Monday, September 25, 2006


I'm turning my 'Reporter's Diary' into a little holiday notepad over the next few weeks. I can't be bothered to start another blog just for this and I think it will be nice to write things down so I don't forget. I wish, I wish I had done this on earlier vacations. I will be adding pictures as soon as I can. I'm carrying an old camera thats giving me hopeless pictures so the minute I can start bumming photos from my friends they'll be up here.

I dislike flying. I loathe airports and I think nobody should use them unless they are flying. Its definitely the worst way to begin a holiday. Anyway....

At the Frankfurt Airport my friend ordered a "fancy cake". True to her vegetarian roots (pun unintended) she asked the salesperson if it had "beef gelatin" in it. Even I have not heard that one before but he laughed so derisively at the idea, I think it killed her appetite.

I am happy to say that since then things have gone very well. More follows.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Recently Arjun Singh was at IIT to inaugurate a new hostel block. But being the villain in the reservation saga, students conducted a 'spontaneous', 'flash' protest. Promptly the media was called. (Protests, dharnas, fasts and demonstrations these days seem to take place only inside a frame.) The frantic calls by a few students forced me and a cameraman into the car heading towards IIT. Three students received us at the gate and called their mates to tell them we had arrived and to be "ready".

That pissed me off. But I said nothing. Then when we reached the venue of the "protest", much to my chagrin, the students started asking me what to do. "Should we sit or should we stand? Should we march or should we stay here? Should we call more students or is this enough? Should we burn the banner or shouldnt we?"

Thats it! Stop! I lost my cool. I blame the media as much as I blame the students for asking me these questions. There are lots of unethical practices that go entirely unquestioned these days, starting with making people shout slogans for the camera, or directing them to do things they would not have otherwise done. Its pardonable if its a feature story and sometimes you need to 'direct' people into doing certain things - like make an author read his book while shots of him are taken, or make a chef toss up the noodles for the camera. Thats allowed. But if its news, its simply unpardonable. These students obviously dont know any better either. I said, "This is not a film and i'm not a director. Do what you have to do or don't do anything at all. I frankly don't care."

Then to make matters worse and ruin my mood further, the students turned out to be a divided house with some overenthusiastic ones getting carried away with the idea a protest and others warning them of dire consequences. It was the last straw. There was no way this lie was ever going to be on air. But just to say, televised protests are very often done like this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


In a remote corner of the 'Giggles' bookstore sits a delightful lady called Nalini Chettur. Shes totally isolated from the negativity flowing in the world around her, as she sits there, indulging her first and only true love - books. When I went to meet her, she was reading Ogden Nash's 'Candy is Dandy' with such thought-provoking verse like:

In the world of Mules
There are no rules.

33 years ago, Nalini started 'Giggles' for a giggle, as she likes to say. Inspired by Helen Hanff's '84, Charing Cross Road', Nalini was offered a space inside the Taj Connemara Hotel. Over the years, the hotel has been shrinking that space and thats how Giggles has ended up becoming the "biggest little book shop" with all of 100 square feet. There are over one lakh titles crammed into its incredible smallness. Books are stacked from floor to ceiling with one narrow sinew that can only indulgently be called the aisle and you have to be pretty little yourself to visit the biggest little bookshop.

Worthies like William Golding, Michael Palin, Ranil Wickremasinghe and Amitav Ghosh are part of the long list of people who have visited her store.

Nalini loves books and goes through every single one that comes to her store. Thats why when she talks about a book she imbues it with a special quality. No computers for her. Her entire inventory is in her head. Her delight in a book is infectious and she immediately arouses your interest and awakens the imagination.

Im having a difficult time trying to capture the charming character of 'Giggles' and its owner - exactly why Nalini thinks not everyone who has a book in them should write. So ill leave it here. But im a sworn Giggler now.