Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Locomotive Breath Strikes Again (Musings on the Jethro Tull Concert)

JETHRO TULL - Aqualung
Sitting on a park bench
eyeing ittle girls with bad intent.
Snot running down his nose
greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck
spitting out pieces of his broken luck.
Sun streaking cold
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.
Feeling alone
the army's up the rode
salvation a la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend
don't start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it's only me.
Do you still remember
December's foggy freeze
when the ice that
clings on to your beard is
screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep-sea-diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

Last Friday the song was still ringing in my ears after the dust had settled on the IIM-B grounds. I had for the second time in almost a decade witnessed a genius at work. Ian "Locomotive Breath " Anderson had just left me awe-struck with the most wonderful exhibition of Flute playing. An intoxicating sound which had transported me to the beautiful farms of Britain with Ian Anderson as my guide. What do you call a man who plays the flute, acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, Hammond organ, drums, keyboards, trombone, a variety of whistles and the violin, must be somewhere nearer to genius and bangalore got an ample exhibition of it. It wasnt only the music but the showmanship and the satirical charm exuded by the wildly energetic 59 yr old which left the crowd awestruck. The heartening thing to see was the eclectic mix of the original flower children with the young ones of today. I can safely say that this is one concert where the average age of the concert audience was in the late 20's and early 30's. Ofcourse we got the wonderful jamboree evergreen songs which we have come to expect from Jethro Tull, and also his takes on J.S Bach and Mozart. For me this was the second coming of giant whom i had the pleasure to see in jugalbandi with Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia before. I was just a newbie then and even now i was left craving for more. I want to spare a thought for the people who missed the concert because they hadnt heard of Jethro Tull and went to the Badams's Concert instead. This concert was that of a musician, a wonderfully eccentric man who believes in what he plays and not of a commercial singer who just for the sake of money writes some pop songs. Anyways its kind of a prolific month for concert in Bangalore with Jethro Tull, Badams and Uriah Heep performing in a matter of a week. Still excited for the Uriah Heep concert on thursday though i have heard just a few songs of theirs but looking to learn more and update "The Pod of All Things" ( thats my 60 gb ipod which is almost like a part of my body nowadays).

Monday, December 12, 2005

20 things i wanna do to improve india

I am sure at one point of time or the other we would have dreamed of doing something to make our country a better place. Here are the 20 things i would like to do. Tell me what would you like to do.
  1. Place Mallika Shehrawat under permanent house arrest so that she can never be seen in public and she cannot take words out of her mouth on any of the new channels
  2. Guillotine rapists in mass public executions, where people can stone them, etc.
  3. Ban page-3 from all the newspapers so that we dont see shallow people and their artificial lives, instead i will devote page-3 to the armed forces.
  4. Swat the left parties like a fly. Ban all left sponsored trade unions. Also flog students ( a la uma thurman in Kill Bill-1) and tell them that its their time to study and not indulge in politics.
  5. All politicians with a crime history will have to have their body parts mutilated in proportion will the crime they commit.
  6. Make all those dudes with long straight hair go through a haircut like i used to do when i was a prefect in school.
  7. Sting the politicians where it stings the most with sting operations
  8. Make writing on walls of monuments and peeing in public jailable offences (aka non-bailable with 3rd degree).
  9. Open a nuremberg like camps for corrupt bureaucracy with gestapo like organization to catch these filty people.
  10. Allow same sex marriages, its high time we start being mature enough to allow people to be free.
  11. Stop mahesh bhatt's comments on tv. tell him its time to retire to the osho ashram.
  12. legalize prostitution, its the oldest job in the world. (but make it safe).
  13. Put hefty fines on public littering. (these includes torturing people ) .
  14. Mandatory care for senior citizens.
  15. Sell condoms in schools, malls everywhere. this is the only way.
  16. Delete the words SC, ST or minorities from the constitution everyone has equal rights, and apply uniform civil code to all religions. Be indians first and then your religion.
  17. Have classes to teach people before they go out to other countries to respect the rules of that country and not to make a fool of themselves infront of foreigners.
  18. Ban all the people who potray india as the land elephants and mystics. You dont enough to show enough.
  19. send parents who make their underage children work, to my nuremberg style death camp.
  20. Last but not the least make myself the absolute dictator to rule the country so i can implement the things written above.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NEWS Gone Awry

My love for news and current affairs goes back a donkey’s years when the Albuquerque sisters, Vinod Dua, etc used to rule the roost. The news was a drab fare with the millions of curbs notwithstanding. The silver-lining was of course Prannoy Roy’s “The World This Week” which I used to follow religiously every week full of exciting fare with world affairs, entertainment and sports. Then came the GULF WAR and we were introduced to BBC and CNN through Cable TV which was site a drop of water to parched lips. CNN seemed a bit too biased but BBC was dignified and exemplary in its coverage.

