Saturday, December 29, 2007

Benazir - Assassination & After

Benazir Bhutto's assassination came as a shock to most people despite frequent death threats & attempts on her life lately. Personally, I felt that the most tragic part of it all was when no one stepped near her SUV to get her medical aid for over 10 minutes after the bullets were pumped inside her & the suicide bomber had blown himself up. Not that it would have saved her life (AK47 bullets fired from close range hardly allow that), but the trauma of bleeding to one's death is of the worst kind.

As expected, the blame game for her assassination has already started and so has the bloodbath in Pakistan. In the mean time Benazir's last rites have been performed and her 'will' has also been read. Benazir has named her 19-year old son Bilawal as her successor to party leadership of Pakistan's People party. This truly baffles me for two reasons. One - can you really name a successor to a 'political party' in your will? Shouldn't a party leader by 'elected' by party members? Two - does Bilawal have the maturity/knowledge to lead Pakistan's most influential political party and elections looming large?

And there we were - mourning the death of democracy in Pakistan ... a little prematurely, I suppose.

Picture courtesy:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Modi is Gujarat CM .. again

The poll results are out - Narendra Modi has won Gujarat elections again. His victory is being touted as 'historical' by the media. It surely is historical in more ways than one. People of the state have elected him Chief Minister in spite of the Tehelka expose` on his involvement in carnage of Muslims in the state, in spite of his openly admitting to getting Sohrabuddin killed in fake encounter, in spite of Sonia Gandhi calling him & his party 'maut ke saudagar' in one of the election rallies (I am no supporter of Sonia either & detest this kind of political circus jargon. Also, this name-calling has apparently helped his popularity as per this post-election analysis on and in spite of media openly writing about his religious fanaticism.

Modi's win does not come as a surprise to me. I have seen Laloo/Rabri being brought to power over & over again in Bihar or for that matter Jailalitha too in TN. The charges against leaders in both cases being that of corruption. I don't condone corruption, but I definitely consider it to be a lesser crime than merciless killing of people in the name of religion. But looks like the junta of Gujarat doesn't seem to mind Modi's wrong-doings or they think killing people is just a part of life (as evident from the crowd's response on Sohrabuddin's killing in one of the election rallies). Yes, I acknowledge that he is a good administrator and seems to have taken several steps for the betterment of the state. But the fact that he is a religious fanatic and was involved in state-sponsored killings of Muslims overshadows it.
For me Modi's win means re-establishment of the fact that we live in a pseudo-secular country and that minorities in our country remain just that - minorities. It is the vote of majority of population that eventually matters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Read this on Itchy Feet's blog:

"Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey" — Pat Conroy

I think that's exactly what is happening with me right now ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Back from Sikkim

Just got back from Sikkim and thought of writing about my travel experience. But found it very difficult to sum up the beauty of the place in just a few words. So decided to put some pictures instead ..

A view of NHPC Township in Singtam where we stayed -

The giant statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse. The Guru's angry expression got me a little confused -

Temi Tea Gardens -

With Vandana at Temi Tea Gardens -

A view of Chhangu lake surrounded by snow covered mountains. The lake had started freezing already & was expected to be totally frozen in a couple of weeks -

This spot was around 13,000 feet above sea level and temperatures were around -5 degrees -

It had snowed a day before and everything was pristine white ...

At Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok. It is arguably one of the richest monasteries in the world and contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa -

The monastery had beautiful carvings in traditional Tibetan style. A corridor in the monastery -

At a viewpoint called Hanuman Tok. On a good day the Kanchenjunga range is clearly visible from this spot. We didn't get so lucky -

This one is my favorite .. with my nephews Shivank & Shreyas in the balcony of our guest house at Gangtok -

Who is the naughtiest of them all? At home in Singtam with Shivank & Shreyas again -

This was the last photo I took on our way back from Sikkim .. the sun was going to set while river Teesta flowed on ....

Monday, December 3, 2007

North East beckons ..

I will be heading to North Eastern part of India in a few days. I had been planning this trip for the past seven years now - ever since my eldest sister & brother-in-law moved to Sikkim. Finally I am going to be there ... with almost no cellphone coverage and absolutely no access to the Internet. That's what I call Paradise!

I am hoping to be back (not-so-soon) with loads of pictures .. and even more memories ...

Picture courtesy:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Funny Quote

"If two wrongs don't make a right, try three." - Laurence J. Peter


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happiness & Memories Ahead ..

