I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Every morning...

... there's the city pouring in from the windows.

Mostly there is noise and bright light. There would have been smoke if the window was open.

Sometimes though, through half-closed eyes, I do see silver.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Quiz in Bangalore

D and I are doing a KQA quiz on March 12, in Bangalore. Please attend. Finally, we could come up with a stage 2 connect yesterday. Feeling quite good about it.

Putting a quiz together over months (like we did here) is quite a pleasure and quite a pain. Sometimes, when I go over the 100-odd questions that we have made, I can see terrible flaws. Sometimes, they seem perfect for 'working out'*. Sometimes, they seem vague. Sometimes, they seem extremely interesting.

How does one get an objective view on this? My questions are based on things I know, fundaes I have researched. How do I find that inflexion point, where the facts will make the question interesting but not obvious? It's a struggle.

* for the uninitiated and Derek, quizzes are not supposed to be tests of knowledge but tests of problem-solving.


The distributors have decided to dump all the Oscar Nominees on us to cash in on the Oscar week, and thus, I finally got to see Crash. It's a movie that strangely enough has sparked divergent reviews in office.

One group of people say that they couldn't see the point.
"You can be good also, you can be bad also... you can get hurt also, you can survive also...", said A today.

I agree a little bit with them. Some of the episodes in the movie were given too little time or attention - Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser were pretty much wasted*. So, were the Chinese couple**. Thus, at times, it is difficult to explain the character's actions.

However I agree more with Roger Ebert who says, "I make this sound almost like episodic TV, but Haggis writes with such directness and such a good ear for everyday speech that the characters seem real and plausible after only a few words." Was true for most of the characters.

WARNING: Spoiler follows
The movie was worth watching for me for two things:
1) Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe, with searing portraits of the bad cop and good cop. While most have lauded Matt Dillon for the contrast that he shows between scenes - effectively switching between tenderness and avarice, the haunting memory is Ryan Phillippe walking away from his car, which he burnt. He had just killed someone because he perceived a threat, when there was none. One of the two people who appear in 'white' through the movie (the other is the locksmith), finally ends up killing another. And he doesn't even report it to the Police.
2) The episode of the Iranian shopkeeper and the locksmith's daughter. The shopkeeper tells his daughter, "Today I shot at a little girl, but nothing happened.... she was a farishta", after he comes back from his mission. The girl in question had ran out to save her father, who didn't have the 'magic cloak' to save him. Really beautifully done.

All in all, this week's started well. Hopefully, Capote and Memories of a Geisha will live upto the promise.

* except for the scene where right after he wants her to keep quiet and not be a racist about the locksmith, he comes up with a solution of awarding a black policeman to escape the controversy of his carjacking. "Why did they have to be black?" says the District Attorney, about his carjackers.
** though I couldn't help but smile when the man asks his wife to encash the cheque.

Crash" rel="tag">

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I have seen everything moment just happened to me.

If you come toooo-day .... it's too early.
If you come tomorrow .... it's too late.
You pick the tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii... mmmmmmmmmmmmeeeee.
Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick....

If you say morning, no, no, it's not good....
If you sayyyyyy evening, no, no, it's too bad....
If you sayyyy noooon, no, no, it's not the time...

All I can say is thanks, K, for sending this to me. I owe you big-time. In case you have javascript and flash, you can see the video here on my blog itself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I am feeling uneasy since the time I saw "Time for Hindus to protest".

Generally, I disregard such statements from various blogs and people. Because most of them are either from punks, who anyway have no clue. Or they are part of some obviously political group, which don't deserve our notice.

However, Sambhar Mafia is generally a thoughtful blog. Most of the times, it raises pertinent issues (be it on business or on a particular Indian state). Here however, the author is getting down to suggesting that the Hindus should start using 'Shiv Sena' type protests. Without much thought, I am assuming. It made me feel uneasy.

Then, following the comments on that same post, I happened to chance upon a ton of misinformed, unresearched comments and posts. About Hussain and his 'outrageous' paintings. I thought this particular issue would have died in the 1990s with the dastardly attack on Hussain's home and Husain-Doshi gufa. All part of an organised campaign, a predatory pursuit of power.

The outrage then, was based partly on a book written by Praful Goradia. A painting merely illustrating a scenario from Ramayan was turned around and interpreted in a silly and obnoxious manner. Other paintings also were given illogical meanings. The writer(s) clearly didn't understand art (not that I claim to do it myself!). Hence, he made tremendous leaps of faith. It would have been hilarious, if not so sinister. Needless controversy and propaganda was generated for a while. Frontline captures it well. Hussain apologised and the lumpen elements moved on to other issues - Gujarat, for one.

Now, the forces have risen again. The bait was obviously provided by the cartoons. How can Islam take away all the news-space with Hindus watching in silence?

That's the clear motivation behind Hindu Law Board promising 51 crore to "Anyone who kills Hussain for making obscene paintings of goddess Sarswati and Bharat Mata, the Danish cartoonist, those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper and the French filmmaker desecrating Lord Shiva". (Talk about a laundry list!)

If only these organisations, who represent millions of Hindus would go back and read their own stories. But why should they? That wouldn't give them column inches. That's what this is about after all. Not spontaneous outbursts for sure. Not really concerned with religious sentiments or facts. Only designed to get more column inches in newspapers and websites.

