Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Aath' - The tag

'Motee' tagged me. Watch out world, here come 8 things out of the traveller's bags!!


Step 1: Rules, Tag Ka Superhit formula:
  • Start with eight random facts/habits about yourself
  • Post these eight quirks on your blog and also post these rules along with them
  • At the end of the post, type in the names of the lucky eight who get tagged by you and take this chain forward!

Step 2:

  1. I buy books when I’m completely aware that I’m not going to be able to read it for the next few months, as I would be busy completing others that I’ve bought previously. (You should see me when I enter a bookstore. It is as if I’m in a trance. I walk in a stupor from one book shelf to another, held in complete awe by the sheer magnanimous collection of thoughts and ideas that quietly rest on the shelves and smile at the world passing by.)
  1. I eat very very very very little. Recently, I stunned my parents when we went to this beautiful Rajasthani restaurant in Calcutta. I mumbled “I’m through,” after I’d barely eaten a quarter piece of ‘laccha paraatha’ and half a piece of a ‘tandoori roti’ along with a few spoonfuls of the vegetables that we’d ordered. My Mom almost dropped her spoon and exclaimed that I was now eating even less than what I used to before I’d left for my MBA.
  1. I still find games like ‘Spider Solitaire’, ‘Minesweeper’, ‘3D Pinball’ and ‘Freecell’ irresistible.
  1. My longest crush ever was for Angelina Jolie. (‘was’?!! Change that to ‘IS’.)
  1. Although I’m Mr. Lazy Bones and love nothing more than to lie down and go off to sleep at the slightest opportunity, I’m pretty enthusiastic about my long-distance running. It is one habit I picked up during my MBA, and I’m so completely in love with it. I know I haven’t been running regularly of late, but I have a feeling it shouldn’t be long before I get back to my ‘5 kms a day’ running routine soon.
  1. I have always been smitten by entrepreneurs. I guess it all started when I was browsing through my college library and stumbled upon ‘Business Maharajas’. At a time when my Marwari college-friends bunked early morning classes to treat their girlfriends to hot samosas and lassi at ‘Sharma Snacks & Sweets’, I would bunk the boring economics lectures to study the business dynasties of the Birlas, the Tatas & the Goenkas, not to mention the spectacular rise of Dhirubhai Ambani.
  1. My choice of ‘good films’ can be quite surprising to some. There have been quite a few occasions when I have left the cinema hall with a contented smile on my face when others leave with an expression as if they’d just been inside a gas chamber. Three such films which come to mind are ‘Mission: Kashmir’, ‘Jaan-e-Mann’ and ‘Eklavya’. I thought ‘Mission: Kashmir’ was amazing in terms of ‘slick presentation’, action sequences and awesome cinematography. I loved ‘Jaan-e-Mann’ for the unique style in which it was made (India’s own Hollywood-influenced musical?) and the guts which it required to actually pull off a project like that. (I’m also completely in love with its songs and their picturisation.) ‘Eklavya’? ‘Nuff said.
  2. I love heights. Whether it is a mountain peak or just the view from a very tall building, something inside me starts ticking. Way back in school, I remember going to a friend’s terrace flat and looking down and saying ‘I feel like taking a jump’. My friend of course thought that I was suicidal.I’m sure someday the mountains will call out to me loud enough for me to return their call. :)

Step 3: I tag

1. Just so
2. Gulabo
3. Banana Pen
4. Nerd-beta
5. Anna
... and whoever else wishes to pick up the tag.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I’d written the following words down on a night when I was engulfed with thoughts as dark as the night that surrounded me. Yet, even then, in the darkness, I knew that these weren’t negative or pessimistic thoughts as I saw them; they were just normal everyday thoughts, with perhaps a morbid touch to them:

A Million Crazy Questions

Quarter to three in the morning. I yawn, I’m slightly groggy, but sleep eludes me. And why not? I did what I’d promised myself I won’t do two nights ago… I promised myself I wouldn’t think anymore about certain issues. But hey, I’m human. ~smiles~

As the title suggests, this post isn’t about any one particular thought, just a crazy stream of questions. Questions, and a few grasps in the dark for answers that may or may not be correct. Answers, which may perhaps be best left untold.

