Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Time flies

A long long time ago..actually, one year, I walked into MT to be one of its elite members, on this very day.

Was I nervous? Yes, of course.
Was I excited and dreaming of a better tomorrow?
I would be a fool or unnatural, if I wasn’t.
Did it live upto my expectations?
Partly. But, I will leave that discussion for later.
However, this bit really isn’t about deciding merits and demerits; it is however, about remembering a year gone by with fondness and exasperation, mixed in, in equal quantities.

A normal day at MT starts at the crack of dawn..6am. The cell phone alarm starts ringing in my ear (I had placed it on the pillow the night before to ensure waking up on time)..."Welcome to the Hotel California...it could be Heaven or it could be Hell".
"How appropriate", I mutter, rolling out of bed to look blearily out of the window. I don't think I had seen that much of "dawn" for a long time.

7th of June, 2010 was a cold windy day, and at 6am, there was no one else in sight on the road. The tall tree in front of my window rocked back and forth on its hinges, birds fluffing their feather, and huddling together to keep warm.

When I reached West Campus (and this was going to Home for the next few years), I was straightway given a tag and dumped into a 3 day induction program.

Now, this Campus, which is referred to as MTW, Lovely Greens, Place of the CCD, Village/Gaon, Hell, UN-Civilization (it really depends on the time of day and the mood) is really really far from anywhere. I have a sneaking suspicion its closer to Mysore than it is to Bangalore. Needless to say, I had NEVER travelled quite so far to go to work; my previous company was a stone’s throw from home.

So to say that it came as a shock, was a minor understatement.

However, once I got over my entire “Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum” theatrical hysterical moment, I started appreciating the surroundings. The road wound itself through lovely small villages, with little hillocks popping up on either side, green palm trees swaying in the breeze as far as the eye could see. Cows and goats meandered about, dogs lay sleeping in little patches of sunlight and ducks ran about, cackling loudly. It could only happen in India!

The 3 day induction is a good idea, all said and done, as we get a chance to a) gradually "get into the company", and b) to know and make friends across BUs. Since my getting to the back of the beyond had taken me a horrendous and unplanned for 2 hours, I was a trifle late. By the time I got tagged and sent off with a wave, a movie had started and I was left groping in the dark for a place to sit, which WASN’T someone’s lap. (don’t laugh, this happened to a friend of mine at a movie; I don’t know who was more horrorstruck - she, or that girl-slash-seat’s dear boyfriend.)

When the lights came back on, leaving you feeling dazzled for that brief moment, I looked around at my neighbors. Who, I might add, were busily getting their HR paperwork organized. Me, of course, had to be unique, and wasn’t carrying any papers. In my defense, I had sent along about 20 odd documents via mail as they had requested, and thus didn’t think they would require it all over again. I was stumped. The solution: to revert to my most “Cultured Managerial Tone”, and tell them that I didn’t “expect” further paperwork to be required. And the HR were most obliging, I must say, to let me give them the papers by end of week.

On an aside, that tone really works.

That day I made my first set of friends, and put a little root in the MT network, which would see me through till whenever.
Sushma – my first neighbor.She looked at me, smiled politely, then went google-eyed at my tattoo. A nice sweet Telegugirl, or so I thought. Now, I definitely know better.
Poornima – who won my heart by asking for a coffee break, when HR asked us whether we had further questions. She deviated the attention from me, without my papers.
Akansha and Anusha – who were definitely the more quieter, politer versions of the 3 of us. I corralled them during the coffee break, which happened a lot faster on that first day thanks to P. and that was it. After that, we sat together the rest of those 2.5 days, and have been sitting together ever since. Aks is the youngest, so gets teased the most, while Anu is our voice of reason, more often than not.

Some parts of that induction left me feeling quite thrilled to be a part of this great organization. The other parts were completely anti-climactic. For example, the Information Something Session. Now, I do realize that in a 9,000 member company, human intervention is at a minimum, and Intranet is the way to go.

We were all Lateral Hires, coming from other companies, with 2-10 years’ experience behind us. The instructor started in a sonorous monotone, “GIGO – something that is Data becomes Information. We store the information carefully else it would be a problem - GIGO. Heh heh heh!”.
We were hardly going to need to know that bit..we ALREADY KNEW IT!

By the time he finished his “Heh Heh”-ing, I was out like a light. I did try really hard to stay awake, even going to the extent of holding my lids between my fingertips. But before I realized it, I had slid quietly and gently down on my seat and was off to la-la land, having pleasant dreams.