This doesn't make me feel uneasy, though. I do not expect any better from such organisations. What makes me feel uneasy is how many individuals with no apparent interest or clear reward from propaganda are falling in line. Refusing to learn, refusing to think through, refusing to read. I can't explain that yet.

P.S. By the way, what I feel about the whole religious sentiments vs. freedom of speech issue has been captured by India Uncut and various other people, so I won't repeat them. Except that saying that Mick Foley is God and I have taken out a fatwa on Time Magazine for not making him Man of the Year. I will give Rs. 11 to anyone who can chop off the phone number of Time Magazine's editors from all telephone directories across USA.


is playing rugby. I counted two handballs (Geremi and Terry) and multiple tackles.

Though, with the opportunities that Barcelona is getting, they should blame themselves if they don't win 3-1.

Update: Maverick has an update.

Ginger Lemon

This drink can cure gastric, cough and indigestion. It is appetising, refreshing, ayurvedic and cool. It is available for Rs. 10. It comes in a glass with a little bit of head. Straw comes free.

Now, if only did it not have ginger in it.

I am happy

"There are only two chemists ever in the world whose first name and last name end with the same letter"
Derek had just let loose another one his bathroom questions* on us. The quizzers in the room responded with two different written answers - John Dalton and Humphry Davy. Both were obviously correct.

Derek was obviously unruffled. Said, "Yes, that was a googly, there are actually two chemists and not one. But marks will be given even if you have only written one."

If you think about it, there are others which fit in here - Marie Curie and her husband. Viktor Meyer. Deepak Basak (my neighbour who teaches chemistry). Sai Krishamurthi, (lab assistant in school).....

In any case, who needs facts when one has confidence?

Now, I hear he has bigger plans. "We want to enter those markets in US, Asia and Africa where the Indian diaspora is strong for making knowledge interesting and helping people and brand grow," said he.

In a way, I am happy. The more number of quizzes he does in US and Africa, the less number of quizzes he will do in India. In fact, if you account for the long hours of travel, the number of quizzes done by Derek itself will go down.

* Bathroom questions are ones which don't need any research or much thought. It is generally the first thing that comes to your mind, when you are going through with morning ablutions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Airport Lounge on the way to Dubai

The perfume would have reached me first

if it wasn’t for the realization that

a couple of noses had

come in through the door.

Noses raised above the pedestals clad

in the latest chiffons.

I knew that today the lounge wouldn’t

offer me the cocoon I knew.

There was a possibility that I would react

throw up inside and implode.

Yellow fields

covered by green daisies

spread out over an ample stomach

held up by promises of diet cokes

and sugar frees.

Brown paisleys on black,

“coming up in a big way in our country”.

Did she know that she is part of this?

Soon, the phone rings

out the latest ringtone

she hesitates, deliberately guffaws.


with her feigned embarrassment


with a careful tilt,

she picks up the phone.

“Jai Mata Di”

The other one watches, in silent

outrage, decides to take

matters into her own hand.

Phone into her small hand.

“Order ka kya hua, Salim bhai?”

Would “the maid is not coming today?” win

over “six blouses in pink, and half a dozen in green.”

Neither of which I have seen

Forced to hear the niceties, she doesn’t mean.

I take out my hands from my pockets

unzip the bag

and take out my laptop.

Need to write now.

She smiles at the young man

furiously typing in the last comment.

(How Indians have come up in the world)

“Oye Puttar, jai mata di”

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mohun Bagan AC - The National Club of India

Check out the Mohun Bagan AC - The National Club of India website. Especially the trips down memory lane and the 'ladies' section.

I like the "Only 7 men are enough to beat you natives" comment made by the Dalhousie Club dude. At the end of the match, even 11 were not good enough as they lost 6-1!!

Also in the ladies section, do read the food habits column. Haven't read something as earnest and funny in a long long time!!

"After a big win, in 1985-86, I can't remember properly, I saw my father was having worm rasogollas with friends, and they are having a bet on that. I remember that incident, because the next day, my father was admitted to the hospital after eating 73 rosogollas."

Bhaalo!! Bhaalo!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Veg, Non-Veg??

Bird Flu has affected Indian (not IA anymore) which has started serving only veg food. I would have used the excuse as a perfect opportunity to bring in some variety in non-vegetarian (lamb, fish, praws anyone?). But, no Indian chickened-out. (excuse me :-))

And hence, now the air hostesses don't ask the famous question "Veg, Non-veg?", anymore. Which is good in a way -

Jiggy was once travelling in Indian Airlines, when this air-hostess (matron, said Jiggy) asked him the famous question.
"Sir, Veg or Non-Veg?"

Bear in mind, now that Jiggy's flight was delayed by 3 hours. It was 12:30 am and Jiggy would have slept, if only he wasn't hungry.

"Non-veg, please", said Jiggy, in his politest possible manner.
"Sorry sir, we only have veg", said the matron.

Those of us who know Jiggy know that IA and the matron haven't heard the last of it, since.

Update: Various other places, including Jet Airways, Railways and my office has stopped serving chicken. I am okay, as long as they will substitute it with edible stuff (meat, fish or seafood).


So, there's this guy somewhere, Shravan, who has decided to rant on the net. On MBAs. So, it would have been, if only Falstaff hadn't decided to make this an example of how people, with or without ponytails, rant about how MBAs don't contribute to society (you will have to go past the NY times bit on the post)

Poor Shravan, who should know better, decided to defend his sob story. When he couldn't and was found out, decided to ask for a public apology!!

