In Search of a Better World

In Search of a Better World
Soul Searcher

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Those were the days my friend

Long long ago I was tagged by Maradhi Manni to share the music I like. I thought that the best way to return to the blogosphere was to compile a list of my favourites from English Music from the days gone by.

I would start with “Imagine” by John Lennon which delivers a timeless message in the typical Lennon Style.
John Denver had a unique way of delivering country music in a way which really struck a chord with listeners like me and this one though not about the country is a nice love song.
Johnny Cash was another voice I grew up with and the stories and ballads he sang are still with me. Man In Black was one of the more sombre of his ballads and I am including this over the “Boy Named Sue” simply because the content is more universal.
Harry Belafonte had a unique way of singing and for me any song of his was a masterpiece. I am picking this one because it perhaps typifies his singing style.
Another of the legends whose music I grew up with was Bob Dylan who was not only an icon but was also a thought leader. This song became part of the church singing and is as relevant today as it was when Dylan sang it for the first time. This one may take some time to get used to but the lyrics are awesome.
This is another song which I love simply because of the eerie voodoo type music from Santana. This is cover of a Fleetwood Mac song but the guitar here is just too good.
Dean Martin was another of my boyhood heroes a and I loved the way he drooled over his own music.
No compilation can be complete without a Beatles number but I like all of them so much that it is difficult to pick one.
Other groups I really liked were ABBA, OSIBISA, the Carpenters and Led Zeppelin but I am going to give them a miss for Pink Floyd just because this song was such a rage and and it has great lyrics as well as lovely music.
Finally I will end with a beautiful song about a trip down memory lane which is triggered by a restaurant called Trincas in Calcutta which had a pub called the Tavern.

These typify the English Music which I liked and still enjoy. Another day and another time I would do a similar one for Hindi, Tamil and Bengali. Let me know if you liked them.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our perception of Problems

One fine day, a bus driver went to the bus garage, started his bus, and drove off along the route. No problems for the first few stops - a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well.At the next stop, however, a big hulk of a guy got on. Six feet eight, built like a wrestler, arms hanging down to the ground. He glared at the driver and said, " Big John doesn't pay!" and sat down at the back.

Did I mention that the driver was five feet three, thin, and basically meek?Well, he was. Naturally, he didn't argue with Big John, but he wasn't happy about it. The next day the same thing happened - Big John got on again, made a show of refusing to pay, and sat down. And the next day, and the next.

This grated on the bus driver, who started losing sleep over the way Big John was taking advantage of him. finally he could stand it no longer. He signed up for body building courses, karate, judo, and all that good stuff. By the end of the summer, he had become quite strong; what's more, he felt really good about himself.

So on the next Monday, when Big John once again got on the bus and said, " Big John doesn't pay!"The driver stood up, glared back at the passenger, and screamed, " And why not?"With a surprised look on his face, Big John replied, " Big John has a bus pass.

"Moral" Be sure there is a problem in the first place - before working hard to solve one. Another way of looking at it is "IF in doubt ASK"

Life is too short to be worrying about problems and issues which are irrrelevant or non-existent

Monday, March 23, 2009

This time your hurting won't heal

Hello everyone!
A small story that tells you what happens when you hurt someone else.
All of us do it knowingly or unknowingly.
Let us stop hurting others.

Here is your monday morning story for the week.

When I confronted my friend after she hurt a colleague, she cried and immediately wanted to apologize. That was a good thing, but I wanted her to know an apology can't always make things better.

I told her the parable of Will, a 9-year-old whose father abandoned his mom two years earlier. Will was angry, and he often lashed out at others with hurtful words. He once told his mom, "I see why Dad left you!"

Unable to cope with his cruel outbursts, she sent him to his grandparents for the summer. His grandfather's strategy to help Will learn self-control was to make him go into the garage and pound a two-inch-long nail into a four-by-four board every time he said a mean thing.

