Monday, August 13, 2001

De-ionising Pokhara

The one and only C. K. Lal, the inimitable 'calumnist' (as he makes 'pun' of himself) of the great newspaper NT, once wrote, Pokhara is enchanting anytime of the year (even when the Nepali Congress is holding its bi-ennial convention there - which was the subject of that particular article). The Ghoses couldn't agree with him more. They keep running off to this lake city at every conceivable excuse. In the last 3 years they must have made at least a dozen trips to Pokhara - roughly one a quarter. So, they have seen it in all seasons and loved it more each time. Even on this weekend S.. made a quick dash there - ostensibly to attend a Sales conference of his team.

The Shangri-La, of course, is their regular haunt. Though it's not quite a "village", as it is called, nestled amidst paddy fields, the architecture and understated ethnic decor blends naturally with the surroundings giving it a very " Come… touch me" feel, which the Fulbari loses in all its over-bearing grandeur. S.. says that, the Shangri-La is a place one likes to imagine - be it only in parts - of being close to something of one's own. Its row house cottages, with the little piece of lawn or balcony in front, could well have been a part of your weekend house out in the country or the hills. Even the deep-blue swimming pool has a homely character of a pond in the back yard. In contrast, The Fulbari seems so awe-inspiring and, therefore, almost by definition - totally out of reach, in every sense. But, their real favourite is Prem & Poornima's little treasure tucked away above the Begnas Lake - a good 13 kms from the city and another 30 minutes by boat. But, once you are there you are transported to a different world entirely. It's like going back 50 years in time.

Life stands still on the Begnas Taal. There is the sight of the occasional boat ferrying villagers across the lake. Inching its way through the placid green water evoking a feeling of timelessness. Or a little girl sitting still for hours in a tiny "dinghy" waiting for a few fishes to come up on her net to take to the nearby market or home for dinner. A few small houses dot the rain-washed green hill on the other side. That's where our old boatman lives - and at the end of day's work, he would row across all the way and trudge for 2 hours to his home up on the hilltop. "Don't earn enough to stay the weeknights in a hotel", he told us half in jest.

Even if it's not practical to stay at the Begnas their on every trip - due to sheer logistics constraints - the Ghoses try to make it a point to at least go their for a lunch or an afternoon outing. Like S… did with the boys this Saturday. On a clear day one would get a lateral section view of the Macchapuchare, Annapurnas and the Manaslu. But, the clouds threatening to break into a heavy downpour at any moment lent a different character to the scenery. The only regret was that, the guys at the resort can't make honest good Pakoras - which are just right for the weather. Perhaps, the German and Australian tourists have spoilt them. Point of complain for Buchu's Mom.

S… feels his stress level palpably drop the moment he lands in Pokhara. He is convinced that, this is due to the heavy charge of negative ions in the air. Someday, he hopes to write a thesis on this by conducting an emperical research on the 'conception' record of all honey-mooning couples visiting Pokhara. They did something similar at Niagra and it was established that, there is, indeed, a scientific correlation between negative ions, drop in stress-levels, rise of libido and ease of conception. ( It affects peacocks the same way). This led to the invention of the electronic "De-ioniser" that today graces so many American bed-rooms with good effect.

If Begnas eases his stress levels, Mumbai sends a rush of adrenaline up S..'s veins. Once travelling with him from Pune in the Deccan Queen, a colleague had commented that, he noticed a new spring in his otherwise languid gait, the moment he steps out of the train onto the VT station. But now, even he feels tired by the end of the day, especially if he has been to the Backbay. It's not the same place anymore. So, unfailingly each evening he'd return to Udyan Darshan for his mandatory quota of Varan-Bhath to uplift his sagging spirit.

While S.. was been busy pumping various fluids into and out of his system, the other members of the Ghose parivar have been honing their artistic talents. Junior Miss Ghose did a Ras-leela dance l - lipstick and 'blush-on' decked Radhika - for Janmastami at her school. On Sunday evening, her Mom joined the 'Anandalok' chorus for 'Baishe-Shravan' (the death anniversary of Tagore - or was it Barsha Mangal?) - to keep the flag of Bongi cultural chauvinism flying high atop the Himalayas. Grandparents and in-laws, who were present on both the occasions, were duly impressed.

Shyama Prasanna Bose (Sejo) was in school with S.. at Don Bosco, Park Circus (Cal). He was the rolly-polly, fun-loving son of an eminent labour lawyer of Calcutta - a scion of a typical "Bonedi" ('Bunyadi') family Padma-pukur, Bhowanipore. In class, he was notorious for polishing off the tiffin of all his friends and laughed at the imagined plight of their mothers - who would be wondering why their sons were not putting on weight, despite their nutrition packed lunch boxes. When Shyama didn't clear his ISC (Plus 2) - his friends were sadder than him. He put on a 'Bindaas' appearance and said something to the effect of - he had to fail to prove that the credibility of the exam system, which otherwise had an almost 100% pass record. Thereafter, we lost track of him for many years until one discovered him travelling the country-side with a Rural Sales Propaganda company. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy his freedom and the care-free, unconventional life-style. Then again, last week - thanks to Batchmates.Com one found him again, now styled as 'Sejo Bose' - this time working as Director Sales & Marketing of an NGO in Patna - called, specialising of all things in Women's Reproductive Health. He wrote back: "This was like changing gears. Setarer tarta fine tune korte korte tarta ache kina bhuleyi ghechlum….. Ekhon Shyama theke Shejo hoye gechi!!" Who says that Blogging doesn't have its use ?

Sunday, August 05, 2001

Diary of a Trivia Hunter

A web horoscope (strangely called, 'Swoon') which 'S…' subscribes to, has warned him not to get carried away with "trivial pursuits". Not being a member of any high-powered committee of FNCCI or NICCI (the favourite monsoon pastime of the Kats business gentry and corporate elite) he didn't understand the difference between trivial and trivia. Confused, as always, he turned to the wife for enlightenment. With a frown as deep as the gorges of Mustang, that cuts furrows on her supple forehead each time she engages in some heavy-duty thinking, N.. jabbed the buttons of the TV remote in her hand. Shuffling channels from HBO to Cinemax to AXN like a pack of tarots - she seemed to search for the divine intervention. Finally fixing her gaze on a studded navel of a lithely swaying mid-riff (that are 'made-to-order' only for MTV) - she delivered her verdict in a sombre under-tone: What else ? - but your disgusting dissertations on the Blog.

With politics and sex being taboo on a family-site (except for those occasional lateral innuendoes) and the more private passions or personal phobias not being the stuff for public portals either, there are very few subjects left for the Blog to discourse upon. And, ever since he has imposed the self-censorship on party gossip, he is at a loss for material, which is beginning to threaten the very existence of the 'Spot' itself. For, what is life in Kats without those parties? We spend most of our evenings either 'waiting' to welcome new friends or bidding adieu to old ones. But, the threat is in more ways than one - for a few hosts are genuinely peeved at not getting a mention of their dos in the Blog - making us feel that we didn't quite earn our dinners. No wonder the consumption of antacids has gone up in the Ghose household. But, if any of you are prematurely rejoicing at the impending demise of this page - please hold your breath. So, from gloating visages to bloating bellies - here we go.

Last night, at the Wanchoos, he was heard holding forth on the virtues of a mildly bulging avoirdupois in middle-aged males. Apparently it improves their marketability. A bulbous middle, apart from sending re-assuring signals of prosperity, also indicates a lack of self-consciousness and ability to give-in unabashedly to the pleasures of the senses, which prospective females find absolutely irresistible. Men with trim figures and tucked in bellies usually suffer from an obnoxious obsession about their own desirability, which is as insufferable as the synthetic fragility of the 'come-hither but touch-me-not' hour-glass bimbettes.

All in all it's been a busy week. The FNCCI elections over - the celebrations have started to roll. We are missing the big 'sarkari' bash at the Soaltee on Monday - but are looking forward to the "Cheroot' company's felicitation of 'Humro' Ravi (the other one) and not to mention that of the Insurance (among many other things) tycoon. And, the arrival of the high-level Indian government delegation last week has only added to the merry atmosphere. The newspapers have also shifted focus, from the monotonous accounts of rising insurgency or the 'already-lost-interst' stories of in-fighting within the ruling party (in less than 2 weeks of its selection of a new leader), to the country's best loved sport after Football and Teakwondo - bashing the 'high-handedness' of the southerly neighbour. Notwithstanding what our saffron-chaddi clad, thirsty-pie from Bishalnagar / Lainchaur may have to say - a lot of water will flow above (or through) the Raisuwal or Rassiyal (?) barrage before we meet at the next cocktails . We only hope yesterday's effigy burning does not take yet another Roshanic hue.

The syndrome of successors taking their own time to come is - perhaps - also symptomatic of the poor tourist turn-out. The hotels and restaurants continue to run empty. Though, last month one saw - a slight pick-up in the arrivals of western tour groups - the 'desis' are nowhere to be seen. Places like Pokhara - a haven of Indian tourists wear a forlorn desrerted look. One only hopes that, the situation will improve before Dassain. But, if the Home Minister's prognosis at the HMA's 2 days ago is anything to go by - then we are in for tough times ahead. With industry already in a bad shape, if tourism too comes a cropper, then what'll be left of the economy - barring Lord P's blessings ?

'S..' is suffering from a little touch of jealousy at discovering N's hitherto untapped media-savvy instincts. Her unique choice of swim-wear has attracted the maximum number of comments from vistors of the Ghosespot. To chill-out, he is taking off again for magical 'Mumbs' tomorrow (sadly, no chance of a dinner at Trishna on this trip). But, this time around he's made sure to leave only on a Sunday - just to keep the wagging tongues at bay.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

A Blogger Full of Thanks

Dearest Blogsters, how could you ever fall for this one - even if it was just plain old curiosity? Over a 100 hits in one day (it's another matter that, more than half of them could well have been contributed by the 'blog' himself - tho' he would never admit to such narcissistic frailties) and the guest-page overflowing with the kindest jottings he has ever in his life (never mind the one about the bare unshaven armpits). Can you imagine what a tremendous high all of you set him up to? Gloating like an old 'ghasu' (that's a Ghose's answer to Bose stylised as Basu) and grinning from ear to ear, this 'not-so-hot-male' could almost hear the cash registers resonate from the sale of the world's first 'e-salon' boutique web-site (seriously thinking of changing his surname to Bhatia, Premji or Murthy - if that helps in improving the valuation). But, thanks a million times over - the Ghoses are truly touched. To tell you the truth, a man beset by premature menopausal syndrome (that's what the true meaning of a 'blog' is - as many of you have asked time and again) does require such artificial aphrodisiac boosts every once in a little while to prop up the ego - made fragile with the onslaught of mid-life and mid-career crises.

