Monday, September 29, 2008

Huh? Foreign Policy?

I need to take a moment to thank someone, someone who has proved to be a beacon of light, illuminating the error and ignorance of my ways and helped me shore-up my own understanding of how the world works, Sarah Palin. Chortle or guffaw if you will, but I am serious. It was while Gov. Palin was elucidating on the challenges of being the CEO of Alaska that the light bulb went off, my eyes began to sparkle and I realized the responsibilities I am expected to shoulder while here in India.

I have lived in India for almost two years, and never once bothered to buy a map from one of the peddlers in Basant Lok market. If I had, I might have seen, that like Alaska, India has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Sri Lanka, and on our other side, the land-boundaries we share with countries like such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan and a few others I can’t remember right now, but I know they’re there.

It appears that my geographic proximity not only enhances my foreign policy credentials, but has completely turned my normally calm and predictable mornings into tightly orchestrated multi-tasking affairs which, quite frankly, leave me feeling just the slightest bit frazzled. 

Every morning when I wake up, I peek outside and say good morning to Pakistan which I can almost see from my bedroom window. Then I go to the roof terrace and do my yoga. But what I do now, in the interest of national security is this; I perform each round of the Surya Namaskar facing a different direction. I’m not sure there’s really a country there or not, but one can’t be too careful these days. While I am inhaling deeply, stretching my arms forward, up and back, I am also scanning the horizon for suspicious activities and shady looking characters. You never know when someone might come in via a Trojan camel.

I personally don’t mind people coming over whenever they want, as long as they are cute. The last thing any country needs is an influx of unmonitored ugly people dragging down our real-estate values and healthcare initiatives which we are trying to shore up via job creation. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letter From New Delhi

I know it has been awhile since my last post. I have been doing my best to stay out of the political discussion. And while I do find myself obsessed with Sarah Palin, I have been biting my tongue as it were and decidedly not writing about her. But then I realized that I love her. L-O-V-E her.

I love everything about her except the anti-gay thing, the pro-life thing even in the case of incest or or rape and I am totally against cosmetic companies and politicians testing their products on animals. No matter how ugly those animals might be. And let me just say for the record, pit bulls are ugly in any shade of lipstick. I do, however, admire and am jealous of the fact that she gets to fire anyone who gets on her nerves. I want that kind of power. I also believe, and I have for some time now, that Washington DC really needs another unwed teenage mother. But at least Sarah has the decency to force her daughter into a marriage based on a lesson in abstinence gone bad. I believe that the perfect way to protect the sanctity of marriage is to force two teenagers to wed for all the wrong reasons so they can get a divorce in just a few years. And I am absolutely mad about the fact that her future son-in-law is a “fucking redneck” who will “kick your ass” and likes to “shoot at stuff” and I sincerely think we need more people like him with access to the White House and President. Its like I always say; We need more guns in Washington. We need more concealed weapons. After all, they might need them to protect all the new Meth labs.

But Meth labs are a good thing and I am confident that the sale of illegal drugs can help stimulate the economy and pull it out of this nasty little slump its in. Or at least get people loaded to the point where they just don’t care. They might be homeless and unemployed, but God bless them, they'll be high. Ah, the land of dreams and hallucinogenic drugs. But most importantly, I think what the US and world really need is a hockey mom playing backseat driver to McCain’s Mr. Toad as they travel the wild road to nowhere. The only thing that really scares me about her is the fact she uses MAC. I use MAC. What does that say about me? Maybe I need to switch to Dior 80/60 cream.

But I have no time for politics these days. I have bigger things on my mind. You might want to sit down for this one, because I have news. In case anyone has missed this little point about me, I have a thing for the stage. And not only the stage, the spotlight, pulled in tight as I break into my own song which of course will end in thunderous applause. Well, some dreams take longer to come true than others, but last Tuesday I was cast in a play. Let me say that again - last Tuesday, I was cast in a play. It all started many months ago at “Ouch” with Danielle, Anjali and Lata, Anjali’s mom and source of all her fabulousness. Anjali and Lata dabble in the arts and they mentioned they were in the first stages of a musical and thought there might be an interesting little part for me. Now, when someone says little part, I think of entering stage left with just enough hair and make-up to get by, but no real attention to detail, nothing memorable, delivering a line or two and exiting.

