Friday, December 30, 2005

Looking back - 1

One of my resolutions for 2005 was to learn a new language. German is not exactly the sweetest tongue around. And lets face it, the people associated with the language haven't been the best accumulators of good press! But still, having mastered a full sentence in German - "umsteigen Züge linien sieben und dreißig..." that I picked from the tram announcer in Vienna- it was my natural choice.

My first impression from the class was the realisation that I had finally reached a stage in life when my teachers are going to be younger than me. And it took a couple of weeks to not get startled by the harshness of the language. Gesundheit sounded like I was being reprimanded for sneezing. And try saying 'Feuerschutztür' without sounding rude and without getting some spittle out. But later, it turned out to be a fantastic four months, although in the end we went only as far as to be able to order a salami sandwich with cheese in it (and even that little knowledge is getting displaced by the flemish that I'm trying to learn here). Learning the language turned out to be a great pretext to satisfy my need to have a few non-engineer friends; this bunch at the class was a great mix, a doctor, a jeweller, students, an artist, a pub-keeper-turned-salesman etc. Despite the forbiddingly complicated grammar, learning the language itself had its kick too. I picked up a fetish to form big words: Lieblingstischtennisspielerinnen (favourite female table tennis player) is one word! And Deutsch has some wonderfully expressive words; Weltschmerz, Zeitgeist, Wanderlust and my favourite of all, Schadenfreude (who else but the Germans could come up with both the word and the idea!;-) ). My best memories were all from outside class though; classic rock in Vishal's den, Kunal's psychological warfare while playing Pictionary over beer and then the rain-trek at coorg and later Pictonary over kichdi at Ankura's, the Bangalorean vs Ausländer duels, watching Satya lose her mind and laugh hysterically after a glass of wine and the farewell Sangrias.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in Amsterdam

Dames en Heren,welkom in Amsterdam. It don't matter whether you are a nerdy artsy-fartsy soul looking to unravel the works of the impressionist masters or just a loose cannon intent on debauchery or anyone in between. There's something here for everyone. Some pictures.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


You get the best advice from psychos, most often for the price of a rasagulla.

This week, psychos of another kind contributed too on a theme that had bothered me; the following are from the 'Pool Guy' episode from Seinfeld

"This world here, this is George's sanctuary. If Susan comes into contact with this world, his worlds collide!"
- Kramer

"You have no idea of the magnitude of this thing. If she is allowed to infiltrate this world then George Costanza as you know him ceases to exist. You see, right now I have Relationship George. But there is also Independent George. That's the George you know, the George you grew up with... Movie George, Coffee Shop George, Liar George, Bawdy George."
"I love that George."
"Me too, and he's dying. If Relationship George walks through this door, he will kill Independent George. A George divided against itself cannot stand!"
- George and Jerry

Monday, December 19, 2005

Post aphees post

(Soliloquy in paranthesis)
"Oh we had a tough time in Mumbai"
"We went to the central post office to send a postcard to the family and that place didn't have postcards! Strange, no?"
"naah not to me. That's the first thing we are taught at school. [In kindergarten-school-teacher-falsetto] Children, don't expect postcards in the post office"
"(you could laugh for courtesy)"
"And they don't even sell envelopes!"
"And we finally found some envelopes at a Tabak shop. If a 4ftx4ft shop can stock envelopes then surely the post office can too!"
"haha hmm"
"Atleast they sell stamps in the post office, but guess what?"
"(judging by the gravity on your face your modesty got outraged by a burly postal worker!) hmmm?"
"You can't just lick the back of the stamps to paste them. You have to use glue"
"hmmm (yawn)"
"And then I had to spread the glue with my finger and I made a mess of the envelope and my hands! It was crazy"
"I mean there are two hundred people working there and not one of them bothered to help us"
"Hey who do you think is greater, Eddie Merckx or Lance Armstrong?"
"Oh don't believe the Americans; they'll tell you anything!!!"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stad fest

So what if I later shivered like a plucked chicken in antarctica? So what if I was the only dud over 12 who kept falling with splayed legs? So what if my butt and my forearms still hurt ? So what if I wasn''t exactly a male Tara Lipinski?
Ice skating is awesome fun and I'm completely hooked.

All the christmas festivities in Antwerp have been super fun. Except when they start to play 'Last Christmas' by Wham! On top of being a bad song it's a determined uhrwurm sticking like a piece of stray cellophane. I found myself humming it till I got all itchy with irritation. People!!!! That song has nothing to do with Jesus, Bethlehem, the magi or anything remotely connected to them. It has nothing do with christmas except for the small incidental detail that a gay man gave his heart to someone on december 25th and he/she duly returned it the very next day! Stop playing it!!!!!


