Monday, February 26, 2007

Baat se baat nikalti hai

There’s a saying in Urdu, baat se baat nikalti hai, which loosely translates to “you get stories from stories.” Each thing that happens is part of a link in a chain of events, a germinative impulse or a seed for any number of future events to crystallize around in the shape of a story. It’s a particularly helpful piece of advice, especially for bloggers, and especially in those hours when the white space refuses to fill with arbitrary details and demands instead a more sinuous response to its promise. Speaking for myself, I find it an invaluable prescription since it is now almost midnight and I am struggling to make sense. Cable TV has long degenerated into a puerile mess and the family is fast asleep. A bag of potato chips rests against the base of the couch and outside the window a car streaks through the dark. It is, I imagine, driven by a young man coming home late from work. He works for an ad agency, is a junior member of a creative team currently working on a marketing campaign to introduce a new flavor of baby food. The client is a multinational corporation, a global leader in the world of pureed squash and emulsified peas, responsible not only for the thick rivers of gelatinous, rainbow-colored pastes that flow from their factories around the world but also the scientific research and innovations that are responsible for the nutrition of future generations. Their latest product, whose promotion the young man and his team are responsible for, is a new line of baby feed that is wholly organic in origin, made from vegetables nurtured in fields shy of hormones and scrupulously purged of all possible artifice. A true gift of nature, mashed up and served in a baby-proof bottle. (So perfect, it even tastes a little like grit.)

The young man is working hard on the campaign. He is eager and ambitious, keen to impress his superiors and establish himself in the corporate hierarchy. Every morning he leaves the house before sunrise and drives through a steel-blue dawn to get to work before anyone else. He carries a MacBook, wears suits the color of charcoal and, at lunchtime, privately tastes his client’s products for stray bouts of inspiration. He has a baby at home, a girl with ringlets and a quick smile whose mother refuses to feed her the organic mush that is her husband’s muse. The child’s name is Sarah and sometimes the young man will call home just to hear Sarah gurgle for a few seconds before he goes in to give a presentation on product placement or market capture. Or sometimes, when he leaves early in the evening, he will come back after dinner with his wife and daughter and work for a few hours more while they play peek-a-boo in the cubicles or take rides on the swivel chair. These are his meager moments of family time and it occasionally occurs to him, especially on those late night drives back home, whether he is not actually wasting himself, that all this work may actually be a theft of his life. But he is young and his regret is brief, easily replaced by his hope for the future. And as he drives back, a streak through the dark, the gathering night is only a brief interlude. Looking out into the distance, on to the winding ribbon of road, the only thing his eyes can see is the way home.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Post Office Around the Corner

Apparently it's cheaper to fedex your stuff from the post office than it is to take them to FedEx. I went to the local FedEx Kinko's this morning and was quoted a fare that ended up being twice as much as the local post office even though my stuff was riding with same carrier! I'm not sure why that is, though the lady at the post office tried to explain something about an agreement they have with FedEx over coverage or something. She was really nice. Actually, whenever I've had occasion to use the post office, I've always come away being impressed by how helpful and courteous the staff have been. Maybe there's something inherently salubrious about working there, an inhalant or something that slowly wafts out of those sheets of stamps and scents the atmosphere with cheer and goodwill. Or maybe they're just nice people.

Anyways, the moral of the story is: if you have to FedEx something, go to your friendly neighbourhood post office first.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


  1. The friends I'm staying with have three children. The youngest one is allergic to peanuts. The oldest one is mad about them. Their parents have solved this problem by stashing away all nut and nut-containing eatables in the garage where the oldest child can happily pack them in his lunch bag and take them to school. Most days this arrangement works quite well but sometimes, when the urge seizes him something fierce, the oldest boy sneaks them into the house and hides away in a corner to eat them. He is five years old.
  2. Winter is finally here. A heavy snowfall last weekend and the ground is covered in a luxuriant white sheen rolling over the land. Not quite used to it, I'm still ambivalent about my relationship to snow. It looks beautiful, particularly when it's falling, or not quite falling but floating, almost casually, to the ground. Everything is still and tranquil and you can stand for hours watching the flakes amble by. Of course a day or so later all that beauty is lost in the thick black slush that clings to your shoes as you go outside to retrieve the (junk) mail. I tried to go to the garage the other night to fetch some parathas from their warm nest in the deep freezer and the cold was like a brick wall obstructing my passage, a thousand stiff white punches pushing me back into the house. That's the part I don't like. The winter part.
  3. Something I read recently (paraphrased from memory): Excellence means doing the thing right so many times that you eventually cannot accept anything else, even if you're totally exhausted.
  4. When people say goodbye, why do they say "So long"? What does that mean?

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