Thursday, August 18, 2005


My first trip to Paris was a blur of the Eiffel Tower the seine, the Notre Dame and the pressure to soak in everything Parisian. This time when K and I planned the trip we agreed we needed to walk the city. Anne and Christophe were traveling and would only be available briefly on Saturday but Julian was around with Nuria who we hadn’t met yet.

Getting to Paris was easy with the Eurostar, as always. Although a group of noisy American tourists played true to stereotypes by being annoyingly loud through the journey, rendering any introspection fruitless, managed to get to the hotel easily enough. Post Pizza and Coke which K had insightfully organized for my arrival, we set off to meet Julian.

Julian and the lovely Nuria made sure that both our evenings in Paris were well spent. From little wine bars cum bookshops, to the Buddha Bar, and from those small homely restaurants with great food which only locals know about, to more trendy bars – you know the kind - nobody knows why their trendy, but everybody goes there, anyway.

On Saturday we managed to spend a few hours at the Musee De Orsay and on Sunday, the Picasso Museum. The Hotel Sale, is somewhat less well maintained than a lot of other museums, but Picasso’s work shines through clearly. The Musee De Orsay of course is the shrine of Impressionism and worth going back to, someday.

In addition, we walked for hours really taking the city in. Montmartre, the painters square and the Sacre Coeur. From the Rue De Rome to the Musee De Orsay and from Montmartre down to the Moulin Rouge, and all the way back to Gare Du Nord to get back on the train. Being the loneliest weekend in Paris in the whole year, it was nice to walk the empty streets, unfettered by city bustle. Lunching on the artists square, watching people scurry from the wrath of a rogue rain cloud which ambushed the afternoon briefly, reading the Sunday times and drinking coffee – life could be worse, you now.

One of the highlights worth mentioning, was the photo galleries on Jardin Du Luxembourg, where the larger than life pictures from the Reporters Sans Frontiers takes your breath away. Themed around war and conflict, always the source of the most desolate and disturbing visuals, it was hard to forget, long after we’d been. I noted the names of some of the photographers, but this link will list all of them, in case you’re interested. Also worth it is the website of the Reporters Sans Frontiers itself.

Reporters Sans Frontiers
Tom Stoddart
James Nachtwey
Ami Vitale

Anne and Christophe have bought a new house and all the work is in progress and Julian is moving to Barcelona for a job. Nuria is lovely and its wonderful to have friends in Barcelona.

Paris is like a lovely woman. Older, but still gorgeous. Alluring, a bit mysterious. May be her best days behind her, but still proud and aristocratic. Sitting on the cafes where Sartre and his friends sat and pondered life, I asked K – what is life? What’s beauty? What’s truth? What’s reality? What is time? She looked at me strangely and ordered more coffee.

I learnt to pronounce Gare Du Nord, but still can’t get the right sound for Arc De Triomphe. I like Paris more now, having sat in its cafés and watched its world go by.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

End of days play Aug 9

Sitting at (yet another) Starbucks in West Hampstead. In half hour from now, I'll be on a treadmill at the gym, watching Man United play Debrecen while I trundle through 45 mins of sedate running. Treadmills are perfect examples of running to stand still, are they not? It would be so much easier if the reverse were possible. Weight loss, just by standing still. Now there's an invention for you. A free kit with every television.

Its hard not to like Starbucks. You may have a different coffee philosophy. I quite like the thick milky version. You may have a problem with the sterilization and all-encompassing franchising. I don’t, really. But how can you not like a coffee shop that lets you sit and work, provides a reliable fast wireless connection, is ubiquitious in most cities and plays music that could well have come from my hard drive! In how many public places would you hear Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Belle & Sebastian, Ray Charles, Van Morrison and Grateful Dead in a sequence!

Ah well, some parts of life work.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Bombings and Expectations

Some news papers have quoted drops in the number of people on the tubes following the sick fanatical acts last month. Most of us, though have gotten straight back on the tube, wearing a strange combination of unconcern and surreptitious wariness. Clearly though there is an appreciable dip in the numbers. And you only have to be Asian and rucksack bearing to clear your corner of the tube. I carry a rucksack large enough to hide the population of Afghanistan on my back, so I have to make it a point of smiling brightly and very un-harmlessly at people all around, pointedly pull out my PDA (mass murderers aren’t associated with hand-held chess) and so far, I’ve not felt any problems or even reactions. But then again I’m smart and handsome, in a short fat and balding sort of way.

Here’s an interesting thought though – while understandably, some people are staying away from the tube, probability and rationality suggests two very interesting things. The first, probability of an attack was always increasing day by day prior to the actual attacks. Hence it was at its highest, just before the first attack. Second, the probability of further attacks diminishes with every successful or unsuccessful attempt, owing to increased surveillance, more awareness and so on, and assuming that there is a finiteness to this, further attacks become less and less likely. So the tube is actually a safer place, now that the attacks have happened. I wonder if this can be modeled.

Monday, August 01, 2005

There have been 2 specific front page murders in the last 3 days. One was based on racial hatred. The other was based on a whim. In one, a black boy was attacked in the park by some white men as he walked away from a possible confrontation with somebody taunting him and his girlfriend. In another, a white man was killed in a bus by a black man for protesting against aggravation - the man was throwing food at the victim's girlfriend.

Black men, white men - murderers have a common colour. They react to resistence just like they react to passivity, as these examples show. They are amidst us - and no better or worse than suicide bombers. Their numbers are growing, it would seem. And, it appears that they think they can get away with it. (Surely they're not stupid enough to not know there are ccTV's in a bus?)

There is a growing criminalization of society - white collar crime, blue collar crime, homeless crime, school crime. 16 year olds and 70 year olds. Paedophiles and misogynists. Reading the papers is like watching a horror flick. Some times it seems like we'll soon all have to carry weapons for self defence. At others, it feels like we're going to see another Bernie Goetz.