Thursday, July 28, 2005


Many Bengalis do have a problem pronouncing English vowels. Cheek very often becomes chik."Konkona has red chiks". Swimmingpool becomes sweemingpull and Sen becomes Shane. So they end up saying, "Are you going to the sweemimgpull Shane?".

There is a story of one Mr Bannerjee who visited the TISCO plant in Jamshedpur many years ago.He was taken around the plant by one Mr.Chatterjee who asked him whether he knew metaalurjee(metallurgy). He replied,"No,I am Banerjee". Then Bannerjee asked Chatterjee,"so,you makes still here?"."Yes,we make stiill here"."Do you make still in small pieces"."No,we make them still in long shits(sheets).

And that reminds me of a column written by an old acquaintance Jug Suraiya in the TOI. When JS went to meet a bureaucrat in Writer's Building,the babu guarding the door would not allow him inside.He said "he is not in his shit".When JS tried to again persuade him to allow him entry, the agitated babu said "I am telling you,he is not shitting on his shit".

The cool southern breeze becomes the south bridge and the new Howrah Bridge becomes Howrah Breeze. What flies in the sky is a baard and Rabindranath Tagore becomes a bird.

When Pranabda wanted to visit USA there was some trepidation and even a discussion whether an interpreter would be required to 'breeze' the gap between his Bonglish and the "yankee" English accent. Donald Rumsfield was amused and is reported to have said,"let's have the guy on board".From all accounts,the meeting was a roaring hit.Rumsfield hadn't laughed so much since the beginning of the Iraq war.When our Pranabda explained what he meant by piss(peace) keeping,Rumsfield exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

About 30 years ago when I was working in our Bangalore factory,we had a visitor.Gopal Moni Ghosh.Our Director-in-charge.He was very impressed with the precision tooling that we made and the quality of our electrical stampings."How much baar(burr) do you tolerate?".I was foxed.I said the variation between two bars is --."No no, how much baar?".Then I knew what he wanted.

And in the old days when British directors were on our Board,our English Chairman never had a clue of what the shareholders had to say.When they gesticulated angrily,he would go red on the face and I would have to translate into his ears from Bonglish to English.And when his time came to answer the questions,he skipped most of them by saying that "your english is much better than have used words that normally i don't use.but i have understood what you meant". With that lighthearted banter, the ice was broken and the AGM ended "pissphully".

I must conclude with a small anecdote.One day about fifty years ago in our house in Calcutta,my father suddenly realised that my brother Venkatesh was missing.He asked his friend Samirbabu,whether he had seen him.Pat came the reply,"Bankatesh is Bhandering in the Beraandah".

Collins English Dictionary-The New Edition

Indians have always fascinated the British. After our cuisine(nan and chicken tikka) for which they have fallen 'hook,line and sinker' and their recent attraction to Bollywood,it is now the turn of our hindi,theek hai? The latest Indian attraction in Britain is "Hinglish". And who gives the seal of authority.Collins.

According to their new edition reccently published,Hinglish is a fusion of Hindi and English. Words to be used in everyday English in the UK. About 30 new words have found their way in the dictionary.Badmash and haramzada are some of them.When young we were told that if we wanted to learn a language fast,learn the bad words. It looks as if Collins is following that theory.

Of course,besides the hinglish words,there are some new english words,e.g. scrote,band-aid baby,scunnered,bird flu,hobbit and green-light district!.Really,a "gaggle of new entries". And the best of all-vuvuzela (an elongated plastic instrument that football fans blow to make a loud noise identical to the trumpeting of an elephant). I am sure my soccercrazy friends in Kolkata are listening. My next posting will be on their Bonglish.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two Struggling Newspapers

I am sure that there are many more. But,I am aware of two newspapers who are struggling to survive. One is the 'Overseas Chinese Commerce of India',a Chinese newspaper. C.J.Chen is the Editor of India's only Chinese newspaper. Located at Chinatown in Tangra in Kolkata, which had a 40,000 strong Chinese population,today the newspaper has a circulation of only 300.With 12 people on the payroll and a coverprice of Rs 2.50, the OCCI is a four page daily covering mainly international news. This is Chen's 56th year in Kolkata. At 82,he remains very active. He wants the bonds of friendship between India and China to strengthen.Will his newspaper survive or not? "It is extremely difficult to run the newspaper", says Chen. That is a million dollar question. Or now it is a question of the 'yuan'. He thinks that after he is gone,someone will take control and run the newspaper.That is called optimism.Never say die.

