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29 Apr 2010

Contest by Matthew Reilly

This is my first Matthew Reilly book. Like so many other books and authors I've read, influenced by fellow-readers, I picked this up because a friend of mine has read this author. Curiosity. I was pretty sure that the husband would like it, even if I did not. He read the book before me and guess what? I was right. He liked it. So did I. 

I am looking for a picture of the book, for my blog, as I write. Why is it that I can never find a cover page like the one I actually own? Is it because it is printed in India? Annoying! I hate deviating from actuals. 

Moving on to the book. It is a very visual story. It has lots of big creatures, running, chasing, explosions and loud noises. It reminds one of the movie Jurassic Park. Rightly so, because when I read an excerpt from an interview with Reilly later, he says he was inspired to write by the book Jurassic Park when he was younger. He also says that he likes writing books with huge animals (animal-like creatures) and lots of adrenalin-pumping drama, including chases and survival. 

The book starts off with an introduction to the New York State Library. Then, an introduction to the Presidian (although, you will not recognize it until later). Next is an introduction to Dr. Stephen Swain. Once it gets here, the story leaps forward as Dr. Swain is teleported in to the NYSL, where a dangerous, universal (and I mean universal i.e. including aliens from other worlds) contest is about to take place. Dr. Swain is the chosen one from the human world, to take place in the contest, and the NYSL is the chosen location. The location is heavily protected by a large electric field which no contestant can pass through, to get out, after being brought into the arena. 

Once inside, the surprised Swain learns the rules of the contest from a 4-foot alien, dressed in white. Reilly does not introduce all the contestants at one go. In fact, he does not wait to introduce them all, before he proceeds with the story. As you turns pages, you encounters participants, scenes, deaths, survival and all the experiences associated with the Presidian. Dr. Swain's fight for survival is a challenge for various reasons other than not being aware of or prepared for the Contest. That makes the adventure more exciting. Nail-biting. 

Reilly also covers various aspects of the contest, in a gripping fashion. All that is explained to Swain is covered in the book. And more. Surprises! The book is one of those unputdownable ones. It is like watching the Jurassic Park and not wanting to take a pee-break because you might miss something important. Of course, you can always come back to where you left off because it is a book but I simply could not do that!

There are some unexpected turns and 'contaminations' to the integrity of the contest, the library and the original plan charted out for the contest. That is what makes it even more interesting. Does Swain emerge as survivor of the contest? If he does, how does he manage it, with his ignorance of the game against the well-prepared opponents? If he does not, then who does? What happens next?

The book is a good read and one that I might read again later, even though I know the end result. I cannot wait to pick up Reilly's next book. His introduction says Contest was not his best book. Maybe so. It may also have been influenced, in some ways, by similar stories from Hollywood. I wonder what his later books have. For now, I have picked up Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic Abroad. I need to finish my stack of unread books before I buy another one. Some speed reading in progress now...

28 Apr 2010

Just Amazing!

I met the most amazing auto driver today! 

He had forgotten to turn on the meter. I reminded him when I noticed it, about a kilometer later and he turned it on. He did not say a word about me having to pay for the distance covered without the meter on. I was so surprised. I couldn't help wondering if he'll pull something later, when we stop. I'd decided to pay him the extra 10 bucks anyway. When he stopped where I had to get off, still nothing. He did not even mention the missed kilometer. I paid him 10 bucks more than the meter and told him so. I almost expected him to protest and ask for more. Still nothing. Wow!

Also, I had not much trouble getting an auto when I went out this afternoon. Both ways. Both drivers did not know the way to my destination. Is that why they agreed to go? Probably.

My Lucky is the most amazing dog ever!
She's been angry with my brother for 4 days now. Initially, we thought it was because he had scared her back then. After 4 days, we were convinced it had to be something else. No one knew what it was but she refused to even acknowledge him. He would be talking to her and she would walk right past him. Now, she responds to him every morning and night. Right after he gives her chicken. Finally, bro figures it out! It was because he has been forgetting to share his chicken with her every night! Bravo Lucky! Bro kept asking, in the last few days, why she was annoyed with him after he's been sharing his chicken diet with her. If she could think aloud, we might have heard her say, "Yeah, right!"

I had the most amazing lunch in a long time!
It had been a really long time since I had a meal like that. We used to do that in our college days. We used to go to a darshini near our college. It was less than half a kilometer away but we were too lazy to even walk that distance. We called it UK - a silly pun to mean it was so far away and an acronym for Upahara Kendra (the name of the place). We started going there once somebody tried their awesome roti-curry for 10 bucks! Some boys would even have 2 plates of those and show off. I walked into an Adigas darshini today, intending to order a Rava-Idly. I did not find it on the board behind the counter and almost ordered the Rava Idly. I just turned to look around as I waited for the guy before me to finish, when I noticed the menu board on the wall. I quickly scanned it, hoping to be able to try something 'different' from normal and my eyes fell upon naan-curry. I ordered that. Of course, it did not cost 10 bucks like the days of yore. A good 25 rupees but total value for money. It instantly transported me back to the good old days. I enjoyed every bite of my naan-curry. I nearly ordered another plate, even though I was almost full. The only thing that stopped me was remembering that I am trying to fit into a single seat on my flight to Australia! I must go back there. So many more things on the menu to try out!

I made an amazing discovery today!
No matter how old men get, no matter which part of the world or culture they come from, no matter how wonderful they may be or what genius may reside in their brains, no matter what else, there is one thing that is common to ALL men. They are the world's best excuse-masters! You nag them and you nag them and you nag them. They will give you one excuse after another after another. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Must be because of all those silly women wanting equality with men and shit. Why couldn't we just be the queens and reign over the world?

PS. I hate exclamations in titles. Yuck!

26 Apr 2010

DLF IPL 2010

Disclaimer: This is merely me wondering, not an accusation at or an aspersion I wish to cast on the league or the parties involved. 

Since the semis I have been wondering how real the IPL matches are. Chetan Bhagat's tweet a few days ago, that the IPL was the biggest reality show in India, rings in my head. None of these reality shows are real, are they? And so the IPL? 

Look at the way last years IPL champions played the semi-finals. It was as if they had no intentions of playing but it was a mere formality they were being put through. First with the Chennai Super Kings and then with the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Deccan Chargers simply handed away the match to the opponents on a silver platter. I'm not complaining, I'm happy that RCB grabbed the third place in IPL3 and a chance to play in the Champions League, in South Africa, this September. Yet, I cannot help wondering if it did not come too easily to them. In IPL1, the RCB were one of the best teams on paper but failed miserably to perform. In IPL3, they are suddenly superstars! My mind asks questions. It is, obviously, not Mallya's KF beer that helped them but what about his treasury?

When I was chatting to a friend this morning, I said I was rooting for the Mumbai Indians but the CSK had a good chance to win too. He was a CSK supporter and insisted that the had to win. They have reached the semi-finals all 3 years and the finals twice. The moment he said that I knew that CSK would win this match.  He was right, they had to. They have been consistent in all the 3 IPLs. It was about time they won and then moved back in the line, like the Rajasthan Royals and the Deccan Chargers. The winners from IPL1 - Rajasthan Royals - have been buried (almost) without a trace. The winners from IPL2 are not performing anymore. Clearly, they are not being generous and giving everybody a chance to win, are they? That would be a really large-hearted gesture. I mean, there's a lot of money involved, not to mention the millions of pairs of eyes across the world following the league. 

