Thursday, September 29, 2005

Favourite Songs Part 2

This is an addendum to my list of favourite songs Part 1. Continued:

26. Can’t fight the moonlight – LeAnn Rimes from Coyote Ugly film soundtrack

27. Fallin’ – Alicia Keys

28. I’ve had the time of my life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing film soundtrack

29. Take it easy – The Eagles

30. Build me up buttercup – The Foundations from the There’s Something About Mary film soundtrack

31. Sing - Travis

32. When doves cry – Romeo and Juliet film soundtrack

33. Didi – Khaled

34. Yellow – Coldplay

35. Beautiful Day – U2

36. Wonderwall – Oasis

37. In the end – Linkin Park

38. Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits

39. A thousand miles – Vanessa Carlton

40. Virtual insanity – Jamiroquai

41. Zombie – The Cranberries

42. Imagine – John Lennon

43. Sounds of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel

44. Bridge over troubles water – Simon and Garfunkel

45. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – Simon and Garfunkel

46. Let it be – The Beatles

47. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles

48. With a little help from my friends – The Beatles

49. She’s a woman – The Beatles

50. Please Mr. Postman – The Beatles cover version

The Beatles songs thanks to inspiration from Sharad. Been listening to a lot of ‘em the last few days. And I realize that there are probably going to be many more songs to listen to, and whole albums to appreciate – these are just a few of the ones I like till now.

Also, this is a call for musical inspiration – I’d love to see lists of other people’s favourite songs, with reasons for why they like those songs as part of my musical education, which like every other education is going to be lifelong as far as I am concerned :-)


It’s ok to feel confused. To feel sad, and happy at the same time. To feel tired.

Today I realize that I will soon be saying goodbye to yet another city, a city that is now part of me and my history because I lived here for a while. No matter how much I may want to change that fact (and I don’t really), it will remain. That’s the funny thing about cities. They are just spatial organizations of things – people, buildings, animals (especially in India!), traffic lights, roads, trees, parks – and yet without your really consciously being aware of it, all these things slowly filter into the recesses of your mind and you don’t realize it till you are safely ensconced in another place, another time, another city.

It’s been such a regular pattern for me, with my moving countries, cities, houses, away from a set of friends and suddenly to another, that I have only NOW – after all these years, realized that all the places and things that inhabit them, that I have been part of in the past, will forever be part of me. And each one of them has somehow contributed to shaping me and making me what I am. Rather, changing me for the better. And that’s the other thing – it’s always for the better, really. Even if you initially think it isn’t.

So I want to say Thank You to all the places I’ve lived in, even visited, and all the people that have known me, whether I am in touch with them today or not. If you have had even a few conversations with me that you remember, then be sure that I remember them too and I will always be glad I had the opportunity.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blogging Blues

Haven’t blogged for a bit. Am in the midst of shifting cities, but as I was pondering what I could put up on my blog as an excuse, I figured that I am probably going to be going somewhere or doing something for the rest of my life (seeing as how I am a vociferous supporter of the ‘idle mind is a devil’s workshop’ philosophy). So trying to figure out excuses is not going to really help in the long run, what say?! Anyway, blogging is fun. If you
a) know what you want to write about
b) have strong opinions about something, either pro or con. Being in-between or admitting that both sides of the coin are not so bad, does NOT help.
c) have time to surf a million websites so you can sift through what is interesting and then provide an insight or opinion on that

None of which groups, as I have mentioned before, I usually am part of. But what the hell, the whole point of blogging is that I can say whatever I want and get away with it…I suppose! And it still is fun....

So this is a call to anyone who reads this blog. Got this idea from Selective Amnesia: if anybody reads this blog and I’m not linking to them, please let me know. It would be interesting to know what kind of people read my blog, and I’d be happy to link to them. Life is all about learning about different views on different things. Make your life that much richer!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Memories of rainy days

You know those days when you sit and stare out of a window, cocooned in your little room alone with the weather royally thunderous or just dauntingly grey outside? I’ve had that experience in many different cities of the world. The interesting thing is that your outlook on life tends to be the same, but what will differ is the view from the window.

