Thursday, December 28, 2006


Good company always makes me happy and when that company is made up of some of your closest pals from college, there’s nothing like it. Last weekend was special. There was a PhD student from the US, a future entrepreneur, the bade sahab, a would be investment banker and of course the totally confused software engineer. And yes, there was some Fosters, Signature and Smirnoff for company at times.

Almost nothing had changed. The stud from the US could still describe certain things with the sort of detail that would make you see them, the would be business tycoon had retained his prowess to crack the silliest of jokes and then justify them, the bade sahab had not lost one bit of his paunch or compromised on his defining principle in life – “is edible, will eat” and the future investment banker was hyper enthusiastic as ever though he had started talking more about the Indian retail scene and the risks in the life of a trader. We didn’t party as such. Most of the weekend was spent sitting in my home and gossiping, reminiscing about hostel days, watching snaps, singing a few songs, listening to more and just lazing around. The usual anecdotes were told and retold. The ever green topic of ‘life ke funde’ was brought up when we got high. The trek to Neuli was relived through the photographs. Some more close buddies were called up to make up for their absence. The usual policy of ‘more laughter less words’ was followed at the other end of the phone by one of my friends. Everything was right with the world.

Then there was the trip to the malls for our friend to get some cheap clothes for himself. The usual dinner and lunch outings followed and the exploits of the bade sahab and yours truly were remembered amidst peals of laughter. As usual the four of us ended up ordering food for about six people.

Like the morning earlier, Sunday morning started with us having ‘maddu khana’ for breakfast on the insistence of our guest of honor. We then went to Barista where we sat for about an hour drinking coffee and just relaxing. Suffering from the effects of the super spicy noodles of last night we decided to have a light lunch and ended up having ‘Chicken & Turkey Ham Sub’, a bit of ‘Gobhi Paratha’ and ‘Dahi Vada’. As they say, when bade sahab is around, the food simply flows!

Soon it was evening as we were joined by the timely arrival of one of my flat mates and a fellow software engineer. A few snaps were taken as my flat mate and friend brought up his favorite topic of discussion – “To do a PhD or not to” and found ample advice flowing from the mouth of the stud from the US. To say that it left him more confused would be an understatement!!

It was a strange and nice feeling at the same time. I was very happy for the moment that we could spend together, doing nothing, all our worldly worries put to someplace else for the time being (although the bade sahab did have to answer to the call of duty on Saturday afternoon) but at the same time I was thinking of a few years down the line when most of us would hopefully have ‘settled’ into the life of our choices. How would we be then? Would we manage to stay as close as we have been till now? Most importantly would we find time to meet again for a reunion? I would like to believe we would. Till then though, courtesy my entrepreneur friend’s awesome Digital Camera the 40 odd snaps would be a nice reminder for the weekend we spent together.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


It was a bright sunny morning today in Bangalore. I was all alone in the house as my flatmates had either left for work or had gone home for new year. I followed my usual ritual of getting up, doing my daily chores, turning on the geyser, carefully arranging an assortment of songs to be played for the next half an hour on my computer which included aashayein, Lucky Ali and music from "Scrubs" (the most awesome soundtrack a TV series could ever have. Zach Braff rules!). Then I made myself a cup of coffee and stood in the balcony with the sun rays on my back and the music floating out of the hall. I felt wonderful.

My grandparents lived in a place called Silchar, Assam. And every summer vacation, we used to go there for about a month and a half. I remember it as being the best part of the year for me, especially the day the journey was made. The journey had three legs to it. The first leg was covered by a taxi from Bokaro to Dhanbad. The second leg was the train journey from Dhanbad to Howrah. Thereafter an interval followed, spent either at a relative's house or some guest house or (this was my best choice) the DumDum airport. I loved putting up at the airport dormitory. The evenings were spent watching flights take off and land and roaming around the lounge. What more could a kid ask for. It was easily the best day of the year for me. From evening to morning next day when the flight would finally land on Silchar airport I was on a high. I loved every bit of it. The excitement of travelling, the anticipation, the security check, the bus ride to the plane, the climb up the stairs, the airhostesses, the take off, the clouds, the landing, the smiling face of my Nana as we descended the steps from the flight. Boy, it almost felt like heaven.

It was huge two storied house that my Nana lived in. It also had a big garden and a pond or pukur. I remember how I used to sit with my Nana as he explained to me the principles of Profit Loss and Simple Interest. Yes, those were the days of holiday homework! He also had a plethora of bengali story books which I used to read. From Satyajit Ray's legendary Feluda to the more intellectually stimulating Byomkesh Bakshi to folk tales and hunting stories. My mashi also used to live there along with mesho and my cousin brother who was five years younger to me. Teasing him and giving him fundas was a favourite passtime. Evenings used to be spent either playing cricket in the nearby ground with the local boys and my brother's friends or taking a walk by the river Barak. There was no internet and even cable TV was a new concept, two things without which life today would be unimaginable. I used to spend days loitering around the house, watching people do their daily jobs: Nani doing her cooking, Nana tending to the garden along with a servant and playing games with my little brother and just lazing around at times. Oh and there was also a VCP in which we used to watch movies. Haathi Mera Saathi, Tridev, Ghayal... just to name a few!

We also used to have these fishing sessions in the pukur with the most enthusiastic members being my Nana, my mother and I. So I would quietly sit with my Nana at vantage positions patiently waiting for the fishes to take the bait as he went on puffing cigarettes. It was an awesome experience. The tug, the dip, the pull and finally the catch.
Once during my stay a fisherman would also be called with his fishing net. That day was special. Everybody would gather round the pukur (even people from other houses!) as the jele (bengali for fisherman) would cast his net and then slowly pull it out inch by inch. My brother and I went crazy as we saw the fishes sparkling in the sun and jumping about. My brother being more a localite than I, was more adept at handling all this stuff and often I ended up following his lead on how to catch a fish and prevent it from jumping back into the water.

My granparents and others even tried to get me to learn swimming in the pukur. So my Nana and Mashi (both being good swimmers) would jump into the pond along with me holding on to a banana tree log. I was very afraid of water and could barely let go of one of the helping hands even though I had two or three people close to me who would never let me drown. This carried on for a few years and though my braver brother learnt swimming, I didn't. Much later before joining college when I finally did learn how to do it, it seemed surprisingly unscary! (is that a word)

Then there was the ritual of gathering the coconuts from the half a dozen trees in the house (I told you it was a BIG house!). One of the servants would climb up the tree and drop the coconuts into the pond which would later be collected by someone. My Nani used to make delicious sweets out of these coconuts.

Coming back was tough, very tough. I remember my mother, my grandparents, in fact everybody crying. I didnt. The flight from Silchar to Calcutta would be so very different, though I was happy at the prospect of meeting with my Dad after a month or so. He would be waiting at the arrival lounge waving to us. I would run to him and give him a hug. We would soon be headed towards Howrah to catch the train to Dhanbad as he narrated the latest stories from our Steel City, like so and so got Rank 21 in IIT. Yeah, guess that's where my fate was decided to an extent.

My Nana died in '98. Even then I didnt cry. I dont know why, considering how close to him I was. He was the best story teller I ever had. I remember one particular night when he kept on telling me stories till we could see the first rays of the sun. I noticed that in the later years he became so much quieter and indifferent to happenings around him. He would even listen less. It's strange that even as I write all these I can feel my eyes becoming moist. I last went to Silchar in '99 for his annual ritual.

My Nani visited us this October and I met her after six years. She said that the house has changed a lot. The pond has been filled up, the garden is no more there. She also gave me the diamond ring my Nana had. She said that he would have wanted the same. It was such a different time, a different world.

And about the first paragraph, I had set out to write something else but then this came up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dust In The Wind

Its been exactly a year since my first post on this blog. Back then I saw blogging just as a very cool concept; techy and literary at the same time. Letting the world know what you feel, creating your own space amongst millions. My inspiration was the blog of a friend who happened to be the only one I knew who had one. He wrote quite beautifully, about things which I could at once relate to. To add to it I was nearing the end of my stay in my college and felt like chronicling some experiences, some observations about life as an undergrad. Also I had loads of time to kill. I was done with CAT and I didn't have to go to classes. It's not that I bunked them. It's just that I didn't have any. So the time seemed pretty ripe to get into blogging.

The switch from the personal hand written diary, which I had been maintaining from the second semester in college, was slow and uncomfortable at times. I didn't have the guts to lay open every feeling I had and every thought that went through my mind, yet I wanted to write about my life and things that mattered to me. Not social or political issues, not movie reviews, (there were better people to do that) but things which concerned my existence, my take on life. Interestingly, someone once asked me if I wrote for myself or for others, was I honest enough when I wrote, why did I think that someone would be interested in reading about my life. I think I still blog for more or less the same reasons for which I started. Primarily it was and still is a means of holding on to all that has gone by, a collection of memories and events which I feel like expressing. I do not care whether people would read it or not but at the same time it makes my day when someone does take the time out to post a comment. I am honest. I write only about things which I have the guts to lay out in the open. So there's still a part of me that's mine.

