August 30, 2011

A Month Young

So, a month’s passed since I moved to Singapore and it feels nice to be posting from my new apartment - a place hopefully will be my address for the near future. That does give life a sense of stability. That one’s a strange word – you run away from it all your life and suddenly one fine day you begin to crave for it. I crave for my bean bag. I hear it’s coming this Saturday.

I realized Dara House had given my Mumbai life a strange stability and G was the anchor in my life. As I look around trying to figure out what all I need for the house, I miss him terribly, a little selfishly perhaps as well. It’s not easy to understand out how many dustbins will be good enough for one man and his apartment. The space looks empty; perhaps a 6 ft 6 inches human is missing as well. But luckily for him, he would not have fitted into any bed in Singapore.

Settling down in Singapore has been easy thanks to quite a few people, J the first and foremost. Starting from Day 1 when she ensured that she meets me at the station so that I can reach office without hassles and know the routes till ensuring every time I travel that I don’t forget my tickets to the airport, she has been God’s helping hand. I made new friends. Friends who took really good care of the strange Indian who doesn’t like to eat lunch before 1:00 pm, who always is looking out for a snack in between meetings and an excuse to postpone going to the gym. You know it feels nice when suddenly you are in a melting pot of the strangest of cultures where everyone is accepted as they are and there is no set rule for anything. And you realize this was the reason you chose selling soups as your career.

The friend networks came strongly to the rescue, from offers to give an accommodation if needed to financial help if required, from inviting a lonely friend to Janmastami celebrations to showing the joints to satiate the cravings for home food - friends sprang up and made me feel at home even while they were spending nights at their offices. People called from back home to check up if I had settled down and did not believe me till they had probed long and hard enough.

The freedom to be completely alone has given me the permission to do something I have been meaning to do for some time. I have decided on an interesting experiment. Starting September 1, I intend to go on a no “traditional media model” which essentially means I will be off TV primarily. There are a couple of reasons to this – I really want to understand how the mind works when it has to source new sources for information and entertainment and somewhere in the process I want to find out more about digital media – how it works, how it gets its users, how it interacts with our lives. Staying alone helps to take such calls. Let’s see how long I survive given the fact even compres could not stop me from watching Oscar Fever on Star Movies!

Every journey of mine has had its connection with a book. This was no different. C has been a friend for a long long time now and quite a few of my favourite books have come to me through her. Just a couple of months before I left, she gave me an amazing collection of articles which documented the 50 years of South Asian journalism. Every morning in the bus, while taking the 40 minute ride, I used to read the articles one by one and remember the home I left behind.

It was during one of those journeys that I realized why I fell in love with Liverpool in the first place – for football I had Mohun Bagan, for camaraderie I needed to know...

“Walk on
With hope in your hearts
And you'll never walk alone”

I did not walk alone in Singapore, even while trying to be the lone wolf I fancy myself to be.

August 26, 2011

Enter Sandman

"The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision." – Sandman.

Sandman was your favourite novel. In fact, without it, we would never have met in college. It was not often that you find someone sitting with your favourite book which not many appreciate. Today I have one more choice for the Lord of Dreams – to neither change nor die, but to hold on in the secret corner of your heart, something that is more precious to you than anything else in this world.

Tonight, I don’t have them with me any longer, just like I don’t have you. I have spent ages wondering how I screwed it up. Minutes had passed into hours, the hours had passed into the morning when finally my wife of 25 years stirred in her sleep and gave me that angelic smile of hers. Probably she knew I was up all night, probably she knew I was thinking about you.

I wish that perhaps you would suddenly come back one day; sometimes I wish you never had left; sometimes I even wish that you had heard what I had never said.

We've been through this such a long long time
Just tryin' to kill the pain

Music helps. It helps to make you bring out the emotions within. Sometimes, it’s best to let others say what you could never say. And that’s when all these years of walls that you had carefully built up, falls down like a pack of cards – and I roll over as Humpty Dumpty would have. It’s funny how even when writing about you, I can make fun of myself. I know that’s what you would do. It was always a joke to you.

I tuck you in
Warm within
Keep you free from sin
'Til the sandman he comes

I did try to protect you from all things evil. Today, in those rare moments of sanity, I realize how stupid I had been to trying to save you from the world. I ended up losing you altogether. It’s hard to kill the pain.

