Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Windows Vista R in a circle

Computers and I used to get along very well in the 80s and part of the 90s. We understood each other very well. I, for example, could clearly visualize how the stuff that I typed tunneled its way through the little wire that connects the keyboard to the big box, on to the main processor which would chew on it carefully, digest its meaning and then spew out its reactions.

On some days - and don't we all have those - it would be in a foul mood and just say "BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME" but most of the time it would just burst into a spreadsheet or word processor and all would be well. I would then type those "Dear Sir, Pursuant to our telephonic conversation of the 18th instant, I beg to draw your attention to..." kind of letters so popular those days.

If you wanted to spell check it, you'd have to select whatever text you wanted to spellcheck and then press "Ctrl" plus a few alphabets. Only then would any misspelled words be highlighted . It would not show any daft suggestions like now. "Narendra" would not automatically become "Clarendon" or "Kendra's" and "Shenoy" would most certainly not become "Phenotype", as it does now. Phenotype! I ask you! I have no idea what a phenotype is. Sounds like some kind of a psycho to me. "Psst! don't look now, but that guy with the shaggy hair is a raving phenotype!" We haven't had a phenotype in the Shenoy family for 57 generations!

As I was saying, I could understand the computer pretty well and the computer on its part understood me perfectly. It understood, for instance, that I was the proud kind of guy who would never beg anything of any body, leave alone the attention of some low-life whose telephonic conversations I had to pursue. The computer knew that it was just a matter of form. And if the computer guessed that I was an idiot, it maintained a dignified silence. It did not produce an "assistant" who rolled its eyes and behaved like a patronizing know-it-all.

Ironically, and this is where I put my most original observation that there is no justice in this world, the less people understood the computer, the richer Bill Gates and the software clan got. After a succession of bug-fests called Windows this and that, we now have a magic wand called Windows Vista R in a circle which, according to Bill Gates and his henchmen will make your business succeed like billy-o. The customers will walk in, according to these guys, and as soon as they realise you have purchased Windows Vista R in a circle, they will emit howls of joy and give you lots of business. Really! They must think we customers have water on our brains! (In my case, they're probably right but discerning people like yourself? No way!) Get more out of your Windows Vista R in a circle, urges Bill. Yeah sure! You know how Bill gets more out of Windows Vista R in a circle? HE SELLS IT TO IDIOTS LIKE YOU.

P.S. It has just been brought to my notice that Windows Vista R in a circle is actually not Windows Vista R in a circle but Windows Vista TM. Perhaps Bill thinks this makes it look less stupid.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Deep thoughts

My kids are off to Mysore tomorrow on their own. All of 13 years and 10 years of age respectively. They're growing up, I know, but they're still such babies! Who will take care of them on the flight? Not that anyone needs to, nowadays. My kids are smarter than I was at that age (indeed, they are of the opinion that they are smarter than I am NOW) but they are disarmingly innocent in certain matters. They were lobbying me to buy a plasma TV, which I felt was too expensive (it costs about 100,000 rupees) and anyway, television is so stupid. And we already have a big fat TV. Why do we need a big thin TV? But they wanted it. When I used the economic argument, Vyaas brushed it aside telling me that money was no problem because his granny had given him Rs. 500 and I could use it to buy the TV.

And they are still little boys, for all their man talk. The other night we saw a Hindi movie named Bhool Bhullaiya. The plot is a bit sinister but there is a lot of comic relief in the movie and consequently rated "U/A", a bit like PG in the US, I guess. A good movie, by the way, especially considering that it comes from Priyadarshan who has made some of the more disgusting movies of recent times, for example an abomination called "Garam Masala". As I was saying, the plot is a little scary though not really creepy. But at night, both of them climbed into our bed, on the grounds that there were mosquitoes in their room. Both steadfastly refused to accept that they were even the slightest bit scared. Typical guy behaviour.

