Dec 15, 2013

On Krishna’s chariot also stands the opportunistic liar Yudishtira...

Read this first to make some sense of the post. Not that it'll help, but at least you'd have read one good article before this tripe.


It was the 14th day of the war. While Bhisma had fallen, the Pandavas still did not have the upper hand. All thanks to Dronacharya, the Kaurava commander and the guru of the Kuru princes. Dhristadhyumna, the Pandava commander, and the son of Drupada, was getting impatient. He had a personal score to settle. He had been brought into the world, through a yagna conducted by his father, for the sole purpose of killing Drona.

"Do you love them so much that you don't kill them?" Duryodhana asked his commander, "Are you no different from the sentimental Bhisma?"

"Tomorrow, I'll finish the war for you. I have certain weapons, which I haven't taught Arjuna. He'll be no match for me tomorrow", answered Drona.

Discussions were on in the Pandava camp too. "He is simply too skilled. He cannot be defeated", bemoaned Arjuna, "After all, he taught us everything we know".  

"Then, we'll have to make him withdraw from the battle" said Krishna.

"He won't. He is too loyal to the Dhritrashtra. The Kaurava king gave him respect when he was a poor brahmin struggling to meet ends", said Yudishtira.

"He was not a poor brahmin, he knew Kripa before he approached the king. Don't worry, we'll find a way tomorrow" said Krishna.


It was the 15th day of battle. Drona was decimating the Pandava army. Yudishtira brought his chariot alongside Arjuna's, looking very agitated and said "We must find a way to stop him"

"There is a way. We'll have to tell him that his son Aswattama is dead," advised Krishna, "He is so fond of his son that this news will paralyze him and he'll lay down his bow."

"But how do we kill Aswattama. He is well guarded behind the Kaurava flanks." queried Arjuna.

"We don't need to actually kill Aswattama. All we need to do is convince Drona that Aswattama is dead" said Krishna.

"You mean, we'll utter a lie?" asked a shocked Yudishtira.

"Not we. You'll tell him. He won't believe it otherwise. But it need not be a lie. There is a war elephant named Aswattama. Ask Bhima to hunt it down. That way, you could convey the message without it being a lie" said Krishna.

"Using such devious methods is not consistent with Dharma" said Yudishtira.

"Don't forget, he is a brahmin who exceeded his role. He craved not knowledge, but power. He sought to be equal to kings, which is why he made you capture Drupada. He was partial in his teachings, which a good teacher is not supposed to be. He was among those who attacked an unarmed Abhimanyu. He uses celestial weapons against mere mortals. He has violated Dharma in every stage of his life. There is no Adharma in taking him out of the battle, by whichever way possible" urged Krishna.

And it was done. Bhima killed the war elephant and proclaimed victoriously "Aswattama is dead! Aswattama is dead!" Drona heard him, turned to Yudishtira and asked him "Is this true? Is my son, the light of my life, dead?"

And Yudishtira, as advised by Krishna, muttered, "Aswattama, the elephant, is dead". Conches were blown at the exact time when Yudishtira mentioned “the elephant”, which he also said under his breath and Drona could not hear that. He laid down his bow and sat down in samadhi. Immediately, Dhritadhyumna pounced on Drona’s chariot and severed his head. 


Yudishtira embarrasses us today. Harishchandra who willingly gave up his wife and child and kingdom frightens us today. But neither Yudishtira nor Harishchandra embarrassed or frightened Krishna or Vyas. Both included Yudishtira in the great narrative. But modern writers have chosen to represent him in a different way, decrying his opportunistic lie. 

That is the story of fraudsters in human society. Fraudsters have always existed in God’s world but more often than not manmade society has chosen to ignore, suppress, ridicule, label them aberrants, diseased, to be swept under carpets and gagged by laws such as 420. They have been equated with robbers and murderers, simply because they can only lie differently.

Indian society, however, has been a bit different from most others. Like all cultures, Indian culture for sure paid more importance to the dominant honesty policy. But unlike most cultures, Indian culture did not condemn or invalidate the minority fraudster altogether. Hence the tale of Yudishtira’s white lie, placed so strategically. Hence the legend of Chanakya, whose skills in manipulating men around him is so highly regarded.

Western socities have, and will, look upon India’s conniving fraudsters as vulgar cheats. The British mocked us so much during the Raj that we went into apology and denial. Now an entire generation does not even know about these tales and these deities and these rituals. Westernization did not change boardroom habits; it has led to an embarrassed denial of our sacred scriptures.

One thing we must grant the fraudster – he has united the apathetic middle class. He has done what the constitution of India could not do – bring the tax evading businessman, the work-shirking government servant, the subsidy-consuming salaried class to the same side of the table. Together these self-proclaimed guardians of morality would like the fraudsters to be made invisible once more.

Anna Hazareji would for sure celebrate the honesty of Harishchandra. If he would have his way, he would, perhaps, drag Yudishtira to the nearest flagpost and flog him until he admits his fault and he chokes and gasps into honesty. But not Krishna. On Krishna’s chariot, Yudishtira – as the opportunistic liar he is – will always be welcomed.


PS1: Done more as a tongue-in-cheek spoof of Devdutt Pattanaik's post. No offence intended to Mr. Pattanaik (a writer I really admire), or Mahabharata (a story I admire even more), or to war elephants. Of course, miscellaneous fanatics who don't have a sense of humour and want to take offence, please feel free.

PS2: In the midst of all that irreverent satire, also hope to make the point that there is no logic in going back to scriptures or what was acceptable hundreds of years back to justify whether something should be accepted in today's world. As I have tried to show above, a case can be made for providing divine sanction to white lies, miscellaneous 'conditions apply' clauses in fine print and other subtle misrepresentation. In fact, scriptures sanction anything that you have a fancy for (including coitus with a dead horse, as shown in the Aswamedha Yagna). A position which Mr. Pattanaik acknowledges when he tweeted "it is dangerous to seek scriptural approval of homosexuality. Many of our scriptures are anti-woman, anti-Dalit, and anti-homosexual." 

Dec 1, 2013

A toast, to a much needed holiday!

