Thursday, August 03, 2017

Hyderabad 101

I could have typed ‘flavour’ 500 times and ended this but that would’ve been the harder way out, for writing about Hyderabad is like effortless gliding, fluid and comfortable as the city makes you feel. I have been fortunate to have had two first impressions of the city – one around the turn of the millennium as a tourist and another more recently as a long-term resident in a sparkling new metropolis beyond the Jubilee Hills checkpost. As they normally go, impressions are biased and mine emerged from endless comparisons with Bangalore justified by similar names of localities, the regional script, a brand new Metro line in the making and an economic boom sustaining immigration in thousands by the day with construction surging to keep up. There ended the similarity and the bias.

Hyderabad masquerades as a nonchalantly ordinary city under a blanket of normal, but on second glance you will notice that nearly everything it offers is larger than life. The erstwhile Deccan capital boasts of regal splendour and cutting edge technology on either side with a well-planned near-Utopia in between - gardens I still suspect are forests, a lake the size of a small bay, stores with display signs larger than a Bandra eatery, a fort probably in driving distance of your workplace and drive you will want to on its large tree-covered avenues wondering if the huge boulders that line them make for rock climbing (some do). Between rocks and water, you may discover the pleasure of sailing or even find a nice watering hole to enjoy the sunset with a menu that was priced in the last decade. The people start late and end early, probably because they have little reason to leave the comfort of home, for homes here also fit into the larger-than-life theme of the city. Hyderabadis are a happy, non-interfering lot, accepting and eager to share a slice of their life – mostly tales on how fast the city grew, their last brush with a Telugu movie star, places that serve the best biryani but all concluding that it pales in comparison to the version made at home.

To talk about flavour here is to talk about biryani, and to talk about biryani is to address strong roots in culture, home and value systems. Such is the love for this dish that if news reports are to be believed, weddings have been called off and family ties have been severed over it. For a layperson on a project (and several consequent arguments) to find the ‘best’ biryani, the takeaway at the end of a year was that they are all exceptional, preference-based delicacies that just don’t taste the same outside the city. Thus dawned the realization that I have to journey all the way back to truly relish biryani again. 

Another angle to exploring flavour in Hyderabad is the spice, and boy do they like their chilli here. Households, restaurants and the now ubiquitous food trucks all left me teary eyed with the little devil from Guntur that I picked out of all food with a vengeance, only to give up eventually and embrace its omnipresence in the local cuisine. The idli has it concealed in the chutney, pesarattu in its filling, seemingly innocent momos have them too, and then there’s the urban legend of chilli beer I did not dare pursue. Until recently, food culture dominated night life with lines of excellent trucks well open till the wee hours of morning, now turning into ‘food places’ after a night of brewery-hopping, clubbing or a late-night movie in the part of the country that has always had a certain fondness for cinema.

Hyderabad is one of the few cities that spoil you for choice, particularly choice of pace. Given a choice, I’d have never left.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mumbai 101

“But Bombay 101 sounds better”, was the collective reply of this piece’s first audience, who with a generous garnish of irony call themselves Mumbaikars. As I watched them read the following few paragraphs, I mentally consolidated some of their common behavioral traits possibly inherent from their roots in the city – general appreciation of spaciousness, spotting well-concealed patches of greenery, subconscious disregard for moving slow, automated swiftness, promptness, and the adorable nature of accommodating in a ‘chalta hai’ fashion. Because in Bombay, anything goes.

Over the last four years, I have lived and loved five cities – Mumbai has been the finest teacher. Anyone who needs a crash course in adulting must consider living alone in Mumbai for a while. It is the big (not so bad) city that your mother warned you about, an expensive appendix to your wallet, a large labyrinth of space that takes tremendous energy to navigate with climate that will take getting used to and speed that will need some serious keeping up with. What Mumbai also is, is many little wonderful worlds enclosed in a marvel of engineering. Cutting edge technology and modest fishing villages coexist side-by-side. Navigating across its expanse is structured like a guide to dummies with over-efficient local transport. Infrastructure band-aids to serious cracks are fixed overnight and the next morning, all is forgotten. Hipsters and the mainstream get along. Elsewhere, colonial opulence and local splendor merge seamlessly.

