February 25, 2008

Deewar Re defined

I was talking to a friend the other day and he commented, “Dude, are you sure you have got your priorities right?” Basically we were travelling to Bangalore and I suddenly tapped him on the shoulder and said “I want to be the first to get off the plane today” and raced to the door. On the way to the guest house, the nice guy that he is, he tried to tell me why I should be serious about what I want in life. I understand that but the point is my life would lose all its charm if I don’t do these things. I will feel sad for myself the day I can not get excited by a new leaf sprouting out of a dead branch outside my window.

Going back to Bangalore was therefore fun. I got to do a lot of things I had not done for a long time. I sat down on the steps of a shop on 100 ft road chewing paan and chatting till late night with a friend. I tried to meet a lot of friends in the small time I had and almost screwed up every meeting. But friends as they were from a long long time, they pamper my idiosyncrasies. I couldn’t meet some very important friends and for a change wished that a day had more than 24 hours. I walked all around Indiranagar getting drenched in the drizzle and actually imagining myself to be Gene Kelly. In fact, it was a glorious night and I was happy again.

But this is the main reason why this Bangalore was special. Whenever I think of Mumbai and Bollywood only one scene comes to my mind - Amitabh Bachhan looking out of the window at the sea and the roads, remembering Nirupa Roy walking down those streets with 2 young sons. That was what Mumbai and Deewar was all about - the sea of humanity coming to the city of Dreams. Whenever I touch down in Bangalore and look out of the window I do not see the runway coming forward to meet me. Rather I see three friends sitting on the rails in the bus stop at 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, looking at the cars speeding past, worrying about their futures and wondering at the beautiful buildings of Defence Colony, before going back to their scantily furnished and small flat.

As I went to sleep that night at our guest house in Defence Colony, Deewar re defined itself in my life.

The Food Fanatic

I always wonder if God wanted us to diet, he would not have let us invent recipes. Being the God fearing person that I am, I believe therefore that it is my solemn duty to appreciate every such recipe as created by men. People wonder how a good plate of Lasagne can capture my imagination more than a couple of beautiful but undernourished women nibbling on their Caesar salad at the next table. Anyway, since I can not ever explain to them that a beautifully made dish is equivalent to Mozart’s symphony, I prefer to keep silent. But it seems that I am not alone. The director of Ratatouille obviously thinks so too. It was heartening to see a movie give food the respect that it deserves. We live in a world of ready made food and quick solutions. Sometimes, it’s good to pause awhile and remember the cuisines that we have lost due to our busy lifestyles. Perhaps elish macher paturi will no longer be made at a Bengali household, perhaps the sambhar at my friend’s place will be the MTR ready to eat version, but even then they will stay on in our memories.

Due to certain reasons, I haven’t been able to explore the food scenario in Mumbai as much as I would have liked to. But anyway, here are some places worth mentioning.

Chandragupta – This Indian Food joint is just opposite the powerhouse of Maharashtra politics – Shiv Sena Bhawan. Situated at a convenient location, yet a little distance from Sivaji Park, it offers good Indian food, although expensive. However, when you have a man following every customer to the restroom to hand him a paper towel, what else can you expect.

Pizzeria and Not just Jazz by the Bay – comes out a winner simply because of its location. Excellent pizzas and then a walk down Marine Drive, the perfect setting for good food and a romantic night out.

Peshawari – The most overpriced restaurant I have ever been to where a Naan variety can cost as much as one rupee less than a grand. Yups, that’s exactly what you think it is. An excellent choice to impress your clients and offering really great kebabs. But vegetarians might find it coming out a cropper. Do not miss out on the Dal Makhani here.

Oh Calcutta – They say bongs will find it even if it is located in a not so searchable location. Excellently prepared food, but try not to experiment too much. Stick with the suggested dishes as they have mastered making them. And yes, you can order in Bengali.

