Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grocery shopping list

My experiments with Android continue. This is my take on creating a shopping and to-do task list. I’m sure there are hundreds of free apps but in case you have an android phone/tablet and wish to spend $0.99 on an absolutely non-essential app, please try out Grocery tasks.


Ofcourse if you meet me in real life and ask nicely, I’ll be more than happy to give it to you for free.



Grocery shopping list

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sachin, today the nation has grown old

I never considered myself Sachin Tendulkar’s biggest fan. Whenever Sachin has played well, he’s given me immense joy but when he’s failed I’ve used my share of curses. But whenever Sachin stepped out on the cricket field, the entire country stopped whatever it was doing and watched.


I always wondered how a country of 1.2 billion people showed such devotion towards one man. Initially I thought he was beloved for his role model capabilities. Post the 90s liberation when India opened up to the world, Sachin probably fit a lot of people’s idea of arriving on the world stage. Even after facing personal attacks from the alleged lifting seam incident in South Africa to Monkey gate in Australia to various cricket pundits attacking his lack of form (in the last couple of years), he has maintained a dignified silence.


But it has to take more than humility and modesty to elevate someone to god like status. It has to be that everyone who followed Sachin, immediately think of their youths. Every time Sachin took guard, he carried you back decades to maybe a happier time. That’s why today’s announcement by Sachin has brought a tear to even the most grumpy man in India.


I hope to see you one last time for your 200th test but Sachin, today you’ve made me and the nation feel old.



Sachin, today the nation has grown old

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ladakh

Ladakh Panoramas


I’ve been wanting to visit Ladakh for quite some time. I came to know that Youth Hostel organized a mountain bike tour through ladakh and jumped at the chance.


Day I:


Initially I was hoping to fly into Srinagar and then go to Leh, however with the ongoing problems in Kashmir, I decided to fly directly to Leh. I landed to a splitting headache and spent most of my first day resting and trying to overcome Altitude Sickness.


Day II:


Felt slightly better today. The day starts at 6 am with the youth hostel staff blasting loud music. Tea is served at 7am followed by breakfast at 7.30am. By 8-8.30 we are done with food and have the full day in front of us. We did a group walk through Leh market, Polo grounds and Leh palace in a bid to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude.


Day III:


This was our first bike ride. We decided to ride past the airport, stop at Army’s Hall of Fame and take lunch at Spituk Monastery. Getting there was a breeze as it was all downhill. Coming back was a completely different experience. My breathing wasn’t yet normal and the constant uphill battle was extremely laboring. I started having my first doubts on whether bicycling in Ladakh was such a great idea. The stretch from the new bus stand to Leh gate was the most brutal and I walked the entire route (The walking technique was well employed on future rides)


Day IV:


After finishing tea and breakfast, we started for Basco Camp. We were promised that the ride would be on a flat path. Of course no one mentioned the wind. The head wind was so strong that the bike would stop whenever we stopped pedalling. We stopped at the Patthar Sahib Gurudwara for lunch at their langar. Post lunch ride was downhill and we reached Basco fairly quickly. What we did not know was that Basco town was fairly long and the camp was a further 5km uphill.


Basco Camp gave our first reality check. We had left most things back at Leh, assuming other camps would be adequately stocked. The bathroom was a ladakhi style dry toilet. Drinking water, washing, bathing had to be done by the stream and obviously no hot water available.


Day V:


Compared to the last couple of days, the ride from Basco to Nurla was fairly easy. We travelled along the Indus river for the most part. Nurla camp was beautifully situated on the Indus River. There was a scenic rope bride behind the camp as well.


Day VI:


We left Nurla for Lamayuru. The road from Nurla to Khalsi was pretty straightforward with few uphill climbs. A little past Khalsi once you reach a monastery on the stream, the road took a steep upward climb to Lamayuru. I walked most of the uphill route. We all stopped at Moon land for a scenic packed lunch. Lamayuru was a beautiful place, almost like one of the forbidden places in Tibet. The Lamayuru gompa overlooks the town and we even had a bit of sleet snow at Lamayuru.


Day VII:


We headed back down towards Khalsi. While the trek/bike up to Lamayuru, from the base, took 2-3 hours, we reached down in 15 minutes. Once we reached Khalsi, youth hostel had a bus ready and we put the bikes on the roof of the bus and drove back down.


Day VIII & IX:


Once we were done with our bicycle ride, we rented a couple of Enfields to head into Nubra Valley. The ride to Hundar was beautiful, while the views from Dikshit Monastery were amazing.


 


All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable trip. I met some funny people from Pune and Mumbai and while I’m enjoying the down time, it might be fun to start dreaming of the next adventure.



Ladakh

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A genuine ashram

A lot of people have told me on the effects of detoxification and how well you feel. I’ve never done Yoga and detox before, now was a perfect time to try it out. Since both my mother and Mahatma Gandhi (not together) had previously visited Nisargopchar Ashram at Uruli Kanchan, it seemed a good place to try out.


Ashram garden


cottages


The ashram has a typical village setting. However its not very professionally run. Plan on losing your first day trying to figure out how things work and where you need to be.


I started the next day with a yoga class at 6 am. The class was generally filled with older people having joint problems and they spent a lot of time practising Shav Asana. After yoga, I eventually succeeded in tracking down a masseuse who had a slot free. As luck would have it, my masseuse Vikram Jadhav, was one of the oldest serving people and as I later found out that my new tormentor-in-chief was well aware of all pressure points in my body. Later that afternoon, I went searching for my “neurotherapy” session. While walking to his office, I could see a door open and a gentleman was sitting at his table staring at the wall ahead. Being brought up in a multitasking environment, I know how difficult single tasking is to me. However doing no task while sitting and concentrating on nothing was completely out of my comprehension. I thought he was asleep but when I walked into his room, I noticed his eyes were well open and he introduced himself as Satish Sonawane. Apparently neuro therapy is Satish sir standing on my body while I’m lying down. Digging his heels into my thigh, he exploited all the pain points left alone by Vikram Jadhav.


After a very painful night’s sleep, I decided on trying out another yoga class at 6.15 am. I was the last person to enter the class and noticed it was satish sir taking the class. Immediately I noticed a change in tempo. If he had impressed me with his ability to control his mind yesterday, today it was his amazing control over his body while doing yoga. Sweating and panting after class, it was time to get back into the grind and experience pain during massages.


I eventually settled to this general schedule:


6.15 – Yoga

7 – Get tortured in the name of massage by Vikram Jadhav

8 – Drink Kadhe

8.30 – Matti lep (putting cold mud pack on your belly and lie in the sun)

9 – Drink carrot juice

9.30 – Alternate between steam and tub bath

11 – Eat something loosely termed as edible food (1 bhakri, vegetables boiled together without salt, spice or oil)

Walk after lunch

2.30 – If I had blocked out the pain from my morning massage, it was brought rushing back by Satish Sonawane.

3.30 – Drink Kadhe again

6 – eat dinner (the same crap as lunch)


After a couple of days, I started detesting the food served and voluntarily went on an all fruit diet. I personally never believed I could eat only fruits (and drink kadhe) but when the alternative was so detestable, you’d be amazed at what the mind can do.


Would I go back?


Its an interesting question. I do most things, one time, for the experience and then I’m done with it. I had put nisargopchar under the same category. I know I can’t stand the food. The ashram resembles a fat camp with most people there trying to lose weight (I lost 1 kg, but with my body size thats a drop in the lake and most of it was water weight), so it’s not a place I would generally frequent. However Satish Sonawane intrigued me. In my brief interactions, he had the mind control that I dream of and he seemed an incredible genuine person. So yes, when the time is right I might go back to learn more.


Now I need to get my body back to normal as I have to start my new adventure next week – Bicycle through the highest desert in India – Leh, Ladakh.



A genuine ashram

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Kingdom Awaits

Since I’ve come back, I’ve been struck by the lack of enthusiasm on my return. In fact one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked by family and friend is, Why have I come back? I’ve always given similar pithy answers that I recently gave to my dearest friend, ‘Because I belong here’.


My mother poignantly pointed out that I went to America, 9/11, tech crash and the housing market collapsed. Now when I have come back, the Indian rupee and economy are crashing as well. There is a term called ‘panvati’ used in Mumbai referring to a person bringing bad luck, so the term might be apt for me.