To lack of planning and last minute packing. To rushing to the station after some confusion on tickets. To late night train conversations on random topics which will be remembered at the 10th year reunion.

To the sea view balcony and breakfast on the beach. To ordering a salted french toast, getting a sweet one and liking it anyway. To eating more than normal and not feeling sick.

To sitting on the beach and gazing at the sun. To sipping on beer and general lazing around. To walk a mile with water lapping at one's feet. To deciding on the spur on where to eat. To booking a cab to get there through a helpful shack owner. To questioning their commission and to giving them the 'benefit of doubt'.

To getting the perfect prawn recheado and high cholesterol heaven. To dancing to funky live music with a 1 year old kid. To getting people to try out feni. To getting pissed with the waiter for suggesting sprite with Teacher's!

To sitting on a moonlit beach and building sand castles. To looking at the stars and wondering about the purpose of life. To going back in the morning and finding the castle still there. To going later and finding it gone. To getting philosophical about the fleeting impermanence of life.

To going to a touristy crowded fort and not regretting it. To taking stupid-posed photos and not feeling embarrassed. To the magical ability of a camera to turn people into performing monkeys. To melting in the sun and to drinking lime water.

To facing one's fears and diving under water. To sitting on the edge of the boat and falling backwards into the sea. To panicking 12 feet under, and coming up for breath. To going back again and viewing a sting ray.

To sitting in a shack and sipping on Breezers. To playing volleyball and finding one is totally unfit. To throwing a frisbee and finding it float everywhere other than where one intended. To playing with sand and getting it in one's hair. To getting tanned and not knowing it.

To eating vegetarian food at Sagar Kinara. To getting nostalgic about aloo jeera and dal fry and Vrindi. To going hunting for a late night dessert. To eating temple prasad and to being denied kheer.

To sitting alone thinking deep thoughts. To allowing oneself to be lost in the waves. To early morning dips in the water. To not wanting to get out of the water ever.

To being thankful for friends who can put up with one's PJs (btw, "shower" is a verb). To being surprised that they can do worse.

To knowing where one stands. To knowing one doesn't stand a chance. To forgetting stuff. To creating new memories.

A toast, to a much needed holiday! 

Sep 28, 2013

To the man who taught me everything - II...

Conversation with Appa, last year:

"Why do we do 'devasham'?"

"Our scriptures tell us that not all of our ancestors' souls would have found a new body to move into. So, in the belief that the wandering hungry souls may get some peace, we invoke their name and offer food to a brahmin."

"Don't tell me you believe that!"

"Well, I don't. Not in the literal sense."

"Ok. Let me rephrase my question. Why do you do 'devasham'?"

"You really want to know?"


"Ok. It's a bit long winded, so bear with me. You see, life is a maze of activity. We are constantly running around, chasing one dream after another. What is it that you guys call it... ah, a rat race. Unfortunately, in this mindless chase for more and more things, we tend to forget what really matters. People don't have time for their family, even the ones we share a home with. And hence, it is but natural that people gradually forget their ancestors. Maybe, the annual ritual is an attempt to help us remember where we come from, and to spare a moment of gratitude for the ones on whose shoulders we have stood to come this far."  

"Well, in that case, there should be a better way of remembering our forefathers. Not calling an already well-fed pot-bellied brahmanan and plying him with food, and seeing him waste half of it by setting it aside because the taste doesn't suit him! I mean, all I know about Thatha is that he died when you were young, and the only time we seem to mention him is when we do this devasham once a year."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't know what kind of person Thatha was. Was he jolly, was he serious all the time, was he kind, was he strict with you,what were his views, how much freedom he allowed his kids, what were his beliefs, his values, the basic qualities that make a person who he is... Maybe I am rambling here, but isn't it strange that I don't know anything about the person after whom I am named?"

"Well, I could tell you all that. You just had to ask. Now, coming back to your point on devasham, what would you have done in my place?"

"I don't know. I haven't thought it through. But I am convinced that there is a better way of honouring a person's memory than what you are currently doing. Like say, pick the qualities that you admired in that person, and try to live up to his ideals. Maybe, do some charity in his name, at least the poor people would genuinely offer their blessing rather than some vadhyar who is more interested in the dakshinai. I am sure, if I put some thought into it, I can come up with more ideas."

"Hmm... You should. After all, I have never forced you to do anything. When you get a chance, you can do things your way. But I am too set in my ways and too old to change my way of doing things. Anyways, let me tell you more about Thatha..."


Appa would have been 61 today. But he gave me my chance much sooner than I expected.

I have had enough time to think on the topic of honouring his memory. And I haven't come up with any earth shattering idea. Makes me realize that it's always easier to pontificate than to practice. I would welcome any bright ideas you come up with.  

So I decided to put into practice at least the two points that I had come up with when I was debating with him.

For one, I'll pick one of his qualities and try to live up to it. This year, I pick PATIENCE.

He had infinite patience. I have never seen him get angry. Never ever. So, that's my goal for this year. Not to get angry. Or irritated. At least this year.

And two, I did some charity in his name. Nothing too significant. But it's a start.

After all, we all have to start somewhere, it's the only thing we can control, because we don't know how or when it'll all end.   

Aug 18, 2013

To the man who taught me everything...

He taught me everything.

When he managed to spend 15 years with me in my childhood without raising his voice or hand (and I was quite a naughty kid), he taught me it is possible to raise children without harsh words or physical abuse.

When he stepped into the kitchen for the first time when my brother was born, when he helped my mother with the dishes at night (he came from a family where the men didn't even pick up their own plates after dinner), he taught me to respect women, and more importantly, that with an open mind, your outlook towards things can change irrespective of how you have been brought up.

When he sent me to the school excursion every year, in spite of stretching his budget, when he maxed his credit card limit to fund my thread ceremony, when he bought a colour television for us to enjoy the cricket world cup on EMI basis which he struggled to pay month after month, he taught me to enjoy life without constantly worrying about the future.

When he carefully set aside money every month, when he opted not to have all the fancy gadgets the neighbours had bought, when he told me I'll have to wait before I could trade my 'tiny' BSA Champ to a more 'robust' Hercules MTB, he taught me that sometimes, corners need to be cut, and enjoying life doesn't mean being financially reckless.