For a small boy, this was a major task, and he couldn't return until the nail was all the way in. After about ten trips to the garage, Will began to be more cautious about his words. Eventually, he even apologized for all the bad things he'd said.

That's when his grandmother stepped in. She told him to bring in the board filled with nails and instructed him to pull them all out. This was even harder than pounding them in, but after a huge struggle, he did it.

His grandmother hugged him and said, "I appreciate your apology, and of course I forgive you because I love you, but I want you to know an apology is like pulling out one of these nails. Look at the board. The holes are still there. The board will never be the same. Your dad put a hole in you, Will, but please don't put holes in other people. You're better than that."

Story credited to Michael Josephson

Friday, March 20, 2009

Provoking rudeness and discourtesy

I had to make a quick trip abroad last week and travelled Air India on one of their long range flights. I have travelled with them before and was quite apprehensive about the service and courtesy of the crew. My expectations were rock bottom and as usual they did not disappoint.
However, this time around I understood why their service and attitudes are below par. It has a lot to do with the passengers they manage and the stress they undergo each time they fly.

I was seated near the front row where there is a provision for a bassinet (baby cot) for infants. This needs to be booked earlier and the passenger has to buy an infant ticket for the kid. There were 4 baby cots and 8 infants in our wing. No sooner had we settled than a free for all broke out between the haves and the have-nots even though the have-nots had not bought infant tickets or booked the bassinet. Some of them offered to “pay more” and the arguments delayed take off by about 20 minutes. The best was the parents of a 3 year old wanted to know why larger cots could not be provided for bigger kids!

When the dust had settled we were onto the safety demonstration. I recall at least three groups of persons screaming in the middle that they wanted to change seats to be with their friends and relatives.

Once the plane took off, the cabin crew was being summoned every 10 seconds on some pretext or another. If that was not enough we had a drunk in the rear of the aircraft who chose an opportune moment to regurgitate a sample of what he had consumed over his neighbours. Fortunately for me I was seated far enough to be away from the mess and near enough for a ring side view!! (The same guy was hollering about 5 hours later on why he could not be served his daily dose.

The effect of this definitely told on the crew. A few classics from the air hostesses…
One of them was having difficulty in shutting the overhead bins and I offered to help. While thanking me she had to add “The limit for cabin baggage is 7 kgs and see how much these guys (a euphemism for the word actually used) stuff in their bags. What do they think; we are weight lifters or what?”

Another classic was when a first time traveler seated on the row behind me asked help to unfasten the seat belt. The response was “You are worse than children; why did you not pay attention during the safety demonstration?”

Another time, on another flight I would have been far more critical of the crew but this time I thought that by all counts we passengers got what we deserved.

Just think about it , if this is what the Air India cabin crew goes through every day, little wonder that they are hassled jumpy and rude most of the time. When you want to take you must be willing to give. Bad behaviour and failure to respect others only provokes rudeness

Monday, March 9, 2009

BACK in MUMBAI- Reality Check

Back in Mumbai after a long gap and if things work out the way I have planned. Hopefully I should be here for 3 -4 months and this will give me time for a lot of long pending catch up work…

Within days of returning, I was treated to a really harsh dose of “Reality Check”. I was driving listening to ‘JAI HO” with the RJ on going about AR Rahman and how much Slum Dog was doing to focus on the lives of the less fortunate in Dharavi.

Just the I stopped at a busy traffic signal where two beggar women with a child were squabbling over a child. Soon a man joined the fracas and before you could say “Slum Dog Millionaire” they were beating each other and even started throwing stones..

Normal eh!

What shocked me even more was my own reaction. I ensured that I moved my car out of the way of the stones being hurled and saw in my rear view mirror that the good Mumbai cop had stepped in to separate and mollify the combatants. Seeing that peace was about to prevail I just drove on about my normal business.

