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Souvenirs from Shanghai

The hotel we were staying at in Shanghai, had this peculiar ritual of leaving a small, painted, Plaster of Paris Beijing opera mask, glued neatly inside a little papier mâchè box, at the edge of our bed. Each evening, we’d arrive in our rooms to find these small colorful souvenirs, along with a playing-card size note wishing us a good night’s sleep in Chinese and English. I had collected five in all and didn’t quite know what to do with them besides putting (a picture of) them on my blog [I’ve already misplaced one of them :-(]:

One of the things I definitely wanted to purchase in Shanghai was the original Chinese score of Warriors of Heaven and Earth. I scoured several music shops but either it was not available with them or, on occasions, I failed miserably to communicate the name of the album that I wanted… Finally a colleague spotted it on way to office, in a mall far away (40 minute drive) from our hotel. I picked it on the penultimate day of our stay in Shanghai. All this for the second track in Chinese, the Hindi and English dubs of which (versions released in India) have not even been a patch on the original.

This is not the first time Sony Music has released versions of an album targeted at different geographies. The North American version of Vande Mataram had two additional tracks (Musafir, Masoom) which haven’t made to India till date – a little ironic for an album commemorating anniversary of Indian Independence. While I can understand the commercial justification for not releasing a Chinese album in India, I fail to comprehend why Indians should be deprived of two Hindi (Masoom is Hinglish) tracks that too in an album which is a celebration of all things India!

posted: 29.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

The unmistakble signs of winters in Shanghai

I was staying at Han Shan road, a busy commercial district in Shanghai. The area was cluttered with restaurants, bars, cafeterias, office complexes and grandiose departmental stores; and yet the planning of the area was such, that there were plenty of trees and empty spaces/parks amongst the grey concrete structures. Unfortunately, its still winters in Shanghai – the bare, naked trees look rather sorry; though you would still find an occasional patch of soil in a corner in some park, blooming with flowers, defying the wrath of winter. Here are some of the pictures that I clicked while walking from hotel to office…

I rarely saw any leaf-bearing trees in Shanghai. By some queer stroke of fate, if a leaf had managed to cling to its branch, it would look parched, stiff, frail and crumpled; poised delicately, all set to fall sooner or later…

The same pestilence tormented berries and fruits too making some of them resemble dead balls of fur rather than material of plant origin!

This would probably seem like a weird metaphor. The moment I saw these two berries, I was reminded of an old couple, bound together by their vows of decades ago:

The dead tree in the foreground is humbled by the colorful canvas in background with its lush blossoming field and cloud adorned azure sky. The background stands in stark contrast to the ground realities of murky, dark heavens and steel-grey, hard road. (The canvas in the background is almost certainly an advert – isn’t this what advertising is all about):

posted: 26.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

East and West

I’ve acquired an arduous knack for landing myself into a business trip on 14th February. Fortunately or unfortunately, the date is yet to assume any significance in my life and so I don’t mind traveling (in fact I look forward to it).

Last year I was returning from Seattle. I had risen early to allow myself time to grab a quick mocha over cinnamon croissant at the nearest Starbucks, before dashing off to catch my flight back to India. Despite the ruthless Seattle morning chill, I had spotted quite a few (besotted) men pacing up and down the streets with rose bouquets in their hands; the only visible sign of Valentines Day!

This year, while the rest of the world slipped into cozy candlelight dinners, I was hastily packing my bags for flight to Shanghai.

Here is a little poem that captures my travels and the beauty of human sentiments, particularly those associated with love…

East - West

I’ve traveled far and wide
Seen the world
At least in part

Met people
Witty, rude, dull, welcoming
And few very smart

East and west
Have sometimes felt
Like they are poles apart

And yet at times
I’ve found them similar
Despite differences in cultures, cuisines
And Art

Some things after all
don’t change, do they?
The sweet aroma of coffee, chocolates and roses
Or delicate matters of heart.

