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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

If it's April, it must be playoffs

This one was reputed to be the best ever even before it started.. It is definitely proving to be close. It definitely is the closest race I have seen. I am talking about the NBA playoffs.

For a few years now, we have seen the usual suspects fighting it out in the conference semis. The Kings-Lakers-Spurs rivalry around the turn of the century was all that mattered. Trailblazers and T'wolves in the early 2000s and Mavericks and Suns in the last few years were the other teams which would occasionaly feature in the semis. You could almost always pencil in the first 3 seeds in the conference semis, even before the season started. There would be a small fight amongst the 4th and 5th seed.

Similarly, in the East, you could pencil in New Jersey, Indiana, Detroit as the teams which will be there in the Conference semis. Last year, with the addition of Shaq there was Miami. Everything worked to a plan.

There were no upsets. It was the Wimbledon rather than the French Open.

This year, it is refreshingly different. Although my favourite Heat is in difficult waters against the Bulls, I am loving it. At the half-way stage in the first round, any of the teams have a decent chance of making the conference semis, except maybe the Grizzlies. Every other team has got a win at least. 4 out of 8 matchups are tied. Lakers are 3-1 up against the second-seeded Suns. Hell, even Bucks have managed a victory against the Pistons - by 20 points. Kobe's last second shot today was poetry. Now, in the second round, we just might get to see Clippers vs. Lakers in LA, though Steve Nash would want to spoil that party. It is great drama.

Are you watching?

Cross-posted at Welcome to the Ballgame.


...reminded me of this game. "We kill for our future. We kill for peace." said Ephraim. Play the game.

More commentary on flash games here.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Quiz we must

I must point out that I will be quizzing on Sunday morning at a place which probably looks nothing like the photo on the left. Actually, I will be QM-ing. Hope to see one and all.

Quiz format: General Quiz. 2 member teams
Prelims: If necessary
Questions: Workable and fun (hopefully)
Warning: My quizzes are known for their excessive focus on popular culture. I will try my best to stop any excesses.
Venue: Food court (far-right corner!), InOrbit Mall, Malad
Starting Time: 10:30 am

AD has put up a map here (he's also looking for a partner). I will be wearing a kurta. Rest all is dependent on entropy.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lok Paritran

I got a mail yesterday on my B-school Delhi group asking me to vote for the Lok Paritran party.

"Following are the candidates contesting in various constituencies of the city. If you and your family belong to the following constituencies do vote for these ambitious guys and encourage your family members as well.

Confirmed candidates contesting for Lok Paritran:
Santhanagopal in Mylapore
Elanthirumaran in Chepauk -========> WAS a COGNIZANT EMPLOYEE and PM FOR FIVE YEARS
Ishrayel Mahesh in Thousan Lights
Prashanth Sharma in Egmore
Arvind Tiruvaiyar in TNagar
Rajamani in Anna Nagar
Hariharan in Saidapet
Rabindra Ganesh in Park Town.

Do Vote for them. And yeah...pass on this message.

This might be news for few of us. 5 guys who are IIT passed outs have formed a new Political party and its called Lok Paritrana..."

Now, I'm all for people from IITs and other educational joining politics, however, I would probably not be able to vote in Saidapet or Mylapore. I would also assume that the other people marked on our Delhi e-group will feel similarly constrained. However, I can't let such a thing pass, so I will blog.

So, the mail goes on to state:
"We've been dreaming on so many things for so many years and nothing has come true. Indian Politics in the hands of EDUCATED YOUTH!!! And these guys are cream students of our country (IIT). Let's believe that these guys will make a change. WE can easily win this election if we Raise our hands for them."

I agree with the first sentence. I have been dreaming about a various things, which hasn't come true. A million dollars in my bank account, a trip to the Moon, watching India beat Brazil in a World Cup football final, Unlimited supply of bratwurst and weissenbier... None of this is likely to come true soon. However, I really haven't been dreaming of IIT students taking over politics.

Really, for me a politician needs to have savoir faire, a certain amount of charisma, amazing political savvy and good intelligence. An average IIT student (in my experience) doesn't have any of the first three and over-delivers on intelligence. I would rather see them do fundamental research, create innovative solutions, build bridges. Politics? Raise my hands for them? No, my hand is still in my pocket.

Before you accuse me of having a closed mind, let me open it. Okay, let's give these guys a chance. An average IIT-ian might not have political savvy, but these guys are clearly not an average. They have given up plush jobs and positions to enter politics. They might be different.

So, let's go to their political strategy, or mission. I will look for three criteria: 1) Have they laid any objective measures of success 2) Have they said something bold, or have they said stuff, whose reverse is absurd? aka Will Congress say it?*, 3) Have they talked about how to do, rather than what to do?

That is the true test of strategy. Otherwise, it's all platitude. For purposes of illustration, I will take one part of the mail as an example. If you want, please go through their entire ideology and strategy.

Short Term Plans:
1 To expand the membership base of "Paritrana" as a political party.
2 To take people out of inaction due to complete loss of hope.
3 Outline a concrete, detailed and pragmatic plan to make India a developed nation.
4 Making region specific plans depending on the local parameters.
5 Spreading the message of "Paritrana" at every level of society.
6 Preparing strategies for the elections.
7 Exploring the possibilities of establishing institutions for health, cultural, legal and social awareness as well as action.
8 To conduct "camps" and seminars for building a better understanding and cohesion in the people with the same goal.

Just as I had imagined. All platitude.
1) There are no measures of performance. Contrast this with the Congress Manifesto I found on my first Google link. It says for example, "The Congress will raise public spending on health to at least 2-3% of GDP, with the focus on primary health care over the next five years and to around 5% of GDP over the next decade." and not "exploring possibilities of establishing blah, blah, blah....."
2) Everything they have written can be said by Congress, BJP, BSP, CITU, RSS, Boy Scouts and any other political or apolitical group. Will any group not want to build better understanding and cohesion? Will any group not outline a concrete, detailed and pragmatic plan? In case you get to me saying, this is only short-term plans, and surely, long-term plans will be better, then look at the following.

Long Term Plans:
1 To achieve the full potential of the country both at the individual and the collective level.
2 To exterminate corruption by whatever means necessary.
3 To overhaul the current education system that has lost its relevance in the changed social and economic conditions.
4 To reorient political organization making it more structured and dynamic.
5 To integrate technology in industry at both urban and rural levels.
6 To modernize India's force structure and defense doctrine.
7 To adopt a practical foreign policy for India.
8 To establish India as a formidable economic and intellectual power in the world.

3) Let me not go into 'how to do'. Too tough a test too soon. Let's look at their manifesto for that. There manifesto's here. Alas, it promises more of the same and while it talks about implementation, it doesn't say anything about how they will do anything or by what timeframe. Instead, we hear:

1) We will attempt to eliminate corruption, bribery and other illegal and unethical practices that take place in the entire system, from the highest levels of governance to the lowest.

2) We will establish means by which merit, ability and skill are rewarded at every level.
3) Strict measures will be taken to punish those guilty of these practices, and ensure the sustained smooth and efficient functioning of the system.
4) Apart from the eradication of corruption, which has a direct bearing on bureaucratic efficiency, the Party will push for introduction of technology and proper training of employees in various government departments.

For me, 'we will attempt' and is not a plan. It's a hope. Just for contrast, look at that line in the Congress Manifesto above.

Cynics will argue that there's no point to the Congress manifesto, anyway. Even they don't do half the things that they promise. I agree with their observation about achievements. However, there's a point. At least, we have a document to hold them responsible for in the next elections. At least, we can differentiate them from another party, let us say, BJP. How the hell do you ever hold a Paritran member accountable? If we vote for them and these castles in the air are not built (eliminate corruption for one), then would they be responsible?


One final comment: This is one part of their mail:
Take these stats, there will be at lest 3 and up to 7 People with every home; think how many college going students live in India, how many IT professionals, BPO professionals, other professionals live and calculate the number of people who they live with. If they join together and raise their hands, can't WE win?

