Thursday, December 16, 2010

&#it happens in life

Ganesha: The Lord of good things
It's a fast paced world, and there are a million things happening at the next instant.  When I leave work, you can bet on anything in the world that I would reach home within the next hour, give or take a few minutes.  There might be an occasional stop at Dillon's, the super store, or, at the gas station so that I don't spend those precious minutes at the gas station instead of being tucked under the covers on a cold wintry morning.  Life is pretty much simple and predictable.

I was a nine year old or a ten year old, I don't exactly remember.  After much harrowing and convincing, I was given a bicycle at home.  It was the first step towards adulthood.  It was a Hero Ranger LE that had the mountain tyres (tires) with a black surface coating.  It was one of the coolest bikes of its time.  I still don't know what the LE stands for, but even those extra two letters did sound pretty cool.  During the first week, my friend turned foe challenged me for a race, which was pretty common if you are in possession of a new bike.  I was only too glad to accept.  Halfway through the race, in order to take the lead, I took acute turns and deviations, I went and rammed into a tree that was living in peace on the sidewalk.  I had a lot of bruises, and at that time, I was more concerned about whether my bike had suffered any scratches or whether any paint had withered off.  My knees were hurting, and the elbows had some weird shapes of clot.  I was more concerned about the fact that a "matter of such significance" should not be reported at home lest I lose my freedom to bike around in style.

Interiors of my Honda civic
Exterior of my Honda Civic
Last night, the temperature had fallen.  It is something not worth mentioning, as the temperature in winter is generally in the sub-zero ranges.  It is something you get used to it once you are in the mid-west or in the far east.  You stop complaining and move on hoping that coldness in the air does not introduce a coldness in character.  So, it was just another day at work, and as we(my car pool partner) got into the car, we had no inkling of the things to come.  I made the customary call to my wife and told her that I will be home in the next 45 minutes.  I made a mental note of the things I had to do the next day.  Just like the other days, I hoped things would work the next day.  The K10 highway was as usual, the 70 mph drive meandering along as though it would go on and on, finally giving way to a 65 mph stretch.  I came out of the cruise control mode, allowed the vehicle to go along at a lesser speed and adjusted the speedometer to a comfortable speed range well under 65 mph.  There was no point on the highway that I had to brake hard, so I had no inkling of how well or how badly the tyres were gripping the road.  In an unusual way, I saw a stationary car on the left lane of the highway about 500 m or 600 m away from me, and immediately, almost by instinct, my foot hit the brake pedal. The brakes were just a formality; there was nothing to gain from braking hard.  The car hurled itself across the icy surface like a rudderless boat, and there was that instant when we were hoping that almost by miracle the vehicle in front of us would move away.  Thoughts and reality reside on a different level, and under these circumstances, it is only reality that takes control of your life.  The nanosecond before the crash felt like light years.  You just want the moment to pass away; you have no idea what is going to happen.  It was worse than being in a limbo state.  The air bags shot out and it is under these circumstances, you want things to function the way they are supposed to function.  Luckily, it did.  The air bags gave out a waft of smoke, and we quickly got out of the car.  I had not broken any limbs, and neither had my co-passenger.  The guy in front of us had a few facial injuries and was bleeding.  He got back to normalcy after a few minutes.

The cycle accident many many years ago had plenty more to show on my body.    Now, there was not even a scratch or a bruise.  A highway incident without any injuries had to be something miraculous.  The car was in a bad shape.  That was the last thing I was worried about.  I just hoped all of us had come away unscathed without any major injuries.  Everything else faded into insignificance.

A goner!

What else could have broken!

A close shave

I was definitely not smiling the previous evening

Air bags worked at the right time
We thanked our stars.  My Chinese colleague was quick to tell me, "Praveen, &#it happens in life." I nodded my head.  The Ganesha on the dashboard had fallen down on to the floor, but, thankfully, he did not let us down.  He read my thoughts and translated into a simple, "Ganesh saved the day for us." I couldn't have agreed more!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Chinese way

It has always been appalling at the way China treats its dissidents.  It quashes even a remote hint of authoritarian overture by suppressing any speculation that could develop into a movement over a period of time.  Freedom of speech is not restricted, rather, it is something that is not even heard of.  A democratic tone is killed without any trace and the "nipping in the bud" phrase is followed in the most precise way.  If you had the guts to take on the government, you are virtually left naked.  There is absolutely no place to hide.  The jail terms can be astounding, and the jail conditions absolutely dark, literally as well as metaphorically.

As I was talking to one of my Chinese friends, I was stunned by the level of control that the government exercises on the common man.  The fundamental rights of the citizens are snatched and the suppression is taken to a level that virtually leaves a person with no way of getting information that is not government regulated.  Coming from India, and now, living in the US, this is something that is highly difficult to comprehend.  Every form of social integration is banned - no tweets, no blogs, no feeds and nothing that can even remotely induce an anti-government propaganda.  I opined that it is just a matter of time before all these things will be lifted.  After all, this is the new millennium, I said with a great degree of confidence.  He replied back saying that if I was thinking about the technological advantage, then I was wrong.  Technology is neutralized, he said.  The Chinese firewall is unquestionably strong and very carefully monitored.  So, there is no way of organizing a movement based on online forums or blogs.  Media is in the hands of the government. People see and hear what the government wants them to.  Even a simple query on the search engine can result in the internet connection being disconnected.  Ultimately, you are on the government radar.  Arrests are even more dangerous, as no explanation is given about your whereabouts, if need be.

Being deprived of the American versions of the social media, the Chinese locals have come out with their version of Twitter, Facebook and the other equivalents.  To say the least, they are making tons of money with it.  The best way to make easy money is to create the Chinese versions of the popular websites from the other side of the world.  Of course, these websites are controlled.  So, there is no way one can get involved in trash talk.  Queries like Tiananmen Square Massacre are obviously filtered.  In fact, I was told that a few days preceding and succeeding June 4th, greater number of websites were added to the watch list.  The hard to believe part is the fact that a massacre of such magnitude took place in 1989 without the slightest of concern to international reactions.  The locked up Nobel peace prize winner from China Liu Xiaobo, an open dissident of the authoritarian system is serving a 11 year term for demanding a democratic setup.  China has also asked other countries to boycott the ceremony in Oslo, and who to pay heed to the request, but countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea among the 18 countries.

In way, the Chinese setup is different, my friend remarked.  I was curious.  He replied that as a part of the growing up process, they are instilled with this belief in the strongest possible way, the non-existence of God.  "So, we don't fear anything", he said, as a matter of concern.  That does seem a bit out of the way for the government as it fears every small thing that it thinks could result in a "subversion of state power".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Forgetfulness and several reminders

As I walk through several hundred unread posts on my Reader on a daily basis, it failed to cross my mind that I had a registered domain for blogging.  It waited endlessly, and the ravages of time had brought to it an almost antediluvian look, and, at a time when web 2.0 was carrying along with it a rapid approach, leaving everything behind in obscurity.  At long last, at the stroke of the hour that had no impressible significance, I decided that the blog had been dormant enough.

We(read my wife and I) finally joined the gamut of smartphone holders.  The astronomical data rate plans prevented us from getting one earlier, and the procrastination (my friends can vouch for that) to switch to one that had all the advantages of the cloud bore fruit after more than a year of endless wait and admiration for those sexy creatures.  Anyway, it was just a matter of time before the fear of extra expenditure was outweighed by the tons of advantages of holding a smartphone.  To say the least, I was looking at every possible way to exercise every possible feature on the phone.  As the phrase goes, "There's an app for that", I went about finding an app(short for application) to ease my life into convenience.  There was always the excitement to try out a new app.

