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Friday, December 31, 2004


Had firmed up two very specific action plans on my Madras trip. One, I’d manage to fight sloth, nature and ennui in that order to try and stay awake awhile longer at night –the rather painful outcome of having attempted and failed at being a morning person. Second, I’d resolved not to dine in the palpable opulence of my hotel.

Like SCG with the toss, I have never managed to get my timing just right. Consequently, every single time I preen about my early arrival at the airport, I have found the powers that be shamelessly thwart my perseverance and so I travel well into the wee hours of the morning. Reached at half past two and hit home at one. Mission accomplished !

On the food front, it was an easier turn—Mount Road is full of good inns and with just a masterful touch of planning, settled on Saravana Bhavan’s and the Gyan Vaishnav Dhaba. A colleague’s kindly invitation for dinner was considered, pretended to be mulled over, a dithering act staged , and finally accepted. Delightful mooli parathas served up with dollops of butter, mint and curd. Disdainfully bested the Mainland China experience I was contemplating.

Weather better than most times in Madras. Felt better staying outdoors rather than cooped up inside—never thought I’d say that !

It’s been a veritable miracle that I’ve survived so many years eating out practically on the hop. The fact that I’m staunchly vegetarian, don’t eat paneer, mushroom or chillies would indubitably have been held against me to a much more probing extent had I not been in India. Jai Hind !

Am growing to marvel less at the Amul hoardings that I’ve seen ever since I was a child. Somehow, thosee folks effortlessly muster the creativity/perversion to link every current affair-pun intended- to butter, bread, eating , sharing . Will try to do that in the next year and match the results for myself !

Assuredly mixed year—a saving grace has been the array of authors that I have laid eyes on.
Derrida and Sontag gone.Marquez could, too

I’ll conclude with what could come close to being my question for the year

Lady to Waiter at Saravana Bhavan : Do you serve masala dosa here ?


Monday, December 27, 2004


Reached today. Or was it yesterday.

Writing from Madras and ruminating on the story that would have been had we managers obeyed our first instincts to goof off on Sunday at the Beach Resort on the East Coast Road with families before getting down to business on Monday. Have since heard that the venue has been swept clean—a vanishing trick and only our collective memories can testify its previous existence. Needless to say, the meeting has been called off with ponderous sighs of relief. Another trenchant aide-de-memoir of mortality, reflections on lives led, the Will of God and other weighty matters.

The flight was delayed by over four hours. Arrived at well past two in the morn.
The spectre of the tragedy hung heavy over the returning public. Did I detect a shade more gravity, a tad less joie de vivre ? Perhaps even a cold shudder of gratitude at having lived at all. I wonder….

Travelled with an orthopaedic surgeon from Kalpakkam, who had reportedly lost his all. Have never been a provider of solace and succour , even at my best—have always tended to be voluble and garrulous, which can trigger off all kinds of evanescing emotions. Had the will and wisdom to keep nodding and make what I hoped were sympathetic noises. He told me that some 50 worshippers in his neighbourhood church who had assembled for mass had been lifted off and drowned in a single wave. As he lamented ,I listened….

Should surely spoil what has been a passably decent year for most ( bar Bush getting reelected , two disastrous Governments—India has survived both so far ,and certain other calamitous aberrations ).

The town is rife with rumour that that the Grand Old Man of Tamil Polity is no more, those familiar predict arson, looting, and pandemonium.

The ever-reliable JS for the end-

Aankhon mei jal raha haye kyon, bujhta nahin dhuaan
Uthta to ha ghata saa , barastaa nahin dhuaan

Chulhe nahin jalaye ki basti hi jal gayee...


Friday, December 24, 2004


The life of most mortals is a sordid study in drabness and ordinariness. Yet every now and then, something happens to jolt us out of our apathy, trance-like in our sleepy reveries. Personally, I have always been rather pained and humbled by travel accidents, the massacre of innocents and most forms of suffering. I guess that is why I am not proffering shock and awe to any beleaguered denizen. Hopefully, I do also find some fountain of resilience –Hope Springs Eternal.

The nub of the story is, ahem, an incident that I was associated with the past week. Medically, a Trauma . Nothing much, a handful of blood , some dislodged bones, a dull ache in the reeling head and exacerbation of a existing sinus condition—trifles in the larger scheme of things—didn’t even put me off my newspaper.
( Ed—There was some damage to the brain too, but as the doc had reason to believe that you were cerebrally-unhinged earlier, charges were not leveled )

Was aware even as the earthly body made contact with metal that there would be blood I remember thinking as my life flashed before me ( Ed—Hey, hey—that phrase is for those who have built a nation, invented something, written a Magnum Opus –with you it sounds like ill-advised hyperbole) that I would be lucky to escape with something minor. Well, Lucky I was !


The whole Office is abuzz with X’Mas jingles and carols. Surprising if one considers that most of the gentry has sagely decided to stay home. And the Accounts have to dutifully fight their year-end fires.

