Friday, September 9, 2016

The ghost of Tanay Apte

They say the ghost of Tanay Apte still haunts the corridors of the Hindu building.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Horsely Hills - A solo journey

Recently updated my Instagram page with photographs from my solo bike journey to Horsley hills located in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Please check them out and let me know your feedback.

Will also be updating the blog on my experiences at the hill station. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Finding KSS

No, this is not a story of searching for Sugarman. Neither is it a story of a clown fish on his way back home. I do not know who Mr. KSS is. In fact I can't even guess how many KSSs exist in the city of Chennai itself.

It all started with a second-hand book that I picked up on my way to work. I usually get down a stop prior to the one right in front on my office (that's my daily walk) and there are a couple of book shops in the stretch. I usually pick up something light to read, mostly Indian authors I haven't really heard that much about.

On one such occasion, I happened to pick a copy of a book titled 'The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace' by His Holiness Dalai Lama. Not that I'm sucker for for these motivation, 'keep calm' books but well, it would be great to reach a chapter or two when things aren't really working out (which is always). Or so I had thought.

As expected, I did not open the book for a very long time. So yes, technically the story doesn't really start there.

The company provides a drop on nights when we have to stay back for work. On my first day after shifting to Kodambakkam (from Vadapalani), I was put in a car with a different set of people, mostly old and grumpy, who thought (still think) I am a misfit for the organisation. In the ride back home, nobody uttered a word. Like nothing. Just silence till I reached home. I've been through some awkward moments in my life and these rides began topping the chart.

The patterend followed in the days to come until one fine day Mr. Prabhakar, who always sits in the front seat said, "Does XXXX (I wasn't really listening) stay in your building? He used to work with us."

I replied that I had just recently moved in and that I didn't know my neighbours. Mr. Prabhakar nodded in approval.

Next day he asked again. Again way too abruptly that I missed the name. But not wanting to sound too bad I said I had enquired to my maid and she didn't know.

Couple of days later, when the cab driver asked where I had to be dropped, Mr. Prabhakar butted in. "XXXs house."

Again I missed the name. 
I have a history of bad hearing anyway. 

Yes, I agree by now, most of you must have figured out the name. But that's not how the story progressed. And hey, this is my story, so listen. 

I wanted to make amends for earlier lies. So I did actually ask my maid and my neighbour. Both didn't know about anyone who worked for The Hindu. But atleast I had an answer to tell Mr. Prabhakar.

Meanwhile, I had spotted the Dalai Lama book while cleaning the shelf. I decided to open it. The book had been a dedication by an employee named Sudha to her boss Mr. KSS. I wondered why someone would gift a book to a boss. That too one on joy of living and dying in peace. Was the chap not well? Was he going through so major crisis in life? Were they secret couples who couldn't come together? Or like Rinan pointed out on Instagram later when I put the picture up, did the book ever reach KSS? Why did he throw it away?

That's the beauty of second hand books, isn't it? You are not just reading a story, you are catching a piece of history. The tale of what all the book has seen, where all it has been, is a grand story in itself.

Anyway my quest to find Mr. XXX took a sudden shift two days back. I was walking into my building when a neighbour stopped me and asked me who I was. I told him I had recently moved in and that I work for The Hindu. He looked at his wife and asked, "Didn't Subramaniam work at the same place?"

I was stunned. So Mr. Prabhakar was right. Someone from The Hindu was there in our society. It was like proving Einstein's prediction on gravitational waves. I was happy but didn't really know why I was.

I asked the stranger if I could meet Mr. Subramaniam. But as fate would have it, our hero had sold his house three months and shifted to another place. Nobody really knows why or where. Out of curiousty I took down Mr. Subramaniam's number. I really was sure I wouldn't call him.

That night in the car I told Mr. Prabhakar that I had found about this person called Subramaniam who used to work for The Hindu. He replied: "I told you KSS used to live in the building, right?"

Wait. What? Rewind. "I told you KSS used to live in the building right?"

Did I just hear that correctly? "Did you just tell KSS sir?"

"Yes, K. S. Subramaniam. But in office everyone called him KSS. There are way too many Subramaniams at The Hindu", he said.

Damn! Was this KSS that KSS? I had picked this book up from a second-hand shop quite close to the office. 

Was he trying to wash away his sins by selling the damn book? Na, too evil! Did he leave stuff behind when he had retired? Possible. Or did a frustrated Sudha just give the book away? 

We human beings like a story don't we? Cooking up stuff when it isn't probably that complicated. Anyway, I didn't call Mr. KSS. What do I tell him? That I have his book?