Here are two pictures around the East West theme (if instead of warm and mushy you are feeling down in dumps ;-)):

P.S. Came across this track in the Ravi Shankar album titled “Bridges” – “West Eats Meat”, couldn’t help smiling at the clever jugglery of alphabets (almost read it as “West Meets East” at first).

posted: 22.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

Tale of a late entrant to the Harry Potter fan club

I am (or rather I have lately turned into) a voracious reader. Rarely am I discretionary about what I am reading, though I do have a slight prejudice for well researched books that have a thread of history, a figment of realism running in the background. Which is probably why I had avoided Harry Potter books – even at the height of Pottermania during release of the 5th book last year. That was till my sister did the unthinkable – she gifted me the first Harry Potter book (Sorcerer’s Stone) on my birthday last year. Very grudgingly I started reading it, and even though I approached it with great deal of skepticism, I found it enjoyable; but not exceptional enough to prod me to buy the next book (Chamber of Secrets). After about six months, my sister struck again and handed me the second book. Now I had watched Chamber of Secrets the movie by then, but still reading the book was a pleasing experience, in fact, this time my curiosity had been piqued to an extent that I rushed to the nearest book store and brought the third book (Prisoners of Azkaban).

Prisoners of Azkaban turned the tide for me – I was engrossed, charmed or to put simply in love with the Harry Potter genre. Never before had I finished reading over 1700 pages of pure fantasy within a span of 4 days (I had picked the fourth book - Goblet of Fire with in a day of finishing the third). Such is the pull of these books, thanks to brilliant fast-paced narrative, that you are constantly on tenterhooks; flipping to next page eager to find out where the story would move. I already had the fifth book – Order of Phoenix – lying with me before I was done with fourth, but I had promised myself to preserve it for reading in plane on way to Shanghai (I kept in office all along!). I even pulled out last year’s summer issue of Time, which had the Harry Potter phenomenon as its cover story, to relive moments of excitement that shrouded the release of Order of Phoenix. Though not as impressive as book 3 and 4, it still was a very worthy read; and yes I am eager for the next installment. But even before that the next Harry Potter movie, based on book 3, is due on June 4th and I’ll be one the die-hard fans in queue for last show on first day (if not first).

So what makes Harry Potter books such a hit… There is nothing new as far as the story goes – it is the same Good (Harry Potter et. al.) verses Bad (Voldemort et. al.) story and perhaps this is what gives these books an almost universal appeal. The characterization is vivid and very detailed. The characters grow older with each book. The story line is very coherent through out the five books (spells Harry Potter learned in book one, would make appearance in book three with remarkable consistency), giving the older books re-read value each time the next volume comes. The plot in all the books has been engrossing – no less than a Alan Frust spy thriller.

My only grudge is that sometimes those Quidditch matches become so long-drawn out that they assume dreary proportions. Book three onwards is certainly not kid-stuff. I find the analogies drawn by Rowling a little rude, a tad offending at times – no matter how bad a teacher is, I wouldn’t ever compare him/her to a Dragonfly (especially because now we have a pathetic rock band which shares the same name ;-)). Perhaps I am overreacting, or perhaps its our cultural sensitivities that deem such similies for your teachers unfit, or may be its just touchy me!

Anyways, I am now through with all the five books and would not hesitate in recommending them to anyone. (Pick book three right away if you are really cynical). You know you are suffering from Pottermania when you conjure Patronus (Harry’s Patronus takes the shape of a Stag) in stains left by liquid detergent in your washroom…

Rude Harry Potter statement of the day: Coming out of long meetings makes me feel as if I have been kissed by a Dementor. (go read the third book to figure how it feels ;-)).

Note to self: Pick up Lord of the Rings after a month of some serious reading.

posted: 20.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

Field, Power, Man, Woman: A Chinese language primer
I’ve always been fascinated by languages, though not in the conventional sense. My approach to languages is purely calligraphic and rarely lexicographic. Once I can read and write a language it stops being challenging enough to keep my curiosity alive. Weird as it might sound, to be able to comprehend what I read or write, is least of my concerns. Being in India, there has never been a dearth of scripts to learn.

In class 7 and 8 I took up Bengali because it had a script different from devnagri (the script for Hindi)! Even now I can read and write Bangla, though I don't understand a word.

