Of Gods and Thunderdogs

The fabric of reality is thin here. 

Really thin. 

So, for the past two days; I’ve been dropping Shiva, the Hindu god of Death and Rebirth into my ramblings and said that we were going to ‘fuck shit up’  together. 

I didn’t spot him when we went out for dinner last night, although I did see a very unusual street dog that seemed as if it wanted a chat, if I’d been alone, I might actually have had an attempt at conversation. I also saw the sad demise of a large number of beer bottles. 

The second item may possibly have had some bearing on the first. 

Or not. 

Today is yet another working day, so I made a point to wake up early and get some beach walking time in. 

It really is my favourite part of the day, the beach is changing fast and the early morning light on the sea is heart-stoppingly beautiful. 

There were more crabs and small creatures around than usual this morning and as I walked to the inlet where a local river meets the sea, I saw a large number of people and what looked like sunscreens. 

Which is exactly what they were. 

I’d stumbled onto a film shoot – I wasn’t sure what for, but there were three girls in colourful traditional costumes performing a very graceful dance for the cameras. 

  

I didn’t bother to hang around and went back to the hotel as fast as I could to get my phone so that I could take some photos. 

When I arrived back at the pool, I found a colleague had arrived there and suggested that he join me as there was  ‘something cool’ to look at down the beach. 

And so we wandered back to the inlet to watch the shoot. 

What came next was unexpected. 

The film crew and associated people there welcomed us in and suggested that we stand with a good view of the shoot. The parents of the two youngest dancers, who had been selected from a local school; told us proudly about how they had come to be in a video with a well known director. 

More about him later. 

We were asked to pose with various crew members for souvenir photos and generally treated like visiting royalty rather than two blokes who’d drifted in from the beach. 

For one staged photo, I was asked to pose as if I were punching a crew member, It’s already on his facebook page. 

Fuck knows who they thought we were. 

Then the day went even more surreal, if that’s at all possible. 

I’ll divert here for a moment.

The Bhavagad Gita is a 700 verse Hindu Scripture which has was the inspiration for Gandhi, amongst others, Nehru made the following comment.

‘The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.’

Interestingly, Rudyard Kipling’s “If”  has been described by Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh as “the essence of the message of The Gita in English”, I’ve always liked “If”, particularly the first verse. 

If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

It sums up the way I think we’d all like to feel about ourselves, it’s far too often misquoted or used by morons to make some spurious point, I suspect that Kipling would be amused. 

Anyway, back to today, the film shoot was for a promo of a new version of the Bhavagad Gita and the dance that the girls were doing is called Bharathanatyam. 

As they danced, the director took us to one side and.. 

We’re now in the film. 

We didn’t dance, nor did we disgrace ourselves. 

Possibly. 

What we did do was sit on the beach and hold a yoga pose for around 30 minutes while the director repeatedly called ‘roll film’ and ‘Action”. 

I checked  – they actually filmed us and weren’t just taking the piss. 

I also have the director’s mobile number and email address. He’s actually said thanks for taking part and that he’ll send me a finished copy. For anybody interested, look up https://www.behance.net/nobinkurian 

All in all, pretty fucking cool really. 

And surreal. 

I’m just going to copy the Wikipedia definition of Bharathanatyam here. 

‘Bharathanatyam (Tamilபரதநாட்டியம்) is a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu.[1][2][3][4][5] It was described in the treatise Natya Shastra by Bharata around the beginning of the common era. Bharata Natyam is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, expression and sculpturesque poses. Lord Shiva is considered the God of this dance form. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.’

Lord 

Fucking

Shiva

I’m grinning my head off as I write this, I’m going to look for him properly tonight. 

And fuck some shit up. 

  

Return of the Sea Dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote these words.

‘At no point did a big wave pick me up, hurl me seventy yards down the beach, pull my shorts to my knees and dump me underwater. That didn’t happen, because nobody saw it. Probably’

Today I woke up early, went to the gym, then had a light breakfast of eggs and pineapple juice and lazed by the pool for a while, where I met this cute little chap, who graciously posed for me for a while. 

