Tuesday, August 31, 2004 

What's in a name?

Of late, I've built up quite a name for myself in certain circles. This name is "Gah".

Gah: noun. a. Word or language having no meaning or conveying no intelligible idea b. Language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense c. Synonym for Suhail. First used by SM.

So how did Suhail (as per Birth Certificate), Babloo (in childhood), Suka (in BITS), Kishmish (in WIMWI), IHPT (at work) and SK / SSK (in various fora) now acquire the name "Gah"? Here's how ...

Circa 1990:
(SK = our hero Suhail Kassim, D = his daddy)
SK (leaning out of taxi) : Oooh daddy, look at that group of cows.
D : "Herd of cows".
SK : Of course I've heard of cows.
D : No no, I mean a "cow herd".
SK : So what if a cow heard? I didn't say anything to be ashamed of.
D : Gah !!

Circa June 2004:
GSS (in romantic mood, under canopy of stars) : Suhail darrrling, I love you.
SK : Thanks pal. Even I love myself !!!!
GSS : Gah !!

Circa July 2004:
PN (preening himself) : This is my "Tom Cruise" look.
SK : Ha, so what? It isn't Tom Cruise's Tom Cruise look !!!!
PN : Gah !!

Circa August 2004:
(MTCG = Movie Ticket Counter Guy)
SK (to PN, walking up to the ticket counter) : ... so Coolcat's post is titled, 'Social Service for?'
MTCG : Social Service, four?
SK : Yep, that's what I said.
MTCG : You want 'Social Service', four tickets?
SK : Not exactly, I want social service for the poor, the downtrodden ...
MTCG : 'Social Service' doesn't run in this theater.
SK : Dude, social service hardly runs anywhere in India.
MTCG : Go somewhere else for 'Social Service'.
SK : See, that's exactly what all these rich Indians keep saying ...
MTCG : Here we have 'Dhoom'.
SK : Yaar, dhoom dhamaka nahi chaahiye, gareebon ke liye sirf do waqt ki roti chaahiye.
MTCG : Ok, so no 'Dhoom'. Phir which movie do you want to watch?
SK : Dhoom, of course.
MTCG : ???? Ok, Dhoom. Four tickets?
SK : No yaar, two.
MTCG : Gah !!

Circa last nite:
I dream that Lalooji is attending a World Cow Conference, and he goes, "Gah hamra maata hovat hai. Gah hamka doodh devat hai. Is doodh se rabri banaawat hai. Is liye hamri dharampatni ka naam Rabri hovat hai. Gah ke do pair aage hovat hai aur do pair baad mein aavat hai ... "

So now I've decided to rechristen myself. Can I hear your traumatized voices saying, "Oh my Gah" ... "Gah help us all" ... ???

~ Gah the Great :)


The positive thinking poem

Little birdy in the sky,
I look up and it shits in my eye.
I don't mind and I don't cry,
I just thank God that cows don't fly.


Excerpts from my autobiography

Moi's in the mood to laugh at moi :) So here are some incidents, all true, all at various points in the last one year. Read on :)

Scene 1:

PN, TT and Suhail are sitting in the office. Suhail is working on PN's laptop, takes out "Chameli" CD from the CD drive and tries to put in a floppy !!!!!!

Scene 2:

PN and Suhail in GT Hostel room. Suhail wants to take PN's laptop for work. PN asks Suhail to carry the laptop. Suhail packs the laptop bag and goes from the room. After a while, PN calls from the room: " Abe Suhail kahaan jaa rahaa hai?? Laptop aur charger to table pe pade hue hai !!!!! "

Scene 3:

Suhail and TT in a meeting with DRDO, Jamnagar (IAS Officer). Suhail puts down his pen on the table. After a while, he wants to explain something to the officer. He takes up the IAS Officer's pen and starts explaining. TT offers Suhail his own pen to work with. Suhail does not bother, refuses TT's offer, finishes his argument and puts IAS Officer's pen in his pocket and walks out !!!! DRDO is astonished to find Suhail in his office 2 minutes later, offering his own pen back to him !!!!

Scene 4:

Suhail playing some music on his laptop (finally, his own !!!!) and is listening to some songs.
TT: Suhail, yah to Talat Mahmood hai, Manna De to nahi hai.
Suhail: Yah Manadi (Manna De) Songs kyaa hote hai !!!!

Scene 5:

PN (on a crystal white beach in Mithapur) : How are waves created?
All-knowing Suhail : Ahan ... the earth revolves at velocity v1 while the atmosphere lags behind at velocity v2. v1 minus v2 creates a friction between earth and sky. The water stuck in between becomes angry and creates waves !!!!

Scene 6:

Suhail the Logic God to PN (on the same beach) : Our feet are waterproof, right? So we cannot absorb water through the soles of our feet. That means we are not plants !!!!

Scene 7:

Suhail in varying moods ...

Stratospheric mood: "Everything is okay in the end. If it's not okay, then it's not the end."

Don't care mood: "Rafi ho ya Kishore Kumar / Ki farak pende, mere yaar?"

Optimistic mood: "Duniya mein kitni hai fight / Phir bhi end of the tunnel hai light."

Pessimistic mood: "It's sad. However much I achieve in life, I can never become a nani."


~ The absent minded professor !!!!

