June 06, 2003
On the train back to Stamford

The other day, on the train back from New York I overheard an emerging market analyst exclaim to an older guy, ?You know what? India is really changing. Many people think that India is not changing. But IT IS. And not just in the more dynamic and modern industry domains. Even industries like Oil and Gas are changing. That country is getting transformed. And the impact is going to be huge??

I must admit it felt good to hear that; even though it coming from a Wall Streeter to someone who looked like a potential investor, it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, in Stamford, the controversial tiger has finally landed. Apparently, in order to welcome the summer that has been obstinately refusing to come to coastal Connecticut, Stamford city fathers decided to commission some fun sculptures (models?). Most of these (elephants, giraffes, tigers etc.) look rather cheery and colorful. But the guy commissioned to do the tiger decided to paint the American flag on the tiger?s backside. This enraged the conservatives who felt that painting it on the tiger?s ass is an outrage. The artist claimed that his ?art? is being subverted.

The piece has now been placed in the green near the UBS Warburg building. The compromise solution was to paint the flag all over the body. The tiger lies almost supine, looking a little like a very thin bear wearing the American national flag. It looks rather odd and is probably destined to become the star attraction of the summer festivities.

Posted by Kaushik at 02:20 PM
April 21, 2003
New York diary

One of the very best things about NYT sold in the New York region is the Metropolitan Diary. It is part of the 'Metro' section of the newspaper. It is like an oasis. Take this anecdote for example:

"On a recent Friday morning I walked out of Grand Central Terminal at 45th Street near Madison Avenue and saw a crowd of about a dozen people on the corner, all pointing and looking up. I could not figure out the focus of all that attention. When I got closer, I saw two tiny birds, probably sparrows, near the top of a lamppost. One bird seemed to be caught, hanging upside down because of (it seemed) a tiny tether obstructing its foot. The other bird was frantic, hovering like a mini-helicopter trying to assist.

Suddenly a young man stepped out of the crowd and started scaling the pole. He climbed up to the Don't Walk sign and tested it gingerly to see if it would support his weight. The crowd hushed. We were concerned about the danger and legality of his climb.

Within seconds he was high enough to reach out toward the unfortunate bird. His fingers caught, pulled and broke through whatever was restricting the bird's tiny leg ? and the two birds, now free, took off into the skies above Madison Avenue. The crowd cheered and clapped exultantly. I continued on my way to work with a big smile on my face"

.

Posted by Kaushik at 07:11 PM
February 21, 2003
The neverending winter continues

I have never seen as much snow fall in one day as it did last Monday. Everything went under. Our front porch was knee deep in snow. In front of the apartment complex, Jack would periodically shovel the snow off the pedestrian walkway into the road and in the next hour the trucks will shovel them back on to the walkway. Finally, I think they came to some kind of implicit understanding and now we have got these walls of snow where the car parking spaces used to be. Some people spent hours digging up their car from under. Today it was all bright and sunny. The snow now piled high on the side of the road and gray and dirty from all the soot and grime from the roads is melting slowly, making the roads all slushy.

They are forecasting rain all through the weekend and with so much snow out there already, people are predicting a flood in New York City. NYT says the city will have spent $20 million cleaning up the mess.

I am very impressed with the speed with which Stamford city authorities cleaned up the roads out here. Yesterday, I started for office in the wee hours of early morning and as the sun was breaking out, the cleaning crews and cop cars were still on the roads.

Posted by Kaushik at 05:09 PM
February 03, 2003
Why is there so much static these days?

Simple.

"The tiny but annoying shocks that we administer to ourselves in the winter come from static electricity. ... When we shuffle across the floor on cool, dry days, our shoes pick up electrons from the rug. From these, our bodies accumulate a negative charge (an excess of electrons). Then, whenever we touch a grounded object such as a radiator or a less-charged human being, a spark made up of these excess electrons will jump from our fingers to the object....

