Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best of 2008


Thank you for reading stuff on Almost Famous. Here is my blog's list of Top 5 articles from 2008 (in alphabetical order):

Country Club
For building trust and awareness, there is nothing more effective than a rotund leader with a fat moustache, mysteriously grinning and giving a thumbs up sign. I've decided to plan all my fun-family trips from Country Club henceforth, unless the rival firm's head decides to do the chicken-dance.

Director Writer Hyung-rae Shim's "interview" about his latest movie D-War - 'unknown creatures will return and devastate the planet. Reporter Ethan Kendrick is called in to investigate the matter, and he arrives at the conclusion that a girl, stricken with a mysterious illness, named Sarah is suppose to help him. The Imoogi makes its way to Los Angeles, wreaking havoc and destruction. With the entire city under arms, will Ethan and Sarah make it in time to save the people of Los Angeles ?'

I Knew Something was Wrong

As we all sat waiting for our turn, the activity didn't look relaxing at all. All the previous colleagues (read victims) squealed and made visibly ugly faces as the attendants crunched their toes and poked at their feet. But free ka massage kaun jaane dega!

Jumping Lights - A Consulting Perspective
It is a piteous world for law-abiding citizens. We roast and simmer, getting garnished with dust and vehicle smoke; While the zippers and zappers are a step ahead, probably enjoying a chilled drink at home before we are halfway through our treacherous route. Is there no way out? Yes there is. I managed to switch to the group of outlaws. It ain't easy. But I'll show you how.

The Ring of Batman
You may be wondering right now - 'What the hell is Batman doing with a giant key ?' I hope by the end of this I would have put things in perspective and reinforced an important learning of life.

If you have enjoyed your experience with the blog, do subscribe to the feed. And if you are already a subscriber, spread the word! Share this article on Google Reader. I hope to keep you entertained in the years ahead.

Have a wonderful 2009! Wish you a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Tale of the Water Tanki

There is a classic rumour, a horrendous tale of engineering stupidity that exists in the campus of IIT Kharagpur. You haven't heard the rumour yet ? Here goes: "There is this Professor Roy in Civil Department. See that tall water-tank near the PAN loop? He designed it. He is so stupid, he forgot to add the water's weight to the calculation. Which is why it stands there empty and unusable." I was proud of this tale. We passed it down from one batch to another. And I did watch this Professor ride his wobbly cycle to the department. Combined with other incidents heard about him, I thought he was a complete fool....

But we came to know in those years that even IIT-Kanpur had the same story. We were the oldest of all IITs. So we just assumed that they were inspired by our culture and chose this story to emulate it in their own campus.

Yesterday, while sharing a few drinks with my office friends here, we began to narrating crazy incidents from our engineering days. They were cheeky, incredulous and generally hilarious. I was surprised by each one of them till a guy from IIT-Madras spoke, "You know, there is this water-tanki in our campus..."

But that was impossible! This was my campus's story! And then we went through a brief but heated discussion on this - each defending that the defunct tank and the moron professor belonged to his campus. Obviously with no base and rationale to sway opinion, it was an inconclusive failure. The glasses got refilled with another peg and we too picked another deep topic to mull upon.

This Water-Tanki story and other such tales are quite open to adaptation. Prof. Sengupta becomes Ram; Ram becomes Chatterjee. But the core purpose stays the same - to prove that they too stink at the subject. And one example is enough to smear everyone with mediocrity.

The best part is although the tale (like other philosophies of campuses) are completely hearsay, the students narrate it with genuine belief and conviction, like they saw it happen themselves. "This Professor is so sanki (mentally unstable) know he picked up a group's lab report and tore it in half and then threw them out of the class..."

So what legend does your college cherish?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bachna Ae Haseeno...

My mama ji too graduated from IIM, though a decade before I stepped into IIML. From his odd set of worldly advices, I found one to be surprisingly accurate and timeless - "There are two kinds of males at IIM - Those who do it, and those who talk about it."

In my long years of graduation, I had survived a batch with 590 guys and 18 girls. You've heard the saying right? "If a group of IITian girls are placed on the moon, the average beauty level of Earth will go up." I don't subscribe to that view. We won't actually take pains to place them on the moon, will we?...Come on! Be reasonable.

So when I heard my mamaji's profound statement, I resolved to belong to the former group. In what I'd vicariously seen and heard about IIM, I thought it'll be a radically different crowd. But it turned out people were not quite different in their sensibilities, just their mannerisms.

It was called bakar/gupshup there. It was called networking here.
It was called Bandi check out karna there. It was called assessing the landscape here.
In IIT we'd arrive to the class in our objectionable attire and fall asleep soon after. Here, we'd dress up to acceptable standards, turn up for the class and then fall asleep.

Like I said, freshers were the same monkeys from undergrad colleges. The ones with work-ex were polished monkeys - with thicker cologne and more expensive pair of jeans. Through the first term or so, I discovered and selected potential candidates. I also received gyan from seniors on previously successful and failed love stories. There were 3 paths to success:

Project Buddy --> Friendship --> LOVE

This was a hard one to pull off. You couldn't be obvious in your motives, considering fellow monkeys can get nasty when they feel wronged. You did it in more subtle ways - surreptitiously doing her part of the project work, allowing her to do the crucial 'introduction' to the project presentations, . And if things went well, a love story could blossom like the 24 million shades in excel.

Committee buddy --> LOVE

Think Godzilla and the screaming reporters and cameramen. Think Rang De Basanti and DJ and the charming blonde Sue. Under stressful situations and serendipitous moments blossom the timeless romantic tales. In short, if it 'clicks' with the batchmate/junior you are working with, then you were all set for life.

In both cases, I could barely manage my share of work. So I decided to focus on the third method.

Mess Buddy --> Friendship --> LOVE

Like I had attempted at IIT, it meant creating chemistry over meals, hoping repeated exposure would do the trick. Given the social setting of the mess, it would have been weird to arrive alone for meals. So a wingman/2-men unit was required. Within us monkeys, it was important to find a partner who shared a similar disposition. And not just any kind of chimp. He had to be that synergistic monkey that would help in making an impression of superior quality (for both). I found that in my room neighbour (I guess finding synergy didn't take that long). So after some brief strategic thinking, we began to roll out our plans in ensuing academic terms.

I would venture into the Mess with my neighbour/Wingman Suhaib (specially) during dinner. We would pick up food and scout the mess hall for girls, rapidly calculating the entertainment value to be had by having dinner with each of them. Girls would get points for being any of funny, irritating, interesting, good/bad looking, stupid, interested in us, irritated by us, in a group with a majority of girls and of course, for being completely unknown. We always feared the risk of crumbling under the pressures of socializing over dinner in the same venue repeatedly; Of being judged on our chatting skills ; Of laughing too loudly and spilling stuff ; Of laughing too little and appearing dense. Like company stocks, we had to consistently outperform the average dinner-conversation index to get any kind of credibility.

It took time. And I can safely blame my CGPA on this (...and alcohol!). Did I cross over to the other side? I choose not to tell. But if you are at campus, discussing this over a sutta at Guptas or Fauji, then you sure know which group you belong to! I'll truthfully reveal that I graduated single and content.

I thought I was in an excellent position. Till I found out that at work our kind were an exception here. "You don't have a girlfriend??? Why?" Their repeated bewildered looks bothered me for the first few weeks. Am I bowing down to peer pressure? You bet! Chapter 3 of my pursuits begin here in foreign land Singapore.