Here's my cynical view of last night's IPL finals. CSK played like Kings, no doubt. They deserved the win every bit. What about the Mumbai Indians? Too many flaws from their side, even for a cricket-ignoramus like me. Every batsman on the CSK side played well. The MI dropped catches and played slack. While CSK maintained a fairly consistent run rate of 8.0 and surpassed their own planned target of 160 by 8 runs, MI seemed to be playing as if it did not matter whether they lost or won. Such a perfect score and such a perfect run rate. Just enough to leave the fans wondering, not enough to predict who might win. The perfect finals. Clash of the Titans. Sufficient scope for some nail-biting on both sides and give people value for their money. Brilliant!

When it was MI's turn to bat, CSK played a fantastic game. No catches dropped. Plenty of kamaal catches, in fact. MI seemed to be very relaxed, scoring real slow in the beginning and not really gaining momentum even in the later overs. Why? To beat a required 8.0 rpo, they started off with a meagre 4.0 rpo. Did they think they could outclass CSK eventually, somehow? Miracles in the last few overs? How can you count on that? Of all players that batted in the initial 10 overs, their captain Sachin Tendulkar, who braved an injury to play in the finals, fared better than most of the top order batsmen. In spite of losing wickets recklessly and moving up the score tally at an eerily slow pace, MI refused to send their star player Keiran Pollard on to the field! One batsman after another, some singles and doubles, a stray boundary here and a sixer there but no sign of Pollard. Whoa! 

One might think maybe they were saving him for the last. To perform some of the magic he has been, time and again, in this series. Yet, how many wickets were they planning to lose before they brought their magician out? At worst, he should have been on the ground right after MI lost Sachin. He should have knocked a few shots and stayed on as long as he could. Instead, he came out when they were far too many runs to score in too few deliveries. A brilliant 22 in his first over was not enough to save the game for the hosts. If he had remained there for the rest of the game and continued in the same vein, there may have been a ray of hope. However, that was not to be. Our man went down sooner than we could have afforded to lose him. 

One of the highlights of the game, for me, other than the superb performance by MSD's men in yellow, was the show of true team spirit by Ambati Rayudu of MI. In an earlier blog of mine, I spoke of how Kohli's stand to stay on and let RCB's Peterson go was in poor taste. Rayudu, in a repeat of that situation, sacrificed himself for the better man on the field, Pollard. Clap clap clap. 

Another thing that struck me was Sachin's comment, after collecting the Rs. 3 crores cheque for being the runner's up. He expressed being unhappy that Pollard was sent in to bad so late in the game, when it was too late to salvage any damage. Pollard's body language when he walked in, had clearly indicated that he was not too happy either. Interesting! While everyone complimented Dhoni on his amazing captaincy, especially the unusual fielding placement towards the later stage when Pollard started smashing the ball about, here was his counterpart who did not even seem to have had a say in the batting order of his men.

With all due respect to the fabulous game by all players, especially the wonderful fielding by CSK, I am not completely convinced that the outcome of the game was decided even before the two teams stepped out into the field. I may be wrong and I hope I am but the masala in the last few matches, predominantly in the finals was too perfect to be real. Sigh!

Question: What was Lalit Modi upto, rambling about the muck he and the non-cricketing fraternity of IPL were involved in, in the speech for the award ceremony of the IPL finals? Totally uncalled for! Bad bad bad.

Quote: The studio host made a comment about the little pocket of sunshine amidst the vast cloud of blue shining the brightest in the end. I wish I could quote him here but I can't remember the exact words. His reference was to the little support CSK received against the huge crowd of fans in blue, at the staduim.

Scores: The 2010 DLF IPL Finals, played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, CSK Vs MI

Chennai Super Kings168-5 (20)RunsBalls4s6sSR 
M Vijayc Tiwary b Fernando261912136.84
M Haydenc Rayudu b Pollard17311154.84
S Rainanot out573533162.86
S Badrinathc Malinga b Fernando141120127.27
*MS Dhonic Fernando b Z Khan221521146.67
A Morkelrun out (Rayudu)15611250.00
S Anirudhanot out6310200.00
D Bollinger
S Jakati
M Muralitharan
R Ashwin

Extras: 11 b:0 lb:3 nb:0 w:8
Total: 168-5 (20) | Curr. RR: 8.40
FOW:M Vijay (44-1, 7.2), M Hayden (47-2, 8.4), S Badrinath (67-3, 11.2), *MS Dhoni (139-4, 17.1), A Morkel (157-5, 19.3)
Mumbai IndiansOMRWNbWdRPO 
Harbhajan Singh40300007.50
L Malinga40330018.25
Z Khan40341018.50
D Fernando40232025.75
K Pollard404510011.25
Mumbai Indians team: Harbhajan Singh, L Malinga, Z Khan, D Fernando, K Pollard, JP Duminy, A Nayar, S Dhawan, *S Tendulkar, S Tiwary, A Rayudu
Powerplay: 1: 1-6 ovs

25 Apr 2010

Guest Post #8: The Tyranny Of Food

When I did my Guest Post week last month, a couple of my 'guests' took a raincheck. In a way, that was perfect because it was a week for amateurs and first-timers. Gautam is a freelance journalist and writer. Having him post on my blog has just increased my blog value multi-fold. Anything I say here will just be a spoiler, so I'll clear out and let you read on...

If it’s true that a dream job must match your biggest passion, then I should have been a chef. All my other passions ebb and flow, but my love for food never sways.

Food, to me, is love. It is happiness and adventure. And when I travel, it’s one of the most vital aspects of a culture. I don’t believe one can have personal food rules and truly understand other peoples.

However, I carried it too far. My relationship with food was what I’d now describe as “reckless”. I had to have meat for every meal (I rarely had breakfast). I ate out all the time, put away huge portions, and never exercised. I almost never consumed fruit and vegetables.

When you hear that I now ride my bicycle nearly every day, covering several hundred kilometres a month, you’d guess that my eating is very different. It is, but isn’t. I agree wholeheartedly with  the quote “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” The problem in the food-loving circles I inhabit, is that even moderation is perceived as extremism.

Simply wanting a light dinner after a heavy lunch makes me the “fitness freak” who’s denying himself all that’s good in this world. And because eating is a communal event, I become a spoilsport. I’m the guy at the party who won’t drink, making everybody feel self-conscious and judged.

This irritates me because if you’re secure in your eating and drinking, you shouldn’t worry about someone else’s choices. Yet, my new-found moderation constantly gets me barbs or pitying looks or defensiveness. “No I’m not on a diet”, I have to keep explaining. “I eat everything, just that I space out the high-calorie goodies.”

Food writer Michael Pollan, whose book ‘In Defence of Food’ I consider essential reading for anyone who eats, puts it better in another of his books, ‘Food Rules’: “Treat treats as treats. There’s nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion.”

And there’s nothing like regular exercise to put all this in perspective. My friends hear of salad dinners and think they’ve lost me. How do I explain, without making them retreat wounded, that when you’re on a 100km bike ride, you don’t dream of braised pork belly and cheeseburgers, but of carrot sticks and apples?

And how do I tell them, without seeming smug and preachy, that exercise doesn’t just bring about weight loss and lowered cholesterol, but that it improves every minute of every day of your life?

Their current attitude to food, identical to mine five years ago, reminds me of the cabbage joke I read in one of those Gyles Brandeth books I used to love. “I hate cabbage,” it went. “Thank God I hate cabbage, because if I liked it, I’d have to eat the stuff.”

Seeing through this self-enforced ridiculousness is like being born again. Being free from the tyranny of food doesn’t mean I love it less. In fact, this new respectful relationship means I love it more. The big difference is that for the first time in my life, I respect my body enough to really care about what I put in it.

Thanks Gautam!

To read more of Gautam's writing, click here

24 Apr 2010

Nine On Nine by Nandita C. Puri

Front Cover Drawing by Khushwant Singh
A courier arrived yesterday morning, from Citibank, bringing me the book I had ordered in exchange for my reward points, many weeks ago. The moment I saw that it was a series of short stories and that the author was the wife of an Indian actor, I was put off. I am not so keen on reading short stories and I presumed that it might be another case of wannabe writing or the rich being able to publish anything they write. The appraisals by Shobaa De and Khushwant Singh or the foreword by Gulzar meant nothing to me. Of course, they were friends from the industry, what is the big deal?

