Mum’s the word and a new crown-prince is born

September 15, 2009 2 comments

As the old truism goes – all good things come to an end. An important bit is left unsaid, IMO. All good things come to an end because the old must give way to the new. A year that began with a flood of embarrassing tears for Roger Federer and hit the highs of a first French title and sixth Wimbledon victory, ended with a 5-set loss to a younger, hungrier and on the day, better player. No shame in that. Ask Roddick – he’d give an arm and a leg to have just one bad year of Federer’s. A year ago, a Fed loss would have me acting like a petulant school-kid for the better part of a week. Thanks to #14 and #15 in the bag, not so any more. He can’t win ‘em all and heck, for any potential crown-prince to become a powerful king, he shouldn’t win ‘em all.

The stats are staggering. 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam finals, 21 overall. 22 straight Grand Slam semi finals. The list goes on. Has he had bad days during his tenure at the top? – of course, in plenty. However, as it turns out, he has them very rarely in a Grand Slam and they usually do not coincide with the guy on the other side playing out of his skin. With the laws of physics and averages looming large, he had to go down sometime – and he did last night. Del Potro has been playing incredible hard-court tennis all season. His height, serves and booming returns off both wings are a force for anybody to reckon with even if he’s having a bad day. This fortnight, his has been an inspired, free-wheeling brand of tennis and he was too hot for Roger to handle. That – and Roger’s serve letting him down when he needed it the most. I don’t recall when I last saw Rog serve so poorly – just 50% on his first serve for the entire match and 11 double faults?? When was the last time we saw Roger do that? How about… never!  Rog was also uncharacteristically woeful on break points – only 5 of 22 converted. He played abysmally against a guy who was not afraid to knock the stuffing out of the ball on each shot and quite deservedly paid the price. Testament to the quality of his game that he still made it a 5-setter in spite of playing badly by his standards. No sweat. Roger will be back to win more slams. He will still win more matches against Del Potro than vice versa. Roger on a good day is too smart and has too many weapons. The win is good for DP – he’ll now start believing more in himself, having tasted blood and I predict will be a future #1. I hope he blends a little more variety into his game and will find a way to not lose to the likes of Andy Murray, the other crown-prince designate (though most of the noise is from sorry-ass Brits wailing for their first champ since Fred Perry).

An annoying side-effect of this win by Del Potro has been the resurgence of the Federer naysayers in public and private life. Hate the man, by all means. I personally can’t understand it. Maybe it’s his hair, his tears of joy and pain (I find that quite annoying too, to be honest), his preternatural calm (most of the time. Not yesterday though.), his uncanny knack of figuring most opponents out. The list probably goes on. I have no idea, but whatever it is – I find all of these reasons good enough to not be a fan and to revel in his losses. However, it has been my misfortune to meet some who disagree about his tennis being of a sublime quality. They attribute his success largely to luck – and seem to have missed a crucial part of their education where probability theory was taught. Such people don’t really understand the game beautiful and the exquisite shot-making that has pushed all the others into playing better. Boil your heads. Nuff said.

For me, the real feel-good story of this open was Kim Clijsters. What’s not to like about a former champ with a golden locked toddler coming back out of retirement to beat a bunch of women with over-sized egos (and one with an over-sized foul mouth and over-sized everything).  As Bud Collins might have said – (if he were as big a sucker for alliteration as I am) – this mighty mamma made many misty-eyed. I don’t follow the women’s game much – other than a perfunctory peek at a particularly pretty Russian or Czech once in a while. Whatever one’s opinion might be on the quality of the current women’s game, it takes quite a lot to come out of retirement, baby in tow and win a Grand Slam. Way to go Kim!  My money is on Justine Henin putting her tennis shoes back on. I’d surely pay to watch that backhand again.

Categories: Tennis

Sick transit on a glorious Monday (sic)

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Well, you’re about to do it again – waste a few minutes of your apparently-not-so-precious time reading the tripe that I put out. Hey, hey, just kidding! Get the mouse pointer away from the back button!!