Having lived most of my years in a city that is being accused of losing its identity, the balance Mumbai has found for itself almost induces envy. The place simply changes you no matter how hard you resist. For instance, rent is so steep that you will include a financial accelerator in your career aspirations. Lazing around is not an option because the local will leave at 9:02, and how else will your employer know that your train being late that morning is a work of fiction? The rain will flood the roads every June - it’s geography - but watch the Mumbaikar’s walk of nonchalance against the storm, armed with barely an umbrella. Pretty much nothing is a big deal for the people of this city – what the rest of urban India would call third world problems are Mumbai’s first world problems. Its citizens are Zen, respectful, show visible attachment to the city and stay invested in its fixes, constantly defending it to innumerable skeptics and doubters. Had Mumbai been a company, its citizens would set the bar for HR case studies.

While most cities let you choose your pace, Mumbai does not. The ways and quirks of people, businesses and corporates are contrastingly different from the rest of India. The city’s primary quality is that of an equalizer: irrespective of the percentile income bracket one belongs to, the average daily life here requires effort.  Yet there is an indescribable charm – glamour, even – associated with life here that needs to be experienced beyond a round of the (highly recommended) Bombay Darshan. A few weeks into living here will begin to throw light on why a Mumbaikar will not feel at home elsewhere. And old friends that we are, I can barely wait to do it all over again.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Ten Years

This blog was started because a teenager ran out of paper one March afternoon. Over a decade, not only did it translate mood swings into phrased strings but influenced the aforementioned teenager’s transition into adulthood. And what better way to do a celebratory post than usher in some nostalgia.

Nostalgia, the deceptive force that compels one to resist change by cunningly bringing forth happy memories from the past. That, coupled with apathy is the reason this blog still uses a static template, has primitive social media integration tools and chooses to stay away from the modern-day icon-loaded landing pages with Helvetica slashes. You see, this blog is my sole reminder of what the internet used to look like when we were younger – everything was plain, simple and text-heavy. There were fewer people, lesser sites, and sparser media. The internet was anonymous and we reveled in it. One could say things, be people, get away with it or simply not care at all. And as irony would have it, ten years later, I ended up working for a company whose very foundation (and a significant revenue driver, may I add) is in attaching a single identity to every click, anywhere on the internet.

From text and music, it became image and video. From Yahoo chatrooms, it became Tinder. From being an escape, the internet became the focus. From being restricted to half an hour on a dial-up modem after school, it became fifteen hours a day, only a minimum-hour restriction this time. But let’s go back to the modem thing, because apparently restricting access to the internet may be a human rights violation in the years to come. Back in the late 90s, getting online was both slow (we’re talking 56 kbps) and expensive (as in choosing between making a phone call or loading a web page). Yet my family’s prime concern about their darling daughter embracing novelty was what it is today – moderation. That ‘online’ was new made it induce skepticism; we didn’t trust novelty back then – new cultures, traditions or even food. It took pizza chains half a decade to even consider scaling up in India. 'New' was never entirely trustworthy, 'new' could waylay children. 

But that was then. Now, we are more flirtatious, make informed choices - and faster- because of something that was once a novelty. In a country of adopters driven by word-of-mouth assurances and the fear of missing out, going online is a matter of four out of one’s five friends being online and recommending it. I personally look forward to the day restricting internet access will account to criminal violation and the juicy media output said violation will result in. That may also be the day we realize we are on the other side of a massive pro-liberal culture shift, but that’s for another blog post.

From pen and paper poetry being typed out and uploaded for the world to see to not sparing time to write at all, the internet has ironically affected the sustenance of this blog in ways more than one. But here’s to ten more years.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Gurgaon 101

The city’s reputation precedes its name, one that induces double takes among families of Indian women. Perhaps the media got carried away in branding a city, maybe it didn’t but from where I come, the mere mention of even a short-term relocation to the NCR’s concrete residence of dreams can induce panic attacks. And a short-term relocation it was. Having spent an entire summer in Haryana’s employment hub, I choose to pen down a thing or two for those dreading it.

