Friday, February 27, 2009

A day in the life of a married man

Life as a married man is seldom simple. I just happened to tell her that I wouldn't be home for dinner as I was dining with friends at X restaurant. She remembered that it was close to Y shopping mall where we had bought that fancy bracelet.

And then, I swear she told me "Get three of those fancy bracelets and Karen's pants."

It took a little while before it sank in.

  1. Who was Karen?
  2. Why did my wife want her pants?
  3. And why the hell would Karen part with her pants anyway?
I rang her up and asked her these very pertinent questions.

"Naren, you are a lucky man"

"Huh? Why?"

"Because you are not in the same room as me. If you were, I would have hit you with this bottle of olives, experimentally verifying that it, your head, was solid ivory. You doofus, I said HAREM PANTS, not Karen's pants.

Thus reprimanded, I set out to concentrate on fulfilling those orders. I must confess, I felt like an old Arabian reprobate roaming the markets of Baghdad, looking for something to dress my well stocked harem with. It turns out that these articles of clothing are very common place baggy trousers whose main design brief is to conceal all contours.

One lives and learns.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dressing up for the Oscars

The setting sun had spread a crimson hue over the horizon. This hue kissed the ocean, caressed the clouds, met the smog over our charming suburb and turned into a fetching shade of grey, an appropriate color for the mood in the little coffee parlor where our group of thinkers assembles every evening.

Every one was happy, of course, with Rehman winning two Oscars and the movie Slumdog sweeping the Awards in general.

As a Strawberry Slush pointed out "If our municipal corporation swept these streets as thoroughly as Slumdog Millionaire has the Awards, life would be so much better"

But the greyness of mood was because of the low levels that womens clothes seem to have plumbed.

"This Freida Pinto", said a DoubleShot Espresso, "couldn't she have worn a saree or a salwar?"

"It's not just Freida. All of them, including Jessica Biel manage to look like hastily wrapped cotton bales", our impulsive host Mr. Shenoy averred, polishing the cups with agitation.

"I think it is time the truth was told" said Mrs. Shenoy. Our yearning eyes had turned towards her and as usual, the intelligent gleam in hers did not disappoint

It goes back to the time when my distant connexion SS went to the Oscars as an invitee. She had been part of the team that produced the movie "Gandhi" having discharged the valuable function of arranging an airconditioner on hire for the editing room ("Without which all this would never have been possible" -Richard Attenborough)

Back then (said Mrs. Shenoy, sipping her cappucino with a dash of cinnamon) as now, women invitees to the Awards function had to stand out in the crowd. Since the best way to stand out it a crowd is to look ridiculous, they all tried their best to look ridiculous, with the result that ridiculous became the norm.

Now my distant connexion thought she would try the clever strategy of looking ridiculous by not looking ridiculous, and draped a Kanjivaram. Imagine her shock and surprise when, just as she was getting into her Rolls, she found a burlap sack rudely put over her head and unceremoniously hurled into what smelt like a truck dedicated to the tuna transportation business.

After what seemed like an eternity, she was taken to a dark, dingy cellar where the designers Versace, Ralph Lauren, Galliano, Yves St. Laurent and Prada were sullenly standing in a line.

"Pick one", said a rough voice from the shadows, "and make it quick, before my trigger finger gets really itchy".

"Hahahaha!", the voice added sinisterly, and my connexion says nothing has curdled her blood more since the time her mother-in-law came to stay with her two sisters and an aunt.

Seeing no alternative other than compliance, she selected Galliano, who pulled out several large swathes of furnishing fabric and asked her to choose one.

"But...But this is curtain cloth!", my connexion exclaimed.

"Hush!" said Galliano. "You don't know who you're dealing with!"

"Who am I dealing with?" she asked

His voice now down to a whisper, Galliano told her that the entire operation was controlled by an international gang with the chief sitting in Russia. The gang, he said, picked up obsolete curtain cloth at distress sale prices and converted them into fashion garments retailing at $10,000 each.

"All of us are under their control!" he sobbed.

My connexion was moved. She chose a very large floral print and smuggled Galliano out by pretending he was part of the design.

"I had always believed Galliano was free, but the Jessica Biel dress shows that they must have caught up with him."

"Ah well, karma!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Squealing in Delight - The Finer Points

The missus and I spent a few minutes squealing in delight an hour or so back, on the joyous occasion of Rahman having won 2 Oscars.