The warmer air we enjoy (in spring) holds more moisture than does the cold air of winter, and that moisture is what saves us. Air is a poor conductor ...... Damp air is a better conductor than dry air, so static electricity need not build up very far before it "leaks" out of the air to surrounding objects. Dry air is such a poor conductor that a charge will build to very high levels before the air's resistance is overcome and a spark jumps to ground."

I have been wondering about it for a while. There is so much static here these days it is no longer funny. I have to get down very carefully from the car to ensure that I don't get an electric shock. Crazy!

Posted by Kaushik at 07:24 AM
January 23, 2003
Winter in Connecticut

I think I have now discovered the secret reason for there being so many writers (and so many universities) in New England. You see, for almost half the year, this place kinda shuts down. In the peak of winter, sane people don't really want to go out unless they absolutely have to. Downtown Stamford that used to be so crowded and colorful only a few months back now looks deserted. Even the massive parking lots in the shopping malls look empty. The few people that you see on the road have a kind of determined, tormented look on their faces. Yesterday, as I was filling gas at a gas station, I could literally feel my finger tips slowly becoming numb through a thick pair of gloves.

I have been consistently trying to ignore the weather. But it is hard not to feel a twinge of resentment towards the unseen forces as you slowly bundle up in preparation for going out. What is worse is, you again have to shed all those layers of clothes in a few minutes when you are back from your errand. I feel a little like a disgruntled bear as I slowly shuffle out towards work every morning.

I don't mind the snow. As a matter of fact, I love snow. Watching snow falling or walking downtown after a fresh snowfall is still the best part of winter here. But friends here tell me that I would feel different if Stamford were a part of the snow belt and if it were truely snowing here. It seems that we don't get REAL snow falls in Fairfield county. REAL snow fall is what our cousins got when they called up from Albany to cancel our invitation to their place (They called up over fourty people that morning to cancell the party). They got 30 inches of snow that day. On an average, it took over 4 hours for folks in Albany to dig their car out from under snow. A colleague's daughter who lives in the outskirts of Coopertown in upstate New York also gets REAL snow. Recently, it snowed so much that that she could not open the front doors of her house. They had to call in help to remove the snow. The truck that came out also got stuck in the snow. It was evening before they could get out. Before last week, no one took our complaints about cold all that seriously either. Now everyone agrees that it is unseasonably cold. No one has apparently seen the likes of this in the last 30-35 years. I have started taking a certain masochistic delight in telling that to people who don't have the privilage of living through such cold weather. Take that! Huh ...


Posted by Kaushik at 05:02 PM
December 11, 2002
Christmas

Nice Advent calenders online:

Leslie Harpold
Q Creative

Last thursday, Santa Claus climbed down from the 22nd floor of a building in landmark square with much fanfare and music. We stood out in freezing cold in front of the Ferguson library watching Santa come down. Then we all (actually, mostly a procession of kids) followed Santa in a processon to the Latham park where important looking people thanked the bank for sponsoring the Christmas tree, the bank manager thanked the crowd, singers sang Christmas carol and we had free hot chocolate. Then the christmas tree was lit. We again jumped over puddles formed by the melting ice to get back on the road.

Posted by Kaushik at 05:25 PM
December 05, 2002
Snow in Stamford

Yes, it is snowing hard here. Tiny snowflakes appeared in the air in the morning. Now it is a almost a storm. And this is Stamford where it didn't snow at all last year.

I started for offfice, skidded very badly at the first two crossings and thought better of the idea of travelling in these conditions. My rear tiers should have been changed 2000 miles back.

The church courtyard right across the road is a favourite place for people to take their dogs to pee. The guy who lives next door is determinedly walking his dog over at least three inches of snow trying to get it to pee. The bloody dog is freezing and is not cooperating. This guy is getting increasingly agitated. I was trying to shoot a photograph of the man trying to get his dog to pee with the church in the backyard for posterity. He suddenly stopped and waved. I don't see such friendly subjects here. So I waved back with enthusiasm. My wife who was been watching the entire charade from the background could not contain herself any longer, "Oh, for God's sake! He is waving at his wife!".

