Sunday, August 29, 2010


Looking at world maps is so depressing. So many places that you'll never see in your life. Their names call out to you tantalizingly, promising music and starry nights and camp fire dancing. You're tempted, but you know that there are just too many, and you can't ever see them all. Instead, you surrender to reality, and eke out your life in a single place, a single city. Day after day, the same boredom, the same  thoughts, the same routines. Never mustering the courage to step out, lest you get swept away.
• • •

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Day in the Life

I was reading the other day about Google's Life in a Day project, where people from all over the world could submit videos on their life on July 24th. Google will now be creating a user generated film of how the world was on July 24th 2010. It's a unique project, but let me tell Google how the world is today. Well, not today - every day.

All of us, we have our dreams, our desires. I want to go to Hawaii, I want to buy her some diamonds, I wish I were that girl. No matter how big those dreams are, they get lost some time or the other. The world passes us by, uncaring. We have our little worries, our little tensions. Will I get my hike? Will she go out with me? Will my book get published? They don't matter, because nobody will remember them.

People were happy today. People were exploited today. People got married and had children today. People died today. People saw rainbows in the sky today. People watched today's sunset and thought, "I'll never be this happy ever again." People kissed and hugged and held hands and told each other they loved each other. People were asked for enormous bribes today. People lost their lands to uncaring governments today. People started new exercise plans today. People's stomachs rumbled of hunger today. People fell in love with a book today. People sat in closed rooms today and waited for someone to rescue them from their loneliness. People forgot to water their plants today. People sat outside their homes and idly chatted with their neighbours today. People were nostalgic about the sixties today. People bought new clothes at discount sales today. People sang aloud today out of sheer joy today. People flunked exams today. People slipped on banana skins today. People...

It doesn't matter, at the end of the day.
• • •

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Nostalgia. And Acceptance

Reminded me of - golgappas at Green Park, basketball in the rain, old dreams.
For the most part, the death of our friendship seemed inevitable. Perhaps it was the wrong choices, perhaps it was just geography, but you, who used to be part of the fibre of my everyday life, have been patched over. Sometimes when I hear a song you used to love, or tell a story that you were a part of, I feel a pang of longing. Not longing for who you are now, in much the same way that I don’t think you give a thought to who I am now, but for who we were then.Read more at

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Phone and Me

Dear Reader, I am writing this post in order to give you some valuable advice. My wisdom is free of cost, though I have gained it through painful experience.

And my advice, reader, is this: If any part of your phone stops working, just ditch it. Buy a new one, no matter how much you love your phone, no matter how minor the malfunctioning.

Why? Let me tell you my experience.

My phone is a Moto Rokr, which my uncle gifted me almost two years ago. It has always served me perfectly well, once I figured out the touchscreen.

Unfortunately, one fine day in March, the touchscreen stopped working. And since the Moto Rokr is a phone that has about five keys in total, this made it almost completely useless.

I googled a lot, to try and figure out what I could do to make it work again. Some website said I should try re-flashing it, so I did that. Nothing happened, except for me losing my entire contacts list.

Finally, I went and got the screen replaced. Eight hundred bucks, end of story.

Or so I thought.

Three days later, the cover of the phone started peeling off. Yup, peeling off. Apparently, the guy hadn't put the cover back on properly when he replaced the screen.

I was in Kerala at the time, and I tried to glue the cover back with Fevicol.

Long story short, my brand new screen got a few white pimples. And the phone and its cover continued to refuse to meet.

Fine, I thought. I'll put a piece of cello tape around the body and just continue using it for a while. So I did that for a couple of months, though both my poor phone and I had to suffer a lot of people's contemptuous looks. I stopped carrying it around unless I absolutely needed to. A phone with white pimples, held together by cello tape.

In the meantime, another tragedy happened. The touch screen's lock stopped working. Which meant that I had to always hold it in my hand, because otherwise it might go and dial some random number.

So I was again in a quandary. I could neither carry it around in my hand, because it looked so supremely fugly, nor could I put it in my bag.

