Sunday, May 27, 2007


I know it has been quite a while since I wrote here and I would love to say that it was due to attending all sorts of fabulous parties in all sorts of fabulous outfits but the fact of the matter is I have spent the better part of my time here dividing my time between my bed, the doctor's office and the emergency room. I arrived feeling mostly ok and spent a few hours wandering around Amsterdam with Ulco, feeling a bit lost and out of place. It all feels so scrubbed, so homogenized. What once seemed like a vibrant and exciting place suddenly felt like the waiting room to nowhere. It was all so quiet, organized and predictable. I have been in Amsterdam over a week and have seen nothing that surprised me, caught me off guard, made me laugh or made me angry. Has it always been this way? I just remember it so different.

I was feeling fine when I arrived and a few hours later popped down to Rotterdam to shake my groove thing with Beyonce. She told us that we were the best audience ever and well, having never heard that line before, I totally believed her. We were practically sitting on the stage and everytime she flung her head, we got wig pieces in our eyes. It was a fantastic show.

The hext day Manuel and I met up with Nik and Marco and immediately headed to the mother-ship for Razzitos. Raspberries, Bacardi Razz and Champagne. What more could a poor boy just in from the subcontinent ask for? It was really great seeing everyone, but still I felt a bit disconnected from everything here. And I was running a fever, so figured a little nap would sort me out and have me in top shape for the evening's activities. I ended up getting more and more ill and by 9am was in the emergency room being examined by the fist of what would be a very long line of doctors, nurses, specialists, pathologists, and other assorted cast members from Grey's Anatomy. My fever was going all over the place and they were trying to get me sorted out. I know I have made jokes about Malaria in the past, but when they actually start looking into it, it was far from a fun situation. They took enough blood from my body to create another full-scale me - none of that mini-me stuff here, baby. I left more blood behind at the hospital than I took with me when I left.

They ruled out Malaria, Typhoid and all sorts of other fun ailments I had never heard of before and sent me on my way home. 2 days of a high fever later and I was in the doctor's office, still with no answers. I knew what wasn't wrong, but no clue as to what was and this may come as a bit of a surprise to everyone... I am not a very fun patient. Being sick is just so un-glamorous. Unless of course you are Greta Garbo or maybe Julia Roberts, but I just don't look good in fever. Try as I might, I just don't have the bone structure. The doctor sent me home with no more information than I had when I arrived and just told me it would all go away in a few days... or maybe a week or a bit longer. I was moved my his certainty and reassurances and went home and tucked myself into bed yet again.

Well, fast forward a few days later and the fever is gone, the coughis lingering but I am at last able to get out of bed and go outside and see my friends. So there you are, all up to date with my medical adventures. Next time I will hopefully have something more fun to write about...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Grey Matter

Yesterday I woke up in not a bit of an off mood, I hadn’t had much sleep and it was the last day I would spend in the office before holiday. You know what I mean, the day with no end, when the clocks seem to stop working and every time it feels like hours have passed, you glance at the watch and find it has only been two minutes since the previous glance. I had been in that mode for about 3 or 4 days, counting down the minutes and seconds to being a free agent. I needed a bit of a mood adjustment and I knew there was only one thing that could help. For me, happiness comes in shades of grey. Shades of grey with big floppy ears and a trunk. I admit it, as soon as I am outdoors, I keep my eyes peeled for pachyderms. So I spent the hour or so drive to Gurgaon looking this way and that and try as I might, there was not a spec of grey to be found. There was the lone camel dining on what looked like a rather yummy tree, recently washed clean by the squall of a couple of days back and I figured that if I couldn’t find an elephant, then a good hump would do.

Fast forward to a few hours later when I was back on the road from Gurgaon to Delhi and there it was, walking down the street, holding it’s little branch in its trunk, swinging it around like a child you a balloon, with almost the same expression. I immediately made a wish as that is what is supposed to happen and suddenly my day was a lot brighter. I can’t explain what my obsession is with them, but elephants are for me just so magical and amazing. They always have been. I was happy for the rest of the day and decided to bride a few people to come to my place for drinks. Its amazing what the promise of free alcohol can accomplish.

