Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Becoming Men

This is one incident from my school days which I remember vividly. I was in XII at that time.

Being the senior most class in the school, we all used to be very smug and sometimes even haughty. Except for one teacher or may be two, we had good relationships with all our teachers. It used to be a very friendly but hyper-charged environment in the class during those crazy days of studies and preparations for board exams.

A male teacher whom I would call 'A' sir was our class teacher. A sir was a popular teacher among senior school students and even more popular among the alumni of the school. I liked him too. He taught us English.

I was a volunteer for the school assembly which means I helped junior students get in line during the assembly and morning prayers. My duties also included helping the class monitors check their classmates for proper uniforms, particularly on Saturday which was the P.T. day. I took my duties as a volunteer a bit too seriously. I used to be very strict and took deep pride in wearing the badge

That year we had a new principal whom I would call Sister B. She had a panache of organizing some or other extracurricular activity every weekend. It didn't matter even if we had exams Not that it was bad, we used to enjoy them but as the term progressed, she went overboard with her innumerable social and cultural and god knows what events.

We had just finished with the annual cultural event at the school and now the board exams were fast approaching. We were all in the mood of serious studying. Just then the principal came with the idea of having a 'moral-value exhibition' that weekend. Only with her it was not an idea and we all had to simply cooperate. She had already made up her mind and nothing would make her change it.

In the class we had a heated discussion with A sir about the exhibition and even he was of the opinion that this exhibition was frivolous and we could all do without it. I was so opposed to the idea that I decided to resign from being a volunteer as a token of protest. I figured that was the only way in which I could let my opposition known to the principal.

After the lecture I went to A sir and took out my badge and gave it to him. I no longer wanted to be a volunteer. I was willing to let go of a job which I so dearly loved and which was a matter of pride for me. It was then that A sir talked to me. He told me he knew how much I valued my volunteer's badge and he told me he knew my feelings. He told me that even he was not in the favor of the exhibition but he was contributing to it nonetheless. It was a simple matter of obeying your superiors. Therefore, I should also take a part.

I did take a part in the exhibition and the event was a success. The chairman of the municipality was the chief guest and he was impressed by the show. Funny I remember these details.

What is not funny that I remember that day as when I became an adult. In those few minutes when I was talking to A sir, I was transformed from a boy to a man. He made me understand a very simple fact of life:

"....Courage to change the things I cannot accept and humility to accept the things I cannot

I am indebted to him for the rest of my life.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kharak No Halwo

You require:
Kharak (dry dates): 500 gms, Milk: about a liter, Ghee (clarified butter): about 300 gms, Condensed milk: 200 ml, sugar: very little, about 3-4 tbsp

Servings: about 12-15 (enough for one week :-) )

Preparation time: lots


  1. Soak the kharak in milk for about 24 hrs. Kharak will absorb most of the milk and will swell due to it.
  2. One by one, remove the seeds from the swollen kharaks. This will be pretty quick as kharak will be pretty soft after soaking.
  3. Grate this seedless kharak in a mixer-grinder. Don't grate very finely, but just enough so that no big pieces are visible.
  4. Take the grated kharak in a pot, preferably non-stick. The pot should be big enough for easy stirring.
  5. Add about half of the ghee and cook on high flame for about 5 mins with constant vigorous stirring.
  6. Lower the flame and add condensed milk and the remaining ghee. Stirring should not be stopped.
  7. Cook on a low flame (not lowest) for about 30-35 mins till the mixture turns a thick brown in color. If you find kharak sticking to the bottom, add more ghee and stir. Remember, stirring is the key.
  8. After 30 mins or so, the halwa is ready, taste for sugar and add according to taste.
  9. From here, continue cooking on a lower flame for a few more mins if you want your halwa soft or you could turn off the flame right away.
  10. Garnish with cashew nuts or some other dry fruit.
  11. Eat and stove the rest in refrigerator.

Generation Gap- Revisited

This is in part, a continuation of my previous post. In family matters Coomy treats her step-father- Nariman Vakeel very shabbily. One of the reasons is that Nariman became her step-father at the late age of 11, so she didn't have the child-father feelings for her. But the major reason was that though Nariman had married Yasmin, he could not forget Lucy which was the woman he loved. Lucy was always there in his mind and he had not accepted his married life whole-heartedly. He went to such lengths to meet Lucy which would be considered nothing short of scandalous. Chaeteu felicity was constantly strained- so were Nariman's relations with the family.

What child could be expected to love her father if she cannot respect him. It is possible for adults to love someone in spite of shortcomings; but for children it is a different case. Children see in their father a man who is perfect, who is all powerful, who can do nothing wrong and who is the answer to all their questions. But when parents fight and children watch them abusing and hitting each other, it is the children who suffer. The image of perfect parent is shattered. Forever.

