Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Resolutions and their part in my downfall

It's that time of the year.

"What's your new year resolution?" asked the missus.

"What's yours?" I countered.

"Not fair. I asked you first"

"In any case, it's only the thrityfirst" I pointed out. "Resolutions are supposed to be made on the first of the new year"

"Fast" added son


"That new instructor in the gym, Ghosh, he says "fast" for first"

Both missus and I ignored him.

"I don't agree" continued the missus "Resolutions should be made on the thirtyfirst. So that you know what you have to do from the moment you wake up on the first"

This was getting a bit technical. I prepared to concede the point. We Shenoys are not at our strongest when technical points are flung at us.

"It would make a good name for a laxative in Calcutta" piped in the son

"What?" The lad often makes the head spin

"Thirtyfirst. It would make a good name for a laxative in Calcutta"

Despite my good sense telling me not to, I asked him


"Because in Calcutta, they would pronounce it 'tatti fast'"

"GO AWAY!" both missus and I yelled at him, but it was as water on a duck's back.

With a cheery "you know your trouble, you old people? No sense of humor" and nimbly avoiding a plastic jar of vanishing cream, he vanished into the living room

"Leave him me" counselled the missus "and tell me what your new year resolution is"

"Ah" I said. I had been preparing this awhile. "Hold on to your chair. This is going to shock you"

"Try me"

"Are you ready?"

"Tell me"

"I'm going to stop playing chess"


"I knew you would be shocked"

"Shocked? What kind of resolution is that? I was expecting something in the nature of 'I'm going to work out in the gym six days a week, all year' "

"Well, I..."

"In fact, I'm deciding a resolution for you. Repeat after me. "I, Naren, do solemnly swear, ....'

And thus I have been arm twisted into agreeing to go to the gym six days a week, regardles rain, shine or hangover.

Hope YOU've had a better time.

Cheers and wish you a happy new year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Has the newspaper come?

It was a breezy August in Mysore. I was in missus' house, for a wedding. A close relative of hers. We had been married just four months before, the missus and I, and this was the first time I was staying in her house, if you didn't count the couple of days I spent there just after my wedding. Then I was the star of the show, with people dancing attendance and treating my every wish as a royal command. As realization gradually dawned that N Shenoy was, not withstanding his stellar ability to talk about nothing for hours, actually a doofus, the treatment floated down to a more no-nonsense informal "want some tea?" level, which, frankly, was a great relief.

I pottered around the house with nothing specific to do. There was no internet of course -this was the early nineties -  and TV was mostly agricultural shows hosted by Doordarshan, which weren't all that bad, come to think of it. What I didn't know back then about crop rotation and the judicious use of pesticides wasn't worth knowing.

And one early morning, when this anecdote begins, I found myself with little to do and in a position to sympathize with employees of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, poor chaps, who get to office bright and early, bathed, dressed, Charlie perfume sprayed and find themselves with eight hours to kill with eyes wide open.

There was a Vishnu Sahasranama playing in the background. The puja room was being cleaned and decked in flowers. In the kitchen, people were busy preparing for breakfast. Dosa batter was being checked for consistency. Chutney was being ground. I could smell some mouthwatering filter coffee being brewed. Missus was sitting, brow furrowed, with the intense concentration of a chess player - Gary Kasparov could have taken her correspondence course - applying nail polish. And I was in the living room with an elderly uncle of missus. A sprightly octagenarian with a military mustache, I had never actually conversed with him. It was about six in the morning and I was aimlessly wandering around the place, hoping someone would take pity on me and ask me if I wanted coffee, where upon I would shyly say no, no, don't bother, whereupon the asker would insist and I would end up with a hot cupful of that superb smelling filter coffee.

Suddenly, the uncle addressed me. "Has the paper come?"

I darted out towards the gate, where the paper would be stuck by the delivery guy, and found it tragically paperless.

"Er, no, not come yet" I said, in my most apologetic voice

"Hrmpfh!", uncle snorted

And I slunk into a corner of the living room, feeling strangely responsible for his disappointment.

At five past six, he approached me again. "Has the paper come?"

Off I sprinted again towards the gate and found it still bare.

"No, no paper yet"


At ten past six, I got the treatment yet again.  "Has the paper come?"

I did my Carl Lewis sprint to the gate and back

"No, uncle, no paper"


This kept happening at five minute intervals and I was seriously feeling bad. Ashoka had nothing on me after the Kalinga war.

And then, around seven, the blasted newspaper guy FINALLY delivered the paper. I ran on wings of happiness, grasped the paper, called it "my precioussss" and ran back to uncle

"Here's the paper!" I told him triumphantly, like the lioness presenting the alpha male of the pride with the Thomson's gazelle.

He took it from me, looked at it, tossed it aside without reading a word and said "Hrmpfh!"

It's twenty years now, but I still haven't recovered. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Skyfall has been watched" and other things

We went to watch "Skyfall" last night, the missus and I, after the entire known universe, including small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, has seen it and found it boring. "I went to sleep in the fifth minute" says a friend who does not wish to be named, and since he tends to get a little dramatic, adds that "had it not been for the kindly cleaners who woke me up after the movie was over and ushered me out of the movie hall, I would probably have taken root there, with anthills forming around me, lying motionless for centuries..".

Well, I didn't think it was all that bad. Rather enjoyed it, in fact. 