Oh, I almost forgot. I met a Sudha. She works at the Editorial department.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Conversation with Kobe Bryant


With five NBA championships, 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, and two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, there is no doubting Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant’s legacy on the basketball court. The ‘Black Mamba’ will play a record-breaking 16th career Christmas Day game when the Lakers host the L.A. Clippers.

He is often compared to NBA legends like Michael Jordan, who also plied his trade as a shooting guard, and Lakers legend Magic Johnson. But Bryant, a polarizing figure in the world of basketball, ‘hero and a villain’ according to his own admission to the Associated Press, likes to look at his own legacy from a different perspective.

“I try to look at my legacy and how it impacts the future of the game. I'm not looking at my legacy from the standpoint of where I fit in with the greatest of all time. For me, it's a moot point and a shallow argument.

“I think the most important thing and the most beautiful thing is how does your legacy impact the generation of players to come? If what I've done and what I've stood for these 20 years has impacted the players today and the players tomorrow in a positive way, in a way they can then carry that legacy on themselves and impact the generation to follow, that's much more significant than where I stand in history," said Bryant during a conference call on Monday night.

An Olympic finish

Kobe’s form for the Lakers has been sporadic this season, much like the rest of the squad. The Los Angeles-based team are 5-24 this season and for Kobe, a place in the USA team for the Rio 2016 Olympics is far from guaranteed. But the two-time Olmpyic gold medallist refuses to be bothered about it, though he conceded that a place in the Olympics team would be an ideal way to end a glittering career.

“It's not something I'm absolutely pressing for but being part of the Olympic experience is a beautiful thing. It would be a beautiful thing to finish my career playing internationally. But that being said, we will see how it goes,” said the Lakers’ shooting guard, who has also featured as a small forward in his final season in NBA.

Post-retirement plans

Kobe’s father Joe Bryant was a professional basketball player himself and played for NBA sides Philadelphia 76ers and San Diego Clippers before moving to Italy to play in the Italian A1 League. Kobe was six when the family relocated to Europe in 1984 and returned to America only when his father retired in 1991. There he learned to speak fluent Italian and play football.

But NBA history’s third highest point scorer ruled out any possibility of him moving to another league. “I would have loved to have played overseas for a season but it's not going to happen. I wish I could have done it but I can’t. My body won't let me.”

However, the legend hopes he can continue to contribute to the development of the game in all ways possible.  “I definitely plan on helping the game spread and helping kids all around the world understand kind of the metaphors that come along with the game ... everything that surrounds the game of basketball," said Bryant.

Regardless of the team’s performance, Kobe is upbeat about his final season in the NBA, especially after a few a characteristic swashbuckling performances including a 31 pointer against Denver on Wednesday. “My body has been through a lot. And it's very easy to forget I haven't played because of it. My timing is off, my rhythm is off. It was about me continuing my training and believing my timing will come back and that's what happened," added Bryant.

When the Lakers take on the Clippers on Christmas day, all eyes will be again be on what Kobe Bryant can conjure on the court. A pressure he has continuously carried on his shoulders with pride. They say heroes come and go, but legends remain forever. The ‘Black Mamba’ might be retiring at the end of the on-going season, but one can be assured that the song of his dynamism and determination on the basketball court will continue to be sung for a long time.
Kobe's Five: Check out who Bryant thinks were the best he played against.


How a Mohun Bagan victory could be a cause of joy for East Bengal fans, their fiercest rivals.

It is very difficult to sum up what Indian Football is today. On one side is the Indian Super League — the answer to country's footballing woes as some predicted. The glamour and the star-studded line-ups were supposed to bring a huge change in the mindset of a cricket loving nation and kick-start a new culture of embracing other sports. On the other side is the I-League, supposedly India's number one professional men's football league, in complete disarray following the withdrawals of three major clubs. With sponsorships hard to find and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) failing to give assurances on the future of the league,  the clubs are facing a crisis situation heading into 2015-16 season. And somewhere lost in between the tug of war is a national football team, that has seen its matches being reduced and its FIFA rankings dilly-dally.  Let's break that down — 12 matches played in 2010, 20 in 2011, 11 in 2012, 12 in 2013, two in 2014 (ISL begins) and nine so far and three more to go in 2015. 12 isn't a bad number (compared to previous years) but one must not forget that eight came via World Cup qualifiers (AIFF can't screw that up) and another three to come are the SAFF games. Which means we have had a mammoth ONE international friendly in 2015.
Amidst all the chaos, an interesting story has developed in the heart of Kolkata, the Mecca of football in the country. According to the rule books (such a thing apparently does exist), if the country's top club (I-League toppers and not ISL) qualifies for the ACL (AFC Champions League) then the 3rd place team earns a place in the AFC Cup play-offs. Last year's champions, Mohun Bagan will face off against Tampines Rovers (Singapore) on January 27 for a berth in the Champions League. If they make the cut, then the third placed team in last year's I-League, Royal Wahingdoh, earns a place on the AFC Cup play-offs. But the Shilling-based have pulled out of the I-League, which means East Bengal, the fourth placed side, will now stand a chance to profit from Mohun Bagan's victory in the play-offs.

