Monday, September 5, 2011

As always, a Messi affair in Calcutta

The title of this post is inspired by the social networking messages of one my clever friends, who obviously did not take the trouble of coming down to the city for the match. While it is true that the match did little to raise the profile of the city or of Indian football, perhaps no other city in the country would be able to bring in some 85,000 spectators, all of whom paid good money to catch a glimpse of Lionel Messi. I have little new to offer in terms of words to describe the brilliance of Messi, but what impressed me the most was the fact that he took the game very seriously and played at full pace for the entire 90 minutes even in the humid climate of Calcutta.

Though the organization of the game was a major improvement from what IFA/AIFF dish out to spectators during the I League or the Federation Cup, there was still a lot left to be desired especially with spectators having to queue for nearly 2 hours outside the stadium. What also struck me was the composition of the crowd which had come to see the match – it was a family crowd with a fair share of females and non Bengalis thrown in for good measure. In the couple of dozen club games I have seen at the Salt Lake Stadium over the last 10 years or so, I have never seen a single female attend any game. The stadium is never more than half full and the crowd almost exclusively consists of teenage boys and young men from the suburbs. I think this game is ample proof that with better organization, scheduling (who but the unemployed can attend a game on a Wednesday afternoon), marketing and creating enough hype and tamasha we can get a larger and wider spectator participation in local football games. I know people will bemoan the lack of quality in Indian football, but I would only point out to the fact that there were enough tight and entertaining games at the back end of the last ILeague which Salgaocar won playing a very attractive brand of football, edging out East Bengal in the last few games of the season.

There is also a need to create stars out of our Indian footballers other than Baichung Bhutia. Bhutia has been a great servant to Indian football and East Bengal, but his time is gone and it is time that the establishment started creating stars of other Indian footballers. I consider Mehtab Hussain, Rahim Nabi and Sunil Chetri to be among the best Indian players today, but while some people might just about recognize Chetri, very people have even heard of the Mehtab and Nabi. I am going to write something controversial here: may be the fact that they are Muslims and come from humble backgrounds is a factor in them not getting sporting headlines. In the past week I saw people literally mobbing Baichung at a pub in Kolkata while at Delhi Airport no one recognized Mehtab and Nabi even though they were in Indian colours.

I think I have ranted enough about the wrongs in Indian football and hence bored and turned off quite a few readers; let me now describe my entire experience of watching the Argentina vs Venezuela match at the stadium. My two friends Zubin and Rohan (of meeting with the girl in the taxi story fame) had come down from Delhi and Mumbai to attend the match. After picking them up from the airport and my friend Captain Vyom from his flat, we went to Affraa in City Center for a couple of drinks before heading to the stadium. This was very similar to the experience I had a couple of weeks ago when I had gone to see United play Spurs at Old Trafford and had few drinks with the Red Devils’ faithful at the Tollgate pub outside the stadium before and after the game.

We had to wait for nearly two hours outside the stadium – our tickets were for Gate 3 which had the longest queue; it was so long that some spectators were overjoyed just at reaching the end of it after walking for nearly 1 km. Still we managed to enter the stadium well in time and managed to get hold of fairly good seats near the half way line. The players had not yet started warming up but soon Messi emerged from the underground tunnel and this was greeted by a huge roar, something that was repeated for the next 2 hours every time Messi touched the ball. The game finished only 1-0 in favor of Argentina but Messi gave a memorable performance with scintillating bursts of acceleration and some unbelievable turns and almost all Argentine attacks went through him. After the game we tried going to Park Street to get dinner and then listen to the live band at Some Place Else but after being stuck in the stadium traffic jam for more than an hour, we settled for the much humbler Azad Hind Dhaaba in Salt Lake Sector V.