As a consequence of my absent mindedness, and as a lurking thought always presided in my head that I had the tendency to forget something, I decided to get organized.  When I say organized, it was actually a resolve, not just one of those shallow thoughts that hits me.  So, I decided to use the Calendar and Notes feature, and as though, that was not enough, I installed a cool app,  Remember the Milk, to keep a track of all the tasks to be completed.  It was a matter of pride to enter a task, and as soon as it neared completion, all enthusiasm inside me came out to mark the task as complete.  It was a great feeling.  Even if I had to do something that I was absolutely sure of, I would double click on the app, enter what I wanted to do, and set a due date diligently.  There was a sense of pride as I would tell my wife, "We are going to Walmart today evening. I have the details on the phone. " As usual, my wife would have an expression of "I have no idea what to say to you" written all over her face.  If this was not enough, I had all the things that had to bought for home on another cool app, OurGroceries.  Not that I was addicted to all these things, but it makes life easy with all these cool apps.  

I can rave about thousands of apps in the app store that makes life easy.  That is not the point thought.  The point is I was doing something to go past my forgetfulness to the realm of staying organized.  That was more important than anything else.  We went to the Old Navy store, made a purchase, and I submitted my credit card.  First, I forgot the credit card.  The lady at the cashier was kind enough to remind me that I had left my credit card.  I let out the customary "Ooh", and as we proceeded out, she again called out to me.  "Sir, you have left your phone." I heaped the thanks on her.  The sheepish grin was out once again.  We next went to Target.  We made our purchases, paid the cashier and walked out. The girl behind us called out, and again, I had left my phone next to the credit card swiping machine.  It was a lucky day indeed.  I don't often have this kind of luck.  I thanked my stars.  My wife was grinning at me with an expression for which I would have no way of getting back at her.  

It was one of those days.  And almost instantaneously, the phone buzzed, "Buy a new pair of shoes for the gym".   The reminder notification flashed out.  

Thursday, September 02, 2010

of NachOS and surReal Views

I was staring at the symbols.  The debugger was throwing a hell a lot of tantrums.  The memory locations and debug symbols were actually making life difficult for me.  I craned my neck as closely as possible to the monitor with my nose maintaining a thin 1mm distance from the screen.  It is not too hard to imagine when you consider the fact that my nose to face ratio is as high as the noise to signal ratio when making a call on the AT&T network.  It was like the day before the last exam in school.  You just wished the holidays started a day earlier.  What kind of an instruction is that? I wondered, knowing fully well that another few hours of persistence and few more hard and cold stares at the figures jiggling in front of my eyes, I would have my moment of peace.

In the midst of this insolvable problem, my mind wandered to other issues.  I could as well take something simpler and get back to this later.  I narrowed down to one from a multitude of choices.  After some battling, I realized that this too had become insolvable.  There had to be a way out.  Anyway, after a few more valiant attempts, and after running out of choices, I decided that the only way to bail myself out of the current crisis was to actually solve the problems.  At the end of the day, I found a resolution to  one of the issues.  I, secretly, no, actually loudly wished that the debugger was actually a debugger.

I got a call from my wife.  She was losing track of the pointers.  I did not feel like advising her.  I wanted to say that playing with pointers would invariably put a person in such a state, and at the same time, I realized that everyone in the world had their share of trauma.  Lest I convey these things to her, better sense prevailed.  I passed her my share of limited expertise in the matter and left it to her to find her way out of whatever mess she had got herself into.  The first time she had told me about Nachos, I could not connect the dots.  All I knew about Nachos was the packet of chips available, and not even remotely did I guess that it was some kind of an OS.    

I got home in the evening, and she was hurled up in a sea of hopeless despair.  The make process was throwing its share of compilation errors, and even by hook or crook, if something got fixed, the build was seg(mentation) faulting as though it was nobody's business.  To top it all, the debugger at home was a command line interface in the form of GDB.  Anyway, thankfully, she found a way to immerse herself deeply in the pile load of trash.  She read the expression on my face.  "Yes, I have to submit this by tomorrow.  I have no choice."

That's when my friend called up.  "Maga, wishing both of you a very happy wedding anniversary...".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Please wait...

It's been quite a month.  My wife and I share a 1500 minute mobile family plan, and I can bet on almost anything in the world that a significant amount of that time has gone towards customer support.  It has been a month of inquiring with customer representatives, showing an abundance of patience, and putting on a brave front as though you have just been hurled aside in a battle.  I can say with a measure of absolute confidence that it is no easy task to listen to the same cacophony over and over again while you are kept on hold. The wait is almost endless, and worse, there is not even a flicker of light at the other end of the line.  The customer representative just compounds your agony further, and at the end of it, you are left wishing that the wait time music lasted a touch longer than the outrageous solutions received.

Almost every other customer support call begins as though you are about to leave a voicemail message.  The drab monotone almost kills you.  Please welcome to blah blah blah customer care center.  For English, press 1.  Para Espanol (I am sure I've got the Spanish part wrong here), press 2.  As one of my friends, Emani, put it in a rather comical way, "Man, in a few days, we shouldn't be surprised if we hear Telugu lo, 3 press cheyyandi (Press 3 to converse in Telugu)".  We have an automated voice processing system, so please answer the following questions.  Having an Indian accent offers its own set of challenges to the automated voice system.  After several rounds of corrections and imperfections, and after what seems like an eternity, after giving up every possible attempt to retrieve a meaningful response from me, it is easy to sense that the automated system is driven to the point of frustration.  It is not a cause for celebration, as you too are at your wits end to convey the best possible response to the system.  You are actually left with no hope, and when you are just on the verge of hanging up the call, you hear the next set of golden words, "Please wait.  Transferring to a representative." This is when an alarming noise beats your eardrums, as though they may rupture any moment.  You are concentrating lest you miss the customer representative and have to go through the same process again.  Suddenly, in the middle of this cacophonous burst, you hear "All customer representatives are busy.  Please hold." You have half a mind to say that you are doing nothing but holding your nerve.  After an unabated stream of music and instructions, after you have almost given up hope of speaking to someone for the next few hours, after your heart and nerve and sinew (as Rudyard Kipling would put it) have almost failed, after you have gone into a state of reverie where not one kick, even, thousand kicks cannot wake you up from this sickening slumber, you hear a voice as fresh as a daisy, "Hello, this is Pam.  How may I help you?" You still have no idea whether this is the automated voice trying to say the oft repeated thing again.  You are waiting lest you assume this is some kind of a dream.  You wait for the next set of Hello, Hello to make its way through.  After your worst fears are laid to rest, a quick sigh of relief, and you are all set to battle a new demon.

Pam: May I know to whom I am speaking to?
You: I am so and so.

Pam: Your phone number.

Pam: Last four digits of your social.

Pam: Can you please verify your email address?

If it's a laptop, you better have all the numbers hidden on your laptop ready.  If it's an internet issue, better have the modem numbers ready.  If it's something to do with returns, have your bill number ready.  If it's something to do with adding a line to your mobile phone, be ready to accept the barrage of charges leveled against you.

I was involved in almost every scenario, and now, I have a pretty good idea of what every company wants.  If you think that nothing can get worse, all you have to do is finish narrating your concerns to the representative and just before you get the response, you hear a beep of the line getting disconnected.    

Monday, July 12, 2010

The blind side

Pass me that bag lying in front of you.