I wonder if I’m the only 24 year old who’s having this thought, but is it only me or does somebody else out there too feel that all that needs to be done has been done; all that was to be seen has been seen; all that was to be heard has been heard; all that was to be felt…all the tugging of heart-strings, all the tearing feeling within, all the mind-splitting headaches, all the laughs that were to be laughed…

Not even 25, and yet one wonders what could be so exciting that would elicit interest when the sun dawns tomorrow morning.

One wonders if we have actually been human or have we just somehow managed to convince the baser animals within that we have become civilized. We all have at some point in our lives given in to sins of flesh, food and money. Haven’t we been simply selfish all our lives? Or did we actually learn something about ‘human goodness’ from all those early morning assembly prayers at school? Did we actually learn to love another human being or did we simply do it fulfil our own desires of companionship?

I’ll tell you what I don’t feel. I don’t feel sad. Sad would’ve been me sitting with tears rolling down my eyes, but that’s not what’s happening. Sad would’ve been the end of this world, where examples of humanity and brotherhood wouldn’t have existed, but thankfully, that ain’t coming to an end either.

I don’t feel happy either. What purpose are we moving towards? I’m certain there is some great grand picture that we’re a part of, and each one of us has a role to play in the grand scheme of things. But when will the moment of truth dawn upon us? And what’s there to be happy about anyway? You were born alone, you live alone and you die alone. You meet a few interesting, and lots of uninteresting, people along the way. You remember a handful of them for the rest of your life, for the smiles they brought to your lips or the tears that you silently wept for them in the dead of the night.

I’m not ‘Comfortably Numb’ either. Whatever I am, I certainly ain’t ‘comfortable’.

I know exactly how some people are going to react to this post. “You’ve had lots of free time and you need to join your job ASAP so that you have something to keep yourself busy.”


Get me busy before I find out the truth. The answers could be more damning than this state of being in the dark.

[P.S. Background track – ‘Ehsaas’ by Atif.

Main ek fard hoon,
Ya ek ehsaas hoon?

Main ek jism hoon,
Ya rooh ki pyaas hoon?

Sach ki talaash hain,
Door akaash hain.

Manzil paas nahin,
Kya tu mere paas hai?

Kabhi main amla hoon,
Kabhi be-amla hoon.



Am I an individual,
Or a feeling?

Am I a body,
Or the thirst of a soul?

I’m in search of the truth,
And the sky is far away.

The destination isn’t close to me,
But are you?

Sometimes I’m a worker,
And sometimes I’m a useless nobody.]


~End of previously written post~

I spoke to ‘Biscuit’ today and during that conversation, I told her something that I feel captured my thoughts and current state of mind. I told her that I feel like “I’m on a wooden raft, in the middle of a wide wide ocean. The water is dead calm and is leading me nowhere. The raft remains where it is and I have no tomorrow and no past. All I have, all I have the power to experience is the fleeting moment which is the present. I have to live my life and make the most out of the present moment."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tarakeshwar Trip - 13th May 2007

Tarakeshwar is a village approximately 80 kms from Calcutta. It is a site of pilgrimage for the Shiva devotee as this is where a major temple dedicated to the Lord is situated. The rush of pilgrims to this place during the holy Hindu month of ‘sravan’ (or ‘saawan’ as folks from northern parts of this country would call it) is worth admiring.

I myself have been fortunate to have walked a couple of times to Tarakeshwar. On those occasions, we travelled by train from Howrah to Seoraphuli, a suburb of Calcutta where the ghats of the Ganges are considered to be particularly holy. Once there, we collected water from the holy river in two earthen pots and suspended them by ropes to either end of a bamboo stick, which we then carried on our shoulders all the way to Tarakeshwar. The distance of 40 kms from Seoraphuli to Tarakeshwar was covered barefoot (as is the custom), which usually takes 10 to 11 hours, inclusive of the numerous breaks that one must take for resting the feet and taking a bite to eat.

However, last Sunday’s scheduled trip to Tarakeshwar was bound to be special. First, I was going to Tarakeshwar after a good two years. I was waiting rather eagerly for making a trip that I have made innumerable number of times. Second, the ‘adventure’ bug had bitten both, me and Chatur (my good buddy Prashant Chaturvedi) and we wanted to do things slightly differently.

