Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Columbus.....Columbus

Columbus. We first come across this name in the pages of our World History books in the form of Christopher Columbus. He was a European navigator who landed in America and who in his infinite wisdom proclaimed that he had reached the shores of India. Since that day onwards, men have been chastised for failing to ask for directions. Also since Arnab Goswami wasn’t born then, nobody in the Nation really wanted to know why he had dared to think that it was India.
Time flew by and gradually the Americans realised that they need to honour this gentleman who many would argue did not discover America but none could deny the fact that it was he who opened the gates of America to the Europeans. Europeans, who historically have never been big fans of respecting sovereignty of lands, promptly came and claimed America as theirs. It was only much later, when we Indians started to flock these shores that concepts of H1B, L1 etc. were introduced.
So anyway, joyously the Americans named three cities after Columbus. Columbia in South Carolina, Washington D.C. in District of Columbia (whatever that means), and lastly Columbus in Ohio where I find myself for the sixth consecutive month now.
Before I travelled, I posted a status on my facebook wall. “Hey anyone living in or around Columbus?” The post did not get a single like or comment.
It is a fascinating place in the sense that nothing much happens here and the best part of it is that locals seemingly are very happy about that fact. If anyone has been unlucky enough to see the atrocious movie named ‘The Village’ by Manoj Night Shyamalan and unluckier to remember the plot, would recollect how the Elders had created a fear psychosis among the villagers about the evils surrounding their land and how that fear helped them prevent the population from venturing beyond the boundaries of their village. I have a strong feeling that Manoj Night Shyamalan had based his plot on the city of Columbus. Of course I am exaggerating. There are no forests around Columbus.
The fact that time stands still here is incorrect. Stand is a verb which implies an action being done. That naturally cannot be applied to Columbus. It is a place where however, one of Newton’s laws of Motion is epitomised. The first law that states that an object will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force could not have been better exemplified than by the city of Columbus. No force, internal or external has bothered to act here, By God, since the origination of Time.
Of course I am exaggerating. There is no concept of Time here. It is a state of perennial continuum.
I chose to move into a corporate apartment close to the client’s office. On the first weekend, I searched for places of entertainment near to my apartment. Nearest Shopping Centres and malls - 22 kilometres. Nearest theatre showing Indian movies- 24.6 kilometres. Never has the word nearest felt so abused as it did after this search. This was the capital of a state in the United States of America and I was living in the heart of the downtown. I usually walk back from office at around 5-6 pm. The number of people that I see on the streets including the ones inside the cars is way lesser than what I saw during peak curfew hours back in the nineties in Shillong.
Of course I am exaggerating. Shillong is the capital of the huge state of Meghalaya.
Two brave individuals Jyothish and Aritra who were here before I landed and who graciously opened their home and alcohol bottles to me on weekends, have since moved on to New York and now post pictures of weekends spent in Central Park.
Meanwhile I hum the lines of this epic song from the excellent movie Jeans. “Columbus Columbus Chhutti Hai Aai… Aao koi naya mulk dhoonde chalke Bhai”.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crossroads

Day 1

The huge crater in the middle of the road jolted him back to his senses. On the cold January night, he found himself drenched in sweat and sharply applied the brakes. The tyres voiced their disgust in no unclear terms. He looked around. The surroundings were not familiar but he had a fair idea of where he was. The light from the distant paan-shop was the only sign of civilization in the otherwise desolate road. It couldn’t have been more than an hour that he had been driving. The cell buzzed. He knew who it was not. It was a joke over Whatsapp, a fairly decent one for a change and he genuinely smiled and pulled over. Delhi had been unusually cold this winter and the Arrow shirt, now drenched in sweat was not much of protection from the elements. But he needed to clear his mind.  It had been months since he had last smoked. The panwallah stared at him and he stared back. After half a minute of unexplained silence between them, he said “Ek Gold Flake Kings dena”

She tossed and turned and finally threw it away in disgust.  “These fleece blankets couldn’t have been more aptly named.  Completely useless in this winter”, she thought while cursing him again for not having fixed the blower yet. She checked her phone. No calls or messages yet.  This was very unlike him. Her mind wandered off to the streets of Jaipur where they had bought the blanket from. It was an unplanned trip and though she never mentioned it to him, she loved when he pulled out such surprise plans and meticulously executed them.  The phone rang. “But he is an asshole. Full stop”, she hollered over the phone to her mom as she patiently and for the umpteenth time over the last one year, tried explaining to her daughter about the intricacies of a marriage and relationships. “Why is it that the woman always has to make the compromise?  Times have changed Ma and the concept of marriage has evolved and changed drastically since the thirty nine years that you have been married” she said as her Ma patiently heard her. She was in no better mood after hanging up. Her mother belonged to a different era she felt and was of little help in such situations.
 He still hadn’t called.

Baraut 4 kms, Shamli – 47 kms read the barely readable milestone. The roads were, well as one would expect in rural UP but surprisingly they weren’t breaking his back. The FM radio crackled once every now and then and some horrendous latest hit would scar the silence of the night. As he sat on the cold wooden stool moistened by the wintry dew and sipped on the tasteless watery tea at the panwallah’s , he thought. He thought about the evening and then Shamli crossed his mind. It was about a year back when his close buddy Siddhartha and his wife had gone there to distribute blankets at the relief camps. Five thousand rupees was his contribution to the cause. It was something that he did not have his heart in as he always believed that ad-hoc charity was not the way to go to address these issues.  Twenty five people died of cold in this winter. The news was no longer required to be in the headlines of newspapers. Elections were over and the country had a stable government. Maybe these twenty five would not have survived the previous winter had Siddhartha and his wife not thought of doing what they did. He drove on. It was soon to be dawn and the phone had long switched off.

“Sorry about tonight. I realise that we were speaking different languages and the intents were lost in translation. You sleep while I drive over it. Talk later”. She didn’t know what to make of the message and it disturbed her. Contacts-Favourites. She scrolled down to T. His smiling face came up but so did the argument of the evening.  “To hell with him. If he can find reason for his absurd behaviour, then I can find none to call him” she thought as she let the phone slide down the pillow. The screen timeout had been set to a maximum of 15 minutes by him. “It helps while driving and checking for directions in Google maps, please don’t keep changing it” he had said. She didn’t.
The ludicrous scene from PK came to her mind where a communication gap between protagonists, explained only by the insanity of the script writers, led to two people moving apart in life only to be brought back together by an equally atrocious circumstance.  She couldn’t think of a reason why this thought came to mind. She had met him at Avinash’s party and throughout that evening had felt his constant gaze upon her.  Somehow it had not made her uncomfortable.  He surely was the life of the party. He laughed like a pig and made everyone around him squeal too.  They thoroughly loved his company while she found him exceptionally loud. As the gathering had dispersed into smaller groups during dinner, he had come from behind and alarmed her.  “Does the beautiful lady care for some unbelievably tasty ice-cream?  ” he had asked.
“The number you have called is currently not reachable, Please try again later”.  For the first time that night, she cried.


Day 2

It was late afternoon by the time he could reach the site of the camps. The melancholy of the site hit him harder than the cold winds. He stood there for a long time, not knowing what to do. It was drizzling and there was black sludge everywhere he could see. A peculiar stench was all pervasive. The makeshift tents leaned upon each other swaying wildly under the influence of the winds. The torn plastic sheets that made up the tents flew in all directions resembling a rebel child who wouldn’t let her mother braid her hair. A small group of men gathered around a tent. About six or eight men in their mid-forties.  He walked towards them but they seemingly took no notice of him approaching. He could hear sound of a woman wailing from inside the tent.
“Kya hua hai bhaijaan ?” he asked one of them.
The man just stared back at him with an expression that he couldn’t decipher. In fact he later realised that there was no expression at all. They were the looks of a person bereft of any emotion conveying the fact that he had lost more than he could afford.
Two men came out of the tent carrying a body of a small girl wrapped with pieces of torn clothing. The wailing from the tent stopped.

