Friday, 17 December 2010

Tweet Me Up Scotty: Mumbai Tweetup @5Spice @Janta Bar

I went to my first Tweetup last night.

It was a Mumbai Twitter's meet. From what I understand, a Tweetup is when folks who Tweet meet up, talk in real life, eat and drink, largely Dutch. No agenda. Hopefully.

The hash tag was #5s. It was at 5 Spice, Bandra. As close to home as it gets for a chronically lazy socialiser. Problem was that I was done in by Mumbai's freezing winter (apparently hit the sub 20s. Centigrades). I doubted that I could croak out even 140 characters. So I stayed home and ordered Green Thai Curry from Thai Baan. The only folks in Mumbai apart from Thai Pavilion to make a half decent Thai curry.

I sat at home chatting with K and a friend. My heart was at 5 Spice as I kept scanning the tweets on the tweetup. Then this flashed from @TalkorTweets hey there is a popular request for u to be at this tweetup guys want to meet even if you are feeling sick.

I had to go. I donned a jacket though I couldn't find my muffler or monkey cap. I headed to 5 Spice suitably anti-biotiqued. And for all those 'celebrity' jibes, well I did make an entrance four hours late and was greeted by an entourage at the gate... in my defence I wasn't wearing shades at midnight.

I went up and met the 'Mumbai Twitter Originals'. It went something like this. "This is @finelychopped" "I am at @B50". "@Suddentwilight" "Hi @Netra good to see you again". Sort of like being at M's Christmas bash. "Hi, am double o seven". "Moi double o three". You get the drift. Didn't get to meet the great @Anaggh though. He remains an urban legend I guess. The Ghost who Tweets.

I then headed to Janta Bar at Pali Naka to catch up with the young guns who had tweeted for me. I'd never been to Janta Bar before as Gokul at Colaba used to be our watering hole in our tight wallet days. Had no idea that there was a mezzanine floor and a first floor too. I got a stool, reserved for the elderly, to sit and chat on as I caught up with @ @ @ @TalkorTweet @

How was the food? Well I need to go back for that someday. And, well they serve booze in quarter bottles, if you are not on antibiotics. The Bombil Fry on the next table looked quite dishy. As did the fish.

From someone who couldn't figure out what was happening in the beginning, I must say that I am quite hooked on to twitter now. Facebook doesn't work for me any more. I have rather quaint views on what constitutes 'friends'. If I don't know you, and you send me a friend request without a word of introduction, then all I can say is I don't wear tees which say 'free hugs' in real life. If I have met you at work but wouldn't share a Saturday evening drink with you then could we 'connect' on Linkeidn please? If you want to tell me how well read you are and how many links you read from the world of business...again not the sort of stuff I chat with friends about. If you want to send me sheep or cows then could you slow roast them first and add some baked jacket potatoes on the side please?  And I don't really care what Paul The Octopus says about you. He is dead Paul's sake. If we haven't interacted on Facebook then are you a friend or a lurker. Surely you dn't want to show me off in our list of friends. I am sure real celebs like Sheila and Munni have Facebook pages for Mark's sake. And don't add me as a friend then spam me about your business, your job or your self. If I care I will seek you out. If I have removed you from the 'friend' list isn't it rather lame for you to send a friend request again? And if you find my updates on food boring, well I rarely do that on my Facebook page any more. I have a Finely Chopped Facebook page for that.

Yes I am a bit constipated when it comes to my views on facebook and friendships but then as someone said at the Tweetup yesterday 'Facebook is the new Orkut'. I like the sense of space that Twitter gives one. Follow someone if you like. Write what you want without bothering about 'likes' or what your 'friends' will think. Not the clingy or faux social niceties that Facebook involves. After all if people follow you then they do so on their own accord. And hope that you don't end up the Shashi Tharoor way if your employers follow you.

So if I had to sum it it up in 140 characters then here's my take,

@finelychopped : So Twitter is more fun than Facebook. Tweetups than Blogger meets

These are the Twitter Handles of some of the folks on my timeline (if you don't know what it means then this post won't make sense to you in any case) who were there yesterday:

@Madmanweb and the man who hiccuped somewhere away from 5Spice @

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is Bandra the new cocaine?

Met a Social Media friend from Delhi for the first time last weekend. We met up at Gloria Jean's, Bandra, for a short while. A place which he confessed to love. I like Gloria Jean's too. As does my wife and many others.

I pass the road in front of Gloria Jean's on the way to work everyday. At times I try to grab a bite in the car and sip a juice as I am not the sort who wants the worm in any case. Problem is that I have to wait for the stretch to get over before I start eating. Its pot holes and pockmarks would make the food somersault in your tummy. Never a good idea. I was hoping that they would fix it when Obama came to Mumbai. Then he flew down to South Mumbai and we were left with audacious hope.

Most of the houses at Bandra resemble the road that I described - old, damp walls, peeling paint, tired plumbing, pre-liberalisation flooring, badly planned, dark, dank and small.

Yet, here are some interesting things I found out through hearsay. My friend who lives at GK 2, a fairly posh address at Delhi, pays one third the rent for a 3 BHK in comparison to what we pay for a 2 BHK here. A lady whose husband has recently moved to Singapore told me that rentals at Bandra beat those in Singapore. And a couple relocating from London said that the rent for a sub optimal, compromised 4BHK at Bandra would get you a semi detached house in a good condition with a garden at a good suburb of London. And no, its not that salaries at Mumbai are higher than those at Delhi. And is not even close to those in Singapore and UK.

