Saturday, May 16, 2009

Baltika no. 7 beer review

OK this is obviously going to be short. How much can one wax eloquent about a beer? Well Icould but beers don't lend themselves to fawning and dribbling as do wines and whiskies.

Simple, tasty, no nonsense lager...almost like a pilsner. It's the kind of simply, non-obtrusive pilsner that you enjoy it whether it's your first or the tenth. Not too hoppy, not too fizzy, no discernible fruit or flower tastes,

Rating - 7.5/10

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whiskey tasting - Kilbeggan

OK so the Kilbeggan I tasted definitely wasn't a 12 or 15 or 18 yr old Irish whiskey.
Somewhat coarse and grainy it had an afterburn that wasn't fun. Earthy and at times even...gritty!
"Bleh" was the first thought that came to my mind.

Rating - 5/10

Whiskey tasting - Tullamore Dew

A sip on the icy rocks has a spicy taste but not as much burn. With some soda it acquires a much more mellower taste. It doesn't have quite the grainy taste of Scotch. Distinctively milder, smoother and fun to drink. Could detect many other aromas.

Rating - 8/10

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First post of the year

Depressing...the content of my first post of the year, I mean.
Was watching the news - Intel laying off 5000-6000 people. Williams Sonoma laying off 18% of the workforce. 2400 Pfizer and 1000 Roche sales folks out. 800 scientists at PFE and 1500 other employees from Roche out.
Unemployment at ~9%! This is definitely one of the worst times ever on the financial side.

Hopefully the next post will be positive.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

First entry of the year

Weird that my first entry for the year should come more than half way through the year.
A few stresses, that I would write about some day...
Well, they are now behind me and I look to the future with renewed energy and enthusiasm. A new strength. A new vigor.

This is a time for face new challenges and old fears.
Look forward to more frequent updates...about me and about interesting topics.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The 4-day weekend…woohoo!!

So this weekend, like last weekend was also spent in the Bay area.

Thursday – The evening came early and I was home by 8:30 or so. It was an evening of much revelry in anticipation of the joy that was to be – a long overdue break. All 4 days of it. It began with some beer. Watched TV and relaxed for the first time in a fairly long time. It seems so far back already, I can’t even remember all the details. Turned in around 1 am.

Friday - Woke up late to a cup of hot tea. Bliss, to do this on a Friday.

Ran some errands, and then I was ready by the time NG drove in to pick me up at 2ish. We drove over to Woodland Hills to pick up the missus. Some time and some process there we were on the road, as was the rest of LA. I don’t really know why all of LA decides to be on the I-5 when I decide to go to Norcal.

So the 405 was clogged and we lost a fair bit of time getting on the 5. We also stopped some point after hitting the 5 to catch some food. No lunch, no breakfast had left me a hungry wreck.

Wolfed down an In N Out double double, animal style. Yummm!

I think I lost a day of my life with those calories, but I guess it was worth it. It better be.

Finallly, we got to the Bay area, uneventfully around 9:30. Maushi started some interesting topics but I extinguished them. Nipped them in the bud. NG and J had to make it to Ashwin’s place because they had a dinner planned. So off they went while BM and I made small talk. We had a lot to catch up on. A few beers and talking with family made my weekend worthwhile…right there.

We both turned in around 1. Me to my Pune book and BM to sleep.

Saturday- Next day dawned slightly late but no worries. BM was already in two minds regarding our trip to Sausolito. When she figured that it was going to be a lot of effort and that I would prefer staying at home, we scratched the plan to travel. Instead we chilled out at home. Bliss it was, save the heat. The heat was oppressive but was easily overlooked. Spoke with Aji Baba and then some with Ma and Dad. Chatted with BM about lot of things, which is usually good fun if she is not distracted. Basically we gossiped and it was a lot of fun. Finally she got distracted and wanted to draw or paint. I let her be. Aunts always have their own way with things.

Later we got out to get stuff for the evening. Went to all the familiar places, including San Antonio TJs. We got home in time to prepare food and shower before the guests came in. Meeting Rashmi maushi is always good fun and so it was this time too. Sudhir kaka and his family came in too.

BM and I sat up after that watching Cheeni Kum. I fell asleep on the couch and made my way to Mihir’s room sometime around 2 am and fell asleep in less than 3 seconds.

It didn’t seem like a lot of activities but Saturday was possibly the most fun day of the weekend.

Sunday - This day seemed to promise a lot. This also was the third day of the four day weekend and hence a depressing day with the work week looming large over the horizon.

