Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bab(e?)s on a plane...

Sometimes you wonder about small mistakes that lead to huge consequences. Much like the much touted butterfly effect where an extra flap of a butterfly's wing can lead to cyclonic storms in the other part of the world.

Before I continue on this deep, insightful, philosophical, and possibly commercial post, a couple of asides come to mind:
Its funny I never wondered about why a butterfly is called a butterfly. I mean were prehistoric butterflies larger, yellow and salty to taste? How do these combined nomenclatures (compound words - says google) emerge? Let's take 'sweetmeat' - came across this as I was reading Kim again (related aside - I loved Kim as a child as a pure boy-adventure story, but as I read it now there are so many connotations to it. Some still great but some really negative considering it was written during the British rule in India. Oh, wait, wait, another aside - I was always fascinated by the scene in Lurgan Sahib's shop where Kim sees the translucent image of the jug appear. I never understood how it was done and I actually thought there was some magic involved. This time when I was reading it I actually googled it alongside to see how other people have interpreted the scene. Now I know what was happening there (I won't tell you). Now the question is that knowing seems to have broken the magic and awe I used to feel when I read this scene. So the larger question is  - is it good to read other people's interpretations or to let things lie without having a precise understanding. Anyway, this is just a parenthesis inside and 'aside' so I will not dwell on this). So, why would 'meat' be used as a part of sweets? I know people spend their lives on linguistics, and I kind of understand why they do so - these are fascinating puzzles.
The other 'aside' is Samit Basu's Gameworld Trilogy that has a significant role for Kaos, the butterfly.  Very interesting series of books- I highly recommend, even if you're not into fantasy - it's just such a fun set of books! 

Ok, I'm done with the asides. No, no really - I am so done with them. They make you sound like a rambler - and dedicated readers of this blog would know what a precise blogger I am. No, the three of you, shut up. Family is supposed to back each other up.

So coming back to the small-mistakes-leading-to-huge-consequences thread, I'll have to take you back to a laughably short time ago. The time when God was about to send yet another batch of babies to the earth - and I happened to be a part of that batch. So as you know (or maybe not - I seem to have a sharper memory than most about this stage of the process), they hand out forms to fill where you can tick the skills and abilities you would like to have in your time on earth.

Of course I ticked all the right ones - rakishly good looks, sharper-than-a-scalpel intellect, Greek God-like athleticism. However, I probably should have included the 'careful/precise' as one more skill to keep in my time here on earth. So when I ticked 'Babe magnet' without a thought,  I saw God giving a small smirk. Evidently, He has a cruel sense of humour as I missed seeing that the 'babe' was actually 'baby' and there was a microscopic asterisk pointing to a terms and conditions page.

And it came back to hound me (yet again) as I took my place in a plane ferrying me from Bangalore to Delhi yesterday. Congratulating myself on getting a seat where no one else seemed to be coming, I settled back, snapped my seat belt and fired up my Kindle to read Kim. Almost immediately I had a little nudge on my shoulder as a young couple with a young child stood looking to enter. Now when I say young child, I mean of the bawling-baby variety. And once the couple settled in their hundreds of bags, wipes, bottles, sippers, rags, and all the other paraphernalia, I woke to a fact that I hadn't noticed earlier.

My baby magnetism was at full sway. The entire plane was loaded with babies on every third seat!  
And these babies are hyper-competitive. As the plane taxied I found out all the possible competitions they indulge in. Awards were being contested for in multiple categories -

  • Loudest baby
  • Shrillest baby
  • Most annoying twerp
  • Most strategic crier (just as you're about to sleep)
  • Most consistent crier
  • Asymmetric crier (they don't settle in any pattern - every cry is a surprise)
As you can imagine not a very relaxing journey. 

And now I fill forms out very very carefully. A smirk seems to float around me, and a rather amused, holy voice whispers "Too late, too late, too late..."


Monday, July 20, 2015

An ode to Elderman

In the recent past, respecting elders has been coming more naturally to me than ever before. It’s not that I have become a nicer person, or that there has been an eye-opening incident that has driven forth the value of age and experience.