After I finished reading A Case Of Exploding Mangoes, I picked up this book. I read the first story and was surprised to find it good. Then another and another, within an hour and some time later I had finished all the nine stories in the book. I would not recommend this as a great read. I might not have bought it if I had walked into a book store. It is not a worthless piece but I would read it only once. Priced at Rs.295, one is probably better off walking past the bookshelf. 

Nandita seems to have a fair command over the English language and a flair for writing that I have found lacking in so many Indian writers. However, the stories are nothing unusual. They are little narrations of events she may have seen in real life and she chose to tweak them a bit to make stories out of them. The stories towards the end of the book reduce in quality as compared to the earlier ones. The reviews, foreword and feedback all are from friends. I guess if I made a book of my blog posts or wrote a series of short stories based on events in my real life and had my close social circle appraise it for me, I could come up with something like this. I might not have priced it so high, though, my conscience would not allow me that!

It is not a book that would remain on my bookshelf. After I read it, I thrust it in the box that has the books I want to sell to a second-hand book store. Desperate to improve the quality of books I have been reading, I have now picked up Contest by Matthew Reilly as my next book. Let us see what it does to me...

A Case Of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

I bought this book out of curiosity one day. After a series of Indian authors that bored me, I decided to find out what Pakistani writing was like. Why do good writers only have to be from English-speaking countries?

Apparently a comic novel, I found in it a little too much rambling. It took me a long while and numerous breaks to read it. The breaks were mostly because it was read in buses, autos and on the toilet seat. However, it did not excite me enough to sit with it continuously and read to the end. The reviews at the back of the book that exclaim 'Unputdownable' and 'Gripping', didn't really apply to me.

The core of the story is the death General Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq, the Chief Of Army and President of Pakistan. It is supposed to be based on a real life plane crash involving the General and the various conspiracy theories surrounding his death. 

This book is in the form of a narration by Under Office Ali Shigri with the Pakistan Air Force, who seeks revenge for the death of his father Chief Shigri, written off as having hung himself. He talks about his friend Obaid (nicknamed Baby O) and their life in the army, in phases, as it goes back and forth between his current predicament and flashbacks into his past. Parallely, he relates the life of General Zia, his fears, various associations and events that eventually lead to the death of the General.

Even as one reaches the end of the story, there is uncertainty as to what caused his death. Was it Shigri's sword that introduced a deadly poison in his blood? Was it General Akhtar's treason and an accidental release of VX in the presidential aircraft via the air-conditioning? Was there something more than just mangoes in the 'gift' sent by the All Pakistan Mango Farmers' Association? Did General Beg have something to do with the death? Like the various conspiracy theories that exist in reality, Hanif leaves open ends surrounding the General's death, except for confirming that he most certainly died in that plane crash, along with some others.

It was not one of my best reads. It is not bad but I would not recommend it as a good read either. Definitely not something that would stay in my bookshelf. 

Aside: The picture in this blog is not what my book looked like. It is a white cover with a plane in B&W, the tail splashed with red indicating the crash. Strangely, I found more than a couple of cover pictures for this book but no sign of the one that I had. 

23 Apr 2010

Blog Names

So, you decided to start a blog. Why? Of most blogs that I follow, some are about voicing your opinion to a larger audience, some about finding someone to talk about your long days, some about grabbing attention, some about making friends and so on. I used to think one might blog just for the writing experience but I have come a long way from believing that it is that simple. Your writing skills or desire to write are no pre-requisite for a blog. If you have something to say and you are willing to share, that is reason enough.

Other than some titles whose meanings are obvious, there are some others that make you wonder what the person might have been thinking while naming their blog. Among the ones I follow there are, The Process of Healing, Kiwi Travel Writer, Highway Travels, Our Life In Bangalore, Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities, etc that are self-explanatory. The blogs revolve around the titles. All posts come under one broad category that forms the title.

Then there are those like mine, which cover anything under the sun and hence need a more generic title. So there are Random Thoughts, Ramblings, Avalokana - In Retrospect, etc. My own blog title was an act of laziness. I just picked the first word that came to my mind (as I do for my passwords which, by the way, makes them very secure) and added the word 'Digest' to it. Bumblebee Digest. I liked the way it felt... it sort of describes me. Bees are busy creatures and I like a busy status, I get very restless when I have nothing to do or I am just waiting for something to do.

There are a couple of blogs that I follow that are simply a part of what is probably a larger website or they are just popular. They are not exactly personal blogs but I find that they make interesting reading too. That is how Dilbert.com Blog and Paulo Coelho's Blog feature on my "Blogs I'm Following" list. Recently, I found out that Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk is, even though a personal blog, a promotional strategy to introduce readers to the organization called Brazen Careerist run by PT and a couple others. They both have their own blogs too, where they talk about their personal lives.

There are some blogs which are names that may seem straightforward or may have been thought of on the spur of the moment and remained, no matter what the content. I may be wrong but that's what Mommy Said What, Me ... A Geek ... No Way!!, etc seem like to me.

The ones I find intriguing are Fancy That... Fancy This, The Dreaming Arm, The Worsted Witch, Doing Jalsa and Showing Jilpa, etc. Sorry, what? They all sound nice, fancy and most of them write really well, so I cannot help wondering if I could take a peek into their minds back when they thought up this title. Is there an interesting story behind that too? Maybe something for a new blog post?

I blog on Blogger, yet most blogs I follow are on Wordpress. Blogger belongs to google, so it allows me to login using my gmail details. In fact, if I am on Firefox or Chrome, I do not even need to login again if I have a gmail tab open in the same window. That's how I originally settled for Blogger. I found Wordpress through a colleague of mine, who started her blog here a while ago. I liked the interface and how easy it was to find interesting blogs from another blog-post or the Wordpress homepage. That's how I ended up following so many Wordpress bloggers. However, I could never move from Blogger to Wordpress because I like the quiet privacy (sort of) that Blogger offers me against the open-space kind of publicity that Wordpress provides.

Tar Tar Everywhere

So much for all the excitement about tar roads. In an over-enthusiastic moment, the workers have lined the roads end to end. There is no footpath or mud left on the borders of the road anymore. 

Problems I noticed this morning, due to lack of a mud path:
  • My Lucky is forced to pee and poop on the tar road. She hates it. Since there is no difference between the edge of the road and the centre, she does not realize it when she plonks herself in the middle of the road sometimes. Dangerous!
  • Leaves from the trees fall on the road. Earlier they use to land on the mud paths and eventually decompose. Now, someone has to sweep them up and leave them by the side of the road. The road looks dirty now
  • There is no more grass lining the roads. Less green. No more 'garike' for dogs to munch on, to help their digestive issues
  • Cars parked on the road-side allow no space for walkers, forcing them to walk on the right side of the car i.e. towards the centre of the road
Minor issues, I guess. We'll eventually get used to all of this. Still, I can't help wishing that people paid more attention to detail and showed more interest in the quality of their work. 

Stress Is My First Name, Panic My Middle Name

In a chat with a friend of mine, back in my pre-university days, we discussed how sometimes our intuition warned us of upcoming events and we ended up feeling guilty for not having understood the signs when it was something bad. It's a little freaky but we took it in our stride. We said, "It's a woman's instinct. That's how it is meant to be.

I grew up, almost forgetting that conversation. Yet it lurked in my mind, ready to spring out at (in)appropriate times. 

