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Thursday, October 21, 2004


Read “Shroud” recently- a book by John Banville, over the weekend—a wonderfully written book with an interesting plot and an even more interesting narrative—threads woven contiguously of events in the first person and third person.. The main character, Axel Vander is not Axel Vander. He has unabashedly usurped the identity of another and has lived the lie for over fifty years. He is a master of the untruth ejaculated willingly and is a pathological liar who is an avowed recidivist. He is smug in his pride that he has shrugged off the past when a student’s letter arrests his attention to the fact that somebody knows….

His mental anguish, his delirious imagination, his splenetic thoughts are all masterfully recorded by the author. The book is about deceit, sorrow, treachery and sheer selfishness. The writing veers between the indulgent and the catatonic—reading bliss !!!

Character similar to a Mr. Lee in a Christie novel—we ignore that.

Saved from being recondite only by the strength of its narrative and the verbal elegance of Banville. Difficult language, prose—it must be said . A long time since I’ve reached for the dictionary while reading a work of fiction—some words stench the free flow of ideas and thoughts and that is by far the only flaw with the book. Overall, an 8 on 10. Really quite good !

Read somewhere that Australia has a different system of voting—First, Second & Third Preferences are the order of the day. Very simply, it works like this—after the person with the least number of votes is eliminated from the running, the Second preference votes are added to the respective candidates, and the winner is then determined. If required, then , the third preference votes are also pulled in.
There is a way for parties to make deals for these preference votes too.
This can work in India too—after all, it was my trusted Civics text in school that said that even if a person with 40% votes wins, it means he is not wanted by 60% of the electorate.

Off to Madras on Sunday. Had been drafting a commendation letter which had been okayed by all when I noticed in the nick of time that it read go the extra mule instead of mile. J
What an equine surprise that would have been !


Monday, October 18, 2004


Was daydreaming about the title of the above Khushwant Singh book, and my mind jumped backwards and zeroed in to the many-splendoured Community songs that we eager beavers used to sing at School.

For the uninformed, the Kendriya Vidyalayas ( or the impossibly named Central Schools) have this wonderful endeavour to unify and integrate-decibally, if not by distance, the piercing voices of its gullible flock through asking them to link their vocal chords and render nationalist ballads of different languages. It works like this—there are a number of such Community songs, which we lucky ones used to get to tear asunder every week in turn. during the morning assembly ( Who exactly juggled the songs so that they did not repeat, remains an unsolved puzzle). Most languages that we knew or recognized were represented—the exceptions were English ( for obvious reasons—none would try and inculcate cohesion through this ) , Nepali ( not a national language then ) & Manipuri ( same reason).

When we passed out of school( sic), it was a good time later that we did realize that these morning sessions of hollering in the wind were never to return. Even now, I may speak Indian languages with varying hues of felicity, but am confident about my ability to spew out an entire song replete with antaras, mukhdas, sur and taal in any language at the drop of a hat.

Memory, a strange thing….

So, to recap

Time: About 9 15 am

Venue—assembly hall/ground

Position: Stand-At-Ease

Specifications- Add, to taste

Now, there are some facets to the whole affair that made devoutly falling in tune with the Community songs distinctly unglamorous—a) almost impossible to master all the notes to the fifteen odd songs ( The Great One managed, thanks to being in a K.V, longer than most—and also rich and varied exposure (sic) to the Philharmonic Orchestras of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & West Bengal, having studied there ! ), b) Adolescent voices quavering and breaking , c ) A lack of perceptible contribution ( I mean, who could possibly detect if one tenor in a crowd of about a thousand did not pitch in (sic), and d) the inherent hummability of these songs .

Owing to which , some of the more prescient Principals used to walk the rank and file of the Class lines and mutedly, exhort the silent ones to quake louder. The threat was if one did not sing, he/she would be asked to sing all by himself/herself in front of the whole school. Shudder, shudder—who could risk that ? So we sang along.....

After all , Collective Cacophony beats Soulful Solitude !

Some of the more memorable ones were

Hey Muhijowatan ( Urdu )—a veritable tongue-twister. Full of rumbling Valley-like twists and turns. Words and phrases difficult to pronounce—felt as though one were hurtling down meadows and hedges . Took a lot of time to teach.

Aae maati re moro mote ( Assamese) – lots of rounded vowels as is the wont with some East Indian sounds. Again, one of the slow ones.