I guess it all started when Dada put the idea of travelling to Tarakeshwar on his bike. Although he said he couldn’t make it, he had absolutely no qualms about me taking his bike. With that idea, I’d called up Chatur. Chatur was immediately gung-ho about the whole idea, but there were speed breakers ahead.

One, Dada’s bike has a Maharashtra number plate, and on a highway, that itself increased the chances of our papers being checked. And since I don’t have a license to ride bikes, that could spell trouble.

Two, Chatur’s sister’s friend also wanted to come along. Chatur’s sis, Vandana, had already said she wanted to come with us. That made five of us: Chatur, Bulla (another great friend, whose real name is Ravi), Vandana, Vandana’s friend and me. Two bikes, five people…problemo.

Hence, we decided to chuck the bike-ride idea and had almost convinced ourselves to a more conventional 7:25AM train to Tarakeshwar on Sunday morning. That was till Saturday evening.

Chatur gets a brainwave around 6 on Saturday evening and asks me if we could ask my Dad to allow us to drive to Tarakeshwar in our Santro. “Not bad,” I thought. I convinced Dad and I called up Chachu to ask for directions. (‘Chachu’ is our family driver; he’s been with us for almost 30 years now. I’ve never called him ‘Driver’ or even ‘Driver ji’. It’s always been ‘Chacha’ until around class 9 when I decided ‘Chachu’ sounded cuter. :D ).

The next morning, the skies were clear and the cast had gathered at my house for what turned out to be a beautiful outing. As luck would have it, Vandana’s friend couldn’t make it due to some reason.

We drove past the Vidyasagar Setu (the second Hooghly bridge) and onto the Kona Expressway. Next, we were on the Calcutta-Delhi highway which forms a part of the Golden Quadrilateral. The road was simply awesome! Bulla obviously had butterflies in his stomach, being the guy who prefers listening to Jagjit Singh numbers to Aerosmith. But Chatur and I were absolutely ecstatic when I managed to touch 120 kms/hour on the speedometer. The Palsit-Dankuni stretch was awesome and there were regular stretches during which we had a clear vision of the 2-3 kms ahead of us. A beautiful day, clear skies, morning sunshine, cool wind in your hair, friendly road conditions and the company of great friends…what else could one ask for?

We had left my house at 7 and we reached Tarakeshwar by 9:15.

(The entrance to the temple)

We met up with the local priest who has been helping my family conduct prayers at Tarakeshwar ever since I can remember the place. We washed our hands and feet at the ghat and were then led inside the dark and extremely crowded sanctum sanctorum. The place was chaotic with all the shouting and chanting of Sanskrit shlokas. Add to that the smoke emanating from the ‘agarbattis’ (incense sticks) and the smell of fresh flowers offered to the Lord, and the picture of the place is complete. Somehow, serenity and calmness engulfs you even in the midst of all this.

We offered our prayers at the Shiva Linga the temple and then at Kali Ma’s mandir right next to the main temple.

(From left: The priest, Bulla, Chatur, Vandana, Me)

Puja completed, the hungry quartet headed for the local shops where we treated ourselves to hot samosas. Our angry stomachs quietened down a bit and we headed back home. Somewhere on the highway, we stopped to quench our thirst at a street-side vendor who offered freshly extracted cane juice. Little did we know the kind of delight that crushed ice in a glass of cane juice can bring on a hot summer afternoon. :)

We were back on the Palsit-Dankuni expressway, and this time I decided to check how high up I could take the needle on the speedometer. As I glanced around and saw that we had a completely empty stretch ahead of us, I pushed the accelerator as far as I could. Absolutely confident of the safety factor, I kept pushing well past the 120 km/hour mark (my previous fastest ever) and eventually managed 140 km/hour. Woohooo!!

(A great capture of the Vidyasagar Setu that Chatur took on his cell phone. I'm actually using this as my desktop wallpaper currently.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Menagerie and other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries - Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

The book is a delightful read. Sreejata Guha does a nice job of translating the Bengali original. The stories themselves are more or less simple and free-flowing. This is the kind of book with which you want to settle down after a wonderful lunch or a lavish dinner. The mysteries aren’t too complex and neither are the plots ‘heavy’ with too much treachery.