The next day we (Zubin, Rohan and me) went to Flury’s (it is pronounced as “Floory’s” for the uninitiated) for brunch and then we went to our college in Joka. We all three were from the same hostel and hence were a bit apprehensive as we had heard stories that our hostel (New Hostel) had almost become defunct and our regular haunt, Kotlerda’s shop had shut down. We were pleased to find that people were still staying at New Hostel (NH), but also disappointed to learn that people no longer played footer volley. We had the our regular drink of Lemon Soda at Kotlerda’s shop and thereafter went to have a look at the newest hostel of the campus, also called Land Vihin Hostel by some NH people as it is situated in the middle of a lake. We were shocked to see this hostel – it looked so modern and brilliant that it was almost out of place in the rest of the campus. We also happened to meet some of other people in campus like the mess workers, the 2 guys who run the coffee shop in the academic block – it was good to see that these people who have been associated with the college in their own small way for years now and have not really reaped any great benefits from the college, still remember ex students like us who have just spent 2 years of our lives here.

In the evening we went to Shisha Bar in Camac Street. I was 3rd time lucky having being refused entry due to lack of female company and shoes on two previous occasions. I felt that for the kind of publicity it gets, it is just an ok sort of place – but then I went during the early evening when the place was quite empty and not really buzzing. Post Shisha Bar, we went to another of our college day haunts, Oly Pub on Park Street. As usual we had to wait for nearly an hour to get a table and were told off by the waiters numerous times for obstructing them, but in the end it was worth it – not only for the heavy dose of nostalgia but also for the excellent continental food like the steak and the mixed grill. No visit to Oly Pub is complete without a visit to the Mecca of all Joka students, i.e. the Some Place Else pub in the Park hotel. We reached there to find the place already crowded with the blues band on stage. We stayed there for a couple of hours and we bumped into some present day students from Joka. Rohan was delighted to engage in some banter with the leading lady of the band, who actually really took his case over him pronouncing the song Layla as Laila (of Laila o Laila, Har koi chaye tujhe milna akela fame).

Overall it was a great weekend as I could visit my college haunts with my college buddies; at the same time I think a part of me has begun to painfully realize that while Calcutta may be great for the odd weekend of nostalgia, culture and the Pujas, it may be not really that exciting for staying permanently.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Status update

I have not been writing for a long time now and this is going to be a really short post. This is more of a desperate attempt to remain relevant in the social network, which other people find much easier ways to achieve, either by liking the fact that certain individuals have found "lou" or by questioning/commenting/debating on the efficacy of Indian superman and/or streaker videos.

I have been in Gujarat on work for quite a while now and before writing anything else, I would like to bust the myth of the "Kudi Gujarat Ki" propagated once upon a time by the pop-singer Jasbir Jassi. The hot "Kudis" just do not exist and are nowhere to be seen, be it the cinema halls, the malls, the pubs, I mean the cool drink bars. In Gujarat I have been traveling quite a bit, going to places like Dahej/Bharuch/Vapi, places which I had read about in many a consulting report as places driving India's GDP growth and had hoped I would never have to visit. I already have too much personal growth that I need to deal with. These places, for the lack of a better word in my vocabulary, truly suck and so my evenings are spent within the confines of my hotel room watching television and ordering chicken sandwich and milk shakes from the room service.

My evenings spent watching TV have enabled me to discover the beauty of the great television show, Big Boss 4. The characters are just so amazing and do such daft things, that it makes me feel less of a loser in life. Initially I was in a dilemma about whether to watch KBC or Big Boss at 9pm every evening. But this last week has definitely tilted the balance in favour of Big Boss, from Pamela Anderson's guest appearance, Dollyji's educative exposition on Hindi gaalis, to the simmering romantic overtures between Sameer Soni and Shweta Tiwari, all this have made a fan of the show. I regret that I have missed so much of the last 3 seasons; maybe like Friends, there will be re-runs or DVDs in the near future.

Of all the characters, I feel very sorry for Pamela Anderson; poor girl, her luggage must have got lost during her flight journey to India and so she had to wear bedsheets for most of the time during her stay in Big Boss' house. She must have traveled British Airways to India and I can fully empathize with her. Even my luggage was misplaced by the buffoons at Heathrow. The fact that no one welcomed me with open arms or even bedsheets when I landed in Pam's country truly shows how welcoming we are to our guests and that after Draupadi, no woman can be "vastra haran"-ed in our nation.

PS: I hope that with this post I can connect to regular followers of Big Boss and discuss with them my opinions and views. My efforts to find like minded people in my social network have proven to be quite unsuccessful till now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Once upon a time in Mumbai

(This is my tryst with fiction, so brickbats and criticism are welcome.)

