I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Last Wish

Dear Ritesh and Mitesh,
I was slated to die by end of the month. That was in August 1996. The fact that you are reading it now, means that such diagnoses, to quote Mark Twain, were highly exaggerated. However, recently, my 'good spirits' have been waning. By now, I am dead and hopefully you have given me a fit farewell. I had instructed Raj to hand over my last letter to you fourteen days after my funeral. I hope he, in his usual style, wasn't late!

I must say at the outset that you two have made me proud on many counts. I haven't been very vocal about this and you might have well imagined that I am disappointed by the way your life has turned out. That is not so, on many counts.

While I was lucky to be born into a rich family and became quite successful, you outdid me by some margin when it came to living the high life. The obligatory Mercedes, the yearly trips to London, the farmhouses. It was all laid out. While I have asked a few questions on these in the last few years, you must not worry. Such displays are neither new nor revolting. After all, isn't your marriage talked about in Allahabad even now? However, what did surprise me was the eagerness for our old house which you two have exhibited recently.

Besides your riches and your fame, I have also been proud of the fact that you have raised five really wonderful grandchildren for me. They are independent and fair, qualities which I look for in people. Yes, one of them did display a rebellious streak as well, but you were quick to prevent independence from turning into rebellion. Much to quick, in my opinion, considering how firebrand we have been and I still am! I would have stopped you if I could have, but then there is a line when my my family ends and your starts. It is your call.

I would have done differently, though. I am just sad that you have given up on logic for what you call beliefs. Ritesh, if my daughter had decided not to get married the Hindu way but by reading poetry to her love, I would have been okay (though it would have been corny, like that film whose name I don't remember). In fact, your steadfast refusal surprised me. I remember you first tried to blame your wife's family but failed. Then you got Mitesh to support you. Poor Divya, even she couldn't stand up to Chote Kaka's advice.

In fact this incident was the proverbial last straw which broke my back. You call it a reason to live. I would refrain from calling it anything, now that I am away. I remember your youth when you had become card-carrying members. Comrade you used to call me. I hated it. For me, the centre was where I wanted to stay. Not for me reactionary activities and dreams instead of policies. We used to stay up all night debating this. Yet, I was happy that you had found your cause. I hoped that with age, some logic will find its way into the cause. When I told you that I could not imagine that both of you will take up religion.

You said that this was your reason to live. That you couldn't take the death of your youngest. I protested. You compared the belief to my belief in Darwin. Which was quite funny as I didn't ever feel the need to believe something which I could explain. I made you carry out all those smoky rituals outside my house. Now, I will forever hold my quiet. Plus, you could take the house and do whatever you want there. I have one last wish though. You see, this particular will (which you will get soon from Raj) gives away all my property to a couple of trusts. It is a large amount of wealth for them so they will not spend it all at once. Instead, they will get only a minor part of the wealth and the rest as income on an annual basis. However, I am happy to come back, remake my will and give it to you. Can you please ask your God to bring me back to life once for a few minutes as my last wish? Just ask God to conduct a minor miracle.

I am hoping this will not be a huge inconvenience. You will continue to be in my thoughts, if what you believe is true.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

While many of us didn't see it coming...

... a couple of documentary filmmakers saw the Zidane rage coming.

This is not about headbutts, but if you are into that kind of thing, then more on headbutts: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) and (8).

No.1 reason why the All Blacks won't win the World Cup

Supporting All Blacks in Rugby is tough. Let me say, that it's not as easy as supporting Europe in Golf. They will get into World Cups as the favourites but not win. Lately, they don't even come close, leading to immense heartache. It's almost like supporting Brazil in football, except that Brazil will win every alternate time.

This time (for World Cup 2007), they are even stronger then in the last three World Cups and thus, I am counting on them to win. Unfortunately, there are already ten reasons why they won't. Guess, what no. 1 reason is?

"So because Zinedine Zidane decided to headbutt Marco Materazzi the All Blacks won't win the World Cup."

More on headbutts (This is just to spite Corporate Whore!): (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7).

Kannada chauvinism: KQA and Kumaraswamy

One feature about quizzing which I like is how it enriches me as a person. I will walk away from most quizzes with at least one book or a film recommendation and two-three things to do more research about, in my interest areas - history, genetics, sports.

The way quizmasters do this is by asking questions which they make themselves, based on films they have seen and liked, books they have read, magazines they read, conversations they have had and thought that they have put in which shows us connections between things we didn't think existed. Bad quizmasters either don't have time to watch films, read books, have conversations or do not want to put in thought. Perhaps they are incapable. I have no expectations from them and hence, don't turn up in quizzes they host.

