Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ammi Jab Banati Hai

Just after dinner one day, the three of us were sitting and watching Conan o'Brien on TV, sipping Naeem's signature after-meals chai. We'd just finished a meal of chicken curry and rotis from the local restaurant behind the compound. "Oops - almost forgot!" Naeem stood up and went to his room, and came back with the yummiest besan ka halwa I've ever eaten. "From home - friend brought it over today." Our mouths were already stuffed.

In between mouthfuls we got to reminiscing about back-home food. Nitin about his dahi-parathas and kadi, Naeem about his doodhi burfi and mithi lassi, and me about my puttu-kadla and mutton biryani. "The halwa's a little different from last time, yeah?" "Yeah, Ammi can never make the same thing twice. I asked her for besan ka halwa that's all - no point telling her 'the same as last time'! Lekin Ammi jab banati hai badi fit banati hai yaar!"

Amen. No arguments on that - go around the world eating your poulets, calzones, fajitas, dim-sums, chop sueys, sushis, kebabs, whatever - all that just melts away when you think of home food. I've already started counting down my 15 odd remaining days!

They say home is where the heart is. I'm sure for the most of us, home is where Mom's food is.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Horizon

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
I'll stand on the bow, feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down on me

And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
But don't you understand
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin
On a clear day
I can see
See a very long way

From Colin Hay's Waiting

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who Knows

Six of us were cramped up in that little cabin on the truck. For the past eleven days we've been there everyday, at least six to seven hours each day. Watching the little weight indicator on the monitor, hoping for an answer and hoping for it soon. The chunk of metal downhole just refused to give up. We'd been pulling on it, smacking metal on metal, looking for that rapid drop on the scale, waiting for it to come free.

At the end of the day we were tired, upset and seriously considering the possibility of redoing everything we had done in the last six weeks. And then we saw the 9000 pound drop, and the coil rolling back freely.

"Al hamdolillah!* " Everyone of us cried out with our hands raised at our chests.

Frank is Chinese and an atheist. Håvard is Norweigian, and he's not been to church since his divorce. Fazil is from Azerbaijan, I don't have much to say about religion there. Mohammed has spent the last five years in San Francisco, but he's a pretty devout Muslim. And so is Ali, but he's been in Saudi all his life. I'm also quite the God-fearing Catholic.

But it didn't really matter. Sometimes, you can have a ton of experience in the work you do. You can explain everything, plan ahead, do something you can to the best of your knowledge and ability. And still, sometimes, we find ourselves desperately waiting for a miracle that we know with all our technically programmed minds will just not happen. And yet, when it does, there is something in the way it all worked out that makes you wonder. In the same way that the world has its perfectly random order. Maybe this is what all of us can call God.

* A common phrase which praises Allah. Translated, it roughly means, "This was possible, by God's mercy."

The Space Between

"What's the reason you're being so weird lately?"

"I guess... I don't know. I'm really happy for you, I am. I was just... hoping, I guess, that this day wouldn't come."

"You don't have to distance yourself because of that. We're still who we used to be!"

"Then tell me things will be the same."

(cell phone rings)

"I gotta take this, buddy. You're right. Things are going to be different. But different doesn't always mean bad. Different just means different."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dream Catcher

You will live it out in time
But God forbid
That among the dreams of tomorrow
And the memories of yesterday
You forget the reality of today.

Friday, June 19, 2009


A gave me a birthday gift two weeks ago. Ah, I should probably say that the original gift that I was supposed to get dissolved into thin air on account of the fact that my visit to India was unprecendented and unexpected at the time of her arrival, and realizing that it was almost impossible that the two of us would meet during her trip back home, and calculating carefully that the postal department would make a killing on parcel registration almost nullifying the value of the gift, she had come to the conclusion that it would be better to give me this gift the next time we met, which could not be longer than another two years in time (I have simplified her original explanation which ran into seven and a half pages on standard A4 size paper - front and back).

So after a million whines of self-pity on having no birthday acknowledgement from someone I have known forever, she agreed to put together the one thing I really have wanted for a long while. A CD of tamil songs. Not that I've not heard tamil songs before, but not like this. The CD has pretty much blown me away - you could call it an obsession I guess.

On the other hand, I think whoever said mallu is tougher to learn than tamil knew nothing about either language! I'm a little language shy and A scares the hell out of me every time I try to speak two words. So a few days back I manage a Innu onnum pannala * and she's on it straight away -

"No! What Innu? You should say innukku!"
"But innu is passable no?" (hands a little sweaty)
"NO! It's not passable! And what onnum pannala? This is not your mallu - say innukku onnume pannala * !"
"OK..." (My voice is shaking and I can't say another word)

Hah, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If it's I it has to be pannitaen ^ , if it's he it has to be pannitaan ^ , if it's she it has to be pannitta ^ (oh, actually in very pure tamizh it has to be pannittaal ^, but in conversation pannitta is passable :P ) And elders you have to respect, OK? No enna pannara ** and all... it has to be neenga enna pannareenga ** !

