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November 27th, 2008

03:59 pm - How to watch a city burn...

Landed in Mumbai yesterday to be faced with the shock of the city under siege. Shook me, after a long time, to write something. Jaded as the pen is, the words still flowed, perhaps all too easily.

My love, hope, peace and support to all who were affected by what hatred and terror of a few.

How To Watch a City Burn

 Land in Mumbai. Complain about the weather.

Make jokes about furnaces and hells and send witty sms to all friends.

Visit far flung campuses, enjoy the bumpy ride.

Make stale jokes about bad roads: “In India you

Are supposed to ride on the left of the road. In Mumbai

You drive on what is left of the road.” Muse about the grim reality

Of the glamour city.


In the evening, fan yourself as you wait for a roadside snack.

Look at the thronging masses and wonder

How so many people can be crammed into such little space.

Wipe tears from the eyes as you bite into a chilli,

Feel the grit on the cheeks emerge like a rash.


Tread through the small streets,

Feel the shrapnel of ages poke at you through

What you thought were comfortable shoes.

Make your way to succulent titbits

And cheap booze

hidden in the heart of the city

To meet friends, make faces, laugh, exclaim,

Point at people who look at you strangely and wonder what they would think

If they knew about what you did in bed the other night

With that person whose name is on the tip of your tongue.


Over dinner, hear about trains and about training inexperienced

Virgins in acts of untold pleasures.  Hear the Mumbaikar

Revel in the double edged consolation of being safe in mediocrity:

“Only the very rich have to worry about the mafia.

For a regular person, it is as safe as your own backyard!”

Hear oft repeated tales about the safest city in the country.

Lament about lack of night-life in Bangalore.


Be shocked, as the tele blasts news of bomb blasts

That have seared through the city,

Hitting the partying posh in the South.

Hear the unspoken horror as everybody stares at the flickering screen.

A reporter is relishing remains of somebody dead.

Images hit you, harder than the fried garam masala in the food.


Sit glued, unchewing, food congealing, as news starts

Trickling in. People dead. Hotels under siege. The police

Helpless. Think how much it is like a Bruce Willis Movie.

And then tap into the collective terror and feel tears trickle down your cheek.

As people are turned into things.

Things are broken.

Realise that there are people responsible for turning people into things

That are broken.

Call for the bill. Relish the cathartic moment of pity and terror.

Scramble towards your hotel. Hear jaded resignation from the seasoned



Snuggle under the sheets and leave the television, on mute,

As you juggle news of hand grenades being flung

With the messages and phone calls bombarding your phone.

Be glad there are people who care.

Realise that there are people who are remains, who must also have people who care.

Shiver at what hatred can do to a city you thought you loved.

Watch, from the safety of your room, smoke and fire.

Wonder if you want to ever bring children in this world.

Make plans for buying island and becoming dictator.


Current Location: Mumbai
Current Mood: pensivepensive

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September 5th, 2007

11:43 am - The Importance of Being Cautious - Hindu Featured Article
About a week ago, in the middle of wondering about the myriad mysteries of government and trying to gather our jaws from the floor, where they had dropped in response to the latest government glitches on the e-governance projects that we are working on and monitoring at Comatjace received a phone call. It was from The Hindu and they were looking for a response feature on the recent 'Orkut Deaths' for their Sunday Magazine. jace, who was overworked with the obscenities of work, passed it on to me and as a result, this Sunday, The Hindu, on the front page of their Sunday Mag, featured my article on The Importance of Being Cautious.

I am reproducing the article here:

The recent debates and media attention on the two tragic deaths, of the teenager Adnan Patrawala and the young Koushambi Layek, both of whom left traces of their lives and relationships on the Google owned Social Networking System Orkut, have garnered interest in social networking systems, communication on the web, and technology enabled relationships. Both the cases have been dubbed as ‘Orkut Deaths’ and other social networking systems like Friendster, Facebook, Myspace or Livejournal, have all come under new scrutiny. Discussions have concentrated on the dangers of deception and the perils of being online, connecting with anonymous strangers and talking to people behind facades of profiles and avtaras. Is being on these networks and sharing personal information, catching up with old friends and hooking up with new ones, dangerous? Is the web with its anonymity such a huge threat? Are we really a risk when we share personal and professional information online? Is it time to cut off the chord, switch off the computer, lock the door and never step back on the information highway?

