainly the most destructive batsman in one day cricket but then one day cricket does not earn you respect with true believers. At this stage I should mention that I wouldn't be talking of one day cricket at all in here.

In test cricket, he played a few innings which earned him my respect. The first two centuries are hazy in memory and they didn't change much in terms of India's prospects in the match, the series or the immediate future. India continued to lose abroad, in England, in South Africa, in West Indies and in Australia. The first innings that sticks in memory, is the 98 he scored in Srilanka when India successfully chased down a target of 268. It's one of India's better run chases and it brought us victory on foreign soil, rare before then. He performed consistantly, if unspectacularly in West Indies. The the famous Brisbane century, when he scored 144, is by common agreement, Sourav's best. The ball was bouncing and moving and Sourav before then wasn't known to play well under those conditions. He played the innings of his lifetime, driving, cutting and most importantly, pulling the ball.

In terms of sustained performance, the phase after he returned to the team for the last time was the best. He had lost the fluency on the off side but what he had gained was solidity. In South Africa, in India against Pakistan, the first two tests in Australia, against South Africa in India and his last series against Australia, he was solid. This is when he became an Indian great for me, a solid, reasonably techincally accomplished, gifted Indian batsman. It is no coincidence that his batting average is the best over this period. A little sadly, but only just a little, for Sourav still accomplished enough, the solidity, the calmness came as the physical abilities were waning. Sourav was at his best as a batsman just as the body was tiring. A bit like Srinath, who also peaked close to his end. Sourav ended with the fourth highest tally of runs in test cricket by an Indian batsman and I would rate him thereabouts in my ranking of Indian batsmen.

Sourav's gift to Indian cricket though, was his captaincy. He is the most successful Indian captain ever, the first Indian captain to win abroad consistantly. This can, however be an accident, India simply have had their best team ever in this period. Ganguly wasn't tactically brilliant either, his most celebrated tactical move of irritating Steve Waugh by arriving late for toss began as an accident. He didn't always lead from the front, all his life he ran slower for other people's run than his own, his fielding was never international class. Still Sourav's captaincy was a boon for Indian cricket. What he brought to captaincy of the Indian cricket team were three things: faith, pride and ambition while playing for India, elimination of parochialism from Indian cricket and backing new comers. India began to gain respect for their test peformances, at home and away. Home victories were not always coming on doctored pitches and foregin victories were altogether new. What's more, these changes have come to stay. The team talks of becoming world champions, nobody speaks of regional quotas anymore and the newcomers whom he backed will back future generations of newcomers. This is Ganguly's lasting legacy. To the captain of the Indian cricket team of my youth, good bye and thanks for all the fish.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Friends III

Time went by and I hopped over from IIT to IIM. As to taking leave from IIT friends, we sadly and completely failed our motion picture ideals and a visit to Surd shop, which was incidently never owned by a Surd in my time at IIT, a brief, awkward hug and a shake of hands did it.

I had come to IIM full of noble intentions, determined to do my best, realize my potential, stuff of that sort. As such, building and maintaining a wide social circle wasn't exactly top most on my agenda. A friend or two, to borrow notes or discuss the finer points of Gaussian distribution governing stock returns (nobody will believe this in these days of free falling stock markets but back then we had a most romantic attachment to the theory) was the basic idea. However will power, of seeing the thing to the end is something that I have always found wanting in me and this occasion was no different. Soon I was thrown headlong in five irreversible friendships, with my co residents in the dorm. Considering that each of these aforesaid five guys were also saddled with five irreversible friendships, it made fifteen friendships in all. If you find the calculation taxing, use a calculator. Fifteen is a large number and one would think that we had nothing else to do but make friends. Yet as anybody who's gone through it and has also watched a few Hollywood movies of the right sort can tell you, the first year at IIM Ahmedabad is to academia what the US marines is to military training. One would also wonder that if six guys; three of whom were fat, three wore glasses, plus a fourth whom even glasses couldn't help, one who was going bald at 25, one who had been short ever since 15; to summarize, if six perfectly useless guys can generate so much warm friendship, why are we still having terrorist attacks? I think the world needs more friendships, particularly in early formative years.

Our common interests were: carrom, cricket and conversation. Well, there are other things but they don't start with a 'c' and will have to appear elsewhere. Carrom was our game, traffic was so heavy that the boards withered like cricket pitches do in India. Talking of Cricket; cricket is, well, cricket (I have become an expert in doing things in three, learning on the job you see) but the expertise resident in the dorm was extraordinary. The channel nine commentary team is no match to the group that had gathered. Conversation was mostly pointless, therefore highly entertaining and often indulged in post midnight. Now that the c's are done, lets move to other things. Can't keep important stuff out just because of some stupid alphabet. Studying together (yes, no use hiding that shame), movies, eating out (we had some impressive physiques to maintain and the mess food, though the best in Asia Pacific was simply inadequate), eating in, throwing water at random people passing the dorm, throwing water at each other (this had welcome hygiene consequences), singing songs raising the profile of our dormitory representative or simply singing songs in our cacophonous voices were other group activities that received our patronage.

