Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Teaching French-2

Wish you all a very happy 2009 !!!

To kick off this new year, I am starting a new cartoon strip, loosely based on my experience teaching French to kids at a lower Primary school.
Do check back every Monday - I plan to update a new strip every weekend (at least, that is my New Year's resolution ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughts: Mobile Madness.

When I was a little kid, which was a long time ago, much longer than I care to recall, if we came across a man smiling and talking to himself, we’d think ‘MADMAN!’, and step smartly to the other side of the street.

And if the fellow happened to be wearing tattered clothes, we’d even take the liberty of ganging up and yelling ‘MADMAN!’, and maybe throw a stone or two.

Yes, we were horrible little kids.

Today, if we see someone smiling and talking to himself, we think ‘Mobile Handsfree’, give a little groan, and continue on our way. And if the stone-washed jeans are torn in strategic locations, we roll the eyeballs and say ‘If that is a fashion statement, it says ‘my mom won’t fix my jeans’’

Which is fine. Times change.

But yesterday, coming across just such a youth on the street, I had this disquieting thought:

All those fellows in my childhood I’d called madmen and thrown stones at….

Maybe they were just making fashion statements too.

And maybe, just maybe, they had mobile handsfree sets too.

Maybe they were just waaaaaaaaay ahead of their time…

Thoughts: Meeting- The Verb

Meeting is usually thought of as a noun – as in ‘to call a meeting.’

But really, it is a verb.

‘To meeting someone’ means to call someone for an absolutely gratuitous, mind-numbing, time-eviscerating meeting and proceed to suck their life-blood in the AC-chilled confines of a conference room using a powerpoint and a laser pointer.

As in…’I meetinged him to death’
‘I meetinged him into early retirement’

Bosses are usually the finest practitioners of this art. The best bosses are serial-meetingers, violently meetinging their subordinates and fellow managers without let or mercy.

Meetinging is a form of machismo. As in … ‘My meeting is longer than your meeting.’

Bosses gather around the bar after work hours and brag about the supreme irrelevance and vacuousness of their meetings, and how much blood was spilt.

Meetings are a weapon.

Bosses, faced with subordinates who show dangerous indications of having a mind of their own, meeting them into whimpering submission. Usually it only stops after the subordinate cries ‘Corporate Vision!’ After that they’re meetinged some more, just to rub it in.

It is also used between bosses. A manager who sees another one getting ahead in the rodent race launches a broadside of meetings at his rival, who responds in kind. Long volleys and counter-volleys of words like ‘Mission Statement’ and ‘Strategic Goalpost’ ensues. It stops only when one or the other decides enough is enough and enrolls himself in the local lunatic asylum in an attempt to unscramble the brain. Futile. Can scrambled eggs be unscrambled?

I should know. Although at the receiving end of meetings most of my career, I was a boss of some sort too, once, and did my share of gratuitous meetinging.

But I was too kind hearted. Like those anglers who throw fish back into the water after catching them, or hunters who shoot bison, but with tranquillizer darts, I meetinged gently, just enough to irritate, without actually drawing blood.

But that was foolish. As any hunter will tell you, if you must shoot, you must shoot to kill. There is nothing more dangerous in the jungle that a wounded tiger. Old jungle saying.

My subordinates, maddened with pain, lashed back violently, counter-meetinging me viciously. I still have the scars. Psychological scars. They still twinge when the weather turns cold. Or the AC is turned on too high.

Of course, I was meetinged left and right by fellow managers, without having the gumption to retaliate.

Yes, I was more or less a washout as a meetinger.

But my own boss…Ah, there was a man! He was in another league altogether.

A really serious, no-holds-barred, testosterone-fuelled pro-meetinger, his hands were calloused from holding the laser pointer, and he had Carpel-Tunnel-Syndrome in his right forefinger from pressing the Enter button on his powerpoint.

He cut a fearsome sight in the conference room. A look at his leathery throat, slowly champing jaws, yellowing teeth and the dull glow in his eyes as he limbered up with the laser pointer was enough to sent chilled water coursing down the spinal column of the most hard-bitten. It was clear to the dullest observer that here was a man, who was going to bore the pants off you, and he knew it, and he was looking forward to it, with a sadistic, gleeful pleasure. Then he would start off, in a low grating voice, dribbling out inane, completely irrelevant, mind-numbing statistics, larded liberally with soul-destroying management buzzwords, until the brain turned into thin gruel, the liver became a spongy mass, and the bladder collapsed under the strain of holding it in. It was terrifying. But it was also strangely fascinating.

Having left the corporate rodent-race over two years now, meetings are now a distant memory. They no longer hold the same fear. The thought of them no longer causes the quivering of the outer limbs and the palpitations in the chest that it used to. In fact, I now can’t imagine why they used to bother me so much.

In retrospect, there was something quaint- and even amusing- about them.

Like one of those charming tribal rituals. Like head-hunters gathering around the bonfire after a busy day’s head-hunting, slapping each other on the back and sharing bowls of fermented rice-liquor from the hollowed out skulls of the day’s head-huntees.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sociology 101

Pen-slinger is often accused of indulging in inane and pointless humor when all around us blue-chip stocks are performing graceful, swooning dives from historical highs, and billionaires are looking worriedly at their last billion and muttering darkly about socialist revolutions, not to mentions smaller fries like you and me who are thinking nostalgically of those good ol’ days when there were those things called ‘jobs’ and ‘paychecks’. Not to mention those TGIF parties (remember those?), where the boss got drunk and did things he regretted the next day.

Anyway, recognizing that sobriety and seriousness are the watchwords in these difficult times, we revive our serious and educative 101 series.

This time we gravely turn our attention to sociology, and examine the socio-ethnic dynamics in the multi-racial South African community.

Please carefully study the following instructive and educational news item which appeared in major newspapers around the world a few weeks ago, and then answer the questions below. Evaluate what you read. Try to read between the lines, and find the ‘story behind the story’. We are developing analytical skills here.


Indians in SA kill three over ‘Manhood’ size

(Times of India, 14th September 2008)
Durban: Three men were shot dead and two injured after an argument between a group of Indian and white visitors to a bar here, allegedly over the size of their genitals.
Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu of the South African police confirmed that five people were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning in connection with the shootings, which erupted after a confrontation between white and Indian patrons of the bar on Wednesday evening. Two of them were in possession of firearms believed to have been used in the killings.
A worker at the bar, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said a customer of Indian origin had remarked to a white customer while they were both at the urinal in the bar that his manhood was bigger than that of the white customer. “After both men returned to their friends, the two groups began swearing at each other before the group of five Indian men left the scene and all returned with firearms. They opened fire and three guys died on the spot. The other two were rushed to St Augustine’s Hospital, where I am told they are critical.”
Mngomezulu said the argument is believed to have been racially motivated, although he could not confirm the incident at the urinal. Durban is home to two-thirds of South Africa’s 1.2 million Indians, with the unique Indian accent there often being the butt of jokes by comedians and arguments sometimes erupting over it. AGENCIES

Also view:


Q1-What do you understand by ‘Manhood’, as used in the text?
a. Umm…do you think it is what I think it is?
b. It’s a euphemism.
c. It is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.
d. You don’t wanna know

Q2 - So, whose manhood really IS bigger? White South Africans or brown South Africans?
a. Are you asking my opinion?
b. The text does not make it clear
c. It depends
d. White South Africans
e. Brown South Africans

Q3 – What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?
a. They are cordial
b. They are hostile
c. They are competitively healthy
d. They revolve largely around ‘Manhood’ issues

Q4. – Do women have similar arguments about the size of their ‘Womanhood’- whatever that may be?
a. Yes, of course. What did you imagine?
b. No, of course not. Only the primitive male brain is capable of such things
c. Yes and No. Yes they argue, but the arguments are usually about the size of their handbags.
d. Womanhood is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.