I guess we are 'prisoners of our own device here'.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Anyone else who has got 'Jhingalala'd'?

I miss the good old days of a DD antenna and a booster antenna for Bangladesh TV. Or even the cable wallahs whose office you could go to. Scream and rant and get technicians if something went wrong.

I don't want a satellite dish service which teaches me supreme patience and tolerance. I don't want a satellite dish service which prepares me for the worst that life can throw at me. I don't want a satellite dish service which prepares me for failure, being ignored, being dumped. I don't want to be grounded. My TV rights taken away. I thought I'd grown beyond that.

I don't want a satellite dish service which doesn't work. Which takes my complaint. Gives me a booking number and a date three days later. Followed only by a SMS that my 'complaint is closed'. Asks me for feedback on their service, which I never experienced. Y for Yes. N for No. And if you text N then the reply is 'invalid service'.

I want my MTV.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Welcome to the real world

For all the snide remarks about their being a virtual make belief invisible world, I have met some really interesting people, and made some of my best friends of late, thanks to Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and of course something called Orkut.

 I met Shubho who is fairly prominent in Twitter and FB for the first time today. He said the same thing about meeting folks through social media. He was in his 40s and said that he had connected with some wonderful people across age groups.

Some of these 'connections' remain virtual and yet at times more intimate than many acquaintances in the real world. And some cross what my friend, Kaniska, calls the fine line between the real and the virtual world. Yes we  too met thanks to the blog.

And this evening we had dinner with some of my original friends through blogging and another new blogging friend.

This is a social reality of our times. Thank God for that.

So do you draw your sustainable from the 'virtual world'? I believe its not so good for women though as there are a number of weirdos out there, any thoughts?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Do blogs work for you? Please write in

Note: This post was not written by Ross Geller (FRIENDS)

Hi, today is Ashtami. The biggest and most auspicious day of Durga Puja. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Puja in our building. I was there when the Puja started 25 years back. And am lucky enough to be here this time too. 25 years. Phew, that's a long time. Wonder how things will be on number 50?

Got a piece of good news to share with you on this auspicious day. As you probably know I am a market researcher by trade. That's what pays for the bacon I bring home, make pasta with and write about. My job is to help clients understand what consumer feel about topics of relevance so that they (the clients) can work out their strategies.

Well, this is an instance where work and play collides. I had written a paper on how blogs and social media (Facebook, Twitter) can be used to get customer feedback for small businesses. The paper was based on, what else, food blogging. Things I observed on Finely Chopped.

Got to know today that this paper has got selected by the Market Research Society of India. Which means that I will have to present it at their conference in Mumbai in mid November.

Esomar (the world body of market research) has also organised a conference with TMRS (the Thai Market research body) at Bangkok. They have asked me to conduct a workshop on this earlier in November.

So now that I have probably lost you this is what I would like you to do. Please write to me through comments on this post (ideally) or through DMs, e's on the following:

If you read blogs ....
  • Why do you read blogs?
  • What do you look for in blogs?
  • Any differences on what you look for in blogs versus what you look for in newspapers, magazines (offline and online)
  • Do you look for information on blogs? What sort of information?
  • Have you ever decided to buy something or try something based on what you read on blogs/ Facebook. Specific examples please

If you own a business/ are an entrepreneur ....

  • Have you used blogs/ social networks to further your business? How?
  • Do you use blogs/ social networks to market your products?
  • Do you use blogs/ social networks to get feedback from customers? Do you ask people directly for their opinions or do you just read what's put up on blogs/ Facebook pages?
  • Specific examples where info from blogs or Facebook has worked for you
I am really counting on you to write in. The paper got selected based on what I learnt at Finely Chopped and on Facebook after all.... so please delurk and write in...otherwise I won't have much to say...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Hope you are in a happier place Rouvanjit

You might have read about young Rouvanjit Rawla. He used to study in La Martinere for Boys. One of the premiere schools in Calcutta. I am referring to him in the past tense as he took his life recently. Thirteen years is all he got in this world. The caning or corporal punishment that he received in school apparently led to his suicide.

Caning? Didn't that happen only in David Copperfield?

Well not really. I moved into an ‘Indian’ school in Calcutta in 1984 when I was ten. My earlier experience with schools, or play schools, was in the UK, Iran and then in an ‘International’ school in Calcutta. We knew about the Solar System. But not about canes.

The ‘Indian’ school I went to, following the ICSE board, was where I first came across the concept of caning. Except it was with wooden rulers and not canes. Our teachers would take our rulers and then hit us across our palms. At times till the rulers broke. Boys. Girls. No gender discrimination. Across ages. By all teachers. Always on the palm of the hand.

No homework? Whack. Talking in class? Whack. Talking in Bengali? Whack. Not polished your shoes? Whack. And so it went.

Then there was being made to stand out of class. And even the occasional take your shirt off and stand. And for girls, take your shoes off and hold it on your head and stand. No, this was not in Panchayat in Haryana. This was in an English medium, ICSE board, Christian Missionary School situated bang in the middle of Middle Class Calcutta.

Did it make us do our homework, not talk in class, not speak in Bengali, polish our shoes? You are kidding me!