Monday, August 30, 2004 

Ze Engleeche Langwidge

Moi loves word games :) Did you know ...
  • No proper English word rhymes with "month"
  • "Queueing" has the most consecutive vowels in the English language
  • "Floccinaucinihilipilifacation" means "Action of estimation as worthless" (If you don't want to join the "What-in-heck-does-the-meaning-mean?" club, please to explain the meaning to moi). It is also, according to the Guinness Book, the longest English word with 29 letters.
  • "Arachybutyrophobia" means "Fear of eating peanut butter sandwich lest the peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth". Now you know what was always bothering you :)
  • "Pantophobia" means ... yep you guessed it :) ... fear of everything!!! Oooh sorry, guess you didn't guess it. Ne'er mind pardner, nice to know you're human too.

And a few cute quotes:

  • Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog it's too dark to read.
  • Life is a waste of time; time is a waste of life, so get wasted all of the time and have the time of your life.
  • No guts, no glory. No brain, same story.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt and children.

Keep smilin' :)


On Raksha Bandhan

An ode to Raksha Bandhan (and no, it's not autobiographical) ...

Ummeed ki imaarat beh gayee
Aankhon se aansu ki nadi beh gayee
Tumhaari kya izzat reh gayee
Jab padosi ki ladki tumhe BHAIYA keh gayee!

It's a beautiful festival nonetheless :)


Ruminating Ramblings

Ahhh at last ... a full weekend in Mumbai. The first in a month. Not bad for a change :)

Blondie had come down en route from Hyde to Ahmedabad. We had a blast sipping litchi smoothies and reminiscencing about the good ol' days, laughing about unsuccessful NID ambushes and imitating all those goofy profs (RaviC - "I am stunned by your intellectual inferiority!", AB - "Consultants are insecure overachievers!"). Was fun-omenal :)

Checked out this play "Heads ya Tails" starring Nandita Das and Sushant Singh. Coming in the immediate wake of light-hearted attempts to enliven the Mumbai theater scene by the hilarious Boman Irani ("I'm not Bajirao") and Rahul da Cunha ("Class of 84", "Pune Highway"), this one turned out to be ultimately serious and profound. Too heavy metal for moi :(

Met DK, she was back from Nagpur for the weekend. Seems like she's actually falling for GSS, and, more importantly, vice versa. Bingo! Notch up another hit for the most successful matchmaker since shaadi dot com. All you unmarrieds and thrice innocent divorcees, pass on your CVs to moi and rest assured in the knowledge that your fate is irrevocably ruined.

Tried out Mini Punjab (their Fish Malwani is yummy) and Zaika (you must go for their Zaika Special Kebab). Both rate a 4/5 on food, though the service and ambience is eminently forgettable.

There's this Mocha Backpackers' Club which I'm gonna join this coming weekend. They have weekly gyan sessions for trekkers and they also organize treks, something most useful for disorganized trek afficionados like moi. Anyone else game?

Wanted to watch Dhoom or Phir Milenge (no, not Kyon ... Ho Gaya Na, heard the storyline's rotten, though how any mortal can focus on the storyline while Ash is on screen is ash-ually beyond my comprehension) with with the gang last nite. Discovered to everlasting regret that both are houseful until next weekend. So slept off early instead. Ho hum. Guten nacht.


So India's 66th at Athens 2004, and last in the world in terms of medals per capita. And had Michael Phelps been a country, he'd have been 16th in country rankings. Cool.

NG goes, "It's an ingrained cultural thingie. We're taught from birth upwards to be non-aggro and polite and let the other guy win." Then he's stumped when we mention Chinese Taipei, which is a Buddhist country -- who can be more non-aggro than that? -- and still wins medals every Olympics.

Still, the scorecard isn't too bad. Lee-Hesh a fighting fourth. Anju Bobby George coming close. Shobha setting a new record for bravery.

Hey, we did win more medals than most of our neighbors. And we do tend to excel in an atmosphere of mediocrity. So not all is lost. Hail SAARC Games ...


Then there was this spoilt-son-of-rich-dad who runs out of pocket money on campus. So he writes to daddy:

"No mon. No fun. Your son."

Shoots back daddy:

"Too bad. So sad. Your dad."

Bwahahahaha ... daddy's da dude :)) Thanks XLRI Class of '74 for providing this snippet from your archives :)


The Junkees seem to be invading Blogland with a vengeance, enmeshing the gossamer fabric of virtual reality with words calculated to flit like the proverbial butterfly and sting like the Queen bee. May the Seenu-Khandu-Suka troika flourish and prosper.


Project Oaks is running along nicely, thank you very much. Six members so far, all involuntary of course. May the tribe increase.

Sugar-coated dreams to ya all :)

Thursday, August 26, 2004 

Stories of Mumbai Locals

For the intellectually challenged, the aforementioned "Locals" refers to the local trains, not the Mumbaikars, dahling!

So here's a tribute to the immortal spirit of rush-hour second-class local train travellers, based on the fond reminiscences of a year-old veteran of Mumbai local train travel.


June 2003. My first "trainy" day. As I confidently lean out of the second class cubicle, I observe my station approaching. People begin leaping out of the train well before it has stopped. I think, "What da heck", and do the same. Now you see, I disembarked on the left side with my right foot. Zap! I am swung around, round and round, like a human whirlpool. After 3,600 degrees of turns, I am safely deposited in the arms of an ample Punjabi lady. She whacks my head with her grocery bag. Was she carrying cement in it? Now, apart from being dizzy, I also have a bump on my head. I regain my balance and composure, and disdainfully ignoring the mirthful audience, make a hasty exit.

