Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shallow superficial petulant bitching (such fun!)

I love weirdos. No, Jay, I do not know them in the Biblical sense, I just love looking at them. Even talking to them. (The latter for short periods, say about 53 seconds at a time with long gaps in between. Like seven years.) Given a choice, I’d rather check out a Weirdo than a Hot Chick.

Delhi airport at five o’clock on a sweltering April evening when the air-conditioning is barely holding its own ...

Item: a Dude who thinks he’s So Khoo. From the bottom up – dirty sneakers that were probably brown when he bought them. Cargoes that would be khaki if he washed them. So far so good. Then – a nice white cotton shirt. With purple batik down the button seams. Ohhh, Khoo! And a full-sleeved jersey of some dark colour, the sleeves protrude beyond the short sleeves of the shirt. Is he frickin’ insane? This is Delhi, it’s almost 40 Celsius outside, it must be above 30 even inside the airport, wtf is he dressed like he’s in Leicester Square handing out menus from a Chinese take-away?! And Bono shades, you know what I mean? The kind that belong on a hairy biker riding something fat and snarly with a tear-drop tank and swept-back handlebars, only this guy looks even more ridiculous in them than Bono does. To top it all off, a cap of the kind that was last seen on Dev Anand singing “Ruk jaana o jaana mujhse do baatein” in “Bullet” (or was it “Warrant”?) If he weren’t already in line for boarding the Bombay flight I’d seriously try to strike up a conversation with him. Could be such fun. (Just a tip, dude – lose the polythene shopping bag from some "Saree Emporium" in Lucknow)

Item: the Surd in front of Khoo Dude. Now every Sikh gent doesn’t have to be like N.S. “Stop-my-mouth-I-want-get-off” Sidhu, with matching tie and turban and pocket square, but this guy is wearing pants the colour of turds that have dried in the sun (don’t ask, when we lived in Chit Park back in the Year One, Alaknanda didn’t exist and the rocky waste was a Public Convenience), with black shoes, blue socks, a tan belt and a turban that is (a) the most hideous shade of maroon possible, rather like those ice-lollies Saleem used to sell at our school gate (b) so large it looks as if he’s carrying a head-load of watermelons to market. His gut balances it, pushing his (thankfully white) shirt-front out so far he looks at least seven months gone with a nice healthy puttar. Awright, I’m judgemental and he has a heart of gold, but unfortunately what I can see is his turban.

Item: a group of three Bongs sitting behind me. Older Boss-type takes fifteen minutes to tell his Younger Acolytes how he gave somebody a dressing-down. That’s his prerogative, they’re his acolytes and they’re making all the right awed noises, but wtf, they’re sitting one on either side of him and not half-way across the lounge! And I take the ribbing from my friends about how all Bongs talk loudly.

Item: overweight young lady dressed in a pant-suit of peach-coloured corduroy (pants fashionably pixie-flared) and matching shoes. Shades so dark they're meant for the beach, how can she see with those things on? Rings on all her fingers, even the thumbs. People really dress like that?! And ma’m, you should either go on a diet or get that waistline let out, muffin rolls are not sexy. In fact they're even less sexy than ruck-lines.

Item: a head of long curly streaked hair above a nice flowered shirt in the row ahead of us. My companion is inching around to take a peek at what looks like Hot Chick material. I encourage him to go for a walk around so he can lech a bit, knowing fully well that said streaked hair is on a person who is (a) at least 50 kilos overweight (b) male. Ninety seconds later, the expression on Companion’s face is priceless. At this point Streaked Hair gets up and waddles over to join the line boarding the flight to Aurangabad. Not only is his ass as big as an elephant’s, his jeans are so tight round his humongous derriere that he has ruck-lines! Ladies, all is forgiven, I am betrayed by my own sex! Oh wait. He also has a vapid expression (like Adnan Sami trying to remember what it was he was supposed to do with Ameesha Patel) and .. Such .. Twee .. RED .. sneakers. Strewth!

