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Happy New Ear

“We have to. Its part of the tradition”, says my mom.  With so much love. 
To fact that our one year old daughter will be tonsured and have her ear pierced is something that we were reconciled to, but haven’t been able to come to terms with. 
“Will it hurt?” Asks the missus. 
“Well, you are the one that wants it and besides, wears the earring. Some recollections would help”. I quip. Half in jest.  But only half.  
For the missus has already bought a variety of fancy earrings just for the little one.  Each purchase warranting a special trip and intimate analysis and design that if it were applied to other matters like economics, for instance, would have won her a Nobel Prize and pulled the world out of recession! 
 ‘We’ll do the ‘Gun-shot’ thing’. The missus adds. “It’s quick. Non messy. And relatively less painful”. 
I can say for sure that the missus has done the research, looked up the web, watched countless YouTube videos, checked with the doc and is ready to go.  Yet, the notion of pain is difficult for her to take. For me too. 
“And may I ask”, I persist, “what does ‘relatively-less-painful’ mean”? Silence engulfs the room.  And returns whenever we discuss the topic. 
The tonsuring is something that we think will go off easy. The ear piercing is a different matter altogether.  I am all super duper anxious. Mildly put.  So is the missus. 
That was a month ago. 
Today, in the morning, the tonsuring was done.  A small family ceremony. Ancestral home. Eager beaver relatives. Garlands. Prayers. And such else. She wailed and wailed. Seated on one of her grandpa’s laps and under the watchful eyes of another, locks of hair kissed the stone floor as a practiced hand worked to perfection. 15 minutes was all it required. 
Her wailing continued till the time she discovered that her head was indeed a nice round thing to touch, play and laugh!  She was ever so cheerful after that! Its evening now.  We are now at a beauty parlour for the ear piercing business. The traditional way of piercing ears has been negotiated out of.  This one, we were promised ‘would be over in a minute’.  
“Will it hurt”. I ask. Tentatively.
The young lady at the beauty parlour smiles, as she walks in with a small contraption and a set of other instruments. .  “Are you her dad”, she asks. I nod. 
She smiles. “Slightly”. She says.  She has handled many fathers, I can tell. 
“But then, she will have a new pair of ears”. She adds and surveys the ear. Cursory instructions are passed on how to hold her. She could well have been saying ‘one more kilo of potatoes please’. But her confidence had a calming effect. 
In a brief while, the first shot is fired.  Screams engulf the room.  A lump that is larger than the rock of Gibraltar sits in my throat.
In a jiffy the second shot is fired.  She lets off another volley of wails. She is in pain. Or maybe the discomfort. Or perhaps she wasn’t held well. Whatever. Tears well in my eyes. 
I notice that the missus is in tears already.  The beauty parlour lady smiles. And says, ‘done’.  
I am glad it’s over. I grab our little girl and whizz out of the room. On to the road and let the others do whatever else remains to be done like settling the bill and such else. She is still wailing.  I try to calm her down. I sing. I show her the bikes and cars on the road. I even pull my tongue out, which mildly amuses her every time.  She is in no mood to be amused today.  
On a whim, I peep into the rear view mirror of a parked bike. 
For the first time, she sees her ears. And the new additions to those lovely lobes. The wailing gradually stops.  Curiosity makes its stealthy march. After an elaborate fifteen seconds or so, of intense staring into the mirror, a smile escapes her lips. 
I shake my head and say, “Congratulations on a new pair of ears”.  A few babbles and cackles escape her mouth. I have a strange feeling she understood what I said. 
I sigh. A big sigh. Of relief.  I hold her and say, ‘Happy New Ear’. She still is looking into the rear view mirror. 
I wrote this post for www.parentrous.com. It first appeared there ! 



