Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jim Corbett National Park Day 2B - Jump off the cliff...

Post the breakfast, we head no time to rest or to take shower. It was already half past 11 and we were to head for some adventure sports. Before I unveil upon the happenings of the afternoon, it is pertinent that I reveal a few facts about my adventure journeys of life. In the twenty-five years of life that I have lived, the number of adventure activities done by me is, for all practical reasons, zero. Though I could easily blame it on the lack of opportunities, I must also proudly accept that i am shit-scared of any sports, whatsoever and adventure doesn't even feature in my dictionary. Nevertheless, I am a manager of a team and I must showcase what is expected of me rather than what is the real me. I got the adventure sports organized by one of the most trained, equipped and safe group. They had organized three activities for us namely, rappling, river crossing and bridge slithering. I will explain them as we move on.

All of us boarded the bus, my team had brought from delhi and after hardly a ten minute drive, we stopped near a bridge which shook (do not read shook) over a shallow river. It was a suspension bridge and so it was suspended. Simple. That meant that it would vibrate even if a man half as heavy as me jumped on it. And we were 30 people in total. However, we crossed the small bridge and on the other side, the rappling setup was awaiting us.

The organizer thought highly of himself, or he wanted to scare us. Whatever the motive, the brief that he gave about the activity scared the shit out of most of the people and almost all ladies walked to the river bank along with their kids to enjoy the view. Hald of my guests had completely abandoned the activity. I had presumed that people would readily do these activities and I can peacefully click them in scary positions. But only two youngsters of my team dared to do that. I had no choice. If I had to get people to do this, I had to show them that it was easy. And the only way to do that was to do it myself. So, I hid my fear under my smile and wore the gear required for rappling. A Harness, gloves, a helmet and few carabiners attached to the rope, which boasted of carrying people 20 times heavier than me. I listened to the instructor carefully.

He patiently explained to me that I had to hold the rope with both hands, my right hand shall ensure that i move in straight line and the left hand will control my speed. Sounds technical. Then he asked me to stand on the edge of the cliff. FIne. No issues till now. And then he asked me to lean back. "Are you out of your bloody mind?", i thought loudly. "I am standing at the edge of a cliff that is at least 10-15 meters high, and even though the height is modest, if i fall, the stones on the ground are enough to make me paralyzed for life." I found it i found it ..crazy...or to be true..i found it scary. After all, I was an 85-kg, round shaped creature who has done no sports in life and can't rely on two ropes to control his body weight. All my teammates, and their wives were looking at me. I could not show fear on my face. I am the boss of the husbands of these ladies. There is too much prestige at stake. I decided to take the pain. I leaned over and the instructor shouted, "Do not bend your knees". "Knees !! What knees??", I thought. "How did they bend? I did not bend them, I swear. They must have been scared enough to bend themselves". I put all the effort to straighten my legs. My heart was pumping at double its speed.

After stayting put in the horizontal position with my body perpendicular to the cliff, i started moving my legs backward. The first step was tough, but with every next step, it got easier. Hardly 10-15 steps and I was down on the ground. Hey!! I had done it. I had done rappling for the first time in my life. My legs were shaking, my heart was beating fast, but my face was smiling. I had a sense of achievement, a sense of excitement, mixed with happiness and fear. May be, this is what people call, "the adrenalin rush".

The nxt challenge was to get the ladies to do it. I first caught hold of two young girls and convinced them that it wasn't as tough as it looked. I sounded convincing, or so I thught. The first girl kept standing at the edge for fifteen minutes and completely denied leaning back. After several doses of motivational words, she finally summed up the courage to lean, and once she had done that, the walk was simple. The second girl was more afraid, but more confident as well. She screamed, and shouted and pleaded, but we managed to push her off the cliff and she walked down. Two ladies had done it. I had proved to be agood motivator of people. Now there was no stopping. I started pushing all the ladies to do it. Some complained of medical complications, Barring a couple, who sounded genuine, I igonred the excuses of the other ladies.

They must have hated me for their husbands' boss and for pushing them off the cliff. But, by hook or by crook, I managed to get everyone do the rappling. Everyone started with fear and ended in jubilation. The confidence level was so high that they went head for the river crossing themselves. In fact, an 11-year kid also volunteered for the river crossing. I was so happy that I had not only overcome my own fear but also the fear of a non-adventourous group of two dozen people.

Bridge slithering wasn't that scary now, but would make us wet as we would jump off the bridge into the river. Women denied and men resented that they were not carrying spare clothes. A few yound girls did the wet jump with all clothes on and walked out wet. We decided to send the ladies back to the resort and then let the men do it. After the ladies were gone, all men became wild. Since they did not want to wet their clothes, they decided to jump in their undergarments. With men of swollen bellies and unshaven chests, it wasn't such a handosme scene to look at, but it was definitely fun. I was dragged in the water too and amidst that cold winter evening we played in the water like six year old kids, splashing water over each other and trying to unwrap the only cloth around everyone's waist. The pics will always remain a reminiscent of the stupid and wild times we spent. The bus came back after dropping the ladies and it was already sunset by now. Wet and cold, we rushed back to our resort.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jim Corbett National Park - Day 2A - Tiger in the woods

An early morning. 5:30 am. My god... How could I get up so early...but i was not to regret it. We got into our safari jeeps and headed to the jim corbett national park. It was interesting..and cold... The sun was up when we entered the gates of the park.
We were provided with binoculars on a rent of Rs.100/- to see animals at a distance. I did not need one, thanks to my canon's optical zoom, but those who did, regretted later. Our search for the animals began, and more curiously for the tiger. Five minutes into the forest and we saw a deer. Behind the bushes and the trees. The zoom helped me get a glimpse of it.

As we moved on, we saw some more stags and deers but couldn't click them as they were lost in the bush before i could focus. The morning was getting exciting now. Our driver stopped. About 100 meters in front of us, two other jeeps had also stopped and they signaled us to stop and keep quiet. Probably they had seen a tiger in the bushes and expected it to get closer to our views. The driver showed us the footmarks on the ground which were fresh, according to him.

This meant that he must be nearby. We were both excited and afraid. We stood up inside the open jeep and started looking all around. Suddenly behind our jeep, about 50 meters away, we saw the tiger casually crossing the road (the soiled path in the forest). I took my camera and aimed for it. It was almost into my focus, when the hyper-excited driver started the jeep in reverse gear to get a closer look at the tiger. My hands shook and the tiger vanished in the bushes in seconds. I was completely annoyed and so much wished that the tiger had stayed for at least ten more seconds or the driver would have just stay put. Nevertheless, in the hope of the tiger paying us a visit again, we waited at the spot and kept looking the bushes. We were not allowed to get down from the jeep. Even if we were, we wouldn't have dared to, anyways.

After a fifteen minutes wait, it was clear that the tiger was in no mood of coming back. We headed further. The driver told us that the movie Kaal, which was based on some forest horror drama was shot here only. The kids got excited to hear that, but it didn't matter to me. I was too frustrated to have missed the tiger's shot to enjoy anything further. After about fifteen minutes of drive, we crossed a shallow river which reminded me of the movie Kaal. I thought that the movie had some scene shot here, but I wasn't sure. Anyways, we saw some peacocks at a distance. Clicked them. It wasn't a great achievement as I had seen plenty of them at IITK during my college days.

We went ahead and found a tree house. Tall, green with long-stepped stairs. The ladies and kids were pretty excited and kept getting themselves clicked in random poses. It was a little annoying to me and my camera but they were pretty enough for the annoyance. We came down the tree house and stopped at a forest canteen for some tea. I hadn't expected a canteen amidst the forest. It had electric-barbed wire arround it and was run by the Forest officers. Post the tea, we headed back. Even now our eyes were hunting for the tiger for one more glimpse and our heads moved like powerful binoculars to spot any sign of the royal being. We did spot a couple of more deer, and a monkey, but no tiger.

On our way out of the park, we clicked a few cows around a water body. We were back at our Manu Maharani resort for a HEAVY breakfast.

will post the pics later...when connected to a fast internet...

