Mi Bodeguita del Medio

While my blog is named after a restaurant in Havana I hope to someday visit, here you will find musings, rants, political incorrectness, thoughts on Indian Nationalism, strong straight-forward opinions and tid-bits.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Here goes an ad for a shared apartment I came across this morning:
(numbers and names erased to salvage poster's identity)

I think I'd understand the ad better if it were in Spanish, atleast the "fence and very fence" parts (?)


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Santander - My new (temporary) home

I've got an interesting oppotunity at work to be part of a project for an Italian client that lists on the NYSE. The only thing is, the project is located in the city of Santander, north of Spain. I'm taking it up and preparing to install myself up north for june and july. That being said, I am going to miss a good part of my first summer in Barcelona! Bo HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wardrobe "awakening"

Women in Spain dress elaborately, and at work female dress code is pretty ample. Americans and English people are usually a little shocked when they first arrive here, enter the business world and notice the liberal way women dress. My first time noticing this was in Madrid a couple of years ago when I was visiting companies for interviews. For me it was a pleasant change. I was used to dressing pretty conservatively working in Oman, and before that in the US.

Here, things are different though. You have skirts of all lengths, colours, topped and layered with funky pullovers, whacky jewellery, eccentric boots, three-quarter trousers, shorts (the kind that are above-the-knee short, except these I would call "business shorts" which look like they want to be a formal skirt, but also dont want to stop being pants and are usually black, brown or grey and much more practical than skirts when you ride a scooter), all kinds of stocking and panty-hose... and the list goes on. In fact it seems as though the good ole business suit has pretty much disappeared from the scene here. And when I say ample, I'm not referring to the seductive kind... its everything. To give an example, one of the top bosses of my department is semi-hippy! (I say semi-hippy cos she leaves that little bit of executive touch in her outfits). She totally dresses the part too. Multi-coloured long skirts with dangling stuff and very colourful jewellery... I would say she's rather an urban hippy, and pulls it off successfully. On more eccentric days I imagine her showing up to work at the company I worked at in Atlanta dressed the way she does, and the outright scandal it would create (LOL). Its almost as though instead of "business casual/formal" the Spanish work dress code atleast for women is "if you can pull it off, it works."

Men on the other hand stick to the traditional tie and jackets, although on days when we have training or are told to arrive in "business casual," they too interpret it as they like. Yesterday at training a colleague of mine arrived wearing a formal shirt and jeans claiming to be business on top and casual on the bottom :)

As for me, I am loving the flexible work-dressing. My wardrobe is under evolution; the black/white and grey only is reducing in number, being replaced by new shapes, colours, cuts and designs. Yippie!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Journey of a 1000 Years

Here is a video from one of my favourite movies ever: Latcho Drom. This documental/musical film by Tony Gatlif tracks the road the Roma followed all the way from India (Rajasthan) to Spain (Andalusia) and their journey of a 1000 years over two continents before forming the diaspora they are today.

Latcho Drom means "safe journey" in Romani, a language with Sanskrit roots and a verbal tradition, spoken by the Rom in varying degrees, divided into thousands of offshoots enriched with words and expressions of the regions they touched all over Asia and Europe. Even I as a Hindi speaker can identify several words of theirs that are exactly the same or similar to those that exist in modern Hindi. Their flag has the Ashoka Chakra in the centre... and so on.

The Gypsy or Roma population of Europe stand at 12 million today. About 1.5 million were exterminated in Nazi concentration camps. I don't understand why, but its been really taboo to say that or mention this detail in Europe. Almost as if it would take the importance of the 6 million jews' death at the hands of the Nazis seem small (?). Fact remains though, that for the fraction of the population that the Gypsies formed, killing 1.5m was a huge setback to their race, I would imagine almost leading them to the brink of extinction at the time.

Little details make Latcho Drom truly genuine. For insance a scene where an old Romani woman, her concentration camp number tattooed on her forearm, holds the photograph of her beloved that perished at the hands of the Nazis, and sings about the old days.