Sure, we have had our share of hate-mails too, as you would have no doubt guessed. But the writers have been kind enough not too post them on the site. While most people have been intrigued by the huge disparity of the STC Ratio ('Skin to Cloth') within the Ghose family and their strange choice of swim-wear, others have expressed relief at their turning to the relatively harmless pursuit of 'blog spotting' rather than, say - trying their hand at cutting a Bong-Rap CD and prancing on the screen with similarly weird costumes or writing a sex-thriller, which all of you would have black-mailed into buying to meet the minimum sales commitment to the publisher. Another has accused him of shameless "spamming" to gain forced readership. But, overall - it has been a rewarding experience.

It's on days like this that, 'the blog' develops a particularly generous disposition towards the world at large. He stops blaming the old 'kompany' ( that's how a good Bong would always pronounce it ) for all his travails - the good things that could have happened to him but didn't. He feels secretly grateful that he was exiled to the land-locked country of the Sher Bahadurs ( Nepal ) and not the 'sea-locked' land of the real Tigers ( Lanka ) or to Iran, Iraq or Bosnia - (notwithstanding what friends at the Embassy have to say about the night-life at Colombo and Tehran, the dropping manteus and rising hem-lines or their UN indexed salaries ). He is willing to forgive Atal's (Vi)Agra performance and discovers a new radiance in Sonia's steely smile. He seriously believes that Deuba will make a better PM than Dubya would fare as President and wonders about the post-retirement plans of old man GPK ( may be he would suggest writing his memoirs on the blog ). In short, in his current mood he would do anything short of opening the purse-strings for the wife to buy jewellery or go for one more round of trinket shopping to Patan. Each one is entitled to his own kicks you would say, perhaps. But, please do keep writing in.

The Tiger roared again in Nepal with Sher Bahadur Deuba taking over as our new PM last week - the 4th in 3 years since we came here and the 10th after the inception of multi-party democracy in as many years (counting 2 terms of Deuba himself ). But, as with all changes, there is a new mood of optimism in which even we are partaking. The NT in its latest issue was at their helpful best providing the new premier a check-list for action. Dubby-dear also did a superb plug-in for him (and the new monarch in the same-breath - quoting zen parables ) in the 'ToI' op-edit page last week - of which we got a preview over a lovely dinner of 'gayeko-momo-kothay-suimai' at the Everest Roof-top the night before. We all live on hope and good food, when there is little else on offer.

Phoolan Devi's death brought back the memory of our chance encounter with her on the train from Jodhpur - when we were all returning from a Branch Sales Conference and the inimitable OP ( Raheja ) ran after her through the corridor of the compartment to pay his 'customary respect' to the 'leader of the people', which she graciously acknowledged. Her looks didn't quite live upto the image of a "Bandit Queen", - mellowing effect of parliamentary politics one would think, or was it 'FAL' ? - but, one couldn't say the same about the goons ( bodyguards ? ) who were accompanying her . One eye contact with them was enough to send the chill down our spine and even OP beat a quick and wise retreat back the alley - being afraid that, next they might ask us to vacate some of our seats, as they obviously didn't have any reservations of their own. But luckily, much to our relief, they were accommodated in the next coach.

As usual, oblivious of politics, war and the weather, Jaya has disowned her parents (temporarily we hope and high-time some of you would say) with the arrival of her of Amma and Dadai on the scene. But the elder Ghoses are terribly hassled at the packed routine of the grand-daughter ( swimming, tennis, art-class, dancing - not to mention her mother's computer classes) and almost threw a fit when the she non-chalantly informed them that the next on the list of her extra-curricular activities would be horse-riding.

And now here is some 'KBC' trivia for our general interest readers. Though Nepal and India have not fared very well on the Human Development Index ( ranking in the low 100s - a significant improvement over the past - however), they have done far better on the SSI ( Sexual Satisfaction Index - got it ? ) factor as compared to many of their more developed Asian neighbours and Western brethrens. According to the latest Roper Starch Worldwide survey of sexual happiness, 46 percent of Venezuelans are "very happy" with their sex lives, the highest percentage of any nation. Brazil was the second most-satisfied (32 percent), followed by the United States (27 percent), India and Mexico (26 percent) and Australia and France (25 percent). However, if you're looking for good lovin' on the road, you might want to avoid Germany, Italy and Malaysia (tied at 14 percent), China (9 percent), Russia (6 percent) and Hong Kong, where only 5 percent of the population are happy with their sex lives. Perhaps there is a reverse correlation between economic growth and 'happiness' or there may be a case for factoring in the SSI into the HDI in future. So, asks our spirited neighbour, Ko Ko Bancho Sex-pati ? Crore-pati Banne Me Ki Faida, unless the fundamentals are right ? Point to ponder for our good friends in Moscova, HK & Shanghai ( you know who we are talking about - don't you ? )

Saturday, July 21, 2001

A Farewell and a Birthday

P. K. Hormis Tharakan is a gentleman among the diplomats and, for those who knew him, also an 'officer' at large. Some cheeky tongues say in jest - it was the pressure of these well earned epithets that compelled him to leave exactly on their scheduled date of departure - not staying on for even a day longer after the 'farewells' ended - breaking all previously set traditions of "the valley", diplomatic or otherwise. Soft spoken, mild-mannered and polite to the hilt, always impeccably dressed ( possibly a carry over of his Italian stint ) Hormis is an epitome of refinement. The salt & pepper moustache and understated smile gave him an old world charm - an instant hit with the women ("they find me - Oh, so safe !" he would say with an impish grin), which 'S…' considered unfair competition. Molly - as sweet as one would expect anyone of that lovely name to be - is the most fantastic cook and her dinners were the talk of the Embassy circuit. She made the most divine Appam and Stew, which 'N & S' would not miss for any other party in town. So much so, before leaving she gifted to 'N..' her 30 year old heir-loom "Chatti" (sauce pan for cooking appams) alongwith the "foolproof" non-stick family receipe (it's quite another matter that N..'s 'hopper' experiments so far have turned out more like Scrambled Rice-pudding than anything resembling those fluffy-base delights).

Appu and Mathu their 2 boys are the most unbelievably well mannered youngsters one can find today (which makes S.. feel guilty remembering what a terrible chap he was at their age, and he has only gone downhill since then). Mathu the younger one was shy and very much a Mama's boy - whom Molly (is that what "Molly-coddling" means ?) would try to force-feed back to health for all the imagined starvation of hostel life (indeed, he was having a problem adjusting to Singapore food). Appu in contrast had taken more after the father growing up like a typical Stephenian, which he is. By the end of their tenure, however, Mathu became quite apologetic about all the calamities that struck the kingdom, every time he returned to Kats for his vacations ( the first December, it was the hijack drama, next Christmas it was the 'Hrithik' fiasco and finally the "Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" episode). Appu on the other hand became an expert at manning the telephone control room at home - somethingt he claims he had picked-up, when he was much younger, during their Sri Lanka stay, where such incidents were routine occurrences of every other night.

We had the privilege of having the Hormises over at home for a quiet meal - the evening before their departure, with D-Babu, Pb-Di and Amit-da for company. Rainbow Trouts from the Trishuli cooked in Chillies and Basil provided the perfect material for dissecting the reminiscences of past 3 years - separating the flesh from the bones, leaving only the bare skeletons on the plate. Washing it all down with a fine Barbera, even the 'ever-so-proper' Tharakkan-saar couldn't hide his sense of relief at handing over charge of - what he admits was, in many ways - the most eventful assignment of his long and chequered career. Now, we have to remain ever so "Pyasi" for such accounts.

Kids, they say, grow up much faster these days and certainly a lot smarter. And, above anything else they have a far better dress sense - sometimes even before they learn to crawl. That's certainly the case of the 1 year old, whose Birthday bash we went for last evening. Yeah, we are talking of Kunda's baby - the Nepali Times, which came of age from its very first issue and is already 52 weeks old. It's arguably the best product of Nepal (after, perhaps, only Fair & Lovely ). While everyone praises its contents (Kunda believes that most people start reading it from the back - and sometimes get no further, absolutely no prizes for guessing why), we love its layout and design. On that count alone it can take on any newspaper in the world - not just another tabloid. But, what really distinguishes it is its editorial quality. NT has one of the finest copy-desk - tho' from the first to the last word it bears the signature Kunda stamp (no wonder he needs a hat to store so much under his silver lined pate). It's unmistakably a labour of love - therefore, sometimes one worries whether he may be inadvertently setting a far-too-high standard for his off-spring, which he might find difficult to keep up, as it grows up to be a big 'daily'. Until then, we have no doubt, it would remain both "fair" and "lovely".

Friday night dinner was with the Seths at the Royal Singhi Roof-top Chinese restaurant. The ambience of the place is going to seeds (tattered carpets, stained table cloths and unwashed napkins) but the food is great. Nibbling at timur-spiced fried mutton ribs, we discussed the toilet training of their dog - Caesar and the mild incontinence problem the pup seems to have whenever he gets too excited. By the time, later at night, when we had adjourned to the Rads for desserts and coffee (they now have a lovely gourmet selection of beans from all over the world), the topic had veered onto beach etiquette in nudist colonies. Not that anyone of us have ever been to one or even planning to go in the future, it's simply a part of A & S..'s early Boy Scout training, where they were brought up on the motto: (always) "Be Prepared".

