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09 November 2011


I JUST landed in Israel, my home when I served at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa in 2000-2004.  I’m not familiar with the new Ben Gurion International Airport at Tel Aviv; it’s been modernized beyond my recognition. But I’m familiar with the sense of being here.  In fact, the sense of being in this moment, right here, right now, is hitting me mightily today. It’s like the scent of earth after the rain: sweet, memorable, lingering.  It feels like I never left the land at all.

15 October 2011

Airtel, off the air

AFTER MY recent agitations with Airtel remained unheeded, I decided to write one of their CEOs with hopes for a resolution. A quick look-up at LinkedIn made this task easy. Here’s what I wrote him (I deliberately struck off references to the individual):

26 September 2011

FOCAL POINT : Lincoln Mayorga, “The Walk to Chatham Corners”

RASPUTIN MUSIC is one of the many delights that I discovered in San Francisco early this month. This five-storey, almost rundown store carries rare CDs, LPs, and DVDs at unbelievable prices--a source of joy for those still cringing at the extinction of the traditional record shop. I saw and immediately purchased a four-dollar, second-hand CD of West of Oz, Lincoln Mayorga's 1981 collaboration with Amanda McBroom (she wrote the Bette Midler classic "The Rose"). It's extremely rare to find a Mayorga or McBroom CD these days, so this one's a treasure.

Here's the full track of "The Walk to Chatham Corners", the album's highlight. It shows Mr. Mayorga's classical and jazz background in its usual sparkling quality.

23 September 2011

TRAVEL TALES : High school reunion in San Francisco

WHEN PHILIP Belarmino messaged me on Labor Day (5 September) about changing the evening’s dinner venue, I realized the adeptness of my high school batch mates in organizing such gatherings in the Bay Area. Bong (now Bhoc) Chavez and Mel Favila had advised Philip about the closure of Intramuros restaurant in San Francisco that night, so the venue shifted to Kuya’s in San Bruno.

18 September 2011

The hills are alive in San Francisco

THE MOST delightful surprise about San Francisco is how such a compact city (49 square miles) of hills and waterfronts can accommodate endless diversities in seamless manner.  For example, on the last day of my weeklong stay, I dined in a quaint neighborhood called Little Italy, at the open-air Pinocchio on Columbus Avenue.  Later, as I walked past cafés and gift shops with lovely little windows, I turned abruptly right on the corner and realized that I had just entered Chinatown.

09 September 2011

Airtel fails

AFTER A mortifying experience last week with one of India’s largest mobile telephone companies, I have decided that Airtel is no longer capable of commitment and transformation.

The most loyal customers demand—and deserve—a higher desire: commitment, which Airtel has shown me is unable to provide.

When I requested for international mobile roaming (IR) service on the eve of my departure for the United States last 31 August, Airtel’s 121 hotline advised me that it was impossible to do so as my new SIM card was barely three months old. (I had to acquire a new card when I returned to Mumbai in June.) It was inconceivable to travel without connectivity, so I pleaded for the roaming service on two counts: that the card was shy of one week to meet the qualifying grade, and that I had been a loyal user of their various products—from landline to data card—for the past five years. After 45 minutes of pleading and heated debate, the 121 agent finally gave me an option: pay an advance fee of Rs5,000 (USD100) for the roaming service. I managed to find an Airtel Relationship Centre on the way to the airport that night and proceeded with the payment. I also requested my former relationship manager in Kolkata, the ever-effective Suvojit Seal, to help facilitate the activation process.

18 August 2011

Drums rolling for a rolling stone

WE'VE ALL heard about Mick Jagger's enormous ego, so it's fascinating to read the following story by Keith Richards about Mr. Jagger's brush with Charlie Watts, legendary Rolling Stones drummer, in October 1984.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Mick Jagger (R...I had taken Mick out for a drink in Amsterdam, so at 5 in the morning, he came back to my room. He's drunk by now, Mick drunk is a sight to behold. Charlie was fast asleep. Is that my drummer? Why don't you get your arse down here? Charlie got dressed in a Savile Row suit, tie, shoes, shaved, came down, grabbed him and went boom! Don't ever call me "your drummer" again. You're my fucking singer.

You can beat your own drum, but never beat the drummer lest he beats the drum out of you!

31 July 2011

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “So Many Stars”

FROM BARBRA Streisand's upcoming What Matters Most : Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan & Marilyn Bergman CD comes the stunningly gorgeous "So Many Stars". The bossa nova classic was originally covered in 1968 by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66; I remember it from its resurgent popularity on Manila's jazz fusion radio stations during the late seventies and early eighties.

26 July 2011

You'll never know

IF YOU think those black veils are frightening, watch out for this:

Related story: Veiled shots

25 July 2011

Like father, like son

Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135

FOR KENNETH Bray and his son Chris, coming full circle means attending NASA's final Space Shuttle launch together to "bookend" the first launch they watched 30 years ago. The incident also gave them an opportunity to replicate a picture taken of them in 1981; see both pictures above. Mr. Bray talks more about it on Universe Today. It's an awesome achievement.