Two of my very close friends Rajesh & Renuka are getting married today (to each other :) ). Unfortunately I was not able to make it to their wedding. I wish them a blissful life ahead and many many years of happiness, togetherness and memories. Congrats both of you!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Of Nose Rings & Tattoos

Read a piece in today's Bangalore Times about the tattoo that the one-day cricket captain Dhoni has acquired. The writer has spoken to a tattoo artist to understand what the tattoo design represents. Also, there is a comment from Bangalore's fashion guru Prasad Bidappa that the tattoo is Dhoni's statement that he has grown up - probably from his small town background (I had trouble understanding his statement about the small town bit, but this is the closest I could get). And also, that he is capable of doing things which senior players in the team would not even think of. But then, how can one be so sure? There could be a tattoo or two hidden somewhere in Dravid or Sachin's body too, who knows! :)

I didn't think getting a tattoo could be interpreted in so many interesting ways. But then, if you decide to get some permanent change done in your body, criticism always follows - in both positive and negative ways. I have also been interested in getting a small tattoo done & my nose pierced (so I could wear a nose ring) for quite some time now. The other day I happened to discuss about nose-ring with two of my very close friends Nisha & Preethi. They had some interesting things to say about women who wear nose-rings. They said nose-ring lends an air of promiscuity to the woman and also it looks unprofessional (especially in our workplace kind of setup, where it is against our dress code even to sport a "visible" tattoo). I am yet to figure out how one "looks" promiscuous as against being one :). My nose piercing plan has been butt of many jokes ever since - like when I said I was planning to pledge my eyes for donation, pat they said "Eye donation is ok, but don't ever think of donating your nose!". I have also been threatened of being disowned if I go ahead with my plans :D.
Personally I don't think getting a tattoo or wearing a nose ring is such a big deal as long as it suits your personality. I just decided to do a dress-rehearsal before getting my nose pierced. So I bought a nose ring when I went shopping last & tried it on. I didn't think it looked bad .. so I am all set to take the plunge!
Dhoni's picture courtesy:

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I had been dismissing newspaper reports on Nandigram for the past few days as merely a political circus between the Left parties and Trinamool Congress (something like the power games in Karnataka between JD(S) & BJP). My not watching any television for the past few weeks added to my ignorance. My assumption couldn't have been further from reality! It was this article by Amit Varma on his blog that made me sit up and realize that what has been happening in Nandigram is more than just power games between political parties nor it is just a 'state subject' that cannot even be raised in the parliament.

It was an act of human rights violation by none other than the government itself in the name of eminent domain and industrial growth. Simply put, eminent domain means that the government has the right to seize private property of any citizen and put it to 'public use'. So the West Bengal government decided to give the land in Nandigram (near Haldia) to Salim Group of Indonesia as an SEZ to set up a chemical hub. The land I am talking about is no small piece - it is 14,000 acres spanning across 29 villages and currently houses a population of 40,000! That this land belonged to some poor farmers who have no other source of income other than cultivating this land was just a minor inconvenience for the government. After all, there was recourse to Eminent Domain that can get it done easily.

But things did not happen as per the plan as the farmers did not give up their land easily and decided to protest this land seize. This resulted in the infamous massacre of 14th March 2007 where activists from many factions of the ruling Left party mercilessly killed many villagers and police was a mute spectator! Needless to say that the government denied any involvement in these killings and dismissed these killings blatantly. There have been multiple rounds of violence since then (the latest being in November) and many have lost their lives. Eminent personalities like Medha Patkar, Mahasweta Devi, Aparna Sen, Arundhati Roy have raised their voice against State Government's apathy & apparent involvement in this act of violence. The West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has also condemned the govt for its handling of this issue. An enquiry by CBI has also been ordered in this matter. The govt has since then announced that it would give another piece of land and not Nandigram for developing the SEZ to Salim Group - this would be a sparsely populated land in the island of Nayachar.

Probably the problem has been solved for now. But there are many questions which still remain unanswered -
  • Why did the govt choose Nandigram (well populated) and NOT Nayachar (sparsely populated) for developing the SEZ in the first place? Haven't they heard of something as simple as feasibility study?
  • If the villagers had not protested and taken the land seizure lying down, we would never have even heard of Nandigram. In our country, do we get justice ONLY WHEN we protest the injustice?
  • Will those guilty of these killings ever be brought to justice? There have been way too many scandals & expose`s but I have seen very few from the govt actually being punished
  • Does the government have the right to seize property of any citizen without providing any alternatives? Yes, I know it is the law as per our constitution, but what kind of a law is this??

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Some Funny Prints

I have a bad habit of noticing spelling mistakes in everything I read, thereby causing a lot of annoyance to people around me. The good side of it is I can think of an alternate career in proof-reading when I get fed with of my current line of work. Anyway, I found this totally phonetic spelling of Veg/non-veg in the menu card of a restaurant in Sawantwadi on our way to Goa:

When we were at Calangute beach, I noticed a board showing directions to Baga beach & Fort Aguada and along with it was that for 'Sulabh Shauchalaya'. That's a very thoughtful gesture I would say ;)

But the best one was this store which sold some 'genuine' stuff. Just the name was enough to convince the shoppers of the ingenuity of the store :). And what did they sell - leather stuff, jewelry or clothes?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Go Goa!