There was depth of emotion, that's the easy bit. Which true relationship doesnt have it. What characterized these friendships was maturity, by a shared appreciation of living the small details, by a shared willingness for being children again. We were all adults, on the cusp of the final plunge in to the world of jobs and responsibilities (indeed most had had the first taste) and fully appreciated that this was our last chance of living freely. So, when we were dunking each other with water, or going for a cup of tea at four in the morning, or playing carrom for hours, it was with the knowledge that all this will soon be over. We lived every moment, knew it was great and knew it will be over. That to me is what made it special: often one doesnt know a great thing when one has it or isnt conscious of the fact that it will end, circumstances ripe for grief. No, this was satisfied happiness.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Breakfast with Reema Sen

After attending a brace of three hour long FGD’s in Hyderabad on Friday, which were, of course, designed to suck the life blood out of keen observers, I took the Saturday morning flight back. At the gate, they upgraded me to business class. I said a polite (usual service, I assure you, unlike the upgrade) and for once, heartfelt thank you and hopped in.

The business class, as the core group has experienced and the junta class has observed, has wide seats, plenty of leg room (though what I can do with extra leg room is a pertinent question), good cutlery and a pillow for every passenger. This pillow I did not like, it seems to give pain to the part of body that rests on it. Just as I had started savouring the business class bar the pillow, a beautiful girl came and stood next to me. Now, moments like these are always moments of tribulation for me. A bit like the case of those Israeli kids who where stuck with a lot of water around them until Moses came around. Boys’ school, long years in IIT, the works, you see. Turns out the lady wants to access her seat, which, as it happens, is the window seat that sits cheek by jowl with my aisle seat. I have already alluded to the ample leg room and the inadequacy of my legs in dealing with them and now wondered as to why the lady doesn’t just sail in. Anyway, since she keeps standing, I politely ask, “Would you like me to step out?” Since she doesn’t say no, I understand it means yes (always a useful policy). I step out. She throws a bunch of magazines on her seat, one of which is the Vogue and shoves her shiny crocodile leather bag in the overhead baggage bin and sits down monopolizing the common armrest between the two of us with her papers. I am feeling much annoyed but being an ardent admirer of Bertie Wooster and inspired by his ideal of preux cavalier, I hold my peace, leaving my arm hanging in mid air. I was looking darkly at the papers that had encroached upon my space when my eyes fell on the name on the boarding pass. I was sitting next to Reema Sen. For those who don’t know her, (Oh! the presumption of wide readership), she is an actor of Hindi and Bengali movies.

Now I have previously been upgraded to business class. But so far, my lot always has been politicians. What else would you expect if you fly business class to Patna, where, I am told by well informed sources, actress of any kind, hue or disposition have not set foot since Ashoka was spreading Buddha’s message of peace and love around these parts. Anyway, the lesson learnt is that one should never stop dreaming, for, guys: ‘the dreams of men, the seeds of commonwealth, the germs of empire’ (Book: Heart of Darkness. Author: Joseph Conrad. And no, the book isn’t about Bihar).
I thought whether I should ask her for her autograph but then the pride of an elite consultant reasserted itself and I desisted. Did you say, “you fool”? I agree. I spent the rest of the flight trying not to embarrass myself in anyway, ate my breakfast with minimal movement, careful not to elbow her. I did squirt a little of the Fruit and Dahi in her general direction but that was faulty packaging, not me. And, mark you, I made no attempts to wipe it off. As for conversation, you are already aware of my chivalrous offer to step out, to which she gave mute consent. Next she asked me if I minded her taking my TOI, to which I replied, in my typical foot in mouth style, “Yes, yes, take it. I only read TOI when I am feeling particularly stupid.” This was of course before I knew she was Reema Sen and she didn’t catch the import of my words anyway.

For those who care, Reema is about five feet four, is dusky in complexion and had bags under her eyes that morning. I would definitely recommend more sleep. She was wearing a black blouse, khaki cotton skirt and flat leather sandals. As for accessories she had Dolce & Gabbana glasses in her hair and a beaded wrist band, this on her wrist. Early morning attire I guess. No nail polish on fingers and faded nail polish on toe nails. And in case you want to ask her out for a casual tête-à-tête over tea, she likes her tea with milk but no sugar.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I grew up with typical middle class values like:
1. Do things for a purpose. There is no point in doing something only because you like doing it.
2. Spend only on necesscities. Everything else is wasting hard earned money.
3. Pleasure is frivolous/ sinful/ wasteful. Time and money and energy spent on pleasure could be used for more purposeful activities.
4. Plan and work for the future. If its needed, bear pain in the present so that you may rejoice in the future.

Slowly as I grew up, doubtful thoughts emerged. Why should I do everything for some purpose? Why shouldn't I take a walk in the park if I feel like it? Or read a book through the night even though the morrow is a working day? Why not spend on something I don't really need but which I may enjoy, like a car? Why not seek pleasure, purely for itself. It may heal the soul. As for planning for the future: Aren't we always planning for the future? Isn't the present also worth something? In preparing for the future, we ignore the present and remain with unfulfilled wishes. Live for the moment, for pleasure, for non purpose: Bohemia.

I may outgrow this phase as well and my roots may call again. After all, whats learnt early dies last. Do we stop breathing?

