Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It all started with a New Year resolution, a resolution to complete one hundred dates by the end of the year 2007. That converted roughly into one carefully planned evening every third day. In a place like Hyderabad and especially the Madhapur (Hitec city mind sound a bit more sophisticated) locality, with its designer building and IT parks to house software firms, the options (rather places) to spend that beautiful evening were rather limited. So much so that I would inadvertently find myself in a coffee shop every now and then.

Think of it, before that glorious January of 2007, the coffee mugs that I had sipped in my entire life could be counted on the fingertips. Through all of those years while I was growing up, I was never encouraged to have tea or coffee. Part of it can be attributed to the fact that the part of the country I belonged to, tea/coffee was always thought of an adult thing. Part of it can also be because of my mother’s conscious effort to keep me away from this obnoxious habit that our entire family (extended family which includes uncles, cousins, second cousins, cousins of cousins and extends so far to the extent that if you plan to go to any city, big or small, in India, someone will surely be there on the railway station, with a big smile on their face, to welcome you) had, of drinking one full cup of tea every half an hour or so. The travails of my poor aunties, almost entire day of theirs devoted to ensure smooth operation of this grand tea procession that we used to have.

With this impression of coffee being a strict no-no etched in a portion of my subconscious, I had a stuttering start to this oh-so-ambitious resolution of mine. But coffee dates have rarely been about coffee. I remember the first time I was on a coffee date; it was CCD on Brigade Road, Bangalore (perhaps the first of four hundred odd outlets that have mushroomed all over India). We spent close to four hours, with just two cups of coffee between us, and it was really hard for me to imagine how the storeowners encouraged this business model, which cost young people less than a couple of hundred rupee bills for leisurely spending their time right in the middle of the most happening places.

I always had this unexplained sense of favoritism towards Café Coffee Day, and always had an apprehensive outlook towards the Barista. Maybe because Barista, with its suave and sophisticated decors was custom made for the brats and the snobs (or so I thought), a group I identified least with. Or maybe because Café Coffee Day was the first to reach to small towns, and hence appeared more approachable. So, most of my early coffee dates were an exclusively CCD affair. The by-products of such religious regularity were many; I had almost every item, right from A to Z, on the menu card, did a small improvisation on the way Chocolate Excess was served (made sure that the pastry was micro waved till the chocolate topping started to drip) and could recollect the names of all the CCD coffee attendants working in Madhapur and Jubilee Hills area. Not so long after, I found myself growing weary of the Kappi Nirvanas, the Ethiopian Kahwas, the African Safaris and the Devil’s Owns (the great guru Sachin Rao always labeled it as a typical girlish drink, I always enjoyed sipping it though). It was time to look beyond, and this is where the journey began.

I tried several other coffee joints, Barista, Brio and Cha Bar (a brilliant concept I came across in Calcutta, where you have outlets serving tea and nothing more but tea) to name a few. I started picking up the subtleties, the difference between the taste profiles of various coffee beans and tealeaves, the various styles of preparation and most importantly the difference between an espresso and cappuccino. Most of us Indians think of espresso as a combination of coffee, milk and sugar, with a thick lather of foam and cream whipped on top; which is precisely what an espresso is not. As I developed and refined my taste buds, the coffee dates that followed were hardly about the ambience and the company and more about my rendezvous with this magic potion. It didn’t matter who accompanied me, as long as I had this nice cup of steaming coffee in my hand, I was happy. After a point, I even stopped bothering about getting some company, used to sneak to the nearest coffee shop on the first available opportunity, sitting silently in a corner, sipping a new variety or trying the latest on the menu. These lessons that I learnt are perhaps the most treasured of all the learning of my life.

This New Year, I gifted myself a whole set of Barista coffee set, equipped with a coffee plunger, finest of French press grind coffee powder, a set of coffee mugs and sundry other utilities.

A year and a quarter in the process, I proudly claim myself to be a coffee connoisseur. Just the other day, one of my friends called up and she was like, “Oh, I feel like having a cup of coffee and what better company than you.” Needless to say, it felt real special.

