Yesterday I found out that Bitfloor, the Bitcoin exchange is being forced to close their bank account. I have about 360 USD in my account with them that I will not see for a while. There’s even a small chance that I won’t see it again.

Yesterday two friends who I’ve spent a lot of time with of late made me feel like the awesomest person in the world and unintentionally showed me that they love me at least much as I can possibly expect them to love me.

I’m quite certain that today I feel richer rather than poorer.

Things to do in Bombay / Wheeee!

Here’s something you can do if you’re driving north on the Western Express Highway. North is away from the city. Drive on the stretch between the Andheri flyover and the Jogeshwari flyover. Just before the exit for Jogeshwari and JVLR, there’s a bump. This isn’t a sharp bump that could wreck a car, it’s gradual enough to not want to slow down for. The road gradually slopes upwards and the suddenly drops to slope downward. You should be driving down the highway at a minimum speed of 60 km/h when you hit this bump. This is hard during peak traffic hours but it’s possible either late at night or early enough in the morning. There’s a chance that you can even do it at the right time during the afternoon. If you do it right, you’ll experience a split second of free fall and it should feel like going over the top of a rollercoaster. I haven’t been on a rollercoaster for really long and maybe i’ve forgotten what it feels like, but I always brace myself when approaching this bump and go “wheee!” as I go over it.

Chicken Lollipops

My friend told me a story around a year and a half ago. I knew right then that it would make a good blog post. I never tried writing it until now but luckily I think I still remember most of it in vivid detail. We were two engineering graduates sitting in a cheap bar in Lokhandwala talking about what our lives had become after working for six to eight months. It was past 11pm on either a Wednesday or Thursday night but we had jobs that began in the afternoon and went on till 9-10pm. Spending the whole of five days a week only in an office and at home is hard, especially when you’re used college life where you have everything after 6pm to yourself even if you attend as much as you’re supposed to. This, of course, excludes the two to three months a year when we would finish all the work we had to do for the entire year and study for exams. It was around this time that I came to the conclusion that I should do something fun (fun being a minimum of meeting friends for drinks) every Tuesday or Wednesday night in order to survive corporate life without slipping into depression.

While we were sipping Old Monk and Thums Up, he told me his story which went like this (I may have forgotten some of the details and made up random ones but oh, well, there’s only one person in the world who’ll know.):-

Dude! I have to tell you what happened at work today. First, let me tell you about my team. Okay, so we’re all major foodies. We love food. If you look at them, you won’t find that hard to believe. There’s a trend that’s been observed amongst us, which is that we gain ten kgs in every two years that we work here. And it’s true, I’m getting there myself. So since we all love food so much and since it’s one of the things we all have in common to talk about, it makes up a very large part of our everyday conversation. Everyday before we head to the canteen for dinner, one of us will go scout the food counter and come back to report to the rest of us about the day’s food. If it’s good then we’ll all get excited about it.

Another thing about the canteen food is the chicken lollipops. My canteen always has chicken lolipops. These lollipops are legendary and we only have them on special days when we really feel like we need or deserve them. It’s almost a daily ritual where one of us will go and check out the lollipop tray before dinner and comment how good they look. He’ll say “Aaj khana hai kya?” (Should we eat them today) and another one of us will usually reply saying “Nahi, aaj nahi. Kal khaate hain.” (No, not today. Let’s eat them tomorrow.) As I said, we eat them only on days where we feel we really need or deserve them. If we have them too often then they’ll lose their charm and then it won’t feel as good on the days that we eat them.

