Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kudos to Pakistan

For producing great rock bands / singers like Atif Aslam, Jal, Naseebo Lal, Junoon, and Abrar Ul-Haq, to name just a few. The music is so fluid yet powerful. It's a great combination of haunting Persian sounds, in some cases Punjabi beats, in some cases Sufi lyric/style, and modern instruments like the guitar and drums. Some of these groups (like Junoon and Jal) remind me of Radiohead, Coldplay, and the like.

Southeast Asia is leading the cultural music revolution. I'm also really happy to see the Pakistani groups tour in India and Indian Bollywood movies being released in Pakistan, with Pakistani groups providing the soundtrack. Music transcends politics and good music can be appreciated by anyone. And maybe music can help bring the two countries closer together. In the end, we have much more in common than we have differences.

Now I'm really missing my guitar. I want to learn and play some of these things.

Atif Aslam:


Naseebo Lal:


Go to this link, find some songs you want to listen to, and hear them on YouTube!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

India, Please Join the 21st Century

By doing the following:

  1. Stop littering
  2. Don't drink and drive
  3. Wear your seatbelt
  4. Wear your helmet

Now, I could have made this list much longer but if Indians did just these 4 things they would be given immensely more respect by the international community. India's economy is on the rise. Now, it's time for them to improve their social behavior to match the norms of the developed world.

1. Stop littering

You might ask "What's the point? Everyone else does it." Well, there are people who pick up trash from the public, but there are not many of them. Don't make their work harder than it already is by adding to the junk. Instead of being lazy and carefree and throwing your trash wherever it's convenient for you, hold on to it until you find a trash can. The government has some plan for the trash, even if it's just putting it into a landfill. It might not be the greatest plan, but it's a plan nonetheless.

Take pride in your country. You wouldn't dirty your house, so why dirty your country.

2. Don't drink and drive

It's going to end in disaster. Think of your life, the lives of your passengers, and the lives of everyone else on the road. 2 beers is the limit. After that (and I don't care what your height and weight are) find another way to get home.

3. Wear your seatbelt

I don't care if it's 'uncomfortable'. Do it because it might save your life. You can say that it's 'my choice', but your health has an impact on the rest of society. For example, if you're an accident but you were wearing your seatbelt, you might go to the hospital and be treated for minor injuries and be released that day. But if you weren't wearing your seatbelt, you might have been flung from the car and seriously injured. Then, you're transported to the hospital where you go from the Emergency Room to the Intensive Care Unit. Instead of 1 doctor looking after you, you now have a team 5 doctors trying to save your life. Instead of getting bandaged up, you now need 4 units of blood (might I remind you that there is a blood shortage?). Most hospitals run at an operating loss, so as you force them to use more expesive resources (ICU, surgeons, etc.), you are forcing them into a deeper loss. All because you didn't wear your seatbelt.

And please, for god's sake, don't disable or remove the seatbelts in the backseat! You're not doing your passengers a favor. They want to at least have the option to wear a seatbelt.

4. Wear a helmet.

The same logic as #3 applies. Don't just think about yourself.

In the end, it's all about probabilities. You want to reduce your risk. If you don't believe me, check out this website on traffic safety. Chandigarh has the right idea in enforcing traffic laws. The rest of India, please think rationally about this and follow suit.

I remember growing up in the US in the 1980s - people rarely wore their seatbelts (the same splendid 'it's uncomfortable' argument). Slowly, by the mid-90s, everyone was wearing their seatbelt, even in the backseat - not because it was the law because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Then, society followed suit with helmets. You will not see anyone ride a motorcycle without a helmet in the US now. Now, the government is passing a law saying that it's illegal to talk on the phone while driving unless your're using a headset. So, the US was in the dark at one point. Now, they have seen the light, and India can too.

Towards a Maid-Free Existence

I have decided that the time has come to reclaim my house. I have always been a 'do-it-yourself' kind of a guy. But when I came to India, I decided to live like everyone else and get a maid(s). In the almost 8 months that I've been in India, I had one maid (Janaki) for cooking, house cleaning, and washing clothes. I also had another maid (Saroj) for cleaning the bathrooms.

During these 8 months, I have faced numerous problems with both maids. The bathroom maid, in her early days, did a good job. She came on-time or early, did her work quickly without engaging me in too much conversation, and left. But as time went on, she started coming later and later and missing work. Then, I knew it was time to let her go. Since there is only one person in the house, only 1 bathroom gets used and it doesn't even get that dirty. When this maid did come, she spent less than 10 minutes in my house cleaning. If there was that little work to do, I figured I could do it myself. So I gave her her walking papers a few weeks ago and I'm glad I did. I do the bathroom work myself, and it really doesn't take that long.

