Being Minority?

This blog has been dormant for more than five years. I wish I was revisiting to share something more uplifting. Yet, share I must, for the thoughts swirling in my head need an outlet and it is in the relative obscurity of this blog that I might be able to freely express myself.

I have been living in Europe for the past 13 years, and save for a couple of stray incidents, I have lived in a cocoon where questions of identity haven’t cropped up. I haven’t been judged negatively on the basis of my country of origin or the colour of my skin. Unfortunately that changed today.

Me and my wife were on the train from Basel to Zürich. The train coach was half-full. When the ticket-checker arrived, and I looked up from my laptop to show him our tickets, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a family of five (occupying the seats right in front of mine) searching for something. Given that they had three small kids, I presumed that one of the kids must have dropped something and paid no further attention. The ticket checker left, and I went back to my laptop.

A few minutes later, the lady of the family suddenly came up to us and asked me if I had taken her wallet. I replied in the negative before I could even process the question. As I gathered my thoughts, I asked her why was she asking me that question. There were other people in the coach, and as I looked around, I realised that all of them were white. The horribleness of her question, nay accusation, was beginning to dawn on me. She claimed that she was asking us because we were first sitting in the seats behind her and then changed to the seats in front of her. In her “evolved” mind, thieves probably stay at the scene of the crime after committing the crime. I invited her to search through our belongings and told her in no uncertain terms that her behaviour was offensive and inappropriate. In a coach with multiple passengers, she only questioned the two non-white passengers. She didn’t take up my offer of searching our belongings (after discussing with her husband), and went back to her seat. She didn’t apologise, and more importantly, she didn’t question anyone else in the coach.

She left, but she left me feeling as small as I have ever felt in my life. My education, my values were of no consequence in that exchange. The only thing that mattered was that I was the only non-white person in that coach, and therefore I could be the only one who deserved to be accused of thievery. I realised how it feels to have your personality distilled to those superfluous aspects that you can’t control.

Her racism, I could still stomach. What was harder to stomach were the accusatory looks her two young daughters kept giving me and when the train finally did reach Zürich, before they got off, her youngest, a boy not older than five, threw me a look that both broke and enraged me. Should I be incensed at that kid for judging me on the colour of my skin, or should I feel sorry for him for his parents have taught him no better? Was I vain, or was I foolish for hoping for an apology from the lady even as the family got off the train?

It’s been a few hours, but I can’t shake off the incident. Is this how people feel, when they are singled out because they are visibly different? How do they deal with it?

I know from which country that family was, but I am not going to name it. I am not going to pre-judge , for that would mean that her diseased ideology would win. Perhaps, that’s the only way I can process this incident. To ensure that I don’t distil individuals down to attributes that are outside their control. That I respect their individuality and don’t look for commonalities based on any pre-conceived notions that I might or might not have. To be better, and to strive to be better, and to stand up for those whose voices might get crowded out because they are different. To help them celebrate their difference, for it is these differences that make life interesting and worth living.

The problems with the Indian ODI team

Rohit Sharma

The openers are supposed to complement each other. It is not going to work if only one of them is going to score boundaries while the other blocks his way to ensure his place in the side is not jeopardised. Since starting as opener, here is a list of his ODI innings in countries other than India. The format used is *(Runs)(24 balls)* and *(Runs)(Balls played)*. The list is in reverse chronological order. If India was victorious in the match, it is indicated with a (W) in the final column.

OppositionVenueRuns(24)Runs(Balls Played)
NZNZ25(24)39(38) (T)
ZMZM8(24)64*(90) (W)
ZMZM14(21)14(21) (W)
ZMZM1(7)1(7) (W)
ZMZM9(24)20(40) (W)
SLWI7(24)58(89) (W)
SLWI10(24)48*(83) (W)
WIWI13(24)46(78) (W)
ENUK9(14)9(14) (W)
SLUK16(24)33(50) (W)
PKUK16(24)18(32) (W)
WIUK26(24)52(56) (W)

Conclusion: Rohit Sharma wastes too many bowls at the beginning of his innings and is thus not an ideal ODI player. A List A average of only 36.77 is testament to the fact. The fact that India has a relatively weak bowling attack and is thus either chasing huge scores or needs to set a substantial target only exacerbates the problem.