The two short stories, ‘The Jewel Case’ and ‘The Will That Vanished’, are solved with a certain heart-warming quality that Byomkesh Babu has. The other two mysteries, ‘The Menagerie’ and ‘The Quills of the Porcupine’, are novella length and are a testimony to the author’s ability to narrate a seemingly complex tale in a lucid and simple manner. My favourite story has to be ‘The Quills of the Porcupine’ where Byomkesh Bakshi is called in to stop a serial killer.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book is the description of old world Calcutta. The author is simply describing what he sees around him. This results not only in unique snapshot images of Calcutta in the early ‘50s but also the Bengali lifestyle and the culture of the time. The telephone and fridge are still a novelty and every visitor to the house is treated to “sandesh and sweet lassi chilled with ice cubes”. Also described in delightful detail are the ‘adda’ sessions that Bengalis are so famous for. In ‘The Quills…’, there is constant reference to the tea-parties that a group of bachelors have at a gentleman’s place, often accompanied with one of the friends settling down to sing a tune on the piano while the rest either play chess or discuss films.

I can’t wait to lay my hands on the other Byomkesh Bakshi book ‘Picture Imperfect’. I have already searched at Crossword and the Oxford Bookstore on Park Street, only to be told that the book is out of stock. ~sigh~

Joining the Dots

“No more adventures?” read Himanshu’s scrap on Orkut.

I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt. I had, after all, been at home and having my share of tiny adventures, the sort that makes for bitter-sweet memories. It was just that I had either been a lazy bum or too tired to write them down.

But on a day when I’ve slept for 12 out of the last 18 hours and with two steaming cups of chai just consumed at Ajanta Dhaba, I know I’m in the perfect mood for a long post.

Holmes & Aunty

One TV channel that I have been watching a lot of is the History channel. The two most keenly awaited programs on that channel are ‘Biographies’ and ‘The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries’.

The latter is fun not only because it brings to life the London of old that Holmes lived in (I find it difficult to suppress a smile every time I see the old styled street sign announcing ‘Baker Street’) but also because of the ‘different’ manner in which Jeremy Brett plays the legendary detective.

To be honest, when I first watched the episodes on youtube, I was slightly annoyed by the pronounced manner in which Brett would speak and carry himself. It all seemed so affected! However, over a period of time when I’ve seen around fifteen or twenty such episodes, I think I’ve started liking the quirks that are essential to the Brett version of Holmes. (I remember reading an interview of Pankaj Kapur where he said that the producers of ‘Karamchand’ were swamped with phone calls of people calling in to say how irritating they found the mannerisms of the detective, especially that of scratching his head. Later, the very same people said they couldn’t imagine Karamchand in any other way.)

Anyway, here I was on a Monday evening at Aunt Patsy’s place discussing how I loved watching Holmes. Being the sweetheart that she is, Aunty immediately asked me to come over the next day for dinner (the program is aired on Tuesday nights at 9). Grinning, I agreed.

At around 8:30 the next evening, I was on my way towards Aunty’s house when I decided it would be a good idea to buy some popcorn. I went to this local supermarket where, surprise of surprises, I found a whole section dedicated to alcohol. Given that this supermarket is located in the ultra-conservative Gujarati area of Bhowanipore in Calcutta, it was a BIG surprise.

But my joy knew no bounds! ~grins~ I called up Aunt and she said she would have a Bacardi Breezer. I settled on a bottle of Cobra Beer (have always preferred Kingfisher) and Bulla settled for a bottle of Coke (spoilsport ~sticks out tongue at Bulla~).

At Aunty’s place, we were treated to pizzas that she ordered from Domino’s. What had been initially planned as an innocent TV-watching event had turned into this fun evening.

Pizzas, beer and great company. Plus, Sherlock Holmes solving the ‘Mystery of the Copper Beeches’. Ah, Perfect!! :)

Munna, Guru, Bulla, Pizza

The next Saturday, Bulla and I were again sipping our cuppa of tea at Ajanta when I asked what his plans for dinner were. He shrugged and looked at me inquiringly.