It was quite a sight. A sight that is not a regular one at that. You can see a parade of cars. A convoy of jeeps. A bevvy of bikes. But then, what do you do when you are walking down a road and you see a set of donkeys walking by. In big city Mumbai!
First the eyebrows arch. Then seeing the number, the mouth goes open. But the sight of them all being deployed to carry construction material gets the mouth to stay open. 
As an city dweller who has been part of the technology revolution, the mobile phone is phished out from the pocket and a couple of snaps result. The sight of construction workmen with harnesses, helmets walking in near formation with a set of donkeys was something that the camera could barely manage to capture. 
Growing up in a smaller city, the sight of donkeys carrying sack loads of clothes to the laundry was common.  These days the donkeys with four legs are a rarity. 
As the donkeys walk by, there are a set of people having the tea break from work. Fashionable. Young. Creative folks, perhaps. At the local tea stall.  They sit and watch the donkeys pass.  They watch the donkeys unmindful of the pair of eyes that are watching them watch the donkeys. Erudite people. One of them asks, with a pronounced drag of a half done cigarette. “What is the collective noun for donkeys”?
A discussion ensues. Pride. Convocation. Army. It continues. They laugh. Giggle. One of them offers to look up Google. But then, the cigarette is done. Last  droplets of tea to wash down the conversation flows down their alimentary canals. Dusting their behinds they walk off towards their work places. ‘Forget the donkeys. We have to face the asses now’. They say. Grim faced, they walk away. The world is ruled by sign off lines. 
If any of them is reading this post, well, the collective noun for donkeys is : ‘drove’. Or ‘herd’. Or ‘pace’.  
Of course, this  piece of information on collective nouns, is useful to all of us in the country at this point in time. There are so many donkeys all braying out aloud, that reminding ourselves of a collective noun will well help us bunch them together, complete sentences properly and get on with life. 
No, there isnt anyone particular in the mind. There are hordes. Oh no. There are droves of them.  

Happy New Year

It’s a brand new year. May it bring with it quiet resolve and constant love.  May 2013 be the year when each of us pulled all of us to a higher plane!  May there be abundance of health, love and cheer in our lives. May our outlooks get powered by that sense of ‘abundance’. 

May there be peace. May goodness be our permanent companion and fairness be our passport to higher order. And let there be challenge just enough to strengthen our backs and solidify our resolve.

May there be laughter. Dance. May there be reading. And writing. And an unwavering spirit. To take our collective futures, forward!

May our children grow stronger. Drawing strength from the resolve of their character rather than the weight of a bank balance. May they learn to see, appreciate life, living and giving. May they see a life that has a greater end than pointless effort and mindless competition. Oh yes, may we see it too!

May our worlds emerge far clearer, when we take stock at the end of the year. May our lives resonate with a spirit of having made a difference to someone. Or to someplace. Or to something !

If that sounds like a tall order, perhaps we should leave it at a simpler wish for all of us: a renewed energy to stay happy pursuing our passions and passing on some cheer. May we stop to say thank you to folks like Walt Disney who said, “Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age and dreams are forever.” 
May this year be the year that we lit a lamp to dispel the darkness, and from the depth of the shadows may there emerge a billion stories. Of how ‘better was possible’ because we tried. 

Happy new year! 

Whats with the dabba business ?!?

At a business conference, the other day,  a question was posed. ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

The simplest of human desires can translate into the tallest of a business propositions.  Isnt it true to every single discipline of life?

The desire for travel from point A to point B has spewed horses, horse carriages, cars, bigger cars and these days has even sent Curiosity across to Mars!  From the desire to cloth oneself to having a roof overhead, to showing love to the cat on the corner right upto inventing robots with a soul, new industries have sprung with a frequency of a 3rd grade scam exposed by a fourth grade TV channel ! 

Each industry providing for suits, boots, countless strategies, long meetings arranged in an amiable ambiance with appropriate snacks, and consultants adding ‘value!  Being part of the circus doesn’t mean the clown cant have a good laugh at the circus ! And regular readers know me too well! 

Well, well, well,  such stuff makes the world go around. Doesn’t it. 

The Dabbawallahs of Mumbai have been written about no end.   There is enough material about them like this and this , that you can use to fill a full MBA course, heaping hapless students with hoary details and hoards of questions. 

Their offering is simple. They get you YOUR home cooked food. On time. And port your lunch box home, while you can walk with a free hand. For a small fee..  That’s the business model.  Its done to scale though. 