I woke with a BANG, literally, as my seat flew backwards and hit the railing behind me. I flew up with a jerk, and I could see my beloved friends almost stuffing hankies in their mouths to stop rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically.

What could I do, except look around furtively with a red face and an embarrassed grin, and wait for the coffee break. Thank god, the Instructor didn’t blink an eyelid and carried on that monotone.

He should be grateful I didn’t snore, to add insult to injury. Besides, it was a post lunch session.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Little specks of grey and light dance across my eyes,
Like shards of dark and bright across a window pane,
On a lazy Sunday morning.
Sitting with a cup of coffee, looking out of the window,
Waiting for the rain to come.
The earth is dry and parched and calling.
The coffee grows cold in anticipation of something…
Something.. Anything.
I tickle the ivories, rather, tinker on them.
Fingers falter, remembering old tunes.
The finger of the right move only when the left don’t.
What are they scared of, I wonder?
A mis-step? A lost sound? A piece of myself thrown away?

Sound of Music soothes me, always has, since I was 6 years old.
I can sing along to every song, I know every beat, every rhythm and rhyme.
“I have confidence in sunshine”…
“And somewhere in my childhood, I must have done something good”.
I find it harder now to believe, however.
Cynicism is a dangerous thing, makes you think dangerous thoughts.
Bright lights, splashes of colour, white oblivion.

Quiet thoughts, big dreams, my very own Bucket List.
Sitting in the Acropolis awash in moonlight,
Hearing music that comes from the stones, centuries old.
Diving in the cool Pacific waters, exploring hidden treasures,
While waves wash over me, and Nemo shows me the way forward.
Watching people read my book and love it, I need no other accolade.
The urge is strong, the soul is fast, but alas, the mind is weak.
Sitting peacefully with my dog gambolling around me,
All love, and eager eyes for long walks, and drool-ey licks.

Right now all I want, really, is a room somewhere,
Far away from mostly everybody.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hydrabad-ey Hottogol

Part III - Vici (though, more aptly titled - And I couldn’t believe my eyes)

My last day in Hyd and I throw hysterics (the wonderful thing about friends is that they actually let you get away with them). I want to go see what all the hoopla of Hyd being an old city filled with historical impact is all about, much to the dismay of Abhi who tries his best to dissuade me.

Again, a totally different picture of Hyd all over again - a city that resembles North Calcutta or Old Delhi in its flavor. More steeped in the past, than any other characteristic. What strikes us as we come to the old area, is that it is a predominantly Muslim city – masjids at every corner, women covered in black from head to toe, kohl rimmed eyes peering out into the world. When I see green flags with the sickle and star, proudly displayed every which way you look, I get a jolt of surprise and shock.

1st stop – Falaknama Palace
The name in Urdu means “Star of Heaven”, and it is supposedly one of the finest palaces in Hyderabad. Also referred to as 'Mirror of the Sky', it was designed by an Italian architect and took 9 years to complete. Needless to say, after hearing all about it from friends, I was excited to make a trip. Winding down thin roads, choc-a-bloc with traffic, people, juice sellers, cows, carts and cycles, we finally arrived after an hour at the gates of the Palace. Only to suffer a major anti-climax as the Palace is now closed to be made into Taj Group of Hotels. Which means, the next time I want to go see it, I will have to shell out 500 INR for a tiny cup of coffee.

2nd stop – Charminar
A massive square structure towers above us. The oldest mosque in Hyd, it is made of Granite. 4 minarets, one at each corner, ululate without fail at dusk and dawn. Apparently, once upon a time, each of the 4 arches faced the 4 major roads of the city.

Charminar is set amidst the bazaar – Laad Bazaar, Chor Bazaar and Begum Pet (pronounced how a Bong would say pet in Bongland :-D). Shops selling pearls, glass bangles and women’s shoes jostle for space between vendors hawking papaya, watermelon and green mangoes. There are people milling everywhere – Muslims for devotional prayers, families who are picnicking in the grounds below, foreigners with a gaggle of “let me help you sir, see this, fine building sir” behind them. It is crowded, colorful, chaotic, dirty and vibrant, all in the same breath.

Each minaret of the Charminar has a double balcony, which one is allowed to climb up to, to gaze in admiration at the panoramic view below. When I was taken to the stairs, I immediately had doubts. 149 step, set so steep so that one has to CLIMB rather than walk up the steps. Adding to that, they are through the minaret, so you are going round and rounds in tiny dizzying concentric circles with millions thronging before and after you. Woe betide all, if one person slips; it would be the domino effect performed live. After you climb down from the top, you have to pause for a bit before you can walk, as the legs, they are a tremblin!