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Kats, Rains and The Woods

N… has a tough time explaining to friends and neighbours why S… chooses to take off to Mumbai always over a weekend. Surely it can't be work - they all agree and none is willing to buy the rather wet-excuse that, he loves to watch the rains from his Gulita guest-house window. That's something he could have done as well in Kats, which has a pretty good monsoon of its own - tho' it may not be quite the "real stuff". But, to miss all those farewell lunches and dinners, in the bargain, makes no sense at all - they insist. The inquisitors are further outraged when he goes on to wax lyrical about ultimate ethereal beauty of the mating of the sea and the clouds. As the dark gray clouds ( is that why they are called "rain-bearing" ? ) move over the dusky Arabian waters, nature takes on a lusty hue that's not to be seen anywhere else in the world. Foreplay over, when he finally touches down to kiss her dark tresses and she - in protest and excitement -lashes her waves on the concrete promenades of Worli Sea face, spraying mist all over - it makes for one of the most exquisitely sublime scene of love making that the mind can imagine. Not being given to spurious poetry - the 'Set-nic' mind concludes that this is clearly a case of transposition of experience and demands to know who the real 'woman' is.

It was the 12th of July - another angry monsoon day exactly 6 years ago. 2 identical navy blue Marutis were doing a fast crawl, ant-like, up the Khandala ghats on the way to Pune. S… was leading the way with Abba in the first car, in the back seat was Sharada - the "Nanny-on-Loan" whom Amma had brought along from Calcutta. Behind them, in the second, was little Jaya - then all of 8 months old, perched like a tiny doll on her Amma's comforting lap, the first outing of her life, blissfully clueless about the 'journey' she had embarked upon. Her 'Ranjit-chacha' was on the wheels, with N… sitting next to him as the 'trying-to-be-helpful' navigator making sense of the winding road through the slitting rain. The same morning Amma-Abba (S…'s parents ) had arrived from Kolkata by the Howrah Mail with Sharada in tow. Pradeep-Gauri (Chatterjee ) had taken them home to Bandra, where N & S arrived a little later with their bundle of 'Joy(a)' via the Math in Khar. The previous evening they had attended the 'service' the Sisters had specially kept for their chosen one and in the morning when they went to formally 'receive' her - she had been dressed-up like a bride-to-be, bonnet et all. At the Chat's Jaya shared a meal with their daughter - coincidentally, also named Joyeeta and roughly the same age - and tippled a little on her friend's bottle of Triominic ( a paedeatric antihistamine syrup ) to get ready for the long car-ride, being a little down under the weather.

When the cars reached "The Woods" in Koregaon Park it was already evening. The sky had begun to clear and the full moon of 'Guru Purnima' ( the day Amma had chosen ) peeped through the spanish-windows of the flat to have a look at the treasure she had brought home to the Ghoses - as Ranjit raised a "Royal Salute" to his niece's 'home-coming' with the vintage bottle that Didi (N..'s sister) had gifted many years ago - preserved, unknowingly, just for such an occasion.

There goes the secret of another 'woman' in S..'s life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Victoria's Secret and Catharsis by Overhearing Oneself

According to Dubby's view of modern psychology, there are 4 stages to the resolution of a tragedy. At first there is denial, which is replaced by shock and disbelief, giving way to understanding that ultimately leads to closure through catharsis - clearing the way for life to move ahead once again. On Sunday night, the group that had gathered at Usha-TV's - were clearly in a mode of transition between stages 3 to 4. Normally, the Kats socialites suffer from chronic party hangover. But, the 2 weeks of mourning (when all entertaining was taboo) had forced a social sabbatical of sorts on the city cocktail circuit regulars. So, recovering from mild symptoms of party-drought, everyone was gasping for a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to unwind. ( Can't think of letting your hair down in the sedate surroundings of a Baluwater Tamil house-hold. In anycase, the men with their shaven heads couldn't have contributed much in that respect ). The only Rana woman in our midst ( the closest we can get to Royalty, as S… never misses an opportunity to point out ) enthralled the ladies with the 'inner sanctum' account of the events and a low down on the who's who of the drama. Equally fascinating, was listening to the RB brothers on how they struggled on that fateful night with the decision of putting up the news on their website. And, of course, we teased RB-junior on the 'Salzburg syndrome' for his valiant defense of Barkha Dutt ("she's really an extremely nice girl - very genuine, you know! ") with whom he had spent a week in romantic Austria on a seminar junket some months ago (no wonder he hears only the 'sound of music' in all her reportage and not to mention the missed dagger 'eye contacts' of his pretty wife). But, by the end of the evening - judging from the roll of laughter and the free flow of the 'unofficial' 'RAT-TAT-TAT' jokes (which our newly learnt rules of self-censorship would not allow us to publish) - everyone seemed ready to get on once again with the business of living life "king size" ( 'Shikhar' being the new brand of choice).

In Bengal, we call the feast to mark the end of mourning - 'Niyam Bhanga', meaning - quite literally - breaking the rule. To that extent, we had a rather 'unruly' ( but thoroughly enjoyable ) bash on Friday for the impromptu celebrations of the 'M's 20th wedding anniversary (for which, we're have been warned by well-meaning well-wishers, our friendly neighbours may never forgive us). It was a last minute impulse decision of S… to call up all (but one ) the guests asking them to bring along something that would both 'surprise' and 'embarrass' the 'M's. With a little help from Khanna-saab of the Anna ( it pays to have friends at the right places ) the Ghoses organised a cake with 20 plus 5 written on it (20 years of marriage and 5 years of 'living in sin' prior to that, making a silver jubilee of togetherness. Prem and Purnima carried 2 shocking heart-shaped balloons. ( It would have been great if one could get a Band-party in tow - but, the notice was just too short for doing anything more creative or dramatic ). But, the Ms themselves rose to the occasion brilliantly, as one would normally expect them to even if it was not their anniversary. After mild initial protestations - they produced almost instantly a neat pink ribbon tied knife (as if they had it ready all along). And, after the ceremonious cutting of the cake , all the other couples took turns (in the order of their seniority - starting with the parents, who were also present) to feed a slice to their respective spouses amidst the click of flash bulbs. Pity, the Blogger doesn't have a photo-gallery, yet.

True, these are times of momentous changes. But what about changing the Self ? Aha , that's not so easy ! The latest HBR ( nothing to with JBR - humro Jung Bahdurs, we promise ) has a very unusual article on "Change Management" - a conversation with the literary critic Harold Bloom. The piece is titled "A Reading List for Bill Gates - and You". Bloom talks of change and says change always arises out of the unexpected. It may be the unexpectedness of self-knowledge through over-hearing yourself or……..something imposed by external events. He makes a distinction between hearing oneself and over-hearing. In the latter you are unaware that, you are the speaker. It's a moment of literal non-recognition in which you're shocked to discover that you are speaking. That's when we learn about ourselves without self-consciousness. He recommends Shakespeare and Cervantes ( Don Quixote ) to all those who are not accustomed to speaking to themselves ( which he suspects is the case with the likes of Bill Gates ).

Bloom is, however, candid enough to admit that, although literature makes people more aware and acquire a broader range of sensibilities and thus increase our capacity for mastering change - it does not necessarily make us more moral. Some arty folks - who have the subtlest and most comprehensive consciousness are also the biggest scroundels on earth. Something, that Dubby and our 'hubby', would surely agree with.

And, if you were wondering where all this was leading upto - it's to S..'s latest find on the Amazon - Robert Wright's : The Moral Animal. After the Selfish Genes ( Richard Dawkins ) and the Red Queen ( Matt Riddley ), Wright is the latest to join the Darwinian band-wagon of evolutionary psychology throwing new light on the same questions: Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? S…, of course, would insist that he reads such stuff only to 'understand' D's fatal obsession for D…, which was the root of his now "Famous Grouse" against the parents.

Back to Bloom again, he laments the decline of humanities by what he calls a curious amalgam of Feminism and Marxism. He talks about this young lady he knows, who is doing her Doctoral Dissertation at Yale on the history of representation of the female breast in English novels. So, look out for previews of Victoria's Secret in future editions of the Blogspot. That will be the ultimate cathartic experience, in the best of Blog traditions, guaranteed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Memories at Random and Often Blemished

At last, thanks to Sudha Murty, the Ghoses Blogspot is getting interactive. The postings on the Ms of Infy have drawn sharp response from the non-millionaire wives' club. The V-s have written from Chicago : "Murthy's toilet cleaning habits have been oft quoted in press and frankly just serve as exercises in PR. As for me, I would rather go for the goblets of wine and morsels of whatever-you-call-it …. ". Mrs D from Ruislip, UK says - All this talk about put-on austerity makes me nauseate. But, the most spirited rejoinder came from the Chennai-wasi Amma . Here it goes unabridged and undiluted - complete with Molagu and Puli ( Pepper & Tamarind in Tamil ) to make a perfect Rasam:

"I was really curious to know what your friend found "inspiring"abt her life. I've always found them to be rather pretentious & their holier than thou attitude sickening. SM claims to run her household on 8K a month. Wonder how she manages to fit in the son's education into it-or am I not understanding the meaning of the word "budget". NM's "simple" fa├žade obviously cloaks a shrewd & calculating brain. The media hype he manages to create is a lesson in itself for any aspirant seeking to be in the PR biz. It never ceases to amuse me that any article on him begins with the ubiquitous statement that he is media shy. For somebody who claims to be media shy, not a day goes by where there is not a major story on him & this is true of the national/Intl press, not just the local one. Also, full marks to him for successfully masking the fact that Infy is still a Co which still gets 80% of its revenues from body-shopping. The manner in which he orchestrates the media is something his peer Premji can learn from. Guess the parallel between SG & NM( vis a vis vision & zero capital )also drives home the point that while NM's risk-taking has catapulted him into the big league, maybe SG's caution finds him plateauing in Kats".

It probably just goes to show that , what glitters usually turns out to be either brass or copper and even if it is the 'real thing' has a generous dose of alloy mixed in it. This was once remarked about Meryl Streep - who for all her appearance of professionalism personified is supposed to be a savvy operator, when it comes to bagging the best roles.

Talking of Films, Anjalika ( the youngest of Sharma sisters )'s graduation film - 'Meena Jha' - has won the National Award (Rajat Kamal ) for the best debut and is getting rave reviews in the festival circuit. She is one of the first batch of students to come out of the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute ( SRFTI ), Calcutta. S.. - who played something of an internet postman in arranging the finance for the film - is upset that, his name doesn't appear in the 'credits' . He claims that, normally it is the "Producer" who gets the award and all the accompanying photo-opportunities ( especially, if it is a woman director ) and he, with his growing pot-belly and receding hair-line, would have perfectly fitted the bill of a sleazy 'financier' ( of the 'Bharat-bhai' kind ). As a minor concession, Anj has condescended to let him make a mention of it in the Blog.

