Sunday, December 26, 2010

On me, my personality or the lack thereof and other weighty matters

Dear Reader

I hope you are upto reading a long, rambling, introspective and mostly pointless post because today, I have decided to look into my personality and write about it. And if you choose this moment to shuffle off to someone else's blog, I shall say to myself "Drat! Lost another reader. But sterling sense of judgment, I must say! He or she will definitely be Someone in the years to come, if he or she isn't already". But I digress. Coming back to the res, I told the missus of my intention.

'Don't be silly, Naren' was the missus' reaction.

'Silly? What's silly about this?'

'No offense, sweetheart, you are adorable and I love you, but you don't exactly have a personality'

And so it is. I've never had a personality as long as I can remember. I've always envied the strong, purposeful types, the people who could open an oyster at twenty paces with their gaze, to paraphrase PGWodehouse, the people who could get work done in government offices without shelling out a rupee, the people whose wives would be in a tizzy because they would be returning home any moment and needed a freshly brewed mug of coffee at the exact temperature, not too hot, not too cold, notwithstanding the fact that they, the wives, had just returned from work themselves, the kind.. oh, you get the idea.

And, as the missus seems to imply, people lacking personality shouldn't be writing autobiographies. They should be writing, I don't know, draft leave and license agreements or the vice-president's speech to a delegation of junior tourism development officials or whatever. Definitely not autobiographies.

How did I get this way, I often wonder. Was I born without a personality or was it snatched away from me? I've had one or two teachers fully capable of that, snatching away someones personality, I mean. My schooling wasn't so much schooling as a long series of various forms of corporal punishment. But no, it can't be that either because several of my classmates have evolved into personalities that would make the Hulk look like William Wordsworth.

No, the more I think of it the more it becomes apparent to me that I am one of those rare beings born without a mind of my own. For instance, whenever I hear an argument, I am instantly convinced of its correctness, till of course I hear the opposite side, whereupon I become instantly convinced of that argument's correctness. This makes me extremely likeable, at least temporarily, but tends to get me into an embarassing spot when both the opposite parties are present and debating.

Which is a frequent occurrence in the debates between missus and younger son. The elder son is a self-actualized soul (like myself) who usually avoids vulgar debate by the simple stratagem of agreeing with his mother.

The younger one usually argues the point, and with vigour. He lobbies with me for, say, keeping an airgun and pellets, 'for self-defence' he says. I agree. These are violent times we live in, he has just pointed out, and it is always a good idea to plug prospective robbers with a well aimed pellet.

Just as all this business is concluded, the lad is de-pelleted by the missus who adds, for good measure 'Do you have any sense, Naren? Those things are so dangerous! Don't you remember your cardiothoracic surgeon friend who told us about that pellet which lodged in that little girl's pericardium, and it was touch and go, saving her?'.

The missus remembers these things. All I can recollect is that the cardio whatever chap was sneakily eating french fries when HIS wife was not looking and surreptitiously spiking his virgin mojito with my vodka shots.

The upshot of all this is that I have to suffer the "you traitor" looks from the younger son for the rest of the afternoon.

I suppose you will now agree that people like me shouldn't be allowed to write their autobiographies. "What have I learned from this?" you must be asking yourself in exasperation, ruing the fifteen or so minutes you've spent reading this drivel. Well, you can console yourself with the fact that you now know that cardiowhatchamacallit chaps are as human as the rest of us, which you certainly wouldn't have known, if you hadn't read all of the above.

Cheers then, and have a good weekend

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book review - "How the Banana goes to Heaven"

Today I shall be writing a book review. It is my first book review ever. I don't think I am qualified to do it. Not because I haven't read all that many books (I haven't) or that I don't have all that many brains (I don't) but because I am too emotional about the subject matter of the said book. Right, you guessed it. It's a book about food.

A little about my own history here. I breezed through some 40 years of my life without thinking much about comestibles, other than when I was hungry. I ate when I felt like eating, as much as I wanted and pretty much anything on the table. And then, when I turned 40, I got hauled off for a lipid profile test, a blood test designed to put the fear of dying into irresponsible middleaged people. An obscene number was observed against the legend "tri-glycerides" in the report and I was immediately carted off to various doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies. They collectively told me - and worse, the missus - that if I didn't knock off the calories, I would probably be the cause of the LIC reporting lower profits because of having paid out my life insurance. They observed that this would not be an entirely bad thing, because in virtually everyone's opinion, the LIC has far too much money and a little de-moneyfying would be great for their character but they (the doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies) would rather it not be a sterling chap like me. And at this point I realize I've been rambling. Sorry. You still with me? Good.

It's funny how one values things only when they've been snatched away from one. Post the tri-glycerides episode, I was basically put on a ration of gruel and water and the only way I could get any kind of nutrition was to sneak off into the kitchen when the missus wasn't looking and cook something. So I learned not only to cook really fast but also to wash and clean the pots and pans equally fast, dry them out and put them back in their places before the missus noticed. And that, dear reader, is the sole qualification in my otherwise unqualified self for writing this review.

And now on to business. The book - I loved the title - "How the Banana goes to Heaven" - is written is a breezy, cheerful style. It is organized into chapters, each chapter dealing with one ingredient of vegetarian cooking.

For instance, there is one on ragi, aka millet, which is a terrific food for anyone interested in living a long life. There is one on ghee which says such good things about it (the missus has sentiments towards ghee which make Arab-Jew relations seem like teen romance in comparison) that I became emotional. I love ghee, you see, and the missus is as likely to give me any as the US would be to give the Taliban a consignment of enriched Uranium.

The author gives a delightful, trivia-filled background for the item in question, and a summary of nutrition information which covers what current scientific opinion about it is, and a recipe or two using the said ingredient.

What I liked about the book was the engaging style and the consistently cheerful tone throughout the book. Makes it highly readable. The author, Ratna Rajaiah, is a popular blogger and columnist for The New Indian Express. She writes very well indeed. After reading I am equipped with dozens, if not hundreds, of little facts about food that will save my life when accosted by random aunties at parties as I so often tend to be.

There aren't many recipes in the book, just one at the end of every chapter, but then, it's not a cookery book, it's a book about food. The recipes look pretty nice though, and are fairly unusual. Which makes it interesting enough for me. I haven't tried many out but the few that I did, I liked. One, a preparation called Roasted Rice Dumplings, turned out really good. These dumplings went very well with beer. Though, as the missus would observe, if she knew about this, what doesn't.

Highly recommended for people who like reading about food. Also, suitable for random reads, since the chapters are little independent compartments. You can basically open it to any page and take a stab at it. The book is well produced. Lovely photographs throughout. The printing is very good and overall I think it is a great buy for anyone even slightly interested in the marvelous subject of food

Monday, November 22, 2010

La vie chez Shenoy

The above title, translated from the Punjabi or French, I can never tell the difference, means Life at the Shenoy home. The letters can be re-arranged to form the words "Hey! Zen Chaos, Live!" which is an accurate description of how things usually are at our place.

The boys' vacations come to an end today. Back to the grind from tomorrow. The elder one is cool about it but the younger one has been complaining about the shortness of vacations. The root cause of his angst is that the X-box, which has been his constant companion through the holidays, is going back into lock and key under orders of the missus.

He filed what he thought was the equivalent of a writ in the high court.

"Annie, please tell mom that all kids in my school are allowed to play X-box on weekends"

"Tell her yourself!"

"She won't listen"

"What makes you think she listens to me?"

He mulled this over.

"Annie, are all women like this?"

"Every single one I know, son", I told him, with a voice tinged with sadness.

"Why, Annie?" he continued. "Why can't they be more..." he appeared to be searching for the mot juste "...why can't they be more .. understanding?

"Son" I told him, changing the subject slightly, and drawing from recent events "man to man, I can only say that women are nothing but trouble".

The missus took this exact moment to enter. A bit like those farcical plays one sees on TV.

"What was that?" she asked. I gulped and tried unsuccessfuly to say something. Younger son came to the rescue.

"Mom, Annie was saying that 'We men, we are nothing but trouble'. Weren't you, Annie?"

I gave him a silent look which said "Well played, my son!" The cricketing equivalent would have been the flawless flowing cover-drive for four.

The missus was pre-occupied, important questions of what to wear for a visit to an aunt's house weighing heavily on her mind. She shuffled off without giving me the customary earful she gives when she catches me telling the kids all that 'worldly advice' stuff.

I thanked the lad for his presence of mind.

"Oh, it was nothing, Annie. By the way, are you going to buy me the new FIFA football game on X-box or will you just slip me the cash?"

I stared at him.

"Hahaha. Relax, Annie. I was just pulling your leg." And ran away downstairs to play football.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The missus reports

It is not often that I take to putting my thoughts to paper, or blogs, to be precise, what with the speed with which life whooshes by for a suburban housewife but today I find myself strangely with a lot of time on my hands. And the golden opportunity of an open lap-top with the blog signed into. After I publish this, he dare not delete it.

The reason for having a lot of time on my hands is that the younger son is off to Udaipur with his grandparents. Suddenly, the house seems very silent. He is a noisy lad, my Gautham is, and a source of constant anxiety but he's also demonstrative of his affection and consideration, which makes one rather miss him. Vyaas, the elder one, is a quiet and mature boy, giving me little cause for worry. He studies on his own, watches TV only moderately (unlike Gautham who can watch TV for hours without a break) and generally obeys me unless there is strong cause to do otherwise. Needless to say, there never is.