Lesson: Leaping out of a fast moving train is both a science and an art. Since it has never been documented before, here goes! Assuming you are dismounting on the left side, follow the nine-step process documented herewith:
1. Hold on to any appropriate support with your right hand. Keep the fingers firm but the elbow supple.
2. Lean out as the station approaches.
3. Dangle your left leg out of the train.
4. Point your left foot towards the ground.
5. You should now be standing straight, with the angle between your legs being 30 degrees, your left leg inclined at 15 degrees forward to the horizontal, and your left foot at 45 degrees to the ground.
6. As the train starts decelerating, start leaning out further and coming back in. Repeat the process a few times so everyone is convinced that you're going to get off.
7. When the train slows to 6 Kmph (3 Kmph for ladies), shout "Chalo Boss!", straighten your right arm, touch the platform with your left foot, and simultaneously release both right foot and right hand from the train.
8. Run like madman in direction of train, else will fall flat on face courtesy Newton's Dumb First Law of Motion.
9. Rely on dense crowd on the platform to save you from falling flat. However, though it may be very tempting, do not fall into the arms of stout Punjabi ladies. Also stay away from heavy grocery bags and ladies' umbrellas.


Second week of travel in second class. I have a comfy window seat. As my destination -- Bandra station -- approaches, I get off my haunches and start pushing through the dense crowd and moving, inch by inch, towards the exit. The more I push and shove, the more the others pull and grunt. It is a war. They outnumber me. I do not give in. I push even more. Finally I reach the exit. Oh heck -- Bandra station is gone! What's the next station? Khar. Which side does it fall on? The other side. Dammit.
So I push and shove, grunt and groan, and I again part the Ocean of Chaos to reach the other side. Here a pretty sight awaits me. Khar station does look beautiful as the train is leaving it behind. What's the next station? Santa Cruz. Which side does it fall on? The other side. Dammit again.
Some dumb guy tells me to stay on this side, and jump off when Santa Cruz arrives. I do so. Now there's a new problem. A big one. There's this high fence plumb in the middle of two tracks, right where I got off. Now how am I supposed to know that I should have leaped over this fence onto the other side? I'm not Superman to do such stunts, am I?
So now I'm stuck in a 2-foot gap between an insurmountable fence and a crowded train. Kindly people on the train start animated discussions on what an idiot I am, and how I have committed suicide. I hear "Bechaara ab kya karega? Waat lag gayee." "Dekho, ladka marne waala hai. Train aur railing ke beech mein chipta hone waala hai."
Then, just as the train starts moving, someone yells, "Abey jhuk jaa". Talk of an angel's voice from heaven. I grab the railings and squat. And the train, along with all its overhanging passengers, crosses safely over my head. And then I cross the tracks and safely reach home.


One day, as I get off the compartment, my bag gets stuck. I'm holding it from the handle, but I just can't pull it out of the crowded train. I yank. No result. I yank harder. No luck. I ask the passengers to make space for the bag. They try, but there's no space for them to budge. The train starts moving. I become frantic. I give one mighty heave. The bag is pulled out ... along with a burly Sardarji. "Oye paaji, tussi yahaan aao", he thunders, crazy with rage at having missed his train. I choose rudeness over Total Annihilation. Accordingly I discourteously turn down his earnest invitation, and flee for my life. Talk of near death experiences.


Then there was this boisterous woman who clambered into our men's compartment and started pushing people around. She smelled of fish, so people were happy to be pushed away. Suddenly this elderly gentleman starts yelling at her. Apparently she had tried to pick his pocket. But her hands are empty. He points at her and uses colorful Marathi words, the real flavor of which is tragically lost on a non-Marathi like me. She has spirit. She yells back. The instructive discussion reaches a deafening crescendo. The station arrives. The lady dismounts, taking both noise and smell with her. The old man is virtually in tears. I feel very sorry for him. I get off at the next station. I suddenly feel light. Is it my conscience? Am I going to have an out-of-body experience?? No -- my wallet is gone. Now how the heck did that happen?


Nowadays I travel first class, and that too usually in the direction opposite to traffic. No wonder life is much less interesting. Yawn.

Monday, August 23, 2004 

Eritrea who?

Have you heard of Eritrea? It is a country with a population of 41 lakh, less than one-fourth of Mumbai's 181 lakh. The first language there is Tigrinja or something.

So what? Well, Eritrea joins countries like Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Mongolia in having won a medal in the Sydney 2004 Olympics. It is of course well behind Slovenia, which has won three, and Estonia which has bagged two.

I, proud to be Indian.


Time of my life

Life is beautiful :) Especially when it's anything like the last 3 days :)

Friday was the chill masti day. Caught Spidey 2 in G-7 at last. It's such a cute movie. Especially liked the inspirational bit where his aunt goes something like "we should live our life so that we can die with pride" ... I'm typically quite immune to gyan, but this lady was so amazingly charming and she said all this stuff so calmly, it was truly an Aha! moment for me.

We then went to Persian Durbar for dinner, tried out some new items, it was quite interesting. While there, Shash phones and comes up with this devastating one-liner, "I'm not well. I'm suffering from constipation of thought and diarrhoea of words". Lol :) I almost expired with mirth. Looks like I'm not the only victim of verbosity in our family :))


Saturday was the trek. Mangy phoned me at 11 pm on Friday night and suggested an impromptu full-day outing. Departure scheduled from Dadar at 5 am. So I turned in at 12 midnite, of course couldn't sleep until 3 am, and the darn alarm rang at 4 am. Groggily got out of bed (how I wish I had a Jeeves who would make one of his life-saving pick-me-ups at such opportune moments), dressed in trekking gear and rushed to Dadar. The seven of us (Mangy, Guru, Rambo, Pakora, Sweetie, Ranga and self) boarded a 7 am Lonavala train and then went by rick to Molevli, the starting point of the trek.

