Friday, July 31, 2009

An Arctic Tale

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is it normal for middle aged men to go nuts?

Hi, this is Sheela Shenoy here. I've had to take over the controls from Naren on account of his showing strong signs of having gone nuts.

Now, this is not in itself alarming. Goofiness comes to Naren naturally. A bit like golf to Tiger Woods, or Kung Fu to all 1.3 billion Chinese people. But this time, I wondered if it wasn't a bit over the usual form.

It began with the Mint newspaper. It carried an article (I've added a screen capture thing above, because I just figured out how it is done. Cool!) which said that the acreage under food was shrinking. I showed it to Naren, just as a sign of the times.

Me: Saw this article?

Naren: (Peering through the wrong part of his bifocals) Um... The print is a bit hazy

Me: Naren, the lower half. You are supposed to peer through the lower half when you want to read something. The upper half is for distances.

Naren: Oh yes, yes. When am I ever going to get used to this.... Oh, Acreage under Food Shrinks....

Me: (waiting for him to say something)

Naren: What in the world is a Food Shrink? And why would someone put acreage under them?

Me: Huh?

So you see, all is not well in our little homestead, brain cell wise.


From the desk of Mrs. S.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One of Poirot's little known cases

(Discovered in the secret diaries of Dame Agatha)

The Affair of the Admiral's Rear

"Monsieur Poirot, the matter is serious", said Chief Inspector Japp, whispering into the phone.

"But of course, my dear Japp, it always is! Pray, proceed"

" We have tracked down the fiend to the Ritz Carlton but we have to treat the matter most discreetly." I heard Japp say, as I listened in on the extension. Poirot insists that I eavesdrop on official conversations, just in case he misses out something. Fat chance of THAT happening!

"Eh bien, but tell me, monsieur! There is nothing, NOTHING that escapes Hercule Poirot" my friend told him, without a trace of conceit.

"Alright, then, here's what we know. "The rapist is in one of two rooms. In one is the beautiful and charming Princess of Pomerania and in the other is the Chief of Her Majesty's Navy, Admiral Pinchingham".

"Ah! A touch of kleptomania, peut etre" said Poirot

"You misunderstand, Monsieur. Pinchingham is a name, not an affliction"

"Alors. You will forgive an old man his mistakes. Tell me, are they alone in their respective rooms?" asked Poirot

" The staff swears there is no one else in those rooms, but we can hear scuffling sounds in both."

"Mais oui, they play the game of love in their respective rooms, young and old alike, do they not?", remarked Poirot, with a hint of a smile.

Japp made a disgusted grunting sound, which we both interpreted as the affirmative.

"Why do you not barge in then, my friend? The Scotland Yard is not known for its delicacy in these matters" asked Poirot

"Oh no, Monsieur P. That wouldn't do at all. If we barge in and find them in a compromising position with a friend, instead of the rapist, there will be hell to pay. A diplomatic incident. The Foreign Office will have my head should I embarass the Princess, and the Ministry of Defense will flay me alive should I dare to be indiscreet with the Commander of the Fleet . No, we have to be absolutely sure. And there is no time, if the fiend is in there with one of them". The urgency in Japp's voice was unmistakable.

"The rapist is from Prague, did you say?"

"Yes. Yes, I believe. But what does that have....?"

"Then storm the poor Admiral's chamber and rescue him from a painful fate" said Poirot.

"Thanks a million, old chap", said Japp, at the flat later in the evening. "I don't know when I've been in a tighter spot. But how on earth did you know the rapist was rodgering poor Admiral Pinchingham? I had a strong feeling it would have been the Princess. She is supposed to be devilishly beautiful, you know"

"My dear Japp, but you do not use the little grey cells", said Poirot, his green eyes gleaming like a cat's. "The moment I heard the rapist was from Prague, I knew that he would be with the Admiral!"

"You said that before" I said "What does THAT have anything to do with it?"