By the time she reached office, the headache had only worsened. Today was not a day she could take it easy and yet every being of her subconscious yearned to be somewhere else - with him. He sounded so forlorn and lost. She had no clue where Shamli was but she had heard the name somewhere before. Just couldn’t remember where. But he said he would be back tonight.
“Where are we with the NPV, Subhash?”

“Kite Runner it is then.”  After the usual routine of searching through the entire list of movies, checking for their IMDB ratings, playing trailers over Youtube etc. which usually took about thirty minutes, would he finally decide on a movie.   He was such an idiot when selecting movies, knowing well enough that she would not stay awake for more than fifteen minutes into the movie. But this was his domain and she no longer interfered nor participated in, save the occasional nods, in this weekly ritual. She had read the book and for once agreed with his choice. For some reason she had stayed awake that night and watched the movie till the end credits rolled. Invariably he had cried and as always tried to pretend otherwise.
“It’s ok for men to cry, you know. You needn’t always keep up your macho image and certainly not in front of me” she had said.
“What nonsense. I’m not crying. It’s a mosquito that’s lodged in. Didn’t you plug in the All Out? No good you aaaaaaaah!! ” He had tumbled on his way to the washroom, slipping on a rug. She could hear the choicest of abuses being hurled at the rug and its female family members.

“If I need to check your calculations, then you might as well hand in your resignation and go and drown yourself in Sabarmati. How the hell did you ever manage to pass out of that institute of yours? “
Subhash knew better by now to not respond. She seemed particularly edgy today.

“Chingri koto kore ?”
“Chosho kuri madam”
Six hundred and twenty for a kg of mid –sized prawns. What was the world coming to, she thought? But she had no energy left to bargain today. He should have reached home by now.


Day 3

They had bought the table lamp from the Fab India outlet in GK-I. Made of ebony wood, it gelled in beautifully with the décor of the drawing room. The more difficult part was to find a bulb that fit in it.  It was early last year that they had decided to finally get serious about hunting an apartment. After a month of scouring for that one property that fit all bills, they ended up buying the first apartment that they had viewed.  It was over budget but within manageable limits.  More importantly they finally had a place that they could call home- a place for which it made sense to spend days finding the right bathroom fittings…..or so she thought.
“It’s just something to hold the hand towel for God’s sake! What difference does it make if it’s triangular or circular? You have gone completely crazy” he said to her. A sharp kick on the shins reminded him of the virtues of not always expressing what one thinks.  He was of course only interested in the Marantz AV Receiver and the Definitive speakers. “Who is travelling back from the States now?” he wondered.

He wasn’t hungry and did not touch the food. The clock chimed 4 times.


“Are you back?” she asked, barely able to open her eyes.
“Yeah” he replied
“Should I warm the food for you?  I made prawns for you.” She mumbled
“Nah, I have eaten. Go back to sleep”
“Okay…..Let’s talk tomorrow ok?” she said
“Sure” he replied
“Will you please get the blower fixed tomorrow?” She was barely audible now.
“Ya, I will. Sleep now” he said as he pulled the blanket over her.
“I’m sorry ” she said as she snuggled close to him .
“I’m sorry too” he said.
He held her tight.
They clearly were not impressed. The solution, though interim, reeked of being half baked with assumptions that would clearly not stand the test of actual data. She knew this. But there was no time to get it sorted before the presentation.  If there was one thing which she hated, it was lack of sincerity. And in this particular instance, she herself was at fault. She had relied too much on the associates.
“I cannot let this happen again” she thought
“I need to demarcate the lines and not allow one to impact the other” as she silently sipped on her coffee.
“Guys let’s get back to work. And if it means that we would need to spend the next two nights in office then so be it but no one leaves the building till this mess is sorted. Am I clear?” She did not hint that a reply in the negative would be entertained.
“Yes Boss” they shouted back in unison.
“Will pick you up around 6:30” he texted.

Day 4

He never liked to have dinner alone. In fact when he wasn’t married, he made it a point to either invite someone over or have himself invited over. That option too was no longer exercisable as it led to more uncomfortable questions.  Dinner plans for the evening being cancelled, he got some Chinese takeaway on the way home. He switched on the TV. More depressing news. Cartoonists shot dead in Paris by gunmen. The gunmen were captured on a mobile phone shouting ‘Allah hu Akbar’ or God is Great. Which God would endorse such an inhuman act, he wondered and switched off the TV. As he made his way to the empty bed, pictures from Shamli flooded his mind.
He had hundreds of unanswered questions. Did the people in those relief camps deserve the life they were leading or for that matter the horrible deaths that they were so prematurely being thrust into?  Was it their fault that they were born into a particular religion? What was religion and why had it turned so divisive? He had always believed that various religions were different paths towards the same goal. Was he just being naïve? 
He was born a Hindu and was always proud to be one. But pride in his religion did not make him a fanatic wanting to kill and maim a person belonging to a different religion.  He drew strength from the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita but did quoting that make him any less secular than his friends who didn’t? If he believed in Modi, it was because he was the only person who inspired Hope in a despairing quagmire that the country was finding itself in and not because he belonged to a particular religion.
Why would rational people not understand that Hinduism is not defined by the actions of some RSS pracharaks or some Sakshi Maharaj nor Islam defined by the Taliban or ISIS. Radicalism and Fundamentalism had no place in any religion, he thought as he slowly found sleep overcoming his senses.  She would have had some answers. But where was she in times such as these when he needed her the most?
…….Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one… Lennon sang in the background.

His cold responses irritated her immensely. He was being quite self-centred she thought. Cancelling dinner plans for the second consecutive day was not something she enjoyed doing but being a professional himself, he should have at least made an attempt to understand her rather than making sarcastic comments. She knew that every marriage needed attention and was doing everything in her capacity to balance her professional and personal lives. But she could not do this alone. She needed him to be more supportive.

“I think Ayesha would be a great name for our daughter. What do you think about it?” he said. He looked like a clown in the apron and the chef hat, she thought.
Practically useless in the kitchen, he was usually designated low end jobs such as washing the odd utensil.  And this he had to do wearing an apron.
“I do not know whether I should be naming my children when their probable father is yet to formally propose to their mother” she said
“What are you talking about? I propose to you almost once every day. Wait I’ll do it again” he said as he bent down on his knees.
“What the hell are you doing, Move!!” she shouted at him.
“My love, from the moment that you have entered my life, my life has not had a single moment of peace” She boxed his ears.
“Ouch…Let me finish …I close my eyes and there you are in front of me. I open my eyes and you are still there. Kuch kaam dhanda hai ke nahi tumhe?”
“Ayesha’s father might get seriously hurt now” she laughed and said
“I cannot imagine a tomorrow where you aren’t there beside me and I promise to buy you a good deodorant if you always intend to stay this close.  My lady, I do not have a diamond for you as I believe that I and not a diamond shall be your best friend. Thus please accept this cauliflower as a token of my enduring love and I promise to you that I shall love you from the bottom of my heart till the day cauliflowers keep blooming in this world. …Ms. Rajeshwari Sen, Will you marry me? ”

Day 5

It did not take him long to figure out that she was the girl he had to marry. The elder sister was the one who had aptly summarized it for him, “This girl brings the balance in your life which you so lack today, you moron. You screw up this one and you would regret real bad”
She wanted a low key affair for the wedding. 11 friends from his engineering, 6 from his MBA and 8 colleagues, all with spouses and kids joined the ‘low key’ affair. It was nothing less than a chaotic fair with all and sundry from the family too making it a point to attend the wedding. It was after all the most awaited wedding of the family. Some just came out of sheer curiosity to see the girl who had finally managed the impossible Cousins were given the responsibility to mark all exit points lest there be any last minute flight attempts.  They got hold of a 20 litre Bottle of Aquafina and filled it with Old Monk.
Taking a breather from the Naagin dance, he stole a glance at her. She looked regal in the exquisitely embroidered saree as she gracefully went about attending to the guests. Deep within, something felt good and he broke into a smile. She smiled back.