Molevli is this stop somewhere between Lonavala and Khandala. We walked 4 km amidst lush green farmlands, across narrow rivulets and narrower bridges, and finally arrived at the foot of a peak atop which was one of Shivaji's famed fortresses. This fortress had often been attacked, and always in vain, by Aurangzeb. In our ascent, we realized why.

The uphill climb was about 5 km. There was this initial winding road which was inclined at 45 degrees to the horizontal, and was straight up in certain places. Then there was this little flat stretch which led us to the illusion that the worst was over. Then came the Steps. Each Step was about two feet high. And there were hundreds of them. After what seemed an eternity, we arrived at the First Gate, and realized to our collective horror that there were three more Gates before we could reach the zenith. Finally, huffing and panting, we arrived at the "Summit of Olympus", or as we had irreverently nicknamed it, "Duke's Nose". There was this little dargah and temple right on top. We really felt like all-conquering Olympians :)

The climb had taken us 5 hours -- from 9 am to 2 pm. The descent took us less time -- from 2 pm to 6 pm. Of course, it rained throughout the trip ... We were soaked from top to bottom by 10 am, and didn't dry up till we returned to Mumbai. Of the four umbrellas which we had foolishly brought with us (talk of trekking in the monsoons while carrying an umbrella :)), one's handle broke (!), two got torn, and the last was upturned so often that it soon became unusable.

The air was such pure ozone, we could almost eat it. And the view ... how do I describe it? Breathtaking, astounding, stupendous, unbelievable ... the English Language falls short of adequate descriptive nouns. How does one describe the sensation of standing right under a cloud which is pouring rain on you, and then actually walking right through the cloud (yes, it does rain within the cloud too) to a point above? How do I explain what we felt when we stood atop the summit, in temperatures of about 8 degrees celsius with a hurricane hurling us about like toothpicks, and looking down but seeing only a sea of swirling white clouds all about us ... as if we were shipwrecked on a stranded island and were surrounded on all sides by a billowing ocean of frothy milk? How do we explain what we felt when we saw three little streams originating from three different peaks, rushing down the green and brown hills like a white scythe cutting through a mountain of mud and stone, and converging to form one mighty river which gushed down the hillsides and, swelling angrily, rushed turbulently away into the distance?

There were minor adventures galore. Mangy fell into a pool of muck and was washed "like a cow" by Pakora. Pakora caused a landslide when he tried to wash his shoes but washed away the ground beneath him instead. Ranga tore a ligament. I dropped my wallet which fortuitously was recovered by Mangy. We blushed with embarrassment when we saw two little barefoot kids, barely six years old, blithely skipping up peaks which we sturdy grown ups were afraid to even attempt. And we all had a blast having pakodas, omelette and chai from quaint picturesque little stalls dotted along the lonely way.

We finally reached Molevli after an estimated 19 kms and 9 non-stop hours of climbing, scrambling up, slipping and sliding, crawling, and some walking too. On our way back, we were informed that the peak we had scaled was over 1,000 metres high and was 1/8 th the height of India's highest peak, Kanchenjunga (8586 metres). That felt real good :)

Finally, the weary seven reached their Mumbai homes at 9.30 pm and collapsed into dreamless sleep. The trek, despite being relatively easy and smooth compared to most other treks, was really long and had left all of us with strained legs and sprained feet.


Sunday morning was Shailu's wedding. The mahurat was at 9.20 am, which is also when I awoke :( Rushed to get dressed and despite leaving the house at 10 am, managed to reach the venue (in Mulund, which is in Thane and is far far away from Mumbai) only at noon. Was wondering if I'd miss even the reception, but was relieved to find that the rest of the TAS gang was also just arriving. The wedding was a simple and sweet affair, typically Maharashtrian and superbly organized. The decor was traditional but intricate, and the spread was lavish and excited the taste buds no end. Bhabhiji is a lawyer who had won Shailu's heart in Class 10. No wonder he just couldn't stop gurgling with happiness, like the proverbial cat who's swallowed the cream. Here's wishing them both many decades of boundless marital bliss together.

Returned home by 3 pm, and was off to Sharafat uncle's house at 7 pm for a night long function. It was really nostalgic and brought back memories of the heady night outs in Kolkata. Arrived in office only after lunch on Monday .

It was a truly amazing weekend, and it's made moi totally refreshed and so truly happy. I'm feeling as uplifted as a newly created soap bubble, as amazed as a newborn child :)

Life is beautiful :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 

Silver and all that jazz

So things are finally looking up for us at the Olympics. Shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore's silver medal effort really made my day. And now Lee-Hesh are in the semis. Yippee :)

We celebrated Rathore's podium finish along with boss's b'day in style yesterday. Our HR arranged for this yummy gooey chocolate eclair cake, part of which we spread with loving care on boss's face, and the rest of which we imbibed like there's no tomorrow. (When it comes to cake, you really can't say, you know). We then bumped boss on his posterior and then, rubbing his behind tenderly, he gave his b'day speech which sounded remarkably like "I'll get back at all you miserable excreta real fast".

It's been a pretty occupying week. Friday's a holiday. Parsi New Year, and nothing can be more Parsi than us Tatas. Dunno about Saturday though. Sunday of course is Shailu's marriage. It's in Mulund, and the mahurat is 9.20 am, so will have to wake up at the ungodly hour of 7 am yet again. These alarm clocks are so ineffective. Whenever they trrriiing, the melody somehow incorporates itself nicely in my dreams, leading me to sleep even more soundly. What would I ever do without mum?

