02 December, 2012

Samarth is here.

After a smooth 9 months or so, Samarth arrived on 9th August at Hill View Hospital in Ranchi. There was quite a crowd outside the operating room - His Nana, Nani, Mama, Mami, Mausi and Dadi were all there waiting to catch a glimpse of him. I was on the phone - talking with someone at work when the nurse came out of the door with a pink bundle in her arms asking for 'Sugandh ke saath kaun hai'. I hung up and was in front of the nurse. In an instant, we were all introduced to master Samarth, who was awake and looking at all of us.

There are so many things that I do not want to forget from that day that I will make a quick list  -
1) Seeing him for the first time
2) Seeing him again and again and noticing small things about him
3) Talking to the Mrs. in the OT and conceding defeat in a side bet which we had
4) Getting to hold him for the first time
5) Seeing him terrorise his mother and his Dadi during the first night
6) Seeing his Dadi sleep with him in one arm on the sofa
7) Seeing 6) the very next day with him and his Nani
8) Talking to Papa and telling him the good news
9) Joking with him on day 3 telling him that no one could fool him now as he wasn't born the day before

 It is good that I am making this list now, because I think I have already forgotten some of the things I wouldn't have liked to forget.

The next few months have been quite a ride - it is month 4 almost gone by and so many things have happened. He has outgrown two sizes of clothes and has turned on his own twice so far.

After ruling in Ranchi for 2.5 months, Samarth relocated to Delhi. He slept through his first journey by plane so much so that we have promptly booked him on a holiday to Goa in February. He is somewhat partial to old hindi film songs (which I approve), to 'Arziyan' from Delhi 6 (which I do not approve) and didn't like Gangnam style. He likes to suck on his hands and anything else found within darting distance of his tongue. He gurgles when his mother runs her hair on his face or when we are massaging him with oil (which happens about 4 times a day now). He looks more like his mother than anyone else and while he does not have dimples, he has received one marriage proposal already.

The Mrs. and I are playing the parts of paranoid mother and slightly befuddled father to perfection. 

Oh yes and there are about 1500 photographs and counting. And yes, we are almost broke with all the things we keep buying for him and he has more clothes than his father for sure now.
What are the other things which are going on - Envigo will turn 5 in a few months and we should have been bigger and better than what we are. We will no longer be able to hide ourselves in the story that we are young and still have a lot of grow into. I am trying to work harder, pushed more by the success of others than anything else.

That's that for now.

17 June, 2012

Different worlds.

All of this week I have been in Chapra. My father and I came here on Sunday, 22nd April. That gave us one week to my grandfather's first death anniversary. We will spend this week in the house built by him. During this time, we will spruce up the house a bit.  My grandparents were living in it till 2003 after which this house has been locked most of the time.

When we go on holiday today, we try to go to different countries and regions to gain new experiences. We want to see and feel and become a part of different experiences - historical, cultural or just to escape what is mundane. This current week was the holiday to beat all holidays.

I get to see faded glimpses of my grandparents life. I have found letters and bills and track the various bureaucratic battles my grandfather fought with a flourish. There are letters complaining about fluctuations in the electricity bills, multiple letters to the pension department for release of funds, a careful record of all electricity and phone bills paid over a period of time. There is a savings account passbook which shows a regular deposits over several years and a few withdrawals that can be matched to weddings in the family. I also get to see a picture of my grand father as a young man - so young that even my father or his brothers do not remember him like that. The photo is part of an ID card, which designates him as a Wireless Inspector. About 45 years before I moved into London and got to pay for the TV license, my Baba was collecting Wireless license fees.

I have been clearing a lot of old household junk - books and calendars, ropes, wood, old sacks, bedsheets and so on. The workers keep an eye on all the junk I am taking out. They often ask me  to allow them to keep some of the things. Old books are a hot favourite. All of them have their children in school and think that these books might be of help to them. Similarly, any old furniture is in high demand and so are fans. With every such demand, I am also told a small story about how this will be useful to them. I learn a little bit about some of these people. They also remind me of Baba in some way. He was very careful with his belongings. He was well organised and methodical. He never wasted anything. He recycled paper. He used to write his letters in such a way that there was no empty space in the blue inland letters that he used to fire off with alarming regularity. If he was around, I would not have been able to remove 10% of what I am able to do now.

My father and I had a routine. We used to get ready and have breakfast by 9. The workers would start the work at 9 and finish at 5. We would take a bath and get ready to go out by 6. We would walk around Chapra town, with my father telling me stories about different places and people. We would reach a restaurant (Restaurant Zaika) and then have dinner (Slightly oily, but clean vegetarian food). We would walk back home and be ready to go to bed by 9. We would be asleep by 9.30, only to be woken a few times when we needed to changover to a generator (during power cuts).

We were in Chapra in the middle of the wedding season.  We were awakened by some very loud live music almost every night. As far as live gigs are concerned, Chapra would come quite close to a city like London or New York. I am not exagerrating. Agreed that the quality and training and equipment of the gigs here in Chapra are rather rudimentary, they make it up by the sheer amount of sound they generate. In the warm summer nights, with little or no power, we would often live music till 2am.
There were such concerts every night - with very bad vocals, repetitive film songs and worse sound. These performances were part of the the entertainment being organised for the numerous weddings which were happening. Baraats always have live music and song and dance. But this was definitely a step further. By the sound of it, these baraats were not going anywhere. I think we got used to it by night number 3 and it never bothered us after that.

