Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just a little something to break this blasted writer's block

Sunday morning. The missus has gone to the garden downstairs for a walk. I didn't go because I've got a cold. Nothing that a cetzin can't fix, but at 7 am the sneezes sound really loud. Loud enough to get me a reprieve.

Morning walks are very depressing for two reasons. One is the enthusiasm of virtually everyone there except you (in my case I secrely hope for a volcanic explosion or something) and the second is the fact that nearly everyone, despite evidently walking hard every day of their lives, is seriously fat.

So we have an exercise routine (walking in garden with great concentration so that you don't step into doggy do) which seems to have precious little in terms of desired effect (evidence - large number of seriously fat-assed people walking in garden). "Why bother?" is the question on my lips.  Unasked, of course, because when the missus is around, one does not ask such questions

We saw Avatar on Friday, the missus, the kids and I. In 3d, too. Everyone agreed it  was a superbly made film. The technology was simply awesome. The story was a brilliant metaphor about the senseless destruction of traditional habitats in the name of progress. A little heavy-handedly put across, perhaps, but then when you have important messages like this, you don't want to be too subtle.

I had a fundamental question myself. This pertains to the people inside the boxes, the guys who run the avatars with their mind control. What if they fart inside the box? But somethng told me it was not a good question to ask. Not philosophical enough. So I didn't ask it. Just listened to the missus and the boys discuss how awesome the movie was.

My older son gave the movie the ultimate compliment.

"Annie" he said, when I asked him if he had liked the movie, "It was awesome! The best movie I've ever seen!"

Then, reflecting on what he had said, added "It was better than 'Singh is King' ".

Now, when I press the "Publish" button and James Cameron reads it a few seconds later, a scream of joy will reverberate through the streets of Beverly Hills.

The younger son was equally agreed. "It was awesome!". He further expressed the hope that if they ever made it into a musical, they would have the good sense to call it "Avatar Sing"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Delhi trip, and how I survived it -

Hi everybody. This is Sheela Shenoy reporting from 37000 feet above sea level. My husband, the light of my life, the beacon of my existence, the polestar of my universe, the one and only Naren is flopped on the seat next to mine, giving his well known impression of an intermittently functioning motorboat, to my amusement and to the chagrin of the stout chap across the aisle who looks like an unusually cantankerous solicitor or accountant. Naren's snoring seems to be disturbing his perusal of some species of business newspaper. Ah well, into each life some rain  must fall.

We are on our way back from Delhi where we had been to attend the wedding of a very dear friend's niece. The groom too was known to us very well. It was an event we were rather looking forward too, and it didn't disappoint.

The bride was someone both of us have known since she was a child. She has- and has always had- one of the most dazzling smiles I've ever seen and is extremely smart without being nerdy.

Unlike my husband. He is, or can be on occasions, extremely geeky, without being in the least bit smart. This can be irritatingly impractical. He spent a half hour once at an airport explaining to a completely disinterested kid why the sum of the first n natural numbers is n into n plus one over two and all the while we were being paged for boarding, earning us dark stares from our co-passengers and the crew. And if the kid grows up into a dysfunctional adult with an irrational fear of bespectacled people, you know who's responsible.

Speaking about geekiness, I am reminded of our courtship days -we had the old fashioned arranged marriage- when I was extremely was anxious to know what kind of a dweeb I was marrying. My sister advised me to find out from conversations. Since I was in Mysore and Naren in Bombay, the only way this could happen was over the phone.

Those conversations did not go well, let me tell you. The first time we spoke over the phone, after the hellos and the how-are-your-parentses,  he explained to me why the square root of two is an irrational number. My first post-engagement phone conv and I get this!

The second time he told me what he thought about the planned economy - not much, apparently and I should care! - and the call after that was a detailed outline of Michael Porter's theory of Competition. When I tell you I went into this marriage in a state of despair, I'm sure you know exactly how I feel.

If Naren were ever captured by an Amazonian tribe and prepared for roasting on a spit, his escape plan would be to engage the headman in conversation and prove to him that the square root of two could not be expressed as a ratio of two integers. His reasoning being that the headman, upon seeing the proof, would immediately fall to his knees and the entire tribe would worship him as the god who did things to numbers. Which is why it is dangerous to marry engineers. But I'll leave that for another post.

Coming back to the topic at hand, viz. Delhi, I must confess I had a superb time. The weather was nice and chilled, if a little smoggy. A lot like Mysore in the winter, which made me nostalgic. To combat the blues that usually accompany nostalgia, I decided to squeeze in a session of retail therapy in which I managed to find some lovely footwear and shawls.

Naren is always cribbing about my alleged footwear obsession but he is easily silenced with a look. This time too, it was no different. One basilisk stare and he was following me like a lamb. And just to show him  that I'm not obsessed with footwear, I bought myself a shawl, a stole, two kurtis and two salwar suit materials. So there. But to his credit, he carried all the bags faithfully and without complaint. It might be that he loves me. Then again, it might be that I let him have beer with his lunch. The latter, I guess.

And now here's the pilot mumbling something over the speaker. Flying over Baroda, 35,000 feet and other unsupported observations. I've always thought a pilot's job stressful, flying a whacking great can through the air at 800 km per hour, wondering all the while if that little monkey of a ground engineer has tightened all the bolts.

Of course, supeerficially, pilots have a great time because there is virtually no way of verifying if any of what they say is actually true. Statements like "We are flying at 35,000 feet" are the safest because no one is carrying a measuring tape, and even if they are, definitely not that big. Some pilots get carried away and tell you that the temperature outside is -40 degrees knowing fully well that you can't open the window and check for yourself.

But all of this does not make up for the stress of being an airline pilot. Take landings, for instance. I can well imagine the scene in the cockpit when the plane lands. Especially the way the pilot applies the brakes when the plane touches down.

You know how it is. The plane touches down, bounces a couple of times and then -and here I'm relying on my skills of logical deduction- the pilot presses the brake pedal really hard, probably with both feet, his hands clutching the armrests of his seat, or the steering wheel, if a plane has one, his knuckles white with the strain, the co-pilot hunched over with his head between his knees,sobbing out a prayer, hoping against hope that the bloody thing will come to a halt. And when it finally does come to a halt, the pilot, with shivering hands, probably pulls out his tucked-in shirt, trying to cover the fact that he has peed in his pants. I'm not saying that is what happens, but I'm willing to bet this is almost exactly it, scene for scene. This is what is going to happen today as well. I hope they manage to make it stop.

Ah, they're announcing our landing. In Mumbai, this usually means an half hour of circling, but hopefully today we'll be luckier.

The Spice Jet stewardesses have the most amazing singsong way of reading out the flight announcements and the safety drill. I haven't heard anything quite like this, including the "eternal god" prayer my sons are forced to say everyday in school. I am especially impressed by the announcements in Hindi, which sound exactly like Queen Elizabth the Second would, if she were given a crash course in Hindi speaking. I wonder what prevents them from speaking like normal people.

Bye for now, folks. I think the pilot will be going into his brake routine anytime now. I could use the laughs

Cheers and bye for now

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My first massage and other things

Haha! Got your attention with the title, didn't I? No, serious, I had a massage yesterday. The first time ever in my uninteresting little life, if you don't count the ones the barber gives you after your haircut, which is to a real massage what Fardeen Khan is to Lawrence Olivier, as I will demonstrate in this post.

Well,  it happened this way.The missus was on her way to a spa for one of her beauty treatments which, I keep telling her, are completely superfluous for someone of her poise and elegance. Women are all alike, however. I'm sure Cleopatra did her eyebrows every week and Helen of Troy gave Paris hell over the state of her upper lip.

Anyway, I happened to be jobless at the given moment and she dragged me along  for chauffeuring purposes. I dutifully obeyed, of course, chauffeuring being one of my two natural talents (the other being my aptitude for meticulous and exhaustive research on distillery and brewery products). I was also smug in the knowledge that I had tucked away in the recesses of the car my laptop, and a newly acquired USB modem which allowed me internet access from virtually everywhere.

This time, however, the missus, with sharp change in policy (she usually lets me shuffle off to a book shop or a coffee place and potter around) dragged me into the spa with her. I should have suspected the worst but like a doofus, I gambolled alongside, the picture of innocence, even when we reached an imposing desk and an even more imposing woman. Not for long, though. The missus' opening words made my blood freeze.

"Hi. What treatment would you suggest for his face?", asked the missus, pointing to Exhibit A, viz. my mug.