Dhorro dhaanye-( Bengali) –sonorous, subdued and mellifluous—a favourite among the Doordarshan clientele—you know, those fancy dress charades.

Aakash Ganga ( Gujarati)—a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w melody, Eminently dolorous . Bursting with the quaintness of Life’s Pathos, and with words like “ haasya , roodan, asha, niraasha”, even the most stoic scalawags must have felt a bitter chill , just by singing this. Also, a Madan Mohan-esque touch by the mukhda being sung in more than one version.

Pillallara Papallara-( Telugu) –for some reason, one of the lesser frequented haunts. Maybe, a direct riposte to the fact that Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be carved up on linguistic basis.

Aata oothvu saare raan ( Marathi) – another Ode to Nature. Tripping consonants and lilting notes. Joie de vivre--this was it.

Jai jana bharat ( Hindi) – one for the acoustically adventurous. Started off innocently enough , safely negotiated antaras, but ends on a unachievably high note, leaving one panting on the pinnacle of a musical peak. Gasp, gasp !!

Janma karini bharatam ( Malayalam)—one of the most popular across my schools. Causes, well, the same that results in some men squaring their in their chests, pulling their stomachs in, straightening their tie, all that when they see someone special.. Tis a song with rapids and cataracts gushing and heaving this way and that. Although it’s an easy song, it somehow gives off the appearance of a particularly tough rite of passage and insidiously implants the erroneous thought in the singer’s mind that he/she has accomplished true harmony and by inference musical bliss.

Chelluvina muddina makkale (Kannada) –responsible for most kids yearning to take up tabla classes-the equivalent of a Sampras jumped-overhead, a Sinisa Mihailovich free-kick, a Jans Peter Nierhoff backhand smash. Practical value, dubious—spectator value, enormous ! A series of callisthenic ministrations on the two tabla drums were certainly the mainstay of this song.

Odi villayudu papa ( Tamil) –am not even sure that this was the designated regional song. A Subramanyam Bharati exhortation to the sleepy children to rise and shine. Must be APJ’s favourite too !!

Oo kunnhe beeje ( Mythili/Bhojpuri ) –unsure of the language. Nice words, I remember.A late edition. ( Ed:(wistfully) One of my favourites..)

….and a few others that I omit, to my eternal ignominy. :(

I think I've rather overstretched myself on this post and not even sure if I've given away some family heirlooms in my placid munificence.

But, it’s been a long time since , hasn’t it ?

Note--All these are not to be confused with

Bharat ka swarnim gaurav, Kendriya Vidyalaya laayega

( which is the leitmotif / thematic refrain of the K.V family)

Quip of the Day

A seven-year German Shepherd called Dino on Death Row ,has won a reprieve. He had been convicted under the Dangerous Animals Act for assailing a woman who was trying to save her terrier. London, again !!


Friday, October 15, 2004

Or Is Gawking Baulking

What responsibility does a player have towards the performance of an umpire ? What role does he play in the febrile imagination of an overworked referee ? What determines the extent of his acceptance or rejection of the latter’s authority ? Is it a function of credibility, power , hierarchy ?

Such queries have been posed and answered soon after as many as three batsmen decided to walk, against the better judgement of the renowned umpires. Gllly has done this before and may have even been expected to, but Kasprowicz & Yuvi were not. This time, the media has opined that such acts of listening to the “ inner voice” has gone beyond the acme of sporting chivalry, to the stratosphere of officious engaging with work far outside one’s field of vision.

What constitutes “ walking “ ?
Well, simply put, using the ambulatory route to reach the cool confines of the pavilion, put your feet up and relax.
Right ! But when do you walk ? ( In cricket, please—Footballers have to run J ) When you are Out, Silly !
Alright, and when do you know you are out ?
When your stumps resemble the ruins of Hampi, when the fielder turns cartwheels after catching you, and so on..
Or when the umpire raises his index finger
What if the umpire doesn’t declare you out ? Do you have the right to declare yourself out ?
I don’t know, but it can be done.
When you walk even when the umpire doesn’t declare you out, does he call you back as you rush away ?
No, because I have myself upheld the finest traditions of the game , and ….
Pipe down, pipe down—why do you think the umpire didn’t give you out ?
Cos’ he didn’t think so.
Then, why did you walk ?Because something in me …….. ( Ed: Wants to bring world peace by working with underprivileged children.. )
Hey, I’m asking you -- Who asked you to walk ?
But I thought ….

