Wednesday, March 17, 2010

1085 : Its triple witching…and I am smiling

I usually dislike macro change….I have admitted that  before, and that comes from my own (supposed) “private personality” side. I would rather talk to a blog, than sit and have a chat with a stranger – which ironically has the very same end result.

At this point I am changing physical location, I am changing my employer (from an organization where I virtually know every single person including the door security to a place where I know not a soul), and I am going through a fairly “life altering” set of changes on my personal side.

Knowing my own past predilection to try and swim around these changes, rather than face them – this time around I am telling myself – “enjoy maadi, life cannot ever be any more interesting !!”

I know a few things:
1. That my resistance is immature and kiddish. I am telling myself, its  healthy nervousness, use it well.
2. All of these changes are for what I perceive as the better….so the “metamorphosis” is the price you pay.
2. I will definitely look upon these times, 12 months from now and beam wider (like Scotty !!)…so why not start the “teeth showing” today.

Blue baby blue….all night long !!

1084 : Still….locked in ice !!

I find it very intriguing that moms (especially) treat you as if you still were a little child (and I mean it in a very “good” sort of way). Its almost as if for others you are 30 years old, for her you are just a toddler still.

Dads try and put on this “friendly” – “I am your buddy” kind of face. Moms seem to just not indulge in that pretense.

It just fascinates me how we grow up and for some, we still don’t, as if trapped in ice !!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1083 : Missing

Step off the train, I have been walking down your streets again,
Pass your door, But you don’t live here anymore.
It's years since you've been there
And now you've disappeared somewhere
Like outer space
You've found some better place

(Missing by Everything But The Girl – a monster of a dance number from the 90s, if you have not heard it – go for it today)

My mom says (sometimes) you can only miss someone who is far away from you. I think that is so true (at least for today). Absence can make your heart grow fonder, and your brain to flounder :-)

1082 : Howlarious post from Jaya’s Blog

This one comes from Jaya Madhavan’s blog…..This could be easily one of the best blog posts I have read in recent times.

Worth a read, do read it. Cow is so good it can give milk in packets

1081 : Induction Cooker

Given my tragic tale of despondence (now I do sound like DevD right), relating to cooking LPG in my new city….I decided to short circuit it and turn the problem on its head.

Since the past 7 days, since I have been here, I have been cooking on induction cooktops.

Supposedly they are way too efficient and cheaper as compared to LPG as well. They are about 30% more efficient than LPG, and about 85% more efficient than hotplates.

I own two of these. The Prestige PIC 2.0 (costing 4k odd) is 2000W, is a stunning piece of kitchen ware; and the Pigeon 1800W one, which is much more understated, and costs only about 2.7k.

29f3e1feee27f09778834a5e754e12ec_image_750x550 IC-1-BIG

So what are the minor irritants?
1. You cannot use aluminum, copper and anodized vessels. You have to use plain old steel.
2. You have to hunt a good stainless steel cooker. I managed to get one free with Pigeon.
3. The flatter the base the better for each vessel.

What are the ultra cool jingbangs?
1. You can touch a vessel full of boiling sambar. I really don’t know how but only the bottom of the vessel seems hot.
2. Water in a steel vessel boils in less than 15 seconds when placed on the top.
3. Only the area which the vessel has contact consumes power, the rest of the power is not used.
4. Max power is 2000/1800, you can use it at 200W plus, for slow cooking.
5. If you reduce the wattage, the heat reduces immediately, just as fast as LPG.
6. Completely child safe.

I must say these things are so convenient. Who needs an LPG when you have these alternatives.

A big thanks to those who misuse my tax money and don’t even provide me with an LPG.

LPG is dead, long live the induction cooker.

1080 : Small Mercies

My new office serves fresh milk tea (not with milk powder) and brilliant caffe latte. My favorite poisons are now on tap.

If not for anything else, for just this damn reason, my decision seems fully vindicated.


1079 : Avocado land

My new city sells avocado as if it were potatoes (I mean they are as easily available and 1/4 the price I would pay @ Mumbai). I love avocado sandwich. Looks like things can only get better from here :-)

1078 : How many engineers does it take to fix an AC?