I can see the reason for despair in India. The economy is in shambles, people are being killed for standing up for truth, women are harassed/raped, jobs have disappeared and the country is in the hands of people who don’t know the meaning of Raj Dharma. There was a time when my ancestors would spend their lives dedicated to acquiring knowledge while begging for food, as earning money would take them away from their quest. Now everyone’s standing in life/marriage is how much you make and how you show it off to the world.


I’ve always considered myself a pessimist in life. The general trend is people growing up as optimists and then turning pessimistic as life wears you down. Now as I ponder over my actions of the last few weeks, I see myself going in the opposite direction. I’m being more optimistic. But the question is what to be optimistic about?


If you see BBC’s ‘Story of India’, the one thing that might strike you is historian Michael Wood’s infectious exuberance every time he talks about India’s past dedicated to acquiring knowledge. So what if you change your life back towards acquiring knowledge instead of material gains. So when I went to America the economy crashed but by the time I was ready to leave, the economy was flourishing again. So this ‘panvati’ might have the same effect on India’s economy.


In a moment of megalomania, I’m now changing my pithy answer to what Skylar Grey croons in her song. I’m coming home because my kingdom awaits.



My Kingdom Awaits

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lavasa

I tried out photosphere during my trip to Lavasa, last week. You can get 360 degree views


View from the Information Center 


Near Town Hall


Promenade



Lavasa

Monday, August 05, 2013

Matheran


View Larger Map


After Naneghat, My cousins and I decided to trek to Matheran. The last time I trekked to Matheran was 15 years ago. At that time Neral was basically a train station acting as a base for the Matheran trek.


A lot has changed in 15 years. Neral has joined the ranks of towns where growth has run wild. The road by the train station is filled with shops selling meat, it feels like suddenly neral is filled with a whole lot of meat eaters and all of them shop by the train station.


Once we crossed the town, the air started getting cleaner and the view better.


2013-08-04 14.28.29


 


Every week, I seem to start the trek confident on finishing the trek with no tiredness or soreness. Considering Matheran is basically walking up a paved road and I’ve done this before, I felt confident that this time was different….. But it wasn’t


2013-08-04 14.31.05


 


Once we reached the top, it was time to rest and enjoy the view. Matheran has now started collecting 50 rs per person to maintain the city, so the view comes at a tiny price. But I’m glad that Matheran still does not allow any motorized traffic so you can take in the nice clean air tinged with horse dung.



Matheran

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Naneghat

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Naneghat was the old route from Kalyan to Pune and was my first trek after coming back to India. I joined a trekking group from Thane, which had rented a bus to take us towards Vaishakhare. In the olden days, this particular path was a toll road (toll being collected at the top) for traders moving between Kalyan to Pune.


There was a landslide at Malshej Ghat and most traffic was closed. Even though Vashakhare and Naneghat wasn’t affected, the “ever helpful” Maharashtra Police tried to stop us from going ahead with an eye for us to bribe them. On getting no money from any of us, they proceeded to check all our bags for alcohol. Being unsuccessful again, they stopped our bus from moving ahead adding another couple of kilometers of walk before our actual trek.


Once we got on the trekking path, I assumed since traders with their goods could travel the route, I should be fine. Boy was I wrong as I soon found out my level of fitness level. There was a steady rain which helped keeping us cool but made the walk over wet stones particularly difficult.


The rains and felled trees also made for some interesting route obstacles


tree


Once my body got used to the altitude, the trek started getting much easier. We crossed a few small rivers where my trek mates shared an interesting story.


In their last trek, a few kids from IIT Bombay joined them. The rivers they crossed were much bigger and fast flowing and one of the girls froze in the middle of the river. Too scared to go either forward or back, she decided to sit in the river. After trying to coax her to keep moving, 3 boys eventually went back into the river and carried her back. I’m kinda glad that I didnt make any long lasting stories in this trek.


Half way up the mountain, the view was breathtakingly beautiful, even making me forget the pain for a short while.


viewFromNaneghat


 


The rest of the trek was uneventful other than a few slips by my trek mates, nothing too painful. The top of the mountain was covered by cloud so couldn’t get any pictures from there, but the temperature did feel like someone turned on the A.C. switch.


It was a wonderful start to the trekking season and as soon as the pain subsides I’m going for some more…



Naneghat

Friday, July 12, 2013

Scan My Library

Why didn’t I find this service before. Before moving to India, I was wondering what to do with my book collection. I didn’t care for most of my collection but there were a few out of print books that I did not want to part with. Shipping them to India was cost prohibitive and I started looking for alternatives to shipping.


I came across this website called scanmylibrary.com. At a flat fee of $3 per book (irrespective of book size) they scanned my books to pdf making me a very very happy camper. Yay book digitization!!



Scan My Library

Friday, July 05, 2013

Right pitch

If you haven’t found the right pitch to along with your matrimonial ad, this article will be of help. http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/1856385/report-marriage-of-convenience-21-year-olds-vie-for-a-tie-with-68-year-old-eligible-nri-bachelor



Right pitch

Monday, July 01, 2013

When people ask me why I am leading a semi-retired lifestyle, I show them this.
TrainedMonkeys-1


Notwithstanding the fact that this theory can be floated against any argument you dont like.



He means business

dragon



He means business

Monday, March 11, 2013

How I missed you

Its been a real long time since I grabbed a glass of wine and tucked in to listen to music. When you are feeling a bit blue, you have to go back to your old favorites and mine is Madeleine Peyroux. I’m also trying to embrace youtube in all its glory, so I’ve put together a playlist of 15 of my favorite Madeleine Peyroux tracks.



 


The first song ‘River of Tears’ gets you in the perfect mood. If you’ve never listened to Peyroux, try her out..


 


Stop all this talk


Turn off the telephone


Open up another bottle


Send those people home


Let it get real quiet


Turn that lamp way down low


I’m gonna float down this river of tears



How I missed you

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Do something different

I've come to the realization that
1) I dont really don't have anything profoundly interesting to share with the general world
2) Even if I do have, no one really wants to hear it

Interestingly xkcd came up with an interesting post about how tumblr is rising in popularity. Lately since I've seem to have lost the capability to cobble together an intelligent paragraph, its time to join the rest of my twitter generation and try out microblogging. So if you are interested, head on over and check out my new blogging medium http://marsinvasion.tumblr.com/


Saturday, March 03, 2012

Its a new start with the new year

This new year brought about many changes. One of the primary ones was my Salt Lake experiment ran its due course and life has brought me back to Chicago. Looking back it was one of my most successful experiments. I loved living without a sense of belonging lugging around my 2 suitcases from motel to inn. I loved some motels and stayed there for weeks on end and hated a few where I stayed just for a night. I especially loved my 1 week at Snowbird Ski resort where I was the only one driving down the mountain to go to work in the morning, while everyone else was driving up to ski and vice versa in the evenings.

Infact now that I've stayed for a month in Chicago, the normalcy is getting a bit monotonous. But it is nice not having to figure out where I need to sleep tomorrow. But atleast with my new project in Chicago, I've continued my process of breaking out of the 9-5 mold and remained a consultant. I do hope that this year is as interesting as last year.

---

Coming back to chicago means talk with friends about life and politics back in India. I've never been a fan of Gujrat CM Narendra Modi and I've often been asked on why I dislike him. To give Mr. Modi credit, he has done wonders for Gujrat the last couple of years and is probably the best CEO styled Chief Minister since Chandrababu Naidu. However till the people affected by the Godhra riots don't get justice, I personally wont be trusting Mr. Modi anytime soon. Here's a really nice article about the riots in today's Hindustan times by Indrajit Hazra.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is your identity really that important

So someone asked me if my time in the US has changed me. The more I think about it, the more I realize how difficult it is to answer that question. Unless you live two different lives in two different places at the same time and then compare notes, you can never know how life has turned out different for you.

My viewpoint is that the 20's are the most important phase of your life. You start your 20's pretty much not knowing where your life is heading. As you graduate from college and then try to chart a career/life path, you end your 20's with pretty much a more concrete idea on what you want from life. Of course the most interesting people keep reseting their lives and live by this philosophy pretty much every decade, but for most of us this is pretty much true.