Tried out this new joint the day before. Cafe Bandra. Food 4/5 (the flavouring was amazing, really hits you, a trifle too spicy, not enough variety, though the oversize portions makes it real value for money), ambience 2/5 (the AC room was too dark -- we almost had to touch the plate with our noses to figure out whether that was tandoori chicken or paneer tikka -- and the decor was minimal), service 3/5 (we had a dedicated waiter though he was a trifle too intrusive). Overall 3/5. Not bad. At the rate at which we're trying out new foodie points in Bandra (almost two each week), I'll soon be well qualified to write a booklet on the multitudinal gastronome opportunities of the "Queen of the Suburbs".

It's official. I'm a nut. Shafs did a complete psycho-analysis of me yesterday and has realized that I'm an evil demon, but it's not really my fault because I'm demented. This expert opinion was corroborated very directly by PN and very indirectly by Coolcat who totally avoided me for nearly two full days. RS consoled me a little via long distance from Bangalore by saying I'm not totally out, I'm definitely semi-sane, and also claiming that anyone who accuses me of being fully mental must be mental themselves. I forgot to ask whether this was because they were wrong, or because everyone who tells a mad person that he is mad have to be mad in order to have the gumption to undertake such a lethal risk. Anyway. So stay away all ye innocent babes in the wood --- growf !!!

It's hoax time!!! After Sweetie, PN and Guru so successfully masterminded that attempt in June where I was the hapless victim, it's my turn now. Further details shall be disclosed in due course.

So it's almost lunchtime now, and the morning work is done, and this post is well nigh over, and none of my dearest friends are online, so let me round up TT and Akshaya and Nikhil and buzz off for tummy satisfaction purposes. More later :)

Monday, August 16, 2004 

Kaam :)

When work comes, it comes in a deluge. I'm probably the last person to be informed that I've gotta make a PPT to Head of VSNL's Retail Business tomorrow morning ... fortunately got all the raw material, it's merely a question of trimming and formatting. Mast life nee, majaa noo chhe :)

So bye bye until tomorrow morning, fellow Bloggies. Sleep Tight, Dream Right. Catchy, hai na?


The Goan Dozen

For the culturally inexperienced, here are some interesting tidbits on Goa, classified under twelve heads, as seen through a novice's tinted glasses:

1. The image I had of Goa was that it is much smaller than megapolis Mumbai. On this trip, however, I noticed that traveling across Goa by car often takes up to two hours. And should you attempt the same in Mumbai, on a day with zilch traffic (yep, I can imagine it though it'll probably never materialize), it will probably take the same time from Nariman Point to Vashi. My curiosity piqued, I checked the atlas. The result? Goa - 3,702 Sq Km. Greater Mumbai (excluding Thane and Raigarh) - 603 Sq Km. In other words -- Goa is SIX TIMES bigger than main Mumbai !!! So much for its being the "smallest state in India".

2. Perhaps the surprising size of Goa is more understandable given the city's topographical layout. Goa is composed of several mini-cities. On entering from the Mumbai (North) end, you first reach Mapusa city. You then move into Panaji (Panjim), the capital of Goa. Then follows vast stretches of forest before you touch Vasco, the mini-city where Vasco da Gama landed in India. Another stretch of jungle and Madgaon appears on the horizon. Panjim, Vasco and Madgaon form roughly three ends of an equilateral triangle. And all of Goa is undulating -- the city seems to be built on a sea of little hills and hillocks. It's truly a trekker's paradise.

3. Online sources claim Goa's land area is divided into greenery : residential areas in the ratio 20 : 80. A very reliable eyewitness (viz. me) estimates it's more like 50% forests, 25% agriculture and the rest residential areas.

4. Because of the abundance of flotsam and jetsam, the air is sooo fresh and ozonized. Something sorely lacking in cloying claustrophobic Mumbai. A welcome respite for the typical Mumbaikar's overworked lungs.

5. Water abounds in Goa. From the famed sparkling white beaches (I must visit one of them on my next trip) to the little rivulets running down the hillsides on each road, due to the monsoon rains.

6. Bird lovers will have a field day in Goa. The air reverberates with the sweet melodious strains of birds calling out to their mates, competing for supremacy, or simply expressing their sheer joie-de-vivre.

7. Everyone in Goa seems to be well read. The 1991 Census states 77% of the populace is literate. That's a pretty good figure, well above the national average. Konkani is the mother tongue, it's a sweet language, but fortunately most people are conversant with English. Their Hindi, however, is ouch!

8. They say that the way to a man's heart is through his tummy. If so, the ways to the average Goanese male's heart must be choc-a-bloc with traffic, because the Goanese eat well. Really well. Really really well. And because they exercise, it doesn't show. And the stuff they eat ... for the uninitiated, it's like yucky, but for those blessed with the divine Goanese culinary experience, it's like yummy.

9. Color runs in the blood of the typical Goan, irrespective of gender. They'll dress in the most outlandish loose flowing clothes -- hats, scarves, bermudas, tees. Their penchant for flowery patterns is the stuff of legend. A crowded Goan bylane is a riot of colors. A fully decked up male Goanese is more colorful than a peacock in the mood.

10. Goa is known as the "Sleepy City". And for good reason. The city becomes inanimate every afternoon. Shutters down as the sonorous sounds of soporific siesta overtake the somnambulent strains of silence between 2 and 4 pm.