Bond movies, for me, are pretty much the same as economic newspapers, with their hair raising articles on the macro-economic outlook and how the world will surely implode unless the Federal Reserve reduces the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points. I have no clue what is going on but the breathless excitement is unmistakable and every now and then, you get an IMF chief or two having a steamy scene.

Same with the Bond movie. There is the insanely dare-devil chase, where a succession of innocent small business owners lose their merchandise and places of business owing to first the villain and then Bond desiring to drive through them, instead of around. Eventually, the villain, unless he is the arch villain, gets killed, Bond smooths his Saville row suit, and proceeds to behave IMF-chief-like with an impossibly sexy seductress, before picking up the trail of the arch-villain. And on it goes.

But this time, I could tell it was different. There was a brooding quality about the movie, rather like an editorial about the imminent collapse of the real-estate market in Shanghai, and, as far as I know, the first Bond tears in the five decades or so that he's been around.

Missus loved it. She generally goes for the sentimental sort of movie where someone falls in love with someone else in the first fifteen minutes and both parties cry their eyes out for the balance two hours fortyfive because it can never be, but Bond movies are her one exception. I think she's secretly in love with Shri Craig.

"I had a physique like Daniel Craig, back in engg college" I tell her, to which she laughs heartily, pinches my cheek, and tells me she finds it sweet that I still feel insecure about her. "I do NOT!", I protest, for I do not, but she just laughs louder and we go on for a spot of dinner at Mainland China, an eatery - a chain, actually - I heartily recommend because they gave me, after a perfectly topping dinner, a sizzling brownie with icecream, free. 

Younger son, of course had a joke up his sleeve. 
"Annie, annie"
"You've heard of Brooke Shields?"
"Of course. Heartthrob of my generation. Acted in a tremendously boring movie called Endless Love... what about her?"
"Know why Brooke Shields doesn't marry James Bond?"
"Err... because she never acted in a Bond movie?"
"No, Annie. Because then she'd be known as Brooke Bond"
"Go away! "

Monday, December 17, 2012

Random thoughts of a Monday evening

Rather jolly little Monday this has been, I must say. Mondays are usually when your past catches up with you, with all the promises you had made in the nature of "I'll do it next week, for sure" in the optimistic belief that tomorrow never comes, arriving for encashment, and make you wonder if you weren't actually better off taking up sanyasa like that spurned-in-love-and-thereby-unbalanced-distant-uncle of yours.

This Monday, as I was saying, was different. I was jobless pretty much all day, waiting for various chaps to finish whatever they were doing and meet me, and when they did meet me, they acquiesced with whatever I was saying, reducing a potentially wordy duel to a feast of reason and flow of soul. I pondered long and hard on the nature of life and its strange ironies, while I did the waiting, for I am a philosopher at heart. Sadly, however, I am  a philospher who should have taken memory lessons as a child because while I remember thinking the ripest thoughts, I remember virtually none of them. There was something awfully clever about Narendra Modi which sadly I have lost for ever. Sigh.

But the night being yet young, I decided to curry some favor with the missus. She has been disappointed with me the last few weeks. Apparently, I have been spending far too much time on twitter and far too little with her. The lad stoked the fire a bit by asking her why she didn't get a twitter account and be on my timeline, thus dousing the proverbial campfire with a gallon of gasoline. All in all, the domestic situation was not unlike the UN after a weekend of bomb-tossing on the Gaza strip.

 Thus we decided to go for a movie. The movie chosen was a thing called Red Dawn. In this day and age, that can mean anything. It could be a Hindi movie with a couple of love-starved teenagers braving the cruel world or a Tom Cruise samurai based epic for all I knew. The missus, who had gotten her reviews mixed up, thought it was a romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler.

In my case, the first connect was some underwear I used to own. Dawn used to be a famous undie brand in my time. Dawn Underweeyer, Dawn Baniyaaan is a jingle no male of my generation would be unfamiliar with. They were usually white but I had a pair which had shared a washtub with a deep red dupatta of singularly unfast color and consequently, Red Dawn was not without meaning for me. Wisely, however, I refrained from sharing this delightful bit of trivia with the missus.

Anyway, it turned out to be a full time NRA philosophy based gunfight orgy. The plot was delightfully harebrained. North Koreans land in America by parachute and take over the country, quelling its military and civil government, only to be undone by the brave resistance offered by six or seven young people wielding many kinds of guns and explosives. I thought it was wonderful, and I sincerely hope they come up with something equally awesome for a sequel, say the Aleutian Islands taking over China and de-communist-izing them.

Tooled off to a nearby eatery for soup and salads and at the moment of going to press, I am contentedly reviewing my realm, which consists of a bottle or two of scotland's finest, and thinking of what goes better with a Monday evening, Whiskey on ice with a dash of water or just plain old whiskey on the rocks.

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In which we go to the GnR concert and I troll the son

We went to the Guns N Roses concert yesterday, missus, son and I. Son graciously agreed to go on his own but missus wouldn't hear of it. She's terrified of him getting into bad company. I suggested that bad company should be terrified of getting into him.
"This is just the sort of wisecrack you men like to make. Where are your maternal instincts?"
I couldn't think of a suitable comeback to this and maintained a gentlemanly silence. There were the usual anxious moments without which no Shenoy family outing is complete. I had booked tickets online, which meant I got a mail which I had to print out, along with copies of my id and credit card and exchange all of that for tickets at the venue. I had assumed rock stars, like most shy mammals, preferred coming out after dark and thought 7 pm would be a good time to go. And then missus discovered that gates opened at 4pm. So we rushed and managed to reach breathless and panting - or, as Dr. Spooner would have put it, pantless and breathing - at 6pm to find that nothing had really started and wasnt expected to begin till 7.30. I tried to glare at missus but she just pinched my cheek and told me to cheer up and look at the bright side, we'd have an extra hour to look at the weirdos.

