This slogan can mean whatever I want you to.


Oh...still here? Didn't notice you lurking there.

Good little blog.



I'll come visit soon maybe.

No! Bad blog!




Things change.

And you look back, and look around now, and you wonder.

And you doubt.

And you laugh. off.

And you cringe.

And you rationalise.

And you cannot believe it was you who was that, then.

And you cannot accept that it will still be you, soon, doing the same things in years to come.

And you deny.

And you fight.

And you reinvent.

And you never accept that this is you.

And that this will always be you.

And you're stuck.

And that if you just realised that, you would be free.


Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(While this could be true, it could also not be)

When I was seven (or maybe eight), I was going through all the colour-coded Blyton short stories books. One of those carried this story about a mean woman who kept thumping and banging all her furniture and belongings, and how they (the table, the teapot, the pots, etc) got fed up and began playing tricks on her till she realised what was happening and started treating them better.

The story simultaneously made me thankful that there was at least one other person in the world who believed that the objects around us were alive and secretly communicating with each other, and made me even more paranoid for the same reason.

So if you catch me apologising after slamming a door, you know why.



"Oh. Well, let's see....Little babies float about on purple bricks, and then giant frisbees come in and announce that they are breaking the rules and will be put away in a room with some no-handled mugs, only they're interrupted by a bottle of ginger beer that jumps up and down and up down and up and down and sprays froth all over them so that the babies escape, and then the frisbees send some wild sunflowers after them that keep reflecting sunlight into the path of the babies so that it's too shiny to see where they're going, and then they come to a river of liquid emerald and the bricks refuse to go on because everybody knows that purple and green don't match, so the babies hop off and take out their lollipops and lick them till they're really sticky and then throw them at the sunflowers to tangle them up, and then -"

"No. I meant, tell us about your career dreams."




It's not you,
it's me.

The me you turned the me
who wanted to be with you

The me that is more what you
imagined me to be,
than the me that could have been.

The me I stare at,
as you would at an old friend
in disbelief
at the embarassment they have become.

It's not you,
it's me,
And I want me back.


The crumbs left behind in the butter after toast has been made.

The swirls of changing colour as cream is mixed into a tomato-based sauce.

The just-brown of perfectly grilled cheese.

The way dal bubbles out of the little hole in the middle of the rice mound.

The way an orange balances when you pierce it with your thumb.

The little film that forms on the top of a properly brewed cup of chai.

The inexhaustible soakability of a tiny crust of bread in mopping up gravy.

The way the flesh pops out when you squeeze a grape just right.

The way drowned biscuits end up as abstract art.

The way a dollop of butter transforms soup.

....the little magics of food.


"Lame excuse. Real bloggers can blog on stone, wood, fire and even water".
- The ever-reliable KM.

In some form or the other, most of us have remarked about how personal blogs are a form of navel-gazing.

Trying to figure out why you have one is just the extreme version of the sport (?).

Over these three years (fraaaaack!) I've come to understand why I'm doing so, and maybe understand why I'm doing it in the way I do. And some of them I'm even beginning to accept, even though I'm not sure of them.

Like why I don't blog spontaneously that often. Like why I don't spill frustrations and problems out here. Like how I'd rather people think I was lazy than correct them about why I'm not blogging.

Because that's my way of doing it.

Which only gives me more avenues to explore at leisure - why is that my way of doing it?


However, there's this little niggling guilt that's always there. As if I owe something to the blog. To all of you. To myself, to justify all the time spent on the blog so far. To all the drafts I make up and am just too lazy to type out (note to self: look up speech-to-text software).

And what I think I owe is to do it properly, rather than haphazardly, or because I think I should. So maybe I might just take an extended break till I sort this out. Till I figure out how I want to blog. And whether I'm a blogger, or just have a blog (yes, this old chestnut again).

Although, maybe that's just how I do like to do it, in which case I shouldn't fight it. And I might continue to remain erratic.

Who knows?

Have a waffle.
With melted chocolate and cream, of course.


There are lines everywhere.

