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Monday, May 30, 2005


Arrogance and hubris have been qualities imputed to me on many an occasion—in my defense, I have never really behaved thus and in fact, have done my best in toning down this unbecoming trait over the years. As my detractors would argue, these endeavours are far too little and rare.

I spent most of this Saturday in office wrestling with an insuperable pile of work that could not have been wished away. Part of the laundry list of meetings lined up was a visit by a Summer intern for some data spadework, for which approval from Hades had been diffidently queried, and was graciously granted.

The only mitigating circumstances for my jaundiced views on what occurred could have been—a headache that was persistent and discomfiting, and the Aegean stables of work as stated. In fact, my session with the new set of pups was more than redeeming and fruitful, so my disposition may have been near its sunny self.

The lady in question was assigned a time of half past twelve; she wafted in at a quarter past one. As there was no evidence of any forthcoming explanation or expiation, on my questioning , I was peremptorily told that the person was in a meeting. Throughout the meeting, the brusqueness and taciturnity of the person asking for information was startling, and I felt that it was I being done a favour by the contumacious insolence of this individual. Post meeting, I could think of only two professionals in all my life who came across as this repugnant and despicable.

Yes, the person was from perhaps the Best B-School for the profession, and in summers for a firm that was the most elitist and prized. Yet I suffered…..
Maybe I needed to communicate this to the Project Guide, but then either I let hell break loose in broad daylight, or I hold my peace.
Let me save my stamina for wars worth winning…


Thursday, May 26, 2005


A book by Coetzee after my self-inflicted break. This latest book is a bit of a conundrum—it chronicles and shapes the thoughts and associations of a well-known authoress, on the brink of deserved retirement, along with her son. The eponymous authoress is invited for a series of performing-flea like lectures and discourses all over the world where her lack of marketability, persona and inner thoughts grapple with the inadequacies of articulation and cogent conclusion.

The book references the material that she uses to talk to her blasé and indifferent assembles audiences about, presents what was must surely be Coetzee’s take on various issues, and struggles with her visible inability to influence those around her, including her own family. Not much mention of her past, even as an indicator to her present opinions.
Topics such as the importance of humanities, the arguments against non-vegetarianism, contemporary African writing and its roots and explanations, Christian faith are dealt with intricately. Most stances adopted are more polarized than catholic and invite critique and reason from her audiences and readers alike. This comes across as a work that is somewhat Deconstructionist, and mulls over certain structural frailties of our understanding of academia, fiction and experience-sets.

An unusual narrative for a book, probing what must be familiar territory for Coetzee—he won several prizes himself, had perhaps been a reluctant raconteur to unwilling listeners. A series of acceptance speeches, Guest Lectures and the like constitute the material. A good touch in making the character less than forceful; unfocussed and vacillating, described as tired too. Another nicety was the non-existent’ The House on Eccles Street” , based as a counterpoint to the Ulysses saga, which Costello is supposed to have been lauded for.

A 7 on 10 !


How Thomas Coryate Walked from England to India in the year 1613 is the subtitle and this is an accurate description of the theme of this book written by Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa.

Master Thomas Coryate ( pronounced cor-yet) was an adventurous and unfettered runt living with his widowed mother in Somerset, and had acquired a putative ability to traverse great distances, and had even been a moderately successful published author of the seventeenth century. His being a dwarf only heightened his creative forces as he lusted for knowledge borne out of first-hand experiences in diverse geographies and undertakes arduous journeys with the sole intent of benefiting and sharing. He conceived an unthought-of plan to walk to India from Somerset ( navigating the seas , of course) through deserts, mountains and Afghanistan. He aimed to meet with Emperor Jahangir, Thomas Roe and get them to finance another walking expedition to China. His encounters were scary, noteworthy and unique; he braved scorn, penury, physical travails and vilification en route and also at Source and Destination.
The book is a historical reconstruction of his escapades by the authors who endeavour to walk in his very footsteps in India, overcoming disillusionment and despondence at the patina of memories that Coryate left behind four centuries ago. It was also Dom’s last book as he battles cancer while retracing Coryate in Bombay, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Agra and then finally Surat, where Coryate is buried.