The amazon appeared to consider this question seriously, though I'm sure she would have said something like "In my opinion, a thick veil would be best" had she been a completely honest person like Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, she was not.

"How about a rejuvenating herbal facial?" she asked

"Will it be good for the bags under his eyes?" asked the missus

"Oh, of course!" lied the amazon, and then proceeded to deliver a fake scientific sermon on the goodness of honey and cucumber, the free radicals therein, and god knows what else - oyster sauce and tiramisu entered into the equation at one point - that went into the facepack she was going to put on my dial.

My opinion was not sought, of course, and anyway, there was no point in arguing with someone who had biceps like that. "I would also recommend a rejuvenating herbal massage", she added. She evidently considered me to be something one would find in a morgue, so keen was she on having me rejuvenated.

And so I was handed over to a mild looking middle aged man, which i confess was a relief because for a wild moment, I thought the amazon would be doing the needful.

The masseur put me face down on what looked like an operating table and proceeded to rub some nice smelling oil on my back. He spent the next five minutes on trying to see if he could twist any of my limbs off, but luckily, he wasn't successful. After that, however, he decided on a policy of non-violence and gently rubbed my back in a most soothing fashion. Somewhere along the way, I must have fallen asleep, because I could feel someone shaking me by the shoulder and mumbling something about facials.

Thus ended my first massage. It is a superb feeling, very relaxing and soporific, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has the time, the inclination and a thousand spare rupees he is not planning to spend on Apple products.

The facial, which followed, involved a great deal of fuss of which I could understand nothing, because the chap had firmly placed two large pieces of cucumber on my eyes. Soothing, perhaps, but definitely opaque. He was making funny faces at me for all I knew. I could deduce, from circumstantial evidence, that he was putting stuff on  my face, rubbing it a bit, then wiping it off before trying it anew. After an hour of this, he proudly showed me a mirror, which very honestly told me that I still looked the same jerk I looked before he did the fancy moves.

Somehow, I felt  relieved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Royal Mysore Walks

I've had a strange fascination for Mysore. The missus is from there and in the seventeen (!) years that we have been married my fascination (for Mysore and the missus) has only grown.

"The mystique of a regal past" is what I tell people when they ask me what it is that fascinates me about Mysore.

"Nonsense", the missus will promptly add, if she's around. "He goes around the place eating like there's no tomorrow."

"But he's so knowledgeable about Mysore" my sister gallantly defended me.

"Hmpfh!" hmpfhed the missus. "Other than the food joints, what he knows about Mysore can be easily written in block letters on the back of a bus ticket. And", she added, with another hmpfh, "with space left for what he feels about its history".

Strong words! And words that stung. Any man of sensibility would be wounded if it were insinuated that he was a boor. And even though I'm not a man of sensibility, I was wounded. This had to be remedied! I had to show the missus that I could think of things other than food.

And in the process of showing the world, and the missus that I was a man with as much depth in my character as in my alimentary canal, I found myself bleary eyed at 6.30 am of a Thursday morning outside the Town Hall of Mysore. My head throbbed a bit from the GlenKinchie on ice - must have been the ice - that my charming brother in law Mahesh had lavished on me the previous evening.

But I'm getting all muddled up as usual, in my story telling. Old failing. If I had to write someone's biography I would probably start with the funeral.

So, it happened this way.

I had been in touch with Vinay, a young engineer and former software geek, over twitter. He seemed very knowledgeable about Mysore and a quick look at his bio revealed that he ran a company called The Royal Mysore Walks.n Walking tours, I surmised, for I am very quick on the uptake, and sought to verify my deduction when I landed up in Mysore.

Chatting over coffee, I liked him instantly. "Not much of a company, sir" he laughed "just a startup" but his enthusiasm was unmistakable.


It turned out that he'd take groups of people on walking tours of Mysore, during which he would present a view of Mysore's past through little bits of trivia, accounts of history and, as I found out, many interesting tales with buildings and monuments as props for those tales.

Sounded interesting. I had only the morning to spare since the rest of the day was tied up with uncle-and-aunty visiting stuff, but Vinay said the morning is usually best, because it's not too crowded and the weather is extremely pleasant.

With my customary insightful thinking, I spotted the flaw in the plan. "Wait!" I said, "It involves waking up at 6 am"

No one seemed to be listening however, and Mahesh hoiked me out of bed at the appointed hour and frog-marched me to the Town Hall, Mysore. We met VInay there, fresh as a daisy and soon, the bracing morning air and Vinay's cheery demeanour made me feel a lot better. We started off with a little story about the Diwans of Mysore, which was round one to Vinay because I had always thought the Diwans of Mysore were things you could lie down on. (They are not. They are rulers and no, not the kind you draw straight lines with)




As the walk unfolded, I got more and more into the thing and soon, I forgot I was supposed to have a hangover.
Vinay's presentation skills exceeded all expectations. I'm not going to go list out all the trivia here - you should take the walk yourself-  but the walk was probably the most delightful two hours I have spent in a long time, including intimate tete-a-tetes with rare single malt whiskey.

Vinay's style was very interactive and he has a gentle sense of humor that makes the whole thing very enjoyable. He's a trivia buff - "Which is why I thought about this walk in the first place", he had told me - and he had quite a collection of anecdotes and amusing facts


For instance, in addition to being the hometown of one of the most beautiful, elegant, charming, witty and extremely slim women in the world such as you know who, it was the first in Asia to generate electricity.  It was also one of the largest buyer of Rolls Royce cars and has one of the largest Maharajas,  volumetrically speaking (though they say he's dieting)


Do go for this walk if you happen to be in Mysore. At Rs. 495/- head, I think it's a steal. I've been recommending it to everyone I meet. And Vinay is such a great guy to know!

Vinay's window to the world -www.royalmysorewalks.com

Phone 91-9632044188

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vote for me. Wait, don't!

Things are heating up. Voting for the indibloggies award - this blog has been nominated for the Most Humorous Indiblog award - has opened and I thought I must go out there and beg for votes. Offer free drinking water, perhaps, and raise the minimuim support price for sugarcane. And then, thinking it over, I realized that everyone will be saying the same thing. After all, how much water can you drink?

So I decided to adopt a novel strategy - the non-direct approach. I thought I would tell everybody not to vote for my blog, the logic being that the voter would think "my god, what a frank and honest candidate! Disarming. Let's vote for him!", resulting in a thumping victory and the right to be paraded around town on an elephant with a garland and a large vermilion mark on my forehead.

And then I remembered that this approach hadn't worked in my early years when, as a young lad full of hormones and hope, I joined the girlfriend stakes. All my competitors, dressed in bell-bottom trousers and Amitabh hair, wooed with all their might while I gently pretended not to be interested in anyone of them. My general strategy was to sit around on campus pretendintg to read Sartre and Bertrand Russell and this strategy basically got me approximately 0.0 enquiries per annum. And finally when I realized it had bombed, I couldn't very well go the bell-bottom trouser way because everyone would know what a fraud I was. Thus I was stuck mateless till the missus sashayed along and did her life's quota of kind deeds by the single act of marrying me.

Now my dilemma is this. Do I be direct and beg you to vote for me, promising free 500ml arrack and half fried chicken or do I get subtle and ask you to vote for someone else, hoping that you will follow all the logic above and vote for me?

So please, vote for me!.

No, wait! Don't

No, no, I mean vote for me

No, don't  .......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

China - Part II

This is going to be a not-very-China-especially-considering-its-title post because like an ass I've let too much time elapse between the trip and my writing it and my famous Shenoy memory has more or less wriggled out of the "burden of remembrance", as I remember reading somewhere.

Why am I writing this post, then, one might ask in a fit of petulance. Well, that's because I said I would in 'China-Part I' making it a fait accompli, which is a phrase I've been using practically since childhood.

I remember reading it somewhere and for a substantial part of my life I believed that 'fait accompli'  was French for 'if luck is on your side'. In my MBA student days, I would waste no opportunity to include it in one of my assignments, and my teachers were often browbeaten into submission by sentences like "the ROI of the project is likely to be 17.3%, fait accompli".

The concerned teacher, knowing that, like 'paradigm', 'vis-a-vis' and the General Theory of Relativity, only three humans know the meaning of 'fait accompli', would dish out an 'A', apprehensive that I might be at his throat otherwise.