“Taxi!” shouted Rohan at the black and yellow cab hurtling down the opposite side of the road. Luckily for him the taxi stopped and Rohan crossed the road, skillfully negotiating the heavy traffic on his side of the road. But by the time Rohan reached the taxi a girl was already talking to the taxi driver. She was wearing a blue shirt and black trousers and although Rohan could not see her face, he guessed that she must be around his age only. Rohan cursed his luck as he anticipated that the taxi driver would not take his side in this latest battle of the sexes; he was already late for office and it was drizzling as well. However, much to his surprise, the taxi driver told the girl that Rohan had asked him to stop from across the road before she had approached him.

“Where are you going?” the girl turned around and asked Rohan. What immediately struck Rohan was that the girl was quite good looking: fair, long hair, sharp features and good figure, in short a girl who Rohan would describe in one word as hot when he would later narrate the incident to his friends.

Rohan paused for a couple of seconds before replying “Nariman Point.”.

“Oh good, I am also going there. Let us share the cab then” she offered.

Rohan was slightly taken back by this unexpected offer and thought of saying no, but better sense prevailed and Rohan agreed to share the taxi. The fact that the girl was hot might have influenced his decision but as he would later tell his friends, he was primarily driven by the altruistic motive of not letting a girl wait in the rain for a taxi.

So they shared the rear seat of the taxi with the girl sitting behind the driver as the taxi made its way from Dadar to Nariman Point through the serpentine Mumbai traffic. It was a slightly awkward situation for Rohan who had not been in such close proximity of unknown good looking girls since his ISC examinations, when his neighbor in the examination hall was a humanities student from some girls school in South Delhi. Since then he had studied engineering and MBA in the testosterone charged environs of the premier educational institutes of the country where such experiences had eluded him.

Rohan was now trying to get a good look of the girl through the corner of his eye, lest he be accused of ogling at her. It was not sunny outside and so he did not have the excuse of wearing his sunglasses which would have enabled him to stare at her without getting caught. He could notice that she was drying her shiny and slightly wet hair with a small towel like handkerchief which only a girl could carry. She was wearing a pleasant perfume and the smell, especially with the windows of the taxi rolled up due to the rains, was slightly intoxicating. Rohan wanted to start a conversation with her but could not think of anything to break the ice. He tried to remember something from the book “The Game” that might be useful in the present context but his memory played truant this time.

It was almost when the taxi had reached Parel, that the girl broke the eerie silence by introducing herself. “Hi, I am Nisha.”

“I am Rohan” he replied. He was not going to let go of this opportunity to talk to her and hence carried on “So Nisha, where do you work in Nariman Point?”

“I work in a law firm called Amarchand Mangaldas; their office is behind the LIC building” she said.

“I know a few people in Amarchand Mangaldas. I have worked with them on lot of deals from my company’s side” Rohan replied.

“Deals? What king of deals?” she enquired.

“Well actually I work in the investment banking division of Kotak and so we need a lot of legal aid and opinion on different transactions and IPOs.”

“So you are an MBA-hot shot from the IIMs turned into an i-banker stud, huh?” she asked.

Rohan became slightly defensive at this riposte and quickly replied, “Well I was lucky enough to go to one of the IIMs but I am surely no hot shot or stud. So are you a lawyer?” he added, eager to change the subject away from his academic and professional exploits.

“Well I graduate only this year from Symbiosis College, Pune and joined Amarchand Mangaldas in June,” she replied.

“Symbiosis Law is best law college in India, isn’t it? By the way do you know a girl called Rohini from your college? I think she also graduated this year.”

“I know her but not really friendly with her. Why do you ask? Are you friends with her?” Nisha asked.

“Not really. But one of my school friends had a crush on her and so I had met her once while I was still in Delhi before moving out for college.”

“No way! You are from Delhi! Which area?”

“Karol Bagh” Why, are you from Delhi too? Which area?” asked Rohan, half expecting her to be from GK-II or South Ex.

She replied “I am from Ghaziabad actually but generally pass it off as Delhi, especially to people who do not know about the geography of Delhi in detail. By the way, this girl Rohini you mentioned about, well she had a quite a reputation in college with her multiple flings and was quite a hot property amongst the guys” informed Nisha.

