Thursday, December 25, 2008

In which I have a meal - and other unusual stuff

Square meals these days are quite unusual for me. I am following what is known as the Zone Diet, in which one gets all ones carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, and proteins from soya granules. And taste from memory. Every once in a while I am allowed to look at pictures of food. Yesterday I saw a full page photograph of Pasta in White Sauce, as I was eating the broccoli.

And today, we went for a nice traditional Satyanarayana Pooja and a traditional banana leaf meal thereafter. Actually, the only thing I COULD have eaten was the banana leaf itself. Everything else was high glycaemic load carbohydrates. But religion is religion. I pigged out on the goodies, and I'm wallowing in guilt at the time of writing this.

A very close friend, similarly situated in terms of triglycerides yet unable to bring himself to follow such diets asked me how I manage to do it. Here I must resort to aphorisms and mystic couplets like the old masters in the upanishads who had to answer all those questions like "who am I" and weren't allowed snappy answers like "you are someone who could use deodorant". The master here is the missus. I am the faithful disciple.

Said the disciple

O all-knowing one, what will befall
One who fails to follow this diet and all

Said the all-knowing one

Know that if you disobey me, you can give up all hopes
That your love life will be any better than the pope's

And moreover if I see any back-chat or sass
Concerning this diet, I might just kick your ass.

My concern for my toenails my demeanour does soften
Or else I would have kicked your butt far more often

For the next time I see you with fries or a sweet
You had better leg it out of here because you're meat

Monday, December 22, 2008

The weekend that was

I've just installed Linux into my old desktop and it works like a breeze.

This is a version called Puppy Linux. It's less than 100 MB, loads into the memory like a flash and works perfectly. And this on a decrepit old desktop.

It detected everything automatically, including the internet, the audio and the cd drive, which was a good thing because when it comes to a computer, like sex, I can talk a lot better about it than actually do something.

And the thing is this. It is the work of a solitary person, a guy named Barry Kauler, who apparently did it in his spare time. And it is free.

Compare this with the offerings of a certain company based in Redmond, Washington, owned by a super geek whom I shall call, for fear of being assassinated, Gill Bates (who,by the way, is such a nasty that he reportedly gives his lieutenants a condition which, for reasons of delicacy, we shall call "Betty Swalls").

Their competing product costs some 12,000 rupees, occupies several gigabytes of space, crashes oftener than George Bush on a bicycle and works at a speed which makes road construction look exciting. So naturally, it is the most successful corporation in the world, makes obscene amounts of money and screws millions of people all over the world. To my mind, this is conclusive evidence that there is no god.

With this depressing thought in mind, my old pal Akhil and I paid homage to a nice little beverage from rural Scotland and ended up discussing the future of the world. Of the discussion itself I have scant recollection, so abstruse were the points considered, but we reached the conclusion that the problem with India is that the people of India are more fertile than the soil of India.

On Sunday, with an ice-pack tenderly balanced on the cranium, I surveyed my world with hesitation. We had been invited for a luncheon party which I tried to wriggle out of on health grounds. My wife however - and I strongly suspect she's related to Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple - possibly all three - saw through it in a flash. "Shave, bathe, dress and be in the car in ten minutes. I'm going to the stationery shop and I expect you to pick me up in"...... she looked at her watch.... "in twelve minutes". Who does she think she is, ordering me around like that! Anyway, I made it in eleven and a half.

The lunch turned out to be very nice. A few beers proved to be therapeutic and I was able to be the life of the party again. A restful snooze in the afternoon prepared me for the evening's program which was an exciting 5 hours in Mumbai traffic, in order to attend a Navjote ceremony of a Parsi friend's son. I love Parsis. Their quaint speech, their idiosyncrasies, their impeccable manners and their awesome food. I hogged up some 17 weeks of calories (I'm on a diet) so for the next four months I am going to be Swami Vayubhakshananda, he who lives on air alone.

And I still haven't watched Rab Ne... but the missus has given us an ultimatum. By Thursday or I watch her soaps daily for 2 months straight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Watching the News at Vadodara Railway Station

I don't get to watch much TV, primarily because I don't carry enough weight in the protocol line-up. On the odd occasions that the TV does happen to be unoccupied, my mind is. Occupied, I mean. Not with much, of course, just the usual "what's it likely to be for the next meal? Broccoli or Lettuce?". Or I happen to spy Shilpa Shetty in one of her famous comic moods and drop off into a coma.

The upshot is that I get to watch virtually none of the excellent stuff that is shown on the various channels, particularly the DoorDarshan News.

I saw this channel for some 2 hours last night, waiting for a train at Vadodara railway station in Gujarat. Now these guys are seriously good, the DD News people. Pravda and the Xinhua could take their correspondence course.

The star draw was PratibhaPatil. Yes, that one. She was addressing a bunch of industrialists (I could tell from their pot-bellies) and the newscaster summarized her speech.
"Dr Pratibha Patil told the gathering that companies should increase their exports by 5 % per annum."
Cut to Nandan Nilekani, Vijay Mallya, Anand Mahindra, Kumarmanglam Birla and a few other captains of industry slapping their foreheads and muttering to themselves "THAT'S what's required! Now why didn't I think of it before".

Then they showed a clip of Hon. P. Chidambaram addressing the Houses of Parliament. " India is nowhere near recession", said His Excellency. And then, surprisingly, he asked Ashok Kumar Rathod to fill water in coach C-7 of the Jaipur Superfast Express. It might have been PA system, which erupted into loud speech every once in a while in the waiting room, but I wouldn't bet my ass on it.

Then a bunch of stockmarket specialists, looking very happy that they hadn't jumped of the balcony after all, were commenting on the latest Sensex rally. An expert was asked questions via satellite phone or whatever inter-galactic communication device they use because we heard the question clearly while the said expert, who kept nodding his head sagely and smiling the smile of the Buddha, didn't show signs of having heard a thing.

Then the anchor asked him "Rameshji, can you hear me?"

And Rameshji says "No".

I fell off my seat laughing, to the alarm of my co-passengers, who seemed to see nothing funny in all this and indeed, appeared to be calculating the possibility of this weird looking guy (me) being a nutcase.

Seriously, I'm enriched for life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rabba Rabba

The missus and her accomplices are planning to watch a movie "Rab ne bana di jodi" which I'm trying to weasel out of. There are several reasons.

First, the Gold Medal Winner of the World Histrionic Championship (Men), Shahrukh Khan will be on screen, laying it on as thickly as he can. Luckily, the Gold Medal Winner of the World Histrionic Championship (Women), namely Kajol, won't be there in the movie but I'm sure Shahrukh will more than make up for it.

Second, it's one of those Rab or Rabba movies which means it has dangerously high doses of Punjabi. This is standard for Yash Chopra's Yash Raj Films which have, as part of the standard package, Punjab ke khet, Karva Chauth and several tonnes of Rabba, spread more or less evenly through the 3.2 hours excluding songs. I personally don't have anything against Punjabi, a language like any other, but Yash Raj Films lays it on too thick for me. Indeed, it wouldn't be going too far to call it the Yashraj Rabba Factory (YRF), which has enough Rabba to be a world supplier of automobile tyres.

And finally, after watching a few non rabba films back to back over the last week or two, I've become a wimp. No stomach for the serious rabba stuff now, especially the chorus numbers where thirty people dance in a line while the hero and the heroine profess their
1. Love for each other
2. Hatred for each other
3. Sympathy for each other
4. Devotion to God
5. Solidarity with the oppressed proletariat.
6. Support for Barack Obama

Really. A big chorus and a 9x9 matrix of dancers in a field of "Sarson" is, to YashRaj's mind, not the best way of expressing any of the above, it is the ONLY way.

Of course, this is an incoherent rant. The disgruntled murmurs of one who has been robbed of a leisurely Sunday lunch with the customary beer ("because the show is at 1.00, you silly, we don't have time. Why don't you have yesterday's rice and Amul Dahi")

I asked her if "Rabba Rabba Rabba" could be pluralized as "Rabbi" (for instance, 'fungus fungus fungus' is 'fungi'). This potentially major contribution to linguistics got a big cold stare.

I ask you!

Update! In the end, I did not go. A concatenation of several circumstances, including the need to babysit an infant, offered me an escape route which I seized with an agility surprising in someone my age. Well, missus LOVED it! And she told me the plot, which was a bit hazy because of her laughing at all the FUN Shahrukh acting as she recounted it, but the summary is as follows.

Sharukh acts like Mr. Bean
He gets married to the heroine out of a sense of duty because her entire baraat died in an accident and her father was Sharukh's masterji. The fact that the heroine has great chest measurements might have entered into the equation, apart from chivalry of course, because somehow this stuff never seems to happen if the woman in question should look like Jabba the Hut.