 

After the photo shoot, I walked to the beach for my normal walk to see how much it’s changed again . 

And spotted two of my colleagues in the sea. 

Deciding that a diversion would be nice, I walked in for a chat and WOW!. 

The sea today is FANTASTIC, huge waves that appear out of nowhere, strange clashes of water that spay high into the air. 

And a surf that picks you up, dumps you thirty yards down the beach and leaves you underwater with your shorts pulled down. 

This time with witnesses. They had the same problem though and I was too busy laughing to care. 

It was wonderful, just the sun and the surf, with occasional outbursts of laughter. 

Oh  – and the odd, wonderful glimpse of fish leaping three feet out of the water. 

After a while, I continued my walk and watched some fairly large crabs scuttle along the sand and then plunge into the surf, it’s graceful and strangely beautiful, they retract their legs and glide in, disappearing into the froth and bubbles. 

I’m now sitting on my terrace again, having seen  little groups of the little chipmunks chase each other around, making huge leaps through trees and bushes, nimble and graceful, I could watch them for hours. 

 

One of my guardian crows is sitting in a branch above me, having scared off a beautiful blue bird that may be an Indian Kingfisher. 

All in all a perfect day so far. 

We’re off to Temple Bay for dinner after work  – yesterday I wrote a piece about meeting Shiva and him saying that we’d get together and ‘fuck shit up’ tonight. 

I’m curious to find out what happens. 

Have a great day and try to find something that makes you smile. 

The endless day of the Cyber Gerbil

Somewhere in a parallel universe there is…

A huge keyboard stretching into the distance in front of a screen that fills the entire horizon. 

The keyboard is laid out with pathways and a worried looking gerbil runs down the paths to send instructions to the screen. 

The gerbil has a notepad full of gerbil scratchings that it wrote down yesterday and a process document to show it how to lay the paths and where to run. 

The gerbil runs.. 

I know this is true, because I brought this universe into being on Tuesday morning. 

The fabric of reality is thinner here than at home and my avatar has assumed the status of a minor god. 

Small Thundergod in fact. 

We walked along the beach together on Tuesday and were joined by Shiva, the Hindu god of death and creation. 

He’s a lot of fun and we’re going out for drinks and as he put it; to ‘fuck shit up’ on Friday. 

Shiva wasn’t too convinced at first, parallel universes need a bit of effort to create and he’s not that into rodents really. 

The dog is loving his new god-hood status, and tiring of the discussion decided to create some water spouts along the waterfront so that he could dance on his hind legs and snap and bark at the water; running around like a maniac and giving us both a huge doggie grin as we sat in the surf and watched him. 

The beach has changed a lot since I was here in January, back then it was an endless gentle slope that looked the same from almost any spot, only the features behind gave a clue as to where you were. 

  

The sea has been having fun with the sand since then and sand cliffs have appeared almost overnight – the rock below was buried under five feet of sand in January. 

 

I pointed this out to Shiva as the dog continued to chase the waterspouts, his new glowing eyes gleaming through the spray and we watched razor clams adjust themselves to the new landscape, burying themselves within seconds of being exposed by the waves. 

Finally; Shiva let out a sigh (and a small grin) and we made a small adjustment to the standing waveform that is our current reality (look it up). 

And my new universe was whole, Shiva gave me the address of a good bar in Temple Bay and said that I have to pay all night on Friday  – and both he and the dog were gone. 

The gerbil is still running along the keyboard and every twenty minutes or so, a huge ERROR sign appears and he has to start running again. 

This isn’t some mad torture for the gerbil, if he can get this task right, it will open the door to food and drink, a living for his little gerbil family and a roof over his head for the rest of his life. 

Everybody wants him to succeed, if the gerbil can do this simple task, we can all get on with other things and leave him to it. He can then train other gerbils and we will all reap the rewards of his hard work. 

If only he could learn and adapt. 

Watch.. 

A light appears above the keyboard and maps out the true path for a few minutes. The gerbil makes more scratches in his notebook. 

And runs. 

He runs for twenty minutes and makes a different wrong turn and the ERROR flashes again. 