Since your viewpoints on most issues will be formed by your experiences during this time, that would mean that my outlook in life will be more conforming with American viewpoints as opposed to Indian viewpoints. Do I follow the Chicago Bears more than the Indian cricket team, maybe. Do I think, I can gel back into life in India - I really don't know. There is this lovely article in the New York Times about another person facing the same questions and Why he left India again. He has a pretty nice quote in there where he says that the first time he left India, he left for the US; the second time he left India, he left India. That's a journey I have to take as well and will probably answer the question of whether my stay in the US has changed me. I really hope that I don't leave India again, because if my identity is not being an Indian, then what exactly do I identify myself as?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Housekeeping

It's not often that your life resembles a movie, but yesterday mine did. I've been enjoying living in motels and inns for the past few months, with my room tidied up and the bed made up every day.

I've had the cold the last few days, so I decided to load up on nyquil saturday night. I guess I was pretty groggy on sunday when the maid came over and the scene from tommy boy played out. I've got to learn some spanish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Somewhere only we know

I'm sure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi would like to escape the public limelight for some time. Unfortunately their respective attacks on whistle blowers have only reinforced the viewpoints that Dr. Singh heads one of the most corrupt governments in recent times and Modi wants to cover up his role in genocide. It's sad that both of them are covered in the same post for after all Dr. Singh is still an honorable man.

Well I hope they get a chance to get away from it all and get a chance to retrospect their respective roles. Here's a song by Keane dedicated to them.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Big Brother is watching you

To the one person who reads my blog (yes mom I'm talking about you), you know by now my laptop got stolen and I had to purchase an additional one. I've been looking for something which might keep me protected incase something like this happens again.


I was browsing eversave.com and noticed that they have a promotion for trackitback.com where a 5 pack of tags are available for $20 (as opposed to $100). Considering each of my electronic equipment is worth much much more than what I'm spending on this tracking tag, this seemed like a great deal to me. Check it out at eversave.com and if you sign up today, they will credit you $3 just for joining bringing the cost down to $17.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Et tu brute

Historic blunders are always recognized in hindsight.

India's fairly short run as a democratic state has had a few of them. Jawaharlal Nehru's hindi-chini bhai bhai policy soon led to a Chinese invasion. On his death Lal Bahadur Shastri realized that the country needed a new path outlined in his first speech "There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go". His mysterious death (because the PMO still refuses to release the cause of death or if the government conducted an autopsy, in response to a RTI) at Tashkent, cut short any major changes. Gulzarilal Nanda followed him in a completely unremarkable Prime Ministership, acting mainly as a caretaker for Indira Gandhi to take over.

This week, Anna Hazare is set to resume his fast in support of a strong Jan Lokpal bill. The government has tried it's best to discredit Hazare and his associates, but the mood of the nation seems well with Hazare. Movies like Rang De Basanti have hit a nerve with the common people and it remains to be seen if they will take the streets with Anna Hazare.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a quandry in front of him. Will he recognize that this is a crucial time in the history of the new India when it is at a crossroads. Will he continue with the status quo or be brave enough to choose the right way to go. If he still continues to oppose Hazare and the will of the people, the anointed one has every opportunity to stamp his authority in the congress party by opposing him. In the words of Brutus - Not that I loved caesar less, but Rome more. Singh has to debate on how history will judge him, as a modern day Shastri or just a stepping stone for the next Gandhi ala GulzariLal Nanda.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Giving up is hard to do - II

One of my most annoying possessions has unfortunately been a must have for a long time. Well not anymore, continuing on my path of giving up things, I'm now officially unreachable well at least unreachable through cell phone.

Some things are obviously much more easier to give up and since my cell phone had gone the way of the car alarm, this was pretty easy. Of course like no one cares if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest (unless you are in the path of the falling tree), since no one really calls me this won't be a huge difference to anyone.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Oh Great Spirit - talk to me

The Native Americans believe that the Great Spirit is in all things and if you are pure you can listen to him in the winds.

A few days ago, my laptop was stolen from my room - a tragedy I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I had a week to reflect on my new found loneliness and my future course of action. Then it struck me, what do people see when they visit their neighborhood Starbucks - quite a few people on their macs happily typing away. They seem joyous and blissfully unaware of the world, like they know a great big secret and now they are satisfied.

Why? Could they be the chosen people. The people to whom the great spirit reveals the fundamental truth of existence, of being one with everything else. It has to be, nothing else makes sense.

So an hour ago, I gave in to my temptation and became one of the numerous sheep who now own their very own Macbook Air. In fact I didn't even take the macbook back to my room, but my first stop was a local Starbucks. I've now unwrapped my Mac and am sitting waiting for the spirits to talk to me, but I feel nothing. Oh great spirits talk to me, tell me the secrets of life and more importantly tell me I'm not a sellout.

I feel nothing.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

This is heaven

With India having a terrible start to the Lord's test match, I decided to seek solace in new version of old jazz classics. Coming back to Madeleine Peyroux, I stumbled onto her take on the old Billie Holiday classic this is heaven.

Putting the old and the new side by side for your enjoyment



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Giving up is hard to do

I'm probably never going to be strong enough to follow Buddha's middle path of giving up all temptations. However on my last trip back to Chicago, I decided to try my own middle path of giving up most of my non important possessions.

Obviously some things were much easier to give up, and if it wasn't easy, then my trusty hacksaw did the rest. But it's funny how the most worthless trinket are the hardest things to throw away. I had no problem throwing all my music CD's and cutting up the computer table, but the TV that hasn't worked since 2003 is still standing. The Buddha obviously did not have to deal with these kind of issues.

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For people comfortable dealing with philosophical issues regarding the presence or more importantly the absence of god, you should watch this brilliant movie - The Ledge

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Death of a Qatari

The monsoon's have started in Mumbai bringing life to a parched city. In this time of life, we look back at the death of an Indian or more accurately Qatari national in London - M.F. Hussain.

I've been incredibly proud of India's tradition of inclusion. Unfortunately since the arrival of the Shiv Sena and the Thackeray's, Mumbai has become communally divided. After their desperate attempt to rewrite history books, try to shut down any scholarly thinking by attacking the historic Bhandarkar Institute in pune, constantly attacking all free press and movie theatres, they effectively exiled India's most prominent artist.

Unfortunately the so-called liberal elites stood disunited while the government which already has lost the moral authority to lead, stood in silence. In the end M.F. Hussain died in a foreign country, pining for his country of birth, as a Qatari national.

A lot of people dream of living again in the Satya Yuga, in the time of Dharma, but how can we when we have lost the moral right.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Is the road less traveled on worth it

I've been talking to a dear friend of mine on the need to keep challenging yourself and do things out of your comfort zone.

Last weekend I climbed to the abode of gods at Mount Olympus here in Salt Lake City. It was definitely one of the more strenuous hikes I've been on recently as it makes it way up to about 9000 feet.

Last night was my first desi party in SLC. I generally don't go to desi parties as its generally a sausage fest with way too many guys and girls in tight dresses trying to get the muffin top look in style. Ofcourse, I did see a girl who's unfortunately been on my mind since. It's funny how much ever you try to rationalize that your brain is projecting certain characteristics on someone you've never talked to, you can't shake off that feeling that she was perfect.

I know I've wanted to do things radically different, I definitely didn't want to change from being an anti-establishment type to a lovestruck teenager. So till I climb olympus again or do something similar, I'll let James Blunt do the talking for my miserable heart.

James Blunt - You're beautiful


Enough.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Kramer and the car

After taking inspiration from Seinfeld's episode where kramer drives a car till the tank is almost empty, I decided to doing the same to make my trip back from Moab more interesting.

Ofcourse trying this in New York City is much different from doing it in central Utah. It's interesting to note how your reaction to the situation changes slowly.

It starts with excitement on a new adventure. You start of admiring the beauty of the stark nakedness of Utah and love the way the shrubs and the desert sand look against the mountains in the distance. You see a few cars, but no civilization at all.

Once the excitement wears off, the excitement turns into nervousness. You gaze more on the fuel indicator than on the road. You try to summon previously unbeknown powers of mental control and try to make sure the indicator does not tick lower. You shut off air conditioning, but can't roll down the windows in this hot desert air for fear of drag.

