Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time Stood Still........

As I sat in front of my laptop with my cursor hovering over the 'Cancel Event' button on Facebook I didn't know why I wanted to cancel it, I was turning 40 in the August of 2014 and over numerous evenings my friends and I had discussed my birthday plan. New York, London, Thailand, Goa all were discussed but eventually it was decided that as I wanted everyone there, including the staff, the party would be in Chandigarh.

And yet about 5 months away from my birthday I was really wanting to cancel the party. I did click on the 'Cancel Event' button only to receive emails, text messages 'why?' I didn't have an answer just something telling me no.

I would soon know 'why'

On the 13th of July as I walked out of my study in the afternoon my chest contracted and I felt something was not right and all I could think of was Daddy. "Let him live" was the only silent prayer I could send up to heaven. There was no reason for my fear. Daddy had just turned 80 on the 4th of July. He was healthy, active and forever on the move. He drove himself, met his lawyers, had his peg of whiskey every night. He didn't look or act 80, though he had stopped socialising after my mother had passed in 2010 and we all had found him silently crying in his room numerous times over the 4 years, he had changed, he was quieter but he was healthy and mentally strong.

"Uncle has fallen in the study, we are taking him to the nearest hospital, reach there fast" said Omkareshwari's friend on the phone as I had just parked my car to buy some clothes for my son, Shivendra who was due to leave for college in three weeks time to pursue a degree in Law.

As I drove to the hospital I rang a doctor I knew and asked him to reach the hospital. I reached just two minutes after Omkareshwari, her friend and Shivendra reached there. Daddy was already hooked up to numerous monitors, his heart, BP, vital stats all were normal, my doctor friend had one look at him and said 'it's a stroke' 'We need an MRI now' even though this hospital was close to our home it was a small establishment and they didn't have an MRI machine. The doctor in the ER room said "We will keep him here tonight and send him out for a scan tomorrow' 'Tomorrow? what about the three hour period' asked my doctor friend. "Give us an ambulance we are taking him to a full fledged hospital now" the way the doctor behaved and at the leisurely pace at which he made the documents. I wanted to punch his teeth out. I really did!!

The ambulance was wailing it's way through traffic within the next 10 minutes, Shivendra and I sat with Daddy in the ambulance holding his hands and telling him he would be just fine, with the other cars chasing us.

The doctor friend had already reached the hospital and the ER staff were expecting us, with the neurologist on standby. As soon as we reached they whisked Daddy away to the MRI room, but he kept moving and would not be still, the doctors telling him he needed to be still but Daddy was not someone who took orders, he gave them all his life, he was a ruler and even in that condition his personality remained the same. I explained to the doctors that this was not their average patient and he would not listen to anyone, the only one person he did listen to was his grandson, Shivendra, "send for him" I shouted at the orderlies, Shivendra walked in a minute later and the doctors explained to him that Daddy needed to be still, Shivendra held Daddy's hand and gently said "Dada please don't move the doctors want to do your MRI" what the 10 minutes of screaming and shouting doctors could not achieve, Shivendra achieved it with one gentle sentence, Daddy stopped moving and the MRI was done. it was a stroke, a major one.

Daddy was wheeled back to the ER and was for his privacy kept in the isolation room.

The turmoil was far from over, infact it was only going to get worse! The doctor said he needed to give him an injection to thin his blood to remove the clot but there was a chance that if there was a bleed he might not survive the night and we had to decide 'now'  I felt everything slow down, all I could hear was 'decide now' 'not survive the night' the doctor kept saying 'we don't have time, tell me now do you want the injection, we don't have time' it all seemed unreal, everything seemed in suspended animation. There I was standing in the Emergency room of the hospital hearing the words 'now'

"I need 5 minutes to think" I heard myself say, for the first time in my life I 'heard' my own voice. "We don't have time tell me now" said the doctor.

"I can't, I need 5 minutes" and I walked out of the ER. I cleared my mind and was back in the ER before the 5 minutes got over. "What's the worst case scenario if we don't give him the injection" I asked. "He will be paralysed on one side, most probably forever" That was it, I knew what I wanted "No injection, I don't care if he's paralysed, I can't take a chance with his life" "You will have to sign papers saying that you don't want the injection" the doctor said. I felt he disagreed with my decision, "Tell me where to sign"

Papers signed, Daddy was moved to the ICU to be kept under observation. Nothing could be done except wait and watch. Surgery could not be done due to his age and because he was diabetic.

Shivendra and I moved into the Inn located in the hospital premises. I could not leave him, I just couldn't.