"Ah, Hastings, mon ami, have you not heard the quaint little phrase?"

"Which quaint little phrase?" I asked

"You know, the one that the insufferable Americans use all the time"

Realisation dawned! "Oh, I see now!" exclaimed Japp. "The Czech is in the Male"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The plot to assasinate Hitler

A little known plot to kill Hitler has recently come to light.

General Wolfgang Hoffenstrotengrottenstrader of Hitler's Northern African command devised an ingenious method of doing what he felt was the only solution to the madness in Germany. His plan was to let loose wasps or bees to attack Hitler, the idea being that the poisonous stings would kill the fuhrer, he being a total wimp, and even if they failed, no one would know.

In the secret discussions leading up to the plot, the eminent biologist Ludwig van Borstencroftrendstrhratthenburg pointed out that bee stings might not be strong enough and proposed that European Hornets, vespa crabro, were the best choice because they were the most toxic and aggressive. However, Hoffenstrotengrottenstrader refused to heed his advice and the Fuhrer escaped with a few stings at unknown locations (Ms. Braun was heard to ask the Fuhrer if he had coconuts in his pockets or was he just happy to see her, but historians have refused to draw conclusions)

Anyway, children, the take home message here is that Hornets is the Best policy.

The week in review

The week went pretty well. I had a near death experience. Yes, you guessed it. I nearly got dragged to a screening of "Kambakht Ishq".

The technique was stealth, as usual. The missus, who was Sun Tzu in an earlier life, manouevered us to the multiplex on the pretext of eating at the food court in Inorbit Mall (claim to fame - more people hanging around than at Churchgate Station on Monday morning). We 'accidentally' happened to find ourselves outside the box office where the missus suddenly got a brilliant idea

"Hey! How about watching 'Kambakht Ishq'?

My older son, Vyaas, who is such a yes man when it comes to the powers that be that he could walk into the Congress Party without question, immediately said 'yes'. He is also an Akshay Kumar fan. In fact, when we went to Goa earlier this year, he insisted on going to Anjuna beach (a crappier beach than which I have yet to see, and I have seen all the beaches in Bombay) because Akshay Kumar has a bungalow there.

But the younger son and I are made of sterner stuff. And luckily, there was a Harry Potter playing on another screen at almost the same time.

"Oh, look. Harry Potter!" I exclaimed, theatrically, whereupon younger son, promptly taking his cue said

"Wow! Annie, please can we watch Harry Potter?"

And thus, saved from a fate one would not wish upon one's enemies, Gautham and I toddled off to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince.

Gautham was in his element.

"Half blood? What's the other half? Petrol?"

Petrol? Why Petrol? But his thought processes are difficult to fathom. And when I tried explaining that Half Blood usually means mixed parentage and blah blah, he had already vanished to the popcorn stall. Kids. You can give them a complete force-fed meal with the usual 'my stomach is bursting' protestations and twenty seconds later they will ask for popcorn.

The movie started the usual Harry Potter way, which is 'way over my head'. Gautham, who seemed to have heard the story from someone, kept telling me what was happening.

Somewhere halfway through the movie, I found him snoring gently, asleep on my shoulder. I watched on for a while and before I knew what was happening, I had crashed out myself.

I am thus unable to report if the movie had sustaining dramatic interest. When the lights came on at last, a kindly usher woke us up and we shuffled out of the movie theater satisfied which, as you all know, is the mark of good cinema.

The missus and Vyaas, on the other hand, were not so lucky. You could see from the wild, hunted look in their eyes that they had recently had their blood curdled.

"Nice movie?" I asked.

Silence. Perhaps they didn't hear that.

"Nice movie?" I repeated

"Can we go home please?" asked the missus, in a strained voice, indicating that the subject was closed for discussion.

And even now, several days after the viewing, we do no talk about it.

If Voldemort is the wizard whose name must not be spoken, Kambakht ishq is the movie about which None Shall Speak.

