Safe Travels.

Long time, no see.

Brother where art thou be?

A lot happened during this year (just like every other year). Quite incredible then that I write this 360 days after my last update. The world has been up to its mad usual self, and I’ve marched on like Hercule Poirot on an icy Tuesday night. (I just coined that reference. I might not be legit at all). I got a job, moved into a nice house and bought a Honda. However, the highlight has to be travel.

  • 2014 started in NYC (which is not my current abode, since I’m now based out of Boston)
  • I traveled to India in the summer. In India, there were trips between Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore
  • Later in May, my travels took me to Istanbul in Turkey and Athens in Greece
  • Countless trips to New Hampshire
  • Heck, even work is a 25 mile one-way commute every day

In the spirit then, the next twenty odd days will see me making trips to South Florida and DC. I’m especially excited about my first Florida vacation – as a single explorer – where I’ll be staying with an extremely nice couple I found on airbnb, near Hollywood beach. In addition to the Ft. Lauderdale area, I’ll be visiting Miami, and at least the Palm Beach or the Keys. The trip to DC arises out of enrollment in the “Washington Seminar Program” – which is (hopefully just) a conference structured administrative program. The reason I signed up was that it’s basically 3 credits at the price of one-and-half.

Re. Florida: At first slightly apprehensive about traveling alone, someone remarked last night that I was twenty-six now (unbelievable) and needed to do this. I absolutely agree. Here’s my plan – I’ll be just like one of those backpacking tourists, ready to immerse in the surroundings, sprawled on the beach with a book and a drink, hitting random bars and partying with strangers. I should be okay, right? Anyway, I’ll be making a chronicle of how it goes, either here or on tumblr. Vines, videos, pictures. They’re all coming. Should I buy a monopod?

Books have been ordered by the way –

  • The wind-up bird chronicle, Haruki Murakami (I could never finish Kafka. Maybe I’ll find this more interesting)
  • Fodor’s South Florida 2015 travel guide (I did mention being “very” touristy?)

I’ll carry my copy of Animal Farm, just in case I magically get through those above within the five days. There’s also going to be a lot of planning (starting tomorrow). Maybe I should learn a language. A language would be fun.

Awesomeness comes naturally to those who’re too busy ignoring it

Until later then.


To be perceived super-cool, I’ll add some pictures from the summer now.

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Istanbul – Blue Mosque, Bosphorus and Baklava (lots)

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Athens – History, Beaches and Women 

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From the wine connoisseur – Seagram’s Nine Hills

I was never a wine guy. Domestic whiskey and the frequent flirting with an assortment of beer from all over the world has been my weekend drink. There was this one time I brought wine home, and even though I don’t have very clear memory of how that went, it sure wasn’t good enough to take me back to it. But that has all changed off late – especially, I must mention, due to the excellent range of  in-flight wines served by Air France during my recent trip to the US. I will confess I’m now hopelessly in love with wine, and especially with the red variety. This love blossomed every Monday through Thursday, during the evening complements, throughout my month-long stay at Marriott’s Residence Inn in Atlanta and the final weekend I spent at my uncle’s beautiful house in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, and as I now realize, very foolishly, I never kept track of the I wine was having; the names to go along with those elegant bouquets and those absorbed-on-the-tongue flavours have been lost into nothingness. There still exists a slim chance that I may have saved the Menu offered by the airline, but I’ll never be able to give name to the intoxication I enjoyed during my hotel stay. Therefore, in order to make up for my inexcusable sins, I decided to make a detailed account of every wine I savour henceforth. I begin tonight with an Indian red variety I decided to pick this weekend – Seagram’s  Nine Hills.

Harvested and fermented in the wine capital of India – Nashik; Nine Hills, a Cabernet Sauvignon has a rich terracotta colour. The bouquet, albeit nothing like those of the varieties I savoured during my trip, is still one that will invite you to take a healthy first gulp. Once served, the Nine Hills takes a deep texture at the bottom with a hint of thin purple on view at the brim – possibly the expected lack of quality showing up – nevertheless it is one that does not disappoint the slightest. Time a for a little shake and the wine swirls and twirls delightfully for the connoisseur,  softening  only very slightly. Here we go then – the first gulp, and umm.. I must say the Nine Hills is definitely not bad wine, on the contrary it has a nice palate with a few inexplicably, yet enchanting, flavours throwing little hints all over your tongue. The grapes that went into this wine were definitely of the highest quality and there has been an obvious effort to achieve perfection in the blend of flavours.  Next comes the aftertaste, and here’s where it leaves a little to be desired – its basically more of a wash-down variety – in ways compatible with the Indian wash-down drinking style. But there is a little bit of lingering .. was that a bit of vanilla there ?

