Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review: December 2009

I close the year with two books that have a lot to do with the way I am living my life right now and I would call it a good close. So much for getting over self-doubt.

So I finished the book The Bridge Across Forever this month along with Hope For The Flowers…wanted to squeeze in White Mughals as well but a sickness prevented that. And the combination of the two and half books that I read seemed almost symbolic anyway. And I am a big believer in symbols and signs and messages from the Universe : )

Hope For The Flowers by Trina Paulus was an allegory that uses the befitting analogy of caterpillars and butterflies to get a simple and strong message across: we are all capable of being much more and very different from who we are but that also sometimes means letting go of who we are now and pulling out from the rat race.

At a time when I am discovering all that I am capable of as a person, this book came as a rejoinder that it is ok to not belong to the race…to not want to run…because maybe we are meant to fly over fragrant flowers and not step on each other’s shoes. Thanks a whole big lot for this recommendation Push, you’re the best.

The Bridge Across Forever is a love story by Richard Bach. But it is strictly not mushy. It is not tear-jerking. It is far from love stories as we know them, ones that narrate what happens between two people, how they meet and end up in a happily-ever-after. The Bridge Across Forever is an intellectual love story. But then one can’t expect anything less from Richard Bach. Illusions had wowed my mind while Jonathan Livingstone Seagull had touched the seat of inspiration in my head. The Bridge Across Forever stimulates both the mind and the heart without being mushy or sleazy and that is it’s beauty. It is a story that makes you think and re-evaluate your own beliefs about love and marriage. And it is certainly a story of hope and faith in the fact that there is that one perfect person for you who will fit into your life as well as you will fit into his and the rest will be magic for ever after.

The book details out the thoughts of someone who loves his life as it is and does not want to lose his freedom and independence because of love or marriage; love is meant to be a beautiful thing, not something that cripples you. And so he decides to not get married…ever. He doesn’t want to kill something that is so beautiful. How he undergoes a change of heart and what goes through his head at all those points are detailed out very well in the book. How love makes you change and do something you thought you would never do, how it changes how you interact with people and how it makes you start accommodating another person in your life without it feeling like intrusion…all these and more have been laid out in thoughts – fears, joys, triumphs, anger…all of it put together. And that made it a great read for me.

There are many bits that I like from the book but I will quote one that comes towards the end and might end up being a defining thought for 2010 for me (as will the book itself) along with Hope For The Flowers:

She looked at me, curious. “Did you know you were trying to kill yourself?”

“Not consciously, I don’t think. But neither do I think my close calls were accidental. Loneliness was such a problem back then, I wouldn’t have minded dying, it would have been a new adventure.”

“What would it have felt like,” she said, “to have killed yourself and then found that your soulmate was still on earth, waiting for you?”

This book was as reassuring as intellectually stimulating and it’s a recommended read like most other books of Bach.

With that, the year’s list reads as follows…not bad I would say, each one has taught me something or the other:

  1. The Bridge Across Forever - Richard Bach
  2. Hope For The Flowers - Trina Paulus
  3. The Art Of Travel - Alain de Botton
  4. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
  5. The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger
  6. God Explained In A Taxi Ride - Paul Arden
  7. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite - Paul Arden
  8. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - Paul Arden
  9. Desi Dream Merchants - A. G. Krishnamurthy
  10. In An Antique Land - Amitav Ghosh
  11. The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind - Dr. Joseph Murphy
  12. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. The Gift - Cecelia Ahern
  14. Message In A Bottle - Nicholas Sparks
  15. Discover Your Destiny - Robin S. Sharma
  16. The Game Of Life - Florence Shinn
  17. The Choice - Nicholas Sparks
  18. As A Man Thinketh - James Allen
  19. Stuff White People Like - Christian Lander
  20. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 - Sue Townsend
  21. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin S. Sharma
  22. The Critical Chain - Eliyahu Goldratt

Happy New Year people and wish you many more explorations, discoveries and insights through the pages of paper delights that we lovingly call books. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revisiting Aisha

I kinda liked Wake Up Sid. I know at least one person who will sneer at that but it’s true. I liked the look of the movie, Ranbir’s T-shirts, the music, the fact that the guy goes ahead and does what he likes as opposed to joining the rat race, and the whole finding oneself business.

But what I liked the most was seeing myself on screen. I’m not kidding. I am pretty much what Aisha Banerjee is and today for some reason I was looking back on my life in Bangalore over the past three years and it made me think of Aisha.

I came to Bangalore leaving my comfort zone and lanes I knew like the back of my hand behind only because I knew the only way to grow up any further was to leave home and work in this lovely city, alone. I had fallen in love with Bangalore on my first visit but that doesn’t mean it made me any less apprehensive to start a new life here and establish myself when I came the second time. There was a time when I had got lost while coming back from JP Nagar 15th Cross to my office on Bannerghatta Road. Today, I know the lanes of this city like the back of my hand…well pretty much.

As I explored this city I ended up exploring myself too and rediscovered my love for a lot of things, in that writing. Bangalore let me experience so much in short spans of time that I just had to write it down to process it better. It let me put my past in perspective, it let me weave dreams for a future and it let me become the me I was always supposed to be. And it made me more of a writer. I am a small-time one right now but I do know I want to be a published author some day. And there I am Aisha again.

I love books and music much like she does. I have a fetish for cleanliness and order too. I have white-coloured curtains at home like her home does. And chai at midnight is one of my indulgences.

From The Art Of Travel I remember this bit about there being a place that we are born in and one that we connect to. Bangalore is the city of my soul. And the way Aisha falls in love with Bombay, I fall in love with Bangalore one day at a time.

A song from Wake Up Sid is called upon at this moment but instead I give to you one of my favourites – Aicha. This is for Aisha…my screen and soul twin.

Aicha by Outlandish on Grooveshark

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Book Review: August - November 2009

So it’s been a long time since a book review went up on this site. And before I post anything else I feel the urgent need to write a book review from the last four months. So here it goes.

The books going up for review this time are:

  1. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite - Paul Arden
  2. God Explained In A Taxi Ride - Paul Arden
  3. The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger
  4. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
  5. The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton

Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite
Paul Arden

I liked ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ so much that I decided to buy the other two books from Paul Arden as well. This particular book is just a notch lower than ‘It’s Not How Good…’ but equally stimulating. It asks you to break the mould of routine thinking and dare to be different as a pre-requisite to success. I tend to agree with him on most points there and recommend this book to anyone who wants his mind to be shaken out of the regular thought process.

God Explained In A Taxi Ride
Paul Arden

Disappointing. Period.

The Catcher In The Rye
J. D. Salinger

So I read the iconic The Catcher In The Rye only now. And I wonder why. I should take hype and recommendations much more urgently I think because I loved this book. I agree with Tigerstone in that it is a good but sad read. It is a very well-written book in the first person narrative with a style that almost disarms you. And the funny thing is, the way it is narrated it makes the reader agree with the narrator Holden Caulfield at most points until the reader discovers that he seems to have the same opinion about most everything and everyone. And that I think is when the reader wants to go back to the start and evaluate it all over again more objectively. But that is the power and beauty of the book; Holden seems to be right and evokes empathy without the reader realizing it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

My absolutely favourite bit from the book (Eve, this is what I was talking about at lunch the other day):

…The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in the line last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with the gasoline rainbows in them. I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

Such and many other metaphorical bits from the book make it such an engaging and reflective read on the whole. Highly recommended (like the world needed my recommendation to pick up this cult book :D )

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Mark Haddon

This book, again written in the first person much like The Catcher In The Rye, is the account of the life of a young boy. There isn’t much to the story if you look at it from the perspective of the story leading you somewhere. The story starts at the boy trying to solve the mystery of a death of a neighbour’s dog. The dog has been found dead in the garden. And the neighbour suspects the boy. To acquit himself of the charges (and also because he thinks dogs are better than human beings because they are easy to understand) the boy starts to investigate the murder despite his father advising him against it.