And we were well rewarded. Say what you will about rock shows, there is no denying that square meter for square meter, it has more strange creatures than an Amazonian rain forest. There were people who looked like they had been tucked into their clothes with a giant shoe horn, there were people who had tatooes all over whatever was visible of their bodies and last but not the least, at least a dozen people who could enter a fancy dress competition as potted plants and win.

The show started on time and as usual, I couldn't figure out a word of what they were saying. I always have this problem with western popular music. And yet, everyone else seeemed to know exactly what was being sung. Words, music, everything. I cowed down in submission

After a while, like the frogs in the pond in Aesop's fable who stopped being afraid of the log, I was emboldened to do my own head banging and silently mouthing imaginary lyrics. To the first song, I sang Hamlet's soliloquy, the to-be-or-not-to-be one, which I had been forced to memorize in school for an elocution competition, the only reward of which is that my schoolmates still call me Omlette, and the words fitted in remarkably well. And best of all, son was very impressed. "Wow, dude. Didn't know you knew the words to this one". I preened but by then the song had changed to "sweet child of mine" which I know because son plays it EVERY SINGLE DAY in the car when I go to drop him to school. However, I know only the words "sweet child of mine" so I sang Wordsworth's "Daffodils" except when they sang the "sweet child of mine" line when I did likewise. So I went "They wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vale and hill when all at once sweet child of mine" and son was none the wiser.

After sometime, my knees started hurting and so did my ears. Missus was looking the most forlorn I have seen her in decades. We held each other and swayed gently to the next song, Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, (she probably sang something from Sajda, one of her favorite albums).

I spent the next hour or so thinking what fun it would be if Axl Rose metamorphosed into Mallikarjun Mansur and started singing Nayaki Kanada (Imagine the headlines: "Ten thousand rock fans die of cardiac arrest as Axl Rose sings Nayaki Kanada). Every now and then, whenever I could grab the lad's ear, I would suitably troll. Can't remember what it was exactly, I'll post when it comes back, but I remember it being raucously funny. Son of course "gave khunnas" as they say in Mumbai and a pleasant time was had by all

Cheers and bye for now. A Monday morning beckons, something that I'm never at ease with.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In other news....

In other news..

I'm being dragged this Sunday, against my wishes, I might add, to a Guns N Roses  concert, by younger son.

'Why are you doing this to me?" I protested

"It's not that bad, dude. You'll enjoy it"

"I doubt it. Most of them sound like patients with colicky pain"

"Mom's coming too"

This was too much to swallow. "What!" I exclaimed. Missus' distaste for loud music is legendary. She prefers the soft crooning of ghazal singers going on about mohabbat and guftagoo, which latter, incidentally, I used to think was the Urdu name for a pigeon's gurgling, till missus explained it means private conversation. Perhaps it means the private conversations of pigeons, one forgets these things. Anyway, missus' preferences are strongly for that sort of thing and I continued goggling at the lad.

"Actually she thinks it's some kind of fashion show"

My eyeballs continued to protrude

"Fashion show"

"I told her it was a show called Gowns and hoses"

"You're going to get it good when she finds out"

"Hahaha" he laughed cheerily and traipsed off with nary a care in the world.

Such is the fearlessness of youth

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rajini jokes and their part in my downfall

I don't know what it is about me that attracts astro-numerologists, mosquitoes and, distressingly, of late, Rajinikanth joke tellers to me in droves.

If you remember that old experiment one used to do in high school with iron filings scattered randomly on a sheet of paper and you introduce a magnet underneath and all the filings sort of rush to that spot, some very close, almost on top of the magnet, some a little distance away, not because they don't want to get closer to the magnet but because all the space close to the magnet is already taken up by other iron filings? That's me. I'm the magnet. The sheet of paper is the party or dinner I'm at and the iron filings are the astro-palmo-numerologists. Or mosquitoes.

Or, as happened the other day, Rajinikanth joke tellers.

You're probably familiar with the first two. The astro-palmo-taroto-numerologist is usually an erudite looking gentleman or a serene school-marm-ly woman who looks like she should have been the ex-Maharani of Cooch Behar who will ask you for your date of birth, add all the digits till they are divisible by nine and tell you your character. It's an impressive science, with societies and chapters and what not but due to a perverse streak in my character, caused possibly by the fact that my date of birth is not naturally divisible by nine, I don't believe in it and I tend to reveal this disbelief by making sarcastic observations.

I know. You have sucked in your breath in disbelief that one so apparently a nice-guy can be capable of villainy of this order but it is true. I do not believe and I display it.

And the poor  gentleman or school marm, as the case may be, retreats with an eyebrow raised, as one might from a Bufo toad or a member of the legal profession, and I don't blame them. I would do the same under the circs, if I were them.

Mosquitoes too, are passionate about N Shenoy. They look upon me as a vast buffet table, sampling here an ear salad or there a neck au-gratin till they can take no more and stagger off to the balcony to smoke a cigarette. But these I have bested with a new bug-spray someone got from America which works superlatively.