11. And because they get plent of rest, the Goanese are a fundamentally happy race. They're always smiling, laughing, often singing, and ever-ready to help (and feed) anyone, from the neighbor's cat to the unknown tourist.

12. Goa is a fusion of multiple cultures and religions. Predominantly a Catholic city, it is filled with amazingly beautiful Churches and Cathedrals. A bird's eye view of the city reveals a paragon of spires, towers and turrets. And for the reasonable-sized Muslim and Hindu contingent, there are plenty of mosques and temples. Goa seems to be an idyllic haven far removed from the communal overtones of some other cities in that part of India.

Of course, the nostalgic say Goa was far better in the past, and the number of heritage sites has drastically reduced of late. But for people like me who have seen Goa as it stands today, and have liked what we've seen, the mantra is -- Goa Rocks !!! Go Goa !!!


A Goanese Odyssey

So, having suddenly making the impromptu decision to visit Goa at 10 am on Friday, I left office at 4 pm (to the collective envious groan of more busy souls who had to plod on till 11 pm). Rushed home, packed toothbrush and nightdress, and managed to secure the last seat on the last bus leaving Bandra Talao at 7 pm. Of course, it was the which ensured a very bumpy ride to Panjim. Thanks to violent spells of torrential rain lasing the Mumbai-Goa highway, the trip took 17 hours instead of the usual 12. No sleep -- night out # 1.

Arrived at 10 am in our Vasco house and was immediately swamped by my boisterous cousins - Micky, Motts and Gaz - the "Three Musketeers". This must have been my sixth trip to Goa since March, but only the second when I've managed to meet all three. Micky is leaving for the UK in November to complete his exams for Third Mate in the Merchant Navy. He's really developed his physique since he joined the ships! Motts will be GRE-ing in November, planning to do his MS in Telecom Engg in Canada or the US. Gaz is enjoying Class 11, his dreams of becoming a doctor still on course. They are coping extremely well by the grace of the Almighty. How happy and proud Nafisa phoopo would have been.

The three together are a non-stop laugh riot. We chatted, laughed, watched Die Hard, spoke to Farida phoopo from the US, ate non-stop, worked on Visa formalities for Micky and GRE word lists with Motts, and suddenly realized it's 12 midnight. Happy Independence Day!!! Time for Gaz to revise his I-Day speech for the school assembly, think patriotic stuff, sing a few "Auld Lang Syne" songs, silently wish our neighbors a very happy I-Day too, and drop off to sleep by 4 am. Night out # 2.

Was up by 8 am on Sunday. Went to drop Gaz to school. The roads were paved with the tricolor. And on the way, what did I see but BITS Pilani Goa!!! My alma mater ... the construction of it's Goan setup is almost complete. The infra does look much more colorful and better designed than the Pilani counterpart :) Wouldn't be surprised if there's an exodus of the best profs from Pilani to Goa.

We visited Nafisa phoopo at her beautiful home, in the midst of rocky hills on one side and two scenic litchen-covered ponds on the other. A little ancient untended temple nests near one corner of the area, and rail tracks pass through the hills, creating a flutter among the resident waterbirds whenever they rumble through.

We toyed with the idea of visiting one of the beaches, but were told that due to the monsoons they had been roped off. Why'd I ever bother bringing swimming trunks??

So we went to Martin's Corner for lunch instead. The place has an awesome reputation, and is Sachin Tendulkar's fav food joint, and now I know why. It was sooo amazing !!! Traditional Goanese ambience, ethnically attired waiters, and don't even ask about the food. I'll tell you all the same :) We stuffed ourselves silly on rice, prawn curry, and ... hold your breath ... mussels, squid, oysters and shark. Yes shark!!! This was the first time I've eaten any of these items (except rice and prawns), and I did have momentary qualms about whether we're allowed to have all this stuff. But Motts's palpable enthusiasm and Gaz's blatant disregard for the rules was infectous. And boy, am I glad I gave in :) Everything was cooked to perfection, and after 75 minutes of non-stop masticating, we were totally knocked out.

Hardly had we reached home than it was time for me to depart. So I packed up and we all drove down to Panjim, where we roamed the area for an hour, saw I-Day street plays by little school children, sat by the wharf and saw police boats and fishing boats try to outdo each other on the sea. Also learnt the theoretical rudiments of fishing from Micky, along with an induction to maritime rumors. Don't eat dolphins, it's supposed to be bad luck.

Got a lovely seat in the sleeper bus, until I realized it wouldn't flatten & convert from a chair into a bed as expected. So I had two options -- sit on this chair-cum-non-bed throughout the night, or shift to the only empty seat -- yea you guessed right -- the upper left rear-most seat. Another bumpy 16 hour sojourn. Night out # 3. Hooray.

Of course, I reached Mumbai late and missed the Monday morning meeting. However, somehow, it didn't seem to matter at all. Things suddenly took on a new perspective. Perhaps it had something to do with what had happened in the course of the night.

The bus suddenly stopped out of schedule at around 12 midnight. Peering out, I was an unfortunate witness to a very sad sight. An accident had killed two young men. The road was swimming in their blood. It was ghastly. Very shocking. Very very sad. And no-one could do anything to help. There may be an excellent reason for everything God does, but how does one explain that to a shocked and helpless widow, a mother who has seen her son die before her old and weary eyes, a child who is too young to understand why daddy doesn't come home any more?

What if it had been me in the place of those unfortunate young men? I am so lucky and blessed, I can spend centuries in just thanking the Almighty for His mercies, and it will still be nowhere close to adequate. And yet, instead of being continuously grateful, I often find myself feeling angry, sad, greedy. What a waste of invaluable and irredeemable time.