I started Omkara early on the in the day. Was fun while it lasted. We had to go fetch Mihir from Berkeley and so we did. It was a warm day and the countryside, if you can call Fremont and Oakland ‘countryside’, seemed to burn under the scorching sun. I’m guessing Berkeley is that sexy place for uber-liberals but given I’m not an uber-liberal, it was just a place with a lot of smart people for me. M’s place is decent enough but I’m not too hot and heavy for those kind of places. After I heard about the price tag I shook my head…I guess only kids of well-to-do folks can afford to live in a place like that during their under-grad. The trip back was uneventful, and sleepy. We got back to a happy tail-wag from Kiwi and after wasting some time headed over to the Stanford mall. Now this is a wonderful place, especially in summer. It smells of money. It definitely looks of money. And it looks good. Wide walkways, fancy storefronts, pretty trellises, and people relaxing and shopping to their hearts content. In short, the grand American dream in t he heart of Silicon Valley. Everything is marked up 20-50% because of its location and because of the stores.

I walked into a Banana Republic store, the clothes screamed ‘preppie’ or ‘metrosexual’ or ‘both’. At 70 bucks for a shirt and 180 bucks for a pair of jeans it was too obscene for me to continue. I ran out. Onwards we walked through GAP (sale-less for once), Armani Exchange, Bloomingdales, L’Occident, and finally into Macys. After killing a good hour or so in Macy's the gang headed homeward still trying to figure if we should go for a family friend’s party. BM wanted to go out for dinner, as a family. So after spending 30-45 mins at Mugdha’s place, we all headed to Il Fornaio, one of those VC joints on University Ave. I have seen it a zillion times, given that it is located across from the office where I interned back in summer of 2005. The food was OK, the beer less than OK. But that’s what the gang wanted to do. So you shake your head, grit your teeth and do it. We got back home to a few more beers (obviously for me) and a PPV movie. For some reason I had seen most of the movies available. That’s weird given I don’t watch a lot of movies. We ended up watching Casino Royale. Let’s face it…any movie looks good on a 71 inch HD TV. And so I watched every little spot and expression on Eva Green’s face. The action scenes were amazing, especially the one where Bond catches the bomb maker in Madagascar. The gang finally turned in late and woke up late. M woke up even later. He couldn’t make up his mind regarding his return to Berkeley. Finally we headed over to Macy’s for some final shopping, got back to hurried packing, some food and left to get over to meet Dole, the missus and to head over to SoCal. The drive was uneventful. The dinner was IHOP. And the fun long weekend was over.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Bay area trip

So Fri last was a comp day off...for putting in obscene number of hrs for 2-3-4-5 weeks i got ONE day off. AM was planning to go to the Bay area and I had been dilly dallying about going to BA...for no obvious reason than that I did have some work to get done.
Told BM about the development, she said OK but later she convinced me to shoot off to the BA to meet R and M. I said OK and hopped into the car with AM and K.

AM being AM it was 5 pm by the time we left and midnight by the time we reach the BA. Travel was uneventful...random, music, chat, some zzzzzs. I was looking fwd to patting and petting Kiwi, some home made food, some Bay area weather, and some good beer.
Chatted with BM, while having some of leftovers. The chat was good...slept around 2 am and I was up by 9 or so. M had trashed my room and BM suggested I use M's room but then I wanted my bed. And it was worth the suffering. The sleep was deep and delicious.

The next morning was calm and peaceful, initially dark but later bright and beautiful.
Two cups of tea hit the right spot as we waited for Ro to show up. Until then was easy chatter at home. Oh how I miss easy chatter at home on a Saturday. That done, we got ready and drove over to Fremont to pick Ro up. On the way back we discussed whether to go to Ming's Pavilion or to Windy's, a few million times. Finally, we settled on Windy's on University Ave. Some memories later we were sitting in the restaurant and man!, they had good food. Singapore noodles, some braised eggplant, brown rice and some interesting mahi mahi (fish) came in no time. Divine! Delicious! Subtle!
OK. That felt good. The food was good. Really good. I overate but didn't mind it one bit. Also there was an art exhibition going on in downtown Palo Alto so we walked around for a bit. BM wanted to buy some watercolors. So we stood around and suddenly met Sudhir kaka and his family. Was good catching up with him. He is a good guy.
The afternoon was laidback...and finally we geared up for our evening out at Gordon biersh. The evening was quiet, a few beers, one of the best salads I have ever eaten. We came back and I had one more beer as Ro and M lounged in the family room. The conversation again turned funny and finally I decided to turn in around 1 am.