Just got back after my 4-day trip to Goa. My skin is all tanned but the heart is content & the mind is full of great memories. The trip was perfect in more ways than one - the place, the weather, the company. We (Vandana, Colin, Pallab, Rudra & me) managed to do things which are different from regular touristy stuff; mainly because of Colin as Goa is his native place and he knows about all the right places there. We stayed at his cousin's apartment in Aldona - a quaint little town near Mapusa in northern Goa. Each house in the neighborhood seemed to have a story to tell.

Our first evening was spent strolling at Calangute beach and a sumptuous dinner at Souza Lobo's. The all time hit songs played by the band made us all do an impromptu dance gig with some other diners. Next day was spent at Chapora Fort (the one in movie Dil Chahta Hai) & dipping & sun-bathing at Ozran beach. Evening was spent at Baga beach & a boat ride into deep sea at sunset. The dinner was planned at the jetty in Dona Paula but unfortunately it was closed that day. But the drive through Panaji, Miramar & Dona Paula more than made up for it. So we dined at Calangute beach instead where Colin cut his birthday cake & opened a champagne bottle.
Destination for day three was Arambol beach - a beautiful beach about an hour's drive from our place. On one side of the beach was the sea (it was a little rough that day) and a small fresh water lake on the other side. The water was only 4 feet deep in the lake and lot of people were skinny-dipping in it. Dinner was again at Souza Lobo's to celebrate Colin's birthday (sans alcohol as it was a dry day in Goa :( ). This time it was another band playing and the male singer had an extremely good voice (similar to Robbie Williams') and he had an eye for our 'pretty boy' Pallab ;). We managed to find a place after midnight (St. Anthony's I think at Baga beach) which was serving alcohol and we spent hours there and left when we were extremely drunk and the place closed for the night (around 2 AM).
Day four was a touch-and-go visit to Fort Aguada and the jail from where Charles Shobraj had escaped & some shopping (wines, cashews etc). And before we realized it was time to leave. Like all good things our vacation, too, had come to an end. We spent our drive to Belgaum discussing about the next weekend get-away.
I always like places where I go as a traveller and not as a tourist. I have visited Goa as both and I am glad I was a traveller this time ...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Me & the Petronas

I had forgotten about many of my old photographs after yahoo photos had closed some time ago. Only recently most of them got moved to Flickr and there I found this one taken in 2003 during my 2-day stop-over in KL on my way back from San Francisco. I headed to Petronas soon after checking in at the hotel.

After clicking many pictures of Petronas I thought of getting one of mine taken with the towers too. I saw a European-looking friendly couple and approached the guy for clicking my snap. To my surprise, he dropped to the ground and lied flat on his back with my camera. Once he had the towers covered, he asked me to step in the frame. When I previewed the picture, I really liked the angle. After thanking him, I asked what he did for living. He casually told me that he was a photographer for Discovery Channel.

I just got lucky, eh? :)

Bottoms of my Trousers Rolled

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown

Last few lines of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot written in 1919

Door with no key

There was a Door to which I found no Key
There was a Veil past which I could not see
Some little Talk awhile of me and thee
There seemed - and then no more of thee and me
From Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam (written around 11th century in Persian)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Child's Perspective

I happened to meet two very active and talented kids last weekend. I had last seen them when they were very young (one an infant & the other two years old). So meeting them after 6-7 years was like starting afresh. Both of them had a penchant for drawing and for all the 4-5 hours that we were together, I had to give them a topic to draw and both of them were competing with each other to do it better and get brownie points from me :). After having run out of all the drawing ideas, I finally asked them to draw my face to keep them busy for longer time. And I was surprised to see what came out of the 6-yr old girl's pencil:

I quite liked my portrait .. for many reasons. She did bring out my curly hair, large mouth, snub-nose, eyelashes and of course the double-chin ;) quite well. The earrings are also exactly like the ones I wore that day! The only thing that doesn't have much similarity is my eyes (I am not cross-eyed yet ;) ) and she got teased no end by her older brother about this. I liked this portrait so much that I got it signed by her and brought back with me.

Aah, you can absolutely trust a child to show you the true mirror ;)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Girls' evening out

We'd been planning this get-together for months - a girls' evening out - sans the husbands, boyfriends or kids. We finally managed to make it tonight. All four of us - Nisha, Preethi, Suman & I met for dinner after a loooong time. We've been friends for around 7.5 years now - almost since the day we joined Infy together. Lot of things have happened since then in our lives .. some of us have gotten married, have had kids, been in and out of relationships, changed workplaces, grown professionally & personally.