All night I could not sleep, I kept wondering if I had made the right decision by refusing the injection, what if I was wrong, what if that injection was needed, what if he's paralysed for life and it's my fault?

The next morning we went to the ICU. Daddy lay in bed with a feeding tube in his nose and was hooked up to all kinds of machines. The sounds of an ICU are the worst, all sorts of beeping, buzzing and mechanical sounds! He was responsive, I held his hand and asked him "Are you comfortable" he nodded yes "Any pain?" He nodded no. That made me feel much better. "Do you want me to call anyone?" He nodded no but gestured towards his pocket which I knew meant his phone, "I have it, don't worry, we are answering all your calls and letting them know you are not too well and can't take calls but will get back very soon" 

The doctor signalled me to come on the side. He spoke to me as he held his MRI "I'm glad you didn't give him the injection, there's a bleed in the brain, if the injection had been given he would not have survived the night" after hours of wondering I knew the universe had helped me in reaching that decision, the correct decision.

I went back to Daddy and told him "I'm outside, visiting hours are over" a tear rolled down from his right eye, I wiped it, kissed him on the cheek "You will be fine, I love you" as I walked out of the ICU, I wanted him to be well more than anything else in the world but something deep inside told me he would not be.

I could not go back after that, every time the doctors called me to sign papers I stood at the doctors station signed the consent forms and looked at Daddy from far, I could not go back to him.

Shivendra sat with him all the time and kept telling him repeatedly "Dada I love you, I need you, I can't stay without you, please get well, I'm not going to Delhi to study, I will stay here with you and we will do all the things we've always done"

From the moment that he had the stroke he kept saying 'Bhaa Bhaa' he loved Shivendra more than anyone and had always called him 'Bhaa Saheb' it's been a family thing not calling our favourite people by name, my grandmother always called Daddy 'Prince' or 'Saheb' and Daddy all his life called me 'Sir' never did he take my name, when ever he had to he would say 'Call Sir' 'Tell Sir' and Shivendra was always 'Bhaa Saheb'

In the ICU he would raise his right hand and gesture to hold his hand if anyone of us held his hand he would feel it and leave it and gesture again, the moment Shivendra would hold his hand he would feel his hand and hold on to it.

Daddy and Shivendra shared a bond like no other, they had lunch together, dinner together, went out to the market every evening at 6 to have 'tiki's and chaat' watched tv together, they were like twins and every free minute that they had they were together.

By the 4th day he was not responding and the doctors put a central line for his medicines.

On the 5th day the X-Ray showed a patch of pneumonia and the doctors said that he had to be put on the ventilator, I had heard some horror stories of people going on the ventilator and never coming off but the doctors said that was the only way left. If they didn't put him on the ventilator he would drown in his own fluids. I agreed.

On the 6th day the neurologist called Omkareshwari, Shivendra and me to his cabin "Its not good, there's more bleeding and there's been a midline shift and swelling till the brain stem" How when something goes wrong with our loved ones we become doctors, a midline shift is when one side of the brain pushes against the other side due to swelling. "He's most probably not going to make it, his BP has been dropping and his heart is fluttering and making more clots, his cretanine levels have gone up because his kidneys are not working properly, it's highly unlikely he will survive and if he does he will be in a vegetative state. What would you like to do?" There wasn't a doubt in my mind about my answer "Everything that's needed for him to live, even if it means he will be in a vegetative state, we will take care of him, he just needs to live"

"We can't perform surgery on the brain due to his age, diabetes and non functioning of the kidneys. We can do dialysis and take care of the issues as and when they come up"

"Yes, anything and everything"

"The dialysis can not be done right away as his BP has fallen to 90/50, we stabilise him first and then do dialysis but let me prepare you that he's not going to make it" 

The same day we found out about an air ambulance to air lift him to a Delhi hospital. We were not going to give up on him, even if we had to fly him to the UK or US, we were not going to give up. 

Early next morning, exactly one week after he was admitted, Shivendra got a call from the ICU, "The doctor wants to see you in the ICU" we both hurriedly got up and dashed towards the ICU, my heart beating as if it was going to burst out of my chest, a million questions and just one fear.

As we walked into the ICU a nurse gestured for us to go towards his bed, I knew the worst had happened by the way the nurses and doctors were looking at me.

The curtains around his bed were drawn, I hoped against hope.

The doctor was standing next to his bed, with a file in her hand, I looked at Daddy, he seemed to be breathing. Hope!!

