Wednesday, December 2, 2009


As far as improbable connections go, a link between a pizzeria, the Corner Cafe on 500 Mass Ave in Boston and my book-shelf back in Calcutta must be quite high on the list but there is such a connection! "Istanbul", a personal memoir by the Turkish Nobel winning author Orhan Pamuk was one of the first books that I bought with my own money and also one of those books which I have forever wanted to begin and hadn't found the time to begin. It rests like an unopened box of treasures in the small cupboard that I use to keep my books together in Calcutta.

Then four days before I return to Calcutta to pick up this unfinished task of mine, I sell my car to a Turkish guy who is going to use it for pizza deliveries. The pizzeria is run by a Turkish fellow Mehmet, who has two employees both of whom are Turkish again, one of whom bought the car off me. Consequently I spent half a day in company of my Turkish friends answering questions about India and learning about the bridge country between Asia and Europe while we went through the formalities of transferring the car ownership. Though none of them were from Istanbul, the awe with which they described their capital city made the city seem all the more alluring. Maybe someday I'll visit this grand city whose personality is split between wanting to be Asian and wanting to be European. In the meantime, even reading about Istanbul when I get back to Calcutta would have a uniquely personal perspective to it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Salient advice

It's a tough task to distill practical advice from an international spy thriller. They are always filled with guys who can speak 10 languages with ease, be deadly with anything from a pocket knife to a rocket launcher and seem to possess the ability to win over the most exquisite girls by their cold, professional natures. If there are such people in real life, I shall still deny their existence only because then that would be one more thing in life to be frustrated about at not being able to be. Plus little details like a description of the back alleys of Kowloon, or a fictional high level meeting discussing the fate of the world are not something which can be used in casual chit-chat.

Profoundness is something which these thriller writers do not excel at, so when I came across this nugget of priceless advice in one of the Bourne books of Robert Ludlum, I reprimanded myself for not putting faith in authors of his kind. Throughout that particular book as the injured Jason Bourne pieces his memories together while being hunted by enemies he does not remember making, tired and stressed out from all the incredible chases that he has withstood, he is reminding himself "Sleep is an ally..." Wow! What a sincere bit of advice so concisely put. In Bourne's case, it meant taking a couple of hours off his escape run every day to take a nap, and pause before he got back. I on the other hand take special effort to run up sleep figures of at least 3 to 4 times his ration. There is no greater ally than slumber for the hard-working/hard-fighting man and I thank Mr. Ludlum for putting in words what has always been known by my heart!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fishy history

My track record with pet fishes has been terrible. I have adopted and lost to the toxic tap water of Calcutta a total of 4 goldfishes in the first 2 years that I took up a job there. My last aquarium based pet was a pink gorami who turned out to be quite a sturdy fellow. He was with me for nearly 3 months before I came to the USA and I hope an impossible hope that I will find it hale and hearty with my aunt in Calcutta who graciously offered to take charge of him. That is extreme optimism on my end but losing a pet hurts bad, even if it's a tiny little fish. I never give them names 'coz I never know when I'll find them belly-up in the water when I come back from work. It doesn't help that I only keep 1 or 2 fishes at a time restricted by the size of my fish bowl and I'd rather save myself the discomfort of burying a "Nemo" or a "Flounder". Goldfish 1, Goldfish 2 are a little impersonal but that's what works best for them and me.

Fishes are fairly unsociable as far as pets go. They can't be petted & cuddled and it is impossible to sense any kind of affection from their cold fish eyes. They'll swim right up to the surface when they sense that it is food pellet/worm time but apart from that they have a tendency to ignore their owner as they paddle around their limited little world - an aquarium or a bowl whatever may that be. However their lack of the need of any special attention except for regular supply of food and fresh supply of water is sometimes a boon as anyone (including yours truly) who has had a tiring day at work and a dog going crazy for a walk will testify.

The coolest thing about fishes apart from their flashy colours is the weird feeling that you get if you study them for a little while. They seem like alien creatures in a way only land-locked creatures like us can appreciate. The few deci-litres of water inside their aquarium is a section of deep outer space and their funny shapes are spaceships sleekly gliding through this watery sky. Put in the few customary bubbling divers, faux boat wrecks, moss covered submerged castles and wavy water plants to complement their fantastic world, and you can imagine that you are watching some kind of an extraterrestrial ballet routine. The quick darting, twists and turns, random chases without justification and the grace in the madness make for a great show irrespective of when you take some time to watch it. What is not a recommended course of action is to disturb a sleeping fish or a sick one as it'd lead to a rather rapid demise of the entertainer. They are indeed extraterrestrials in one sense of the word and trapped though they may be in our little glass prisons, I really treat them as honourable guests from another world and enjoy their quirky company.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

India : Take 2

In about a week's time, I'll be back to the one place with which I associate my identity. It's not one place so to speak, but my need for a classification simplifies it to be. I've been all over the country and there is no place I can really claim as my own except the whole giant complicated thing. All of India, the 1% that I have seen, the 10% that I have known and the remaining vast unknown is a tag I wear, on my heart, on my sleeve and on my gut. For the past year and a half in a foreign nation two oceans away, the last drops of unrealized loyalty have crystallized into concrete understanding. I am an Indian even if it is the only thing I am, for better or for worse.

Yet they say, it'll be difficult. The traffic noise is going to get you, the smells are going to make you wrinkle your nose, the 'rudeness' of the people is going to put you off, the 'corruption' in the 'system' is going to drive you insane, even the time it takes to load YouTube videos is going to be a major aggravation in your life - all dire warnings on similar lines after an extended stay in a "first world" country are a dime (or more appropriately 10 paisaa) a dozen. You'll realize it from the moment you step out of the plane, they say. Yes, of course, it has to feel different, I agree with that sentiment to some extent and it should be that way. Isn't that all the more reason to return home? To breath in all the weirdness and the chaos, marvel at it still being functional and feel a sense of achievement in having played a part in it keeping it going. It's too much of a fun thing to be in the most irrational and unpredictable ways. Wouldn't want to swap it for anything in the world.