I remember a very different occasion when I was in the seventh or eighth standard. Same age as Rouvanjit. I was called into the staff room to meet a teacher. This teacher usually used the ruler till the clasp of his watch come off. That day was different. He sat me down and pointed out that I was the son of a teacher myself. He said that if I would bother my teachers then it was possible that my mom’s students would do that too. Would I like that? The penny dropped. There were fewer detention occasions for me after that.

But then reasoning takes patience and effort. Caning is easier. The British rulers knew it. As did the Whites in Apartheid Africa. And do school teachers in India.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Of sons and mothers

The defining mother son moment of Hindi films of the seventies was Shashi Kapoor telling Bachchan ‘mere paas maa hain’ (Mom’s with me) in 'Deewar'. Nirupa Ray, who played the mother in question, played the same character in a number of other films too. Struggling to put ends meet so that she could bring up Amitabh Bachchan in various movies. Unquestioned devotion to his mother drove the hero and the story of the film.

The recently released Hindi film, ‘Wake up Sid’, showed a very different mother son relation. Supriya Pathak, the mother, was doting and smothering. Ranbir Kapoor, the petulant son. Churlish. Irritated. Snapping at his mother at all points.

Something which would have been unheard of for a hero in the seventies.

Is it becomes the times are different? Is it because we have moved to consumerism from Gandhism?

Or is it because Wake Up Sid was directed by a Bengali? After all Bengali mothers are considered to be amongst the most protective of their sons.

But then are these things culture specific? Are their mothers who don’t dote on their sons? Being a Bengali son I can’t think of such a scenario.

What’s your experience?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

How grey was my valley?

Tapen Chattopadhyay, who played the character of Goopy in Satyajit Ray's Goopy Bagha series passed away a few days back.

The Goopy Bagha films defined children's films in a country where there weren't many. Films you could grow up with as you kept discovering layer after layer each time you saw them. For many of us they were the rare home grown super heroes cum rock stars. Though more in the Asterix quirky, double meaning, genre. This post is not about Goopy Bagha. You can check this excellent post by the Great Bong to get an idea of the phenomenon that was Goopy Bagha if you want to know more.

I first heard about Tapen Chattopadhay's death from a college friend on Facebook. Soon status updates from others of my vintage began to pop up. Culminating with the above blog post which was linked by many including me.

I guess the mid thirties is a strange period. This is when the icons you have grown up with begin to leave you. Bagha, or Robi Ghosh, was long gone. Goopy now joined him to rock the heavens. Michael Jackson thrilled and then shocked and then went away. Others faded away. George Michael was not really a Lady Killer. Aggasi probably not as cherubic. The judo and disco legends disappeared as Mithun and the eighties became a real time spoof. Gavaskar was left peddling DLF Maximums and MRF Blimps after breaking Bradman's records. Kapil Dev sulks in a corner. The mighty Windies is barely ahead of Bangladesh in rankings. Azza went from one murky world to an even murkier one. Becker and grass are both part of history books. For the cows as Lendl said. Maradona is rounder than the ball he fisted in. Bachchan keeps re-iventing himself. Kishore is remixed.

So who fills up the gaps. Do we search for new icons? Where? Amongst those a decade younger than us? Or do we live in reruns?

But then there is always Anil Kapoor who ek do teen'd his way onto the Oscar Stage. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Finely Chopped on Facebook... My experiments with Web 2.0

Warning: Geeky post ahead

I recently opened a Facebook Page for my food blog, Finely Chopped. A blogger friend wrote in today saying that she'd just discovered this page. She said she was wondering why I had stopped putting food updates on Facebook. Till she found the Finely Chopped pages. And then said that this was a good idea as I could reach out to a larger number of like minded people.

So why did I start a Facebook page for the blog.

Well let's go back to more than a decade and a half and about twenty five kilos less to a balmy afternoon in Calcutta's Presidency College. PR or Dr Prasanta Ray, an urban legend and head of our Sociology Department was taking our class. One of those rare teachers who could connect life with education. Reason why I remember a lot of what he had taught then.

PR was discussing the book of a rather intriguingly named Sociologist called Tom Bottomore. If I remember right, Bottomore said that each individual has a number of social concentric circles around him. Friends. Family. Family of procreation or the out laws. Of orientation or birth. Work. And so on. People apparently behave differently in each of these groups and often reflect the image others have of them when living in each circle. So if your parents want you to be studious, you will hide your desires to be a rock star. If your friends thought you you to be a rock star in college then you would play Led Zepp in your car while driving down in pinstripes. If your office doesn't approve of rock stars then you would toe the party line and espouse the values of your company.

PR, without doubt, was a rcok star in his trademark white dhoti and white panjabi and gleaming scalp ... though we did disagree on whether the college should have rock concerts or not. A rare moment of discord.

Mr Bottomore passed away in '92 according to Wiki. No one told us that in 92 -95 when we were in college. But it is interesting to see how some of what he said plays out in the age of web 2.0 and social networking.

So what are the concentric circles that I belong to? Family. Fortunately or not, no one apart from my brother and wife are fellow web denizens. So I can crack all the family jokes that I want to. Friends. A lot of whom I have made in the last couple of years. Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with. In real life and in the virtual world. Work. The stuff which brings the bacon to the table. And, how could I forget, saving the best for the last, food lover, cooking enthusiast, food blogger and the very occasionally commissioned food writer.