‘Tis the season folks – of swine flu, that is. If you’ve had to depart from one of India’s airports during the past week, you’ve doubtless seen the upsurge in the number of people wanting to look like “The Phantom”. So it was last Monday when I headed out on a manic itinerary that took 36 hours to get me from BLR to BOS. The airport was awash with masks of all shapes, sizes and hues. It really was quite a tall order to not get caught up in the hysteria, to eschew all human contact altogether and aim for the security line only when no one else is in sight. All this of course, only to sit in a confined space with no ventilation for the better part of two days. Still, I can’t complain – with countless episodes of “The Simpsons” to keep me busy and a super-skinny flu-free and kid-free dude next to me, my seemingly interminable hours of airborne existence were thankfully uneventful.  This weekend, I get to go through the rigmarole in reverse – SFO to BLR. Hope Emirates has reloaded its video collection for the long haul. Swine flu, enjoy your day in the sun. As they said in the (real) old days  – sic transit gloria mundi.

The real find of the trip for me has been Google Voice. Prior to the trip, I was stoked about handing out my Google Voice number to all and sundry and have cool stuff like voicemail available on the cloud, as is de rigueur these days. Little did I realize the comic possibilities of transcribed voicemail messages. The good QA folks at Google haven’t really given this baby a spin with Indian voices, accents and names, I can tell. I may be Guru to you folks. However, Google prefers, for reasons best left unexamined, to call me Andrew, Joe or Lou. In one message, I got a pretty edgy moniker as “Group”. But in the next message, I was brought crashing back to earth when Goog called me a “Girl”.  Pretty humiliating, I can tell you – being rechristened a “Girl” by a nameless (but not voiceless) computer.  

ROTFL? You bet! Here’s an example to get you rolling: I didn’t quite get the drift when, at the end of a long message, a friend seemed to say : There is a little pork I’m going to try and place next to the house. When are you coming over to defend our house?”. Ominous. What’s with the pork, I thought and why place it next to the house when the house needs defending? Live free or die sounds good on a number plate, but I didn’t sign up for this porcine defense. Later, I heard the voicemail on the Google Voice website, where the message was a far more benign: “There is a poker game planned tonight in Raj’s house. When are you coming over to Jatinder’s house?” Go figure…


I encourage all my friends to call and call often – and if you’re Indian, Chinese, German, French, Bulgarian, Russian – or in any way blessed with an exotic accent, please, do leave a message. Please.

So folks, If you aren’t on Google voice, you have to sign up quick – before the spoilsports at Google fine-tune, “improve” and take the fun out of transcription.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bring on the waterworks, there’s a new GOAT in town

June 12, 2009 Leave a comment

If you are among those who heaved premature sighs of relief (and thanked that dastardly flu bug for laying me low) at the fact that Roger’s monumental victory at Roland Garros didn’t result in more than a whimper of appreciation from me, your joy was short-lived. I’m sorry folks, it isn’t in my nature to shed a silent tear of joy at my idol’s stupendous accomplishment. Especially not after being harshly subjected to that old adage that “a fool and his money are soon parted” when I was public about gambling on Rog’s chances!

I must confess, like a majority of Federer fans, I suffered from extreme hand-wring-itis. Hand-wringing about his apparent loss of confidence, his inability to out-think the new kids on the block, inability to come up with new tactics, his cockiness in not hiring a coach, his propensity to weep buckets and whatever else. In fact, I had all but thrown in the towel on ever witnessing title #14 as evinced by a rather pessimistic previous post: ( I think this latest victory has cured me of my ailment. I shall be a fickle and doubting fan no more. Sure, he is still going to lose to Rafa more than he is going to win, but heck, it doesn’t matter anymore. #14 is in the bag, the French isn’t a holdout any longer and he has surely earned the right to share the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) tag with the other candidates – if not own the tag outright. Frankly, it won’t bother me much if he loses a whole lot in the future. Frighteningly for his opponents, if Roger adopts this attitude and plays freely, he’s going to be a lot more dangerous.

