Saturday, October 28, 2006

I am back....

As I promised my regular reader(s), I am back at my desktop, at the crack of dawn.

And what did I get to read , first thing in the morning. An elderly American couple, Randall Barnhart, 62, and his wife Carole, 61, were awakened in their rented apartment in the Malaysian island of Langkawi, in the early hours of the morning earlier this month by religious officials conducting a raid on ‘khalwat’ couples. Under Islamic law which operates alongside the civil code in Malaysia, ‘khalwat’- close proximity between a man and a woman who are not married- is forbidden. Mr Barnhart said that the officials demanded to see his ‘woman’ and insisted on being shown their marriage licence and passport The two have been married for 40 years now.

I had a similar traumatic experience last month. I was woken up in the middle of the night by this person who insisted on seeing my marriage certificate. Now, I am not usually rattled by such demands, even when woken up from a deep slumber. But, an entirely new dimension or twist was introduced to the drama, when I realized that the person demanding to see the certificate was my wife. Since then, I have been carrying a copy of my marriage certificate in my wallet, along with my driver's licence.

Another piece of news that amazed me was that Nalini Srikaran, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, had moved the High Court, seeking remission of her sentence. Photograph of Nalini shows that she is a frail, tiny woman. And, yet she has managed to move the High Court- which is a huge building weighing thousands of tons. Incredible what one can do with will power.

And, finally, there is this photograph of Jimmy Carter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during which the peanut former gave the latter a ‘pat for India’ on its impressive growth. On which part of the anatomy does one pat India? Or did he symbolically give a pat to Manmohan Singh on the premise that he was the icon for India? Why can’t the man talk sense? And what happened to his younger brother, Jimmy Cart, and his elder brother, Jimmy Cartest?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blogging will be light.............

I am simply amazed at the dedication shown by some spirited bloggers to the cause of keeping their readers constantly educated /engaged/ enraged/ amused/bemused/ curious/ furious, as the case may be. Such is their sense of accountability that they feel obliged to forewarn the readers about an impending lull in the activity or explain, post-facto, why they went missing for a few weeks/days/hours.

“Blogging will be light the next few days, as I will be traveling/slogging/shifting”, they will inform their readers, with a lump in their virtual throats. .

A prominent blogger felt it necessary, last month, to offer a detailed explanation on why he could not manage even a single post the previous day, apparently the first such post-less day in months. He promised his readers that he would post feverishly the next day and make up. Another blogger returning from a trip that he had to unexpectedly undertake, apologized profusely to his readers and sought pardon for this AWOL misdemeanour.

The most amazing was the case of a blogger who was about to embark on a two-week tour. In a guilt-laden tone he begged forgiveness from his gentle readers for letting them down and suggested that if they should find the absence unbearable, they could perhaps dip into his archives, adding that he particularly recommended the ones that he had posted in September 2005. Whaa?

Anyway, I thought I will inform all my regular readers who hang on to every word of mine, that blogging will be light the next few hours, as I intend to go to sleep now and wake up only in the morning. If you find my absence unbearable and the boredom intolerable, do keep reading the Sep 2005 archives of the blogger I have mentioned in the para above.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Death or marriage

Once upon a time there was a king who had this unique way of dispensing justice. When a subject was accused of a crime, public notice was given that on an appointed day, the fate of that accused person would be decided in the king's arena. When all the people had assembled in the galleries, the king gave a signal, a door beneath him opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheatre. Directly opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed space, were two doors, exactly alike and side by side. It was the duty and the privilege of the person on trial, to walk directly to these doors and open one of them. He could open either door he pleased. If he opened the one, there came out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon him, and tore him to pieces, as a punishment for his guilt.

But, if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth from it a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects; and to this lady he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered not that he might already possess a wife and family, or that his affections might be engaged upon an object of his own selection:

Now, the king had a lovely daughter, who was the apple of his eye and, as it happens in all these stories, a young man of low station dared to fall in love with her. Coming to know of this clandestine affair, the furious king announced that the young man would undergo the usual trial in the arena.

While the young man was facing the two doors, the princess was also torn between two emotions. If he opened the door behind which lay the tiger, he would die instantly. If he opened the door behind which lay the lovely lady chosen by the king, he would be married to her instantly – which possibility the princess found equally repulsive.

After some agonizing moments, prompted by the princess, the young man chose the door- and, lo and behold, out came not the dreaded tiger, but the lovely lady, who then proceeded to tear him apart with her claws and dug her fangs deep into his neck, instantly killing him.

That last para came from my sick mind, but- if you haven’t already- do read the original classic written by the American humorist, Frank Stockton, to find out how he has ended this story.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Maybe, even He does not know...

