Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!

Am hoping this year will be different in many ways, both internal and external. Only one way to find out! :o)

Happy New Year, folks!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Book-mad!

So, while the past month, or two, has served to keep me on my toes and a wee bit too tied up to write, the time has been well utilized to catch up on my reading. If there is one thing I lament, it is not having enough time to read...I sometimes get so desperate I start reading whatever is printed on juice or milk packets, or whatever comes my way!

Weird? Slightly mad? That would be me, when it comes to reading. I remember getting jugged all the way back in primary school, for reading in class. Ah, what a lovely time that used to be...sitting in the back benches, with a book open on my lap, sneaking in a paragraph or two when the teacher was looking the other way...getting so completely absorbed in the book that I would tune out pretty much everything around me. Many is the time someone's had to reach over and give me a shake to get my attention. Come to think of it, this might be what triggered my 'reputation' for being absentminded in school!

Made it to college, and there I loved the freedom to lug as many books as I wanted over to the library, when I decided to give classes a miss (erm...if you are still in school, or college, please not to follow my example!). I would never be without a book tucked under my arm, or in my bag, and would flip it open at the drop of a hat. At home, I would be curled up on the stairs to the terrace, where it was cool and quiet, devouring some book or the other. I remember, my introduction to Wodehouse came just before a set of exams, when I was helping to unpack and air some of my parents old books. Thereon, I would always have a Wodehouse tucked into the side of my chair, to sneak a break when the studying got a little too much for me!

Books were always an escape, a means to enter another reality, a means to relax and let go of anything that happened to be dogging my heels. There's nothing like the feel, and smell, of a book to keep you company while you read, while you relax! Ever since I started work. my handy book would always be open whenever I was commuting to a customer's office, riding an elevator or while sitting on the back of a bike / car, in traffic. Dragging myself home after a night shift, I would still need to read a few pages before I gave in and slept. Most of the time, this was done in the dim light of a zero-lamp, so as not to disturb my roommate!

Nowadays, with my increased traveling, I get to read in transit and while on the plane...often to the detriment of my sleep! At home, I don't getaway with too much reading into the night since the lights keep Faz awake. Hence I have now given in to technology and started using ebooks...digitized books that I load onto my PDA, and scroll away to glory wherever I may be! No doubt my eyes are in for it, but the pull of a good book is always hard to resist.

*Sigh* I have to go....my book calls...I have to find out what happens next!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Missing: Blogger who responds to the name 'Taz'....

....if found, please call this blog...she may be flawed, but I miss her!" - From.The.Chaos


(A new job, a long trip overseas...what to say...excuses, excuses!)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Of Coffee Houses and Pho Gà

Today is the kind of day I like - slow, lazy, cool, devoid of traffic, a holiday in the middle of the week! Being the concluding 10th day of the Dasara festival, Vijayadashami has kept most Bangaloreans at home. So Faz and I have started the day with breakfast at India Coffee House, scrambled eggs on toast, mutton cutlets, fresh lime juice and ICH signature dosas, before he heads off to work and I stay back to nurse my book and one leisurely cup of coffee after the other...completely my kind of day!

Looking out the picture window in the front, at the world going by, I realize I haven't gotten around to writing about my recent trip to Vietnam, though I have been waxing eloquent about it to everyone I meet. So here goes!

While it was fairly short (3 & a half days only) and confined to the city, my visit left me wanting more. Contrary to my perceptions, that a war-ravaged country in the middle of the Pacific couldn't have resolved to much semblance of normalcy, Ho Chi Minh City was a surprise. For one, the weather was quite comfortable, barely balmy and often cool, at the height of what was supposed to be the worst season. For my heat-averse self, this was a complete boon! The city itself, laid out in old French lines, with what looked like Bangalore and San Francisco's China Town mixed in, was clean and extremely orderly.

Wide roads and boulevards, well-regulated traffic, clean streets and sidewalks. And a mass of bike traffic....bikes, bikes everywhere...small ones, fast ones, old ones, new ones...every Vietnamese seemed to be zipping along on a bike, wearing signature capri pants and a jockey helmet. The few other vehicles seen were either extremely high-end, newer model cars or cyclos (trishaws - these are like the old cycle-rickshaws, only with the cycle part at the back, and single seating at the front). The rich-poor divide seemed very clear cut, at least on the roads. Public transportation meant either a cab, a bike-taxi or the cyclo. The latter two being the most common.

