Sunday, February 20, 2005

Life in the Muddle East

Have I been to the malls? Have I availed of fabulous, stupendous, never-before discounts at the Dubai Shopping Festival? Have I called up any of the 65 ‘contacts’ given to me by friends and acquaintances at the mere mention of the words, ‘going to Dubai’?

Sadly, none of the above. Life, in the last few days, has revolved around unlearning well-entrenched habits and re-orienting myself to the Muddle East.

Crossing the road – not even an issue on the harum-scarum Bombay streets – now requires planning, prayer and insurance. There I am, standing on the kerb, heart thudding. I look right and put one tentative foot out, only to throw it over my shoulder in morbid terror in the next instant. The driver in the gleaming Pajero, racing in from the left slams the brakes and looks at me balefully. Heart thudding still, I look back belligerently. It’s his fault, first, for driving on the wrong side of the road, and, second, for not honking incessantly, mindlessly and deafeningly from at least a mile away. How is one supposed to cross the road when vehicles sneak up in silence?

Sitting at my desk at work is no less bewildering. The desk calendar has been tampered with. M T W T etc., is now S S M T... I’m not complaining about the weekend in the middle of the week, of course. It’s starting work on a Saturday, and working right through Sunday, when family and friends in the un-muddled parts of the world are doing weekend-ly things, that I find galling.

If all this wasn’t befuddling enough, my eyes are playing tricks on me. A few days ago, I logged on to and typed in a search word. Nothing happened. I hit a few more keys, and that’s when I saw the letters creeping in from the right. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes and tried again, all day and on the days that followed. It never happened again. But I could have sworn that it happened the first time. Or did it?

Guess settling down is unsettling right now. But two things are comfortingly familiar.

One, bloggers are some of the nicest people around. A big thank you to Manu and Amit who took me out on my first weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week.

And two, advertising hasn’t changed one bit. Deadlines are still ‘yesterday’, clients continue to write copy and client servicing still stumble on the brief after the first round of creatives are presented.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Day 1 in Dubai

Puran poli for breakfast

Bhel puri in the evening

Amitabh Bachchan grinning from hoardings all across the city

Teen cousins singing along with the Hindi film songs on the radio

Traffic snarls at every intersection…

… maybe I’m not so far away from home.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Generation Zap!

A friend had this conversation with her 12-year old daughter recently.

Mom: You should start reading P.G. Wodehouse. You’ll like him.

Daughter: Is he the guy who started

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Paperless, and now, nameless as well!

The weekly Bharateeya Blog Mela is on. And in between dissertations on India and China’s economic policy, essays on Republic Day, an interesting explanation of ethical conceit and Patrix’s guest blogger’s highly questionable views on dating, is one little tirade against a tyrannical, toilet-paper depriving Admin machinery.

I’m pleased, no doubt, to feature in the Blog Mela, but, pray, why have you omitted my name, Ravikiran Rao?

In any case, do check out the interesting mix at the Mela.

So long and thanks for all the pani puri

There was a commercial on TV in the early 80s for a brand which I can’t seem to recall now. (Was it Tango – the orange drink?) All I remember was a guy singing soulfully, with the resplendent Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive for all you non-Bombayites) in the background. Sung to the tune of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’, the jingle went like this…

Don’t cry for me Bombay City
The truth is I don’t want to leave
All the excitement
The bhel puri…

I’ve been humming this tacky ditty – written no doubt by a COPYwriter – as I pack my somewhat meagre possessions into two suitcases, which by some miracle might end up weighing only 30 kilos.

It’s a moving time for me. For one, I’m moving back to mainstream advertising, after two years of revelling on the fringes. And two, I’m moving to Dubai. (Spare me, I beg you, all the sheikh, camel, mallu, harem, gold etc., jokes. In the last three weeks I’ve heard them all.)

The move is on account of a few reasons - some personal, some professional and some, just a tad irrational. Come Friday, and I’ll be opening another suitcase in another hall (well, since we’re ripping off Evita here…)

So, yes, I’m going to miss all the excitement, and not so much the bhel puri as the pani puri! Ever since the move became imminent, I’ve risked life, limb and entrails for pani puri at various places across the city. Two places, I’ve discovered, do immense justice to the humble pani puri – the not-so-little-anymore stall outside Elco Arcade, and the one outside Shopper’s Stop on Linking Road. The attendants with plastic gloves, smocks and chef hats made me feel a little less guilty about indulging.

Flippancy aside, there’s a lot more I’m going to miss. Having lived all my life in Bombay (Mumbai, if you insist) I can’t even begun to list all the things I’ve gotten attached to, used to or just plain inured to (Western Railway, are you listening?) Most of all I’m going to miss the people – family, friends and the incredibly spirited, crazy, generous, callous, friendly, confused, never-say-die, noisy, uncivil and ultimately, endearing denizens of Bombay. Fare well fair city (allow me some illusions), I’ll be back.

Absolute Lee will continue on the other side of the Arabian Sea.

P.S. Any co-relation between my departure and the absence of a certain paper as mentioned in the previous post is purely coincidental.