Category Archives: Articles

  1. Small Town Nostalgia: Madurai 9° 58' N 78° 10' E

    I was raised in a small temple town in south India, a bell jar of life, love and inhibitions. It felt self contained and comfortably familiar – a severed outpost of progress way in the days of trunk calls and rationed television on tall 13-element antenna with boosters.

    I remember mornings of temple chants, smell of ground coffee or anise and those blazing afternoons with distant songs on Radio Ceylon wavering on on thin air. Picture this: a collage of small eateries with spicy food, barber shop with a bright rooster against a rising sun mirror etched on saloon doors, Charles Bronson at Regal Talkies which was Victoria Edward Library by day, opening movie shows where foul mouthed men pranced on railings over the queue to reach the counter faster, gold foil tickets, jubilant shadow confetti when the hero shows up on screen. Nights came with percussive mincing of ‘parothas’ over flat hot girdle, migrant Rajasthani men serving hot milk over nuts served on streets and street fights that ended invariably with bloodshed. There were colourful visitors too – caucasian backpackers – residual free spirits of seventies with their long hair, worn cottons and lost destinies; complaining North Indian pilgrims in bright saris and bus full of tonsured heads off loaded near the temple; Tamil poets and Sanskrit scholars deep in discourse under cackling monkeys at the temple. There were street acrobats, dancing bears and movie announcements with posters on wheels or a brass band playing old tamil songs. The west temple tower stood sentinel, like an ornate backdrop, watching us grow up.

    School was of early fear for the system and yoghurt on hot rice. The walk from bus stop was across an old banyan tree and a graveyard full of stories. There were plots to throw blankets on that unsuspecting nasty teacher and beat him up right at that cemetery. Education was taken too seriously by most of us. BUt the classes were boring and most often without an objective. Stealing glances was all that was permissible with girls in public, unless you were brave. However, we did have our share off school sweethearts and juicy gossip. Those weekend cricket matches at the school grounds should not have ended at all – small ice boxes on wheels that sells lollies. Stories involving catapults, dead snakes, garden lizards and the reluctant stride to extra classes after matches.

    Literature was largely Tamil pulp, comics like Rip Kirby or Lawrence David translated and paperbacks from Higginbothams. There was the street library too run by an old man with his taped-together spectacles. I grew up with a thirst to know more. Seasons changed, Skylab fell (our school was sure that it will fall on the admin block), civil war broke in Ceylon, radios went silent, refugees came in, love died and new ones flowered. And one day like mine shrapnels we graduated from school to disperse into the wide world of our joys and agonies. A few stayed. But most moved out.

    I was thrown into the shifted reality and culture of a creative school. I had to catch up real fast. This readies you against all hurdles without losing the honesty, values and integrity borne from growing up in a small town under the temple towers.

    I believe in small towns.

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  2. Apple : Faith grows

    I have been an Apple user and a fan for over 15 years. The brand and products have moved on from being a cult to a larger faith. Steve Jobs is a compelling reason to buy and use more Apple products. Here he is in conversation with Walt Mosberg and Kara Swisher for Wall Street Journal.

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  3. Inspiration series: 50 years of design education in India

    Recently I attended a meeting at Idiom campus in Bangalore. The agenda was to define a structure to celebrate half a century of formal design pedagogy in India. There were a few ideas floated. I came out of the group with a specific mission.

    How many times have you met a fellow designer one-on-one and talked about how they evolved, present day design business, expectations and future? I decided to do this with my friends and document it as a personal note – an inspirational capsule for creative professionals. I want to meet designers with varied objective and write a series of articles. And why?

    1. Seek Inspiration: We are constantly looking at the next best thing to do. We are seeking a spark that will stimulate us for a while and then we can seek the next one. I probably will find a few in this journey to keep me running for a longer spell. Be inspired!
    2. Show and Tell: With my association with publications and Mario I have acquired skills in representational techniques for narratives. The truth in editorial design is about creating compelling narratives through written word, images and typography. I want to do this myself and see it working.
    3. Dry Design Writing: I am not a great writer. Yet I have an opinion. Other than large documentation projects that culminate in exquisite books, Indian design writing lacks personality or emotion. They read like industry journals on commodities or aluminum scrap forcibly written by clerks in dungeons. My articles are going to be personal accounts on people I know, with a hope that it will make these a good read. Keeping it honest.
    4. Exercise Humility: There are a few of us who can listen, enjoy, appreciate and assimilate good work by other designers. Over the years it has bothered me a lot. Visits to seminars and Designyatra has strengthened this belief further. I take this as a personal cleansing, getting off the proverbial ivory tower to look around and feel humble.
    5. People: Finally it is all about human beings, friends and fellow professionals. There is a lot that we can share and everybody has a story. I like that thought!