(Also, considering the number of kids beginning to call me ‘uncle’ with confidence, I guess I am probably becoming one of the ‘elders’ to be respected. Of course, as soon as they call me uncle I do react in a typically not-so-elder way. Tennis balls have been confiscated, and pleas to throw back the footballs inside the field have fallen on deaf ears if the aforementioned plea is preceded or succeeded by the dreaded ‘uncle’)

But I digress. The key thing I want to write about an angel on earth. After all who is an angel? A person who helps you understand the world around you with a beatific smile on their face, helps clear all doubts from your mind while bestowing clarity and joy.

Yes, going by that definition, he is definitely an angel sent on this earth to spread joy and clarity.

Especially as TV series are coming up with more and more complicated names and phrases – Daenerys Targaryen and Valar Morghulis?

How is one to understand as these phrases are bandied about in TV series. Much like listening to metal songs where everyone you know understands that particular verse differently, and more importantly, finds that the phrase really resonates with their own life!

But having brilliant subtitles to TV shows makes life so much easier. Easier to follow, better to understand and to act superior to others watching these shows without subtitles and obviously wallowing with random interpretations.

What a man! He is one of the most prolific providers of subtitles for all leading shows and has been instrumental in really enjoying so many many shows!

God bless him, and may he continue on this mission of spreading clarity and joy across the world!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Carpenter you?

As you know I moved to Delhi a few months back. Ok, its been eight months. So the whole process of setting up home is happening all over again. You know, all the painful, irritating stuff of finding the right place, negotiating with the landlord, grovelling to reduce rent or deposit. grovelling some more, invoking the disastrous future of unborn children if the rent is not reduced by 500, accepting the rent that the landlord started with...because, who are we kidding, this is still a sellers market.

Now I did all this fairly promptly (4-5 weekends). Pretty good really, but considering I've moved houses seven times in the last eight years, I'm a pro at this.

So house rented, I slipped into the mellow lethargy or a job well done...until I was rudely awakened by AV.

"Our house in Bangalore was so much nicer, all the paintings were on the walls. That interesting clock was mounted just right. It was so inviting and cheerful. I liked having friends come over. Here, all our stuff is still in the almirahs. It looks like we're staying in prison."

I realised the wistfulness in her voice. The urge to have a beautiful house is so deeply ingrained in the female DNA that I noted the tone of melancholy in her voice. So I did what any well-attuned husband who understands his wife would've done - snort, mumble incoherently, and hope she forgets

But alas, it was not to be. The barrage of wistful did not let up, and in three months the tone was moving from wistfulness to borderline aggression. I had heard this tone earlier and I knew exactly what I needed to do.

"We'll go out for dinner tonight!"

Three months passed.

But now things got really urgent (things started getting thrown, simple words were met with eyes staring mournfully at resplendent, empty walls). So I trudged down to the guard of our building to ask for the phone number for a carpenter. He took his own sweet time in giving a couple of numbers. And then the regular nightmare began. The very reason that I was hoping things would not come to pass.

Chasing carpenters as they wade through their extremely busy schedules on weekends. Of promises made, fun plans cancelled to wait for the  carpenter, frantic phone calls met with - 'Bas aadhe ghante mein pahunch raha hun (reaching in half-hour)', the aadha ghanta stretching to hours and eventually no-shows.

Handyman services, reliable, prompt ones, are so very difficult to get, even if you're willing to pay for them. I've seen this across cities and its one cause for rising hypertension in most urban areas. Getting someone to do minor stuff around the house is such a pain.

So anyway, this story does have a happy ending.

I logged on to and placed a request for a carpenter after carefully counting how many nails had to be drilled into the walls to ensure that the house becomes 'inviting' enough.