He froze right in the middle of SP Marg. Cars behind him honked as if Hell had broken loose and abuses flew thick and fast but he just couldn’t move. He felt as if his hands were stuck to the hand wheel while his feet felt chained with heavy iron. He could see the PCR van approaching his car. But he just wasn’t there. Those eyes had not given him a moment of peace since he returned. He knew that he had to go back.

“I’m not ready for kids yet Ma and having children isn’t the solution to any and all problems that a marriage has to endure”, she said to her mother on her way back from office. This was the customary 9 pm call from Calcutta. No hail, no storm could disrupt this daily routine for her mother.
“I do not wish to bring a child into this world and not be able to give her the attention that she deserves. I need to be ready and at this immediate juncture of my life, I just find it hard to see myself fulfilling that role” she said and almost immediately felt amused at the fact that subconsciously she too had started imagining a girl when thinking of a child.
“You think too much. I had you when I was 21. I certainly did not have the wits then to evaluate my preparedness for your arrival but I wouldn’t think I did too a bad job with you. Parenting is not a skill that you learn; it is rather a state of mind driven by an unexplainable emotion that hits you the moment you first hold your child in your arms. And let me also add that if it doesn’t hit you at that precise moment, then it probably never will.” said her mother
“I get what you are saying Ma but at this point before we even think of starting a family, it’s important that we first sort out our own differences.  I’m progressively feeling suffocated under the weight of all his expectations. The list just never ends and somehow it’s always me who is at fault. He will never own up to the fact that I might have some expectations from him too” she said
Maybe she was unnecessarily stressing herself out, she thought after she had hung up. All they needed was a candid chat, she wondered. She closed her eyes and before long was fast asleep.

She glanced at her phone as she entered the elevator. 16 missed calls

The Prologue

23rd January 2015

Dr Pathak was not completely sure whether he should prescribe something as strong as Sertraline 100 to him. But after the latest incident, he was left with little choice. This was the third time in less than a month that he had suffered from such a panic attack.
He desperately needed some sleep. Whatever little he was getting was invariably disturbed leaving him with little fresh energy in the mornings.
“Hel…lo , hell.. , hel…oo”
“Who’s this ? I can’t hear you too well”
“Hello ..can you he..  now…”
“Not very clearly but who’s speaking and what’s this about?”
“Emerg….ency cont….”
“What , what are you talking about, can you be louder ?”
“Snig….dha Gupta….”
“Yes Snigdha  is my wife…What about her and who is this again ..Hello Hello?
“Snigdha Gupta …wife ?"
"Yes but who the hell is this" .he could hear a lot of commotion in the background
"Accident hua hai ...Golf course extension road….Indian Oil petrol pump ke saamne. Jaldi pahuchiye”
He opened his eyes. He felt breathless. The room was dark. His throat was parched. The pillow was wet with sweat.
“We are extremely sorry for your loss Mr. Gupta. It was a head-on collision She was gone by the time she was brought in to the hospital….We could not save the child either”

It was three months today. 

 23rd October 2014

All of the calls were from unknown numbers. She was about to dial back one of them when a call came in.
“Is this Ms. Rajeshwari Sen ?”  It was a female’s voice
“Yes, who is this” she asked
“Are you a relative of Mr Tanmay Bose?”
“Yes, he is my husband. Sorry, but who is this again? “
“Madam, we have been trying to reach you for quite some time. I am calling from the Emergency wing of Medanta Medicity”
She felt a shiver go down her spine.
“I’m sorry to inform you that your husband was involved in an accident and was brought in a very critical condition”
She felt her grip loosening on the mobile.
“You need to come immediately Madam”
…....
…….
“Hello ..hello Madam , are you there?”
“Yes….wha..?” She tried to speak but words wouldn’t come out. She felt her head spinning.
“Madam, You need to come immediately. The police are also waiting”
“I ….I don’t know….why …where …is he …..How is… he?”

The Epilogue

She seemed strangely aware of the poignancy of her circumstances. There was a silent resignation in her expressions.  Yet of course there was the inherent innocence of a four year old. She had little clue of what the past, the present or the future meant but she did miss the warmth of her mother during the nights. She did miss playing with her father after he came back from work in the evenings.  She did miss Razia. She hadn’t spoken in a long time.
He placed the chocolates on the broken stool as he always did. She would never reach for them while he was there but he had learnt that she was always the first one to be awake on Sundays.  She would sit in the corner of the tent and keep staring. She knew the sound of his footsteps.
“The rehabilitation steps finally seemed to be moving in some direction Sahab” said Parvez
“Inshallah, we should have a roof above our heads in a month’s time. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for my family, especially for young Rehana. She would have died without your support”
As he bid them farewell that evening, he felt a tug. She was holding a piece of paper for him. It was a picture of a house. She had drawn it with the crayons he had got her. There was a hill and a rising sun
“That’s a lovely drawing Rehana” he said
“I have two more. Do you want to see them?”
 This was the first time he had heard her speak.

“Dearest Ma,
It is sixteen years since the last letter I wrote to you.  I was so excited. I had a job. My first job! Oh how I rambled on and on about the entire interview process and how I almost peed in my pants as they were announcing the names of the selected candidates. Hah!
You have always been so patient with me. By the time you would receive this letter, I would have gone.
But before I go, I owe an explanation to you and Baba and I hope that you will understand the reason behind this decision.
The last few months have been extremely difficult for me and I want to let you know that you have been the strongest pillar of strength that I could have hoped for in these circumstances. But this was a battle that I alone had to wage and win. But Ma, I am not winning and I swear that I have tried with all my strength.  I wake up each morning with the dread of living through the day and this is not a life that I want to live.
You did not teach me to quit and I am not quitting. I am only changing the means to reach the destination.

 I love you and please forgive me.

Always your little daughter,
Tia…….”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cafe Rio - The Torture Chamber

The 2014 FIFA World Cup enters the knock out stages today and what a thrilling ride it has been so far. As fans, we have been treated to some really high quality football in the first half of the tournament. The remaining half is when the real battles begin and some mouth-watering clashes are lined up. Greatness and ever-lasting glory beckon all the teams and the carnival is waiting to explode ! Can't wait.

Greatness is being witnessed elsewhere too. In the studio of Sony Six who hold the TV broadcasting rights of the tournament in India. Their panel of experts along with the extremely knowledgeable hosts have contributed no less to set the tournament on fire for the viewers in India. The only minor difference is that this fire has been lit up our bottoms and each passing day some freshly ground dry chilli powder is shoved up those tender areas using hot iron rods. Yes it is that painful.
Through  a program named Cafe Rio, the broadcasters have piled upon us such garbage in the name of sports commentating, that for years to come, if one were to give an example of excruciating pain, it would be the experience of having to watch the program.

A small tribute to the gentlemen who have been part of this golden chapter of sports commentating.


John Abraham- His association with 'football' goes back a long time and I know exactly how long. 23rd November 2007 was the date a horror movie named Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal starring John was released. I would not delve into the details of the plot, for the pain is still raw. The physical scars caused by the self inflicted wounds after watching the movie might have faded but the mental scars just refuse to leave me. Often I wake up at night..screaming and drenched with sweat. The dreams are always the same. I am watching the movie again and the doors are bolted from outside. May Lord have mercy and rid me of these memories. Amen.

Being a self-proclaimed subject matter expert of the sport, John was in the expert panel of commentators during the opening ceremony of the World Cup. He was so bad that he was forced to go underground after this single appearance .Government sources confirm that he has been provided Z plus category security. These security men will keep round the clock check and will escort him in all his public appearances till the end of World cup. These security are not for his protection though. Orders have been issued that should he make any attempts to talk about football again, he should be immediately brought down. Orders issued in the interest of public health and safety.