Falstaff has written all that I had to say on the issue itself, so I wouldn't go into any detail on the issue.

What is incredible though, is that Shravan thinks that he has made a difference to people's lives. "I hope others reading this post have benefitted just a wee bit too." says he, in one of his comments. Who I may ask?

Not 'prope//er' who either had wrong facts "Our PSUs are managed by morons and endup making losses by the thousands of crores." !! (Last I checked, out of the five companies with net profit greater than 1 billion, four were PSUs) or misplaced opinions "Private sector companies will always find people. It is the organizations in public sector that really need management skills." prope//er is sermonising himself

Not 'Murli' who has made all the choices that he has wanted to (kudos to him), and now is trying to make a difference in Shravan's life, just like a Prof. Wait, he's a Prof!

Not any others that I read... (I have been on his blog for long!!)

Why am I writing all this? I thought Falstaff had been truly harsh on this guy, who was just ranting. However, after reading Shravan's delusional posts and his comments, I take that back. In public. Just like he demanded.

Poor Piyush Chawla... (part 2)

... who bowled exceedingly well for 4 wickets in 8 overs. Having done that, he goes in for a shower. He has a lovely cold shower, comes out and looks at the score.

He might have well have stayed in the shower. Or not, since now after dinner break, he will have to bat out of his skin to get India through.

I think he will.

Update: He tried.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I am reading 'On Boxing', by Joyce Carol Oates. I did not know that she is a boxing fan.

It's a nice enough mosaic. Has some trivia in it. She describes the matches well.

However, she also says that life is like boxing, but boxing is like nothing else, but boxing. She gives on to give 2-3 reasons, like 1) Boxing is a sport where the fighter is told to overcome his instinct of survival (fleeing is not an option) which is not natural, 2)Boxing is not a sport, as you don't play boxing....

How about gladiators? Or how about the love affair between Philip and Mildred, in Of Human Bondage? I am sure there are many others like that, no?

P.S. While at the site, check out the amazingly wordy indictment of Mike Tyson. Where in the end, she suggests that only he is to blame for the rape (not the celebrity culture which flings athletes out of obscurity, not selfish promoters, not the indulgence granted to start athletes....). Too simplistic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cricinfo - Dravid chooses to chase again

Cricinfo - Dravid chooses to chase again: "India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rahul Dravid (capt), 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mohammad Kaif, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Suresh Raina, 9 Ajit Agarkar, 10 S Sreesanth, 11 Rudra Pratap Singh. Supersub: Zaheer Khan."

So, I can't understand this. If Dravid had decided that he will field first if he wins the toss, why keep Zaheer Khan as a Super-Sub? Don't tell me he was hedging his bets.

Btw, it's sad that ICC decided to scrap the supersub rule. All that was needed was a minor tinkering of the rule (choose Supersub after the toss), just like Ponting and others have been asking for.

Instead, ICC bowed to the traditionalists who have argued that cricket is a game to played by 11 players and wanted it scrapped because they couldn't understand it well. What was amazing was the position taken by Bob Woolmer, who last I checked wanted to use a hidden earpiece in a World Cup!! What is so sacrosant about 11 players? Football also introduced substitutions relatively late.

Why not try the modified supersub rule for a few months before giving up on it?

Everytime I think I will start...

... being kind to Engineers (!), I come up with things like the following 'joke'. I got this as a forward from someone who thought this was cool. I can't believe some people actually think in these terms, leave alone write about them.

Indian Gods Roles/Responsibilites (excerpts)
Brahma - Systems Installation
Vishnu - Systems Administration & Support
Shiva - DBA (Crash Specialist)
Narada - Data transfer
Apsaras - Downloadable Viruses
Devas - Mainframe Programmers
Surya - Solaris Administrator
Ravan - Internet Explorer WWW
Kumbhakarnan - Zombie Process
Hanuman - Linux
Vaali -M$ Windows
Sugreeva - DOS
Jatayu - Firewall
SDLC ( Sudarshan Wheel Development Life Cycle ) - Dharmaraj Yudhishthira
Microsoft product Written in VB - Karna
Contract programmer - Dhrutarashtra
Visual C++ - Gandhari
100 Kauravas - Microsoft Service Packs and patches

They are human, after all. Humans who leave me speechless sometimes.

Update: When I showed this post to a team-mate of mine (He, who hails from IIT), his first comment was that this is wrong -

Narada is not data transfer, but more like a Trojan. Yes, yes, we nod in unison.

Poor Piyush Chawla...

... who I praised as the next big thing here.

Today, he ended up being the worst Indian bowler on show. What a great leveller this game of cricket is.

Just ask the English team, which got flattened today.

Last Weekend

Monday and Tuesday weren't very good with a stomach virus. Because of this. Today is better.

I also bought a couple of good books, including the story of Whiskey. Which has an entire section on Indian single malts (Mohan's, McDowell's, Solan)!! More about that soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Ray Ban and Me...

Staring at the Lighthouse at Noon

It's been two years, two months and two days since we cooled the rock with our backs.
Jagged on the edges but smooth beneath us for long.
Not a word to disturb our peace,
Nor a movement to move us from tarrying the shadows from moving.
Backs pressed to the cold rock, cold beneath us.

