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January 24, 2009
Try as I might, to keep my resolution of blogging on a weekly basis, something or the other lands up making it impossible to set up time for some serious contemplation. This time it was my travel to Colombo to iron out some important issues. Before you jump to any ideas that I might be from one of the various political parties in Tamil Nadu espousing the cause of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka or that I am a part of diplomatic corps trying to bring about a truce between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, let me clarify that I am here on business. The global meltdown has played havoc with my plans and I need to make some course corrections.

My mother who keeps a tab on the war going on here through TV and newspapers entreats me a thousand times, to be careful. These mothers, I tell you, treat their forty something old sons as kids, still. I promise her that I will do whatever it takes to stay alive. Feeling a bit like James Bond on a dangerous mission I start on my way. Actually, like James, I too am on my country’s service. I bring in the much needed Foreign Exchange, but the similarity stops there. Bond is a dasher; no one in his right mind would say I am. Bond seduces his women at the drop of a hat; even my wife doesn’t fall for me these days. Bond is licensed to kill; I am not…licensed to die maybe, but not definitely to kill. Bond is adept with gadgets that Q throws at him every now and then; I am not even aware of some of the features on my mobile phone. Bond likes Martinis; I like my rum even if it is not shaken or stirred. James Bond has Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and Craig Daniel to play his part; I have only myself to play mine. It has got its advantage. At least I am consistent,my zodiac trait notwithstanding.

There is no perceptible difference in the atmosphere in Colombo compared to my earlier visit, but there is a growing anticipation that the war would end sooner than later. If it ends it would be a huge relief to the people who bear the brunt of the war expenditure. Everything is expensive. People ask me what the price of cauliflower or grapes or rice or bread is, in India. Frankly I don’t know. Thankfully, my wife keeps me out of these mundane things. All I have to do is give her the pay packet and she does a very effective job of making it disappear, with absolutely no clue whatsoever of where it might have gone. It is the best vanishing trick that I keep seeing but still can’t make out how it is done.

The Hotel Galadari where I am normally stay has given me a $10 reduction over what they charged me last time. I don’t know if it is because of the drop in tourists or because the US dollar has rebounded strongly after a slump. Anyways it is a classy hotel just a stone’s throw from the ocean (picture above is taken from my room). I can take a stroll on the beachfront, but will have to be back before dark for security reasons. I didn’t face these kinds of regulations even when I was a teenager. I need to spend another week here. It has almost become my second home. So much so, that when they are short of staff, they ask me to cover. As I needed to pass 2 Sundays without much to do, I had brought couple of books to read. One is, “Games Indians Play” by V. Raghunathan which essentially deals with the Indian Psyche of always trying to be one up on everybody else and its spiraling effects; and the other, “Lisey’s Story” by one of my favourite writer Stephen King.

My association with King started in the 80’s. Any free time I had would be spent in a book shop browsing through books. It was an addiction which didn’t need much money. No discos, no bars, no parties, no sire, not for me. Books gave me a high. It was during this time that the famous Moore Market got gutted by fire. Moore Market used to be the Mecca of used book hunters. After the fire, many of the shop owners went different ways with their salvaged books. Some of them spread their wares on the side walks of Mount Road. On Sundays, I would take a bus from Annanagar, where I stayed with my aunt, to Gemini and walk the 2-3 Km stretch from there to Simpson & Co. passing many of the old book stalls, taking time to go through the books. These walks would take me 3 to 4 hours. It was during one of these jaunts that I chanced upon Stephen King for the first time. What attracted me was the newness of the book which was lying on a heap of books and the lovely purple cover, which said PET SEMATRY. It was obvious that the book was never opened. Maybe it was a stolen book or the person who bought the book had second thoughts on reading a writer who couldn’t spell cemetery correctly. I don’t know which. I leafed through the pages randomly and I liked what I read. I bought the book for Rs.15, if I remember correctly, after much haggling as the book seller wanted Rs.75 the price of a new book. Looking back, it was a steal. I finished the book maybe in a day or two and got hooked to Stephen King ever since. It was a genre ( horror) I had not tried earlier, but it is his style of writing which relates to me. Most of his books were adapted into movies and Shawshank Redemption from his collection of novellas “Different Seasons” is my favourite.
And like all best sellers that are made into movies, the book was even better.
For now, let me get back to ‘Lisey’.

P.S. By the way, if you have been wondering what the title stands for, it is Central Chennai to Colombo

2 Comments leave one →
  1. shail permalink
    January 27, 2009 09:00

    I am glad you posted how Bond and you differed. I was almost convinced that you were Bond in disguise!! :-))))The vanishing act you mention of reminds me of something that happened recently. Son dear magnanimously sends home moolah for his parents. ‘Use it!’ he orders ‘or else it lapses like the government funds!’ :-))))) I told him , “No worries son, now that I have your word I can wave it in front of Dad’s eyes each time he says, ‘lets save'”!! 😛 But sigh, I wish I had a grown up son when I was younger. I could have done justice to his order in a more fitting manner! 😛 Hmmm… maybe I should blog about this!!Shawshank Redemption, some movie that one!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    February 12, 2009 19:01

    You either compare yourself with James Bond or SRK. Height of…..

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