However, I do have expectations from good quizmasters. Sometimes, I am let down. This happens ever so often in KQA (Karnataka Quiz Association) when the quizmasters ask Kannada questions. I know it's their prerogative and ultimately, there's nothing wrong with regional preferences. However, these questions are not enriching enough as there is no context which is shared and no efforts made to explain why the film shown is mentioned or the song is relevant. Instead, we are subjected to two minutes of an alien language and then some other teams get points. Plain boring, quite biased and extremely chauvinistic.

Sometimes, some KQA quizmasters say that they are doing this to promote Kannada culture. While I have cribs that they stop at asking the question and not at making the culture accessible, at least they are providing positive incentive to us to learn a bit more about it.

H.D. Kumaraswamy, the Karnataka chief master can perhaps learn from KQA. In a bird-brained move, his government has enforced a retrograde policy and banned some 800-1500 schools from teaching in English in the primary school. Again, the Government has taken the easy way out and instead of creating positive incentives (which are obviously non-trivial and difficult to implement when it comes to saving languages) has chosen to infringe upon people's right to choose.

Now, while the Policy permits the government to take this step, it would have been wiser to learn from the KQA. Even I have started remembering some Kannada film names!

Monday, September 25, 2006


I discovered a new religion today. Like all religions, it mystifies and obfuscates material in such a manner that it can only preach to the converted or to the desperate and helpless. Like all religions, they offer hope and salvation. They offer riches, fame and the easy way out. Like all religions, I could have ended up dead while laughing at the myths conjured up by simple minds in these. If only I could stop being so appalled.

Perhaps most strikingly, like all religions, this one tells stories in the Aristotleian plot - Situation, Complication, Resolution.

Situation: I am a model. I injured my finger and my back.
Complication: Because I couldn't lift weights, I was gaining weight. Thus, I was losing out on work and was feeling quite low as well.
Resolution: Then I used the Velform sauna belt. You can lose weight without putting any strain on the back or for that matter, your finger. I soon got work and also my self-confidence back.
1) Sweats away unwanted fat, eliminate cellulite, and ease muscle pain while sitting in your own home.
2) Focuses sauna heat on the most problematic body parts to help flush out and eliminate toxins.
3) Suitable for abdomen waist, back and hip.
4) Improves metabolism
Situation: I am a businessman. I have an imports-export business which has turnover of crores of rupees
Complication: Last year one of my orders got rejected. It was a huge order and the loss I suffered was crippling. I developed ulcers.
Resolution: Then I received the Ekmukhi Rudraksha Kaju-shaped. I immediately started feeling energetic. The ulcers went away. This year, my business has doubled in size.
Although extremely rare, a genuine Ek-Mukhi Rudraksha is the most auspicious and powerful spiritual product you can ever possess. Blessed with the divine powers of Lord Rudra (Shiva) and Goddess Lakshmi, this miracle bead would bring you power, glory and wealth; boost your confidence and ensure spiritual enrichment. Since one mukhi represents the Surya or the Sun, it is capable of countering the star’s negative effects. It also cures diseases of the head, ear, right eye, bones & bowel, as well as chronic asthma and TB.
The religion I am talking about is one of morning shopping on TV. And for the first time, a religion is suitable for 'abdomen waist, back and hip'.

Pink is in, Black is out...

... and behind every successful pink-coat golfer is a real woman.

Winners:Losers:All images courtesy Yahoo Sports.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Supermen quizmasters

Taken in a rather good quiz here.

The image at the back is Superman carrying Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. The men in front are the quizmasters themselves, in black and white.

Duty Free in Black

So, if I already wasn't fuming enough about the need to carry clothes along with my laptop in my laptop bag, to avoid waiting at the lines for checked-in laggage, AND, if I already am not pissed about buying shaving cream and toothpaste in every location I land up in, to avoid the use of cottage industry paste available in most hotels (Why can't they have good toothpastes and shaving creams, if they can have expensive conditioners and loofahs?), yesterday's flight from Hong Kong was an additional reason to hate security measures at airports.

No, I am not talking about the old Chinese woman who was travelling with her older, balder husband, to Bangkok, where the flight stopped over. At Hong Kong airport, barely three people away from a the baggage screener and the pile of toothpaste, mineral water bottles, deos, a couple of beer cans and pasty ginseng aphrodisiacs, she did a nifty trick. The husband was carrying some foul-smelling food stuff in a tetrapack. It seemed like paste or liquid (some of it had leaked outside). In a move which will stay with me for some time, he calmly took it out and handed it to the woman, who anxiously stuffed it inside her little black and silver handbag. Then, in a move cool enough to be voted next to Travolta's dance steps in Saturday Night Fever, she walked around the line of people, walked past the baggage screener and into the airplane. Nobody stopped her. Don't think anybody noticed her or the foul smell.