Solutions: Ask Rahane to open. He has displayed maturity in opening the innings at IPL. If he doesn’t want to open, ask him to suck it up and open for the team’s sake. Even Sehwag did it, even though he always wanted to play in the middle order. If it does not work out, the two left field options are Utthappa or Unmukt. Gambhir’s return would also not be a bad idea at all, he has proven himself to be a very capable cricketer.

The #4 Spot

Yuvraj Singh has been shambolic since his comeback, Raina simply does not have the patience or the class to build an innings and Rayadu (the current contender in the squad) does not inspire enough confidence against the moving ball. While Rahane can prove to be an option, in my opinion, it would be better to ask Rahane to open with Dhawan with Pujara occupying the #4 spot. A list A average of 54.57 (not to mention the immense class he has shown in the test arena) suggests that he has the technique and the mental ability to build an innings.

Ravichandran Ashwin

In the last year (26 matches) he has 32 wickets from 26 matches at an average of 38.18 and RPO of 5.27. In all matches (38) outside India, he has 41 wickets at an average of 38.82 with an RPO of 4.97. Given that his batting style is more suited to the test arena anyway (not to mention his pathetic fielding), he does not deserve a place in the Indian ODI team. Better options would be Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha (as spinners) or Rishi Dhawan, Irfan Pathan and Stuart Binny (seaming all rounders and in that order).

Fast Bowlers

Much as he is derided Ishant Sharma is not the root cause of our problems at this level. We suffer from a collective malaise where our fast bowlers are not good enough. An average of 31.44 at en economy of 5.72 suggests that Ishant is not a very bad bowler, just an average one. These bowlers can fill in the complementary roles in teams, but our problem lies in the fact that he often turns out be the best (or the least worst) performer in our ODI team.

With Shami we seem to have found a bowler who can hustle the batsmen though he is equally prone to leaking runs in the latter part of the game. Sadly, Umesh Yadav has been seriously disappointing with his line and length in the limited version of the game. I would prefer if the likes of Varun Aaron are given a go. From what I’ve seen of him so far, he looks like a very capable bowler (he came across as a better bowler than Umesh, though that is not saying much). Sadly, his performances in the last two games have been disappointing.


Regrettably, our tactics have been to defend rather than look for wickets. Perhaps, we simply do not have the bowlers but if that is the case, we need to look for new bowlers. At this stage, our bowlers are neither capable of defending nor attacking.


I will probably be ridiculed for reiterating this but the problem with our ODI team was not Ishant Sharma. The problem was the collective failure of our bowlers to take wickets, and Ishant was not the biggest contributor to that problem. Bhuvi is no longer providing us with regular breakthroughs at the beginning of his spell, while Shami and company have been generous at the death. Ashwin is not taking any wickets to justify his place in the side.

Not to mention the elephant in the room, which is our batting. Even in the series against Australia, our middle order was poor and it continues to be so. There, the top order saved us. Here, a misfiring top order has been a huge problem. Sharma does not know how to rotate strike, Dhawan seems to not want to stay at the crease long enough to actually do something while whoever we play at 4 and 6 (or 5, depending on Dhoni’s mood) seem to be perpetually ineffective to the point that they appear cursed. India desperately needs a number 4 who can bat and a 6 who is technically sound.

Get back Dhawan to open, get Pujara at 4, move Sharma at 6 and tell Rahane that if he wants to play he has to open.

As for bowling, change the spinner. Ashwin is not taking wickets. Give Mishra a chance. For fast bowlers, god only knows what to do. Maybe annex Pakistan.