It is the last named group that I find my self helpless against. The Rajini joke tellers. They spot me from a mile away and approach me with a steely glint in their eye.

"Hi, Naren!"

"Hi! How are things?"

"Couldn't be better! And you?"

"Oh, getting by, getting by"

"So heard the latest Rajini Joke?"

"Er, I have to get going.."

"Here", says the person, holding my sleeve with their right hand while they whip out their cellphone with their left, scrolling down the SMS list

"here it was.... just a minute...."

"I really do need to get going.."

"Hang on.. dammit where is.. ah, got it..Rajinikanth once killed a terrorist in Pakistan via blue tooth"


"Dude, it's a joke. A JOKE!" and then, mumbling "Don't suppose you know what a joke is" under his or her breath, potters off to spread the news that N Shenoy is the most humorless man in this hemisphere. These things sting. I know they shouldn't. You are no doubt soothingly saying "There, there, Naren, don't personalize these things. They happen" but it is very well for you to say so. You are not the affected party.

No, what I need is an antidote and my pleas, which I aired on Twitter, did not go unheeded. The plan is, broadly, to tell deeply abstruse Rajini jokes to the Rajini joke teller, who has walked up intending to tell you that a Tata Nano was a Tata truck that ran into Rajinikanth, and watch the blighter's face.

Here are a select few.

Rajinikanth knows a number smaller than 1729 which can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways [1]

Rajinikanth knows the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously [2]

From the inimitable @i_r_squared 

Rajinikanth can change the temperature and pressure of a substance at its triple point without changing its physical state [3]

Rajinikanth can find the eigenvalue and eigenvectors for a non-square matrix. [4]

Rajinikanth can solve for n unknowns using only n-1 equations. [5]

From @utprekshaa 

Rajinikanth can compute the inverse of a matrix with determinant zero [6]

From @sribkain

Rajnikanth can turn a sphere into a doughnut and disprove the Poincare conjecture. [7]

From @techrsr
Rajinikanth can actually exist in 26 dimensional Calabi Yau space. [8]

Apologies if I'm missed out some. Gotta go to work, so in a hurry.

Cheers and have a great day, remembering that Rajinikanth knows an effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic which is both consistent and complete [9]

[1] Famous anecdote where the mathematician G H Hardy remarked to Ramanujan that he came by a cab which had a boring number - 1729. To which Ramanujan instantly replied "No, no, Hardy! On the contrary, it's a most interesting number. It's the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways!" (12^3+1^3 and 10^3+9^3).
In his honour, we have the Ramanujan cocktail, which is the smallest drink that can be made with two ice cubes in two different ways

[2] This is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states that the position and momentum of a particle cannot be known simultaneously. Cannot? CANNOT?? Not for Rajini

[3] This is a physical property of a substance where the three phases of that substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. It is also the kind of thing engineers whisper into other engineers' ears with whom they hope to have a romantic relationship

[4] An eigenvector of a square matrix is a non-zero vector that, when multiplied by the matrix, yields a vector that differs from the original at most by a multiplicative scalar 

[5] Cannot be done. N unknowns need N equations. Unless you are Rajini

[6] Again, cannot be done unless you are Rajini

[7] As above

[8] As above

[9] The famous Godel incompleteness theorem. Messrs Russel and Northhead expended large amounts of cerebral effort to write a monumental work called Principia Mathematica in which derived all mathematical truths from a well-defined set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic when along came Godel and demolished all of that with his elegantly worded theorem which was paraphrased by my son when I attempted to upgrade my old phone to a new Android Operating System. He used the words "Dude, it can't be done" which is precisely Godel's first Incompleteness Theorem

Thursday, November 22, 2012

General Thoughts on Many Things

I had a lovely time last week, the week of diwali. I went of to this wonderful wildlife park called the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, about 3 hours from Nagpur. I sort of went on work. We contract-manufacture a fuel efficient wood burning stove for an American not-for-profit organization which distributes them in Sudan and I wanted to see if the stoves could be used in areas around wildlife reserves such as these.

It turns out, prima facie at least, that the stoves are a great idea. They're very efficient, very inexpensive and virtually everyone in the forested areas uses wood for fuel. Why? Well, for one, wood is easily available in the forest (duh), and second, this firewood is free, which is just as well because most people around these parts are very poor marginal farmers. I figured that since our stove is efficient, it would make some difference at least, since people are going to keep using firewood in any case.

The group of people I went with are committed wildlife conservationists who have the excellent idea that if marginal farmers in and around core areas of wildlife reserves are provided with a steady source of income, they would welcome the opportunity and would not hesitate to let their land be re-occupied by forest. It's operationally tricky - their plan is not to buy the land or acquire it or anything, just have a gentleman's agreement with the farmer to have him stop farming and take a steady income stream in lieu of it. They plan to do this for five years initially. If the farmer is not happy, he can go back to tilling the land and give up the income stream - and as might have occurred to you, it depends entirely on whether the farmers actually treat the gentleman's agreement in a gentlemanly way, but my hosts, who have been working in this area for several decades now, believe that it will. Raising a toast to that, because if the experiment succeeds, it will increase the area of the wildlife reserve, improve the lot of the marginal farmers in the area and generally be good news for the animals living in the forest.