Vivid descriptions of an era that can only be reaasembled—the exotica and the enigma that is India is captured without condescension or concoction, the labyrinth of images that characterize Jahangir and Roe is brought out, as are the ideas and expression sof the “common man”, as are tales of eunuchs, sati, harem lore, and political intrigue. A more than valuable of Indian topography too. Very readable and engaging—facile prose !

A 7.5 on 10 !


My first introduction to the life and works of Sa’adat Hasan Manto, a feted essayist and short-story writer of Kashmiri extraction who left, phlegmatically for Pakistan post Partition. I had heard a lot about him, primarily, the semiotic penumbra of Toba Tek Singh, and his irascibility, and his unwillingness to suffer fools gladly.

Again, I can only hint at my seething rage at not being able to read in any language other than E or H. The stories center primarily around the marginalized, the trivialized and the oft-neglected sections of our populace, and his purported propensity to sensationalize, and rake up subdued issues have merited comparisons to D H Lawrence and even a O Henry. His cerebral and platonic associations with Ismat Chugtai are also covered in this collection of short stories – Swraj ke Liye, Kali Shalwar, Banjh, Phande, Toba Tek Singh, Tetwal ka Kutta, Khol do, Kali Hashiye, Letter to Uncle Sam and pices on his own writing self and another on Ismat Chugtai.

His writing is scabrous, piercing, unpretentious and lively. Finely honed sensibilities, an incapacity for orthodoxy and dogma, and compassion for the dregs of society characterize Manto. A very well-written introduction by Asaduddin enables the reader to get a better feel for the piquancy of this much-misunderstood man.

A 7.75 on 10 !


Monday, May 23, 2005


Now one of the many household appliances that are objects of territorial warfare whenever my parents drop in to Powai is the humble Idiot Box. ( When I drop in to where they stay it is inevitably Grenada versus the USA and so there is no protracted warfare—the remote and I are soon parted and I retreat to the bedroom with my tail between my legs )

One such rare occasion was on Saturday, I laid siege and successfully appropriated the remote before the aged r. could rally themselves, and so we settled into watching what promised to be a riveting encounter between the Reds and the Gunners; both scrambling to retrieve some silverware in a season where both had been bested by the moneyed wiles of Chelsea.

I’ve always held that true insight requires minimal knowledge and an open mind, which was borne out by some of these comments. I must also confess that owing to acute aural agony, truce was declared early and the match was watched with the remote mercilessly muted. In retrospect, I’m still a little foggy on why my parents decided to watch an FA Cup Final, of all things, but I guess the company of their erudite and accomplished son…

Dad: It seems they have been playing a long time. How much more to go ?
Self : Played about 1 minute 12 seconds, so that would mean about 88 minutes 28 seconds more. It appears on the top right corner, so you can calculate yourself.

Mum: ( This was coming, surely—I’ve answered this a hundred times and yet….) : How do they know which side to shoot ?
Self: They switch sides at half-time , and although they may not be geniuses, even a Beckham can remember which goal to aim at for forty-five minutes.

Dad: Hey, they have names and numbers—what’s the point?
Self: The numbers are for historical reasons, and the names are for television audiences

Dad : ( chuckles to himself ) : Like us. The television audiences, that is.

Mum: How big is a football field ?
Self: Pretty big, about 120 metres long and about 75 meters wide.

Mum: That’s quite big. Do they have positions like square leg, mid off etc .?
Self: Yes, but they move around and transgress often. It’s not that they patrol an area.

Dad:So they must get tired quickly.
Dad ( to Mum ) Imagine Inzy running this much.
Mum: Imagine Chandidas running this much.

( A goal was scored, against Arsenal)
Mum: Yes, he’s scored. But aren’t they supposed to fall on top of each other when they score ? I find the celebrations rather subdued. Is it Lent, or something ?
Self: ( unshackles the remote ) : Yeah, they have even shown it 1-0 ( van Nistelrooy on the 28th minute ). The goal’s disallowed because of an offside.