But when we met today .. couple of drinks (ok, ok .. Nisha & Preethi only had mocktails) and we were back to our same old bubbly & chirpy selves .. laughing uncontrollably over silly things, recollecting about all our crushes, checking out men around us. It seemed that those years never passed. And we all promised to do this girls-only get-togethers more often. I am not sure how often we are really going to meet, but I guess it doesn't matter, because whenever we meet it would still seem that we never really were apart .. and that's what good friendship is all about ...

Of Festivities, Flowers and Banana Trees..

It's Dussehra today and I happened to go from one part of Bangalore to the other to attend a lunch get-together. And what a delight it was! Dussehra (or rather Durga Pooja as it is called in Bengal & Bihar) was always a time for great festivities back home but has been quite a low-key affair for me ever since I moved to Bangalore. But today was different - thanks to my 25/30 km auto-ride through the city. Since Navmi coincides with Ayudha Pooja (in which you worship the machinery of all sorts) in Karnataka, most of the vehicles were decorated with garlands, chandan and above all large banana trees. I also passed by a temple in front of which the pujaris were solemnly performing poojas to numerous vehicles and I wondered if something went wrong with the vehicle at some point in time, what would help it more - the pooja that was done or the maintenance/upkeep activities?

Then there were ladies and kids dressed in their festival fineries (it's hard to tell about men when they are dressed up ) - especially women & girls with flowers in their hair. I absolutely love the sight of women with flowers in hair - probably because I have never managed to do it myself (owing to short length of my hair :) ). And all this truly made my day seem quite festive even though I didn't do anything more than calling/sending messages to some people wishing for the poojas.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Wife-beating okay??

An article in today's TOI cover page instantly caught my eye - 54% women say wife-beating okay. And these statistics are only for India. I really want to meet such women who think it's ok for a husband to beat his wife!!! Also, 51% of men think the same. This means there is 50-50 chance that the person I marry would be a wife-beater (assuming that a person who thinks wife-beating is ok is very likely to beat his own wife). Only 2% of these abused women have ever sought police help - this is not surprising keeping in mind our centuries-old mentality of keeping ghar ki izzat within four walls of the house even though the battered woman may have to resort to extreme measures of killing herself (or in rare cases killing the husband) as a result of continued violence meted out to her.

Another startling fact mentioned in the survey was Buddhist women have the highest level of violence .. so much for assuming Buddhism was all about non-violence!! But then which religion teaches us to be violent?
I personally feel that condoning an act of crime is as bad as committing it. To a great extent we women are ourselves responsible for the kind of situation we are in today ....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Family, Movies, Books etc..

I was feeling quite low due to my sickness that has forced me to stay home for the past two days. So thought of writing something that has a high feel-good factor to cheer me up. Could not think of anything better than memories from my growing up years to make me feel better. I can think of at least three things that definitely run in our family (for three generations, if not more) - 1. we all love films 2. we all (with minor exceptions) love reading and 3. we all (and no exceptions this time) are people of strong likes and dislikes.

My grandfather used to take my Dad and my Uncle (when they were kids) to watch every movie first day, first show. If they missed to make it to the first show due to some unavoidable reason, it was more or less like a mourning in the household. When we were kids, it was our fortnightly routine to cram into our poor old ambassador (2 adults + 5 kids + 2 or more cousins, oh my God!!) and go for a movie on Sundays. I don't think we would have missed watching any movie that was released from late 70s to mid 80s. It was only during late 80s when VCRs became more popular and movie theatres were considered a place where shareef log don't go that this routine came to an end. Thank God things have now changed. So even now, no family gatherings are considered to be complete without watching at least 2 movies in as many weeks :)

The habit of reading also comes from my grandfather. He was not just an avid reader but also a regular contributor in a magazine called Dharmyug. Long after his death, during one of my summer vacations (I think I was in 8th/9th std), I chanced upon some of his books - complete collections of Oscar Wilde, William Wordsworth, Maithilisharan Gupt & Dinkar. What a treasure it was!! My Dad's reading mostly included classics and management books. I remember having read books like 'Born to Win' and 'Don't say yes when you want to say no' when I was in my early teens :). My Mom mostly reads Grihshobha/Manorama and lately some religious books. When we were kids, our parents used to give each of us short-story collections of Premchand as birthday gifts .. until they exhausted all of them that were published! In our generation, I can read just about anything if I have started it (that has its own disadvantages, trust me), my younger sister is more into romantic novels, my elder sisters are currently reading only children's books (thanks to their kids) and my brother reads nothing but comics & an occasional Car & Auto or Computer Today kind of magazines. And we all (parents included) are die-hard fans of comics. We still drool over Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Garth, Lt Carry Grant and the best of all - Amar Chitra Katha!

Regarding us all being people of strong likes and dislikes .. I would rather not go into details for my own good. I don't know which of my family members might be reading this :)

(Phantom photo:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Love in the time of Cholera

Finished reading 'Love in the time of Cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez couple of days ago. I don't think anything I write about it would do justice to the book. All I can say is the book makes you feel like falling in love .. all over again.