Three to four years down the line, I intend to write a book on my coffee experiences. And some day, I plan to setup a chain of coffee shops across India. I also intend to start this culture of coffee tasting and a trend of professional coffee drinking classes. Foremost of all plans though is to start a coffee club at my workplace.

Thanks to all you beautiful ladies, for hadn’t it be you guys, I would never have been so aware of such a wonderful aspect of life.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

When Harsha Cried

It took him more than two minutes and seven odd garbled sentences before he could speak something that made sense. And it did take him a Herculean effort to stop those tears rolling down his cheeks. And so emotional was he that he couldn’t afford look straight into the eyes of the gentleman sitting to his left, lest those tear drops trickle down. Even for a seasoned pro like him who covers more cricket matches in an year than some of the celebrated players play in their entire career, it was an onerous task not to let those emotions get the better of him.
He did compose himself though, and in his usual flair gave a fair analysis of the proceedings of the day. Somewhere down inside though, his heart was still beating at a faster rate, in his mind he was still replaying that last stroke, and if he could, he would have thrown that jacket away and might have done a summersault right in front of those cameras, the pictures of which would have beamed live to all those loyalists still glued to their TV sets, eagerly waiting for every word of the expert talk that was to be dished out in the post match show.
Even for a man who has been doing this job for more than two decades, having seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows, the joy was unbearable. And be rest assured that twenty years from now, he will be narrating the story to his grandchildren. “Yes, I was there, on air, covering the match live. And yes, mine was the loudest scream in that commentator’s box when India finally did it”.
The man—Harsha Bhogle, the channel—ESPN, the show—Follow Through, the time—five minutes after the last of uncountably many boundaries that were hit the entire day, the occasion—when a chennai veeran, wielding a piece of wood not more than three feet long and six inches broad, snatched a victory when a defeat looked all but inevitable.
And no, it was not the gracious elegance of the greatest willow wielder of his era that made the ever-poised Harsha crumble, it was the fearless vigor of a twenty-one year old lad.
For the uninitiated, the context is the sixth cricket ODI that was played between England and India the other day, the greatest willow wielder mentioned above is Sachin Tendulkar and the twenty-one year old lad is Robin Utthappa. But no, this article is not an eloquent poetic rendition of the final moments of the cricket match; this article is about human emotions. This piece is about one of those moments of brilliance that can make even a hardened professional look and sound like an ordinary fan, finding it difficult to control his ecstasy, failing to keep his emotions under wraps after seeing his favorite team, sailing on the last ray of hope, lunge towards glory when everything at one point looked lost.
Strange it seems, how people who appear so cold otherwise being so emotionally attached to something whose results are so out of one’s control. Still, one feels an array of emotions ranging from agony to frustration to desperation to ecstasy to bliss when one is rooting for his/her favorite team. Everyone wants to be a part of those special moments, the vestige of which remains etched ever so eternally.
And when you see someone who is at the peak of his prowess almost crack under the burden of his emotions, you know for sure that something special has happened. Yes, there was something special in the madness yesterday, but even so more special was the reaction of Mr. Bhogle. Thanks Harsha for, among others, demonstrating that even when one is at the zenith of competitive success, one never ceases to be a human being. And sometimes our emotions do get better of us.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Glory Days

