Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Year of Groundhog Days

Disclaimer: This post is not about scurrying animals.

The said year with groundhogging abilities was one whole year. But it wasn't a calendar year drably beginning on 1st Jan, or a financial/tax year that tends to commence in April for some reason, or even an academic one whose start date ranges from May to October (or more!) based on your affiliations. 

Introductions: The year of interest began and ended on 1st May (yes, this post is almost a month late, but then you weren't waiting for it, were you? :P ) when I completed an year of moving back to India. And no, I do not condone it being called Labour Day year - it was, after all, an year that was the complete anti-thesis of labour or effort of any kind. There were days when I didn't have a clue of what day it was, but was also not sure what month it was! While you try to follow the annoyingly repeating transitions between Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and so on, July turns into August without even bothering to notify you! How are you ought to keep up with the vagaries of the calendar when days could just be exchanged for one another? Every day, be it weekday, weekend, or month-end, presented the same routine: sleep, use interwebs, wake up, read paper, watch TV, read book & ponder nothing, in some order or other.

But like any good research result, there were enough exceptions and conditions to the groundhogging ability of the year that need to be listed, thus enabling me to extend this post from a short sweet paper into a long dreary one.

Excursions into the Kitchen: Though those familiar with my physique may not find it credible (or the sniggering ones may find it extra credible), but I used to cook on a fairly regular, almost daily, basis while in the Soton. The tidy bright smartly-arranged kitchen of my flat used to make it an agreeable experience. So having returned to parents' home, here in Hyderabad, and lounging in the bedroom for many many months, I slowly started making small furtive excursions to the kitchen. But the experiences seem to be indicating that I am not supposed to be cooking here. While back in my kitchen in Soton, though rarely confused with the unmarked containers, I could easily differentiate the cumin powder from the coriander power with a sniff or two. But here, to obtain the coriander powder from the shelf, I had to tackle not just cumin, but a couple of tea powders (okay, I admit those were easy to distinguish), some masala powder, some other masala powder, perhaps some rasam powder, some other powder that didn't seem to belong to the kitchen, and some other masala powder. I failed. So I had to contend with limiting my dish to just plain old salt, turmeric, and chilli powder. I was later informed that what I used wasn't plain old chilli powder, but some 'masala chilli' powder :P. Oh, and I was also informed later that it wasn't my olfactories that failed me while identifying coriander powder. How could one expect to find it when it wasn't even in the kitchen, but stored in the refrigerator outside! 

Excursions to the Outside: After 6 months of barely stepping out of the house arrived the month of November. It came pledged with the mission of not letting me be. After all, how can I be in India for half a year and not yet have relived the pleasures of a train journey, it seemed to have been wondering. So first it whisked me off to Bangalore which, despite tall claims, was only as cool as Hyderabad but with more traffic. I returned and barely got my lethargy back that I ended up in Chennai, and then Puducherry. Both were balmy but the cuisine was a welcome change, and the company was patently idiosyncratic. And then, towards the end of the month, I found myself in Kakinada. No idea why. I am still trying to figure out how I ended up there. 

With the arrival of the new year (the calendar one, not financial/academic etc :P), a car drive to Tenali was planned that I couldn't wiggle out of. And as the summer started hotting up in March, I decided to gain respite by going back to Bangalore using up some free, about to expire, airmiles. Plan worked out fine, but the supposedly pleasant weather of the city betrayed me. It was just as hot as in Hyderabad! And with more traffic, did I mention that?  

Incursions to the Inside: The first four months of life back here were qualitatively bland, especially the food. You know, all those jokes about 'palatability' of hospital food that we keep hearing? Well, those weren't sounding funny to me any more. Anyhow, with the passing of August arrived the Haleem season. After so many years, I was in Hyderabad for the haleem month and how could I not consume it at least on an alternate day basis?! So out went the food restrictions and medical advice, and in came the glorious delicacy. And I felt better ;). And my logical reasoning system started enforcing itself. If I can have a mutton and wheat mash and still remain alive, then why not test with some chicken too? And why deny fish?! And if the wheat had not exactly killed me, then perhaps some parathas may be risked sometimes. Why stop at parathas, why not puris? Well, if we are indeed venturing into the deep-fried matters, then the occasional pakodas won't be of much harm, would they? And so on, on a weekly basis, a dietary restriction was chucked out the window, and a new joy added back to the culinary life. And it did help me get better. Well, at least, my mood was becoming less sour ;).

