Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fuck Pakistan (and its good, sweet people)

Yes yes I know their soldiers are trying to kill ours, their entire nuclear arsenal is made to annihilate us, they send insurgents to spread terrorism and their fast bowlers have been fucking our batsmen for a longer time than I want to admit.

But try as they may, in the golden words of Ramsay Bolton “You can’t kill me, I am a part of you now”.

The funny thing is ……..that outside India and Pakistan we are not trying to kill each other, we are actually one. One army friend of mine said that even the Indian and Pakistani army officers get along well while at UN Peacekeeping missions. I remember eating in a restaurant named Kathmandu in Paris, which served Indian food, which was run by Pakistanis. I heard them speaking in Punjabi, so when the guy came to serve I asked where is he from, he said Islamabad. I asked if they speak Punjabi in Islamabad, he said Punjabi and Urdu are both spoken in Islamabad. He finally gave us 10% discount and refused to take the tip I left. He said “Arey aap aur main to ek hee jagah ke hai”. Indeed.

There is another Pakistani guy near where I stay in Madrid, he is extra warm towards me and my Indian colleagues from office. The last I went to eat at his restaurant he first refused to take money and gave us a discount and then gave three cans of coke on top of that. He works in a shop run by a Bangladeshi. I would think he would like him more than us because they are both Muslims but he doesn’t, in fact he complains of him ruining his Hindi. When we were in Pamplona during San Fermines, when the running of the bulls happens, the moment immortalized in ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’, we found only one restaurant serving veg food, a place selling Falafels and Durum kebabs, again run by a Pakistani. When I was trying to order in my shitty Spanish he interjected saying that he speaks both English and Hindi. The rest of the transaction went on in Hindi when another friend used there toilet and we got a discount. The guy made an extra effort to mark the veg rolls as Veg rolls.

We are part of them too and they are a part of us. Exhibit A – My friend saying “Saggy (another friend of us) ke to Lahore lage hai abhi”. Lahore lagna = having a jolly good time. “Lahore na dekha to kya dekha” is another Punjabi saying that he quoted.  They (Pakistanis) watch all the Bollywood movies and follow our movie stars and we all reluctantly agree their Coke Studio is better than ours.

I wonder where the blood lust comes from, the will to take lives and kill each other for losing cricket matches or lesser. We eat the same food, we like the same things, we nearly speak the same language, we were enslaved colonized by the same people, we look the same and we both swear by cricket. The Pakistanis I met in Paris asked where am I from, having no good answer I said Bangalore (I just randomly say whatever I feel like when I am asked this, see this post), when the guy brought me food he said, “arey Kumble aur Dravid wahin se hai na”. I nodded without saying we (me and Kumble) don’t speak the same language or eat the same food, in fact I am closer to you then I am to them. For a second I felt a strange kinship to him. But for a second only, then all the scenes of them invading our country filled my head. Fuck Pakistan, it’s good, sweet people and filmmakers who propagate this shit.

Why can’t we all make Peshawari Naan and not war?
P.S - By the way the photo I uploaded is a Indian restaurant in Segovia run by a Pakistani named "La Juderia" which means the 'The Jew'.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Life for rent