The problem child here, of course, is the husband, who survives mostly because of a lacuna in the Indian legal system. It is a crime, apparently, for a wife to strike her husband upon the bean with a brick, regardless of provocation. Otherwise I would have done this ages ago and despite the said husband's skull being apparently fashioned out of solid wood, I would have, with this crude but effective technique, brought about some improvement. As things stand, I am reduced to using cold stares, knitted brows and pursed lips as an expression of ire, which is the matrimonial equivalent of using Madan Lal as your strike bowler with the new ball (I'm afraid I follow - or used to follow - cricket. I'm not very current these days but what cricket lacks in gripping entertainment it more than makes up by affording the struggling writer scope for simile).

 He isn't very difficult to get along with, except when he decides to give reign to his alleged sense of humour which I find quite weird at times. For instance, this diwali I had expected a trinket of some sort - gold, preferably- as an expression of his love and affection. He got  me a deodorant. I am not joking. A pink can with the legend "Pour Femme" emblazoned on it. I'm not a materialistic girl but MRP Rs.99/- is not really my thing. It showed in my expression, I'm sure of that, but that did not deter my champ. He was waiting for me to ask him what the hell this was.

I obliged. "What is this, would you mind telling me?" I asked him in the most sour voice I could manage.

He had prepared for this precise moment apparently.

"Dear, a deo, a female deo!" he sang, to the tune of "Doe, a deer, a female deer".

I counted to ten. The blood was still boiling. I counted another fifty. No change. I thought of jabbing him in the thigh with the potato peeler and had Big Boss 4 not started at that exact moment, with vociferations by the sweet Dolly Bindra at some hapless co-inhabitant of the dosshouse, violence would have erupted. As it was, he escaped with nary a scratch. He has promised to buy me bangle but we shall believe when we see.

Till then, adieu from


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I'm feeling unusually sad today. The reason? Quite simply, the absolute pig's breakfast that our politicians and bureacrats have made of the Commonwealth Games. Foot overbridges are collapsing. Stadium ceilings are crashing down. Athletes quarters are shoddy  and uninhabitable. The list goes on.

"But sad? You? Surely not, Naren!", you ask me censoriously. "Haven't you lived here for the 45 years that you have existed? Doesn't it give you a kind of immunity to disclosure shock that people from other countries don't have. Like you go out with your ABCD cousin eating chaat and where he lies alternately writhing and pooping the next morning, you're tucking into vada pao?"

The answer to all your questions is a shamefaced "Yes". And yet, I AM feeling sad beyond expression. Why this should be so, can't say exactly. I think it's because the shame is now international.

Earlier, you see, we used do all this quietly before our adorably mute domestic audiences who would cheerfully shrug off 1200 crore fodder scams with a cheery "boys will be boys!" and would good naturedly vote in favour of giving them another go. But this time, it's Public. The World Knows! And the World is Laughing! Oh the shame! Even countries like Jersey and Guernsey are planning to pull out it seems. Jersey and Guernsey! Their entire population is less than my housing complex.

Of course India is not silent! No Sir! Everywhere, people are voicing their displeasure. Ranting against Kalmadi. Ridiculing Dixit. Demanding Manmohan Singh's resignation.

And completely missing the point. The reason all this has happened is not that these people are filled with greed and avarice. They are, but if it hadn't been them specifically, it would have been someone else. The point is that our glorious system of benevolent socialistic public service propriety or whatever it  is that this country functions under, holds no one accountable. This is endemic to all public institurions large and small. There is no punishment for crime. No one can be sacked for dereliction of duty, for example. And no one has ever served a prison term for abuse of office.

I have no idea why this should be so. Take the case of the toilet paper scam. You know the one. Where toilet paper was bought for Rs. 4000 a roll when it should have cost Rs. 100. The matter 'is still being probed', as far as I know.

Why in freakin hell this should take so much time is beyond me. Here is what you or I would have done.

Step 1. Find out if the toilet rolls have really been bought for Rs. 4000/- each. Clue - See the invoice. You should see a figure which says Rs. 4000/- per roll, or if not, divide the total invoice amount in rupees by the total number of rolls in numbers and see if the answer is Rs. 4000. It is? Good now go to

Step 2. Find out the fair market price for the rolls. Go to the supermarket. Buy a roll. When checking out, see the amount printed on the bill. Does it say Rs. 100? Good. Keep the receipt.

Step 3. Ask the guy who approved the invoice why his ass should not be put into jail.

How complicated can this be? Why should it take a frikkin committee, who, after a month of dedicated scrutiny are still unable to answer in one of two ways
A) Yes, the rolls were purchased for Rs.4000/- per  when they are freely available for Rs. 100/- per
B) No, the media is being dishonest. The rolls were bought for Rs. 100/- per and not for Rs. 4000/- per, and please put the said media person into prison

By the way, the news I heard what that the 'probe committe' is 'recommending' that 'Darbari be sacked'. Sacked? SACKED! This is not unlike asking General Dyer to write 100 times "I will not order firing on defenceless people again". The man should be given rigorous imprisonment unless he is able to prove he was acting on superiors' orders, in which case the superiors should be given rigourous imprisonment.

The moral, as far as I can see, is that unless someone is given real punishment, someone nuts are really nailed to the floor, nothing is ever going to change. And to my village idiot mind, it looks the right thing to do, doling out punishment I mean. Compromising the nations honour and all that.  But then, that's probably because I'm not a highly trained and skilled bureaucrat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Week That Was

One thing that never ceases to amaze me, as it must you, if you've been following this jolly little autobiography of mine, is how easily I manage to continue to exist despite so obviously being a total loser. I have no doubt there would be a decent market for tips on how to do this - "Be a total loser and continue to exist" is the title that comes to mind ("12 straight weeks on the NYTimes bestseller list") - but the thing is, I don't have a clue. It seems incredible that I should have so many super-tolerant people around me. My parents. My sisters. The missus. The boys. A whole lot of friends. And you, dear reader, who, sacrificing valuable opportunities of increasing your wealth by obscene amounts, are reading this page.

Good. Got that off my chest. And now to recount the last weeks happenings.

The stellar part of my life these days is the interaction with the boys while teaching them.

The elder one is the more silent and decorous of the two. I think he feels that his dad is a pumpkin brain, but in a gentlemanly manner that I think he inherits from me, he keeps that opinion to himself. Usually, anyway. And he politely laughs at my jokes such as they are.

I came up with one when I was teaching him complex numbers. "a+ib is a complex number" I told him. "And?" he replied politely, because he knew that already

"And b12+i is a b-complex number"

"Hahaha" he replied "I think I'll go through the section on Complex Planes on my own". So much for levity in the teaching process.

The younger one, on the other hand, is clearly in awe of me. The reason is that I teach him economics. This is a subject towards which, thanks to the absurdly dense textbook they have, he has developed a healthy hatred. And I don't blame him.

Entrusted with the task of writing a textbook for ninth-standard students learning about economics for the first time in their lives, the rhetorically gifted chaps in charge of writing the textbook have done the prose in a style heavy enough to be employed in auditors' reports of public limited companies. James Joyce would read like the Brothers Grimm in comparison.

"An economy is a rather loosely defined term for any broad classification of interrelated productive activities such as farming, manufacturing and supply of a variety of services that people are ready to buy from markets at a price", they tell the tots, expecting rousing cheers at the revelation.

The son was extremely grateful when I explained it in terms of farmer, blacksmith and goatherd.

"Wow Annie! You know everything!" was his reaction.

"He believes I am the cat's pajamas as far as economics is concerned." I told myself. Pleased as punch I was and I'm sure no one will grudge me that reaction.

But things have a way of turning, if you know what I mean. I had occasion, this week, to explain what capitalism, communism, socialism and other isms which constitute political theory, meant. The lad listened in rapt attention.

I was floating. Rarely do I hold anyone's attention like this. It feels good. I can understand why Deepak Chopra and similar chaps go about  saying things like 'realizing that our true self is one of pure potentiality and aligning with the power that manifests everything in the universe'. He knows he's talking rot, but the public is listening! Intoxicated by this, he continues and in no time is telling people that 'God's love is beyond death' and that 'one must do what one does because doing is what one must do when one does what one must'.

Which is why I waxed lyrical about communism, dragging in Animal farm, and generally "kicked ass" as my sons are fond of saying.

The missus confronted me later in the evening.

"What rot have you feeding Gautham?" she demanded.

"What did I do now?"

"He's going on about becoming a communist" she said, scowling.


"Yes. He's been telling me that communism is the only way and that he's all for it"

I meekly tried to defend myself.

"I was telling him how bad communism was and how it has failed around the world"

"Well, your rhetoric is evidently half-baked, Mr Ayn Rand. You need to polish your spiel" And with that unkind barb, she walked away.

Well, to cut a long story short, I engaged the lad in conversation later in the evening. It transpired that he hates his tuition classes and my statement that communism believed in a classless society had won him over to that ideology.

I hit my forehead with my palm, in a gesture popularly known on twitter as 'facepalm' or, among the more subtle, as 'manoj kumar' or simply 'manoj'.

Which, come to think of it, is how I spend most weekends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Arctic Tale - Reposted

(When people run out of ideas, they usually join politics. Gone-casers like me go a step further. They re-post old blog entries.  Apologies and all that)

The blizzard was fierce. Old Tuskegaw the Inuit hunkered down with his huskies in the little ice shelter he had rustled up. The tundra could be lethal. He knew that, and was taking no chances.

The dogs whimpered. Even for them, this blizzard was too much. Tuskegaw could sense that. He was grateful to the spirits for guarding them thus far, and prayed they would continue to do so.

For he had a mission to accomplish. A sled full of Geometry books, just imported from China where printing was the cheapest, to be transported to his tribespeople, living on the North Pole. Knowledge! Liberation from generations of battle with unforgiving Nature!

Tuskegaw looked heavenward and thanked the spirits once again for the rare honour bestowed upon him. It was not everyday that one got the opportunity to cart Asian geometry to polar coordinates.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

She's got platitude!