How do these translate into social networks? In my scheme of things work should nestle itself in Linkedin. Work relations are professional, most of us have a job to do, often for corporations. Our relations are defined by this context. In my mind these relations are represented by the 'connections' of Linkedin. Want to network, self profile, discuss business, further business, recruit, apply for a job ... go to Linkedin. Work has its boundaries. Linkedin defines this. Things become messy and complicated when the professional steps onto the personal.

Next comes 'friends'. Ideally Facebook is where I would like to connect with them. Remember we are the mid thirties generation. We don't have the time to physically 'hang out'. Web 2.0 is tailor made for us. Problem is that Facebook profiles are public. What works for it goes against it too. I might define friends as "Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with". But the truth is that you have people from work - clients, colleagues, suppliers - those who want to 'network' creeping into your private space of Facebook. Or voices from the hoary past. Whom you might often not recognise as more than a name or a roll number in college or school. Or even less. And strangers - 'mutual friends' - who don't even bother to give a word of introduction but want to be friends. Well, I really doubt if 'friends' could number into hundreds, forget thousands.

And then comes 'food enthusiast'. Finely Chopped is my blog where I hold forth on food. But then blogs are meaningful, weighty, broadcast mediums, not as interactive as Facebook. So I would put a number of food updates on Facebook which might not be on the blog. Then I realised that not all my friends are foodies. Jibes of 'how much do you eat' were common. Which I could understand. After all I don't see the point of those who flood my Facebook pages with songs, ads or worse, internet management and marketing news retweets. To each his or her own. Who am I to judge if you surf the net for work and not porn.

Plus there were unfortunately some pure work contacts in FB. Folks whom I didn't want to actively broadcast my life to. Which is different from them stumbling onto my blog. My blog's not anonymous. That's a call I took and am comfortable with. Just don't want to be seen broadcasting stuff. That's needy

And so my Facebook page was born. With some help from fellow blogger and virtual friend, Pree. I am a tech dinosaur after all. This is a place for food 'lovers' to collect. I don't like the word 'obsessed'. If you like food and people who like food then this is the place to be. Here you will find lots of food. Meals. Recipes. News. Dreams. And a barrage of it. You can choose to be here if you are fine with it. Or, you could choose to not 'like' it. This is not the place to be if food bugs you. As they say, "you shouldn't be in the kitchen if you can't stand the heat".

And here's some geeky stuff on my Facebook experiences for those who came to this post because of an interest in social media rather than food.

  • Finely Chopped, the blog, got about 102 followers after around 2.5 years on Blogspot
  • 100 odd followers after about a year on Twitter
  • 183 'likes' after about 2.5 weeks on Facebook. And daily page views on Finely Chopped went up by about 30 per cent after I opened the Facebook page
I guess amongst the three, Facebook is the best way to connect and broadcast with people of our demographic. The blessed 'Networkers' know that. Pity.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The gravediggers ... Mumbai ravaged

There was a slightly old Economic Times lying around in our bedroom. I glanced upon what was written on it as I was tidying up. The article was about Gollman Sach's take on the BRIC countries. 'I' standing for India. And how these would dominate the word even faster than earlier predicted.

Those of us who work in multinational companies would have possibly come across the spiel about how India is the future and how everyone's excited about the 'India story'. You would have heard the same people going gaga about the service in Jet Airways when they come here. And you are probably reading this post on a state of the art laptop or phone. The latest the world has to offer.

But a look out of the window of your home, office or car shows a very different world outside. And I am not even talking about the in your face poverty. Poverty we have learnt to blank ourselves to. Poverty which bothers us only when an Irishman refers to it while winning making an Oscar winning film.

I am talking of the traffic which gets worse by the day. The sheer lack of civic planning. Monstrous, ungainly flyovers coming up. Walkways which noone will use. Roads being dug for the Metro. And pilars being put up for the monorail. Yes, we are a city in a hurry. But does it all have to be at the same time?

The dust, destruction, construction and desolation gives you the feeling of a war ravaged city. Not that of a city which is the commercial capital of the 'future'. One look at any Asian city, I am not even talking of those of the developed West, and one realises the need for a reality check.

The simplest and most recent example of this insensitivity and lack of civic planning is the Bazar Road beside Balaji restaurant at Hill Road, Bandra. This is a narrow road which connects Bandra to the Sea Link. A road which many take to office in the morning.

Well if you go half way down the road these days you will find that it is closed. In which case you will have to turn back in this single laned road and the result is almost as chaotic as the Indian Parliament in session. Now I am sure that there is a good enough reason to shut the road. But why not put a sign warning people at the beginning of the lane? The simplest thing then would be to turn and take the Mehboob Studio exit.

But then, as T would say, 'where are the hardships'?

My teachers in school used to say that I was a day dreamer. That I would not pay attention to what was happening in class. That I would be lost in my own world. But I must admit that even I am not enough of a dreamer to see any hope amidst the rubble.

It's time to get real.

I know it's Maharashtra Day today. But before you say 'get back to where you belong' and all that stuff let me go on record saying that I am really fond of, and attached to the city. I would speak up for it any day. But I also know that most of us have been badly let down by those who matter. As Forrest Gump would say, that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

'Gai-eem' ... life on a treadmill

It's been a cruel summer. And the heat has made people do strange things. Like join a gym in my case.