[Wikipedia says : In 2002, Forbes Magazine found its reliability to be that of a six sigma standard. More than 175,000 to 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, they make less than one mistake in every 6 million deliveries, despite most of the delivery staff being illiterate]

How simpler can it get? To think that ‘eating a hot, fresh, home cooked meal everyday at work’ can generate a unique business opportunity and stand for the ingenuity of a city is remarkable isn’t it ! 

Not to mention the methods that they have deployed and the fame has followed. Consider the acclaim!  6 Sigma ratings. Invitation by royalty. Mentions by management gurus. Film makers and the rest. Thankfully, the Dabbwallahs themselves haven’t let any of this affect them. To this day, home cooked lunch gets to Mumbai’s office goer on time. Every day.

Much has been packed into boxes about their unique methodology that they deploy to do this. With a simple system of marking and a assortment of handcarts, bicycles, innovative hand / head carts  and a legion of men can be spotted on any active day, walking the streets with a colourful range of lunch boxes. 

And coming back to the meeting where my rambling started.  It was one of these conferences where  the natty suits amble about with a sense of importance.  The gentleman paused and asked with a certain sense of certainty that only accompanied me when I knew what question will be asked the next day in the Physics exam : ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

Timeliness. A tenacity of surviving Mumbai traffic everyday. The ability to memorise so many addresses. Dedication. Passion. Customer service.  And all other stuff that would exemplify a consultant’s vocabulary was spoken with charm, elegance and an equanimity. As though they were squeezed out of the same toothpaste!  

By then I was already operating on the fringes of my mental capabilities to process pedantic stuff. 

Come on, I thought. To carry an array of lunch boxes knowing fully well that a mouth watering spectrum that could arouse every conceivable taste bud was within arms reach, yet to go and deliver it to people in opaque buildings and omnipresent business houses !?! 

Now that if that is not tough, what is !?! 

Those Three Magical Words !

You give me all of 20 minutes. That’s it ? All of 20 minutes, to write out a blog post ? And this, after knowing how ‘slow’ i am. what would i do in 20 minutes. 

A post for the anniversary should be ‘proper’ ! You know…! 

I had wanted to write about our life in the last several years, with many pictures and anecdotes of your heroics from each year. After all these years, of course, i have a few stories and events from our lives. 

The bank balance is in no shape to share. But we are richer in our stories though. And that’s one thing to tell. Ones that cracked you up. Others that cracked me up. Yet others that just withered us down. 

Of course, I had made a list of them. I am no good at lists. I know. But this one, i made. OK ? Really.

I thought of swinging a spin. To talk about the ring on your finger that i slipped in years back, losing shine, but the spirit and love just shining through. That would have been neat, i think. 

I had even clicked a very rare picture of you reading The Economic Times, with the hand carousing the Mercedes ad. Now, i haven’t yet quite figured how i would connect up ‘Get Set. Drool’. And now, in 20 minutes, how would i weave that in ? 

It was on my mind to write a few lines about what a sport you have been. In life, and generally too. As i pull your legs and extend it to the blog. And of course i wasn’t going to mention the ‘treatment’ i get post such posts ! 

You bet, a prominent sub-topic, underlined and in blue, would be : acknowledgement of the trials and tribulations of living with a ‘perpetually perplexed’ chap ! 

Khalil Gibran was already looked up, for me to quote on what a delight of a friend and partner that you. In fact here is the link. And heretoo. For some reason, you do not like this man. I was contemplating between quoting him and annoying you. So, you know…there i am. At that at that crossroad. Yet again. 

Of course, in that post, the culinary skills, and the filter coffee would have a deservedly large mention. Of 450 words each. Quite obviously, i wouldn’t have talked about the odd day with extra salt or sugar and such other days that got classified as ‘experiments’. 

There was the other option too. Of a superb post. With mushy romantic stuff and lines stolen from ads and greeting cards. Lines like ‘Oh how you complete me’ ! Stolen, even though i mean it ! In humble acknowledgement of the fact that i cannot be ‘romantic’ to dance around trees with a song, like they do in Hindi movies. And by the way, where are the trees ?

