Thursday, February 04, 2010

Shaadi day today

This evening Chaitanya gets married to Pooja. Locked, bounded on all sides, stuffed in a trunk, and thrown into deep waters, but no Houdini.

This morning all the pre-eminent ladkewalas are gathered around a pooja fire in their finest Indian wear. I'm in classic light blue shirt, white T inside, algae denims, no belt. Oh yes, and my Cat boots. I'm ashamed I've had apply polish on my work bots though.

Tomorrow, we take off to Ujjain - the city of temples. Back in the evening for dinner with the royals. What a coup!

Shaadi ke side effects

Ceremony induced ailments abound in a shaadi. Some stress out a lot about what they'll wear to the morning pooja, to evening cocktail, tomorrow, day after, ad nauseum. Some suffer from obsessive planning disorder. You will spot these people in some corner of the house mired in planning some importantly small details of the shaadi.

Then there are others who suddenly acquire excessive flatulence in shaadis more then a couple days long. These are common varieties of chachas, mamis, mausas, bade papas who've done excellently in life, but with their newly acquired infirmity, they're made to look like small criminals.

I say never be caught in confined spaces with the sufferers for long. It's not good for the other guy.

On getting away

Now, I like this sort of a wedding. You are in a new city with the express purpose of adding to the size of the ladkewale, but you can sneak out every now and then for a spin around the city, soak up the culture, what have you.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Day 1: Indore, first impressions

Indore is supremely chaotic, but beautifully Indian. I'm not here to have an antiseptic experience of a city that mows its lawns to specification.

We climbed the back of trusty beast Spacio to have a look at the Rajwada, and the old fruit bazaar around it. The Rajwada turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, quite unlike the glorious structure that Wikipedia claims it to be. It's basically a large open quadrangle bounded by reinforced walls that are way past their magnificence. You pay 10 bucks to photo shoot, and then you ask yourself, "Now what?"

So you get out and explore the crumbling phul bazaar, with dedicated lanes for lac choodis. I need to say it again - this place is colourful and chaotic. I have been close to being run over in quick succession by vehicles of all sizes, as I do my openly touristy thing of standing in the middle of the road and clicking away.

The ladies in our gang stick their necks into choodi shops, and my boy wants to buy a toy. Fair. We haven't yet really thought about his source of entertainment.

Later, I engage a mithaiwala in conversation over the most awesome steaming plate of gajar ka halwa. Truly, an Andrew Zimmern 'Oh!' moment.

I break protocol at the mithai shop by not purchasing a token, and then circulating them around counters. I just pay the first guy I meet, and that's OK because I'm from Bombay.

First view of the bride

I have a quick drink to cure me of my lumps. It works. In about 20 minutes we'll have our first non-Facebook view of the bride at a gathering for - how one elder put it - the "younger generation." Do people still say that?

Pooja, the bride to be, is all grace and looks charming in a rose pink salwar/kameez. We're at Sayaji Hotel that's packed to the rafters on a Monday evening. There's light Hindi pop and ghazal being belted out live from a few rows behind us. I will not comment here on how the music has engrossed me.

We're six stomachs visiting from Bombay, but sometimes we have the occasion to bask in our Mumbai halos. Despite our august company. No one's saying that they like it.

The evening passes eventfully for me - I'm able to say "goodnight" to the royals. There's some talk of raiding Sarafa for jalebas and gulab jamuns, but the wives quickly quash the plan. They're already living this wedding by the events of their choosing.

The regal has landed

A noisy flight brings us to Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport at about 8 in the evening. Devi Ahilyabai Holkar. The founder queen of Indore. I can't say if I've had more goosebumps anticipating the company of royals for a week at the wedding I'm attending, or landing at an airport with a blue-blooded affiliation such as this.

Anyway, we're whisked away urgently from the airport on a bone clattering ride to our base camp in Vijay Nagar. Tata Spacios can do with better suspension.

The house is draped in lights, and stands out in the darkness with its bigness and beauty. The groom meets us at the door of our Spacio, handshakes and congratulations all around. Almost immediately a couple royals from Jhabua appear. His Highness Rajkunwar Kamlendra Singh is introduced to me and I can't handle the goosebumps anymore. Next up - his wife Rajkumari Brindeshwai, the princess of Orchcha, near Jhansi. Her Highness is dressed in a lovely peach sequined sari, with a final flourish of her pallu over her head. Rajkunwar chooses to dress more like a business executive. I'm dressed like a redneck and smelling airport. For a moment, I don't feel a huge disconnect between myself and the Spacio. I make a personal note - must dress a lot better for this wedding.