I'm usually a careful sort of bloke. You know, look both sides before crossing, don't volunteer for magician's tricks, give completely dishonest answers even on the most 'anonymous' surveys. So it is part of standard operating procedure to disappear when the arrival of random auntie visitors from the neighbourhood is announced. I've learned from harsh experience that to stay is to suffer for hours in a cosmix flux of recipes, platitudes, medical histories, astrological beliefs and a summary of the distasteful qualities of people not among those present.

Yesterday was a tragic slip-up. I was in the living room with my computer, sucking up the finest twitter wisdom (for example, @cgawker said "ESPN needs to hire more anchors without nostril hair", which has more pure truth in it than most religious texts) when an auntie landed up. By the time I realised something sinister was afoot, the bell had gone and the round had started.

I should actually skip all the pleasantries and cut to the chase because just listing down the pleasantries would run into a dozen blog pages. It goes something like this

"How's your dad?"

"My dad is fine"

"How's your mom?"

"My mom is fine"

"How's your brother?"

"My brother is fine"

And so on, going up to "your second cousin, the one who married the russian girl. How is he?".

I long for the day one of these aunties turns out to be a mathematician and says something like

"How is  a?"  for all a ϵ {R}  where  {R} is the set of all your living relatives.

That would be so cool! (to be continued)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday, 21st August 2010

I've just signed up for a site called which is a kind of online diary. Every day, it sends you a mail asking you how your day was and what you did, to which you sort of respond by pouring your heart out. I've done it for two days running now, and it looks like jolly good fun. It's private though. Understandable,because you could be writing anything, but in my case, the posts are dreadfully lacking in the saucier aspects. Age. Anyway, I thought I'd unleash the exhibitionist in me and put this on my blog. As long as I don't compromise anyone's privacy, should be fine, I thought. So here goes. Entry number one.

Had one of those tiffs with the missus. Subject being twitter, as usual.

"You're spending far too much time on twitter", she said, to which I responded with understandable outrage because compared to many on my timeline, I'm hardly on twitter at all. However this did not fit into her stalinist guidlines on conducting debates and much dudgeon occured. It was up to me to sign peace in the evening, following the tried and trusted technique of beginning with abject surrender. Life.

Went to Dahisar and handed over the staircase fabrication to poor impoverished Yatin. He is really a fine mind, Yatin is. Wish i could do something to harness it. He is also of a slightly ambiguous moral fibre, which makes unsupervised delegation a risky proposition.

Cooked Goa Sausages for dinner. Total WIN. Added a couple of potatoes and onions to my trusty non-stick pan, deskinned the sausages and added the meat, added a cupful of water and simmered the mess for about 10 minutes. Then, on an impulse, indulging in my core life philosophy that everything tastes better with cheese, I added a generous dollop of grated Gouda. The bread-wallah turned up around this time and I bought a dozen 'pao' from him.

Discovery - Pao goes beautifully with goa sausage curry.

Overcome by the beauty of the moment, I poured myself a fairly stiff Black Label with a little ice and water.

Discovery 2 -- Black Label goes beautifully with goa sausage curry.

Stayed away from the computer for the rest of the night. Gautham was whining away about being bored and being a whiskey down, I rashly suggested we should watch "Borat". Well, watch it he did. He laughed and laughed, if that's any consolation, but MY ears were mostly a bright red. What an outrageous movie to watch with your 13 year old son! I hope he doesn't
imbibe anything from it. Luckily, Sheela doesn't know anything about this or divorce would be imminent in the family.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Education and the Good Life -

The missus came back from younger son's school open-house with a long face.
"Bad, huh?" I asked.

She didn't answer. Just sat down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands.

I understood. Her worst fears had come true. "He did well in the tests?" I asked.

She mutely nodded her head and proffered a sheet of paper which simply said "Algebra-40/40. Geometry - 40/40".

I realise that you, dear reader, might have developed a slight throbbing feeling around the temples upon reading such drivel. Feeling sad when your child score full marks, forsooth!

But bear with me. When you are au courant with the background, I am sure the light of enlightenment will dispel the darkness enveloping your consciousness.  Hmm. Perhaps I shouldn't read so much Deepak Chopra. Anyway, here's the background.

Younger son is smart, quick on the uptake, and used to be the bee's knees academically speaking till he realized that he could get by without actually studying at all, based on his ability to "creatively answer" question papers.

Creative answering involves (according to younger son)  rewriting the question in your own words, and making it 2x to 3x longer, which then easily passes off for the answer. This technique works admirably for subjects like the languages or history (he's been maxing them as much as they can be maxed) but tends to have disastrous results when applied to algebra or geometry. Younger son finds this unfortunate, but does not seem to feel that a change in methodology is merited.

Missus, on the other hand, has been despairing most vociferously. "You have spoiled him" is the major thrust of her arguments and "if you ever took even one hundredth of the interest in his studies as you take in twittering-gittering, he would stand first with his eyes closed". The missus, as you might have gathered, has a low opinion of Web 2.0.

I've been advocating motivation, mainly by promising various goodies, but the missus belongs to the management by punishment school of thought. She announces all kinds of penalties for milestones not achieved. Such as "No TV for a week". Or "No touching the computer". Or "No playing football". And so on.

Unfortunately for her,  a lad of our younger son's resourcefullness finds this the equivalent of a slow full toss. Easily despatched to the boundary. "No net? No sweat" is his slogan, because he easily gets on to the internet when missus is watching one of her soaps. Even the "No more football" rule is easily bypassed by getting one of his mates to plead with missus to allow him to play "a most important match, auntie, please, pretty please" whereupon she has to agree or risk being labelled "dragon auntie" by the kids in the building.

This time, however, we were determined to drill some sense into his head. We locked up all the computers in the house. The key was carefully hidden in  secret locations known only to the missus and the location changed daily. It resulted in operational problems for scatterbrains like me. I often forget to take my clothes into the bathroom when I go to bathe and this policy meant  have to spend several anxious minutes waiting for the missus to rescue me from death by pneumonia. But the objective of denying him access to the internet was achieved. I was assigned the task of telling all his friends that he wouldn't be coming to play football for the whole week. And things would certainly change. Or so we thought.

He defiantly stuck to his policy of studiously avoiding all study and managed to get by on the strength of his "creative answering" in the languages and in history. Our only hope was that he would plug his algebra or geometry, or atleast score badly in them, giving us much needed leverage over the lad.

As you know, that was not to be. How he achieved this is a mystery to us. I voiced the optimistic opinion that he was a Ramanujan kind of math genius, to which the missus gave a hollow laugh and said that he had either managed to procure a copy of the test papers in advance or copied wholesale from someone.

And younger son? He seems very happy with the result, thank you very  much, and has resolved to let his winning methods continue.

-Update: It turns out that the lad actually cracked both Algebra and Geometry and is quite gifted at math in general. I am astounded! He must get it from his mother.

Monday, August 9, 2010

General "Dear Diary" stuff

Once again, I am confronted with mysterious physical phenomena, baffling even the finest scientific minds around. I refer to the Strange Case of the Variable Length Tape.

It started, like most things in my life, with a shopping expedition. We were shopping for my brother-in-law who had lost weight recently. My sister, whose husband the said brother in law is (just clarifying) said his waist was 33 inches.

"About your waist size, I think, Naren" my sister said.

Hereupon the missus, displaying her complete lack of tact and finesse, laughed loudly and said "HAHAHAHAHA! Thirty three! He's at least thirty eight!"

Thirty eight people in Shopper's stop turned around to look at me.

"But I wear size 34 jeans", I protested, feebly.

She immediately organized a measuring tape from one of the shop attendants and in the presence of many interested onlookers, measured my waist. "See. Thirty seven and a half" she called out at about 120 decibels. There it is. Impossible to explain, unless you factor in the possibility of the tape having shrunk 10.29411%. This is probably its linear coefficient of contraction.

The other possibility is funny business. The missus is a Gold Card holder or something of the said Shoppers Stop. She keeps flaunting it and getting free parking and what not. Surely, the staff are in cahoots with her and organized a falsification of tape measures.  The missus of course laughed out at my allegations. Kalmadi could take her correspondence course in brazenness. The inconvenient fact remains that I still wear size 34 jeans.

Among other things, I've been taking active interest in the education of the boys. This is turning out to be great fun.

The immediate inspiration is a friend's son getting into IIT with a very high rank. Said friend is going around telling everyone that it was HIS coaching that enabled this feat, a claim I find suspicious because this said friend, at one time, could not spell "Wadala" (a suburb of Bombay). I had to tell him how to spell it.

I mentioned this to the missus.

"That's because he's not from Bombay, doofus' said the missus.

Oh alright, but I still reserve my judgment. Anyway, the upshot of this is that I've been commanded to help the boys with their studies.

The younger one is in Class IX. He (quite rightly, in my opinion,) resents my presence when he is with his books and has launched a Non Co-operation Movement of sorts.

Not that he isn't stymied by things. The other day, he reported that he couldn't understand Economics, a newly introduced subject for him.

I volunteered to explain it to him. He promptly declined the offer, saying that he knew all the anwers, because he had memorized them. Missus randomly asked him a few and indeed, the answers came out pat. His only grouse was that he wasn't able to understand a word of it. Ironically, the chapter was called "Understanding Economics". And the missus was perfectly satisfied with this because, as she says "no one understands economics anyway. Least  of all YOU, my sweet". Which is true, but still!

The older guy is in ClassXI. He is rather more respectful towards me. But even this is proving a little difficult because his syllabus has things like "Gay-Lussac's Law". He promptly wonders if there is a "Straight-Lussac's Law" as well and we spend a good ten minutes smirking away, by which time I've already got something else to do or he wants go down and play.

