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