Saturday, November 29, 2008

A simple journey

The Kalahari typing school for men, ( Alexander McCall Smith) is another story of women seeking independence. This is the first book I have read in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and unfortunately it is the book no 4. I believe the series is now on to the eigth or tenth in the series. But the book did not leave one clutching at straws, trying to guess the origins of the story. Unusually, it stands on its own feet, quietly independent. The story is narrated very simply, which is the book’s main attraction.

The main protagonist, Botswana’s only woman detective, Precious Ramotswe, gets some competition from a man, and also gets an unusual case. Somebody wants to her to dig into his own past in an attempt to correct some mistakes. This part really did get my attention. How many of us introvert and attempt to even think about our past? The regrets and broken relationships which need not have happened, and then try to undo it? Can the past be undone? Probably not, which is why, I think, most people do not even try. It takes one of unusual courage to even attempt this.

Unfortunately this attempt to compensate for the past turns out to be the most disappointing part of the book. This subject is not explored to its full potential, and one is left with a feeling that the author was in a hurry to bring matters to a highly unsatisfactory conclusion.

The book’s writing style is a bit colonial, which has its attractions. I doubt if Botswana is a paradise it is made out to be. A relative of mine is posted in Botswana, and I must check out the locale with him. He is in the army.

Odds and Ends

I just read the lead article in the guardian, prominently advertising the fate of girls in India. Delhi had quite a few honourable mentions for a dismal girl to boy ratio. The problem is endemic amongst the poor and the rich. And this problem continues till the social fabric changes to support the girl child’s education and economic independence

Delhi Chronicles

It is interesting to note the number of places of worship in Delhi. If we count all the religions then the number is satisfactory. The significant ones add up to quite a total. Start with the Jama Masjid in the walled city, and take in the Darga of Nizamuddin Auliya, the sufi saint, in the south of Delhi. The Sikh gurdwaras in Central Delhi; the Gururdwara Rakabganj and Bangla Sahib. The Hindus have their Akshardham Mandir in the east, Hanuman’s temple in central Delhi and the Lotus temple in the south. The Churches include Sacred Heart and the Cathedral Church of Redemption in central Delhi.
This tells you that Delhi is very much cosmopolitan, and one can easily spend a day or two in visiting the religious places

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Ian McEwan’s Atonement is a mesmerizing narrative, and it is difficult to put the book down. The strings of three lives intertwine and rub abrasively against each other. Each seeks a goal, a small portion of heaven on earth, and is thwarted by circumstances and fate. Ian McEwan is a master story teller, and as he spins his web, the characters spring to life. One cannot but help get caught up in the ebb of things, as a coming of age story evolves into a tragedy of sorts.

Robbie and Cecilia, two young people, in rural England, fall in sudden love. The younger sister of Cecilia, Briony, sees them in an inappropriate position. Out of this simple background and childish petulance starts a chain of events which cumulates in a tragedy of almost epic proportions. The background shifts to the Second World War, at the retreat of Dunkirk, out of which come the most remarkable scenes of the novel. In a way the long march to the beaches of Dunkirk increases the tension , as the novel captures the desolation and hopelessness of the defeat, both personal and on the battle field, vividly. The third act, so to say, is with Briony again as she grows up, realizes her mistakes and decides to atone for them.

The atonement really does not happen, as things done cannot be undone. The novel reinforces concepts like karma, where things go beyond one’s control, and one flows with the ebb of time and events. Can the characters find fulfillment in their short and maybe, meaningless, lives? The grand scheme of things overwhelms individuals. It is left to the novelists to bring out pathos and the tragedies of individual lives.

On the whole I would definitely recommend this book for a rainy day(s). Beautifully sculptured, wonderfully sensitive and a novel of beauty. I have not seen the movie, but I suspect it will not live up to the novel. Movie’s rarely do.

Except the next one.

Odds and Ends

I commented on The Third Man in an earlier blog, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an article on it in the September OPEC
bulletin. The film apparently was a cult hit when it was released. OPEC is headquartered in Vienna, where the movie was also shot.

The haunting music from the film was composed by Anton Karas. He is seen in this
youtube video playing the theme on the zither and a lovely composition by an orchestra here. Wonderful moving stuff.

Delhi Chronicles

Raise the Flag

I attended a book launch of a book on the Nation flag, written by Arundhati Virmani. A scholarly work was introduced lucidly by the author at the India International Centre. Arundhati was a reader at the Delhi University’s history department, and then married and left for France where she presently resides. She has written two books in French, and this is her third book. Today she teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Marseille. Her publications include an essay in Past and Present, as well as two books: India 1900–1947. Un Britannique au cœur du Raj (Paris, Autrement, 2002), and Inde. Une Puissance en mutation (Paris, Documentation Française, 200)

It is unfortunate that such gathering attract so little attention in Delhi. A healthy discussion on this topic would really interest me, but alas. Apart from a host of history professors, very little evidence of the aam public was in view.

It was interesting to note the evolution which the flag has been through. Surprisingly, the flag under which the first freedom movement of 1857 took place, has no resonance in the present design. The design of the national flag looks more like a compromise of sorts, but heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi.

Arundhati also spoke of recent events, where a PIL was needed to break the shackles the bureaucracy had on the flag. In words of one of the participants, the flag was hijacked by the bureaucracy. Even the present liberal regime of the flag act, to my mind, is unsatisfactory. If I can wear a T-shirt with the Union Jack , why can’t I wear the tri-colour?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Business as usual

My mother

While the rest of the world is watching the financial markets collapse with horror and dismay, my mother is ecstatic. Her long cherished worst-case scenario has come true. Her doomsday prediction, which she has been tom-toming for as long as I remember, has finally happened.

The last major depression she witnessed was in 1929, and she has been longing for another ever since. We have been constantly reminded of those fateful years, when things were ‘not good’. Not that she, or for that matter anybody within a hundred miles of her house, held a solitary share on the NYSE, but we have not been allowed to forget that calamity. The troubled times have been made more woeful with every account. “ There were no jobs” she intoned, “and those times will come again. This is what happens when the market disintegrates. There will be no Plan B”.

She came close to realising her prophecy during the Enron crisis or the Asian currency collapse, but much to her disappointment, the markets recovered. She clucked as she watched the recovery, and continued to repeat her judgement day divination. But this crash is fulfilling her every dream. Our patronizing smiles whenever she launched into one of her horror stories have been wiped out, and replaced with an exasperated look. “ I told you so” has not been uttered, but one can see it lingering on her lips. “ The rupee will also collapse…like a sack of flour” is her next bet. I am not in a betting mood, so I gave it a pass.

Unfortunately her foretelling powers do not extend to alternate means of investment. Whenever she is asked that question, she simply shrugs and refuses to be drawn into the discussion. According to her even the FD in a safe-as-houses public sector bank is not safe enough. One would think she lost a fortune when the “Bank of Lahore” collapsed, but I know for a fact that nothing of that sort happened. I mean, the Bank may have foreclosed, but there was never any of my mum’s money in that bank. Else I would have seen some of it.