Isn't that restrictive at best and 'casually put' at worst? The number of IT and BPO professionals in the country is some 5 lakh (give or take a few thousands). Their families comprise some 0.25% of the population. That's how niche** their ambitions are as of now. You might say that in the divisive politics of today, it's fine to target a small group. Unfortunate that a party thinking of changing India will start like this, though.

* This is the GM test people use for assessing corporate strategy: The question, "Can GM also say this?" is asked for strategies. So, we will grow profits is not strategy. For that matter, we will grow profits by focusing on comsumer satisfaction is also not strategy.

**Though if you are looking at all graduates of the country, their familes comprise 12% of the population (Estimate assuming 2 graduate kids/ household of 5). Fat chance that this is an unified demographic.

The newspaper I will read everyday

So, now that I have managed to give up Tabloid of India completely, except for one column in Mumbai Mirror, I need other newspapers to give me the news.

The search is over.

Dadan Pahalwan Evicted from his Official Residence
Udit Narain's Wife Dares Woman to Prove Her Allegations
Criminals Gun Down Iron Merchant in Kankarbagh
Naxal Terrorism Continues in Bihar; Railway Cabin Blown Up
Panchayat Elections Postponed Following Killings in Aurangabad
Accused IPS's Brother Comes to His Defense; Demands CBI Enquiry
Youth Carrying Money for Sister's Wedding Robbed, Killed

I will always feel good about my life, now. I feel good...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Himesh Reshammiya

After hearing slander for many a days about one of the true icons of our generation, I wanted to protest.

However, since I haven't paid much attention to Hindi film music in general and Himesh Ringininmyea' in specific over the last few years, I am not the man for the job. However, now I can refer to this anytime you make another joke about his nasal cavities. Beatzo, take a bow.

On the topic of Himesh, it went unnoticed, but my man has started taking the Great Inspired apart. Go for it, rockstar.

Heinous foolishness...

... might be now reduced to a lesser evil.

Plus, the Pope feels close. To the patients and not to logic, as earlier thought.

Sirf Saat Sur

"Eventually all music is permutations and combinations of those same seven notes. No music director is original, but I became a favourite whipping boy to the press" says Anu Malik. He would be thinking hard as to what this nonsense about Kavya Vishwanathan is. After all, "There are only seven musical notes. There cannot be more. It is natural to follow a certain musical sensibility, at least some of the times if not all"[here]

So Person A caught Person B using certain probable 'permutations and combinations' here. How that exchange lead to a dialogue from an absurd play is quite inexplicable, at least for those like me who came in late. However, I have decided to get inspired by the same dialogue and write a story myself. Please do read this before going on.

Sirf Saat Sur (with apologies to Anushka and Kavya)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan woke up this morning with a strong headache. He had been watching episodes of The Small Wonder throughout last night. Now he had an headache.

"I hate and loathe it when foolish immatured kids try to sound american with words like wotcha , eh, gonna, wanna, gotcha, jeez and phrase their sentences to sound american...cool you know! They are like dhobhis...in the end."
Suddenly, the bell rang. It was his dhobi.

He was wearing a cool cap, spoke in a nasal twang and had curly hair. He had shaved, and thus, didn't look anything like Himesh Reshammiya. He handed over the starched shalwar to Nusrat. Nusrat extended his hand down below, took out a five rupee note and said, "Keep the change".
The dhobi said, "Jeez, Dun'ave change. Wotcha gonna do, eh?" and disappeared into a puff of 'American cool'.

Suddenly, a call came from a call centre operator. Nusrat got angry and wanted to keep down the phone, when the guy started singing, "Mera Piya Ghar Aaya". The Anu Malik version.
Nusrat thought, "These clones bare no responsibility...after all they all belong to the creative line!!!"
He had thought aloud (in bold). The song stopped. Bare silence followed.

"Do you want to find out what it feels like to work in call centre?... My friends... Most of these people are working in call centers and are on receiving end of alot of irate calls . Not to forget they make a total fool of themselves also. As people get laid off in call centers all the time. They cant even do such simple tasks.

Now why do they work in call centers ? They work in call centers because their fed-up parents have stopped providing them money. Why cant they get a decent education to get a lucrative job? No they wont...coz they all want to be writers, designers, actors."

Nusrat could empathise. He was sent out of his home by his parents when he was a young boy, as he wanted to become an actor. A villain in Hindi Movies. His parents had stopped providing him money. People have no place to keep trash in their houses.

Nusrat had to then call up millions of directors and go for audition tests. Often, he made a fool of himself. He also got irate calls. He especially remembered one director, who had promised him a role, for which he lost weight. Then, one day he lost so much weight that he started looking like the hero instead. The director was irate. He had to find a new guy, somebody called Amjad Khan.
That's when Nusrat's life changed. In dejection, he became one of 'them'. They, who do not want to do anything in life, just sit in front of the mirror if they aspire to become an actress. Nusrat even tried to become an actress. His name was suited for the part. He also was fairly clean-shaven and long-haired. But his looks wasn't upto the mark. Reality is that no one wants to look at 'them'. When his efforts to become a villain, or even an actress didn't work out, he decided to enter fashion designing. He changed his name to JJ Valaya. However, he didn't know that their clothes wont be sold on the road side stalls also!! After all even common man has some good taste. Again, a failure. Now, the only thing left to do was sing. So he decided that he must start singing for his supper.....

He was woken up from his reverie by the call center again. It was Anu Malik singing, "Chale jaise hawaayein..." Sounded suspiciously similiar to a familiar permutation of notes.

I can go on a little bit more. But I must stop. As, there can only be a few Arundhati Roys , Shobha Des, Manish Malhotras and Rohit Bals in a huge crowd. Not every tom, dick, harry and harriets can be like them . They are not even a shade of their shadows.


By the way, Maverick has dug up Kavya's Harvard Essay, where she unconsciously has quoted some more authors. Seems like she had taste earlier. Now, she only has Cosmo.

On the topic of college essays, I wish I could write like this. "Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries." True creativity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The constant whine

So, the noise goes up again. Why can't women tennis players get as much money as men do?

Sure, people should get what the market pays.

The Grand Slams are in a monopsony situation. The players don't have substitute buyers (other tournaments) and the barriers to entry into the Grand Slam circuit are unbelievably high. Currently, it also seems like supply of players is fragmented and inelastic. Hence, theoretically the Grand SLams can offer any price that they want.

However, the Slams are in a fairly competitive product market (competing against many other sports and entertainment options), which will punish a sub-standard product severely. Hence, the demand curve for the best athletes is also pretty inelastic. That is where the challenge to the monopsony power comes in.

This demand side is probably the only point worth discussing in arguments for equal pay (and not the stupid men-work-harder argument). If the Grand Slams discriminate between men and women when the spectator's don't, we will go further away from an optimal situation and we'll see a correction (example, at the margin, women will refuse to sign up for the tournament and viewers will punish the Slams disproportionately). However, if viewers genuinely like men's tennis more, then it is optimal to pay men more.

On that note, I have read at various places that women's attendances and TV ratings are as high as men's, if not higher (another example, here). Is it?

I couldn't find any such evidence. Instead, all reports I found through a google search showed that men's ratings were higher (anywhere between 5 - 30%). Attendance at Men's tour is also higher, though I couldn't find the statistics for comparable tournaments. I wish I had access to this report to sort this out and calculate what the difference in pay should be.
At least from the evidence I have seen till now, a 5% difference seems justifiable.

Update: Pratyush has been collecting reports on this issue.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Am I a geek?

I am definitely not a nerd.
I am nerdier than 34% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
On the other hand, Time Out Mumbai has come out with an entry on the Bombay Quiz Club, where they have called us geeks. Now, I am thinking.

Okay, I took the test:
i am a super geek
Not good, but not bad either.