In college I was introduced to Tamil (Tamizh) music by a friend (it was a cassette of Ullasam and Iruvar). Once I had run through the initial cassettes I had borrowed from him, I would regularly watch Sun TV to stay in touch with the latest happenings in the world of music down south. Even after college, the fondness for Tamil music lingered on. Each time I would hear a new song that I would want to buy, I would grab hold of my recent acquaintance in our Delhi office (I was still in Delhi then) and would croon to him in my thoroughly broken Tamil and somewhat raucous voice the number I had heard on Tele (not a very pleasant endeavor for either of us), and would expect him to tell me the name of the movie from which that song was. The experience nudged me to pick Tamil because I wanted to read the movie names on Tele (and on CDs where the English name is usually a fine print) unaided.

Moving to Bangalore paved way for Kannada, which I am fairly comfortable with now.

I’ve been in awe of the Chinese language for a long time. The concept of a character representing a complete idea is a fundamental one and yet it seems so drastic, thanks to the way education conditions our thought process. Once while browsing randomly through selection of language courses in a bookshop at Singapore, I came across a book on learning Japanese. Now Japanese and Chinese are very very closely related. Japanese consists of 3 types of characters – Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. Kanji literally means “characters from China” and is indeed comprised of same characters that are used in Chinese. Hiragana and Katakana are used to represent sounds that are absent from Kanji (like foreign names) or grammar (they are akin to our notion of “alphabet”). Same characters, represent same ideas both in Chinese and Japanese; however, they are pronounced very differently. You learn to read/write Japanese, and you get a lot of Chinese ideograms as a free gift; which means that you can communicate with someone from China in writing (suits me ;-)). I’ve been pursuing Japanese off and on and can recognize few of the common Kanji.

So learning to read/write languages has been a hobby all along, and I never thought that I would ever find myself in a situation where this little knowledge would render itself useful – until today.

In Shanghai the use of English language by hoi-polloi is very minimal. Even in a big shop you’ll find people who are not quite at ease with a language other than Chinese (the McDonald’s across the road from office has menu only in Chinese!). Two of my Korean colleagues and I decided to visit a departmental store selling local crafts to pick souvenirs. The top floor of this big mall was dedicated entirely to traditional handicrafts. One of the things that one of my Korean colleague (Jae Ho), wanted to pick was a traditional Beijing Opera Mask. The problem was that none of us had the faintest inkling if the mask selected by him was meant to be worn by a man or a woman. We tried asking the ladies at the counter, but they wouldn’t understand English at all – not even something as basic as “man” or “woman”. After struggling for about 5 minutes, Jae Ho gave up. It is then that I decided to give matters one last-ditch attempt. I took out a pen from my pocket and quickly scribbled the Kanji ideograms for Man and Woman on my fingers. I then pointed with my pen to the mask and then directed it to my finger where I had just written the character for Man. The lady at the counter got our point! She shook her head sideways and pointed to the character on my finger for woman – mystery solved! (we repeated the iteration twice and got consistent answer – the mask was meant for women!). Jae Ho beamed at me as the girls at the counter chortled. A warm fuzzy feeling had descended on me – I was exulting in having put my knowledge to some practical cause!

For the discerning reader – paddy, power, man and woman: A quick primer on Chinese characters:

Each ideogram tells a story which is what makes learning Chinese (or Kanji) so much fun. A paddy field or a farm is denoted by a square box with two crossed bars in it (fair enough, a farm will typically be square or rectangular):

The symbol for power or strength is derived from your curled right hand pressing downwards:

A Man is a symbol of strength and toils in the farm. Combine the ideograms for farm and strength and you get the ideogram for man!

The symbol for Woman is not derived from other ideograms. It is one those symbols where if you exercise your imagination slightly, you’ll see a woman…

That’s about it! Engrossing eh?

Those unmistakable signs of Spring

I am in Shanghai for a week. Today will be particularly chilly, the murky skies and the freezing cold breeze won’t make things any better. I stare down my 10th floor hotel window and all I see is a concrete jungle. Far away, the clothes strung in the balcony of an apartment are fluttering vigorously, giving me hints about how ferocious the wind outside is. The long patch of road visible from my window is burnished. It is wet. Same goes for sole apartment terrace I can see in a distance – it probably rained last night. I woke up feeling sick of the artificial warmth of my room – the hot, dry air emanating from the hotel air conditioner parches every single inch of me. I’ve just shut the air-conditioning and left the windows of my hotel room ajar. The cool breeze is now gently escaping in, fighting with the synthetic warmth which wasn’t even meant to be here. Beethoven’s 6th string quartet hasn’t ever captured my somber mood better (the final movement of the quartet reads: La Malinconia: Adagio: Alegretto Quasi Allegro).

