Monday, 29 December 2008

End of an Era

One of my best friends, MD, got hitched yesterday, in a much awaited ceremony that went off perfectly.

I first met MD almost 2 years ago. It was Jan 6th, 2007, and I had tagged along with a group of guys from I.C for a Lonavla/Khandala trip, the three guys being CP, JB and J. How I met CP and JB is a story I shall recount some other time. I had walked to CP's place with my travel bag on Sat afternoon, from where JB (who lived next door) drove up in his Volkswagen. We helped CP load the car with water, snacks, alcohol, his BBQ grill, etc. and then picked up a bag of charcoal, withdrew money from an ATM, and went to a third guy's home - J - whom I was about to meet for the first time. Apparently, they were all former classmates, along with another guy from Vashi we were to meet later and a guy named MD who we'd rendezvous with at Khandala and whom they kept saying I'd love. We befriended a friendly pup as we walked to J's place, and the first thing that struck me as we entered his bungalow was the huge cat (I was to discover later that he had 6 of these). Apparently, J didn't know about the trip until we turned up at his place, but sportingly, allowed himself to be convinced to come along with us after CP and JB insisted.

We drove to Centre One in Vashi to meet up with the fourth guy, K, who had his own car. And did the four former classmates, after meeting up, pay heed my advice to make haste so as to make the best of optimal light conditions that could and should have been utilised for a trek? No, the four generously proportioned mates spent an hour loafing around Centre One, a significant amount of that time at one of the supermarkets on the ground floor, and even clustered around the chocolate/candy stall at one point. It was a comical sight, and I stepped back to avoid being paired with them. JB kindly offered me a Marzipan chocolate (which was actually quite good) but I was in no mood to lounge around or snack at the mall, for I was told earlier that I'd be meeting MD, a man as trek crazy as I was. And with each passing moment, I felt like he was having fun that I was missing out on, which later turned out to be somewhat true.

We eventually reached our lodgings - Kune Mission - in the evening at around 7.00 P.M and it was dark. I was disappointed to say the least. I never figured that we'd take so long to reach our destination, and my main fear was that I'd missed out on a trek, which was the main reason I'd come in the first place. We walked inside, and one of the guys introduced me to a man about my height with an easygoing manner, significant beer belly and an evil smile. This was MD, and those were the first three things I noticed about him. I immediately confirmed the possibility of a trek to a place called Deer Falls the following day, though I had missed out on one to Bufallo Falls that day.

MD had arrived there in the afternoon with his own group of friends and relatives, and I soon got to meet them all. I would go on to meet some of them - like Abhi, RV and BD - on subsequent treks and random city meet ups.

Dinnertime was approaching, and we set up our BBQ behind the lodgings, on a patch of ground with some chairs and a picnic table overlooking the valley. It was cold, and just got colder as the night progressed. It was also very dark. The only light we had was that coming from the windows of the building behind us and the moon (if there was one) and stars. We got everything set up with the help of a flashlight that we kept passing around. The chicken that we were barbecuing was already cleaned and marinated so we just had to get the grill started.This turned out to be a major task. The wind at the edge of the valley was quite strong, and every single match we lit would simply get blown off. Try as we might, we simply couldn't light a piece of paper to place among the charcoal at the bottom of the grill. MD, who seemed the most persevering of us all, kept at it, we trying to help by using our bodies as wind shields. The matches were running low and a few times we thought the paper or charcoal were alight, only to have them go out again, but finally, with only a few matches to spare, MD managed to get it lighted.

We took turns overseeing the chicken, and our group sat at the picnic table. MD's group, sitting a little bit away on a few chairs available and on the ground, mostly had their own arrangements, with only Abhi joining us. As the night went on, our group munched on barbecued chicken and sipped our drinks, enjoying a truly enjoyable meal. Our group retired to our rooms after dinner to drink some more and chat, soon to be interrupted by MD, who invited us to join him and his friends to a Grotto on the top of a nearby slope. We weren't in the least bit sleepy, and after wrapping myself up in a blanket (over the sweater I was already wearing for it was freezing now), walked to the Grotto with the rest of the group. I noticed not for the first time that night that MD was carrying a really huge long flashlight, one of those pieces that looked like a really thick stick and might even be used as a weapon.

The Grotto was beautiful, and CP and another guy or two actually clambered up on top if it. Clambering down was somewhat harder, especially for CP who, with his weight, accidentally dislodged a stone that fell on a girl's foot. We rested in the cave like formation that the Grotto formed, which proved a welcome respite from the chilling wind. Once again, MD attempted to get a fire going, with the remaining matches and some dry branches that he went searching for. I didn't get why some one would wander about a freezing forest area in the dead of night looking for a way to start a tiny bonfire that wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. And his tenacity after piling the branches together and lighting match after match to finally get a fire going was something I didn't completely understand, thought it was something that appealed to me, a person who can get equally obsessed at times about doing something particular, though not anything like this. I don't remember who it was who first came up with it, but that night, MD earned the nickname Pyro.

We sat there for a while, talking about this and that, most of us silent, looking at the stars and admiring the beauty of the moment. It was at this time that I got to know RV. My gang decided to go back to their quarters to sleep. MD and gang decided to spend the night under the Grotto, waiting for daybreak. I waited with them for a while, before heading back myself. I slept snug under two blankets.

The next morning I woke up refreshed. MD helped wake up our gang, and we headed off to the common eating room for breakfast. I voiced out once again my eagerness to go trekking, drawing a breath of irritation from J, who felt I had voiced my eagerness to go trekking one time too many. Anyhow, I finished off the remaining rum and we started off on our short trek to Deer Falls, a little waterfall that I'm sure is a lot bigger during the monsoon. Friends took pics of the Duke's nose on our way there, and we took a little shortcut on our way back. It was really hot walking back. Afternoon temperatures go up to 33 degrees in the winter in Mumbai. It can't have been much better in Lonavla/Khandala.

Had a cold shower and then lunch, before CP, JB and I said our goodbye's and drove home. I made it a point to take down MD's contact details, for I didn't know too many people who liked going on treks as frequently as he did. The group I trekked with at the time did an average of one a year.

Since that fateful trip, I met MD many a time. Two months later, he called up to say he was going to Gorai and I readily joined him, even though it was only us two. At the start of the monsoon of 2007, I met up with MD and Abhi at a Goan fast food stall at Orlem. A week after my Peth trip (hopefully to be recorded later), MD and I went on a half day trip to Erangal (my idea), where we took a bus to the church, looked around the beach, and walked to the very tip of that little peninsula that marks the end of Malad, from whose coast we could see Andheri, and from where we took a two minute ferry to Versova. On reaching the Andheri end of the ferry ride however, we didn't bother getting out - the area was filthy - so we simply rode back to Erangal and took a bus to Mith Chowky, and another one to I.C.