In a rather intriguing way, I stretched my neck and strained my eyes to find out in the hardest possible way what was in front of me.  There was no way in the world that that bag was lying there.  My mind was blanked out and it was as though a black piece of cloth was wrapped around my eyes.  It is quite probable if that was the case, at least my other senses would have helped me in locating the bag.  Locating is actually a wrong word here, rather, it should be, seeing.

Praveen! It is right there, shrieked my wife.  

Where, where, I asked, in a pleading tone. 

I just wanted her to put an end to the aura of "invisibility" (definitely, I wouldn't use invincibility).  Looking at the number of words that are getting replaced, one shouldn't be faulted for thinking that this is some kind of a Find and Replace word editor.

She stood stoically, at least she tried to, but I was not sure whether her expression was completely bereft of even the minutest of emotions.  That seemed rather hard to believe.  She was staring at me, as though, she was ready to go to a couple of stores nearby, select the best looking bag and get it back home.  That had a better probability of getting a bag than out of me.  It was a hopeless situation to be in.  I did not, for even a second, imagine how I would have reacted if I was put in the same situation.

She emerged out of the reverie, ( I having fallen into one), knowing that the only way to save the situation was to stop expecting me to pick the bag, walked a few steps ahead of me, and picked the red bag that was lying right in front of me.  I obviously had a sheepish grin. 

How do you fail to see what is right in front of you?

It was a question I had faced innumerable times in my life.  Maybe, Google has just ravaged my life to such an instant, that when I Google, I don't want to find a link and get into a page,  I would rather read the snippet and find what I am looking for. 

I think it is too hard to find something that can be found easily, and that just adds so much pressure on the finder! I know that's such a useless explanation, but it is always good to have an explanation than not to have one at all.  I wish I can find things easily.  But then, there is an alternate way of looking at things.  My wife is learning too, and is doing a pretty good job.  She never asks me to fetch anything.  In hindsight, it is a good situation to be in actually.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bangalore cinemas

Nataraj Theater (courtesy: Flickr)

The times were clearly in favor of standalone theaters in Bangalore; a time when multiplexes were an unheard of phenomenon.  A building hosted a single theater that could withstand a capacity of about six hundred or more people easily.  There was a clear demarcation between the first class and the balcony tickets.  Just like the categories bestowed by the Indian railways, first class seating was second best in this case as well.  The balcony tickets were the premium priced tickets and people clamored well in advance to get the special seats.  It was priced more not without a reason.  It was a good ten or twenty feet above the supposedly inferior seating arrangement, and the viewers seated in this area did not have to crane their necks to catch the reel life heroes in action.

Plaza (courtesy: Flickr)
Like today, the nineties too believed in location centric charges.  A theater in a good location charged a price that was directly proportional to the favored environment, coupled with the coolness factor.  As far as Bangalore was concerned, MG road, Brigade road and Residency road evoked the oomph factor to draw crowds from distant places to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood superstars on the big screen.  At that time, theaters in these areas were the only ones to screen latest English movies.  With the passage of time, these theaters started screening Hindi movies as well.  If the Plaza bagged the rights to screen True Lies, The Ghost and the Darkness and the James Bond 007 sequels, Galaxy took the prize catch of Titanic, The Independence Day and Baby's day out; Rex was not left far behind with The Fugitive, The Cliff Hanger, Air Force One and MIB, while Symphony (or the Shankar Nag theater as is called now) covered Face Off and a host of Jackie Chan movies.  Interspersed in the middle of all these movies, the box office duds used to make their presence felt as well.  All that I was concerned about the English movies were the action sequences, and the ability to enact that power studded action with my brother at home.

Brigade Road (courtesy: Flickr)
Rex (courtesy: Flickr)
 I liked the Plaza since it was situated in the heart of MG Road (If you can call MG Road as the heart of Bangalore city, the strategic location of the Plaza was like the pulmonary vein or you can say like the heart of the heart), and almost next to Gangarams Book Bureau, one of my favorite spots in the area.  A few paces away from Plaza was the Higginbothams, the oldest book store of Bangalore, and next to it was the Deccan Herald, the newspaper that served us daily news for almost two decades.  There was also a popcorn counter at the entrance of the Plaza and I remember a packet of it being sold for as less as Rs 3.50.  I am not sure how much it costs now.  Of course, the Lake View ice cream parlor at a walking distance induced a sense of craving for their famous Lake View specialSymphony too was located on the MG Road and a few meters from Plaza, but I have very few experiences of having watched movies here as compared to the other theaters in the area.  But, then, I vividly remember watching John Travolta and Nicholas Cage in the Face Off.  On Brigade Road was Rex, which I thought was really a cool and classy theater, though my friends chide me saying that that's the smallest of the theaters in the area.  Located right opposite to the Wimpies and housing the Nilgiris, it was well placed to attract the college crowd.  Galaxy was less superior compared to the other theaters, but that never stopped the cinema frenzy public from catching up with the movies here.  In fact, we came to the Galaxy after our I PUC (eleventh grade) exams to view the sinking of the Titanic.  It was the biggest movie of the time.  Located on the Residency Road was also the Imperial theater and the sleazy posters did attract momentarily when passing by in the local bus. 

Santosh (courtesy: Flickr)
In the main Majestic area, there were a few theaters catering to the local language as well as Hindi and Telugu movies.  I have hardly watched any Kannada movies in the theater, but I frequented the area for the Hindi movies.  The Majestic area derives its name from the Majestic theater(I have never been to this one) located here.  Sangam, opposite to the main bus stand, was a well known theater, mainly for the titillating posters.  In the crowded   Kempegowda Road (KG Road) were quite a few theaters, and the ones that I normally visited were Santosh, Sapna and Sagar.  During the time I was in Engineering, the balcony tickets were priced at around Rs 45/- and was at least twice less costly than the MG road theaters.  The longest running movie during the time was Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, which had the "House Full" tag after even almost a year.  Madhuri Dixit has no equivalent in today's Hindi cinema.   

 Bangalore has always been a cosmopolitan city in true sense, and there was always a clamor for good movies, irrespective of the language.  So, I never missed out on good Tamil movies. Rajinikanth, Kamalhassan, Captain and a host of others always received a good audience, irrespective of reviews and feedback.  Most of the Tamil movies were watched at the intersection of Seshadripuram and Malleswaram, which housed quite a few movie theaters.  Any Tamil speaking guy from the Northern part of Bangalore will know Nataraj, Sampige, Central and Kino talkies.  Sampige primarily catered to the Kannada cinegoers.  Nataraj theater would be the hub of activities during a major release.  There were all sorts of fan clubs loitering the area, and the huge posters of Rajini, Kamal, Ajith, Surya and Vijay were garlanded multiple times from head to foot.  Watching movies in these theaters was an experience in itself.  The tickets were priced at a low point (Rs 30 for a balcony ticket), and the nearby Tamil population, mainly from the local shop owners, and daily wage workers frequented this place.  At the time of a big release, sale of tickets in the open market (or to say "tickets in black") was a common fare.  I would be warned at home to beware of "moota poochi" (bugs) sticking on to the clothes, and that always meant a quick shower after getting back from late night shows in these theaters.  Kino was never a preferred theater, and that was because there was no clear demarcation between the first class and the balcony seats.  Central was in shambles during that time itself, so it comes as no surprise that it was shut down a few years ago.  Kino, too, is no longer in existence.  We also frequented Cauvery at Bashyam circle, and the chaat shop outside the theater was awesome.

Today, a lot of these theaters do exist, but many of them are on the brink of conversion to big shopping malls and multiplexes for obvious financial reasons.  The renovation work means a single theater being replaced by several theaters of smaller seating capacities offering improved service and charging higher ticket prices.  There is no way one can see a Rajini poster being garlanded outside the multiplex.  That will always be an atmosphere impossible to replicate in the multiplexes, and to say the least, a very unique experience.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Well, old is actually not gold...