For many years this trend kind of continued and Star News was wonderfully run by the king of Indian news Prannoy Roy and everything was rosy, the newbie Aaj Tak was launched amid much fanfare and it explored many new areas of new coverage in hindi. Soon it became the flavor of the season with a lot of people following it and even preferring it to star news. Everything was fine but then everyone who is anyone joined the bad wagon with news channel cropping up from everywhere. We have 3 from NDTV, 2 from STAR NEWS, 2 from ZEE and many more from regional players. If that is not enough we even have channels catering to a particular city. Of course dozens of news channel are being planned for the future. But nobody seems to care about their reason for being. News broadcasting has taken a backseat in the war of the new channels to stay ahead which incidentally is not as absorbing the GULF war was.

The main problem is that there isn’t enough news for so many news hungry channels. The news channel went overboard with the coverage of Amitabh Bachchan’s recent illness. Agreed he is a great actor and he is an icon in his own right, but is this kind of round the clock coverage warranted. I am sure we all have prayed for his recovery and I do hope he gets well soon. But I for one was tired of seeing lilavati hospital man I felt like I am there myself. Abu Salem, I guess he is my favorite gangster, with the kind of glorification and coverage the media provided him with I feel like trying my hands at his profession. Does all India need to vote on the political correctness of Chappell’s middle finger or on Uma Bharati’s shenanigans. I mean does the common man in our country really wait for this news. We seem to be country of fools, who love sensationalism. Why does every news have to be sensationalized? Every time a rape happens It is presented in the most inhuman and heartless way where crime time presenters use phrases and metaphors and make stupid faces.

I am sure the crime reports were started with a noble purpose to expose the dark underbelly but the way it is presented makes you feel bad about yourself and the society as a whole. Also our nation’s favorite pastime cricket it is more of a running scandal machine, where everyone cricketer however non-descript in his playing days seems to have an opinion about how to play cricket better. The other day I saw the master of titillating thrillers Mahesh Bhatt, a wannabe item girl who loves dropping clothes like hot potatoes and an 18 something guy who some years back used to be a child actor vociferously debating Indian sexuality. I have seen Mahesh Bhatt repeat the same argument with the exact same well rehearsed lines in innumerable debates. I mean news channels have gone stale. Then there is this particular hostess of a night time lifestyle show who doesn’t seem to have learnt about commas and full stops when she was studying English, and the most irritating part of it is that even if someone else fills in for her she presents it the same way. News is so damn mediocre that I have begun to wonder whether it has ceased to be a source of knowledge. As usual the woes of common man and martyr’s are overlooked for the likes of corrupt politicians, Mallika Shehrawat (someone should lock up that woman in a cage full of lions) and some cricket controversy. Do all the media barons tell me that in a country of more than a billion only thing which makes news is corruption, sex and cricket. C’mon guys you can do better than that. You as journalists owe something to your noble profession please try to practice that.

Please come out of this mediocrity and well help some avid viewers like me revive the love and respect we had for the NEWS……

