Category Archives: General

Comeback Season – Abbas & Mustan and Jeff Archer

It is the comeback season. Not mine. That is still time away. (I will continue to visit this space off and on for some more time).

But two of my favorites have come back with a proverbial bang – Director duo Abbas- Mustan and author Jeffrey Archer.

Isn’t it curious how much a fan accepts his loved artiste’s failure as his own, and then tries to defend it weakly or pompously (as his character is wont be)? Well, this post is not to dwell on a fan-artiste relationship. That would need to much of input and time, and more concentration that what this cyber cafe offers (with the lady at the desk happily viewing sobbing bahus in variety of soaps spread over multifarious channels).

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Of Travels and Celebrations…

Look at life’s irony – there was a time, on this very blog, when I had wanted to give it up all and walk away. During those crises-ridden days, I sought escape routes that were not available, and as lazy hours stared back with their longing eyes, I would return to this page, trying to form words out the creative stupor and nether that I was in.

Today, the scenario is diametrically opposite – I have so much to tell, yet I am not able to find those lazy hours (nay, moments) where I can sit leisurely to sort that jumble of thoughts and events and celebrations into a neat and tidy readable post(s). Here is, in capsule, all those posts that never saw the life on this blog, but could have been, and who knows, might also find themselves written sometime in future:

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I Will Return…

…and very soon. But just a quick update to those who have actually ventured into this space the past few days:

I am still home-less. More than me (after all, the company guest house is so comfortable) it’s my packers-and-movers guy (who is holding my stuff en-route from Agra at New Delhi) who is exasperated. From the gruff ‘when will you give me an address to send your dumb stuff’ he has now stepped down to a worried plea ‘boss, saamaan mangaa lo please’. I dread at thought of his final bill amount.

Nagpur is the new city added to my list of travels (and I type this post from a horrible cyber-cafe from there).

I stepped into Delhi for a brief while for Diwali. What to say? The four days simply whizzed by. My apologies to all whom I must have promised to meet, but didn’t.

I watch movies aplenty. And my current haunt is Cinemax at Versova. Their Red Lounge (with huge reclining sofas) is a treat, and the cheese pop-corns delicious. A bit late, but here are one-or-two sentences on the movies seen:

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Bombay

That’s where I pitch my tent, in yet another career and city move. I came here a couple of weeks back, and since then, I am caught in an immense whirlpool, where time is suddenly so short and distances so long. Yet, somehow somewhere I connect to this place. Perhaps, the dreamy layer is still to peel from my eyes, till then I am thoroughly enjoying, even if it means getting stuck in traffic jams that are longer than the entire journey that I would ever have made while in Agra!

It probably started off in June. It was simply a chance and off-the-cuff remark to a friend, over a cup of coffee, when I had come here for a visit: “Someday I wish to unravel the mystery behind what makes Bombay tick”. And also, finally comprehend the seemingly complicated criss-cross of trains and their impeccable schedule which everyone swears by. Looking back, it seems right then some machinery up there in the heavens started to heave into motion to hurlte me into – what Priyangini called – the ‘melting pot’. I landed here on an early morning flight on the 5th of September.

The start was anything but auspicious – my baggage went off on another flight, my pant ripped rather embarassingly getting entangled in a metal side-strip of one of those old Padmini Premier taxis and the guest house booking wasn’t confirmed.

The past two weeks I am absorbing a lot – at my work place and of the city as well. Whenever I get time, I grab the opportunity to roam about and learn my way through (which I realized is not a very easy task). I have done the touristy thing of visiting Gateway of India, strolling on Colaba Causeway and having a leisurely evening at Bandra Bandstand, watching the sun set into the deep grey sea.

My immediate concern is getting a house. And a decent one, at that. More importantly, without it pinching my pocket too much. Though the last seems to be a near-impossible task to achieve. The going deposit rate is anything above Rs 1 Lac, for a decent 1BHK accomodation in the far off suburbs.