I awwwready said la...Beware lovely ladies .. Can Can?... (Bachna Ae Haseeno in Singlish)

If you want to read about other failed attempts:
Male Fantasy - O La La
The Laptop Crisis

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

Our washing machine has been acting strange for the past few weeks. As it counts down to the last 6 minutes of the wash-spin cycle, it gets stuck. It makes ugly wheezing sounds, like an old fiat trying to speed up. It never manages to reach that final goal of '0 minutes'. The machine runs that last 6 minutes for a couple of hours before giving up on our soggy clothes.

We've got so used to the automatic lifestyle - hurling clothes inside the machine and recovering them after a day or so, when they would still be fresh and fragrant. But after getting pampered by that habit, standing by the machine and supervising each individual procedure is quite hard.

It is indeed a problem. And we don't have any easy solution.

Won't LG, this giant superstar of white goods, have people to handle this? Yes. As devices have got complicated and problems deviling, they have made it easier for us to reach customer care. But with the same gusto, we have gotten remarkably sloppier and lethargic.

We soon found a temporary way around the problem - To achieve a washed set of clothes, we had to start the machine like any normal routine, pounce on it in that last 6 minutes, restart on another mode to drain off the water and remove the stuff after a small gap of time to avoid smelly clothes.

Of course it's a tough one to execute. After the machine got diseased, Vikrant once stuffed clothes inside on a Thursday evening and forgot about it till Saturday night. He courageously removed the wet, stinking, twisted heap of clothes then and somehow hung them to dry. We avoided that area the whole of Sunday. Inspired by the stench, we decided to take some serious action. After a brief search within the house, we found an expired warranty card with some LG contact information.

There is one LG service phone line.
There is one warranty number to identify our history with them.

All that is required is that one of us on any one working day gives a call to them to arrange for a technician to come over at a convenient hour.

Have we done it yet? No. Here is how this typical dinner conversation goes:
"Hey we should really do something about that washing machine."
"Haan. I haven't washed clothes in a while. We have that LG number right?"
"Yes. Let's do this - I'll give them a call tomorrow. We'll ask the guy to come over on the weekend."
"Good idea."
"Hmmm...But I might be busy tomorrow. So you try calling them up. In case I find time I'll do it."

Wash. Rinse. And Repeat a similar conversation the next day. The best part is you can assign any voice to any one of us and it would still be true.

If the machine had completely died, we'd have been more inclined to do something about it. But no, the God of laundry had to partially screw it up so that we got a chance to exemplify our Indian 'kaam chala le' attitude. So it has been three weeks. Sometimes we succeed with the machine mode trick, sometimes we don't.

Soon it'll be Happy Holiday season and all service centre employees will be merry making at home - in their freshly washed and dried clothes; singing songs of the warm sun and dry winds. Meanwhile, our mountain of clothes would grow and cast a humid shadow over our lives, crunching our spirits like a soggy cereal.

I know we should act on this soon. But the inertia retarding us is so unassailable that I think we'll compensate with extra shopping this month rather than make that ONE phone call.

So in case you haven't decided yet, I'd like underwears as gifts for Christmas - preferably the washed ones.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

O Pigeon, What art thou thinking!

The title of the news video reads "Exclusive: कबूतरों पर ग्रेनेड का कहर "

The reporter Vishal Agarwal seems to have been given a formidable task of filling up a 1.5min slot of fluff reporting. He's reporting live, clearly unedited material about pigeons in front of the Taj. He successfully captures a kabootar / pigeon's perspective on the Mumbai attacks.

I am not an expert on animals. But by a superficial analysis of their head-bobbing and extent of toilet training, I do believe that they are one of the dumbest animals (or at least the biggest morons within the birds category). The reporter attempts to attribute to their little pigeon heads ace qualities of memory, cognition and emotions like desperation, nostalgia and disappointment.

The flip side is none of the pigeons were available for comments - they were busy crapping or reminiscing their old Gateway of India days.

The wikipedia article I perused for getting some estimate on an average/achiever pigeon's dumbness mentioned an article that sets standards for pointless research.

In a famous article in 1995, Watanabe, Sakamoto and Wakita described an experiment which showed that pigeons can be trained to discriminate between paintings by Picasso and Monet.

The birds were first trained on a limited set of paintings: when the shown painting was a Picasso, the pigeon was able to obtain food by repeated pecking; when it was a Monet, pecking had no effect. After a while, the pigeons would only peck when shown Picasso paintings. They were then able to generalize, and correctly discriminate between paintings of the two painters not previously shown, and even between cubist and impressionist paintings (cubism and impressionism being the two stylistic schools Picasso and Monet belong to). When the Monet paintings were shown upside down, the pigeons were not able to properly categorize anymore; showing the cubist works upside down did not have such an effect.
I am no smart pigeon to judge impressionist paintings. But thanks to India TV, I can now accurately differentiate between crap and content on television.

Thanks Vatsal for posting the video on facebook (link)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Logic Fail!

(the title is a tribute to my current favourite Fail Blog!)

Logic Fail
: A seemingly correct response derived from logic which is inappropriate, inaccurate or absolutely wrong.

Recently, I was subjected to a besieging task of expressing my opinion to a girl about a guy's pictures. Fact is guys cannot opine about guys. We can make quite rich comments about girls - from poignant descriptions to details bordering grotesque territory. But pictures of males can at best evoke a qualification response.

Hence, I sent the same response back.


Verbosity failed me at an opportune moment. The bottomless well of colourful opinions dried up. I've been told that through those two innocent letters, I had sent additional signals of indifference and insensitivity.

Logic: Brain thinks 'ok'. You say 'ok'.
Logic Fail!

The problem is one doesn't learn from logic fails. It is quite possible to commit another blunder of same or higher degree. Here's another:

There are four friends A,B,C,D; A, on his birthday, receives wishes from B. But he requests B not to remind C and D since they have forgotten. Should B respect A's request and not remind them, or should he remind C,D to have them wish A (even though A has asked him not to) ?

In this gripping tale of friends and dilemmas, I was B. After A's (Suhaib's) birthday had passed, I was not completely convinced about my decision. Creating fictitious characters from A to D, I posed this question to 8 other gtalk friends. What should B have done?

All eight said not reminding would be stupid/insensitive/silly/dumb. Apart from that, the gaali I got from C (Prerna) and D (Satbir) was a lucid signal of a bad judgement.

Logic: Friend says don't remind. You don't remind.
Logic Fail!

I've saved the best kissa for the end.

This incident is about an year old. Prerna, along with big suitcases, had to be dropped to the station one night from the campus. Tejvir was accompanying her in the autorickshaw. To drive back Tejvir from the station, one more guy had to trail them on a bike. As we stood chatting after dinner, the options left were Suhaib, Satbir and I.

At an appropriate moment, Suhaib apologetically took a step away from her. "I am sorry. I have some crucial work now. So I can't go out."

That left just Satbir and me. Prerna waited for a response from either of us. We looked at each other and gave a shrug (a mix of either way and whatever). We were both jobless and competent bike riders. The solution was quite obvious. No, volunteering did not pop up as an option in my brain. Instead, I sensed that since both of us are ready, only the purest form of decision making suits the occasion.

So I pulled out a coin and said, "Let's toss for it. I'll go tails."