Everything said, Seagram’s Nine Hills is premium domestic wine, keeping Nashik’s reputation very healthy. For INR 565 or $10.49 ( in Maharashtra ), it is real value for money and would easily place in the mid-shelf of any common western wine store. Try it for its rich taste and texture, and obviously for the sweet-mild intoxication that comes along. The bouquet and the after-taste is where it could probably have been better, but hey ! what do I know, I’m only just getting started !

I’d give it a nice 3.5/5 on my wine chart. The Nine Hills is a good glass.

Enjoy Responsibly.

Maha-Freak-‘India’nomics – a shot at India’s sudden rise to stardom !

Okay so here’s the facts. This nation, with its 1.2 billion people

  • is not rich,
  • by far prosperous,
  • diseased and hungry and corrupt,
  • and still inhabits the largest number of slum dwellers in the world.

So the ‘slumdog’ is pretty much barking, but the ‘millionaire’ is here. He’s shining, no, he’s not wearing the Armani’s yet, certainly not the playboy, but you give him a dare, and he’s upto it. He’s being talked about, and looked at, and everyones interested, and throwing glances only the super-hot will get. He’s hot, boy he’s hot !

There are now references like :

” The following list is Forbes ranking of the world’s richest billionaires as of February 12, 2010, and does not reflect changes since then. There are 1,011 names in this year’s list. United States currently has the most billionaires amongst the world’s top 10 but India is expected to soon overtake the United States to gain more billionaires among the world’s top 10 than any other country”                       – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbes_list_of_billionaires

“Chelsea is a big club, and probably the most suited to be bought, if [the owner] ever decides to sell. Located at London’s posh west-end, with a sufficiently large stadium, high attendances, no debts, and huge markets in Americas and India. Infact, I’d fancy one of those Indian tycoons buying it”              – Some random BBC Chelsea forum

Jai Hind!”                                                                                                                                       – US President Barack Obama

In hushed tones, all over the world its being talked about as the land of new riches. In unprecedented trends, the west desperately wants jobs in a country, where they once used to receive Hardship allowances, for so much as landing. Its the breeding ground of world’s richest businessmen, owners of Formula 1 teams and English football clubs and steel magnates, the playground for the world’s most successful companies, not just IT companies, but retailers, automobiles, power, steel and manufacturing, textiles, and you name it, everything is going Indian; everyone wants a slice of the burgeoning Indian pie.

But, how and why, this sudden rise in expectations, this unforeseen stardom, this rise in power ? Is it the relaxing of the Indian market laws, or is it the media, its scrutiny into everything ? Has it got something to do with the Governments, and their plans of development ? Or can it have, umm, well, something to do with the Indian girls? Perhaps it has.

The market laws were, well, apparently non-existent in the 50s and the 60s. Of course, being a young country, those markets were not very strong. Add to that, the relative adolescence of technology ( well, for 1 there was no internet, no cheap airfares to reach India, no cheap calls), yes, you would not really have expected much awe to be generated. But wouldn’t a new and open market be better suited to investment of any kinds, to see your money grow. But there was none. The Cadillac never came, the hotlines stayed back, even the computer never touched base till the early 80s. There was coke, but pepsi stayed back, Levis and Pepe never thought of the cheap manufacturing costs. It could’ve been big, but the bang never came.

They opened up again in the 90s. Yes, this time it was different, probably the perceptions had changed. They fancied India, but from a distance. No one really interested to come down and have a look. If anything, the soft drinks thought they could sell. But anyone who drove, still drove a Maruti, the phone was BSNL/MTNL, the finest suit was still a Grasim or Dinesh. They looked, and they looked harder, but none wanted to take the jump.