Thoughts and Reflections

I have always wanted to be a computer scientist. I got my first computer when I was all of four years old and I loved it to bits. I was fascinated by it, and I would spend hours on it trying to see what each and every application that came installed on it did. That was the beginning of my fascination with computers. I picked up LOGO at school and I would spend my evening trying to draw the weirdest shapes possible. BASIC and C followed, and I would try to solve as many problems as I could get my hands on. String manipulation problems were my favourite, most of my classmates struggled with them and I enjoyed the feeling of being the first person in the class to successfully tackle them.

It was only when I started my formal education in Computer Science that I realised that there was much more to CS than the quirky problems that I enjoyed and I appreciated it all the more for it. I enjoyed constructing database schemas, I enjoyed my initial struggles with functional programming and first order logic, I enjoyed my bewilderment when I first heard of the halting problem and I enjoyed the many hours I spent in trying to solve all the assignments that we were set. Oh, and I definitely enjoyed the weeks and months that I spent in configuring my Gentoo installation exactly the way I wanted it to be.

I am glad that I could fulfil my dream of being a computer scientist. I am glad that I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do and I still love it. I am now fascinated by databases and the process of designing an efficient one. I am interested in recommender systems. I keenly follow the recent developments in mobile technology. Software engineering excites me, and I would love to contribute towards a challenging project that solves a tangible problem. I am sure that I’ll find something that suits me, that is good for me. Sooner or later.

But the best part is that there is still so much to learn, still so many new avenues to explore, all in the field of computer science. That makes me happy.


खिड़की के बगल में बैठ कर,
इस छनी हुई धूप को देख कर,
इस हलकी सी शीत पवन को महसूस कर,
दूर कहीं गरजते बादलों को सुन कर,
मुझे याद तेरी आती है ।

खिड़की के बगल में बैठ कर,
दूर गगन में पहाड़ों को देख कर,
शीघ्र आने वाली वर्षा को महसूस कर,
चहचहाते पंछियों का संगीत सुन कर,
मुझे याद तेरी आती है ।

खिड़की के बगल में बैठ कर,
हर ओर लहराहते हुए वृक्षों को देख कर,
इस सुखद एकांत को महसूस कर,
और इस को कभी कभी भंग करने वाली मोटर कार की आवाज सुन कर,
मुझे याद तेरी आती है ।

बहुत समय गुज़र गया मेरे दोस्त,
जल्द ही वापस बुला ले,
कहीं ये यादें धुंधला ना जायें ।

The case of my homing keys

I woke up to the soft sunlight falling across my face and the sound of construction workers hammering away. The internet had predicted a perfect summer’s day. Clear skies, a pleasant light breeze and temperatures around the 25ºC mark. For once, it seemed, Zürich had allowed it’s weather to be predicted accurately. In spite of the cacophony of metallic sounds jarring the atmosphere, it was a beautiful morning. Reluctance to put down “A Suitable Boy” the previous night however meant that nearly 8 hours of the day had already gone and I couldn’t afford to admire the enchanting Alps from my window. Jumping out of the bed, taking a quick shower and skipping breakfast as usual, I began my journey to my workplace. Given the fact that it takes me an hour and a half to reach there, I grabbed for “A Suitable Boy” and stuffed it into my backpack (making a mental note to not attempt to lift the book with one hand again).

Too engrossed in Mahesh Kapoor’s election campaign, I reached my office rather too soon (the counting for votes had not even begun). Somewhere along the way, I managed to change from a tram to a train and then to a bus, but I didn’t have any memory of it. I reached my desk, put my mobile there, took off my watch and set myself up for coding. While the computer was booting, I had a feeling that there was something that I have missed but I put it down to my anxiety in not knowing what happened next in the Kapoor household (and I used to not understand why people back home enjoy watching soap operas, I am no better when it comes to books). Tearing my mind away from “A Suitable Boy,” I forced myself to concentrate on the lines of code in front of me. To aid myself, I plugged in my headphones and put my library on shuffle. Not the same songs again, should have synced this thing last night. Tried asking to play me some recommended tracks, but nothing unheard was to be found there as well. To make matters worse, there seemed to be no circle-jerk going on at r/India where I could indulge in some pointless banter. Meanwhile, the sun was shining outside and the sky was bereft of clouds.