I guess it is the callousness of guys like me which aggravates the situation. Suggestions from any of my fellow bloggers on a more humane reaction to the situation would be welcome

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Indo-PaK Coexistence so difficult

Friendship between Indians and Pakistanis
Myth , Pipe-Dream or a Distant Reality

While watching CNN last night I saw a commercial for Mobilink which is the advertisement they run in Pakistan. Take 3 minutes to watch it and I am sure you will be struck as I was that this commercial would strike the same chords in any part of India. I also loved the song "hum Bolen Mohabat ki Zubaan" and I hope you like it too

As I searched “you tube” to share this with my blogging world, I found several others all of which show that while selling to us Advertisers appeal to the same emotions and touch the same chords. Somewhere deep down I believe we are one people. A one minute clip is linked below:

I know it is hard for those who lost near and dear ones in 26/11 or for the relatives of those brave soldiers who lost their lives in 1965, 1971 or in Kargil.

I personally think these are wedges and differences, canyons and chasms between our countries created largely by self serving politicians, greedy warmongers and corrupt generals which now look as if they cannot be bridged.

We look the same, we talk the same, we share the same roots and culture and yet we have drifted so far apart we are left with only hatred, revenge and suspicion. Things perhaps will never improve but some where in the not too distant past something went horribly wrong and none of us did anything to correct it.

However, I still have memories of a packed Chennai stadium giving the Pakistan team a standing ovation as they did their lap of honour after they beat India in a test match. I also remember the hype of Chandigarh laid out the red carpet for a Visiting Pakistan team. And Finally I remember an entire Pakistani stadium chanting Balajeee, Balajeee, Balajeee during an Indian visit to Pakistan as well as the hospitality extended to the entire team during the visit.

In my travels abroad I have bonded with a Pakistani or an Afghan co traveller just because we share the same passion for Dal and roti and go scouring the streets to see if we can find a place which will give us one irrespective if the Chef is Indian, Pakistani , Akghan or Arab...

I think we can still mend fences.

Peace is always preferred to War and or am I too idealistic.

I wonder if we can ever open the gates of the mind

or will the sentries of "prejudice and mistrust" rule and guard as always ….

Saturday, February 14, 2009


One of my favourite quotes used to be that in the "Rat Race" of life even if you come first, remember that you are still a rat, albiet the fastest one. This piece which came to me in the mail is a wonderful riposte to the concept that Life is a rat race. It is one only if we make it so. The choice as always is within.

This is a remarkably beautiful poem which implores us to enjoy each moment of the wonderful journey that is life.. I am advised that this poem was written by a terminally ill patient in a New York Hospital. Very tragic, poignant and moving


Have you ever watched kids On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Do you run through each day On the fly?
When you ask How are you? Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores Running through your head?

You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child, We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste, Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time To call and say,"Hi"

You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there..
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift.... Thrown away.

Life is not a race ! !
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Once Upon a Time, Seven Centuries Ago

My history teacher used to tell fascinating tales of the Chinese travelers to India from the court of the Great Kublai Khan and his ilk. I grew up in an era where journeys were well planned with tickets bought well in advance, accommodation booked and the internet scanned for places to see and safety tips for international travelers. The idea of intrepid explorers travelling the silk route in search of new lands, people, trade and cultures never ceased to fascinate me.

During my assignment in Kazakhstan, I was thrilled to see the ruins of Saraishyk which is situated about 50 kms from Atyrau. This was one of the towns which flourished in a time when the Silk Route was still a busy route and had not yet been upstaged by the sea route as the preferred mode of travel. This town lies on the dotted line going towards the North alongside the Caspian Sea in the map below.

As I fly to and from Atyrau, I see the vast expanse of desert and one of the most hostile environments on our planet. There is very little vegetation, and almost no rainfall. I cannot imagine how the explorers of ancient times actually travelled this route for trade. The fact that they did and that the route remained the communication between the countries along the route is a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit and endurance. The route as such is comprised of many sub routes.