Have you watched Outlander? I haven’t, except for the first episode, and one scene of it stays with me. The one where Claire, the protagonist, sees a vase and has a sort of existential crisis. For that moment I felt exactly like her, she saw a vase and said this “Like the moment I realized I'd never owned a vase.
That I'd never lived any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing”.
I have no show pieces that I own, nothing that that isn’t purely functional, except maybe a few fridge magnets and gifts that I have received over the years and I carry along. I have no home so to speak of, just houses that I rent for a while. And probably no concept of one either, my parents stay abroad in a rented house, the house that they own is rented out to someone else. Also I have been staying away from them for 14 years now, cannot even call their home as mine. So where is my home?
I have lived in six different cities in the past six years. Moving everywhere permanently and staying everywhere temporarily. I gain things and friends wherever I stay and lose some of them every time I move. I attach myself to every city I move wholeheartedly, always knowing that I have to move soon. It fuels both my nihilism and hedonism every time I think about it. Nothing is of consequence because nothing is of permanence, I can make friends or be hated by my neighbors, I can buy a nice house or rent a shoddy one , buy comfortable chairs and a vase or sit on the floor; all of this does not matter because I am going to be moving soon anyways. But on the other hand it also tells me to go the extra mile to agree with people, to really try to live like a local, to see the city and try to understand it and its people, to try to grow roots; because there is nowhere else to go, no home to return to, no normal situation that I expect to come back, this is life, and right now is the only time to enjoy it.
There is perhaps no word for this feeling that I have, at least none in English or Hindi, there is one in Portuguese though – Saudade. Saudade is a sense of melancholic longing of someone or something that you liked too much and you lost, the understanding that the thing lost is permanent in suppressed but also known. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. So it is sad and happy feeling at the same time, it really is hard to describe and understand except for the people who have felt this.
Every time that someone asks me where I am from, I give a different answer, depending on what I think would be easier to explain, to people here in Spain I say I am from Bangalore because that is where took the flight to Spain from. To people in Bangalore I said I am from Jodhpur because that is where I went when I was getting married, to people in Delhi I said I am from Kota because that is where I used to go on college breaks. The people that I meet while travelling here in Europe I say I am from Madrid.  I can’t speak Spanish, Kannada, Hadoti or Marwari good enough to pass for a local in any of these places though. Every city that I go to, I am an outsider. A ship without a port, so to speak. A lot of people ask me where do I want to settle down, or they ask me don’t you want to move closer to home? And I have to reply every time, where is home? My parents don’t stay in Jodhpur anyways, Kota is a place I wouldn’t want to settle down, Bangalore is going to the dogs and Madrid is too foreign to even consider. Why would anyone want to go to the city they were born in? They just happened to be born there, there is nothing magical about it, no reason to even care. Many kids are born in airplanes, ships, military camps and soon to be abandoned mining towns. They would have turned out to be ok, right? Except that everybody wants to go home. Home is where the heart is, or so they say, so perhaps you have no heart if you do not have a home.
Of course it is not all bad, I like Samosa, Kabooli, Masala Dosa and Spanish Omelette equally and can ask you to fuck off in five languages, I have houses in so many cities where I can turn up and would be welcomed into. I have a better perspective on cultures and people than some scholars of anthropology. Unlike some people I know my life is not a constant struggle to get transferred to North India or Delhi or Jaipur or any of those places. And I do not have to spend loads of money on every Diwali to go home, I utilize that on Scotch and Seekh Kababs. There is no culture that I have to carry and uphold. No lamentation that this is good but it not like home. I know I have limited time everywhere so I try to do things today rather than later on. There is nothing so emancipating like this feeling in life, except maybe very high number of Jager Bombs.
There are others like me, I see them transiting through places and life. You learn their names, say a few kind words and then prepare for a goodbye. People who are of nowhere, like the Wandering Jew cursed to wander the Earth till the second coming. People who always stay in rented houses, look for furnished houses, try to make friends with other outsiders, who struggle for coming up with address proofs and dread things that have to be posted to their permanent addresses. People who poke fun at the things that are in the city that they live and the cities that they have lived, with very less baggage, physical and emotional. Taking up prepaid phone connections, looking out for DTH boxes with less deposit and good taxi services instead of good cars. Enjoying both the city park picnics and legendary eating places. Searching for English speaking people and depending on Google maps. But the most I identify with something is the ocean, it is all one and connected everywhere but goes by so many different names and behaves so differently wherever it goes. It is Pacific somewhere and Indian someplace else, it is hot somewhere and frozen some other place, it is teeming with life at some places and also dead some other place.
It is both a boon and bane, living without a home, an anchor, belonging to nowhere, with no one to go back to and nobody holding you back. Of short visits and long promises. Enjoying the impermanence and dreading it at the same time. The life with rented houses, coolers, TVs, cars and beds. The life, itself and wholly or partly, for rent.
P.S - This is a video of Fado music from Portugal, a music which very deeply signifies Saudade


Friday, March 25, 2016

Curious incident with two boys at midday

There is a small park in front of the hostel that I'm staying in right now in Lisbon. I was killing time yesterday, waiting for it to be time to formally check in when...... 