Friday, November 25, 2005

Iran Through My Eyes-2

Silence Betokens Consent!!!- Persian Proverb

This is the silence which I found in Tehran amongst youth there. No one is willing to demonstrate against the religious diktat of the government, some people I spoke to told me that they are tired of war and the damages caused by earthquakes they don’t want another conflict and though they love the American culture they don’t want another war. The war has left them with more women then men. I met some very beautiful women in their late 20’s and mid 30’s still unmarried because they couldn’t find a man. Many women friends I made had told me that they don’t trust men in Tehran as they tend to have multiple girlfriends at the same time. Well that’s why I always call Tehran the land of plenty (Pun Intended). There are some very intriguing facts about marriage in Iran. By Islamic law a man is allowed to have four wives, I am sure you all new that. But did you know that he can have upto 3 mistresses also. There is also a agreement marriage where a man and a woman can register for a short period of time say 6 months and can stay together. The man has to pay for her living expenses. All these laws are prevalent in Iran kind of contradictory for a conservative religion like thatJ. One more fact of the marriage scenario is that if a guy likes a girl he has to approach the girl’s family and that’s a tradition. Hey I hope all this information doesn’t give you any ideas such me getting married to someone in Iran though I won’t mind that ;).

The youth in Iran are in to same kind of stuff that you would find Indian youth doing in big cities. I have seen lots of guys and gals meeting up in malls. Guys eve teasing girls (men will always remain the same). From my experiences I have seen that women in Tehran are very forward and frank in their thinking and outlook. Another wonderful thing I noticed about the number of working women. I felt that there are many job opportunities for women in Tehran, and they are well respected at the work place. The people seem to have really good habits, many of them love to read and write prose as well as well as poetry. Persians have great legacy of poets including omar khayyam, hafez and firdausi who have extensively written about women wine and nature’s beauty. In fact one of my friends gave me a book of poetry by hafez known as the Divan-e-Hafez with some of the most beautiful illustrations and calligraphy that I have ever seen. Anyone interested to see this is most welcome to come and see it at my place. Its seems like a magical book and the poems which are translated in English are wonderful. It is a part of Iranian culture to open Divan-e Hafez at random with a question or a wish, and let Hafez answer the question. When I tried the same, and I opened one of the page I found a poem on India by Hafez which went like “If you wanna see a peacock, you have to go to Hind” quiet a coincidence, my friend though had a naughty smile on her face and didn’t divulge the details of the whole prophecy to me. I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading session, it was wonderful and I met a quiet a few people from whom I learnt that they have many readings of banned books at each others place once a week. Yes my friends many books are banned in Iran, but many people do defy the ban and still smuggle them into the country. Many people seem to have a lot of interest in western philosophy and spiritualism. Many of them have read the Gita and many of them were eager to have a discourse on that with me. Luckily I had read it myself so I could stand up to them. There are also a lot of ISKCON and OSHO followers in Iran but ofcourse they meet in secret. Any knowledge of this to the religious police could prove to have disastrous consequences in Tehran.

Music is banned in Iran and many of the singers operate from outside the country mainly in USA. We have a full fledged Persian Music Channel and the pop industry is huge. I procured Mp3 Cd of Iranian pop songs of the black market. It’s cool! Iran itself has some wonderful independent filmmakers who left the country after the revolution in 1979. I had a chance of watching an Iranian movie, a kind of satire on the religious priests, of course this movie titled ‘Marmulake’ was banned in Iran, but it was very interesting specially because there were English sub-titles and I could get some of the jokes, though the English in the sub-titles was even funnier I think. I also saw an English movie in Tehran in a movie theatre, and it wasn’t a surprise it was Fahrenheit 9/11 ;). Even the pirated hollywood movies CD’s are censored, as I found out to my utter dismay when I bought a CD of the movie VAN HELSING.

What Tehran lacks in bars and pubs (for obvious reasons) it makes up in café’s and fast food joints which dot the city and these are the best places to meet random people away from the prying eyes of the religious police. I was mistaken as an Iranian many a time as I am fair and they seem to have a mindset that most Indians are dark. But when I couldn’t speak the language and the café owners found out that, I used to become the object of attraction with them telling their customers about an Indian ( They refer to India as Hendh and to the people as Hendhi) and many people used to just walk upto me to ask questions of Indian culture movies religions etc. Some of them wanted to know how to send their children for higher education their. How much is the cost of doing engineering there and will I be able to keep a tab on their kids as their local guardian (Makes me go hmmm as I cannot keep a tab on myself). I managed to make some really good friends like that. One of them a girl called Tahmineh whom I used to teach English, her English wasn’t that bad but some obvious mistakes were there and she used to forget some words. Most of the people in Iran don’t know English, as it’s not taught at the school level. They start learning only at the university. Though many are sending their children to private language schools who teach them English. Translators are in great demand in Iran and I met quiet a few of them at my workplace. One of my funniest moments in Iran was with a General Manager at my workplace who one day came up to me and said “Onebody is phoning you” ( He meant there is somebody’s phone call for you). I tried real hard not to laugh. In another instance Upper Limit was translated as Upstairs Limit and Lower Limit as downstairs Limit. I did meet people who had lived outside Iran and they spoke great English.