Some lines were laid down after a group of people decided that what they all agreed on made sense, and which have been slowly reinforced by each succeeding generation, making the lines a little bit deeper and a little bit wider, till they're no longer lines but a deep chasm that forces you most of the time to stay on the side you are on, the side where everybody else is and where everything's known and comfortable, till such a time as you finally draw together the crazed courage to give in to the need to prove that it is possible to cross unscathed; and you ready and you ready and you ready and then rush down the slope as fast as you can, hoping that your belief-fuelled momentum will put a giant hand on your ass and push you as you struggle up the other side, only to slowly realise that it's not going to happen, because what you thought was a chasm is really a pit, a giant trap to snare fools like you who try and fight for themselves, who believe that they can escape when so many others never could, who believe they should be allowed to do what they want and not what they're told, only to run (willingly, mind you) into this place and stand here like you do, right down in the deepest part of the shadows, realising you may never get to the place you wanted to...and never get back either; and all you are left with are the others who wander the underworld, unwanted deserters who wanted to explore new territories, your new family.

Some lines run away from where you stand, splitting up and rushing away from your singularity, so that you see no point in trying to find a way around, but instead walk across, and keep walking and walking till you realise the lines have managed to sneak around, and you remember that a circle is just a series of infinitely small lines, and that you've been lured into the centre of one, into something that you have no idea about and want less to do with, and that you can only always be either in or out, and that there is no other side.

Some lines are drawn by your mind, signposts in a special colour that only you can see and which only you understand the significance of, laid down so that you prevent yourself from becoming the person you nightmare that you can be, so that they become a permanent challenge, testing you all the time, daring, wheedling, tempting, a challenge that you sometimes fail, which you try and negate by crossing right back and telling yourself that it didn't matter because nobody saw you crossing the line anway and besides you're right where you started, but which the line never lets you forget, as it smiles and tempts to double-cross yourself again.

There are lines everywhere.
And they lie.


Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

When people in a northern country can walk around the house with no socks on, without having to keep the heating on.

See related:
False dawn


Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Made for each other

A couple that simultaneously bursts into tears at the end of this montage.
Every single time.

See related:
Muggins (sl.)


Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Realise Till You Did #74

The first line still holds true.

So, another leisurely meal, another arbitrary thought. Try this one on for size -

There is no original Western European or American first-name that begins with 'Z'. All of them are predominantly Middle Eastern in origin, with some East Asian ones thrown in for flavour.

Go on, think about it.

Most of the first-names that you can think of come from the belt of land that stretches from Greece to Afghanistan (on a longitudinal basis), and from the languages that originated therein (Arabic, Hebrew or Cyrillic). There are a few Chinese names that I can think of off-hand too, and I can't quite speak about names in the South Asian countries, but the chunk seems to be Middle-Eastern/Central Asian in origin.


On the other hand, there are tons of first names in Western Europe and America that begin with the letter 'C', but none in that West Asia/Middle Asia belt (excluding the East).


All those history lessons about the many invasions of India from the armies of Central Asia suddenly make so much sense. Even a quintessentially Gujurati name like Zaveri has its roots in those incursions.

Update: We have the odd-one-out (thanks be to the wise FĂ«anor) - Basque. In my defence, the language is denoted as an 'isolate', so it really doesn't bear much in common to its neighbours. Still, a valid exception.


Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Realise Till You Did # 39

Cricket is the only non-table-related professional sport* in which the players wear (full-length) pants/trousers.

It goes against the very grain of why all other sports wear shorts - mainly, that one's movement is less restricted, one's skin can breath properly, and in many cases, it is more aerodynamic.

So why is it so? It surely can't be about sunburn, because there are solutions for that. It can't possibly be about the worry that scrapes endured while fielding might get infected, because have you seen how they play rugby?

And even if you argue that a batsman is better off wearing trousers so that the pads don't chafe and get a better grip, why in heck must the fielding side endure hot days wearing these horribly restrictive leggings?

Unless, it's merely about the 'gentleman's game' aspect of cricket. But hey, even tennis was like that, and see how it's evolved.

So. What gives?


The exception to this rule seems to be American sports. Baseball. American football. Also, other 'gentleperson' sports. Golf. And equestrian events (as Feanor pointed out).

NightWatchmen from the comments gives perhaps the best defence - while shorts may help in summer and warm countries, you wouldn't want to be standing around in the outfield at Manchester during the English 'summer' wearing shorts.

* Which excludes billiards and snooker. And chess. And no, leotards do not count. And we're discounting sports where pant-type garments are worn purely for protection, such as motorsports or ice-hockey.


Pet Peeves #43

"Ok, so write me".

Yah. Just like you want me to "sing you"? And "call out you"? And "post that letter you"? And "hand that mug you"?

