Cutting the Chai has moved to a new domain:
You can get in touch with Soumyadip at

Monday, October 31, 2005

From Darkness unto Light

A few bomb blasts. Many killed, many more injured. A regular phenomenon. The locations change. The results similar. What will this mindless mayhem ever achieve? Nothing. If fear for them is an achievement. They haven't even attained that. The markets are again crowded and festivity is in the air. Cautious, yes. Afraid, no!

The incidents will not make this Diwali dark. The grief over the loss of life shouldn't be shrouded in darkness; rather we should all light up a little more and show the forces of darkness that a thousand lamps can make the night - day.

I was planning a visit to Sarojini Nagar Market on Saturday afternoon, but the friend who was supposed to accompany me changed her plans. I was in a bookshop at Connaught Place when the bombs went off. I didn't realise anything. On my way home a friend called me and told me what had happened and then I noticed that the radio jockey was also announcing something similar. The first thing that came to my mind was - it could have been me. But it was dozens of others, innocents.

Click here for the complete post...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We Are Not Afraid

Delhi Bomb Blasts
Serial bomb blasts rock Delhi.

They can bomb us, maim us, kill us, but our spirit remains unshattered.

Click here for the complete post...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Munnabhai, MA (Double), LLB, MBA, Diploma in ...

I still recall the last paper of by university degree exam. I was elated. Not because my pre-results calculations had arrived at the conclusion that I'll manage to scrape through respectfully, but due to a sense of freedom. Freedom from the mandatory memorising. I liked to study but hated exams and still do. I believed that I have just sat through the last examination of my life and was basking in my newfound stress less existence.

How wrong I was. I finally found my freedom six semesters later (I quit one course halfway through). Now when many of my colleagues come to me asking for leaves - to appear for exams - I ask them, "Haven't you had enough?" Some of them are pursuing multiple courses simultaneously. Some through correspondence and others regular courses - where the institutes do not demand regular attendance.

What do they do with their degrees anyway? Helps in career enhancement, they say. Do they? Do degrees make a man? Whatever may be the answer, I'm not going to sit for another exam.

Click here for the complete post...

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Day After

I'm not exactly a party pooper. It's just that I don't feel comfortable in a crowd of unfamiliar drunks. Office parties are fine, but they should be scheduled on weekends. Coming for a morning shift after a wild night on the dance floor, is hell - pure unadulterated hell. I thought of writing about something else, but both the mind and the body agree unequivocally against the very idea. The vodka still has a lot of wearing off to do.

Click here for the complete post...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Blog Relay Race - My Run

This tag thing reminds me of the relay races I used to participate in at school and never won. I with my non-athletic traits, I was usually the weakest link in the chain. As they say 'the chain is as strong as the weakest link.'

Atul has passed the baton to me and I'm doing my bit in this 7 X 5 X n race.

Seven things that I plan to do (I've no idea regarding the how and when)

1. Make a movie
2. Live in the Himalayas
3. Be my own boss
4. Earn enough
5. Have kids
6. Win an Olympic Gold (haven't decided on the discipline though)
7. Join politics (there's not enough muck out there)

Seven things that I can do

1. Forget the most important of things
2. Ride a bicycle
3. Count in reverse from 100 to 1
4. Wiggle my ears (Again)
5. Find faults in me
6. Work on the PC 10 hours at work and another 4-6 at home
7. Paint (Fences, walls, chairs and doors. Didn't attempt the roof yet)

Seven things I can’t

1. Type without occasionally looking at the keyboard
2. Type confidently with the spelling and grammar check off
3. Play any musical instrument (We have something in common here Atul)
4. Swim
5. Say a firm no (Someone with a similar disability said that he was lucky to be born male or he'd have been forever pregnant)
6. Tell a convincing lie (People usually see through all my lies)
7. Watch those television soaps

Seven things I say most often

1. Ho jayega (Will be done)
2. Damn it
3. No problemo (Another similarity Atul)
4. Kita beta, bhala ni? (Hi man, doin' fine?)
5. F**k
6. Hmmm
7. Koi baat nahin (Same meaning as #3, only in a different language)

Seven people I want to tag (The usual suspects)

1. Abaniko
2. Aklanta
3. Anthony
4. Aquamarine
5. Dwaipayan
6. Greta
7. Varsha

Click here for the complete post...

Spread the Red Around

Blood is life. Blood is important, therefore blood relations are so valued and letters of passion are written in the fluid. Is it therefore that people are reluctant to part with even a few millilitres of the precious fluid? A stock which medical science claims will replenish itself in 48 hours. Does a needle prick or the possibility of momentary weakness scare us so much so that even in life and death situations we remain willingly unwilling?

The concept of voluntary blood donation may have been well campaigned for, but we even find the 'educated' sceptic to the practice. I too was a little apprehensive, but that didn't deter me from making my first donation. That was many years ago. And today whenever anyone seeks my type, I find myself reflexively willing. The feeling that - if one day I or someone I know needs the life blood and there're no willing donors - keeps me following and propagating this practice.