Was his victory a result of divine intervention – maybe. I would certainly have found a hard-fought victory against Rafa a far more satisfying culmination of the quest for #14, than this rout of Soderling. But still, I wouldn’t asterisk this victory in any way. The man had to fight very hard to get it – and showed amazing courage and character to come through stern tests from Haas and Del Potro. His tennis was not of the oh-so-sublime quality we have come to view as our birthright as fans, but he got the job done.
In the recent past, Roger has seemingly suffered from a form of denial. Instead of adapting his game to the fact that folks like Rafa and Murray had his number, he kept returning to the same old forehand formula. He continued to play his usual game because – heck, he seemed to think, it isn’t possible that his perfect game could be taken apart! Not so anymore. Against Del Potro and Soderling, he displayed a refreshing new quality of being willing to try some dreamy drop shots. I suspect the drop shot was tailored specifically to take on Nadal – not that a drop shot would ever be a surefire winner against Rafa – nothing is. However, a drop shot that dies upon landing sure beats feeding Rafa mid-court forehand gimmes. In fact, a bunch of the patterns he seemed to have worked out for Rafa ended up nearly bringing him down against the likes of Haas and Del Potro. In moving away from working his favorite forehand pattern, Fed-Ex did so because Nadal had the right kryptonite in his two-handed backhand. Being naturally right-handed, Nadal’s backhand can rip the fur off the ball. And when Nadal hits a backhand full of juice, Federer can only play a defensive mid-court ball that Nadal, with his excellent footwork, can run around and punish with more topspin than humanly possible. Federer, over the years has suffered mightily with this pattern and has worked hard to come up with a tactical reply and keep the ball as low as possible. When Soderling did him a huge favor by bouncing Rafa from the draw, Roger had to regroup and reacquaint himself with his old point constructions. And on Sunday, he blended the old with the new to perfection.

Onward to Wimbledon now and I’m still putting my money on Roger. Say what you will about the guy – someone who has the chops to get to the semifinals in 19 of the last 20 slams (or the finals at 15 of the last 16 slams) isn’t someone I’m betting against!

The incredible lightness of being…

April 14, 2009 19 comments

If you find idolatry, hero-worship, fawning praise, unquestioning loyalty and other manifestations of the feudal spirit cloying in the extreme, you’d better give this post the old heave-ho. For others (I know who you are), let the orgy of head nodding and other, more enthusiastic forms of agreement begin, for I am about to pen a rather longish ode to that God among authors – PG Wodehouse.

  I must confess, compared to the adulation that I reserve for Wodehouse, I merely tolerate the other authors that I profess to like. After a childhood spent gorging on Enid Blyton, following the time-tested formula of many Indian kids before me, I had graduated to Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators and (heaven forbid) a Nancy Drew or two (OK, many more – I admit it!). I had fruitfully whiled away many a summer reading these books at a frenetic pace, competing with friends to see who landed on top of the end-of-summer count for the number of books read. In my pre-teen years, I spent many afternoons following the exploits of Perry Mason – more as a graduation ritual from Hardy Boys than anything else. (I also vaguely remember being subliminally dissatisfied by the lack of sexual chemistry between Perry Mason and Della Street – but this is not an issue I will delve into now :-)). Into this comfortable, but ennui-laden void in my literary development landed Wodehouse.

 I still remember the seminal moment in my life and the circumstances that lead to my picking up a Wodehouse novel, with startling clarity. Having run out of Perry Masons on my friend’s bookshelf and not bold enough to take more than the customary wistful peek at the beguiling and impossibly buxom beauties that adorned the covers of her father’s collection of James Hadley Chase novels, I resigned myself to the seemingly dull pleasures of a little white book with an orange sleeve with a little penguin on it – with the title “Uncle Fred in the Springtime”.  The rest, as they say they say, is history.  The book affected me in the manner of a bunker-busting bomb relieving the tedious monotony of contemplating the Almighty in an underground cave.  One is thankful for the break in the routine and to the new world that has opened up, but a nagging feeling that it has caused more than the doctor-recommended dose of disruption in the status quo, persists. Reading the book set off a singular obsession with getting my hands on every PGW book ever written – a happy obsession that continues to this day. To say that I began to exist on a higher plane from that day onwards would beggar belief amongst all but the most hardened of Wodehouse fanatics – but it is true! Freed from the pedestrian and prosaic dimensions of space and time by his unimaginably deft use of the language, life seemed to branch out into a fuller, gentler and lighter universe once I discovered Wodehouse. Summers (and all other months of the year) were spent in chortling, wheezing laughter thanks to this incredible lightness of being… a Wodehouse fanatic.