Item: Khoo Dude #2, this one in tight black trousers, flowered red shirt, shiny patent-leather shoes (slightly scuffed), fake designer watch (with those shoes, it must be a fake) and long curly mane. Would have been excusable if he had been 35 years younger, now he looks like a pimp and a lousy one at that. Excuse me, sir? The only species that can dress like that at age 55 doesn’t fly Economy, you know what I mean? You should have your private island before you dare to look so gross in public, then you have somewhere to run when I try to step on you. [1]

Item: Tough babe opposite me. Nice eyes, but a jaw that belongs on a Soviet ice-breaker sailing from Odessa in November. She was on the same flight out in the morning too. Through some inexplicable subconscious process, I’m sure she works for a market research agency. But lady, you’re not exactly going door-to-door, why are you wearing sneakers with your FabIndia type salwar-kameez? That’s just fine on dumpy aunties (as in ladies whom even I address as "Auntie") doing the rounds of Victoria Memorial at six in the morning, why must you inflict it on us in a public place at 5 in the evening? AND she’s reading a Robin Cook. Gah.

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Delhi airport is good in one respect. In the check-in hall, there are kiosks where you can get decent grub. Even a CafĂ© Coffee Day outlet, so while I’m fuming in the check-in queue behind some moron who thinks the airline is dying to carry, free of charge, his 27 cartons bound with rope, I have some succour and consolation. Cal airport only has a couple of tired Lipton tea booths. Masala chai is good, but not in the same league as a large Ethiopian, extra strong, with double shots of chocolate and cream.

In just about any major Indian airport, there’s precious little food or drink that you can buy once you’re through security. Delhi is an exception. There's this (supposedly) swank outlet (right next to the drinking water and the loos) where you can buy fossilised samosas, petrified sandwiches and kathi rolls personally prepared by the bawarchis of Bahadur Shah Zafar. In 1854. They might break your teeth and poison you but by God, they have antique value! While I appreciate the Airports’ Authority’s attempt to provide “heritage cuisine”, I still haven’t figured out the pricing.

Sandwiches are uniformly priced at 50 rupees each, but why 37 bucks for a samosa? Forget the fact that I could get better – sorry, more edible though with less historical value – samosas for 3 bucks outside, why that particular figure? Why price “Veg. Kathi rolls” (what an abomination!) at Rs. 62? And “Non-veg. Kathi rolls” (the only kind, actually. AAAI, wake up) at Rs. 73? Do they want to make it so difficult to get the right change that they drive customers away? What stops them from rounding off the prices? And if they must pretend to price by exact value, why not go the whole hog and charge Rs. 37 and 64 paise for their prehistoric samosas?

Morons. They are everywhere.

Why does everybody rush to stand in line as soon as boarding is announced? It’s not as if Indian (no longer “Indian Airlines”, now wait for them to learn from “British” who went back to being “British Airways”) has free seating and they’ll get better seats if they board first. Stupid herd mentality. On the other hand, if everybody were like me and waited for the others to queue out before they even stood up, the flight would never take off. Or there would be a melee at the boarding gate. It does take all kinds.

Why does the lady behind me ask, of no-one in particular, “IC 264?” No ma'm, they just put that sign on the boarding gate to fool you, this is actually the flight to Azerbaijan.

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I’m just so full of the milk of human kindness because it’s hot and I have a headache and I had a bad meeting. Venting helps.

Oh all right, I’m a shallow petulant trivial person. (But I don’t wear Bono shades or peach-coloured shoes, HA!)

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[1] – I landed up next to him on the flight and he’s actually quite a nice guy. Apart from the character traits that go with pimp pants and fake gold Patek Philippes.

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Friday, April 28, 2006


I thought I’d post.

Then I decided against it.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

All around, all around

CNN-IBN headlines, “Bangalore errupts”.