Now I shall come to something which is of the utmost importance to me and that is “Food”, please hear this self confessed foodie out. Iranian food is bland for us spice loving Indians, but its still interesting. First things first vegetarians will have a hard time there. But if you are a non-veg and you have no religious reservations about beef than you will revel in what Iranian cuisine has to offer you. Chello Kabob (Beef Kebabs served with saffron rice) is perhaps Iran’s most interesting offering, but then Ghorme Sabzi (Lamb meat cooked in Spinach with Lime Juice) isn’t too far behind. My personal pick is the Al Borz restaurant in Tehran where they serve kebabs by their length in meters. There is also an Indian restaurant called Taj Mahal which is quiet wonderful and its very popular with Iranians. Iranians saffron is just about the best and the most potent in the world and they love to use with gay abandon in their food. Another interesting Drink I found was Doogh, Its butter milk with Soda in it. You need to get used to it to like it. I am sure I don’t need to mention the famous Iranian Tea which but I will do it anyway. It is a wonderful concoction of strained tea without milk and sugar. They Iranian way of drinking it ; Put a sugar cube on your tongue and drink hot tea and suck on the sugar cube as the tea passes through mouth. Now that’s the way uhuh uhuh I like it (I always wanted to say that). Iranian bakery products are to die for specially the saffron cookies from Kermanshahr, they melt in your mouth leaving a lasting taste of saffron in your mouth. I guess you can make out why my jeans wouldn’t fit me when I came back from Iran. Apart from the food another thing not to be missed is smoking the Ghaeliyoon (Hookah), which right now is a big rage in metropolitan India but a tradition in Iran where it’s not unusual to find even seven, eight year olds smoking it and also lots of women. In one instance I found a kind of a kitty party of women sitting in a hookah café a smoking all those big hookahs with their many flavors. And it’s damn cheap there. A combination of hookah, Iranian tea and date could be stimulating in more ways than one ;). A hookah costs about five USD and I bought five of them to India which caused quiet a ruckus with customs as they appeared to be dangerous devices when seen through an x-ray. I can still remember those long conversations with tea hookah and dates hmmm make me nostalgic. And that’s all about that food.

Lets move to travel now, well Tehran has some of the most beautiful and serene gardens which dot the city, Jamshediyah and Milad park are wonderful. Jamshediyah at the foot of the Damavand Mountains provide wonderful opportunities for trekking and it’s a good place to have a coochie-coo with your girlfriend in a place where there is no such freedom. Iranians love camping with their families and going to parks is a very important tradition. Milad park has busts of the famous Persian poets and it’s a nice place to relax. Most people in iran are very active and sporty, they love trekking and climbing the mountain rather than using the cable car route, which I found much to my discomfort as my friends insisted on trekking and I with my alcohol filled life and no stamina nearly died trying to climb and trek J. This made me think that if alcohol was banned in India. I mean people like me could be more healthier. One place which was highly recommended by people was the palace of the deposed Shah of Iran, it turned out be quiet disappointing as it was more like a modern villa than a palace, but it was nice nonetheless. Since I was in the north of Iran we decided to visit Isfahan, a city of great history, some lovely monuments with beautiful domes very similar to some of our own mughal architecture in India, these domes were replete with wonderful Turquoise work which is unique to iran. I was also told that one of the buildings were designed by Ustad Isa, the same person who designed the Taj Mahal. Isfahan has a beautiful market where I went mad and spend a lot of precious techie dollars to buy curios for my home including, copper plates, hookah’s miniature paintings etc. I must have paid a lot more than it was worth because our guide had a frown on his face each time I told him I had struck a bargain. I also had a chance to visit the famous Caspian Sea which actually is not a sea and doesn’t behave like either. It wasn’t very exciting and the water near the shore had too many pointed stones which weren’t a happy sight for feet of over enthusiastic buggers like me who want to jump into the water as soon as they see it. The most wonderful place that I visited in Iran was 900 kms from Iran the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. It was the seat King Darius II and it was wonderful just like the pyramids. This was built around 241 AD. There was a place called the ‘Gateway of the world’ which had these beautiful pillars which had animals like the owl made on top of them. We also saw the valley of kings which reminded me of the perfect setting for one of the Indiana Jones Treasure Hunt movies, but hey only this time it was me instead of Harrison Ford. One more thing I noticed that the Iranian railways is very nice and it is built by Indian companies. I was wondering if we could do such a nice job for them, why we couldn’t improve the conditions here.