At Mumbai 2 engineers fixed 3 acs at my place in 2 hours. Here it took 4 engineers 5.30 hrs to fix a single AC.

To be fair, the guys here a far more thorough job, but still 1.33 man hours per ac versus 22 hrs per ac. How much are you willing to pay for perfection?

1077 : Its a fair world, a fairer country, and the fairest state…and yet I feel so very mucked up

Okay, for the record, I have been paying direct (income) taxes for almost 14 years now. And never once have I wriggled out of my fair share of payment back to the society. I pay direct taxes and a host of indirect taxes.

I sport a National Passport, a PAN card, a voters ID, a drivers license, a proof of domicile (in Mumbai), a ration card (in Mumbai)….and of course a million other thingy’s to prove that I am an Indian – and a clean Indian at that.

So picture this, I walk into Bangalore (Bengaluru) from Mumbai. I cannot get a gas connection, a post paid telephone connection, or a broadband connection easily.

All of these require a local proof of residence. Then I really sit and wonder whyTF do I even pay national taxes? Why not move all my taxes to the federated state?

Secondly, though I managed to solve the phone thingy and the broadband jumble, by some innovative arm twisting – the cylinder (LPG) guys came back and told me - “Sorry Saar, you need to have ration card only (sic). Nothing else will be okay (sic!!). Give ration card, and we give cylinder.”

How does my govt./society expect me to survive in this alien land? Am I supposed to eat out for 2 months, till I solve this rigmarole.

I just hated the experience completely.

Enough of cribbing, so what do I think we could do to ease off the situation.

1. I understand LPG’s are subsidized and hence govt. does not want to use them for commercial use (eg. a restaurant).
2. Why not just let me walk into a BP, HP or Indane – pay up 1500 as deposit for the two cylinders, 700 as actual cost of the two cylinders, give a address without the need for a proof – they give me a customer id, and tie to two unique cylinder ids to my customer id.
3. They now tell me, that I can’t order more than a cylinder every 25 days (as an example). A 14 kg cylinder will last a family of 4 with heavy use for about 45 days. So 25 days should be fair rule.
4. Also they make sure that an address is not having more than 1 registration. So in effect, I cant game the system by having a registration in my name, my wife’s name, my kids name and so on…with the same address. (This should be easy to solve from an IT standpoint….Amazon already does fantabulous duplicate address reconciliation, as an example.)

Makes me wonder, why can’t we implement such simple ideas quickly. (If you notice a hole, do let me know, we can improve this model, till its water tight…then we shall present it to Nandan Nilekanni, as part of his National ID program, and hope that it gets implemented in the next 25 years :-) Seriously, I am such a sceptic. :-))

Why can’t the world around me work to make my (and hence the average common man’s) life a little easier than harder.

On a side note, there is a bhajia wala outside my building (in Bangalore) and he uses BP cylinders, and he has 2 spare cylinders always.

I wonder what address proof and ids does he have? Akhir usme kya hai jo mujh mein nahin?

1076 : My 2001 post on Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, when I first read it


 Coetzee COETZEE_

Hunted it out from my archives. Note, that my own style of writing has so considerably changed. Now I believe its more on its own, back then, it was, an effort, a craft, if I might call it that. Reprinted below.


J. M Coetzee is one of South Africa's best-known writers. His latest novel, the powerful and disturbing Disgrace, won the Booker Prize in 1999. Although he was the only writer to win that prize twice, Coetzee not only didn't go to England to collect it, he virtually refused all interviews.
Coetzee was born in Capetown, South Africa 60 years ago, and was educated in South Africa and the United States. His novels, such as Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and Times of Michael K and The Master of Petersburg have won virtually every major literary prize in England, as well as other international awards.

Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee, a review

My first encounter with Coetzee was in an issue of Gentleman where the reviewer was pushing hard for the author. This was just after Coetzee had won the Booker. The author was liberal with his acclaim of the author, going onto to mention during the course of his article that Coetzee had been a revelation to him, especially after Rushdie, Kafka and Garcia Marquez. In those days (around early 2000), I had just finished with each of the three mentioned authors to some degree. Though I personally was not quite impressed with Marquez, Kafka and Rushdie had left their profound effect on me. I made a mental note to check out Coetzee at the first available option.

