Monday, 15 December 2014


I think every man has his own smell. We don't notice it much because smells mingle all together and we can't tell which is yours and which is mine, really.... All we know is that there's a foul smell and that's what we call "humanity"... I mean "the human stench"
                                                                      - Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Monday, 8 December 2014

A Rock & a Hard Place

Alejandro the Argentine is feeling good about tonight. Saturday night in Las Vegas and not just any Saturday night. The one over the long thanksgiving weekend. He has been in Vegas long enough to know the role that probability plays in life and tonight the odds are in his favour.

His 'American Dream', when he left Argentina nearly 20 years back, didn't feature him waiting tables at Hard Rock Cafe, Las Vegas. He was going to be happy with lots of money and a home. That dream is coming close. Next year this time he will be in Florida. Far away from the terrible tourists and the maddening click whirr ting ting ting sounds of the ubiquitous slot machines. Tonight is one of those nights that will be bringing his Florida dream closer to reality.

In a few minutes the tourists will start streaming in. Some happy with the winning, some mourning their loss but all of them drinking down their joy and sorrow. Once the drinks start to pour, he will get them to order food. Food which they don't need but food that he will get them to want. Just when they think they are done, he will seduce them with desserts. Desserts that they will order but not partake. He knows he is one of the best but for him to win it all starts with the drinking. The tipping is always good once they start drinking. 

This is going to be good night. He can feel it in his bones. He has trained the kitchen staff, threatened them in fact. "Fuck up all you want in the afternoon but the night is my time and you mess up in the night and I will mess your face!". They won't mess up tonight. He is certain.

His first customers have arrived. A party of six. Looks like they are from India. Great. They must be reveling in the freedom of the sin city, far from the conservative confines of their home. The night has begun.

"Hello, I am Alejandro and I will be taking care of you tonight. Can I start you off with some drinks?"

"One water with no ice. Please make that two. Actually, make that three. Do you have hot water by any chance?"

"Yes we do."

"Then could you please bring me some hot water. Actually, could you bring me also some hot water, cancel my water with no ice. Make that three hot water. Actually four hot water."

"So, its 4 hot waters and 2 waters with no ice. Will that be all? Any other drinks? No? No. OK. I will be right out with your waters."

Al pedo como teta de monja!

Monday, 24 November 2014


...from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb.

                                        - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Pithy pity piety

"Dad, who is that guy with the big U on his face?" - 8 yr old referring to photo of Lord Venkateshwara at a Indian Restaurant in Plano, Texas, USA.

Friday, 4 April 2014

TX - 75093. First Impressions.

For nearly 30 years of my life, when I have wanted to switch the fan on, the TV on, the light on, the... well you get the idea, I have pressed the switch down. While travelling in trains I have flicked the switch down and then stood on the seat and used a pen or a comb or a newspaper to stick through the fan cage and get the blades running. But the switches always went down.For the last two weeks of my life the switches have gone up. 

The cars driving on the right side was more along expected lines. The wiper being on the right and the indicator on the left was also pretty much expected but a lot harder to, jargon alert, 'internalise'. The switches were quite weird but since the feedback is almost always immediate its therefore not something one tends to really notice. Hopefully new things are being learnt and stored in unused recesses of the brain and not in those parts where 29 years of experience are etched. I wouldn't want to find out later that while I was busy learning that, paraphrasing a Dave Matthews Band song here, 'the right side is up' the rest of my world was turning upside down.


Be it Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Ikea (I promise such shameless brand name dropping won't happen again) or any other store, one thing is almost guaranteed - The billing clerk/guy/lady will greet you and will always be friendly. There will be a hi and how-was-your-day and hope-you-have-a-great-one and your-bill-amount-is-exactly-same-as-the-time-so-you-get-a-lollipop. Ok fine, the last one happened only once.

In India the person at the billing counter is matter of fact and brutally efficient. "257.50. Cover?" But then as time progresses and you start coming to the shop regularly there would be a smile of recognition. And then there is a few extra words. "That is 257.50. Do you need cover? 1 Rs. extra." In time he/she will come to recognise your regular buys and understand the family dynamics. "Sir, do you need Ginger Candy for your father?" and you will know his first name. "I think he has bought yesterday Mani". You start flaunting the relationship hoping that the people waiting behind you in the queue get jealous and wish they knew the counter guy better. The guy may not start off being friendly but in time you get a friend. 

In time maybe there shall be some new friends.


Big fat squirrels. Oliver Hardy squirrels when compared to the Stanley Laurel variety back in India and voila, someone discovered Instagram.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Minimum fare & some fanfare

For some the day begins with prayer. An incense stick delicately placed in front of a picture of whatever form god takes. A politician, a superstar, the elephant headed obstacle remover, the virgin, calligraphy or most likely the goddess of wealth with a golden urn pouring out gold coins. For others, a day begins. To each his, or her, own. The day's first fare is a portent of things to come. A passenger whose destination is en route the road taken from home to the stand is a godsend. A return 'savaari' - ride or occupant - with minimal waiting as the first trip for the day means a decent feast for lunch.Tea spent discussing today's headlines with the boys - the most looked forward to part of the work day.

Commissioner Office? Okay. Shall put meter but please do give something extra for tea. What is wrong with this route? The map is saying its a longer route? What map? Oh the map on your phone. Which route is the phone telling? Does the phone know about one ways and traffic diversions? The leader is coming today and he has a political rally on that road. Will get stuck for an hour if that route is taken.

Bloody hell. Lady drivers. There ought to be stickers on the vehicles indicating that it's a lady driver. The other day two girls on a bike turn in from the right on to the straight main road without even looking or halting for the traffic coming through. Blood pressure has hit the ceiling and someone screams asking if the girls are attempting suicide. The girl who is at the controls of the bike screams back saying she has put the indicator and hence the fault is on those who didn't halt. Everyone, in that instant, realises the futility of lecturing them about the indicator's purpose and collectively decide the girls are better off meeting with an accident to figure things out.

These phones are pretty good right. No one used to bother about which route the auto takes before but ever since the meter has become mandatory everyone seems to think auto drivers are out to cheat them. It's only better to reach the destination sooner so that the next fare is got earlier. These phones are really good. Every day something new seems to come on the phones. At one point there seemed to be nothing new in life and men decide to get married. Soon the novelty of a new wife is replaced by the weariness of the same wife and children will surely be the harbinger of change. Children. The new new thing. Children grow, that is a certainty. With every new year there is something new for them and the parents teach them and take them through their life. The parents experience their whole life again through the children but then suddenly things change. Children are not confined to the headlines of the newspaper. They are not confined to the first paragraph. Apparently, the first paragraph contains the most important news. All news stories have an inverted pyramid and the first paragraph gives details about who, what, where, when, why and how. But the children read the whole paper and then they stop reading the paper. They read only the internet and they use their phones and then before they know it the parents are finding everything new. Internet, touch phone, coffee pubs, Facebook, hundred-rupee hair cuts. The children teach the parents. The children now have their lives to lead and the parents no longer understand life. Child becomes father of man and soon even the children seem new. Only the auto remains the same and the wife. But the auto has a new meter. We have arrived. Commissioner Office is on the other side. Shall halt here else would need to take the U Turn. Is that all? Have come all this way may not even get a ride back. That is better. Thanks.

The next savaari comes along. Where to? Central Station? Alright, shall put meter but please do take due care of giving something extra. Bloody hell. Taxi drivers.