24 July 2011

How global data is stored

THE WHOLE wide world's electronic data is not floating on a digital cloud. According to a well-designed infographic from Mozy, the majority of data centers are clumped in individual cities in the United States, and on physical drives. That's quite alarming and disconcerting, especially in an era rife with terrorism and technological sabotage!

23 July 2011

Globus comes to Kolkata

GLOBUS STORES, India's premier fashion specialty store, opened its 31st branch last week at Axis Mall in Kolkata. It's also the brand's debut in eastern India, and the first I've opened for Globus since joining the group in June.

People who meet Barbra . . .

. . . ARE THE luckiest people in the whole wide world. Here's one heartwarming story of a New Yorker who got to meet and greet THE Barbra Streisand in person. He also answered HER questions, hummed HER song to her, and posed next to her for a photograph which he will probably insure for ten million dollars. Oh, he also made Miss Streisand laugh at his jokes. I would've frozen speechless in the presence of such a legend.

03 July 2011

Reduce, reuse, recycle

HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR Michael Bay shows us how to practice waste management.

02 July 2011

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “That Face”

BARBRA STREISAND has released two tracks from her upcoming album What Matters Most : Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The songs, "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "That Face", are available for download when placing a pre-order for the CD on Miss Streisand's website.

I've been listening to both tracks for days now, but it's "That Face" that's been playing on loop. It's brassy, bumpy, and happy. The song was originally recorded by Fred Astaire, and Miss Streisand sings it with elegant sophistication that evokes a dancing Astaire. She sounds very mature on this track, her voice deepened with age (she's now 69!) and burnished with the glow that comes with nearly 50 years of singing brightly. The usual sighs, trills, and bellows that dramatize the best performances of her younger years are still here. They're fun to hear.

On "That Face", Miss Streisand reminds us that she's an actress who sings, a rare treasure gifted with impeccable delivery and unmatchable voice.

16 June 2011

Turning 46

TODAY IS my birthday, and I’m turning 46. It’s a fabulous age: you know you’re old enough to know better, but young enough to still learn more. I'm thinking how quickly I got to this age, since I seem to have just been celebrating my 45th birthday recently. Now I understand why the first 30 or 35 years of your life seem to be the longest and slowest--you spend all that time building up a cache of dreams, hopes, triumphs, regrets, fears, and tears. Turning 46, I’m glad to look into that cache that's now filled with experiences and wisdom, and even gladder to know that I've reached this age pretty fast and pretty well!

Related Stories: Turning 41 | Turning 42 | Turning 43 | Turning 45

13 June 2011

Back in Bombay

AFTER FOUR years in Kolkata, I returned to Mumbai last Thursday to begin a new role in the city, relieved after months of stressful decisions that culminated in this very moment. I am thrilled to be back to here. I’ll certainly miss Kolkata’s glorious food, fashionable winters, long drives to the suburban but dilapidated airport, and laidback attitudes of the cultured Bengalis. Mumbai has none of those: it’s India’s first truly cosmopolitan, 20th-century city, where every recipe has been tempered to suit a gazillion tastes, every road choked with motorists and pedestrians from all over India rushing to reach their destinations, and every minute filled with threats of time leaving you behind.

Yet, Mumbai is the city that gave me the very first welcome to Incredible India. This is where I’ve forged my earliest friendships and experienced the most lasting impressions. And because home is how you've made it and not why, Mumbai has become more home to me than any other place in this sensational, spectacular land.

Time to rock this city again.

23 January 2011

Filipinos show Indians the way we sell

TWO FILIPINO executives in retail and consumer packaged goods recently visited India, and may have supercharged the increasingly favorable impression that Indians have on the way Filipinos work.

Donnie Tantoco, president of the Rustan's Supercenters chain of value stores in the Philippines, was one of three international keynote speakers at the prestigious Retail Leadership Summit in Mumbai last Thursday, where he gave an exciting view of retailing in the Philippines to an audience that included India’s retail CEOs and MDs. He also sat on a panel with such luminaries as Shoppers Stop's BS Nagesh and Future Group's Kishore Biyani; the scion of the Rustia-Tantoco family spoke about his family’s engagements with the Rustan’s stores.  His keynote speech was one of the best applauded; my colleagues and friends in the audience approached me later with nothing but raving feedback on his talk.  I believe this is the first time that a Filipino retail leader has been invited by the Retailers Association of India to their summits.  I'm glad that Mr. Tantoco showed yet another thrilling aspect of how the Filipino thinks, acts, and works.

02 January 2011

As 2011 rolls in

Happy 2011! 

MY THOUGHTS center on two messages that the Universal House of Justice (the supreme governing body of the global Bahá'í community) has released in the past week to the Bahá'ís of the world.  The letters provide lucid guidance on achieving spiritual goals, and they come so richly to me at a time when I crave deeper relevance in my daily way of life.