Ah well, life.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Not Nought Nought Seven, surely!

'M' was staring right through her interlocutor, as if he did not exist.

"I said" he repeated "Bond will have to be recalled. Or very soon, we will have to liquidate him"

"I heard you, Sir Nigel", M said to the Home Secretary "I just can't believe it, that's all."

"Can't believe Bond could commit an indiscretion of this nature?" Sir Nigel said, "Come, now, you're surely not so innocent as to believe that people can't be queer and not show it?"

"I know, Sir Nigel, but Bond! He was such a ladies man. Miss Moneypenny will attest to the fact."

Miss Moneypenny blushed "Truth to tell, he never did a thing! I was rather hoping.. er.. that he would. No wood, it would seem"

"Thank you Miss Moneypenny" said M, acerbically, and sent the poor lady scuttering behind her desk, red eared.

"And you, M, shall have to answer why Bond was not vetted when you knew that several of his cousins were batting for the other team, so to speak. Michael Bond, first cousin. Robert Bond, uncle. John Bond, second cousin."

M was the picture of contrition. "I'm really sorry, Sir N. I ought to have known...'

'You are damn right you should have. Everyone knows that Bonds prefer gentlemen"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The King and the Tiger

(I've been going through a terrible writer's block, as a result of which I've been turning out complete rot. "So what's new?" you must be saying to yourself, dear reader (silently, though, because you are too kind to discourage budding authors with criticism, however well meaning), but this time, it's Really Rotten. So I decided to attempt a little plagiarism with a story (I swear this is true) I heard from a random uncle at bedtime, many many summers ago. Said uncle is no longer among the living but any shortcomings of the tale are entirely to his account.)

Today, children, I will be telling you a fable. Once upon a time, there lived a just and wise king. A king who was loved and respected by his subjects. Not that this is germane to the fable but one has to build up atmosphere, no?

Right. The king had had a hard day hunting in the forest. He was on the trail of a fierce tiger. His team of drum-beaters and conch-blowers had cornered the beast for the king to kill but somehow, the tiger gave the entourage the slip. Darkness was falling. The king decided to go back to the palace.

At the palace, the king had a quick bath and a meal, washed down with a pitcher of chilled beer, and was asleep in no time, thanks to his strenuous hunt. And soon, he slipped into a dream.

He dreamt he was in the forest again. Chasing the tiger. Hot in pursuit, the brave king outran his entourage and soon, he realised he was in deep shrubbery, without any sign of the tiger.  The silence was chilling. The wind would rustle the leaves once in a while. Suddenly, a bird or two would chirp out shrilly, startling the king. There was no sign of the tiger at all.

The king knew it was out there somewhere. He could almost sense it. Night was falling and the king suddenly felt that the hunter and the hunted had interchanged places. It was his turn to feel scared.

Suddenly, the king heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. A sixth sense told him this was not the breeze and he instinctively leaped towards a babul tree which stood before him. It was not a moment too soon, children, for indeed, it was the tiger and it had made a charge towards the spot the king was standing nary a minute ago. The king's instinct had saved him from certain death!

Safely atop the tree, the king looked down at the tiger. After a few tries at climbing the tree, which was too slender to bear its weight, the beast had settled down on its haunches, waiting for the king to come down, as it sensed he must, sooner or later.

The king to do nothing but wait, now, could he? He hoped fervently that his entourage would return and scare the beast away. But night had fallen and the forest was eerily silent. In the dim light of the moon, the king could see the glittering, watchful eyes of the tiger. The king was beginning to despair.

And to add to his problems, he needed to go to the bathroom very badly. Number one, if you know what I mean. Getting off the tree was out of the question so the king decided to do wee wee straight from the branch.

To the kings amazement, the tiger grabbed the stream of pee - yes, just like that - and started climbing up!

The king was startled and stopped peeing. The tiger fell on the ground with a resounding thud. The king decided to pee again.

Again the tiger grabbed the stream and started climbing. When it was almost at the branch, the king stopped peeing again and the tiger fell, this time with a louder thud.

Again the king started peeing and again the tiger started climbing and again the king stopped and again the tiger fell. This time the silly tiger did not get up. It had broken its neck.

The king was overjoyed and relieved. He decided to shin down the tree and ....

awoke to find his missus - the queen, that is - absolutely furious that he had peed all over his mattress.

The moral, dear children, is not to drink too much beer before going to sleep.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

About Witty schools and other random stuff

It is not often that I notice things when I'm driving. The chaotic Brownian motion type traffic in Mumbai rather discourages one from letting the mind drift. But when you see something like the name in the picture above - Witty International School - the old bean goes into float.

How witty would these kids have to be? What kind of nursery classes would they have? Can't resist imagining a scenario.

Teacher: Ok, test for today. Pay attention, children. Ramu, stop picking your nose and smearing snot on Dipu's shirt. Right. Here's the assignment. "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water." Come up with something witty to finish the rhyme.

Ramu: "God knows what they did up there. They came back with a daughter"

Teacher: That is like seven centuries old. Come up with something original or I'll give you an 'F'.

Ramu: er... "Hope you're on the pill, said Jack to Jill, you're looking way, way, hotter"

Teacher: Gosh! Who told you all this! You're supposed to be a nursery student. Boys and girls, please, no innuendo, sex, vulgarity, obscenity. And the meter is all off anyway. Ok, one more try

Ramu: "They grabbed some land and settled down there. They're classified now as 'squatters'"

Teacher: Oh, I suppose that'll have to do. Original but ho-hum. You get a 'B'. Ok, Dipu, you next.

And so the class would wear on. I'm sure the parents would have their work cut out with a witty kid or two in the house. "have you had your bath?" mom would ask. "Why, whose bath should I have?" the child would retort.

All this was happening when I was driving younger son to school.

"Why are you giggling, Annie?" he asked, with concern, because one of his prime worries, one he shares with his mother and elder brother, is that one of these days, I will go around the bend. They don't get the subtlety of my thought processes, apparently.

I told him what I was thinking. How quaint it would be to have a school which taught just one thing - wittiness. And the Jack and Jill thing.

His brow furrowed, as I had suspected.

"Annie, that is so not witty"

'What's not witty"

"That squatters thing. First of all, water and squatters don't rhyme"

"Ok then YOU come up with something better" I told the upstart.

"How about 'Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jill turned round and ran away But jack chased hard and caught her'"

"That's supposed to be witty?" I was indignant. People who reprimand other people for not being witty should be demonstrably wittier, no?

"Atleast it rhymes.  I'll tell you something witty. See those guys on the scaffolding? There, on the building to your right"

He was pointing out to a building getting repainted.

"Vyaas was saying that those guys must be sinners, because they are re-painting".

I confess I didn't get it straight off the bat, but when I did, I had to concede that it WAS wittier than anything I had come up with. Anyway, Gautham had already considered the argument settled in his favor. He adjusted his music for the morn, a scream-fest from some metal band called Lamb of God or something, to jet-engine-decibel levels, discouraging further discussion.

I let it pass. I would have anyway, even without having some faceless punk American teenager with a grouse against society ranting obscenely through my music sustem. Because, for the last few days, I have been mother AND father to the lads, the missus having gone for a few days to Bangalore.

The strain is showing on them.

And on me.

I have to wake up at 6 in the morning and fix them breakfast, a chore I am not designed to do flawlessly. In the last four days, I have burned my finger thrice, broken two cups of sentimental value, made an omelette with zero salt one day, made an omelette with twice the normal salt the other and dropped the lad late to school every single time.

I'm missing the missus terribly. I keep telling her so over the phone. Stuff like "I miss your touch. Your cheerful smile. Your twinkling eyes." You know the drill. But the missus is worldly-wise and since gets the jolly status reports every day from the lads, I suspect she doesn't believe my earnestness. I can almost see her smirking, actually. She's coming back this evening and I'm betting she will be at her jolliest and wittiest. Many jokes will be cracked at my expense.

But I won't have to fix breakfast. As far as I'm concerned, that puts the thing firmly on the right side of the balance sheet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My vacation - Part 4 - Onward towards Paris


To most people the name conjures up an image of a skinny pouty oversexed disinherited heiress but few know that it is also a city in France.

France, if you are a widely read person, you might know as a country in Europe but confusingly, it is also the name of a popular seafood hors d'oevre in Mysore (Chilly France, corrupted to Chilly Prawns in westernised Bangalore)

We landed in Paris (the city, not the heiress) from Uganda via the United Arab Emirates, which is a little story in itself, though not worth narrating. So here it is.

After Jinja, we tooled off to a charming safari lodge in western Uganda called the Paraa Safari Lodge.

Amidst all the three course meals, buffet breakfasts and high teas it was really hard to find time to go out into the wild and look at animals but we managed it. We saw deer, antelopes, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes.  Splendid experience actually. The only beasts missing were the lions. Probably had an offsite or something. But we're nothing if not resilient. We went back to the lodge and tucked into some Poulet Roti Provencal or something. The chef turned out to be a Kenyan. We went and met him and only the strongest exertion of will prevented me from kneeling before him and kissing his hand.

It was here that I noticed the curious phenomenon of belt shrinkage. My belt seemed to have shrunk gradually and I was having to wear it a whole notch looser. It must have been a combination of the atmospheric conditions with the ambient temperature causing a slippage in molecular adjacency resulting in an anisotropic x-axis dimensional variation. I can think of no other explanation. The missus only rolled her eyes when I told her my theory but then she's not the kind who appreciates deep scientific analysis. "You've become fat, silly!" she said and went off into a gift shop right there in the middle of the savannah grassland.

Well, perhaps she's right. Or the molecular slippage thing has affected all my garments as well. But I've been hardly eating anything.