Dad ( perking up) Offside and onside, just like cricket, Huh ?
Self : ( desperately evading the issue ): No, no, this is different.
Dad ( hears offside on the telly ) So what is an offside position ?
Self: It’s when the last striker is ahead of the last defender,….
Dad: That seems pretty simple then, every time a side is in trouble , they just move up.
Self : Yes, but they don’t do that…

Presently, it was half time and the sides trooped off, only to resume hostilities later.

Second half.
Dad: It’s begun to rain. They will call in that Super Sopper thing now.
Mum: And yes, maybe some hot pakodas too.
Self: Not quite, they continue.
Dad: Not really, it’s raining c. & d.
Self: No, they continue
Mum: Oh, cricket is much easier then. Half the blokes are just crying to come off even in broad daylight. And rain, pah !

Mum: ( concern writ large) : This player has had a big fall. It must hurt ! Back to the dressing room for him.
Mum: He’s begun to run again. Incredible. How does he do it ? Doesn’t it hurt ?

After the second half, the match was still goalless and after two loaves of extratime, the match went into a penalty shootout.

Mum ( returning ) : They are still playing.
Dad: Yeah, they have played for two hours now.
Mum ( shocked) : Two hours , how come ? Still goalless?
Self: Yes, the match will now be decided on penalties. Let me explain, five players of both sides will try and score a penalty shot, past the goalkeeper, and the team with the higher score after five tries wins. If still locked, it is a one on one affair.
Dad : Won’t the goalkeeper get kinda confused with five balls to block ?
Self : Grrr ! No, one at a time. First one side, and then the next. I mean one player…
Mum: Should be easy. The goal is so big and these guys are good anyway.
Dad : No, you don’t understand, it’s the pressure that they test.
Mum: A good idea not to let Indians play this. Chokers !
Dad: Jokers, actually !

Of course, Scholes missed and the Gunners won.
Let me leave you with a few visual observations on the players ( identification mine )( Between the two, they cannot even identify one blasted player)
Mum: Rooney looks like one from the Jungle Book.
Dad: Ljungberg has a nice haircut.
Mum: Vieira is very tall, Ashley Cole looks an angry tiger cub-snarling and spitting.
Dad: van Nistelrooy looks elegant, also vain and distant.
Mum: That lad Ferdinand is crying—sad, ain’t it ?
Dad: Yes, you cannot win ‘em all…..

I've obviously bowdlerized all the attendant stuff about giving every player a football for himself, and hence obviating the need for wars waged on account of a scarcity of footballs....


Friday, May 20, 2005


The four musketeers-of scraggly, swarthy, restive and foppish appearance respectively, made their way into the selectors’ chambers yesterday. ( It would be difficult to speculate with great certainty as to the array of reading material in the waiting room, so we’ll refrain for the nonce ).

Six wise men sat straddling the spectra-wide office table, bedecked with glass tops and impressive pen-stands, twiddling their thumbs, looking forward to the Day of Reckoning. Two of these men had already been extolled rooftops, the most dour, colourless and unimaginative players ever, one an ex-captain of dubious cricketing merit, two who had surely pledge their souls to whoever paid them more, and the last unlauded and unassuming.

The gent with the fashionable stubble walked in first, and knocked smartly on the door, was welcomed in, picked a chair, crossed his legs and waited for the 6 w m to begin.

RJS: So, how are you, Greg ?
GC: Foine, maitey. Just got back from the Bondi Beach—a swell plaise –you know, the sun, the beach,the moon, the girls….
RJS: ( to himself ) Yes, yes, those were the days,,,
RJS : Ahem, so you did deign to apply for the job—any reasons ?
GC: Yes, I just thought I’m the best brain around, and this is a graite chance to prove myself—after all, if I can maike your team win, then I’m the best, isn’t it ?
SMG: So what are your plans, Greggie ?
GC: Noithing much, just make sure they watch lotsa Rocky and Rambo videos, ya know, where the heroes come back from the dead…
RSM: Do you have anything to offer me ? Nudge nudge , wink, wink
GC: Na, maitey, except my geen-euhs. Gee maite, I though in this innerview
SKN: ( brightening visibly) –Inner view--, you mean, like Pranayama. In my country, God’s own, Pranayama is …
GC: Lord, what is the man about ?
SMG ( taking charge ) –Anything else of note, Greg ?
GC—Naah, that’s about all. Cheers, mate. So long !
( exits)

(Panel evaluation) That’s about a 6.67 on 10.