When he silently heard out everybody who had an opinion without getting into a loud argument, be it on which career he should get his son into (engineering of course!) and where (definitely not too far from home! kids these days go astray!), or where he should continue to go to work, he taught me the value of listening to others and getting their point of view, and that winning hearts is more important than winning arguments.

When he finally decided to let his son choose his own career ('lowly' commerce), and send him to Bombay (32 hours away by train), and when he decided to carry on working whether the money was needed or not, he taught me the value of finally following your own heart, irrespective of what others say.

When he remembered to come for my award ceremony at Mumbai University, braving that 32-hour train journey in an unreserved compartment, when he unfailingly came to pick me up at the railway station every time I took a journey home in spite of me telling him I can find my way home, he taught me the importance of 'being there'.

When he sat me down at age 15 and explained to me that he doesn't have wealth, land or connections, and if I wanted to make something of my life, I'll have to do it on my own, he taught me responsibility.

When he pressed a 1000 rupee note every Diwali in my hand, or dipped into his retirement corpus to buy me a 60K laptop for my college, and even managed to arrange for money at a day's notice for a trip with friends to Manali at the end of my college, he taught me the importance of family, and gave me the assurance that someone would always be there to help me up when I am down.

When he reluctantly accepted money from relatives to buy a house, and then worked to ensure that not a month's payment was missed, when he decided to fund a poor child's education when he was slightly better off, he taught me that we should receive money with a tight fist and a heavy heart, but give it away with an open hand and a light heart.

He taught me everything. Except how to react when he is no longer there...  

Jun 1, 2013

The Seven Year Itch

It's been seven long years. (And yes, I am a day or two late).

Seven years is supposed to be the the duration at which you start to get bored. At least, that's what they say about marriage, although I guess most people were too busy trying to look under Marilyn's skirt in that movie to notice the message. In fact, I have never held a hobby this long. (Except pretending to be a batsmen in my childhood. An illusion that was shattered along with my stumps many times over, but let's not go there).

This has been more than a hobby. It has been a way for me to capture some memories... I have tried to be a a tourist capturing some interesting vignettes on this amazing trip called life. Of course, most times, I end up writing lame rhymes or really bad PJs, but when I look back, I notice that I have managed to put down some lines which remind me of a simpler life. When one worried more about a surprise quiz than the home loan EMI.

No matter how many times those 'success gurus' preach about 'living in the moment', I guess it is human nature to occasionally look back and get all nostalgic in life. A fact that was brought home this weekend when I decided to clear out some clutter in the process of shifting my house. Every scrap of paper that I threw away, be it an old greeting card given by my then-students that had become dog-eared, or those books that I had lovingly collected, or that favourite tee which I had worn once too many and which no longer fits. That is the thing with tangible things, they tear, get worn out, break down and ultimately have to be left behind.

Hence, I am doubly grateful for this virtual space, where I can go back in time whenever I want, smile a little at the immature stuff I wrote (and still do), get embarrassed about some inane posts, and although I really want to disown some of them, I tell myself that these are my posts. They may not be perfect, they may not even be good, but they are still mine. Deep down, they are me.

Although I keep thinking it is time I abandoned this space, since I hardly have anything original to say any more (and whatever little I have, I spew on facebook and twitter), something stops me from doing so.

So, I'll keep this alive, if only to continue some traditions. Like a post celebrating the blog's birthday, and another for mine. Or whining on V-day.

The more things change, the more I want some of them to remain the same.

May 5, 2013

Trip to Goa - III

Read Part-I and Part-II first. Unless you like to start from the middle and work your way back.

Can anyone get bored of doing nothing? Turns out, some of us can. Especially after spending 2 days of doing nothing, I get this weird urge to go out and do something. Anything. It was like I had become infected with a particularly bad case of Indianis touristyitis, which in case you did not know is a serious mental disorder which seems to afflict citizens of my country when they are on vacation, causing them to spend enormous amounts of money to do/buy stuff they later regret. Ever bought a traditional multi-coloured 'cap' from a friendly smooth-talking vendor in Shimla, that you have never worn since, because no one in their right mind would do so outside of a hill station? Ever paid 500 bucks to sit on a 'pony' for a ride of less than 100 metres which still took half an hour since the horse walks slower than your president with a bad knee? Ever uploaded a picture on facebook (or instagram or flickr or picasa, it doesn't matter) where you and your 'friends' have struck a weird 'pose' in front of a well-known historic monument, causing terrible embarrassment for all concerned? All that, my friends, is a result of being infected by Indianis touristyitis. A cure is yet to be found for this, although people say staying at home without taking a vacation helps.

Thankfully, some of my friends had a better immune system and were hell-bent on not doing anything. So, we had breakfast and we hit the pool. We had a frisbee which we threw with such deadly aim, that it hit the pool-side bar, the sun-decks (beds?), the other people in the pool, the shower area near the pool, in fact every place other than where we intended it to go. Maybe because we had one too many beers. Or maybe because we are bad at throwing. Whatever.

We went to Britto's for a late lunch, and I had another amazing meal. These Goans sure know a thing or two about cooking. Prawns baffad (slightly sweet, coconut milk based dish) and Fish caldine this time. And beer. And dessert. As usual, a heavy lunch necessitates a good siesta, and so we came back and crashed.

By evening (and evening in Goa means 10 pm), we were ready to go partying. After all, who comes to Goa and doesn't party? I'll tell you who. A bunch of stags, that's who.

Every damn place seemed to have this policy that a bunch of single guys, however geeky and harmless looking, presented a clear and present danger to their lady customers. Now, I have ranted about this before. And while recent events in the national capital and elsewhere have made me rethink some of my attitude (and I do feel that women in this country need a lot more respect than what they are getting), I still think this free (or discounted) entry  into clubs is a clear case of reverse sexism. I mean, ladies, the guy who owns the nightclub is not allowing you free entry to tap into your intellectual acumen, or owing to the fact that your emotional quotient is better. So, your attitude of accepting the perks of your physicality just when it suits you, and crying 'gender discrimination' the moment things don't go your way reeks of rank hypocrisy. And I won't change my mind unless some of you join me in protesting outside those clubs demanding that single guys be allowed in. I am not even asking for free entry, I am willing to pay my cover charge. After all, I have studied economics and I know there is no such thing as a free lunch (except if you are a lady and the lunch means entry into a club). Sorry for the digression, I wanted to get it out of my system.