    There are more reasons not articulated yet. If you are somebody that I contact to do an interview or a profile I will promptly point you to this post. This is an easy way to understand the ‘why’.

    As of now this series of articles are going to be published right here in Apparatus blog. If you are interested in publishing, sponsoring or helping with this exercise please do leave a note here. You can mail or call me too. My contact details are at here.

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  4. Adobe seeks feedback: Dreamweaver

    An Adobe entourage was at office today talking to our designers about Dreamweaver. In the verge of dreaming up features for the Creative Suite 6 version, they wanted to understand projects, usage environments and the users.

    Bernard, Praveen and José from Apparatus walked them through their views and woes. There are a few things that I would love to have in Dreamweaver. An ability to easily include interaction components like carousels, get ready for html5 and stress more on mobile. Now that Steve Jobs has pronounced strike and Adobe is grappling with Flash they should ready Dreamweaver to help development for Tablets.

    Know more about Dreamweaver here.

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  5. The new privacy: Social ape does not like to share information

    I hear a lot of furore in Facebook about the flimsy privacy and the complexity involved in setting it up. Why is it so difficult to get people together and get it right?

    Social networking, I thought, is about getting all of us together, in one place – to listen, share, opine, drift to gather around affinities, to hold hands in times of trouble and to feel one. Apparently, as the name suggests, you leave residual personal information – the type that you do not want to share with everybody. Or at times these are assets worth money, like a pretty picture or further these could fall into wrong hands.

    Let us get specific and talk Facebook my friends. While you post your two pennies and wait for that sought after roflmao there are plenty of unwanted people looking at those nuggets of your life. If you are a Facebook user and do not like the privacy terms I suggest that you do either or all of these:

    1. Post less critical information: I suggest that you do not share your bank account password to get those many comments in. Make inane status changes and stay there. Post photos from public domain and not necessarily the ones that you can sell or you are ashamed about.
    2. Crack the privacy settings: You remember that first Panasonic Video Cassette Recorder and how you took the manual to toilet. But you finally figured how to set the automatic recorder (and never used it). Go through the privacy policy, understand your settings and fix it all the way you want to. Post things with great deliberation and drop-downs.
    3. Get out of it all: Get ready like the samurai for seppukku. Clean out your albums, your notes and links, leave your goodbyes and kill your account. Leave Facebook never to return.Take to tweets!

    But, for the sake of your social media kin, do not hang in there and complain. You will not earn your lols.

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  6. A Director's Profile

    I was given this task of writing Indrajit Nattoji’s profile to be published wherever necessary. Being a long-standing friend helped me write this piece and have fun doing it. Watch his movie when it is out and tell me if all this is true. His profile follows:

    Indrajit Nattoji is a movie maker with an exotic combination of narrative panache and irreverent humour. He has always been comfortable in placing the mundane or the real against a complex perspective of human experiences that creates his brand of jocular art. Indrajit also has the ability to blend organic storytelling with the precise craft of cinema.

    He began his career as a documentary filmmaker, which again is a fabulous excuse to get an all-paid trip around the country with a camera of your choice. This taught him relevant skills in deconstructing a real situation into intelligent modes of presentation. He also recognised the hidden irony in fleeting instances of the world.

    He would have remained in that illusory realm of roaming about playing mouth organ with his bare hands if not for love. He fell head over heels for the Ford Mustang and consummating needed money.

    He traded his ideals for moolah and tighter narratives when he started a production company in New Delhi called Watermark.

    On recognising the mutual match in the genre of storytelling Channel V hired him as a Senior Producer and he moved to Mumbai to work with them for three years. These three years sharpened his wit, added style to his imagery and strengthened his managerial skills. Then he decided to start his own gig called Blink Pictures – a production house that jaywalked the roads of advertising commercials to glory. He rose to fame brushing shoulders (even if he had to stand on a step ladder) with celebrities like Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham as he directed them for endorsed products.

    By now, he was a fully evolved film maker who was invited to flaunt his knowledge on ‘Popular Street Culture and Advertising’ in public by Promax BDA Los Angeles Conference. He did that well too. More international and Indian accolades followed.

