Thursday, November 23, 2006


Being vegetarian in Philippines could be a crime or a disease.All the penalties of legitimate crime/severe disease (varying from curious glances to condemnation to sympathetic looks) imposed by civilized society on petty criminals who are the victim of circumstances, are reserved for Vegetarians. No kidding.
Here’s a real life exchange between me and X (it could be any of the 80 million lovable Filipinos that make up the pork loving nation). Stuff in italics is the unstated emotion behind the words.
- Ok…let’s go for lunch! There’s a great place I know which serves fantastic local cuisine-you like Pork?
- Actually, I don’t think I’d be able to eat there- I can’t have pork.
- Oh. You are Muslim? You can try the beef instead. (See, I know about other cultures)
- Actually no. I don’t have beef either. I’m vegetarian, you see.
- Aaaaaaah You are a Vegetarian? So you don’t eat red meat? Are you for real?
- Umm…no actually being vegetarian means I don’t eat any meat. You carnivore!
- So you can have seafood right? Surely you ca’nt be that weird!
- No being vegetarian means you don’t eat meat or fish or any type of seafood for that matter. You Omnivore!
* Blank face. * *Wide eyed expression*
- - Pause You are not a recognizable human form
- - Pause I wish I could take you to Gujarat!!
- - Wide grin. So you only eat salads? I think there is one place where we can ask them to take the shrimp bits out of the salad…
- - Wide grin returned. No no!…being vegetarian does not mean eating only salads- there’s so much more- you have vegetables, fruits, pulses, rice, bread-so much variety-really! I have to educate this person!!!
- - Pulses….what’s that? You are turning out to be entertaining…hehe
- - Pulses….Dal- Umm…Cereal…they taught this to me in school 15 years back-I even made those pretty school scrapbooks with all pulses glued to the pages with a description of the well…pulses. Umm, its like a curry…not that spicy..Something that you dip your bread into…you have different types of pulses. Its really nice-you should try some..It’s quite tasty you know! *Bandar kya jaane adrak ka swaad*
- Polite smile. Yeah. Are you kidding-how can anything vegetarian be tasty??
- So are all Indians vegetarians? I'm trying to figure out whether I can ever go to India!
- Not really. About 80% are non-vegetarians I guess.
- So what made you turn into one? Religion? Hindu freak
- Well, its more of a choice actually. It was religion to start with-coz my family is Hindu, so I never really had a choice. Am I sounding confused? But actually now its just by default-something I’m used to-and it just helps that eating vegetarian is eating healthy! I wish I could introduce you to Maneka Gandhi-she’d make you apologize to all the remaining pigs in the world and then she’d sue you for distressing them with their apology (you were the one who killed their brethren, na!!)
- Ok..I’m confused. If it’s not religion, then why don’t you just eat…. normal food? Also, how is not having milk or butter etc healthy? Also, how is not having milk or butter etc healthy? YOU ARE SUCH A FREAK.
- Oh no oh no….Not having milk or butter is being Vegan..where you don’t have milk or milk products besides being a vegetarian.
- So you are a vegan who has milk and milk products?
- No I’m just vegetarian. Actually I have eggs. Ab mazaa aayega!
- ?????????
- !!!!!!!!!!!!!
- So can you have duck eggs? There’s this local snack called Balut- that’s half boiled, half formed duck egg….Finally…some sign of civilization !!
- No….like I said I’m vegetarian….! And terribly hungry!! Don’t make me convert straight into a cannibal.
- Should we try going to Mac? Maybe you can have the apple pie there?
And at this point, I ready myself to eat Fries fried in lard (pig ka fat) and continue being vegetarian. The famous Indian Veg. Resilience shines through the fat that glistens on my French Fries.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The language of your soul

The language of your soul
Unique and individual
only you can comprehend.
No words or phrases. No grammar to bend.
Pieces of you whose sum is greater than the whole.

The mind calibrates. The heart considers
The soul merely represents your essence.
Honest and clear, loud & luminous
Listen-the rhythm of your existence.

There are no half-truths.
Nor pleasant fiction of the mind.
No distractions of doubt or fear.
Nor pecuniary worries to confine.

