Thursday, September 21, 2006


People should know better than to delete their blogs when they go away.

Everybody wants to come back SOME time.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Plum Pie

"Blithe Spirits", the Calcutta chapter of the Wodehouse Wonderbar, holds its monthly meeting tomorrow.

Apparently they've been planning stuff but haven't got down to action. Some Wodehouse enthusiasts required to chip in and Do Things. Rupert Baxter and Ronald Eustace rather than Bertie, Uncle Fred rather than Lord Em. Get the drift? Please do come. Should be fun.

Flat 504, 4/2 Middleton Street, at half past eleven. That's 11:30 a.m. for the precision prissies. Don't turn up too early but on the other hand, do try to get there by 12 noon, please.

UPDATE - The meeting was fun. We have also Taken Decisions. A Humour Quiz in December, in Crossword (thank you, Mr. Sidharth Pansari), one of the QMs to be Monsieur Tintin. Followed, the next evening, by a reading of Plum's work and an interactive session. The Blithe Spirits need some energetic members. Roll up, roll up ...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Arrested motion

My heroine of the week is Bina Ramani [1]. I have little idea why it is necessary to arrest a witness who is not charged as an accessory after the fact, but I totally love the idea of her staying cool with Chanel in the lock-up. Can we extend this to other areas of public life? Air fresheners in buses? Autos? The press room in Writers Buildings on any afternoon when the Assembly is not in session?

I’ve often wondered what would be the toughest part about being arrested. Given pen and paper, I think I could survive the other tribulations (except being beaten up, I never could get to accept that even though it happened often enough since Cls. 4, when I cheeked one of the Chinese seniors from technical school and got my glasses slapped half-way across the badminton court). You know what would give me grief? The loos. There is no way I can be happy if I have to use a dirty loo. Given the parsimonious outlook of jail administrators, it is a given that the loos won’t be clean. I hope I never get arrested.

[1] Link will follow when the Telegraph site is up again.

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Disappointment yesterday evening. Lokkhoner Shoktishel at the Gyan Manch, a Sukumar Ray classic that I last saw performed almost 30 years ago. I remember it as side-splittingly hilarious. But then one was more easily amused at that age. In any case, it’s the kind of script that, if read well, can be played for a barrel of laughs. This time round, I thought there was just too much tweaking, it was just too referential and “I’m-so-khoo”. This play lies in the spoken lines and unfortunately some of the players were indistinct. Can’t afford to ignore the basics. Overall, “disappoooointmeeeent!” (whips out pistol and fires two shots into safe … how many of the Beavis and Butthead generation have seen “A Fish called Wanda”? Sublime Pythonisms.)

BUT but but .. having been rather nasty, I must say that SOME people impressed, including someone who (I'd hitherto thought) is too young to carry off a Little Black Dress. Another known face [2] lurked backstage but was cheered the most during the curtain call. The director did a rubber-jointed cameo in the first scene. This affected his voice projection but impressed the shit out of me, especially the bit where he stayed upside down for the longest while and Ram [1] addressed his upthrust posterior. Oh, and Hanuman (Ritam?) totally rocked in Circuit Warsi mode. That’s an idea .. how about Munnabhai meets the Mahabharat? (Or the Ramayana, as the case may be, but that’s not so alliterative).

Incidentally, we arrived far too early for the show and had to hang around (and perspire gently) in the lobby for a bit. Then we found the hall door open and drifted in to enjoy the air-con. Lo and behold, there was a rehearsal in progress. With show-time a mere half-hour away? I know the feeling. Before enlightenment (i.e., giving up all hope of academic excellence), I too used to have these last-moment mugga (= swot) sessions before term exams, as we walked up from the assembly hall to class. So there we were, enjoying the cliquey feeling of actually being in on the last rehearsal, occasionally waving back (nonchalantly) at certain theatre people who (incredulously) espied us in the seats (the hall lights were up). Until a suave young gentleman all in black came and threw us out into the sweaty wilderness again. I was most impressed by his persistence and panache. A pleasure being chucked out by you, Bikram (I think). We must do it again some time.