I preferred to walk, though. The best way, in my opinion, to see any city, to experience it, is to foot soldier!

So, walk I did, from the hotel to the local markets, to the Pho joints where I downed bowls of Pho (rice noodles in clear soup with chicken, served with chopped red peppers, sprouts, onions, chilly sauce and bean sauce), to the saloon where I head-banged to some amazing Rock music belted out by a surprisingly talented Filipino band with an out-of-this-world sound. Walk I did, except when I took a cyclo on a short tour of the city, before heading out to dinner with the team.

Oh right, I was in Ho Chi Minh on work, and all my jaunts about the city were interspersed with conferences and meetings. None of which stopped me from taking these side trips. And enjoying some of the best fruit I have ever tasted...watermelons, tangerines, oranges, dragonfruit....nectar on my tongue! When I got tired of fruit and Pho , which I indulged in for every alternate meal, I went hunting and discovered a little restaurant called 'Spice' that served up some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand. Better than some of the best Thai food in Thailand, in fact!

Of course, my picks, overall on this trip, were limited since I am allergic to anything that swims (Lord help me if chickens ever start hanging by the pool!), and I don't eat anything that oinks. And the Vietnamese lace their food with prodigious amounts of fish sauce and pork products, apart from a host of other things I tried not to recognize. Asking for unadulterated Chicken, however, normally afforded me a good meal. That and tucking into delicacies like beef satay, slow-braised veal in tamarind sauce served with with green peppercorn, spring onions with herbs and vinegar, and lamb chops. All this followed by desserts like sticky mango rice or almond banana cake with hazelnut ice cream and nougat or fresh cut fruits served on ice. My palate was tickled no end!

For a short trip, I walked my legs off, tried almost every kind of food available (except from the things with mandibles or tentacles!), and satisfied the bargain shopper in me (clothes, lacquer ware, coffee, nuts, rice paper paintings...!). I would love to make another trip back, sometime soon, and spend a few days both tramping through the cities and exploring the surrounding countryside. Saigon, here I come!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Working Together - An Afternoon at Home

It's been a nice lazy mid-week afternoon. I have been working from home, while recuperating from a bad bout of Viral fever, and Faz decided to join me today.

Each of us plonking away at our respective laptop computers, lounging on the nice, comfortable, made-to-very-specific-specifications sofas (the 2 months of pain involved in the making of these lounging sofas were well worth it!), the occasional cups of tea, the random bits of chatter, the sharing of choice bits of news and reports, the lunching together ... after a long time we've actually spent time together while working. Quite a long time since we shared any working space and even more since we both last worked on the same things.

With Faz now running his own show, and me working an MNC job, our time together is after work unwinding, and nice weekend lazing. No more working on project plans together or wrapping our skulls around customer quirks ; no more haggling on details or fighting over approaches ; no more eating out with our teams and celebrating a job well done.

I like the way things are, but I do miss the way they used to be :o)

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Ode To Althrocin

knees quiver, fingers shiver
tremors run through, whenever you do
It's not love, nor hate; not chemistry, just biology
pardon me while I rush to the loo

Monday, July 14, 2008

Airport Vs. Airport.

I had a chance to travel to Hyderabad, last week, on one of my usual morning-evening trips. After experiencing the new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, and naturally comparing it to the Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli, all I can say is that the BIAL is simply brilliant.

A brilliant waste of time, money, effort and intention.

This is not to say that Shamshabad is perfect or extremely well-planned. It is to say that BIAL is so much worse as to fall right off the bottom of the scale.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Paradise Lost....and Found?

Faz and I spent this past weekend zipping from one part of the city to another, working our way through the innumerous To-Do lists we had. And as we tripped over uneven pavements, darted through traffic, got stuck in slow-moving jams, jumped signals (inadvertently not intentionally!), got jugged for illegal parking and generally got honked at by motorists who really should have known better, I couldn't help but feel like we almost found the Bangalore we had lost. Almost, but not quite.

