Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holmes and the Medical Case

It was an unusually fine day in London. The sun, after playing truant for weeks, beamed upon the Thames, on the boroughs and on 221 Baker Street, where Dr. Watson stood at the window with pursed lips.

"My dear Watson, what preoccupies you this fine morning?" asked Holmes

"A medical problem, Holmes, and one particularly vexing. If only you were a doctor! I could use all the help I can get"

"You can try me, Watson. Sometimes, even the most professional conundrums can be solved by the relentless application of reason. Tell me the facts, if you will"

"Oh, alright. I might as well try it on you. You are familiar with His Grace, the Duke of Kent?"

"Don't tell me those rude limericks are true!"
"Eh? What's that?"

"You know the one. His thing was exceedingly bent and when he went for a ride he had to double up inside, and instead of coming, he went"

"Oh my goodness! That IS rude indeed! Oh no, it is this terrible wasting sickness that His Grace seems to have contracted. The nibs have been treating him for consumption but that doesn't seem to be it"

"Hmm" said Holmes, his chin resting in his palm "hmm...."

"I say, Watson, doesn't His grace have a very oleaginous complexion?"

"Why yes, Holmes, but what does that have to do with...."

"The nibs are wrong, Watson. Completely wrong. It is not consumption that afflicts His Grace, but a digestive parasitic infestation"

Watson gathered his hat and coat and rushed to the hospital. Years of being with Holmes had taught him that Holmes was never wrong.

It was tea time and Holmes was having a biscuit with a cup of Darjeeling.

"I say, Holmes, that was a splendid piece of diagnosis! The Duke turned out to have tape worm and is responding excellently to treatment. How in the world did you hit upon that? Even the best Harley street specialists were flummoxed"

"Observation, Watson, and some deduction. I had heard that His Grace had an extremely oleaginous complexion"

"You did say something about that earlier. how in the world is that connected?"

"haven't you  heard, my good fellow? The Oily Bird always gets the worm"

"That was truly brilliant, Holmes" said Watson, "I doff my hat to you"

"Oh, it's alimentary, my dear Watson" said that admirable genius

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Annie Buys Vegetables - Story writing attempt #1

Annie was trying his level best to hide from the missus but suburban homes tend not to have priest’s holes. The lift was broken and the missus had made up her mind to have vegetables bought right away. Annie hated walking up the stairs.

"Why don't you tell Amma you hate walking up the stairs?" older son had counselled him on an earlier occassion but there were wheels within wheels. Annie was currently avoiding going to the gym on the grounds that he prefered to walk up the stairs instead, and was sneakily using the lift. And now that the lift was kaput, he couldn't very well do that. The missus of course, was delightedly seizing every opportunity to put some wholesome exercise Annie's way, and a form of exercise Annie loved anyway.

Sigh, thought Annie, not for the first time, Life is So Complicated!

He was finally cornered in the living room, behind the TV cabinet.

“What are you doing behind the TV cabinet?” asked the missus

“Er, checking the cable connection”

“Hmph. I want you to go down and get some veggies”

“Haha!” younger son laughed

“What are you finding so funny?” the missus scowled at younger son, and catching Annie smirking, turned on him

“And what are YOU laughing at? Pair of hyenas you are”

“No, no, nothing” Annie replied, and blushed.

“Why are you blushing? What is making you laugh? Something I said, no? Tell me now”

“N..No, no, it’s nothing, really, this chimp was making faces at you” Annie stuttered

“No, Amma, Annie was laughing because you said veggies”

“Why? What’s wrong with veggies”

“Nothing, nothing at all. These kids! They’ll laugh at anything.”

“No, Amma, you said veggies but Annie heard ‘wedgies’, which means ... Annie will tell you”.

Younger son scampered off.

There was a pause.

“Yes?” asked the missus. “Talk, Wedgie man”

“Er.. what vegetables did you want to buy?”

“Are you going to tell me or not?”

“Later, later. I have to go out to the pharmacy too, before it shuts. I’m out of my cholesterol medicine”

“Very well. You don’t want to tell me. I’ll find out on the internet. Meanwhile, get 1 kg onions, 1 kg potatoes, half a kg bhindi and half a kg chowli, if they’re fresh. And tomatoes. And cucumber”

There was no way Annie was going to remember all this but it was imperative to run, lest the wedgie episode start again.

On his way down, he met younger son. “What are you doing here? I thought amma told you to study”

“Can I come along to help you get wedgies?” asked the scamp, and ran away before Annie could clout him one.

“Onions, tomatoes, potatoes, bhindi, chowli, onions tomatoes potatoes, bhindi, chowli, onions...” Annie muttered on under his breath, a bit like a kabaddi player. Old Mr Hussain from the neighbouring building, who was behind him, mentally made a note that Annie seemed to be mental. Mr. Hussain thought everyone was mental, excepting himself, ofcourse. He also left his fly perennially unzipped.

Older son had once told Annie that Mr. Hussain's name was Yahya Khan. Annie believed it, naturally, and addressed him one day as Yahya Khan.