Christmas has always been a most inclusive festival—lots of stuff for the kids to do and revel in, nice eats, lights and sound, and some animals get to have a free run. Always good weather abounds too—I almost feel good about Mistletoe, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme-not knowing an iota about what they are!

So, Whistle While You Work !


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


The NDTV version of news and reporting is finding fresh altitudes—fact laced with liberal doses of a hyperventilated imagination sprinkled with a solipsistic view on events. The grammar is non-existent,-the errors are far too multitudinous and variegated to pursue. On the whole just what the adoring and cerebrally-absent public deserved !

Swades has hit theatres after a phalanx of building up measures.The return of the prodigal son, the “delayering” of India from an outsider’s point of view, the village schoolteacher and an ethnic mellifluosity—all have been documented and placed for consumption. The only quibble I can raise for the moment is that the Sunday Midday Review was done by some Shradha Sukumaran, somebody quite different from Khalid Mohammed. So what happened ?

Was watching Pogo ( Ed- At long last, a channel that matches your IQ ) —came across a Hindi version of a tale on the Three Little Pigs when the angst-ridden troika were referred to as ----------- the Three Little Pigs. Wondered why that was not interpreted in the vernacular.

One of the many aspects about the dubbing of largely English cartoons for an appreciative Hindi-speaking audience that has intrigued and piqued me is the cultural connotations angle. While it might be difficult to translate hot dog, sundaes, doughnuts etc into another language, I guess the reverse would ring equally arduous. What could be overlooked is the fact that the way a word/phrase is mouthed in English could be rendered in ways far more tactless and unsettling in Hindi. That said, the volume of work that must be put into simply keeping the metonymic rhythms and chants going in translation must be stupendous. Still, most programmes that are visual and episodic are done passably well—the ones that have strong narratives or metaphysical content would struggle.

I think any programme on Zoom would be considered a very safe bet for the Razzie.

And now that it’s been almost a year since SRW has retired, the appellation of “Motormouth” can be conferred on Harsha Bhogle.


Monday, December 20, 2004


Have been mulling over the capacious proliferation of Talent Hunts in the near future. A little earlier, there were Man Hunts and Model Hunts ( the probable equivalent in the UK being a Fox Hunt and in Germany a Dachshund ) which ostensibly aimed at unearthing hidden reservoirs of talent.

I have my own thoughts on these as an HR professional—the most damning indictment of the contemporary understanding of Talent in an organizational context seeping from two Gallup guys called Buckingham & Coffman in their best-selling tome “ First, Break All The Rules “.. One of the tenets of this school of thought being “ Hire for Talent, Train for Skill” etc. The most accepted definition of talent thus reads "a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied."

After the detour—these hunts have extended to feral fields as diverse as music, dance, sports, talk shows, education, “ star-appeal” and into various other domains which get further segregated till almost everyone who can serve up something watchable/marketable gets a category.
At a level, one can easily empathize with newer outlets --might stem from an innate human need to be appreciated, affirmed and adored.

So far so good. The first precursor of doom is that since there is almost something of value held out as an inducement for the Holy Purveyor of Talent, the motivation to squeeze out the last tantalizing drop of a largely presumed ability vitiates the very essence of talent—it being a breezy casual offhand element. I can only aver that the many combatants who participate in such hunts spend countless hours of incessant toil, torture and turmoil in exuding that pretended moment of felicity. In many an Indian family, the child’s talent to shine and spring becomes the raison d’etre of an obdurate parent, who might stoop to unimaginable levels of coercion and threat.

The second is that I am not wholly confident that the Judges of Talent have any justifiable right to foretell imminent success and fame. This is on two grounds—I cast fairly obvious aspersions on the quality/motives of the judges themselves—most find themselves on the public screen for reasons rather distinct from their own expertise ; and their ability to prognosticate is trammelled by their biases and prejudices. To be fair, it would be near impossible to anyone not to belong to the latter, but what about the first ? While I have hitherto failed to divine what a sampler of pulchritude would be waiting for/balking at ( even there, it is something arcane called inner Frooti ) , I find it media presence can accord credence to folks singularly inadequate themselves.

A third would be the possible slouch in the gait and droop in the shoulder of someone who has not made it. I do think that self-esteem is the only asset one can carry to adulthood and if that is left open to be bruised and battered then it doesn’t augur very well for the nation. There are innumerable tales of courage and success of people who have battled all odds and who have never ventured near any hunt.

A fourth, and I may be on thin ice here, is that I think that the difference between a talented one and one who is purportedly not, is thinner than we care to admit. Yes, it quite alright to decry the person who got a 99 while eulogizing one who got a 100, but that could be because we are (mistakenly) fixated on a poisoned chalice of achievement.