Rs 1 Lac??” I had stared incredulously, my eyes popping out, my tongue sticking in disbelief and the piece of a sumptuous sizzler choking my throat, when Priyangini had informed me of the same. “Are you serious?”

Apparantly, she was. And very correct as well. I had heard of ridiculous deposits, but this was way beyond my imagination. Strangely, anyone that I speak to makes me feel like a stupid little idiot who has just woken up to some given and expected fact of life. In Bombay (or Mumbai, to be politically very correct), no one bats an eyelid in talking about these huge deposits or even asking for it.

That’s why perhaps all my Mumbaiya friends, to whom I had informed of my imminent shift, had conveniently forgotten to mention about this crucial piece of information.

Welcome to reality, buddy, I told myself. Had I known this earlier, I would have reconsidered my decision to shift here. Err…would I have? Well, as of now that question lies in the realms of a hypothetical stratosphere, hence why get into it!

Anyways, the dice has been rolled. And I might as well play the game to my best possible manner. Which I am very serious about. I have to win!

Ganpati Festival is on – and the entire city wears a lovely colorful look. Here’s wishing all readers a very happy and prosperous Ganesh Utsav.

(My apologies for being erratic here, and not replying to comments. But rest assured, I read them all voraciously.)

Farewell, Agra

The gypsy is ready to move on. The tent has been folded, the bags packed and the caravan ready to trudge to yet another new place.

I left Agra – and my job – in the early evening of 31st August, and drove down what is probably – at least till now – the last drive on NH-2. This time I humored the stubborn ‘auto’ drivers, and smiled at the obstinate bus-drivers who wouldn’t give you way even if you blink your car blind and honk yourself to deafness. It took more than the mandatory four hours on that highway, but what the hell, I might not see it again for a long long time.

The last few days went in a daze. The city burned itself in a silly fight and curfew was imposed on several areas. For me, it was deja vu all over again. The last time I had left a city (Kathmandu, for the uninitiated), it was clamped down by curfew, although for a vastly different reason. It seems whenever I have to leave a town, it bleeds itself in pain!

Memories! They are a strange lot. Just when I thought I had nothing positive to say about Agra, other than its gargantuan wonder in marble, I seem to recall all its plus points. Here is what all passed my mind when I hit the bed the night of 31st August, in my own bed in Delhi, but my heart wandering in the curfew-stamped city 200 kms away:

  • Sadar Bazar – a vibrant and vivacious market place, which could be a setting for such romantic novel that can only be written for a small town. It’s Sunday crowd, in their best and brightest dresses, the row of eateries right in the middle, the blazing neon signs, and that small lane filled with the most sumptuous chaats and gol-gappas – all its aromas tickled my nostrils and memories!
  • The area around Fatehabad/Shamshabad Road, where I stayed for past one year. Wide open roads and lesser traffic, I took to the locality the moment I saw it. My open and spacious flat, in a gigantic white structure (which is also visible from Google earth, yes it was pretty large!) is a place I will miss for long.
  • Pacific Mall – a place I visited nearly every Friday evening to catch the latest release at its in-house multiplex – Fun Cinemas. Sadly, I tried to visit it a day before leaving, but the place was closed down due to the civic unrest in the town. Hours spent there, generally whiling away time, in its atrium, or cruising by the aisles of Big Bazar are moments to cherish.
  • The amount of heritage that Agra holds in its folds is indescribable. Before the unrest began, a friend and I visited Sikandra, Itmaudallah and that superb garden just opposite Taj Mahal – Mehtaab Bagh. What a serene location, with the Taj smiling benignly across the river.
  • The slow and languid pace that often irritated the big city boy within me, but what I would love to return to. Even though the city was maddeningly rushing on its M.G. Road, not even stopping by to accomodate the car that would have been stuck due to some reason, there was still a paradoxical slowness that appealed.
  • Sonam Bar (Shooters Club) at Agra Cantt and Jaiwal Bar (at Sadar Bazar) are firmly etched in my mind. Despite alcohol being costlier in UP (as compared to Delhi), it was the old-fashioned look and feel of these bars and restaurants that will haunt me for a long time.

