Monday, August 28, 2006


Random notes from my swiss trip.

* Although we hadn't planned for it, we landed in Zurich right on the day of the famous Street Parade. It's hard to describe the scene. By the end of the evening nothing in the world could shock me.
* The mountains of Switzerland are teeming with Indians and Chinese. One of the ticket collectors on the train spoke a bit of hindi too, kinda like Tom Alter as a firang oppressor in all those period movies.

* In the places where there were no tourists, Switzerland is as beautiful as any place I've seen. Jungfraujoch, the highest peak in Europe (?) is not one such place. But sometimes you have to visit these marquee destinations which are vulgarly crowded, mostly with desi couples. There's even an indian restaurant at the top, with a carefully crafted ambience, complete with rude waitresses.
* The high point of my stay,quite literally too, was the sky diving. Experiences like that have a way of creating bonds. That evening, the bunch of us who went on the plane together drank almost till morning. We felt like best buddies. I no longer remember their names.
* For anybody staying at Interlaken, I strongly recommend the hostel, Balmer's Herberge. If not for the great atmosphere you should go there just for this gorgeous bottle they give you when you check-in.

* On the third day, L & I hiked on a random mountain, just to escape the crowds. We sat there by a hilltop-lake saying nothing for a long time, hearing nothing but the chirping birds and the rustling leaves. While I was in the middle of pensive introspection, L chose to break the silence with the most uncalled-for statement "This landscape reminds me of the Brokeback mountains". It's difficult to overstate the peace-shattering effect of that line. I started to pack up before he had uttered the last syllable. I longed for the chinese tourists.

* If nothing, you can just buy a train pass and spend all your time travelling on trains, and the mountain rails and the rope cars and it would still be a worthwhile swiss holiday. I loved the train journey from Interlaken to Luzern.

* I'm definitely going there again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Commercial Break

The field of advertising is often characterized by superb imagination. But even in this field banalities rule. Last night, while I was channel-hopping, I found the following laws to be relevant to TV ads across cultures and nations.

° Toothpaste ads shall feature fictitious dental organisations (with ridiculous names) vouching for their favourite brand.

° The effectiveness of sanitary napkins shall always be illustrated by the use of blue ink.

° Detergent ads shall employ the services of B-grade celebrities knocking on the houses of very bad actors who are trying their best to look like unsuspecting house wives. The detergent shall always be used to remove ketchup stains.

° Users of shaving creams, razors or after-shaves shall be so obsessed with feeling their own glazed cheeks, they shall not even notice the hot babes clinging on to them.

° Animated chicken shall persuade people to eat their eggs.

° Boys who consume health drinks shall jump over fences to prove that those nutrients really help. Girls shall engage in a more mental activity, such as solving jigsaw puzzles, to prove the same point.

° Contraceptives shall have grossly exaggerated aphrodisiacal effects.

° Shampoo ads shall blatantly ignore populous demographics such as curly haired men or short haired women.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Monday I Can't Complain About

I'll use a borrowed line. The ratio of the number of times I've taken off in an airplane to the number of times I've landed is no longer 1.