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I am reading 'Life of Pi'. Haven't finished, so this isnt a review. I would like to quote though,"When an animal decides to do something, it can continue doing it for a long time". When compared to us, animals are so much more powerful. A chimpanzee has five times the upper body strength of humans (so I read at the Basel zoo). Many animals are far more powerful than us. Many are quicker. Many have stronger senses of smell, sight and hearing. I often wonder, were it not for our greater mental faculties, we would long have been as dead as dodos. Its almost a slight, of nature or God, to have made us weaker in body and then to have given us our intelligence, for us to conquer, dominate and bring to the doorstep of annihilation all animals but ourselves, and even ourselves, going by the way we are destroying our planet. Its like those stories in scriptures where the weakling has that one immortal weapon with which to vanquish all adversaries.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Growth in a democracy

I have increasingly been shunning politics, both as a person and as a citizen. However, the recent energy crisis, my stock market investments and the work I am doing these days has set me thinking. In this context, I have been thinking, historians will struggle to explain the mistake we are making as a nation.

I am talking of the nuclear deal. Why won't we sign it? In an conventional-energy starved country such as ours, nuclear power is the only viable alternative. And that nuclear power is currently locked behind the deal. We won't sign it because some political party will make the government fall. Its infuriating. This same party welcomed the chinese attack on India, saying that the revolution is coming.

I came across this website, . Havent read the papers yet but seems interesting.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


In my school library there were books in which you made your own story. What happened was, that after every few pages, the book would present a choice: go to page 23 or go to page 47. If you went to page 23, the story will proceed in a certain way and if you went to page 47, it progressed in another.

Life, if one thinks of it, proceeds in a similar fashion. After every few pages, one is confronted with a choice which affects the rest of it. Ofcourse, real life is far more complex and there's a choice after every breath so to speak, but if one were to single out the really important choices, one can reach the 'every few pages' analogy.

What were these choices for me, so far? I would exclude chance happenings which deflected me one way rather than the other but include the one decision taken by others to have substantially impacted my life.

These decisions are:
1. To admit me in the best school in town back in class 3.
2. To leave the town for my plus 2 and decide to do it at my uncle's place.
3. To not go to Calcutta for final prep just before JEE.
4. To work really hard at IIM.
5. To not ask the girl I thought was perfect for me if she fancied me.
6. To accept a domestic job and decline going abroad.

In the next post, I would list the chance happenings that have had the greatest impact on my life. These chance happenings, if one were to keep the same cut off vis-a-vis impact, are many more than the decisions. Importance of chance in life!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

As I finish college

I had written this about 13 months ago, about the time I was graduating. It is incomplete but I will leave it as such since it cannot be finished in the same frame of mind.

I have completed my college education, at least for now. For the first time since I entered school on 21st February 1985, I will not be student.

In the meantime, USSR fell and the Soviet communist propaganda magazine in Hindi that we used to get at home stopped coming. Its Hindi was quaint and I used to like it. All the stories were of workers great struggle against the elite. How the façade fell in a couple of years. Around the time, Doordarshan showed a serial on Nadia Comaneci and I was in love with her.

I was at my Mausi’s place when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. I was the first in the household to look at the newspaper at 5:40 in the morning. Of course, the magnitude of the event was beyond me. A couple of years ago, in the 1989 elections, Rajiv Gandhi came to campaign in Bhagalpur. I wanted to see him but nobody was ready to take me to the ground where he was going to make a speech. I was miserable and, if I remember correctly, even cried. My Uncle took pity and we set forth for the meeting ground. Only we were too late and Rajiv Gandhi’s helicopter was already in the air by the time we reached. Thus I was never to see him. I might not see a lot of India’s Prime Minister’s but I don’t think I will miss seeing any of them as I missed seeing Rajiv Gandhi that day. Such are the emotions of childhood, brief but intense.

I had started reading the newspaper a couple of years before Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination when there were communal riots in my town and for one whole month I had nothing to do. I could only read the Hindi newspaper then and don’t remember what I read. I was in awe of a cousin of mine who would copy passages from the English newspaper. This prowess of his was a matter of discussion in the extended family.

Somewhere around the time petrol and LPG became scarce. Kuwait war was on. I remember going with my grandfather to get petrol for his car. Some days we will not get petrol. Similar was the tale with LPG; only that it was my mother who was more worried this time.

The 1988 and 1992 Olympics gave me my first idea of India’s position in the comity of nations. Sporting success and country’s well being became intrinsically linked in my mind. All the economic progress of recent times has only dimmed the idea.

A lot of changes happened after the liberalization of 1991. Lehar Pepsi had come to the market. Coca Cola followed suit. Soon it bought out the Parle group. After initial attempts to shelve the Parle brands, Coca Cola found out that it cannot do without Thums Up. However, the rest of them, Gold Spot and Limca did die a quiet death. Cable television came in. For the first time we had five instead of one channel on TV. Oh, the allure! I used to wake up at 3 a.m. in the morning to see India being blown off by New Zealand, a nation of 3 million people but I could see India play in foreign grounds all right.

Economic progress became the watch word. Newspapers started giving GDP growth numbers, inflation statistics and stock index movements more prominence. India was soaring by the mid nineties. The space program was also making decent progress. It was the first round of hope.
There were problems too, chiefly relating to violence. Kashmir kept burning although the fire in Punjab as put out, partly by force, partly by statecraft but majorly (not a word) due to the fact the inciter found a better incitee (not a word). Babri masjid was demolished. There were riots in Mumbai, not once but twice. Only a nation as desperately poor and ill-educated as ours could die and kill for religion.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My first car trip

I drove down to Pune last weekend. The car's new, the driver's inexperienced and was a little scared. Well wishers scared him further by talking of the rashness of the traffic on the expressway and the distance to Pune (220 Kms against the actual 160). Nothwithstanding I started. A hiccup near Panvel, the symbol on my luggage space lever and fuel tank lever are swapped resulting with the tank mouth not opening and the fuel running too low to go anywhere, resulted in fair amount of panic and an hour of delay. Once this was resolved and my car was fed and its pressure checked, I was on my way.