Caution is a virtue in the volatile and turbulent times that we live in. We practice it on a daily basis, in all our transactions with people and places. When we go to a movie hall, we make sure that we report any unattended objects. We advice our children not to talk to strangers or accept sweets from people they do not know. When we meet somebody on the train, we don’t give out our personal home address and telephone numbers. We don’t take the person who smiles at us across a bar, to our homes. At the airport we don’t leave our luggage with somebody else to go and buy a coffee. While traveling alone in an auto at night, we don’t fall asleep, hoping that the driver will reach us our destination. The cities that we live in remind us of the danger that lurks beneath the surface and the possibility of fatality that surrounds us – we walk through metal detectors, we are physically frisked, we see ourselves captured on surveillance cameras, we encounter law enforcement representatives, we see signs warning us of pickpockets and mobile pickers, we hear stories about robberies and kidnappings – and hence we have learnt to exercise caution in our daily mechanics of survival.

But there is something about the seductive nature of the internet that makes us drop this long learnt virtue and enter into states of revelation that we otherwise would look upon as unthinkable. Especially on social networking systems, which hold the promise of connecting us to the entire world, with a blind faith that the entire world is made up of people just like us, harmless and interesting, there is an ease with which we reveal our personal information and lives. People who visited Koushambi’s profile on Orkut after her death were shocked at the amount of personal information – her love, her desire, her affections – that she had left for public viewing on her ‘Scraps’. Adnan, who wasn’t marked out in particular but became a chance target for a group of peers who needed to pay up their debts, left on his own profile, traces of his opulent wealth and his blindly trusting conversations with a faceless, nameless ‘Angel’ who eventually lured him to his death. Both these tragic heroes of our times, without the help of signs and warnings, unlearned their behaviour, trusted strangers without knowing them and made these potential threats a part of their lives, leading to sad and gruesome endings.

It would be unseemly, nay, stupid to blame the internet technologies or that one particular site for these deaths. If anything, the public nature of Orkut and other such social networking systems should be celebrated because they hold testimony to the dangers that dropping caution can lead to. In both the cases, the scraps actually served as leads for the police to investigate and eventually capture the perpetrators of the crimes. In both the cases, the public nature of the scraps and the ability to see their profiles, also allowed thousands of strangers to offer their condolences and support to the family and the community that knew these two young people.

Demands that these sites be regulated/censored/shut-down are just voices of people who are steeped in techno-phobia and are unable to understand the nature or aesthetics of these new technological forms. A call for banning Orkut or dragging other social networking systems under the lens of suspicion is the same as looking upon train and air travel with suspicion and considering banning these systems of transportation. While monitoring younger children in their internet usage is a good thing, just like monitoring their television watching habits is desirable, any calls for a banning of either the internet or the social networks that it introduces are a reflection of interalised fear and demonisation of technologies.

We must move away from this headless brouhaha and address the question which is immediately at hand: The importance of being cautious while on the internet. The web has developed as a medium that is casual, close, tight-knit and individualistic, thus giving a false sense of security, safety and familiarity. A dismissal of the web as ‘just the internet’ also dismisses the dangers of revealing too much online. Caution on the web often gets translated as being uptight of prudish. In the accelerated time of the www, caution becomes a barrier in the joy of immediate gratification of imagined intimacies, and hence often thrown to the wind. We need to question our own understanding of these new social spaces. We need to re-learn our need to be cautious, and evolve signs that remind us to be safe and to be guarded while encountering strangers in the night, no matter how seductive, how alluring and how familiar they might appear.

Current Location: Bangalore
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Tequila Sunrise - Eagles

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August 27th, 2007

12:18 pm - How NOT to Learn Chinese - Chuckles

For all those who don’t yet know it, I have been homesick for Taiwan ever since I left it. I do not have rational explanations or emotional confessions to make about that country, but I do know that there is this itch in my essence (this is where I pretend to be a higher being from the other place) to go back to that part of the world again, to be with the people I loved there and made friends with. However, as practical life ties me to being in India, I take comfort in practicing my hard acquired, quickly losing, very limited Mandarin in secret and eating hot pots at the beautiful Korean restaurant (No, I am not telling where it is, I want it for myself, mine, all mine!), and looking at the 2,000 pictures I took in my stay there.

 And in the middle of all that, I came across a beautiful list of English-Chinese translations which I just HAD to share. No, I do not think they are offensive (I would know, You have no idea how touchy I have become about anything even remotely offensive to that part of the world); No, I do not think it is a racial slur; Yes, I really think it is done in very good taste and is funny. So having pre-empted all the objections, here is a list. Say it out loud (the translation) and chuckle.


