Culture Czar

Where I talk about cricket, and the books I love, and cricket, and music, and cricket, and movies, and cabbages, maybe, and kings...

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jamshedpur Diary....

I am currently on a two-week " break" in the heart of the Tata empire, Jamshedpur. I'm on a "break" instead of a Break, because I keep getting interrupted by phone calls from work, and by my (self-inposed) relentless checking of mail. Ah, well- that's why they made broadband.

For those wondering why I am in erstwhile Bihar (it's now Jharkhand- land of the Dhoni), this city is where The Wife was born and brought up. My father-in-law spent some 30 years or so with Tata Steel, the company that dominates life in Jamshedpur. But, more on that later.

Jamshedpur is a wonderfully laid-back change from fast-and-furious Bangalore. One wakes up to the cheerful twittering of birds, stretches out lazily, gets out of bed, greets one's in-laws, takes the proferred tea-with-Marie biscuits, goes to the balcony, gets some sun, speaks for a while with one's father-in-law, takes the paper, does two crosswords and one sudoku, finishes off one's ablutions, has a wonderful breakfast comprising buttered-toast-with-ham-or-sausages, and then starts checking mails.

One then breaks for lunch, goes back to the mails, mails, mails....

I've also been driving a lot around Jamshedpur- things like going with Anjali and my father-in-law for vegetables and shopping, and going to XLRI every now and then to meet Anjali's aunt. The roads are nice, wide, and above all, clean. Driving is just as chaotic as everywhere else, but there are not many vehicles on the road, so its a very relaxing activity. There is also a fantastic place which makes some divine mixture- it's called Fakira Chanachur, and is best had with chopped onions and some lime juice sprinkled on top .

This morning, we had gone to the local hub of all activities, Bistupur Market. I ended up weaving a huge car through some narrow by-lanes of the Fruit Market, thanks to Anjali and her " Oh, I'm sure we can take a short cut here" :-). It was thrilling stuff- here a wayward scooterist, there an orange, everywhere a cyclist, and all the while, Lahar struggles to keep car on road and away from anything else. After a while, there was enough place for car AND cycle in the same stretch of road, so I managed to heave a sigh of relief. As my father-in-law remarked in awe, he had never thought it was possible in the 35 years he had been in Jamshedpur!!

I've been catching up on some reading- I'd brought along Orham Pamuk's My Name is Red, but I'd abandoned that for my usual Alistair MacLeans. I'm right now reading a rather nice Dashiell Hammet- The Continental Op, a bunch of short stories. I've also managed to watch some cricket, and have been having lots of short, lovely naps.

I'm also being thoroughly pampered- I've been living on Thums Ups and Sprites and Bacardis and chips and this fantastic preparation called Madarasi mixture, which has tasted better than anything I've had in 27 years of living in the South. Anjali has been threatening me with martial law and strict diets and all that once we are back in Bangalore, but for now her parents are pampering me royally.

One observation that is rather easy to make is how integral Tata Steel is to everyday life in this part of the country. Everyone one meets either works there, or used to work there, or has close family who works there. The train from Calcutta is called the "Steel City Express", the railway station is called Tatanagar, the toniest club in town specifically says "Membership for employees of Tata Steel and for permanent residents of Jamshedpur", and so on. It's impossible to overhear a conversation between two people without Tata Steel coming in at some point. It's easy to see why they command such respect- they built this city from next to nothing, and they used to take care of its maintenance for years- until they set up a private company to run the place!! It's called the Jamshedpur Utilities Company, or JUSCO, and must be the only private company in India that is in charge of running a city!!! If you want to see a model of corporate social responsibility, look no further than JUSCO...

We head back for Bangalore in 3 days, back to the grind- this has been a wonderful couple of weeks, and I cant wait till I'm back here again. Small warning, though- if you're ever lucky enough to come here for some time, make sure you bring along your own books!!!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


One sign of growing up is that I no longer have qualms about listening to allegedly girlie music like Air Supply any more. I currently have a playlist that comprises Goodbye and Makin' Love Out of Nothin' At All, (both by the Messrs Supply), So Young by the Corrs, and Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship. Nice, wonderful background music while one tries to sift through, and somehow magically reduce, one's emails.

Oh, and I have Informer by Snow for nostalgic cheap thrills. And some Shaggy, and even Lick it by 20 Fingers. My credentials as ex-rock journalist and wearer of heavy metal T-Shirts are taking a beating.