Satbir and Suhaib coldly started at me. Apparently leaving such a task to the god of randomness does not reinforce friendship. Before the coin could flip in the air, Prerna turned red and screamed "Stop it! None of you needs to come." The crisis was resolved rapidly. Satbir mounted the bike and left with the auto. On the way to the station, Tejvir repeatedly convinced her that I was being funny and it was one of those stupid jokes.

But I wasn't joking at all. It was just another Logic Fail.

Bonus Material:
Before Satbir took off on the bike to reach the station, he leaned to me and said, "I don't know why we went through all that. Maine pehle hi soch liya tha ki mein jaaunga (I'd already decided I'll drop her)." That is why I insist, that Satbir in conversations chooses to miss the most important pieces of information.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Lesson of the Day - 1

When a office colleague meeting you for the first time over tea asks you politely 'So are you married?', do not gasp "NO!", pushing your head back with a revolted look on your face. Instead, politely nod sideways to indicate your status and gently ask her the same question. Because chances are that once you do so, the answer could be yes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Copy Paste

Some moron somewhere was duplicating excel rows as a substitute for productivity...

Subway Business Hours

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I, Robot

This week I attended a play with my friends called The Wedding Album. The play, written by Girish Karnad and directed by Lilette Dubey, was quite interesting for all of us. This small incident is of course no blemish on the quality of theatre work.

After the play, the director (Lilette) and the cast sat on stage to have a discussion with the audience. One person posed a question about the difference in the way the play was perceived in different regions. So Lilette responded.

'I find it heartening to see audiences across countries react to our work. It touches them at the same level. It makes us realize even though we may be separate geographically, as humanity we are binded by the same emotions.'

The audience heartily smiled.

We were pleased with the self-indulgent praise. Just by watching a play, we had managed to unite humanity. Ah, the noblest act of all.

Savouring the effect she had created, Lilette went on a bit further. 'In fact it is quite surprising, audiences seem to behave in very similar ways. You give the same reactions to the scenes. You even laugh at exactly the same moment as each other.'

We froze.

What the hell? Are we so predictable? I thought I was different.

This stunned silence lasted for just a few chilling seconds. But being an ace theatre guru, she knew how to twist our emotions back to normalcy.

'But as an audience you also picked up on some other moments and saw the humour in that. You were very receptive in the play. That was really special for us.'

Phew! We are not robots.
Happiness resumed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

By the Way....

I was having a conversation with Rohan (my flatmate) yesterday about a possible movie plan in the evening. He feigned some mild interest in the idea.

'See Arvind, I think I would spend that time much better by calling up some old friends, mailing and scrapping people....Or maybe I can read a book in the same hours.. Or I can do some basic planning for the work I've to cover in the week...Even if that doesn't happen I can sit here....and relax...'
I was flabbergasted - 'You'd rather waste time on the couch than watch a movie with a good rating?'
'Yes. I'd rather sit and do absolutely nothing than go out and watch a movie.'

This is Rohan's level of enthusiasm for movies. This strong dislike has been built over time. Apparently, every odd movie he had been dragged to was loathesome and reduced his respect for the activity. People have upbringing issues related to parents, bullies or relationships. Rohan had his bad memories through the big screen. He did go for a movie with us last night, and this is a story about that.

After assessing his soaring interest in the outing, Saurabh and I eliminated risky flicks - this included an offbeat zombie thriller and Madagascar2, since sequels are seldom satisfying. We chose Tropic Thunder - a reliable, over the top, grotesque comedy flick by Ben Stiller. This was being screened at Cathay Cinemas at 7.45pm. Timing things well, we reached Cathay at 7.30. Around an hour later, we ended up buying tickets for another movie. In that time, we found out that Tropic Thunder wasn't being screened there and I received abuses for my incompetency. Rohan had hoped to 'eat something quickly while you buy the tickets'. Of course that didn't happen. We hastened his meal and headed to the nearby mall Plaza Singapura, with an apprehensive, hungry Rohan, to pick an alternative movie.

While waiting in the line, Saurabh and I hoped we would manage to get the last few tickets for Rec, the last option being Madagascar2.
"What kind of a movie is this Rec?"
"Oh. It is about a television reporter who enters a building with her cameraman while covering the night shift of firemen. The film is shown as the recording made by that camera."
"Oh...Is it worth watching?", Rohan's blood was throttling with instincts of escaping from impending danger.
"Yes. The trailer was awesome.", said Saurabh reassuringly.

It turned out only first row seats were available. We went ahead and bought the tickets. Rohan and I had a brief window of 15minutes to order and consume our dinner. We respected our commitment to trying out new cuisines every week and chose a Taiwanese outlet in the food court. Bad Idea. We reached the hall at 9 with unhappy, unfulfilled stomachs.

"Wow..this should be fun. First row, handheld camera footage - lots of shaky, motion sickness stuff.", I commented.
(Trust my instincts to add that sprinkle of demotivation)

"Yaar...iske liye 10 dollar! (10 dollars for this!)", Rohan was visibly disturbed now. "Trust me. It should be good.", said Saurabh. We walked down all the way to the first row and planted ourselves in the corner seats. The screen towered over us a few feet away.

The first set of ads and trailers were being screened. Our eyes slowly adjusted to the brilliant showers of white light. We had our neck cranked up to a peculiar angle to capture the whole screen.

"Mazaa aa raha hai Rohan? (Enjoying yourself Rohan?)" I asked.
By this point of time, Rohan was actually wincing in his seat.
"How long is this movie?", he asked.
"One and a half hours."
Eyeing his watch, he said "Ok. So we should be out by 10.30."

The first scene of the movie streamed out with a lady holding a microphone: 'Buenas noches, esto es Angela Vidal haciendo uso de la palabra.' The text at the bottom of the screen read 'Good evening, this is Angela Vidal speaking.'

Saurabh turned to Rohan and said, "By the way, we forgot to tell you. The movie is in Spanish."

Rohan vocally cursed us and decided to give the movie a window of 15 minutes to get interesting.

And it did. The movie was a chilling, demonic, ridiculously good thriller. The appetite we had for dinner perished after the movie. Later, we sat and meekly sipped Coca-Cola, allowing our mind and heart to settle back into reality. The whole experience was petrifying. Because of the handheld camera view, there is no scope for detaching yourself from the film. You are right there - the adrenaline pumped up by the use of fidgety camerawork and night visions. One of the best movies in the zombies genre (at par with 28 Days Later and much better than Cloverfield).

For the first time in four months, before going to bed, we checked if the front door was locked. We locked it again and then went to sleep.
Do watch it.

If you liked this article, you might also like The Invisible Roommate and I knew something was wrong.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tandoori Nights - The Party

Q1. What is Tandoori Nights?
It is an awesome song composed by Himesh Reshammiya for the movie Karzz. It was also the name of a party we had this Saturday.

Q2. Was the party fantastic?
Yes, it was!

Q3. Why a Himesh title ? Why Himesh of all people?
When mockery, desperation and incredulity form a cocktail, one loses all senses. Stupid turns into cool. Silly becomes the in-thing. Hence the title and the ensuing theme of the party.

Q4. Were fun stuff, drinking games etc planned by us?

Q5. Was the Pseudo-MC, Pseudo-HR, Pseudo-Activity planner of the party given spontaneous bums/kicks?

Q6. Did people drink and dance?
Yes. Over two dozen of them!