And whenever someone for no tangible reasons declines to do so, I feel a little angry. But it's their blood and their decision. I can only motivate, not coerce.

Photo: Varsha


Click here for the complete post...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Numbed by Numbers

I counted. It's 40 steps from the street below to my third floor flat. Mount Everest is 8,848 meters high. I remember. The population of India is more than a billion. I don't know the exact figure. Nobody does. Do these numbers really matter? If I miscalculated the height of the tallest peak by a metre or two, would the polar caps melt? We may need to know the value of pi in geometry, 3.14159265358979323846... or more simply 22/7 (which my mathematician friend tells me is not the real value but a mere approximate). But otherwise are figures so important? And I'm not talking of the feminine type.

We often misunderstand information for knowledge. Kids and wannabe civil servants mug up the facts and figures. They might be helpful in passing exams. Because our examination system merely evaluates the degree of information. Information leads to knowledge, but not necessarily.

Do we then need to unnecessarily overburden the kids only with information and take the fun out of their childhood? The other day the security guard at our office was arguing with someone who claimed that a mouse could run faster than a speeding train and for 1600 kilometres at a stretch. That someone claimed that he had read about it in a book. I don't know which book was that and what was it that he had read. He had some information, but knowledge would have crosschecked that.

In this era of information technology, all that we need to know requires only the punching of the right keywords.

What, where, when, who and how is important, but it is the 'why' which results in the preceding four and hence the most important. Yet the most neglected.

Click here for the complete post...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Alms and the Man

When the distances are unchallenging, I prefer to traverse them on my own feet. Last Saturday, there wasn't much to do at work and the usual afternoon blues didn't come knocking. But I thought of taking a cycle-rickshaw ride back home from the shop which keeps me in high spirits. When the tricycle stopped at the traffic intersection, those able-bodied but dirty-clothed beggars approached me. The rickshaw-puller attempted to shoo them away motioning his right hand. It was then that I noticed his missing left-arm. A few weeks ago the auto-rickshaw driver who dropped me home had legs, but they didn't move.

They didn't make it to the traffic intersections, religious places or busy pavements. They are good at their jobs and don't let their disabilities come in their way. Why do the others? We give alms and feel good. We've done our bit to add to the credit column of the heavenly ledger. But have done the recipient of our benevolence no good. Alms kill the urge to work. It's easy money and there is also an organised mafia out there coordinating all this.

Begging in a majority of the cases is not a necessity but a menace. Many weeks ago a friend forwarded me an email which said that a particular beggar in Bombay earned on an average Rs. 1000 a day. Whenever beggars came begging at our door, my mother would make them do some chores before she gave them anything. I thought that why does she not give them something and let them go? Now I understand.

Click here for the complete post...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Embarking upon the Digital Realm

My Nascent Attempt at Digital Photography
Whenever my blank-balance starts to get a little cozy, my palms start itching. My last itch-session led me to get myself a digital camera. Hereupon there'll be more of 'original' pictorial accompaniments to my posts and I'll probably take a sojourn from Google image search.

To the left/above is my nascent attempt at digital photography. No Photoshop involved.

Click here for the complete post...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

'Look Out' for Bloggers

"The Indian blogging community (or blogosphere, as it likes to call itself) is essentially a bitchy, selfindulgent and an almost incestuous network comprising journalists, wannabe-writers and a massive army of geeks who give vent to their creative ambitions on the internet. Given that the average blogger-age is 25 years, it's clear bloggers love to indulge in hearty name calling and taking college-style potshots at others. This is probably why some of them get into trouble."

- TR Vivek. "Bite in the Blog Bark." Outlook Volume XLV, No. 43. October 25-31: 64

Click here for the complete post...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Bloggers' Bible

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Ever since the blog came into being, it has given a voice to millions who had otherwise preferred to remain silent. And when silence breaks, it's not in harmony. But it is not the lilting melody that our ears want to hear, it is the cacophony of sense, of outrage, of anger. But in this flood of free speech we tend to get carried way. And often we don't know what to say and how to tell it.

Keeping this in mind the guys at Reporters Without Borders have come up with a Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents, which provides "practical advice and technical tips to help bloggers stay anonymous and get round censorship."

This is what they say:

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without BordersReporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

Click on the links to download:

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Pdf, 1,6 Mo
Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Printer friendly Pdf, 3,4 Mo

Click here for the complete post...

When the Bush Was a Little Green

Click here for the complete post...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Beyond Cows and Call Centres

Many days ago while consuming my daily diet of printed news I noticed something which offended me a little. The comic strip Bulls $ Bears (on the business page of the Times of India) featured an immigration clerk at Bombay airport. And guess what he looked like? No, not Osama, but the stereotyped turbaned Indian. I forgot about it. Last night BBC's Talking Movies featured Mira Nair. And she was asked about the accusation of her selling India's poverty to the outside world in her debut feature Salaam Bombay. Her justification is not important. But the image we Indians portray of ourselves and how the world wishes to look at us is.