As the cliché goes, we live in an ever-changing world. Nothing remains the same. Ice caps melt, the USSR breaks up, East and West Germany unite, Afghanistan gets liberated from the clutches of the Taliban, Saddam Hussein is ousted, oil prices go up and down, Vajpayee gives way to Manmohan Singh, Abdul Kalam’s hair grows longer and becomes greyer, hundreds of species become extinct, Desipundit decides to wind down…………

Amidst all this turmoil and turbulence, only two things have remained constant.

Ajit Agarkar’s presence in the Indian cricket team. At various times, Tendulkars have taken sabbaticals, Gangulys have been sidelined, Laxmans have been axed, Kumbles have been dropped, Irfan Pathans made to carry drinks, and Zaheer Khans sent on vanavas, Kaifs asked to take a walk. But, Agarkar? A permanent fixture in the team for several decades now. When was the last time he did anything of significance to justify his place? How does he manage to cling on? What is his magic? What are his survival techniques?

Shobha De’s presence, year after year, at the Economic Times Awards function. Mittals may not make it to the function, Ambanis may be cold-shouldered, Premjis get ignored, Bajajs kept out, Godrejs sneered at, Birlas snubbed, Tatas overlooked, but Shobha De? No, sir. You can see her prominently featured in the photo section of the ET the next morning, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Shobha De, socialite, at the awards function’ will be the title. Who or what exactly is a socialite? Can I become one or is it open only to wives of eminent men? Is there a qualifying exam? Does one seek accreditation from an authorized agency before one can claim to be a socialite? At what stage in one’s social life or after attending how many parties does a mere wife or a mere corporate manager metamorphose into a glamorous socialite? What are her credentials to get invited to a function that is organized to felicitate industrialists?

Who knows the answers to these questions?

As the Rig Veda concludes, solemnly, in this hymn, pondering over the origin of the Universe and Cosmology,

“ He, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
He knows or maybe even He does not know.”

Friday, October 13, 2006

Happy Marriage.

Marcus Buckingham, in his book “The one thing you need to know” refers to the conclusion of a team of psychologists led by Dr.Sandra Murray of SUNY, Buffalo, on what is the defining characteristic of a happy marriage.

Conventional wisdom says that a happy marriage is founded on clear-eyed understanding and acceptance of each other. If this were true, then when a husband rates his wife high on ‘patient’, ‘warm’ and ‘sociable’ but lower on ‘open and disclosing’, and his wife rates herself in the same way, they should be a very happy couple. Put more simply, when their patterns of ratings match, their level of satisfaction with the marriage should be high. Right? “Wrong’ say the researchers..

In the study carried out Dr Murray, 105 couples were asked to rate each other on a list of qualities such as “kind and affectionate”, “tolerant and accepting”, “patient”, “warm”, etc and then asked to rate how rewarding and satisfying they found their relationship.

Surprise. A match between the husband’s ratings of his wife and the wife’s’ ratings of herself showed no correlation whatsoever to how happy they were in the relationship. (Not that there was a negative correlation either.) However one distinct pattern did emerge. In the happiest couples, the husband rated the wife more positively that she did on every single quality. For some reason, the husband in a highly rewarding relationship consistently credited his wife with qualities that she didn’t think she had. These perceptions may not be real, but they nevertheless served to cement the relationship.

The research also showed that when you find a flaw in your spouse, you shouldn’t try to compartmentalize it and set it off against a positive trait, as in, “Yes, she is a short-tempered person, but on the positive side, she is also caring and creative”. This doesn’t help. Sooner or later, these weaknesses that lurk in the wings for a while will leap out of the shadows like a villain and spoil the fun.

Instead, the researchers tell us, when you notice a flaw, recast it in your mind as an aspect of a strength. Thus, “She’s not impatient, she’s intense”. Or. “She’s not narrow-minded, she’s focused”.

“Satisfied partners give a positive spin on information and evidence to see their partner in the best possible light. In general, those who are satisfied see qualities in their partners that the partners do not see in themselves. Moreover, those who are satisfied see virtues in their partner that are not obvious to others, such as friends. Over time those who are idealized the most are together longer and are happier”, concludes Dr Murray.

In short, find the most generous explanation for each other’s behaviour and believe it. This is the One Thing you need to know about happy marriage.

So, now you have it in a nutshell. Practice it carefully. If your wife whacks you on the head with an umbrella, remember she is not trying to smash your skull, but is trying to give you a gentle head massage and improve blood circulation to your medulla oblongata. If she adds potassium cyanide in your coffee, she is not scheming to poison you; she is enriching her knowledge of chemical reactions. When she screams at you in that shrill voice which rattles the entire neighbourhood, she is not taking it out on you, but is exercising her vocal cords to become an opera singer. And, when you are stretched out on the sofa and she calls you a lazy slob, the last thing on her mind is criticism of your behaviour; she wants to shake you out of your complacency and inspire you to move on to greater heights on the Maslowian scale.