Q5. – Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?

a. He da’ man in manhood
b. High priest of an underground cabbalistic sect in Durban
c. The bartender of the restaurant where the incident took place
d. Superintendent of the South African police


Q1- (What is Manhood?) Let us examine each option one by one.
a. I don’t know. What do you think it is? This is a humor blog, not Clairvoyants Inc.
b. What is a euphemism? We don’t DO big words in this blog. Next you’ll say euphemism is a euphemism for euphemism. Where does it end?
c. Huh?
d. Correct Answer! You don’t wanna know. Really you don’t.

Q2- (Whose Manhood really is bigger?) What did you answer?
a. No.
b. So what do you expect? Do you have to be spoon-fed each answer? We’re learning to analyze and read between the lines, remember?
c. What kind of wishy-washy answer is that?
d. Maybe.
e. Perhaps

Correct Answer: Irrelevant.
What do you imagine we are doing here? This is Sociology, not Comparative Biology.

Q3 – (What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?)

This is a tough one, with no obviously correct answers. Let us examine the facts: A white man and a brown man are in a restaurant together: obviously segregation in restaurants no longer exists. They go to the toilet together: obviously segregation in restaurant toilets no longer exists. They take a good long look at each others manhoods: obviously, segregation of urinals no longer exists. The South Africans have done away that last artificial barrier between man and man – the urinal partition.

Having taken a look, they enter into a polite discussion about comparative sizes: this indicates an open and frank attitude to a sensitive issue which most societies usually tend to suppress under a suffocating blanket of political correctness. The discussion turns increasingly frank and candid, with views put forth with vigor and supported by complex dialectical arguments, and a few assorted invectives are thrown in for enlivening the debate: this indicates a deep understanding and passion for the subject.

Finally, when the debate cannot be resolved through dialectics, the parties concerned resolve it in the time-honored male tradition of pulling out a gun and blowing each others heads off.

To me this indicates an open, warm and honest relationship. So I would say the correct answer is A- Cordial. What do you think?

Q4. – (Do women have similar arguments?)

Honestly, I don’t have the answer to this one. Perhaps female readers of this blog would care to enlighten us on this. Please leave your answers as comments on this blog.

Q5. – (Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?)

If you take the news clipping at face value, the obvious answer is D. – Superintendent of police in Durban.

But are things really so straightforward?

On whose authority do we have this information? Some nameless, faceless entity that goes under the alias of AGENCIES. Has anyone seen AGENCIES? Has anyone shared a cup of coffee with AGENCIES? Has anyone spoken to him, her or it?

Then again, study the text – the whole thing is based on the claims of this same Muzi Mngomezulu. There is no independent corroboration. How do we know he is telling the truth? How do we know this isn’t some sort of a cover-up for a right-wing conspiracy to suppress discussions about manhood? Who is Muzi Mngomezulu, really? If all parties concerned got their heads shot off, who told Mngomezulu all these things? The whole thing looks very suspicious.

Pen-slinger will not let it go so easily. We will delve further into this matter, investigating fearlessly until the whole ugly truth is revealed.

Watch this space.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Trini wins an essay competition

Finally….the world has recognized my genius!!!!

My diffident little effort just won the first prize at the French essay writing competition at the annual Lire en Fête at Alliance Française!!!!

Ok, Ok…it isn’t the Nobel Prize for literature. Gimmi a break guys, let me savor this moment without those rude abdominal noises. It’s the first thing I’ve won, since…since…since time began, I guess. The closest I came to winning anything at anything was when I came fifth in the egg-and-spoon race in primary school -only we used potatoes, not eggs. After which I was disqualified for using a hybrid potato.

What made the whole thing special was that the winning entry was personally selected by the well-known French authoress, Pierrette Fleutiaux, who happens to be touring India right now, and she - personally – with her own hands, mind you, not a robotic arm, handed the prize to me. And note this….she looked earnestly into my eyes, shook my hand, and said that….(dramatic drum roll)…. ‘she was really, really impressed’.

Note the two ‘really’s – not just one. And I'm not absolutely sure there weren't three. Ok, you’ll just say that was a senior author being gracious to a tyro, but what the heck. She looked sincere enough and I choose to believe she meant it. And it is the first time I ever shook hands with a genuine ‘successful author’ – a breed I know exists, going by media reports, but which I despaired of ever finding. Maybe some of that magic will rub off onto me and I’ll stop being the perennial ‘struggling author’…and I’ll stop getting all that helpful advice: ‘when will you stop acting the goat and get a normal job like everybody else?’

Here’s a pic of the charming Mme Fleutiaux in the Alliance Française gardens:

And another one of me with her after the prize giving. Too bad they weren’t clicking pics at the prize giving itself ;(( No record of that historical moment.

The topic was to basically look at the cover of this novel of Mme Fleutiaux’s,

and imagine what the little girl called Trini was seeing, weaving in the teaser text on the cover of the novel (‘ Ce que j’ai vu m’a copé la soufflé, c’était si inattendu, si fantastique…’ ‘What I saw took my breath away, it was so unexpected, so fantastic…’). I did some research on the novel, and found that Trini was a kind of French Nancy Drew , and it involved a girl getting kidnapped and a mysterious Barbie-Doll-obsessed kidnapper…so I decided to give my essay a Nancy-Drew, Barbie-Doll touch, and weave in bits of the current financial crisis for good effect.

Here it is: my ‘prize winning’ entry….in the original French

And here is an English translation….

Thanks a ton to my good friend Guillaume for taking time off from his PhD at the Univ of Chile to review my essay and point out the grammatical bloopers.

And dear Mme Fleutiaux, thank you for encouraging words and graciousness… it really means a lot to a ‘struggling author’.

