In Wasabi, I met my Kryptonite!

Ah, wasabi and I haven’t been friends, we started off on the wrong foot. Twice I my life have I tasted the vile thing, both of the times it has snuck up on me in a work situation where I did not have the luxury to extract myself from the room.

The first time was when we were working late, and I was hungry. I saw a box of peanutes with the words Wasabi written over it. I had never eaten or seen Wasabi before (I come from another country). The packaging looked nice, resembled a similar snack my mum makes back home. So I took a handful and stuffed them in my mouth. What happened after required Kung Fu ninja skills of being able to control the spit and look completely normal. I kept nodding at my colleague who kept chatting, wondering when the ordeal will end. I swore never to touch anything which had wasabi written over it.

Little did I know that Wasabi wasn’t done with me yet, an year later after the first incident, I was visiting a customer’s local office in Paris. The team went for a takeaway for Lunch, opting for Sushi.

As a vegetarian Sushi never appealed to me, I didn’t bother with it. Who would want to eat bits of avocado/cucumber wrapped in rice, what’s the point of that? Little did I know that the tiny container of greenish chutney in the sushi box was my old enemy, waiting to strike.

We were busy chatting, they were asking me about my exotic land and I was responding with the most engaging stories to be told, up until I took a bite of the wasabi infused Sushi, I went quiet. This time it was much worse, there was no water nearby to soothen the suffering and I couldn’t even open my mouth to ask them where the water cooler was. Tears welled up, I tried to look away, I suspect they thought I got emotional about talking of my land…

Thus, in Wasabi, I met my kryptonite!

Chipped Away

Years ago, the world was your oyster
The paths were beautiful and the will had muster
Dreams were meant to be realized there
And steps took you somewhere.

Days passed and the hope as chipped away
By emails, by meetings and on the keyboard it was tapped away
Desires, and dreams went astray
For you were chipped away

Mindless drone and business took over
Doing something new took forever
Soon it was too late to start again
For failure couldn’t be risked again

False mentors and failed appraisals meant more
True grit and hard work didn’t deliver anymore
It was the end of a life well meant
Lived young and at 25 you went.

Could there be a different way?
Away from the fear of losing the monthly pay?
For you do not earn back the time you lose
In the end it doesn’t matter which deals you close.

The above is an ode to our daily jobs, which often leave us unfulfilled at the end of the day, chasing deadlines which lose their significance as soon as they are over, and the next one takes over.

Where did the popcorn wallah go?

Tan..tan..tun…tun..tan…the chimes of his sickle shaped utensil hitting the dark iron wok could be heard atleast a block away. Each afternoon, around the last few minutes of the 13th hour I could hear him approaching. I’d be usually be sweating in my school uniform, just arrived from school, with my mother bidding me to change before venturing out. On most days it would be too late for her, I’d already heard the popcorn wallah‘s tune and like children chased the Pied Piper I’d rush out to our gate waiting for him.

He was a tall dark man, with bright white teeth, often reserving a smile for me. The transaction was the usual, I’d ask him for 2 rupees worth of pop-corn and he’d pop fresh kernels of corn into the wok. The wok was a curious instrument, bigger than the ones at home but not any bigger than the ones they’d make jalebis in the nearby sweetshops. At the base of the instrument was a coal fired stove, and the wok had a sand-salt mixure. The real thrill of the ritual was the sound of popping corn, it gave me a strange delight and he’d cover it up with a strainer but even with that contraption, a few kernels would pop out and escape leaving a trail of popped corn in front of the houses he had sold his produce. In the end, he’d pick a paper bag, and gently blow air to open it. He’d finally fill it to the brim with hot popcorn and finally top it off with a sprinkle of the strange sand-salt combination. It took 5 minutes each day, in the sweltering sun, and I’d pay him up a couple of rupees. But the whole performance was not without its rewards, he’d always fill a tiny paper bag with already popped corn and give it to me for a quick snack, while i watch him cook a fresh batch for me. He’d never charge me for it, it was perhaps a token of our unspoken friendship.

This would continue for the next morning and the next, for almost 2-3 years, the price went up to three rupees and gradually his regular visits declined. Sometimes he’d be back to his village for weddings, and at some point he stopped coming. I, for my part, also grew up and left my home for studies and work. I still wonder where did the popcorn wallah vanish, does he still sell it in another town or place? Does he share the same camaraderie with another boy as he shared with me?