Stupid American English.

PS. Even if you go with the "if you can 'call me', why not 'write me'" argument, there's no excuse for the sentence, "I wrote you". What am I, some frikkin' imaginary character in a book you're drafting? Oh yeah? Well, come see the pretty lines on my knuckles. No, no, a little closer...

Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(This may or may not be true)

I love seeing how people react to different situations.

To this end, once while in college, I painted my two littlest toe-nails a lovely pink colour, and walked about wearing floaters.

It took four minutes before the first person on the road spotted it, but it took three days before any of my friends did.

Draw your own conclusions.


"This is how it works
You peer inside yourself,
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took;

And then you take that love you made
and stick it into some...
someone else's heart,
Pumping someone else's blood;

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed,
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again"

- Regina Spektor, On the Radio


Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Guilty Pleasure

Walking into a store full of delicate and glinting things, wondering over their frailness for a while, before yelling 'I can't take it anymore!' and sweeping a whole shelf full of the oh-soooo-breakable things onto the floor with an exaggerated flourish, and then rampaging some more across the store, all the while savouring the horrified looks on the people around you

....and then disarming the outraged employees/store owner by producing the exact amount of money they cost, which you had been saving up for months just for such an occasion.

See also:
Candid camera pranks

If you are going to do this, please don't pick a small, independent store which has taken great care to craft the things. That's just mean. Pick a nice public store-chain, at peak hour, and select their most ugly products.


Friday Fun: Food Fiesta

We're back by popular demand!

And to start off with, a simple soup. Because it feels like winter will never end here. And because I've been lazy with experimenting. And you can't go wrong with soup.

This does take longer than most of the previous dishes, but a large part of that doesn't involve you doing much.


Onion-and-Couscous Soup

Time required:
About 45 minutes.

Keep ready (to serve 2 people):
Butter & oil, both 1 tbsp
Garlic, 1 plump* clove, crushed
Onion, 1-2 large ones, finely sliced
Coriander, cumin & turmeric powder
Tomato paste, 1 tsbp
Birds-eye chili, just the one, deseeded and finely chopped
Cinnamon, one medium stick
Stock, vegetable or chicken, 1 litre
Couscous**, a fifth to a quarter of a cup
Spring onions, handful, chopped
Coriander leaves, handful
Salt & pepper, to taste

On a medium-low heat, brown (but do not burn) the onions and garlic in the butter and oil, stirring occasionally. Depending on the type of hob you use, this should take about 10-15 minutes. It has to go a nice deep brown.

Turn the heat down, then add the spices, the chilli, the cinnamon, and the tomato paste and stir for about five minutes, so that the spices really release their essence. Add the stock, boil, then nearly-fully cover it and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then add the couscous and spring onions and let simmer for another five minutes. Season. Garnish with coriander.

Serve with toasted, buttered pitta bread.

Why you should try this:
It's a cold evening. Your friends and family are making snide remarks about the inbuilt shock absorbers you're adding to your body. You cannot stand the thought of another greasy meal from outside, or another sandwich (heathen!), or anything heavy that will make you feel like a ship's anchor. And you're unsociable enough not to care about what your breath smells like.

This is the dish for you.

It's just heavy enough to fill you up, without making you waddle around the house. It's just spicy enough to kick your nerves awake without roasting them where they lie. And it doesn't need you to shop for more than four things (you do have some spices at home, right?).

Personally, I just love the oily effect of onions and butter on the surface of this soup. And I love couscous.

1. You could try this with red onions, but they tend not to go so brown.

2. You could make this a more filling dish by adding strips of cooked chicken to it. Not shellfish though, doesn't go as well.

3. If you want to make this really filling, add a couple of potatoes to it. Dice them, and add them along with the spices.

* plump. plumpityplumpityplump. plump plomp plooomp. plimp plomp. plump plump pi plump.
** I realise that couscous can be hard to source in some places. Why this should be so is one of life's unfairnesseseseses (or something). So, if you can't get hold of some, use pearl barley instead.


Manual of Life - Ways to Keep Yourself Entertained #21

1. Take 10 steel pins. Or 20, if you are particularly bored.

2. Squeeze the top third of the index finger of one hand between the thumb and middle finger (of the same hand), so that the fleshy underside bulges out.

3. Carefully insert one pin through the outermost part of that bulge so that it just pierces the skin, but not the flesh.