Some of the things they like do distress me, of course. The chief among them is gangsta rap. We do almost all our listening to music in the car because at home they're either studying, playing football or watching TV. Or reading the newspaper (I'm not kidding. Both these guys read the dailies with great interest, especially the sports pages and the comics, more typical guy behaviour). So if we go for a long drive (in Mumbai, thanks to our traffic situation, any drive is a long drive), the lads begin the Great Battle for the Car Stereo Remote. The U.N. (in the form of their mom) intervenes from time to time, threatening to impose sanctions which involve chucking the remote out of the window and assuming totalitarian control over the stereo. Peace is then signed and the only music they both like is rap.

I don't know if you've heard much of what Dr. Dre or Snoop Dog have to say but it is almost entirely comprised of the f and allied words. Sheela, god bless her soul, is completely unfamiliar with this kind of stuff, especially when intoned by African Americans, otherwise the lads would certainly be missing a few teeth. As it is, the three men in the family understand the lyrics perfectly, two of them delighting in the discomfiture of the third. Consider my predicament. No father can accept such language in front of kids who, contrary to their own view, are mere toddlers. But if I put the topic under discussion, the crown princes will surely get their butts whipped and their father the king will receive a substantial earful. So I have to deliver a lot of circular threats and artful bribes and get them to switch to something less offensive. Gautham calls Dr. Dre "the American Shakespeare". He'll say things like "Dad, can we listen to the American Shakespeare?" to which Sheela raises an eyebrow and inquires as to who this might be. Luckily, she has not pursued this line of inquiry too far till now. There are some things a woman can never understand.

And these half men-half children will be traveling in a plane unrestrained by the wisdom of their parents. I fear for the stewardesses. On the other hand, serves them right for raising their eyebrows and telling me to fasten my seatbelt.

The Greatest Movie Line Ever

Here, without doubt, is the greatest movie line ever. If you fall out of your chair laughing and fracture your hip, you can sue the estate of Bob Hope.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A cultural weekend in Mumbai

I often explain to Sheela that if I'm spending hours in front of the computer that is because I am carefully compiling the story of my life in the form of e-mails and blog posts. I think she has figured out by now that while it is not exactly a lie, it is substantially the opposite of the truth.

Most of my time seems to be spent reading extremely important e-mails from African gentlemen on miraculous bequeaths of millions of dollars which can be all mine if I could only fund the expenses required for their release. And of course, mail from concerned people offering pharmaceutical products of a very personal nature.

Let me therefore assuage my conscience by writing about the weekend just gone by. The Times of India sponsored a Sufi music program at the Bandra Fort in Mumbai. Yes, 'where the hell is that?' is what I thought too, when Shrinath told me to lug my musical ass to the venue. It's at Band Stand, next to the Taj Lands End Hotel. Opposite Sea Rock, for old timers. My mom wanted to come along too. She has recently taken a liking to Sufi Qawwalis after hearing Abida Parveen on World Space Radio.(The said Parveen is built on the lines of a battleship but sings most mellifluously and hypnotically. She was not performing, though). Sheela and the kids decided they would have more fun at Akhil's house.

As usual, I landed up late, thanks to the beautiful evening traffic which was moving at a speed that made glaciers look fast paced. True to form, everyone was honking, some to express their dissatisfaction and some just because they had a horn. I thought of writing a ballad to the brave honkaneros of Mumbai. ("Oh! Young Popatlal is come out of the west, Through all of Andheri his horn was the loudest" that sort of thing). Thanks to my mom's pacifist views and strong objections to anything in the nature of interpersonal conflict, I was more honked against than honking.

I thus reached the venue in a ruffled state of mind. If I was President of the United States and the generals had asked me for permission to obliterate Moscow, I believe I would have given in right away. Angry, or as they say in scientific terminology, seriously pissed.

Luckily for me, Shrinath had his chauffeur on standby and I was spared the ordeal of hunting for a parking spot. Shrinath of course looked fresh as a daisy owing to living almost next door. The three of us, Shrinath, mom and I entered the concert to find, alas, that all the best seats were taken and there was standing room only in the nose-bleed section, high up on the hill.