The keystone of the plot is the ability of the heroine to completely fail to recognize her husband by the deletion of a mustache. I am not joking. This is the carefully crafted storyline of an entire corporation full of masterly film makers. I would have wept but I'm saving my tears for the day after tomorrow, because the missus has firmly decided that I HAVE to see it, along with her. Just the two of us. No ear plugs. And definitely no blindfold.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Melancholy tales

(Apologies to all and sundry for the abysmal quality of this post. Never at the forefront of the literary movement, this time this blog has plumbed depths not believed possible without decompression equipment. The complete explanation for this tomfoolery is that we have too much time and too little grey matter)

From time to time, on this little rustic blog of ours, we slip into the melancholy. We try to water it down, of course, but since we don't want wags to call it water melancholy, we keep it to ourselves. Today, we are going to tell you of the melancholy life of our friend, a retired general, in hospital for chronic and acute constipation. He spends his time reviewing enema positions, and wondering if we will make poor jokes about his condition, such as calling his tale smellancholy, but we will not.

He hates doctors. Flippant, arrogant, insensitive, boorish. In his day, he would have shot the lot of them. But now he has to be careful. The head surgeon is known to be incisive. Indeed, the interns call him Slash Gordon. When he is around, the general puts on his most cheerful face and announces that he is much better, and takes care to laugh at all his jokes. Though it sometimes backfires. Haha. Not that way. We mean when the Surgeoon cracked a joke and the General doubled up with laughter, saying "you're cutting me up". The Surgeon turned to the sister and asked her "Am I?", but fortunately Sister replied in the negative. Close call, nevertheless.

The visiting American specialists are even worse. The other day, one of them was taking rounds and the sister pointed out the general and summarized his condition. "The General is admitted for chronic and acute constipation", said Sister. And the American? He said "No shit!", and laughed his head off, as if it were a joke.

But some of the doctors were quite humane, though quite literal minded. A Physician doing the rounds palpated him and spoke most comfortingly. The general was touched and tears welled up in his eyes. "Are you alright?" asked the physician, alarmed. The general assured him he was. "I just got a lump in my throat", said he. The doctor turned to sister. "You told me it was at the other end".

The worst of them all was the doctor who told him "If there were more generals like you, we could have the Turd World War"

Stop Press! In breaking news today, Bajaj Auto announced that they would be combating the recession by offering a 50% discount on new autorickshaws to people who turned in their old ones. A company spokesman clarified that the old autorickshaws would have to be in roadworthy condition, and that wear-and-tear and mileage would be carefuly computed. As CEO Rahul Bajaj put it "We're taking some calculated ricks"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Living dangerously

It's a man thing, living dangerously is. Confronting death. Looking it in the eye, unfazed. Not flinching at the prospect.

Different people do it differently.

One J. Bond of London, England, for instance, likes to get his kicks by driving cars off cliffs and shooting people for one reason or another, and getting shot at in return. Spectacular, but too loud for my taste.

Middle aged MBAs, especially those of us from the more reputed institutes, prefer subtlety over pomp. Thus, my old mate Shrinath and I went on Tuesday afternoon to Highway Gomantak Restaurant in Bandra East, Mumbai and decimated some 17000 Kcalories each by way of fried fish. The waiters had realised the moment we started ordering that here was a duo not to be messed with. No one dared question us, or suggest a serving of lettuce and broccoli salad in lieu of the Jumbo Surmai Fried. The question might have trembled on some lips but the glint in our eyes made them avert their gaze and run for cover.

And flirting with death it definitely was. My triglycerides are discussed with bated breath at the monthly meetings of the Royal College of Physicians. And Shrinath's blood pressure has been the topic of more PhD theses than any human ailment including Bo Derek's Herpes.

But we thought nothing of it, nothing at all. And in a sterling example of how the tough never carry their tensions home, we both went home to our respective spouses and told them we were lunching on salads and soup.

I'm not crowing or bragging here, just trying to set an example to the young folk out there, a few of whom might have mistakenly logged on to this page. Fear nothing. That's all I'm telling you. Fear nothing.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pakistan has zero population

Now HERE'S breaking news for you!

In a path-breaking discovery today, Indian authorities realized that Pakistan has a population of zero.

"We asked them for 20 people to be handed over to us, who we believe are directly involved in planning and orchestrating terror attacks on India, but the Pakistan Authorities refused this on the grounds that they are not in Pakistan. They have refused to acknowledge the existence of another 300000 people whose names we had forwarded as a test case. The point is, going by statistical estimates, the only inference once can make is that no one lives in Pakistan", said a senior Indian government official, who requested anonymity because he feared he might lose his job. "The world might think we have lost our mind"

This reporter pointed out that the official census figure in 1998 was 132,352,279, including Dawood Ibrahim.

"Where did all these people disappear?", we asked.

The official admitted to being puzzled.

"We are as yet unable to form a firm conclusion but research indicates that they are either doing construction work in the Middle East or living as illegals in America. Except President Zardari, who is in America quite legally, giving interviews to Larry King.", he said

"What are we going to do about this?" asked our reporter, known for his very sharp questioning technique.

"We would love to bomb them flat, which they shouldn't mind especially since nobody lives there, but the Americans have told us to be patient.", he remarked

On being asked to clarify, he revealed that the Indian and US authorities had been having talks.

"It is not time yet", Condoleeza Rice has told our PM. "We will tell them not to do this again. They will never be able to disobey our commands."

The ill-informed Indian Public is a problem, however. They seem to have formed the opinion, one wonders how, that this had been said before and nothing has happened. They are baying for action.

Sometimes one wonders about the publics blatant disregard for diplomatic propriety

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A secret account of a secret meeting on security

We have eyes and ears every where, even though we may sometimes forget to zip up our fly. We have been snooping around, listening in on conversations, checking to see if the Powers That Be are running the country well. We are happy to report that they are. Sometimes, especially in moments of stress, they might become Powers That Pee, or even Powers That Flee, but that does not detract from their basic soundness and the firmness of their grasp on matters of National Importance.

Thus, when we got the opportunity to listen in on a top secret meeting on the vexatious issue of national security, we decided to write a secret account. This is for your eyes only. Burn your laptop after reading this.

First item on agenda:
Assault rifle to replace lathi of policeman.

The point was welcomed and accepted without debate as necessary and vital for the security of the realm. As the chair said, "Now that we know that assault rifles are more powerful than lathis, there is not a moment to lose"

Honorable Minister for Health made the invaluable point that for policemen suffering from hypertension, instead of assault rifle a low-salt rifle would be made available,. The suggestion was minuted on the instructions of the chair.

Honorable Minister for Law made the further invaluable point that proper training be given to security personnel in the use of the assault rifle, especially a caveat against carrying AA cells or even AAA cells for that matter, since the Hon. Minister recalled that Assault and Battery are punishable under CrPC and IPC. The chair noted the point appreciatively, and asked it to be minuted

Second item on agenda:
Issue of combat training to police force

This point too was welcomed and accepted without debate as necessary and vital for the security of the realm. This time the chair expressed amazement at the revelation that the police lacked combat training, remarking that "We think it is right they should be tight when they fight with all their might for then they would be outtasight" but the cabinet secretary asked this remark to be expunged as it might lead to speculation as to who exactly was tight.

Honorable Minister for Parliamentary affairs made the invaluable suggestion that it be made compulsory for serving policemen to attend parliament in session, to improve their unarmed combat skills. The suggestion was gratefully acknowledged by the chair and so incorporated.

Third item on agenda:


Sadly, before he could listen in on the third item, your correspondent was spotted, detected and thrown out of the meeting with the consent of the chair and pretty much all the other furniture, including the drapes, a candelabrum and two ceiling fans. But we're still hopeful. We still have both our ears to the ground though given the structure of our face, this involves burying our head, but duty is paramount. Stay tuned. We may not be Barkha Dutt but we try harder.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This Government has been De-Patilled for your safety

This Government has been De-patilled for your safety. On careful review and reflection, the Powers That Be have determined that the main reason for the horrific incidents of 26th November and the 60 hours that followed, have been several Patils.

Two of these, Shivraj (according to an intrepid investigative journalist, a mole for a Large Foreign Organization named Brylcreem) and R.R. (the nemesis of a major evil in this world, bar girls) have been unceremoniously asked to go by the Powers That Be, while the third, Pratibha, has been spared owing to the fact that as President, she has no decision making powers other than buying curtains for the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Powers That Be have determined that now that the government has been De-patilled for your safety, life can go on as before. It is not necessary to upset established administrative procedure by implementing the many hare-brained suggestions coming out of the irresponsible blogosphere, such as making the police more independent, or upgrading their armory, their salaries and their accountability. The Powers That Be have better things to do with their time.

In other news, Barkha Dutt is being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for coining the phrase "India's 9/11".

Friday, November 28, 2008

There they go again, the angry citizens

If I hear the phrase 'intelligence failure' again, I'm going to scream. Not that anyone cares, but still.

You morons, obviously it is an intelligence failure. If it were not, it would be collusion, wouldn't it, knowing that terrorists are coming and doing nothing about it?

It's called Bayesian probability.

Given that a terror attack has happened, what is the probability that the security forces did not know about it in sufficient detail? One.

In other news, this jerk, a film maker named Rahul Dholakia is angry because when he drives from Lokhandwala to film city, he can't see a single armed policeman. Heard that, guys? Out of the Taj, please. Man the road to Film city. Rahul is VERY upset.

And more jerks like that abound, making my blood pressure go high. None of these idiots have any pertinent suggestions.

Like administrative reforms, giving more independence to the police, liberating them from the clutches of elected representatives.