There is no shying away from the fact that the poverty here is immense. Almost numbing. But this is not the only picture. All the foreign comics that I read as a child which mentioned India or Indians in them, had stinking rich bejewelled maharajas, fakirs lazing on a cushion of nails and the Great Indian Rope Trick. In my little more than a quarter of century existence in this country, I am yet to see any of them in flesh and blood. Yes, there are cows, plenty of them. But we are not a nation of irresponsible cowherds.

With technology we seemingly ignored our bovine wealth and herded off to steal jobs from the developed world. From irresponsible cowherds to bread snatchers. Is it that what we are?

Most of the Indian movies which the international film audience lap up are the ones which 'celebrated' the backwardness and poverty of our people (exceptions like Monsoon Wedding exist). The developed world does not want to get a picture of India which is akin theirs, it is boring. Contrast is interesting. Hence, the off-white Taj and the traffic snarling cow share cover space on travel books.

India is not Gurgaon or Navi Mumbai. India is not Telangana or Kalahandi. India is not Zunheboto or Rajpipla. India is not Infosys or mango kernels. India is all of the above including me. But the canvas becomes too big for the painter and neither is the complete story ever interesting. Truth seldom sells and what sells is the truth.

So I'm an ex-snake charmer working on a second hand PC dumped from China, utilising the language skills learnt through Rapidex English Speaking Course, connected to the world wide web via a 56kbps dial-up connection shared between six obsolete PCs, plucking the lice from the innards of my turban, utilising the time between doing a job for which an American would have charged at least five times more in explaining to the world why I should be the next cover 'guy' of Lonely Planet India. In the meanwhile I twirl my moustache.

Click here for the complete post...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Copy Editor's Angst

There are writers with million dollar advances, columnists who wine and dine with the who's who, correspondents globetrotting on company expenses and then there are copy editors.

One such copy editor visited my blog and I paid him/her a return visit. I found his/her description of the profession having a truthful but humourous ring to it. This is what he/she said:

Hi. Once a musician, now a copy editor living in Brooklyn, I seek escape from the mind-numbing grind of the job. Copy editing may not pay much, it may be tedious, dull and thankless; the copy editor may get the blame when things go wrong, and none of the credit when they go right; we inspire anger when we point out others' errors, are threatened with termination when we do not; but let me tell you something about copy editing: Uh ... did I mention that it doesn't pay much? Please join me in my attempt to break the chain (at least for a while) that binds me to the cubicle. Peace. GIP.

Click here for the complete post...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Eavesdropping and the Elections

Eavesdropping is a proscribed pleasure. Though I don't actually stick my ear into keyholes, but occasionally unwillingly or otherwise overhear other people talking. The discussion of the office help, security guards, electricians and their aides are particularly engrossing. Their canvas is wider than that of primetime TV chatterboxes. From the newly appointed secretary to international relations, they have their say in all. Two of the liftmen are self-proclaimed authorities on the Hindu scriptures and they always make it a point to preach the workers following faiths varied from theirs.

Yesterday the hot topic of discussion was the elections in the state of Bihar and the winnability of the different parties. This led to the electrician's assistant narrating an incident in his village. A relative of his stood for the panchayat (village level) elections and lost by a single vote. Later the distraught candidate discovers that his father didn't vote. Because his name didn't figure in the voters list.

This reminds me of my father's solitary foray into politics. His friends in college proposed his name and also did the necessary canvassing for the college elections. When the results were declared it was a tie and the winner had to be decided by the flip of a coin. And to his relief, he lost.

Click here for the complete post...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Never-Never Land for the Neither Sex

Pandav Nagar is a typical middle class locality in East Delhi. Houses sharing common walls on three sides, only the front remains exclusive. Kids on bicycles roam about carelessly, pausing momentarily for the passing vehicle bigger than theirs. The slim-and-trim fad has also caught up with the populace here. The D shaped park in the centre of the locality is abuzz with activity in the mornings. Old couples, college-going girls, wannabe macho men all busy with their daybreak huffing and puffing.

In the vicinity is a health club - only for ladies. Young girls and paunchy aunts, in the eternal yearn for a fitter body tire their legs on the treadmill or flex their muscles doing aerobics. Nearby lives a eunuch, who adopted two orphaned girls. The girls have grown older and had expressed the desire to look and feel fit. The eunuch approaches the instructor-cum-proprietor of the club; she is willing to pay the monthly fees Rs. 400 per head. The club still has space for many more members. But the girls were denied admission. No fault of theirs. Only that their foster parent does not fall into one of the compartments of gender segregation.

Many authors have written about them, a few films have been made, some also won elections. But they have remained what they have been down the ages, objects of ridicule. They say that their outward brashness is their only shield against the merciless world. And they are not wrong. They are non-existent for the administration, but eminently visible throughout the nation, in the traffic junctions, sea-sides, trains and narrow alleys. Singing, dancing, extortion and prostitution remain their only domain. There are no other options.

I'm writing about them inspired from an anecdote that a friend (who frequents that health club) narrated to me. I can feel their pain somewhere, but when they confront me, I impulsively shy away. The mindset still needs a lot of shattering.