Have a great Sunday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Random rant

I'm generally a peaceful man. One who can leave things alone. When North Korea launched that missile, I did not say word. A hint of a smile and a wry "Kims will be kims" and my lips were sealed. So with the Uighur rebellion. Not a peep. But when the auto guy wriggled past me and stood ahead of my car at the signal, the Nelson Mandela in me gave up. The time for peaceful coexistence was over.

It was not just the injustice of this territorial infringement. When the light turned green, the auto driver in question just stared at it, trying to process the information.

"The light is green", his eyes told his brain.

"Wow! So it is! What now?" said the brain

"Search me", said the eyes. "I think green is the color of the season"

"No, no!" The brain was screaming "I know there is someting else...something much more significant....more urgent...something to do with the fact that all the cars behind me are honking their asses off..... Ah, I got it! Green means go!"

This, dear reader, is the thought process of the average Mumbai auto driver. And by the time his diligent neurons fire their message to the muscles that control the throttle of the auto, the light has turned to red and yours truly is reduced to a slobbering wreck at the wheel. For the auto guy has managed to slink away, escaping a well deserved kick on the backside.

Apart from that, the weekend was pretty good. I of course went without the customary fresh water and ice with a drop of Scottish agricultural produce that I usually have over the weekend, owing to missus' shoulder injury. I am holding, apart from my usual position as chief secretary of Madame's office, additional charge as comber of her hair (since she can't tie her own ponytail). One does not drink on duty when one is occupying such high office.

By the way, here's a good one from my ophthalmologist. I went to him to have my eyes tested and found out I need bifocals. I got a pair made from the guy down the street. He gave me the regular ones and told me I should get something called variable lens which does not show the tell tale line of the bifocals and communicate to the general public the important message "Hey look! I am young! I am not a bifocal wearing loser!". Now this is more expensive than the regular bifocal by a factor of 3, so I went back to the ophthalmologist for advice." What do you think,doctor? Do you think the variable lenses are worht the extra cash?"

He told me that they were both useless. He himself has one regular bifocal, one variable lens and one pair of glasses to look for these two.

Awright then, have fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Week In Review

A lot of things have been happening this week.

First, I got my eyes tested and found out I needed bifocals. Just got me a pair. I'm officially old now.

Just as I was lamenting this sad piece of news and trying to figure out how to mourn it (the answer is "with scotch"), the missus reported a bad shoulder. She had been complaining of pain for a few days now. This morning, she awoke practically unable to move her right arm.

I know what you're thinking. One less arm to hit me with. So did I. But I couldn't bear to see her in tears.

I rushed her to the orthopedic surgeon and an X-ray and sonography later, he told me it was tendinitis, nothing to worry about. Just rest the arm and pop these pills. She'll be fine in no time.

Which means wife is currently lording it in the Shenoy Manor and orders me around like I was her serf or something, which, I realized, I am.

Michael Jackson's death has made him very popular in my house. My kids and their mother can listen to no other. The younger one's even learning the moonwalk, which I shall try to post a video of.

Infact, I've got a little football video of his which I think I'll post. This is under my watch, we were supposed to be studying Science for the Unit Test. I was explaning to him the chapter on Bio-diversity.

But I digress. I was talking about Michael Jackson.

My mother said "He's that man who sings childrens songs doesn't he?"

"Childrens songs?" I didn't seem to recall any.

"He keeps saying My Baby, My Baby. I heard him just now"

"Mom, the baby in that song is not his child. It's his girlfriend"

"His girlfriend is a baby? No wonder he had those child molestation cases against him"

It's no use arguing with mom. Especially where it concerns popular culture.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chopra, for screwing up my weekend

I had boldly asserted in an earlier post that I would not be going for the movie "New York", even though the family was going, because I hated Yash Raj Films. I spoke too soon. My arms, useful as they are for picking up luggage items and operating steering wheels, also offer the missus something to twist when she wants her commands obeyed. These were duly twisted and I accompanied the brood, though reluctantly.