Gauri (Gaurav Singh) is leaving Hyderabad tomorrow. He is going to pursue his academic interests in Sales and Marketing and then go on to become one of the shrewdest brains in the Marketing industry. And I aint sugar coating my words just because he is leaving and people tend to get soft, goodie goodie when someone near and dear to you leaves. Honestly, I have been a big fan of his business acumen and knowledge for a long long time. The range of books that he has read and the amount of information that he has gathered is appreciable. And worth appreciating also is his enthusiasm for the field he has chosen for himself. Being a softie was so not right for him.
Gauri has been my flat mate for two years. Among other things that I will remember about him, one of the firsts would definitely be Air Hockey. Dunno how many grown ups actually play this game, but for the three of us (Tushar, Gauri and I), this has been our favorite outdoor indoor game(considering its only available in shopping malls and game arcades). Tushar and I have a long history as far as this game is concerned, the rivalry stretching back to our college days; the two of us always have tried to prove supremacy over one another, the incentives sometimes being a silly college crush, sometimes precious nothing. We introduced this game to Gauri around July of 2005, when the three of us had landed for our maiden job and had shifted into the same house.
Air Hockey is a game usually played by kids before they hit their teens, or by oh-so-much-in-love-couples. Needless to say, the game that these people play is rather slow and monotonous. The goals are far and few in between, the puck is more likely caressed than hit and the mallet held more like a flower than a sword. Fortunately, most of the air hockey tables have timers installed, which let you play for only a limited time, something around 3 minutes. And that comes to rescue of these hapless chaps, whose fruitless pursuit for goals and over lived misery is brought to an end.
We play this game in a slightly different manner. For us, the game is all about power, clever angles and dogged defense. We don’t claim to be the firsts to come up with the idea, but yeah, wherever we have went we have seen people trying to emulate our style of play. Like the Europeans changed the way Field Hockey was played, bringing about their aggressive brand of hockey; we claim we brought about a change in the way this game is played and will be played with our own homegrown brand of power play.
While we were introducing Gauri to our kind of game, it was pretty easy to beat him. For the poor fella was still grasping the nuances of air hockey and the way Tush and I played it. Those were the days when Gauri was almost always drubbed. But my-oh-my, this fella was a quick learner. And was fast in adapting to the conditions. Not long after, he started beating the shit out of us. Guess, he devised his own style of the power game, which we hadn’t faced as yet.
Tushar’s game was about clever use of angles. This devilish genius used to use the side rails to the maximum of his advantage, creating angles that were tough to defend and were almost always goal bound. And yeah, some times he used to sneak in a slower, straighter hit; almost never expected and always achieving the desired result.
My game was characterized by power (which I extracted from my shoulders) and a strong defense, and the trait of never giving up. I used to hit the puck as hard as I could and as straight as I could and for as long as I could. The idea was to pester the opponent and slip in a goal from the slightest of gaps that he left. And then defend as if my entire life depended on it.
Gauri invented a slight variation of the straight shot. He added swing and swirl in his game; and it all came from using the wrists. His straight shot always started from middle of the table, giving an impression that it is coming straight at you, but before you realize, comfortably parking itself into the far corner of the goal slot. And the power behind the shot used to Akhtarish (the word derived from Shoaib Akhtar’s pace), bamboozling us. And that’s how he started beating us. And more often than not. And it was frustrating, to say the least.
The old champions that we were, we were not to give up that easily though. With a new competitor on the horizon, it improved our games too. And took it to a different level altogether. Whenever we used to play, I remember, I could see people gather all around us to see our games.
Tushar left Hyderabad a year ago, leaving the mantle of the game on Gauri and yours truly. And from then onwards started the greatest of rivalries this game has ever seen. Our scores more often than not being separated by just one goal, and not before we used to hit the crescendo, the peak of our games. At times, the level of game that we used to put on display amazed us ourselves, the intensity and the quality of the effort put in used to be exemplary. And with time, this rivalry grew bigger and better. And so did our individual games.
Such is the pace and power level of our game that actually very few tables can support it. We tried the one at Prasads, Hyderabad and the first shot that I hit flew right from the fourth floor down to the ground floor. We tried our hands at few tables in Bangalore, but the result was disappointing again. The puck used to fly left, right and centre. The one at the Hyderabad Central is the one that can keep the pace with our game, and the one at City Centre, Hyderabad just about does the job.
And such is the brutality of our game that we out rightly reject the offer of playing with outsiders. And at times, when we have no choice, we just beat them into submission. This Feb I was in Mumbai and had this urge to play hockey. I asked my friends (Tush and Gauri were not there that time) if anyone is interested and wants to play, poor old Riyaaz volunteered, saying that he know something about this game. And hell yeah, he knew something, none of which reflected on the scoreboard though. The LED displayed the score as 7-0, and the poor guy claimed he never knew the game could be played this way too.
Tushar has rejoined us, doing his summer internships on the weekdays and playing hockey on weekends (if we are sober, that is). And off late we have played a lot of triangular tournaments. I must admit though, time has slowed his reflexes and occasionally he looks out of sorts against the frantic pace of ours. Last week though, we could sense he was coming back to the old champ form of his.
Alas, we just have a solitary Saturday to celebrate the trinity and celebrate the game that gave us so much happiness and ecstasy. Tush is here for one more week though. And guess, after that I have just two options. To sit back and remember the glory days, or groom someone who can challenge me (us). To groom whom is tough to imagine though, ‘cause the enthusiasm we share for this game is almost impossible to match.
Gauri, that air hockey table lying right there on the 4th floor of Hyderabad central will never be same without you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I aint the One