As the year went on, MD and I would meet many times. He was studying at the same place I worked, so it was convenient to meet on Fri nights for dinner. We've probably been to more low-life low budget food joints with missing walls that can be documented here, though I could try. I wasn't blogging much in 2007 and so didn't record any of these trips, though there were many. Special mention must also be made of the dhabba near his home where his friends and us spent many a night making merry. All through this time, I came to know MD as a guy who valued his freedom more than any of the rest of us. He enjoyed taking random, unplanned, last minute trips to nearby trekking spots and having a blast, especially with beer. To see him getting hitched yesterday was a potent symbol of my own fleeting youth, and I sensed many of his other friends (now my friends as well) feel the same way.

His wedding Mass yesterday was amazing. The priest he knows so well gave an excellent sermon, with a couple of guitar solos thrown in. I met up with now common friends BD and PV at the church, and we went to my place to chill out before the reception, which was close to my home. The reception was perfect as well, with an excellent spread, and everything going according to plan and everyone enjoying themselves. Met a few other friends there. BD & PV left early, and Ry's group and I hit a bar after we wished the couple (RV handing MD a quarter of rum as a parting gift, MD remarking that it was empty but still accepting it). We went to MD's place after the bar and helped with the unloading of presents, being rewarded with copious amounts of alcohol in return. It was a peaceful way to end the day, all of us friends minus MD sitting on a quiet beautiful porch sipping our drinks chatting and reminiscing. I looked up at the sky at one point and watched the stars - something I haven't been able to do for a long time.

As the friends started leaving, MD emerged and I finally got an opportunity to chat with him for a while, something I hadn't got much of an opportunity of at either the church or reception. It was nice to have a chat at last, before leaving for I.C at 1.00 A.M with the rest of his family. It's a bit sad to lose a friend to matrimony but I'm happy for him and a joyous landmark event in a friend's life has made this Christmas season all the more memorable.


Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas 2008 - Tis the season to be moderately content

Went to work on the 24th, and caught the 7.15 local home. Changed (too warm for a suit or coat; I just put on a tie) and walked to the grounds for the 8.00 P.M Mass. Lot's of people. They usually set chairs for 15,000 and there are still hundreds left standing every year. Mass finished at 9.30, with a usual joke from Fr. Franklin and a request to stack the chairs. If there's one thing we're good at, it's stacking chairs after a Mass. I waited for the crowd to ease out of the two exits and made my way back home. Met a couple of friends on the way and chatted. Ate a late dinner and slept the sleep of the tired.

Woke up on Christmas morning to read the papers and spend some time on the net, before going back to bed and waking up at around 12.30 for the big family lunch at my cousin's place. Was nice to see everyone again. Played Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 for a while before heading home. Watched Shrek the Third in the evening. To say that it wasn't as good as the first two would be an understatement.

Took some Christmas sweets to the office this morning. They were well appreciated. Overall, Christmas this year was a lot quieter, what with 26/11 and the Kandhamal violence earlier. Less celebratory and more reflectional.

To get into the Christmas mood this year, I deleted almost all the songs on my Mp3 player two weeks ago and filled it with approx. 700 Christmas ones instead, that I've been listening to since, and I still haven't finished listening to them all.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Movies Seen: The Band's Visit, Wall.E

The Band's Visit

A 2007 Israeli film directed by Eran Kolirin (his first feature film). An eight member Egyptian Police Band land up in the wrong town by mistake and have to make do with what they're offered. Funny and sad at the same time. The humour in the movie isn't the obvious kind, it's more of a slow, situational, squeezed out kind.


A 2008 romantic comedy on another level. Simply one of the greatest movies of all time. Pixar extends their success streak.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Spice Tree Again

Another visit to Spice Tree. The second time this month. While my previous visit constituted a treat by PV who, after having acted on a piece if advice from me and finding himself happier, fell into a magnanimous mood, this one was more corporate in nature.

The party last night at 7.00 was held for the entire team I belong to at work, the menu being the one below,

And of course the alcohol kept flowing all through the party. My intake amounted to 5 whiskeys, I think. Finished off at 1.00 A.M and left for home.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Movies Seen: Stray Dog, Tsotsi, In the Heat of the Night

Ah, a veritable selection of goodly films! What a way to signal my return to movie rental mode. I really got these over the weekend, but being too busy to see them then, have been having extra busy weekdays lately, vis-a-vis movie watching.

Stray Dog

Yet another excellent Kurosawa flick. The 1949 movie has a very young Toshiro Mifune playing Murakami, a young police officer on the lookout for his stolen pistol, getting increasingly panicky and guilt ridden each time his pistol is found to be involved in a crime, such that he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown towards the end of the film. There to help and advise him is Takashi Shimura, playing an older wiser officer.

The interplay between the two main characters is enjoyable as always. They feed off each other, one aggressive, the other more experienced. Parallels are also drawn between the young officer and the gun's user, whom they discover have pretty similar profiles, and the question of what makes a man resort to crime is raised. All this within a sweltering Tokyo heatwave.

Like Kurosawa's High and Low, this film also deals with a painstaking police investigation, with officers following lead after lead to find what they want. The investigation however, only makes up the second half of High and Low, whereas here, it seems to take up the entire film.


A 2005 film written and directed by Gavin Hood about a gangster from the slums of Johannesburg, who's forced to take a hard look at his life, after a crime he commits results in unintended consequences. Graphically violent, well made but not for everyone, the movie forces people to sympathise with a criminal.

In the Heat of the Night

A 1967 film directed by Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar). Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a policemen who's forced to team up with a racist police force to solve a VIP's murder in a small town, inspite of the odds being piled against him. Another movie dealing with mostly a police investigation, with a look at the personal lives of the characters involved, only this time the main shadow overlooking the plot is racism. Good movie.