The next gent lumbers up, walks into the door, and is ushered in, accepts a seat and waits with a sheepish smile
SV: How are you, Jimmy ?
MA: Fine, saar—whole night , you know , I was preparing—this is very proud moment for all Indian, no.
SV: So, your credentials and your plans ?
MA: In 1969, when I started off aa a fast bowler—may I switch to Hindi, jee ?
RJS ( dreamily ) The number 69 is a very interesting one, it reminds me of…
SV( shocked): Fast bowler, you ? Are you remembering correctly ?I mean, I though you bowled offspin, like me
MA: Yes, jee—when I was—may I switch to Punjabi, jee ?
SMG: Never mind, what can you bring to the table >
MA __Err, fruits, and also some very sabziyaan that grow only in Punjab…
RJS : This is getting nowhere, anyway, thanks , Jimmy. Bye
MA: To meraa job pukka, thanks, jee
( Goes out beaming and immediately addresses mediamen )

Enter a dark voluminous gent in a cavernous hat, who strides in a ponderous manner, and takes a heavy seat. Waits impassively
SKN: So, tell us—what can you do for the Indian team ?
DH: Maa-jik, I caan do maa-jik, When I was with the TransZulu team in South Africa
RJS : But this is India, Des-another continent, another country..
DH: Yeah, but I have handled teams before and I am so eager for the job that I did not even strap myself on the flight here—in fact, I did not even check into the hotel
SV: How will you handle our bowlers ?
DH: I’ll make ‘em drink the blood of snails, eat the hide of hippos…
SMG:OK, OK, it’s clear what you can do, Thanks
( DH moves out purposefully)

The final man to enter is a gaunt and sneering giant. Who has to bend to get past the doorway. Seats himself, waits
RSM: So, how are you today ? Moody ?
TM: Nah, I am quite cheery today—I was speaking to my Worcestershire boys
SKN: OOK, I love Worcester sauce—like homemade chutney--.
TM: That’s right-I can mould your cricketers like clay—I am a potter
SV: And you’re hairy. How can you contribute ?
TM: I know bowling, I gnaw batting , I can do betting also ( even though I thought it best not to reveal my talents when I played) I won two World Cups ( thanks to SRW )
I can, I will—Jai Hind
SMG: Thanks , Tom. Will let you know
(TM leaves)

After long-winded confabulations..
RJS: Ranbir Saaheb, aap bataiye—aakhir, paisa to aapka hai
RSM: I think Moody is the man—he is tall—good personality, you know
SV: That’s so important these days
SMG: I agree
SKN: Just what I was thinking too.
RSM: To kya baat hai, phit taye hua—ki Moody is the man—after all, he has even a rating agency named after him. He knows Oz-traalina, and English , is not too bright, hardly anybody knows him—I am sure he will do what we want
( All) Hear, hear—you are always right, Ranbir saaheb.
( They venture out where hordes of thoughtless men from Wisden, TOI, and other rags lie in wait )

Another five year plan unfolds….


Thursday, May 19, 2005

The road to Gurgaon from New Delhi is paved with good intentions, rubble, undulating wires, trickles of obdurate garbage dumps, and truculent drivers of indeterminate speed and disposition. The place burns with unrequited fury, and the heat is prickly and pointed. One feels the bristly rays as soon as one steps out, like m.d and E, into the midday sun.

The return is far more picturesque, owing to a detour that passes close enough to what could be a game reserve. Anyway, the roads are laden with fruit and shade, birds twitter and there are no more surly roadsmen. Peace, at last…


Year after year, ever since I had known of a lurking danger called Board Examinations, news reports assiduously publish matter which usually reads like “ Class 10 CBSE Exams declared –Girls fare better than boys “

( 10 can be replaced with 1729, 334598 or any other number)
( CBSE can be replaced by the Motihari Educational Board, Buldhana University and the like )

The fact remains that these reports confirm that like it or not, the cat is out of the bag.

