Category Archives: people

R.I.P. Grandpa

For a man who never traveled beyond his province, my grandfather knew an awful lot of stuff. He recited tales of Don Quixote and Sindbad like he was a witness to the mad adventure that their lives held. My impressionable young mind lost no time in deciding that travel was the only way of life. My grandfather is the single most influential person in my life, without ever intending to be. I lived the life that he painted for me, without ever realizing it.

I can’t decide what I miss more about him. Is it the small things, like carrying me on his shoulders and teaching me to swim in the Godavari currents? Or the big things, like what should matter in life? I guess they all make me equally sad. As does the fact that I wasn’t there for him in his final moments. Today is a day I am going to remember, for today is when he goes from life to legacy. And that is something I shall strive to fulfill.

R.I.P. Grandpa. I hope you are now in a world that matches your imagination.


Female Grammar

Women just don’t understand grammar. I don’t care if she won a Booker Prize – if she’s got female parts, then she won’t get grammar. And I can prove it!

Correct Usage – I am concerned because something is wrong
Wrong Usage – I am concerned so something is wrong

Correct Usage – I did that a year ago
Wrong Usage – I am doing that a year ago

Correct Usage – I work hard to make money
Wrong Usage – I work harder to spend money

Correct Usage – I often shower twice a day
Wrong Usage – I always shower twice a day

Correct Usage – I want to buy groceries once a week
Wrong Usage – We want to buy groceries once a week

Correct Usage – It takes me about 30 minutes to get dressed
Wrong Usage – It takes me 5 minutes to get dressed

Correct Usage – I want a dog
Wrong Usage – I want a cat

Correct Usage – Wow! You drive so well!
Wrong Usage – Err.. what’s the hurry??

The Local Bar Manifesto

Remember the time you walked in for the very first time and were greeted with cheery cackles and loud music? The mirth rose above the lights and engulfed your entourage in an addictive cloud of belonging.

We were defined not by a dress code or a privileged access, but by an embracement that superceded petty partisanship. And yet we wholesomely came together – with pretty faces, friendly folks and an infectious ambience that made us your second home.

Here is where your favorite people become your favorite people
Here is where virtuosity is sidelined for a momentary lapse of reason
Here is where the roving eye is fruitful, and yet respectfully so
Here is where you are yourself, for we know you are who you are

Your every milestone is celebrated here, for we share your joy
Your every sorrow is washed away here, for we do not judge
Your every first date is within our confines, for we treat you right
Your every brawl is far far away, for here we only have friends

When you are dazed and confused
When you need shelter from the storm
When you need to dream on
When you need lucky lips
Don’t sweat, come as you are

We brew an empathetic knowledge of your poison
We share in your conversations, unafraid of irreverence nor advice
We celebrate with you, the coming of age a worthy starting point
We painstakingly construct a soundtrack that shall dictate your life

This is your second home. And there is no place like it.

Being a phoenix

There’s been a flurry of recent thought about second chances. Lest you conclude that I am re-evaluating my plan for life, these thoughts are anything but prescriptive.

There are people who believe fulfilment lies in private jets, 40 years of a happy marriage and the cover of Time magazine. I have tried and failed to participate in such belief.

I belong to a residual group that remembers the irreplacable excitement of the first day of the first job. On a less economical note, I do not deny that the best days of a relationship reside in its beginning. And, in consequence, I believe not in climbing a ladder, but in starting at the bottom and climbing a couple of rungs, only to slide back to the bottom and start over. Those couple of rungs at the bottom are, according to me, the most challenging yet intriguing, excruciating yet enjoyable part of the ladder.

Four years of technology, four years of communication and four years of commerce later I am neither an IT guru, nor a creative director, and far from being a Vice-President. And yet each of these times was thrilling enough for me to be back at the bottom rung today, starting from scratch and going through the pain and the joy all over again.

However, there is a catch.