After that discussion I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t forget about it, but as we showbiz types like to say, “That’s showbiz!” Then Monday, I was sitting at home in the very spot I now find myself planted when my phone rang. It was Lata. Could I stop by the next evening and meet the director and discuss the play to see if I was interested and if the director thought I was right for the part. She may as well have told me I was in the final three to become America’s Next Top Model. I as excited beyond belief. On my way to Lata’s the next night, I started to panic. Would I be required to sing something? Like at an Idols audition? Ten minutes before arriving at Lata’s I decided I better be prepared. I searched my iPod for anything from a musical and the only one I had was “Wicked”. I wondered if singing a part from the witch would be the right way to go and worried I might not sound green enough. But that was all for naught. I was the first to arrive and Lata told me a bit about the play. A small part, she said. I didn’t care. Just to be back in the theatre, I would do pretty much anything. I miss that life. Not that it was ever MY life, but I miss being in that environment.

To make a long story as short as possible, I got the part. And it is not just one line, I have actual pages. I have emotions to convey, a journey of self discovery and a solo. A SOLO! I get full hair! I get full makeup! Cut to me, a couple of months from now, flowers filling the air on their way to the stage. The cries of “bravo!” and “encore!” filling the auditorium while I stand there looking humble and meek saying in a low voice “I owe it all to pasta…” The movie deals. The endorsements. The Lindsay Lohan like erratic driving to dodge the paparazzi. The rehab. The comeback. The book deal. Fun times!

But that is not all the news I have this week. The cosmos have been very busy smiling down on me these past days. Just this evening, I got a message on Facebook which included the following little ditty: “I was having drinks with my friend Valentina the other day (she works here for the US Vanity Fair) and said she almost prefers your blog to mine.” I almost fell off my chair. Vanity Fair is my favorite magazine. I have been reading it since I was a teenager. The Proust Questionnaire. Nan Darien. Vanities. Dominic Dunne. The Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Back in 2002, I spent a year working for Rem Koolhaas, who among other things was on the board of Conde Nast. It was pretty much a miserable job working closely with one of the most miserable people I have ever come across in my life. But one day the most magical thing happened. Two, count them, TWO tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party came across my desk. I had to read them 3 times. I went to the men’s room to avoid the embarrassing urinating-in-the-pants-from-excitement thing and when I came back, I read them again just to be sure. I happened to have a brand new case of OGO Portable Oxygen Cans at my desk and had to inhale two of them just to keep from fainting. I knew Rem wouldn’t go. At the time the office had recently finished work on the Prada Epicenter in New York. I had been there just a few weeks before and knew I could get a discount on a Prada tux. And if that didn’t work, I had contacts at Prada in Milan. My plotting and planning started.

The only obstacle was that the invites themselves don’t really mean anything. It was the guest list I needed to be on. I had Graydon Carter’s number in my mobile. I wondered if I could simply transfer the invites from Rem to me. I was meant to go. I was meant to be there with Judi Dench, Halle Berry, Denzel, Ethan Hawke, Sophie Dahl, Selma Blair, Ellen Barkin, Megan Mullally, Kelly Lynch and the rest. Nicole Kidman was nominated. I already knew what I was going to say, how I was going to get her to offer her cheek to me for a congratulatory buss. Fortunately, or maybe not, I had just finished reading “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” by Toby Young. Toby had my dream job and he blew it every chance he got. I was jealous. If you are going to crash and burn, what a way to go. I thought of crashing the party, but security is very tight and this was just the first Academy Awards after 9/11. I decided not chance it. It’s one thing to be rejected from a party, another to risk being put in jail as a security risk. But for just a few moments, I held the keys to the kingdom.

So imagine what it was like to know that not only do I read Vanity Fair, Vanity Fair reads me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Attacks in Delhi

Between 18:07 and 18:38 yesterday evening, five bombs were detonated across Delhi. The last two explosions happened at M-Block Market in GK-1, just a few hundred meters from where I live. I was at home at the time, playing music and getting ready to go to Danielle’s for dinner. Manuel and I didn’t hear anything. We didn’t know anything. It was only when we got in the car fifteen minutes later and my driver got a call from his son that the first details started coming in. All he knew was that there was a bomb at Connaught Place and one in GK M-Block. It actually seemed absurd. I was sure he had some wrong information. There are 2 GKs, and each have an M-Block Market. He must have been talking about GK-2, which is close but not within walking distance like GK-1.

We live on a quiet street, bookended by one very busy street and another street that gets somewhat busy during rush-hour but nothing to really comment about. As soon as we hit the smaller of the two streets, it was obvious something had happened. For the first time in 3 months, traffic was jammed. On the way to Danielle’s, I tried to get some news, some details. I phoned Ankit who works for a TV station but couldn’t get through. Finally we got to Danielle’s. She didn’t know anything of it at all, so we turned on the local news and suddenly everything changes. Manuel was planning on going to Connaught Place to do a bit of shopping. He was planning on going to Palika Bazaar after the movie in Saket, but for some reason came home instead. Had he gone, he would have arrived just a few minutes before the bombs went off. He would have been there.