A friend of yours meets you or pings you after a really long time. Once the normal niceties like how have you been, where are you these days, how is the life etc is exchanged; invariably your friend will pop up this question. “Aur bata, kya chal raha hai, kuchh naya, koi ladki shadki”(So, tell me, what’s new, some new girl in your life)?
You chuckle and say, “nahi boss, koi nahi hai”(no my friend, there is no one as such). In response of which you get these really good reactions. Sample some of them:
# Haan yaar, hume kyun bataiyegaa, koi nahi, lage raho (Yeah, why would you tell me, no problems, carry on).
# Aisa kya be. Dost ko nahi batayega, samajhta hoon, badal jaatein hain sab (Why so? Won’t even share with a friend. Yeah, I understand, people change).
# Theek hai chhupe rustam, mat batawo. Sachai chhup nahi sakti lakh chhupane se, kabhi toh hume pata chal hi jaayega (Its ok, don’t tell. You can’t hide the truth for long; eventually I will come to know about it).
# Hehehehehehehehe. Tumko kya lagta hai, hume tumhari khabar nahi. Poori news hain apne paas ((A hearty laugh). What do you think; I don’t know anything about you? I have all the requisite info).
There might be variations to the above sample, but all of them revolve around one theme. That you have a girl and you are not disclosing it. At times, its gets really difficult to convince them, at times irritating, and at times you just laugh about it.
Given the fact that I live in a place were I know only a handful of people, and where my social acquaintance aint great enough to boast about, I cant even claim to have minus half a girl with me. And I emphasize on minus, simply because I just cant see from where I will get this girl, about whom I can tell my friends, in the way they wish me to.
Agreed that I know a few girls, agreed that they think of me as this nice happy-go-lucky guy, agreed that at times they think of me as this guy with shit load of attitude, arrogance and stuff, but ask any of them if they want to be my so called ladki shadki (girl), and you will get all kinds of interesting replies.
# Who, he?? Yukkkk
# He aint that kind of a guy.
# I never thought of him like that.
# He and a boyfriend material? What a joke?
# Ask him to get a life.
So, there I go. I can be this nice friend, I can be this guy with whom you can occasionally go out for coffee, I can be the one to take you to a couple of movies, I can be an acquaintance. But when it comes for the girls to upgrade me to “my guy” status, there aren’t enough takers. Chuck the enough part, their aint even a single one.
I hardly complain, simply because this isn’t in my hand. And at times, I even enjoy the fact that I aint bound to just one, that I aint off the shelf yet, that I am still single and ready to mingle.
Someone once told me, boss, if some girl says no to you, there has to be some problem with the girl, maybe because you would be simply too good for her. Nice consolation to fool yourself, only if momentarily.
Sadly-yet-pleasantly, I am single. Take it or leave it.

