Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hola Todos

What a full few weeks this has been... I have ended my employment, boxed up most of my flat in Amsterdam and I assume all is now in storage, waiting for me to give direction as to where things are to be shipped and now I am in Spain, where Manuel´s mom is on a mission to plump me up. In fact, just this morning she was complaining about how thin I am and about how little I eat. And the fact is, I eat a lot. From the moment she wakes up until she finally goes to sleep, she has just one thing on her mind - FOOD. If we are not stuffing ourselves with donuts, tortilla, olives, jam, pork, eggs, bread or other assorted edibles, she is on the phone dialing emergency services. She is a fabulous cook, and like Bubba in "Forest Gump", she knows just about everything there is to know about shrimps. I have eaten small ones, large ones, shelled ones, shrimps in garlic, shrimps with rice, shrimps with clams, cold shrimps, hot shrimps, and on and on it goes. The whole house revolves around the table which is in a state of constant change... Olives, shrimps, clams, Spanish ham, fried pork, hamburgers, more shrimps and all of this followed up with dessert and then there is the after dessert dessert.

Being in Spain is amazing. The sun is out and the sky is actually blue. Not grey, beige, foggy or smoggy, but blue, the color of a cool swimming pool. Today there is not a cloud in the sky and I am just in from having a few beers on the terrace in the center of town. Everything is clean, quiet, and so calm and relaxing. Our typical day is as follows... Wake up at 10, have breakfast, shower and then head out to a terrace for beer and tapas, after which we head home for lunch and then a siesta (afternoon nap). we wake up from the siesta, have some tapas at home, then head out for more tapas, then head home for dinner and then out for after dinner tapas and drinks and then home for pre-bed eating. I am not kidding when I say our whole day is about food. I constantly feel like I am going to bust and still I manage to stuff some more in, like a goose destined to be a fabulous foie gras.

Aside from all the food, I have to say that this trip has been quite difficult for me. I speak very little Spainish and can´t communicate with anyone. I have been in places where I was isolated from the language, but during those times, so was the person I was travelling with. I was with Ann and Ulco in China and at least we had our own little island of English, the three of us against the People´s Republic. Here in Almonte, it is just me that does not speak Spanish and it is very hard. I am excluded from every conversation and can´t contribute to anything. I am used to being funny, or intellectual, witty, serious, whatever, and where I am just the silent one, understanding nothing at all. And what makes matters worse is that everyone is so nice and so friendly to me and I want to communicate and just can´t. I am going to look into taking some Spanish classes every morning so at least I can do the basics here. I hate being disconnected and outside of everything...

So anyway, that´s it for now, the postings will be a bit far between at the moment as I do not have a computer and have to do all my typing at internet cafes... But I will be posting more and as Manuel and I are planning a few trips here and there, there will be a lot to write about... Next week we are off to Granada to see the Alhambra and so am very much looking forward to that.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Drinking Diet Pepsi

Christmas is almost here and I completely forgot about it. There are none of the usual signs and trappings around. The Santa's that signal it is time to load up on gifts or the friendly reminders from Hallmark nagging us all to get those Christmas cards written and out the door. Not even attending the German Christmas Market here in Delhi last weekend seemed to trigger the annual panic. I went there with Chris, Poul and Anjali in the hopes of getting all sorts of little bits and bobs to make my last week here in Delhi a bit more festive and Santa-like. Asside from the two or three booths with ornaments (and I did have my eye on the Santa with his elephants ornament) there were the usual trapping one finds all over Delhi, or India, for that matter. Pashminas, pillow covers, wall hangings, jewelry and the like. This market, like any good German event did manage to have a beer garden and that is where we spent the bulk of out time, with Chris and Poul smiling and greeting everyone who walked by. I doubt there is anyone they don't know. So there we spent the evening, drinking beer and eating German bread with all sorts of great cheeses.

It wasn't until I was at Danielle's yesterday that I realized Christmas is just around the corner. She was all worked up over the cards she needed to write and I realized I hadn't even thought about them. So, you heard it here first, no cards from me this year. There, that little crisis is now dealt with.

This Friday is my last day in Delhi this year and my last day in my current job. Yep, I am off to Europe for 5 weeks of holiday and then it is back to India where, on the 1st of February, I start my new job at a new company. But first things first. Friday I am off to Paris and then taking a train to Brussels where I am going to see Joe and go through a real Christmas Market. I love the Christmas Market in Brussels. The cold weather, the music, the glühwein, the German sausages with sauerkraut and musterd, all topped off with cocktails at Fonatines. Some habits die hard, but some habit should just never end. It will be great to be back in Brussels. It was amost a year ago when I was there, staying at Nik's while he was sunning it up in Hawaii (yes, I am still bitter about that) when I got the call to come to India. So much in my life changed in that one short week. I got a job in Paris, turned it down to come to India and met Manuel. In fact, that all happened on the same day! So here I am, almost 11 months to the day from my arrival in India about to end this chapter and start a new one and what better place to kick it all off than Brussels, where it all began.

From there, it is off to Amsterdam for a few days of intense organisation and no play at all for me before I head off to Spain for a few weeks of just getting away from everything. I have loved my time in India so far, but I am in need of a break. I love being back in a place where I am anonymous, just one of many, nothing special if not a bit of a bore. To walk the streets and not be shown the way to the emporium, the tourist office or the ever increasing offers from the ear cleaners. Huh? What? Perhaps I should take them up on their offer. I almost did once, just so I could have the experience and write about it, but then I was told that a lot of people get ear infections after having it done, and so decided that was one experience I was probably better left not doing. That said, I do still want to go for a haircut at one of the sidewalk places. In India, all one needs is a pair of scissors, a chair and a wall to hang a mirror on and you have yourself a beauty salon. I have also seen them with just a blanket on the ground and a hand mirror, but I prefer to lay back and relax and inspect the damage being done to my once flaxen locks. I told Stephen and Pierre of my plans for my basic beauty treatment and the look of shock and awe on their faces gave me pause and I thought again about it. I figure if it all goes wrong, I will just shave my hair off and start the garden from scratch. Stephen and Pierre weren't buying that logic and so for now I will stay with my L'oreal endorsed salon in Basant Lok.

Speaking of Basant Lok, it was just over a week ago that I had a breakthrough in that very market. Normaly I am an easygoing guy, not one to ruffle anyones feathers or really make much ado about nothing, but a few days back, I was pushed beyond the breaking point, thanks to Manuel and a Diet Pepsi. Perhaps drinking Diet Pepsi really does bring out the best in me. Anyway, the story goes something like this... Manuel and I were out shopping and he went to a little kiok to buy a couple of Diet Pepsis. He came back, we opened them and his turned out to be flat. Not a bubble of carbonation to be found. I told him to take it back and get a new one, and he returned without any drink in his hand. It turns out that the guy who runs the store refused to exchange or give the money back because it was opened. And we are talking a whole twenty rupees here. I marched myself over the the stall and tried reasoning with the owner who was just not budging. So I gave him a choice. He gives us a new Diet Pepsi, refunds our money or Manuel goes and gets the police. In his silence and non action, I assumed he chose the police and so off Manuel went. I kept trying to reason with the guy until I realized I may as well have been talking to the cow that was lurking nearby and watching the scene with a great deal of interest while at the same time trying to look very discreet. I waited as Manuel went in search of a police officer. The I had a brainstorm idea. As people came up to the kiosk to buy things, I told them not to buy anything there and made a big deal about the lack of quality in all of the products and pointed them to another kiosk where the quality was surely higher. I did this a few times and the owner gave me looks of daggers. I informed him that I had absolutely no plans at all that day and was perfectly happy to make sure that he didn't sell another thing the rest of the day. I don't think he beleived me until I kept doing it. It took about ten minutes and several lost sales when he handed me a can of Diet Coke and informed me it would cost me five rupees. I refused and continued my anti-sales campaign until he threw the twenty rupees at me and snarled at me to go away. I wished him a very nice day and lots of success for the future. It was a scene that wuld have made Bunifa Latifa Halifa Sharifa Jackson herself smile.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Little of This and That...

When it comes to meals, Manuel and I split the responsibility... He handles it 80% of the time and I take care of the rest. Manuel is always whipping up something tasty like pollo al ajillo, Spanish tapas, home made fries and crisps and all sorts of yummy things. I tend to stick with the easier things, like reservations at Smokehouse Grill, Ivy or Sevilla and sometimes mix it all up with a champagne brunch. I may be a simple boy with simple taste, but that doesn't mean I don't like my bubbles every now and again. Manuel has been trying to get me to cook for some time, but usually I am just so tired from work that I really can't be bothered. I like to cook and, if I may say so myself, can easily channel the spirit of Julia Child and create some pretty mouth-watering concoctions that will have the tastebuds tingling. Thursday I decided to make lunch and for that I dug deep into my past and pulled out one of my mom's favorite recipes. It is not something I would normally cook, and prefer to save it for really special occasions like weddings and anniversaries, but decided to live on the wild side and show off my cooking skills. After all, we are still in the Diwali afterglow. And boy, did I do my mother's dish justice. It may look easy, but looks can be deceiving. I can hear you scratching your little heads and pondering what this miracle dish of mine could be, this culinary masterpiece handed down through the ages. Well, I'll tell you, but you have to keep it to yourself. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Yes, there I was at Defence Colony Market loading up on nuts and fruits for Diwali and suddenly I was confronted with my past. There they were, boxes and boxes of the stuff. I don't know if you have ever had a craving for unnaturally colored powdered cheese, but if you have, then you know it is almost impossible to avoid the gravitational pull. It really is the "cheesiest" - I swear! I carefully boiled and drained the delicate macaronis, added some butter and just a shot or so of milk, poured in the glowing orange cheese powder and stirred and stirred and stirred some more until I thought my arm would fall off. It was creamy, rich and just the right shade of orange. I dished up the plates and Manuel looked at me with a strange curiosity in his eyes. He asked me if in fact the food was supposed to be glowing that color and I assured him it was. He reluctantly ate it and while looking at his fork, complemented me on my gourmet skills. I have since been banned from the kitchen except to fetch a bottle of water.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind to Tuesday. My friend Mark, a trolly dolly for KLM flew into town on a 747-400, complete with wing tips. He was only here for 24 hours and so we picked him up at his hotel, tossed him in our car and drove through the night to Agra for a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. I had not been to the Taj Mahal for 11 years and Manuel and Mark had never been there. We arrived in Agra about an hour before the Taj (as we locals and wannabe locals call it) about an hour early and decided to take a stroll. We were about 100 meters from the western gate when somebody screamed "monkey fight!" Suddenly there they were screeching at each other, jumping, scratching, screeching some more and then the power went out. We could hear the monkeys, angry and aggressive, but could not see them, save the black blobs and shadows as they jumped from wall to wall against a backdrop of pre-dawn darkness. Mark was shaken like a good cocktail and he turned the conversation to the topic of rabies.