 If Jeeves and Wooster had been Wodehouse’s solitary contribution to literature, his place in the pantheon of literary greats would have been assured. Had he but written of Blandings castle and its menagerie of miscellaneous misfits and nothing else, he would have been hailed as the greatest comic writer ever. It is our singular good fortune that Sir PGW gave us all these and a whole lot more. As a writer he was prolific, ending up with a tally of over 100 books in a long life extremely well lived. He started writing at the end of the 19th century and continued until his death on Valentine ‘s Day 1975 at the age of 93. It is rumored that he passed away with the manuscript to his unfinished work “Sunset at Blandings”, in his lap.

 In addition to the leading lights mentioned above, he also introduced notables such as Psmith, Ukeridge and Mulliner into our lives – not to mention a collection of delightful schoolboy stories (with which he incidentally started his writing career) and a small treasure trove of golfing anecdotes. The world of Wodehouse is one of domineering, disapproving and sometimes diabolical aunts, larger than life butlers and valets, young girls who veer between Nietzsche-reading tough-uns to vacuous airheads, young men who are preoccupied with pinching policemen’s helmets and twinkle-eyed septuagenarian uncles who possess unblemished boyish charm. Evidence of the author inhabiting an alternate universe, one might conclude. But this conclusion would have to be drawn outside the context of (God, *please* send the right adjectives my way) the extraordinary miracle of Wodehouse’s prose, a prose that renders any analysis akin to taking a spade to a soufflé, a prose that makes even the prospect of criticism (or praise) moot, powerless and asinine – like this post, some might say!

 Wodehouse lived a large part of his life in the US, but his readership in the US must sadly number in the low thousands today. Many in the US are no doubt acquainted with the “Jeeves and Wooster” series that PBS ran for several years – with Bertie being played by the inimitable Hugh Laurie and Jeeves, somewhat less satisfactorily in my opinion, by Stephen Fry. While Wodehouse’s books leap to life thanks to the plot and characters, it is his use of the language that really hits the spot. I loved the Jeeves and Wooster series on TV, but exchanges from Wodehouse work better on a page than on a screen. The actors, competent as they were, could convey the narrative of the stories and some of them even hit the nail on the head when it came to portraying the characters, but it is the act of reading that gives life to Wodehouse – through laughter mutually created from the commas placed just so, from the stilted Englishness in every “Sir”, “What”, “Pip-Pip” and “Toodle-oo”, and of course, the dozen or so exquisite hyperbolic similes (“she turned red, like a tomato struggling for self expression”) and hypallagees (“I lit a rather pleased cigarette”) littered around each page. One has to be fair to the actors – none of them can ever be as good as the ones faithful readers of Wodehouse carry around in their heads. Wodehouse in a book affords the reader the luxury of time to savor the delicious sentence and its nuances. However, on TV, the sentence whizzes past, like an attractive member of the opposite sex glimpsed while driving on one of the boulevards near Miami Beach. You try desperately to hold on to the image, maybe even steal a glance at the rear-view mirror, but it is too late and you risk missing the next dazzling beauty coming along if you dwell too long on what you just glimpsed.

 Here’s an example that illustrates the fact that his prose works best when read:

“Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?” said Wilfred.

“ffinch-ffarrowmere,” corrected the visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capitals.

Or this, about the British aristocracy’s predisposition with their first-born sons:

“Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons.”

 And one of my favorites, from Ring for Jeeves, that might illustrate the point about the sentence whizzing by too quickly:

 “It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t.”