Lata Khubchandani in Outlook asks Helen, “Who’s moves do you like?”

Surely not much better than “Mentors Coaching Academy”, which is in “persuit of excellence”

And I’m a persnickety old fogey because these things bother me.

TimesNow, of course, is beyond the pale. I mean, what the hell is a "kawr-tAHjh" (to rhyme with "corsage") in a funeral procession? Which is worse, ignorance or pretentiousness? Pity. From what I hear, Arnab is an educated man. But then he’s only a ‘P’ away from …

On a related note, is there any rational explanation for what is happening in Bangalore? Wickedness I can understand, selfishness, cruelty even. How does one comprehend sheer stupidity?


On a further related note, here’s to the seekers after knowledge who come here looking for “carol gracias wardrobe malfunction pictures” and all possible combinations thereof. I have some sympathy for the “Siddharth Suryanarayan” fans, but seriously, the hordes of Carol Gracias seekers have reduced me to a state where “bangla panu golpo” (or even “jap sex”) seems wholesome and “hydroscele” (ainh?!) a refreshing change! But then, I read Outlook and they have seen fit to print pictures of both the “malfunctions”. At some level, we are what we hate. Cripes!

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Monday, April 10, 2006


Today’s delight – pages 774 and 775 of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2004), Third Impression (2005), © Oxford University Press. Two pages throw up ALL these words I didn’t know …

Kaka, a small parrot from New Zealand. Kalanchoe. Kalimba (wotinell is a “thumb piano”?). Kalmia. Kalmyk. Kalong. Kamilaroi, a particular Australian aboriginal tribe. Kangaroo paw. Kanji (wow). KANU. Kaon. Kapelimeister. Kaposi’s sarcoma. Kapu. Karaite – believe it or not, a Jewish sect. Karelian. Karri. Karyo. Karyokinesis. Karyotype. Kasha. Kashrut. Katabatic. Katharevousa – after Judaism, now a strain of the Greek orthodox?

From the Japanese - Kakemono. Kamba. Kame. Kana. Kanban. Katakana. Katsura.

This is English today.

Mind you, this list does not include the words on those pages that I already know. What I didn’t know was that so many of these known words are English! To wit …

Kalpa – an age of Brahma, a slice of infinity. Kama Sutra. Kanarese (Kanarese?! They mean Kannadiga). Kangha. Kannada. Kara. Karahi. Karela. Karma. Kashmir goat. Kashmiri. Kathak. Kathakali. (But weren’t these Indian words? If “kangha” and “kara”, two of the five ‘k’s of Sikhism, can be incorporated into the OED, why not kesh, kaccha and kirpan as well?)

Kami – a divinity in the Shinto religion. Thence Kamikaze, or “divine wind”. Karate, from kara, empty and te, hand. (Can’t ever forget that etymology. That was the deciding question when our school won the Bournvita Quiz Contest back in 1980. Tutul got it at the last moment. Wonder whether he’s still in Southampton?) Karate chop. Karateka. Karoshi, or suicide due to stress or overwork. (Would you want to live in Japan after that?)

Kakapo – a large flightless parrot from New Zealand. (Now which of Gerald Durrell’s books was that?) Kala-azar. Kalashnikov. Kale. Kaleidoscope. Kalends (variation of Calends). Kampong. Kampuchean. Kanaka (Hawaiian again). Kangaroo. Kangaroo court. Kangaroo mouse. Kangaroo rat. Kangaroo vine. Kansan (also Kan and Kans as abbreviations). Kaolin. Kaolinite. Kapok. Kappa. Kaput (also from the Hawaiian and not German as I’d thought). Karabiner. Karakul. Karaoke. Karat. Karen. Karst – a sink-hole in a limestone region (takes me back to Goh Cheng Leong and his lovely geography text-book). Kart. Kasbah (Charles Boyer and “Come with me to the Casbah”, the line he never really spoke in the 1938 movie Algiers). Kata. Katabolism. Katana (aah, Jebu-San!). Katydid.