A wage structure that gives policemen and army personnel some compensation for hardships faced, as opposed to IAS officers, say, in the animal husbandry department.

Allowing control of purchase of hardware to go from the Deputy Director of Stores, or Additional Comptroller General in charge of staple pins, X-ray machines, 90 mm Howitzers and Other Security Items, who would probably buy cast iron bullet proof vests, to the police themselves who might have a vested interest in buying something which allows a little mobility as well.

Oh no. We have the anger brigade still. And today, Alyque Padamsee wants to know why we can't use sleeping gas, instead of tear gas. Gee! Didn't know he had a MD in Anaesthesia.

UPDATE: Just read this superb post, an insider view on a police officer's life. This is the way things are, in our country. Needs to be changed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dear Mumbai Police and NSG

I know you guys are busy right now with the terrorists but I HAVE to draw this to your attention. I have just been watching a program on the Times Now channel where four people namely Alyque Padamsee, Farooq Sheikh, Shefali Shah and one guy named Sohail, I think were discussing the situation with the anchor, a bespectacled gawd-help-us whose name I could not catch.

These four people are ANGRY. Not with the terrorists, who they feel are only misguided souls doing what they've been told, and doing it rather well, thank you very much, but with YOU.

Yes, they feel that you don't know what you are doing.

How can you take SO MUCH TIME? snarls Shefali.

What EXACTLY have you been upto during the last 20 hours? snarls Sohail, who also wants to know why the Mumbai Police had to wait 8 hours before deciding to call for Army assistance. He feels, and who is to fault his crystal clear logic, that the Army should be called for any situation including a bad traffic day.

Farooq Shaikh wishes you people were atleast half as well prepared as the terrorists, calling your performance amateurish.

And Alyque Padamsee just ranted something in an impeccable accent. Probably doesn't like the way you people dress.

All four also blamed you for allowing this kind of thing to happen. Don't you people KNOW, they ask, that you are not supposed to let terrorists fire at people?

Shefali also expressed disgust at the cursory way her car is checked when she frequently goes to five star hotels. Just a mirror under the car and open the boot. What if she's carrying AK47's on the back seat? It's YOUR fault, she insinuates. You don't teach the five star hotel security ANYTHING!

So people, brave and fearless though you might be, and though all of you have fearlessly jumped into battle with opponents you know next to nothing about, other than that they are armed to the teeth with high explosives, we feel you need some expert coaching.

Why don't you take these four wonderful people and shove them into the corridor in the Taj or the Oberoi? I'm sure you would learn a lot!

I'm safe, though that's more than I can say for 100 others

Ram, Lakshmi, Nandini, thanks for asking. Yes all of us are safe. We had no clue. Sheela and I went for a movie last night (Dasvidania), which was lovely by the way and had me weeping all through the second half, while some of my friends went nuts trying to call me. Came back at midnight to find total madness had erupted in the city.

It is terrible, going by what we're seeing on the channels. There is no firm information. People are scared of going out of the house. Schools have been closed. I'm sure there will be no offices working today. Nothing, NOTHING, has ever happened on this scale here.

However, I would imagine that things are pretty much under control. The army, navy and police is out there in numbers, and the terrorists don't seem to have much of a plan other than spraying AK47 gunfire around. They are thus closely confined, and though some of them have hostages, I don't think any of them is going go get out alive. Hopefully, there will not be much collateral damage, especially to the hostages. Movement around the city is severely restricted, and is likely to be so for a few days. Flights are taking off (I can see that from my house), and the airport seems to be normal (though there was a large blast last night in its vicinity)

If you have relatives in Mumbai, they are probably safe, because the army and police have spread out around the city. Let's hope this ends with the minimum possible damage to life and limb. Already 11 policemen and 100 others are reported to have been killed.

This is the handiwork of a group called the Deccan Mujahiddeen, who are probably doing this to promote peace on the planet, or to avenge the Danish Cartoons, or the occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Really, this is the limit!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now SHE'S got a sore throat!

Yes, you read them headlines right! Mrs. Shenoy, lecturer par excellence on the evils of drinking beer and the connection thereof to dangerous infections of the larynx, pharynx and other members of the rynx family, is down with a sore throat!

Medical professionals are scratching their heads and trying their best to come up with a plausible theory as to how this might have happened.

A certain blogger with journalistic tendencies and closely related to her by marriage, is facing the brunt of the blame for this turn of events. "She must have gotten it from you" said her physician, Dr. Shenoy, who generally says things just to make his patients feel better.

This blogger is hotly contesting the issue, however. In the past week, he has been only spoken to. Always a man of very few words, he has been even quieter these past few troubled days, what with tonsils the size and appearance of tomatoes, compounded with the economic situation in the country that even the redoubtable Mr. Chidambaram seems nervous about.

In short, his trap has been shut so tight, no germs could have possibly escaped from it.

Thus he can only conclude that Mrs. S has been hitting the bar on the sly, as per her own theories. Empirical evidence is not considerable, true, but there are three fewer cans in the fridge than there were, before this happened.

One wonders!

Friday, November 21, 2008

On sore throats and other big crises in my life

After the big Saturday dinner, where all of us, especially those of us connected with the banking or the automotive sectors, manfully refrained from jumping off the balcony, I awoke on Sunday with a slight hangover.

As is usual when I complain about hangovers, I am treated to a little discourse on the evils of drinking and how abstinence is the best policy for middle aged people with high triglycerides and an aversion to exercise.

Actually, I think I'm discourse resistant, just like those jolly old germs who turn penicillin resistant, and the old helpmeet had better think of a multi-pronged course of treatment, but this time, one really did feel under the weather. In addition to a hangover, I have had a sore throat.

Not since my childhood have my tonsils really mutinied in this fashion. It is agony, I tell you. It is five days now and I'm still eating semiliquid gruel.

My dad, who is also my doctor, has put me on antibiotics strong enough to wipe out the entire microbe population this hemisphere but the little mites are hanging on, determined to fight every inch. He is optimistic, though, and tells me that it's much better now. It still feels like it has been treated with rather rough hands and lots of sandpaper.

Perhaps I had better give up drinking after all. .... Sob..!

An unfortunate consequence of all this is that I am unable to talk much. It hurts like the blazes. And being a garrulous kind of bloke, whose existential principle is "I yak therefore I am", I feel a bit like the naval ships hanging around mutely around the Gulf of Aden while the Somalian pirates hijack all those ships, because they're not allowed to chase them and shoot them down.

Anyway, all this "moun" is forcing me to use the substantially rusty equipment in my cranial cavity to think. And it is not thinking pleasant thoughts. The economy scares me. Especially the prophets of extrapolation. You know the guys. When oil was $70 a barrel, a prophet said it would cross $100. It did, and got the said prophet a lot of headlines. Then all prophets jumped on to the band wagon and decided to outcry one another, resulting in predictions of $200. And now that it has taken a U turn and is heading resolutely south, the same guys now feel that it will go down to $45, $40, $35, $30 and so on, till very soon, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members will be paying people to lift oil from their countries. Same with real estate prices, the stock index and all commodities.

In all this gloom there has been one bright ray, courtesy a very witty friend. We were discussing Omar Khayyam the other day and since both of us are rather fond of the chap, were quoting rubaiyat at each other, he more than me because of my @#$%^ tonsils. My favorite one is

A book of verse, beneath the bough
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness
O Wilderness were Paradise enow

Or words to that effect. Well my friend, call him X, asked me to name one thing that connects "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou". I racked my brains, and gave up. His answer? "Yeast"! Cracked me up, I tell you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday Night Dinner, and the proceedings thereof

As a responsible diaryist, I know I should be recording events for posterity that will throw light on cultural thought, intellectual discourse and the mindset of the people who make up this great country. I went to a dinner party instead.

It was hosted by two very dear friends, both bankers and most of the other invitees were bankers too. There were a few exceptions such as me (formerly, automotive industry. Now, decorative piece) and some from the apparel industry.

Firstly, everyone not connected with the banking industry was keeping a keen eye on those connected with it, because there was an open balcony and the temptation to jump off it must have been strong. But since it was only about 15 feet to the ground, the wily bankers refrained from jumping, knowing that they would only injure themselves. "Nothing less than a hundred feet will do" was the refrain heard. I took my cue from this because, since I am connected with the automotive industry (I supply parts to it) jumping off the balcony is very much part of my general strategy.

But truth be told, I'm too much of a coward. I hate jumping off things or drowning myself (our hosts' flat overlooked the sea). My idea of killing myself, if ever the need should arise, would be to eat Shankar's cheese sandwich morning noon and night. The idea of course is that in about thirty days of this, one would die of a heart attack.

But let me not depress you with these morbid thoughts. And anyway, no one jumped or drowned (the beach was too far away and moreover it was low tide) and in the end, we had a nice time.

My host had asked me to make a risotto, a skill I acquired recently when experimenting with carbohydrates and other banned substances (such as cheese and butter). With my usual nose for science, I immediately discovered

The Laws of Risotto Making

First Law: The taste of the Risotto is directly proportional to the cheese you put in it

Second Law: The taste of the Risotto is directly proportional to the butter you put in it

Third Law: The taste of the Risotto is directly proportional to the fanciness of the name you give it.