 Wodehouse works better as a book on tape, but again, you need someone with the right accent and more importantly a love for Wodehouse, to make the situational comedy work well when being read. I recommend getting your hands on those narrated by Jonathan Cecil, sold by Chivers Audio. I’d give any of the other readers a miss.

 To those of you sufficiently tantalized by the prospect of picking up a Wodehouse, I would suggest starting off with a “Blandings” story.  Blandings Castle is the epitome of all that is right with an old English country manor. It is, to borrow the tag line from Kerala’s tourist pitch – “God’s own country”. The cast of characters that dive in and out of the Blandings stories is too numerous to outline and I fear I will not be able to do justice in any case, should I be rash enough to attempt it. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. In fact, you might start with Wodehouse as I did – with “Uncle Fred in the Springtime”. And having sipped from the well of Wodehousian literature, you could turn your attention to “Right Ho, Jeeves” as an introduction to the genius of Jeeves and which, according to the cognoscenti contains the single funniest piece of sustained writing in the language – in an anecdote running into a few pages, where a gent by the name Gussie Fink-Nottle distributes prizes at a village school. As you read more of Wodehouse’s works, you will soon realize that Wodehouse’s skill lies in the fact that he can tell the same handful of basic stories over and over and over again – and, yes, many of his characters are almost interchangeable – while making the journey uncontrollably funny and undeniably interesting, every time. In fact, Wodehouse acknowledges this interchangeability of his characters in a tart preface to “Summer Lightning”, where he writes:

 “A certain critic-for such men, I regret to say, do exist-made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled this man by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy”

 And speaking of prefaces, I daresay this authorial dedication (from a collection of golf stories called “Heart of a goof”) must rank among the best ever written:

“To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.”

 I can just go on and on, but – yes, you can shake that look of horror off your face – I won’t.

 My literary consumption these days (and I suspect a vast majority of yours’) consists of the doom and gloom peddled by schadenfreude-filled  journalists dissecting the follies of Wall Street. This new age of sobriety that we now live in, characterized as it is by the antithesis of irrational exuberance, is sorely in need of a pick-me-up. A yarn by Wodehouse is a perfect tonic, a panacea, for these troubled times.

 I will close this out with a small collection of my favorite lines from various works of Wodehouse. Small because I do not have the elephantine memory I’d need, if I wanted to remember all the lines I’ve loved. 

 “He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

“The woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.”

“She snorted violently, like one of those gas explosions that slay six.”

“He was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say ‘When!'”

“‘Yes, sir,’ said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend.”

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”

“Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.”

“Nature, when planning this sterling fellow, shoved in a lot more lower jaw than was absolutely necessary and made the eyes a bit too keen and piercing for one who was neither an Empire builder nor a traffic policeman.”

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoi’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboard, only to find the vodka bottle empty.”

If some lines from Wodehouse have afflicted you with uncontrollable laughter, or even a mild chuckle or two, please do share them through a comment or two in response to this post.

Museum Musings

April 6, 2009 3 comments
Very Guggenheim-ish, I thought.








If one were crazy enough to write a book titled “Weekends in Walldorf”, it would have precious little in it. The place, quaint little rural hamlet though it is, singularly lacks sex appeal – dull as a doorknob, one might say if one is in an uncharitable mood. I am definitely in said uncharitable mood. I can see why SAP has chosen this particular corner of the German boonies to setup shop – coming into work sure beats sitting around with *nothing* to do.
Surely you exaggerate, I hear you say. OK – a little. Walldorf does have a nice IKEA – if that sort of thing floats your boat. With wheels at my disposal and the great autobahn beckoning, I decided to stand on the bored shoulders of those who had visited Walldorf before me and head south to Stuttgart for the day. Tolerably well stocked with Muesli after the morning meal, I put my leaden foot on the accelerator and headed down the pike, with a view to checking out what the vaunted Mercedes-Benz museum was all about.