In spite of the nice things which I saw in Iran I also felt an inherent sadness amongst the youth there. Iran is like a golden cage for them where everything is available but there is no freedom and it makes me wonder that even with a million problems we have to face in India one thing which makes us survive and grow is the kind of freedom we get in our country. Imagine trying to lead your daily life under the threat of being arrested because your clothes are not correct. A friend of mine was given 50 lashes and was confined in jail for a week when a new year’s party was raided by the religious police in Tehran and they found dress code inappropriate and of course they found booze there. I can safely say that this isn’t a rumor as I saw the lash marks on his back which were clearly visible months after the incident took place. The suicide rate amongst youth is very high as there is no outlet for releasing their frustrations. But even through this I see a ray of hope amongst people who do rebel against the religious fundamentalism in their own small way. I can only imagine that how wonderful iran would become if the religious fundamentalist forces are removed. In the meantime for the sake of my friends who are facing this kind of oppression day in day out I can only pray for them to Wait and Hope……. In conclusion I can only say that the whole Iran experience was nothing less than an exhilarating one for me where I overcame many apprehensions, made some very good friends for life, learnt about a wonderful culture with ancient cultural ties with our own, saw the resilience of people against religious fundamentalism.

(I dedicate this to all my Iranian friends, especially to Mona, Marjan, Tahmineh, Reza, Bahareh, Ali and Gita. )

Friday, November 18, 2005

Its A Fact

The pure warm presence of you
The way you affected my life
The love you sent me honestly
All have become part of me.
The most interesting fact for each of us is to find out exactly who we are
To distinguish what is right what is wrong
To catch the symptoms,to get the signals
Nothing is meaningless.
I found myself in her heart
I found myself in her familiar glance,familiar words,familiar caress
The one who is a familiar stranger,has come from different world,
with different language but,with a great soul,with a familiar spirit.
Her words seem to be mine
Her opinion,her love ,
Her logic,her emotions look like mine.
It seems we have met each other long long ago ,
maybe in another world
I don't know when ,i don't know where
What i know is
We should have met
We should have found eachother.
It is a fact,we are so close.
Everything is clear around us,
we should just pay attention to it
We found eachother in spite of miles & miles between us
We found eachother after facing ups & downs in our life
A strong power put each of us in a path of the others life
& that's true,
we were wise enough to get the point
to find each other,
to relax our soul to improve ourselves,
to love each other,
& to be forever as close as we are just now!
Its a fact!!!

Some of my earlier works i have written down in my diary. This musing is dedicated to :

To all the girls
I've loved before
Who travelled in and out my door
I'm glad they came along
I dedicate this song
To all the girls I've loved before


Who Is To Blame?

We are to fly
We are to feel pain
We are to live
Flying with such a pain,Seems impossible.
Living while feeling pain,Seems ordinary
What am i supposed to be
I am to blame
as nobody is responsible for what i'm doing
I'm supposed to live
Reach the highest,the reason to fly
Where are the wings?
I'm right here far from the above
Sitting relaxed
Everything seems to be clear,
But still nothing is bright
Neither "you" nor "I"
Who is apparently with me
I owe her,talking on behalf of her
making decisions,releasing the soul
The soul cannot go
Why do they fight?!
Where are the wings?!
Which one is cheating?
I'm to flyI
'm to feel the pain,
caused by the fight
I'm to live
Who is to blame?!