And we reset. 

Again

And again. 

The gerbil lets out a huge gerbil sigh and sets off again as we all watch and wait, hoping against hope that THIS time it will be correct; that the door will open and that the light from the universe outside will flood in and dazzle us all. 

ERROR

ERROR

ERROR

ERROR

The gerbil runs

  

Finally, pity sets in, a light appears above the keyboard and the path lights up, the gerbil takes cautious steps along the new route and the door opens, but only for the sleeping hours, tomorrow the gerbil will have to try to make this work again. 

We all want him to succeed, he’s a sweet little chap and he seems sad, but both Shiva and the newly minted Small Thundergod had advised against it and I’m now reluctantly in agreement with them. 

He’s a gerbil, unlike the sand, sea and the razor clams, he can’t adapt to his world and learn new things quickly enough to survive. 

It’s too late to replace him now, the universe has been created and the die is cast. 

There’s only one thing left to do; I’m drafting in a spider monkey to smack him around the head every time he starts to fuck up. 

It won’t be pleasant, but the work will get done. 

  

*Have a safe journey back Thorben and Ludovic  –  we’re going to miss you here*

The Satyakam Show

*Run Start Credits

A speeded up car journey through baking hot streets, crowded with people, dogs, goats, cows and motorbikes hurtling down the wrong side of the road. Political slogans should flash at just above subliminal speed as we reach a purpose built IT park in central Chennai. As the credits run, a security guard will check the car  for bombs while his colleague accepts a pass showing a heavy set bald man from a slim blonde girl. As the car comes to a stop, we see a young Indian man sat over a disassembled and totally destroyed laptop, he grins and gives a thumbs up.*

WELCOME TO THE SATYAKAM SHOW

Exterior day – two men walk in bright daylight along a path, one of them is our hero, young and grinning, politically connected and with an exaggerated swagger to his walk. 

We never see the face of the other man, whether to protect his identity or to shield the audience from a gaze that after six weeks here would scare a Gorgon; we’ll never know. 

SATYAKAM “So, if you take all that into context and then overlay page 16 of the contract that shows that any ad-hoc change might be a service request or a costed change, then you’ll see why I decided to take the action that I did. I believe that this will save us money and give us the proper framework for this type of thing as we go on.”

THUNDERDOG “But what”

SATYAKAM “Please let me finish, furthermore I think that if we show others the way that I have reverted this issue and shown the client a better way of doing the needful, I think that we will build team morale and gain client confidence”

THUNDERDOG “Yes, but.”

SATYAKAM “Sorry, but I must say this, around six months ago, in a team meeting I believe that the whole team discussed just this approach and I sent an email to the head of offshore services in India as a follow up and it wasn’t rejected by anybody as an approach. Which should have happened if anybody disgreed with MY idea.”

THUNDERDOG “B..”

SATYAKAM “And again I reverted this type of issue to onshore and wrote a poilicy document framework that has the first two pages completed, I just need the team leaders to add the details for the next sixty pages and I can then issue MY document. But there seems to be some sort of issue with them doing this and so I have had to escalate to the managing director offshore to get these guys to do their jobs properly. I also raised this issue if you remember when we visited Berlin and I had to come up with a working practice for collaborative working.”

THUNDERDOG “Were you in Berlin then? I don’t remember you and I was there the whole time.”

SATYAKAM “Yes, Yes I  was there, but I had conference calls every day.”

THUNDERDOG “Getting back to the point, the client had a reasonable request that has now taken three days with no action.”

People walk past as the two men walk around sculpted grounds and past switched off fountains. Kingfishers can be seen on a lake around 50 metres away. 

SATYAKAM “But that is what I was explaining, I have reviewed the request and filled in a form to get more resources in for the team so that we can accomodate this request. I have personally vetted six candidates and have narrowed the choice down to two people, one is more experienced and costs more but I believe that he can do the needful on this request. I have set a meeting in your schedule for next Wednesday and he would be able to start the day itself.”

Satyakam smiles broadly and performs an expansive hand movement

THUNDERDOG “So, to be clear, that’s eight days from the initial request.”

