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This is the first day of the rest of my life”, I thought as the tires touched the wetness of the concrete. And I reminisced – “I had left this country at an hour when India was fast asleep. I come back to this country, as India is getting ready to start a new day.” Almost a decade back, I had packed my life into two suitcases and landed in Detroit, which was then fondly popular as the Motor City. It still is, just that the fondness has given way to sympathy.Sadly.

Welcome to America. Enjoy your stay” – she had said from behind the plexiglass. My good friend and his faithful Marlboro Lights had greeted me as I stepped out to a chilly fall afternoon.That was my first ride in a Ford. I was naive and excited, about everything that was to be. There was the factor of the unknown, about how life would shape up to be, in the next few years. First came the University, the jobs followed and then getting married, and then our child. And finally came the “decision“. The one which we had talked about for years. To move back ! But when it really happened, it was too surreal. It swept us off our feet. Into the air.Literally.

Namaste Sir. Enjoy your visit. How long are you staying?” he asked from under his neatly trimmed mustache. “For a while”, I beamed under the neon. “We are back for good, at least for the next few years”. We dragged our bags into a pleasing Bangalore air. And before I forget, let me tell you. The airport is beautiful.And wonderfully maintained. And so is the Mumbai airport. From the time we landed in India, I have flown through a lot of airports. Let me correct that. I have been flown by the most obliging pilots. And I have loved each one of them. And let me tell you, all those flights have been on time.Technically.

There has been so much that I  have experienced in the last few weeks. Couple of them are most impressive on the memory. Like how, I got to smell the smoke, from the noise of crackers during Diwali, laughing out with D in his Navi Mumbai high rise, as we put away some cold beers with freshly grilled kabobs. Our baby, soaked in tears as he lost all his silky hair under the skilled razor of the pundit in charge at Tirumala. And the warm air as we sped in awe on the wonderful – NE1 from Vadodara to Ahmedabad.Really.

As I wait for my PAN card and hopefully get employed with any company that has a loaded cafeteria, it is but most understandable that my LDL will be duly entertained by samosas,dhoklas,pakoras,pani-puris,medhu vadas,paneer puffs,khakras,mysore paks,gulab jamuns, and a few others. As I do justice to all of them , I should be able to catch up on my blogging and primarily with following my favorite fellow bloggers. If you still remember me, please do visit again. If you are  here for the first time, welcome to my world of reclosion.This is the beginning to a new journey and would love to have you with me.Truly.

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Today is a very important day !!  The man who is paying for the services of consultants like me, is back from his vacation. Now, when I say he is paying for our services, what I really mean is he is the Global Director, Project Sponsor ….Executive Board et al. He is the client !!

The timing of his “time off” could not have been better. We were in a critical phase as far as the project deliverables and decisions were concerned. Sort of along the same lines of when Arjun and Krishna were tweeting on Koffee with Kauravas. Now imagine, just before Krishna begins, Arjun decides to take a month-long vacation. You know to explore the hills of Gangtok I am sure that would sit really well in the Pandava camp – “dude just go….. have fun !! ….and bring us back some yak milk cheese.”.

History repeats itself is proof, when our Local Arjun brought back some candies from Zurich. Based on inputs from my intra office contacts I have established, that these are the ones which are always on sale in the Duty Free stores. And I digress. At this point, it would be rather insignificant for the reader to note that our Local Arjun is of Bengali descent. It would also be negligent of me, if I forgot to mention that Local Arjun believes – being a fellow Bengali, it is my moral duty to kiss his Bengali paachha (buttocks)…. especially since it has client written all over it !!

Now that is where things get a little hairy. Let me explain briefly with an example!!

So, Local Arjun cruised in this morning, sporting his Sree Leathers shoes and wearing his cheap cologneof the 80’s man who badly needs a wardrobe makeover”. And then he embarked on his Vijay Yatra (raucous walk through the cubicles). As the decibel on the periodic  “haoo are yoooo”’ s amplified –  I knew it was just a matter of time, before I would have to strike a subordinated posture and enquire  – “Boss kemon ghurlen?” (how was your trip, Boss ?).  