The irony is so twisted that it would force a smile out of even the most fanatic football fan. AIFF continues to be Shakespeare, periodically producing drama (mostly when there isn't a need for it). Last year, the most successful team in I-League history, Dempo FC , got chucked out of the I-League (relegated being the key word used) because a lower placed team Bharat FC had earned themselves a guaranteed stay virtue of being a corporate team. But earlier this year, Bharat FC pulled out the league citing financial reasons. Yes, AIFF kicked out a historic team to ensure a corporate culture in football.  And the team packed off after a few months. Ah, that bittersweet after-taste of irony!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

There is another depression brewing in Chennai and nobody wants to talk about it

In the last 48 hours, I’ve seen every News channel in the country claim they were the first to break the news on the Chennai floods. They often forget they were 2 weeks and 200 lives late. But here is another chance to be first at something and actually make a small (and maybe significant) change in our lives as we battle through this man-made ‘natural’ calamity.
I’m sure you have heard of the mighty stories of the people of Chennai. Risking their own lives, to save others’. Let me re-instate, the city and its people have been nothing short of extra-ordinary. But what you don’t realise is that most of us are quite close to, for the lack of a better word, depression. We don’t know what to do. I’m a bachelor and new to the city. I hardly know anyone here. Yet if I am feeling this way, shocked and angered, I can only imagine what it must be for the people who have been here for long and have deep rooted connections. I haven’t gone home for a week now, and I am an affluent, privileged being in this city. One can only imagine how terrible it must be for all the poor who can’t afford to run away from the city or go to second floor their house doesn't have. And we don’t know what to look forward to. The rain has not stopped yet (I saw a lot of Facebook status saying it has, maybe you should come to the city?). And many experts reckon, things will only get worse. Water will be contaminated, dead animals will pile up on streets. We don’t know what awaits us in the coming few months.
There is a sense of hate, an anger that fails to find an epi-centre, brewing up inside me and a lot of people I know.
I hate it when people send un-verified whatsapp messages of a 1000 numbers and another 1000 links. Your concern is great, after all you took the pain forward a message, but I honestly am beginning to give zero fucks. Also mobile networks are down, so I don’t know why the fuck it is important to forward messages saying Vodafone and BSNL are giving freebies. WE DONT CARE!
I am angry when people call. People I haven’t talked to in ages. I don’t want to answer your calls. I don’t want to repeat the horror stories to a million people, so that you can relay it to your social followers, get a like (or two maybe) and mark me safe on Facebook.
I get pissed when people from the other states message me about drop points for food and clothes. I know group messages are convenient, but why the fuck are you marking the Chennai lot also on your messages? PLEASE STOP.
I hate it when people ask me to go away from the city! And then what? Feel awesome to know people whom I have learned to love are having a candle lit dinner wearing life jackets?
Don’t tell me not to be grumpy, when I respond with an OK to your 52 messages on what do and whom to call. I might just lose it completely.
What you seem to forget is that all isn’t well here. You constantly hear horror stories — of deaths, of near deaths, of corrupt police officials charging thousands for a boat ride, of camps refusing lower caste people to enter. These stories are endless but your national media doesn’t wanna listen to them. Stop building a hero story out of Chennai. It’s a fucking disaster when a human has to die saving others. Not a hero story. Politicians and the social media using Chennai as an example of ‘tolerance’ are stooping to all-time lows. Infact, citizen should show no tolerance to such pathetic human beings who continue to sell our lives for a quick buck.
I am fuming and I know I am better off than 99% people in Chennai (and let’s not forget Kanchipuram and Cuddalore). There is a side of me trying to make sense of what is happening around me. But this has gone on for quite a long time now. I am frustrated and I want to scream at the top of my fucking voice.
All this has destroyed us in Chennai. Yes we fight on, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t scarred. Doesn’t mean our minds aren’t affected. This is a nightmare and with food and shelter, we also need some mental help. Or fucking send us pills will you, because a lot of people around me need it to sleep . Smiles have disappeared from most of our lives. So dear media, here is the chance to be first at something. Talk about mental health. Talk about how to beat / cope with this terrible catastrophe. I don’t know shit about mental health and never been bothered about it till today. Get a shrink to talk about what to do maybe? Stop milking publicity out of a disaster and start doing something sensible? Yes CNN IBN, we heard it the last ten thousand times that you were the first. We also appreciate how you confused the people and made them tweet to your channel’s hashtag on twitter. Just remember something, a lot of people need help. And it’s not just food, shelter and pity.