Being a 44 year old, slightly pot-bellied, hairy straight man is not really conducive to squealing but I am working on it. Under the able tutelage of Sheela, whose squealing technique is second to none, I am picking up the basics

You start the squeal in the upper register, in C preferably, and take it up from there gently in a crescendo, culminating in a 'forte' high note and sliding down gracefully to the lower register.

The fact that Rahman has won this for his own sheer genius - he said something about many people collaborating, but that's like Picasso saying this painting is great because of the guy who supplied the paints - provided that high. The usual Indian syllogism
  1. He's a genius.
  2. He is brown.
  3. I am brown.
  4. Therefore I am a genius
kicked in here. A similar thing happens to me when Vishwanathan Anand makes random grandmasters look like kindergarten students on the chess board.

The movie itself I haven't seen. I've been meaning to. On two separate occasions we actually bought tickets for it and couldn't go (whiskey was involved in both cases), but now, Sheela and I have decided. We're going.

Last night we saw Delhi 6 in a very swanky movie theater where, I kid you not, they serve falafel and hummus in little pouches of pita bread, among other things, as you watch the movie.

The movie was nice initially but then started moralizing a tad too much.

I like it when the movie director just lays out the story and leaves you to make up your mind how you feel about certain things. Okay, sometimes the director will tend to a certain point of view and attempt to draw you towards that.

In Delhi 6, Rakeysh Mehra grabs you by the scruff of your neck and rubs your face into the conclusions he has drawn. "Here!" he says, "This is what I expect you to feel!". Still, it was a nice, well made movie, with wonderful music and excellent acting.

Personally I think it was the absence, from the cast, of M/s Akshay Kumar, Shahrukh khan, Paresh Rawal and that excrescence that goes by the name of Rajpal Yadav, that contributes to its watchability.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm Blaming My Parents for not making me a Numerologist

It is very fashionable these days to blame one's parents for one's flaws or problems. In fact, you risk being a social outcast if you can't find anything to blame your parents for.



"Behind you! Dont look now. That is Naren. He can't find anything to blame his parents for"

"You mean....."

"Yes. I mean he got all his faults by himself. Can you believe it!"


And the said persons draw themselves away sharply when someone introduces you to them, inquiring whether there is a funny smell in the air or it's just their imagination.

But the other day, I found something in my favorite newspaper, the Mumbai Mirror, which has clarified my confused thinking and showed me the way. That article outlined the basics of numerology and how much these people earned, and were sought after. Eyeopening!

NOW I know what to blame my parents for.


I remember being persuaded, against my fervent wishes, to study engineering. Or medicine.

"There is no other branch of study, as far as I can tell", my mother told me.

My plan of being a movie actor did not seem to impress her much.

"Naren, I am your mother and I love you very much but on a scale of 0 to 10 for looks, you are too close to 0 to be a movie actor", she told me dismissively.

I had had third party confirmation of this diagnosis earlier so I did not press the point. But surely, it was her maternal duty to actively look for other, more fruitful professions. She did not.

And now I read in the paper that this numerologist is consulted by all the mighty ones in show-biz and high finance for advice on all matters from the suitability of a movie script to the investability in a stock.

Now I make all kinds of contraptions to help manufacture things faster and more cheaply, charging a dime or nickel here and there for my services. And should the said contraption not work, I don't get paid even that dime or nickel. In fact, even if the said contraption was working well, a glitch would get my dime/nickel payer clawing at my throat with a view to strangling me. A demanding way to earn a living. And this after an eternity studying fun-filled subjects like Fluid Mechanics and Machine Kinematics.

Now contrast this with a qualified Numerologist. He or she would have to acquire number skills to add up the digits in your birthdate and conclude that since the sum is three, and three is the number of Jupiter, you should add a "K" to the beginning of your name which would make the total 4 and now, since this is the number for Mars, you can eat all the chocolates you want without becoming fat.

Plus, as far as I can see, numerology requires no knowledge of differential equations.

I am planning to send my children to an Ivy league school for numerology. Harvard, perhaps. Or Stanford. Even Princeton will do. They had a very good professor of numerology called Einstein, though he's no more. But if my sons do their Masters in Clairvoyance as well, they could probably get coaching from Einstein regardless, and for free, too.

Anyway this is not about my children. It is about my parents. I'm grateful to them for having given me something to blame them for, at last.

Appendix - A primer of Numerology Theory

Numerology is the science of numbers and their influence on one's destiny.