Jim Corbett National Park - Day 1 - getting there

After the chai-paani incident at the international airport, I was struggling at the domestic airport to spend the entire night. My flight to delhi was at 6 am and that meant that till 5 am there was nothing to do. With a plate of wada-paav followed by another plate of chicken sandwich, i crossed midnight. Finally the clock hit 5 am and I went for the check-in. But my wlecome to India was not yet done. The Indian Airlines proudly announced the cancellation of its 6 am flight and before I could blink my eyebrows in disgust or disdain, I was shifted to the 7 am flight. i spent the hour clicking random pics.
The flight finally took off 30 minutes late and landed 40 minutes late at Delhi. I was getting used to India now. Right from the IGI airport Delhi, I left for Corbett on an innova. It took us a long hour to come out of delhi and after entering UP, the hours became longer. Road travel in UP is not like the road travel that I am used to. Most of my road travel has been in Punjab which can boast of one of the best roads in India and Punjab Roadways appears to be an efficient group. Other of my road travel happens in Himachal and Jammu-Kashmir which is always made enjoyable by the scenic beauties around. But UP neither has scenic beauty nor are the roads so good. Whatever beauty is there, only comes in the forms of the views of the villages that come in the way, but not inviting enough for a click. We entered Uttarnchal through Moradabad and passing Kashipur and Ramnagar, we reached our destination after a six hour long drive.

Manu Maharani Resorts is not the best hotel property in Corbett but it is a decent enough place to live for a normal budget. My team had already reached the place with their families in the morning and were practically bored of doing nothing for the entire day. The evening, though, saw some action with the DJ and drinks. It is always fun to have the families of field sales people get together. The evening kept getting warmer warmer with every dance step. A few snaps...

The night was cold and had it not for the room heater, it would have been tough to sleep. Need to get up early tomorrow morning to go the jungle safari. Let's see if we some tigers. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to India - Kuchh Chai Paani saab...

My Shanghai trip ends now. Woke up early in the morning and left for the Pudong International airport at around 7. The Check-in was smooth and the immigration was smoother than I thought. In fact, I had suspected this Communist nation to create some unnecessary fuss with foreigners. But as rightly said by Shrek (the Ogre), you must not judge people before you know them. Not only was the immigration smooth, the person responsible behaved in a very warm manner and there was actually an electronic machine with emoticons to be pressed by passengers in repsonse to the service of the immigration officer. i happily pressed the most smiling icon which said "higly satisfied".

I tried buying some stuff from the shopping counters, but as usual it did not turn out to be my cup of tea. I decided to go to the executive lounge and have free breakfast. After all, I was travelling business class, you see. The flight took off at 10 and the five hours in Malaysia Airlines business class were more than just luxury. With a free peg of Balck Label, a good meal and some English movies on my LCD, I reached Kuala Lumpur at 3:30pm. (time in Malaysia and China are exactly same, no lag.) I was now feeling a little uneasy. In the haste of rushing to the airport, I didn't get time to take a shower and I desperately felt like having one. And I cursed myself for feeling that way, because it would not before reaching Jim Corbett tomorrow that I shall be able to have a shower and that was many miles and more than 24 hours away.

I headed to the executive lounge and to my pleasant surprise, the washrooms actually had shower chambers and we were provided with towels and toiletries on request. I jumped on it. The shower at Malyisan airport was more than just washing myself. It happened at a time when I was least expecting it and desperately wanting it. And with an overhead shower with a circumference bigger than my bald head, it felt great. There was a SPA as well, in the lounge, but I satiated myself with the shower itself. Had a good meal. Again. Flew from KL at 8 pm.

The five hour from KL to Mumbai were equally luxurios. This time a champagne while boarding and a Chivas Regal with starters made it more pleasant. Plus, there was Indian food on board after so long. Chicken Biryani with dahi and mango chutney and followed by a BIG gulab jamun. Good. Watched "Wall E" on the LCD. Cute flick. Reached Mumbai at 12:30 am (Malaysia/China time) or 10:00 pm IST.

The first reaction at Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport was Hot and Dirty. I consoled myself that work is in progress and very soon the airport will be as magnificient as the Pudong or the KLIA. I moved to the immigration where the officer either felt from constipation or had a very bad marriage. He refused to smile, or probably was not even aware of how to do that. Neverthelss, proceeded to Customs and the constipation/bad marriage- hence no smile- syondrome followed. In fact, the customs officer appeared more stern than the immigration ones. I felt a little intimidated, but then I kept shut.

Just when I was done with all the hurdles and asked a Police Constable about the way to the Domestic Airport, he asked for my customs reciept. I handed over to him and started walking towards the shuttle coach point. He stopped my trolley and pulled it to the side. I gave him a surprised look and asked what he wanted to check. I assumed that he just wanted to second check my passprt or the immigration check, may be. He sopke in a very light voice. Quite low vloume. I am anyways used to hearing loud voices and have often been complained by family and friends that I must get my ears cleaned because I can't listen to soft voices. I begged his pardon and he said to me the most famous and notoroius phrases. "Kuchh Chai Paani" (some tea and water). Well the literal meaning is not what he meant. It was neither tea, nor water that he demanded or offered. He was actually asking for some money as a tip (or a bribe, if i may dare to call it so). I just couldn't dare to decline the offer. As an obedient Indian (especially being born in Bihahr), I was taught to respect the police and never to enter an arguement with them.

I politely took my walet out and discovered that I only had 500-rupee notes and didn't have a smaller currency note to give for 'chai-paani'. By the way, water in India is still mostly available free of cost (except for the bottled ones) and chai can still be availed in 5 rupees at a road side stall. I was not thinking of giving more than 50 bucks, which was to my mind, an exaggeration as I had accounted for the premiumness of the constable for being psoted at an airport. Had he been at a railway station or a traffic light, he would not have deserved more than 20 bucks, may be. I, with all the humility I have, pleaded to the 'public servant' that i am not carrying any change and hence won;t be able to pay his much deserved due. I even went on to explain how I have been out of India for a month and hence am not carryin enough Indian currency. I must say, the khaki-clad gentleman wasn't disturbed and gave me an immediate solution. He said, he shall provide me with the change. He suggested that I give him 500 rupees and he shall return me 300.

Did that mean he expected 200 rupees for chai-paani. He must be having his tea parties at Taj Presidential, which is something that the government for which he works, must not have encouraged. I sighed in exasperation and realizing the huge cost of the 'chai-paani' I decided to deny the payment. I politely asked why should I pay him such a huge amount. He looked surprised as if asking me, "Naya aaya hai kya?" (are you new here?). Well I wasn't new altogether, but I had been asked for such a bribe at an airport for the first time and I might not have been right in assessing the right cost. Well, I was in no mind of paying him 200 rupees, especially when I knew that my customs clearance had happened smoothly and there was nothing that this old man could have done wrong with me.

I denied giving any money and walked on. I had to actually shake the strolley to let loose his hold over it. He shouted from back, in a threatening way, i suppose, "abhi wapas aana padega..dekhna" (you will have to return will see). I looked at him in both amazement, frustration and amusement. I was a liitle sad too. What if I was not an Indian but a foreigner. Would he still have asked for the tip/bribe. What would I have thought if such an incident happened with me at Shanghai airport or Malaysian airport. I would have gone around singing bad names for those countries of how corrupt they were and how they don't deserve to be visited by an foreigner. I am very sure I would have made a huge fuss about it. But here in India, i felt threatened. I actually thought for a moment that the constable can put an obstacle in me getting out of the airport. What would have a foreigner thought about India, if s/he faced such a scene. I just pray that a foreigner never experiences this in India. I would feel ashamed.

Anyways, I got to the shuttle coach that would take me to the domestic airport where I am supposed to catch the morning flight to Delhi. The crew of the coach appeared very hospitable and they readily helped me put my luggage up the bus and getting me a comfortable seat. I had, by now, forgotten the chai-paani incident. Within fifteen minutes, we were at the domestic terminal. The crea again helped me take out the luggage of the bus. And when I was about to go, they smiled and said, "Sir kuchh bakshish". Well, bakshish is one of the many synonymns of tip in India and it meant these people also wanted some chai-paani. I felt disgusted and emabarassed. I could not just walk away rudely. They had been really nice. How do I deny them. i politley tell them that I do not have a change. One of them happily offers me five 100-rupee notes in exchange for my 500-ruppe note. After that gesture, it felt a little weird in not tipping them. I had the option of putting the five 100-rupee notes back in my wallet and walk away. Nothing would have happened. But I felt an urge not to do such a cheap act. After all, it wasn't a bribe, it was just a tip. (We always rationalize with a logic whenever we do something that might look immoral).

I handed a 100-rupee note to them and they smilingly pointed that they were fove of them and 100 is really less. Well, I knew there was a global financial crunch, but I am fully confident that it had no effect in them demanding more money. I gave them another 100 rupee and they happily led me to the departure hall. The 200 that I saved from the constable got wasted here. i think his "shraap" acted, though in a different way.