After I got back, we had a series of dinners at home. And being the princely host, I can't not have a drink or two with my guests. So much to the missus' chagrin - the missus is of the school of thought that I should go around with *shudder* a glass of coke in my hand and pretend that there is rum in it - I have been drinking like a fish. It has begun to show around the mezzanine floor and the formerly  (circa 1985) washboard abs have begun to resemble an experimental geodesic structure. Friends have begun to make tactless observations. One went so far as to crack an allegedly humorous joke which I'm giving below, just to let you know how unkind the world is.

The joke: Moe and Joe are sitting in a sauna
Joe:  Moe, you've really grown fat
Moe: I know. Need to do something about it. Why, I haven't seen my willy for years
Joe: Why don't you diet?
Moe: Why, what color is it now?
Me: *glum silence*

Well, that's mostly all for now. I wanted to write more about the Tadoba forest but the missus is yelling for me to have dinner - bean sprouts salad and barley and broccoli soup, if you must know, accompanied by a glass of unsalted buttermilk that has neither butter nor milk, just a sort of watery white liquid - and I had better attend to that instanter.

Ciao and have a good weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2012

General rant on the phenomenon of Government giving itself arbitrary powers

I'm not much of a lad for political statement. I usually shuffle on to the next TV channel when I see someone hyperventilating about someone else having embezzled gazillions and what's worse, not having passed on any of the gazillions embezzled to the chap hyperventilating. As people have started observing, this is mostly trial by media, much in the nature of the lynch mobs in western novels, or witch hunts and as such, completely unfair and undesirable. It has to stop. But, as others have pointed out, it won't stop till there is a marked decline in corruption and abuse of power. And so it goes on.

"Why, then", you ask, shrewdly, in my opinion, "are you writing about it?"

Well, I have a pet theory of corruption, which I wanted to sound you out on, which goes "Remove the powers of your government to regulate things that do not concern it and most corruption will simply vanish"

"Very nice, of course, Naren" you will say, just to humor me, "but how is government to govern if it does not have any powers? Tell me that. Or perhaps it might have escaped your attention. It's a state of existence called anarchy"

Perhaps you are right. We can't just yank out all the government's powers just like that. We need law and order. We need justice. And the defense of the realm can't be left to the goodnaturedness of the folk living in the border areas

But the police deciding what time night clubs should go on till?

"We have decided" the police chief will say in a pompous voice "that anyone who revels until 59 seconds past twenty nine minutes after one a.m. is a law abiding citizen but only until then. After that moment, he is civilizations worst offender, as far as we are concerned, and fit to be thrown in with others in for minor misdemeanors such as rape and murder"

WE gave the police that power. Why, I can't imagine, but we DID. And unless we take it away, they're going to keep abusing it. What's in it for them? Some good, clean, wholesome fun and of course, the possibility that the night club owners will get together and slip them a little something every once in a while to look the other way because it hurts their business and customers, being what they are, don't always like to end their revelry at legally specified moments.

I propose that we take away this little item from under the jurisdiction of the police.

"But..but..", you sputter indignantly " what about law and order? What about rapes and murders being committed by those partying in these dens of vice after 1:29:59?"

Well, that is still against the law and the police still have the right to haul the chap doing so under diverse provisions of the penal code. All I'm asking for is to completely remove this little power, the power of arbitrarily deciding till what time revelers can revel, from the police. You will find a lot of nightclubs springing up, revelers reveling, and money generally moving with increasing velocity in the economy, which surely must be good. Worth a try anyway, what do you think?

Because, even if it doesn't, it will at least remove ONE source of corruption

I can think of dozens of such powers. The Sub Registrar of Assurances, for instance. This practitioner of what is evidently a dark art, judging from the number of touts and go-betweens that infest his offices, registers your legal document. That is all. Just jots it down in a little diary (I would imagine), takes your photograph, and stores a copy in his archives so that it remains safe from fires and tempests.

What powers this gentleman has that permit him to demand usurious bribes I have no clue but he does. A simple, specific power of attorney from my father to me to enable me to sign some shares related papers because he was unwell cost me Rs. 5000/- in bribes. The chap didn't even read it, as far as I could tell. Just pocketed the money, scowled at me for staring at him, and soundlessly motioned at me to get moving. I paid because, well, if I hadn't, my father who was quite unwell at the time, would have had to come again to that office, which might or might not have been possible.

I propose we take away this guy's power. I'm betting we will not be risking social revolt or popular uprising by revoking this dude's powers. Just make him the official little-diary-keeper without the option of saying no-I-will-not-write-your-name-down-because-I'm-not-in-the-mood.

Other suggestions:

Removal of police and indeed all government jurisdiction over gambling. These people are wagering their own money, what goes of whose father's if they lose it and come to destitution?

Removal of prohibition, at least in the state of Maharashtra. Any one who is not completely blind can verify, with a cursory tour of his neighbourhood, how ridiculously easy it is to obtain alcohol. Why, then, should random government johnnies have the power to decide whatever it is that they decide? (I confess I don't have a clue. And neither, as far as I could tell, did anyone else I happened to ask. But the department of prohibition exists in all glory and harvests large amounts of cash from the wines and spirits trade at regular interval, if sources are to be believed)

Ah well, such is life. People going on and on about how Nitin Gadkari stashed away crores and how Ajit Pawar squirreled away billions. They did it because WE gave them the power. Not them, specifically of course, we gave powers to that office.

And it is time we took them away. Or at least started demanding at least SOME of those powers be taken away.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Dharwad Pedas. (Jobless post)

It started with the Dharwad Pedas.

"Naren, do you want to die?"


"You have diabetes in your family. You have high triglyceride counts. Your HDL is low. What do you say to that?"