Thus I created, with the active assistance of my host's cook, Risotto Con Funghi, which is Italian for "Rice dish which cheats fungus".

The modus operandi was simple. I would tell the cook to chop onions and report, in which meantime I'd go have some beer. When he reported that the said task was done, I'd tell him to chop the garlic and report, in which meantime I'd go have some more beer and so on.

One of my apparel business friend's wife told me to make the bankers eat first, the idea being that if they keel over(an idea she seemed to have formed watching me have the beer while cooking), the rest of us would stay away from it. Her logic, of course, was that bankers would be grateful for being sent to the Great Mortgage House in the sky while the rest of us still had things to look forward to.

Nothing like that happened, of course. The Risotto turned out great, though the rest of the food was better, but since I had followed the Laws of Risotto Making, everyone loved it.

By this time, I spied some Laphrohaig, a nice single malt whisky from the Islay area of Scotland, sitting forlorn and unloved on my host's shelf. Never one to tolerate insult to Scotland, I sprang towards it and ended up getting a mite polluted. The rest is a bit hazy. Sheela drove back, taking care to drive around such vehicles as crossed her path than through them, and consequently I am alive to tell this tale.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kolkata - The Land of the Polite

For a chap born and sharpened on the streets of Mumbai, there is nothing so asphyxiating as a richly deserved cussword un-uttered. It sort of chokes the epiglottis, which is a big word I have used to display my erudition. (Note: Naren is erudite)

No, I haven't been having a couple, as will become clear when you let me amplify my meaning. In Mumbai, if one is driving in one's lane and another car decides to unexpectedly cross one, leading one to brake sharply and increase one's blood pressure a few notches, one immediately does one or all of the following
a)show the finger
b)tell the driver of the other car that his father was an ass, or pig, or both
c)further inform the said driver of your intention of tearing out his intestines.

This is a legal requirement for citizenship here. The recipient of the abuse, if he is indeed guilty, accepts it gracefully as one would accept a good morning from an old friend, with a smile and a nod if you know what I mean, and pushes off to pursue his livelihood. Not so in Kolkata.

We sat in an Ambassador taxi dating back to Otto or Daimler, as was its driver. The brakes were operated more by faith and God's will than hydraulics. Every time the brakees were pressed, the car would sing a sort of aria and screech to a halt with a demure little skid.

This wasn't alarming when we were moving in slow traffic but presently Old Father Abraham, our driver, hit an open stretch and started clipping nicely. And no sooner had the needle crossed the 60 mark, the devil in the form of another Ambassador taxi zipped across our path.

For one microsecond, I really thought I had bought it and made the squealing pig sound I normally make when I'm dying. Miraculously, the impact did not happen and when I slowly opened an eye, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still among the living.

And I looked towards the Ancient Mariner, hoping to hear something wonderfully vitriolic, something I could pass on to my progeny and use against offending auto drivers when they crossed me. And what did old Greybeard come up with? You're not going to believe this. His complete response was

"Kaisa chalate hain yeh log".

How these people drive! That was all this superman could come up with. What a guy! He'd make Nelson Mandela look like a football hooligan. But then, that's how most old Kolkatans are, I am told. Gracious, well mannered and mildly spoken. Even when they're burning a tram, as they frequently do, they will remember their p's and q's. Love this place!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kolkata and its part in my downfall

From Bhubaneswar it is an eight hour overnight train ride to Kolkata. It is also the smelliest train journey in India. According to the ticket collector, to whom I put the question, the train is plastered with poop for luck and to keep the Trinamool Congress away. Among my personal effects was a bottle of a Calvin Klein perfume called 'Be' which by the way must be one of the daftest product names of the century. Unless of course they meant "Bee" and misspelt it (perfume specialists tend to misspell words like "bee" - abilities problem). Anyway, my kids remembered I was carrying this, made me dig it out of my suitcase and sprayed it liberally over themselves, including on their hair. Apart from this, it was a great journey. One more like this and Sheela will divorce me for sure.

Howrah railway station was a lot better than expected. There were the usual smooth-operator cabbies, but a life time in Mumbai hones one's instinct. Like the sensex, the main contenders' asking price went down from 500 rupees to 100 in 20 seconds.

We were booked into a wonderful, musty, roomy, laid back club named the Calcutta Swimming Club on Babughat, just next door to the Eden Gardens Cricket stadium. After a well deserved steaming hot bath, leading to the demise of several billion assorted bacteria and other little creatures, we decided to step out and have a dekko at the old metrop.

And as we sauntered around, I saw what splendid, operatic names Kolkatans have.We had, and I'm going by the road names and shop signs, Obonindra, Biplab, Charuchandra, Brojen, Bibhudendra..... the list runneth longer. My usual sharp journalistic sense was aroused and I tried my best to find out why they have such lovely names here, where Mumbai sticks to Suresh-Ramesh-Ganesh-Dinesh-Paresh and, in extreme cases, Haresh. I didn't have much luck, alas. The intellectuals of Kolkata keep these things very confidential. But I have a theory now, based on dark whisperings.... Here it is.

THEORY OF KOLKATA NAMES

If you name your son Suresh or Ramesh here, they take him away from you plus give you fifty lashes on the old spot. And if you have twins and happen to name them Suresh AND Ramesh, you get a choice between the hangman's noose and the firing squad. This is why people named Rituparno exist.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Puri, Konark and Sex

Ah! Got your attention, didn't I? Knew it. The words "Puri" and "Konark" manage to catch the attention of 98% of adults (the word "sex" accounts for the balance 2%, lowlives and crass hedonists, not people like yourself of course). But I digress. I am writing a serious travelogue, intended to inform and illuminate, not a paper on the ha ha behavioral sciences. Now where was I? Yes, Puri. And Konark. And of course, sex.

Well, Puri has a long and illustrious history, available in many books and over the internet, which the discerning reader will google for himself or herself rather than be misinformed by me.

Basically it has a big temple, the Jagannath temple, and a big beach. It was to the former that we repaired, with a view to getting religious merit.

They told me that the place was so holy that if you ate prasadam regurgitated by a dog you would achieve instant nirvana. However, none of us had the stomach for this and moreover, I couldn't seem to see any dogs around, so we contented ourselves with a darshan.

This proved to be a complicated matter, with many pundits offering their services. They are called "pandas" here, but they aren't really an endangered species at all, lemme tell you. The WWF is pulling a fast one on us. And far from being shy and retiring as alleged by the WWF, these critters were pushier than life insurance salesmen with a target. Worst of all, they seem singularly disinterested in arranging a meeting with the lord. All that they seem to want is for us to buy some prasadam, which they call bhog.

Being a hard-nosed, go-getter Mumbaiite, I asked my personal panda, who had been clinging to me like a little koala bear, if the 2000 rupees that he wanted me to spend on the bhog would get me into the inner sanctum of Lord Jagannath. He tried to change the topic, but on repeated questioning, it transpired that the answer was a 'no'. I flung him from me and repaired to a ticket office where, for the princely sum of Rs. 25, you could have a face to face with the big guy.

Well, the family was very pleased indeed. I am not much of a lad for the religious stuff and only my cowardly character prevents me from denouncing religion altogether. I mean, imagine if you went around spewing fire and brimstone about how there is no god and it turns out, after you've passed the veil, that there not only is one, he is as vindictive as promised. Silly chump you would look, trying to explain that it was all said in a light vein, that you didn't mean a word of it, and that one shouldn't take it personal. So, just to cover myself, I go along with all the ritualistic stuff. Anyway, we had a great darshan in the end and the idols were most impressive.


The major business for the day concluded, we pushed off in search of a place where beer would be available. We found just what the doctor ordered in the form of a well appointed hotel, the Mayfair, right on the beach, where possibly owing to a cylonic depression in the atmosphere, beer from two bottles disappeared mysteriously right under my eyes. I'm philosophical, if anything. Time to move, I yoicked to the brood, got into the cab, and told him to take us to Konark.


Konark! One of the most impressive things I've seen in a long while! Sometime in the 13th century, one of the kings there decided to get some action going and had this really enormous chariot shaped temple built. Sadly, it was never inaugurated. The engineering and architecture is most awe inspiring, though. You have to see it in person. Pictures do no justice to it at all.

And now, the thing that two percent of my audience have been waiting for! SEX!!!!

We had hired a guide for our Konark tour, a young and enthusiatic man who multitasked his mouth - chewing paan, spitting and speaking - who got it into his head that I was some kind of sex maniac. Konark temple is full of friezes and panels depicting people engaging in all kinds of sex. Our guide would catch me by the elbow and take me to the side, explaining in great detail what the folk in the sculpture were upto, resulting in me blushing considerably and the wife and kids giggling away at my discomfiture. No amount of protestation could convince my multi-tasking friend that I considered the sacred topic of sex private and out of bounds for public discussion.