Trini fait de nouvelles vagues

Le Directeur Général s'éclaircit la gorge bruyamment.
« Messieurs, comme vous le savez tous, nos ventes de poupées Barbie plongent d'une manière alarmante. Toutes nos stratégies de markéting ont échoué. Hasbro va peut-être bientôt devoir se retirer des affaires. Lors de notre dernière réunion, notre consultant a suggéré de sacrifier une jeune fille sur l'autel de Mammon… »
Le consultant fit un signe de la tête d'un air important
« Oui, c'est la nouvelle théorie de management de Peter Drucker.
- N'est-il pas mort ?
- Séance de spiritisme
- Quoi qu'il en soit, je sais, ça a l'air, comment dirais-je… peu orthodoxe, mais les temps sont désespérés, et les temps désespérés appellent des solutions innovantes. Monsieur le directeur des ressources humaines, on vous a confié la tâche d’obtenir une jeune fille pour le sacrifice. En avez-vous trouvé une?
- Oui, Patron !
- Présentez-la ! »
La petite Trini fut traînée dans la salle de conférence.
« Qu'est-ce que vous voulez faire de moi, démons ? cria Trini
- Nous allons te présenter une poupée Barbie, mon enfant, si tu fais exactement ce que nous disons.
- Vraiment ? C'est super-cool ! dit Trini, contente »
Trine fut attachée à la table de conférence.
Le DG frappa dans ses mains fortement en disant :
« Dévoilez l'idole de Mammon »
Le tableau blanc glissa de côté, révélant une idole géante de Mammon en fibre de verre. Elle ressemblait étrangement à une poupée Ken d'un certain âge prenant une cuite.
« Aiguisez la Barbie ! »
Le directeur commercial aiguisa une Barbie vaudou avec un aiguisoir portable, lui conférant une pointe meurtrière.
« Enfoncez la Barbie !
- Non ! cria Trini
- Tu ne veux plus la Barbie ? demanda le DG, étonné
- Si, mais pas dans mes intestins !
- Désolé, mais maintenant c'est trop tard
- Non !! à l'aide !! »
Le Consultant toussa sèchement
« Attendez ! Il faut que la victime le soit de son plein gré. Monsieur Drucker l'affirme explicitement »
Le DG implora Trini
« Mon enfant, pensez à toutes les jeunes filles dont les parents sont trop radins pour leur acheter des Barbies. Tu n'es pas prête à te sacrifier pour elles ?
- Non !! Qu'elles mangent de la brioche !
- Mais, tu ne te soucies pas des profits de troisième trimestre de Hasbro ?
- Non !! Que Hasbro mange de la brioche !
- Mais notre PDG, il ne lui reste plus que son dernier milliard !
- Qu'il mange de la brioche !
- Mais, c'est l'idée, précisément! Il n'a pas les moyens d'acheter de la brioche avec son dernier milliard
- Ça m'est bien égal. Qu'il mange des nouilles. »
Le DG fut agacé
« Quelle fille impertinente ! Sacrifions-la de toute façon. Peut-être que ça ne dérangera pas Mammon »
Trini cria, apeurée.
Mais, juste à ce moment là, Trini vit quelque chose.
Ce qu'elle vit lui coupa le souffle, ce fut si inattendu, si fantastique…
L'idole de Mammon bougea ! Elle fronça les sourcils ! Elle parla !
Mammon toussa poliment.
« Mais si, ça dérangera Mammon »
Il y eut de la consternation dans la salle.
« Euh…ça vous dérangerait ?
- Oui, ça me dérangerait. Non seulement je ne veux pas d'une victime à contrecœur, mais je ne veux pas non plus d'une jeune fille
- Non ? Le DG fut étonné
- Non.
- Mais…pourquoi ?
- Réfléchis, imbécile ! Les jeunes filles sont votre marché cible. Si vous commencez à les sacrifier une par une, qui va acheter vos poupées?
- C'est vrai…alors, vous voulez le sang d'un…
- D'un Directeur Général, oui.
- Non !! Cria le DG horrifié
- Si!
- Je refuse !
- Mais, tu ne te soucies pas des profits de troisième trimestre de Hasbro ?
- Non !! Que Hasbro mange de la brioche !
- Mais votre PDG, il ne lui reste plus que son dernier milliard.
- Qu'il mange du tofu ! »
Mammon soupira.
« Dommage. Sacrifiez-le de toute façon »
Les autres cadres commerciaux saisirent le DG. Le DG commença à brailler.
Le directeur des ressources humaines brandit la Barbie pointue.
Mammon lui dit encore:
« Attends… ne le tue pas. J'ai une meilleure idée »
Le directeur des ressources humaines regarda Mammon avec curiosité
« Licencie-le…. sans parachute doré ! »

Trini fait de nouvelles vagues - English Tx

This is the English Transalation of my 'award winning' ;) French Humorous essay Trini fait de nouvelles vagues (see next post)

The General Manager cleared his throat
“Gentlemen, as you all know, our Barbie Doll sales figures are dipping alarmingly. All our marketing strategies have failed. Hasbro may soon go out of business. At our last meeting our consultant suggested we need to sacrifice a little girl on the altar of mammon.”
The consultant nodded importantly
“Yes, it is the latest management theory from Peter Drucker.”
“Isn’t he dead?”
“Anyway, I know that sounds a little, shall we say …unorthodox… but these are desperate times, and desperate times require innovative solutions.
HR Manager- you were given the task of procuring a little girl for the sacrifice. Have you got one?”
“Yes Boss”
“Produce her.”
Little Trini was dragged into the conference room, screaming.
“What do you want with me, you fiends?”
“We are going to present you with a Barbi doll, child, if you do exactly as we say”
Trini was pleased.
“Really? Cool!”
Trini was tied to the conference table. The GM clapped his hands loudly.
“Unveil the idol of mammon”
The whiteboard slid aside, to reveal a giant fiber-glass idol of mammon. It looked suspiciously like a middle-aged Ken doll after a drinking binge.
“Sharpen the Barbie!”
The HR Manager sharpened a Voodoo Barbie on a portable knife sharpener to a deadly point.
“Plunge it in!”
“No!” screamed Trini
The GM was surprised.
“Don’t you want a Barbie?”
“Yes, but not in my intestine!”
“Sorry, too late now.”
Trini screamed
The consultant coughed loudly.
“Wait! It has to be a willing victim. Mr. Drucker mentions this explicitly.”
The GM pleaded with Trini.
“Child, what about all the little girls whose stingy parents won’t buy them Barbie dolls? Aren’t you willing to be sacrificed for them?”
“No! Let them eat cake!”
“But don’t you care about Hasbro’s third quarter earnings?”
“Let Hasbro eat cake!”
“But our CEO is down to his last billion”
“Let your CEO eat cake”
“But that is the whole point. He can’t afford cake with his last billion”
“I don’t care. Let him eat noodles”
The GM was annoyed.
“What a spiteful little girl. Let’s sacrifice her anyway, maybe mammon won’t mind.”
Trini screamed with fear.
But just then she saw something, so amazing, so fantastic, it took her breath away.
The idol of mammon moved. It frowned. It spoke
Mammon coughed politely
“But mammon does mind”
There was consternation in room.
“Err… you mind?”
“Yes I mind. Not only do I not want an unwilling victim, I particularly do not want little girls.”
The GM was surprised.
“Think, idiot. Little girls are your target customers. If you start sacrificing them one by one, who will buy the dolls?”
“True. So you want the blood of…”
“A General Manager”
The GM screamed in horror
“I refuse!”
“But don’t you care about Hasbro’s third quarter earnings?”
“Let Hasbro eat cake!”
“But your CEO is down to his last billion”
“Let him eat tofu”
Mammon sighed
“Too bad. Sacrifice him anyway”
The other sales executives grabbed the GM. The HR manager raised the pointed Barbie.
The GM started bawling.
“Help! Please!”
Mammon spoke again
“Wait…Don’t kill him. I have a better idea”
The HR Manager looked at mammon inquiringly.
“Lay him off- without a golden parachute.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fat 101 – The Fundamentals of Adipose

After numerous plaintive requests from the well-larded, I have put together this small instruction manual on all matters adipose.

As a citizen of some weight and girth, these are some fundamental facts you should keep in mind:-

Fat is GOOD for you.(1)
Fat gives you an electric and magnetic personality (2)
Fat saves you from labial injury, BO and cancer (3)
Fat is good for your arteries (4)
Fat is good for national security (5)

Explanatory Notes:-

(1) Here is a mathematical proof:
Beer makes you fat. Beer is GOOD for you (refer previous chapter: Beer101: the fundamentals of Beer). QED: Fat is GOOD for you.