In the last couple of years, there were two instances where I nagged a dear one to do something and when they did, they ended up in accidents. It is hard not to feel guilty when such things happen. So, how do you get over the nagging feeling that if you had not demanded it, things might have turned out differently?

I've spent most part of my life, never having to visit a hospital (well, almost). My brother and I were too young to realize when dad broke his leg. As far as we were concerned, we visited him at the hospital after school and he would be in a really good mood, amusing us with stories. At home, we got a share of the chicken leg soup that dad was prescribed. Yumm. Mum spent all these years, without ever having to stay in bed (touchwood), so did bro and I, until recently. 

Bro was in the hospital recently, when his wife's dog took a chewy bite off his lower lip. It was a gory sight. While I nearly fainted as I watched the nurses handle the wounds and the needles, I chose to stay because it was better than the alternative. The alternative was to stay away and not know what was happening. I hate uncertainty, I hate not knowing. I just cannot deal with it. It stresses me to no end. 

The only time I have ever been able to handle hospitals, operations, etc were with my Sonu. He wouldn't co-operate with anyone else when he was sick and I loved him enough to overcome my weak feelings regarding hospitals, doctors and everything around them. 

This morning started off with a grumpy me. I checked my email thrice and ended up restless. Something was wrong. It was not so much instinct as it was a conclusion drawn out of a series of un-natural events. When I made a phone call to check, my worst fears were realized! The next few hours were spent in numerous SMS-es, emails, phone calls and tears. The stress of not knowing and the tension of waiting for an update made me dizzy. The news seemed to get worse with each update. Google didn't help, only managed to freak me further. 

The much-awaited call happened but all it did was bring me to tears. Yeah, I guess I'm a sook! "Don't be a cry baby", the message said. Yeah right, easier said than done! Panic should have been my middle name. I was swinging between feeling silly but unable to stop worrying. The final update came at the 7PM call I had waited all day, to make. The friend said, "It's just a girl thing", so he didn't mind me bothering him all day. Thank God for wonderful friends, what would the world be without them!!

A couple of hours later, another call and depression set in again. It was lovely to talk and find out it wasn't so bad. It was awful to hear those groans and feel the weakness in the voice. It hurt. It looks like a long weekend ahead. A really long one! More uncertainty, no updates and lots of wondering. Not fun.

In the meanwhile, CSK is playing a 'super' match against Deccan Chargers. Chennai Super Kings they are. There's a good chance the game will turn around and DC will win but I am hoping it will be CSK that takes home the goodies. Another DC wicket down. 48-4.

22 Apr 2010


After a week (or more?) of fun and frolic, today was a slightly harrowing day. If it wasn't for all the work that kept me busy, I might have spent that time stressing.

  • This morning, the auto I rode to work had a meter that showed almost 8 bucks extra and then I paid him another 7 bucks extra because I did not have "3 rupees change"
  • I sat across a table narrating to somebody who knew the story
  • This afternoon, I paid an extra 5 bucks to the guy at Subway because he did not have "5 rupees change"
  • The sub was smaller than usual and I was still hungry after I ate it. So, I bought a banana milkshake which was excessively sweet and I ended up full but unsatisfied
  • After a 4-day wait, I finally procured the data I needed for my testing but I was not allowed to test because someone else's work was "more urgent"
  • I missed catching up with someone I badly want to see because the afore-mentioned testing kept me at work till late
  • This evening, I went to the cafe on my floor but they had no snacks. Then I went down to the 2nd floor where I bought 3 kinds of chips, all of which was greasy and junk. I was hungry, I ended up feeling pukish
  • After I finished testing, I packed up, eager to get home. I was stopped by a colleague who, upon finding that I was moving to Australia, kept me for the next half hour telling me how extremely difficult it was to get a job in Australia and New Zealand and that I had achieved something to be proud of. I knew that already.
  • The auto I rode home charged me double the normal fare and dropped me off on the main-road, in the rain. After driving me for 6kms without a meter and charging an exhoribitant, illegal fare, he had the nerve to accuse me of cheating because I asked him to ride till my house. Which he did not. I hope he has an accident that'll cost him 10 times what I paid. 
  • I called my friend who was watching a movie I sent him some time ago. He slept through the movie, most likely missed the part I wanted him to watch and when I asked him what the movie was about, he said "a boy and a girl". All Indian movies are about "a boy and a girl"
  • I was desperately thirsty, so I kept a bottle of coke outside the fridge, intending to warm it a bit. My husband came home and hid the bottle. I was desperately thirsty. Now, I'm thirsty and annoyed too.

 Oh well, I guess it was not all bad. Let's see if I can come up with a few bright moments in my day. Umm...

  • I pinged someone to say she was free to gossip about me now that the secret of my new job was out. I think I might have made her day
  • My former boss buzzed me to apologize and wish me well with my new job, said he was not ignoring me, just busy and hence the delayed responses to my messages. I told him I knew that he would never ignore me. We both smiled.
  • I spent an hour giving gyan to a colleague of mine. It was my opportunity to impart all that I've learnt in my career of 7 years and share all the gyan that I have received from my gurus. 
  • I finally finished testing what I have been stuck with for the last 1 week, as I had to wait on the other boys in my team
  • Mumbai Indians are at 77-4 after 9.3 overs. There is a ray of hope that we a.k.a RCB a.k.a Royal Challengers Bangalore may win after all. As I said, we may not be on home-ground but we thought we would be and we were mentally prepared to win. Do not forget, we have KP.

That took a lot, and I really mean a lot, of thinking. Time for my dinner. 

My mum has mixed my rice & curry, served it in a bowl (which she told me was the bowl in which we mix Lucky's food) and added sides of spinach and cabbage in a small plate. She rarely ever does this for me. Now I'm stressing over her actions. I need to know why she did it today, when I did not even ask to be served. In fact, why did she insist on it? 

Oh damn, can't the day get over already?

20 Apr 2010

Today's Lessons

Lovely weather this morning. What else?
  • Learnt that my 10 year old Lucky is still a baby. She barks at Taapi, for no apparent reason. She enjoys it too.
  • Learnt that 1 year old Taapi is a lot more mature that my little 10 year old. He just stares at her and ignores her, with a show of maturity that amazes me every time.
  • Learnt that none of the other dogs on the street were bothered by the new & improved tar roads. My Lucky is a spoilt brat, who does not like change when everything's just fine (i.e. mud-roads to crap on, bushes to sniff at, as against clean tar roads that smell awful)
  • Learnt that I have some of the worlds greatest friends and I am so proud of myself for deserving them.
  • Learnt that writers' block happens to me more often than I realized, so I may never be able to write a book
  • Learnt that my friend was right about my husband buying me a bike that he can steal from me later
  • Learnt that my fish are being heavily influenced by my Lucky's habits, they seem hungry all the time
  • Learnt that my husband thinks I should gulp down a bottle of cough syrup every time I cough. Thank God I don't work with him
  • Learnt that the internet is addictive, even without Facebook, Orkut and Twitter
  • Learnt that my husband remembers my first boyfriend's birthday (I had forgotten)
  • Learnt that if I don't move my ass right now, I'll be late for work. Again!

This is my pathetic excuse for a blog because yes, I have another bout of writers' block this week. So, I've started chasing guests for more posts. Expect another one or two soon!

18 Apr 2010

Vishu: Happy New Year

Even as kids, my brother and I loved this festival. The astrological new year for Malayalis/Keralites. It did not matter that we had to be up by 4AM (nowadays it's 5AM) and were not allowed to go back to sleep. We loved the Vishukanni arrangement that dad painstakingly set up the previous night. We loved the money even more. 