Ask questions and directions you shall find.
Communication in the medium of silence.
Embark on the journey where the destination is yourself.
The relentless explorer are you
Also, the victim, the conqueror, the defence.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Waiting to be rescued by a pirate

I love Jack Sparrow-never before has a movie character caught my fancy (the only other character that comes close to this kind of devotion from me is Garfield-and no, the crappy Garfield movie has killed the spirit (or the lack of it) that the character epitomizes).
The context-I watched Pirates of the Caribbean over the weekend-both parts and my love for Jack Sparrow just grew exponentially. Orlando Bloom looked more like an excuse for a man in front of him. Oh yeah, he’s the right side of every human being but also so manufactured to be right. Sparrows’s spontaneous in action and well, have to concede, quite pre-determined in thought.

He’s such an unlikely candidate for affection-this vile opportunistic fellow, who puts his interests upfront and in front of anything and everything else. He’s blatantly selfish, even treacherous & yes, grimy as hell-but oh man, is he quirky. Unpredictable. Absolutely witty. Layers of eccentric mystery. Oodles of sinful charm. You just can’t get enough of him-there is so much more you want to know about him and so much more you want to imagine- for example, I want to know how Jack Sparrow was as a kid, what kind of games did he play, did he as a 3 yrs old trick kids twice his age into doing his bidding? Did he get spanked by his mom for being a precocious kid? What would he be like if he was transported to this day and age? Would he be a wheeler-dealer? A politician? An activist? An underworld don? Quite a misfit in today’s scenario where he would be devoid of a cause or of his spirit of adventure. He hardly has a chance to shine through in this religion-fixated, terrorism-dominated consumerist world. Devious he may be, but not soul-less enough to survive in the world of today.

No, he’s perfect as the pirate who plunders but doesn’t stop rob people of hopes or dreams. Someone who needs both a dentist and a laundro-mat, but could slink in a lesson in style to all the dudes out there. Someone who shies away from virtues but yet gets looked upto by honest and god-fearing people in the most unusual circumstances. How I would love to know him in person-this enigmatic charismatic conundrum who speaks his mind via smart repartee but knows not how to express his need for another human being. Turbulent as the sea and grey as the sky above him-he makes you want to dive right into him and explore yourself. That’s the reason I adore him. Savvy?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ok, I got a serious bout of writer’s block & I hereby suspend the Singapore series until further notice-so the latest thing from the blogger’s wok is a “10 series” Each day (don’t count on that-I’ve had a few false starts) I’ll try to put forth a candid take on life’s elements-today, its 10 types of people I would like to stay away from: (in no particular order of repulsion)

a) Feigned Familarity seekers- These are the types who met you yesterday and proclaimed themselves as your best friends day before-easily recognizable with the pretentious smile, heightened encroachment of personal space and those attempts at sharing laughs & just that hint of a private joke (when none exists) , especially when someone else is around. I find it easier to hug (cute) strangers than to breathe the same oxygen as these characters.
b) Talkathon Tyrants- They love talking about various subjects, as long as those subjects start and end with themselves-be warned, some of them might be funny in the beginning, but as the minutes wear off, so does your patience. They somehow missed the gazillion trainings on how to be a good listener & how to read body language-loss of eye contact, yawns…nothing works-so unless you want to put yourself through a torture test or practice exclamations like “really!” or “how interesting”-Stay away!
c) Acquired acquaintances- These are the friends’ friends or relatives’ relatives who happen to have one common variable as you- age group, location, marital status, work place, language, nationality, what-have-you. Obviously an evening based on one common variable can get pretty dull and full of those pregnant pauses when people are wondering what to say or when dinner would be served.
d) Hypocrites- No explanations here. People who say what they don’t mean and are opportunistically double faced get nothing but severe condemnation from me.
e) Steal the Thunder types- These are the guys who try to one-up you each time, even when they don’t have anything to supersede your achievement-the intention is to just steal your moment and shift the spotlight on to themselves. Remember Boman Irani in Waqt? “yeh to kuch bhi nahi hai”-“asli so and so to tab hua tha jab main…”
f) I-told-you-so- This is probably the worst your support system can do-take the moment to gloat on their judgement rather than the predicament facing you. What’s annoying about this variety is that they are not unequivocally bad-just too enamored by how right they were and how you should have listened to them-but then again, isn’t it always easier to be smarter in hindsight?
g) Wannabes- This variety can manifest itself in many ways- trying to pass off a false American accent, wearing tons of garish gold, flaunting material possessions to unsuspecting guests, not watching Hindi movies coz they are oh-so-passé, laughing in spite of not catching on to the joke, speaking in a deplorable version of English (despite being fluent in another language),….oh the list is endless. Being something other than yourself is the worst sort of dishonesty & maybe the most damaging thing you could do to yourself.
h) Fair weather friends-its quite a misnomer to call those who are there by your side when things are hunky dory but do the vanishing act when things are no longer great. How can you count on someone who is opportunistic enough to synchronize their appearance in your life with the crests & troughs of your life? I’d rather send these parasites to a loyalty boot camp.
i) Activist relatives- You know I truly support the wise guy/girl who said that “you can choose your friends, but not your relatives”-The amount of interference & interest in your life that your relatives exhibit & exercise tends to be exponentially proportional to your age (e.g-time to get married?) and income (why do you want to do this kind of a job?) and inversely proportional to your distance from them (both physical and emotional). Nothing to discount the well meaning concern that does shine through on many occasions, but when you know the other person actually doesn’t know zilch about you nor does he/she take pains to understand what you really want, you just wish this was an independent variable you could drop off life’s calculations..!
j) Anyone who doesn’t respect people- This includes making fun of physically challenged people, sexual harassment, racism, discrimination on any pathetic basis-anything essentially that you wouldn’t want for yourself or your near & dear ones. Seriously, it maddens me no end if people don’t treat others with the same dignity and compassion that they’d expect from the society.