Sporting pressures are many. Yet, some sportsmen continue to eschew momentary success. Why do they do so ? A sweet mystery of Life….


(Overheard on the Bus from the Lounge to the Bombay Craft at the airport )

Attendant : Any passengers to Ahmedabad ?

Somnolent Passenger: ( coming out of his reverie, like a waking bear after hibernation) : Huh ?

Attendant : Any passengers to Ahmedabad ?

S.P : ( loudly—stridency shines ) :Is the plane going to Ahmedabad ?

A: ( confused, and looking hither thither ) : Uhhh, No !

S.P : ( even more loudly ) : Then why are you asking if the plane is going to Ahmedabad ?
A : Cos’ Sir, I just wanted to check if ….

S. P : Do you always ask such questions ?

A: Er, no, ……. Er, yes !

S.P : I cannot understand why you are asking if the plane is going to Ahmedabad if it is going to Bombay .

A ( sheepishly) : Are all passengers to Delhi, Sir ? OK, fine, thank you, Sir
( makes a frenzied exit shaking his head )


S P ( to co-passenger) : This happened for the first time , very strange attendant , no ?

Co-Passenger ( perplexed) : Er,,.. er…

Almost swooned when the Display proudly showed Flight XXX to Bombay boarding at Terminal Y .
Bombay , BOMBAY ? ???
Are we back to pre-SS days already ?
Happy Days are Here again !!!Hurrah !!

Good Deed of the Day
Mid-day reported that a bunch of thieves decamped with over 4 tonnes of chocolate ( worth a few quid too ) in Skelmersdale, England.
At least someone has their priorities right.!!


Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Like the light at the end of a tunnel ( from an onrushing train ) , the hitherto despicable weather in Gurgaon has turned mysteriously balmy. Wind-swept mornings and wintry nights ( don’t ask about the day, am supposed to be working, you know ) lure even the most lazy types ( read me ) to take walks. The roads are broad and mostly left alone by the gregarious Delhi-wallahs, and my perambulations are interrupted only by the odd canine friend who generally deems it on par for the course to snooze in the middle of the road.

Decided to make the trip to Delhi on Sunday to catch up with an old friend. The obdurate ways of the Hotel staff engendered the trip to the capital by public transport , precarious and hardy. Travelled by yet another mode, a Maruti Omni, driven at the speed of light, or sound in any case, packed by those unencumbered by the vagaries of the disappearing buses. The pitter-patter of the gentle clouds made the ride pleasant, albeit no songs en route. Alas !
Lunched at packed-like-sardines Andhra Pradesh Bhavan on Ashoka Road near the magnificent India Gate. This seems to be some sort of a Templar-at High Tide ritual for the Telugu –speaking gentry. Can’t say I care too much about the kind of service at the restaurant, Owner bellowing Token numbers, adroitly shepherding willing diners, superfast serving staff. The food was homely enough and there is an auditorium screening those revolting Telugu movies ( where Akinneni Nageswara Rao defies gravity, age and nature wooing a belle young enough to be his grand-daughter ). Maybe this is a bias all the more since the place was jammed with the know-it-all-annam pappu-pettu- software types !!Ha ha, that is yet another bias ! Very briefly toyed with the idea of buying a saree for home but the lack of ready expertise a la Calcutta made me retract.

Watched “ A Beautiful Mind” on the telly. Expectedly atrocious!
Yet another hackneyed script singling out those on the fringes of America’s sensibilities—the underprivileged, the mentally harangued, the fiscally challenged. Isn’t it so very easy to focus directorial pincers on the exceptions to the rule ?
Well, throughout the film, Crowe gormlessly mimics Dustin Hoffman of Rainman fame—right down to the body language, hunched shoulders, the unmitigated social disasters. I’ve read a few things on autism, and inexplicably Crowe needlessly resembles an autistic, not a schizophrenic tinged with genius.
James Horner’s score is below par, which is truly perplexing.
Overall, miserable.
End of Review.
SRT has said that he can only bat for about fifteen balls at a stretch. OK, we can bring him back then because at that rate, he can complete three innings….


Thursday, October 07, 2004


Flipping through the many channels on the telly ( and fervently hoping to avoid the award-winning “ Ek Rahen Vir” on the acclaimed Zoom, glories delineated earlier ), found a decent programme called “Singing Sensation “, on Zee or Sony. One episode featured Sukhvindara Singh and another Abhijeet—so although they were overtly playing to the galleries, the songs passed muster. To my horror one night, I found Anu Malik on the show—crooning his way though “ it’s raining “ ( something in me said “ it’s paining “ ) , “ India is the best “ ( which is probably true ) and the raag mian ki todi based interlude from Baazigar—mein mila tu milee etc.