After still not seeing any signs of civilization, you give up. In the stage of reflection you look back at your life and wonder if the trip all the way from India to the US was worth it; if the end was in Utah. You speed up, not in hopes of fuel economy, but when the car stops you will roll that much longer. You will of course be pleased that when future archaeologists are working with dinosaurs they'll be completely surprised on finding remains of an Indian amongst them. Of course by then evolution will no longer be a theory, so survival of the fittest will easily explain why he didn't survive.

Subway! Subway and Philips-Conoco! I've never been so excited to see you. Price, Utah, I've no idea what you are doing in the middle of nowhere, but you are priceless!!

Full tank and full stomach, mind and body rested. Lets see how far I go this time!!

moab

IMG_20110430_151750 by kulkano


After being stuck indoors in Salt Lake City for a few days, I decided to take a day trip down, last weekend, to Moab, Utah. Moab was spectacular. It was busy and such a pleasant surprise seeing all the people on the streets after the relative emptiness of SLC. The hikes were great and its definitely a place where I'll be back again soon.


IMG_20110430_152013

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That's money, honey

I've been trying to figure out why I haven't turned out to be a world class athlete yet. After a bit of analysis, the only reasonable conclusion that I could come up with is - sea-level.

See I've lived my life in two sea level cities, Mumbai and Chicago, the lack of rarified mountain air must be the reason for my lack of athletic ability. So now that I'm in Salt Lake City, I have to make up for lost time.

Now you must be wondering that sea level can't just be the only reason and I thought about it as well. Using shoes to run might also be a contributing factor. The Tarahumara Indians (no not from India but from Mexico) are famous for their long distance barefoot running, so maybe I should try that as well.




To ease my transition to barefoot running, I decided to purchase Five Finger's vibram soles.

Now that I have everything planned out, I started for my first run from my base at the base of Wasatch mountain. A few minutes into the run, I'm completely out of breath and the blisters on my foot are getting increasingly painful.



Well my order of two large pizzas must be going cold, so I guess I can wait a few days and try again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is reasonableness too much to expect

I've had my views on the gujrat riots, but there seems to be a disquieting trend to silence differing opinions. It recently happened with Anna Hazare who praised development work in Bihar and Gujrat and with Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi of Darul Uloom.

The Maulana will probably resign sooner or later, but unfortunately both of them have had to resort to immediate clarification of their intent and statements. Now neither of them have praised Mr. Modi personally or given him a clean chit for his role in the gujrat riots, but it seems that they are now being forced to distance themselves from a position that neither of them took.

Ofcourse its not always the left silencing praise of the right. Mr. Modi's gujrat has gone ahead and banned Joseph Lelyveld's book 'Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India' for its perceived biases.

Different opinions might exist which are completely unrelated to touchy subjects, but is reasonableness of reaction too much to expect from our current 'civil' society...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Howz that?

Like the millions of Indians worldwide, I did my share of supporting Team India in their wins against the Australians and the Pakistanis. The Indians are in the final of the World Cup and I'm tired. If I feel tired doing nothing, can't even imagine how the players must be feeling.

Other than the dreadful fear of one terrorist strike removing the leadership of both India and Pakistan, the game was amazingly event-free. Sachin Tendulkar, played his part in both the quarterfinal and the semis.

I came across this article by Wright Thompson, which epitomizes Sachin as a player and a person

His agent told me he's aware of what he means to people, of the symbolic importance of being both the beginning and end of something. He is a bridge, and it is vital to the psyche of a nation that he remains intact. He gets it. That's why he never loses focus.

I need to take some time off to recover from the pakistan game, but I would encourage you to read why you should care about cricket

Update: India won the cup !! Now you really should care about cricket.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two to an apple

I spent the weekend in the Big Apple and realized that it's been almost a year since I last talked about the other Apple. Well it is rumored that her new album is coming out in spring, so in anticipation here's another fiona track

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our own weird democracy

I've been catching up on Obama's, now concluded, visit to India. I happened on this video about Obama's interview with the villagers in Ajmer.



So the video looks decent enough and touts the achievements of IT in helping the villager's day to day activities. Now obviously the villagers don't speak English, so everyone is assigned a Minder to help translate their views.

So in the end, the president (or anyone else) doesn't really ask any questions and all the responses look canned. Now why would that arouse any suspicion



Aah yes, now things look in context. So in the effort to promote the advances in India, our file pushers (or secretaries if you must), turned this whole exercise in to a propaganda campaign. Funny how one person's democracy is another's autocratic regime.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The long dance

I was recently introduced to Madeleine Peyroux's jazz numbers and have been really enjoying the way she seems to bring the feel of 1940's jazz to present day.

Just the other day, while watching How I met your mother (natural history), I heard a haunting melody in the background when Ted and Zoey dance. I saved the episode, trying to figure out what the song might be or who sang it. After a few days of unfruitful searched and countless replaying of that episode piece, I finally came across this lovely rendition of Serge Gainsbourg's La Javanaise by none other than Madeleine Peyroux.

She has sung it so beautifully that anyone who appreciates jazz music should definitely listen to it and if possible go to one of her shows.



French to English translation

Saturday, October 30, 2010

GrouponCheck.com

Trying to build a groupon deals gathering site at Grouponcheck.com. If you are interested in more of my technical ramble (trust me no one is), Check out marsinvasion.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

anoopkulkarni.com

Trying out google sites. While I've owned my domain for a while, I've been too lazy to build a website. Atleast google sites lets me Iframe in this blog so atleast it might look like I've been maintaing a page.

Check it out on anoopkulkarni.com

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hidden treasures

I've been jogging and biking along the chicago lakefront for almost a decade now, well more biking than running post marathon. So, I've been fairly confident that I had covered all the paths on the lakefront park district.

This morning during my bike ride, right on recreational drive between irving park and belmont, I saw a path leading towards the lake. Having never been on that path, I stumbled onto a gravel path on the lake side of the golf course and it just happened to be another beautiful secluded lakefront area on this beautiful fall day.

Chicago gives you multiple opportunities to complain about its weather, but during this unusually mild October, it gave an opportunity to uncover yet another hidden treasure - you just needed to be out there to experience it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The path of the right

India has always had a history of inclusion and to stand up against extremism. When the temple at Jerusalem fell at the beginning of the common era, a batch of the Jewish survivors found refuge in southern India and over the past two millenia, this was probably the safest environment to practice their faith. When Persia fell to the Arab invaders, the Zoroastrians fled to the West coast of India and to date the Parsis in India are the largest surviving Zoroastrian group. When China attacked Tibet, the Buddhists led by Dalai Lama did not hesitate to seek refuge in India.

Time and time again, India has stood for what is right and what is just. Giving refuge to the Dalai Lama, led to an embarrassing military defeat to our much larger neighbor to the north, but there were no protests against Pandit Nehru's decision to give refuge - for the citizens knew it to be the right decision. Even with the latest floods in Pakistan and inspite of misgivings of misuse of funds, the Indian government did give 25m USD to the relief work - for it is right thing to do.

However we find ourselves with a peculiar situation with regards to Kashmir. As a reaction to the danish prophet controversy, there were widespread riots in Kashmir leading to local deaths. On the rumor of a Koran being burned in the US, Christian schools (in no way connected to the situation) are attacked and burnt. With the floods in Pakistan, there were also widespread floods in Ladakh and Leh. With whole towns being washed away, emergency relief material could have reached in time, if not for the national highways being blocked by the protestors in Kashmir. As with the time when the Kashmiri Pandits had to leave on threats of mass genocide, the current day Kashmiri's failed to show any sort of solidarity with the people in need - nothing was raised for the flood victims and nothing was let through.

For some reason, Indian policy makers keep fretting over the idea on why Kashmiris don't associate themselves as Indian. Unfortunately they fail to realize that being an Indian citizen should be a privilege and not a right and it should be shared only with people who share our sense of righteousness. The partition of India during independence has always been seen as a scar on our history, but in hindsight it helped seperate out the extremists from the rest. Kashmir is the last vestige of the independence process and its time the policy makers deal with it as such. Irrespective of our policies, the extremists will hold the rest of the country hostage to their wants.

Its time we retake the path of the Right, the path of the Just.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Everyone loves a scapegoat

The Indian news media is currently obsessed with the verdict on the Bhopal Tragedy. So after a couple of decades of legal battle, a few executives got a couple of years in jail.