The story runs with this background but many facts and events unfold that tell us more about the narrator bit-by-bit. And the story ends on a different note than expected, far away from and after the murder-mystery is solved.

This book is disturbing. At various levels. But that also depends on whether you know as much about the group of people that the narrator of this story belongs to. The boy, from what I could gather from his narrative and my work with autistic children, is autistic. And every time I read another narration in the book I could picture one child or another that I had worked with who had had exhibited that characteristic – groaning constantly, rocking back and forth all the time, screaming at the instance of someone touching them, high attention deficit, not making eye-contact and yet extremely brilliant children. All of it came back to me. And it sent chills down my spine to read this book with that knowledge. It also threw light on an aspect I had always suspected to be terribly difficult – having a special child at home. The story brings to fore enough complexities of the lives of a couple that has a special child…the amount of patience required, the frustration that comes over ever so often, the different ways in which one must communicate with the child and an occasional fallout due to not being able to deal with that life. It is a terribly sad story in those terms.

I have to say one thing though – kudos to Mark Haddon for doing such a splendid job of portraying a special child and his thoughts. No wonder he got the Teenage Fiction award. I am absolutely in awe of his attention to detail and the brilliant job he has done at sketching various characters and detailing the story. But in my serious opinion, this is not a children’s book at all if that award title is misleading in any way.

I finished this book in Hampi on an evening when I was slightly under the weather and I couldn’t even sleep properly that night because every time I woke up I found myself picturing one of those children groaning or rocking. All the same, for the way it is written and the splendid portrayal of an autistic child, this is a must read. Hats off.

The Art of Travel
Alain de Botton

This book is who I am. And that is just one of the reasons why I love this book. It is well written. It flows easily between the realms of travel, philosophy and life. And it makes you reflect on your own travels and why you had undertaken them, what you took out of them. And it has a very warm feel to it. Every essay leaves you smiling at how the author has tied the entire content up to throw a brilliant insight your way.

So The Art Of Travel is a collection of essays by Alain de Botton on various aspects of and reasons for travel e.g. On Curiosity, On Anticipation, On The City And The Country, On Eye-Opening Art. Every essay starts with listing out the place the author travelled to and wishes to focus upon and the guide for this journey. This guide, now, could be another author who has written about that aspect, a painter whose work inspired the author to travel to this place, a traveller or explorer et al. And the rest of the essay is sheer joy.

Sample this bit from On Travelling To Places (one of my favourite bits from the book):

Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversation than moving planes, ships or trains. There is almost a quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times require large views, and new thoughts, new places. Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think when thinking is all it is supposed to do; the task can be as paralysing as having to tell a joke or mimic an accent on demand. Thinking improves when parts of the mind are given other tasks – charged with listening to music, for example, or following a line of trees. The music or the view distracts for a time that nervous, censorious practical part of the mind which is inclined to shut down when it notices something difficult emerging in consciousness, and which runs scared of memories, longings and introspective or original ideas, preferring instead the administrative and the impersonal.

The book is liberally sprinkled with such insights and is an absolute pleasure to read if you concur with the author in some ways. I am very very thankful to Ram for introducing me to this author and this book…my wanderings are definitely enriched, you must know : )

So that's a wrap for the book review. Hope some of the recommendations help. Happy reading people : )

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Rolling Stone’s Moss: Walking With Monks In Bylakuppe

Here we were. Two shutterbugs, K and I, with rusting cameras and a free weekend. And we set out in search of a peaceful place that also offered interesting photo-ops. That specification throws up many results when you are in Bangalore – Chikmagalur, Pondicherry, The Western Coast, Hampi, the multitude of temple towns around…our compass swung a little before it settled onto Kushalnagar for various reasons. We would head out to the monastery town of Bylakuppe for a weekend and go clickety-click!

The adventure really began with an attempt to book a direct bus to Kushalnagar. K repeatedly got an ‘Operation Timed Out’ message leaving our travel to fate and availability of tickets on Saturday morning at the bus station. So we decided to go wherever a bus was available to, in case Kushalnagar did not work out. With that taken care of (rather not left to take care of) we started the weekend with a long conversation that went on till the early hours of the morning and left us with less than 2 hours to grab some sleep before we travelled. Only girls will realize what relief a heartfelt conversation with soul sisters brings and they would understand why we overslept and never heard the alarms in the morning : )

Now since we had missed the morning bus anyway, we decided to chat some more over breakfast at home and headed out only late in the morning. Saturday morning traffic ensured that it was noon by the time we reached the KG Bus Station and figured our way around. Understandably, no direct bus was available for Kushalnagar till much later and we took a conductor’s advice by hopping onto the bus to Mysore, since connections to Kushalnagar abound from there. A sunny four hours of a bus ride later we were in Mysore and were washed with relief at the first sight of some monks. We almost decided to follow them to Kushalnagar when we saw a bus with a board announcing it was headed to Kushalnagar. We couldn’t hide our grins as we hopped on with the thought that we had almost triumphantly arrived.

Well the grins stayed only for so long as the conductor informed us almost 15 minutes later that the bus goes to Periyapattana and not Kushalnagar. Concerned, we asked him how far that was from Kushalnagar and he said it was about 20 minutes away. While that was not a major worry, the fact that Periyapattana itself was 1.5 hours away meant that it would be dark by the time we reached there. Anyway, we knew there were few others on the bus who were headed to Kushalnagar and that we would find our way. With that thought, we settled down for that leg of the journey.

The bus took longer than 1.5 hours. And we arrived to a small forgotten Periyapattana bus station at close to 6:30 PM. The station seemed thoroughly bored at that hour as if waiting for the last passengers to leave so it could go to sleep. There were dim lights everywhere, an occasional tubelight and some passengers in transit. The only eatery at the station had a man outside making Gobi Manchurian. Our conductor, while instructing us that the bus to Kushalnagar would arrive on the other side (in a dark corner), insisted that we have some Gobi (he said in Kannada – the bus will come in 5-6 minutes, have some Gobi and all and take that bus to Kushalnagar). He said that twice and convinced us that the Manchurian being served here was a delicacy not available elsewhere on the route. Add to that two weary travellers who had hopped two buses and missed their evening tea and the Gobi-maker had an order.

And that order was promptly cancelled with the arrival of the bus and the realization that the next bus would arrive only after half an hour. He made no fuss of it and we apologized as we ran to catch our bus on the last leg of our journey. Well not really since there was an auto ride to the monastery still left. But as far as buses are concerned.

Thanks to some kind advice from the conductor, we got down at Koppa instead of Bylakuppe, which is further from the monastery. We had spotted a monk on the bus and this time were resolute in wanting to follow him (or at least ask for directions) to the monastery. The Wang Chu guest house had confirmed they had rooms, except I had never seen it in Bylakuppe. We got down from the bus, our legs shaking – half from the travel and half from uncertainty and asked the monk if he was headed to the monastery. He said yes and asked us if we wanted to go there too. When we said yes he suggested we all go together. We were more than happy to find company that knew the route at that hour of the day : )

The monk asked us where we staying and when I said Wang Chu it seemed like he had never heard of the place. And that wasn’t nice because he LIVED in the monastery. Now doubtful of the next plan I was contemplating fishing out Paljor Dhargey Ling Guest Houses’s number from my diary when, as if reading my mind, he said there is also Paljor Dhargey Ling to stay in and the owner is his friend. He immediately called to check if there was a room and sure enough there was! Relief pretty much washed over me at this point.