4. Slide the pin through, so that equal parts of it are visible on either side of the flap of skin (which is holding the pin in place), so that it looks as if you've stuck the pin through your finger.

5. Repeat for all the other fingers, and thumbs.

6. Go waving it about and freak everybody out/become a demi-god in the eyes of children.

7. The toes come next, if you're very bored.


Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Realise Till You Did #99

I have yet to see a mainstream Hindi film where a character who's supposed to be talking in a non-Indian non-English language, is actually speaking in that language.

In no Bollywood flick has any character who's supposed to be African, or European, or Middle Eastern, or any other Asian talking in anything but nonsense lingo. Not even in those NRI flicks - where the film may feature a scene where some local in Switzerland will be talking in French, but the desi character will still be talking nonsense words. This would be just about acceptable if the character was simply pretending to be (as part of the script) a person of such a nationality, but even when the character is supposed to be a resident of said country, they still speak nonsense lingo.

Not. a. single. Bollywood. film.

And then we have the gall to get upset when Hollywood films show Indians talking in exaggerated Peter-Sellers-in-The-Party accents. At least they have us talking in Hindi, or Punjabi, or Tamil, or whatever.

This only occurred to me while having to endure some ridiculous OTT flick that these long-distance buses insist on playing even if it's night-time and people want to sleep, where Sanjay Dutt plays some guy who's supposed to have been living in Africa for 20 years, and whose idea of the language of whatever country he was supposed to be from went something like 'Karaka baraka! Maraka baraka'.

No, I'm not kidding.

Also, this is possibly the last of the India posts for a bit.


Space's lovely piece on Konark dove-tailed in rather nicely with this post that I'd been drafting, and finally pushed me into finishing it.

Possibly the one thing I'll take back most strongly from my years in this country is the depth of appreciation for the - and I'm struggling to make this a proper term - history of social architechture (as it were).

Oh yes, they do go on about their cathedrals and palaces and monuments (which are fairly spectacular), but most countries will do that about major architechtural wonders. But what really gets me is this peculiarly British devotion to, and delight with, everyday architechture that dates back centuries. I guess it partly comes from the whole pride in the Empire part, and partly from being such a storied nation, but that itself doesn't quite explain the mentality of a people who maintain and quite regularly use a local church which was first thrown open to the masses in 1079 AD. Or a row of houses that are still lived in, overlooking a busy road, with the youngest of them being 280 years old.

Maybe it's the size of the island, which really is quite astonishingly small for someone who's used to 20-hour train journeys being normal (there's apparently only one train route in the whole of the UK which has sleeper coaches). But there's this distinct interest not just in things big and marvellous, but in things small and lovely.

You cannot but spend time travelling with a resident of this country without being pointed out fascinating little asides - oh Siegfried Sassoon lived here, and that place actually used to be a proper mill, and this Roman road goes on all the way to Bristol. And if you happen to know someone who's even mildly interested in history and architecture, then you can look forward to being generally hurtled about and made aware of all the endless crenellations and window types and roof variations that abound.

Which means that when I do get time in India, I see things with quite a different view. It's always been fascinating walking around the old parts of Bombay - again, perhaps because so much of the architechture was from the time of the British. Most of the structures may now be dilapidated and grimy, but if you look carefully, you suddenly see the quaintest, unique design structures. And I'm not talking of the standard places - just wander round Old Bombay, and really look at the buildings. The V-shaped structurs, the little balconies, the portholes, the beheaded gargoyles, stairs so steep you feel you're getting on a ladder...simply fascinating stuff.

Oh sure, they might not be the ideal house to actually live in. But they are - or rather, were - a damn sight more interesting than these monolithic slabs that have been erected all over their demolished foundations.


On this last trip, I just kept wishing for a whole month where I could simply wander the streets of Old Bombay, taking lots and lots of snaps of the buildings. Much like what Szerelem was doing in Delhi. Maybe I should just get her to do Bombay too (which reminds me, where are you, Szer?)

Some day, maybe.


Commenting on the last post, KM asked some pertinent questions - particularly whether there ever was something that could be defined as Indian-ness, and whether my not finding it anymore is because maybe I've changed.


There are two equally horrible traps an emigrant can stumble into - an unjustified nostalgia for the country they have left, which keeps growing with every minute not spent in the place, out of all proportion to the reality left behind; or, an undepth-able hatred for the place, which keeps growing with every minute not spent in the place, out of all proportion to the reality left behind.