SATYAKAM “Yes, that is the quickest time possible, wait, I must answer my phone.”

Satyakam holds his phone to his ear and mumbles incoherently in Tamil for a few minutes while casting furtive looks at Thunderdog . 

SATYAKAM “that was resourcing, it is bad news my preferred candidate has received a job offer and we must increase our bid if we wish to employ him, I believe that we should do this with immediate action lest we lose him. Will you approve the extra funds?”

Thunderdog cocks his head, looks at Satykam for a long thirty seconds and walks away. 

SATYAKAM – running to catch up “What is your judgement ? We need to act quickly on this.”

THUNDERDOG – doesn’t move, the shoulders and arms on his suit jacket bunch up and he lets out a long sigh. 

“The client flew home this morning, all he wanted was a cup of tea”

*end credits roll*

THere is no Satyakam, any tea making is fictional. 

Random Dogging

It’s been quite a week since I landed back in Chennai on Sunday, so much has happened that it would be quite boring to even list it all out, but  can sum it up in three words. 

Hospitalisations and Crises. 

I’ve had a lot to think about and I could probably easily write a long piece on the nature of mortality, our place in a huge dazzling universe and the legacy that we’ll leave behind. 

Fuck that though, I’m immortal.*

But if I do go, I want to go out like my Granddad. 

Peacefully in his sleep, untroubled by his last moments, slipping into blissful rest aided by a few beers and some shots of decent scotch. 

I certainly don’t want to go out like his passengers, screaming in terror as they crossed the reservation into the oncoming traffic. **

THIS is the view in front of me as I type, my campaign against my Guns N Roses T-Shirt has continued unabated and it went for a swim in the pool this morning and is drying on the table in front of me. 

It’s holding up pretty well really, which sort of sums up the week and how things are. 



There’s a lot more laughter on the TotallyFuckedProjectOfAbjectDoom (TM) these days, we’ve all worked out that the only way to get through this and maybe get our lives back is real team work, which for a lot of us extends to the late cab journey back to grab dinner before the restaurant closes. 

I had a lovely meal of four quadruple vodka and tonics last night and I believe that there may have been some food served at some point too, best of all I stitched my German counterpart up with the bill for a table of twelve people. 

It’s still hard to imagine that this place was a fort all those years ago and it staggers me to think about the months-long boat journeys, backbreaking work and frankly ludicrously hot uniforms that those soldiers had to cope with. 

If they were lucky, they would have had somebody in their troop who would read and write, so they could send letters to their families and have the replies read to them many months later. 

I’m sitting here typing this on an iPad, listening to music on a bluetooth speaker and will be transmitting the whole thing via a wireless network to some strange thing called the Interweb or something. 

I’ll be calling home via Skype or FaceTime or old fashioned cellular technology and I’ll get real-time updates on the world back home. 

We live in a world of everyday miracles and are truly blessed to be alive and able to enjoy the world around us. 

It’s turtle hatching season here and the staff in the beach hut have played mum a few times to some batches of baby turtles whose parent didn’t get back to see her eggs hatch. 






They took this batch to the sea a few hours after I took this photo and released them straight into the water, giving them all an equal chance to live and maybe one day return back to this beach. 

It’s a nice gesture and it sort of sums up the attitude of most people here, I’ve grown to like them a lot. They work hard and I see small everyday kindnesses so often that it will be strange to go back to the harder, colder world of London and commuting. 

My friends the crows are watching me type and perform the odd fly past to remind me that they’re still here. – They’re actually hoping I’ll leave my sunglasses on the table, they love the shiny stuff. 

I’m in a good place inside my head and I hope that you are too. 

Have a great Friday and enjoy the weekend.. 

*So far anyway

** a Bob Monkhouse classic

Lassie  – Erm .. Thunderdog Come Home

And so, we move back round full circle. 

I’m back in my cottage in the hotel in Chennai, having just spent a long day trying to get the various factions of our dysfunctional little project to play nicely and maybe NOT send emails that they think nobody will see (duh).