That Pune book is pretty good. A light read and decent pics.
Next morning dawned at around 9 am for me. Again some tea, some chat, relaxed. Something I haven't been in a long time now. Later, in the morning we went to the farmer's market, and walked around and got some food. There were two desi food stalls! Go figure!
One of the desi food stalls had great stuff, especially the chicken curry and fresh naan from the tandoor.
Came home, stuffed some grub and as usual, I waited for AM to get his shit together and leave.
My 8:30 am meeting and blank slides weighed heavy on my mind. Yet, AM didnt get in till 5 pm yet again. We took multiple stops through the journey, as AM took a nap, or for food and then got delayed due to an accident on the Freeway. I was crapping slides in the back seat, feverishly. The next day, after 3 hrs of sleep, I worked a good 14-15 hr day. Regular shit for me by now.
And yet, today has been a more relaxed day...or evening.

The coming weekend promises to be some more relaxed time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Move: A retrospective

It all began one fateful evening (I refer to 10 pm as evening), when I turned the latchkey and brought my weary body into my apt at 1717 Malcolm, fully expecting my house gang to be asleep. Turns out the gang was awake and in good spirits. AM dropped the bomb. No warning.
'We have an order to vacate the apartment' he said. Always a bit of a sensationalist, this AM. I nearly fainted in my bone weary state.
'When!!!' I asked. 'Well, not right away, anyways, but it is on the cards. I think in a month or two.'

'Whew, so we don't need to vacate it tomorrow or!'.
Like I said, sensationalist.
In my nomadic life, a month was an eternity. Time enough to move out of, and settle into, three different homes.

So it dragged on for three months. Finally, we got THE notice. The final notice which suggested that the suspense was over and we really had to find a new abode.
Now that is easier said than done. In LA, in Westwood specifically, a decent apartment stays on the market no more than a few days.

We had a problem.
I wanted to live close to work and my homies, though they wanted to share an apt, wanted to live cheap. Typically desi. I was willing to lay down a big bit more than they were. So to meet proportions, we were going to have to find a crappy place. I told them that I had sworn off crappy places. I worked 12-14 hr days so I could afford better.
Long story short, some strategy, some finance logic, and some serendipity helped us find a decent apt building VERY close to work. I can see the light in the senr VP's office. And it is a half block off the famous Wilshire Blvd and right next to the Westwood Village.
This is what we saw when we entered the apartment.

The view was nice. The apartment had a very homey feel to it. AK and I waffled for all of 7 mins and then ran back to the manager to tell her that we would take it.

The next few weeks were crazy at work and there was a point when in the middle of a catastrophe week, we heard that we couldn't move into the new place because the current (then) tenant could not move out, leaving us in a horrible situation.
It was extremely stressful.
I was going to be homeless for the first time in my life, despite having a lease for a really nice apt in my name. Go figure!
The situation de-escalated, and we were in the last weekend, and I was packing like crazy to get my clothes and stuff in. Frankly, my stuff packed in easy, very easy. The kitchen stuff, common stuff and AM's stuff took the most physical and time bandwidth.
But the boys did do a few things that saved the day.
Note for the future: don't be lazy and hire professional labor to do this shit. I can afford it for sure. Not worth my while breaking my back for this!

The house looked like this: lots of stuff, lots of packing!

The next day, I dare add, was spent doing hard physical labor!
For 8-9 hrs, we did 3 trips from our old apt to the new one, in a hired U Haul moving stuff.
That evening our place looked like a warehouse but finally in a few days everything settled down, as we all did. I settle very easily into new places. No 'new place' anxiety, no sleepless nights.
One of the benefits of working hard.
One is too tired to merely needs a place to call one's own and spread out.
The new place has much to offer...a nice view, a good homey feel due to the hard wood floors, and a spanking rooftop pool and jacuzzi.

You see this:

and this:

and this:

The view from my room is similar to the one above and in addition I see some really pretty houses around like this one:

It need not be stressed that I am fairly happier for the move.
The place is decent (though everything can be better), the location is nice and stuff is gelling.
The move will be memorable, as have been the last 'n' moves.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wine review: Morro Bay Central Coast Cabernet 2002

Wine: Morro Bay Central Coast Cabernet 2002
Cheese: Morbier
Pocket hemorrhage: $8.99

The expert/marketing take on it:
Morro Bay Cabernet Sauvignon reflects the vineyards of Californias central coast showing ripe opulent fruit. Delightful cherry, blackberry and currant flavors finish with black-pepper and toast from 9 months of ageing in French and American oak barrels.

My take on it:
Mellow wine with a slightly sharp taste, possibly due to the black pepper. Given the vintage I checked with the boys at home. One of the guys declared 'watery', which told me he meant 'mellow'. I detected the faint aroma of blackberry and I forced myself to smell the currant but I couldn't smell the cherry for the life of me.
Overall, a decent wine.
One for instant consumption, not for that rare event storage.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A time to heal

After a week of battering work today was a day of healing rest.
I had a good 8 hrs sleep yesterday night. Spent some time reading in the morning. my Saturday morning cuppa tea was fun too. Later spent some time chatting with my ma and then with Rohit. Heard about a fiasco he experienced on his b'day. Too much. The boy is out of control!