I am generally very happy when I write. I take my own sweet time to compose my posts which on occasions have taken entire afternoons and nights. I do tend to write and rewrite stuff, do some editing and change phrases. Is it to make it a better read for others. To quite an extent yes but also to some extent, make it a better read for myself. A year and about 23 posts later, I feel though that I keep harping about the same things. I have become very monotonous, writing about the same dilemmas, changes and stuff. But the problem is I don't know what else to write about. I am not good at commenting or politics or social issues. I have lost interest in the state of Indian cricket, although if Ganguly manages to hit a ton in SA (OK, its very remotely possible but please don't laugh), you bet there will be a post; and I have not been doing too much traveling (about which I love to write and used to in my pre-blog days). So if anyone has some interesting suggestions, please let me know.

One major difference from my starting days as a blogger is that earlier I used to wait for things to happen. Now I manufacture them on my own. Take this post for example!!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Salpa Leftu, Salpa Rightu!!

Auto Rickshaws. How I hate them since I came to Bangalore and particularly after I bought my Apache. I didn't particularly hate them in Delhi. In spite of their demanding Rs 40 from the hostel gate to Chanakya and ultimately coming down to 20, I was OK with them. After all I didn't have much of a choice. Bangalore, though is totally different. Here's why.....

1) If you are in Koramangala, (quite a posh locality if you know Bangalore) they wont go to MG Road (the heart of Bangalore) and vice versa. Why? Hmm... my best bet so far is they don't like my face. On an average it took about six or seven attempts to get one to go from MG Road to my home in Koramangala after office and the way they refused was awesome. Some didn't even bother to reply and simply went ahead as if nothing had happened. Some stopped, looked at you and said nothing and only when you asked them the second time did they make the slightest to and fro horizontal motion of the head. Others said no with an expression in their face that would almost make you feel ashamed of wanting to go there. And the best one (this happened while house hunting); one slowed down almost to a stop, we ran after it, it picked up speed and went away. Attitude personified.

2)They start demanding night rates about an hour or more before they are supposed to and often do not come down beyond Rs 10 extra. Ask them the reason and they will say.."Sir, 10 ruphiya extra dene me kya jaatha hai ... "

3)There's no pollution control here, no CNG. Instead, all autos run on LPG emitting a lot of smoke and making a lot of noise. To add to it nobody turns off their engines at signals even when the signal has a timer attached. So for a biker (or worse a cyclist, which I was for a few days), these signals become hell.

4)And the most interesting part is their extreme unpredictability and unmatched maneuverability. On the road the only vehicle more dangerous than an Auto is an empty Auto. You never know how or when or why he is going to stop or change his speed. He may be ambling along at 30 kmph in front of you and suddenly decide to stop for no reason in particular. He may be at the extreme left of the road on a traffic signal and yet decide to take a U-Turn. He may suddenly decide to change lanes in order to get ahead by 5 meters. And if you are on a cycle or bike he pays scant regard to the fact that he may hit you while overtaking.

By the way, in case you didn't get the title, Salpa is Kannada for a little, "thoda" , and thats the way these vehicles run on the roads of Bangalore. But why bother, "Salpa adjhust madi!" (this phrase is not mine, but I liked it very much upon seeing it in an article yesterday)

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Friday, December 08, 2006


Something's not right today. It's mainly got to do with the fact that the feeling of being stuck in the wrong job has managed to push its head up through the myriad of others that keep wandering in my mind. I have been given the unenviable task of understanding and writing code for some application of which I have absolutely no idea. I have been thrown tons of industry jargons which I am finding very tough to digest. In short I am desperately waiting for the clock to strike 8 after which I head to a pub with a group of friends to listen to Metallica, Doors and Pink Floyd and have some beer too. It's nothing new to me though. I have these phases. Phases of restlessness characterised by an extreme eagerness to break free of this tepid existence and do something crazy which I can't do, or rather wouldn't do. There's this sudden rush of adrenaline. An urge to go out to someplace remote, isolated, attend music concerts, perform on stage and what not. I feel so restless during these times that I feel like taking the plunge. It feels as if I am holding myself back. Living a life that's not meant to be mine, saying to myself what can I do that will change all this overnight. Why does life need to be so predictable. Why cant I let myself loose. Ok, financial stability is one factor. I mean I cant possible leave everything and go on a world tour right now!! But within the realms of my existence there ought to be several avenues which I haven't ever explored. Possibilities which seem distant but are not. It is during these moments of madness that I look at myself, the kind of person I am and feel that something's gone terribly wrong somewhere. And the worst part of it is I don't know how to set it right.

Most probably when I get up tomorrow morning and start practicing "Sound Of Silence" on my guitar, all would seem right with the world. But someday, I think I will break free.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Just felt like listing down some songs/bands which have grown on me tremendously over the years, especially the last few months....

1) Simon & Garfunkel - of course for the harmony and the seconds.
Sounds Of Silence
The Boxer
Scarborough Fair
El Condor Pasa
Mrs Robinson

2) Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) - undoubtedly for his guitar. Its so clean and distinct.
Romeo Juliet
Sultans Of Swing
Boom Like That
What It Is
Walk Of Life

3) Bob Dylan - for the thoughtful lyrics and the unique folk feel.
Like a Rolling Stone
Tambourine Man
Blowing In The Wind

4) U2 - Especially like their 2001 Slane Castle Concert in Dublin and the way Bono introduces his band.
Stuck In A Moment
Out Of Control - it's so much full of energy
With Or Without You
Where The Streets Have No Name

Will add more soon.

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Monday, November 27, 2006


There was a time when your world was controlled by two supreme human beings. The time you woke up from bed, the kind of food you ate, your clothes, TV serials, your future, your decisions; everything was taken care of. You had the simplest of tasks. Simply following them. And on occasions when your mind revolted with the notions of independence and self reliance, there would always be one them to set it right. Yes, we all waited for that period to get over. For most of us, the journey from our mother's lap to school, from middle school to high school, from school life to college life and beyond is a series of events marked by one common thread... the scent of independence. But somehow we keep looking at the past and present, savouring the moments from the past that we miss the most and looking forward to the joys that the future holds for us. At school, college seemed exciting. At college, school seemed so much tension free and job meant crossing the last barrier of independence, and at workplace, college meant so much more fun (not that it didnt, while we are stil in college !). All the while our life keeps getting more and more complex, with new relations, new environments, new challenges to deal with and fewer people to guide, new dillemas and of course new hopes.

In college, I was told, almost to the point of shame, by everyone that cared or bothered, that I had the most time to kill. I was a total vella. Somehow I never had anything to do or so was portrayed by the life I lead there. I didnt study, I bunked most classes, I had no girlfriend to look after, I was not particularly a party going fellow (not that there was always one happening around). People always found me in my room doing nothing worthwhile, reading a novel, listening to music, playing guitar at times, gossiping with friends (my room was one of the hot spots for all these gossips!), staring at my computer...

Amazingly, here, I dont find time to do all the things that I want to. I have about a dozen novels lined up to be read, each one bought very thoughtfully, ones that I want to read slowly, allowing them to sink in. I have my new guitar on which I want to play so many things that I cant even start to list them. Yet again I am sitting for a competitive exam in about 3 months time and I want to crack it badly to give my ego a boost. I want to follow the EPL and India's rape by the South Africans. I want to roam around in my new bike and visit new places. I want to eat at all the good joints in Bangalore and become an authority on food. I want to learn cooking and cook delicious meals. I want to be able to watch all the movies in town. I want to buy things before my parents come to visit me in December. I want to plan out a great weekend when some of my college mates come here in December. Yes, I am doing some of this but for the first time in many years, I feel I dont have the time. I am totally on my own, with no responsibilities, no liabilities, free to do whatever I want and its a totally amazing feeling.

The other day I was cleaning up my bike. I had this bucket of water and a piece of cloth. It was a Saturday morning and everything around had an air of calmness to it. The instant I dipped the cloth in the bucket of water, my mind raced back to those days when I would be doing the same thing along with my father. Just that it would be a Sunday morning and the vehicles would be a car and a scooter. It was so much fun. Getting to play with soap and water, at times getting to start the car and just press the accelerator as my father did something under the bonnet or even trying to start the scooter by putting my whole weight on the kick. And suddenly I was missing everything. The joy, the innocence, the look on my father's face as we ended the cleaning up, the sparkle on our white FIAT as it stood in the sun, my mother's cries as we entered the house all soiled and messy.

Life's always about living the small moments. You think too much about the consequences and the moment's gone. Today I read one of my friend's blog about his annual visit to his nani's place. It reminded me of my annual affair. Guess that warrants a post soon.

In the weekend when I rang up home, my father said that he was planning on applying for VRS. In case you dont know what that is, it's the Voluntary Retirement Scheme. He asked for my opinion. I took the safe option of telling him to do whatever pleases him the most. He says he's tired of working, doesnt want to do it anymore, has had enough. It's a strange feeling, frightening at times. Seeing your parents grow old, get tired.