This is something i came across on one of my journeys. It was translated by a very special person for me, Well i decided to share it. Hope you like it. Apply it and see what you make of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Iran Through My Eyes-1

As i begin to write down my experiences in Iran after more than a year since i visited i still wonder why I haven’t done this before. I guess i was never motivated enough or maybe i want to keep it to myself. But now i guess the time has come to tell the world about Iran. My main purpose in writing this is to paint a true picture of iran and to remove general misconceptions that people have about that country.

I can still remember the day when my boss called us into the meeting room and told that 12 of us will be going to Iran for a requirement study.I was a mix of excitement and apprehension. Excitement because it was like a journey into an unknown world. Apprehension was because my knowledge of iran was only what i had seen in the news and on the "world this week". Those were pictures of war namely the Iran Iraq war, or the Ayatollah imposing the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for the 'Satanic Verses' or thousands of protestors protesting against USA policies. It was soon to change though.

Well the flight was through Hyderabad via Dubai to Tehran. Before landing in Tehran the first thing i noticed was the ladies scurrying to the airplane restroom for changing into Islamic certified clothes that requires a woman to be covered from head to toe, though they are not required to cover their faces with veils.

The airport with at Tehran was covered with photographs of Ayatollah Khomeini who was the original leader of the Islamic revolution. I was overawed by the hawkish features and the piercing gaze of the man who seems to look through your soul. I was later going to discover that the portrait of the Ayatollah seems to be everywhere in shops, on walls of the buildings, in offices wherever i went the same piercing eyes looking into my soul. Talking of pictures there was a wonderful and heartening side to this also there were also murals of soldiers martyred in the Iran-Iraq war. It seems to be a fitting tribute to millions of people who had laid down their lives for the country. We could take a leaf out of their books.

Tehran is a beautiful city as it is situated at different levels so therefore standing at one point you can have a wide area of view (okay that didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted but then I guess you will get the point). It’s at the foot of the mountain and yes guys contrary to popular belief its not a desert it snows in Tehran in the winters. The infrastructure is mind blowing for a country ostracized by most of the world. The city lined with wonderful expressways and the roads are absolutely great. I can’t say that about the traffic though which is quiet bad but still its heaven as compared to our Indian cities. The reason is that Tehran is a huge city and it has at least the same amount of cars which Delhi has if not more. It extremely well planned and has some of the most lovely gardens and parks which stay open after dark also. One of the good things about the Islamic regime is that crime has the most torturous of punishments and therefore this acts as a wonderful deterrent. Our place of stay was a wonderful guesthouse in up market Tehran right next to a shopping center. It was huge 14 bedroom mansion complete with a swimming pool and some TT tables. But of course we couldn’t use the swimming pool as it was open and the people living around us could see our wonderful half naked self which is prohibited by the law. Also no moving around the city in shorts or else the big men in green (explanation later) will come and catch you. Barring this I guess there were no problems in the dressing department for men. We had carried about 150 kgs of groceries as majority of the people were vegetarians and there were no beef eating non vegetarians except for me. About me that when in rome do what the Romans to do or rather eat what the Romans eat and therefore food wasn’t much of problem. Of course our manager had gone all lengths to scare about the atmosphere of Tehran about how not to look into the eyes of a woman, never shake hands with a woman and so on.

The taxis in Tehran or for that matter most of the cars in Tehran are the dilapidated old models of the 80’s and the early 90’s and most of them seem to Korean. They have a national car called the Samand which is quiet okay. Tehran has the highest density of accidents in the world because the drivers guys and ladies alike drive as if there is no tomorrow. Most the times we had our hearts in our mouth when we used to take the taxis of these drivers. The good thing is that these dilapidated cars run better than one or two year old cars here. It’s because of the high quality petrol they use. A liter costs 2 Rupees now while diesel is around 85 p to a liter. So we could see the driver getting a full tank and paying a small denomination for it. In India it would seem preposterous with the monthly increase in the price equal to the price of petrol there. Iran currency is the riyal which is highly devalued 8900 riyals to a dollar. Therefore we used to carry oodles of notes while roaming around as there is no foreign credit card accepted there. Use to feel funny to buy petty stuff for hundreds and thousands of riyals. To all smokers a pack of Marlboros is 13000 riyals, the other cigarettes there are not worth it though I am told some of them are as good as the wills navy cut. Alcohol is seriously prohibited and results in lashings if you are caught with it. But all prohibitions lead to more and more corruptions. Therefore alcohol can be ordered 3 in days in advance at 3 times the Dubai price which roughly is equal to the Indian price for foreign liquors. This is for people like me who love their weekly tipple. Another amusing thing I saw was women who generally don’t smoke outside, you could find them come to café buy a whole pack smoke it as if the world would finish if they didn’t and then apply perfume to get rid of the smell. Seemed funny as you see them smoke cigarette after cigarette trying to out do each other, thereby also creating a smoky surroundingJ.

