Message in a Bottle

Moving – Lock, Stock, and Barrel

 As a blogger, one takes great satisfaction in knowing that one is being read. Live Journal, with its friends list and extremely user friendly comments system guaranteed a certain audience to even the sorriest of my posts. However, it is now trying very hard to push me away and this morning, it succeeded. 

While trying out Chrome, I realized that unless I am logged in to LJ, I see tons of ugly ads on my page. Now, I have the basic account, with no extra user icons, that promises an ad-free Web page. So why is that everyone else can see ads on my web page? 

I am going to miss it. I am going to miss you and come back hoping to find a new post by you. But I am moving nonetheless. If you care, you can find me here. 

I shall probably see you on some social networking site. Until then, be good.

Message in a Bottle

A Bad-day Gone Good

I stared at my wristwatch that struck quarter to ten as I stepped off the train. "I am going to be late," I thought miserably. As I made my way to the taxi stand, I noticed a long queue of passengers and a non-existent one of cabs. I sighed and counted that I was tenth in the row. The rain continued to pour down with all earnestness and all eyes were on the passing cabs. Time crawled. I waited. After a good fifteen minutes wait, I found myself at the front of the still very long queue. Finally, irritated at this unhappy beginning of my day, I ducked to get into my cab and muttered my destination without looking up.

As I adjusted my seatbelt, I heard “Achha.
My head jerked up and lips curled in a surprised smile. In the rear view mirror, I could see a middle-aged happy Chinese face. “Namaste,” it said.
“Namaste!” I responded smiling wider this time.
Kahana jaoo ge?” he was grinning this time because he already knew my destination.
“Where did you learn such good Hindi?” I asked extremely impressed by his pronunciation.
“From my ex girlfriend who was from India.” He quipped happily. “But my Tamilian girlfriend does not teach me any Tamil.” With this, he launched into a full-fledged conversation about how the young kids speak Singlish, which he does not approve of and insists on speaking proper English.

He then questioned me about India and had me flabbergasted. Unlike most other people, his knowledge was not limited to Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. He told me how he wants to go to Goa, Assam, Sikkim, Hyderabad, and Jodhpur. However, he would not even think of driving in Mumbai, especially during lunch hours. “What is special about the lunch hour?” I ask “The dabba-walas!” he tells me, probably chiding me for my ignorance in his head but aloud he continued to tell me about how the travel agents only want him to see Delhi and Taj Mehal, not good enough for him.

The eight-minute drive to work was too short but it did a wonderful job of lifting my spirits and as I paid him the fare and got out, “Thank you,” I said. “It was great talking to you.”

“Thanks. Can you see why I have many girlfriends?” he smiled, his wrinkled eyes twinkling.

I wish I could be like him and spread joy so effortlessly.

Note to Self: Flag down cab number SH 7551M wherever you see it.
Message in a Bottle

My Hunt for the Veggies

Eating lunch has become an adventure ever since I moved countries. Happily, it is usually an exciting adventure unless it is a Tuesday. On Tuesdays, I eat vegetarian food. Now, going by the variety of veggies I see in the grocery stores, getting some vegetarian grub should not be a trouble at all. So why is that I have to struggle every Tuesday and discover places like the cafeteria of S.P. Jain Institute of Management Studies to have lunch?

Because it is the definition of vegetarian food which is amiss. When a Singaporean says vegetarian food, it means food with lots of veggies, along with the meat. So, the Vegetarian Rice counter in my local food court specializes in fish head curry, with loads of veggies on the side. It is very amusing, really. I have colleagues who often want to know what all is included in vegetarian food – “Is fish vegetarian?”  “And eggs?” “What about cheese?” Many believe that if it is not beef or pork, it is vegetarian. Now, they are not wrong. Well, they are wrong but it is not their fault. I remember that during my visit to Phuket, the guide had explained that hey had two kinds of food for us – regular and vegetarian.

Despite these varied definitions, I notice that 80% of Indians in Singapore are vegetarians, which is a big mystery to me. Back home, I am usually the only person lining up for vegetarian food, with at most two to give me company in a group of ten. In the same fashion, I notice that 80% of Indian women dress up in traditional clothes here, while the figure drops hugely back home. I am wondering aloud, in case you have any idea.
Message in a Bottle

Sweet Memories

We were supposed to wear our white physical training uniform on the day, despite whichever day of the week it was. And for a reason too. The white us made the whole school turn into an ocean of white foam.

