The fateful day is here. After almost 13 years in this city, the time has come to say goodbye and move on.
I got married while living here, we had our kid here, bought our own apartment here; till a few months ago, I thought I would live here forever. However, the deteriorating air quality year-on-year and the complete apathy of the government decided otherwise.
For years, I watched the air quality go worse, for years I saw people turn a blind eye to it and eventually it became clear that this problem won’t be solved in the near future (or maybe ever).
I will miss
Spending my weekend at Ambience mall, perhaps my favourite place in the city. I still remember the first time I went there to buy formal shoes for my first job here (the job didn’t involve formal wear).
Having breakfast at McDonalds while soaking the winter sun at MGF metropolitan mall.
The (few) friends I had here and drinking beer with them at one of the many craft breweries.
The wide highways, flyovers and underpasses and sparse traffic.
The ease of getting things done and solving problems by throwing money at them. Apps and online services for literally everything.
Extremely fast same-day and next-day Amazon delivery.
I will not miss
The horrid air quality between November and January every year and the grey/brown skies.
The constant and relentless pitch of hindutva in every aspect of your life.
Kids as young as 12 driving cars with impunity.
People who cut in queue (in person or in their cars).
I have a long relationship with beer and our relationship has evolved over all these years.
I clearly remember my first beer (or any alcoholic beverage for that matter) which was at Orchid Lake resort next to the pristine Umiam Lake in Meghalaya. I was around 12 years old at that time & was going to Shillong with my uncle and his friend for the day from Guwahati & had stopped at that resort for lunch. My uncle and his friend ordered beer for themselves and offered me some. My first reaction was that it was bitter. I obviously kept that information to myself & commented that it was very tasty so as to not embarrass myself as less of a “man” in the presence of 2 adults.
I had beer a few more times with that uncle over the next few years but didn’t enjoy any of it.
When I went off to college at Nagpur, I was suddenly exposed to a whole plethora of alcoholic beverages. Beer was reserved for those hot summer days when we didn’t have electricity or had an exam the following day & didn’t want to get too drunk.
I remember one evening when Sood Sahib was feeling a bit low. I suggested that we drink some beer & his spirits lifted immediately. We bought beers from a store and some policemen tried stopping us on the way, but we somehow escaped, got soaked in the rain, reached home, dried up and enjoyed our beers.
I also remembering going to Urvashi with Neeraj after our gym sessions to drink beer with Tandoori chicken to aid our workout recovery. Beer also accompanied our jam sessions on numerous occasions.
My first major incident with beer was when I bought what I thought was “Haywards 5000” from a seedy store in Nagpur, went home and drank it alone. My roommate came home from college later to find me passed out with my head shaved. Later, when I regained consciousness, he also reported some strange behaviour from me but I would refrain from going too deep into those details. Later everything explained itself when we saw that the beer I had was actually a “Haryana 5000”.
When I moved to Gurgaon, I was exposed to a new world of freshly brewed beer also known as “artisanal beer” or “craft beer”. We used to go to Rockman’s Beer Island at Ambience Mall very frequently to drink fresh brewed beer poured out for us from taps.
We used to order barrels of this stuff and get hopelessly drunk. I remember one incident when we went to Beer Island with Soniel’s German colleagues, everyone got sloshed on beer and they ran away without paying for anything and we were stuck with the bill.
Another incident with beer I remember is when I had something called “Beer Buster” at an office party. It was beer mixed with Tabasco sauce and I had litres of it. When I came back home, I couldn’t sleep because the Tabasco was burning in my chest and stomach all night.
One of my best beer experiences was during my Beer trip to Bengaluru. We went to a place called Biergarten which was a huge open air pub surrounded by beautiful palm trees. The weather and the colour of the sky were unlike anything in Gurgaon. Even the washrooms had a killer view.
Not until the lockdown, when I was forced to stay without any beer for months did I learn the true value of beer (among other things). When the lockdown did open and I rushed to the nearest beer shop to buy some, I decided that I would start treating beer with more respect from then on. Yes, I would savour my beer more and learn to enjoy it.