Two boys, most probably brothers aged around 4 and 6 were playing football. Both were running for the football and in order to get to the ball first the older one pushed the younger one away, all the while both were running towards the ball. The younger and smaller boy fell, got hurt and started crying. The bigger one got the ball. 

The younger boy stayed on the ground, he had fell face first, but got his hands down first to break his fall. I felt really really bad for that small boy, I wanted to go pick him up, ask him to stop crying, to tell him that in life a thousand times more people will push you to get some metaphorical football first and you will fall on your face and be hurt. But be strong, don't cry. You have to man up, the world is a shitty place. You have to get up again and push that boy back. I was angry at his older brother, thinking how could he push his little brother like that, I was angry at the world for being unfair where big kids push little kids, I was angry at all the people who ever pushed me, literally and figuratively. 

But there was another voice in my head, that is still to console that young boy, but to tell him that it is ok to cry. Bad things will happen in life and it is ok to cry sometimes, you don't have to be strong everytime, sometimes the football is not worth it. I wanted that boy to be protected from the world and never play football with bigger kids ever again. 

I pondered on both these choices for a second or two. I didn't rush to pick up that kid, I didn't know them and I didn't know if my talking to those kids will be ok or not. And I got my answer to the choices a second later. 

The bigger kid after seeing his younger brother crying ran back with the football, picked him up, dusted him off and gave him the football. The little kid still angry threw the ball away, his older brother got it back to him. And I realized the answer. You will fall down many a times while playing football, you'll get hurt and cry. That will happen, and that is ok. That's why you have your loved ones, your older brother, your parents, your sisters, your friends, your spouse, to pick you up and dust you off so that you can play ball again. 

So be out there, run for the football and if you get pushed and you fall, cry for a while, let your loved ones dust you off so that you can continue running for the ball. Don't be that guy who always ran for the ball and didn't care who he pushed and don't be that guy who's afraid of playing with the big kids, the best path is somewhere in the middle. 

When I started walking back towards the hostel as it was 1, I saw those two kids playing football and laughing again. The world was a alright place again 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The best representation of an Indian middle class family - Khosla Ka Ghosla

I assume that you all would have seen the Khosla ka Ghosla. If not, then do yourselves a favor and watch it. This along with 'Bheja Fry' started the trend of small budget, non-slapstick, colloquial comedies, with Bollywood then destroyed by churning out innumerable cheap copies very fast, the same way they destroy every genre.

But its merit as a movie is not the point I wanted to talk about here, but how it most accurately described the typical Indian middle class family. We (the assumed readers of this blog) are the 80s and 90s generation, much has been written about us but now we have been largely forgotten because the Millennials are now hogging all the ink, except for the occasional memes like “if you remember this you had an awesome childhood” which surface on Facebook every once in a while. But even less is and was written about our parent’s generation, the people who were born in late 50s or early 60s. The people born into free India, the people who saw one war lost and two won. They had the ‘cautious optimism’ the term that we often read about in the so-called financial market news. They saw the euphoria of independence and the idea of how we can be whatever we wanted to be of the 50s and also the economic stagnation and unemployment of the 70s. Back in their days having a telephone was a status symbol, a scooter had a one year waiting period and buying a house was something you saved for your entire life.

And buying a house is what the movie starts off with, rather buying a piece of land on which the house is supposed to be built upon. Anupam Kher’s character K. K. Khosla short for Kamal Kishore Khosla (referred as KKK from here on) put’s his life’s savings or his provident fund money, which was the working class’ life savings, into buying a house where his kids can have some space for themselves. This was the most typical thing of our parent’s generation, to save it all for the kids. Spending money on yourself was an absolute no no after you have kids, from the vacation destinations to menu for dinner was decided keeping in mind what the kids would like. While I am certainly thankful to them for what they did, but I really do wish that they spent some more time and money on themselves. Investing was a totally unheard of thing except in gold, the mandatory PF and the new mysterious thing called LIC which the neighboring Uncle’s brother claimed was a very good thing and should definitely be taken. As the movie progresses K. K. Khosla reminds me of my dad very often and so would he remind you of yours.