Btw, this is not a comprehensive list of the people I want to stay away from-its an indicative list ;) 10 just seemed to sexy to resist. Watch this space for “10 more types of people I would want to stay away from :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Is two months a sufficient time to pass judgement on a person/place/thing? Not really. But it’s enough to form impressions and that’s exactly what I’m going to share today-I recently moved to Singapore-which if popular legend is to believed is less than the size of Bangalore but generates 9 times the GDP of India. And yeah, you can use the above fact for a cocktail conversation, provided you acknowledge the source: P

Since I keep hearing that change is good and also since I have been advised to keep it short, I’ll break this blog into a series-hope that works! Do realize that we are living in the age of limited time and short attention spans-just that my train of thought keeps runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’ (that’s to the tune of Black Eyed peas-lets get it started). Ok, getting back to the context:

- The first thing that strikes you about Singapore is that it’s so damn manmade (though I have to admit, very well made)-spotlessly clean, things are where they are supposed to be, there’s enough glass, fibre, steel and concrete to make you believe they are natural phenomena-even trees are trimmed and manicured to make them look like pretty personifications of a picture postcard. I strained to look for some signs of carelessness but no pothole, no stray dogs, no faded colors, heck not even bird shit!! Have you ever seen those models built by architects, where there are symmetrical shapes, co-ordinated colors and nothing strays beyond the defined lines. Magnify that model by a million and put about 40 lakh people in it of varying nationalities (mostly Chinese, Malay and Indian) - you would be getting a pretty accurate picture of Singapore.
- If this were a only a city, things would be looked at in a very different light-but this happens to be a country and coming from India where you have gazillion villages and thousands of towns and cities, it just makes Singapore this patch of land which somehow seems too small to be qualified as a city. What adds a dash of humour is the local weather forecast on TV that shows clouds over the western part and sunshine over the eastern. Just try imagining this voice in your head-“andheri west pe baadal chhaye rahenge, par goregaon mein dhoop khili rahegi” and you’ll know what I mean.
- What’s great about this place is that crime rate is low and by low, I don’t mean relatively low (862 murders in Indore vs 8600 in Patna) …it is really miniscule! The crimes that do happen are crimes of passion and yeah, those do get nasty-but then as long as you aren’t planning to cheat on your spouse or swindle millions of dollars, as an ordinary mortal who’s here on a work permit, life and life’s earnings are not in danger from strangers. So this basically means that all the extra cautiousness you’ve accumulated over the years, in keeping your wallets safe from pickpockets, not venturing in certain parts of the city or being painfully aware of who’s around you, starts to dwindle away slowly but surely in this city-country where per capita income & rolling credit is high enough to ensure that no one trespasses your “jaan/maal”.
(to be continued)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Honesty is the best policy