First time visitors to India are all the same, paranoid about anything they eat or drink, constantly using hand sanitizer, drowning themselves in Deet and throwing around words like "rabies" and "malaria" as if the bacteria are all armed and taking aim specifically at them. Mark fell into that category. On the way down, he reapplied his Deet about every 3 1/2 minutes. The fumes alone were strong enough to kill any mosquito in our path about half an hour ahead of us and so we drove in our own little mosquito-free zone, my eyes watering from the bug toxins.

Finally the Taj opened and we had to go through the usual Indian screening, which involves being frisked and bags checked. Normally I don't don't mind, but more often than not, those friskings seem to turn into a cheap thrill for the security person. More than once I have been grabbed inappropriately and had hands lingering in my naughty zone and I want to tell the security guys that I have no WMD stuffed down my underwear or up my bum. I don't like the process at all, but you can't really say anything for fear of being kicked out of the place. Then comes the bag search. We had out brand new iPod Touch's in the bag which the guard pulled out and then told us we could not bring them in because "music no play, music no allow" and it was every hand gesture and monosyllabic word we could use to convince him that we were not planning a sunrise rave and that he did not need to confiscate them. Later, I was tempted to launch into an 80's style breakdance routine and then moonwalk across the white marble, but thought better of it.

Everyone keeps going on and on about the Oberoi in Agra. One of the best hotels in the world, the best service, even Heidi Klum and Seal stay there, blah, blah, blah. So I decided that we would all go there for breakfast before heading back to Delhi. We pulled up to the oasis of luxury, sent our driver to get some sleep and walked into the hotel with all the confidence of Pam Ann. No luggage, just people. The door was held open and the second we were inside we were told that they would not be able to seat us for breakfast as the hotel was full and they were giving their guests first preference. I begged, I pleaded, I offered to let him frisk the three of us but to no avail. He obviously didn't know who I was, but was about to find out. One well placed call to Ankit and we were soon being escorted to the "guests only" terrace with a view over the Taj ordering our matching lattes and assorted biscuits while they arranged a table for us. A few minutes later we were escorted into the almost empty dining area, which only got more empty in the 30 minutes or so we stayed there having our mediocre eggs benedict and cold toast. The staff glared at us with almost suppressed attitude. I don't know what all the fuss is about, frankly and not sure I am in a huge hurry to stay there. Although I have heard that you get a view of the Taj even from the loo, so perhaps that counts for something.

We grabbed a quick pre-flight dinner at the Ivy and then left Mark at his hotel to wait for his crew bus to the airport and before long he was welcoming people aboard and pointing out the emergency exits. Here is a little known fact told to me by a few flight crew friends of mine. Do you know how they pass the time when everyone is sleeping? Well, they walk through the cabin seeing who can spot the most erections. Something to do with the oxygen levels, cabin pressure and the fact that men have a sexual thought every few seconds. So think about that the next time you nod off on a flight.

Fast forward to last night. I got news of a new club in Delhi. An up and coming place known as "sixmonthstory" or just plain "6". Ankit assured us the place would be hopping and I had thoughts of regaining my page 3 status. It has been awhile since I was anywhere near page 3 and so Manuel and I decided we would go. We started with dinner at Smokehouse Grill and in honor of Pierre, I took a wet ginger martini. SMSes were flying around as I tried to get an entourage together. Of course everyone was too busy or out of town - some people claimed they could not get a driver and so even Ankit bailed on us. We drove to the middle of nowhere, took a left and then continued on to the hotel Daffodils. I know, that should have been the first clue that we were heading into a disaster, but I like to live in denial.

We paid the entrance fee which was 1000 rupees per person and were given a little booklet of 8 coupons each which we would redeem for drinks. There was a DJ visiting from Amsterdam who was playing some great music. Manuel didn't care for it so much as he prefers music he can sing to. We looked around the empty space and knew we had made a bad call. We had received booklets 19 and 20, which tells you how many people were in the place. It was deserted and it stayed that way. The staff outnumbered the patrons by a good 3 to 1, which is great on a yacht, not good at a nightclub. But just looking at them was traumatic. They were wearing headache inducing shirts that can only be described as WHAM! meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a dash of New Jersey thrown in for extra flavor, all aglow from the black-light that ran along the bar. I thought black-lights went out of style when Farah left Charlie's Angels. We cashed in our coupons for drinks and decided to leave, but then stayed for one more, just in case things should liven up.

They didn't. And so I don't see myself going there again any time soon. What the place needs to do is throw a big party and pay a few celebs and page 3 people to attend to get the place hopping and on the party map. By the time we left, it was too late to go anywhere else but home. Ankit is dropping by later today for some lunch and shopping at Apartment 9. He has a lot of repenting to do before he is back in my good graces... But no worries, I can be bought and I am sure there will be a little something at Apartment 9 that will cause just the right amount of amnesia.

Monday, November 05, 2007


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in India. Diwali is Friday and the whole country is whipping itself into a frenzy of festivals, pujas and gifting. Lights are stung across anything that is not moving and also a lot of things that are. I have to say, when it comes to holiday lights, nobody does it quite like the Indians. What I do find extremely odd, is this whole Christmas half-look. The colored and blinking lights are all ever the place, garlands of gold, red, orange and green stretching out for as far as the eye can see and billboards in the festive look of gift wrap. Very Christmas-like, indeed except there are no Santas standing on street corners with their alcohol tinted breath, ringing their bells in drunken like stupor, no reindeer wired into some sort of pseudo-flight pattern, no manger scenes made entirely of sparklers or any other materials for that matter and worst of all, no tackily decorated Christmas trees with an overdose of tinsel. For a Westerner it all seems a bit confusing, a bit half-baked. I know it is a holiday to celebrate the victory of good over evil and has nothing to do with Christmas at all, it is just the fact that it is so similar and yet so different.

But you know me, I am all about the holidays. Any holiday for that matter as long as the food is scrumptious and the cocktails well shaken. This Diwali at least I will have to forego the shaken concoctions I so adore. I am having a bit of a stomach issue which has so far ended up with me having a tube down my throat so the doctor could take a look at my insides. I do have some nice pics now of my stomach, throat and duodenum. How many of you can make that claim? I know I am a trend setter, but just take my advice when I say that is one experience better left to other people. Sometimes it's nice to be excluded from all the fun. I sure wish I had been. I spent an entire day without a voice. Me, the master talker, pontificator and gossip whore was without a voice. I spent Saturday pointing and grunting. It was all very "Clan of the Cave Bears" in a subcontinental setting.

But back to Diwali. Even though it is not Christmas as I know it, and I will be celebrating Christmas in Spain, I have decided to throw myself into this whole Diwali thing. I'm practically Indian anyway, might as well get some of the advantages of being pan-cultural. I have decided to gift myself a little something. And while I am at it, I will gift one to Manuel as well. After all, I can't have him drooling all over my iPod Touch and getting it all slobbery and wet. I don't think Madonna would be amused with a glob of drool getting on her disco ensemble.

I also truly believe that Diwali and Christmas should be merged. In fact, I have taken the liberty to rework a little song that was a favorite of mine when I was a wee lad.

Rudolph the red nosed camel,
Had a very dusty nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You might think that once it glowed, (like a flashlight)
All of the other camels,
Used to laugh and call him names, (like humpback)
They never let poor Rudolph,
Play in any camel games. (like pull the cart)
Then one dusty Diwali eve,
Laxmi came to say,
"Rudolph dust off your nose this very minute,
I need someone to light my way and cart me around the country,"
Then how the camels loved him,
And they shouted out in Hindi,
"Rudolph the red nosed camel,
You are quite a righteous dude!"

Monday, September 24, 2007


Manuel has been cured of his little monkey obsession and I have none other than the monkeys themselves to thank for this. Manuel had been wanting a monkey since he arrived in India, seeing them as cute, cuddly little things that swing from the branches and steal the occasional piece of food from someone. Not too long ago, he stopped by my office where everyday around 4, the monkeys parade in from across the street and play for a bit in the tree outside my office before sunning themselves on the rooftop across the parking area. So there we were, Manuel, Ankit and I, sitting outside minding our own business, most likely engaging in some sort of sordid yet highly juicy gossip when the show started, the parade taking place just a few meters away. Manuel wanted to get closer and we kept him back, telling him how unpredictable the little darlings can be. He didn't believe us and thought we were just being a bit overprotective and overly cautious.