The language is quite old-fashioned and I even had to look up some of the words to get their meaning right :) and some pages even made me lose interest for a little while. But overall a masterpiece .. a must read. Someone recommended 'One hundred years of Solitude' by Garcia Marquez, so that's definitely on my list now.


Monday, October 8, 2007

My Past Life

Found a link to this website through a post on Amit Varma's blog. According to the website, I was a female farmer/weaver/tailor in north eastern USA around 1425.

Wonder what happened to me during the 450 years after I died last (assuming I lived to be a 100 years old :) ) and was reborn again as a female but in a less enterprising profession. And oh, I forgot to mention - in my past life I was also a seeker of truth and wisdom and could see my own future life!! And yet I decided to be born this way?? Beats me :(

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Intelligent Google

I really like how innovative most of Google products are and some of them have been a constant source of amusement for me. Like in Gmail, its ability to scan the text of the email/chat and provide relevant links (at least from whatever sense it could make of the text) as per the context. Today I had a mail of mine opened in which I had written to a friend that I am bored. And Google (such a nice & thoughtful tool that it is ;) ) promptly displayed me links to sites like boredom busters or I am bored.

Then when I discuss about putting on weight, I get links like A secret to lose my belly. But the best one was when I was discussing about relationships/marriage etc with a friend and pat got links to sites titled 'why men lie', 'understanding men', 'how to become irresistible to men' , 'love relationship & romance' .. the list goes on an on. But I am yet to understand how it firgured out that I'm a woman .. quite intelligent :).

Although I haven't used any of these helpful links so far, but it sure feels reassuring to know that there's Google always caring for your needs and providing insightful help whenever you need (or even if you don't need). A true friend indeed :)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Today's quote

Found this interesting quote when I logged in to my gmail inbox:

"When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder." - James H. Boren

:) :)

I Love Saturdays

I love Saturdays as much as my favorite comic character Calvin does. Not for the same reasons as him though (can't think of waking up at six on a Saturday!!). But because you know you have the whole day to yourself for doing all the exciting/tiring stuff you want to do and you still have the Sunday left to catch up on your sleep or just laze around so that you are all refreshed for the whole week's grind on Monday.

Not that all my Saturdays are like that every time. In truth, my Saturdays are lazy ones and Sunday evening is when most of the activity begins. Like this week I am going to catch 'Johnny Gaddar' on Sunday night show as the movie was not showing at any other time. After my parents went back home and Vandu had to leave on an impromptu official trip on Wednesday evening (it was too much of a coincidence for me to handle!) I was dismayed at the idea of spending the next five days all by myself. Although I have lived alone for quite a while in the past (and have enjoyed it too), but having so many people at home for so long and then suddenly having the whole house to yourself is a little discomforting.

Apparently, I made quite a bit of noise about being alone for these many days to my friends Nisha & Preethi (I am never subtle about such things, or like Vandu says - about anything for that matter ;) ) because next day Nisha brought me a bunch of DVDs to watch during the weekend (as she was going to be away to Kerala) and Preethi offered to take me shopping. And now that my Saturday is almost halfway through, I realize I haven't started watching any of the movies yet (or haven't even switched on the TV for the past 3 days!) and have spoken to Preethi & canceled shopping plans already.

The idea of a lazy Saturday looks too delicious to miss out on - waking up late, reading a book while still in the bed, having breakfast at noon, listening to your favorite music all through the day, catching up with friends via email/orkut scraps, having lunch in the evening and in between finding time to write a meaningless post for the blog too .. ummmm I'm not complaining yet :)

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I just finished watching the film Parzania. It has been on my to-watch list for a long while. The film is about a Gujrati-Parsi family which lost a son Parzan in Ahmedabad riots of 2002. The movie is very well made by director Rahul Dholakia with brilliant performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika, Corin Nemec & the two child artistes. It portrays the anguish of people who were victims of Ahmedabad riots (mostly Muslims) of post-Godhra attacks and callousness of the Govt officials (including Police, politicians) in handling the matter.

I felt quite disturbed after watching this film; this is the second time an Indian film has evoked such reaction from me. The first one being Bandit Queen which I watched in my late teens and some scenes from the film kept haunting me for weeks after watching it. Some of the scenes in Parzania - where mobs attack innocent people's homes and kill them with swords or burn their homes or rape women and burn them alive - were very realistic. Like one of the characters in the film said towards the end - 'I felt ashamed of being a Hindu'. How some religious fanatics can misguide people and use them for their own selfish causes! This Hindu-Muslim divide continues to be our nemesis. But the message from the film is very clear - If we take an eye for an eye, the whole world will soon be blind

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Family Games

There are quite a few advantages of growing up in a big family, and I am not talking about just joint families (this concept is anyway diminishing rapidly in urban India), but in large nuclear families. I know because I have grown up in one - with four siblings & quite enthusiastic parents, we always had a lot of group activities to engage in at home for which we didn't even need participation from anyone else apart from the family.