Odds and Ends

Aravind Adiga wins the Booker for The White Tiger

Delhi Chronicles

The Forgetful City

I normally do not like to write on current affairs as the events are too close for me to offer any dispassionate comments. But I realised that if I wait for too long, the city just forgets.

The bombing of Delhi market place in late September is stale news already. The newspapers and the media are now busy with the latest flavour of the month- the financial meltdown. For the city this may be good and bad.

In a time honoured tradition Delhi seems to forget its dead sooner than most other cities. Going back to Babur , when the plunder of Delhi seemed a routine affair, today’s disasters too, sink quietly into history. After a few days of hullabaloo, people are back to their mundane lives. The fear of the terrorists seems to have a longer affect on my wife though; she is still adamantly refusing to give permission to the girls to see a movie in a hall. Well, she will get over it soon enough.

Is the same true about other cities like New York or London? It seems not. London still remembers 7 September, and nobody is allowed to forget 9/11. The residents there have ceremony on the day; which is very poignant to watch, even over the telly.

There are no such ceremonies for the dead in Delhi though. Last time a bomb attack in Sarojini Nagar market took many innocent lives, and a memorial was put up in the victims’ memory. But I do not see that day being remembered by the media any longer. It is business as usual in the market.

On the other hand, this leads one to seek closure and carry on with life rapidly. The huge mass of people and the timeless memories of the city, absorb such tribulations, which barely cause a ripple. In a way this is a blessing, because living in this city can be trying. The efforts of making a living can be hard. So, sooner one accepts and gets along with it, the easier it is. In any case the walls of the Red Fort have been witness to much such carnage, and another one will not make its colour fade, even slightly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tea Break

For a change I picked up a book of short stories- Saki’s. I had never read short stories seriously, and was pleasantly surprised with this form of writing. Saki writes delightfully, and the stories refuse to have a tight plot or a schedule. Some of the stories wander around comfortably, while others have a bizarre twist. They all have a comfortable, untroubled, young men with money feel about them, and remind me of similar characters and plots, as in P.G. Woodhouse books or Three Men in a Boat. The stories belong to the times when young men of means stories were popular.

Surprisingly they still strike a chord today. Is it nostalgia for “better”, less troubled times? Or is it Saki’s satirical look at the high and the mighty resonates well with today’s social milieu? In that sense they do a better job of escapism than some of the modern story tellers. The modern novelist’s uncomfortable plots do impinge harshly at times, and Zoe Heller pontificates, “If you want to be comfortable go to a cocktail party”. The language Saki uses is not easy though. A formidable vocabulary and dramatic sentences snuggle easily with smooth narratives to make a compelling read.

Saki (real name Hector Hugh Munro) apparently derives his pseudonym from the Arabic word for the “the cup bearer”. Of course, we are well aware of the use of this word in many Bollywood dramas.

My favourite story is The Unrest Cure, and though it seems to be a bit on the slap stick side, I thoroughly enjoyed it. A story of an old couple who express a need of some excitement in their life, get dollops of it when Clovis, a Bertie Wooster (remember P.G. Woodhouse Jeeves stories?) kind of character, decides to do them a favour. A laugh a sentence kind of story- right up my street.

Other stories are more sombre, and Sredini Vastar, is in that genre. A story about a boy and his pet polecat, where the bad aunt gets her just dues. A riveting read, but at the end I was a little disgusted by it. It supposedly appeals to Englishmen, as it is rated as “one of the best in English Literature”; but I was kind of put off.

The rest of the stories did their job of keeping me well entertained, and I would definitely recommend this book for a rainy day, or when you need more courage to plunge into a serious read.

So, thanks Saki, for a nice teatime break.

Odds and Ends

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms ,

I know it is a surprise that you are hearing from me. But I assure you that you have never been far away from my mind. I have constantly thought about you when I was dying, and till my last breath I kept you in my mind.

( Note that this e-mail is NOT written from Heaven, but was composed just before I popped it. Please do not reply to this e-mail as I will not be there to read it. Unless you have my new e-mail address, of course)

Now that I have departed for the world beyond, you must be thinking did I care for you. I assure you that my caring goes way beyond your expectations. I have a large sum of money which I have left for the person I loved the most. Yes, you.

I insist that you should be the full owner of my estate and LARGE sum of money which I have stashed away in Nigeria. This LARGE sum of money ( $/UK Pounds/ Rs, 10,000,000) is now YOURS. YOU must accept this LARGE sum of money to show how much you love me.

I have instructed my lawyer Mr. John Smith, who is a leading Liar in London to make arrangements to send you this money. He will need a few details as listed below, before he can transfer this LARGE sum of money to you.

Your Name:
Full Address
Phone numbers
Credit Card no
CVV ( Secret number)
Credit Card PIN
Bank Account No
ATM Card No
Internet user name and password.

Mr. Smith will take immediate action after you have e-mailed these details to his e-mail :

Please also note that you also have to send Mr. Smith has to be paid a nominal sum for his efforts. So it would be very nice if you send him a bank order worth $ 100 to his Bank Account in Nigeria.

Remembering you from Heaven

Mr. Greg Norman.

Delhi Chronicles

Reading James Wood, a columnist with the New Yorker, led me to bemoan the lack of any intelligent or worthwhile issues addressed by our politicians. Not that McCain or Obama stretch one’s intellectual capabilities, but at least, they address today’s issues, and not get stuck in rhetoric. Our political parties are constantly jostling for limited space mostly around caste and religion. I am just sick of this. As a city boy such distinctions seem trivial to me. That they become matters of life and death for some seems really obtuse.

While the US politicians place the economy and foreign affairs in the centre and debate about it, in the Indian elections all one gets is vitriolic attacks on meaningless issues. At this point I expect some good citizen to stand up and say that we are ignoring the poor and the downtrodden, and they are the real issues. With respect I disagree. Don’t get me wrong. The problem exists; my objection is to how we address it. With a corrupt bureaucracy and singular lack of governance capability, the government and its myriad arms are the wrong people to address this issue. They should just get out of the way.

If one looks at the infrastructure problems in Delhi, the private sector seems to have done much better in solving them. Look at the successes:- telecom, electricity distribution, NH8 expressway and the NOIDA toll way. The metro seems to be the only success in the government’s basket, but only because the management was with a bureaucrat with an entrepreneur’s mindset. A list of area where the government seriously needs to get out is transport (despite the Green Line disaster which I attribute to the corrupt bureaucrat’s handing out limited licenses), water treating and distribution, police and electricity generation. The development of the roads needs to be given to local authorities like the resident welfare associations.

We need better politicians and bureaucrats, and not some manipulating ignoramuses who twist the system to meet their narrow interests. We need people with vision which matches today’s needs.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Much Ado about Nothing

I just finished Ian Rankin’s The Naming of the Dead. It was my first Inspector Rebus crime novel, and regretfully, it will be my last. This much hyped about character is mentioned with reverence in the British newspapers and websites and, I am sorry to say, I was let down by DI Rebus. I want my money back.

