Archive | August, 2006

Cricket tales

30 Aug

I’m Aditya, Vijay’s long-suffering younger brother.

By “long-suffering” I don’t mean to imply that Viji is some sort of an ogre. Quite the reverse. He is a nurturing older sibling that anyone would be lucky to have. But truth be told, back in the day he had a nasty competitive streak when it came to playing sports with me. Perhaps it’s just his nature, or perhaps it was payback for all those times that I got my way over him by playing the “I’m eleven years younger than you” card. We played cricket, table tennis and badminton. No quarter was asked and none was given. It didn’t help my cause that he was a talented athlete who excelled at all sports he tried. I had my hands full.

We played “short cricket” on our concrete driveway at home. After a while, much to Viji’s annoyance, I became quite adept at sticking it out while batting. So began his quest for creative ways of getting me out. First, there was the surprise, fast bouncer with Viji tearing in behind the ball looking for the sharp return catch, then there was the tantalizing slow turner that turned a full two feet from way outside off to middle and never failed to tie me up in knots, and then there was the sidearm, fast, swinging yorker. But the most dangerous of all was the “fizzer”: A tennis or cork ball rolled (surreptitiously) in a puddle of water and delivered rapidly from a distance of about 15 feet. It rose and fizzed alarmingly particularly when one was not expecting it (which was always). I can still feel those painful blows on my arm, shin and thighs. Ouch. But I persisted. One ball and one run at a time.

Unbeknownst to either of us, Viji was preparing me for the “real world” that was to come all too soon: A world that requires one to stand and fight for each “run”. A world that makes little allowance for being young. I certainly got a head start in that department. And so, some twenty years later, I say “Thanks Vij”

Introducing Aditya

30 Aug

Was chatting with my kid brother yesterday. He was of the opinion that my blogs are too one sided and demanded that he too be allowed to air his views with some of his childhood experiences with a brother who had his own share of “troubles”. So I have allowed him to post his views on this blog.

Stay tuned…

P.S: I retain admin rights so I can delete stuff I dont like 🙂

I Wish

29 Aug

I could be popular like…

My Dad. Growing up I always wanted to be like my Dad (all kids do).. a fun loving person (quick temper though), and immensely popular with friends. Everytime he goes to the USA to visit my kid brother, I am deluged by calls every week by his friends demanding (yes demanding) to know when he’ll be back. People ranting about “What is he doing there? Isnt it easier for your brother to visit here?”. I just wish I can be half as popular as that. And he is stylish as hell. None of his children have inherited his taste for stylish clothes.

I had Dedication like…

My mom.. she was a Professor of Economics until she retired. She still did parttime stuff until a couple of years ago. Growing up she was the one who instilled the fear of God into us as far as studies go. What a terror she was. Its not that she did anything to us (never lifted a finger). Its just that we didnt want to find out what would happen.. say if we failed in an exam. Fortunately we never did (whew!!). She was the one responsible for giving us career directions. Made sure that we went to the right schools and had the right company. If it weren’t for her, I wouldnt even have dreamt of going overseas to study.

I had Friendships like…

My Dad and Riaz Tareen. These guys were inseparable. Riaz uncle was the life of any conversation with his humor (and sometimes bluntness). Dad shared a unique relationship with Riaz who used to head HR at GKW and later BiFora Watches. They wouldn’t talk much when they were together. Riaz would come home after work, pour himself a drink, and settle down with a magazine (or in front of the TV in later years). Dad would be in the same room reading as well. Not a single word was exchanged except for the odd story about an old classmate. They were just comfortable that the other guy was in the room. My mom would then come and announce dinner (if Riaz uncle came home, there HAD to be Bisi Bele Bath or else he’d kick up a storm). Riaz passed away a few years ago. I know my Dad misses him…

I had Tenacity Like…

My uncle Ravi. A major hero for us as kids growing up. A cricketer (more on that later), engineer at 19, worked in Chambal on a project (played 1 Ranji match for MP as well), went to the UK to do his masters (he played county cricket for Hampshire as well), moved to the USA in the mid-sixties and started working for a structural engineering company as an entry level engineer. Today he is the CEO, President, and Chairman of that very company and raking in the bucks. His story is one of tenacity and dedication. He is the original unsung Indian pioneer. Been there done that before even the software guys hit the shores of the US of A.

I had Patience like…

My wife. She needs it to keep her sanity with my son and me around. Still don’t know how she tolerates us 🙂

Missing the Bus

28 Aug

Had lunch with a bunch of old buddies today and the topic of “Missing the Bus” came up. Made me think about a few “busses” I had missed over the years especially on the career front.