I am no stranger to the word of gyms (note to self: the surprise element should come at the end of a post). From akhara like non air conditioned places to the college gym which I think had the same equipment which Netaji had used to strengthen his legs before he kicked the Brit prof down the Presidency stairs to suave gyms at Mumbai and fancy ones in luxury hotels. Then my back gave in during a holiday and I got an excuse to stay away. But I would look at gyms occasionally. Especially when I would see the disturbingly rotund figures of food show hosts on Indian TV channels. Very different from the Bourdains the Majumdars and the Chins.

Checked with my Ortho. My last hope. The cherubic and corpulent gent smiled and said "of course you can go".

So I did a round of local gyms a few idle Saturdays back. Was hounded with SMSs and calls from them since. Two months free. Eight months free. Partner free. If you don't have a partner we will get you one and split the costs. No man has been wooed the way I was.

A mid week holiday. Another idle day. Heat wave. And I landed at the gym closest to mine. "OK, what the hell." 

"Yes sir you can join from today. Right now please."

I have a feeling that I heard something pop in the background and the whoosh of streamers and ribbons.

Then fate rushed in for the rescue. The credit card didn't work.

"No problem sir. You can pay later.


"Please change your shoes. Our head trainer is here for you."

Fate kicked in again. An irate client call. Which ended after more than ten minutes. Sorry but the consumer is just not that into you. And I finally made my entry into the floor.

Twenty minutes of treadmill. And then the cross trainer. Very 'cross' it kept flashing 'stride faster' on the screen. Hey I am not eighteen any more. And you are a machine not Artoo Detoo.

I went downstairs. The original trainer had disappeared. I caught onto a podgy lady in uniform. We soon established that she didn't speak English. I switched to Hindi. And soon established that this was her first day ever in any sort of gyms. She walked with me from machine to machine. Looked at the diagrams and tried to get me to replicate what the stick figure was doing. And so her journey of discovery continued for more than an hour. With each machine she looked happier and happier. I think the stick figure in the illustrations won her heart.

It was well past lunch and I was getting hungry. The gym guys decided to throw in some motivation. Now its quite likely that you could bump into a celeb if you walk into a gym at Bandra. That happened and the gentleman in question was fairly close to being an A lister. Though guys, the size zero end of the pair he belonged to, would work better for me.

I finally trudged out. Met the front desk lady. Pointed out the disconnect between someone who is discovering gyms being a trainer for someone who needs special care for his back and walked out having a found out a reason not to go back.

No such luck. She ran behind me and said that the manager wanted to meet me. Apologies were offered. I was told that this was an exception and that 'real' trainers were in in a Wednesday meeting. Guidance of a phyiso was promised. And of real trainers. And expectations to see me the next day were evinced.

I checked the menu at the snack bar. And left for home. Must come back to try the chicken sandwich.

Note: 'Gai-eem' is how Homer Simpson read the three letters,  G-Y-M, which he had never come across before in his life.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dada's Gang of Boys

"The best way to ignite Saurav is to write him off" Steve Waugh

The other day K was referring to a couple of friends of ours as 'Tendulkar Fanatics'.

I said that it is easy to be a Tendulkar fan. He scores oodles of runs. Acclaimed by all. Owns most personal cricket batting records.

In fact you actually have to be fanatical to be a Saurav Ganguly fan in my opinion. Consider the evidence. A man with patchy performances. Glorious at his best. Farcical at his worst. Often inconsistent. You always have your heart in your mouth when Dada bats. You have no idea what he will dish out. And over the last years its often not been much. While, as many point out, Tendulkar's still going on like a well oiled machine.

I had met a gaggle of fellow thirty plus Bengalis a few days back. The most consistent support group of Ganguly. In contrast to Ten whose supporters cut across clans and countries. We asked ourselves about why we Bengalis support Ganguly. Even when he is obviously a spent force. Why do we let the heart rule over the brain? And then, in a larger context, why do all our heroes belong to the past?

Well the fact is that most Bengali heroes belong to a time when we were in our diapers. Uttam Kumar? No more. Satyajit Ray? No more. Kishore Kumar? No More. Plus they all belong to the word of cinema. There has not been any national politician of note from Bengal post independence. Pranab Babu remains a Man Friday. 

The sporting cupboards of Bengal are equally bare. Dalhousie Institute boy, Leander Paes, did well for himself. But tennis doesn't work in Calcutta. And despite much trying one couldn't discover any Bengali gene in Pele or Maradona. The fact is that Saurav Ganguly remains probably the only Bengali player of significance to have played for India.

And Ganguly is not any ordinary player. Yes, he had his cricketing moments. But more importantly he has spunk. An in your face attitude. He wears his heart on his sleeves. There is a sense of bravado in his demeanour. A willingness to take the fight to the opposition. A fighter.

There are many positive values associated with Bengalis. Love for art. Ability to think. Creativity. Culinary skills. Mishti. Ability to write. Rabindra Sangeet. But, a Bengali would probably not be your companion of choice if you got into scrap with someone.

We are the thinking race. We plan. We debate. We ponder.

We don't get into fist fights.

Ganguly changed it all. Here was a Bengali who walked with a swagger, his collars up, taking on the world, in a Quixotic manner at times. The last time a Bengali did that was Mithunda in B Subhash movies. And those acts were scripted.

So suddenly there was a whole lot of us who began to root for Ganguly. Like Danny De Vito in Twins, we puffed up our chests and said, 'you mess with me you mess with my family"

Add to this the fact that there was noone else to revere. Contrast this with say a Delhi who has Sehwag and Gambhir. Or a Bangalore which had Kumble, Srinath, Dravid, Prasad. We had one hero and we hung onto him with our dear life.