There’s more to these lollipops. It’s believed throughout my office that if you eat too many, your stomach is going to be fucked the next day. This belief is so strong that it’s actually an acceptable excuse for missing work to say that you ate too many lollipops the previous day. They’ll just call and say “Sorry yaar. I’m not feeling well. Kal bahut lollipops khaye the.” (I ate too many lollipops yesterday.) I’ve used this excuse twice myself. So today, we go about this same ritual before dinner. My friend goes up to the lollipop tray and I follow him. He says, “Lollipops bahut achhe dikh rahe hain. Aaj khaana hai kya?” I look over his shoulder and agree that the lollipops look delicious. I’m just about to tell him that we should save them for a better day when we see one big cockroach followed by two little cockroaches walk across the tray. That was it. We both made disgusted faces, said “Oh, shit!” and walked away to get our food. That one moment when those cockroaches walked across the tray destroyed the grand illusion that we had built around those lollipops over the months. We can never contemplate getting chicken lollipops with our dinner again.

Day 72: Wallflowers and Ordinary Superheroes

I have much to tell you today. I have two main things to tell you about, so I’ll do it the fun way and tell you both at the same time. You can kill a lot of time on trains by observing people and trying to guess their stories or invent stories for them. This is the best you can do in a train if you don’t have something to read. You can’t do this when traveling in buses because you can’t observe people that much. You can look around as much as you want in a train and if you directly look at people only once in a while they’ll never even make eye contact with you. Some stories seem the same. Here in New York there’s usually the couple traveling back home after a long day if it’s between 7-9pm. Sometimes they’re bringing home groceries, sometimes they have a kid, sometimes she’s pregnant and they’re bringing back a giant bag of diapers. In the morning most faces are blank, most are falling asleep. I think I can tell pretty well who’s already had their coffee, who hasn’t and who doesn’t need coffee. There’s sometimes the one casually dressed person or the one who gets off at Christopher street (Christopher street is an evening place, it doesn’t really have any offices) and I imagine that they’re doing something interesting for a living. Maybe he works at a record store, or runs a restaurant. Once in a while I’ll find somebody really interesting, like the guy carrying a keyboard it’s bag and composing music on his Mac I saw one night. I saw someone like that today.

I’ve never really come across things like this in Bombay. We Indians are an introverted bunch. We’re comfortable being wallflowers. Not all of us of course. But it’s an easy observation to make about us in general. I’m not saying this is the only reason I don’t see things like this in Bombay but it certainly is one of them. People won’t make music or paint or draw or write in public places. I’ve seen a few people draw or write in coffee shops a few times, but not as often as here. We don’t even join in conversations on the train if we don’t know the people having them. I probably don’t speak for all of us but I can speak for myself. I can hardly write in public, I’m too conscious of anyone looking over my shoulder. It bothers me even when I’m reading if anyone else is close enough to read what I’m reading. When I was younger it would bother me if people could see the title of the book I was reading. It bothers me if someone can read my twitter feed while I read it on the train and I lock my iPod as soon as I’m done selecting a song so that no one can see what song I’m listening to. None of these anxieties have any good justification. At the most it might make a good two minute conversation if a stranger liked the song I was listening to or the book I was reading or was curious about what I was writing. A two minute conversation with a stranger is always fun and these things are very unlikely to happen in Bombay anyway because as I said, we won’t talk to strangers.

When coming back on the subway today, while listening to Death Cab For Cutie I was looking around the train compartment as you’d expect. What caught my eye was a girl (woman?) drawing a comic book. This was a thick hard covered book about the size of your average comic book. She drew just with a black pen. What’s really something worth mentioning is, she did this when standing. Imagine trying to draw on a local train in Bombay. It’s harder to draw on a subway train in New York because the tracks aren’t as straight and the trains turn a lot more often. I can hardly even write in legible handwriting in moving vehicles. Getting both hands free long enough to plug my earphones into my iPod and put them in my ears is sometimes a challenge on this subway, but she drew, while standing and not falling. Watching her, I wished that I had a talent like that. Not just being able to draw a comic book while standing in a moving train, but also caring enough about the comic book to do it in whatever free time she got, struggling against the movement of the train and not being bothered by anyone looking at what she’s drawing.