What a joy it was. Once the expressway starts its sheer joy. The road is good, surprizingly people maintain a fair degree of lane discipline, and, if you can dare to look sideways, the view is also spectacular. I, of course, had my sights firmly on the road and my foot on the throttle. Normally somebody who's accused by friends of being too slow on the road, even I could hit 140ks. Most of the way, except for the Ghat section, I could drive at 100+ and the entire 93 kms stretch took an hour ten. At times, on curves and at higher speeds, one can feel the steering wheel shaking against the arms. The whole body is focussed at the task, there's nothing but the road and the machine and you. In that one hour, I got the essence of motor racing. God! I wish we have more roads like these. Doing Mumbai Goa in five hours would be an experience. :)

In Pune, I met up with cousins. We talked, ate, roamed around and watched Narnia. Its so easy to talk with cousins probably because you have been doing it since you were in shorts. All in all a very pleasant weekend. The second Narnia is as good as the first one. I love fantasies anyway.

The way back was every bit as enjoyable as the onward trip. If anything because I was anticipating it, I enjoyed it even more. At the end of the day, the trip left me very tired. But it was the good kind of tired. I am itching to do many more such trips. Ofcourse the road wont be as good everywhere but we will live with it. Sadly, I am going away for a month. Let's see when the next opportunity comes up.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Alcohol or survival of the fittest, drunken stupor

I love alcohol. In the otherwise conformist life, this is one streak of rebellion. With the growing acceptance of social drinking its not much of a rebellion anyway. But my case, I would like to believe (vanity you know) is different. I love alcohol, as against consuming it to observe social protocol. I don't like the taste, rather mask it by making cocktails. What I like are the after effects. Not the ones in the morning. Those I avoid by drinking humongous amounts of water during the night. I like the immediate after effects. The relaxation, the heightening of the senses and the slowing of the movements, the courage and the abandon.

Of course, according to public wisdom, a drinking habit is a flaw. I dont quite believe in the wrongness of it. It satisfies my needs and I fulfill it of my accord, just like an animal sourcing its own food and drink. What makes anything wrong or right any way? There are three answers to choose from:

1. Rules of the animal kingdom (but we arent animals, vain descendants of chimpanzees)
2. Universal ( of course, the Homo sapeins universe) ethics
3. Laws of the land

Most people would say number two. It is human vanity, belief in the species superiority over every other, despite the fact that we live in a way that is going to destroy our very existance within the century. Let it be. I quite like the animal. Survival of the fittest.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Friends II

It's been a while and the fact will show, one fears. Therefore I pick a topic closer to heart than most so that the piece is not altogether rubbish. Alternately there's the danger of not doing justice to something important but I will take it.

I came to IIT Delhi on 19th July 2000 and stayed there for the next five years. Stayed more than studied but no regrets, it did not leave me ill prepared for life . Life is made agreeable not only on the basis of skills acquired in the past but also on the basis of pleasures and warm memories acquired in the same past. Importance of having a good time and gathering warm feelings is something we often ignore, at our own perils, in our preparation for the future. For then we are left extremely capable but also extremely empty with a lot of time gone by. It's a delicate balance: prepare for the future by working but also by having a good time today. It is a philosophy that took me many years to learn although I was, unconsciously and due to institutional tensions, living it ever since I joined IIT. Of course, the awareness of it makes life all the more sweeter now.

Pardon my digression and let me jump to the topic. IIT has vast expanses, of space and time. There are many places and much time to sit and talk. And there's nothing like talk, drink and food come second and third, for forming deep, life-long friendships. My core group was made by the intersection of the department and the hostel but it was clearly the hostel that was the determining factor, for then, we were spending practically all our hours together. A second part of the group was made of hostel guys from other departments. There were other people, unrelated through bonds of either hostel or department, that are friends. As I said, there was enough time and space to form as many friendships as possible. Glad to have made full use of the resources.

We attended classes together and often agreed together to bunk them. Exams were tided over through model cooperation and minimal effort. Movies, eat outs, sports, card and computer games, booze sessions, inter hostel events, applications for internships, cribbing about professors, insipid coursework, bad mess food, archaic hostel laws and administrative bodies were on the agenda. Conversations on girls, books, politics- institutional or national, anything. Taking people's "case" filled in if all else failed. No one was spared. We learnt to talk, only thing people compliment me on these days. After some time, it became unnecessary to talk for we became friends who could enjoy each other's company regardless, reading a newspaper together for example. I got so used to always having company that to the day I can't stand being alone. On getting a job, the first thing I did was to find flat mates, for I couldn't bear the thought of living alone. Whenever I go to Delhi, the treat is to meet my Delhi based IIT friends.