The story is set in Edinburgh and, much to my delight, during the G8 meeting in July 2005. Now it so happens that I, with my family, was haunting the streets of Edinburgh in the last week of June 2005, and we escaped just before the security clamp down preceding the G8 meet. So lots of streets, and locations, came flooding back to me nostalgically. I even checked out wikimapia to refresh my memory, and to locate the novel’s more important locations. But apart from this serendipitous timing, there is little to say about the book. I want my money back.

The story line is extremely light, and demands the reader be excited about local events and personalities. Just because the G8 meet is thrown in the background to artificially set a stage , does not make the storyline any more gripping. It is not what a crime novel needs to be - a page turner. It lacks in tight narrative, and refuses to seize the reader with anticipation. The chapters stagger into one another, and some of the characters are just plan redundant e.g. Siobhan’s (for God’s sake) parents. Not only are they the most uninteresting couple I have ever read about, any attempt to make them interesting by thrusting a hippie look on them just does not work. There are a myriad of dubious characters, and DI Rebus seems to have an ambivalent attitude towards them. For instance, the chapter in which Rebus is forced by the goon, Cafferty to visit a local politician’s speech comes through as a iffy kind of thing; Rebus did not want to go, but he went, because he was forced to and the story demanded it, and in any case we need to fill out fifty pages, so that the buyer can get his money’s worth. Utter crap. The author churned out this book to sell to the gullible British people who just love DI Rebus. I don’t and I want my money back.

I will not bother to reveal who the killer is. Or maybe I should. It will save the readers money in case they are thinking or buying this book. Aww! Forget it. Just pass this book.

Did you know that J.K. Rowling , as a struggling artist, wrote the first Harry Potter book in a café, The Elephant House, in Edinburgh? We went and had coffee there, and the girls just loved it.

Odds and Ends

A map of South Delhi taken from Fanshawe’s book shows Delhi early 1900s. Interesting stuff. Notice Lado Sarai in the middle, and a few water bodies one does not see now.

Delhi Chronicles

The Whiff of Autumn

September 22 was the autumn equinox. Happy Equinox! When I got up and went to the garden for a cup of tea, I could smell the weather change. The temperature is down a bit, and one is glad to see the summer off. Although this year the summer was mild; in fact milder than I have ever experienced in Delhi. It is a delight to see the autumn come on us suddenly. Unlike in the west where the autumn creeps in gradually, it is an epiphanic change here. The leaves do not change color here, but the trees and the shrubs are greener than ever. The ennui of the summer and the mess of the rains seems to be forgotten in this moment. The atmosphere takes on pleasant hues, and one feels much invigorated. Long drives are a definite thing to do now. If only, the traffic jams sorted themselves out!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Do you get it?

I was not about to write about this movie ( The Last Lear), but the review in the Times of India got my goat. The reviewer obviously did not get it. He obviously prefers the less cerebral, leave your brains at home, numbingly loud movies, and any form of subtlety is lost on him. In fact, I don’t think he is any different than the numerous college students around me, who had difficulty sitting still and just keeping quiet. They, too, just didn’t get it.

You can read the storyline in Mr. Kazmi’s review.

The movie is amazingly sensitive, and a refreshing change from the normal Bollywood fare. It is a director’s movie, where each scene is thoughtfully crafted, and subtly layered, so one has to pay attention. Of special mention is the hugely riveting relationship between the three women spending the night, almost as a wake, for Harry. I found the nurse’s role especially meaningful, as she is able to bridge the obvious social divide between the roles played by Zinta and Chavvi. The sparks between Arjun Ramphal and AB are engrossing in pieces, but the strength of the story is not in the ultimate betrayal, but in the (un) questionable drivers for the role played by Arjun. AB’s character is incidental, a tool, and a diversion to the essence of the storyline. Unfortunate, but true. AB is used to sell the movie, not be its main character, which undoubtly goes to Shifali Chaya, while Preity Zinta does a competent job. The parallel storylines nicely mesh and wind around each other, a credit to the editor. On the whole, a pleasurable experience and… more than Paisa Vasool!

Odds and Ends

The Booker shortlist

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Delhi Chronicles

How green was MY valley

The streets around my house are incredibly crowded, but it wasn’t like this when I was a kid. Ours was the last house on the street, and unexplored fields stretched beyond. For an eight year old this meant hours of pleasurable wandering around, collecting dirt and grime, and stealing and eating the sugarcanes which the farmers grew. There never was any shortage of playing fields for a game of cricket or hockey. Vacant plots were aplenty, and, depending on the size, were converted into a hockey pitch or a cricket stadium. Despite this, there were quite a few windows broken, when we got too lazy and played the smaller version of cricket in the garden or, worse still, in the house. My dad was quite generous with his hands, and we did get some unjustified thrashings, whenever things went wrong. The dining table could be converted into a table-tennis table when it was raining outside. The streets were uncluttered by cars, and one could drive a cycle while eating a mango with considerable dignity, safe in the knowledge and there was only one more car in the colony, which was standing on bricks for the last two years in any case. We did raid that car once and managed to get inside. The treasures we looted from the car would still be around somewhere in my house. I think I took a piece of chrome which looked like a spoke of the steering wheel.

I feel sorry for today’s kids, and myself. Their only hang out place seems to be the malls, where they will spend my money.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Books Under The Stars

Last week I went for THE walk at 7 pm ish, which is after sunset nowadays. Gone are the days of bright sunlight in the evenings and one can feel the autumn creep up on us. In parts the walking path has some trees- not the tall, straight ones, but the smaller ones whose foliage spreads generously out, giving plenty of shade on a hot day. The leaves on both sides of the path meet in the centre, and one feels one is passing underneath a green arch. The trees also shade the traffic cacophony across the walled boundary. The crescent moon hung on an inky sky, with some stars splattered on the dark canvas. The high lux city lights did not, as yet, overwhelm the beauty of the early evening vista. As I passed a bush full of them I got a whiff of the smell of chameli flowers blooming in the evenings. A perfect evening to read Graham Greene.

In circumstances, the next best thing is to listen to an audio book. Martin Jarvis reading out The Third Man. After the mental gymnastics of Salman Rushdie it was a welcome change listening to the clean, straight lines of Graham Greene. Set in Vienna after the war, when the city was occupied by four powers, it is ostentatiously a murder mystery. But as is the case with many Graham Greene’s novels, it is also a tale of betrayal and loss; a story of flawed men and gods of clay. An unpleasant journey of discovery which on the way also becomes a search for meaning of one’s small and irrelevant lives. Graham Greene does not bother with much elaboration of the complications of lives, but instead tends to put the city and the characters in complimentary settings. The story starts with the harsh winter when Harry Lime is being buried with help of pneumatic hammers, and ends with another burial, this time when the snow is melting, and which in some ways also concludes a matter of some heart ache for the protagonist, Rollo Martins. Graham Greene, I think, has come up with one of his best characters in Rollo Martins. An ordinary writer of cheap westerns, somebody who likes to “mix his drinks” in more than one ways, and a person of some courage who refuses to cow down to threats, Rollo Martins is a reflection of an imperfect person. As in a true classic, the character easily transcends generations and centuries, and perhaps will remain the quintessential human being in all times.