“So the reason you were not friends with her was that she got all the male attention while maybe you did not, right?” asked Rohan, immediately regretting what he had just said. In response he got a stern look from her and then she turned around to face the window and hence resumed the sound of silence.

Rohan had already made plans to take her phone number but he blew it with a snide comment which he had hoped would show his sense of humor. He started sulking for a few minutes and then saw that they had reached Peddar Road. He realized that if he wanted her number by the time they reached Nariman Point he had to soon initiate conversation again with her. This time he decided to broach more universal topics like cricket, Hindi films or the high rents in Mumbai so as to prevent any further faux pas. He finally settled on the last of the three as she might not be interested in cricket beyond Sachin Tendulkar or the cheer girls of IPL and his own strong anti-Shahrukh Khan views might not exactly endear him to her. As a keen follower of popular culture right across the spectrum from Kanti Shah to Karan Johar, Rohan knew that girls had a thing for SRK, but even then he was not going to feign false allegiances for the sake of a 10 digit passcode, most probably beginning with the digit 9.

“So you live with room-mates here in Mumbai? And how much do you pay as rent?” asked Rohan tentatively as they reached Marine Drive.

She immediately replied (as if she was waiting for Rohan to initiate conversation) “Don’t ask me about rents in Mumbai; they are a scandal. I would have got twice as big a house in Delhi at half the rent compared to the pigeon hole I am staying in Dadar.”

Rohan felt that he had struck a right note and the Mumbai rents was at least a topic on which he could to talk to her for some time; and talk they did, on Delhi vs Mumbai, on TV shows like “Friends” which they both loved, how they hated Shahrukh Khan and why Saurav Ganguly rather than Sachin Tendulkar was their favorite cricketer. The conversation continued freely as the taxi went past the Bachelor’s ice cream shop (like Rohan, Nisha’s favourite was also the chili flavored ice cream), the Intercontinental Hotel and the Trident. Rohan was thoroughly enjoying the conversation and felt that he shared a really good vibe with Nisha, something that went beyond her being just extremely good looking. The Marine Drive which he passed twice everyday for two years now, suddenly appealed to him again with a new sense of beauty and charisma.

The normally boring one hour commute from Dadar to Nariman Point today seemed to be too short a journey to Rohan as they reached his office and he reluctantly got out the taxi, He was about the pay the fare and then ask her for her number when Nisha interrupted his thoughts as she rolled down the taxi window and asked him “Are you going to Delhi during Diwali. I am getting married at that time in Delhi. My fiancée also works in Amarchand Mangaldas.”

“Congratulations!” Rohan said absent-mindedly as he was trying to get his wallet out to pay the fare.

“Don’t bother about the fare, I will pay it” she said and handed Rohan her visiting card which had suddenly materialized out of nowhere. “It was really great talking to you; call me sometime on my cell number. I am really getting late for office, so bye for now.”

With those parting words she rolled up the taxi window and Rohan stood dumbfounded for a moment as he saw the taxi disappear round the corner. He dropped the visiting card in a trash can and then he entered his office building.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review of “Flirting in Good Faith” by Gaurav Narang

(This is the first time I am reviewing a book and what better way to start than with my wingmate, Gaurav Narang's bestselling novel)

Lately there have been a surfeit of MBA turned authors writing about their college days and while best selling author Gaurav Narang has similar credentials and more, his debut novel “Flirting in Good Faith” is more a story about the basic and universal emotion of love rather than the much heard tale about life in the hallowed educational institutions of India.

The book is about a small town boy Satyam and his journey through engineering and MBA colleges and his complicated love life. Satyam falls in love with a girl called Anisha while in engineering college and although they become the best of friends, he is unable to properly express his love for her. When college ends, Satyam and Anisha go their separate ways in life, with Saytam eventually joining IIM Calcutta after 1 year of working in Bangalore and Noida. In this period he befriends another girl called Zora, primarily to create a distraction from Anisha. Zora falls for Satyam, but he is unable to reciprocate her feelings as he still loves Anisha.