Based on a 1965 John Ball novel. John Ball's first novel in fact (and one that won him an award). He went on to write 6 sequels and a short story with the same leading character. The movie based on his first book went on to get two sequels of it's own and a T.V series.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Shorts @ MTC

Went to the MTC with TP after work on Monday for the fortnightly short film fest by The Bombay Elektrik Project. Compered by Sudeip, it was mostly a platform for aspiring short film makers to showcase their work, with a little Jan Svankmajer (my personal favourite) thrown in for good measure at the end. Sudeip mailed us all a description of the shorts before the event, which started at 9.30:

1st Short: Simon Says
Language: English
Run-time: 15 mins
Written and Directed by: Siddhant Goswami
Cast: Varun Tharcherkar, Sushant Naik, Satyajeet Ganu, Tejas Sawant, Adam Makhija, Riya Joseph
Edited by: Jeremy Fonseca

Simon says is a short film from the psychotic thriller genre. The story starts off when Dr. Colaco gets a frantic phone call from one of his associates at the hospital one morning. From there on we learn about what is heard & what is seen; who to trust & what to believe, & how all the truth around us can sometimes only be half the reality.

2nd Short: Prejudice
Language: English & Hindi
Run-time: 20 mins
DOP: Gandhaar Kadam
Cast: Vikrant Potnis, Sudeep Pagedar
Edited by: Pratik Rasam
Story by: Sudeep Pagedar
Music by: Nihar Shembekar (composer, lyrics and vocals), Rohan Patel & Nitish Randive (music arrangement)

The year is 1993. Following the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Bombay erupts in flames that burn to a cinder all they touch - the flames of communal violence. In the midst of this bloodbath, one night, two old friends meet. The religions they follow are different, but surely, the power of friendship can overcome the power of hatred. Right?

3rd Short: Safe Trip Home
Run Time : 5 mins

Eleven short films are being produced to accompany the release of Dido’s third studio album, Safe Trip Home. Based thematically around the concept of home, these shorts feature stories of hope, love, commitment and longing, from around the globe, a dump site in Rio, a Mumbai taxi-cab, the rugged coast of New Zealand's South Island, a Thai boxing ring and a picturesque Portuguese fishing village. The short film in Mumbai was shot by Siddharth Sikand for the song called 'Lets do things we normally do'

Jan Svankmajer Shorts -

1st Short: A game with stones(1965)
Run time :9mins

"Hra s kameny" (alternately called "Spiel mit Steinen" or "A Game with Stones") holds a special place. It shows stones dripping out of a faucet every quarter hour and doing a series of wacky dances, contortions, and what not. The kiss is especially impressive. As for the end, I guess that it's saying that all good things have to end eventually - although in this case, it sort of brought the end on itself.

2nd Short: Punch and Judy (1966)
Run time : 10mins

Punch & Judy is Svankmajer's third film effort, and a triumph of surrealist satire. Whereas his two previous films had been too strange for their own good, this third film stands as a strong testament to Svankmajer's blossoming ability as a filmmaker.The film features two puppets, Punch and Jody (mistitled as "Judy" - Jody has always been a male counterpart to Punch in his puppet plays, even though Punch does has a wife named Judy) who become involved in an escalating war with large mallets over a botched attempt to barter over a fine guinea pig. The sequences that follow feature bizarre imagery and seemingly nonsequitor clips and closeups (some animated) of archival newsprint.

Also had dinner at the MTC while waiting for the shorts to begin (their Chicken Stroganoff was excellent.) and bumped into a couple of office mates in the vicinity, though they weren't there for the shorts.

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Movie, an Exhibition, and a Show

Oh man, yesterday was a busy day.

Went for the 10.00 A.M Mass, which I realised was a Feast Mass when I got there. The church grounds (formerly a parking lot) and the streets outside were filled with stalls selling interesting stuff and mostly junk respectively.

Mass finished early and I spent about an hour at home before catching an almost empty train to Bandra for a one and a half hour movie that started at 2.00 (supposed to start at 1.30) - Good Morning Heartache - which turned out to be a dud. I was only one of four viewers.

Ate a Sub after the movie, walked to the station, and took another almost empty train from Bandra to Churchgate. My destination was the Piramal Art gallery at the NCPA for 'Walk on the Wild Side' - a Sanctuary-RBS wildlife photography exhibition. Walked to the NCPA from Churchgate station, passing the Oberoi Trident on the way, which is currently being renovated following 26/11. The entire footpath around the hotel was cordoned off, and almost everyone passing the hotel along the road outside or Marine Drive opposite paused to take a look at it and maybe take a photo as well.

Reached the NCPA at 5.00. The exhibition turned out to be very good. It was divided into segments featuring 'Mutts' cartoon strips; the top three annual Sanctuary prize winning photos from 2000 onwards (the ones that stood out were mating muggers, pelicans in the water vying for food with sunlight glinting off their beaks and the water, an elephant carrying a dead monitor lizard, a red panda, an elephant struck by a train); special mention photos detailing rare birds, mammals (like young desert foxes), amphibians, and animal behaviour; and photos detailing poaching and the wildlife trade. Articles about the link between wildlife trade and terrorism were also displayed.

Left the exhibition at 5.30 and sat at Marine Drive for a while to get some pictures of the sky at sunset and surrounding buildings.

Then headed off to Bandra once again for a performance at St. Peter's by different parish choirs.
Listening to Christmas carols is the best way to bring in the Christmas feeling, and with church choirs, you get to listen to the more spiritual ones rather than the pop ones. Choirs I liked best were St. Anne's and the children's choir. St. Peter's and Mt. Carmel were pretty good, while St. Michael's, St. Andrew's, the Chuim choir, and St. Teresa's were O.K.

People don't realise how hard life in a choir can be. It may look romantic and awesome on stage. That's what the audience gets to see. What they don't see are the continuous rehearsals that take place one or twice or thrice a week, with practice frequencies increasing as the performance date nears. They don't get to see how each person in the choir is tested and then assigned a place based on his/her voice, how they have to memorise the words of each song, and master their timing so their twenty voices are made to sound as one, how the choir master makes them start the entire song over again each time something goes wrong or doesn't sound right, no matter how painstaking it may be; the final feeling of elation the first time during practice that the group pulls of a song perfectly, and the camaraderie formed.

It's always fun to see children sing as well. Their voices make for easy listening, and it's always fun to see them bowled over by the audience applause, with their conductor telling them to bow, and them being in a daze and not hearing her all at once, so they end up doing something resembling a reverse Mexican wave with their bodies :-)

Left the church at 8.30, had a Kesar shake at Karachi (they make excellent ones), and went home at last. Passed by I.C Church on the bus home and was glad to miss all the commotion at the fair. Seriously, we really need to do something about toning down the fair or banning it altogether. It's a blot on the colony, a security nightmare as well I'm guessing, and an pot pourri of pollution and crowding, with all it's associated problems like inappropriate behaviour, eve-teasing, harassment, etc. Whatever happened to simple good old fashioned fun? What we have here instead is a filthy Mela with the suburb's choicest collection of rowdy low-life's.