Coomy draws her hatred from this. Nariman, on his part does not make any conscious effort to build the bridges with his children which he is intentionally or otherwise burning. Coomy holds Nariman responsible for her mother's death. Anyone in Coomy's position would do that. With this past, can Coomy be expected to nurse her bed-ridden step-father? One would say that time heals, so Coomy would also forget the past and become friends with Nariman. But she does nothing of the sort. She is too human for that. And fate treats her appropriately in the end but that is a different story.

Please read this summary before proceeding:

"Story of Pao" is the most critically acclaimed film produced in Vietnam
during 2006. It centers on a young girl, Pao, a member of an ethnic
minority group living in the Vietnamese highlands. By recalling Pao's
memories of her parents and their emotional life, the film deftly explores
the concept of love from different points of view." Courtesy: Christina Skourou

In stark contrast to Coomy is Pao. The woman whom Pao's father married could not conceive. Her infertility was almost a curse in the highlands. So Pao's father brought home another woman- Mrs Kim who bore Pao and her younger brother. Mrs Kim would not live with Pao, instead she left them all after living with them for a short while. Pao grows up resenting the presence of Mrs Kim in the house. She is oblivious to the fact that Mrs Kim lover her father too much to live with them.

Pao falls in love with a guy from the local market. Let us call this guy A. Shortly after Pao finds that Pao's mother (not Mrs Kim) loves A's father. This discovery shatters Pao and she becomes more and more withdrawn. The mother, with her conscience heavy, disappears under mysterious circumstances. Pao's father and the rest assume she has died. The death affects Pao's father badly and he takes to drinking heavily. Pao's world is disappearing in front of her eyes. What does she do?

She decides to find and bring Mrs Kim, her biological mother back- for her father. Not for her and not for her brother but her sick and weak father. She is gone from her home for weeks and faces many difficulties but she is finally able to track Mrs Kim; only to find out that she is living with another man. Defeated and hopeless, she prepares to return to her village- empty handed. While returning, she finds that her mother who is living with A's father. She had not died. But escaped with her love!

When Pao reaches home, she finds Mrs Kim nursing her ailing father.

This is the power of love. It was love which made Pao's mother run away with A's father and it was love which made Mrs Kim return to Pao's father. Pao never tells her father the truth about her mother . This is the difference between Coomy and Pao. Pao could forgive, Coomy could not.

On a different note, If Nariman had defied his parents and married Lucy.. if....


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Family Matters

I just finished reading Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters. At first when I picked up the book, I had tried figuring out the phrase 'family matters' as in the matters of the family or the importance of family. I think its the latter, that the author wanted to say.In his own style of writing which contains a lot of dialogue and use of a simple language mixed heartily with Parsi and Gujarati and Hindi words, Rohinton Mistry has written a beautiful novel.

I think of the Parsis and the image which comes to my mind is an old man- a little eccentric bt very amiable and one who always loves children, of a cranky woman swearing gadhera, gaanda. Guess what! both these characters and some more are present in Family Matters. The novel explores the importance of family in the lives of an old man who is suffering from Parkinson's, his step-children, his daughter and her family. The characters are all very realistic and their life in Bombay- all too easy to connect with.

Money isn't the solution to all of man's problems. It is not the final destination but the journey wherein lie the little joys of life. Yezaad is barely able to make the ends meet with his meagre salary and when his father-in-law suffering from Parkinson's is forced into his house, it becomes a strain for everybody in the house. Toast without butter, meals without meat, a bath on alternate days- such things. But this hardship brings the family closer than ever. All members pitch in-even Yezad's 9 and 13 year old sons.

Jehangir in the epilogue says he misses his old father- one who used to laugh, get angry, shout at him used to tell jokes. Now, he is not the same man. This is when they are living much more comfortably than before- in the seven-room chateau felicity home. A man never learns from his mistakes. I couldn't help feeling this way towards the end. Children become adults and their parents feel something slipping out of their hands.

I say it is wrong in the first place to hold on to them.


Saturday, November 4, 2006


Rizq is an Arabic word. It roughly means your share in God's scheme of things. To use it in a sentence, I could say my rizq is in America. Most commonly it is understood in terms of food and water which a person consumes. Think of "daane daane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam". Yes, you get it.

My name as it turns out has been written on $3.49 loaves of bread, $4.59 a pound tomatoes, 12-can packs of sprite, tins of pringles, packets of chicken and on Indian spices, of course. I was a little worried about the food initially but at the same time I was looking forward to cook my own meals too.

It seems to me that during the first month, I was having a 'beginners' luck'. Nothing could go wrong with my cooking. Whether it was the chicken drumsticks or mince-meat or aloo-gobhi- everything I cooked was edible and easily digestible. I had kind of like 'settled in' and now that I was doing my own food, I could appreciate my tiffin in Indore better than ever.