Later, I settled in to make a nice lunch of pesto tortellini with a smattering of olive oil, basil & oregano and crabcakes with some spicy horseradish sauce. Was a hearty meal. Later I slept again for 2 odd hrs, and now is the time to clean up and prep to get out of this place. It's been a fair 10 months here. It's time to call another place home.

More later.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A year ago...part III (Festivals galore) was a wrong time to be in Mumbai. If I had to pick three months to be in Mumbai, they would be Nov through Jan end. Definitely not, July through September. Those are the months to avoid Mumbai. Given the current weather conditions as well as the overall feel for the cities of Mumbai and Pune, it doesn't get better than the end of the year. Nov (or Oct end) brings Diwali, the festival that genuinely bathes Mumbai in a shimmer of bright lights and the sounds of firecrackers. Sure, they are loud but the scene isn't half as bad as Ganpati or Navratri. By Indian standards, it is a quieter festival.

So, when I was in Mumbai there was no major festival. Festivals take off in the end of August, when Ganpati comes into town.

So, the initial weeks and months were free of the usual hindrances introduced by the onset of festivals. I don't remember any of the small, single day events.

I hate the Ganpati season in Mumbai. Don't get me wrong. Ganpati is my personal governing deity. I also love to wake up to Ganesh aarti. What I hate are the crowd, the gulaal, the traffic snarls, and the drunk exuberance that crushes heartfelt worship and melodious aarti.
People have made it a very loud, very vulgar time of the year. I nearly dread the 7th and 10th day of Ganpati when this crowd city seems to come out into the streets, in its entirety. And it does so loudly and obnoxiously.
And before someone says "Oh the boy has suddenly become American." I have disliked this loud part about this festival for a very long time now.

This time I can't say it was all bad for me. I didn't need to go out for work. I really didn't need to go out for food, since the flat was pretty well stocked and I could order from the most convenient place possible. I hibernated those 10 days. I was supposed to meet an acquaintance/friend but he didn't want to risk making it into the city and getting trapped ahead of his flight and I had no intention of getting trapped either.

Those days were spent doing my own thing...writing, reading, hanging out with Rohit, and listening to aartis and Ganeshnaam. No, I didn't play them. The entire city did it for me. All I had to do was not go deaf and I was certain to hear it.

I didn't end up going to anybody's home for aarti except Avi's place and that too because Deepatai was very earnest in her invitation. It was good fun. Remind me that I do enjoy Ganpati aarti. I have just become too jaded. The question 'Why' is to be pondered on at some later date.

At some point dahi handi crept up on me. This, ,again, with my medical background, I see as a major nuisance. Why do people subject themselves to life threatening actions and doctors to sleepless nights?
But, now, as a non practicing doctor, I was able to see the fun side of it. I remember vividly. I wanted to buy a bunch of my favorite Mocha sachets. I was going shop to shop, looking for them. Finally, as I was heading towards Ganga Vihar, towards Sandesh, right off the main road I saw a fairly high dahi handi. It was good fun watching the young boys organize the human pyramid so quickly and with so much agility. The handi had to be lowered, but it is all part of the game. The boys broke the handi and I walked on by in my quest to find my mocha...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A year ago...part II (Food reigned supreme)

OK, so pop quiz. When a desi in the U.S. is going back home to India for a vacation what is he really looking forward to? Sure, friends, family are all good answers.
But the correct answer is food.
In the U.S. you have a lot of variety - food of every cuisine you can dream of is either available in a restaurant nearby or 'ready in mins' packs are available. But the genuine touch of an experienced desi cook is missing.
The dosa here is a very sorry shadow of its true self. Biryanis and khichadi pass off as the other, no questions asked. Good quality rotis, naan, rumali rotis, parathas are the stuff of dreams. The one that personally moves me to tears is chaat. I mean, come on guys, the Kailash guys at Citylight are not geniuses. They are good at it because they churn out Dahi batata puri, ragda pattice, shev puri, bhel puri day in and day out. Possibly, they experiment.
But they come up with lip smacking, drool producing chaat.
The chaat I have had in the US is so ordinary, it nearly brings tears to my eyes for two reasons:
1) Of the 'N' no. of desi restaurants in Calif, none can really come out with chaat that touches the taste standards of a regular regdi in Mumbai.
2) Like idiots, us chaat crazed fools still rush to these places for something that distantly resembles chaat.