And I am not even talking about her. The reason why I hate the security measures was that I was unable to add to my single malt collection because of them. In fact, I couldn't even manage a bottle of Cutty Sark.

At the Hong Kong Duty Free shop, we were prevented from buying over Gentleman Jack and one bottle of Bowmore by the sweet lady at the counter.
"Can I have a look at your boarding pass, please?"
"Yes, it's AI-359."
"Sorry, AI doesn't allow alcohol."
With that, she pursed her lips and put the bottles away in the shelf.

Air India apparently thinks that whisky is a security threat, while most other airlines don't. So, we boarded the flight empty-handed. However, I took it well. I knew that Indian duty-free did quite well when it came to whiskies. It wouldn't have any exotic stuff, but the Red and Black Labels would do for the purposes of stocking up for acquaintances.

However, the experience in the one Duty Free shop in Mumbai has left a bad taste in the mouth.

The ill-lit overcrowded shop was being manned by two burly men. The shop was overcrowded, especially at the counter. The whole appearance was of a relief truck in a refugee camp. Which perhaps reflected the state of mind of the shoppers, anxious for a tipple.

I got a 2-litre bottle of Cutty Sark and reached the counter. Two of my friends travelling alongside me got their own drinks - one bottle of Finlandia and two bottles of red wine. We extended a credit card to them.
"Only cash, no credit card."
"Machine chal nahin raha hai." (Machine's not working.)
"Okay, but we don't have US dollars."
The prices in the Indian duty free shops are only written in US dollars.
"Any other currency will do."

And there started the theft. The Cutty Sark, according to them was 220 HK dollars. We didn't have that much currency, so we passed it on. On to Finlandia ($ 12).

How much? We handed one of the men the 100 HKD note.
"100 HK dollars."
Even assuming the thumbrule of $1= 8 HKD, the maths works out to $12=96 HKD. But the man refused to return any money.
"Timepass mat karo." (Don't waste mine and yours time)
It was 12 o'clock in the night and we did want that bottle. We didn't protest. Now, I feel bad.

Then, was the turn for one of the red wine bottles.
"$ 8"
"Hong Kong dollars?"
We gave him the last of our Hong Kong dollars. Another 100 dollar note.
He gave us 4 US Dollars back. When we hung around for exact change, the other man made a face and said, "Chalo, late ho raha hai. Theek hi to diya." (It's getting late. I gave the right amount.)
We asked for the bill. He refused.
"Itna bhir hai. Time kahan hai? Nahin chahiye, to rakh do wapas." (It's so crowded. Where's the time? If you don't want it (bottle), leave it back.)
On this transaction, he should have returned 50 cents more, but he kept it to himself.

Incidentally, using actual currency conversion rates of $ 1 = 7.78 HKD (from here), he made 10% extra returns on both these transactions. All black, since he didn't give us the bill. Plus, we don't even have a credit card slip to prove this.


While ITDC and AAI are concerned that they are losing money at the departure Duty Free shops, they have no impunity in allowing such black-marketing to continue in the arrival shops. And from the entire end-to-end experience, one can easily jump to the conspiracy conclusion that Air India is hand in glove with the shops.

If you are interested in finding out more about threats that single malt bottles and toothpastes pose and KY Jelly and gel-filled bras don't, read Flying Toilet Terror Labs*.
Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them.
It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie....Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.
After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.
Thomas Greene in the above article and Patrick Smith in Salon have shown that the security measures are ill-conceived, ineffective and perhaps, even more dangerously, malafide. Others have even pointed out that perhaps there's a greater conspiracy behind this, an attempt by the governments to rattle up hysteria and fear. I add another reason behind the recent measures. In India, these measures have continued on the insistence of a few malicious black-marketers within the Indian airports and aviation establishment. To make sure that their profiteering continues. With rudeness on the side.

*The writer, Thomas C Greene, got into some rough weather over his wonderfully detailed exposition of the dangers posed by whisky and toothpaste. He was accused of eating babies' souls and making dogs bark.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ode to Mallow Bort, beneath his water in homelier surroundings

For the first time in my life, I am jet lagged. And therefore have just told my quizzer friends, that, I will confirm - whether I can make it for this's Sunday's quiz - on Monday.

Also, I have been away from this blog for a week now. Many small little things have come in the way. Plus, I am being spammed.

The last sentence has been put in here, because it lends itself to this post.

Instead of the normal Swedish instruments and prosaic American credit score invites, I have been getting poetry on spam. Just put those lines together and we get poems.

