Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tame that beast!

This appeared in The South Asian Times on October 31st.

At the risk of getting frowns from the fair-sex-of-a-certain-age readers, I'm going to start off with the fact that this has always been a hot button issue with Indian women. If moms fail to train (read tame) their wild boys, they pass on the legacy to daughter in laws. "Shaadi ke baad sab theek ho jayega" is one of those lines that people never fail to use with the underlying assumption that the new trainer will be more skilled and would easily tame the wild. But the issue spreads across all ages and stages and tends to affect a large percentage of the population. Whether it is sending kids to boarding school, keeping the new intern on a leash, grounding teenagers for a week, one upmanship on husband's personal secretaries or sending mother-in-laws to yoga boot camps, the idea is the same. Tame the beast.

All of us do it at some point or at the very least, aspire to do it in some shape or form. No wonder reality shows become a huge hit. It's all boils down to who can manipulate the rest of the herd.

How hard is it to tame someone and what does it take? Neither of us comes with a manual or a rule book and strategies are best left to the trial and error model. The big question is, is everyone tame-able or there are exceptions?

I heard a fun story from my Thailand returned dad last evening over some French Boudreaux. Kanchanburi, a small place near Bangkok, boasts of something very exotic called a Tiger Temple. In this bizarre place, you can not only pose next to a Tiger for those snaps that you can show off to all your friends and family and make them go wowsa but you can do crazy things like stroke a tiger, pull his tail and lay on him for a quick photo op. Little monks go for evening walks with them like we do with harmless little fuzzy puppies. Skeptics will tell you that tigers have to be drugged to pull off such docile behavior but the lamas have a different story to tell. They practice some age old and proven techniques where they stare in the eye at the animal and suck the violence out of them through that gaze. I'm very tempted to get the details of the technique and even more tempted to try it out on someone.

Wouldn’t it make for one easy life? No parents would to sign those red inked papers from school, no dinner plates would break in newly wed’s homes, no teenagers would have to be secretive anymore, no wives would drag their husbands to court and get a fat alimony and no managers would make interns cry in the bathroom.

Give it a shot? If something works, do share. You’ll save me that trip to Thailand.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Re-do buttons do exist

This was published in The South Asian Times on October 24th.

'A day in the life of' is a common theme for school essays and it can be experienced to an extent when one begins shadowing professionals as a part of the intern program. But actually getting a chance to live it is a rare opportunity. Or so I thought until I came across the news piece that you can experience the Titanic journey for yourself.

The British-based Miles Morgan Travel is now taking reservations for a 2012 cruise that will mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage of April 1912. It will carry 1,309 passengers; the same number that sailed on that unfortunate voyage on the same route as the Titanic, leaving Southmapton in early April 2012 before docking at the Irish port of Cobh (formerly Queenstown), where the Titanic made its final call on April 11, 1912.

It is not surprising to learn that that passengers will dine on the same menu as 100 years ago and the journey will follow the exact same travel itinerary. The food will match the sumptuous menus on the original voyage; the entertainment will include music and dancing in the style featured in those glorious times and there will be a chance to hear first hand from historians who have studied the Titanic story.

The "voyage of a lifetime" as they call it is a 12 night cruise aboard a ship called the Balmoral that the Miles Morgan Company has chartered. Here is the ironic part. Despite being built in 1988, the Balmoral is unable to sail as fast as the Titanic! So it will have to leave Southampton earlier than the Titanic did so that it can reach the spot where she sank on the anniversary. Tell me you see something very wrong with this picture just like I do. From there the ship will sail across the Atlantic, arriving at the Titanic disaster site on April 14-15 exactly 100 years after the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. A memorial service will pay tribute to the passengers and crew who perished on that fateful night. The voyage will then continue to all the intermediate destinations on the route before sailing on to New York, the Titanic's ultimate planned destination.

Would you take this journey if you had a chance? It's only approximately 3000 quid so pretty affordable for die hard cruise and history lovers. It does definitely do its share in commemorating the gorgeous ship but is it in bad taste? I bet the fascination with Titanic is strong as ever but couldn’t there have been a more creative way to pay tribute to it? For once, I’m undecided. You be the judge.