And yet, I’m actually quite happy – a few things happened in a very short period of time that in themselves don’t mean anything, but actually added up to me genuinely crying with laughter earlier today. 

These things were:

  • An old friend and colleague
  • New friends and colleagues 
  • The Devil (more later)

The last time that I wrote, I was off to Delhi, more accurately, Greater Noida – a huge building site that is on a scale hard to imagne in the UK. Miles and miles of new office parks, satellite towns and roadworks – maybe 200 square miles plus. 

The hotel was.. OK. adequate.. Excellent staff but. 

Oh dear GOD, the location. 



I tweeted that it was the next location for The Walking Dead and I’m standing by that, it was genuinely awful outside and I could never quite be bored enough to go for a walk. 

Anyway, so far, so meh. 

The local office was amazingly welcoming and made sure that my two day agenda was compressed into one so that I could sightsee and shop a bit, they also gave me a guide from the team who I now owe lunch as he paid on my one breakaway from the table.. 

So we saw the parliament, “Old Delhi” and this man who strangely didn’t seem to want any money… 



On Saturday, I went to Agra, so that’s the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. 

And the self trolling started again. 

I woke up at 6 for an early start and after five trips to the toilet felt safe enough to get in a car for two hours. 

I dozed for the time that I wasn’t doubled over with cramp on the joureny down and my excellent and very professional driver got us there before 830 AM to beat the rush. 

Somehow;  we also picked up a “complimentary’ guide who would take me round the sites. 

The most pressing thing for me though, was:

  • Is there a toilet and will I need it?

And…


We’ll divert from my gastric problems here for a second. 

The official site of the Taj Mahal estimates between 2-4 MILLION visitors per year – Indians pay @£5 each, Foreigners pay @£7.50 each. 

So at a conservative estimate, £10m in revenue per year. 

Amazing huh?

All for a glorified headstone. 

Anyway, I paid my £7.50 and was then allowed to visit the bathroom. 

But… 

I had to pay for a few sheets of toilet roll.. 

Let’s gloss over the dank, filthy horror that I then entered and thank all the dark gods for the fact that my system was empty, because, let’s remember those maths. 

At least £10m in revenue PA, with volunteers undertaking specialist work for repairs.

Ten. Million. Pounds. 

One Billion Rupees. 

Per Year. 

One Billion Rupees. 

ONE BILLION. 

You’d think they could have a flushing toilet. 

Anyway, the trip was interesting, I’ve now seen the romantic Taj Mahal and the less romantic prison opposite where Shah Jahan was locked up by his 4th son in a palace coup for the last four years of his life. 





I also watched (still doubled over with cramps) – old fasioned craftsmen make wondrous things from marble and semi- precious things and then spent a small fortune buying gifts, probably over the odds, but you know.. provenance and things.. 



I was glad to leave though, Agra is a genuine shithole, given it was the seat of power for a Muslim king, the sight of pigs roaming the streets was ironic but not at all funny. 

Once back in Noida, I went to bed, until Sunday and packing time. 

The flight was delayed by an hour, normally no big deal but an old friend was meeting me at the hotel having driven down from Bangalore.

So.

I got in the hotel car and retreated to Twitter for amusement and this is where it all picks up again. 

Innocently; I tweeted that I was back in Chennai, only to be confronted by @antichrist_666 telling me that I’d die here.. Abuse went back and forth, I forgot the time… 

And arrived back at the hotel to be greeted by my old friend and a group of new friends from the (mostly) German contingent of the project who made a show of bowing and scraping as I arrived. 

I may have possibly had a huge smile on my face.. 

We had dinner and drinks and I sort of forgot that I hadn’t eaten for 48 hours, so the vodka worked very, very well. 

 All too soon, dinner was over and my friend began the long journey back to Bangalore and it was time for me to actually check into my room. A stunning location overlooking the sea and at least 30 yards away from the nearest neighbour, so pretty much ideal. 

I unpacked, brushed my teeth and tried to crash, noticing a small rivulet of water heading toward the door, whether from the sink or the toilet, I couldn’t be sure – and didn’t care. 