[1] The portrayal of Ram as an effete poseur was one of the things that appealed to me. I mean, how fake does a guy have to be before he ditches a wife who stuck with him through 14 years of shitty married life in the jungle, with a brother-in-law tagging along to put paid to their privacy, sundry vamps chasing after her husband and she doesn't know whether he's getting some on the side when he claims to be out slaying demons - and all for the sake of public opinion?
Besides, if Sita had to prove that she hadn't been romping with Ravana, what about Surpanakha, eh? What had Ram done anyway that made her so nuts about him? Double standards. And don't even get me started about

[2] Damn, the child has shifted her blog and I can't find it. I know it's called "Opaline" now.

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Morons in the morning

Every day in every way the morons score higher and higher. This morning I waited outside the gym for half an hour. Because the guy who has the keys hadn’t turned up. Mind you, this is a franchise of a multi-national thingummy, with the flags of umpteen countries painted around its logo. At least four trainers hung around in their street clothes and made apologetic noises – but no guarantee that they’ll have the sense to keep a duplicate set of keys with the building security. Why didn’t they do that in the first place anyway? Because they’re morons, of course. And I’m another for bothering to ask.

It’s not very nice to drag myself out of bed at half five just so I can wake up enough to hit the gym at half six. It’s even worse when my morning outing resembles Wodehouse’s robbers who pull on their stocking masks and run up the steps of the bank, only to be foiled by a sign that says “Closed on Wednesdays and Sundays” (“… and all the tedious planning to do over again”) Especially when I need the elliptical trainer to exorcise the guilt from pasta prima vera for dinner
[1]. So much for my low-carb diet. Stay fat, sucker!

Just so I had something to do, the lid came off my sipper inside my gym bag, soaking not only my clothes but also the newspaper. How do you dry a newspaper? Yeah right, put it in the oven on low. (I must try that some time … what would happen if I microwaved the morning papers? There’s this urban legend about the old biddy who gave her cat a bath and then put it in the microwave to dry out. It exploded. Eeewwww. I’ve come close – I once washed a pair of almost-new Nike running shoes and put them to dry in the OTG. And forgot about them.
Moron myself.)

So – drying newspapers? One irons them, of course. In the
St. James Hotel in London, it used to be standard practice to iron the newspapers before delivering them to the rooms. Do people still care about these tactile enhancements of pleasure? Apparently they used to iron currency notes as well before they were placed with the cashier.

[1] which tastes even better when doggy-bagged and eaten at breakfast, doused in herb-infused olive oil and more melted cheese

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Over the telegraph

Earlier, every colliery used to have one of the office watchmen on the Board of Directors. This
durwan was very important. In those days, every time there was an accident in a mine, the Board of Directors was held responsible. So guess who was marched off to jail if the court ordered that a director should be arrested?
The collieries have been around for over a century. Now the CMD of the company that runs the Bhatdih mine says the accident was an eye-opener. Long nap so far.
And no directors have been arrested. Leck-kee durwans, no?

Malegaon sees a sad deterioration in servility. I cannot begin to imagine the grief of these parents. I'd say they were quite restrained. Pity.

Rudrangshu Mukherjee seems to agree with Raj Kumar Hirani. Coming soon (perhaps), a review of Lage Raho Munnabhai. Spoiler - I loved it!

And oh, an expat experiences the realities of indeterminate gender. Perhaps if he hadn't been a Glaswegian, he would have havered on about cultural epiphanies or tolerance. Since he is a Scot, he tells it like it is. Carry on, McDougall.

Mike Selvey quotes Betjeman, then ponders on an anachronism. Lovely lines, too ... "I composed those lines when a summer wind/Was blowing the elm leaves dry". I have a soft spot for the never-never land of the "idyllic English summer" (well yes, I am an Anglophile - tough luck, old fruit) . Apart from Betjeman, there are bits of Larkin, MacNeice, Housman, even the elegiac Brooke, that send me dreaming. Don't tell me that landscape never existed. I've even seen one of those summers, back in 2001 during the Big Dry. (The train lines warped in the heat because the Brits hadn't left expansion gaps. "Silly twits / those Brits.")
I suspect Falstaff, Veena, the Black Mamba (singly and collectively) and Neha would disapprove of my retro preferences. Sod them.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The reading, where eet eej?

Where do you do your reading? Propped up on a pile of pillows in the dark, the lamp focused just off the page so you don’t get blinded by the light bounce? In an armchair, feet up on the table, with a glass or a bowl of munchies close to hand? Or on the pot, locked in from the world and undisturbed (until a Small Person starts banging on the door and asking, “Papa, WHAT are you doing”[1])?