One of these activities that I remember most fondly was - playing games during weekends or summer vacations. Our favorites were Chinese Checkers (or was it Chequers? It doesn't matter), Scrabble, Carrom, Cards, Badminton, Table Tennis and so on. Chinese Checkers was so addictive that even while sitting at dinner table, we used to mentally picture how to move something from point A to point B by jumping over glasses, bowls etc .. oh, it was so hilarious. And then playing Scrabble made us all make a mental note of each new word we came across that had a Q or Z or M or W (they have higher points in the game than most of the vowels :) ). And cards (especially 29) used to be more a war than a game as my parents were so good at it that we used to get scared being there partners and making some bad judgement.

It has been years since we played any of these games .. mainly because all of us have moved out of home one after the other and occasions when all of us get together at the same time have been few and far between. So when my parents visited me & my sister for a month recently, we did get a chance to play some of the games from our growing up years - mainly Scrabble and cards. We definitely have become quite rusty at Scrabble but in cards we now play more mature (??) games - like Flash and we all (me more so than anyone else) are making quite a few bucks (to the tune of about fifty at the last count, but it's absolutely priceless! ;) ) in the process.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's pouring in Bangalore...

.. since yesterday evening. And I am one of the very few people in Bangalore who is actually enjoying it. Bangalore comes to a standstill when it rains here - thanks to poor infrastructure, bad traffic etc. But that's not what this post is about. I started for work this morning as usual at 8 and after battling the after-rain Bangalore traffic for 2.5 hrs, my office bus managed to travel a mere 8 kms from my home! I was desperately trying to beat the traffic blues by listening to great songs that my favorite radio station was airing and simultaneously reading 'Love in the time of Cholera' (a book I am thoroughly enjoying). But after reaching the 2.5 hrs/8 kms mark, something inside me snapped and I decided that I have had enough! Then it was just a matter of calling my boss and informing him that I was taking off today due to bad traffic (he was really nice about this) and getting off the bus and taking an auto home .. my day started on a totally new note.

The auto ride home took just 15 mins!! Of course I took a different route on which buses are not allowed and when I was just 10 mins walk away from home and we hit another choked traffic zone, I decided to take a walk home in the light rains. I slipped into my slippers (funnily I was carrying them just in case I landed in some muddy puddle on my way to bus-stand in the morning :) ), rolled up my jeans and took off after paying the auto guy who seemed to be in as good mood as me as he sang a Kannada song during the entire ride and duly informed me that it was a rain song he was singing (in case I misunderstood him ;) ). I didn't miss splashing into a single puddle on my way home. When my Mom opened the door for me she found me all muddy feet & slightly drenched but all smiles. She had a steaming cup of tea ready for me already .. what more could I ask!

Later when I logged in to check my emails, I managed to catch up with two of my dearest friends across two continents. I would never have managed to do that if I had been to work today. Now I will make some evening chai & pakoras for the family and end my day watching India-Pakistan 20-20 match while rest of Bangalore is again busy battling the evening traffic. What a wonderful day it has been!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Everything seems normal
In fact better than normal..
on the surface
But i know
it is nothing but
controlled madness
suppressed fury
A bubble
waiting to burst..
An overheated wire
waiting to fuse
it's just
a matter of time

And no
it's no poem
but my thoughts
getting broken
between those 'short breaks'

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On my reading platter

Thanks to my three day holiday at work, I managed to finish Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' yesterday and start Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye'. The work schedule had been crazy past couple of weeks otherwise I had planned to finish Of mice and men in a single sitting.

I have been on a book-buying spree last couple of months and have gathered quite a few books that I had always wanted to read. I have enough books to keep me busy for the next 2 months at least. Next on my reading list is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera' followed by either Orwell's 1984 or P Sainath's 'Everybody Loves a Good Drought'. I need to buy Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath' next as I had borrowed it from Renuka and only half-finished it in Charlotte before returning to India. Nothing hurts more than a half-finished book ..

And I hate to stack the books on my table (the way I have done right now) or for that matter tuck them away in cupboards or cartons. That's why the only furniture I have made mandatory for my room when we move into our new home later this year - is a huge bookshelf. And I have already started planning which book would fit where :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Real Heroes

The thought had crossed my mind several times during the past few weeks. Once when I saw on TV news the report about Colonel Vasanth laying down his life in Kashmir while fighting against insurgents from across the border. Again when crossing the the cantonment area around MG Road in Bangalore on a Saturday evening I saw two very young army jawans standing guard at an army building and longingly looking out at the weekend crowd in flashy cars and fashionable outfits. There was an article in the newspaper few days ago that the defence services in India are running very short of manpower. And why not, how many of us would leave our cushy, high-paying jobs and be ready to face hardships of the battlefield, where one wrong decision costs a life - either your own or someone else's?