Meanwhile, in the company of kings and queens of an erstwhile glory, I have too many lumps in my throat to make any suitable conversation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globes 2009 aired for the first time in China

Overheard in China:

"Hey Wong, find out who makes those trophies."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

President Bush Collapses at Pak Press Meet

ISLAMABAD, Dec 17 -- Barely 24 hours after unveiling a new paradigm in security arrangements for press briefings involving the president, the plan is flying in the face of the US Secret Service.

President George W. Bush collapsed at a press meet in Islamabad, Pakistan, earlier today for "non-health related reasons."

Several hundred Pakistani reporters invited to the briefing chose to sidestep the new "shoe glue" protocol, and checked their footwear at the gate instead. Once the doors were shut, the room was quickly engulfed in a vile concoction of odors wafting from the scribes' clammy feet and socks.

The president could barely get past the first question when he swooned.

Confusion reigned supreme because the Secret Service failed to immediately appear by the side of the president as he lay in a heap by the podium. "It was impossible to stay in the room. (The stench) was overpowering. Some of us in the security detail were taking a smoke break when we got the news that the president had collapsed. That's when we swung into action."

President Bush was rushed to the Al-Zaidi Hospital in the capital where he was given a preliminary medical examination. "Damned if they do, damned if they don't," joked the president from his hospital bed that he occupied for approximately 30 minutes referring to the predicament of meeting reporters with or without shoes.

Questions are being raised about why the Secret Service did not enforce its new shoe glue directive, and it appears the Service will swing into crisis management mode once more. "Right from the time the plan was drafted, the choice was available to reporters to check their footwear, and that's what the reporters here in Pakistan chose to do. From that standpoint, the plan was a success," was an agent's response to the question.

"This was a situation you cannot plan for. You've just got to grin and bear it," he explained.

Pakistan's tropical climate often takes its toll on the feet that remain encased in imitation leather for 8 or more hours in a day. Scott Tillman, a retired spy, offered this insight, "We've had similar situations before where this warm odor rises from the gaps between the shoe and the feet in tropical locations." Tillman was referring to press meets in the pre shoe-toss era where leaving shoes on was no guarantee that the air in the confined space would not be compromised.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Press is Shoe-ing Gum, Secret Service says

WHITE HOUSE, Dec 16 -- Under pressure to revamp security arrangements at press meets with the president, the Secret Service has cobbled together a plan that it hopes doesn't come unstuck.

A double coat of Elmer's glue will be applied to the insides of all mediapersons' shoes before they are allowed to walk into the press conference. A Secret Service agent was quoted as saying that they would "rest easy" while "America's favorite glue is doing its job inside (their) shoes."

Anyone resisting the application of the resin to their shoes will need to check the potential projectiles at the gate, and walk in barefeet.

This action comes in the wake of the president deftly dodging two of a pair hurled at him at high speed by a reporter at a press meet in Baghdad on Monday.

"Huh...Dad prepared me well for this," said president Bush making light of the incident immediately after.

The plan is currently being tested by the Secret Service at an unknown foreign location.

(From Agencies)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blockbuster comes to China

Zhang Yimou and his team of 15,000 performers unleashed the force of several blockbusters to the world Friday night. Call it a visual extravaganza, a period epic, a thriller, call it what you will, the Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony was in many ways China's way of announcing to the world that it was worlds away from many others.

So everyone has written about how important this event is to China, how a nervous nation of a billion plus people prays for the success of their Olympiad, and the media has collectively gushed about the opening spectacular. That's old news.

What's new to me is NBC's amateur coverage of the opening ceremony. Here we are, jaws hanging mid-air, unbelieving at the sight of what poeple power - not technolgy -can achieve. And there, NBC's busy cutting to fifteen different camera angles without ever allowing your eyes to settle on the work of magicians unfolding on the floor of the Bird's Nest. NBC, maybe you should've unpacked fewer cameras for the ceremony.

The lesson in Chinese history was maybe a couple hours. And then China gave me a lesson in geapgraphy. The Parade of Nations. Did you know that Marshall Islands is a country? or Benin? Palau?

Here's the highlights from the Parade (no alphabetical order here, as the nations walked in to the number of strokes in the Chinese script for their country names) -

Spain - sent a lot of athletes, but all NBC could focus on was Nadal.

Brazil - where was Ronaldinho, man?!

Iraq - walked in to a rousing welcome. And NBC immediately cut to a clapping Bush and the first lady. Now that's a lesson in predictability, NBC.

Iran - No particularly warm welcome here. And, thankfully, no Bush.