I have to admit, this was not the best question !! Local Arjun took the cue and promptly filled up the air with details on how “vaery beeootifull Vaeneece (Venice) was !!  He slurped on the memories of a “deeleeshush” duck in Paris. And almost mourned the loss of his lugg – age (including his wife) at the Munich airport. Four weeks of relaxations has its effects, and at that point he just wanted to get back home to some dal bhaat (lentil and rice). The “vaery” vocal travelogue continued,without any consideration for those that were on conference calls or any other business related activities.

As everywhere, there were some dedicated schmoozers who posed some challenging questions – “ how were the hotels ? “. Local Arjun believes in – always explain briefly with examples. (now you know why I am how I am). He did not disappoint the listener. “ Oh they were so vaery costtlee”  he said and concluded the ten minute monologue with – “I had to spend $40,000 just on hotels itself !! It was horr-aybell, you know !!

Like so many others, this is another bone dry IT project. One which is supported by a group of under paid technocrats. Those who have had a really rough June. The client sliced and diced us with inane accusations and rolled off some key resources without any specific reason (read : because someone needed to be blamed). One of the guys lost his father before he could reach India. He was not allowed to leave sooner. And yet our Local Arjun finds in himself the “right” to flaunt bleat about his pleasures pains to those that held fort during his totally deserving holiday.    

It is likely that working “14 hour” days has pushed my head, so far up my behind, that my thinking has got all muddy. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the part where I question the Gurus of the Service Industry. When they say “the client is always right !!”  how “always” is that ? ?

While you reflect on that, I shall now get back to comforting him with my sincere concerns – “You look tired Boss. I think you should take it easy for a couple of days !”.

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Ricky Gervais’s .gif courtesy: google images

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It was a Sunday morning when Arnold and I met  for the first time. We were in our own living rooms. His, was in the high rise on Manhattan while mine was in Salt Lake City, Calcutta. The most striking ingredient of that memory is his big smile which used to render a display of the most innocent and chocolate invaded set of pearls.

Arnold, was my best friend for several years to come. Our friendship grew stronger with each passing Sunday. If not for his accent (which I had to initially struggle to keep up with) , we had hit it off, almost immediately !! He would do most of the talking and I would be the one breaking out into loud hilarity. I loved everything about him . He was my childhood role model. I even begun dressing like him. There was the cowboy hat ( from the Book Fair) and bell bottom pants (green corduroy) that I had to be in, all the time.  I would  even cross my arms (like him) across my chest during all conversations. It did not matter who I was listening or talking to, I would always strike the “Arnold pose” with all my weight  on the right leg. Strangely Miss Biswas found that extremely annoying (during “drawing class”) and promptly sent me out to bake in the summer heat !! But that is a different story !!

I am one of the several thousands, whose earliest memories cherish loving hues from Diff’rent Strokes. It was my introduction to anything American. I was too young to see beyond the innocent wit  that the show contained. Today, as I look back at those times and the show, I realize that it was so much more !!  All the years that Diff’rent Strokes was on air, it carried a banner of love, of acceptance and happiness. And Arnold,was the star of that show !! Everyone loved him !

Arnold (Gary Coleman). passed away on Friday, May 28th 2010  This is a farewell note from that little boy  sitting on the cold mosaic floor with his eyes glued to the black and white of the television screen, as Arnold slides down the wooden railings. Adieu !!

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Dear Birthday Boy

This is an email of apology. You should be able to recognize me. I am your co-worker, the one who scheduled the fake meeting this afternoon. I did it, because we  absolutely did not need to discuss the status of the development  for the bank interface. Why would we, especially since we have been working on that for a whole week now. But I had to do it. I had to send you the invite, and ensure that you and I walked to Conference Room A…. two – gether !!

If you recall …on Monday (this week),  you and I, and everyone else received an email, that we should  meet up in Conference Room A around 4 pm…. to surprise the portal guy. And then again on Tuesday (also this week)… there was another email …. this time it was Conference Room B and we had to surprise the data warehousing guy. Knowing you, (some one who solves intricate coding issues in minutes), and drawing from the history of surprises in the last year or so and especially from this week, I am positive that you could not have guessed that we would want to surprise you today. I am ashamed that I was part of this stupidity conspiracy theory !!