    Indrajit decided to move on to the greater plains of feature length movies with style and witticism. He recently decided to get married, push weights at the gym and make his first feature film all at the same time. Soon he will be introduced as a man with wit on top, washer-board abs in the middle, a smiling wife by his side and a few hits behind him.

    Now, they say, there is a Ford Mustang somewhere heartbroken and pining.

    Indrajit Nattoji is a Communication Graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, with a specialization in Film and Graphic Design.


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  7. We had it coming

    (This article appeared in Femina Magazine, February 2007)

    The women are taking over.

    The thought crept up on me as I surfed news channels over Christmas weekend. In two hours of watching six news channels, I came across only two male newsreaders and lost count of the number of women wielding microphones and lapel mikes. I tried the same exercise with music channels and, sure enough, the female veejays outnumbered the male of the species by a mile. There’s not much sporting action on Christmas weekend but the sports channels, too, have not been spared. Mandira Bedi and her ilk populate the commentary-breaks during cricket. In tennis, the women’s game has infinitely more depth and variety (the men’s game has little beyond the Federer-Nadal rivalry) and, going back to the news channels, one of the best sports bulletins was anchored by a woman.

    My thoughts drift to the 2001 census which reported a sex ratio of 927 girls to 1000 boys in India, against a world average of 1045 women to 1000 men. In some States, the ratio is down to about 900 girls per 1000 boys in the 0-6 age group even dropping to a disdainful rate of nearly 850 girls to 1000 boys in some districts.

    But if one set of statistics is alarming, there is another set of numbers that is heartening. Nearly 11% of village panchayats are headed by women. 50% of India’s medical graduates are women. Across different States, 13 Indian women have been chief ministers post independence. India has had one woman prime minister (and she held office for 15 years spread over the course of three decades) and in 2004, a woman created political history by not staking a claim to the Prime Minister’s post.

    Women are standing up and making themselves count.


    I catch the matinee show of Casino Royale and a subtle shift of power is on display. The name is Bond. James Bond. But the mane is blond. After 44 years and five male leads, the sixth action hero wears light hair and occasionally proves to be a bit of an airhead as well.

    Here’s the interesting bit. His love interest, Vesper Lynd, is no mere eye candy. She is a treasury agent (a brunette, please note) and is in charge of arranging funding for a high-stakes poker game he has to play against an evil private banker in Montenegro. In one telling scene, Vesper even demonstrates with cold efficiency, that the way to Bond’s heart is through his defibrillator.

    Never mind Paris Hilton shooting her mouth off about every generation having its blond icon. “There was Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana,” she grandly stated, “and now there’s me.”

    There must be any number of women who secretly wish that Mademoiselle Hilton shuts up and lets Daniel Craig be the blond icon of this generation. It would be sweet revenge and turn the tables on eons of dumb blond jokes.

    As for women in the movies, they are transcending traditional doormat stereotypes. Single mothers, editors, veejays, artists, designers, reel life now reflects the roles that women play in real life. Aparna Sen, Farah Khan and Tanuja Chandra have broken into the directing domain, which, for some strange reason was the exclusive preserve of men. Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha and Mira Nair have gone a step ahead and made a global name for India and Indian filmmaking while a number of local big guns are still grappling with the meaning of crossover.


    Watched any ads lately? You can’t have missed the one where a guy sneaks into a girls’ hostel and steals, urk, fairness cream. Or the one where a guy steals into the ladies’ room and gets his clothes ripped apart. How about the Lux ad with Shah Rukh in a tub? Notice the four women on the rim of the tub. They are fully draped and impishly giving the King a dunking.

    There is a pattern here. Watch this space for more ads where the men are mere props. Some ads will be a tad more tasteful than others. But the message is clear. Chicks rule. Oops, did I say chicks? That might get bleeped out.


    I am on a flight to Bangalore and the captain’s voice comes in through the speakers. Normal procedure except that the voice belongs to a woman. More and more women are finding their voice in corporate India. Women comprise 18% of the workforce in the organized sector.

    Indra Nooyi, Pepsi’s global head, is number one on Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s most powerful women in business. There are three Indian businesswomen on that list (to put the number in perspective, there are six Indian companies in the Fortune 500).