Dont damn me

What is the true test of love? Most of us have our own theories. Some derive it from the old, clichéd tales of romance where the two people involved claim to do anything and everything for each other, and are ready to pay the ultimate price even. Remember the tales of Romeo-Juliet, Heer-Ranjha etc; losing their sheen gradually as we evolve but nonetheless stand true for quite a few of us. Others tend to be slightly more practical and think the true test of love is when you want your guy/girl to be around and actually find them; that the two of them are ready to slog through thick and thin together. Few others think that their love is eternal when they find a person who in a short period of time is capable of reading them inside out; one who they think will make them happy, for now and ever. For them it’s a leap of faith.
I have a slightly different take on this and I am not sure how I actually hit upon this theory and how and when I actually developed and implemented it. For me, the real test is when I have this “special lady” with me which as per the common perception has this special something about her, and I have one more lady who might not be as special as the first one, nonetheless, is talented enough. The second lady need not be a total stunner, but yeah, she should know how to carry herself. And carry herself well. And the test involves pitting the two of them against each other. In simpler terms, comparing the two. Most of my ladies have told me not to compare them with anyone else, all of them claiming that they are special. Never denied that, yeah, all of you have been special in your own styles. Still…….
There have been instances where I have been completely smitten by someone, and am not able to think beyond her. I have, at times, taken the courage to take the next step forward. Sometimes met with success, met with failures quite often also. And then we have been on these dates, these coffee evenings, long walks etc. As the days pass and I start knowing the lady more and more, I start thinking that she has to be the best thing that has happened to me for quite some time. Sometimes I also ponder that this might not be the infatuation at all, this time for sure I am in love.
As ill luck could have it, only if to justify the Murphy’s Law, I happen to be in a situation where I have this special lady next to me and I also have one more lady with me. And then this whole theory of comparison comes into play. I look at this lady (can I take the liberty of calling her my lady); I look at the other lady. And snap, everything’s gone. Gone daddy gone, the love is gone. Finished. Never understood why this happens to me, but happens quite often. Was I living in a one-dimensional world where I could not think of and imagine about anyone else? Was I the proverbial frog of the pond that never saw the sea in all its vastness? Was it that she was the only lady with me that my mind actually perceived her to be special?
I don’t preach this theory of mine to anyone, and certainly don’t encourage anyone to implement this. I have an advice though. Don’t make your life spin around one single person, don’t make it one-dimensional. Things might go great for sometime, maybe for a long long time; still, it makes life a tad too monotonous.
About me, I don’t know. Maybe I am mentally sick. I actually confessed to one of my friends that I am a prime divorce candidate, because I might not be able to concentrate on someone for long. Maybe I will find that special someone someday, who will actually pass this weird test of mine. Again and again. And that day, I might actually contemplate tying the knots. But is that possible, cause I am supposed to do an arranged marriage, that’s what my culture and upbringing dictates me to do. For the time being, god forbid that it aint forever, I am a misogamist.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Borrowed Ride