I grinned and decided it was time for another pizza party. We rented ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ CDs and walked up all the way to Ballygunge Circular Road for the pizzas. Around midnight, when we were half-way through the movie, Chatur messaged to say that he wanted to go to the Jalaram temple the next morning. Now, this meant that we would have to leave our place at 6:30 the next morning in order to be at the temple for the morning ‘aarti’ which is at 7:30.

The only problem was that we were in no mood to stop the movie mid-way, which would go on till at least 2. And going off to sleep at that hour would almost ensure that we wouldn’t be able to get up in a matter of four hours to be on our way.

Solution? I suggested the most simple solution known to any B-school graduate…night-out! :D At two, when we finished watching ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’, we simply took a ten minute break and started watching ‘Guru’, a movie which Bulla had stored on his home computer.

(And yes, we DID make it to the temple the next morning. You can always bank on my gang of friends when it comes to enjoying ourselves full-time, whether it involves staying up all night watching movies or being at the early morning prayers at a temple 10 kms away from home.)

Dada’s Day Out

I called up Arindam Barman (‘Dada’ to the Nirma MBA batch of 2005-07) and we fixed up an outing on Rabindra Jayanti. Dada and his ever loyal bike were at the Elgin Road crossing at the appointed hour. We made our way through a busy Calcutta traffic to reach just in time for the afternoon show of ‘Bheja Fry’ at the Forum Inox. A thoroughly enjoyable 2 hours later, we headed to Balwant Singh’s Dhaba for tea. The joy was there for all to see as Dada gave in to what he describes as the ‘ultimate temptation’, “sutta aur chai”. :D

Tea and cigarette over, we headed to the Academy of Fine Arts. Two of the three galleries at the Academy were displaying the works of some of the most talented painters from West Bengal. Some of the paintings just blew our mind away and there was this painting of a woman from rural Bengal which just made all the visitors to stand and stare. It depicted a 20-something woman wearing a white saree standing in front of the mud-baked walls of her house. I promise you I would have bought the painting had I been a millionaire. ~sigh~ Oh well, a few years ain’t nothing after all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I'm pleasantly tired after a wonderful walk and I want to spend the remaining energy reading an Asterix adventure on my laptop. Moreover, I have a long day tomorrow ('travelogue' post coming up.. Yeah!! ~thumbs up~) and want to conserve my energy for the drive. I have been intending to write about quite a few things, but just haven't gotten around to doing it. Hence, just jotting down a rough skeleton here... will join the dots tomorrow... Promise!!

Himanshu's scrap --> Holmes & Aunty --> Guru, Munna, Bulla, Pizza --> BBA Angreji --> Dada's Day Out

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Afghan - Frederick Forsyth

"The Afghan" is one Frederick Forsyth novel that I’m going to remember more for the description and the details he provides than for his brilliant narration of action sequences. The description of the rise of the Taliban and the Al Qaida in the heart of Pakistan and Afghanistan is breathtaking. Forsyth’s ability to dole out detailed information about the lives and ideologies of people from a different part of the world is formidable. And at the same time, he ensures that the reader doesn’t get too carried away with individual stories within the larger framework.

I did feel that the suspense was stretched out a little. And then, let me come to the most disappointing part of the narrative. The book revisits Capt. Mike Martin, a character who we’ve been introduced to in "The Fist of God". The reader’s patience is tested when he has to again go through the life and times of Capt. Martin, something that has been thoroughly discussed earlier.

However, this does not take away the fact that this book is a delightful read for the first time reader of Forsyth’s novels. And even I must admit that the action bits and the detailed descriptions kept me riveted.

Watch out for the part where a meeting with Osama Bin Laden is described. Forsyth makes you feel the tension.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Great Indian Arranged Marriage

I was waiting for the elevator when I met a friend who recently got married.

‘Now that you’ve completed your MBA, what next?’ she asked.

‘The usual. Waiting for the job to begin and let’s see where that takes me,’ I replied.

‘And what about marriage? I’m sure Uncle and Aunty have started looking for a nice Gujarati girl for you,’ she asked.

‘You think I’m the kind of guy made for an arranged marriage?’ I laughed off the matter.

