Friday, October 28, 2005


Hans is the self proclaimed master of oriental names. His claim to fame is that he can remember the names of all the members of some half dozen Japanese heavy metal bands. There is a story that he brought tears to the eyes of one of the band members when he recited all their names. I had to believe him when he pronounced correctly the 'Na' sound in Kannada (as in gaNesha). Even he had trouble pronouncing the name of my new Thai colleague, without getting his tongue into a double reef knot. I remembered that he had introduced himself with a most disarming smile "Hi I am Jabberwocky Ectoplasm Thingamajig***,” (What the…) ” but you can call me Boat" (Phew).
Boat; the most fidgety guy I have met. He is technically brilliant for his age, but to converse with him can be exasperating. For every word he utters, he shrugs his shoulder once, winks a couple of times, and moves his hand around in the most unpredictable ways. And in between words too his mouth is constantly moving; it’s like watching a badly dubbed Hong Kong movie. And to compound the problem, he is yet to master some very important consonants. The other day he told me "Lion is a bad man". Only 10 minutes, and a lot of clues later, I realised he was talking about Ryan. He is also the single biggest reason for many of our meetings getting delayed. This is how he told us that the system crashed on the fourth day (For reasons of brevity, the pauses and the fidgeting have been edited);
" first day....'tsok"
" second day ...'tsok"
" third day .... 'tsok"
"But....." longer pause, while he twitched all the muscles he could control, and the mood on his face changed from glad to sadness."...fourth day..." Oh the tension was killing us. "Not ok" !!!!!

*** Name changed to preserve anonymity. Real name available on request; well, as soon as the author learns it himself.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When in Rome, do the Romans

I’ve been a month here and I'm feeling at home now.
- I no longer stare at the orthodox Jews on Belgielei and wonder 'They still live like this???'.
- I sleep in the train without the fear of missing my station.
- The Bangladeshi surfing centre guy flashes me a big smile every time I walk past his shop. (Although the Tamilian lady next door starts scanning the ground when she senses my presence).
- I can differentiate between Dutch, German and French. I can speak a few sentences in Flemish too.
- I can strategically time to millisecond accuracy my visits to my desi friends here so that I get invited for meals.
- The Gujju guy at the night shop spits out his paan to talk to me. I find that very flattering.
- My biological clock seems to be already in tune with the seasons here. At least my scalp seems to be responding to the mysterious stimuli of the fall season, evident from post-shower analyses of the bathroom sieve.
- I like waffles.
- But I realised I was really blending in; when I realised I was subconsciously doing the 'Belgian pout'. A couple of weeks ago Fran asked me what I think is the most peculiar thing I noticed in Belgium. At that time I had no answer but if she asks me again I have to say it is the Belgian Pout. It’s the Belgian equivalent of the famous Ambiguous Indian Head Shake. This is how you do it; you purse your lips to form the smallest circle possible, lift your eyebrows, nod your head a couple of times and optionally let out an unsure 'yeah' (of course, it wont sound like a 'yeah' because you've rounded your lips!!). When done correctly it literally translates to 'I don’t see why not!’.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


It was the International Progressive Rock Festival at Antwerp!

yeah right! The only thing international about it was that there was an indian guy in the audience.

When we arrived there the show had begun and an amateur band was playing. There was nothing progressive about the hairy guy grunting and growling into the microphone. If anything, he had regressed a couple of rungs down the evolutionary ladder.

A little too pompous a word to describe an event that had an audience of 150 people, I thought!

The first couple of bands that played were the typical wannabes. A guitarist so obsessed with growing his hair long, and moving his fingers as fast as he could on the fret board, that he forgot that music is supposed to sound nice. A lyricist who strung together profound sounding random phrases and a singer who was throating those words like he had a grudge against everybody in the world. After we had suffered the first couple of bands,though, things looked up. There was some really good music played. And the last band Riverside actually were good enough to do a fake exit!

The highlight of the evening, though, has to be meeting Christoph. Now I know both the King Crimson fans in the world. Beat that!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My last moult

Atlast I flew out of my nest. A little late, at 27 years, but it finally happened. I was going to taste freedom, expand my horizons and seek my fortunes as a citizen of the world. Now in the middle of the second weekend in MY own house I realised that all the exalted ideas of spreading your wings comes with a lot of fine print; washing, vacuuming, cleaning and cooking; and worse, eating the crap that you cooked too!

Naaaaah its not bad at all. I'm just a few books and an internet connection short of eden... and maybe a couple of friends, and a bicycle, and a pair of dancing eyes, and a few classic rock CDs, and....

Some photos from Antwerp. and my home

Friday, October 07, 2005

AC ducts on the floor?

We walked into the old dilapidated building that looked like a hideout for the mafia. Rudi with his shaven head, shades and the suitcase actually looked like a henchman here to fix an underworld deal. The first floor was completely empty. The walls did have some kind of ledge space where there were lots of motionless pigeons. When I strained my eyes I could see that most of them were dead. The others seemed to be in mourning. We had to get to the fourth floor. We reached the lift and there was something scrawled in Flemish. 'Lift is unreliable, take the stairs' Hans translated it for me. The staircase, in its glory days (sometime around the second world war) must have been a fire exit. The second floor was empty too. The third floor, I was told, had been a cigarette factory sometime back and it still reeked of tobacco. The fourth floor door opened to a long passageway with a huge AC duct right on the floor. There were rooms on either side and all of them had their doors ajar to let in the smaller ac ducts. All these little ductlets were blowing air into the rooms and were flaying about like tentacles, you know due to Newtons third law and all. The room that we had to go to was at the end of the passage. There the tentacle was subdued by two cans of water. We had to step over them and get into the place. We had entered the server room of Mobistar, Belgium's second largest mobile operator. I should have believed them when they told me Belgium is a weird place.