So this is going to be a long one..... I remember, my second year at MSU - we were all trying to get jobs. We are all pretty much broke. And not getting a job isn't really an option. Besides we all have an Masters of Science. Cool! So among other folks, Telcordia Technologies decides to hire me. As a Senior Software developer and everything:). For 70K a year!! Imagine that. So anyways, I take it. I learn about their pedigree. Bell Labs. Strong nerd pedigree. Very strong pedigree. And therefore I am moved to New Jersey / New York. And spend the next 6 months partying like hell in the city every Saturday night. Very nice for a kid who had no money 2 months ago. And then the dot com bubble burst hits. And hits like hell. And so, I am stuck there - ready to go back to India. Screw it, I say! Atleast I got an education. Now back to ma and baba. Fast forward 13 years later, this August 8th. I am still here. More importantly, we are still here. My family. New Jersey is still as crappy. But I have built a life here. Made friends. Attended an Ivy League to get an MBA. And worked my butt off to get where I am. Here in New Jersey. And now suddenly out of the blue this offer. They really want me. There. And frankly Nashville is a super nice town. And very different. First ethnically. Then socially. And then religiously. But its a super nice town. And very nice people. And its fun. And goddammit, for all that's it worth - its the world headquarters for country music (ok, now I am stretching it) - it is. But that's not really a value proposition, is it? But the office is awesome. I know I can do well. And it has great food. And great culture. And a wonderful place for S to grow up. Maybe she can be a musician or something. No? And it has mindfucking awesome homes. Plus the commute isn't greater than 20 minutes. Conundrums?!!??
Just essentially serve as placeholders? This post is probably a lot more mundane than it sounds. It's about food really. So we finally got around to watching the The Hundred Foot Journey yesterday. Pretty good movie. Om Puri and Helen Mirren were fantastic. The new guy noone has heard of - Manish Dayal was very good. The food depicted was fantastic, if a little romanticized. The whole concept of cooking Indian food for a whole restaurant from a mom's chest of spices - while it impacted the heart, is impractical - to say the least. The tandoori looked awesome. But I am told, all of Indian food does in the UK. And then there was the french food. Having spent a fortune on French food in Paris, I had a perspective. The food looks good on film. Very good. And so do the cooking sophistication the french are known for. But couple that with a typical experience at a French restaurant, I would say that if the film had expounded more on the warmth of an Indian establishment (headed by Om Puri, no less), it would have been more appropriate. But they certainly tried with Hellen Mirren, in an inverse sense. But what got me was what food evokes in you. As it did with the protagonist. A way of life. A time perhaps gone for ever. Its true. My ma's cooking. A's cooking now. Evokes such different and equally strong thoughts everyday. Much like music. Much like Coldplay that I have been obsessed with a few weeks does. Almost takes one to a different place and time. And then the song ends. As does the food. To end, let me end with the thoughts of my ma's daal and the baangali chicken curry. And now, rui maacher jhol. And Archie's fresh parathas - that she insists I sit and eat while she makes them fresh. Or her chicken curries. Or her baked fish. And so much more..... Fishes!
When there is so much going on around the world, one often feels competing urges. One would like to incessantly opine but then in this day and age, everyone is. All the time. And oftentimes, with all the information around us - one just ends up being the consumer of news. Which is what has been happening with me over the last few months. As the middle east blew up, Ukraine went into turmoil and European economy went into a tailspin, I, for the first time in my life, followed everything on Twitter.
And it was quite a revelation. For the first time, I didn't necessarily have to rely on formal news media (other than the New York Times, which I revere). For the first time, I learnt to consume news in 140 characters (and numerous very graphic pictures) straight from Gaza as Israel pummeled that piece of land. I learnt to tailor my feeds to only "feed" me what I was interested in seeing. And ignore any contrarian points of view. And while I intellectually comprehended about what I was doing was probably not an entirely accurate reflection of the conflict, I was hooked. Affirmation bias is what this was called during my time at Columbia Business. And it was. And I was aware of it and yet doing it. After the conflict died down (to the extent as it has), I tried to reset. I tried to get my moorings back on a rational, thoughtful balance. And I am still trying. Yet, I still, for the first time in my life, log onto Twitter to check on the news. As I am surfing the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Only time will tell what this shift in news consumption attitudes mean. And perhaps, more importantly, what will it do to "mainstream" news reporting. I don't see how our opinions don't get more fragmented as time goes on if nothing gives.