Gaurav Kapoor -  The Master with a double doctorate in Buffoonery. This joker who would do well being in the arena of a circus has entered our lives like a breath of fresh fart, one whose stink just wouldn't leave. If you thought that the torture was to be limited to the IPL which you anyway were not watching, you were in for a rude shock. His presence in the Sony Six studio as the host of the Cafe Rio show is similar to having Sajid Khan moderate a debate on macro -economic challenges faced by the world and attended by a panel of Nobel laureate economists.
Gaurav's twitter handle describes him as "Multimedia mercenary. Lover of soup". Can't say we weren't warned.
Sources say that CDs of him hosting the event are clandestinely being shipped across our western border. It was only after Pakistan filed a complaint with the United States..er..I mean United Nation on this blatant violation of human rights and Modi sent a hanky to Nawaz Sharif  as reconciliatory gesture, did the tension abate between the two nations. On similar humanitarian grounds, Sony Six seemingly has rested Gaurav for the remainder of the tournament. He of course has no clue about it and continues to yap in some corner of the studio. For trivia, he also featured in a movie named Sssshh. If only he knew the meaning of the title.


Peter Crouch - The birth of Peter Crouch, the ex-striker from England has an interesting story behind it. Reliable sources say that Brahma was working on an urgent assignment for a major zoo for whom He was supposed to deliver a giraffe. However no sooner had he finished working on the legs, that he was berated extensively by Lady Saraswati for having forgotten to get home the onions. It was getting really impossible to work with three heads. There was simple no coordination or even any effort towards that end among the three. It was the one on the right which was at fault for the onion fiasco but this was no time for argument and in that cold wintry evening of late January, Brahma  had to take the painful walk back to the market. To make matters worse, on his way back, he slipped and fell. The head on the right got slightly bruised and that was when Hell broke loose. All the three heads got into a heated argument each trying to put the blame on the other. The constraints of lateral movement brought about by the common neck  only added fuel to the fire..as always. It was amidst all this chaos and confusion and the unending chatter among the three, that Brahma finally reached back his lab and instead of placing the torso of a giraffe on the pair of legs, accidentally  added that of a human being. That human being was born as Peter Crouch on the 30th of January 1981 and because of this slight error of Brahma's workmanship on that fateful night, he has not stopped growing since. He last recorded height was 6ft 7 and a half inches and sources confirm that the last half inch actually grew as he was commentating inside the studio of Sony Six. Oh I digress so much. So Peter Crouch who has represented England for five years scored 22 goals during this period. Almost all of them were scored through headers. He obviously couldn't trust his feet which merrily kept growing even while he ran towards goalposts. Thus to be fair to Peter, not much intellectual output should be expected of a person whose head has been continuously banged with footballs for the majority of his adult life. He lived upto his expectations and continued to dish out one boring analysis after another till he too was finally taken off air by the channel. He has protested that he will grow some more if he isn't reinstated soon.


Mikael Silvestre - A footballer with considerable club and international experience, his legendary commentating skills throw a beacon of light on the future when the world would have been taken over by Robots and where show of any human emotion whatsoever would be a criminal offence punishable by death.And not just any death- Death by being made to watch Himmatwala and if one somehow survives that, then Humshakals. I shudder to think of it and may not even my worst enemy have to go through such extreme torture.   Mikael is so stiff in front of the camera that I wonder if he is solely on a diet of Viagra capsules. Or is it that he is being forced to be a part of this show. Maybe the guys at Sony Six had a picture of his wife and kids held hostage in a talk show hosted by Gaurav with the clause that they would only be released if he took up this assignment. Or is it a case of prolonged unclear bowels. Piles maybe. I do not know. However sources say that there is one political party that is overjoyed at the skills shown by Mikael and have offered him a permanent position.The job would be to impart lessons to one of its key senior members on how not to smile, particularly at extremely inopportune moments. Their spokesperson said that a person who manages to keep a straight face even in the face of extreme buffoonery that happens in the Cafe Rio studio is no less than a genius.But there is one more reason that comes to mind. Maybe he is just overawed and starstruck at being in the presence of an all-time football genius in the studio. Yes I am referring to the legendary footballer Sunil Chhetri.
Who is he ??? ...did you just ask that ???..  Oh my God !!! Shame on you !



Sunil Chhetri - This gentleman is the captain of our football team. Oh yes we do have a national team. When and Who do they play ? That is not really important. As of this June we are ranked 154th in a list of 207 countries and can proudly say that we are ahead of Eritrea, Swaziland, Tahiti, Bhutan, Somalia, South Sudan among others. And the great Mr.Chhetri is the captain of this team which continues to make the nation proud in major footballing events of the world such as Nehru Cup. All great men reach one such stage in life when they truly emerge from the shadows of commonness and stamp the mark of their greatness. That stage for Sunil Chhetri, as history books would later elaborate upon, is the Cafe Rio studio. The panache and confidence with which he expresses his expert views in the presence of other gentlemen who have actually played some serious international football is stuff that legends are made of. Sunil Chhetri has an opinion on everything and more importantly has to invariably express it. He yaps and yaps and we he stops for a breather, he yaps some more. Reaching barely upto the last known height of Peter Crouch's knees and seeming more like a model for the advertisement on 'What happens if you do not drink Complan', Chhetri may well need a hand to climb up the chairs in the studio but his name for sure would be written in golden letters in the annals of football commentating history.

There have been a few others who have been part of the commentating  panel, but who have failed to achieve the same level of standards as set the above mentioned gentlemen. Nonetheless they deserve mention too.

Robbie Fowler - Another ex-British footballer with an accent so thick that one is tempted to just yank his mouth open with a pair of tongs and see just what is it that is weighing his tongue down so much. Sony Six should actually consider adding subtitles to the TV screen as soon as Robbie starts speaking. In the absence of subtitles, I have not been able to gather much of what he says.It sounds like English at times but most often it sounds like a person gurgling. He actually might be speaking some sense but I have no clue.


Nikhil Chinappa - I also have no clue what this gentleman is doing as a host of a show of a sporting event and an event as serious as World Cup. C'mon Sony, did you think that this was MTV Grind going on in Brazil?  I do not know what is the criteria that Sony Six used to short-list the hosts for the Cafe Rio show but being asinine seems to be on top of that list. To his credit, Nikhil tried really hard to fit into the role or whatever he interpreted that role to be . He grew a lot of facial hair. It did not help.


Serious Indian chap who does the morning show - Unlike the rest of his peers who force you to question the Gun control in India, this chap actually is quite tolerable or maybe I am just too groggy in the morning to really notice. The format of the morning show is for the really sleepy 'experts' to take calls from over enthusiastic Indians who give a rat's ass on how India fared in the Hockey World Cup (and thank God for that) but would lose sleep over whether Germany would use the 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 combination in a tournament where the chances of India qualifying is probably lesser than that of Honey Singh winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
So anyway this chap has been given the responsibility to repeat in verbatim what the callers have to ask, but in a dialect  of English that is comprehensible to all. This is no mean task, I say. Given our utter disdain for anything familiar to correct Grammar and our fascination to ramble on and on without coming to the point, the chap is doing a fairly good job at assembling the thoughts and getting them answered. Would a parrot have been cheaper ? Can't say for sure.


New Blonde in the block- Over the last week or so, we have a chap hosting the show who has completely killed the USP of the show. Talking sense and talking about football and both at the same time was something that was so not Cafe Rio. I do not like this guy at all and I do not like this show anymore. Bring back Gaurav I say. The last I heard , he was in consultation with Ram Gopal Verma on being part of his next horror venture. The combination has lethal potential.

A toast to the World Cup. May the best team win...and God let that team be Argentina !

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Windhorse- In search of a journey



"There will be more" ...are the words with which Kaushik concludes his tale Windhorse- a tale of heroism, of courage, of faith and of inevitability. Narrated through the prism of a chapter of history that has largely been wished away from conscious thought under the obligations of political convenience, the magical land of Tibet is drawn up by Kaushik with all her brilliant radiance in a canvas drenched with the colours of poignancy.