She says that eunuchs can't even get their lives insured.

Click here for the complete post...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Twenty Things About Me That I Just Discovered

I'm usually a little slow in my response to the latest fads. Saw this tagging thing going on in the blogosohere for long and wondered what it was all about? Until Abaniko tagged me. I'm a little wary of this practice of which asks me to list things about me, which might have been possible fodder for my future posts. Unwillingly so, I have to return the favour. Here come 20 random facts about me (as if anyone is remotely interested):

1. As a kid I was afraid of crocodiles hiding beneath my bed (monsters didn't scare me)
2. In school, I once faked injury in a fight to get my rival punished. I again faked injury during selection for the inter-house cricket match to avoid humiliation of being dropped from the team (no I'm not Saurav Ganguly)
3. I ain't very content with the job I'm in, but haven't tried elsewhere in the last two years
4. Occasionally I stand before a mirror and talk to my reflection
5. I always wanted to make movies
6. I seldom read a book in its entirety
7. I don't miss the ending credits in a movie
8. I have no idols in life
9. When I was 14, I led a strike in school and got suspended
10. I had my first crush in kindergarten
11. I hate chain letters. Nothing good has ever come to me forwarding them and ostensibly nothing ill happened by ignoring them.
12. I'm not able to relate to any political party
13. While eating oranges, I swallow the seeds (and no orange tree has sprouted from my tummy yet)
14. Black is my favorite colour (but doesn't black signify the absence of any colour whatsoever?)
15. I flunked the MA Economics first semester exams, this after topping in the same university in BA Economics.
16. I had a fetish for weapons and collected quite a many (no guns), but never used them for their intended purpose (maybe it has something to my momentary desire to become a mafia don)
17. I can wiggle my ears
18. I prefer fountain pens over ball pointed ones
19. I don't possess a credit card
20. I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books

The ritual says that I'm required to tag the same number of people as the minutes I took to write this down. But I don't know that many. Following Abaniko's example I'm laying the trap for a few. The unfortunate list includes the botanist in the making from Calcutta - Dwaipayan; the confused scribe from Delhi - Aklanta; the most amusing 54 year old that I know - Greta; the CEO still in management school - Khyati; my namesake (almost) - Soumyadev; the gypsy from New Jersey - Varsha; and the one from Bush land I love to tease (and vice versa) - the Bionic 1.

You turn guys and don't forget those juicy bits.

Click here for the complete post...

The Sixth Commandment in Practice

The Gandhi would've loved this race. The Toltecs, an agricultural tribe in ancient Mexico who migrated from northern Mexico to the vicinity of what is now Mexico City in the seventh century AD fought some wars. But armed themselves with wooden swords - so that they would not kill their enemies.

Click here for the complete post...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wrongfully Left In a Righteous World

Left Hand
Many Windows versions ago, I discovered that the mouse settings could also be modified for left handed users. Otherwise the world in its rightful righteousness ignored the needs of us lefties.

I would have become a complete righty and I owe it to my kindergarten teacher who vetoed the stupid idea, which a neighbourhood aunt had put in my mother's mind - to enclose my left hand in a sock, so that I'm discouraged from using it. There are a lot of negative attitudes towards the left hand, especially in a culture like ours, where the prime importance of the left hand is cleaning up at the end of the digestive process.

Emulating others as a kid, especially in sports made me opt for right handed play. And I never excelled in any, though I played quite a many. Bowling right-arm-over-the-wicket didn't fetch me as many scalps which my natural tendency for left-arm-around-the-wicket action would perhaps had. Where ever I go, what ever I do I find everything designed for people with a more dominant left brain. Even the damn potato-peeler is angled to suit a right-hander and also those scissors. I trained myself in using right-handed scissors, but simply can't peel potatoes with any other hand but my left.

The conflict between my inner left inclined self and the rightist world outside made me an oxymoron of sorts. Not always is the right right for me. I write with my left but throw darts using the right. This is reminiscent of the phenomenon of dominant cultures gobbling up the little ones.

And the left-handed option on the mouse is also useless, I have become so attuned with the existing scheme of things that any modifications will only be accompanied by loss in efficiency. Anyway, all mouse trays are to the right.

"If the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, then left-handed people must be the only ones in their right minds."

~ W.C. Fields

Click here for the complete post...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sniff Proof Bacchanalia

He liked his Thums Up. Always poured it in quantities to match our pegs and sipped to match our pace (or the lack of it). Out of the bar and heading home, this solo teetotaller amongst us was much in demand. After the ritual sucking of mints, munching of cashews and chewing of pan, it was his turn. Like a trained canine he sniffed for that faintest whiff of alcohol. "Don't venture close to speak," "Have another mint or burst a Pudin Hara pearl in your mouth," or the always welcome, "Coast is clear, no smell discovered." We always took his comments seriously. Good middleclass boys shouldn't stink of booze while talking to their moms. Thanks to him, I always remained a good boy (atleast I think so).