Different locations, different reading. Different times of day. One of the nicest feelings in the world is to wake up in the dark before dawn because I’m excited about a book. To light the lamp (and keep it shaded so I don’t wake up Certain Other People) and lie back against the pillows, turning the pages till first light filters through the curtains and the Resident Moron is kind enough to bring me my coffee. Such a thrill.

Somehow it’s more satisfying to start the day with a long read than to end it in bed with a book. Bedtime is our own time, after all. We’re supposed to read ourselves to sleep. Of course, I love that too. It’s a wrench when I realise that sleep cannot be denied any longer and I have to put the bookmark in, put the book away and switch off the light. The morning read, however, is pure indulgence. A hint of sin … avoiding the morning run, the gym, the planning of work for the day, all for the love affair with the printed word. Blissful. Last night and this morning it was Terry Pratchett, The Night Watch. These days, Sam Vimes is definitely who I want to be. (I flatter myself that we have little bits in common. No, I do not wear a helmet or smoke panatellas. Or elbow people in the nose. At least, not any more.)

The next stop is the Undisturbed (well, almost) Read. I do not subscribe to The Economist or the EPW, all I read is India Today and Outlook. (Those nauseating supplements on the world’s most expensive watches and what the designers eat for brunch? The Very Small Person reads those. When she really learns to read, I shall throw them off the balcony.) And oh, another retro publication. TIME magazine. Standard reading On the Pot.

The Throne has its own unique pleasures. In terms of reading, that is. But reading on the pot is like canap├ęs. Bite-sized pieces. A novel or a treatise does not belong in The Room where Everybody Goes. Magazines are ideal. Articles fit into mouthfuls of time. Or languid books, books of rambles and anecdotes and musing and little bits of sniping. Currently, Auberon Waugh’s Way of the World and Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence.

An important question – are newspapers best savoured on the pot? Personally, I’d say no. The morning papers are best savoured lying in bed, the curtains opened so the morning light pours in, the supplements spread out around the coffee tray. The Throne is for “some few to be tasted”.

And where does one read books that require a little more application? My place is in my study, sprawled in my treadle chair (my feet up on my rocking footstool, such delight), perhaps with my pipe beside me for the tactile pleasure when I clean it and go back over something that needs thinking through. Rarely do I read novels there (one exception being Kostova’s The Historian, read through one long Saturday when I was alone at home). Right now? The Argumentative Indian. Heavy stuff. Our good doctor is, after all, an academic. The donnish style is rarely transmuted into the story-telling lucidity of John Ronald Ruel or Feynman.

One last refuge of pleasure. Some afternoons in office, when I’m fed up of meetings and negotiations and union demands, I switch on the “Busy” light, reach back over my left shoulder for something from the bookshelf and bid the world goodbye for a while. A book that I wouldn’t make time for otherwise (The Mammaries of the Welfare State, such a poor encore after English, August) or again, something I can dip into and mull over. (Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, a delight when taken in small doses).

There is, of course, one more kind of reading that has increasingly eaten into my time. To the extent that I consciously limit it to twice a week.


Oh well.

[1] In my college days, my room was up on the terrace. The bathroom had the Pot with the Smallest Hole in the World. When I was enthroned, my great-aunt (rest her soul) would come up to water her roses and INVARIABLY ask through the door “What are you doing in there?” Excuse me? What the hell do you think I’m doing in here? Building a robot? Negotiating peace in the Middle East? But people WILL ask. Gah!

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Monday, September 04, 2006


First, the Great Bong tags me for a picture. Is he blind? No, he just doesn't read my blog. Gah! If you want titillation, Arnab ...

And this one's so you eat your heart out ...

(the outfit that Princess Leia was "forced" to wear when held prisoner by Jabba. Forced? Does that dude look like he can force an umbrella on a mocktail?)

Then I find Karthik has one of his virtual blog-meets and I. Have. A. NON-SPEAKING. Appearance. DOUBLE GAH!
I am neglected. Forlorn. I shall do the Keats thingy[1]. Like NOW.

Normal service may be resumed soon.

Or not.

[1] -
drink, and leave the world unseen, / And with thee fade away into the forest dim

[2] - a footnote! A real live footnote! Ho there, Falstaff!