And here's Milburn Cherian's depiction of what happened the last time someone tried to clean up a holy place.


Sunday, 14 December 2008

Movie Seen - The Kingdom

Saw this on Sat. Surprisingly good, and without that many cliches. The starting is eerily similar to the events in this city two weeks ago.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Avoiding Cynicism

I fear I've grown cynical as an adult. I seem to take things for granted that I, as a kid, would normally be in awe of. Take visiting a restaurant for example. As a kid, every visit to a restaurant, whether it was a fast food or a fancy and expensive one, would be an adventure for me, but nowadays, I seem to take these visits for granted, they're all pretty insignificant. I seem to have lost that feeling of wonder that I used to experience every time I went somewhere, even if I'd been there previously, whether it was a restaurant, hotel, park or just anywhere. My questions are one, why is this so? and two, is this normal, or something I should be worried about?

The answer to the first question is simple. Priorities change. Adults see the world through different eyes compared to kids. The second question is trickier. It's completely normal to not feel the same way about stuff that you felt as a kid. But what's not normal is that it's replaced by such a level of cynicism. It can't all be because of frequency. I go out as an adult about as often as I did when I was a kid. I suppose in one way, it's O.K. Restaurant wise, Mumbai is full of good cheap restaurants for the common man, where the food is good, service is quick and the ambiance is non-existent. Maybe the point of these places that I frequent is that you're supposed to take them for granted.

But that doesn't explain my present ho-hum reaction to all the fancier places. Why? To answer this, I'll need to look back to my childhood again, beyond the changing priorities and differing world views, to the fact that maybe I was never in complete control of my life when I was a kid. The only time I went out was with my parents as they handled everything. The travel, the ordering, paying, etc. So, could that be the main reason I saw the world through rose coloured glasses then, as compared to now?

If that's true, does an aspect of the world cease to be amazing once you figure out you can control it? The answer might be yes. Look at magic tricks. When I was a kid, I used to practice all these magic tricks as a hobby. One thing I realised growing up was that every trick I saw on T.V that looked amazing would cease to be amazing once I found out how it was done. Even adults feel the same way. Watch a group of people watching David Blane levitate or Chris Angel walk on water and then watch their faces as you tell them how it's done. All you get is a blank look. You've taken away the awe and wonder that they felt just a moment ago. You've given them knowledge which leads to a feeling of control, but at what cost? I guess sometimes ignorance is bliss. Sometimes, people prefer ignorance, even if they don't know it at the time.

So does not being in control prevent cynicism, which in turn increases feelings of awe and wonder that lead to happiness? Maybe for some things in my life that I know will make me happy if I don't try to control them. But having someone lead you by the hand everywhere and spoon feed you all the time certainly isn't a solution. So if being in control of things is a natural human progression, so too must be the cynicism that goes with it. So that answers my second question about this being normal. And brings up a third one. Should I do anything about it?

Sure I should. I have a right to be as happy as possible as often as possible. How do I do this? First let me look at the other things that make me happy. Like music and movies. Maybe I can find a pattern here. I love watching Spielberg movies because they make me feel like a child again. I also like movies that make me experience something new, and make me feel like I'm part of something great, even if they make me think a bit. But I'm not in control of the movie making process. I don't suppose the people who are feel the same way about the movie as I do. So the control rule holds true here as well.

As an aside, being in control should not be confused with being knowledgeable about something. For example, many of us experience more happiness when we analyse movies for a greater level of appreciation, which in turn leaves us cynical towards their more mundane forms. And maybe this isn't bad. Maybe this is how we as humans make sure that evolution picks out only the best, most creative, and innovative kinds of music and movies to experience, for our own benefit. So maybe cynicism is goes hand in hand with happiness, as a certain level of one guarantees a certain level of another.

But coming back to the control rule part, I've figured out that multiple things that make me happy vary in the levels of happiness they provide depending on the control I exercise over them, which is unavoidable anyway. So how do I increase happiness? One way would be to to simply look for other happy experiences to replace the experiences that get diminished over time.

So I've learnt the following. Cynicism is unavoidable. What I like today I might not like tomorrow. Therefore, I need to constantly surround myself with things I like and constantly try to find new things to Iike. To do the first part, I need to make sure I avoid the average products in this world that lean toward making me cynical, avoid what I know I'll hate, and focus on those that fill me with pleasure. I should do this by following reviews, be they of restaurants, food, music, movies, plays, or any household inanimate object. And share my experiences with others. And for the second part, I need to look for new experiences in everything I do. And try to turn everything I do into an awesome party, even a trip to an Udipi joint.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Cartoon Patterns

Too much serious stuff happening recently. I've decided to take a break and note down something that's been running through my mind since before the attacks.

I've noticed how English cartoons from the 80's and 90's always seemed to follow certain patterns i.e they all contain recurring constants. I've tried to identify these trends below, just to get it off my chest.

1. The tech geek – the group that the cartoon is about almost always has at least one brain/geek/tech guy who keeps inventing stuff or solving complex problems or puzzles. Eg: Donatello in TMNT, Brainy Smurf in Smurfs, Gadget in Rescue Rangers.

2. The animal/pet that keeps following the main group. Eg: Uni in D&D, alien pet in ThunderCats, puppy in Smurfs.

3. The clear group leader. Eg: Hank in D&D, Mako in Tigersharks, Lion-O in Thundercats, Leo in TMNT, Optimus Prime in Transformers, Chip in Rescue Rangers, Papa Smurf in Smurfs.

4. The wizard/wise man. Eg: Dungeon Master in D&D, Zummi in Gummi Bears, Walro in Tigersharks, Splinter in TMNT, Jaga in ThunderCats, Gaia in Captain Planet.

5. The disproportionate male-female ratio. Eg: Smurfs (108 males : 3 females), Transformers (20+ : 3), Gummi bears (4 : 2), Denver (5 : 2), TMNT (5+ : 1), D&D (5 : 3), ThunderCats (5 : 2), Captain Planet (4 : 3), Tigersharks (7+ : 2), Rescue Rangers (4 : 1). The only exception is Care Bears (15+ : 17+).

6. The kid in the group of adults/teens. Eg: Cubbi in Gummi Bears, Bobby in D&D, Casey in Denver, WilyKat & WilyKit in ThunderCats, Bronc & Angel in Tigersharks, Spike in Transformers.

7. The rude, proud or grouchy group member. Eg: Raphael in TMNT, Eric in D&D, Grouchy Smurf in Smurfs, Mario in Denver, Gruffi in Gummi Bears.