It was a pleasure listening to Martin Jarvis narrate the novel, and the music used in the beginning and end of chapters did much to bring out the atmosphere of the locale.

Odds and Ends


I still shudder to see the Buddha statues at Bamian pounded by rockets. How easy it is to destroy a work of creation. And have the people who destroyed those works, replaced it with another of equal merit? The urge to destroy and control others is so strong with some, and the idea of perceived prosecution and hurt is easily spread by self serving political class, disguised as religious leaders.

It is easy to look the other way, or to condone such acts and thoughts in difficult times, but accepting such ideas is abhorrent. So, here’s another voice for peace in that troubled country.

The artefacts of the Kabul museum, thought stolen, were hidden away by the staff in a vault during the years of strife. These have now been recovered, and are a showpiece in the Washington National Gallery of Art. It is tragic that Afghanistan needs outside help to display its history. Oh! When will they ever learn?

Delhi Chronicles


I visited my ENT specialist, who also happens to be a child hood friend. We met up after decades, and I guess I do not remember him much after all these years. He did remember me, though, and after some prodding of my rapidly degenerating grey matter, I could keep up with the conversation, which mostly revolved around people we knew as kids. Not a surprise that all of us have now grown up, married, have children of our own, and, hence, have not met up since school. I did get a bit nostalgic about this, but I guess I will get over it.

Anyway, it turns out that this guy is the founder of GODS. No, not the head honcho of the celestial cabinet, but of the Group of Delhi Superbikers. Apparently these guys meet up every week on their jazzy super bikes and go for a spin. A group of about twenty people come from various back grounds- doctors, professionals and businessmen, and ride their bikes in open empty spaces around Delhi. Not that there are many open empty spaces- most of these are converted to open empty malls. The Greater Noida expressway was one such haunt, till some other kids met some nasty accidents there. The cops now keep a good look out for offenders, and GODS did not feel like getting caught in the wake. Nowadays they go to NH8 expressway, which is open enough for a superbike, though I do not think it is safe enough. I was impressed by one of their entry criteria- minimum age twenty five. Not that one’s hormones are depleted by that age- but it does show some responsible biking intentions. Hope the crazy kids racing down the Dwarka streets pick up something here.

They have an impressive website at, which has great many photographs, one of which is attached. Dr. Arun Thareja, the founder, does look neat in the GODS T-Shirt, and the rest of the gang look cool too.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spell gone awry

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.

Another vintage novel from Salman Rushdie, written in his unmistakable style. His style has changed over the years, and his last novel Shalimar the Clown, and this one, are definitely in another genre than his earlier books. The narrative style is easier, although the pen is not blunted in any way.

The novel attempts to bring together two different cultures- European and Mughal India in a grand scenario set during Akbar’s time. The European angle definitely overshadows the Mughals, and I thought getting Mughal Emperors in the story line was superfluous. The book stands alone on the Florence tale quite well.

This book is different than the others if only because the protagonist is a woman. The author tries his best to submerge her in the overwhelming personage of kings, emperors, dukes and shahs, but she shines through the veils. It is also the most sexually provocative book of the lot. I think, Salman Rusdie won the worst sex writing award for an earlier novel, but this one is seductive. The love scenes are uninhibited and delicately crafted.

The writing looks cathartic and reflects the end of the author’s marriage. As he admitted in an interview, she ditched him and he had to write to keep his sanity. An outpouring of emotions and a sense of loss is apparent at many places in the book. It is Salman’s most personal and emotional book yet.

The question remains: Is this book strong enough a contender for the Booker.? Without reading any of the others, I would hesitate to make the call. I have doubts though. The book is good, but it is too close to the author’s heart, and maybe that does not make it great.

Odds and Ends

The crossing at the domestic airport really looks busy nowadays. The other day a plane flew overhead, almost touching the car as it landed, while I could see the new Metro taking shape in the distance. All forms of land transport in one shot, would make educating children that much easier. A field trip to the airport would be value for money.

Delhi Chronicles

Cycling Delhi

While rummaging through some old stuff, I stumbled upon a bag which was picked when rambling through Piccadilly Circus. Not that it is a fancy or expensive bag. It was handed out to passers by the London Transport who was espousing the cause of cycling. At that time it looked cool, but after some years in the rubbish heap, it did not look so great. The Cycling London logo still caught my attention. London has this special lane for cycles, and although it is not very broad, it gives enough room for a safe commute. Given London’s high cost of living, it makes sense to use the cycle. What London Transport does to sell the concept of cycling, comes naturally to Delhi-wallahs’s. One can see hordes of cyclists from poorer areas going to work in the morning, and as one passes in a car one does bemoan the traffic problems these can cause. Most of them seek a quiet lane where they do not hinder anybody, which is more for their safety than anything else. The moot point is - why can’t we make a dedicated lane for the cyclists which will take them safely to work, and back? I am sure it will be much easier than implementing the bus corridor, which seems to have left much egg on the politician’s face. The people who use the cycle do not have much of a clout within the corridors of power though.

And what happens if all these people get to buy the Nano, and then take it for a spin? It will be disastrous for the Delhi roads. It is in everybody’s interest that cycling is encouraged as much as possible. If making the roads safer for cyclists can help, we need to do that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paisa Vasool

My wife and kids dragged me to this movie – “Singh is Kinng” ( Why the double n? Something akin to the ‘K’ factor ?) which after much humming and hawing, I acquiesced to go to. A quick google led me to “Book my”, where I could conveniently book my tickets, and the website allowed me to choose my seat. I promptly picked the bulkhead seats, with lots of leg room, and more importantly, adequate space for my five year old to wander around when she gets restless. There was an extra charge of Rs. 15 per ticket, but it is worth it. There is even a separate counter for people with online receipts, so you can turn up at the hall with minutes to spare.

The movie was tepid at best, but the Bollywood stuff was good “time pass”. Of course, I ended up spending as much on the popcorn and drinks as I had on the tickets. On the whole, a satisfactory experience.

I was surprised at the crowds this kind of movie attracted. There were aunties and uncles with the whole “jing bang” in tow. The shop keeper next to me attended to various urgent calls for help on his cell; but only during the interval, bless him. His catch all solution to every problem seemed to be to “take the bloody car out and park it”. Although I did not hear the much sought after applause on a hit dialogue, the general mirth amongst the good folks showed they were having a rocking time. I guess this movie would be considered a ‘hit’ in Bollywood lingo.

The storyline was that of a village buffoon ( Akshay Kumar), who is manipulated into going to Australia via Egypt. He meets his lady love in Egypt ( Katrina Kaif), a few compulsory item numbers follow, and then onwards to Australia. The protagonist then meets up and substitutes a Don from his village, who seems to have been paralysed at the moment. The good man then starts on his mission of reforming the gang, and sucking up to his lady love’s mother (surprise!) who seems to have fallen on hard times. A few convoluted scenes later, and the bad folks have got their just deserts, the hero is hooked up to the right gal, the Don makes a miraculous recovery, and the whole reformed gang ends up making the trip back home to their village. The credits roll in along with Snoop dog singing the title song. The first version of the song was choreographed well, definitely foot tapping, and got the adrenaline pumping. Javed Jaffery’s role(s) was mishandled, and one couldn’t help but wonder at the point of it all. The final scene, an obvious attempt to make the crowds roll in the aisles with laughter, was a damp squib. Akshay was good, his wadrobe impressive, while Katrina seems to have passed muster as an arm candy and hit item girl. All in all, paisa vasool.