(2) Fat is an Insulator. It says so in the Biology book. At least, it did the last time I read it. Insulation is what you put on a live wire. A live wire is one that carries an electric current. If you warp a wire carrying an electric current around a metal rod, it creates a magnetic field. At least, it says so in the Physics book. I wouldn’t know- I bunked Physics lab. If you take your Biology book and Physics book and soak them in water a few days, you get papier-mâché. Papier-mâché can be used for making decorative pieces for your sitting room. Not that it is relevant.

(3) Are you disturbed your lips don’t reach your spouses when you embrace? Does the tum-tum get in the way of the passionate hug? Ask yourself this: do you really want that kiss to be consummated? How do you know she doesn’t have BO? What if she bites? Did you know that lipstick is carcinogenic? You know…you are better off just keeping her at belly’s length.

(4) Roman Gladiators were all fat people. Don’t believe me? Read the history books. What’s a book? Oh…you are one of those Gen-whatever kids, are you? OK watch the BBC series on the Roman Empire on YouTube. They actually ate fattening foods on purpose – the extra layer of fat shielded them from minor sword slashes- it prevented muscles and arteries from getting cut. Think about it. This is a comforting piece of information to have, next time you get caught in a sword fight.

(5) People are sad. They laugh at the strangest things. They find it funny when someone sits on a thumb tack. Someone else. They laugh at fat people. But in a way it is good. Laughter is good for people. It reduces stress. Reduced stress lowers the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and varicose veins. On a national scale, this means less budgetary allocation for public health and more for truly useful stuff like battle tanks and warships.

Thoughts on a Carburetor

What is a carburetor? It is that odd-shaped little thingy with tubes and stuff somewhere in the innards of your car engine. Go on… pull it out, and examine it. It is easy to put back. You just kind of shove it back in the general area you pulled it out of. After that you call the mechanic. Or you walk. Walking is GOOD for you. Saves greenhouse gases.

OK, now that you have pulled it out, let’s look at it. What ARE all those tubes and things? I dunno…stuff, I suppose. What’d ya expect? A lesson on automobile mechanics? Gimme a break… this is a humor blog. Anyway I checked up Carburetor in the Webster’s dictionary. It says “A device for mixing vaporized fuel with air to produce an explosive mixture” You don’t wanna know what Oxford dictionary says about it. Believe me, you don’t.

Anyway…explosive air-fuel mixture. That is what you girlfriend (or wife, you poor sap) is doing when you catch her dousing herself in Chanel No. 5. Fuel? That stuff is 99 % alcohol. They run cars on alcohol in Brazil. The other 1% is stuff you really don’t wanna know about. Explosive? Wrinkle your nose and ask (no one in particular) …”What on earth is that funny smell?” Go on… ask her.

In other words, your wife (or girlfriend) is actually a carburetor. At least, when she is dressing up to go out. Which means most of the time. The rest of the time she is trying to improve you.

So now that you have pulled out the carburetor and mechanics are on strike, can you just plug your girlfriend (or wife) into the car engine?

Well….you could try. On the other hand, as I said: Walking is GOOD for you.

Image Credits: lady with carb from, scooter carb from The cartoon is by yours truly.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Oh those Priceless Ads

This is the English version of the end-of-term project I did for French 3A , last week...we had to make a presentation on an ad. For the French version, see the previous post

Don’t you get seriously fed-up of those smarmy, sugary ‘Priceless’ ads? I mean those ‘for –everything-else-there’s-Mastercrud’ thingies. Why, oh, why do those guys insist on inflicting them on a cringing populace? The last time I saw one, I had to pass-up on the dessert.

Anyway, here is my little revenge on those smooth-faced, hair-gelled martini imbibers…my own version of the Mastercarp ads:

Root Canal: Rs. 4000
Scaling: Rs. 2000
Dental Filling: Rs. 2000
Tooth Extraction: Rs. 5000
Gum-message: Rs 500
Biting the ear off that darn dentist when you get the bill: Priceless
There are some things Dinars can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercrude.

High-End CD Player: Rs 65,000
3000 Watts Amps: Rs 60,000
Equalizers: Rs 40,000
Room sized cabinet speakers: Rs 120,000
Slayer Music CD: Rs 500
Making your neighbor jump out of bed at 3AM, screaming: Priceless
There are some things the holy shekels can’t buy. For everything else there’s Masterchord.

Champagne: Rs. 10000
Soup du Jour: Rs 1000
Filet Mignon: Rs 3000
Blancmange: Rs 2000
Cognac and Café au lait: Rs 2500
Filing an Expense Report and sloshing the ol’ company for the whole caboodle: Priceless
There are some things the brass doubloons can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercurd.

Laxative tabs: Rs. 100
Antacid: Rs. 115
Colon Wash: Rs. 2000
Rectal probe: Rs. 3000
Antidepressants for spouse and kids: Rs. 300
Going to the toilet again after 3 weeks: Priceless
There are some things the leafy lettuce can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mr. Crud.

Boarding school Fees: King’s Ransom
Text Books: Queen’s Ransom
School Kit: Knave’s Ransom
Five sets of uniform: Rs 10,000
One-way train ticket (second class): Rs 500
Finally getting that hyperactive, misanthropic, hormone-fuelled brat out of your hair: Priceless
There are some things copper Ringgits can’t buy. For everything else there’s Monstercured.

Flowers: Rs. 1000
Box of Chocolates: Rs. 2500
Chauffeured Limo: Rs. 5000
Champagne Dinner: Rs. 30,000
Taking her sister out on a date after getting dumped: Priceless
There are some things cowry shells can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mysterycute.

Five dum-dum bullets: $10
9MM Smith & Wesson’s Automatic: $656
Tan-Leather Thumb-break holster: $49.95
Gun License: Rs. 10,000
Bribe for police-officer to get gun license: Rs. 50,000
Blowing a neat hole in that smart-alecks ad-man’s hair-gelled head who thought up those darn Mastercrud ads: Priceless.
There are some things the crisp wampum can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercrodd.

PS: In case you are wondering how I managed all the bad puns and weird words in French: I didn’t. The French version is pretty straightforward…. Gimme a break…I’m still in 3A… they don’t teach bad puns until C1.

Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas

Vous avez certainemeent vu les publicités de Mastercard à la télé…vous voyez ce que je veux dire… « Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Mastercard »
Je ne sais pas ce que vous en pensez, mais moi, je les trouve extrêmement sucrées, à l’eau de rose et irritantes. Pourquoi infligent-ils ces pubs horribles à nous? Pour prendre ma revanche, j’ai inventé quelques pubs de Mastercard à moi.