I started drinking beer slowly, appreciating the textures and flavours and enjoying the taste rather than aiming to get hopelessly drunk.
When I drink alone at home, I never drink more than 1 or 2 cans at a time and I make sure I enjoy every sip. When drinking out with friends (rare), all these rules go out of the window, though.
3 cheers to beer and here’s to many more years of friendship.
And I hate the fact that there’s no true sequel. No, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t count, because the type of games that were available on a PSP and the types of games available on a switch have no comparison.
I bought the PSP in 2008 as a gift for my 23rd birthday from Palika Bazaar, during a trip to Delhi. It was the second gaming device that I owned, after the Nintendo Gameboy Advance. It was the PSP-3000 with homebrew OS, capable of running pirated games from ISO files stored on the Memory Stick Pro II Duo. It could output the display to a TV at 720p, too.
Unlike the Gameboy Advance (& currently the Switch), the PSP had serious games, directly ported from the PS2 and PS3 versions. It could play multiple versions of Need for Speed, there were a few flight simulator games and it also had most Grand Theft Auto games.
I remember playing PS exclusives like Patapon & Flow. I also remember returning home from my night shift job at Aricent and playing Resistance: Retribution for 30 minutes everyday, before going to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. My friend KK used it to play God of War on my PSP at work.
Eventually my wife lost it.
The games on the Switch (which is portrayed as the successor to the PSP) belong to a different category. Insanely fun to play, but not serious console games like PSP. Especially, without a single GTA title, I refuse to accept the Switch as a PSP successor and buy it.
I think the demise of PSP type of devices stems from the shift of portable gaming towards cellphones. Why invest in a portable gaming console when you have a powerful processor and chipset right in your phone? Somehow, I can’t bring myself to gaming on my phone.
I hope Sony one day releases a successor to the PSP, or at least a cloud gaming service which has Sony exclusive titles.
For the first 17 years of my life, I lived with my parents. When I went off to college, for the first time to a different city (Nagpur), things changed a bit. I started living with some seniors at a rented apartment. I was living without parents, but I was still living at someone else’s home. When these seniors passed out, I lived for a few months at the college hostel, which was, again, a different experience.
When the toilets at the hostel turned into shit-geysers, I knew I had to leave. I started looking for a new place to stay at and a roommate to stay with. The excitement was palpable; this was the first time in my life I would stay at a place of my own choosing with people I chose to stay with.
Eventually, I found a roommate in the form of a creature known as Whoreko and a nice, independent place to stay at Verma Layout.
The time spent in this new place were one of the most blissful years of my life. We had our own place, we could come and go as we pleased, we setup our stuff the way we wanted and we both had our own rooms. In short, we had our own place and we were masters of this little area. We even had our own terrace, where we perched in the evenings and threw water on Halud when he came to visit us.
We both had a computer of our own and we connected them using a LAN cable for multiplayer gaming and file sharing. We listened to our own choice of music (Which, thankfully, matched) in the mornings when getting ready for college and in the evenings, well into the night.
Once, we even setup a fireplace in our kitchen sink by burning old clothes, books etc. Flames were leaking out of the kitchen ventilator and the neighbours gathered around to watch. Everyone dispersed when we threw a pressurised deodorant can into the fire and it exploded, rattling doors and windows nearby.
I couldn’t sleep last night and my mind kept drifting between various improbable things that have happened in my life over the years.
Things that shouldn’t have happened (because, probability), but did. Some examples of these improbable things are:
Once, when I was very young, I hadn’t completed my homework. While going to sleep, I kept wishing for fever or some other illness to befall me, so that I don’t have to go to school the next day. Sure enough, next day, I had fever in the morning and didn’t have to go to school, possibly avoiding a solid beating.
The time I was returning home (in Nagpur) while drunk, riding my bike. I couldn’t spot the high tension electricity cable hanging in the middle of the road and my bike (along with me) was lifted 10 feet into the air. I fell on the road and my bike fell on top of me, all while electric sparks were shooting from the pole, the cable and my bike. That scene immediately sobered up my friends and me and we are all still in awe how I survived that incident.