8. There are a lot of cartoons with little people. Eg: Smurfs, The Littles, Gummi Bears, Rescue Rangers, Care Bears.

9. There has to be an episode with a certain theme. Eg: episodes in space, travelling back in time, underwater, underground, etc.

10. A lot of the cartoon characters live in trees, underwater or underground. Eg: Gummi Bears, Smurfs, TMNT, Tigersharks.


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Movies Seen: Alexander Revisited & Mongol

Saw two epics recently. Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut is Oliver Stone's preferred version of the Alexander movie, as compared to his previous two versions - the normal 2 and a half hour theatre/DVD one and the director's cut (8 mins less than the first). This new version is 3 and a half hours long, with footage not shown in theaters or either of the previous two DVDs. This is in fact how Oliver Stone wanted Alexander to be viewed. One wonders why he didn't just release this version in the first place? Maybe he felt American & international audiences aren't used to 3 and a half hour long movies? I know Indian audiences certainly are.

This version is definitely better than the first two, which just seemed like a series of unrelated shots strung together, lending a feeling of incompleteness to the whole movie. This version seems fuller and more complete. True, certain flaws still remain. The question of motive, what drives Alexander on and on, hasn't been answered, and the movie does taper off towards the end. But it is the best of all three versions so far, and a definite improvement.

Mongol details the early life of Genghis Khan, from his childhood to the time he becomes the leader of all Mongols, and sets off to expand his territories.

Directed by Sergei Bodrov and released in 2007, the action scenes are extremely well choreographed.

Without taking anything away from these two movies (which are both extremely good), both are about men who lusted for power and land. They wanted to control and to own, and waged war in order to do so. What motives do men use nowadays to justify war and killing?

Movies like these make men who killed others look like heroes; we tend to get caught up in the romanticism of the hero's vision, and focus less on their flaws. But characterisation aside, I wonder if we can look objectively at Alexander or Genghis Khan and judge for ourselves what kind of people they were. We know that some of their actions were barbaric, and their motives were probably noble. Of course, we can't judge them accurately without some kind of historical context.

Moving on to today's world, one wonders what separates those conquerors from the men of today who also use violent means to get their (supposedly noble) points across?


Friday, 5 December 2008


Watched Christiane Amanpour on The Tonight Show last night. Noted that she made some interesting observations. When asked by host Jay Leno to give the audience some perspective on the Mumbai terror attacks, she was able to concisely describe the historical Kashmir conflict and how alleged elements within Pakistan carried out the attack. I was pleasantly surprised when, in the same breath, she also quickly stated that it was wrong for Americans to think that the attacks were all about foreign targets as most of those killed were Indians.

Other interesting observations were about the security at the Taj not being adequate enough at the time of the attacks, her belief about terrorists hitting softer targets, that the U.S celebrations after Obama won were reminiscent of a foreign country having it's first ever democratic election, Hillary Clinton being an instantly recognisable star around the world, about the ebbs and flows of Iran's' President Ahmadinejad's popularity and the politics behind it, Iran's anger at being included in the Axis of Evil, and about Iran and the U.S possibly having a close relationship in 30 years.

But getting back to the Mumbai attack thing, I'm glad she made that statement. I've noticed that a lot of people who aren't familiar with the region and it's politics and those who depend on CNN for their coverage tend to emphasise more on the international aspect of the attack i.e the foreign targets, possibly because the western media tends to do so as well, sometimes to the extent that they believe the whole point of the attack was to target foreigners in Mumbai, which is inaccurate. They tend to ignore the fact that out of the 10 locations attacked, only 3 constituted cases where foreigners were segregated, and even there, more Indians were killed. True, foreigners being targetted is an important part and a unique characteristic of this particular attack, but just a part nonetheless and not the beginning and end of the attack. It would do well for the Americans and British to understand this, and their media needs to play a larger role in facilitating this.

On another note, I hope all Americans aren't as dumb as those who appear on the 'Battle of the Jaywalk Allstars'. I mean, if they are, I fear for their country. I saw this movie recently called Idiocracy, directed by Mike Judge, and it spooked me tremendously.

To movie starts with an explanation about how dumb people outbreed smart people in the U.S, resulting in a population of more dumb than smart people over time. We then see an Average Joe (Luke Wilson) taking part in an experiment where he's put into a time capsule to be woken up in a year. Something goes wrong, and he's woken up after 500 years, only to realise he's now the smartest man in the U.S, and its only saviour.


Thursday, 4 December 2008


The big non cooperation rally at the Gateway was yesterday. I was sick so couldn't make it. Watched it on T.V though, and am heartened to see that other Mumbaikars are also not going to take this lying down, that they've also had enough of this. Some interesting suggestions to come out of the rally were not paying taxes anymore until we're assured of security and having a dry day for politicians i.e one day with no security for them.

In other news, the Maharashtra CM has resigned and a replacement is being found. That's the third head to roll so far. The bad news is that they're saying his successor will probably be S.K. Shinde or N. Rane, both of whom are equally bad.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister A.K Antony has warned of possible air attacks.

Pakistan rejected India's offer to deport 20 most wanted criminals yesterday, saying they'd be tried in Pakistani courts if found, not exactly a surprising response. You do have your country's honour to uphold and can't give in to any neighbouring country's orders. But from India's perspective, it looks like just another Pakistani backtrack, after the cancellation of the ISI chief's visit earlier. When Foreign Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was asked about the refusal, his response was "Ha?What?" Truly a lesson in eloquence. This man is a joke and needs to be fired!

I was watching the press conference with Mukherjee and C. Rice yesterday. She chose to tread a careful line, making it clear that Pakistan had a major role to play (Oh really?!?) and saying in not so clear tones that India had to be careful about jumping the gun and inviting unintended consequences as the long term goal was to prevent terrorism in the first place and not just to respond to it. Mukherjee just seemed to splutter all through the conference, and like Condy, didn't answer any question directly.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Enough is Enough - What you can do

I’ve written this post keeping in mind the fact that there’s a lot of anger and helplessness going around following the attacks in Mumbai this week and we need a place to channel this. These are the actions I suggest.

Since my posts are usually read by an average of 2 people (including me), I’d like to say that if anyone stumbles upon this blog, please do whatever you can to bring these actions to reality :-) I’m certainly going to.

And if you need a reason for my blog’s poor readership, well, this blog was set up to cater to me and not an audience. I write for myself, to keep a log of my life. This is in fact, my last guard against Alzheimer’s :-)

Seriously though, here goes…I've split my actions up into three main responsibilities.

My Actions:

1. The Letter

Read the letter below, edit it if you wish, and send it to the editors of all Indian newspapers, magazines, trade journals, etc. using both email and snail mail urging them to re print it in their publications, be they paper or online.