The scene where they discuss the new name for Cherry is the first one that pops up in my head, when KKK is watching news and his wife tells the kids to keep quiet. All dad’s news watching time was sacrosanct, more important than their prayer time, absolute silence had to be maintained, TV room had to be vacated and meals and other things were planned around news time so as to leave dad undisturbed and free when he watched the news. And watching the news was serious business; actually DD news was serious business with none of sensationalism and ridiculous headlines as of today, it was succinct, to the point, and wrapped in 30 odd minutes. Remember the days when movies on DD had a news break? That’s when I ran away to do my homework and stuff, mom got up to make dinner and dad sat there for the most important thing of the day.

Second scene that really nails the middle class family dynamic is the scene where KK Khosla tells his wife to tell Cherry to drop his plan to dupe Khurana. The indirect communication is the most typical of all middle class families where Mom was the go through, she was the one who was able to talk to both sides. My Dad did that every time he was angry or disagreed with what I was doing, actually he still does that. He tells my mom to tell me to do stuff, to not spend money on eating out a lot, to be not too late if I’m going out, to find out why I want to change my job etc. etc.  Even phone calls with Dads in all our families are the same, he goes on to ask the basic questions like “How are you, How is your job going. Do you need anything” and then mom takes over to ask the real questions. And the reverse is also true, whenever I wanted permission for something I went to my mom first and her answer was always ask your dad and my reply was that you ask dad that I want this. Then she would break it to my dad; that is if the request wasn’t too ridiculous to be directly rejected by her and then my dad would call me and say “You mom is saying that you want to…..” I never had the gall to ask my dad directly about wanting a new cycle or spending a night at my friend for studying or any of those things. Dads in that generation were I guess supposed to be tough and authoritarian and a bit distant, they were supposed to play with their kids and indulge them but never to molly coddle them or use baby talk or try to be their friend; that kind of stuff was left to moms. Because of strictly defined gender roles maybe.

Moms knew how to diffuse a situation and to play referee as well. They knew the subtext and reasons behind every argument, like women nearly always do and we man at most time have no clue. Dads of their generation pretty much never knew the likes and dislikes of their kids, they spent most of their time working and the remaining time worrying. Heck my dad still thinks I like Dairy Milk and my brother likes Aaloo Matar even though we only did that when we were five. This was outlined by the scene where KKK buys whiskey to bond with his sons and then gets shocked and embarrassed when Cherry says that he doesn’t drink. While this is certainly better than my Granddad’s generation, the brother of my grandfather had 9 kids and did not even know the ages of some of them, but this is still kind of bad to not know that your son is teetotaler or not. Perhaps our generations will do a little better in knowing their kids and the generation after that still a little better.

The whiskey scene is preceded by the scene where he goes out to buy the bottle, he is thoroughly embarrassed and hides the bottle while coming back. There is also a scene where one of Cherry’s girlfriend’s friend comes in smoking and she tells her to put it out. KK Khosla knows why the girl is in his house, she is there because they are trying to swindle Khurana for a lot of money, but while cheating and fraud can be tolerated by him, a girl smoking certainly cannot. Alcohol and Cigarettes were the biggest taboo of that generation, no matter how many songs Rajesh Khanna sang with a glass in his hand and how many smoke rings Helen blew, this was still taboo in homes. Buying booze was still shady business and drinking it had to be in secret, quickly and behind closed doors. My dad drank his tea outside in the porch on Sundays but his whisky was always only in his room or in the drawing room when he had company with curtains drawn. He did not even throw the booze bottles in the waste bin, not because he was very environmentally conscious, but he did not want everyone seeing that we had whiskey bottles in the trash and by inference in our home. We still have situations where two generations, that is him, my uncles etc. sit and drink in one room and we sit and drink in another, both fully knowing what is going on in the other room. Add a smoking girl in this mix and all hell will break loose.