I had budgeted about 4 hours to take in the sights and boy was I optimistic. The museum was FANTASTIC. Starting from the post-modern structure that the museum is housed in, to the way the exhibits, automobile history, world history and the prevailing zeitgeist at each point are woven together into a big picture – the museum didn’t disappoint one bit. The museum is laid out in seven (or was it eight?) floors with the viewing starting on the uppermost floor. There on, each floor deals with roughly a decade’s worth of development of the automobile (specifically, those from the stable of Daimler-Benz).  Each floor focuses exclusively on the cars of the age, giving broad details such as mechanical advancements that were seen, the social milieu of the time that shaped (and was shaped by) the cars, etc. The distance between one floor and another is bridged physically by a ramp. The time-periods that the floors represent are bridged by a montage of photographs and other exhibits that provide a birdseye-view of history (e.g. WWII) and how the auto industry was affected by the events. An audio-tour of the museum is facilitated by a device slightly bigger than a BlackBerry that one can activate on demand when one is near an exhibit relevant to the audio tour.

I spent a wonderfully instructive afternoon learning all there is to know about the Mercedes-Benz collection. I learnt the correct story of one piece of misinformation I had received as a kid and had actively propagated ever since. The theory that the car was named after Carl Benz’s daughter. Not true, it turns out. It was named after the daughter of Emil Jellinek, who was one of Daimler’s best car dealers and a speed fiend, who pressed Daimler into building faster and faster cars – culminating in one that was named after his daughter and swept the podium at the annual race in Nice, catapulting the car to the brand we so admire today. Ironically, Mercedes (the girl) never learned how to drive. Incidentally, the name means “grace” in Spanish. Brand mojo doesn’t get better than this. Pre-ordained to  succeed, methinks.

At 8 euro, the place pays for the price of admission within a few minutes. Two thumbs up!

Public transport vehicle from Buenos AiresQuaint British double-decker

Categories: Musings Tags: , ,

Feet of clay

February 9, 2009 4 comments

If you aren’t into tennis 24×7 like I am, then this post can safely be ignored.

During the past month or so, a large portion of my consciousness has been consumed by the recently concluded Australian Open. The results are out, the man’s once inexorable march towards assuming the mantle of permanent greatness has been stopped yet again and his tears have been the subject of much derision and have been seen as the final nail in the somewhat self-made coffin of emasculation.

A friend of mine, after seeing my public statements of mourning on Facebook, pointed me to an old article in the New York Times on the unstoppable march of Federer. The article can be found here:

Truth be told, I wish I had read this in 2006 – not today. With whatever remained of Federer’s aura of invincibility firmly and undeniably dissolved in that bucket of tears he wept on Sunday, the article’s idolatry of Federer’s prowess comes across as a bit dated and hollow. I have had several “Federer Moments” during the past years. As an avid tennis player and an even more avid fan, there are few matches of Federer’s that I haven’t watched. His game still leaves me breathless and amazed. For sheer shot-making genius, his ability is unparalleled. That his game is poetry cannot be denied. However, during the recent years, I have had “Nadal moments” in equal measure. The man astounds me with his ability and athleticism, to seemingly convert a surefire winner from the opponent into a winner of his own, to put one extra ball back, to break the will of the hardiest of opponents. Strange as it may seem, I am a big fan of both players. I have to profess greater admiration for Nadal’s work ethic, the strength of his psyche and his sheer will to win. As far as mental strength goes, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone stronger – period. The stats show this facet – the man, it seems, simply cannot be broken. The GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debates will rage endlessly (and pointlessly) on. For now, I am willing to shed a quiet tear or two (while Roger weeps) that my idol has feet of – *irony alert* – CLAY against one and only one player and enjoy the unbelievable quality to which the two have elevated the game. I cannot grudge Nadal his victories, the way he has adapted his game to all surfaces and how hard he works and how gracious and humble he is as a champion leads me to conclude that he is also definitely one of the greats of all time.

That said, poetry his game is not. I hope poetry trumps practical a few more times. I’m rooting for Roger “Tears” Federer all the way at Wimbledon – that grass needs watering, win or lose.