The Silk Route stretched for thousands kilometers leading caravans across scorching deserts, picturesque oases, and mountain passes. Empires, Civilizations and cities came up, prospered and decayed over time but the Silk Route continued. Cities along the route witnessed devastating wars, destructions, fires, famine and death. The Route also carried merchants who for centuries carried to Europe precious silks and stones, spices and dyes, gold and silver, exotic birds and animals. With the change and passing of empires, religions, the Crusades and world political orders, the route and the peoples living along it adapted and survived from being Buddhists in Central Asia, to converting to Islam after the fall of the Mongols and the Huns. Today the countries along the Central Asian Part of the route are primarily Islamic but years under communist Russia where religion was not encouraged by the State have made these states vastly different from their Arab counterparts in their religious outlook.

Saraishyk, alongside other cities, was founded in in about 1250 during the first decades of the life of the empire of the Zhoshi Ulus, which later was referred to as the Golden Horde, in order to control the huge territory from the Irtysh River to the Danube. Saraishyk is a town which survived longer than most primarily because it was not on the main Silk Route route but on one of the off-shoots which though not directly on the route was close enough to reap the benefits of trade. There is a small museum of the site which also has a reconstruction of the city as it would have looked.

The local also tell stories of how Timur Lang used to visit and was bribed not to loot the site.(Timur died in Otrar in Kazakhstan was buried in Samarqand, and his mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir, is one of Samarqand's great architectural monuments. Tamerlane built many spectacular palaces and mosques, the most celebrated of which are in Samarqand. Although he was notorious for his cruelty in war and for the many atrocities committed by his armies, Tamerlane was also a lover of scholarship and the arts. One of his descendants, Babur, founded the Mughal Empire in India in 1526)

Our guide told us that trade here was rich and varied. “Necklaces from glass, cornelian and crystal beads, and mountings from turquoise for rings were made in Saraishyk or brought from Iran and Central Asia. Magic "kauri" bowls were brought from India; ( kauri is a traditional wood associated with New Zealand’s North Island but it surprisingly is traced from India here) amphorae brought from the faraway Black Sea trade city of Trapesund were used for transportation of wine and oil. Magnificent enameled dishes and vases made by local masters decorated the homes of other cities of the Golden Horde.” Painting and the arts also flourished here and a sample is below:

Also found here are the tombs of the seven Khans who are founding influence and epitomize the nomadic and warlike Kazakh tradition.

I am told that the town was finally washed away by a change of course in the river Zhaiyk. The ruins still have some of the skeletons of the ancient inhabitants which are surprisingly well preserved.

Poetry and philosophy also flourished here in the halcyon days I am told and I am sobered by the thought that people from my country used to trade here and travelled here using branches of the Silk Route seven centuries ago. (And I used to think that I was brave to have ventured here on an IT assignment in the 21st Century!)

One of the poems engraved on the earthen pottery unearthed here is translated as below:

"The beauty of a person is the face. The beauty of the face are the eyes. The beauty of the mouth is the tongue. And the beauty of the tongue is the word".

How true! What finally remains is the word. The explorers and traders like Marco Polo, Fahien and Hieun Tsang, carry back their impressions of peoples and cultures and these become part of the folklore and stories when they reach home. These impressions find their way into scrolls parchments and finally books which is how History remembers you, your people and your civilization.

Photographs Courtesy-Rajneesh Thamke

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Credit Crunch Jokes

The best credit crunch jokes to have you laughing all the way to the bank

How do you define optimism?
A banker who irons five shirts on a Sunday.

What's the difference between an investment banker and a large pizza? The pizza can still feed a family of four.

As a surprise, a chief exec's wife pops by his office. She finds him in an unorthodox position, with his secretary sitting in his lap. Without hesitation, he starts dictating: '. . . and in conclusion, gentlemen, credit crunch or no credit crunch, I cannot continue to operate this office with just one chair.'

Why have estate agents stopped looking out of the window in the morning?
Because otherwise they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon.

What do you call five hedge fund managers at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start.