Odds and Ends

Somebody actually compared the WWF wrestling mania to Shakespeare’s plays, and pointed out the similarities between the times and the need of the hour.

I mention this without comment.

Delhi Chronicles

Adieu…. Till next year

The mango season is almost on its last legs, and I am lamenting the end already. It was hell of a ride; Chausa, langra, dushheri and alphonso all contributing in equal measure to the pleasure of the sweetness. The sweet tooth is more than satisfied by the king of fruits. In fact, the fruit can send one into raptures, as the taste rolls on the toungue easily. Not an easy fruit to eat though; there is no sterile way of eating this fruit. I have tried peeling it, and then cutting it into small pieces to be consumed by a fork, which kept the fingers clean, but left a feeling that you have missed something. Eating it whole, sucking it actually, seemed too primitive. Slicing it seems to have worked for me.

My wife once worked for a company which had an annual mango festival. Mangoes were on the house, the only rule being- only hands! An ultimate temptation fight between the devil and the deep blue sea. Do I go right in for the succulence, and risk looking a savage, which could be career limiting. Or do I pretend I do not care for the mango, and retain my dignity- but it is mighty difficult to resist the call of the yellow fruit.

The mangoes appearance changes over the season. Starting in May with a greenish tinge, the Chausa takes time to ripen. It promises great things ahead, and though one complains about the early mangoes not being sweet enough, one knows of great things to come. The Chausa becomes sweeter, and then the yellow dussheri kicks in with mouth watering taste. Other expensive mangoes like alphonso add to the variety. The Langra ends the season with a regretful finale.

Here is hoping for more of this next year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


While reading the Chapter “ Town and Country” in Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, the impact of cuss words did impinge on my sensibilities. Although, we are used to the BC/MC kind of language at college, a major rehabilitation needs to take place when one joins the corporate world. Suddenly, the search for the political correct word assumes huge importance. A wrongly used phrase can bring opprobrium on oneself. My favorite politically correct phrase is “ significant other”; as in, You and your significant other are invited to evening cocktails. This eliminates any discrimination of gender, preferences and marital state. “Happy Holidays” at Christmas time or when Diwali and Id coincide is another opportunistic phrase used to pussyfoot around the religious space.

BBC Entertainment channel which sometimes airs the show “ Live at Apollo” does have at least one loyal viewer. Partly because I lived for some time near Hammersmith, the home of Apollo theatre, but also, this is one show which has some adult humor. The comedy stand up shows on the Indian channels, barring a few original comedians, are just too tame for me. BBC also tailored the show to “beep” out any profanities, which does compromise the show a wee bit.

This reminds me of a head of a company I used to work for. A person of Indian origin, settled in UK, used to liberally sprinkle his talk with the four letter word. Apparently this is the normal talk for London, although I did not hear anyone using the word ( as frequently) in the office when I was working there. I think he used the shock words to make himself more Brit than the Brits. When apprised of the fact that Indian sensibilities do not appreciate his colorful language, and, instead, find it offensive, he showed surprise, and vowed to become a better person. His vocabulary did change after that, although one could see THE word lurking at the tip of his tongue.

Bill Maher, the American talk show host, is much more expressive with his language. He does use the four letter word, with some convoluted variations, and for some interesting people; or makes them interesting by prefacing or suffixing them with some astute observations . His blog makes an riveting, though controversial read.

It may be time that we allow ourselves a little more liberty in using the cuss words in public. Adult humour and comments can be scheduled in the late night hours on TV, although knowing the kids, this does not stop them from keeping awake till the wee hours. The Indians need some risque humour to spice up their life, without feeling offended at every casual utterance.

Odds and Ends

Some acronyms used by the Delhi-wallah

CP: Connaught Place or Rajiv Chowk
Willington Hopsital: Maulana Azad Hospital
South X1 - South Extension Part I
South X2- South Extension Part II
GK1- Greater Kailash Part 1
GK2- Fgure it out!
Malls: Gurgaon; As in We are going to the Malls
NOIDA: New Okhla Industrial Development Authority. A misnomer as half of Delhi actually resides in the "Industrial Area"
NCR: Delhi to Jaipur, Agra and Chandigarh and everything in between.
C Sec: C Section or Central Secretariat, depending on whether you are a doctor or not.
DC ( as in District of Colombia): Janakpuri District Centre

Delhi Chronicles

Hole in the ground

Delhi seems to have the best roads in India, but that is not saying much. The heavy rains last week wrecked havoc on the Delhi roads, with potholes threatening to make them a minefield. The water logging (actually flooding) at critical points on major roads backed up the traffic for hours on Thursday, 14 August. Here are some timings people known to me took for travel:

Faridabad to West Delhi: 4 Hours

West Delhi to Pansheel: 2 Hours

Back to West Delhi: 2 hours

Gurgaon to Noida: Are you kidding?

Gurgaon to West Delhi: Forget it. Go back to office and sleep in.

The Delhi government has instituted an enquiry into this mess, to be completed speedily, and we are looking with anticipation to the findings. No doubt the responsible person or 'party' , as such anonymous people are known in Delhi, will be brought to light, and punished for their inaction , or action ( like taking bribes from the contractor). It will be a long and thorough investigation, with many witnesses, and files ensconced in their shelves brought out to the eagle eyed committee members. After many deadline extensions, a thousand page report with innumerable Annexures will be finally revealed to the public, and the guilty will be given their dues, but only after they have challenged the report with the 'competent authority', which may take a few years. In this long drawn process a few relevant files may go missing or a few key witnesses may die, but fear not Denizens of Delhi. Justice will ultimately prevail.

In the meantime, do get that car repaired for the next monsoon cross country rally from CP to South X1.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tough as Silicon

( I was advised – read told- to write a review for this show by the Home Office)

Our very own Rakhee Sawant has her own show. And it is stunningly bold, refreshingly in your face talk show, with a female host for a change. Rakhee’s boldness always did extend to her dresses, which she has retained, and added on a confidence which belies her unsophisticated nature. Getting Aamir Khan, a notoriously reclusive actor, on her show was a victory of sorts. Her questions were uncomfortably ingenuous and Aamir was wriggling. Rakhee apparently preferred Aamir’s first wife to his second, and had no qualms saying it. Way to go girl!

Rakhee’s sense of timing did her good in the reality show “Big Brother”, and her career as a female comedian seemed to be on track. But she abandoned that road to go back to her item girl ways in a reality dance show, which she had to walk out of. One wonders what has happened to the police case which she registered claiming criminal conspiracy. Or what happened to her charges of sexual harassment when another two bit pop star kissed her “on the LIPS”. Does it make a difference if your lips are harassed instead of some other body part? From what I remember of that drama, it did matter to Rakhee. Anyway, here is wishing her the best in her new career, and may her assisted looks never fade.