It was many years later that I was suitably pulled up, by the missus of all people. "Naren!" she exclaimed "What on earth do you mean "India will win, fait accompli". I told her I used 'fait accompli' in the sense of "Inshah Allah", whereupon she laughed for five minutes, then despaired for another five because she had evidently married a complete moron, and then told me the bitter truth. Fait accompli does not mean "God-willing". Fait accompli means fait accompli.

I hope this clarifies the situation for you, fait accompli.

Moving on to China, we spent most of our time in a furniture mall, describing the humongousness of which  is beyond the abilities of a Bombay-wallah brought up on 2BHK.  I am reasonably certain that they conducted hang-gliding lessons in that mall on Sundays and national holidays. I don't speak much Chinese (their thank you is "she she yeah" to which, and here I think they pulled my leg, the reply is "Beyonce". So you go "she she yeah" and the Chinese person says "Beyonce". Honest). As I was saying, I wasn't able to enrol for the hang-gliding lessons, but I am reasonably sure they are conducted there.

The place sells every concievable kind of furniture. I didn't even know there were that many kinds. There is classical, neo-classical, colonial, modern, contemporary, futuristic and Zaphod Beeblebrox (for want of a better name. I think they call it 'designer').

The missus had a field day and began shopping on a point-and-shoot basis. Like all good human drama, I will leave my agony to the readers imagination and tell her only that after three days of lunchless shopathons,  I felt like a lost traveler in the Gobi Desert seeing mirages of beds and mattresses only to find they were furniture shops.

Eventually, we got back to Guangzhou city (the aforementioned furniture place was another burg called Shunde, a couple of hours drive out of Guangzhou, where we had shifted base camp when the shopping was happening).

In Guangzhou we, surprise, surprise, shopped again. This time for the famous fake stuff.

To tell you the truth, I couldn't bring myself to believe that the stuff was really fake, so well is it crafted. I thought of the guys selling them as fine, altruistic gentlemen, upholding the true spirit of socialism, insistent on everyone, including obvious losers like me, wearing a priceless Rolex on his or her wrist.

The missus refused to let me even look at them. "I've been told they are hopeless" she told me, and added ominously "and I do not wear fakes", which I knew well because I had, in the early days of our marriage bought her a fake Omega watch which got me a big wet kiss and continued to yield much love and affection till some spoilsport friend of hers told her it was fake. I got it nice and proper at that time.

Coming back to the res we found that almost everything is Guangzhou is fake. Every manufactured thing, that is. But there is a lot of lovely food and tea available and we spent the rest of the day pottering about the place, eating quaint meals at quaint places, perhaps sometimes comprising of quaint animal species but we never got to find out because we mercifully spoke no Chinese beyond Beyonce.

I loved the people. The ordinary people. They are genuinely polite and have the innate humility that only a couple of generations of brutal totalitarian rule can bring. There is prosperity in China, true, but that is only for the few million early birds who lucked out in Deng's time and started something. The rest of the country is comprised of confirmed slaves for all time. A revolution waiting to happen, if you ask me. And I hope it does, in our life time at least. Those people deserve better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Indiebloggies

You could've knocked me down with a feather when I saw this

I have been nominated for Best Humourous IndiBlog. I don't know how much of an honour that is in absolute terms but I am rubbing shoulders with
which are four blogs I follow with a microscope, and being on the same list as them is honour enough for me. Each one  of them is a gem.

I don't know how the voting works but I'm going to vote for all of them, creating multiple ids if required (following in the illustrious footsteps of great leaders all over our country, especially UP and Bihar).

Doing Jalsa and Showing Jilpa (by Krish Ashok) is about the most intelligent blog around, in addition to being truly funny. His posts are like Rahman's music - they get better every time you read them.

Son of Bosey (Anand Ramachandran) is my personal favorite - the best satire I've read anywhere, not just online. It satirizes without ridiculing, which is such a difficult thing to do. And it is guaranteed to make you laugh till your sides ache.

Bengaluru Banter is particularly funny for me because its author, Biker dude, is a superb observer and mimic and imitates the Bangalore argot very well. I travel often to Bangalore and I hear all that Bangalore speak often enough to laugh really hard. He is also a sensitive writer. Some of his posts are literary gems. Sadly, he doesn't post very frequently.

Coconut Chutney is one of the wittiest young ladies on the net. She has just the right balance of wit and irreverence to make you laugh. She is really gifted with words.

It's a tough choice, but it has to be one of these four. Krish Ashok or Anand Ramachandran for my money, but it could easily be Bengalooru Banter or Coconut Chutney. There are other blogs on the list at Indibloggies but I haven't been really following them. Didn't look anywhere close to these four at first glance.

I realize I'm not exactly plugging my own blog but the fact is that merely sharing the stage with these guys has made my day.  My posts are cute but I tend to (consciously, I confess) imitate Wodehouse which doesn't do much for originality. And my themes are pretty jaded too - the missus oppressing me, aided and abetted by the kids - and here, the reason is that my thinking machinery is very rudimentary and I am terrified it will pack up entirely if I make outrageous demands of it, such as originality.

So I hope you go ahead and vote wisely. Remember, if none of the candidates are handing out free booze, vote for the best one.

CHeers

Friday, November 6, 2009

China - Part I

This is a true and factual account of my China trip. Longish and rambling, as true and factual accounts usually are, but written with sensitivity and feeling. Right.

I don't know how the thing started. It might have been my patriotic impulse to sort out the Arunachal Pradesh imbroglio, which is the first time I've used this word in real life, so pardon me while do a little war dance. Or it might have been that I wanted to buy some furniture for our new house.

Anyway, I found myself face to face with Hu Jintao, the Supreme leader of the Council of Supreme Leaders of the Peoples and workers party or something, aka, The Man Who Kicks All Ass in China.

Hu wasn't much of a lad for conversation. A taciturn and grim bloke. And to me, he looked like someone with gas trouble. And he kept saying that everything was an integral part of China.

“Arunachal Pradesh?”

“Integral Part of China.”

“What about Tibet?”

“You gotta be kidding me” Hu's been spending too much time with American policy makers “Tibet is definitely an integral part of China”.

I tried to change my tack. Perhaps the soft power of Bollywood would soften him up. I once escaped a traffic ticket by asking the cop if he was related to Rajesh Khanna. He wasn't, but he was flattered that discerning cutters of lanes and jumpers of signals thought so.

“Are you related to Preity Jintao” I asked, just to break ice. He eh-eh-ed and consulted with advisors, all of whom presented the standard inscrutable Chinese appearance of mild puzzlement.

“She's a Bollywood actress,” I added, by way of clarification. “She might be from a collateral branch of your family”

“Ah, Bollywood! Integral part of China”

Now it was my turn to be puzzled. “Since when?”

“You made a movie called 'Chandni Chowk to China', did you not”. “No! No! No!” I screamed. “I did not make that movie!”

“Wake up, Naren”, I heard the missus saying, with a well aimed finger jabbing me in the ribs. “We'll be landing in Hong Kong now. And you look a complete mess.”

As far as the missus is concerned I am always looking a mess but this time even by my extremely considerate standards, I thought I resembled something dragged out of a trash can by a cat with very catholic tastes.

“Must have been all that work pressure from yesterday”, I told her, “I was really exhausted.”

“Nonsense. You had far too much wine. Come on now, fill up these immigration forms,” she said. And as usual, the filling out of all kinds of forms being in my job description since the day I was married, I plodded through the things and wondered for the zillionth time who in his right mind would read anything written in it. In fact, this is exactly what I think when I write something on my blog.

And in addition they had one of those disarmingly innocent health declaration forms which in effect says, when you take away the heretofores and whereases, “No boss, I am not having any bird or swine flu”

Bureaucrats all over the world are the same. We used to have a Premier Padmini back in the days when I was a dashing young lad, carefree and debonair, to which I had an air-conditioner fitted. My father used to call it the perfect metaphor for bureaucracy. It would generate lots of air. It would create plenty of activity like louvres swinging and lights glowing on. It would use up a lot of resources. The only thing it wouldn't do was cool the car. But I digress.

We shuffled into line before the immigration officer who gave me a long and unblinking stare which made be feel I was an international spy, and then, thinking it over, decided I didn't look smart enough to cause any real damage. He gave me my passport and glared a “beat it, creep” look at me. The missus of course never has these problems. They smile at her, she smiles back, plenty of thank yous and you're welcomes. There is no justice in this world, I tell you. If between the two of us there was one who could stage a coup d'etat and takeover a country, that would be the missus. I couldn't take over an unmanned lighthouse. Yet they treat her like she was Queen Victoria while I get the reception reserved for people suffering from halitosis.