As part of tradition, we wake up early in the morning and walk to the pooja room with our eyes closed (dad brings each one of us to the pooja room). We open our eyes to see the Vishukanni first thing in the morning. Then we wait patiently while dad lights the lamp, does a little pooja and then distributes coconut, jaggery and some money placed on a couple of betel leaves with a couple of betel nuts (kaineetam). Mum says when she was young, her parents used to give her anything between 25 paise to a rupee. We started off with Rs. 20 as children and now dad gives us Rs. 500 each. Mum gives us a 100 bucks because she is "not earning". Bro gets an additional 500 from me because I'm elder to him. Anyone who visits us today get something (usually a tenner).

Here are some pictures of our Vishu this year. Oh yea, I made 610 bucks (10 from granny).
Dad lights the lamp & gets the kaineetam sorted
Dad gets kaineetam from his mother
For accurate details on the significance of this festival, go to wikipedia or click here.

17 Apr 2010

My Vote Counts

I cried for new shoes until I saw a man without a pair. Somebody said something on those lines, many many years ago. I read that in a book, as a child, and it stuck in my head ever since. As if I was not inhibited enough, the sentence rang in my head whenever I wanted something. I asked my parents for less, for I was not sure they could afford it and I told myself that if I could live without it, it was probably not something I should cry for. 

Today, my husband gave away an expensive pair of shoes, which he had worn only a couple of times, to the labourers who tarred the streets in front of our apartment. The boys work in the hot sun, hands and feet blackened with the grime and tar they handle. Yet, they obliged the whims of every house-owner on the street and toiled to spread the tar neatly wherever they were requested to re-work. The charity was well-deserved.

Last night, I went to a friend's wedding with a couple of girlfriends. I love my outings with these girlfriends. A motley crowd we are, we have so much fun. Lots of laughter, complaining about bad traffic and the state of affairs in the state formed part of our conversation. One of the things we discussed was the decreasing quality of work everywhere. Flyovers being constructed for years on end, the Metro rail project repeatedly in the news for wrong reasons (constructions come crashing down on people & cars on the streets, poor quality work, stopped work, endless years of work, etc) and the recent failure of the cryogenic engine in ISRO's latest GSLV launch. So many instances of shoddy work. 

Admittedly, the cryogenic engine construction that took 15 years is complex work. It cannot have been easy to create something indigenous to put in space and expect it to go right the first time. As the ISRO spokesman said, the US and Japan failed in their debut attempts too. That does not undermine the fact that 330 crore rupees were spent on this project that took minutes to fail. With technology getting better everyday and science making progress like nobody's business, why do flyovers and other road constructions fail every other week?

While we were feeling sorry about the state of affairs, I woke up this morning to a ray of hope. Loud noise right outside my house drew us to our balconies. We found government labourers toiling away in the hot sun. Anything that is 'government office' straight away implies callous attitudes of workers and indifference to the quality of work. It was a pleasant surprise to see the level of attention the labourers worked with. The process involved a big machine pouring gravel mixed with tar and other ingredients on the road, a bunch of workers manually pouring the gravel in areas that were missed, another few guys spreading out the tar evenly, another big machine levelling the roads with a heavy drum that rolled over the tarred road. I found the labourers paying so much attention to detail that it surprised me! They looked for irregularities on the roads and poured gravel repeatedly, they ensured that the gravel was lined neatly on the road and off the stoned pavements, they manually flattened the gravel while the machine did it's job, they kept going back and forth until it looked fine. 

While the residents looked on, occasionally directing the labourers  to level here, pour some gravel there, the watchman's wife grabbed a broom and started sweeping the excess off the pavements back to the road. It was a collective effort of workers who were not worried about whether they enjoyed their work or not. They were not worried about the heat or hard work. If they were, they did not show it or let that stop them from doing things right. 

They were tipped for their extra efforts, of course. Some of our neighbours and we gave away shoes that we no longer wore but were still in good condition. It was heartening to watch the so-called government employees do a neat job and to see that there were people who appreciated such efforts. The world is a nice place, there are nice people. So, why do we let the bad-asses rule? Why do we 'adjust' ourselves to the ill-effects from the illegal acts of the wrong-doers? 

I have a colleague who prefers to take "shortcuts" and get everything done using wrong methods. He has a callous attitude and his excuse is "This is India, this is how we work". How untrue! Why do we let such people get away with what they do? All it took for me to shut him up last time was to say, "I am an Indian too and I don't work your way". Such a pity that the bad are so confident and take lead while the nicer ones choose to remain inconspicuous. 

To all those people who whine about the government but refuse to vote, to all those people who refuse to vote claiming that this is not their home-state (so why do you expect the state you are currently in, to cater to your needs?), to all those people who think their vote does not count, I want to ask: "How would you know whether your vote counts, if you never voted?". What gives them the right to expect anything from the government if they never made a choice? This year, I did not vote for a party that I usually do because I was put off by one of my neighbours who has a bad attitude (especially towards my dog) and he belonged to that party. I voted for someone else. He won. Now, we have roads where I live. I'd like to think my vote counted. 

A Dream Job

When I first joined the IT world, I told myself, I'd work for a few years (initially it was 5, then it became 10) and retire. I was not sure what I wanted to do if I retired but I wanted to do something else. This was even before I started doing something!

As years of code-development, software-design and testing grew on me, I decided that there was no way I could quit. I would go crazy if I had to spend a day not doing what I was doing. I can't say I have always had the world's best work environment but I have always loved my work. Almost always. I would joke on my days of frustration and tension that I "wanted to quit my job and become a housewife" as if that was a terrible punishment for me.

Then came the phase when I wanted to take a career break. I wanted to break from doing what I loved doing and do something else I loved doing. In a better environment, hopefully. When people around me heard this, some just shook their head in hopelessness, some were alarmed, some agreed it sounded good (deep inside, I bet they were praying I'll change my mind). In short, it was not something that excited anyone as much as it excited me. Slowly, it appeared that  would change my mind too and decide to keep my job, my money and the financial independence that came with it. That's when I met an old friend of mine who tells me she has done exactly that! Quit the Corporate World. Not her job, but the industry itself. A pang of envy struck me. I started getting excited about the concept of career break again...

Then came this incredible job offer. Advice, threats, push, shove, yell, explain and numerous discussions later, I decided that I would take it. When we were in college, everyone had a "dream job" in mind. I never did. I was so under-confident that my dream job was really sitting behind the reception counter of some organization and reading a book everyday, while attending to customers. It wasn't a dream I enjoyed but I told myself that some job was better than no job. Once I got a job in IT, I told myself that my dream job was probably something at Infosys but a couple of failed, intimidating interviews, long, hungry waits and days wasted in stress later, I now remember Infy as a place I do not want to interview with anymore.

As a kid in school, I used to have a distant dream of travelling to various parts of the world. Australia topped the list, then came Europe, New York and so on. Rome was another one of my favourites. Of course, after the first 3 or 4, the rest were just names I'd heard from various people or read in books.

So, there came this incredible job offer. If I knew what I wanted to do in my career and I had a dream job, some of it might have been like this. Of course, a real dream offer would have been to be able to work with the people I love working with so much. Ah, how much I regret not being able to join them! Worse, when I hear from my friends who have the opportunity to try are wavering. Of course, they have a different set of priorities. 

Back to my new job. I am usually one of those people who do not care to keep such things a secret. Too many burnt fingers, too many stab-wounds in my back and this time, I am finding it hard to share. As someone said me yesterday, eventually I will and then it won't matter. In the meanwhile, while the wait is on for some, some others are celebrating with me...

15 Apr 2010

Selfish Or Foolish?

Another win for the Royal Challengers Bangalore! Starting off as the underdogs in the first IPL, with a fair deal of growling by the king of good times, Vijay Mallya, firing a player or two, Dravid ousted from captaincy, the RCB team has emerged to the second position in the points table in IPL3. The first, of course, is our Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar's team, the Mumbai Indians. 