To tell you the truth, I was worried about the following

1. Punjab ke khet

2. Songs involving "Rabba"

3. The mandatory 'Karva Chauth' scene, as guaranteed under article 577(r) of the Constitution ("Fundamental rights of citizens...all Yash Raj Movies shall have a depiction of the Karva Chauth festival where the heroine fasts for the well being of the hero...)

4. Shahrukh Khan showing emotion

and I have to admit that none of these appeared in the movie. Not a single one. Instead, YashRaj Films found a completely different way to screw up the movie for me. They made it totally joyless. Sad. Tragic.

I had read a bit about the plot. About terrorism, planting bombs, being on the trail etc. Ingredients, surely, for a nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat session. Sorry. All dangerous thrilling moments have been carefully strained out for your viewing pleasure. There was nothing remotely exciting. I'll just tell you the plot in simple sentences, so that you can judge for yourself.

1. Omar (N.N. Mukesh) is picked up by the FBI for possessing guns and explosives

2. Roshan (Irfan Khan) tells him that the only way his ass won't get roasted is if he works as a spy for the FBI on Sam aka Sameer SHaikh (John Abraham).

3. Omar tells his story to Roshan as follows

4. Omar joins NYSU

5. Where he is met by Maya (Katrina, John Abraham's wife)

6. Many friendship scenes.

7.Roshan then tells Omar that Sameer is a terrorist running a sleeper cell, and shows him pictures and bios of his associates

8. It turns out that Roshan is right.

9. Some 3 movie hall hours later, Sameer and Maya get shot by the FBI in slow motion. You know, bullet hitting, blood spurting, body jerking under the impact.

Actually, Omar has added nothing to the investigation except tipping the FBI off when the final bombs are planted. The FBI already knew Sameer was a terrorist. They knew all his associates by name, background and location.They could have picked up Sameer and his associates right at the beginning without having to involve Omar at all.

And anyway, the drama has the grip of a Thomas The Engine adventure. All that you take home with you is mental pictures of people being tortured for being terror suspects. These include being urinated upon, suspended from ceilings for days and so on. Which is really gross and depressing.

And when I think of what I'd be doing had Mr. Chopra not inflicted this movie upon us (I would probably have been sampling some decent rum someone brought back from South America. It's probably polished off by now) I'm moved to tears, something that Sameer and Maya weren't able to accomplish inspite of spurting blood in slow motion.

What is it with Bollywood? Why are they incapable of making an enjoyable movie? When someone tries to be funny, they are even more gross, like Kambakkht Ishq, which I still havent seen, by the way.

And can I tell you a scary bit of information? Kambakkht Ishq, according to a news channel I was watching, grossed 100 crore rupees in its first week. Wow! If the average price of a movie ticket is Rs.100, that means 1 crore people watched it in the first week alone. And a hit movie like that will run for atleast 10 weeks. That means 10 crore people. 10% of the population! Assuming that one viewing of this kind movie reduces your IQ by 50 points, and considering that, since Akshay Kumar is considered to be at the peak of his powers, he can make 10 more such movies, we will probably be a nation of blubbering idiots by the end of 2011. You know what that means! The entire nation will look like an Assembly Session.

Still, the movie had a few positives.
1. None of the characters actually sing a song, except NN Mukesh once, but just part of the scene, no 50 piece orchestra
2. The story was written before the movie was shot

Actually the main reason I'm pissed about watching this movie is that it is joyless. Otherwise I guess it is well made.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Damned if I can come up with a title for this one

This is really the name of a building in Bombay. Kanjur Marg, to be precise. Saw it on my way to Bhandup in a train.

Tell me, guys, what you think about this anecdote.