My own “missing the bus” story is a biggie. In 1991, I decided to move out of the USA for personal reasons. I had 2 options, one was to move back to India and the other was to move to Singapore. One of my uncles called me up and asked me to talk to this “up and coming” company in Bangalore where his classmate was the CEO. They were looking for someone who had worked in the USA. I of course did not meet the said CEO since I felt Indian companies did not pay well. I preferred to move to Singapore. I cannot complain about my job in Singapore and my subsequent return to India working for a top notch company. But the Indian company that I did not talk to turned out to be INFOSYS (no two guesses as to who the CEO was). This was BEFORE their IPO. Talk about MISSING THE BUS… OUCH!!!. 

I think I probably take the gold medal here. Only wish I could turn back the clock…. sigh !!

So this time around when I got the “urge” to “do something” in 2003, I took the plunge not wanting to miss the bus this time around. So far things are working out great. The company is doing well and I don’t have the “What if I had done this?” question haunting me anymore 🙂 .

Punctuation, Punctuation

28 Aug

Have been going over my son’s study notes (he’s in the 8th grade) and discovering the importance of commas and full stops AND the right word in the right place. I don’t want to embarrass my son (although I threatened I’d put his stuff on the web if he didn’t improve), so here are some newspaper headlines that I thought fitted the “wrong choice of words and punctuation” category:

  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts says
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • Safety Experts say school bus passengers should be belted
  • Drunk gets nine months in violin case
  • Survivor of siamese twins joins parents
  • Farmer Bill dies in house
  • Iraqi head seeks arms
  • Panda mating fails; Veterinarian takes over
  • Teacher strikes idle kids
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Shot off woman’s leg helps Nicklaus to 66 (for the Golfers)
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
  • Plane too close to ground, crash probe told
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Juvenile court to try shooting defendant
  • Stolen painting found by tree
  • Two soviet ships collide, one dies
  • 2 sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter
  • Killer sentenced to die for second time in 10 years
  • War dims hope for peace
  • If strike isn’t settled quickly, it may last a while
  • Cold wave linked to temperatures

Write a brief sketch of Shivaji. Why is the steel plant situated in Bhadravathi?

24 Aug

These are all “School Stories” from the late 1940s. This was an extremely funny story told to me by my dad’s friend K.N. Raghavendra Rao who used to be the Chief Photographer at the Indian Express, India Today and later on the Hindu. Anecdotes from Guru uncle as we call him are always enjoyable. So this whole episode happened when he was in 7th or 8th grade. One of the questions asked was “Write a brief sketch of Chatrapathi Shivaji”. So Guru uncle starts writing detailed notes about Shivaji, his achievements etc etc. Satisfied with his answer he looks up and happens to look at his neighbour’s paper, there is the guy drawing a nice portrait of Shivaji (get it “brief sketch”?).

The next boo boo comes from someone in my own family (same class 7th/8th), who once wrote in an exam that the steel plant is situated in Bhadravathi because the soil is good and the rainfall adequate to grow plants… and to think I was mad at my poor son when he was in grade 1 for spelling “Who” as “Hoo”.

Listening to stories from my father, uncles (their NIE Mysore days), and old friends,  always make me wish I had been there. They seemed to have so much fun. I am going to get some stories from my uncles (plus pictures of their cricketing exploits) and put it up here.

The Ant in my Pants

17 Aug

This was a story I used to tell my son when he was seven and he thought it was pretty cool of me. I wasn’t going to write this up until I saw an article on ants through a link in RK’s blog.

Its a pretty silly story but one that happened none the less.

In 2000 I had to make a quick trip to Singapore for a couple of days. Unpacking my bags in my Hotel room, I suddenly spied an Ant among my clothes. He must have gotten into the bag in Bangalore. I was very impressed that he made it all the way to Singapore.

Your head tells you strange things when you are away from home and alone in a hotel room. Suddenly I was full of sympathy for this little ant. His family members were probably looking high and low for him in Bangalore (now please don’t get scientific on me and explain how ants live). At that moment I decided that I would try to take him back to Bangalore alive and release him at home.

So I decided to use the match box that they had in the hotel room (without the sticks of course) and built a “nest” for the little feller. I put some sugar in the “nest” as well and put the guy inside. He seemed to be content there. He would wander around, but eventually return to his box (I thought it was pretty smart of him). Maybe even he realized that he was “outside” his turf and would come back to where he felt safe. I kept him out of room service’s way.