Yes, once in a while, there are the normal "Delight in Take control over your male body image. This delivers amazing results..." and "These Stocks Can make You Money" as well. But, far more lyrically, here goes an ode to the top 10 of last week:

Ode to Mallow Bort, beneath his water in homelier surroundings

I take him and There is his attempted bribe. Consequently, we are no,
of a drop of over the rise, province were they? I see that and more,

Thousands of people are building their lifestyle the way they want with i...
And there to the barbarian came, from the Encyclopedia you.
Empire's heyday was beneath his water in homelier surroundings Hober

to pieces that I've never break twansdevelop a fool on the human
after two hours, but I will be helped drive to You on the yourself and

This is most modern and safe way not to cover with shame
There are lots of people who have this as an answer to their problems.
again order. We? Mallow, will begin. Mallow Bort,

The only question I have is, "What is twansdevelop?".

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tennis troubles

Sixteen year old Wimbledon Junior Champion, Caroline Wozniacki, tells the line judge in their match at US Open to take off his sunglasses and not sleep on court.

She thinks she has done nothing wrong and goes on to say "you're so stupid", ostensibly at herself, at the next point.

The line judge reports this to the referee, who consults the supervisor. They agree to default her, which is obviously taken badly by the sixteen year old. What does she do to get back at the authorities? She blogs.
...After the match i went to the tournament director and asked him, why i got defaulted. And he said that the lineumpire said that i went straight to him, looked him in his eyes and talked really bad to him. But thats NOT true. Everyone that watched the match knows. It was a BIG lie.
I always thougth that sports was about fairplay and that the people that are trying to make the tournament happend, will tell the truth and not lie!...But today in a big tournament like US Open, where i had the chance to become number 1 junior in the world and win the tournament, a big lier broke my heart and the trust to the white sport! Right now when im writing to you im crying, and i hope that this is just a bad dream!
Wish blogs were around when a certain John McEnroe was growing up.

We are like this only

A friend of mine changed jobs recently and joined a company in Delhi. He moved into their chummery. He is the partying sorts and thus always has alcohol in his room.

One day when I landed up, he asked me whether I want a Teacher's or a Bruichladdich, which he has got from a trip abroad. My answer was obvious.

So, he goes to his wardrobe and fetches the pale green cylindrical can from behind his suits. He takes out the bottle and exclaims. I was looking at the whisky in the glass bottle. The pale gold was striking, but not enough to make me exclaim. I looked at Friend.

"Half of it is over"
It indeed was.
"No, it should not have been. I was at least three-fourths full."
Now, if this was Old Monk of yesteryears, I would not have been concerned, but one-fourth of single malt is no joke.


We had a good time that day. Finished the entire bottle. Later, Friend found out that thefts of alcohol were quite common in the chummery. There were three characteristics which were noteworthy for him:
  1. Nobody could never really figure out who was behind it. There were theories about the cook and the caretaker. There were some fingers pointed at neighbouring rooms, but who could be sure?
  2. The loss of expensive alcohol was common. There were also stray cases of money and jewellery getting lost. However, the most common missing items were pieces of laundry which never made their way back. Mostly, the loss used to sting for a short period of time. Then situation would become normal.
  3. At times, the lost items had a sentimental value, which punishment or justice could not heal. Hence, his flatmates did not bother complaining to the Admin department. Even if they did a few times, nothing really came out of it. Hence, the situation came to be accepted as normal. Angel's share, they used to call this loss. Which was a little in-joke.The costs of preventing the thefts were just too high compared to the angel's share.
That's all there was to it. Losses, which I would find very startling, were nothing but normal for the inhabitants of the chummery. A way of life. Which my friend just got used to.


Within two months, there have been eight blasts in Maharashtra - seven across trains in Mumbai and one in Malegaon. Over 250 people have died, according to official counts. Unofficially the number is much higher. Three things are notable about these as well.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Et tu, martin-pêcheur

Now, I don't know whether this is just an exception to the rule or not, but I faced my first non-Kf moment today.

Till today, my Kingfisher Airlines experiences have been top of the line. I have never had a moment of complaint, inspite of being quite a fastidious passenger when it comes to airlines in general. In fact, I have felt largely taken care of, well-fed and entertained. For more Kf moments, see M/s Uncut and Ziggy going gaga.

I was also gaga till today. Then I came to Kolkata. I hadn't taken a printout of my e-ticket as I was rushing from a meeting. However, I had my PNR and my e-ticket number. I have got a printout at the airport at both Bombay and Bangalore airports and thus, did not think twice about this. Unfortunately, the red and black liveried men at the airport had no clue.

The red one looked at me with incredulity. Then, said "Ekhaane to paaben na." (You won't find it here)
"Printout to dorkaar", piped in the black one. (Printout's needed)
"Okay, let me know where the counter is", said I.
"There, behind the second security."