What's the difference between an investment banker and a pigeon?
The pigeon is still capable of leaving a deposit on a new Ferrari.

The credit crunch has helped me get back on my feet. The car's been repossessed.

Latest news: The Isle of Dogs bank has collapsed.
They've called in the retrievers.

What do you say to a hedge fund manager who can't sell anything?
A Quarter-pounder with fries, please.

Overheard in a City bar: 'This credit crunch is worse than a divorce. I've lost half my net worth and I still have a wife.'

The bank returned a cheque to me this morning, stamped: 'insufficient funds.'
Is it them or me?

Bradford & Bingley employees are concerned they were given no notice of the takeover by Santander Bank.
A Government spokesman said: 'No one expected the Spanish acquisition.'

What's the difference between the BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston and God?
God doesn't think he's Robert Peston.

You know it's a credit crunch when...
* The cashpoint asks if you can spare any change.
* There's a 'buy one, get one free' offer - on banks.
* The Inland Revenue is offering a 25 per cent discount for cash-payers.
* Gordon Brown has stopped chewing his nails and started sucking his thumb.
* Your builder asks to be paid in Zimbabwean dollars rather than sterling.

What's the capital of Iceland?
About £3.50.

An architect, a surgeon and an economist are discussing the Creation. The surgeon says: 'Look, we surgeons are most important. God's a surgeon because the first thing he did was to extract Eve from Adam's rib.' The architect says: 'No, wait a minute, God is an architect. He made the world in seven days out of chaos.' The economist smiles: 'And who made the chaos?'

A man went to his bank manager and said: 'I'd like to start a small business. How do I go about it?' 'Simple,' said the bank manager. 'Buy a big one and wait.'

Money talks. Trouble is, mine knows only one word: 'Goodbye.'

A young man asked an elderly rich man how he made his money. 'Well, son, it was 1932. The depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last penny, so I invested that penny in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold that apple for ten pennies. 'The next morning I bought two apples, spent the day polishing them and sold them for 20 pennies. I continued this for a month, by which time I'd accumulated a fortune of £1.37. 'Then my wife's father died and left us £2 million.'

What have an Icelandic bank and an Icelandic streaker got in common?
They both have frozen assets.

A director decided to award a prize of £50 for the best idea of saving the company money during the credit crunch.
It was won by a young executive who suggested reducing the prize money to £10.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Amazing Trivia

Here is an amazing collection of facts I received in the mail. I found them very interesting. I hope you do too.

In the 1400's a law was set forth that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Hence we have "the rule of thumb".

Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled "Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king in history: Spades - King David Hearts - Charlemagne Clubs -Alexander, the Great Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg inthe air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter "A"?

A. One thousand

Q. What do bullet-proof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?

A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil
A. Honey

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase........."goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get thephrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill,they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Don't delete this just because it looks weird. Believe it or not, you can read it..........

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg.The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch atCmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteerbe in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitllraed it wouthit a porbelm Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raedervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe

.Amazing huh?~~~~~~~~~~~And they tell us spelling is important!

AND FINALLY~~~~~~~~~~~~85% of the people who will read this will try to lick their elbows or at least think about it...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Generation Passes Me By

My father’s youngest sister moved on to another life a couple of weeks ago. She was about 80.

With her passing all the immediate brothers and sisters on my father’s side have moved on. My mother perhaps is the most severely affected but I too feel the pain of the realization that an entire generation on my father’s side is no longer with us.

My Athai as we used to call her was very close to my mother as indeed she was to all of us. She represents to me a symbol of an era which perhaps will not return. It takes me back to a time when the post card ruled supreme and there was a value in the written word.