My life's always been pretty predictable. Especially seeing what some of my friends are going through, I think mine is like a bland salad as compared to theirs' which is like a sizzler. Its a different fact that some are loving the sizzler and some are hating it. I have seen people fall out of love and get on the verge of making a mess of themselves and then fortunately recovering, people talking of getting engaged to their soul mate after an in and out relationship for nearly 2 years and some others still who claim I never knew the real them, talking of things which make little sense to me and sadden me. Mine on the contrary has been very calm. There's no turmoil so to speak, not on the outside, not on the inside. I have tried to stop lamenting about the missed opportunities and thinking about the things that could have been. I am more content at capturing the little moments without any inhibitions. I'm sure it's a long road and my share of excitement is bound to come by.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thank You For The Music - 2

It would be our last night out together. He was leaving the next day and though the two of us would stay for another year, things wouldn't ever be the same again. In the four years that we had been together the thought of doing this had crossed our minds several times and subsequently, we had spent many night outs singing songs for hostel events as well as just for the pure pleasure it gave us. But the reality of the last night out was what it took to finally get a cheap headphone and an amazing piece of software to record some of the songs we had sung and tunes we had played, henceforth to be remembered as "aakhri nite out"

"Do you sing?" asked the Music Rep of my hostel. It was the summer of 2001 and we were being "ragged". "No, but I can play the tabla nad a bit of congo, Sir" , I said, almost too embarassed to state that I didn't play something cooler like guitar or drums. "Tabla! ok let's see what all you can play"

I still remember the day of our Fresher's Music event. It was the 17th of August 2001 and my Rep had asked me to come running to the hostel immediately after finishing the first Quiz of my college life. It was on Applied Mechanics. There were three songs lined up for the event. "Nights in Blue Satin" would take care of the Western Song, I was playing the Congo in "Chale Chalo" - the Eastern Group Song and the tabla for the solo instrumental. As Venkat and myself started on the mandolin and congo respectively to begin "Chale Chalo", I felt a strange calm descend on me. It was the first stage performance where I had a significant role and I simply loved it.
We came first and one of the most cherished moments of my college life was my hostel mates almost picking me up and dancing on the SAC floor. I felt ecstatic.

I was fortunate to be one of the very few tabla players in the campus and as a result people had to bear with whatever I dished out. So for the first three years of my stay in college, I played in almost each and every event; often pushing in the instrument even if it was not needed just to add to the classical touch. In singing events that we had, for some strange reason there were no points for the accompanying instruments. This meant that in one particular Ghazal Night in which I was the Music Rep of my hostel, I ended up playing tabla for 7 hostels out of the 9. My hostel finished 5th and two of the others for whom I played, ended up 2nd and 3rd. Not bad, ha!!

In my first year we had this fourth yearite who was the best Drummer in the institute and folks from my hostel said that he always hoped that there would be a tabla player so that we could fuse the two instruments and do a sawal jawab in the Fusion Night event (till then the most happening event in the Music Club).

It was a chilling January morning and the time was around 5 o'clock, as we stepped out of the hostel to go the the institute music room (which had the only Drum set) to have the last practice for the Fusion Night. We were almost sure of clinching it. We had a few tunes from Indian Ocean to be played on the Electric Guitar along with the drums and the tabla, a very melodious piece on the synthesizer which was to be played by one of my seniors who of all people I have met had the keenest music sense. Be it keyboard or guitar he could figure out tunes, chords, harmonies with ease. His rythym sense was fantastic and was a true asset to the hostel and the institute. All of us in the first year simply adored him, more so because of the lovable person that he was.
Anyway, the real attraction was to be the jugalbandi between the drums and the tabla.

As the judge stepped on to the stage in the Convocation Hall, all of us could feel the tension in the air. We had made a few mistakes here and there but come on, no other hostel had a drummer and a tabla player. Worst come worst we would be second, I thought.
"The drummer from Karakoram was fantastic."
"The tabla player was also good."
Second Runners Up ............
OK. Good. Now we are either first or second.
First Runners Up .............
Cool. We have almost made it. Just announce it quickly will you.......
And the winner for this evening is .........

I dont even remember which hostel came first. All I remember is that they had played some crap. We were crestfallen. We cursed anyone even remotely associated with the event. In hindsight though, it was to be the most important lesson as far as playing in events was concerned. Never play for the result, play for the fun. Never play for the stage, revel in the practices.

What followed was the costliest and the biggest (in terms of sheer quantity) treats that any Music Rep has ever given to his team in our only hostel cafetaria.
KL? Cafeteria? Anyway...

We mostly lost in the music events. Initially it hurt. Later on it didn't matter. At least not to me. and it was true even when I was the Cultural Secy of my hostel. I was anyway not the "play for win" kind of a guy ever in my life. I took whatever came to me in my stride.

In the meanwhile I also tried my hands at drums and though the process lasted only about a month or so, it was fun. Helped by my senior I practised everyday in the music room and given my rythym sense, I could say unabashedly that I was a fast learner. The pinnacle of my stint as a drummer was the House Day perormance where I played drums with the instrumental rendition of the MI theme and a part of Metallica's Nomad. Take my word for it, it was a hit!

Amidst all this I was spotted by a certain stud. Stud Singh for all those who have ever been to my college! So along with a Mohan Veena , Violin and Guitar player and perhaps the best classical vocalist of my college we formed a fusion group. To say I enjoyed the association would be a gross understatement. We spent time composing tunes on certain Ragas (I mostly listened though!) figuring out jugalbandi between tabla, ghatam and the pakhawaj, trying out pieces from Mrigya, playing Vande Mataram on the mohan veena accompanied by the tabla, singing bhajans and ghazals. It was probably the most enriching experience that I have ever had as far as music is concerned. There was so much to learn from each of them. We became quite popular in the campus and it was fun to be congratulated on the superb performance in the inauguration of the Tryst or Rendezvous. I think I upped my tabla playing abilities by a few notches during those days.

So while I went about trying to fulfil my craving for playing the tabla, there were performances by the stalwarts of Indian Classical Music in our campus which left me dumbstruck in awe and amazement and gasping for more. I didn't look for company to go to these concerts and remember in my first year attending a Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar concert in the Siri Fort Auditorium , sitting in the steps all by myself. In the campus itself I was fortunate to see Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Dr. L Subramaniam, some of them , multiple times, accompanied by the lesser known but no less talented tabla players like Ustad Shafat Ahmed Khan. It was heavenly. At the end of the concerts as the performers stirred up a storm with their amazing speed and dexterity, it seemed almost out of the world. Throats went dry and heartbeats became faster. God I miss those days.

I never wanted to be stereotyped as someone who listened to a particular type of music or played only a particular type of instrument and so always wanted to learn playing the guitar. You see, tabla was great, it's one of the most difficult and beautiful instruments. There's nothing like hearing to a tabla player in full flow. But as a college goer there was only one thing which was cool. Singing songs with friends and playing the guitar alongside. I knew I could sing at a certain level which would hopefully prevent my listeners from throwing footwear at me. So the fact that one of the nicest guys around and a very good guitar player was one of my closest buddies coupled with the realisation of the approach of a two month long summer vacation of nothingness, prompted me to finally take the plunge and get the first few lessons from him to be honed at home.

My first and until recently, only guitar was a Hobner Jumbo and boy, I remember the first chord I played on it . It was wonderful. It was the summer of 2003 and spirits were high. G C D & Em formed my life. I was sure of why I wanted to play the guitar and so it made things easy. I never wanted to be a Joe Satriani ( I didnt even know his name back then) and so I concentrated on learning to play the easiest chords. My mother bore the brunt of it all. From morning till night I would keep playing (rather try playing) chords at random The thrill of learning was mine again and it was awesome. It was painstaking and boring at times but I somehow kept my interest levels up with the vision of singing "Take It Easy" and "Every Rose has its Thorn" firmly embedded in my eyes.

As third year started I began playing the guitar more freely. My guru would teach me all the songs he knew which meant that we ended up knowing the same songs and no more. There was also the thrill of taking the guitar along on visits to my home. Yeah there was the rare occasion of a few girls (ya you heard me right , Girls!) saying to me the lines I always dream to hear whenever I carry my guitar along with me .."So you play the Guitar.....Kuch bajao na..."
Soon I was the dependable rythym guitarist of my hostel, doing all the easy chord playing while others played the leads. I loved it all the way. My first appearance with the guitar was the most beautiful song I have heard called "Dust In The Wind".. (that's where the title of my blog comes from) and do I even need to say it, we came first.

Then there was that incident where about five or six of us sat on the road in front of the hostel through the entire night, waiting for the keys to the music room to arrive. There was some dirty politics involved in it and I dont wish to reproduce the details here. But it was the most amazing of nights as we sat in the middle of the road waiting for the keys to come, frustrated, angry and amused at the same time. Somebody brought maggi for all of us and we sang a few songs. It was dreamlike.