For me, it’s not just about being invisible, it’s about being able to control what you see. I can tell you all of this here not only because hardly anyone ever reads this, but mostly because I can take my time and tell you exactly as much as I want to tell you. If there was even a little thing I didn’t want to tell you, it would never make it here, no matter how brilliant a blog post it might have made. If I had to tell you one thing that I learnt here, I’d say it’s that you have to stop being a wallflower at some point. It’s easier and probably more fun to not be invisible all the time, but what’s much more important is that it can just get in the way a lot of the time. If it’s being in a moving train surrounded by people that’s stopping you from working on your comic book then that’s a problem. You should get over it someday.

While we’re talking about comic books, lets look what superheroes have most in common, it’s that they can all do something that no one else can, they seem to have a firm distinction of right and wrong, and there’s usually multiple people who want things to be as the superhero would perceive to be wrong. But you see, the super-villains fulfill these three requirements as well. it’s you who decides who’s who and most of the time it’s really hard to tell. The superhero inspires people, the villain gives them fear.

From when I was really little, I always believed that the world would end someday in my lifetime. That an apocalypse of sorts would come. And I’d be ready when this happened because I was the only one who really believed this was going to happen. I’d be the superhero then, because I’d been preparing for it since my childhood. I’m not sure what made it happen but as I grew up I gradually began to believe that I’m not that special, and that the world won’t really end. Take the world apart and if we all had to start from scratch, it still sounds like a good idea to some part of me. I just don’t think it’s happening anymore.

The world isn’t ending and there aren’t any of us who can fly or catch bullets or open wormholes in space or travel in time, but this doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. There are still some of us who do what they think they really should, and find time to do them in a world that tries to steer them away. There are still some of us who struggle against the fruitlessness of their efforts and people who degrade their efforts. There are still some of us who can do things like drawing comic books while standing in a moving train and inspire people by just doing it.

Day 8: One week

Today, I’ll tell you about everything I’ve done in New York. Now the first day that I got here, I went for the India Day Parade which I mentioned earlier. It’s been happening in New York on the 15th of August for the past 30 years. This was surprising because as far as I know we only have one parade in India on Independence day and that happens in New Delhi. So even Bombay doesn’t have a parade. But New York is just the kind of place where people have parades. I doubt you’ll find a more diverse population in any other city, and yet, there’s something for everyone. I think having parades is a brilliant idea. It keeps people happy, it makes people get out. We have our festivals back in India and they’re bigger and involve more people than a small parade here. But that’s the point. You hardly ever feel like you belong in any such gathering the way you would feel you belong in a parade for or about something that you care about. I’m not saying I completely felt like I belonged in the India Day parade, because some of the people here are not like me at all, but there was Indian food, kebabs and tandoori chicken on the street, Bollywood music, etc. A long stretch of road in the middle of New York was closed off for this parade. And I’m sure there are people here who wish they could go on with their lives and didn’t have to put up with things like parades blocking their way, but this city wouldn’t be so culturally rich without these things. The parade itself was quite cool, I’m not going to post the pictures here because there are too many, so instead I’m going to link you to the facebook album. You can also see videos here , here and here .

After this, apart from going to work I mostly slept until Tuesday. Tuesday evening I went for a jog in the park near my house. When I say near I mean about 50 steps away. This park is really pretty, it has a jogging track, a basketball court where kids play football in the evenings, plenty of benches, a children’s playground, an area in the middle with a roof and it’s on the top of a hill so you can see the sunset all the way from here. Things like jogging and exercising happen easily here because of the facilities and and the weather. Also because of the food. The food here, deserves a paragraph to itself.

The servings here are huge. And I mean huge. Big enough to keep me full from lunch right up till dinner. And I’m used to eating something every 2 hours. One helping of anything here should keep you full for half a day. Even at Subway, which tastes exactly the same as the Subway in India except with better meat, I ordered a footlong for lunch. I don’t remember the last time I ordered a footlong in India. I ordered a footlong here because it doesn’t cost that much more than a 6 inch. You’re just tempted to buy a footlong instead. And if you ever buy a coke at Subway, I know you’re not going to finish it alone. A 3 musketeers bar from the vending machine in my office lasted me a whole day and I still have a quarter slice of cheesecake in my fridge that I bought on Sunday night. The food here is also awesome. The amount of variety here is crazy, and remember, I’m coming from India. The Indian food here is really authentic Indian food and I’m guessing this applies to all the other kinds of food here. And no, I’m not saying that the pizza here is authentic Italian but I’m sure you’ll get authentic Italian food if you go to an Italian restaurant. In conclusion, there are way too many places you can get food from and a lot of different types of food.

