Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Public Debates and Questions Asked Therein

I attended a jolly little debate recently on Environment V/s Development and while I generally give these things the miss, on the sensible grounds that I have little or nothing to contribute, I couldn't jog out of this one on account of the big cheese being an old college pal of mine.

I tooled up at the appointed hour and occupied, on the prompting of the big cheese, one of those seats with RESERVED written on them in large letters. It is immensely satisfying, the occupation of seats with RESERVED written on them, but of course YOU wouldn't know that  because YOU've never been asked to occupy seats with RESERVED written on them, now, have you? If you will pardon the expression, Ha Ha!

Anyway, the debate was well conducted. The speakers were really eminent people and spoke much that made sense. I'm of course one of those feeble minded blokes who tends to agree with virtually anything is said to him, as you probably know already, but even I could tell that strong arguments were being made strongly.

The debate paused after each side made their arguments and the general public was invited to ask questions. Now I don't really attend too many of these things as I said earlier but I felt more that ever that we must have the worst question askers in the world.

The first doofus from the general public stood up and was handed a wireless mike. There was a bit of "Hello Mike testing one two three" (which, whenever I get the opportunity, I change to "Mike's testes, one two three". This, in my opinion, is the second most satisfying thing about these do's, the first being of course, occupying seats with RESERVED written on them) after which the doofus hemmed and hawed and told us his name. Yeah. We were dying to know. Now go ahead and say your thing, you nematode. And then he told us a long piece about how distinguished he was and how he agreed with many things that were said today, and how he was unlike most other people who wouldn't know a thing about what was being said and.... he would have gone on had the moderator not butted in and asked him to get to the point. Where upon he asked his question which was something to the effect that India was a better place now that 50 years ago.

Yeah, said the moderator, so what's your question?

That only



Then it flashed upon the moderator that the chap had possibly been having a drop or two on the sly and mumbled "I think we can take that question as answered by the questioner himself. Who's next?"

That, for me, was the highlight of the evening.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Raans

Last night we went to a little eatery called Persian Durbar, in Bandra West. There were four of us and the mission was to eat a preparation called Three in one Raan, which essentially is roasted leg of lamb.

We ate and ate. And ate. And couldn't finish it, there was that much. I loved the delicate smoked flavor and the no-nonsense presentation. After a post prandial phirni, I reclined on the settee and reminsced.

I've wanted to eat Raan for a long time but never managed to get the three other like minded people needed to finish one portion of it. Till yesterday that is.

I've eaten a similar thing before. In Spain, of all places. And curiously, as part of an airline meal.

We flew from Madrid to Barcelona and they served us a little Paella rice with a small piece of roasted leg of lamb.

It was delicately flavoured and quite unlike anything European. I wondered if it was the Moorish influence. Arabic, perhaps. Or Numidian.

The stewardess, upon being asked what it was called, delivered five thousand Spanish words on the subject, the gist of which, since I don't speak that lovely language beyond saying Gracias (which is pronounced Grathias for some reason), escaped me.

I went around Barcelona looking for something similar but never found it. Not surprising, I guess, since my enquiries comprised of the English words "Leg", "Lamb", "Roasted" and a lot of nimble mime movements. Several of the waiters to whom I presented this performance looked at me anxiously. The missus, who was accompanying me, kept imploring me in Konkani not to make an ass of myself. With sadness, I abandoned my quest.

And it would have stayed abandoned had it not been for the fact that on the flight back, we were served the same thing again! This time, I went around the city of Madrid in search but alas in vain. If that city roasted its lamb legs, they kept it from outsiders.

The missus observed that conventional wisdom had it that the Raan in Spain stayed mainly on the plane, but I felt I would have found it had I only known Spanish better.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My teachers day anecdote

Teachers day just came and went and like everything else these days, was celebrated on twitter. Some reminisced about the good teachers, others about the bad. I couldn't help remembering our old Drawing Master.

We had many good teachers who did a fairly decent job of educating the bunch of us. There were a few who were spectacularly bad of course, but they were largely ignored. Some were fairly funny. But Popat is one chap I will always remember.

Popat wasn't his name, of course. His name was  Sule or Patil or something - escaped my memory for the nonce - but we used to call him Popat for reasons long forgotten. Popat means 'parrot' in Marathi, but it also slang for the, er, pee director or baby maker as the lads are wont to describe it.

Popat used to teach us drawing and was actually a very good artist. He was also very committed, come to think of it.

Drawing class in the pre-Popat era involved drawing very formalized representations of 'scenery'. This used to consist of three mountains, one sun peeping out from between mountains 1 and 2, a river emanating from between mountains 2 and 3, a house consisiting of 1 door, 2 windows and a sloping roof. The real freedom came in the foreground where people could draw as many boys as girls as they liked, though most of us stuck to one each, carefully drawn to resemble alien beings.

Popat was an artist, however. He hated these three-mountain sceneries with a passion. He would ask us to draw anything we liked.

"Draw something you have seen. Draw your desk", he would tell us. "Or draw your pencil box."

But the bunch of us, brought up on years of three-mountains-one-sun-one-river, couldn't understand any of what Popat told us. We continued to draw three-mountains, to Popat's despair

"What is your favorite animal", he asked a boy, randomly. Prahalad his name was, I remember. Aka Palli.