I think the post is now long enough to not be considered short, so I will save us further trouble and conclude it here (But of course, you can always ping me for more detailed ramblings :P).

Conclusions: Nothing to say here. I just wanted to have this section because it conveniently rhymes with Excursions and Incursions.

PS -- "So, how are you feeling nowadays?" - the more concerned ones among you may feel obliged to ask. "Better than May '12," I would say, even though the quantifiable parameters are still stuck at May '12 levels :).

Friday, March 22, 2013


Staring at the little window in the corner.
It says ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
But appears no text.
Lost to the interwebs?


The warmth prickles
Fingers tremble in withdrawal
Fever looks up in sorrow
Carer leaves for the morrow.


Jostling each other
Bristling with honks of urgency
The vehicles stray everywhere
Like ants bereft of a nest.


Where is
The cool breeze promised,
The pleasant shade assured,
The soft grass proffered,
The eternal peace imagined?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twitter-Compliant Book Reviews

For unreasoned reasons, I had developed the habit of posting short reviews of the books I read (which mostly tended to be of the novel types). However, on account of persistent bouts of laziness, the habit seemed to have gone on a sabbatical. The list of books read kept growing longer and the review task more and more daunting. But yesterday, enlightenment struck and an easy solution presented itself: reviews in 140 chars or less. So here they are!

The Art of Fiction by David Lodge: 50 chapters on the various aspects of a novel using extracts. The styles, nuances and methods behind the beauty. Wonderful authors exampled.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: Based in New Jersey, Dominican Republic and screwed up minds. Multiple first-person narrators. Peek into a different form of life and lingo.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed HanifDark humour. Hilarious and sad simultaneously. Features a plot to kill the Pakistani dictator by a gay military officer. Mangoes not harmed.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: A portrait of (mainly) urban India after independence. The search for a suitable boy is merely a sub-plot. 1400++ pages of delightful prose.

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham: Non-fiction! Not about hacking or painting. Many cool insights. Programming and startup experiences recounted. And about life and the world.

Transmission by Hari Kunzru: Below-par. Depressed Indian IT security hacker in US. A pompous CEO in London. Bollywood shooting in Scotland. Global havoc by a virus. Bah!

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi: A fantastical mix of mythology, history and culture. Writing style is passable and the plot decent but the references are quite imaginative.

Known Turf by Annie Zaidi: Non-fiction! Quirks from the forgotten depths of rural India. About the callousness, contrasts and complications. With some wit and humour.

Cloud Road by John Harrison: Travelogue! Trek and bus from Equator to Machu-Pichu along Inca roads. History, reality, archaeology and architecture. Donkeys and poverty.

The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair Maclean: Hollywood thriller in a book form. F1 races, blown up cars, secret agents and a heady rush. Enough action and plot-holes to make it a movie.

Room by Emma Donoghue: A 5 year old narrator. Was always only in a room and then not. A bit presumptuous, but spellbinding. Gripping and intense. Well thought-out.

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi: To be read only after The Immortals of Meluha. More of the mythological and historical references. Many more twists in the plot. More filmy.

Aah, that's all for today. More reviews should be written but they will be written later. The forthcoming include Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde (obviously), Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, Quo Vadis by the difficult-to-spell Polish author and so on...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

J'ai vingt neuf ans

For a year that wasn't.

Also for a year that was much more than a mere year.

And for the last year of the third decade.

A cheer :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A plateful of words.

Those exquisitely conceived sentences.
Couldn't they just apparate and stay when they are desired?
Those words, immaculately strung together.
Why flicker with grandeur and then wisp into nothingness?

Those images, flitting in and out of the mind.
Travelling perhaps to other realities where they are yet to be enacted.
Those photographs, embellished with incomplete memories.
Why burst out in radiance and vanish into unseen recesses?
Ablaze yet silent.
Ephemeral like faraway fireworks in the nearby sky.

Those servings, meticulously crafted to perfection.
Steam wafting up into aromas of intoxication.
Those colours, seductively tossed up together. 
Actualised on the meagre tongue, why thou not live up to thy promises?