It was a breeze after that. Couple of minutes later I got a call from to get details of the work to be done, and my location. Five minutes later a couple of handyman companies called. One of them had a pretty darn reasonable price for my needs. Agreed to the price and then sat back to wait for the guy. He had said that he'd be there in half-hour. So going by my experience, AV and I sat back, made some popcorn, put a movie in and started watching. "We'll call after four hours, and then every two hours to remind them" was the plan discussed.

So it was quite a shock that the door bell rang 20 minutes later. And for a change it was not a

  1. Maid
  2. Driver/car cleaner
  3. Random stranger 
  4. Salesman
  5. Old lady who got off on the wrong floor from the lift
  6. Old lady who got off at the right floor, but the wrong building
It was actually a couple of guys from the company I connected to via

And how professionally was the job done. Forty minutes and they were gone. All paintings mounted cleanly, perfectly aligned, floors cleaned up after them. It was like the elves did it.

Great stuff. Six-seven months of painful procrastination, and it was done in 2 hours once I logged in to

So AV, you were saying you needed some shelves fixed. Should I get them done right away...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Once you stop writing regularly, it becomes increasingly difficult to start up again. You go through your daily life and experience many things that you could convert into a good post. But somehow you end up not writing anything...just procrastinating to the point where you can't recall when you used to write often and extensively.

Anyway, I'm just going to write about a few things that have happened recently. I may not even publish this on the blog...lets see

Kindle your spirit
Increasingly, it is becoming very difficult to buy stuff for myself. I remember the time when I would fixate on, say, a watch, and then go out there and just buy it (we're talking middling watches that I could afford, not ultra-luxury watches - my impulse buying is also restricted by 'the chadar I can spread'). Or a gadget, like the hard drive + media player that I saw at someone's place and went out and got it. Or when I wanted a racing cycle and went one afternoon to just buy it and carry it back home in an autorickshaw.

Nowadays, I am in perpetual analysis-paralysis about any purchase. No, not really analysis-paralysis, just that the final pull-the-trigger to buy stuff has become very stiff. This is doubly weird because the avenues of buying stuff have literally exploded, what with the Flipkarts and Amazons of the world. Now, I am in dire need of a few devices - a dual SIM phone to keep by Bangalore number going, maybe a Chrome Cast...but the pathos is such that I am just not able to buy them.

Circa 2008 (I think), my ex-boss and tennis partner AG had come down from the US and I went to visit him one evening. There he showed me a device that bewitched me. He had a Kindle, one of the early versions, and I had  been thoroughly impressed with the e-ink technology and how paper-like the print looked. But somehow, I was comfortable with my paper books and never had that sense of urgency about buying it. Years passed by, and I got into this no-buy zone that I am in and I thought the chances of me actually having a Kindle of my own were pretty thin.

But I kept talking about having a Kindle, and as they started giving ads on Indian TV, I guess I must've started talking about it a LOT because AV upped and got me a Kindle.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am a proud owner (by gift, if not by buying) of a Kindle 3G...and its beautiful.

I still don't get how they make such real-paper-like displays, but it is a beautiful piece of work and has very quickly become a constant companion.

Start your engines
I am surrounded by people moving into start ups, or starting on their own. People from my current organization have moved to travel start ups, seniors from college have left lucrative jobs and have started their own location services based firms,  some friends have got aboard the analytics bandwagon, while other friends have even gone down the path of delivering meats/food. All in all this is a time where everything seems to be saying - look, having something of your own is the exciting thing to do.

I understand that, but I'm not sure I relish it as much. First, because I'm not sure about what gives me real joy. I mean, these guys who have started up think about it 24/7, are always at work (or work related do's), and are so excited about what they can deliver to their clients. It is exciting to hear them, yes, but I'm not sure if it is for me (not that I have people chasing me down to join their pre-start up teams).

One reason could be that the idea has to hit you and take over your thoughts. And once it does, it can become the all consuming focus of your life. Add on an exciting team, probably with people you've known for a while, and it could become one of those joyful events that I think everyone has helped organize in their college. On second thoughts, getting paid to work in that environment could actually be quite interesting...