That little ceremony over, we shuffled into a bus which would take us into China, to Guangzhou, and I witnessed for the first time an immigration check where the immigration officer doesn't bother to even look at you. All done in five minutes. I was extremely impressed with Chinese efficiency and their faith in Old Confucius' maxim that the country which executes illegal aliens doesn't have many.

The Missus and I, celebrating my acceptance by the Immigration chaps


Our hotel turned out to a very lavish place, considering what we were paying for it, with a bevy of extremely well coiffured Chinese ladies welcoming us. One of them, rather sportingly I thought, asked me how my knee was. I've been troubled by a touch of arthritis over the last few months and had blogged about it. Perhaps this charming lady had read it.


“ Oh, it's much better now, thank you very much, though it still hurts a bit if I climb stairs too fast”, I told her.

She looked helplessly from me to the missus, who promptly hissed “Silly! 'Ni Hao' is 'Welcome' in Chinese” and gave my bewildered interlocutor a conciliatory smile.

I soon learned that in China, English has the same staus that Hindi has in Chennai. Everyone agrees that it is an important language but no one gives a rat's ass about learning or speaking it. And who is to say they're not right. Chinese is a particularly dicey language, though. It has a lot to do with intonation, which means that you can say the same sentence in two different sing-songs and mean two completely different things. Like you might want to compliment the hostess on her nice house and end up telling her that there are astronauts urinating in her back yard. I had heard a story, probably apocryphal, about a bloke who wanted to know where the restrooms were and accidentally ended up marrying a Chinese girl.
I decided to stick to English.

A funny thing among most English speakers is that we believe people who don't understand English can magically understand it if we speak it in broken syllables with gesticulation. It doesn't work. I had a situation, right on day 1, where, typical of me, I had forgotten to charge my phone and it was on it's last legs, a bit like the flickering lamp next to the dying grandfather in Hindi movies. About to go out at any moment. So I asked my hosts with active sign language, brandishing my phone, for a charger.

“Charrrr gerrr” “Chaaaaar Gerrrr” I asked. At first they looked at me with a completely stoned silence, like they had just smoked this awesome weed and I was somebody's father who had just barged into the room.

Silence.

“Charrrr gerrr” “Chaaaaar Gerrrr” I asked again, this time with hand and leg gestures.

Something seemed to be stirring. Suddenly one of them exclaimed “Oh oh oh oh okay okay okay okay” in joyous comprehension and rushed out, beckoning me to follow. We went down two flights and landed up opposite a washing machine. I'm not making this up.

Stay tuned for part II folks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Diwali at chez Shenoy

Well, finally Diwali came and went. I spent it sleeping in bed. For a change, this was not because of a hangover. I had this really virulent attack of gastroenteritis, an ailment in which the alimentary canal makes many humorous sound effects and generally leaves the afflictee with the athletic ability of respected shri vajpayee. By the evening, I was walking around like a Tai' chi master.

My dad (who is a doctor) is away in america, but when I rang him up for help, he took all of fifteen seconds to diagnose it over the phone.

"Touch of gastro, nothing to worry about" he told me, and prescribed a medicine which worked like magic. Almost the next day, I was turning cartwheels and accepting invitations to parties.

The afternoon one went fairly ok. I had a couple of vodka and limes without dulling the intellect even a little bit. If I had been in that line of work, I would probably have discovered a fundamental particle or two.

The evening session was a little more drastic. We were invited to my sister's house and her husband uncorked some rather classy rum with a fancy name. I had no more than two drinks, to the best of my knowledge, but I  managed to get plastered to a level I haven't been since I discovered that I had passed my engineering finals.

Few things, dear unmarried reader, bring out the demon in the old helpmeet more than the spectacle of a plastered husband. It is a no-no on the scale of forgetting to pick up the kids from school or getting her a bar-tool set for her birthday. The missus was very not-amused and I am very strictly on the dry side of the barometer till further notice.

So, happy Diwali everyone. I hope you have a great year, filled with joy and prosperity, love and friendship, warmth and understanding, and of course, some decent scotch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diwali and its part in my downfall -Part II

(Just in case you missed the earlier post, I was speaking about the dismissive manner in which the missus spoke of single malt whiskeys. And the assault on my valuable collection of books on philosophy)

As you can well imagine, no thinking man can stand slurs to malt whiskies. After racking my brains for a suitable repartee and finding none, I decided to maintain a dignified silence.

"OK," she said, by way of compromise, "I'll let you keep six of these books. They can go into the loft on top of the loo."

As a consequence of this radical rearrangement of philosophical thought in our home, our raddiwallah is now the proud possessor of 'Aristotle's Ethics', 'Plato's Republic', a jolly old book named 'The Great Political Theories' and 'Existential Thought - A Primer'.

I sat there numbed. I had never read any of those books, to tell you the truth, but it was nice to know they were around. I mean, if you wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night realising  you had forgotten a great political theory or two, 'The Great Political Theories' will no longer be around to illuminate you. I mumbled words to this effect.

The missus moved in for the kill.

"Cheer up, Naren.Look at the bright side of this. You are eligible to stand for Parliament now."

"Huh? Hows that?" I asked, leading up to the sucker punch.

"You've just sold your Ethics to the rag-and-bone man!"

"Ha Ha. Very funny. You know, Aristotle was the greatest thinker of the ancient world"

"Aristotle was a moron who believed men had more teeth than women"

"They don't?"

"Shut up and identify five t-shirts that are going out."

And so the day continued. By evening, my cupboard resembled Old Mother Hubbard's.

"It is bare!" I exclaimed in dismay.

But she wasn't really listening. With a cheery "Bare is in, baby", and proceeding to hum "The Bare Necessities" from the Jungle Book, she went on to her own wardrobe, which I bitterly noted she did not de-populate. Women!

"How come your wardrobe doesn't get the treatment?" I wanted to ask her but she shooed me out of the room and continued the proceedings in camera.

The next day we spent all morning and half the afternoon shopping for gifts. Trays, candles, chocolates, that kind of thing.

Why this inconsequential act has to command so much pomp and circumstance is beyond me. It is not as if you gift someone a set of wine glasses and he or she says "Oh my god! Just what I needed! I resolve to love you twice as much as I used to!".

He or she just pries off the little "With Best Compliments From" label and puts one of his or her own to gift to someone else.(This has been proved true with respect to casseroles. There are only three casseroles in the world, all of  which get repacked and re-gifted. Apparently this has been going on since 1902.)

We of course invest the simple act of buying presents with the care and attention of the Pentagon purchasing military hardware. Hmm. Perhaps that's not such a great simile. What I was striving to emphasize was that the six hours or so that we spent in the mall buying stuff that no one wanted could have been reduced to fifteen minutes if it had been left to me.

"I couldn't trust you to buy a flyswatter, Naren", the missus retorted, when I voiced my aforementioned views. "You got your best friend a pressure cooker last year"

"What's wrong with a pressure cooker?" The truth was that we were giving pressure cookers to the workers in my factory and I happened to have a few left over.

"Nothing, except that it is not a chic thing to give. Can you imagine say Shobha De giving Vijay Mallya a pressure cooker?". I had an answer to that. I am not Shobha De and he is by no means Vijay Mallya. But I kept the trap shut, which is the best response when the argument is drifting into uncharted territory.

(The Missus is howling for me to take her voting. Part III coming soon)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Diwali and its part in my downfall -Part I

Diwali is a magical time of the year at the Shenoy homestead. This is the time when the missus suddenly discovers that the house is in a mess and has to be cleaned out.

What is magical about it is that I don't die. Every year, there comes a point in the proceedings where I am conviced that it is all over and she is going to stab me with a sharp instrument. And every year, that moment passes without her actually doing it.

Of course, as my elder son pointed out, this could merely mean that the probability of this happening is increasing. They're learning the basics of probability in school, you see, and for some reason he is fascinated by it. I mean, come on. Probability used to be THE most boring subject when we were younger. There was a time when I had to learn the Income tax Act and even THAT was more interesting than probability. But I digress. Coming back to the res (it IS res, isn't it, Jeeves?), the Great Cleaning of the Shenoy Cupboards had begun.

It started off innocuously as usual. The children's cupdboards are still under the direct overlordship of her highness, so she knows exactly what is there in them. More importantly, she has the complete rights of high middle and low justice, and the kids can only whine in a muted fashion when they behold their favorite outfit going out to meet its maker on the grounds of looking like a gunny sack.