Also, as media houses have contacts in the highest places, ask them to forward this letter to as many people as they can, especially the ones with influence. Forward this letter to your friends and any contacts you may have in the govt. as well. Let’s start a movement.

You may copy and paste this in your emails and are free to edit this as much as you want. The only rights I retain are bragging ones - I was the first to write this. Well, actually, my letter is an amalgamation of my and other blogger's and friend's thoughts :-)

The Letter:

Subject: Enough is Enough

We, the citizens of India, demand the following from our leaders:

a. Accountability

Ø Immediate:

· We demand to know how the attacks in Mumbai were allowed to happen. Wasn’t security strengthened after 7/11? Where was security at C.S.T?

· Where was the intelligence gathering network? Why didn’t they spot an operation this huge? Why weren’t any of the terrorist’s cell conversations tapped? What use is all the cellular and satellite technology we boast of if we can’t use it appropriately?

To quote Vir Sanghvi:

…it is utterly and completely bizarre that while we whine about the Home Ministry, the intelligence establishment gets off scot-free even as Indians are murdered on the streets.
It is impossible for the police to guard every building or check every passenger. All over the world, terrorism is fought through intelligence. A good security service penetrates terrorist cells, monitors radio traffic and picks up intelligence about terrorist activity.
The Bombay attacks prove that we have the worst intelligence service of any major power in the world. These attacks were meticulously planned, involved two dozen attackers, many more terrorists in back-up roles, vast quantities of arms and ammunition and, probably, crores in funding.
Yet, our intelligence services had no idea that such an attack was being planned. Clearly, intelligence is the last quality that we should associate with our spymasters.

· Why didn’t Mumbai have any commandos of it’s own to deal with the attacks?

· We demand that inquiries be launched against incompetence across the board. The ministers and babus found guilty get sacked, tried in court, sent to jail and have ALL their assets confiscated.

Ø Long Term

· We demand the withdrawal of all perks given to the bureaucracy and political class. Take away all the free stuff like phones, cars, flights, houses, etc. and let them live on fixed salaries to see how the common man lives, with car payments, EMI’s, phone bills, house rents, water bills, electricity bills, no free lunches, and yes, private security bills as well, etc.

· We demand that a process be put in place that monitors the performance of all babu’s and ministers, much like PA’s in the corporate world. Those who don’t perform, get penalized (with their salaries taken back), sacked, and have inquiries launched against them, with jail terms to follow.

b. Leadership

· We demand that real leaders step forward to take charge of not just difficult situations like these but all political and administrative governance from now on - we’re sick and tired of being ruled by a bunch of nose digging, paan-chewing, tired, lazy, fat, oily, pot belied, squabbling, middle-aged men with poor priorities.

· We demand that our leaders put the interests of the nation first, instead of being swayed by diplomatic messages and delegates from the U.S or Pakistan after every attack. They have their own people’s interests in mind and we should have our’s.

· We demand that every leader be secular, and that fellow citizens reject any politician who spews religious or casteist undertones.

· We demand a comprehensive communal violence bill.

· We demand that fellow citizens vote for sensible candidates who are willing to put their differences aside, and even sacrifice their pride for the people of India. If there are no good candidates, vote not to vote.

c. Infrastructure

· We demand that the govt. increase the budget for public transport. We are tired of being packed like sardines in trains and buses in most metros. If there’s a cash shortfall, money for this should be taken from politician’s pockets and from fines levied on smoking, drunk driving, spitting, etc.

· We are not happy with Rs. 1000 fines. The minimum fine for smoking in public, drunk driving, spitting or littering should be 1 lakh.

· We are not happy with simple jail terms. There have been cases where thieves have been arrested and jailed for the same crime 20 times. This is disgusting, unacceptable and indicates a failure in judicial reform. If a person is found guilty of the same type of crime twice, give him a life term in jail where he’s forced to learn a skill, be productive, and contribute to the economy. It’s time for draconian measures.

· We demand that the central govt. diverts more funds to Mumbai, as Mumbai is the govt’s cash cow.

d. Security

· We demand that the security budget be increased and police reforms put in place. The security forces and police need better weapons, equipment and training to deal with attacks.

· We demand that the heads of security and intelligence forces are replaced and headed with intelligent people who can improve coordination and sharing intelligence information.

· We demand that our leaders have the guts to target terrorists, even if they’re hiding out in a neighbouring country. That’s what satellite imagery and missiles are for.

· We demand the presence of a rapid action security force like the NSG and Navy seals in every metro.

· We demand that every fascist extremist militant organisation in the country is crushed once and for all, no matter what religion or noble creed they represent.


The people of India

2. Sensitivity while blogging

Please refer to Gaurav Mishra's post on how to blog and comment appropriately and intelligently.

3. General actions for citizens
  • Be more aware of your surroundings - report any suspicious behaviour immediately to the police.
  • Crush corruption everywhere.

If anyone has anything to add to the 3 areas, I'd be grateful.


Monday, 1 December 2008

RR Patil Resigns

If it was Shivraj Patil, our not so venerable Central Home Minister who faced the music yesterday (and was replaced by Finance Minister Chidambaram, the PM in turn taking over the Finance portfolio), the second head on the chopping block seems to be our Dy CM, RR Patil, who apparently says he quit today on his own and without any pressure. That is to say, no pressure other than the 200 dead bodies piled up on his conscience.

For my part, I'm still piecing together a set of actions that will let me and other people know what exactly they can do to avoid attacks like these in the future and increase accountability. I'm disappointed in the total lack of leadership in this situation. There seems to be a collective feeling of anger and a sense of being let down by our elected representatives, yet not one of them has come forward to offer an outlet for this anger, to let us know what exactly we can do or what role we ordinary citizens can play to improve the present situation.


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Home Minister Resigns

Right, first off, I'm glad that our Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, is gone. What I'm not glad about is that he's off the hook so easily. There has to be some kind of accountability measure in place to ensure that he's done justice to his time in office, which I seriously doubt he has, and if that's the case, to ensure that he cools his heels in jail for a while due to incompetence. The same goes for all the others down the line who've failed in their duty to the nation. They need to have their belongings confiscated and sold off to pay off part of the damages from the terrorist attack. Also, I'm not happy that he's being turned into a scapegoat. Fingers need to be pointed in many directions, but right now, he's the only one in the blame limelight.