I reached there. Obviously, neither the red one or the black one accompanied me.

"I want a printout of my e-ticket", I said to S, the girl behind the glass window.
A minute passed. S was trying to figure something out on her computer screen. I hoped it was my ticket that she was trying to extract. I knew it wasn't as my face doesn't reveal the PNR number or my name.
"My PNR number is XXXXXX"

A minute passed again. Another one of the black men came in and a conversation ensued between the him and S.

"How long will it take?", said I.
"I am working on it"

In any other city, I would be in the security check line by this time. Here, I still didn't have my ticket. Another minute passed.

"How long will it take?" said I.
"What's your PNR number?"

I can take you through the rest of this Alice in Wonderland conversation. However, that will bore you as much as it pained you. In about seven minutes, I got an e-ticket printout. Seven minutes!! Incidentally, the encounter outside the airport wasn't the only non-kf experience yesterday. The check-in, being done by an AAI/ IC person (wonder why Kingfisher can't hire more of the red or black men), took three questions on check-in baggage, two on seat preference (inspite of tele-check in) and two on my name before I got my boarding pass. Finally, the bus which carried me to the plane, developed a hole just over me. It was raining outside and my left sleeve got drenched.

I guess it's because of Kolkata. Or maybe, it just wasn't my day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Diet Coke

The Girl just came in and told me that she's happy that I have given up on Diet Coke. I haven't, really. But, yes, over the last few weeks, I have been drinking less.

Diet Cokes have come under attack from various quarters, recently.
In India, there is the entire pesticides thing. Then there's the notion that if you have to depend on Diet Cokes to lose weight, then you are uncool and deserve to be obese.

Then, there is this allegation that carbonated drinks cause weak bones. Even a Harvard Medical School study says this, but they can't explain the reason for the same, except for making some guesses. I have also come across studies which say that it's actually the caffeine which is dangerous, thus coffee is far more harmful.

Anyway, while the world can keep debating such issues and while the Girl can continue to berate me for taking a few sips, a few fine folks have conclusively proved that Diet Coke is a fine thing. Please keep the supply going strong.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bigot Bowling Company

So, we went bowling last week. I won, easily. But that's besides the point I am trying to make here.

We were enthused to see the poster when we entered Bowling company.
Since H and M were with us and the Girl was there too, we thought we will get two couple games and two individual ones. We were six in all. However, the person at the counter was rude, obnoxious and sniggered at our request. He was okay with me and the Girl, but refused H and M.
"Only for couples"
"Yes, we are a couple", said H.
"No, Boy-Girl only"
"What? You mean we are not a couple because we are both guys?"
"Yes, only Boy-Girl allowed"

He had already made friends with us with his snigger, thus, we were not going to let it go easily. How can he let his homophobia come in the way of customers getting value for money? We knew how to deal with such errant behaviour.
"Where's your manager?"

The manager duly arrived.
"Sorry sir, only boy and girl. Those are rules."
At least the man was polite.
"Show us the rule book"
"We don't have any"
"Then, give it to me in writing that Bowling Company doesn't allow homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones"
Not that in this country, it is surprising.
"I can't do that. But you can read it off the poster"

So we did.

Photos courtesy Helmet

Serious trouble will bypass me in my cubicle

My orkut fortune teller says, "Serious trouble will bypass you". What that does mean?

Will minor trouble hit me? Will minor trouble not hit me? Or will serious trouble hit someone around me, but not me?

Is prior knowledge of absence of serious trouble enough for me to venture out? Or should I stay home tonight? And what is serious trouble? Since it's my fortune, is it by my definition of seriousness? Or does the Chinese cookie factory behind Orkut headquarters have a different definition?

Also, at the end of the day, how will I know that serious trouble has bypassed me and not missed me by a mile? Will whoever, serious trouble has hit, let me know? Or is mere safety enough? Am I tempting fate by asking such questions?

Enough of tomfoolery. Now, you should go hear and see My Cubicle, based on James Blunt's song, on youtube as a karaoke version. This is a creation of this beautifully named website. I have to thank the Laboratory for sending me the video by mail. Thank you.

The lyrics are here. Two really cool videos of the same song, one as a response to another, are also on youtube. A version of Wierd Al's parody of the same song is here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Kiss my kids"..."No, thanks"

Perhaps this is acceptable in Hong Kong. Also, maybe I am not the right person to comment on this, having no kids of my own. But, tell me, is this wrong or is there something wrong with me?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Snooty Airline

These Italians are snooty. The Indians working for Italian companies are snootier.