It is still winters in Shanghai. The lifeless, leafless trees stand there braving the scorn of winter. They could have been plastic. Their barks show interesting random patterns in brown black and white; looking almost like hide of some exotic animal.

I close my eyes and draw the cold air in. I am reminded of Bangalore. When I left, the weather there was exhibiting unmistakable signs of spring and the plant life was reacting welcomingly to it. Nothing captures essence of arrival of spring like final movement of Vivaldi’s spring. The pictures below are my attempts to portray days just before spring; albeit through a visual medium.

Even the fauna growing in nondescript, dusty edges of the road, shows the audacity to beckon spring. I found the shape of leaves of this plant, a little unusual – as a kid this is exactly how I was taught to draw flowers in my drawing classes. Those plants I drew in kindergarten weren’t entirely imaginary after all (the petals I drew turned out to be leaves in real life). Romantic innuendos: aren’t all of them (leaves) shaped like hearts!? If it were 14th Feb today, I would have just caused a rush amongst florists to weed off roadsides…

If this is what those little shrubs display, the trees ought to do something grander. Sure enough, they are sprouting fresh leaves. There are trees whose entire canopy is bedecked with tender, glistening leaflets. They look yellow or rust colored. These are not the yellows or rust of fall; these are colors of pristine leaves greeting spring.

This tree will probably seem familiar. It is barely a yard away from its cousin that blossomed just 3 months back. Like its elder brother, this tree too is now in full bloom.

Occasionally, you’ll come across these trees whose enormous branches would be bejeweled, studded with countless bright yellow or pink flowers (neither of which is my favorite color, but when you see garish clusters of these flowers, you forget that for a moment); celebrating spring....

I am enjoying myself in Shanghai yet a part of me longs to be back where spring is.

posted: 18.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments


Solitude is very strange too . . . and sometimes as filled with dangers and surprises as a virgin forest. -- Embers, Sandor Marai

posted: 14.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

Meenaxi, String Quartets of Beethoven and Borodin – the Russian connection

A. R. Rahman has given music for another Hindi movie – Meenaxi: A Tale of 3 Cities (the 3 cities being Prague, Hyderabad and Jaisalmer) The movie is directed by M. F. Hussain which should automatically make it a visual treat (there shouldn’t be any lingering doubts is if the CD’s cover leaflet is any indication). I’ve given the CD my obligatory 4-5 hearings (Rahman rarely registers in one go; his is the sort of music that gradually grows on you - somewhat like western classical) and am thoroughly enjoying it. There are 8 tracks in all, the last two of which are instrumental (“Cyclists Rhythm”, the first of the two, puts the humble bicycle bell to an interesting use). No recycled tunes this time, most tracks have a fresh folksy feel, deftly (and seamlessly) fused with modern, electronic sounds. Rich and beautiful, precisely what I’ve come to expect of Rahman!

After a short stint with Beethoven’s symphonies, I am back to enjoying his string quartets. The institution of string quartet is the most profound, most sublime form of musical expression which was perfected by Haydn and Mozart and redefined by Beethoven. These days I am listening to his Op 59 “Razumovsky” quartets, which derive their name from the Russian ambassador to Vienna who had commissioned them in 1805-06. Beethoven was writing string quartets after 4 years, during which he had considerably matured as a musician (he was well into what we now call the “middle period”) and had evolved a unique style away from the daunting musical ancestry of Haydn and Mozart. In the first two of the three Op. 59 quartets, Beethoven even used themes from Russian folk to please prince Razumovsky; something that makes these quartets truly exquisite.