Instead of concentrating on the need for legal reform, everyone seems obsessed over how Anderson the erstwhile CEO of Union Carbide was allowed to skip bail and return back to the US. In my view, Anderson seems to be as guilty as all the other people working behind the scenes who oversaw the safety of the Carbide plant. However no one from the administration of the time have been brought to trial, even though if quick action had been taken on the initial alarm, a majority of lives could have been saved.

Even if the Indian government does what it does best, beg the US government (aka David Headley) to have access to Anderson, the Indian taxpayer will just foot the bill for an excursion for a few central government officials. In the meanwhile all the officials who worked and or were bribed in the background will never be held liable for the murder of thousands. After all, we are only concerned with scapegoats.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Different standards

This week Comedy Central took the extreme step of censoring ... a bear.

The cartoon show 'South Park' continued its trend of mocking animals by having a bear on the show. I did not realize but quite a few groups seem to sensitive to bears. A group called Revolution Islam actually warned the show's producers Matt Stone and Trey Parker that they might suffer the same fate as Theo Van Gogh (who was killed for making a film on the treatment of women in Islam). It's quite surprising how this group and other similar groups have the license to impose their views of wildlife on other non-believers.

Comedy Central, has now taken the stand to protect Revolution Islam's right to free speech over the writers of south park. Episodes on Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Scientologists, Mormons and Krishna are fine, but apparently bears are taboo.

Maybe it's just that followers of the bear are special and are held to a different standard than everyone else on the planet.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Truth doesnt triumph - in India

There has been a long media trial in India for Ruchika Girhotra's case, but justice served after a 19 year fight means nothing, especially when the multiple police officers and administrators who covered up the crime still go scott free.

Unfortunately the case of Satyendra Dubey (linky, linky) might be one such case where justice is completely denied. The police in India has graduated from being a completely corrupt organization to a living breathing force going to any ends to protect one of its own.

This week 3 people got a life sentence for the murder of Dubey. Ofcourse the three were petty criminals, juveniles at the time of the crime and in no position of authority in the Golden Quadrilateral project (Dubey was trying to expose corruption in the project). Its a cruel game played on the Dubey family but I'm sure the police have no intention of finding the guilty party.

Maybe its time to have a rethink on India's nation motto of Satyameva jayate (truth alone triumphs)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why try to change me now

Came across a really good take on Cy Coleman's and Sinatra's 'why try to change me now'. Fiona Apple seems to make this jazz number all her own.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feelings, its nothing more than feelings

Its time for me to look back at my trip and I was trying to find the right words. I realized that my trip probably cannot be a sum of words but more of a sum of feelings.

I felt longing to land in the country of my birth.
I felt joyous to spend a few days at home.
I looked forward to a trip of discovering the south.
I basked in the warmth especially coming from a cold place.
I felt frustrated by the sheer inefficiencies at different places.
I felt helpless when you don't have the power to change anything.
I felt angry that the politicians and the police rule as if they are above the constitution of the country.
I couldn't surmount the challenges of trying to converse in a language alien to me in a country which was my own.
I mastered a sort of sign language to assist conversation.
I loved the feeling of a light breeze while enjoying the 4 o'clock cup of tea on a terrace.
I still have an insatiable appetite to try out the different cuisines available here.
I had pangs of guilt when a man almost twice my age called me sir.
I grew sick of the pollution and the bad traffic.
I am going to be cautious stepping out incase people decide to celebrate holi a day early.
I feel lucky that the bomb at the German Bakery in Pune wasn't set for the day before.
I am glad that in spite of the time I have spent out of this country, I don't feel like an outsider.
I feel amazed that the poorest of the poor still have a smile on their face at the end of the day.

There has just been one main feeling to sum up my past 6 weeks here, I've felt alive.

The barbershop

It was time for me to head towards one of India's favorite weekend hangout, the barbershop. Its funny how the different spectrum of people that the barbershop attracts.

You will always have the kid who is generally jumping off the wall, but as soon as he sits on that chair its like he might as well be in a coma. The fear of the scissors is all pervasive. You will also have the balding man hanging on to his old sense of self. Sure enough, in he walks asking the owner if his hair has grown enough to require a haircut which is obviously met with a resounding yes.

I sat down for a haircut, a shave and a good dose of tel maalish (oil massage). The burning aftershave did have me reminiscing the couple of layers of skin that I lost to the shave though. Ofcourse the tel maalish did wonders and I'll really miss that part till I can visit a barbershop in India again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pune Week 3

Monday Lunch - Back to North Indian food at the norther frontier. Had kehwa for the first time and I can say I'm not a big fan of the tea served in the mountains up north.
Monday Dinner - Went to Bounty Sizzlers. Its been a while since I've had sizzlers and the food was scrumptious.

Tuesday Lunch - After passing by Burger Barn on numerous occasions, I finally tried the veggie burger with desi options and I can honestly say it was one of the best veggie burgers I've had.
Tuesday Dinner - Tried out italian at one of the places at the ABC farms. The pizza wasn't all that terrible.

Wednesday Lunch - Went to casanova for a multi cuisine lunch. Make your own pasta had its charm and the buffet was generally good.
Wednesday Dinner - Didnt want to head out for dinner as I was engrossed in the cricket game and Mike was gracious enough to grab me a McVeggie from McDee's.

Thursday Lunch - One last trip to Kathi Cottage to have a couple of kathi rolls. I'm going to miss this place the most.
Thursday Dinner - After a lot of searching we finally found the hidden Hard Rock Cafe. The food was so so but I can see the attraction for those who miss America. It was great to see Raju breeze past the security checks with utter disdain though we werent as lucky.

Friday Lunch - The last day of the pune leg of my trip saw us at the Great Punjab at Koregaon park. The food was amazing and the title seems well deserved.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pune Week 2

Mon afternoon - Checked out Sanjeev Kapoor's yellow chili at koregaon park, the food was bland and quite disappointing.
Mon night - Headed out of the City to the Rajasthani place called Choker Dani. The place is more like a theme park with a rajasthani theme. I am not a big fan of rajasthani cuisine but the entertainment value was pretty good. I actually had my hand read by an astrologer for the first time and all in all it was a good experience.

Tue afternoon - Lived across from Kalyani Veg and hadn't tried it till now. Went for some dosas and the place lived up to its high expectations.
Tue night - Went to zafron in the IBM building. It has a nice rooftop deck with a great view of Kalyani nagar, food being quite ok.

Wed afternoon - After a break of a few days, headed back to Kathi crossing for a kathi roll. Stuck with the spicy aloo kathi roll, fantastic as usual.
Wed night - Tried out barbecue at the barbecue nation and was quite impressed by their selection.

Thu afternoon - Spent the day at the Synechron office in Hinjewadi and had lunch at the Marriot. The buffet food was excellent.
Thu night - Stayed back at the hotel and had dinner at the Pizza hut. Tried out their new pizza (masala chilly or something), pretty tasty.

Fri afternoon - Went to a place called Polka Dots which seemed to have food from all cuisines. Tried my luck with enchilladas and finally came across a place which seemed to still retain the mexican touch without the regular over dose of indian masalas.
Fri night - Had a club sandwich at our hotel (The Royal Orchid Central), not too bad but the street sandwiches definitely are one up on it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pune Week 1

1 week in Pune and going strong. It's not as hectic as Mumbai, but it has its moments especially with its food choices.

Came in last sunday and stayed back in Kalyani Nagar to eat some pizza at the local Pizza Hut. I actually like the tandoori paneer pizza that they had to offer.

Monday Lunch - Tried out a place called Little Italy. It actually had mexican on its menu, though wasn't too impressed with it as the enchilladas had a distinct indian flavor
Monday Dinner - Had some really tasty kathi rolls at the kathi cottage in Koregaon Park followed by dinner at the Blue Nile. The veg pulav at the Blue Nile wasn't too bad

Tuesday Lunch - Tried out a panini at Witches and Dog (Koregaon Park) which wasn't too filling so topped it out with a Kathi roll (I can probably have 1 every single day)
Tuesday Dinner - Went to Arthur's theme. The menu didnt make much sense as the dishes seem styled after medieval english characters but the food wasn't as bad as we half expected it to be. Tried out the pasta and glad that it tasted italian instead of indian.