Ever since Bangalore arrived (with a bang!), exploding onto national and international awareness as the IT Capital of India, my personal opinion has been that the city has gone to the dogs. Oh, wait, correct that....even the dogs probably don't want anything to do with it. And the prime culprits have been the unimaginable growth in the city's populace (courtesy massive influx from here, there and the back of beyond), corresponding exponential increase in pollution and decrease in the green spaces that were Bangalore's pride, abysmal lack of infrastructure or public facilities and sky-rocketing costs of living (also known as barely-hanging-on-by-your-fingernails).

No more peaceful residential layouts, what with every other building being turned into a commercial "enterprise" of some sort or the other ; no more blissful Bangalore weather, though it is still better here than in most cities in India ; no more after-work drives down to City Center (read MGs, Brigades, St.Marks, Comm Street and thereabouts) for a saunter and bandi-eating ; no more veggie shopping at Russel Market ; no more lazy weekend mornings at Koshy's, watching the world go by ; no more quiet reading at British Library followed by aimless drives through random areas; no more night shows in town in the middle of the work week ; no more mid-week concerts at Chowdiah Hall ; no more Vasantahabba ; no more sense of pride in Namma Bengaluru.

Life has, over the past 6 years, metamorphosed into something unrecognizable for an old Bangalorean (even for a relatively new Bangalorean!), and the infinite traffic snarls, noise, crowds, increasing road-rage, lack of courtesy, common-sense and plain civic sense makes this something to run from. And over the past 6 years, we have both forgotten why we came here in the first place.

However, for a few moments this weekend, as we walked hand-in-hand through the bustle of Avenue Road and BVK Iyengar Road, met with old-timers at stores that have been doing business for ever and a day, joked with sales boys and girls in the Marthahalli Factory outlets, haggled with fruit sellers on bicycles, ate pani-puri at roadside corners, and shoveled scrambled-eggs-on-toast with cold coffee at India Coffee House, we saw glimmers of the place Bangalore had been and of Life as we had known it.

Of a Life that had time for everyone, and everything, where a smile and a bit of a chat with a nameless stranger had no strings attached, where slow satisfaction carried more importance than instant gratification.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Much Ado About....?

Today is finally the inaugural day for the new Bengaluru International Airport, and I was one of the lucky(?) travellers to pass through their portals. Coming back into town, to a new airport, located way out in the middle of nowhere, with a potential transit time of almost 2 hours to hit civilization (read "anywhere near home"!), is rather discomfiting at the best of times. And today certainly was not the best.

We touched down, and then were kept waiting almost 20 minutes, in the aircraft, while the aerobridge and the air'plane figured out how to kiss without bumping noses. And then waited another 15 minutes for our luggage to arrive. Despite being "priority" tagged my bags actually arrived last. Oh, wait! My mistake! Priority tagging means "First in LAST out"! I finally exited the airport almost an hour after landing. Which is not quite done when you are flying domestic! But, okay, let's put things down to first-day-fiascos and keep going.

What, in my opinion, is not acceptable is having just 3 stalls to a washroom in the arrival hall of an International airport that claims to equal anything in Singapore, Dubai or elsewhere. 3 stalls, which on day one of the airport's functioning, were not quite functional. Before you wonder why this woman is stuck on washrooms, you try coming in after a long flight with a bursting what-not and encountering what I did!

This, at an airport that has opened amidst much controversy, after an over-long wait, claiming to be able to handle upto 11 million travelers and which proposes levying rather hefty "user development fee" on them.

Mr.Albert Brunner - like heck I am paying a user fee at your airport!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I spy with my little eye...

Answer me this : what does the Electrical Division of a Detective Agency do? I mean, what would you classify as electrical detection? And I don't think this is the variety that electricians and testers indulge in!

My mind popped this question when I ended up waiting in traffic next to a minivan marked "Electrical Division - ***** Detective Agency". After, that is, wowing at the coolness of

(a) actually having a detective agency in this town and
(b) actually standing next to what could well be a van full of detectives on a hot case!