The wind on the face. The pain in the legs as one pounds the pedal. And then the feeling of freedom. The want to ride harder. You. The machine. One. Until the little one in your life wants to play picnic. So thanks to little S, we are back to biking. Its what she calls "daddy baby" time. I guess there comes a time in every man's life when precisely the things one would otherwise consider corny tends to bring the most joy. And "daddy baby" time is something such for me. Our biking outings are less about biking than picnics, little adventures and eating mint to feel "refreshed" after having ridden precisely 30 seconds. And herding little S. But corniness aside, the best thing I have spent on the bike.
A rainy evening in Seattle. A long time ago. When the author was a rookie consultant, trying to make his presence felt in this behemoth of a firm he had joined.
There was still this excitement of traveling. Of seeing new places. First it was Atlanta and then Seattle. That wonderful hotel on the banks of Lake Union in Seattle.
And one day, in Kirkland, over some cheap steak and eggs, the strains of Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the head came on. And instantly hooked me. The rhythmic melodious extensions, the throb of the piano interspaced with electronica was new and fresh. Much like how my life was back then. Work. Place.
And yesterday, now a much more seasoned consultant, on a plane ride back, I played the same album on Spotify. Rather by accident actually. On the plane, wondering which music to save for offline play - this album was first on the list. And I saved it.
They say music brings you back to times past. This one did, in many evocative ways. The light mist of Seattle rain. The stunning beauty of the Pacific Northwest. To commemorate that warm feeling yet again....
Everytime I stop writing, I find it incredibly difficult to get back to the blog. So the trigger this time was different. Something that I had to share. For those of you who know me, know I am a huge Indian Ocean fan. Have been a fan since all of 5 kids in Delhi University were the only ones who had heard of them. And integral to Indian Ocean were 2 of my favorite band members - Susmit Sen and Asheem Chakraborty. Susmit left Indian Ocean in 2009 to follow a solo career. And recently iTunes started selling his first solo album - Depths of the Ocean. I recently got it and till date have listened to it 7 times in a row - everytime I am on the train to and from work. And everytime, I am amazed, moved, touched, get nostalgic and everything else that has till now, has only been associated with listening to Indian Ocean's albums. And what an album. Its very different from the recent Indian Ocean albums that have brought so much popular accolades and fan following to the group. Instead, the album is eclectic - each song has a character of its own. It is a collaboration between Susmit and various artists like Papon (that amazing Assamese folk singer), Shobha Mudgal, Parikrama's Nitin Malik and an amazing artist I had never heard before Sari Roy, Susmit's cousin.
And it has a song called Rejuvenation - perhaps the last time, we will ever get a new recording between Susmit and the late Asheem Chakraborty. I would buy the album maybe just for that one song. For a chance to hear his soulful voice one last time. The album is much more classically focused - almost reminds me of that self-titled instrumental self titled Indian Ocean album - that I got back in 1996 (Going to ITO, anyone?).
a) Rejuvenation: A beautiful early Indian Ocean-esque track. Sublime guitar by Susmit and Asheem’s voice in almost a jugalbandi. A classic. And a poignant-sad track for Asheem’s fan. The last time we will ever hear him in a new song.
b) City Lights: A much darker track. This track features Shobha Mudgal – but not in her usual vibrant voice – but rather a smoky whisper. It's a long 11 minute track – with the usual riffs by Susmit. It's got some beautiful flute and background vocals to complement Susmit’s guitar and Shobha’s subdued – how do I put it – “classical restrained aalap”. And to me – and some beautiful tabla. You will also find some very familiar Indian Ocean riffs in Susmit’s guitar. Shobha is a legend – this track will show you why – some fantastic Hindustani classical singing with Susmit catching every inflection with his guitar.