When the application I was working on refused to establish a connection to the remote machine, I decided to take a coffee break. Thankfully, I was not the only Indian working there. I called up my friend, we drank some coffee and abused the Indian cricket team for their performance in the ongoing test series against England. Little did we know then that the same cycle would repeat, against a supposedly weaker opposition.

Surprisingly, the coffee did not agree with the application. It still refused to see the remote machine. Here was a case of slumber that was not even cured by coffee; truly stubborn. I ploughed on, trying different combinations but to no avail. Lunch hour came, and after one disgusted look at what the cafeteria had on offer for a mere grass eater like me, I decided to head to an Indian restaurant near by. At least I would find something edible there, which I did.

Feeling drowsy after the rather heavy lunch, I was wondering how I would manage to stay awake. I need not have bothered. Being the cricket addicted freak that I am, the first site I opened when I came back was cricinfo and the score read: England – 90/6. After what had happened in the first test at Lords, this was completely unexpected. With visions of the famous Indian comeback (a la the South Africa series) firmly entrenched in my mind, I resumed my coding work. 90/6 soon became 124/8 and I was transported to a fantasy land. A 3-1 scoreline for the test series seemed the only logical conclusion at that stage.

Satisfied and happy with everything around me, I immersed myself in C#. After an hour or so of debugging the application managed to establish a connection to the remote machine, and I decided it was an opportune time to check the score again. Alas, what did I know? I am treated to the spectacle of Swann and Broad, of all people, taking apart the Indian attack. England finally dismissed for 221 when they should not have been allowed to cross 150. To top it off, I realise that the identification string that I had passed to the application was for the local machine. The connection to the remote machine was never established.

I decided to call it a day and headed home. It was then that I realised why I had that nagging feeling that I had missed something. Somewhere between my house and my office, I had dropped my keys. The possibilities were endless and I was too tired to explore them any further. I reached home, asked my house master for a spare set of keys, and entered my room. She (my house master) told me that if I did not find my keys soon, I would have to pay a fine.

Reluctant to pay any fine (but still overtly lazy) I made some perfunctory enquiries the following day regarding the whereabouts of my keys. I made enquiries at the lost and found offices of ZVV (Zurich Transport) and SBB (Swiss Trains) but did not find any help. I thought about asking the folks at RVBW (Baden Transport) but I did not know where their office was and I did not bother finding out. Laziness, by now, had completely overruled my reluctance to pay the fine. I headed home and decided that whenever the house master asks, I will pay the fine.

Almost a week later, when all thoughts of the fine had vanished from my head, the house master informs me that they have received a letter from SBB on my behalf. Apparently, someone found my keys, turned them in to SBB and by some hocus-pocus (or big brother style wizardry) SBB tracked those keys to me. More surprised than relieved, I made my way to the SBB “Fundbüro,” paid them CHF 10 to get my keys back, made my way back to my house and returned the duplicates to the house master.

More than six months have passed since the incident. A lot has happened. I finished my internship, managing to do a rather decent job. India got whitewashed in England (in spite of my belief to the contrary till the last day of the last test match) and in Australia (where my belief could not carry on till the last day, deciding to call it quits on the day before that instead). I managed to finish “A Suitable Boy” (which I would recommend to everyone, especially Indians). However, I still do not know how to feel about the effectiveness of the Swiss Human Tracking System.