During this time I had failed to notice the route the auto was going on. It was as dark as could get and you couldn’t really see beyond a few metres that were lit by the auto’s headlight. It was positively scary and that’s when I realized God had sent another angel to look after us in the circumstances. And I couldn’t help but smile : )

The monk took us to the guest house and explained to his friend that he had met us on the bus and we needed a room. He also came to check if the room was ok before leaving. He told us to call him if there was any problem. His name was Pema.

So after Pema left, we smiled while about how nice he had been to help us out and how foolish we had been to not even have told our names in return! We corrected that by sending a text over some good dinner at the Shanthi restaurant in the complex. But that wasn’t before we shopped around a little and made friends with another sweet lady at the complex.

The plan next was to sit in the balcony for some time and gaze at the stars but the peace we had come looking for was hijacked by the sound of a lawn-mower that a monk and his helper insisted on using at the time. After waiting for one futile hour we decided to call it a day since we were too tired to care anyway and wanted to wake up in time to start clicking the next morning.

A good night’s sleep later we woke up to a bright, sunny and warm morning in Bylakuppe and got ready for the day. The place was serene though it was a Sunday morning (tourist buzz day) and we grabbed some quick breakfast before heading to the monastery. Our meditations in the main temple were lined with insensitive tourists treating the place like a park and we walked out before long to get some photography done.

That’s when Pema called to check where we were. He caught up with us a while later and had brought a friend – Karma – along. Both of them then took us around the monastery and told us tid-bits about their life and the monastery throughout. We heard of three-year long meditations, six-month long prayer rituals, the two sections of students, the upcoming exams and the routine for vacations…it was fascinating to get to know those aspects of lives that are hidden behind maroon robes. And all this while we got to see parts of the monastery that I had missed on the previous two visits.

It was the fact that there were no buses back to Bangalore in the evening that made us leave in such a hurry that it almost seemed impolite. But the thought of bus hopping all the way back again was scary and Pema and Karma were nice enough to understand. They bid us farewell with an invitation to return to see the nuns in the other monastery and the festival in March (whose pictures they showed us on their phones) and not before treating us to authentic Tibetan Momos and Soup in a canteen inside the monastery. If we came back with a warm-hearted feeling it wasn’t because the day was sunny…it was because of the sunny disposition and hospitality of those simple monks from Bylakuppe.

Still smiling to ourselves we rushed though packing so we could take a picture of our friend in the shopping complex – Chimi. I picked up prayer flags from her and we promised to meet her on our next visit before leaving for the Kushalnagar bus station. An almost empty Airavath Volvo brought us back comfortably and gave us some time to absorb the experience before diving back into the urban madness taking solace in the fact that serenity wasn’t all that far away from here. For now the memories and pictures will have to suffice.

Some pictures from the trip...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


They stormed the Golden Temple in pursuit of Bhindranwale and called it Operation Bluestar. The events that unfolded led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Anti-Sikh riots and a change in the country’s leadership from mother to son. As India recovered from the deliberate killings at the time, death crept to a few others in Bhopal and gave them no choice. Somewhere in the middle of all that Rakesh Sharma praised the nation from space and Bachendri Pal pitched the tricolour on the Everest. And though the social psyche was in turmoil with the turbulent events that shook the country and the streak of pride that isolated events like space odysseys and mountain conquests brought, India was infrastructurally taking a new direction with the appearance of the Calcutta Metro and of computers in government offices. It truly was a year post which India was never the same again. That year 25 years ago…

Oblivious to this tectonic shift that the nation experienced, I was born a few days before Indira Gandhi was laid to rest. I became a child of the year that left a scar for more reasons than one. And with the memory of those events, mostly painful and some proud, I turned 25 this year.

Not unlike 1984, my life has been marked by some unpleasantness, loss as well as a few accomplishments. It has been quite eventful so far to say the least. One only hopes that life takes a direction only for the better the way India did eventually. One cannot get rid of all the problems and yet it is possible to progress in a generally favourable direction. Let’s see where this child of 1984 goes.

I am thankful to V and D for the beautiful birthday flowers that brought colour to my house, to P and K for the lovely little wooden chest that adorns the table now, to PA for the lamp that symbolizes enlightenment, to S and B for remembering to call from across the seven seas and wish me, to my brother for sending that nice portrait sketch at midnight…I’m quite flattered really : ), to each and everyone who called in to wish right from after midnight or left me mails or messages on the phone & FB and kept the birthday spirit alive, to my adorable sis for a wonderful birthday lunch at a splendid location with a view : ) , to V&V for the very thoughtfully picked books and notebook…just the thought that went into it touched me, to HT for a nice conversation over coffee and chocolates, to my nieces for forcing me to cut a cake…I loved the way they smiled while eating it, to S and V for an elaborately planned surprise…I am yet to get over what I got and how I got it frankly!, to S for Dalrymple, to P for throwing me the warmest personal birthday party ever and for the crockery…ice-cream just tastes better when there is a touch of warmth to the cold : ) , to S for the book…its my first African author…and to all those who wish me well…it works most of the time so do keep at it : )

The month was also marked by birthdays of best friends and a few surprise birthday parties for dear friends that just extended the fun from the beginning right to the end of the month. I had a lot of fun being part of each plan in my small way and all my friends should know how much I enjoyed it. I wish all the happiness in the world to be the least of the things they receive in life and that we continue to celebrate life and ourselves each year on. God bless...

Friday, October 30, 2009


The ends ran around one another and the loops intersected. There were knots that could only get tighter with every pull of a strand. The loose ends needed some tying up…

I found that bundle of mess in my vehicle’s storage space this morning. My Sony Walkman earphones had got badly entangled. And that’s the story most days no matter how neatly I store them the previous evening. It is as if they find their way into an entanglement. And then I have to spend a few minutes every morning sorting it all out before I leave for work.

But then I have learnt over two years of disentangling Sony earphones that pulling at the ends does not help. Neither does pulling at any strand somewhere in the middle. The easiest and quickest way is to pull at the whole mess simultaneously so that wires get spaced out and the loops get really big and the whole mess kinda sorts itself out on its own. The idea is to space it out and let everything move away from everything else.

In human relationships and most often in the ones closest to our hearts there is conflict. There are disagreements. There is friction. There is abrasion. And it is unpleasant. And then there is a fight. We bring up the same issues from 2 years ago and fight about them without going anywhere. We pull at each other’s points of view. We pick up a random strand, that comment from an evening no one remembers, and make it the foundation of our argument. And the knots just tighten.

The important thing to remember is to space out in times of conflict. Move away. Create gaps. Either verbal gaps through silence or physical gaps through absence. The loops will enlarge. And you will see the spaces in your own argument, the loopholes to be precise. And it will be much easier to disentangle the knots.

It is natural to find our way into conflict. I guess that is a part of being human and being unique in our own right. Interaction between any two people then becomes a matter of push and pull until equilibrium is attained. So we must remember that it is ok to get entangled.

Just like my earphones always do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Funny Thing Called War: Seriously Good

It’s the new kids on the block…the theatre block to be precise. Tahatto is one of the newest entrants to the theatre scene in Bangalore. Last fortnight, they came out with their maiden production called ‘A Funny Thing Called War’, a comedy. This is its review. But this is not funny. This is serious.

Let’s start from the posters and the pre-event communication. I thought the poster was very well-designed with no clutter and just the name of the play and the details of the venue and time. Of course there was the mention that it was a funny play based on the Black Adder series. It was simple and straightforward. What took the cake was the photograph used on the poster – a picture of the entire cast in their costumes and wearing as serious an expression as possible when the title actually said ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ I thought it grabbed the requisite amount of attention and got the message across.

The event was publicized also through Facebook, newspapers and the Opus weekly update had a mention too. So on the publicity front the production was pretty much there.