c) Depths of the Ocean: Sublimity of Susmit’s guitar reigns here mixed with an electric (presumably played by Nitin). At the beginning, it almost has a Scorpion like feel. Think Holiday. Before the base guitar takes over woven with Susmit’s acoustic. Apparently this song was one of Susmit’s and Asheem’s earliest compositions. I can almost imagine Asheem’s voice soaring in the second half vocal background. Yet, some beautiful vocals with Susmit intermingling his acoustic. Very very easy on the ears.
d) Tribute: Perhaps my favorite track of the album. I bought the album from iTunes and hence don’t have the liner notes. I wish I know who this is a tribute for – I would like to imagine that this is Susmit’s tribute to his old friend and bandmate Asheem Chakraborty. The track starts off with a classical aalap and then moves on to the main body with a jhala. Signature Susmit / Indian Ocean melodic lines. For a track that is 11 minutes long, there isn’t any repetition. Again, at the risk of repeating myself – just sublime guitar from Susmit in a very Indian classical mold. Almost feels like you are listening to Amjad Ali Khan on the sarod. The kind of song you want to listen to – sitting on a beach with the setting sun and a beer in hand. In complete peace. A classic.
e) Wild Epiphany: A much more rhythm based track compared to the other more melodic line based tracks. Susmit collaborates with Papon in this song. Papon has strong vocal delivery and complements well with Susmit’s guitar interludes. I have to say this track is a little bit of an acquired taste. It isn’t quite as expansive as the other tracks on the album. But then, by the time you reach this track, your bar has been set very high. Very high.
f) Intimacy: Along with Tribute, perhaps my favorite track of the album. Sari Roy, Susmit’s cousin collaborates on this track. Sari was my biggest new discovery in the album. He delivers a fantastic vocals to go with Susmit’s guitar. The melody is almost Bengali in style, interwoven with Susmit’s guitar which suddenly sounds very familiar Indian Ocean like. It's a very topical track this one. Again one that evokes a certain mood. This is one which likeminded friends can sit and croon together. I know if I had friends who enjoyed this kind of music, I would.
g) Six String Salute (The National Anthem): A rendition of our national anthem that only Susmit could pull off. Slow, soulful, it almost sounds like a prayer (which it is, to our nation). Beautiful. Touching. No other words to describe it.
This is a beautiful album. Its a culmination of Susmit's 20 years with Indian Ocean and this unique style he developed. I normally dont write about music anymore. Hell, I dont even buy that much new music anymore. But this one is a classic. Highly recommended.
As a matter of personal preference - I don't much mind the winter. I welcome it, actually. Having grown up in a city of major extremes - and skewed towards the summer - I have no love lost for those hot summer afternoons of my childhood in Delhi, the infamous loo (the hot, dry desert wind that blows into Delhi from Rajasthan - filling every crevice with fine dust). I don't miss the sweat, having to bathe twice a day at a minimum. That constant feeling of being drained out.
So under normal circumstances, I actually welcome the winter. I love the snow outside. I love the feeling of being warm and comfortable inside the house when its miserable outside. But now, I am romanticizing.
Because back in my traveling days - winter really meant getting stuck in the snowstorm at the airport - or worse, on the highway. It meant carrying a huge bulky jacket in addition to all the other stuff on your twice a week plane rides. It meant shivering in the snow outside for a smoke (this, when I still was addicted). And a million other indignities no civilized human should have to endure.
But all through these years - and starting in Michigan, I still loved the winter. The changing landscape. But this year sort of rattled the cart. I mean seriously. 30 inches of snow? I know these are fairly first world problems - but seriously!! So to the weather bitch - no, i will still love winters. There's something to it that folks who grew up in temperate climates don't appreciate. But I wont romanticize about you.