    Then, there are the scores of women working outside the organized sector and don’t show up in research reports. Maushi is the woman who cleans our office. We don’t know her name. Everyone knows her as Maushi. She is pushing 70 but reports to work on the dot of 7.30am. She is saving up for her husband’s cataract operation. He is unable to work due to his impaired vision. His income was never enough to put their son through school so Maushi started working very early. The son promptly dumped them and Maushi had to give up all hope of retiring to a life of comfort.

    Maushi and others of her ilk make all discussions of work-life balance seem like so much academic poppycock. She works at two offices and three households, gets home and finishes her cooking and cleaning and, on occasion, even manages to find the time to chew a masala paan under a clear blue sky.

    Womankind has figured out that economic freedom is what will liberate them from the shackles that bind them to the whims of the men in their life be it an uncaring father, husband, brother or boyfriend.


    Divorce is no longer a four-letter word.

    The Family Court in Mumbai, which was set up in 1989 and processed 400 to 500 cases a year is now creaking under the weight of nearly 9000 cases per year. Mrinalini Deshmukh, one of Mumbai’s best-known matrimonial lawyers says that she finds more and more women walking into her office and asserting they want out of a bad marriage.

    She believes the reason for this trend is primarily economic independence but feels that there is also a greater acceptance in society and there is no longer a social stigma attached to divorce.

    Witness the success of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and compare it to the commercial failure of Yash Chopra’s Silsila, which covered much the same ground more than two decades ago. Yes, there are a number of people who still wonder why Rani Mukerji leaves her husband when he doesn’t drink or beat her up (or both).

    Equally, a vast number, particularly in India’s burgeoning youth audience connects with the fact that lack of wavelength in a marriage is enough grounds for calling it quits. No use waiting till death does you part if staying together is killing you in the first place.


    So, what gives? What information pertains?

    A screenplay writer, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he believes that only one point of view can prevail and he’d rather it is the male viewpoint. “In any relationship, there cannot be two rock stars,” he says with not a trace of shame about his chauvinistic views.

    It is then more than likely that there is an equal and opposite reaction and women believe that if only one point of view has to prevail, it should be theirs. After all, the male viewpoint has been prevalent for centuries and women have had to endure primitive practices like sati which was abolished by law only in 1988.

    The last couple of years have seen watershed laws in the areas of dowry, domestic violence and succession. It doesn’t stop at laws. There’s been justice too. The landmark verdicts in the Jessica Lal case and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case are two prime examples.

    India has 21 high courts and 19 women judges (which is not even 10% of the total number of sanctioned judges but it’s a start).


    For generations, women ran our homes and ran them impeccably. They were denied an education, they were denied a shot at a career, they were denied a shot at life. They were denied.

    Then, they decided to go out and get what was due them.

    We can greet their assertion with shock and horror. Or we can accept there is another point of view and live more inclusively. Carrie Fisher once said her marriage to Paul Simon broke up because they were both flowers and in any relationship, one has to play flower and the other has to play gardener. There are times when one switches modes but clearly, there’s no room for two flowers or two gardeners.

    Maybe it’s time we started playing gardener. A lot of urban young men already are. You see them making the effort to change nappies, put the clothes in the wash, whip up the occasional pasta, salad (or pasta salad on lazy days), doing the dishes and embracing the fact that all roles are best when shared.

    Failing this, men run the risk of being marginalized. Because while we make a big deal of making ourselves useful around the house, women can multitask with supreme ease running the house while simultaneously running corporations, nations and space stations.

    Mrinalini talks about a 62-year-old lady who approached her for a divorce after being married for 40 years. Hers is the story of most women and certainly most Indian women. She married young and didn’t have much say in the marriage. Within a year of being married, she had a daughter. While the marriage was going nowhere, she stayed in it for the sake of the child. When the child grew up, she couldn’t think of divorce because she feared it would impede her daughter’s marriage prospects. After the daughter marriage, she stayed back for her grandchild. Now, the grandchild had grown up and she felt ready to take a step she had contemplated for nearly 40 years.

    Mrinalini asked her if there was any reason she wanted to go through with the divorce at this point in her life. The answer stunned Mrinalini.

    “I want to die in peace,” the old lady said.

    The husband, incidentally, responded by asking his wife if she was leaving him for another man. So typical. He was prepared to believe there was another man but failed to see that there could be another point of view.

    Most women, empow

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  8. A Slice of Life

    I, apparently am shortlisted to the second stage of They wanted me to send them a 150 words travelogue. I quote “The next step requires you to share with us a 100-150 word write-up on your most relished travel experience. Please email this to within next week.” I sent the piece below. You decide!