There was a media frenzy to capture glimpses of Sanjay Dutt after his sentencing and news channels/papers were dishing out stories about his lucky kurta, his entire life history (including various marriages/affairs), how great he is as a person. There was also a national debate on one of the news channels to discuss if the sentencing was too harsh on him because he was a celebrity! We were so engrossed in reading/watching about this reel-hero that we hardly paid any attention to the real hero who did a great deed of sacrificing his life for his country. But all he got was a 15 second mention in the news or a 4x4 inch mention in newspapers.

There was a very thought-provoking article on Bangalore Metroblog from someone who knew Colonel Vasanth closely. Isn't it time we move on from worshipping screen gods & goddesses and start doing something for the real heroes of our country?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Celebrating Independence Day

India celebrates 60 years of Independence in two days from now. There are loads of 'Independence day' sales, music concerts, roadshows .. even special DJ events happening across the city celebrate this event! This brings me to think what Independence Day really means to us?

I remember when we were in school (KV, to be precise), Independence Day celebrations used to be such a big event. We used to look forward to this day and start preparing for it 2-3 weeks in advance - patriotic speeches, cultural events (patriotic songs, folk dances - the works!). Hoisting of the tricolour followed by singing of the national anthem used to fill our hearts with pride. We used to feel fortunate to be part of such a great nation. At home , we used to put a tricolour on the rooftop, watch 'Gandhi' or some other patriotic movie on DD (that used to be the only channel in those days). My mother used to get emotionally charged each time we saw Gandhi and used to sadly remark - so many people laid down their lives for our country and what have we done to it. If those people were alive today, they would be so ashamed of us.
To most of us, Independence Day today means another holiday on which we can get up late, go out for movie or shopping (there are so many special sales any way), hang out with friends. Do just about anything without even sparing a second thought about our country, the people who gave up their lives so that we could live in a free nation. It all seems to us like another time .. another era. One TV channel (I think it was MTV) was showing a a programme last year where they were getting hold of some youths in a shopping mall/multiplex theatre and asking them some very simple questions about our country (like what is our national anthem, who was the first prime minister/president etc) and to my horror most of the people did not know answers to these questions!!

A great article by Amit Varma on changing face of India and meaning of Independence Day in today's context which voice similar sentiments in far better way than I ever could - The Republic of Apathy.
In today's India, we always need a Munnabhai or an RDB (or more recently, Chak de India) to teach us the meaning of patriotism ...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Animal Farm - by Orwell

I just finished reading George Orwell's Animal Farm. It was a brilliant piece of writing, one of the best that I have managed to lay my hands on in recent times. It was a poignant satire on rise and fall of communism depicted through the lives of animals inhabiting a farm in an English countryside. The concept of communism in its true sense is great - with equality for everyone being its core principle. But how it fails in implementation such that in the end it is hard to tell friends from enemies and people fail to distinguish if they were more miserable before or after embracing communism ('Animalism' in the book).

The book is full of symbolism - each character depicts someone/something (primarily in the context of USSR). A brief description of Animal Farm symbolism/interpretation can be found here. The author brilliantly portrays the dissolution of principles - from the seven commandments changing over time as per the convenience of the so-called leaders. 'No animal shall sleep in a bed' becoming 'No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets', 'No animal shall drink alcohol' to 'No animal shall drink alcohol in excess' and 'No animal shall kill another animal' becoming 'No animal shall kill another animal without cause'. And in the end it is replaced by one single profound all-encompassing commandment "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Some Good Films

I have been watching some good movies in the past week or so, most of which have been on my to-watch list for a long time. First it was Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan'. I had given up watching war movies for a while, but this movie got me totally moved. There are some touching moments in the movie - like when Ryan tells Capt Miller how he is not able to remember his brothers' faces (who all have died in the war) and then bursts out laughing when he narrates a funny incident about him and his brothers to him.

Then it was 'Phir Milenge' - a film loosely inspired by Philadelphia. It is a film about AIDS awareness shown in a sensitive and sensible manner without being preachy. Something urban youth can easily relate to. Another movie after 'Life in a Metro' in which I have liked Shilpa Shetty. And since the film was shot in Bangalore, there was this familiarity quotient.

And just now I finished watching 'Rain Man'. Had watched it in bits and pieces earlier and had an idea of the storyline. but watching the whole film was a different experience altogether. The transformation of Tom Cruise's character Charlie from a selfish money-hungry character to a caring brother is depicted very well. And Dustin Hoffman is superb in the character of autistic-genius Raymond. A funny thought came to me in the last scene of the film where Raymond leaves Charlie boards a train and the train passes - I thought had it been a regular Bollywood movie, Raymond would have been standing after the train passed with a big smile on his face. But thankfully no such thing happened in Rain Man ..