The time when I passed my engineering final exams because of a fluke. I have already blogged about it once, so won’t add details here.
The time when I was hired at Aricent (now Altran). I lived at Kolkata with my parents. Aricent was holding a hiring drive in Kolkata and I went there just because I had nothing else to do. Somehow, I was selected in the interview and hired a few weeks later. The fact that
Aricent staff came to Kolkata for the hiring drive (Never happened before, never happened again)
I turned up and was selected
Got the right job (at that point of my career)
At the right location (I was already aspiring to move to Gurgaon) still boggles my mind.
When I stayed at Kolkata, I used to watch a TV show called “Indian Rendezvous”. There was a part in the episode about Delhi which shows a balloon competition with a balloon sponsored by BT and I dreamed of moving to Delhi one day and working for BT. Years later, this would come true.
How I was lucky enough to have the perfect child exactly like the one I wanted (I might be biased for this one).
I had a friend “J” in college who introduced me to the song “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens. We used to listen to this song at his room very often. Years later, I was listening to this song on my own, when “J” called me and told me his father has died earlier that day.
Makes you wonder how probability isn’t always perfect and such things slip through its laws from time to time.
Recently, I had a dream about Sitabuldi. For those who are not fortunate enough to have ever lived in Nagpur, Sitabuldi, also called Buldi (But pronounced “Birdie”) is a densely populated commercial neighbourhood of Nagpur.
The area is divided into “Modis”, which means “Lane” (loosely translated to English). I have a lot of memories of this place during my (extensive) stay at Nagpur. Some of the highlights are
The second hand mobile phone market, where I was a regular, both to sell and buy cellphones.
Hotel President, in Modi No. 3, where my parents often stayed, when they came to visit me in Nagpur.
Pape Juice Corner, which squeezed the freshest and best fruit & vegetable juices and was open till the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, the last 2 times I visited Nagpur, I found it closed.
Haldiram’s Thaat Baat restaurant, where we ate sometimes, when we had some money, but only enough to be able to afford vegetarian food.
Some rooftop bar, whose name I cannot remember.
Janki Talkies, a small cosy theatre, where we went only once to watch some movie at night. Our group was the only group to buy tickets that night, so the theatre operator had to begrudgingly turn on the projector & start the movie just for us.
Sitabuldi Fort, which we passed many times, but never bothered to go inside, because engineering students don’t go see forts.
Shukrawari lake, also called Gandhisagar lake, which we passed many times, but never bothered to go inside, because single engineering students don’t go boating on lakes.
The street vendors whom we visited to buy cheap garments from.
Some dhaba where we once ate cheap food and the utensils were coated with sand.
The place has recently changed somewhat, with a futuristic looking metro station now constructed as part of Nagpur Metro. I did make plans for a Nostalgic trip to Nagpur this year, but the Covid situation made it impossible.
Today is a sad day. Even though my bike was stolen almost 4 and half months ago, the reality hit my hard today. Maybe I hoped all along that my bike would be found and returned to me (even though the Police had made it clear that they don’t do any sort of investigations). The insurance company today gave me a cheque which is supposed to compensate me for losing my bike.
I booked my bike in December 2003 at Paragon Traders, the only Royal Enfield dealers in Nagpur at that time. My parents promised to buy it for me if I did well in my 3rd semester exams (everyone knows how that turned out). After a short waiting time, I was promised delivery in January 2004. I was at home in Chandigarh at that time and couldn’t wait to get back to Nagpur to get my hands on my new bike.
Finally, with a demand draft in hand, I was on a train back to Nagpur. I remember I couldn’t sleep the entire night because of anticipation. The train was supposed to reach at around 5.30 in the evening next day but I had taken my luggage and was standing near the train door since 4.30. Luckily, the train reached on time and I rushed home to drop my things and head to the dealership.