The other newspaper which is sailing on a similar boat is a Sanskrit two-page daily published from Mysore. Sri K.N.Sampatkumar is the Editor of 'Sudharma'.It is 36 years old and was started by the current editor's father Sri K.N.Varadaraja Iyengar. I have been reading this newspaper for the last one year.For an annual subscription of Rs 500,I get all the issues by post.I enjoy reading 'Sudharma' as it helps me to improve my vocabulary and proficiency in Sanskrit.Besides current domestic and international news,there are very interesting anecdotes and short stories,poems,extracts from our Ramayana and Mahabharata,and 'subhashitam' (aphorisms in the form of poetic couplets) which makes reading a pleasureable experience.

But then the irony is that the giver of pleasure suffers from pain and agony.His paper has a minimal circulation and he is struggling to keep it afloat. When I read his editorial on the birth anniversary of 'sudharma',my eyes turned moist. I love Sanskrit. I like to read it and chant shlokas.I am trying to speak it.What can I do to help the Editor and Publisher to keep this only devabhasha newspaper in the world alive.I would be happy to receive suggestions from my readers.

The Red Flag Flies High

Recently an international TV channel conducted a poll to adjudge the 'greatest philosopher' of the world. Karl Marx got 27.93% of the votes cast in the contest. It must have warmed the hearts of the Jyoti Basus,Surjeet Singhs and Karats. And E.M.S.Namboodripad and S.A.Dange must have turned with satisfaction in their graves. West Bengal,almost the last bastion of the Communist philosophy, had something to rejoice about. And Marx had a comfortable lead over his nearest rival,David Hume,who could get only 12.67% of the votes cast. The pecking order was like this:

1) Karl Marx (27.93%)
2)David Hume (12.67%)
3)Ludwig Wittgenstein (6.80%)
4)Friedrieche Nietzsche (6.49%)
5)Immanuel Kant (5.61%)
6)St.Thomas Aquinas (4.83%)
7)Socrates (4.82%)
8)Aristotle (4.52%)
9)Karl Popper (4.2%)

In my student days ,I had read about the classification of philosophers into four distinct categories. a)the social philosophers, b)the speculative philosophers, c)the political philosophers and d)the philosophers of science.Now,in which category do the above named philosophers fall?

Marx-political.Hume-speculative.Ludwig-?.Nietzsche-speculative.Kant-speculative.Aquinas-speculative.Socrates-social.Aristotle-social.Popper-?.Isn't it interesting to note that 4 out of 9 were speculative philosophers.And I was surprised with some glaring omissions.Plato,Confucius,Emerson,J.S.Mill,Adam Smith,Hegel,Darwin,Copernicus,Einstein,Schpopenhauer,Shankaracharya , Ramanujacharya and Madhavacharya.I don't know why all the philosophers of science and some famous speculative philosophers were left out of the contest!

At one time, Marxist thought ruled 33% of the world population.Who says Capitalism has now taken over and that Marxism is no more relevant.Our CPM friends who are supporting Congress today have a good chance to win more seats in the next elections and come closer to power.It is not an impossibility.It is very probable.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Arrival Of The Modern Wada Pav

Dheeraj Gupta,an MBA has done it.Along with his wife.It is no more a street sold commodity.It is the modern version.In a state-of-the-art central kitchen,potatoes are washed,peeled and mashed with the help of modern technology.The patty is blast frozen and sent to the nine outlets between Borivli and Dadar.The kitchen then fries the wada and packs the product.Woila! Isn't that hot and tasty?.It is the wadapav in its new avatar.Thoroughbread.