As one entered the venue – Opus in the Creek – on the day of the premiere, one was given a handout labelled ‘Top Secret’ outlining basic things like the background of the play, where it is based (for those who aren’t too familiar with the Black Adder series I presume) and the cast and production team. The font used on the handout was Courier and the text used standard war and secret service terminology, all of which went very well with the theme of the play. Quite well done. Sample this from the ‘Location’ section: We could tell you where, but then we would have to kill you.

The set was done up in a basic but effective manner given that the play takes place in the trenches. The stage was used well by the characters at most times and they seemed to know their place well on the stage. The lights and sound co-ordination is what impressed me the most as it was flawless. Very well done…the light during the scenes where it is supposed to be dark, the voice-overs during the phone calls…everything was up to the mark. Another remarkable thing about the sound was that although the characters were using microphones suspended from the roof, they were quite audible. Full marks to the cast for effective voice modulation and volume control since it is very easy for the voice to be lost when using microphones!

The costumes were great and the cast looked perfect. So were the props being used in the play. No complaints on that front either.

Coming to the acting, I have to say for a first time production it was wonderful. All the requisite expression of a typical British comedy (which is what the Black Adder series was) were captured well. My best memory from the play is that of Bob played by Preethi Suresh…Bob is a driver – a girl dressed up as a boy who just wants to witness a war. Captain Black Adder spots that he is a girl but keeps it secret on her request. Now everytime there is a joke or a funny situation Bob starts to laugh like a girl and after attracting weird stares from everyone straightens up and laughs in a more deep voice and curt manner. Preethi did that wonderfully well. I’ll just never forget that. But yes, all the characters were right up there when it came to the acting and expressions.

So what didn’t work?

The venue. To anyone who is looking at staging a play, I would strongly suggest against considering Opus in the Creek. Understandably, it is a venue more suited for small concerts and musical performances (even there it is not the most perfect place going by my Soulmate experience). It is open, it is spread out and it is distracting. On top of that, that tree in the middle ends up blocking some bit of the stage or another from the right side. I couldn’t help getting distracted more than once.

Also, at some points the voice of General Melchett (played by Vaisakh Sankar) became muffled and I felt the words ran into each other. His volume was good but the pace and the manner in which he delivered the dialogues came in the way of clarity. I had to strain myself to understand what was being said but it could just be me.

Going by the fact that the venue was not really a technical flaw in the play, A Funny Thing Called War gets away with just one minor glitch in my opinion and that is more than splendid for a first production. And that warrants that as it grows Tahatto will only do a better job with each production.

For now, at a more theatre-oriented venue, ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ by Tahatto is a play you should definitely catch for its performances and the entertainment it provides.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Going Nowhere

There is no rational explanation. For a lot of things.

For Love. For Hate. For Blind Faith.

Neither for Wanderlust.

And so I won’t attempt one.

I was travelling all of last week. With myself. With a good book, some good music, a camera. With a copy of Lonely Planet. With a map. But with no plan. There is no rational explanation as to why I felt compelled to travel alone or without a plan. So I am not going to attempt it.

There is also no logical reason for why I would want to completely step out of my comfort zone and elements and hop onto some of the dirtiest buses I have ever seen, get puked on by children stuffed with festival food (and still manage to continue sitting in that position for 3 hours when in normal circumstances I would have probably instantly taken a bath and thrown those clothes away or something) on the way to Mysore, let rain water drip onto me from the vent in the roof of a KSRTC Ordinary bus through the night while travelling to Hospet, get soaked in the rain for 3 days straight (something I HATE) and walk around Hampi in the a soaked pair of Nikes and still manage to enjoy myself…so yes, I won’t attempt to come up with one.

The only thing I can say is that it was the people who made it bearable and enjoyable. They made cold rainy days seem warm with their hospitality and extra care for a single girl travelling alone in India. They made it special. People always do…

Like my friend’s mother who made a nice pudding and remembered what I had the last time I came over so as to change the menu and prepare delectable Dosas for brunch…

And my other friend’s mother whose expert Iyengar cooking made each meal a joy, who made sure I was comfortable at all times asking if I would have milk at night and making my favourite Idlis for breakfast although Aloo-paratha was on the menu for the day, setting up mosquito nets and making me feel completely at home…

The old man on the bus to Mysore who woke me up from my dozing in Bellur since he didn’t want me to sleep through my stop…I told him I was going to Mysore and disappointed him…

The young boys on the bus – residents of Bannur and Somnathpur – who kept telling me to return to Mysore from Bannur until I obliged since they were concerned I wouldn’t find a room in Somnathpur…and so I turned back…

The many bus conductors at Mysore who would look at me waiting for my bus alone and come up and ask if I needed to find something or get somewhere…

The young lady employee of KSRTC who stood around with me at Mysore because I looked lost looking for my bus to Hospet…she was headed to Hospet too on the ‘Aardinary’ bus that I had a ticket for : ) … a very nice person...I forgot to ask her name but I’ll never forget her smile…

Smt. Madhusri who joined the young lady and me in waiting for our bus to Hospet. Upon discovering that I was headed to Hospet and subsequently to Hampi she gave me a long list of places to see and things to do over the next three days by making Hospet my base. I could explore Hampi, Anjanadri, Kudalsangma, Badami, Aihole, Patadakkal all from Hospet. She told me long interesting stories about each place…she seemed to be very well-read. We talked about religion and management…and soon I realized why I enjoyed the whole conversation so much…she was almost my mirror in thoughts!

I met another person though her conversations…her late mother who was a phenomenal lady born two generations ahead of her time. I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. As if that wasn’t enough, aunty told me not to waste money on a hotel for just freshening up in the morning and took me home with her, made me some lovely chai while I got ready for the next leg of the journey and we spoke some more. It was one of the most fulfilling encounters ever…

As soon as Madhusri Aunty let me go, I was sent into the hands of another wonderful person – Smt. Nagarathna – whom I sat next to on my way to Hampi. She asked me where I was coming from and where I was headed to and when she realized I was travelling alone she told me to come to the post office with her (she is the sub-postmaster) and take rest while she and her colleagues helped me find my way around Hampi. She immediately called her colleague to find a guesthouse and a guide who would be safe to see Hampi with. So by the time I arrived in Hampi (which was practically 20 minutes after we left Hospet) I had nothing to worry about. Of course in this case too they didn’t want me to check in before the evening so I would save money and with my bag at the post office I roamed around all of Hampi with no care in the world. I was practically the guest of the post office and that included getting a set of Hampi post cards for half the price so I could send them home with the special Hampi inscription on them…

Mr. Srinivasa at the post office found me a nice guesthouse and we walked to The Mango Tree restaurant in the afternoon to get lunch packed for all of us. He told me many stories – mythological and otherwise, about Hampi and arranged for an auto driver-cum-guide (they said to the agent – he has to be a ‘Yajmaan’, don’t send a young guy. This is a single lady travelling alone). Post a late lunch I checked into the guesthouse while Aunty and Mr. Srinivasa started wrapping up their work for the day. We decided we’d meet the next morning and I should leave to look around with the guide assigned with the task of showing me around…

Khaja, my guide, picked me up late in the afternoon and took it upon himself to educate me about the Hampi-Vijayanagara Empire. He made sure he explained the history in as much detail as he could in the short time he had…he had to drop me off at my guesthouse by 6 PM in the interest of social ethics. I admire him for that. The next day the rain Gods unleashed their fury. We had decided to go on a tour at 8:30 if it didn’t rain. He showed up at 8:30 AM anyway. I met him on the rooftop restaurant (nearly every guesthouse has one) at 9:30 AM, which is when he came back. It was still pouring so we decided to wait for it to clear up. He kept checking at the guesthouse every time the rain reduced to a drizzle. And finally we were able to visit the Vijay Vittala Temple late in the afternoon leaving him little time again. He wouldn’t let me go to the ruins all by myself since it was dangerous. And that’s how everyone took care of me at Hampi.