To close--one from the kitchen quotes of Gran as in “Uncle Ken” by Ruskin Bond
“ There is skill in everything, even in making porridge”


Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Among the multi-hued inadequacies I am endowed with and I struggle to conquer/mask/hide/mitigate, my lack of culinary skills must be the one most debilitating. After all, the epicurean palate of an elder child carefully nurtured and bountifully fed must necessitate perpetuation and prolonging like no other. Having grown up to an assortment of gastronomic delights in the truest Army tradition, I had always assumed that this blissful existence would continue uninterrupted.
( The merest dolt would know that in Army parties, dinner is not served until the wee hours, if at all, and hence it can be exasperating for a lurker to chew through endless continents of peanuts and kababs, wafers and tikkis, and then wade across oceans of soft drink plied by untiring bearers )

Decided to make some steaming Hot & Sour Vegetable Soup the other day to simulate those B & S hazy shades of winter ( Sorry S & G) ( EdAlso, clearly in contravention of the Company code that Thou shalt consume only Company Products, and not ignobly patronize clunky competition ). Checked the Code date chuckling at my customary presence of mind blending Theory & Practice.

. So far so good and I even remember humming a jaunty tune as I effortlessly slashed away at the packet and was on the verge of pouring the mess into a vessel before realizing that like Madras, the vessel was parched. A few unsteady moments later, ( For some inexplicable reason all the AquaGuards I have been associated with lately are the material alter egos of Bianca Castafiore—piercingly shrill and unbearable loud in their incantations which I am powerless to turn off )( Ed—Serves him right, No Noise, No Work ) , there was water in the vessel, the sheep’s in the meadow and we were away.

The babbling brooks ran on and presently the cup(s) of Joy runneth over. Following the instructions meticulously, I stirred and stirred till the concoction seemed just right. Found a covering plate easily enough and made myself four steaming helpings finished at one go. Yummm !!

Manzilen aur bhi hain. Was hungry still ( expectedly so ) and rummaged through the cupboard to unearth a sachet of MTR tomato rice, These were early days and I was sucked into imagining the project to be equally simple. So began the now-familiar act of bringing the vessel to a boil. Smugly looked around as the water splashed around me and apprehended belatedly that pair of scissors needed was buried under an indescribable pile of kitchen stuff. As the tension mounted, felt increasingly helpless as overturning one vessel after another failed to bring forth that elusive pair. Found ‘em just before the kitchen turned into a sauna, hacked away at the outer covering and quickly transferred the sachet to the vessel and found—That the sachet was much too big for the vessel

Had the onerous task of transferring the foil to a bigger vessel. Another fishing expedition for the vessel-holder. Then a potential blistering later, miraculously found the larger vessel , even more miraculously avoided one single drop of water spilling ( Ed—How he struts over trifles ) . Just my luck to have the larger vessel short of the required reservoir levels requiring yet another trip to the AquaGuard . Singing lessons now over, lit up the stove , engulfed the poor sachet in scalding water, found the scissors ( now available, as if on cue )
to nip up, found the holder ( now available, as if on cue ) and it was a Happy Meal at last.

Say “Grace:” !
Or as the dyed-in-the-wool Army brass mutter “ Bhojan prastoot hai shriman


Thursday, December 02, 2004


The Economic Times came out with its annual Halloween ball recently in the form of the ET Corporate Excellence Awards, aimed at identifying and recognizing the chaste company chieftains for their wisdom and values. I have somehow never subscribed to these wind-swept evenings of gloss and grandeur for quite simple reasons, but I digress..

What caught my eye was a Vision in Blue, who the author ( who may win too many contests in humility) proclaimed was India’s answer to Sharon Stone. Again, I have misgivings about the lady but we move on.

I was quite sure that the lady who the czars of commerce were paying homage to was Lara Dutta who also acted in some movie recently. But the article was quite intractable about the fact that the belle was Priyanka Chopra.

So I guess this is a good time for a confession.

I give up.
Hapless abject unconditional surrender.

I simply cannot distinguish between these ladies to save my life. This has been a niggling ailment for quite awhile now and I have manfully ( sic) battled the symptoms. But now there is no recourse but throw in the towel.

The chronological sequence seemed facile to begin with—With the likes of Juhi Chawla, Sonu Walia, Shikha Swaroop, Suzanne Sabloak, it wasn’t a hard task to separate them. Even when Sush and Ash arrived, I was able to manage quite well. It is after this era that my troubles began. A ever-buzzing swarm of beauty pageants started hitting the studios with alarming regularity and put paid to any ambitions I may have nurtured of keeping pace.

Hence, even though Namrata Shirodkar, Manpreet Brar and Madhu Sapre are recognizable, the faceless ones are Neha Dhupia, Celina Jaitley, Ptiyanka Chopra, Diya Mirza, Gul Panag, Yukta Mookhey. Some others are Dipannita something, Isha Kopikkar, Sameera Reddy, Nethra Raghuraman, Amrita Arora, Amrita Rao, Kim Sharma, Suchitra Pillai and many, many others

I thought there was one daughter of Moon Moon Sen. To my consternation, I now realize that there are three—Riya, Raima and Rosy or something.

As I said, I give up….


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