Every year on the Independence Day, we would go to the school for an hour. Empty handed, we would march straight to the assembly area and line up for the action. To be truthful, I was never too excited about the longish speech by the principal but the rest of it was fun. Patriotic group songs by each house – Raman, Tagore, Ashoka, and Shivajee – followed the speech and then the chief guest would hoist the flag and we would sing the national anthem. Although, singing the national anthem was a part of our daily assembly at school, it was always special on days like this. The drum beat was louder, the voices were stronger; it all seemed to have a meaning for a change.

The best part came in the end. As we would make our way out of the assembly area, the teachers would hand each of us a brown paper bag with a laddoo and a samosa inside. Such happiness for us little kids.

Happy Independence Day. :]

Message in a Bottle

|| The Meeting ||

She was exhausted by the heat and by changing multiple buses. Not a very good thing when one is appearing for a job interview, she thought as she looked around herself. The receptionist sat behind a high wooden desk, only her extremely fair face with brightly painted lips visible. The phone kept ringing non-stop. Behind the glass door that separated the reception area from the work area, she could see the regular hustle-bustle of a busy Monday morning.

There was another person waiting besides her. He was busy reading the newspaper as she sat back and scrutinized him. Around her age, this boy was dressed causally in blue jeans and an orange check shirt. And sneakers. Lines formed on her forehead as she wondered if he was here for an interview as well. But who dresses so casually for an interview? She was soon distracted by the absence of the interviewer. She had tried to be smart and had clubbed two interviews that morning. Well, it was the sensible thing to do since they were both in the same area, which was in general very far from where she lived.

As she sat there hoping for an interviewer to emerge from behind the glass door, the orange-shirted boy ruffled the newspaper, the receptionist talked on the phone, and the clock ticked. When someone did walk out from behind the glass door, the big needle of the clock had completed half of its hourly journey.

She then found herself being ushered into a meeting room with an oval table and chairs all around it. A fat wad of sheets was thrust under her nose and she was told that she had two hours to finish the test. She took a deep breath and began reading the test paper. In two minutes time, the door opened again and the orange-shirted boy walked in with a fat wad of papers in his hand. She looked up and smiled. He smiled back.

An hour had passed as she sat engrossed in writing the paper when the door opened again and another girl walked in with another fat wad of papers in her hands. She looked at the two occupants of the room but did not let her expression change at all. She took a seat as far as possible from the other two people.

There were still twenty minutes to go before her allotted two hours came to an end. Her paper was done. Almost. There was this one silly question carrying one mark that she could not figure out. Could she leave it? Leave a question unanswered when she had time! How could she? But she must hurry or else she would be late for her next interview. She looked around the room. The new girl was writing her paper and her expression was still the same as it had been when she had entered the room. She then looked at the boy. He sat across from her. In comparison to the girl, he looked much favorable. She cleared her throat and said, “Excuse me,” he looked up.

“What is the distance formula?” she knew that this was an extremely simple, and hence stupid, question and was slightly pink as she looked at him hopefully.

He looked at her for a very short moment and then said, “Oh, are you talking about question 32? But see, you do not need the distance formula. It is a trick question and the answer is there in the question itself. The correct answer is the time specified in the question. Option C.” He smiled. She gave him her fake smile in return and he got back to his paper.

What the…! Speed x Time or Speed / Time was all she had wanted to know! She had asked him a question and he had told her everything except what she had asked. Slightly embarrassed by her own impulsive query and angry at his helpful response, she ticked option C and left the room.

Back in the reception area, she handed her paper to the receptionist and thought that she should forget about this vaguely humiliating and hugely anger-provoking experience. She tried to calm herself down for the next round. After all, what were the chances that she would see that orange-shirted stranger again?

Can you guess the chances?
Message in a Bottle

Ponderings of an Idle Mind

When I had picked up his first book, I appreciated its simple words and very relatable descriptions. I could see that Chetan Bhagat does not write fantastically but he could entertain for a short while. In hindsight, we may call his book average, which it may be, but when it had first come out many enjoyed a few hours of Five Point Someone. Sadly, I cannot say this for his second book and the reason of its success eludes me just like that of the movie Raja Hindustani. Seriously, that movie perplexes me even after 12 years of its release.

All said and done, I remain a fan of Indian fiction and if a book comes for mere Rs. 95, I tend to pick it up, even if to only satisfy my curiosity. So on one such curious May afternoon, I picked up The 3 Mistakes of My Life. I finished reading it today. If that does not say enough about the book, nothing else can.

