Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Guide to Girlie Shopping (by a guy)

Shopping Accomplice

- Get vibrant and excited about shopping vouchers given by the company.

- Plan your whole Saturday around a shopping trip.

- Enter the mall with no shopping requirements. Wander and do 'ooh aah' at the exciting displays.

- Eventually get sucked into a section in the store and start gaping.

- Start the process of excessive deselection, exasperation and confusion.

- When the flirtatious saleswoman says 'Oh, you looking so handsome lah', believe her.

- When the flirtatious saleswoman says that you resemble Barack Obama, believe her.

- Then proceed to check your face in the mirror and feel like Obama. Had you been in the right place and right time with the right pen, you too could have signed off a $789 billion deal.

- Flit from one trial room to another, leaving a trial of unhappy and crumpled shirts and trousers.

- When a bunch of saleswomen nod vigorously at your selection - trust them unconditionally.

- Take your friend's opinion to confuse yourself further.

- End up spending much beyond your original budget.

- Carry large shopping bags (with bright pink floral designs) out of the mall and gleefully walk on the street.

- Stop at a nearby suave coffee and celebrate your shopping expenditure with another overpriced concoction.

- Sip whipped cream topped cold coffee and joyfully relive the hours of shopping.

- Realize you've been doing something completely girly and hate yourself.

- Absolve your sins by being overtly masculine on Sunday (Beer and Bakwaas).

Party tonight!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not me, Please

Guest Post: written by my dad.

Each time I see a lady being proffered a plate or a tray of goodies, I amaze at the complexity of the decision making process before she finally, finally picks one. What is the algorithm and is it consistent? What are the final test conditions that must be met by the selected piece? To me, the process appears to be repeated ‘de-selections’ with some items being left out of the fray at each iteration and the active group narrowing down, gradually. Sometimes, discarded elements may again be brought into contention and thus increase the available choices for the next iteration. The criteria for selection / rejection are beyond my comprehension. Like the one applied to pick one from a box of twenty identical foil covered Swiss chocolates, which process may last many minutes

Offer the plate to a man and the item closest to him will be picked up without a second’s gap in the conversation. With a lady, the focus on selection is total. Sometimes it is intertwined with a web of lies transacted with the hostess. ‘You know, I am really too full and simply cannot!’- ‘Come on, Mrs yy, you haven’t taken anything at all’ - ‘OK, for your sake, a half piece only’; that lady will then proceed to clean out three plates in the next ten minutes. I infer that it must be some sort of a complex game enacting at sociological and psychological levels (would you please analyze this, Dr Eric D Berne?).

Till college days, the task of proffering was generally left to women, so I did not care. But joining the Army changed that; we were required to escort the waiters serving the ladies and so as to be capable of directing the waiters on punctilious manners, we had to learn them ourselves too. I was not good at this and when I was forced to proffer a tray, I would wear a plastic smile, look at the ceiling and try to solve a differential equation mentally. If she had not selected by then, then try a very difficult one. On a ‘thank you’ from her, suppress the sigh of relief and move on to the next. Senior officers, smart guys, usually overlooked me for such duties. But not this time.

We were at the HQ Officers Mess and it was College Dinner Night at the MCTE, Mhow. Officers were attired in summer mess formals – white half sleeved shirt with name tabs and collar dogs, epaulets with rank insignia, special black trousers reaching up to the ribs, cummerbund and officer pattern shoes with spurs (Spurs! Spurs? Used for riding a horse? Yes!). Ladies in fashionable ensembles moved around in groups, sometimes seated on antique sofas. We young officers huddled at the bar. All of a sudden, a wandering colonel gruffly ordered me to ‘look after’ the ladies. So I went to the ante room and hung around a group of ladies who ignored me, of course.

When one of the seated ladies, obviously quire senior and clad in a wafer thin saree, looked around with an empty glass, I asked, ‘Can I get you something, ma’m?’, she murmured ’ Gin and lime with soda’. Before I could turn around, an experienced waiter had already moved in with the poured drink and a pitcher of soda neatly arranged on a silver tray lined with red velvet. I took the empty glass from her and handed over the poured one. The waiter moved to add soda, but I wrenched the pitcher from him. He resisted, but hell, I am an officer and will have my way.

This white metal pitcher had a heavy bottom, tapering tall to a narrow neck with a flip open lid and a long curved snout; the type conjuring up images of an Arabian ‘saki’ wearing a seductive veil and little else. I held the pitcher by the handle and tilted it to pour soda into the glass she was holding out. Nothing came out of the snout. I tilted it further and further with no result. It was ‘unmanly’ to use both hands and so, with sheer wrist power, I tilted it till it was above horizontal. Still nothing came out of the snout but the lid opened suddenly and deposited a lot of ice cold soda on her lap. She didn’t even squeal; just stared with horror at the soggy mess that was her pleated saree a moment ago.