By the time we settled down on a rough concrete wall, the singer who was performing had finished and the stage was taken over by two Wadali brothers. These guys are Hindus from Punjab, but are considered doyens of the Sufi tradition. They sang of Allah and Eid being the season of love and things like that, with such feeling and sincerity that all of us were spellbound.
I thought it spoke tremendously for the spirit of Indianness that binds our often silly but entirely lovable people across religious divides. The ordinary people on the street, that is. There are of course the psychos and the bigots and the downright corrupt but by and large, we are a nation of one billion docile (except in bed - look at those population numbers) people.

After the concert, we repaired to Akhil's house for a sumptuous dinner of pasta in some really yummy cream sauce and I ate away as if I was a pig who had just been released from a starvation diet. Which I pretty much am, actually. In a desperate bid to get rid of my pot belly I have given up rice entirely and cut back on food in general. The pot belly is showing signs of going away but so is my mind. Every now and then I lose it completely and indulge in binge eating which gets the pot belly right back in to championship contention.n Alas!

On the morrow was part II of the concert. This time I went alone as mom had some social visiting to do. Sheela and the kids were busy with mid-term exams. I slunk off as soon as possible, lest I be drafted for teacher duty. This happens from time to time when Sheela suffers a nervous breakdown and the baton is handed over to yours truly. As is well known, I command as much authority as a Buddhist monk in Myanmar, resulting in the kids thumbing their noses at me and playing cricket. Sheela returns after her unwinding or whatever and holds her head in despair. Then she throws me out of the room and gets to work. And I'm back on the computer, catching up on the latest from the African gentlemen.

Oops, digressed. As I was saying, part II of the concert was patriotic songs by Shubha Mudgal. This is one fine singer, let me tell you, the finest I've heard in a long time. Her voice is sort of contralto and her singing is extremely vivacious. She had dug out poems from India's independence struggle and set them to music. Very moving.

Shrinath and I were a bit speechless. After all that patriotism, getting sloshed didn't quite seem right. We decided to stroll down to a nearby eatery (being the lazy devils that we are, we did the strolling in Shrinath's car) and decided to tank up on some carbohydrates. This time, I am happy to report, instead of eating like a greedy pig, I ate like a polite and well brought up pig. We parted after a few satisfied burps and decided to get on with the business of life, Shrinath with his banking, I with my African gentlemen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Heyy Baby

Last night it was my honor and privilege to witness the enactment of the worst script in movie history in any language, any country, ever. The movie is called "Heyy Baby" I knew instinctively that this was seriously injurious stuff because I could hear my brain cells popping one by one. My wife and kids of course laughed their respective asses off.

Dying to hear the plot? Okay, fasten your seat belts and hang on to your barf bags, here goes.

Akshay Khanna, aka Aroosh is a restaurant manager.
Ritesh Deshmukh aka Tanmay is a teddy bear (!)
Fardeen Khan aka Al is (I think) a cricket gambler.

All three of them are, how shall I put it delicately, keenly interested in exchanging genetic material with members of the opposite sex without participating in the creation of long term social institutions like marriage. Our kind director gives us a song to illustrate this, comprising of a dozen or so current Bollywood heroines cavorting with the aforementioned worthies in nightclubs of a swankiness that would put Ibiza to shame.

The three of them live in a place that looks like it belongs to the Sultan of Brunei. "Inconsistent with declared income" as the tax people like to put it. One morning, when these three are in bed with their respective flavors of the previous evening, the bell rings. One of them opens the door to find an infant girl in a basket, with a note saying "kutte, kameene, apni beti ko samhalo". Apparently one of them is the girl's father and no one knows which one. They feel compelled to look after her, even though none of them wants to. Significantly, none of them thinks of reporting this to the cops, though subsequently in the movie, cops willingly butt in on things that shouldn't concern them at all.