Madras, and the greenery right outside my ground-floor hostel room. The drip-drip-drop of the rain as it splashes on the plants outside. The electricity suddenly goes off, and the book I am reading almost merges with the darkness created by the storm-clouds that sultry evening. Mellow laughter and conversations can be heard from the corridor outside as the girls continue their cheery banter, momentarily disrupted by the sudden darkness. An hour passes, the electricity is back. But somehow, the arresting solitude and beauty of those moments is spoilt. I wish for darkness to descend once again.

Coimbatore, and the cool breeze brought by the gathering rain-clouds. I sit transfixed in my balcony, under the branches of the majestic tamarind tree right outside, in my grandfather’s old rosewood chair with extendable arms. They don’t make them like that anymore. Typically Kerala. I lean back and put my feet up on them. And watch in silent wonder as the drizzle turns to huge splattering drops. Nothing quite like it. I sigh happily.

London, and a view of the Big Ben in the distance. This is the heart of London, with the city spreading out for miles from my two windows. Rain in London, is, well, dreary and constant, for lack of better adjectives. It is almost a part of daily life, so well has it become integrated with the routine of Londoners. If you’re smart, then you carry an umbrella (if you can bother to tote one about, which I never can, even today), or have a rolled-up raincoat stacked safely away in your bag, because you never know when the sun will pull a prank on you and be replaced with those looming clouds. But my room-with-a-view is warm and comfortable, a typical student’s room with a nice stereo system. That makes all the difference. I switch it on and listen to Gabrielle singing ‘Out of Reach’. It makes me want to be a writer, pouring out those soulful lyrics. I sing in tandem, surprising myself with my sudden ability to sing the high notes.

Brussels, (Skepsi, I can’t thank you enough for all the help you and Eve gave me those days) and my little studio room with a slanting roof. Europe is something else altogether. I feel like I am part of history, though I am jolly well part of the present. Sunday morning and I lie in bed, sometimes feeling as if the skylight on the slanting roof would give way and the rain would splatter right onto me as I lay underneath snugly in my blanket. (I don’t think I ever got over that feeling in all my time there) I close my eyes, not wanting to think of the future, but just enjoying the moment for what it is.

Bangalore, and I sit quietly in the little common area with my house-mates. They chatter, I listen. A lovely breeze blows through. I shiver in pleasure. Then we start playing antakshari and all hell breaks loose!

Delhi, and me. This is now. As I sit typing this with the grey sky outside again, I remember how I felt in all those places through the years. I re-live them. I remember how I felt each time. This city has been more intimidating than all the rest, and yet it has grown on me. I have everything needed to live a decent life here in my one-room-shelter. And yet I have nothing.

It suddenly clicks. I’ve had different window-views in different places, but what I really have wanted all along, I haven’t got yet – not yet, but he will be with me soon.


Swiftly through the forest
The stately panther walked.
Flesh! The carnivorous smell -
Prey he started to stalk.

Stealthily and silently,
Padded paws aligned,
The man was caught unawares
On him the panther dined.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sports, politics and religion - the cauldron bubbles

Sania Mirza moves up to No.34 in the world rankings after making it to the last 16 in the US Open and Anju Bobby George climbs to No. 4 in long jump world rankings after her silver at the World Athletics Championship in Monaco. Excellent news for Indian sports. But beyond the stadium lights, there is a bit of what I’d call prejudice at work. Read this article in Calcutta’s The Telegraph, which puts down very well what is happening in India to sportspeople who are not so good with their PR:

“One is glamorous, cocky, looks and sounds good on TV and is world no. 42 in her sport.

The other, with average looks and excelling in a non-spectator sport, is world no. 6.

The first, tennis ace Sania Mirza, commands the second-highest sponsorship fees in India after Sachin Tendulkar and is on record that she doesn’t need government aid any more.

The second, grandmaster Koneru Humpy, appealed to the Andhra Pradesh government for funds so that she could train for the world chess championships coming up early next year.

So who did the money go to?”