End of an era

In this piece Sambit Bal highlights the very thought that I have been trying to avoid throughout India’s shambolic performance down under. However, considering the fact that India do not play another test match for almost 8 months, and the clamour for change in the test side, it is now impossible to now avoid this thought.

This is probably the last test match that Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman will play together.

Ever since I understood the intricacies of test cricket, ever since I started watching test cricket seriously, these guys have been around. Around to carry the immense expectations that surrounds the Indian team, and how well did they carry those expectations! Until Gambhir and Sehwag came together at the top of the order, we never had an opening pair worth comparing to the other test teams. Yet, our batting was lauded as one of the strongest. We didn’t flinch when both our openers would make their way back to the pavilion even before the team had crossed the fifty run mark. We might have even looked forward to that, for then we could see Dravid and Tendulkar bat together. They did enjoy batting together, and they did well too. They are the most prolific batting pair in the history of test cricket (barring openers). Laxman was always the man for a crisis, taking the team to victory from situations from where even a draw was not imaginable.

Winning test matches in India was never a problem for us. However, when Australia came calling in 2001 on the back of an impressive run in test cricket and thrashed us inside three days in Mumbai, it looked like we would lose at home as well. But then, Kolkata happened. Batting again after a follow-on, Laxman and Dravid came up with a flawless batting display and took the team to a victory that not even the most ardent fans would have dreamt of on day three. That match was the turning point. To the Indian fans, it gave belief that the Indian team is also capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (before, often it was the opposite that came true). From that time on, each time “India were in a dire straits” we had a reference point to fall back on. We believed that we could get out of jail, and we did. Tendulkar’s cover drives, Dravid’s cut towards backward point and Laxman’s flicks to the leg side all invariably found the boundary rope. Everything started to fall in place, we suddenly had fast bowlers who could bowl on friendly pitches, we had batsmen who could score run on them. Heck, we even got openers who could give us an opening stand. And we became the highest ranked test side in the world. Lest we forget, dreams of such an achievement would have been considered lunatic at the start of the decade.

Everything might have become pear-shaped in our last two overseas test series. We stand at the brink of losing 8 consecutive away test matches. I don’t remember when was the last time we achieved this feat. And yes, the infallible three are the blame. They are to blame because over the course of these two series they have failed to live up to the impossibly high standards they have set. They are to blame, because they have failed to paper over the cracks of the rest of the team. Now that they have failed, the failings of others have been magnified and the resulting scene is not pretty.

As the realisation that this might very well be the last time I see them representing India, I understand what they gave me. Hope. Over a period of a decade and a half, these men provided me hope. The impossible hope that redemption is possible, The hope that tomorrow will be a better day, a better performance. More often than not, it came true. Hopefully, the new crop of cricketers can provide the same hope, can show the same resilience. Watching India play test cricket without these three will be a lot less involving experience for some time, until the new players can start filling the shoes left behind.

The probability that these three play again is remote (but it is there), however the probability that we will see another set of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman play in the same Indian team is zero.

In search of sleep

सारी रात जाग कर बिताई
नींद ने हर क्षण डांट लगायी
इस नादान को फिर भी समझ ना आई |

अब डर ने हर कोने में है सेंध लगायी
काम के बढ़ते भोझ ने मुझे आँख दिखाई
इसी कारण मुझे नींद नहीं आई |

निरंतर धीरे चलते डब्बे ने भी नज़र चुरायी
घडी की सुइय्याँ दिखा गुहार लगायी
मुझे फिर भी नींद ना आई |

आँखों में है अब सुर्खी छाई
ऐनक भी उतारकर मेज़ पर है टिकाई
पर ज्ञात नहीं की नींद आई या नहीं आई ||