In what can be described as the most boring part of the "once in a while" chore, I have no doubt that cleaning, organizing and de-cluttering rank as the most mundane.  It is not something that one gets to do on a daily basis, but it is such a mind numbing task that you secretly wish you are somehow over with it even before you have started.  A dull everyday routine is usually offset by doing something out of the way once in a while.  But, when your once in a while task gets boring, you end up looking forward to the routine stuff.

So, we decided that we would clean up the house today, freeing all the crammed up spaces from the world of unwanted information.  When you talk of unwanted information, I really mean it, because there is such a big pile load of trash accumulated, knowingly or unknowingly.  It is utterly painful to sort your way through the accumulated mess, but some time or the other, which occurs, rather, painfully periodically, you are left with no choice, but to actually do it.  So, after a sluggish start on a damp, rainy morning, you can say almost close to afternoon, we decided that the house required some cleansing.  As soon as the signs of the initial slack disappeared, we figured that about six of seven boxes of 20 quart boxes would be required to organize, if not, all the information in the word, at least, the information overload at home.  The hall had a basket of letters collected from time immemorial.  To top it, we discovered a truck load of offers.  We discovered quite a lot of fancy stores near the neighborhood, that we would never have heard of otherwise.  Not that we needed this information, for we are generally in the information overload mode.  Nowadays, with the advent of internet, there is information all around, and the extra information can only be an hindrance.  As such, my wife has this uncanny ability of picking everything from the internet and feeding me a daily dosage of what's happening around the world with the weirdest information.  So, today, I had to put up with more of those.  Praveen, looks like AT&T is offering a high speed internet connection.  Why not switch to that?  That would never have been a problem if you were cleaning up the place alone.  It would have been pretty easy to tear that leaflet and set it aside without reading what is written on it, but knowing for sure, that it is absolutely unimportant.  But, anyway, it has its own set of disadvantages.

Why did you tear that paper?

Oh, it is something uselessssss!

"But, what was there on it?" she asked.

"How would I know? There was something from the medical insurance provider about an old visit." The defensive mechanism in me was jutting out. 

"Did you read it fully?" she questioned me again.

"Oh, I forgot what it said (which is actually not quite true, for I would never have read that in the first place).  Why do you want all that?"

"Come on, you are such an impulsive guy.  When you sit down to clean, you don't realize anything.  You just want to throw everything.  What if there was something important? I can as well do all this by myself." she would retort as if what I had done had cost us a fortune.

I actually liked her last point.  But, I refrained from saying anything, fearing the worse.

The way we approach the situation is different, though the net outcome is the same.  I would say, "Chuck it".  She would say "Read it and then chuck it".  I just can't get the "reading" part.

Then, I went in to trash out some more papers that were exclusively mine.  I am sure everyone has this habit of accumulating everything with the mindset that it is important, but actually not worth even a cent.  So, I have this special bag, which has virtually every possible paper that I have accumulated from the time I entered the United States.  That bag is virtually a cornucopia of useless information.  It was stacked with layers and layers of sheets of various thickness.  It had print outs of air travel tickets that I had made four or five years ago.  It had a few old WalMart receipts, some mobile payment receipts, introductory information about the Master's program, new student information from the university and some bank introductory paper work that I have not read in the past few years.  In fact, I have been accumulating all along thinking it is important, but had not opened that bag all the while.  I sat pulling one after the other, reducing the weight of the bag by quite a few pounds.  If somebody says "Go Green", I am all for it.  If not for environmental friendliness, at least, for the sake of having to get rid of useless stuff.  It is actually so cool in your inbox; if you don't like something, it is not really necessary that it has to go to the "Trash" folder.  It can just sit there causing no harm to anybody.

Talking about preserving stuff, one of my colleagues had moved from another place to the current location.  I believe, while moving, he had discovered two boxes in the basement that hadn't been opened for something like fifteen years.  These boxes were placed there during the previous relocation.   I asked him what he did with those boxes.  He replied with a laugh, "I just dumped it in the trash.  If I did not need those boxes for fifteen years, there was no way  I was going to need it now."

Anyway, the laborious process continued, well into the evening, and well past bed time.  When we had finished, I heaved a sigh of relief.  We wouldn't have to do this at least for the next few days.  The routine job does not really look all that bad now. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mr. Iyengar

It was not the best way for him to spend the rest of his life.  Rather, it was not the worst way either.  Mr. Srinivasan Iyengar was sitting at the courtyard of his house observing the usual day to day activities.  Except for a few aberrations, life seemed to move on in exactly the same way as the previous day and the day before.  Mr. Iyengar was meticulous with his time, a stickler to perfection, and a man, for whom honesty and integrity were virtues that occupied the highest echelons in his dictionary.  When I say that Mr. Iyengar was meticulous with time, it is not that he followed up every activity at the exact specified hour.  In fact, he was so used to the activities around him that he could call out the time just by looking around him.  As the vegetable vendor dragged his wares on a cart past the house, Mr. Iyengar would sub-consciously be guided into the house, and people at home instantly knew that it was time for his morning breakfast.  If the little kids were returning from school in the evening, he knew it was time to have his cup of coffee.  There was a sense of meaning and understanding that he could connect with the rest of the world, and more importantly, to himself. 

People in the area had so much respect for him that he was seldom addressed by his first name, and even, when using his last name, they made sure that the Mr. stood out prominently.  It was not that he was a war hero or a national figure; it was just that, there was an air of simplicity about him, which automatically translated into a tremendous amount of respect.  He was easily approachable, whether he was inside the house or at his usual spot at the courtyard.  He always had a sizeable number of visitors, a coterie, who were keen to have his views on almost everything under the sun.  People wanted him to be the President of the colony, but he politely refused, stating that his days of responsibilities were over, and it was time for somebody from the current generation to take over.  He would have made a great President for the simple reason that he never exhibited any of those emotional traits that can become the undoing of an individual during testing times.  Years of experience had bestowed a calm demeanor on him, and after seeing so many things in life, nothing could surprise him.  In spite of staying in the colony for many years, nobody had any idea from where he came or who his family members were.  All that people ascertained from his life style was that there was a maid and a cook who took care of his daily needs.  As for the rest, nobody knew.  That was one of the things about Mr. Iyengar.  It was easy to get to him, but till date, I am not sure whether anybody has got close to him.

I moved into the colony about five years ago.  I was exactly two houses away from him and on the same side of the street.  Whenever we crossed paths, I was greeted with a pleasant smile.  He was particularly fond of my eight year old son.  Many a time, I have seen him conversing with my son, and he would somehow figure out what he was trying to convey, and act accordingly.  It used to surprise me to no ends when I saw the eight year old and the eighty year old converse in signs and gibberish.  At the end of the conversation or rather exchange, both of them used to have a sense of contentment.  I had a feeling that my young son had gained a deep insight into the old man's mind.  My wife, who had lost her father at a young age, considered Mr. Iyengar her father, and so during festivities and other important occasions, we would invite Mr. Iyengar for an afternoon fiesta.  Mr. Iyengar was a light eater during the evenings, and so he was never called for dinner, for we felt he wouldn't do any justice to his appetite.

One of the good things about Mr. Iyengar was that he was a voracious reader.  He had as good an idea about Shakespeare as about any Russian author; he almost always quoted something in relevance from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, one of his favorite authors.  Talking about Ernest Hemingway's works in the context of Mr. Iyengar reminds me of one of the famous quotes from the book, "Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated."  If I had to summarize Mr. Iyengar's personality in a single sentence, this sentence would be the perfect way to characterize the man.  It is only poetic justice that he be praised from the author's works.  His views on the political system and the politicians were clear from the word go.  He would often be heard saying, "Politics is not for me.  We are like oil and water.  We can never mix."