On the way back I put the bugger back in his box and put him in the checked luggage. Sure enough he was there when I got to Bangalore. I released him and hope he was able to find his family members (I like to think so 🙂 )

This is one of those things that you are glad you did regardless of whether it was useful or not.

Pickle Update

17 Aug

Picking up from my post on the “Bhutan Pickles”. As I mentioned, the pickles are in my office for a tasting challenge. Several people (friends and colleagues) have picked up the gauntlet. The pickle is kicking some serious backside. All participants were teary eyed after the tasting.

Current score: Pickle 10 – People 0.

1 Participant disqualified. He walked out of my office with a straight face but then was found in the pantry trying to get at some sugar.

Geographical origin of participants:

Karnataka – 3

Tamil Nadu – 3

Andhra Pradesh – 3

Gujurat – 1

Heres the question. Who do you think handled the pickle the best?

For those of you thinking of accusing me of torture, the participants had water at hand and yogurt.

Are kids having any fun at all?

12 Aug

Come morning, the sights and sounds in my neighborhood have to do with kids leaving for school.

The schedule is the same EVERY DAY. Getting ready for the van, eating breakfast and then getting ready to commute great distances across the city. The reverse process is true in the evenings, tired kids coming back home lugging their big bags and homework. They watch some TV. A quick dinner later they are asleep. Dead to the world.

Are the poor things having any fun at all? Are we driving them too hard? Will this ever change? Will it get worse?

My father’s friend once mentioned that in the old days kids from poor families did not have any fun as they were busy eking out a living while studying. He went on to add that these days ALL kids regardless of how rich or poor they are don’t have any fun because they are just burnt out by the time the day is over.

Cut to the mid 70’s and Vijaya High School in Jayanagar.

Our day would begin at around 6:00. Then Sanskrit tuition at 7:00 (actually it was an excuse to eat idli at SLV near National College), then meander back home around 8:30 or 9:00 and reach school well in advance so that we could play (or dawdle) around until the bell rang at 10:30. A half hour prayer later classes would begin in earnest at 11:00. Looking back I cannot think of happier times than those 3 years at VHS followed by National College, Basavangudi (that’s another story :-)). We didn’t have TV (until I was in Engineering College) but we had friends and we had fun. We had logori, chinni dandu, and cricket (on the streets without cars speeding by).

I look at kids today and wonder how their kids will be. I can imagine my son writing his blog 20-25 years from now and wondering if his kids are having as fun filled a life as he had.

Seems like every passing generation has less fun than the one before. Of course they’ll never know what they missed. And that is sad.

“Killer” Pickles from Bhutan

8 Aug

On his last visit to Kolkatta, my friend Raghu picked up a bottle of Bhutanese pickle for me. He claimed it was the hottest pickle in the world. A claim that I rubbished.

The innocuous looking bottle said “Druk – Dalla Pickle in Oil”. The manufacturer was the Bhutan Fruit Products Limited.

I am into hot and spicy pickles, sauces etc, less adventurous now as I grow older (and wiser?) and more cautious, but nevertheless I like to think that I can take spicy stuff. I have had carribean sauces that had names like “Hotter than Hell”, “Angel on Fire” that come in bottles without any ingredient listings on their labels. One time in Boston, I even bought a sauce that had a handwritten label (Ok ok that was ages ago. I wasn’t married then).

So coming back to the Bhutanese pickle, I open the bottle and find it full of chillies that had the shape and size of cherries and of course oil. The smell wasnt that intimidating either. So I decide to give it a try during dinner time much against my wife’s protestations (Thumba khara yakappa thintheeri etc etc).

I take Bisi Bisi anna (rice) and lots of thuppa (ghee). I then decide to help myself to a spoonful of the pickle. The entire family (Wife and Son) are watching me. There have been occasions before where I have experimented at the dinner table with disastrous results (especially when I try and cook dishes shown on TV).

So I mix the rice well and eat it. At first no reaction. Then it hits me…hits me haaaaaard. This thing was a killer. I was sweating from pores that I didn’t know I had, my nostrils were flaming and my eyes teary. I think I established a new world record for the fastest dash to the sink where I stuck my mouth under the faucet. I swear that my wife and kid were exchanging high fives. They probably had a bet riding on this. Needless to say, I never finished the rice and pickles.

This thing is HOT HOT HOT. I think Dalla in Bhutanese means “Killer Berry Chillies for special export to India”.

I hate it when Raghu is right.

P.S: The offending pickles have been “banished” to my office (by my wife) and are available for tasting and reviewing (water is provided as well).