The second man had his stall in front of the Parade grounds in Kanpur. I’d often visit my grandfather for my summer vacations, and he’d take us once a week to this pop-corn seller to pick up our favorite snack. This man was shorter in stature, but more talkitive, he’d talk my grandfather about us and about his well being. It would usually be dark when we’d be visiting him, his kersone lamp would burn and through little strands of light on the wok. He’d only pack the fresh popcorn into thin polythene bags, and perform the magic of sealing the packs by touching the base of the lamp with stretched packing material. This was pure magic, and probably my first experience on how one could seal stuff in poly bags! This man would always give us extra bags of pop-corn, much to the annoyance of my grandfather, for he would refuse to take money for these extra bags. It was a ritual, with him giving us extra bags, and my grandfather coaxing him to take money for all of it. It would always be a sight, sometimes he’d win the argument on others my grandfather would prevail. Each week, when the packs were empty, we’d go for the refill. Over a period of time, our grandfather grew old and could no longer drive the scooter, my trips on vacations declined and the talkitive popcorn wallah vanished from our memories.

I do not know the fate of these men, who shared their affections with us with a fresh bag of hot popcorn, I wonder if they still ply their trade or have long fallen victims to make-it-yourself-for-10-rupees Act II, or worse, compete against 60 bucks a pack popcorn at malls, which we grudingly buy either due to keeping up a social pretence or just lack of other options. Maybe I’ll spot them once again…just maybe..

If you have a similar story of a street vendor filling your childhood with tiny pleasures, do share in comments below.

Missing: The light heady feeling!

Keep Calm and Stay Positive

Do you know this light heady feeling, when you wake up and believe that it is going to be your day. Years ago I had a string of those days, in 2005 when I had started on my first job. In those first few months, when I’d walk out of my home to commute I’d feel energetic, inspired and positive. The impact, I did pretty well, I worked hard and kicked butt!
But, the attitude gradually died, I know that heady feeling but I hardly feel like that anymore. Yes, you’ll claim its because work in mundane and what not, but the fact is, the feeling did not return even when I switched jobs. The last few years altered me, and that head rush paved way to anxiety and stress.
Last time I felt that heady was in November last year, it was a fine day until I came to work and it turned into something else within a few hours.
Sigh…I miss the days, when I really had the spring in my step.

One more move, again

This is probably the running theme for a while now, running that is…from one town to another, from one country to another.

As I write this down, sipping a Starbucks coffee just because I can use their wifi, I am again in a new town trying to get some work done (by writing a blog post?) with the lack of internet access at the new apartment.

So we moved again, this time as the missus got a job, after a very long wait and its the one worth having. So we decided to move to a nearby town of Cologne, and commute, and this is how the cookie is now crumbling from today.

Strangely, after so many moves in the last year itself, its much less stressful now, but this time around I think it’ll be much longer.

To new beginnings and newer towns…!

My patch of land

It has been the most interesting period of time for me in the past couple of years, I love reading about history, particularly the history of the world in the last two major wars of the 20th Century. Living in Europe, and having the opportunity to travel to many of the cities/countries which were ravaged by the wars. Observing the stories of these places & how they have coped up since then has been a tremendous experience.

But there has been a common thread, while many of us have been envious of the European well being with our third world perspective, there is almost a always a common thread of painful history just a few decades ago. Many families had seen deep and painful periods in the past hundred years, displaced from their original place of origin. I appreciate the effort Governments and citizens have taken to remember and if possible, preserve the memorials so that we never let the world through that again.

But the biggest question of this all is the fact that within a century itself, borders were redrawn many times, people have lived to be citizens of 3 or more countries even while living in the same patch of land, seeing the end of monarchy, rise of National Socialists, the wars, communism and finally some semblance of democracy. Their current truth is a nation, but they can never say that a century from now their idea of their country survives or not. The patch of land which we all were born in may change its colors, and our national identities may just cease to exist…

Turning 30 – Ich suche purpose

Maybe that answers it.

Turning 30 is no fun, today is the last day of my twenties! God, am old, of course I am old, that is how I regarded all people above 30+! I cannot help but remember the episode from FRIENDS, ‘Where they all turn 30’. My feelings are not as extreme as Rachel, but they aren’t exactly as thrilled!

I still remember, exactly 10 years go, on the night of my 20th birthday I was writing a blog, just 20 minutes before I turned twenty. Sitting in a college dorm, I reminisced about watching Forrest Gump that night with my roomate. God, the decade went too fast, life runs much faster than I thought!

Now coming to the purpose part, not that I live purposelessly but then I still need newer avenues of finding some purpose in things, I had always thought that by the time I am 30 I would have figured it all out, sadly I haven’t. I am still as confused, stupid, goofy, lost, funny, irritable as I was 5 years ago! All I have done in the last few years is gained a paunch and lost a lot of hair!

Lets review the decade that was, and maybe make some sense.