Now, if I was an Indian working for Versace, I still can try to explain (though not justify) the snootiness, but if I am an employee of the world's worst airline, then what gives me the right to behave in an obnoxious manner? (link: via Davenchit)

Quizzing Horror - Part 1

Some posts don't need context.

I was in school. 3rd standard. One of my favourite times used to be "Arrangement periods", which were a result of the regular teacher being absent, due to which a substitute teacher (arrangement) used to be sent to class to cover for him/ her. It was quite likely that the arrangement teacher would let us be and not try and teach anything.

The arrangement periods were one of my favourite times because, more often than not, we used to quiz in the free time. Divide ourselves into groups of two rows each and ask each other questions. I thought that this was also the favourite time for everyone else in class. I might have been mistaken*.

I used to be quite good at asking tough questions and answering the tough ones as well. Hence, often the rows would try trade me to other for treats at the canteen, erasers, homework and other expensive things. This was before the Bosman ruling and I had no control over my fortune. I felt important.

In one particular period, after the trades had been made, we started asking each other questions. The scores were tied after three rounds.

The other team asked us, "What's the capital of England?". I (my team) said, "London".
They said, "Wrong. It's Middlesex."
"You must be mistaken. I am sure it's London."

This exchange went for one and a half minutes, with people who didn't have point of view also getting into heated debates, all across the class. The teacher, who was staying out of this till now, had to intervene. We presented our points of views to her. She said, "Bachcho, apne mein decide karlo. Mujhe to nahin pata." (Kids, decide amongst yourselves. I don't know.) There was no way we could reach a decision. Ultimately, the other team decided to go for a 'Re', or a repeat.

"What's the capital of China?"
My team had become suspicious of my talents, after the London fiasco, but my shrug and my stern look did them in. They let me go for the answer.
"It used to be Peking earlier, but now it's Beijing."
"Sorry, it's Tibet."
After some wrangling, we again landed up in front of the teacher. She didn't seem too pleased that general knowledge was coming in the way of her knitting. With knotted eyebrows, she said, "Achcha, koi prove kar sakta hai, to karo. Warna questions change karo." (Okay, if someone can prove it, the do. Otherwise, change the question)
Do realise that I didn't carry the atlas with me, though I may look the type. Neither did I have a geography book handy. Also, I thought the burden of proof lay with the quizmaster. Before Derek O'Brien mastered the art of being rude, quizmasters did try and prove that the answers were correct.

The other team was well-prepared. While, they didn't carry an atlas themselves, they had the Physical map of India and its neighbours. They brought it out. My team squirmed in the seat, anxious and restless. This question might prove to be a decider and the other team looked confident. The teacher looked bored and restless. Knitting was waiting.
"See, India's capital is Delhi, right? Here, it is marked on the map. What is Pakistan's capital?"
"Here, it is on the map." They showed the teacher.
"What is Bangladesh?"
"Here. and Sri Lanka?"
The teacher realised that she was on to something big. Facts were being presented and soon this debate will get over. She was nodding vigorously at Colombo on the map.
"And guess what is marked in China?"
I couldn't find the scan of that map, but here's the answer anyway.

* I would imagine that till puberty hit, pursuit of inane trivia was interesting for others as well. I might be wrong. But then, the macho 3rd graders couldn't really bring their GI Joes to class, could they?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Uncyclopedia - IIT and juvenile humour

The IIT post on Uncyclopedia is undergoing churn.
The version I checked in the morning had:
"...When entering the IIT, a guy has two options. The first is to take up the common learning route described above. Since IIT-JEE makes sure a lot of mavericks are selected, many of them also end up being happy among themselves. The girls in IITs, measured as parts of girl per million parts of guy, have to struggle keeping their identity as girl secret throughout their stay in IITs. Sometimes they are forced to tell the truth, like when a gay IITian proposes mistaking them for a guy...
It also had sections on Education, besides the above-mentioned example of Life and Culture. Now, unfortunately, there's an antisceptic version, though the digs on Oscar Wilde remain. Do read.

While you are there, do browse through some of the Uncyclopedia. Unfortunately, some of humour is quite juvenile, potty-related or simply sad. As can be expected of an online community-edited attempt at parody. Check out India, for example.

However, the good news is that you can create your vanity page easily. So, go.


"There's no words to describe it
In French or in English
Well, diamonds they fade
And flowers they bloom
And I'm telling you
These feelings won't go away
They've been knockin' me sideways"
by Santana and Citizen Cope

50% of the women on my Orkut list have their photos sideways. Okay not entirely sideways like a wine bottle, but definitely with a tilt corresponding to the earth's axis. Only 6% of the men on my list have the same issue. While the number of women in my list is much smaller than the number of men, leading to sample size problems, I think the finding is significant.