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

If God was a Banker

I finished reading 'If God was a Banker' by Ravi Subramanian today. I had been reading this book for a while now - few weeks, that is, ever since I finished reading the extremely well-written 'The Kite Runner'. I think I will write a full-fledged review of The Kite Runner some time soon.

It took me unusually long to finish If God... Partly because of lack of time in the past few weeks and partly because the book failed to grab my attention/interest for over an hour at a stretch. Today I made a resolve to finish it as I needed to start George Orwell's Animal Farm. If God .. is a forgettable kind of book - a fiction about the professional and personal lives of young and ambitious bankers working for multi-national banks in India. The writer himself is a banker and his characters & storyline are pretty much reflections of his own life. In fact Vandu & CD, who know the author personally, say that Subramanian has portrayed himslef as the all-good-no-evil character of Swami and another of his peers is the 'inspiration' for the other protagonist smart-but-slimy Sundeep.

The author goes on an on about the nitty-gritties of sales in banking industry, describing each selling campaign & business operation in great detail. This may appeal to someone from the industry, but to an outsider (like me), it's nothing but boring stuff. And when he is not writing about banking/sales, he is writing sleaze. It seemed to me that I was reading a Shobha De piece with some banking jargon thrown in. The point where Subramanian scores is the narrative - it is simple and the conversations are very real.

But overall, this book can be better left unread and that wouldn't be any loss at all!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bow Barracks Forever : the movie

When Vandu asked me this morning which movie I would like to watch today - Partner or Bow Barracks Forever, I answered in my slumber 'Bow Barracks Forever'! I was looking forward to watching this movie mainly for two reasons - a) It was made by Anjan Dutt of 'The Bong Connection' fame. I have heard good reviews of TBC, though I have not seen it yet b) I had read somewhere that the movie (BBF) was based on true story.

Well, the movie didn't turn out exactly what I had expected it to be. I was a tad bit disappointed after watching it. For the first 15 minutes or so it seemed we were watching a highschool play - everyone was very loud and unnatural. But gradually they settled in their characters and the movie picked up its tempo. The film is about the lives of a group of Anglo-Indian people who have been living in 'Bow Barracks' (an old & dilapidated building in Kolkata) as tenants for a long time - their struggles, problems and relations with other tenants. Victor Banerjee (Peter the Cheater) and Lilette Dubey (Emily Lobo) had the most important roles in the film. Other important characters being Sabyasachi, Neha Dubey, Clayton Rodgers, Moon Moon sen and Sohini Pal.

As always Victor gets into the role so well that it becomes difficult to differentiate the character from him. So was the case in this film too - as a man who has seen good times in the past but poverty has made him con people (with quite a panache!) in his old age; full marks to him! Lilette is a widow with 2 grown up sons - elder one in London who is the achiever & younger (Clayton) is a loser. She has a very optimistic attitude towards life and has dreams of settling into a good life in London (where he elder son is). She looks quite at ease in her role. Sabyasachi was disappointing in the film (I, personally like Sabyasachi's acting a lot, otherwise) as Tom - the Armenian wife-basher & smuggler. He looks quite artificial in the scenes he is supposed to be drunk and getting mad at his pretty wife (Neha).

Clayton (as Brad, Emily's younger son) has been given a good role, including a full-length song :). He is sometimes good and sometimes terrible. Neha has done a good job as Tom's tortured wife Anna who is secretly having an affair with Brad. Saw Moon Moon Sen (as the over-sexed Rosa) after a long time - she has put on a lot of weight and hasn't improved much in her acting skills. The film has all the ingredients (romance, violence, tragedy) and ends on a positive note that the residents of Bow Barracks would continue to live in their 'heritage' abode for some more time to come. The music is very good in the film (I heard that Anjan Dutt is a good musician himself, though he did not compose for this film).

There are two things I particularly did not like about the film - a) Although the entire film was in Enlish, there were some important dialogues in Bengali which were not subtitled. Although I understand Bengali, but I saw many people around me struggling to figure out what was being said. b) The intimate scenes (between Anna & Brad or Rosa & Bipin) were not picturised aesthetically. So instead of conveying the tenderness, they attracted lewd remarks from the audience.

Overall a watchable film if you like crossover or reality kind of movies (Vandu was highly disappointed as she is more of a fantasy/feel-good/happy endings kind of a person :) ) but don't go with too high expectations.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Simpsons Avatar

Found this interesting game of creating your own Simpsons avatar here. It is part of the promotion of the Simpsons movie that released this month. My avatar is of course thinner than I am, mainly because I couldn't find anything that was in between this and the fatter version ;). Otherwise, I think it came pretty close. Try making your avatar and have fun!