So Dravid loses the Bangalore captaincy to Pieterson. No problem. Laxman shown the bird by the Deccan Chargers. No problem. Yuvraj and Punjab. Ditto.

But drop Ganguly from the Indian team and the whole of Eden jeers Dravid and team India. Take away the KKR captaincy from Ganguly and SRK was left without a single Bengali supporting his team in IPL II.

Sounds strange?

But then have you considered our options?

Photo credit: Caesar Ceasar

Talking of  Tendulkar Fans do check out this lovely Facebook Note by Harshad on Tendulkar.

Here's the text in case you can't access it.

"I was in school and hated chemistry and lost the tug of war game and took my bleeding hands home and you batted for me.

I felt the high and had my first crush and I was trying to make sense of what was happening to me and you batted for me.

I sprouted a moustache and spent vacations in Pune with my long departed grandpa and loved every match you played and you batted for me.

I went to art school and made new friends and learnt new tricks and mixed new colours and you batted for me.

I saw a big riot happen and cities burned and my city was bombed very badly and we were all scared and you batted for me.

I sat through two day exams and poster colours cost five bucks and Mafco lassi four and you batted for me.

I got cable TV and foreigners were on my screen and MTV happened and Baywatch happened and you batted for me.

I shaved off my moustache and saw Shahrukh Khan rise and Amitabh fall and Madhuri retire and Amitabh rise again and you batted for me.

I fell in love and out of love and graduated and looked ahead at my brand new dreams and held a bat for the last I remember and you batted for me.

I created my first ad and my chest swelled with pride and I felt grown up now as I earned my pay and you batted for me.

I voted for Vajpayee and he became prime minister and India went nuclear and Kargil blew up and you batted for me.

I sat along with the country and a storm hit a desert and then you hit the storm and you batted for me.

I did many ads and changed many jobs and won my awards and you lost your dad and yet you batted for me.

I saw heroes fall and your game was defamed and all else fell down and you batted for me.

I lost my dog and I cried and I cried and I gave up non veg and you batted for me.

I saw 9/11 happen as did the rest of the world and the world changed forever and you batted for me.

I went abroad for the first time to Sri Lanka and you were there and then to Australia and you were bigger there and you batted for me.

I was in office and we friends bonded over you and we screamed ourselves hoarse on the streets and fluttered the flag as you ripped through Shoaib and you batted for me.

I made newer friends and newer enemies and every now and then you walked out on the ground and then all of us together camped around the office TV and you batted for me.

I got better pay and I bought my first car and a new house and a new LCD to go and on it too you batted for me.

I saw my city and your city held under a siege and great heroes were born and you batted for me.

I saw people lose jobs and not lose their hopes and the world was now a far tougher place and you batted for me.

I came back home from some really tiring work and a child in my building called me uncle and I put on the TV and you were there and you batted like I was still in school and like the world had not moved and you batted for me."

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Golden years? Yeah right!

If you are in your mid thirties then you would possibly be at a stage where you see your family elders growing old. Parents. Grandparents. Ailments. Debilitating at the worst. Scary at the least. Heart wrenching in most cases. You would probably feel it more because this is the time when many of us move out of the more selfish and self obsessed twenties to the domesticated thirties.

There is nothing as painful as to see those who have brought you up, protected you, helped you stand, picked you up, nurtured you, beginning to tremble themselves. Nothing as deadly as to listen to the feeling of doubt in their voices. To detect the hidden fear and anxiety when they talk. To imagine their unsteady steps. To hear about their obstacle ridden lives.

Health ailments are so frustrating. You can't do anything against nature. There are things that even money can't fix. And we are not talking of common colds, the odd bloated feeling or a little pimple here and there. Failing vision, weakening hearts, knees that give away, lungs that refuse to breathe, minds that refuse to remember, hands that refuse to stay still, bodies which refuse to get up ... you just sit and watch. Helpless.

It's even worse if you live in another city. A reality in today's migratory world.

And the amazing thing is that when you call them up, they put their aches and pains behind and enquire about your well being and your life. You always come first to them.

We have some standards to live up to.

Here's to everyone who has a grandparent, parent, family elder suffering. Here's hoping that they get better. That they feel strong. That they sleep well.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Whose Queen is it anyway?

One tends to hear a lot of English when one moves around in Bandra, the posh suburb of Mumbai. Especially during the rare occasions when one goes to walk at Carter Road. The mind tends to wander and eavesdrop on others as one walks aimlessly in a straight line.

I would safely say that more than ninety per cent of the conversations one overhears happen in English. All sorts of 'English'. From prim and propah Queen's to Bombaiya Slumdog pidgin to LOL Twitter chirps. In accents which would make Bernard Shaw's Henry Higgins roll his shirt sleeves up in glee.

The accents floating around are fascinating. You have a very American FRIENDS twang which seems most ludicrous on young brown skins to English with heavy Indian regional accents.

The world of politics is a good example of the latter. You recently had Dada and Didi (Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee) presenting the National and Railway budgets. Both were pilloried by many, including embarrassed Bengalis, for their heavy Bengali accents. You have our professorial Prime Minister slipping into the occasional Punjabi 'aaward'. The Amar Singhs and Lalu Yadavs with their North Belt English. And even the erudite Mr Chidambaran with a slightly ponderous Tamil lilt.