There are two types of people in this world. People who drive a bike (anything that has two wheels and runs on an engine e.g. motorcycle, scooter, scooty qualify as a bike) and people who sit as a pillion on the bike.
Members of the first community are characterized by the typical snootiness, the source of which the fact that they claim they are always in the driver’s seat. Damn possessive about their machine, they wont let the pillion touch the vehicle; forget about actually letting the pillion drive it. They claim that the pillions are the second fiddlers, not capable and suitable for the hot seat.
And then there are the pillions. The reason that there are so many members of this clan is because these people either don’t own a bike or are too chicken hearted to drive one. Some pillions just submit to the bossy ways of the members of the first clan, blandly nodding to all the whims and ways of these snobs.
Still, there are some pillions who actually enjoy the whole process of sitting on the rear seat of the bike. They claim that they get the best view; putting forward the logic that the person driving the bike has to perpetually look in the forward direction, with occasional glances to left and right when approaching a curve. And they themselves can look in whatever direction they feel like. And the claim is justified to some extent. When that fine girl in the car is next to you in a slow moving traffic, the pillion can give that fullest and meanest of stares, whereas the poor biker cannot afford to do so. Add to that the laxity of traffic rules that force only the person driving the bike to wear a helmet; the poor guy is turned into “just one of them”. Ala the batsmen in a live telecast of a cricket match, don’t all of them look just the same. On the other hand, the pillion having the privilege of showing his entire face is capable of portraying his identity. Smile and chances are that the fine girl will smile back. Might notice you even.
Happened just the other day with me. I was happily dispatching the duties of a pillion while Kinjal sir (my colleague and one of the very few friends I have in my organization) was proudly driving his thunderbird. It so happens that this most gorgeous girl (happens to be crowned the most beautiful lady in our company) was right on our tail, riding her scooty (she calls it Dio, claims its better than a normal scooty) sometimes overtaking, sometimes getting overtaken by the sheer horsepower of the thunderbird, but more or less taking the same route as ours. But naturally, I jumped on the seat and said, I know this girl. Kinjal sir is like, “Ok, but she is following us. Maybe it’s me or my bike”. I just chuckled and said it might be me even. Promptly dismissed by Kinjal sir (so typical of the people of the first clan, never ready to spare any credit to the pillions). Being followed and chased by the girl for around fifteen minutes made our hearts beat ever so faster, although Kinjal sir were rather nonchalant about it, masking that joie de vivre with
“Oh, its happens quite too often with me” look. This overflowing cup of joy was spilled when we discovered that the fair lady was not impressed by either of us, nor was following anyone. She was just taking her normal way back home, which happens to be only a couple of blocks away from Kinjal sir’s place. Common, how did we fall for that? Girls never follow guys; they like to be chased around. They are the preys, not the predators. And all these days, how didn’t we know that she lives so close to our place. Shame on us.
Anyways, just to confirm if we (Kinjal sir and me) were noticed that last evening, I pinged the lady the next morning. And she is like “so it was u on the thunderbird yesterday”. Three cheers to all the pillions. Moral of the story: pillions are the better amongst the two clans. Oh, I forgot, Kinjal sir was wearing a helmet.
Being a compulsive pillion can also lead you to opportunities, where you get to be the second fiddler to ladies. And my oh my, what a wonderful feeling that is. It’s always a pleasure to go on a drive with a lady, and the feeling amplifies when the lady is actually driving the bike. And you sitting relaxed, your hair floating in the air, your face sporting a wide grin. And then there will be those stares from the normal public; oh, the girl is driving the bike and not the guy. What happened to all those theories of male dominance? Are the equations getting modified? Never read much into those lines, but must admit that those stares give you another kind of high. The grin gets wider. Plus, the lady’s knowledge of all the better places in the town (always pondered why and how these ladies always know of these better places, never could find the answer) and the experience gets richer. To all those pillions out there, if you haven’t experienced this, you actually have missed something.
Needless to say, I love to be a pillion. And enjoy every minute of it. Love the feeling of sun beating down on your face, winds gently stroking your cheeks, sky as your crown and the rear seat as your throne. Plus, it makes you reach your destination without actually having to spend a penny. Sounding like Scrooge McDuck, yeah sometimes I do.
Fellow pillions, remember we are the chosen ones. Long live the pillion clan; long live our companionship with rear seat.

P.S. I don’t own a bike, neither intend to own one. My life on the roads is all about borrowed ride. And yes, I am too chicken hearted to drive a two-wheeler.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mute Commentator

“A blog is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order.

Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of most early blogs.”