The maturity of penmanship of the author and the almost lyrical flow of the prose belies the fact that this is his first novel.  It is a great attempt to capture the emotions of the uprooting of an entire civilization largely sketched through the journeys of the two main protagonists Lhasang and Norbu- two individuals who come from diametrically opposite ends of the social spectrum to coalesce for a common cause.

It is an inherent human need to belong somewhere, to call some place on this earth- their home- a piece of land for which great sacrifices seem insignificant and it is this call that is the underlying tone of the narrative. There is half a paragraph at the end of one of the chapters which speaks of the meaning of the title of the book and the entire three hundred and fifty odd pages continue to draw inspiration from that meaning. This is not a story about an idealistic struggle, nor is it a commentary on the people who are not driven by these ideals. I found it more a story of the pursuit of the meaning of one’s life- a meaning which probably each one of us keeps searching in the course of our daily lives.  The journeys may not have happy endings, in-fact the journeys may not have endings at all but it is important to partake it nonetheless.
References to the killing of a young Chinese soldier by one of the protagonists resurface in the book probably to drive home the fact that concepts of right and wrong can never be judged through a black and white lens. It is inevitably always grey. 

On the way back from school, I remember scouring the Bhutia Market of Glory's Plaza in Shillong in hunt of that best bargain for the pair of fake CK Denims. While we haggled over the price, it was impossible to not notice the posters of Free Tibet adorning the makeshift walls of those dimly lit shops. They were a cheerful lot - the Tibetans and today as I read this book, I realise the effort that it would taken for them to bring that smile to the face.
However this is not just about Tibet and the Tibetans, the background could very well have been that of Darfur and the story would have remained as compelling. 

My heartiest congratulations to Kaushik who also happens to be a very old friend at this wonderful achievement and wish him all the success with the book.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dui

Peace was short-lived. The sister would have none of it. She thought this was bordering on insanity, if not already a proof of transgression to the other side. Twelve new EMIs plus the three unpaid ones. The residence address changed. Friends and family advised him that there was more to life and it was time for him to bring some changes to it. He now watches Diya Aur Baati Hum (We are the lamp and the light) followed by Bade Achche Lagte Hain (I like them big).

On Sunday there was this play being staged in the India Habitat Centre that he was really looking forward to. He managed to go downstairs. Not a word was spoken with the Panwallah. Sixty eight rupees for a packet of ten. What more was left to say. He checked the weather app on his phone. 45.3 degree Celsius. He walked back to the room. Tagore would not have anticipated global warming when writing his plays.

Just then news came in that the administration of IIT Bombay had decided to ban birthday bumps in their campus. Saxena had wrapped himself with two layers of towel and Kulbir had a reputation to live up to. He wore the boots gifted by his father. His father was a Colonel in the Indian Army. The towel-protected tushy was no match and Saxena's howls had echoed from all four corners of the 226 acre campus. A lot of people postponed their birthdays for four years. Twelve years later Saxena, now a father of  two, may find some closure.
He smiled as he thought of the incident and went to the kitchen. The two chilled bottles of Carlsberg Elephant smiled back at him.

Three Sardars were chatting. And no, this is not the beginning of any joke. Theek Hai ? Elderly men in late fifties and each was carrying a bottle of Pepsi. He had observed that these three gentlemen were heavy drinkers of Pepsi every evening. The guy with the grey Bajaj Scooter came first. The other two would join within minutes. A couple of hours of animated discussions and then they would disperse in happy spirits. How much fun is it to be a Sardar ! He figured that the gentlemen were discussing the sequel of Yamla Pagla Deewana. In his opinion, the original was a monumental film in the history of Indian art and culture and if the sequel proved to be half as good as the trailer, everlasting cinematic glory awaited the Deols. The three uncles clearly disagreed.

"3 pm, Vedanta Centre, behind GK II- M Block market....be on time " read the message on Whatsapp.
“Hmm”....

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One

The chill of the February night was pronounced on the balcony of the 13th floor. The gush of wind that hit his face startled him for a brief moment. The journalist kept shrieking with all the ferocity that the news did not merit. The biting cold winds numbed his hold on the 40 inch LED but he held on to it as he balanced himself on the parapet. He realized he should have worn his slippers before stepping out. In one swift motion, he pulled out all the wires. The journalist finally shut up. He looked below and it was expectantly clear. He threw the television. A loud crash broke the silence of the night as the security personnel were seen running towards the source of the noise. He was grinning from ear to ear as he went inside. There were three more EMIs to be paid for the damned set. He sighed and climbed onto his warm and inviting bed. The blanket was made from the fur of some near extinct animal or so the seller had said. He remembered that shop on the outskirts of Shimla where he has blown over by their marketing scheme. Five for the price of two and you could return the products after five years and reclaim the money. The scheme had not made much sense to his fresh-out-of-college MBA brain. Thoughts of the scary horse ride to Kufri, the spicy boiled peas, the fascinating temple ….

Aashida was all excited as he opened the door for her. She immediately went on a chatter spree of how a costly television set was found smashed next to the children’s park and wondered who in their senses would do such a dumb thing and how these rich people are all messed up in their rich heads. She entered the living room and her speech froze. She tried to say something and incoherent mumbles was all that could be heard. He looked at her and went inside to catch up on his remaining sleep. Her face resembled that of a goat.

The early morning meeting was predictably boring but he was unusually spirited and participated in random discussions offering views and counter views. His exuberance did not go unnoticed and was viewed by marked skepticism by all around. He sauntered around sharing jokes with people whose presence he had never bothered to acknowledge. He even had coffee from the office cafeteria. Everybody around him realized that there was something seriously out of place.

Deep within, he was just happy. He felt light, he felt free, he felt like a kid with no worries. He could go home and there would be no Arnab.

Life would know peace again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Maid in India



In every household there is usually one entity who shoulders the responsibility of holding the house together. In the days of joint families in a largely patriarchal Indian society,it was usually the eldest male member(umm...his wife) who held the reins of the house firmly in his (her) hands. As the decades progressed, the social structure gradually moved away from the joint family system to largely nuclear establishments with the family comprising of the working wife, the working husband and one/two Doraemon and Shin Chan influenced kids. With this change, emerged another very important entity in the household. Hitherto this person was one who occupied the lowest strata of the family pyramid and one whose daily life was destined to be dictated and berated by the womenfolk of the house. She bore the brunt of the dictatorship with little possible resistance. However, her time in history was beckoning her.
With the nucleation of families and both the spouses working, she announced her arrival and announced it with some serious stamp of authority. Historians would name this age as the Age of the Indian Household Maid.

Yes, if there is one person who holds the key to the peace and tranquility of a house it is none other than this lady. This lady today has access to multiple nerve centres of the home and each such nerve centre cries out in shrill pain if even slightly neglected. The seriousness of the issue was debated by the Indian parliament who passed the motion to bring amendments the Hindu Marriage Act. The act would now mandate it for the husband to take a legally binding vow to provide the wife with a continuous household 'help'. This clause was infact not suggested by any women group as may be assumed but various male representative bodies who rallied that this clause be made binding on their kind. Health and safety concerns formed the cornerstone of their argument.