The Rajdhani from Ahmedabad only stops for two minutes at Gurgaon. That’s 120 seconds for nearly a third of a train to alight, luggage et al in tow. For a city with a portfolio of striking corporate offices and a floating populace amounting to thousands a day, it is too short a stop in too unimpressive a station. But when you do enter the city, the effort that has gone into making a modern metropolis out of a town with thousands of years of history is evident. Gurgaon comes straight out of a city simulation game: someone deliberated a vast expanse of land into neat little sectors, earmarked main roads for extravagant offices and commercial centres, the lanes in their shadow for unorganized retail, and the remainder to house the labour that forms the backbone of the city.

There are clusters of offices all over the city and it is advisable to find yourself a place to reside not further than a metro ride away from your cluster. If unadapted to the extreme weather conditions of the region, you will thank any reduction in your commute once a heat wave or two drift along in June. Housing in the city centre—around DLF Cyber City—is comfortable and available across a spectrum of budgets. For short-mid term stays, consider making your abode in a studio apartment easily available near Metro stations. Do some research on the landlord – go in for recommendations from previous tenants/friends over online reviews and be warned that any kind of real estate deal in the city comes with shady undertones. And yes, a good number of women live alone in Gurgaon perfectly safe and happy.

The food. When you talk of food in Gurgaon, you talk of food in Delhi. Golgappas are instalments of delight. Chaat is extraordinary. Fresh juice is available in every street corner and milkshakes come with a complimentary dollop of ice cream. Saag tastes like saag, paneer like paneer and the meat dishes are midway between Punjabi and Lucknowi culinary styles. The locals prefer rich, butter-loaded meals with a spicy aftertaste and thus the chemistry was quite perfect with their idea of healthy food echoing mine. But when you eat out everyday, your options are mostly limited to aloo, gobi, paneer, rajma and chhole. Barring minor vegetable deprivation, the city made me feel like a well-fed happy panda.

Entertainment in Gudgawa is centred around eating out, clubbing, movies and shopping. Delhi is merely 20 minutes away and is an assorted box of interests. Endless options for day trips, weekend getaways and miscellaneous journeys are probably the best that came out of the GGN stint for me. Trips to Agra and Dharamsala happened and they were utterly delightful, the latter a dream realized for my plateau-tuned eyes. Plenty of scope for epic food journeys too. A drive to Murthal, the dhaba capital, must be on your agenda. Food and entertainment venues in the city also double up to beat the heat with extravagant malls offering unending air-conditioned walk spaces. Or you can just perch in your balcony and get things delivered: everything in the city is home delivered without a ‘minimum order’ stipulation. Once, an order of Maggi amounting to 20 INR was delivered to my doorstep on the fourth floor of a building without an elevator. I continue to marvel at this first world lifestyle, having resorted to ordering Cornitos on Amazon for similar kicks.

And now, I touch that sensitive topic of women safety. Gurgaon has places that are bustling at midnight—the area around Cyber City for instance. It also has places that are “crime traps” at 4 pm. There are people who welcome you into their lives with a smile and go out of their way to help you. Then there are the rude, the deceptive and the repulsive. In short, it is a microcosm of the country we live in. Objectifying women is certainly not a cultural norm in the region, despite what you may have heard. The distribution of dark forces around us is uniform and independent of geography...or so I would like to believe. And I end that sensitive topic of women safety.

If statistics of cases reported, experiences shared in your social circle or your mother’s kitty party grapevine deter you from a career move that passes through the city, maybe it is time for introspection of the biases you hold. We all define our comfort zones to be much narrower than what we are actually comfortable with. Gurgaon was my comfort-zone widening, endurance strengthening experience and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be yours. At this point, the essence of the write up has to be disclosed: Gurgaon is another city. You will learn to tick its way like you would elsewhere.

Also read:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Marketing Wisdom from My Mother

My mother fits nicely into society’s template of a strong, independent woman. At 50-something, she is an engineer with the country’s oldest telecommunication services provider. A heavily left-brained and calculative person, she can transform almost instantly into the overly-caring Indian mother with her ‘traditional’ values all intact. Over the last year of my marketing education, I have observed her purchase behaviour in the brief and scattered semester vacations and picked up her buying preferences over phone conversations when she tells me about her day. Here is a short summary of the things she does which when adopted on a larger scale might upset business models and render many ad people jobless.

Stay away from purchasing products that use celebrity brand ambassadors.