Kids are resilient, however, and with a philosophical shrug they went back to playing computer games surreptitiously, under the pretence of collecting project information.

"Guys, please study. If your mom catches you playing games on my laptop, I've had it", I implored.

"Relax, annie, she's doing cupboards. You know what that means! Whole day, easy!" said younger son.

"Hah! Half the evening too, if she finds that Archie comics collection of yours" said elder son, with a snort.

I stumbled out in a lost fashion. The thing to do when these kind of clandestine activities are happening is to put as much distance between yourself and the crime scene as possible.

Well, the kids' cupboards got done in a day. There was a bit of head shaking and mumbled can-you-believe-the-state-of-this's but no serious melodrama and you would have been convinced that a workshop on meditation was being conducted on the premises. And no, the rascals didn't get caught playing computer games.

The heavy stuff started the next day, when she got to my cupboard. You see, I lke to think myself as a sort of a polymath- a man of a multifarious personality. A bit like Leonardo Da Vinci. Though I must confess that when I attempted to paint Mona Lisa, it came out like a South Park character and made the wife and kids nearly choke (that's an interesting anecdote I must tell you one of these days).

Not that it detracts from my talents. The way I see it, if Da Vinci was an 'n' sided personality, mine  would be a '(n-1)' sided one, that's all.

Digressing again. What I was getting at is that, being a multifaceted chap and all, I end up collecting a good deal of 'stuff' that is potentially valuable, though at the present moment the exchange value would be 2 rat droppings. The missus has this ruthless "live for the present" streak in her and wants to throw the whole bunch out.

"What is this", she asked me, holding up an old PC motherboard.

"It's a motherboard", I said

"I know that". She learned Computer Science in college,  I kid you not, though she hates the subject with all her heart, which is another story I have to tell. Relax, I won't tell it today.

Where's the CPU and the Memory?"

"Er, there's no CPU and memory"

"Throw it out then. What's the use of keeping ..." and petered out into a diatribe on pack rats.

I tried to explain that I was planning to use an old CPU from another computer and try to get it running on linux but I could tell it was no use. The lady had taken a personal dislike to it. No amount of reasoning could convince her that I would ever get around to using it. She was right, of course, but it was the principle of the thing.

She gathered her attention to a pile of books on philosophy that has been her steady target for years now.


"Naren, you have NEVER read a single one of these. Please PLEASE at least NOW throw them out."

"Sweetheart, in the intellectual circles that I roam about, Satre and Kafka are essential reading"

"Nonsense. None of you bunch have ever read anything further than the labels on those ridiculously named single malt whiskeys. Laphroaig! Sounds like French for 'frog'.

"Excusez moi, garcon," she said, in a falsetto  "esker vouz avez La Froig?"  and I bet your keister he'll come back with something that had been a tadpole a few weeks earlier".

The missus can be quite sarcastic when she feels like it.

(gotta go now. taking the brood out to dinner. stay tuned though. Part II follows)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My world celebritiness

My dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this function specially organized for the purpose of honoring me on the occasion of my elevation to the position of  'world celebrity'.

A deeply thought comment, dripping with wisdom, on the advisabililty of spending Rs. 6000 on an order of butter chicken has been quoted in the Mint  here and now in the Independent here  

To put this into pespective, here are my words, along with famous quotes from competing writers

Shakespeare: To be, or not to be: that is the question.

John Keats: A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.

Narendra Shenoy : But is it worth 6,000 rupees? The answer, dear reader, is a resounding yes. Provided, of course, that it is somebody else's 6,000 rupees.

Eminem: You make me sick.

As you can see, I am right up there with the best. I am expecting to hear from Paris Hilton any moment now. Of course, my response will be measured, fitting of my stature as a world celebrity

"Mr Shenoy!" Ms. Hilton will gush "You are famous!"

"Oh, it's nothing, really" I will murmur in the muted response characteristic of the truly humble

"Nothing? Nothing? Your wise words have been quoted by world newspapers and you call that nothing? Oh, Mr. Shenoy, I am overcome by your unassuming ways. Please, make love to me right now."

And of course, I will decline respectfully, being a man of character.

The missus has taken a surprisingly dim view of these happenings.

"So someone copy pasted your wisecrack and you're a world celebrity? Give me a break!" she said.

I wisely refrained from telling her about the Paris Hilton thing. Women can never handle that kind of competition, even when it is hypothetical..

And anyway, even Shakespeare had to sufer this kind of stuff

'What kind of rot is this "Friends, Romans,Countrymen, lend me your ears" you've written here, Bill?' Anne Hathaway is reported to have said,  'Why can't you just say "Yo, listen up, y'all!" like the rest of us?'

Yeah, why not, Bill? Wives!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ashutosh Gowariker and his part in my downfall

We, the kids, missus and I that is, saw "What's your Rashee?" today. Just returned 15 minutes ago, in fact.  I am therefore dutifully filing my serious critical evaluation of the movie for the benefit of keen students of cinema who are doubtless reading my erudite blog for illumination. 

The story is about a gujju guy who comes from the US to India to get married, and has to choose from 12 girls, each from one zodiac sign.  And since I'm too exhausted to type out the story, and since you can easily read it on the net, and since it's mostly long and complicated songs anyway, let's take it as read. OK? Thanks.

I enjoyed the movie, of course. I thought Priyanka Chopra acted marvelously. I also thought Harman Baweja acted marvelously. I told the missus that. She gave me the look.

"You ok, buddy?" she asked me.

"Sure. Why?"

"Harman Baweja couldn't act to save a dying grandmother. Harman Baweja makes Akshay Kumar look like Naseeruddin Shah. You can't be serious about his acting".

"Come, now. You're prejudiced. I thought he was just the right shade of innocence and savvy combined."

The missus rolled her eyes. For once, she had the heartfelt support of both the kids. The younger one usually takes my side but this time he was very upset.

"I would have stayed at home and studied the chapter on the United Nations" he said, referring  to a funfilled chapter in his Civics textbook which tells you all that you ever wanted to know about UN resolutions and the veto power of the security council but were afraid to ask.

Missus gave me the "see? didn't I tell you?" look. And well she might, because I was really taken aback. This was a strong reaction. Gautham declaring that he'd study rather than do something is complete damnation of that something. His hatred for textbooks makes Israel Palestine relations look like Portuguese love sonnets in comparison.

"And the songs were too many and every bloody where" Vyaas, our resident music aficionado piped up.  Further strong stuff.

But I pigheadedly continued to defend Ashutosh Gowariker. "He is a fine filmmaker", I told  the brood.

"When he lost his hair, he must have lost his mind with it",  Vyaas said.

"Hush" said the missus with a barely suppressed giggle. "Annie's losing hair too".

"Hahaha" said Vyaas, exhibiting none of the spirit that, to take a random example from Hindu mythology, Sravana exhibited towards his father.

"Annie, is hair singular or plural?"  asked Gautham.

"Plural of course"

"Then Vyaas, you should say 'when he lost his hair, he lost his mind with THEM', shouldn't he, Annie"

"Er, I don't think, that is, it doesn't seem to sound right. Ask your mother", I said

"You're the blog writer. YOU tell me!" she retorted, hitting that full toss to the boundary

As often happens in family conversations in the Shenoy household, I was conscious of a swimming feeling in my head.

"We were talking about the movie, people" I tried to recapitulate.


"If you hadn't forced us to come, we would have been watching cartoon network now" said Gautam, ruefully.

"We hate you Annie!" They didn't say this aloud, but I could almost mind read.

Damn you Gowariker. All your fault.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday morning blues

Sunday mornings are usually very sedate in our house. Today is no different. I have woken up a full hour before the rest of the house, unlike the others who are sleeping in late. One reason for this is that I have a finely tuned  body clock. The other reason is that if I do not get out of bed at 6, I'm going to have to poop in it, thanks to the afore mentioned body clock. The missus finds this very irritating, because I am forever slamming doors, stumbling over randomly scattered soccer balls and wandering around like a blind bat looking for my spectacles, without which, optically disadvantaged as I am, I would probably go in the broom closet. She mumbles some words of recrimination and goes back to sleep mid sentence. What the hell, it is a Sunday morning!