And finally I want to talk the very first scene of the movie, which is the best and most tragi-comic. Comic because of the obvious jokes being made there and I will talk about talk about the tragic part after this. The first scene is his funeral, a dream sequence of course, this is not American Beauty or Sunset Boulevard. On his funeral one guy comes with a bill and his wife rejects it, saying “Ye nahi rahe to kuch bhi bill doge? Chinese calculator pe ek ek cheez ka hisaab rakhte the”. That in a nutshell was the finance policy of the Indian middle class household, penny wise and pound fool. They kept a check on the most miniscule of things like how much they spent on buying milk and which vendor has the cheapest vegetables but never on the bigger stuff, whether they can invest their money on anywhere else than PPF, was the home loan being offered really came with best interest rate, were they actually losing money on their old scooter. All my lives my parents spent too much time and effort on spending less, never on earning more; even talking about the way to earn more was the equivalent of being greedy. And interest rates, stocks, cost of ownership etc.? All those were left to Harshad Mehta and other Gujrati businessmen.

The last but the foremost, the tragedy that he thinks will happen when he dies is the greatest tragedy of the middle class, small dreams and small disappointments. KKK’s nightmare was that when he will die his daughter would be wearing a jeans, his son will be late in office, other son will be talking tall about a watch, wife would only be worried about how to cook for so many people and the cancelled trip to Bangladesh, neighboring boys will lech at his daughter and the newspaper boy will charge him extra. If that is worst fear when you die that you either had a very good life or a very mediocre or perhaps both. Which was the case of that generation, the dreams and nightmares were both small. Whenever Amitabh Bachchan tried to reach for the stars he was always humbled at the end of the movie, either by giving up his dream or being shot in the abdomen, only the bad men got rich very fast. Actually movies of a generation are a very good indicator of its aspirations, fears and rebellions. KKK’s generation prized mother over cars & bungalows, thought of running away with Bobby as a rebellion, even second cousins were family, getting a job deserved running with joy to your mom and saying “Maa ashirwad de maa, mujhe naukri mil gayi” and they believed that fate would unite everyone by the climax. The next generation does not believe in fate, it believes that if you want to correct Khurana’s wrong then you have to do it yourself, by hook or by crook.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The tale of two brothers

No this is not Deewar, but it is pretty similar.

There are two brothers who work in the same office that I do, here in Madrid. They both are about 50 years old. One is my client reporting manager, while the other is the one whom I eat lunch with and socialize after work.

One brother, the younger one, wears suits to office, drives a Mercedes M Class which costs around 50 lakhs in India, eats lunch in a fancy Italian restaurant every day and is like a VP here with direct reporting to the CIO.

He is also unmarried, lives alone, has a reputation of being too picky, has only travelled once outside of Spain to Germany, that too for work and makes a graceful but quick exit from office parties after one drink. He also looks more aged than his older brother and reportedly gets upset if you compare the two of them.

The older brother on the other hand drinks till everyone else is drinking and then urges them on some more, he taught me the Spanish toast before a shot (quite handy if you are travelling in any of the Spanish speaking countries or quite cool if you are not). He has been to India twice, once to Nepal, Egypt, China and pretty much all of Europe. Can speak a few words of Hindi, Swahili, Cantonese, Croatian and fluent German. Can sing ‘Pardesi pardesi jaana nahi’ and say ‘Mero Nepali naam Ram Bahadur ho’. He has a wife that works in the same office, a daughter; a dog named Kika, he sings in the local choir on weekdays and treks on the weekends.

By now you I think you would have pretty much made up your mind which brother that you want to be. But wait, there is more. The older brother is actually junior to the younger brother in the office hierarchy, though he has been working longer here. He drives an old Volkswagen hatchback full of dog hair, his trekking T shirts have holes in them and he brings lunch in a reused plastic container. His reportees skip him to discuss a severe problem in the software that he works on and directly go to the manager. While the younger brother has a cabin of his own the older one sits in a cubicle like me, with his headphones on, listening to western classical music. He said he has never been to Ibiza as it very expensive (it is).