By now the jolly old volcanic ash cloud responsible for the cancellation of our Europe plans had drifted over the Atlantic and the airline companies were back in business making losses. We re-booked our tickets and decided to take a pitstop in the United Arab Emirates, staying with some old friends in a place called Ras Al Khaimah. "No silly, ras al khaimah does not mean 'juice of khaimah'" said the missus, in response to my observation.

The UAE is an impressive place. From the sky as one lands, it looks like one big stretch of enormous malls and buildings in the middle of the desert but when you land you find that it is actually comprised of smaller stretches of enormous malls and buildings. In my childhood, I had heard the joke that the national bird of Khalistan was tandoori chicken. Well then, the national bird of the UAE is the construction crane. They are all over the place. On the ground. Atop towering skyscrapers. In the middle of the desert. Everywhere. But they do have the most staggeringly huge shopping malls, which the missus seemed to consider the one redeeming feature of the UAE. They also have excellent restaurants featuring every conceivable kind of cuisine. 

Our flight to Paris was uneventful and we landed in Charles De Gaulle airport. This is Paris' main airport, probably named after their famous president, Charles de Gaulle, as I surmised from my encyclopaedic knowledge of world affairs and my keen deduction skills.

Our luggage was late in arriving and we spent a funfilled hour with disinterested airport officials who spoke only in French.

My complete knowledge of French upto that time was Merci Beaucoup which means thank you very much but after about fifteen minutes of thanking everybody I realized I was no closer to getting my luggage.

Very soon the staff had me figured out for an obsessive compulsive thanker and would look the other way when I approached them. Just as I was beginning to despair, the conveyor started working and our luggage appeared quite miraculously. Flinging around a few more 'Merci Beaucoup's, we made our way to immigration, or passport control as they call it.

It was the quickest and the least intrusive passport control I've ever experienced. The chap across the counter was reluctant to make eye contact even. He quickly stamped my passport and flung it across the counter.

We were in Europe at last.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My vacation - Part 3 - Jinja

Off to Jinja, the old capital of Uganda and the stronghold of people named Madhvani, who are the Ambanis of Uganda. The town is about two hours drive from Kampala. 

Enroute, we passed by a suburb of Kampala named Ntinda. This is pronounced Natinda. Which rhymes with Bhatinda. Which awoke the Keats in me. I composed this little sonnet to a fictitious, touchingly incompetent culinary craftsman, and narrated it to the missus who, as is her wont when in any car ride greater than 5 minutes long, had gone off to sleep.

"There was a young lad from Bhatinda", I told her, nudging her awake gently, "who found a job as a cook in Ntinda. But when he roasted meat, even on the lowest heat, it would somehow get burned to a cinder".

She looked blankly at me. "What in the world are you gibbering about? What have Bhatinda and Ntinda got to do with each other?". I explained the poem to her. A young man, a migrant, leaving home and its hardships, coming to a strange town, landing a job as a cook and then struggling with his inability to roast meat etc.

The missus did not seem to get the poignancy. "Naren, kindly stop this tomfoolery before someone concludes you are non compos mentis. Now let me catch up on some sleep". The missus tends to use latin when seriously pissed. I continued to compose, silently now, my poetic  masterpieces.

There was a young man from Bhatinda/ who married a lady named Linda/ whose hair was highly curled /because the part of the world /she was from was called Ntinda.

Nope. Not as good as the earler effort. Best not to tempt fate by narrating this one to the missus. She has never bitten me but that does not mean she can't. Or won't.

The landscape was beautiful. Just green, green and more green. Our driver Ronald was a dignified and knowledgeable commentator and kept giving me little tidbits of information such as the average rainfall in Uganda, the average temperature, the distance to Jinja, the flora and fauna to be found there, the early white explorer Speke, who afforded great poetic possiblities (The Early White Explorer Speke/ was ordinarily docile and meek/ except when he found/ no shrubbery around/ and he badly wanted to take a leak) but Ronald's constant, dignified commentary rather demanded attention.

Enroute we stopped at a forest called Mabira, which nearly caused civil war in this charming country thanks to one Jay Mehta, husband of Juhi Chawla. This is a long and potentially sensitive anecdote which I will narrate some other time, mainly because I don't know how much truth there is in it. Suffice it to say that if the anecdote is true, said Mehta is a greedy whatchamacallit.

Ok, missus making eyes at me. Will update post lights out.

My vacation - Part 2 - Kampala

(As mentioned in the earlier post, this is a highly jazzed up account of a vacation I am having currently. The high point of the drama, such as it is, is that we were pushed off the flight to Europe and de-conveyed to Africa. Best left unread, of course, unless you are one of the few jobless ones. Like me.  BTW, many apologies for not responding to earlier comments. this is because I have but a hairs breadth of internet time.)

Finding another destination of course was not as easy as it seemed. First, we didn't have time (or, in my case the patience) to line up outside some snotty embassy with a truck load of papers and the earnest “Please give me a visa, mister, I promise not to settle in your country or carry on trade or occupation for profit in any manner” expression so important to visa officers. And second, I had a feeling my credit cards were close to maxing themselves, putting de-luxe destinations out of bounds, for long vacations at any rate.

The missus' first choice was Thailand, but it seemed to be going through one of those phases where chaps start throwing bombs at other chaps who, instead of turning the other cheek as recommended by well known world figures, throw bombs right back, escalating the whole ruddy thing. All in all, not conducive to tourism.

My bright suggestion at this stage was Sikkim. Beautiful, unspoiled, easy to get to, economical. This was met with a glowering look. I upped it to Sri Lanka. Ok, so I wanted to minimise cost, but Sri Lanka is a great tourist place. (Its tallest mountain, I am told by my younger son, is Piduruthalagala. He had to study this for Geography which made him very unhappy with the tendency of the local populace to name their mountains in several dozen syllablic words instead of say Bob mountain or Tim mountain. I digress.) This suggestion too was tossed out the window.

“Let's go to Uganda. It has visa on arrival. And we can do some safaris.” suggested Neela, the missus' twin sister who , with her husband Mahesh, were traveling with us. I heaved a sigh of relief. It's a long story but we have a decent base there. House and all. This would be DEFINITELY low cost. Evidently, Mahesh was also thinking along similar lines as me, as I distinctly spotted him heaving sighs of relief of his own. Unanimously passed.

We marched off to the Emirates office on Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, and did the needful. (we were flying from Bangalore, because Neela and Mahesh live in Mysore and had done all the dirty work of booking tickets etc). Somewhere in the vicinity was a 'fish spa' which is a spa where you put your feet into a fish tank and the fish eat all the dead skin, toenail dirt etc. Your feet come out a lovely pink. What they omit to tell you is that the process is ticklish as hell. I was shoved into the place and assigned a ten minute session. Ten minutes, but it felt like an eternity. My giggling and writhing seemed to offer no end of mirth to the missus and her accomplices (viz sister and brother-in-law).

And the thing is the futility of it all. I mean, compared to, say, aquiline looks or a lean muscular body, pink feet offer little by way of sex appeal. I might be wrong but I really don't see buxom young lasses throwing themselves at you because you have pink feet. But the missus had decreed, so it had to happen.

I shoved my pink feet into my shoes and we hurried on to the airport. The flight was from Bangalore to Dubai, where we got a couple of hours of duty free shopping and thence onward to Entebbe (yes, the famous airport where the Israelis did their 90 minute thing) via Addis Ababa.

The flight was pretty uneventful. The missus spent the entire flight to Dubai sleeping on my shoulder, making me feel like the warm, affectionate caveman that I am. I listened to some music. There is this Bryan Adams' song, the words of which go something like this “Lets make love.. something something.... january to december” I don't know the words, but I have come to the conclusion that it is based on Raag Shuddha Nat. I've done a comparison, which I can make available at request (post it on youtube or something) if you promise to remember that it was done under the influence of alcohol and do not hold it against me if and when I am appointed to high office.

Well, Uganda is beautiful. We spent the evening in Kampala, Uganda's cheerful, laid-back and emerald green capital. I had picked up a bottle of Glenmorangie whiskey (which the missus insists on calling Glen Morarjee) of a decent vintage and I am happy to report that it goes beautifully with Kampala.

The following morning was our trip to a town called Jinja. To read about which you will have to wait a day or two while I sneak the laptop under the bedcovers, away from the sight of the missus, and write out my secret report. This one has been bad enough... I've almost been caught twice. (I pretended to be checking flight availability to Europe.)

Cheers, then. Back soon, hopefully.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Vacation - Part 1 - Africa

(Dear reader,
If you, like most people, like your information neatly packaged in structured, speed-readable communication, the long and short of what follows is that my wife and I set out on an European vacation that was rudely cut short because of the volcano trouble. We decided to redirect to countries broadminded enough to offer citizens of India visas on arrivals (since we didn't want to waste time queuing up outside snotty bureaucratic satraps with bank statements and IT returns). Thus, we landed up in.......Uganda

Also, apologies if I seem uncommunicative but the fact is that Uganda has the feeblest internet in the world. And the missus isn't too keen on me spending hours on the computer, cursing silently at the monitor or pulling my hair out or both, as is my wont when the internet refuses to respond.

So, that's that. The complete executive summary. You don't need to read on, unless you are one of those very few in the world who have nothing else to do)

Life has been whooshing past these past few days.

First it was the proposed get-away. Did I mention it? The missus and I were planning to visit Europe for a long relationship-rebuilding vacation. This has been necessitated by the missus' firm conviction that I love my computer more than I love her. Completely untrue of course. I don't take my computer to dinner or to a movie. Not always anyway. That argument of course did not cut much ice and said vacation was planned in great earnestness and detail. Which Venetian canal to cruise down in gondola with gondoleer singing which Italian love ballad and so on.