I still remember my father setting aside time each week to attend to the post acknowledging each letter with the date of its writing and the date of it post mark as well as receipt. It was their way of evaluating the postal service and identifying the letter box which was cleared soonest. (I still recollect the admonition I felt when I received a reply stating that he had received mine of the 5th posted on the 8th and received on 12th!). It was a time when telegrams were dreaded as they either brought very good news or ill tidings. It was a time when the ringing of the black telephone in the hall was the trunk call from a loved one to announce their safe arrival or to share a joy or a sorrow. It was a time when letter writing on post card or an inland was an art in which the maximum news would be crammed into a single piece of stationery including the flaps and folds of the inland. It was a time when the evening dinner was where the family met to discuss the day and where we all ate together.

It was a time when the 9’O clock news was our gateway to the outside world and the radio our trusted companion. The radio used to be crowing glory of the living room housed in a large wooden cabinet with bright shining lights and connected to the gramophone record player. The two together occupied half our living room! Annual journeys to my granny’s place where al the ladies would gather to make pickles, poppadums and chutneys for the year and we kids would have a ball getting in every ones’ way. Train journeys meant packing all the beds into a “hold all” and a time when all the food for the journey was cooked from home. Relationships were so important that if you were passing through a town by train and the train stopped there for 20 minutes, a friend or relative who lived there would be there on the platform with a “Tiffin Carrier” full of hot homely food flavoured with all the local gossip.

A time when fathers and uncles ruled with an iron hand and discipline was the buzzword. A time when people like my Athai were our connect with the older generation and their connect with us. My Athai was from an earlier generation but joined our team. She was most at home in large family gatherings and her zest for life and fun was infectious. She was the life of all marriages and get-togethers and it is a strange feeling that she will not be with us anymore

She belonged to an era when the extended family was paramount and all did their best to help and share. (I doubt if I am able to do as much in my little nuclear family as my father did with his extended one which included 10 siblings on my mother’s side and 5 on his side). It was a time when letters from a loved one were meant to be read and reread and kept under the pillow until the next one came. Even when it did it was still carefully preserved and quoted. I always thought that it was the older generation’s way of keeping tabs on us till I saw how my letters, greeting cards for Diwali and new years, wedding anniversaries and birthdays and notes from hostel and work on my first job had been carefully preserved by my father when I went through his papers on his death. The pleasure I get in reading and rereading some of them cannot be described in words.

There is so much we can do for them and so little we actually do caught up as we are in the mayhem of our daily routine. The passing of a loved one is just a gentle reminder of how much more we could do. As the baton passes from one generation to another I am left wondering if we can pass on even a fraction of what we received to our next generation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Introduction to ATYRAU, Kazakhstan

Since the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day celebrations I thought it would be a great time to introduce you to the place since for once I am in the right place at the right time.
Atyrau where I work is a small town in Kazakhstan which was one of the states of the erstwhile USSR before it got independence in 1991. It has very cold winters and very hot summers. The coldest I have seen on this visit is MINUS 33 degrees centigrade. I am a Madrasi whose definition of Cold used to be anything below PLUS 20 degrees centigrade. Now a minus 8 degrees is acceptable!

The Ural River flows through Atyrau and one side of the river is Asia while the other side of the river is Europe! A picture of the river is as below.
In spring the roads are full of flowers and lovely to walk on. Atyrau has taught me the meaning of the four seasons. In Autumn the trees shed their leaves in preparation of the winter and once I saw the winter here I understood why cold countries have a fall or autumn! And finally I learnt of a winter where the mighty Ural Freezes over and people walk across the river.

Yes this is the same river which divides Europe and Asia, the only problem is that it has frozen over. The people sitting have dug small holes in the ice and are fishing. Ice fishing is a very popular winter sport here. Another interesting sidelight is that on the 13th Of January each year the locals choose a particular spot and jump into the icy waters for a dip after cutting a hole in the ice. None of my colleagues or me was around to take pictures but we are told that it is an annual tradition.

A winter view of the town to let you know how it is like when I look out of my window…

That is it for now and more about Atyrau and the Kazakhi people (they are wonderful) in later blogs..

