Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hug your Mother

This is a short one, I have been extremely busy the last week and a half, hence no posts, next week hopefully should be a lot better.

Just a small note to remind you dear reader that, even as I write this or as you read this, there is someone important in our lives who we love (and loves us) that we have taken for granted, haven't called or spent time with or just let them know that you care. As the cliche goes, life is too short, give them a call or better yet, spend sometime with them, now.

All my life, the one person I've taken for granted a whole lot is my Mother. There are stuff that I've always wanted to do with her, like lots of road trips or travel abroad but I've always pushed to some faraway time in the future since I never could find the time. But now that she has stage 4 cancer, it is hard not to think of those lost moments in the past. I can't think of a moment in my life when I needed some help or thoughts or ideas that she hasn't been around to provide it.

She is one of the coolest people I know, an intellectual, a voracious reader, a leader, a great teacher, a tough administrator, a progressive (and a conservative, she is quite the unique blend) a modest person and all in all a really fun person to be around. She always told me that she is extra careful about doing good things every since she had children because, she firmly believes that the good the parents do benefit the children. Given my past, where I was a total loser through school and college, I know there has been an angel looking over my shoulder, helping me clean up my mess and become something of a decent human being.

She's just 64 and it seems to be quite unfair but the one person who has been the strongest throughout this has been her. Everyone tells me that they are inspired by her courage, for me everything she does is just brilliant. And as I prepare to drive down to spend the weekend with her in the hospital, where she got admitted yesterday, all I can think of is it's so damn tough seeing her suffer. After working hard all her life, raising two kids, managing a home along with dad, getting two of her sister-in-laws married, being a Professor and then becoming a Principal of four different colleges often traveling long hours to get to work, I don't think she's ever had some time for herself in a very long time. I keep wishing that I could go back in time and force her to take more time for herself or take that holiday with my Dad that they always planned to go but never did. There are a lot of things that I wish I could do but for now the only thing I can do is sit with her.

(Please remember her in your prayers. Not sure why I wrote this, I didn't intend to write so much but the words just tumbled out. Not deleting them or editing them).

Thursday, May 06, 2010

If I were Bond: A Short Taxi Ride

(I've been wanting to do this for a while, this is a dramatised version of a true incident that I wrote here. I've done this before, in a post titled Double oh Seventy Six, which I think was more funnier. I'm just trying my favourite styles to sort of get back into the groove)

I got out of the of the airplane and looked around to a distant spot, as I normally do in the beginning of each story. My sunglasses gleamed in the afternoon sun. I flipped open my tricked out cellphone and switched it on and I saw that there were a number messages welcoming me to the local mobile network and asking me to call customer care for any assistance. Damn! They new I was coming, undercover work isn't what it used to be. There was an urgent flashing message from HQ

I called HQ and got patched through to M. He was in the shower, I hate video phones.

I walked into the arrival lounge and saw a group of air-hostesses looking at me casually, I get that a lot. As I walked past them, I could see them fanning themselves. Was it my magnetic charm? or Was it my strong new minty aftershave? I didn't rightly know. After a quick trip to the washroom (I bet they don't show that in the movies huh?) I found my way to the exit looking for the local liaison officer to take me to my hotel. She wasn't there.

I gritted my teeth in anger, I bet this never happened to Pierce Brosnan! I evaluated my options, you see, I've been trained. I could either hang around till the she came, I heard that she was cute and I do like myliaisons, if you get my drift! Or I could show the enterprise that I'm known for and get local transportation.

I chose the latter, I was a man of action after all. I walked over to the taxi stand but none of the taxi drivers wanted to take me. When I walked towards them they seemed to turn away as if I wasn't there. Further proof that my cover was busted, why would they stall me from getting to my hotel? I checked my cool GPS cum video phone cum rocket launcher cum mp3 player watch, I looked at it intently. I couldn't tell the time, I didn't read the manual for I am Bond, James Bond.