The res , which is unfathomable to me, is the second part of this statement which presupposes that the genders are at loggerheads like the Gauls and the Romans and were all eagerly awaiting this very outcome. What an infernal mystery that so many in India lose sleep over it, Who will do better this year ? Aah, such a close call…

More prosaically, how do they even get this data ? I have never seen any marksheet state whether a student is a boy or a girl. And of course, the errors that crop in the marks themselves unfailingly are limited only by one’s imagination.

What is the point ?

A cursory analysis will perhaps reveal that first or second generation learners fare worse than those from homes where both parents are literate aplenty. Maybe there is a link between factors like availability of space and time at home, kind of learning environment, income etc with marks which could adduce far more meaningful results and may actually further education. In any case, most exams are rote-oriented , but that’s another story.

So, maybe , the next time, I’d like a headline like

Class 10 ICSE Board results declared,
And the temperature in Rewa today is 42.8
Or, There were 16000 babies called Arun born this day,
Or, Space available, for details contact 684990.

But until then, boys will be scorned, spurned and scolded on the academic anvil


Friday, May 13, 2005


Yeh faasle teri galiyon ke humse taye na huye
Hazaar baar ruke hum hazaar baar chale….

The heart of any Indian city beats in its markets. One might be easily misled by the glitz of its nouveau-riche Supermarkets and assorted malls, especially when the clientele is itself a breed that has only discovered itself in the last five years or so; but it is a city’s business and trading hubs that truly gives it flavour and feel. Hence for most Indians brought up the way I have, these playing fields are usually denied.

The Begum Bazaar of Hyderabad rests squat and secure in the Old City. It is indubitably the commercial hub of that part of the city, basking in its reputation as a time-tested wholesale market, alive to commercial concerns and teeming with plenitude and variety. Rumoured to be the single largest marketplace of the state, the Bazaar has three sprawling lanes, one poetically devoted to condiments and other spciy mysteries of the Orient; another to the more prosaic of human worries—pipes, drains, hardware, metallic utilities and the like: and of course, my zone of interest, the trading place where grocery, consumer goods, and food predominated.

It is understood that the Begum Bazaar stands nonpareil on price and choice-the preferred choice of many who find its pebbled streets perfect for striking up valuable deals, besides according a family the opportunity to finish off their monthly shopping in a trice. What it lacks in ostentation and sheen, it makes up by its unstinting commitment to pragmatic business. Of course, it essentially is a wholesale market as stated, and small businessmen use their knowledge of the prevalent prices and trends, relationship with specific wholesalers to pick up wares at the lowest possible rates.

My prepossessing mind had led me to believe that most pockets of the Old City would be Muslim-dominated: at least this was not. An equal proliferation of Hindus, Jains and Marwadi ensured that simian idols and pachyderm abstractions were matched by submissions to The Supreme One. Most traders I met were middle-aged, (not rotund) and comfortably secure in their finances and abilities; reasonably optimistic even post-VAT.
Crowded and dusky interiors, stiflingly narrow aisles made walking a ponderous affair

As ever, the traders of India were unflinching in their welcoming me—counted swigging water from as many as eight different sources, which coupled with endless cups of tea and juices, could have resulted in a gastronomic disaster. An enjoyable and memorable trip to a city that seems to have subsumed its spirit to the tech revellers.

Saw Kendriya Vidyalaya Picket in the afternoon, eyeing it with the ire of a Hewitt looking intently at Federer’s practice courts. At one time, it was the only competition for my school ( Ed-That would be “one of your schools”, surely !)us in the race to be the country’s best KV, and I think we bested them every single time.
Camped at some known establishments of Secunderabad- Ghanshyam, Ratnadeep etc., and made the long winding road to Moosapet to look at some container terminals.

Caught up with Navneet over dinner, and what else could old friends yak about but old times ? Glad I could spend more time, the last meeting was a hurried one.
And yes, the Bada Talaab of Bhopal beats the Husain Sagar of Hyderabad hands down.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Sunil Khilnani is equal to the arduous task of piecing together shards of thought, figments of imagination and blades of history that constitute an incredibly complex nation. He is a Cambridge scholar and it doesn’t show as he diligently pores over the mounds of disparate material on his chosen ways of dealing with India.