I want to be rich and well liked and well-travelled and fluent in multiple languages and high up in the corporate ladder and have fancy lunches wearing fancy suits and to have time for my hobbies to which I want to go to in my expensive car. I really do like being married (except when I am made to clean a perfectly clean house or when Supermodels invite me to share a hot tub with them; although the former happens more frequently than the latter) and I want to be close to my family. But seeing these brothers I understand that some of these things are mutually exclusive. It’s like the ending of the two paths, which I keep wondering about, laid out in front of me. One of them is the future of the decisions that I take today. I sometimes do console myself saying that “Naah, I’ll walk the middle path, get the best of both worlds.” But I don’t know if there is a middle path? And does it entail the best of both worlds or the worst of both worlds?

And to people who keep sharing posts like “If travelling is free you will never see me again” or “I'd rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff” I say bullshit. You can sell the stuff in your house and travel half the world. Hell, you can sell your phone and spend 5 days travelling Cambodia or buy a return flight to Europe or have a week exploring Rajasthan. But no you want that STUFF, you need that stuff. You want to hold a job which says Associate vice president or Product manager or some other fancy shit.  You want a fancy car. You want a big couch for days when you want to stay at home and don’t want to meet new people. You want to stay in a beach resort in Thailand with a staff that speaks fluent English and has a good Italian restaurant, while drinking a Dutch beer. More on this later perhaps.

Getting back to the two brothers, I really can’t say who has done better, who made the better choices, who is enjoying his life the most, whose compromise is worth it. It is like choosing between the Devil and deep blue sea, or rock and a hard place. When I think of it I feel that I am not choosing some things but rather letting go of some things. I mean will you let go of your brand new SUV  for a trip to the Moon? Will you give up an extra bedroom in your house for meeting your dad 15 more times before he dies. Will you like to have a best friend in office or would you like to get higher rating than your colleagues and rise above them. There was once a survey, can't find the exact link, but it went something like this. "Would you want a week in Paris or would you want a new wardrobe?" 75% people took the new wardrobe, they all said that the new wardrobe will last them years instead of the trip to Paris which they anyways plan to have. 90% of the people regretted their decision. And none of new wardrobe people took a trip to Paris in the next 3 years the survey tracked them.

We live in a society and everyone of us likes to get to a higher place in that society. Many of our decisions are influenced by what will others think of it. Getting a tattoo is only cool if others around you appreciate it, otherwise you are paying money to scar yourself. A Volkswagen Beetle's classic value of 22 Lakh is only derived from people who think it is a classic, drive that shit into a village in India and people would be laughing their asses off. So the point is that, between these two brothers can you even make a choice yourself or is the choice made for you by the society that you live in or our parents? Main Engineer / Doctor bana kyunki ye meri maa ka sapna tha. Aren't we all dancing on the strings held by the people who came before us, who were dancing on their forefather's strings? Acting how we do to live up to their expectations or do disprove their theories. I know quite a few people who did the shit that they did do just to piss their parents off and be established as a rebel. So all in all, do we even have a choice a chose a path? Or is nature or nurture? Or kismat as some of us call it? Or answer to the hundreds of prayers that people around us keep us chanting?

Poets die with an empty stomach but a full heart, materialistic people at least have a full belly even if their dreams are crushed. And from what I know hunger pangs hurt as much as hopelessness. No matter how I think about it I cannot make up my mind about which brother that I want to be. Can you?

Aaj mere paas building hai, property hai, bank balance hai, bungalow hai, gaari hai, kya hain
tumhare paas?
Mer paas Kika hai!
(Kyunki maa to dono ke pass nahi hai, wo Leon mae unke baap ke saath rehti hai)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My Favorite Beer Point

My favorite beer drinking place has been a bend in the Dehradun Mussourie road for around 8 years now. It is one of those innumerable Maggi points that dot that road, one of those places which offer tea, biscuits , their own recipe of maggi and a makeshift stone bench. But this one had a bench further down the level of the road and a clearing in front of it which gave a clear view of Dehradun from it.