Going over the hill to push up the daisies

January 27, 2009 8 comments

A word of advice to those of you contemplating a move back to India: if you’re on the “wrong” side of 30, you should be prepared to be reminded of your advanced years – over and over and over.


In September 2007, while my wife Deepa and I planned my family’s move back to India with a certain amount of trepidation and angst that usually accompanies any foray into the unknown, I foresaw a variety of issues I would have to contend with. One that completely escaped me was the “age” issue. While not a whippersnapper, at 34 I was fairly certain my best days were yet to come and that the proverbial foot wasn’t in its anointed position in the grave, yet . I guess someone forgot to hand me the script before I moved back.


I once read somewhere that roughly 70% of the Indian population was under 30 according to the last census and educated projections thereafter. My first day at work in Bangalore indicated that if my colleagues’ ages were anything to go by, this was a gross underestimation.  Youthful exuberance (and a collective collegiate hangover) was all around – in the form of boisterous birthday parties for colleagues (where perfectly good cake was thrust into the unfortunate victim’s face – a practice peculiar to India, I guess?), in the rambunctious bonhomie that was so much a part of lunch every day and of course, in the numerous courtship/flirting sessions I frequently observed in progress in coffee corners 🙂.


My many friends (and this list includes my wife  :-)) will likely break their necks nodding in vociferous agreement – when it comes to being exceedingly dense, I’m a natural. Owing to the fortunate happenstance of my manager being on vacation the week I started work in Bangalore, I flew in under the radar, so to speak. I spent a week trying to make friends of my new (and very young) colleagues. Aware of, and wishing to avoid the reputation for snobbery that returning Indians have rightfully acquired, I insinuated myself into their lunch gatherings and birthday celebrations in order to fit in with the esprit de corps – and doing a damn good job of it too, I thought. As time has gone by, the scales have been ripped off my eyes. In hindsight, I can see that what the script called for, was for me to play the elder statesman, whilst looking indulgently avuncular from a distance. My younger colleagues have spared little effort in illuminating the reality of my dotage. In one instance, one of the younger girls in the group, after having read the introductory email from my manager welcoming me into the group, and trying to justify the rashness of his decision to hire me, by pointing to my long tenure in the industry – exclaimed “I had no idea you were sooooo old!!”. Daft as I was, I simpered modestly, sucked in my stomach, puffed out my chest, squared my shoulders and interpreted this to mean I looked amazingly young. Alas, I now know that she was expressing some measure of disbelief and a greater measure of disdain at the fact that a senior citizen like myself could have so brazenly joined the festivities clearly meant for a younger crowd. Another sobering instance of ageism came to light during a recent lunch with my colleagues, when someone remarked on the fact that I follow a distinctly un-South-Indian diet by not eating any rice. I should have hotly denied this all too-true observation – instead, I sat on a gastronomic high horse and extolled the virtues of eschewing simple carbs. One of the pretty young things around the table understood my drift all too well when she nodded appreciatively and chimed in: “At your age… you really have to be careful”. At your age… – OUCH! Cut to the quick by her brutal honesty – and in no small measure because she was very pretty – I asked her just how old she thought I was, to deserve the “at your age” put-down. “Well, you must be at least 30”, she ventured – trying to soften the blow through some good old-fashioned flattery, no doubt. I guess 30 looks very far away when you’re just out of college and all of 21.


As the weeks at work have turned into months, I’ve received many other similar rejoinders at not acting my age. The most recent one was when one of the young ‘uns expressed surprise at my enthusiasm for Facebook and said – “Wow, I thought Facebook was more of a youth thing…”. Hey! – I am “youth”… or youth-ish at least… sigh… what’s the use. Sorry Facebook – through my hosannas, I’ve single-handedly ensured that a lot of potential users are now turned off – they aren’t going to use something that a lot of us geezers are singing praises about.


So, forget all you’ve heard about 40 being the new 20  or any other such combination of descending numbers. 30 is still the old 60 here in Bangalore and you’d do well to remember it.

Categories: Musings Tags: ,