There are more, and I will return to them sometime later, just the way I did so with Nepal. My next destination is not undisclosed to many readers (I have, after all, literally shouted over the emails and chat and forced it over whoever was interested, or not interested, to listen!).

It’s a new place, a new job and a new life. The gypsy will set his tent again. But for how long? Only time can tell. And of course, this place too.

Till then, au revoir Agra!

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Wah Taj!

Standing on my balcony late last night, I looked in the darkness towards where Taj Mahal is. I wondered if it realized that millions would be watching about it’s fate in the New Seven Wonders list on their television sets (and live in Lisbon). Did it understand its own grandness? More importantly, did the callous city which houses it realize it’s importance. During my stay here I have heard several derogatory comments against it (many industries had to be shifted/relocated due to the environmental pressures, leading to a lot of unrest and discomfort amongst the business community).

Unfortunately, the cable here chose to vanish and I couldn’t catch the New Seven Wonders results. Today morning as I made way to pick up the newspaper, I stopped again to look at the white marble wonder, standing dignified surrounded by rain-clouds, and I hoped that it would have made it through to the new seven wonders.

It has!

Here is the final result of the New Seven Wonders List, as announced in a glittering function in Lisbon (Portugal), attended by our very own dusky siren Bipasha Basu and Agra’s mayor.

The New Seven Wonders list has evoked several responses – from excitement to indifference to cynicism to controversies (after all it’s just a private new list, without even the official sanction on UNESCO! The Egyptians pulled out of the vote in a huff!). Then some found the ‘false patriotism’ unleashed the past few months to enable voting highly distasteful.

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The General Motors (GM) Diet

My experience with a diet program!

Plagiarism is not restricted to our films and music. It extends to our web world too. I found this diet program here, only to later discover that it was a word-to-word lift from the famous General Motors (GM) diet program, only that the beef was replaced by bean sprouts – and this, without any acknowledgement or byline! (There is a contention that this diet might not have anything to do with the car manufacture).

Anyways, let’s start from the beginning. One fine morning I got this cosmic enlightenment that I had to reduce weight, somehow, someway. As I searched options, all got crossed off: exercise, I read on the net – suddenly, the entire body formed a union and went off on strike, hassled and agitated. Reduce carbs – this time the taste buds protested vehemently, “you can’t leave that kachori, can you?” they screamed at the top of their lungs, while simultaneously coaxing the eyes to land on that sumptuous new Pizza Hut offer card. Err, umm, ok – not that. But somehow there has to be a beginning. Eat less – and the stomach groaned like an over-stuffed but always supposedly under-fed giant. Ok, OK, keep silent. Lemme think of something else.

The poor brain, like the poor management of public sector banks in India, was left pretty alone and deprived and tried to find a middle-solution. It’s then that this site came into the picture. It’s only for a week. And it allows you to stuff yourself. Plus, it mentions only a mild exercise. So, it should be ok. The body relented. Agreement reached. And General Motors (GM) diet begun! Be it GM diet or Santro diet or Volkswagen – what’s in a name anyways, as the Bard said!

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The Deed Is Done!

If you remember this post, (and even if you don’t that’s why I am providing the link), you will recall my paranoia in shaving off my moustaches. Finally, one Sunday evening, while getting a shave at my friendly neighborhood barber, I told him to yank off the hair from above my upper lip – a rare on-the-spot decision, and it had to be that way only if it ever had to be accomplished. The reason for not updating this earlier ranged from I-might-not-like-it-and-will-return-to-the-original-look to the I-am-damn-lazy-and-writing-on-a-petty-mouche-doesn’t-serve-this-blog-good! Anyways, the point is that I haven’t grown them back, and am quite liking myself sans the extra hair. So, all ye who have seen me, be prepared to welcome the ‘new improved(?)’ DJ!

