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 ohlife.com 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 ..um.. 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.