A few hours later, when the household is up and awake, and humming with action, I am accosted by my children. The elder one makes an observation about Eminem. Perhaps a word of explanation is in order here. The kids are inordinately fond of rap music  and its practitioners. People like Eminem, Fifty Cent, a gentleman named- I kid you not- T-Pain, and many other worthies who wish to influence the world through their hair and tattoos, instead of mundane things like wisdom, courage and intellect. As I was saying, the elder one makes the observation that, should Eminem convert to Islam, he could call himself Muslim Shady. I go "huh?" at him in the way only a doofus father can. He explains that Eminem, for reasons best known to him, calls himself "Slim Shady". Muslim Shady was a play on Slim shady.  "It was a joke, Annie!" he tells me, with a sad look in his eyes which clearly reveal his estimation of the hopelessness of the older generation.


Younger son is studying. I'm pottering about in the living room, trying to get the TV started with the remote. Missus watches in serene amusement for about 5 minutes and then points out that I am using the cordless phone. "Try using the remote. It works really well with the TV, though I don't know why that should be so". She revels in these kind of shots.  I give her my coldest "Dignified Silence" look, completely wasted on her because her mom has called up from Mysore and they are exchanging very sotto voce remarks about something. This means
a. Someone is getting divorced
b. Someone is getting married
c. Someone is having a child
d. They are discussing the latest Chinese GDP numbers.

Ok, perhaps not 'd.'

Anyway, I digress. I was talking about the younger son. With his mom in a long conversation over the phone, he is like a political activist just released from prison. Brimming with things to say, if you know what I mean.

"Annie" he goes, "is reproduction a bad thing?"

Ulp.


"Ask your mother. She'll be happy to tell you." I try to slink away, but he's not having any of it.

"I'm asking YOU"

"I, er, no, not  really. I mean, reproduction is, like, very necessary for life. But of course, we don't discuss it very openly er.. er.. "

"Why not?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Why don't we discuss it openly?"

"Well, I think... that is... I think your mother would be better placed to answer that."

"She's going to be on the phone for an hour, you know. That's grandma on the line."

"I know." Sigh. "Ok, why are you asking me this NOW?"

"Well  it says here, in this textbook that I'm reading that 'reproduction in any form is expressly prohibited' "

Rascal.! He was stringing me along. I try to clout him one on the side of the head but he's like Muhammed Ali, dodging and weaving around while I get shorter of breath.

Kids!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The "Other Gastronomic Adventures" from the previous post

Well, after that 6000 rupee butter chicken, Ajay asked me if I had ever sampled the wares at Muhammad Ali road and thereabouts, at Ramzan time.

What with all these world events happening, it so happened that I had not. I said so. Ajay immediately raised eyebrows and gave me the "what stone have you been living under, my friend" look. I squirmed under his critical gaze and implored him to remedy that defect in my otherwise blemishless character.

"Alright", he told me, "present yourself at Kala Ghoda at 6 pm tomorrow. I'll see what I can do."

Kala Ghoda, for those of you who are ignorant of Mumbai geography, is an important city landmark named after a black horse (kala ghoda) which does not exist.

I know this for a fact. I have searched high and low for it, often when I was perfectly sober, and found no evidence of horses of any color.

And the search was never easy, let me tell you. Can you imagine walking around in broad daylight, or worse, dark night light, trying to look nonchalant while actually seeking out a large black horse among automobiles, office goers and random municipal corporation teams digging up the road in the hope of finding buried treasure?

Which by the way is a confirmed fact, the fact that they're hunting for buried treasure, I mean, because another fine thinker  (who blogs  here)   arrived at the same conclusion independently, as we both discovered recently while having a philosophical beer, proving that it MUSt be true. And what the devil am I rambling about here? Get back to the point. Right. Sorry folks.

The other important thing about Kala Ghoda is that it lies 35 traffic filled kilometers south of Malad West where yours truly resides. I decided to take the train. Now local train journeys are something I really look forward to, in Mumbai, for the simple reason that nowhere else in the world can you find so many people digging out little bits of snot, rolling them into balls of nanometric dimensions and sticking them under the seat or on the dangling handles overhead, with such dexterity and precision. It's hypnotic. I did not join them. I wanted to, really did, but when Yo Yo Ma plays the cello, you listen, however much your own fingers are twitching to play, if you get my drift.

By the way, if this post lacks the usual precise, compact, power-point-presentation-to-the-board-of-directors quality of my arguments, you can blame it on a rather jolly little beer called Tuborg which is so named because if have tu many of them, and you happen to be with Bjorn Borg, you are liable to see tu borgs. There. I've gone off the rails again! At this rate, I really doubt if I will ever get to the point where I tell you about what I ate at the Mohammed Ali joint.

So here goes, before I fall asleep.
1. Tandoori Chicken
2. Paya barahandi
3. Khichda
4. Firnee
5. Malpua with cream.

All of which were made from low calorie ingredients, of course, and had special cholestrol lowering vitamins added to them.

(It might have occured to the alert reader that I could have said this right at the beginning and saved myself the trouble of typing a few thousand words. Hmmm. True. But it's such fun to ramble on pointlessly. Also, my MBA training requires me to use a thousand random words for every little thought or else they will formally strip me of my degree)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The world's classiest butter chicken and other gastronomic adventures


This was courtesy my brother in law Ajay Sharma, who serendipitously  discovered it on Facebook  and was intrigued by its price. For the site says, in the most apologetic manner, that it costs Rs. 6000 per portion and very sorry but that's what it costs. 

They don't offer much of an explanation  other than that they use fine ingredients including Evian mineral water (which tastes terrible on its own, if you ask me) and Hunt's tomato paste (which I have never heard about).

There were a few who, very rightly, ranted on the Facebook page, that they must be out of their mind to price, at Rs. 6000, something like a butter chicken, excellent specimens of which are available for Rs. 200 or less a portion.

 As if in anticipation of  these kind of responses, the site actually suggests two places which serve excellent butter chicken (Moti Mahal and Mughal Mahal) where the stuff is way cheaper. It's just that OUR butter chicken is Rs. 6000 per portion, they say. They don't say "period" after that sentence but you can just sense it.

Ajay, of course, gastronome that he is, promptly became their fan on Facebook and wrote them an appreciative comment. And lo, they decided to gift him a sample of their Butter Chicken  - one portion flown in from Hyderabad (where it is made, and where it is sold) for his exclusive enjoyment. 

I rushed to sample the stuff as soon as I heard about it, partly because of the fact that I was getting it free and partly because I was very hungry, the missus having decided basically to starve me, over the last few weeks, with egg whites, celery, iceberg lettuce and other things currently banned under the Geneva convention.

At Ajay's house, I ran into the founders of Anaarkali themselves. A youngish couple, one Mr. I. B. Saxena and Ms. Padma Prasad, they had personally carried their culinary masterpiece with them. I was touched. 

They were extremely reticent and seemed embarassed at all the gushing appreciation about their business spirit that Ajay and I were heaping on them. Eventually, we got them to talk a bit about themselves and found out that they cooked it themselves. Personally. No cooks, lackeys, assistant vice-presidents, nothing! Moreover, they're pretty successful businesspeople in everyday life, worth many doubloons and in no n eed for the moolah they must be earning from this venture, if indeed they earn any. Amazing!

Anyway I'll cut a long story short and say that the butter chicken was awesome. Superb. Excellent. Definitely the best butter chicken in the world!

Ok, I'm probably not the world's leading authority on butter chicken, my earlier experience of it having been the "Lalit" butter chicken of Goregaon West. Lalit, a fine restaurant in my opinion, interprets "butter chicken" as "butter 50%, chicken 50%". This makes it yummy but unidimensional. 
Anarkali's version, on the other hand, is a lot more sophisticated. It has many nuances of flavour, with ingredients like saffron and olives finding their way into the plot. 

Comparing "Anaarkali" to "Lalit" is not fair. It's a bit like comparing Laurence Olivier to Akshay Kumar. But like all bourgeois, I could not but ask myself the inevitable commercial question "Is it worth Rupees Six thousand"? 
The answer, dear reader, is a resounding "yes"!
Provided, of course, that it is somebody else's Rupees Six Thousand.

No, I'm being mean there. I would pay 6000 for this butter chicken. It would have to be an occassion, though. The chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, perhaps. Or appointment to the casting department of some prominent bollywood production house.

Something befitting the Classiest Butter Chicken in the world.

(tune in tomorrow for the 'other gastronomic adventures' because i'm falling asleep)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Writer's block, yoga lessons etc.

Really can't think of anything to write. What a bummer these writer's blocks are! Not that anyone's forcing me to write or anything. But as a card carrying MBA, it is shameful to be at a loss for words. (The missus points out here that I am not at a loss for words, my problem is that I am at a loss for ideas. She might be right there but it's nitpicking).