First, the List of things to do before I turn 30

If you remember this blog post, around 5 years ago I had planned to do a few things. Lets see how I fared:

  1. Visit 5 countries outside the Indian sub continent. √ You bet, I did more than that, let me count….10 countries!
  2. Learn to play a musical instrument (no specifics which one). I am tired of playing this compter keyboard! Busted, didn’t do this 😦
  3. Learn to paint using water colors (I mean learning formally and�not just dabbling around). I learned for a month in 2009, turned out that I wasn’t that good at it!
  4. Try Skydiving – Well, am a wimp when taken to heights. I presume this is the toughest of the lot for me to even attempt. I guess its also about conquering one of your worst fears! Well, not exactly sky dive, but I did do tandem jumping off a mountain, it was pretty cool. I think you can give this one to me?
  5. Play in snow – Can you believe this? I have never ever touched snow! Ah ha, ended up living in Switzerland for a couple of years, sometimes had more snow than I could handle!

Pretty impressive ha? It seems that I am an achiever!

Second, what about the rest of life? How did I fare?

I don’t think I should turn this post into a performance appraisal. I managed to complete my study goals in the last 10 years, managed to stay employed given the crises of things.

  • Professionally not yet into a state where I would have preferred myself to be (bosses, are you listening to me?).
  • Personally, I have been doing well, had multiple crushes, made nice friends, messed up a few friendships, and managed to marry the sweetest girl ever. Sadly, I also lost a few close relatives in the years including my Grandma.
  • Financially, am not sure where I am, still don’t own a car or home, but no liabilities yet…gotta start planning for retirement?!!
  • Healthwise, I got fat, and balding…but am exercising now…hopefully I fix the fat part…balding isn’t in my control!
  • Emotionally, am still a kid at heart, not sure what the grown man logic is all about, yet!

At the bottom of it all, I learned that life is not supposed to be fair and just, and I also have understood that at times the only thing is in control is my attitude towards a situation.

Cmon, you are doing fine, why the sad face?

Ah, you see, I don’t want to be called 30 this birthday, twenties sounds much younger!

Come tomorrow, I will be 18 with 12 years of experience 😉

Change ist nicht gut.

The last few months have been extremely busy, with tonnes of changes. There was this blog post I wanted to write about our last days in Switzerland, but never got the time to do it.

Since May, we returned to India, holed up in Kolkata and now have moved to Frankfurt. In the process of all this, our lives have been completely whirled around with incessant travel, living in less than satisfactory home for a few weeks, and again packing to move to another country. In the midst of all this, we managed to learn a bit of German, and have just completed a week in Deutschland.

Yet to figure out the town, finish searching a home, registering with the authorities and a lot of other crucial questions about the Zukunft remain. I, this time around, am not that thrilled.

Waiting for Apocalypse!

Ah, today is the penultimate day of life as we know it? I hope so, else the post title will defeat its purpose. The year draws to its close, and I find it difficult to summarize it, to keep it a short post.

How do I remember this year? Tragic and in a state of flux.

Why Tragic?

You see, we started off fine, with fireworks down at the lakeside, filled with hope, and a fresh beginning. While I proceeded to blow my weight loss goal and lost more hair on my scalp instead, the world took multiple weird turns.

Not too far away from where I live, I hear they discovered the God Particle, strangely they never could take a picture of this particle. Most people, still, do not understand the science behind it yet, they know the God Particle. The name probably indicates that God is somehow linked with this physical entity.

Olympics happened, our nation got more medals, 6 medals in all. Better but still a long way to go, Mary Kom didn’t get the gold, would have loved her to win. And yes, the IOC suspended our Indian sports boday. Speaking of sports, the CWG Scandal has still not output, and as the public suffers from amnesia,  Mr Kalmadi and others are out of jail.

Speaking of Scandals, lets see Telecom scam and Coalgate were the top names, but there is actually a Wikipedia entry on the summarized list of scams, should you need to remember the names for your next exam. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the economy is booming. So the scams were pointless, people exchange allegations, MPs didn’t let the parliament function and made a lot of noise with no outcome (all fart and no shit, ha?).

Oh and yes, they managed to hang Kasab. Also, the nation is burning in anger against the rape in Delhi. Hope we skip our amnesia just this once.

Enough said. What about the world?

Obama got re-elected, again. On the other hand two Armstrongs were in news: While Lance was blamed for doping, Neil died after taking mankind to the moon.

Global warming again affected our planet, with no outcome in Doha. EU Union got the Nobel Peace prize, I hope they don’t go pieces next year. Egypt is still not stable, Syria still burning.

What about tomorrow?

Oh the Apocalypse, well thats just pish-posh. The Mayans Y2K if you get the drift.
Chill out, party hard, get drunk and hope that the change of date will change your life for good.

Ciao