Tomorrow we will discuss the great megapolis of Kolkata and why people have names like Phaneendra and Rithwik instead of the Ajaj-Vijay-Suresh-Ramesh standard in Mumbai. Class dismissed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Orissa



My sincere apologies for being AWOL for such a long time. Not that anyone really missed me, I daresay. Obama, for instance, seems to have done pretty well without my presence. A word of explanation, nevertheless. I was hauled away to the eastern parts of the country (Bhubaneswar, Puri, Kolkata and Sikkim) more or less at gun point. The missus can be very stubborn in certain respects. She made me a deal, namely, that in return for not touching a computer or accessing the internet in any way for two weeks, she would leave my kneecaps unbroken. Ha ha. I am only joking. She did not say that. She only said that people who disobey her often find their facial features rearranged.


Going on vacation is always a chaotic thing with me. Last minute meetings, mail to send, forms to fill, cheques to deposit. The necessary evils of city life. Sheela finds all this very irritating. "You never plan anything. All your stuff is crisis management." Accurrate, but not the nicest thing to hear when you're trying to stave off a global crisis. Anyway, I managed to shove everything away just in time, saving my sanity and probably my marriage.

Beside the point, of course, but have to mention this. We were flying Kingfisher Airlines and they really do pamper you. The stewardesses are extremely buxom in relation to their uniforms, giving the impression that they are tucked into their costumes with some kind of modified shoe horn. At one point in the proceedings, Dr. Vijay Mallya himself comes up on screen and tells you he has selected the staff personally. You betcher. But I’m rambling.

Orissa is a lovely place. Bhubaneshwar, the capital, is very laid back. It had, at least when I was there, lovely weather.
Sheela of course wanted to go shopping. Orissa is very famous for its saris. We saw and bought something called Sambalpuri and Vichitrapuri and a couple of other kinds I can't remember the names of. Emboldened by the briskness of business, the sales guy showed us something in an electric blue, with lots of embroidery.
“What is this?”, asked Sheela.
”Pure Crap, madam”, said the honest chap, though I couldn’t see how such candor could be good for business. I said so to Sheela.
“He means 'crepe', idiot!” she hissed, and continued examining the sari.

Aware that there were no more brownie points to be won by hanging around, I shuffled off to another section of the shop where an earnest looking chap thrust all kinds of fabric into my face. He evidently considered me a promising sales prospect. Had enough, I thought. Turning 180 degrees smartly on my heel, I legged it out of the place. Rude, of course, but under the circumstances, unavoidable.

Young Gautham was outside the shop pigging out on some street food. I grabbed as much of it as I could, disregarding the lad’s protests, and shuffled off towards Vyaas who had a nice cold can of Coke, and hadn’t seen me coming.

Burp

Back into the car. Our driver had an interesting technique of driving. He would creep silently towards some unsuspecting cyclist or scooter rider and when he was like ten millimeters away, honk loudly. The victim would jump with a little yelp and race away for life, inducing great mirth in our charioteer.
Apart from that, Bhubaneswar had little to amuse or instruct. The food was excellent, especially sea food and the beer wasn’t too bad either.

The next morning we visited the pilgrimage town of Puri. Gautham piped up.

"Annie, annie."

"What?"

"Know what a good name would be for a barber shop here?"

"What?" Me, the sucker.

"Shave Puri."

That boy skates on thin ice, I tell you.

More in due course.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kidnapped and forced to watch Kidnap

(Fade in )

It started innocently enough.

The boys wanted to eat Chinese at Inorbit mall.

The missus wanted a footlong Sub, which, and this is beside the point - I am not admitting or denying anything - which always makes me wonder if she is trying to tell me SOMETHING, if you know what I mean. Ouch! Said more than I intended to. Forget it was ever spoken.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Well, I was unanimously elected as chauffeur and chief cashier, roles that I am not unaccustomed to.

We marched therein in a file formation and before I knew what was happening, the file formation headed towards the multiplex.

I have a sixth sense about these things. Don't ask me how, I just KNEW. They were dragging me to a movie again.

I instinctively turned and fled but the pack was on to me in a flash. Bringing me down in a football tackle, they sat on my chest and strapped me into the strait jacket.

My wrists securely manacled and a leash put around my neck, they dragged me to screen 1.

(Fade out)

How do you like that? Some scenario, huh? They all say, from Scorsese to Spielberg, that the best scripts are the true stories. This one, to tell you the truth, happened. I am just back from a screening of the movie "Kidnap". I survived.

To give credit where it is due, I must acknowledge that the script had some kind of story line. Most unusual for a Hindi movie, but there you are. And a fairly interesting one, at that. But the director, a charlie who rejoices in the name of Gadhvi (Gaadhav is donkey in Marathi. Gaadhvi is an affectionate term for a female donkey) fixed that.

Few of us have the good fortune to be what our surnames say. For instance, I know a guy named Thakur who, far from oppressing village belles and twirling handlebar mustaches, writes code in C++ and stands 4 feet 10 in his socks. His idea of oppressing village belles, if at all such temerity should seize him, would be to steal a chocolate from them and hide. Which is neither here nor there. Get to the point buster. Right.

As I was saying, Mr.Gadhvi is singular in this respect, that he is everything his surname says. He is more like a donkey than most donkeys, including Karan Johar, and offers ample evidence in his dexterous directorial skills. I am not Francis Ford Coppola (though most people wouldn't guess), but I couldn't have done a worse job if I was a typewriter mechanic and the movie a Cray supercomputer.

In the murder of the script, he is ably assisted by Minisha Lamba who plays a girl of eighteen but has all the youthful look of a prematurely aged Cher, and Vidya Malwade, who plays her mother (but looks way hotter than her) with the histrionics that would normally be reserved for "Hamlet". Sanjay Dutt is impressive as usual. I find his personality awesome. But he couldn't act to save a dying grandmother, one of the immutable laws of nature, the others being Newton's three.

The only dude who slipped through the rigorous scrutiny of Mr. Gadhvi and gang is Imran Khan. This guy can act, and act well. He carries the script almost single handedly though Gadhvi introduces bloopers with admirable regularity.

On the whole, I think I enjoyed the movie, for the story as much as the reaction of my sons.

"Dad, that Vidya Malwade really reminds us of mom"

Sheela, blushing "Really?"

"Yes, Amma. When she is yelling at Minissha Lamba for wanting to stay out late, she has that look you have when you tell us we can't play X-box"

Dagger looks.


Post script - A much better review than mine can be found here. I give a little extract below

"Sanjay Gadhvi not count as much logic as appropriate. He shows a captive market, Minissha Lamba fashionably dressed in comfortable clothes so thin that they would be distracting and moody kidnapped again and again. And in the audience, you are completely empathize with the boy. Throughout his captivity, Minissha's character is firmly focused on his dresses, there are those cleavage-flaunting coats or hot pants with shimmering belly chains to bootable".

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On the delicate issue of re-sizing

I met an old friend the other night. We had the customary celebration but I could sense that there was something amiss. It wasn't anything at work, I could fathom that. He is a man of substantial means. Could it be his family? I doubted it. His wife is a most charming lady and his only son an exceptionally bright young lad.

After much hemming and hawing, and several large drinks, he told me all. It seems his son is passionately fond of food and is expanding in all directions. They've been trying to get him on a diet and some kind of exercise routine, but it doesn't seem to be working too well.

"If only I could get someone who can be firm with him and make him stick to his diet....." he told me and asked me if I could have a word with him. I agreed, of course, and gave the lad a little talk, but I doubt it will have any significant effect

What I think my friend needs is an heir compressor.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Tryst with Philosophy

I have been a deep thinker since childhood, as my biographers would readily vouch. Where ordinary children would bicker over the sharing of a few chocolates, I would think deeply and THEN bicker over the sharing of those chocolates. Naturally, I became a philosopher.

Somehow, I could never get going in the morning. Used to have one hell of a time responding to the alarm clock. I asked my friend, a well read man and an existentialist, for advice. He thought deeply and told me I had better get my sartre fixed. He was right, of course. Even my wife has noticed this lately, and threatened extreme steps. Putting Descartes before divorce, she said. But she is a kind soul. And she Kant do without me.

In my early years, I fancied myself as a philosopher in the mold of Wittgenstein. I made the mistake of telling my colleagues and classmates about it. Ah, the folly and innocence of youth! They called me Half-Witt Genstein for the rest of the course, a blow from which I never recovered.

I even read Kafka, on the recommendation of a cute young thing, who said he kept her up all night. Well, I kept falling asleep over the dreary prose, truth to tell. She thought I might have been reading the Decaf-ka. Perhaps I was. Who is to know? And I never got the chance to keep her up all night.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When banks won't lend to banks

This entire business of sub-prime mortgages is sad. Many touching images have emerged.

That of the investment banker having to let the second S-class go because his stock options are no longer valuable enough to pay for both the sea-front condo and the Merc.

The real-estate developer having to hock his Rolex collection to pay the installments on his Learjet.

The finance whiz Wharton MBA having to stand in line for the economy class check-in to Ibiza.

But none so poignant as the recent news story that banks were refusing to lend money to other banks in the US. I brushed the tear from my eye. Let them call me unmanly, but I have a heart.

I could just picture JP Morgan shuffling across to BankAm and sidling up in an ingratiating manner, asking if he could borrow a billion or two for the weekend - returnable as soon as dad's cheque arrives on Monday morning.

BankAm, I could just imagine stiffening ever so slightly and telling JP in a patently fake manner that he would have loved to do just that but mom's insulin has been eating up all the family spare cash. He'd let JP know, BankAm would promise, but don't call me, I'll call you.