Yesterday, a larger group met in Delhi. One of the guys had come over from the US. It was great. None of us are the kind who write mails, chat on gtalk or call and there's always the fear that next time when we meet we may meet strangers rather than friends. But all that is not to be. The roots run too deep and when rains come all the leaves and flowers come blooming out. We chattered till we were crazy, relieved and happy that all was as should be. Some others were missed and it would be nice if we can all be together. But till that happens there is no fear, for we are friends for ever and the conversations will flow forever.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thoughts at Patna Airport

Patna airport is the first that I have visited that allows mere visitors, as against bona-fide travelers, in the terminal. There is a fee but that's that. I wonder why? It’s also a one horse saloon with only eight flights in the day, and a common smallish terminal for arrivals and departures. However, newspapers tell us that business is booming and annual revenue target for the year is nearly met. I had difficulty in finding a booking. Also, while returning, when I tried to get on to an earlier flight it was full. May be, it’s the Diwali season; but may be, it’s just that demand on the sector exceeds supply. I am told that airlines are reluctant to increase number of flights because they have to fly half full aircrafts from Patna airport due to its smallish not extendible airstrip. So, that’s that.

I was extremely pleased with the signs of development I could see all around me in Bihar this time. I had been hearing a lot of positive noises from the present government but was skeptical. However this time I could see progress. Quite a few roads in the hometown are under construction, to apparently good standards. Street lighting is in much better shape and is finally lumbering out of the 200W bulb era. Garbage is being cleaned regularly, with machinery being used as well. Hospitals, including those for animals, are working and even providing medicines. Lots of government institutions are seeing fresh construction and maintenance. On an 8 kilometer drive in Patna I could see three flyovers under construction. All these are heartening signs. Crime has definitely come down (though Bihar is definitely not crimeless) and even influential criminals are being punished. If the government can continue the good work, and also induce industry to set up shop I feel Bihar would e on its way. It won't become Gujarat but at least its development will keep pace with the rest of the country.

I had three dreamless nights of sleep at home. I don't remember when I last had dreamless sleep. I think I have started dreaming a lot since I started work though I am not so sure. Besides, I am normally a very light sleeper but at home I slept very very soundly. I don't think it has much to do with peace, quiet et cetera. My family wakes up at an unearthly early hour and they are as noisy in the morning as anyone can be with my grandfather's radio blaring out pre dawn news. May be it’s because of lack of cares/ concerns at home.

A three day trip home was perfect. It was long enough to meet family and have a short rest. Also, it was short enough not to get bored or be hounded by too many "Beta, shaadi kar le" conversations. However admitting the same to family will be catastrophic with plenty of rona dhona. I wish they would just heed my pleas and stop bothering me with marriage calls for the while. Of all Indian customs, at the moment I find arranged marriages most abhorrent. I consider it the genesis of a plethora of wrongs including dowry, female infanticide and castism. Have you heard of dowry when people marry for love? If there are no dowries, female infanticide will come down significantly. Belief is that preference for male heirs is dictated by economics along with age old notions of "vansh" et cetera. Also, when one falls in love, does one think of caste? Inter caste marriages will automatically spell doom for caste system for what’s the caste of a mixed caste couple's off spring. All this besides the fact that arranged marriages are both a compromise and a blind gamble. They survive only because of the spirit of compromise that makes the match possible in the first place.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Diwali @ Home and Money

This is not about sweets, though I am clearly worried about the quantities I have consumed over the last three days. This isn't about crackers either. My brother lighted plenty of them while I watched. So much so that my brother remarked, "It's much more fun to watch rather than to light crackers oneself". Something which I have known for many many years. Age and wisdom, you see.

I got to spend Diwali at home after a full 10 years. Last time I was home for Diwali was when I was in class Xth, same as my brother today. Time flies really quickly; I was surprized to realize the fact. Anyways, I remember the excitement and the work I would put in to light up the whole house, terrace and boundary walls with earthern lamps. My brother now does it with electric lights and the whole bloody job is outsourced to boot.

This Diwali was special for me because it was my first Diwali as an earning person. I could buy stuff for the house and family. Money well spent. For me, today money is an enabler, nothing more, nothing less. Mere accumulation holds no attraction for me, except, in passing, under peer pressure. Thankfully, peer pressure hasnt got to me on this one topic. I havent done anything to accumulate money so far, though its definitely early. In fact, I exert my own kind of peer pressure on my friends and definitely loosen their purse strings. I even have an orkut testimonial to vouch for it (naughty smile). My contribution to the consumption side of the India growth story. Money's attraction for me is in what it can do for me. I dont know whether its right or wrong. Time will tell, may be in ten years I will know better.

One day when I was really frustrated with the job, my friend said, "Try and remember the things that this job makes possible for you and your frustration will go away". Truth, pure unadulterated truth. I experienced it over the last three days.

Friday, October 05, 2007


As a kid, I had a vivid imagination. In my childhood, we lived on the first floor of double storied houses at two places. Sitting at one of the windows, till I was about 6-7, I would imagine a whole host of things. Most of those fantasies I have now forgotten but one of them I still remember. It was to swim in a pool, get out and have Cola. Sitting at the windows of the second of the two houses we stayed at, I would imagine that the courtyard below had changed in to a swimming pool and I was swimming in it. At that point of time, I had never seen a swimming pool in real life, nor could I make out the real size of a pool from images I would have seen on TV. Therefore, the small courtyard downstairs sufficed as a swimming pool. Immediately after swimming, I would wrap myself in a blue towel and lounge on a deck chair sipping a cola.