Life flows by, its cheap. It took me over 18 months( even a baby takes only 9 months....tasteless yet so true) to venture out and risk Coetzee.

I bought it three days ago, and today I started reading it. The first thing I noticed about the style of writing was the commentative style of narration. Let me give an example.

What the dog shall never be able to work out (not in a month of Sundays!!, he thinks), what his nose shall not tell him, is how one can enter what seems to be a ordinary room and never come out again. Something happens in that room, something unmentionable; here the soul is yanked out of the body; briefly it hangs about in the air, twisting and contorting; then it is sucked away and it is gone. It will be beyond him, this room is not a room but a hole where one leaks out of existence.

In the paragraph above, he is describing the room where the main character David Lurie and Bev Shaw (a vet quack), administer euthanasia to animals. Analyze carefully, the tone is not preachy, its commentative of what happens in the vet's room. I find this style of writing very close to Rushdie and to some degree Upamanyu Chaterjee. I don't mean that Coetzee uses any flowery language license, neither does he indulge in complex surrealism, but yes, there is the same detached commentary, the same sly style of the author doing a pipsqueak via his main character.

David is caricatured initially (and throughout ) as a person who is intelligent, educated, but a flowing freethinker. He is 52, and keeps his hymeneal urges in control by visiting Soraya, a female who indulges in flesh trade. The relationship with the prostitute( If I may use the word without any of its demeaning connotations) is professional to put it succinctly. Then one day, that professional barrier breaks, because he sees her as part of the 'his' society with two of her kids. Using these two kids as mental metaphors to destroy their conjugal bliss, David loses out completely on Soraya.

David teaches at Cape Town university. He teaches some poetry courses and communication skills. As he himself admits, he teaches more for the money, and less for his own belief in the subject.

This is where he seduces a 18 year old girl and has sex with her twice. The girl's boy friend gets whiff of the same and proceeds to vandalize David's life. David is now answerable to the interrogation committee at the university. This is where the book develops to become seductively  interesting. David's character comes out as one of those stoic people who knows he has trespassed some of the rules of life, but he is also very clear that he questions the rules of life which classify him as some trespasser.

The girl in question is completely forgotten at this point within the ambits of the book. She has been actually used as a prop to raise a larger question, and nowhere in the book, does Coetzee directly fire a salvo and suggest the 'larger' question.

The larger question though subtle, is what I think the book is all about. I think in that sense the book is very similar to Roy's God Of Small Things. The whole story revolves around that one unanswered question. Also, in accepting the whole scheme of life there is a sense of fatalism, yet grit which David exhibits. This is also very similar to GOST. I really don't know how that association got rankled up in my head, but yup, as I was reading Disgrace, every turning minute I was reminded of GOST.

My personal take is that in both cases, the respective authors are raising the question of love for life, and the repercussions it has on society and how it backfires on you. Another emotion that runs through both books is the apparent (and real) helplessness that runs through a normal human life when trapped within the ambits of some complex scheme of debauchery and travesty as it plays havoc with your life. I have been through such a time, and I tend to call it claustrophobia, a pent up helplessness.

To continue, David refuses to break, though the world around him is itching to break him. Infact in a post interrogation interview with a press female, he describes (not without sarcasm) that he found his sexual experiences with a girl old enough to be his daughter as 'enriching'.
Soraya, is tall and slim, with long black hair and dark, liquid eyes. Technically, he is old enough to be her father, but then, technically, one can be a father at twelve.

Abruptly, without much attempt to salvage his life, he packs his bags and leaves Cape Town and decides to move in with his daughter Lucy who lives in the country side. One facet of life which is unmistakably trapped within the book till this point, is the fact how the entire world around David rallies to make him conform to a society which he apparently does not subscribe/wish to continue subscribing.