Grill Cottage – The most value for money restaurant in my second most favourite place in Mumbai. On Carter Road, this place has old-fashioned sitting arrangements and a person who will come with a pitcher and wash basin to help you wash your hands. Try the Full Lassi here. Many a friends have been asked, “inke liye to launga, aap ke liye bhi full glass?”

Crepe Station – my favourite Brunch Location also on Carter Road. Nice, quiet and serving good Italian dishes, this is a must visit if you want to impress someone with your refined taste for food and yet not come out as very flashy.

Royal China – Though I have mostly covered Mumbai food joints geographically, meticulously covering each and every milestone in specific areas, I have also diverted in search of good food. The best Chinese joint in Mumbai according to me is in Powai near Hiranandani. One of the few authentic Chinese places.

Satranj Napoli – At Andheri, this place might aid you rub shoulders with the who’s who of Bollywood. The first time I went there, I saw Ramu of RGV ki Aag infamy. The interesting fact is that this place serves Indian and Italian cuisine with equal ease and dishes out K serial starlets every hour.

Tavaa – one of the safest on the pocket in the hugely expensive city of Mumbai. In case, you cannot manage to get into Moti Mahal in Bandra, you should try out this nice place just nearby. The veg starters here are extremely good and you must try them even if you are a hard-core non vegetarian.

Amici – After you walk out of Tavaa or Pot Pouri, you should walk into Amici’s for its heavenly 96% Fat free dark chocolate gelato.

God exists. :)

Mumbai Salsa

Yeh jo Public hain – The greatest example of public power in Mumbai is perhaps in the railway stations. For example, every morning when I get down from the train at Andheri, I need not spend even one bit of energy. It is the man (and woman) power that pushes me out of the train, up and down the stairs and finally on the streets. In fact, the other day I was taken to Goregaon, asked where I want to get down, pushed down the train when everyone realized that I was going to the other side and again put back on the train towards the track.

Hare Rama Hare Krishna – Every day as I go to office and take the train back, I meet these groups of daily passengers who always ensure that there is a heavy dose of kirtans. I guess it’s a nice idea to ensure that the day begins and ends with something that at least a little non materialistic. For me, I read the paper or a book. But mostly, it is Mumbai Mirror, giving me my daily dose of celebrity gossip.

Public display of affection – Mumbai is a lovely city. Love seems to be in the air. You see it in the gardens around the city, at the Chowpattis, at the rocks beside the sea and obviously on the back seats of the taxis. And at night Loveguru comes on FM to solve any of their problems. Irritating at times, but as long as I remain a supporter of freedom of expression, I do not see a problem.

BEST – Till recently I did not need to board a bus. But I could not bear the thought of leaving Mumbai without getting up on its buses. And I realized that it is n excellent way to know the city better. BEST buses in Mumbai are disciplined, frequent and though train travel might be faster, BEST bus rides can be a treat a little in the evening, if you get a place to seat. Having been on the bus now, I seriously would love to get stuck in traffic on a bus rather than on a cab.

Sibling Rivalry

Before I begin, let me clarify that this is not about my sister. Between the two of us there strangely has been no sort of rivalry simply because she is way too good. I mean from the time I had some sense I have always looked up to her and the family too believes that she is the stud of the family. But even she is not invincible. My dad claims that my niece is more intelligent than sis and I put together. Mom seems to be agreeing to it to.

Anyway, apart from the fact that I get no “Bhao” from my own family, this post is about the sibling I found in the granite blocks of Bengalooru.

Both of us went to the best B school located between Bannerghatta and Arekere. I think that is as much as I can safely say these days. No one knows when another ranking will come up and people will start decrying the IIMs. In fact, it is strange that both my UG and PG institutes firmly refuse to be a part of any ranking procedure and I love this show of defiance. But I divert again. Typing in a moving taxi is not all that great an experience.