English Phrase

Chinese Translation

That's not right

Sum Ting Wong

Are you harbouring a fugitive?

Hu Yu Hai Ding

See me ASAP

Kum Hia Nao

Stupid Man

Dum Fuk

Small Horse

Tai Ni Po Ni

Did you go to the beach?

Wai Yu So Tan

I bumped into a coffee table

Ai Bang Mai Fa Kin Ni

I think you need a face lift

Chin Tu Fat

Its very dark in here

Wao So Dim

 I thought you were on a diet

Wai Yu Mun Ching

This is a tow away zone

No Pah King

Our meeting is scheduled for next week

Wai Yu Kum Nao

Staying out of sight

Lei Ying Lo

He's cleaning his automobile

Wa Shing Ka

Your body odor is offensive

Yu Stin Ki Pu


Fa Kin Su Pah


Current Location: Bangalore
Current Music: Night march of Chrysanthemums - Labour Exchange Band

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August 17th, 2007

07:32 pm - In the midst of death, we are in life.

He was 21, give or take a few months. I remember him as one of the many tall, gangly, slightly geekish, apprehensively fashionable people that my brother spent his four engineering years with. Slightly on the quiet side – ‘you have to see him when he is with friends’ Young Bro used to footnote, ‘he is like an energy tornado. He is just scared of you, that’s why he is silent.’ – and good looking in that awkward way all late teenagers and early twenty somethings are, trying to get used to what they look like and how other see them. I remember him also as the boy (because when your Younger Bro is six years younger than you are, his friends are always boys!) who used to bring mountains of mangoes to the hostel… and some to our home when he visited us in the summers. All in all, I have vague memories of him; a face in a crowd, a voice in a chorus, a smile in a party.

 And yet, suddenly, when we heard the news – non dramatic, matter-of-fact, point-blank, that he died, after staying in a coma following a road accident, where late one night, riding with his brother on a bike, he skidded, hit his head on the road divider and never came back to opening his eyes again – there was this feeling of complete and utter despair; the likes you get when, late at night, you put your foot forward in the middle of a long stair-case, only to find that you are treading on thin air instead of clambering upon a stair. It came with too huge a shock to realise that that young boy, who had just completed his engineering course work and waiting to fly to foreign shores for his further education, was suddenly a WAS – a past tense, a has been and is not.

 I don’t know what the right age to die is. I always thought that I want to die when I am 55, thinking that I would have done all I would have wanted to by then and that it would be a good graceful exit from the drama of life. However, I do also know that 21 is never the age that you associate with death. There is so much hope, so much unrealized potentials, so many uncharted dreams and so much life in a 21 year old that to think of it as having stopped, as having suddenly disappeared, makes you feel ridiculously ancient, overwhelmingly mortal.

And even more than that, I keep on wondering how his family would cope with something like that. How do you face the death of a 21 year old son, the one you loved, you have seen grow up, you have dreamt dreams for, have put in so much of your life in to? How do you bear the pain of knowing that your younger brother – the one who you used to tease about having girl friends, the one who used to bum cigarettes of you, the one who came to you in times of trouble and asked for solutions, the one you shared your books and music with – is suddenly not there… That if you grope in the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, you will no longer touch his tousled head but only the empty ghosts of memories of the brother who has now gone? How do you deal with knowing that the friend you spent four years with, living in the same house, sharing classes, joking about people, sharing secrets, confessing fantasies and chatting over coffees with, is suddenly never going to call you, never going to hold hands with you, never going to listen to brave plans of things to do and life to come? I know that we are all braver than we think we are, that we find resources within us to cope with the pain, the grief and the searing agony of loss of life… but I do know that I am very scared of searching so deep within me to build up resources like this. And I am very scared of imagining what his family must be going through at a time like this.

Death is cruel – not to the people who die, because I believe that they go to a happy place – but to the people who are left behind, reminded, of their indefatigable mortality and the abysmal loss that haunts us, long after the people who have left us dwindled into nothing more than ash and bones, wind water earth fire sky.

This post is for that young man who lived short and will be missed by so many – even people who did not always know him or were a part of his horizons. This post is for the people who loved him, for the people he loved, who are left behind and will have to conjure such great strengths to see themselves through it. This post is for all the people I love and the people who love me, to let them know that I am thankful, even though I might not always say it, that they are alive, with me (even when they are far, far away) and reassuring me, in their presence, that they are still alive, and that so am I.