What happened after? I don’t know. I shouted at a waiter to get napkins and chased after him as if to hurry. I cut across to the lawn, edged to the compound wall, scaled it and slept in someone else’s room that night.

Not me, please.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mini Valentine Disaster

It is just a matter of expectations.

We, the chummy male company enriched, happy go lucky, sniggering, T-shirt wearing, loud desis are so devoid of pink activities, of romantic outings, of red ribbon gifts, that any odd occurrence in that zone leads to energetic conversations. This behaviour has been in place since we were thirteen, and shall continue till the last one in our circle gets married. After that, we will still get excited by unexpected banter with the ladies, but there would be no bachelor male circle to dissect it.

This one was not a major disaster. Compared to previous incidents involving females, it was a faux pas lasting just a few lines. But then, most flirtatious disasters occur in the same span of time. The girl involved in this mini-drama is exceedingly cute. While the other attendants at the gym reception are grumpy, indifferent or worse- male, she is outstanding. Her heartfelt small talk makes one elated about one's decision to visit the gymnasium. She remembers our names and effuses surprise on our predictable arrival or departure. In turn, that leads to clickety-clock bookings for Badminton and Squash courts for ensuing weeks.

On the evening of 14th February, I reached the gym around 6.30pm.
I received an enthusiastic greeting from her.
"What aah. You are here today? You should be out celebrating Valentine! Why aren't you with your girlfriend?" She exclaimed.
"No..No girlfriend..", I sheepishly replied. "Well, aren't you going on a date tonight?", I reciprocated the concern.
"No, no date lah. I will just go home after 8."

She was right. I was the sole occupant of the gym. After about an hour of workout, I was packed and ready. Coincidentally, the gym had also been closed down at the same time. Four of us waited patiently at the lift lobby, doing tik-tik on our mobile phone.

The other two male employees got off on earlier floors. Then it was just her and me in the lift. As it gently rumbled downwards to Level1, she commented, "You know. There is a nice Japanese restaurant here. Very good food lah". "And reasonably priced too." she added.

Now, if a girl with no date on Valentine's Day, at dinner time, indicates her predilection for some cuisine, there is no reason for a male not to misinterpret that and suavely ask her out instantly. Well, at least I think I had that line of thought. But my reaction did not convey that interpretation.

"Oh I should. But I am really scared of Sushi."

"Oh!", she said, taken aback by my fright of dead fish. "You must try! It's really good."

I knew now it was perfectly normal to ask if she was interested in having dinner right then. Hence rightfully, I subverted every possible urge to give it a romantic twist.

"Yes! Thanks for the idea. I will go some other day."

"Ok lah", she said and smiled. The lift doors shuddered open and I walked out.

With no uplifting turn to my evening, I proceeded to the usual movie venue to meet my male chums.

I was first grilled by this wise circle of single male friends as to why I did not ditch my current plans of having dinner with them, and instead propose and execute a Japanese dinner with her. Ditching friends for a bandi is all part of the Bro Code, they explained. I tried to tell them that concern for them had little to do with my decision.

Second, they argued, why did I profess my fear for sliced fish, rather than expressing love for those squishy things. I am scared of that stuff, I defended myself with truth.

Third, even if I had rejected the possibility of an immediate date, and postponed a visit to sushi-land, should I have not uttered 'We will go some other day' rather than 'I' ?

I shall not lie that the idea did not surface in my head. Over the years, barring a few unfortunate escapades, I had so successfully untuned myself from the channel of love, that the low threshold for being vulnerable had slowly built itself into an enormous wall.

They were obviously appalled by my inertia. You know, had I been in your place was the tone for the remaining analysis. Consequently, I have a small time warp to act on it before my friends, enthused by her single status, will profess love for sliced fish and seize the opportunity. Carpe Diem!

I promise updates of any kind will be duly conveyed in the blog. In case our banter does progress into a deep relationship, and eventually into marriage, I am sure this public commentary of our progress would be forgiven. After all, technically she would be my all-forgiving, meant for each other, one true love - Valentine.

Read the other failed escapades - Laptop Crisis and Male Fantasy Oo La la

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are you boring your friend Pinky?