In last year's IPL, Jacques Kallis and Ross Taylor were the names I constantly heard. This year, it's been Uthappa in every game. He's been the hulk flinging the ball left, right and centre, with an amazing show of strength. Macho! Watching him and Kevin Pieterson play in positions 3 and 4 was a treat for me, as an RCB supporter today. Pieterson was simply superb. Standing tall and lean, this was one guy worth watching. And I don't mean just his game today. LOL. Then, Uthappa made way for Virat Kohli. 

This blog is dedicated to Virat Kohli's moment of dilemma. Both Kohli and KP were on the same side of the crease, KP taking a run. It was a split second decision for Kohli. Looking at the way KP was making the ball fly, should he have stepped up and gotten himself run-out? Instead, he stood his ground and let KP go. Was that selfish of him or simply foolishness? 

Selfish? What did he want? Some more batting time? We did that as kids, refusing to 'get out'. How much time? Surely, not the 6 and odd overs? Foolish? With 16 runs to go and 39 balls, there was really not much he could have achieved. Even at a couple of sixes or 4 fours, at worst, he would just be another name, in front of KP's knocks. KP appeared furious and rightly so. He could have finished the match for us in less than another over, given the game he was playing. It was a needless loss. 

What came of it? Four runs later (not sure if Taylor got them or Kohli did), Kohli was gone. An easily forgettable few minutes and 14 runs later, the man who refused to let KP stay, was gone.

I'm listening to the post-match analysis on TV. Former cricketers Akash Chopra and Anjum Chopra (captain of the Indian Women's Cricket team) insist that Kohli was right. Their argument is that Kohli did not call for the run and KP being the senior should have gracefully bowed out. Anjum says that we were in a good winning position and that KP need not have taken the chance and run, there was no need to rush. They end by saying what I hoped no one would say but was sure someone would - In the end, we won, so whatever happened does not matter

To me it was not about winning. It was not about whether KP should have let go because he was the senior. Maybe the Chopras were right about not having to rush to make runs and that he should not have run when Kohli did not call for it. That is not my point of focus here. It is about the attitude. Was KP wrong in getting annoyed at being let go, when he was playing so well? Was Kohli wrong in making a decision to stay? In KP's place, I would feel the same way. If I'm doing exceptionally well, I want to be allowed to keep going. To nip me off is frustrating. In Kohli's place, I would have let myself go, for someone who was already doing an awesome job. Either way, I do not support what really happened in the end. The winning would have happened anyway. RCB was destined to win. RR had boys gliding and swooping seconds after the ball passed them by.

It reminded me of some people I've met in the corporate world. It is hardly about their performance or that of others'. Hikes, bonuses, promotions and self-advertisement seem to be their focus. If somebody else delivered a high quality product and they were part of the team, they would happily take a large chunk of credit for the work. Where do they go, in the end? How are they able to sleep at night? I could never understand that...

14 Apr 2010

I Quit

You would think that quitting a job is the easiest thing to do and finding another one is the hard part. If someone had told me otherwise, I would have thought they were crazy. Guess what? I just quit my current job. Finding the other one was much easier than working out the resignation. Or so it seems.

I've quit jobs before. What does it take? A resignation letter. Surrendering assets and collecting your leaving certificate. Period. Not quite. I remember now. All the stress involved in trying to get the relieving letter, the worry about money being deposited in my bank account and trying to finish assigned work before the last date.

I resigned from my current job last week. It is, by far, the most stressful resignation ever. I've had at least 3 discussion with 3 different managers so far, explaining why I am leaving. It is a bit strange because I want to leave and they are willing to let me. That done, I am struggling to finalize on a last date. I have approvals from one manager, waiting on the other. Then, there's the wait for the manager to initiate the exit formalities. Obtaining the various relieving documents. Waiting out the deposit of settlements into my account. Closing my PF account. So much to get done! This is so tough!

Finding the job was much easier. They came looking for me, so I was spared the stress of applying for jobs and waiting on responses. CV, interview, test, referrals and approvals later the offer landed on my desk. Accepting the job, however, was much harder. To go or not to go. I guess that is what happens when you get things you badly want but are not sure if you'll get it, so you are mentally prepared not to get it. I guess that is what happens when you spend too much time wondering why things have to go wrong for you, then suddenly some of it is righted in one wave of a wand! If I had applied for about 10 jobs and given about 7 interviews and had an offer or two, it might have been easier to pick one. Maybe it was the case of actually getting what you deserve, unexpectedly, and then you wonder if you really deserved it... or maybe deserved more... Or less. Or more. Or... Well, you get the point. Confusion!

Then, there's the nagging thought at the back of your head. How about not working for a bit? A career break. How about trying that other thing you always wanted to do? A change of career. So many options suddenly lie open. It's like being asked to pick your favourite flavour of ice-cream from half a dozen. I love ice-cream, all flavours of ice-cream. How can I pick one? I never thought quitting could be so exciting. Or so stressful. "I quit" must have been the easiest thing to say and move on but it is not.

Now that I've made my decision, cutting through the path that will take me to my destination is turning out to be another ordeal. So many things to consider. How do I want it? What do I need to do? What is my back-up plan if my decision fails? Do I have the finances to deal with things? I'm swinging between excitement and stress. More of the latter.

You think picking the swimsuit would be the least of your worries; it is the swimming in water that would be tough. You walk into a shop and see twenty thousand swimsuits, each with a different purpose. The salesman tells you that you need more than one swimsuit. Fuck! Now your head is swimming in a vast array of confusing decisions to make. You are looking forward to the actual swimming, cannot wait to grab your suits, pay your bills and jump in. The swimming is not going to be easy either. The water might be icy cold. You might have picked the wrong suit. Maybe you have forgotten what you learnt in the classes. Something else could go wrong. 

Was I not supposed to be excited about this activity? Why am I so stressed? Where is all the fun? 

Mungaru Male

Ever since the movie, it's impossible to write those two words without using title case. Until the movie, my OCD would kick in if someone spelt the second 'm' in upper case. Now, it's the other way round!

A classic case of digression right from the word go. Darn! Why do I always do that?

So, I was standing in this bus-stop this evening, waiting for a Volvo - 201R. I saw three buses heading in the opposite direction and was confident that atleast one of them would return to take me home. Infact, I let all the buses to J B Nagar go, instead of taking one of them halfway home-ward. All in vain. Eventually, I had to take one of the JBN buses and change. 

It wasn't all too bad, though. There was a sweet, gentle breeze tickling my hair and it felt great. I looked up to see the sky all messed up, with dark and light grey clouds. It looked beautiful. Thick swirls of dark grey mixed with splashes of light grey clouds, on a sky that was another shade of grey. No sign of the sun at all. It was only 6.30PM. There was something so pleasant about the feel of the grey evening. Maybe it was still the wind. That's when I felt little droplets of water on my bare face and arms. Mungaru Male. Ah, the wonderful feeling of the early summer rains!

Then it started raining faster, bigger drops. I had to get my umbrella out to save the contents of my bag. At some point, I decided to take the JBN bus and when I got off at Thippasandra Main Road a few minutes later, the rain was pounding the streets. As I stood on the wet pavement, the hem of my trousers soaked in the soggy grime and the sound of rain on my umbrella serving as a background score to the scenes in my mind, I thought of my friends working all over the world - US, UK, Australia - and wondered how it must feel to be able to experience such diversity. 

As a kid, I always wanted to go to Europe or Australia. For some reason, US was never on my list. I had a picture of a crowded place, a big place where I could get lost and I did not want to go there. So, it didn't feel great when an astrologer read my horoscope and said I'd move permanently to the US. Did he know that I would go to the United States or did he just mean that I would move to any country outside India (in those days, US was the most popular)? Since I don't believe in astrology, I never bothered to find out, so that's a question I'll probably never hear answers to.