Reasoning: “If they invested the celebrity’s paycheck into improving the product, we’d either have a better product or more quantity. They pay these one-hit-wonders a bomb, complain about bad economy and pack only 70 ml shampoo in the bottle these days.”

Always buy fresh produce from the street-side carts at the supermarket’s steps.

Reasoning: “Fresh produce is never fresh in an air-conditioned environment. Moreover, these vendors need to make a living too.”

What shower gel?

Reasoning: “Contains Sodium Laureth Sulphate – a detergent used in various strengths of cleaners from floor to the face. Is there a Johnson’s Baby shower gel? Surely they know a fair deal about soap.”

Even well-marketed “health foods” don’t test her resolve.

Reaction: Picks up a pack of real green tea leaves from the shelf below Lipton Green Tea bags. I could not tell the difference from the brewed tea.

On trying to lure her with the newest Lay’s flavour-

Reply: “Come home for Diwali, I’ll make you sun-dried chips with garam masala which will keep you warm in that Gujarat winter. I’ll make enough for your friends as well..there will be no air in the pack.”

At the end of a shopping session, my mother’s necessity-driven shopping cart almost always looks like she is close enough to giving big brands a run for their money. True, most of her choices are not necessarily convenient (the chips take three days to bake in the sun) but she has mastered the knack of choosing products that fit perfectly with her lifestyle, almost eliminating the concept of marketing-induced aspirational lifestyle. Some call it being close-minded, I call it power over marketing.

It’s not like my mum doesn’t experiment: between Dove and Himalaya’s new SLS-free shampoo, the switch was a no-brainer. She exhibits undying brand loyalty to Lakmé that goes over her anti-celebrity endorsement stand. Just yesterday, three Lakmé products were picked up after a disapproving look at Kareena Kapoor’s orange lipstick in the store display. Somewhere, somehow, this woman has found balance between being a marketing victim and not dismissing novelty altogether.

One of my goals this year is to bring back some of the aforementioned aspirational value into my mother’s lifestyle. Let’s see how that works out. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

That Writer I Love

That writer I love sits in that bar
Penning that story I’ll read tomorrow;
His words are like butter: salted, untempered
And glide ever so easy.

That writer I love spins tales magnetic
As his eyes when he pens them;
Of flavour and warmth they are full
Of the sun and skies they talk
Of the world and across they take me.

That writer I love tells me of lives
Of times I know not
Of landscapes of colour
That I cannot paint.

That writer I love leaves me hanging
At every line, I fall in love again;
“Close your eyes, I’ll tell you a story”
He says and keeps me waiting
To wake up to him glide away
His black cape trailing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Indian IT 101: Survival Guide

This guide is for you if..’re stuck in a job you don’t like for reasons you cannot comprehend. Morning after morning, the shuttle is taken to work, breakfast had, coffee gulped down, desktop switched on and chair adjusted. Some emails to look forward to, tickets to be resolved, a meeting, perhaps a status call. You constantly dream of spending a day outside your work place..just one day, and fondly remember the last time you called in sick to pursue activities more meaningful than fire-fighting over emails. This yearning slowly translates to a desire to pursue something else for a living. You’re not ready to quit your job yet—clarity takes time you see—and there’s that service contract as well. Things need to be sorted and priorities need to be assigned without compromising on current career prospects and this guide has been developed to help you maintain a comfortable status quo. Hence the name ‘Survival Guide’ as opposed to ‘Learn to Love Your Work Guide’ or ‘Get You On-Site Guide’, which must also drop a hint or two on what to expect as takeaway.

Steps for Survival

Arrive at work as usual, earlier if you can. But make no mistake of physically turning up at your workplace earlier than your boss:  befriend technology. If your team starts coming in at 11 am, the first mail you send out better be at 10:20 am, just before you go to brush. Arrive at your desk a little after 11 am, sans bag, pretending to be fresh from a coffee break. It helps a great deal if you start going to work empty handed. In fact, a friend of mine used to place a dummy bag on his desk and quietly sneak in and out of tech park premises at will. But then he also lived within 90 seconds walking distance of said tech park premises so you may choose to weigh various options before taking a call.