In IIM Calcutta, Satyam struggles academically, failing a paper every term and is branded a failure. He gets back in touch in Anisha after more than a year and learns that she is marrying a guy called Martin. The rest of the story is full of melodrama with Zora attempting suicide because of unreciprocated love, Satyam getting chucked out of the college and Anisha realizing that she also loves Satyam and then breaking her marriage to be with Satyam even as she is pregnant with Martin’s child.

The story is essentially a love story but as a reader I could not feel any sort of empathy or emotional connect with any of the characters; nor was I drawn into the vortex of the situation or dilemma faced by the characters. College life stories generally thrive on their humor quotient but the book fails to deliver in this regard as well; if there was some humor, it was frankly lost on me.

The narration of the story is also slightly disconcerting with paragraphs repeatedly running into multiple pages; also the primary medium of conversation between the characters is Google Talk chats and at times it is difficult to decipher who is saying what.

Although the book is primarily not about Satyam’s experience in IIM Calcutta, Narang’s portrayal of IIM Calcutta leaves me complaining as it is only restricted to the natural beauty of the campus and the cut throat competition in academics and placements. I am aggrieved at the fact that he does not delve into the best things the college has to offer: the amalgamation of uniquely talented and brilliant people (and I am not talking academics here), the sense of camaraderie and friendship, especially within each wing and last but not the least footer volley (Satyam watches the game being played but never participates) and bakar on IP.

The book is also a litany of grammatical mistakes and also a smack (with a thud) on the face of conventional wisdom regarding sentence construction. While the former should be addressable with better editing, the second I think is more intentional wherein Narang plays to lowest common denominator with his expression of raw emotion. Let me quote in good faith some of the most remarkable passages from this book:

"I Love you." I told her again in a plain voice bereft of any emotions. Emotions dilute facts. When stating a fact one need not be emotional. I loved her and that was a fact which I repeated in a calm voice. Long silence ensued which was broken by a loud thud; the voice of someone’s hand against someone’s cheek, Anisha’s hand and my cheek.

and then again

It is hard to describe that expression but it was that sort of mixed emotion you feel when you pat your dog to demonstrate your affection for him and he in turns raises his leg to show his affection for you and then you shoo him away before he is done. Her reaction made me feel definitely like that dog.

(Contrary to what readers of this blog might think, the "in turns" is not a typo on my part but produced verbatim from the book.)

Narang is also guilty of using almost every cliché in the book such as one needing to do an MBA to open one’s own firm, to using hackneyed expressions like “Only constant is change” and “I love you, I love you not” as titles for different sections of the book and the characters of the opposite sex almost always addressing each other as “dear”.

My complaints nonetheless, the book is remarkable as a debut novel for the simple fact that it catapults Narang to the levels of Amitava Ghosh and Khaled Hosseini (Narang has actually left behind these also-rans in the bestseller list). In fact one need not read more than 2 pages to start appreciating the auteur and his brilliant work. The publisher effusively praises the “high quality fiction” and is surely referring to Narang when he says that what India needs is

“unconventional young adults who have moral courage, vision, perseverance, virtue and who are not bound by traditional ways and who are highly motivated to do their best.”

Touché, Mr. Publisher.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Ubiquitous Bengali Tourist

Hello friends, I am the ubiquitous Bengali tourist. To borrow the Russel Peters expression, wherever you go, I will get you; well I might not be as promiscuous or well endowed as my North Indian brethren, but when it comes to Wanderlust, I am second to none in India. Just cast your mind back to your last holiday (this generalization only holds true for tourist destinations within India) when you were trying to understand the history of the Mysore Rajas or were appreciating the pristine beauty of Sikkim and suddenly your concentration or the beauty of the moment was disturbed by the shrill cry of “Ogo Suncho” (the Bengali version of Aji Sunte Ho.)

Frankly I am everywhere; I take 2.5 vacations each year, during the summer holidays, during the winter holidays and maybe during Durga Puja holidays every alternate year. In between are thrown in the quick sorties to Digha/Shankarpur during unexpected 3 day weekends when the Left or Didi calls a bandh. These bandhs are extremely strategic and usually fall on a Friday or on a Monday; the cause for these Bandh could range from outrage against US atrocities in Iraq/ Afghanistan/ North Korea to the rising food prices (how a strike contributes to decreasing food inflation or helps hand to mouth daily laborers may appear a slightly untenable logic to non Bengalis, but that is not germane to this post.)