Now it's 2 am here and my flight is at 6 in the morning. Four more hours to be passed, awake. You can't sleep with your luggage. It can get lost, you see. (One of the other things that I have grown being taught). Let's see how Jim Corbett turns out tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 26 - Indian food with a Philipino friend in Shanghai

I have never missed my camera so much. I had no clue this last day of mine in Shanghai could be so interesting. The day started with me giving the presentation to Chiara and Angie about whatever I could learn in four weeks, over a cup of Starbucks coffee. They liked the ppt, or perhaps the expectation from four weeks was pretty low, so even an average work was accepted by them as decent enough to be shared with the rest of the marketing team.

I was off by 11 am and I wanted to do some shopping. i have been commanded to buy a ladies black jacket from either adidas or nike. And I tell you, there has been never anything more daring that I have done. Buying a dress for a lady, in her absence, and doing that all alone. I feel scared. I start looking for it. The number of options that I am exposed to confuses me more. After an hour of shuffling between the four-five malls of Xujiahui, I finally give up. This is just not my cup of tea. Sorry.

But then I spot another of those hugesly cluttered electronics market. It feels as if China is full of those Palika Bazar kind of markets where you get every possible electronic gadget in the world in a market that looks like a sabzi mandi. I started exlporing the option of buying an external hard disk. Have been wanting it for quite some time. A 160 GB was available for 600 rmb, when last checked. I got a 320 GB and the guy asked for 850. I smiled and said I will pay 700. He smiled and denied. I was somehow feeling confident that he will drop. He thinks and says 800. I stick at 700. He tells me he will give me the cover as well in 800. I say, with cover, I pay you 750 max. He comes down to 780. I stick at 750. He boils down to begging that his boss will fire him if he sells at less than 760. Though I don't believe him, I agree at 760 for 320 GB hard-disk with a cover. Not bad at all. Oh god !! buying a hard disk so much simpler than buying a ladies jacket.

Came back and started to pack. And then a thought struck me. May be I should treat Chiara and Angie with a dinner. Chiara left for Singapore this evening. And Angie will leave tomorrow morning. So I ask Angie if she would like to go dinner with me to an Indian restaurant. She agrees for an early dinner. We leave for Vedas at around 6, but she says she has just found out that Vedas is a little expensive and there's an Indian Kitchen a little farther which is more manageable. So we start walking in the windy cold evening.

Angie is a philipino. (So is Chiara, by the way). But the interesting part is that Angie has been quite exposed to China and knows a lot about China, even the language. She has been quite a good guide in suggesting me places to go in Shanghai. The Indian Kitchen is also her discovery. It is fun to be there. Chinese boys and girls dressed in Kurta-Pyjama say a Namaste at the door. Oh, the accent was so Chinese. I start off giving Angie a lot of gyaan about what's a chutney and what's tandoor and so on and so forth. The place has a menu quite dissimilar to any normal Indian restaurant. It has both Tandoori Chicken as well as Goan fish. There is Dosa as well as paneer pakoda. And most surprising there are a lot of beef dishes too. Well Angie lets me order and i order the abvious.

A tandoori chicken followed by yellow dal, aloo mutter (which is called potato peas masala) and a butter nan and a kashmiri nan. Angie struggles a bit with the tandoori chicken with the fork and knife and I suggest her to use hands, It turns out that it is as difficult for her as chopsticks were to me. And then she asks me, "How can you eat that with one hand". I am amused. Thankfully she is aware that in India, most people use right hand for eating food (for some weird reasons that she knows) We had our fill and it was great to see using her hands so brilliantly while having the dal with the nan. I so much wanted to click all this, but stupid of me to forget the camera back in the apartment.

The packing needs to be done. I had to iron my shirts, but it seems the press isn't working anymore, so I will have to resort to putting them in just like that. I have a long journey ahead. a five gour flight from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur. Three hours wait at KL and then another five hour flight to Mumbai. Over night wait at Mumbai and the early morning flight to Delhi. And then a long drive to Jim Corbett park. Well, am coming home, very soon.

Shanghai Trip Day 25 - The final Chinese meal

Today is my second last day in Shanghai and I need to present my ppt tomorrow. Had made a draft yesterday and got some feedback. Spent the day working on it. But that's not important. What's important is that my tutor, Chiara along with her colleague Angie took me out for Lunch as my farewell. It was my last chance to have chinese food, because if left alone to make a choice, I would hop in to a Pizza hut or a McD. We went to a place called Chamate. "Cha" in chinese means tea. So similar. In India, it is called "chai". And then Angie tells me that she found it in some museum that it was actually China is the place of origin of tea and that is why all the names of tea are changed versions of either "Cha" (Mandarin or the common chinese) or Tei (southern chinese). While most of europe and americas have versions of Tei like Tea in English, asia mostly has versions of Cha.

Well, so here we were at Cha-mate. And we ordered a set meal where we could select the main dish and other things would follow. I ordered a chicken and tomato dish to be safe (about the taste). It was accompanied by rice, salad, peanuts and a sweet paste of minced pork. We also ordered some other foods like Shrimp dimsums (momo's) and fried Tofu (a vegetabel). The food tasted awesome and I ate like anything. Relished each bite. Great Experience. Thank you Chiara and Angie. I had a wonderful welcome dinner with Sichuan food where I learnt chopstics and got shocked by etaing afrog as well and then I close my stay at Shanghai with another well served Chinese meal.

The day was severly cold. I think the temperature has come down to about 10 and the wind makes it feel like it's already in single digits. Considering it's a cold day. I don't plan to do any shopping in the evening. Make myself the paneer butter masala-rice-haldiram aloo bhujia-mix served with sprite. I have come to know of an Indian Restuarnt here called Vedas which is closeby. I might want to have my last dinner there before I leave Shanghai.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 24 - Winter is Here

Murphy seems to be my oldest (and most faithful) friend. There is a famous law by his name that says, "If anything can go wrong, it will" and there are bazillion corollaries of his law.One of them being "If you take forget the umbrella in the cafe, it will rain" and the other one says, "if you wear a raincoat, it will be a sunny day all out"

Similarly, whenever I wore a heavy jacket for the cold here, it would turn out to be sunny and I would appear funnily overdressed. Today, i dressed normally with a half-sleeve shirt and a nominal sports jacket, and.... it was awfully cold today. The temperature was around 14 degrees but the wind made it much more chilly. I reached office somehow. Missed my hair again. :(

Showed the first draft of my report to my tutor. She gave a few comments that I will put in tomorrow. On my way back, I had planned to do some shopping, but the cold evening drove me home directly. I had thought I will cook the last piece of Indian food that I am left with, "ITC Aashirvaad Ready To Eat Paneer Butter Masala" and have it with rice, mixed with aaloo bhujia and chaat masala. This is my latest recipe, in which a ready-to-eat dish is heated with just-boiled-rice along with a lot of chat masala. That gives a salty-sour taste and makes it a sticky biryani type of look. A lot of Haldiram Aloo Bhujia is sprinkled over it before serving that gives it the crunchy feel. Served hot with a coke/sprite. :)

On my way home, though I bought some cakes and a few soft drinks and some chips as well. Back in my room, sat with the chips and cakes, and before I could know, I had already eaten two packets of chips and one cake. Drank a lot of water. Didn't feel like cooking. It was damn cold. I just reached the bed at 8:30 pm and slept like a pig.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 23 - I-pod nano

After about three weeks of shopping research at every place i could find, I finally bought the ipod today. Nano - 8 GB. It is the belated gift for rakhi to Gudia. It has been quite tricky buying it. The way rates get bargained and the way they fluctuate requires you to be smart to make the decision at the right time. When I had first inquired, it was worth 1200 rmb (keep dividing by 7 to convert in USD and multiplying by 7 to convert in rupees). A week later, I was able to get it down to 1050 rmb. today I was in mood to get it to 900 rmb.

The start was good. One guy said 1000, but did not come down even an inch. The next guy said 920 but i tried getting him down to 850. He denied. Finally I got someone at 930. Persuaded him for a 900. He asked me to buy a charger worth 190. Total 1120. I said I will give 1000 total. He came down to 1080. i stuck at 1000. he pleaded for 1060. Deal struck at 1050. I also bargained a screen cover for free. So I must have managed the ipod at around 900 rmb. Not a brilliant deal, but close to what people get at other places. A big shopping mission accomplished.

Three days to go. Finish the project report by tomorrow and present on Wednesday. Pack on thursday and off to India on friday. Time to write farewells, maybe.