But this last week has been a disaster in terms of my culinary (dis)abilities, whatever I have tried to cook has turned out to be a disaster. Semi-boiled chana dal, chicken thighs with all the skin and fat intact, scrambled eggs and potatoes you name it I've got it. I was ruining up big time on all my cooking. The saving grace was I had found a very good pizza delievery and savored their offerings for a while, then there was the dining hall in college.

Just today, I've prepared three dishes which I hope will last me the next week. I found a kind soul online while I was preparing and she guided me through the intricacies of rajma and moong-dal. I have all of that food now stored in the refrigerator.

It is important to eat your food. For me, it is a tie which connects me to all whom I have left behind. There is a joy in knowing that you are eating the same kind of food in a foreign land which your folks eat back home. When I wear a topi, wash hands and eat my meal with hands, the distances are bridged. Just like that.

According to my grandmother if our rizq and rozi is in a foreign land then we have to go and earn it there. Difficult as it might be but that is the way it is. I pray to God that I always respect and value my rizq. There are many in this world who don't even have two meals a day.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Diwali @ The Big Green

1500 Candles at the Big Green. In the background is the Baker Tower

Organiser of the celebrations- SHANTI- The Hindu student association of Dartmouth

This is the festival season back home and we all Indians are feeling a bit low for obvious reasons. But then the saving grace is that the festival fell on a weekend. To begin with there was Puja at the Rollins Chapel and I found it a little odd in the chapel. Not because I am not a Hindu, I mean I've been to temples in India and the atmosphere here was more relaxed. But then this is Diwali, the occasion of joy.

After the Puja was the highlight of the evening- Lighting up the entire big green with 1500 candles. Ambitious as it was, the volunteers were plentiful so all went well. The scene at big green after we lighted up all the diyas was breathtaking. The pics which I have put are dark in comparison. Forgive my photography.

From the big green we went to the Collis center for the dinner. The dinner was completely prepared by the Indian families in the area (without any catering help). I am extremely grateful to them for the REAL INDIAN FOOD I've had today. I especially loved the gulabjamuns :-)

Actually our celebration began even before the puja, there was lunch at B's place. Amazingly B too had gone out on all cylinders to prepare lots of food for all of us. I enjoy these gatherings and the movies which inevitably follow. Today was Andaz apna apna. I need not say more.


Friday, October 20, 2006

The Namesake by Mira Nair


The namesake is a movie based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. The movie is going to hit the theaters in the spring next year. I was lucky to watch it the Hopkins Center. Mira Nair was being presented with the annual Dartmouth film award this year and the screening was a privilege.

As the trailers of the movie say, it IS a loving adaptation of the novel. I found the book great and over the last few days I have been watching a few Mira Nair movies. In Monsoon wedding and Salaam Bombay (the ones I've seen), I was awed by the richness of the visuals. The tension and emotions just beneath the surface, which the characters could all but express, were the qualities which, as I think of them now emerge to me.

The Jhumpa Lahiri book, according to me was as much about Ashima as it was about Gogol and in the end they both ended up finding their destinies. I am very glad that this facet of the novel has been retained in the movie and it stays true to the course. "Life in a foreign country can be difficult ", I've heard people say. Imagine being in a foreign land within a week of your marriage with the knowledge that this is going to be your home for a long long time, perhaps forever.

What do you do when you operate the Laundromat for the first time and don't know whom to ask for instructions? How do you prepare that "hot mix" when none of the ingredients are at hand? What would you do when your husband is not there during your labor? In short how do you continue living? Tabu as Ashima rocks in the movie and it is pleasantly surprising to hear her English with an unmistakable Indian accent even after living as a first generation immigrant for so long. What is the big deal??

The confusion and a crisis of identity for Gogol are according to me very stereotypical. But the way this ABCD carves out his life is interesting. Tired of living a second hand life, everything becomes clear when in the end he says- “I know I am supposed to feel utterly devastated, but I actually feel free for the first time in my life”. That is the thing with life. You find your happiness in the most unexpected of things.

Now I realize I have got all my feelings for the novel and movie all mixed up and this post has been as much about the book as it has been about the movie.

“For our loving parents, who gave us everything”

Friday, October 13, 2006


There was this picture in a person's profile on Orkut a few months ago. It said-"There is no free lunch". At the time I believed it and I guess I even understood what he was trying to say. Then, I came to Dartmouth.

The first week here was a flurry of free food. Practically everywhere we went, there was some free food on offer. BBQs, seminars, presentations.. you name it and chances are there that they were having pizzas or burgers or salad or cookies or all of them. I was delighted to find so many things on offer. I savored them as much as I could (within the norms though). I was consuming, in the land of consumerism.