I spent the third day in Hampi mostly sitting in the Mango Tree watching the river rise or in the Post Office post lunch. I did a bit of work for Aunty since I was getting bored anyway. At the end of the day, an American walked in hoping to send a few postcards and I started talking to him…his name was Charlie. It looked like he was travelling alone in India and one can imagine how boggling that can be sometimes given that Indians hardly ever manage that themselves. So I gave him my contact in case he faced some problem while in Bangalore (his next destination). I don’t know what prompted me to do that but I recently read in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Teenage Soul about passing favours on and I guess I was doing the same for when people were super nice to me in the Czech and Slovak Republics.

We caught up with Charlie this past Sunday and had a very nice conversation. And that’s how my unplanned travel led me to another friend.

Aunty made me travel back with her to Hospet and told me where to eat during the 5 hour wait for my bus to Bangalore and that I should be careful and not roam around in the rain. While leaving she said she was feeling unsettled to leave me at the bus station and go and that I should keep in touch. I could have cried I swear. I didn’t.

I couldn’t even tell most of them how touched I was given my broken knowledge of spoken Kannada. I just hope they all know they have a special place in my life and heart.

More than anything Going Nowhere was a journey to reaffirm everyone’s faith in the goodness of people and humanity…They were all strangers who had no reason to go out of their way and their schedules to help a traveller who could hardly do anything for them in return and to share personal stories that would make her travel memorable. There is no rational explanation why they would want to do that.

So I am not going to attempt one.

Some pictures from the trip...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And So I'm Going Away

I may have OCD.

I need the magazines and newspapers to be placed only in the newspaper stand and absolutely straight. I need the shoes to be lined up in a straight line if they are outside the shelf at all. I have three dustbins in various sizes in the kitchen for various purposes (vegetable peels and tetra-pack corners, food scraps from dinner plates, general waste etc). I need the kitchen platform and the tables in the living room to be empty at all times when they are not in use. And everything needs to look spotlessly clean. I am not exactly Jack Nicholson from As Good As It Gets but you get the ring.

But every once in a while something comes over me. The shoes start taking angles of 30 or 60 degrees. The books being read start piling up on any table available to pile in the house. The newspaper remains on the table from the morning’s read instead of in the stand…where newspapers from the previous 3 days are stacked instead of in the old newspaper stack. And the house slowly goes into a mess.

I believe the house or one’s home is a perfect reflection of one’s mind at any given point in time. A clean orderly house points to a person whose thoughts are in order and who is at peace with life. A disorderly house indicates confusion in the head. There is no evidence for this theory other than my own experience with my present abode but that’s what I believe.

So my house needs some cleaning, organization and change of arrangement now. It needs those old corners to be dusted and for the books to be rearranged (by size and category) in the bookshelf in the living room. It needs new hand towels for the wash basin as opposed to the well-used ones we have now. It needs a fresh scent instead of the lavender and lemon grass I have been diffusing so far. It needs some attention.

So does my mind. And so I am going away. Alone. Before I shop for nice and new things for my house I am going to repair or replace the furniture in my head. And the best way I can think of to do that is among strangers in a strange land…to travel far out so I can travel within, the expanse being directly proportional. And so I am going away. Alone.

There is no map for this journey. Exploration is the only aim. In either direction. And it could not have been any other way. If you don’t know where you are going inside your head it doesn’t matter where you are headed in the physical dimension either. You’ve got to figure it out. And that’s just how it is going to be.

Hopefully I will come back with a mind smelling fresh from the lush greens of the Western Ghats…thoughts rearranged much like the tables, chairs and the bed at home…more light falling onto the soul through the windows of my eyes witnessing new sights…a nice clean orderly mind to get the rut out and radiance back in.

And sooner or later the newspapers will get back in the magazine stand, the shoes will return to their orderly file, the table will be moved and a fresh scent will linger in the corridor.

It isn’t for nothing that they say As Within, So Without.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creativity and Technology

How many times have we been greeted with drab and dull messages on various websites saying ‘Site down for maintenance’ or some such mundane message? It is good to know there are people who add a dash of creativity to even that space and make the users smile even as they are returning from a site…

Grooveshark went down yesterday and though I couldn’t hear the music I wanted to hear they made sure I didn’t go back with a frown. I loved the way they told us they would be down for some time and described the problem…technology in the garb of good humour and metaphor. Here is the homepage and the message…I wish they keep this amalgamation of technology at the backend and creativity upfront going…such a joy in cyberspace!

'To those of you who were redirected here, we apologize.

In an attempt to befriend Asian investors and increase office morale, we here at Grooveshark established some connections with the Chinese black market and imported our very own black-and-white Giant Panda (hereby known as "Pickles"). Unfortunately, due to circumstances no one could have foreseen, Pickles became agitated at the fluorescent lights and near-constant belly rubs and began clawing at our computers.

Pickles is currently thrashing about in the server room, causing the technical difficulties and temporary outage you just experienced. As soon as our interns return from Pier 1 with synthetic bamboo, a picnic basket and an oversized net, we will be able to return the servers back to normal and, if we can, rescue the coder that Pickles has taken as a prize.

Thank you for your patience.'

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Is The Long Goodbye

I should be writing about the long forgotten innocence I rediscovered in Gundlupet on Saturday. I should be writing about the seldom-experienced laughter at the play on Sunday. Instead here I am, leaving all of that aside, the daily joys and thinking of those whom I have lost…to death or otherwise. It’s the absences that are most prominently present tonight…all those goodbyes I have had to say, some forced, others voluntary, some just felt.
Life floats through a sea of people…like a fishnet in many ways. The volume of water just passes through, only a few beings stay behind…caught in the net and struggling for freedom. After all, most human interactions feel like obligations to some…they want to be free as the air. Ultimately most go back to the sea. They have to be returned to the water. They struggle too much to free themselves. They wriggle through the nets. They organize and take many others with them…that force. But they leave.
And you are left on the boat. With an empty net and a heavy heart but its dawn and a beautiful sunrise is coming on at the horizon. It is an irony that is too much to ignore. Life still looks good and feels beautiful. But it’s just not the same anymore.
And a part of you stays behind in those places and moments when life wasn’t like this. Sometimes it is by a hospital bed cupping a face you thought would never disappear from your life. Sometimes it is on the pavement outside college on cold rainy afternoons holding warm roasted corns and having a warm chat with your best friend. Sometimes it is under that tree in campus debating the meaning of life. Sometimes it is on the floor of the living room on a girl’s night out sharing secrets. And sometimes it is in a chair on a regular afternoon of a regular day talking about the most irregular things.
You try and hold on for a while but even if it means bruising your hands people break free. It’s best to make peace with their will and wish.
And it is here I revisit Serendipity…if you hold on tight and it starts to slip away, is that sand or is it a Pearl? Will it stay if you keep your palm open? Or will it be washed away?
Even as you wonder, you move on leaving all those bits of you behind in those places and moments, incomplete in some way. And all you can do is wish that things didn’t have to be this way. Life is more than that kind of wishful thinking of course.
On days like today when there is a beautiful sunset decorating the sky and no one to talk about it you think of all of those who broke away more than ever. You absorb the beauty alone. And every long lost while you see that fish that had swam into your net jump in the water that stretches before you. It plays around for a while before disappearing again, reminding you more so what you are missing in your heart.
But the next morning you wake up and drag the boat into the blue sea again, it’s a new day and there is hope. One of those fish might find you again. And if you still have an empty net, there is always a beautiful sunrise to watch from in the middle of the sea.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Why Things Happen: Thane 1999

I have travelled a little so far in life. I continue to. Starting today I’ll try and recount some of those stories in this new travel series, The Rolling Stone's Moss.

That was the second time I cried while I was in school…on the 8th of September 1999. It was also the last time. I moved on to go to college soon after and had to pretend to be grown-up and strong due of the turn of events. I did too…pretend. Ten years have passed since.