That is, until one of the monkeys thought we were all just a little too close. Manuel turned around and standing on the hood of the car about 2 meters away was a monkey sporting a rather scary look that basically told us to get the fuck out of there. Another monkey had chased away three other men who were holding it at bay with a plastic chair. Monkeys are not only mean little critters, but they carry lots of diseases with them and even a scratch can send a person to the hospital. Manuel was suddenly not so keen on having one.

We are both still missing Penelope, who we should have brought back with us from Bombay. We started our second day at Crawford market and after passing through the fruits where we kept ourselves entertained by watching the guys hauling in the big stalks of bananas and afterwards the spices where we were forced to smell every spice as though we were in a culinary Sephora, we circles past the pyramids of pineapples and watermelons to the animals. Some, like the chickens were there waiting to be killed and plucked, a scene we managed to witness which actually I could have done without, others were waiting to be taken home and given loving homes. And this is where we met Penelope. She was in a cage with the rest of the litter, and she was so small and cute and as soft and beige as cashmere and the other puppies were tormenting her, biting her and just making her life miserable. I assume they were jealous of her obvious glamour. I mentally adopted her, named her Penelope and off we went on the rest of our self guided walking tour.

It was not until later that evening, as we stood on the terrace of the hotel 30 floors above Bombay with cocktails in hand that we both said at almost the same time that we wanted that puppy. We had not once discussed her during the entire day. I asked Manuel what he would name her and without hesitation, he said "Penelope" - I knew it was a sign. We planned to pick up Penelope first thing the next morning and bring her home to Delhi. I spent the rest of the evening trying to arrange a seat of Penelope on the plane, but it was against the policy of the company we flew. I phoned another and got the same response. The only option was for us to come back by train, approximately a 15 hour journey from Bombay. I thought it would be great and Penelope could play with all the other animals on board. I imaged her running around saying "bark" to all the goats and chickens that would be traveling with them, but Manuel was not so keen on the idea of such a long train journey.

Her name has come up a few times since then and I think we both wish we would have taken the train. She was so picked on by the rest of the litter, I doubt she survived unless someone else adopted her and I feel sad when I think about her.

Malls, Malls, Malls

Here I am in the car, with a driver that doesn't really know where he is going. I am just trying to get to the office, but he missed the turn and now I am getting a mall tour of Gurgaon. As we drive down the street, he points to a structure that says "Metropolitan Mall" across the top and points and says "Metropolitan Mall". The road is littered with malls and so this gives him something to do as if merely driving was not challenging enough.

"Sahara Mall"
"Grand Mall"
"Mall construct. Be open 2 month sir. Very big mall. Many shop"

I just want to get out of the car and have a cup of coffee. I may sound a bit annoyed and you would be right. I have gone from having drivers who are musical to merely having musical drivers. My phone contact list looks like this:

Driver August 2
Driver Babulal
Driver Badia
Driver Cas
Driver Picas
Driver Pradeep
Driver Rahul Gupta
Driver Santosh
Mr. Singh (He is the driver coordinator and sometimes driver himself)

So every morning, it is always a surprise who will be waiting outside my door. Not only that, but I don't even keep a driver for more than one journey. A trip from the house to the office, to lunch, home and then dinner could have 4 different drivers. They are swapped while I work or eat and I have no idea who to call. To make things a little more fun, they don't speak English and when I phone, they don't ever pick up, they come running up to me, waving frantically like they are trying to flag down a ship at sea.

I like to be a bit friendly with the drivers, I do spent hours a day with them, but when I ask a question like "Where do you live in Delhi?" or "Where in India are you from?", I get the following response, almost without fail: "Ok, sir." I basically stop trying. This is really fun when I get dropped off at a restaurant by a driver that has no mobile and I ask him where he will meet us and again I get "OK, sir." So now I have to flag down a local walking down the street to give the driver instructions.

I miss Guddu. He is great driver, great attitude and personality. He was my first driver when I arrived, before I got his brother-in-law/stalker driver who started buying me gifts which included clothes and would just walk into the house completely uninvited. When Anjali heard the story, she told me he was making a move on me. I was not happy. This al escalated the one morning when he showed me the article about the married man with 2 kids who was having sex with guys and then killing them. I wasn't sure if he was sending me a message, but it freaked me out. I went to Holland shortly after that and when I returned, he had moved with his wife and 2 kids to Punjab.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Nik is on my list. My Facebook friends list, that is.

Here I was in Delhi, trying to lead a simple, ordinary life with a few bubbles here and there and suddenly I find myself hooked on Facebook. I have been neglecting my Wii, turned my back on the Twilight Princess and instead have been adding applications, sending hot potatoes, virtual booze and poking people. And it is all Nik's fault. I never would have signed up had it not been for his request. Nik is my style guru, my connection to all things hip, happening and fabulous. But now here I am, a complete and total junkie. I can't get enough. I want more and more and more. It's like cyber crack and I am in danger of overdosing...

And it appears I joined in just the nick (no pun intended) of time. Scanning through pics from friends of mine, I find that they have posted the most unflattering image of me they could possibly find. It's not like Stephen and Pierre don't have other pics of me. We see each other pretty much every weekend when they are in town and there is almost always a camera around. But which pictures do they post? The ones taken when I was in hiding from the bad hair police for fear of being thrown into some jail with the latest Bollywood criminal. Its an outrage. Even as I type I am plotting and planning my revenge.

All joking aside - and I am not joking about the Aqua pics, Pierre - I am really feelin' Facebook. It's great to sort of hang out with the friends I would be really hanging out with if they lived closer. Last night it escalated when I discovered over blueberry mojitos at Sevilla that Stephen and Pierre have Facebook profiles. I wasn't surprised Stephen had one, but Pierre never really struck me as being so hip and happening, and he has had one for awhile. What planet have I been serving donuts on that this has completely escaped me? I have only had one for a couple of days. Not only does Pierre have a profile (where one can find the before mentioned bad image of me), he stays online via his mobile and added me while we were standing at the bar. I was immediately jealous and ordered another drink. I tried to access mine via my mobile, but the darned thing doesn't let me online. Maybe just as well. If I am going to be smoking virtual crack, then perhaps it is best done in the comfort of my own living room.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Multiple Personalities

I feel like I am going through a bit of a personality crisis. On almost a daily basis I get invitations to join one online community or another. Orkut, Classmates, Facebook, LinkedIn, Multiply, Friendster, MySpace and on and on. And as if those communities were not enough, there are communities within communities. Each of those communities gives me the chance to reinvent myself, to be funny, intelligent, artistic, business-like or whatever. It is like a virtual DNA pool that can be reconstructed on a whim. I feel like a Cyber Sybil. I have so many personalities out there I can't keep track of them, much less the friends or enemies that those personalities have made. It boggles the mind... But that does not stop me from continuing. It's like a drug. How many friends can I collect? How many people will mark me as a hottie? Write on my wall? Leave me a scrap? Propose marriage?

In fact, in India I saw lots of ads for sites that specialize in getting people married and so I decided to register myself at just to see what would happen. I was curious what my market desirability would be and who would contact me. I know I should not contaminate the database, but looking at some of the pictures and profiles there, I would say that had been done long ago... So I created a profile but did not include any picture and over the span of the last 2 months, I have received exactly 1 response from a woman in the UK. She's 39, wheatish and moving to India soon. Today, I decided to post a picture... And not just any picture, but one of me on the beach in Lakshadweep with my hair spiky and tattoo on display to see how my rough and sexy surfer/beach bum look goes over.

I have had profiles on other Indian sites and the response was overwhelming. If I was online I would have over 100 messages within an hour, my mailbox filling up faster than I could read them and empty it out. Most of them were pledging eternal devotion, claiming true love and inviting me to move to some place I had never heard of before. I would get some real doozies like this one:

i love u....
donno y,but i seriously do...
u luk like a real trust worthy guy,n a guy i was alwaz lukin 4...
y don u meet me atleast 4 once....m sure ul nvr b disappointed...
reply anything,but plz atleast say sumthing...

Or even this one:

hye my sweetdream really i like u very i do propose u..i know i am to far to u & i can sent ony 2 messege in a day so why i do my one messaege west to sent u..but actualy in different because its doesn`t metter that everyone can get like self...but metter is that who is can impress u & whom u my beloved i do just sare my feeling with u that i like u very very much & i would like to met u one day in delhi if u do travel for india...i don`t know u will like me or not but i like u its true...maybe lot of guys like me but i don`t like them but u r my real if u here i can be very close to u...yaap i need some close to me because i am alone in my i looking who can understand my feeling

They all gave me a warm and squishy feeling inside and I just felt they were all too good to keep them to myself and so I started sending them to friends of mine in a "Message of the Week" email. But when I could not respond, that Indian hospitality turned ugly. I would get messages only a couple minutes apart from someone and then get told to fuck off after they had sent me the fifth message in 10 minutes that I was unable to respond to. Of course, a little while later they were giving me another chance at love.

Near Death Experience...

This morning I woke up as I do on most mornings, hit the snooze on my phone which doubles as my alarm clock a couple of times and rolled over for an extra ten minutes of power sleep before hopping into a nice a cool shower to start my day. It was when I opened the door from the bedroom that panic struck. The rest of the house was filled with the unmistakable smell of gas. I immediately shut down all the electricity and switched off the gas. No need for a coffee, I was wide awake. That is actually the second time in 3 months that I have had an issue with gas and it is not at all a fun experience. As it happened, one of the burners had been left on after cooking dinner. The only thing that probably saved us was the fact that some of the windows were open and so it didn't get too backed up. It is only now, when writing this that the potential disaster that could have happened is actually sinking in... But here I am, all in one complete piece.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome to Bombay

After almost 8 months in Delhi, I finally managed to break free of the spell of the Djinns long enough to enjoy an extended weekend in Bombay. I know that the official name has been changed to Mumbai, but for me, Bombay just sounds so much more exotic, glamorous and full of adventure. And the adventure started at the airport. After circling our airport for what seemed like an eternity, we finally landed, crammed into the little bus and sped toward the terminal almost colliding with the bus from Kingfisher airways. Neither bus wanted to let the other one get in the lead. I do like the fact that if nothing else, Indian driving is consistent no matter the location. After swerves and honks and a few shouts from our bus driver we arrived at the terminal where we hung out while waiting for our bags to appear. I am still convinced they took a later flight than we did.