There was an officer in an important position in the government who kept sending in expense accounts with a head in them called "Sundari Expenses". These expense accounts would go through auditors, of course, but they would usually let it pass, assuming them to be Sundry Expenses. Chuckling perhaps, at the typo, but thinking no more about it.

It took a young, diligent (and highly jobless) auditor to actually go into it deeply. He found out that the said "Sundari" was actually this officer's mistress and he had faithfully recorded every expense made on her behalf out of government funds. Sadly for him, his honesty was not given the credit given to people like George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi, which is so discriminatory. The point is, I thought this story was very funny but virtually everyone I've told it to gives me a polite 'ha ha' and I can almost see the 'does this guy have all his marbles' thoughts passing through their heads. And Sheela, following her policy of being frank and forthright about my faults, told me that it was the rottenest joke she had heard this century.

Am I really losing it?

P.S. I composed a Ogden Nash like poem in the guy's honor

The cause of my financial distress
Is the fact that I have a mistress

Rather clever, don't you think? Definitely not the work of someone losing his marbles.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Dear Diary stuff

This is really addictive, this 'dear diary' stuff. I mean, if you want to write about current affairs or economic implications or whatever you need to be in touch with what is happening in the world.

"And brains".

Thank you, Sheela.

Ok, here goes. After watching the movie "Hangover", which incidentally we watched with (preen) Konkona Sen and Ranveer Shorey (who incidentally has a pot belly. Cool! My brother!) we watched "Ice Age 3" , in 3d, with the kids and my mom. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Actually they (my family, not Konkona and Ranveer) had set out to watch "New York", which I refused to view unless physically threatened with fire-arms. I carried a book and decided to sit in the food court reading. Perhaps a foot note is in order here - I do not watch Yash Raj Films movies because of the Punjab ke kheta that tend to spring out of nowhere without warning, usually to a song involving Rabba and Shahrukh Khan which is known to lead to large scale suicide by non-regenerating brain cells used for important thought processes such as selecting an appropriate alcoholic beverage. I'm not made of brain cells you know. The one's I have I want to last the full 100 years or whatever.

"There's no Shahrukh Khan in this movie" said the missus

But I didn't trust her. You can never trust women when it comes to SHahrukh Khan. To any human with a Y chromosome in his body, it is self evident that SRK is a loser, ugly-pug, detestable fraud who thinks a fake stammer is histrionics. But you can't say that to a woman. She will claw your face and you will be lucky to possess the same number of nuts you were born with after she is done with you.

Luckily for me, "New York" turned out to be full, which is how we landed up for a kiddy movie which made more sense than all the YashRaj movies till date.

In other news, I just read that Google is launching a new OS. This is a straight threat to Microsoft, say the analysts. Yeah sure. People have been giving away, for free, Linux OSes better in all respects than Bill's little offerings, immune to viruses and hackers, and Linux - all flavours put together - still has less than 1% of the share. People want to pay money to Bill. I don't know why - probably his body - but they do. It is one of the facts of nature, like gravity or the insistence of the Chinese that every piece of land on earth was once an integral part of their country and they want it back.

And it is official. The movie "Kambakht Ishq" is the worst movie in the world. One of my favorite bloggers once told me that he wanted to make, for World Record purposes, the worst movie in the world and he had decided to name it "Chandni Chowk to Drona". Well his job just got harder. Beating "Kambakht Ishq" is likely to be impossible "even for me" as Akshay Kumar himself admitted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dear Diary stuff

"It's a bit low", the missus said when I told her I was going to write a sort of online diary in my blog.

"Low? Why?"

" Well you're not exactly important are you? You are not even interesting"


"I mean, to random people on the street. Why don't you write something instructive and informative?"

"What about?" I asked.

"About something you know well. Something that would interest the general public. Something they can benefit from."

I racked my brains.

"Like a drinking guide?"

She rolled her eyes.

"Alright, smarty pants, go write that diary. But don't be surprised if you see your readership dwindle to single digits."

Ha! She doesn't know it is in single digits already. Anyway, here goes.