My God, of that twenty minutes that you gave me, eighteen are actually gone. Now what would i do. You give me all of 20 minutes. That’s it. 

All of 20 minutes, to write out a blog post ? And this, after knowing how ‘slow’ i am. what would i do in 20 minutes. The dull dreary chap that i am. I could have done a lot more. But for now, i would leave you with those three magical words. 

Words that set you afire. Magical words, that don’t get purred into the ear, but said in the open. Yes, so this post could have been different. But with the 20 minutes that you gave me, these three words are just about what i can manage….

Its your fault !

PS: This is a replug of a post from 2009. Nothing has changed. Except the number. Oh wait. A few things have indeed changed. Those will await a separate post ! 🙂

Time Travel @ 50 KMPh

The roads of India keep telling you stories. Stories that are tall. Not tall stories.  Small items, objects and articles, that would not merit a cursory second glance from an average citizen anywhere else in the world, are put to such use, that arching eyebrows of designers and makers of such stuff can stay permanently bent with that arch!
To many regular readers this would fall a familiar repetitive rapture of this blog. But hey, what the heck. What is to be celebrated, must be. Wouldn’t you agree ?  There is a world out there that is examining the omissions and commissions of everybody else.  The government. The President. The peons. The cricketer. The blogger. The neighbour.  The antics of the ant getting another loud rant is commonplace.
Every one of them has been examined. Some with magnifying glasses, others with telescopes and all with all with a ubiquitous megaphone! Lets halt right there. 
And lets talk of the moped !
In an earlier generation, if you had the good fortune of riding one, let alone owning one,  you would go after Wikipedia with a toilet broom for such a derogatory description. 
The moped to boys in school, back then, was freedom personified. You didn’t require a driving license. Your school was still not sure if they wanted to call it a bicycle or a motorbike.  And you had power between your adolescent legs. I mean..you know what I mean. So what, if it was only 50 horse power? 
Ofcourse, we will not venture into describing some eager beavers sticking ‘BMW’ stickers and logos on to such agile spacecrafts. BTW, Spacecrafts is a legit name. It was a world bereft of social media and mobile camera phones and BMW never got to know this.  A ton of German drones would have come after us with micro millimeter precision, if only they saw BMW plastered with pride on the broken silencer !
 “Low powered motorcycle” is an achingly insane and insensitive way of telling the truth.  A lame truth.
You had to climb on to the pedal and give it half the yank of a full circle for the engine to kick into life.  For the next several minutes life would be in an in exhilarating fast lane at speeds that would climb all the way to 50 KMPh at full throttle.
Such memories.
As you grow older you tend to outgrow these machines. The loose adolescent skin gets some muscle beneath. Yet the memories stay. 
The mopeds have themselves morphed into becoming important lifelines for several segments of the population.
Like the mom & pop stores and their ‘delivery boys’.  A moped with its strategic space in the front of the seat, is just what the doctor ordered for carrying  bags of rice and a paraphernalia of goods that can feed a family for times to come. Or so it would seem.
But for some silly nostalgic blokes like me, these are spacecrafts of sorts. That transport you to wonder years that never fail to to elicit an escaping sigh. Every time you think of them. 

Speechless in speed

There he was. Unmindful of the sweltering Sun and the svelte women walking by.  Staring into the sky and doing nothing but that. But doing that significantly well. A picture of poise and presence. 

“What will it take for us to do that ?”, I asked. 

“Retirement” she replied. 

I gasped. “Retirement ?!!?”

She was quiet. I figured she was thinking about it.  She added “perhaps in the middle of a long holiday. In  a place where the phones dont work. Not when the holiday starts. Not when its all set to end. But somewhere in the middle”. 

She sighed.  “But you know, long holidays are a privilege of a few”. 

City lifestyles with the comforts of instant coffee, instant photographs, instant ( & incessant) texting, instant delivery, immediate needs, first impressions, instant makeovers all provided by cash spewed from an ‘Any Time Money’ machine or credit cards that work with a swipe, has held sway over us from second to second. One thing to tend to after another! 

Thoughts piled on. 