Once up there, it was a different world. The sounds and smells below filter away, leaving you to gaze out over the city. Everything shimmers in a heat haze, imparting a distinctly dreamlike quality. There isn’t much else to see really, except for the beautiful carved frieze running along the entire inner walls of the monument. Pigeons nestle in the alcoves cooing away throatily to each other, fighting for space in the nooks and crannies. The sad part of the whole thing was that we, as a nation, don’t take pride in our History or Culture; there are “TV wanted- call Abbas” and “Bunty loves Bubli” pen marks carved out all along the walls. Total desecration.

3rd stop – Salarjung Museum
As we walk in, a cool breeze blows towards us from the gulmohar lined avenue; at least I think they were gulmohars, the pink flowers. It’s a breeze we welcome, after trudging all over Charminar, and the a/c ed atmosphere gently beckons us inside. Salarjung Museum is the 3rd largest museum in India, housing collections belonging to different civilizations dating back to the 1st century.

Here I have to admit, that this probably was the worst letdown of a museum that I have ever come across. Maybe I am spoiled by the wonderful Museums I have traipsed through in UK, which hold you spellbound the whole day, with the sheer amount of beauty and information put together.

Yes, the Salarjung collection is huge and has some astoundingly beautiful pieces. However, the very essence of what a Museum represents was lost - these are places which ideally are meant to impart and increase your knowledge base, not merely showcase wealth.

The artifacts weren’t marked, so one had no idea of knowing the specialty of the piece. Those that were marked went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Imagine a Ming vase, where the marking reads “Blue Vase from China 18th Century”. That’s it, full stop, end of information. Like we couldn’t tell the color.

In the European gallery were hundreds of chairs lined up neatly, with no idea of which was what period, came from where - France, UK or Spain, for example. It looked like a very uncared for furniture store, peeling brocade on jittery falling over chairs, the only signs displayed being “Please do not sit on these”.

All in all, a place I would recommend in a heartbeat, for any serious Museum aficionado never ever to go to.

Pit Stop – Paradise Restaurant
Lunch at 5pm. This was surely the highlight for all of us greedy, hungry, bone achingly tired people.
Paradise is known to all gourmets in India, if not by taste, then by name. I had heard paens sung in its glory and was determined to sample the food for myself. The most divine biriyani and succulent kebabs, aromas wafting through the doors as we alight from the cab. It was opened in 1953 or 63, and from those humble beginnings has grown into a 3 story gleamingly clean palace which occupies an entire street block, and has 3 other equally huge outlets all over the city. I only wish it couriered to other cities. Replete, we head back home to freshen up, pack and head to the station to get back home

Overall, a brilliant way to end a brilliant trip.

P.S.: so, the title is my way of saluting the master, Satyajit Ray. For the Bengalis who have read his books, this should be self-explanatory.
Hottogol is a Bong word which implies..err..shindigs, shenanigans, samba! :-D

Hydrabad-ey Hottogol

Part II - Vidi

One day of sitting about doing nothing is about all I can take. Saturday morning dawns late – around 11am – since the previous night is spent in talking away; Alka smiling sleepily at us while she listens to us ramble on, head nodding in part concentration, part contentment and mostly tiredness.

Abhi also arrives to partake in breakfast and “city darshan” plans, doing his best to dissuade us from going anywhere. He is the epitome of the quintessential Bong - lazy, friendly, loves friends and food, and generally fun to hang out with. He is going to make S’s home his “adda” for the next couple of days. After a brunch of the most fab parathas, we head out.

Our choice of locale – a mall called Inorbit ( mall names never ever make sense; its like all the marketing is targeted in giving it a name that a) rolls easily off the tongue, and b) sounds hip to the “cool brigade”. The choice is simple, find a place which is A/C and scurry into it.

As the city is carved out of hills, the car takes us through rambling roads and undulating plains onto our destination. I revise my initial impressions of Hyd on this trip. This is truly the Technology Sector, tall gleaming buildings, all chrome and steel and glass. Big names of IT MNCs litter either side of the roadways, set among beautifully landscaped foliage. There is an immediate “wow, impressive” factor for this part of the city.

This of course is what you would find anywhere you went - any Tier 1 city is India today has exactly the same IT landscape, with wide clean roads and huge buildings. What sets Hyd apart truly, from anywhere else, is the location and the scenery. Looking down from the Mall, where we sit sipping our coffee and taking the mandatory pictures, the eyes travel across to a huge lake/reservoir called DurgamCheru (Ma Surga Lake). On the other side of it, far away, rise steep hills, where one can see houses, resorts, offices dotted about, amongst the rocks. That is of course reflected this side as well, with all offices’ recreational spaces opening out on the lakeside. There is this tranquil air about the whole place, a moment frozen in cool serenity. It’s a sight for sore eyes, and I believe that anyone having the luxury of seeing it every day would be a happy camper.