"Donkey" said Palli, to the great amusement of the class. Back then, certain words were the pinnacle of humor. You only had to say "donkey" or "monkey" or even "mad" to send an entire audience into paroxysms of laughter. Palli had cracked one such immortal joke.

"Alright, then, draw a donkey" said Popat, unfazed.

Palli dug around in his bag looking for his English textbook because we had a story in it about a man and his son taking a donkey to the market, and it had several illustrations. Palli's plan, sound chap that he was, was to copy the animal from one of those illustrations.

"What are you doing?" asked Popat

"Sir, looking for a picture of a donkey, sir" said Palli who, while perhaps a tad low on deductive skills, had the sterling character and honesty of Abe Lincoln.

"No, no, no looking at picture bicture. Look at my face and draw a donkey" said Popat.

I laughed out loudly. Even back then, I had a particularly irritating laugh. On that day, it had the opprobrious quality of poking fun at a teacher. To make matters worse for me, I was the only boy in class who laughed. This was unusual because I was usually slow on the uptake (TFC - short for "tube with fucked up choke" - was an occasional nickname) but that afternoon I had chosen to be the Mister Quick

Popat froze.

Realising what he had just said, he pulled me out of the desk in an instant and whipped my butt with a cane that was standard issue to teachers back then.

This didn't bother me all that much because one, we were used to this kind of stuff and two, that being a day I hadn't done reams of homework, I had, in anticipation of an attack to the gluteal region, strategically inserted one of our wash-basin turkish towel napkins into my undies, which took the sting away. I was more worried about the note he wrote my parents, a note saying that I was a very bad boy, though he left out the real reason for this assessment.

I hesitantly gave the note to my father, a busy doctor who, though never given to flashes of temper, could get a little irritated if shown too much foolishness. Dad was having his breakfast.

"What's this?" he asked, with a frown?

"Our drawing sir is angry with me because I laughed at him"

'Why did you laugh at him?"

"He said 'Look at my face and draw a donkey'"

To my relief, his face broke into a smile.

"Hmm. Don't do this again"

He signed the note and that was that. Popat, luckily for me, got promoted as supervisor of the primary section or something, and went out of my academic life for ever. And we happily continued to draw the three-mountain scenes, steadily improving over the years.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Problems with being an alleged humorist

I wrote this post, hit the publish button, read thru it, got existential doubts, deleted the thing, which by then had made it to the reader of @sandeip who told me, on twitter, that it wasn't all that bad, and that I had written worse. This persuaded me to republish it except that like the ass that I am, I didn't have a copy. This was provided by @sandeip, culled from his reader, and HE is the guy you have to blame for having the following inflicted upon you.

The missus calls me an alleged humorist, for a variety of reasons.

Her primary  one is that, in her opinion, I am never funny. Not intentionally, anyway. She rarely if ever finds any hilarity in my kind of humor. Especially the word-play kind.

"Hmm. So Dr. Spooner was suspicious of his wife's hair-dresser because he parted her hair."

"Er, yes"

"Meaning Dr. Spooner thought he had hearted her pair."

"Er, yes."

"Dr. Spooner being the one who said things like 'he went up the hill pantless and breathing' when he meant to say 'he went up the hill breathless and panting'?

I nodded.


'Droll' is missus speak for 'haakthoo', as you might have gathered.

Not that she's Bob Hope or anything herself. I caught her gossiping with one of her friends about another friend who had recently purchased a vineyard which she (the other friend) endlessly crowed about. As it happened, the vineyard seemed to  be having a run of bad luck with the crop.

"She had a unsatisfactory  yeild, I hear" said the friend.

"You must have heard it on the grape whine" said the missus and the two tittered along for a good ten minutes. I pointed out the sadness of that joke with a long, dejected stare at the two but they didn't seem to notice it.

The kids are equally bad. In addition to trying me out as a sounding board for all their silly jokes, they also tell me some of the grossest, most embarassing jokes ever told by 14 and 17 year olds to their greying father. It doesn't help that I am usually slow on the uptake.  

The silly ones are bad enough. Splattered across these blog posts are several prime examples but new ones keep coming all the time.

"Annie, why did the chicken jump from the back of one buffalo to the other?" 

This when I'm going through a lengthy mail from a customer reprimanding me for tardy delivery in fairly juicy language. But my kids are not easily shooed away.

"Ok, why?"

"To get on the other's hide."

Not to be outdone, the younger one piped up.

"Annie, why did the chicken go from one nagging woman to another?"

This seemed a bit unusual. I was intrigued.


"To get to the other chide."

"Guys, please. I'm trying to get some work done here."

"Annie, what is a panty raid?"


"There it is. In your inbox. The subject of the mail from Victoria's Secret. Join us in a Panty Raid."

So it was. It's a long story, but has an entirely honourable explanation. But when you are caught flatfooted like that it can be awkward.

"Annie, why does Victoria's Secret send you mail?"

"Will you boys leave me alone?" I shouted in exasperation

"Annie", said the lad in a sad voice, "you know your problem? No sense of humour".