What to write? Ok, here's something. The other day, the missus thought it would be nice for me to learn yoga. Probably sick of hearing me whine about having to work out in the gym, she decided to set me up with a competent yoga instructor.

Well, I have nothing against this fine form of exercise, except of course for the tendency of the yoga instructor to try and make you hyperflexible.

I mean, I can see the utility of this. Let's say you have two full mugs of beer, one in each hand, and you want to scratch your ear. If you were good at yoga, you'd just use your toe, nonchalantly like, instead of having to find a table to keep one beer mug, scratch your ear with the free hand, and then pick the mug again. A most convenient talent. But the steps leading to the acquisition of this ability are punishing, to say the least.

After one session of this, I slunk back into the gym. Better to risk dropping the dumbbell on one's toe than chancing the painful possibility of accidentally biting your own nuts.


What else? Oh, we had a chilled out saturday. The younger son decided to prepare for a career in rock music, aided and abetted by yours truly, till his mom caught us  and bawled us out. Caught on video. Cheers




Saturday special from narendra shenoy on Vimeo.

Monday, August 31, 2009

More on the knee

As i was saying in my previous post, I have been diagnosed with osteo-arthritis. The good doctor prescribed me some tablets and a "Bio-protein pure collagen blah blah" drink which sounded so phony that I had to open the pamphlet and read. The first line was "Osteo-arthritis is a disease that affects the elderly". I ask you. A man in his prime. Eyed by many, including Mrs. Bacchan the younger (I'm not joking. I saw her at a party once and she looked at me. Over the heads of 70 other people, she looked at ME! The raw desire in her eyes was unmistakable, but since I am spoken for, I responded not). I am NOT elderly. You know who's elderly, A. K. Hangal, that's elderly. And L. K. Advani.

Ok,  enough ranting. Actually, the missus has been very sweet. She keeps fussing over me and asks me every fifteen minutes if my knee is hurting. It is not, actually, but I grimace slightly every time I stand up, conveying the impression that I'm being extremely courageous and manly, concealing my pain like that. I know. I'm a rat.

The kids have been really nice too. Vyaas, the elder one asked me if I would ever be able to walk again, while Gautham offered to buy me a walking stick from his pocket money, provided he has any left over after buying the Eminem Relapse CD.

Well, that's about it from me. The missus is very serious about not letting me drink a single drop of alcohol which term, unless repugnant to the context thereof, shall be deemed to mean beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, gin, brandy, rum (black and white), the triple distilled horse urine they call bourbon, tequila and beverages containing all or part of the ingredients aforementioned.

Cheers

Friday, August 28, 2009

Depression!

 I've been having a nagging pain in my knee.

Like all typical guys, I was in complete denial. Guys will refuse to go to the doctor till they physically drop dead, because deep down inside, all guys know that doctors are dying to put their hands up your ass lookng for something called a prostate, which I'm sure these guys have made up for precisely this purpose.

But I'm not your regular normal guy. I'm a guy married to Sheela Shenoy. It's a bit hard to say no when SHE'S telling you to go to the doctor.

"And don't be silly, Naren. He's an orthopedic surgeon. He doesn't want to put things up your backside." , she added. After 17 years of marriage, the wife is still unable to say the word "ass", bless her heart!

Well, I went in the end. One, because SHeela said so. And two, because the knee was really hurting, especially when I climbed up stairs.

My orthopedic surgeon is a serious kind of bloke. No reassuring smiles or backslapping. He told me to take an X-ray. "This has all the signs of osteoarthritis" he told me. And today, when I went back to him with the X-rays he took a look at them, the knees and the x-ray images.

After a moment or two spent in uffish thought, he gave me the look college principals give parents when it is their painful duty to inform them that their son is doing weed.

"You definitely have osteo arthritis".

"Are you sure?"

"Here. Look at this gap"

Looked fine to me.

"It's less than normal. Plus there are these bony protuberances"

Well, he looked confident enough. I took his word for it.

"What do I need to do? Like precautions and so on"

You're not going to believe this. He asked me to reduce my weight. REDUCE MY WEIGHT! I'm practically skin and bones right now.

"And a couple of seriously Chennai Film Industry Thighs", the missus added, sardonically. "And an Andhra superstar potbelly."

"And no booze till you're 70." added the doctor.

"Till I'm 70 years old!" I was aghast. "You can't be serious, doctor".

Something in my look must have appealed to the well concealed human in him.

"Not 70 YEARS, my dear chap. 70 KILOS". And he smiled for the first time since I've known him.

Well, that was a relief. So mission 70 kgs begins from today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Test post

Whenever I take any firm, decisive action about something, I generally find myself with my ass in a sling, to use a technical term.

Not when I got married, of course. That turned out fabulously, though I haven't won a single debate since, but that's beside the point.

What I was saying is that all this is just yada yada yada to test out if I've managed to get the Disqus comment engine out of this blog.

Probably not, because I'm pretty much a moron in these things.

I wasn't born that way.  O no, sirree! I had to work hard at it. SOmewhere along the way, I joined up an MBA course, which helped immensely, but it was mostly just hard work.

Why would I want to become a moron, you might ask.

You moron.

Don't you know that only morons succeed in life? Look at the world around you.

Though it must be said that it is not a sufficient condition, just a necessary one.

Meaning that you have to be a moron in order to succeed, but being a moron is no guarantee of success.

If you got that, you're going to have to work harder.

At being a moron, I mean.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Groaners anonymous

Miles was upset. "You charged me 'arf a pound for me pint!"

"That's what we charge around here, me man", the landlord said, wiping the bar with his sleeve.

"But you didn't charge 'im a single penny"

"Didn't charge who?" asked the landlord

"Whom" interjected his educated wife.

"Eh?"

"Whom. 'Didn't charge whom' is how we say it, dear"

"That's exactly what I'm askin'. Whom came 'ere and didn't pay for 'is drinks?"

The landlord's wife rolled her eyes heavenward.

"The monk, dear. From the abbey. You know we never charge him for his beer"

"That's what I want to know" said Miles, indignantly. 'What's 'e done to get free beer while honest folk like me 'ave to pay through me nose?"

"Ah, 'im!" said the landlord. "Well, 'e's different."

"Different?"

"Yes, different. You see, e's a regular 'ere. "

"So am I!"

"Yes, but 'e's a frequent friar, Miles"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Words fail me





Photographed in Mysore. Made available by my alert b-in-law Dr. Mahesh Rao. Seriously, words fail me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vande Maataram -

Found it! Vande Maataram by Mogubai Kurdikar. The best version of this moving song, as far as I am concerned. This is a recording from 1947 so the audio quality is a bit grainy, but the genius of Mogubai is unmistakable.


video

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Einstein groaner (re-posted)

(An old groaner reposted for the purpose of checking a new system of comments called disqus)

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"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The week in review (unfunny post)

Ok folks. Lost my muse somewhere. Can't think of anything funny to write, and yet feel like writing. Who better to inflict all this upon than my poor, unsuspecting readers? Here goes!


Things are pretty bad in Mumbai. I went to Alfa, the famous smuggled goods shop in Irla, to buy a cellphone battery and it was totally deserted. Now this place usually resembles a well packed tin of sardines. Today, it looked like a meeting of "Intellectuals of the Samajwadi Party". Population zero, I mean.

The reason of course is the swine flu panic. And this is the city which shrugs off bomb blasts and terrorist attacks. It's sad!

Schools and colleges are closed. The missus and I are at our wits end trying to find new ways of keeping the progeny amused and out-of-trouble. They keep fighting and hitting each other. If this happens when I am at home, I do what any responsible father would do. I slink off into another room. But if it happens when I'm not, I get a full report from Sheela who expects me to march into the kids' room and be treated like the Fuhrer. Ha! They take as much notice of me as a bunch of life-guards would of a ninety pound weakling.

Yesterday I went, with a couple of friends, to a Bhajan concert by Pandit Jasraj. This was at Shanmukhananda hall. I do get suckered into this kind of stuff every now and then, but seriously, I like Indian classical music. The way with which my fellow citizens receive Indian music saddens me. They go "yuck"! And then go on to listen to Eminem or Timberlake. I ask you! But it is no use. My own sons, my flesh and blood treat my choice of music with derision. For the record, the maestro was just OK - having an off day perhaps - but the chap who was accompanying him on the flute, a young lad named Shashank Subhramanyam was simply fantastic.