The importance of the maid cannot be understated. Just one day she finds a reasonable excuse, and excuses there are galore, to skip work and all hell breaks loose. The entire routine of the household is turned on its head and no one has an effective disaster recovery or business continuity plan to handle the situation. The wife realises that the sink is overflowing with unwashed dishes and has little clue on how to dispose of them before the 9 am meeting. In such situations, the stack of unwashed linen, with its cunning looks, effectively dons the role of the manipulative sister-in-law from the yonder years. The husband roams around in his towels, lost and vulnerable and most often useless in such situations. With nerves on the edge, all of sudden the peace would be disrupted and before you know it, its the husband's mother who would be at fault. God was far-sighted when creating Mothers-in-law. Thanks to the existence of this entity, a lot of frustrations find an immediate venting outlet thus avoiding building up of negative potential energy.
And then in all their wisdom, couples start having babies. After enduring nine months of retching, forced celibacy and teetotalism, kicks to the stomach and worst of them all- XXXL dress sizes, the post-partum period is when the new mother yearns for small breathers in between sleepless nights, continuous cleaning of never ending flow of poop and frightening worries about the permanence of unwanted layers of fat at even more unwanted places. The search begins for a reliable maid cum nanny. This version of the maid/nanny is near extinction and nowadays very rarely spotted in the hilly terrains of Nepal and adjoining areas. For once, the Government of India is taking realistic proactive steps to handle this precarious situation. They have ensured that the porosity of our borders with Bangladesh works perfectly to address this gap of demand and supply. But there is still a lot to be done in this regard but we certainly cant question the genuineness of intent of the government. Anyway so those lucky couples who get blessed with one such helping hand are the ones who crawl back slowly and steadily as social beings. The less fortunate are not much seen in social circles and when rarely they do make an appearance, the husbands cut a sorry figure with all their bruises and cuts . They usually huddle in corners with a drink in hand, listen to Jagjit Singh  and talk of those days gone by.

The bell shrieks. I groggily look at the clock and I dont wish to believe what I see . Its 6'o clock on a Sunday morning and she has come half and hour early today. I somehow pull myself up to open the door. She grins with her toothless smile. "Bhaiyya mereko aaj kahin jaaneka hai....isliye jaldi aayi".

Pic source : myindiapictures.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Diwali



Today is Diwali and I am in Australia this year. Its mid–afternoon here and I am staring out of the window. This is an activity that takes up significant portion of my ‘working’ time on most days. The window gives me inspiration…..to continue staring.  It’s a bright and sunny day outside but the Melbourne weather has the mood swings of a cranky PMS affected woman and I am sure that by the time I complete writing this piece, it would have grown dark, rained thrice in funny three minute slots, endured a small hailstorm in the suburbs and have become bright and sunny again, much like the truant kid who had turned the house upside down while his mother went shopping only to clean up his mess just before she arrived back. The dripping chocolate from the sides of his mouth and the broken vase fragments hurriedly swept behind the book shelf, being the small indicators of what had transpired in the mother’s absence.

With an unbelievably small percentage of Indians employed in this office, the day is hardly of any significance to most around me and it progresses with alarming monotony. I check the widely circulated photograph of the satellite imagery of India on Diwali and while I have my doubts on its authenticity, it does have a feel-good factor associated with it.  Coming three weeks after Durga Puja during which almost every Bengali worth his rosogolla, would have spent all of his money and energy, Diwali come like Round II of Fun. Back in those days, when I did not need to check the Outlook calendar to find out what I would do next, I remember crackers were bought the night before and distributed and exchanged. Each of the kids got a packet of his own which was closely guarded for the D-Day or rather should I say the D-Night.  The urge to bring on Diwali was immense and yet I remember I also had this feeling to hold it at bay for some more time for it was an occasion which got over no sooner did it come.
The evening would arrive and suddenly the mundane surroundings would glow up with the brightness of candles and oil lamps and electric lights and with night came the permission to start bursting the crackers. Crackers have a notorious characteristic. They never continue the length of time you would want it to. And before long you would find your stock depleting at a rate more than welcome. You hide the remaining ones and make sad faces when invariably the elders would force, much to the annoyance of, some poor cousin to share from his packet.  The look on the same cousin’s face when the hidden packet surfaced later was priceless. Those aluminum toy pistols added a relentless chatter to the brightly lit beautiful night. Chor-Police was a game much enjoyed and often the lines between the Chor and the Police would get blurred. As we grow up, innocence is something we barter for many other practical things in life and often one gets a feeling that the terms of trade aren’t really favorable but yet we go ahead.  Days like today when in a distant land, thoughts of those fun-filled days flash by, nostalgia generates a certain warmth deep inside.

It’s a beautiful, colourful and bright day today. I might be far away from home and people around may have no clue about Diwali but thoughts of loved ones and memories of yonder years helps generate and spread the positivism that is an integral part of today.
But I agree that there are certain days in a year when one must necessarily be in India. Diwali is most definitely one of those days.

Wishing all a very bright and prosperous Diwali.

P.S. - We must thank God for small mercies though .

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sydneying in Australia




A month completed Down Under by which I mean Australia , in case some of you may have the habit of taking everything literally. And its been a fun ride so far. Connecting with a country where almost everyone has foreign roots or is a foreigner, is an experience by itself. The fact that my project consists of a Finn, an Indonesian, a French, a Filipino, an Irish, a Sri Lankan an American and an Indian is just a small example of the heterogeneity which is Australia.  But that doesn't make their unique immigration and customs department any sympathetic at all to make it easy for people coming in. While I may possibly understand the ridiculous restriction on the tobacco that one may get duty free into the country ( a measly 50 sticks) , the paranoia around any food items coming into the country is almost unbelievable and almost ridiculous. The number of items in the checklist of prohibited stuff would give tough competition to the telephone directory of Kolkata where a person needs to spend an average of 2 days to locate the right Anindya Ray/Abhijit Banerjee/ Sabyasachi Gosh et all. Now, a bachelor may forget to take his passport while travelling overseas but he never forgets to pack Maggi Masala. In addition I had some ready-to-eats and my fixed bundle of spices. Quite an animated conversation I had with the custom guys on why I am carrying that and I was proud of my negotiation skills as not a single item was quarantined. Cant say the same about the stock of tobacco I had with me (Carrying for friends of course ...). My credit card has a big permanent gaping hole. I cursed the customs department and made my way out. I needed a sim card to call home and  the Chinese girl in the phone shop who thought she could speak English did not help matters at all. That was my first brush with a South Asian in Aussie land. I was soon to realise how my South Asian friends have completely, absolutely. holistically captured the secondary retail space in this country. In UK, you throw a stone in any direction and it would either land in front of a Patel Indian grocery shop or the Pride of India restaurant (run by a Bangladeshi of course). Here if you do the same, it would first hit a cyclist and then run down to settle in front of either a Thai , a Malaysian, a Japanese or a Chinese eatery. The only Indian shop if at all present would best be avoided due to extremely suggestive names like Bombay Spice Boys. But this is the story of the city centre where my Indian brothers have lost out heavily to our brothers of Mongoloid heritage but suburbs was another story altogether  A locality having the  'good name' Harris park has been rechristened Harish Park and Paramatta is known as Parmatma. Way to go !

Sydney is truly an amazingly vibrant place. The energy of the place is just contagious. So much so that quite unbelievably I found myself in the gym every evening. Well almost every evening. There was another very strong reason for the same of course but that would need a whole new post by itself.
My curiosity won the battle with laziness and I ventured out to visit the touristy places on my second weekend in Sydney and little had I realised that the amazing apartment in which I had been put was right in the centre of almost all the action that the city had to offer. A five minute walk was all that it took to reach the famed Sydney Opera House.

          
This grand architecture which is symbolic to this country looks exceptional from a distance with its unique design.That same design seems equally bizarre as you reach closer to it. The architecture makes no sense at all from any definition of artistry. It seems some angry wife who was in no mood to make breakfast for the husband just broke some egg shells and left them lying on the breakfast table for him to return and clean up. This unattended breakfast table is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
In contrast the harbour bridge just opposite to The Opera House is grandiose and majestic. But I guess there are too many bridges in the world.



But it was a day well spent and with some malted barley flavoured with hops providing the right nourishment.

Laziness won the round on Sunday and all I saw throughout the day was the amazing television screen. Not everyone was impressed and some relentless prodding over the phone later, I was all charged up to make better use of the next weekend which happened to be a long weekend. Wherever I go, Labour day follows. 

Come Saturday and it was beach day. I was advised by all and sundry that this is a must do in Sydney- the Bondi beach (pronounced as Bondai). It had been ages since my last visit to a beach and I went with huge....expectations. It was a decent beach but the issue was that inspite of being a bright sunny afternoon , there were more life savers in the beach than there were lives to be saved. There was however a very serious religious ceremony of the sea gulls happening there and they were not very keen on being photographed. I left them in peace but not before one of them flew frighteningly close to areas that may beget  my posterity. Not very friendly creatures I tell you !

