16 October 2013

What kind of bread do you want?

Eating out or ordering food is always a nightmare for me. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Do you want Caesar dressing or balsamic vinaigrette? Do you want it well done or medium rare? Do you want skimmed milk or fat free? Do you want sugar or Equal? Do you want eggs or white eggs? Even for something as innocuous as simple as fries, now it is Do you want regular fries or sweet potato fries?
Do you want wheat bread, white bread, or sourdough bread?

Well, thanks to Emirates, I do not have to deal with the last question any more. Look at the bread they gave me with my meal. It is three different kinds of bread fused into one!!! πŸ™‚


16 October 2013


I know people always accuse me of being over-friendly and talking to everybody. By “people”, I, of course, mean my wife and two daughters. But they cannot blame me for what happened today.

I arrived at Kolkata airport early morning to start my long 30 hour haul back to Atlanta thru Dubai. Today being Id (Bakhrid, I think), it is a holiday here and both the roads and the airport were pretty empty. I breezed thru checkin, immigration and then had to go through security. I had put my stuff on the conveyor belt and then was getting frisked by this young CISF guy. Just before he stamped my boarding pass (the process in India is different from US), he suddenly looked at me and asked softly “Aap Hindustani hai?” (Are you from India?).

I affirmed that and his next question was “Aap ka wahan pe security kaise hota hai?” (How is airport security done where you live?).

I started explaining to him the process in US and then noticed that there was a queue behind me. He also nodded me away realizing that I might be in a hurry. I picked up my stuff and instead of going to me gate, sat in a chair nearby.

After the queue had died down in about ten minutes, I walked up to him and asked him if he wanted to hear the rest of it. He was very eager. So, I explained how we take off our shoes and belts and watches etc unlike in India. I also explained how we have to take out the liquids and gels in a ziploc bag. (I did not have to do any of those things at Kolkata). He was very interested and intrigued by how the scatter-ray machines work at US airport. His conclusion was “Aap log bohut advanced hai”. (You guys are very advanced).

I then explained also how TSA Pre works. He agreed with the concept. “Do char logon ki liye baaki logon ko bohut taklif hoti hai” (Everybody suffers because of a couple of bad guys).

I found out that Rakesh Singh is from Mughalsarai area in Bihar and he joined the CISF at a very early age to be able to support his family back in Bihar. He was excited that he will be meeting them during Diwali in a few weeks. Before I left, I asked him why did he pick on me to ask his questions. He said that before frisking me, he noticed my name on the boarding card and that the passport was from US. He guessed rightly that I am from India now settled in US!!

I wished him the best on his road ahead and told him that with the level of intellectual curiosity he has and his ability to observe and judge, he is going to have a great career in front of him.

I walked away thinking how I always avoided those stern looking machine-gun toting CISF guys at Indian airports – and yet, at the end of the day, every one of them is a human being. And like all human beings, each one of them has a story….

16 October 2013

“And it shall follow, as the night, the day” – Shakespeare

It was 4:15 in the morning. Got up early and came out to sit on the balcony of dad’s place. It was dark but nice and cool. In the thick fog, the street lamps looked dim and sleepy. The first round of birds were trying to clear their throats already.

Fifteen minutes later, my dad woke up and hobbled himself to another chair in the balcony. And eventually mom woke up and gave us some tea.

For the next half an hour or so both of us just sat there quietly doing nothing other than sipping tea and watching the night fade out as day light strove to melt away the fog. The birds kept getting increasingly active and louder as the east kept taking brighter hues of red. We sat there, wordless. It was like time had stopped for both of us – yet it was visually progressing in front of us…

Eventually, I broke the silence and said that I should ready and that I had to leave by 6 AM.

He broke his silence next asking when I will come back again.
I promised to make it in 3 months again.

16 October 2013

You can’t beat a combination of foochka and red wine

That was a typical Kalyani evening for me. It started with the usual stress test of my digestive and immunity systems. We went to our usual street-side “foochka-wala” and devoured some of those savories. Then to push our stomachs to the limit we went to another street-side guy and had some “aloor chop” and “shingara”.