Business in April must be slow in Goa, probably due to the oppressive heat. Or the bouncer at Cape Town Cafe saw us and decided this bunch of lojers posed no threat to the (later we realized, non-existent) women in his club. But a combination of factors led to us sitting around a table, having whisky and not-so-great food and then we decided to hit the dance floor.

Now, when it comes to dance, think of Hrithik Roshan. And his brilliant moves. And visualize the exact, diametric opposite. And there you have it, me on the dance floor. I can't move my hands and feet together, and my waist is so round that it moves independently, whether I want it or not, but give me some alcohol, and play loud music, and you'll be witness to a sight that'll rank along with some of the funniest you have seen. Or tragic, depending on the way you look at it. And so we danced away, first to an empty floor which soon filled up as people (including the previously non-existent women) trooped in to see this bunch of manic guys 'dancing' and decided to make some moves of their own. In a distant corner, away from us. I had so many beers that I lost count. I firmly believe that if you don't get wasted at least once on a trip to Goa, then the trip itself is wasted (see, pun!). We danced till 3 am, and then went back to the hotel. The fact that I managed to find my room unassisted means I did not get wasted enough. Shame!

Woke up the next day to a slight headache, which meant that the 'get wasted' plan was not a total wash-out (see, one more pun!). Had read somewhere that a long run is a cure to a hangover (provided you drink lots of water), so got on the treadmill and did a 5 km (proud!). The only effect was that the pain in my had shifted to my legs. But I got over my hangover with a hearty breakfast and lots of watermelon juice. This day was uneventful, in the sense we had yet another good lunch at Fisherman's Cove and yet another dinner at Britto's. And of course, I caught a lovely sunset at the beach. And played some pool, which is like playing carrom with sticks and balls, except the balls never go where I aim, unlike in carrom. But I still managed to win because the other guy potted the 8-ball in the wrong pocket. Yay!

And thus we come to Sunday, the end of the vacation, usually the hardest day since thoughts of coming back to the same old routine haunt you, preventing you from enjoying the last few hours. Again, not much to report, other than a very nice lunch at this place called Republic of Noodles, which is apparently an award-winning restaurant at Lemon Tree. Well, I don't know what awards, but they definitely qualify for SRK's Good Food Guide. Which, in case you didn't know, is more prestigious than Michelin stars.

And thus, we come to the end of the trip report. Written in such detail, because unlike some people, I don't click snaps to retain memories of trips. What I do, is write lots and lots of words about it. possibly because a good camera is expensive and clicking good snaps takes some talent, while blogging is free and no quality check is being done here.

May 1, 2013

Trip to Goa - II

Read Part-I first. Not that it would make any difference, but still.

You know this guy called Murphy? He loves me. I open the newspaper on the flight, only to see a headline: "Drinking banned on Goa beaches"! One of my fondest memories of Goa is sitting on the beach with friends, with a bottle of port wine and plastic cups, sipping the sickly-sweet liquid, observing the sun slowly turn from a bright yellow ball to a soft orange one as the waves lapped at our feet. Now, it will remain just that. A fond memory. The stated reason is to ensure safety of women and to avoid littering on the beaches. A typical government 'solution' to a problem. It looks good on paper, makes it seem as if the government is trying to address the issue, makes all the boring people happy and puts the blame on something harmless. A person who is prone to molesting women can do it when he is sober. And one who respects women wouldn't do it even when he is drunk. Try explaining that to the government though. Anyways, the fun part is that you can get drunk in the shacks on the beach (and then go around molesting women, if that's what you were planning to), but you cannot carry your own bottles and drink on the beach. Sounds suspiciously like some serious lobbying was done by the shack owners to me.

Such depressing news aside, we had a fairly uneventful flight and landed in the land of sun, sand and super cheap alcohol. The first of those was brought home to us immediately as soon as we stepped out of the flight. It was hot. Unbearably, irritatingly, mind-numbingly hot! If-someone-had-thrown-an-egg-at-my-nearly-bald-head-I-would-have-returned-them-an-omelette hot! An air-conditioned prepaid cab was found, and the hotel was reached post an hour long drive. We had booked ourselves into this place called Lemon Tree (on Candolim beach, nice place!) which had a swimming pool with a bar. And water with ass-jet in the loo! All my needs were met, and I mentally thanked my friends. Because you don't say thanks to friends. A fact that Salman Khan made clear more than 2 decades back!

There are 2 things that happen to me on a vacation. I get perennially hungry and once I have had my fill, I feel perennially sleepy. So, we walked into this place called Fisherman's Cove, and I had the first of many brilliant lunches. Rice with fish curry and prawn curry, and a nice dessert to top it off. Food was a highlight of the trip, considering we did nothing else on the trip.

Ok, we actually set out to do nothing on the trip, so one could say we did everything we wanted to (this is a line borrowed from this guy and I never get tired of using it). There are two kinds of people in this world. The first are people who do things on a vacation. They visit places, they shop, they party, they sing karaoke (badly!), they drive around, they take snaps on their fancy cameras and they put it up on every social media imaginable to let the world know that they are having a good time. The second kind are the people who just be. We laze around doing nothing, sitting for endless hours quietly, with a book in one hand and a beer in another, occasionally raising our head to admire the view of the sea. We also do stuff sometimes, like a dip in the pool, but that's just us taking a break from taking a break. Now, I am not saying that this way is better than that or anything of that sort. Some people get excited ticking off a check list. To each his own.

But we also succumb to the temptation of doing stuff. And so, post lunch, we walked to the beach and had a beer or two (at a shack, since taking your own bottles was 'banned'). The combination of great food, chilled beer and bright sun always make me drowsy, and so we returned to the air-conditioned comfort of our rooms for a nap.

Dinner was another memorable affair, at a place called Club Jazz or something. Food wasn't all that great, except for the prawn balchao that I ordered. The server warned me that it might have a strong smell, since it has dried prawns and vinegar. I decided to risk it and was glad that I did. Went well with the whisky too. Simply brilliant!