We left the terminal building and plopped ourselves into the first of four taxis we would require to get us to our hotel. Taxi number one: We were approached by a guy who promised a pre-paid taxi, which is always a good way to go when in India and you have no idea how far the actual destination is. He walked us to the taxi and after a bit of protesting that we wanted to pay at the booth first, he told us they would drive us to the booth. Alarm bells went off, but I ignored them for the time being. A few minutes later we stopped and indeed it was a prepaid taxi, but not of the normal type where you go to the prepaid booth and tell your destination, are shown documentation of how much the cost will be, pay it, get a receipt and then go to the taxi and turn the receipt over to the driver. This was one where we were asked to prepay in the taxi, no receipt. When I asked how much it was, I was told 1200 rupees, which was more than the flight cost. We cleared out of that taxi in less than 10 seconds, baggage and all.

Next up was the driver of taxi number 2, who offered to drive us for 350. Fair enough. We got into the taxi and we were on our way... Or so we thought. 150 meters from our starting point, the taxi slows to a stop and we are told to get out and into taxi number 3, that would take us to our destination. We had already paid the guy and he confirmed no monies would change hand later... We were uncertain but decided we had no other option than to trust the guy. Off we were again, this time speeding toward Bombay and our luxury accommodations just around 1:30 in the night. It was great. That is until the engine cut out and we slowed to a stop in about as close to the middle of nowhere as one can get in Bombay. Manuel and I looked at each other and thought exactly the same thing. We were going to be robbed, stripped of our clothes and cash, left on the side of the road to be yet another statistic involving gullible goras. After trying and trying to get the car started (it sounded like it was out of petrol) taxi number 4 pulled up along side and we shifted one last time and before long we were once again on our way to the Grand Hotel.

One piece of semi-critical data we did not know, was that there are actually two hotels that go by the name of Grand. One is indeed grand and the other is grandly scary. We pulled up to a run down gray concrete soviet looking construction and was told by the happy taxi driver that we had arrived. Manuel and I took one look and knew something was wrong. This was not the red brick tower we had ordered and one of our previous taxi drivers had conveniently forgotten to give us the slip of paper with the actual address of our hotel and so there we were, outside the grandless Grand, tired, in need of a cocktail and no idea where we need to go. Fortunately, when it comes to emails I am a bit of a pack-rat and within a few minutes I had dug up the email and showed it to the driver who then exclaimed "Oh, the Grand!" and 250 more rupees later, we were standing in the lobby of our hotel checking in as fast as we could so we could pop open the mini bar, medicate our frayed nerves and get a good rest for the full day of sight seeing that would begin first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


It has been brewing and stewing for a long time, and maybe due to the fact that I just turned 40, I find myself more and more unable or perhaps unwilling even, to ignore that voice inside. I want more than anything else to be a writer. It's all I can think about. I only feel like myself when sitting down and letting the words flow. It is during those moments when I rediscover someone I feel I know very well yet who at the same time feels like a stranger. Sometimes I am aware of what is happening and I write a planned out story and sometimes I go into a bit of a trance and am surprised at what has appeared on the screen. Either way, it is in those moments that I am truly happy, when I feel aligned with my spirit and that I am doing what I should be doing.

On the other hand, there is the fear. The insecurity. The little voices of doubt and they keep me from jumping into the pool of that dream and swimming around for a bit. That is the war that has raging inside me for some time, pulling me in different directions. It's one thing to write out bits and blurbs for my blog and another thing entirely to throw myself into my hobby, my passion and let fate unfold. I am miserable when I can't focus on my writing. I am at my most miserable when I have the time to write and there seems to be nothing there. The times when I actively look for any piece of inspiration however serious or stupid, hence the appearance of Paris Hilton and Britney on a number of occasions. I try to follow the advice of Paul Smith who has a book titled Find Inspiration in Everything*: (*and if you can't, look again!). It is that point of view that has let me hold onto my sanity at times. It has certainly helped me in India.

When I see things, I think about how I will describe them. When I experience things, I keep little notes so as not to forget. When I write I feel both exhilarated and intimidated, free and imprisoned and the feeling is delicious. An epicurean feast that I enjoy with complete abandon. I started this blog at the suggestion of a friend and spent almost a year intimidated by it. Putting one's thoughts and feelings out there for public consumption is scary. Terrifying, in fact, and yet the more I do it, the more I need to do it. It's like a drug that keeps me going. When I am not writing at the keyboard, I am writing in my mind. I started my blog to try out different styles, different ways of writing and found that I prefer making people laugh, or at least smile. My friends and family have been great sports by allowing me to write about them, even if it is not entirely flattering.

Where is this all leading up to? Well, I feel a bit like Alice at the looking glass. I know there is an adventure if I just go through it. I know in a way I can't really describe that it will be amazing and difficult and frustrating and fascinating and tiring and completely fabulous and so I have decided to step through and see where the journey will take me.

I am not sure exactly how that will happen, but I know I can't live someone else's life anymore. I can't do what everyone thinks I should do, I need to follow that dream. I can't wake up one day and wonder what would have happened if I had only taken a chance. I would rather crash and burn and fail miserably in this than to not have the courage to do it. I am ready to leave my job, leave my salary and all that is comfortable to me in order to pursue this dream. Something I didn't really realize until very recently.

So if anyone has any ideas for me on how I can do this, please let me know. I don't care how it happens, I just care that it happens. In the meantime, if I write something you like, let me know. If I write something you hate, let me know that as well... I am not looking for praise or criticism, I am looking for feedback. I love to write. No, I can say I live to write and I want to improve. I want to write and write and write.

Thanks for reading my words. It means more to me than you will ever know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

It has been ages since I last sat down to write, and I do mean ages. I was a mere thirty-something typing out my last blog and before I knew it, I had entered into a new decade. Not that it was by any means a surprise, I mean I have been heading towards forty for at least the last forty years. I guess something inside me was hoping that when I hit that wall I would ricochet back into my mid thirties, complete with that mid thirties elasticity that I seem to have misplaced. Suddenly I find myself in a new decade, a decade in which facial expressions must be kept to a minimum to minimize the ageing process which is already swinging from my cheekbones. To pour salt in the wrinkles, I actually received L'Oreal moisturizer for men as a gift. And not just one version, two. Sent from Holland. Am I that far gone? A shadow of the man I once hoped to be?

As if that wasn't enough, CNN had an article about thirty-nine being middle-aged. Thirty-Nine. I had to pull a Cher Horowitz and scream out "as if!" I spent all last year being middle-aged and didn't even know it. I wasted it. I didn't have so much a a single nervous breakdown or torrid almost love affair with someone half my age, buy a sports car or get hair plugs (not that I need them, I still have all my original strands, thank you very much). Nope, middle-age passed me by while I was looking the other way, perhaps even in the mirror scrutinizing my face for laugh lines and other signs that I have basically turned twenty for the second time. It pains me to say this as it sounds like the cliché-est of clichés, but I still feel, no, envision myself as a twenty something. I don't feel any different. Perhaps the forties are the new twenties. That would actually make sense as the fifties are the new thirties according to Oprah.

I had resigned myself to have a quiet birthday, slipping quietly on the prune into my twilight years, avoiding the fanfare and fuss when I received a message from Danielle asking what I would be doing. When I told her I had absolutely no plans, she took matters into her own expertly manicured hands and before I knew it, we had reservations at Seville and a guest list.

Seville is a most unique restaurant at the Claridges hotel. Walking into Seville is to be transported to another place. The restaurant is basically outdoors and a lighted creek snakes through the grounds, winding its way under small bridges and white-draped, glass bottom bungalows. There is one room upstairs that overlooks the grounds and that was the room Danielle had reserved for the ten or so of us. Normally I would not consider the view of a restaurant note-worthy, but this was amazing. Not like being in a restaurant at all. It is more how I imagine an evening at the end of the five-star safari day or a rigorous day of diving in the Maldives.

Before long everyone had arrived and cocktails were in full swing. I have a new favorite one which is a Karfini (Lemon grass infused vodka, coriander, lime and sugar) and managed to keep a constant flow of them heading my direction. I was almost tempted away by the blackberry Mojitos but stuck to my guns. Sacrifices had to be made and so I decided to save them for another visit.

As the evening got to within a few minutes of midnight and forty started banging on the door, the bubbles and birthday cake arrived. I can't remember the last time I had an actual birthday cake. If my hazy memory serves me correctly, I was a teenager. Young. Innocent. Virginal. But there it was, my very own incredibly moist and decadent chocolate birthday cake with two candles. I love the discretion Anjali and Danielle showed when it came to the candles. And a good thing as well. I had a hard enough time blowing out two candles in one breath, can't imagine what would have happened had there been forty. And the cake wasn't really big enough to support that size population of candles.

It was really an amazing evening and it makes me smile every time I think about it. I have thanked them already, but I would like to thank Danielle and Anjali for such an unforgettable night. It was the best 40th birthday I have ever had.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Living in India sometimes has major advantages to living in the west. For example, season 3 of Desperate Housewives is set to be released on DVD in September and yet I already have it, the whole thing. I don't mean to keep stepping over to the dark side, but Manuel made me go to Palika Bazaar which has become his mother ship and it is only due to my very loud protests that we do not set up house in the underground market... But anyway, there they were, my 5 favorite ladies staring at me, begging me to hold them, to take them home with me and make them my very own. Who am I to say no?