It's a bit like school/college - you either remember only the good times and two decades later convince yourself that you had an awesome time while you were there, or you can only remember all the frustrations and humiliations and keep obsessing about them till you cannot help but spew vitriol all the time.

Both possibilities are open to those who choose to leave. But there is a middle ground - for people who move not purely because of choice, but because of a series of circumstances.

I am one of these people.

For the larger part of my life, I made no attempt to leave India. The option was considered, weighed, and rejected in favour of staying put. But then I had to move (various reasons for both, but we won't go there).

And so, I find myself on that middle ground. Where I can appreciate the quality of life in a country such as this, compare it unfavourably to that back home, and yet appreciate the many myriad ways life is better in India. I criticise both places, and appreciate them both, and I can do so without getting either sentimental or vitriolic.

Out here, I love recycling facilities, and cycle lanes, and orderly queues (oh baby, queues), and parks all around, and the abundant quantities of couscous and dark chocolate. I love that even in crowd, people tend to respect your space. I love that drivers actually make way for emergency vehicles, and honk only if the other person is truly an idiot.

I crib about all this whenever I go back home...no, that's not right. That's stuff I used to crib about even when I was back home. Stuff lakhs of other people crib about too. And when I get home (it's still home), and plunge into a noisy crowd and walk down dirty roads and eat junk off street vendors, it all just...fits.

Yet. With every passing year, I find myself getting more and more irritated with the attitudes and practices of Indians.

Actually, make that Indians in cities.

I just cannot bothered with the sheer aggravation anymore. Whether it's multiplexes that think it's fine to charge me thrice the amount a single-screen cinema charges (can't anybody teach about economies of scale?), or news channels that have six (six!) lines of text on the screen, or neighbours who still think it's ok to have their marble floors cut and polished at 10pm, or idiots who will stand off the kerb on a blind corner when traffic is rushing at them, or....

I keep telling everybody that I doubt I could live in an Indian city again. Ok, I could, but in the same way I could poke knitting needles into my little toe every morning. I just wouldn't want to.

Because the simple truth is that, over the decades, cities in India have simply gone downhill. I'm not even blaming the corrupt bureaucrats or the uncaring politicos. It's just the sheer numbers that drown every effort. Our cities simply do not have the long-term planning or the time to implement them, or the infrastructure to cope with the millions who pour in all the time. Even if there was somebody honest enough to try and do something, at best it's like trying to stop a leaking dam with some towels.

I walked around Bombay this time. And yes, there are all the new roads and highways and sea bridges and new trains and smart buses. Improvements. But all it will do is convince more people not currently living in the city, that it is now worth living there, and draw in more moths to the burning flame of commerce.

Like Delhi. In the past decade, the city has improved amazingly, and even people from other metros might consider living there, despite all its pretensions. And where does that leave us? With more chaos. I tried thinking of what I'd do if I somehow managed to get enough idiots citizens to vote me into power. Scared me to heck.

Where would you even start? You need lots of cops for one. Who'd want to be one though? You can't even give them decent housing, and their salary is so shite, they are pretty much forced into accepting bribes. You need to get all the cabs and rickshaws sorted - it's illegal to drive in a private car without seatbelts, but try getting the cabbies and rickshaws to do so, and the unions would shut down the place. You need to start recycling garbage, but who's got the trucks and manpower for it? And then where would you dump it? Other countries send their stuff to us to recycle.

It just....

So yes, there was something that could be termed Indian-ness. Now it's just...me-ness. And no, I'm not jealous of the rise of the new middle-class. I just wish they'd appreciate what they have, and learn to preserve and enhance it for others around them, and all those yet to come. Which is why when I get back, I'll probably live in some gaon. Nahin toh 'Khooni darinde ne bichhaaya maut ka jaal' headlines will be soon flashing on a screen near you.

Sorry Brinda, we'll try chirpy next week.


Sometimes I think the worst thing in recent decades to happen to India is the suddenness of the economic boom in the past decade or so (the assorted wars, riots, scams, natural disasters are nothing new, unfortunately).

The suddenness, mind you. Not the boom itself.

I can't help but feel that if we had instead grown along at a solid but unspectacular 4-5% GDP, things would have been far smoother than they are today. It's as if you've taken children who were used to owning a frisbee and a couple of Lego pieces and suddenly given them an anything-you-want voucher from Hamleys.