I don't exactly have an embarassment of riches when it comes to the programmes that I get on my TV. It's another case of this is all you get, learn to like it, sorta like Pathak's pickles!
Some observations from Saturday evening:

Channel 2:
Watching ER, and I'm thoroughly irritated by the most wordy, proficient and vain bunch of medical professionals ever. While the camera swivels around the patient, the doctors and the nurses do their prognosis in the one-person-one-sentence style. '3rd degree burns on the lycopersicum esculentum' starts the guy facing the camera. The protocol demands that the one standing next to the last speaker say something now. With all the due consideration for the cameraman, they make sure they never speak out of turn. So without a moment's pause, the woman next to the first speaker says 'Patient has history of ephemerolsis. Check before administering pisum sativum'. next! 'Patient visibly impressed by our medical vocabularies.Keep this going'.

Did you know that 'Big Foot Historian' and 'Crop circle artist' are ACTUAL professions?

This channel specialises in reality shows and cheesy countdowns, like 101 shocking moments and 101 hottest Celebrity gossip. Yesterday I got to watch 101 Celebrity oops! If I thought Big Foot Historian is a weird profession, the ensemble of this programme made me rethink. There are people here who specialise in remembering that Jennifer Aniston didn't thank her husband Brad Pitt in one of her award acceptance speeches, and then they succinctly express their own scholarly views on the gaffe 'I was like OH...MY...GOD! '
And later there was the top ten police chases, everyone of which looked like every other. I was impressed, though, by the sense of fairness that the cops in America display. They know that there's just one guy in the car they are chasing, they know he is driving like a maniac breaking all traffic rules, they know they'll kick his butt when they catch him, but they still insist on calling him a SUSPECT!

The music channel. The top of the charts features a lady outraged by the fact that her butt attracts so much attention , in a song aptly titled 'My Humps'. Most of the other songs are by rap artists ashamed of their real names.

The playmate took a small break from relentlessly kissing Hugh Hefner's ass (figuratively of course!) to say this 'My two (yeah she said 2) favourite Fs on the fourth of july are food , fireworks and f*****'. One of the lesser kicks that Hefner must surely get out of the company he keeps is to feel like Mensa material.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I am refreshing the cricinfo page twice every 10 seconds and following a test match. Find a lousier loser.

Completely captivated by the single-lonely-guy-in-far-off-city narrative of ‘Sophie’s Choice’. Take away the sex life and the literary pretensions of Stingo , the protagonist, and it could be ME telling the story.

3:00 PM
Even in the bitter cold, a trip down the Meir can be quite rewarding. Amateur musicians play on the streets on the weekends and holidays. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.(bad analogy)
There is a two-member band playing swing and boogie woogie tunes. One guy is playing the piano, an unusual instrument for a street musician. The other guy is playing percussion on an instrument that is evidently a one-of-its-kind, fabricated from kitchen utensils. It seems to be made of a kitchen grate with a cymbal attached to it (or it could very well have been a plain brass plate). He is playing it with an egg-beater in one hand and a spoon in the other. And they are making some unbelievable music. They are having so much fun in the process that by the end of their short concert I’m jealous of them. A part of me is completely sold on the romanticism of living out of the box, and the other part is depressed about my own undistinguished existence and woeful lack of talents. Despite that, I put money into the old hat.

8:00 PM
Momentary break from social death. I am the curio in the middle of a crowd of Caucasians at a colleague's birthday party. I am initially conscious and everytime they switch to dutch I feel they are making fun of me. But it’s great fun. And conversation is easy if you are an Indian guy. These phirangs can never have enough of the We-have-more-gods-and-languages-than-people and The-red-traffic-light-is-just-a-recommendation stories, although I lose them when I attempt to explain cricket. And they confound me with how seriously they take their alcohol.

3:00 AM the next day
On the way back home I’m reminded of how grossly inadequate my winter clothes are. I lean against the room heater for half an hour before going to bed.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thanks MS

I read a post that made me check the Kumbh Mela register to see if they have a record for some brother who got separated from me. I believe its not plagiarism if you credit the author. The first paragraph is completely from the original post. To quote the hateful platitude that most software engineers and MBA aspirants seem to love, 'Why reinvent the wheel?'. But the latter one is original :-)