I am in the final stretch, taxiing like a private jet down the runway to 40 and just when I thought it was going to be lots of festivities on Sunday, I realized that almost everyone is deserting me for points beyond. Stephen and Pierre are off to the UK and Suzy is so desperate to avoid my birthday, she is actually flying economy. I'm not sure she realizes it will be a diamond-less, bubble-less flight all the way to Paris and not only will she not have her choice of entree, but she will eat what they have left over by the time they get to her row and it is sure to include some wrinkled peas.

Last night Stephen, Pierre, David, Oliver, Manuel and I were all out to dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant located just on the edge of the Rajhastani desert, hundreds if not thousands of miles from the nearest natural source of water dwellers. Normally that would be cause for alarm, but at Ploof, everything is always fantastic and fresh and it was a great setting for the first dinner of my birthday season. I got a great bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne which is chilling in the fridge at this very moment, waiting for just the right time to pop the cork.

Not sure what I will be doing to celebrate my birthday this year... Agra for a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal? The pink city of Jaipur with their camels and decorated elephants? Or perhaps a train up to the bottom of the Himalayas to cool down and chill out. As long as I am out of Delhi, I don't really care. I need to see something different, something new (or very old) that I don't see on a daily or weekly basis. I guess the big dilemma is what backdrop and lighting I want as I step over to the other side.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Yet Another Saturday in Old Delhi

Yesterday one of life's burning questions got answered. How many goras fit in an auto rickshaw? The answer, it may surprise you to learn, is 3. I know that at least twice that many Indians can squeeze in, but we goras have a limit of 3. And there we were, 3 of us crammed into the rickshaw on our way to India Gate and points beyond.

I have a colleague/friend, Oliver, who has just arrived in India and Manuel and I decided to play tour guides and show him around my city. Yes, I do think of Delhi as my city. I know what you are all thinking. Why would 3 goras pile into the little oven on wheels when I have such an entertaining driver. Well, my Hindi-hop loving driver Ajay, threw in the steering wheel while I was in Amsterdam and moved his whole family back to Punjab. He was a fun guy and I got miles and miles of stories out of him. I can honestly say that driving is just not as fun nor as near death as they were with my original driver. These days his brother-in-law, Goudou is my driver. No Hindi-hop. No Bollywood sing-a-long style show tunes. No impromtu viewings of his modelling pictures. He is a driver that seems content to just drive without all the on-board entertainment I had come to expect on the bumpy roads.

Yesterday found the three of us on the tour from Connaught Place from where we took the metro to Chawri Bazaar, walked to Jama Masjid and then to Chandni Chowk. As soon as we got to Chandi Chowk, Manuel spotted McDonald's and I was scared it was going to be Maharaja Macs for 3, but I instead convinced them to go to Karim's instead, which threw a monkey wrench into my plans as I had Karim's pencilled in for dinner. Oh well, when in Delhi, one must go with the traffic and off we went to Meena Bazaar for one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world. Not only is the food good, but it does seem to attract the cuter tourists. I have always believed that a good view makes for better dining.

From Karim's, it was back to Chandni Chowk where we took Oliver to our favorite temple and it was off to Khari Bawali or as the non Delhi-wallahs call it, the spice market. We followed our noses and before long our senses were bombarded as the smell of all the spices filled the air. Suddely there were monkeys overhead and so I played the tourist and started snapping pictures. A guy in a horse cart told me to get out of the way because I was standing in the middle of the road, but then I pointed out that 10 thousand other people were standing in the same road and told gim to give the gora a break. He smiled, I smiled and all was well in Old Delhi.

After a hot and sweaty time in Old Delhi, there was just one thing to do... Head to Aqua for poolside drinks and some cooling off under the misting fans. One pitcher of Long Island iced teas later and we were feeling well enough to make our way to Q'BA for dinner on the rooftop terrace.

Before long it was time to pile back into the rickshaw and head back to New Friend's Colony where, within 15 minutes of arriving I was fast asleep, to tired to even undress. Today will find me working and then at 16:30, it will be off to Aqua with swim suits in hand for late afternoon cocktails by and in the pool with Stephen, Pierre and David.

Friday, August 03, 2007


At last a break from work an a little bit of time to write about the life I might be having in in fact I were having a life. I have, however had a few breaks here and there. Last Friday night found Manuel and I out to dinner with, surprise, Pierre and Stephen and their friend David at Smokehouse Grill. That spice martini was like coming home and after a stressful day at the office, I found myself melting into the chair and settling in for a nice dinner seasoned with the occasional call from the office. I scoured the menu looking and notice something missing. The smoked ash sole. Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine it was that popular. I love a bit of sole, but ash sole is another thing entirely and in my opinion has no place on the menu in an establishment with a reputable reputation.

After we had wolfed down out filet mignons, espressos and after dinner drinks, we were off to the Ivy for music, martinis and suddenly I felt the smile of Ganesh as I spotted the bottle of Veuve Cliquot and ordered one up for us all.

Sunday Manual and I went to the Delhi Zoo completely unaware that we would be the most popular attraction. We would be looking at the lion or the elephant and the crowds would be looking at us. It was definately a case of "Goras on Parade". I am completely used to it now when out in public, but I was surprised that people paid money to look at the animals and it was all eyes on the foreigners. The Delhi Zoo is the only zoo I have ever visited that does not have the normal monkey cage, but instead signs all over warning people to beware of the stray monkeys. I guess it would be like having a pigeon in a New York zoo... Why bother?

Whenever we are out in public, Manuel and I find ourselves in one of the following conversations:

"Hello, sir, what country you from?
"Holland. Very nice country!"
"Have you been there?"
"No. Very nice country"

Manuel has taken to saying he is from China which seems to confuse people in a rather funny way as they are not sure how to respond.

I have doe a bit of exploring since living here in New Friends Colony and have discovered that I live around the corner from the Apollo Chest Pain Center where one can not only go for the treatment of chest pain, but can also get one's teeth whitened. At first I thought it silly but then I realized that if the big one is coming, it would be nice to be confident in one's dental brilliance.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Stalker

Last night at the beginning of dinner I received a call and the caller ID showed a name of a person I thought I would never hear from again. Several months back, I had a few drinks and dinner in the course of one evening with someone I met online who from that moment on basically stalked me. Not that I blame him as I am quite fantastic. The calls would literally arrive seconds apart from each other, I would ignore them and then the text messages would come followed by more calls until I would have no choice but to switch off my phone. Finally, after a month or so of this, he finally sent me a message saying what a cold and heartless person I was and that I have ruined everything there was between us. He said I would never hear from him again, that he was through. A few minutes later I got another text saying he was really and truly through and that I would never get another message from him. 10 minutes later he would call, I would ignore the call and another text would arrive saying he was absolutely finished with me.

Then the messages would stop. Sometimes for 24 hours, sometimes for 72, but then they would start again. The poetry, the requests for another chance at our relationship. Shortly before I went back to Europe, I was at Aqua with Stephen and Pierre and he kept texting and calling and finally I took the call to basically tell him I wanted the calls to stop, that I was involved with someone and he had no chance. He then asked that in lieu of having a relationship if we could just have sex. I said no. I then got the following text message:

 "Hey I thought about something, it's been a month of chasing you and I'm tired, I have never been so desperate that I had to call someone and request him for sex. Perhaps that was the only thing we could spend time together, I do not have any patience, Rob I think there is nothing we could give each other, I hate to say this but I am never going to call you again"

10 minutes later my phone rang.

Since coming back from Europe, I have a completely new number that very few people have, and yet somehow he managed to get hold of it and phone yesterday. So the saga continues. My phone rang and I ignored it as I usually do when it comes to him and then he called a few seconds later from another number. I took the call so as not to have to put up with calls all through dinner and I pretended not to know who it was.

He told me he would call me today. Yippee.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

New Friends

What a weekend, and it is only half over. And not at all like I had anticipated or expected. Instead of being locked in a room reading Harry Potter, Manuel and I packed up our belongings and moved to a new flat in New Friends Colony that is located right near the Ivy and is above all things, Q-U-I-E-T! I have spent the last 6 months living with my boss, with whom I get along great. But suddenly it was me, Manuel, my boss, his wife, two children and a cat named Michael. I know, and agree that Michael is no name for a cat, but it wasn't my doing, so fling your arrows of disapproval elsewhere. Yes, I moved into a new place with air-conditioning that works. The house in Defence Colony had only decorative air-conditioning. Almost as though they couldn't find the right sized windows and so as an acceptable alternative, stuffed one of those puppies in there to close off the opening. So here I sit, all cool and cozy listening to the sound of silence. No screams, no cries, nothing. I am just hoping it lasts. I don't normally believe in signs, but I am taking yesterday's monsoon rains very personal.

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood which I spent inside stuffing every bag and suitcase I had with stuff. It's amazing how much I have already managed to accumulate, and that's just the books and magazines. So just as my driver pulled up, down came the rain, and when it rains, it pours. And pours. And pours.

It wasn't until my last belonging was moved into the new place that the rain suddenly stopped, the clouds parted and I was once again walking on sunshine. I wasn't sure if that was the universe's way of telling me not to move, or if it was nature's way of washing away the debris of weeks past, cleansing the world for a better tomorrow for yours truly. I guess time will tell.