    A Slice of Life

    Traveling in trains through terrains and towns is like watching avant-garde theatre. The grilled window reveals a slice in the lives of people outside as it moves swiftly.

    My early train journeys were predominantly across the baked Deccan to reach Gujarat. I have watched the shadow of the train quiver over sands of dry river beds, farmers in an argument on a red landscape, boys being slapped by grandfathers in white turbans, vacant wait of cyclists at the crossing and dust clouds of a distant bus with cargo on top.

    Recently I had to visit a leather and sugarcane town at the northern corner of Karnataka on a photography assignment for a Flemish magazine. The town drunkards and smell of dead buffaloes being tanned drove me out of Athani. I fled on a bus to Belgaum.

    It was that ethereal red flat landscape again. We stopped for a break and there were people with me who looked like the slapping grandfather and waiting cyclists.

    There was a train at the horizon. Somebody was watching this slice of my life.

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  9. Immigrant Angels – Four cabbie stories

    I flew an Embraer 170 jet across the United States from Dallas Fortworth to Chicago O’Hare. A small thing to take care of in Chicago and I took another such flight to Washington Dulles.

    This is probably the perfect time to visit the capital area – fall. The State of Virginia looks like a young media professional from London when shades of reds are the color of the season – wearing red silks, fluffy boa, dyed hair, bright red demented eye wear, jewelry and more. (After I paint the picture I realize how bad it is.) Virginia looks beautiful, surely more attractive than that media girl.

    The people from capital area are predominantly occupied in governance or working for agencies that are government parasites. Of what I hear from friends who work in defense contracting companies the bureaucrats are a bunch of frustrated sods warming chairs and acting pricey for the mere fact that they are sitting on government money. I got a fantastic deal at the Hyatt Dulles right next to the airport (and I almost missed the flight back to Dallas Fortworth and that is another story). I got a well-appointed room overlooking a terrace garden with a lounge area and a sleep area for $80 a night all inclusive and it otherwise costs $354 and taxes ( rocks!). This is like a pauper placed in a palace. I was sharing elevators and waiting for cabs with bureaucrats wearing arrogance on their two thousand dollar suit sleeves. They threw loaded glances at this strange Asian guy wearing jeans and an Eddie Bauer corduroy jacket – ‘is he staying here. I need to get Cindy to change my reservations next time’.

    There is a pleasant comfort in meeting immigrants in the capital area. Like New York City, Washington DC has always attracted immigrant population driving cabs or working at Delis. They are legal immigrants polite, confident and engaging. This posting is about four cab drivers who in their own way made a difference to my otherwise sober trip.

    Flare of existence – Kelly Zhu
    The first morning at Hyatt and I was worried about calling a cab from the hotel. I thought they would send me a gleaming Merc and fleece the daylights out of my meager travel budget. However, I decided to go with them and a Lexus GS440 lands up. I had to share the ride with another Asian girl from California. She was going to Reston, VA and I was going across the bridge to McLean, VA. Kelly Zhu, a Japanese lady in her thirties, was the cab driver.

    The champagne silver Lexus was a fantastic car with a Magellan GPS (the type that constantly talks to you – ‘you missed the exit you dumb ass’). Kelly maneuvered the car with great ease and skill. She was a silent woman with a pleasant smile; unlike the ones in Ozu movies. I pictured her in a small town home that smells of fish in Maryland with her Pokemon daughter, eating small portions of clean food on a perfectly square plates on perfectly square low table. She dropped me at McLean, VA, handed me her card and left.

    After I finished my meeting I get a cab driven by Siraj Khan and we got stuck on the beltway. The radio said that there was a rather bad accident on the beltway. We crawled for over a mile and saw those flashing lights up ahead. We had to skirt around a tow truck and a couple of police cars blocking the accident and one of the lanes. Then I saw it through those flashing lights in my eye – the ravaged hood of champagne silver Lexus awkwardly pulled up at the shoulder. The airbags flopped over the front windows. It cannot be Kelly’s car. But since then, I had grit in my mind about Kelly and the visual of the mangled car filled my vacant afternoons. Kelly Zhu if you ever read this show me a sign – send up the flare of existence.

    No line of control – Siraj Khan
    Irrespective of where you flag them in the United States, Pakistani cabbies have a consistent remark. They are out to prove that the hostility between people of our countries is a weak mirage conjured in the heads of the state for political advantage. The truth is we are one, like renegade Siamese twins.