Although nine volumes of teenage romance-drama, three fantasy graphic novels, a classic, a fantasy novel, and a few Manga comics punctuated my reading, I did manage to finish this book at last. I started reading Bhagat’s third book right after I had finished a couple of Agatha Christies. His bad luck that his ordinary writing got compared to an enriching piece. However, as I finished this book, I realized that in this very ordinary writing and in the choice of events, situations, and characters lies the secret of success of his not-so-great books.

I know many voracious readers who have to think for a moment before they can place Chetan Bhagat but I also know many more people who usually do not read but have read Bhagat’s books. They have also invariably read The Da Vinci Code.

Bhagat writes about India as it is right now and thus strikes a cord with the busy gen-y (is it still gen-y or have we reached gen-z?) He writes for the teenagers and twenty-somethings who do not care about books in general but flip through the newspapers twice a week and pick up their favorite sports/fashion magazine every other month. He speaks their language, he talks about what they have seen and not about what they heard from their parents or read in the history books.

So despite the ordinary writing, wafer-thin story line, and a repeat performance of the storyteller stunt, I can see that this book is going to do fairly well. The book (are you worried about spoilers?) gets into the Bhuj earthquake, Twin Towers, and Godhra riots; a brilliant period to pick up for a masala book, if you ask me. Anyone who is a little generous with ones emotions will feel strongly at one point or the other. For me the moment was when I heard about the Ahmedabad blasts while I was in midst of this book on Saturday.

So although you can write off Chetan Bhagat as quality writer, he possesses a definite knack for writing books that will sell. Raja Hindustani, however, still remains a mystery.

Message in a Bottle

I See

Look up from the screen and describe what you see.

I see a sea of heads, faces hidden behind their computer screens. Up close, I see an empty water bottle, a tiny Yoda figurine, a visitor’s pass, a Starbucks coffee mug, a red and black pen, a yellow A4 size notebook, my Motorola phone, a tin of Impact mints.

Can you tell I am bored?

Message in a Bottle

News Bites

Yesterday was a good Sunday, which was superbly welcome after the terrible Saturday (we clean on Saturday.) A couple of friends, who are also a couple, surprised the husband by dropping in. From India. Awesome. Merriment ensued.

Now that I finally have a girl to walk around with in this shopping heaven, I must get down to doing all things girlie. We shall begin with a manicure; while I get tiny stars painted on my nails, she is opting for fish.

In other news, I tried octopus yesterday. Cannot say I am a fan or even close but well, it is now on records that it has been done.

Now I meet another friend, who is red and has newly arrived in the seafood land, for lunch. What’s more, she is here to stay. Happiness.
Message in a Bottle

They are an Attitude.

Last month Singapore saw its first official Toy and Comic Convention – STCC ’08. While there was a lot of coolness that transpired and would make an engaging long-ass post that no one is going to read, I am going to concentrate only on Blythe today.

First, what is Blythe?

Blythe is a doll designed by Allison Katzman in the 1970s. The main feature of the doll used to be her eyes – large and beautiful – that changed colors by a pull of a string. However, the dolls did not do very well and sold only for one year in America. As all great things, Blythe also became extremely popular after 30 years and the production began again in 2004.

Priced expensively, the doll teased me in different styles from this stall in STCC. I was saved only by my camera.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

She WalksUnder her UmbrellaRich DollyMerrily Merrily Merrily
Let's Hit the BeachNo Talking in My ClassItsy Bitsy Teeny WeenySurfs Up
BlondieMy Favorite PJsWhere is My Veil?Punky Kid
Message in a Bottle

Eating Chinese without Manchurian

Despite Chinese being (one of?) the most popular cuisines world wide, an average Chinese cannot eat well outside his/her country.

I have come to understand that every country has its own version of Chinese food. India does, I know for a fact. English and Americans have also customized Chinese food, I learned from books and friends. So much so, that Little India in Singapore has restaurants that claim to serve “Indian Chinese Food.” Very amusing that Chinese have never heard of most of the dishes that are passed off as Chinese food at my favorite Chinese restaurant back home.

I am very proud of the fact that I can actually eat and enjoy proper Chinese food now. The first couple of times were not very easy. The smell put me off but it was usually an eat-this-or-go-hungry situation and then the taste grew on me. My Chinese colleagues, on rare occasions when we eat together, find it very strange that I can eat Chinese food. “Because Indians only eat from Indian restaurants,” they say.

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