But who has time to think about stuff like that when confronted with 2, not 1, but 2 televisions that work. Like the air-conditioner, the television in Defence Colony was there only to collect the dust that would be forever ignored by the maid. I have no idea what she did with that broom and rag, but I don't think she ever put any of her cleaning supplies to actual work. I think she just carried them around for conversation's sake. Sure, she would sweep and wipe, but when she left there was still a centimeter of grime on everything. But enough about the maid, let's get back to my favorite subject... Me. Not only do I have 2 televisions, but they are both fully equipped with Tata Sky. I had forgotten the joys of channel surfing. MTV, BBC, VH1, CNN. All my favorite three letter acronyms just begging for my attention. There I was at 2:30 this morning, wide awake from the after dinner espresso I drank, which I really didn't want, but the peer pressure was just too great and so I caved I as I usually do, and I click the channel changer, and there they were. Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles, AKA the Powerpuff Girls. They were having a dilemma of their very own... There was a burglar in the house they needed to deal with, but the Professor needed his sleep. What were they to do? I was on the edge of my seat for the entire duration. Suddenly it was "Posh, who?"

But between moving all my belongings and settling in for the latest adventures in the city of Townsville, Manuel and I went out to dinner with Chris, Poul and the always blindingly gorgeous Anjali at Torino. We settled in for a great dinner and then Chris had to go and order a bottle of white wine. Bottle after bottle was sent back for being bad and everytime Anjali would tell her to order the Gavi. Chris would smile, ignore the suggestion and out would come another bottle which would meet the fate of previous ones until at long last there was nothing left to order but the Gavi. And it was great. I will never doubt Anjali again. This was my first dinner out after that infamous cucaracha incident at the Hyatt and I kept my eyes peeled for the little guys. Fortunately there were none to be found (or else they hid them better than the Hyatt). I always love being out with Anjali and Chris has a highly infectious laugh that comes easily and often.

After post dinner drinks at Poul and Chris', we were making plans for out next weekend brunches and by 1:30 we were on our way home.

Today will be spent exploring my new area, going to the markets, meeting my new neighbors and perhaps stopping off at the Ivy for a few "welcome to the hood" bubbles.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Finally, finally, finally. At long last we are at the eve of the weekend I have been patiently waiting for. I have avoided the temptation, I have dodged the rumors spread by those hateful people that would spoil my experience. I did, however have a weak moment and found myself at the bookstore bribing the shopkeeper for a pre-sale copy. I imagined that with this being India and piracy running rampant, that there would be copies available for a few hundred rupees, but instead of leaving with the desired hardback, I was given dirty, scornful looks of disgust and did the walk of shame right out of the store... The wicked ugly muggle! But, no problem, we are in the final stretch and this weekend will see me at the bookstore at 6:30 Saturday morning, after which I will lock myself away with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang.

Well, I will not be totally locked away, I have plans with my two favorite women in all of India... Danielle and Anjali. I am already salivating at the thought of the never-ending cocktails that are sure to take center stage at our little gathering. I can't wait to dive into a nice spicy martini (Absolut Pepper and spicy guava juice) - the only thing missing are the wasabi peas (Nik, Marco, my birthday is coming up and I would love to have some Mr. Wasabi to nibble on for my special day). Speaking of my special day, I am just a few short weeks away from the big Four-Oh-My-God. Just the other day I saw the toll that age has taken on my body... My pecs have gone packing and my abs have become flabs... It was not a pretty situation and I have absolutely no time to hit the gym. Yep, all work and no play has made Robb a very boring old man. I feel fat and short and bald and I am thinking of walking around with a plastic cup to catch my teeth as I am sure they are due to start falling out.

Of course, I am probably just being bitter as I was unable to see Victoria Beckham reality show and it has already been cancelled. The New York Post called Monday night's show "an orgy of self-indulgence" and described our favorite Spice as "vapid and condescending," two of my favorite character traits. The article went on to say that "Beckham, who is bizarrely constantly posing even in her own home, offers insights about how major a certain purse is or how her new phone has changed her life," and I completely missed it. Sounds breathtakingly brilliant to me and I am struggling to come to terms with it being pulled after only one episode? I personally find it baffling.

Hmmm... Perhaps she should have shaved her head.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Just Another Boring Weekend in Delhi

Q: What do fabulous cocktails, elephants, cobras, cockroaches and the President of Cambodia all have in common?  

A: They were all part of my roller-coaster weekend.

It all started on Friday at Smokehouse Grill where Manuel and I went to have dinner with Stephen and Pierre and I immediately dove into the cocktail menu which had so many options it was intoxicating just reading it. We settled for a round of varied drinks, cinnamon mojitos, smoked melon margaritas, wet ginger martinis and I opted for the spicy martini, a mix of guava juice, mint, coriander, house spices and vodka that would be better described as Tabasco in a glass. It was a Bloody Mary without the tomato or celery stick... A few sips of that and my mouth was on fire. I am normally a two drink minimum kind of guy, but this was a one drink maximum kind of combo that is probably best served with a shot of Pepto Bismal.  

It was over cocktails that I discovered I have been living a life of ignorant or at least sub-ignorant semi-bliss. Contrary to popular belief, beliefs that I myself held to be true, beef is alive and well and being served in various states of done-ness all over the place. I feel like I have been living under a rock. Not only were the steaks amazing, I have to say they were among the best I have ever had, and with the added bonus of the wasabi sauce, I was one happy gora.

The next day, Manuel and I decided it was time for a bit of pampering... Off we went to Defence Colony Market for haircuts, head massages, face massages and manicures (I threw in a shave for old time's sake) and we emerged looking younger, coifed and moist, with just enough time to change out of our rags and into something glamorous for a dinner party at the Hyatt with a collection of glamorous friends, who for this part of the story shall remain nameless to protect the innocent.

There we were, 6 of us at La Piazza at the Hyatt in New Delhi, having a great time over starters and wine and basically having a great time. After a bit I noticed that the friend sitting to my right had been missing for quite some time. I looked at the plate in front of the empty chair and there it was, a cockroach all cooked and seasoned, sitting on the side of an almost entirely empty bowl of soup. We summoned the manager and the chef, who stood at our table holding the bowl of soup and all he said was that he didn't know what to say. And then, as if that wasn't shocking enough, the restaurant staff in a staggering display of incompetence and complete disregard for what had happened, began to set our table for the main course and when my friend arrived back, he was asked if he would also be eating the main course. Dialogue was exchanged and still the staff did not seem to understand the difference between serving a cold cup of coffee and a bowl of soup with a full cockroach in it. It was not until another member of the party threatened to go table to table and tell everyone what had happened that the manager looked the least bit concerned. Things were escalated to various members of hotel management who all seem to be at a complete loss as to the magnitude of the problem, and finally in frustration we left to go to 360 at the Oberoi, where they know how to treat their guests. We had the manager at the Hyatt arrange a table, and he did not even have the courtesy to even send a complimentary cocktail to my friend or anyone else in our group. Needless to say. letters have been and are being written and we are all waiting to see how they respond to this. I fully intend to push my friend until he notifies every paper and tells every one of what happened. It isn't even the fact of the cockroach that is so upsetting, it is the way they chose to handle (or not handle) the situation.

The next day was to be a lazy day, with the only plans being to meet Stephen, Abdul, Suzy and Pierre at Aqua for the usual Sunday festivities. Manuel wanted to see elephants and while I had actually been plotting and planning to surprise him with one at the house this coming weekend, he wanted to see them last Sunday. I feigned ignorance as to their whereabouts and he reminded me of a full page newspaper article I had detailing where they are kept. A quick phone call to a friend to confirm and we were on our way to Yamuna Pushta, at the middle of the ITO bridge crossing the river and heading toward East Delhi, where we were greeted by a swarm of people offering us elephant rides.  They brought one around and up we went and soon we were slowly making our way down the path along the river.

Our Mahout (elephant driver) guided the elephant off the path and down the steep incline to the banks of the river and into the water. The Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers in the world and I had visions of the elephant, Rajah, taking a trunk full of water and throwing it all over us. Instead, he had other plans and decided to relieve himself there in the river. Well, I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go.

After the elephant ride, it was off to Raj Ghat in old to see the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi. We got there and found the place closed for the visit of the President of Cambodia. They closed the whole park and it's not like he is the president of a major country, the president of a minor country sitting on stockpiles of WMD or even the president of a fan club for a major star like Shakira, he's just your average president throwing around whatever weight he has so that the peeps back home have something to oooh and aaah over.

Next choice and stop was the Red Fort. Manuel has been begging to go almost since he arrived and finally, on Sunday he got his wish. The place was the most crowded I had ever seen and the day had turned amazingly hot. An hour of snapping pics we were walking outside and for the first time since arriving in Delhi I was confronted with a number of snake charmers with cobras poking their hooded heads out of the woven baskets. It was a bit of a surprise as they used to be everywhere when I came to India 10 years, but I had heard that they were banned in Delhi. Manuel was a bit stunned to see a cobra staring at him. It was all very "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

With that, we were off to Aqua to cool down and have some drinks poolside while watching the worst volleyball players we had ever seen try and hit the ball over the net. No offense to and Indians reading this, but you all play pool volleyball like you swim. You make a lot of noise and do a heck of a lot of splashing but don't seem to accomplish anything except getting everyone around you wet and annoyed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Just to let everyone know, I have posted lots and lots of pictures online and you can find a link to them on the right-hand panel of this blog. I will be adding pictures about once a week, so keep checking there. I have chosen to keep them there as opposed to in my blog, as not everyone (including me) is blessed with overflowing bandwidth and it allows this blog to load quick. I am also in the process of putting older pics online from other places I have been, so there will not only be pictures of India. So far I have uploaded ones from Iceland, China, Arizona, Barcelona and India. I will create new albums for each set of pics so that you don't have to keep looking through old ones, and you can sort the albums by date to see which are the newer additions.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Delightful Delhi

I am a huge fan of roller-coasters. Almost nothing I like more than speeding along a twisting track. Boomerangs, loops, barrel rolls, it’s all good, and after a couple of months of seeing the billboards around Delhi advertising India’s premier amusement park, I knew I would not be able to resist the heroin-like temptation very long. Yesterday I cracked. Manuel and I got into our best theme park gear, sun blocked ourselves into oblivion, flagged down the nearest rickshaw to Central Secretariat where we hopped on the metro for the approximately 30 minute journey which was spent anxiously and excitedly looking out the window for any sign of a coaster track. We knew for a fact there would be coasters because the billboards that we had been seeing showed a man and a woman harnessed into a car, upside down in a mid scream/laugh as they sped along the track. Or at least that is what the billboard suggested.