Since we had already done our quota of sleep, and 2 of the guys in the group were keen followers of European club football, we did some walking around and found a sports bar (J29, it was called) where they were showing the Real Madrid-Dortmund match. Now, I don't know much about club football, but it was a nice fast paced match with the Germans running circles around the Spanish. 2 more beers and I was in this perfect 'happy' zone, with a slight buzz in my head but not too drunk to have a throbbing headache the next day. The trip had got off to a perfect start and I was looking forward to 3 1/2 more days of fun.

The next day, we woke up late (at least by my standards, although my friend insisted that waking up at 9.00 am is really early by Goan standards). Lemon tree has this nice breakfast buffet which comes as part of the room package. Now, I make fun of most traits of my countrymen, especially the way they behave on a vacation. But I am guilty of one of those crimes myself - whenever I see a buffet, I stuff myself silly, eating way more than I possibly can digest. Somehow the concept of unlimited food triggers some switch in my brain which then goes batshit crazy. So, I sampled almost everything they had laid out, then found out that one could order eggs separately, so ordered an omelette, then a french toast, and then sampled some of the pancakes (with generous topping of maple syrup) ordered by friends. All my fitness karma, from 2 half marathons this year, was wiped out in that one meal.

After such a meal, there is only one thing a person can do. And that is to go back to sleep. Which is what my friends did. For a brief time, I was infected by the Indianis touristyitis and I decided that I hadn't come all the way to Goa to sleep in a room. So, I gathered my Kindle and found a hammock by the pool and lay down there. And rose from there half an hour later, with a pain in my neck from trying to maintain the reading angle on the hammock.

After some time in the pool, we went off for another lunch of rice and fish curry, followed by another long walk on the beach, and went back to sleep. We also hired a car to ferry us around for the next 2 days, but were handicapped in the sense that only 2 out of 5 knew how to drive (I don't. Must learn soon!) and one of those two wanted to drink a lot more than would be safe. And so, one guy ended up driving all through. Thanks man, JB.

We read somewhere on the net that there was a party at Curlie's and decided to go for it. We ended up driving to the wrong end of Anjuna beach, and then decided that we were too lazy to go back and find out the correct way. And so we ended up having dinner at Souza Lobo (Calangute).

Now, I have very fond memories of Souza Lobo from my last 2 trips to Goa. Their prawn cocktail was to die for. But somehow the magic seems to have waned. Either that, or it is the 'familiarity breeds contempt' concept as one of my friends (and fellow Souza Lobo fan) put it. But my dinner there was uneventful, with nothing memorable. Hope the next time I go to Goa, it'll be different.

Another trip to the J29 sports bar, this time to watch Chelsea-FC Basel. I found the match boring and hence decided to give up at half-time and go back to bed.

"2 1/2 more glorious days lie ahead," I told myself as I drifted off to sleep.

(looks like I'll have to do a third installment. Considering that people come back with 300+ snaps of their vacation, and every picture is worth a thousand words, I guess I can keep writing...) 

Apr 29, 2013

Trip to Goa - I

It all started a few months back, when one of my friends sent out a mail saying "When and where do we plan our next vacation?". I got all excited, since I had a lot of PLs pending, and was keen to get away for a short break. Those of you who know me (and my legendary laziness), would have knowingly smiled and told themselves "What's new? This type of planning on email happens all the time. Nothing comes out of it." I agree, I have been guilty of starting quite a few of these 'grand plans' which (like the people involved) went nowhere. And like so many previous times, this one too fizzled out (although it was not SRK's fault this time. I blame a guy called RK!).

I should not be saying this, for my mom happens to read my blog, but it's been tough finding single people to go vacationing with. And I am not even expecting super hot single ladies who'll sit for a late night session and knock back a few drinks with me while we ponder the utter meaninglessness of life (although that would indeed be nice!). All I ask for is for some of the idiots with whom I spent countless nights sipping cutting chai and eating midnight-Maggi at hostel to take a few days off from whatever mind-numbing work they are doing and come along, so that we can go someplace far and sip cutting chai and eat midnight-Maggi and crib about whatever mind-numbing work we are doing. But those idiots are all married with kids (and in spite of my whining here, I am genuinely happy for them!), leaving me with fewer and fewer options.

And so when some of my friends at work pointed out that there was a mid-week break thanks to a saint called Mahavir who happened to be celebrating his birthday (and bless his soul for giving us this pathway to peace of mind!), and by taking a Thu-Fri off, we could take off for a 5-day holiday, I was so happy that I almost gave up non-veg and potato and onions. Till they mentioned Goa and thoughts of fish curry and prawn balchao restored my sanity.

And so, plans were made. And re-made. Flight tickets were booked and leave applied for. Umpteen mails were exchanged on where to stay, with each guy giving his opinion. Except me, all I wanted was a place which has running water in the loo. Not for me some fancy-shmancy deluxe pad where they expect you to use paper. And so, when the guys finally said they have found a place (close to the beach, has a pool, a pool table, and yes, water ass-jet in the loo!), I jumping-jhapanked at it (that reminds me, that lady Farah Khan needs a vacation. To some place far off. Permanently. For inflicting the most idiotic moves, movies and brother on us!).

Enough people, including some Goa ex-residents asked me whether I was mad to be planning a trip to Goa in this weather? They warned me that it'd be too hot at the beach and we'll just be cooped up in our room. That I'll come back tanned and dark-er (like I wasn't already!). I was just desperate to get out of the city (I mean, Bombay wasn't experiencing Bangalore weather, so might as well sweat it out in shorts and vest on a beach instead of full formal wear at office!).

And so it was, that five guys swaggered down (Kaante-, no Reservoir Dogs- style) through the security check-in. Correction, the other four did, I frantically ran in since I was late. All thanks to a taxi driver who insisted on asking for "Rs.50 above the meter" and then drove down s-l-o-w-l-y since I argued with him and threatened to complain to the cops. I even took a pic of his number plate, but now the vacation is done, and I have cooled down and am not in the mood to report him.

