Playing the Field

While I have great regard for commitment and monogamy, I must admit that I, myself, have been rather promiscuous.

New York’s dating scene is notoriously cut-throat but it pales in comparison to the city’s housing market. A few lucky people find their perfect match right off the bat but the majority of us go through several real estate partners before finally settling down.

I have gone from rookie renter to serial subletter and someday I hope to settle down into a long-term lease but for now I continue my wanton wanderings. Below is a lease-and-tell chronicle of some of my more memorable affairs of the real estate variety…


The first apartment I ever had of my own was listed as a “cozy” studio in Manhattan’s pierced and mohawked East Village neighbourhood. In New York realty-speak, “cozy” means the size of a small walk-in wardrobe. But, for a wide-eyed, twenty year-old film student, it was a palace. There’s no feeling that comes close to the sense of accomplishment and pure exhilaration of moving into your first apartment.

With this rite of passage one also ends up learning important life lessons. One of the more amusing ones (in retrospect only) was a wild evening with two Norwegian girls whose Basic Instinct style flashes from the futon were, I later discovered upon getting my phone bill, just to distract me and my friends from the fact that they were using my phone to call every relative they had in Norway.

When I moved back to NYC after a 3-year stint in Singapore, the first apartment my realtor happened to show me was this very same one. It was like reconnecting with an old friend but it looked so tiny I couldn’t believe I actually lived there. I ended up going with…


This brief dalliance with a ground floor studio in a townhouse on the Upper West Side was doomed from the start. The very evening I got the keys, I discovered the apartment came with room-mates. Furry, four-legged ones. The relationship was over less than 24 hours after it had begun. This led to my first (and hopefully last) legal battle (which I subsequently lost thanks to the fine print on the paperwork I’d signed) and, although I didn’t get the opportunity to shout, “I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”, the up side is I now have some experience to draw on if I ever do a courtroom drama.

Although the whole affair was less than pleasant, I was in for a soft landing because I ended up in the vermin-free arms of…


This slick little apartment in a modern high-rise with the most unbelievable views of Manhattan and the river was the real-estate equivalent of being in a relationship with a sophisticated, sexy and successful young woman… who, I discovered, had a sordid background.

A few years earlier, the building was the site of one of Manhattan’s most sensational and grisly murders. Often, as I strapped on my rollerblades in the lobby, one of the doormen, shaking his head, would recount how he’d helped two residents load a trunk into a cab, later finding out it contained the dismembered remains of a local bookie.

Apart from that, the building was rumoured to be home to some of the city’s most high priced and exclusive escorts. Although I never was able to confirm this information (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I got to know some of my other neighbours and we are still close friends. My apartment was sandwiched between one of New York’s premier concert pianists and an auctioneer couple with a talent for mixing exquisitely lethal margaritas, which they’d pass me over our balconies every evening. Between the Gershwin from one side and the tequila from the other, it’s no wonder I look back on those years with such great fondness but not too much lucidity.

When I began taking on more work in India, it made sense to sub-let rather than maintain an apartment of my own, so my promiscuity escalated. Next up was an involvement with…


I’d always been a fan of New York’s indigenous pre-war architecture but had only lived in modern structures until I ended up in this charming one bedroom on the Upper West Side. Full of antiques (and dust!) the apartment was owned by a flamboyant and uproariously witty 90 year-old. She lived across the hall and would often trick me into taking her out for drinks. Always catching me off guard, her modus operandi was brilliant and would involve lines like “I’m 90, would you just walk me to the corner so I can pick up some dinner?” When we got there, she’d follow it with “Let’s just have a quick drink while they pack my food.” An hour later, through a 3 martini haze, I would realise I’d been had – again. In spite of this regular trickery and the delight she took in scandalising me with play-by-play details about her sex-life, requests to please “knock-up” her daughter and answering the door in nothing but her underwear, we got along famously and I ended up being a frequent guest at parties with her friends that included New York’s most celebrated tycoons, politicians, writers and artists.

When she found out I was an actor, she started showing a picture of me to every Indian taxi driver she came in contact with. She would then excitedly call me wherever I happened to be in the world to inform me that they knew who I was. When I expressed my mortification and asked her to stop, she was clearly offended. The next voicemail from her was a curt, “I showed your picture to a cab driver today and he had no idea who the hell you were.”

I sublet the apartment for a few years before she eventually sold it but she remains one of my favourite people in New York and I still get invited to the parties.


In between apartments, a friend offered me his roommate’s section in their large Chelsea 2-bedroom. She was away on a long assignment in South America and I fell madly in love with the unbelievable water pressure. Every time I turned on the shower, I had to hold onto the hand rail for fear of being knocked to the ground or pinned to the wall with its force. Every shower was an adventure – like whitewater rafting in the comfort of one’s own bathroom. But this was not my space and I was always aware that it belonged to someone else. And, like when you mess with a committed woman, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get caught. That happened late one October morning when I emerged from the shower and found a middle-aged Argentinean woman sitting on the bed. Her assignment had ended ahead of schedule and she was home early. That was the end of that tryst. The room went back to its true owner and I went back to standard water-pressure.


