Monday, June 26, 2006


Of all the things I’ve been reading on the Net I am inspired by Shuchika’s somewhat morbid post. Shit… all my efforts and happiness have been brought to naught. By the way people, Shuchika’s unwell and I wish her a speedy recovery, which enables her back to the Internet.

Just got back home from my 4 days a week bar to watch the game between Argentina and Mexico and that I am out of Old Monk. It is a brand of alcohol I have been consuming regularly for close to 10 years now and it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable to be out of it. Anyway…

For people of my vintage (or experience, if you wish) my employer conducts a review, which is called … never mind. Essentially, the 120 mind-numbing questions of the survey result in a scorecard, which among other things spells out two factors – the employee’s Long Term and Short Term Value to the Business. Interesting.

Now the results!

T.O’s employer of five years considers that on a score of 0 – 100, his short-term value is 100. Which means that if I don’t turn up at work tomorrow, it would result in a panic situation leading to loss in earnings and immediate bottom line impact. Ahem… now that is very flattering. But its something I have always known. Anyone who’s worked in financial markets would agree on that aspect. Pipeline deals, key market levels, run-rates, intra-day stop losses in my kind of a job are always pretty much in the mind- and not documented to the last decimal.

However, just in case I was getting pleased with myself, my long term value is around 15, which is a number that I now think has been put down only to make me feel a little less miserable. So essentially, if I were to quit or vanish, over a period of time, somewhat considerable, my employer would continue to do business as usual.

Of course there is a one and a half page disclaimer-if one wishes to read that.

There are at least two things in this world that don’t work on me- consideration and counseling. So when the Bossman, sits me down to go over the result, and tries to assuage my perceived fears on why the second part reads the way it does, and why I shouldn’t really be too excited about the first. I put on my best don’t give a damn look, and stare beyond his shoulder and out of the window- as the Bombay skies weep to some unknown loss.

Now contrary to the impression I may have conveyed to my boss, I consider this to be a very important analysis and is exactly the feeling I have about my life in general.

No more on that. A few very interesting episodes have occurred in the last couple of weeks- things which made me think about a lot of things. I will narrate the incidents, but not what I thought about them.

There is a certain bar near my house, not very up market, but not quite down market either. The booze is cheap, the food edible, the women are not made up like a Christmas Tree, the music is awesome at most times (they play Gasolina on Hip-Hop nights and take requests only on Tuesdays- how bad can that be), and at most times one can carry out a half –decent conversation without having to raise the decibels. Needless to say, this is my four-day a week bar.

I enjoy certain benefits there, mostly because I tip handsomely and go regularly. Don’t need to place orders. They play my rare requests even outside of Tuesdays, and since I mostly go there alone on weekdays, find me a table without bothering with the occupancy. Never paid cover- not even on a weekend.

Now, according to me, there are two kinds of bar regulars- the ones who chat up the Doorman to the DJ, the Bouncer to the Barman, and everyone in between, even memorizing their wives names. Then there is the other type- my type- who essentially park themselves in a corner, remain obscure, and mostly invisible. Hardly ever request songs, and notice nothing around them. Speak only with their wallet, and leave without a trace, or even a nod of the head. They are typically the people who drink because they enjoy it, and that’s it.

I went to this place a few Saturdays back- something I hardly do, with some not so very close friends. We sat and drank, and drank, and drank… and when the place shut, for some reason, I had an altercation with a guy on the way out. So suddenly they stop their car, and some six dudes jump out, all taller than 6ft, broad Punju types (the kind which spends weeknights at the nearby Gold Gym, unlike me) and one of them yells- So you want to die? And then someone pushed me. Now given our relative sizes, and states, that could be dangerous. What followed was beyond my wildest imagination.

Out of nowhere some 15 bouncer- waiter varieties emerge. So do some other guys, who I faintly recall seeing on weeknights. And I sip what remains of my drink and stand where I have been pushed to and watch these people pounce upon the six gym types and start threatening them with dire consequences if they ever approach this bar again. One girl comes and stands next to me, and her male friend announces that if anyone so much even touches their friend, they’ll have to pay the price for it, even as my friend looks on bewildered. Finally the jocks are bundled into their DL-3C Mitsubishi Lancer and packed away.

Since then, whenever I visit this bar, I nod at the doorman, the bartender, the bouncer, the waiters and the DJ. And they smile back.