And the view was outstanding. The place was calm, not much noise of the vehicles filtered through the trees, there was always a breeze blowing, thought it was freezing in January and the Maggi was good. I was pretty stressed about my MBA entrance exams and other shit but there for a few minutes I felt entirely at peace, I did not think of anything else except how it would feel to live here. No fancy job, no loads of money, no other fancy materialistic bullshit, just come here once in a while to drink a beer on a bike and eat a maggi. Total expense 150 Rupees per trip more or less. Less than the cost of pint in a pub in Bangalore. You can read about the whole Dehradun trip here. It is strange how the priorities of life can shift, I guess this is also a type of masaniya bairag. I will elaborate on the concept of masaniya bairag in a later blog post.

I do not have a photo of that place and sometimes I am glad of it, I can mentally mold the picture every time to the perfect place that I want to be in, in that moment of time. And everybody needs a beer point, even if they do not drink beer, it is a place of peace, their garden of Eden, a mental sanctuary.
But that place has now been replaced, by this.

This is near the castle (called Alcazar) of Segovia. Segovia is an old historic town near Madrid, it has an aqueduct from the Roman times, an impressive cathedral and this castle. It is said that this was the inspiration for Walt Disney for the sleeping beauty castle and the tower of Rapunzel.


I entered the castle from the regular entrance and the view was not impressive as the biggest tower facing had scaffolding on it, so after seeing the castle from inside I went out and was trying to get around it to see a different angle and came upon some narrow and steep stairs. The stairs are a recent addition, after the discovery of Cueva de la Zorra,

literally translates to the cave of the bitch, though I think it does not mean that. After I reached the bottom of the stairs I walked around I entered the woods near the foot of the rock the castle stands on. These woods called Dehesa in Spanish are typical of all Spanish royal residences, a break from then the hustle bustle of the castle. It also has a stream, which was probably a river surrounding the castle, cutting off approach of armies and has a small wooden bridge, now renovated, on it

While the place isn't really hidden, quite a few locals come here, but it is off the tourist track and thus very quiet.

As I walked in it I saw the leaves on the ground, the view of the castle and heard the sound of the small, gentle stream and I did not want to do anything but stand there, to stay there, to have a beer and think of nothing. And luckily I had a beer in my backpack; you see I was a Scout in school and you should know that their motto is "Be Prepared". So I stood on bridge with my one arm resting on the railing, legs crossed, looking up at the castle and sipped my beer. While the view was mesmerizing I was soon disturbed by a lot of elderly people who were walking their dogs. I thought public drinking would be OK in Spain, but I guess Botellon (Spanish for drinking in the street/park/beach) is now frowned upon and I had to move a little to the side to a stone bench.

And again I was lost from the my worries, like what to have for dinner and what number of bus leads back to the station, which I admit are the biggest worries of my life these days; and transported into a bubble where there was no past, no future, but only the present. I was looking up at the castle and seeing the myriad colors of the leaves, hearing minute changes in the sound of the stream and tasting the flavours in the beer which I hadn't noticed before.

But like all good things this had to come to an end as well, as I had to pee.

Even though I am no longer in that place, and this time I have a photo, but I will not look at it, for me it's my private paradise. So the next time I am stressed, when there is a P2 ticket or my in laws arrive and I need a place to retire to, to think of nothing and to feel relaxed, I will mentally arrive here. My new favorite beer point.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Idiot's guide to going onsite

You've spent so much time working in office that your own dog growls when you go home, you have published a paper on arcane things like transient cloud interoperability and have put your head so up your manager's ass that when you cough he burps; culminating finally finally into getting the holy grail of IT <drum roll>.................... ONSITE !

And after getting the visa, your shoes polished, not so subtly letting it spread it through your relatives & neighbourhood aunties and buying that new red tie you think all the hard work is behind you, right? No. You cannot be further from the truth! Sowing your crop is something, reaping it is a different ball game altogether.