You don’t need to read the article to know the answer. Sania Mirza it is. The government of Andhra Pradesh has so far given her Rs. 60 lakh and a housing plot, and has ignored Humpy’s requests.

All is fair and love, war and sports?

On another note, a Muslim boy in Ranchi was pulled up by the madrassa for putting up a poster of Sania Mirza on a wall in his room. When the boy was brought in front of the seminary, he argued that he was an Irfan Pathan fan too. To which the retort was whether he was aware or not of the dresses the two sported. (!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Religion can make for highly confused individuals sometimes.

Filmi fashion

For all you film and fashion buffs out there, here’s an update on the latest fashion trends, inspired by Bollywood. Details here, but I’m picking out only those from that list that I think really rock:

1. Rani Mukherji in Bunty aur Babli: Of course, this one does and should take the cake, because I have been seeing replicas of her collared kurti everywhere from high streets to teleserials, in the best and brightest of colours. Way to go, Babli!

2. John Abraham in Dhoom: This guy rocks. Totally. Leather jackets and gelled hair became very very in, especially for Road Romeos wandering about. But no one can beat John – sorry guys!

3. Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey: The handlebar moustache look. Who can forget it?! Except I don’t know even one man who can carry it off in real life…..

4. Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na: This I vouch for. She was as sexy as a woman can get in a saree with her chiffon ensembles. Except you need a body to go with it!

5. Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya: The crew cut, in keeping with his army look. Extremely smart. Women always have a thing for men in uniform, you know.

6. Preity Zinta in Salaam Namaste: Tube tops and feather hair-cuts ahoy. The woman looks young, cool, and very very trendy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cannibal Cosmecuticles

TOI reports here that China uses skin from executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe. The fact that this is used especially to produce collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments, so popular in the West, has led to human rights activists calling it 'cannibal cosmecuticles'.

I'd be happy with ageing skin. Much better to age naturally than prevent wrinkles using this - ugh!

Fair and ‘Lovely’?

Clearly, colour is all a matter of perception. In Delhi, where people are more fair than dusky, my colleagues insist on reminding me of how dark I have become of late. In Calcutta, where people are more dusky, people called me fair when I went there recently on work, and even insisted I cannot be a South Indian because all South Indians are, to quote, ‘dark’! And in South India, I am called fair because the larger population is darker-skinned.

At the end of the day, I am me, and that is what counts. Fair, dusky or dark. Whatever.

Taxes and Hard Work

I was reading a very interesting essay by Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) on political economy a few days ago. (Thanks to Amit Varma, for the link). It is an excellent treatise on the visible and invisible effects of a law in the economic sphere. Bastiat says that when a law is made or a decree pronounced, very often people see only the immediate effect – the visible one. Those that emerge later following on from this initial effect are invisible, and often more important, and the ability to foresee these are what distinguishes a good economist from a bad one.

I will take two points to elaborate on here, that came to my mind after reading the essay. One, how do we know where our tax money is going? This tax issue is something I am picking, because ever since I started paying taxes I have realized certain things. One, that you have no choice in the matter unless you want to be arrested or fined. If you are an honest person, you just have to pay taxes and pray your money is being put to some good use. Because somehow or the other, I believe whether the police is effective or not with respect to guarding the law, they are extremely efficient with regard to finding people who do not pay taxes. And no – evading the law is not something I have tried :-) But, given that I pay tax and I genuinely pray the money is being put to good use, I also have no way of verifying what is being done with my money. And believe me, there are plenty of ways I can put the money to better use if it is not. And I am not talking about shopping, for heaven’s sake! Therefore, I have started thinking, quite over-optimistically, that what the government should do is give tax-paying members of the public an exact break-up of where their hard-earned money is being used. Yeah, I know – HOPES!!

The other point relates to hard work. The essay mentions two people who inherit an equal sum of money, but whereas one uses it all in living a luxurious life, soon finding himself without anything to fall back on, the other is a wise investor who lives a decent life and also has some left over for a rainy day. I mention this example because while I am an ardent believer in savings as much as I am in the good life (as long as it harms no one), in this day and age I also see numerous cases where people a) do not save and yet b) have an excellent lifestyle. The reason is that the inheritance they have is enough to fuel their every whim till their dying day and for their kids as well. Inferring from this, a) Their dads did a darn good job of making money, so b) they do not need to even learn how to save, forget saving itself.