A Glimpse of Atyrau

It is now time to tell you a bit about where I am. Atyrau is a small town in Kazakhstan which was one of the states of the erstwhile USSR before it got independence in 1991. It has very cold winters and very hot summers. The coldest I have seen on this visit is MINUS 33 degrees centigrade.
I am a Madrasi whose definition of Cold used to be anything below PLUS 20 degrees centigrade. Now a minus 8 degrees is acceptable!

The Ural River flows through Atyrau and one side of the river is Asia while the other side of the river is Europe! A picture of the river is below;

In spring the roads are full of flowers and lovely to walk on. Atyrau has taught me the meaning of the four seasons. In Autumn the trees shed their leaves in preparation of the winter and once I saw the winter here I understodd why cold coutries have a fall or autumn!

And finally I learnt of a winter where the mighty Ural Freezes over and people walk across the river.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How did I do

It is now time for an update on the progress of my New Year resolutions. I have tried hard to follow but the report card is just about satisfactory. Let me start with the pluses

I have been working out for about 30 minutes a day nothing very great , a 2 km walk and some stretches…But it is a start for a lazy bones who has usually not even moved for early morning coffee when at home or in a hotel..

On the food front more salads and soups and less fries. The tobacco is less and so is the alcohol. This has made me more hungry, irritable and prone to headaches, arguments and debate. Those around me are not altogether enthused with my resolution to keep my resolution!

Some old friends and colleagues have been contacted and relationships renewed.

On the project front we our new upgraded software was inaugurated on the 20th and we were about 14 hours ahead of Obama, thanks to the time difference!

The areas where I scored a zero are:

No progress on any social endeavour to help or assist anyone whom I do not know which I admit is very bad.

I did not find time for nature, the snow flakes, the people and the culture of Kazakh which is also bad…

There was so much to do in the preparation for our go-live that I forgot what it was to take life slowly and savour each moment. The last two weeks have been a flurry of deadlines and last minute tasks and to do lists, follow ups, issues, frayed tempers, heated arguments and lots of caffeine. This is atrocious. A mad race to a place I do not want to go and plaudits for what I am not proud of doing! I even put is as one of the plusses in an earlier paragraph. Senility and confusion prevail as usual..

There was no reading, very little writing barring status reports and “post its”, no movies and hardly any music barring the ringtones of crank callers who have the knack of finding the most inappropriate time to call even if you have the international roaming tone on, they still want to offer you the best in insurance policies, credit cards and cheap loans. For God’s sake has any one not told them about the credit crunch and the ills of lending to unknown people in unknown lands? Even if I tell them I am in Kazakhstan they still continue their sales pitch!
Next Status Update on resolution progress in a month but hopefully blogs of random musings and rumblings will follow at a minimum of twice a week.

Finally a big thank you to my new buddy Ramesh who has been a constant source of encouragement on the blogosphere. A visit to Sharjah will be on my next year’s list of things to do!

Not a very good report card but since I have very low standards when it comes to myself I declare myself "PASSED".

Friday, January 16, 2009


Discussions on this blog have made me hungry. I am going back to a rhyme I wrote myself a long ago after the travails I suffered as an international veggie traveler through the continents including Africa. Most meals around these places are bread, salad and soup. For a pukka veggie foodie like me it is the ultimate sacrifice hence the repeated lapses into fantasy.

The rhyme is a caricature of a lovely song from the Sound of Music which ranks among my all time favourites and I often sing this to myself as I roll over into dreamland and these are the images flash “upon that inward eye which is the bliss of Solitude!"

Piping hot rasam and steaming white rice
And red gravy curries with dashes of spice,
Thick creamy daals with a blob of white butter,
Kabuli chole and paneer aloo mutter

Dry fruits and vegetables in Pulao and Biryani,
Pineapple Raita and a thick Daal Makhani
Kulchaas and Naans and Rotis and Parathas,
Stuffed Masale Bhindi and Kanda with Batatas

Sarson da Saag and makai di roti,
Bisibelehuli and Cauliflower Khichdi
Spices and Saffron and the lovely Aroma
Of Daal Batti Churma and Vegetable Korma,

Carrots and Beans in a coconut stew
Chutneys & pickles and banana chips too
Sweets made of Khoya laced with Anjeer,
And topping them all up with rabdi and kheer!