    Siraj’s illustration of this point was a bollywood-style drama of friendship. He is of Pakistani origin – a cricket player-like handsome man in his early thirties in a Walmart polo neck, jeans and wrap around dark glasses. He drives an unmentionably yellow cab with the CD player incessantly playing ‘Pretty woman dekko dekko na Pretty woman’, franchised for Falls Church Cab Service. His friend Raj, of Indian origin, drives a cab for the same company. (Raj – Siraj. Who said truth cannot be cheesy!) Raj threw a huge bash on Diwali day with booze and fanfare. There were three Indian families in attendance and about ten Pakistani ones. They had a ball, of course on a common ground of Hindi film songs, not to mention the inebriated sing-along and dancing.

    Raj and Siraj do not eat lunch without each other. And they do this everyday. Last month was Ramadan and Siraj was fasting. Raj had these unhappy and lonely lunches that he ate to live. Yesterday was Id and Siraj organized a do and invited the same bunch – biryani, butter chicken and lots of beer to wash it down. A re-run of the song and dance routine and the bunch was elated. Now, Siraj’s fasting is over with Id and he can eat lunch again. He wanted to drop me of at Great Falls, VA as early as he can for the friends are uniting again for lunch after a month. Raj is buying Chinese and they are meeting at Tyson’s Corner.

    I did call Siraj that afternoon for a drop back at Hyatt. He was at DC after lunch and he called back to say that Raj was tied-up too. I called the cab company and after couple of hours of wait they sent me Steven Mbwaza.

    This was a typical establishing decoupage in a Hindi movie to illustrate friendship, with jumpy comic songs, heroes in colors that hurt, which the west will discard as something camp and not at all übersexual.

    As corny as it may sound, it was earnest and I liked that.

    From the fields of gold – Steven Mbwaza
    Friday afternoon, I was working at Content Enablers at Great Falls, VA. Brad went early to convert eighty pounds of chicken simmering at home into enchiladas for a night party. Mathew came over, had a $9.99 Gyro dinner at Deli Italiano with me and left. I called for a cab and they sent me a thin, tall, articulate, deep voiced young African American who introduced himself as Steve.

    Steven Mbwaza was from Ghana, Western Africa. His country was a colony of the British Empire and was declared independent ten years after India in 1957. Steven was 32, well read and well informed. He wanted to know my take on the Delhi bombs and was concerned that the Pakistani borders were not secure after the earthquake. He was all for democratic progress and India seemed to be his benchmark. ‘You guys are smart and we want to be there too.’

    Ghana is a small and peaceful democracy of about 14 million people south of Sahara with rich metal resources. Appropriately christened Gold Coast by the British Empire, it traded that name for Ghana later. The unpronounceable President of Ghana is apparently a progressive man sending youngsters out to learn and bring back wisdom to make a difference in the economy and governance of this small country. Kofi Annan is a Ghanian and he supports this cause. Him being the UN Secretary General visible and influential has helped in Ghana getting noticed by the larger global community.

    Steven, a dual citizen of US and Ghana, drives a cab, studies at the University of Maryland and runs a small acupuncture pads business back in Africa. ‘I want to go back home soon, like how you Indians are and make a difference to my land.’ I was impressed and inspired by this young man’s patriotism, drive and conviction.

    My travel planner – Ahmed the Turk
    Too many Sam Adams the earlier night and I woke up late. I had to catch a flight at 8.27 am and the front desk had told me that there is a sh
    tle every half hour. They did not tell me that they start at 7.45 am on a Saturday.

    I had to call for a cab. Ahmed the Turk drives in and I politely told him to step on it. It is a short drive. Ahmed talks without a pause in an interesting mid eastern accent with guttural flourishes to an otherwise insipid monologue. I made the mistake of confessing that I am planning a week’s vacation in Istanbul. Ahmed quickly donned his cap of the knowledgeable guide set out to create my itinerary as I panic.