Then I looked around me and noticed how dark it was! Why does it get dark so early when it rains? Everything was so wet and dark. Normally, that would make me feel gloomy. Today it all felt nice. I loved the flashes of light, the breeze, the wetness... I stood at the various bus-stops, waiting for buses, for over an hour and all I felt was good good good. Great, in fact! That's the magic of Mungaru Male, I guess. It cooled my spirit. 

At the earliest signs of the rain reducing, I slipped off my umbrella. Took a bus to LRDE and walked home with a spring in my heart. The infamous power cuts had rendered the area completely dark but my mind was so uncluttered this evening that even the darkness of the night made me smile. It was as if someone had swept off cobwebs from inside my head and vacuum-ed the place. I come home to find that my mum has neatened up my house. Less clutter. Brighter interiors. Cleaner air. Bloody hell! Today was a day of nice-ness! 

Mungaru Male. I simply love it!

12 Apr 2010

This Weekend

It's been one hell of a weekend! 

No riding and that feels awful. In fact, no exercise all of last week and I feel like I've missed a major exam! When did that happen to me?

After a very long while, I spent an entire afternoon in the balcony reading and finishing a book in one shot. It hasn't happened in so long that I don't remember the last time that happened. Then, I finished another book! 

The weather in Bengaluru seems to have improved. It's still very hot at nights but there's a slight wind in the air, always and that makes the heat bearable in the balconies.

Cleaned the book-shelf and loved spending so much time with my books. Found a handful that I either hate or just know that I'll never read again (unfortunately the Starbucks book is one of them... loved it but won't read again). Earlier when I used to go on a books cleaning spree, I'd always find money hidden in my books (can't remember why I did that but I always did, as a child). At times, I've found upto a couple of thousand bucks. Today, I emptied all my bags, piggy banks and cleaned everything out... found a whopping eleven grand in 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 rupee notes! My husband couldn't believe what he was seeing... obviously, it's the first time he's done this with me... mum wasn't surprised!

Made a raisin-and-nut ice-cream dessert for my husband, to appreciate his help with all the cleaning. He was happy but didn't binge on the ice-cream. I have a cold, I didn't eat any ice-cream. This is a miracle. Normally, we're both quarreling for the tub like six-year-olds! 

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I heard a rumour about myself. I found it so funny that I almost felt like fanning the fire myself. Did not. Atleast, I think I did not.

A number of unusual but normal events, sort of happy surprises this weekend. It's been one hell of a weekend!

11 Apr 2010

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

When I first read the title, it sounded like a story of someone who started working at Starbucks and went on to become somebody in life, possibly a writer (he wrote this book, after all). Or maybe he was struck by a sudden inspiration while sipping coffee in Starbucks one day. I wondered if I cared to buy a book like that.

Then I read the punch-line that went with the title - "The Riches-to-Rags Story of a Man Who Had It All, Then Lost It All and Found It Again". At this point, I decided it was a narration of how a rich man who was driven to the point of bankruptcy and rose again after a stint at Starbucks. Hmm, maybe I should read it, I thought. Books like that have a lot of positive attitude in them, if nothing else.

I turned to the back cover to read the synopsis and see if that would help me decide. It starts off with the following excerpt. I bought the book home, just for a feel for some die-hard attitude and aggressive behaviour, which I was sure the book would be full of.

"A candid, moving and inspirational memoir about a high-flying businessman who is forced to re-evaluate his life and values when he suddenly loses everything and goes to work in Starbucks."

Since the day I bought the book until I started reading it today (because I badly needed some positive reinforcement), I was pretty sure that the book would be an inspirational tale of rising from a fall, back to an earlier glory or more. Why I thought that, is beyond me. The book clearly says it is a "Riches-to-Rags" story.

As the punchline and the title aptly suggest, it's the story of Michael Gates Gill, born to an affluent family and now, working as a barista at Starbucks in the late years of his life. Born to a celebrity-like dad who worked at a newspaper in New York, partying with the Queen & poets like Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, etc and studying at Yale, getting into an advertising job straight out of college and quickly moving up the ladder, Gates' life is one of comfort and luxury. He has a good family, with four children, and a good life.

When he gets fired by a young executive, who he helped move up in life, he knows she had to chose between firing him to prove her loyalty and macho business sense or getting emotional and screwing up her career prospects. Knowing does not change facts or help the feeling. He had given 25 years of his life and his loyalty to JWT but now, at 53, he was not part of their young brigade agenda. 

His hopes to start a career in consulting remain an unfulfilled dream, long after his severance package has depleted and he ends up broke. In addition to this, his attempt to distract himself from his problems in the form of exercise/gym, lead him to meet the woman he ends up in an affair with and bears him a son. When he confronts his wife and children with the news, divorce follows and the wife gets to keep their house and four children. 

As Gates says in the book, his baby Jonathan remains his only friend for a long while after that, for Jonathan's mother soon loses interest in Gates as his availability for her increases post his divorce. 

With no job, no family and no money, it was a stroke of good luck that Gates meets Crystal, his African-American boss at Starbucks. An unexpected, unprepared interview, some stressful days of waiting later, he finds himself with a job he feels completely unqualified for. He talks about how he finds his way around at Starbucks, with an altogether different culture - a young crowd with an average age of 20, a group of African-Americans (the kind he had, in his old-fashioned sense, stayed away from in his better days). As he cuts through a new world and finally "gets it", he finds satisfaction and an acceptance he realizes he had never felt in his richer days.

He talks of how he starts with a cleaning job and gets excited at his first real clean bathroom work, learning to pull the till, handle guests and become one of the legendary Partners (what the people who work at Starbucks are called) at Starbucks. Finding acceptance in his 4 children, living with a hearing problem caused by a tiny tumour in his head, enjoying the family he finds at Starbucks, Gates is so full of his new life that it comes through in his book. 

The book is one long narration of his excitement at his new-found life, his everyday life at the first Starbucks at Ninety-Three and Broadway where it all started. Reading the book is like listening to an old man gush excitedly about his new job, every single thing he learns in the new job and how much he enjoys it. There is no entertainment, no grand examples of risks taken and masterstrokes leading to the rise of a great empire. Just an old man, chattering about his time at the Broadway Starbucks. As I read it, it felt like I was sitting at a table at Starbucks, across an old man in his seventh decade, happily talking and I did not want to interrupt.

I've finished the book and old Mr. Mike has gone back to work at his Starbucks store somewhere in New York. Funny coincidence that just a couple of days ago, I was thinking of what it would be to have a few months off and be able to do something totally different from my current job, something not for money but for a slice of a different kind of life. Today, Mike introduced me to the inside of a coffee house.

8 Apr 2010

The Process Of Healing

I'm not a great fan of shows or sessions that talk about God and religion. I have nothing against them, it is just that I find those things very personal. I would get very uncomfortable if I had to be part of a discussion around these topics, unless on a light note. If I read something related that might have touched me, I would never post it on my blog or anywhere else. It amazes me how many people can unabashedly preach and write about that stuff. 

I found The Process Of Healing by Jessica, who is in the process of healing from a run-related injury, when I went over to read Ameena's guest post on her blog. A note in her blog from earlier this week, struck me. It's something that I've believed in, although I might have worded it differently, if I had to do it myself. She heard this on a Joyce Meyer show on TV

"God will bring trials into our lives but only trials that are going to work out for the good, that are going to lift us up, and make us stronger in the end. He is not going to bring something into our lives that we can’t handle."

Although it doesn't stop me from stressing (I pretty much thrive on it), I always promise myself, when things go wrong, that I will grow out of this a stronger person because there has got to be something better waiting for me. It is almost impossible to look at things that way when you're really down. Fortunately for me, I've always had someone reinforcing the faith in me. 