Shanghai Trip Day 22 - Reconciliation

Mandi is a satirical comedy about sex workers, politics and society. Shabana Aazmi, Om puri, Smita Patil, Sayeed Zafri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Nasiruddin Shah. Awesome movie. The movie moved me. I just did not want to sleep now. Switched to another movie. Fire by deepa mehta. Another thought intriguing movie with Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan and Javed Zafri. I don't what was I trying to do by watching all these movies. Movies which talked about sex but did not give pleasure to the viewer while talking about it. The movies showed the dark side of the secual life and how it could transform so many things in a man's life.

I kept thinking and downloaded another movie - Ardhasatya. By now it was already morning. Before I could start the movie, I felt asleep. Woke up around 1 pm and without even getting up started watching Ardhsatya. A line just hit me.

एक पलडे में पौरुष, दूसरे में नपुंसकता
और बीच में ठीक कांटे पर रखा हुआ अर्धसत्य...

The movie, with brilliant performances by Om Puri, Smita Patil, Amrish Puri, Sadashiv Amraopurkar talks about the little details about police life and the way it gets affected by the nexus of criminals, politicans and police itself. The movie leaves you thinking. And then I downloaded another one. Gardish.

Acted by Jackie Shroff, Amrish Puri, Dimple Kapadia and Mukesh Rishi, this one talks about a simple man who is force to resort to violence and then just can't get out of it. Not an art movie, but provokes a few thoughts, definitely. I remember watching this movie years ago with my dad. He has been, despite hi sage, a young rebel at heart and that reflects in the movies he watches and the books he read.

Having watched four movies, I had already reached dinner time. It was 9 in the night. Made dinner with the penultimate pack of ready-to-eat and rice. Watched some light comedy while cooking and dining on Star Movies. I think that should have made me lighter by now. The last week of stay in Shanghai starts tomorrow. Time to wrap up stuff and get going.

Shanghai Trip Day 21 - close encounters at Nanjing Road

I was supposed to meet some consumers for a research purpose at around 9:30 am in people's square. I know the place as it is the same one where the Shanghai Museum and the planning center are situated. I had thought that I will take the Metro like last time, but then I did not want to walk to the nearest Metro Station. I decided to take a taxi instead. I had not realized that it would be so close. And being overcautious, I had arrived 1 hour and 15 minutes before time. So I had nothing to do but to click. Shanghai looks more beautiful in morning (so does any other place, by the way). So here are a few of the ones clicked.

Apart from flowers and trees, I also clicked a few skirts :)
In the meantime, my batteries ran out. I had forgotten to charge them. I thought of getting back to my apartment and bringing the charger. But then a wiser thought struck me. How had I completely forgotten that a camera can also work with normal non-chargeable batteries.

So I walked in the search of batteries. Got it at a closeby convenience store. Clicked a few more.
The tall radisson hotel (behind the Samsung board)
some metal balls
and a baby being pampered....
Then the consumers arrived. Chatted with the first one for about a couple of hours at the Starbucks. She was more cordial than I had thought. We had a good chat. We saw her off and then the second one arrived. We went inside the Raffles City mall. I was a little amused to see Lacoste having a live promo with two guys playing tennis and two girls sitting with the statues...
Then we proceeded for lunch to some South Asian restaurant named "Banana leaf". There were some indian dishes in the menu and i happily ordered a curry chicken with rice. There was some other food also, of which i was amused at the pigeon. It had arrived with the head.
The ladies accompanying me were quite amused to see me clicking this. They were more amused to see me eat curry. They told me how they knew that Indians love curry and I told them how Indians eat on a banana leaf in some places. They were more amused. We had our fill. Did not eat the pigeon's head, though. Post lunch, it was the only thing left on the table.
Pigeon is the latest addition to the list of meat I have tasted. Now the list has Chicken, Pork, Fish, Prawn, Frog, Duck and Pigeon. Quite a sizeable one..i guess..

Well, we meet interview our second consumer post lunch whereafter we go out shopping on Nanjing Road. I bought myself a scarf for 30 rmb. Isn't a branded one, but I was happy to see how the shopkeeper was selling everyone Cashmere (abridged form of the word Kashmir) and Pashmina shawls, both original and fake. So I purchase one piece of cloth in China and that too comes from India. Destiny.

Post shopping we meet our third conusmer at another coffee joint. By now I had some 4 cups of coffee/tea in the entire day and I am not so used to it. It made me feel a little dizzy. Post the interview, we started the search for an authentic Shanghainese restaurant. Till then I clicked a few pics of the Nanjing road.
There were people all around me.
It felt as if the entire China was out on streets and they had all chosen only Nanjing road to be out. As we had not done reservations at any of the restaurants, we did not get any seats. So we compromised for a KFC. Ate a lot of chicken with my favorite potato chips. Chinese do not appreciate the potato so much. For them, it is just another vegetable. I told the ladies how it is like the king of vegetables in India and how samosa's are so pouplar in India. I had already got them to have samosa's at the "Banana Leaf", though they hardly close to what we eat in India.

Post KFC, the ladies went on another shopping mission. I wished them goodbye and wanted to come back. But then decided to click a few. The night was really beautiful.
But I was interrupted. With my looks and the big camera in my hands, I looked completely like a tourist, and I had no idea that it's not a good thing. At regular intervals of 2 minutes, I was approached by someone or the other who wanted me to buy some watches, Rolex, Tag Heuer and those sort of watches - big brands sold in fake form. It wasn't new for me. India is used to it, but China masters the art of copying. I kept resisting and politely denied the offers. After about doing that for a couple of dozen times, I started getting annoyed. Felt like hanging a board around my neck that said, " I do not want any watches please....." (in chinese of course).

Soon, the offers kept going further. From watches, it came to massages. I was astonished, amused and non-affirmative. Then someone came with a few pics of girls dressed in a bikini and wanted me to have anyone. My amusement was turning into annoyance now. I have seen much of all this in Bangkok and not inetersted in this anymore. This is good enough for a first time by a curious youngster, but second time is only for perverts and sick people. I had been curious before but I have definitely remained sane. I avoided the men and moved on to click some more pics.

Then, I was approached by a couple of ladies. Decent ladies. Looked educated and spoke quite nice english. It wasn't new for me. I had faced this habit of stopping by tourists by Chinese earlier also while doing the Museum and the Planning Center. They asked me my nationality and I told. Then, they asked my purpose of visit. I told. Then they asked me how many days had I been here. I told. Then they asked how many days will I be here. I told that too. And then they asked If I needed company for the night. HELLO ??? Did I company. The good man and the bad man in me spoke at the same time, one saying a yes and the other saying a NO. I was confused and said a NO and moved on. They tried to follow a bit were not indecent enough to pounce on me. I was a little surprised, and a bit amazed too. Post a couple of massage dealers approaching me, I was back to photography.

I was feeling tired now. My legs were paining and felt a little headache too. I had done a lot of talking today. Am not used to it anymore. I love being quite nowadays. I started contemplating a massage and quickly gave up the thought. Just then another girl said me a "hello". She might have wanted to ask for something else, but by then I was too annoyed to see any girl as anything except a call girl. I freaked out. Rushed out from there as if running away from wild animals. Kept frantically walking.

Was so scared that forgot to even catch a taxi. When I had walked about half a kilometer, I realized that I should take a taxi. Took the cab and ran back home. Couldn't sleep the entire night. Didn't know how to react. What appeared fun to me when I went to Bangkok, seemed like a scary thought to me. I knew there were decent massage centers too and I actually had thought of going to one on Sunday. But now, I was too scared. Something was frightening me. I don't know what. I have never felt that way. Started surfing the net to divert my attention. Through some friends profile on orkut, got to you tube where I found some old Hindi movies uploaded in parts. Caught hold of one called Mandi and started watching....

ख़ुद से मिलूँ....

कदम रुक जाते हैं देहलीज़ पे जाकर अक्सर
जिस्म डर जाता है सोच के अगला मंज़र

न जाने कौन सी तस्वीर नज़र आएगी
जाने कैसी आवाज़ सुनाई देगी अन्दर
होगा क्या देखने में इन्सां - सा
या खुदा की तरह बेशक्ल सी हस्ती होगी

बरसों से इक लफ्ज़ भी बोला ही नहीं
न कभी राह से गुज़रा मेरे
कभी दिख जाता था आईने में
अब तो सालों से नहीं आया नज़र

मैं भी मसरूफ रहा दुनिया में
करता रह इंतेज़ाम रोज़ी का
कभी माँ - बाप ने उलझा के रखा
कभी औलाद ने छीन लिया वक्त मेरा

जो भी लम्हा बचा लिया जो कभी
तो काम पकड़ा दिए बीवी ने
उनसे निबटा तो जकडा रोगों ने
ढलते सूरज की तरह मैं भी ढलने लगा

अब फुर्सत है मुझे...