Okay, after this, "Some factions maintain that "nerds" have both technical skills and social competence, whereas geeks display technical skills while socially incompetent; others hold an exactly reversed view, with geek serving as the socially competent counterpart of the socially incompetent nerd, and call themselves geeks with pride (compare Geekcorps, an organization that sends people with technical skills to developing countries to assist in computer infrastructure development). Another view is that "geeks" lack both social competency and technical skills. Arguably, a nerd is a more self-controlled sort of person, while a geek can be something of a loose cannon--or at least more awkward in an obstructive way than a nerd" and this, I am even more confused.

However, if this is true, "The unwritten geek credo states that originality and strangeness are good, and that blind conformity and stupidity are unforgivable", then I am with you (geeks). More on this after some thought.

Anyway, other stuff on nerds here and here! (Kidding, by the way)

Update: Falstaff sends me a post on 'geek pride' by mail. I am still not sure whether this is actually nerd pride.

"If I die here...

... they'll say I died writing". In a site full of promise.

Low technology billboards

People driving down Mumbai roads (especially the one next to Mahalakshmi race course towards Haji Ali) would have seen people standing on the sides with small posters/ placards.

My theory was that foreign marketer's would miss this kind of low-cost advertising opportunity. I was wrong as these low-technology billboards show. Now, I want to see cows doing the same in India. Is Airtel listening? Will we get over this?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Part 7: X-factors

For this final post of the series, I have decided to abdicate responsibility. To two people who can write better about their cities: Anand and Bombay Addict.

As I see it, this series is not about coming up with the 'better' city, that's for statisticians like them (and here)*. I have had the experience of living in both the cities. With frequent travel that I end up doing, I also get to experience the best in them simultaneously. I count myself lucky.

In a country that is picking itself up with frenetic pace, these two cities will determine what India will be over the next fifty years, if not the next century. It might sound pompous, but I believe it's not. The conversations we are having at Andhra Bhavan and in Mondegar, in buses, in trains, in Metros, at Nehru Park and on Marine Drive, why even on blogs, will determine public opinion, policy and results. In Tony Greig's words, "It's all happening out here."

Also, I must add that when I started off this series of posts, I was convinced that Bombay is better than Delhi. I still am convinced (Girl, are you reading?), but I have started understanding and getting to know the city of my childhood and adoloscence a little bit more. I don't know whether I have fallen in love with that city yet, but I definitely have started appreciating it more. That, for a week of effort, was definitely worth it. So, SloganMurugan, panga notwithstanding, it's over to friends.

"...In Delhi, even the most casual observer will notice the existence, or at least the possibility, of many times. Whether it is the roundabouts of central Delhi where you have government servants taking extended lunch breaks of playing cards right next to the swirling traffic, or whether it is the empty, echoing spaces of the monuments that dot the busiest localities of South Delhi; Delhi is filled with the juxtaposition of many times at once. And the public space to 'do nothing' if you so wish. No, I'm not just trying to say that Delhi is full of lazy buggers like me. It is just that all time here is not the constant present.

Of course, the fact that Delhi is at least a thousand years old, and that the ruins of the past abound everywhere is just one reason for this. The other is that the ruins and monuments of Delhi are only among the vast amounts of public space that the city has. Lodi Gardens is just one example that brings together the monuments and public spaces of the city wonderfully – there are far more public spaces. Spaces to do nothing if you wish but 'hang around'. The lawns around India Gate, The vast Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Nehru Park in Chanakya Puri and its open air concerts, the vast courtyard of the Jama Masjid . Right next to Delhi University stretches the forested Delhi Ridge.

Much of my first years in Delhi were spent in wandering through far flung ruins, and lying down undisturbed for hours in the cool shade of thick domes. Isa Khan's Tomb was one of my favourite haunts, where I would use my bag as a pillow on hot afternoons, if I was early to meet friends at Nizamuddin Station.

Delhi abounds in space-time – not for metaphorical reasons alone. Including the space to be oneself, perhaps? Delhi does not have one unifying accent/lingo (except, perhaps the distressingly frequent use of the term Behenchod) which can be identified as 'Dilli-ya' to coin a distressingly bad term… there are broad accents, Jat, Purabiya, Punjabi, Malayalee… people keep saying that no one feels like they 'belong' to Delhi… why do they need to? Delhi gives you the space to not belong, I think, or feel the need to… there is room for disagreement here, and arguement, and conversations..." More here.

"...Bombay is a drug. Prolonged use is lethal. Highs include money, wealth and success. That's what draws the droves into the city everyday. From the uneducated exile arriving at VT with Rs10 in his pocket dreaming of becoming a film star, to the IIT-IIM grad arriving at the airport dreaming of heading Citigroup India...

For all its crowds, Bombay also gives you privacy. Even if you share it with a million others, your space is still yours. With the sea as your constant companion. For each harried commuter that pushes you to get ahead at Churchgate station, there will be many others who won't care as you ponder life's vagaries over a sunset at Marine Drive. Or Chowpatty. Or Worli Sea Face. Or Carter Road , Band Stand, Chowpatty and Juhu. You will come here again when you fall in love. And probably when it's raining....

And then the people. Bombay belongs to its masses. Bombay belongs to Sailu, the nariyalpaani-waala , who personifies the typical quiet do-gooder in our city. Bombay belongs to the street kid who peddles a whole array of books at traffic signals. And then asks you for a lift from Mahalakshmi temple to Worli Naka. He's not worried if you refuse. This is Bombay and he'll get his lift. His day is over. It's time to study. Under the streetlights on the road next to the Doordarshan TV Tower. And there are many others like him at the steps of Asiatic Library. They will make it in life. In their own way, all of them will. If they will, so will you. This is Bombay.

Money, wealth, opportunity, lust, agony, ecstasy, crowds, loneliness, privacy, space, fun, people, food, Gods, demons, poverty, affluence, effluence, greed, power, movies..." More here.

I am happy that I didn't attempt to define these cities myself. Do read.

* Having said that, do check the score!!

Part 6: Things to do/ Places to be in

I promised a riveting personal entry. So, here are the top 3-4 things that I have done, in both cities, in no rank order. Most of these are replicable, with some luck. By the way, I have steered clear of ranking the cities on this dimension at the moment. If provoked, I might!!

4) Singing outside Toto's at 1:30 am: I am not much of a sucker for the nightlife. The noise and the lights makes me feel unwanted. However, standing outside of Toto's on a February night in 2003, I felt like a star. We had gone pub-hopping that night and finally had found ourselves in Toto's, Bandra. At 1:30, they asked us to leave. We were six of us. We came out and started singing Wonderwall. Maybe the song was playing inside. Soon, this group of four men joined us. We switched to American Pie. They didn't leave our song. We sang together, at the top of hoarse voices. At the end of fifteen minutes of song, the auto-rickshaw and taxi-drivers gave us a standing ovation.

3) Getting free ice-cream at Taj at Bohri Mohalla: This is a shop which makes ice-cream by hand-cranking method. We were there on a Ramadan night, looking for the kababs, paya and baida rotis that we had heard so much about. Gogo, N and I had our fill in various holes in the walls and pushcarts. Then, we saw Taj. It looks rather non-descript and was quite hidden in the bright lights outside. However, I had read Busybee and was ready. We ordered three different ice-cream flavours for us - sitafal, watermelon, black currant. Then, having loved all of this, ordered two more flavours - mango and anjeer. Three of us sitting there and eating ice-creams with a determined purpose caught the eye of the owner. He came to us and asked which flavour we liked the best. We said watermelon. He said, "Phir strawberry to kha ke dekho ek baar" (Then, try the strawberry ice-cream) and ordered a strawberry ice-cream for us. When we went to pay, he only charged us Rs. 100 for five ice-creams. "Main chahta tha ki tum strawberry ice-cream khao. Kaisa laga?" (I wanted you to eat strawberry ice-cream. How did you like it?) Needless to say, it was very good.