All those years I was in school, at least for 9 of those 12 years, one of my dreams was to be a teacher on Self-Government Day…be a teacher for one day on Teacher’s Day. Of course, the ‘teacher’ bit changed to ‘Headmistress’ somewhere on the way but Self-Government Day was a dream close to my heart. It seems silly looking back on it but at that point it meant the world to me. Every year around Teacher’s Day I would go all dreamy-eyed and day dream about teaching English or Biology to a class of 60 odd children.

So the day they announced that the school’s self government day for the academic year of 1999-2000 would be on the 8th of September my heart broke for the first time in life. I was travelling on the 6th of September to Thane for the State Science Seminar. It was not something I could have backed out of. So I cried. Thankfully the announcement was immediately followed by the short recess and saved me a lot of embarrassment.

And I hated that I had opted to participate in that District Level Seminar in the first place. The one whose consequences were making me travel to Thane. I hated the whole idea.

This is the Rolling Stone’s Moss…all these memories, stories, acquaintances, friendships, experiences…it’s gathered while I travelled…to places some of which I might never go back to. But I was never the same when I turned around to return.

So I did get over that broken dream and managed to get excited about travelling to Thane…for the first time. We were to arrive in Thane on the morning of the 7th of September 1999 for the seminar slated to be held the next day…the 8th of September…the day of Self-Government. All seemed to go as per plan when panic struck; a train carrying gas had got derailed somewhere on the tracks of the Western Railways and all trains had got delayed, some indefinitely. In the moments spent waiting for the train and wondering if we would make it in time for the seminar (it takes 15 hours to get from Nagpur to Thane) we swore we would never travel with such less buffer again (by again we meant the National Science Seminar the next month…one always hopes).

With good fortune, we made it to Thane on the evening of the 7th. Thane then was a sleepy shadow of Mumbai and many people travelled to and fro between the two cities daily on work. It seemed to be a pretty regular city that way. Our hosts lived in the Eastern part of the city, one that was a stark contrast to the buzzing Western Thane. They were very sweet people who lived in the Railway Quarters in Thane. For the two days that we stayed with them, they felt like family.

We arrived at the venue the next morning for the seminar, the auditorium of a local school. People from all over Maharashtra were present for the seminar, mostly teachers and students but also a few scientists and officials from educational bodies and Zilla Parishads. That is when I realized how big a deal it was to be where I was.

Nagpur is the second capital of Maharashtra and the seat of the Winter Session of the Legislative Assembly and yet in spirit it is a small town. It is fast growing out of that reputation today but at that time 10 years ago it was a hard-core small town. And for all the confidence and self-assurance I always carried I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive meeting those participants from schools in Bombay and Pune. I automatically assumed they would be better prepared.

The seminar began and proceeded to the presentations from all the 14 of us who had come from the 7 divisions of Maharashtra, 2 from each. I finished my presentation midway and answered 2 of the 3 questions correctly but my hopes were hanging by shoestrings the way other students presented their material, in particular this girl from Solapur. By the end of the day I had lost it mentally. I thought I stood no chance. But vindication for the small town came with the result announcement and all apprehension was quelled. Ah sweet victory!

What struck me hardest at the seminar was this teacher from a village in Maharashtra who had brought a young boy of 12 to the seminar. Only students from classes 8th, 9th and 10th could participate but this 7th standard kid was one of the few literate ones in his village. The teacher told us he had been making that boy participate or watch these seminars for 3 odd years so he would be prepared when it came to his turn. I was awestruck by the teacher’s dedication to his profession. He asked me questions about what sources I had referred to while preparing, why I had chosen the topic I had chosen etc. The boy listened intently the whole time. I do hope he went on to participate and win in the later years although I never found out.

We had half of the next day free and we decided to go see the town. It was around 10 AM in the morning and we landed among a sea of office-goers, one that I am part of today but not in the same crazy stressed out way, on one of the city’s main roads. There as we ambled aimlessly amidst people who seemed to know their way with their eyes closed (most of them walked with their eyes to the pavement) I realized how out of place I was in that crowd and that city. It is one of the reasons the idea of Mumbai makes me jittery (no I haven’t visited yet)…that pace of life, that robotic lifestyle…existence as opposed to living. I came back from that city on the run to my sleepy city, mostly relieved.

Thane isn’t too much of an engraving on my mind except that it was my first exposure to big city competition and reaffirmation of the fact that it is what is inside you and not what is on the outside that matters. It is who you are as a person that makes all the difference no matter where you hail from.

Thane also was the stepping-stone to New Delhi and October 1999 and one of the most special events of my life so far. I am celebrating 10 years of that stepping stone today and of that eventful journey.

Oh yes, Thane has been long forgiven for its clash with Self-Government that year. Self-Government would have been a parallel Universe where Delhi and a million other things that make my life memorable wouldn’t have existed.

What is it they say again? About everything happening for a reason? About everything happening for the best…

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pondicherry Pictures Up...

...on Flickr:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Radio Ga Ga, Radio Goo Goo

Queen got it right when they said ‘All we hear is Radio ga ga, Radio goo goo, Radio blah blah’. And that becomes mostly evident in the commercial breaks on the radio these days. The poor excuses for advertisements that are being aired make me nauseous sometimes…they are unbearable and worst of all, aired 10 times every half hour. Its unnecessary torture when you have actually tuned in for some entertainment.

The basic premise of advertisement rests on the concept of grabbing attention. Making it stick comes into the picture of you have got the brain to respond in the first place. And last comes the concept of reinforcement. If you have missed the first step, you’ve lost it.

In that light, radio ads that go the following way repel me –

Mother: Hi Beta! It’s so good to see you! It’s been almost six months! How’s college?

Daughter: Blah Blah Blah

I am not listening anymore because the lady is supposedly talking to her OWN daughter…not the next door neighbour’s! How’s College…I mean really? She doesn’t have a cell-phone and you don’t call her every evening to ask what she ate for lunch?? And I don’t care how long it has been (it’s been six months…God!)…get to the point! They’ve lost me right there…

The problem with that ad is that in the first 3 seconds when they do have the audience’s attention they do neither of these – generate enough curiosity or give away the focus of the ad. And at least one of them is necessary to keep the audience listening till the end. And in a radio ad where there is no visual medium to reinforce the message, the attention-grab becomes all the more fundamental.

There’s the new one for Emirates:

Air Hostess: Would you like some chocolates Sir?

Guy 1: My mamma always said life is like a box of chocolates.

Air Hostess: How would you like your drink Sir?

Guy 2: Shaken, not stirred

So on and so forth.

The ad talks about the in-flight entertainment features of Emirates. Now, it’s a mass medium ad but it has been written with the assumption that majority of the audience relates to Western movies to the point of knowing immortalized dialogues and which characters uttered them (I am still thinking if it is being aired only on Radio Indigo and hence the International Music-Western Movies connection made sense to the ad-creators). Anyway, if the guy listening to the ad does not get it, he has to wait till the very last line (a whole 30-40 seconds almost) to know what is being talked about. Needless to say his attention has wandered off long ago. The ad is nice in concept but it may not click at all times. For me, although I get the context, what kills this ad for me is the accents (mimicry)…except for Forrest Gump to a marginal extent they haven’t got it right…and that disgusts me.

Any kind of fake accent disgusts me. Throw that into an advert and you have essentially killed it for me. Play it 4 times in 15 minutes then you are actually repelling me…I will probably never go close to that product unless it is like Paracetamol with me running a 103.