My question is, is this right or wrong? The previous generation works hard so that the next can live comfortably. But the ‘next’ do not recognize this hard work and think it is their right to use all the money to do all they want. The morals and ethics by which the previous generation got where they are today have no say in the lives of the next because they are already way above where their peers are, without even trying.

I think the fault lies in the previous generation. If you do not teach the value of hard work, then there will be no recognition of it. The other possibility is that all the money is black money anyway, so it will obviously be spent on luxuries. Either way, the point is almost the same: if you do no hard work yourself, then your kids will have no desire to do any either.

The conclusion of the 33-page essay, where Bastiat quotes what Chateaubriand says of history, is something that almost answers my question:

“There are two consequences in history: one immediate and instantaneously recognized; the other distant and unperceived at first. These consequences often contradict each other; the former come from our short-run wisdom, the latter from long-run wisdom. The providential event appears after the human event. Behind men rises God. Deny as much as you wish the Supreme Wisdom, do not believe in its action, dispute over words, call what the common man calls Providence “the force of circumstances” or “reason”; but look at the end of an accomplished fact, and you will see that it has always produced the opposite of what was expected when it has not been founded from the first on morality and justice.”

(Chateaubriand, Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Loved for a moment

Her heart jumped. She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks. He sat staring at her. She didn’t know what she was feeling, or why. Worse, she didn’t know what he was thinking. She didn’t think she wanted to. What a fool she was! Why did she have to say it after all? That she loved him with every inch of her being – always had, ever since she knew him. He reminded her of Prince Charming in those fairy-tales she used to read in primary school. What would he think? He - the smart, intelligent, funny, entertaining type. He - also the brooding, dependable, sensitive type. He – her type. A person like him could have anyone he wanted. Why would he want her?

She stood thinking all these thoughts without really being in the present. She was in the past – remembering those books, and her thoughts when she used to read those books. Anne of Green Gables. She’d always loved the series. The mischievous good-looking Gilbert who becomes the even more good-looking, sensible and serious Dr. Blythe, who always was moved by Anne, the fiery, tempestuous, rebellious Anne. The other way around actually. It was the story of Anne, and not Gilbert…

She wasn’t paying any attention to him anymore. She didn’t notice his eyes lighting up when she said it. She didn’t notice the happiness on his face. She was too lost to notice anything. Berating herself, she started to turn away.

She started running out. They’d been in Barista, on the high street. As she ran onto the street, a car came at her honking madly. The lights blazed in her face. He ran behind her, shouting her name. She froze, framed in the lights.

He dropped at her side, the single-stone diamond ring clasped within his wrist. He’d had it ever since he knew her. He’d waited for this day forever, being too shy to muster up the courage to tell her what he felt. The ring fell on the paved road, now smattered with her blood.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Older and wiser

Today is a day of reminiscing.

For one year now, I have not known exactly what I have been doing at work – but whatever it is, it has worked, because I recently got a performance rating that was as good as anyone could get. I was thrown, one year ago, head-long into a field of work I had no clue about and that was as new to me as the moon was to Armstrong when he first stepped on it. Till then, I was more of a ‘development’ person. Education, globalization, poverty – in short, the problems and issues of the world – those were my subjects. Interesting, I can hear some of you say. Maybe. But it just wasn’t working for me at that point. I couldn’t figure out where I was going, or why. I didn’t even know what my stance on most of those issues was because I had seen both of the sides of the coin and neither of them was very pretty or, more importantly, hopeful.

And then suddenly I was grappling with concepts of business and sales and retail and growth and what-not. I would be lying if I said I was not hugely unsure of what I was doing when I took up this job. I only knew I had to get out of what I had been doing. I am fairly satisfied with what I have done since I did (though people who know me will also know how terribly unhappy I have been on some days, I have come to terms with the fact that everyone probably goes through those kind of days).