Current Location: Somewhere between Home and everywhere else
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: Katie Melua - Nine million bicycles

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August 10th, 2007

12:49 pm - In the defence of Fucking - Work safe, Work safe!
It’s a bird, it’s a finger, it’s a Fuck – as in WTF!

I have lately been intrigued by the processes by which certain words gain currency and proliferate in contexts which would never have been imagined for them. Socio-linguists point out that it is in this ability of the English language to morph itself into various new contexts and usages that keeps it alive and makes it so universally accessible. Lynn Truss, in her not-so-new but latest book, ‘Talk to the Hand', came up with an interesting history of spitting, manners and etiquettes. She also mentioned that the word ‘Eff’ (she is a lahdie, and writing for an easily-offended audience) is probably one of the most offensive words that the British populace uses in very creative ways and sometimes in unexpected manners. The other word is ‘Buggery’ (which, by the way, she doesn’t have a problem using, and that, I think, tells us all we need to know about lahdies) but that is not a very universal word and is only sometimes used by people who miss out the ‘R’ in the BuRger.

However, leaving Ms. Truss aside (she also mentions that she really likes these titles), I started trawling the back-rooms of the interwebz, looking for the commonly used words which were once (presumably) offensive – whore, rape, slut, and The Fuck. No, no, not a fuck, but the way in which the word Fuck gets used all around the place – left, right and the fucking centre. I was also quite amused at the way in which it gets euphemized severally – bird, finger, freak, fish – by different users. The Fuck (we are still talking about the word here) has become such a ubiquitous commodity that I don’t really notice it too much. While Ms. Truss finds its overwhelming presence offensive, I have been wondering, if, by the same logic, it loses its edge and meaning – because it is a small word (four lettered) which is now asked to perform the function of many different words, stretched to its limits and producing interstices for new, more virulent, more effective words to be produced.

Some time ago, on a list-serv (which I have accurately tagged, sorted, and archived, and hence can no longer find) somebody was asking about whether this naturalization of loaded words leads to a specific naturalization of the action that they refer to as well. It is a question that needs answering but it also requires thought and I have no time for thoughts right now. So I am not dealing with the other commonly used words (You are such a comment whore; oh we got raped in the exams; I am such a slut when it comes to phone calls) and concentrate on Fuck. (umm, that is not what it sounded like in my head.)

Etymological queries about Fuck lead to that extremely questionable anecdote about how in some century (far, far away) there was a monarch who made sure that the only way you could enter into a state of congress (hur, hur, hur) was under his consent and hence, newly wedded couples in the aftermaths of holy matrimony, would take the consent of the king and hang the sign ‘Fornicating Under Consent of King’ (F.U.C.K.) outside their doors before going at it like bunnies. It has no credibility but I like the idea of a licensed fuck.

From here, I started thinking about when was the first time I fuck’ed – as in used the word fuck. I remember being sixteen and getting a key-chain for the birthday which said ‘good shit!’ and taken away by parents and recovered by me by the time I was too cool to use something like that. However, my first memories of using the word ‘Fuck’ in an embarrassing situation was when we were reading George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss – a tome of a novel that would have done with some editorial intervention and could have been cut down a few hundred pages (don’t get me wrong, I still love the novel, but when you have to read it for exams, some of the joy dissipates) – and I Christened the novel, in one exasperated fit, as Mill on the Fucking Floss, only to be heard by a sensitive professor who gave me The Look and shuffle away. That was when I was 17. By the time I was 19, Fuck was no longer an offensive word and I remember debating about its usage in ‘official’ meetings. Fuck was just a fuck – as long as you did not mean anything with the word, it was o.k. to use.

Look at all the ways in which the word was being used to convey a wide range of emotions:

  • Greetings - "How the fuck are you?"

  • Fraud - "I was fucked by the bank big time!"

  • Dismay - "Oh, fuck it."

  • Trouble - "Well, I guess I'm fucked again."

  • Aggression - "Fuck you!!!"

  • Disgust - "Fuck me!!!"

  • Confusion, Curiosity or Disbelief - "What the fuck....?"

  • Difficulty - "I don't understand this fucking thing."

  • Despair - "Fucked again."

  • Desperation - "Fuckityfuckfuckfuck."

  • Incompetence - "He fucks up everything."

  • Intelligence - "He's a fucking genius."

  • Dismissal - "Why don't you go outside and play hide-and-go-fuck-yourself?"

