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.