Wednesday Lunch - Went to 7 (Koregaon Park) which had both middle eastern and indian-chinese on its menu. Went with the Hakka noodles and veg manchurian and the chinese definitely hit the mark
Wednesday Dinner - Definitely a more low key dinner having a McDonald's veggie burger in my room.

Thursday Breakfast - Tried out some omlette at the German Bakery and it was pretty good.
Thursday Lunch - Had some really tasty Hyderabi food at Koyla.
Thursday Dinner - Had dinner at the hotel's cafe, pretty passable food.

Friday Breakfast - Headed back to the German Bakery for some cake, juice and other goodies.
Friday Lunch - Another trip to Kathi cottage for some sumptuous kathi rolls.
Friday Dinner - Went to St. Lauren at Hinjewadi. The buffet was pretty good.

Saturday Morning- Drove to Sinhagad and trekked up the mountain. The trek took a good hour and a half to two hours, but it wasn't as easy as I expected and did have its tough moments. The view from the fort was well worth it along with some kanda bhajji and masala tak (buttermilk)
Saturday Afternoon - Headed to the Poona Club to practice cricket with the Maharashtra A boys. Was nice to get to bowl and bat in the nets after years of not playing cricket.
Saturday Dinner - Headed over for some excellent food at the Deccan Harvest at Magarpatta, pune. Interesting concept of having paneer barbecued on your table followed by a good buffet.

During dinner, German Bakery went boom and got called from all concerned about our safety. After eating there for the last couple of days, I guess it was good that we skipped the location today. I do hate it that the terrorists have seriously impeded my eating plans in Pune as that was definitely on my menu for the next couple of weeks.

Drove to Mumbai today (Sunday) to get away from Pune for a while and show everyone what a real city should look like. Stopped by Dharavi for some leather products and then took the Bandra-Worli sea link. Havent been on that bridge after it opened and the views were definitely worth the toll. Drove down Marine Drive and had lunch at 'Not just jazz by the bay'. Went down to the Gateway of India and my first visit to the Taj after the Mumbai attacks. Things at the Oberoi-Trident and Taj are still under construction but it was really nice to see major crowds around the Gateway and Cafe Leopold.

Thats been week 1, hopefully the security doesnt get worse in Pune so hope to enjoy the rest of my stay.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The old and the new

On this trip I have been exposed to both the newer side and the old side of India.

I had to make a trip to Punjab National Bank (PNB) for some minor work for my dad. After standing in line for 45 minutes just to get an updated account information, I shot off a letter to the management and stuck it in the suggestion box. I didn't really expect anything to be done from it, but a few days later on I got a letter from the bank manager saying that they have actually taken the suggestion and all future work of that nature will be done in a much quicker time. I was pleasantly surprised on how private companies are actually willing to work on customer complaints.

I had another pending task of trying to get some transcripts from University of Mumbai. Not having my originals, the university seems to have implemented rules to slowly suck the life of the applicant before providing some copies. Since the University requires a First Information Report (FIR) to be filed with the local police station, I made a trip to Vashi Police station in Navi mumbai. Of course the police are never co-operative and they made me go to Turbhe Police station to file the FIR who promptly sent me back to Vashi. After I made an affidavit, the police registered a FIR only after demanding a bribe of Rs 200. Funny how the very implementors of the government's drive against corruption are the major perpetrators.

Somethings probably never change but there is a stark difference between the old and the new

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dakshin Bharat

Just came back from a short south india trip covering Kochi (Ernakulam), Munnar, Guruvayur, Madurai, Trichy, Tanjavur and Bangalore.

The last time I visited Kerala was about 15 years ago and I seem to have forgotten how beautiful it was. One of the lasting images of kerala is the relative well-to-do-ness of the local population. This is amply evident by the fresh coats of paints on most houses as well as the lack of slums near most urban areas. The breath taking beauty of the backwaters was amazing and taking boat/ferry's around kochi harbor and the backwaters is highly recommended.

Took a day trip to Guruvayur to visit one of hinduism's holiest temples. It was nice to see that the temple priests still stick to tradition, though I did have to buy a dhoti to be allowed in.

Continued with my love affair with the hill stations of India and took a trip to Munnar. Munnar is famous for its tea plantations and it was no surprise that all the hills in and around Munnar were covered with tea estates. The relative cool weather was a welcome relief from the heat of the plains as well.

After Munnar we slipped over the border to the temple city of Madurai. It was sad to see the meenakshi temple becoming a place of commercial activity with shops being allowed to be set up right within the temple complex, but atleast non hindus were allowed into most of the temple complex unlike guruvayur temple which was for hindus only.

We moved on Trichy and stopped over for a couple of hours just to see their temple built upon a hill. It was another disappointing experience of a temple being converted to a place of commercial activity and so we left to go towards Tanjavur.

Tanjavur still has the old town feel to it and its temple complex has been the best kept of the ones visited in my trip. Its open for everyone and is big and clean. The architecture is typical of the great cholan empire and is one of the best preserved monuments from that time.

Ofcourse both kerala and tamil nadu dont seem to have made much progress in learning any of the other indian languages. For some reason they seem stubbornly stuck on speaking the local language and hindi and english are not spoken for the most part. Inspite of the problems of communication, its been a great adventure.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nataraja's dance

I see blood, a lot of blood - on my legs, on my hands and on my face. All this blood is mine and there are the usual suspects - mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, why does it have to be mosquitoes.

I arrived in India to blazing sunshine which was a welcome relief from the cold of Chicago. But I had forgotten about Mumbai's problem with mosquitoes. In the past it was usual to expect mosquitoes after the monsoon's but recently they seem to have become a year round phenomenon.

After spending a few days scratching and slapping myself silly, I decided to take a more proactive solution. I cam across these badminton sized plastic electric rackets which can be used for killing those annoying creatures.

So now you see me doing Shiva's dance of death every evening. A frenzied look passes my face every time a mosquito passes my view accompanied by wild swings of the racket. Any of my neighbors peeking in from their balcony will probably see a man not quite in his senses, wielding a badminton racket and a crazed look on his face lighting up every time there is an electric shorting on contact with a mosquito. Shiva crushed the demon of ignorance, my foe is the mosquito.

The price for information

The Right to Information (RTI) act has been one of the better acts implemented by the government in recent times and has been primarily responsible in more open government.

Satish Shetty a social activist who's been responsible for exposing multiple land scams through RTI unfortunately paid the ultimate price. Fearing an attack on his life, Satish asked the police for protection, but apparently the police delayed his request. Like the fate suffered by Satyendra Dubey and S. Manjunath before him, his whistle blowing irked the wrong kind of people and Satish Shetty was killed on his morning walk.

India has successfully transformed itself to a land ruled by the goon. It's nice having the right to information but the right to life apparently is not guaranteed.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bravo US Airways, Bravo

Talk about an expensive flight on US Airways. Good thing I'm using a no limit credit card

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Parochial hatred

Bal Thackerey, the lunatic running the Shiv Sena, has now started a vitriolic campaign against Sachin Tendulkar just because he had the audacity to say that he was a proud Maharashtrian but he is an Indian first.

It's surprising how offensive that line was to the man who once had ambitions to be the Prime Minister of the country, but I'm sure if there was a position for Prime Minister of Maharashtra he would have gladly chosen the latter.

I wonder when the shiv sainiks were busy protecting the "local population" from the big bad muslims during the mumbai riots of 1993; they actually enquired of the people being killed on whether they were maharashtrians or not. Maybe he is trying to score points over his nephew's MNS party to be the sole voice of the "proud maharashtrian". Well, when the MNS started their anti-south indian stance in mumbai a few months back, I'm sure they didnt bother finding out as well that the person that was burnt alive in nashik was actually a maharashtrian.

The MNS and Shiv Sena are unfortunately two sides of the same bad coin. They can attack anyone they wish without any concern for the law of the land as they know that the "true Maharashtrians" in the police, judiciary and executive will protect them. The rot is endemic and you don't have to search far to find the main protagonist.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The old and the new

On the 25th anniversary of Indira Gandhi's assassination, her daughter in law and congress party leader Sonia Gandhi tried to remind the party of how she still embodies the spirit of the late leader.