"Good morning Mr. Yahya Khan, how are you?" Annie had asked him, to which Mr. Hussein had glowered ferociously. Only later did Annie find out that it was Mr. Hussain's habit of peppering his conversations with Ya, Ya, that earned him that sobriquet.

'You could have told me atleast" Annie had complained, to which older son had merely told him to chill.

Both of Annie's sons kept telling him to chill.

"What do they think I am? A refrigerator?" Annie had complained to the missus

"Haha, you can be so witty sometimes" laughed the missus, in her silvery way.

But we're getting behind the story. Where were we? Ah yes, Annie went muttering the shopping list under his breath, lest he forget it, and ended up buying brinjals instead of chowli and forgot the tomatoes altogether.

"Well?" enquired the missus

Suddenly, the shopping list re-appeared before Annie's mind's eye.

"Er, oops. " Annie apologised.

"We have one and a half KILOS of brinjal in the fridge because you bought it thrice already and the boys are refusing to eat it. Why do you keep buying brinjals, Annie?" the missus asked.

And paused a while in uffish thought, as Lewis Carol would have said.

"Is there a Freudian explanation for your compulsive buying of brinjals, Annie?"

"I forgot my cholesterol medicine!" said Annie, cleverly changing the topic

"There should be a strip in your travel kit" said the missus. "And, by the way. I found out what a wedgie is"

Oops, thought Annie again.

"Though why you couldn't tell me earlier is beyond me. We're married, you know. To each other. You can be so silly and squeamish"

I will never understand women, thought Annie.

"By the way," said the missus, "you've been a good boy and you're going to get something tonight. A surprise!"

Annie loved the sitaphal icecream.

Friday, June 17, 2011

On how many people can be stuffed into an Ambassador car and other scientific findings

The academic year has just begun. In our home, this is silly season. The missus is the most chilled out this time of the year and shows it by giving me exclusive charge of the boys. I am supposed to look into their studies, whether they are doing their homework and slyly monitor what websites they visit  on the computer.

I am a complete disaster at all the above. If our house were China, the missus would be Hu Jintao and I would be, I don't know, perhaps Jackie Chan's sidekick, the one who keeps falling and making funny faces. And my sons rightly accord me the treatment.

We officially study in the evening, between 8 and 9 pm. I try and bring up topics in maths or physics (the missus feels these are the ones I'm least ignorant in) while the boys take the opportunity to try their experimental comedy on me.

Sometimes it's kind of funny, as on the other day, the younger one observed that time was ripe to have a dedicated channel for the fasts unto death that keep happening on a daily basis these days, and suggested that it be called Starve World.

I facepalmed at first and then laughed. Both the lads looked keenly at me. 'Are you feeling alright, Annie?' asked the older one, who is ever apprehensive that I will go around the bend one of these days.

"Oh, yes, yes" I said, composing myself "now, coming to integration by parts.."

"Annie" the younger one interjected


"My biology teacher pronounces 'egg' as 'agg'"

"So? English is not our grandfather's language. It is ok to have accents". I feel strongly about this, having faced a little ridicule in my time over pronouncing 'automatic' as 'attomatic'.

"Annie, what does agnostic mean?" asked the younger one

"Er.. someone who doesn't believe in the existence of God.. I think"

"No, that's 'atheist'. Agnostic means someone doesn't believe God's existence is knowable"

"That's impressive" i said, and I was impressed. The lads show little or no inclination towards reading anything and it's a mystery to me how they accumulate a vocabulary at all.

"It was there in a program on TV"

That explained it.

"Annie, Agnostic would be a good brand name for a teflon coated omelet pan, no?"

"What? Why?" I frequently find my head spinning in these exchanges

"Agg no stick. Get it?" and with a raucous "ha ha ha" easily avoided the book I chucked at him and said something about people who couldn't take the yolk, but I didn't quite catch it.

"Have you finished your Marathi homework?" I asked the younger one.

"Doing it, dude, chill" he said.

I have long given up pointing out that this is an entirely inappropriate tone to use with one's father.

"Right. Now, coming to integration by parts.."

"Annie, you know, it is possible to fit an infinite number of passengers into an Ambassador car", the elder one said

"Are YOU feeling alright?" I asked him.

"What I mean is, you know the proof for there being no largest natural number?"

"Yes.. let 'n' be an arbitarily large natural number. Adding 1 to it makes the resulting number larger, and hence there are infinitely many natural numbers, something like that?"

"Yes, yes!" he said, beaming at me like a benevolent professor smiling upon his favorite student

"So what about it?"

"In the same way, no matter how many people you stuff into an Ambassador car, there is always someone who can stuff one more, no? So it follows that an infinite number of people can be stuffed into and Ambassador car"

I gave up trying to bring up the topic of integration by parts. And abandoned any thoughts of teaching physics either. It seemed to be one of those days. I'd probably get something like "Navier-Stokes equations. Others don't" tossed at me.

So this is how things are at the moment. They will change soon, when the missus takes charge, but till then, I will be guiding their academic progress with my customary competence