India - NBC commentators ribbed India for its non-existent medal tally compared to the other billion plus nation.

Japan - Athletes from every country walked past holding digital cameras and camcorders. I caught a Japanese athlete carrying the smallest video recording gadget I've ever seen. Well, of course Japan.

Mongolia - Spotted a Mongolian athlete carrying a large VHS camcorder! Really?

France - The Chinese didn't protest. A nice welcome and a bright smile on Sarkozy's face.

Russia - The day they rolled into Georgia, their athletes walked on Chinese territory. Putin saluted from inside a tank.

Switzerland - Birthday boy Federer is the flag bearer. And NBC is glued to his face. Take that Nadal!

USA - Didn't see Phelps. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Keri Walsh filled the screen for him.

China - brought the brand new Bird's Nest down as they walked in.

And so, my day in school with a special focus on history, geography, and cinematic kick-ass came to an end.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Pink Floyd Experience

Generations of writers have struggled to describe the magic of watching a live Pink Floyd performance. Likewise, generations of bands have struggled even more to reproduce that magic playing Pink Floyd covers. Thursday night at the Peoria Civic Center, another eclectic band of artists went down trying to achieve this heroic feat.

But this isn't a music review. It's a recollection of the 'experience' - of how I spent my college days listening to so much of this band, never thinking I'd even come close to a live performance, and then suddenly it comes upon me. Albeit second hand. Albeit in a sit down theater. Albeit in the midst of Americans come together to watch the works of a British band, raising their Bud Lites every so often to ask for an encore.

A day after the concert, I pardoned myself for going in with visions of 'grand', 'phenomenal', 'cosmic'. The experience wasn't that. The screen responsible for spinning out psychedelia was the size of a quarter. It was almost heartening that it was pushed way back on the stage, so you didn't have to bother with it after some initial enthusiasm. The vocals and stringwork was the work of true disciples, but the sound wasn't up to scratch. And for the priciest ticket, we had to satisfy ourselves with a very crappy angle.

So, I do sound like I hated the experience. No. I just had to get those regulation complaints out of the way. You tend to cut people a lot of slack who say they 'perform' Pink Floyd. And this band on Thursday wasn't a ragtag bunch of mafioso pulled together to rip people off. Maybe the riverfront was a better venue for the event, and you believe this until you visit the Experience website when you realize that a sit-down event was planned for "intimacy".

I'm grateful to the Civic Center that it brought this experience to town while I was still here. I'm grateful to this band because they performed like devotees. They played Brain Damage too. I feel like calling a college buddy and telling him, "Now, listen you f*&%face, I've been to a Pink Floyd show, OK." That'll take care of those bastards. Or, at least, it would have once upon a time.

I can't close this piece without a word of praise for Siddhant. At the start of the show, I was prepared to forfeit it all if he felt uneasy. I was prepared to walk out with him, and let him have his brand of entertainment - running from one end of the corridor to the other, and running back. But this boy stayed. For the full two hours. He clapped too when he felt like it.

Maybe it was the experience.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Zeitgeist America - Fall 07 I

These days "small planes" can't seem to stay in the air. Last week, three of them fell out of the sky - one into a parking lot, one rammed a restaurant, and another mistook an Interstate for the landing strip.

Since all pilots were male, was it appropriate to sing, "It's raining men"?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bad design can make you go without a shower for 2 days

I have been reading Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things on my morning and evening commutes for a few days now. And reading it I realized quite suddenly that I have been a victim of bad tap (faucet) design recently.

I moved to an apartment here a few days before my wife and son, thinking I'd set it up as much as I could. Arrived late morning on a sunny, sweaty Saturday, having checked out of the hotel without a shower.

Back at the apartment, the shower tap was the regular one you see in hotel bathrooms. Turn left and you get hot water, turn right and you get cold. Point it dead center, and you've turned it off. Tried, tested. I turned a little to the left, and nothing. Turned all the way left, still nothing.

Maybe its disuse all these months (we were renters in 3 months) was causing start-up trouble. I turned the tap all the way to the right. No response.

I decided to come back in about a half hour and try again. Half an hour later, the tap and I played out the same scene again. Boy, I was sweating and here was a tap that just refused to talk. I was pretty frustrated with myself at not having checked this nuance during the walkthrough before moving in.

There was no other way the tap would go, I concluded after some more examination - only left and right. Maybe the property managers hadn't started the water supply to our apartment yet. And the earliest now I could get to them was Monday. Crap!

The rest of the weekend, I slipped into 'bachelor living' mode - no shower, no problem.