I have also found this blog, written by someone directly affected by the attack. Makes for interesting reading. I've been glued to a lot of blogs over the past few days. Blogs like John P Matthew, Gauravonomics, Desi Pundit, Death Ends Fun, Mumbai MetBlogs, and India Uncut have all kept me informed and opinionated.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Siege Over

The siege at the Taj, the only place which was still occupied by terrorists, ended this morning. More bodies have been found, and a total of 18 foreigners and 16 security personnel are now dead. No word yet on the number of Indian dead at the Taj, but the toll so far is 195.

Travelling to work yesterday was normal - the trains were packed as usual, though the usual banter and fighting was missing. Around lunchtime, rumours began to spread of fresh firing on the Central line, giving most people an opportunity to coax their bosses into letting them leave office early, resulting in me catching an almost empty train back home at 7.15, reminiscent of the train situation when there's a 'flood panic' on a really rainy day during the monsoon.

On another note, Gaurav Mishra has written a pretty informative post on the emergence of Twitter over blogging as an effective tool for citizen journalism using social media.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Terror Strike Update

As of now most of the anti terror operations seem to have come to a close and most hostages have been rescued. reports as of 10.17 P.M that the operations at Nariman House are over, with 5 hostages and 2 terrorists found dead. I'll bet that the Jewish hostages Israel were concerned about were among those 5. 15 policemen and 2 NSG personnel have lost their lives so far in operations across all sites, and fighting is still continuing at the Taj. The Trident has been freed, though the overall death toll has now risen to over 150.

The rescue efforts have not however prevented criticism (from Israel) and criticism about the Home Minister (from the U.S). The Home Minister seems to have also taken a well deserved beating on Rakesh Jhunjhunwalas's blog. I fail to understand a few things: One, how did just a handful of terrorists get into what were supposed to be well guarded locations. Where was security? Two, why are we so lax on terrorism. If the U.S can launch attacks on Pakistani soil, why can't we destroy terrorist camps in PoK? We're being ruled by a bunch of spineless politicians I'm afraid.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Terrorists attack Mumbai

Terrorists seem to have attacked Mumbai again - this time at at least 9 different places. I first saw the news on T.V last night - hostages had been taken at the Taj hotel near the Gateway, and a fire seemed to be raging in one part of the hotel. Another attack (a shooting) took place at CS.T and there were reports of a blast at Vile Parle.

Woke up this morning to find that not much has changed. Despite some people being rescued, many still seem to be trapped both in the Taj and the Trident (Oberoi). Almost 100 people have been killed so far in shootings. The advisory today is stay indoors so I won't be going to work today. I'm feeling safe but also quite helpless.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Trek to the SGNP highest point

Went to the SGNP on Sunday for a trek to its highest point, organised by the BNHS. Met up with BD and PV at Borivli Stn. and walked to the park in time to meet the rest of the group at 7.30 A.M.

Took a few pics of these flowers near the entrance before boarding the BNHS bus to Kanheri.

With around 60 people attending, the bus had to make two trips, automatically splitting us up into two groups, ours being led by Sunjoy Monga, the other by Sanal Nair.

It normally takes two hours to walk to the caves from the park entrance; going there by bus only took us 15 mins. We were there by 8.00 A.M, long before the caves usually get crowded. At that early morning hour, we got to see the Kanheri caves as perhaps the Buddhists themselves saw them over a thousand years ago - silent and beautiful.

A quick brisk walk from the caves to a little hillock that comprised the halfway mark left us feeling quite refreshed. This is a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

The hill we were on consisted of black rock strewn with straw like vegetation, and was quite open, with a lot of breeze near its edges. We sat and rested here for a few minutes before looking around and taking pictures.

An interesting thing about the place we were on was that, from the end where we had climbed up, we could see the outline of the city bordering the park.

And from the other end, we could see both the Tulsi and Vihar lakes back to back.

There were a lot of Cacti formations on the hill.

This one had a spiders web on it.

We continued our way upwards, into what soon became a proper forest, with a canopy above us for the most part. Among the interesting things we saw here were many funnel spider webs.

A lone flowering plant that we couldn't identify.

And ant hills shaped like flowers.

We took a break in the forest before continuing onwards and upwards, at which point I managed to get a photo of almost the whole group.

Leaving the forest behind, and after a short walk through Karvi, we came to the highest point (486 metres), from where we could see 3 lakes (Tulsi, Vihar and Powai) in a row.

Rested here for a while before going back down. As it is with most large groups on a trek, descending invariably splits them up into smaller groups. BD, PV and I somehow deviated slightly from the original route on the way back down and ended up to the right of the caves. But we soon found our way back to the main path, despite the complicated maze like cave system.

There was some confusion getting transport to the main gate as our bus had parked in a clearing a little way ahead from where it had dropped us near the caves in the morning. Security wouldn't let them drive up to the caves in the afternoon, and most of the group, not knowing this, seemed to be waiting for the bus near the caves. We had already walked to the clearing and, tired of waiting for the rest of the group to figure out the situation and arrive, hopped into a BEST bus (they were running services that day because of a Buddhist meeting at the caves), which dropped us to the main gate, where we left the park, and went to a restaurant across the highway, whose power cut off the minute we took our seats. I had a chilled drink while my friends gorged on lunch Thalis; we then walked to the station and parted, promising to trek again soon.


Saturday, 22 November 2008


Stuffed myself with noodles for dinner on Fri night. MD and H happened to drop by and, after a visit to a local barber, we went to this lounge place in I.C. called Cosmic.

The place was terrible. The alcohol list didn't have any cocktails, but they agreed to make us a few after we asked them. Why would they not advertise something that they offer? Cocktail prices were really high as well. The waiter couldn't describe an item on the dessert list to us, inspite of the fact that there were just 5 items on the list. There was also some confusion over the type of Biryani they make. The food took a helluva long time to arrive, so long that the starters arrived at the same time as the main course. I'm not going back there.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fading Away

Great blogs don't die, they just fade away...

I've noticed that a few of my favourite blogs (that also happen to be very well written) have been winding up recently, with few explanations provided.

The first one to bite the dust was A walk in the Clouds. Meghalomania's last post was on May 2, after which she and her alter ego's have stayed mysteriously silent.

And the next one was
The Voice in my Head - Melody Laila shut shop on Aug 16 after some divine intervention.

Wonder which one's next.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Elephanta Trip

Went to Elephanta island on Sunday.

Woke up at 5.15 A.M. Left home a little before 6.00. Bought a return ticket to Churchgate at Borivli station. Took the 6.18 slow. Got off a Dadar at 7.00. Met PV and BD at 7.15 and took a cab to the BNHS office together, which we reached at 7.30, and registered. Walked to the Gateway with the group.