Monday, September 14, 2015


He had come to the end of his journey. Sitting there on the stairs that led to his old room upstairs, he thought about Vasudevan uncle. The German born malayali, who had rented out a space on top of his house for 22 years. The tenant had stayed longer with his parents than he ever did in life time. The aluminium railings still had not lost its sheen. He could feel a pain developing in his chest and took a long breath before he resumed his way upwards.
What was home, he wondered again? He had hoped  to find the answer, locked somewhere safely, at the place where it all began - Kochi. One place he constantly referred to as 'home'. But walking through the dimly lit rooms of his ancestral house, he still remained as clueless as ever. Only more questions. And disturbingly, more revelations -  but things he could not now undo. He could feel the guilt piling up in his heart with each step. Every sight, every smell, bombarded his grey brains with colourful memories of the past. He wanted to smile. But his lips refused to twitch. His old guitar in the corner, still had one broken string. The shabbily done glass painting carefully placed between the window panes, a reflection of his confused self in a family that was always organised.
He was 21 when 'dreams' lured to him to Bombay, the city that never sleeps. Twenty years back, the politicians in the country sang about dreams. Not water or climate change like they should have. Best sellers were written on people who left everything they had to chase their 'destiny'. Heroes were made out of people who 'achieved' their dreams by sacrificing everything in the lives.
'Thieves', he cursed as he dusted an old rolling stones magazine on the cupboard that was in front of the blue coloured washroom. He had come to hate the word for its false advertisments. "Dreams are dreams. Reality check!" - words on the door of his office back at San Francisco. It was this idea of a dream, the pressure to reach a position in the society, to be someone by your surname, that had pushed him away from everything he ever loved. He missed being called by his first name. He missed guilt-free, selfless, honest love. He missed the sincere smiles. He was scared of intimacy back then. Now he was scarred by the lack of it.
He had somehow expected the water to be leaking from the shower when he opened the bathroom door. It wasn't. His father, the last inhabitant of the house, had called at least 20 different plumbers to get the shower replaced. But mysteriously no one could ever find the solution. Some of those unexplained things people don't mind, while on bigger quests to find water in Mars or what caused the Big Bang. He hated how the world had given up on the idea of simple pleasures. Following his departure from the house, his younger brother departed to another country. Mother stood up for her rights shortly afteerwards and moved to a different house in her hometown. Back then CERN had announced their big project called the 'large hadron collider' - to collide protons at an incredible pace and unravel the truths of the world. Only thing that did break at that time though, he thought, was his nuclear family.
'But was this home? ', he thought again as he looked at the sofa set that must have been only 5 years younger than he was. This was the place he grew up. This was the city he had always loved. Everything about the place had a story to remind him. But when he was leaving to college for the first time, his mother had said something very strange - "Home is not a place. It is a state of your mind. Carry it in your head at all times and you will never feel alone." He had disregarded it by calling it a standard mother statement to make. It probably was one too, he thought, as he took out a cigarette. The view from the balcony had changed so much. Big buildings had devoured the surroundings. When he wanted, he could not see.
He dialled the number of the real estate agency and set up a meeting at five. At his age, he didn't want to believe in the idea of a phsyical home any more. The memories were already planted in his head. Home was just an idea that he carried in his head. The building, the little garden, all mere artifacts to the larger scheme of things. Home was when his father brought milk pedas from the Milma outlet. Home was mother's warm embrace. He thought about Anna. How hugging her from the back, in that tiny little room at Andheri, overlooking the airport, he had felt at home. A sense of peace that he wanted to reclaim.
He informed his brother the decision to sell the house. In the phone, he could sense the disappointment in his brother's voice. It made no sense to keep it, he had argued. The sun was just settling but the evening birds were missing. Something about the place wasn't home. This was a reminder of what home was. Of life choices and decisions.

 He took one big puff and threw away the cigarette. The pain in his chest had strangely subsided.