Category Archives: Why we love Wonderful Things

The Seventh Wonder Of The World

When I first learned about the Seven Wonders of the World in school, I went, “Hein, Ma’am are you sure?” After all, except for the Pyramids of Giza, none of the items on the hottest-places-to-see-in-the-world itinerary even existed anymore. Clearly, the Travel & Lifestyle folks of yore had been quite sluggish in updating their Best-Of lists. Anyway, I discovered quite recently that a new Top-7 list has been produced, and this one does have places that one can actually go to and click a suitable Facebook profile picture at.

Mayawatiji with halo

Mayawatiji with halo

I was also joyously happy to see my favourite politician Mayawatiji’s property making the cut. No small feat for a person who started her journey to greatness as a humble school teacher. By the way, Happy Teachers Day, Mayawatiji! Except for the Yadavs, everyone loves you!

Which brings me to the property itself. Mahamaya Taj Mahal, or simply Taj Mahal as it is known among the plebs, is a glorious monument built by Shah Jahan centuries ago (use Google if you really want to know exactly when – must I spoon-feed you?) when his beloved wife died bearing him his fourteenth child at the ripe old age of 29. It was a fitting tribute to erect such a huge building in her honour considering it was most likely the man’s perpetual erection that did her in.

Anyway, back to the Taj. I am certain that it wasn’t quite smooth-sailing to construct a building of that complexity. I suspect some of the conversations during its design and construction might have gone like this –

 

A’la Azad Abul Muzaffar Shahab ud-Din Mohammad Khurram, or simply Shah Jahan for short : (with thundering anger and blazing eyes) What the hell is wrong with you, you bloody nincompoop? Didn’t I say that I wanted taller minarets? What is wrong with you architects these days? Don’t you ever listen?

Taufeeq Contractor, Chief Architect : (trembling with fear) But, Sir, that was what I was trying to explain to you the other day. Any taller than this and we will not be able to get the blueprints approved by the Housing Board!

Shah Jahan : Who cares what the Housing Board says! I will just stuff their mouths with 1-Rupiya coins! Have those minions even seen what a 1-Rupiya coin looks like in their entire life?

Taufeeq Contractor : (sheepishly) I am sorry, Sir, but…

Shah Jahan : But what?

Taufeeq Contractor : They have declined to accept any bribes in the shape of Paisas or Rupiyas.

Shah Jahan : (spitting angrily) What?

Taufeeq Contractor : They say that they will only accept Dollars.

Shah Jahan : Dollar? What in Allah’s name is that?

Taufeeq Contractor : It’s what our cousins on the other side of the world, the NRIs, are using these days.

Shah Jahan : (ferociously) These blasted Native Red Indians! I hope someone from Europe goes to the New World and fixes those bloody rats once and for all!

Taufeeq Contractor : (almost whispers) : And there is one more thing, Sir.

Shah Jahan : What’s that?

Taufeeq Contractor : They can’t approve 8 minarets. They say that so many minarets are an earthquake hazard.

Shah Jahan : (angrily shakes fist) La haul vila kuvat! I hope they rot in hell!

Taufeeq Contractor : I am negotiating with them for six. Hopefully they will agree, otherwise we may have to settle for four. Or two. But it will cost extra.

Shah Jahan : And to think we already had to grease quite a few palms to get the riverside plot assigned to us.

 

So, as you can see, even in 16-hundred whatever AD, obtaining the right site, and getting a floor plan passed by the Municipal Corporation was like pulling teeth. And this man was the bloody King, for Christ’s sakes! Then, a few days later…

 

Shah Jahan : (annoyed as usual) Just make sure all the paperwork is pakka. I don’t want anyone in the future trying to take over this whole Taj Corridor and passing it off as their property!

Hukum Nawaz, Wazeer-e-Daftar (Chief Secretary) : As you command, Jahan-Panaah.

Shah Jahan : Any news on the Underground Parking?

Hukum Nawaz : Sorry Sir, but that plan has been rejected.

Shah Jahan : (with nostrils starting to flare dangerously) What the hell! Why?

Hukum Nawaz : We are too close to the river. It will cause seepage problems.

Shah Jahan : Damn it! Now where are we going to park all the horse- and bullock-carts? We needed at least two floors of underground parking!

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, we will have to use the area in front.

Shah Jahan : And have those four-legged monsters eat all my imported grass and dunk their heads into my expensive fountains? Use your brains, Hukum Nawaz!

Hukum Nawaz : Sorry Sir!

Shah Jahan : What sorry-shorry! You just have to come up with an alternative plan for the traffic.

