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.