Meanwhile many events went by. We won some. We lost more. I managed to see some fabulous performances. "More than Words" by Francis and Baijal, "Comfortably Numb" by Mohit, Amitabh Basu on his keyboard (it didnt matter what he played), Jwala on the second year Eastern Night with Basu on keyboards, Jeet on the Mohan Veena and Aravind on the Violin... there are too many to name. Through all of this I came close to so many people, mostly from my hostel. So there was our synth player who graduated from figuring out and playing chords (which he was by the way very good at) to playing Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata , who became the epitome of determination for many of us, the level headed, wierd at times, genius, the boy house wardens want parents to meet when their kids come to the hostel. Then there was our lead guitarist whose antics generally started after midnight as he plugged in his guitar and distortion, the bundle of energy and enthusiasm, whose rendering of "Toxicity" in the first Distortionaire is something I would never forget. And there was my guitar guru. When he sang "Baby can I hold you tonight" at 3 in the morning, it brought goosebumps.

In the last year in college I had all but stopped playing anything. I didn't learn anything new, the thrill, it seemed, was gone. Coming here though I have realised that I cant live without music. And I don't mean listening to it, I mean playing something, singing to myself. So as I sit in my room with my new Yamaha acoustic guitar trying out "More than words" a sense of pleasure fills me. The joy of doing something to your hearts content.

People who know me say and I myself like to believe that I have a sense of music . If you ask me I won't be able to describe to you in words exactly what it means. The point is as long as I have this sense I would like to keep playing something and it doesnt matter to me whether it's the cool guitar or the classical tabla (or maybe some other instrument someday!)

By the way, if you have managed to reached this far, firstly thanks a ton, and if you still remember the mention of the Applied Mechanics Quiz in the beginning, I scored -1.5. No that's not a typo!

Thank you for the Music.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Change Revisited....

It's a subject that has begun to fascinate me more and more since the time I pondered on the change that was about to happen, as I entered the last days of my college life. Till then though I somehow only thought of it at a very individual level: change in environment, change in the people living around you, different routines. different hang out places. My visit to home this time (the first one as an employed son !) opened for me a new perspective.

There are certain things in life which you take for granted. Or at least I did. Things which to you are eternal. For me it was my hometown. No I am not talking about the physical appearance of the city of my childhood. I am talking about its feels. Its sounds and flavours so as to speak. As kids, Durga Puja was one of the most eagerly awaited events of the whole year and although the attractions changed from getting gas balloons and riding the merry-go-round as a 5 year old to checking out the prettiest girls in town all dressed up as 10th graders and roaming around the city in one's father's scooters (sadly the dad's in my hometown prefer a scooter over a bike), yet the charm stayed the same, unaffected by the growing years.

This time around, as I stood in the pandal with one of my friends, I realised (and this was something which had hit me a few years back also) that we no longer enjoyed it as we used to. The thrill was gone, we were too old for the merry-go-rounds and too young for enjoying the spiritual/religious aspect of it. There were almost no known faces and we were only going through the motions trying to recapitulate what thrilled us as schoolboys. I guess it's but natural that you outgrow your childhood joys and start enjoying newer more mature things but even then it sort of hit me hard.

At home as my father came to me to ask about the nittie-gritties of the latest Digi-Cam that I had brought for him, my mind went back to the days when the roles were reversed and my father would be unravelling for me the mysteries of the newest remote control car that he had brought from Calcutta. I met my grandmother after 6 years. For her mine was a transition straight from school to that of an employed youth. She was delighted and nostalgic at the same time and we spent a lot of moments reminiscing about the days when grandmothers and grandfathers were the most caring and the best humans on earth. As for me I could see that she had grown old. There were the usual joint pains and the daily dose of medicine. A far cry from the Nani who would make me stand on her feet while she sat down and then swing me for as long as I wanted.

When you go home on a vacation, it's mainly for the two things that matter a lot in your life: your family and your friends from the school days. And like family you always expect your friends to be there or at least their families to be there. This time around as I parted with one of my closest buddies I realised that I didnt know when I would meet him next. His father would be retiring on March next year and so his family is moving out. It was as if a defining principle of your existence was being challenged. I always expected home to be this way. Meet family , hang out with old friends, go to their houses irrespective of their being there or not at that moment to feast on the various dishes that their mothers would prepare once intimidated of my arrival! All that was slowly changing. And then I realised that my father would also be retiring in a few years and leaving for Kolkata where he has built a house.

I guess all the while the world around us is changing in its various forms. Sometimes the changes are shattering and sometimes too subtle to catch our imagination. It's only when we sit back and retrospect that we find the way things have changed: relations, perspectives, roles, everything. On a slightly different note, ever since I started maintaining a blog, I think I have become more aware of everything around me. Someone once said to me "The more you write, the more you will have things to write about..." . Now I can fully understand what he meant.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Family Matters"

There are some books you don't like but still read through because they are supposed to be very famous, very good. There are others which you love and recommend to friends. And there are still others which move you to tears and for a long time after you have finished reading it, sitting on the bed alone in your room, you dont want anybody to look into your eyes for fear of ridicule. It's not that you cant hold back your tears, it's just that you want to give in, you want to cry. And you know the beauty of the story that I am talking about, it's not a tragedy, in fact its far from what you would call a tragedy or even a sad story per se. It's very commonplace , almost mundane in its spirit, yet seen through the eyes of one Rohinton Mistry even everyday occurences take the hue of magical appearences.

If Such a Fine Balance swept you of your feet due to its attention to details and the vast scope at the same time and the imbalance between hope and despair in the lives of its characters, Family Matters brings out perhaps all the emotions you can ever feel: love, hate, anger, compassion, hope, greed, pride, pity, despair, scorn..... I can't even name them. It's the story of a family, an old man, Nariman Vakeel, afflicted with Parkinson's, his two step children Jal and Coomy, both unmarried living in a big house with him, his daughter Roxanna living in a cramped house with her husband Yezad and two schoolgoing boys Jehangir and Murad. When a turn of events forces Nariman to stay with his daughter Roxanna in her little flat, it not only puts to test their financial and material resources but most importantly their spirit. What follows is as intricate and magical (I can't stop using this word!) a description of "family matters" as ever could be. From Murad's coming home on foot for days to save the bus fare for his little brother's Christmas gift, to Jehangir holding his grandfather's hand in the middle of the night while the old man is tormented in his sleep with memories of the death of his beloved Lucy and his wife Yasmin, from Yezad's realisation that in the end a little compassion is all we need to live in this mad world to Roxanna's ever ageing envelopes marked "Bread & Butter", "Electricity" and the likes in to see through the month, from Jal's guilt having failed to stand up to his sister's verdict to Coomy's anger and frustration with life, Family Matters makes you smile and cry at the same time, makes you marvel at the beauty of life itself, of bondage and the complicacies of human relations.

It reminded me of my grandfather and his death. It was sudden. The doctors called it a bolt from the blue. Through Nariman, I could almost hear my Nana speak. The way Jehangir became terrified and saddened by Yezad and Roxanna's fights reminded me of the ones which my parents had during my childhood which shook the world around me.

Family Matters is a beautiful novel, one to be treasured forever, one which I would recommend everyone to read. Don't expect anything dramatic. The novel progresses predictably except for the end where a few coincidences change its shape distinctively. Read it for the simple joy of reading, read it to know all the emotions that exist, emotions we could forget feeling if not reminded.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Crocodile Man, Steve Irwin, is dead.

I absolutely loved his shows on Nat Geo and Animal Planet. The fact that he died doing the thing he loved the most struck me to be ironic and poetic at the same time.

It is understood he was killed by a sting-ray barb that went through his chest. He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary and that's when it occurred.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Life Less Ordinary

Think of the world "traveller" or better still, "explorer" and let your stage be the entire globe. What are the names that come to your mind ? Amundsen, Peary, Marco Polo, Columbus, Vasco Da gama, Ibn Batuta, Fa-Hien.......

Ever heard of a certain James Holman? Chances are that you have not. Yet, clocking about a quarter million miles and coming to contact with about 200 different cultures, he was and remains history's greatest traveller in the truest sense of the word. Add to this the fact that he was completely blind and you have before you the most daring, astonishing lives ever lived.

He was known simply as The Blind Traveler--a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman triumphed not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigation of the world, had to be launched in secret).
Once a celebrity, a bestselling author and an inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the charismatic, witty Holman outlived his fame, dying in an obscurity that has endured--until now. (from A SENSE OF THE WORLD

Priced at close to a thousand Rupees, it would be the most expensive book that I bought. Yet going by my book buying instinct for the last three years or so, which is to buy completely random books without any pre-conception solely based on the book cover, title and blurb, I thought I would take the plunge. I can't and I won't even attempt to write a book review here. That's way out of my league and instead of making a complete fool of myself I would rather refer you to the website of the author, Jason Roberts who, through his marvellously researched book has tried to accord Holman his due as history's greatest ever traveller.