Over a period of time, my respect for Mr. Iyengar grew tremendously.  I definitely saw him as a father figure and would invoke his blessings whenever I set out on an important task.  It was also no surprise when other people in the colony, if they wanted to find me, they would first try to seek me at home, and if not, automatically would head towards Mr. Iyengar's home.  More often that not, I would be sitting there listening in rapt attention to what he had to say.  In spite of the closeness, I always sensed that I knew so little of the great man; great at least, according to me.  I had no idea where he had come from, if or when he was married and so on.  I never saw anybody other than the maid and the cook at his place.  Though I knew so little of him, I never went out of my way to probe any of the details about his personal life.  Maybe that's what Mr. Iyengar respected in me.  I was happy to maintain this relationship for what it was.  I expected no material gain out of my friendship with him, and I can say the same for him. 

One day, he called me to his house.  It felt like any other usual visit.  Invariably, we would end up talking about everything under the sun.  Even at this age, he was a powerhouse of current affairs.  He kept a track of which treaty was signed between which two countries.  He would give an explanation as to why the relationship between the West and the East was so fragile, and so on.  Expecting my day to move on with one such conversation, I went into Mr. Iyengar's house.  He was sitting on the armchair, and motioned me to sit on the adjacent chair.  I could see the bereavement in his eyes, but I did not know the reason.

"Is everything alright, sir?" I asked.  I always had this confusion whether to address him as sir or Mr. Iyengar, and depending on the moment, I preferred one over the other, and again, for no apparent reason.

Of course, of course, he said.  It was a softened "of course".

"Venu, I need to tell you something", he said.  "Yes sir, please", I said.

"Venu, I was married to a beautiful young woman when I was twenty five.  She was eighteen at that time.  It was a late marriage considering our times.  That was not the only thing unusual.  She was well educated up to the tenth class.  Those days, girls were not allowed outside the house after a certain age.  But she defied all odds to complete her tenth class before she was married to me.  We were blessed with three children - two boys and a girl.  After the birth of our last child and a few years later, I somehow got disillusioned.  I would say that it was the darkest period of my life.  I abused my wife for no reason of hers, and I also treated the children with absolute disdain.  Every night, after my arrival, the household would resemble a battlefield.  I threw whatever I had in my hand towards them.  They would cringe in fear holding to each other.  I never cared about anything.  I gambled, got myself heavily drunk, and would pressurize my wife so that I could pledge her jewelry.  When she refused, I would literally hurl her to the floor and kick her mercilessly.  The kids would watch in fear.  Nobody dared to stop me.  If this was not enough, I also began seeing a woman outside the house.  My wife tried her level best to stop me from seeing her, but all she got in return was a flurry of abuses and thrashings."

Mr. Iyengar was talking without a pause.  

"One day, when I came back from my usual activities, I found that there was nobody at home.  Not realizing anything untoward, I went to bed.  When I got up the next day, everything felt like a dream.  I ran all around the house looking for my family.  I went to the village to see if my wife and children had gone to my in laws' place.  It was a shameful moment to confront them and tell them that their daughter and the children ran away from the house.  There is nothing more humiliating than to go to your in-laws' house to tackle such issues, when all along you know that you are the one to be blamed.  They denied that she ever got there.  Knowing them, I am sure they wouldn't even have allowed her to stay there for a minute.  I searched for her in all possible places and invariably, gave up any hope of finding her.  She was a strong woman.  I should have known that she would never have gone to her mother's place. She could hold herself independently.  I am sure as a single wife, and with three children, she would have still survived with grace.   Strong woman she was."  Mr. Iyengar reiterated that again. 

I was listening patiently, not knowing what to say until then. 

"Sir, what do you mean by, she would have survived with grace? Don't you have any idea where they are? Do you mean to say that you have not found her as well as your children in the last fifty years? At least, didn't she or the children try to find you?"

Mr. Iyengar continued further.

"I searched all over the place.  But, Venu, she was such a kind of lady.  She would give you a chance up to a point.  After that, she would take a decision and stick to the decision, come what may.  She made sure that I never found her, so the question of she trying to find me never existed.  I am sure she would have easily got a job in a bank or some government service and would have raised the kids in an honorable way."

"Sir, she must still be somewhere.  I will assist you in all possible ways in finding your wife.  I am sure that with concerted efforts, there is no way of missing her.  What do you say?"

Mr. Iyengar took the newspaper lying on his lap.  In the last page, located in the middle, was a small black and white photograph of an old lady with the name, Mrs. Meenakshi Sundarambal Iyengar. It also had the following postscript. 

Mrs. Meenakshi Sundarambal Iyengar passed away early in the morning two days ago following a massive cardiac arrest.  She is survived by her two sons and a daughter.  The last rites will be performed at her native place, Srirangam, on the arrival of her daughter from USA.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Drawing the line

It is a fact of life that it is never easy to draw the line when it comes to a myriad of things.  Even if there is a thick line between contentment and greed, it is amusing to find that certain individuals find ways to be on the wrong side of the line.  Now, what's the wrong side?

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has thrown open a can of worms bringing to the forefront the involvement of politicians, financiers, famous personalities, and almost every biggie directly or indirectly.  The final entity of the IPL happens to be the sportsperson himself, when he actually should have been the primary, speaks a lot about the way the tournament is designed.  I, personally, have nothing against the IPL.  It is a dream tournament for every cricket fan, who longs to see stars from various countries share the same dressing room in this city based format.  It is an English Premiere League like concept, where the best of footballers from all parts of the world represent a city.  Event management is under rated, but undoubtedly, one of the toughest jobs, and when you are putting mega bucks to an event like IPL, controversies are bound to surface.

When the one man army of the IPL, Lalit Modi, questioned the veracity of the Kochi Investors, and that too, openly on a social networking platform like Twitter, it was bound to escalate into a major brouhaha.  And, when it involves the controversial Shashi Tharoor, who has thrown himself into a spot of bother as many times as Sachin Tendulkar has hit a century, it is only obvious that Twitter is the favored medium of communication.  Tharoor, no stranger to Twitter himself, finally met his match from an equally hot headed gentleman in Lalit Modi.  Why did Tharoor, a central minister, get involved in the IPL if he has nothing to gain monetarily out of the whole exercise?  Does Lalit Modi have an hidden agenda? I am sure Modi is not an amateur when it comes to money matters, and though admiration is not the right word, one cannot but admire his guts to see him take on a central minister single handed.  That just shows his growing clout in India.  By the way, this is not about who is right or wrong, for every possible detail will be brought to the limelight by the hungry hounds in the media.  We are talking about the money involved here.  There is no doubt that Tharoor and Lalit Modi have made more than enough money for the next few generations.  What are you going to do with truck loads of money? Off load it to the future generations? For what? Definitely, it is not wrong to amass wealth.  But, what beats me is why amass so much that you can't even keep track of it, and yet, nobody is appeased at the end of the day.  My friend told me that it is not about the money, but it is just about the sense of achievement that it brings.  I wonder why that shouldn't be treated independently.  Whether Sachin Tendulkar is a billionaire or not is a different argument, but he will always be remembered as a brilliant sportsperson, and not for the amount of wealth he has accumulated.  Personally, if a person has accumulated enough for the rest of his life, the additional wealth in no way is going to alter his life style.  It doesn't matter if you have $70m or $700m.  It is all the more amusing when you see things like the fodder scam running into thousands of crores of embezzlement.  Absolutely puzzling! 