The basic technique is to add digits up and keep adding them till they can't get added any further. This condition, as the great Isaac Newton discovered, is when they get to a single digit.

Thus, Newton's First Law of Numerology is as follows

"If you can't add them no more, draw conclusions"

A famous scientist and empirical numerologist named Karan Johar made the startling discovery that the appeal of a movie script depends on numerology and not whether or not that script makes sense.

The Karan Johar theorem of practical numerology states that

"The success of a film is directly proportional to the number of K's in its name"

Another brilliant theorist named Ekta Kapoor extended this theory to television and made this formal statement of what is now known to numerology students as the Ekta Kapoor Lemma to the Karan Johar Theorem, namely

The success of a tele-serial is directly dependent on the serial's name beginning with a K." This was a startling discovery back then but now is an integral part of mainstream numerological thought.

While one could go on elucidating further, one fears that one's audience might not be up to the intellectual demands for this abstruse subject. One therefore decides to put a sock in it.

KKKKnarendra KshenoyKKK
M.A.(Numerology), (Oxon), PhD(appearing)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On the importance of digging up roads in Mumbai

In the little coffee parlor that is frequently our haunt in the early hours of eventide, the conversation turned to the enthusiasm and regularity with which our beloved Municipal Corporation excavates our roads.

"What this city needs is more roads and fewer excavations", said a Latte, who had evidently thought deeply into the matter.

"They can't foresee ALL public work requirements. It is a growing city and public works are alway important in the smooth running of any metropolis", said a Macchiato, whose cousin was rumored to be running a road construction company.

"Only corruption in this city, I say, only corruption", said a Bitter Almond Pastry, bitterly

A lull followed in the conversation and our eyes automatically turned to the Sage of our group, Mrs. Shenoy.

She smiled, as if to herself. "If Mr. Shenoy will kindly trouble himself to fetch me another Iced Eskimo, this time taking care not to spill half of it on his shirt as he fetches it here, I will tell you the true story about the digging"

The same question had occurred (said that elegant woman) to me one evening as I stood at the intersection near our house, surveying the devastation strewn about by a diligent team of the Corporation's faithful.

I knew it could not be anything so simple as an essential service. When the corporation wants to provide an essential service it does not dig roads. It black markets that service. No, it had to be something deeper than that. Something far more important. I decided to find out exactly what it was.

A trip to our ward office proved fruitless (or bootless). Our ward office, an interestingly designed building which has the ventilation of a morgue, the color scheme of a bordello, the layout of a laboratory maze and the liveliness of section 54 of the Income tax Act, houses the Ward Officer, a shifty eyed, rat-faced man who knows a sum total of six words, namely "This matter is not my responsibility".

Adjudging the situation to be hopeless, I decided to drop into the Engineer's office. there seemed to be an animated discussion going on inside. Like any self-respecting person, I refrained from entering the room and eavesdropped instead.

And good thing too. The discussion within clarified the matter for me. Without going into details of the conversation, here is what happens

1. The Executive Engineer, the Assistant Engineer, the Sub Engineer, the Assistant Sub Engineer and the Executive Assistant to the Sub Engineer open the sweepstakes.

2. Bets are taken on what color it is at say 20 feet below a location at a suitable arterial road.

3. Odds are offered by the bookmaker, usually the Executive Engineer himself

4. The road is dug up on the appointed day and the color inspected by said worthies, and bets are settled accordingly.

5. The road is left open for fifteen days in order to allow the color to be reinspected by sceptics

6. If anyone (such as myself) should ask why that road has been dug up, a standard set of responses is offered
a) "This matter is not my responsibility"
b)"This matter may be my responsibility but I have not yet officially taken charge"
c)"This matter may be my responsibility and I might have officially taken charge but the matter is subjudice and I cannot comment upon it"
d) "This is an archeological excavation for an Indus Valley Civilization site"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Antivirus for the soul

A friend just told me she had been to a satsang. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, except that she is a very un-satsang-like person. She is to Satsangs what Kim Jong-il is to Democracy. And yet she found it worthwhile to attend one! Must be something in it, right? Well, I therefore took it upon me - I am that kind of person, you know - to elucidate the subject in simple terms, in the FAQ format so popular with the public.

Satsang - FAQs

Q: Whatis a satsang? Is it like a fully automatic washing machine for the Soul with automatic rinse and spin cycles?