They have these ubiquitous Talent Hunt contests these days and the judges seem to come from the Miss Grundy-meets-Aunt Matilda –stern, forbidding and deprecatory. I’ll stick to my leitmotif and wager that anyone—repeat anyone, can make it big in the industry he/she chooses to. Conversely, the ones endowed with the most talent may fail too—indubitably they do. I’ve never had the heart to watch the mandatory “ aap kuch kahenge” spiels dished out by the insufferable Shaan during the closing scenes of every Sa Re Ga Ma Paa contest, essentially because it breaks my heart to see someone try his guts out and not succeed.

Was jilted by the car on Tuesday, and took a taxi to the airport instead. After the perfunctory request to switch on FM had been apologetically declined , the cab driver offered to play some new Hindi film trash or Bhojpuri stuff, in the manner of an unctuous waiter playing up a dish over a more mundane and humble one. Knowing what he wanted really, I plumped for the latter.

The first song was an ode to the unseen cyclist ( er, lady cyclist ) –the mukhdas about the ardour of the singer, and the antaras about various comparisons that the writer sought to draw—with Nature. Interspersed healthily with English words ( mispronounced )

The second was a metaphorical one ( sung by someone who sounded eerily like Poornima ) on the qualities of the divine panwallah-like lover. Interesting that the region still speaks about such earthy vocations and objects . Clearly, the emphasis was on lyrics and free-wheeling ideation. The driver kept harking back to me ensuring that I had got the drift of the melodies, and that there were no gaps in translation ( of course, I did grasp the mot juste ). Could not really listen to the third as had reached my d by then.

Read through The Romantics in two sittings—one of the most impressive books that I’ve got my hands on in recent times. Not coincidentally, also one of the slowest I’ve ploughed through. Written in first person,not till two thirds of the book do we actually know the name of the protagonist-Samar. It’s the tale of a twenty-year old Brahmin student, based in Benares after a mundane University life in Allahabad, and his interactions with an English relic pining for her faraway companion, a beautiful French student living with an indigent and inadequate sitar player hoping to make good in Europe, a troubadour American and his pursuits in futility. The story is set in Benares, Pondicherry & Dharamshala, and I suspect that Mishra knew the implications of these settings well. Without spoiling it for future readers, the prose is melancholic, vivid, introspective and lingering, and I reckon the book’s foibles come a distant second to its merits. The only comment that I would permit myself is that the writing is markedly better than Amit Chaudhari/Geeta Mehta and a few others.

The channels meander on about the vast merits of the Bush Kerry Edwards Cheney imbroglios, each proclaiming a sagacity which one only wishes Americans had—strutting midgets full of braggadocio and bravura !!

Well, the reports have come out that there were only Weapons of Mass Disappearance in Iraq—but Saddam was planning to build ‘em if sanctions were lifted. Droll !

Am getting trained here in Gurgaon, and was informed by the instructor that Canada does not permit questions on gender, religion, age and the like to be ascertained during an application form. Kind of makes life very hard for the sturdy men in my profession.

India has capitulated, as always. When the going gets tough, we get going --back to the pavilion. Yeah, at the risk of alienating the last of my sports supporters.the Australia series did not have SKW & McGrath. Thus spake Zarathustra !


Tuesday, October 05, 2004


A good many reviews on “ Terminal “ –the latest flick by the big S—a story that had broken in April or thereabouts, of Merhan Nasseri ( an Iranian ), who is tragically “run out” in his endeavour to reach and find asylum in Europe, gets stranded in Charles de Gaulle airport and stays put. I’m informed SS made a comedy out of it. That’s the typical American Jew Insouciance for you—a chap has no home and the world joins in celebration. Based on my limited experience of airports, this cannot even be a comedy because at the rates at which the airport authorities in India sell water, eats, beverages –one may not find the splintered edge of comedy sharp enough. Tragedy abounds, mate !

Of course, SS is said to gave thrown in angles of countries disappearing—Krakozia is the name a la Ruritania, and Tom Hanks gets his bit at the reportedly insufferable JFK airport. Another moment of sadness, can one imagine what would happen if the concept of Indian-ness or for that matter, Sierra Leone-ness , were to vanish unannounced ( hence my support for the USA Bombers ) . Only that Americans seem to think all other countries are dispensable.