We haven't seen the film yet - but, are quite impressed by the quotes attributed to the director. Didn't realise Mala's little kid sister has grown up so much - not just to make an award-winning film but to speak with such maturity. The reviewer in the Express writes: "Ayesha rides away to an escapist world …. Leaving everyone with a smile. With Meena Jha, we see our silly selves…. in every frame. Stories of memories, friendships and expressions… in a confusing world." Sounds bit like our Blogspot - or at least what we intended it to be in some sense - "memories at random and, often, blemished".

Jaya started her new school from today. After the trouble at Rupy's last month, we decided to play it safe and shift her to the Kendriya Vidyalaya at the Embassy. Contrary to our apprehensions, Jaya took the change quite easily in her stride. S.. recalled what a traumatic time he had when he moved from South Point to Don Bosco at the age of 10. It took him weeks to settle down. The next generation it would seem are much more practical about such things. Coming to think of it - this is Jaya's 5th change of school before she reached even Class 2. Guess she has little options - having been tagged onto such bohemian parents - or, that's what her grand-parents would say ( irresponsible, is the word they are more likely to use ).

Friday, June 08, 2001

Puppy Love, Millionaire Wives and Pandu Strawberries

The Ghoses are suffering from terrible television fatigue. Even Barkha ( Dutt ) couldn't relieve the monotony. All the entertainment channels have been taken off air and the remaining news channels endlessly re-cycle the same stories. These are again discussed over phone with friends - being stuck at home with the curfew, no one had anything better to do. And, the Internet only adds to the Cathode Ray over-exposure. By the end of the 3rd day, boredom levels had soared so high that, S… remarked - one more day of captivity at home and there could be many more mini-family massacres in the city. Mercifully peace seems to be slowly returning to our midst, as the men get back to work.

For a minor variation of theme, we had an addition in our neighbour's family and considerable excitement over the christening of the new acquisition - a Labrador pup. Choice of names ranged from Dopey to Snoopy. Jaya wanted one for herself and almost succeeded in convincing her Dad - among whose many 'loves' the canine variety was not to known to rank very high. But, such is the sway young daughters wield on their slavish fathers.

A friend has forwarded a short autobiographical sketch of Sudha Murty - wife of Narayan (Infosys) Murthy. ( He writes Murthy with a 'h', whereas she has dropped the 'h' from her surname. If it was for Numerological considerations then it certainly shows in the figures of Infy ) . Our friend wrote - take it up with some time in hand for it is an 'inspiring read'. Inspiration for whom - we wondered ? S… had displayed very similar competencies till we got married - loads of 'VISION' and 'ZERO CAPITAL' ( and, always making his girl-friends pay for the dates ). But, not sure where he lost track thereafter. Thank God, to use one of Jaya's favourite expressions ! Otherwise can you imagine N… having to give up buying Sarees for a lifetime and wait for kindly friends and relatives to gift them to her. Apparently, Mrs Murty vowed never to go 'shopping' as an offering of love to Lord Vishwanath, after she visited Varanasi . She must have had a lot to thank Him ( the Lord ) for but what a disturbing thought for the rest of us ordinary non-millionaire mortals.

Jokes apart, the Murty family is - for the lack of a better statement - 'different' ( and, shouldn't they be?). Recently, we met their son Rohan ( who according to the article was supposed to have had infantile eczema soon after he was born, but shows no signs of it today). He had come to stay with the Ramaswamys, as their son - Anand and he are soul-mates from school. He is going to Cornell for his under-grads - but has no absolutely no airs about it. ( Tho' he never mentioned his parents - he did talk about the 'son of the Satyam owner' who is at Kellogs. So, he is not entirely oblivious of the significance of 'lineage' - it would appear ). Anil asked him - what he plans to do after that ? He said, he won't return till he has completed his Phd and then would like to come back only to teach at Bishop Cottons, Bangalore - his old school. . Well, he probably would - as the son of Sudha & Narayana Murthy, he could afford to. There was one point, however, we couldn't understand - the Murthy's insistence on their kids to produce bills and vouchers for whatever they buy. We are not talking of trust here - it must be something deeper than that, which we are missing. Finally, we learnt that Sudha Murty is a fan of Hrithik Roshan and she went to watch "Kaho Na Pyar Hai" with her secretary. Whereas, Narayana Murthy had gone to see Titanic with his secretary. S… was ecstatic about this perfect arrangement and fantastic understanding between the couple until he discovered in the following lines - the name of Narayana Murthy's secretary is 'Pandu'.

Today, we had the first strawberries from N's experimental farm in the backyard. They looked luscious red - so what if the taste was somewhat closer to sour lime. Better than grapes anyday - since, this is probably the closest we shall ever get to living in Wimbledon or, for that matter, even Panchgani.

Monday, June 04, 2001

Curfew, Ablutions and Sundry Rumours

Another old friend informs from Delhi, the banner headline in the ABP ( Ananda Bazar Patrika ) on Sunday read, "Jato Kando Shei Kathmandutei", an obvious play on the title of the Feluda tale by Satyajit Ray( Shall write about Ray's Rana connections some other day ) !

Three Kings in 4 days - that's quite a record. N.. is finally convinced that, her husband moves ahead of times. The curfew he had predicted on Saturday finally happened this ( Monday ) afternoon (Mercifully this time he missed the mark by just a couple of days - it's usually by a few centuries ). The "transition management" didn't quite work - in fact, in hindsight it might appear that the interregnum gave people more time to ruminate on the "conspiracy theory". Last evening, as Star News reported a seething build-up of tension , we thought this time round they were doing a "Zee" (i .e. over-sensationalising ) - notwithstanding the isolated incidents and burning of Indian newspapers in New Road. So when, The Nepalese Ambassador to India, Dr Bhek Thapa, appealed to the Indian Media to allow them "space" to come to terms with the tragedy - we wholly empathised with the feelings. If anything - the tragedy brought home the essentially traditional character of this society, which is often masked under a veneer of modernity. Though much of the expression of grief - the shaving of heads, the tearful participation in the funeral procession could have been prompted by group instincts, I know of many who did it genuinely on their own volition.
But, this morning - as the news of the death of the young Prince ( designated as King ) spread and the coronation was announced the pent-up emotions simply spilled over onto the streets. And, almost before we realised the curfew had already been declared by the afternoon. The cremation ceremony of the young King took even lesser time than that of his parents, as there was no lengthy procession through the city. It was all over by about 8 'O clock in the evening - this time marked by the presence of even fewer people, mostly from the Army , Ministers and Palace Officials. The Regent now appointed the new King addressed the Nation over Television and the Radio at 9. The announcement of an enquiry commission - comprising the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the Parliament and Leader of the Opposition, which would submit its report within the next 3 days, was a smart tactical move - even though some, like the Nepalese Correspondent of BBC, doubted what would come out of it. Leaders of different political parties and the Prime Minister came on air appealing to the people to restore calm in these difficult times.
Today was again a day of rumours. The news black-out is probably contributing to it. By the evening even Star and Zee News were taken off the air. Only the BBC and CNN remain. The last one to do the rounds is that the city water-supply has been poisoned. I guess we shall only get to know tomorrow morning. S.. has left strict instructions that, his bed-tea should be prepared only with bottled mineral water. Otherwise, it's a terrible thought of having to be carried away with a feeling of 'incomplete evacuation' of the bowels - which might interfere with the passage of the soul from the body, he firmly believes. ( That's if you didn't know about a good Bengali's obsession with his morning ablution ).

Sunday, June 03, 2001

The Kingdom Mourns

A friend has written from Australia : " Ok, I know the Ghoses spread mayhem in their wake, but the current carnage is really too much. Where were U guys ? " S.. had returned from a quick trip to Hetauda earlier in the evening and we were out at a Friday-night dinner with some friends in Tahachal (near the Soaltee - actually quite close to the Army Hospital at Chaoni which was to be the scene for much of the action soon afterwards). The weather was just perfect - we all preferred to sit out, braving the mosquitoes with coils of tortoise under our feet, guzzling mugs of San-Miguel and downing tiny goblets of a lovely fruity bordeux, nibbling at very succulent pieces of a baby "Bandel" (Wild Boar - the highest Newari delicacy), commenting on how this year Kats didn't even have a summer. It was nearly 10' when Sophie and Prem arrived narrating how their little Indica was nearly bumped off the road by some crazy army jeeps. Next to arrive was Rohini who also mentioned that, he had seen a lot of army vehicles on the road . Still, we had no clue of any trouble . Around, 11 - Rohini received a call on his mobile from his BK of the Rads. He talked of rumours about some "serious" developments in the city - hinting probably of a Maoist attack somewhere. Rohini teased him of paranoia - saying he shouldn't take a chance of going back home that night and should sleep instead in his hotel and we all had a hearty laugh over it.
First news trickled in closer to midnight. Sanjib's web-site editor reported the death of Princess Shanti - the King's sister. So, we thought - that was it. But, almost immediately - Sophie received a call from her daughter saying that the Princess was probably "killed" in an attack by the Maoists, the city was very tense and we should all get home fast. The next minute someone else got the information that, there was a shoot-out or explosion in the palace. No one knew the details or what to believe but that's when we all decided to disperse and scrambled for our cars.
The route back home - through Kalimati, Tripureshwor, Bir-Hospital and Jamal - was remarkably peaceful - there was absolutely no signs of any trouble. Only near the Sundhara crossing , there was a rush of taxis - clearing out, what appeared to be, a crowd from a closing discotheque ( Dance & Dinner ) Bar. We deliberately took the route via Kantipath and the West Gate of the Palace. It was absolutely quiet. As we were reaching home in Baluwater, Anil who was following behind gave a ring on the mobile to say "It was all a silly hoax - seems like we have to get used to such false scares". But, the moment we entered the house - there was M… calling to tell what even the worst doomsday prophet could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. A quick check with Tharakkan-saar of the Embassy confirmed the worst had happened.
The rest of the night we didn't sleep a wink. The phone kept ringing incessantly. It was in some ways reminiscent of the night when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Details kept getting added on in bits. Very soon the list of casualties had enlarged from just the King, Queen and the young price (Nirajan) to include even their daughter ( Princess Sruti ), his cousin ( Princess Jayanti - daughter of Princess Helen, owner of the Annapurna ), the King's other sister and her husband. Finally, only at 4 in the morning the news broke simultaneously on CNN & BBC and also came up on Kunda's website of Nepali Times. By then, there were also speculations of a possible emergency and a curfew being declared. Shalini called from Delhi to inform that Rakesh had moved in to the hotel with the boys and suggested that we should go there too. After speaking to Samir, we decided to shift with them to the Anna, as it was closer to home and the office - thinking that would be more convenient, just in case, we get stuck there for long. Besides, we felt it would be a good idea to keep the families and the kids together.
Nepal Radio and TV officially confirmed the news only at 1 ' O Clock on Saturday afternoon - after the Raj Parishad ( the Privy Council ) met and decided on the succession. The funeral procession with the cortege was scheduled to leave at 4 from the Chaoni Military Hospital for the Aryaghat at Pashupati, where the cremation would take place. In between, there was a little time for people to go in and pay their respect to the departed Majesties. We stayed in the hotel and watched the proceedings on TV. One was moved by the spontaneous but simple expression of grief of the thousands who joined the procession. The cremation ceremony - sans regalia - had a touch of austerity that made it even more heart-rendering. Under the arc lights of the TV cameras - Pashupati looked beautifully resplendent in a somber glow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Uphill Treks & Downstream Rafting