Scenario 1: It is your birthday. Everytime you check your mail, it updates you about new terse Facebook wishes sent by people in your friend list. On the same day, a few friends instead send you a personal mail with wishes. Do you:
a) Prefer the gratuitous scraps
b) They both mean the same to you
c) You like the personal mails more

Scenario 2: From your updates, you discover your friend Saurabh has messaged Neha. Do you:
a) Jump in right away and drop a small scrap with three word sentences
b) Ignore the update and check if people have sent you scraps
c) Make a note of it and send Neha/Saurabh a personal mail later

I am not collating scores for this miniature questionnaire. I am sure the ideal answers were obvious to you. If you got answer (c) for both, then 100 points to you! My intention is not to undermine your current social networking behaviour. We make conscious choices on how to spend time online in interacting with our friends. Our activities span across the range in the graph above. The aim would be to find ways to better one's presence with some increase in effort. For ease of stating my points, I'll be calling this generic friend Pinky.

Here is a broad representation of activities, again plotted on the same scale of Generalization. The skill of rendering messages can of course improve them to an extent. But there are some inherent handicaps as you move down the curve.

Pinky's Life

Can you express interest in things specific to her life? (Wassup? does not count). We love it when people surprise us with relevant questions. It shows they have paid attention in previous conversations. The same would apply to Pinky.

Movie Music Sports

It needs no explanation why these three evoke the strongest emotional attachment in people. Of course, by suggesting Movie-Sports, I do not promote a degenerated discussion like the one I recently suffered.
"Arvind, so when is the cricket match starting today?"
"Oh..I don't follow cricket."
"That's really sad....So which sport do you follow?"
"I don't follow Sports."
"Oh! That's really sad. just watch Rajni movies?"

Pinky's Work

The amusing thing is that you could send a scatching mail to your friend about her company/work and it would evoke only a mild protest (if any). But if you entered into a arguement about Movies or Sports, there could be potential injuries or even murder! But work does take up a significant portion of our time. And it would be interesting to talk about it when someone expresses interest.

I Me Myself Talk
A friend recently sent me a public request suggesting I go through her list of '25 Random Things About Me' with an option of creating this gibberish myself. I find these highly self-indulgent and boring. Instead of a '25 Random Things About Me', how about sending a '4 Things I Like About You' mail to people that matter to you! It won't spread far beyond your circle. But it will win their hearts better than a narcissistic laundry list.

Of course this was an extreme case. Your friends will in fact be curious about your life. For example, the fact that I got butchered in a Salsa club is embarrassing, but makes excellent fodder for conversations. If your friend Pinky loves to travel, maybe you could talk about your recent visit to UK.

Youtube / Article Recommendations
Unless the link is relevant specifically to some interest of Pinky, these are best left for Public Forums. Posting these on facebook or your blog is ideal and that also honours choice.

Social Network Widgets
If you choose to throw a Sheep, send a Hug, slap their face, remember they too can effortlessly do the same back to you. Did it add any value to your conversations? No. Hence I have thoughtfully placed it right at Zero level on the Relevance axis. Avoid if possible. It's a thorough waste of time.
Test: Recall the last 3 personal phone calls/mails you received from friends. Now try the same for these Social games.

Seasonal Wishes

Holidays and anniversaries lower our hesitation for reaching out and making contact. We can take good advantage of them. But such a message devoid of any other content (from the buckets explained above) is futile. If you don't like a truckload of impersonal wishes, don't send the same heartless wishes to others!

That's it! If I've missed any activity, I am sure it can be given an appropriate place on the curve. Armed with this structured knowledge, maybe we can consider these tiny changes in behaviour:

1. Drop a personal message along with new friend requests. Ask Pinky about her whereabouts, whether she likes her job, her course, her married life. If Pinky adds you merely to join her clutter, then you have the right to refuse. She does not deserve to be on your list. Of course, it works both ways.
2. Occasionally choose sending a personal message/mail over a public scrap. Of course, if you want to expose something embarrassing like "Hey, I heard you got drunk and danced with him for a whole song!", then yes! Post it in public!!
3. Valentine's Day is coming up. Maybe it's time to send that long postponed 'Feelings' e-mails!

You've befriended people because you shared the same interests, past, aspirations as them. Use the internet and networking tools to reinforce the same and connect better. After all, you are an interesting person to your friends, aren't you?

Graphs inspired by Indexed
Social Networking rants by Jabberwock and Garam Bheja Fry

Monday, February 09, 2009

The darker side of Hong Bao

A few days after the Chinese New Year, I was feeling euphoric for having received oranges in return for our special gift to the neighbours (For those who didn't read the previous post, I was victimized by our neighbour's little girl, who mercilessly snatched my gift of a dozen oranges, leaving me stranded for her own material pursuits...).