There was nervous energy in that airplane. Probably because many of the passengers were flying for the first time in their lives without having to wear seatbelts. Easy to explain why there were no seatbelts; because there were no seats! We took our places next to our respective jump masters on the floor. There was a breathtakingly beautiful view from the top, including a picture-perfect rainbow, but I was just storing the sights in my brain. I was in no condition to enjoy them at that moment. A few minutes later the door opened and the first pair of guys jumped out. I was to go second. I peered down to see how the first pair was doing. They had jumped less than 10 seconds ago and they were already just a tiny speck way down there. Here is where a sky dive differs from a bungee. Once strapped and standing on the bungee platform, you fight an infinitesimally long but monumental battle in your head to convince yourself to make that critical tilt. It's quite often vanity that pushes you forward. In a tandem skydive, however, when you strap yourself on to the instructor, you surrender some of your rights. So before I had the opportunity for a second thought I found myself in a free fall. The first few seconds are the hardest to describe. The jumpmaster tapped me on the shoulder, which was a well-rehearsed signal for me to spread my arms out. But at that moment it didn't make any sense. He had to pry my arms open wide. I got used to the fall soon enough to pose for a cameraman tumbling around me. For 40 seconds or so, I actually felt like I was just hovering in the air. Only the chill moist alpine air stinging my cheeks reminded me that I was going down; real fast! I even remember looking at the Brienzersee lake and wondering why it was so green. The next exciting thing was when the chute actually opened. The deceleration is so fast that I felt like I had reversed my fall and was now shooting back up. The canopy ride is one joy ride and I had all the time to soak in the details of the swiss landscape. The landing was pretty exciting too. They make a swooping arc to generate some horizontal velocity, which is needed for a slide-landing. In the end, it felt great to be on the ground again. It's hard to describe what goes on in the mind during and just after the jump. I felt powerful, cleansed, euphoric and maybe a little vain. The most surreal thing is the way your sense of time gets distorted. Did it last forever? Dit it take a small fraction of a millisecond? Keine Ahnung.

Photos here.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I am thinking about...
... the pressure to appear witty in these answers.

I said...
... "bitte druecken und be" . Some things don't get lost in translation.

I want to...
... go roadtripping with my two favorite allies. Fully loaded with snacks and supplies.
(I didn't change this one from jax's)

I wish...
... I could swap places with Michael Palin.

I hear...
... cicadas in the background when I remember my fondest childhood memories.

I wonder...
... if 5 yrs from now I'll regret the choices I'm making today.

I regret...
... a lot.

I am...
... a bathroom whistler.

I dance...
... without joy.

I sing...
... at 10 decibels or lesser, with a frequency range to rival a dog-whistle's.

I cry...
... when there's too much chlorine in the swimming pool, or when I'm cutting onions. Grief, hurt and despair only bring those lumps of varying sizes in the throat.

I am not always...
... vegetarian , patriotic , in-control , selfish , adult

I make with my hands...
...chapathis that consistently look like maps of australia.

I write...
... increasingly dispassionately. I don't even care if that last sentence was grammatically incorrect.

I confuse...
... debit and credit. plaintiff and defendant. stalactite and stalagmite. Point and Cover.

I need...
... ( and I'm quoting a friend here) "one woman to lavish my love on, one mentor to show me the way, two good friends, some meaningful conversation, a little adventure, some activity that helps me grow intellectually."
To the author : Plagiarism, you think? See you in court. Where you will be the plaintiff. Or the defendant?

And finally...
... even when I'm not fully serious about it, introspection always leaves me depressed!

That tag was brought to me by jax. I pass the tag on to :

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Deppe Recommends - 4

Movie: The Apu trilogy
I know I suck at reviewing movies, which is why I usually stop at just recommending them. It's all the more hard to describe the beauty of something as uncomplicated as the Apu Trilogy. Finally I understand why they esteem Ray so highly. He doesn't seem to do one thing wrong. Although he made this movie in an age when it was necessary to exaggerate every emotion on screen (remember Annavru and Shivaji Ganesan?), he gets the actors to trick you into believing that they are not acting at all. There are especially the scenes of Apu and his bride "learning" to love each other, like it happens so often in arranged marriages; the honesty in the portrayal of that romance is mind-blowing. And the humour of a smart observation, while not making you laugh aloud, can still be so satisfying. The music is great too, except on a couple of ocassions when it seems to resort to an emotional arm-twisting that the movie itself refrains from doing. Kinda like a laughter track telling you when to laugh, sometimes the music seems to tell you "now you are supposed to cry". You can tell the impact of a movie by how long you linger in the experience after the movie has ended, and judging by that alone, this ranks high up there. I had watched these movies when I was too young to appreciate it. While I didn't remember anything from the first viewing, watching it again brought back pleasant memories of more innocent times when all members of my family could agree on one channel to watch. Not that we had a choice, of course!

