Back from a whirlwind trip of India where I had the chance to show my friends the land of my ancestors. What struck me most was the capacity of the country to invoke the most varied of reactions from them. Pure joy, disgust, disbelief, shock, satisfaction – it was all there and oodles of it on a daily basis. The utter chaos of the places we visited overwhelmed most of them but there were moments that make you fall in love with India over and over again.

– Schoolgirls at the Qutub Minar all running up to my blond and blue-eyed friend to shake her hand and chorusing “hello, how are you?” with a half shy-half happy look.

– Phoolwalas in the market opposite Hawa Mahal in Jaipur trying to outbid each other by giving away red roses to the pretty girl who was passing by.

There were ample cases of not so nice gestures too but I’d rather be in a country where both exist rather than neither.


Bureaucracy is my middle name

Back in the land of my forefathers and am relieved to see that some things dont change. Singapore-like efficiency has its positives but surely, that would rob us of luxuries like chai-delivery to the workplaces. It also keeps things interesting. Take for example, my conversation with ICICI bankers: while they were all ultra-efficient in asking whether I wanted any banking services (ofcourse I do, you can manage the 5$ a month I save), they all gave me three different answers to my one question. I was calling to ask my mum’s status in my NRI account and I was confidently informed that she was a joint account holder, mandate account holder and/or nominee. All three of them declined to explain what each of those means, preferring instead to make a sales pitch.

My experience with BSNL has also been interesting. You see, the internet at home conks off the day I arrive almost every trip. After several phone complaints with no action, I made a trip down to the office. I was told to go to another office since the guy apparently tries to play hide and seek with customers (I would just hide if I were him). Few minutes later, found myself in a paan-stench filled mother of all unhygenic ‘offices’ where I was told to wait for the one guy to arrive. 15 minutes later, I had his undivided attention and he grandstanded with phone calls to people asking to fix our broadband connection. Nothing has happened since but during the waiting period, I did manage to cop a lecture from the friendly customer care representative.

I’ve also been reading “Don’t ask any old bloke for directions” by P.G. Tenzing. Delightful, witty and full of expletives, there is little else one can ask from a Sikkimese IAS officer who has spent copious amounts of time in Kerala (enough time apparently to learn Malayalam).

Cricket, Indian-ness

Obnoxious Weed

Yet another cricketing tournament, yet another Harbhajan debacle. Cricinfo labels him the “the prime candidate to carry on India’s rich legacy in spin” but he is far from all that. While his bowling has improved in recent matches from his alterego “Bhajji, the flat ball thrower”, its his character that is lacking. This is particularly surprising considering his senior partner – Anil Kumble is the model of composure, statesmanship and respect.

His captaincy of the Mumbai Indians IPL team has been dodgy at best. His spat with Sreeshant (not exactly an angel himself) continues an ongoing problem as a hothead and his story seems more and more like a Shoaib Akhtar prequel. India would do well to drop him and pick someone like Piyush Chawla or Murali Karthik. They might be not be the proven performers but they definitely deserve and value their India caps more.


Are you proud of being Indian?

Its a pretty startling thing to get asked. Attribute an obnoxious dutch guy to the question and your hand is twitching to take that sucker punch. And run. Until you realise, he is thin and can probably run quicker than you. And your girlfriend is not around to protect you.

I have the privilege of being trained in an international centre usually with colleagues from over 40 nationalities. I’m often intensely embarrassed by the fact that I’m sitting next to a person and I cannot name a single city in their country. I’ve also found out that my company has operations in Burkinafaso where they also hire management trainees.

These incredibly smart people however cannot fathom the duality of being both Indian and a Singapore Permanent Resident. I keep getting asked if I’m Indian or Singaporean. Honestly, does it matter? And so far its only been the Singaporeans who’ve accepted what I am with no questions asked. Mebbe thats a triumph of the multicultural teaching in Singaporean schools or whatever the Govt. is calling it these days. Even the Indians call me “Pseudo-Indian”. Or get branded the “N.R.I” (non resident indian) with moral superiority that only true Indians can summon.

On this trip however, I was asked to talk about Indian culture and present the dance performances. And my ancestors were building cities 3000 years before the dutch golden age.