"Don't play dumb with me. What happened to the pedas?"

"What pedas?"

"The Dharwad pedas"

"Oh. I ate one after dinner"

"There were eight in the box this morning. There are only four now"

"Gautham must have eaten them. He's a growing lad. And he's very good at football. Did you see him playing football this Saturday?"

"Gautham has  been out all day"

"Oh, yes. NOW I remember.  I told the maid to have them"


"They were going to go bad. It's a milk product. Not good to let it go bad. Turns into pois.."

"You ate four pedas. FOUR!"


"What else?"


"What do you say after 'Sorry'?"

"I'll never eat those pedas again"


"But they're going to spoil!"

"Tough luck"

"Ok, I'll join gym"

"Attaboy. But you have to promise me, no more than ONE peda a day"

"Two? They're very small"

"Ok, but no more than two under ANY circumstances. Place your hand on my head and promise. If you break your promise, remember I will die. AND. No pedas at ALL on the day you miss gym"

I love her.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Singapore Chronicles - We hit Orchard Road

I'm assuming you've read the last two posts on our singapore trip. Actually, probably not. The reasoning being that if you had, you wouldn't have come back. So here's a little recap.
1. We decide to go to Singapore.
2. Visa procedure easy.
3. N Shenoy and family make it past Singapore immigration despite the head of the family looking like a member of the Chicago underworld on his passport.
4. Some random theology.

When I finally rounded up the second post, which you wisely avoided reading,  we were at Changi, local sim cards in hand, looking to head  into the evil city. Though missus tells me calling Singapore an evil city is not unlike referring to Ms. H. R. Clinton as a dusky seductress.

"Is there a pre-paid taxi counter anywhere around?" I asked the lads

"No, sweet" the missus piped "I told you a dozen times on the flight we're taking a train"

And indeed we were. The missus, who has serious extra-sensory powers, led us to a railway station somewhere in the interiors of the airport and shooed us into a jolly decent little train. It soon filled up with people but there was virtually no pushing and shoving, which felt a little weird, like I was in the middle of a lot of holographic images of humanoid creatures. I nostalgically reminisced about our locals, where you could rely on a chap to dig his elbow into your sternum as he scratched himself, burp into your airspace just as you're inhaling, or atleast step on your feet. Here were about a hundred people standing virtually still and unconnected to each other despite being really close. A bit like those discrete intervals our statistics lecturer used to ramble on about.

Rambling, rambling. Get a move on, Naren. Right.

"Get off, get off!" I woke up to some deft prodding in the anterior ribs. I stumbled out with the bag in my charge. "Sleepy head! Why didn't you sleep on the flight? And where did you learn to sleep standing in that disconcertingly equine way?"

'Annie once taught us how to sleep on the front bench in school without being caught. You put your elbows on the table like this and hold your head in your hands, like you're in deep thought, and then..."

"Isn't this place remarkable? Wow! Look! Ferrari car outside!" hoping for brief respite while the lads ran towards the exit.

I got a glare from the missus and a disappointed whine from the lads who found no car remotely resembling a Ferrari

"Annie wouldn't know a Ferrari from a camel's rump" said the missus, by way of mollification.

"Annie, Annie, do you know the difference between a camel's rump and an ATM machine?"

"Er, no.."

"Oh, then you'd have to be really careful drawing cash in Rajasthan"

"hahaha" went a little chorus

I sighed and decided to concede the point. Presently we reached our hotel, which turned out to be bang above the railway station. I performed my designated task of shuffling up to the chaps behind the desk, concluded the form filling and card swiping ritual......

And landed up on Orchard Road.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems-Part II

Let me first apologize for misleading you  in the earlier post (assuming you've read it. You haven't, you say? Sound chap! Well here's a summary. I called it "General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems", in which I recounted how we went off on a fairly impromptu vacation to Singapore. I had intended to add one bit of theological reasoning that I was the recipient off but didn't because I sort of fell asleep while writing. I intend to remedy that today...)

To continue the tale, we cleared Singapore immigration in record time. This must be the world's friendliest passport control.

In India, whenever we leave or enter, the chap across the immigration desk looks askance. Questions are asked in the most incredulous way possible ("You want to WHAT?!" "Go  WHERE?!" "Coming back WHEN?!"), and the chap, who is evidently trained in this, rolls his eyes in a disbelieving fashion and lets you pass only after summoning all the goodness inside him. None but the brave emerge without their inner garments soaked in cold sweat.

The lady at the counter in CHangi didn't ask any of us a word. Not even me, and my passport clearly carries a photo of me looking like an international criminal.

"Go and find out where we can get a local sim card", commanded the missus, who had now taken over  complete command and awarded herself emergency powers, "while I freshen up".

The boys and I scooted off in three separate directions. Changi airport was looking like the convocation center for Indian Parliamentarians Who Have Passed the Decent Behaviour Test, that is to say, completely empty. Which was unsurprising because it was 6 am Singapore time.

The missus returned all freshened up and found the three of us running around the airport like headless chickens.

"Silly boys!. Can't you see that sign there?" and pointed us to a large kiosk bearing all the telltale marks of sim card salesmanship. You know, smiling people, images of phones and joyous revelations of the enormous sums of money to be saved. We sheepishly went thither and purchased our phone cards.

And here, before I forget, is one of the theological gems gleaned. I was having a conversation with the older son who, having gone through a long season of exams and entrance tests, is a strong believer while I'm a bit of an atheist.