The Ghoses are beginning to get adventurous in their old age. Last month, first S.. went on a short trek on the Annapurna circuit and then a couple of weeks later the entire family ( Jaya included ) had their first tryst with White-water Rafting on the Trishuli.
Nayapul is an hour's drive from Pokhara on the Baglung-Beni road, which leads towards the Kali Gandaki the deepest river gorge on earth. From there, one takes the short 20 minute trail to Birethanti - the entry point for the Annapurna Circuit treks. After registering at the check-post of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project - run by the King Mahendra Trust, who has the manadate for the area, the real trek begins along the bank of the Modi-Khola. The first couple of hours is an easy walk, which can easily make the novice a trifle over-confident and those among them who are also a little greedy - like you know who - can compound the mistake by succumbing to the temptations of a sumptuous Dal-Bhat-Tarkari meal at Shauli Bazar, where you break-journey - ravenous as you after an early and the morning's exertion for the uninitiated. What follows is a back-breaking 3 hour uninterrupted climb - which is a sheer endurance test. But, finally - when you reach Ghandruk ( about 2000 mtrs ) - a picture post-card Gurung settlement ( the second largest in Nepal, I'm told, the first being Siklis ) with its closely spaced slate-roof houses and terraced fields above and below.
Ghandruk offers remarkably nice facilities for stay - with running hot & cold water and electricity ( it has its own micro-hydel power project ). In the evening you amble through getting lost in the alley-ways of the village before returning to the dining room of the lodge for another round of Dal-Bhat-Tarkari amongst the din of conversation fellow trekkers excitedly exchanging notes of their day's highlights. Despite intentions to sleep till late in the morning - you get up early and are thankful for it because you get the most gorgeous view of the Anna South and the Machapuchare in its glorious Fish-tail aspect. After break-fast - while others proceed on their journey towards MBC and ABC (trekkers parlance for the Machapuchare and Annapurna Base Camps ) - the meek and timid start their trudge backwards and half-way through realise what they mean by a truly a knee-breaking descent.
Just before reaching Birethanti - we stopped by at the Ker & Downey's Sanctuary Lodge for a quick inspection. That's a place we could even bring Jaya ones the weather gets a little cooler. Since we reached Naya Pul earlier than scheduled - took a short drive upto Baglung to get a first glimpse of the majestic Kali-Gandaki. In retorspect, it was a good start - leaving you with a mild touch of the DMM ( Dil Mange More ) syndrome - that's about all one can afford at this old age.
The down-stream rafting is another story to be told over a camp-fire evening.

Monday, May 28, 2001

Lal Maans, King Alphonsoes and Zhu Rongji

This seems to be the season of Food Festivals in Kats and there has also been a spate of articles on Indo-Nepal relations. While the provocation for the first are not known ( the tourists are not coming anyway ) the latter was probably prompted, at least in part, by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji's visit to the Capital.
But, talking of Food first, there was the Karavalli Festival at the Anna, followed by the Thai fare at the Hyatt, the Singapore Fest at the Yak & Yeti and finally the Rajasthani at the Everest. Having visited two of them ( and, earlier the South Indian one at Radisson some months ago ) I have come to the firm conclusion that all Food Fests are FRPs ( Financially Ruinous Propositions ). The Thai fare at The Hyatt was an unmitigated disaster - they simply didn't have an honest dish of Thai. Anyday, I would vote for the Yin-Yang in Thamel or Humro Sulu and Prachnada's Ban-Thai on Durbar Marg ( even at the risk of offending my dear daughter's Darling Monica Auntie ) and better still say Zindabad to Ready-Made Lobo's Thai-pastes from the friendly neighbourhood Bhat-bhateni. The well marketed "Padharo Hukum" at The Everest , which was a big hit among the city's Marawari aristocracy and the 'diplomatic' ( pun optional ) diners, didn't quite live upto the hype and expectation ( and, on Friday night at the India House dinner, which was also catered to by The Everest, one suspected that we were served left-over Lal-Maans ). Vested interest groups from closer quarters of the family, of course, billed the Karavalli as the best of the lot, adding an unsolicited footnote as to how Coastal Indian Cuisine and Sea-Food couldn't have been appealed to the uncultivated popular palate . S, our self certified food critique, was not around to vouch for it - however, since then he has been seen making regular post-lunch trips to the Anna Coffee shop to get his quota of Alphonsoes and Vanilla ice-cream. ( One of the minor perks of shifting his office to a more 'central' location is his rather unconvincing explanation).
Any discussion on Nepal's foreign policy and relation with its Northern and Southern neighbours has to begin with a reference to the analogy of the proverbial Yam ( stuck between two boulders ) attributed to the late King Prithvi Narayan Shah some 2 centuries ago. But, recently some plain speaking articles displaying a greater semblance of balanced view-point have appeared in the media on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border. First there C. K. Lal's hard-hitting - "Tourism fizzles as India sizzles" in the Nepali times some three weeks ago. Lal wrote: The problem of Nepali tourism isn't that Indians aren't coming, the real problem is that deep down we do not seem to want them.
Then , there was Rita ( Manchanda)'s centre-piece in The ToI - Not A Himalyan Task. Though, it seems like the piece was a casualty of severe editorial pruning, losing some of its focus as a result, she makes a point for "enlightened introspection and imaginative re-structuring" on both sides to inject greater equality and mutual respect into Indo-Nepal ties. She quotes Ashok Mitra, the inveterate Bengali-Marxist analyst from the Economic and Political Weekly "A time will come when Nepal ( despite being the only Hindu nation of the world ) will join the ranks of the certified enemies of India". Then there was, of course, Dubby's little piece on the (South ) Block - but I preferred his earlier one on Eating Out in Kats.
We are told that, 'Ji' in Newari means 'Our Own'. So, the instant empathy evoked by by Zhu Rongji was not unexpected. But, for us the most positive take-out of the visit was, Soaltee flew down Apro Nelson Wang from Amchi Mumbai to cook for Chinese delegation. This was meant to be pre-publicity for Nelson opening a branch of his China Garden in Kathmandu - at the Soaltee, where the old GGs used to be. So, happy gourmet times ahead.

Sunday, May 27, 2001

On and Off Air with Urmila & Valli

Not much has happened in these couple of months when we went "off air" and yet a lot has happened in our lives. But, we''ll resume from the latest with snippets from the past few weeks in reverse order of chronology.
Since we don't have "Memorial Days", we make do with "Bandhs" to get our quota of long weekends. Starting today ( Sunday ) there is a 3 day national Bandh and after a day's break on Wednesday (allowed, thoughtfully, to let people to get a refill of ration and some much needed constitutional ), there is another strike on Thursday called by an arm of the Maoists. So, for all practical purposes, this week is going to be a wash-out. Bandhs, someone remarked, has been the most enduring export of West Bengal to the region - so what if the rest of India has developed immunity to the follow Bengal syndrome and no longer catches a cold everytime the Bengali sneezes. In Bangladesh, they now have weeklong hartals and the trend is soon catching up in neighbouring Nepal through the Bangabandhu corridor across the Fulbari.
Alarmel Valli, who came for her second performance to Kats in 2 years, was superb beyond words ( what's more - at last night's dinner she turned out to be a nice - no airs - person as well). S came along primarily to redeem his reputation of being 'culturally challenged' but admitted that it was one of the most peppy ( vibrant ) Bhartnatyam performance he has seen - tho' others didn't quite appreciate his comment that, she is something of a more classical version of Urmila Matondkar. In a recent TOI interview - Urmila said - 'sexyness' is something 'raw' that comes from within . Valli brings that to life that primal passion - combining a rare earthiness and an unmatched sensuality. In each of her movements and unbelievably perfect postures, she alternates between the sublime and temporal, transcending from the physical to the spiritual with consummate ease. Little consolation for him that, she is married also to a Ghose (Bhaskar - who spells his surname also with an 'e' at the end ). Much of last evening's cocktail conversation was speculation over whether - Sagarika, Bhaskar's daughter of his earlier marriage ( a journalist and now author of a book on Delhi's socialite bureucracy - 'The Gin Drinkers' ), was older than Valli. But, she must be having a spell on older men. Last time, after her performance, we had the doddering Kishunji going up on stage to present her the customary bouquet and asking - whether she was a Miss or Mrs ? When she clarified that, it really didn't matter - lovable KP retorted that it was indeed of vital importance since he himself was a bachelor.

We had the Ramaswamy family with the children and Usha's parents over for lunch today. It's a pity that, they'll be leaving soon. June it seems will be a month departures. After Ram & Usha, it will be the turn of the Hormises. Believe it or not, DCK has called it a day ( not from Golf but from the Bank - rather abruptly - it would appear to outsiders ) - though the grapevine has it that they may be around in Kats for some more time. At 70+, he seems to be a good match for gritty old Koirala in powers of "staying on" and , infact, could lend him a tip or 2 on or off the course. Jeff Cox of the Grindlays had also to prematurely following the merger with Stanchart and he was none too happy about it as he made quite plain in his now famous "good-bye" note. We must get ready to join the queue soon - otherwise, professionally it can only be downhill - the way things are going here.