The tale of a wandering mobile

12:10 am, ETH CAB H 56, Zero Day

“Damn, damn, damn. I need to get out of this damned place and get to that damned Seilbahn or else I will have to climb all the damn way up to get home”. With catastrophic images of me panting and climbing up the accursed path to get home, I quickly dump everything into my bag, put on my jacket, and rush out of the lab. The indicator at the tram stop tells me that the next tram is in 9 minutes. Of course, why should the wait be any less? I decide to walk to Seilbahn Rigiblick. As I am nearing the tram stop, I see a van pulling away from the stop. The van – of course. The Seilbahn is not working, the van serves as the replacement. How could I have forgotten that? Murphy’s law at work maybe? “But all was not lost, the last van goes at 12:40. There is enough time.” The wonderfully lazy person that I am, I sat down to wait 20 minutes for the van to take me up rather than attempt a climb that would take me 15 minutes. Yawn upon yawn and stretch upon stretch, the minutes passed by. I almost doze off only to be woken up the sound of the van. I quickly jump in, and before I know it I am at front of my house. I quickly jump out and since it has started raining, I run up to the front steps, fumble for my keys, open the door and hurry up to my room. Before I know it, I am fast asleep with my last thought being that Murphy could have done a lot worse.

09:00 AM, Haus Justinus, Zero Day + 1

“MMmmmm, time to get up and get ready for another day at school”. With the morning routines and a shower out of the way, it was time to pack my stuff. Ah, the bag is already packed from last night. How good is life? Get the wallet, and get the mobile. Mobile? “Now where did I put it last night?” Not on the table, not in the cupboard, not in shelves. Somewhere on the bed, maybe? No, apparently not. The pocket of the jacket – yes, of course, it must be there. Alas, no! All right, time to go over this room with a fine toothed comb. Many minutes later, and after a visibly more arranged room, there is no sign of the mobile. What now? What now? Of course, call it. So I ask a house mate, use his phone and call my phone. No answer. Damn it, where could it be? The mental machinery goes in top gear, reconstructing the events of the past night. I had it when I was in the lab. I had it when I was walking to the tram stop. I had it when I was sitting there waiting for the van. The van, must have dropped it in the van. Yes, Holmes himself would not have come at a different conclusion. Time to get cracking on the case then.

12:00 PM, To the Fundbüro and back again, Zero Day + 1

“The van service is not part of Zurich Public transport. You need to contact them directly. Have a nice day”. Minor setback. I was pretty sure. Where else could the mobile be. My reasoning was scientific, and my deduction definitely accurate. I get back to the Seilbahn Rigiblick tram stop, get in to the van and ask the driver “Sprechen sie Englisch?”. “Nein”, says the driver. Another setback. Undeterred, I assaulted the driver with my rudimentary German skills. Somehow, I managed to get my point across that I had lost my “handy” in the van last night and was searching for it. And from what I understood, the driver knew nothing about it. But there were other drivers as well, one of whom might have been on duty last night. So he gave me the contact information for his company and asked me to get my answers from them.

2:00 PM, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, Haus Justinus, Zero Day + 1

Knowing enough about my German skills, and even more about my Swiss German capabilities, I was sure that I would not be able to talk to the person who would respond to my call at the transporter company. So, I asked the lady working in the office at our student house to help me out. She willingly agreed to do so, and soon a call was placed to the company. I could almost feel the mobile in my grasp. The conversation was held entirely in Swiss German, so I was obviously not able to understand even a word of it. But I was pretty sure of the positive outcome. The phone was soon put down, and the lady turned towards me. “They don’t have your phone”, she told me.  “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”.

5:00 PM, Not giving up on being Holmes, Haus Justinus, Zero Day + 1

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. So the great Holmes used to say. Having exhausted all possibilities, the only answer that remained was that I must have dropped the phone on the way from the van to my room. It was not found in the hostel. A quick search of the grounds outside revealed no treasure either. Ergo, someone has picked up my precious and is keeping it against its will in his/her possession. This person must be found, and the phone returned to its despairing owner. Since my room mate was back, he was apprised of the crisis situation. After much deliberation, a decision was arrived at. To call the phone once again. The call was made, and a welcome ring was heard. Long, melodious chimes, that were suddenly cut short in their prime. “Lo, and behold!”. Someone had answered the phone.