Amazing. Truly amazing. How many of those words did you recognise as English?

I’ve been listening to Al Stewart again. The change in the English language reminds me of his line from On the Border“In the village where I grew up, nothing seems the same / yet you never see the change from day to day”. Coming up next, Benglish?

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Site-d online

Flower Mound, Texas. A grave? A sudden vision? Wordsworth in the Wild West? Actually more of a Kansas or Oklahoma place-name than a Texas one. Just doesn’t go with a ten-gallon hat. The USA does have a knack for names that stay in the mind, like Elizabeth, New Jersey and Independence, Iowa. There’s a Jamaica Bay in (of all places) cold Massachusetts and a town in Illinois called River Forest.

Repulse Bay, Hong Kong. Somehow reminds me of A Ballad of the Fleet – “At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay / And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from far away … ” (I'm told that "pinnace", meaning "light boat propelled by sails or oars ... a tender for merchant and war vessels" is the root of the Bangla panshi, best known in the phrase chal pansi Belghoria!) Also the Al Stewart song about “Lord Grenville”, which is a little off. Grenville was knighted but not elevated to the peerage. In any case, Stewart’s Celtic whinge is nowhere near as rousing as the “fight of the one and the fifty-three”. All very scatty on my part, because H.M.S. Repulse was a 20th-century battleship (how did a bay in Hong Kong come to be named after it?), not a 16th-century nobleman. But they both died in action at sea.

West Wickham, Bromley ( … is so bracing, as Plum told us) Followed, of course, by Plumstead, Bexley. Ideal settings for galloping clergymen and hallooing aunts. One of the rare flashes of wisdom from the Indian Council for Secondary Education - The Great Sermon Handicap was actually prescribed reading at one time.

Laredo, Texas“As I walked out on the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day …[1] Tell Sackett riding into a new town, “loaded for bear”, loosening his guns in their holsters and humming to himself. A haze on the distant hills, the air chill enough to slow the fingers yet the sun cracking highlights off the dust on the street. Clint got his Oscar for the gritty realism of the pig-farmer in Unforgiven, but his Man with No Name was part of the romance of the Wild West, a West that may never have existed in history. The genre, however - from the corny Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy through John Wayne and John Ford, Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, Gunsmoke and Rawhide to Unforgiven, from Zane Grey and L’Amour to Six-Guns and Saddle Leather – is somehow more real than the reality.

Dnipropetrovsk, Dnipropetrovs'ka Oblast'. (An Oblast is an administrative division in Ukraine.) Going by the name, this is a town on the Dnieper. I had to look it up. Brezhnev and Tymoshenko were from near here. Apparently the region produced a clique within the CPSU, a so-called “Dnipropetrovsk clan” that effectively ruled the USSR till the rise of Gorbachev. Grey plains by a steely river and an iron curtain over all.

A smattering of names in a strange tongue, from the “cockpit of Europe” (L. Mukherjee and the story of Bismarck left some phrases in my mind). Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant – did Anton van Leeuwenhoek’s family come from round there? Couldn’t find a direct mention (he was born in Delft anyway), but this must be my mysterious reader from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Apparently Leuven is a university town with one of the “liveliest bar scenes in Belgium”. I’ve never been there, haven’t read much about it, so that could be the equivalent of “the hottest strip-joint in Kabul”. Would somebody enlighten me? Brussels, Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest. Yes, right, how’s the old neigbourhood doing these days? And most intriguingly, 't Broek, Brabant. What kind of a name is that? Apparently a suburb of Brussels not too far from the airport.

Also Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Zuid-Holland. This seems a little out-of-the-way, because the Wiki entry is in Flemish and Google throws up “Find Nannies and Au Pairs in Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Zuid-Holland”. I didn’t dare delve further.