Back to the repair shop.

The repair guy quoted thousand bucks for the replacement of the body and the lock. Fine, I said. Just do it - I just want a working phone again!

But when I went back to pick it up, he said that the fevicol had damaged the screen, and so he had had to replace the screen as well. Another five hundred bucks, he said.

I explained to him patiently that it was after he had replaced the screen last time that the body had started peeling off. He told me, equally patiently, that that was all very well, but who had asked me to smear Fevicol all over the screen? We spoke very patiently (okay, not) to each other for some half an hour, providing much amusement to the other customers. At the end of the half hour, I paid him the money and came back.

Clearly, I should have listened more in those Collective Bargaining & Negotiation classes in XL.

Anyway. The phone came back good as new. The body was completely scratch-less, the screen was absolutely spotless. Wow, I thought - maybe all that money was worth it.

And then the buzzing started.

Let me describe the buzzing noise. It's like a loud bee somewhere inside the phone, singing exclusively for my pleasure, and that of the caller.  And the best part is that the bee likes singing only when I'm at home.

When I'm in the repair guy's shop, trying to yell at him, it refuses to open its mouth.

Fine, I thought. I'll carry out all my phone conversations in other parts of the city.

So that was the status quo. Till today.

Today, my phone decided to just give up and die. It conked off without a word, without a final tearful goodbye. At first, I thought it had run out of charge. So I plugged it in, but it refused to show its lively blue face to me. Right now, I'm staring at it, completely emotionless and empty, resigned to the fact that two grand has gone down the drain, and I will have to buy a new phone. I just wish I'd made this decision four months ago.

Update: It's back, the phone is back! It seems it heard my plea and decided to come back to me! Woohoo! (Though the loud bee seems to be still residing inside it, but who cares!)
• • •

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thoughts on Being an XLer

Recently, I've been thinking a bit about XL and XLers in general.

Perhaps it was the alumni party last month. Perhaps it's the fact that my juniors recently joined the company I work with, so I'm seeing a lot more XLers these days. Or maybe it's just the fact that I completed a year recently at work, and one of my juniors asked me, "Don't you miss XL at all?"

Of COURSE I miss XL. Though maybe not as much as in the months immediately after I reached Bangalore. Back then, it was a constant throbbing, an absence of something inside me. Sometimes, in the afternoons, I used to just let my mind wander back to Jamshedpur, to those few acres of green trees and golden sunlight - it felt so good, that bittersweetness.

While at XL, I used to wonder - how do these alumni handle it? Don't they know that they've left Heaven behind forever? That they're always going to have to look back upon these years with a mixture of longing and a wonder that they were allowed to be part of the magic at all?

But now I know how it is. Either enough time passes by that you get used to it, or you realize that you don't have an option, so you better just get yourself to deal with it. Over time, XL fades from your system, it becomes muted, sometimes for days. But inevitably, something or the other will remind you, maybe a photo on Facebook, or a horrible dosa that makes you pine for those early morning visits to Mad Sam, or - hell - just the way the sunlight plays on the trees! And then you feel that familiar ache again.

I'm told that people from other b-schools undergo the same thing. But somehow, I refuse to believe that their experiences were as good as ours - there's just no way!

Most of the reason being, of course, Jamshedpur. Objectivity be damned, there's no way an Ahmedabad or a Bangalore or a Calcutta can compare with Jamshedpur. The orange of the sky in the nights, the endless rain, the sheer cosiness of the place! And of course, the fact that there was zilch to do outside the campus, which ensured that XLers always created their own entertainment!

XL's magic has remained a secret for generations, known only to the ones who've experienced it. Plus maybe the ones who've read a certain incredibly well-written book (let's not take names here) on XL.