Now away from home, nobody gives a damn if I return to my residence half-drunk. I don't need no mouth fresheners. And now when I eye sachets of After Cocktail dangling from the cigarette-vendor's kiosk near my workplace, I'm reminded of the treacherous odour shrouding procedures we had to undergo and curse the fact that I discovered it a few years late, else Mr. Teetotaller would have been long relieved of his duties.

Costing Rs. 5 for a 15 ml sachet After Cocktail is a 'herbal' anti smell mouth freshener and 'cleansing savionette ' (whatever that means). Marketed and manufactured by S.A. Foods, Delhi - no further details provided, so you can't even sue them if your mom smells through its mask.

The product description and instructions listed on the rear of the sachet is a copy-editor's nightmare. And it asks us to "Get more out of life."

With no manufacturing date and no expiry period mentioned, I couldn't get myself to try it out. Maybe this weekend it will be me, Bacchus and a guinea pig.

Click here for the complete post...

The Chicken Counter Vs. the Citizens' Media. Round II

The story so far

The saga is still unfolding. The other party has unleashed another threat. A desperate effort to intimidate. The damages demanded this time is Rs. 175 crores. Wow! a Rs. 50 crore jump in 'reputation' (if any) value. This even beats the massive erection which the BSE Sensex had built up.

All this has left me wondering; correct me if I'm wrong. In the bazaar of education, reputation sells. IIMs and others (irrespective of B-school survey ratings) do not need to spend crores to attract students, to sell never to be fulfilled dreams. Quality speaks for itself. No full page advertisements are necessary, no yelling from rooftops required. No chicken and egg story need to be told (which fellow bloggers tell me is listed in the humour section of an online store).

And does anyone out there remember the much hyped (by the ever ignorant and story starved media) movie, I don't even remember the name. The one which Mr. Bean, oops! Mr. Dean directed. Didn't even hear a whisper about it, did it even get released?

Of the little I know of managers and management skills, the principle always is to try to stop a fire from spreading (unless the motive is insurance). But that doesn't mean that you empty a bucket of water over an electrical fire. If the 'institution' in question had such impeccable antecedents - why do they not come out in the open with facts - something which respectable organisations do when something malicious appears about them in the media?

I had too much faith in the Indian media to ignore this story altogether, but thankfully I was proved wrong. Some of them in fact did and more should be on the way.

Some people are alleging that bloggers are 'ganging up' against IIPM. I agree. But I don't see anything wrong with it. The Blog is the citizens' media, it's power lies in it's collective voice. If one of them shouts, the voice can be easily muffled (as it was attempted to), but a thousand voices yelling in unison make themselves heard.

Let's have a fair debate. But here again, all the arguments seem to be for the motion, whereas the opposition bench has only resorted to legalised threats and some splogs. All of us desperately want to hear the other side of the story; the elevating damage claims are fast losing their novelty.

All the notices were sent to bloggers who didn't feel the need to camouflage their identities. If indeed their intentions were malicious, as the notices state, wouldn't it be more successfully and less riskily implemented by remaining anonymous? ATTENTION: Sploggers.

But will IIPM, really, seriously, go to the courts. I don't think so (I often end up being wrong). Commonsense says that they have more to lose. The closet might be ripped open and you never know what might tumble out. But then again, it's commonsense. 'Internationally renowned management gurus' don't think like lowly mortals as me.

"You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."

- Abraham Lincoln

Click here for the complete post...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Why Do Journos Blog?

The blogosphere is a strange place, infested with strange people following stranger occupations. The much maligned media-wallahs also fill in the ranks. But it seems they are only a few - the overpaid and underworked types who make a foray into the B-land. Or else there wouldn't be so much misinformation about blogging hanging around in the newsstands (the sound and motion variety don't seem to have the faintest idea). Hidden behind pseudonyms seemingly inspired from a kiddie PC game, some of them do what they wouldn't ever have in their straitjacketed publications.

Familiarity breeds contempt and within the relative anonymity of the blogosphere they let go of all the suppressed frustrations, anger and intellectual overflows. Stories that never went to print reincarnate as posts. They might have sold their souls, but a little bit of heart seems to have remained in the right place and it occasionally shows, in their posts.

But what I wonder is that why would a scribe already pestered with approaching deadlines and writer's blocks, put in some extra minutes (even hours) before a CRT/TFT screen in geeky cyberia? The time could be productively used for planning the next sting or downing some booze at the press club.

Click here for the complete post...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

These Accountants Get a Lot of Leaves

Auto Rickshaw drivers in Delhi (and elsewhere) are believed to be a crooked lot. Loitering around in their (now eco-friendly) three wheelers, ready to fleece you at the slightest pretext. You want the shortest route; they always take a detour feigning traffic jams, closed roads or some other not so ingenious excuse.

The law requires them to ply by meter (unless you take a pre-paid from an authorised booth). When you ask them to, comes the eternal excuse, "Meter kharab hain" (The meter's not working). A few days ago I took an auto rickshaw (non pre-paid) from the Old Delhi Railway Station to my residence in the eastern suburbs. I had negotiated the fare beforehand. The electronic meter was covered with a rexene flap. On it written in stylised Devanagri was, "Maaf kijiye munimji chutti pe hain" (Sorry! the accountant is on leave).