Lucy is David's daughter from his first marriage and is a down to earth simple female, but her intellect is razor sharp. Her ability to think, ratiocinate and hold her own is demonstrated time and again throughout the book. She ekes out an existence growing some stuff in her backyard and rearing dogs until they are sold. She has hired a farm help who goes by the name of Petrus, who is a black who keeps two wives at the same time, and is an old man of around 45. Lucy is also involved with Bev who is a quack vet, but more often than not, she administers euthanasia (her choice not theirs) to the animals that come to her.

David seems to often tout the fact, that animals serve no purpose than to be fattened and then gobbled up, or being plain beasts of labor.

The buildup of the relationship between Lucy and her father is done well. There is a distinct aloofness, yet succor within their conversations. There is a healthy respect and excellent quality of conversations doing up and down between the two. She teases her father no end, and even discusses his problems at the university, though there is no judgments/opinion she holds on the same. 

David begins adjusting to the slow pace of country life, and when I was reading it, I realized how important it could be for a man of city to unwind in a place like a village, with no apparent hurry to reach anywhere. 

Living in a town dominated by blacks, two whites were bound to be troubled. It had to happen, and it happens. One day, three youths, loot their house, rape Lucy and set David afire. David saves himself by dousing himself with water, but there is nothing he could have done about Lucy.

From there on, begins a journey which does not end anywhere. Lucy is a picture of stoic courage and never for once displays apparent weakness, but she is broken in more ways than one. For the first few days she is silent, she refuses to even file a police case against the three for rape, only a robbery is registered.

Slowly and steadily, the wounds begin gnawing at Lucy and start making their presence felt externally. She becomes snappish with every passing day. Her relationship with David deteriorates to a point where both just refuse to speak anything sensible anymore to each other.

David is like the protective father who tries tooth and nail to try and convince his daughter that she should give up living in this shanty and move to a safer place like Cape town.

Then one day, Lucy speaks a little about what she went through. One of the paragraphs I am reproducing below, simply because its literary (in terms of sheer literature) stunning.

Hatred....When it comes to men and sex, David, nothing surprises me any more. Maybe for me, hating the women makes sex more exciting. You are a man, you ought to know. When you have sex with someone strange - when you trap her, hold her down, get her under you, put all your weight on her isn't it a bit like killing? Pushing the knife in, exiting afterwards, leaving the body behind covered in blood - doesn't it feel like murder, like getting away with murder?

There is so much anger in the choice of words which Lucy makes, yet no apparent demonstrable irritation. Its exactly what someone who was trying to be stoic in the face of being pushed against the wall would do. I am sure, because I have done it myself, and that bitterness (of some days of ere) still remains a part of me.

Now we are through to almost 80% of the book, but now the main part begins, which is the title of the book. David feels that this slow torture his daughter and he are being subjected to are part of some plan of life to get back at disgrace them.

David in the meanwhile goes and meets the girl's (of affair fame) father who lives in a town nearby. The whole incident is almost shown as if David is trying to repair history. He is treated like some pariah by all in the house, other than the father. David's struggle with his own past and his feeble attempt to fight the conforming spirit is demonstrated in gay abandon. Once again David, behaves exactly I behaved after some bad patch in my life, the reality of the book is in stark contrast to most other characters you read in fiction. It is as if, this is a real story and not some fabricated fantasy.

Another catharsis, expunging effect for David is when he works with Bev and takes responsibly of post death formalities for the animals that have been put to sleep. He is shown in complete contrast to his earlier self where he feels every animal is no more there than to serve some designated purpose which is either food/labor. 

There is this scence where one day when he has dumped some bodies into the incinerator and is returning, he suddenly begins sobbing violently. The reality of the whole makes the whole book worthwhile. Men being broken by life has never been trapped any better in a novel save GOST.

Lucy takes the whole rape as a matter of fact, though she is actually been broken. She herself admits she is no longer alive, but dead.

Lucy is 3 months pregnant with three fathers, and is refusing to abort (drop off) the child, because she feels that you cannot punish a child for its fathers. 

To complicate matters one of the rapists is Petrus's (the farm help's) cousin, and lives in the house adjoining. 