Great fun anyway. Thanks to my friend from Reston, Virginia, who pointed out the “Locations” tab in Sitemeter!

[1] Streets of Laredo is also the second volume in the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry, who is in the news as the screenplay writer for Brokeback Mountain. He still uses a typewriter.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

A minor navel (contemplated)

I’m sitting in office and I just do NOT want to work any more. If that needs any explanation apart from the obvious one that I’m a lazy free-loader, please refer to the first paragraph of my last post.

So what have I been doing? Blog-browsing, of course. One of my favourite blogs has posted pictures of Mother Teresa and Paris Hilton. (I forgot which one it was, did a search and came up with 50 OTHER blogs that mention it too!) A Great Man has hit upon the idea of asking one of them to play the other. In a film. Since we cannot ever imagine Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu cavorting with a Chihuahua while wearing sweet nothing, it follows that Conrad’s great-grand-daughter will have to don a blue-bordered white sari. The imagination boggles like billy-o; she probably has not worn so much at one time since she was in swaddling clothes.

Digression - Bill’s spell-check canNOT live with “ou” words. I just had to “Add to Dictionary” for ‘favourites’. Now I’ll have to do it again for ‘favourite’ and .. damn! I DID have to! If they’re so smart they can add Turkish and Swahili, why can’t they have MS-Office in English as well as American? I’ll tell you why, they can’t find a single American programmer who knows English. They’d have to Bangalore it. And put up with … (checks the number of Bangalore blogs on Bloglines page and retreats). By the way, I just added ‘blogs’.

Another blog I read (aarrgghh! Now I added ‘blog’. I think I’ll add ‘aarrgghhh’ as well, it might come in handy) has a story about meeting an attractive girl on a train. I have a story like that. But I’m not in Oldest Member mood right now, so I shall spring it upon you unawares some time soon.

Meanwhile, I am again overawed by erudite discussions of free market principles by Amit, Falstaff, Gawker et al. Being overcome by awe, I shall now retire into a smoky haze to think deep thoughts about inadequacy and the Woody Allen syndrome.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Monday morning, mid-week

Some people stay far away from the door / if there’s a chance of it opening up …

And some people break the damn door down. I thought I belonged to the latter category, but now I’m Snoopy waiting for his dinner bowl. Which will arrive a little too late to be savoured fully. Hellfire and wormwood assail all the penny-pinching Baal-worshipping cash-flow-managing misbegotten sons of free-thinkers in tight underwear who plumped their own bottom-lines and screwed MY balance-sheet by deferring MY dues till April.

Meanwhile …

A stroll down a wooded ride on a cloudy morning. Any walk is much improved by company. Preferrably good-natured, silent company. In other words, a dog. This one is 4 months old and was out in the Wide Wide World for the first time ever. While I mused on the perfect perspective of the trees smalling towards the end of the ride, Zippo discovered dry leaves, tree bark, random pebbles and one stoic toad.

As we passed the sunken paddock, dust stirred between the shadows. A pair of pebbles became the dark tips of two pricked ears. A jackal snoozing in the morning sun. Two more formed a triangle. They raised their heads and regarded us in the manner of a sleepy householder peering at his morning tea-tray, then dropped their noses back onto their paws and curled up again. I gripped the lead tighter, but Zippo was too engrossed in hunting leaves to notice these new playmates.

The sun broke through at the end of the glade. Columns of sunlight slanted through a huge oak. The fairway looked impossibly green, the one patch of sky between the clouds was unrealistically blue and gold. Where every prospect pleases … a boorish shout of “Fore” interrupted my reverie. I started back, first untangling the cat’s-cradle that Zippo had woven round my leg with his leash.

On the way back, a huge bronze drongo fluttered from a bamboo clump to a babul tree. Zippo’s man sauntered up. As he took the leash from me, something rustled in the leaves by the wall. A snake at least five feet long. I’m not too good at identifying snakes, but the head was the wrong shape for a viper. Probably a cobra. As we watched, it moved through a leaf-pile with hardly any sound, then over a little mound and disappeared into a hole in the bank. If only I’d had my camera.