They taught this to us when we were kids-our parents, our teachers and all the adults who came in the close radius of being guardians, matrons & wardens. The lesson was often proved wrong with practical examples and contradicted with alarming frequency. “Tell uncle I’m not home” is probably a universal lie transmitted by adults onto their young ones. No, this is not an indiction of my parents or my friends’ parents-just that its something probably everyone would have experienced now or then. The objective of this blog is simply to explore the nature of honesty and better define it-having done that, maybe also to figure out whether it is indeed the best policy (I actually don’t like the word policy-it has something potently negative about the way it sounds-inflexible, unimaginative, laid down by someone else, something you just have to follow without applying your brain). But again, I use it more due to the familiarity of the phrase-maybe I’ll think about replacing policy with something better along the way. Ready to explore honesty?

a) Is honesty a conscious choice- Since I truly believe that an evolved individual must have a more developed internal locus of control, as a subset of that belief I also believe that we choose when to be honest, who to be honest with and conversely, when not to be honest and who not to be honest with. There are those who say circumstances were such that I couldn’t possibly have told her the truth. What is being achieved by such delayed honesty? - You simply fall back on the known tenet that blows soften with the passage of time. By the same logic would you wait to reveal a piece of news that you think would make the other person happy? Nope. Not a chance….so essentially honesty is a choice determined by your judgement of the impact it will have on others or on yourself.

b) Are there degrees to honesty-Okay, so being honest is a choice, but is the degree to which you are honest also a choice? Is being honest an absolute? Or are you judged honest depending upon how honest are those around you or perhaps, the probability of you being honest, determined in a historical context. Is being 50% honest about something better than being 100% dishonest? It is a tricky question-but the conclusion that I have arrived at is that honesty is absolute-it is being true to facts, thoughts, judgements, opinions, everything tangible and intangible. Of course, there are those who may argue that since our sphere of knowledge is limited to the past and the present, by default, what we believe to be true now may be disproved later. (case in point-people believed the earth is flat) Sure, our perceptions of reality change-but as long as we state (doesn’t matter if it is a vocal statement or not) what we perceive to be true with no malafide intention, we are being honest.

c) What’s more important-being honest to others or to yourself-I think in terms of hierarchy, being honest to one’s own self comes first. Think of it this way, if you were dying, what would matter to you, other’s judgement or your own? This is not to say that you should care zilch about what others say or think about you-that’s secondary-you have to live under your own skin-if you aren’t comfortable with that, don’t think Prada or Versace could act saviors. What this simply means is that, if you committed a crime, say robbed a bank-you would be honest to others if you confessed in front of significant others that you did what you did, but you would be honest to your own self if you realized what you did was wrong. Its critical to acknowledge one’s own thoughts-don’t have to be positive or saintly all the time-but self awareness is the first step to being honest.

d) Do smugglers/other supposedly dishonest people sleep well at night-One common belief is that when you do something wrong, your guilt wont let you be at peace. When we publicly categorize someone as dishonest, more often than not, the person is someone who indulges in immoral/illegal activities on a fairly consistent basis. When we do this, we are probably judging only one dimension of their life which is visible to us as dishonest. Its possible that a smuggler evades law on one hand, but is extremely fair in distributing the spoils between his gang. My gut is that dishonest people do sleep well at night-because in the calculation of their conscience, these seemingly dishonest activities don’t carry any weights-its like pulling the plug on a corpse or muting your perception so that it doesn’t interfere in other aspects of your life.

e) Is it good to be honest? “Mummy, stop eating so much or you’ll look as fat as Auntie”. My bet is that the kid who said this would be reprimanded for both speaking out of turn and for saying aloud what adults were thinking to themselves. Tact and diplomacy are sophisticated ways of being dishonest in varying degrees. Sure, societal norms dictate a lot of how and what we say/do things and to be fair, we choose how closely our spoken/written words match our thoughts based on a variety of factors. But nothing stops us from being honest to ourselves-everyday, every single second of that day. Its critical to be true to your own self-it’s the only legacy that you can really carry with yourself and leave behind too.

So essentially honesty is an dependent variable for those who in being honest to others make that choice corresponding to a situation/person. And it is an independent variable when you think of being honest as being honest to your own self. So go ahead….be selfish-do yourself and others a favor-be honest to yourself.
Honesty is really the best promise you can make to yourself and aspire to keep for all you are worth.