I looked up at the sun and figured it might be about 5 PM. As walked over to one of the taxi guys, they averted my eyes and eventually started walking away. I grabbed one of them by the collar and shook him like I was some humour-less blonde Australian guy cum wannabe Britishspy, who shall remain nameless. I asked him why they kept avoiding me when I walked towards them. He croaked "cuzyerzipperisdown".

I dropped him down and he scampered away after his friends. I quickly did what I had to do, I buttoned my jacket. As I turned to head back to the arrival area, I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned around to see this oily haired guy with metal teeth. "Ah you lourking foh ah texi sah?" he deadpanned. I knew this was trouble, guys with bad teeth always meant that, I knew it coz I floss, but trouble was my middle name. I said, "Why yes" in my fake British accent and he promptly led me to a taxi parked away from the others.

As I sat in the back he went over to the driver's side, got in and started the car. Before the car moved, the front passenger door opened and another goon jumped into the car and snarled at me menacingly. I chuckled, amateurs!

As the taxi moved out of the parking lot, the goons in front started snarling at me too tell them the details of my mission. I took out a nail file and started filing my nails as I was whistling, this song was stuck in my head, I couldn't remember the singer. I made a mental note to ask HQ. The goon in the passenger seat tried to grab me, I just swung away, I wasn't going to let these guys upset my day, I just grinned back at them. The goon was more agitated and started telling me that they would torture me with 100 hours of Ricky Martin music if I didn't tell them the details of my mission. I have to admit, there were little butterflies in my stomach. I had to end this now before they messed with my mind with 'She Bangs'!

I leaned forward and fired the nail file gun at the passenger and grabbed the driver by the neck. I checked my stop clock, 4.35 seconds, not bad. The driver stopped the car and I patted him down for weapons. I found a Wrigley's Juicy Fruit.

I knocked him unconscious and got out of the car and I could hear the distant wail of the police car. I leaned against the taxi chewing the juicy fruit, waiting for the police to arrive and the background score to end.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Monday Morning Blues

Earlier today as I got into my car and eased into the traffic jam right outside the apartment building where I live on my way to office, my mind was quite filled a lot of things, primarily relating to my job. Things that I needed to get done and the things that I can only worry about and not do much. Plus with my wife and daughter out of town, two illnesses in the family and a dozen things I have to do personally, I had a sense of uneasiness which isn't so good on a Monday, the stress levels were already rising and I hadn't even stepped into the office yet!

To add to this was the great Indian stress machine, the traffic. Anyone who has travelled through Nelson Manickam Road or Sterling road in Chennai at 9 AM on a week day, would attest to the kind of craziness that goes everyday. I'm sure it's no different in the thousand big cities across the world.

As I weaved through traffic with cars, bikes, auto-rickshaws, buses, cycles, pedestrians all jumping in at inopportune moments, yelling or staring at each other, the normal twenty minute drive can be quite the torture. Some days, sitting in a car with the windows rolled up feels like a cozy world with the world and sometimes it feels like it did today, a prison. As I was stuck in a longish traffic signal, something high above caught my eye. It was a big bird, probably a Kite, flying high in the air making a graceful pattern against the blue sky. It didn't look like it was going anywhere but was gliding around just enjoying it's freedom. As I watched I got drawn into it's pattern and I could feel myself getting a little relaxed. Then I noticed the sky itself, with it's spectacular blue dome, partly covered with beautiful white and grey clouds. Everything looked so serene up there when compared to the madness that was down below.

As my car moved extra slowly through traffic, I started absorbing my environment probably for the first time since I've taken this route in the last 3 years, the beautiful trees covering the Sterling Road providing a wonderful cover in the hot sun only interrupted by the busy crows that looked like business executives rushing from one meeting to another. The sky was one that took my breath away, it was like a large blue canvas stretched overheard filled with a beautiful abstract art that was the clouds, the colours so pure and compelling. By the time I reached my office, I had a smile on my face which I couldn't explain to anyone.