I should have known better. I work in advertising. We are the same people that tell you how much better your life will be if you wear a certain brand of shoes, how much thinner you will be if you use a certain shampoo and how unbelievably popular you will be if you drink a certain cola. But that did not stop me from painting a picture in my head that had absolutely nothing to do with reality. Adventure Island is at the end of the red line metro and as we counted down the final stops, three, two, one, we were beginning to wonder if perhaps we had not taken the wrong line. Nobody at the metro stations knew which line it was and so I gave it my best guess. Just as we were resigning ourselves to the fact that we had taken the wrong line and would probably have to save our island themed adventure for another sunny day, there it was. We both spotted it at the same time and we were both speechless, an affliction that does not often affect me.

We stepped off the metro and were immediately confronted with the paparazzi like crowd of bicycle rickshaw drivers each trying to get us to choose their bicycle. We chose one and were soon closing the gap between us and our destination. 5 Minutes or so later, and there we were, at the entrance of the shopping mall cum amusement park. Yes, Adventure Island is little more than an amusi-mall. We got our tickets and armbands, popped over to McDonalds for yet another Shrek themed happy meal and toy, and walked to the bridge we would have to cross before being officially on the island. The area is divided into two sections, one of those being Adventure Island and the other being Metro Walk, where one can find such stores as the American Dollar Store, where everything is 99 rupees (Note to store… 99 rupees is actually 2 dollars) and Depot, a store that sells books, music, gifts and the most amazing of all, freedom. Obviously freedom does have a price and it must be a good one as there was none to be found anywhere in the store. I was tempted to go to the customer service desk and ask when they would be getting in a new stock and see if perhaps I could reserve some along with the new Harry Potter, but thought better of it. Nobody likes an ugly gora.

After going through security, where we were forced to throw away our bottle of water we wandered across the bridge and into adventure. Our first stop was a ride that swung back and forth while spinning around. The screams started the moment people sat in their hard plastic seats. And we quickly came to realize that the screams weren’t just for that ride, one of the three that could qualify as thrill-ish, but for all the rides. They screamed on the swing, they screamed on the miniature water boat ride, they screamed on the bumper cars. As Adventure Island is India’s premier amusement park, it became quite clear the people acted as though they thought they should, the way people do in movies or in the video games like Roller Coaster Tycoon. Screams and amusement parks are supposed to go together like handcuffs and sex… It’s just a natural match. The park is open from noon to 11pm and after 1 ½ hours, we were confronted with what to do next. Manuel wanted to see the magic show that was still 4 hours away but when we looked at the options for killing time, we decided it was best to leave the island and return to civilization.

And then one of the best days I have ever had in Delhi began to take shape.

Manuel wanted to go to Red Fort and so we took the metro back with the intention of getting of at Chandni Chowk station, a few minutes walk from the Red Fort. We had to change trains at Kashmere Gate and as we could see the fort off in the not so distant distance, we decided to walk. We left the station and began walking down Lothian Road, in a part of Old Delhi I had never seen, and not a tourist in sight, save us. Very soon we came upon a tiny mosque, Fakhur ul Masajid where our presence interrupted a class of young boys who wanted to be in the pictures. A minute or so later, Manuel’s entire day was made. He had seen monkeys once before from a rickshaw, but didn’t have his camera. This time, they were just all over the place, on the rooftops, in the trees and crossing the street by way of the power lines or TV cables. As we made our way further down the Lothian Road, everyone wanted to shake our hands, talk to us and be in the pictures. That happens quite often, but what was so unusual about this time, was that we were in such a non-touristy area, and nobody wanted money as they tend to do when in other areas, they just wanted to use what little English they knew and have their picture taken. W continued our walk, crossing New Delhi Railway Station and on to Chandni Chowk.

The Red Fort was to our left and we decided to continue our adventure on the street by heading right, toward the spice market. We walked to the end of Chandni Chowk, taking time out here and there to explore the narrow alleyways and see parts of Delhi that most tourists never see. We had no map, no guide and chose our way based on what looked the most interesting… Not necessarily the busies or most beautiful, but where we felt compelled to walk. If all things seemed equal and we couldn’t decide, we took Beyonce’s advice and went to the left. We walked through winding little alleyways, discovering tiny temples and quite often having to turn back due to dead ends. People pointed us this way and that, making sure we didn’t miss the special parts of the area. At some point we came across a beautiful mosque we decided to explore. It was rather new, having been built in the 1900’s at Chandni Chowk and then it was moved to its current location (at least that is what I remember from the plaque, but I could be wrong, we saw a LOT yesterday) I was wearing shorts, which is not allowed inside a mosque. In the courtyard it is no problem, but not in the mosque itself. No problem there as a group of guys came to our rescue and provided me with a lyonghi (I think that is how its spelled) to cover my legs. Again, I was amazed by the kindness of people and just the desire to show us their world. At the touristy locations, everything has a price, even someone telling you what you already know, but here, they wanted nothing, except the conversation and picture.

Our walk took us through the spice market, which was mostly closed, so will be revisiting that area again, perhaps next weekend when everything is in full swing, to Lahori Gate, Naya Bazar, Sadar Bazar, Qutab Road, Chowk Singhara and Idgah Road where we came across a group of amazing children. Everyone it seems likes to have their picture taken and nobody more so than children. When you show them the picture on the screen of the camera, they go absolutely mad – they scream, they laugh, they make fun of each other and then they want to do it again. I could have spent the entire day with those children, just hearing them laughing and seeing how excited they were. At the end of Idgah Road we came across a rather large mosque dominating a number of lawns where cricket games were happening all over the place. Our presence caused a huge commotion, but after 2 ½ or so hours of that, we were pretty used to it. By this time, our feet were a bit sore and we were in need of some rest, but that would have to wait as we spotted a large temple at Pahar Ganj and could not let that area go unexplored. We decided not to go into the temple at that time as it meant taking off our shoes. Normally that is not a problem, and we had already done so several times that day to peek into the various mosques and temples we discovered, but we both knew that if our shoes came off again, they weren’t going back on.

We walked a bit around the back of the temple and through an alley full of women and children, all slinging babies all over the place and begging money. I still feel like a complete creep when I don’t give money, but it is that dilemma of wanting to help and not wanting to add to the problem by encouraging. I do give out a bit here and there, like to one little boy near Chandni Chowk that was doing circus like tricks for us. Yes, I know it is set up that way, but I would prefer that as opposed to someone who just tries to take things out of your hand as tends to happen quite often at Connaught Place, where we ended up after our walk and a short rickshaw ride, sitting on a roof terrace at QBA having a few cold beers and resting our tired feet.

I have discovered a few things about Manuel. One is that if he wants to do something or eat something, he will almost never come out and say it. He will ask if I want to do it. So he will ask if I want ice cream, but what he is really saying is that he wants ice cream. Another thing I have learned is that he is very predictable. We were sitting at QBA, across the park from KFC and I asked him what he wanted to do for dinner. I knew what his answer would be, but I decided to test my theory. I asked him about dinner at 15 past 7, knowing it was inevitable that he wound suggest KFC, but as a question. At 23 past 7, he asked me if I would like to have KFC for dinner, and before long, we were going to town on our 8 piece bucket of hot and crispy.

Friday, June 29, 2007

In a Nutshell

I have been working in customer service and marketing for over 20 years and have been a part of hundreds of briefings in a variety of roles; client, agency, vendor, stakeholder, subject matter expert, business owner, audience manager and scapegoat. The more I partake in these sessions, the more I am convinced there is only one brief that exists, and like a Christmas fruitcake, just gets repackaged and passed around. I have decided to remove the mystery surrounding marketing and advertising and publish that one brief here, in full, in one easy to understand sentence.

So, without any further ado, here is my brief, in a nutshell...