I am not going to pretend to be directly affected by the bombs. Too many people are dead and injured. As far as I know now, I have no friends among them. Had it not been for my driver or the messages I received asking if I was ok, I still would not know. I was planning on going to M-Block Market today. It’s our weekend market. It’s one of the places we go. I am typing this with the news in the background. Images from my neighborhood. This is the closest I have ever been.

Last night Anjali cancelled out on dinner to stay home. If I had known what was happening, I am not sure I would left the house. Danielle lives in what is probably the most secure part of the city, but it is 30 minutes between her place and ours. The restaurant which would have been normally crowded and turning people away had at most 4 tables of people eating. Everyone taking and making calls whenever we could get a line out. Text messages checking if everyone is ok. Promises to phone or text when we all reach home safe. Calling home to make sure our parents don’t worry when it finally hits the local news in Europe and the US. Just as we got to the restaurant we heard that some markets were being closed, markets and restaurants evacuated. Our conversation kept drifting back to what was happening in our city.

This morning on the news I heard that India is only behind Iraq and Afghanistan in the number of terror attacks. For me, one of the scariest times of these attacks is not knowing when it will end. Yes, five bombs went off and several more were diffused. Not knowing if that is it or just the start of something much bigger is what I find the most difficult. Everything becomes suspect. A car on the side of the road. A person putting something in a trash bin. The saddlebags on a bicycle. That’s what was used yesterday. Trash bins and bicycles.

No bombs have gone off since yesterday evening. The city and country are on high alert. Hopefully it is over for now, but we know that another is on the way. It is just a question of when and where…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Friendship 2.0

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the more “connected” I am, the more out of touch I feel. I have my email, Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter, BriteKite, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, blog, etc., and the invitations to join new things come everyday. When I am not online, I have the appropriate application on my iPhone – I am always connected, always keeping everyone up to date with any little detail of my life. Just like most of my friends. I know where they are, where they are working, I see their pictures of holidays and weddings and children. On the surface, it seems great, amazing that it no longer matters if you live next door or on the opposite side of the planet, we are always there in each other’s lives, in the know about what is going on the moment it happens.

But are we?
I wonder...

I feel more disconnected from my friends than I ever did before. I have fallen into the trap of letting Facebook and my blog keep the people I care about up to date. I become lazy and passive in my friendships. I used to be the guy that picked up the phone and sent long personal emails and now it’s almost as if I can’t be bothered. I would worry if I hadn’t heard from someone for a couple of days. I used to take my time writing for just that one person who was on my mind, investing time and energy and now it seems I just broadcast my life for anyone that happens to stumble across my blog or Twitter. Friends I used to be so in touch with are the ones I feel so distant from.

I can’t remember the last time Nik and I exchanged an email. I read his updates, check out his pics on Facebook, I get the false sense of knowing what is going on with him, knowing where he “is” in life, but for some reason I don’t email him. I don’t even message him on Facebook. I don’t ask questions. I don’t dig deeper. I content myself with the snippets he chooses to post and I comment here and there. Comment. Is that what my friendships have become? A series of short and easy to overlook, easy to forget comments?

I feel more like a voyeur than a participant. And the crazy thing is, I have fallen into the same trap. I put up my pics, post my status updates and assume that everyone is up to date and participating in my life. Sometimes I post updates that I think should get a response from people and yet nothing comes. I get disappointed. But if my friends are like me, they get tons of updates every single day in Facebook alone. And then there is Twitter and the rest. Who can keep up?  I am not one of those people that collect people on Facebook. With only one exception, I have met and know every person in my friend list. I see their faces everyday on my screen, but some of them I haven’t exchanged a single message with for over a year. A year. They are just a click away and yet that too is becoming so far. These are people I would have sent an email to or phoned regularly. Ken, Christina, Marco, Nik, Joe, Laura and on and on the list goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook and the rest are great at keeping everyone up to date. What scares me is that they seem to be replacing and redefining the relationship, making it less personal, more generic. I don’t want that to happen with my friends. I value my friends. I love my friends. We have seen each other through high school, relationships, children, careers, illness and death. We have shared cocktails and gossip, leaned on each other and pulled each other up. Ken, Ulco and Marco have at different times saved me, coming to my rescue at just the right moment, even if they didn’t know it at the time.

I like the snippets of life I see everyday about my friends. I just don’t like when I see the snippets replacing the real deal. So I am going to pick up the phone more. I am going to write more emails. I will get back onto Messenger and I am going to get my friendships back the way I need them to be. A lot more personal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Poor Little Piggy

Fact: Marble floors are very hard and very smooth
Fact: Water tends to make marble floors slippery
Fact: When one has wet feet on a marble floor, one should avoid any actions that require even the most minute traction
Fact: When one ignores these facts, one ends up in a lot of pain

Yesterday morning after my shower, I was walking across the bedroom to the closet which requires me to pass by the foot of the bed. For some reason while at the foot of the bed, I felt the need to pull something off the bed. I lost my balance and both my feet went sliding under the bed and into the middle bed legs, causing me to run through my entire list of favorite expletives and causing Manuel to laugh.