Took a ferry to Elephanta. Enjoyed the one hour long ride to the island. Being November, it was hot but the breeze that accompanied the ferry ride was quite refreshing.

Passed an oil tanker on the way to the island, and private boats as well.

Reached Elephanta and walked along the long wharf to the mainland.

Also saw some fishing boats.

The island is mostly made up of hills and we had to walk up a long series of steps to get to the top, where all the real action is. Traders were selling touristy wares on both sides of this path.

The point towards the top where the stairway ends is a sort of junction, with a left turn going into secluded forest area and the path straight ahead leading into the famous Elephanta cave complex. We, however, turned left to begin our birdwatching trip.

The path we took soon led us to a lake, where we saw a number of birds.

The path went on past a village and ended at the coast.

Where one of our guides, Vinod Patil, managed to catch this beautiful creature.

PV and I did go see the caves later, marvelling at the large and beautiful structures cut into the hill, and the amount of time and effort it must have taken to do that. Couldn't take any pictures unfortunately since my camera batteries were too low.
Had lunch at an MTDC restaurant on the island (average food, poor service) and finally took a ferry back to Mumbai at 2.30.

Friday, 14 November 2008

An Englishman in Mumbai

Visited this blog recently. It's written by a British man who visits Mumbai. As always, it's interesting to note the difference in perspectives between cultures. I especially like the fact that the blog isn't biased and is as fair as can be.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Movie Seen: The Last Emperor

Saw The Last Emperor at Zenzi on the 2nd. The movie, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and released in 1987, fits the definition of an epic, or a biopic, since it details the life of the last emperor of China, a man who was more or less a prisoner and used by other people, for their own purposes, for most of his life.


Monday, 3 November 2008

Life in Muscat

A recent bout of browsing through a number of Muscat centered blogs has encouraged me to write this post. I’ve noted down snippets, from my memory, of the first 17 years of my life that I happened to spend in Muscat (1983 – 2000), to remind me of what a great place it was.

Life in General

Living in air conditioned splendour 24/7. Air conditioning everywhere I went.

Looking out from a window in my air conditioned room at the land around me getting baked in the afternoon sun and p
utting my hand up against the window to get a sense of the heat outside while being grateful that I didn’t have to worry about it.

Travelling everywhere by car. Walking was rare. I think I only learned the joys of walking in Mumbai.

Travelling to any place by car in just a few minutes with no traffic jams. A far cry from the 1 hr 30 min average it takes to travel from one point in Mumbai to another.

Visiting the malls. They were the best places to meet up with friends, though I had to be driven there by my Father. Ditto for the cinema or any other place.

Reading 'Young Times', a youth magazine, whose subscribers used to constantly request posters of Michael Jackson, WWE superstars, and SRK.



Gorging on Pofac cheese bites and Chips Oman. We didn't like them all that much but everyone else was having them, and there weren't that many other options.

Vimto, Ribena and Tang.

Buying Suntop juice packs, Nabil wafers, etc. just for the stickers.


Watching cartoons, T.V series and late night movies on the one channel we had – Oman T.V.

Waking up in time to catch the morning cartoons during our summer holidays. This was usually in Arabic but we didn’t care.

Watching Takeshi’s Castle in Arabic during late mornings in the summer. These were the full episodes and not the heavily edited ones they show on Pogo.

Trying not to fall asleep in the afternoon so we could catch the afternoon cartoon or show, which was either in English (Tiger Sharks, Popeye, Sesame Street, Crystal Maze, etc.) or Arabic (Voltron, Captain Planet, The Smurfs, etc.). I’m probably one of the few people to see Captain Planet in 3 languages – English, Hindi and Arabic.

Being frustrated every time the afternoon English cartoon was abruptly cut off so that the next show on Oman T.V could begin at its designated time slot. We often missed the endings of the English cartoons this way, but it didn’t stop us from partaking in the same will it-won’t it agony every day as it was all we had.

Going to my friend's homes once a week to watch shows like Small Wonder, G.I Joe, etc. on Star T.V. because my parents chose not to subscribe to cable. As time went on, Star T.V turned desi.

Rushing in from my games in the evenings so I could catch the sole evening cartoon, then going outside to continue playing hoping my friends were still there.

Watching the evening English serial. I saw shows like That's Incredible, Guiness World Records, The Cosby Show, Perfect Strangers, Who’s the Boss, Charles in Charge, Misfits of Science, Open House, Night Court, Alf, Valerie, Bustin’ Loose, Benson, He’s the Mayor, Step by Step, Good Morning Miss Bliss, Adam 12, Dragnet, Empty Nest, Uncle Buck, Generations, Mission Impossible, Our House, Sidekicks, Road to Avonlea, You Bet Your Life, Webster, etc. In our case the best of the 80’s was broadcast during the 90’s.

Finally getting cable when I was in the 8th or 9th Standard. Being addicted to TNT (later TCM) and watching almost every old Hollywood movie they showed.

Watching the channels taking the digital and more expensive route one by one when I came back to Muscat for a holiday in 2001.

Using the VCR to record shows when we were away from home.


Going for Catechism classes and Mass every Friday Morning, carrying a crinkly noisy little plastic bag with a Bible, notebook and pencil or pen.

Feeling a tinge of pride walking into catechism class, the class levels being marked 4 grades higher than our school grades, so we could attend the 7th grade at school and the 11th grade at Catechism in the same year.

Getting a new Catechism teacher every year, some of whom also doubled up as teachers at our school.

Always being told interesting stories during catechism class and the children’s mass with a moral at the end.

Attending Youth Mass and Catechism on Thursday evening instead of Friday morning as we got older.

Being driven back home from church in stupendous heat every Friday late morning in a car with no air conditioning and wishing we could dive into the fountain roundabout that we drove around each time we left the church.

Always scoring well on a Catechism test…always, and wishing my school test scores were that good.


Feeling a tinge of pride at being part of the CBSE syllabus.

Seeing the same faces year upon year for 11 years of school.

Having my classmates faces imprinted in my mind, so that I still see them as little kids rather than the adults they are now.

Wrapping new books in brown paper at the start of every academic year.

Getting older student’s old textbooks before the start of a new academic year so we could save money by not buying new ones.

Excitedly leafing through at the upcoming academic year’s textbooks, reading all the stories in the English Reader and looking at all the pictures in the science books during the summer holidays before the new year began.

Pencil boxes that transformed into robots.

Making that switch from pencils to pens during the 5th standard. Cheap 'Hero' Chinese fountain pens.

Putting the ACs on full blast after coming in from PT.

Do you have any Gulf memories that you'd like to share?