Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back in Pune...

I came back today morning to Pune, in our favourite bus. Strangely, as always, I got the best sleep of the vacation on the way back in the bus - all the tiredness and the excitement of the vacation manifesting itself at night in the bus, I believe!

Didn't go to office today - just wanted to prolong the vacation a little longer. Never did it before - was always so eager to be back in office. Wonder what's changed...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rains in Goa

It's midnight on a typical rainy August day in Goa. I am sitting in our "aangan" (courtyard in the middle of the house), feeling the rains... it's such a deep experience, so many memories evoked by the sounds and the senses.. difficult to capture or describe, and yet, so powerful, so all-consuming...

The rain is probably the one thing I miss the most about Goa when I am away...

The tip tap of the large drops on the roof, many of them falling off the chikoo tree in the aangan, along with the wet and heavy leaf falling down.. or maybe a small twig or a baby chickoo.. that sudden louder noise on the roof.. the dampness all around, the clothes, the floor, the air itself thick with the humidity... the debris on the floor...

The leakages from the roof.. the buckets and pots under them, trying to minimize the water all around...

And the best part - the greenery all around - the overgrown weeds, the grass, the earthworms, the beetles - bright red and black beetles that look so so beautiful - in their hundreds.. walking to the fields through the grass, unmindful of the snakes and the insects and everything else that now seems to be a big issue for the city-dweller in me!

Things may change in Goa - my village is no longer the same. There's so much haphazard construction - except for the roads, there are hardly any open spaces left - compound walls fencing of every part of the village, all our childhood playgrounds now the victim of commercialization and development..

Thankfully, the rains will never change - and as long as I can sit here in the aangan and feel it, I will be the Goan I always was.....

Being Religious..

Let me admit, I am not much into religion and god.

But I want to understand Hinduism. What is it that defines us other than the fact that we have 33 crore gods? (There's a cool story associated with that, but more on that later...)

But when I ask questions - why can't I eat onion and garlic on a religious day, but OK to eat carrot? (assuming it's to do with this stuff growing underground, so does carrot!) - what do the aartis mean? - all I get is condemnation and ridicule - stop asking questions, don't be a firang, don't try and be a rebel, we have been doing this for years, so don't try and belittle it.

I think it's sad. Sad because religious books and practices were meant to teach us so much, not just to be followed blindly! And we, even the educated elite, do not seem to understand or care. I want to be religious, but I am stopped from learning the tenets of my own religion.

No wonder there's so much strife and pain and violence in the name of religion. Because when we, the educated elite fail to understand religion, how can we expect those illiterate, poor masses to "follow the right path"?

Coming back to the story of the 33 crore gods - we have always been told that Hindus have "33 koti dev" - koti meaning crore. And yet, I met one bhatji last year who told me, koti meant category - class - meaning, there were 33 main "categories/groups/varieties" of gods.

So much for our religion...

Caterpillars walk backwards..

Yes, I saw one reversing today! :)

Of Ganapati, Modak and Sleep

It's been two days full of doing nothing... there's a complete blurring of boundaries.. lots of dozing around, playing with the cats, walking around in the garden watching all kinds of multi-legged creatures, eating modaks, interspersed with the aartis, and fond memories of the last fish we ate... its been a vacation like never before...

Yet somehow, something's missing..

It's fun to be nothing, to be away from the hustle bustle of the city traffic and the pressures of MUR and ERE and RTS and VTS, and yet.. something's missing...

Anyway, my cousins seem to have come back, so off I go back to doing more of nothing!

Catch ya later!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Goa, here I come!

I am going to Goa today - hip hip hurray!

Should be there for 4 good days - the Ganapati festival, followed and preceded by some fish, lots of rain, soothing greenery, lots of sleep, the beaches, dear ol Panaji city....

We have a different bus booked this time - hope there are no glitches with the booking etc. Would hate to have to be back home tonight :(

Well - I guess if that happens, then Reona will be called to duty, and we'll have a long drive to Nerul :)))

Will try and give some updates from Goa - that is, IF I FEEL LIKE GOING ONLINE!!!!

Quote for the Day

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind - Dr Seuss.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Original Joke :)

What do you call a friend that you marry eventually?

A Family Friend.


The Best Things In Life....