Toilet humor time, decides the director, and we are treated to the reactions of these guys to baby poop. The piece de resistance of this sequence of incomparable hilarity, judging from the reactions of my sons, is when the poop filled nappy lands poop side first on Akshay Kumar's face. The director's immortal contributions to the world of comedy continue in a similar vein for the next ten or fifteen minutes.

Then someone gets the bright idea of leaving the child at the door of a church. After they've left her there, it rains and the baby contracts pneumonia. They take her to a hospital where the doctor tells them she's going to die. Suddenly, everyone is weeping buckets like in a Rajendra Kumar movie. (Rajendra Kumar was a famous actor of my parents' generation. Rajendra Kumar could weep for three hours at a stretch. Some sort of a record, I believe.)

Well, the infant survives. She's luckier than me. I'm falling asleep here at the keyboard just recounting it. To cut a long story short, the plot meanders through completely improbable situations which I wouldn't be able to recollect unless I ingest prodigious quantities of beer, and probably not even then.

The questions here for serious students of cinema are as follows:
Has there ever been a stupider plot in movie history, including "Pati Parmeshwar" and "Justice Chaudhary"?(In Justice Chaudhary, the protagonist, who is the Chief Justice of India, played by The Great Jeetendra, stands up on the desk in the Supreme Court and sings a song. This is part of the court proceedings, by the way)
If it were proved that the plot was written by a human, and not randomly computer generated, as has been suggested, is that sufficient grounds to commit the script writer to a mental institution?
The producer spent Rs. 40 Cr. on this movie. What has he been smoking?
The movie is a hit in India. What have Indians been smoking?

For those of you who are not serious students of cinema, I suggest less painful avenues of entertainment such as dancing on a bed of nails, going over the Niagara falls in a barrel or, god bless my soul, even watching "Kyun ki Saas Bhi kabhi Bahu Thi"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hi everyone. I would like all you discriminating and erudite folk to check out this website

What does a doofus like me have to do with a Silicon Valley start-up? Plenty! The man behind it is my old college mate and room mate, Hrishi Kamat who has frequently, though not recently, performed the yeoman task of scooping up yours truly whenever I inadvertently ingested those few drops of alcohol that disengage the control of the brain from the operation of the lower limbs. Hrishi himself was the most sober and upright of us all. His only weakness was - and is- food, of which he is a connoisseur.

Hrishi has now launched this website, which is an interesting concept. It is a message board - he calls it 'the wall' - where you can post text messages, photo albums and video messages (via a web cam). Only your friends, that is people approved by you, can view this wall.

It is an ideal place to put family and personal stuff. Vacation photos, perhaps. Or plans for a get-to-gether. And the webcam video messaging lends a very personal touch to your message.

So join in now and get into the scene. Its definitely the next big thing! And do include me as your friend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sheela dances the Salsa

Isn't this dance form graceful? Sheela's a natural at it. I wish I could say the same about myself. I resemble a cat on a hot tin roof when I attempt to execute the same steps, but I'm learning....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

An account of my Shirdi trip

I guess I'm not much of a philosopher, deficient as I am in the requisite thinking equipment. The only important philosophical question that has occurred to me is

When you use the flush in a plane and the stuff disappears with a "whooosh" where does it really go?

According to Shakespeare, who seems to have studied the subject deeply, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. Who am I to argue with the Bard? I have been intensely suspicious of light drizzles ever since I read The Merchant of Venice.

But of late, I have been vexed with questions of an existential nature. "Who am I?" is a thought that often bothers me, though Sheela feels that it is not entirely a coincidence that these thoughts occur after consuming a few beers. So when the opportunity of taking a pilgrimage to Shirdi presented itself, I tarried not.