Odds and Ends

Searching at for “You are Here”, the book by The Compulsive Confessor, threw up some interesting titles:

a) You are great
b) You are the answer
c) Where are you now
d) Where to get from where you are to where you want to be
e) Who are you?
f) Remember who you are
g) Who do you think you are?
h) Wish you were here
i) Wish you weren’t here

The book was out of print at the website.

Delhi Chronicles

In Harm’s Way

The Delhi-wallahas are notorious as drivers, and more so as violent dysfunctional citizens. One cannot be sure that the guy in the next car, hunched over the steering wheel, is a harmless person going to work. The odds that he is a gun-toting psychopath, given to sudden fits of rage, are not negligible. Incidents of road rage from, otherwise mild mannered men, is on the rise. One keeps on reading about people killed in minor altercations involving something as small as a fender bender. The streets of Delhi are bursting with people who combust spontaneously at the slightest provocation, and pull out a gun or a knife. Sometimes the innocent bystander becomes the casuality, as the bullet finds an unintended target. The number of these are not home grown miscreants. Looks like the criminals from the neighbouring states spend an inordinate time in Delhi, plotting crimes of violence, and whenever they get involved in a road incident, they instinctively pull out a weapon. Even good natured people seem to be affected by this. A collegue, protesting when his car was touched from behind while waiting to pick up his kids, was attacked viscously and pummelled to the ground. Fortunately, the attacker, presumably another parent, did not carry a weapon. One wonders if the school is right for the kids. Maybe it is. The art of street survival may be an unintended benefit of the schooling.

A word of advice for all drivers in Delhi: No arguing on the streets of Delhi. Go home, and claim that insurance.

Seen written on a blue line bus: Jat in Tension.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Strains of India

The Teacher by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

This short story appeared in the New Yorker recently, and caught my eye. Not only because Ruth is from New Delhi; she lived next door to my aunt on Flag Staff road. As kids we viewed that house with a bit of awe, which was reinforced when, as teenagers, we saw the movie, A Room with a View.

The story is tightly woven around, unpredictably, a person of Indian origin, an enigmatic Dr. Chacko. He seems to epitomise the multifaceted gurus who haunt the western world with promises of spiritual up-liftment, and to a middle class Indian mind is a well known evil. Some of what he and his disciples do and say in the story is unsprising; over reacting to the preaching, an illusion of attaining moksha, and congregations which are covertly money spinners. The interaction with the narrator is complicated though. She provides a place for Chacko to stay, while his dedicated followers provide the breakfast. The relationship with the narrator gets quite intricate, and one keeps on waiting for a misdemeanour to occur. It occurs, but unexpectedly is one which is classified under section 420 of the Indian penal code. Looks like Ruth has been unable to shrug off her stay in India.

There are shades of prurience in some passages, with a tinge of D.H. Lawrence as one reads:

During these warm months, my evening walks sometimes took me as far as the waterfall at the edge of my property. The precipitous climb to the rock from which it fell was no longer easy for me, but I enjoyed the solitude there, the moss-covered stones, the trees bending toward the arc of the water. One day I saw a figure within that arc, sheathed in its iridescence and turning in its spray: it was Dr. Chacko, naked and singing as he soaped himself. His towel and a pair of rubber flip-flops lay on a rocky edge far enough away not to get away.

The development of the relationship with the narrator takes on layers of development which slowly unpeel at a leisurely pace. Ruth’s sensitivity to this aspect is well recognised, and was evident in A Room with a View and Heat and Dust. Although one is left a bit bewildered at the end. What exactly did Dr. Chacko leave behind in his legacy?

Odds and Ends

The Man Booker long list was unveiled this week, and notable authors from the sub-continent are highlighted below:

Aravind Adiga : The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold : Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry : The Secret Scripture
John Berger : From A to X
Michelle de Kretser : The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh: Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant : The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif: A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Philip Hensher: The Northern Clemency
Joseph O’Neil: Netherland
Salman Rushdie: The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith: Child 44
Steve Toltz: A Fraction of the Whole

One of the judges is Hardeep Singh Kohli, a very English name, a TV and Radio broadcaster.

Delhi Chronicles

It’s yesterday once again

I was stuck in the car yesterday, negotiating a tiresome traffic jam, and had to listen to my driver’s favourite program, the cricket commentary,. The English commentator was salivating and slurping after each ball, and it was painful to listen in. Which reminded me of my school days, when listening to commentary on a hand held radio, while standing on the DTC bus footboard and leaning out to feel the breeze in your 70’s style Rajesh Khanna hair style was the in thing to do. The question “Bhaisahib score kya hai” – “What is the score” ( Bhaisahib is untranslatable, only a Delhi-wallah can capture the essence of this form of address) casually flung at anybody with the contraption stuck to his ear invariably got a reply. The tone of the reply told you the state of the match. An excited reply was rare, and a languid answer was what one got most of the time. Those were the times of the full full five days of test cricket, with a rest day thrown in. India’s score lines were invariably less than today’s T20 matches. The TV sets were rare, and that too in black and white. In fact, the TV commentators were so popular that Dad used to lower the volume on the TV, and the voice over came from the radio, strategically placed on top of the TV. Looking back, this probably gives the best bang for your buck, as we had to pay for the TV and the Radio license! The sight of the giant Tony Grieg standing menacingly close to the batsman still sends shivers down the backs of many old timers.

Aside: Britons still have to pay for a TV license. You poor sods!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bit of this and that

OK, we have our own Nigella. Anjum Anand , our desi Nigella, is more beautiful and attractive than the original. She is doing a show on Travel and Living called “Indian Cooking Made Easy”. That, I think, is fallacious; there is no such thing as easy Indian Cooking. I have personally struggled with rustling up basic rajma chaval when on assignments. Now if I had Anjum to instruct me, that could have made a difference. The funny thing is that my wife is an avid follower of Nigella and Anjum. One would have thought that good looking women who know how to cook, would find it very easy to make enemies in the camp of the fairer sex . Somehow, this basic theory of survival of the fittest turns on its heads in this case. I think the TV makes them seem much less threatening.

Odds and Ends

The love of the British for bureaucracy gives us these interesting statistics:

Return of Killed, Wounded and Missing of the Delhi Field Force, from the commencement of the Operations in the neighbourhood of Delhi, on 30th May 1857 up to the capture of the city on the 20th September.

Killed 1012
Wounded 2795
Missing 29
Total 3837

We are also informed that 139 horses were killed, while 186 were wounded and 53 missing.