माँ - बाप को तो गुज़रे हो गए बरसों
पिछले बरस बीवी ने भी छोड़ दिया
मौत उसकी मुझे कर गई तन्हा
बेटे ने तो कब से छोड़ रखा है घर

ऐसे में याद आ गई उसकी
जिसकी देहलीज़ नहीं लांघी थी जाने कब से
आज उठ गया कदम उस तरफ़ तो सोचा है
क्यूँ न आज ख़ुद से मिल आऊँ जाकर .....

(Written on Nov 17, 2008)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 20 - Sorry can't stay longer

It was good to hear from my boss that she expected me to stay longer in Shanghai as she feels I have not had enough exposure to Chinese Marketing. Well, nice to know of the offer, but I really couldn't extend my stay. I am supposed to be back in India on 22nd November and that is non-negotiable. But, I felt humbled at the offer. The team here has been quite receptive of me and has taken all care to make my stay comfortable.

They took note of the fact any food served to me did not have beef and also that forks were also provided to me along with chopsticks. They gave me tips on where to go for sight seeing and how to communicate with a taxi driver. It has been fun being with the Chinese counterparts of our company. But hello !!! why am I sounding like farewell. There is still one more week and the weekend is there too. I am supposed to meet some Chinese consumers tomorrow and in doing that I shall also be moving around in Shanghai. So I should have some more pics to click tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Shanghai Trip Day 19 - Creative Juices

Today was a little special day because I got another chance to compare China with India, on a much smaller scale, though. We went to the Advertising Agency who designs most of the ads for our company. As it is a global ad agency, we are a global client of it and hence both in India and in China, it is the same agency. I have had a chance to meet the Indian partners over a training in Mumbai and today I was meeting their Chinese counterparts in Shanghai.

The office here, like the Indian one, was quite creatively designed and the atmosphere of the place loudly spoke that it is an advertising agency. I was happy to see that contrary to my interpretation a few days ago, Chinese have turned out be as creative and innovative as anyone else. We were then introduced to the Creative team of the agency and I was a little sceptical to see that the main people of the team were a European man and a Malaysian girl. I was about to make an interpretation that Chinese really can't be creative. But then I paused. I went through the entire presentation, which was dominated mostly by non-chinese people and the only comments that our Chinese friends made were on the process rather than the creativity.

Somehow, China is brilliant in executing an idea to the last tee but to think of them to come up with a completely weird idea still seems improbable to me. Their strength is an organized and systematic way of working, and that is the reason that they are giants in the field of manufacturing, but creativity is not seen as a strength here and probably that reflects in the poorly developed media and entertainment industry.

Maybe, I am passing sweeping statements on something which is big enough to be analyed and understood in greater depth before commenting, but then, these are my primary thoughts and with the acceptance of the fact, they can be completely be wrong, I will keep posting them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 18 - China is so Chinese...

I had heard this phrases from my Philipino colleague on my first day in Shanghai and I couldn't make any sense of it then. But when i went to a McD to have a burger, i realized how big a challenge it is here for people to talk in English. Thankfully, I am living in an area which was a French Confession so the place is already exposed to European culture and hence English. And after all, McD, being an American brand has ensured that the caterers know a basic English. But, I have not been able to go to a chinese restaurant alone because most of the chinese restaurant do not have an English menu. And I do not want to eat beef by mistake...

The taxi drivers can't understand any English, which is acceptable because I did not expect taxi-drivers to be highly educated. In fact, they are higly educated and to explain my destination more conveniently, it is preferred that I let him read the name of my destination written in Chinese than say the name of it. That means they can read and write, but only Chinese. Even, people in my office, who have struggled hard to learn English, mostly get lost by my English and I have been often told to speak slowly and use simpler words.... Oh Come On !!! me and English. I am anyways considered a struggler in English back home. What if these men get to encounter the educated indians.

At first, I frawned a lot on the fact that even in the most developed city of China, English is so uncommon. In fact, even the bar girls of Bangkok spoke better English than here. But then I thought, may be it is a sign of sovereignty. Despite european presence in China, China is still completely Chinese. The internet and mobile industry is more developed than it is USA and there are chinese websites similar to the famous english ones. There is Baidu in place of Google, Taobao in place of Amazon and Xiaonei in place of orkut/facebook and these are original indigenous chinese websites. Mobiles here are fully equipped with doing all the functions in Chinese.

Now, when I think of how Indians can be so fluent in English, it does not make me proud. I can smell some amount of colonial blood still flowing through us, that English still remains a more important language for us than any Indian language. Several other Asian countries, like China, Japan and Korea have managed to grow faster than us without any strong hold on the foreign language while today the only regret my not-so-successful cousin has that he was educated in a Hindi medium school and hence could not do as well in his career as I did being an English mediunm educated kid. That hurts. Why? I don't know. If Indians do not know English, you can see a strand of shame on their face that they are not fully equipped. But chinese not knowing English really doesn't matter to them. They are still doing great and they will elarn the language if they need to. Most of the young generation already has.

While I crib for not being able to communicate here because of the lack of English, I also salute the Chinese for being able to preserve there own language and culture despite the strong advent of Globalization.Probably, there is some lesson for us to learn. What exactly, I don't know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 17 - Lazy all over again...

As I had thought, I did not go to office. Had thought I will go to some markets and observe some shopper behaviour, but that didn't happen too. Woke up royally at 11 am and did nothing but the day passed. Washed clothes, made my favorite pineapple marmalade-banana-sandwich and had it with the Minute maid pulpy orange. My domain still does not work and i can't figure out why so i keep blogging on blogspot.

Spent the entire day (actually only the second half, first half was over when i woke up), in chatting, browsing and other mundane activities. I must go to office tomorrow or else the laziness shall make me sick. Have nothing much to say...

Shanghai Trip Day 16 - COLD monday

Frankly speaking it was nothing but an office day for me. I have had no serious progress on my project and all that I have been doing is browsing the internet and subscribing to more and more sites. First, tried buying a domain (which is still not operative), then i searched every possible detail on a roayl enfield thunderbird..and then on canon S5 IS...then to photography lessons and then to subscribing to online news...god !!! give me some work to do..or i will perish..

waeather like yesterday was very cold and windy... i did not carry a cap with me coz no one else did and I didn't want to look oddly stupid by being the only guy wearing a cap. But then i forgot, that everybody else has a very important thing on their head that I don't have..HAIR... i tell you..i have never felt so bald ever in my life as i felt tofay. When the cold wind blew past my head, I knew exactly which are the nerves of my head that were irked, now i know why people take so much care of their that when a cold wind blows it does not hit their scalp... nevertheless, struggling with the wind with my bald head becoming a vanilla scoop, i went to TESCO and bought food as if I am settling down in Shanghai. There were 10 cans of soft-drinks, four cakes, 1/2 kg rice, washing powder, biscuits, apples, bananas,breads... And as if I was still not done, I went to the McD and bought two large burgers and a pack of french fries..

Oh hell !!! I ate like a monster...and then am off to bed watching some silly romantic flick called Miss Potter... I don't think I am going to office tomorrow...

Shanghai Trip Day 15 - Oriental Pearl Tower

The blog couldn't have started without this pic. This is Oriental Pearl Tower, the world's third highest tower in the world. It is nothing more than a TV tower but it's sheer architecture is what attracts tourists towards it and makes it the hallmark of modern Shanghai and modern China.

I had started the day late and after having read few more poems and clicked the famous towers as they looked from my balcony (once again), i decided to move out.
The view from the balcony was clearer today and that meant that it was a nice sunny day and it shouldn't rain. So that meant, it is a good day for sightseeing. I decided to get out by around 3 so that i can see the towers in both sunlight and night. I had overestimated the sunny day, though.

The moment I came out of my apartment started to walk towards the metro station, I could sense that I was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. Cold strong winds were blowing and I had mistaken it with the sunlight. I felt like getting frozen or blown away but didn't want to walk back. Put the hood of my sweatshirt on my bald head and moved on. The journey in the metro was peaceful, though I was amazed that even on a Sunday, so many people were running up and down the city. The crowd be an issue for people who are not used to it. But then, I had been trained enough by DTC buses and the Mumbai local trains. So it was a cakewalk for me.