Where does my paavam mallu compare to this where a simple Endhu cheyyuva ** ? would fit everyone and everything!!

But I'm having fun inspite of all the domination and humiliation. And for that, A, you're officially forgiven for everything ;)

* - Did nothing today
^ - various forms of did
** - What are you doing?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The strands in your eyes
That color them wonderful
Stop me and steal my breath
Emeralds from mountains
Thrust towards the sky
Never revealing their depth

Today completes three years since I left Bangalore - then and now one of my cities of dreams. The place where I gained a little, lost a little, and still continue to learn - a lot. This is a dedication to everything that makes the city what it is - the traffic, the streets, the double meter auto rides, the restaurants, and more than anything else - the people who made my life the way it is now.

Lyrics from Goo Goo Dolls' I'll be

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The balloon seller was filling up his balloons with helium. He had a daily ploy to attract his young customers. Just as children started coming out of school, he would grab a dozen balloons of various colours and let them loose into the air. It always worked. One hour's work in the evening and he would make enough money for a decent meal three times a day.

On one such day, just as he was about to pack up, he felt a little tug on the bottom of his shirt. Looking down, he saw a little kid looking up at him with his dark brown eyes. "Uncle, if you fill a black balloon with air and leave it, will it also fly like the others?" His small voice brimmed with innocence.

The balloon seller patted him on the head. "It doesn't matter what's on the outside, son. It's what's inside that counts."


I heard this story in church today. I've heard a lot of them before, with long winded parallels and implications that would finally give a moral science lesson. But this one surprised me. Like that one-in-a-hundred story that makes you smile, just because it is so simple its truth can't be denied.

And I suppose that however late, we all realize that it's true. It's what's inside that counts.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Strange but wonderful, that sometimes -

- in the loudest of places, you can find just the silence you wished for.
- it really is possible to sleep your worries away.
- music and lyrics can take off a day's weight.
- friends are the only reason you need to make a decision.
- you can miss someone even though you're hardly in touch.
- memories of yesterday make up for the expectations of today.
- you can dream about something you know won't come true.
- acceptance can be the simplest form of love.

Friday, May 01, 2009


(Tagged by Pareltank and Angels, Stars 'n Dreams, but I should probably modify it to "ten honest beliefs" or something like it. And oops! could come up only with 7!)

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
You can only take so much...
Walk on

There's a place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing
And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain
... Home
If all of the stars have faded away
Just try not to worry you'll see them someday
Just take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could
No matter what they tell you
No matter what they do
No matter what they teach you
What you believe is true
I tried so hard to set things right
But then years later when I looked back
The only things that turned out right
Were those I thought I'd just let be
I dream that love will never die
I dream that God will be forgiving

Monday, March 30, 2009

Onion Pakoda

"Yaar aaj to pakoda khaana hi padega!" Naeem, Nitin and I are sitting in our living room watching the rain pitter-patter outside. Rain. In my part of the world, that's rare. Nitin's the one who made the pakoda remark. That's how it is with him - most things are impulsive and based on parallels. This time it's the badiya mausam - ghar ki yaad - pakoda on a rainy evening parallel.

But this time everyone's enthusiastic. Somehow it does seem like a pakodi ka din. And so on the first weekend all of us have in almost a month, we decide to have a doing nothing - doing everything day. Naeem takes us in the morning to the local Pakistani Street which has the best aalo ke parathe I've had (prejudiced opinion because I'm in Saudi - but what the hell!).

But Nitin's right. The weather is awesome. The only time Saudi has actually looked romantic. The rain has cleared the air. The sky is dark but when you look out to the distance, you can almost touch the peace it casts on the ground. Sitting at the Corniche sea face, sipping at our coffees, we can see through to the Bahrain causeway miles away. Mornings have never been so lovely.

A drive and a movie later, we remember to end the day with what started it - Nitin's pakodi. At the little restaurant downtown, dabbing our onion pakodas in its red chutney and chana-dal, there're no worries of work, of people in distant lands, of money or relationships. Life feels momentarily peaceful.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


(Yep, finally saw it!)

My love for Slumdog isn't because it provides the world hope in it's time of recession, or because it tells you that you can reach great heights no matter what your history. It is in the simplicity of the love Jamal and Latika share. It doesn't matter how they were brought up, how they survived the dark days of their youth, how the Mumbai gang wars tore them apart - when they're finally together, the emotion they share is so natural, so easily innocent.

"Where are you?"
"I'm safe."
"I knew you'd be watching."

How many of us would accept a Ye hi hamari kismat hai justification at the end of a Bollywood movie? But Jamal's This is our destiny seems absolutely all right - because he makes us believe that even though it is written, you just cannot stop trying.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Right and Wrong

India's first golden globe. And perfectly dedicated to "the billion people of India". No one deserves it more. Rahman - you the man.

Sachin ranked #26. The ICC should suck on a lollipop while they redo that primary school formula they used.