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The Conference

Hosting a conference turned out to be quite a massive affair. A week later, I am still lost buried beneath the aftermath exhaustion as well clearing up the bills. In between, I took off to Delhi and took a well deserved holiday. That accounts for the long absence on the blog.

Mercifully, everything in the conference went off with clock-work precision that would make the Swiss proud. True, there were minor goof-ups. In fact, on the day the guests were to arrive, there were several of them (largely thanks to the hotel, who otherwise were extremely good but somehow things went patchy on that morning) but we managed to douse all fires and before the biggest bulk of delegates arrived in the noon we had done the clean-up. When they entered the hotel’s porch, everything was settled the shehnai-and-dhol-and-nagada-wallahs whipped up a resounding welcome note, the girls from the hotel in bright red sarees showered fresh petals, and the cool welcome drinks were served meticulously.

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The Monkeys of Vrindavan

It happened faster than a snap of the finger. My colleague (A.) and I were walking back from Bankey Bihari Mandir with two peda boxes in hand, A being a few steps behind me. Suddenly a commotion paused my stride. I turned to have a look, and found A. harrassed. My first thought was obvious the monkeys had snatched the peda boxes. But closer inspection brought forth an amusing laughter. A monkey had coolly walked off with A’s spectacles and stood near a stone sign board, chewing the spectacles stem and eyeing us naughtily. A. told that the monkey’s finesse in pulling off the spectacles from his eyes displayed an extraordinary sense of practice and polish.

A helpful hand nearby tried to lure the ape to return the specs in exchange for two mangoes. But the animal was smart. He ran off with the mangoes and the specs towards a nearby building’s terrace. Unfortunately we humans aren’t that adept in climbing pipes, so the helpful person had to climb the stairs but eventually managed to retrieve the glasses.

Next time you are in Vrindavan be cautious and don t take the signs of “Take care of your specs, bags and other belongings”, put up by the town administration, lightly or casually. They truly mean it!

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Murder, On My Mind

Funny I read actor and former VJ Rahul Khanna’s fabuloulsy written post on encountering a cockroach just at the time when I am these days faced with similar problems – albeit involving a completely different species. Rahul’s tryst with a cockroach is funnily narrated. But my daily face-to-face with lizards hardly tickles my funny bones.

My enemies are not the cockroaches; I can bear them, and they look pretty mild, as compared to the animal that seems to be here, there and everywhere in my house – the lizard. When the mercury soared this month, I had to open the windows and doors; else I’d have died of suffocation and heat. But instead of any cool relief, all I got were these creepy crawly things running over the walls, and sometimes on the floors.

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Election Time – Agra

When the overtly abundant but rarely active traffic cops pulled over my car at the busy landmark intersection of St. John’s College, I wondered if, engrossed in the song playing on my stereo, I had jumped the signal. Traffic violations are so rampant in Agra that I have ceased to pay attention to the rules, finding it quite tough to adjust to the more stringent (though not the best) Delhi traffic rules. I saw cars rushing past mine, so I was sure I hadn’t broken any law. If any, I would be following a few extra ones, for example wearing a seat belt, which is not mandatory here, but I still fasten it just to keep the habit alive.

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How To Sleep Well?

I am sure any self-respecting medical journal will give you pretty simple, doable and practical answers eat a light dinner, take a small walk, wear loose clothes, count till whatever number you can count till and many more.

But one very important advice they forget is something which I realized recently, and it actually confused me initially: keep your conscience clean and satisfied; because if you do not do so you are bound to pound the poor bed, turning and twisting the night long.

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Life’s Spontaniety

In my current job assignment I meet a lot of the government servant types (I cringe at the use of the word ‘servant’ , clearly an odious legacy from the British era). I have noticed that they are the ones who almost always have a very neat and cut out life.

Often they ask me about my family. And the surprise (or rather, the shock) on their face is more than visible when I state I am single. It is impossible for them to comprehend that I chose to stay this way, willingly and happily, after my divorce. Invariably, they will go on to list out the virtues of getting married and the need to be settled an argument which rankles me no end. Why can’t I be ‘settled’ without the burden of marriage?