Falling in love.
Laughing so hard your face hurts.
A hot shower.
A special glance.
Getting mail.
Hearing your favourite song on the radio.
Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
Hot towels out of the dryer.
A long distance phone call.
A good conversation.
The beach.
Laughing at yourself.
Midnight phone calls that last for hours
Running through sprinklers.
Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
Laughing at an inside joke.
Waking up and realising you still have a few hours left to sleep.
Having someone play with your hair.
Watching a good movie cuddled up on a couch with someone you love.
Song lyrics printed inside your new CD so you can sing along without feeling stupid.
Getting butterflies in your stomach every time you see that one person.
Making eye contact with a cute stranger.
Holding hands.
Watching the expression on someone's face as they open a much-desired present from you.

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Tour of Europe in Jul 03

“A rich and bubbling vat of beer, chocolate, oil paint and bureaucrats, Belgium gives off the heady pong of the bourgeoisie”. On my recent visit to Brussels, I realized this description from Lonely Planet was just so perfect. Add to that half a dozen languages female taxi drivers that ask you the directions to the center of town (!), and traffic rules designed to make life exciting, and you couldn’t really ask for more.

For photos related to this article, check out my Yahoo photo album at

Work & BBQs

I was based in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and now the capital of the European Union, for three weeks in July, as part of a pilot project for Bridgestone. My work involved meeting various technical personnel, marketing staff, tire dealers and service engineers from Bridgestone, as part of the requirements analysis.

It was an exciting job, ranging from suit-and-tie meetings with the Director of IT, BSEU (Bridgestone, Europe) and the Japanese head-honchos at the Bridgestone headquarters in Brussels, to visits to garages in France and UK, discussing usability issues with tire fitters who came to the meeting in greased overalls.

It wasn’t all work though (well, maybe it would be more appropriate to say that I did work for some of the time *wink*). I stayed with Marco, a career political analyst and ex-NATO, and evenings were usually spent in the company of his friends from NATO and the EU, discussing Berlusconi, Bush and Blair over BBQs on his lawn, or watching slide shows of Marco’s trips around the world.

Brussels: The Heart of Europe

Brussels is a city in search of itself. Trying hard to assume its role as the new, trendy heart of the European Union, with more than 10-15 percent of it’s population consisting of foreigners, while maintaining its identity as the seat of Belgian monarchy. Gleaming, impressive buildings of the NATO and the EU Parliament in one of the most boring quarters of the city housing the EU Commissions and embassies in brown, sooty buildings from the 70s provide a study in contrast. On the other side of town, the exciting old parts of the city with the Gland Plaza, Avenue Sablon, the Grand Palace and the Bourse are a far cry from the sleazy streets of Gare du Nord.

Weekends in Belgium

I spent my first Saturday visiting two lovely cities, Ghent and Bruges, to the north of Brussels. These are in the northern territory of Flanders, which for all purposes is a different country, in every way. They even have their own parliament.

These cities used to be bustling ports in the medieval ages, till the river got silted and the boats stopped coming. Then it fell into really bad times, and other ports like Antwerp came into prominence. Now they are major tourist stops.

The best part of the tour was a boat ride through Bruges’ lovely network of canals. No wonder it’s called the Venice of the North. (Interestingly, even Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North!)

Monday, 21st July, was a national holiday in Belgium. I met up with an Indian family from Florida, and we rented out a car and drove to Dinant and Namur, two lovely towns nestled in the valley of the river Meuse.

It is the kind of Europe you saw and fell in love with in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. We took a ropeway lift to the chateau at Dinant, shopped in the flea market and had lunch at a quaint inn along the Meuse, and drove back into Brussels by night-time, munching fresh strawberries all along the way.

My last Saturday was spent in Antwerp (or Antwerpen), a bustling city and one of the busiest harbors in the world.

My visit to the Chateau Bouillon (pronounced Bu-yon) was an exciting trip into the years of the First Crusades, when the European Christian princes (including Count Godfrey of Bouillon) set out to take back Jerusalem from the Turks.

The American monument at Bastogne commemorates the Battle of the Bulge which lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945 and was the largest land battle of World War II in which the United States participated. More than a million men fought in this battle including some 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British. At the conclusion of the battle the casualties were as follows: 81,000 U.S. with 19,000 killed, 1400 British with 200 killed, and 100,000 Germans killed, wounded or captured.

Cheese and Clogs in Holland

If you find yourself in a place where a Coffee Shop sells marijuana, old ladies and children mingle with eager customers under doorways with red lights bang opposite an imposing old church, and where car washing is banned on Sundays, you are probably in Amsterdam. The Netherlands easily combines very liberal attitudes and lifestyle with one of the most orderly and orthodox societies on earth.

Windmills and cows dot the vast, open landscapes. Much of Holland was reclaimed from the water, and no matter where you look, you cannot miss the lovely waterways, canals and dykes. Cheese, clogs (wooden shoes) and tulips are the most famous exports from Holland.