Each time it gets harder to conceive an austere skin-and-flesh state of being. How do you invalidate the repository knowledge and wisdom that has grown over the years? How do you deny a personality that has been pruned and polished by social existence? How can you erase a physical configuration that makes for easy judgment? Ridding oneself of material possessions is easy, it is the intangible wherein lies the challenge.

Here’s to round four of starting from scratch and heading towards sunlight, to reconciling with a new career and a new life. If emptying my pockets is metaphor enough to going back to the beginning, I am halfway there.

Elevator Etiquette

I work at Nokia. Our office is the crowning glory of a Dubai skyscraper that looks over the Arabian Sea. The Atlantis and the Burj al Arab serve as three dimensional wallpapers behind our transparent walls, and the Emirates Golf Course modestly makes itself available to pensive Nokians when they want to look into the distance. And yet… it sucks.

With about 30 floors in the building, and my light-footed self shuttling up and down constantly, I spend about half an hour twiddling my thumbs, everyday, in the elevator. Over a year, I have invested nearly 8,000 minutes observing and despising my fellow elevatees. This post is a desperate attempt to salvage some value out of these 8,000 minutes.

If the one year I spent in Cairo made me hate elevators, this last year in Dubai has made me despise elevatees. Admittedly, going from hating the game to hating the player is a moral degradation, but I hope this post adequately represents my plight and wins some sympathy. Here is what I deal with. Everyday.

The TimeWaster:
1005am. I am already five minutes late to an important meeting and am cursing myself for the lack of Supermanness in my body. If I could, I would smash my way through floors and ceilings to get to my office without interruption. Ding! The elevator stops on the 6th floor. The door opens to an empty corridor. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. The door finally begins to close. Just as I am about to heave a (premature) sigh of relief, a hand appears out of thin air and wedges itself in between the doors. 1007am. The door opens painfully slowly as I see my career disappearing painfully rapidly. A man, beaming from ear to ear, walks in basking in private glory. His swagger tells the story of a man who achieved greatness by grabbing the one that nearly got away. 1009am. As I discretely try to slip into the meeting room, I am met with clicking tongues and shaking heads.

The Hunchback:
Our small group of future elevatees waits patiently for the elevator to descend from the heavens. After five minutes, the patience wears off and we begin to gather mob-like qualities. One man pumps his right fist into his left palm. Another looks up at God, praying for respite. The third one makes his way to press the button for the fifteenth time, hoping this time his will trumps technology. And amidst this anger and frustration is the nineteen-year old intern, completely oblivious to the goings-on, thoroughly involved in the affairs of her social network. When the lift finally arrives, she gets in only because the traffic shoves her in that direction. Fifteen floors and no mishaps, wow this must be a record! Meanwhile the intern continues her deep engagement with her mobile, so crookedly hunched, so vehemently engrossed, so alarmingly un-inquisitive about her immediate surroundings. When her phone loses signal she finally manages to look away from the screen and up at the floor display only to realize that she never pressed her floor button. A string of curses later, she looks at me with an annoyed glare strong enough to induce guilt in my feeble soul. Maybe in some way I was responsible for her absent-mindedness. I apologetically get out and wish her luck. She glares until the doors close shut between us.

*Note: Can’t believe I fell asleep writing this blog.. mental note that I am writing a blog, not a book…

The Narcissist:
From the instant this person walks in, he can’t take his eyes off his reflection. I duck to avoid his elbow as he wastes no time in organizing his hair. After a few moments with my nose in his armpit, he relinquishes and swivels sideways to admire his profile. Sock! His elbow gets me this time. This man is all about symmetry – he swerves the other way to pay attention to the remainder of his body. When his floor arrives, he walks backwards in earnest sadness, like he is bidding farewell to his reflection forever.

The Loudspeaker:
This specimen thrives in the company of colleagues, particularly in enclosed premises. Fifteen floors in the lift with him and I have a good understanding of his company’s financials, its marketing strategy, his son’s Angry Birds addiction and his typical weekend. “Why speak softly when you can scream” is his baseline logic.