"We did dialysis last night but his heart fluttered all night, in the morning his heart stopped we did CPR and gave shocks to his heart for 45 minutes, his pulse and heart beat are zero, he is gone, I'm sorry"

Time stood still.

All I could do was press Shivendra's hand. "Go see him, say your goodbyes" He leaned over and kissed Daddy on his cheek, "I love you Dada" with tears rolling down his cheeks, it broke my heart.

"Do I need to sign anything" I asked the doctor, "Nothing, we just wanted you to see him, I'm sorry"

The same evening he was cremated, dressed as a Raja should be for his final journey, in his dark blue achkan, his turban with his favourite diamond aigrette from London and his favourite Basra pearl strands around his neck.

Shivendra conducted the rituals just as Daddy had written, he was a man of letters and wrote everything, everything even down to how things were to be conducted once he was gone. 

As his pyre was lit a strong gust of wind came with a drizzle, a sign of auspiciousness.

He was, exactly four years later, with my mother and I knew he was happy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Restaurants - New York

Once upon a time going abroad meant one thing and one thing only - shopping, left, right and centre and now as I get older shopping trips are receding like my hairline and trips now mean looking up new things and trying them out, I guess as we get older a sense of urgency dawns upon us and it's 'experiences' we seek rather than 'things', and restaurants obviously are a big part of 'must try'. New York has no dearth of them and amongst the ones I've tried these are the ones that I recommend to my friends and will ofcourse be returning to them myself.


Japanese food served in a recreated ninja village by servers dressed as ninjas...............well who would miss that, so I hop into a cab and head to this restaurant on Hudson Street, its 9 pm by the time I reach and the street and as empty as a movie set, past doors that one could very easily miss I'm standing in what looks like a cave, a woman dressed in Japanese clothes takes my name and checks for the reservation and sends me down the elevator, just as the doors are closing she says on the walkie talkie 'guest coming down' 5 seconds later the doors open and from the dark cave like setting out pops a ninja 'hooohaaa' he screams and startles me a bit, the ninja experience has started!!! The village setting is lovely with little huts in a cave like setting that guests can settle into and enjoy Japanese food and sake. The food is delicious and the service interesting. Just don't get a heart attack when you get out of the lift, the rest is all smooth sailing!!

Bloomingdales on 49th has numerous options for getting a bite while you shop, I like these two: Forty Carrots and Flip:

Forty Carrots

If healthy food is your poison then this is the place to go to, especially for yoghurts their food presentation is beautiful and the food is good.


Burgers of all kinds in a refined & minimalistic setting with the most delicious cup cakes I've ever had!

Shake Shack

I am not really a 'burger' person but when everyone says must try then well ........... so I popped in and ordered the shack burger, order placed, money paid I was handed a 'remote' to blink and viberate when my order would be ready, after finding a table which can be a time consuming affair given the number of people, as soon as I settle down, 'bbbuuuzzzz' and 'flash flash' I collect my order and bite into what must be the most uncomplicated, simple to the point burger, deliciously unpretentious and doesn't try to be anything than what it is - a superb burger!!!!!

Peanut Butter & Co

People either love peanut butter or hate it and I simply love peanut butter and depending on which side of the spectrum you are on this is peanut butter heaven/hell, peanut butter sandwiches, shakes, you name it and its there! Must try the tasting platter
John's Pizza

Just off Times Square this place buzzes with people and excellent pizza's, try the half and half pizza and while you wait for your table hop across to the bar and enjoy the extensive and lovely bar menu.


Across Central Park this has to be amongst the best restaurants I have visited, the sea-food and service is excellent.

Whenever someone says 'the first' and the word restaurant comes in the same sentence, how can one not go. Lombardi's in Little Italy, Manhattan is the oldest pizzeria in America, a charming but extremely extremely busy place, after all when all travel books and websites say you are amongst the best on the planet how can one simply walk in and get a table, the wait time is 30 minutes I'm told by the very pleasant lady at the door and can wait at the bar or have a walk around the block, I do both, a walk around the block and 15 minutes later am comfortably perched on a bar stool with a glass of white wine. The bartender is a nice guy who tells me spots I must not miss during my visit to nyc.
Soon my table is ready and I ask for suggestions and am told that the 'half and half' pizza would be best so that I can try two types of pizza's and for sides, coal oven roasted peppers and mozzarella alongwith bruschetta on rustic bread.
The meatball and pepperoni pizza alongwith the sides arrives and expectantly I bite into it, are all the reviews correct? Is this really as good as everyone says it is? And the answer is, yes it is! I gorge on the pizza and the sides, unable to finish but excellent nonetheless!!
After a relaxed meal I have a walk around Little Italy feeling rather Italian inside and out!!!