There are those strange nights when I suddenly realize that we perhaps are still searching for something; maybe not one another, but maybe what we wanted the other to be – an ideal image; perfection. I know for myself. I was searching for you in my past.

It was really hard to hold the candle in the cold November Rain. But..

I know that you can love me
When there's no one left to blame

We’ll meet our Sandman one day. And he won’t be the bogeyman. He’ll help us find ourselves, where we’ll be old, stripped of our egos, bathed in nothing but light and then slowly...

Exit, light
Enter, Night
Take my hand
we're off to never-never land...

August 24, 2011

Being Superman

Apparently sometime back a poll was conducted which told us that Superman was the greatest comic book character of all times. In a way, it made no sense. He’s the “goody two shoes”, the one who can do no wrong, the always virtuous, one woman man, rather Superman. But the world around us had superheroes with their shades of grey. The Black Spiderman was just in a movie, but the entire life story of the Batman is about being The Dark Knight. Ironman is a pompous spoilt brat, while most of the rest come and go as the latest flavour of the season.

And really, why would you like Superman? He has no moral dilemmas. He knows his rights from wrongs and even when Lex Luthor dangles a kryptonite ring in front of him, Superman remains the greatest champion of humanity. There is seemingly nothing that can make him falter even a bit.

And we know that we love our shades of greys.

But then, I have been thinking. What if, deep within, beyond all our metamorphical blog posts and our devotion to graphic novels and their moral dilemmas, what all of us really want is to go back to the simplicity of black and white and live in a world where the choices are not so blurred, where dreams are more real than nightmares and hope still lives?

What if, in reality, we want the Superman to win over the others, even when we are scared to accept it? What if we know that the Superman is the only true superhero, the one who is incorruptible?

What if the hope for a Superman is our only hope?

August 18, 2011

Because I Trust You...

Respected Dr. Singh,

It has been a tough 24 hours since the news reports started coming in; news about the arrest of an old man in the world’s largest democracy.

But this mail is not about him. This mail is for about you and for you Dr. Singh; you who I have admired since 2001. That’s actually about 10 years later than I should have, but growing up in a communist ruled state where Marxist literature was easily available, you often have an one sided view of the world outside and I really believed at that point of time that you had messed it up. Nehruvian Socialism still had its hold on me and I really believed in the Public Sector to be the commanding heights of the economy.

As I grew up, I realized what you had done, maybe you were forced to the edge and had to do the unthinkable or maybe you actually had a plan. I believed it was the later. You see Dr. Singh; you were the one responsible along with the Chankya from Andhra to create my generation – the most confused generation in India’s history since the Midnight’s Children.

We grew up without McDonalds and with Doordarshan but as we went to college and started working suddenly we saw the world around us change beyond recognition. We got opportunities which were unimaginable to our parents. We finally believed that we were given the wings to fly and yet the 70s and the 80s held us back. We were born during the “License Raj”, we grew up in a country ravaged by terrorism and yet in a nation which some liked to call “India Shining”. We feel disconnected to those born in the late nineties; we are shunned by the ones born in the early seventies. We want to take on the world and yet we are afraid; we want free market economy where industry and merit will win over nepotism and yet we actively search for someone with a “connection”.

We are the ones forever indebted to you. And that is why, we believe in you.

You have the most unenviable job in this world and thus when you spoke little I thanked my stars that in a world full of “Argumentative Indians” here was my Prime Minister who did more than he spoke. Yours was the first government that was returned to power since Mr. Nehru in 1962. That’s how much we trusted you.
I respect Mr. Hazare. He has taken on the system almost single handed. But I respect my nation more. It gave him the opportunity to voice his dissent – till the arrest. And that’s when for the first time since 2001, my faith in you faltered a bit. “Life is never free of contradictions”. You had said it yourself. And this was so contradictory to my image of you.

Today, middle class India is baying for your blood. My belief is that they are less bothered about Lokpal or Jan Lokpal (though I must admit the bill presented to Parliament is not enough to control rampant corruption) but they are frustrated with the degree of corruption at every level of society and government and they want it to end. And they want you to end it, at least try to end it. But all they see is an old man taking on your government and asking you for an answer which seldom comes. And they rally behind him.