It's been two hundred and twenty two letters since we looked at the open windows
casting umbra-ed shapes on alabaster walls
Not a ray screaming out of place
Nor a shimmer to startle us awake from the yarns we spun
Eyelids pressed together, moist beneath us.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

God is after all God
"Against a brilliant and challenging spell of quality seam bowling, Dravid looked absolutely lost during his 42-ball-22. Tendulkar on the other hand was supremely in command, displaying ample evidence of the magical touch which I surmised him as having regained a few days back."
(from Vantage Point)

February 13, 2006

Yuvraj and Dhoni clinch the win

"Unlike Dravid, who looked mostly lost against a magnificent spell of seam bowling, Tendulkar left with precision and displayed signs of his vintage best."

(From Cricinfo)

Coincidence? While I disagree with the premise of the first blog (Tendulkar's technique better than Dravid's*), what is amazing is that both writers have similar words and thought. When the maintream media has been quite active in writing 'inspired' pieces, bloggers have quickly pounced on them (here and here and here). Which is good. And I am not going to draw any conclusions here.

*Being a fan of Rahul Dravid, I believe an innings where you play and miss and offer a couple of chances is more Afridi than Gavaskar. So, while I am rejoicing that Tendulkar is finally contributing to the team, I don't think it's time yet to put his technique over Dravid's. Attacking technique yes. But playing through the worst of conditions (Headingley, 2002) is Dravid's forte. But more about that when I have time.

Knowledge, Understanding and Application

In the year 1998, the great Destiny-Controller happened to pick on English, the language of the tyrants.

"Those who has master it, deserve to be kicks to their gullets. Let us gave them lesser marks" might have said Mr. B.P. Khandelwal (great Destiny-Controller) also known as Chairman, CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education). Kicks he gave to a lot of us that year.

Hence, thousands of students were shocked (some pleasantly, I must say) to see their marks in English (Core).

A few of my friends and I, who had a record of never getting less than 90 in this language of tyrants, were given 66, 73, 74 and 78. I just about made the cut-off in the college that I wanted desperately to be in. Some of us like L in my class weren't as lucky and were seen to be sad for a few years after that.

We should have gone and met Khandelwal then. Another parent who did, writes:

"Khandelwal’s advice was that one must adopt a philosophical attitude towards mark assessments. He pointed out that even the great poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan’s father, was not awarded a first class in English by Allahabad University in his MA."

The Destiny-Controller is also a closet Wise-Philosopher.

Amongst other things, he is also the Great-Logician. Two of my influential batchmates (one of whom I met at college) managed to get through to him and got to see their papers. Both had lots of mistakes and they, feeling inappropriately indignant, told a reporter. The reporter got carried away with a false sense of justice and the dailies carried the news.

If only he had checked with the Great-Logician first. Quick to pounce upon such idiocy, the Great-Logician Wise-Philosopher Destiny-Controller, smiled and gave a comment for the ages.

"Only two papers have mistakes. Even the best systems make such mistakes"

I, ever foolhardy and curious, attempted to ask for a retotalling (recheck was out of the question, said the Board). In three months (much after the date on which any revision would be relevant) I got a letter back.
"No mistakes has been found" said It.
"Yes, you is correct", said I.

And so, history keeps on repeating itself year on year. Now, CBSE has taken the role of the Great-Oracle and the Comedian-Supreme. Since it knows the answers to all, it publishes a few of them on its web-site under the Sample Papers section. The papers reveal two things.

On one hand, the way a paper is set is amazingly well-thought through. It has for instance, in the Economics paper, neatly sub-divided the student's mental process into three parts. - 30% knowledge, 50% understanding and 20% application.

On the other hand, the answers to the questions are inspiring, humourous and deliciously ironic, while catering to the lowest common denominator. Let me illustrate.

Since the focus of English Core is on applied English, one section focuses on the important skills of note-taking and summary-writing. Check this question out:

"In the democratic countries, intelligence is still free to ask whatever question it chooses. This freedom, it is almost certain, will not survive another war. Educationists should, therefore, do all they can, while there is yet time, to build up, the men and women of the next generation who will otherwise be at the mercy of that skilful propagandist who contrives to seize the instruments of information and persuasion. Resistance to suggestion can be built up in two ways. First, children can be taught to rely on their own internal resources and not to depend on incessant stimulation from without. This is doubly important. Reliance on external stimulation is bad for the character. Moreover, such stimulation is the stuff with which propagandists bait their books, the jam in which dictators conceal their ideological pills. An individual who relies on external stimulations thereby exposes himself to the full force of whatever propaganda is being made in his neighborhood. For a majority of people in the West; purposeless reading, purposeless listening-in, purposeless listening to radios, purposeless looking at films have become addictions, psychological equivalents of alcoholism and morphinism....."
Q) On the basis of your reading of the above passage make notes on it using headings and sub-headings. Use recognizable abbreviations wherever
necessary. 5 Marks

Firstly, most students will become better individuals after reading such a carefully chosen passage. Thank God, some of my friends who I knew were out of school before developing a sense of outrage. The question also opens a few existential dilemmas. Especially the 'recognizable (by whom?) abbreviations wherever necessary (who will decide?)' part. As always the Comedian-Supreme Wise-Philosopher has the answers:

A) "Title - Developing Resistance to Suggestion
1. Resistance to suggestion can be built upon in two ways
(a) Childr. rely on themselves
(b) Not on external stimulatn.
(c) Ext. stimulatn.
(i) bad for character
(ii) propagandists use it
(iii) dictators use it
(iv) gets addictive
(v) dep. on spiritual help
2. How sh. childr. be taught to rely on themselves.
(a) self entertainment
(b) musical instruments
(c) scientific observation
3. Ed. not to take the line of least defence
(a) critically analyses
(b) react to suggestions right way - right time"

If you go past the lack of any structure, thought or linkages between sentences or indeed between points and sub-points, you will notice recognisable abbreviations -
'Sh.' instead of should, while other verbs do not get mangled. Stimulation shortened to 'Stimulatn.' to aid in quick note-taking, while suggestions and observation stay the same to aid in understanding.