Poet, doctor, lieutenant, traveller; few men before or since must have lead such a charmed life.
"I see things better with my feet." said James Holman and so he did, embarking on a journey of the globe and experiencing it in a way the sighted could only dream of. For him, his blindness was not a handicap to be pitied upon, it merely meant finding a different way to sense the world. He rode horses, studied medicine in the University of Edinburgh, climbed up Mt. Vesuvius to witness its famous eruption circa 1821, climbed the masts of ships, travelled across Siberia right upto the Kamchatka Peninsula, made friends with natives and in the process visited every inhabited continent on the planet.

He knew no foreign languages, had almost no money, and carried little more than a primitive writing machine--yet he also had a prodigious memory, hyper-acute remaining senses and vast amounts of
personal charm.

As the author found out, there is very little information available on James Holman anywhere in the world. Comparison of the Wiki entries of Holman ( with that of Marco Polo ( is just an example.

There's a famous quote saying "Life should be big, not long" . To me the life of James Holman epitomises this. I won't try to dish out what the book taught me or meant to me personally. Just getting to know about such a life was prize enough for me. Read this excerpt from the book and who knows you might also be prompted to go ahead and read the entire story, one of a life lived to the fullest.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Good Company

The mercury was soaring and so were our spirits. It's not everyday that you get an engineering degree (2 in fact !), it's not everyday that you get to wear a rather gaudy orange gown and roam around crazily clicking pictures of yourself and your friends as if the world were coming to an end, it's not everyday you come to the place you spent five years of your life and for some unfathomable reason it feels different to the point of emptiness.

It's as if life has changed gears. "Kitne baje ki Train hai ..." has been replaced by "Kis Flight se jaa raha hai...... Jet?". Card has replaced cash, 3 bedroom apartments have taken the place of hostel rooms, people you used to live your life with were scattered, found and scattered again. But in between all these, it's the time spent together, time spent gossiping and giggling, time spent over a bottle of beer or vodka, time spent over sumptous meals ranging from Chicken Lasagne to Kukkad Kebab to Railway Mutton Curry that linger in memory.

The Convocation was a fantastic weekend. Late nights at a dear friend's house, spent with the best buddies you will ever have, the awesomely boring dress rehersal and the final convocation ceremony highlighted by a very relevant speech by Azim Premji (who also happened to quote from Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat"), the mayhem that followed afterwards under the scorching sun with the photo sessions, the beer sessions at Masala Junction and Scorpion Moon so typically spent discussing "life ke funde", the weary eyes, the throbbing headache; the two days were eventful to say the least. To add to all the excitement was the realisation on landing at the New Delhi airport that you have forgotten to bring your return tickets, the solitary auto rickshaw to be seen at 2:00 A.M charging Rs 600 to go to NOIDA, the Airtel roaming facility ditching you at the moment you needed it the most and the sweltering heat and humidity which made sure that my love for Bangalore went up by quite a few notches.

Nevertheless, things got sorted out, I got my degree(s), met friends, went to my hostel where again the feeling of emptiness was the most dominant one where I had expected nostalgia/sadness/belongingness and finally was back on the Jet Airways flight to Bangalore.
At the airport there was more good company as another dear friend and fellow Bangalorean was found arriving from Chennai having extended his working days in a week from 6.75 to 7.00. The Bada Saheb that he is meant we got to go to his home where we had Britannia GoodDay biscuits (the Brand being important for the fact that he works in ITC!) and then had the company ki gaadi drop us at our house.

The fun and frolic of the weekend spilled over to the 15th of August also. Sure it was the Independance Day but to admit candidly, it was no more than a holiday for me. So I got up at around 9:00 and then helped my friend prepare sandwitches for breakfast which was fun, what with boiling potatoes and all. The rest of the day didnt seem to promise much and was about to be spent lazing around alone perhaps reading a book. Then suddenly the Bada Saheb called up informing of the expected arrival of another and his unexpected availability for the entire day. Soon they were near Maharaja Hotel, the landmark near our house where I went to pick them up on my now famous bike which has become the laughing stock in some circles and at the same time has elicited mixed responses of "Cool.. but thoda aarbit nahi hai ..." from others.
After that it was time for lunch which we had at one of the best restaurants I have been here in my short stay at Bangalore. Sahib, Sind, Sultan, modelled as a old time luxury railway coach proved to be the perfect blend of ambience, great food and a bill that won't empty your wallet. I have always wondered at the effect a good lunch or a dinner with good company has on an individual. For me it's the best part of any day and the gourmet that I am, the potent combination of food to tickle your taste buds and friends to spend entire lives with, was and still remains, one of the few moments to savour and relish for ever. Add to that I had my inspiration as far as the quantity of eating and the choice of non-vegetarian items goes, eating alongside me.

The afternoon rolled into the evening as we lazed in our house under the weight of the immensely heavy lunch reluctant to go anywhere. Two more friends joined us soon. One, my current flat and company mate and the other who was kind enough to give us a shelter when we were house hunting. It was evening and people were throwing around options regarding how to make it memorable. Movies, Pubs, Bowling everything met opposition from someone or the other until finally someone came up with the greatest idea of all time...."Yaar aish karte hain aur chill maarte hain ..." Legendary lines spoken by a person who is little less than one himself!
And so we started chilling out. The glasses were laid and the vodka came out in complete defiance of the dry-day that it was and the ball was aptly set rolling by a series of small anecdotes on the life changing power of alcohol and its wonderful affects when taken in heavy doses. There was the dim light to get the feel, photography bordering on the surrealistic :D and Marilyn Monroe in her famous pose to stare at and debate whether she was mischevious or out and out sensous. Thereafter it was a laughter riot for almost two hours at a stretch as two or three of us took centrestage to narrate the most weirdest, funniest, insane, improbable, logic defying, gross and downright mindless incidents of hostel life that you will ever hear. So much so that our jaws and stomach started aching. By the end of it all we were at our wits end. In between this there was also a walk down to the nearby Corner House for a taste of Death By Chocolate and Black Forest with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. The night was getting better and better and better.

Finally it was time to sleep and it was decided to lay all the matresses together (5 in all) to accommodate the 7 people we had. Then somebody had the idea of the night. Why not sleep on the terrace. The insanity of the numerous anecdotes had had their affect on us and so an instant decision was made and we went up the stairs on the terrace to sleep with the sky and the clouds as our roof. There was a chill in the air as we debated on the colour of the clouds and their movement. One of us who happened to be sleeping at one extreme end also had the fear of a coconut falling and hitting him to contend with due to the proximity he had with the beautiful coconut tree that stands next to our house. So after few moments of giggling we finally went to sleep.

Daybreak saw a return to sanity which lead us to scurry to the warmth of our house. Slowly the guests left and the house was quiet once again. A weekend gathering was planned at one Samarkhand which was vouched to be the best restaurant he has ever eaten in by none other than our very own Bada Saheb.

Now as I sit in my office with so much time so as to write this entire blog in one go, I eagerly await that weekend, that gathering which brings so much fun and happiness that for once I tend to forget the ends and the means which have been troubling me. I am beginnning to think that maybe life's all about these little moments, inconsequential to the world but immensley satisfying to the self, maybe no matter what you do and where you are, happiness is after all, a state of mind, it's about being in good company.

Friday, August 04, 2006

And Life Goes On.............

Remember the first time your father let go of the bicycle and you discovered one of the most amazing miracles of everyday life, your first crush in school, the first day in college, the first drink...... There's something about these firsts which persist in our memory irrespective of their actual quality. So are the lasts, but I will leave them for some other day, some other time. For now let me celebrate the new firsts that have been happening day in day out in my life.

After three weeks of intensive search finally we had our house, a first of sorts for most of us. The peculiar house renting rules in Bangalore meant that I had the priviledge of writing the first cheque (2 in fact) of my life. And what a first that was. With one swift stroke of my hand, Rs 1.5 lakh had been payed to our landlord, albeit in a postdated manner. The first salary followed soon after, soured somewhat by the hefty amount that the IT took away. Strangely I didn't feel anything particularly exciting on receiving the salary. The transition to the salaried class was very everyday to say the least.

A couple of days ago I had a chat with a very close friend and that too after quite some time. To say that it was one of the highpoints of my life after coming to Bangalore wouldn't be an overstatement. I have always seen him as one of the most level headed guys around. The clarity of thought he presents when you are talking with him tends to leave you amazed though there are some topics in which this very same clarity and in depth knowledge makes you run for cover. Anyway, if you happen to be regular reader of my blog, you would know that I have Lost Control, and though I am yet nowhere near finding the solution, yet chatting with my friend was so soothing that I felt a strange calm descend on me after that. He told me how even he is unsure in his own way of his life ahead, in a different level and context though. We chatted for quite a while on these issues, of life and finding a calling and in between he came up with his trademark straight-from-a-science-journal advices. I don't know whether it was what he said to me (which was mostly on the lines of take it easy and it happens to everyone) or simply the effect of talking to someone you like, someone you look up to in a certain way, someone who knows you, I went back home a happier man.

