Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Most of all, I dream of bread

I’ve been on a fairly rigorous diet for what seems like years (exercise alone isn't cutting it - health and energy are all very well, but I want results I can see). Anyway, my favorite pastime these days is comforting myself with thoughts of food. On today's menu is hot food that tastes really good cold, the next day:

Keema, especially on hot buttered toast
Cheesy pasta
All bakes and casseroles
Potato fry
Sprouts cooked with chillies and onions
Any leftovers that can be sandwich filling: fish in all forms, onion chutney, sautéed vegetables, chicken/mutton/beef/egg curries, liver fry
Stewed apples
Fried bananas

You can see why the diet was necessary.

Scapegoats, IPL and a little light terrorism

I was planning to take break from sweeping criticism for a while, but as with all good intentions, that didn’t last very long.

First, one bomb went off in the vicinity of Chinnaswamy Stadium. Then another, near one of the gates. A third was found and defused a little later at another gate. Somehow the police commissioner deduced from all this that it was okay to continue with the scheduled match. Granted they were small ones (though I doubt the people who were injured feel that way), but are we so stupid about cricket now that we will literally bet our lives on it? Or is it just another instance of the rampant corruption in this city? The police had apparently “taken over” the stadium 24 hours before the game for security reasons, but they didn’t have the grace (or savvy) to apologise to the public or even look shamefaced; they just moronically reiterated how small the bombs were. One can only assume that Bangalore’s such a soft target that the terrorists don’t send their A Team here. The organizers of IPL are wisely taking the other matches elsewhere.

Talking of IPL, I caught bits and pieces of some of the games and felt affection for the inevitable urchins perched up in trees to get a glimpse, rickshaw pullers and marketing executives in deep discussion, thousands braving the unprecedented heat to watch. I felt that anything that brought so much excitement into the lives of so many should not be reviled, and cancelled my post on the horrors of being caught in the cricket season in India. But I’ve revised my opinion yet again in the light of the lawless antics of the IPL owners. Front page after front page has been dedicated to the unfolding drama, as if nothing else existed in the world, as if the highly influential players in this game would actually face consequences. We’re all going along, though we know as a nation that it won’t happen. Shashi Tharoor was the first scapegoat, after a satisfyingly irrelevant witch hunt full of multiple divorces and damsels in Dubai. Soon there will be others, and there the matter will end.

Just as my harangue about the pathetic system gathers momentum, though, I notice that the footpaths in Whitefield are being properly, even decoratively, paved, and drains have been dug, which means that this year the monsoon won’t create the usual mudslide. Beautiful, flowering trees have been planted along the road and shrubs, on the median. The garbage collectors are arriving on schedule every day, and when a transformer burst in the middle of the night recently, the technicians showed up at once. I’ve lately heard several stories about police and ambulance arriving within minutes at the site of an accident and no money changing hands at all.

So, as Wodehouse would say, the moral of this story is being withdrawn and presented to a panel of experts. The race between good and evil in government is a perpetual photo finish.

Friday, April 16, 2010


This is a memorial post on a stranger's blog, written soon after the funeral. I'm not entirely sure why I'm re-posting it, except that it's a well-written tribute from a grieving grandson, and though I don't know the actual person he's talking about, I seem to recognize the grandmother. I lost six of them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Latest pet peeves

Call waiting: What is the point of this? It’s rude and disrespectful to interrupt someone to take another call. But if you don’t, the second caller thinks you’re ignoring them. Isn’t it a lot more informative, not to mention civilized, if your phone is engaged when you’re on it and it goes straight to voice mail?

Lift hustlers: Do they really fear the lift will leave without them? It’s not a Mumbai local train, you know. It can be held open until everyone gets in, so there’s really no need to trample everyone in your path to do so.

Red-light creepers: Is it now a loser thing to actually halt at a traffic light? My driver used to do the creeping forward thing too. He’s stopped doing it now, but I think it’s more about humouring the mad woman in the back rather than understanding (or caring) that the white bit in front is for people to cross on, not the starting line for a green-light race.

Footpath riders: I don’t care if you’re a bicycle or an ice-cream vendor – if you’re not walking, get on the bloody road.

Starers*: I’m not an escaped circus animal. I am not the Taj Mahal. I am not even the best-looking woman in the vicinity. Move on before I punch your eyes out.

*I have to clarify that it's both men and women. The whole damned world. Men, women, children, stray dogs, the odd cat, some cows, a coffee machine... hmmm, would I need to see someone about this one?

Friday, April 09, 2010

You know you’ve been in the outsourcing industry too long when...

… you can tell the time in so many time zones that you get confused when you have to call your colleague in Chennai
… you know when daylight saving has begun on the other side of the world
… you know the current weather in at least one small town in the US
… you know the dollar value of your salary up to five decimal places
… you nod knowledgably when someone mentions football, until you realize they’re talking about soccer
… you can pronounce Guadalajara, Arkansas and Navajo correctly, but you struggle with Kundanhalli, so you call it Whitefield
… you know they speak Tagalog in the Philippines, but you don’t know they speak Kannada in Karnataka
… you know all about Thanksgiving, but Ugadi is a closed book
… you’ve heard your name pronounced so many ways that you can barely remember the right way to say it
… you think of them as periods rather than full-stops, painlessly erasing at least 20 years of British conditioning
… you find it easier to say “zee”, and the red-liner in your head has been reprogrammed to register words without them as errors
… you do not see it as rude to leave your own dinner party to “take a call”, and nor do your guests
… you’re not unduly enthusiastic about the “work from home” option, because there’s nowhere that you don’t work
… you expect to find something new in your inbox no matter what time of the day or night you check your mail
… you check your mail at all times of the day and night

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The scourge of the candlelight vigil

Recently, the world was full of exhortations to observe Earth Hour, and switch off all “non-essential lights” for an hour. In Bangalore, where there’s a power cut practically on the hour every hour, a sizable part of the population has no electricity at all and many, many roads have no street lights, this is not just a joke, but a cruel one.

It’s the equivalent of the Bus Day that someone tried to do a month or two ago. The posters are still stuck on the buses, mocking the crowds that struggle to fit into inadequate bus shelters perched on ill-maintained footpaths. The buses themselves are large and plentiful, but there’s nowhere to catch them from.

For these things to work, they need to be relevant to local conditions. Why not a no-paper-cup hour or no-printing day or no-paper-bag week or a no-chucking-garbage-out-of-your-car lifetime? How about the government takes a break from dictatorial, not to mention seditious, beef bans and introduces a conservation mandate?

They could insist that large companies have a certain wattage of solar power for every 300 employees. These offices usually have the space for the solar cells and the money for the batteries. It could be made mandatory for apartment blocks and gated communities to have solar-powered outdoor and common-area lighting. Home buyers could be given tax benefits to sweeten the extra costs that will no doubt be passed on to them.

Large office blocks should have windows that open so that air-conditioning can be switched off for a few hours in the day during the very pleasant Bangalore winters. Under-utilized PSU labs could work at finding a marketable DIY kit for rainwater harvesting, so individual homes don’t have to rely on contrivances that end up as maternity homes for mosquitoes.

And since the powers that be are taking care of Earth Hour for you, why not use your energy to go out and cast your vote? The recent local elections were held on a Sunday, but turnout still didn’t cross 45% in the so-called elite, educated areas of the city.

Gandhi’s descendents won’t leave their air-conditioned cocoons to be the change they say they want to see, but the first whiff of melting wax, and they’re there in swarms looking righteous and giving sound bites to TV cameras. What exactly is the point of a candlelight vigil? Apart from making you feel and look good without the inconvenience of having to actually do something.

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