Now, Janaki (the primary maid) was a more complicated case. She started doing a good job for me and Jasvir. Then, she started slacking off at Jasvir's house and he eventually fired her. I wanted to do the same thing because I was getting tired of her excuses, frequent missing-of-work, greediness, and general 'smartness'. I also loaned her 4,000 Rs for her relative's surgery - which is a decision I don't regret because the loan has essentially been repaid. Then after numerous bonuses and a sari when my parents came, she still wanted a raise and said that after all her hard work she gets nothing from me. Well, Janaki, wrong thing to say to the wrong man. But, I wasn't ready to make that bold step at that time. So, I told her that I wanted to learn how to cook (which is true) and so I would only need her help for cleaning and clothes. So, for the last month, she has been only cleaning and doing the clothes. And for the last week, I have asked her to teach me how to cook Indian food. So far, she has taught me how to make rice in a pressure cooker, dal, aloo - simla mirche sabji, and bindi sabji. But, she has not shown up for 3 days now and it's about time for me to give her her walking papers. Once I learn a few more things - like Rasam and Sambar, chapatis, and one or two more sabjis, the last maid will leave my house.

Today is Sunday and I just spent the last 2 hours cleaning my house (and I'm not fully done). Yes, it's time consuming, but it's something I only need to do once a week or so. Also, this is my first time cleaning this house (ever) so I'm rusty. I used to clean my apartment in San Francisco, my apartment in New York City, and my dorm rooms. I have always prided myself on a clean house. But, I feel good after having done the work myself. I'm a little tired, but it was also very good exercise. And now, I'll be more conscious when I dirty the house because I will know that *I* will be the one to clean it up.

Next week, the house cleaning will take less time, especially after I buy fresh supplies. I'm watching how my maid does the cleaning and am learning her techniques.

The maid experiment is over and I prefer a maid-less existence. Note that I'm not against all maids, and I'm sure that there are some good ones out there. But the reality is that most are not good. My philosophy now is to hire help when it is absolutely needed and the help can perform a skill that will be too hard for me to learn and too risky if I get the work wrong (i.e. house construction). Like my grandmother (Bombay pati) says (in Tamil), 'God gave me two hands and two feet and I am going to use them'. Amen to that.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Tribute to Indian Music

So far, my favorite thing about India has been the music (more than the travel and food, which are #2 and #3 for me). Indian music is as diverse as the country is. If you do some browsing on the Internet, you'll find great Tamil, Hindi, and Punjabi songs. Before coming to India, the only thing I knew about Indian music was South Indian Classical music (because this is what I had learned when I was growing up). So when I came here, I was blown away by the richness of Hindi and Punjabi music. I started watching Bollywood movies - the great songs make up for the lack of a plot. In fact, the songs are the only reasons I watch Bollywood movies. When a new Bollywood movie comes out, my first question is 'what songs are in the movie' (my second question is 'who is the actress?') Along with the great music is great dancing and beautiful costumes. To me, what makes Indian music so great is that each style has been influenced by other styles.

Thanks to You Tube I've been able to explore a lot of Indian music (and music from other countries, which I discovered today). Check out some samples below:

(Soni de Nakahre from Partner)

(Aaja Nachle)

(Kaja Re)

(Chaiya Chaiya, a classic with subtitles)

(I don't know the name of the song or the movie, does anyone know?)

(Tujhe dekha toh ye jana sanam - another classic)
(Pakistani song)

(Pakistani song)

(Pakistani - Punjabi)

Let me know if you have any other good videos.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Well, I'm woefully behind on my blog. But that's only because I've been travelling on the weekends, when I usually update my blog. Starting with Dubai, I'm going to catch up! I visited Dubai with two friends, Vignesh and his cousin Shankar. We stayed in Dubai for 4 days in mid-March. We flew Jazeera airlines to Dubai. Jazeera is a low-cost carrier (our flights were about 10,000 Rs per person) but it was surprisingly comfortable.

We stayed in a part of town called Bur Dubai at a hotel that was right next to the city's bus station. Our activities included:

  • City tour (which included various souks and a beautiful Persian mosque)
  • Jumeria Park Beach
  • Desert Safari - tearing around sand dunes (don't eat before the safari) followed by dinner with entertainment. The entertainment included a couple of dancers, including one belly dancer who I got to dance with ;)
  • Night out at The Lodge club - very cool and very international. Great clubbing experience. Unfortunately, all our other attempts to go out were thwarted. This city is anything but casual, especially at the night clubs.
  • Dinner with my friend Brian and friends at a Thai restaraunt
  • Shopping at the huge malls
  • A late snack at Al Waqqas restaraunt which was right across our hotel
I highly recommend a visit to Dubai. It's very advanced, international, and fun. Dubai is the Las Vegas of the Middle East. You can also expect a high return on investment if you invest in Dubai. But, on the downside, Dubai is very expensive. After you have been living in India for 6 months and have gotten used to cheap prices, Dubai is a bit of a shock. On our first night in Dubai, we passed up on 3 restaurants because we accidentally multiplied when we were supposed to divide when converting the price from AED (Arab Emirate Dhirams) to Rupees. Also, though Dubai is international and not as conservative as other Arabic cities is not nearly as culturally integrated as it should be and non Emiratees are not always treated with respect (and that's putting it mildly).

Still, check this city out when you get a chance. I've heard the Burj-al-Arab hotel is amazing (we didn't get a chance to see it) and Dubai is building a few artificial islands. After all, 35% of the world's cranes are in Dubai. They must be doing something all day...