Going by all this, Yours Truly also seems to be a kindred soul with Tom Hanks ----marooned without a home—tis been almost a month that am living out of a burgeoning suitcase in an increasingly-familiar hotel . I also have lost a few of my papers ( the PAN seems to gave gone missing , the passport is miles away ) . In fact in terms of tenure, this can actually count as a separate house in itself.

Liked the Bush scowl-caricatures and Fido-like mannerisms , played out by the US media. The action hots for Super Tuesday, and the world waits with bated breath for a Florida fiasco.

Bought, read and disposed off “ The Case of the Haunted Husband”, another Perry Mason whodunit. Examined carefully, the title is another tautomeric slur—on the lines of “ return back”, “ expedite quickly” , as IMHO ,all husbands are haunted by the spectre of their matrimonial follies.

Also begun reading “ The Romantics” –the supposedly stunning debut of the archetypal khadi-clad Bohemian Pankaj Mishra. Promising so far.

Found a circulating library in the vicinity—designed for the snooty types—happily charges about 20 % of the cover price. Thank God I’ve read “ Ultimate Business “ already—a 1300 page tome.

Met up with old friend Sameer on his birthday yesterday in Andheri—chockful of busy restive people.

Leaving for Gurgaon on a 10-day training trip today.


Friday, October 01, 2004


Returned today after a trip to Gurgaon—a relaxed outing, physically for a change—quota of sleep and rest well met.

True to its schizophrenic ectoplasm, the absolutely unreadable and abominable Times of India ran two editorials the day after the “ categorization” of the celebrated Indian cricketing superheroes;- one speaking about the advantages of having a market-centric approach to pay and eulogizing the “progressive” move, then another just below bemoaning the vile attempt to split the team and denigrating such divisive deeds. I had always though that the editorial was meant to represent the locus standi of the newspaper.

Watched Arsenal play Rosenberg Trondheim ( Hey hey, the rest was just a red herring ! ) in a “Norwegian wood”. No Bergkamp ( fear of flying ) , Gilberto ( for the record books, has not been booked once in his English career –incredible !) , and Wenger too scared to experiment with Fabergas & van Persie. Yet, the Gunners played breathtakingly beautiful football dominating both halves only to draw. Celestially doomed, this team conjures up visions of the inherent pull of this game.

Ensconced in a hotel in Gurgaon called The Bristol ( had indeed thought the tobacco days were over and done with ) –luxurious, languid, bordering on the sybaritic. Spoilt only by a fourth floor view of something that looked like the bottom of the Grand Canyon on bad hair day .
Had a very good action-packed day –the South Asia Region HR conference with presentations on various issues. Addressed by the Zone Head –my first “live” interaction with a non-Indian on the profession-was able to relate on the subject most easily—pragmatic, approachable and with an admirable candour of speech and thought. Followed up with the truly international get-together in the evening. Was actually happy about the events
Completed the “Workplace 2000 “ in two sittings—that’s good going for what is essentially a ponderous and deep book. Some sweeping generalizations, but still remarkably perspicacious for a book written in the 90’s ( Is there a word yet for the period 2000-10 )? ) –a criminal offense on my part not reading this while still in SCMHRD. Mainly on America but would have to say that some data engenders India and Indian companies too.

Returned by an IA craft, and now am in a state of preparedness for the results of the the Great Indian Airtime Readership Survey—a full 98.2 % of people carrying books on flights in the last three months carried a copy of the “ da Vinci Code “ by Dan Brown. ( And 99.3 % of the above don’t make it past the first fifty pages –but that’s an opinion, not a fact ). I detest/abhor/loathe this vast array of pretentious prattlers who are more interested in being seen holding a book than actually reading it—much rather appreciate somebody read an unknown author who gives his two bits of solace/wisdom/companionship to his readers.
Met a wanna-be PYT on a Calcutta flight earlier who was carrying a Marquez. Inexorably drawn like the glowworm to the lamp ( taste lost in translation ) , when I asked an opinion about the book, the response was “ You know, yeah, he is so deep—he has written another called A Hundred Years Alone “—silence for the rest of the trip.

Lots of teddy-bears around in airports—carted around by indefatigable mothers more than saucy toddlers, though.

Quip of the Day
Says Nehar Khan to an intrepid interviewer—How could I have posed for the Norwegian magazine ( again Norway ) when I was 20, when I am still only 19 ?


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