And JP would shuffle off, shoulders drooping, wandering hopelessly into the sunset.

If that doesn't make you cry, I don't think anything will.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On asserting Parental Authority

I've been living it up a bit over the last week, flitting in and out of dinners and consuming calories far in excess of licensed capacity. Several of those calories were in the form of beverages from Scotland, which always wakes up the beast in the missus. Consequently, I have been hauled by the scruff of my neck to the gym, from which I was merrily playing hookey on the grounds of too much work. "You shouldn't drink" said the missus at a typical Shenoy breakfast conference. "You tend to talk nonsense". I looked at my sons. They reviewed this comment and posted dissenting judgments. Vyaas, the elder one, usually sides with the ruling junta, unless bribed.

"Yes, Annie. The other day you told everyone that John Abraham joke thrice."

"They laughed all three times", I protested.

"That's because all of you were sloshed" said Sheela, keenly observant as ever.

"Hey, give us a break. We're meeting after like ten years. "

"You have so many old friends you're always meeting someone after like ten years at any given point of time."

I was rapidly losing ground and needed support. I looked at Gautham hopefully.

"Mom, that's not true". The lad was standing by me!

"What's not true?" asked Sheela.

"That Annie talks nonsense when he's had drinks."

" Yeah?" said Sheela, with a hint of menance in her voice. She doesn't appreciate my dragging in the progeny into these conferences. Something about losing parental authority. I care two hoots, frankly. All sensible boys know that their father is a doofus.

"Annie talks nonsense even when he's not had drinks", Gautham completed his sentence.

And scooted before I could clout him a richly deserved one. These kids, I tell you! Maybe it's time to do something about that parental authority bit. But what?......

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mommy, I'm a guest poster

Since most of my readers are deep thinkers it is difficult to guess what they're thinking about at any given moment. But I'm willing to hazard a guess. Upon reading the title to this post, the deep thought uppermost in their minds would be "Huh?".

Time therefore to enlighten the puzzled millions. I have written a guest post on Rads' page.
She invited me to write a post on her page, a move which most prudent people would readily describe as reckless. Luckily, it was one of my more lucid days and I have actually written a deeply researched and sensitive post on a major issue confronting the world, namely the health of the Chief of the Meteorological Office in Mumbai. Future historians will probably rank it with Gilgamesh and the Illiad as an epic. People tell me that Padmalakshmi has been looking for my address, evidently having recognized Salman Rushdie for the dweeb that he is and decided to find herself a better writer.

I know that you must be waiting eagerly to find out what this post is about. I would love to find out too, because I had been sampling a bit of wine for research purposes at the time of writing it. Thus the memory registers are blank so far as the details are concerned.


Well, I guess we'll have to wait for Madam Rads to unleash the beast on us. She has promised to do this on Friday, so till then we will wish her good health (her knee is being operated upon) and continue biting our nails.

Update: Here's the link

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thoughts over tea

Presenting - a blog by Dr. Mahesh Rao,
http://thoughtsovertea.blogspot.com/
Mahesh is a polymath who is a qualified doctor, a successful restaurateur, a connoisseur of wine, coffee and tea, pens, watches and muchh more, an accomplished singer and music afficionado and absolutely superb photographer. He tends to be a bit more serious, intense and deep than I can ever hope to be. Which causes me no end of problems because he is married to my wife's twin sister and thus compared to me, to my disadvantage, in every respect. Even when tasting wine, he tends to stick to half a glass while I prefer to taste it by the bottle. In short, he is every thing I could have been, should have been, would have been, except that I'm not.

His only redeeming feature is that he's a totally sweet guy. He goes totally overboard with the hospitality whenever I visit Mysore and is responsible for more of my waistline inches than any other person, including my mom.

So read that blog and tell him that while he might be more talented, Naren is better looking.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rock music - Its part in my downfall

We saw the movie "Rock On" last night. Not the royal "we" as in "we wish to we we" (Queen Victoria to the Keeper of the Royal Chamberpot, 1885) but the "we" as in "we, the missus and I", two jisams but one opinion (the missus's).

But I digress. The movie was nice. Not a classic or anything, though the Times of India critic gave it such a great review that I suspect he wet his pants during the process of writing it. In fact, we (still not the royal "we") watched the movie "A Wednesday" the night before which we (now the royal "we") thought it ("A Wednesday", that is) was the greatest movie we had ever watched in any language including Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.

What made "Rock On" a good movie for us (the royal "us") was, and this is heresy in Bollywood, that it happens to have a story line and the songs are completely relevant to the story. I know what you're thinking. You are thinking hai ram what is the world coming to and that this is the thin end of the wedge. You echo our (the royal "our") sentiments. But again I digress. Sometimes I get the feeling that I write simply to fill up the page.

Anyway, my point was that the music left me limp. The lads, on the other hand were grooving away to the numbers, imaginary guitar and mike alternately in hand and moving the pelvis in what one strongly suspects is the mating ritual of the orang utan. I thought oh my god, what rot this rock music is. Only sthaayi, no antara. And only one taal, eight beats. And the "virtuoso" guitaring was so elementary any eight year old sitar player would have done it in his sleep. I told this to my sons. They looked at me like I was a minor Biblical prophet and they a couple of Philistines. "Annie!" the elder one reprimanded me. (A foot note is in order here. For obscure reasons, the boys call me "Annie", much to my mortification, and no inducement will make them do otherwise. Add to this the fact that for some obscure reason Victoria's Secret has got it into its head that I am a major potential customer and keep mailing me all the details of its latest designs, strangers rather tend to draw away from me sharply, their worst suspicions having been aroused).

And thus my rock music appreciation classes have started. Today I was initiated into the celestial music of a band named Linkin Park who seem to make most of their music by clanging steel utensils in a close space. My tympani are close to handing in their dinner pail. I plan to slip in a bade ghulam cd into the player at night, but the sentries are too watchful.

Watch this space. Dementia is imminent.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

StokeMarket is going up!

video



Apologies and Explanation.
1. No, he does not get it from me
2. They held a gun to my head

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Secret World of the Secret Service

(Author's Caveat: The complexity of the following story and the intricacy of its plot might lead the reader to suspect that the author has had one too many. The reader would be right, of course, but still...)






His powers of deduction were extraordinary, which is why the CIA would trust no one else with such assignments. Even his reading of data was legendary. Langley still used it in its "Eavesdropping 101". For instance his interpretation of a lady's "Yes! Yes! Oh, God, Yes!" emanating from the Oval Office one evening in 1995 as evidence of the soundness of the President's draft Economic Proposal is still spoken of in awe.

But the problems facing the government had become a lot more sinister. Just yesterday had come news of a terrible tragedy at a nudist camp in Florida where in a relay race there was some confusion over the exchange of batons and one of the participants was dragged halfway around the track. Surely, the work of the Al Quaida!

And a senior theoretical physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center had been arrested on charges of trying to molest a female graduate student because, as he put it "her bosons gave me a hadron". Could it be a Russian plot?

To top it all, the Vice President had recently tried to shoot a bunch of blameless protons because he heard them go "quark quark", and the news channels were making a big issue of it.

And now this. News had come in from Afghanistan that Osama was going to blow up the world. But how was he going to do it? Was he planning to buy a Nuclear Device from the Russian Mafia? Was he going to use biological weapons from the North Koreans? Surely not an army of Suicide Bombers? He knew it could be none of these. They had all been tried before and the Agency had ears everywhere.

Osama was smart. And logical. You had to out-think him. But how? How? HOW?

Reclining with a bourbon in his living room, his finely tuned senses picked up movement behind the door......

He stole into the bedroom with the stealthiness of a cat and caught the spy planting the bug. Twisting her arm in a smooth movement, he held her neck in a vice like grip. "Oooooh! Oooooh! OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!" she moaned, puzzling him. Then he realized he had sprayed Axe deodorant that evening. "Ha! Now she will tell me all!" he thought, and made her sniff his armpit.

Moaning, she collapsed, losing all resistance. "Mercy! I'll tell you anything!" she said.

"Tell me how they're going to do it" he demanded.

"Gasp", she gasped, "They're ..." and told him all.

His brow furrowed, he stared blankly into the distance. Who would believe him that Osama wanted to blow up the world with a giant air compressor?

Friday, September 5, 2008

And now, some devotional music!

Emboldened by the kind reception given to him by hordes of listeners, hordes here being defined as any number larger than 7, Panditji felt moved to sing the devotional songs he learnt in his extensive travels across the country.

The first one, "Bhole Bhole" was picked up in North India, somewhere in the hills. While Panditji realises that his musical abilities may not do justice to the composition, he feels sure that the intensity of the lyrics will carry the poets true meaning to the listener's soul.

The second composition, "Jhoot Bole" is by an old college friend of Panditji who theorized that even common film songs can become sublime if rendered with feeling. Sadly, Panditji's emotions overflowed towards the end of that rendition which might, in the eyes of the purist, detract from sheer musical merit of the composition. The listener is requested to condone this lapse.



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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pandit Narendra Sings Raaga Bachana

In a rare gem of a recording, discovered by our diligent audiophiles, the famous Pandit Narendra sings the complex Raaga Bachana.