The universal shortage of empathy, the short shift that kindness and harmony are getting in the spirit of ‘anything goes’ as long as it is ‘super quick’, ‘super fast’, ‘delivered at the door step’ at a ‘decent price’.  

I cleared my throat. Mildly aware that the topic had me started and I was like a heavy monsoon cloud waiting to pour! I

Which is when she said : “I have been thinking of a quick holiday myself”.  The emphasis on the ‘quick’ couldnt be missed.  

The speech which was all set to march like an army on fire, went straight back into the barracks.  

Pretty quickly. I must say.  

The Chinese connection !

The Chinese are coming. I mean, they are already here. Here, there and everywhere else too. They are vending everything from toys to Ganpati statues, to high end Mont Blanc pens. It actually is a mistake to even get into listing stuff they are into, even if its for a sake of citing an example!

For, next to God, the Chinese are everywhere. I have no doubts in my mind, that they have a plan to upstage God too.

Their presence is markedly well known. Any wannabe powers that be, in the media or in the political circle will speak about the ‘China’ factor. The missiles, the economy, the border issue and such else! Which has been around for as long as China and India have been around and is not going to go away anytime soon, at least until some of our newspapers and news anchors are around !

So, lets talk about an even more pervasive Chinese invasion!

There is little space for doubt that the title of ‘national dish of India’ title must go for Gobi Manchurian. Across the country, wherever I have traveled, if there was one sign of national integration, it is Gobi Manchurian !

You could have different clothes, suffer from different politicians, chew and curse on completely different regional media, have customs as different as Orange, Blue and Green ! But ‘Gobi Manchurian’ : is ubiquitously present and unites us all.

To think that a land of a billion people is united by Cauliflower cooked in a Indo-Chinese concoction, taking the name of a geographic region in China can be mind boggling. But thats the truth.

We may fight over North India Vs South India. Or the East Vs West. Outsider Vs Insider! If the dosa scored over the naan. Or for that matter how Makki-di-Roti and Sarosn da Saag score over idly saambar. Those are arguments that never end. (Until the time, ‘Payasam’ comes into the picture. At which point, all discussions cease. At my home, that is).

But, mention ‘Gobi Manchurian’ at any forum! I have only noticed an evolved understanding. A seeming brotherhood of bonding. As people go silent and smack their lips ! Across the country !

It can have its regional variations and can taste completely different in different parts of the country. Ranging from the lovely to the lethal. Yet, the bonhomie it fosters is unfettered !

In one of my travels, I spotted this !

Gobi morphing into Gopi naturally caught my eye! I have a few friends who go by the name ‘Gopi’ and my mind wickedly went to think of sending this picture to them. I was wondering what would an appropriate message be, to accompany this picture ?

‘From Cauliflower to Hot dude – Made in China’. I thought, thinking of item two !

And then, looked at item three on the list. ‘Gopi, the single man jury’, I thought. Then, retracted from sending that SMS. My friend may not be offended. But the Chinese may be and knowing that the Indian governments strict policy is not to offend China, I sent only the picture.

‘Who is this ?’ came the response from two of the three people the message went to. The third friend sent in silence. My friends seemingly had disowned me.

I didnt think much as the Cauliflower settled in my stomach. It was a worthy cause after all. National Integration and all that. With Gobi Manchurian you see !

New Toy!

Returning to the blog world after a clear month. It was an intended vacation. Yes. So, I can claim.

Life has been happening in fast frenzy in the March 2012, that it hasnt marched but rather galloped.

If you are reading this and ask, what have I got to show for all the month of intemperance, well..how about a brand new Canon 60 D ! That hopefully means I will have more topics to blog on, for it is always the stories in the snaps that have brought alive words on the keyboard.

The innocent child. The child in the mothers eyes. The discarded auto. The swanky flat. The old palace. The splendour of the true blue sky and the dark patches in the human spirit ! All have come alive on the blog through pictures !

For a couple of months now, the good old camera has been down and the hunt for a new camera went on with some reading research and awesome conversations. Finally leading me upto a Canon 60D. A friend, overcome with generosity laden stupour has lent me his 18-55 lens and I have become functional ! (The http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/mans-health// world spins on it axis because of such friends I say!)