Meanwhile, the Emperor has to still manage his personal life, and the fourteen sons his loving departed wife left him with. The most obnoxious one is the eldest.

Abul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Mohammad Aurangzeb, or simply Aurangzeb : Papa, come play Emperor-Slave with me! I want to pump you with arrows.

Shah Jahan : (irritated) Go away, boy, can’t you see that your father is busy?

Aurangzeb : (angrily) But, Pops, you always keep saying that! Why do you never listen to me? Come! These arrows won’t hurt much. Look, they are Made-in-China.

Shah Jahan : (equally angrily) I said go away. Don’t you make me angry, boy!

Aurangzeb : (even more angrily) You wait till I grow up, Papa. When I am the King, I will lock you up in prison and throw away the key!

Shah Jahan : (dismissively) Yeah, yeah, yeah, we will see about that, you Dumbass!

Shah Jahan yells to the maid who comes scurrying.

Shah Jahan : (authoritatively) Kaneez, take this juvenile delinquent away. And make sure he doesn’t manage to sneak into my chambers again, ok?

The maid bows. Then, Shah Jahan calls her close to him to pass on covert instructions.

Shah Jahan : (whispering) He likes to butcher people. Just provide him a few slaves so he can play with. Who are we to curtail his natural instincts? At some point in the future, people like him will be very famous. There may even be books and plays about serial killers!

 

The boy is taken away screaming and yelling egregious threats at his father. Meanwhile, the Emperor has another visitor who has been stopped at the door.

 

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, it’s Anarkali. She says she must see you. It’s urgent.

The concubine. Alas, there is no hope of getting any serious work done today. The Emperor caves in.

Shah Jahan : (mildly irritated) What is it, Anarkali? Just speak quickly, I don’t have any patience with your slow, husky, whispered tone today.

Anarkali : (in a huff at being scolded in front of everyone) Ok, I will make it quick. You promised me a new Sheesh Mahal where I could do my dance performances, and where the walls and ceilings would mirror a million reflections of my swirling Anarkali suit and dupatta. What the hell happened to that plan?

Shah Jahan : We will get to that by and by.

Anarkali : (still annoyed) Delaying tactics! Why are you focused on that dead woman’s mausoleum when you should be focused on me!

These damned women, the Emperor says to himself.

Anarkali : (starting to cry) Do you really not care that at some point someone will want to make a biopic on my life? What good it will be if there is no item song featuring me in my own grand Sheesh Mahal?

Aaaaaand she begins to cry.

Anarkali : (for extra effect) Have you no heart?

Shah Jahan : (sighing loudly) Ok, ok, my dear, let me see what we can do.

Anarkali : (immediately back in control of her tear ducts) Yes, and you had better do it quickly.

Suddenly his father’s original idea of entombing the whining woman doesn’t seem like that bad an idea to the Emperor.

Anarkali leaves happily. The Chief Secretary and the Emperor are back to discussing the monument.

 

Shah Jahan : Ok, what’s the plan about Labour? Do we have 20,000 labourers ready for the show?

Hukum Nawaz : (excitedly) Yes, Sir, we are working on that. We are getting some from Bihar and Jharkhand. Others are being summoned back from the Middle East.

Shah Jahan : What about their contracts? Remember it is imperative that they don’t stay on in the construction business after building my property. We can’t have them copying our style elsewhere! And we certainly don’t want them building Casinos in the New World that look like our monument!

Hukum Nawaz : Exactly, Sir. That is why we are making them sign a Confidentiality Agreement.

Shah Jahan : Sign?

Hukum Nawaz : Yes, Sir.

Shah Jahan : (blowing his top yet again) Naa muraad! Do you think they can read or write? Sign, he says! You bloody IAS-type idiots! Do you not know anything?

Hukum Nawaz : (extremely mortified) Sorry, Sir! We will come up with an alternate plan.

Shah Jahan : What alternate plan! Can’t you just cut off their arms after the job is done? Isn’t that simple?

Hukum Nawaz : Oh, absolutely, Sir. That can be managed.

Shah Jahan : Ok, good. What about all the raw material? I am warning you again – I want only the best quality marble!

Hukum Nawaz : Yes, Sir. Absolutely, Sir! We are sourcing it from Rajasthan via NOIDA. The only hitch is hauling it all the way to Agra.

Shah Jahan : So what are we going to do about that?

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, can I ask you to fast track an Expressway from there? From NOIDA to Agra? That way, our bullock carts can just zip through at double-digit speeds.

Shah Jahan : So fast! But is it safe? To drive so fast on the Expressway? What is this – some kind of Formula 1?