Apparently Sonia Gandhi still visits the former prime minister's residence and occasionally prepares her bed. I'm not quite sure if the current congress leader suffers some sort of delusional psychotic bouts, but if all she wants to do convince the party's base that she is the right leader, she has nothing to worry.

  • The congress party still endorses sycophancy with the inner decision making group filled with yes-men.
  • The congress party continues to practice dynastic politics where the current leadership's only claim to fame lie with their illustrious parents.
  • The congress party still apparently fights for the rights of minorities even though they view them as nothing but a big cattle herd of a vote bank.

So Mrs. Gandhi, do not worry. Indira has not been forgotten, the old congress party is alive and well.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Peace on earth

One of the most interesting news that last week brought us was President Obama being conferred the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now the Nobel awards have always been suspect considering Mahatma Gandhi (the face of non-violence) never won the peace prize even though he was nominated for five years. The committee continued the hard to understand selection process considering that President Obama might have served for just a couple of weeks as President when the nominations for this year's prize were due.

The noble committee did clarify that the award wasn't meant for past achievements but more for future aspirations. I'm not sure if they made the announcement right before or after the White House refused to meet this century's face of non-violence, the Dalai Lama. I guess future peace efforts should be encouraged as long as they do not offend the holders of your government's treasury bonds.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why not me?

Yesterday was India's Independence day and most of us got up to the news of Shah Rukh Khan (a slightly effiminate indian film actor) being detained for 2 hours at Newark airport as his last name came up on a special watch list. Ironically he is promoting a movie based on racial profiling.

Considering he is the second big wig to be flagged by security in recent times (the first being former president APJ Abdul Kalam Azad), the media back home is going all berserk on how innocent indians are being profiled everywhere and how India should adopt the "brazilian model" that is subject US citizens similarly to the treatment received by Indians. All this sounds great and I do hope india does adopts the policy of reciprocity, but I've been troubled and one question still haunts.

"Why wasn't it me?"

Now this may sound like an absurd question, but this might have been the most important moment of my life. I see myself as an armchair critic, prefering the comfort of my couch to register protest instead of actually putting plans into action. And that is why that question keeps resonating in my mind ... why wasn't it me. I could have played the racial card to the tee, thrown my hands up in disgust and turned my back to the US.

Maybe I'm not brown enough (I attest to the fact that I'm definitely on the darker side of the brown scale), maybe not muslim enough (well cant really do much there, I find too many faults in that religion to want to convert) or maybe not gay enough. Is the dont ask dont tell policy working against me?

Maybe if someone with any sort of power reads this blog, please put my name in the list of people of "special interest". I want to feel angry, dont rob me of my outrage!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Life goes on

The last few weeks, I've been going back and forth on the real importance of a person. How much effect does a person really have on another, and how easily life goes on with or without that person in their lives.

Around the time I started blogging, we had two major incidents in the indian political scene regarding the killings of Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath Shanmugam (linky). There was a big hue and cry at the time, the media covering it 24/7 and all sorts of online petitions to ask for justice. Its been about 4 years since then and precious little has been achieved.

Indians have generally a myopic vision of life, constantly trumpeting about how Pakistan is a failed state, even though the trifecta of judiciary, politicians and the police have all but failed the people. The fourth estate, the media, has all but forgotten the incident. After all we wont have too many advertisers keen on sponsoring shows which keep harping on the past.

So in the end maybe nothing really matters. Except for a select few, no one really matters.

The words of Mark Knopfler from Brothers in Arms

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day youll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And youll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
Ive watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

Theres so many different worlds
So many differents suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the suns gone to hell
And the moons riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But its written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
Were fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A long way to go

India took steps this weekend to be the 127th country in the world to decriminalize gay sex. As expected the ruling hasn't gone down well with the muslim groups and right wing hindu groups.

Considering the debate here in America has been about legality of gay marriage, it shows how much road we have to travel to reach the stage of being a mature society. At the very least it gives the law enforcement much lesser sweeping power to police what goes inside a bedroom and treat homosexuals to a different level of personal rights. The law though might not change the current indian society's perception to homosexuality anytime soon.

Islam does look down on homosexuality (to my knowledge), but I'm not really sure on Hinduism's view on it. Hindu mythology has quite of few characters of the "third gender", so the very act of being homosexual has been observed from centuries. It will be interesting to see if now the real debates do start and whether the indian communities will be more welcoming of people unlike themselves instead of ostracizing them.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another one joins the race

Today threw a few more surprises in the lok sabha election run-up. Varun Gandhi was found guilty of inciting communal hatred and Sashi Tharoor put his hat in the race.

Every election, we have a few surprises where celebrities jostle with the 30 or so convicted criminals representing the indian masses. What real policies have Govinda, Jayapradha, Vinod Khanna or Navjot Singh Siddhu implemented.

How desperate are we for new leaders that now Md. Azharuddin, Sanjay Dutt and Amisha Patel are also considered front runners in their respective constituencies. Has the indian middle class completely turned its back on the election cycle that we have to rely on a convicted match fixer, an actor having overt ties to the underworld and an actress who wasn't good at her main profession.

Unfortunately with leaders like Md. Shahabuddin, Varun Gandi, Narendra Modi and the unsufferable Thackerey's these new wannabes, with no real desire to work for the very people they might end up representing, might still be the better choice

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do No Evil

2009 January, USA: MSN money released a list of most recommended stocks for 2009. Monsanto, an american based multinational company concentrating in agricultural and biotechnology fields, topped some of the lists to beat the market.

2009 January, Vidarbha, India: 12 more farmers committed suicide unable to cope with debt and crop failures bringing the count to over 2000 in the last couple of years.

The number of farmers having a failed crop isn't new to an agriculture bases country like India. However the cases in the central india have grown exponentially after the entry of this huge multinational company to India.

Monsanto promised the launch of genetically modified cotton to ease a lot of agricultural problems. After the introduction of BT cotton, monsanto has monopolized trade practices forcing farmers to buy this genetically modified cotton which is unfit to be regrown from the seeds of the current crop as well as being twice or more as expensive as the previous versions of cotton being grown.

With the american anti trade practicses supporting the dumping of heavily government subsidized american cotton on the world trade market, the price of cotton has plummetted. This has trapped poor farmers in the cyclical debt ridden cycle of buying expensive BT cotton seeds annually from monsanto's various affiliations in India as well as forcing farmers to stop using the older organic fertilizers.

It's nice living by the motto of 'Do No Evil', but it is also nice not to profit from Evil.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A thousand cuts

A few weeks ago we were having a spirited discussion on schizm entering indian lives seperating out hindus and muslims with respect to riots and terror attacks in India. There was a widespread viewpoint on the number of lives lost as collateral damage and the one argument that was pretty prevalent was that the hindus have been subjugated for over 800 years and this was bound to happen.

Sadly this view has been shared by well educated people and anyone objecting to the viewpoint is labelled a "secularist" almost as if thats a curse word. Justice for any oppressed group has no place in the current scenario.

Now my city of bombay has been attacked (again) and I'm sure as more news of the islamic groups being behind it come out, that viewpoint will be further reinforced. While my city is knocked down again (I dont know if it still has the ability to come back up), the terrorists might have finally succeeded in completely alienating the hindu and muslim population. India has been cut and now left to bleed to death.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The long road travelled

I've been in london the past couple of nights and its been at its cold rainy and dreary best, reminding me of chicago another place that I really really dont want to go back to. The last time I was in london, I had covered the major touristy places and I wanted to do something else this time around.

Considering I walked around all european cities that I've visited in this trip without taking any of the local public transportation, I decided to walk around london as well. I headed towards lords cricket stadium to check it out (take that mihir) and then walked towards central london after it. Heading down Baker street past the fictional residence of the great detective living on the street, I found out that there is a real museum dedicated towards the fictional person.

Giving the weather on this island, soon enough it started to drizzle and considering I was near the British Museum, thought of spending the afternoon at the museum. Being free added to its allure and I spent the next few hours walking around the massive museum.

Headed out of the museum in the early evening, noticed that the rain hadn't stopped and only increased. Since this was my last night in europe, I decided that the cold rain shouldn't stop me and spent the next couple of hours roaming around the streets of london. Finally being cold and tired, I headed back to my hostel.