Reached Lujiazui at around 3:45 (the metro was fast, it was the walk that took time) and voila...this was really huge.... the tall, very tall oriental pearl tower on one side and the pair of Jin Mao tower and the Global Financial Center (also called the bottle opener, because of the shape) on the other side made me feel so tiny. Couldn't helo clicking a few.
It was pretty interesting to find the statues of tourists looking at the towers in awe. I smiled..
As I moved in and found out that the entry ticket to the OPT was in the range of 80-150 rmb, i had second thoughts of whether I should spend so much money on something like this. But then a few statements falshed through my mind - "hey you are in shanghai..did you see the OP tower??" "you must see the entire shanghai from the top bubble of the is magnificient"..."the trip to shanghai is not complete without visiting the OPT"...Ok FINE !!!To pay a pilgrimage to my shanghai trip, I decided to put in 150 rmb so that i go upto the highest bubble.

Just when I entered, I was made to realize that I had chosen the worst time of the week to come here. An evening and moreso, a Sunday evening. The entire shanghai (or may be the entire china) seemed to have taken the tickets and i became a part of a never ending queue. Kept clicking to avoid boredom and finally after a wait of 30 minutes, was taken to the highets bubble at a height of 350 meters.
this clip said ot all. I was there. Right where the arrow is pointing and i could see the entire shanghai (or so I imagined),. Nevertheless, I was thrilled and it was more like a childish thrill than a geeky one. Spent some 10 minutes clicking shanghai from top. Hunagpu river looked soothing..
I kept taking random pics here and there and was most interested in taking a close look at the 'bottle opener'. The towers of Jin Mao and the Financial Center looked awesome and huge.
I saw people at the highest possible place in that tower, checking out the view like me.I was happy for having ticket off one more place on my Shanghai Trip dairy.But the happiness was short lived. I kept coming down to the lower bubbles and after seeing shanghai from 263 meters and then from 90 meters, I was kinda bored. This was more a place for families with small kids who would jump in joy. And the gaming zones at the 90th floor proved my hypothesis right.

I had thought of checking out the other two towers too, but realized that the experience won't be any different. Came out of the tower and took a stroll along the river and clicked a few.
the top of the Jin Mao tower that looks like a pagoda and is lit differently from the rest of the tower so you feel that a pagoda is hanging in the sky....
and the view of the Bund on the other side of the river.
Was feeling severly cold by now and decided to rush back home. Dumped the idea of seeing the Bund from close and going to the Yu garden. The Bund, anyways was quite similar to the Marine Drive of mumbai and I wanted to avoid crowd.

While coming back, I realized how tired i was. Had maggie and off to bed.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 14 - Revival...

Technically, this should not be an important day in the entire trip as I did not even budge out of my apartment. But the day was not a waste at all. I woke up royally at around 12 noon and made myself a fruit salad with apples, bananas and the chaat masala (i brought from India). I had read a lot of Gulzar last night and still had a hangover. Despite watching TV and having fruit salad, the hangover didn't go. Finally I wrote down a poem in Gulzar's style of metmorphisms. Finally I felt a little lighter. But this was just the beginning.

I started feeling the dormant writer in me waking after so many months. I started exploring. Read blogs from all the prominent people from IITK i knew. Read blogs from Arvind Kothari and then got links to Vinod Khare, Saurabh Nanda (Nandz), Nikhil Rasuwasia (Nikux), Pankaj Gupta (Pango), Jaya Jha, Abhay Agarwal (Abhaga). All these seniors and (few juniors too) had a great impact on my life when I was at IITK. They had extracted the creativee juices out of me and convinced me that I could be a writer, an orator, a dramticist and a poet. Read most of their blogs and also figured out who Jaya and Abhaga areliving their passions beyond just blogging. They have opened up a compnay which hosts a site called where you can publish your own books. So, after IITK CSE, and IIML (Jaya) and phD from US (abhaga), this is what they are doing. Impressive as well as aspiring.

Then suddenly, in the blogs of Nikux, I saw a photoblog, which had some awesome clicks by Nikux. The good thing was all the pics had their specifications written out and could become a handy guid to let amateur photographers to know when to use what aperture and what shutter speed. I was thrilled. I have a good Camera, but like a layman, I ahve been using the Auto mode or at max, the pre-set modes of landscape and night snapshots. I had no clue of how one could play with the aperture and shutter speeds. But, there was another dormant me which was getting awakened slowly. I had done a course in Photography way back in 1999 and i faintly recalled these terms. So, I turned to the Almighty Google for information and could revise a lot of forgotten concepts. I decided to take all the photos now on in the manual mode only by setting both the aperture and shutter speed myself.

I also got in touch with another photographer named Satrajit Basu, through a school friend of mine who has his awe-inspiring pics loaded in his not only his orkut profile, but also on Flickr. Looking at his pics, I knew that there is also something called, white balance and custome color settings that one can play with. Oh god !! I had been such a fool. I have really insulted the Canon Powershot S5 IS till now. It has been like using an intelligent IIT-IIM grad to do mere crunching of numbers. Never noticed, how much more creative he could have been. Clicked a few shots in the manual mode.

Orinetal Pearl Tower in Pudong as seen from my balcony (approx 4 kms away)
(Aperture F4.0, Shutter Speed 1/8 sec. ISO 400)

Also tried clicking the potrait hanging on my apartment wall at a distance of 2 meters.
(aperture F4.0, Shutter speed 1/4 sec, ISO 200)

I am still to learn more and also explore the options of playing with the colors and the white balance.

Having done so much on photography, I went back to writing and found that I could actually buy a domain in my name and have a site in my name too. I immediately bought a domain for 10$ in the name of If I have not done any major goof-up with the DNS settings, the website should be up in 2-3 days and my blogs shall be available on then which seems quite exciting to me too. Why? Not because I will have a site in my name, but because after two years of doing non-intelligent job of sales and distribution where all I take care of getting stocks moved in trucks to various cities and ensuring that they don't come back unsold, I was finally doing something which had to do with technology. Another revival.

Post all these episodes of revival, decided on making myself some nice food. I already had a maggie at about 5 in the evening. But it was 10 in the night and I needed a lot of food. So, I made some rice and from the almost-finished stock of the ready to eat that I had brought, took out Dal Bukhara and Bhindi Masala. Heated them well and served with a glass of coke. Couldn't stop myself from clicking.
(steamed rice - aperture f4.5, shutter speed 1/5 sec, ISO 400)

and the full meal when served, ready to be devoured ....
(aperture f4.5, shutter speed 1/6 sec, ISO 200)

Had my fill. Came back to the bed and started with Gulzar again... Just clicked the cover page also ( i m getting obsessed now..STOP)
(aperture f3.5, shutter speed 1/5 sec, ISO 200)

Kept reading it till late and don't know when I fell asleep. Really liked on of them and putting here as a thanksgiving to the writer who writes so brilliantly that it can revive lesser mortals like us.

खुदा (गुलज़ार)

बुरा लगा तो होगा ऐ खुदा तुझे,
दुआ में जब,
जम्हाई ले रहा था मैं -
दुआ के इस अमल से थक गया हूँ मैं!
मैं जब से देख सुन रहा हूँ,
तब से याद है मुझे,
खुदा जला बुझा रहा है रात दिन,
खुदा के हाथ में है सब बुरा भला -
दुआ करो!
अजीब सा अमल है ये
ये एक फर्जी गुफ्तगू,
और एकतरफा- एक ऐसे शख्स से,
ख्याल जिसकी शक्ल है
ख्याल ही सबूत है|

Another one I liked for the beauty of the words

मानसून (गुलज़ार)

बारिश आती हो तो पानी को भी लग जाते हैं पाँव,
दरोदीवार से टकरा के गुज़रता है गली से,
और उछलता है छपाकों में,
किसी मैच में जीते हुए लड़कों की तरह!

जीत कर आते हैं जब मैच गली के लड़के,
जूते पहने हुए कैनवस के,
उछलते हुए गेंदों की तरह,
दरोदीवार से टकरा के गुज़रते हैं
वो पानी के छपाकों की तरह!

That was all for the day. Saturday over, Sunday beckons.

Friday, November 7, 2008


अक्सर गर्म रोटियों की खुशबू में देखा है तुम्हें
सूंघा है सूखते धुले कपडों में...
छुअन सी महसूस हुई है
जब भी फिसली चादर, खींच कर
दोबारा ओढी है मैंने...

किसी सूती साड़ी के आँचल के पीछे
चावल से कंकड़ बीनते अब भी दिख जाती हो...
रसोई से आती किसी खनक में
आवाज़ घुल कर आ जाती है तुम्हारी...