Unfortunately, I've discovered recently that it's not just the magic, but XL itself that seems to be a well-kept secret. Despite being chosen number 3 on India's best b-schools list, the fact remains that most people would know an IIM (even the new ones, though I've lost track of those now) way more than an XL. Recently, I was introducing myself to somebody when he asked me, "Oh, but you're from Kerala. Why did you go all the way to Jamshedpur for your MBA?" And this guy was a 'Learning Consultant' with a reasonably well-known firm. So much for the 'Best HR Couse in the Asia-Pacific', then.
• • •

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mango Season

My Ammoomma was born in the late thirties, in a village in what is now Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. She was the seventh of eleven brothers and sisters. Her father worked as a doctor in the local hospital, and they all lived in a big house near the temple. Acres and acres of their land surrounded the house, and the family was considered quite wealthy.
The house was sold off long ago, converted into a resort for the rich and the rootless. But Ammomma often reminisces about those times. The amount of rice the house used to consume in one day, the number of servants they used to have, how the children all used to sit on the dining room floor in one long row for lunch, how the girls used to go to school every day with so many roses in their hair that the other girls made fun of them. I like imagining her running around that big house, a little girl in a white petticoat, secure in her little village, while outside, in the big world that she knows nothing of, her country survives the final throes of a freedom movement, becomes independent, and takes its first tentative steps as a nation.
She says she likes talking about those times because they are gone forever. That way of living, it has quite disappeared. And the way we are today, it can never come again. Then again, that's also probably why I like listening to her stories. They're about a time that I can experience only through her words, by letting her stories play out in my mind against the backdrop of a house I can remember only sketchily.
One of the stories she told me recently was about the mangoes.
Their big house was surrounded by mango trees of all shapes and sizes. There was the one that produced long and thin mangoes; these mangoes were called 'kolan manga'. There was the mango tree that stood next to the broken well. Its mangoes were called 'pottakinaru manga', and were the sweetest of the lot. At the western end of the compound, two mango trees stood so close to each other that it seemed they must grow from the same base. But they produced two different types of mangoes! And then there was the poor tree whose mangoes nobody liked, because it stood right next to the refuse pit.
"In the mango season," she says, "Whenever there was a wind, PADA-PADA the managoes would fall. And all of us, the children, we would run out, and grab the mangoes. The ones we couldn't eat, we would give to Ammoomma. And she would decide what to do with them. Some she would keep for lunch. Some she would decide to pickle. And others, the ones that were slightly broken from the fall, would go into the big jar for the winter.  And at lunch, Appooppan would squeeze the essence of the mangoes and give each of us a big yellow ball of rice and curd and mango and salt. By the end of the squeezing, his hand used to become completely yellow!
"Even the servants used to pick up a few mangoes for their lunch. They used to eat enormous amounts of rice though, much more than us. There used to be a Muslim who used to come to chop wood - Thambi Metthan, he was called. That's what he used to do all day - just chop wood. And when we poured rice for him to eat, it used to be like a little white hill, so tall that his face was almost covered. And he would actually eat it all too!
The ground below each mango tree used to be littered with fallen mangoes, she says. And with flies feasting stickily on the mangoes. When you went near, they would rise into the air, a buzzing black cloud, but some would remain on the mangoes, too full to fly perhaps.
"What happened to all these mango trees?" I ask.
"Cut down, all of them, " she answers. "One by one."
"I don't know. Maybe they went bad. Trees do." Pause. "You know, it was the tree next to the refuse pit that survived longest. Nobody wanted its mangoes in the beginning, but it ended up being the most sought after. How times change!"
• • •

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alex Garland - The Beach

What a horrifying book.

I picked it up because my brother had been recommending it to me for years. I'd resisted for a long time because our tastes aren't exactly similar. He likes abstract stuff, whereas I prefer straight narratives. But I was looking for a book to read on the flight back to Bangalore from Trivandrum. I picked this one up and flipped through it, and it seemed a racy enough read for a boring flight.

And boy, was it.

It starts innocuously enough. A traveler who has just landed in Thailand. A strange night-time conversation, a map stuck to the door, a mysterious suicide. Soon, we're on our way to a mysterious beach in the middle of a marine park. 'Eden' the beach is called. A Holy Grail for travelers, spoken about only in whispers, a place supposedly so beautiful and enchanting that people stay there for years.