I did not see a swimming pool till I came to IIT. I never learnt to swim. So the fantasy remained a fanstay. What has changed is the ease with which I now sip a cola. We weren't exactly poor but we couldn't afford a cola everytime I wanted it either. Also, Cola wasn't available at every corner shop. So I would have Cola when we went to the main market. When a neighbourhood shop started stocking Cola, I would sometime steal money to buy a bottle. Because I knew that we couldn't afford it, I wouldn't ask for money. Even in stealing, I wouldn't steal too often. Now, I have enough and more money to drink as much Cola as I want. Its another matter that my ever expanding waistline says I shouldn't.

These memories bubbled up today and I felt sad about my own childhood. Then a million other childhood's came to mind which are even worse. Its all very sobering. I had the benefit of an excellent education, thanks to my father. That made the difference. Education is the differentiator.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Think: 80%, Communicate: 20%.
Relate theory to practice.
Think before speaking.
Never be a postman.
Clarify roles and responsibilities.
Carefully think about approach to professional relationships.
Think about other people's motivations.
Stop cribbing professionally.
Seperate working hours from fun hours.
Switch off post work.
Have fun post work.
Learn to have fun without drinking.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Metal detectors and being effeminate

Why can't cinema halls have metal detectors for security checks? In their absence, their security personnel have a field day groping all and sundry in the garb of frisking. The experience is amazing in its consistancy. It happens at every cinema hall in the country. Seems they have all included it in their procedure for providing superior customer experience. God! Save me from superior service. I can understand how girls feel when they get similar unwanted attention from certain men. Its disgusting but not, I dare say, as much as this superior customer experience for three reasons. One, at least it doesn't happen at, through (whatever) the hands of somebody from the same sex. Two, it doesn't wear a garb of legitemacy and one can move away, protest, give a dirty look, beat up (depending on the possibilities, dictated by the circumstance). Three, the thoroughness and the professionalism of the cinema job simply cannot be matched by furtive, blink and you miss it efforts made on crowded roads, public transports et cetera.

Within a week, I have been chided by two girls for being effeminate. I don't know what to make of it. I am midly perturbed and amused by it. It surely is a huge change from my school days, when I can safely say that I was one of the bullies, bad boys. Out of the hardships experienced then arose a desire to better oneself. Paths of righteousness were explored and walked down. I think this sucked out all the bravado and some of the ego of human males from me. I am just saying that men and women have different types of ego. While I can make an effort to describe them but I think its better that everybody thinks about it himself/ herself. Two presumptions, regarding readership and its willingness to ponder over my writing are both examples of the ego common ground between men and women but there are gender specific ego points as well. Digressions aside, lack of male bravado, bluster and ego coupled with certain habits acquired have threatened to give me an effeminate tag. However, people who know me better would never say I am effeminate. They know a nasty, ugly side of me remains, which surfaces far less frequently but every so often. Also, I think that these habits and sweet exterior are just the surface. Scratch it and one can find a practical, almost unemotional , mean me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

orkut description

March-August 2007

I am a standard issue human male of Indian origin- did my undergrad in engineering and my post grad in management. I have joined work recently. I have always been so grounded in reality that going orthogonal to it is a huge temptation for me at times.
I aspire for beauty and sweetness in life and aim to live the small details- doing the small things that make me happy.
My undergrad took me to Delhi, post grad to Ahmedabad and job has brought me to Mumbai. Will I survive Mumbai? Hope springs eternal
I like to write. I like people reading my writing even more. Here’s the link:

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Three months into my first job

Its been exactly three months since I began working. It it too early to pass judgement on its pleasures, trials and tribulations but its time to take stock. Its not been hard work. My mind does not shut off the moment it hits the pillow, some days I have to cajole it in a million different ways for it to lose its grip on reality and make acquaintance with dreams. At the same time, its been stressful. My job requires me to listen to, talk to and convince a lot of people. This is what has proved to be stressful. Doing work by oneself is not difficult at all. Our education system teaches us to do exactly that and people who excel through the system do not find it difficult to do things by themselves in the job. However, the same system does not teach, and I agree its not easy to teach such things in classroom situations, inter personal skils. All the heartburn in my job emanates from the difficulties I face in inter personal situations.

Another thing that's become apparent is: working a job requires a lot of patience. No matter how fast one wants to and can move, work will only move at the pace of the slowest link involved. I have been impatient, leading to a lot of anguish. Its a fine line. One has to be impatient and push for results but at the same time have the awareness of one individual's limitations in a team set up to push things.

I also have the feeling that I have been intellectually lazy. This has two parts. One, I have got in to an execution mind set: let others do the thinking and I will execute it. It clearly hasn't worked. Other people also haven't thought much about it since it was my job. I haven't been able to influence things as much as I would have liked. Also, it has led to a lower level of job satisfaction. Second, I havent kept track of what is expected of me.

Lastly, I have the vague feeling of dislocation. Today, I can't tell you where my home is. I can solve it by getting used to the idea or getting a girl friend. Of course, getting a girl friend is a solution to a lot of other things, but that for another time :)

What I think I have to do to be a lot more happier in work and hence in life:
1. Prepare for people interactions
2. Be patient
3. Work harder intellectually
4. Get a girlfriend :D:D

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Strawberry Cheese Cake

For all the subsequent disappointments that all of us have had to face from Nain, I must still thank him for introducing me to Strawberry Cheese Cake (SCC from here on). I was 21, Bush was about to start the war in Iraq and I hadn't been introduced to SCC. Good job Nain did there. Another step in the education of the middle class, small town boy.