However, with the number of friends and relatives around me getting married, I’m a troubled soul. I am not in the least indicating that I would like to get caught up in conjugal bliss, but what I have always been uncomfortable with is the whole idea of being a central character of the great drama that we Indians love to be a part of – ‘The Great Indian Arranged Marriage’.

The flowchart unfurls somewhat as follows:

Step 1: Son has either already been engaged in professional services for a couple of years or has just earned his degree from a reputed college and is about to take his first few baby steps in the world of corporate affairs

Step 2: Parents are consumed day and night with one question “Mere bete ka number kab aayega?’ (“When will it be my son’s turn?”)

Step 3: Mom’s blood pressure falls, Dad’s heart-rate increases

Step 4 (a): All well and good if Son demurely (and shyly, for good effect; add giggle if necessary to be portrayed as ‘sweet fellow’) agrees to parents’ call for getting him hitched, proceed to step 6; else refer to Step 4 (b)

Step 4 (b): Dialogues of emotional blackmail straight out of Ekta Kapoor’s serials are unleashed on the hapless soul (complete with tears in eyes and worry lines on forehead). Sample: “We are getting old and want to see you married before we, we… (sniff, sniff). Who knows how much longer we will live…” ~voice trails off~

Repeat step till Son caves in to emotional pressure

Step 5: Son caves in

Step 6: Roar of triumph in the parent’s camp. Dad tells people he meets at morning jogs to refer him any ‘good girl with a nice family background’; Mom conveys the same message to relatives in a trembling and excited voice over the telephone

Step 7: Photographs of girls are sent to the boy’s house for ‘cursory inspection’

Step 8: Either Boy is bamboozled with the girl’s picture or Mom n Dad have reason to believe that they have found a Sita to their Ram. Repeat Steps 6 & 7 till this stage is reached.

Step 9: Formal meeting is set-up and boy and girl meet for approximately 20 minutes.

Repeat Step 9 till such a 20 minute meeting results in the Boy going over to his parents and saying ‘I like her.’ Confirm if Girl agrees to Boy or not.

If Yes…

HURRAH !! You have passed the first stage. Move on to ‘The TAMASHA’ (The Great Indian Arranged Marriage – Part 2)

Even as I write this, I’m seething with rage.

Firstly, the idea that the first step for agreeing or disagreeing to further deliberation results from a photograph taken of a girl disgusts me. I personally know people who would rather call this procedure ‘civilised prostitution’ than anything else.

Secondly, this whole 20-minute meeting business is pathetic. I will not comment on other people’s abilities to ‘read’ people in a span of 20 minutes, or even 3 sessions of 20 minutes each. However, as far as I’m concerned, I will NEVER be able to agree to this idea.

20 MINUTES??!!!

Is a 20 minute meeting ALL that it takes to know a person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life with??? In case that wasn’t very clear, let me repeat: THE REST OF YOUR LIFE???!!!

Those 20 minutes might be enough to find out which school and college the person attended, but is it enough to know the amount of EDUCATION that the person has received?

Those 20 minutes might be enough for a person to know the other person’s favourite song, but are those 20 minutes enough for knowing the REAL reason why the person loves that particular song?

That meeting might be enough to know whether the person can speak to you in the same tongue or not, but is it enough to know that the person shares the same wavelength?

The 20 minutes might be enough to know whether the person follows the same religion, celebrates the same festivals and is knowledgeable of the same religious texts as you, but is it ever going to be enough to know whether the person shares the same ideology as yours?

Is that 20 minute meeting ever going to be enough for you to know the other person’s definition of LOVE, a definition on which hangs the happiness of your life for the next 4 decades or so?

The answer, I hope you’ve realised, is a resounding ‘NO’.

I agree that the other side of the argument refutes this logic by stating numerous examples of relationships which have broken up in spite of long-term romances prior to marriage. They say ‘It is never going to be enough to find out whether the other person is a perfect match for you or not’.

Point noted. But at least I had the privilege of knowing a wonderful person and had the decency to respect the other person’s life and personality by making an attempt to finding out whether this was the ‘correct’ person instead of putting up a sham ‘meeting of the minds’.

And that, dear reader, was the reason why I asked the lady at the elevator whether she considered me a suitable candidate for the Great Indian Arranged Marriage.