Another composer that I am enjoying listening to these days is the Russian composer Alexander Borodin. He started composing at a time when composers in Russia were increasingly turning to their folk heritage for inspiration. Borodin was a chemist and a gifted musician. The simple melodies of his second quartet have an attractive charm that makes it a joy to listen to. There is more; to quote from the CD’s accompanying booklet:

“This is no more evident than in the famous Nocturne (the 3rd movement of this quartet), which has been subjected to all manner of abuse in arrangements for string orchestra, full orchestra and even in a version for solo violin and orchestra by the composer’s friend Rimsky-Korsakov. On another level of music larceny, it was turned into the popular song And This is My Beloved in the 1954 Broadway musical Kismet, for which Borodin won a Tony that gave new meaning to the phrase 'awarded posthumously'”.

posted: 13.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

St. Philomena’s Cathedral

St. Philomena’s Cathedral is one of the tallest and grandest churches in India and is modelled on the church in Cologne. Its twin spires are 165 ft. high, each of them topped with a cross 12 ft. tall. I had taken these pictures during my last visit to Mysore in December but somehow never got down to posting them on my blog, well here they are:

You must check the first pic in its full resolution, the intricate architectural details there are simply stunning…

posted: 11.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

Bryan Adams concert in Bangalore: damp wet squib

I hadn’t imagined that I would come out a mite tetchy from the first rock concert that I would attend. Alas, that’s precisely the mood I was in after the Bryan Admas concert on Sunday, here is why:

Pathetic Crowd Management: Kevin, Rosh and I found ourselves at the fag end of a queue about 2 kilometers long, eagerly waiting to enter the concert ground. We stood there killing time, but even after 45 minutes the queue moved barely 100 meters. Rosh broke off from the queue, rushing ahead to check where it eventually ended. He came back, beaming, grabbed my hand and pulled us out of the queue. We jogged along the length of the queue and reached the entrance to parade grounds (the venue for concert). Now here, there were no queues; just crowd, squabbling and pushing to get in. We stared at each other, startled. Eventually our instincts prevailed over our sensibilities – we jostled our way through the sea of people and passed through a narrow, makeshift gate that led us into the ground. (Rosh almost picked an argument with an inebriated bloke).

Bad Stage Design: It looked as if the stage was put together moments before the concert. A high platform, covered with a corrugated tin sheet supported on four steel beams, from where the lighting for the concert was suspended. No lasers, no pyrotechnics, no synchronization with music; thoroughly amateurish.

Performances we didn’t pay for: If the sponsor ads weren’t irksome enough, we were subjected to two stretched out promotional performances. The first one was by Channel V’s Pop Stars II; the only thing tolerable about them was the fact that they kept their act down to two tracks. They were followed by a conscript, non-descript rock band called “dragonfly”. They not only stood there crooning for close to an hour, but also pompously kept referring to their yet-to-be-released debut album and upcoming performances in city. The crowd jeered at them, hurled whatever they could (besides abuses) and yet the sub-standard shenanigans went on. Frankly, there were bands in my college that displayed lot more talent (not to mention a little more humility).

Another break: Sponsor ads repeated themselves for another 15 minutes on the giant screens. A channel V VJ then walked on stage, made those hackneyed, done-to-death remarks about how energetic Bangalore crowd was, and with great difficulty came to the main point – Bryan Adams would give the performance we were all awaiting in another 10 minutes. Another 25 minutes flew away; the almost full, pale moon gradually sprang into view from behind the stage. I was missing my camera already. I looked at the sky; plumes of dust, kicked into air by movement of crowd in the ground had mixed with cigarette smoke and hung low bearing close semblance to clouds. It was all so surreal, made even more so by gradual onset of fatigue. A tumultuous roar of people beckoned Bryan Adams’s arrival on stage (never before had the phrase “better late than never” held so much significance in my life).

Atrocious Acoustics: My fears of bad acoustics in the ground came to life as Bryan Adams belted out his first number. The electric guitar totally muffled the vocals. There were times when you would hear just the guitar, or rather what sounded like guitar (with a little imagination). 5 tracks, and the cacophony had sounded the end of our tether. Kevin and I walked out of the concert (Roshan stood their till the end, brave man!) feeling flustered, cheated; the thirst and hunger compounding our anguish. We rushed to a small pizza outlet near the concert venue. The sounds from concert had gradually faded with every step of ours but could still be heard prominently in the background (oddly, we could clearly make out the vocals now). We sat in pizza joint enjoying the remaining concert over pizzas and coke. As I took a large swig from my coke bottle, Bryan Adams had started playing “Please Forgive Me” – I think the apology was called for!

