September 25, 2008


July 14, 2008 - I was busy sitting at my desk in my office tower when the reports started trickling in. Many parts of Vancouver's downtown core were going dark. I quickly saved my work on my computer so that I would not lose it and checked the regional power provider's website to see the extent of the electrical outage. BC Hydro was reporting that almost the entire business district had been affected. My building was located in the eye of the hurricane. Panic engulfed the businesses of the city with their near absolute reliance on electricity. All around me buildings were engulfed in darkness, stores were shuttered, food started to rot, and office workers were given the rest of day off, as my building remained unaffected.

With the generators working admirably to provide electrical power, it was business as usual for my coworkers and I. At lunchtime I ventured outside into the empty streets of Vancouver. An eerie silence was my only companion. I surveyed the deserted cityscape in search of an establishment providing food. After a long trek I arrived at the intersection of Burrard and Smithe. A solitary hot dog stand was all that separated civilization from anarchy.

A dignified crowd of about 20 working professionals who had not gone home or to the beach had formed a queue at the famed Japadog stand. The purveyors of specialty hot dogs, Japadog, infuse Japanese ingredients into the North American staple. My Terimayo hot dog was coated with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and seaweed. I devoured it in a few minutes. Japadog says that "Our English is very poor. The followings may make mistakes. We are sorry" but "We will do my best for supplying most delicious hotdog in the world". They lived up to their promise, escepecially in a time of crisis.

September 21, 2008

Thums Up

It is quite common for a country or region to have a signature drink. Usually it is alcoholic in nature. A small sample from the world of beer would include Steinlager (New Zealand), Heineken (Netherlands), Guinness (Ireland), Corona (Mexico), Foster's (Australia), Medalla Light (Puerto Rico), and Budweiser (USA). The king of beers in India is Kingfisher. United Breweries, run by the enigmatic Vijay Mallya, has the lion's share of the Indian beer market and is the third largest producer of spirits worldwide. Although quite tasty, it is not the beverage that unites a people. This honour belongs to a carbonated soft drink: Thums Up.

After Coca Cola was forced to withdraw from India in the 1970's a homegrown cola rose to take its place. With no serious competition in the cola market, Thums Up ruled supreme. In the 1990's government hard restrictions on soft drinks were lifted, and Pepsi and Coca-Cola soon entered the market. Thums Up stood toe to toe against the massive marketing might of Pepsi Cola for a time, until Coke's entry made it a three way tango. The Indian owner of Thums Up eventually relented against this international onslaught and sold Thums Up to Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola would ideally have liked its namesake drink to be the flagship product in its lineup. so it tried to marginalize Thums Up. Reducing its marketing budget and focusing its promotional efforts on Coke were not enough to eliminate the beverage. The nation's love affair with Thums Up was too strong. Deciding to build on its distinctiveness, Coca Cola repositioned Thums Up as a manlier alternative to Coke and Pepsi. As a drink that distinguishes men from boys, Thums Up was a constant source of refreshment during my journeys through India.


Taste the Thunder!

September 19, 2008


Aishwarya Rai, the world's most beautiful woman, was scheduled to perform in front of me on August 17th. She was to be accompanied on stage by her husband Abhishek Bachchan and her legendary father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan, where they would dance to beats of popular Bollywood film songs. Aishwarya remarked “I am thrilled to be a part of such a splendid event that promises to promote Indian cinema on a global platform. An event of such a magnitude will surely be something to look out for and I am eagerly looking forward to it”. I too was eagerly awaiting my audience with her, when I heard the devastating news that she would not be coming.

The Vancouver leg of the "Unforgettable" tour was slashed from the schedule for reasons that were not publicised. Rumours included low ticket sales due to inflated prices and an inability of the organizers of the event to pay the handsome fees demanded by the beautiful actress and her fellow stars. Tickets that were purchased by the disappointed fans of the icons of Indian cinema were refunded, leaving them with a full wallet, empty fantasies, and an unforgettable experience.


Dard hota hai jab dard chubhtaa nahii. (Translation: True pain doesn't even sting.)
- a line from the song Kajra Re in the movie Bunty aur Babli

September 18, 2008

Musical Weekend: Aerosmith & Jagjit Singh

Rock and roll legends Aerosmith, led by front man Steven Tyler, made their way to Bangalore to perform in front an enthusiastic crowd of youngsters. It was their first performance in India. Held on the expansive Palace Grounds, a crowd of 30,000 enjoyed the two hour long concert. Quite a few of my friends had come over from Hyderabad for the concert. I am not a fan but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I went also. I enjoyed the spectacle even though I was not familiar with all of the songs.