Q7. Did they pay homage to Himesh bhaiyya?
Yes. The ones that could hold a pen by the end of the party.

Q8. Aren't these questions stupid? Won't pictures do a better job of showcasing the party?
Yes. So here you go.

Tandoori Nights shall return in 2009....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Virgin Nurse

The title caught your attention didn't it! Well, agencyfaq reports that this Virgin Mobile Ad involving a nurse has stirred the I&B Ministry too, which is considering banning the Ad.

"The I&B ministry is setting up an inter ministerial committee, comprising joint secretaries from various government ministries."

I really appreciate the big-wigs devoting their time to this important cause. Yes, I am sure these are the right people to judge an ad. At the top of this bozo collection is the head of the committee, the I&B ministry's additional secretary Uday Kumar Verma.

How will a conglomerate of government secretaries decide whether the hot nurse in the video is derogatory to the nursing profession? Probably they'll freeze the ads to scrutinize the nurse aspects of the TVC:
"Mr. Verma, what do you think the legs of this hot nurse signify? "
"Hmm...I believe they are two firm pillars of our society - culture and tradition"
"I agree with you Mr. Verma and I strongly oppose the hot uniform of the nurse. The pure white is an insult to the wheatish complexion of the average poor Indian. These rich people should be punished and taxed I tell you..."
"But don't nurses always wear short white clothes?"
"Maybe we should study a few more videos of (hot) nurses to better understand the context."
"Hmm... Let us setup a bigger committee for that. And get a bunch of real nurses to the next meeting for fun...amm...I mean research."

The company has got another 2 weeks time -"We have written to the company concerned, asking them to reply why the advertisement should not be banned.". Sounds a lot like Himesh-Monty logic in Karzzz 'What proof do you have that you did not kill Ravi Verma!'

I am told by my India sources that the ad has been on air for at least 2 months now. Given another bunch of fortnights in the volley between councils, committees and the company, the Ad will safely last its full intended life on television.

If you liked this article, you can also read other similar articles on this blog - The Country Club and Kyonki Impression Ek Din Mein Nahin Banta

If you want a more serious take on this behaviour of intolerance and frivolous banning, do read this article called Competitive Intolerance on The Acorn.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And I crap you not...

Title inspired by Barney's line in How I Met Your Mother

Prerna and I visited the Night Safari (at Singapore) last week. Thanks to Halloween celebrations and interesting animal shows, the event was enjoyable. But if I were to single out the best element,it would have to be Clint - the tour guide on the night safari tram. He possessed a dubious accent - Singaporean base splattered with French tones, some American touches and that secret ingredient. He had some rehearsed puns and witty lines for most descriptions en route. They evoked strong silent reactions from the tourists. The animals seemed to know the punchlines, so they didn't time their laughter properly. I have attempted to do an impression of Clint in the audio clip below. If you possess speakers and an appetite for derision, do play it. (Transcript also provided here as an alternative.)

"And to your right, lies the Asian Elephant, weighing not ONE, not TWO, but THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED KILOS. That's right THREE.. THOUSAND...FIVE. ...HUNDRED. ..KILOS. The Asian Elephant eats upto 250 kilos of leaves and grass ....Of course...what goes in, must come out too. Every day, the elephant releases more than 90 kilos of dung. That's more than what I weigh...Isn't that something!"
We have witnessed monkeys smelling their own butt on youtube, dogs peeing in the neighbourhood to establish superiority. But I have never heard any human being compare himself to an enormous pile of shit. Inevitably, we laughed out loud. And to make things worse, I attempted not to giggle. After that moment, every animal on exhibit and its ancestral roots seemed like crap. The lions and hyenas possessed some exceptionally quiet demeanor. But thanks to Clint's shitty wit, we provided some compensatory snorts and rumbling for the rest of the tour.

Clint's comment reminded me of an old Dilbert blog post. It was removed from there sometime ago, but I managed to find it within my chat logs (thank you Google!). I didn't know poop could find connections at multiple levels.
Now that's a Party

Did you read about the six beer-drinking elephants in India? The elephants found drums of fermenting rice beer on a farm, partied too hard, then uprooted utility poles and electrocuted themselves. The fascinating part is that because they are elephants, they still remember that night.

My first reaction to that story was, "I'll have what they're having!" You don't get to use that joke often, and I don't like to miss an opportunity.

I'm no marketing expert, but if I were the farmer whose beer they drank, I'd start calling it "Shocking Elephant" and I'd design the coolest beer bottles ever. They'd be in the shape of an elephant with his trunk straight out, and that's the part you would drink from.

On the back label, I'd include a handy guide to what level of stupid you could expect after consuming each bottle. At the top of the scale, after ten bottles, you would have "probable accidental electrocution." At the bottom of the scale, after drinking one elephant or two, the problems would be "Thinking you are witty" and "Mild attraction to your friend's mom."

As I understand it, when you get electrocuted, it makes you crap. Imagine being the first person to find these six dead elephants, in 40 tons of elephant poop, wrapped in live power cables. I would dive into the bushes and hope no one saw me. My fear would be that my neighbor who owns the land might say, "Can you help me clean this up?"

They say there's a tool for everything, but I checked my toolkit, and there's nothing there for cleaning up six electrocuted elephants in a mountain of shit. How do you even approach this problem? Do you wait for them to harden, then cut them up with chainsaws, put them in plastic garbage bags and distribute them to dumpsters all over town?

In the short run, you could charge admission to see the six dead elephants. I'd pay a rupee or two for that. I might even take the kids. There aren't many things the whole family can enjoy, but I'm pretty sure this is one of them.

Perhaps this is why I'm not in charge of planning weekends.


(Speaking of Crap)Answer to The Package

The object in the previous post was a cookie. Wrapped meticulously in rounded rectangular packages, it possessed copious amounts of oriental mystery. When it was received as a gift, my flatmate studied it for a while. He was burdened with unwanted flatmate insights. Mustering courage, we tasted it.
Yes. It looks like soap. But it tastes good. And it rhymes too!
Quiz winner is Akshay. Congrats :)

The Korean Cookie

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Package

25 points to the readers who can guess what this is:

To be revealed in the next post.

An additional 90 points if you correctly guess from which country it was bought(Hint: It's not Singapore).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Karzzz - The Review

He holds the guitar like a heavy log crawling with an unspecified number of ants - keeping it straight and uncomfortably separate from the body. There are multiple scenes, where he attempts to look cool and rocking on stage, but just manages to look plain silly.

Every moron who aspires to learn the guitar either begins by strumming DDLJ (Tujhe Dekha) or Karz (Ek Hasina Thi). And even with rudimentary music knowledge they figure out where to play it - lower strings and higher frets. It is ironical that a music director looks so uncomfortable with the guitar and plays absolutely wrong frets; Such a critical thread to the story is so carelessly ignored. It is amusing that Himesh had such consuming obsession with his attitude on stage that a basic detail about the guitar was forgotten. But I guess associating him with music itself would be quite irrational.

Karzz will turn out to be a hit. That is inevitable. Like other bloggers who have seen and posted reviews of the movie - I sat through those 3 hours out of curiousity for nasal boy Monty. And it was worth the experience.