When I saw my bike, MH-31-XX-NN for the first time and was handed over the keys, I could hardly believe what was happening. It all seemed like a dream to me. The feeling I had when I rode the bike home was one of sheer pride. Everyone at the traffic lights would stare at us and some would ask the mileage or the price. In college, from far, I could see people gathered around my bikeShortly afterwards, my parents moved to Kolkata where I also moved with my bike for a year. Even though riding the bike was not as much fun as it was in Nagpur, we had a good time there.
The last 2 years of my engineering days in Nagpur were the best. All of us friends used to go on long rides to Boar Dam, Ramtek and many random places like Katol as well. The bike always performed efortlessly and reliability was flawless. I remember consistent full throttle runs which would take the bike above 120; even at those speeds it would feel smooth.
During this time, I started to fiddle with my bike and learnt basic things like opening the clutch compartment, tuning the carb pitot jet etc. I experimented with various silencers (The Electra Glass Wool one and the Standard Short bottle one). We even used to roam around town with no silencer at all, scaring nearby people.
After that, graduation was over and I moved with my bike to Kolkata. My bike didn’t fare as well in Kolkata though. The piston siezed once because the oil pump was jammed and I had to get extensive engine work done. I still remember making multiple trips to the Enfield dealer in Wellington (twice with my mom as well) to get spares.
After a year in Kolkata, I moved to Gurgaon in a bid to improve my career and financial condition. Somehow I lost my bike’s registration certificate due to which I could not take it along with me. I remember making a single day trip to Nagpur by air to get the necessary work done at Nagpur RTO. Finally, after a month I got a new RC and was able to get my bike shipped to Gurgaon.
I remember once that I had not ridden my bike for more than a month during the monsoons. Older Enfields were prone to water leakage in the clutch compartment, which rusted my bike’s clutch plates and they welded together. The bike was completely immobile. I called the only 2 Royal Enfield Service Centers in Gurgaon but they refused to come to my place and fix the bike or tow it to their workshops. I woke up 4 hours earlier than I generally did those days, went to the dealership, got a brand new set of clutch plates and replaced them myself. It was a proud day. It was also in Gurgaon once that for the first time in 7 years, my bike refused to start at all (It turned out to be a bad connector on the battery).
As I did in Nagpur, I used to park my bike on the street in Gurgaon as well and never locked the handle. Someone exploited this security hole and stole my bike on New Year’s eve. My new year was ruined and I spent it at home.
Getting the necessary paperwork from Gurgaon Police was a major headache. Sometimes they made me feel as if it was my fault that my bike was stolen. They asked questions like “Who asked you to buy such an expensive bike?”. I also had to get some paers from Nagpur RTO, which was a pain. However, I commend ICICI Lombard insurance company for a no hassle claim process. They sent me the compensation cheque within a month of the police declaring the bike as “no-trace”.
I would have felt at ease if my bike was destroyed in an accident. What bothers me that someone else is riding my bike somewhere (I hardly allowed anyone to ride my bike). The only consolation is that I might never know.
Everything good must come to an end and so did my relationship with my bike. It was one of the things I was most fond of and it will always have a place very close to my heart.
Some old articles
Last weekend, I had a chance to travel to Nagpur. This time, it was not for some work I had pending, but just to visit the place where I did my engineering from and relive those good days.
I will not go on about each and every thing about the trip, instead I will just list the places I visited and say what has changed about them
Priyadarshini College of Engineering
There are now many different colleges in the same campus, mainly an MBA college, a polytechnic college, among others
Some teachers have left, though I saw most of them on Saturday morning. They seem to have prospered and most come on cars instead of lunas/Puchs.
Students are now from a slightly better class of society, some of them own cars.