In the evening we go clubbling. What with Blr closing shop at ridiculously early hours, the people of the once famous “city with best nightlife” now have to go to other places to enjoy themselves without being thrown out at 11pm. IPL, the latest buzz to hit Indian cricket is on. This is Season 3 of a format people laughed at, when it was first thought of – I personally liken it to “blink and miss” cricket in 20 overs. However, the excitement runs high in tamden with our drinking, with bets being placed in favor of your own team.

Thankfully, and much to my crowing delight, I win!

Hydrabad-ey Hottogol

Part I - Veni

The journey starts like all journeys do..with anticipation. I’m going to catch up over a long weekend, with some of my closest friends in their new house. I even baked a cake for the occasion (it’s a perfect present - one can indulge in it with alacrity). Wriggling around to achieve the maximum level of comfort in my Volvo A/C ed bus, on an overnight journey, I find myself wishing “why can’t they make a damn A/C bus colder, for chrissake?”

Oh well! No one ever said there’s gain, without the add-on pain in the posterior, literally.

My first impression of Hyd is caught behind half closed eyes, peering sleepily out of the window. It’s nice, quiet.. peaceful; dawn light weaving in through lazily floating wisps of fog. The roads are almost totally empty, with a few lone-wolf trucks rumbling on ahead.

The city leaves behind an impression of aridity, a veritable dustbowl sitting in the midst of huge rocks strewn haphazardly everywhere. Immediately, it strikes me that it is as far from Blr as it can get..less people, less traffic, less hi-fi places, less buildings in general. It probably reminds me in a way, of what Blr might have been like 30 years ago, a small sleepy town on the eve of “development” rather than smack dab in the middle of chaos.

Sachin’s house is almost near one end of Hyd.. a place called Kondapur which is near the Tech City. There isn’t much junta around here, the hustle and bustle of the city is left far behind. Chatting with him and his wife, over a cup of adrak chai made by Alka, it is a good moment. We never realize how much we are starved for our closest, till we are face to face with one.

Catch up with A., once S. goes off for work very reluctantly. I do try to do my duty as a best friend and try to persuade him to stay, of course. A. is the perfect hostess; she packs me off to freshen up and rest, while she goes off, oh so competently, to whip up breakfast for the 2 of us. Then it’s time to chat about all and sundry – life, love, marriage, work, hopes and wishes, highpoints and failure – we are really getting to know each other “properly” this time around, rather than as the “best friend” and the “wife”.

Hyd is HOT..a dry heat that settles into your skin and leaves it parched and cracked. Water almost sizzles on the body and disappears while taking baths, giving me to reflect on all the Physics I studied ages ago. It leaves one inert to do anything the entire day, unless you have forced yourself to escape the cool confines of the house already. In the afternoons, a lassitude sets in among people, they buzz lazily like drones searching for food in the hot sun.

S’s house is huge and carefully thought out and built; but as he dryly mentions, not constructed by a very intelligent man. The halls and bedrooms are huge, the kitchen almost even bigger. The loos are tiny, in comparison. Since they are in the process of still acquiring furniture, most of the house stands empty, reverberating with sound when we speak. Opera singers would have a blast singing here, I wonder.

The whole house is pink..a delicious frothy pink with white pillars. It reminds me of a strawberry shortcake, lovely white cream drizzled with threads of pink color in it, and folded neatly to make sweet sweet icing. As a child growing up in Cal, I seem to recollect our own house walls being a pale pink at a point of time. Thankfully, post that, we have moved into a more neutral all-white color scheme, with the occasional large muddy pawprint left as a decorative statement of valor by our overly energetic dogs.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Up, up and away..

The amount of times, I have shifted around in Bangalore… would put people to shame. And no, the shifts are not personal (new home) shifts.. they are due to office spaces. In PharmARC, we shifted 5 times in 5 years – quite a feat, that!

I just joined my new company.. that was in August of last year. This April, we moved bag and baggage and shifted.. from Diamond District (6km from my house) to MG Rd (double the distance).