On a lighter note, I just love this video of an authentic fiestecita with abuelitas bailando y to'! All the generations celebrating together; the kind of thing I sincerely hope still exists somewhere deep in the heart of this beautiful country.

Canine Culling: What is wrong with Bangalore?

After reading things like this, I ask myself: Is India still the land of compassion and spirituality, or have we sold our souls to the highest bidder?

On May 24, 1996, a report was carried in Calcutta daily Aajkaal about three dogs who stood guard to a new born baby abandoned near a dustbin in the city. The dogs refused to leave the baby even to feed themselves and left only when the child was finally taken to safety the next morning.

It was a report that invariably inspires a reinforcement of the beauty and sensitivity of the four-legged animals. And it also leads one to feel that such incidents affirm what we have known since time immemorial - that dogs are man's best friends.

Source: NDTV.com.
To read the complete article, click

PS. Thanks B for forwarding me this!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Irony in the news

1.) Nicolas Sarkozy, son of Hungarian and Greek immigrants, at the right end of the political spectrum in France and recent President elect vows to strengthen immigration restrictions.

2.) With all the debate about how dangerous mobile phone raditation is and whether they should be stored away from the body when not in use, here is an incident that takes the cake!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Purposeful verborrea ?

Each day I come across instances that occur around me that if you think about it, are deeply rooted into history. The defensive nature of people with regards to this region as compared to the rest of Spain. The desire to stand out and be considered different from the rest of Spain, and the more extreme independentistas. However, behind each stand in the Catalan region, there is a reason.

Under the Fascist regime of Franco everything was prohibited. Any artistic or liberal minded person that tried to influence others was immediately executed. Homosexuals were executed. Anyone disrespecting the institution of marriage as established by the Catholic Church was arrested and possibly executed (separation and divorce were illegal). Women did not work outside their homes, or at most in family-run businesses. It was a chauvinistic, male dominated society (hmm, maybe the expression “macho ibérico” was born in this period?). People in the autonomous regions of Galicia, Euskadi, Catalunya, Valencia etc were not allowed to speak their native languages. The country was controlled from the centre, and the language of the centre was Castellano, and everybody had to speak it.

It may not sound so extreme or harsh from the outside but the only equivalent I can imagine given my background (coming from what I believe is the most culturally diverse country on the planet) is the following: Imagine a region in South Asia that has a lot of different states and each has its own unique language and culture. All the states are more or less autonomous and there is a liberal and open minded government in place smoothly running these states with the central government allowing reasonable autonomy to these states. Suddenly one fine day, a violent group of people throw off the central government and take over. They bring all these states under one umbrella and call the country Dodo-land. Tamilians are now prohibited from speaking Tamil, Kerelites from speaking Malayalam, Bengalis from speaking Bengali, Gujratis from speaking Gujrati, Pubjabis from speaking Punjabi and so on. The only accepted language, pertaining to the central government is Dodo-language and everybody has to speak it. Apart from not being able to speak their languages, the rest of the regions have to believe in the religious ideology of the centre, lets say the religion of the central government is Dodo-ism. So, they cannot speak their languages, practice their regional traditions, and are forced to speak the Dodo language, go to Dodo-Churches and believe solely in Dodo-ism. Anyone going against this is categorised as liberal and therefore revolutionary, goes straight to jail for “provoking anti-government sentiments” and most probably gets executed, the decision depends on the whim of the officials.

The English performed many atrocities in India, but atleast didn't interfere with the culture or religions - Can you even imagine something like this in India? I can picture massive country-wide revolutions, protests and consequently a lot of blood-shed and war. Which is what happened in Spain. For three years, the national civil war ensued which finally ended in the dictators taking power with Franco at the top.