But I digress. The said proposed vacation necessitated many subtle strategic moves such as ensuring that my Airtel bills and Icici credit card dues were paid off. They are direct descendants of Gnghis Khan where it comes to tardy settlement of dues, the aforementioned Airtel and ICICI chaps. I have heard that they behead their defaulters and pile up the skulls in neat little heaps outside villages as a deterrent to other potential defaulters. I'm a sentimental kind of guy. I'm very attached to my head, unattractive as it may be to other people. So I pulled out the old cheque book and did the necessary writing. I just don't remember if I dropped it into the box. Guess I'll find out. If they come at me with machetes, it was nice knowing you folks.

Coming back to the res, the next on the list was helping the missus pack our suitcases. This is an enterprise fraught with danger because my darling helpmeet, the apple of my eye, the nuclear reactor of the little submarine of my life, my safe and secure elastic rubber cord in the Great Bungee Jump that is worldly existence, is apt to get a tad ballistic when I can't find my things when she asks for them.

“Get me that striped shirt”

“Er, which striped shirt?”

“The black one, the one I've been telling you about for the last ten minutes”

I found something which answered loosely to that description.

“What is this?”she asked, holding the shirt up like an exterminator holding up a recently exterminated pest. Never a good sign.

“Black striped shirt?” I answered hopefully.

“This color is called 'blue'. These little squares are called checks. Stripes are – Oh, you're hopeless, Naren” and in a marked manner, got up and picked the shirt herself. I swear it wasn't there a moment ago. The missus must be a prestidigitator or something.

She went back to the suitcase.

“Now, please pay attention. AND SHUT THAT COMPUTER.”

And so on. Finally she got the suitcases packed. She'd tucked in an enormous amount of stuff including my wedding suit aka my ticket collector disguise. “Just in case we go to the opera” she told me. I fervently hope we don't. No offense, but opera always sounds like people panicking in song. The missus doesn't care much for the music either, but she likes the spectacle.

“Have you called the cab?”

Thankfully, I had. Having thus saved my marriage by the merest skin of my teeth, we set forth for the Airport.

And to our dismay, were resolutely told by the Emirates people to take a walk. They didn't say that in so many words, of course. They are too well bred for that. But in the round about way so popular with the airline people, they told us that there was a volcano blasting away in Iceland which is why we couldn't fly to Rome, though Rome airport was open, because of back-log problems and they would be happy to refund us our money in due course or reschedule our flight as and when it pleased them.

First, dismay. Then anguish. Then anger (I chose the charged-with-sarcasm route, completely wasted on the rhinoceros hides that airline employees are equipped with). And then the missus, practical as ever, said “Where can I book tickets for some other destination?”....... (contd)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reminiscenses on the Eve of the Eve of my anniversay

In about 48 hours from now, the missus and I will have been married 18 years. Eighteen years! It seems just yesterday that we were sitting shyly in her uncle's house, discussing God, competitive strategy and favorite colors in an attempt to assess if we were compatible.

For those of you who were born in modern times, arranged marriages included a 10 minute "now boy and girl can talk" session, post the horoscope matching and family background verifying. Till that moment, the ship would be steered exclusively by maamis and maamas. It was only after they adjudged the thing securely in the bag that the prospective protagonists were allowed to have an unsupervised conversation.

We were ushered in to an inner living room. My heart was thudding like the proverbial bass drum. The missus perched some ten feet away on the sofa across the coffee table. Her eyes, I noticed for the first time, were a deep greenish-brown.

I smiled weakly. Completely wacky thoughts were running in my mind. What if I were to burp or something? It would sound so loud. Would she run away in disgust? Had I buttoned my shirt properly? What if she suddenly started singing?

She returned my smile with a shy one of her own. There was just the hint of a dimple on the lower left side of her mouth.


I could sense that she expected me to say something but my mouth wouldn't open. I could see her smile wane a little. "I hope he's not a deaf-mute, not that I have a anything against deaf-mutes, just saying" she seemed to be thinking.

I decided to ask her what her hobbies were. Always a good ice-breaker. I opened my mouth to speak and to my complete mortification, heard myself asking "do you believe in God?"

"Yes. Don't you?" came the reply.

Between you and me, what with one thing and another, I've never been able to swallow the God bit. In my dreamy and romantic youth, I had often fantasized about meeting God and demanding, successfully, to be transformed into (at various times) a champion sportsman, a world-famous actor and an irresistible sex symbol but I never managed to achieve the level of gullibility which enables people to go so far as killing each other on the basis of completely unsubstantiated hypotheses.

"Yes, of course" I lied.

That seemed to be the right answer. She smiled again. I managed a grimace.

"What is your favorite color" she asked

To this day, I don't know the right answer to that question. If I'm pouring out a beer, it would be "Golden brown". If I was seated at the local Shetty hotel it would be the "dal tadka" yellow.

"Blue" I told her (or possibly green, don't really recall)

That seemed to please her. I was emboldened. My turn to ask her something. Hmmm. I wasn't clued in to Hindi movies too much, but I knew "favorite picture" or "favorite actor" would be a good bet.

"So, have you read Michael Porter's "Competitive Strategy"?" I found myself asking her.

She turned her eyes plaintively to the door, willing someone to come in and rescue her. And luckily her aunt walked in.

"So? Done?"

"Yes" we replied unanimously.

Little wonder then, that this marriage has lasted eighteen years, and shows all signs of lasting another fifty. Really solid foundations, as I am sure you will agree.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Flying and why I hate it

As I type this on the flight, I cannot help wondering whether I am a Cynical Realist, a Pragmatist, a Practical Alarmist or a Regular Schizophrenic. It's not that I hear voices in my head or anything. I'm just alive to possibilities.

It's this ability of mine, this ability to see possibilities others cannot, that has proved so debilitating for my evident genius.

It derailed my chess career, for example. The problem is, I can see so far ahead that I am unable to continue after White's first move, when I am black. And when I am White, Black's response to my move will usually make me see irrefutable threats that my opponent might be oblivious to.

For instance consider my last ever chessgame. I was playing for my college team then, and my opponent was a sweaty, neurotic looking chap named Babu. The team wanted just a draw from me. I was sure I could manage it. After all, this Babu was a complete unknown anyway.

We set up the pieces. The arbiter checked our clocks and told us to start. And to my dismay, Babu played 1. e4.

You would doubtless recall Fischer V/s Petrosian, in which Fischer slowly strangled the former world champion, considered practically unbeatable until then, in a fashion that persuaded me there was no real defense. Well, Fischer had played 1.e4 in that game.

I thought hard for some 30 minutes and try as I might, I could see no way out. I could sense the expectant eyes of my captain and the other team-members upon me but my clinical mind told me there was no way out. I resigned.

The captain and the other team-members were unreasonably angry, I recall. Abusing me like that! “You frikking moron! How the frikking hell can you resign after the first frikking move?” I remember the captain screaming as he, for some reason, pulled out his hair. It hurt, believe me, especially when I realised that “frikking” is not an English word (I checked the Oxford dictionary). It is in some arcane tongue - I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be Basque or Inuit - and one can only speculate what ghastly meaning it has. When I asked him to apologise, he most rudely demanded I absent myself lest he be tempted to disembowel me. Boor! I had had enough. I resolved never to play chess again.

It is this rare ability which makes me fear flying so much. For instance, if you consider the universal desire of the soul to seek eternal truth, and the fact that airline pilots are, despite their funny way of talking, human beings,you cannot help being alarmed.

“Don't be silly, Naren” the missus says.

She is responding to my reasonable conjecture that if the pilot is a Sceptical Pragmatist, he would probably decide that there is no objective reason to suppose that any good will come out of taking off, and attempt to land the plane with a full tank of fuel. The tyres of course are not desinged to land with thiry tons of fuel weight. They will probably burst. The plane will careen out of control, tipping over and somersaulting like Olga Korbut (Nadia Comaneci, if you prefer) on cocaine.

And of course, we will be shredded into little pieces of DNA evidence in the crash report.

“Naren, the pilot is not a lunatic to cut throttle and land after going through all that trouble taking off. You heard him say “Close and arm all doors. Cross check and report”.

I chuckle at this.

“And why are you laughing now, my dear paranoid jellyfish?” she asks.

“Cross Check” I reply. “Further evidence of the pilot being non-compos mentis”

“Huh?” she goes, in her typical impatient tone. I have to explain EVERYTHING to some people!

“See, here's the pilot, building up speed, flying this eighty ton contraption at speeds approaching that of sound and all that he instructs his staff to do is ensure that the negotiable instrument is not left open payable to bearer.”

She takes a moment to digest this.

“Cross check means 'Verify again'. It does not mean put 'A/c Payee Only' on the corner of a cheque. That cheque is cheque. This check is check. Oh, darn it. You've got me gibbering now. If it scares you so much, just shut your eyes and pray, ok?”

I have logically established, quite conclusively if I may say so myslef, that God does not exist and hence prayer is useless, but I sense that this is not a good time to tell her. I hold her hand tightly and brace myself.

By some incredible stroke of luck, we land in one piece. I am still breathing.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Trouble in the Spiritual World

I wrote this, then deleted it, then some really sweet people said hey, post it all the same, we could use some laughs, though I muchly suspect the laughing will be more at the fact that I am displaying senility than any joke that might have inadvertently crept in. But what the hell...

I dont usually have existential doubts, but my good friend Sri Sri Fullananda and I were contemplating difficult cosmic questions recently over a spiritual bottle of Soma. Like me, Fullananda is also a deep thinker. That made two deep thinkers at that table.

We've done this kind of thing before, you know, this contemplation stuff. We like nothing better than a good delving into the cosmic. But that evening, I have to say this, even the usually satisfying topic of Oneness with the Supreme left us cold.

Soemthing seemed to be troubling Fullananda. I could see that he sipped his Soma listlessly.