There are a couple of memorable moments in Karzz - Like when the audience witnessed Monty logic - "Tumhare paas kya saboot hai ki tumne Ravi Verma ka katl nahi kiya tha?" (What proof do you have that you did not kill Ravi Verma?)...Or to prove that he is a reincarnated version of Ravi Verma, he spills out a deep secret to Kamini 'You never brush your teeth before having your morning tea.'....Or when Himesh appears serenading, hanging from a helicopter, his nasal voice winning over any drowning noises made by the fan blades. It reinforces a disappointing truth about Indian Cinema - we usually produce ace quality crap, and will do so for a long time.

The Music

Songs are numerous, sporadic and all sung by Himesh. It was tough to judge which one was worst of the nine songs. Thankfully, the storyline is not interrupted by the other 10 remixes that Himesh bhai has concocted (source).

There is one song in which Himesh keeps ranting 'Mashaallah Subhanallah.' Maybe as an attempt to publicly balance his views on both Hindu and Islam religions - there is another one called 'Hari Om'. Here is a snippet from that song that captures the nasal essence of this album.

Another song is titled Tandoori Nights, and you guessed it right - both Himesh and Sunidi Chauhan keep repeating this phrase - 'Tak Tanana Tandoori Nights, Tandoori Nights, Tandoori Nights'. He has also dabbled in some urban-indian form of rap in this, with mutilated pronunciations of words in both Hindi and English -
Tanha Tanha hai dil, Tanha Tandoori Nights,
IiiF loving you is wrong, I don't waannaa be right

The Monty

Himesh's hair has received more treatment in the movie than his role. The first chunk of scenes emit a uniform stench of insecurity. A fantasy of how an unappreciated musician would want the world to swoon over him - crowds are shown chanting his name, girls faint while rocking in his shows, multiple mentions of - "Tu Rockstar Hai" ,"Tumhare jitna bada rockstar aur...". Sir Juda, the Dr.Evil style caricatured villain, who would have seemed a lot more stupid had it not been for Himesh.

Some hard truths for you Himesh:

1. You are not a rockstar. You never came close to being a rockstar. Not in the movie, and definitely not in real life.
2. Sticking out your chest from unbuttoned tees looks grotesque. It's an outdated 80's fashion statement, and even back then it looked stupid.
3. It would serve you better if you transplanted new vocal chords instead of hair. We don't mind the cap, seriously.

[Insults attempt to pierce Himesh's skull, but perish blinded by his Toupee's awesomeness]

Apart from Himesh, the movie also suffers from some chronic Hindi Cinema diseases- having actors exclusively for comic relief, linear characters with single traits (like the villain Sir Juda), actresses purely placed for cleavage or prancing with the Hero (Urmila and Shweta Kumar respectively).

A deep grunting nasal creature who should have stuck to composing music is now starring in lead roles, glorifying himself as a rich, famous, revered celebrity rockstar.

Maybe in your next life Himesh, but not in this turn.

If you liked this, you may also like to read:
Race - Review
Himesh Rant1 - Oooo...
Other Blogger Reviews:
What the phoonk is Himesh doing(more of a pre-review!)
Karzz - the review (Greatbong)
Jai Mata Di, let's mock (Sayesha)

Image Sources (1,2,3)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Run! Run! Run!

The world is in peril right now. A lot of people lent money to a lot of people and two years later everyone in the world is screwed. The world's most powerful nation has a bimbo as a vice presidential nominee. And Himesh Reshammiya's second movie is being released this week. Its tragic. And we surely require the best of people to lead us. It's these crisis situations that help in identifying the true leaders, the visionaries.

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are having a fire drill in the office today, spanning across 25 floors - with a whole collection of interrupted lift services and a really long stairway.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” - John C Maxwell

As the day progresses, most of us have just grown numb to the alarms and announcements. We have not identified the potential of this new scenario. But a select few have managed to show coveted traits - the kind who will steer us not only out of this crisis, but lead the whole company to great heights.

(Just to clarify, it was a drill not an actual fire hazard.)

"Hey, when the alarm rings - how about we start panicking and running around. Then they'll all get confused. All the Indians would run behind us", said a fellow batchmate, "It'll be fun."

Clearly he is top management material - in his early months of work he is already having creative ideas; and visions of leading people to some destination. Had the concept been not stupid and morally offensive - it would have percolated right up to the leadership team.

"Not just Desi junta - even local Singaporeans would follow you. Didn't you notice how obedient they are in traffic? Of course they will also join the line." commented another Desi guy. Having a deep understanding of people is essential in marketing. Occasionally some thoughts may have a tinge of mass generalization, but that can be forgiven for the greater good of the business - He is a true marketer for the coming decades.

The 10am tea break soon ended and we returned to our desks. (You may question the need for a bright 10a.m tea-break, but that rationale deserves a whole new post).

A chirpy lady was enjoying the new environment - "Won't it be fun if a fire actually broke out today during the fire drill ? The fire would spread throughout the building and nobody would do anything." No comments on this one - I'd just toss 10 points to her for the vivid imagery.

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity" - George Patton

For the past two hours, the fire alarm has been ringing intermittently. About 10 seconds after it begins, when our ears have pretty much become defunct, a gentle prerecorded female voice streams from the speakers - "Ladies and Gentlemen, please note the fire alarm has been activated." Thankfully, we are deaf by then and her voice doesn't disturb our work.

"Why do they make such dull announcements - instead of giving instructions, why don't they crack jokes instead ? It will surely lighten the mood of the fire situation." Mixing humour with stressful situations is the right concoction for success. Here's a trait I can hope to replicate.

My favourite comment came from the guy to my left - "Hey let's light a fire and check if these sprinklers actually work." This one simply indicates that everyone can't be a leader. Some have to be left behind to be whipped and disciplined.

Here's a video from FailBlog which suprisingly fits the theme. We'd sold a lot more shampoo had all the employees been motivated like this guy.

If you liked this post, you may also like:
The Laptop Crisis
DIB 342 - The Roadtrips

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

MacRitchie Reservoir

As you walk into the reservoir, the paths lure you inside. Greenery begins dominating the surrounding space; the high rises reluctantly move out of sight. Soon you are left with with just the purest of elements - water, trees and the enthusiastic joggers. An occasional appearance of a monkey amuses you; But you realize you are the visitor in the space and not him. You nod respectfully and continue walking.

MacRitchie Reservoir, built close to 150 years ago, is in the heart of Singapore. It contains multiple boardwalks and walking trails of varying lengths to suit everyone. Some prefer to jog. Others take leisurely walks. We did a bit of everything. We saw people of all ages - the bubbly kids didn't bother me (they normally do). That was done by the 70 year old uncles who confidently paced ahead of our malfunctioning jogging bodies. I guess fitness is a long way ahead.

My favourite moment was when all four of us spotted a docile turtle gently meandering in the water. We tacitly sat down and watched it for a while. Its indifference and ease in its environment was very pleasing. I wouldn't say I am burdened with excess work or responsibilities currently. But in case I do feel troubled sometime later in life, I know where to come back and lose that stress.

In the city, if I am jogging on tar in the presence of cars and urban paraphernalia, I'd count every step and loathe the experience. Any distance beyond normal capacity would be strenuous. But this place somehow breaks that rational link. We just kept going on and on. I can't believe we jogged and walked over 11km in those few hours.

It was enchanting.

Note: A visit to MacRictchie should be followed up with a sumptuous meal for best results!
If you liked this article, you may also like:
Tis the season silly
You've got rain

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ring of Batman

You may be wondering right now - 'What the hell is Batman doing with a giant key ?' I hope by the end of this I would have put things in perspective and reinforced an important learning of life.