What's the big deal, you say? The big deal is that I am a detective-story-junkie and automatically equate, however mistakenly, detectives and the art of detection to the stalwarts I have grown up reading and watching.

Some of my favorites are the usual suspects - Hercule Poirot, Perry Mason (more detective than lawyer, I think), Deputy Chief Constable Bob Skinner, the indubitable Mr.Holmes.

And some more unusual - Tommy & Tuppence, Lt.Eve Dallas (don't be fooled by the fact that the author also writes romance novels!), Batman (hey, The Dark Detective still counts!), Laura Holt & Remington Steele (yeah, so, Pierce Brosnan rocks), Adrian Monk, Shawn Spencer, Precious Ramotswe, Oz Blackstone ....the list goes on!

What about you? Who's on your list?!

Friday, May 16, 2008

D:Pak on MOJO's The Circuit

Dee's finally got his own show...take a bow cuz!



Watch and laugh folks, watch and laugh. Oh, and pass the word along!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Voted Out

It's that time of year when the "democratic process" raises it's head. So all of us whipped out our respective voting ids and off we trotted to the designated polling booth. The choice of candidates was much debated, their various merits, demerits and poll promises chewed over, until we each thought we know how we would vote.

Out came the voter lists, names got matched to id cards, fingernails were dabbed with indelible ink, and votes were cast. Everyone else's but mine, that is.

For my name, it seemed, did not appear on any voter list. This, after it having been on there for atleast 9 years.

No amount of searching helped, the name was nowhere to be found. So I had to return, with no choice but to abstain from choosing.

One can only wonder how many more willing and discerning voters had been sent home because they fell through the holes of our great democratic sieve!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scents - Memories from Childhood

They say that the human olfactory sense is one of the weakest in the Animal Kingdom, and yet, the sense of smell has the strongest links to human memory.

A whiff of Pears soap, this morning, got me thinking about the various scents that meant something to me, because they are "placeholders" in the databank in my head. So many memories, from my growing years (which some may debate are still in force!) - both good and bad:

  • The wet, earthy, smell from the garden that either meant rain, or that Dad was pottering around watering his profusion of plants
  • The smell of fresh coffee decoction, the perfect start to the day
  • Agarbatti smoke, from the puja room, which meant either my Pati, or Pech-pati were up and about
  • The smell of Pears soap, on Pati's skin, and the smell of Mysore Sandal soap on Thatha's
  • The cloying smells of sambrani, and numerous garlands, from Thatha and Pechpati's funerals
  • The muggy, damp smell of a totally drenched, joyous dog that meant you were about to get mud all over the house!
  • The aroma of home-made pizzas, cakes and samosas - Mom's at home and all's well with the world!
  • The scent of dryer sheets on clothes taken out of a suitcase, which always meant someone traveling from the US
  • The rich, brown smell of Pati's Mysore Pak
  • The smell of Bril ink that always reminds me of my first fountain pen, when starting school in India (till date, the smoothest nib I have used!)
  • The smell of Comfort fabric conditioner that reminds me of growing up in Kaduna
  • The smell of Dad's aftershave ( I loved this so much that, when he was working overseas, I snuck the bottle into my cupboard and kept sniffing it whenever I missed him)
  • Mom's Jontue perfume - a standard item on anyone's gift shopping list!
  • The scent of sandal wood that means home, means Mysore in a different time

Friday, April 04, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Make "Earth Hour" happen


Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming. As a result, at 8pm March 29, 2008 people in some of the world’s major cities will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.

What can you do?

  1. Sign up to Earth Hour and commit to turning off your lights on March 29 from 8pm to 9pm. The Earth Hour team will send you all the information you need to make Earth Hour happen at home and at work (and to cut your energy bills in the long term). It’s free to take part.
  2. Take household appliances off standby; unplug any home appliances – mobile phone charger, TV, microwave, MP3 player, computer monitor, printer – that are not being used and are on standby. Appliances left on standby account for up to 10% of the average household’s electricity use.
  3. Spread the word about Earth Hour and involve your friends, family and workmates. Get them to make the commitment to turn off their lights at 8pm Saturday March 29, 2008.

Earth Hour 2007 - Sydney: here, here and here.