I smiled, but on reaching my destination had to pay the driver Rs. 10 more than what his perpetually on leave munimji (accountant) would have otherwise calculated.

Click here for the complete post...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogs Don't Run your Ads Mr. Chaudhuri

I was under the impression that senseless suing (or the threat to) is an essentially American pastime. But like other things American we Indians are also acquiring this trait. A certain management institute and it's bespectacled ponytailed boss got furious about the good words (for the clueless B-school aspirants) which a well meaning blogger Gaurav Sabnis had put up on his blog. He had linked to a story carried by JAM where the Mumbai based mag attempted to bring out the truth about IIPM's tall claims (I always found their advertisements amusing).

Eye Eye Pee Yum went on a damage control spree and their legal cell sent Gaurav a letter claiming Rs. 125 crores in damages. The letter makes for a hilarious read.

The good thing about this amusing affair is that some naive B-school aspirants might see some light and be more cautious before falling into a trap of tall claims and that the Indian blog community have got together on an issue, something which mainstream media will be reluctant to take up owing to potential loss of ad revenue. But the bad news is that Gaurav Sabnis has resigned from the organisation he was working with. A price which people often have to pay for standing up to their principles.

Thanks to K's blog for inciting me to make a departure from my usual mindless musings and write about something I occasionally should.

And I join Vijay Krishna and other like minded bloggers in thanking Mr. Chaudhuri for helping us realise the great Indian dream - bringing the Indian blogging community together.

Click here for the complete post...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Some Seismic Sense Sought

Assam-Type House
The earth quivers and hell descends on earth. We may blame the forces of nature for the devastation. But it is human nature, as I mentioned in my last post, which is really responsible.

My neighbours across the lane are adding two stories to their home. The construction began hardly 10-12 days ago and it's more than half complete. I was surprised to discover that there were no pillars, only brick upon brick and no supporting columns. My colleagues tell me that many houses in Delhi are constructed this way; it saves time and more importantly money. What about safety? Eternal optimists, I presume.

The British having learnt their lesson from the 1897 Shillong earthquake took extra caution in constructing buildings in the seismic active far eastern India. The Assam-type houses, a common feature in both the hills and the plains of the region are not only easy on the bank balances but quake proof of a very high order. But then the common man discovered RCC. Common sense gave way to rigidity; the sense of aesthetics also got a little wayward. No new Assam-types are being constructed and the existing progressively demolished. Land prices have become directly proportional to the altitude of the buildings.

When the earth trembles, I don't worry about my parents, I know that they'll be safe in an Assam-type cottage on the hills. About me, I don't feel very secure within the confines of modern architecture.

Click here for the complete post...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Shaky Delhi

Early Saturday morning, the shift just started and we were planning for the weekend. Suddenly someone exclaimed, "EARTHQUAKE!" I couldn't feel any vibrations, but then it was there, our 17th floor office began to sway like a cradle in the wind.

The panicky ones rushed for the lift, but thankfully the liftman was a sane and calm man, he asked everyone to take the stairs and maintain calm. But chaos reigned. The quake might have been a mild one and wouldn't have caused any damage. But human nature would have definitely resulted in a few casualties. The afternoon news bulletins would have the details.

I walked down till the 12th Floor and felt that the vibrations had receded. Now as I'm typing this post with trembling fingers, my colleagues, a little shaky and jittery are returning to their workstations. Everyone has the devastating Gujarat earthquake of January 26, 2001 in mind.

Click here for the complete post...

The Elusive Exclusive

Exclusive, I type the word and press Ctrl+Alt+W on my keyboard. WordWeb (a very handy software) presents me these meanings for the word:


1. A news report that is reported first by one news organization


1. Not divided or shared with others
2. Excluding much or all; especially all but a particular group or minority
3. Not divided among or brought to bear on more than one object or objective

And the not so handy Pocket Oxford Dictionary has this to say:

exclusive —adj. 1 excluding other things. 2 (predic.; foll. by of) not including; except for. 3 tending to exclude others, esp. socially. 4 high-class. 5 not obtainable elsewhere or not published elsewhere. —n. article etc. published by only one newspaper etc.

exclusively adv. exclusiveness n. exclusivity n. [medieval Latin: related to *exclude]

I wasted my not-so-precious time browsing through a few more lexicons, but they all conveyed similar meanings and nothing was close what I was looking for - the meaning of the word 'EXCLUSIVE' as our television news channels understand it. Almost every day I come across a story (piece of fiction that narrates a chain of related events) in one of the umpteen news channels which proudly display the word 'exclusive' on one of the corners of the screen. Only to switch to the next channel running the same story 'exclusively.' Sometimes there are three or even four providing 'exclusive' coverage.

"What's so exclusive in them?" I wonder aloud. My flatmate who has many such 'exclusives' behind him puts my queries to rest, "You don't get it yaar! It's the camera angle which is exclusive. Other channels are airing only the front view, this channel is exclusively bringing you the profile."