Apart from an orange couple, we also received a box of chocolates and a red envelope with money called Hong Bao. The correct pronunciation sounds like Ong Pao. The easy route to receive Hong Bao is to be born as Chinese (which is unlikely now if you aren't one) or to schmooze your way into a Chinese family by gifting them (like we did). The alternative mafia method is to perform excruciating auditory torture. Let me introduce you to the darker side of Hong Bao, which literally translates to "I beg you, please stop playing that!"

By tradition, New Year celebrations run for around 15 days. Over the last two weeks, I from our apartment observed saffron/yellow groups of mysterious origin roaming the streets, quite like the toli that we form during Lohri in India. But the similarity ends there. While Lohri groups manage to be melodious, these tolis possessed an assortment of the worst, musically untuned, unbridled, unapologetically unsynchronized, jangling cymbals and gongs which when aggregated created the worst music on earth.

You believe I am exaggerating right? For you, the cynical reader, I captured this at 8a.m on a Saturday morning, awakened early by 'music' emanating from the neighbouring apartment.

(click to play)

So now I am proposing a change to the cliche' phrase "It happens only in India" to "It happens only in India and once in Singapore for sometime after the Chinese New Year" It won't as catchy anymore, but at least it will depict the truth.

The average age in these groups is quite low. Kids from across Singapore pledge their commitment to extraction close to $200,000. This is their only chance to pursue anarchy in Singapore without getting jailed or caned for mild offenses. They systematically attack every shop and apartment in a neighbourhood after carving out their territories for terror. Some are better equipped with open jeeps and flags, while the budding mafia has colourful costumes and large puppets to boot. They vary the amplitude and frequency of their metal apparatus depending on the collection target. Our apartment has been flooded by this jarring noise on all days. But we have noticed it only during the weekends. Weekdays weren't too peaceful either, for we had to endure a stimulating stream of business jargons and dilbertish experiences in the office. Sadly, that's going to continue for many decades....

There are also those who believe that Beethoven turned deaf because he refused to pay Hong Bao to these yellow hooligans, who in turn played their brass cacophony for a period longer than 7 minutes. With ear drums shattered by the sound waves and sans any fear of future musical nightmares, Beethoven chose to dedicate his life to creating mellifluous symphonies so that people, in the 21st century, could immerse themselves in the melody, played from their Creative sound systems and thus be spared of the torture of Hong Bao.

(video of another procession)

Read about Hong Bao at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The song remains the same

Things haven't changed much in my life between the time when I was 4 and now at 24.

The day would begin with an elaborate toilet routine. That has remained the same, though it is predominantly unsupervised now.

The first activity that was looked forward to Back then it was served to me, now I spend some time preparing the breakfast, and invest a long time in relishing it.

The day would be uneventful, enjoyed nevertheless. I would back then sleep at the slightest opportunity. Now in between work, I browse Failblog, Youtube and some unproductive websites whenever I get a chance. The highlight is of course our lunch outing.

The evening still remains playtime. As I am told, I would run down to the playground to mingle with more elder people (age 7-10). There would be multiple groups, playing games with their own bats/balls. Energized, I would choose to run with a randomly selected kid, pretending to be participating in a race/chase. I would sporadically change the objective of the game and thoroughly enjoy myself. The other kids would be clueless about my existence. My parents would watch from the balcony, witnessing this unusual behaviour. Now in the evening I indulge myself in infinitely more monotonous games - running on a looped strip christened Treadmill by the Americans, or lifting weights which are always heavier than my expectations. Around me there are veterans profusely sweating and ignoring me, barring some unexpected eye-contact-greetings. When ennui sets in, I switch to other curious looking machines, fiddling with the levers before finally giving up. I am sure some fitness instructor is watching from the mezzanine level, thinking "Moron..."

Hungry and tired, I would return home and look forward to Dinner would be a quick exercise, where television played a passive role. I would stare wide-eyed at the programme, not really understanding the subject or the story. "Is the good man hitting the bad man, or is the bad man hitting the good man?" was one of my crucial doubts. Tonight, as I consumed my Dal-Roti, Star World was broadcasting a reality show Greatest American Dog. Today's star event as I could perceive was a musical chairs competition for the mutts, eliminating Man-Mutt teams in painful singular stages capturing reactions of both after reach round. As the music stopped in each round, the owners pleaded with their dogs to squat on the low stools aligned for them, as the show's excellent camera work focused on the dog's crotch for the ablaze viewers to assess whether the balls actually made contact. Watching the weeping, agitated owners, I was again not sure who was the master and the slave. The doubts remain uncleared.