- Traitement du canal dentaire: €88
- Extraction dentaire : €36
- Détartrage : €80
- Massage des gencives : €10
Mordre l’oreille du dentiste infernal quand vous recevez sa note : ça n’a pas de prix
Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Master-coupé

- Une bouteille de champagne: €100
- Pâté de fois gras : €50
- Soupe du jour: €30
- Filet mignon: €60
- Le blanc-manger: €30
- Cognac et café au lait: €20
Faire défrayer de tous par l’entreprise : ça n’a pas de prix
Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Master-cuit

- Un bouquet de fleurs : €20
- Une boîte de chocolat : €30
- La limousine avec chauffeur : €500
- Le dîner avec champagne : €1000
Sortir avec sa sœur après l’avoir larguée : ça n’a pas de prix
Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Master-cœur

- La lecture de CD haut de gamme : €1200
- L’amplificateur Hi Fi de 3000 watts : € 2000:
- Les grands haut-parleurs : € 2200
- L’égaliseur : € 1000
- Un disque de musiqe de Slayer : € 20
Terroriser les voisins à trois heures de la nuit: ça n’a pas de prix
Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Master-sourd

- Cinq balles de fusil : €10
- La pistole automatique : €600
- Étui de revolver : €50
- Permis d’armes à feu: €1000
- Pot-de-vin pour l’agent de police pour obtenir le permis d’armes à feu : €2000
Tuer le publiciste qui a inventé la pub Mastercard : ça n’a pas de prix
Il y a certaines choses qui ne s’achètent pas. Pour tout le reste il y a Master-crime

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Yesterday’s Special

Sunday Jam yesterday was one of the more awful ones in living memory. The posters hinted at it: “The Return of the Heavies” it said, and the bill of fare listed one execrable Heavy Metal act after the other. Rather sad, since last month’s S-Jam was not bad at all, even going as far as featuring an acappella group from St Johns College. The impression one gets at S-Jam sometimes is that all these kids in Bangalore are obsessed with Death Metal, Nu Metal, Metal Core and all the incomprehensible (and indistinguishable) sub genre of Heavy Metal. Haven’t these chaps heard of Jazz, Blues, Fusion, Folk, Flamenco, Reggae…or even Indi-Pop for God’s sake…you could justifiably ask yourself. Actually, this impression is false. Just a year ago, there was this Acoustic Festival organized by Levi’s and it was a revelation to see the breadth of talent available in this ol’ town. It is really sad that they never turn up at S-Jam, which is probably the best platform in the city, if not India, for showcasing young talent.

What is probably worse, this time the venue was the romantic rock garden of Chitra-Kala Paristhan – which as Gopal said, is the nicest open-air stage in the city. It was fun to see the little old ladies who had come for the art & ethnic wear exhibition in CKP, wander into the garden and look on incredulously at the screaming and growling going on on-stage. I used to suspect that all these new groups start out with HM simply because all that distortion hides their lack of confidence in their own playing- and singing- skills. Now that I am starting to get the hang of the guitar myself -I can do some fairly decent Lightnin’ Hopkins and Buddy Guy blues licks, and my current ambition in life is to play CCR’s ‘before you accuse me’ from end to end without pausing to scratch my head between the shuffle and the turnaround - I know this for a fact. Once in a while, I turn up the distortion on my Marshall Amps, and even I start sounding pretty cool.

Anyway, after two hours of torture, I decided I had had enough and was about to go home, when who should walk in but Shalini, toting her huge Bass. Yup, the same Shalini whom I had devoted a long blog to a few months ago. I looked at the prospectus…Legato Lilac was not on the list. But there she was, and maybe she’d play. So I decided to hang around. I didn’t have long to wait: she took the stage a few sets later with an apparently new band (at least, the singer seemed to be new and possibly the drummer). And Gopal didn’t introduce them as Legato Lilac. He said something I couldn’t catch.

They did some nice hard rock covers (what is nowadays called classic rock….hey guys, give us a break-when we were kids, we had our own sub-genre. Now everything without distortion is lumped under classic rock). Not as spectacular as the last time I had seen them, but nice and tight, and a big relief after all the ghastly noise that preceded it. Then they did an instrumental own-comp that was really good. Shalini came into her own and played a hard, intricate groove on the bass. And her smile lit up the amphitheater again.

I was sitting right at the edge of the stage, and admired her smooth, supple fingerwork. I’m learning a lot of blues bass riffs nowadays…wish I could play like that.

That was it. Gopal rushed them off the stage. Another HM act walked on.

I decided to take courage into my hand and walked over to Shalini who was packing up, and said:
“Err…Um…I didn’t catch the name of your band…”

“We’re called Today’s Special” she said. Oh God…she had a lovely voice, and up close, she looked even cuter than on stage.

“I thought you called yourself Legato Lilac?”

“That was just for that session, last time” she said.

“Oh…” I said lamely

“Did you like our set?” she asked anxiously.

“Hmm” I mumbled dumbly and nodded. Then I managed to blurt out “actually it was great…” and shambled off.

Damn! Once back at my seat, I realized there were dozens of other things I could have asked her … what do you call that own-comp? Why did you change the band name? Legato–Lilac was such a clever name, and it had personality...Did you read my blog about you….Damn! Now it was too late. If I went back now I would look like an ass.

Anyway, what’s the use… At last months S-Jam I’d heard she’s just gotten married or engaged or something…. Damn!

So I went home, instead.

And it really is sad they’ve changed the band name. Legato is a classical music term that means the opposite of staccato, and heavy metal guitarists have borrowed the term to mean rapid hammer-ons and hammer-offs with slurring to create that characteristic screaming, scalded cat sound of heavy metal. Juxtaposition that with Lilac…as I said, clever.

Btw… if a kind reader has Sahlini’s mail-id…could you please send her the URL of this blog and tell her I’m her biggest fan…

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beer 101- The fundamentals of Beer

Update Notice: due to persistent queries by confused readers, I have appended additional explanatory notes on water etc. A depressed reader who calls himself Anupam (this needs looking into more closely. It looks highly suspicious. Why would ANYONE go around calling himself Anupam, wantonly? ) claims that beer makes him fat. This will be taken up in a subsequent article “Fat 101: The fundamentals of Adipose”)

It is distressing to see the number of untrained, unlicensed Beer drinkers infesting Bangalore pubs. These people seem to imagine that Beer drinking is a casual leisure activity, something like kite flying and show-horse jumping. It is not. It is a serious activity meant only for dedicated and committed experts, who have taken the trouble to qualify for a License to Drink Beer (LDB) from the Bangalore Puber’s Association (BPA) or a similar reputable professional body.

For the benefit of the Beer illiterate, I have put together this basic manual which can help them qualify for a LDB level 1 with the BPA.

The following facts are Absolutely Imperative for any Beer drinker to know:-

  1. Beer is GOOD for you. It makes you Happy1.

  2. In Germany2, Beer is known as ‘Liquid Bread’

  3. Beer is made from Barley, Water and Hops3

  4. These three ingredients are mixed, fermented4 and distilled

  5. Then you drink5 it

1. Happy is a state of the ‘MIND. Mind is something you have, or don’t have. Very few people have a ‘mind’. Even fewer have a ‘happy’ mind. Those who do, invariably drink Beer.
2. Germany is a COUNTRY. A country is a big piece of land full of people. These people can be fat or thin, happy or sad. Germany is a big piece of land near Norway full of fat, happy people who drink Beer. Germany is a very happy country. Once in a while, when they aren’t happy, they start World Wars. It is better for Norway if Germans are happy.

3a. Hop is what you do when a German is not happy. You hop away very fast. When many people hop away, we use the plural form ‘hops’. For some strange reason, it is also the name of a plant with bitter tasting fruit which is added to Beer. Maybe it is because people who have to hop invariably feel bitter about it.

3b. Water is a strange colorless odorless fluid. Ulsoor Lake is full of it. You can go and have a look at it next time you are bunking office. No one quite knows what it is good for, except for adding to beer. In fact, many countries prohibit the consumption of water except in the form of beer. It is banned as a narcotic substance in Germany, Uruguay and Eretria. Possession of it can get you shot in China. DO NOT try to drink water illicitly, it can be fatal and you can get arrested. Try a mouthful of the stuff in Ulsoor Lake, and you’ll know what I mean. But don’t worry, it is quite safe when inside a beer bottle.

Here is a brave, adventurous lady drinking raw water from a wine glass. Don’t try this at home, kids. She's a professional.