On Monday morning when the maintenance guy showed, I must confess I was pretty miserable. I explained to him my story of the waterless shower, making sure I didn't leave out any detail. "Did you pull it?" he asked.


"Yeah, pull and turn. There you go!" Water was now coming out in torrents from the previously barren tap.

"Oh, well...I...just..."

"That's awright. You have a good one, bud."

Don Norman now tells me it wasn't me, after all. The affordance, the system image of the tap, and the natural mapping were all screwed up. Take that.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Zeitgeist America - End of Summer 07

Unsurprisingly, Osama bin Laden released a video message a few days before the 9/11 anniversary this year. Apparently, it was his first video appearance here in 4 years, and many people mistook him to be a returning CNN correspondent.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Iraq, where's my beer?

This is a very exciting time to be in America. As the chill begins to take hold, and opportunities for after-hours recreation dwindle, I like to kick back with a beer or two and watch real reality TV - the president, the media, the 2008 presidential hopefuls, and, of course, the Iraq war.

Prez Bush gets skewered by the media everyday, CNN usually the destroyer-in-chief. Last night, he addressed the nation on topics of war and got skewered a little more by the Democratic candidates. It's an extravaganza of opinion, opposition, and often a public admonishment of this very tired president. But then his long stay in office has given him enough experience to handle it. No big bother in his last days.

Of course, there was absolutely nothing new in last night's address to the nation. The supreme commander spoke of Iraq's leaders' desire to "enter into a long-term partnership with the United States", and that it will extend "well beyond" his presidency. Zealous CNN reporters had already leaked it as predictions, as they stood by for well over an hour before the national broadcast. Ho hum.

Some 2008 presidential candidates then appeared on Larry King Live and did what they had to, depending on whether they were Ds or Rs.

As I watch CNN's "best team of political analysts" bloody the president's face, get war veterans to square off against each other, and have the 2008 clowns do a little jig here or a little hop there, my beer finishes up pretty quick. And ever since Gen. Petraeus appeared on television, man! I've been downing them real fast.

This is reality TV. It's fun. It's free. It's almost gladiatorial. And for someone watching from the gallery, it's time to fill up.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Zeitgeist America - Summer 07 1

Right now in America, it can creep the hell out of your dog if he heard you saying, "Hey Mike, do you mind walking my dog tonight?"

It's going to bother the cops a bit if you walked into an airport restroom and shook hands with a senator.

And don't get me started on how fateful it sounds if you were in a bar deep south waiting for friends Dean and Felix.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Flour power-less

Much like in Bombay, the mills of mill city Minneapolis could soon be a thing of the past. Apparently, proposals to transform this mill corridor between the 38th and 46th Street stations into swanky business and residential plazas are being seriously considered by the city's administration.

So while the Bombay mills are already being torn down, the late 19th century mills of Minneapolis still stand mulling their fate. I got these videos on a train ride past these relics.

Running time - 01:08

Running time - 00:40

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Maybe it needs a lesson in basic advertising techniques. Maybe it doesn't need any advertising at all, its rooms brimming with guests. Maybe it wants people to work their own imaginations on its blank canvas. Maybe the owners are modest folk. Maybe they have nothing to hide. Maybe they just don't care. Maybe someday someone will redesign this board. Maybe they'll do better business. Maybe they'll be worse off.

Hotel Amsterdam is a gay-run establishment in the heart of Minneapolis's Theatre District, Hennepin Avenue.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Logo War

I've received feedback on the size of the smashing new WS logo - mostly negative. I'm convinced, however, that it's quite the right size. Maybe because I'm too close to it. So here's a quick poll on whether it needs resizing. Go ahead - vote!

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Get some grain, will ya?"

We'll drink and then eat some.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Song of Hiawatha

This last summer, I paid a visit to the lakes Nokomis and Hiawatha in Minnehaha. Here you can catch a glimpse of the latter as I belt out a few lines from Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha. Pardon the attempt...

Watch on Google Video

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gawk like a local

For some time now, I have toyed with the idea of having a logo for Window Seat - a simple graphic that captures the essence of this blog.

I spoke to Meghna about it, and she designed this logo which I like to call 'antenna head'. I think it couldn't have been simpler or stronger. Together, we also hit upon the cutline - Gawk like a local - that has now appeared a few times in recent posts. Just that I can't seem to have this graphic up as a logo on the blog. Any ideas?

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gangsters welcome

Charge them any more and you'd be toast! This is a plaque from inside the Wabasha Caves in St. Paul from a time when the caves were a speakeasy for the gangsters. Of course, there were a few rules that you had to abide by. But for this money, who wouldn't?