I seek to explore the reason behind this phenomenon. Light research (mostly focus group discussions over lunch) has revealed that the origins of this might actually be very ancient, starting with Mary Magdalene as photographed by Leonardo Da Vinci. Perhaps it was the time that Mary had to wait in the studio, or perhaps it was something else, but when Leonardo came in to the room, Mary had tilted her head in curious fashion. Later, this pose was misrepresented by fraudsters like Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln and Brown as half a chalice or something like that. Guess how many of the 12 men had their heads tilted? Only one. Which is as close as you can get to my Orkut ratio. Hence, the first theory is that women's head tilt in photographs as they (the necks) are not used to waiting for a long time for the photograph to be taken. Be it a few centuries (in Mary's case) or a few seconds, the woman has the right to determine what is a long time and tilt.

The second theory shared by a woman herself, connected to the first, is the weak neck muscles theory. This states that the muscles in a woman's neck are week, which results in the default tilt. Actually, the few moments in which the head is held upright are special and should be admired. The curious tilt is also the cause of another, graver problem - that of Men being from Mars and Women from Venus. The reason a man can't understand what a woman is saying (in about 50% of the cases) is because the accompanying nods are confusing. Is that tilted shake of the head a yes, or a no? Is there a third option "none of the above/ both"? What does one do with that option? As you can see, the tilt's effects are even more significant than its causes. Also, as an aside, the reason, the Mars sign is tilted, is so that a woman can see it straight. Whether you subscribe the weak neck muscle theory or not, you have to agree that the issue's with us since ancient times.

The third theory which comes from a photographer, is light in your face theory. This theory states that women are born with an innate sense of the way light bounces off solid structures (also known as modelling). The way light bounces of solid structures (cheekbones) can either create wonders or tragedy in the way they appear. If they are bouncing from the side or top, they highlight depth while if they are in your face, they hide depth. Unfortunately, most cameras bounce the light directly off the face, flooding each and every carefully crafted niche in the cheekbones. Hence, the need to tilt your face at an angle which will force the light to either hit it from the side or the top.

I think all of these theories have merit. However, I am not sure whether the list is comprehensive. Do let me know. Also, I would like to find out your opinion of whether this can be the basis of my research thesis.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Holy Cows: Chappel as Mahishasur

"This is curtailing our artistic freedom. And if the authorities do have such holy cows, we should be given a full list in advance. Why waste the efforts of an artist and demoralise him," said Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity, the commitee representing idol makers from Kumartuli.

"Can you do this to any famous painter who paints our gods and goddesses with full artistic liberty," asks Dilip Pal, the artisan who was fashioning Greg Chappel's face onto Mahishasur, the demon who gets killed by Durga.

Dilip Pal either is not well-versed with Indian censorship and moral policing or he was making a supreme ironic statement. Considering he's a Bong, it's probably the latter.

The sculptor had been asked by a patron to fashion Mahishasur as Greg Chappel, in line with their sentiments for the Indian cricket coach. Local newspapers had picked up on the story and within a day or two, it was in national media. DNA, Mumbai reported:
Dilip Pal, the sculptor in Kumartuli, who has been assigned the task of making Mahisasura look like Chappell, sees nothing wrong in depicting the batting legend as evil personified.

"Every year we get requests from puja organisers to make images depicting some recent events and this year it is the Ganguly-Chappell issue," Pal said. Interestingly, Pal is also making an image depicting the infamous head-butt by French footballing icon Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup for another puja committee.
Police picked up on the story and a team went to Kumartuli to ask Dilip to dismantle the image. Outlook alleges:
the Kolkata Police is headed by Prasun Mukherjee who contested the elections to the Cricket Association of Bengal against Jagmohan Dalmiya. Casting Chappell as the asura, reckoned Mukherjee, would scuttle whatever chances remain of Sourav sneaking his way back to Team India since Chappell and BCCI boss Sharad Pawar wouldn’t be pleased.
Whether that is the reason for the police check or not, I can't imagine why the police has to intervene in a silly trifle like this. Has crime in Kolkata reduced to such low levels that they find themselves with lots of free time?

Also, they have perhaps stopped one idol with this move. In a city like Kolkata, with thousands of Durga Pujas, how will the police check on each and every idol? I hope they are not planning checks around the city. Actually, that's exactly what they are planning.
"We have decided to keep a close vigil and ensure that not a single demon resembles Chappell," said Pradip Chatterjee, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.
"Our suggestion to all puja organisers is to follow this instruction. Police will intervene if this is violated," he added.
What a waste of tax-payer's money! Also keep in mind that the action of dismantling Greg's face would have meant some degree of loss for the poor idol-maker. Will the Government now compensate him with my money?