So where was I? Right. Sibling and I were in different sections in our first year without much interaction except that by the end of it, both of us knew we wanted to be in Marketing. It was by sheer chance of fate that we landed up together in the abode of God (who for the uninitiated is as merciless and as hard a taskmaster as Stallone). What followed was one year of an excruciatingly painful but intellectually overwhelming journey. By the end of it both of us were conceited enough, and perhaps still are, to claim ourselves to be studs. (Well, I do think she is one)

Well, to make long stories short, I went to sell soaps in Bihar while she went to sell tea in Bangalore and reality was hitting on both of us pretty harshly. Finally the other day we met in Mumbai. I have already given a lengthy discourse on meeting people after a long period but this is a friendship we can take up even 20 years later exactly from where we left off in campus.

Anyway, there was a piece of great news that she had to give me. Finally, finally the showdown that we always spoke of will happen.

So for my sibling… sing with me the jingle… Sibling… The best a man can get :)

February 15, 2008

For nothing at all

But finally, after all the tears, I've drowned

After all the cuts, blood still runs down

The distance between us is hurting; my heart seared,

But the closeness was what really killed me, what I really feared

After all, you just can't let Feb 14th go by without thinking of something... Not my lines though.

February 04, 2008

Meeting with the Past

Meeting your past is always filled with trepidation. You never know what to expect, More often than not, they are like a mirror that shows your old self to yourself and you never know how to accept the reality that things have changed… that you have changed. It might be a friend from school who suddenly might say, “I never thought you would end up doing nothing creative.” You don’t really feel bad as this is a choice you have made, but your life does flash before your eyes and you begin to wonder how life would have been if only you had made certain choices differently. You meet up people from your school days doing different things in Mumbai and you had no clue that you were living in the same city. You find yourself in a bachelor’s party thrown for people who graduated in the same year from school as you did and you wonder if you have really grown that old. A few years back all of you were in school, waiting for a chance to make an excuse and rush off to a fest and now you had all your friends marrying one by one and to add insult to the injury, none of them asking you to be the official photographer at their wedding. And you see that guy from school grown up so big that he unlike many others you know has the guts to start his own set-up and prove a point that you do not need to leave Calcutta to be ‘successful’. And after meeting him you wish that your best buddy from school called you up from Austria to tell you that he has finally made that promised trip to Amsterdam. And you promise to yourself, this time you won’t remind him that his favourite football team might be ousted from the National League.

Meeting with the past also means letting go of your own baggage. It means honouring a promise you had made long ago to a friendship that you thought were eternal… to yourself. You question yourself if this is an obligation but suddenly when sitting across the table you realize that more than an obligation you needed this meeting to find the answers for yourself. For years you had waited, in anticipation, in eagerness, in distress, in depression, in utter frustration but never indifferent. You had played out the scene so many times in your mind and none of the endings that you had thought about had ever prepared you for the emptiness that lay in between you. You both sit and drink your coffee, couched in your indifference and you begin to hate Paul Simon for saying the truth that you did not want to hear. Time changes a lot of things and while you would like to take the moral high ground and disagree with it, you know deep within that what you had can never come back. You begin to wonder if this meeting was necessary at all. Did it mean forcing someone else to do something they did not want to do? Or perhaps they played the symphony one last time only for old time’s sake. As Barrett said,

It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here

And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear

That I'm not here

You know that you will never know the answer. Just like you will never know if there is a future. But maybe that’s just the beauty of it all. Life is perhaps in reality a box of chocolates.

But as you leave, you suddenly realize that the pain is not as excruciating as you had feared it would be. In fact, you smile to feel a spring in your steps. You feel free, much freer than you had ever felt before. You do not feel anger, nor guilt, just an odd sense of emptiness which you know will take time to go away. But you are happy, happy in the knowledge that your friend is happy in the choices made, in the path chosen and though you would have liked to be a part of the journey, you do not mind as the memories of the paths walked in past, together, shall be as evergreen as the trees that provided shade to those roads.