"Not happening", said Sri Sri. The Sri Sri, for all his Sri Sri-ness employs the argot of the scatterbrain youth, a fact that I don't really approve of, but with Sri Sris, you have to bear with this sort of thing.

"Not happening? This Soma?" I enquired

"No, the Soma is great. Jolly miraculous, come to think of it, that the essence of spirituality should be so well captured by the Scots, of all people! Evidence that He pervades all humanity. No, I was referring to all this 'Oneness with the Supreme' business"

I was puzzled.

"What kind of defeatist talk is this, old chap?" I asked him, with the merest hint of alarm in my voice, for I knew him to be of the finest mettle when it came to mystical philosophy. The bearer of two Sris. One of the best speakers on heavy metaphysics. His discourse on 'The Lifting Of The Gossamer Veil of Consciousness To Get A Glimpse Of All Encompassing Reality' still makes my hair stand on end. (No, I can't tell you how it all came out in the end. Listen to it yourself!) "Oneness with the Supreme not happening? You're speaking through your hat, my dear fellow". Some might have thought my tone a tad sharp but you'd have to agree that it was deserved.

"You know, old chap," he said, gazing absently into the soma, "you and I are of a mien different from the rest. We Know All. But I fear things are not all hunky dory with our brethren"

"You mean our fellow philosophers?" I asked

"Yes. And in particular, I mean the practising Swamis. The Babas. The Sris. Even the Sri Sris. "

"What about them?"

"Well, the way they stumble about in the real world, unsuspecting and innocent"

The penny dropped. "You mean old Nithyananda being caught on camera?" Tragic. One of one of our best chaps. Just happened to be practising some oneness with a female disciple at an inconvenient moment. You won't believe how they hounded the poor man.

"There's nothing wrong with getting a bit of oneness going with one's female devotees, if the said devotees aren't against such oneness" he continued "the supraconsciousness being what it is and all, but the real world takes such a dim view of all this. That poor fellow is going to be pilloried now. And worse, it is the thin end of the wedge"

"I know what you mean. All of us will be suspect. Whenever they see us going into trances with female devotees in attendance, they will say we are yielding to base carnal desires. "

Fullananda giggled. "Actually, I kind of like those base carnal desires", he said, as if to himself, but quickly recovered. "No!" he said "No! We must lie low. We must go into seclusion. Alone. Without female devotees."

"Without female devotees?" I was puzzled. "How will we acheive communion with the inner being of the supreme self?"

"Oh do not worry about such things," said Fullananda. "Have faith in the eternal. Our Hand will be guided."

"And by the by", I askedFullananda, "what is your view on doctors?"

"Doctors? Sound chaps! Very sound."

"But don't they rubbish our faith-healing methods?"

"Some might, he said, "but deep inside they're on our side."

"How is that?" I asked, mystified.

"Well many doctors have told me that they desire nothing more than the demise of non-believers."

This was news to me. "Really? I've never heard anyone of my acquaintance say so"

"Oh come, come, old salt. Dont you know the battle cry of good doctors?"


"Its 'Die, Agnostics!'"

No, I didn't have the heart to tell him.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In which I receive a little lecture on Dravid's batting

Many moons ago I happened to chance upon a very funny blog by Deepak Gopalakrishnan aka @chuck_gopal and remarked, as a comment to one of his posts, that I had once been on the receiving end of a sharp lecture on the cricketing skills of R. Dravid. Chuck asked me to write a post about it, elaborating the incident.

The fly in the ointment of course is that it isn't much of a story. I have a hazy idea that in modern literature people can - and do - write entire chapters on people sitting by the sea, and describing individual waves rolling on to the shore but I doubt something like that would sustain dramatic interest. My auto driver story, I strongly suspect, is going to turn out like that. So if you find it terrible, please visit Andheri West where said chuck_gopal stays, and throw stones at his window.

The story: Once upon a time, I was taking an auto from Malad to Bandra, if I recall correctly, which is a big ticket purchase in Mumbai auto circles, and I was rightly getting a lot of respect from the auto guy.

We opened the conversation with light topics. On the dubious parentage of traffic policemen, we were both of unanimous opinion. The auto driver had just been reprimanded by a traffic policeman for wriggling into an open space when the cop was signalling him to stop. I wasn't feeling too good about traffic policemen as a tribe myself, having been soaked just the other day for many rupees for speaking on a cellphone while driving.

Continuing the feast of reason and flow of soul, the auto driver expressed a fairly leftist opinion of recent governmment policies which I did not share but could sympathise with. Again, he speculated on the parentage of some of our elected representatives, suggesting based on morphology, that one of the forebears was from the species canis familiaris.

The conversation turned to cricket. The auto driver, who seemed to be a self taught expert on genealogy, now discerned among the selectors' ancestry, sus scrofa domesticus. He berated several members of the cricket team as well.

I'm not much of a connoisseur of cricket but I remembered watching a match some days ago where Rahul Dravid was causing consternation among the cognoscenti for steadfastly refusing to cause wear and tear to the ball while batting. I decided to voice that opinion and suddenly, the auto came to a halt.

The auto driver parked it to a side and I could see from his expression that his assesment of me as a thinker was on par with Equus asinus asinus.

"You must be out your mind", he told me, with disturbing candour. "Dravid", he said, "is the most technically correct batsman in the side".

Getting out of the auto, he demonstrated to me how Dravid kept his head down while driving off the front foot and how balanced and measured his follow through was. Following this up with a demonstration of how Dravid played the pull shot, he told me with undisguised contempt "samajhta nahin to bolneka nahi", translating into Hindi for my benefit Boethius' quote "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses".

The man was big hearted, however. Putting aside his contempt for me and people of my ilk, he ferried me to my destination. I was sadder but wiser. Never again would I have the temerity to criticize Rahul Dravid.

It might have been soul searing, but I do believe the experience has left me a better man.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Emperor Fredick's tale and please don't tell missus I've started composing groaners again

Emperor Frederick II of Prussia was a wise and great king. There are many instances of his greatness. For example, he is the originator of the "p is silent" thing you see in words like pneumonia, ptarmigan and pterodactyl, which he started so that people would think that in addition to being Emperor of Prussia, he was also Emperor of Russia, because p is silent.

Today, my dear students of history, we are going to talk about a little known instance of the Emperor's far-sightedness.

As a dutiful hegemonist, Emperor Frederick realised that in the vast and complex business of empire building it was crucial to have a credible management information system based on sound financial accounting. Since all these terms hadn't been invented yet, he called it "totting up the bills".

In a spread-out and high-maintenance empire like Prussia, there were bound to be many bills and the Emperor knew that the man who would be in charge of this crucial function would have to be singularly devoted to his task.

The person whom he finally chose was a high born count who spoke little, never raised his eyes and continuously totalled numbers. He would be present in a corner of the Emperor's court quiely totting up bills from every corner of the realm.

And as an example of the high esteem in which the Emperor held him, consider the following incident.

Once, on the Emperor's birthday, when everyone was supposed to turn up with bouquets, there were many courtiers who were either too cheap to buy decent flowers, or who had simply forgotten to make the trip to the florist. Usually this would get at most a snide remark from the throne about how there is no real adulation these days but that morning, the Emperor was in a bad mood.

When the court was in session and everyone who had brought bouquets had presented them, the emperor spoke.

"All those who have not brought us a floral tribute on this momentous occasion shall be given ten of the best on the old spot"

And the chief of police, who rather enjoyed this kind of thing, rounded up the guilty and started administering justice as evidenced by some high pitched screaming.

The emperor was watching the proceedings with grim satisfaction when a soft voice piped up near his ear. It was the Count of Accounts.

'Your majesty" he said, with downcast eyes "I too am guilty".

The emperor was touched. Looking at him with compassionate eyes, he said
"In your case, dear chap, there shall be no punishment"

"May one ask why, your majesty?" asked the Chief of Police

"It is alright in his case, Chief. It's the count that tots"

The Chief of Police could not help feeling awed at the emperor's wisdom and bowed deeply.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Trying to be funny can be injurious to health.

The boys were sitting on the bed, watching TV.

They watch the most ridiculous shows by the way, and in a dazed manner which gives no indication of whether they are enjoying anything, or indeed recieving anything at all.

I forget what it was they were watching just then - Rahul ka Swayamvar would be my guess - but their demeanour was not unlike that of UN delegates when the general assembly is in session. Spaced out, if you know what I mean.

"Guys", I said enthusiastically, "know what? I just realised that your mom is from Northeast India!"

I continued beaming brightly, waiting for one of them to ask me "Northeast? Northeast India? Why?". No such luck.

"She's from Mysore, Annie. That's in Karnataka. Which is a state in southern India" said the elder one after a while, in a bored manner.

"I know that! I know that!" I continued beaming. "You know why I said your mom is from Northeast India?"

The silence continued for  a few moments. The younger one spoke up.

"Ok, Annie. Why?"

"Because she's from Nagaland!"

A look of puzzlement greeted me.

"Nagaland! Nagger-land! Get it?"

Silence plus grave look.

"What? I asked. I was getting a little frustrated now.

"Annie", the elder one spoke gently, "the Northeastern countryperson is standing behind you"



Stony silence

"Just a joke that occured to me"

"Boys, would you mind going to your rooms for a moment? Annie and I have something to discuss"

The boys disappeared.

"Since when have I been nagging you?"

"Er, it was... I mean I was just.."

"Continue. I'm listening"

"I'm sorry, dash it. I just thought of Nagaland and Nagger land and made up a joke"

"Very nice. And for that I am going to let you spend the weekend without touching a drop of alcohol. I'm sure that is alright with you? Or would you like to extend the holiday a bit longer?"