मन्दिर के जलते दीये में डलता घी
तुम्हारे उन कोमल हाथों की याद दिला जाता है...
दीये की लौ हिल कर बताती है
कि कैसे तुमने अभी हल्का सा सराहा था उसे...

थकता है बदन जब भी
और सिरहाने पर रखा तकिया सख्त लगता है
इकदम से तुम्हारे नर्म गोद कि याद में
अक्सर जुबां से "माँ" निकल ही जाता है...

(written on Nov 7 , 2008)

Shanghai Trip Day 13 - the LUCKY day ...

The first luck happened when I woke up in the morning and saw that it was already 7:20 by the watch and I need to leave at 7:50 or else I will miss the office Bus. But can I get ready in 30 minutes. I need to pack the bag, get fresh, take a shower, shave, dress up and have breakfast and then shoot. Surely this is not all possible in 30 minutes. So eliminate the avoidable. Breakfast dumped. Kept two muffins in the bag to eat later. Rest Cumpulsory. OOPS... I have already 3 minutes in planning.. Only 27 minutes left... I beat James Bond in my speed of getting ready and at dot 7:50 am I am out of my room... Thank you IIT, you have taught me so many things ...

Then, I get to know that today I need to go alone as Angie shall come late. So I need to take the cab and that means saying the name of my bus stop in Mandarin to the cab driver. Tough one, somehow I manage it and I almost reach there, just in time. I think of buying some drink before boarding the bus, but then avoid it. There is still 4 minutes for the bus to leave. And I am thinking whether I should take a fruit drink or a water bottle. But then I dump the idea. I start eating one muffin at the moment and the moment I am finished, I feel like something stuck in my throat and I want some water. I think of getting down and buying one..but thanks to Murphy's law..the bus starts and the door closes. I know..had i bought the bottle, I wouldn't have felt like drinking, but since i didn't, i am feeling the need now. I abuse myself for this and sit back. After 30 minutes, I reach the office and gulped water like there was no tomorrow.

And then, something else started troubling. I had to pee some eight times in the day because of the gallons of water i had drank. Before the lunch too, I had to pee, so that I can concentrate on the food rather than on the osmotic pressure. Tried pork today. Tastes okay. Not much different from mutton, i guess. Post food, spent the entire day surfing the net and put some 2-3 hours just on google maps understanding the roads of India. The Grand Trunk Road, the roads that Abhimanyu took for his trip, and other roads that I might want to ride someday. Don't know if that will be possible ever. As of today, i can't even balance the two wheels for long. But, sochne mein paisa thode hi lagta hai...

I had thought that I shall go to Puding directly from office and check out the famous towers. But lucky me..i had left the camera at home and there was no point going without camera... i anyways thought once again to go..but saw it was raining. Thanked my luck with disgust and boarded the bus to get back home. I sat in the bus and kept sitting because the traffic was killing. And the driver, showing his creativity, changed routes to avoid traffic. But hello !!! there was only one road that I had memorized. If the bus ha staken some other route, how do i know where to get down. I got a little panicky but was soon relieved by a co-seater. Thankfully she undesrtood english. I got down where she got down. And then started walking in some direction hoping that I was right. Soon found a road sign that said Ruijin road. I remembered the Ruijin guesthouse that I had visited. So I was on that road. Yes..yes..i know how to get home from here. I wanted to shout like a schoolkid who first manages to ride the bicyle without any support... I happily walked back home.

Made some sandwiches with pineapple marmalade and some bananas. Had it with milk. Was quite full. The weekend is there already and I have to check out the Bund and the towers in Pudong on this weekend. Or else, my shanghai trip shall not be complete.

Shanghai Trip - Day 12 - Break the Rules ..Dammit

I had the chance to be a part of a Brainstorming session today. We were a group of 30 people gathered from various fields, marketing, sales, advertising, public relations and what not. We were supposed to come up with ideas for the latest campaign to be run for the brand that i was working with. After the brief, we were divided in four groups of equal size. The experience in the group was really different

I have done brainstorming before but that was always with either friends or office people who were all INDIAN, and I had no realization that it would matter so much. Here, everybody in my group was Chinese except me. Well what does that mean. It unfolds slowly. So the first thing the moderator of the group do is make a timetable of our target consumer like 8:00 am - wake up, 12:00 noon lunch 6:00 pm - free time and so on. I kept watching. It was amazing to see how the entire group agreed to the timetable. I resented and said that how can all people have same timetables. I have a different one, because i don't wake up so early and don't work seriously everyday. I play, I scream, I shout, I listen to music, I do lots of crazy things, which is nowhere reflected in the plan. The audience had a puzzled look as if asking me , "Why the hell do you do things that are crazy?" I decided to shut up. The discussion went on and some of the basic marketing book ideas came up like organize an educational lecture and sponsor an event, and then i came up with an idea of having a cartoon character for the brand. Everyone laughed. Okay !!! I know cartoons are suppsoed to be funny but the laugh intended something else. They reacted, why would you have a cartoon character, that's so weird. I felt like screaming and saying - that's the whole point guys, it's weird and so people will notice. Puzzled look again. Twice.

Then it came down finalizing the plan and the moderator nicely organized it on a yearly calendar. Now this was the limit, how could he have decided that the group was convinced about the ideas and that it shall fit certain months of the calendar. And, hello, where is the cartoon idea? Why did he not put it. Because he didn't feel it would work. might not work, but it is a brainstorming and the brief said that all ideas are welcomed, nothing shall be discarded at this stage. But, the group gave me puzzled look the third time. I finally succumbed and kept thinking why this was happening.

Now I know what communism can do. It puts you under rules, so many rules that you forget thinking. I was reminded of a Charlie Chaplin movie in which he played a Factory worker and all that he did was tightened screws at regular intervals on some device. The routine had caused him such bad habit that his hands kept twisting after regular intervals even when he was off from work. But that movie was supposed to be a satire on capitalism. But here i was witnessing just opposite of Capitalism - it was communism, where everything belongs to everybody and each one according to his ability gets what he deserves. This is supposed to embark equality. But somehow the Chinese leaders got it all wrong. Rather than communism, they implemented something which, badly put can be called state capitalism. A system where no one owned anything and all was decided buy the government. There were rules. Rules of going to school, of choosing your profession and of getting married. And also on the number of children you could produce. I don't know if there was also a rule on how many times you could have sex with your spouse. And when you had chosen a career or a spouse, there was no way to change anything. Your life was decided till your last breath.

All this has percolated down the psyche so heavily that the moment you ask a chinese to think freely, s/he gives you perplexed look. Creativity has got limited to making a few paintings and staging few theaters. Even the sports that Chinese excel in are games of pefection - Gymnastics and all. No one seems to play football, or baseball or cricket or anything that is crazy, where you shout and you cheer and you go nuts... Going nuts...i am sure no mandarin translation would be available to it.

I felt choked. I wanted to shake them all and say. Think out of the box, guys. Think something which is not obvious. Think creative. GO CRAZY !!!. But then i realized our target consumer was also the same chinese who would get puzzled if s/he saw something crazy. They are so used to see all those government TV channels - it is called CCTV and has numerous channels all of which remind of the doordarshan days when even if a hero said "kameene" to the villain, the voice was silenced. I was puzzled, more puzzled than the looks I got. I thought to myself, how is possible that such rule-abiding people could create something like the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Financial Center (also called the Bottle-opener, coz of its shape). These are some of the most awe-striking buildings with unmatched architecture.

And then I turned to the mighty Google to dig for answers. I was amazed. Except for the Oriental Pearl Tower, the other famous skycrapers of Shanghai like the Jin Mao tower or the bottle opener were designed by foreigners. I don't say that I am not appreciative of the Chinese. They are very hardworking, undoubtedly and any job assigned to them will get finished on time and exactly how you would define in the brief. But if you leave them to think and come up with something new that is cool, you can see the puzzled look. I can relate to it because even in the society that we were brought up, this was something that was highly professed. But India is a changed country now. People think and they think crazy. Look atthe innumerable websites and the innumerable companies that have opened in the last ten years and you would know what i am saying. China has changed too, but not to the core.