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Khandaani Shafakhanas

The Ghoses are currently camping in Delhi having come to attend the wedding of OP Raheja's daughter - Garima. So, this is our first 'blog' on the move. This morning Sg strayed into a cyber-cafe at Connaught Place, which turned out to be a converted traditional Sex Clinic - Sablok Khandaani Shafakhana. It can happen only in Delhi (and Sg has the knack of landin g up at such places ). It couldn't be that, business was bad for the old 'hakim' - the owners were probably trying to keep up with the times. Whiel he was there the 'Malik' strolled in to check if everything was fine. He asked the young technician - "Current (pronounced as KKrrent - he actually meant, the Internet Connection ) Theek-Thaak Aa Raha Hai Na". The young lad replied - "Shuru Me Thora Problem Tha, Ab Mein Set Kar Dia Hun". "Hah - Chalu Rahena Chahiye" he said with a great deal of satisfaction and then walked out obviously impressed with his own inputs. Last time Sg was at a booth near Def Col, where the Haryanvi Jat owners response to all problems was "AAp Jara Re-boot Karlo Jee". These guys are obviously making the giant technology leap from the world of STD/ISD centres along Karnal GT Road to Dhabas on the Cyber Highways. Today's Delhi Times carried the transcripts of a conversation between Amartya Sen and Mukesh Ambani - wherein the scion of India's now-first Industrialist family talked of Reliance's forays into setting-up "Info Farms". So, they too are making their own transitions - albeit the 'scales' are different.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

Golden Ginseng and Anna Kournikova

Our lovable neighbourhood Puppan (feminine of 'Puppy' and hip for a yuppie Punjaban ) - who always makes it a point to clarify - she is actually a Sikhni from Kashmir, to explain her glowing complexion even at 40 - has started feeling very cold, after having spent the last winter without turning on the heater. This sudden metabolic malfunctioning is not easily explainable and one wonders whether it had anything to do with their long South-East Asian sojourn - and accompanying masseuric mis-adventures. Normally, they used to return back from India with 2 army ration-loads of provisions ( meat, chicken, paneer ) to last a few months. But, this time round they are reported to have brought back large supplies of revitalising drugs - Beta Carotene, Spirulina, Neem Guard, Seacod and sundry other anti-oxidants, which S's prying eyes discovered on her dining room closet. She also, innocently, admitted to have increased the quota of Badam intake for the entire family - however, did not take kindly to S's suggestion that she should supplement it with "Chuuara" therapy for the hubby. While she may be doing it under peer-pressure from her allegorical sisters - Mona and Sona ( the rich one ), one is amazed by the growing popularity of these - what are being called - anti-ageing 'concept drugs'. But, still the market is nowhere close to what I believe it is in SE Asia. Last year, in Singapore - we were simply staggered to see a shop selling only these preparations with astronomical price-tags. Meanwhile, the Czarina from Moscow - our original Seth-ni - has written to admit that, she does miss it, after all, when she hasn't heard from us in a while and, tacitly agrees, Nux-Vomica doesn't help to cure the resultant queasiness, tho' she is still too proud to turn to the 'blog' for news happening to us. That reminds me, the 'stay young' mania hasn't hit only the south-asians. On one of my trips back from Delhi, I saw this huge Russian lady taking out loads of Chawanprash of different makes, Zandu Kesari Jeevan and Sun-chadi Bhasma from her hand-baggage. Later on checking with our own Gupta-saab - he told me that, one of biggest export market for Dabur's "Shilajit" capsules remain the erstwhile USSR. Libido keeps no barriers - I guess with the Anna Kournikova's of the world they need that extra bit of stamina. We only hope, the Czarina is giving her Seth ( who claims roots in Himachal ) his quota of Badaam-Shireen and not just relying on her favourite homeopathic rejuvenators.

Saturday, February 17, 2001

Missed Valentines

No, we haven't gone weekly - just that, it's been a crazy week and even the 'blog' has been behaving a bit funny ( can't cope with prolific output, I guess ). Started with a false alarm at Sandip's office - when early on Monday morning some mysterious callers came by. The security situation here has been volatile and multinationals singled out for attention in the past. To top it all, this was supposed to be "anniversary" week of the Maoists movement in the country, who had threatened commemorative celebrations. It was a case once beaten many a times shy, as it later turned to be
(they were looking for someone else who had dealings with the company - makes it no less scary ). The political scene continues to be fluid. One had thought that with the party convention at Pokhara the old man had put his troubles behind, at least temporarily. But, no sooner did he return that, the entire opposition has ganged-up together demanding his resignation over a silly 'Lauda Air-deal' ( sounds vulgar, doesn't it ? But, who said 'corruption' has become as passe as fellatio in the oval office ?) Some feel that, people have found new inspiration and hope in the impeachment of Estrada in Philippines and the mounting pressure on doddering Indonesian President. Others see clearly the invisible (but, ubiquitous ) foreign hand in the matter. This time around the Americans are getting the credit - since local legend has it that, an erstwhile lady chief incumbent at the Embassy had played 'match-maker' for the wedding of the young 'challenger' - so, there's no doubt he is the guy the yanks would be rooting for. The poor Indians are, of course, feeling left out and dear Tharakkan-saar was understandably worried that his home leave will be cancelled at the last minute, one more time. But, the tenacious PM managed to hold on, if only to facilitate this one family reunion in verdant Kerala. V- Day was, for us, the birthday of the Seth daughter and the Wedding Anniversary of their boss ( who was celebrating it in distant Delhi). In the bargain, S managed to bum out of him a lovely lunch at the Simply Shutters in Baber Mahal (Kunal's Pate and Lemon-Curd Ice-cream were, as usual, most divine). Where else can enjoy such luxurious week-day afternoons, the risk of cerebral fossilization not-withstanding, we ruminated over the parting coffee.

Sunday, February 11, 2001


Now if obits turn you off and you wish to inject some "life" into your web-reading turn to
''. Sent to us by Mala, this is the official home-fage of the Vedanata Society of North California ( San Francisco). Particularly recommended is the "Retreat" Section, which has some breathtaking pictures of Olema - the Mission's retreat centre in Marine County sprwaling across 2000 acres of forests and meadows. You can also download freebies like desktop images of Thakur and Ma, Music and Audio Lectures. So, get a splash of on-line Vedanta, if obits are not exactly your kind of stuff.

The Famous, Infamous and Non-famous

So, where does one go from To , of course. No we're not ready to sign-off and retire, at least as yet. is a site of contemporary obituaries lifted shamelessly, as the site owners admit, from newspapers all over the web. It's an 'opinionated' journal which chronicles the dead - famous, in-famous and non-famous. But, some of the most interesting obits are of animals - take for eg. the Rhino - Twinkletoes, who was the oldest inmate at the LA Zoo and had to be "euthanized" when her 'internal organs' failed. She had borne 5 calves and a unknown number of spouses. Cumulina, the world's first cloned mouse, died of old age. She died in her sleep, age two years and seven months, Cumulina made headlines in 1998 when reports of her cloning shot around the world. The technique used to create her is considered more reliable than the one that produced Dolly the sheep. Cumulina bore two litters of mice before being retired to her lab's running wheel. But, perhaps, the most bizarre case was that of Ocala, FL - the poodle-Yorkshire terrier was beaten with a plastic vacuum cleaner wand and hurled against a tree by his master, who suspected it of being gay. It appears that Ocala repeatedly engaged in sex with the master's other dog, a Jack Russell Terrier, despite being neutered. "He felt that the dog was a queer-type dog and it made him angry," a police spokesman said. The man faces up to a year in jail. Among the many obits of the famous is that of Dame Barbara Cartland ( she "lobbied" for the title). She said that her first brush with romance came at age 18 when a "libidinous major" invited her upstairs to see "how his revolver worked." Barbara, by her own admission, did not much like to be "touched." Nobody ever got jiggy in a Barbara Cartland romance.

Wednesday, February 07, 2001

Miracle Express & Novomox Dinner

Lovely dinner with the Rams ( neither 'N' nor Guha, but TV of the Usha brand ) at the Italian restaurant of the Radisson ( first time -we enjoyed the food there, and thought it to be actually better than our favourite Al Fresco at the Soaltee ). It was in honour of their friend from Helisinki - whom they fondly call Novomox ( why? - that's another story - it seems that he once had an overdose of it, a la Obelix with the 'magic potion'). There were the Wadhwas ( S & R ) as well. It was a nice, fun evening and so was the company - everyone was quite relaxed, so we ended up sitting till pretty late. The conversation started of on a cerebral note - whether Nepal can ever be an off-shore banking centre (being totally out of depth, S quickly opted out to less intellectually challenging subjects - such as why men get attached to their cars more than their spouse-s. N, of course, was getting visibly tense - not sure how the others wud react to it.) but ended with the spiritual and spirits ( Sai Baba and Ghosts ). Ram who had just returned from Bangalore felt the flight should be called "Miracle Express" as everyone travelling on it are Sai devotees coming back from a Darshan at Putthapurti and full of stories about the 'miracles' they've seen or heard about. ( Another gem from him was: Bombay was renamed Mumbai so that it cud rhyme better with Dubai - to please the Dons ). S indulged himself with a roast pork - after a long time, the waiter assured it was imported from Singapore - though beyond that he was not sure of its origin . For the rest of the day S assures that he was at his 'docile' best trying to keep his "rebellious instincts" under check, as per the day's astro-warnings of his internet horoscope service. Tomorrow's predictions are of another horror story. But, we have agreed to have a "theme" dinner on Real-life Ghost stories sometime soon.

Tuesday, February 06, 2001

Heroes with Clay Feet

A friend wrote: your reflections on Hidden Value-coincidentally,that was the topic of conversation over dinner last nite-we had a friend over-he has just finished his doctoral thesis in OB in the US on Heroism in Ordinary Lives with special focus on immigrants out there.Some of the stories of courage & heroism of ordinary people in their day to day lives were really moving.We then got around to chatting about our kids today having no role models to look upto-even the Bill Gates' of the world hv their own clay feet-everybody propogates rank consumerism-men in public lives are examples of how one shd not lead their lives-where do our young derive inspiration from? ....In our generation,ordinary people doing extraordinary things seems more to be the order of the day whereas the so called heroes turn out to be anti heroes instead. ( The story of the 'fallen' Indian cricketers is a case in point. Their son a budding young cricketer hero-worshipped Azhar - now feels shattered by the 'God' who failed him).