Said to have been composed by Mian Tansen himself, the raaga is sampoorna in both the ascent and the descent. It was recently made famous by Pandit Ranbeer Maharaj, disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj and a well known exponent of the "Raas Leela - Adhunik" style of dancing, who danced to it in chaste classical style.

Now, without further ado, we present the Panditji himself. The listeners are requested to excuse the poor quality of the recording and the absence of accompanying musicians. The former, because Panditji is given to an unfortunate affliction called "the giggles" which makes serious musical renditions difficult for him and the latter because Panditji's son Vyaas, though an accomplished keyboard player, refused point blank to aid him in what he termed "monkey business".

The present generation, we tell you!



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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Little Known Facts #2 - The US Olympic Relay Team and Hu Jintao

In an interesting revelation, Judge Charles Carter Lee, Chef de Mission of the US Olymic contingent to Beijing, told reporters that Hu Jintao, Paramount Leader of The Peoples Republic of China, the country best known for its intellectual freedom and supply of finely crafted products to Messrs. WalMart of Arkansas, can speak fluently in the colloquial "English" spoken in the United States.

Hu, a keen follower of American Sport, especially Track and Field, asked to be briefed regarding the US delegation to Beijing, concerned that simmering discontent over his country's sensitive and democratic handling of Tibet might affect participation in the Olympic Games.

Judge Lee, who speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently, went to the Great Hall Of The People Who Did Not Perish Under Chairman Mao to meet Hu. After the usual diplomatic preliminaries, ("The United States of America respects the Territorial Integrity of China and recognizes its inalienable right over Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, South Korea, The Japanese Kuriles and eastern Alaska. Oops, and Great Britain and Northern Ireland") Hu asked about the sprinters, and requested Judge Lee to speak in "English", though he himself replied in Chinese.

Judge Lee confessed that while the US sprinters were still among the greatest in the world, they were being outclassed by the Jamaicans, especially a young lad named Bolt. Even in the 4x100 relay, things were far from certain.

"The team composition is a bit weakened." Lee said. "The men are running without Dix"

A rattled Hu is reported to have told Lee "You've gotta be shittin me!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Laughed my beast of burden off

I don't know where my brats get all this stuff, but here's something that had me laughing real hard. video

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the insightful commentary by DD experts at the Beijing Olympics

We have been watching with pride that great spectacle of sporting action, The Olympics. Currently being held at Beijing, an important research centre for the effect of smog on human endurance, one of the highlights is the Indian contingent, which has done more for international goodwill than any other country.

It has achieved this by the elegantly simple expedient of letting others win which, as the reader will readily acknowledge, is a delicate art.

This year, of course, the well oiled Indian Sports Establishment slipped up and allowed a winner to participate under its banner. A shooter, Abhinav Bindra, not only insinuated himself into the contingent but went on to win a gold medal, to the embarassment of Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the Indian Olympic Association.

"A lifetime of patient work has been wrecked by Mr Bindra" he is reported to have said. "God knows how many young people he will inspire to try and win."

God of course is the well known power that has helped many athletes to achieve greatness, though nowadays nandrolone is considered to be superior. But we digress.

Coming back to our main topic, Mr. K. P. S. Gill was equally upset.

"Make me the chairman of the IOAC" he said. "I ensured that under my expert guidance, the Indian Hockey team did not even qualify. As chairman of the IOC, I will ensure that the next olympic contingent will consist only of officials and coaches. No participants."

A bold claim, but knowing Mr. Gill and his capabilites, not unrealistic.

Shocked out of their complacency, the officials huddled into an emergency damage control exercise and decided that while nothing could be done about Abhinav Bindra, they could make the rest of the coverage so boring and lifeless that the nation would tune into the many exciting cricket tournaments being played around the world and watch a ball being senselessly hammered around a field. Future generations, instead of running, jumping and shooting, would settle down to the much more financially rewarding pastime of hitting balls around and being called little masters.

The main task of making the coverage boring was rendered difficult by the excellent camera work of the Chinese crew, a most tiresome bunch of perfectionists, if we may say so.

But Mr. Kalmadi and the other officials had farsightedly included Hindi and English commentators who could obfuscate and uh-um-aah through anything that might happen in a stadium. In addition, they had been selected for special sentence-construction skills.

For example, one commentator, who spoke about Akhil Kumar's performance in the boxing ring, said that he "boxed very very good today." Then, thinking this over for a second added that "he boxed EXTREMELY very very good", leaving the viewers in no doubt.

These are high standards, as you will doubtless agree, and well worth the several million dollars that the Government is spending, taking them on an all expenses paid vacation to the Olympics, because when you have a billion people in your country, you never know which one will take it into his or her head to excel.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Little known facts #1 - Modern History

The assiduous Swiss have been spring cleaning all their government offices, including the Patent Office in Berne, where a document has been found that might throw light on one of this century's most radical theories. According to this document, a page from the diary of one Mileva Maric, her husband Albert "Emceesquared" Einstein, suffered a nervous breakdown circa 1904. He was advised a rest cure and chose the tropical Portuguese dominion of Goa. Being straitened of means, he decided to stay in an inexpensive B&B run by one Mr. D'Souza. Now the D'Souza's had a big fight over property with the Sequiera's next door and one day, the Sequira brothers caught hold of Mr. D'Souza's son Ronnie and started whaling the tar out of him, as the technical term goes.

Albert, a known pacifist, was aghast. "Why protect him you do not?" he asked of Uncle D'Ssouza who was observing the proceeding with scant concern.

"What? What you sayin, men?" enquired Uncle D'Souza

"When two men him attack, why do him not you defend"? Albert clarified.

"Heh", Uncle D'Souza said, scornfully. "E's equal to 'em Sequira's". And indeed, Ronnie held his own against the Sequira brothers.

"What say did you?" expressed Albert, with amazement.

Uncle D'Souza repeated himself, adding "If you don' com' yer hair, men, you're bloody going to look like a bloody med bugger".

But Albert couldn't hear any of it. He was rushing to catch the next steamer to France and from there to Berne. He had this big theory about e's equal to 'em sequiera's. "But", he said to himself, "the spelling a bit I had change better"

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Mummy Returns and Pulls Daddy's Legs

We've been watching a lot of TV at home these days, mostly a show called "Fear Factor". I have heard that they had a series specially for gay people, in San Francisco, but it turned out a bit differently. In fact, for reasons I cannot go into here, they're planning to call it the "Rear Factor". But the boys have been doing a bit of movie watching on their own and their favorite passtime is pulling the leg of their progenitor. Here's a recent dialogue.

Me
: Hi guys, how was the movie (they went to see "The Mummy Returns - The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor")

Gautam
: Nice. Great special effects

Vyaas
: Especially the avalanche.

Me
: Avalanche? You mean sandstorm, don't you?

Gautam
: No, this movie is based in China and in the Himalayas. There are some abdominal snowmen as well

Vyaas
: That's abominable snowmen, Gau.

Me
: I think I know some abdominal slow men too.

Vyaas
: Very funny. But the effects were quite good. All computer generated.

Me
: Did you get scared

Vyaas
: No. I've seen scarier.

Gautam
: You know which is a scary Mummy Returns movie?

Me
: Which one?

Vyaas
: "The Mummy Returns and Finds Us on the Play Station instead of homework". Now THAT's a scary movie.

Gautam
: (High fives Vyaas)

Me
: You guys set me up for that one. Not fair! (Slinks away)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Going nuts - Exhibit A

I've just come across the sad story of a maternity hospital here having to turn away patients for want of experienced staff. Seems they're going through a mid-wife crisis. The management is to blame of course. The director of the hospital bought a large African parrot and one day it escaped from its cage. The staff tried to catch it, but succeeded only in enraging the bird. It bit several people and two elderly nurses died from the resulting complications. The police charged him with killing two crones with one bird. And speaking of the animal kingdom, there was an interesting interview of an elephant tamer. When asked how they manage these powerful animals during the mating season, when the male elephants are known to go berserk, he replied "We do what we musth". Global warming, incidentally, is thawing frozen lakes in the Arctic, endangering, among oother things, an ancient Eskimo practical joke. They scatter peas around a cutout in one of these frozen lakes. When the victim comes to take a pea, the prankster kicks him in the ice hole. Also sad is the cancellation of the Indian cricket tour to Zimbabwe on account of atrocities commited by the Mugabe regime. Of course, this won't be the first time this game has had to be abandoned because of the reign. And finally, Master Gautham feels that the opposite of Barcelona is Andar se lo na.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ask the Management Guru - II

Welcome back to your favorite agony column - Ask the Management Guru. Today our focus will be on behavioral issues, social issues, interpersonal issues, issues of etiquette, adult entertainment - ok, not adult entertainment - and general issues not directly related to work.

Recent research indicates that such issues constitute 97 percent of everything happening in the typical organization. So kindly listen up.


Q. My boss uses a pink cellphone, waxes his chest and giggles in meetings. Is he gay? Will he make a pass at me? - Concerned Male Management Trainee, San Francisco

Dear Concerned:
Please understand that gay people are humans too, and as normal as you and me. Just as a heterosexual man would not grab at every passing female, unless of course he is W. J. Clinton of Little Rock, Arkansas, a gay man will not be trying to pinch your buns. Unless you have very cute buns, in which case it will be wise to wear baggy trousers to work and avoid bending over to pick up things when in his office.