Point is - I was back in Paradise for a lot of the things I miss a lot.
My dreams revolved around dosai, uttapams, fresh idli that dissolves in your mouth, sambar with real drumsticks, Shri Krishna batata wada, Indian Chinese food at Gypsy, some good rumali rotis from Status, dalimbi usal at Aaswad, Goan food from Goa Portuguesa, and a lot lot more.

At the end of the day, I lived most of my food dreams. A few times over.

Trivia - I spent nearly 60-70% of that fairly lavish budget on food and drink.

There was a point when I was ordering food from Gypsy nearly every single day.
Now, for those not in the know, in the regular middle class area of Dadar/Shivaji Park, Gypsy is kinda an upscale restaurant. Not seriously expensive...but not the kind where regular folks just drop in for food when they are too tired of cooking.

The regular Dadar/SP guy who makes it big usually passes through a few phases with Gypsy as a benchmark. As a student and school days, he knows people who went to Gypsy for birthdays. He has heard of people who go there regularly and talks about Gypsy, as if he knows those regulars personally. The first trip to Gypsy is an experience. The guy may not necessarily like the food, but you don't live a dream and come out saying it wasn't as much fun!
Later, as a grad student, he ends up going to Gypsy more often, for birthday parties, farewells, and such. One day, the guy gets a good job or goes to the US and suddenly thinks of Gypsy as a totally regular place to eat.
In some measure, though not accurately so, I am that guy.
This trip, I think, I tried most decent things Gypsy had to offer. Some excellent, some simply did not take off. But frankly, at one point, I got fed up of Gypsy food.

The next on the list was Oven Fresh. This blog has already been witness to me shedding tears to the passing of the Chicken Club sandwich. But love affairs die hard.
In Part I, I mentioned having lunch 500 times with Vik. Given that Oven Fresh is a stone's throw away from where Vik works, we met there quite often. I introduced Vik to an entire new world of Continental food and to his credit Vik took to it with some gusto.
I used to think of it as expensive but everything is relative and contextual. In the changed context, I thought it was total VFM.

I really tried to hunt for a decent Japanese place in Mumbai to see if I could intro some of the boys to sushi, rolls and sashimi. Sadly, Mumbai is still pretty 'behind' on the Japanese food scene.
Now I have to confess that I am not a regular sushi starved guy. But I like it once in a while.
Digressions, digressions, Mumbai doesn't really have many Japanese places. Either you go for something that is totally not close to the original. Moreover, I was unwilling to subject myself to eating raw fish in Mumbai, in the monsoon season, unless I was certain the risk was minimal. The other end was Wasabi, the Japanese restaurant at the Taj. They charge Rs. 10,000-12,000 for this sashimi platter.
News flash - I don't like Japanese food THAT much.

Where continental food is concerned, Mumbai has had a long standing love affair with that.
Churchill is an eternal favorite. Small place, so it is a tight squeeze. Come here without reservations at your own risk. Waiting time is 15-20 mins. It has an almost claustrophobic feel so you really want to dig your chops into the good food and get out. It's not very high on the ambience metric but more than makes up for it with quality of food.
Went there with Dole and Nitin. Dole had his chops in some lamb chops before I could coo "Baaa". I'm not too enthusiastic about red meat so I went in for fish cooked in some red wine sauce. The dish was spectacular enough so when we revisited the place a few weeks later, we scanned the entire menu again, but settled for the Ol Faithful.

Next place for mention - Shri Krishna Batata Wada. It is not an undisputed 'best wada place' but for the faithful who flock there for those two luscious globes of batter fried potato filling with marinated green chili, there can be none other. See the crowd there, at any time of the morning, day or night and you figure its a pretty popular place.
I don't care if it is popular, I just love their wadas!
For a wada place it is pretty steep. Rs. 14 for a plate of two wadas. Some people would call it highway robbery. All I do is drool and beg for more.
Made only two trips to SK this time around. Shame shame!

Next stop Aaswad and Prakash
No nonsense, straightforward Marathi snacks.
Aaswad is slightly more flashy (if you call that flashy...) Prakash is stark and devoted to providing simple, high quality food. All other extras - not available. Prakash doesnt vie for your attention. It has a typical Marathi attitude. We give quality, no flash. Don't want to eat here? Your loss.
Each his its own 'best at..'
Aaswad wins hands down with kande pohe and kothimbir wadi. Their misal and mattha misaL are pretty good too. Add daLimbi usal to the list and I could cry for joy. At Rs. 10-15 bucks per item, bliss could hardly come cheaper.
Prakash delivers with its unparalleled sabudaNa wada. Anything else? Kachori!
But in typical Marathi fashion (again!), it's available only on specific days of the week. Why? Sure there must be some reason. Good reason? Who knows? Who cares? They don't!