3c. Barley is bit like corn, only more so. Corns are what you develop on your toes when you hike 10 miles in tight, smelly hiking boots. You don’t wanna get into more details, it gets ugly from this point on.

4. Ferment is an elegant word for rot. Yup. The same process that involves fetid smells, slimy, crawly things and large, oily bubbles. You don’t wanna think about it too much.

5. Drink is the process of holding the beer mug to the lips, and pouring it down the throat. Preferable your own. Note carefully: you ‘drink’ with your ‘mouth’. You do not, repeat do not, use other bodily orifice. Any attempt to do so will clearly mark you out as an amateur Beer drinker, the kind that pollutes Bangalore pubs.

Here is a nice lady demonstrating the process of drinking
Notice how the beer mug touches her LIPS. Not her ears or nose

Now test your knowledge with these questions. Don’t peek at the answers until done.
Q1. In Germany, Beer is also known as liquid ….
1. Rhubarb
2. Pumpkin
3. Carburetor
4. Bread

Q2. What are the main ingredients of Beer?
Select any THREE of the following options
1. Rubber
2. Barley
3. Gasoline
4. Water
5. Industrial Waste
6. Rhubarb
7. Hops
8. Oleander

Q3. Beer, for you, is…
1. Good
2. Bad
3. OK

Q4. What is the procedure for making beer?
Fill in the Blanks:
Barley, Water and Hops are first ___________ Then the resulting slush is _________for a few days. After that, the resultant (stinking) slush is _________ After that you drink it. This makes you very ________. You must be mad.

Q1: 4
Q2: 2, 4, 7 (Readers in China can also tick 5)
Q3: 1
Q4: Mixed, Fermented, Distilled, Happy

What was your score? If you scored more than 5, go ahead, let yourself loose in the nearest Pub. If not, shame on you! Try again.

Did you score more than 9? Gotcha! You have been drinking Beer without a license, haven’t you?
Image Credits: I have absolutely no idea.... I picked these from the net a long time ago when I was researching a class project on Oktoberfest. I think they are from some German sites on Oktoberfest. I'll be glad to credit them if someone tells me where they are from.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sob Unflower

A new apartment block came up a few months ago, a few blocks down from my house. Regaling under the sunny name of ‘SOBHA SUNFLOWER’, it was built by that redoubtable Bangalore Builder M/s Sobha Developers. Now Messars Sobha pride themselves on building sturdy, robust homes. Not airy-fairy post-modernist stuff- just nice solid brick and concrete. In keeping with their image, they emblazoned the entrance to the building with a large, sturdy cast-iron signage stating, pithily, “SOBHA SUNFLOWER’.

All well so far. But as the months went by and the previously empty building filled up with proud owners, we watched with concern as the signage started showing signs of premature aging…the letters kept falling off…getting put on again…and disappearing again.

There was much tut-tutting and pursing of lips all around. ‘This is not like Messars Sobha’, we said. ‘If even their signage is so flimsy, can we depend on their apartments?’ we asked ourselves gravely.

But we had wronged this noble builder. No. It now appears that it was the work of a joker or prankster. It appears that this comedian sneaks up on the walls when the burly guards aren’t looking, quickly biffs individual letters and runs away. Over days and many biffs, even the excellent Sobha workmanship has to give way, and a cast-iron character parts mooring from the concrete and takes the high dive.

But does this architectural humorist attack letters at random? No, there is a design, a magnificent comic design to this anarchist’s handiwork.

Six months and three painfully pried cast-iron characters later, the artist’s grand vision is finally revealed:-

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mél de réclamation

Today in French class at AF we learnt how to write a complaint letter or email in smoldering, liquid French. Two hours of fun dealing with such burning issues as broken beer bottles in the grocery bag getting mixed up with leaking detergent packages and baby milk powder. The conclusion: don’t order grocery online in France - or anything, for that matter, by any means of delivery– if the example mails in our textbook are anything to go by.

Teacher then asked us to compose our own complaint emails. When I showed mine to la Professeure, a glazed look covered her eyes and she handed it back expressionlessly after a few minor corrections. I took this to mean progress. Normally, after taking a look at my class work, she clutches her eyebrow violently and staggers back with an animal cry.

Reproduced below is my little morceau.

An English translation follows for the hoi-polloi.
De: G. Potier
Objet: demander de réparation
Le 15 Mai dernier, j’ai utilisé vos services pour acheter un masseur électronique pour ma femme. J’ai le regret de vous informer que le masseur était abîme. Quand ma femme a essayé d’utiliser ce masseur, elle a reçu une secousse et elle est morte. C’était une surprise - je me suis attendu une femme massée, pas une femme morte. Je suis maintenant un peu mécontent parce que j’ai aimé ma femme assez, et le masseur est maintenant inutile aussi.

Est-ce que vous pourriez me livrer une femme remplaçante, et si c’est possible, aussi un remplacement pour le masseur électronique ?

Je vous remercie à l’avance.
G. Potier
From: G. Potier
Subject: request for replacement
On 15th May, I utilized your services to buy an electronic massager for my wife. I regret to inform you that the massager was defective. When my wife tried to use it, she received an electric shock and died. This was a bit of a surprise, as I was expecting a massaged wife, not a dead one. I am now somewhat dissatisfied, as I was rather fond of my wife, and the electronic massager is unusable as well.

Would it be possible for you to deliver another wife as a replacement, and if possible, also a replacement for the electronic massager?

Thanking you in advance

G. Potier

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dialogue d’amour

- Je t’aime !

- Comment ?

- J’ai dit « je t’aime »

- Alors ? C’est vrai ? Regarde le ciel….c’est bleu.

- Je m’en fous, le couleur de ciel. Je veux dire, je t’aime.

- Mais pourquoi ?

- Pourquoi je t'aime?

- Pourquoi le ciel est bleu.

- Merde !!

- Tu pense que c’est à cause de ça?

- Quoi??

- Le ciel…c’est bleu à cause de ta merde?

- Enfer !!!

- C’est bleu à cause de l’enfer ? Merde où enfer….décide-toi.

- Je te déteste !

- C’est intéressant…mais tu as déjà dit que tu m’aimes…

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thoughts on North Indians

Everyone seems to have an opinion on North Indians nowadays. The Lt. Governor of Delhi (btw, what on earth does a Lt. Gov. do? What does any Gov. of Delhi do, for that matter- Lt. or otherwise) recently applied his impressive analytical skills and pronounced on TV his verdict on the North Indian. In measured, ponderous tones he intoned: “Indisciplined”. Not one for half-measures, he drove the point home further “Not law-abiding” he said, leaving no room for misunderstanding “In fact, they enjoy breaking the law.”

Not to be outdone, Raj Thakery, that radical New-Age philosopher from Mumbai has been saying it with sticks and stones in recent weeks, feeling- understandably of course, that words are after all mere words, and sometimes more concrete forms of self-expression are called for.

South Indians of all description have of course long regarded the Vindhyas as their comforting natural defense against the bad-lands of the North – A trip to Delhi or any place northerly often being regarded as a descent into purgatory. “They are sooooo uncultured” is a common refrain.

As a Northy who has migrated South, I tend to sympathize. The North is strong medicine. It is the home of the boor and the uncouth. Decent sorts do exist, of course- after all I lived there, once. But if you throw a brick in Delhi, for instance, four times out of five you are likely to hit someone you’d rather not invite home to dinner. Not that anyone is likely to accept an invite to cocktails followed by community singing after being hit by a brick. In fact, it is the Delhite’s propensity for throwing bricks at his fellow citizen that caused the hon. Lt. Gov. to get all worked up in the first place. Possibly other means of anthropological research can be pursued.

