Showing posts from July, 2009

Ladyboys of Thailand

An entire 90 minute show performed by beautiful (actually better than beautiful, gorgeous-looking) transvestites (ladyboys in local parlance)? I am not joking. You can see it in Pattaya, and unless they tell you, you can't even make out they are transgendered performers. What a brilliant idea to give them dignity in a world that normally forces them to live in disgusting and undignified ways. Hats off! This show, called Alcazar, was a highlight of our two day Pattaya romp. Another was an undersea walk in the shallow sea water on way to Coral Island, an island reached through a thrilling 30 minute ride on a Bond-style speedboat that cuts through the water, front end up at an angle after take-off. The undersea walk needs no training, just wear a helmet (a BIG helmet) that lets you breathe, and a guide takes you for a walk, feeding fish and touching some coral, watching other sea animals floating past you. It beats the Singapore Undersea World any day, though the fish in Singapore a…

Pintu goes to Malaysia

The best part of Malaysia is its language. Or words. I was fascinated from the moment I landed in Kuala Lumpur. Salamat Datang is a greeting. Dilarang.....something.. is No Smoking. Teri maa kais hai, or something similar sounding, means 'Thank you'. But the best of them all...a gate is called Pintu. What a fabulous word. Pintu... all the Indian visitors at the airport kept on saying, Pintu this, Pintu that...I am reminded of something that happened in Clemson University a long time ago. I was a student in some course during my Ph.D. My American professor had a habit of asking us a question, and if he got the correct answer, he would shout "Bingo!". One of my classmates, Masoud, was so fascinated, that he would read up before class so he could answer the questions, just to hear the prof. say Bingo! How's that for motivation?

The fascinating words don't stop there. We went to an upmarket commercial and residential are called Bahsong Baru, a Las Vegas and Disn…

Singha in Singapore

No, actually that is wrong! No Singha beer in Singapore. That's in Thailand. And Tiger beer is from Singapore. Confused? You bet. Price of beer in Thailand? 50 baht-around 70 rupees. Price of coke in Thailand? More than that.

Indian food? No problem. On a banana leaf? No problem. In a restaurant called The Banana Leaf? Again, no problem. Tiger prawn or Chili crab in a Tamil restaurant? Absolutely. A mall like an Octopus spreading its tentacles across three blocks of Singapore? That's Mustapha, a heady combo of an Indian kirana store and the western mall-mania filling eight streets and four or five levels. Big bazaar was (is?) trying to do this in India.

Disciplined or scared of big brother? I could not figure out what Singaporeans really feel. The discipline is awesome, but scary to someone as used to indiscipline (not just from students) as I am. No doubt, Singapore has a lot of man-made beauty and a stupid combo of a lion and fish- wouldn't a mermaid have been more beauti…

The King of Bad Times

I thought I should give some competition to Mr. Vijay Mallya. This is not about beer, but the villains I have watched in Bollywood movies. Who is the best of them all? My vote for the king of bad times is for Ajit, with Pran a close second. Ajit, because he looked so cool, always under control, with a fun element even in the most brutal villainy. Like boiling people in acid baths or electrocuting them or whatever. He also generated jokes that will live with us for a lifetime, some real dialogues and some made up by his fans. Mona and Michael are also immortal, thanks to him.
Pran also was a gentleman villain, usually suave, well-dressed and mostly, well- behaved too. Prem Chopra was a baddie who looked like a leach, Amrish Puri was too loud for my taste, and Manmohan, Sujit Kumar etc. made no impact. Of course, Gabbar's career as a villain was short-lived, though he made a powerful debut in Sholay. Vinod Khanna also played villain in his early days, and so did Shotgun Sinha. I reme…

Cars I Drove Over the Years

Since I am not a zillionaire, these are quite modest and do not include the Ferraris, Mercs and the like, but I just realised that it is an interesting list nevertheless. For example, I started driving at age 18 on a vintage Ford Prefect 1955, which has that old world look, complete with a cranking "handle" to start it like the Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi car, and a floor gear. It also had a footboard on both sides, and we as children used to enjoy standing on it on the drive from the gate to the garage while my father or mother was driving. Great fun!

The next car was a humdrum "Fiat" which was an official car (parents'), which I did not drive much, as it came with a driver. My next one in the US was a giveaway from Alok, my friend who had finished his PhD and bought a new Totota Celica in 1986. His old Datsun (from Nissan)1976 I think, was what I drove for a year. It was a zippy car, by Indian standards, though it had a leaky cylinder which meant one spark plug const…

My Top Ten List

This is Chapter 22 from my autobiography.

My List of Top Tens

Without a list of top tens, anybody’s life would be incomplete. So would mine. To make sure I feel complete, I have made up many top ten lists. Now, I really feel I have achieved something in life. So here we go-

Top Ten Movies (Foreign)

1. The Sound of Music is probably the best movie in this category. I particularly like it for its upbeat ending.

2. In a different genre, I liked The Omen, for its terrifying but understated portrayal of the satanic plans. Even non-believers in Satan were probably scared while watching it.

3. My Fair Lady is a delightful movie, particularly if you like language.

4. Romancing the Stone is a very good movie of its kind, pure fun. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were superb. So was Danny DeVito.

5. The Pink Panther series was hilarious, period. Peter Sellers, the music, the inspector, the French, everything was simply great.

6. Generally I don’t like war movies, but Where Eagles Dare s…


Singapore, here I come. I never went East, for some reason. Though I have travelled to Europe and the US, somehow an opportunity never came to travel in Asia. I will make up next week with a trip to Malaysia and Singapore with our students who go on a foreign study program as part of their course. Classes at MDI Singapore are clubbed with some sightseeing and cultural exposure. Should be nice to see how people live in other parts of Asia. Unfortunately, we only focus on negatives around, like terror in Pakistan (or from there), fights with China, strife in Lanka and so on. But these and other neighbours must be doing good things occasionally, I am sure. Particularly East Asia and its 'tigers'. Hopefully, will learn a bit about how they did it. Singapore is like a Mumbai suburb, I am told, but its progress has been astounding, to say the least. And the same Bristishers had left their legacy there too. Only, Singapore was smart enough to shake it off and start doing their own th…

Hunger for Water

Almost all reservoirs in Karnataka seem to be running dry. Whether it is El Nino or some other culprit, can we be so dependent on the vagaries of rain? Can we not develop other energy sources for power at least? What use is the millions of engineers we produce if we cannot break out of the clutches of a few mega power plants? In the olden days, we survived reasonably well on firewood and other stuff easily available for our energy needs. It now looks like we need to generate our own power and maybe use our own wells (like we did hundreds of years ago), in spite of a municipality and power company existing to ostensibly do the needful. Why can't we do something about the basic human condition-urban and rural?

I read a book called The Black Swan, which was very interesting, about the effect of major random events and random discoveries on our lives. Basically the author argues that life is highly unpredictable (so is business, and everything else). I am reminded of some quote which s…