I do not today believe that the Lokpal can control corruption in office. If the CVC, CAG, CBI and an independent judiciary has been rendered ineffective by our system, there is little chance that another body will succeed. But I do hope that you take note of the sentiment and work towards strengthening the institutions that we already have. The 4 pillars of democracy - legislature, judiciary, executive and a free press – today are under siege because we have lost faith in the legislature and the executive, we are tired waiting for the judiciary to give its verdict and the press is slowly getting caught up in the race for TRPs. How can one trust the parliament if no one trusts their own elected parliamentarians? And we are ourselves to blame for this. We get what we choose based on who we choose.

Even after multiple allegations against your government, I have always believed that you have preferred to work in the background trying to work for us, the people, instead of wasting time and energy in answering every allegation.

Today I hope I was right in assessing you. I do hope you still are the right man to lead us. I do hope Dr. Singh you will remember your promise to us – “My top most priority is to deal with India's massive social and economic problems, so that chronic poverty, ignorance and disease can be conquered in a reasonably short period of time.

In today’s world trust is an important currency Dr. Singh and I have put my entire life’s savings on you.

It’s not much but it’s all I have.

Yours sincerely,

Madhurjya Banerjee

(written by a very disturbed me after the entire country seemed confused over what was happening. Searched for the email address and mailed Dr. Singh the above letter. Not sure if it will ever go to him though)

August 14, 2011

There’s No Food like Home

So the last couple of weeks have been a gastronomically delightful one. I have tried authentic Filipino, Japanese, Thai and Malay cuisines, all within a week’s time. There are many more countries to explore, many more fears to conquer. I love understanding new flavours, new cooking methods and new ways you can turn the same old broccoli into something completely different. But as I went around experimenting, I realized that to let your taste buds go wild, understanding flavours you have never tried before is an experiment not many can appreciate. We don’t like messing with our taste buds. And that’s the biggest concern for food marketers around the world. You are ok to let go off your mom’s skin care regime, replacing it with whatever new technology that the skin guys come up with. But there’s no way you’ll ever let go off what you think as great food, what you tasted as you were growing up.

Tomorrow my nation celebrates her independence day and as I walked around Little India with half of what’s left of an old friend and his future better quarter (half of half is a quarter right?) trying to find hair oil in this country with more versions of shampoos and conditioners than I have hair left on my head, I realized that the only great insight for Food was taste of home. And home for me will always be a clumsy juggernaut of a democracy called India that rumbles around destroying all hopes of order and decorum but which always vibrates with life and a million cuisines full of spices that ensures that by the time you are ten, your taste buds have been numbed to the extent that anything mildly spicy will be bland for you.

Singapore is a great place for food. It lets you understand multiple cuisines; it showcases fusion food like no other place, (except perhaps Gujju Land which has No Onion No garlic Pudina Pizza) it lets you experiment. But after 2 weeks of experimentation, when I sat down at LN for an Andhra meal with friends, I found bliss. Food that reminds us of home is our umbilical cord as we grow up. It keeps us connected. The food courts in Singapore are a great place to observe food habits and as I looked around while sitting near the Fortune of Wealth, it struck me. We might love to experiment with food while we travel, we might have a cuisine that we love back home on our weekend nights but when we are away from home, there is nothing more pleasing than finding the familiar smells and sights and then lose ourselves in the food that we grew up with.

As much as a Foodie I can become, the heart always tugs the stomach along to the memories of childhood.

August 09, 2011

Week 1

So a week and a couple of days have passed since I have landed in Singapore. And I have to say it was all because of the men from 2006 that I have found settling in so easy. In 2006, when the 5 of us came down to Singapore, we never thought we would have so much fun. Those 2 weeks turned out to be one of the most memorable ones during my stay in IIMB.

And thanks to them I had walked every nook and corner of Singapore during those few days. So when I finally landed here to start this new phase of life, I was not at all apprehensive. In fact, it felt like smoothly getting into a mode I once knew. Yes, probably life would have been easier if Kushal was here, he is just amazing at figuring out life with just a Lonely Planet and wikitravel. And with Kushal around one never needs to bother about logistics. He is the best travel planner I have ever met and I think his camera and him have been parts of some of my most memorable trips. In fact, I don’t even know if RL, the only wiki editor I knew then, still does the editing. He was the one who led us to wikitravel. Or Wipro, who experimented with every form of food that was or Prasanth who always brought sanity back. Or for that matter one who I shall not name, who used to leave us in the night and return back in the morning with fantastic tales :)