The summer vacation is to a hill station to escape the heat and humidity of Calcutta. In this we are guided by our late revered leader, Jyoti Basu who spent most of his summers in London, attracting non-existent investors to West Bengal. Coming back to the more domestic me, i.e. the ubiquitous Bengali tourist, I generally head to Darjeeling or Shimla in the summer. The visit is preceded by visits to the local laundry to collect the woolen wear, last worn during the 7 days of the Calcutta winter. You will be able to spot me easily at these hill stations by my trademark monkey cap and layers of warm clothing even though the temperature is not a tick below 20 degrees and I am talking Centigrades here. I never go alone on vacations and alone includes my immediate family; I always go in a large group comprising of friends and/or family like siblings/cousins, their families and parents and sometimes even grandparents thrown in for good measure. So when you see a large group at a tourist destination, which also the source of a large cacophony of noises, general nuisance, or an eyesore with bright pink and yellow cardigans and sweaters, you should know I am in town. Be scared, very scared.

In the hill stations I visit, I generally stay away from any physical exertions such as trekking, rafting, paragliding; as the Bengali intelligentsia I know better that such physical trivialities do not maketh me. My earlier generation could spout lines from Tagore apt for almost any situation or place, but Tagore is so passé now. So instead I visit the flower shows in the hill stations like Kalimpong/ Ooty where I take photographs. I encourage my family to mingle with the flowers, i.e. tread the flower bed and sit/stand amongst the flowers as opposed to stand next to them. I do not carry a camera and take the photographs with my mobile phone camera; technologically I am really up there and I have the latest camera phone made by my fellow country men in China. I am also not averse to the idea of clandestinely plucking a flower or two from such gardens for the daughter or the Mrs, necessarily in this order.

Coming back to my other holidays of the year, there is the mandatory pilgrimage to Puri/ Digha and if I am really adventurous, to the westernized beaches of Goa. So out come the Bermudas (pronounced as Bar-muda) and the colorful vests, as I display the full beauty of my athletic body on the beaches of Goa; a thing of beauty may not always be a joy forever. The wife is spared this chore and she continues to preserve her modesty in the saree (Honeymoon Travels anyone) and more recently in the Salwar Kameez. I restrict my children and myself to bathing in waist height sea water; the wife dutifully stands on the beach shouting at us and coercing us to not go so deep into the sea and providing us with towels to dry ourselves after we come back from our latest naval exercises (the pun is intended and thankfully does not go below the belt).

Another trait that distinguishes me is my food habits. While Calcutta is truly a gastronomical delight with cuisines and flavors from all over the world, I am more discerning in my choice of food when I travel; after all you have got to watch what you eat. Savoring the local food maybe an integral part of any traveling, but why bother when everything is available in good old Cal. Wherever I go I search for the staple rice and fish curry (called Maach Bhaat in Bengali, which delightfully rhymes with Marxbad) and it is only a matter of time before I chance upon the local Dada Boudi or the Annapurna Hindu Hotel, be it in Chennai or Goa. At times I am a bit more adventurous but only if Chinese or Biriyani is available, but then again it can never match the Calcutta standards.

Let me end my discourse here; the Sumo car is waiting at the West Bengal tourist lodge where I am staying during my umpteenth summer vacation to North Bengal. There are 14 of us in our group who need to get ready before fitting into that solitary sumo car. I sincerely hope that you also are able to take some time off from your busy capitalistic lives and head to the hills, where (after you have read this post) you will look forward to meet or at least can identify me.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dilli ki garmi

I was in Delhi over the weekend to attend the wedding of two of my Joka batch-mates, Tanu and Anant. I was supposed to be from the bride’s side as Tanu had invited me as opposed to my friend Sudhir, who was representing both the bride and the groom’s side, and as is his track record in matters of great consequence, he maintained his impeccable neutrality and impartiality. I think batch-mates marrying each other is a great idea as it not only provides you the opportunity to meet so many batchies in the wedding but also increases your available market by at least 1. The underlying argument is that the batchie getting married is also an once-upon-a-time available market that you have not been able to access and my hypothesis is all the more pertinent as the gender ratio in the colleges I have attended have been, to put it very mildly, slightly skewed.