The second episode happened this Friday night. Again after a night of wild, and trust me, seriously wild drinking (which involved the mahurat of a Bhojpuri film- but more on that some other time) with some filmy type people who my cousin brought along, we start looking for food, ending up with downed shutters. As a last resort, my cousin takes us to this place he eats about 3 days a week. The shutter is down but one can make out that there are people inside. We force our way in, and sit down to be told that the cook had left for the night. The owner of the place emerges, slurring, which is when one of my cousin’s friends (probably to impress his item number cohort) says- “Lambaji, aap toh bole the ki aapke dukan se hume kabhi bhookha nhain lautna padega.” This apparently happened when recently, the two had been drinking together at this very place. And then Lambaji disappears and the waiters are running all over the place muttering under their breath. Apparently, 3AM in the morning Lambaji has taken upon the responsibility of cooking. So the ovens are fired, the dough is rolled, the veggies are cut, the mutton is chopped and the rice is boiled. Lambaji’s head emerges out of the kitchen five minutes later, shouting- “ Khilane ka waada that, order lene ka nahin!” all this while, we continue drinking, shrinking into our corners, by the minute.

Food comes, and then so does Lambaji, bathed in sweat, and looking extremely pleased with himself. Due to us, another couple has also managed a meal. No words were exchanged. We ate quietly, every bite tasted like heaven. I ate a quite a bit, and so did every one else. There was this hush over the place, a distinct sense of gratitude had set in. we ate, and when my cousin pulled out the wallet, Lambaji refused to take the money- “Raat ke is time pe meri dukan toh band hai, par ghar pe toh doston ke liye koi time nahin hota!”

That’s it. Two episodes, and guess what, they are worth a hundred times more than any loyalty program that any firm in the whole fucking world can ever conceive.

Truly, this happens only in Bombay. I love this city.
And yes, its true-
The Colours of the Rainbow so Pretty in the Sky
Are also on the Faces of People walking by.
So, Shuchika, the only person who'll miss out is You. There is just too much beauty in this world to leave behind, though sometimes, you just have to look a little harder.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Impossible is Nothing

Some people listen to themselves, rather than listen to what other people say.
These people don’t come along very often, but when they do, they remind us that once you
set out on a path, even though critics may doubt you, it’s ok to believe.
There is NO Can’t, Won’t, or Impossible.
They remind us, that it is ok to believe.

Impossible is just, a small word thrown around by small men,
who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given,
than to explore the power they have to change it.

Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is, nothing.

Wish I could write like that!
(Thanks to Shuchika for this lead)

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I have seldom been so bored as I am now. After a hectic (and quite productive) month of May, June has been somewhat of bummer. So I decided that taking a day off mid-week to attend a friend’s wedding at Hyderabad wouldn’t hurt much. Tuesday morning I was in office, all charged up for a long day at work, had this thought, and found myself in Banjara Hills in the evening. (The Boss Man is certainly the KING!)

First, I must admit that I was really impressed by what I saw of the city, both the new and old. The wide roads, and I think on that aspect, living in Bombay has created a bias; the lovely old city, of which TinMan gave me a late night tour of his city, and then I also walked around a bit later the next day; the food, the bars, the weather- quite nice!

But the high point of the trip was meeting Saffy. We’d been in the same work group for about 90 per cent of our courses at B-School, and whoever has been to such places knows exactly what I mean. Saffy’s now married, and I’d heard that she even had a kid- which she was quick to refute.

We met at a pub called TDS, as it was supposed to play “solid” music on Tuesdays. We were a largish group, and joined later by her “better” half (which in this case I must say was not quite the case), and it ended up being an interesting evening- at times noisy, at times nostalgic.

The thing about meeting old friends is that they have the ability to touch you in a way no one else quite can. That they bring back memories that nothing else quite compares to. So when she took my arm and dragged me to the dance floor, we knew exactly what each of us were thinking. And since we’d danced together often enough, on campus, we knew each other’s moves well. So much can change in life, and yet on the dance floor it seemed so obvious to me that time was such a lie. And then we talked, and talked and made everyone around feel invisible and miserable. But then five years is a long time, and we had a lot to catch up on.

Later at night, as she drove me to wherever I was sleeping over, she said, “You haven’t changed at all, except that you dress a lot better now.” I slept well, ignoring the fact that it had little to do with me, and a lot more with my thoroughbred employer.

(D&C: Saw your post only after I got back. Next time.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

D and Me

D is not taking my calls, nor does she reply to my messages. When I do manage to get through, she delivers a never to be fulfilled callback promise. When button-holed she throws busy vibes at me. Though this does not excessively disturb me, I must admit having missed her company and attention, over the last week or so.