And oh god.. it’s a pain in the ass, and all other wrong places. Right now, Bangalore governments are frenetically digging trenches wherever they set their happy sights on, to build the Bengaluru Metro. What were one beautiful serene tree lined avenues in various parts of the city, now look like the Rann of Kutch.. flat dusty plains, billowing dust storms. And since dear aforesaid govt. is digging with a damn spoon.. it looks like we will be stuck in this grimy, cement-sand-floating-in-air limbo, forever.

I’m taking 3 hours per day, on the road.. which means that the rest of my life almost peters out, over weekdays.

Who am I kidding!! As if I was a party hopping freak when I was living 5 minutes from work. Still, do give me my moment to gripe, people..

MG Rd has been dug up completely. All scientists.. please don’t bother observing moon craters..we have them right here. Walking is a problem, as there are now no roads and no pavements anymore. So one totters over piles of dirty and mud and sand, smiling apologetically to vehicles who are waiting for you to pass, and maybe fall, face first, into the ditch beside.

One doesn’t just ride an auto in BLR, one careens. Merrily, capriciously, blindly… the autowala doing his version of being Michael in the Grand Prix till I tell him, “hello bhaiyaa, bhagwan se itna pyar toh abhi nahi hai, theek se chalaiye”.

Lurching through busy traffic, this guy decides he wants to overtake..an Innova no less. So we caper along, till aforesaid misbegotten vehicle nudges us, oh so gently, into a mound of cement. So there I am, trying desperately to look calm and poised and serene, while sliding slowly but inexorably, down a seat with suddenly, a 45 degree slope. And in the middle of all this, the auto stalls with a choke and a sputter. My auto wala quietly says, “Shit!”

What else can I say, really?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I’m back folkses!!

All of us have times when we want to sink, and almost disappear. And I was going through that, last week. I think the shock of never being able to see Sasha again, hold him close, hug him tight till he yelps in discomfort, smell that doggie smell.. well, I can go on endlessly on this.. was too much to take and auto-recover from. So everything in life became tinged with this dirty gray tone, murky and dark.

And then… there are times when one jumps back on the proverbial bandwagon. when u dust off the, well dust.. and say “enough is enough”, and get back among the living.

I’m back, people!! And heck, it’s about time. Enough moping and whining and feeling sorry for myself. Enough of having expectations from certain friends, who don’t deserve all the time and thought wasted on them. And time to look around at all the ones who have reached out to me, and comforted me in so many ways, through these bleak moments. And thank god they are such a part of my life..

As for Sasha….let the beautiful, and they are all beautiful, memories remain…

Monday, May 04, 2009

Death is a lonely feeling

My sister died 3 weeks ago. She was a very distant cousin, living alone in Bombay, quite cut off from everyone. She was also 2 years younger than me. And while I’m not very traumatized by her gone, vis-à-vis if it had been a favorite cousin; I’m still rather shaken up by the fact that she’s GONE. And that suddenly among the 6 cousins, there is a blank space forever.

And my doggie passed away, as all those read this blog will already know, a week ago. And to say I’m facing this huge void right now, would be an understatement. I definitely prioritize my babies over my family, kya karein..

And when I have friends who I thought of as very very close, who don’t even bother to sms me when I’m at my most down, and then tell me that she contacted my mother because, I quote, “I thought she needed comforting more than you did”, I think something inside me dies a little bit.

Maybe people think that I’m that strong that I don’t need a shoulder to howl on, or that I don’t need anything, period. And it makes me wonder… did my sister feel just as lonely in Bombay? That when she looked around at family and friends there wasn’t really anyone there for her..

I wish I had the chance to talk to her once..now it is too late..

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Memoriam

The First Family: Tara (mom), Mishka (daughter), Sasha (son)
..and Leo (the beginning of the Second Family)

Sasha passed away last night
1992 – 27 April, 2009
17 years of beautiful memory

Tum Ho Toh
Tum ho toh, gata hai dil
Tum nahin, toh geet kahan
Tum ho toh, hai sab hasil
Tum nahin, toh kya hai yahan
Tum ho toh hai, sapno ke jaisa hasin ek samaa

Jo tum ho toh, yeh lagtha hai
Ke mil gayi har khushi
Jo tum na ho, yeh lagtha hai
Ke har khushi mein hai kami
Tumko hai mangthi yeh zindagi

Tum ho toh, rahein bhi hai
Tum nahin, toh rastein kahan
Tum ho toh, yahan sab bhi hai
Tum nahin, toh kaun yahan
Tum ho toh hai, har ek pal meharban yeh jahan

Jo tum ho tho, hawa mein bhi
Mohabaton ka raang hai
Jo tum na ho, toh phir koi
Na josh na umang hai
Tum mile toh mili yeh zindagi..