My third week has almost ended. In this post I specifically want to write this week's free food day by day. As the MS-rep to the Thayer Council, on Monday I had lunch with the Dean of Thayer school. On Wednesday I had my dinner at the mentoring get together (for the last time, I wonder), then on Thursday I ate pizza at the Thayer council meeting in the afternoon and pizza again at a Google seminar in the evening. Today, the last working day of the week, I went to a seminar which was provided free lunch.

The engineering career fair was on Wednesday and as a result I got a lot of free t-shirts too during the last week. A total of four. I like the google one most. It says "I'm Feeling Lucky". I am sure I have described these things in sufficient detail.

I've been thinking about all this free stuff and wondering why they do it. I still believe "there is no free lunch". Maybe it helps the students do better, they have a sense of belonging to the college when they wear the college merchandise. Or may be these are all marketing gimmicks and nothing more.

Sunday, October 1, 2006


How many of us have dark sides which we don't want to share with anyone else? Is there something in our lives which we would like rather like to keep as an unknown secret?

The answer to these questions, at least for me is YES. But then don't start thinking I am going to reveal my dark side in this post. Rather, I would write about a friend who has this phobia of meeting old friends among other things. Let us call this guy A.

A is a very frank and straight forward guy. Not in-your-face types, but he still speaks his mind. Doesn't matter if most of the times people don't agree with him.

A had a 'best friend' when he was in junior college. 'Best' means totally langotiya yaar. But then, they lost touch in college, because they were in different colleges. One fine day, when A was waiting for a train on the platform, he spotted this other guy. You can't think of what he did. He left the platform in a jiffy and took two rickshaws to his home. Only because he did not want to even come across his best friend of yesteryears. I know all this from the little time I have spent with him.

On one another occasion he was crossing a road with his friend (another one) ahead of him. A saw a vehicle coming and he just stood there, did not shout out to his friend!!! "He wanted to see what happens" in an accident. Finally, his friend was alerted by someone else.

I am sure there will be many more similar incidents in A's life which I don't know of. But the point is, there are enough such incidents in my life too which are pretty dark. I admire A for his candour and straight-forwardness. May be this post was nothing. After all, I know myself, but then it is good to find someone whom you admire for something which you can't be.

Three cheers for A!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


So, the classes began today. I am taking two courses this term. One is a applied mathematics course and the other one is science of solid state materials. Two courses in about 12 weeks plus the research assignment. That is about it.

Guess what! we MS guys have our own carrels which means we have been assigned some office space and a desk with computer to ourselves. According to my advisor that is going to be my 'personal space'. This is too good. When I visited the libraries today, I was having a hard time keeping myself from gasping. They are just so well organized and designed keeping even the smallest detail in mind. The search and scan system is state of the art. After all, Dartmouth is not an Ivy Leaguer for nothing.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Today was my first day of orientation. During today and tomorrow and this whole week I have to attend lots of sessions and seminars and presentations which provide 'resources' for every single thing about your life at Thayer and Dartmouth. These sessions cover areas like those specific to International students. Then there are sessions about your graduate life and studies here. So its kinda informative but very overwhelming. I mean for somebody like me who is new in US; its difficult to remember American names.Hell, I forget Indian names just as well.

One thing which I always complained of in SGSITS was the difficulty of finding information and locating where exactly do you want to go for help. just for the record, Dartmouth is a completely wireless campus and the wireless signal strength, even in the basement is 'excellent'. On top of it, the college has its own e-mail program, the Blitz mail, like Microsoft outlook. But its lot more advanced and has a feature called blitz bulletins (literally). You could monitor them for all the activities that go on around the campus. I'll give some examples: career services bulletin, hockey bulletin, Dartmouth outing club bulletin, cricket club bulletin, graduate office bulletin, international office bulletin Thayer school bulletin and even a free-food bulletin!

Here at Dartmouth they place a lot of importance on academic honesty and integrity. They do not tolerate plagiarism or cheating in any form. A student if found violating the code of conduct may even be expelled from the institute and he may not even get a second chance. Consider this in terms of what it implies for international students. Once they are expelled, they lose their immigration status and they can be asked to leave US in a single day.

There were two (or three??) sessions dealing exclusively with the academic honor principle and there will be quite a few more this term. Initially I didn't understand why are they over stressing the point, if at all they were. I mean the issue is pretty black and white for me. In these cases I always follow my gut feeling. But there have been times during my graduation where 'academic honesty' was violated.

But I soon found out that there are many gray areas where it is not easy to judge between right and wrong. The failure to identify loose ends in the beginning of your research program can lead to severe consequences for all individuals involved. This includes your professor-in charge, your colleagues and of course you.