Funnily there are a set of politicians who speak a fairly 'unaccented' English. They spend most of their time in the studios of English TV news channels. Far removed from running the country.

But then what is 'unaccented' English in an Indian context? For the pre independence generation it would be English as taught by the British. Think Nehru's Tryst with destiny and you will know what I mean.

For folks like me who grew up in the eighties, it would be what I like to call as 'NDTV English'. Best exemplified by Dr Prannoy Roy and his World this Week . But how 'pukka' is this accent? Won't it stick out like a sore thumb in BBC's London, CNN's Washington, Sydney and other places which claim English to be their own?

A sobering thought the next time one marvels at someones 'funny' accent.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

My name is immaterial

Pali Hill is considered to be one of the poshest addresses in Mumbai. This is in Bandra. Considered to be the poshest and most expensive suburb in Mumbai. You have all the Khans and Kapoors living here. I suspect that the tax collections from this suburb is amongst the highest in Mumbai.

Yet it took me close to twenty five minutes to drive down from the base of Pali Hill to Bandra P O which is less than a kilometre away on Saturday morning.

Chaotic traffic. Cars tottering like battered prize fighters. Autos whizzing past like mosquitoes. Pedestrians crawling all over except on the footpath. And people dragging handcarts oblivious to all. Not a policeman in sight. What really livened up the madness was the fact that roads had been dug up. There was no advance notice. So you reached your turning and realised that you could no go further as the road was dug up. You had to turn back into the snaking traffic. You would be really lucky if the person opposite you had the sense, patience and manners to wait and give way. In most cases you would be faced by people refusing to give you a square inch. The fact this made everyone go deeper and deeper into a black hole of traffic induced inertia be damned.

Did I say there were no cops? There was a posse outside Globus cinema guarding SRKs film from Goebell's Sena.

All that the rest of us could hope for is to get drunk on the' spirit of Mumbai' and sleep off our Saturday

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Bombay to Goa ... Lost in translation

This happened on the drive down North Goa yesterday. We were heading to the airport to catch our flight back to Mumbai. A nice air conditioned Wagon R (Rs 50 more for AC) and a very sweet, young Goan driver. A local Hindu, nicknamed Sam.

I slowly woke up midway and began to stretch after the coconut tree induced snooze. Suddenly Sam spoke out of the blue.

Sam: Sir, where are you from?

Me: Bombay (I normally use the M word on the blog)

Sam: Oh. Er what is happening to the new Shah Rukh Khan film? Will it get released?

(I am used to this. Years back on hearing I am from Mumbai, folks in Bangladesh had asked me when the then new SRK film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain was going to release!)

Me: Well from the news it seems so.

Sam: The Sena is opposing, no? What is the problem?

Me: Well from what I know they are protesting because he wanted Pakistani players in his IPL team

Sam: So the Pakistanis won't play now

Me: No, I don't think so. Plus they can't hire more players now

Sam: This Shiv Sena makes life in Bombay difficult no?

Me: (wan smile)

Sam: I heard that they are like terrorists. They break everything all the time

Me: Well not 'all the time'. I wouldn't call them terrorists

Sam: But what is their problem?

Me: They have a central belief. They protest when things go against them. Actually there are two parties. One is Shev Sena. The other is... (I actually forgot the name of MNS at that point) the Sena

Sam: Oh, life in Bombay is tough

(My face became even sadder at the thought of the short holiday coming to an end)

But, what happened there? Did I just bat for the Shiv Sena. I guess being largely off booze and red meat at Goa made me delirious.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mumbai Road Rage

It took me close to two hours to drive the twelve odd kilometres from Chinchpokli to Bandra after work at Mumbai this evening. I took to the wheels of my new car for the first time after I returned from a weekend in KL and its regulated traffic and empty roads. I am without a driver again.

My spanking new expensive car with ergonomic seats and super suspension couldn't prevent my back from giving in today after the drive. I was so disoriented when I returned from my drive from hell that I almost put my socks in the garbage bin instead of in the laundry basket. So why am I writing instead of resting my back? I am writing because I am angry. Very angry. And the pain doesn't let me forget my anger.

Angry at the fact that I live in a city where I have to pay the highest road taxes, the highest for fuel, highest for rent and then have to go through this. Roads broken everywhere. Multiple constructions going on in every road of this cursed city. Metro, Monorail, flyovers, concreting, sky walks ... more projects at the same time than the number of women Tiger Woods had at one go. Some of them such as the walkways are a joke meant for construction guys and netas to beat the recession.

And then there are jaywalkers. That's the first thing which struck me after my weekend in KL. How pedestrians just take over the road and jauntily wave a finger at you asking you to stop. You spend huge sums of money to buy more bhp, cubic centimetres, more power, space and then move at the speed which would make a bullock cart driver seem like a F1 racer. And before you get all socialistic on me...there is enough space on our pavements. And traffic lights are there for a reason.

Then I came back, switched on the telly and what do I see? The principle opposition party taking on a film star who wants to hire Pakistanis for his cricket team. And the crown prince of the ruling party reminding all that commandos in 2611 had come from North India. I don't know what Major Unnikrishan's father would say about it. But the crown prince seemed to have forgotten that the commandos could have come earlier if his then Home Minister didn't want to hitch a ride on the flight for a photo op. And the 'Cousin'? I have it on good authority that there were both people who speak the local language and those who don't who were stuck in this evening's traffic. And then there was the gem that the police at Pune are going to come down on PDA during V Day. Splendid. Now all we need to hope is that Kasab's classmates come in holding hands. We will be safe then.