We took the first pit stop at Pune where we stayed with Sheela's sister-in-law's sister's family who have 2 kids aged 4 and 2 respectively. Joining us there were Sheela's brother Sundeep and his family comprising of one harried wife and three kids aged 5, 3 and 1 respectively. My kids, 13 and 10, looked like senior citizens. All these children were extremely adorable, except for the charming tendency children have of yelling, crying and throwing up without warning, sometimes simultaneously. The guys followed the time honored male response to juvenile crises - Go yell some place else - and thoughtfully sipped on Kingfisher draught. This brought forth thoughtful observations from the respective spouses as to what might happen to people who don't get off their fat butts and tend to their progeny. I had a large grin on my face throughout the proceedings since I had had the foresight to have my kids twelve years ago.

We drove to Shirdi very early in the morning - 4 a.m. in fact - the idea being that the kids would spend the entire journey fast asleep. This turned out to be perfect. The tots indeed slept the sleep of the innocent. Somehow I never got these bright ideas when my kids were growing up. Sheela and I would travel around in our Maruti van those days with all our limbs involved in driving, steering, restraining children from jumping out the window and in my case, occasionally heaping abuse on errant autorickshaw drivers. Compared to our travails this was serenity it self.

Sundeep was driving and I had the luxury of admiring the creeping crimson of day break. Presently, we came across a truck overturned, doubtless due to the driver having been observing the creeping crimson of daybreak. The truck was carrying a consignment of beer and there was a throng of happy looking villagers looking forward to a serious party at six in the morning, foraging amongst the cartons. The driver and his assistant were sitting on a culvert looking shaken but unhurt. All this had naturally caused a traffic jam - passing truck drivers had parked their vehicles and jumped into the fray. We were lucky to wriggle out of this one. The accident had just happened and word had gotten out. I could see villagers streaming in from every direction. It would have been fun to see all these people sloshed out of their minds at daybreak but we had a mission to accomplish.

Presently, we reached Sai Baba Temple at Shirdi and joined the queue. It was quite long and took us almost 2 hours to get to the main sanctum. But the crowds were extremely decorous and well behaved. Most of them were singing Bhajans. There were the usual devotees in a hurry, trying to get in through side entrances. One old man and his wife were simply jumping the line at every opportunity. No one seemed to mind, though.

Sai Baba is a mystic saint of whose origins little is known. He lived at the turn of the century and preached religious harmony. And lived in abject poverty in life, something which always wins my respect when I see it in people who have the adulation of the public. Mahatma Gandhi was another example. Have you heard of any of his sons, grandchildren, cousins, uncles, brothers-in-law, any one at all cashing in on his name? Contrast that with the present day bunch of money grubbing parasites masquerading as leaders.

Any way, I found Shirdi charming because of its simple, if garish, devotion. It is a bit tatty but thats because most of Sai Baba's devotees are poor people, but no less sincere for that. The other thing is the number of hotels here and their names. Almost all the hotels are named using the formula "HOTEL" + "SAI" + "$STRING$" where "$STRING$" is any alphanumeric string from "PALACE" to "AMRIT" to "KRIPA"

We headed on to a nearby town named Shingnapur which is famous for a Shani Temple. Shani is a demigod whose major trip in life, if astrologers are to be believed, is to attach himself to you and torment you till you pay your astrologer some money and get him to tell you what mantras to chant and when. We performed a prophylactic puja which involve pouring oil on the large stone that represents him. All throughout the wily residents of the place were trying their level best to rip us off. We put up a futile resistance till we realized that liberty was to be had by flinging small amounts of cash at all and sundry.

The drive all through was beautiful. This is good farming country, mostly sugarcane and grapes. The countryside was verdant. I guess the farmers are quite rich. The roads were quite alright by the exacting standards of Maharashtra where a density of 3.7 potholes per square meter qualifies as a superdeluxe express highway. We reached Pune in the evening, a bit weary but raring to get back home where some exciting homework awaited the boys. They tried everything in their powers to get their stay extended by a day. I was lending support from the outside, as they say in politics, but the motion could not be carried through because of determined opposition from the ruling junta, namely General Sheela Shenoy. So we trundled off to Mumbai, weary but chilled. And that constitutes my incoherence for today. Those of you who made sense of it, god bless.