    ‘First day is at the bazaar Kapalıçari; next day is at the mosques Ahi Celibi, Selimiye, Al Sophia and Zeyrek; then the churches Anglikan and more. You get everything in Istanbul, the legit and the illicit. But you need to know the path. You should eat the fish, with what do you call that, lemon and olive oil at the bazaar. Ask them to make it hot and eat it slowly. Do not forget to take the ferry across the river between the European quarters and the Asian quarters. The sauce for the fish is an amazing combination of olive leaves and spices. Ask the guys to top it’. At this point we have been at the United gate for a few minutes and my flight will shut in about twenty. I can see that the airport is extremely crowded with weekend traffic. I am being polite and listening to him as I pull my wallet out. He continues with the color of the sea in Turkey, extended services in a Turkish bath (he winks), but does not tell me the fare. Another minute of his banter and I am about to excrete wire-cut house bricks. In between somewhere he said ‘Thirteen dollars’ and I stuffed a twenty dollar bill in his palm and shot out like a moor during crusade. I ran to the counter, inched nervously in the queue, get half naked through security check, dress up, reach gate C16 and as the lady is deciphering my last name to announce I slide to her, enter the gate and it shuts behind me. I was the last person to enter the plane and the vacation in Turkey was the last thought in my head.

    I breathe as the Embraer taxis out on the runway. It lumbers up the sky and I ease into a comfortable content nap. I am going back to Dallas.

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  10. Sports is from Mars, shopping is from Venus

    This piece almost never got written.

    The first time I sat to write it, India was playing Pakistan at Karachi and the team amassed 349 runs. I abandoned the computer keyboard for the television remote and jabbed away furiously, surfing 100 channels looking for Ten Sports and finally finding it housed on Doordarshan. In the second half of the game, I put a cushion on my lap and my laptop on the cushion. Some three hours later, I heard a faint beep, looked at the cursor blinking on a blank Word document and a red cross on the battery icon at the base of the screen. The game went down in history and I’m afraid my piece, too, was pretty much history.

    The Editor let me off with a warning and a new deadline that, alas, coincided with not only a cricket match but with Formula1 in Malaysia. The TV screen and the computer screen, each vying for attention, spun around my head like Schumacher and Montoya whirring around the Sepang International Circuit. After a leisurely Sunday lunch (which was served in the presence of Messrs Afridi, Haq, Razzaq and Akhtar), I bit my nails to the quick as India’s batsmen slumped. Just as I was giving up on the game and the series and returning to the comp, Dravid and Kaif pulled off a spectacular rescue act. India was back in the series.

    The next morning, I desperately needed a rescue act as I was summoned by the Editor. She didn’t want to negotiate any more deadlines. “Why,” she asked, “are men so darned obsessed with sports?”

    To be honest, I’ve been asked that question before. And it is always a woman who does the asking. Why are men so obsessed with sports? Why do men read the newspapers backwards? Why does a turf war erupt on a 29-inch battlefield every time there is a big game on at prime time? Why do men trot off to catch a game at the expense of nearly all else? Why? Why? Why?

    Between you and me, asking a man why he is obsessed with sports is a bit like asking a woman why she is obsessed with shopping. Of course, a woman would instantly take umbrage at the counter questioning. She will proceed to rubbish the generalisation that women are compulsive shoppers. She will say that assuming, for a moment, that women are, indeed, shopaholics, there is nothing wrong with being so. She will then look you squarely in the eye and still want to know why men are sportaholics.

    Well, since you really want to know, babe.

    Some of us love to play sports and all of us, even the ones who play, enjoy watching sports. We play golf because it’s a great way to network and anyone who tells you otherwise is fibbing. If we want exercise, we run, swim or cycle. Or play squash, baddie or tennis. It’s a thrill. It’s a release. Corporate combat is a purely mental pursuit and it’s nice to occasionally have the physical satisfaction of thwacking a tennis ball or smashing a shuttle. It is, plainly put, a legit way of quickening the heart rate, breathing hard, moaning, groaning and sweating profusely, all in public. Go on, call us exhibitionists.

    And, as I said, we like watching. Sports channels are eye candy, mind candy, ego candy. Unlike the politicians on news channels and the fat cats on business channels, the folks on sports channels are lean, mean, hungry and raring to go. An athlete at his peak is truly a man in full. Sport, even with the onslaught of Astroturf, lighter racquets and heavier bats, ultimately remains a supreme test for powers of concentration, endurance, tenacity and the human spirit. Victory in the sports arena is so much more real than coming up trumps in office politics.

    To return to an earlier question, maybe, just maybe, it is our preoccupation with sports that has driven women to seek refuge in shopping. Women have become so accustomed to men behaving like slobbering lapdogs in their presence. They can’t, for the life of them, fathom why we would be distracted by men, no matter how metrosexual some of those men may be.

    But if we want to be like our sports hero

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