The people of Iran are extremely wonderful and they like Indians (just a few of the communities who do). They prefer them to Pakistanis. Indian movies have made their presence felt here and the piracy is rampant. Of course watching an Indian movie (specially the latest ones) is tough as all the skin show is blocked so half the time you’re watching the black screen. We were riddled by queries of how Jai, Veeru and Basanti were. The quintessential Indian hit Sholay is big in Iran and they were really surprised when I told them that now there children are big stars. Shahrukh and Salman rule the hearts of the young girls who love the music and the color of Indian movies. They all wanna wear the sari. Another fact is that there are at least twice the numbers of women in Iran then men. I have been told that is because millions of them died during the war and therefore many women haven’t married because they have a dearth of suitors. My friends (my excited male friends and some females friends too) Iranian women are very beautiful and specially when there are so many of them you can feel overcome by the mass of beauty everywhere around you. The only problem is from 10 yr old kid to 45 yr old women they apply so much make up that there beauty is hidden under a mask of some cheap make up products. If only they didn’t. Another fad in Iran amongst the women is getting a nose job done (plastic surgery on the nose). They seem to have a perennial problem with the nose. At any given time if you walk on the streets of Tehran you will find at least 5 to 10 women with band-aid like things on their nose. A friend told me that they do this because Iranian women believe that since only there faces can be seen they want those to be beautiful. So you will find all sorts of coloring and fringes on whatever here which is visible. Women in Tehran try to defy the ban by wearing capri’s etc so that some skin is visible. You do hear about the big green men rounding them up and taking them to police station. Well the big green men are the religious police who are enforcers of the Shiite Islamic law and they enforce it with an obsessive zeal. You will also see that the police have the best cars in town Mercedes C Class!!!.

Enough Data for one day, this concludes the first on my 2 part series on Iran.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

An Experience of mine in the US

I often have read about how foreigners come to India and find some mannerisms peculiar to Indians really weird. Be it a family of 4 on a two-wheeler, or the auto-rickshaws plying noisily on the roads, there are so many things which are so alien to them and strike one as odd!! I never expected to find a similar thing in US but I just have to relate this experience. Forgive me if this strikes you as gross. Its unlike me to talk such stuff, but this is too weird for me to skip.On the first day of office, I could not find a ladies room on my floor. After asking around discreetly, I could still not discover its whereabouts. Then, after inquiring indiscreetly, I discovered its location only to realize that the washrooms for the respective sexes were on opposite sides of the building on alternate floors. This struck me as odd because in most offices/ public buildings in any of the countries I had visited, I had not seen such a concept and most restrooms were in close proximity to each other.Anyways, this is not the end of the oddity. Apparently, there must be a custom in US that whenever nature calls, you need to proclaim it loud and clear to everyone in your surroundings. And let me explain the reasoning for this conclusion of mine. On reaching the washroom a floor above my office, I realize it’s locked.Of course, I go down, again inquire around, this time totally indiscreetly, and discover that there is a huge wooden tag with the word 'girls' written on it loud n clear which holds the key to the restroom. Of course, this tag is too big to fit in my pockets or dainty handbag or fit in the palm of my hand. So every time I need to take a nature break, I find myself walking up one floor with a huge big tag screaming 'girls' proclaiming the intent of my short trip to all those whom I meet on the way. With this I've come to the conclusion that we Indians must definitely be prudes that we don't openly proclaim that we are going to the restroom when we do so. Surprising how we have not aped this from the west till now.And the tag with 'girls'... I'm just wondering how many 8 year old girls is this mighty US corporate employing that it deemed it fit to mark the tag with 'girls' and not 'women' or 'ladies'!! I'm still wondering... child labor, huh?
(This great piece is courtesy my dearest pal Priyanka)