2) Watching Hariprasad Chaurasia and Jethro Tull jam: This was at the Homi Bhabha auditorium. Hariprasad Chaurasia had played a nifty set for an hour and warmed the audience up sufficiently for Ian Anderson and his boys. Ian came to stage playing his flute. After his first song, he looks at the crowd and remarks, "It's good to see such a young crowd here - I mean, most of you are barely out of your forties." That was true. All around me was salt and pepper hair of various shades. The way they head-banged, sitting on their seats gave me goose-bumps. And all of us sang together. Then, at the end of the show, for an hour, Chaurasia and Jethro Tull came together for us. Liked it a lot, I did.

1) Walking from VT to Regal: The railway hub will always be Victoria Terminus for me, with its wonderful stonework and sculptures. I could stay at the opposite side and keep on looking at the grandeur of the building on top and the mosaic of people down below. However, I rarely do that. For the walk from VT to Regal, via Flora Fountain is one of the splendid walks. There is much to do here - from buying the knick-knacks (coolest of sunglasses to vibrators) from the shops on the way to just let the gaze wander up the friezes and the pillars on the walls. My favourite corner is just before you reach Fountain, where HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank are on one side and a spectacular set of pillars (almost from Fountainhead) on the other. Do wander.

4) Reminiscing on the Butterfield Express: Rail Museum is one of my favourite haunts in Delhi. It is full of old train engines and the bogies, as the name suggests. Amongst other favourite installations was a monorail which belonged to the Patiala State. This time, in 2002, there was a large green bogey, freshly painted, next to it. It had a middle-aged British couple inside, who were still painting the bogey. I found out that Butterfield Express was a bogey which they used to run in India in the 1970s and 80s. It was attached to back of trains and offered customised journeys to English travellers, wanting to see the real India. After fifteen years of service, they stopped. They had come back to restore the bogey and give it back to India. For half an hour, they stopped their work and talked to us about the train. Do ride, when you are in Delhi.

3) Hunting in the Bookfair: There are bookshops, of course in both cities. There's the Strand and Lotus in Bombay. There's Fact & Fiction in Delhi. Then, there's the bookfair which takes acres of space in Pragati Maidan in Delhi. This is the place where I have laid my hands on obscure books like a book of Caribbean fables, when I was ten, bought my first Spiderman digest when I was eight, and at the age of eighteen, found the illustrated Sherlock Holmes, with original illustrations of Sidney Paget. And if you really need a reason why - not many places in Delhi or Bombay would stock a Richie Benaud or a Colin Cowdrey on their shelves. It's been four years since I have gone to this one, but I miss it very much.

2) Shopping at CP: While I can indulge in retail therapy in Bombay, the true shopping experience for me remains Connaught Place. I used to start my journey from KG Marg, where I would go for one of the libraries. The first port of call used to be People Tree, the quaint little shop which has everything from T-shirts to advice on books. After having a look at the music store next door, I would make my way to Palika Bazar for the latest DVDs. Other things to do in the area obviously include the many eating shops including Wenger's and the bookshops strewn across the place. Now one of my favourite haunts in CP is Q'ba, the lounge bar cum terrace which gives a view across CP and the erstwhile Central Park. I would have written about my favourite corner in the sun - Central Park, CP itself but its no more due to the metro.

1) Sleeping under the gate: Two of my favourite nights have been spent out in the open next to India Gate. While security restrictions have curbed the freedom we used to enjoy earlier, you can still experience Delhi and Delhites while eating ice-creams late into the night. Two times, once when a few of us college friends had eaten at Karim's and come for desserts during our college festival and second, on my birthday when after a meal at Pindi's at Pandara Road we dropped by for some air, stay fresh in my memory. I especially like the place for the feeling of belongingness to the city. If you want to see Delhites in action without the chance of violence, do come here.

As I said, most of these are replicable, with luck. By the way, some of these aren't possible in the other city. You are as unlikely to see Jethro Tull and Hariprasad Chaurasia jam in Delhi as to browse through a real book fair in Bombay. Obviously there are many more such experiences in both the cities. Do let me know.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Part 6: Things to do: Incomplete!!

I have been busy in Delhi today. Amongst other things, getting a hair cut (long needed) and eating wonderful Afghani food (kabuli pulao, korma and kababs). That means that my entry on things to do has been delayed - by a day.

My apologies. I will write a riveting personal entry to make up for it!

Tomorrow, we quiz in Pune and blog on the way. Tomorrow, also, we'll sum up the debate and introduce the X-factors which make the real difference!! Much to look forward to.

Till then, on a similar note, Prufrock writes this.


"The crew had traveled from all corners of the globe — Hungary, Germany, Canada, France, South Africa, and Australia — with the simple aim of working on a film... In silence, we sat on the steps of the District Magistrate building clutching copies of a letter... There I was in India, sitting on the steps of this government office, clutching my piece of paper, fighting for the first time for the right of freedom of expression. I waved a little paper flag with all my heart but wondered whether it was the business of a foreigner such as myself to enter a country like India, steeped in religious traditions and strong political codes, and try to challenge them. I was, after all, only going to put my flag down and head home" writes Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, part of the crew on the original ill-fated Water shoot.


I saw Water yesterday. On a DVD got from Brazil. The movie will most probably never get released in India. While prostitution of widows might not be as 'unnatural' in India as lesbianism was, the fact that it happenned (and perhaps, is happening) under the watchful eyes of the religious establishment would be too much to handle for our cultural police.

The movie deals with multiple issues - child marriage, the widow's condition as ordained by religion and society, the radical Gandhi who's stressing on finding God in truth, the last vestiges of colonialism and zamindari system. It does so from Chuiya's, a seven-year old widow (played by Sarala) and Shakuntala's (Seema Biswas) point of view. And while Chuiya's movie is poignant, deep and raises many questions, Shankuntala's movie is too simplistic for the questions that it wants to answer.

The movie starts when Chuiya is sent to the widow-home controlled by Madhumati (Manorama) on the banks of the river Ganga. She thinks that she will go home soon as her mother will come to take her home. She soon learns however that her mother won't come to take her back and she's here to stay. With child-like resilience though, she makes friends with Kalyani (Lisa Ray), Shakuntala and Bua, and adopts the inhabitants at the home. For further synopsis, go here.

I would not want to spoil the surprise for you, but do watch out for the scene where Shakuntala asks Chuiya, "Main kaisi lagti hoon?".
Shakuntala was fighting the battle against wordly desires for many years. However, she tells Guruji that if Bairagya (dispassion) means getting over wordly desires then she's far from it. This doesn't stop her from pointing to God when Chuiya asks why a widow can't get married. To complicate her battle, she gets to hear that a new law has been passed - a widow can get remarried. She uses this information to try and free Kalyani.

Then, in a weak moment, she asks Chuiya, "Main kaisi lagti hoon?" (How do I look?)
Chuiya replies, "Budhdhi" (Old). Ouch.

The highlights of the movie, for me, are the performances by Sarala, Seema Biswas and Manorama. Sarala shows what true child acting can be, something I was missing ever since grown-up Ayesha took the kudos for Black. Seema Biswas is expectedly evocative, while Manorama as the gang leader, muttering obscenities, does a wonderful balance of the senile and the shrewd.

The movie follows its predecessor, Earth carefully - the literal blue tinge to the frames replaces the buff in Earth, the little girl's point of view is a constant and the structure of the narrative allows you to 'know' the ending at the middle of the movie itself.

There is one essential difference though. While Earth was taut(er), Water is languid, slow, serene and at times, soporific. It is a movie which I should have seen in a movie-hall, for any distraction can put you off the slow tragedy unfolding in front of you. The slow pace has been under criticism, rightly so in parts, and perhaps Deepa Mehta would have been better off showing the entire movie from Chuiya's perspective.