Other applied English questions are similarly enlightening. Look, for instance at the answer key to the sale of old computer advertisement question.

Q) You want to sell off your old computer as you have purchased a new one. Draft an advertisement to be published in the Times of India under classified columns giving its details & the expected price. You are Shan of C5 Saket, New Delhi (word limit : 50)

A) "Sale of computer notice should have the following in content - Size of screen/monitor, RAM-floppy drive, UPS etc., Windows 98 or xp etc., Expected price (3 marks). "

Why these 5 characteristics should give 3 marks in an English paper is obviously self-evident to the Omnipotent-Encyclopedia. And to the 50-year old men and women who would be marking the transcripts for Rs. 6.50 each
If any particularly creative student would write hard-disk size or microprocessor speed instead, woe to him.

The literature questions and answers are also similarly easy to understand.
Q) What do you learn about Hardy’s views on war in the poem ‘The Man He Killed’?
A) "Hardy is saddened by / disapproves of war which forces people into regarding fellow human beings as enemies whom they would have befriended in other circumstances."

If on the other hand, any enthusiastic student will comment on the way in which people are ranged against each other in war rather choosing it themselves, or will comment on the lack of a patriotic motive or idealism amongst common soldiers, he will obviously get zero. Hardy might have tried to write a delicately nuanced poem. The Broad-Simplifier has ensured that it becomes a great leveller instead. Everyone therefore stands a chance in English Core. Except for some like my friends who were seen unhappy for a few years.

Here's an ode to the Great-Logician Wise-Philosopher Destiny-Controller Great-Oracle Comedian-Supreme Omnipotent-Encyclopedia Broad-Simplifier. You is really best than ourselves.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wired News: They Saved the Internet's Soul

Wired News: They Saved the Internet's Soul: "'Once you open the door to punishing people for what they say in any medium you immediately create a chill that makes a person ask themselves -- before they raise their pen or touch their keyboard -- 'Am I going to get in trouble?''"

We have to thank the activists who fought and the judges who tried to understand the medium before passing judgement. In those days, where blog was just a misspelling!

Senior leadership will be happy with this.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Saat Samundar...

... or Seven Seas cod liver oil.

I remember the fourth floor house in Shyambazaar, with the mild breeze blowing in from the Howrah Bridge. I used to spend summers there.

Besides memories of luchi for breakfast and pantua and ledikeni for 'tiffin', I also remember the old table, with the cod liver oil capsules in it.

Soft, rubbery, squeezy, gelatinous... Hint of golden warm taste (nothing like it, though, when I once broke it and tried a drop).

Along with Boroline, Nycil, Cuticura and Waterbury's Compound, it occupied pride of place on many Bengali tables. The house is no more. From what I hear, so is Waterbury's compound. Parke Davis used to make it, I remember. It was aquired by Pfizer. Unfortunately, I couldn't trace the drink on the Pfizer website. No idea where it is now.

However, Seven Seas is going strong.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

All's Well That Ends in ....

We knew that strange things will happen, when we went past the Gateway of India. This was Delhi, after all.

It was a late cool night in Delhi February. Not cool enough for us, though. We were the Reservoir Dogs. We went in.

Into the cabin, where our friend was staying. Since we were meeting after long, we exchanged a few pleasantries. We have to. My attempts at humour raised a few eyebrows though. Vodka always does. Especially, if it's a really old joke.

Having taken a few shots inside the cabin, we went out. No smoking, the sign said. How appropriate. If left to us, there will be no smoking. Music we can do with, though. Even after 11 pm.

That's when the noise hit us. We went out to investigate. Everything was as expected. Except for the briefcase. It was black and it was being welcomed in by the family. Making mental notes (and telling Mr. Big) about the briefcase, we moved in again.

That's when we met up with the clown. It was a disguise, of course. It was completely out of place amongst the family. Blonde wanted to kick it down. We took a shot instead.

"How many mushrooms can I take?" said Mr. Blonde.
"I have already taken twenty-three", said Mr. Big.
"I am sticking to the paneer"
That was me. I couldn't believe I said that. It's been a while since I have eaten paneer. I had no choice in the current place, No meat here. No quarter-pounder with cheese. No Big Mac. No problem. We had a job to do.

We went out into a wedding next door. Thousands of sardars were milling around the bar and the barbeque. Big was apprehensive. What if we get caught? But we had seen prey, sorry meat.
We went for the seekh kabab. All's well that ends in meat.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy...

....A restaurant like this one
Won't somebody help me chase the hunger pangs away!!

(Sung to the tune of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme)

I had a SUPERLATIVE lunch experience in Jimmy Boy.

It was a long time coming. I had been promising myself a visit to this restaurant for a year and a half now. But never found myself close enough to Horniman Circle, with enough of an appetite. Simultaneously (but not known to me), N had been promising himself and V that they would go out for a traditional Parsi meal to Jimmy Boy's. He also couldn't get around to it.