Jumbo King consult with Johnson Diversey's to maintain world class hygiene standards.And have even been inspired by Ray Kroc's "Behind the Arches".Based on the McDonald strategy,Gupta is expanding.He started with an initial investment of Rs 2 lakhs.Today his sales is touching Rs 4 crores.He plans to raise it to Rs 20 crores by mid 2006.He also plans to have a 100 strong network in a year's time.Providing street food under hygienic conditions for Rs 6 is competition for McDonald which sells at Rs 20.And for guys like Manohar Mangesh Satam who runs his wada pave centre at Flora Fountain since 1971.And Ashok Haldavnekar who set up a wada pav stall on a handcart at Girgaum in 1968.He was blessed by the Shiva Sena chief. It was called the Shiv Sena wada pav.

And now with their popularity on the wane will Ashok' fortunes also take a tumble? Has the wada pav become so powerful? Time alone will tell whether Gupta survives or the Satams and Haldavnekars.

That's it.Strategically located near the Charni Road railway station.Seem to be doing roaring business. Posted by Picasa

Quite a rush for the hot stuff. Posted by Picasa

It takes only a few minutes,friend.Have a heart.I am not going to stand that long! Posted by Picasa

That is the cheese wadapav.Pretty wholesome. Posted by Picasa

And the frozen patty is fried in hygienic conditions. Posted by Picasa

I am getting my cheese wadapav in a jiffy. Posted by Picasa

Haute Cuisine

Did Prez Bush get it right,I wondered. That was my first reaction when I read about the banquet he hosted for our PM and his wife during their recent visit. Was he under the impression that MS belongs to the BJP?. The silk table-clothes were saffron coloured and chocolate lotus blossoms were on the platter.The food appeared to be vegetarian,though Manmhoan Singh is not. Dubya is known for his faux-pas and I thought this was yet another one! Apparently not.Halibut is a flat fish and these are normally eaten on holy days.(I had to check this out on the net.) And Dubya had done his homework. Manmohan Singh has a weakness for fishes like Vajpayee has for chicken.

It was a four course dinner.The menu card read as under:

1)Chilled Asparagus Soup and Lemon Creme

2)Pan-roasted Halibut and Ginger Carrot Butter

3)Basmati Rice with Pistacchio Nuts and Currants and Herbed Summer Vegetables.

4) Salad of Bibb lettuces and Citrus Vinaigrette.

5)Chocolate Lotus Blossoms With Mango,Chocolate-Cardamom and Cashew Ice-creams.

In all there were 134 guests and a Jazz band was in attendance.

They hit off well. Unlike our ex PM's name which Prez Bush always forgot,this was an easy one. He had to just sing(h) a song and dance. Which he did well and the two built up a good rapport.

But then everything is not hunky dory.While the father praised Prez Bush for improving the relations between our two countries,the daughter was giving the US government sleepless nights on the inhuman treatment of Iraqi prisoners.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Coconut Water-The Great Healer

Coconut water is a very effective diuretic and a wonderfully refreshing drink.Once you get hooked on to it,you will never leave it. It is one addiction worth holding on to.Nariyal pani piyo aur khush raho. Posted by Picasa

The Japs Have Arrived

It is not unusual to see the Japanese in Dalal Street these days. And it is a refreshing change. The traditional bowing ceremony,exchange of visiting cards and conversation in slow,halting and measured tone. "Ohayo godaimaaz","konnichi wa" and "domo domo" are japanese words which our gujju brokers have picked up fast. They even move their face to the right and left to signify a 'yes' and up and down vertically to indicate a 'no'. Exactly the opposite of what we do. They are the contrarians. They have come with 'yen 'and 'zen' and are pushing the sensex and nifty higher and higher every passing day.