And then you realise that the little indiscretions you used to gloss over, the not blaming the children for being grabby and thrusty because 'after all, they have so little', cannot now be excused away.


Indians are warm, friendly, helpful, smiling, inventive, entrepreneurial, hard-working. Canon, yes?

But we are also petty, and bitchy, and inquisitorial, and discriminatory, and selfish in a way that only living in such crowded conditions can make a person.

Till a decade ago, people could just about excuse the latter, because such qualities were thrust into the spotlight only occasionally, and everybody could go back to singing the former platitudes. And it worked (or at least it seemed to) in a 'noble poor' kind of way - yes, we have our faults, but given our conditions, isn't it amazing we're not worse? - that managed to make everyone feel just a little bit better. What else could you do anyway? Everybody was in the same shit, and somebody must've learnt a lesson from crabs, so it made more sense to try and get along.

And then, the money poured in.

And suddenly, people remembered that they didn't care if the music their car was blaring was perhaps a little too loud for 2am; they didn't care about beggars because there must be something really stupid about you if you can't earn money in this economy and besides, everybody knows it's a racket and they're secret millionaires; they didn't care about being delayed from their important work because of arcane rules such as stopping a vehicle when the signal turned red; they didn't care about the impact their lives had on the world around them, because it's just a little litter anyway; they didn't care about pointless concepts such as sustainability, and air quality, and deforestation, because that wasn't happening here, was it; and they particularly didn't care about being told that maybe, just maybe, they did not have the right to violently thump their opinion into somebody who still laboured under the misunderstanding that there was anything to discuss.

And now you've got this weird mixture of old-school feudality and new-age liberalisation, where you can pick up avocados in supermarkets, but only if you let the insistent service attendant pack it for you in a plastic bag that you don't want, so that it can be inspected by a guard near the exit gates which anyway beep if the product has not been scanned.

You've got this mentality where families will bitch about how the inflationary pressures of world quota systems have helped sugar prices jump three-fold in the past two years, but will still see fit to raise the salary of their domestic help by 5% a year, because that's how it was always done.

You've got this belief that you're entitled to home theatre surround sound systems and hi-def earphones, without any attempt at making the one-brick-deep walls any more soundproof, or taking a bloody look around you and realising it's 5.30am in the morning and your fellow train passengers are asleep, because what's a little noise more in all this racket?

You've got convenience food with very little idea of how to implement it, and a lack of understanding which somehow makes people believe it's just fine to spend 80 bucks on a frikkin' burger, just because it's in some fancy mall, and nevermind that the filling is two-thirds flour and one-third six-day old murder-fried veggies.

You've got retail chains trying to create a standardized environment, so that you could walk into any of their shops in any part of the country and be able to pick up the same item there. Which is why you get fleece-lined snow-proof long coats being flogged in a city where the day time temperature is 36C. In January.

Because you now have money. And everybody is equal. And we're entitled to it, and if you don't like the sound of it, you can say hello to my fifteen bulky friends.

India, by definition, was a confusion of pluralities.

If you lived there out of choice, you loved it for all the eccentricities, all the chaos, all the misunderstandings and subtle elbowing between region and religion and language and community and gender. It was the kind of picture that made sense only if you looked at it from deep inside, and was completely lost to perspective from a long-angled view. The kind of symphony, though just this side of grating, that still had an underlying thread that linked it together.

Now, though, the confusion has crystallised into a blur. Disparate dots that do not connect. White noise in electronic disco beats.

We're rushing so eagerly towards the future that other countries exist in, we've forgotten to ask ourselves just what those people had to go through and how they adjusted, in order to get where they are now. We're running so fast to get to the top of the hill, we don't even realise our shoes have scraped away and the crudely-done road is beginning to cut into our feet.

We're trying so hard to forget what things were like, that we run the risk of erasing who we ever were.


Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(This could be true, but is it?)

For a couple of years, when I was in my early-teens, I ended up being cajoled into a Ganesh visarjan procession. A combined group of the smaller, five-day household ones.

Somehow, despite my intense aversion to the 'dhak-a-chikka-dhak-a-chikka-DHAK' music being blared by those horrible 'orchestra' bands, and the idiotic amounts of firecrackers being burst even as everybody was walking over them, I ended up dancing the entire way till the water's edge.