Exhausted from the exertion, I would quickly fall sleep, this preceded occasionally by some weird meandering bedtime story created by my father. Even when he repeated stories I knew by heart, about Bittoo, the mother Kangaoroos and all animals eating cake and singing Saare Jahaan Se Accha, it would thrill me. Now at night I watch my guru Jerry Seinfeld undergo bizarre experiences in the snowballing masterpieces of his comedy series, and I enjoy the jokes I've heard a hundred times (literally!)

I would fall asleep feeling happy about a great game in the evening or something equally insignificant. Twenty years later, in an identical emotional state, I'll go to bed delighted by my little achievement of the day - this facetious blog post!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Verbal B.O.

The earliest sources of this malady can be traced back to texting (SMSing) and chat forums. What were once oddities and spelling quirks have now turned into a cancerous phenomenon. Like an illness with a predilection for younger age groups, this terrible symptom of abbreviating words and mangling sentences is seen frequently in my generation and in extreme majority in teens born in the 90s. My cousins and their friends now throng on orkut/facebook, rambling about themselves and others using this inane form of communication. When I browse such profiles and emails I am left with a throbbing headache and annoyance.

It's not cool. It's not a fad. It's a disease.

Have I tried to bring about change? Yes, at an individual level I have frequently expressed my concern for poor spellings. In turn I have received a spectrum of reactions ranging from indifference, annoyance to strong retorts. Hence I found a curious similarity to another affliction.

So here's my explanation to the incorrigible mis-spellers for why their habit is quite similar to having Body Odour/Bad Breath.

1. You end up making a terrible first impression.

A mail from my junior batch:
Dear XYZ Alumni
we r creatin a platform fr d interaction of d XYZ alumni.Thru it we will b networked and associated wit each othr,we'll b tlkin bout d events, contributions, alumni meet issues etc

How can anyone respect an organization not having the volition to type out their words in full? What would have seemed to the sender as an effective, concise message is at a level full of gibberish. What a waste of effort!

2. Though others are often bothered by it, you are seldom aware of the problem.

Maybe you feel it is under your control, that you can direct yourself to alter it when necessary. But it doesn't work that way. Electronic communication by its inherent nature is impersonal. Misinterpretation of intent and meaning often happens with tentatively structured messages. Do not impair it further by robbing it of precious vowels and crucial phonetics at your whim.

3. It bother others, but generally below the threshold for raising an issue.
4. When people point it out to you, you will express denial -
Abe chill yaar!

In a sane world, if a spelling mistake was singled out in anyone's communication, he or she would be embarrassed, flustered and probably get upset too. But thanks to an increasing chunk of poor spellers, whose communication is swarming with misspelt words, it has become a polarising issue - instead of accepting their error, people defensively strike out at you.

For the Alumni mail I quoted earlier, I had in a reply pointed out the tediousness of the mail. I got a defensive retort that I should be ashamed of my cynicism, along with a reasoning that 'it kinda saves time if u use abbreviations where u cn considering da amt f mails needed 2b sent each day!!!'

5. In extreme cases, you will take pride in it like it's an inseparable part of your personality.

me: you like to shorten four letter words to three ? why ?
preeti: aise hi meri marzi (Just like that, it's my choice)
:) i like doin dat

preeti: u cn follow others...m nt followin tem

6. People ideally shouldn't judge you on such quirks, but they can't help it.

Spelling words in full will never go out of fashion, or become a rarity. Whether it's your formal communication asking for advice on some matter; an informative conversation ; an informal mail to keep in touch - your SMS lingo will be an immediate turn off.

7. If you take good care of your diet and hygiene(read vocabulary and spellings), the problem will soon abate.

If you are indeed suffering from verbal B.O, let me assure you that it is curable. Firstly, stop mangling English and start typing full words from this moment onwards. You've learnt English formally for a majority of years in school and I am sure this brief departure hasn't scrambled your brain. From your google chat archives, search for phrases dis, dat, da, wot and flog yourself for every search result. That's your punishment for inflicting pain on others. Make a habit of consciously working on your written communication in the next few months. And of course, blogging is always an interesting proposition!

Amongst a tribe of malodorous monkeys, you wouldn't be singled out for this peculiarity. Maybe you are unwittingly aping your peer's behaviour, typin lik dis n dat. But soon from being an odd occurrence, it'll become a frequent condition and if left unchecked it'll morph into a massive case of Halitosis.

So do remember that we are not monkeys. We are humans who have thrived based on a credible form of communication. So respect your IQ; be proud of your cognitive capabilities for spelling correctly ; Take care of your health, and your B.O.

Best Wishes
Your friendly Verbal Doctor

Would you like to browse other articles from my blog? Read:
Your Marriage Un-vites
The Best of 2006
The Best of 2007

Related articles: A similar rant on nonsensical communication by Atanu Dey.