I hate Harry Potter. For no particular reason. I am very bad at taking compliments. Not that many come my way. On MOST days, I like Seinfeld better than Friends. I wear thin jackets even in freezing cold. Pain is good. I feel like a complete idiot when people discuss taxes or stocks. I prefer coffee to tea, 99 times to 1. I love long hair. I talk less when I am on a high. I love heights. I cannot speak in any other language once I have established a rapport with someone in a certain language. I am judgmental about people based on their linguistic origin. Sometimes I feel that I have been there and done that than most people I know. Sometimes its the other way round. I can listen to music twentyfourhoursaday sevendaysaweek threesixtyfivedaysoftheyear. I'd like to imagine movie scenes no one has ever attempted, like riding a car in a mall. After I heard that, in some of the African countries where there is a dictatorship rule, you can get killed for walking on the wrong side of the street, I have a strong urge to visit that place. I am psyched everytime I pack my suitcases for it may exceed the weight limit. I prefer to ride or walk in the rain than to wait in a shelter. For a long time, I used to think riding auto rickshaws was a sissy thing to do. As much as I hate to admit it, I am biased towards people who have strong command over English. I hate people who have good command over English but fashionably speak bad. After staying with parents and alone, I do not know which I prefer. 95% of the bloggers I know or read of give me an indication that they invariably have an ex. Everyday I figure out that there is so much I don't know. Everyday I realize that there is nothing left that I don't know. I'd like to believe the last two sentences were profound. It's crap. I do atleast one different thing every six months. I never go back and check the prices of any of the electronic goods that I have bought. There are two kinds of people in this world, one who follow their hearts and one who follow their minds. Only my close friends can correctly guess which category I fall into.Jax, you inspired me to blog.

I hate the words Obviously and Basically. They mean nothing to me. Till I was in 10th standard, I used to do the bowling action without a ball in my hand atleast 25 times a day.I don't have the guts to speak Hindi, to dance, or to sing in public. Greeting card verses make me sick. I almost never get angry these days. My muthodi-mates and another friend will never believe that. I am attracted to people who have a short temper. I wish I was articulate enough to express the genius I noticed in the 93 pages of Ulysses I read. Silences during phone conversations make me nervous as hell. I always feel guilty about reimbursing pizza bills at office. I don't believe Freud.I have a prejudice against people who read the Financial times or technical journals. In a weirdly masochistic way I enjoyed the depression that 1984 (the book), and most holocaust material I have read gave me. I keep thinking of alternate careers despite being aware of my lack of talents. I am fascinated by how easily you can get away with silliness when writing lyrics in Hindi. ('Diye jalte hai, phool khilte hai' for god's sake!!!) Honesty is overrated. I love spiral staircases. I hate people who don't admit that they turned engineers or doctors because they didn't know what else to do. I wonder why it's so difficult to convince a girl that women's cricket is crap without making them conclude that I am an MCP.I also believe that they should ban male bharathnatyam dancers and synchronised swimmers. When hanging out with groups I always notice that there are a just a handful of people who always end up paying the bill most of the time. It took me 26 years to be comfortable with the knowledge that there will be a few people who will hate me. I pick the most boring gifts. I have so many regrets. The first time I saw the opera scene in Philadelphia I was uncomfortable and I still can't believe they gave all those oscars to Titanic. I must go now.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The dirty linen

How did people ever manage without the internet?

When I wanted to learn how to best use the laudromat, I turned to the internet and sure enough, there was all the information that I needed. I read the important bits a couple of times and feeling sufficiently well-equipped went to the one in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, every written word there was in dutch! So here's the updated procedure. If you are a dutch-ignorant expat in the Vlanderen region of Belgium, Holland, Surinam or South Africa here's what you should ;
1. Go to the Laundromat
2. Call up Hans and do exactly what he tells you to do.

But seriously, I'm now an expert on the Belgian laundromat scene. That coming just a week after I mastered the art of making chapathis. Life in the recent past has been a string of new experiences. Mostly pleasant, but all this cooking and washing; THAT I frankly was better off not knowing. Some day, from the vantage point of retrospect, I bet I'll look back at this, flash one of those dumb smiles that go well with nostalgia, and talk about how wonderful this was. I'm sure I'll bore my kids with hackneyed stories that illustrate the character building nature of these experiences. But right now, its just a pain in the butt

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The day the music died

I kept dreading the little gesture that shouts out to me ‘You have overstayed’, and I think I got it. Here’s a post to commemorate my expiry date. I want to compose prose that captures all and reveals nothing. As I get over moaning and self-pitying and puncturing the voodoo doll with all the needles it can take, I realise that these few weeks will still remain the summer (the phirang’s metaphor for a good time, not the scorching Indian season). The memories are a solace while I grapple with a workload of a million questions per minute; 'Was I wronged by a higher truth, screwed by the sabziwalla or dragged by destiny?'. How can I be SO glad to be alone this moment but hate it the very next? I realise the futility of finding answers for these no-gooders, I know I'll be left with nothing but the sweet taste of the supreme compliment. My second favourite was 'I love the way you manually defog the windows'. Other worthy contenders for that spot were 'You are dumb', 'You are a phoney bastard' and 'Rip van Uncle'.

Background score for the moment – Thank You by Alanis Morisette