Domesticity drivers

Another thing on my mind nowadays is the movement from Bangalore to Delhi. I remember when I first moved to Bangalore, it took me a fair amount of time to really 'belong' there. This seems to be happening as I am back in Delhi now. Something or the other keeps popping up and somehow the smooth routine of life (the one that calms and soothes and lulls you) just isn't coming. I'll give you a couple of examples.

We had one cook for nearly the whole of two years while here the cooks seem to enjoy vanishing for 2-3 months and putting in atrocious replacements.

Suddenly, without warning, the temperature has taken such a horrible turn that getting air conditioners became critical over the last weekend. And there you go, my analysis-paralysis plus the urgency of the requirement made for a stressful weekend there

AV travels quite a bit to her workplace (I feel like a chump as she had a much more comfortable life in Bangalore before she decided to throw it away and come to Delhi with me. But that's a whole different guilt trip...), so we got a driver for her. The initial week was painful as he didn't know the directions. And just when he mastered the directions, he fell ill, then his mother fell ill, then something else happened. You get the gist, don't you? Here I thought that one domestic problem had been solved, and then it hit that nothing had been solved.

Running hard on the treadmill, just to stay at the same place...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Silence of the Hams

It was a usual morning. I rushed down to the car, a half-eaten toast in one hand and a shoe in the other, looking at my watch and swearing at the cook who, with uncharacteristic diligence, took half an hour extra to prepare the gruel in the morning. I reached the car, managed to eat the toast and wear the shoe, instead of the other way round. Took a deep breath, slipped on my seat belt and started the car. The radio was on and an unfamiliar sound came to my ears. It sounded…it sounded like music. Panicking, I switched to the next station – music again; the next – music. I was in full blown panic now, I rushed through all the stations – all playing music.

The horror…the horror.

Where were the AAM Admi party advertisements, where was the bellowing sound of Modi screaming as he made promise after promise, where was Kiran Bedi, embarking on the ‘Vikas ka path’, hell, where was Ajay Maken quietly slipping in the message about the roads and metro in Delhi?

And then it struck me, the Delhi elections are scheduled for tomorrow and campaigning deadline has passed. The panic turned to relief, then jubilation.

Seriously, have you been listening to the radio in the past month or so? It has been an unending stream of political ads. From the basic ‘vote for me’ ads to hardcore negative ads about other parties, other candidates and their families, hell nothing has been taboo in this election.

The importance of these elections is understandable, everyone thought that AAP was done for and the normal two-large-party model would continue again. There is a certain comfort in having a known enemy Рyou know what to do and say - sanity prevails. But like a phoenix (to use a clich̩) the AAP is threatening to disrupt the status quo again. Both large parties do not like a third element coming into the fray, an element that threatens their next ten year plans. The difference is that one party already knows that it has lost and is cutting its losses. The other party, on the other hand, considers the Delhi seat a cherry on the cake and is going full throttle to make it theirs. The AAP, after its national experiment failed spectacularly, is in a struggle for survival and relevance. The charitable would also call it their crusade to ensure that the common man prevails.

All this means that the might of two parties and their supporters has  manifested into a marketing campaign of utmost proportions. And just like Indian cuisine, the campaign spices and flavors are overboard; and just like Indian soaps, the campaign acting is ham and loud; and just like an Indian cricket fan, the campaign emotions are wide and strong.

And this means that for the last couple of months all marketing channels have been crammed with messages. It has become so much that the noise has become overwhelming. Radio is just one example, but even the print media seems to have a single point agenda – print as many political ads as possible. Make sure the ad revenues go sky high. Television, especially news channels, have gone so blatant that it is comically obvious which channel owes allegiance to which political party.

It is dirty out there. And it is quite depressing, that this is the type of campaign that works in our country.

I, for one, am glad the campaigning is over. Maybe now we may get a chance to sit back and think. Beyond the overload of messages, to the messages themselves. Who will be right for Delhi? Who would actually help with the little niggles and major pains that we deal with on a regular basis?

Whatever you think, do vote. Maybe the next campaign would be less crass and overpowering…