First, some basic assumptions:
- It is normal to seek attention and appreciation.
- Given a choice, a human being would choose something cool like Batman for a keychain over a 'Jai Mata Di' or 'Mamta Enterprises'

In case you disagree with the above two, you can still read ahead. But I warn you - it may offend your value system.

A fortnight ago, I too was living a drab life like you. Luckily, that day I was gifted a Batman action figure inside a nutritious box of Milo Choco Cereals filled with the goodness of wheat(Note: this is not a product placement). The toy could have either adorned a side table in my room, or traveled the world with two cool keys wrapped around its waist. Considering the plastic figurine's feelings, I chose the latter.

As long as it rode in my bag, we had a good time. When I whipped it out on odd days to open the door my flatmates would drool, drowned in envy and admiration.

Little did I know that this Batman packed a punch in its puny fists.

First, there is the issue about its design. The legs and arms have poked an odd number of holes in my pockets. Some loose change does slip out sporadically, but that is pardonable. Its the overall shape which bothers me. We take all the pains to wear the right kind of clothing. As a principle no man wants to publicly have gravid front pockets (For that matter even fat back pockets are avoidable). It would be quite naive' to stick an object in there to ruin the effect. But I try to put up with that fashion statement.

My friend PD has chosen the other extreme and made a web of keychains the size of a tennis ball. It weighs a ton and apparently he hasn't lost any keys since then. I would have to consume a whole lot of cereal to achieve this and hence its not feasible right now.

So it is neither heavy enough to remind me of its absence, nor does the Dark Knight jiggle or clang as a habit - which explains the other issue.

There is an immense possibility while carrying it in my hand that I misplace
it. As it rained heavily this night, I walked in the shade till the tip of our apartment complex. Then I had to dash for the last odd metres to reach the lobby. I wasn't half as wet the first time. When I realized I had left the keys in the shop downstairs prior to my sprint, I cursed Batman, Robin and all his little Justice League friends. The second dash was not that spirited. Batman had let me down. I was drenched in guilt, annoyance and of course water.

I trudged up to the flat and explained the rain incident to my flatmates. They impolitely laughed and mocked Batman. The sound pierced my heart and hurt my little buddy (Bonus points to you if a dirty euphemism popped in your head right now!). I was reminded by them about the foolishness of carrying a giant keychain and was urged to dismantle the whole thing.

As of now, the issue lies unresolved.

I may continue to parade with the same unwieldy contraption, trading daily comfort for that rare blip of surprise in the eyes of the world. Or I can toss it in with the other paraphernalia on my desk, leading to lonely years and an unnoticed demise. It is too painful a decision to make and hence I shall not burden you with my final choice. But I hope from this whole episode, you too have learnt an important lesson of life - 'Size Does Matter'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

See no evil, Do no evil

I fear words won't do justice to this vivid colourful story. But nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this tale vicariously, just like I did hearing it an hour after it happened.

A few days back there was a fresh face in our condominium gymnasium - a 5 year old kid who was accompanied by his mother; She took a place to the left of Mallika on the cycle, while the kid wandered to Mallika's right near the second treadmill. Somebody had left it powered and he soon mounted it and began pushing buttons randomly. As it always happens, he quickly figured out the ones for speed and began jabbing at it repeatedly.

Seeing his feet precariously tottering on the speeding belt, Mallika felt concerned, reached over and cut off the speed. Being a smart alec, he again began speeding up the treadmill. So Mallika got off her own treadmill and switched off the power to it. The belt stopped and the intelligent kid realized that the red glowy buttons were not glowing anymore.

So he started crying bawling. He went on relentlessly, inviting attention from everyone in the gym. An embarrassed Mallika stared at the mother, hoping for some 'positive-action'. She got back a brief nod conveying 'Its ok. Let him be.'

So Mallika shrugged and powered it back on (her mind grunted 'whatever', unheard by the rest). But he wouldn't stop crying. And he wouldn't stop using the treadmill. So the gymnasium had a 5 year old wailing jogging kid. The mom ignored it for a while, finished her cycling stint and went over to him. She consoled him as he sploshed the gym floor with big fat tears.

She told him "Its ok. You go to the lady and she'll say sorry."

Mallika tried to gape in astonishment (She only tried because you can't gape too well when you are jogging). The other gym users however enjoyed the whole drama pretty well. Its seldom when one gets to stare at something less boring than oneself and dumbbells. The kid didn't move towards Mallika and she chose not to apologize to the kid for preventing him from cracking his skull.

So for a while the kid kept crying and the mother kept pacifying him. He managed to throw some awesome guilt inducing looks while shedding those tears.(Thanks to the counter on the treadmill, Mallika was able to confirm later that this wailing-lulling drama went on for a full 15 minutes). After she had finished, she walked up to the pair to explain her actions.

Have you ever tried to reason with those mothers who appreciate every little thing their kid does? And I am not referring to the sporting, painting, friendly activities; Remember the punk kid in your school - the kind who warmed up their kada on the table and stung you with it; who buckled your knees from the back, who challenged you to panja(arm-wrestling) and always won...Well mothers are the same everywhere - encouraging these little pests to grow up into villains of our childhood.

Mallika defended herself by assuring she was doing it in the interest of the child. After all, he could have hurt himself on the treadmill. The mother cut in between and said , "No, he comes here often. He knows how to use it. Don't you baby?" The kid gave his god pleasing cute smile. Instantly Mallika lost the argument and the battle. After a while the duo left the gym; And the kid gave a vindicated look to a publicly defeated Mallika.

In the future you may hear about a kid who was surreptitiously shoved off a running treadmill. I hope I am present at the crime scene that day to share the evil moment with Mallika.

Mu ha ha ha...

If you liked this article, you may also like:

DIB 342 - The School Jaunts
Oye Hoe Dilli

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pink Pop

Pink Microphone.
Pink Microphone Stand.
Pink Drums.
Pink Piano.

I think my rugged friend who accompanied me to the Avril Lavigne concert (called the Best Damn Tour!) would be quite embarrassed to reveal his identity. So Akshay, I'll keep your blog and orkut links a secret!

Since this was not a conventional 'rock' performance, we both had expected a slightly different audience for the show. We found our seats in an organized row of chairs, numbered and tagged. Hmmm...The audience milled around us for a long while before the show started. Average age of fans - 10-14 years. Profile: Little girls in pink outfits, squealing and moving in hoards unapologetically excited about everything around them. They say music knows no boundaries. But I am sure its an exception when you are a decade older and over two feet taller than your neighour. Its not the same you know.

Pink Top.
Pink Streaked Hair.
Pink Glitter.

When did Avril turn into this powerpuff caricature ? An overdosage of what young americans succinctly describe as Cooties. The overwhelming pink rekindled a fundamental doubt - Is the blatant association of pink with chirpy girls (or females in general) genetic or a conditioned fact like the Red Santa Claus?

Pink Spotlights.
Pink Backdrop.