I have always been partial to sweet things. OK, this includes women too but sweets of the culinary variety came first. It has had its consequences. Nobody has to date urged my mother to feed me better. One of my mother's friends who was eyeing me for her daughter even suggested otherwise. I promptly cleaned her plate of gulab jamuns to contribute my bit towards dissuading her from her dangerously dangerous designs. Very satisfactory day of business that one.

To return to business here, my earliest memories are of going to school on a daily retainer of 4 rasogulle. I absolutely refused to go to school unless promised rasogulle for lunch. Then I got hooked to the whole school business; the lunch time games and Nisad Mehndi and my retainer was reduced to 2 per day and finally stopped all together. I was introduced to injustice and the utility of keeping one's emotion to oneself.

Ah! I was to speak of SCC's. They are made of a thin layer of sliced strawberries laid over a syrupy layer of strawberry derivative laid over a far thicker layer of some knid of cheese laid over a thin layer of almost always disgusting biscuit like substance (thats the only part I don't like and frequntly give it to the person on my right). I wouldn't bet my life on it but I think that defines SCC quite well. For best results, SCC is to be had by cutting thin vertical slices of strawberry layers and cheese layer leaving the biscuit layer undisturbed. Roll the bit around the front of your tongue and you may experience heaven, although having no experience of the heaven experience I cannot vouch for its goodness in the same way as I can vouch for SCC's goodness. There are two restaurents in Delhi which make excellent SCC, one is the very old establishment in CP (where nothing is new) and one is a very small establishment in Gk, Gourmet something. In Ahmedabad, Upper Crust offers the goodie, although of wildly varying quality. Of course, the said SCC tastes much better if the hole it burns is in somebody's else pocket.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Ram Gopal does not make easy movies. "Nishabd" continues the tradition. Its depressing in the hopelessness of everybody's situation. There is a lot of controversy about this movie, people are protesting against it's immorality. These are my thoughts after the movie:

Among animals, the male and the female do not come together on basis of some contract. There are no age or other apppropriateness restrictions. Quite frequently, if the male is able to woo the female that is it. I do not know if there is rape in the animal kingdom but I suspect there might be. Nothing preempts it. However, there can't be gang rapes. Animals won't collaborate for that. There's a difference and people have tried to sepearte the case of one man alone raping a woman from a gang rape. At the cost of enraging the feminists, I think there's a point there. However, this is neither here nor there.

On to humans. Men and women traditionally come together on the basis of some contract. While the necessity of marriage has significantly dwindled in the west, in India it still holds by and large. There are age and other appropriateness conditions on whom you can marry and mate with. The logic is: these are necessities for human society to function. I think its true. We have a synthetic society (vis-a-vis animals) and it needs special conditions.

But what if a non-appropriate man-woman pair get attracted to each other: want to hold hands, sing songs, cook, mate. Problem, my dear Watson. If one of them is already in an appropriate pairing; kaput. The taboo of divorce makes the situation even more complicated.

So, whether we love or not is not important. What is important is whether we make appropriate pairings and add to our already excessive population.

Another thought: In Mahabharat, Kunti has the blessing that she will forever remain young. Somebody asks, Yudhisthir, "Don't you lust after your mother?" Yudhisthir says, yes, but I control my passions through reason.

Reason, be reasonable.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Friends: part 1

I have been closer to friends than family for most of the time I can remember. While my conversations with family have mostly been functional, with friends I have shared my thoughts. It is time to pay homage to all the friendships that have shaped me.

My first set of close friends were in high school. We were a group of three guys who felt that we were like minded people, distinct from the rest of the class. May be it was the freedom our families gave us to do basically whatever we wanted. It actually didnt mean much in a desolate little small town in Bihar but we were free spirits, the freedom resulting in more than a few transgressions. Let it suffice to say that I have a colorful school record, with no fewer than three suspensions and one rustigation.

What did we do? Well we talked. It was the time when we had our first crushes and they formed the focal points of our conversations. That reminds me; where is she now? Doing what? We would complain how academics sucked, something that I have continued to do with remarkable consistancy since then. Indeed, it was a habit well formed. Sometimes we would wise up and detail out everything that was wrong with the state and the country and how it could be sorted out. It was a fool proof plan, if only I could recall it now. What I can recall though is talking about career choices. I wanted to become, at various times; an army officer, a politician, a marine engineer. Thankfully for those professions, I became none of these. Jokes apart, these conversations were the first time I developed opinions on so many things.

Another thing we did was to cycle around the town and the neighbouring areas. Bhagalpur is a small place and fields start some 5 kms out of the town centre. Some of the views we savoured on these trips out of town did a lot for making me an optimist. Indeed, I like cycling through those fields so much that even today when i go home, I would go out for a 30-40 km cycle trip. There was a spot on Ganga bank that was a particular favorite with us.

We would go to certain fixed places to eat pani puri or samose and that particular favorite of mine, lawanglata. We used to play cricket, sometimes football. Heck! I even joined a tuition I didnt need just because the other two were joining.

Most importantly, we developed a real sense of camaraderie. Closeness with another human being, a person to share all your thoughts with, is a wonderful phenomena. Of course, it becomes more wonderful if the other person happens to be an intelligent, good looking girl, but then we are talking of an endangered species. This friendship was a real strength for me in what was the most turbulent time in my life.