Hukum Nawaz : Oh, totally safe, Sir. In fact some of our spies in Europe claim that the highways there are so smooth that horses and oxen practically slide on them. And there is no speed limit on those roads either!

Shah Jahan : No way!

Hukum Nawaz : Yes way, Sir.

Shah Jahan : So how can we get this Expressway done quickly?

Hukum Nawaz : We should really go ahead and give the approvals for it. In fact, (coughs) some of the interested builders are willing to (cough), you know, write ‘ghazals’ for Jahanpanaah.

Shah Jahan : I see. How many ‘ghazals’ are they willing to give…errm, write?

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, the going rate is 200 ‘ghazals’. You know, pure gold ‘ghazals’.

Shah Jahan : What shit! Tell them nothing less than 500 ‘ghazals’ will do! 200 ‘ghazals’ my fat ass!

Hukum Nawaz : I shall let them know, Sir.

Shah Jahan : And warn them that if they don’t write me the right number of ‘ghazals’, I will sit on their file forever.

Hukum Nawaz : Absolutely, Sir. Yes, Sir.

 

Well, Taj Mahal supposedly took 20 years to build. It used the best marble from Rajasthan and the best stones from wherever else (just Google it, for Heaven’s sake). Quite a handful of a project for the great Shah Jahan who later died in captivity. (That bloody Aurangzeb locked him up, you see!)

But, in the end, we all got our Taj Mahal, the only Indian thing that features in Hollywood disaster films when they have to show worldwide destruction of the planet.  

Meanwhile, one assumes that the right amount of ‘ghazals’ never passed hands between the builders and the government for centuries. The Yamuna Expressway wasn’t inaugurated until 2012. It cuts down journey time between Delhi to Agra from over 6 hours to under 2, possibly the smoothest road in the country where zipping at 160 kmph is a-ok. But will it ever be featured in any Wonder Of The World list? Unlikely.    

 

 

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013. The theme is SEVEN. This post features a person and a monument, both are among the Seven Wonders of the World as far as I am concerned. 

 

The Sad Tale Of My Very Fat Royalty Payments

The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi)

The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi)

So, first, I thought I’ll go for some prime real estate in London. Preferably the townhouse next to JK Rowling so I could go borrow sugar or the occasional copy of her next book written under an innocent pseudonym whenever I wanted. But then I worried that her neighborhood might be infested with the Russian Mafia of many hues – after all, they are the only folks buying property in London, as per the newspapers. I didn’t want to get shot just because I don’t have a ‘Y’ and a ‘Z’ in my name.

In any case, one book was hardly likely to cause that kind of monetary windfall, so I pegged my sights a bit lower.

I thought, how about an expensive holiday? I considered Brazil, Turkey, Egypt and Japan, the only four places I might be interested in as a tourist (I am not much of a traveler). A quick Google search on the first three landed me on news reports of Anna Hazare – Kejriwal styled street demonstrations (or British soccer fan styled hooliganism, take your pick). Mental images of me at a hospital getting six stitches on my forehead because a stone (or broken beer bottle, take your pick) landed there promptly made me scratch those country off the list. As for Japan, I still remember the tsunami videos quite well. (I just saw them recently in fact – someone was passing those off as “Must Watch Video From Uttarakhand!”)

Good that the luxury travel plans were scaled down from 100 to 0, quite likely that the royalty checks were not going to be that substantial anyway.

Maybe I’ll just upgrade to a brand new computer, I thought next. My old laptop is still going great, but it is 5 years old. And, it runs Windows Vista, for goodness sakes. ‘How’s your Windows 8 laptop doing’, I asked a friend. It was not nice to see a grown man weep like that.

So, no computer either.

New phone, you suggest? Yep, I suggested that to myself, too, only to find out that the iPhone 5S (or 6) is still a few months away. Plus, no one buys Apple these days and I won’t touch Android.

All this happened while I patiently waited to hear back from the kind editors at Amazon Kindle Singles. They had been reviewing my debut book – The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi) – for several weeks. Yesterday, they wrote back to me declining my request to have my novel be considered as a Kindle Single, but offering me to go ahead and release it via Kindle Direct Publishing. Rejection! I instantly felt kinship with Rahul Gandhi – a pretty face and yet no takers.

Amidst watered down images of JK Rowling, that luxury spa in Rio, and the swankiest new iPhone, the image distortions possibly caused by welled up eyes and heartache, I did just that – self-publish my first book via Amazon last night. (For the worriers, the heartache was because of some terrible samosas I ate the evening before, so STOP worrying!)

And now that I am a self-published author who is unlikely to see any large (or small) royalty checks in his mailbox anytime soon, I will just have to settle for a self-funded ice cream at best. But, in order to afford that, YOU, my dear reader, will have to go and check out my book at the Amazon store. And download a copy.