Frankly, a camera of this order means nothing by itself. Those blokes in fancy cars and sloppy driving skills dot the roads of every city.

For the last couple of days, I have experimented with the camera. Which means, opening the manual and playing with the keys and shooting the twin flowers that I have on my study’s windowsill ! Not to forget a fascinating conversation with a friend who has passion for photography!

So, I have experimented. My experiments could fit the ilk of a new driver testing out a brand new car, with his wife seated next to him! Especially, if has bought the car on EMIs!

Here are some early shots!

The possibilities and options that this camera holds are way too varied and compulsively confusing for me to comprehend in two days. So, I have been experimenting. So much so that post purchase dissonance has been knocking on the door!

But, passive intemperance is out. Active blogging is in. (I resolved to declare that you see). Ok. Whatever !

Thank you for your patience !


When the humdrum of big city life gets the bloated ego to balloon (in addition to the body that is), it is travel to small cities and experiencing a life that is lived at a different rhythm that swings the pendulum back.

Semi-urban India offers a diverse array of uniquely simple folks who go about their lives with so much of ease, quiet and sense of ‘get-on-with-it. Infact that is part of how life is lived normally !

Ofcourse, readers could be more familiar with that life. These scenes have appeared ever so many times in our movies and even more so in discussions on ‘rural empowerment’, ofcourse, set in five star hotels.

In the corporate humdrum dominated city life, sticking-neck-out-plying-of-wares is more of an exercise with an eye on the annual increment and what the ‘boss’ thinks. ( I didn’t intend generalizing, and am sure you the reader can point to several people (including yourself) who are very different. Yet, I guess, the world that I describe is the world that I often see) !

When viewed in a hurry, it is only natural for people to relate to these scenes with the superficiality of what the picture seems to hold and not explore the depths of the story that is pregnant within.

Think about this. When you don’t have a degree to back you up or a set of ‘Key Result Areas’ to confine yourself to while being expected to support the family, provide for the future of children with whatever you have, I guess, you carry a different load in your head. We all will.

Yet! To have no choice but to look forward to everyday. To walk more than 20 KMs with a 10 KG weight on the head. To do this day in day out. Shouting out to customers. Arguing with middlemen, bus conductors and sometimes fellow bus passengers, these folks are such an inspiration to life. These folks are human. And anyone of us could have been them !

Urban settings and offices, call them ‘unskilled labour’. ‘Daily Wages’ is their compensation structure. A twang laden educated air engulfs our collective view of such ‘labour’. An educated air that is devoid of basic http://pharmacy-no-rx.net/viagra_generic.html understanding and respect that one human being could accord another.

And so, I sat there in a bus stop. As ‘small’ farmers, merchants and their wives got down from buses, struck deals with middlemen and sold their wares, in an almost rural setting. There were others who loaded and unloaded and moved about with purpose. Looking at me with curiosity, if at all. They had a job to do Perhaps families to feed, livestock to rear and children to raise.

They balanced the loads on their heads, carried some more in extended arms, hips and parts of the human body which strangely transformed to grooves for holding such stock.

Not for a moment seeking attention, pity or even any physical help. They were proud people going about their daily routines.

I don’t know for how long I sat there. Doing nothing but soaking it all in. Every image registered in the mind. The slow rhythms of life in a small town can be supremely captivating superlatively preparatory for life elsewhere. Especially when the urge to stand and stare rules.

As old women hauled weights that seemed far in excess of the frail frames, I realized that my struggle was not really the most supreme. Infact, some of it appeared rather small. If you are reading this post, we ( you and I ) are perhaps part of a blessed minority. A minority that can read, write, has basic needs taken care of, can access the web and have the capacity for thinking and thought.

Its about time our education and our capacity to think, alters our understanding of weights on other peoples heads. Even as we stick our necks out to reach to a new height at work, may we have it in us to see these weights with new eyes.

May we spread a smile. Perhaps a friendly wave. Even more, a full-throated greeting to the man and woman on the street who have no options but to just ‘get-on-with-it’! Above all this, may we travel and see the ‘exotic’ness of sights that we miss seeing with the heart!

May we all make it large !