"God does not exist" I told him confidently, after a longish discussion on what god would do to people who eat non-veg on tuesdays. We were both agreed on the fact that god would do nothing, he because he believed god was a cool dude who would surely see how uncool it was to have no nonveg days in the week while I held the view because I was convinced he didn't exist

"How can you be sure?"

"Where is the evidence? We only have hearsay, right? Chaps who have seen or spoken to god and then told the rest of us about it. No hard evidence, no?"

"Yes Annie, but what if suddenly god were to emerge tomorrow and show himself, what happens to your theory?"

"He wont. He can't"

"Why not?"

And the chap was right. How did I know he didn't exist? All I knew was he probably didn't. I couldn't be sure.

And, as is customary when working out involved threads of thought like the aforementioned, the old bean began to throb.

"And even if God doesn't exist, he can get things done" said the lad.


"You know what 'i' is, no?"

"The ego? The self?"

"No Annie. 'i'. The square root of minus one"

"Oh THAT i. What about it?"

"You know why it is called an imaginary number?"

"Yes, because there is no number which can be squared to give a negative number. So?"

"And yet we use it to solve all kinds of mathematical problems, do we not?"

"Er.. yes...."

"So what difference does it make whether god exists or not if he can solve problems?"

I'm still looking for a suitable response to this one.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems

It is well known in elite circles that Shenoy N has lost it. Not that he was the brightest of lamps in the incandescent bulb showroom but still. To make matters worse, I've also lost whatever little ability I had to write coherent posts. But then I thought to myself, why should that stop me? Rhetorical question, in case you didn't get it, the correct answer being "it shouldn't"


We went to Singapore, the brood and I, this being a long overdue vacation. The missus was showing subtle signs of nervous breakdown. She would laugh and cry simultaneously, for instance, and at least on two occasions, passed by handbag shops without going in. This was turning out to be serious.

To make matters worse, the government of India, bless its little heart, was going out of its way to triple check and verify our passports which we had sent for renewal. "Check it thoroughly, boys, this is important!' went the cry around the passport office. The result was that we got them nearly a month and a half late, putting us out of contention for vacations to the more discerning and narrow minded countries which insist on long incubation periods for visa applications.

"Singapore!" suggested a friend. "It's the friendliest place in the world. Just fill out your visa application form , seal it with a kiss and two working nights later, bingo!"

And indeed, it did bingo. They didn't actually send a bottle of champagne and a bouquet but the delight in the Singaporean High Commission was unmistakable. "Come at once, love and xxx" said the visa letter, "and come as often as you like till  May 23rd, 2014, for visits not exceeding thirty days at a time. You won't spoil it by working, we hope? No, you won't! We knew. Well, hop on to that flight and come on over, the party is just starting". The Tamil representative in their office added a comforting "ComeOffRa".

The missus, in the meanwhile, had decamped to Mysore with the boys, leaving me alone and lonesome in this heartless city. I told her so.

"Nonsense. You will be partying the moment I've left"

"You always judge me harshly"

"Yeah? And what is this I hear about a tweet up happening Saturday evening?"

"Er, nothing is confirmed. Just a couple of guys..."

"Oh have fun dear. Just pulling your leg" and with that she pinched my cheeks, cheerily told me not to drink too much ("You blather in the most embarrassing way when you do") and disappeared into the terminal.

It was left to me to do all the remaining paperwork. Book hotel, buy tickets, things like that. I managed to mess it up of course, by completely forgetting to do it, but resourceful missus was resourceful. She tied up the thing through a jolly efficient travel agent and the papers, taking a leaf out of Mohammed's mountain policy,  more or less came to me.

We had a weirdly timed flight, resulting in us reaching Singapore on a bright Monday morning when our bodies were telling us it was Sunday night. None of us had slept on the flight, of course. The boys because the flight had Super Mario as the inflight entertainment. I because the flight attendant looked like she'd take it personal if I said 'no' to her offer of alcoholic beverages, and the missus who had latched on to some kind of bollywood tearjerker.

We staggerered out - I should say I staggered out. The others walked in straight lines - into the immigration and sailed through it in an impressive two minutes........ (to be continued)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Another day in the life of Narendra Shenoy

When a writer, even one who claims to be writing his autobiography, starts getting autobiographical, the wise person knows that he, the writer, is scraping the bottom of the idea barrel. And I, dear reader, am going to be doing that. Getting autobiographical, I mean. Narrating incidents from my personal life.

If you choose, shrewdly in my opinion, to light out of here to some more intelligent page (Shahid Kapoor's twitter feed, for instance), I will shed a tear but acknowledge that you have excellent choice. I am honest like that.

But if you, dear reader, displaying the spirit of recklessness and adventure that people who explore the Amazon basin, or watch episodes of Big Boss, showcase in large quantities, decide to stay on, there will be none more delighted than me.

Yes, you guessed right, if you guessed from the previous sentence, that I have been having a couple. It is a beautiful night. The moon is out. The silence is ethereal. The household has gone to sleep. And I have been through a harrowing evening out in Mumbai traffic.

We had gone to a random uncle's house. I have non-random uncles too, like everyone else, but to these non-random (or ordered, if you are into math) uncles, one does not go unless there is a specific reason such as a birth, marriage, illness, dinner invitation or something. Random uncles are uncles to whose houses one goes because one has not gone there for a long time.