At the same time, cable TV arrived, and in a big way. The physical goods might not have landed, but whatever could be sent via satellite, was sold. Western media giants tried to push the cable television market, and along it brought with it, the inevitable birth of “Dynamic Media”, read, television news, news reporters, media driven justice drives, undercover scandal exposures, which also poured down to the expansion of print media, and media in any form fathomable. A billion Indians wanted stories, everyone wanted the truth, and everyone loved the spice, the unmasked faces. Suddenly, the News was in!

But media was fighting within itself; it was bringing news at cut-throat competition. Yes, it was causing shivers amongst the corrupt, the evil, the hypocrites; but the scandals, the news would not stop pouring in. So the evil, never really stopped being evil, the corrupt, though straightened to an extent, never really became incorruptible. Infact, in its exceedingly growing involvement with the dirty, the media started growing dirty. Instead of uncovering scandals, it started planting them, in order to make the Big Newsnight. Often, the reporters turned out to be scandalous, instead of the righteous ! In the long run, the Indians who loved their media, started to mock it on public forums, for its desperation, for its over-denigration, for its incompetency, and almost “Freakshow” programming in some cases (read India TV, AajTak, Samay et al). Quite surely, an aspect the Indians grew to disrespect themselves, couldn’t really have made it walk the red carpet.

The Governments, they come and the Governments they go. They promise, they win, and they try to work. And they try to suffice their greed while they work. The small cut that remains trickles down to whatever the small amount of work they could put together. Not that there isn’t work. The education available now, although still nowhere near the levels set in the west, is light years ahead of the previous decades. The infrastructure is toiling to get a newer, shinier look. But a lot remains to be done. Health services have hardly improved, or for that matter, become any inexpensive. The standard of living is to a large extent (ignoring the lets call it “creamy layer”, very original, eh!) really poor. The leaders have become, no less corrupt, only smarter in their ways to smartly (read very secretly) amass the public money. The Governments surely have played a bigger role than any of the other above mentioned aspects in inviting the west over home, but they’ve not really motivated no one.

So where has the motivation come from? Where has this new found zeal to succeed, and grow rich, and make name spurted from? In short, where has the stardom, the “world’s favorite baby” tag come from?

Lets take this discussion to a lounge in Mumbai, where the author is meeting two lady friends, who’ve met eachother after a long time. They’re discussing the intricacies of their lives, or rather gossiping, and this author is bored to hell, and gulping it down with beer, only when, the girls start discussing another of their girlfriend, who’s set to get married soon. The girls discuss the options this girl had as her suitors, one was apparently a nice IT guy, another a doctor, and the third had just finished his business course from IIM-B (lets call it the Indian Yale). The girl’s decided in unison, of course it has to be the IIM guy ! The author, puzzled by this shocking matter-of-factly unison probed into the why this decision? But the girls could only figure out, “ C’mon ! The richest/best prospects guy obviously “. The author pointed out, had this been the case, the great Indian heroes of yesteryears, who played poor coolies, or laborers, or as unemployed daredevils who fought for righteousness (read Amitabh, Dharmendra, and annoyingly repetitive Mithun) would never have had happy endings with their rich/or even not so rich good-looking heroines. The girls’ simply responded if there were any such heroes to be seen, in any movies, anymore. Shockingly true again ! So the girls had changed. The rich men were in. Now, I’m not being chauvinistic and announcing that this was the only action in place, and that the women were not striving to get any richer by themselves, but they certainly did want the rich boys, and infact it was quite obvious to all of them !

The author, still in disbelief, tried to bring up the matter with any and all of the lady friends he happened to talk to. And the responses that came up were strikingly similar. The old school days of chivalry, and of the rugged, the fighter against injustice, the righteous man were gone. Their men now had to be rich, and ready to empty their pockets, and if they were not already, they had to strive for it, study for it, work their asses off for it, because, to the women, it was quite obvious they had to be, if they had to be with them ! In his research, he came across “The one I marry has to be earning atleast 20 lakhs an year (i.e, Rs 2 mil)”, “What’s the point marrying someone, who doesn’t earn enough to be happy with, or rather to shop with (and a scary LOL)” and “C’mon the guy has to be making more than the girl, those [not so rich] guys can marry someone else ! “ and most shockingly “After I marry, who wants to work or anything, I’ll just spend heheh”.