Monday, February 05, 2001

Domestic HR and Foreign Policy Concerns

Averted a minor calamity today, by a fantastic piece of HR intervention in the home front. Managed to pursuade Jaya's nanny - who was about to quit - to stay on, at least till we leave. Jaya who would have been the most affected couldn't be bothered but Nina was extremely tense over the issue since last evening. For nearly 16 hours all other worries and temporal concerns receded to the background - how priorities change with time. After minor pre-consultation a joint task-force approach was developed, which finally carried the day - buying respite, even if temporarily. In the neighbourhood, one half of the 'Seth' household is back in town ( tho' still not moved into the house - as his wife hasn't given him the permission to 'live in' with the maid ) and would be dropping by this evening ( his only one 'free' ) for a meal before his bachelor status is terminated shortly. However, can't expect him to share the low-downs of his SE Asian exploits ( he is just back from his first 'holiday' in B'kok - where he went after considerable pre-research ) for which, I guess, we shall have to wait for another appropriate occasion . Heard from two of our aunts in te US ( one 'pishi' and the other a 'Mami' ), co-incidentally both are going through transitions on the work front and the companies they worked for are 'down-sizing'. Few years ago nobody would have understood the term 'downsizing' here - but it is no longer so alien to us. Golden hand-shakes have become common place ( sometimes it is not so 'golden' either - one is luck if it is mere stain-less steel ) and we don't have any of the social-security net here. That's why - perhaps - despite - the insecurities and uncertainties some of us look westward still.

Saturday, February 03, 2001

Hidden Value

The shadow of the earthquake still looms large over our consciousness. GS and MKS are the only people I know who have returned after a vist to the area and I hear they seem quite numbed by what they saw. Though the damage and devastations are of an unimaginable scale, one redeeming feature which sets Gujrat apart, as commented by many participating in last night's BBC - QTI and many other newspaper columnists, is the tremendous sense of community and self-reliance displayed by the people of the state. As Daniel wrote in his NT dispatch , the familiar site after any such devastation is the sight of helpless people waiting for assistance to arrive. But, in Gujrat people seem to have taken their fate into their own hands. Everybody - rich, poor, middle-class - is "doing something. Women are cooking meals for those who have lost their homes; men are using their bare hands to move concrete slabs to rescue people; doctors are volunteering medical services and even bankers are trying to help by raising money. It is this grain of character, I suppose, which makes Gujratis one of the most enterprising people, successful anywhere in the world and also explains why Gujrat is one of the most prosperous states of the country. There is a lot the rest of South Asia can learn from them.
Surfing though read the preview of a new book published by the Harvard Business Press called: Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People. Sounds very familiar - though the examples quoted are mostly American - Cisco, Southwest Airlines etc. The authors say that, most companies have gone on an overdrive on attracting and retaining "star performers" ignoring how to foster the creativity, drive and ambition of the 'ordinary' current employee. So, we have more instances of companies today where 'extra-ordinary' people deliver below 'ordinary' results.
It seems one of the pre-nuptial functions (Paka-Dekha - roughly the Bengali equivalent of Sagai ) was held at 66 Hindusthan Park. Amma wasn't impressed and not any wiser until she received an autographed copy of her book. Not knowing what to do with it she called up to check - whether we would like to have the copy or it would be in order for her to give it away to Banshi-pishi or someone who may like to read it.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

A Buddha in our midst

One of the nicest and most interesting couple we have met in Kats are Buddha ( Basnayt ) and his wife Geeta. Both are medicos, Geeta - an alumni of Lady Hardinge's Medical College, Delhi - is the Head of the Radiology Department at the Military Hospital, while Buddha is a GP practicing Travel Medicine, specialising in High-altitude sickness. They have 3 grown up kids and are very much family persons. It's fun to see Buddha playing Basketball with his boy and the girls at the Bhat-bhateni Club on a day of "Bandh" ( as Gita - who works with the Army - has to report for Duty. She
is the main 'bread-earner' of the family he would say jokingly ). He works at the Patan Hospital of the United Missionaries and runs a clinic for foreign tourists - mostly trekkers. Geeta is quiet, shy - very much a typical Nepali housewife. It's difficult to make out that she holds such an important position ( and at times is called upon to perform a sonography or MRI / CT Scan on the King himself and other members of the Royal family). Buddha is much more boisterous and for a doctor has an amazing
array of varied interests. He is unusually tall for a Nepali ( over 6 ft, I should think ), and remarkably handsome in an 'Arianic' sense - large eyes, sharp features, a dark complexion and the built of a Punjabi ( the only link he claims to have to that region is that he went to study medicine in Patiala ) - a clear 'TDH', he is the kind of guy to give others a complex. A smart talker with a large stock of stories - he is an easy hit at parties. We met him first at the Mitchell's - but took a real liking for him, after we went to their home for a quiet - no frills dinner one evening again with Mitchells and another Doctor couple. Buddha was the seniormost intern at Patan Hospital and refused to leave the place long after his official internship period was over - since "I was learning so much there". Then, if only to get him out of the place, they got him a fellowship to Calgary, Canada. But , he soon returned again to the Patan Hospital - though this time as a full-fledged Doctor - on completion of his course and taking another degree from the US. Each year he makes it a point to accompany at least one group of tourists, as a team-leader, for a
high-altitude trek. Apart from the clinical knowledge he gathers on these trips by observing people in real high-altitude situations, he is also enriched by a wealth of human experiences. Therefor, I was not in the least surprised when Shanta and Milan ( Dixits ) called him to deliver a lecture to the kids of Rato-Bangla ( the school ). Last evening, he was regaling us with many of his stories and telling us how people who feel miserable throughout a trek - often wondering, why the hell did they come for it - return ineveitably with selective amnesia remembering only the joys and thrills, forgetting all the unpleasant and difficult moments. The tremendous 'highs' (bliss ansd serenity) experienced on a trek easily wipe out the memories of hardship and tough times one encounters on the trail. He says, he regularly has patients, who were suffering from all kinds of ailments before a trek, come back feeling absolutely great. Tearful and highly emotional farewells are a common site on weekend nights at many a restaurant in Thamel, like the Kilroys, where groups of trekkers come for their parting dinners. A trek is a cathartic experience - no wonder some equate it with a Meditation retreat. Hope we will be able to go on one before we leave Nepal.

Chakra Therapy

As was to be expected, 'my coach' - ms has come down on me like a ton of bricks. She took a while to make out that, the references were to her ( instead of 'set-me-right' she turned out to be a 'tubelight', but blame it on the power failures in amchi Moscova) - thereafter she let out all her Tam-Brahm spleen with venom and gusto calling me a looney , nutcase and insect. Then, suspecting that I might be doing all this behind the wife's back has decided to henceforth mark copies of all her e-mails to her, just to be safe and in the fervent hope that, reading them she might decide to the rolling pin on my crown chakra - which she feels is the only way I can attain my urge for the great spiritual awakening.

Minor Malady of Cacoethes Scribendi

Not surprisingly, a few friends have begun to express their utter bewilderment ( some directly and others privately - thru mutual via media ) as to why we have got onto this trip of OLTP ( On-line Time Pass). They are not willing to accept that, it's a mild manifestation of mid-life narcissism. There are no takers either for Sandip's freudian explanation that, it helps to keep his libido in check ( notwithstanding the falling TT levels - read post below ) - a drab, sanitised family website can never be a subsitute for clean, good sex - they assert. A less gross response: 'It helps me retain my sanity' begets even more questions. There has to be a deeper motive they are convinced. So, is he finally quitting? Is it a new job or another woman - they ask expecatantly. Another lot are complaining about the 'Bong' obsession in all the pieces. Sandip's threat that, next he is going to write about all the Tamilian Ammas trying to take over the controll of his life doesn't seem to deter them. The truth simply told is that, we've been bitten by a bug of cacoethes scribendi. Bear with us for a short while. We won't be in Kathmandu for ever and even this too shall come to pass.Till then keep your comments and suggestions flowing - tell us how you would like it : more raunchy, randy or plain good ol' sandy ?

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Intellectual Voyeurism over Notun Gurer Payesh

Had the "Videshis" over for what I call - a "hair down and feet-up" dinner at home.There were :Helen & Andrew, Collin with his wife Lisa and Mom, who is visiting, Brigid and Rosemary. Sameer, Buddha & Geeta and us provided the asian counter-point. Rosemary's husband, Daniel, had been pulled away to Bhuj for reporting alongwith the over 20 strong BBC crew gathered from all over the world. He was supposed to go to B'lore to do research for his book but was called off for this assignment. Cudn't agree more with her that, there is a lot of 'over-reporting' happening out there - journalistic "voyeurism" as she called it. I think it's particularly true of some of the Indian channels like Zee and even to some extent Star. But, what Andrew said was frightening. Apparently - Kathmandu comes on the same seismic fault line as Gujrat - both part of that pre-historic coast line , along which the continental plates had collided. So, if it wasn't Gujrat this time it could well have been Kathmandu. It seems that, before the last major quake in Nepal ( in 1934 ? ) there was a similar quake in Gujrat just 2 months before that. An earthquake is a great "leveller" literally - must circulate the stuff I received over e-mail tomorrow. otherwise, it was a nice quiet evening - totally realxed and informal, as it was meant to be. Nina had turned out a home-cooked traditional Bengali meal - Karai-shootir Kachuri, Alur Dam, Cholar Daal and Shorshe Maach, which everybody seemed to enjoy. Rounded it off with a double-barrel dessert - combination of Channar Payesh from Trishna and Notun Gurer Payesh. There can never be too much of a "sweet thing" in a Bong party.