Went to a few other places, courtesy the Maushi. Jashn, MIG club restaurant.
MIG club restau reminds me of the worst wine I have ever had. It was ridiculous by any metric and I dont care if it costs only Rs 150. Heck, by today's rates, Charles Shaw costs Rs. 82 and it's not bad at all!

The list may never end. The taste will fade away, until it is refreshed by another helping, hopefully not too far in the future. The memories will linger. Words will hopefully make those memories last, that bit longer.

Next...well just watch this space.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A year ago...part I

A year ago, as of this date, I was in rainy Mumbai, living alone in our Mumbai apt.
13 mths ago, I was in deep distress. Every single day was stressful. I had a good job offer, which I had accepted. I had a half decent signing bonus coming my way. My labor petition for H1 had been approved. On paper, life was perfect. But the lack of a date with the US Consulate, came in the way of this perfection giving me happiness.
I couldn't get a date to have my visa done in India. All dates for 5-6 mths had been booked. Finally, as a good Indian, I figured out the process and got a date in the Kolkata consulate.

I was looking forward to going to India for a longish break before I started work but it was such a wrong time to be in India. In Mumbai, July basically spells disaster these days, what with the heavy rains and flooding. To top it, a day or two, before I was supposed to leave for India, some fucked up terrorists set off huge bombs in Mumbai's crowded suburban trains.

I usually brag about the psyche of the Mumbai citizenry. You pull off 5 blasts, people will still use the trains the next day. They suck it up, and move on.

I am rushing ahead of myself.
I had to go via Heathrow, and that was a disaster waiting to happen. First, British Airways sucks, as a higher end airline. The food is hideous and in extremely small portions so that someone like me, a light eater these days, came out of a meal hungry. The entertainment 'on demand' movies...and the movies they showed were so boring I didn't know what to do with myself for the long haul trip.
Heathrow was the disaster it had promised to be. The long lines and security checks almost made me nauseous. The 8 hr transit didn't help any. All in all, the price I had to pay for going to India was in terms of mental stability and my sanity.

Landing in India wasn't really an overpowering experience. I had been there just 6 mths ago. I got out of the security area pretty quickly and got myself a cab. 400 bucks to go from the airport to Mahim. I'd call that fairly steep in the geographical context. Converted to dollars, it was pretty cheap.

Then the miracle happened. During broad daylight, I traveled from the airport to experience that had taken me 2.5 hrs, only 6 mths back, in 25 mins flat. The cab stopped only at two points, the first signal taking the left turn from the Airport road onto the main road and then again while taking the left turn from an inside lane, close to the Mahim-Bandra flyover, to LJ Road.

This is the point I go back to the mention of Mumbai, the resilient city.
This time the city seemed scared. It hadn't taken this last punch very well. The roads were empty, people were staying away from trains and buses. Anniversary of July 26 was looming over the horizon and people were reeling under the left-right of the rains and terrorists.

Anyways, I came home soaked. No, there wasn't any rain. Just my sweat. Mumbai humidity does that to me.
Reached home and hauled my bags to the second floor.
Our building had been painted a fresh coat of some hideous color but I didn't mind it.
Reached home and I had Deepak (mama) to welcome me in before he left quickly to get his work done.
Adheet dropped by for a few mins to say hi. Good times catching up.

Then I did what I ritually do when I land in Mumbai. I cabbed it to Siddhivinayak, took darshan and decided to walk back. It's a pretty short haul back and the afternoon, though humid, wasn't a combination of hot and humid.

On my way back, I completed another ritual. I stopped by at SPG. The security guy had changed. And he didn't recognize me immediately. That was a blow to my ego.
But I knew in some short time, all the security guys at SPG will know me like they know the guy who hands them their paycheck.
The Doc of SPG isn't to be forgotten so easily.

Things seem to be headed in the right direction. Realized I hadn't checked my mail in a long time (36-48 hrs) and went over to the Reliance WebWorld across from Gypsy. My usual trick, these days, is to keep my account alive with 100 bucks on it, and to renew it with 100-250 buck increments when I land in Mumbai. This time, the lady at the counter said that I needed to pay 500 odd bucks for the renewal. That's a load of bull crap!
I was going to get myself a broadband connection. No reason I wanted to put 500 bucks here. 2 missions remained - one) to find myself a cable connection and two) to check mail at some place the same day.
Adheet invited me over for dinner and promised to let me use his laptop to check my mail. Coming from a kokya, I was nearly moved to tears. Ya right!
So I hauled a few beers over like a good American guest, while Adheet and the missus set forth a table full of goodies and teased me for my reduced appetite. But he repaid in kind by helping me select a decent DSL line...good ol MTNL. I was surprised to hear how good it was but then I have seen AG throw a tantrum or two when the net connection speed goes down and interferes with his 'net experience'. So, if it was good enough for him, I was cool with it.