I am especially regretting, how I walked you to Conference Room A, pretending not to understand why everyone else followed us in the same direction. My understanding was …this was a surprise…just like the others.My sincere apologies about my poor acting skills which failed to display any true emotions of complete disbelief. I should have been inspired by aides (to previous surprise victims) and how they managed to perform with exceptional finesse !!

Please believe me, when I say that I had no clue (even though I had seen it for the last 25 surprises) that the surprise would be  the same cake….from the same store….that we all have been digging into …at these …(for lack of better definition) ….clandestine rendezvous. Unfortunately I was wrong !!

But most of all, my sincere apologies that I could not bring myself to sing along with the rest of the team when they did …. the  “Happy Birthday to You” . My lack of immaturity is deplorable. I cannot understand, what came over me that I did not  wipe the cake all over your face like so many others from the team did. How rude of me?  The fact that the cake is not even worth wasting had nothing to do with it. And I did not stop there. My diminishing team spirit was obvious, when I did not laugh when they called you Balakrishna  of coding !!

I hope that you can pardon my inefficiency and get back to work ……on the bank interface !!  ASAP !!

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I am very pleased to share some good news with you. And you …and you. After several months of hard work and commitment to succeed I was able to achieve, what I had aspired for …what seems like forever.

I am now on Facebook. Le Embrouille Blogueur is on Facebook !! It is official. I logged in…filled up intimate details about myself and….. am ready to dive into the meaningless ocean of trivial necessities….like …..why white onions are perfect for red curry chicken ….and the likes !!

On this joyous occasion, my beloved parents (who are currently in India) broke a coconut at the local temple. In addition they fed a cow and trampled a lime ….following which my father lit up the incense sticks in front of a print out of my profile image (see attached).

Now let us cut to the chase. Since this is a weekend and since I know you do not have a whole lot to do, it would be completely appropriate of me to expect that you will log into yout FB account….ASAP. And for the “dont know how you get on with your life without FB ” people …here is some free advice. Get an account. ASAP. And then copy (Ctrl C) and paste (Ctrl V) the following …. Le Embrouille Blogueur in the Search box. And there you have it.

From that point on … there are just so many things you can do. You can poke me….become a fan…write on my wall … and then share with the world what you wrote on my wall …and so on….the list is endless.

I am looking forward to seeing you there …..!

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Most days (save the cloudy ones) , as I step out, the Sun meets me, right in the face. That is my – first favorite part of the morning.I get situated in our small blue car, turn on the ignition, wear my seat belt, back up my car, turn on the radio and hit the road. Turning on the radio is – my second favorite part of the morning. It was no different today, till I  heard the clear voices of two students from Presidency College. And suddenly, I was not driving on a US highway anymore.  Instead, I saw myself waltz across the black bricks of the tram lines towards the millions of used books on the sidewalk kiosks. My ears tuned in to the faint tinker from the rickshaw carts and my nose drew in the early morning air, a wistful blend of fresh lilies from flower stores and the black smoke that buses from Sealdah coughed up. I was in North Calcutta, in a neighbourhood, which fondly resides in my memories. My very own ….City of Joy !!  

Back to this morning. NPR is doing a story –  “Along the Grand Trunk Road“. It is a journey, one that will take several reporters through various parts of India and Pakistan. During this journey, they will  illustrate the lives of the common man, as they make their way from one end of this historic road to the other. What has got me hooked, are the real protagonists of this story. This story is not about the high rollers and the big wigs. It is about the others – the ones whose dreams, pains and smiles, build  to make India, one of the greatest nations of the world.

Recently, a friend of a friend of mine, visited India for the first time. It is essential to mention that he (friend of my friend)  is from Germany. He had always wanted to make this trip and hence carried with him a great amount of  interest and a fair quota of apprehension. On the third day of his visit, my friend received a call – “S, …what can I say. India is amazing… I love it here !!“……much excitement and details followed,….. and then finally, before he hung up ……he said – “and the best part of India is, ……there is so much going on around you ….the population, the pollution, the roads, the movies, the cricket…. it is total chaos,…. but somehow, amidst all this …there is a sense of  harmony to this pandemonium…. called life !!  there is a warmth and it is not from the heat. it is from the smile, that every one wears on them….almost all the time“.  