Won’t you do that for me? And while you are at it, do spread the word around as far and wide as you possibly can!

 

Note : You don’t need a Kindle device for reading the ebook. All you need to have is the Kindle App on your smartphone, tablet or PC. Click here to get the free app for your preferred device.

 

 

An Essay on How to Fill a Day with Nothing – Also, known as, The Pleasures of a Purpose-less Sabbatical…

Some three and a half years ago, I took a sabbatical from work, ostensibly to do bigger, better, more worthwhile things in life. (Unfortunately, I settled back into more mundane living fairly quickly, without utilizing my downtime in any meaningful way. Clearly, the current break will have to be much more purposeful!)

This note below captures the heady feeling of the early days of that break…dated October 2009, location New York, NY.

Watching grass grow can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Ah, the Art of Sleep. Or, rather, the Art of Waking-Up-Late. For some, waking up late means 8 am, which is such a pity – this artform is clearly wasted on them. For others, waking up at 11 am or later comes easy. Natural Born Artists. So you continue to hone this Talent each day.

Sometime mid-morning sleep eventually dissipates. Your eyes hook up with your iPhone/Watch/Media Center/Newspaper/Life. 10.55. You float out of bed around the same time as Worker-Bees all around town are hearing the first rumblings in their stomachs. After all, lunch hour is near. The Sun has already expended much of its morning energy, but you don’t notice that because the blinds are down (sensible move last night). Your first act of the day is to bring the Sound-and-Fury box back to life. You already made sure the remote stayed close at hand. Choices abound – there’s CNN, if you want to know how much your Life would Suck if you hadn’t been Goldman Sachs (but wait, you aren’t Goldman Sachs…). Then there’s Martha, who can  teach you how to make Champignon French-something-or-other with mushroom caps and cheese, and craft decorations with discarded mushroom stems and glitter. Super talented woman. But best to settle with the Ladies of The View. Five women talking animatedly about important-sounding topics, you know, Jon and Kate, Balloon Boy and such. They can’t seem to agree between themselves that the sky is blue. And what greater pass time than to guess which dentures Barbara Walters chose to wear today – clearly, she rotates between several pairs depending upon her need for audible coherence?

Breakfast at 12. If you have made lunch (aka breakfast) plans with friends, food is taken care of. But each time you are out having lunch, you wonder why things appear rushed. Could it be that your Worker-Bee-Friend needs to get back to work? You are in no hurry yourself, but those Au Bon Pain soup bowls carry only so much soup. Even the Large ones. Though lunch plans are quick and easy, and your friends have suggested them a few times, you are a lazy sloth (painful to take a quick shower, get ready, and leave home by 1). So you plan to meet another day. Maybe later in the week – Friday.

Today, you are home for breakfast – things are much simpler. The Fridge holds the key to your happiness. Milk. Direct from a cow some two thousand miles away. Wholesome, pure…missing some fat, but with added vitamins. What else…there is Pepperidge Farms Bread – unspoilt even after a week. Fortified with cement, presumably. There’s some Swiss cheese. Organic Grade-A-Large-Eggs with yummy Good-Cholesterol. Gala Apples and Dole Bananas before they go too ripe. But you look beyond all that and grab the big box of Cheerios you bought yesterday. After watching that ad in which a grandfather is having Cheerios with his year-old grandson. They were loving it so! Nothing like a good bowl of cereal. Except carrot cake. Or any cake.

All through your miserable years at work, you have wondered about those folks who sit at Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon, sipping coffee and reading a book. WHAT is their profession – and how do you get to be one of THEM? Well, now is your chance. So you grab your great new Novel, in all its 700 pages of hard bound enormity, and lug it to the cafe two blocks away. You don’t really like coffee, so you order yourself a dessert drink. There is no one ahead or behind you in line, so you get a clear picture of how your Frappucciono is manufactured. Basically, they start with Heavy Cream. Then they add some mix (sugar syrup?) from a bottle. Followed by some fruity looking syrup from a second bottle. Off to the blender. Followed by a huge dollop of more Heavy Cream to top it up. Your heart fails just toting up the calories and Bad-Cholesterol count. The kid behind the counter smiles as she hands the Venti to you, her lips saying ‘Enjoy’ though her eyes clearly mean ‘Good Luck surviving that’.

Drink in hand, you seat yourself at a table with a so-so view of the Street. The best seats are already taken by Ferocious-looking-Hipsters. (Go back to your East Village, you Skinny Jeans Morons). Anyhow, you are not to be undone…you fish out your giant book with both hands (your bag and your shoulder thank you for it). You read. 3.15.