In the same weekend, ghazal singer Jagjit Singh performed in front of a much older crowd at Ambedkar Bhawan. A ghazal is a form of poetic expression that has Arabic origins, usually dealing with topics such as love and pain. The complete Aerosmith concert was shorter in duration than the first half of Jagjit Singh's marathon performance. Including the intermission, the concert lasted approximately five hours. The crowd here had a much greater knowledge of the songs performed by the artist having grown up listening to him, and sang along on quite a few occasions with their enthusiasm and appreciation increasing as the hours went by.


Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you, babe
And I don't wanna miss a thing

- Aerosmith, from the Armageddon soundtrack

September 14, 2008


Natalie. Nichole. Chrystina. Tiffanie.

The winners of the second season of the reality television series Pussycat Dolls Present would go on to form the group known as Girlicious. Opening for the Backstreet Boys later that night, they were signing autographs at the flagship HMV store in downtown Vancouver one day. Almost identical in artistic style and dress sense to the Pussycat Dolls, the band has a diverse makeup of performers. They also wear a considerable amount of makeup as I discovered when they walked past me, giggling and waving with great enthusiasm. They were also shorter in person than the statuesque figures I had seen on television so I was somewhat disappointed. The line for autographs circled the external perimeter of the entire store, with hundreds of eager youth waiting outside for a chance to meet them. I had to get back to work, so I did not join the lineup.

"Three girls in this group is great, four girls are Girlicious." - Robin Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls

September 12, 2008

Ranga Shankara

As a patron of the arts I attempt to support local artists wherever I may be. Ranga Shankara is Bangalore's most prominent theatre. With a modern design featuring stadium seating for a small crowd, it provides an intimate surrounding for both the actors on stage and the audience watching them perform.

With my flatmate Chang, I went to the 150th show of a theatre troupe called Evam. Located on the outskirts of Bangalore, we weaved through heavy traffic on Chang's motorcycle and arrived just as the doors were opening. He came to a grinding halt in front of the entrance and I hopped off. While he looked for a parking spot, I picked up our tickets. As he joined me, Chang pointed out a famous director, Girish Karnad, in the audience, but I was not familiar with his work.  

The play was titled 'Love Letters' and was the tale of two people who spent their whole lives writing letters to each other. Beginning from elementary school and continuing through to old age their relationship progresses and their lives unfold, with the only constant being the friendship and support they provide to each other through trying times. It was quite deep and tragic.

September 10, 2008

Cats Hold Grudges

On a day when it was raining cats and dogs outside, one of my colleagues was attempting to convince another that there is a famous phrase - "Cats hold grudges". The other colleague started making cat calls, refusing to believe that this was an authentic figure of speech. The cat and mouse game continued for a while, as they argued back and forth. As is often the case, they came to me to settle the matter. They were as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs as they awaited my reply. I grinned like a Cheshire cat, although I was unsure of the answer. The cat had got my tongue, and I could not provide a solid conclusion either way. The phrase did seem familiar but I did not remember a specific situation where I had heard it being used.

Even though curiosity killed the cat, we decided to further investigate the validity of this statement. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, we quickly researched the usage and popularity of this saying on the Internet. Using my catlike reflexes I opened up a web browser and typed in my search query. Taking a look at what the cat had dragged in, we discovered that the results were quite limited. Only a handful of articles discussing whether cats hold grudges were available online, and all were quite literal in their interpretations. As no consensus existed on whether cats hold grudges, it was not being used as a figure of speech by the common man. Now that the cat was out of the bag, the case was closed.

"Cat's motto: No matter what you've done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it." - Unknown

September 08, 2008


It was the summer of 2007. My year in India with Satyam had come and gone. An additional month of travel and goodbyes, and I was on a flight back. As Europe was the midpoint of the 20+ hour flight to Canada, I decided to spend a couple of weeks in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. My cousin was staying in Paris, so I enjoyed his hospitality there. He met me at Charles de Gaulle International Airport and located me with surprising ease. Together we lugged my baggage from the airport shuttle to the metro, through the railway station and the narrow streets, and up to his apartment. I deposited my luggage there, stripping out the essentials into my duffel bag and continued my travels.