Photo Credit:

Delhi Chronicles

TV Dinners

Rajat Kapoor hosted a TV show, The Lounge, on NDTV Good Times. What is an actor doing hosting a show on books, and that too on Indian fiction? And his discomfort showed, as he struggled to get the myriad generation-spanning authors to open up. Worse, some of the guests wanted to take over his role, and it was not a pretty sight. Anil Dharker, who was blatantly selling his book, Icons ( a non-fiction book), recommended Salman Rushdie, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, Jhumpa Lahiri et al. Which begs the questions; how do you define or label an Indian writer? All the writers listed by Anil, to my mind, are not Indian fiction writers. Sure, they are of Indian origin, and have Indian oriented plots, but does that classify them as Indian writers? I am not too sure. William Darymple seems to me more an Indian writer than a Scottish one. I find it extremely difficult to connect with Jhumpa Lahiri on her musings of Indian immigrants to US of A.

As if he did not have enough difficulties in handling one guest, Rajat went in for a second one- Karan Bajaj, the author of “Keep of the Grass”, who seemed much more refreshing. He is ( or was) a management consultant, and it showed in his language; black box, light at the end of the tuneel, anti-intellucitiasm- phrases which seemed straight out of the meeting room 9D1 at Boston Consulting Group. With Chetan Bhagat’s juvenile success every MBA hot shot thinks he can write a book, and get it published. Well, maybe he can. But I am not spending my money on it.

And finally to top it all was the diva of the evening, the blogger of “The Compulsive Confessor”. Here was an author who did not seem to have ulterior motives. She writes for the love of it, and doesn’t care a damn if anybody reads it. Somehow Anil found this difficult to swallow. Who reads blogs which are not crafted, he whined. Well, if Anil surfed her blog, I think the answer is pretty obvious; the counter reads 862,437. Of course, Rajat had to have the last word, and his inane question- What books do you read, was again a cinch; visit the website and look up the “Library Thing” side bar chum. And next time do try to read a bit more on the guests you invite.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ladies Special

It was with sense of anticipation I picked up “The Gathering” by Anne Enright; after all it had been some time since I a read a Booker prize winner. The prize is now intriguingly called the Man Booker, and I have never wondered what the Man is all about. It is a long time since I read a serious novel written by a woman; J.K. Rowling does not count. And it was a shocker. The sheer guts and boldness of the writing reverberates harshly, specially when she inspects marriage and intimacy. At other times a soft and insightful look at life and relationships did keep me engrossed.

He moved across the room to take a look and there was a solidity to him as he bent over the next generation, checking, in a proprietorial way, eyes, fingers, toes, the tiny pores on her nose plugged with yellow stuff that made me panic already about blackheads when she was grown up

It is an obvious story of Ireland in a time and place I will never connect to, so I was surprised that I managed to stay with the book. I am notorious for letting a book go midway. A strong sense of dysfunctional relationships engulfs the storyline, which leaves one agape at the profligacy of births, broken alliances, new liaisons and constant sense of imminent loss. Hidden between the lines is a social and political message, and that does come across more subtly.

My sense of foreboding continued during the week, as I listened to the Guardian Books podcast of Lorrie Moore reading her short story- “Paper Losses”. A woman’s view of a marriage breaking up did little to cheer me up on my walk. A catalogue of accusations by the protagonist leads to a conclusion which is not surprising, and the events are predictable. Although less visceral than “The Gathering”, it shares a pessimistic view of the marital state of affairs.

Is this the bleak future of our most important relationship? A newspaper item informs us that most babies in UK are born out of wedlock. Single parenting is the norm rather than the exception there. And we want to emulate the west? Are we sure? Looks like a materialistic lifestyle seems to have consequences in unexpected places. Although, I am not sure that there is a link between acquisitive habits and discordant matrimony. What do you think?
Photo credit

Odds and Ends

Ritu Dalmia launched her book and TV show “Italian Khana” this week. The book is very expensive and I figured I could pay for a decent Italian meal for the price. So I saw the TV show instead, and found the whole thing very esoteric. I love Italian food and Italy and Ritu Dalmia. The show did bring back some very pleasant memories of Venice, even though I was there for only a day. Ritu showed some very complicated Italian dishes, and some very nice Italians, but I found it very difficult to connect, and was not inspired to go cook immediately. I hope that I find the book more readable; when the price drops, I can buy it. I do want to try something else besides pasta and pizza.

Delhi Chronicles

Sense and Sensitivity

While I was on a mission driving sensitivity into people, somebody did say that we seem to be hugely insensitive to women. A north Indian specialty this goes well with denying girls their right, including female foeticide. The unwanted girl is built in the social psyche mostly driven by feudal economics. The girl will need to be married off, and the entire expenditure has to be borne by the parents. And the marriage expenses are not insubstantial. Then it comes down to some very selfish requirements of being looked after in the old age. The boy is expected to do that. There is some religious background too, which dictates that the funeral pyre of the father must be lit by a boy. Apparently the property of the parents can be inherited by boys only. So, with a hugely patriarchal society it is no wonder that the girl is a much neglected person in our society. I also found some residue of this inequality in a different culture. In the book “The Gathering”, the man’s money is considered more important than the woman’s.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

This feels good!

Sharing an iPod

This may sound silly-but-I share an iPod with my daughter. I thought this was a cool idea. I mean, a totally in person like me, could and would enjoy a teenager’s music, and probably influence her with my good taste in Eagles, Bob Dylan and Beatles. How wrong was I! For starters I did not anticipate the sheer volume of junk which a 30 GB ( I know- nowadays this is meager, but at the time I bought the iPod, this was awesome) classic model ( a term which straightway dooms the gadget to extinction) iPod is capable of storing. I also underestimated my daughter’s capacity to hear crap, and her ability to identify and lightening download the latest Bollywood and Western pop music. Her indiscriminate taste in un-adulterated noise is incredible. So the iPod gets loaded day after day with hideous music, which it swallows with gigabyte ease and spews it out just when I am in the mood to listen to jazz. Then there is this delicate matter of “my iPod time”. I don’t kid myself; there is no way my preferences are more important than her imperative need to listen to that song now. I mean now! It can’t wait till I get back from my daily half hour walk. THE walk is incredibly boring, and the iPod does help forget the tediousness, provided I take care of a few essentials; Never have my iPod on shuffle. That way I cannot be taken unawares and blasted off my feet with the latest song by a demented rocker; Choose my album to listen well in advance. With the multitude of songs, most of them labeled “unknown artist”, it takes quite a while to locate the one I want for today’s walk. And there is nothing more pathetic than a middle aged person dressed up for THE walk in neat shorts and new Reebok shoes, struggling with the gadget with very visible white shoestrings coming out of his ears. But it looks like we have reached an unholy truce. I have learnt to keep out of her folders, while she has become quite an expert in avoiding the old man’s songs. Incredibly, once in a while, we do come together to appreciate Unknown Artist’s “Had a Bad Day”.

Odds and ends

Interesting data from the book “”Delhi Past and Present”by H.C. Fanshawe; First published London 1902; Page 9 gives the population of Delhi according to census of 1901:

Total ………..….208,000

Delhi Chronicles

Ode to the sparrow.