One thread which I failed to mention is David has for long contemplated making an opera out of the fabled love of Byron and Teresa. In the end part of the book, he just about goes about doing that, but the sad part, which he himself admits is that his work is more an effort to keep him engrossed than to be considered as any serious work of art. 

The book ends, with David having an alteration with Lucy and deciding to leave her abode. He takes a house some miles away from her, and takes in some dogs for pets. As he continues to work on Byron and Terersa, using his mandolin (as he feels uncomfortable with his piano), he realises that one of the dogs who is nearing his death is the biggest fan of the opera, listening intently as David composes. 

David meets Bev to carry dead dogs to the incinerator. This week he contemplates whether his favorite dog must be given the euthanasia. He knows that he can safely stretch it for weeks, but quite abruptly he tells Bev that this dog must die today. Bev herself feigns suprise since she knows that this dog is the only sensible company he has. But he insists.

The last metaphor is the victory of death over life...a dark theme....yet so true.

Before I sign off, one more last stunning passage. Rosalind, David's ex-wife is generally trying to tell him that he wasted his life and fucked it all up in the chase of some 18 year old, for a fling that never enough lasted enough. Here goes.

"My life is not thrown away, Rosalind. Be sensible."
"But it is! You have lost you job, your name is mud, your friends avoid you, you hide in Torrance road like a tortoise afraid to stick its neck out of the shell. People who aren't fit enough to tie your shoelaces make jokes about you. Your shirt isn't ironed, God knows who gave you that haircut, you've got-", she arrests the tirade. "You are going to end up as one of those sad old men who poke around in rubbish bins."
"I am going to end up in a hole in the ground", he says. "And so are you. So are we all."

July 15th 2001, Monday - Amitabh Iyer

1075 : Change and the late bloomer

I usually don’t deal well with (macro) change….with micro alterations, like a project out of schedule, or a fuse getting burned out, or a family member falling ill – I deal well because I can react quickly, but macro items – like moving a city, setting up a new home – in fact most planned changes – I struggle in the initial days.

The good part is,  I have seen it multiple times, that if others take 10 days to adjust to a change, I usually take 15, but once I have caught up, I manage to beat them at their game.

Unlike me, my wife loves (macro) changes, and deals terribly with micro changes – so in that sense we complement each other well – and make sure we fray each other’s nerves completely to a point of freaking out :-)

Makes me seriously wonder, what makes me a late bloomer, and what makes my wife love the very same process I hate. What in our formative, or otherwise, experiences, led us to be two such different individuals in the real world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

1074 : Disgrace by JM Coetzee

Was reading bits of Disgrace by Coetzee again. (My mom made me read youth, which was equally brilliant!!).

Disgrace is a small 200 page book, about a very simple everyday theme – how growing entropy envelopes and overcomes life (eventually).

It remains one of my favorite book in the “stark” category, a la “The Trial” by Kafka, bereft of any linguistic gymnastics, shorn of any other embellishments, nothing but good clean storytelling with haunting graphic images that will never leave you.

One of the quotes in the book by the protagonist is

"One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be as hard as hard can be grows harder yet."

That resonates a lot with me !!

1073 : Change is inevitable (and the associated humbug)

I have heard this adage since I was a kid, and yet it makes little or no (applicable) sense to me.

I am currently going through quite a few changes in my life, I classify at least a few of them as “major" – and very honestly, I struggle to adjust with them.

Call it my own infallibility, but I struggle with lifestyle changes – though conversely I am probably the other extreme when it comes to “change” and its “challenges” at a work place – but in my personal day to day life, I love the comfort of “routine”.

I agree with the motherhood adage, that “change is inevitable”, I would add to it and say, given enough time, “acceptance of that chance is also inevitable”.

Why then have an adage then? To make people like me look at our own selves as “change challenged” – maybe.

1072 : Get the freak on

I have been off this blog for over 4 weeks now, and it feels like a part of me is “off”. Its definitely ripe time, to get the freak on again.

Sometimes all you need is a new city and a new town to “freak” folks like me out :-)