Monday, August 25, 2008

Ye Re Ye Re Pausa

Here comes the rain, falls on my face again - BT, Circles

Let the rain fall down and wash away my tears - Celine Dion, A New Day Has Come

Dhagala laagli kaLa, paNi themb themb gaLa... Dada Kondke, Dhagala lagli kaLa

I like rain. If you live in Seattle I guess you have to. It's a coping mechanism.

For me it isn't that. Growing up in Western Maharashtra means rains come with the pleasant association of engineering vacations, the idyllic first few weeks of a semester, lush greenery and so on.

My grouse is with the pitter-patter that is Seattle rain. Unlike what BT or Celine Dion or Dada Kondke go on about, rain here doesn't pour down. The Dhags have no kaLa moments and paNi themb thembach gaLta. The clouds are just making up attendance.

Rain here kind of slides its way down apologetically, saying "Gee, I won't interrupt your life like those thunderstorms in the south or those snowstorms in the Midwest. But mind if I just kind of scoot in and make myself comfortable? Under your skin, that is."

This kind of rain drives people from more tropical climes up the wall. I'm thinking, "Can't it rain already?"

Maybe a couple of times a year these complaints are addressed. As it poured today, I looked up and let it fall on my face. There were no tears to wash away or fears to drown, but it did fill my soul.

Monday, August 18, 2008

AID Seattle quiz

AID Seattle is organizing Chakraview, a quiz on India on the occasion of India's Independence Day. The quiz is being set by Mihir Dharamshi and Arvind Sethuraman, two regulars at the Microsoft Redmond Quiz Club. The quiz, in fact was 'outsourced' by AID to the quiz club and these two people signed up.

More details are at Parth's blog and on the AID site . I've been at quizzes set by Mihir and Arvind before, so I can assure great quizzing and much fun.

Teams of two, registration is FREE, yada yada.

What: Chakraview, India quiz

Where: Microsoft Building 99, 14820 NE 36th Street, Redmond, WA  98052.

When: August 23rd, 2008, 2PM

Random info on last year's India quiz here.

Event on Facebook:

Thursday, August 14, 2008


There's a sense here of the familiar and the unfamiliar. The signs are in the four official languages - English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. In addition to places like St. James Power Station and Clarke Quay, there's a subway stop named Dhoby Talao. The temple in Little India resembles the Asthika Samaj temple in Matunga and I eat better South Indian food in my weekend here than I did in three years in Seattle.

On the metro, there's a girl with Asian features. She's dressed in standard Malaysian headgear. Yet she has mehndi on her hands. Everywhere, there's people with distinctly South Asian features dressed in clothing I associate more with the Asians I see in visuals from Hong Kong or Japan. Add hair with highlights, and the incongruity is complete.

The strict government here is purportedly scary. But honestly, most of suburban US looks more organized and clean. Nothing here's dirty, but the city looks lived-in. Everything's spotless in a natural and organic manner, not as if anyone's taking a real effort. Which adds to its charm.

And yes, this is what a tropical metropolis looks like. Shorts, flip-flops and summer wear all year long. Umbrellas and jackets for the rain? Maybe. Mostly not.

On my taxi ride back to the airport as I head back to Seattle, I'm shaken out of my reverie as Seattle local favorites Death Cab for Cutie play on the radio. I will follow you into the dark. Fitting.

Also, I get sunburned over a cloudy Singapore weekend - something six US summers couldn't accomplish.

I jotted down quick thoughts on my flight out from Singapore two weeks back. Fleshing these even into this stream-of-consciousness post has taken a while.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


scha·den·freu·de [shahd-n-froi-duh]


satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune

There are times when you understand a word. There are other times when the full import of a word makes complete and eminent sense.

Edit: Linked to original meaning

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Aargh...maybe not.

On days, you feel like the guy in Office Space who's sitting in traffic in a lane which simply won't move. You change lanes only to find the lane you moved into has stopped moving.

However, the important thing to know is that you've been here before. You've seen this room and walked this floor. Strategic lane changes, patience and good music on your car stereo means you'll be through before you know it.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nick Hornby

My first brush with Nick Hornby was a few years back. I was in India then and I saw a movie about a record store owner who's just broken up with his long-time girlfriend and is having a hard time dealing with it. I didn't know it was based on a novel then, but the movie stuck with me. It was rich in irony, dripped in sarcasm and impeccably cast, with John Cusack as the record store owner, Jack Black as one of the two neurotic music-obsessive clerks working at his store, and Tim Robbins as the mysterious hippie his girlfriend defects to.

A few years later I ended up in a bookstore with High Fidelity staring me in the face. What had remained with me about the film included the deep love of music the protagonist has, and how it permeates everything he does. Jack Black and the other clerk in his store are laugh-out loud funny in how they try to out-obscure each other's music tastes. Being a bit of a music obsessive myself (just look at the number of posts I have tagged music), the idea of the book seemed interesting.

I, however, knew how the book ended. So I did the next best thing. I picked up another book by the same author with a more intriguing premise: 4 people end up on a London rooftop deciding to commit suicide on New Year's Eve, 2000 - the beginning of the New Millennium. What happens on the road taken - when they don't actually go through with it? (I have a morbid streak that is probably worthy of psychiatric attention. Death and its effects/after-effects as humor or literature fascinates me.)

A Long Way Down was a home run. I'd had a horrid time at a social do I felt  obligated to go to and I came back home feeling miserable because of some of the people I'd had to meet. I polished off the book in that one night - it was probably 4 AM by the time I slept. It wouldn't be the first time I did that with a Nick Hornby book.

Hornby's strength is, as one of the gushing blurbs on the back of High Fidelity says, is "The Male Confessional". Many of his novels are about a young man trying to figure out his way through life, responsibility and the onset of middle age. High Fidelity and About a Boy both follow this pattern and to an extent, one of the story arcs in A Long Way Down and How to be Good follow the same path for a married, middle-aged man.

However, what makes all his books shine is the generosity of spirit he expresses towards his characters. The character may be a complete goofball scared of commitment (like Rob in High Fidelity) or someone shallower than a tea saucer (Will in About a Boy), but Hornby manages to infuse them with warmth and uncharted depths. They aren't the way they are for no reason. Maybe life never really demanded they be responsible until the circumstances unfolding in the book asked more of them.

Then there are the pop-culture references. Hornby himself seems to be a music junkie and the numerous references and use of popular songs (and films, and sports) in his books as plot points play well enough if you are music literate, but can be to devastating effect if you are an obsessive. One such note played to poignant and hilarious effect is the death of Kurt Cobain in About a Boy.

In addition to the references to music and the warmth he displays towards his characters, what is likeable about his books is that all of them have satisfying endings. All his books have fairly dramatic arcs( attempted suicide, break-up, a husband finding religion), but the denouement tends to be not so. The story starts with a bang. Then the protagonists generally go through a lot of soul-searching with lonely drinking sessions and pizza dinners aplenty. It however ends quietly with everyone picking up the pieces and moving forward with cautious hope. Kind of life itself.