Narendra Shenoy presents - A fascinating account of his daily life.

"Have you seen Hangover?" my sister asked me.

Seen hangovers? Me? Has the captain of the Titanic seen icebergs? Has Genghis Khan seen horses? Has W.J.Clinton of Little Rock, Arkansas, seen interns? Of course I have. But I said all this in my mind, because my sister, my kid sister, the one whose pigtails I used to pull and dolls I used to break, is a full fledged dentist, licensed to put sharp, whirring equipment in my mouth. I give her LOTS of respect.

So I told her that I had not only seen them, I had experienced them too. Though not with the regularity I would have liked, but that is because of the missus who refuses to believe that alcohol is a medicine.

"Not that hangover, you twit, the movie", she said.

(There was a little side dialog happening between my sister and my wife, if you're interested in my personal life. I forget the exact words, but it went something like this

Sis: (To Missus): Is he ALWAYS like this?

Missus: YOU should know. He is YOUR brother.

Sis: I know. Useless to hush it up now. You know, you should fix this.

Missus: YOU fix it. You are the one he's really afraid of.

Sis: Hmm. Send him over on Wednesday afternoon for a dental check up.

Chilling, if you know what I mean.)

And so, the missus and I saw the movie called "Hangover" last night. It's brilliant! One of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Don't miss it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What I have been up to lately

I've been having those blog blues everyone seemed to be writing about sometime back. You know, didn't write because I couldn't think of anything interesting to say.

"Doesn't seem to stop you from talking", observed the missus, "not having anything interesting to say, I mean".

The missus confuses insult for wit, but I am dignity personified.

"Many people enjoy my writing, I will have you know", I told her in my most majestic manner, drawing myself up to my full height, which being half an inch less than the elder son, robs me of my alpha male status.

Any way, all this is by way of introduction to what I wanted to write about, which is that I'm back to school. Well sort of. I joined a course in Robotics.

When I announced my intention to join up, the missus raised a shapely eyebrow.

"Why?" I asked her combatively "you think I'm too old for the classroom?"

"Naren, this course is for final year engineering students looking to add some value to their CVs, not geriatric wannabe technology geeks."

She seemed to have read the prospectus.

"Well, I'm joining up anyway", I told her, chest out, stomach in, like my gym instructor keeps telling me.

And off I went, with the requisite amount of finance in my hands. The young lady in charge curtly asked me for my qualifications and asked me if I could see programming.

"I beg your pardon?"

"See programming", she reiterated.

"See Programming? I'm afraid I don't understand.. Ah C programming!" I'm pretty quick on the uptake. The lady was referring to the ability to write instructions for computers in a language called, for reasons best known to the highest echelons of geekness, 'C'.

I confessed that I was not an expert.

"It is very very important." she asserted, sternly, adding "If you don't know C programming, we will set you on fire" or something along those lines.

I decided something had to be done about this, and walked into a computer training institute near my house. An earnest young woman made me fill out a form and accepted my fees.

"We will start day after tomorrow, she told me.

When I reached home, I got a call from her.

"Sir, there are a couple of things you left out in the form. Could you come by and complete it?"

"If I tell you over the phone, could you fill it out yourself?" I asked her

"I suppose so", she replied. "Ok, what's your father's name?"

"V. V. Shenoy"

"And what is your date of birth?"

"21st april 1965"


"I mean YOUR date of birth, sir, not your father's"

Now it is my turn to pause.

"Miss, that IS my date of birth."


Well that was that as far as the computer training institute was concerned but the robotics course had its charming moments too.

We did the usual first session hellomynameis stuff followed by branch and year of passing out. I passed my engineering in 1986. All the other students are born after this date. And the teacher calls me "Sir". Most of the class thought I was on deputation from the State Government to assess the quality of students and teachers, and spent the first two sessions behaving as if I was an Aztec god looking for some decent human sacrifices..............