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 ?