posted: 9.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments


Behind most autos in Bangalore, you’ll find a rectangular patch, flanked by 2 “Ds” on either of the two short edges, about half a feet tall and about thrice as broad. Most autos use this space very creatively. You will see this area painted in vibrant hues, covering broadly four themes - imaginary landscapes, religion, patriotism and movie stars. While a lot of them look kitschy, occasionally, you come across intricate, resplendent works of art that are hard to ignore. Here are few specimens that I could not resist clicking:

If someone were to device a popularity index for movie stars, based upon cumulative count of their appearances in auto art, Sanjay Dutt would come out indubitably on top. The first picture finds him glowering sideways, while in second he looks a lot more genteel, thanks to that simpering, vapid smile. There are numerous other variants I’ve seen and perhaps one day, I’ll go after a few more of them.

The third picture has Dilip Kumar scowling at you, looking extremely displeased. (Look at the caption near top edge, we are being told not to pollute the air; ah that explains it!)

The next two pictures cover local movie stars who I am totally ignorant of. Clicked the fourth one for striking use of the color red, not to mention the hearty laugh; that we find this portrait indulging in, lightens up our collection of sulking stars a bit. The subject of fifth painting looks very keen to flaunt his glittering shades and his new mobile phone; a little comical. (Ashwin points out that the subjects in first and second picture are Ambarish and Chiranjeevi - thanks for the input Ashwin!)

The last two pictures deals with patriotism. The tricolor in first picture reads “Amba” (I can read Kannada now :-)); I’ll let the second one pass without an explanation. Corrigendum: The tricolor in first picture reads "Ambi" not "Amba", thanks for the correction Ashwin; I guess am not quite there with my Kannada yet :-)... [The subtle difference between ಬ and ಬಿ made me falter.]

Closing Notes: This is the first time I actually went after a subject with single minded intention of featuring it on my blog. It has been good fun. I found auto-wallahs kind, even enthusiastic (far from the rude rogues you come across in Delhi and Chennai), to the idea of someone clicking their vehicles. Just one of them disproved of my offer, and that I think was owing to my inability to communicate my motives effectively. In most cases a hodge-podge of gestures and broken English was more than sufficient to get my point across, but on at least one occasion, a passer by helped the driver understand what I intended doing. A number of times I came across stunning pictures behind an auto speeding away from me; on other occasions, I was riding away from some, making it impossible to click. Then there were times when I would see an excellent work of art from a distance and would take anxious, long, hasty steps towards it, only to find the auto race away moments before I could click; while at times, I felt obliged to take a ride, as a gesture of gratitude, in the auto that I had just photographed. I am tempted to cover a few more of these exceptional works of art, these statements of style and would attempt another feature very soon!

posted: 8.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

Molten Sun

I took this picture of beams of sun streaking down from a prominent crack in the thick grey veil of clouds, late at noon on Saturday from balcony of my apartment; it almost felt like a strange dream…

Rhetorical afterthoughts:
  • Pardon the scientific ineptness of the title, sun after all is a giant ball of hot gases ;-)

  • Alternative Title: Beam me up Scotty ;-)

posted: 4.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments


Clear day, Azure sky
Brightly the blinding sun shone
The livid old tree
With its gnarled intricate boughs
Stood there all alone
I shuddered as it whispered
to me
in a hushed meek tone
Have you by any chance figured,
where has the Spring gone?
I paused, reflected and then said
Don't know…
for I too have been waiting for it
all my life
lonely, cloistered, forlorn

posted: 3.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

The farcical tale of the “World’s Largest Music Store”

“World’s Largest Musical Store” had been the only tangible copy for a prominent print campaign that had been appearing in local Bangalore newspapers since a week. Being the music lover I am, I was but intrigued. I couldn’t bear to keep my excitement down over lunchtime conversations at the prospect of having another real alternative to Planet M. There is MusicWorld but they stopped re-stocking their western classical shelf a while ago. Then there is Habitat at Church Street, but the owner recently confessed to me about me being his only customer of western classical for past three months, and therefore in interests of profitable sustenance of his little shop, he would have to put an end to his experiment of stocking western classical.