Posted by Kaushik at 12:30 PM
November 27, 2002
Holidays

It started snowing late last night. In the morning when we woke up, everything was covered in a fesh coat of snow. Across the road, the church steeples coated in white looks very pretty. It is the shovelling snow off the windshield of your car whenever you go out that I don't like about snowing this early.

There were very few people at work today. Most have either taken the day off or are 'working from home'. One of my colleagues, an orthodox jew, has brought food and lights to office to celebrate Chanukah.

On sunday afternoon, there was a balloon parade in downtown. Now the trees beside the roads are all lit up in the evenings. It looks a lot more festive than east Bay are did before Christmas.

I am looking forward to watching lots of movies and catching up on reading during the long weekend.

Posted by Kaushik at 12:47 PM
October 18, 2002
Durga Puja in Upstate New York

Birendra Krishna Bhadra's recitations, his voice breaking with passion as he invokes Durga, is broadcast by All India Radio in the predawn hours of Mahalaya every year. Listening to Agomani, semi asleep, as light slowly creaks in through the curtains, is one of the abiding memories of Durga Puja from my childhood. In the Bengali psyche, Bhadra is irreplacable. At one time, AIR got a noted Bengali movie actor (Uttam Kumar) to recite the Sanskrit slokas. The story goes, that the people got so incensed that many started towards the radio station with brickbats (a not very surprising development in Calcutta).

In his old age, Bhadra was locked up in his own house by his son and daughter in law. they claimed that he had gone mad. A lot of people feel that they covetted his property. I wish he had a better death. His Agomani recitations are very uplifting. This year on Mahalaya, we listened to a recording that my wife has brought from India.

The puja of course is packaged into a weekend affair in USA instead of the elaboate four day thing that it is in India. None of us have that kind of time. Durga is carefully packed away every year in keeping with the environmental regulations of New York. Last year, the diyas had somehow sparked off the fire alarms in a building in Albani and a number of fire brigade vehicles had arrived.

We had gone to Dr. Mukherjee's house for the Pujas last weekend. He has been doing this in his house for the last 25 years. For those who don't know, Durga Puja is a fairly complex, demanding affair, rarely done at home.

Dr Mukherjee had worked in many corners of the world throughout his life. I was much impressed with the fact that he had served in Siberia for 'Doctors Without Border'. Now old, he has retired to a a quiet town in upstate New York. He has a pacemaker for his heart. He had another heart attack last month. But his back was ramrod straight, his Sanskrit pronunciations were correct and clear, only his gait kinda shuffled and tentative.

There was some singing later on. There was this small, balding man from Mysore who sang divinely. He had that vocal range that certain classically trained southern vocalists have, that doesn't need any accompanying instruments. I think Sinead O'Connor has that. There was a woman who sang horrible Gazals. There was lots of color, awesome Bengali sweets, disjointed conversations, cars parked in wrong places ......

It rained all day that day. Later, we drove up 87 all the way to Albani past catskill mountains vivid with fall colors . As we neared Adirondack, the trees took on many different hues. It was a great drive.

In Albani, I had the weirdest conversation with another guy:

"So where did you move from?"
"California"
"You SHOULD go back"
"Huh?"
"There is nothing here. Let the winter start. It is going to be terrible. Absolutely terrible. I went to San Francisco for a training last month. There is life there! They have the real city life out there."
"Oh"
"Albany sucks". He started pacing. "Connecticut sucks."
"Hmmm".
"Go back. Ask your company to send you back."
"You know, we don't have any ongoing projects in the Bay area."
"Why don't you join Microsoft?"