We had arranged for a contractor to meet us on Sunday, the day we reached. There was a function we had organised on the following Sunday. The rest of the family would begin to arrive by Friday evening. We had 5 days to get this house into shape.
Before the work started.

What all we finished in this period -
- Painting of all the external walls
- Generator connection and changeover
- Electrical overhaul of all switchboards inside the house
- Mosquito net on all windows
- Filling up of all the cracks in the walls with cement
- Minor plumbing work
- Installation of a new door
- Repair of the kitchen roof
- Repair of all broken window panes

By the end of it all, the house was looking much better.

After the painting...

The house looks quite ready
By Friday, the family began to arrive. My uncle reached on Thursday, mother and sister and aunt on Friday and wife plus nephews and wife's parents on Saturday. We had a whale of a time - some pics to follow soon.

Papa and chote papa on the puja

05 March, 2012

Where is home?

 Most of my friends had standard answers for this question. In Delhi, mot of the people were from somewhere else. But only one place which was someplace else.
'My parents are from X, but we're settled in Delhi' or 'I am from Y'. There were some who were more on the lines of 'I am from X, but we have never lived there'.
Today, with love marriages and the HSMP (or the H1B for that matter), the possibilities are immense. Some of my friends' children will have such interesting answers... 'My mother is half Punju, half Gujju, my dad is a Tam - both being far flung parts of India. They met their business school in western India, got married when they were living in London which is were I was born. I have grown up in California where my parents now own farms.' Another one - 'My dad is Indian, mum is half French, half Belgique and we all live in London.'
For such people, where is home? For that matter, where do I belong to? On my paternal side, there is my great-great grandfather's house in a village, my grandfather's house in a nearest town close to it, my father's house in Sarita vihar. I have never lived at the first one, visited the second one for holidays while growing up and have lived only briefly in the third one. The longest I have lived anywhere is Delhi and Gurgaon put together. For the NCR, I am both an outsider and I belong. I belong here in the sense that this is the story of the majority of people here. It is a city of economic migrants. All cities are. And by that logic, I belong as much to Delhi as to any other city in India. As an individual, I am rootless. As a family, there is still some identity left. My family talks and eats in a certain way. We do our own thing in the smallest of ways. My father's family definitely belongs to that village in Bihar even though the last time we were together there opmore than 20 years ago.
It becomes more tricky when I need to find a place to settle down. If I was a banker, like quite a few of my friends, I could make a list based on the market caps of stock indices - New York, London, and if in India, Bombay.
My opportunity costs are low. I can settle in any city with lots of corporate offices as potential places to earn a living- any of the metros would do just fine. The question is - which one?

26 February, 2012


Would there be any other way to describe the growth and resulting damage to the environment. 

Here are some things which I wonder if I should be doing more - 
1. Flying less, using a train more, especially for personal travel.
2. Driving less, using the metro more
3. Walking 
4. Eating less meat, wasting less food. (Apparently, 18% of CO2 comes from cows belching. That's a lot of CO2. It is a good thing that Indian's don't eat cows. Another billion of hungry mouths to fee would mean a lot more cows)
5. Eating local (not low cal, but maybe that as well) 
6. Going out less, eating in more
7. Using greener computers and ACs
8. Planting a tree (you can do that here for India and here for the Brazilian rain forests) 
9. Reduce the heating on your water heaters and room heaters by just a notch (don't tell your wife or mum - they will immediately think the water is too cold). During summer, insist on sleeping at 25 degrees with a cotton bedsheet and not at 21 degrees with a quilt. 
10. Shift work times to a slightly earlier time (in India) to get into the office when the traffic is less and the office is cooler. (Why don't more organisations do this is beyond me?)
11. Change your car and your TV less often. 
12. Buy smaller or more fuel efficient cars. Use CFLs.
All of these things will save you money. That's something to think about! 
A logical extension of point 1 is that one should not travel abroad for holidays. 
The fantastic arc of instablity (Pakistan, Afghanistan etc) and India's terrain ensure that foreign travel means hopping onto to flight (unless you want to check out the origins of Balti cooking in Dacca). Does that mean all travel should be avoided? I think that travelling inside India is also something we need to do more. Also, when travelling abroad, try to use trains more after maybe the initial flight.

So that's that. 

31 January, 2012

Blogger top level domains changed

I had an alert from the SEO team today morning - top level domains for some blogs appear to have been changed. I quickly opened up my blog (this one!) and sure enough,  Google has decided to change the URL of my blog from .com to .in.
I resent that, but thats only my opinion. What if I had printed a t-shirt with my blog's URL on it.
Funnily enough, the older url - saurabh-kumar.blogspot.com also returns a 200OK server response, which means that technically, that address also exists. 

This is slightly shady of Google. Matt Cutts has been preaching all along about migrating websites properly and not having the same content on 2 pages and so on. I think that today, my blog exists on two URLs - http://saurabh-kumar.blogspot.com and http://saurabh-kumar.blogspot.in.
I wonder if this has something to do with the IP used to update this blog. What if I now move back to the UK for a few years -will my blog then be on saurabh-kumar.blogspot.co.uk. Will I need to change my blog URL every time I move? Will all my readers (5 of them) need to keep a track of my location before they can read my posts?