If I haven't established it yet, we were misfits in the stadium. The music was good. For a few like Sk8er Boi and Complicated, we even sang along subtly. But we ruled out other public displays of zestfulness. Because headbanging is a lot like fooling with your girlfriend. Its comfortable doing it in privacy. You feel awkward if others are watching and judging you. And some swigs of alcohol can drive away all those apprehensions, crashing your social discomfort. But there was no daaru and consequently no headbanging. I am sure the little girls wouldn't have judged us negatively had we squealed and grooved with them. But we chose not to do so.
The Music

I liked the earlier albums of Avril Lavigne and frankly the new image wasn't palatable for me. But I guess the American music industry has perfected the art of slicing the audience into groups and moulding artists to suit them. Especially within the female pop artists category, if you peel off that layer of raunchy videos - its clear they are meant to span a spectrum and hopefully stay within their own zones.

Squeaky Clean, not sexy -- Hillary Duff

Slight Rebellion, not sexy -- Avril Lavigne (now changed to occupy squeaky clean spot)

Sexy and Latin Roots -- Jennifer Lopez

Sexy, not rebellious, relationship stuff - Britney Spears (started from a slightly sexy, teen idol image)

Extreme Rebellion, anti relationship stuff - Pink

I feel Christina Aguilera is way better than these singers. But the industry didn't have space beyond Britney Spears for a blonde. So she tried to combine sexy and white blonde with black artists and fell through the crack. Quite a similar fate for Jessica Simpson.

For proof of this insight, here's a recent hit song from Pussycat Dolls called "When I Grow Up".
When I grow up
I wanna be famous
I wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have boobies

Yes, I am not kidding! You can expect aspiring pre-teens and teenagers copying the booty dance sequences and dreaming about a similar lifestyle.

It took me a while to decide whether to bury this pink incident or be proud of it. I finally documented it here. I also hung a bright Avril flag in my room with a pink skull on it. The next step was the purchase of a pink formal shirt yesterday. You know where its all headed now...

p.s: The orgainzers had provided a 6 inch long tube to each attendee which when triggered would glow in the dark - meant to induce us to wave it rhythmically and feel involved in the slow songs. After observing it for a while Akshay asked, "Chalaana hai kya?" I considered that option and said, "Nahi. Lets take it home. Kaam aaega." So we saved phosphorescent sticks which would glow mildy for possible future usage. It feels good to behave like a Desi in foreign land!

Some Pictures picked from here

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Good Days Bad Days

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's so much butter

What is it ?
It is Body Butter. A refreshing intensive creamy all-over body moisturizer.

Moisturizer for your esophagus?

No. Its for your skin. You apply butter on yourself like any other cream.

As men reading this get confused and look for answers, I assure you this is no concocted BS. Body Butter is selling like hot cakes (I thought a food pun is appropriate here). Having accompanied two different friends to BodyShop outlets in India and Singapore, I inferred it is quite popular across different world markets.

Is it made of butter?
I am not sure. But the ingredients have an exciting range - from Almond, Brazil Nut, Cocoa, Coconut to Mango, Papaya, Passion Fruit and Strawberry.

And its not just me who feels hungry within a minute of sniffing these creams. I quote one of these two friends - "I really feel like scooping it out and eating it".

Why would anyone want Butter on their skin?
Its a really sticky concept. The hormones for arousal and hunger have been beautifully confused and entwined to create an appetising whipped cream. It looks like butter. It feels like better. And it smells awesome.

Can we eat it?
I hope so. Possibly as a condiment rather than a main dish.

What is it?
It is Body Butter. A refreshing intensive creamy all-over body moisturiser.

In order to retain my friendship with those two friends, I didn't express these thoughts quite openly. But the question still bugs me - Girls want their skin to appear sexy. So they choose to apply butter smelling of appetising aromas of fruits and nuts. Why ? Perhaps a subtle shining invitation to dinner?

Face it. Women are quite hard to understand. I guess we shouldn't expect anything less from their cosmetics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Small Talk

(Warning: A post full of rants and lacking depth)

It starts with the name.

"And you are?"
"Arvind Iyer."

The seasoned small talkers move on. I sincerely thank all of them. The rest follow an irksome route.

"Iyer? Oh! Just like Mr. and Mrs Iyer!"

You'd think the reference to the movie title was subtle enough. But some of them tend to drag the conversation to it. Soon after mentioning the title, they attempt a tough balancing act - a part of their face gazes upwards, showing compassion for the story's sensitive theme. Concurrently they also nod and maintain eye contact. Its a tough act. Believe me, I've seen it a lot of times. I have to mimic the same level of compassion. If I frown at them, they think I didn't get the joke and start pursuing a deeper discussion about the movie. And that's really avoidable.

Because its hard to opine about the movie at this moment. As the second comment in the conversation, its the shortest transition from name introduction to movie discussions ever. Unless some twit is christened 'James Bond' by his parents, I am sure this record is safe with the Iyers.

Like I said, only a few follow up their witty comment with movie talk. The bold majority decide to probe my life to derive humour.

"So where is Mrs. Iyer?"

Would they carry out such sensitive conversations with a nice looking lady? I don't think so. An amiable Iyer Boy unfortunately receives all the potshots and dollops of untimely inquisitions.

The ugly question still floats between us.

"So where is Mrs. Iyer?"

They receive a frozen smile as a response. It doesn't satisfy them. They are seated on a fake higher wit pedestal - the kind you plonk yourself on when you think you've made a creative comment. They expect a worthy comeback.

I reply straightforwardly, "I am single."

If there is a tone of disappointment,I am thrilled because it indicates that the discussion can move on. But if they begin to smile (with that gleam in their eyes), its trouble. Because all the wit of the average citizen, all the canned brain power can only lead to this ugly retort.

"So you are now Single....and ready to Mingle. Ha ha."

The conversation experts add that prickly phrase to the end of their inference with a matching wide grin. They ooze pride as if they coined the phrase. Wow, it rhymes too!

Recently, a new pothole of small talk has emerged. When I manage to extricate myself from the above ones, they occasionally put forward this question.

"So where are you working?"
'I am working at P&G with the brand Head and Shoulders."

"Oh, then you can get me some free samples!! Ha ha".

I wish to say: "You want to source free shampoo? Wow, that's really classy." or "Even our best shampoo won't do you any good. Give up."

But every consumer counts! And having endured their atrocity of comebacks till now, I let it go.

"I'll try.", I reply.

The conversation soon ends. And they leave in a better mood, feeling a lot smarter. After all, they were the witty ones. The gurus of small talk.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Invisible Roommate

My friend Satbir tries to be funny at times. The jokes are predominantly lame. But at other times, he has produced quite memorable tales. Because he has a peculiar tendency to skip the most relevant chunks of information. And unwittingly, it becomes quite an anecdote.

One day we were talking about wedding food dishes, when he gave his views "You know I always eat a lot at weddings. Except for one where I was coming by bus. You know the bus had an accident. So my lip was deeply cut and swollen. So I couldn't eat much. The uncle kept saying beta kuch khaa nahi rahe. But I just politely smiled. Thankfully under my beard the red blood wasn't visible."

Of course we were waiting for the nearest pause to scream out, "Stop! What happened on the bus??"

Close to a month ago I met him and other friends at Mumbai. Eventually the discussion meandered to the hassles of accommodation in the city. Satbir said, "I hoping to move out into the 2BHK apartment real soon. I know this 1BHK arrangement is temporary. But sometimes it gets a bit cramped."

"Apartment dirty ho jaata hoga?", I asked considering two MBA grads were living in this peculiar situation.

"No that's not an issue.", Satbir said, "Manvendra is a really methodical and organized guy. And anyway, the landlord cleans the place after we have left for work."

"Your landlord cleans your apartment?", Prerna asked.