The point that I'm trying to make is that, when we search for beauty in these big ugly metros we live in, all we have to do is look up.

(Update: This post got a kind mention at my friend Hilary's fantastic blog, The Smitten Image, as one of the posts of the week. Thanks DJ for adding this post to your POTW list! Now, I'd like to thank the academy....)

Sunday, May 02, 2010


With the gloriously blazing summer this year, everyone I meet in most of the metros around the country talk about only one thing, the heat. The weather as a topic, comes up within five minutes into any conversation. 'It's too hot', 'it's too humid', 'it's too dry', 'have to buy a new fan or air conditioner' or 'fix the one that's not working so well' etc etc, these are the stuff that dominates all our conversation. It's almost a national obsession, that and all the mess that we call the Indian Premier League. I don't think the weather has changed much over the thirty six years of my life (global warming not withstanding), come summer the mercury touches 40C and sometimes goes beyond. But somehow, it's almost like we've become a nation of tender skinned people in dire need of SPF40, waiting to get out of the sun and into the cooler confines of our homes or offices.

I can't remember a day during my summer vacations as a kid or anyone I knew having a problem with the weather. If it was daytime, it was time to play cricket out in the open, plain and simple. Of course, would be interrupted by the infrequent visits of the Water Lorry, which means you get stuck with standing in longish queues, carrying loads of water inside the house etc, which was tough work and nostalgia doesn't make it seem any better now. But most of all the time was well spent in getting dirty in about a hundred different days and landing up back at home when the sunsets and waiting for the daylight to come the next day.

The point that I'm trying to make is quite simple, we live in a country that's hot 7 to 10 months of the year, depending on where you live. The more we hate it, the more it becomes a factor in our lives, either you move to New Zealand or Canada or Iceland (and start obsessing about the cold) or just enjoy the weather for what it's worth.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The New Look

There are so many similarities between my fitness regime and my blogging that it's a little eerie. Both started around 6-8 years ago (6 years for the blog and 8 for the fitness regime) and were both pursued with passion. They both achieved their peek 4-5 years ago and roughly 3 1/2 years ago, both came to a screeching halt.

There have been many a (false) start since then. I haven't yet been to a fitness club that I haven't paid a membership to, nor have I wasted an opportunity to write a random post stating that I'm back for good. But I guess during these three and a half years, I've started to be a more active participant in life rather than being a passive observer. For instance, a lot of my blogging was about my time at various airports or flights, so much so that I looked forward to flight delays and extended travel times. It gave me the opportunity to sit on a rock and watch the world go by. When I met Shireen (my wife), I got off that rock. There was no void that needed to be filled with stuff like blogging or going to the gym (for 2-3 hours a day). Through this time though, there has been a growing need to both get fit and also start writing. The fit part is because now that I have a little girl (2 years old), I really need all the energy that I can get to keep up with her. I can't describe the joy she gives me and the happiest portions of my life is when I'm with her and my wife. And I'm sure most of my friends who have known me know that I've always had this major yearning to write (and to be read).

A lot of times I believe I think when I write, it is an integral part of me that I've missed, the ability to explore every nook and cranny of my mind. Hence this attempt, like my (re)visit to the gym on monday is not another whim but a decision (hopefully) taken with a strong will for it to succeed.

Over the last week or so, I've been jotting down some thoughts in a book, which would soon be blog posts, hence I hopefully have the material for the next month or so.

I hope you like the new look. The picture above the blog was something I took at Mirvana Nature Resort, in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), which can only be described as an Oasis in the desert. A beautiful garden resort (in the middle of the desert) run by a friend and her family. I highly recommend it.

To any of my friends who have yet kept the faith and kept a tab on this block, I'd like to say firstly that you are crazy and secondly, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

A Short Taxi Ride

A few days ago, I landed up in the Mumbai airport at 5 PM in the evening to attend a formal dinner. I was supposed to meet up with my colleague from Delhi who was landing at the same time, it turned out that his flight was early and mine was an hour late and hence he had left by the cab booked by the office and I was stuck looking for a local cab. As I walked over to the Taxi area, I was accosted by a number of taxi drivers and auto drivers, I politely refused as I walked over to a line of the blue Cool Cabs.