A: A nice metaphor, the washing machine, but too simplistic. Except for the fact that satsangs are usually as noisy as washing machines, go on for roughly the same amount of time as a standard wash-rinse-spin program, and make about as much sense as a front-loading whirlpool, there is little similarity.

A satsang is more like antivirus for the soul. When we interact with the world, certain bad programs install themselves and make us do bad things, usually involving a credit card. A satsang attempts to scan your soul and delete these programs or, if that is not possible, quarantine them or, if even that is not possible, steal somebody else's credit card.

Q: What kind of programs?

There are many bad programs (gluttony.exe,, greed.pif, and so on) but they are rarely found in the plain form in most souls. They usually morph into Trojans using Stealth Technology and become really hard to find.

In female Souls, some common Trojans are



and the most difficult to remove


In male souls there are fewer Trojans, though all are notoriously hard to remove. Here are the major ones




and of course, the big daddy of them all

Ofcourse_I_ can_handle_another_drink.pif

Q. Will the Satsang antivirus remove all of these?

While every care is taken to achieve complete consumer satisfaction, we do not purport to provide complete error free solutions in all cases. Furthermore, in the case of certain viruses, additional actions may be required.

For instance, the
virus seems to be best removed when a certain part of the affected soul's hardware is cut off.

virus requires purchase of accessories (see "The add-on Jewellery Package") to be removed from the system, though the recurrence is almost certain, despite such purchase.

Q. Is the propensity for infection dependent on the kind of soul?
A. Yes. The soul most easily affected is the large and complicated WindowsVistaTM type soul. Unfortunately, this is also the most common type, because it tends to be bundled with the hardware by the OEM (sometimes known as 'GOD'). There are some free, independent Linux distro type souls which are immune from viruses, but they are quite rare.

Q. WOW! Where can one find these free, independent Linux distro type souls?
A. Only one place. Running naked in the Kalahari Desert.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What do you do when your boss tells you to milk his buffalo

If one of my favorite newspapers, the Mumbai Mirror (motto: News? What News?) is to be believed, the burning topic in our vast Republic is

What do you do when your boss tells you to milk his buffalo

I added that screen grab just to convey the vital message "I kid you not".

The problem, apparently, is that there is nothing in the rule book that prevents a superior officer from ordering an inferior officer to milk his buffaloes.

We had an impromptu discussion at home, Sheela and I. Actually it was Sheela who spotted the story, because I rarely get to read this wonderful newspaper (The Mumbai Mirror). After she's done with it, the boys read it. I have to be content with the more flippant stuff found in The Economic Times or The Mint. As I was saying.... oh alright, here's the transcript of our conversation.

Sheela: Here's something you can blog about
Me: What? What? What?
Sheela: Some Central Railway employees are on strike because a senior officer asked them to milk his buffaloes
Me: That's no way to address someone's wife
Sheela: Buffaloe-ssss. Plural. Real animals.
Me: Polygamist?
Sheela: Naren, you do this on purpose. I have half a mind to break this plate over you head! Now pay attention!
(She's serious. I perk up and listen)
Sheela: This is an abomination. First, this guy keeps eleven buffaloes on government property. Second, he makes his staff feed them and milk them, threatening to slap charges on anyone who refuses. Third, he makes them go and sell the milk in the market. You must write something about it. Seriously, I mean. Not the usual nonsense. Sensible netizens can make a difference. See the pink chaddi campaign?

So folks, on orders, I hereby propose the following amendment to the Indian Railways (Duties and obligations of Employees) Act of 1956 and the Rules framed thereunder

Section 13 (f) : It is hereby clarified that notwithstanding anything enacted anywhere else included the Republic of Papua New Guinea, no officer of the Indian Railways shall order his employees, subordinates or contractual workers under his jurisdiction to milk, feed, groom, beautify, manicure, Brazilian-wax or otherwise tend to his buffaloes.

Explanation: It is clarified that for the purpose of this Section, the said officer's wife shall not be classified as a buffalo, regardless of appearance, behaviour or IQ.

Exception: It is further clarified that the provisions of Section 13(f) shall not apply to the Railway Minister.

There. I have done my duty. Tomorrow I shall forward it to the Honorable Law Minister. If you have any valuable inputs, please let me know. This law needs to be fool proof.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Soofy thing - Part II

It would be incorrect to call Nagaur a one-horse town. It has some 10,000 horses. In addition to 150,000 cows and 300,000 camels. Nagaur also used to have a big population of asses but they are in Government service now. What it DOES have is a magnificent fort! At this point, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Dr. Mahesh Rao, aka maitreya, who is a photographer par excellence. All the photos here are his work.