So what has gone wrong? Probably nothing. And being a complete “time and space” person, I am just indifferent to be at the giving end for these precious commodities. But since I have little to do this Monday afternoon, I might do a bit a pondering over this.

This is certainly not the first time she’s been up to these tactics, and I’m sure this won’t be the last. I suspect she does this, mostly unintentionally, from time to time to just recalibrate her equations with people around her. In the past, I have resorted to such techniques myself, and found that I just held this general continuing resentment against people from whom I couldn’t distance myself every once in a while. For instance, my bosses of those times. For instance, my engineering college room-mate of four years.

In short D is, probably inadvertently, giving me a dose of my own medicine. Only each time she does these things, I grow a little more confused.

Of course there is the possibility that she is genuinely upset about something, and if I think about it, I might have given her ample reasons in the fortnight before.

But in either case it cannot be helped.

Overall a very entertaining weekend to end a very hectic but fruitless week- even if you leave aside the musings over D. First, alcohol, the opening games of the World Cup, sitting next to Boss-Man, who is soon to be the Big Man, more alcohol, followed by the peripheral company a number of filmy people at Lokhandwala. Which for me, of course remained, a mere observation exercise. Then home and long international calls, over more alcohol. Two packs of cigarettes, a lot of booze and plenty of observations.

Saw Inside Man on Saturday, and thought that while it had been super-hyped on IMDB, it was actually a pretty decent movie. I like movies that have slick production quality and don’t really tell a story the way it happened, and of course leave multiple meanings behind. Of course Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, and Jodie Foster are worth every penny; though I did think that the latter just had a walk on part in the film.

And then those long, long chats. Love, life, bachelorhood, alcohol, intimacy. And saying things like- It is not love unless you can make an exception. I think one needs to be seriously sozzled to say such things.

Of course the Super Sports Sunday took the cake. I never thought I was the kind which watches cricket while Holland plays soccer, but it so happened that Viru was dishing out some fairly delectable stuff. And the word “delectable” reminds me that I missed an opportunity to date the extremely tasty Ms. JB, on Sunday evening, through a combination of boredom, laziness and soccer. Of course, I wasn’t able to avoid IK later in the evening, who had just returned from Bangkok, and wanted to share his exploits in the city, followed by a display of his new 700 THB Rolex, and a T-shirt which announces his virginity in the front while adding that it is and old T-Shirt at the back. I suggested that the back-side should also mention it was a very old (and bad) joke.

And last but not the least for those who just can’t handle so much sports, there was always Mika digging his teeth into what he thought was the icing on his birthday cake; and the rest is History. And there was also an interview of this scorching hot woman who came on TV to deny that she was Sahil Zaroo’s girl-friend. Man… this guy called her some six times that night. I can’t think of just another girl taking so many calls from me, if I were in that state. Whatever it is, I guess I am in the wrong line of work- trading all right, but all the wrong commodities. Never knew a gram of cocaine could land one such hot dates; or so much trouble. Both the episodes were extremely hilarious and the entertainment lasted till late night. All this is called national news. Wow! With news channels like this, Bollywood might soon be out of business.

I am going to be in Hyd this week- never been there and am quite looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Book Street’s Back

There are few things as heady as the smell of the sepia-tinted pages of an old book. Perhaps that of first rain on dry earth; perhaps that of a rare Stradivarius to a virtuoso.

After a bitter and prolonged battle with the Mumbai Municipal Corp, which lasted a year almost down to the day, the kitabwallahs of Fort are back. What joy! In this one year what we lost was-
Time. So much could’ve been read, said and done. Well, there’s never any return from that
Books. Thousands of books were damaged as water entered the MCGM warehouses, where the “confiscated” books had been stored, in the aftermath of July 26. (Establishments are insensitive, they’re meant to be)

Ok. So let’s move on now. And its time to stop and look every time you pass, to browse through The Ancient History of Rome, The Kite Runner, Opal Mehta. Well-thumbed copies of Tintins, and Asterixes and Lonely Planets. The Kamasutra, The Rig Veda- side by side. Chronicles of World Wars gone by, and doomsday theories on the next one. Harry Potter and Superman. Memoirs of Nehru, Jinnah. Gable and Garbo. Heroes, Superheroes. Villains and Vamps. Hundreds of Mills & Boons and the one and only Baby and Child Care, Benjamin Spock. The History of The Mercantile Bank and Coffee table books on Bollywood, and Hollywood. Of Cold War, and of everlasting peace. Plays Pleasant. Plays Unpleasant. Through fashion magazines, and then some not quite as fashionable. Whatever floats your boat.