What else? Lets see.. Oh yes, here's a picture of me pretending to be Boddy Darling, handbag and all. The scene is outside the changing room at a garment shop in one of the many malls around our house which survive on the largesse of the missus.



And here's something which has been seriously bothering me. It's Vande Maataram sung in a different way. I heard it many years ago -don't even remember when - but everyone at home insists that they've never heard anything like this. Can anyone out there recall if they've heard this, and if they have, who sang it? (don't listen to this video if you have a weak heart. It is me, singing the tune from memory)
video

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No more groaners

No more groaners. I have received threats, and I'm taking them seriously.

Don't laugh. The Americans take the North Koreans seriously. And THEIR threat is a missile called Nodong. It is enshrined in their National Anthem (Take us Seriously. We have No Dong).

No the time has come when men must be men and behave like grown ups.

Even if they have No Dong.

And wise people must write their books of sayings.

Mao wrote one.

Barak wrote one.

Fidel's written one too.

Bill wants to write one but Hilary keeps burning the manuscript. Rumor has it that it is full of gems like

"There are only two sure signs that a woman is coming on to you
1. She's smiling
2. She's not smiling"

"One does not become President overnight. It took me years to learn the gropes"

"I love, admire and respect Hilary. She is a beacon. Radiant, illuminating, warm. Indeed in that respect, except for the fact that the latter can be screwed, she is like a light bulb to me."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Little known cases of Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud has never been a stranger to controversy. People have challenged his radical theories hotly, bordering sometimes on the hysterical. But none can deny his calm composure, analytical ability and accurate diagnoses. Here is one which has recently come to light, hidden possibly because of the legendary celebrities involved, and particularly important because it is the first instance of his diagnosing a Complex which later became universally famous.

The case involved the main characters of the "Puss In Boots" fairy tale which, as you doubtless know, is based on real characters and events.

To summarize, a young man, the son of an impoverished miller, was left a cat as his sole legacy by his father. However, the cat turned out to be a member of the 'felis loquacious' species, capable of speech.

As the story goes, the cat turned out to be exceptionally clever. It advised the young miller first to jump into a river, then to pretend to be the Marquis of Carabas, and finally to pose as a lord and marry a princess.

It was this princess, by marriage now the Marquise of Carabas, who had come to Dr. Freud with her problem.

As was his practice, Sigmund asked her to lie down on a couch and sat behind her. The Marquise was a bit puzzled, and her puzzlement increased when Sigmund began questioning her.

"Do you have penis envy?" asked Sigmund

"Well, my best friend Marie married an American financier who owns property in many towns there including one called Phoenix, but no, I don't envy her. Pity her, actually. He's a crashing bore, name of Trump. No, I'd say no Phoenix envy.

"Your Ladyship misunderstands. I meant envy of the male organ, a common problem with members of the fairer sex"

"Oh, that! Oh, no, no!" said the Marquise, as realization dawned. I" have come to ask not about me but my husband. HE is the problem"

"Ah. Well, tell me all, your Ladyship"

"Where do I begin? I suppose you know my story, and that of my husband's rise to fame and fortune"

"The Puss in Boots legend! Who has not heard it, your Ladyship. It is true then?"

"Oh yes, every word"

"The Cat, she speaks?"

"Oui, monsieur, very fluently. And the problem is, my husband hangs upon her every word"

"Mais oui, I suppose it is but to be expected, given that the Cat is the architect of his success"

"But EVERYTHING? He asks her for advice if he has to go to the BATHROOM!"

"Even in - er - matters of the private nature? Between yourself and his lordship I mean?"

"Yes, damn it! Every little kiss has to be asked to the cat. It's driving me nuts! Do something, Dr. Freud! You will be justly rewarded"

Sigmund paused in thought. He had been studying a number of cases, and drawing his own conclusions, but he had never made his thoughts known to anyone. But now..... perhaps NOW was the time......

"Your Ladyship" Sigmund said "This is the very cutting edge of psychoanalytical research, but I think I am completely certain of the diagnosis"

"What is it?" asked the Marquess, breathless in anticipation

"It's called the Heed a Puss Complex"

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Little known Arthurian story

King Arthur was pensive. Sitting on his throne, with his hand to his chin, the great king looked sad and lost. All was silent in the court. A patina of gloom seemed to have descended on Camelot.

Knights in shining armour looked at knights in matte finish material. Varlets looked at knaves. Maids looked at pages. (Most of whom were pages in charge of clearing out the cobwebs in the palace, otherwise known as web pages).

Only Queen Guinivere looked on proudly. From time to time King Arthur would look at her sadly and shift his gaze back to the floor.

Suddenly there was a puff of light and Merlin the Wizard appeared. The assemblage promptly bowed to the King's revered wizard and advisor.

A quick glance around the room told Merlin that all was not well. With a wave of his hand, he bid them to be gone.

"We wish to have a word with the King in private", he roared and the company dispersed hastily.

"What be it, Arthur? From whence hast this gloom descended, like the fog descendeth on the lake? Excuseth thou the Purple Prose, but we are wearing our Purple gown today" said the Wizard.

"She slept with Gawain last night", said Arthur, gesturing with a thumb towards Guinivere, who continued to stare defiantly.

"I have but purity in my heart, O reverent wizard Merlin" said the Queen.

Merlin gazed at her with his magical vision and turned to Arthur

"'Tis true, Arthur. She speaketh not a lie. Art thou sure thou hast seen what thou thinks though hast seen? That it is not a despicable illusion by Sir Mordred?"

"Ask thou that thyself", snapped King Arthur

"Hast thou, Queen Guinivere, done what Arthur sayeth?"

"I do not deny the event, O Wise Wizard, merely its impropriety"

It took the Wizard a few moments to work this out. Turning to Arthur, Merlin asked

"Hast thou sanctioned this, King Arthur? Art thou NUTS!"

"I swear I have not. She has been sleeping with them all. Last night it was Gawain. The night before it was Galahad. And the other morning I spied Lancelot tippy-toeing out with a smirk on his face. Yet she denies all wrongdoing, and continues unrepentant. We are at a loss"

Merlin smiled sadly. "Arthur, Arthur, thou art a dolt"

"Me? What did I do?"

"Think back, Arthur. Did thou not covenant Guinivere to unhesitatingly and guiltlessly obey thy commands?"

"Yes, but that was to help her overcome her reservations about killing, should any evil being attack her when I am away"

"And rightly so. But is it not beholden upon thee, then, to weigh thy words carefully and evaluate all their implications?"

"I suppose so, but what did I say?" Arthur cried in puzzlement.

"It is always the simplest explanation, mon ami" said Merlin. "What is the last thing thou tellest her before retiring?"

"Has thou kept the milk bottles outside the castle?"

"No, after that"

"Oh!" Said Arthur, for realization had dawned upon him. The wise Merlin had solved it, as usual.

"I tell her to have a good night" he said.

"Exactly", smiled Merlin

Update: I have received an interesting mail from one Prof. Hogsbottom, expert in Arthurian History. He says "Back then, pages in charge of cleaning cobwebs would have a free run of the premises and thus be privy to all kinds of secrets. As a precaution, therefore the pages in charge of the royal chambers would be locked up in special cellars (or crypts) so that they could not relay information accidentally overheard. They were called encrypted pages"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Little Known Facts about Medieval Russian History

Feudalism, or manorialism, was a system of forced labor where lords enslaved laborers and forced them to work on their farms. The laborers were called serfs and they were not allowed to leave the land they were bonded to.

This practice was common all over Eastern Europe, and particularly severe in the Russian empire. Indeed, the excesses of this system formed the basis for the Communist Revolt.

But that is not our topic today. Today we are going to discuss details of day-to-day life in those times.

Recently discovered artefacts and accounts from the period suggest that serfs often tried to escape across the vast, unpeopled steppes of Asia Minor.

Initially, it appears, the lords did not bother, because they believed that the serfs would perish in the harsh conditions on the steppe.

Soon, however, it was obvious that the serfs were not only managing to survive, they were setting up villages of their own.

Alarmed, the lords started actively pursuing the serfs and capturing them, usually with a net, in the fashion of the Roman Retiarii.

The most interesting account appears in the diary of a lord, dating from that period.

Meticulously written, the diary describes the equipment required for the purpose.

"A net of strong twine, a spear, a lance, a fast horse, all these are required for capturing them.

And do not forget to wear a band tight around thy waist.

And make sure the band around thy waist is not too narrow

For it is only too well known that a broad band is required for netting the serfs."