It's strange to think about the number of things we demand to stay happy, to feel in control of ourselves, to live. The first few days in office were without any instant messenger, GMail or Orkut and needless to say we were almost at our wits end. At home there was no TV and no computer. A month into this city and the home still looks the same though the office space has changed to only "No Orkut ". The one thing that has significantly changed though is that it doesn't affect me anymore. The hiatus from orkut hasn't stopped my life. It hasn't infact changed anything so as to say. I still talk to people who matter to me. I wouldn't mind having a TV when I come back from office, but its absence has meant that I spend more time reading Thomas Friedman's wonderful commentary of the age that we live in, titled The World Is Flat.

I think we tend to bring more and more things in our lives in an attempt to make it happier, more comfortable, more liveable and more engrossing and end up making it more complex and more dependent.

I don't know what's making me think about all these things these days. I was never the person to think about anything other than the present. I have acted on instincts in most of my decisions in my life. Maybe the lack of work is prompting me to have all these thoughts in my mind, maybe its the first job blues which has triggered off this introspection phase. Whatever it is, the one thing that is definite in all this sea of confusion and chaos is that right now I am doing what I like doing the most.......talking to me.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lose Control

No, it's nothing to do with the RDB smash hit number except maybe for the fact that I can relate more to the College ke andar hum zindagi ko nachaate hain, College ke bahar zindagi hum ko nachaati hai .. quote. It's been a feeliing that has been prevalent for quite some time now. Why am I doing what I am doing.

Call it a repercussion of not getting what was my first choice as life after graduation, or the fact that throughout my life I have never been very good at anything. Nothing seems to excite me for long and it spans all realms of my known world from computer science to geography (my favourite sublect in school), from literature to music. I have never been able to master any thing, never gained supreme authority even over one small topic; not one musical instument, not one author, not one language (and this includes english, hindi and bengali). Until now it didn't matter, or maybe it did but I didn't feel it. Till yesterday my familiarity with most things was my strength. Today, viewed from a different angle I feel shallow. Suddenly I am not sure what I want to do with my life.

Do I want to be software engineer (actually I am already supposed to be one). Do I want to be an investment banker. Do I give CAT this year. What if I don't like management and fail miserably. What about a job change. Do I actually want to do a job, any job. If not then what. Why can't I do something else.

All those "Where do you see yourself 5/10 years down the line......" questions seem to make so much sense now. Here I am sitting in my office with nothing much to do, spending most of the day surfing the net, chatting and reading some documents, wondering, is this what I am meant to do, is this my life. It's not that I despise it. That would have made things easier. Worse, I am nowhere close to the solution. I have seen my batchmates and fellow bloggers follow this path of introspection throughout their professional career (which is one year) and get nowhere near the answer. Then again sometimes I let go of all this and say to myself "What the hell, just do what comes your way and try to make the most out of it. That's what you are supposed to do....". So there are these two voices in my head, much like the friend and the fiend in Launcelot Gobbo's comic Scene in The Merchant Of Venice and I can't make out whom to follow. Sometimes I think that whatever I do (for a living that is), if I consider it the means to achieve the ends (which are things that I love to do, some of which would require me to be financially independent) then all's well. On the other hand the second voice tells me it's the journey that counts and not the destination so if the means itself are not worth the pains the ends never will be.

Why am I not good at anything. I see people all around me, my friends mostly, who are very good at something and it ranges from various aspects of computer science to physics (mainly optics), from running a factory, working 6.75 days a week to being doctors. I hope I soon find my calling in life and when I do I hope to have the courage to follow it. For a third voice in me says that there are no ends and means, there's only one thing and that is Life.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hello Bangalore

Act 1, Scene 1
Me: I was calling to inquire about the 3 BHK house in Koramangala......
Voice on the other side(VOTOS): Are you Bachelors?
Me: Ya , 4 of us
VOTOS: .....
Me: OK sorry for bothering you..
Act 1, Scene 2
Me: I was calling to inquire about the 3 BHK house in Levelle Road....
VOTOS: OK...the rent is 25 K with 10 month deposit
Me: Ah.. that's a bit high for our budget...Thanks anyway..
Act 1, Scene 3
Agent: Aap phele house dekhega to immediate lega ....bahut achcha .. independent duplex house... 2 Kms from MG Road...
The house turns out to be around 6 Kms from MG Road.

I have always wanted my life to be eventful. To have experiences which can be remembered forever. A month into Bangalore, that wish has been pretty well taken care of by the powers that be. Office has been pretty normal so as to say with the usual process of induction, training, getting to meet new people and doing other routine jobs. It's the weekends and the time spent commuting between office and home that has been the flavour of the month.

Imagine two fresh engineering graduates with a decent paying job and families to support them financially, roaming in MG Road (if you have been to Bangalore you would know what it is) with a total amount of Rs 40 in their pockets, unsure of where to sleep at night. On top of that one of them had lost his wallet a couple of days ago so has no debit/credit card and the other has the good old SBI ATM card, a memento from the student days gone by, which, true to its character acquired over 5 years, boasts of a princely amount of Rs 43. It's as pathetic and hilarious as it can get, both at the same time. Yes, this was my friend and me. That we managed to call up our friend and had the most expensive dinner in Bangalore till date is another story.

Commuting in Bangalore at peak office hours can be a frustrating and humiliating experience and to add to that when you don't have you own home and are staying at your friend's friend's (yeah that's not a typo!) house for well over a fortnight, which is about an hour's bus/cab/auto drive from your office, things tend to get a bit edgy. As a result, simple things like arriving home in 20 minutes instead of the 45 or so, dishing out only Rs 20 instead of the usual 36 brings immense pleasure and satisfaction.

And yet amongst all these seemingly frustrating and unnerving experiences there's always that dinner with friends at an open air restaurant designed like a beach with sand and the sound of the surf with one Raja playing "ajeeb daastan hai ye..." on his mouth organ and guitar (yes both at the same time !) and then singing "Wonderful Tonight" which makes you realise what a fine balance this life actually is.

"A Time To Make Friends"..said the huge banners in Germany and even here in Bangalore new acquaintances were being made both in the office and the at places I stayed in, some of which soon turned to friendships.

But all these incidents take a backseat when it comes to the real adventure. One which has been going on for the last three weekends and at times splilling over to weekdays too....House Hunting.

3 BHK, close to MG Road, close to Bannerghatta Road, good house, good locality (you know what I mean by good locality !), within our budget, splitting of the 10 month deposit into two parts and no landlord interference. The list of parameters to be satisfied was long and so was the search for the perfect house. Project "Bangla Mile Nyara" started with two people and moved from strength to strength as more members joined in the search. There were close to a score of houses seen, in heat and dust, in rain and wind, some at places where you can't differentiate between the road and the two drains on either side of it when it pours, travelling by bike, car, foot and mostly by auto rickshaws, getting so fed up of paying Rs 12 (the minimum fare) to the auto driver (some of whom swear by the name of Baba........ Rajnikanth to the the average Indian!) that you almost wished for a Rs 12 currency note to be introduced by RBI for this very purpose, standing at crossroads like vagabonds with the Eicher Bangalore map, pen, cell phone, Ad Mag and Free Ads spread around, alternately looking at the newspaper and the map to ascertain the location of the house, ringing up agents and landlords repeating the same starting sentences, circling up entries in the paper and then crossing them out as house after house falied to pass our stringent requirements; Project "Bangla Mile Nyara" was living up to its hype.

There's a lot more to write about, a lot more to think but for now let's leave it at that.

Act 2, Scene 1
Us: So can the deposit be split into 2 equal halves.....
Landlord: hmm.. OK that won't be a problem....
Me (to agent): Can we pay the commission after we get our salary
Agent: OK... boss theek hai..

Meanwhile somebody calls up from above: Yaar terrace mast hai .. dekh jaa aa ke....

Us (to Landlord): So we will come tomorrow to sign the documents...

Hello Bangalore................

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A New Life

As I boarded the B'lore bound Jet Airways flight from Dum Dum airport, Kolkata, with the tickets of 2 more between B'lore and Delhi already booked, two thoughts kept me occupied: 1) had France managed to qualify for the 2nd round to give Zizou one last shot at glory & 2) the lines from the song "Thoda Paisa" by Aghosh "..jahan bhi jaenge, jaenge flight se aha, are aha. Aur Sunday manaege Friday night se haan.....". Viera and Henry made sure that the talismanic Zidane gets another chance and later the perennial underachievers Spain made sure that Sunday will see a repeat of the '98 finals between the favourites, who are yet to show their Samba Magic to full effect and a team which has somehow managed to scrape through with most of their players in the twilight of their career.