I feel fairly strongly about these issues. It is going to be very exciting and responsible to be in a questioning role and keeping an eye open for everything that goes on in your lab. Isn't that what science is all about?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reaching Dartmouth 2

Completely lost, I came out of the Delta terminal where jasdip singh was waiting for me. The taxi meter was running all the time too. Having lost out on this, I went to the Port Authority which is on 42nd street in Manhattan. It is a big bus terminal from where you can get buses all over the US. My way was through Park Avenue and Times Square.

He dropped me there and I paid a huge taxi fare. From the ticketing counter I found out that the earliest bus to Boston and to white river junction was at 12.30 am and if I wanted to travel I would have to wait for about 5 hrs on the terminal. After considering my options (like I had any) I bought the ticket. I cannot explain the difficulty I was facing all the time lugging my heavy bags. After two more trips to and fro I checked in my baggage with excess baggage fare. Shortly after I went downstairs to gate no. 84 from where the bus was to depart.

That waiting period was very frightening. Sitting with two heavily packed bags with strangers all around, for a few moments, I lost hope. I was sitting in between two African-Americans who were smelling heavily. You have to be in the place to experience the emotions. I eased a little only after talking to an Indian when I found her sitting next to me.

Thereafter it was usual waiting. I was prepared now and the worst was over. I boarded the bus at 12.30 and reached Boston at 5.00 am. I found that the ticket which I had would take me directly to Dartmouth, if I went by the 10.00 am bus that is. So, again I decided to wait for 5 long hours at the Boston bus Terminal. I'll write about that sometime.

After that I boarded the 10.00 am Bus and reached Dartmouth and my apartment at about 2.00 pm. Thank God!

I was 'home' after about 42 hrs of traveling, very little sleep, almost no meals and lots of experience.

Right now, I am at Thayer, my engineering school. I've got lots of things to do during the next week and hopefully everything will work out fine.

Reaching Dartmouth

After a 14 hr non-stop journey from Kuwait to New york I thought the major traveling was over. I just had to travel to Boston by a plane and from there Dartmouth coach would take me to the college. I even hoped to catch the last coach at 9.00 pm from the Boston airport. I had landed at JFK airport at about 3.30 pm local time.

Well, the immigration and customs was a breeze and I was out in about 20 mins! I was expecting to get my bags opened at the airport but nothing significant happened. After coming out I bought a ticket to Boston by Delta airlines for 330 dollars. The flight departs from La-Guardia airport at 7.30 pm and I had about 2.30 hours before the flight. I came out and took a taxi to the Guardia and that was were all the fun began.

My cabby was an Indian and obviously I started chatting with him. Very soon I discovered that I had bought a very expensive ticket for Boston. I was cursing myself for spending so much money on the ticket. The situation was like: I would reach Boston at around 9.00 pm and by then the last bus to Dartmouth would have left already, so I had to spend the night at Boston airport and there were no chances of me reaching college at night.

Jasdip Singh, the cabby told me I could get to Boston and even New Hampshire directly in a Bus from New york for as low as 70 dollars and I was in a soup now. I was consoling myself for spending such a huge amount on the Boston ticket.

Then, an idea struck me. What if I could cancel my ticket if it was possible. I called Delta from Jasdip's phone and they said I would get a complete refund if I canceled my ticket. So I made up my mind to cancel and after reaching La Guradia I asked around the Delta counters where I could have the job done. They directed me to the Delta shuttle counter and when finally I felt that I would get my money back, the ticketing lad started issuing a check and suddenly she says she cannot issue me the check from there. I would have to send my ticket to the Atalanta office to get a refund. Desperate now, I asked whether I could still travel on the flight, she said NO, My ticket was canceled.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Kuwait- The Women

Any writing about Kuwait or other mid-eastern country would be incomplete without a description of women and their lives here. There are many misgivings about the condition of women in this region I have seen Kuwaiti women primarily in the souks where my father has a shop too.

In terms of physical appearance they are second to none. Big beautiful eyes and an unblemished skin (mostly achieved by excessive make-up) are the most discernible features. Many of them wear stylish dresses- stylish by Arabic standards. This means their tops are knee length and you can spot the jeans beneath their abayas. Pink is the color of choice when it comes to tops, headscarves and even shoes.

The good thing amid all this modernization is that they haven’t forgotten their Islamic values. The scarves cover the head and hair fully. I know a person who has made a fortune selling hijabs or headscarves. I am heartened by the fact that women here haven’t forgotten their roots. After all, Islam is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Glocalization is the word.

Recently, Kuwaiti women were granted the right to vote and even contest in parliamentary elections. Kuwait is the first country in the region to grant equal voting rights to women. Obviously, this is a step forward and will answer those who are always looking to stereotype women here. I mean, look at women in Saudi-arabia, they are not even allowed to drive.