My mother once complained that the birds on the tree outside our house made a ruckus in the morning and woke her up early. Over time the birds have fallen silent as the city grew. Our house is now surrounded by tall buildings, and some crows have taken over the neem tree. The small ubiquitous sparrow, who used to trouble my grandmother when she sunned the wheat in the open has disappeared. As kids we used to chase the sparrows , and sometimes caught one; only to let it go after holding it and feeling her heart thud; a fragile creature indeed. On googling about the sparrow I realized that this is a global phenomenon. The sparrows have disappeared from the urban centers. Man’s footprint is visible in yet another appalling and sinister manner. It looks like there are other concerned bloggers on this topic too. Nita has addressed this in much more detail than I could. Other haphazard trails led me to the Delhi Bird website, where images and cataloging of birds may be useful to a novice.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Keeping them up

The summer of 08

The summer this year really disappointed some, although most of us were thrilled. The coolest June since 1901; Rainfall was above average at 95.5 mm; the days which did not rain were cloudy, keeping the temperatures low- went the newspapers. So, what is the problem? Apparently Delhi-wallah’s like their sun, and when they don’t get it, they become nostalgic. The bit of sunshine on Thursday left most gasping for breath, but some loved the opportunity to sunbath. I, for one, am longing for the rains everyday.

Weighty matters

Now there are people who are for it, and those who are against it. There are things to be said for either side, so it is a thorny issue on which side you choose. It is easy to be labeled a traitor. And there are very compelling arguments from either side. The common stand taken by each side is: the world as we know it will end. These are subjects of deep thought and careful considerations. A wrong step and all is finished. The consequences will be with us for generations:

The above paragraph can be written for a) New Transport System for the City b) Buying a New Property c) Choosing a School for your Child d) The N-Deal

Pick one.

Delhi Chronicles

Making Achar ( Mango Pickle) in Delhi

I think the Indian equivalent of baking a cake is making Achar. The women in the household deny this vehemently, but I can sense the quiet enthusiasm when achar is being mixed in the house. Apparently women also like making Achar for all and sundry. Instead of making this yourself, go praise the neighbourhood cook, and she will be more than glad to make it for you. Below is the receipe for making Acahar. Be warned that the success rate for making achar is not 100%; some women, much to their dismay, cannot make Achar. Inexplicably, the Achar does not set. This will lead to much glee amongst her relatives, and can be cause of disparagement.

When the mango season is on its last legs, buy one kg of raw mangoes and cut into small pieces. Dry these under the sun or fan for two days to dehydrate till the skin is desiccated. For one kg mangoes take less than 200 gms of salt, 30 gm mota saunf, 30 gms metha, 3 spoons of haldi and two spoons of chilly powder. Heat the sarson oil a little bit, and let it cool; mix everything, masalas coming first. Put it in the jar and close the jar tightly. Shake the jar once a day for three or four days. When the oil level drops in the jar, and the ingredients get a lttle dry, add a little more oil so that the contents are well soaked. Do not skimp on the oil. Keep the jar covered for 7-8 days, shaking it once a while. Taste to ensure the mangoes are soft and edible. Use only a wooden spoon to serve contents.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

And new ones

Leopard’s spots

I was watching the second one day international between West Indies and Australia, and was disgusted by Mr. Ponting; once again. A caught behind appeal was rejected, and Mr. Ponting showed his displeasure in his usual infantile manner. The umpire was officiating in his first one day international, and to his immense credit, was not overawed by the Australian captain. Mr. Ponting’s visible contempt for anybody disagreeing with him is condemnable. He is back to his old habits, and leaves us dismayed at his consistency to belittle opponents, officials and everybody who he can threaten. Kumble was correct; when Mr. Ponting plays the game there is one person less playing in the spirit of the game.

Oil’s not well

I was watching a programme called “crude realities” on CNBC with a bit of curiosity, not the least because I am involved in this field. A commodity trader, of Indian origin, was being interviewed, and I was fascinated by his greed, concealed by a thin veneer of sophistication. The supply not keeping up with the demand was the reason mooted by this ’expert’, a fact well known in the oil and gas industry for at least five years. I guess a number of other people would have known this a long time ago, but the well kept secret of the Middle East countries, did not come out easily. Anyway, take it from me, oil above $100/ bbl is a fact we will have to live with in the foreseeable future ( 5-10 years). After that who knows!

Digesting the digested

It was with nostalgia I read the Guardian Review’s digested read- The Great Gatsby. I read the electronic version of this novel in office, trying to pass time, when business was down. So, getting paid for doing nothing was nice, but it did not last long. Reading the book then felt different than now. But I was reading a much shortened version, and obviously the mystery of the storyline was missing. The conclusion was as much as a stunner thenn as it was now, and parallel;s between 1920’s America and present New Delhi is a bit of shock. The sheer superficiality of society’s rich and famous is stunningly similar.

Are war drums beating?

Did you read that Israel carried out a dry run of an air strike, apparently against Iran’s nuclear facilities? I am amazed that such sensitive information could leak out. Has anybody in India ever heard of a similar exercise carried out by the Indian forces? This information was leaked out, and not surprisingly, oil price peaked at $140. I don’t believe it is possible for Israel to carry out such an attack easily and without penalizing recuperations. So what is happening? I could spin out a few conspiracy theories, but who cares. They might all be true.

Old Promises

14 January 2008,

On anonymity

I have decided to keep this blog anonymous, and have sought support from all unknown quarters to justify this decision. Watching Barkha Dutt rail against anonymous blogers spreading vicious rumours on her Sunday circus did get my attention. And so did the Guardian Review main article; a review of the book “Anonymity” by John Mullan. Interestingly the review mentions that writers like Lewis Carol, Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott published anonymously; so why can’t we? Some other advantages may also come by; revealing closely guarded secrets would be easier. Of course, it is not impossible to track down a person in today’s wired world, but who would want to spend time and effort in trying to nail down a poor blogger? Hoping it stays that way!

Recalling China

Everyday I hear a new horror story emanating from products made in China. The decibel level is not too loud in India, but the developed nations have just about had it. Apart from toys containing lead paint, dangerous products include toothpaste containing a carcinogen ( Ethylene Glycol- the coolant in your car; which degenerate mind would put coolant in a toothpaste?) and artificial knees ( containing too much Iron). I wonder what else is happening in the Indian market with its notoriously lackadaisical regulations. Hey, tell you what: for starters let us stop buying anything made in China. Hope this does not put a spanner in the PM’s trip.

Desperately seeking Green

With green being the colour of the year, it is with interest I read about General Motors buying a stake in a start up - Coskata. Apparently, Coskata has discovered a process to make Ethanol out of waste by Gasification and bacterial action. Well, good for them; but what made this interesting was a) a car maker is now trying to make fuel. It is like GM and ExxonMobil joining hands. One can just see the birth of an ultimate Big Brother company and b) Vinod Khosla, the ubiquitous rich Indian American which every NRI hopes to become, has invested in this. Now what is a silicon valley die-hard doing in a dirty, sleeves rolled up company? I smell something- dal me kuch kala hai. Or hara hai?


I had heard that the British Library had put up images online form their archives, and on exploring the site it was a delight to see decent quality images ( photos, paintings and maps) available online. I searched for images from India and 21 pages spewed out. On casual browsing I was impressed by these.