Also, please note that merely carrying pink cellphones and giggling in meetings does not mean that he his gay. Even if he waxes his chest. If you really want to find out if he's gay, here's a good test. It's called the "Love-bite test". If he has love bites on his chest, he is straight. If he has love bites on his back, chances are he is gay. Unfortunately, to run this test, you have to get him to take his clothes off, in which case you'll probably find out in more direct ways if he is gay. Ha Ha Ha.


Q. Is it ok to burp at board meetings? - "Gas" Ramachandran, Chennai

Dear "Gas" - It is alright as long as you don't wake anyone up. Also, try to burp in C-major as research indicates that it is conducive to milk production in cattle.

Q. Is it alright to fall in love with an internal auditor? Ms. "Romance" Sharma, Delhi

Dear "Romance". It is NOT alright! How do you know how many unsuspecting women he has already audited internally? How do you he wont audit every pretty face he comes across? Unless he promises to stick to external audits, I think you should stay far away from this species of shark.

Q. I have just been elevated to Vice President in our company and suddenly, all I seem to be doing is playing golf. Is this a waste of time? Conscientious, Mumbai

Dear Conscientious
Which dweeb selected you for the position of Vice President, I should like to know. Waste of time, forsooth! At least you had the sense to conceal your real name, because otherwise, you would have been demoted to Assistant Sales Manager right away. Unless you work for an American company, in which case Vice President is probably the entry level position and your promotion would be to Assistant Sales Manager. Golf, dear Conscientious, is the reason why companies are incorporated and funds raised from the public. Now don't go around asking questions like this. Improve your handicap instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is this for real?

A little bird tells us that Apple is commissioning W.J. Clinton of Little Rock, Arkansas, to write his real, unabridged and completely candid memoirs on the condition that he calls it "I Pawed.."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday Night in Juhu

I don't normally write about, or even mention the word "sex" in my blog. I mean, why talk about something you don't understand too well? But today, I break that self imposed rule. This blog, today, will descend from its high Gandhian ideals to Hugh Hefner class. We will mention the 'S' word! So excuse me while I shed a silent tear. My only excuse it that I found it funny and had to report it.

"What is it, you silly old buffer? Cut to the chase!" I hear you asking, with a "Senile bum!" as an aside to your alter ego. Patience, patience, you shall hear all.

Well, last night we went out to dinner with a couple of friends from old college days. One of these I meet frequently - he stays ten minutes away and we share a deep interest in the fermentation process. The other guy, I'll call him AM, is here on vacation. He works for General Motors. I suppose he will have to continue doing that till he can find a specific motor to work for. Not my concern.

What he was telling me about was how his American boss is a funny guy. He, AM, was asking him, the American boss, about his day, and how he schedules it. And the guy gave him the low down with a dead pan face. Wake up at 6.00 am, office by 7.30 and so on and finally says

"I usually sleep by 11.30".
And his wife adds, with an equally dead pan face, "Unless we're having sex, in which case he sleeps by 11.35"
"Right", still looking like they're attending a religious ceremony.
He, AM, tells me that those were the 10 most difficult minutes in his life, because he had to keep a straight face. Gave him a hernia, that effort.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Exam Time at Chez Shenoy!

Ah, what chaos! Mother and son are yelling away at each other. Mother is trying to reason with son that writing is essential. How is the teacher going to figure out how smart you are? Why can't you write things neatly? Tell me, what are Apogee and Perigee? (Son nearly gets a grievous injury because of smart aleck answer "They are sons of Gandhiji"). And so on.

Son is a thinking man. He evades as long as possible but when things start looking threatening (mother is moving a motion to ban going downstairs and playing football), decides that it is better to lose a battle than the war. Ok, Ok, I'll write, he says. What should I write now?

A formal invitation.

He writes one

The Management and Staff of Blah Blah School
cordially invite you to
the investiture ceremony of Blah Blah as School Prefect
Mr. Albert Einstein,
CEO of Chandrakant Textiles Pvt. Ltd.
has kindly agreed to preside over the function.
Time 3:00 pm Date 26 January 1925

Mother shows it to me. I trip over the "Chandrakant Textiles"! Where in the world did you get that name? And why do they need Einstein to be their CEO? I ask him, but he is too busy arguing a technical point with Mother that he doesn't have to practice the diagrams because they're not going to be asked in the exam.

All this is younger son, of course. He is in seventh grade. Elder son, in the ninth, is the picture of sincerity and has nose firmly inside book. This year I haven't even had to factorize anything for him. He did ask me something about prepositions but my evident ignorance about the subject led him to conduct his search for knowledge elsewhere. A textbook, to be precise.

Now Mother enters our bedroom. The kids have finally gone to sleep. She has the look of a General who is fighting against guerrillas. Harrassed. Weeps a little, then laughs when she remembers the apogee thing. Then weeps a little again, because she remembers the apogee thing. I do more or less the same thing that the UN does when things start going wrong in some country. Pat that country's leader on the head and make sympathetic clucking noises.

Somehow, that little sign of commiseration doesn't seem to be working.




Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ask the Management Guru - I


Inaugurating a popular series "Ask the Management Guru", where your most profound and disturbing questions on the vast field of management, economics, interpersonal relationships, organizational behaviour, adult entertainment - ok, not adult entertainment - and other related fields will be answered by our resident Management Guru


Q. Recently, in a meeting, an MBA from a premier B-School said something that sounded like "a reference point for commonality of paradigm shifts in six sigma and core competency, and the five pees of management". What does this mean? - (From "Confused", Mumbai)

A. Dear "Confused".
You are evidently not an MBA. Don't you know your five pees of management?
  • The first pee, at management trainee level, is the "I'm scared witless" pee
  • The second, at the assistant sales manager level, is the "I've been in the conference room for four hours and the a.c. is getting to me" pee.
  • The third, at profit-center head level, is the "I've had five beers at this business lunch and all five want to come out now" pee
  • The fourth, five years from retirement, is the "This diabetes is making me go to the loo every fifteen minutes" pee
  • And finally, for those who make it to the very top of the pole, the fifth pee is "Wow! That's my bonus?" pee.
Q. What is a paradigm? - (From "Jargonically Challenged", Patiala)
A. Dear "Jargonically Challenged".
No one knows for sure. Most of the gurus believe that the paradigm is a creature which looks like a horse but has a horn in the center of its forehead.

Q. But isn't that a unicorn?
A. What are you, a naive believer in fairy tales? Everyone knows the unicorn is mythical. Paradigms keep shifting and often solve problems in this fashion.

Q. Do you believe that the Ambani brothers were responsible for the recent stock market crash?(From "Stoke Mar Cate Ache Spurt", Rajkot)
A. Dear Stoke
No, that was God. The Ambani brothers were responsible for the stock market rise.

Please send in your questions pertaining to anything troubling you in the vast and wondrous world of management and economics. Our Guru will be happy to clarify the situation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In which I am dragged kicking and screaming to a movie...

I had read OK's post on the movie Jaane Tu... and decided that I had to give it a miss. But I reckoned without the native cunning of the missus, who, on her day, can make General Rommel look like Mr. Bean.

Step 1 : She buys tickets.
Step 2 : She tells me she has bought 2 tickets
Step 3 : I tell her to go with my sister, because she is DYING to see the movie and has no one to go with
Step 4 : My well thought out strategy collapses because missus, displaying devilish cunning, asks sister if she really wants to go
Step 5 : Sis says no. She has seen it already. How did she like it? Well..... the songs were nice
Step 6 : I discover that FIVE tickets have been purchased. The boys and my mom are coming too:
Step 7 : I tell missus that I don't really want to come, because of this negative review I read.
Step 8 : Missus expresses her opinions on a wide range of topics of a somewhat personal nature, of which I am only allowed to report that it melted most of my earwax.
Step 9: I watch the movie.


Right, then. That's the story so far. And how did I like the movie, do you ask? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't for the life of me fathom why OK did not like it. Perhaps windows into prior life etc. My heart bleeds for him. But the movie was superb. Why? Well, let me count the ways

1. The story was written BEFORE the shooting started
2. Ditto the dialogue
3. No one named Kapoor, Chopra, Johar, Ghai or Roshan was even remotely involved in the making of the movie.
4. No one becomes hysterical in the movie.
5. There is no tearful prayer in song form to Krishna
6. No one overacts.
7. No one has a chest like the Himalayas lying on their side

Really enjoyed it, despite having to face a smug "I told you so" expression from the missus for the rest of the week.

Jokes apart, I found the movie fresh and charmingly ordinary. And very classy too. The only eyesore was that old ham, Paresh Rawal, who overacts just a little bit. Tragically, my countrymen love his brand of humor. Well, when they finally make me president, the first ordinance I will promulgate will be the statutory ban on all films in which Paresh Rawal makes an appearance.

In other news, I am on a soup and salad diet. My respect for Mahatma Gandhi has gone up many notches. He ran an entire freedom struggle on an empty stomach. I can barely run a coherent thought process.