In the Fake Accent list, the award goes to Signature Style accessories quiz (the other ads for the same client with some Sameer guy and his partner celebrating his return to India were in fact decent but completely out of context other than the mention of Paris and French). Now this quiz is hosted by some Woman With Fake French Accent who starts off with a terribly delivered Bon Jour (fit to in fact do the opposite of what the wish intends), throws in some more French before switching to English with a heavy dash of French accent that keeps slipping off despite her effort to hold it up. When she says ‘Heeare gooes’ and ‘signaturestyle dot eeean’ (for I feel like strangulating her. Get the accents right or else shut up. Stop disgusting people with a cheap substitute.

Amidst all that trash there certainly have been some good ads too in the recent times. One that I really liked was for the Pinky Diva Nights at the Blue Bar, Taj Westend.

The ad opens with a very clichéd ‘Honey I’m home!’ And while for those 2 seconds they have you thinking that it is just another run-of-the-mill commercial they surprise you with no answer to that call…any wandering attention comes back in anticipation of an answer when the man calls again – ‘Honey?’ Then there is a guy calling out to his sister and knocking on the door hard…there is a phone ringing going unanswered…and there is never any answer. Towards the very end an answering machine introduces a female voice saying ‘Not home right now, leave a message’ before they kick in with the announcement for Pinky Diva nights.

There is something about unanswered shout-outs, calls and knocks that generates curiosity, panic, anticipation and related emotions very fast. That fact has been utilized very well in the afore-mentioned ad.

My recent favourite is the Britannia Nutrichoice radio campaign created by Lintas. I just loved it…the concept of ‘Samosa Singh’ and ‘Babloo Burger’ and the way they pitch their campaign, the authentic Indian accents and the local flavour that was heavily cashed in on…the entertainment value…they got most things right and even had me looking forward to hearing them over again. They both get the attention and give away the context (food) in the first 5 seconds and yet one wants to hear where they take it from there. They get the accents right. They make you laugh and hence remember the ad. If you care enough, sample them below…hilarious…

Samosa Singh

Babloo Burger

This one was just brilliant and more of such work will be welcome on the soundwaves. Creating an out-and-out sound ad and yet have it make an impact is a difficult thing to achieve given the lack of the visual connect and also the fact that the audience is usually engaged in doing something else while the radio blares in the background – driving, cooking, cleaning…one has to pull them out of that and make them listen to what one has to say. But some of the players in the field prove time and again that it is very much possible. They understand the medium and work with what they have. They are good and that’s why they probably are at the top of their field.

They are the ones who get the goo goo and ga ga out of the Radio…much to my relief.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Armchair Business Management: Why Resources Are Not Valued Enough

I have only one tea-strainer at home.

That fact is noteworthy because I love having tea and if I am at home on a holiday, a good 4 to 5 cups is a given before midnight falls (and after midnight is a new day :-D ). So I use the tea-strainer a LOT.

But by policy I keep only one tea-strainer at home.

Because I have only one tea-strainer, I have to wash it immediately after use so that it is ready to be used the next time I make tea and also because if I leave it with the strained tea in it, it will start to blacken at the edge in a few days and I will hate it. Having only one tea-strainer ensures that it is properly cared for at all times and available for use whenever there is need. And the whole thing just takes 10 extra seconds of my time.

It is another story that I used to follow the same routine even when I had two tea-strainers for a brief period; my mother, despite getting an explanation from me as to why there is only one tea-strainer at home, assumed that she knew better and bought me another one. And then started a saga of unwashed strainers and dry boiled tea stuck in the straining net…a saga I became a mute witness to…I hated it. Thankfully, the older strainer broke soon and bliss returned.

I had just finished making myself a cup of tea this morning and was washing the tea-strainer when this thought struck me: When you have a replacement for a resource…any resource…it is more likely than not that you will start treating the resources callously. The strainer will not be washed immediately because hot tea waits (even a 10 second delay is sacrilege??) and there is another strainer for the next time. The strainer will lie around with boiled tea in it for hours together until the next wash. It will blacken and soon enough is disgusting to look at. And its average life will be grossly reduced.

If you port the same theory to any resource in an industry in general and to employees in particular, the answer as to why so many companies end up having dissatisfied employees who don’t feel like they matter should be one step closer. Just because a resource is replaceable it will make a difference to how it is seen by the ones employing that resource to achieve a certain purpose. That is why the fewer of your kind there are in a field (instruments, machines, spare parts, people) the more valued you will be (I know that is not a newsflash…I am just relating it to my tea-strainer). And if someone is dissatisfied with his position in his field, it is because he knows things that a whole host of others know. If my tea-strainer rots it is because I have two of them…and my Mom knows that.

So much for my armchair business management.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I saw Soulmate perform. And am I glad I did or am I just glad! Hugs to Eveline for this recommendation. A thumbs-up from our band’s Joe Satriani also helped a lot : )

For the first time ever I went to Opus alone (or any party place for that matter). And that was pathetic to an extent that is not describable. But Soulmate was performing at Opus In The Creek (Brookefields) yesterday evening as part of the Kingfisher Pub Rock Fest. And their performance more than made up for how terrible it felt to be attending the event alone. Anyway, I just HAD to watch them and I did.

The woman Tipriti Kharbyngar is not even real. Trust me. She is out of this world. She is a performer and a spectacle…one has got to see them at least once, not just hear them. Her voice is strong and versatile and I haven’t seen that kind of singing in some time. It has a hold on the audience. Plus when she sings, she gets lost in the song…her expressions, her gestures, everything. She sings like a woman possessed and while you are recovering from the thrill of hearing a song in her voice she returns to her sweet self and says “Thank you very much” in a toned down melodious voice. I mean Whoa! I have no clue where she has come from but one has got to keep a tab on this band.

I loved the way Tipriti pasted three butterflies onto the microphone stand before she began singing. Really cool. And then the band went ahead and wowed everybody.

A band called The Circus performed before Soulmate took the stage and they were really good too. I liked their sound and their variety. You might want to catch them too sometime.

On Opus In The Creek, the place is nice but it is big and hence spread out. There is no floor seating and the tables are laid out far apart. So the energy and buzz that Opus at Palace Cross Roads generates gets dissipated over the space at Opus In The Creek. Nice place nevertheless, do catch sight of the lights hanging from the roof…they are magical.

There was a slight upside to me being alone. I was well attended too – am I comfortable, am I getting bored, is the food okay…things the owners should have asked seeing someone sit alone at their party house in a crowd of barely 100 (half of which is the close circle that meets practically the whole time…how many does that leave out?) but did not. Anyway, customer service notes and business management lessons for later. For now, check out where Soulmate is performing next and head out there for a dose of good music.

Have a good weekend : )

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The French Connection

Dawn this past Saturday drew the curtains of darkness to reveal a sight that couldn’t have been prettier – a road leading to a beautiful arch, a wide tree-lined stretch of tarmac, a patch of colonial charm, cobbled streets and then the sea…Serenity. And it was just six in the morning.

That was my introduction to Pondicherry, one that I will always remember for more reasons than one. This is what three years of anticipation does to you. Of course, it also makes you feel foolish and leaves you wondering why you couldn’t cover 300 Km in 3 years…but then some things are just meant to happen in a certain way. I, for one, am not complaining one bit about that Universal arrangement.

So yes, a plan that lasted all the way to being put in action and good, willing company took us to an India that we hadn’t seen before. It was an India I had always wanted to see, one where for a change people are not ashamed of having been ruled or have gone on a renaming spree because something sounded too non-Indian, one where the roots are strongly held in place and everything just grows around them, one which is so accepting of itself that it naturally becomes charming. And we saw it all.

Walking through the French part of the town early in the morning, one couldn’t help but notice how the streets still have French names and how the houses still have French windows. The streets don’t have tar on them and are so well laid out that it is difficult to be lost. Of course it helps that all roads ultimately lead to Goubert Avenue and the sea, but still.