Singapore gives you a culture shock once you land from Mumbai. The roads are not only devoid of potholes, they are also devoid of any kind of dirt or grime. The cars drivers have not been trained in Delhi, so they know how to follow lanes and basic traffic signals like red means stop. The pedestrians have never been to Calcutta so they know that a road should be crossed only at designated crossings. The citizens have never lived in Bangalore so they get agitated if a metro line is delayed by just one month. The trains run on time, something I still need to get used to, the buses are comfortable and come on time. So all in all, if you know the rules and follow them you can very easily survive here. There are stores that are open 24X7, the life in the city, at least near Orchard, where I stay presently, seem to be alive, reminding me of the Bandra that I left behind.

There are people I miss, most importantly Swati Didi and Yogesh. In my realm of self sufficient awesomeness, I get worried only on two counts – if I have to cook daily or if I have to do my own ironing. Cooking breakfast or weekends is not a major concern but cooking daily is and there was Swatididi to take care of us like the Mother Hen. She was there with us for three years and has taken care of us like her own family. Life in Mumbai was so smooth mainly because of her and the brilliant food that she cooked. It’s not easy to take care of a bachelors’ pad but she did it with so much ease and panache. She might not be reading this but I thank her from the bottom of my heart. The other was Yogesh – the day we realized that there was the reliable IFB Laundromat near our house, we let go off all laundry work. Since then, till yesterday I have never done my laundry, leave alone ironing. Now doing laundry is not difficult if you have a washing machine, but ironing is such a pain. The last time I did it was perhaps before the campus interviews in BITS! Anyway, Yogesh was God’s gift to us. He always called up the night before to check if we would be home and then punctually would come in every Saturday morning. We would forget, but Yogesh would not. In fact, the last Friday night in India, even though he knew we had left, he called up to check.

There are things I miss about home – the most prominent amongst them are chewing gums. The city has no chewing gums! Mints are just not the same. So if there are any separation pangs that tugs at my heart, it must be gums. My life suddenly has no gum and I am not happy about it. It’s actually making me full of gham.
Anyway, there seems to be an unending range of food choices and I have not even started scraping the tip of the iceberg. But that has to wait as I fly to Manila tomorrow.

And Happy National Day Singapore :) May you and I fall in love soon.

August 07, 2011

The Decade

Suddenly over the last few days everyone from the 2001 batch has been getting psenti over facebook on how a decade has passed since we all went to Pilani and I guess it does deserve a post. 10 years is a long time but somehow I have a feeling in my heart that perhaps it’s not just about the fact that we went to a place which has shaped our lives, but it is about who we met, who we fought with, who we loved; brotherly and not so brotherly; who left us along the way and who we remember even today.

10 years makes sense only when you have comrades who have made a difference to your lives as you walked. Why else would 3 grown up men, one of them now a father, block tickets in advance to watch another movie about 3 men going off to Spain. They might not have made the road trip, but they never left each other’s sides. Coming to never leaving sides, you might just want to reconsider staying by your friend’s side when she decides to showcase her driving skills while trying to get it up on a ramp, 10 years and closest bro or not.

10 years at times makes you realize the worth of a friend, (with whom you have behaved in a sulking childlike fashion and tried to hide those tears of joy at her wedding) who calls you up the night before another coming of age movie releases and you suddenly realize that you owe her your last Book Quiz trophy and also your initiation into Hogwarts.

10 years is that interesting time when you leave a friend in need and yet shamefully carry off her book as your only reading companion in a new world and a book which beautifully captures the history of your nation. And then you message her making it her fault that you never met.

10 years can do a lot of crazy things. Friends go off to the B schools in the US and you know it might be a long time since you can have a Bisibelle bhath or perhaps finally get to taste those amazing recipes that another claims to have picked up from in laws in Jharkhand.

It makes the first chap I met on the rickety bus ride to Pilani come back from his extremely tough job on the oil rigs and all of us drink our lemonades to the fact that his risk profile is now doubled. While monetarily it might be exciting, the question remains what does it do to his profile on mallumatrimony? And everyone shakes their head and promises to double our search efforts.