Amsterdam itself is a beautiful city, and a boat ride is the best way to soak in the atmosphere of this naughty city.

Boring UK

I was in the UK for 2 days, as part of an official visit to Bridgestone, UK. Unfortunately, we did not have time for much sightseeing, and had to be content driving miles and miles through the beautiful, but boring countryside, visiting dealers in sad, red-brick towns like Newark, Burton, Northampton, Warwick and Leamington in the British Midlands, the land of Shakespeare.

By the end of the 2 days, I had learnt how to say “Cheez Bye” and had seen enough British weather to understand why the British are such a boring people.

Simply French

Mention Paris, and you can’t help think of the Eiffel tower. For me, it simply meant a 1 hour 15 minutes train ride from Brussels on the high speed Thalys TGV train, running at 300 kmph, meetings at Bridgestone France (which were in French!) and then another Thalys back into Brussels by evening.

Fortunately, this was my second trip to Paris, and memories of the earlier trip about a month back were still fresh in my mind.

Lovely Luxembourg

Not even big enough to accommodate its name on most maps of Europe, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg makes up in style and beauty what it lacks in size. A respected member of the European Union, a tax haven, and a benchmark in quality of life, Luxembourg enjoys a prosperity that nations many times larger aspire toward and envy.

Lovely arched bridges, quaint old quarters, chateaus and imposing villas and palaces jostle for space alongside sleek, glass and steel structures housing international corporate offices and dozens of banking and financial institutions, in perfect harmony.

Finally, after three exciting weeks in Europe, I returned back to India, on Swiss flight LX 155. The return journey was not without it’s own excitement, but that’s another story!

Currently Reading.. A Short History of Nearly Everything

"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.

Excellent writen, though gets a little long winding at times - describes the origin and the birth of the universe, the supernovae, galaxies, down to the origin and evolution of mankind... nice anecdotes, good, flowing language.

Just done the first few pages - will write a review in a few days!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Success is Temporary... Failure is Permanent

Everytime I feel happy, content and popular with my friends or my team mates, I read an article that appeared in the Times of India on Dec 15th 2005. It was the end of the Sri Lanka tour, and Ganguly had been dropped for the third test, as well as for the forthcoming series of Pakistan and South Africa.

Success is Temporary... Failure is Permanent. As long as you accept and live by that, life will be much easier to take in your stride.

Here are some snippets of that article...

As India marched to victory on Wednesday afternoon, Sourav Ganguly found himself far away from the huddle. Again and again. Every time a Lankan wicket fell, he had to trudge all the way from the boundary to join his quickly converging team mates. But by the time he reached them, the huddle had invariably taken a firm shape. Each time, he had to literally break it up to create a place for himself in the celebrations. It didn't augur too well for him.

About an hour after the 188-run win, the signs turned out to be prophetic: Ganguly learned that there was no place for him, neither in the huddle nor in the middle any more.

Ganguly might have known that the end was not too far; but he surely didn't expect it to be so near either.

The board is finalising its list of elite players to be signed up and this move might see him getting struck off from there too. Or if life isn't too cruel, he will find himself in Grade B or C, at the least.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Coffee Break at IBM

Can you believe it? All I wanted was a simple coffee to start my day!

First, I had to walk like half a mile to the other side of the campus to get to the vending machine. Then I realised it didn't accept 5 dollar notes, and so I went to this change vending machine and inserted my poor note. It gulped it in, and then sat smiling, refusing to give me chage. After shaking, threatening, pushing and cajoling it, I gave up and decided to ask for a refund, since they promised to give one. Apparently, I am not the only one who has been violated like this!

So I check out the refund policy and it said.. talk to our canteen staff. So off I go to the canteen, and locate the staff who ever so smilingly tell me to submit a refund envelope. So back I go to the vending machine trying to locate a refund envelope. Search everywhere, including under,
behind and on top of the machine, but I do not find it. Finally, some poor soul takes pity on me and helps me find it.. can you believe where? Under the paper tissues and napkins.

Ok, so where am I? Now I need to fill in the refund envelope, for which I need to know the cabin number, building number, phone extension and the date of my mother in law's first day at school. So back I go down the half mile, feeling like a marathon runner.. and worst, I meet this whole bunch of IBMers (why do I feel like calling them bummers?) who I have to smile at as if I had just won a lottery.

Finally, I get all the information I want, fill up the form, walk all the way back... get the refund (thank god!) and back to the vending machine.

This time I am smart.. and I have change.

Finally, I get my coffee and here I am back at my desk... just about 45 minutes after I took my short coffee break.