The number of buildings has gone up, though it doesn’t feel that cramped
The row of tin-shedded buildings housing the small auditorium opposite the Administrative block has been demolished
The nescafe shop next to the library has been demolished
The row of road-side tea-stalls opposite the college gate has been replaced by a Cafe Coffee Day
The IT block has lost its new feeling (when it was constructed) and looks shabbier now
Most of the shops are same, no major changes. Bula’s still stands
There’s a new Haldiram building coming up
Pyramid has been replaced by Brand Factory, though the inside of the store looks the same as before
The custard/shake stall at the first left turn was not there both the days I went there
Raskun(j) has closed down
Yummy yum has been closed down/replaced by a newer restaurant
Some good brands have opened up shop
Corn Hub now has 2 outlets (In DP)
The In & Out shop at Shanky PP now sells branded apparel.
The VCA stadium now has a Subway outlet
The CCD is mostly the same
Both Liberty/Smruti theaters are the same (at least from outside)
Tauby’s is still doing good business
Restaurant Nanking is still there
Poonam Chambers was mostly deserted, even on Saturday evening
The video game parlour in the basement of Poonam chambers is much smaller and completely deserted; the games suck and have no place in 2012
The PC cafe coffee day is still there, though there’re much less people
Burdi is as (if not more) crowded than before
There’s a new mall in Burdi, but does not compare to metropolitan city malls; mostly consists of Big Bazaar and the crowd is terrible
Landmark (with Westside and Big bazaar) still exists.
The jewellery store which opened up in place of Barista was closed
Pape Juice corner was closed both the days I went there.
There was a new Haldiram joint opening up
Paragon Traders still exists
10 Downing street still exists; though the Pasta I ordered was very-very spicy; leading me to suspect that it was Saoji pasta.
Telangkhedi lake seems deserted
The row of chinese/street food stalls opposite the lake have been replaced by swanky (by Nagpur standards) cafes
The lake is definitely dirtier, with filth floating around
The house where I used to stay has gone from a single floor shabby structure to a 3 floor swanky (again, by Nagpur standards) house
The Hot chips next to PP’s garage pub has been closed
PP’s garage pub still exists
Maitrayi CCD still exists, is doing good business
There are a lot more Hot Chips counters around the city
The city is still more 2-wheeler friendly than 4-wheelers
Fuel rates have gone up significantly, auto-wallahs charge too much
The Airport, which underwent a spurt of development/expansion after I left is now stagnant, not much more has been done. There were birds flying around inside the airport
The restaurants/pubs are still much cheaper than the ones in metropolitan cities
Some women still wear a weird robe over their clothes to protect themselves from the Sun.
The Sardarji opposite T-Point hostel is still serving meals to students. Gary (his son) seems to have grown a regular beard and wears a turban now.
The movie theaters still show English movies dubbed into Hindi. The wrath of the titans was Mahayudhh – 2
Finally, the heat was unbearable, even in March. The temperature crosses 40 degrees by noon and stays that way till 6PM. The sun is very very hot and I got blisters on my hand riding a bike around in the heat; as well as a headache which lasted till the next day.
While leaving, I asked myself this question “Would I be able to live in Nagpur if I got a job offer here?”; after all, I would be able to afford a much higher standard of living even with the same Salary.
Well the answer is “NO”. Nagpur as a city is nothing spectacular. What made it worth living was the presence of wonderful friends an the student lifestyle we used to lead.
Without them, it is not as much fun.
Full photo set:
I have always been an avid video game player. Like everyone else, I started off with 8-bit games, got a PC and then subsequently upgraded the hardware as games evolved over the years. Somehow, I never got around to buying a console. For me, nothing can beat the keyboard/mouse combination.
Following is a list of games that have impressed me a lot over the years. I will not do full reviews (I’ll include links for those), but briefly state why I found them so appealing. I have included the Plot summaries from wikipedia System Shock 2 (1999)
I have always been fascinated with Sci-fi, FPS & space. System Shock 2 combines all this with the horror genre and the result is a very addictive and mesmerizing game.
I got this game from Sector 17, Chandigarh, unfortunately, just before Diwali. I was so engrossed in the game that I spent most of Diwali playing it and ignored everything else.
The reason I liked this game so much was because it conveys a feeling of loneliness. You are the only human (almost) in a city-sized spacecraft light-years away from home. Everything is deserted and the enemies appear suddenly, scaring you.