Oh wait, isn’t the Apocalpyse supposed to be in 2012 as well?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A new beginning

This appeared in The South Asian Times on October 10th.

I’m going to be yet another statistic. Just like the 14% of the population that moves every year in the US. It’s not exceptional for a good majority of us between the fun ages of 18-32 to move frequently. And did you know more gals than guys move? Here I go again with my data insights. Can hardly help something that one does for a living.

But here’s the million dollar question. How does your mind and your heart react to the numerous moves? How are you supposed to feel? Are you leaving a part of you behind? Can you pack years of memories in a 25 feet move truck and take it along? Would you want to take it along if you could? Ok I lied. Too many million dollar questions. You can sell worn out furniture and lamps on craigslist or by putting those colorful ads on campus boards but what do you do with everything you’ve grown a liking to? And everything else that you’ve come to hate? Like that barrel who lives over you and thumps his feet at 2 in the morning? Or the neighbor’s dog that just doesn’t seem to get over his lady love and keeps crying all night? Or that annoying cop in your neighborhood who is always pointing at you with a speed gun no matter what route you go? Or that Thai take out place that always messes up your order but you can’t live without it despite that?

My landlady very categorically asked me not to dump all the junk that comes out of my place in the garbage in one day when I move. So I shall plan a phased junk disposal process for a week. It’s a brilliant idea if I can apply it to life. I indulge in frequent detox diets to purify my system all the time. I hope I can do the same with my mind. Phased junk disposal. Everything negative out of the window. Ill feelings, grudges, dissatisfaction, envy… all wiped out from time to time. Perhaps I can put it on my Outlook calendar. Make it a recurring meeting. A mind just full of happiness, gratification, dreams. A beautiful mind as the cliché goes. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Hopefully that’ll knock off a few pounds on the weighing scale too.

When you’re still growing vertically, anything new comes bundled with enormous excitement. It brings a cheerful bounce in your step and an oblong smile on your face. Over the years that excitement seems to fade when the ‘been there done that’ feeling creeps in. I’m consciously trying to dodge that familiar feeling. Yes I’ll miss what has been my home, my surroundings, my friends and my colleagues but I’m sure there’s a new barrel, a new dog, a new cop and a new Thai take out place waiting for me.

Did you spot the common factor with Indian weddings? I wish I were speaking at a pageant but I’ll say it regardless. If I could bring about one change in our rituals, I would totally get rid of the bidaai part of it. Why the need for a formal process to cry it out? What’s left behind will be greatly missed and always be an integral part of the new life. But I’m sure we can do it in a little less tragic and a little more joyful way and the videographers will just learn to survive without the drama. Besides, it always leaves stains on those expensive silk fabrics that are so hard to get rid off. Promise your pundit a new iPhone and I’m sure he’ll approve of a wedding without the orchestrated sob ceremony.

As for me, I’m back to packing. It’s all so overwhelming that I just hope I don’t pack my little one into one of those boxes accidentally. She’s a screamer though so not that I’m worried.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Come celebrate Diwali in LA!

This appeared in The South Asian Times on October 3rd.

If you have been thinking of celebrating Diwali with a twist this year, hop on to one of those hundreds of flights that fly daily into Los Angeles this festive season and experience the fun first hand. And don't forget to bring your family and a nice camera along. We've got something for everyone. And do it the Indian way - celebrate for a two week stretch.