I get the meaning and press the power button on the remote.

And remember you read about this EXCLUSIVELY on this blog.

Click here for the complete post...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why Things Go Wrong

The guiding force of the universe has a great sense humor. It loves to have some fun at our expense. You wait in a long queue and when your turn comes the counter is closed for lunch. It usually rains on the days you forget to carry the umbrella. There seems to be some uncodified principles governing the frustrated lives of us mortals. Man in his endeavour to know the why and how of everything has attempted to decipher those operating principles.

Excerpts from Arthur Bloch's Murphy's Law - and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong:

The Unspeakable Law

As soon as you mention something,
If it's good, it goes away.
If it's bad, it happens.

Nonreciprocal Law of Expectations

Negative Expectations yield negative results.
Positive expectations yield negative results.

Howe's Law

Every man has a scheme that will not work

Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics

Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can.

Etoree's Observation

The other line moves faster.

Law of Selective Gravity

An object will fall so as to do the most damage.

Segal's Law

A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.

and of course...

Murphy's Law

If anything can go wrong, it will.

Click here for the complete post...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cat Hair on My Favorite Chair

There is an animal inside every man, which occasionally reveals itself. Thankfully there's isn't a man inside every animal, therefore rapes are an unknown phenomenon in the remainder of the animal kingdom (as far as I know and that's not very far). Ever since man has become conscious of the environment around himself, he has sought the company of animals. Animals that helped him in his work, guarded his belongings, kept pests away, entertained him or animals that just looked good.

Animals will do better without man meddling in their affairs, but man without animals wouldn't have achieved all that he has. Leafing through RK Narayan's autobiography 'My Days' (a fresh copy which I picked up after a serious bout of bargaining on my Sunday haunt of Delhi's Daryaganj for Rs. 20) I related to his lack of success with pets during his early childhood. When an animal or bird (or whatever) is with us, alive and breathing, it forms a part of our lives. But when it departs we mourn a little, get on with our lives and perhaps procure a new replacement.

Whenever I think of pets, I think cats. Those arrogant and ungrateful but nevertheless adorable creatures. My childhood was full of them and an odd mongrel. One winter morning, she and her little kittens lay splattered on the asphalt. Perhaps a truck ran over them. The mongrel persisted for many years until his euthanasia. A decade lapsed and mice became a serious menace in our household. My aunt who had four generations of felines under her roof, spared two kittens.

Sarangi (a musical instrument) and Madan (the god of love), the brother and sister duo who fought like a married couple came into our lives. Madan being the man he loitered around, paying occasional visits and Sarangi got busy warding off and welcoming prospective suitors and tending the litters resulting from those nocturnal rendezvous. My mother got busy distributing them to unwilling neighbours. But some toms occasionally remained unclaimed and continued to spend wintry nights beneath the quilts of my brother and me.

I had seen Sarangi chasing away full grown dogs to protect her kittens and when they were given away she peed on the beds and the sofas in retaliation. Someone killed her and Madan ran way. Sarangi's offspring Motu (the fat one) and Kalu (the black one) lingered for sometime and then followed Madan's pawsteps. After a lull of six months came Champaklal, a tom with the arrogance of a lion. Our home seemed too small a den for him and off he went to explore the world outside.

My mother went back to purchasing rat poison and our home never remained the same. Especially with stinking dead mice stuck in unreachable crevices.

I Love My Dog

I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.

All he asks from me is the food to give him strength
All he ever needs is love and that he knows he’ll get

So, I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.

All the pay I need comes shining through his eyes
I don’t need no cold water to make me realize that.

I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.

- Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam)

Click here for the complete post...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Marriage is Vanilla

Men would have happily remained men, but then came marriage - a social conspiracy to deprive a man of his individualistic trait.

Marriage like ice cream comes in multiple flavours. Some interesting but almost non-existent, others boring but prevalent. The reigning flavours in our nation of a billion plus burgeoning population are only two - Love or Arranged. Take your pick.

Most opt to get it arranged - those who have loved and lost, others who haven't loved at all. They say get married first with a convented and homely, tall, fair and beautiful girl with matching horoscope, topped with a hefty dowry. Love automatically will follow. If not, lust will definitely keep the family name alive. Unbelievable as it may sound; most of such marriages have withstood the tests of time (Ignoring the occasional dowry deaths).

If you have that adventurous streak, then love with your spouse can precede the nuptial bond. Mismatched tongues, castes, horoscopes, temperaments, likes and dislikes. But somehow two individuals happen to fall in love and even contemplate marriage, fight parental opposition, societal restrictions etc. etc. And curse each other for the remainder of their wedded life.

Or there's always the third flavour. The premarital love gets converted into marital union getting the love factor fixed through the mechanism of arrangement. Thereby making it more acceptable to all the involved parties and the conservative aunts. But such marriages do not inspire many a filmmaker. It's ice cream without the crunchy cone.