7:00 PM, We learn of strange lands, Haus Justinus, Zero Day + 1

A voice was heard at the other end. She told us of finding the phone abandoned outside the house in the morning. Her son had picked it up, and it was soaked in the overnight rain. Erroneously jumping to the conclusion that the phone had been discarded, her son had claimed it as a toy and taken it home. And where was home? A village unheard of by us, going by the name of Einsiedeln. The woman told me her address, and asked me to come and pick up the phone from her house. Travelling to Zurich was not part of their daily routine, and if I wanted the phone before their next sporadic trip materializes I would have to make the trip to their abode. A quick search at Google Maps revealed that there were no options available for a round trip at that late hour. An appointment to pick up the phone was then made for the next day at 09;30 AM.

06:00 AM, The Journey, CH, Zero Day + 2

Woke up early, finished the morning routines, and headed to the Hauptbahnhof. Stopped in the way at ETH, and printed the directions to the lady’s house from the Einsiedeln train station using google maps. Got my train tickets, and after changing trains at Wädenswil, arrived at  Einsideln without any major incident. Now, most of you might not know, but Geography was one of my “strongest” subjects at high school. When it came to reading maps, I could read them as well as I can see my nose. After taking the wrong turn at every conceivable corner, I seemed to be headed on the right way to her house. On the way, I did run into an old man who complimented me for being Indian. Why I deserved any credit for that, I am still figuring out. After walking for a good half an hour, I took what seemed to be the right turn only to end up at a ranch where a quite attractive young lady was tending to a stable full of horses (I think they were, never took a proper look at the beasts, my eyes were reserved for the young lady wearing cowboy boots). With my German skills having suffered an amazing dip in the past few seconds, it was quite difficult to get her to understand me. However, after some moments of incoherent mumblings, she did manage to understand me and pointed out the right way to me. Had she taken a few more minutes to understand me, I don’t think I would have had a reason to complain.

Thanks to her amazingly accurate directions, and thanks to my surprising level of attentiveness when listening to these directions, I did manage to get the house where my mobile phone lay. And to top it off, I managed to reach the house at exactly 09:30 AM. The woman answered the door bell with my phone in her hand. A quick word from her, some words from thankfulness from me, and the mobile was mine and I was on my way back to Zurich.

P.S. The poor mobile involved in this escapade was a battle hardened, 4 year old, Sony Ericsson W810i.

On summer holidays and the rains that follow them

Behold the time of clouds surcharged with rain,
Like to a furious elephant they rise;
Or mighty monarch hurrying to the war;
In place of standards see the lightning’s flash,
And rolling thunder answers to the drum.

– Kalidas in Ritusamhara


Most people always seem baffled by my love for rains. They fail to comprehend how a wonderful sunny day with temperatures in the mid 20s can be topped by an overcast, windy and rainy day. Alas, they have never experienced the monsoons. They know zilch about the scorching heat of the summer that precedes the monsoons in India. The unforgiving heat, the long days, made longer by the fact that there was no school to attend. The saving graces – it never was too hot in Dehradun. Temperatures touching 40 were unheard of when I was growing up. And I could catch “Chhuti Chhuti” on Doordarshan. Duck Tales and Talespin are a lot more fun in Hindi, even now. But still, venturing outside the house before 5:30 was almost impossible. “You are going to fall sick in this heat”, mom would chide and like the obedient little kid that I was I would scurry back in the house with my bat over my shoulder.