Now, the tricky part: work. You do not like it, do not want to do it but see no way out of it. The challenge here is to do minimal work yet make your team (more importantly, manager) not notice the lack of balance in the universe. If you’ve been around long enough, you may use the services of an enthusiastic protégé and get some work done on pretext of ‘mentoring’. When such enthusiasm is unavailable in resources around (tch tch), careful delegation and seeking help is the way forward. However, stay around to observe and contribute to important developments that involve your work. Be alert in sending mails (never delegate this activity), scheduling calls and meetings, conveniently keeping your presence virtual. Volunteer to take up chhota-mota initiatives that may ‘add value to deliverables’: this is a fairly certain way of acquiring those brownie points during appraisal. Note that all of the above must be performed in a clever manner else you’ll end up doing more work than usual which is out of the scope of this guide.

General workplace behaviour must also be altered while you take your time to measure priorities. Adopt the ways of an enthu cutlet. Contribute to team building activities and general work atmosphere..basically anything that can ‘make your presence felt’. About once a week, stay back late, even if you’re doing nothing in particular because face-time is desirable. Use this time to talk to people around you and place building relationships over the highly-abused, flinch-inducing term ‘networking’. Hear their stories, share yours, try and collaborate and for all you know, your work may just start generating appeal.

And finally

How you spend your time during this status quo maintenance is up to you. Most people seek alternate employment, prepare for competitive exams or browse matrimonial sites (notice the avoidance of mentioning gender here). I used it to figure out the general direction in which my career could head, gathered information, worked towards some short and mid-term goals and finally ended up in a happier place. And if this post has got you thinking even a little, things are probably not going well for you and I do hope you take a leap in the direction you desire and sort things soon.


This guide is based more on observation than experience. Potential employers may kindly not use it to judge my professional ways or brand me as trouble.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Uday Chopra Ripped My Will To Live

Kitne kitno ko star banaya, apne bete ko star nahi bana paya”, quipped a chirpy RJ on a Bangalore radio station, referring to Yash Chopra’s inability to make a Bollywood sensation out of his own son after having ‘discovered’ many a faceless wonder. My little brain with its limited Bollywood knowledge tried to disagree because Aditya Chopra was as big as most mainstream Hindi actors but apparently, he wasn’t the son being ridiculed on radio. Enter Uday Chopra.

Way back in class 6, a certain multi-starrer flick had got the entire school drooling. “Aishwarya Rai comes like a ghost yaaa” was heard between numerous ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s  directed at the leading men, all except one.  Over the next decade, the obliterated leading man made several appearances (quite understandably) in movies produced by daddy dearest. I am not of the opinion that looks make a good actor but Chopra Jr. was several notches below let-down in both departments. However, his lacklustre performances and a general deficiency of charisma were simply ignored, as were his repeated attempts to vie for the womankind’s attention against the likes of a certain John and a new Bachchan.  For all I cared, Chopra Jr. and I shared a live-and-let-live policy.

..until it was violated last week, when certain life-changing information was revealed to me. Enter Nargis Fakhri.

Now I share most Indian gentlemen’s sentiment that Nargis Fakhri isn’t hot, she’s the sun. Last week, I happened to gather that The Sun has found love in —wait for it— Chopra Jr. Without bringing up the argument if it indeed is love that is blind or if it is just Ms. Fakhri, I chose to look at the Chopra lad with a different point of view. Was there the smallest chance that he wasn’t as bad or undeserving as popular media made him out to be?

The time taken for fair evaluation could have been better utilized by helping my employer without expecting monetary compensation. She doesn’t even seem to be in it for the money, considering she’s probably made more dough from Rockstar than he has from his entire career. But I tend to drift. You must be wondering why I chose to bring up Bollywood and Page 3 this fine evening, a first in the seven years this blog has seen. Coming back again to the life-changing part of the revelation, the knowledge of a romantic relationship between these two has made me ask myself an important question: if all The Sun could manage to bag was a sub-par Chopra, what’s the best this lesser mortal can a world where even Ritesh Deshmukh is taken?

The options:



I don’t even have the heart to come up with Option C. Kindly use the comments section below to vote/suggest.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Experience with India Post

When your parents are in government service, you are raised to respect the government. You are provided justification upon justification on the state of affairs in the country, a matter of endless rants in most other households. Parents in government service come with perks, not limited to waiver of phone bills, vacations in guest houses, and rides in a stately chauffeured Ambassador. Many years later, you will look back at these days with a sigh of nostalgia while standing in line at the passport office or the RTO.