Mobsters from outside Minnesota, who found a safe haven in St. Paul thanks to the police chief in the late 30s, have used the caves as a hideout and then as a watering hole as America came out of prohibition.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A stereo view of the world - Part II

In the concluding part of the interview, Tom shows us some 3-D prints, talks a little bit about the history of stereo photography and how it became a passion with him, and offers a few tips to budding stereo photographers.

Tom, thanks for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A stereo view of the world - Part I

Tom Martin speaks to me on his hobby - stereo photography. In this part of the interview, Tom displays and talks about the analog and digital equipment required to keep his hobby going. When he isn't actively pursuing his hobby, Tom is a Curriculum and Business Development Specialist at Northwest Airlines.

Running time: 07:08

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bring me back!

Hillside Trail II
Originally uploaded by Rohan Kohli.
I purchased a handheld GPS device a couple weeks ago, and today I made the dinky device go the distance. I walked a mile and a half of an unmarked trail in Bloomington, marking waypoints along the way on the handheld. At the end of my journey, I had no clue where I was - having suspended my own sense of navigation so I could really test the gadget. This is approximately where I was

And, boy, did it bring me back to my starting point! It's a Garmin eTrex (the yellow cell phone-like device you see on the ledge in the first photo), and it locks to 4 satellites before a trek. Then an animated character walks along with you leaving a trail behind. When I wanted to navigate back to where I started, I simply had to walk along with the on-screen character and bingo! I was there. About 40 ft from the point of origin, the GPS flashed 'Destination arriving' which impressed me no end.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Carving it as much an art as hunting it

CAUTION: If you're queasy about looking at animals being cut up, quit reading now.

We cut up the deer at Jim's garage Tuesday evening. It was a great big stag party with Keith, Jim, Matt, Mike, and I hacking away with pop and beer for company. Oh, and there was Chuck the Unlucky Buck.

Here's Keith with his 7-point prize, his biggest and first with bow and arrow

We started with something like this

and ended up with something like this

Under the careful guidance of expert carver Jim, newbies like me learned the delicate art of slicing, sawing, cleaving, chopping, and packing the meat. The deer yielded about 40 pounds of meat, portions of which will be used to make jerky, bacon, hamburgers, and steaks. Here's Jim and Keith totally engrossed in extracting another pound of flesh

Mike drove from out of town to help with the butchering. And Matt's always a fun guy to have around. He's a smart aleck who pulled quite a few legs, except the deer's. Here's Mike at work with Matt for company

Chuck, RIP.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yeah, right.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Chicago - The Whirlwindy City

It's been a while since I posted. In that time, I've been around the Twin Cities a little more and spent one 'Walking Weekend' in Chicago. And it had to be this big city where I would meet an acquaintance from 26 years ago. Crazy thing - and it seems crazier the more I think of it - but I recognized him within seconds of seeing him after a score and six years!

Anyway, so we started our city tour on foot a good 45 minutes after the appointed time, thanks to my colleagues full of excuses. I, therefore, had lots of time to click pictures of the Birmingham Fountain in all manners. Here's a group of Segway tourists getting a lowdown on the fountain's architecture.

At $75 an hour we weren't doing the Segway the whole day. So we straightaway hit the Mag Mile walking, and among the towering big brands, I saw some genuine local innovation. Watch this:

Just a few empty paint cans, a couple sticks, some skill, and lots of dollars. But after a while, it was just noise. Downtown Chicago was crawling with these guys on the weekend.

Later, we did lunch, the Art Institute, many invigorating cups of coffee, and the mandatory climb up the Sears.

There was also a public wedding underway. The bride and groom walked hand in hand

looking longingly into each others' eyes

and finally sealing it with a kiss

Ah! a Kodak moment.

We rounded off our day with dinner at the Navy Pier. It was too late for Ben & Jerry's to keep up with us, so we went home without ice cream.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Interview: Pilot who intercepted AMS-BOM NW42

On August 22 2006, a dozen men on board flight NW42 were responsible for what is known as 'turnback' in aviation terms. Their suspicious behaviour caused the crew to call for fighter jet escorts.

One of the pilots of a jet that intercepted the Northwest flight spoke to me about what happened that morning. For reasons of confidentiality, his identity cannot be revealed.

Listen to the interview.

Theme - "Three Away From Zero"Written & Performed by:Derek R. Audette - (C) MMV(Creative Commons)

Thanks to Sanjay Gulati (Tony) for arranging and hosting the interview.
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