Of course, it had to end. I got kicked out of school and had to go to Bokaro for my plus two. My two friends stayed back. Then I moved to Delhi and they to other places. Now we haven't met for more than five years. Even if we meet, I fear we wouldnt have things to talk about for five minutes. And times were when we spent three hours everyday talking. Things change. Still when I remember them, it is with fondness and good wishes. That's an elevating feeling.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

As thoughts flow through

Taking stock of life gives the feeling of being in control.
Being in control gives a feeling of well being.
Doing productive things instead of pleasant things also gives a feeling of well being.
Productivity and pleasure seldom go together.
Choosing productivity over pleasure requires discipline, smothering of senses.
Life, for the most part, has been a constant struggle for discipline.
Struggle for discipline is a losing war, bohemianism always return to claim its victory. For a 'progressive' human being, victory is never absolute.
Goal posts are always shifting.

Two hundred years ago man was born in a village, grew up, worked, married, bred, grew old and died in the same village. He would experience spring follow winter, summer follow spring, rains follow summer, winter follow rains, spring follow....., and so the cycle would go on. Since the man never went anywhere, he faced every season in its due time, without escape. Now man travels. During the same day he can travel 10000 kilometers. He can cheat seasons. He can follow summer wherever it went and never see winter at all. Also, he can stay for a while in a place where the winter is really severe and then move on to someplace where winter is like an offseason vegetable, a damp squib. Some people do it out of choice. Some may be forced to do it. I will not choose to do it, but I have been forced to and will in future continue to be forced. I don't like it, it leaves me confused.

I dislike confusion, makes me uncertain of my responses.
Women I like also make me uncertain of my responses.

There is an inexplicable restlessness. It arises out of the two facts. I should be doing certain things which I am not doing. Work, exercise, home calls. There are things that I have not done and the time to do them is gone for ever. So, life has entered a stage when, for the first time, things, things that matter, are no longer doable. Or, is it just a feeling I have, havng no great ability to see in to future and imagining oneself more bounded that one really is?

Having, explaind my inexplicable restlessness, I have contradicted myself. Something I do because I speak as I think, before my thought process reaches its logical conclusion.

I am confused, restless and hasty.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

About me at the turn of the year

I have taken a course under a professor whom I have come to intensely dislike. However, he said something that was a lesson. He said, " The purpose of communication is to expess and not impress". I would like to make it my guiding principle. I have a few of them actually.

I am dissatisfied with my life. Yes, that might be a very common sentence. Nevertheless, I would like to list my grievances. Despite best intentions and some feeble attempts, I have not learnt to enjoy daily life. Destination completely obscures the journey. For many days, I haven't looked at the sky, or walked a leisurely walk. Life's pace consumes me and I do not, cannot stop. Where it leads to, no idea. Distance between my family and me is increasing. It sounds blasphemous and the temptation is to gloss over it but it won't do. I don't respond to music and my reading has drastically reduced. A movie that takes my mind away from the comfort zone that it has enconsed itself in, it rejects. I am becoming more and more overweight.

There are a few positives. My group spends a wonderful time together. I have become mellower. It sounds aged but its right for me. I don't snap as often and am generally less erosive of people's egos. I have become a more sincere worker. Ambition has grown in me and for the moment I would consider it positive.

I remain as indecisive as ever. "Forever at crossroads" is a description that fits me well. Never knew a thing about career preferences, now don't even know love and such like.

There are no major worries and that, thank God, is a relief. The time ahead, next two three months are career fashioning. Its a time of opportunities and immense pressure.

Prayed in a temple for the first time in a long, long time. Didn't do it well. Should do it more often.

Tomorrow is New year's eve. I would set up a party in the dorm. That should be exciting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Italy: 3-5 November

Italy was where we were between 3rd and 5th of November. Places we visited were Rome, Venice, a small place on the Swish border called Como and Milan.

Rome is history and the Vatican. When I was at the Colosseum and the nearby Roman Forum, I tried to visualize the romans of yore walking through the same ground, no doubt aided by imagery from that unforgettable movie, Gladiator. There was nothing much to see but the deep sense of history that every stone in the place was steeped in was awe inducing. The holiest seat of the biggest relision of the world is noteworthy for its size. Saint Peter's basilica and the square in front of it are huge. the enteriors of Saint Peter's Basilica are decorated with an unimaginable number of sculptures and frescos. unfortunately, i could see the sistine Chapel as it was closed for the week.

Of all the cities in Europe, Venice stole my heart. Not for its canals or its gondolas but for its bazaars. I am not a shopocoholic by any stretch of imagination but the displays in the market were magnetic. One is perforce drawn to them. We didn't do any places but just wandered along the narrow alleys of venice. They are incredibly narrow, sometimes even two people can't walk abreast.

Como is just a nice little resort place with a lake and mountains and what I imagine would be excellent summertime weather. the day we went there was sunny and it was fun to sit on a bench next to the lake. Also I had the most delicious food I have had in Europe at Como.

In Milan I saw the castle and a India gate like structure, Frankly nothing much. There was a street display of photographs about Italy in what I imagine was one of the shopping streets of Milan which was interesting and informative.

On the way to Italy, I had a stopover at Munich and i saw and felt snow fall for the first time in my life. It was nothing more than a drizzle equivalent of snow but it was a first.