But a more pertinent question is, why even be settled in life?

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Saari Bachao

In his weekly column in a leading national daily, eminent writer and UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor has emotionally implored the nation’s women to save the sari from possible extinction. I echo his sentiments.

Since childhood I have a strong fascination for the sari – not that I indulge in some secret and perverse pleasure in (cross) dressing in them, but it is the sari’s visual appeal which fuels the fascination. Possibly, this attraction stems from watching Sridevi cavorting in bright red and blue chiffon saris in Jaanbaaz and Mr. India respectively, during my growing up years. And then all those Yash Chopra romantic films further cemented their allure. Today, the sari has reinvented itself into a style statement, but still I find a Sushmita Sen much more enticing in Mai Hoon Na than her corporate suits in various other films. And the sari lent a unique appeal to Aishwarya Rai’s tall and skinny frame in the second half of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. In the earlier generation, Rakhee was a huge favorite, and despite having a body that most heroines today would scoff at, she was an epitome of polish and poise and possibly with the widest collection of saris.

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Hail Storm!

The weather took a sudden u-turn on Sunday and unexpected showers hit the entire North India. The lightening showed more presence than Agra’s electricity board. And the cacophonous thunder kept people awake alongwith the mosquitoes.

On Monday, in the midst of a function, while our Vice President delivered an essentially dull business presentation, the proceedings were suddenly livened up with reverberating background sounds, drowning the VP’s voice. It was a hailstorm. Hail, the size of overgrown potatoes, lashed Agra – and destroyed the potato crop!

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A Nightmare – A Post from The Past

(Since I mentioned a previous nightmare in the last post, I am re-publishing an entry from my previous blog, Initially, the post was published on 20.08.05)

I am alone. I am lonely. Something is bothering the heart. I cannot place it. I am on this main road. A famous one. Darbar Marg. It is raining. It is night. There is no one on the road. Across, in the middle, there is a fountain. Somone is standing with an umbrella. I know that person. I dont go towards him. But sing aloud enough to attract attention. I want the person to know my presence but simultaneously dont want to talk to him.

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Republic Day / Salaam – E – Ishq

Wishing all Indians a very happy, prosperous and fantastic Republic Day. Keeping all cyncism aside, wishing India the very best, and hope it regains the glory and heights which is due to her.

Salaam-E-Ishq

Saw the film today – first day first show: a first in my life! Unfortunately, the film is a damp squib, and despite a fabulous star cast falls much short of expectations.

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Weekend- Diary

Due to an unexpectedly late ‘monthly meet’ at office, I was back in Delhi for a consecutive weekend – a first ever since I shifted to Agra. It kept parents happy, though my car and me were extremely grim when we heard of the trip. You don’t have ‘monthly review’ meets when the next month is just ten days away from its own closure! But admittedly, the bigger concern was to get my lazy bones moving towards the tyre shop to get the burst one replaced. I postponed and procrastrinated till the very end, and eventually trudged to a nearby shop on Friday late evening. Since I had no experience of buying a tyre – and neither did any of my colleagues – so listened half heartedly to the talk given by the shop-owner about ‘double rubber’, ‘ZVT’ as just another sales pitch. The third hurdle was that to reach Delhi on time, I would have had to wake up at 4 in the morning. Which I did.

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Living Near A Marriage Hall

I live near a marriage hall. It is on the plot immediately next to the one which houses my apartment. It can be quite an irritant, considering Indian marriages are all about pomp, show and noise. Especially last month was terrible – when the Gods and their messengers had opened a small window to entangle as many willing couples as possible (so much so that as many as 30,000 couples tied the knot in just one single day!). Every evening I would come home to the din of speakers blaring out the latest hits. On the positive side, it helped me keep abreast of the latest in music. Often, the song selection was hilariously incongruous. For example, Mujhko pehchaan lo main hoon Don. I wonder what the bride’s family would think if the groom actually turned out to be one. Considering that I live in a belt known more for its crime than courtesy, you really never know!
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