Anyways, as I stepped into the flight, I was ready to leave the hectic workplace, the disappointment of not going someplace better, the nagging of random uncles who meet me for the first time, ask my age and comment on why I should get married soon, the irritating taxi drivers and all my cares behind. If only for a few days. A few precious days. Preciously few days.

(to be continued... I wanted to write it in one post, but I have rambled on and on and we haven't even come to the start of the trip. And I am too lazy to edit. I promise to wrap it up faster than Ekta Kapoor though!)   

Apr 23, 2013

One of my clumsy attempts at story telling...

He sat in the cleanest corner he could find and clutched his head. He desperately wanted this to be a bad dream. But the pain from his nails digging into his temples reminded him that it was not. That, and the all-prevailing stench.

It had started as a trifle. Early morning, as he was dressing up, he had found that the top button of his shirt was missing. On any other day, he would have simply swapped it for another shirt and moved on. But this was not any other day. He had an important client presentation to make. It was a make-or-break deal for him, his career, his future at the firm as his boss had repeatedly reminded him. And though he frowned on most superstitions, this was his lucky shirt. He had got his job wearing this shirt to his interview. He had worn it the first time he had met the woman, who would end up being his wife. A woman who doted on him, and attended to his every need.

That reminded him. He had asked her to mend this button 3 weeks ago. And again last weekend. And again, last evening, specifically mentioning that he had an important meeting today. Till six months ago, he wouldn't even had to have ask her. She used to pick out the shirts which he had to wear, colour-coordinate them with the appropriate trousers, and lay them out for him. All neatly washed, pressed and smelling nice. Although he always told her not to indulge him so much, he secretly enjoyed being pampered like this. But those times were just a fading memory now.

She had become a bit distant recently. He could see that she was getting frustrated sitting at home. After all, she was equally well-educated and had been a starry-eyed bright intern when he had first met her. The first assignment he had given her, she had filled her brief perfectly. Staying back till 3 am in office and ensuring every 't' was crossed and 'i' dotted. And not a single typo. Soon, late nights at office became the norm, and she filled his brief perfectly too. He did not realize that a shared obsession with correct grammar, perfect formatting and wearing each others' briefs could lead to a commitment of a life long relationship. But rock-solid marriages have been cemented over much less.

She had given up her job after he got promoted. They had talked over it for quite some time, and he was initially surprised she made that sacrifice. But they both realized that his job was going to take over his life, and he needed someone to, as he put it, "be the wind beneath my wings". And at first, she seemed to adapt to the new role in her life as smoothly as she had pulled off her first assignment. But, she gradually became clingy, talking about starting a family and having kids. He gently reminded her that they had discussed this before marriage -  "kids simply drag your life down".  He knew she was getting restless now and, as he would have put it to her during her intern days "no longer had her eye on the ball". And thus, his lucky shirt still had a button missing.

And so they had had an argument. Which had started with a missing button and ended half an hour later with a screaming match on how he no longer seemed to love her. And he finally threw the shirt on the floor, picked up the first thing he could grab from his wardrobe and stormed out of the house.

That half an hour delay had ensured that his daily plan of starting early to avoid rush hour traffic was now just that. A plan. His boss had already mailed him twice reminding him to be on time. This was no ordinary client, this was what they called a 'whale'. Millions of dollars to be had in fees, if only he would bite. And whether the whale would, depended a lot, if not entirely, on the story that that he would weave. Because behind the pin striped suit and the 'pitch deck' filled with arcane numbers, what made any client tick was a story. And although he could rattle off every conceivable metric in his industry from memory, above all, he was a skilled story-teller. And that's the skill that had made him the youngest MD in his firm.

He generally liked to reach his clients' offices half an hour early. He was a perfectionist, and he personally ensured that the projector was working, the lights in the room was not too glaring, the room temperature was just right. It was the little things that made the difference between success and failure. Between a blockbuster bonus payout and a pink slip. Little things like a button on your favourite shirt.

And here he was, stuck in traffic, running late for the meeting. He quickly called up his boss and asked him to keep the client engaged for some more time. Just as he was getting a lesson on the importance of being on time, peppered with some choice things the boss would like to do to his mother and sister, the traffic cop stopped him. "Talking on the phone while driving" is a punishable offence, and on any other day, he would have smooth talked the cop into accepting a lower amount. After all, negotiation was his forte. Today wasn't any other day. He pulled a 500 rupee note, told the cop to note keep the receipt and sped off.

When he finally reached his client's office, he was half an hour late, And the client was an impatient man, who was used to making the bankers wait for him. Not the other way round. He didn't remember the details now, but the pitch was a disaster. He knew they were out of the reckoning for the mandate before he stepped out of the client's office. Trouble was, so did his boss.

On the drive back to his office, his boss told him in a low, solemn voice, "Management is thinking of cutting costs. It's a tough business environment. Am afraid we'll see some re-sizing soon." Management at investment banking was like the Mob. They rewarded loyalty and performance handsomely, but were quick to cut one off if they found slack. And he got the message. He'll have to update his resume soon. Getting a new job in this market would be tough. He could do with a miracle. Maybe his lucky shirt would help. "If all its buttons are in place", he thought bitterly.

He ploughed through the rest of the day, constantly worrying about how he would manage the EMIs for his fancy pad and the fancy car if he got laid off. He was evidently distracted and even made a typo in a mail (Oh, the horror!). And just as he was packing up to leave for the day, he got a call. It was her. She said she could not take it anymore, and she wanted space to think things over, and hence she was leaving to stay with her parents for a few weeks. He had sensed this was coming, but he hadn't realized it would be this soon. Maybe the morning argument had been the last straw.

There was a loop running in his mind, about how he could have handled the argument in the morning better, about how he could have taken the shortcut and avoided the traffic, about how he could have managed the presentation better... whether it was simple absentmindedness induced by this, or a temporary rush of bloody rage which blinded him, one couldn't say, but he evidently did not see the pedestrians who happenned to jaywalk in front of his car.

"Two men, three women and four innocent little kids." - their panic-stricken faces as their bodies bounced off his bonnet kept flashing in his mind at the police lockup as he sat in the cleanest corner he could find and clutched his head. He desperately wanted this to be a bad dream. But the pain from his nails digging into his temples reminded him that it was not. That, and all-prevailing stench. Of urine and blood and other horrible things he would rather not imagine.

