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.

Monday, February 1, 2010

About B's, big and otherwise, and other thoughts

Apologies are in order, I think, for being AWOL from the blog. The missus has been a bit of a "first-things-first" nazi, said phrase being one of the 7 habits of highly successful (or rather, saxcsful) people according to a dweeb named Stephen Covey who is the current blighter of my already blighted existence. I have been rearranging my
  • Computer table and the stuff thereon
  • Wardrobe
  • Documents
  • Musculature
  • Finances
  • Blood Alcohol levels
based on Shri Covey's misguided observations, leaving me little or no time to discharge important economic functions like blogging and tweeting.  And here I take the opportunity to publicly inform Shri Covey that should he sashay into our building and stroll below my bedroom window, he should not be surprised to find heavy objects being dropped upon him from the sixteenth floor. I am not saying that I'm going to do it, Stephen, but don't send temptation my way.

Well, life has been going on as usual, the humdrum routine of the big city, livened by the occasional acrimonious discussion in the family. The most recent one was over Amitabh Bachchan, aka the Big B, and his son, who may not be, on the pain of injury, be referred to as "Son of the B" in our house.

I think it was sparked off by what I thought was the incessant infestation of the TV screen by both these worthies. Sometimes jointly, at other times severally, but always, goddamn always, there, and I said words to that effect.

You see, the missus finds the Big B handsome. I don't.

"You men, you are just pot-bellied lumps of jealousy" she observed.

"That's not fair. The B might have screen presence in a hammy, condescending kind of way but even his own parents wouldn't have claimed that he was beautiful"

The missus fell silent at this stage. I thought I had won her over with argument but actually she was fiddling with the toaster. I continued anyway.

"His father, the late Harivanshrai, is reported to have uttered the words "Ugly Putz! Ugly Putz! Ugly Putz!" upon seeing his newborn child before calming down and accepting reality. He subsequently pretended he was working on a poem, ingeniously titled "Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!", but everyone knew the truth. Ask them in Bareili".

"I have never heard such drivel! Amitabh Bachchan is the most dignified, suave and handsome guy, on screen and off. Abhishek is number two. And you, prince of my dreams, are number 5 billion and seventy thousand"

 Well, that was one argument settled anyway.

Ok, find of the week. This Mexican eatery at Oshiwara, near Andheri W, Mumbai. It is called Sammy Sossa and it stocks a wide range of international beer at roughly 200 rupees a pint. Not cheap, perhaps, but then, you got choice, don't you?

I was feeling rich that PM and had, in quick succession, a pint each of Asahi, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe and a Belgian beer whose name I've forgotten. Chinmay or something. No wait, Chinmay is a swami's name. This was... no, it's gone.

If I may be permitted a digression - speaking of Chinmay reminded me -` the brood and I went to the Renaissance Hotel in Powai, Mumbai last week. We had to pass by the Chinmaya mission and the elder son, who is normally meek as a dormouse and would make the Dalai Lama sound like a WWE wrestler, piped up.

"Annie, what would you call Chinmaya if he put on weight?"

I gave up, as usual. When I'm driving, I find it best to keep the old bean uncluttered.

"What? You tell me"

Younger one chipped in.

"Simple, Annie. Overweight Chinmaya would be Double Chin Maya, no?"

Overcoming a strong urge to clout both of them on the side of the head, I kept my cool. And I never have the missus' support in these matters anyway. She finds these interludes amusing and interjects with that silvery laugh of hers, which merely fuels these two comedians.

Anyway, coming back to the res, I had all that beer in Chez Sammy Sossa with gay abandon, secure in my knowledge that the missus was present, with driving license in hand.

The missus, very sportingly, I must say, decided not to lecture me on the evils of beer- I think she has given up - and a jolly good time was had by all. The food, if the brood is to be trusted, was excellent, though I have no recollection of having eaten anything at all.

Thus did my week pass. Not overwhelmed with brotherly love for all humanity perhaps but several beers on the right side of the balance sheet.