"Yes. Just before he has a bath there."

"Your landlord has a bath in your apartment? Why?"

"Oh. He's a taxi driver."


Turns out the landlord was living in a chawl which was demolished to construct this apartment complex. The 1BHKs were given to the previous residents. He smoothly rented it out, choosing to live inexpensively in the slums. But he was not too happy with facilities available there. So on a daily basis he makes a visit to this home. And throws in some cleaning activities for free.

"Doesn't this whole arrangement bother you?" I asked with a straight face. Prerna had already turned pink muffling her giggles.

"No. At least not on weekdays. But on weekends he sometimes turns up too early in the morning. Aur kapde dhote hue bahut aawaaz karta hai..."

"He washes his clothes too?" This was turning surreal with each revealed fact.

"Yes. And you know he wears really large underwears. So when he hangs it on the clothes-line it occupies half the span."

(Note to myself: Maybe this should be a criteria for choosing future roommates - underwear span).

We couldn't hold it any longer and burst out laughing for a long while. Now Satbir got a hint that this was turning out to be quite humourous. He then decided to make the rest of the tale funny. And that's where the joke ended.

p.s : Satbir later revealed that the taxi driver had offered to share the apartment in exchange for halving the rent. This offer was politely turned down.

p.p.s - Satbir has moved out into a normal 2BHK apartment. I am not aware of the taxi driver's current hygienic preferences. And I choose not to find out either.

If you liked this article, you may also like:
The Right Price
The Fan Club

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Knew Something Was Wrong...

As we all sat waiting for our turn, the activity didn't look relaxing at all. All the previous colleagues (read victims) squealed and made visibly ugly faces as the attendants crunched their toes and poked at their feet. But free ka massage kaun jaane dega!

Foot massage is supposed to be a great relaxation treatment. Which is why there were two massage stations set up exclusively for the P&G team that had come down to the resort. Yes, I was lucky to be whisked away to a lovely team building outing just a week after I had joined. Apart from refreshing you, an expert massage can also reveal anomalies in your body. A spike in pain at specific points means something isn't right about your liver, your bladder, your intestine etc.

Of course I didn't believe that at first.

Somehow, my super-boss (my boss's boss) and I got our turn at the same time. My attendant was an old man clearly pained by the unending line of managers. He silently began his job, showing no traces of job satisfaction. Alongside sat my super-boss with her attendant. As a contrast he was young, cheerful and talkative. He chose to give a constant feedback to my super-boss along with the massage.

"Intestine, not good. not good."

"Speen, not good"
"Speen? You mean Spine?"
"No, Speen.", he said.
I offered advice, "I think he means spleen."
"Yes that is true" she said, probably impressed by his accuracy.He offered a reflexology book to her and continued resolving medical mysteries.

Five minutes had passed by and my guy hadn't said a word. He just consistently remained morose. As he pressed by big toe, I squealed. Ah! An insight!

"So which body part is not working well?", I asked curiously.

The Old man grunted, "Brain."

My super-boss guffawed. "Brain kharaab hai!", she repeated and laughed for a while. I hoped the moment would end soon. But just within a minute, the old man pressed some other toe and I squealed again. And without any indication from my side, he said, "Eyes."

She laughed again, "Wah, aankh bhi kharaab hai". "Brain, eyes not good for him", she translated for her attendant. The cheerful moron started rambling - "Yes yes. You look at pretty girls, and think too much. You keep looking, keep thinking. Brain has stress", he commented. I should whacked him back with some ace sarcasm for spiking my embarrassment. But when one grumpy old man is squishing your foot and your super-boss is giggling, the brain doesn't come up with quality acerbic retorts. The 'He stares at pretty girls' discussion went on for a while without any contribution from my side. I managed a weak smile through it all.

The massage eventually ended and I limped to the nearest chair. My feet felt good, but I wasn't that pleased. After all, I was branded as a tharki new recruit with problems in his brain and eyes. The future sure looks blurry to me.

If you liked this article, you may also like:
The Laptop Crisis
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Source of Atheism

"Yaar, I think extending the holiday to Monday will be an issue. I have a saawan ending fast that day. Where will I get fresh fruits?"
"Why don't you just postpone the fast? Works out for all us", I suggested.
She gave an astounding dirty look - the kind I receive for saying really dumb things, not the usual banter like the comment above.
"I guess you are not religious", she said....

I'd like to state at the onset that we have received a balanced perspective at home when it comes to religion. Mom has been neutral about it, believing in some rituals but letting us decide what we want to pursue. But its my dad's disposition which appealed more to me. And I would not merely call it atheism. It went a step beyond that.

This happened around a decade ago. As we were passing by a crossing in Delhi, we (my sister and I) habitually sniggered at some signboard. "Kya naam hai jagah ka!" my sister giggled, "Jhandewalan!"

Dad interrupted our funny moment, "Do you know about the famous Jhandelwalan Temple?"


"Really? You don't know the story of Jhande-waali mata?"

"No. What's it about?", I asked.

"Jhande-Wali mata is an avatar of Maa Durga. The lord of all Asuras did penance and tapasya for a long time. Seeing his unwavering faith, the devas came down to earth to talk to him. This king asked for a mega-wish."

"What wish?", I asked

"The king said my death should be caused neither by a weapon nor by bare hands, neither be on ground or in the air, neither caused by man or a woman. After this wish was granted, he was being very evil to the kingdom. To counter this, Maa Durga appeared on earth as Jhandewali mata. She went to the palace with her red flag. The king was lying on the bed snoring. She stuck the flag through his heart. The flag was technically not a weapon. And he was lying on the bed, which is neither ground or sky. So the king died."

"But isn't Jhandewali mata a woman?"

"Yes. But she wasn't attractive."

"But doesn't that still count?"

At this point he laughed out loud and said, "I am just kidding. They all have similar stories. I just made this one up!"

And thus were sown the strong healthy seeds of atheism. I have walked this path successfully for the last ten years - happy, hassle-free and without ever voluntarily having skipped a meal. Its wonderful.

But if you dig deep into these stories (if you consider my shallow googling as any source of research), these mythological tales follow a standard meta-template for driving home moral lessons. Some devilish powerful king/rishi does enough penance to perturb the Devas. These men, bound by the legislative laws of the three worlds are forced to grant a wish to him. The evil man asks for a complicated wish which exudes wickedness. Instead of enjoying these days having fun, he decides to wreck havoc on the kingdom - doing cliche' stuff like oppressing the devas and imposing taxes. The devas are scared of skipping these annual payments. Helpless, they all run to the appropriate god (usually Vishnu) who at that point of time is always found relaxing in his Lazyboy 2000.

the la-z-boy recliner

Somehow these gods are always free of appointments and amiable to desperate requests of half clad wimp devas.. I assumed that if you are the protector of the universe you'd have your platter full. But it turns out Gods are good at time management too.

Then God creates an avatar which intelligently exploits loopholes in the wish granted to the devilish earthling. At the appropriate moment, while the peaceful residents of the kingdom watch in suspense, the villain is slain by god. The evil supporters are stumped at this point - 'How could he? I thought we had the perfect wish! I will you get you next time Scooby Doo'

As blood drips from god's bare hands, he smiles- packing in emotions of peace, righteousness and virtue.

(Camera fades away. God removes fake jewelry from his chest - "Man that was heavy!")

Real mythological stories:
Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu

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