Book :East of Eden
For a tale set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America, the story is held together by a very unusual character; a cook of chinese origin named, surprise surprise, Lee! The cooking is just a livelihood for him. He has enough original philosophy to give Confucius a run for his money. The Lee of my imagination looked like a portly version of one of my chinese colleagues, and it was a struggle to allow him to talk proper english. Lee seemed more realistic talking plopel english, if you know what I mean. And oddly enough, thats the same kind of prejudice that Lee finds himself fighting several times in the novel. Made for a very interactive experience. Lee is like Lord Henry of Dorian Grey, he gets all the good lines. When Cal, one of the protagonists hints at ending his own life, he remarks "Suicide! Its the cheapest form of self indulgence".

Song:Dinosaur by King Crimson
Alright, wipe the tear traaks!

Saturday, August 05, 2006


"Where are they from?" C asked. "They are trainees from Senegal" D said. "Doesn't their hair stink? It looks so greasy". "That's false hair. I assure you they change it more often than you would think possible." "Their skin is absolutely jet black. We are so much better". Since D didn't know where to begin correcting that opinion, he chose to change the topic: "You see the statue over there...?" He had an unconscious need to display how chummy he was with his town. "...and that's how Antwerp got its name. Let me tell you something else about this statue..." He had used that story several times before but for the first time it had failed to captivate his audience. They were already looking elsewhere. "Take a picture of me with that shop in the background" C requested. K's face clearly reflected what he was thinking "Beer Beer everywhere, not a drop to drink". "What's over there?" asked P. "Ah! nothing much" D replied. "But the buildings look nice." "Those are just old buildings at the harbour. Don't think we can go inside. Besides there are no trams from there" he said, scanning his brain for other visit-worthy places to suggest as alternatives. "I don't mind walking" she insisted. He had always prided himself on calling a spade nothing but that, and now he had somehow been manipulated into feeling that he needed to talk euphemistically. He hated it. "Ok that's the red light district. Not many ladies go there". He felt relieved already but he continued "maybe because there are no male whores in those windows. Hey I wonder why not?". Some other day, and with some other people, that would have drawn atleast a few smiles, if not a healthy intellectual debate of a half-baked anthropological nature. That day, it just folded up the evening hastily. Not to mention, there was very little eye-contact.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I was sitting on a parapet by the fountain dipping my tired feet in the water and watching kids of all sizes splashing about and trying to beat the heat. That's when the pro-Israelis came on to the square waving their flags. In less than 2 minutes there were hundreds of them. They were soon followed by a small clutch of folks holding the Palestinian flags.

And then they started arguing with each other...They all looked like decent people but I swear there was a nervousness in the air. It prompted the "Ah Scheise" from the locals and "Jesus Christ! lets get outta here" from the American tourists. The square by the cathedral is anything but boring.
Don't miss these things if you ever happen to visit Cologne/Köln/Keulen.
- Visit the Dom. Its a cathedral whose hugeness can't be captured in a still photo. To give you an idea it has enough stained glass to cover a hectare. In the evening, watch the skaters, skate-boarders and stunt cyclists showing off just behind the cathedral.
- Taste the Kölsch (its a kind of beer) in any of the charming beer gardens in the Altstadt. Here's a tip; you should open your mouth only if you want to order something other than a kölsch.
- The bank of the Rhine is one 10,000-people-barbecue.

- (For reasons I hated doing this all by myself, but still...)Cross the rhine in the rope-car. If you are too much into morality don't look down.
- Take a boat trip on the Rhine.
- Shop at the Neumarkt. Don't forget to visit the 4711 address, where the famous Eau De Cologne was and is still being made. So far, I thought it was an exotic french perfume, but apparently they started making it to spray it around a very stinky cologne as it existed when Napoleon captured it.

Lastly, here's a statue that defies everything I think I know about harmony. A really grotesque nordic-looking caricature of David, with a vulgar pink body and bright yellow hair. I can't explain why it is there.