Besides the slow pace, I must also mention the discomfort I felt at certain moments. From the left-facing Swastika instead of the more common right-facing one, to descriptions of Gandhi, as the lawyer who's returned from South Africa (this is 1938), certain details while not 'wrong', seemed a little out of place. Deepa Mehta seems to have made the movie for audiences not well-versed in history of the time - in India and abroad. Still, it's worth one watch.
For a contrary point of view (a lot of stemming from "an awkward position in that room: although we were represented on film, many around us sounded like they wished to save us from ourselves") go here. And if you think that Deepa Mehta is exaggerating the dirt on the linen, go here and here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Girl by the Sea

The sea always looks blue in my dreams.
It always roars, it always foams, it always crashes into me.
The sea never slithers away, brown and grey.
It never mirrors the sky just below me, sweeping out my shadow
as it smoothens the ground.
It never sighs softly into my ears
as I pick up the clams.
It never stops just before it will crash into my lithe self (not that I have a lithe self).

It does so for her.

Citrus Mysteries

I have been following this story for some time now. Stories like these give me hope. Glad, it didn't turn out to be a bad lemon.

Finally, the mystery has been solved and the lemon bought at Ebay. P.T. Barnum would have been happy. Or not.

Part 5: Cleanliness

I have never been a stickler for cleanliness. Friends who visited (or tried to enter) my room in B-school were faced with a plateau of newspapers on the floor. Not a single square inch was left uncovered. Amongst other things that I have found in that plateau with verdant vegetation is an iron (hiding amongst the November issues), a half-full bottle of rum (Bacardi Oro), pencils and pens and Easter Eggs (okay, I am making that up).

Frequent attempts by Mama and gang notwithstanding, the room remained in that state till I found the colony of rats just before the convocation.

I am also not a stickler for getting to a place in a hurry. Every morning for college, I used to hitch till Pragati Maidan (14 kilometres), then get another hitch (in Delhi it's called a lift, but that term is quite pejorative in other places) to Mall Road, and then walk down to college. It was a life of adventure - meeting new people and travelling in new vehicles everyday. It also didn't suit itself to great planning as far as time was concerned. We were left to the mercy of strangers after all.

Hence, a city's cleanliness and traffic don't matter a lot to me (unless I am going to an Airport or I am on a picture-postcard photography trip). It does matter a little bit though. And to the Girl, it matters a lot. Hence, my take on the cleanliness and traffic etc. in the two cities.

Delhi is better than Bombay on both counts (nothing's new, of course). I have not delved into reasons here.

There are obvious correlations between the income levels of a community and the cleanliness of the streets. A friend was making a valid point the other day that people need to have pride in their cities to keep them clean. And obviously, the space per person will determine civic conditions. I wonder whether these factors are remarkably different in the two cities (other than the noticeable space constraints in South Bombay)*. It can't be pride, can it?

Whenever somebody (often the Girl herself) makes a point that Bombay is quite an unclean city, I do not disagree. Instead I point out the immense 'character' of those streets. Two-three areas are special: the walk from VT to Regal, via Fountain, which is quite littered, the drives in Parel, long, winding, crowded, passing through old mills, old flats, classical windows and steeples of churches, Princess Street, Opera House et al, full of life and remnants of it.
Yes, Bombay is dirty, but it makes up for it with character. However, character's no excuse. So is the case with some of the other cities I like - Venice, Old Kolkata and some parts of Delhi. Bombay doesn't really outscore those places, howsoever much I like it.

Further, if you really want clean roads and neighbourhoods, I will have to give it to you- Delhi does better. Yes, I agree that it's mostly South and Central Delhi and the rather antisceptic Diplomatic Enclave that has come to represent the clean, spacious city. However, even in other places - from the suburbs in Noida and Gurgaon to the residential localities North and West of Delhi, from the stretch next to Old Fort to roads in and around North Campus - the relative cleanliness does show through. I have been in various parts of Bombay now, and am yet to come across a large really clean stretch. Cleanliness to Delhi.

This is where I am out of my depth. On one hand there are statistics which show that Delhi roads are the most unsafe. On the other hand, there is the somnolent traffic on most Bombay roads. Which one is better? Of course, since I have never driven on these streets, I have only the back street perspective**. From there, I would prefer to reach a destination early and not have much more to do inside the car/ bus. Hence, I would go with my friends who drive me around. They say that they prefer the Delhi traffic. Nothing much to say here. Traffic to Delhi.

By the way, the overall scores are: Delhi - 3 (Weather, Cleanliness/ Traffic, Quizzing), Bombay 2 (Food, People***). I haven't weighted the factors, but then seriously, who wants to make this all scientific and enter that debate? At least now I have an excuse ready. Tomorrow, I take on things to do/ places to be in.

* Income, from the statistics that I have, decidedly is not
** I also have the pedestrian perspective, but then, obviously, I will prefer buses knocking about gently at 5 miles/ hour to killer buses trying to crash hard against me against my wishes.
*** In case you didn't figure out (many didn't!) I was kidding about liking Delhi people more. Honesty above abstract thought for me (on most days). I can give up my Kotla pavilion passes if I am assured that nobody will cheat me of my place in the stands (which happened in Kotla once).

Cause for staying back

I know this is slightly late in the day, but all those fans who were expecting me in Bangalore this weekend, well, really sorry.

"I'll be there soon". But this weekend I will stay here.

For two reasons:
1) She's not coming. Phew!!
2) This is where I am on Sunday.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A lot of basketball

So, I won. My Yahoo Fantasy NBA league. This inspite of having a team which only boasted one All-Star: Dirk Nowitzki.

However, I made this up through frequent changes in my team. Inspired moves included - getting Boris Diaw before he became hot, dropping Ron Artest early but getting him back much before he started playing a stellar role on defence in Sacramento and spotting the late run of Chris Wilcox and Kwame Brown and riding with them. Also, Stephon Marbury and Alonzo Mourning contributed decently for my team and definitely deserved a higher ranking than what Yahoo Sports gave them. Plus, I got solid performances from Lamar Odom and Marcus Camby.

Stupid moves included dropping Bobby Simmons too early and not dropping Jason Williams and Udonis Haslem early enough. Also, I had a horrible team name.

All's well that ends well, though. I get a 1st place trophy to my name. It also is great fun to win against American and Chinese opponents. Some newspaper yesterday asked whether Indians have a moral right to follow World Cup football, since our team is ranked 117th in the world. This victory of mine, howsoever small and meaningless, is a tiny slap on such aspersions.

More such games, are at WhatIfSports.com. Interesting concept as it allows you to create your dream teams from players of all time and take part in simulated competitions. Sadly, it's restricted to American sports, but soon, I am sure, we'll see an Indian knock-off for cricket as well. Do check this out, in case you are wondering if the 1986-87 Lakers could have beaten the 1995-96 Bulls.

Part 4: People

This comes with disclaimers. Any references to real people (living or dead) or favourite characters (in all works of arts - including but not restricted to comic strips, short stories and graphic novels) , actual locales (especially those South of Bandra and South of Delhi) and historical events are based on the observations of the author, who has no way of confirming that what he perceives in his cognitive reality is identical to objective reality. All other names, characters, places and incidents portrayed in this post are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, is entirely coincidental and only slightly intentional*. In other words, don't sue me.

I have had more experience with Delhi. Eighteen more years of experience than in Bombay. However, where experience fails, stories make up for it. Plus, when has the lack of first person experience stopped me from abstract thought?

The proudest moment of a Bombay person's life is when the taxi-driver delivers exact change, in multiples of Rs. 1. This happens only in Bombay (obviously, they discount the Kolkata bus conductor, who gives out 10 paisa, as the economy there has a different currency altogether). The second proudest moment comes when they travel in well-packed trains at 9:30 am in the morning and get occasional glances of the sea. This experience, however, is more the stuff of legends than reality. Anybody who complains about the fact that they were pushed in by the crowds and therefore couldn't really see (anything, leave alone the sea) is a Delhiite.