Finally, I think Congress should realize that Tharoor has spent enough time on Twitter.  Tharoor simply does not know where to draw the line, and it is high time the Congress draws the line for him.  As for Modi, he has transformed from a layman to a showman, and this time, it looks like he is going to get his wings clipped.  Just wondering if something like this hits journalism.  No guessing as to who the protagonists would be!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The indecisive future

Shashi was distraught. His constant state of misery was forcing him out of his current happiness. It may seem like a paradox, but, that's how he was. If he got a salary hike, he would worry about inflation. If he won a lottery, he would worry about the tax. If he got a promotion at work, he would worry about the extra hours he would have to put in. So, in a way, his worries were endless and as a result, he ended up thinking about his future every single moment. Shashi, like every other individual on this planet, was pummeled by the monotony of daily life, and tried every possible trick in the book to escape from it.

Every now and then, he would tell his wife, "I have decided that am going to day trade from today. That's where the money is, and that's as easy as it can get to become a millionaire."

His wife would turn a deaf ear to his over the top suggestions, and both of them would head to work, as though nothing ever was spoken between them in the morning.

The suggestion would change to something dramatic within the next couple of days. Well, of course, it had to be due to the result of the stock market crash, ain't it?

Thank God, Anandhi, people like us have day jobs. Imagine, relying on the waywardness of the stock market to move on with our lives. It can be living hell.

Come on, Shashi, you just bought that stock two days ago. Obviously, it is going to fluctuate. What profit do you expect to make in a couple of days? And, by the way, who is asking you to sell that stock. It is not that we are in dire need of money. You can wait for the market to stabilize, and then capitalize on the gains. Anyway, the government has come up with breakthrough economic reforms. Things cannot change overnight. Patience!

But, I heard some rumors today that the market is going to witness a massive slowdown in the next couple of months. I don't want to hold up our funds for such a long time. After all, we can invest in something else, and make money.

I thought, somebody just said that he was going to quit the stock market.

Well, well, I don't want to take any hasty decisions. You never know what fate has in store for us.

Anandhi allowed him to ramble further about the ramifications of all the futile things and as always was in the least perturbed by his out-pourings. Just like the way his ramblings fell on her deaf ears, she knew that her concern towards him would also be met with the same effect.

So, have you decided at which school our son/ daughter will be commencing his/ her education?

What are you talking? Shashi, the baby is not due until the beginning of next year. And we still have three more months to go this year.

Yes, yes, but from what I read in the newspapers, it is a very complicated process. I believe there is a big interview process for the parents as well as the kids, and the applications have to be submitted well in advance to get an interview appointment. It is supposed to be crazy.

OK, I have had enough of this. You can go meet the principal tomorrow and fix up an appointment for a kid that is going to join school in the next four years. Let us see how they react.

Don't get worked up now. I just want you to be careful about all these deadlines.

What are you watching on the television? Can you see why Sahana is crying? I am busy in the kitchen.

Coming, coming! I am just seeing this great man Nelson Mandela become the President of South Africa. You should also come and watch this. If you miss it today, you can't watch it until tomorrow in the morning news. It is an event you just cannot miss.

I agree it feels like a dream that he was able to achieve what he achieved. With due respect to him, can you please see why Sahana is crying?

How is your stock market coming along? Are you still making any money out of it? What did your esteemed share broker say? You know what, I don't trust him a bit. What great market reading abilities does he have to suggest when to buy a stock and when to sell it? I have my doubts on that guy. I think with these many years of experience, you should be able to read the market much better than superficial brokers like him. You will be able to give advise others better than him.

Mmmm! OK, I have to go now. I will meet you after a couple of hours. One last time, I will meet this share broker and see what he has to say.

I am going to be really busy the whole of next month, Anandhi. The World cup is being held in the sub-continent, and this is really the best chance for us to win the cup. I am sure Sachin Tendulkar will win it for us this time. The thirteen year wait will end this year. I don't want to miss a single ball of cricket when I am at home. You will have to manage the household without me for a month.

Yeah, right! Look who's talking. I thought that was the case whether world cup or no world cup. I don't even expect you to wash a normal cup after you have tea or coffee. I can imagine how things will be.

This guy is a genius. See the way he is timing the ball. I am sure he will break all possible records one day. He is undoubtedly the find of world cricket this decade. Thank God he is playing for India.

Sahana, will you come with me to the police station today?

Why do you want to take her to the police station, and that too, at such a young age? Why can't you just lodge the complaint on your own? It is not such a big thing by the way.

Oh, come on, police station is not such a bad place. Moreover, our friend, Mr. Murthy, will be there. It will be interesting for Sahana to know how a police station looks.

Right, in so many years of my existence, I have never stepped into a police station, and you want my little daughter to go with you to one. First of all, I don't understand why you are going, and on top of that, you want to take her as well. I am not going to allow this.

Hello Mr. Shashi, Welcome to the Police Station. Not a great place to welcome you, but that's all we can do. Any way we can assist you? How is everyone at home?

Nice to see you, Mr. Murthy. We bought a VSNL internet starter kit for ten thousand rupees last month that gives us about 100 hours of internet connectivity through dial up. Yesterday, we realized that we were not able to connect to the internet after several multiple attempts. I have a strong feeling that our password was hacked. Can you help us find out who stole this?

Whoa, Whoa, Mr. Shashi. Calm down, calm down! I am not able to make any sense of what you are saying. If you're having some problem with your computer, you should be able to call the repair guy, and there is one I know of in the nearby vicinity. I am not sure how the police will be able to assist you in this case. Wait a minute, you told me something is stolen. Is your computer stolen?

Errrrr.....No! We are traversing in the wrong direction.

OK, what is it you have lost?

I lost my password.

So, why don't you get a new one?

I have to pay money to get one. I have lost the password, when it belongs to me, rightfully!

OK, you can file a complaint. We will register an FIR, but I am not sure what we have to find out to restore your password.

Anandhi, it is very hard to explain to anybody here the meaning of internet. One day, you see how it is going to take off. Everybody will be on the internet, and then, people will wonder, how life was without internet. For now, we have to do a lot of explaining to people and help them create an awareness about this non-animate thing.

Anyway, let me log in and see whether I can access the internet. Who could have manipulated our password?

Anandhi, look, I am able to log in. And, there's a mail from VSNL as well. They are experiencing some outage, and expect us to get no connection at all at certain times. I better call up Mr. Murthy before he registers the FIR.

Hello, Mr. Murthy!

Yes, Mr. Shashi. We still haven't started on your case. It is too early to expect any breakthrough.

No, no. I just wanted to say that I got back the password. It was a problem with the ISP provider VSNL.

See, I told you. You had come to the wrong place. I know about all these computer problems. I am sure it must have been some loose connection. Anyway, glad things worked out well for you.

Thank you, thank you!

Mr. Murthy was relieved. Shashi was annoyed. Anandhi was confused. Sahana was happy.

As always, Anandhi had to have the last laugh. I told you before itself what was the hurry to go to the police station to lodge a complaint. I am sure you didn't even have an idea as to what you were complaining about. I think you should really stop worrying about things.

Sahana and Shashi were watching television in the evening. Wow, that's a cool plane. Why are the planes hitting the building?

Must be some kind of a game, Sahana. Wait! We are watching the news channel here. Oh my God! It is the New York World Trade Center twin towers. What a disaster! Anandhi, come over, you have to watch this!

The whole world witnessed this unbelievable onslaught on humanity. It was an operation none imagined possible.