Sharad, Sonia and Murali dropped in, popped open the beers and plopped themselves all about the living room and soon we were talking about this thing and that and I conveyed my elephant story. And then it happened. Sharad said the words I had dared think once or twice but never actually let myself entertain. It just seemed to impossible, too unlikely. Even more unbelievable and outrageous than Paris Hilton going to jail. Sharad said, “Robb bhai, why don’t you just get yourself an elephant?” And as though it were the most normal thing in the world to hear, I asked “how much does one cost and where does one get one?” I assume getting an elephant is a bit more complicated than getting a car or say, enriched uranium; one must have connections or know people – some things you just can’t pick up at the market. And then there was the issue of where would I keep it? Sure, they might make for nice cuddly companions when they are small and what’s cuter than a baby elephant in a bubble bath? But the reality is that little elephants become big ones and I simply don’t have the closet space. My garden isn’t even big enough for him to stretch out or have any of his (or her) grey friends over for mid-summer tea parties or sleep-overs.

But it did spark something and now I am a man with a mission. A purpose. I have a dream. And as soon as I get back to Delhi from Holland, I am going to do some serious investigating. I am sure there has to be a way to sponsor one, to help provide care or food or something like that in exchange for visitation privileges. I would love to drop in once or twice a week and see my own elephant. How amazing would that be? Having a bad day at work and then just relaxing by spending time with my most favorite animal?

I can already see the slow motion playbacks… the eyes meet and the faces transform as recognition sets in. Tears fill the eyes, they stare for a moment in disbelief and then run toward each other. My sandals and sunglasses flying off in the excitement while the grey object of my affection and obsession slowly runs toward me, trunk swinging this way and that and then when at last we touch, the trunk wraps around me, picks me up and sets me atop his (or her) back, for a nice scratch behind the ears. I would bring peanuts and other assorted pachyderm delicacies. But back to life, back to reality, I am sure there has to be a way to make this dream come true. This is India, after all.

Now, what does one name an elephant?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bit of Bugs

Since arriving in Delhi, I have become somewhat addicted to the vegetarian chow min from Parmeshwar, one of those little roadside type eateries right behind my office. Had I actually seen the place before I had the food for the first time, I would have politely declined, but I have to say the food has always been excellent. Fast forward to yesterday when I had my normal cravings for the chow min. It got delivered, I piled it all onto my plate and started inhaling my food, stuffing in as much as my mouth would hold in one go. I still have that particular habit left over from when I was 4. If a little is good, a lot is better and so I make alike a squirrel, stuffing my face until my cheeks puff out.

So there I was with overstuffed mouth, noodles hanging here and there and sauce dripping down my well shaped and chiseled chin (well, there just is no elegant way to eat the stuff, so why not make the most of it?) and was just about finished with the meal when I saw it. Well, I didn’t really notice it, per se, what I noticed where its legs. I quickly became apparent that a bug had been chopped, seasoned and stir fried right into my dish. I went immediately into denial and called a colleague for a second opinion. Perhaps there I some odd vegetable that grows legs and I was simply over-reacting as I like to do every once in a while. He was not about to let me keep my head buried in the sand, he told me I had indeed found bug bits in sprinkled amongst my noodles.

I have eaten chocolate covered bees and ants, snake, crunched on grasshoppers and almost ordered king toad for dinner once in Beijing, but this uninvited guest was giving me major issues. Of course, it didn’t stop there. My colleague told me about the time when someone found a cockroach in the food and I almost had to make a mad dash for the washroom to evacuate any residents I may have unknowingly taken on board. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be ordering from them anytime in the near future.

But that is not the end of my culinary adventures, oh no. In fact, my friend Abdul has scored some major points by taking me to the most fantastic place in Old Delhi, just a hop, skip and jump away from Jama Masjid. We took the metro to Chawri Bazaar where we emerged in almost total darkness. The power was out so we did what any modern citizens of the world would do, we had some chai (well, Abdul had chai, I stuck to my barbaric ways and had a Diet Coke) and then grabbed a bicycle rickshaw to Jama Masjid where the lights were on and everything was buzzing. He led me through this narrow doorway and down a short hall to a small courtyard that was Karim’s. Aaaah, Karim’s. The place was absolutely amazing and the menu made my mouth water, all except item number 29, the brain curry. I left the ordering to Abdul who I implicitly instructed not to order brains. I had visions of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when they have dinner and the monkey heads are opened. Abdul suggested I try them, but I stuck with my philosophy; With this bone structure, who needs brains? I was glad to discover he was joking (or at least I think he was… Hmmm… come to think of it, he might have slipped me some grey matter and be laughing about it right now). But seriously kids, the food was amazing and I can’t wait to head back this weekend.