The Bombay person also is amongst the busiest species in the world (trailing only the honeybees, worker ants and the Chinese). They also believe that nobody else has as much work and professionalism as they do (not even the Chinese or the ants). Inspite of this (or perhaps because of this), they get to watch the maximum number of movies, play the most amount of cricket and eat out the most. Every weekend, they watch the maximum number of plays and read the maximum number of books, unless they are headed out to one of the maximum number of hill-stations nearby.
In fact there's nothing that a Bombay person can not do. Maximum.

When it comes to thinking, however, there's nothing that a Bombay person can think. He doesn't/ can't think of politics, art, history or anything which requires thought beyond the primal instinct to do. Nothing captures this more than an incident a famous columnist told me about. This is when he just joined one of the most-read mid-day newspapers as an assistant editor and had an intern working in the same division. The intern was from the best college in Bombay (we will call it X). So columnist (we call him S) asks,
"So Zach, what are you doing at X?"
"Economics, dude."
"Really, even I did Economics. So, have you studied any comparative economic theory?"
"Yes, dude. Lots."
"So, Zach, what do you think of socialism?"
"It's all cool, man."
"Really. So, are you a socialist?"
"Yes, dude. I am."
"Really. What do you mean.."
"Man, I like to party a lot. I am amongst the most social.."

Needless to say, it could only have happened in Bombay. After all, the geography of Bombay makes a man (woman) what John Donne warned against. Needless to say, also, the assistant editor was a Delhiite.

If there are two words which describe the Delhi person, it is "Chhin Lo" (or snatch it).
That is because the Delhi person also is a victim of her geography. She has personally fought against corrupting Western influences - the Aryans, the Mughals, the Mongols, the British and fashion designers from Bombay. She has also given every refugee - the Aryans, the Mughals...., a place in her heart and the city. For the Delhi person has the largest heart in the world. Whether it is because of the food doused with liberal doses of ghee or because of historical factors, has not been proved. That's also besides the point - the Delhi person can make place for everyone and everything and everyone's everything (snatch it).

To enable her to make place for everyone and everything, she also neatly buckets them into various appearances. Hence, a male movie-goer has to wear cargoes and a T-shirt. The male play-goer has to wear a kurta/ kurti and chappals. The male pub-goer has to wear tight jeans, shiny buckles and a designer-looking shirt. The male college goer has to wear a goatee and a shirt loosely tucked in. The neat categorisation keeps everyone in their place, without the need of an identity card. It also ensures that a play goer will not change her mind half way on her way to Shri Ram Centre and go for a drink at the Blue's instead.

As I said, the Delhi person also has a place for and right on everyone's everything. Coming from Calcutta, I wasn't very prepared for such inclusiveness and 'lost' at least nine water bottles in school within the first month. Soon, I learned and now, have no qualms breaking lines at airports (even in Bombay!). Okay, this isn't my confessional so I will move on.

Being in centres of power, every Delhi person also knows somebody in power. This is a cliche, of course and hence, will not be mentioned ever. Not by me since I was not complaining when I watched Anil Kumble take his ten wickets from the Kotla Pavilion**.

And getting premium tickets and other favours is perhaps the reason, why I like Delhiites more! If the above mentioned person (who got me tickets) is reading this, I like you even more than that.

* inspired by this.
**actually, that's a lie, but then I am a Delhiite, myself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More on immigration

This time from India in the 1940s. All the amazing times that I have had in Irani restaurants like these were under threat. From Nehru, the first Prime Minister.

Please leave the GUINNESS® website »

Maverick, fellow beer-worshipper, points out an outrage. Now, if there's something we should protest, it is this. More here.

As far as regulations in my country of access are concerned, Pah!

Part 3: Weather

This is close to my heart. It is also difficult for me to judge which is better - Bombay monsoons or Delhi's set of autumns, winters and springs. I would have declared the match a tie and moved on. However, we are not here for a draw, right? The paying crowd will go back disappointed. Surely, we can come up with a ranking.

Okay, so what are the premises on which I will judge weather? I will use comfort (which provides the staple) and variety (which is the zing).

Comfort: Comfort has been defined as temperature between 20-26 degrees C and humidity of 50%, in North America. I am assuming the same for Indians (my limited experience in AC systems suggests this).

Analysis* of the average temperatures (Delhi and Bombay) show that Bombay temperature is more comfortable: average temperatures are in the comfort zone for 3 months and very close to it for 2 other months. Delhi manages the comfort zone only in 2 months. However, when it comes to humidity, Mumbai has an annual average of 90%, which is way above the comfort zone. Delhi has average humidity of slightly less than 50%, with it hitting humidity above 70% only 65 days a year. If I give equal weights to humidity and temperature, Delhi pips it at the post.

Variety: Okay, so 'comfort' had a little too much of number-crunching. It was easier to comment on, as well, since you have a scientific definition of comfort. When it comes to variety, obviously, it is difficult. There are two schools of thought and I come squarely from the variety-seeking school. Hence, I like the Delhi weather a wee bit more. (btw, in case you ask why Delhi weather is more varied, well then let me point out that while the average monthly temperature in Delhi and Mumbai are 25.3 and 26.8, standard deviation is 7.1 and 1.8 degrees)

How much I love the Delhi weather, was brought out, when I came back from Bangalore after six months, one December evening. The plane landed around 10:30 and I got out, wearing just a light wind-breaker. Woosh!! The chill surrounded me in an instant. However, the chill didn't disown you. It wrapped around me a celebratory covering.
My ears felt alive, after a long time. Soon, the rest of my face joined in the celebration. To really feel the sensation of touch, you need to be in Delhi in winters. For that feeling alone, I will give the victory to Delhi.

However, the point behind this entire set of debates is not just establishing facts and presenting my point of view on the debates. I also get to read some rather passionate arguments in my comments. This time, I also got to read a few blog posts connected to weather in these two cities. What follows are a collection of items that I found interesting:

"You don't drink tea by cups in Delhi, you drink them by the conversations. One doesn't say 'I have four cups', instead - the line reads 'We had tea over two hours of gup-shup (Conversation)'. In the terraces of the buildings built in haste during the Partition, people in colourful shawls and muffs balance hot samosas in their hands." [1]

"Who could argue with the contentment of long afternoons in the elusive sunshine, ploughing through half a dozen oranges? The sumptuous satisfaction of aloo parathas laden with melting butter? Burrowing deep into the 10 kilo quilt and sleeping late into the freezing morning? Hot buttered rum to take to bed? Chikkis with tea … and gajar ka halwa? And oh, the illicit pleasure of bringing the quilt into the living room on a chilly afternoon and curling up on the sofa. I’m not sure what is illicit about this … but where a nighttime quilt on the bed seems warm, wholesome and motherly, an afternoon quilt on the sofa totally spells wicked indulgence." [2]

"if you can hear
the jingle of santa's sleigh bells
on the rooftop on christmas eve
and the cackle of a baby's
delighted laugh
and the sound of bird songs
on a fresh spring morning
then you will hear
what i heard
that saturday afternoon"[3]

"it is spring, and the leaves fall thick.
the leaves a thick pile every day.
on which the street dogs lie curled up every morning, against the vestigial chill of winter.
it is spring, and the new leaves burst forth on the never quite bare branches.
yellow and green existing together, the simultaneity of decay and regeneration, the poet's words/image given a poignancy that he could not possibly have seen, in climes he nver visited -
nature's first green is gold..." [4]

"It was figuring out that words like “sunny” and “warm” are supposed to have good connotations and that “rainy” and “cold” are supposed to be bad. We Mumbaikars like it when it rains. I understand Britons hating rains. But for us, it gives respite from the summer and leaves just as we start getting bored of it. Plus, we get a holiday from school." [1]

"When the rain pours and the cold wind blows and everything becomes wet, that is the time when you make your trip to the near-by Vada Pao stall. A hot Vada pao with a cutting chai is the menu to be. If you can get onion bhajias and hot chilly chatni, then its real heaven. Its fun when you stand under the tarpaulin fluttering in the wind trying hard to save your vada pao and chai from the rainwater....One of my favorite pastimes during heavy rain when going out is restricted was listening to music...I can remember two best picturised song in Mumbai rain and surprisingly both are directed by Basu Chatterjee."[2]

"My twin daughters, Mahi & Meha, saw the rains for the first time. Last year, they were not even a month old when monsoon started. No words can explain the amazing mixture of expressions on their innocent faces. The initial reaction was of a little fear, then surprise, amazement and finally joy. :) They got very excited when I streched their small hands out of the window and few drops fell on their little palms.Both of them are very fond of lights. So they were further surprised with the lightening and thunders. Everytime there was a lightening, they looked towards a tubelight waiting for it to start." [3]

"Today was perfect for a bike ride. A nice Mumbai winter day, not too biting, just cool enough to wear a jacket. The sun was beaming down, just warm enough to keep the wind from biting and not hot enough to sting my skin. The scarf I had tied over my head slipped in the first few seconds. Tying that perfect knot that won’t strangle you but won’t slip off either is an art form. And I have apparently forgotten it. The wind was teasing past, whipping stray strands across my face." [4]

* I actually have used an excel sheet!!