I tried bending my toes which worked a bit in spite of the shooting pain and decided they weren’t broken and the pain would subside in an hour or so. I finished getting ready for work and decided to wear my Crocs as they would be the only footwear that would not put pressure on my foot. By the time I got to the office, I was leaning against the stair rail just to get upstairs. An hour later I pulled off the sock and there was my swollen purple toe looking back at me and I decided it was time to take it all a bit more serious.

I got to the hospital and was sent to Orthopedics who, without even looking at my foot or listening to what had happened decided I needed to see a surgeon. I think that is just the default answer to any foreigner with an injury, sending them to a surgeon. It was all very Grey’s Anatomy, but suddenly the thought of someone cutting open the little piggy that stayed home was not so amusing. I waited about 40 minutes for the surgeon to arrive, during which time my entire foot was going numb and I start jumping to worst case scenarios and in my mind my foot was being amputated just below the hip.

Finally the surgeon arrived to take a look. He was not McDreamy or McSteamy, but he did determine my toes – by now more of them were changing color – were not broken but possibly fractured so I was put in a wheelchair and sent for some x-rays which showed no fractures of any kind. I am not sure what was more painful at that moment, my foot or the fact that 27 days after I turned 41, I was being wheeled around the hospital like a little old man.

I am now on my anti-inflammatory medication, right foot elevated and a nice shade of blue slowly but surely taking over more of my podiatric real estate. I am not supposed to walk for the next 2 days unless it is absolutely necessary, something I don’t think I will have a problem sticking to as even walking across the living room to the washroom takes me about a minute.

But I did get some real cool x-ray photos of my foot to go along with my snowboarding vacation x-rays which include broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, two concussions and a sprained ankle. Souvenirs I collected over the years in Val Thorens. Oh yeah, and there’s the broken collar bone pics from when I got hit by a car in Amsterdam, but that is another story.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I Want My MTV

There is one woman in music who impacted my life more than any of the rest. She came into my world via MTV when I was fifteen and I didn’t know at the time what was happening. It was the age of Martha Quinn and the time when video killed the radio star.

I was fourteen and living in Oregon. I was going to a new school and to say I didn’t fit in would be a massive understatement. I dreaded school and everyday my classmates seemed to outdo themselves finding ways to make my life miserable. But every afternoon I would go home and lose myself in MTV. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. My musical life had been limited to the few radio stations that were available and whatever my parents decided to play in the car.

Suddenly the Buggles, Adam and the Ants, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, the Motels, Stray Cats, Joan Jett, the Cars, the Go-Go’s, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Human League, Madness, Devo and Depeche Mode were on my TV and in my life. I wanted and had my MTV,

I would record MTV like most people at that time recorded a cassette. I would keep the VHS on pause, waiting for my favorite songs to come on. It wasn’t long before I modeled myself after the images on the screen and the safety pin became the “don’t-leave-home-without-it” accessory. My favorite MTV artist was Billy Idol. I thought he was the coolest person I had ever seen. The hair. The spikes. The leather pants and gloves. That snarl. I practiced that snarl in the mirror and even now, when I feel angry or aggressive, that snarl comes up.

The videos were crude, there were only a few and they were repeated often. It didn’t matter as long as they kept it coming. And our patron saint was Martha Quinn. One of the original MTV VJs. Yeah, there were few others, but none of them even came close.

Morning Disco

Iced lattes from Barista are part of my normal getting ready in the morning routine. Driver arrives every morning at half past eight and then it is off to Kailash Colony Market where I have my first drink of the day while also digesting HT City - all the news I ever need. I couldn’t possibly consider going to work without being hip to all the Bollywood/Hollywood gossip. I don’t participate in water cooler conversations, I am the water cooler. A hot and cold dispenser of celebrity tidbits and fashion news.

Normally entering Barista at that time means being greeted by Celine Dion. If I know anything by now, it is that her heart will go on. I am beginning to think they press play on that song the moment they see me coming up the steps because it always seems to be in the same part of the song every morning. I open the door to “You’re here, there’s nothing to fear” and I feel instantly important and special in a Titanic sort of way. But all that changed last week. It seems they have simultaneously discovered J-Lo and the volume dial. And the normally empty and quiet Barista was suddenly crowded and jumping and for the first time in my life, I found myself wanting to hear Celine.