In spite of religious beliefs being the same, there was a lot of repression. Journalists, painters, sculptors, writers, artists, poets, musicians and anyone practising any form of artistic expression was randomly jailed and often executed. The prevailing fear made a lot of people passionate about their liberty flee the oppression and move to France, South America and other countries. During those 40 years, Spain was closed off to the rest of the world, and no outside influence was tolerated. The state sided with the influential upper class, the Church and the royal family. It was a sort of caste system with the royalty on top, hand in hand with the dictators, the Church next, the burgouis following them and then the common peasants. Could this also be a reason why modern spanish is so full of double meanings!? Qué piensan los españoles?

When Franco died in 1975, it was almost as though the entire country took its first “free breath” in forty years. All those decades of restrain suddenly gave way and people started to experiment with everything. Be it cinema, art, music, photography, literature, poetry – freedom was in the air and it reflected in every aspect of life. The woman was released from her role of “ama de casa” or housekeeper, and started to venture out into the business world and demanded a respect that she never had before.

In Catalunya, Galicia, Euskadi etc the repression was two-faceted. These people faced both overall general and cultural repression. Unable to speak their languages and practice their cultures openly, these regions are now reinforcing their identities with a vengeance, with Catalunya leading the way. I'm not too fond of politics and don't really know whats going. But the feeling I get being here is that there is a soft-revolution going on as far as negotiating with the centre with regards to autonomy of the region. I suppose the trick is to accept the present and go along. Although personally I believe in "united we stand, divided we fall," this is clearly more complex than just a black and white scenario.

So now, finally coming to the point - as of the 21st century, in my opinion the pendulum has swung the other way - the country has gone from one extreme to the other! If you watch the really successful internationally acclaimed films of Almodovar for example, you’ll note the excessive and rampant exhibitionism, experimentation with previously outlawed themes such as homosexuality, transexuality, prostitution etc. I recently watched a movie called “Amor Idiota” (idiot love) and I was totally shocked. A seemingly innocent title, my flatmate and I were looking to rent a romantic comedy. The movie turned out to be almost too embarrassing to watch. Today more Spanish women smoke as compared to men, gay marriages are legal, men are allowed “paternity leave” and the workforce constitutes of almost an equal number of young women as men. Sex is openly discussed. After the imposition of Catholicism for so long the generations born after the dictatorship ended are exploring other religions and spirituality. In certain ways, Spain has overtaken traditionally liberal countries.

Back to the comparison with India, all people in India don't even speak Hindi. We often have to use English to communicate between the North and South. But no matter what the language or culture, everyone from Kashmir to Kerela is Indian at the end of the day. Obviously someone in Spain back in 1935 didn't realise that its not the language that makes one feel from a certain region, its much more than that.

I would have liked to be a bird sitting on a tree one fine day in 1970 somewhere in Madrid just to observe things. As of the 21st century however, Spain has come a long way - and it shows.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Aspects of my vida laboral

Between working 10-12 hours a day, dancing flamenco, studying for the CIA, having long nights out in town, and a totally unreliable internet connection, I haven't really been able to blog much lately. The "Catalan experience" is turning out to be interesting. After having lived for over a year in Madrid, I can say that Barcelona is different. The Catalan are special people, and their eccentricities I think are mainly rooted into history. In any case, living here you learn that Spain is not just Spanish and Spanish speaking (but I will get into that in further detail some other day).

At work I've been reviewing documentation of a Spanish company which originated in France. The documents are in Castellano (Spanish) mainly, which is difficult already but few are in Catalan and Euskera as well. Needless to say, its a lot of fun disciphering all of this legal documentation in various non-english languages (managing with catalan is still alright, but euskera, no way).

Working in a foreign language (spanish) and continuous additional exposure to another foreign language (catalan) is pretty challenging, but I'm staying positive. People take their work seriously, but at the same time are pretty light-hearted about things. With complete disregard to our "official timings," most days we allow ourselves a 20 minute breakfast break, a 1,5 hour lunch break, lunch always taken in three courses (primero, segundo and postre or dessert), about 3-4 coffee breaks of varying lengths depending on workload, and yes I've started writing the decimal as a comma :) Thursdays are caña day, we go to a nearby bar after work, down some beers and spend a few hours laughing. My colleagues are a laugh!