Bart, one of my roommates from Hyderabad, met me in Brussels, Belgium. Over a whirlwind weekend he showed me as much of Belgium as possible.
  • Brussels
  • Bruges
  • Ghent
  • Oostende
  • Ypres
Five days had been allocated to seeing the Netherlands. Here my premier guide was Stein, one of my roommates from Bangalore.
  • Amsterdam
  • Delft
  • Den Haag
  • Eindhoven
  • Maastricht
  • Rotterdam
  • Scheveningen
  • Utrecht
The lion's share of my time in France was devoted to wandering around the City of Love.
  • Paris
  • Mont St. Michel
  • Versailles
My Eurotrip began and ended in Paris, one of the most captivating cities I have set foot on. After travelling through Belgium and Holland without a moment's rest, I returned here for a bit of relaxation before making my triumphant return to the Gateway to the Pacific - Vancouver.

September 07, 2008

Puerto Rico - Isla del Encanto

I went on a weeklong vacation to the island of Puerto Rico with my parents. Situated in the Caribbean, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States of America. Its capital and largest city is San Juan. Originally, this city was known as Puerto Rico ("rich port") and the island was San Juan (named after John the Baptist), but the nomenclature was swapped somewhere in its history, perhaps due to a cartographic error. Almost rectangular in shape, the coastline of the small island is dotted with beaches while the interior is composed of dense jungles and hilly terrain.

 Renting a car is the best way to see all that Puerto Rico  has to offer. The driving skills of the Puerto Ricans match their grasp of the English language, making it relatively easy to both communicate and commute across the island. We used the oceanfront community of Condado in San Juan as our base, and made road trips across Puerto Rico. Our itenarary was packed:

Day 1 - Arrive in San Juan
Day 2 - Northwestern Puerto Rico - Arecibo Observatory and Rio Camuy
Day 3 - Northeastern Puerto Rico - El Yunque, Loquillo, and Palmas del Mar
Day 4 - Old San Juan
Day 5 - Southeastern Purto Rico - Rincon and San German 
Day 6 - Southern Puerto Rico - Ponce and Tibes
Day 7 - Depart San Juan 

As the local license plates boast, Puerto Rico is "La Isla Del Encanto" - the Island of Enchantment.

September 01, 2008

Indian Weddings

Three of my Satyam colleagues invited me to their weddings. None were taking place in Hyderabad or Bangalore though, as they all hailed from different areas. Due to scheduling conflicts I was only able to attend one of the three weddings. The first one was in Murudeshwara, a city in Karnataka on the coast of the Arabian Sea that is famed for having the tallest statue of Shiva in the world. Another was in Thanjavur, an historic temple town in Tamil Nadu. The marriage that I was able to attend was in the district of Erode, also in Tamil Nadu.

No two Indian weddings are alike. They differ from state to state, from region to region, and from religion to religion. Whereas Western marriage ceremonies follow a relatively standardized formula, the rituals and ceremonies that take place in an Indian wedding vary dramatically in length, order, pomp and circumstance. In this particular wedding the reception was taking place on a Saturday evening, while the actual ceremony was scheduled for before dawn on Sunday.

After attending the wedding of a friend from Canada in Chennai, and then relaxing in Pondicherry for a few days, I caught a train to Erode. I arrived early in the morning and my coworker picked me up, put me up in a hotel, and introduced me to a few of his old friends. His friends subsequently proceeded to introduce me to the local brew. After lunch we fell into deep slumber and got ready just in time to make it to the reception. The bride and groom to be were sitting on a pedestal in the center of the marriage hall, and all the guests were coming over to congratulate them. There was not much song and dance.

Several other coworkers had also made the journey from Bangalore to attend the wedding, so once the ladies were finally prepared we rushed to catch the tail end of the early morning marriage. Afterwards, it was time to feast. With hundreds of guests, rows and rows of tables and chairs had been set up in a hall. Everyone was provided a banana leaf as their plate, and servers made the rounds placing different items onto the large leaves. No utensils were used, only hands and mouths. After I was finished eating I rolled up my plate and threw it away, leaving a very low ecological footprint with zero non-biodegradable waste generated. We bid farewell to Erode after a brief temple visit and took several buses back to Bangalore.