The part of the fort where diyas were lit (duh)

Soofy group from Iran. Awesome

The part of the fort where there were spotlights (further duh)

A group of "Langa" singers from the Thar desert. Super Awesome!

And hats off to the chaps who organised this event. The lighting and atmosphere were simply amazing. About the music - well, I liked it. Can't say I followed much - my understanding of Urdu is pretty rudimentary - but the singing was from the heart. You could feel the sincerity.

My neighbour for the evening was an American lady of some seventy summers, who had substantially tanked up for the occasion. She was a little unsteady on her feet and on several occasions fell into my arms. I got the distinct impression that I was 4 decades too late. Anyway, all that physical intimacy seemed to form a bond and she started talking to me. Here's a sample of the conversation

American Lady: Wassee singin? Izzat from Bollywood? Izzee Shahrukh Khan?

Me: It's a Rajasthani folk song. No, he is not Shahrukh khan. His name is ...let me see... Kachra Khan

AL: Wazzat melody called?

Me: I'm not sure. But the Raga is called Sohini

AL: Wow! How cool is that!

Me: Huh?

AL: So, do they have a Raga named after Toyota too?

Me: Thats So-hi-ni. Not Sony.

AL: Wassee singin? Izzat from Bollywood? Izzee Shahrukh Khan?

Thus the night wore on. An hour or so later, my American girlfriend went off to "look for a refill" and did not turn up again.

The programe finally ended at 10.30 pm, at which time the temperature was -17 degrees C (adjusted for windchill)

P.S. Rajasthani Couplet specially composed for Chutney

O baalma come back, my eyes ache for a glimpse
Tho I wish your pals and you weren't such wimps

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Soofy thing - Part I

(For those who, for one reason or another, missed the earlier post, I am on a whirlwind tour of Rajasthan. I attended a Sufi or Soofy Music festival in a bustling metropolis named Nagaur. Therefrom I have shifted to Jodhpur and herefrom I catch a plane back to my sweet home where my love lies waiting silently for me. These here are accounts thereof. )

The whole enterprise was in jeopardy from the start because it did not have the blessings of my Queen.

"What is the use of all this soofy geefy?" was the main thrust of her argument. A very difficult one to counter, as you might readily appreciate, because soofy geefy is indeed no use at all. For instance, you can't use it in lieu of your credit card to settle bills at restaurants.

To deflect the direction of the discussions, I tried all my sorry assed jokes.

What do you call soofy music when the singer has Diarrhoea?
Poopy music

Soofy music for horse lovers?
Hoofy Music

Soofy music for Bill Clinton?
Screwfy music

Soofy music for spies?
Snoopy music

Soofy music for Micky Mouse?
Goofy music

At this point in the proceedings, Sheela threatened to bean me with her handbag. Wisely desisting any further attempt at polemics, I packed my bag and hoofed it to the train (see Exhibit 1 below - Sad Sack in Train, alias Dukhi Atma)

As is usual in the Indian Railways, weirdos abounded. Our next door neighbour was an elderly gentleman who had, for this PhD thesis, selected the delicate topic "Toilet in three tier AC is better than Toilet in two tier AC"

For those ignorant of the niceties of Indian rail travel, Two Tier AC is more expensive than Three Tier AC by a factor of 33%. Thus, by natural justice, toilets in Two Tier AC should be better that toilets in three tier AC (by a factor of 33%). Which, according to our doctoral candidate, they are not. And his defense was conducted against the cogent-and-coherent- but-lacking-in-vitality ticket collector. All this at 5 a.m when city slickers like me seek repose. I am a non-violent person. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama are the names constantly on my lips. But at that moment, my hands itched to emulate the Boston Strangler.

Luckily for the toilet expert, I managed to retain my sang froid, a French expression meaning "cool" (don't look at me, I didn't make this up) . That's why in France, if you tell the garcon that you want your eggs froid, you get them in a cold, glue like mass.

And thus, dear reader, presently we reached the great bustling metropolis of Nagaur (see picture below)

P.S. Rajasthani couplet composed specially by royal bard for Chutney

O my beloved baalma, don't join the troops
Your mustache is no good except for straining soups