Just then, his mobile beeped. New mail, flashed the icon on his blackberry. He scrolled down to see that it was from an idiot in the HR department, who was in the habit of spamming the global address with a 'Thought for the Day'. Today's read: "A stitch in time saves nine." 

Mar 31, 2013

In which I philosophize about giving away books...

I am on a mission to reduce the clutter in my life. At least, I have fooled myself into thinking so. Although muddled self-delusion is probably one of the first things I should throw out.

Now, I am not one of those people obsessed with maintaining a tidy house or work-desk. Unlike some people I know, I feel it is perfectly fine to use a chair as a place to hang your towel. In fact, I usually have papers strewn around on my desk, and I keep telling myself (and sometimes my boss) that when I need a particular paper, I can usually fish it out of what seems like a disorderly pile to the ordinary viewer. Random Access Memory, anyone?

But, occasionally (very infrequently for my mom's liking), I get bitten by the 'cleanliness' bug. It attacks in mysterious ways, when I am least prepared for it. Like on a perfectly harmless, brilliantly lazy weekend afternoon when I am ready to enter the heavenly state of post-plateful-of-thayir-saadam-with-naarthanga bliss, the devil, true to the proverb, commences his work on my idle mind. And before I know it, I am neck deep in a pile of old books, trying to remember when I bought each of them, and trying to decide whether I'll ever re-visit some of them (the left part of my brain, the supposed seat of logic and rationality and sarcasm shouts "Yeah, probably when hell freezes over") or whether I am better off giving them away.

Now, I am not one of those idiot book-lovers, with an overt fondness for printed alphabets on thin sheets of wood pulp. The kind who can wax eloquent on the smell of a new book, or kind who can go on a monologue (with a generous dose of nostalgia) about the feel of the paper from an old Wodehouse edition which they somehow hunted down in a side alley near Flora Fountain from a book vendor who had this Jeeves-like ability to procure whatever you had asked for, but only if you asked nicely enough and plied him with enough currency. I am perfectly comfortable (and concerned about the environment too!) with reading on a screen, and have developed quite an affinity for my Kindle. I don't have truckloads of books (contrary to what my mom thinks) and I haven't yet gotten around to the idea of using them as furniture. But the fact is that I stay in Bombay and my tent is quite small (but not my rent!), and the books have become the Camel which will push this Arab out, inch by painful inch.

And so, I decided, some of these books have to go.

That was the easy part.

Deciding which ones to throw give away was much harder. Books are not dead-wood. They are alive, and have this leech-like ability to cling on to your life. Even the ones which you have outgrown and are not likely to come back to ever. Correction, especially the ones which you have outgrown and are not likely to come back to. Ever. 

And so, the epic struggle of the left brain over the right started.

"This one needs to go."


"You hated it the first time you read it! Why do you want to keep it?"

"Every body deserves a second chance. Maybe I'll like it better if I re-read it"

"C'mon, we'll never finish this, if you behave like this!"

"Why do we have to 'finish'? Why can't we keep them all?"

You get the picture...

And in the process of throwing giving away these books, I discovered that one of the hardest things in life is: Letting go. Be it of old books that I have read, of random holiday pics lying in a forgotten folder somewhere on the computer, of the movies and sitcoms that sit in the external hard drive that I promised myself I'll finish someday. Or of bad memories, broken relationships, people I am better off forgetting...

I'm going to wipe them clean, one by one. Some day.

Moving on...

Feb 14, 2013

Yet another V-day whine...

It started in 2008. And has continued through 200920102011 and 2012

A glorious tradition at this blog. 

Now successfully enters the sixth year. 

Read on...

Now, it has become a sacred annual tradition
That every V-day will have a new 'whine' edition
It started as a rant, and went from bad to worse
This ritual of coming up with really pathetic verse
Like a periodic display of my lack of erudition.

"Is it my looks, or my absolute lack of charm and wit?
What is that X-factor which could make me a hit?"
When I tell people I am a smart, successful banker
They turn up their noses and say "you dirty wanker"!
No wonder you are so full of your own bloody shit.

But hey ladies, some of us bankers can be nice
Like the ones who don't sell our souls for a price
But you just shake your head and say, "D'oh!
It's a stupid banker who doesn't make dough...
we've never seen a person who's this unwise!"

There's nothing worse than a banker who's not rich
B'coz we can't even find a dumb gold-digging bitch
All we do is slog our asses off in office every night
And then wonder as to why she always picks a fight
She wants CARE, but we choose to go with FITCH

So, I admit, we bankers can be incredibly boring
When you want pillow talk, you'll find us snoring
And just when you are in the mood to get frisky
We'll lecture you about mutual funds being risky
Talk about a special bond, we say yields are soaring

I ask you, how on earth do I somehow find
This mythical girl with an independent mind?
You say I have to actually get out of my house
And learn to play this game of cat-and-mouse!
I just find that to be a little too much of a grind...

But what the eff can I do, to become 'interesting'?
I can't act, I can't dance, and you'd rather not I sing
My fashion sense sucks, and I dress like a loser
And on a bad hair day, I look like a drug abuser
In fact, when I think about it, I suck at everything!

But I promise, I'll learn to talk about music and art
After all, on every unknown topic at work, I fart
I'll cook and clean,  I'll even do the dirty dishes
I'll try my damnedest best to fulfill your wishes
All I ask in return, is a special place in your heart!


PS1: Last year, I had a real fear that the tradition would end. Because, you know, mom was dragging me all the way to Sringeri to catch apples tossed by the shankaracharya in the hope that like I'll realize the gravity of the situation once I see a falling apple. She probably didn't realize that Newton too never married and is believed to have died a virgin.

PS2: While I have successfully defended my wicket till now, I realize that all good times must come to an end. Even Rahul Dravid had to retire at some point of time. But like my hero, I resolve to fight till the very end.

PS3: If any of you buys this for me, I'm yours for life... (I know, I said this last year too, but well, no one's bought it for me yet, and what's the harm in trying again?)

