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1. You were at the beach when it happened. What was it like, that day on the beach?

There was no one in the water – it wasn’t warm enough for that, you know – but that apart it was like any other sunny day on the beach. Kids playing in the sand; families picnicking; women sunbathing; seagulls gliding; sailboats in the distance. Nothing unusual at all…except –

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A rubbery excursion

On the drive back from the hills of Vayannad, where we’d spent four restful days at a homestay, our vehicle – a Toyota Qualis – broke down. Someone passing by noticed smoke below our car; we stopped immediately. After a cursory look behind the wheels followed by a lengthy consultation on his mobile phone, our driver announced it was a “bearing problem in the brake system”. A replacement was on its way from Calicut, the nearest city. It would take an hour to reach the spot we were stranded in. Continue reading “A rubbery excursion”

Indians at work

The Indian Drifter: A common feature of the urban Indian landscape, the Drifter is someone who is simply hanging around, doing nothing apart from wandering idly from one place to the next. Predominantly male, the Indian Drifter is easy to spot: standing listlessly on the street-side, squatting in front of a shop, installed next to a street peddler, snoozing in a park – you get the idea. The Indian Drifter is not to be confused with the homeless: he does not carry with him all his belongings, and gives the impression of someone ready to move on, quite unlike the homeless we see lodged permanently on the footpaths and subways in the West. Continue reading “Indians at work”

The Girl from Finland

On the ICE 17 I have an aisle seat in front of a table. Diagonally across, facing me, is a young man speaking on a phone – an iPhone – with a British accent. A copy of the International Herald Tribune lies on the table, crisp and unopened. The seat next to mine is vacant; the sign above it indicates a reservation, like mine, from Brussels to Frankfurt.

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Notes from a recent India trip

1. Arrival

At the Bengaluru International Airport everything seems new and shining. The modern interiors, polished and spacious; the immigration officials, courteous and efficient; the H1N1 desk, sophisticated (with high-tech equipment measuring, from a distance, the average temperature of passengers in a queue) and orderly; the exit gate, sparse (no swarm of taxi-wallahs waiting to assault you) and organized (a handful of drivers carrying placards, Volvo buses to the city). Is all this only a facade? Or has change renewed other dimensions of life in Bangalore? I’m eager to find out.
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The Locksmith of Reykjavik

It happened on our second day in Iceland. Late in the evening, when the bedside timepiece tried – without success – to convince me that it was close to midnight, I discovered that I was locked inside my hotel room. Wife was outside, in the corridor, with the hotel manager. After several attempts to open the electronically operated lock with a key that resembled a discarded ATM card, the manager gave up. “I’ll call the locksmith,” he said, in a muffled voice across three inches of wood. Then, following a few token words of apology, he added: “This has never happened here before. Never.” Continue reading “The Locksmith of Reykjavik”

Notes from a music festival

logo_belfort Straddling the border between France and Germany, the fortress town of Belfort is unremarkable save for a large sculpture – by Frédéric Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty – of a lion carved into the cliff that forms a natural wall of the fortress.  The lion, its head reared up in pride, is more striking at night, when artificial lights accentuate the lines and contours and the figure seems to emerge, in triumph, out of the cliff.  But this star attraction is all but ignored by the fifty thousand or so people who visit the town each year in May, during the three days it hosts FIMU: Festival International de Musique Universitaire. Continue reading “Notes from a music festival”

Seven Things

A fellow blogger – or better, a writer and photographer – has invited (tagged, as they say) me to write about “seven things I love.”  I spent a good part of the previous weekend thinking what to leave out from this list. It helps, of course, that the tag is not about “seven things I love most”; that would have been an impossible task. It also helps that a “thing” is vague enough, left to one’s interpretation.  I’ve chosen a thing each from seven categories: a composition, a book, a place, a movie, a process, a medium and a person. Continue reading “Seven Things”