The missus and the brats had gone there earlier in the evening. I landed up directly from work, using public transport. Some cud was chewed, banter exchanged, the telling of jokes stayed by the intermittent basilisk stare of the missus and the evening went well, even by the missus' exacting standards.

On the way back, I drove. And we got the full force of Bombay traffic. I'm not usually troubled by this. When I'm driving in Bombay, I just switch off my mind, as I would in, say, a lecture on management strategy or a movie starring Akshay Kumar and enjoy the mindlessness on view. But today it was extraordinarily bad.

I don't know if you've felt this way yourself, but sometimes I feel, when wending my way through the traffic, like a foetus emerging from a womb, with labor contractions pushing me in directions not chosen by me.

I expressed this thought.

"I've never heard anything so ridiculous, Naren! Foetus emerging from a womb, it seems!" said the missus "Keep the left lane. Watch out for the truck!"

"Annie," piped up elder son, "Gau says Sanjay Dutt's mother was an actress named Madhubala. Was she?"

"Yes, yes" I said absently while trying not to be the cause of a motorcyclist's death

"No, silly" said the missus "it was Nargis. Surely even YOU have seen Nargis' movies"

"Nargis?" Younger son was sceptical. "Are you sure, Amma?"

"Annie, quick riddle" said elder son "What's the singular of Madhubala?"

I did not answer, preoccupied as I was with avoiding an autorickshaw who, for reasons not clearly discernible, had decided to go in a vectorially perpendicular direction to the flow of the traffic

"Plural of Madhubala? Madhubalas?"

"No, no, singular of Madhubala. Ok, I'll tell you the answer. Madhubalum"

I wished I were an octopus. I could have continued driving and still clouted him one on the side of the head.

"Haha" said younger son, obviously seeing humour in that alleged joke "And you know what the singular of Nargis is?"

"Hahaha!" elder son seemed to know the answer. "Nargoose".

"Boys, " I spoke sharply "if you don't keep quiet, you will witness the spectacle of your dear father having a nervous breakdown. Please"

"Just joking, Annie!"

"Yes", added the missus, "you have just lost your sense of humor these days"

I would have responded with something suitably acerbic but right then an autorickshaw decided to slam his brakes for a passenger and I bumped into him.

He emerged from the auto in anger.

"Can't see or what? Eyes or potatoes?"

I was irritated. "You braked, you capital of England without the preposition"

"You should have seen, you inclined channel for conveying grain, water or coal to a lower level" said the auto driver

"Iconic clock tower of England plus the French word for warm, hot!" I exclaimed, unable to keep cool

"Let it go, let it go" advised other drivers. "Not much damage, no?"

Not much damage indeed! What about my self esteem!

But by then the traffic had started moving  and the auto guy disappeared.

"You are so careless, Naren! You never pay attention to the traffic" the missus rubbed salt into the wounds.

But it is all back to normal. I'm in my lair, with a decent whiskey. The other characters in this drama are snoring peacefully.

Though I'm feeling just a little bad about missing the opportunity of telling the auto guy the website address of Bose, Denmark.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Ah! Dug this out from the "Drafts" folder. I've been struggling to find something to write about and this darned writer's block has been, like a good CPI-M high command, obstructing all attempts to achieve results.

This @daddysan writes so beautifully! Simple words but deep thought. This excellent post he wrote today about Twitter, how it has woven its threads into his life and how it has given him those moments where he just sort of sits back, sighs gently and feels Buddha-like happiness, got me thinking.

I'm not much of a thinker in the sense of coming up with radically original thought, but give me someone else's original thought and I can stretch, mangle, verbify and otherwise extend it as well as anyone else. The missus has often remarked to me that she has never met anyone who can use so many words to say so little, which I think is a compliment.  And Daddysan has invited me, indeed, practically begged me (I assume it must be me, though Daddysan has tactfully refrained from naming anyone) to share "What are your Twitter stories? How has Twitter added to your life?"

 Twitter and I go back a long way. Three or four years now and I've primarily used Twitter as a place to read good stuff . The occasional witticisms of course, but mostly the links to interesting articles and points of view that some people consistently manage to put out. Every once in a while there is an interesting discussion on things I'd start off knowing only tangentially about and end up knowing enough to call myself "well informed".

The one thing about Twitter that fascinates me is the number of truly brilliant people out there. I interact with a small subset of them but I know there are many more. Some are wordplay geniuses. Others are superbly balanced analysts of any issue floating around. There are tech wizards, subtle litterateurs, gifted chefs, and some just good fellas.

The missus doesn't like me spending much time on twitter. We have the occassional war of words when I miss what she has been saying, on account of giggling away at something @rameshsrivats has said, but for the most part she just says it louder and oftener, till I get it.

"That's it?" you must be saying to yourself "THAT is your twitter story?"

Monday, March 5, 2012

Myanmar news

A new kind of virus seems to have hit the Irrawaddy delta. Known as the Myanmar Fit, the viral infection exhibits virtually no symptoms of illness other than causing severe aggressiveness and rebelliousness among some individuals. The delta has a reasonably peaceful population of Mons and Bamars and the virus has not caused endemic unrest as earlier feared.

The Military Junta however is watching the situation carefully, and hoping it doesn't reach the interiors where the Shan tribe has a significant presence. Already facing rebellion, the military fears that the situation would spiral out of hand should the virus proliferate. As the spokesperson for the Junta said, the government hopes that the Fit doesn't hit the Shan