But do not despair! Help is here! With the Idiot's guide to going onsite you can do this stint abroad like a boss!

1. See the first order of business is to get active on social media sites, reactivate that Facebook account that you deleted because potential wives were liking your 'drinking beer in my favorite lungi' pics. Get on instagram as well, because if you haven't instagrammed 'Spaghetti al carbonara' (even though you couldn't finish it) then you are letting the best things in life pass you by.

2. Second you really really need a DSLR, no self respecting Indian man abroad can take the pictures of autumn trees with an ordinary phone camera. Because a photo taken from DSLR with a watermark with your name and the title "I love <insert name of your city> in fall xoxo" really ups your swag. Take as many ketchup packets from McDonalds so that you can fund your DSLR.

3. Just photos of autumn trees wouldn't do, that was for the classy half of your friends, the other half are going to wonder why are you taking photos of dying trees, for them it is the picture in the <crash cymbal> Snow ! That will make them realize that you are not in India anymore.

4. And the final and most definite photo you need is with the Caucasian people. No that is not another type of Asian people, I mean the white people, the goras, the firangis. But it has to be casual, no forced hand on the shoulder, no white woman awkwardly leaning away from you when you grin like an idiot, no you photobombing when they were taking a photo. Best option is to do it on corporate get togethers when they are forced to socialize with you and post with a casual caption "Lunch with friends / Beer with Yuergen, Havier and Hema"

5. Now that we are done with people and other natural things it comes to the pursuit of the most perfect creation of mankind! CARS ! The formula to stand beside a car that you saw parked on the street and take a picture with it has been done to death by our seniors in the 90s. Now you have to be in the car to make it believable. So hunt for the cheapest rent-a-car and get 5 more guys to pool in and then take the picture in the driving seat in turns.

6. Photos and cars are good but they cannot nourish you, you need food for that, that means rice. Also some rasam, sambhar, gunpowder and pickle would be good with it. Even the people who are in the know of pickle-packaging-for-the-flight understand that 2 KG of pickle isn't going to last you forever, so hound Facebook for people who are traveling from India and carpet bomb them with requests to get Mukkala Pacchdi when they come. Also simultaneously ask the locals which is the cheapest place to buy sona masoori.

7. India's average saving rate is 30%, and that is just average, but you are no average Indian, average Indians are not sent abroad to do the most critical tasks like servicing hardware, entering data in tables and teach people how to use a software. You need to go beyond that, to boldly go where no man except an Indian has gone before, i.e for 90% of savings. For that, share a studio apartment with 4 other people and have beds from wall to wall, skip some meals entirely because they should not expect you to pay 107.50 INR for a sandwich, get your wife to cook the rest, travel only in groups of 11 to share costs, politely decline any invitations where you need to spend money, get a haircut once in a year, get a house in suburbs to travel 2 hours a day and get pressure cookers from India.

8. Praise their infrastructure, social security and healthcare while cursing the 30% taxation, mandatory health insurance and abundance of processes for everything.

9. Wait for 2 months then start treating the new immigrants like they have turnips growing out of their neck instead of a head. Correct their pronunciations, point out helpful facts like you can wait for 4 hours to take the bus instead of spending 30 dollars in a taxi, tell them to ask for 100% Angus beef before ordering in Burger King and memorize phrases like "Dos cervezas por favor" to help them out when they are having a tough time ordering a beer.

10. Be more Indian than Indians. Put a extra colourful Tricolour as your profile picture on 15th August and 26th January. Pay 100 Euros for a Kumar Sanu concert though you downloaded all his songs for free in India. Dress up in ethnic clothes on Diwali party on the weekend after Diwali and say things like "These westerners have no culture" in a mixed group and then describe the cleavage of the girl you saw in the train that day to the guys.

11. Cry and howl if you are being sent back to India by your company. Bring up issues like old mother and blind sister who need the extra income or the fact that you will resign if you are sent back or threaten to go full Julian Assange to the client. But also keep mentioning to everyone else how much you love India and want to go back soon.

12. And lastly but more importantly don't hate me for this, I do it too.