To ruminate over past owners (“To Sheila on her 26 birthday, With Love and Fond Memories, Rohan.”, whatever happened to them?); to ponder over their antecedents -“Rumeila S. Clarke, Port of Spain, 1975” or “Promila Gupta, TYBA, St. Xavier’s College, Class of 87”. To read scribbles between lines, in pencil or fountain pen, to see a book in a new light, discover a new meaning left behind by those who let them go (once I saw scribbled - with arrow and underline-in a juvenile handwriting in pencil along the margin: 'This is what is meant by "To Kill a Mocking Bird"'- and then a whole new realization dawned upon me).
To wonder why people would sell their books.
To speak to the Kitabwallahs, to hear their stories of how they came to this city of dreams with stars in their eyes, and how they ended up on the streets, and how they sold dreams to others instead. To see them clamber, with confidence to find for you that rare Steinbeck. To bargain with them and win or lose, depending on the book, the mood, the time of the day.

So much to read, and yet so little time. Happy days are here again!
Goodbye Crossword, Hello Book Street.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Don’t Know Why

I am what you might call deeply single. Not for me the pleasures of companionship, the joys of togetherness, the search for a soul mate, the quality time spent with family. For me, the best moments of my life are reserved for myself. So are my darkest hours. Nothing troubles me more than watching my personal space crumble; nothing that propels me into action more than the need to preserve the walls, I have around me.

In a world that is defined by social acts of association like dates, relationships and marriage, I find myself as an island- a silent bubble floating on a sea of noise. For a long time I thought that there is something compulsive and disorderly in the way I protect spaces, but no. I figure that there are a few people like me out there in the world, but then like me, they seek their solitude, while I cherish mine. I guess it is ok.

Another Friday night went by (a kiss-less one of course). I start blabbering something, and D asks me about the last woman I was really close to. And I begin to wonder. I have been in relationships- or to put it appropriately, I have succeeded in giving that impression to an impressive string of partners that I was with. But the fact remains, in the end game, I never quite really have shared spaces with anyone for any considerable period of time. Over time people have a way of figuring that out, and they move on. Sometimes quietly, sometimes belligerently.

I was told by this “last” person- “T.O. you don’t like people, you love only yourself. With the finite capacity to love that you’ve been given, it is difficult to be around you and not feel despondent.” I think it was towards end of what the world called a relationship. It is not entirely true.

It is not as if I don’t believe in love, in companionship, but for me it is not selfless. I believe that any act which is devoid of self-interest cannot be sustained over a period of time. I watch people around me, hear their stories of who they love and how much, and how they would do anything for that person. And how they think that their love for their object of affection is selfless, and I pity them. I feel bad for them because each act that they perceive to be selfless, makes their relationships a bit more mortal. I believe in destiny and I seek one momentous encounter. Chance ones. I draw my palm into my lap, stretch it out and see the lines which crisscross, and I hope that such a love will not pass me by. I close my fist, feel that sweat in it, curl up and rescind into my spaces. I have read that there exist laws of love, which define who is to be loved, by whom and how much.

And it is definitely not as if I am a social recluse. I am told I can carry a conversation well, that I have a sense for who likes what or needs to be told which word at what time. I go out with friends, with clients. I spend time with people, observing people. People give me thoughts, ideas. Make me feel superior, or inferior. They inspire, they disappoint. People make me human. And then I switch off. After a while, I crave for the periodic plunges into cold vats of solitude.

But in a year in which I turn thirty later, I recollect the moments in my life, I cherish the ones which came by immediately after reading a good book, watching a thought-provoking movie, listening to soulful music, a good drink, a long lonely walk in the woods. I guess a friend of mine summed it up really well, as he saw me sprawled on my bed, with essentials around me- and remarked that I looked really happy in my world of rectangles. A box of cigarettes, a matchbox. A few CDs, some DVDs. Three remotes. Books. A mobile phone, a Blackberry. That’s it.
And in response to D's question of last night- "What will you do to leave your mark in the world?" I replied: "I won't". Just love my life. The here and now of it.
"OSHO. Never Born, Never Died. Only Visited this Planet Earth between Dec 11 1931 - Jan 19 1990."
Epitaph of Osho Rajneesh