The Altruist:
A subconscious TimeWaster, the Altruist shalt not step into an elevator and leave behind his comrades. He suppresses any attempt by the doors to shut. “No need to run, I am holding the door…”

The Lazy Bum:
Able and sturdy, barely 25 years old, the dude walks into the elevator on the 14th floor. One look at him and I know he’s going to piss everyone off with what he’s going to do next. He presses #13.

The Helen of Troy:
Gorgeous lady walks in – oxygen becomes scarce as all the men start breathing heavily. Everyone in the lift arranges himself around her.

The SpaceInvader:
Dude, stop backing up into my belly!


Chapter 0: Prelude
I have been asked a million times. Why Zambia? And as I paid for my expensive flight, I asked myself a million times. Why Zambia? My first stop in Livingstone, the land of wannabe backpackers with laptops and iPods, strategically positioned tattoos, and ‘I dont care, but I do care’ attitudes. My second stop, Lusaka, a place with nothing of interest even to the most curious.

And then I flew to Luangwa.

I rode a tiny plane with an hour’s worth of bumpy riding to the middle of nowhere. As we landed, the plane came to a harsh halt. A herd of impala was crossing the runway. A lady ran to welcome us to Mfuwe, and led me out of the airport where kids played football in the midst of some bush. It looked like the local football clubs had a huge following. At least among the deer and the warthogs. It hit me. After traveling for so long in the African continent, I had finally reached Africa.

Chapter 1: Home

8pm. I am guided to my tent by a man who has never been more than two kilometres from where he was born. His torch barely lights up the path. There’s a swishing sound from the grass. Was it a snake, or was it the wind? I can’t tell – except I don’t feel the wind blowing on my face.

My sagging sense of observation is suddenly awakened by a loud grunt about ten metres from me. Gah, it’s just the resident hippo, incorrigible in his mating endeavor. We hear the elephants breaking branches ahead of us. Diligently we get off the path and walk through the grass, in the direction of my tent.

I unzip my tent, crouch, and dutifully remind myself to conduct my regular checks. The hole in the mesh is still blocked, that’s a good sign. But the magazine I leaned flimsily against the gaping hole in the back has slid off, so I set it up again. My mind begins to wander – why has the magazine slid from its designated spot? The ground is even, and the magazine isn’t heavy. Did the snake from the morning make its way into my tent, thereby displacing the magazine? I shut my eyes to force such thoughts out of my head. It is impossible to sleep when your mind is seeking signs of a trespassing snake.

I keep the light on to keep the elephants away from my tent. Although no one believes this, I maintain that elephants stay away from lit tents. The moths break through my tender blockades and make a dash for the only light in the vicinity. I try to ignore them so I can fall asleep, but the frogs come bouncing in, in hot pursuit of the moths. I curse. I don’t want any snakes coming in, chasing the frogs. After the close call with a curious green mamba in Livingstone, I was pretty much done with snakes for the rest of my life.

Lights off. I’d rather take on elephants than snakes. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn. This is my second sleepless night, the first one ruined by the horny hippo stomping around my tent. For a wannabe wildlife expert who grew up in cities scared of domestic lizards, it is hard to sleep when a hippo, a croc, lethal snakes and a whole herd of hungry elephants are lurking nearby, barely separated by a layer of linen that wouldn’t hold against a human punch, leave alone a passionate animal.

I give up and force myself out of bed. This is war. This is redemption. This is the preceding moment that will define my wildlife escapades of the future.

I have to face the grass. And all that it brings with it.

I crouch, unzip my tent, reset the magazine with two fingers and walk alone in the darkness back to civilization.

Fifteen minutes later, I tried to be unsurprised about still being alive. I browse through a narrow collection of books. I couldn’t more randomly have found a more appropriate book to keep me company over the next few days. The Trouble With Africa.