When I reached there I found out that these cabs have all gone pre-paid and hence I needed to go back into the arrival lounge to book them, which given the security concerns around airports was easier said than done, hence I was advised to seek a taxi from a lot which was near the arrival pick-up area.

As I was walking towards this place, another driver came to me and asked me if I needed a taxi. Realising that I had no choice, I nodded and immediately he reached for my strolley bag and guided me to a solitary (blue) taxi on the side of the area. As I got in to the Taxi , along with the driver another guy jumped into the car in the front. Since I was on a phone call by then I couldn't do much and as I was talking on the phone the taxi pulled away. The guy sitting next to the driver turned back and showed me a card which I couldn't figure out much and told me that the trip to Colaba would cost me thousand five hundred rupees. I knew that the normal fare was around four hundred or five hundred rupees. I held my call and told this guy that I wanted to be dropped off immediately and I didn't want his cab. He started arguing with me asking me how much I wanted to pay etc. I told him I just wanted to be dropped off and I'd find my way. By this point the taxi was weaving through a slow traffic inside the airport premises.

After my insistence that I be dropped of he said "OK give me 800 now" (To be honest I am not sure if he meant for the destination or just getting out of the cab). I refused him and told him that I wanted to be dropped off. His voice got louder and more threatening. The driver was looking around nervously. I weighed my odds and given that I was stuck with the two guys I really wanted to get out of the cab before I left the airport premises. The guy next to the driver pulled out two hundred rupees and thrust it at me, asking me to give him a thousand. I felt that the only way the taxi was going to stop was if I showed them some money so I hesitantly pulled out my wallet and took eight hundred rupees and handed over to his guy. He grabbed the one five hundred and three hundred rupee notes I gave him and turned forward to hide his body away from me and I could see him switching the five hundred with a hundred he had in his pocket and then he turned to me and told him that I'd given him only four hundred and I had to give him another four hundred now. Now, this got me incredibly mad and I started yelling at him and started rolling down the window started screaming 'STOP!' (or something quite similar) from the top of my voice. The guy next to the driver kept yelling at me that I needed to give him more money NOW!

As the traffic the car braked in traffic, I quickly got out the car and started looking around for some help. The guy next to the driver got out still asking me (in a low tone) that I needed to give him money before I can go. Fortuitously, I looked around and I saw a Police Jeep d coming up on the side doing it's rounds. I flagged it down and the driver seeing this quickly got out and unloaded my luggage

As I approached the Police Jeep, the taxi driver zoomed off, since the road was now clear in front, leaving his partner in crime. As the cop was listening to me and asking questions about the taxi license (or something like that), the guy told the cop that he wanted to call his boss to come and clarify that they were a genuine taxi and took a few steps away holding his phone to his ear. As I went back to narrating my story I could see a figure darting off to my right from the corner of my eye. It was the taxi guy. No one from the Jeep got off.

After I narrated the story, the Policeman in the front (who had taken the car number down) asked me if I was OK. They flagged off another cab and told the cab driver to charge me the actual cab fare and as I was loading my bags I realised that I not only had that eight hundred rupees I'd given to the guy (which he thrust in my hand just as the cop vehicle stopped) but also the two hundred he had given me in the car in anticipation of a thousand! I walked back to the Police vehicle and told the Cop that I had this money. He asked me to put the money on his dashboard, which I did. And then I was on my way.

(Not proud of the fact that I intended to hand over the eight hundred bucks to these taxi guys but all I could think off was that I wanted to end the issue before the Cab got out of the airport premises. And I'm not sure if the Cops did do anything, no one stepped out of the Jeep, I had to rush for this dinner and I was already behind schedule plus I had to catch an early morning flight to Baroda, which I did. Bottom line - when in Mumbai Airport, get a pre-paid).