There is a pretty talked about walk along the cliff and I proudly way my way to the top and marveled at my capacity to successfully undertake such strenuous activities. I just sat at the top of the cliff and smiled proudly at myself and gifted myself a muffin for a job well done. I came back with a smug face and the feeling of having achieved some thing on that day. C'mon Facebook I said !! Within seconds of the pictures being put up on Facebook, a friend of mine who had visited Sydney a year ago and who in the short period of one month had done so much of Sydney and knew so much about what the city had to offer that he was almost elected Mayor, casually asked me about the walk. A conversation that I could have well avoided . I soon realised that I had walked only about half a kilometer of a  6 kilometer long walk that crisscrossed multiple other beaches and cliffs.  There was more to life than mere walking I said to myself.  But was I to surprise myself or what! 
My Mayor-elect friend suggested that I should do Blue Mountains if I was up for it. Blue Mountains is a region on the outskirts of Sydney and as the name suggests in not Blue but is certainly mountainous and is listed as a World Heritage Area covering nearly 10000 sq kilometers. After the fiasco of the Coogee walk I was determined to cover a few of them. Sunday I will conquer Blue Mountains I said.
I ended up watching the screen of the television the entire day. 

But you forget that Monday was a holiday too and that day, my friends, will be written in golden letters when the history of my life would be written. For it was on this day that I walked and walked and then walked some more. This was the day that I replied to all those who had ever dared to call me lazy. I walked close to 18 kilometers from morning to dusk through streams and forests and mountains and hills and ravines and deep gorges. Yes, I did Blue Mountains.

Waking up with an alarm at  5:30 am on a holiday must have been a first for me much like many other firsts that happened on that day. I had googled that the Sydney day pass was valid through to Blue Mountains which was about 160 odd kilometers from the city centre and if anyone has ever made use of the Daily Pass, by Jove, it was me. 320 kilometeres by train to and fro, some more internal city travelling and then a ferry ride just for the heck of it to reach back home. The desi in me had wrung the life out of those poor 21 dollars !!

Any tourist location without a group of Indians is illegal in any part of the world. This is mandated by International laws. I was not surprised thus when the train that I boarded to go to Blue Mountains  seemed more like one leaving Visakhapatnam station than Sydney Central station. Who wouldnt love some Telegu Antakshari when on a visit to see some gorgeous natural landscapes.
A lovely train ride it was , at least certainly when I could open my eyes. An elderly white couple sat next to me. The old man created SodoKu puzzles for the lady who solved them and gave them to him for correction. He would wear his glasses and check the solved puzzle with a pencil while the lady served him tea from the flask. Its good to see people so deeply in love. As the double decker train made its way past dense eucalyptus forests, thoughts of a home far away flooded my mind.  Thoughts of Shillong, a place so close to heart  and yet so far away. The huge trees were so firmly rooted that it made me wonder at my own uprooting from the place, we called home. It was a beautiful place and there has been no home since then.
And even if I wished to make a place a home, my company would come up with a visa of some country and remind me of how I had enthusiastically marked Yes to the question - Open to Travel ? in the application form. One and half suitcase, the contents of which  keep changing as per the baggage allowances of the next flight, is almost all that I own in life today and while it comes with a huge flexibility, at times I wish that I weren't as flexible..........Almost in tears are you ?  Come out of it, for I have reached Katoomba which lies at the heart of Blue Mountains and I begin walking ........Will let pictures do the talking now. During the course of the day I bought a boomerang and finding an open field where Cockatoos were holding parliament, I flung it high and long . It came back to me. The boyish grin was spontaneous and lingered on for long as I made my way back to the train station.

In our busy lives, where there are ridiculously early morning flights serving equally if not more ridiculous a breakfast of Museli and a bottle of milk, rarely do we get chances to rekindle our bonds with Nature and that is why the trip to Blue Mountains would remain close to the heart..............Till next time ....Adios.

The Trail begins

Heart of Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters and I nearly went atop one...

Pine Trees and my deep connection with them
Sigh ...not an Unique Indian art form

Eucalyptus and there were many tall dark and handsome

Serene and peaceful

Majestic Wentworth Falls

The day I walked !

The Cockatoo Parliament

And finally the Daily Pass Vasooli on the ferry ride back home

More stories of this fascinating Aussie land to follow in the next edition including those of a visit to a Casino (Forced by friends of course .......)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Random thoughts on a lazy Sunday

Successfully complete two months of self-imposed exile from the blogger space. Reason was to penance for the hopelessly cryptic and unfunny post below. Readers complained of nausea, prolonged constipation and other such depression symptoms during and after reading. I am not surprised thus that the endorsed product was left unsold.

Anyway, so a few days ago, I flew back to Scotland. They have work for me they say and I am thrilled. I was beginning to get worried as I was falling behind schedule in my work for the biggest regulatory project of the year. For those thinking Solvency II and RDR, please go take a hike. There is a world to be destroyed by the end of the year, did you forget ? And here they were still gathering requirements ......Sorry what ?... Oh I beg your pardon, we shouldn't say requirement gathering anymore, It's called Consulting these days.
And boy is my knowledge quotient expanding or what ! Have been finally introduced to the magical world of Conditional Formatting in an excel spreadsheet. Oh what wonders it can do ! You feel like a conjurer when you see those cells automatically colour themselves in so many different hues. No one really cares about the underlying data anyway. As long as you can make your sheet look like one having returned from a Holi bash, half your job as a Consultant is done. The remaining half would be to re-arrange the colours when the sheet comes back to you. I tell you, you feel like such an accomplished artist when you make your way back home after a hard day at office.

Speaking of colours, there is not much to be seen during the days in Edinburgh. Parents are having to show pictures available in the internet to make their kids believe that something known as a Sun does actually exist. The dour climate is however compensated for, by the lively colours that come out in the weekends, most often in the form of very short skirts. Designers here must be so frustrated with such lack of cloth material to express their creativity on. Indian designers on the other hand must be so thankful to our traditional sarees, salwars and the likes of Ram Sene. (Where the hell have they disappeared of late by the way ?)
But of course we are never short of exciting things happening in our country. The flavour of this season happens to be gangrapes. From Calcutta to Indore to Gurgaon , men are competing tooth and nail to get their team the Best Gangrapists award. And in this race, when chief ministers pass comments referring to the rape as a mere figment of imagination on the part of the raped woman, I'm sure it must cause severe heartburn for these men. How can some politicians be so stone-hearted , I wonder !! After all the effort these men put in , they surely deserve better. There is no justice, I say. And the women being raped.... Oh I'm sure they must have dressed so to get the honour.
At times....the word depravity makes so much sense.

So Pranabda came up with another Annual Budget and with every passing year , he and his department are mastering the art of copy-paste and we thought we IT guys were good at it. Just to avoid being caught, they introduce minor changes here and there. This time some bugger thought that the service tax column has remained unchanged for quite some time. Lets play with that and so he changed it to 12 % instead of 10%. No one noticed. More importantly no one cared. The bugger should have used some discretion I say. Tax on service is so very ironic for this government.
"I must be cruel, only to be kind" said our FM. Shakespeare must have died a few more deaths on hearing Pranabda quote his work in the context in which he did.
There is one thing however that strikes me every year about the Budget. They touch upon every damn thing! From match boxes to refrigerators, to complex derivative instruments to almost anything that you can name around you ! There would be a mention of it in the Budget. For e.g. this year they have an increase in excise duty for ice-creams and flavoured milk !! I mean, who the heck comes up with these ideas man and how? What could trigger a thought in a man's mind to raise duties specifically for ice-creams and flavoured milk !! With each passing day, I realise why our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh neither speaks nor smiles. Often his constipated attitude is attributed to the bamboo treatment that Mamata continually gives him.....but I beg to differ. These ice-cream hating people too must be giving him a torrid time. What a life the man leads. My heart goes out for him. Maybe some day, if ever that day comes, when he gets his speech and spine back, we shall know the truth by God !