I'll be spoilt for choices when my mother will ask me, "Do you have someone in mind, or should we start looking for a suitable match?" But will also have to choose my flavour before the shop closes and lap it up before it melts.

Click here for the complete post...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Unknown Indians

Arunachal Pradesh
I had heard many an anecdote about the rest of India wondering about the existence of places in North-eastern India. I in my ignorance about the knowledge of 'mainland' Indians thought them to be concocted ones. How could an educated citizen not be aware of the existence of not only a capital city but also of a whole state?

On a rainy Independence Day - 15 August 2001, I accompanied by my brother took the early morning train from Bhopal to Sanchi. My brother was downcast seeing the overcast skies. His photographs might not turn out well and the rain could damage his equipment. I was excited with the prospect of seeing the pictures from my school history books come to life. Braving the rain, minus an umbrella we made it to the ticket window.

The elderly gentleman behind the grilled window looked at me through his thick rimmed glasses and enquired in English, "Where have you come from?" "Shillong," I replied. He handed me two tickets and asked for a price many times higher than the displayed entry fee. "Shouldn't it be Rs. 20 for two tickets?" I asked. "Can't you read the board outside? The rates for foreigners are higher," the ticket seller growled.

"Par hum to Indian hain? (But we are Indians)," I protested in Hindi. "Hindi seekh lene se koi Indian nahin ho jata! (Learning Hindi doesn't make one an Indian)" came the smart reply. At this point by brother brandished his Government of India identity card. "But you said you are from Ceylon?" the man asked apologetically.

"Shillong not Ceylon!"

"Woh kahan hain? (Where's that)"


"Woh kahan hain?"

"Assam ke paas (Near the state of Assam)"

"To bolo na Assam se ho, kab se Ceylon, Ceylon kya kar rahe ho (Then why don't you say you're from Assam, why are you saying Shillong, Shillong)."

"No arguments," I thought.

This was just the beginning of my encounters with my geographically challenged fellow citizens. And I felt grateful to that pavement vendor in Bilaspur who on discovering my hometown exclaimed, "Lovely hill station. I would like to visit it sometime, once I save enough money."

Click here for the complete post...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu...

It's that time of the year when mother Durga embarks on her annual vacation, family and pets in tow. The hills in autumn seem greener; the streams sparkle a little more. A thousand miles away from home, in a land somewhat alien I can't smell festivity in the air. The conch shells and the drumbeats reverberate in the nostalgic realm. I yearn for the doe-eyed beauties uneasy in their crisp sarees. My ears search for the strains of songs in the tongue I called my own.

They say this is a big city. It celebrates festivals of all hues. There are more than 10 million souls cramped in here, but at this time of the year I feel alone, all alone. It's a time of togetherness of bonding. In my little hill town I knew almost everybody, here in this metropolis all faces seem unfamiliar. With whom shall I share my excitement? To whom shall I narrate my loneliness?

Today is Mahalaya, the day of invocation of goddess Durga in her Mahisasurmardini form (the slayer of the demon Mahisasur). The beginning of the ten days of festivity. My father didn't wake me up at the crack of dawn to listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra's oratorio (set to Pankaj Mallick's music) on All India Radio. I listened to an MP3 version on my PC instead.

It is of course a religious occasion, but it's not the gods that I miss, it is the people and the atmosphere. They might celebrate it here, but I don't feel at home, a home I've left a thousand miles behind. Memories that I'll cherish forever.

Oratorio invoking the goddess Durga by Birendra Krishna Bhadra [04:56 MP3 2.26 MB 64 kbps]

Update: Links to the complete version of Mahisasurmardini is available here. (September, 22, 2006)

Click here for the complete post...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Lights, Camera, Action

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" - The second most common question which bored grownups put before clueless kids. The first of course is - "What is your 'good' name?" Pestered kids like me would come up with a new ambition at regular intervals to lend some variety. In my early years, I wanted to be a grocer because my infant belief was that grocers never needed to purchase anything. Slowly as the lure of the lucre dawned on me, I switched my loyalties to the bank manager. Again addiction to action movies made me opt for another vocation - the army. With time and maturity (?) the fighting spirit died out.

But the magic of the moving pictures accompanied with sound remained ingrained. I wanted to make movies. My friends amused me demanding lead roles. Some of the nasty ones wanted villainous roles with a few rape scenes (at that time only flowers, birds or fireplaces symbolised copulating couples on celluloid and only villains had the liberty). But education ruined all my plans. I started off to become a geographer, went three-fourths of the way in economics and finally landed up becoming what my blogger profile says.

Filmmaking is too uncertain a profession and I wouldn't definitely land up being the next Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen or Satyajit Ray. That's what my father a connoisseur of the art house stuff felt. He and the vast enormity of my paternal and maternal family extensions felt that I should rather attempt for what is the ultimate dream of the dowry-demanding, bride-burning, female-foetus-killing Indian heartland - the Indian Administrative Service. For better or worse I never attempted that and nor did I fill up the forms for the film institute.

The desire still lingers. But today, nobody asks me - "What did I want to become?"

Click here for the complete post...