Will you tolerate my intolerance?

I wanted to write a large post on this one, but the only thing I have time for now is mentioning that one of the people I had met once had mentioned that she was rigid in her flexibility. Ruth, I guess, is flexible in her rigidity. And is probably answering God's calling.

Also, I have had my share of serious posts for the month. So, I point you out to this.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Part 2: Quizzing

This is a bit of a no-contest, really. Delhi quizzing is better than Bombay quizzing and will continue to remain so in the near future, though we will try hard.

The interesting thing is to find out why? However, before we get into that, some facts.

Objective measures to rate quizzing: Be it Mastermind, India Quiz or ESPN School Sports Quiz, Delhi has had more victories than Bombay. Yes, Podar did win Quiz Time, but that was way back. All facts from here. ESPN quiz 'fact' from memory (remember one of the DPS's winning it). Delhi colleges (DIT/NSIT, Jamia, Ramjas) used to do consistently better at BITS Oasis (the only place where they competed against Bombay colleges) during my college days. I would think that things have remained the same.

Delhi also has, as far as I can see, more number of quizzes (open and college). There was hardly a week in the quizzing season (August-January) when I didn't participate in at least 2 quizzes. Mumbai unfortunately, as far as I could see, is more focused on dumb charades, JAM and fashion shows!!
Obviously, the above two points are highly correlated. Also, the facts in themselves are not as interesting. What are interesting are the theories given to explain this.

Why is this so?: Many theories have been offered:
1) Bristol theory: Quizzing flourishes in cities which are old, decadent and slightly less unaffected by professionalism and neo-colonial modernity!! I had read an interesting story sometime in my childhood comparing quizzing in Bristol and Calcutta (which I couldn't find now). The premise was that it is only when people stop taking part in the rat race, do they have time for 'decadent' activities like quizzing
Of course, one can argue that Delhi and Bombay are equally old/ young, decadent and affected by professionalism, but I won't. I have come to experience a shrill pride in professionalism in Bombay, which I haven't seen in Delhi. Having said that, the intrinsic differences in the cities are probably not huge enough to merit the stark difference in quizzing levels.

2) Distance theory: The theory goes that Bombay localities are separated from each other by great distances, making travel troublesome and time-consuming. This directly reduces the will to travel for a quiz. Also, on weekdays, families hardly get to spend time with each other. Therefore, on weekends (which is when open quizzes prosper) quizzers refuse to be away from their families. This reduces the participation levels.
School/ college quizzing in Delhi is not as afflicted by this since they are quite concentrated in North Campus, Central and South Delhi. However, I think the issue is time taken to travel, rather than distance itself, when it comes to Delhi and Bombay. In any case, even Delhi Open Quizzing scene suffers from this problem.

3) Melting pot effect: This theory, which is what I subscribe to largely, has two premises: 1) college quizzing is the bulwark of quizzing in a city. College-students can hold the maximum quizzes (fests, events) and become the quizmasters for school quizzes. 2) The quality of quizzing is significantly enhanced through contacts between different quizzing cultures and backgrounds. Problem solving levels increase, 'fundas' get exchanged, formats are shared etc. Hence, a place with a higher diversity of backgrounds in colleges will have better quizzing. This is where DU's, AIIMS's and IIT's cosmopolitan character plays a part.
Obviously, the counter to the theory can be given, that a place like Bangalore created a quizzing culture from open and school quizzes and didn't depend on college quizzes alone. Though, KQA itself is/ was a melting pot, it just shows that a quizzing culture can be created, inspite of theories.

I think the actual reason might be a combination of all these. Some of these are intrinsic in nature, but as shown by various other places, quizzing culture can be created inspite of these factors. Thus, there must be other reasons why Bombay Quizzing hasn't picked up. Would be glad if you can help me refine these theories further.

Yes, incidentally, victory to Delhi.

Guts of a Bong

A reader (what is thy name, thou who choose to remain nameless) has sent us this from Carioca, Rio in comments of my Bong post:

"Marrried to a Bengali, he was a bit taken aback when he realised that a criterion to judge whether he, as a guest, was comfortable in a Bengali uncle's home, was to enquire about his daily visitation to the loo and judge the experience thereafter."

Read on. The article appeared in HT on October 26, 2005.

Pepsi TV?

Not that Pepsi will ever hit the heights of "nothing official about it" campaign, but why deliver such tripe?

Readers, watchers and cold-drink vendors are as clueless as I am on how this ad got made. Tabloid of India had attempted a shot in the dark on what Pepsi TV was. Some conspiracy theorists have mentioned that the ad was actually made by Sprite, just so they could create a spoof. Well, at least then the ad has a point. Because what a well-informed source says is as lame as it can get:
"...whenever you are watching television, you must have the cola in your hand..."

Even with jargon, the reason sounds stupid:
"...“the first-of-its kind occasion-build programme”...“We believe that while this may be slow burn, we are committed to it because it will pay rich dividends, by catalysing consumption behaviour at home. Our exciting Pepsi TV campaign is built exactly on these objectives of driving category growth,”..." (italics are all mine)

While they have only spent 35 lakhs on this, it's all waste. Btw, some have alleged that Akshay Kumar's Thums-Up lightning ad is inspired by TV broadcasting signals of Pepsi TV.

Monday, April 17, 2006

McCarthy archives...

...have revealed that our favourite plumber was Stalin in disguise. (from Wired)

Screenshot from this movie.

If it was real life...

...then this is what it would be (Bart would not look as cool though). If Indian then this (old hat this though).

Part 1: Food

I have to start with food. Those who know me (and have seen me lately) would think that if a city wins the food battle, then it wins it all. While it is not that important, the food quality definitely needs to meet a minimum bar. It is only on a full stomach can we can debate the other criteria. Similar sentiment is shared by the Girl.

The problem with food however, is that it's extremely difficult to be objective about it in a blogpost*. Two basic problems have been haunting me 1) How does one agree on a set of criteria that can be debated? 2) How does one come up with a factual rank of the 2 cities on the criteria?

I came up with a framework of different parts of the meal on one axis (starter, main course, dessert...) and some sort of the top 5 cuisines in India (Indian veg, Indian Non-veg, Chinese, Italian...) on the other but felt immensely hungry instead and gave up trying. I did order a nice meal to make up for it.

On a full stomach now, the first part of the framework looks attractive. I will cover street food, non-vegetarian main course in restaurants (hereforth referred to as Non-Veg), vegetarian main course in restaurants (Veg) and dessert. I will look at three things within these: variety in cuisines, signature dishes in accessible restaurants, which the city is known for and signature dishes in niche expensive places where I have eaten when others have paid!