Why do people write blogs? Some write to show the creative side of their personality, some are genuinely good with words and want a platform to showcase that, some just rant for fun. For some it’s a hobby, for some a passion, for others just a time pass.
I write blogs because I want to capture my thoughts, my feelings about things in general. Things that are common in our day-to-day lives, things that we experience every now and then.
I have also written few blogs on sporting events, soccer and F1 to quote a few. At that point in my life, I was contemplating switching over to be a freelance sports journalist. With no formal degree or previous experience in mass communication and with just about to do good English, I decided against it.
For now, I am focused in capturing the beauty and essence of common things in life, things like friendship, emotion, love, hatred, jealousy, success, failure etc. Topics that are complex, but not complicated and cluttered. And topics that most of us can attach to, subjects that almost all of us have an opinion about, emotions that most of us have felt at some point of time in their lives.
I also read blogs. Blogs from friends, family, colleagues, even unknown strangers. The journey has been interesting. I have come across some blogs that have been beautifully crafted. I recently read a poem blog about Trust and the fear of losing it. The human emotions were captured so naturally and effortlessly. I have also read some blogs were, when you read it, will be awestruck with the range and usage of English words by the author. I have also read blogs where the user, with a generous dose of humor and anecdotes, most of which are from the author’s own experience, have made the article worth reading again and again.
And then I have been through blogs that stink of plagiarism. I can also be accused of the same, the sin being committed more than once. Once I tried to lift paras from different sources and pass it as my own. I have learnt my lesson, but few other continue to do the same, effortlessly lifting portions, in some case the entirety of the blog and faking it as their own.
And then I have read blogs that can be termed as complete crap. Blogs that sometimes mean nothing. Blogs that are so poorly constructed and which are so grammatically incorrect that the English professor who used to teach me in high school will faint, if I make him read those even once.
Once the blog is posted, the expectation of people reading and commenting on the same
comes into play. Comments add grace and value to the blog. And they encourage the author; they give him the motivation to write better posts in future.
I have read and experienced some beautiful comments, comments that are so good that they actually surpass the post in terms of their content, language and craft. I have seen comments that summarize the essence of the post so effortlessly.
But as was the case with the posts, I have been, at times, disappointed by the nature of comments. I have seen people commenting without even going through a quarter of the post, just to make the author feel good. And then there are comments from so called friends of the author; who, regardless of how outrageously incorrect and poorly framed with respect to the language, content and grace the post be, have depicted a feeling that the it was one of the most extraordinary posts that they have ever read. Aren’t they cheating the author, for how will the he know about the quality of his blogs, unless someone points it to him?
With that another thought crosses my mind, do all of us can and do take criticism positively and constructively? Some of us suffer from this superiority, self-centric complex; feeling that most of the things we do and approach cant go wrong. And when someone points out that, hello boss you are missing something, do we react appropriately?
With my experience of late, vis a vis comments and the author’s reactions about the same, I am kinda scared to write comments that can be termed as constructive criticism.
I have got this feeling that rather than improving upon the quality of future posts, my comments tend to upset the authors, they take it rather personally.
Guess, sugary, honey coated comments are the flavor of the season. If only to boost some egos.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hyderabad Zindabaad