What would those two men have not done to postpone their untimely end by just a few precious minutes, perhaps so they could have personally reassured their loved ones that they're going to a better place, and don't worry, everything's going to turn out just fine. Hopefully everything will indeed turn out just fine for the bereaved.

They say that, if everyone was informed they have only five more minutes to live, all the phone lines of the world would be jammed because of people phoning other people to stammer, "I love you".

"Dream like you'll live forever. Live like you'll die today."

"Dance like nobody's watching;
Love like you've never been hurt.
Sing like nobody's listening
Live like it's heaven on earth. "

I once saw on a tombstone in Kolkata:
"Listen to me, O passers by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shall you be.
So prepare yourself to follow me."


Love to all, and Godspeed.

Thursday, August 12, 2004 

Friday, or the Day of Frida, wife of Thor

Today morning started off on a pretty unique note. There was this Butterscotch Cornetto cone left over in the freezer from last nite's impromptu feast. So instead of maska pao with jam and cheese, I had icecream for breakfast today. Yummmmmy :)

Thanks to all strikes being called off and no rain today (so far), it took me only 45 minutes to reach office. Commuting involved multimode transport yet again -- auto, BEST bus, local train and foot. Time I started thinking of buying a car methinks. Indigo LE? Wagon R Lsi? Santro Xing XP? Ikon? Nah ... think I'll plump for an 800 mebbe ... they say it's the best first car ... hmmm ... dunno, dekhte hai kya hota hai ...

Boss is in Singapore until Monday. When will my foreign junkets start? :) So probably not much work in store for me until next week ... when the new project will commence and it'll be adieu to freedom and aishgiri ...

Ever since I came to know of my boss's absence today morning, have been in the midst of a sudden plan to visit my cousins in Goa this weekend. Mickey is leaving today evening ... he has a confirmed ticket ... maybe I'll pile on with him. Or maybe I'll catch the Volvo which leaves Bandra at 7 pm. Of course, that'lll mean I'll have to leave office by 4.30 pm ... of course everybody here in office will miss me terribly ... sigh ... it's really not easy being Mr. Popular ... :)

This will also mean scrapping plans of watching Naseeruddin Shah's latest play in NCPA this Sunday ... hope mum and Guru will not be too disappointed ...

Speaking of Guru, it's been nearly a month since I introduced him to Deeps. The nutcase Guru likes her, but has been too shy to even phone her once ... and Deeps likes him too, but is waiting for him to call first ... and now Deeps has been posted in Nagpur ... and her parents have invited some US returned NRI Sikh to see her :( ... Bechaara Guru! I'm really sad. It looked so good. Matchmaking can be so frustrating when the parties are interested but irrevocably shy.

Speaking of which, spoke to Khandu y'day. He wants to get married by next year, and that too only to a Khandelwal. And he wants help in the search process. Now how on earth am I gonna find a nice Khandelwal girl at such short notice? Gah!!!

Also got emails from some of my school batchmates. Wasif is marrying in December. She's a CA (Inter). Love + Arranged. And Arif Hasan is engaged to a 2nd year MBBS student, totally arranged. They'll marry after she finishes her studies. Happy happy news :))

Which brings me to my marriage. I was this happy chillax forever-single dude until a month back, when daddy on his last trip to Mumbai casually mentions that, "Suhail, you're 25, you should look at marrying before you're 30. So have you thought of the criteria you want in the girl you'll marry?" Criteria? Criteria??? Gimme a break. Bamboozling question. Befuddling. Confusing worse confounded. Khair, more on this later.

Met this amazing old man in the bus today. He must've been nearly 80, hunchbacked, skinny and wrinkled. But I fell in love with him. Totally. It was because of his eyes. They were constantly laughing, the irises looking like limpid pools of water. They shone with love and happiness, even while he was struggling to clamber into the bus. And he had such a sweet smile. Impish. Naughty yet wise. He also had an entrancing deep throaty chuckle, which he kept emitting every 2 minutes for no tangible reason whatsoever. He reminded me of my paternal grandpa. Love you lots, dadapappa. Miss you. Mmmmmm. They don't make them like you anymore.

Eyes are truly the windows of the soul. Newborn children communicate so eloquently through their eyes. So do the very old and the very sick. So do animals. Cows have the most lovely eyes. Soft, melting. Have you noticed?

Reminds me of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Afreen, the verse on aankhen. Hey, also reminds me of Cliff Richards' Lucky Lips. Such a cute song naa :)) Am hearing it now. Bliss!!!

Time to work. Canteen, here I come :)


Where will the squirrels go?

One of the most beautiful musical sounds in the world is the chirruping of squirrels. It embodies surprise, impatience, anxiety ... and yet fails to conceal the emotions of hope, a call of friendship and a feeling of deep contentment – the “all’s right with the world” kind. As I was strolling on the Bandstand promenade last night, I heard a squirrel emit a high pitched gurgle before dancing away into the shadows. It struck a poignant chord. Memories came rushing back. Just a month before, I had visited my home in central Kolkata – a derelict, rambling old bungalow, falling apart at the seams yet being held together by the memories of my grandparents’ love. This bungalow, which old timers say once housed forty people, is now occupied by just one family member and one housekeeper. And in front of the bungalow is the Garden. This was the Garden where three generations of our clan played, fought, reconciled, loved, and grew up in together. It has donned many visages over the all-too-soon-disappearing decades. The Garden was an ice skating rink in the seventies, though over the years it has gracefully accepted designations like cricket field, badminton court, hide-and-seek center and tree-climbing resort. It served as a laboratory for my grandfather’s experiments with agriculture, which yielded us delicious mangoes, tomatoes, coconuts, sem, ber, chillies and many other fruits and vegetables, besides an occasional riot of colorful flowers and an entrancing bouquet of fragrances. It also served as a place to hold formal parties, religious gatherings and various social get-togethers. The image the Garden built around itself was that of a perennial well of youth, mystery, surprises, fun, friendship, and life – both flora and fauna.