Next day I went to MTNL, to get my modem and connection, money at the ready.
Typical MTNL problem...we can give you connection but it needs a special modem that we lease to you, and that is out of circulation. So we havent had one for quite some time and may not get some more for as much as a month.
Upside was: if I got my own modem, I'd get the connection the very next day.
Here I was the guy from America, with dollars converting to rupees. Ran to Yogesh and Shirish's place, a stone's throw from MTNL office. These guys have got to be the most honest and awesome computer guys I have ever met. They are more personal friends now. One more + to AG's tab. He introed me to these guys many moons back.

Shirish explained that the modem prices had been shooting up in the gray market for the same reason. If you get your hands on one, you get a connection asap.
I wrote him a check without a second thought, and to his word, he had a new modem available for me the next day.
I seem to have the easiest time with bureaucracy in India, these days.
I got in touch with the guy who would configure the connection for me. He promised to come the next day, and set it up for me.
Three days after landing in Mumbai, I had a DSL connection going for me. A record of sorts, I am told.

Connected to the net, 24/7, I was a new man.
Later, the Mumbai humidity was to mess up the keyboard on my laptop so I ended up taking the face caps off the keys to see if I could blow dry the connection and get it going.
Finally, I gave up and bought a crappy 400 buck USB keyboard, which is attached to my computer to this day.
My aging laptop has the monitor of a more youthful computer but is making sounds in weird places, showing its age.

Coming out of the deprived life of a PIGS (Poor Indian Graduate Student - in the US) I set myself a healthy 1000 rupee per day budget - food, travel, gifts, things to buy, household, etc.
I really cut loose on my wallet to the point that Vikrant (henceforth referred to as Vik), who thought me the stingiest bastard in the land, had his eyes bulging and mouth agape when he saw me carry, and spew, 100/500 buck notes.
Though I need add, I never wasted money. If I saw a bus going to SP, I caught a bus a zillion times. I didn't have to always cab it because I had money.
One of the happiest experiences (or bunch thereof) on the trip was the many, many, many long lunches I had with Vik or the hundred times he came over to my place 'for 10 mins' and ended up staying for a solid couple of hrs.
I had landed a good job after a tough 3-4 confidence sapping years. Vik was in full struggle mode. He was handling marriage and increased responsibility the way only Vik can - with complete joy.

Had terrific long conversations with Vik - we talked life, we talked food, we talked money, we talked ambition. Being with Vik transported me to another era, where we did super spontaneous simple things.
Like the time he made me walk in light rain, all the way to Aaswad, for a plate of kande pohe. I begged him to drive or suggested I'd pay for a cab and typically Vik came back that he'd pay me the cab fare equivalent to walk. Obstinate bastard. Usually the pohe would be all gone by the time we reached Aaswad. And then I/we'd nearly collapse laughing.

Vik, with a bruised ego, and an unsatiated appetite for pohe, would force me around from Gypsy corner to N different places in the quest of pohe.

I traveled to Pune some, went to Kolkata for all of one day, met up with cousins and friends.

I intend to make this a series for the next few these memories solidify into words.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Americas Best Hospitals" 2007 Report

U.S. News ranking for Hospitals is serious bragging rights...and no little wonder. The entire organization works damn hard at maintaining it.
You see how serious all this is when you walk through the underground tunnel that connects the J Hop OPD area with the J Hop Hospital. The entire long, brightly lit tunnel is adorned with huge blow outs of the Cover pages from U.S. News declaring Hopkins as 'The Best" for the Nth time.

2007 U.S.News & World Report Rankings

For the 17th consecutive year, The Johns Hopkins Hospital has topped U.S.News & World Report's annual rankings of "America's Best Hospitals." For a complete list and methodology of rankings, please visit

In addition to heading the Honor Roll, The Johns Hopkins Hospital ranked in the top 10 in 15 of the 16 specialty categories listed. Here are the rankings:

America's #1 Hospital 17 years in a row ad

Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)







#2Ophthalmology (Wilmer Eye Institute)


#3Digestive Disorders

Respiratory Disorders

#4Heart/Heart Surgery
#6Kidney Disease

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Busy life

Life is aspeeding. Sometimes weeks fly by without me realizing the swift passage of time. Sunday nights are stressful and before I know it, it is Friday evening.
Days are merging into weeks,and weeks into months...
The last two weeks have been crazy as far as working up to, or beyond, 3 am on 4 separate occasions is involved. Acquisition diligence is painstaking, detailed work and takes its time.
A time for me of details, and for others of models.
It's over now. Or nearly over.
Mon Tues will mark some finals and thence onto a different search...a different case.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

BOWLED OUT - Shattered cricket dreams

For those that know me know that I love cricket with an abiding, haunting, decerebrate kind of love.
There is no logic to it. I just love it. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why I love cricket so much. Why does a bowler running up to the bowling crease see my pulse racing rather than, say, a fast car on the F1 circuit or basketall? Don't know.