For once, the papers had good news. Sunil More has been tried and sentenced in less than a year. Twenty-seven witnesses have given evidence against him and their anonymity has been protected. More could theoretically have been convicted even if some of the 27 had turned tail; the Supreme Court has ruled that the original testimony of hostile witnesses may be used for prosecution. This follows on the ruling that witnesses who change their statements shall be liable to prosecution for perjury. Who says the law is an ass?!

Not that there’s any shortage of asses (pun not intended). The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, no doubt at great personal cost and privation, will leave no stone unturned to investigate whether the wardrobe malfunctions during the Fashion Week were intentional. Testing times, gentlemen. Will he set up a Task Force to tug at Carol Gracias’ top and Gauhar Khan’s skirt? Will he (oh joy) perchance try them on himself, and twirl to see whether they come off? Will he do a time-and-motion study of 15 girls changing into 35 dresses in 20 minutes? The possibilities are endless. And of course so much more important than farmers committing suicide in Vidarbha.

For me, the story of the week appeared on Saturday. Sadly enough, only the Telegraph covered it in detail. Sarath Babu went through school with a teacher’s help and through BITS Pilani on scholarships. Now that he’s graduated from business school, he’ll run his own catering business. Like his mother, only on a different scale. Good man.

I have mixed feelings about Gaurav Dagaonkar, though. Surely he doesn’t need a PGDM to make music? Or is he setting up his own music production company? Not clear from the story (and I won’t buy his CD to check the label, either). This is a variation on a theme that I’ve encountered ever since I started this job. Is it a waste when qualified engineers or doctors or managers join the civil service? True, they can use on the job whatever they have learnt in their professional courses. Sadly enough, they may not get the opportunity in their first few years in the field. I don’t see much scope for a chemical engineer to use his expertise as a Sub-Divisional Officer. On the other hand, there’s the popular view that most B-School graduates end up “selling soap”. Vindi Banga, after all, used to be the pin-up boy for our young hot-shots.

The fact remains that these bright young people take up a scarce resource – specialized education. Now that the IIMs are hiking their fees, we have little cause for complaint if B-School graduates do their own thing. (Sing louder, Gaurav.) What about doctors? The state spends Rs. 800,000, on an average, to produce one doctor. If s/he acquires a post-doc degree, the cost doubles. The reasoning is that this learning will then be used to heal people. Is the trained professional then justified in taking up a different kind of job altogether? Does s/he have a debt to the state? And what about home-makers? Is it fair to take up a seat in a medical college for which 350,000 young people compete, to use the state’s resources for four years at least, then sit at home and not use that learning? A similar argument could be applied to engineers graduating from state-run institutions. Should there be a bond for a certain period of public service after graduation? (Is this the Chicago school of reasoning? Digression, courtesy Urmea: how many Chicago school economists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer - none, if it needs changing the market will take care of it.)

Opinions solicited.

Doesn’t apply to me, of course. Forget about a professional degree, I couldn’t even complete a Master’s degree. Despite two attempts. I remain happily semi-literate. Time to play some Floyd. Yes, that track.

Post-Script: Chicken (a little less than half a kilo) marinated in curd, chilli paste and some salt and grated onions. Separately, heat a couple of tablespoonfuls of oil (NOT coconut oil, unless you're from Kairrlla). Drop in some dark mustard seeds, a handful of peppercorns, some "curry-leaves" (is there a word for them in English?), one clove of shaved garlic, two chopped green chillis and three chopped onions.. Stir till the onions turn golden-brown. Add the marinated chicken, turn up the heat, keep stirring till almost dry. Add a cup of milk (sugar or aspartame to taste) and repeat till the chicken starts to disintegrate.

Best eaten with appams, but fine rice should also do. What should I name it?

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