Jan 21, 2013

In which I philosophize about running...

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
 - Robert Frost

About a year back, I wrote this. And promised myself 2 things.

I regret to look back and see I haven't reached 300 posts. The count's only 275. Damn!

But I did finish the Half Marathon in under 3 hours. 2:43:13 to be precise. Yay and all that!

And all along, I thought the other milestone of 300 posts would be the easier one to achieve. Especially since, just a few weeks back, climbing a few steps had left me muttering to myself that "I am too old for this shit."

Life has this unique ability of surprising you. And making you realize that you are not as prolific a writer as you thought you were, or as bad a couch potato as you imagined either.

If you talk to the people who run on a regular basis, they tell you it gives them a 'high'. They tell you it makes you fitter, slimmer, even smarter. They talk about 'being in the zone'. They talk about some strange thing called 'second wind'. They invariably have this anecdote about that one time when they experienced cramps, which left them hobbling, but somehow they 'pushed past the pain barrier' and managed to complete the race. They talk about 'mind over matter', and other positive thinking stuff. They are mostly nice people, but they can get incredibly annoying. Almost like Amway salespeople or Art of Living evangelists, only their agenda is to make you run.

If I ever start sounding like some of them, do me a favour. Walk up to me and punch me in the face. Or if you are too far away, call me up and abuse me like crazy. Do whatever you can, but ensure I don't become one of those "hey, this is so much fun, you should do this too" kind of guy.

There are other people who say running teaches discipline. And planning. Just like you don't get up one fine day and decide to run half way across town (well, some of you do, but I am talking about normal people here). You start with a small run. Wheeze through it and give up. Then, the next week, you find out that you can last a minute longer. And then, the week after, 2 minutes more. And slowly, you build up stamina over time to last the distance. And they claim, you can use this 'template' of planning and executing in other areas of life. Like your personal life or career or timing your bowel movement.

At first, I thought that sounded plausible. Because, I like to think I am a 'plan and execute' kind of guy. Till I realized that unlike the financial model that I build which has a steady state 3% increase in cost of X every year, the reality is starkly different. The people who lecture you on 'planning and execution' are usually the people who end up in investment banking and management consultancy, and who think life can be explained in a 2 x 2 matrix. These are also the people who end up buying a 1000-rupee 'belt' which holds 2 water bottles, because you know, holding the bottle in your hand when you run reduces your 'efficiency'.

And so, while you listen to them and start sweating it out and counting calories to improve your heart's health and to reduce your BMI to acceptable levels, something other metric (which the pharma industry is yet to come up with to sell you expensive pills) is off the radar and is killing you. And the 'suits' will come up with a post-facto explanation as to how they saw this coming.

Running is pointless. In fact, it is one of the most pointless activities I have been a part of. It'll be the second most pointless thing you would happen to indulge in, right after reading this blog. Poor kids in Africa run because they don't have other means of transport. Animals run because they can't drive a car. Reasonably well-off people only run because they can come up to you and lecture you about 'adrenaline rush' and 'runner's high'. Or because all that pounding on their knees somehow killed off a few grey cells in the process.

Stay with me for a while. Even though you are bored to hell by now with this post. Stay for one sentence longer. And one more. And while you have come this far, why not endure it a bit more? Just that one bit extra. I know there is a nice cat video that is streaming on your other tab, but just hold on. Are you still there?

Now read the above paragraph once more. And again. And again.

Running is as pointless as that. Putting one step in front of another. Once. Twice. Ten times. Hundred times. Thousand times. Left, Right, inhale, Left, Right, exhale. Repeat. Over and over and over again.

"Now wait a minute. If running is so pointless, why did you do it again this year?" I hear you ask.

Because, sometimes, you should do something pointless. Not for your health. Not for what other people say or think. Not even for how you feel about it. No, sometimes, you should do pointless things just for the heck of it. Because you can.

Because you know, life itself is pointless. There is no 'grand purpose' to it. It just is. And that doesn't stop you from living, day after boring day, over and over again, does it?

PS: And that's precisely why I will end up running next year too. Just for the heck of it.

Jan 9, 2013

In which I suggest a way for leaders to not appear dumb...

What a crazy few weeks this has been
Can't remember the last time we've seen
every 'leader' with a big foot in his mouth,
Be it from the East, West, North or South,
I had better maturity even at age nineteen!

First, it was the this effing idiot who loudly vented
about women on the streets being 'dented and painted'
He said "I can't believe the protester is a student"
Nor can we, sir, that you're the son of the President
but what can we say, except you are truly demented!

Then, we had this old supremo in a khaki short
who, when asked on this issue, made a sharp retort
that rapes happen in the India which apes the West
& not in our mahaan Bharat, 'coz our culture's the best
am not a lawyer, but say, can we sue him for tort?

And now we have this bearded man of God,
who wants the victim to chant mantras, dear Lord!
He pontificates, "with one hand, you cannot clap"
But sir, one hand suffices for a really tight slap,
and one hand also suffices to hold a large iron rod.

We also have a guy who blames the stars
He says "It was her fate, to suffer such scars"
Another wise guy blames fashion, films and freedom
"Veil the women, ban pre-marital sex and the condom,
And while we are at it, let's also close all pubs and bars."

Some one says women should not cross the line,
"Stay behind the Laxman Rekha and you'll be fine"
The Khaki-clad supremo adds, "Ladies, stay indoors,
And remember, your duty is to do household chores;
Marriage is an age-old contract, to keep you bovine"

To all these wise men, I have but one thing to say,
To their powerful egos, I am willing to humbly pray,
Please finish this "let me raise my pet cause" game,
And eventually get around to pinning the blame,
on the real culprits, if not today, at least some day...

And if I may add a small helpful hint, just a nudge,
It is that when you deem yourself to act as a judge,
"The woman's not to blame" - it's a simple rule of thumb
to ensure you never, ever again sound so dumb,
and in future, a woman's character you don't smudge.

And since I am feeling generous, let me add another rule,
Because, I don't think you were smart enough, you fool,
"If your solution involves something a woman shouldn't do -
it's a stupid solution", see now, that's a really easy clue
when in doubt, please refer to this simple thinking tool.