Let me spend sometime explaining why I loathe Planet M. Firstly, before you enter the store, you are told to hand off your bags outside. If you are carrying laptop in your bag, you would be allowed to carry it in, but soon the very next guard at door would prod you with incriminating glances. I find this plain rude and very insulting. I usually dart to the “Suite” dedicated to Jazz and Classical music (both Indian and Western variants) in the corner, feigning deafness to the loud tripe that the DJ usually belts out. Once there, my frantic search for what I am looking for begins. While they have now been getting lot of western classical of late, they don’t seem to be spending any time organizing it. I wonder if they just walk at night, climb up the shelf, and empty a large sack full of CDs over it, I don’t see how else someone would manage such a perfectly random assortment. I will gladly overlook this small blunder (maybe telling a music store to arrange their collection alphabetically is too much to ask for) if the clerks there had some clue (and courtesy) about what they were stocking… Here is an account of my recent experience:

“Would you have a CD of any of the Mozart’s 6 Haydn String Quartets?”, I enquired politely
No response…
“Would you…”
“Just a second sir” told the clerk stopping me in my tracks, staring busily into the computer screen
“Could you write it down for me”, said the clerk in a low, concerned voice
“Sure, here you go”, I wrote down what I wanted in clear legible handwriting – “Mozart String Quartets No. 16, 17, 18, 19” (making sure that I had used block letters)
“Sorry sir we don’t have it”, said the clerk in a hushed tone
“Uhm, are you sure? I mean did you spell it right? Could I take a look at your screen?”, I was running thin on patience
“Just a second, what did you want again? Oh yes we have Mozart’s String Quintet”, he paused, looking up at my face, beaming
“Quintet? but I wanted Quartet”, I said trying to stay as calm as possible…
“Oh Quartet”, the clerk bends his neck down. Clatter Clatter Clatter. He tries his search again
“No sir, no qua..rt..ets”

And so, another one of those futile attempts at getting some help ended inconclusively, but then why did I even bother! Even if they had what I was looking for, they’d be the last to know!

All these tiring experiences made the thought of another store where I could go shopping for music very pleasant. In the meanwhile a colleague managed to find out that this mystery “World’s Largest Music Store”, was none other than Virgin music! Although he was still not sure about when the store was due to open, yet my heart leapt at this very mention, the Virgin store in New Orleans was 3 storey high (though they were only marginally better off in helping me locate what I wanted) and was crammed with CDs! Eventually, the adverts in the paper gave the opening day – 31st Jan. I got up somewhat early on the designated day, took a hurried bath and started walking to Brigade road. On my way I met Roshan at St. Marks Road Barista and together we headed towards Brigade Road with great anticipation. It was 11:00 AM already, yet when we reached the store, the shutter of the store was half down; they hadn’t opened for general public yet. We peered inside but couldn’t even spot enough shelves, leave aside CDs, in fact it was a small two storey shop, surely it couldn’t be the world’s largest music store as far as the floor area was concerned. A dark man in grey shirt stood grinning outside the store, Rosh and I exchanged curious glances and finally Rosh asked him when they would open. 4:00 PM came the reply. We told him that there were no CDs that we saw, given their claims of being “World’s Largest Music Store”, would they manage everything in time? “Yup 4:00 PM” came the terse but very certain sounding reply. We shrugged our shoulders and went back to Barista to kill a few hours over coffee and books.

At 3:00, another friend of Rosh joined us and around 5:30 we headed back to the store. The store had opened and there was a decent crowd inside. I gingerly got in and clambered the stairs to first floor. There were listening posts but not a single CD! An employee of the store approached me, and curtly told me put on the headphones hanging down at one of listening posts. And then came the moment of ultimate realization, this was a store selling satellite radios. The “World’s Largest Music Store” was nothing but a devious marketing ploy to lure unsuspecting people. I was aghast at the misleading ad campaign! I was not in a music store but in a R A D I O shop…since when did the humble radio, despite playing music for 24 hours across hundreds of channel become analogous to my personal collection of CDs? Any guesses about my chances of ever buying a satellite radio from this shop?

posted: 1.2.04 | permalink | 0 comments

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