You see, that was my main gripe with the summer. Countless hours of cricket lost, because it was too hot to play. The summer homework we got during those days was not much either, I definitely don’t remember doing that “one page of Hindi writing daily” that the teacher asked us to do. 60 pages? Duh! That is easily achievable in a couple of weeks. Why waste the whole holidays on something so mundane? However, living in the Indian Institute of Petroleum Colony during the summer had its benefits. Mango and litchi trees were plentiful, and plucking raw mangoes from the trees and eating them was quite common for us. If there is anything that makes the Indian summer worthwhile, it is the amazing fruits you get during that time – Mangoes, Litchis, Watermelons and Muskmelons. My stomach rumbles and my mouth waters even at the thought of these delicacies. I would willingly bear the heat of a thousand suns to savour them. As an aside, I was never a fan of the “Dussehra” Mango, always preferring the “Langra”. “Dussehra” was so overrated.

Another thing that the summer holidays were perfect for was for reading books. With no cable television in the house, there was never anything much to watch on TV. Dehradun did not even get the DD Metro channel those days. All we had was DD1 and there was only so much one could watch on it. But I am not complaining. “Champak”, “Nanhe Samrat” and “Nandan” were devoured the same day that “Sharmaji” (our news paper vendor) delivered them. In addition to these, there were always Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews to finish. Quite a lot to do then. But it was always getting hotter, and power cuts, though wonderfully infrequent (IIP used to have its own power backup) were still there. This was IIP in the 90s – 35C was too hot and a hour long power cut too much. Air conditioners were unheard of, and even putting the fan at full speed in the night was frowned upon. I used to keep the fan at full speed, and I think my parents used to drop in on me in the night to reduce the speed. It was hot, and then the rains would come.

You know, in the summers I could still play cricket. In the monsoon season,  it was all relative. Rains, heavy rains, continuous rains, were the norm in Dehradun and I probably lost a lot more cricketing hours to rain that I did to the summer sun. But I still loved rains, and love them to death even today.

I would sit in the verandah of the house, with a bag of chips in one hand, and a story book in the other. With the wind blowing, and the heavy rain falling all around me (not on me though) I would proceed to read the book all the while munching on that bag of chips. There never was a better way to read a book. There never was a better season to eat “Aloo Pakoras” or “Pataurs”. Sometimes it would rain continuously for a week, and there would be nothing to do. But it never occurred to me that this was a week of holidays wasted. It was raining, the temperatures were down, there were books to read and chips/pakoras/pataurs to eat and it used to be enough. And if the books were finished, which they invariably were, there was always Dangerous Dave and Prince of Persia (which was way more fun in 2D).  There was also DOOM (iddqd anyone?). I still don’t know of anyone who finished that game without cheat codes.

Though the best part about the rains arrived when the summer vacations got over. The rains were always heavy on the first day of the school after the summer break. Me, with my big yellow duck shaped umbrella, would go to the bus stop. There used to be a lot of kids there, IIP had a lot of school going kids in my days. All with multi-coloured umbrellas. And each one had the same thought – rain more, rain harder. You know why? Because we all wanted a holiday for “rainy day”. Not in many places outside lawyers for workers Dehradun do I think this concept exists. School getting cancelled because it is raining too heavily. And we would get to know it when we were already at the school. Not everyone had a telephone connection back then, so it would have been difficult for the school to inform us. And how jolly was the bus ride back home. The whole EC road would be flooded because of the overflowing sewer (they have since covered it), our shoes, socks and uniforms would be soaked through – but it felt so good to celebrate that unexpected holiday.

The monsoon season was also not supposed to a good time to eat street food. However, it was always difficult to keep me away from “Dulara’s” Chowmein, and after some cajoling and tantrum-throwing I usually got my way.

Now, studying in Europe, I miss those rains. I miss the flooding of the EC road, I miss the Rispana bursting to its seams with muddy rain water. I miss riding on a scooter in this rain and getting wet, I miss eating “Bhutta” when it is drizzling. I miss the sound – the sound of thunder, the sound of the rain drops pattering on the roof and the streets. And I miss the chaos, the pure chaos that rains seemed to cause, how they would throw a spanner in everyone’s work and how everyone still loved them.