My food theory while traveling is rather simple, I avoid the 'big chain' eating places, once inside they are all the same, London, New York, Delhi all over the world, identical, its the small ones tucked away that are original and imaginative and I pop into these to eat and if after the first bite its not good, pay for it and leave, don't have another bite, don't use up precious stomach space save it for a better place which might be tucked across the next turn!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Godrej or Godrej

Godrej or Godrej it used to be as simple as that but not anymore!
For the last week I have been trying to choose a fridge and am simply overwhelmed by the choices and reviews. Let me say this upfront, I love cooking and am in the kitchen nearly everyday and it obviously falls upon me to personally choose a cooling contraption, the requirements are rather long, starting with the most important, it must look good, none of the nonsensical box style rubbish at the same time not too gadgety so that the staff can use it nor so simple that the dogs can start opening it!
After bugging my friends over texts and emails the one name that kept coming up was Samsung and LG, personally I don't really have too high an opinion of Samsung and maybe a few years ago they did such a tacky job that the image has been ingrained into my system inspite of nearly everyone suggesting that they have changed and are amongst the best now. LG was another name that kept popping up so I went into a few showrooms and saw various refrigerators I really liked the Hitachi French Door but then everyone said 'no one buys Hitachi refrigerators only air conditioners' by the end of it was so bugged that I walked into a showroom promising myself "no more, I am going to buy the first one that is on display" and lo and behold which one would it be but a Samsung!!!
So now I am grinning with the new fridge in the kitchen if anything goes wrong with it all of you who said Samsung has changed its colours better watch out!!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Being from the hills I know the enormous power that water in its numerous forms has, come rainy season and the rivulets turn to raging rivers and the rivers growl with a hunger that immediately instills respect for nature, but nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for the scenes of the Tsunami in Japan, I sat dumbstruck as I watched the wrath of nature, feeling helpless as the television news showed car after car and house after house being engulfed by the black wave of debris pushed ahead by water, the most heart wrenching moments were as the water moved towards highways which still had cars moving on them.
I cannot even being to imagine what must have gone on with the people directly affected by this calamity, the pain of losing loved ones and all that one has with just a wave and as the Japanese people come to terms with what has happened I pray for the people of Japan, may God give them strength.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Archipelago Restaurant

The greatest joy of the internet is the ability to find out where the latest and the weirdest is, so when I googled 'exotic foods in London' up popped Archipelago restaurant. One look at the online menu and I knew this was the perfect place for me.

Let me start by telling you this, life is short and we've got to squeeze in as much as we can in a span of a 60/70 years (for me 35 have already gone therefore there is a need to 'hurry') I am not going to look back at my life and say 'oops forgot to do THAT' and this restaurant did cover some of the things which would have made me look back and say 'why didn't I..........'
On a quite street in the West End of London is the Archipelago Restaurant, the entrance is nothing to go by for what waits for you inside, through the green door and a small seating outside, the inside is a riot of colours and objects, Buddha's, painting, plants, a zillion and one bric-a-bracs placed everywhere and the eye doesn't have a second of rest as with every glance the brain registers a new object.
My friends and I are an eccentric mix, out of the four one is French but horror of horrors, a vegetarian!! the other two, one an English non-vegetarian Brahmin and the other converted to non-vegetarianism not so long ago. We settle down and glance through the menu, the names of the dishes are interesting but what really matters are the two liners under them, on offer are Crocodile, Peafowl, Ostrich, Chocolate covered Scorpions, Wildebeest, Locust and Crickets sharing menu space with the more regular duck, chicken, mutton and there are dishes for the 'live and let live' kinds also.

I tell the waiter who is very pleasant and helpful for the "most exotic dishes on the menu" he suggests that we choose from the Ostrich, Croc on a Rock (Crocodile covered in Vine leaves) Wildebeest, the Love Bug Salad (Locusts & Crickets) we ask for each of these, unfortunately the peafowl and scorpion are not available.

The food arrives on our table, the non-vegetarian Brahmin gives a disgusted look as the crocodile and love bug salad are served, the recently turned non-vegetarian is not so sure if he would like to eat here at all and the vegetarian French has an impish smile which says 'This I am going to have fun watching'
The Croc on a Rock is crocodile covered in vine leaves alongwith a sweet sauce
Zebra served with noodles
And then there was the 'Love Bug Salad' Crickets and Locusts, served on a bed of salad leaves and covered with sweet chillie sauce, very crispy and crunchy.