Anyway coming back to the topic of the post (after another of my numerous unproved hypothesis), the Delhi trip was one of the most enjoyable trips in recent memory. The last time I visited Delhi was way back in 2006 to interview for FMS and it was not a case of once bitten twice shy, but that is another story all together. This was the first time I was actually gallivanting in Delhi without a care in the world and the experience was truly a paradigm shift (also called p-shifts by certain individuals who have moved up the value chain by causing re-orientation of goals and visions of the institutional frameworks) if ever there was one. After MBA college I have always been chomping at the bits to use the p-shift expression in work and what must be a shock to many readers (let me rephrase that as a majority of readers so as to not betray any disillusionment about my blog’s popularity), I have never been able to use the term in 2 years of consulting ppt making. Coming from Calcutta, Delhi was truly a p-shift for me right from the airport, the roads, the cosmopolitan crowds, the shopping malls, well the works basically.

Sudhir and I were staying at a guest house in GK-I and I was pleasantly surprised to find that is was located adjacent to the GK-I M Block Market, which my worldly wise friend Mr. Ghai had told me was one of the dhams to visit in Delhi to get darshan of the Deviyas of Delhi. So after arriving in Delhi on Saturday morning and checking into the guest house, we started on our Delhi tour, the first stop being the M Block Market. Apart from the obvious, two things particularly caught my attention: i) even a local market in Delhi was almost as big as our much fabled New Market back home in Calcutta, and ii) how cars in Delhi are parked at angle to the footpath – I am not sure if this leads to better space utilization considering the reduction in space available for the thoroughfare; I beseech the Evil Anakin to please take out his famous Reynolds pen and draw the trade-off diagram.

M Block Market being ticked off from our list, we realized that we needed to buy a gift for the marriage. One of my office colleagues had told me that Select City Walk Mall would be a good place to buy a gift and so following her suggestion we headed to Saket. I was surprised to see so much lane discipline in the Delhi traffic; a lane had been demarcated separately for the buses and not even one passenger car was using that lane; compare this with the Calcutta traffic where cars and especially autos give two hoots to traffic discipline. The first impression I had of the City Walk mall was that this cannot be India; the designer stores, the expensive looking cafes and restaurants, the high proportion of foreigners milling about with the desi junta and the extremely high style and beauty quotient of the women was something that I would not have believed to have existed in India had I not visited this mall. I remembered my student exchange days in France and the rest of Europe as I spent the rest of the idle afternoon at the European café sipping a beer and eating a Doner Kabab.

In the evening Sudhir and I met up with a couple of batchmates, Zubin and Arijit, who work and stay in Gurgaon. We were contemplating going to DU colleges like SRCC, LSR to check out the admission crowd but thankfully better sense prevailed and we went to a café called Big Chill which is said to be famous for its desserts and college crowd. I can vouch for the first, as I happily gobbled down a waffle and a cheese cake, but not the second as my friends with deceit and ample dexterity consigned me the wrong end of a corner table, i.e. the chair with its back to the crowd. Hence I was left to stare at un ugly film poster on the wall and concentrate on my food, which fortunately is never a chore for me.

After Big Chill, we went to a pub called TC near the IIT Delhi campus. Zubin apparently knows the owner of the place and so we had no problems entering the place even though we had no female company, as usual if I may add. The atmosphere inside TC was quite good with rock music playing and the fact Zubin knew the bartenders on first name basis helped in getting the drinks quickly. The crowd poured in as the evening progressed and the place was soon buzzing. However, Sudhir and I had to leave to attend the wedding which was the main purpose of our Delhi visit, but we decided to come back to TC later in the night after marking our attendance and getting photos clicked at the marriage; clearly proxy was not going to work this time. We had the TC stamp on our wrists and so hopefully would be able to enter the pub later on in the night; as Zubin said, once a TC always a TC. Just when I was about to leave TC, a very cute girl entered TC and so I entrusted Arijit with the arduous task of ensuring the girl remained in the pub till I came back from the wedding.