To travel to work, I walk about a hundred steps from my house from where I get a bus that takes me to the train station that seems to come every 2-3 minutes. The buses are all air conditioned, and heated in the winter. The trains here are a little complicated and I still haven’t quite figured out how they work because there are too many different lines. The trains all run mostly underground which makes traveling in them quite boring. Luckily they don’t take long to get anywhere. I get off at 14th street and 6th avenue, from where I have to walk around 7 minutes to my office building on 17th street after 7th avenue. The roads here are mostly all numbered like this. Finding an address is never hard.

You know, I don’t much like writing a blog post like this. I don’t like telling you what I did and I don’t much like telling you the details of my day to day life. It makes everything sound so mundane. I’m going to end this blog post here, tomorrow I’ll tell you about the Cake Shop and Times Square, and hopefully I’ll find a more creative way of doing it.


How I didn’t do any work at work today

I love the internet. I spent an entire day at work today not doing work. (To be completely honest, I haven’t done any significant work since last Tuesday). I write this blog post now, from office. I’ve been sitting at my desk all day (except when I went down to eat, when I went down to play carrom and when I went out to stare at the evening sky, which cumulatively wasn’t more than 2 hours) but I feel like I’ve been all over the place. My mind hasn’t been in this office at all. And the best part of it all is that at the end of it I feel like I’ve put my time to better use that I do at the end of an average working day.

So here’s what I learnt today:-

  • There was an auto rikshaw and taxi strike today. I actually knew about this yesterday because I heard my rikshaw-wallah talking to another rikshaw-wallah about it but I found out today that a lot of people had to change multiple crowded buses and walk for up to half an hour to get to work. This did not affect me at all because I was in Thane all day and there’s no strike here, but I know about it, thanks to the internet, social networking and micro-blogging.
  • IOS4, which is Apple’s new OS for its mobile devices (laptops not included) is out and will work on my 64GB iPod touch. This means I can do cool things like multitasking on it now.
  • Now this one’s interesting. This guy found a girl sitting in front of him on a flight cute and though he made eye contact with her, he couldn’t talk to her because he was with his parents. With some inspiration from his friends, he thought it would be a fun social experiment to try to track her down using twitter after he was off the flight (and it was!). What started on Sunday with people trying to look for this girl based on a description of the clothes she was wearing and her seat number on the flight (which we later found out doesn’t exist) carried on through Monday with a large number of people trying to find this girl and arguing about whether this activity is an invasion of her privacy, and ended today with two newspaper articles ( This one on page 6 of today’s Midday and this one in Headlines India ). This experiment eventually ended because of the amount of attention it was getting and this girl was not found (yet). Following this story kept me entertained for around 2 hours.
  • I found this rather interesting article about ‘The 10 most important things they didn’t teach you in school’. Try to not get distracted by the number of ads on that page. It’s actually a very well written article.
  • I found this interesting blog , which now puts the number of blogs I follow to 18.

Now that I’ve put down most of what I’ve done on the internet today it really doesn’t seem like much. That doesn’t matter much though, because this still feels more productive than an average work day. I could sit and think of more interesting things I found on the internet and list them down, but I should be leaving now because it’s almost 9 and I don’t want to sit in office for any longer than I absolutely have to. So now, I’m gonna find dinner somewhere and then try to finish reading my book (of which I have almost 200 pages left) which I may or may not tell you about depending on how I feel when I finish reading it. I’m going to miss all this idle time in office when I actually have work to do again.