The journey that began in Shankar continues, but somehow the Vyas New block facing mess which later became the revered Budhfront seems to have stayed true to one another. That wing was one of its kind – extremely non regionalistic/departmentist in nature, which was pretty rare in those days, with GPAs ranging of near 6 to near 10, half the cultural association office bearers of the batch giving away free grub coupons, clubs, departments, future politicians (Jai Maharashtra) even Department of Spectator and Audience or DOSA as we called it and a possible future Noble Laureate. Sigh that’s probably not me, but I am hoping in the memoirs I am mentioned as the guy who the Nobel Laureate chased with a broom across Budhfront.

Batch of 2001, it has been an honour. Happy Friendship Day. This post had to wait till today.

Here's to perhaps the only thing we learnt in common - a new language. Courtesy - someone in FB :)

ID - 2001*, PR No., Timetable, FDs, Refli, Centli, ID Mom/Pop, IPC, pine, IC, Audi, Grubs, Lachcha, Niteout, Vetti, Guss, Tests, Compre, Tut, Sup-T, Av+2, CT, Zuk, Makeup, RAF, Stubs, Common Hour, Bhavans, Gate Call, ThermoD, CP, GenB, SPM, MuP, APOGEE, BOSM, OASIS, Razzmataz, FashP, Juke Box, Depts, Clubs, MAMO, BOB, Redis, SamChat, Jamun Rabdi, ANC, Cnot, PPW, SKY, SAC, ShivG, DW, PS, Senti-sem, Writeups

August 03, 2011

Curly Fries

This was meant to be the Goodbye post to Mumbai. But as I started writing it, I realized that I had so many memories of this place that it will remain with me forever and ever and there can’t really be any goodbye. As someone just wrote to me today morning, somehow if you don’t wish someone farewell, you are not really saying goodbye. Mumbai has been good to me, it has taken me on a ride, it has frustrated me and it has hurt me in ways unimaginable only to wash away all my pains.

As I was packing, I felt really proud of the fact that my material possessions do not account for much in this world. All my worldly possessions can be packed into 3 cubic meters of space and then I would have 2 bags to travel along with me. It filled me with a strange sense of relief and power which told me even today I can just walk away – from everything and everyone and nothing would be missed. That freedom to be able to walk away without a care in the world makes a lot of us stronger. It’s like being Jonathan Livingstone Seagull; when you know that you do not have anything to pull you back, you can soar higher than ever.

But more importantly Mumbai – it all began with Wadala Sheraton, where SNDU puts all its trainees to make them believe life is all rosy and nice :) And then slowly the city grew on me. The old office at Backbay, the walks on Nariman Point, the late nights at Jeffreys where G always had to order a Bloody Mary as I wanted the nachos that came free with alcohol, the confusion as to what was so great about Bade Miyan, the absolute delight of slurping on a Kala Khatta and checking if my tongue was blacker than others. In fact, in our fair skin crazy country, that’s one of the few moments when black rules the day. Everything about the city seemed magical at times. And as the city grew on me, I was able to show visitors around the city with a pride that I thought was reserved only for Calcutta.

Slowly I became a Bandra Boy, at least hoped to be. There was no longer any need to travel out as everything you ever need to survive in life, you had at arm’s distance. But that also means that it’s a place that makes you weak. Slowly you forget that sometimes you will not be able to find coffee at 1 in the night. And we roamed the streets of Bandra on our cycles. From Motappanpalya to Bandra, it was one hell of a journey. And thanks to the 4 corners of the amazing Delhi rectangle, you never were short of a friend, either for a movie or ever if you wanted to go dancing.

There was always the traffic, the rains and the slush, spending almost a day if I needed to meet my cousin at Thane, a trip to town that can make one go nuts, friends all over the place and no one wanting to travel out, life can become complex in Mumbai, especially if you do not know when the city is suddenly going to flare up again.

I have made some of my best friends at work in Mumbai, something I would have never thought possible while studying in Bangalore. I have reunited with old friends who had drifted apart; I also have lost friends to the crazy pace of the city.

And while SNDU moves me out and I join Khana Shana Singapore (KSS) I am really not sad that’s it over, at least for the time being, I am ecstatic that it ever happened. (I read that somewhere) And I would go back again to the city one day, even if I can never afford a place to stay there :)

Bombay has been my curly fries – maybe fattening with the complete lack of exercise, maybe unhealthy with all the pollution, but at the end of the day, one bite into it and you are in for an amazing taste that will remain with you for the rest of your life.