The story is not over. They are also pushing your minds. It is dekho,dekho,sudoku! .The puzzle game which is sweeping Mumbai. In Japanese it means digit or single number. The puzzle grid is made up of a 9*9 matrix. That is,nine rows and nine columns. Every three rows and three columns constitute three boxes of nine cells each. Some numbers are already there in the puzzle. You have to fill in the blank cells so that every row and every column has the digits 1-9 in it. No number can be repeated in a particular cell,row or column. Every puzzle has only one correct solution. And according to the experts,you can keep on playing with a new number combination infinitely almost. Do you need to be an expert in maths or number theory to master the game. No,not at all. What you need is clear logical thinking and sharp eyes.

Like the compulsive net surfer,you have today the compulsive sudoku player. Till they have solved the day's puzzle they just won't do anything else. Invented by a New Zealander called Wayne Gould,it has spread like forestfire. Sudoku is being recommended to keep the brain active and ward off Alzheimer's. Build up what is called a 'cognitive reserve'. Maintain your brain and make sure that when you are 80,your brain is still there with you.

Solving time varies from 10 minutes to 30 minutes,depending upon the proficiency you have acquired. And many say that the adrenaline rush is what they enjoy and feel at the end as if they have conquered the world.

Just type sudoku in google and get going( You may soon start getting this puzzle every morning on your cellphone too. Suffer its agony and discover its ecstacy. Go solve it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

'The Forum' -A Swanky Mall In Bangalore

During my recent visit to Bangalore my sister enquired whether I had shopped in 'The Forum'-a relatively new mall that had come up in Bangalore.When I said that I hadn't, she urged me to visit it as it would be a very memorable shopping experience.
I had then just concluded a tough labour negotiations meeting quite successfully,and I imagined that I definitely needed a break and that a quick jaunt to this wellspoken of mall was justified en route to the airport.
I therefore set of for the old Mico road and when I saw the mall from a distance,I realised that the mall culture has indeed arrived.I must say that I was very impresssed. A humongous place,ample carparking space in the building,huge shops,you name the internationally known brands and they are all there. When I mentioned this to my Kannada friends they said,"enri,neevu garuda nodlilva.adu ondu doddu maalu! alli hogbittu shop maadi" (hello,haven't you seen the 'Garuda'.that is a huge mall'.go there and shop").Garuda is the latest addition to the long list of malls coming up in Bangalore.

Last month ,the CEO of Wal-Mart met our PM and showed interest in establishing some WM outlets in India. The increase in spending habits and spending power of the 300 million middle class is a great business opportunity which the big ones will not ignore. And India tops the list of the 30 most attractive countries in emerging markets for mass merchandise and food retailers. Russia has been pushed to the second place. The current moves by the Government to ease restrictions on FDI in this retail business is pushing global players to capture first-mover advantage. Carrefour,Casino and Tesco will surely and quickly enter India using a combination of different business models like M&S and Benetton who are already there.The Red is red in its face and has warned the PM not to make any concessions on FDI while in the US. They want the local kiranawallas and small mom and pop shops round the corner to continue. Unaffected.And MS has shot back that he needs no sermonising. But then political compulsions will be there when the Govt tries to liberalise the retail business.Backing out on BHEL disinvestment is the latest example.

Many years ago when I visited Kolhapur to discuss sale of fertilisers in the sugar belt,I was struck by the huge shopping store(not mall),I visited. For a 2 tier or 3 tier city,it was a big jump.Now with old textile mills and unviable manufacturing units closing down, in different parts of the country,a lot of urban space is coming into the market and is being devoured by property developers for housing cum commercial centres. Recently,17 acres of prime land was bought by the Delhi based DLF at Mumbai for an eyepopping Rs 702 crores.Y'day I read about 5 acres of prime land near Shivaji Park going for a mindboggling Rs 350 crores.

The Retail boom has arrived. Gurgaon is set to get the mother of malls.40 lakhs square feet.It will be spread over 32 acres and will have parking space for 10,000 cars.Bigger than Minniapolis and Shangai,the biggest malls in the world today,the DLF mall is expected to cost Rs 1500 crores and will be ready by 2007. Who says we Indians can't think big?