  • Displeasure - "What the fuck is going on?"

  • Lost - "Where the fuck are we?"

  • Disbelief - "Unbefuckinglievable!!!"

  • Pain - "Fuck ! that hurt."

  • Pleasure - "Oooooooh Fuuuuuuck"

  • Surprise - "Fucking hell what was that?"

  • Agreement – “Absofuckinglutely”

  • Stupid person - "Dumbfuck!"

  • Denial - "I didn't fucking do it."

  • Perplexity - "I know fuck all about it."

  • Apathy - "Who gives a fuck."

  • Resignation - "Oh fuck it."

  • Questioning Authority - "Who the fuck do you think you are?"

  • Praising the Lord - "Jesus Fucking Christ."

  • Be quiet - "Shut the fuck up."

  • Bewilderment or Ignorance - "Fucked if I know."

  • Thanks - "Fuck you very much."

How can a word, which is being used so variously, diversely, and in some cases, so hilariously, be of offence to anybody any more? These are my thoughts. Now it is for you to speak. How do you react to the word Fuck being thrown at you? Or if somebody uses it more often than your sensitive, about-to-shrivel ears to take? Also, what have been your embarrassing ‘Fuck’ing’ moments? Share ye all.. I am all effing ears.
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: Would you go to bed with me? - Touch and Go

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July 30th, 2007

07:33 am - Barcamp Bangalore (BCB4) - Collectives Edition: A review

The grass collective ;-)
Originally uploaded by aanjhan

The Barcamp Bangalore 4 [Collective Edition] (BCB4) was possibly the biggest autonomous public event that Bangalore has seen in some time now. Taking upon the model of the unconference – a space where every participant is a speaker; a space without hierarchical differentiations between delegates and audience– BCB4 was an extraordinary feat of planning, organization and participation. Traditionally a Barcamp is imagined as a techie collective. BCB4 proved to be much more than just another tech camp which are easy to find in the burgeoning IT city of Bangalore.

As a participant who has seen the Barcamp Bangalore evolve from the small (about a hundred participants) Barcamp that started almost a year ago, to this mega event which became a platform for many other events and groups to come together, BCB4 was an interesting study in formulating a new public sphere. In a city that is slowly losing the public spaces an onslaught of multinational that sell spaces of public meeting, the BCB4 became a unique intervention in the city, to create a free space for people from varied sectors – from programmers to social scientists, from venture capitalists to academicians, from social entrepreneurs to social activists, from bikers to musicians - to come together in an informal collective and talk their hearts out in the space of two days (and nights!) and bring to the fore questions of their lifestyles, choices, politics, ideology and immediate environment. Here is my review of this absolutely mind boggling (for those who have minds) event – accolades, suggestions, threats and future possibilities.

There is much more to follow but it is best kept under wraps! Click here to Read MoreCollapse )
At the end of my day, I spent both my birthdays (Saturday was the one according to the Christian Calendar, Sunday was the one according to the Indian Calendar) at the BCB4 and feel that I couldn’t have spent them better – meeting friends, making friends, having discussions and a whole lot of fun. If you missed out on the barcamp phenomenon, there is always the next time because BCB5 has already been announced for November. So keep an eye out on this space.

Current Location: Bangalore
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: I want to break phree - The Mallu version

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July 23rd, 2007

10:26 am - Ten things to look for while renting a new house
So now that I have shifted to Bangalore and am going to live here for some time, the last fortnight has been spent in looking for a new house to make home. And now that I have finally zeroed down upon the house, done the needful, shifted, unpacked, and made it into a lot of spaces that suit me, I think it is time to look back and ruminate. Finding a rented apartment in Bangalore (especially when it is on a fixed budget), is like trying to locate a dwarf planet in the far away galaxies – perhaps more fraught with danger and definitely more enervating than space travel. I am almost convinced that the only reason I retained sanity while doing the predator-of-the-jungle searching for his prey act was the loving and beautiful house that Jace and his partner have made and that I could share with while prowling through the jungles of Bangalore.

Here are ten observations drawn from personal experience of looking at thirty four different houses in fifteen days (if anybody is keeping score, that is!). Look at my work, ye mighty, and realize that your chances of retaining sanity and finding house for rent are very slim. It is easier to get married to daughters and sons of people who are renting out the houses. They will still make you pay through the nose but at least they will be family and hence you will bear it with a grin.