I think, one thing that Chinese need to realize (something that Indians have realized it way too much ) is that Break the Rules. Remember the rules were made by someone like you and me and he has as much brains as we have and as much guts and balls that we have. So why listen to some old crazy guy who taught you that to paint you should first draw a rough sketch. No...just pick up the brush..put it in the color pot and swooosh..strike the paper whichever way you feel like...a beautiful picture will come out naturally...and even if it is not shall be FREE....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 11 - chilling out..

it was the most normal days that could have been... i started the day with my tutor and discussing the deliverables of my project for which i shall need to meet some chinese women and understand their lifestyles... that sounds pretty interesting... the day went out in surfing the net without any logic and i realized that the craze of photography is getting on me heavily now.. i just started regretting that my Canon Powershot S5IS, though a brilliant camera isn't a pure DSLR actually. But, then I might not have been able to afford one no complaints... I am also recently feeling an inclination to biking... i have always been averse to bikes and cars and anything that is fast... was late to learn the bicycle fact, i was for a long time, the only guy in my group who did not know how to ride a bicycle... i think i learned it sometime when i was in class 9th or something...

and as of bikes (i mean motorcycles), i wouldn't still say that i have learnt..i know how the gear works and how the clutch is pressed (mostly because i studied mechanical engineering), but if you ask about how do you move in a high traffic road or drive on a highway..i am way behind the social average... but somehow the concept of biking has started attracting me... might be because of my friends.. first it was deepak who was always crazy about hitting the roads... he learnt car driving when he was in class 7... but he did not infect me much untill he bought a Royal Enfield Thunderbird. It is a damn sexy bike... and then it was the other friend Abhimanyu who alo bought a Royal Enfield Bullet first and then a Royal Enfield Machismo... It had started making an effect on me now... I had started surfing the websites of royal enfield and thinking if i really wanted to have one...

the final blow struck when abhimanyu went out on this heroic trip of his all the way from Mumbai to Leh... It inspired showed me light... i do want to join the bandwagon sometime in not sure... Manyu has ever since travelled through rajsthan and then back to delhi and then jhrakhand via UP and is presently headed north-east. He shall remain a source of inspiration for me for long...

Well, today I was suggested by one of the colleagues that I could go outside of Shanghai also if I wanted to..there are some cool places nearby with a lot of cultural and natural sights. I haven't thought of it... first i want to get done with the shanghai main spots and tick off the major ones... if there is time still, i might try going out of shanghai...not knowing how to speak Mandarin may pose a barrier though...nevertheless..we will see...

the day ended with watching a Bond movie and doing some shopping of few chinese biscuits and snacks... Had maggie and slept early... nothing so special today...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 10 - Dharam Bhrasht

It is a Tuesday, and I am a vegetarian for this only day of the week since childhood. No because, non-veg tastes bad on tuesdays, but because mom wants me to behave like a Maithil Brahmin (the caste which i belong to, due to my birth) and be religious for one day in the week. Somehow, China completely denies the existence of Brahmins, leave aside those of Maithils or Kanyakubj. All that they know is religion is religion..and food is food.. why mix the two. The meals are mostly filled with pork dishes with few options of chicken and beef. There are a few vegetarian dishes, but they are so dull and tasteless, that if I were also born in China, I would have preferred pork to thsoe vegtables. I think India is one of the few countires which knows how to make food delicious without using any meat.

I thought if I should have those stinky vegetable dishes in office lunch or suffice myself with just the salad. Then I thought to myself, that the Gods I obey must be busy in India and might not be watching me in China. It's not their place anyways and they wouldn't have come here to teach vegtarinism to people. Buddha did arrive in the form of his ideas, but i can't see it's effect on the food. I finally settle for some chicken and rice and finally break the sole rule of Brahminism that I had been following. I don't knwo if that has killed my religion or finished my right to call myself a Brahmin. But, I know for sure that if it is the God, and not those useless priests eating on other's money, who makes the decision, he would forgive me. If the gods of chinese people love their people even when they eat pork and beef, why would my god punish me. I have read in my nursery school that God is one and it has to be true. Or else, I am screwed :(

Nevertheless, the day was pretty occupied with work. But I did find sometime to surf the net about the Canon S5IS that I possess. Am thinking of buying some more accessories for it. May be a 4 or 8 GB memory card, a tripod or may be an extra lens or a flashlight.. I haven't decided yet. Was just chekcing out how much do they cost. Well, Thanks to everybody who was involved in getting this camera to me. It is the best thing that I could have owned, ever.

Made some actually a lot of maggie in the evening and ahd it along with a bottle of Minute Maid Pulpy Orange. Saw some news on TV as it is the Election Day in USA. I wish Barrack Obama wins. Anyways, that's all for today, I guess.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 9 - A peek into the life of Old ShangHai

Life started early. Had a good sleep and so wake up on time. Freshened up and went for a Market Visit with one of office colleagues Wendy. We took the metro to most of the places as all the big markets of Shanghai are just outside metro stations. We were done at around 2 pm and I had the whole day left to explore more of Shanghai. Our last store visit happened at a place called Jing'An Temple, after the name of the temple that stands just outside the metro station.

Jing' an Temple

It is a temple of Sakyamuni Buddha has a pillar similar to the Ashoka Pillar of India with the four lions. But it wasn't exactly similar.
I take a 10 rmb entry ticket and check out the temple from within. It is not entirely different from a typical Hindu temple. There are huge idols, but of Buddha in different postures in different buildings.
The people were worshiping in the central lobby using incense sticks (similar to the way it is done in India and there was also a "hawan" kind of thing that was lit up.
I clicked a few pics for the sake fo the chinese looking architecture and a few of the Budhhist priests.
The priests looked quite charming to me, for some weird reason
Having spent 15 quick minutes at the temple and having saluted Buddha, I moved out. Said bye to Wendy and took a taxi to the Fuxing Park (pronounced as Fushing park)

Fuxing Park

The fuxing park is an old French park (details can be read the introduction of the park)
The park gives a good feel of the communist times of China, which have changed considerably in today's times. The most famous thing in the park is the smiling statue of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the duo who came with the concept of Socialism and Communism
The park is more than just the memoir of communism. It is a place where the Shanghainese comes to take time off the busy life of the business minded Shanghai. You can spot beautiful flowers in the rose garden, and around it. I couldn't hold myself from clicking at the flowers. A few samples....
and this one is my favorite for the day - the bee sucking nectar from the flower
There are many others, but i guess it is better to put them up in the picasa album than here. The next eyecatching sight is of old couples dancing to music played by a local group
this one pair of oldies really attracted the crowd's attention with their candid moves.
I somehow started enjoying the music. There were other old people playing cards and chinese checkers sitting on the benches.
And then, there are people practicing some kind of aerobics also.
After clicking some more pics of the flowers and the crowd around, i rested for a while on a bench of thinking what to do next. i had two options - take a taxi and get back home or start walking and explore every other place mentioned in the travel guide book that is close to Fuxing park.

Obviously, I chose option 2 and started walking taking cues from the map in the book. I must say that Shanghai is one of the best organized city in the world with road signs at almost every nook and corner of the road, showing the name of the road with E,W,N,S mentioned to help you find directions. In India, I would never know on what road I was tanding, till i checked at the address of some shop nearby. Taking help from the nicely organized roadsigns, i reach a house that is the former residence of Dr. Sun Yat Sen when he lived in Shanghai.

Sun Yat Sen's Residence

The place is made out in a museum now.
I knew that the place closes at 4:30 pm and it was already 4:15 pm. I was told by the guards that the entry to the museum is already closed but I can take a few pictures of the building if I wish. I was glad at his gesture and hurriedly clicked a couple.
Dr. Sun's statue talked about what a man of determination and dignity he must have been.
I move on to find out the St. Ignalius Church, but can't find it. In the meantime, I manage to get a view of the old lane-type houses completely different from the new skycrapers. It represented a government quarter of bokaro or a mumbai chawl, may be.
Moving on I tried to locate the Ruijin Guesthouse. I had already walked around a kilometer now and was feeling a little tierd in those formal leather shoes. But finding the Ruijin guesthouse was like making the shoes suddenly very soft. I was delghted at my discovery.

Ruijin Guesthouse

The place is famous for its Sino-french architecture and it was made as a Mansion by some Ruijin who was some big shot in Shanghai lon long ago. I take a quick look at some of the buildings, click a couple....
I move out of the Ruijin hotel from the other end and then start walking back to my apartment. I am still about 1-1.25 kms away from my apartment, but thanks to the simplicity of the roads, I can easily walk down the lane and reach my apartment. The two and a half kms walk had made me a little tired... a little too much may be. I quickly devoured the Pizza left from yesterday and off to bed...

Oh god, the feet pains bad... i m too heavy a guy to walk 2.5 kms in leather shoes... Never do that again...