As I  sipped on the first coffee of the day and the off- shore (India) team spoke into my ears, I smiled to myself  …”this is one of my favorite mornings …in a long time” !!

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One of the incentives of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to kick ass South Indian food! ” After having gained hundreds of pounds, since I transitioned from “self” cooking to “herself” cooking, it is but natural of me to delight in my wife’s culinary skills . Now, if she was not a great cook. I would have started this post slightly different. I would probably say, “One of the perks of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to some of the greatest movies”. Now that is a fact, which by the way sits perfectly well with me as well. I am not sure if she can say similar thing(s) about being married to a Bengali. But for that she needs to start her own blog.

My love affair with South Indian movies (mainly: Tamil) began almost the same time, that I started ogling my “baby momma” from the last bench of our engineering class. Back then, I was always humming Tamil songs, watching Tamil movies and gawking (from behind myopic glasses) at a certain Telugu girl…and let me tell you, I was committed to all three responsibilities to the best of my ability. I listened to the songs, for they made me happy, even the sad ones did. Once I had listened to a song I needed to go watch the movie. Unless of course it was movie like Padayappa, in which case, the music would suffice!! And being new to South India, I wanted to feel safe in the company of someone who could speak Tamil and was a treat to sit next to, in the theatre!! For the first time in my life, there was purpose to everything I did!! I journeyed with the stars during those several hours in at Devi theatre and Satyam complex.

Disclaimer : Before I go any further I would like to remind the reader that anything that I say beyond this point on, is from within my limited knowledge about Tamil cinema. I am just another Bengali who used to live in the Kodabakkam area during my undergrad and was exposed (rather densely) to the Tamil film world, both on and off-screen. I am no movie expert and my views are purely based on how I have felt towards each of these creations of art. So what follows is not a review, but an attempt to collate how I felt as a member of the audience.

The most significant characteristic about Tamil movies (from recent years) that I find so absorbing is the style of narration. A film maker picks a simple story and makes it into a 90 minute package of pure entertainment. These are great movies made from everyday life events. They are rich in emotion and easy to relate to.

One of the Tamil directors that I am a huge fan of, is Cheran. I have watched all his movies, the early ones without even knowing who he is. It was not until recently when I found out that Porkaalam is one of his movies. It had one of my favorite songs – “Thanjavur man eduthu . Beautiful words woven with the popular “gaana” style of music by Deva. I digress. It was the brilliance of his movie, Autograph, that got me sitting up and paying more attention to his work. I was moved by the sensitive elements of life in his stories, masterfully played out by artists (including Cheran) who did full justice to every character they portrayed. Maya Kannadi felt too close to me,  since our neighbours in the building we used to live in were two girls who worked as assistants to a make up artist.  

Pokkisham is the latest Cheran movie that I watched. I had not read any reviews. I never do. I think it ruins the “wow” factor that cinema deserves. It is a love story, one which is spun out of pain and emotions that will make you want to reach out into the lives of the characters and redo the story all over again.Parts of the movie were filmed in Calcutta and the scenes portrayed, brought back to me, glimpses from my childhood memories of the city. What was most admirable was how Cheran was successful in preserving the 70’s look of Calcutta. Cheran is just perfect in his role and as always so is Padmapriya and together, they acquaint us with how one’s love and life can sometimes part ways for good. And when that happens, it hurts bad and truly nothing can ever make that pain go away. We get through life with that pain, every moment of it, knowing that things could have been different. Sure, there are other movies which touch similar topics, but nothing I have watched stirred me the way this movie did. And I think art like this is not to be compared.

What Pokkisham brought to me, was an aide memoire about the definition of true love!! What a lot of us hear about, some experience and some will never know. Over the years, I have become, what I would like to believe – Cheran’s biggest “non Tamilian” fan. Someday if I do meet him, I wish to stand up in honor, shake his hand and tell him – “thank you for sharing all that beauty!!

I leave you with the  last scenes (sorry no subtitles), when Nadheera sheds silent tears for a love she deserved for a lifetime!! A lifetime, too late!!

 photo courtesy :here
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