Street Food: Unfortunately, neither of the cities comes out tops in my street food ratings. While they don't have the fame of a Lahore or a Bangkok, they don't even have the variety and accessibility of Kolkata. Nor are they known for a signature dish like the Fanoos roll in Bangalore.
However, after having eaten at Bhendi Bazaar last Ramadan and after having being severely disappointed by Chandni Chowk/ Parathewali gali, I am moving towards giving higher marks to Bombay. Bombay also brings in variety - from the late night fruits and juices at Haji Ali to the ubiquitous Pav Bhaji and Bhelpuri everywhere to Dosas at Breach Candy. Obviously Nizamuddin and Nasir Iqbal does try it's best to compete for Delhi, but I will still give the victory to Bombay here. Mumbai 1, Delhi 0.

Non Veg: Delhiites would obviously point out that Bombay still has been unable to create the decent butter chicken. I agree that even when it comes to dishes like Tandoori chicken and a Sikandari Raan, Delhi does have a substantial lead. Restaurants like Karim's, Pindi, Moti Mahal have a legacy and deliver consistently whenever I need my comfort food. Radisson's Great Kebab Factory while being considerably new offers a value proposition (unlimited kababs at a fixed price) which Bombay still hasn't discovered. Nothing compared to Colonel's Kabab's non-veg platter can't be found in a Bombay restaurant. Then, there's Tibetan food - Momo's, Beef Chilly at Majnu Ka Tilla.

However, having said all of this, Bombay does have places which can whip up a decent tandoori/ Mughlai experience - Lucky's biryani, Pritam da Dhaba etc.. Then there are the Parsi restaurants - Britannia, Jimmy Boy, Mocambo. There is Goan sausages at New Martin's...

Plus, I think there are two words for Bombay which can't be said for Delhi - Sea food. Geography obviously plays a huge role here, but the fact remains that Delhi gets its pants whipped by Bombay here. There's nothing like Trishna, Mahesh or Ankur in Delhi. And since a butter pepper garlic prawn or a squid is the most impressive any food can ever be, I will give victory to Bombay.

I will give this battle to Bombay. Bombay 2, Delhi 0

As far as niche places are concerned, I must also mention one of the best Japanese restaurants that I have encountered - Wasabi at the Taj at Bombay. People had been hyping 360 degrees at Oberoi, Delhi. I still haven't done that place, but having eaten at various sushi places in Singapore, Dubai, Europe, I do believe that Wasabi offers an unbelievable sushi platter. It's very very expensive, but every rupee (paid by others) is worth it. I must also mention Bukhara at Maurya, Delhi which is overhyped but does run the hype close.

Vegetarian (aka borrowed opinion): I am not best suited to comment here (for I forget when was the last time I went out and ordered veg food), but I think Mumbai with it's Gujarati and Rajasthani fare does do a slightly better job than Delhi. However, when it comes to one of the vegetarian dishes I can go out to eat at - Chole Bhature, I think Delhi wins. Bengali Market and Kamla Nagar do not find an equivalent in Mumbai.
Good South Indian food can be found in both places, I guess, though I still haven't eaten as good a masala dosa as in Dasaprakash in Ambassador hotel in Delhi. That was some four-five years back though.
I must however mention here that nobody should mention Crystal-like places in Bombay. If I really wanted homely food, I would have stayed at home.

I will call this one a draw (more out of ignorance, than anything else).

Bombay 2.5, Delhi 0.5

Dessert: Okay, there are desserts. Sweets, cakes, pastries, tarts, souffles.... Both cities do a decent job here. Then there's Nirula's hot chocolate fudge. Mumbai 2.5, Delhi 1.5

Overall victory to Bombay.

Other stuff I have missed: The Girl just mentioned that Bombay has something that Delhi doesn't - accessible food on every street. Even late at night. I agree.
I also wonder whether there's a eatery every 200 yards in Mumbai or so. And whether that's a record in terms of density.

*The only thing that I do have on my favour is that I (hopefully) didn't start with any bias towards any of the city and I have managed to eat in all sorts of places. So, here goes.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gah Gah Gah Gooooooooo – How you say? I will eat you...

...were allegedly the first words spoken by Great Khali, Dalip Singh in WWE. Sad that the first real Indian wrestler in WWE is made to spew nonsense like "I stalked the jungles of India, killing and eating tigers". (check update)

For those of you not in the know, WWE is all scripted sports entertainment (and not really sports). I have been watching it since I was twelve or thirteen, and can't seem to stop. Nor do I want to. I have waited for an Indian wrestler to make his entry, but have seen nobodies like Tiger Ali Singh who was a son of the far more accomplished Tiger Jeet Singh, instead. He was a joker who didn't even move beyond dark matches (matches which are not publicised or televised but are held to warm up the crowd for the real show).

As far as I can see, Dalip is far larger than the other Indian wrestlers so far and thus, probably stands a better chance to make a mark. However, what might go against him are his mike skills. The ability to get people to root for him or get incensed against him during a promo, is an essential part of what makes or breaks a wrestler. Dalip, as of now, doesn't have good control over English. Also, he doesn't have the in-ring experience and expertise to become a solid performer (which is a bane of most really big men). However, he has time on his side and should be able to work on that.

Dalip Singh himself is starting with a feud with the Undertaker, and thus should be getting a Pay-per-view event soon. However, I am not happy that he's getting a savage tribal gimmick (it's been done to death and looks dated, going back to pre-Attitude era of comic book wrestlers). How about a call-centre worker instead? I guess Dalip doesn't have the English skills. How about his 'real' story packaged into an Indian-pahalwan-trying-to-make-big-in-world gimmick? He can be positioned as the descendant of Dara Singh or Great Gama, no? Let's wait and watch.

I will be watching this with interest. India and China are going to be extremely important in the future as every entertainment firm, including the rival TNA (Ritesh Bhalla), has already recognised. John Cena, the wrestling champion himself, had come down to India to promote WWE. In this light, he does stand a better chance than his predecessors. My sense is that Dalip Singh will end up being the first amongst many Indian and Chinese wrestlers who will wrestle in the WWE. That is not a bad legacy in itself.

Read about his first appearance here and here . And biography here, here and here. IMDB also has some bio here, since he acted as Turley, all brawn, small brain Turley, in an execrable movie called Longest Yard. Everywhere, it is mentioned that he won the Mr. India title in 1997 and 1998, which I couldn't verify elsewhere. However, I also found that one Vitender Singh Pawar had retained the Mr. India title in 1997. It is possible that the Dalip Singh story is a made-up one, like for other wrestlers.

Incidentally, check out the hilarious comments here and in Sepia Mutiny (1, 2).

"..As i see everybuddy taling about Wrestling. And i want to tell everybuddy that wrestling is not fake at all. If you don't beleive then go inside the ring & wrestler on time with any wrestler & then u will find what the truth is. Well it's my dream to become a wrestler & this year my study will be finish & then i will move to USA soon (for getting wrestling trainig). But now i m looking for sponsorship. For more info about sponsorship ple visit at: http://blog.myspace.com/6341821 ..."

"i met dalip twice as i was working at walmart supercenter in mcdounough georgia in feb of 2006 he was shopping with his wife and two other people buying groc.he was he staying in locust grove ga,for a week for a wrestling match he was very kind but his wife was a little rude she didnt like people talking to him"

"he is only a man and in the black neighbour hood every 2 man is like him and there is only 1 like him in hole india soo forget it... he is not wise and we need wise people and not people that think its smart to have a big arm.."

"He's a terrorist just like all you towel heads. Go hump a camel."

Update: Abhi's comment made me look for the video/ transcript of Great Khali's introduction. It's here. While he or Daivari don't actually say that they eat tigers as Pro Wrestling Insider claims, Daivari does mention jungles of India with pythons and Royal Bengal tigers. Great Khali says a lot of stuff which I can't comprehend. The only thing I heard was "Main Hoon Khaali."

Update 2: I noticed that some booker in WWE has bad punning skills. Also, Gaurav has blogged about it. He, like me, remains hopeful of success.

Update 3: Success...

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