It's been 5 days since I landed in B'lore after having a fortnight's break with my parents in Bokaro which followed a momentous event in my life; that of my completing my final project, graduating and becoming an engineer, the reason for my hiatus from blogging. I have always been a here, now kind of a guy. Future plannings, setting long term goals, looking ahead are things which I am seldom able to comprehend though I tend to think about them a lot. So as I stand at a crossroads of my life, I find myself at a totally alien environment, that of the software industry, in a city which is fast loosing its charm to outsiders though the weather is still awesome especially if you happen to come from Delhi, unsure of what I want, unsure of the course of my life in the next one year, hoping to find my true calling. It's a big jolt to say the least. Make no mistake though, I am neither worried nor sad. It's just that things haven't yet fallen into place for me here. Instead of the twenty odd familiar faces that I used to see everyday, now I see only one, the 3 to 12 sleeping schedule has given way to a 3 (Thank God there is the World Cup) to 9 one. Office is mostly boring and banal. The guest house is pretty impressive and most importantly has a TV. The soccer has been dramatic though predictable and is destined to get better in the final stages with the prospects of a Ger-Bra or Arg-Bra Finale. Krissh turned out to be more melodrama than super hero so hopefully Superman Returns soon.

The fortnight long vacation with my parents was spent packing my wardrobe with formal wear or cotton casuals as the brand would name them, replacing my 4 year old 3310 with a flashy one with camera and radio and what not (I don't remember the model number) and mostly basking in the glory of becoming a graduate, trying to fathom the reason why my parents were so happy when I hadn't done anything more than allowing things to take their own course. Somehow I knew things are going to be very different and it was a time to let go. Let go of not washing yourself or your clothes till God knows how long, let go of living day in day out with lots of people and noise around you, let go of familiar places, let go of your Dad's money, let go of your lifestyle for the last 5 years. Suddenly the proud and spontaneous answer to an elderly gentleman's query or a lady's with two beautiful daughters in a train to "Kya karte ho beta...." had changed to a very everyday and commonplace just another face in the crowd types. It was time to let go of student life and take a step towards the professional one. Meanwhile I also had counselling sessions with two more new entrants to the college I left and the hopes and aspirations of the boys as well as their families were so akin to those of mine and my parents' half a decade (wow that seems long!) ago that it almost seemed I was doing it all over again.

So here I am, in the garden city trying to find my footing (and more importantly a house!), waiting for more friends to arrive in mid July to lend a bit more familiarity to this place, hoping also that the next blog is not this bad and random.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Steel Plant and also my home

About a fortnight from now, I would be leaving Delhi for good. The city which I first visited as an eight grader, the city to which I came as a complete stranger like so many others (especially from the part of the world I come from!) to chase my dreams, the city which has been my home for the last five years. But if you are thinking that I am going to chronicle my five, rather six years of stay in this city or enumerate the reasons why I have fallen in love with it, you are in for some dissapointment. For this post is not about Delhi, it's about a small city I spent my childhood in.

I grew up at a place called Bokaro; Bokaro Steel City to be precise. It was a beautiful place to grow up. I remember the look of astonishment on one of my mother's uncle's face when he visited us for the first time, for inspite of being in Bihar (yes it was in the pre Jharkhand days) about which more often than not an outsider forms a definitive image in his mind, he found Bokaro to be a place he would love to spend time in. For a child like me, growing up in Bokaro was one of the best things that happened to me. It's a small city and so everything was nearby ranging from the shopping centre to the hospital to schools. Kids could play on the colony roads without any fear of intrusion of vehicles, go to schools in groups riding a bicycle, play in the rain, go picnicing during winters. To a fourteen-fifteen year old, life possibly couldn't be any better. The only big city that I had been to as a kid was Calcutta, the city I was born in. And since the stay was never too long, I failed to associate myself with it.

It's difficult to write about something when you have so many memories of it. You don't know where and how to begin. It's like meeting your best friend from school after a long time. There's so much history between the two of you, so much to talk, so much to catch up on, that you find yourself at a loss of words.

My first memories of the place go back to the Nursery School I attended, a mere five minutes walk from my home, a distance which I used to cover on my father's Jawa in the morning and with my mother in the afternoon, harping about the happenings of the day. I still vividly remember one particular day when this ritual was broken. Classes had ended earlier than usual on that particular day and as was my wont, I looked out of the window of my classroom to catch a glimpse of my mother waiting there for me. To my horror she wasn't there. I waited for about ten minutes in the sun waiting for her to arrive knowing little that she couldn't possibly have any inkling that my classes had gotten over. But for a four year old kid, his parents are supreme beings, capable of doing anything, knowing everything and being anywhere when he needs them. Anyway, it took a great act of courage from my side and one of benevolence from the rickshaw-wallah who used to carry some of my friends and who knew me and my mother, to finally alight on the rickshaw and head towards home. It was about halfway through the distance that I saw my mother. I immediately got down from the rickshaw while the rickshaw-wallah explained the situation to my mother. The crisis was over.

There were children of all ages in my neighbourhood and all of us used to play cricket together; even the girls (though all of them sadly were didis for me). The lack of a field nearby meant that everyday from about four to six in the evening, the small bylane in front of our home would be turned into a cricket field with a concrete pitch (who said in India cricket is played on slow low wickets :)). Cars would be made to vanish, the ladies would take care not to sit anywhere near the pitch in fear of green spherical objects being hurled at them, passerbys would wait for the action to get over before venturing to cross the field, mayhem would reign supreme for two hours and yes, I almost forgot, some cricket would also be played. Sometimes the venue would change too. The concrete pitch would be replaced by a clay one, the girls would be banned, there would be no leg side play, the lack of space meant that the only shots which got you runs were the square cut and the tendulkaresqe straight drive, a bus tyre would replace the stumps (God knows where it came from), nicks would be considered out, the friendly tennis ball would make way for the mean deuce ball and the punishment for hitting the glass window pane was to register a complain at the nearby maintenance office.

The Bokaro I grew up in was a very calm and laidback city. There were no traffic lights, no public transport buses on the roads, people knew who their neighbours were. Everything was very simple, very easygoing. The city was there because of the Plant and not the other way around so apart from the fact that most of the population comprised of people who worked there and their families, it also meant that that entire city had a very structured and planned look about it. True there were no multiplexes or Nike and Adidas showrooms but who cared. I had my friends, my family, the weather was great, school was fun, teachers knew you by name and often became aunties when you met them in the market places. The place where I lived was called the Russian Colony. Several Soviet experts used to live there earlier during the days the plant was being set up and though quite a few of them remained then and the majority of the place had been populated by Indians, the name had stayed. I remember one Mr. Edward, a Soviet expert who was my father's colleague and friend and his wife Madam Ella. We used to go their place once in a while and they also came over at times. My father was fluent in Russian so while he conversed in Russian most of the time with them, I and my mother managed with English. I remember seeing Edward uncle in a golden kurta my father had given him and aunt Ella in a saree which my mother had given her. They looked beautiful. He was older than my father. In fact he had a grandson who was called Anton and since my pet name was Taton, I reminded him of his grandson. He loved me and so did I. A few years later, he left Bokaro, forever.

The colony had in its centre, what we kids used to call, a jungle. It was basically a quite densly forested area with a few foxes as the only wild inhabitants. What it also meant that during the rainy season you could sit on the balcony of your home and see the rain falling in the jungle and the water making small streams in the mud. There were also the sparrows, the hummingbirds, the koels and the parrots to be seen. In short, it was a very green city with lots of trees and parks, little pollution (the steel plant was on theoutskirts of the city) and no water or electricity shortages. I used to boast about it all the time when faced with the power cuts in my maternal grandfather's home in Silchar which we used to go during the summer vacations. Life was good and I was as happy as one could be.

Gradually the years rolled by. Scooters replaced the bicycles, tuitions replaced cricket, we moved from Qr. No. 3016 to Qr. No. 1019, a few friends left, some things changed. I came to know about life in another city called New Delhi and all of a sudden, Bokaro became smaller and ceased to be the best place in the world. Nevertheless my family was still there and the bimonthly visits continued. But with each visit, the city kept shrinking. Delhi is great and spending my college life here is probably one of the best things to have happened to me but whenever I go to the place I spent my childhood in and walk the streets which used to be our playground, go to my school (which warrants a post in itself), visit old acquaintances; the floodgates of memories open up. I feel a strange calm descend upon me and however bored I get there after a few days, the day before leaving is always difficult. My father would be retiring in another four or five years and move to Kolkata. I wonder after that if ever I would visit that place, the place who's name more often than not brings the same statement from people I have just met..."Bokaro... oh Steel Plant....". Yes, Steel Plant but also my childhood, my home.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thank you for the Music - 1

Even as the train ground to a halt in New Jalpaiguri station, hawkers and peddlers had already started making their way into our compartment. If you have ever travelled by train in this part of the country you would know what's the predominant item that all of them carry around. From digital watches to cameras to two-in-ones (yes this was early 90's and two-in-ones were still in fashion) contraband from across the border used to be sold as openly and matter of factly as anything under the sun. Being a ten year old kid, most of these flashy gadgets did not catch my attention unless it was a Yo-Yo with neon lights or a toy airplane or perhaps something which made a lot of noise. So it was but natural when I requested my father to let me have a look at "that thing" when one of the peddlers came to our berth and turned on the demo of the Casio SA-1. For the uninitiated, the Casio SA-1 is the smallest model of the synthesizers or keyboards or Casios as they have also come to be called, that are available in the market. Anyway, my father was both surprised and amused by this request as I had never before seen such a thing and so he thought that I had obviously mistaken it for another toy which did nothing but make a lot of noise.
Being a single child has its advantages and although I can assertively say that I have never been a demanding one, yet there was and still is an unspoken, unwritten code of understanding between my parents and I which grants me the right to request for anything I want anytime but at the same time respect their opinion about the same. This has done wonders to my relationship with my parents and in twenty four years of my existence I have almost never had to ask for anything to which they have had an objection.
Coming back to the incident, soon I had the instrument in my lap as the peddler started pressing some buttons and keys, showing us the various beats and tones that could be produced from it. After he had been done with his customary demonstration I finally had the thing to my own. So I started fiddling around with the set of black and white keys trying to produce a semblance of the latest Bollywood hit (I have no rememberance of the exact song) and to the surprise of all and sundry present there including me, within a minute or so I was actually playing it. For me, the journey had just begun.