In Kuwait- The Locals

In this series of posts I am going to write about my impression of Kuwait, the country that has been home to my father and many others for the last 26 years.

"The State of Kuwait (Arabic: الكويت‎) is a small oil-rich constitutional monarchy on the coast of the Persian Gulf, enclosed by Saudi Arabia in the south and Iraq in the north. The name is a diminutive of an Arabic word meaning "fortress built near water." (From wikipedia.org)

As might be already clear, Kuwait is a very rich country, rich from the petrodollars. Even while other countries in the gulf like U.A.E. and Bahrain are trying to drastically reduce their dependence on oil exports, Kuwait apparently doesn't care. The government is assured by the fact that Kuwait has 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. Petrol here sells at about ten Indian rupees a liter!

You could expect to find all major attributes associated with a developed country: world-class transportation and telecommunication systems, efficient administration. But you better not ask about freedom of expression and independence and equality and secular ideas. Indians and westerners have come to associate such high values to these that I am sometimes amused. What would a hungry man value more: freedom to worship his God or a good meal?

Yes, despite all its shortcomings (many prefer to call it that) Kuwait has been the Promised Land for thousands of expatriates from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Srilanka and most importantly Bangladesh. Bengalis are the most visible community here after the locals. I will write about the expats and their lives here in a second post. Here I will concentrate on the locals.

It seems to me that Kuwaiti citizens here are living in some land that is vastly different from the Kuwait I know. Most of them wear dishdhashas (the traditional arabic gown worn by men in the gulf). My dad tells me it is an ideal dress in the very hot and dry weather in Kuwait. The summer temperatures here go up to 55 degrees Celsius. Though many younger Kuwaitis wear western clothes too but they are in a minority.

Due to their excessive fondness for a kind of arabic tea called ghava, which is cloyingly sweet, many Kuwaitis suffer from diabetes. Only the other day my dad's sponsor lost his eyesight temporarily because of diabetes. The other disease very common here is a syndrome that causes the birth of deformed babies. This is because Kuwaitis are known to marry very closely in their families.

Inspite of all their wealth, elder citizens value and respect money and foreigners. (Though that cannot be said of all citizens these days). Islamic culture places a lot of importance on food, it is called rizq in arabic. Kuwaitis never eats alone (men and women eat separately); so whenever food is brought, they invite those in sight to eat with them. My dad has had such experiences with complete strangers!

The government here provides huge interest free loans to citizens for whatever purposes they may require. As a result, the salaries of many Kuwaitis go completely towards repaying these loans. In order to maintain a high and lavish standard of living they have to look for other avenues of earning money.


Friday, September 8, 2006


My last post was on 28th August and that was when I was in Mandsaur. I left Mandsaur and much more on 1st September. From Bombay, I reached Kuwait on 3rd morning and it is where I am right now.

Farewells are always tough and all this time I am having a feeling that this time when I go, it will be for good. Things left behind will be left behind. When away from home, they talk about missing your loved ones and longing for them. But I have never felt such things. I have always accepted going as a part of life. After all, when you look at it, our life is just a journey; a passage. This is what Islam says.

But rhetoric aside, I am sometimes dismayed by my own hard-hearted-ness. I don't know how much my mother misses me but I rarely take the trouble of calling her. It is my dad who does the calling. I talk to her with my eyes glued on the computer screen. This is what I have become.

And going to the states has its own flip side too.I could as well stay here and work with my father. That, according to many well-wishers would be the right thing to do. At one level, I too realize that staying on would do a lot of good. Let me face this: I am going to US for my own selfish reasons and this would potentially distance me from my family forever.

Oh God! Please help me pass through this moment. Guide me to the right way and help me travel on it.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Adverse Effects of Bumps

I am writing this post on my Dad's insistence. He is more moved by the inefficiency of the system here. Much more than me.

The distance from Banswara to Pratapgarh is around 85 Kms. But the journey by the bus took more than 3 hours. This time, a passenger is able to do nothing, except sit and wait for his destination. The number of human hours wasted in traveling is so huge in India that it sucks the efficiency out of you. The journey, even a small one leaves you so exhausted that you need to rest another two hours. One day's work takes two days to complete.

I will give another example. When I was studying in Indore, I always dreaded coming home. It was the trip that I dreaded and not the actual being at home. Indore to Mandsaur is about 200 kms, but if you want to leave at any human hour, the journey inevitably takes more than 6 hours. The trains do not run here. They crawl. So what happens is more and more people flock to Indore because of better opportunities and they all avoid coming home.