Today when N came and suggested lunch, I quickly suggested checking Busybee's site out. I know that some of the info is outdated, but I don't trust anyone else* on food in Bombay.

On the first page, we didn't find anything interesting. Onwards to second, where the first entry was Jimmy Boy. We had to do what we had to do. We went for lunch.

The old mustachioed uncle who discussed the order, had a decent informed conversation with us. No trying to small-talk on the weather or India's defeat yesterday. No unnecessary restlessness (like in Britannia). He stayed with us, helped us make up our mind and then went on with his world.

While I ordered a Jardaloo Sali Boti and a lagan nu custard, N decided to go the whole hog and had a Lagan Nu Bhonu (Patra Ni Machchi, Chicken Farcha, Mutton Biryani and Kulfi). The Lagan Nu Bhonu was huge, with me chipping in the end. As far as Jardaloo Sali Boti is concerned, I will ask my idol to comment:

"I mention next the jardaloo sali boti, which, I believe, is on the bhonu practically every night.

Jardaloo is apricot, or apricot is jardaloo, the dry one. It is used with meat to give it a sweet flavour, and I think this is an exclusive Parsi dish. Chef Damu Rohit, a native of Sanjan and a man who has spent many years working in Parsi kitchens, is responsible for the Parsi dishes at Jimmy Boy. He explained to me the process. The dry apricot is soaked in water for three to four hours, so it becomes plump and soft. The meat, which is small round pieces of boneless mutton (boti), is cooked in an onion and tomato gravy (some of the water in which the apricots were soaked is added to it) with appropriate masalas, plus sugar and toddy palm vinegar. The apricots are then added to it. The sali, potato strips (pommes alumettes), are served separately in a bowl. You pick them with your hand and put them on top of your jardaloo boti. Eat it all together, the meatiness of the meat, the sweetness of the apricot, and the saltiness of the fried potato strips. Also, experience the softness of the meat and apricots with the crispness of the chips. There will be a seed in the apricot. If you have got strong teeth, break the seed and eat the nut inside. The bhonu includes Parsi rotlis, wheat chapatis, soak them in the meaty gravy and eat.

It was great (though a little more mutton would have been nice) and the rotlis stayed soft till the end.

However, the best part was yet to come. Just check the pic out.

At the end of the meal, we could wash our hands into the bowl, with fresh warm water being poured by the server out of a jug. Such a refreshing change from the common finger bowl-lemon slice routine.

While a very small thing in itself and in no way a core offering, this was format execution at its brilliant best!

As consumer behaviourists will put it - a true point of differentiation. True Delight.

* It's not blind trust. Last year, when Gogo was in town, we had paya, kababs and the most amazing ice-cream experience in the world, thanks to Busybee. But that's a different story.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quiz @ Unmaad

Here's a great quiz that can be found online. Pity, the answers not out yet. A significant part of the questions are not google-able, unless much thought is put in.

3 years back, D, J and I had put together a similar quiz (or a series of quizzes - 4 of them). We were numb, tired and sleepy at 7:30 am in the morning... after a night out. However, the adrenalin which a four-stage connect quiz can bring, kept us going.

Also witness the sadness which a slashed budget can bring. 3 years back (yes, I know I sound like a grandfather now), D, J and I had sat together all night for 2 nights in a row, culling google for facts to beef up our fundae. This was pre-wiki days. At the end of it, we had a great quiz. But no prize money. Some sponsor had pulled out at the last moment and we were scrounging for the last rupee. Hence, Arul and Anusptup gracefully took a cut on the quizmaster's fee (for the India quiz). We gave up on the prize-money. Got...

...Live-in coupons for the first prize (total Rs. 1500). CDs for second and third prizes. Eclairs for the audience. Compare that to 15000, 12000, 9000 now.

There was no money, there was no audi (yes!), there were no plushy chairs, but yes, there was quizzing!!

Update: Answers will be out in 3-4 days. They are waiting for everyone to take a crack. Which means poor quiz-starved souls like me (no quizzing in Mumbai) should rush.

Toast to the 'fiscally and socially conservative' world, which says...

..."I know, how about a movie about two gay black Arabs who stumble upon a CIA plot to help Israel take control of the Temple Mount?"

The next blog to mine (one I pushed the next blog button located in top-right of the screen) was this 'fiscally and socially conservative' one. Amongst a lot of Islam-bashing, Chavez-ridiculing and various other tendencies, the blog argues that the Academy would have been better of giving away Oscars to the following movies, instead of the ones it chose:

10Mr. & Mrs. SmithFox$186,336,2793,451$50,342,8783,424


12The Longest YardPar.$158,119,4603,654$47,606,4803,634

13Fantastic FourFox$154,696,0803,619$56,061,5043,602

14Chicken LittleBV$133,559,4023,658$40,049,7783,654


16The PacifierBV$113,086,8683,181$30,552,6943,131

17Walk the LineFox$110,749,0003,160$22,347,3412,961

18The 40-Year-Old VirginUni.$109,449,2373,006$21,422,8152,845

This is an excerpt from the Top 100 US box-office grossers of 2005. Sorry, Maverick, no Crash.

Henceforth Oscars should be given to movies like The Longest Yard, or the 40-year old Virgin, which are not 'boring', do not have deep social themes, and yes, do not have any gay guys (unless they are being lampooned or ridiculed).

Then, we will rightfully relegate small movies* (which stay small, since nobody watches them) to their place.