Anandhi, you never know what to expect these days. We should always be on our toes. I am sure you don't even have any idea where our funds are.

Yeah, right, as if that is so important now.

The markets collapsed big time. The pundits predicted a long time for the economic recovery. Investors were skeptical. Security was heightened everywhere. In a nutshell, it was not the best time to think about your future.

Three years later, Shashi experienced a severe heart attack, that virtually rendered him immobile. Anandhi took over all the responsibilities of the household. But, Shashi could not put up with his condition for long before he passed away one night.

Two years later, Sahana had to join college. She, like every Indian, was deciding between an engineering and medical seat. It is not easy to obtain a medical seat in a good college in India. In spite of having good marks, one also needs to have tonnes of money to enroll in a medical school. With all the class system in the society, you get to target only a handful of seats. So, in effect, you are looking at an expenditure of at least 4-5 lakh rupees per year just for the tuition fees. As mother and daughter were contemplating the choices in front of them, they were greeted by a visitor.

Hello madam, I am Raman, your husband's share broker. He was a very close friend of mine. I am not sure whether you remember, but I was there at his funeral. About fifteen years ago, I had advised him to buy 2000 shares of one little known company. Today, the number of shares have multiplied at least ten times. The price per share has multiplied at least 100 times. It was actually more than ten years ago, but Shashi was insistent that we shouldn't sell it then. When he was not well, we discussed the appropriate time to sell these shares. He told me that I should come to you when Sahana was ready to go to college. You can call it destiny or karma, but I have never seen Shashi being as decisive as he was on this issue.

I think this would be the most appropriate time for you to sell these shares and put her to medical college. These shares are worth more than 20 crore rupees today.

Anandhi was lost for words!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The hurt walker

What a lucky guy? I thought to myself as I saw him walk past me.  An expression that would be reserved for a fellow guy not if he was an intellectual genius or Albert Einstein's alter ego, but if he was walking with an absolute beauty of a babe or obviously, if I had other intentions.  The most incredible aspect of the male pheromone is obviously the ability to influence every member of the same species with a common trait that virtually nullifies the uniqueness of the individual.  In short, perception of unique thought is nothing but absolutely universal.  Well, I digress, but that's what I was doing literally.  I was launching a scalene triangle to cover half a pace.  You can imagine the frontal movement of my legs.  It was as though I was transformed into a dog when I tried to move forward.  Herculean, monumental, outstanding and sensational were words reduced to grave insignificance compared to the amount of happiness I secured when I moved forward.

Why are you walking like that? What happened? Did you get injured? were commonly refrained to me seeing my awkward state of movement.  Well, the bacterial infection, twice in two months reduced me to a sitting duck.  That was when I was missing Jeeves, who has a solution to almost everything on this planet, especially for trivial issues that get magnified by trivial fellows like me.  

It is difficult to answer the questions without embarrassment.  

Actually, my toe is infected by stephalococcus ponapocattum bacterium infectum (made this up).  It didn't help my cause that I was making it sound like some Harry Potter charm.  More often that not, people empathized with my condition, but not with my explanation.  Obviously, even my dog would know that I was bull shitting.  Oh man, I am not going to insult anyone with dogs.  I don't even feel like addressing my friends with my usual characteristic Hello dawg! It feels so demeaning now to associate everything with those ultra cool creatures.

The infection leads to a white fluid forgettable mass that remains hidden under the epidermis of the skin.  It feels as though it never wants to come out into the open and face the Kansas winter.  The first infection occurred on my left toe, while the second time, I had it on my right calf muscle.  During the first instance, it was a classic case of invoking Lord Shiva the whole night before picking the first possible appointment to consult the doctor.  During the second instance, the wound healed itself after a couple of days of suffering and just before I could get an appointment fixed.   

With the close pals here, it is all the more harder to explain your predicament.  For as things stand here, you can gain anything except sympathy with these fellows! 

Thankfully, I wasn't hash tagged in Twitter.  It would have been pretty bad to see your friends tweeting about you and all satirical.  

Blood or Pus #youprefer

Blood diamond or pus diamond #youprefer

Bloody or pus-sy #youprefer

But, it is only after you undergo these moments that you realize that you have it in you to become a Usain Bolt or a Michael Johnson pretty easily.  Ice skating or figure skating or moguls just becomes any other Olympic sport.  Nothing in this world is impossible anymore.  The Nike tag line makes more sense now than it ever did before.  But, come on, you really don't think I am going to participate in the Olympics!

Liberating or exhilarating #youprefer, well actually, it should be #both.

And yes, all said and done, it doesn't require special powers to admire an Einstein.  I was just kidding in the first sentence.  So, next time, if you wonder why somebody is admiring a fellow walker, more often than not, there is only one reason, and that is because the admirer must be a hurt walker.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just another day

Why don't you help me in the kitchen? I have so many things to do.

I could just hear the usual faint cry from the kitchen.  After so many years of marriage, I was getting used to these little things.

Father, why don't you budge from that freakin' newspaper?

The second source of disturbance was from none other than my ever social Sahana.  She was busy too.  At least, it made me feel better that she was calling me as father, instead of various condensed versions of abominate equivalents.  They were fancy killers, really! I mean who would want to be called as papa or puppy (disgusting, who wants to be called like that!) or whatever.  By the way, getting back to the real reason of she being busy.

Sahana, don't shout at me like that.  I have a hundred reasons to be unhappy with you.  What are you doing in front of the laptop? Is this the reason you asked me to get you a Mac? Why can't you just communicate with your friends over phone? Or still better, why don't you go meet them?

Oh, com'on, this is the weekend.  I meet them all the time during the weekdays.

What do you intend to convey using those one liners?

Oh, that is Twitter.  I have 500 followers.

I don't care how many people follow my daughter.  I don't want you to be following any of them.  Do you understand?

Aiyyo, you know so little about the latest technology and you talk as though you know everything.

Stop your piffles, and get some work done.

I can as well go and help mother in the kitchen, and then, she added with a snicker, papa.


At the exact moment, the doorbell started to ring like a temple bell.  It is during these moments that you really want to disable this feature, banish civilization and meditate in the forests.  I also knew where the next source of noise had to come from.

Even before I could hear any, I preempted that step by raising my vocals, OK OK, I will go and open the door.  You don't have to shriek out from the kitchen.

Yeah right, as if I am doing everything here for my sake.  If I don't cook today, the whole house will starve.  Why don't you come to the kitchen for a few minutes? Then, you will know, how tough it really is to manage the house.  It is very easy to shout from there, sitting in front of the television and watching that loud mouthed journalist shout as though she is the one fighting for her life.

Oh come on, I haven't watched news channels in quite some time.  I just sit in front of the computer reading world news hoping for world peace, and of course, some peace at home.

OK, you are a Mahatma.  Now, please go and open the door.  You and your daily friend can discuss the usual politics.

Hello Vasudeven, Vango vango (Come Come! even though it rhymes with mango, v-a-n is spoken out as v-a-a-n in a pleasant sort of way and exactly opposite to Rajini's legendary ulle po dialogue).

Hello Raghavan, how are you? Did you see the latest news? People are fighting for a split in this state as well.

Ha ha ha, sir, if we split further, we will fall into Sri Lanka.  As such there are 77 states in the country.  How many more can this country handle?  Are there any more new states added today?