Recently, a popular entrance exam required its applicants to dispatch their applications using either ‘ordinary’ post or registered post. “Better send it a week before the deadline. You know how the postal department is”, a friend warned. How is it, I wondered and went to the post office that weekend. It was a heavily partitioned one-room space bustling with activity, much to my surprise. Hadn't we heard enough times that nobody uses physical mail or stamps these days? Well it appears as if India Post has found other ways to keep its staff employed and occupied. This is commendable when you read about several other legacy government organizations and PSUs deliberating on downsizing and hiring freezes every day.  IP probably learnt a thing or two about calculated hiring after telegraph spiralled downward.

The crowd around me was a mix of people from all walks of life—an elderly gentleman accessing his savings account, a few people buying envelopes, a lady sending multiple speed posts, and—to my delight—a young philatelist asking if there were new stamps released recently. My speed post was bar-coded and a tracking number was generated before one could say the name of a popular courier company. It would reach in two days, said the lady at the counter, to a destination halfway across the country. This with online tracking facility cost me about 60% less than the average private courier service.

A new relationship was forged that day. When I went there this morning to collect the entrance exam’s score card, I left with an inland letter (remember those?), envelopes and stamps to surprise my grandmother who loves receiving letters.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Exacting Smartness

I texted you,
You Whatsapped back.
I posted on your Wall,
You pinged me on GTalk.
I pinged back on GTalk,
You Vibered me.
I buzzed you on Lync,
You mailed me on Yahoo.
I messaged you on FB,
You shared a post on G+.
I messaged you on Linked In,
You sent a talking parrot on Farmville.

 I invited you to an Outlook meeting,
You invited me to your Picasa album.
I pinned an interest,
You YouTubed yours.
I wrote this blog post
while you Tweeted.

It's time to throw away
this smartphone
and call home.
If you don't answer,
I'll see your light on,
cross the street
and knock on your door.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Counting Starts Now. 1..2..3.."

The awesome, spectacular, and the extraordinary always happen when you least expect them. I have a knack like nobody else does for missing out on the aforementioned trio but on a recent Sunday evening, that was not the case. Now, most people who know me well also know how I feel about this person-

Elaboration: Long before the jokes were conceived, long before Rajnikanth was made a feeble meme, I had grown to admire him. To this day, no individual's charisma has managed to stir me like this man's screen presence, his absurd confidence (both on and off camera) and that perfect comic timing have. As a Bronte-Vivaldi-lover, I can think of only one basis for such fondness for a person whose on-screen antics mostly border on the crass and the ridiculous: there is something about him.

It was a hurried two-hour notice. Rajnikanth had come down to grace a venue not far away from my residence and I would be able to catch a glimpse of him if I hurried. Everything else was forgotten sooner than a drop table SQL query as I rushed for it. Now, I'm a person who takes her time with everything, be it to walk, devour dessert, or pursue the 9:30 am shuttle. Not that day, no. Fifteen years.

About two hours later, there he was, clad in white, arms folded before an idol while chants echoed all around, strict vigil maintained. He looked around once in a while, probably saw me, probably didn't. Most of you won't get—or will even go ahead to banish—what I felt like standing there. Why him, you ask. There is no answer. Celebrity mania is something I never understood nor was a part of but this was something else..much beyond the autograph-handshake-photograph-Facebook update mania. 

Barely minutes later, it was time for him to leave and surprisingly, I didn't want to be part of the group that wanted to talk to the man whose movies had made me believe in miracles..that every man's life had the faintest hope of being larger than life. Frankly, I have no idea what difference those couple of minutes made to my life but there was an undeniable sense of joy, probably because some sort of a childhood dream came true. At the end of the day, Rajnikanth is an artist I admire and now it seems like this blog post had little basis to be written. This may be one of the few moments in my overly articulate, exceedingly verbal life to cut things short and get back to watching Baba..maybe make it a movie marathon.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Food Blog

As it turns out, people have always associated me with food and there are no two ways about it. Every meal I tuck into concludes with planning the next one. Every lunch hour begins with coaxing classmates/colleagues to take an early break, stay longer in the cafeteria and make room for dessert. Every tea break is a fancy two+ cup affair with accompaniments. Such fondness, such love I shall never have for anything else and it's er..time to make it official. So there's a dedicated food blog with its own domain and the works which will feature reviews. Product reviews predominantly, but you might end up liking them.