After dinner I had yet another new experience in India. We took a bus from Old Delhi to Defence Colony. Busses in India don’t really stop, they just slow down a bit and you grab the handle and pull yourself up, trusting the people behind you to either shove you into the bus or provide cushion in case the whole thing goes wrong. But I did well for a gora and we were soon navigating the windy streets at hyperdrive speeds, taking corners on two wheels while the latest in Hindi Hop provided the musical backdrop. It was soon time for us to leave the bus, which proved a bit trickier than getting on… One must stand in the doorway (with no real door, mind you) and hold on for dear life. As the bus slows a bit near the stop, you count to three and jump into traffic, hoping for the best or at least a good hospital in the hood. I managed to come out of that little adventure relatively unscathed and after a few nerve calming cocktails, I felt like my old self again.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Brokeback India

In the Delhi Times section of the Times of India paper last Sunday, I read through the article titled “Is your husband in the closet?” and was at once mortified by the gross inaccuracies presented as tell-tale signs that someone is gay. I decided to write the article here and then comment at the end. I have left the grammatical errors intact.

Sightseeing on Honeymoon
The honeymoon is meant for lots of frolicking indoors. However, if your hubby is obsessing about sight-seeing more than exploring you, it could either mean that he has a low libido or he’s… gay. Ignore this if your hubby’s into photography or film, though.

He spends more time in the bathroom getting ready
The metrosexual revolution might have already happened, but please remember that men and women traditionally have different methods of grooming. As in women take hours. So if he’s taking too long, then he’s taking to long… to come out as well.

Instead of the usual World Cup party, your husband throws an Academy Award party
Men like sports. So if he’s throwing a World Cup party, you shouldn’t be that concerned. But if it’s going to an Academy Award party that is driving him dizzy with excitement… then honey, you’ve got male. Male rivals, that is. Then again, he needn’t be into sports to be straight. That’s too literal.

He picks out the clothes he wants you to wear so you remain in style
There are only two options for this. He’s pulling off a James Steward from Alred Hitchcock’s ‘Vetrtigo’ or else he’s a queen. There are no in-betweens, if he’s obsessing about what you are wearing. This though only applies to dainty pretty dresses he likes to see on you. Don’t mistake this for the ‘the dress is too revealing, so don’t wear it’.

You are the one begging to cosy up all the time
Once again, let’s get back to traditions and norms. Men have testosterone, something that makes them yearn for sex more than women. If you’ve the one who’s beggin for sex, he’s either having an affair with another woman, or he’s having an affair with another man. Or he’s just not into women, and he’s married you.

He has an underwear fetish
Only that it’s not for you. If your husband is collecting a range of funky looking underwear, they better be for you. Or else, someone else is having a blast at your expense. Other accessories to watch for are lubricants, two cell phones and the occasional thong.

He wants to do a three-some…But with another guy…
Men like porn flicks and lesbians in them. But they wouldn’t trade this fetish for sex with another man. Unless he’s bisexual of course. And if it’s him making the request, it’s just not good old fashioned experimenting. It’s sexperimenting… for his hunger. More importantly, threesomes are a tell-tale sign that something is amiss in a relationship – period – whether he’s straight or pink. Romping with mirrors for enjoyment is great fun. That way there’s always more of you. But if he’s looking into the mirror he’s into himself… and his own kind.

Now, I originally meant for this to be somewhat funny, but as I was typing this out, I realized just how sad, pathetic and irresponsible this entire article is. To make such stereotypical claims based on nothing more than an obvious and complete lack of understanding of gay men, their behavior or even their own local culture which basically forces gay men to stay in the closet and get married rather than face ostracism and excommunication from their family and friends is, in my opinion completely and absolutely insulting and narrow minded and can bring about nothing positive. These types of flippant remarks can do real damage in someone’s marriage, or perhaps among someone’s friends. Do we really need people to be more suspicious of each other? To label someone gay because he is excited about an Academy Award party or spends “too much time” getting ready? Or that they pick out what they want their wives to wear? Maybe they just want her to look hot and want to make all the other guys jealous that she is with him. And the underwear fetish? No self respecting gay man would have a thong in his closet. It’s a bigger ‘NO’ than the color orange.

Given the fact that many gay married men in India go for secret relationships outside their marriage, often having unsafe sex or the fact that many gay teenagers kill themselves simply because they feel isolated, alone, depressed and have nobody to talk too, I think the Times of India had a great opportunity to play a very key part in helping to direct people, married or otherwise to someone who can actually help them sort things out and answer their questions in a safe and on-threatening environment. Instead of creating suspicion, intolerance and feeding the inaccurate stereotypes, they might have been able to make a difference in someone’s life. How many parents might now look at their sport hating, Bollywood loving son that spends “too much time in the bathroom” and jump to all the wrong conclusions? I am all for making light of and fun of a situation, but not for something where lives are at stake. It completely disgusts me.