Weather Forecasts & Testosterone

The accuracy of the 'Hindu' calendars is amazing - come Sri Panchami and the winter has already started receding. Pity they can't predict Earthquakes. It seems the secret of a trim physique and a flat belly is higher Testosterone count in the system - but, beware don't try artificial stimulants. This is particularly relevant to all those who have crossed the f(orty) zone recently,cause after that, like "combable hair" those vital ingredients silently start waning. Among the natural ways to keep the Testosterone levels up in the system are morning sex ( repeated afternoon, evening and night ), low protein high carbohydrate diets (isn't that what we Bongs eat ?), frequent snacking (don't keep the stomach empty or everything else will fall flat as well ). It seems nuts ( high on mono-unsaturates) are also good for the nuts. But, then you also have the option of practising Vipassana - when nothing else will matter anymore. If you still have trouble - write to 'my coach' - 'Sethmeera' (short for 'Set Me Right'), who'll convince you that it is simply a part of your process of "evolution". Got it !

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Tush and Aakar - The Hip Patels

Just received a letter from Tushita ( Patel nee Mitra ), excerpts:
i (and aakar too) have been completely overwoked with the earthquake. this morning they said the latest death toll is up to a lakh.
This is probably india's first midle class disaster... i know people who just bought apartments in fancy buildings in ahmedabad where
they will never be able to live again. their entire life's savings gone in a few seconds. anyway, i am a bit of fatalist and beleive that
this is nature's way of doing checks and balances.

ma has sent me some patali gur and i am feasting on it. aakar is a bit of a philistine and can't quite make out the difference, apart
from payesh, so once in a while i make some after coming back from work. i am also learning to eat the bombay fish -- the other
day i went and bought kane, rawas and of course pomfret and cooked it in the east indian style. my landlords are east indian and
happily gave me green and red curry recipes. quite yum. .......... aakar has just bought the 100 volumes of collected works of mahatma gandhi. while the
entire thing cost Rs 2,500, the bookshelf cost double of that.......i went there ( to the jindals ) in 97. it was quite good. i used to walk about 14 km a day and stayed on liquids for
nine days. plus they massage you and give u mudbaths and enemas and renal irrigation etc... it's worth trying. however, even after
14 days of this, i lost only 3 kilos, but people said i was looking great and glowing.

why dont u learn to make gotasheddho? come to mauritius and i'll make some (thakur will send me the receipe). i have asked him
to courier me his brilliant mulor porota and phul kopir porota... they are fabulous. he makes them thin and crisp, not the heavy
punjabi way. blissful. i miss home because of him.

i am getting used to bombay. can't say i love it, but it's ok... wish i didnt have to travel so much.

Love you all very much, Tush

Monday, January 29, 2001

Saraswati Puja, sans Gota Sheddho and Kuler Ambal

Today was Saraswati Puja - Sri Panchami. Like many other festivals it is celebrated in Nepal on the same day as in Bengal, with equal fervour and austerity. So much so, one sees community puja pandals in different localities ( to that extent it is different from the other festivals like Dassain and Tihar , which are celebrated more at home ). It was interesting to hear, the concept of "Bagdevi Aradhana' being explained on FM this morning. I don't think they would do that in Calcutta. In the evening, Nina took Jaya to a Puja nearby - dressing her up in a red Saree and Ghagra. Jaya didn't agree tho' to Sandip's suggestion that the colour to be worn on Saraswati Puja Day is yellow ( Basanti ) - but, then Red ( Rato ) is also the favourite colour in Nepal. Nina missed her Kuler Ambal ( which, no doubt, Ma will make up for in the next consignment of goodies from Cal ) and Sandip his "Gota Sheddho" ( a kind of cereal-less khicuri with bolied whole vegetables ) - for which he used to 'religiously' go to the Math ( Ramakrishna Mission ) at Mumbai on Saraswati Puja. As he always maintained, his connection with the Mission has been more gastronomical than spiritual.

Sunday, January 28, 2001

Gandhi, Marx and Ram

As a Bengali I terribly disappoint my friends at not being able to spout either Marx or Tagore. So in a belated attempt to make amends, reading Ramachandra Guha's latest book - collection of his Essays - An Anthropologist among the Marxists - but, must admit, enjoying it thoroughly. He is surely one of the finest Indian mind of our generation ( now, now .. that's not Bong chauvinism - 'cause, he is not a Bengali but a Tamilian - the surname is Guhan, someone decided to drop the 'n' along the way ). His central thesis, as the blurb says, is: 'Inside every thinking Indian there is a Gandhian and a Marxist struggling for supremacy'. He writes about Gandhians, pseudo-Gandhians, Marxists, anti Marxists and, of all things, Cricketers. Tho' it was even funnier reading the Ram vs Ram ( N. Ram vs Ram Guha ) battle on the pages of the Frontline....over what else but a woman, in this case Arundhati Roy ( 'God of Small Things' fame ). N. Ram didn't take kindly to Ram Guha ticking her off on writing about environmental issues ( Narmada Dam ) commenting that, she should stick to writing fiction ( apparently - he said something to the effect of, I am told that she has written a good novel' pretending that he hasn't read or heard about her book ). As someone else remarked the other day, Roy's tirade against him definitely sounds like love spurned or jilted at some stage. It seems before that, N. Ram had written something equally stupid about Tibet, defending the Chinese occupation, which Guha had criticised in his column. So, the polemical feud carries on.

Quake After-shocks

The Gujrat toll continues to mount. The latest tally has crossed 20,000. Managed to get news about Arindam and other friends in Ahmedabad. They are all safe. The HLL Exports Factory at Kandla has suffered some damages ( exact extent not known ) but there are no casualties reported. DCW Dhrangadhara has been untouched but 30 kms away Surendra Nagar is in shambles. GHCL at Veraval, Tatachem at Jamnagar, Sauchem at Porbander are all shut. Workers understandably are paranoid and not reporting for work. I believe Ahmedabad experienced some mild after-shocks even this morning. Spoke to Swami Vagishananda, President - of the Mumbai Ramakrishna Mission The buildings at the Rajkot Ashram have developed cracks, the Limdi centre has had minor damages. But, the Porbander - house where Swamiji ( Vivekakanada ) had stayed has remained miraculously unaffected. This morning the Sadhus from Rajkot have reached Bhuj to begin relief work - tho' they realise that their contribution would be like a drop in an ocean. But, every drop would count now. The scenes on TV are absolutely heart rendering.The Mumbai Math has started colecting Contributions from the public for the quake-affected. Donations can be sent to the following address:
c/ o The President, Ramakrishna Mission
12th Road, Khar ( West ) Mumbai 400 052. Cheques / DDs can be drawn in favour of Ramakrishna Mission - Mumbai ( Phone: 649-4760)

Saturday, January 27, 2001

More on Gujrat Quake

The death toll in Ahmedabad has crossed 1000, as was - perhaps - to be expected. It's frightening to see pictures of buildings collapsed like toy houses. What is surprising is that, many of these appear to be new constructions, which should have been designed to withstand - at least - earthquakes of moderate intensity. One shudders to think what would have happened if such a quake had hit Kathmandu. Would like to call up Arindam ( Mitra ) especially - to check they are ok, also Jand ( now with Nirma ) and VK Singh ( back to GHCL). But, I don't have their numbers handy at home.

Friday, January 26, 2001

Chinese Dinner & Naturopathy

Dinner was at the Chinese Restaurant of the Everest at the invitation of the Ghais ( Ila and Anil ). The food was not exceptional - tho' it was a special menu for the Chinese New Year created by a new Chef flown in from China. Sandip was feeling a bit down because of the cold and slight temperature - but, felt much better after generous doses of the hot-lemon-honey-ginger drink and loads of Jasmine Tea. The Wadhwas ( Shalini & Rakesh ) were also there with some other guests - this is the 3rd time during the day we bumped into each other. Anil is planning to follow Rakesh's eg and go for a naturopathy treatment to the Jindals in Bangalore. May be we should try it too - Ameet and Madhavi ( Harianis ) were full of praise for the programme - which seem to have done them a world of good.

Republic Day

The 51st Indian Republic Day function at the Indian Embassy was more sombre than usual, even the turn-out was noticeably less.Not many people knew about the earthquake and the news of the devastations in India had not yet circulated. The smaller crowd, probably, had more to do with the aftermath of the December problems. Security at the function was tight - some may have feared disturbances and decided to stay away. I don't subscribe to the view expresssed by some that people didn't come as a mark of protest about the Embassy's role ( or rather the lack of it ) during the riots. Didn't quite understand the reference to Ayub Khan's system of indirect represantation in the President's speech. Not sure if it had something to do with Kashmir ( Later learnt - it was apropos some discussion in the Constitution Review Committee of the Parliament. Wonder why this President continues to take such regular pot-shots at the government through his public speeches. To that extent some of the criticism of him by the BJP seems justified that he is toeing the Congress line. Surprising that it comes from an ex-Foreign Service Officer ). The Ambassador's Speech was short and pithy - making a telling point about the recent violence. The evening's reception at the India House had the usual crowd of politicians, bureucrats and the Kats cocktail circuit regulars. Nina went for the Odisee Recital by Madhavi Mudgal and was very impressed. Now she has changed her mind about teaching Jaya Kathak and wants to enlist her for Odisee instead. Tho' Jaya herself remains a great fan of the other Mudgal - Shobha having fallen in love ( like her Dad ) with her latest album Maan Ke Manjire, to which she sings along quite well.

When the Sub-continent Rocked

Today morning, a little after 9, as were getting ready to leave for work, we felt the tremors. Sandip was having a bath and couldn't make it out - but, the rest of us in the house at once knew it was an earth-quake. The window-panes were rattling and the Tibetan Lamp in the ground-floor hall-way was swaying vigorously. In Kats, we live in perpetual fear of the grand "shake-up". Apparently, the city lies right on the Central Asia fault line and geolists have been predicting a major quake anytime, when it would be reduced to rubbles due to totally unsuitable construction. Western Embassies keep issuing warnings to its citizens to be prepared and we keep hearing stories of how some of the affluent locals go to sleep with their jewellery, monies, food-packets and water bottles as a precaution for any eventuality. But, little did we realise that the severity of the quake in parts of India - especially Gujrat - was much more serious. Over 500 people have been reported dead - but the toll could go up much higher as the full extent of damage comes to be known. Although, the intensity of the tremor was only 6.9 ( measured at a point higher by seismologists in China and France ) the devastation could be disproportionate due to the poor, non-earthquake proof constructions in this part of the world.

About Us and this site

Hey, this is the new family site of Jaya, Nina and Sandip Ghose. Come here to see our regular updates from Kathmandu