When I hit a crisis situation in office late last year, my boss had called me up and said, "I'm sure you'll emerge a stronger woman at the end of this, Sangeetha, don't give up. Keep your head down, ignore the things around you and keep doing the good work you always do". It had made a difference to me at so many levels. The sentence rang in my head every time I thought it was going to be hard to move forward. I had received a lot of support and some very well-meant advice, which helped me get where I am today, but that sentence rung in my head whenever I found it hard to say it to myself. Then there was the faith constantly instilled by my own very angel, who said so often that things had to get better that I believed in that belief!

This is the year of change for me. The year of making things happen for me. My year. 2010. The year of loosening up about closeted feelings, opening up to uncomfortable situations and taking risks. As I slowly unravel myself, I find that it is not all as hard as I thought it might be. It has been and continues to be unnerving often-times but the effort is worthwhile. I have found a whole new meaning in the world of friendships. I have  been able to make decisions that could make some of my dreams reality. 

This blog is one such attempt. Loosening up. It was hard but do-able. Earlier this week, I resigned from my current job without another one at hand. A risk but I took it. 

In a couple of months, I will embark upon an event that could change my life in many ways - another big chance with my life - I'm anxious and excited. In eight months, another event - more excitement than anxiety. 

Through all this, I'm uncovering bits of myself I had never known existed and loving every day of discovery!

Oh Shit Not Again! by Mandar Kokate

One of the worst books I've ever read by the worst author ever. The book, clearly, has not been through a single round of review by anyone who speaks a decent level of English and definitely no sign of having been put through an editor of any kind. 

The most apt thing about the book is it's title 'Oh Shit Not Again!' (by the way, notice the incorrect grammar in the title). I read the book and thought, "Oh shit, not again!". The book has all the ingredients that could be conjured up (or copied from numerous others) by a wannabe writer who has read little and thinks he can fly with words because a bunch of his friends said so. 

I've read a number of Indian authors of this generation and most of them have the same stuff, in more or less same words - ogling at girls, alcohol binges - but this one is so over himself that he tries to portray himself as a hero.  For instance, there is one bit where he tries to help a woman who suffers from a cheating husband and eventually gets divorced. He further tries to 'save' her by accepting her proposal of marriage. At the age of 20, there is no mention of him being in college or working, all he seems to do is loiter with a group of kids who do the same as himself i.e. nothing. 

The language used is the worst form of English ever! He tries to use words that he probably found in the dictionary or synonyms for common words that he got off the internet, for the usage is mostly inappropriate and he obviously has not the faintest idea about it. He constantly uses wrong grammar - the one that peeved me most is 'discuss about' - aaarrrgggghhhh!!! 'To discuss' is 'to talk about', so 'discuss about' is 'talk about about'. 

When a so-called Youth Icon, Mr. Chetan Bhagat, whose books sell like hot-cakes from the day they are sold out, sells his books at 90 bucks, it is amazing that Mr. Mandar Kokate has priced his book at Rs. 150. The cover of the book is a bit colourful and the back of it makes one hopeful that the book maybe worth reading. I made one of my worst investments on a book with this one. My brother bought a copy too, making it a wastage of 300 bucks in the family. 

I'm done ranting. If anybody wants to read this book, I'm happy to lend it for free. That's before I try to sell it for half or less than half the price at a used-books store when I'm headed there next. 

4 Apr 2010

Daddy's Deli

One of the houses on 12th Main Road, Indiranagar was converted into Daddy's Deli a while ago. Initially, I assumed it must be one of those obscenely expensive restaurants that serve miniscule portions, so it was never on my list of places to visit. That was until I saw quite a bit of a crowd there a couple of times and I wondered if I should try it out. Then, it slipped my mind. While searching for Corner House on Friday night, a friend of the husband suggested we try out Daddy's Deli (they share the building) and recommended a mutton dish.

On Saturday night, we went to Corner House again (the husband's craving for ice-cream). After the husband gobbled up a couple of ice-creams, we headed upstairs to the Parsi restaurant for dinner. Don't be alarmed by the fact that we had dessert first and then dinner. I married a weirdo. As the cliche goes, love is blind.

It is a small place, with about 8 or 10 tables. There was one couple other than us, in the restaurant and I can't remember if there was music. I felt a little claustrophobic initially but the lights were good and the tables were well-spaced out that I got over it in seconds. The husband loved the private-party feeling. Except for a couple of paintings on the wall and the neatly arranged tables, there isn't much by way of an ambience but whatever is there, is pleasant. There is a book-shelf with old magazines one could pick up while waiting for the order, which arrived in reasonably good time anyway.

The place claims that they are "also a Wine Tavern" and urges us to try out their wine. There is a bottle of Kinvah Shiraz, from their own Nandi Wines, at the centre of every table. The cute napkins with dual coloured edges tickled my fancy.

When you say "wine place", I try wine. I did not go for their in-house wine but tried another of the Shiraz on their menu instead. The husband's suggestion. I think I might have finally acquired a taste to wine. I love the smell of it before the start of my meal. Mmmmm. The husband had beer with his pre-dinner snacks back home and had to ride, so he ordered the lassi and lemonade (no comments). A bowl of Fryums were complimentary.

I had walked into the restaurant knowing exactly what I wanted to eat, so my main course was pre-decided. It would be the dish made up of several dals and mutton. Before that, the entree. We ordered the chicken cutlet platter, which came with about 8 pieces of soft cutlet with a green chutney. The combination was heavenly. It was a little too greasy for my comfort but one bite into the minced meat dipped in the chutney was enough to help me decide that I had to come back here with the rest of the family!

I ordered the Dhansakh that was recommended by the husband's friend. It consisted of a rice dish cooked with 9 different types of dals, a bowl of the best mutton curry I have tasted in a long time with a side of onions and lemon slices. We would have ordered another rice dish (the goan Curry Chawal sounded yumm) but the waiter indicated that it might be too heavy for two people.

When I looked at the bowl of rice (Dhan), I knew he was right. I could never finish it without the husband's help!

The Sakh was the thick mutton gravy (which probably also had some of the dals or all, I am not sure), with 2 large mutton pieces cooked to perfection.

And the side dish of onions...

If I had any hopes that the husband would help me finish the dish, I was wrong. He barely managed to have a few spoons of the rice, mixed with his Vindaloo Murgh. All that dessert before dinner seemed to have filled him up. The Dhansakh was so good that I had no guilty feelings about over-eating. I promised myself a long ride the next morning and wolfed down the entire dish in my most greedy moment ever!

The Vindaloo murgh with 2 large pieces of chicken and the same of potatoes was as tasty as it looked. It was less spicy than we had anticipated but it tasted so good that we had to be whiners to complain about it. We are not, so we ate it with relish.

The order was served in good time, the food was awesome and the waiter who served us was such a very pleasant man that he was enough reason to go back to the restaurant. While we were seated there, one or two other couples arrived. It may be that the food is too rich for the diet-conscious or it could be that Parsi food isn't for all. Whatever the reasons are, the restaurant not being crowded was not a sign that it was not good. Without doubt, the husband and I are going back there and hopefully the next time, the husband will be in a better position to eat (i.e. no pre-dessert).

We did not order dessert for we had already covered that aspect at Corner House downstairs. As a result of Lucky's wrath that I had to face the last time I went home without a doggie bag and partly to salvage the guilt in having left her home alone all day, we ordered some mutton cutlets (Sali Boti?) for her too. At a price of 200 bucks, it was the best dish I'd ordered that night, I realized when I got home. Being the nice dog that she is, she shared it with me. Slurp, slurp, slurp...

The picture shows one piece less. She doesn't have the patience to let me click while she waits on her meal, so the 3rd piece is in her stomach while I shoot this.