So, the Indian girl has spoken, and she’s driving every guy to riches, and again not that she’s not trying for the riches herself, but she is, atleast as it seems, aiming high (read in everyone’s league their highest) when it comes to the guys. In effect, a richer girl by herself expects to land a richer guy, and the productive cyclicity of money-making is driving the Indian youth to crazy new heights ! Gone is the good life, they all want the best life now (and the best squeeze !). And the “Indian Baby”  is going global with that best life.

Okay, I know this work might sound really shallow, but those were real girls, and when asked to contemplate on the reasons I figured, none of them seemed to disapprove. Although, they found it awkward, they couldn’t really deny the reasoning. So contemplate ! 😛

The Big Indian Blog Democracy

Internet seems to have finally caught up with the old-school Indian political parties. And so, even though all major competing groups still presented 70-somethings as their Prime Ministerial candidates, the presentation just that bit more savvy, in an attempt to entice the tech (or tech-pretend), blog reading, wikipedia searching Indian www-er.

So what’s in store???

I notice WordPress and Google tied up with the NDA’s candidate – The controversial, yet charismatic, former Deputy PM, L.K.Advani. Mr. Advani’s portal at http://www.lkadvani.in is almost as good the one used by the democrats for Sen.Barack Obama in the US elections last year. The attempt to tie up with wordpress is also commendable, simply because of the large number of Indian WordPress readers and Google users. The portal boasts of many pro-change one-liners (cudn’t find a better word), most presented in saffron bolds. Another interesting feature is the volunteer scheme, which also smells much like the American system. Also on offfer, is the party’s manifesto and its various sections in elaborate details, apart from discussion forums, polls, links, campaign updates, and Mr. Advani’s own thoughts, which I must admit, rounds up a pretty neat show of aggresive online campaigning, not to mention the Advani for PM (very American) carry tag.

On the other hand, there’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s own page at http://www.manmohansingh.org. The UPA candidate has long been known for his simple style, which is very much evident in the simple structure of Dr.Sinngh’s page (although this could also be down to the inefficient maintainance). The page carries quite a few links like PM’s Biography, Able PM, Policies, Achievements, Writings, Opposition, etc. apart from from national news updates. One interesting glowing link is to UPA chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s page at http://www.soniagandhi.org . This page is also very similar to Dr.Singh’s portal and does intelligent small talk about origins, motives, agendas, and India. The Congress has shown greater reliance on its party blog, which again is a very tech savvy page and inculcates everything concerning the party, the upcoming elections, and a formidable dose of volunteer schemes, forums, public polls, updates, etc.

If you’re more of a party-centric voter, then there are blogs like http://www.bjp.org, http://www.congress.org.in, http://www.cpim.org et al for you to check out. Then there’s also the PMO at pmindia.nic.in to grab more daily bites about everyday chores in the country’s most important office.

Whether the people make up their minds based upon online campaigning, is very hard to predict, but it sure is sweet, and a largely welcome change to the Indian political scene.  The one thing you do have now is choice, and a chance to better understand the choices. Please do vote.

PS: I won’t, coz I could not register in the Mumbai list. The EC guys came home, Iwas college.

The best entertainment of 2008!!*

2008 would probably be an year i’d remember more for the sporting entertainment it provided compared to anything to do with film and television. Here i list some of the best from the year-gone-by.

(*only includes events i witnessed myself)

1. UEFA Champions League Final- Chelsea vs Manchester United, May 21st 2008, Moscow.

2. Indian Premier League Final- Rajasthan Royals vs CSK, June 1 2008, Navi Mumbai.

3. CB series Finals (India vs Australia), Jan -Feb 2008, Australia; & Australia tour of India, Nov-Dec 2008.

4. The Dark Knight ( July 2008 )

5. US President Elect Barack Obama’s victory speech, Nov 5th 2008, Chicago.

6. How I met your mother ( Season 4, TV)

7. Welcome to Sajjanpur ( Sept 2008 )

8. Heroes (Season 3, TV)

9. Everton vs Aston Villa, EPL, Dec 7th 2008.

10. Russia vs Holland, UEFA Euro -2008, Jun 21st 2008.

11. Usain Bolt’s WR sprints, Beijing Olympics, August 2008.

12. US President George W. Bush getting the ‘boot’ from Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, Dec 14th 2008.