If we look at our enterprise-wide mission of continuing to quickly build progressive products and enthusiastically customize inexpensive infrastructures and services, maintaining the highest standards of cutting edge product offerings and increasing customer satisfaction by optimizing touchpoints while transforming our company into a virtual center of excellence, then it becomes pointedly clear that the most definitive and impacting priority and key point upon which we must hereafter focus almost entirely is the streamlining of the streams of until now unstreamlined and unstructured communication and optimizing the relevant and resonating bullet points within those streamlined streams so that the streams are strum in a sensationally structured fashion in a horizontal manner across all of our verticals of focus to deliver the otherwise confusifying messaging in a clear, concise, simplified, personalized and yet out-of-the-box manner with surgical precision to the target audience with whom we would otherwise like to engage in stimulating, one-on-one dialogue-like conversation that mirrors real-world, real-time discussions in the business place which will enable us to hold our customers' hand as we drag them through the journey we have mapped out for them to increase their curiosification with the end purpose of moving them from awareness to evaluation and facilitating a paradigm shift leading to cost-effective pre-selling, upselling, cross-selling, side-selling, in-selling and outselling our vast suite of revolutionary, empowering, performance-based, end-to-end, feature rich products we fully and completely endorse in a calendarized fashion preferably and most desireably in a manner in which the precision of the strum communications is irresistably intoxicating to the end recipient thereby igniting the drivers and dormant desires of said recipient to purchase and deploy our until now unpurchased and undeployed products for the optimization and performanatiousness of whatever it is they wish to perform, for which we are absolutely certain we have a laser-like and completeish blurry grasp upon as backed up by and gleaned from our colossal reasearchification efforts which we have continuously performed in a projectized manner on an ongoing basis to surface customer needs, pin-point pains and get a highly valuable, atomic level understanding and bird’s eye view of the core of what it is we are investigating thereby assuring us beyond any doubt that we might actually be making, developing or perhaps even thinking about what our unknown audience wants to know even if they do not yet know they wish to know, since we most positively and genuinely know our audience almost better than they know themselves and we are prepared to leverage those insightful insights in a fascinatingly geurilla-like fashion as we approach, educate and lavishly bombard our audience in a consistent, reliable yet synchronized manner via the proper channels through which they will receive the unsurpassed and ISO 9001 compliant level of service they would have received if we actually serviced them ourselves which will exponentially positively impact our revenues and increase their satisfaction quotient which can best be described as the level of euphoria and feeling of peer-group inclusion they experience upon timely delivery and successful deployment of our productified products combined with the clearly vague yet unparalleled value proposition we wish to offer them on a trial basis that will ensure they remain loyal, raving fans for a set and measurable period of time as defined, outlined and clarified by the metrics which we had created an outsourced team and fine-tuned for performance enhancement that will allow us to quantify the results of the lifetime worth of superior communication we plan to stream to ensure never-before-seen success once said communication is strum in a communicative like fashion using new and authentically innovative tactics and popular, powerful and proven media channels of which we know nothing about and are confident will allow us to cost-effectively explore, exploit and own certain media in the mind of our customer before our competition is clued in to our efforts effectively giving us a mission-critical window of opportunity which will definitely most likely assure a dramatic gain of market share and increased economically-sound value for current and future shareholders who, our research has clearly indicated might also be our customers at a consumer level and therefore members of our target audience allowing them to first hand experience our awe-inspiring, world-class marketing effortations which will ensure them that we are most likely heading in a certain direction while driving a vehicle that has momentum and provides movement within the space we wish to own or at least rent in the market and the mind of the customer, whose thoughts we are currently profiling for the future fulfillment of our database initiatives to generate the response driven responses we are certain to receive once the message has been streamlined in a manner which delivers the message in crystal clear fashion across a variety of media and non-media, generating demand, creating buzz and sustainable expectations around our brand attributes and imbedding within our communications and thereby instilling within our various segments, which have been segmented based on the segmentation models which we have incorporated for the purpose of optimal segmentification, the very philosophy of our brand values to create an environment in which the segmented segments are most likely certain they will not be able to survive without our products which directly translates back to the ROI and fed into our 360 degree balanced scorecard views detailing the mammoth bottom-line results which we are sure to achieve and surpass by immediately linking our top-down activities to our bottom-up initiatives in a coordinated manner which will not only guarantee cohesion, but will also become the backbone for our communications as we go back to basics, placing the customer virtually at the center of almost everything we do by including the various segments in focus groups, taste tests, pilot offers, extendable and scalable once-in-a-lifetime promotions we can refresh and renew on a quarterly basis, survey distribution and generic product communication development and refinement with the intent and goal of creating a positive perception shift and demand for our miracle products through word of mouth marketing which we will then use to launch and drive our very own “tell-a-friend” initiative which will allow us to communicate cross-segment, cross town, cross-culture and trans-global while at the same time enabling us to incorporate our own unique spin and align the viral activities to our brand philosophy which we hope to launch at some point in the future that will essentially force us to raise the bar and in preparation we are seriously considering implementing an improved “zero-tolerance” policy and approach to ineffective or unclear communication that does not contain imaginative messaging in line with our core values or a decisive and insightful call-to-action which, in our opinion is exactly what is wrong with the market at this moment in time, creating discontent and disillusion among our audience which is exactly the gap we hope to bridge by cutting through the clutter and becoming partners in success with our customers in a win-win situation.

Any questions?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Airport 78/79

I have finally recovered from the whirlwind of last weekend. It was a fluttery of sightseeing, cocktails and flight planning. Since Manuel is here, I have been playing the tacky tourist. You know what I mean, the long shorts, sneakers, sunscreen dripping into the eyes, 35mm slung over the shoulder and digital camera in the hand, taking pictures of all the wrong things and offending the locals. I find a certain freedom in being the ignorant gora. If one is going to stand out, then one should do it with as much panache as possible.

Visiting temples in India during the summer is a unique experience. It is not possible to wear or take shoes into the temple and for some unknown reason which I am sure has a lot to do with logic, they seem to store the shoes about a kilometer from the temple itself. They lay down thin carpet like things over the hot coals of a walkway and the trek to the temple begins. People running from shade spot to shade spot and doing the hot potato dance in between. Little kids seem to be oblivious to the pavement, but my delicate feet sizzled like bacon. First stop was the Lotus Temple, which is one of my favorite refuges in the middle of the city. No matter what is happening outside or how hot it may be, the Lotus Temple is always quiet and cool. From there it was off to Akshradam Temple complex. It is a new temple, about 5 years old, but built in the old style so it feels as though you have stepped back through time in a sort of Disney meets Ganesh kind of way. It is a photographers dream, but no cameras are allowed.

After a few hours of sightseeing, it was time for cocktails and dinner with Stephen and Pierre. First up was gin martinis at their place, followed by dinner at Ivy and post dinner cocktails on their roof terrace. But not before Pierre dragged us to what is supposedly the new hip and happening spot in Delhi, Tabusalar in Saket. Of course, thanks to all of his planning, we spent our entire time there on the wrong side of the velvet rope. Pierre kept reassuring us how great it was, which made our inability to get in all the more frustrating. After about 20 minutes of waiting in the sauna like heat, we left and that is how we ended up on their roof terrace with Pierre force-feeding everyone more gin martinis.

Saturday found all of us nursing our hangovers in order to be fresh and perky for dinner at Ploof with the fabulous Danielle, who had freshly returned from Holland, looking as radiant and beautiful as ever… It was at Ploof when I came across yet another missing element from my childhood. Out of the 5 of us, there were only 2 of us that had not had a duck as a pet. A duck. What does one do with a duck? Well, apparently Stpehen’s used to follow him around, going into panic attacks if Stephen wandered off. Manuel had a duck. Danielle had a duck. Pierre and I were the obvious outsiders. I wasn’t sure weather I should be jealous or relieved. But then, Pierre dropped his bombshell… It is always odd when you discover someone’s hidden fetish. And Pierre’s is a doozy of one.

It seems he collects timetables from airlines. But not recent ones, mind you. The one I saw was from AerLingus for 78/79, which suddenly explained why Pierre often and quite suddenly drops a sentence like ”Do you know, if I had flown PanAm from Dublin to Nairobi in July of 1978, I would have had to connect in Cairo and then change planes 3 more times?” As if that weren't reason enough to call the men in white with their special little jackets, he then complains about how miserable his life would have been if he would have taken that flight and how his luggage probably would have gotten lost and don’t even get him started on the supposed issues he would have had at immigration due to the fact the airline would not have told him to arrange his visa in advance and the crazy taxi driver that would have fetched him from the airport. And that is how he talks when sober… Wait until gin martini number 6. Perhaps a pet duck isn’t so odd in comparison.

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, she is free at last. My life, however has come to an end. Yes, she may have emerged smiling and looking like, well, 300 million dollars, but my life now has no meaning. As the president, founder and sole member of the Indian chapter of the “Free Paris Society”, I suddenly find myself feeling empty. My grief and feeling of uncertainty echoing in the cavernous emptiness of my previously full life. So here I sit in Café Coffee Day in Gurgaon (yes, Gurgaon, see how low I have sunk?) pondering what my next mission will be. The reverend mother says that when God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere. At least that’s what Maria would have us believe, but look as I may, all I see are closed windows and badly painted walls.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


What a day today has been… Full of surprises and unexpected education… And it isn’t even over yet as I sit here writing during my lunch break.

I wrote my last entry without any idea of the impact it would have on my day. Suddenly, I seem to be confronted, drowning even, in condom news. I tried to resist, I tried not to read the articles, but they were just too tempting and so I threw myself into topic with wreckless abandon. Imagine my shock to disc over flaws in the system, dark clouds hanging over my sub-continental home. It was just a few hours ago when I mentioned that sex toys and pornography are illegal in India. Well, imagine my surprise when I came across an article about the distribution of condoms at porn cinemas in the Indian state of Gujarat. I guess pornography is only illegal if purchased for “consumption” in the privacy of one’s own home…

I also stumbled upon an article on BBC news that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men. The study found that more than half of the men measured had penises that were shorter than international standards for condoms. And then we have the response from Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men's magazine Maxim. "It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters and from our population, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well.”

On YouTube, the virtues of a condom covers for mobile phones while in a hot tub are available for your viewing, demonstrated by a bikini clad bimbo. After looking into it, I discovered that it provides for an impenetrable water-proof cover while allowing for full use of the device in a moist environment. Hmmm…

That’s a whole lot of condom news, but it’s not over yet…

In the city of Chandigarh, one can now visit the Condom Bar and this is one instance in which the name says it all. It is India’s (if not the world’s) first condom themed bar. Visitors enter into a colorful and mirrored interior decorated with condoms. There are condom logos on the drinking glasses, uniforms and just about anything else one can imagine. And in lieu of change, one can take condoms or other souvenirs by which to remember their visit. I had been scratching my well coiffed head looking for my next weekend destination. Problem solved.

If you happen to be looking for an activity while intoxicated on condom themed cocktails, fear not, you can partake in the condom joke contest which is being held by 250 pharmacies across Chennai where clever people with witty jokes can submit their suggestions.