Here's one cricket feeling another cricketer's heartache.

End of a young innings

Cricketers who fail to make it to the top are often driven to desperation, writes
Priyanko Sarkar

Early this week, Subhash Dixit jumped to his death. A few years ago this Kanpur lad was captain of India’s Under-15 cricket team. Later, he became captain of UP’s Under-19 team. But when he died, he was jobless, penniless and hopeless. He couldn’t even make it to UP’s Ranji team. He gave up his dreams and tried to get a job, but he failed. It was all over for him. While his family and friends believe that Dixit was a good player who never got a chance at the top level, managers of UPCA say his game was deteriorating.

In this cricket-crazy country, with hundreds of thousands of men dreaming of donning the national colours one day, Dixit’s tragic demise is not a good sign. After all, there is space only for 11 men in the national team. So, what happens to thousands of men whose career fails to progress beyond a point. The coaches and managers know this problem. They know what happens when a young dream dies. Naresh Churi, who is currently coaching Ruparel College, Shardashram Vidyamandir and Deeplo Sports Club at Shivaji Park, believes that a coach must convince his players that despite politics there is always a place for genuine talent.

But that doesn’t always happen. Rajesh Sanil, who coaches at MIG cricket ground in Bandra, says cricketers must learn how to fight the system. Sanil claims that the selection of a player depends on a lot of things apart from talent. Probed a little deeper, Sanil admits that if two players of the same calibre are vying for a place in the team, then the one with he right connections invariably wins. He feels that the system of selecting players is not likely to change anytime soon nor is there any short-term solution to the problem.

It’s a serious problem. The young cricketers are in a hurry these days. They want everything to happen quickly. This often leads to disappointment amongst players who do not have the mental aptitude and required resilience to slog it out for just that little time longer. The commercial aspect of the game also
drives many non-players into trying their luck all the time. Players with too much passion risk hurting themselves while staring at disappointment. They often feel betrayed by the game they loved. Unless such a person gets comfort from his parents and coach, cases like Subhash Dixit’s may happen again.

The lack of parameters for selecting a player makes the selector’s decision sacred. Milind Rege, chairman of the Cricket Club of India’s organising committee, says that selection of a player from one level to the other is a subjective choice which varies from selector to selector. Former national chief selector Kiran More says he looks at the physical fitness and mental preparation of a player while assessing him.

But, the players who have been ill-treated by the management blame the selection process for ruining the game and their careers. Nishant Bhatia is one of the many strugglers who is striving to make a mark in the game. He started playing at the age of 12 with Shardashram Vidyamandir, the school which has given the country Sachin Tendulkar. A decade later, Nishant is nowhere close to emulating his idol. Not be
cause he is a bad player, but because he still hasn’t caught any selector’s eye. He has played the Harris Shield, ELF Vengsarkar, Kanga League, Shatkar Trophy, Shalini Bhalekar Trophy and various MCA camp matches where he was also the captain of his team. “The biggest disappointment came when I got a call from the MCA saying I was selected, but I never got to play and was eventually shunted out,” Nishant says. The appointment had come after he had been the third highest scorer in the West Zone knockout league tournament. His frustration is growing with each passing year. In this glorious game of uncertainties, “either you get famous or you’re a stupid person,” Nishant says. Even your own friends begin laughing at you and question your abilities, he adds.

Bhatia’s colleague Paresh Nailwal has almost given up hope of returning to the game. Working in his father’s shop now, Nailwal is planning to do an MBA. He says that sinister things keep happening in the game with or without the player’s knowledge, so it is difficult to gauge what makes the cut for a particular selector. Nailwal claims that a couple of years ago, when the team for Mumbai was selected, almost eight players were subsequently dropped without any reason from the total list of 14 players and till date, no one knows why such a thing happened.

Incidents like this make young players lose faith in the system and themselves. Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s CAO, says, “Of 100 outstanding boys who turn up every year, there is space to only for eight to 10 players. The important thing is to get noticed at all levels to be one of them.” Many players all but stumble at this point. Some day soon, the hopes of an entire nation will end in a billion heartaches. TNN

Earning on each level
Under 19 and Under 22 — Between Rs 4,500 to Rs 5,000 per match Shield Matches — On an eightmonth contract, a player gets about Rs 5,000 per month Club Cricket — No money but you get a share if your team wins Ranji Trophy — Around Rs 50,000 per match One Day Internationals — Rs 2 lakh per match Test Match — Rs 2.5 lakh per match