But, if these trains were fast and if they ran at say, 100 kms per hour, Indore-Mandsaur route could be covered in about two hours. This facility would enable more and more people to remain in Indore during the day and return to their near-by homes at the day-end. The strain on Indore's Infrastructure to support more people than it can would no longer be there. This is a problem with all big cities and not just Indore. Even students could consider making trips everyday for studying if the transportation was fast enough.

All of this would increase the efficiency of us all. People wouldn't have to worry about getting leg room on the last train at day's end. There could be more trains operated on a single track if each train completed its run in shorter time. All along, railways' profits would soar too.

There is so much to do. If only I could raise my head and look around. There was this dialogue in Rang de Basanti- "system ke andar rehkar system ko badalna padta hai".

I don't think I am justified in writing this. India Bashing is not what I am doing. I am just echoing my father's opinion. They are mine too. But at some point we have to start looking for solutions and not just bear.



This last week I've been touring to some places of religious significance. I've been to Rampura, Ahmedabad and Galiakot. Most of you might not even know where these are. But anyways, I went there with my Dad. I am writing about the journey which was in most parts in a Bus.

The bus which carried us from Rampura to Neemuch was a minibus which could seat around thirty passengers. I could not believe my eyes when I saw more than seventy people crammed in there. On each stop which was less than every five minutes more people would get in. They all were so desperate like me to get into the bus that it seemed there was no other bus during the day.

We talk about increased leg-rooms on flights and crave for exit seats. There I understood what leg-room is all about. It is the actual space on which your feet are resting and nothing more. Consider all of this with the fact that, all along the road was nearly non-existent. Heavy rains during the past fortnight had washed all that was remaining. The good part was you could not feel the bumps because the bus was so crowded.

In Madhya Pradesh, the govt has dissolved the road transport corporation. There are no State transport buses, only those licensed by it and operated by private operators. There method of operation can be well understood. I also noticed that these buses won't take school children who are returning to their villages from their schools. The reason is a government policy which establishes a reduced fare for students. If only the administration could see.

The same scene was repeated on the route from Banswara to Pratapgarh. Only this time the bus was bigger and therefore the number of passengers were more than hundred.

After seeing what actually India is and how grim the situation is, even in not-so-rural areas, I am sad that these stories are never in the news. Our news channels and newspapers are filled only with the travails of Mumbai local train passengers and the development or lack of it of the Delhi metro. Moreover nobody, not even us act on it. It would do us some good if we are aware of both sides of the India Shining picture.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


There is such a thing called Honesty- still alive in India, particularly among rickshaw drivers. People show their integrity when you least expect them to and it leaves you delighted.

I came to Indore this morning and was on my way home in a rickshaw. To begin with the rickshaw wallah did not suggest some outrageous fare. What he was offering seemed reasonable to me, so I hopped in without any haggling. When I left the auto at my barber's shop, I didn't realize that my mobile phone was left behind in the auto. It was not until that I had had my shave that it struck me.

Then began some frantic calling to my number but no one was picking the phone. I was starting to get worried, to put it mildly. But at least the fellow had not switched off the phone. My barber and I, both were calling and after sometime he answered the phone.

To my pleasant surprise, he was talking of coming to the place where he had dropped me and return the phone which he had found hidden in the space just below the seat. The fellow sounded very earnest and he asked me to have faith. Of course, at that point, it was the only thing I had.

We decided to meet at my barber's place after an hour or so and when I reached there, I was late. He had arrived before and was waiting for me. We had some heavy talk on value stuff and I thanked him profusely. I will remember that man and his philosophy for a very long time.

In the end, it does not matter how much money you have made, but are you able to face yourselves in the mirror is what counts. My mobile phone wouldn’t have been enough for that man for the rest of his life and he returned it as a matter of principle- "Sabhi rickshaw wale ek jaise nahi hote" was what he kept saying. He along with his few colleagues even had a network, so that if someone came looking for their items left behind in their rickshaws they were guided properly.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Realization of a Basic Truth

It happened over 10 days ago, but this one day will stay in my memory for a long time to come.

During the week prior to the last, it was raining cats and dogs here in Mandsaur without any respite. Power supplies were playing truant too. The power in our area went off at around eight in the evening. It turned out that the distribution transformer of our area had burned down. This spiked me to no end and when I called the office of electricity board, they nonchalantly informed me that there would be no power for the night and the transformer would get replaced if necessary only on the next day. Imagine being without electricity for one whole night.

I endured it rather bravely in my own opinion. But as soon as I was awake in the morning, I started calling the office again demanding an explanation. The image state electricity board in my mind was that of a corrupt institution stuck in 1960's both in terms of attitude and technology.

Mr. B who is the supeintendent incharge of repair works kept assuring me that they are doing their best, given the heavy rains and the submerging of the nearby low-lying areas. This bit of information gave me a whiff of what the actual situation was like. Farmers in villages were about to lose their crops and their houses were in the danger zone of floods. Some people were suffering much more than me who was only without electricity.