I recently found myself in the top floor apartment of a brownstone off Central Park West. It belonged to a feminist writer who was spending time in Europe and the apartment, newly renovated, with great light and views, seemed perfect. There was one catch, though… the owner clearly thought very highly of her boyfriend’s charms and had a framed photograph of him above the bed. Nothing wrong with that – except that it was a nude. It took some adjusting to (and an amendment to my “One Penis Limit in the Bedroom” rule) but, after a while, I hardly noticed the pale, hairy man hanging (literally) on the wall. It was, after all, a very small price to pay for a great New York sublet.


I’m currently in a quirky and Spartan walk-up in the West Village that belongs to an Italian photographer. Thankfully, there are no naked men on the wall but it’s possible I’m living above a serial killer. He has a pallid, gothic look to him and, as I passed him coming into the building, he fixed me with a steely, disdainful gaze and hissed in an eerily Hannibal Lechter-esque tone, “Ah, new meat.” (The friend I was with claims he said, new “face” but I know what I heard.) I’m going to try my best not to make eye-contact or do anything that might even vaguely annoy him but, if I go missing, check the freezer of apartment #2R

The Spice Story of India

Here is the recipe for Punjabi Kadhi (Vegetable dumplings in a
savory yogurt curry). I have also seen some chefs spell it “Punjabi
Kudhi”, meaning the girl from Punjab. I like it that when we are
writing Hindi in English, we are creating a whole new language of

Here is the recipe for Punjabi Kadhi (Vegetable dumplings in a
savory yogurt curry). I have also seen some chefs spell it “Punjabi
Kudhi”, meaning the girl from Punjab. I like it that when we are
writing Hindi in English, we are creating a whole new language of

Punjabi Kadhi
Vegetable dumplings in a savory yogurt curry.
Serves 4

Vegetable dumplings

1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped potato
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A 1-inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying


1 cup plain yogurt (soft tofu whipped with lemon juice and salt will do in a pinch)
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon dried coriander seeds
10 curry leaves
2 whole dried red chili peppers
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Mix all vegetable dumplings ingredients in a large mixing bowl with
about 1/2 cup water. Make sure that the mixture does not have too much
liquid. Adjust the consistency by adding more water or chickpea flour.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet, pot or wok to 375

Poverty and Ownership

"In the days of the white settlement, the natives of North Americafound ownership of land an incomprehensible concept. And so they lostit when the Europeans made them sign pieces of paper that were equallyincomprehensible to them. They felt they belonged to the land, but theland did not belong to them." – Eckhart Tolle

Is there a relationship between people suffering from chronicpoverty on the one hand and ownership of natural resources by the fewon the other? The answer is: Yes, there is. The majority of urban slumdwellers and the rural poor have no direct access to land, forests, orfishing. These natural resources are vested in a few private hands. Theownership of the means of livelihood has become more and moreconcentrated.

How can we own the land, forests, rivers and oceans? Like air andsunshine, food and water are the gifts of nature

God is Within, the Sufi Poet Wrote

Just over 300 years ago, the Muslim Sufi poet Bulleh Shah, while a
student at a madrassa (Islamic school) in what is now Pakistan, asked
his religious teacher this question: “What is the point of washing
one’s hands and feet before prayers if the heart wasn’t clean?”

The teacher considered Bulleh Shah’s query most contentious and
refused to answer the question which in his mind bordered on the

Despite his teacher’s attempts to dissuade him from rocking the
religious boat, Bulleh Shah just couldn’t contain his restless heart:
He grew his hair long, dressed outrageously, danced wearing ankle
bracelets, picked up the iktara (the one-stringed South Asian folk
instrument) and began singing poetry.

His poetry of love, freedom and tolerance not only gave voice to
Muslims chained by blind ritualism and a fear-mongering clergy. It also
created a cultural and spiritual bridge between Muslims, Hindus and
Sikhs living in the subcontinent.

My advice to people who are seeking God is to look within their own
hearts.This is best illustrated in Bulleh Shah’s poetry which was
directly inspired by the Quran:

You could tear down the mosque, break down the temple
Break all that can be broken
But never break anyone’s heart
Because that is where God lives.

Baba Bulleh Shah

Logos, Mythos, Jesus and Lao Tzu

Jesus is like the ultimate Rorschach test: We see ourselves in his
extraordinary presence. Like others of history, who reflect divine
truth, the reverberation of Jesus through time both attests to his
insight and helps us see ourselves.

I have received some great comments to my first post about Jesus,
which reminds me what a great, intelligent, thoughtful network
comprises the Intentblog community. I want to expand on these ideas,
particularly the role of history and research and the role of
self-awareness and personal stories. This turns out to be the classic
discussion of Mythos and Logos.

In the first century, Mythos

Peace or Else!

Yesterday, North Korea exploded their first nuclear weapon. Of
course, they claim this weapon will help them secure peace in Asia.

During the Vietnam War, I learned about the peace movement from
Quakers in California, and through the examples of Gandhi and Dorothy
Day. I realize now that Jesus and Buddha were peace activists in their
time. As long as some people attempt to settle conflict with violence,
there will be a need for a peace movement. Peace comes from the spirit
of people, rarely from governments.

The Quakers, founded in 1652 by George Fox and Margaret Fell, called
themselves the Society of Friends, from the Biblical reference to

Spooky Action at a Distance: DNA’s “Impossible” Telepathic Properties

I’m sure this is old news for this crowd:

DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself
together, even at a distance, when according to known science it
shouldn’t be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Before i continue, i must credit this post to Rebecca Sato @
let’s continue, shall we?

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current
beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the

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