Goubert Avenue at that hour was a peaceful welcome despite the fact that it was full of morning walkers; no one spoke too loudly or spoke at all, everyone just meditated on the sea and we joined them in doing so. It was beautiful, breathing the moist sea air and looking out to sea, trying to figure out where the sky ended and the sea begun, watching the fishermen lay their nets and colourful boats dot the blue canvas. There is something about being around the sea that is immensely soothing. Saturday morning was reiteration of the fact.

The Universe decided to be even kinder than it usually is by ushering in a mildly warm and cloudy day into Pondicherry. I hardly felt the pinch of heat and it was a pleasant surprise given that I was expecting a sunny and humid 37 degrees. Life’s mercies : )

The town was just about waking up and we started scourging the streets for some grub. The Saravana hotel chain disappointed us and we headed to Murugan’s Café for some of the softest Idlis and crispest Vadas I have had in some time now. Stepping into that place was like entering a traditional Tamil Brahmin household – Kolam outside the door, low ceiling, pictures of Hindu deities with small white calendar pages and big black numbers for dates beneath them, banana leafs spread on foldable metal tables and the sounds of Venkatesha’s name filling the room through a blaring speaker – it was the most authentic setting to have some traditional Idli-Vada-Filter Coffee. Bliss!

Two of us travellers had a friend in Pondicherry (imagine living in that place!) and soon we were catching up with him in that warm little place called Daily Bread over some tea and with the aroma of freshly baked bread filling our lungs. We didn’t yet have a place to stay in but everybody, especially our friend from Pondicherry, was too laid back to get to the task immediately since all we needed was a place to crash for the night. For the day, we had decided to paint the town red and accommodation wasn’t top priority. Just some rest and rejuvenating laughter at our friend’s place sufficed.

We got back to Goubert Avenue for another stroll, now with the noise level a few decibels higher. We were also trying to find a place to stay (on the sea facing Goubert Avenue on Independence Day Saturday…now that’s what you call high hopes) so we walked into this place that was charming beyond words. The place was bathed in stark white with quaint looking windows and a first floor sit-out looking out to sea. That place is marked up for sure for one of the future visits…reading a book in that sit-out with some nice hot coffee laid out on the table and looking out at the expansive blue…it just has to be done once in life.

Anyway, the breakfast all digested we headed to the most talked about place as far as all my friends who have been to Pondicherry are concerned (now I will become part of that fan club) – Rendezvous. The ambience was splendid with the thatched roof and furniture to go with that look, plants laid out throughout. The food was delectable. We had the best time ever…I laughed so much there were tears rolling down my eyes. The experience was memorable. Enough said. Do visit Rendezvous to know what I am talking about.

A quick peek at the sea from the Pondicherry Harbour, evening tea at Daily Bread, a stroll though the buzzing and colourful evening market and some DVD’s picked up at one of the many DVD stores (Tic Tac being the most famous) and it was nightfall already. Some of the friends were really sweet and found us two nice clean rooms in town meanwhile. Their kindness was overwhelming in a way. That ensured that the little bit of worry that was there was gone too, thanks to them.

By this time, we hadn’t slept in almost 36 hours but it was as if we were trying to extract as much as possible from what was remaining of the day. We were too tired to party but chilling out in a comfortable room watching Football and having some good Czech wine wasn’t too bad for an alternative. A modest meal at the hotel’s restaurant and we were set to literally crash and prepare ourselves for Sunday.

Sunday Sunrise on the beach didn’t quite happen but that’s for the next time. We lazily stepped out for breakfast at Daily Bread a while later (that place is too charming to be done with in one or two visits). A satiating Sunday breakfast and we were set for the day, the only thing on the agenda being the beach. Some rain and a thick bunch of clouds made it perfect weather to be on the shore watching the waves come and go, to feel the sand under one’s feet, to watch your friends become kids again embodying the word fun, to breathe deeply and to feel happy. It was real joy. The kind that makes you sing and be happy to be alive, to be who you are, to be where you are (in life too), to be with around the people you are around and to be able to appreciate and smile about it all.

Of course the city sent a not so gentle reminder of when we should be heading back from the beach by shining the sun down hard upon us around lunchtime. We complied reluctantly but not before helping ourselves to some more of Daily Bread’s delicious fare for lunch. It was the best…a fitting culinary finale’ to our time in the not so Indian part of India.

Just to balance all the kindness off we were sent a whole lot of rain immediately upon exiting Pondicherry and all the way back. But the water didn’t quite succeed in dampening the spirits too much and the cheer more or less got carried over from Pondicherry and continues so far in the week.

It’s like being back at Daily Bread, the freshly baked and sweet smelling memories with a hint of butter here, a dash of chocolate there and you cannot help but smile and look forward to the next helping.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On The Highway, Over And Over

Once every long lost while comes along a song that transports you to another place and makes you dreamy-eyed. It’s as if visions from another life, a past birth, encounters from a parallel universe start flashing in front of your eyes. It is so vivid that for a moment you have trouble believing it wasn’t real. Neela Drifts was one such song…I can still see myself walking that path and stepping into that door every time I hear that song…Made Of Tears by Yanni was another (just noticed that both are instrumental).

More recently Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Beauty On The Fire’ was the ticket. I don’t remember how many days it has been since that single song has been on my playlist…the listening interspersed with the John Butler Trio in the past few days. It’s the song for the ride. It’s the song for my sleep when I want it to be easier to slip into a world of dreams. It’s the song I want to live in terms of what I see when I play it.

The song starts with a steady beat building up, the focus on the voice…as if drawing you into the song…leading you slowly. The chorus kicks in after a few seconds of dreamy silence and the line ‘Tonight, Could I be lost forever’ makes me want to fly (incidentally one of the lines in the song too). The song has a groovy but dreamy feel that I haven’t heard in a while and I am completely addicted to it because of the place it takes me to…

I love highways. At any point in the day…a long empty stretch to cruise on. I love the endless landscape rolling by. I love noticing the itsy-bitsy curious shops along the road…the people. I just love being on the road, whether it is on a set of two wheels or four.

But I especially love the highways in the night. I am yet to figure out why but I have always been in love with the sight of a peaceful stretch of road (even a city street) in the night time. I love the sodium vapour hue pouring onto the tar. I love that static picture…I love being the moving object in that static picture. It is like entering a painting…a Narnia…another world that was abuzz with life but was transformed somewhere on the way. And I also love that haunting sound that trucks make when they speed down the highways at night…that distant hum.

This song takes me right there…onto the highway at night. Even as the first beat kicks in I can see myself rolling past the symmetrically arranged streetlights and the endless separator…black, white, black, white…a hue of orange covering everything. I can see the road stretch in front of me for kilometres together…darkness mostly everywhere else. At some points in the song I can see the sky as we zip by another town and enter the middle of nowhere…that black canvas spray painted by spots of white…glistening white. And I feel peaceful.

When the musical solo kicks in after she sings ‘Do I assume I could fly’ I can see various segments of the highway in succession…like a well-edited film…now passing a row of closed shops in a small town…now zipping through the endless darkness…now passing under a huge green board marking distances to a multitude of places, a multitude of possibilities for the journey.

And then when the music rolls and builds up, I can see dawn. I can see the first light faint at the horizon. And then a hue of pink coming on…as if the sky were blushing. It’s a mixed feeling…much like my head right now…the stars and the light together.

And I see sunrise…on the beach…when the musical solo culminates. I can see myself smiling at it…and I smile. And then I walk on the sand barefoot…soaking in the tingle in my feet…feeling the morning sea breeze on my face.

I stay in that moment forever…I don’t want it to end…I want to experience that drive and look at the roads again…to keep going on that road over and over…keep watching the lights, the stars, the signs, the sun over and over…I look forward to that drive…and I look forward for it to be in front of my eyes and not my mind’s eye…for now and until the wheels get rolling, I choose the Loop option on the Walkman…

Beauty on the Fire by Natalie Imbruglia on Grooveshark