Actually, for all I know, now they will spend my money on stopping the Zidane idol from appearing in pandals. After all, that has the potential to hurt somebody's sentiments as well.
Speaking about his other creation this year, Pal said that as a football lover, he considered Zidane's act as 'unsporting' and that is why "I decided to oblige another puja organiser in the outsirts of the city."
Pal's logic, however, did not go down well with football crazy Kolkatans, including Subrata Dutta, secretary of Indian Football Association, the governing body of the game in the state. "I feel sad about this. A great player like Zidane does not deserve this from us who claim to be football lovers," Dutta said when approached for his comments. He also said that people should not forget Zidane's contributions to the game and, "even if his act was a blemish, we should not forget under what provocation it was done.
"Depicting a player like Zidane like this only lowers our image."
Well, you heard it here. No headbutts in Durga Puja this year.

Talking of headbutts, more on headbutts here: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6).

Picture courtesy: Outlookindia.com

Odes to quizzing

First, Amit writes about the joys of quizzing but you must have already read that.

Then, I chance upon the one post which I really do want you to read, in case you are interested in what quizzing does to you. We are talking about nerd central, by Anand. We know the feeling:
...Then, in conversation, you will rip Page 3 apart. You will have Take That for lunch, but comment on how Gary Barlow got a raw deal and should have held on to the band. In a non-leopard zoo, you will be the only one who will have any opinion about Gary Barlow. When someone else comments that he was cute, you will steer the conversation to manufactured bands and art and comment upon either Kavya Vishvanathan (current affairs) and Milli Vanilli (who?). Occasionally, when someone will recognise things like Milli Vanilli, you will comment sagely that after all Andrew Loog Oldham made the Rolling Stones and thus they were a Boy Band too...

Munnabhai has a blog...

... and it currently sucks. Plus, I am not getting tickets today.

City City Bhang Bhang

(1) Moderate use of cannabis drugs had no appreciable physical effects on the body. As with all drugs, excessive use could weaken the body and render it more susceptible to diseases. Such circumstances were not peculiar to cannabis, however.
(2) Moderate use of cannabis drugs had no adverse effects on the brain, except possibly for individuals predisposed to act abnormally. Excessive use, on the other hand, could lead to mental instability and ultimately to insanity in individuals predisposed by heredity to mental disorders.
(3) Moderate use of cannabis drugs had no adverse effect on morality. Excessive usage, however, could result in moral degradation. Although in certain rare cases cannabis intoxication could result in violence, such cases were few and far between.

In summarizing the evidence overall, the commission remarked that the facts showed 'most clearly how little injury society has hitherto sustained from hemp drugs.'

Excerpt from a Government committee report, 110 years ago. In India, by the way.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Learning from basketball for US

Playing by world's rules isn't enough, respecting and internalising them is essential. Otherwise, you play for third place.

However, there were some important learnings for USA from it's recent flop in World Basketball championships.
  1. The first is that overconfidence will kill you.
  2. The second is that the Miami Heat model of hoping you will get hot at the right time and win a championship will not work. You need a team which is greater than the sum of its parts.
  3. The third is that American superheroes do far better within the boundaries of the country. Flash isn't Flash anymore, when you pass the international border.
  4. The fourth is listen to Dan Wetzel, the wisest analyst in any field that I have seen coming out of USA in the last few years.
  5. The last and most notable one was that 'you can't win by just going in and firing from close range, sometimes you need carefully planned out shots from the outside.' This is true for the country as well.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Silly Photo

I got tagged, and here all I have to do is post a silly photo of myself... 'Tis going to be easy. Yes, yes, I know... that joke's been made seventy-two times in the Indian blogosphere already.

All I should point out is that here's the truly silly photo. I was trying to photocopy my profile on to a piece of paper, when evil colleagues took a photo. And when I say profile, I mean not my CV or a bio, but the the outline or contour of my face, viewed from one side, the shadow, the silhouette.

Why did my colleagues take a photo at that time? Was it the yellow dupatta I had taken from another colleague and worn around me, to eliminate all the light? Or was it the cute butt? Or was it the pose reminiscient of Mary Antoinette's last repose? You can tell me, if you want.

However, since I have to post another one, I will shut up and let the picture speak louder than words. I am known as a pig by really close friends, partly due to my gluttony and partly, for reasons not to be revealed in public. However, I have not been captured as such at any moment. So, here I am trying to stub my stubby nose and showing my porcine tendencies. (I would have made jokes about silly pig pic, but even that has been done ten times in the Indian Blogosphere, already).

Plus, I tag Mr. D, Maverick, The Invizible Man, Anand, Monica, Corporate Whore and Falstaff.

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