These are a few of my favourite foods.

When the mood swings,

When I throw things,

When I'm feeling cold
I just remember my favourite foods and then I don't feel so bad

Sunday, January 11, 2009

As the sun sets on 2008, we look forward to 2009 and beyond

The sun sets on one year and prepares to rise on another… Always a time for introspection, self evaluation and resolution… This year I have decided to take this a little further. Since I have crossed the halfway mark of my mortal life, it is a good time to see where I am and where I wanted to be!

Well I am on a software project in Kazakhstan where the high temperatures are minus 10 degrees centigrade and the lows plummet to minus 35 and lower, preparing for “Go-Live”. These “go lives” as any one associated with the software industry knows are a regular part of our lives. As each impending “Go-Live” becomes a part of our focus we are driven further from the what should have been our life's focal point. (There are always exceptions in software folks who love their jobs and as you can tell, I and my small circle of colleagues are not one of them!)

As I left the college portals with starlight in my eyes, if someone had told me that this would be my future, a quarter of a century or more down the road, I would have told the fortune teller that he was insane. But then that it is where I am!! Many a time we end up doing what we never intended to … It all boils down to what the caterpillar at the crossroads told Alice “It does not matter which road you take if you do not know where you want to go!”( Lewis Caroll in Alice in Wonderland)

Consolation is that I am not alone and that perhaps it is the story of quite a few folks who hit middle age before they realize it. But then we still have half our lives left to get the radar right and reset course! What is life without a few challenges or should I say opportunitiesJ

Well for me the first priority is to set the radar for the rest of my life by the middle of next year and then plan and chart out the course in instalments of three yearsJ

While I am busy finalizing the big picture there are other smaller resolutions like finding more time for
· Reading, Writing, Music and the Movies
· The sick, the underprivileged, the orphans and the aged
· Society as a whole to perform my role as a citizen rather than be an armchair critic of politicians and their ilk
· Take care of my oldest and most faithful friend my body and his various components especially the lungs (less Tobacco) and the liver( and less alcohol!) and the bones and the back ( and more exercise) !”
· To give the job on hand my best shot
· Travel and learn more about different lands, their peoples and cultures and enjoy multi-faceted hues of nature
· Sunsets, sunrises, rain drops, dew drops, flowers, fruit trees, paddy fields, mountains beaches, deserts, cliffs, canyons and whatever else Nature’s Munificence has to offer. (The picture is of a sunset on the Atlantic, from Africa where I was a couple of years back)
· For family and friends
· Blog regularly and let off my steam and frustrations positively -J
· And finally for the music of life, to take it slower and savour and enjoy it before the song is over as a famous song exhorts us to do.

Now that I have made a public statement of intent, here is hoping I will be able to follow them in some degree. As I sit and pen my dreams, I find that they have hardly changed over the years, which reminds me of an old song by Mary Hopkins which is one of my all time favourites:

Once upon time there was a Tavern,
Where we used to raise a glass or two.
Remember how we laughed away the hours,
Think of all the great things we would do.
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose,
We’d fight and never lose
We were young and sure did have our way

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the Tavern,
We’d smile at one other and we’d say
Those were the days… O Yes those were the days…

Just tonight I stood before the Tavern
Nothing was the way it used to be

Through the doors there came familiar laughter,
I saw your face and heard you call my name
O my friend we are older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same.

Those were the days my friend…O Yes those were the days…

Here is wishing all of you and your near and dear ones a very happy, safe, healthy and prosperous 2009 and beyond. While celebrating and ringing in the New Year, do take time to pray for all those who are less fortunate than us and include them in your thoughts and celebrations as well as in your plans for the year and times ahead