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Showing posts from July, 2009

Baby you can drive my car

I often wistfully think about the promised lands where my friends who have moved out of India live in. Especially when I am stuck in a traffic jam caused by a religious festival, waiting to take on the potholes of Mumbai.Then I console myself by reminding myself that I live in a country where you still get domestic help. That I won't have to go back and do the dishes. Or navigate the crazy traffic myself.Reality?Our maid has bunked for the last couple of days. Our kitchen's a disaster zone.And we have been driverless for a while.Bunking is our maid's thing. It used to bug me and I often wanted to sack her. My wife restrained me and six years later our maid has become Pygmalion to my Henry Higgins. When she comes to work that is.But our luck with drivers is the stuff of Bollywood tear jerkers. We have been without one for a while. Three of the last four didn't last beyond a day. We sacked one, the next one inexplicably disappeared after day one and the third called me a…

Bangla Rocks

I was trying to get the little woman to leave her Jap and Mexican authors aside and read Sankar's Middleman."Why are you Bengalis so clannish?", she exclaimed in exasperation.She would know, being married to one. And, being in advertising, quite a few of her close friends are Bengali too.I have heard others smirk and say that two Bengalis always break into Bengali when they meet each other, even when non Bengalis are around.Well I have seen Malayalis, Tamils, Parsis and Gujaratis do that too. So do people from the Hindi belt except that Hindi doesn't stand out as much as quite a few speak it.But yes, it is downright rude to break into a language when there are others around who don't understand it.Put two Bengalis together and they will rubbish Bombay's biriyani in comparison to Shiraz's and Chowpatty's paani puri's in comparison to Lindsay Street Phhuchkas. And nothing will convince them that even Golden Dragon or Royal China or China Garden are …

The Joker

I took the Bandra Worli Sea Link to work a few times before today.

I was quite sold on it. It cut the time to reach my first stop, Kainaz's office by more than ten minutes. And, for those interested, the taxi fare of black and yellow and Meru's is exactly the same on the Sea Link and on Tulsi Pipe. The fifty Re entry fee being the difference.

Then, as Bertie Wooster would say, the scales fell.

We set off by the Sea Link this morning. The sea looked very mysterious and grey. It was wet, cloudy and seemed cool and surreal. I could see the peak of the skyscrapers at the Worli Side through the mist. Smog actually but mist seems more poetic. It seemed straight out of Batman's Gotham City... dark, menacing and yet, exciting.

We got off at the Worli Sea face and saw that the U turn to Worli Naka was closed as usual. I don't know why they can't be flexible and keep it open when traffic is low. The city planners don't care for the energy crisis apparently. Today was particu…

Learn in the USA

I was quite amused to read recent media reports that Barack Obama plans to revamp the American education system to compete with India.

This took me back to my high school days and my friends who would sit at the back in class and solve SAT and TOEFEL papers. An American education was what many dreamt of. Visions of a whole new world, a whole new way of studying with no learning by rote, subjects such as micro biology and liberal arts, lovely campuses romanced by Erich Segal in his books spurred many. I was interested too but found applying to scholarships to be an expensive affair. I don't think that I was sure of what I wanted to do in any case.

So the closest one has come to experiencing an American education is through novels and films. I studied under the British System till the fourth standard in International School. I found it very tough to adjust to the ICSE system initially with its focus of exams and 'by hearting' (memorising) and compliance. A far cry from the cre…

Hardly the Wonder Years

I read the Bengali author Sankar's book, Jono Oronyo, while I was at Goa and was blown away by it.

The way Sankar set the character of the protagonist, Somnath Banerjee, in two paragraphs, right in the beginning, is a lesson in great writing. I felt very proud to belong to such rich literary heritage when I read the book.

Here I must confess that I actually read Arunava Sen's translation of the original Bengali book. It is called The Middleman in English. I have not read too many Bengali books and this possibly expalins my awe when I read the book.

I know a lot of Bengalis will take this personally and would consider me a snob for admitting that I don't read Bengali books. There is a simple explanation for this. I learnt Bengali after I came to India. Uninspiring teachers, Christian schools which espoused English and a general love for English books did not inspire me to explore Bengali literature. I never took to reading in Bengali, struggled with a few Satyajit Ray books (…

Roll over Pygmalion

I read a shocking piece in The Times of India. Schools in Kolkata, the city where the sun never set on the British Empire, have legalised American English! As has Calcutta University!!!! And Bombay University

Topping the list of schools mentioned in the article was my Alma Mater, St James' School, Calcutta. I did my plus two there.

Is this the school where our principal, J A M, ruled as a martinet armed with Wren and Martin? Scratching our essays with red? Making us shiver under his sophistic and pedantic attacks? He even wrote a book on English Grammar which, surprise surprise, was part of our curricula. Though, to be fair, it was a good, handy book. He then went on to Doon and Dubai but left generations of us Jacobeansguarding the Queen's English.

And, he would have spotted sixty two mistakes in this post by now. Including the fact that I started the last sentence with 'and'.

Call me old fashioned, call me over the hill, or call me uncle as the college kid in the corner …

Papa kehte hain ... the path well travelled

Aamir Khan crooned this famous song from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak in the late eighties, straight into the hearts of all the girls in my school. While I made collages of Juhi Chawla. Thirteen is an impressionable age.

In this coming of age song, Aamir Khan's character, Raj, sang of his father's hopes from him.

Part of the lyrics went as follows:

Har ek nazar ka sapna yeh hai
Koi engineer ka kaam karega
Business mein koi apna naam karega
Magar yeh to koi na jaane
Ki meri manzil hai kahan
Papa kehte hain bada naam karega

This loosely translated means "everyone has a dream, some want to be an engineer, some want to make it in the world of business, but no one knows where I'll end up, Papa says I'll make a name for myself".

This song was quite symbolic of the times we grew up in. Add doctor and CA to engineer and business and you have the career options opent to a twentieth century Indian laid out in front of you.

Most of us followed these routes and earn a living, often quit…