Here's a toast to a fiscally and socially conservative world.

*Small movies nominated this year were: A movie about gay sheep herders; a movie about "the McCarthy era." (Wake me when its over); yet another movie about racism in America. (It was better with Sidney Poitier.); and another movie about a gay guy, this time a very troubled writer.

Next Big Thing

Although UP has AV Jayprakash to thank for their maiden Ranji triumph as he managed to get the scalps of Rohan Gavaskar and Manoj Tiwary, it should also give a big applause to Piyush Chawla. His crucial 5 wickets, including Laxmi Ratan Shukla who was 3-4 hits away from getting Bengal a first innings lead, delivered what AV Jayprakash promised.

According to me, Piyush should be in the Indian Test team now (is perhaps too profilgate for ODIs at the moment). Instead he's displaying his wares in the Under-19 World cup, where last I found out, he is bowling against tough oppositions like Namibia (3/28 in 10 overs).

My suggestion to the Indian board - prepare dust bowls for the England tour, like in 92-93, when Graham Gooch's team fell like ninepins, and get Chawla, Bhajji and Kumble on the Ashes winners. No need of tracks with something in it for everybody. No need for the last Nagpur Test. Let the ball spin like in the good old days.

It might not be all bad for the English though. Perhaps, that's the only way, we'll get to see Monty in action in a Test match.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


The other day, I found this poster outside my client site. And today, I googled it. What I found looks like a saga of exploitation - of people and of the law. It is also a saga of terrorism, international intrigue, the North-South divide, the Bolivian Navy, and the one person who knows anything about navies in Mongolia.

In short, the Flags of Convenience (FOC) system is one where ships of one country fly a flag of another.

Since maritime tradition follows the rule of the flag - the flag flown by a ship determines the source of law to be applied in admiralty cases, regardless of which court has personal jurisdiction over the parties, shipowners take advantage of lax labour laws/ lower taxes/ poor safety standards in the FOC countries and register their ships there. The problem's big.
"Today, approximately 562 oceangoing vessels in the U.S.-foreign trade are owned by U.S. companies flying a foreign flag and crewed by a plethora of foreign seamen, while only 147 fly the American flag and are crewed by American seamen"

To quote William Langewiesche's The Outlaw Sea (from Wiki):
"No one pretends that a ship comes from the home port painted on its stern, or that it has ever been anywhere near. Panama is the largest maritime nation on earth, followed by bloody Liberia, which hardly exists. No coastline is required either. There are ships that hail from La Paz, in landlocked Bolivia. There are ships that hail from the Mongolian desert. Moreover, the registries themselves are rarely based in the countries whose names they carry: Panama is considered to be an old-fashioned "flag" because its consulates handle the paperwork and collect the registration fees, but "Liberia" is run by a company in Virginia, "Cambodia" by another in South Korea, and the proud and independent "Bahamas" by a group in the City of London."

FOC not only leads to reduction in revenue for the countries which have fair labour laws and safety standards, it also creates substandard conditions for the workers (unpaid, unsafe, unprotected, undervalued) and are major cause of accidents (In 2001, 63 per cent of all losses in absolute tonnage terms were accounted for by just 13 FOC registers).

I also found the Flags of Convenience website (part of a company hq-ed in Cyprus), which amongst other things offers registrations of ships in the FOC countries, formation of trusts, companies etc. in those countries, registration of aircrafts and consultancy. It also is the first time I have seen a company asking for fees before consulting. To quote:
(A few words about this USD$400 fee. We actually receive more than 20,000 enquiries yearly and deserve to know which of the prospective enquiries are
for real! And we want to give our full attention to serious parties, and NOT to time-wasters, window-shoppers and brochure collectors!)

And if you think that FOC countries are small, poor and/ or 'lawless' - Panama, Liberia, Burma, Cayman Islands etc., think again.

At various times, Germany, Denmark and the US state of Delaware have been part of FOC list. In fact, perennials like Gibraltar and Bermuda are a part of the Queen's dominions. In any case, the benificiaries of FOC ships are spread across the business world. Any country which uses ships uses FOC ships - after all it makes business sense (see pic).

As always, I found out that developed countries (actually, mostly the United States of America) were behind this mess as well. According to the Economist-
"It was America, after all, that helped Liberia to create its “open” register as an alternative to Panama, the first FOC, in the late 1940s. American oil companies, with Greek shipowners riding piggyback, switched their tanker fleets to Liberia to avoid high labour costs at home (American-registered ships are required by law to use expensive American crews). Liberia's success spawned many imitators: “free flags” are now flown by such unlikely places as Cambodia and landlocked Bolivia. China is a big user of FOCs, its main preference being Panama, the world's biggest FOC by tonnage.

Panama is also among the most delinquent of FOCs. For instance, it blatantly disregards an international law requiring reports of casualty investigations to be filed with the IMO*. The agency cannot force its members to apply the laws they have passed. The best it has come up with is a toothless system of self-audits.

There is a further irony: the IMO's limited powers are the result of American meddling with its constitution in the 1950s, which gave voting powers to countries by registered tonnage rather than by goods actually traded. Liberia (America's proxy) and Panama won seats at the top table, but also became liable for a greater share of the IMO's budget. Late payments by the two have bedevilled the agency ever since.