We kick it off with some laughs and chuckles. First up is the 'Indian Stand Up Comedy' in Hollywood on October 3rd at 8 pm. Five talented Indian comedians blowing aside political correctness and masterfully breaking down every imaginable stereotype. With no topic off-limits, the result will be pure comedy: raw, revealing, and wildly entertaining. So brace yourself for two hours of non-stop, side-spitting entertainment. Details at

Who wouldn't want to shake a leg and dance to some pulsating beats? Tell you what. When you're maxed out on laughter, take a cab to from Hollywood to Tantra on Sunset for 'Club Bollywood'. The party starts at 10 on October 3rd and they've got a trio of DJs: DJ EsQue for spinning bollywood, DJ Desc for mixing bhangra with R&B and DJ Blaze for mixing bhangra with hip hop. And you can't beat this. They've got a live Dholi! What’s more, ladies are free till 11. Just get yourself on the guest list. It's easier than you think. Details at

Up next is the authentic diwali stuff. Keep yourself free and in the valley on October 9th 7 pm onwards. At the beautiful Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, Chilli Beats pulls off a live bollywood concert and dinner with style every year. It's called 'A musical diwali night by Chilly Beatz'. In case you're wondering, they're an LA based band who specializes in bolly music so mark your calendar and keep a spare pair of comfy shoes in the trunk of your car for dancing the night away post dinner. Details at

If you feel like avoiding all the glitzy events and opting for something simple and unpretentious instead, I've got the right thing for you. Pasadena Hindu Temple presents Indian classical, movie and folk songs, dances, skits and a whole lot more along with some mouth watering ethnic food & spiced tea. ‘HTHF diwali cultural program’ is happening on October 10th 7 pm onwards in Monrovia. So go ahead, call all your uncles and aunts there and make a big family event out of it. Details at

If your or your little sis have been procrastinating that one trial Indian classical dance forever, here's your chance. On October 10th at the Music Center Plaza in LA, Lakshmi Iyengar is offering Bharatanatyam classes as a part of the 'A Taste of Dance' - an Active Arts program. I bet you've taken those hula dance classes in Hawaii. They're so fun. Go ahead try Bharatanatyam this time around. Details at

One of you has gotta be up for Carnatic Music. A unique ‘Music concert with Kadri Gopalnath’ with a Saxophonist, a Violinist and a musician who plays the Mridangam is happening on October 10th at 5 pm in Lakewood. Details at

It's the biggest Indian festival and we haven't elaborated on food yet. So here goes. My two favorite Indian restaurants, Tanzore and Gaylord in Beverly Hills are having a 3 day fest from October 14th to 17th. During the ‘3rd annual festival of diwali’, each night the festival will include food, couture fashion & jewelry, henna artists, Bollywood videos & films, modern & traditional dances, live Tabla & Sitar and DJ's mixing the latest sounds of Bollywood. After dinner you can walk into their adjacent banquet room where they promise to have an elaborate dessert buffet and stunning and colorful exhibition booths. People, this is a must do. And if you go, give the chef my regards. Details at

Finally, if attending a Kumbh Mela in India is on your list of 500 must do things before turning 75, wait no more. A very special 'Diwali and Kumbh Mela' event is happening at the Vedic temple in Montclair on October 17th. Details at

Are those tickets booked yet? Happy diwali!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A novel be borned

Four months and twenty four days, mastering the art of juggling, deliberate downturn in social life, countless sleepless nights and some unsightly dark circles later, the day has finally arrived much to my contentment and immense disbelief. Yes my novel is all done. The 0th draft anyways but still it's brought me the kind of excitement that I thought could only come out of being invited to the Grand Ball at the Buckingham palace or going to space for free or attending a top 10 couture designer's benefit dinner in Milan.

Now the part that looked so far away until recently, of actually finding a publisher or an agent or anyone even remotely related to them, is looming. Hopefully I'll meet him or her while we both accidentally order the last cheese danish at starbucks or while one of us is about to buy a terrible new lotion that gives a rash at Sephora and the other one cautions or while he or she rear ends me while sitting in LA traffic.

One day when I get really really lucky, my two main characters, who I've spent so much time with in the recent past that I feel like I know them intimately, and the nineteen other characters whose lives are intertwined with theirs will come to life!

Until then, I'm going to dream some more dramatic scenarios of how I'll run into a literary agent. I am not even dreaming of running into a publisher ever. See even my dreams have a hint of reality.

Oh and if you have a spare moment, please wish me luck. Frida Pinto's, Miley Cyrus's, Chetan Bhagat's, Obama's... anyone's luck ;) Gracias.