Its time for me to bid goodbye to europe. The cold and rainy weather in london is probably not the best send off and I really hope I never have to visit this city again, though I would love to visit mainland europe again. The old body is a little tired with the constant travelling and the about 10 hour daily walking sessions, so though I really dont feel like heading towards the cold in chicago, it will be nice to have a few days of relative quiet and restfulness of home.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My favorite mistake

On my final travelling day on the continent I headed to Pisa from Roma. Unfortunately there were no direct trains around the time I needed to travel so I had to take a round about way via Firenze and reached pisa at around 2 in the afternoon. Now there isn't much too see in Pisa other than the leaning tower.

Its funny how the architect's biggest mistake is the sole reason the town is on the tourist map. Checked out the tower and headed back to the train station to find a train to milan. For future trips to pisa, I wouldn't give the city more than a couple of hours. I headed up to genova via cinque terre. Ideally I wanted to stop at one of the villages of cinque terre for a hike, but I didnt have the time and anyways it gets dark pretty early in this part of the world.

The final train journey was filled with delays. We were more than an hour delayed getting into genova and then further delays going up to milan. Finally reached milan around 11 at night and now all set to fly out of milan and out to london.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Forgive me Father

I was partying with some friends from my hostel last night, when one of them mentioned that the pope is giving a papal audience today. Considering we were up pretty late last night, wasn't sure I would be able to get up on time to see it.

Luckily my hostel is walking distance from the vatican and I ended up seeing the holy frigging pope in the frigging vatican. I guess this probably happens on a weekly basis on wednesdays but another thing to be noted in the old life history - seeing the holy frigging father.

Bella Roma

If there was one word to describe rome, it would be spectacular. All the adages about the glory of Rome are true, its one of the most amazing cities on earth. I can imagine why rome evoked such feelings amongst the roman empire.

I was also surprised by how big the city is, with a monument at almost every piazza. Ive been roaming the city for a couple of days and still haven't covered everything, reason for me to return to this city I guess.

When to the musei vaticani (Vatican Museum) to check out Michaelangelo's and Raphael's works. The museum is amazingly large and ornately decorated. Do make sure to keep aside at least 3 hours if you want to visit the museum.

Firenze

Firenze(Florence) was at the fore point of the renaissance period. The main attraction still in firenze is the statue of david in the galleria del accademia. I have been studiously avoiding going to any museums in this tour and saving on the admission fees, but if you do visit firenze checking out the wonderful sculpture of david should definitely be on tour.

Obviously everyone has the same idea as well and the long lines do generally take hours to gain entrance. I decided to beat the crowd and go early around 9 am and walked right in the museum (well there is nothing more to watch there other than the statue so using the term museum loosely). The fabulously sculpted statue of David looking on into the horizon after his victory over goliath definitely lives up to the hype around it.

Firenze doesnt have too many other things to check out, so took the evening train to Roma

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Nice place to go

I took the overnight train from paris to Nice on Cote d'Azur (french riviera). The next morning the train had reached the Mediterranean Sea and the train journey from a little before Cannes all the way to Nice was spectacular to say the least. Infact the entire train journey from about Cannes all the way past the Italian city of Ventimiglia might well be on the most scenic train journeys.

Reached Nice and walked towards the sea. I needed to make a few phone calls and passed by a few pay phones. Now payphones like street signs are almost impossible to use in france. These payphones dont take coins/cash and inserting your credit card any which way causes the payphone to show WARNING - put back the receiver as if the phone booth might explode or blast off into space (without having the border guards having their one last hurrah on checking your travel documents). Cursing the lack of user friendliness of the payphones, I continued towards the sea and on reaching it, you are met with a sea of people sunning, running, walking on the mediterranean sea.

Well considering that sunbathing wasn't my cup of tea and I couldnt really run with a heavy backpack on your shoulders, I decided to walk up and down the riviera. It really is a pretty place to be and I can imagine why the rest of the europeans head down here to enjoy the warmth and probably the beautiful bodies on view.

I decided to take the train towards Ventimiglia south of the border in Italy. On the train station I met this Indian family heading towards Monaco. The gentleman had an interesting story and was part of the generation kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin and immigrated to the UK (a fact that most people dont know is that most of the Indians in UK are Ugandan in origin). Its also nice meeting someone who identifies himself as Indian irrespective of the country they might live in currently.

The train continued its amazingly scenice journey along the Mediterranean Sea past Monaco and into Italy finishing up in Ventimiglia. You can see that you are italy and not in france/monaco when you hardly see any tourists, the village looks like a sleepy village town and things look a little more run down. So someone wanting the same scenary as the french riviera but are more than happy to avoid the tourists and high prices, might want to consider the italian part of the Cote D'Azur.

The old and the new

I reached paris close to midnight and was wondering on whether to roam around the city all night or find a place to crash. The signs around paris are utterly useless made even more confusing when the street names (for the same straight street) keep changing after every intersection.

So I took out my trusty map and tried to get my bearings straight when an elder parisian comes along and offers help and shows me directions. This was completely surprising considering the image I had of parisians was that they werent welcoming of tourists (and they do get a lot) and more like fuck you tourist, go home.

Well I was roaming around the streets of paris when I came across a budget hostel and no surprise it was all booked up. Resolving myself to a night on the streets (time to get my rouge and lipstick out) and I came across this run down inn which had a small room by the stairs. Gladly taking the room I crashed for the night.

Getting up late the next morning, I put on the backpack and continued my walking europe tour. My camera was dying on me, so I figured I'll go to the opposite end of the city towards the Eiffel tower. An hour later, I finally reached the eiffel tower in all its splendid glory. The first thing that you notice about it is how massive it looks from close by.

Continued from the tower to the Arc d'triomphe and down the Avenue des Champes Elysees towards the Louvre.

One problem of covering a lot of european cities at one go is that you've feel that once you've seen one palace you've seen them all and wont be too impressed with the newer ones. France has more of the greco-roman architecture which is funny as the Louis' and napolean where neither greek nor roman.

Now Paris has lots of major train stations and my train out of paris was a little distance away. So walking towards the train station via Notre Dame du Paris, Panthenon and the Sorbonne, I reached the station a couple of hours before my train. Having time to kill I noticed the bibiliotheque du france not too far from this station and decided to walk over to see if I could get some free internet (emphasis on free).

Walking for about half an hour and I still couldn't locate the stupid library when I came across this mayan looking pyramid structure having wooden steps all acroos the pyramid heading to the top. Now since I had the time and there was this pyramid looking thing to be conquered I decided to climb to the top. On reaching the top I started walking to the center and I was stunned by the architecture on show.
Right at the center of the pyramid was a forest surrounded on four sides by the walls of the library heading into the earth. Unfortunately the library was closed so I had to admire it from the outside, but I like the direction france is going mixing the old style of architecture with the new.

Well time for me to head back to get my train to Nice.

Africa calling

The Thalys fast train from Amsterdam to Paris takes about 4 hours. I was overbooked on the train (considering my last minute booking) and was pleased that the conductor let me stay on the train and even more pleased that I was sitting across this very amazing french girl.

We got talking soon after and I was very surprised that Yohana actually had an amazing story about herself. She is currently doing her PhD in economics as well as working with the World Bank but her background was what captivated me about her.

She grew up in Africa spending most of her growing up time in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Haiti and Gabon. She eventually moved back to France for her education but has been back to a few developing countries to work in her field.

One of my favorite topics is the mix of western and eastern culture and the study of environments where races and religions mix.

When you talk to white south Africans/Zimbabweans they always consider themselves Afrikaans first.
However its not quite the same when the mix is between a colonizing country and the colony. Most of northern Africa was a french colony till recently and the scars still run deep - something which came out during the Paris riots a couple of years ago. People who immigrated to France from the former colonies still don't have the same rights and opportunities as the locals (a prevailing theme across most of Europe) and when you travel through their localities, it feels like the economic boom has completely skipped that part of town.

A person's identity is strongly tied to their roots which gets more confusing the longer you stay away from home. Hers would be the opposite story to an immigrant to a western country and I can imagine the confusions she might be facing growing up in a different continent during her growing up years. These would be now heightened now that she is out of the environment, however her thoughts might still be connected to Africa.

Considering this, its really amazing coming across a person who hasn't yet forgotten her roots and trying to make an impact. Its not easy making a difference in this world but every little effort goes a long way. Wishing her the very best in life