Animal life abounded in the Garden. Snakes, frogs, insects of various hues; dark caterpillars with red spots transmogrifying into bright yellow butterflies which flitted from white periwinkle to pink periwinkle as if they could not decide which to propose eternal love to; cuckoos which would sing lustily every dawn before the sound wheels of a great city would begin rumbling and drown their music; hordes of crows as black as night assembling on the branches of our giant mango tree and holding animated conferences at regular intervals all through the day; and cats. Never has the Garden been free of cats. At least one cat– black, white, golden brown or hybrid – has always condescended to make the Garden its home; and has subsequently protected its terrain vociferously from unwanted intruders of the same sex and species until it decides to shift house. As you will have guessed from this fact, the Garden is also never free of rats.

But on my last visit, I noticed new guests. As I sat in the Garden basking in the clear skies and the tingling warm winter sun, I noticed a pair of squirrels – a rare sight in morbid Kolkata – frolicking atop the branches of the mango tree. They disdainfully ignored my luring calls, and sat on their hind legs cordially exchanging pleasantries and insults with each other. Finally, tiring of the game, they began scurrying up the branches to the tree top, whence they literally flew across to the parapet of the roof of our bungalow. In seconds, they had circumnavigated the roof and had decided to invite some pigeons into their social circle. The disinterested pigeons emitted some guano and took to the air. Obviously affronted, the squirrels shrieked their displeasure to the skies, sniffed the guano and sat rubbing their shiny black noses with their furry front paws.

As I continue with my stroll, I begin to wonder. The house may soon be up for sale. The Garden will doubtless go with it too. A concrete tree will replace the giant mango tree. The birds, which have had it down from countless generations that the Garden will never change, will be astonished at the fact that change is indeed a constant. They will perhaps shed a tear before flying away to new nesting locales. The little patch of greenery and life which was supplying millions of citizens of Kolkata with much needed oxygen will be wiped out forever in one stroke. And, for perhaps the first time in sixty years, no stray cat will feel welcome in the land which once served, faithfully and loyally, as the Garden.

Maybe this change is necessary. Indeed, it is perhaps even practical and economically beneficial. But it is my obligation to my childhood, to the childhood of our future generations, to ask my conscience this one trivial question before it is too late.

Where will the squirrels go?


I'm a smiley fan :))

Nice one ...

Smiling is infectious,
You catch it like the flu.
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner,
and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled I realized,
I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,
then I realized its worth.
A single smile just like mine
Could travel around the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,
don't leave it undetected.
Let's start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!

Happiness is contagious. Start an epidemic today!


Thursday, or the Day of Thurs

Ya, I know the Olympics haven't commenced, nonetheless today I think I broke an Olympic record in office. Fourth day this week without work. How do the unemployed cope???

I did, however, have stuff to do. There was this hour-long intense metaphysical discussion on mysticism, the genealogy of the Khojas, Sufism, existentialism and "How does God think?" Not a bad way to spend an idle rainy morning :)

Speaking of which, the rains are back with a bang in Mumbai. I totally adore the monsoons (except when the consequent muddy puddles splash onto my starched white trousers). The rains are sooooo romantic, everything seems so dewy green and fresh and soft. Birds chirp. The sun blushes. And it takes an hour longer to reach office. To compensate for which, I had to wake up an hour earlier than usual. Guess what? I still manage to reach after everyone else. Another Olympic record!!! Of course, hardly matters given that I'm probably the idlest person in the 100 year history of this office. Boss, if you're reading this, please stop reading two sentences back -- thanks.

Have made a very nice new friend. Today was this new friend's birthday. Tried very hard, and very unsuccessfully, to discover what this friend wants as a birthday present. Sighhh ... next year maybe ...

Have just copied the songs of Dhoom, Lakshya (phenomenal movie), Hum Tum (an even better movie) and Main Hoon Na onto my laptop. Now shall put on my headphones, hear the songs and look very intently at monitor so everyone admiringly thinks I am doing pathbreaking work. Was hearing Kenny Rogers and Jim Reeves throughout the morning. Ahhh music!!! "A magic beyond any other". Wish I could sing well. Rather, wish I could sing. My family and friends have consistently claimed that my mellifluous "bathroom singing" voice is more of "bathroom croaking". Ignoramuses!

Now am off to relax my overworked brain with a cuppa hot tomato soup. Hope kittie is there. Love her. Love all cats. And dogs. Animals are cho chweet ... "They're the beauties, we're the beasts". Truly.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004 

Hello world

Ahhh my first foray into blogworld ... thanks to coolcat ... how lucky indeed is blogworld ...

Dunno what to write ... will this first foray be my last? Don't know ... don't care ... should I ... ?

Am I supposed to write for myself in here? What if I can hear myself loud and clear without help from blogworld?

Am I supposed to pen my thoughts here? What if I have no thoughts to pen? (Like they say, naariyal mein malaai nahi hai :))

Help O Lord (Lady?) of Blog!!!