Outside the window, you spot a chick wearing mittens (already?). An old but well preserved lady with a dog. Back to the book. Two new visitors to the cafe. Marble cake…mmm, maybe you should get that, too. Two sips of the Frappuccino. Book. The visitors settle down at a worse table – take that, Losers. NYU Kids. Ah to be young in New York. Outside, the Mailman runs his block. Frappuccino. Book. Repeat. 3.30.

Only 3.30? Concentrate on the book. It is a great book, but this public area coccooning is new to you. The sounds and visuals are distracting. IPOD! Yes, take that out. Headphone all set. Playlist set to 500-Days-of-Summer. Go. Book. Frappuccino. Book. Repeat. Man running. Two giggly girls. One of the Ferocious-looking-Hipster starts to leave. Should you change you seat? No, that’s uncool, surely. Book. More Book. Even more Book. Frappuccino. Skip Song. Skip next Song, too. Frappuccino. Book. More Book. Even more Book. Now mainly Book and little much Else.

4.30. This turned out to be reasonably ok. You need more practice, so maybe you will repeat this again tomorrow. Or maybe, later in the week – Friday. Did 20 pages of the Book. The Brick goes back into the bag (groan). Onward home.

The Mega Million Lotto is now 108 MILLION DOLLARS! Stop by the neighborhood deli. Pretend you are there to buy something else…Snapple Grapeade, say. And just by-the-way ask for 3 Mega Million tickets. You know, to top out the 5 dollars you placed on the counter.

Finally Home. Free until 7 when you meet your friend over dinner. Go for a run? But you showered already, so perhaps tomorrow. Maybe later in the week – Friday. Catch up on recorded Jay Leno and Conans. Conan is still not funny…poor guy. But you want to be nice to him, so you continue to watch politely. You doze off…as your Natural-born-talent manifests itself again only after a few short hours. But, as Conan says bye for the night, you wake up as well. Perhaps time to change your shirt for the evening. You look through the closet to realize – 1) you still haven’t done laundry, and 2) you don’t have good clothes, anyway. Laundry and Shopping coming up. Maybe later in the week – Friday.

Off for dinner. Thai, Indian, Mexican or Chinese, typically. Usually cheap, and always worth it – there is a reason why New York apartments come with kitchens and smoke-alarms 1 feet apart from each other. Why would anyone want to cook in New York?

Home later. After 9, even your cellphone provider sets you free, so go yap as much as you want. But talking is so 2007, now that there is Facebook…Think of something truly witty for your Facebook status. Think hard. Continue to think. Eventually, give up – it’s not as if you have anything to report – you haven’t done ANYTHING today. Witty or otherwise.

Mr Sandman won’t visit for a while, so you extricate the Brick from the bag. Read the Book. It’s actually quite delightful…you wonder why you couldn’t concentrate at Starbucks. You continue to read. 1 am. You want to catch up on your sleep – there’s much to be done tomorrow. Or, at least, much to done later in the week – Friday.

This is Life you could get used to. You wish your parents had worked harder when they were younger…and left you a Trust Fund.

A Fond Farewell

Over the past year, I have made several friends in the blogging community. One of the nicest and friendliest persons I have come across is Akanksha Dureja. Several weeks ago, she asked me to write a guest post for her blog – the charming Direct Dil Se. I had been mulling over the right topic to choose for her, which was a trifle difficult task given the eclectic choice of subjects that she chooses to write on.

And then, I heard the happy-sad news – Akanksha was moving to the UK for work for a year, most likely longer. The news made me, as I am sure all her other friends too, happy because it is always nice to see your friends flourish in their careers. But sad, too, because it is never easy to part with them. My guest post for her is my way to say Au Revoir, Akanksha – until we meet again.

I know what most of you are doing now – planning your next holiday in the UK, right? After all, no more worries of booking expensive hotel accommodation or paying through your nose for pricey meals! (Oh, did I mention that Akanksha is a great cook?)

 

Do read my post on Direct Dil Se. My first attempt at writing a modern day fairy tale. With the hope that the reality for Akanksha will be even more joyous and eventful than the one I have described!

Akanksha Dureja : The London Diaries

 

See you later, Alligator!

See you later, Alligator!

My New Word Submissions – Part 3

Ok, so technically these are not my creations but of my great friend Adam Murphy. This Aussie has a wicked sense of humor – the kind we all like. Here are some fantastic new additions to the English language!

Read more on his blog!

 

http://clightnirish.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/new-words-with-friends/

 

 

Adam, Goldie and I visiting Mayawati's favourite possession