That followed a trip back and opening up a red wine bottle. My sister still does not have a wine opener – luckily this was a screwtop one. My brother in law still thinks wine is the same as scotch and added half a glass of water to his three teaspoonfuls of wine. And my brother still thinks wine is the same as beer and finished his wine glass before I could barely say “Cheers”.

But the fun was really sitting in the dark balcony at my sister’s place, sipping whatever it was that we were sipping and catching up on each other’s lives. Especially about our kids…

16 October 2013

It is all about the internet

A couple of days back, I landed at Mumbai airport and got into the waiting car from JW Marriott. The driver was very helpful, as always. Once inside the car, he offered me a bottle of water. And then he handed me a card. I asked in Hindi what that card was all about. He informed me that it had the password for the Wifi in the car. For a second, I could not believe it. I have never yet gotten into a pick up car that offered free wifi in the car. Trains, yes. Planes, yes. But never a car. I asked him if the wifi is something from the city or in the car. He said it is with the car. (I assume they have one of those wifi routers that go over the cellular network).

I was very impressed. But I said No Thank You. I told him that Mumbai was my city more than 20 years back and I just wanted to enjoy the city sights outside as we drove to the hotel.

He was not ready to give up yet. He suggested a website from which I could download a lot of Mumbai pictures. (I assume he was suggesting I can use the car wi-fi for that!!) πŸ™‚

Anyways, ten minutes later, I fished out my phone to check on Google maps how much time it would take us to reach the hotel. The first thing Google maps told me was to switch my Wifi on so it will know my current location with greater accuracy. I guess Google Maps knows the SSID and the router locations. I was really tempted to take my driver up on his offer and see if I could confuse Google Maps since the nearest SSID would be traveling along with me πŸ™‚

Instead, I just simply asked the driver for the answer πŸ™‚

15 October 2013

You can run, but you cannot escape..

Kaku and Kakima had perhaps found out that I was going to be in Dallas last week. They had been visiting their daughter and son-in-law – our dear friend Anannya and Sunil this summer in Dallas. A few hours before I landed, they had left for India!!! I went to Sunil and Anannya’s house only to realize that they had given me the slip.
Not to be outdone, this morning, moment I landed at Kolkata airport, I went straight to their new house unannounced πŸ™‚ (btw, the Google maps works great here. Did not have to ask anybody for any directions) It was great seeing them! I saw Kaku last more than seven years back when we were still in Dallas!!


15 October 2013

The elevator guy

In the office buildings in India, there is this curious phenomenon called the “elevator guy”. The elevators are very modern – completely automated and all that. But this guy has hung around in a throwback to the yesteryears.
All he does the whole day is sit on a stool in the corner with his right arm constantly on the panel with the floor buttons. He sits in that claustrophobic elevator and goes up and down the whole day long. With that expressionless face. Deep in his thoughts the whole way up and then the whole way down.
Moment a person walks in, with all due respect he stands up and then goes up and down as before.
Why he lacks the confidence in our ability to press the proper elevator buttons, I will never know.
And then, occasionally when the elevator is full and it stops at a floor to let people in, he raises his left hand like a traffic cop preventing anybody from walking in. His right hand is still on the button panel! The whole irony is lost on him that if he just let us press the buttons, we could have let two more people in, in lieu of him and his precious stool!!
As I stepped out of an elevator in the Air India building, I asked him how long has he been doing this. 17 years, he said!!! Wow! He certainly has seen a lot of ups and downs!!!

15 October 2013

An unforgettable hour!

Twenty seven hours of flight later, arrived in Mumbai. Three hours of sleep later, left for office. After that it had been customer meetings after customer meetings, interspersed with hours of commute between customer locations.
Finally got an hour of off time before customer dinner started. A great hour with Shaheed and Vipul in a hotel bar mostly discussing ghazals and shayars. Shahid, who was born in Pakistan, is an amazingly knowledgeable person in Urdu ghazals. We agreed to sit down for a music session when we are both back in Atlanta.
Why did we have such a great time? It is best answered with the following shayar that we discussed …

“Chanda ki chakori se kabhi baat na hoti
‘Gar aapse humari ye mulakaat na hoti
Is mehfil ke logo mein koi baat hai yaaro
Warna to kabhi itni haseen raat na hoti..”