Also fascinating for science fiction lovers is how the overall structure of the Von-Braun and the Rickenbacker are slowly revealed and you discover how the spacecrafts are built to sustain an entire ecosystem. You feel sad, lonely and scared most of the time.
It’s a pity that there was no sequel to this fantastic game (even though the finale is open-ended). However, irrational games did release Bioshock, which is called the “spiritual successor” of System Shock. Tomb Raider Series (1996 onwards)
Many would consider the Tomb Raider series as girly. Some others (who have only watched the movies) might have a different perception of the character. However, I found the games very fascinating due to the following reasons
Most of the time, you are alone in a deserted location. This conveys a feeling of loneliness & mystery.
Rogue trip is a vehicular combat game and one of the few games I’ve played extensively on my friend’s Playstation (PS One). Even though I played it in Black & White (He has a PAL system but NTSC discs), the game was very enjoyable.
The main aim is to take aliens on a sight-seeing trip in various locales in the US. There are other cars who want to do the same, so there’s stiff competition as they try to kill you and vice-versa.
The cars are fun and you have a bevy of weapons including ballistic missiles. I have very fond memories of playing this game. The soundtrack is especially good including the Rascal King by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Here’s the song
[youtube Max Payne (2001/2003)
This is the game that changed it all. It put my graphics card, my processor and my overall computer to shame. I had to invest money into buying new hardware for my computer, especially to play this game. With an almost brand new system and a lighter pocket, this game was a pure pleasure to play. Some things that stand out for this game
Unique storyboard based gameplay
Amazing haunting music
The innovative gameplay style featuring Bullet-time motion, with slow-motion stunts. You can see bullets slow down and travelling through the air, causing shock-waves while you dive for cover and fire back at the same time
The snowy landscape of New York is a joy to travel through
My first sojourn with a Grand Theft Auto game was when I played GTA II demo on a Chip CD. The gameplay, though 2D as still quite enjoyable.
GTA-III started the 3D era for the GTA series. GTA-III onwards, the gameplay features a sandboxed city, in which you can navigate to complete different missions. The main points are
You are given access to an open world. You can go anywhere in the city you like, steal an vehicle you can find (including a Tank)
An innovative “RADIO” system. You can switch between radio channels and listen to the obscure in-game radios.
You can sleep off your injuries
GTA-III had one of the best gameplays/graphics of that era and subsequent sequels improved upon it and maintained the high-standards.
The latest version, GTA-IV is widely regarded as one of the best games of all time. Again, I had to spend a lot to upgrade my computer to be able to run this game. If your computer is up for it, the graphics are pure bliss. No other game till now has managed to re-create such a beautiful city in its entirety
The best part about such games is that the game never gets over. You still have the whole city to explore and you can just roam around for hours killing people, fleeing from the police, stealing cars and bikes.
Yesterday was a good day. My dad called to tell me that the Registration card for my bike, which I assumed lost for years was back from the dead (from a pile of old stuff actually). I had long been dreading another trip to Nagpur, just to get a replacement registration card.
I remember the last time this happened. I spent 10k for air travel, a few thousand I paid to the RTO guy, had to wait for months to get a replacement and on top of which my Dad impounded my bike till I got it. So as you can imagine, it was a relief.
I had been roaming around with a constant apprehension that I would be stopped by the cops and without Registration, I would have to fork out a hefty bribe. Now, however, I will get my insurance renewed as well and be in the clear completely.
On this happy note, I left for office and while leaving back for home, was surprised to see that it had rained and rained well. The streets were wet, a cool breeze was blowing and there were the occasional drops of rain. I instantly traveled back in time, to college days, where bike was our only means of transportation, be it rain or sunshine. (I am being nostalgic a lot lately)
I rode slow, took my time to reach home and enjoyed every minute of the ride.
Well, after the seemingly unstoppable approach of summer, we were delighted by heavy rains and the temperature has gone down to a comfortable 15 again.
Looking for years of pleasurable biking to follow.