1. For the lack of a Window

Have you ever seen a pizza box? I mean those large cardboard boxes that come carrying beautiful pizzas and toppings? The ones with the holes in them? The holes, are meant for ventilation. Ventilation. Noun. The act of supplying fresh air and getting rid of foul air. Apparently, what the pizza packers understood, the people who build houses don’t understand. And so you have houses that do not have windows. The idea is that when you come into the house, there is fresh air trapped in your shoes that replaces the foul air and that is ventilation enough for one day. Too much of fresh air means too many new germs. It is apparently best to keep the place locked up and give the old germs a chance.

2. The bathroom the size of a post-card

Abhijat Joshi wrote one of the most beautiful plays when he wrote The House the size of a post-card. But he never (and I am sure of it) meant the title to be taken literally. Unfortunately, there is a breed of new owners in Bangalore who seem to think that a bathroom is basically anything that can occupy one glazed tile and a faucet. The general impression is that you remain more hygienic if you just wash one body part at a time. Also, if different body parts have to be ushered into the bathroom one at a time, it keeps you supple and on your toes, training you for a career in advanced acrobatics and complicated calisthenics.


3. Just behind M.G. Road

Let us face it – Bangalore is a large city that is built around M.G. Road. It is a central landmark, like a physical land mark that guides everybody to find their roads, their houses and sometimes their partners. Hence, no matter where the house is, it is always just behind M.G. Road. When you take a house in Koramangala, the agent assures you it is only six kilometers away from M.G. Road. They never tell you that it would be easier for you to commute from Mumbai to Bangalore everyday, because of the traffic. I now have started wondering what the behind of the M.G. Road is. I mean, it is a road, right? Does it have a front and an end? Does it have posteriors that we might not have located? Is it shaped like a human being? In which, case, if you standing at a cross road, it is like standing at the fork?

4. The cook while you shit syndrome

I grew up in a house with some very strict hygiene rules which included complicated instructions about wearing different footwear in and out of bathrooms and a whole lot of different kind of soap to be included as many times as possible in the daily schedule. Most of my friends also have had the distinctions of scratching and picking versus chopping and cooking enforced in their homes. I know for a fact that my grandmother would throw a fit (and probably a couple of heavy brass utensils) at her daughters-in-law if they proceeded straight from the bathroom to the kitchen; a bath in general is considered to be the least you can do. It came as a shock, hence, when I encountered the extended bathrooms that houses in Bangalore seem to offer. If you step here it is the kitchen, and right here, at the other end, is the bathroom. See, so convenient, you can actually put the water to boil and keep an eye on the stove from the pot in the middle of all the grunting. It doesn’t get better than this.

5. If you are alone, stay alone

Due to the imbalance in the national sex ratio, young men have lost the upper edge that they used to have in social interactions and negotiations. Apparently, if you are searching for an independent house in Bangalore and you are a single man in your mid-twenties you are: A call centre employee, or a rapist, or a murderer, or a serial masturbator, or a womanizer, or a pimp, or a dealer of negotiable affection. The minute you announce that you are single, a glaze climbs itself upon the face of the owner who then immediately tells you, apart from the rent and deposit: No boyfriends, no girlfriends, no women…

6. Chasing water-falls

They say that the average man (or woman, I am guessing), uses about 100 litres of water everyday in the urban set up. However, your landlord, with some advanced calculus formula will immediately prove to you that that is the amount of water you spend in brushing your teeth. Hence, he logically draws, you will have to pay a water bill that is the same as the rent that you pay him. There are no arguments.

7. You are not alone

In The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the author pointed out that in New York city, if you think you want to do something, the estimate is that there are about 13,587 people who want to do exactly the same thing at the same time at the same place. Bangalore naturally beats New York fair and square. If you are hunting for a house it means that everybody else who is not selling a house is also doing the same. Hence, you have to take a decision in a split three seconds after you have entered the house. If you hesitate or demand to see anything more than the thirty second trailer, where your nose insists that behind the incense is the smell of something furry and dead and that in that far corner, the design is not a fresco but a termite’s nest, the owner ceremoniously shows you out and brings in another despairing person to the tour de force of the house. If the owner smiles, all you can think of is “Will you step into the parlour, said the spider to the fly.”