While we were discussing the 'eatability quotient' of our food we heard a lot of 'oohs and aahs' on a table nearby and saw the waiter pouring something out of a bottle, well when that kind of a menu is on offer we had to ask what was in the bottle and the waiter appeared with a bottle of 'Absinthe' with a dead python in it!

Absinthe is an anise flavored drink and amongst the most alcoholic drinks in the world, it is also known as the 'Green Fairy' and this one had a dead snake in it, had to have a sip of that!! The waiter poured a small amount into a small glass and a sip went through like a bolt, felt it go down the food pipe and dissipate in the stomach cavity!

Honestly, the three of us (the fourth was a vegetarian) could only really manage to have a bite of each of the dishes, not because there was something wrong with the food, it was very well prepared and the service was excellent, helpful and courteous but the thought of 'what' it was didn't really allow us to take second bites, so after a lovely evening with great service and excellent food we headed to have a more 'conditioned' dinner of lamb chops.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Emirates A380

I love flying, domestic or international, short or long haul, I am always ready and willing to take a flight and when the A380 came out I was ready to hop onto it and shortly Emirates announced showers onboard, it didn't get cooler than having a shower at 40,000 feet on the worlds largest commercial aircraft!
So I booked myself on the Delhi-Dubai-London and return sector.

The first surprise was the new airport at Delhi, two words come to mind, huge and clean and the second surprise was the massive duty free, those who've seen the old duty free will know exactly what I am talking about when I say my first reaction to the duty free was 'whoa!'

After a smooth check in, though I was surprised that Emirates didn't have a staff member to guide its passengers through immigration and a somewhat confused ground staff who could not make up their minds whether First and Business passengers or those with children board first which delayed the boarding by a few minutes, we were settled with champagne and a basket of chips, nuts and chocolates in our seats. The flight from Delhi to Dubai was regular, suites etc and nothing much to write about except that the tv screen kept showing Dubai-Delhi instead of Delhi-Dubai for more than half of the flight, Dubai airport was nice but the after effects of the grand Delhi airport were still strong enough to keep Dubai from surprising in anyway.

With a four hour stopover in Dubai I checked into the airport hotel and sank into the massage chair for an hour long massage while looking out the window at the passengers zipping to and fro, shortly boarding for London was announced and I made my way to the boarding gate, the first sightof the A380............really big, huge........H.U.G.E., but a beauty, elegant and breathtaking!

I settled into my suite which was more or less like all the suites on Emirates, seat with built-in massage system, 23 inch television, a minibar, vanity table, mirror, wardrobe, a touchscreen remote for controlling all the features of the suite and ofcourse the doors that close at the press of a button albeit very slowly, for privacy.
After what seemed like an eternity of taxing the plane took off, now this is where the A380 kicks in, as the aircraft ascends there are no rattles, no noise, none of the 'tremors' or jerks as in other aircrafts, just a self-assured, confident glide as land falls lower and lower from the windows. A hush that can seem a bit unsettling for those who are used to the take-off 'roars'.

I ask the attendent to book my 'spa appointment' that's what the shower is called, as soon as possible and she returns ten minutes later to inform me that the 'spa' is ready.

After the claustrophobic cupboard like loo's on all aircrafts, this is a pleasant surprise, not only can you stand and stretch out your arms to your either sides you could most probably have a jog in here!! Rolled towels with orchids on them, lots of toiletries, hair dryer, et all and the most important of them all, the shower cubicle!
Each passenger gets 5 minutes of shower time, it is on 40,000 feet so they have to ration it, can't have people singing entire songs in the shower here! But the thrill of knowing that one is bathing in an aircraft while airborne is ecstatic!

After the shower I head to the bar area to have a Champagne and canapes and after a few minutes of chitter chatter with my fellow passengers who too are marveling at the aircraft, I request that I am shown around the plane, two attendants immediately volunteer and escort me down the stairs, which are rather wide and walk me the entire length of the aircraft, the 'downstairs' is nice but as the seating is for so many passengers it does seem to be a bit overcrowded. The most interesting thing that I found on the tour was that the business class loo (which was a regular size) had a window in it!

After the in-depth tour I return to my suite to savor the foods Emirates is famous for.

A hearty meal later, my table is cleared away and my seat converted into a bed and I have a lovely nap and reach London fresh as a daisy! A wonderful flight with attentive staff and great food, the only thing is the stopover which can make the journey seem a bit long but hopefully the A380 will be flying from Indian airspace soon.