The Pantaloons and the Food Worlds better watch out.Consumerism is driving the retail market and the smaller players may get driven out. And brands are proliferating.Tommy Hilfliger,Louis Vuitton,Dockers,Red Tape,Bulgari,Chambor,Corelle,Magpipe and a host of others are knocking at the door or have already gained entry inspite of the Reds asking the Govt to show them the door. Soon our retail industry will be on par with its counterparts in the developed world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Life at 70,feels like 60

Life at 70,feels like 60
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

While I was travelling in Germany last year,I met this 'young lady' on a train. She was 70ish,but I was amazed at how she took her age lightly. She was travelling to her son's place and was carrying a bagpack slung on her shoulder and hand bags (heavy) in each hand(gifts for grandchildren) and when I offered help smilingly she declined it. I was very impressed with her attitude. She was 70 but acted 60.

We are all getting older but people today act younger than their parents did at the same age. Scientists have come out with a new age theory to explain why populations are ageing but simultaneously getting younger. Age is not measured by how many years you have lived,but how many more years you can look forward to. Sanderson and Scherbov have estimated how elderly people in USA,Japan and Germany will change in the years to come. Middle age in 2050 would come around 52 instead of 40 as in 2000. As people have to live more years,they are behaving as if they are younger. The focus should be on how many years we have to live which would help in designing a useful and effective healthcare system says Sanderson. In the discussion on ageing,how many years we have to live has been completely ignored so far.

So,going by this concept I feel I am now 50.Like someone said,Fifty is the old age of youth and sixty is the youth of old age.Look at it the way you want.

And here is the weirder side of it. Go try out A clock will start counting off the seconds that you have left. After you have entered your date of birth,weight,sex,attitude(pessimistic,optimistic,sadistic) and whether you smoke or not. When you hit enter,a popup window gives you your date of death.

Chill. All is OK.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

FIFO(Fish In Fish Out)

FIFO(Fish In Fish Out)
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

I am not referring to the accountant's inventory management acronym. I am referring to 'fishy' matters.And normally accountants don't like to meddle in such things.
Exactly a month ago,on Margashira day,the Bathini Gaud brothers for 2 days were pushing small fishes laden with a medicine down the throats of asthma ridden patients. And there was an unprecendented traffic problem in Hyderabad and elaborate bandobust had to be made. And this is an annual ritual for more than 30 years now.
Every year once,under the right constellation,the brothers administer this medicine.It is a secret handed over to them by a Sadhu and they will not reveal it even to the High Court whose intervention was sought by some organisations.They said faith in the medicine was its strength.Some 26 food items have to be avoided for 40 days for the medicine to be effective.Thousands of patients who came from all over the country could care less.We are getting relief,why should we bother with all this opposition was their typical reaction.

And in Kolkata,Satyendra Nath Boral,a Vaishnavaite and living in Bowbazar,once every week,at high tide releases 3 kgs of fishes that he has bought from the market bitten by penitence for all his past killings of fishes.He has been doing this week in and week out for the last 25 years or so.He even feeds cows,dogs and pigeons in the neighbourhood.He has also given up drinking milk (Maneka Gandhi would be very happy to hear that). He is now forming a trust to carry on these activities when he is gone.

And in both the cases-the Gauds and Boral,the fisheries department of the respective states have been more than cooperative.While AP supplied more than 65,000 murrel fingerlings at 32 counters priced at Rs 10 each, the WB government offer him fishes better able to adapt to the Ganga at a reduced rate and that too Bhetki for his indulgence.

Who says the bureaucracy does not have a heart?

Monday, July 04, 2005

All That Glitters Is Not Gold.

Originally uploaded by gopoo.

Mariya,Mariya,Mareeeeeeeeya!.Remember that old hitsong. That was what was on everybody's lips last week at Wimbledon when she was playing Venus Williams in the semifinals. But chanting of that mantra did not help the women tennis's fashion diva from crashing out.