13. Burn after reading (Sept 2008).

Are we terrorized?: The Good Year- Analogies with a Joker

Its been troubled times lately. The world all of a sudden seems a much more gloomier place than it was an year ago. And NO its not about the dementors ( i guess ). “Its chaos, and right now its the rule”

We’ve been seeing the physical terror striking every now and then. New militant groups spring out of extremist ideologies each day, they kill innocents, and innocents for whose cause they supposedly fight keep getting branded as miscreants. Multiple blasts in various cities across Asia have suddenly hindered the progressive peace and prosperity drives that resulted in significant financial improvements in the region. Political leaders keep playing the blame game, and well-wishers of the common are numbered. “People are dying out there, what’d you do? ”

Money changes hands, money disappears, and keeps re-appearing, but money lives on- So where’s all the money gone now? Global Credit Crunch, Inflation, Rising Interest Rates, Taxes, Crude Prices; frankly i heard about most of them, this past quarter. Its not that money was easy to handle before, but its become a lot more difficult to understand now. People lose jobs each day, they kill themselves for their situation, its not because they don’t have the money now, its because they have seen it before, they’ve been on the highs, and now can’t live on the lows.

What we probably do not see very easily, or still pretend to be apathetic towards, is our very co-existence with the earth. I call it co-existence now because it seems we’ve come to a point, when either humans manage to exist somehow, or the earth end our existence naturally, through one of its ‘disasters’. As an eg. we keep celebrating the usual pleasures of Formula-1 racing ( the author included ), even though we all know what its worth.

What we’re witnessing are times when the water slowly rises above our necks, you can still breathe, but inside your head you know you’re not seeing a way out of this; so you re-assure everyone around you that every thing’s gonna be okay, even though you barely speak through all the choking; in turn you believe someone’s giving you hope, when that someone is you, yourself, the drowning man.

So isn’t it like one of the many days of terror that Gotham witnesses, isn’t there a Joker somewhere around who keeps laughing on our faces, and asks us

Why so serious?

Barack Obama – An Indian Review

Barack Hussein Obama II might soon go on to become the world’s most powerful man. But what does this Hawaii born African-American Change preacher mean to the Indian Wannabe hip population force??

For starters, in choosing CHANGE, senator Obama means a lot to Indians.

Race might be a hush, denial n oppose topic to the west, but in India, it holds high. The west might see everyone equal, but Indians see whites as whites, n blacks as blacks, infact for most Indians, whites are angrez (foreigners) n blacks negros. N we know we come closer to the latter. An Indian ( like most across Asia, n Africa ) has an automatic favorite for his choice as the next US president, n that has to be senator Obama. We might deny it, n silence it, but in the end the tantalizing idea of seeing a black US president excites us, even if he eventually turns out to be a strong anti-Indian, bcoz dats the only way we think. We don’t want an army guy McCain, to us he’s another Bush, or a celebrity Clinton. We’d love to see Obama up there 9 times outta 10. He’ll always be 1 of our side, the darker side.

The victory of the underdog is another aspect that excites Indians (probably bcoz we’ve long been 1), and seeing a non-existant black suddenly take over the US would be like winning a personal battle. N we luv winning small wars. Then we’ll hv our eyes wide, in anticipation, of how our winner acknowledges us.

Obama’s youth (at 46) raises an Indian’s hope. We look upto our leaders to take cues, to shift power to the youth, we’ve had 70 yr old leaders for too long, n in Obama’s example, we see possibility of change. Whether Obama’ll be able to bring about changes for real, i don’t know, but again the prospect of our way-past-retirement leaders meeting him formally n trying to understand his stand is interesting. To us Obama is cooler.

The US will chose their president next year, but i can foretell, inside every asian, a small tiny percentage of perception towards the US will change, for the good, if Barack Obama is at the helm. Asia, where the US struggles perennially to improve its image, will make US feel a bit more welcome……