For one, I have travelled. And I look forward to travelling much more. I have seen places that I never would have, if I had never made this move. I have discovered many new aspects to India and have come to think that if I saw even 60% of India in this life, that would be an achievement. I have made considerable progress in that direction over the last year – Jaipur, Chandigarh, Amritsar, the Wagah border, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Kanpur, Calcutta, Srinagar (including Pahalgam and Gulmarg), McLeodganj, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Mussoorie, Shimla, Chail, Kufri – and many of these I have traversed alone. I have faced questions of all kinds, being a woman travelling alone, but have also seen these places with my inner eyes. I have gained courage and confidence.

Talking of confidence, that is also something this job has given me. It would go almost unnoticed to most, but I know that I have changed in that aspect. I am no longer tremulous or afraid to ask questions, to stand up for what I think is right. I am no longer doubtful whether I will discharge my duties well enough, even if it is something I know nothing about. For what is life about, if not learning?

I learnt to live alone. Absolutely alone. I paid my bills and got internet connections made and removed, I called up travel agents to make bookings, I stood in queues in railway stations for tickets, I bought groceries, cooked, cleaned and washed clothes (and God knows in a city like Delhi, the more you clean the more dust there seems to appear out of nowhere – not a very good thing when you have a dust allergy and wind up sneezing violently, as if your nose was going to fall off). I learnt to deal with an almost non-existent social life, living alone in a new and slightly aggressive city with hardly anyone I knew from before – but I also learnt to go out of my way to make new ones. I learnt that you cannot force friendships in such circumstances, but you can meet some nice acquaintances along the way.

All of this might sound reasonably simple. It is. But I have done some of these in London, and I have done them in Delhi, and let me tell you life in India without the central heating or airconditioning or servants to run around at your command, or a car of your own (the last two are almost habits for a middle-class Indian)…is not easy.

And now, as I think about the year gone by, I realize why they say ‘older and wiser’. In every sense, I am both those. In a positive sense.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Rishikesh - The mystical city

Taking advantage of the fact that I am still near the hills (which, according to sources, I may not be in a while), I took off to Rishikesh last weekend. It is a very mystical place – and really like the India you read of in books, which foreigners are in constant search of (also explains why you find so many of them there). From sadhus in ochre robes to ‘holy’ cows wandering along at a relaxed pace, to the mountains nearby and most of all, the majestic gushing Ganges, Rishikesh is a place that is worth a visit.

The journey takes around six hours, and after the bus somewhat unceremoniously dropped us off at Haridwar but thankfully put us on a share-auto for the remaining leg of the journey to Rishikesh at 6 a.m, we found ourselves in the land of the pious. We crossed the imposing Ram Jhula, a huge suspension bridge which sways slowly though one steps onto it confidently thinking it is a solid structure. We made our way to the Green Hotel, a budget option for anyone wanting to visit, right at the end of a labyrinthine lane with restaurants and shops selling knick-knacks, and of course a number of temples lining the Ganga as well. Washed and ready for a day of adventure (which turned out to be more adventurous than I had bargained for!!), we proceeded to find a guide for a day’s trek to Kunjapuri, a temple of Goddess Sati (the only one in the country apparently), situated right at the top of a huge mountain. Of course, at the beginning, we thought it would be an easy walk of sorts, albeit a trifle rocky. It is a six and a half kilometer trek but after I finished it in five and a half hours, it felt like nothing less than 30 kilometres which is the actual distance if one goes up to the temple by road instead of taking the ‘short-cut’ uphill.