In the evening, still without power, I visited the site where the transformer had got burnt. About six technicians were working on restoring the power. Mr. B and his boss were also present. I started talking and he descirbed the havoc rains had caused. From the last four days, he was going to his home at about two in the morning, only to leave seven hours later. There were short circuits, equipent was getting burnt and the danger of a major breakdown loomed large with the rains giving no signs of stopping.

I also found the acute manpower shortage in the electricity board. It is not that these workers are corrupt and not working for want of a bribe which I had imagined. They were working their hearts out within the given resources. They were not wearing any kind of protection, not even raincoat and rubber gloves. There were no high rise ladders, save one and all these men were working fifteen the last four days.

I was too Howard Roarkish to believe such ground realities. I wonder how low my levels of toleration have fallen to. Who am I and what gives me the moral right to consider my problems above the life and death question of many others??


Monday, August 21, 2006

Blogging Tools & Google

Since today morning, I've been searching for the best blogging tool to write blogs and a basic profile. I've found blogspot (obviously) and the other is wordpress (see my blog on wordpress). Going by the ratings of Forbes, wordpress is the best while blogspot which is endorsed by Google is the oldest and the most popular. I have decided to play safe and will stick with blogspot.

So what if it has some issues in its beta version. Doesn't matter much if I cannot find a way for uploading pictures. Blogspot has the widest visibility and I am starting to like the layout of ts website. There is one more thing which has kept me here. It is the association of Google with blogspot.

Currently, I am reading a book about the company which is called "The Google Story". The author has tried to tell the story from the very beginning when google was a Stanford university project with just Sergey Binn and Larry Page working on it. I have been always fascinated by all things Google, be it Gmail, Picasa, Google News or simply Google of course. Then there is googlism.com too; I don't know how many of you know about it. Try it. It is always fun if you try to search for words like bc and mc. (oops, can't help it!).

Coming back to the book, my opinion of it would be "informative-non-fiction-pulp". One little piece of trivia from the book- Sun in sun microsystems inc stands for Stanford University Network. So that explains "informative". Non-fiction because we all use google and etc while pulp because of the paper quality. (I am reading a pirated version). The original is priced at an outrageous Rs. 695. Not that I'd buy if it were cheaper.

Now I am going to stop and take it easy for a few hours at least.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


Today is Shabe-Meraj. The importance of this day for us lies in the history that on this day Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to the heavens and came back.

It is said metaphorically, that Rasulullah was made so close to Allah that it was as if he was within the pupil of Allah's eyes. Rasulullah descended to Masjid al-Aqsa again, having seen what was beyond the experience of ordinary mortals and returned with many gifts, one of which was the number of prayers believers would recite per day. (from mumineen.org)

When I try to see this in the perspective of my life, I realize that there is a lot of love for us all to give and take. The 'ascending to the heavens' is reaching a state when I am able to understand and appreciate God's creation. What I am able to see now is only a fraction, the other side of the picture is hidden. In heaven, God does not make any distinction on the basis of color and caste. Who gives me the moral right to do this on earth?

Conceded the fact that ours is a secular country and we are supposed to be egalitarian in our outlook. But those cobwebs of the mind which have been there since long, will take time to clear. The sooner they do the better. This mentality manifests itself in the most subtle of forms. When I am in mosque offering prayers, I wonder what it is that I ask from God. He has been very kind to me and I wonder in what way I am different in any basic way from those who have lost their homes and business in these heavy rains. What keeps these people going is the deepest faith in The Almighty.

Coming to more mundane matters, the rains seem to have stopped and going by the opinion here, We've had enough. This is of course an understatement, sitting in the comfort of my home with a computer and broadband internet.


"When you are sorrowful look again into your heart, and you shall see that the truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." -Kahlil Gibran

The Journey Begins

They have this saying in Chinese that "A thousand miles journey begins with the first step". So here I am, finally writing a blog. As to what I am going to write in here that is a no-brainer. The usual stuff for now.

The journey has begun in more ways than one (or has it?). Most of you who are going to read this blog understands what I am saying. So these days I am just enjoying the last days with my family before I heed off for 'further studies'.

I put the phrase under quotes because after graduating three months ago, it seems that its been a lifetime since I touched books. Consider this with the fact that Dartmouth, the place I am going to has eight libraries on campus. How is that for juxtaposition. By books, I obviously mean only the engineering course books.

Since I am talking about journeys and such, I've always felt a sense of freedom and light-headedness when I realize that wherever I am now or where I will be in future is not permanent. Change is the only constant and this somehow gives me the courage to bear it all. Even the good moments . Things change and I believe they do only for the better.

So that's it for now and a promise for regular updates.