At the wedding I met a lot of my batch-mates. The WTF-ers (which I think Anant to this day insists stands for Westside Top Floor) were in attendance in full force along with others like Jolly-paaji albeit without his phone, Supriya, Aditya and Kirti. I did the customary congratulating the couple and smiling for the group photo and then sat down with Rambo (who incidentally was mistaken by many to be the groom because of his attire) and Supriya to roll out my stock of PJs. Supriya, who I used to call Urmila in 6th term due to some now forgotten arbit reason, as usual made fun of my PJs, but I think she really liked them and was happy that thankfully something has not changed.

I was at the wedding for an hour or so as the non-alcoholic non-non-vegetarian fare was not exactly manna to my Bong taste buds. I headed back to TC where the place had become jam packed with people and where the cute girl was still there; Arijit sure knew his stuff.

The rest of the evening was the normal drinking and trying to dance attempt at the pub with the usual highlight being provided by Zubin and his interaction with unknown girls. The girl in question this night apparently had a dragon with 3 left feet and 1 right foot tattooed on her arm and when Zubin pointed out this anomaly to her, she called him weird; Zubin had an animated discussion with her boyfriend and after lot of gas and little action, the matter ended amicably. We stayed in TC till it closed for the night at around 3am and then we headed to the ComeSome food court in Nizamuddin railway station. The food there was just about edible and nor were there any kamsin kalis to write home about. Sudhir and I came back to our guest house at about 4am and already started planning for our next trip to Delhi.

On Sunday I met up with two of my friends from office, Sahil and Shishir, both of whom have recently quit the company. While Sahil has a mobile phone website startup company ( along with the usual chicken and egg curries, Shishir is preparing for the civil services exam in his efforts to increase his NPV.I spent the afternoon with them at the Castle 9 pub in CP and was happy to find that there exists in Delhi a middle and an upwardly mobile class as well apart from the High Society HS crowd I had seen in Saket the day before. Unwillingly I had to leave for the airport in the evening and thus ended my 2 day trip of Delhi; I think have already started linking the city enough to come back sometime later in the year, maybe during the Commonwealth Games.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kites – Movie Review

The movie Kites makes for a seriously underwhelming cinematic experience. Despite the non favorable reviews I had gone in to see the movie with lot of expectations, particularly as Kites was being released 2 years after Hrithik Roshan’s last major film. The movie apparently has been two years in the making, but I wish the director Anurag Basu had spent some more time on the script of the movie. The script of the movie is cranky to say the least with lines like “long legs, the stairway to heaven” and the characterization of the support cast hackneyed with Kabir Bedi and Nick Brown wearing permanent scowls on their faces and shooting people with gay abandon.

The story of the movie is simple enough; J, played by Hrithik is a salsa dance teacher in Las Vegas who also marries illegal immigrants for money to enable them to get US citizenships. He is always on the look for the big chance in life and gets it when Gina (played Kangana Ranaut) the daughter of millionaire casino owner and bad man Bob (Kabir Bedi) falls in love with him. J gets involved with Gina for money but realizes that his true love in life is Linda (Barbara Mori, who else) who like J has got engaged for money to Gina’s brother, Tony (Nick Brown). J and Linda run away and the rest of the movie is about Tony and the police trying to hunt them down through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.

There are moments in the movie that keep your interest going like Hrithik’s dance sequences which sadly is restricted to the first 10/15 minutes of the movie, but sadly they are few and far between . The chemistry between the lead pair, Hrithik and Barbara Mori is sizzling to say the least and there are couple of delightful scenes when they try to communicate with each other across the language barrier (the girl is Spanish and speaks very little English while the guy does not know any Spanish) or when the play with shadows of their hands on a wall. But such moments are punctuated by the return of Tony with an irritating regularity to growl and kill or hit out at innocent people or trying to feel up Barbara Mori. The action sequences are good but nothing to write home about and the cinematography while being good has a distinct feel of being copied from other Hollywood movies. At the end of the day, Hrithik and Barbara Mori are the only two good things happening in this movie. The support cast leaves a lot to be desired and Kangana Ranaut has little to do except display her histrionics a few times and there is also the character of the selfless friend who dies for the cause of true love thrown in for good measure in the mix of things.

Overall this movie works as a Rakesh Roshan movie which gives Hrithik the vehicle to make an entry into Hollywood but if you are not a Hrithik fan, then the movie is definitely one to give a miss.