Posted by Kaushik at 10:52 AM
October 09, 2002
Coastal Connecticut

Captain William Kidd was apparently a heartless, bloodthirsty pirate who terrorized the eastern seaboard of the United States and became enormously wealthy robbing the poor merchants in the seventeenth century. He hid it all in his secret island near the central shoreline of Connecticut. Our tour boat's captain showed off Captain Kidd's island. He talked about the great wealth that must still be safely hidden somewhere in Money Island and about people who still hunt for it.

It was only after I came back from the trip that I found that the reality is more complex, that "Captain William Kidd was a Scottish merchant transplanted to America, who was commissioned in 1695 to hunt down the pirate Thomas Tew (of Newport) in the Indian Ocean. While pursuing Tew, Kidd stretched the limits of his commission, which embarrassed his prominent British backers (including the Crown). When he returned home, Kidd was seized and, after a rigged trial in which evidence of his innocence was suppressed, convicted of murder and piracy and hanged in 1701".

But Thimble islands are beautiful and steeped in lores like these. There are now 23 tiny inhabited islands dotting the coast. A ferry will take you on a tour if you reach Stony creek by 3 PM on a day before winter sets in. Stony creek is a quiet, charming, rural fishing village near Guilford.

To get there, we got off I-95 at exit 52 (right after New Haven) and took much less traveled 146 via 142. 146 from Branford to Stony creek is a very pretty coastal road that loops around rivers, picture perfect churches, old colonial houses, New England clapboards and the occasional jogger. We got back on I-95 after we reached Madison; back to civilization, traffic jam and Honking drivers.

Posted by Kaushik at 09:20 AM
September 16, 2002
The casinos of Connecticut

Before last week, I did not even know that the two Indian casinos here (Mohegansun and Foxwood) are the largest tax payers in the state. But now it seems that the state of Connecticut doesn't want any more casinos.I quite agree with them. But I was surprised (since when have the politicians started disliking incoming revenue?) until I was talking about it with a long time resident of Connecticut. She said that unlike the existent reservations, the new proposals for Indian reservations will displace a lot of people living in the land claimed by the native Indians. Votes!

We checked out Mohegunsun over the weekend. It is an impressive place by a beautiful river. It is run very well and like any Las Vegas based Casino has good restuarants, ongoing shows etc. But we make terrible gamblers! So we moved around for a while, eventually got tired of the smoke (people smoke a lot around here!) and came back before midnight. But we had to drag the turbanned one back.

Posted by Kaushik at 09:32 PM
September 03, 2002
The third smallest state in USA

Connecticut is the third smallest state in the United states and has the highest per capita income. The corridor neighbouring Manhattan (Greenwitch-Stamford-Norwalk) is basically commuter country. The affluence is reflected in the name by which these parts are known (gold coast), the upscale malls, the designer wear of the friday evening crowd and most visibly - THE RENT! It is killing.

We thought that one of the good things about the apartment complex where we moved in is the business center that has internet access. So we had decided to forego internet access at home until we know whether we are gonna be here beyond a few months.

We didn't take into account the underage kids playing online games all day or equally bored women chatting on AOL all night. The upshot is that I simply don't have a lot of leisure time on the net these days. Thanks to a firewall, I can't access my personal mailboxes from work either. Those of you who have been writing to me, please bear with me. I would eventually get back.

However, if I can ever forget the price I am paying for the privilage of living here, coastal Connecticut is a great place to live in. Stamford downtown itself is very pretty, colorful and has loads of interesting hangouts. There are old churches (that actually has bells that toll regularly), a huge library, interesting museums (it even has an extension of the Whitney museum) and it kinda extends into the campus of the University of Connecticut. The downtown also has very cool lifelike statues captured doing everyday things at most street corners. unfortunately, this has resulted in my stopping on the road to admire people who look like statues only to see them start moving almost immediately.

Posted by Kaushik at 09:23 PM
About
RandomNotes is the placeholder for my links and thoughts on media, politics, economy, books, visual arts and pop culture in India and USA. It gets updated twice a week or so.

You can contact me at kaush at kaush.com.
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