And don't give me the argument that the middle class doesn't vote and don't deserve to complain. I voted for the last two elections once I got my name on the lists here.

Don't give the argument, "shut up or ship out you outsider". I have lived in this city for ten years. Folks need to understand that every global city grows because of their mix of native talent AND immigrant talent. Often from across borders. Would Mumbai be as big in the corporate world, films, advertising, fashion, electronic media, if it wasn't for people who had come from outside and made it its home? Neither is exclusive. The locals build the base. And fresh blood helps the city grow. We can accept this fact of life. Or we can be like the cities across India which everyone pooh poohs.

From traffic to the outsider issue.... I know that it's a hyper leap but the point I am trying to make is that there are enough real issues here - traffic, water, pollution, housing, drunken driving, rats, terrorism. It's surprising that our polity have the time to dream up the sort of ridiculous issues which they live by. But I guess that is our lot. They will fiddle. And we will burn..

Drunken driving? It's driving here which will lead you to drink

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Murder .... Drunken driving

There's been one more drunken driving accident at Mumbai. It happened last night. Two people dead. More injured. Not the driver though. Two innocent people. Bystanders. The details of this case are not important. Drunken driven as an act is such a shame. Avoidable and condemnable.

Hearing about the two who died really makes you think about the futility of life. Neither one knew when they woke yesterday that it was going to be there last day on earth. The years of joy, trial and tribulations of life cut to an end due to no fault of theirs.

Drunken driving is one of the most lethal things one can do. I am not pontificating from a pedestal. We all take risks with our lives. One does things that the doctors say are harmful. But drunken driving puts others at risk. Kills people. That is just not on.

Is it that difficult to take a cab back home? Worst comes to worst, if you have your car, and not a driver, then you could even leave your car behind and pick it up the next day.

I know that is not the most eloquent of posts. Sometimes the gravity of what happened says it all.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Musty Majestic Mumbai

I love getting lost in old Mumbai.

I was there for a short while today as I had a meeting near Bombay Hospital. Enough to get the heartbeat racing.

The art deco of the refurbished Metro cinema. The majestic crumbling facade of Crawford market. Parsi reading rooms. Irani Cafes ... Sassanian Boulangerie and Keyani. Punjab Hotel, Kashmir Hotel and New Bengal Lodge from a time when the Indian federation was being formed. Shops with quaint names and calligraphy from another age. All sitting like Miss Havisham waiting for her Prince Charming.

There is a sense of romance in the old city which the ruins, disrepair, dust and grime cannot hide. A beauty which makes you proud of belonging to this city.

Long standing plans to come on a Sunday with a camera are remembered. Fresh plans to come to Sassanian Boulangerie for kheema pao are made.

And then the cab ride back to spreadsheets, numbers, team motivation and client satisfaction.

I hope that the old city doesn't become the foundation for skyscrapers if and when India becomes a superpower. I hope that someone has the love and patience to nurture, restore and give life to the grand dame that we all so love.

We don't need to look far for inspiration. Look at how beautifully Istanbul has married the old and the new. And how they have restored Taksim Square to a harmony of modernity and heritage.

You mean to say that we can't do the same and better?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Last Christmas ...dumped on New Year

Gosh, it was just July when I wrote about our driver woes. I had put a comment about a chubby, affable driver who had just joined us. He turned out to be a good find. Drove properly. Often bunked but not to the point of desperation. Polite. Round. We used to refer to him as 'The Great Salami'. Simon Majumdar's moniker for his brother.

Cut to the first morning of this year. We woke up bleary eyed when the bell rang at ten. It seemed as if we had just gone to bed after bringing in the new year. My hair looked like a balding porcupine's as I dragged myself to the door.

I opened it and saw that there was a thin, lanky guy waiting outside. His words finally registered through the haze of the previous night's good cheer. The Great Salami, who took his salary a day in advance, had apparently quit! The thin, lanky guy worked for a neighbour and came to apply for the job. TGS had apparently sent him.

I couldn't think of a worse morning after scenario. I slowly realised that we had been dumped on the first day of the year. The first day of the decade. And what hurt was that he didn't even say goodbye. That I had to hear it from someone else. Hungover. Jilted. Baulking at the prospect of meeting the family to make merry in a few hours.I closed the door on the thin guy's face.

A nice lunch at Kamling with the in laws. A cab ride back to Bandra in the sweltering heat. An afternoon nap late in the evening and better sense prevailed. I called the thin guy and took a test drive.

Me: What cars have you driven before?
Thin guy: Sir I drove for your neighbours (sister and bro in law of a Bollywood starlet who owns the house). Before that I drove for Sameera Reddy (a smaller starlet, in terms of career credits)
Me: What routes have you driven in?
Thin guy: "I drove for Sameera Reddy. Before that I drove Kaizad Gustad (a controversial Bollywood director who went Boom)"

Well I did recently ask a female lead in a recent avant garde film whether the seats beside her were taken in Gloria Jean's. I don't know if that redeemed us enough in the eyes of our filmi driver. Thankfully the thin guy joined us despite our lack of any obvious tinsel town affiliations.

So there you are. New year. New driver.

Would you call this a clean break up? I don't know. I still wish that The Great Salami has at least given me some sign when he took his salary in advance. Or had at least returned my calls.

Let's see how long the rebound works.