I woke up early this morning, ate a tiny breakfast and breathed a huge sigh as I settled back into the life of sunbathing, swimming in the surf and chilling. 

For the last ten minutes, I wore a T Shirt in the pool to avoid the almost inevitable first day back sunburn and then washed my shirt and shorts in the sink. 

With a rivulet of water running down the floor. 

Thinking that I’d help maintenance out, I took this photo. 



Yep. 

Water and a bare wire.

Which shouldn’t have been funny, but made me remember THIS:

And started a whole new line of abuse 

All of which ended with me in literal tears of laughter in the middle of a facetime chat and feeling that whatever the next few weeks hold; that life is still fun and every day holds a promise of sorts. 

Anyway, here’s to:

  • Jeelani
  • Jens
  • Thorben
  • Bryan
  • Ludo
  • Jakob

And @Antichrist_666 

You made a potentially dull return to a hotel into something I actually wanted to write about. .. Thank you. 

Edit

Flying Dog

And so the circus moves on. 

I’m sitting in Pune right now but will leave here at 5pm local time for a flight to Delhi that will get me to my hotel just in time for last orders if I’m lucky. 

When I started this little series of posts from abroad, I mentioned how strange things were, how I’d have to adjust. 

That’s still true, but India is huge and there are big differences between cities and states, never more true than in the case of Chennai and Pune. 

Chennai is a BIG place, it takes hours in a car to get from end to end, with frequent disruptions to traffic caused by toll roads and the placement of arbitrary barriers on a carriageway – how the locals don’t smash into them more often than they do is a mystery. 

Pune by contrast is a BIG place, it takes hours in a car to get from end to end, with frequent disruptions to traffic caused by, erm, traffic. That’s it, no tolls, no barriers just a swarm of cars, lorries tuktuks and bikes. 

Politics in Chennai and Tamil Nadu is a messy, corrupt affair, with a government that has just spent a huge sum of money celebrating the birthday of the ruling party head – who currently lives under house arrest for bribery. 

Politics in Pune and Maharashtra is a messy corrupt affair, with some ministers upstaging John Prescott by being completely illiterate and with all parties desperately trying to show how they emulate this man. Chhatrapati Shivaji – founder of the Maratha Empire. 



A bit like Prescott trying to identify with Henry V really. 

It’s in the layout of the city and the incredible warmth of its people that Pune stands out. 

The roads are wide and are being constantly expanded, new bridges and infrastructure across the river, a bustling military presence. – The Bombay Sappers being just one of the units stationed here, a total of five military units surrounding the city, including the air force base. 





The streets are mostly clean and I’ve seen sweepers and cleaners every day on my journey to work and although there is poverty, the shanty towns are smaller and there’s less of them. 

Even so, seeing THIS from the back of a car isn’t easy. The little girl isn’t begging, there’s a standpipe across six lanes of road from the huts. 

She’s halfway there. 

And then she has to walk back with a full bucket. 

I doubt she’s wondering when her first iPhone will turn up. 



The city is definitely better off than Chennai though, there is heavy industry including massive car plants for Volkswagen and Mahindra across the river from the office here, oil processing and miltary support factories. 

IT is also a growing business, Fujitsu have a building a few hundred metres away.  It’s relatively cheap here compared to Bangalore or Chennai and the standard of life is definitely better for most people, even if those flats in the picture look a little grim by our standards. 

The landscape is fairly green at the moment, it’ll get less so until July or so when the monsoon rains kick in and repopulate the rivers and lakes. I mentioned in an earlier post that I could see huge birds of prey over the city, here they are, the Indian Spotted Eagle. 

Imagine that, eagles in their dozens over a city centre. 



I’ll be leaving the office soon to go to the airport and play the silly security dance again and I’ll be genuinely sorry to leave. In all likelihood I’ll be back soon and for the first time on this trip I’m actually looking forward to a repeat visit. 

So – Chennai is basically Liverpool.(but nicer)

Pune is more like Bath. (but much bigger) 

Bring on Delhi… 

Oh.. 

the next pictures are of the office gardens…  Think on THAT from your current view.