Large tracts of this admittedly unwieldy read explore the efforts made by Nehru in shaping the economy, social structures, polity, industry and similar fields. The contribution of Nehru, in conspicuous movement away from an era where statehood and belonging were not even theoretical concepts, to a scenario where the state lay as the very heart of society, cannot be gainsaid.. His attempt at conjuring up a physical embodiment of his vision on the basis of what was tenuously thin and fragmented understanding and experience was laudable. The support enjoyed with the intellectuals as even as that shifts to a bathetic show of pomp, venality and avarice among those purportedly schooled in Nehruvian thought, is chronicled. Khilnani balances this socialism with the rise and strengthening of Hindu communalism, explaining the disillusionment with lofty ideals of the past. He also markedly eulogizes the dynamic democracy that we have, musing that even the mere fact that we have not descended to worse, is remarkable in itself.

Some of the other essays dwell on Cities and their place in Indian polity, again the funereal dirge of Chandigarh wails loud and clear. Other notable facets and minarets of Indian democracy are similarly analyzed, and compared. The pluralism and hallowed Unity in Diversity platitudes are chipped away, till we are left with a truth that reads more like Diversity in Unity, turning the careworn sophistry on its head. There is also protracted prose on the Congress Party, as it successfully straddles a nationalist populism with the realpolitik of a discernible regional, casteist and religious order not dismantled easily. The tenets of self-sufficiency and self-reliance are examined in painstaking detail, as is their relevance of these tenets to other democratic entities.

Where Khilnani flounders is his obdurate unwillingness to adopt minatory postures towards the four pillars of Nehruvian thought- institution-building, secularism, Non-Analignment, and socialist economics, equally. He does not inveigh against any form of the inadequacies of the last pillar, which have resigned India to mass poverty and squalor. The disintegration of India , away from itself , is again not worth a mention.

Yet who can fault the romanticism of this nation where every disjointed swipe at every feature reveals the whole as being more than the sum of its parts ? Who cannot but delight in the scarcely-believable notion of a nation held together by “ strong but invisible threads” ?
Yet an unbalanced work!

A 6.5 on 10 !


Had meant to read this awhile ago, got round to crosswording it only recently.

The book is about the science and the art of “knowing” by “looking”, all in the first couple of moments ( Ed—Uncannily close to a pseudo Magic Realist story penned by you some time ago in Bhopal !). Malcolm Gladwell compares and contrasts the putative powers of elaborate decision-making with snap judgements, as he divides his narrative into separately functional and vividly detailed case studies.

His examples deal with a dazzling spread of social and private phenomena—art scholars erring in judgement over genuine work, the ability of a man of science to “thin-slice” a marriage and tell in no time if a union would work, speed dating, Presidential candidature, the thwarting of a gifted musician by marketing research, the diatribe against New Coke, and the wrongful shooting down of a passer-by by hyper-charged policmen.

His dialectic reconciliation of contrary view points; when speedy evaluation has proved right, and when it has resulted in disastrous mistakes, is remarkable as he draws on from diverse fields with felicity. He cites a number of experts who have mastered the art of making correct decisions based on the thinnest slices of facts available, and their cognitive explanations for those. He marvels at this ability to predict accurate with hardly any real data, but goes on to say that this can be learnt. On the other hand, he speaks movingly about instances where the same logic has boomeranged, primarily because of a series of sequential errors of judgement, or using the wrong data on which to base their opinion.

The scope of the concept, which is a pioneering one indubitably, is admirable as is the endeavour to enlarge its application. But somewhere the sheer cussedness of hindsight is overbearing, as hardly does he proffer contrary results in the same framework, is glaring. As is his continued use of aphorisms and truisms, which stand out against the backdrop of professional expertise, that he himself swears by. Finally, other than assiduous practice, there seems to be little experiential utility in this novel schema.

A 7 on 10 !
( Ed—But an 8.5 on Research, the author would put Bob Andrews to shame !)


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