Tall,goodlooking,longlimbed and blonde ,Maria Sharapova had established against her opponents that she had no feet of clay. She made her feet glitter. The sweet seventeen had just turned eighteen. The superstar wore 18 carat goldstudded sneakers for Wimbledon. She became an ambassador of the yellow metal. Her tennis cloak had gold details,and even a gold zipper.Long gold danglers,which complemented her golden mane.She went around with a gold trimmed bag. Gold prices in the bullion market started shooting up and was expected to reach stratospheric levels. Such was the sudden demand for gold.

But then all the psyching she did on her opponent did not help her. Venus remained unfuzzed and quietly stole victory.Maria's grunt while serving which is worse than a siren not withstanding. At the end it was a dejected Maria who walked away carrying all the gold sans the golden Wimbledon cup.She learnt a hard lesson.Gold does not always glitter.

But then offcourt she continues to win.Her businesses are flourishing.She even has a mobile phone named after her(Maria Moto),a mobile game and a perfume too.She has a keen eye for business and wants to become a fashion designer some day.Her 18 million dollar looks surely will help her.

And there is an icon and rolemodel for our Saniabeti. And a message. "I know what I am good at and I will stick to it."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Caught in the Net

Caught in the Net
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

Are you addicted more to your morning 'kaapi' or to the internet? Would you rather give it up than your vsnl/mtnl/hathway connection? Particularly when the homely kaapi is getting a sophisticated trendy flavour.Demerara or special coffee sugar. We will come back to that a little later.

What is interesting to note is the recent 2005 Web@Work survey.It says that 52% of US employees would rather give up their addiction to coffee than their internet connections.93% of all employees in the US access internet at work and that many log on to do their personal work.12.6 hours is spent averagely every week accessing the internet.Almost 50% of this goes to work-unrelated browsing. As expected,women employees are more disciplined.54% admit to nonwork surfing against 62% by men. Visit to investment and sports sites was common among men and some even played games. 25% admitted visiting porn sites though a third of them indicated that it was the slip of the finger.

What does the survey recommend? To maintain and enhance overall productivity and morale,the employees must be given the freedom to fulfil their need of the personal use of the Web.

And if a similar survey were to be done in India what would it reveal? Frequent visits to the filmi sites,astrology sites and even shaadi sites? It would be interesting to know the surfing Indian's preferences.

Barista,Coffee Day,Starbucks,better watch out.Hip India's signature beverage is under siege.Inspite of demerara sugar,the pull towards the net is only increasing.It may be a good idea to provide internet access in your cafes.

The Coffee chains can then eat the cake and still have it in their hands.

And recently I heard a surfer saying ,"Not that I love my kaapi less,but that I love my Internet more". Kool!

The Colourful Crows

Originally uploaded by gopoo.
Crows are held in special esteem in Mumbai.And therefore when recently there were a spate of crow deaths,the Mumbaiwala was very sad.What caused these deaths is still a mystery but then about 450 of them seemed to have met their end rather suddenly.One might say that in a population of 500,000 or so in Mumbai alone,it is a miniscule percentage.Even then,there is a tinge of sadness in the hearts of the Mumbaikars.
Crows have struck fear in the minds of people from time immemorial.Particularly those who are superstitious.Even Sita in Ramayana when her breast was plucked by a 'raven',knew that some doom was imminent.It is even thought that a crow striking at the window is summoning a human soul to the grave.
Inspite of these minuses,the crow is still a very popular bird.And during 'sraddha' when the pindams(rice balls) are offered to the 'pitrs'(ancestors),they are supposed to be partaking of the offerings in the form of the crows.They are clever,enterprising,adaptable and smart.However like Sardarjis,they are the objects of fun and jokes.Sanskrit books abound with stories of the foolishmeess of crows,like when it tries hard to change its colour or when it is induced to sing by a jackal so that the flesh which it had picked up drops for the waiting jackal to snatch and run away.Oh!,kakasya moorkhata!
But then ask the naturalists and they will go ga ga over its gait and flicking of its wings.They are quite intelligent,have a sharp memory and when hurt can take sweet revenge.They are a bit human.After all,people who lagao maska(butter) to their bosses are known as kaka pidichifiers(in tamil).May the crows live long!