8. Who are you?

Apparently, name, credentials and the princely deposits and rents are not enough to establish your professional relationship with the house owners who grudgingly give you the houses that you rent. You are submitted through a scrutiny which couldn’t have been more careful if you were marrying their daughters – all of them at the same time. Your religion, your caste, your parents’ careers, the number of siblings, your eating habits, your sleeping habits, your praying habits, your friends, your job, your profile, your annual income, your visits to foreign countries, your educational degrees, your preference of potato over brinjals and the colour of the underwear you are wearing, are all explored in great detail and it is only when you pass their high standards that they might do to you the favour of renting out a house. I am seriously thinking it might be easier to snog their daughters and get into the family.

9. The Contract

The Contract is an epic document that binds you, in blood, sweat and exploitation, to the people who wield the powers of ownership over the house you want to rent. Legally, it is an agreement made between the tenant and the lessee but in truth it is a piece of document that can make you feel like you are caught in a Dr. Who series. Most typical tenancy contracts are designed so that if you break the lease before its expiry in eleven months, you lose money. If you do anything to displease the house owner, you lose the money. If you sneeze too loudly, you lose the money. Also, if the lessee throws you out of the house because he finds somebody else to pay him more money for it, you lose the money. And of course, you lose the cumulative interest of the deposit that you pay them and you have to pay them charges (generally equal to most of your deposit money) for painting and cleaning the house to make it available for the next unsuspecting tenant who walks into the parlour.

10. Curfews

When you come from Ahmedabad, as I do, the notion of a curfew is very invested. It is reminiscent of heavily policed areas, cordoned by heavy iron and plastic dividers, smoke bombs, the terror of being cooped inside your own house and own head, wondering at every crack if it is a bullet, thinking every passing tremor in the wind as a bomb, constantly peering across the street to see if there is life beyond the tarred road. All in all, not a very pleasant experience. However, when, as a single person, you try searching for a house in Bangalore, you realize that Ahmedabad was a child’s play and that you’d embrace it any day, because, let us face it, at least, in Ahmedabad, you knew where you stood in a curfew – behind a wall or facing a gun. In Bangalore, as a tenant, the curfew takes a sinister meaning. It means that you are not allowed in or out after a particular time because the ungle or aundie go to sleep at ten and they lock the gates after that. So if you have a late night movie in mind, also make sure you have plans of sleeping at the multiplex. Also, the curfew means no visitors after hours – after hours defined as any time the aundie looks out of the window and sees somebody climbing to your house. Curfew. A fortnight of that and you will start feeling like Rapunzel and make wild plans of growing your hair long and hoisting strangers through the balcony.

 And against all these odds, I finally found a house which fits me, has windows, is in a quiet area and allows me the luxury of walking down to work. Halleluljah home!

Current Location: Bangalore
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Owls

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July 18th, 2007

02:06 pm - Host family, anybody?
Hi, we, at the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, are currently playing host to a SEPHIS Ph.D. scholar from Tsinghua University, Beijing. She has just arrived in Bangalore and is going to be here, doing her research work in India for a year. This is her first trip to India and also her first trip outside of her country. She is currently staying in a hotel near Lalbagh but she is actively searching for alternative accommodations. One of the ideas that we had would be to find a host family for her in Bangalore, preferably not too far away from Jayanagar where CSCS is located.

We are not looking at a professional paying guest structure (though we do have a budget for her and she would be more than willing to pay for the costs and more) but a family who might be interested in playing host to her for at least the first month while she gets accustomed to the city and the lifestyle here. I thought it might be a good idea to just put a call here and see what happens.

If you think you might be interested in hosting a Chinese exchange student for a month (all expenses will be paid for), if you are looking for an unusual interaction and you have an extra room in your home to give you, this might be an interesting experience both for you and for her. Please reply here with contact details or mail them to me at itsnishant at gmail dot com and we will get back to you asap.

If you personally are not interested or cannot host her but you think somebody else might be, please do forward this message to them.

Current Location: Bangalore
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

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July 10th, 2007

11:59 am - How to watch your brother die - a poem

I just shared this poem at a couple of communities and realised that a wide range of people enjoyed reading it. When i first encountered it, I was numb, on the verge of tears, my hands clenched as the pain and the love in the poetry coursed through me. It took quite some time to come out of the poem, because even when the words had ended, the poem just continued it for many days.

It has been rare, lately, to be moved so much by poetry. I was almost getting scared I am getting immune. This is definitely one of the most beautiful narrative poems I have read in some time and I know that quite a lot of you might love it as much as I did.

How To Watch Your Brother Die
For Carl Morse

When the call comes, be calm.
Say to your wife, "My brother is dying. I have to fly
to California."
try not to be shocked that he already looks like
a cadaver.
Say to the young man sitting by your brother's side,
"I'm his brother."
Try not to be shocked when the young man says,
"I'm his lover. Thanks for coming."

