A Final Call in Calcutta

My last bit of work business in Kolkata was accompanying the Consul General on a farewell call. At 4:15pm, I clambered aboard the lightly-armored, black Land Cruiser and we creaked our way 2 miles or so through the Maidan to Raj Bhavan, the office and home of Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Continue reading →


The Life of Kuma Kuma

One of Q’ool’s favorite books is La Vie de Kuma Kuma, a story in French.  I read it to him every Friday night.  Yesterday, Q’ool brought it from from the bedside bookshelf, opened it, and said:

‘My friend Kuma Kuma lives on the mountain far way.’

‘It’s not easy to get there.’

‘He eats salad.’

‘He’s making his coffee.’

‘He read magazines at the book store.’

‘He carries his bags.’

He’s sweeping the floor.’

‘Kuma Kuma cuts fingernails and looks at them.’

‘He’s sliding on the roof.  Watch out! Be careful!’

‘Ohhh, it’s raining! Kuma Kuma go inside!’

‘He’s rolling on the floor.’

‘Kuma Kuma writes long letters after dinner.’ (my favorite)

‘Time for bed!’

‘The end.’

It’s amazing.  He’s not reading, he’s telling the story.  So Q’ool.

Would You Rewind It All the Time?

Mumbai is an example of how it’s possible in the 21st century to visit a city where you can remain blissfully ignorant of The Other India while cheerily making a note to self about how much you just love the Fiat taxis smells, low roofs, analog meters, and all. And it’s a coastal city, which means breezes and vistas of the ocean that my friend Q would say he could just stare at for hours. From many perspectives, Mumbai is where it’s at if you’re going to live in India.  Continue reading →

Can You Consume A Knight Rider? (updated)

When Rahul told me “The IPL…We have to go…It’s a once in a lifetime event,” he was, to put it mildly, grossly overstating the case. However, a free ticket came knocking at my door Tuesday morning and so on Tuesday evening I found myself entering the legendary Eden Gardens (without Rahul, who was in Singapore) to watch the Kolkata Knight Riders play cricket against the Delhi Daredevils. Continue reading →

Burma, CPM, and Football Trippiness

On occasion, people ask me what it’s like to live in a state run by Marxists. In many ways, I hesitate to answer because you’re never quite sure what it is you’re actually seeing in India. People far more intelligent than I have made a mess of trying to explain this country. For every diction, there’s a contradiction. And you never quite feel good about yourself, or sure of your footing, because really, it’s bigger than you are. Continue reading →

Calcutta Dining. It’s Chilli.

I appear to have made an unconscious decision to sear a hole through my gastrointestinal tract.  Or so it seems when I think of Calcutta and my favorite meals.  I don’t want to offend, but I’ve never been a fish favorer, and though Bengali cooking is pleasant enough, it doesn’t hold a candle to Andhra’s repertoire of dishes, particularly when it comes to spicy intensity.  I long ago killed my taste buds and chances of recognizing subtle hints of thyme in a chicken breast, or that twig of rosemary in lamb, and I’ll thus forever be a fan of big flavors.  So in no particular order, some of my regular, perhaps dull fare.  Note: I get plenty of dal makhni, luchis, aloo dum, and mishti at work functions, so please don’t scream “You’re missing out on Indian food you dumb-ass FSOwalla! Continue reading →

This is What I Did

It’s been a week to obsess about – what else? – writing.  The Kolkata Book Fair got off to a fine start by ending before it began — the High Court ruled against it being held in Park Circus, the Booksellers Guild said okay, then we’ll have to cancel it because we don’t have a Plan B.  Mad scramble as everyone looked for alternative venues to host the writers who had traveled serious distances to attend .  And it even rained one day.  Still, the US folks hosted a nice reception. Paul Theroux, Bharati Mukherjee, Amit Chauduri, Governor Gandhi, Chris Merrill, and others attended and I had a chance to interact with these literati, who I have to say were quite entertaining. Paul Theroux may be a sourpuss, but he’s effing hilarious. Blunt, uncowed, and really very interested in the world around him. I was impressed. Continue reading →