I slunk away quietly but the dryness of the weekend stares me in the eye. It will take a small miracle, I tell you.

Which is why I hesitate to tell you the tale of Emperor Frederic of Prussia. If Nagaland can de-booze me for the weekend, Prussia could potentially do me in for a month. (But I will tell the story of Emperor Frederic, if you promise not to breathe a word to the missus. Ok, gotta run now. Catch you all tomorrow)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The BCCI chronicles

A hush settled over the draped board-room of the BCCI. Darth Modi put his fingertips together and rested his chin on his thumbs. His cigarette lay smouldering in the ashtray, but Darth Modi paid scant attention to it. His Brain Was Working.

There were a dozen or so board members whose job it was to think alongside Darth Modi but not one of them had the temerity to do so. The penalty for independent thought was instant expulsion. Being ejected into the medialess void they called the world. Oblivion. Emasculation. No, they sat and watched attentively. For signs. From Darth Modi.

The board had been deliberating all morning on the new game that had just been presented before it. Darth Modi had often expressed the need to augment the finances of th BCCI. No one knew why this was necessary, but it was one of those questions one just did not ask. If Darth Modi said they needed more finances, they needed more finances.

The game designers had done a pretty decent presentation, the board members privately thought. Nothing boring, like Brian Lara Cricket or anything. Infact, this game was not even computer based.

The game set comprised of a smart white plastic board, with stumps, plastic fielders and a small plastic bat. The bat was special - made from a hi-tech, non-stick material. The rest of the stuff was regular plastic.

The game was a two-player contest, played as follows: The players would toss, and elect to bat or field. The fielding side player would dig his nose produce a booger, which he would roll into a little ball and toss at the batting side player. The objective of the batting side player was to hit the booger ball with the special non-stick bat, as far as possible. Depending on where the booger ball landed (there were markings on the field board), runs would accrue to the batting side player. And if the booger stuck to the stumps or one of the 'fielders', the batting side player would be 'out'.

There was a rush of excitement when the presentation was over. Board members discussed it among themselves. Even Darth Modi seemed pleased, judging from the emails he was sending to himself from one of his blackberries to the other. One of the board members asked the developers what would happen if the fielding side player failed to produce decent sized boogers. The developers seemed to have envisaged this possibility and pointed out to the provision under the rules where boogers could be borrowed from the batting side player, provided they were returned when it was the batting side player's turn to field. A healthy discussion, if you know what we mean.

And then the hush that we had mentioned at the start of this story settled upon them. Darth Modi was thinking.

"It's an interesting game", said Darth Modi.

"Interesting". "Very interesting". "Most interesting". went the murmurs around the board room.

"Well thought out and envisaged" he added.

"Well thought out" said one board member to his neighbour. "Yes", nodded the neighbour "And envisaged". "Envisaged", agreed a third.

"But", said Darth Modi.

"But?" asked one of the developers, in a crushed sort of voice

"Yes, But! But the BCCI cannot promote it"

"Why?" cried the game developers plaintively, in unison. The hearts of the board members were rended.

"The BCCI cannot promote it. It's snot cricket."

The business of the day was over. The board members dispersed, shaken by the thought of how close they had come to declaring their approval. In the distance, the developers could be heard screaming as bouncers dragged them up the stairs to fling them from the roof.

But Darth Modi was not perturbed. He had just got a brilliant idea, which he would lift from a journalist.

He would auction off the IPL trophy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The tweet-up and other things

Yesterday I met up with Krish Ashok and Anand Ramachandran, legends both, and managed to spill my beer on the bag of the former. Hmm. Not great story telling skills there, Mr. Shenoy. Start, as Maria Von Trapp says, from the very beginning.

Ok, here goes.

The missus has been a bit cross with me these last few days, owing to my marked reluctance to give 110 percent in the gym. You see, we see the problem differently. She feels that I can, by dint of hard exercise, burn my flab to look slim. I think a more elegant and practical solution to the problem is to wear looser clothes. Which point of view she refuses to see, of course.

Anyway, I won't bother you with the intellectual cut and thrust of this debate. Just suffice to say that had the opportunity presented itself of disappearing for most of the afternoon for a spot of beer and cheese filled entrees, I would have jumped at it. When that opportunity included a tete-a-tete with the funniest bloggers on the planet, I did the triple reverse somersault that the occassion demanded, and rushed full speed to TGIF, Andheri

First things first. I know Anand well, having met him on several occassions before. Surprisingly, he doesn't try to run away - I guess he realises that all resistance is useless -  but I hadn't met Ashok. I remembered this from one of his posts

and thought he'd be seven feet tall or something, which he is not. He is roughly my height, which varies between 5'8" and 6' depending on who's asking.

And he does not look in the slightest bit like Sonu Nigam. I reported this sad fact on twitter and @onejubb told to consult an eye doctor. All that the eye doctor could see was "ctpalo" which is the last line on his eye-chart, which meant that he did not add anything of value to the debate, which stands as follows:

Ayes: "Sonu Nigam and Krish Ashok are #sameguy"
Nays: "Nay"
Eye Doctor: "ctpalo"

Rambling again. Sorry. Where was I? Ah yes, Anand had brought his son Dhruv along. A discerning seven year old, the moment he realised who the company was, Dhruv promptly demanded the purchase of an Asterix comic and got it.

We spent the couple of hours discussing affairs of great pith and moment and imbibing a stray drop or two. Soon, Ashok had to do a cinderella and rush to the airport, which he got to just as the pilot was putting first gear and raising accelerator. Going by his track record, this sort of thing seems to be standard for Ashok. I think he must have evolved the ability to standing-jump into the plane from the tarmac by now.

I latched on to Anand and Dhruv like a limpet, and invited myself to their home. Over a cup of tea, we discussed a bit of gaming - a field in which Anand is THE authority - and reading. One thing led to another and I managed to get him to lend me his Douglas Adams collection. I've read "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" before, but was clueless about his "trilogy of five books" which I am reading now. What a guy, Douglas Adams!

Anyway, I had to rush back home because of a wedding I had to attend.  When I got home, it took the missus 0.25 seconds to smell the beer. She gave me a little lecture on what people think of people who attend people's weddings with alcohol on their breath, made me gargle with something seriously powerful, issued me some fancy looking clothes to wear, and told me to keep my mouth shut and smile when people looked at me.  Which of course is second nature to me.

Ah well, all in all a good day's work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My struggles with self-expression

I am determined  to finish this post and publish it.

I've been starting and abandoning posts these last few days on the grounds that they sounded stupid and the frustration is growing. I feel like Ram Gopal Verma except that Ram Gopal Verma finishes his movies. Even if it means finishing off his audience. There I go again, writing complete rot.

Anyway, I said so to the missus (about my growing frustration with being unable to write any posts). She patted me on the head reassuringly and told me what the old Hebrew wise man told his king.

"The wise man told the king "Gam Zeh Yaavor"", the missus told me. "It means "This too shall pass"". What context this was said in I have no clue. Possibly the king was constipated and struggling with a particularly unyielding lump. But what the missus was telling me was that I mustn't worry, just keep typing whatever came into my head without thinking.

"If you can do that while speaking, what is the problem typing?"

"You mean, I'm funny when I speak?"

"Er, no, I meant your ability to speak without thinking"

This aforementioned ability is an old skill acquired at business school where I spent two miserable years saying absolute drivel to the accompaniment of a slide projector.

"But I want it to  be funny. I want people to laugh!" I lamented.

"Sweetness", she said in her gentlest voice, "you are funniest when you're not trying"

I eh-what-what-ed.

"You remember the other day when  we were dining at Akhil's place?" she asked. Said Akhil being one of my oldest friends.

"What abut it?"

"Well Akhil was telling this anecdote about someone telling him he looked like Shashi Kapoor. Which he does, by the way. And you said someone told you look like Richard Gere"


"Don't you remember how much we laughed. Akhil nearly had tears in his eyes. Sweetness, light of my life, I have seen Richard Gere and I have seen you. There are many differences"

"That was derisive laughter, which furthermore stems from a deep envy because I do look like Richard Gere from certain angles. I want my posts to make people laugh because of the humour"

The missus shrugged in a manner suggesting helplessness. Lost, I turned on my laptop and here I am, like Tristram Shandy, writing about what I am doing,  in the forlorn hope that something in it will turn out to be funny.

Part of the problem stems from my promise to the missus not to write groaners. This robs me of several thousand words a week but the missus tells me that if I do write them, I could face the following action

a) Being hit on the head with a blunt instrument
b) Extra 30 minutes cardio in the gym
c) Divorce
d) All of the above.

Consider for example, my interesting discovery about Tony Blair, former PM of Britain who for some reason always looks to me like an oily character. I'm probably wrong - I'm sure he's Abe Lincoln himself - but Tony has always looked like someone who would sell his wife.

And sure enough, it turned out that he had on one occassion, borrowed heavily from a shady financier, for funding his political ambitions. The said financier insisted on some kind of security for the advance and lacking anything significant in the nature of mortgageable assets, Tony suggested he leave his wife with the financier for the pendency of the loan, to which the financier agreed.

When his friends asked him how he had managed to raise so much cash, he replied that he was merely echoing the words of General Henry Munro who fought the French in 1778, laid seige to one of their Indian outposts and wrested control from them.

"What do you mean?" asked one of Tony's friends, who for the hundredth time wished Tony would use fewer words.

"I have Pawned Cherie"

But I desist from writing things like this  firstly because it is just the kind of thing that will lead the missus to use option 'a' above and secondly because I've already done a Pondicherry joke and to make another one so soon would just be declaring to my discerning audience that I have the imagination of a vegetable.

Still, I've managed to publish this which technically means that I have overcome my writer's block. I hope I find my funny bone soon. Assuming I ever had one.