But what causes the North Indian to be so boorish, uncouth and uncultured? Is it something to do with the soil? The wind patterns? Is it the diet? Or are sociological factors to blame?

Tempting as it is to grab at society and upbringing as the root cause, I regard that as mere lazy reasoning. No, deeper thinking and hard research is required to come to a more balanced conclusion.

My own research has led me to suspect dietary factors: namely, the humble Winter Radish (Raphanus sativus longipinnatus), also known in Hindi as ‘Mooli’.

Reason for yourself: is Mooli an important part of the diet in those states that claim to be disciplined and culturally advanced? - think of Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Manipur…The answer is a distinct and firm NO. Is it consumed in gargantuan quantities in the so-called ‘lunatic-fringe’ states? – Delhi, UP, Bihar…The answer is an emphatic YES. Voila! The needle of suspicion firmly points towards this treacherous white tuber.

But how can a sub-species of radish cause lawlessness? The answer is gas. Eat Mooli, and you get flatulence. The bubbles permeate through the surface membrane of the large intestine and get into the blood vessels, and thence to the brain, where they cause an air-headed or giddy feeling (known scientifically as aerius capitulum), which manifests itself behaviorologically as a lack of respect for societal and legal norms.

I have experienced this personally: I love Mooli-da-Paratha as much as the next man, and after putting away four or five at Lalitha’s Paratha Point on Dickenson Road, I am rearing to conduct anthropological experiments with a brick. (Though of course, being a cultured Bong, I use a half-brick)

This, then, is the solution: Eliminate Mooli from the North Indian diet, and all will be well.

(Images from Wiki)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-4: The Sea

What distinguishes Chennai most from Bangalore is of course, The Sea. What is a sea? A sea is a big expanse of salt water, with waves and froth and suchlike, which fisherfolk wash their bums in. I kid you not.

My first day by the sea in Chennai, up at dawn for a jog along the beach, having just rented a dream house by the seashore. Ran over a weedy fisherman-type sitting in a scooped out hollow in the sand. Weedy fisherman-type crawls out of his sandy dugout, cussing freely. In the hole is a brown gooey mess I do not want to dwell on too much. I am still having nightmares about it. Walks into the surf, slaps his bums vigorously, lowers his pulled-up lungi and is done for the day.

Then I notice there is a long line other fisherfolk lined along the beach, one every five meters, in a neat serrated row stretching into the horizon, where the beach, sea and sky merge into a vanishing point.

Now I don’t know if defecating on the beach is a Chennai innovation or if it is done all along the Indian coastline. A child of the heartland, my only major experience of the sea until now had been the sanitized version shown on Baywatch. In fact, I’d always associated beaches with Pam Andersons boobs. No boobs here, only bowels.

Now, obviously we don’t have bum-washing by the beach in Bangalore, not having an ocean in our backyard. Of course, we do have our expanse of large water bodies- Ulsoor Lake comes to mind. But I doubt people wash their bums in Ulsoor Lake. You’d probably die of typhus, botts and the glanders if you tried. Of course, the newspapers have been carrying stories recently of people dying of cholera in ‘RT Nagar’ or somewhere. Maybe they have been washing their bums in Ulsoor Lake.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-3: Laidback

I used to think we Bangaloreans were pretty laid back. In fact, I would have thought that if one laid back any further, the spine would break- i.e. it does not get laider back than this. But I was wrong.
Three months into Chennai, I realized that it IS possible. Chennaites are even more laid back than Bangaloreans, and their spines are intact. Visually, at least. I can’t say for sure, as I never got around to getting a Chennaite to take of his sweaty vest and probing his vertebrae. Not the most pleasant of tasks, and understandably one procrastinates. Of course I could have taken the more pleasant option of asking a female Chennaite to undo her pallu and let me examine her backbone, but then her husband (or brother) would have fractured mine.

So without absolute scientific proof, based on just the observed visual evidence, I can state this: the Chennaite gets into office around the time we Bangaloreans have already finished half the days work, and his lumbar does not seem to fuse with his dorsal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-2: Sambar

After 3 months in Chennai, I can say this: these chaps don’t know to make Sambar.

Despite being a hidebound ‘Northy’ in all matters culinary, over a decade in Bangalore has made me something of an expert on the Southy nosh of idly-dosa-sambar and suchlike gastronomical excesses.

OK, maybe ‘expert’ is too strong a word, but as any self-respecting Bangalorean, I DO know this one thing: Sambar is NOT something that you are actually supposed to eat.

Sambar is this thin lurid orangish fluid that accompanies the dosa. It has these little white flecks floating in it that are designed to instigate vigorous mental inquiry: one part of you wants to stir it in horrid fascination with a spoon and ask “what on Earth are these little white flecks?” Another part of you wants to screw the eyes shut and whisper inaudibly “You don’t wanna know. You don’t wanna know.” Mental Inquiry. The purpose of the sambar-bowl, of course, is to make you think about the sadder aspects of life, so that you grow spiritually. You just look at it tensely while you nibble a few pieces quickly torn off from the edge of your fat oily dosa, and send it back with the waiter who recycles it in a big vat kept at the back of the restaurant where they breed alligators.

Now, what does one get in Chennai? Thin, crisp and chewy dosas that burst with flavor. A bowl of fragrant sambar- a pleasing yellow with oodles of veggies, that you can gulp down by the bucketful. And- listen to this carefully, for you won’t believe your ears: These maniacal Chennaites actually EAT this stuff.

Sure, the sambar in Chennai is good, and is pleasing to the taste buds. But is tickling the saporine organs all that there is to life? Isn’t there more to this vale of tears than to fill your belly?

What of the spirit? When will these Chennaites get around to building their spiritual selves?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-1: Roads

A few months ago, I moved to Chennai from Bangalore. This month, I moved hurriedly back. But my short stay in that great city led to deep introspection about what can virtually be called a sister city of Bangalore – I mean, it’s just a short bike-ride away. But although so close physically, the cities are so different. In this series of posts I will examine the differences between these two great South Indian cities.

The first thing that hits a visitor from Bangalore to this city of sun, sea and sand is: ROADS.

These chaps don’t know to make roads. The Chennai concept of road is this flat smooth thing with tar on it. On both sides of it, they have this thing called ‘footpath’- a flat unbroken path with nice neat slabs of stone for people to walk on. Now get this, the weirdest part: they act as though roads are where the cars drive and footpaths are exclusively for people.

How can these people be so Naïve ?

Where are the potholes? Where are the half-meter-high speedbreakers with razor edges which scrape the underbelly of low-slung cars? Where is the mud? The cobbles? The gaping holes in the footpath for people to fall into and break their legs? Above all, where, oh where is the friendly intermingling of cars and pedestrians in the middle of the road, sprawling over on to the notational footpaths, where visible?

In short, where is the fun? Where are the possibilities of spiritual instruction?

These chaps seem to think a road is a soulless means of getting from point A to B. Don’t these Chennaites have a sense of adventure? They ought to visit us dudes in Bangalore. Fun and games night and day on the streets. Of course, people get killed and maimed. But what of it? It strengthens you spiritually.

We Bangloreans are a spiritual, fun-loving people.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thoughts on Artificial Sweeteners

Do you put artificial sweeteners in your tea? Or coffee? You do?!? Shame on you!
Don’t you know artificial sweeteners are responsible for the hole in the ozone layer? The selfsame hole that is getting us all into a holy mess- what with Global Warming and all that muck. Not that that is such a bad thing. Think Free Sauna. Of course, here in India we have free sauna all the year around. But think of those chaps in the northern climes.