You make the silence less awkward and move on, happy to bring out the impishness. It helps the other person too, to make the decisions that need to be made. In terms of horse racing, it’s called being put to rest, to ease the discomfort.

Life’s often a train station. You never know when you will need to take different trains. As I write this Radio One is actually playing Limp Bizkit’s Behind Blue Eyes…

No one knows what it's like

To be the bad man

To be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

And no one knows

What it's like to be hated

To be fated to telling only lies

No one knows what its like

To be mistreated, to be defeated

Behind blue eyes

No one knows how to say

That they're sorry and don't worry

I'm not telling lies

But what makes life more interesting is to wonder who you will meet on the train that you have taken.

When I Was Young, I Listened to the Radio

I love the radio. I love it ever since the day I broke mom’s favourite radio in Durgapur, trying to figure out if it was my dad somehow speaking through the small box. And in Mumbai, even though I do not see finding a Jhanvi like Munnabhai, I still love it for being able to sense just the mood I am in. I had a heated discussion the other day with a friend who insisted that the music scenario in Mumbai was good and that pubs and eating joints played decent rock. As far as I am concerned, rock died long ago. THE MAN had finally won and the last few children of destiny were fighting a losing battle. In fact, in Mumbai I have taken to Jazz in a big way and find myself often in places that play good Jazz music.

However, the interest these days is much more superficial. I no longer have a 224 BD to myself where I can hole up for days on end to listen and feel what Barrett felt, what Waters was thinking and realize to the great discomfort of the Bosconian within me that Knopfler was making more sense than the Bard of Avon himself. Anyway, having realized that only my Winamp can give me the musical refuge that I need, I had given up trying to find music of my taste in Mumbai. I had lost all hope when two music stations saved me. Radio One, with its collection of Western Music which could any day match my exhaustive playlist refused to stop playing music that made sense and thereby kept me awake late into the night just staring out of the window and looking at the traffic density slowly decrease and Mumbai unhurriedly going to sleep. I am thankful that few people listen to the radio at this time in the night and my music can play on uninterrupted. The other is Radio City. Not only does it play the best of contemporary Hindi music and thankfully, not the dance numbers, but because it also has Loveguru coming on in the nights. Loveguru, the show that always reminds me of a flat in Motappanpalya; 6 bachelors flirting with student and professional life before choosing their own paths; taking walks down the deserted CMH Road but returning on time to listen to Loveguru and laugh away the day’s drudgery.

Those were the days when dinner would be done at as less as 10 rupees per night.

Random Thoughts

Things lately have not been great, but I can not complain that they have been horrible either. There are moments when I have had my doubts over my choices and then shrugged and moved on. But often a man is faced with the situation when he realizes that perhaps he is not yet fully ready for the one thing that he wants to do the most in this world. It differs from person to person how he handles it and I am yet to find my way. I also realized that as a professional, the person I dislike the most and blame for the greatest crime that I ever think of being committed in my sphere of work, is perhaps also the only person who has built up his organization under the same principles that eerily resembles my own. I am a nobody in the face of what he has achieved in his lifespan and yet one day I wish to meet him personally.

The other day after a long long time I saw a Grand Slam Final. I never thought I would be interested once Steffi had retired and Agassi had done the unbelievable and said goodbye. That day, I did not want to move out of my room. It was not even 24 hours before it would be Monday again. But Sharapova won, and suddenly while I was making myself some tea, she said what Billy Jean King had said to her, 'Champions take chances and pressure is a privilege.'

I could not go to the Iron Maiden Concert and I do not blame anyone for it. I had prepared myself for something far more important to me than the Maiden concert. (but less important than the day when Floyd would re-group for one last time). It did not happen and the irony of it all was that, while I was ready to pack my bags and make the last ditch effort to catch the concert, I had to stay back for work. I still do not know if I stayed back simply because I felt guilty for choosing something or someone else over a concert that I definitely wanted to go to. That’s a question I can live without knowing the answer to.