Listen to the doctor with a steel face on.
Sign the necessary forms.
Tell the doctor you will take care of everything.
Wonder why doctors are so remote.

Watch the lover's eyes as they stare into
your brother's eyes as they stare into
Wonder what they see there.
Remember the time he was jealous and
opened your eyebrow with a sharp stick.
Forgive him out loud
even if he can't
understand you.
Realize the scar will be
all that's left of him.

Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria
say to the lover, "You're an extremely good-looking
young man."
Hear him say,
"I never thought I was good enough looking to
deserve your brother."

Watch the tears well up in his eyes. Say,
"I'm sorry. I don't know what it means to be
the lover of another man."
Hear him say,
"Its just like a wife, only the commitment is
deeper because the odds against you are so much
Say nothing, but
take his hand like a brother's.

Drive to Mexico for unproven drugs that might
help him live longer.
Explain what they are to the border guard.
Fill with rage when he informs you,
"You can't bring those across."
Begin to grow loud.
Feel the lover's hand on your arm
restraining you. See in the guard's eye
how much a man can hate another man.
Say to the lover, "How can you stand it?"
Hear him say, "You get used to it."
Think of one of your children getting used to
another man's hatred.

Call your wife on the telephone. Tell her,
"He hasn't much time.
I'll be home soon." Before you hang up say,
"How could anyone's commitment be deeper than
a husband and a wife?" Hear her say,
"Please. I don't want to know all the details."

When he slips into an irrevocable coma,
hold his lover in your arms while he sobs,
no longer strong. Wonder how much longer
you will be able to be strong.
Feel how it feels to hold a man in your arms
whose arms are used to holding men.
Offer God anything to bring your brother back.
Know you have nothing God could possible want.
Curse God, but do not
abandon Him.

Stare at the face of the funeral director
when he tells you he will not
embalm the body for fear of
contamination. Let him see in your eyes
how much a man can hate another man.

Stand beside a casket covered in flowers,
white flowers. Say,
"thank you for coming," to each of seven hundred men
who file past in tears, some of them
holding hands. Know that your brother's life
was not what you imagined. Overhear two
mourners say, "I wonder who'll be next?" and
"I don't care anymore,
as long as it isn't you."

Arrange to take an early flight home.
His lover will drive you to the airport.
When your flight is announced say,
awkwardly, "If I can do anything, please
let me know." Do not flinch when he says,
"Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him
after he told you. He did."
Stop and let it soak in. Say,
"He forgave me, or he knew himself?"
"Both," the lover will say, not knowing what else
to do. Hold him like a brother while he
kisses you on the cheek. Think that
you haven't been kissed by a man since
your father died. Think,
"This is no moment to be strong."

Fly first class and drink Scotch. Stroke
your split eyebrow with a finger and
think of your brother alive. Smile
at the memory and think
how your children will feel in your arms
warm and friendly and without challenge.

Michael Lassell

P.S. I know it is long and it probably hurts the scroll finger like bloody ho but I am not putting it behind a cut. Something this beautiful needs to remain so that everybody can read it at first glance.

Current Location: Bangalore
Current Mood: mellowmellow
Current Music: New Office - new sounds

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July 8th, 2007

09:43 pm - Thank you, for not smoking!

Recent Canadian government research has shown that cigarette smoking not only impairs sexual ability, it actually causes shrinkage of the male sexual "equipment."

Wow! If that is true, we need to get the word out ASAP! Maybe the warning on the cigarette packs should be updated to reflect this new information. How about something like this:

* Warning!: These cigarettes are king size — how about you?

* Warning!: Smoking sections in restaurants aren't the only things getting smaller.

* Warning!: If you don't reduce your smoking, your smoking will reduce you.

* Warning!: Smoking may lead to ridicule on your honeymoon.

* Warning!: Smoke rises, but you may not.

* Warning!: Second-hand smoke can be harmful to children — That is… if you're capable of conceiving any.

* Warning!: Cigarettes get shorter the more you puff — so do you.

* Warning!: How can you enjoy a smoke afterwards, if there's no before?

* Warning!: The only thing left after a smoke is a dead stub.

* Warning!: Don't throw lit cigarettes in the urinal — you might not have the range to put them out.

Current Location: New Delhi
Current Mood: blankblank
Current Music: Horrible cyber cafe music

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