So what do they put in artificial sweeteners, and why does it cause a hole in the ionosphere?

This requires deep scientific analysis and knowledge of advanced chemistry and physics, which I know you don’t have. Otherwise you wouldn’t be wasting your time reading this blog. You would be out there saving the world from Global Warming. Or maybe you’re just a pathological procrastinator.

Anyway, I’ll put it in terms intelligible to the meanest pea-brain:

When you eat sugar, you fart Methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas. It heats the atmosphere. So those rich farts in the west don’t have to burn oil to heat their saunas. This reduces Global Warming.

When you eat artificial sweeteners, you fart…I dunno. Variegated, diverse stuff, but not Methane. So the atmosphere doesn’t get heated up and those rich dolts in the West have to burn oil for their saunas. This causes Global Warming.

When the air heats up, it rises. It spills out through this hole in the ozone layer. This cause friction. Hole gets bigger. The hot air falls back. This increases Global Warming.

I hope it is clearer now.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thoughts on a Chair

Chairs. Chairs make me sick. Chairs are a conspiracy. A conspiracy by the bums of this world to elevate themselves. Now why would two hemispherical stubs of meat want to elevate themselves? Don’t they know their place in life? I call it the Deepak Chopra complex: Everyone wants to be thought of as a rare rarified soul. Do bums have soul? Possibly. Ms Ashwarya Rai’s certainly seem to.

Now I want to clarify that I’m not particularly prejudiced against bums. Especially the ones attached to Ms Rai. If they wish to get elevated, all strength to them, I say.

But we were talking about chairs, not bums. Where on earth did bums get into this discussion? So what are chairs? They can broadly be defined as a framework of some kind of rigid material like wood, steel or aluminum, specifically designed to elevate the human posterior. Oh yes…that is where we got distracted by the bum motif. Let us hurriedly push on.

OK, so what is rigid? Rigid is what happens to the male you-know-what when brought into contact with Viagra. What is a framework? We need to break this up. Frame is when you are accused of doing something you claim you did not. Work is …well, work. What else? Something we all do when we’d much rather be sleeping or playing the guitar. The human posterior, aka bum, we have already defined as a particularly attractive part of Ms Rai’s corpus, when viewed from behind.

So we can summarize the chair as follows:

It is when you are accused of doing something you’d much rather not be doing esp. just after you’ve popped a Viagra and had a good look at a photograph of Ms Rai taken from behind.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thoughts on Monkeys

Today we turn our thoughts to another burning issue of the day: Monkeys.

India and Australia were recently convulsed to their respective foundations by the news that cricketer Harbajan Singh allegedly called Andrew Symond ‘Monkey’ at the Indo-Australia Cricket match in Sydney. Since one in every 6 human on this planet is an Indian, and one in every 200 is an Australian, we can safely say that the world was shaken to its foundation by this news.

Three questions: What is ‘News’? What is ‘Allegedly’? What is ‘Monkey’?

‘News’ is one plump fellow in thick, oily slicked-down hair gibbering unintelligibly on NDTV- usually joined by another thin bony fellow doing the same. But this is a topic we will examine in more detail another day.

‘Allegedly’ is one of those words used by journalists, lawyers and suchlike to call anyone anything they want and get away with it.

‘Monkey’ is general term applied to any simian primate, from whom we Homo sapiens have allegedly evolved. What is the implication of calling a member of the species Homo sapiens ‘Monkey’? Well, essentially you are alleging that the said member is unevolved.

Question: what is evolution? Evolution is the process of graduating from walking and eating fruit and nuts, to driving around in an internal combustion engine and eating burgers at MacDonald, both of which allegedly lead to coronary heart disease.

So essentially what we are saying is that the world was shaken to its foundation because one plump fellow on NDTV in thick black slicked-down hair gibbered excitedly using a word used by journalists to call anyone anything and get away with it that one Homo sapiens told another that he (the other Homo sapiens) was not leading a lifestyle conducive to coronary heart disease.

Question: If this is sufficient to rock the foundation of the world, does it lead to some nervous speculation about the solidity of the world’s foundation?

Yes it does. Please remember, the world does NOT, in fact, have a foundation. The world is actually a mud ball whizzing in tight circles around another ball made up of, as far as our best scientist can tell, gas.

Which is another worrying thought.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thoughts on a Sausage

Dear world, apologies for the long break in blogging… I finally found a ‘normal’ job of some sort. Nothing great – but enough to move from the status of being a starving unemployed writer to an I’d-love-to-write-but-cant-find-the-time brand of dilettante pseudo-literati. My good friend Siva induced me to write again. Blame him.

Anyway, since it doesn’t seem practical any more to spend half a day polishing long posts, I have decided to reactivate my blog with a series of short and pithy ‘Thoughts’ posts. This is the first in the series- to be stopped only when a sufficient number of people protest. Loudly. Or the street dogs in my back alley start howling. Louder than they already do.

In these postings, I will present a few thoughts of a deep and philosophical nature on an important intellectual, socio-political or cultural issue of the day.

Today let us consider: Sausages.

What are, in fact, sausages? Sausages are the end result of subjecting sus domestica or the common pig (not to be confused with the male chauvinist pig, a species that, as any woman knows, is good for nothing- not even sausages) to a long and complex industrial process, the ghoulish details of which if I go into you’ll spoil your lunch.

But what are chicken sausages? Chicken sausages are a conspiracy. Try mentioning chicken sausages to a German. He will choke in his tankard of Helles (or if he happens to be drinking Dunkles or Lager at the time, he’ll choke on those). Chicken sausages are a conspiracy by the French to asphyxiate the German nation, a revenge for WWII.

Now, here in India, we don’t eat sausages much. Chicken sausages in Mac don’t count. That is why we aren’t big and strong, like the Germans. We don’t eat much Couscous either. That is why we aren’t big and strong like the Algerians and Moroccans. But we have started to eat a great deal of burgers and fries. Soon we will be big and fat, like the Americans.

Chicken sausages are not politically tenable in the long run. Knowledge of this innovation has not yet filtered down to the global poultry. When it does, what will be the harvest? Could we withstand all the chickens of this world standing up as a hen and squawking? Suppose that happens at your local tandoori joint? Of course, you could argue, that applies to normal sausages as well. Suppose all the pigs of the world gang up and grunt in unison? But that is not the same thing. Not the same thing at all…

There was a report in Nature last week…scientists are genetically modifying pigs to embody the sausage. Not, mind you, that their bodies will be used to make sausages. No, that happens even now. In future, their bodies will be the sausages.

Now there’s a nice thought….Can they genetically modify pigs like the ones who misbehaved with those girls in Mumbai on New Years Day? I’m sure a girl could easily handle a clutch of misbehaving alcohol-soaked sausages – although she can’t realistically be expected to fight back seventy drunken boors on the rampage.

This is a good idea, and must be pushed along with all due alacrity by the scientific community. But then there will be two more kinds of sausages: Konkanasta and Deshasta. And suppose they do it to those roadside Romeos in Delhi as well? What a fun!

Here is how a conversation between a Delhi cheappad and a Babe might go in the future:-

Cheappad: Oye Dolly! Kitthey? Saade naal rahoge to AISH karoge!

Babe: Oye Chavanne, saade naal rahoge to FRY ho jaoge.