“The tag line: Its tough to be a West Indian in India. Bad enough, but far worse was a second ad, in which a romantic black couple is rowed out to the middle of a lake by a boatman who abruptly stops, glowers at them and proceeds to strip off his clothes. The audience is clearly meant to expect that he will assault the girl – but once he is down to his shorts he jumps into the water, leaving the couple mid-lake without an oar. Repeat tag line: Its tough to be a West Indian in India.” – Shashi Tharoor, “On Racism and Censorship”, Shashi On Sunday, Sunday Times Of India, March 4, 2007.
Lambasted by Mr. Tharoor for its poor taste of humor and rightly so, the article made me think, Can I tweak the tag line? Can it be something like “Its tough to be a North Indian in South India.”?
I had my first rendezvous with South India in the dry summers of 2005. July was the month. Hyderabad was the place. Just out of an engineering college, as fresh as they get, I landed in this city for my first job. I still remember, it used to rain religiously in the weekends. And the next morning newspapers will flash headlines like “Enough water till September”, “Enough water till Mid-November for Hyderabad”. I used to think, is the situation so bad out here? Being from a small town, I never faced water crisis. There always was enough water for the people, and even the buffaloes to take a regular bath, quench their thirst at free will; ample resources to plant the gardens, and even indulge in those water fights with my siblings. Never heard anybody storing water for those dry days. More rainy weekends followed and thank God, we had water reserves to last for a long time. No more headlines portraying the water scarcity.
The names of the locations in this city had strange phonetics. Either they were all rhyming or gave a feeling of being borrowed from some ancient, prehistoric language. Ameerpet, Begumpet, Hafeezpet, Lalapet, Shameerpet; they all sounded so similar. And we had some real weird ones as well, the likes of Kukatpally, Meradpally, Moulali, and Paidamaguddi. Only respites were Banjara Hills, Jubille Hills and the good old Madhapur. The expressions on the faces of the auto rickshaw drivers when we tried to pronounce these kinds of names were worth capturing. I still remember the first time I was going to my cousin’s place, who lives in Tarnaka (for the uninitiated, this place is at the fag end of the extended township that we call Hyderabad), I actually had to call him more than thrice to ask for the location, cause I kept on forgetting the name. And I still mispronounce Koti for Kotti.
The biggest problem though was the food. Before I came to Hyderabad, my philosophy was simple. Main khaane ke liye jeeta hoon. But the very first day I had the Andhra food, I had to change the philosophy to Main jeene ke liye khaata hoon. Andhra people like their food hot and spicy. Poor me, I never ate a single chilly before college. And the only one that I had in college was over a stupid “Dairy Milk” chocolate bet. I was one of those guys who always preferred Navratan Korma to Veg Jhalfrazee. Back at home, the spices used for curries and daals never had a trace of chilly, or an overdose of garam masala. Call it bland food habits, call it saada khaana. And I kind of survived the college mess also. Thanks to all those extra food items that we used to get, which we always tweaked as per our taste. Thanks to Sahoojee and the rest of the mess gang. But in the Gultland, there was no escaping. Be it office cafeteria, Chinese outlet, posh restaurants; everything was in authentic Andhra style. And with strange names. Chicken chettinadu, dondakai fry, cabbage puriyal etc. My nose and ears used to go red, eyes watery, sweat all over my face. Still remember the day when Tushar, Gauri and I were invited for dinner to Gauri’s uncle’s place. After the food was served, the first thing that Gauri passed over was curd, lest I find the food too spicy for my taste. Hard were those days. Harder were the mornings, when I literally used to cry in the loo. I had to survive on the lesser spicy items like sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and fruit juices. The only local food item that appealed to me was the Hyderabadi Biryani. Spicy nevertheless, one can always mask that with an overdose of the raitas. I always use to trade Mirchi ka Salan for an extra helping of Raita.
Twenty long months spent here and I still can’t enjoy the Andhra food. Never understood the logic of putting peanuts in Bhindi. Or spraying those green leaves (dunno what they call it) rather generously in almost all the food items. Or the omnipresence of Curd Rice in every buffet spread, however lavish it be. But yeah, I can now stand a moderate amount of spice in my food. And to the pleasure of my south Indian friends, rice and rasam has become an integral part of my lunch. And I feast on Idlis and Vaadas. As they say, “When in Hyderabad, do as the Hyderabadis do (eat).”
Language was also one of the problems that were there, although not to a great extent. Thanks to the Sultans and the Nawabs and the culture brought by them, Hyderabad speaks an offshoot of Hindi, Hyderabadi Hindi. If you are from a Hindi speaking belt, you can almost get away with your lack of local language, Telugu. But when it comes to communicating with the domestic helps, the situations often drift towards hopelessness. As (ill) luck could have it, I never had the privilege of having a bai (maid servant) or a dhobi (washer man) who understand both Hindi and Telugu. Funny are the situations when my bai and I am trying to talk, I sticking to Hindi and she to Telugu, both giving an expression of trying to understand every word of it, although failing to decipher even a single one, finally resorting to the technique that the medieval man used to apply so effectively, the sign language. With sustained effort, we (Tushar, Gauri and I) were successful in teaching our honorable bai some keywords like kapda, jhadoo, bartan etc. The misery is far from over though. And the glowing testimony to it is the dwindling count of my underwear. Being a part of that clan whose members are very particular, choosy and possessive of their underwear, I never have been able to put this across to my bai. Not sure of the fate of my poor companions (read underwear), I almost never get back the same count as I had given for wash.
My reluctance to learn Telugu is paying rich dividends. I still can’t count from one to ten in Telugu, nor can I speak the most basic of the sentences. And the words that I know can be counted on my fingers. “Enti raa”, “Aaa ante amlapuram”, “Malichestaru”, “Chapandi”. And the most important of them all, “Telugu Raadu”, meaning I don’t understand Telugu.
Strangely though, I love this place. And the people. And the culture. Of late, I have enjoyed listening to Telugu songs. And I can boast of a good knowledge of the Gult films and the film stars. Thanks to the last page of Hyderabad Times, a daily supplement with The Times Of India Hyderabad Edition, I know about the latest releases, the heartthrobs, the Mahesh Babus, the Shreyas, the Trishas, the Genelias, the Illeanas, the Kamna Jethmalanis. And not to forget the evergreen trio, Chiru Dada (Chiranjeevi), Nagarjuna and Venkatesh.
The last paragraph was not written with an intention to honey coat this article, the feelings are genuine. And someday I would love to write on this beautiful place we call Hyderabad and about the Hyderabadis. Only if my Hyderabadi friends spare me to see the light of another dawn.