Four hours (two of them barefoot) of mindless and most-likelily cringe-worthy gyrations on a busy night-time Indian road. Four hours of waving at all the cars and buses crawling past as we edged along our way, not even wondering (or caring) if anybody I knew would spot me. Four hours of holi-colour-drenched, 'boom-boom-bu-boom, bu-bu-boom!' chaos.

Some quiet evenings I still end up smiling at the utter freedom I felt.

Some nights I still wake up shuddering at the insanity of it all.


Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Consider Till You Did #32

When you pee during really cold weather (near-freezing or below), why does it steam on impact?

Sure, there's a difference of 35C difference or more between the fluid from within your body and the surface it falls on, but water (which makes up 96% of urine) evaporates at 100c. So why can you still see vapours?

Bonus question:
Is water the only thing being evaporated?

I had a couple more India posts, and I'd hoped to wrap them up in January, so we could return to regular programming this month. But I obviously don't draft them when I should, and then tinker too much with them when I should post, so here we are.


T-shirt slogans #79

Must-have for when in India.

* Personal = Private. Go away now.

* I'm here for food, not advice.

* That's MY paper.

* I drink, I smoke, I gamble, I sleep around - you still want to fix me up?

* Honk if you're a jackass.


Friday Fun: Food Fiesta

For Brinda (ok, and the rest of you as well). Because you had to know this one was coming.


Guaranteed 100% no weight-gain India travel diet

Time Required:
The duration of your trip.

Do not keep ready:
Sitaphal ice-cream
Ghee medu vada
Cheese seeeeeeeeeeeendwich (Bombay ishtyle)
Ganne ka ras
Ragda payttis
Royal falooda
Dahi sev batata puri
Mango lassi
Aloo 65
And, of course, orange-flavoured hot chocolate.

Think about them, salivate, tell everybody how you're just waiting to get your hands on them - and then, for some reason quite unfathomable to yourself, make no attempt to partake of them*.

Why you should try this:
Everybody's allowed a temporary lapse of judgement.

* I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't.


Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

n., Insisting that the water served to you in an Indian restaurant be bottled ("because you really can't trust this outside stuff - who knows where they filled it from"), but asking for loads and loads of ice in the fizzy drink of your choice.

See also:
Hepatitis A
Restaurant hygiene


Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Realise Till You Do #89

Nine out of every 10 mannequins in Indian shops are 'flesh-coloured' - Band-aid pink/peach/cream - and are either size zero (for women) for size studbuff (for men). The remainder are those unnerving silver/ebony robot-type ones.

Allowing for the proportion of fair-skinned Indians who even closely resemble that colour to be about a tenth of the entire population, and allowing for the proportion who are either super-skinny (by choice) or muscled up to be another tenth .......

this means that 80% of all the clothes displayed in Indian shops completely fail in their sole function - giving the buyer an idea of how they would look wearing them.

A weekend post? Shocking no? Just to make up for all the non-posts.


The first thing that hits you when you land here is the smell.

It hangs heavy in the air, wrapping round you with every step you take further in. If it was a person, it would be a late-middle-aged man sitting by a beach, slumped in his unwashed and crumpled shorts, sweating out the cheap rum he's been investigating so intently. The little cooling machines that are planted around only help to make it swirl around even more, chasing you as you try to hurry your way through bored gazes and hustling chancers.

You might be tempted to think it's caused by a mixture of the carpets in this airport and the high humidity, or by the sprawling labyrinth that houses so many thousands nearby. But if you breathe in really deep and let it percolate through your little passageways, you will feel the undercurrent of brine, floating in from all the nearby edges of this little jut of land.

It all floats in - the everpresent threat of malaria from the marshy waters in the undeveloped open grounds, the decades of untreated toxicity from the creek that used to define where the suburbs began, the stupidity of drowning bodies in the shifting sandy beaches to the north-west, and even the smug satisfaction of the ever-powered promenades to the south.

This is not the smell of the city.

This is the smell of what it fought so hard with to become this city, and what it now woos so fervently in order to stay alive. This is the smell of patient and unavenged wrath, waiting to reverse the centuries of desecration and drown this impertinent invader under the weight of its own plastic and broken statues and shit. This smell is a reminder of all the years you were buoyed by all that it contains, and of how you can never escape it, run away though you might.

Welcome to Bombay.