Like most Bengali parents, mine were also very keen that I take to some form or the other of creative art. So it was around the time that I had moved into second grade that they decided that music was to be my leisurely activity. Tabla was chosen to be my instrument and to make it more interesting, my father himself decided to take classes in Hawaiian Guitar at the same time. The fact that the tutor they chose for the job was an expert in both the instruments certainly helped. Soon however owing to my father's lack of time (12-14 hour shop floor duties in a Steel Plant can drain you out) and my excess, it was me who was taking lessons in both, learning the nuances of Teentaal and Raag Yaman Kalyan at the same time. Within a year or so, though, the Guitar lost out to Tabla primarily because Zakir Hussain had become a household name and there was nothing else I wanted to become and also due to the fact that I realised that I was far better in understanding rythym than harmony. As luck would have it I had to change tutors too often and though each of them had their own ways and styles which ultimately helped me, yet it was unsettling in some ways. So two years down the line I had a new tutor who like my father was also an employee with the Bokaro Steel Plant, was undoubtedly the best Tabla player in the city and also a strict taskmaster. I still remember the way he used to keep a talcum powder case under my right wrist and hold my arm so as to make sure only my palms moved and the rest of the body remained still. I adored and respected him for his skills but more so because he taught me the most in the least time. So last year when I met him in a Durga Pooja pandal and touched his feet he introduced me to his wife and kid as "This is Atish, the most disciplined student I have had..." , it meant a world to me, not because discipline is the last word I can associate with myself now but because after all these years he still remembered me and that was prize enough.

Meanwhile my exploits with the SA-1 continued as I discovered that playing tunes was not that difficult a job and could be done in solitude without anybody's help. Soon I graduated to a Yamaha PSS-390 which had 4 octaves as compared to the former's 2. My desire to learn playing it properly (like the piano that is) meant that my parents were forced to look for another tutor. Surprisingly there was only one man in the entire city who knew how to play the piano decently. Or at least that's what we came to know from various sources. Soon I was taking lessons in Western Music, its wierd notations, the treble and the bass clef, sharps and flats, practising playing with both hands, learning chords. A whole new world was opening up to me. Sadly enough all of these lasted a mere three or four months as my tutor had other priorities and I was left stranded on the doorsteps of a wonderful world, one which I could see in all its glory but one where I could not reach. So there was no Mozart or Beethoven for me and I had to contend playing popular numbers from Bollywood.

Coming back to my first love, the tabla, my second guru also didn't last long owing to his similar working hours as my father's. It was about that time that a music academy opened in our city. Needless to say I got enrolled. Classes were held in the evening thrice a week which meant a compromise in my playing schedule. But such was the interest and enthusiasm that I used to reach the academy 15 minutes before time to practise on the best set of tabla. It was a different experience from the past two as it was more professional and had the air of a proper institution unlike the last ones which were held in the homes of the students. It was also probably the place where I, so as to say, flourished as there was more exposure. We used to have regular concerts in which the students used to play in groups. I also learnt to play the Pakhawaj and the Khol.

All this while I grew up on a regular diet of Rabindra Sangeet or songs composed and written by Tagore. There sure was Bollywood music in plenty, especially after the advent of the cable TV but as far as buying cassettes was concerned, it was mostly Bengali music. It wasn't that my parents discouraged me from listening to any other form of music. It was just that I simply loved it. Old songs from bengali hit movies, songs sung by Hemant, Kishore, songs composed by Salil Choudhury, folk songs, I loved them all and there was no need to go anywhere when so much was yet unexplored. Looking back today I feel glad I had those days, I feel delighted to have listened to those songs, because given the type of songs that I now hear, those days seem aeons ago.

Soon it was time for the first important examination of my life and although it had been nearly eight years since I had played the first bol, yet the change of tutors ensured that I had just about managed to learn the instrument for five years. Soon the pressures of the board exams and then the engineering entrance exams took over and my tabla tutor was replaced by others teaching organic chemistry and the like. In the meanwhile I also started dreaming of playing the Spanish Guitar (not the boring Hawaiian !!) and sing along with my friends sitting around a bonfire although I didn't know how to do either of them. So three years went by and then another as my quest for a degree from a particular engineering college took precedence over all other things that I loved. As fate would have it, the same place would soon make all my musical dreams come true............

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Times they are a changin.....

I have always been uneasy with transition. I like the morning, the afternoon and the night. Dawns and dusks don't particularly excite me. I feel it in everything I do and in everything that happens to me. I don't like the train journeys to my home and back. They somehow make be uncomfortable, edgy; for I feel like I am neither here nor there. I love being in my hostel with my friends and I love being in my home with my family. But the transition, the wait for the destination as stations roll by the window, always makes me anxious. It's not that I abhor change. Nothing, they say, is permanent but change. It's just that the twilight zone unsettles me. So with about a month to go before I finish this journey which started five years ago and embark on a new one, I once again find myself in the same predicament which has troubled me on my train journeys, albeit on a much smaller scale; I am eagerly looking forward to end this journey and move ahead but at the same time I am loath to leave this place.

Five years is a long time to spend in a place, and when I say place I mean much more than a city. It's the corridors of your hostel, the kilometre long walk to the institute , the LT's that you slept in, the labs that you went to primarily for the air conditioning, the dhaba near your hostel where you have had numerous cups of tea and parathas, the music events that you won and more so the ones that you didn't, it's the market opposite the main gate of your institute, it's the Chanakyas and the Priyas that have become more than a part of your life. In fact, they are your life. I mean so much has happened in the five years that I have spent here and such has been its impact that it easily stands out as the most significant period of my life. Well you might say that this is the case for almost every college going student, it's a huge period in his life. I totally agree but nonetheless I feel like writing about it for it's these five years which has taught me things about myself I didn't know, it has in a long way defined the person that I am and but for this place, I am sure I would have been a lesser one at that. It has given me experiences to cherish for my entire life, friends who have varied from the boisterous to the suave, from the predictable to the one having the most unlikely mood swings, from the eternal phattu to the ultimate bindaas and from the erudite to the lover boy and the coder (pun intended!), friends with whom every moment spent has been a delight and a revealation.

Throughout these years several things have changed. The standard and frequency of treats for example, have undergone sea changes and have gone up from the KL and mezbaan to the Pizza Huts and the TGIF's. People who spent their yesteryears in all boys schools have become the love-gurus of today. Tandoori roti has given way to tawa roti, the SAC floor has been replaced by the Convo. The LAN has seen new avatars of file sharing every year and has moved on from the pioneering Tobu to by far the strongest and the longest surviving embodiment, DC++. Our modes of conveyance through the city also has changed from the bus to the auto to the bikes and finally, in our last year, to cars. And there have been some invariants also, standing ever the same even as things around them perpetually undergo major and minor alterations. So the thin people have remained thin and the healthy ones have maintained their health, each category continually harbouring thoughts of metamorphosis into the other form. And amidst all these, I changed too. I came in here as a boy who had just about conquered the world. In between there was the realisation that not everything in life goes your way though at the same time you are much more than what the world takes you for. There was the bitterness of defeat and failure along with the sweetness of achievement. I mastered the art of doing things at the last moment and just scraping through. I fell in love with the idea of buying books solely based on the blurb and the title and on the way came across gems like The Kite Runner. I learnt to play the guitar and sing along with my friends the entire night. I went trekking to a place where
at night the only sound is that of a river gushing by and the only light is that of the thousand and one stars above you. I moved from writing a personal diary to a public blog. I also studied about Computer Science and realised that it's not my calling in life and something I would want to do ten years down the line.

One of my friends said that looking back, the past years have given us more than we could ever hope and I think he is probably right. So as I await the beginning of a new chapter in my life, the only thing that I hope, is for it to be as different from the others as this one has been.