No, no, I think we are up to date with the latest.  In the North, Mayapur was added.  You must know who is in control of that state just by the name itself.  The state has added a new ministry as well - Ministry of Sculptures.  It is a ten man army managing the sculpture of one person.  Very commendable! Of course, there was also an addition of a separate state for film personalities.  Forgot the name.  Sounded something like Blo-oo-per.  As such they are a bunch of jokers.  Those days, the states were based on linguistics.  Now, we see new states based on fraternities, occupation, unemployment, hunger and a whole lot of other statistics.  Great!

How can we not talk about his, Vasudevan! At least, amidst all the bad things happening to the country, the only good piece of news is also in the form of bad news.  The infernal goda has passed away.  I think the 20 km expressway will be completed finally.  

Anyway, forget about the country  This is never ending news.  What is happening with your son? How is he preparing for the exams? Oooh, as they say, the tenth exams are crucial sir! If he scores well, only then will he be able to get a good government or bank job, otherwise he will end up being engineers like us.  Ask him to study well.

Yes, yes, I have told him that.  Otherwise, he has to worry about the endless layoffs and also, that bugger will end up becoming a debugger all his life.  Nowadays, he talks a lot about farms and fields.  I am worried.

Oh, I know.  I saw his farmville scores on facebook.  He is a genius, shouted Sahana from inside.

Ignore her Vasudevan.  Always butting her nose in front of elders!

OK, Raghavan.  I have to go now.  If I sit here a bit longer, I will have to see my wife waiting for me outside the house, and that's not a very pleasant sight!  Yes, one more thing.  I will not be in town for a week starting tomorrow.  I am going to Karunacherry for an off shore assignment.  I have to check my tickets again.  With all these new states, it is too confusing!

Raghavan, shouted out a voice from inside.  Now, you get going to the market.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


So, where are you guys headed after marriage? seemed to be the oft asked question.  In a typical Tendulkaresque way, my response would eke out an as-though-well-thought out "Haaan (a hefty five or ten seconds later, well hoping that the topic would have changed), actually, we are heading out to all possible temples in South India, and yeah, we have to catch up with a few relatives as well".  The smirk on the questioner's face was of course conspicuous, and he would heave out a nonchalant sigh as though he had known it all along.  There was no way in the world that we would be let off lightly had we tried to skip the temples.  We had to appease the Gods (how many ever they are), and this is the time you have all those questions whizzing past your head "Why can't we just propitiate the deity in front of our house? If all Gods are the same, what is the logic in trying to visit every one of them?" These are questions for which you are bound to get only stares.  What are you talking? I had taken an oath before your marriage that if all goes well, I would take you and your wife to this particular temple.  Anyway, that's a different story altogether!

In order to compensate for our lack of travel after marriage, we thought of spending a week down South at a warmer place.  Our Thanksgiving break was utilized for a quick trip to Chicago (don't get confused now, the warmer part comes in the next sentence) and a couple of days off in December during the Christmas break meant that we headed out to Florida.  A Florida trip can be pretty exhausting, simply because this tropical weather like state has so many attractions.  Just the sheer thought that you want to visit as many places here can leave you drained.  It is like Santa's socking; you pick something out of it and you know you are in for a treat.  Visiting Florida has a similar experience.  The feel good temperature of about 70F/20C can turn any guy who is averse to snow from insanity to a feeling of bliss.  At least, you don't have to dress like a polar bear and you just realize how nice it would be to be dressed up in single layered clothing throughout the year.  To top it, the mid west was in the middle of a snow storm!

Collage: Orlando (click to enlarge)

Our first stop was the amusement parks city of Orlando.  Literally, there are tonnes of them here, and you require more than a day or two to cover each of them.  So, we took our tickets for the Universal Studios and the Island of Adventure theme parks.  Honestly, I never realized how expensive these tickets could be.  The cost to get into each theme park is almost half the cost of your flight journey.  Some of the rides were pretty interesting and fun (Simpsons Ride, Spiderman, The Hulk, Dueling dragons), while some of them were forgettable (Shrek 4D show was an absolute waste of time, and so was the Men in Black).  We wanted to get on to the rides only if they could excite us, else the wait time in the line was just not worth it.  The best ride was the Hollywood Rip Rocket Ride which made startling twists and turns and dived down at unbelievable angles, and also had a vertical fall.  We stood in the line for more than three hours, and just as it was about to be our turn, we were told that there was some fault and would require some repairs.  It was quite scary to get back to the roller coaster, but then the ride was well worth the risk and the long wait.  The highlight of the Orlando stay was our dinner at the Woodlands.  The Onion Rava Masala Dosa and Bisibele Bath were absolutely lip-smacking.  Oh yes, the Woodlands visit was possible due to heavy Googling (verb of the decade by the way) by Hema in collecting as much information as possbile on Florida.  After a pretty comprehensive research, it was found that TripAdvisor is the best website with neatly organized information that has all the relevant content regarding the places of interest.  In short, this website covers almost every place in the world.  One frustrating aspect of the trip was our Stay at Econo Lodge Inn & Suites.  The lodging was cosy and comfortable, but we were caused much hardship in the morning when the hotel staff failed to provide us with a tooth paste!

Pic: Miami to Key West - Unbelievable Route

Then began our long day, where we drove from Orlando to Key West, a solid eight hour drive.  But, the drive from Miami to Key West on highway 1S was an experience by itself.  In short, it was breathtaking, and no words or photos can do justice to the scenic beauty.  It was a single road and on either side of it, there is water and nothing else.  Key West is the southernmost tip of mainland US, and the bluish green water of the Atlantic is indescribable.  It was here that we decided to do some sort of water sport adventure, and went ahead with parasailing (equipment from Sebago Watersports, and once again we have to credit the reference to TripAdvisor).  It was quite a sight to see the ocean from a height of a ten storied building, and to be completely encapsulated by water.  Duval Street, Southernmost Tip, Mallory Square, Ernest Hemingway's house, and the small town feel lent a fantastic touch to the place.  Again, we had dinner at a great sandwich place, The Cafe, which catered to the vegetarian population of the city.  In fact, we were surprised when the waitress told us that Key West, in spite of being in the coast, had a sizable vegetarian population.  The colossal veggie sandwich at The Cafe, along with Vegetable Spring Rolls, still tickles my taste buds.  Knowing my penchant for finding bad restaurants, it was pretty surprising that we actually found great places to eat at Orlando as well as Key West.

Collage: Key West, FL (click to enlarge)

Miami was our final stop before heading over to Orlando.  Miami, known for its beaches, did not let down our expectations.  It was great fun to drive along Collins Drive, and finding a parking spot was a great challenge.  We stopped over at Haulover beach, which was relatively quiet, as we were sure, most of the tourists were hanging out in South Beach.  We were not sure how far the shore extends, as we could see miles and miles of sand in either directions, and there were quite a lot of people busy with some activity or the other.  Ocean Drive was bustling with life throughout the day, and the night life of Miami need not even be mentioned.  We also saw the Hare Rama, Hare Krishna ISKCON group, and an American dressed in a neatly draped saree was inviting a lot of tourist attention.  We spent quite some time under the sun, but I am not sure whether it made any difference to my complexion.  In a way, it was surprising to see so many people sleeping on the wet sand to get tanned, while back home, fairness is relished and any exposure to the sun is considered as over exposure!

Collage: Miami (click to enlarge)

We spent another day at Orlando, and headed back to the white plains of Kansas.  We also made a brief note of the fact that the next time we visit Florida, we would spend as much time as possible at Key West & Miami.  The Kansas boys had their share of adventure as well, as they had to make a dreadful three hour journey for a five mile drive on a snowy night.  There was no traffic jam, but a massive snow storm meant the car had stopped in a dozen places, and pushing the car with an added wind chill factor can be no fun experience.  But, the three idiots had to go to the movie that very day!