They do discover the place, and it turns out to be everything they've been promised. A tiny hamlet, a flawless beach, a beautiful lagoon. The people staying there are travelers from all over the world. They've landed up on Eden because they're tired of the beaten path, of the masses that descend on every beautiful place. They live simply, eating fish and rice, smoking up at night, playing football on Sundays, just enjoying the beauty of the place.

Heaven? Yes. Until things start going wrong. The problem is that they are trying to escape the very thing they cannot escape - people. The hamlet looks may look idyllic from outside. But there are rifts within the group, tiny enmities, factions that form on the basis of perceived slights. Group politics dictates everything.

This book is about madness. It's about how fragile human minds are, how fucked up they can get. How seemingly small things can turn people's heads. How strangely and horrifically people behave when they are put under pressure.

The tempo builds up slowly. You hardly even realize it when things start to go off the rails. People's minds starting to behave strangely, the increasingly horrifying events, the nightmarish and surreal climax.

Racy, unputdownable, horrifying. Must-read.
• • •

Monday, March 15, 2010


New cities are exciting. Especially when you land there at six in the morning. Getting off a bus, being mobbed by autowallahs. A red sun rising between two trees. Women carrying yellow flowers in baskets. Sleepy neighbourhoods. Murugan Idli. Yellow autos.

The city I've heard so much about, the city I used to wish to be a part of, the city I started to hate for no fault of its. I finally saw it, and it made me realize how soulless Bangalore is.


Sitting on the rocks lining Pondicherry beach, feet dangling over the drop. Slightly high. Talking. Listening to the waves breaking upon the rocks below. Wishing he was here with me. The breeze coming in from the sea. Wishing it wasn't so cloudy. The realization that this will be one of my favourite memories years down the line.


It was seven in the night, and Besant Nagar (?) beach was so crowded. People sitting in circles on the sand. Kids running around. Young boys playing football. Colourful lights that went zooming into the air. Women selling peanuts. Above it all, and as a background, the waves pounding the sand.
• • •

Friday, January 22, 2010

XL Again!

I'm going to do the whole Bangalore-Calcutta-Jamshedpur thing again. I'm going to go in through those wide open black gates again. I'm going to see Anu again! I'm going to sit on JLT and drink nimbu pani again. I'm going to have coffee at Daddu's again - steaming hot coffee with chocolate powder liberally spilled over it. I'm going to talk to the Profs, and this time know what an honour and opportunity that is! I'm going to sit on El Top Top and watch the orange lights of Tata Steel again. I'm going to go to Karnel Singh's Dhaba and have butter naan and paneer butter masala again. I'm going to walk under those tall tall trees and be awe-struck all over again. I'm going to visit the library and walk through the fiction shelves again. I'm going to watch the dawn lighten over the top of GH1 and feel an indescribable longing again. I'm going to have Bishu Da's Cheese Maggi again! I'm going to NOT be a company senior. I'm going to ride back from Bistupur in a cold cold auto again. I'm going to go to Mad Sam and have butter masala dosa and their insanely sweet coffee again! I'm going to try to get enough people to play basketball again. I'm going to sit on a green bench in the sun and read a book again. I'm going to take a walk through Faculty Quarters with Anu again.

For two whole days in February.
• • •

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Reading

There is something wrong with me. I haven't finished a single book in the last one month. Oh, I'm reading all right. But I lose interest halfway and start another book. Here's a complete list of the books I've begun reading and abandoned in the last one month. Please note that this is NO commentary on the quality of writing of the below authors!
  • Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient (beautiful, beautiful book)
  • T. Coraghessan Boyle - If the River was Whiskey (Picked up in Blossom's - mostly cuz I liked the title!)
  • Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
  • Anjum Hasan - Neti, Neti (I've been wanting to read it ever since I read Jai Arjun Singh's piece on it here)
  • J R R Tolkien - The Hobbit (PDF)
  • Robert Jordan - The Shadow Rising (The fourth in the series - e-book version, though)
  • Kate Fox - Watching the English
• • •