Two hours into the blazing heat of the day , two kilometers and many huffs and puffs later (I was still ok, which mistakenly gave me the bravado to think I could easily complete the rest of the trek), my 2 friends said they couldn’t do it and decided to return to the bottom. That left me to continue alone with the guide, a friendly and extremely trained chap who thought it would be an easy thing to complete for me. Ten minutes after I separated from my friends, the incline became much more steep and every step became a process. I had to stop and rest every few minutes. Thankfully there were a couple of fresh springs along the way with the clearest, freshest water I’ve ever sipped, and I was able to refill my bottle. Half an hour later I decided to steel myself to take breaks after every 15 minutes only and not sooner, or we would take much longer than expected to scale the top. My lower leg muscles and thighs screamed out for rest and every time I sat down on a boulder to rest, I felt like going to sleep. That couldn’t happen. I plodded on. The terrain changed from rocky mountain to forest and we didn’t see people for a couple of hours till an odd villager crossed us on his way down with some cattle. I negotiated narrow paths with tall green bushes on either side which had dubious-sounding rattles coming from them and then suddenly the land opened out into a barley field with huge stalks. I followed the guide determinedly along the cement drain path and continued climbing, past a village and school and five and a half hours later, reached the temple at the top. I stopped to catch my breath and insisted I could go no further, not even the 308 steps up to the temple. The guide however said that it made no sense for me not to go, having come all the way. So I doggedly went on, by now thoroughly exhausted and mentally dead. Physically of course, by some miracle I was still moving step by step. I prayed for a while and by the guide had come up as well. Apparently there was no taxi available at that height and we would have to trek another one and a half kilometers (downhill, thankfully) to get to the nearest bus-stop from where we could catch a bus back to Rishikesh.

I slid along the path that the guide led me on and, downhill being so much easier, reached in 25 minutes or so. Then caught the bus as it trundled up, and returned to Rishikesh, exhausted to the bone but dare I say, proud of myself.

The next day we took a bus to Shivpuri, about 14 km away. It is a rafting campsite but since the season hadn’t started, we couldn’t raft. Still, sitting by the gorgeous rushing river as the mountains loomed nearby was soul-moving, and I’m glad I could see Nature in its resplendent best. We went back half and hour later to Rishikesh and caught the bus back to Delhi.

My body still aches but that was yet another trip to remember. Awesome!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thoughts on how to attain blogging glory

I don’t have much work today, so I’ve had the time to read a number of blogs. What is it that makes some blogs interesting and others just narrations? I’m not quite sure. Some write from the soul about what they feel and think, some write about places they’ve been to or people they know, some people just write about nothing (but get away with it pretty well because its well-written). How do you know what type to be? Or what type is best? One thing I have noted about the most interesting (which may not be the best-written) or best-written (which may not be the most interesting) blogs is that the former category usually write about their lives, and the latter are the creative lot. In literary terms, I mean – you know, with poems, or quotes, or references to multiple music lyrics thrown in. I think I’m getting myself into a soup here - and if I am I care a damn, by the way – but I think its better to let thoughts out loud. Then even if you find your thoughts contradicting each other, at some point you will get clarity.

So, of course there are blogs that are both interesting and well-written. Many of those belong to famous people. Some of those are teenager or students – I think its because that is the age when you have a lot of things to do and people to meet and thanks to your course or classes, you tend to have practice in writing. Which is not the case with me these days, unfortunately, because work usually means I am slowly killing the creativity in me. Currently, blogging doesn’t count, in my opinion, because at the moment most of my blog pieces are descriptions. They aren’t terribly interesting nor, thanks to my lack of writing practice, are they well-written. Anyway, in addition to these categories there are also those that are merely informative (i.e, they point to various interesting articles), and others that are informative and critical (those who point to interesting articles but also comment on them briefly).

I think the key (as I was advising a friend recently, as if I am the One Who Knows All About Blogging) is to just break the barriers down. Some people who blog are often scared about letting out their real idenities to the world, and they have good reason to be in this day and age of computer hacking etc etc. Sometimes that means that they are not completely honest – what if someone they know chances to read their blog and identifies them? That, for example, means that you can’t write about your crappy day at work because someone from work might actually read it and who knows what will happen then. A woman actually lost her job because of exactly that, by the way. Dooce, she calls herself. A solution to this problem is to refer to the people in your life by initials – such as , ‘S said this’ or ‘V thinks that’. That’s not such a bad idea, I’m beginning to think. Anonymity and honesty together.

So – the whole point of me writing this is so that I could figure out what type I should be.

I still don’t know.

Till then, I guess its going to be trial-and-error. But I SO want to attain blogging mastery soon!