Apologies for blatant personal marketing but do check it out here. Or by clicking on the giant green image on the right scroll-bar which I ensured you wouldn't overlook in a hurry. Any kind of feedback will go appreciated..use the mail address on the 'Contact' page.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chennai 101

There must be a god, after all. A god who grants wishes selectively, who programs this selection so meticulously that the timing of your wish being granted coincides rather perfectly with that of your nightmare coming to life. Every fumbling fresher to the Indian IT/equivalent industry dreads one thing: a posting email to Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Mine was a New Year 2012 gift.

Now, Chennai is a city that has acquired a questionable reputation in recent years, with the aforementioned question not restricted to its sultry climate alone. Techies and other mortals alike paint a picture of an uninhabitable sauna room of a city with apparently no food, water or miscellaneous essentials. There are also some survivors who paint a picture of a cultural haven which happens to be a foodie’s delight. Having spent a few months in the city, I choose to stand between the two pictures, noticeably leaning to the latter.

I stepped into the city in early February which is winter in most parts of the country. Chennai, however, has two seasons: summer and deadly summer. The days were hot and humid while nights were pleasantly humid, making air-conditioned accommodation about as necessary as You’d think such accommodation is easy to find in the heartland of Madras Presidency but wait..chances are your workplace will be on Old Mahabalipuram Road, the IT expressway on the outskirts of the city. Real estate brokers who operate here double as economics gurus, controlling the supply and price of furnished accommodation to bring it just within the reach of the average corporate slave. In short, I found a half-decent place to crash.

Even potential sociopaths require company. The fact that about twenty fraands lived within hopping distance of my residence reduced the agony of relocating to Madras. Observing cultural diversity, studying the thought process of people around and continuing my notes on group dynamics made the average day entertaining. There was little scope for silence as entertainment prevailed and bonding happened. But I tend to diverge. The food..yes. Chennai offers predominantly South Indian, particularly Chettinad food. Some restaurants in the city offer staple dishes that are simple yet extraordinarily delicious while others go out of their way to nurse one’s culinary curiosity. But the best food I had incidentally came from the kitchen of a Gurudwara.

Entertainment in Chennai is plentiful, with proximity to the coastline accounting for a greater part of it. Unlike Bangalore (where I have lived all my life and where entertainment these days seems to restrict itself to shopping, eating or drinking), Chennai tends to amuse one with its beaches, adventure sports destinations and several convenient weekend getaways. So Pondicherry happened and it was amazing. The IIT-campus is a world by itself, with more wildlife sighted on the campus than its junta. Another noteworthy mention is the cinema hall scene in Chennai: ticket prices in multiplexes can go as low as 10 INR and nay, this is no typo. Auto-rickshaws aside, living in this city is probably far less expensive than other metros.

The localites I met in Chennai (including strangers on the road) were largely helpful and genuinely nice, sometimes going out of their way to help. One particularly memorable incident was when an elderly couple escorted us to our destination when they could have merely gestured directions. “It will be difficult for you girls to search at night”, the gentleman said at 7 pm. Language was never a problem as most people seemed to speak fluent English and I managed to churn up broken Tamizh frequently. Yes, the surroundings were very different from what I was used to. Retail, food and hospitality sectors need to spread their wings (especially in the IT area!), water management must be made better and the city could definitely do with multiple commercial centres but the fact remains that it ticks better than most metros. Be it the ten-person-shared-autos, windowless buses, claustrophobia-inducing electric trains or the ‘Anna Cool Bar’s that outnumber Bangalore’s ‘Cake Paradise’s, Chennai has a heart and soul which deserve perpetual ovation.

Three months in Rajniland, if nothing else, will strengthen your endurance and build character like few other ways of living can. I wished to ‘have a blast’ living away from home, my New Year resolution was to make life more entertaining and both have been fulfilled in the most superlative of ways.

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Gurgaon 101