Anyway today has been a good Sunday. India won a match with Pakistan with the always angry Kohli scoring a marvellous 183 runs. I think the wounds of the Australian rape saga are already healing. Just as we don't care about the rapes happening in the country, we should forget about the ones that happened with our cricket team in Australia too. The boys are back home now.
Hip Hip Hurray !

The heading says it all. Really didn't have anything in mind but for an urge to write :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tol Mol ke Bol

Disclaimer : Its damn boring man. Read at own risk !

For the last couple of days, I have been going through my Marketing books. I have been checking out the chapters on how to price a product and ruing at my gross inattentiveness during the classes in which these theories were taught. This sudden interest in this topic owes to this very interesting newspiece where a Chennai couple have sought out a sperm donor from an IIT. The news immediately sparked some dormant entrepreneurial instincts in me. If an IITian can command a sum of twenty thousand rupees for his sperms, how much should the same product be priced for a person with an REC+IIM background ?
So I opened Kotler, the Bible of Marketing to go through the basics again. With a production rate of 1000 per second (Source : The endocrinologist sister) at almost zero input cost, this is a product that challenges the very foundations of all pricing principles. We cannot follow any of the cost-oriented pricing strategies and thus concepts like break-even analysis, markup pricing etc are of little help to me.
However like every other product, it must be priced and priced rationally for it to succeed in the market. I analyse a few theoretical concepts to throw some light on this subject.

Value-Based or Cost-based pricing - This is the first choice that a seller has to make and the choice is fairly obvious given the nature of the product. With insignificant costs of production, the pricing strategy needs to be Value-based. But therein lies the catch. Value-based pricing method needs the seller to set a target price that would match the customer's perceived value of the product which becomes a tricky proposition. A good idea would be to follow a value-added pricing plan. Thus instead of a price war with competitors, one should attach value-added features and services to differentiate the offers. Maybe something like a contribution from a batchmate can go a long way in establishing market credentials of the product. I am currently in touch with a few who are interested to contribute.

Pricing as per Market : To understand this we take a little help from the concepts of economics. Now there are primarily four types of markets.
a) Pure competition - Many buyers and sellers trading in a uniform commodity and individual sellers cannot cause changes to market price.
b) Monopolistic competition - Many buyers and sellers trading over a range of prices owing to differentiated offers for different customer segments.
c) Oligopolistic competition -Few sellers who are highly sensitive to each other's pricing. Entry barriers exist for new sellers.
d) Pure monopoly - Single seller.
Of the above, though we may fantasize of an Ideal world where a pure monopoly exists with us being the single provider, in reality I think the market for our product would fall in between monopolistic and oligopolistic competition leaning slightly towards oligopolistic at this stage but with the government opening up a plethora of IITs and IIMs , the market is expected to move more towards monopolistic competition and thus as sellers, we must quickly start devising plans to differentiate our offerings.

The Price-Demand relationship - An increase in price is usually followed with a decrease in demand but to what extent is the question. That must be analysed with proper market research data and I suggest opening up a Facebook community for say IIM Sperm donors to keep record of sales. Also every donor should immediately update his Twitter account on a successful transaction to maintain a real time check on market prices. However such updates should strictly happen only when the transaction has had some commercial value attached to it.

New Product Pricing Strategy :
Kotler says that pricing strategies should change as the product passes through its life cycle. Now the life cycle of a sperm while inside the production warehouse is hardly of any interest to anybody and thus we will directly jump to the stage when he has successfully managed to come out to see the world outside the factory gates. The stimulus to see the outside world may vary greatly depending on the mood and circumstances of the factory owner. The life cycle of this product depends largely on that. If the gates were opened under the pressure of some adult content related stimuli or some fanciful thoughts interspersed by special appearances of beautiful unobtainable women, then the product is doomed from the very beginning. Inhospitable external environment, most often tissue papers, lead to immediate destruction of any commercial value of the product.
If however, the exit circumstances are enabled by the physical presence of another person of the opposite gender, then it may have a completely different cycle to follow, which this time would invariably depend on the mood of this other person. Most often than not disaster would strike again in the form of a thin plastic sheath that prevents any further transportation of the product. The product gets an unceremonious fruit-flavoured farewell.
(Note : If the product finds itself getting a vigorous rinse and then looking down a basin hole, then the circumstance leading to its predicament regretfully cannot be covered in this blog owing to its 12A rating)
Coming to the case, when the product manages to transfer itself successfully to a hospitable foreign destination. The word hospitable here is only used relatively as the acidic recipient environment allows the survival of only a couple of hundred of sperm from an enormous pool of about 300-500 million that arrive with each incoming batch. These few hundred who survive are left to shoulder the responsibility of the product. Depending on ten thousand other factors, details of which are beyond the realms of our understanding, one robust swimmer, out of those many millions that started the journey with him, may successfully swim across the complex matrix from the vagina to the cervix to the uterus and reach at the gates of the fallopian tubes where it would do what it does best. Wait ! The wait may or may nor bear fruit and the life cycle of the product again becomes dependent on factors beyond its control. The heroic journey may be cut short simply because of the timing of his visit. The sign on the gates 'No Ovulation - Come back later' brings his world crashing down and he too dies a tragic and unsung death like so many of his compatriots. The task would be left for another brave soldier from another batch who, after braving all these above mentioned obstacles, may finally meet a coy little egg at the gates and complete its Karmic cycle by fertilising it !!!
Urination on a strip thereafter may lead to congratulatory messages being exchanged or a broken nose for the factory owner. Thus discretion is supremely advised in any transaction related to the product.

Apologies for digressing from the primary intention of this blog but the above information was necessary to understand whether the price of the product should vary as per its life cycle. As per my conclusions, the pricing should remain constant due to the complex nature of the product's life cycle.

Some other very pertinent points which I think are worth considering when setting the price of the product:
  • Market-skimming pricing - where we charge a high price initially should be justified here as the competitive advantage is soon to be affected with the arrival of new competitors. Though some of the earlier batches who passed out in the 60's and 70's may not be much of a competition now but they cannot be completely discounted either. Also I am pretty sure that very soon, fake products would flood the market that would bring deflationary impacts on my product price.
  • Time pricing -where a firm may vary its price by the season, the month , the day or even the hour also is relevant here. Research shows that the demand for the product fluctuates largely based on the global economic climate. Recessionary trends that may lead to lesser than expected salaries during the placement season significantly brings down the perceived value of the product. Thus the pricing too should be need to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Competitor's Strategies and Prices - Kotler says , "Consumers will base their judgement's of a products value on the prices that the competitors charge for similar products ". Thus I guess an all IIT-IIM meet should be organised where the directors of all these institutes should agree upon some basic principles of pricing that would be applicable to all alumni and current students. This would ensure a level playing field for all. The products should be graded as soon as the placement season is over. The following table can be used as a guiding principle :

    Recruiting Company
    Product Grade
    I-Banks, Management Consulting firms
    AAA
    PE firms
    AA
    FMCG firms
    BB
    Indian IT firms
    Suspicious Quality of product

I am a little groggy after all this study. No one single theory seems to be giving me a definitive direction to my pricing strategy. Thus after considering all relevant and irrelevant literature , I have come to the conclusion that Psychological Pricing which prices a product based more on the psychology of the consumers rather than economy would be the most ideal way of pricing this product. A higher priced product comes with the natural perception of having a higher quality. So in order to shine out in the competition pool, I have decided to put up my product for auction.
The shortlisted sites are Khuljasimsim.com Bazee.com, Nilaami.in, Mastibids.com .

So all couples who are looking out for this great product, please don't miss this opportunity to buy this guaranteed product. Register yourself today and start bidding. Let you, my dear consumers, decide what the price of my product should be ! Looking forward to doing great business with you all.

Jai Hind !