The problem does provides its ridiculous moments. Like the Bolivian defence ministry, which has launched its FOC. This is to ensure proper co-ordination between the FOC department and the Navy. Now all that the Bolivian Navy has is patrol boats. However, the lack of ships doesn't prevent it from aspiring for the sea and share of its profits.

We should be smiling at such incidents, if only the problem hadn't spread its tentacles and become highly dangerous.

Cambodian ships have been found with cocaine on board. Mongolia has found a niche in North Korean shipping and illegal logging. LTTE has 11 ships under FOC and Osama bin Laden is suspected to have fleets roaming the high seas. Some arms and explosives have been caught, while others surely get away.

The US is now trying to control the mess which it created. However, such efforts are not new. According to the Economist -
"The Americans are not the first to want FOCs hauled down. Opposition in the 1970s from transport unions and poor countries led to a proposal for a UN convention on the registration of ships, which would have imposed such strict conditions that FOCs would no longer be viable. The convention was shelved, however, when OECD countries, supported by most shipowners, ganged up on it."

Wonder whether the current efforts will yield anything. Wonder whether the people who put up the poster and took part in the Week of Action knew about what they were up against.

I, for one, definitely never knew that the poster had such pedigree.

* IMO, by the way, is International Maritime Organisation, an UN organisation.

P.S. The Mongolian navy's story can be found here and here.
P.P.S. Anand had found out about FOC last year. But that was regarding a flag we bought together in Alang. Alang is in the news now. Safety standards again.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sometimes I can do this...

Love Song of Esteban

Or how on particular days, Pedro and Eliot speak the same fucking language

Sisyphus discovered his own reasons,

and I have my own

but striking against the glass wall in rainy season

might just break my bones

Might just break my bones,

the incessant acts of sporadic nature

but never will the top of the mountain meet the stone

nor will the wall part under pressure

Will the wall part under pressure

And release the gale-force like on the Egyptians

(Was there not a single innocent amongst the thousands that drowned?

Was there not a single beloved waiting to be crowned?

Was there not a single husband, waiting to be a father?

... was there a reason for all of them to die, why did not they live... rather!!)

or will the wicked Moses fix the odds for his pleasure

leaving me clutching at molded ph…

the shaggy dog looks into my eye, licks his

tongue and says goodbye

Will I ask for one more favour,

Will I ask for one more question?

Will I ask for redemption and a vote of thanks?

Will I understand when I don’t hear a reply?

Will I look for one last (first) sign?

Will I taste the last kiss again?

Will I forget what it tasted like and yearn for one more?

Will I ask for one more?

The shaggy dog licks his ear, wags

his tail and calls me dear

As I told you, the rains are here,

Even though it hasn’t rained today,

Maybe my ears are that much more tuned to hear

to similar sounds, on the July day

it rained the day,

don’t you remember,

as it did in Verona on Juliet’s breast,

as it did when I asked for one last smile,

as it did when I picked up the leaf and on it, with the black felt tip,

put one last wish

The shaggy dogs smells me over, lifts his leg

and waters the flowers

Did I ask for too much?

Or did I ask hundreds of times, for the same thing? And while asking….

If you couldn’t hear the screams, the pleas, the warnings, the sighs, the pain, the colors, the color of the summer in Central Park and of autumn in Versailles, the bruise,

the question,

the quarrel,

the poem,

the prose,

the letter written within my drawer,

(it might still be there, if you care to look)

the reflection in our mirror,



The shaggy dog doesn’t find any trace, of his mate

retreats from my face.

Happy Birthday, my friend...

... Happy Birthday to you.

He was one of my closest friends. To whom I owe a lot of my present.

Somewhere, down the line, we did get away from each other. Like most old friends of mine.

The path to my present is littered with possibilities.

He was one possibility I feel really bad about. All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say 'sorry'. Every day I waited, things became harder. I am unable to take the refuge of poetry. Hence, I will tell it like it is.

February 3, 2005

We didn't need words between us. Not when we stared into each other's eyes on the Arc, and posed for the joke. You in your white shirt in the last burst of the Parisian summer, I wearing the pink. "Romeo, where art thou". Not when I broke up and you and D held me up that night in June. Not when we met after ages and connected like we were never away. We never needed words.

However, a few of your words I will always hold dear. "You still have it in you, Paunchy".

It was during the 'most troubled days'. You were with me, don't you remember? I had just sent the short story out to a few of you.

"Earlier, I could do this", I said. You replied instantly.

You were one of the few I could lean on in B-school. One of the few I have shared my most vulnerable parts with. Remember, the night in Milan! When I gave up on all, you held my hand and took me through.... Took me through the tough night and the placement process. :-) Fittingly, you were one of the first I hugged after I got the offer on Day-O.

And then, I didn't attend the most important day of your life. Don't ask me why. We never needed to explain ourselves to each other. Because we understood. Instinctively.

I thought I will leave a poem for you here. However, I posted the poem and took it off. CTRL-X after Select All. I felt that I was being watched. I also deleted your photo which I took the last time we met, scared that others might recognise what has gone between us, the last year.

However, I will let this page stay. Coming clean is the best I can do on your birthday.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Posters from a different age say...

that we should control our keys. Or at least that's what I got out of this message.

Found this in a certain Southern city which has to stay confidential. No, it's not Chennai, but then, that's not a city in any case!!

When I took the pic, I thought I would wax eloquent on the deep meaning behind the keys (references to the noose). However, sometimes we should just keep quiet and let a picture say it all.

Site Meter Personal Blogs by Indian Bloggers