There, I have just unleashed to the blog world, the secret of a happy marriage.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Meaningless milestones

Did you observe Sachin Tendulkar’s uncontrolled ecstasy when he reached his century mark, playing for the India Blues last week? All that wild gesticulation for scoring a mere 100 runs, that too in an inconsequential practice match! How juvenile can one get?

And, that Rahul Dravid, last year. Grinning and beaming on numerous television shows when he was about to play his hundredth test match. Was he under the delusion that he had conquered the world in 100 days or something?. I mean to say, cricket is just a game. Must we be subjected to this vulgar exhibition of unrestrained emotion over a non-event?

God, the fuss that some companies make when they break into the Fortune 100 list. Do they seriously think their customers are bothered or impressed with these corporate gimmicks and these ridiculous lists of Top 100 or Top 200?

The hullabaloo that some newspapers create when a new party comes to power and completes 100 days. Damn it, they have been elected to rule for 5 years. Why split their tenure into little chunks of 100 days? Why stand on the roof and shout when they complete a mere 100 days in power? .

The less said about some of these new-age Kollywood actors, the better. Actor A is felicitated for acting in 100 films, Music Director B for scoring music for 100 movies, Producer C when his movie has been screened for 100 days. What imbeciles. Can’t they find anything better to do, than commemorating some meaningless milestones? Bah!

It is not as if they have done something significant, like reaching their 100th blogpost, as I have done with this post.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The last of the Gandhians

The Hindu while reporting the passing away of Mr. Ravindra Varma, former Union Minister, refers to him as ‘one of the last links in the chain of Gandhians’.

Mr. Varmas’ age is mentioned as 81, which means that he would have been exactly 23 years old when Gandhi passed away in 1948. While I could not believe that anybody could become a full-fledged Gandhian in his early twenties, I gave him the benefit of doubt when I read that he had been exposed to Gandhi’s teachings at an early age and as a member of the Gandhi Peace Foundation had practised these ideals, long after Gandhi had exited the scene.

Over the years, I have seen this description of ‘last Gandhian” being conferred on so many different persons, alive and dead. – Jayaprakash Narayan, J.P.Kripalani, Morarji Desai, Nana Sita, Sunderlal Bahuguna, A.K.Anthony, Dr.Sheela Nayar, collectively to the Sangh Parivar (?), H.S. Duraiswamy, I.K.Gujral, that I used to wonder who the ‘last and final” Gandhian would be.

It looks like the supply has finally run out and newspapers are now forced to change the description to “one of the last links in the Gandhian chain”. In a few years, this will change to “last link in the Gandhian chain”, and after some more passage of time, the chain will be forgotten and Gandhi finally laid to rest.

I am not so sure about the ‘freedom fighter”, though. Last year, I came across a couple of khadi clad persons traveling on ‘freedom fighter’s” quota in a train. They must have been around 65-70 years of age. I kept wondering how intense their participation in the freedom struggle must have been at the ripe old age of 5 or 10 . We can expect to meet such freedom fighters for the next 60 years and then the ‘link to the chain of freedom fighters” for another 100 years after that.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


On a recent visit to Helsinki, a friend and I spotted a pigeon that was stranded on the pavement, near a shopping mall. Either it had forgotten how to fly or had been grounded by an injury. A couple of teenaged girls went over, knelt down and stroked the bird gently, struggling to hold back their tears.

Seeing this, my friend who is a passionate, and even fanatical, vegetarian commented, “These shameless Finns! They have absolutely no qualms or compunction whatsoever in slitting the throat of any reptile, bird, fish, rodent or mammal for food- from reindeer and boars to wild ducks and salmon . So, why all this phony fuss over a wounded pigeon? Who are they trying to fool? Why this hypocrisy!

“Fair observation”, I said, “but tell me, for a person whose avowed mission in life is to not harm animals, how come you are wearing a leather belt? Leather doesn’t exactly grow on trees?

“Ha, the belt? You ask me why I wear a leather belt. Otherwise my pants don’t stay up. That’s why”, he replied instantly, not even making eye contact with me.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I name thee....

I wonder why George Bush Sr couldn’t find some other first name for his son and chose to give him the same name of George Bush. Surely, there was no dearth of names, John, William, Keith, Michael, Richard, for Bush Sr to choose from. If someone in the house shouts “Georgie”, won’t it cause unnecessary confusion? What’s the tradition behind having the same first names for father and son? Brand identity? Cashing in on the fame?

Of course, there are some unusual traditions in parts of South India as well. I know of a family which insists on naming the first son as “Muthuswamy” after their village deity .So, the grandfather, his first son and the first grandson are all Muthuswamies. And, following the practice in parts of Tamilnadu, the son pre-fixes the name of the father to his own name. Thus each of them becomes Muthuswamy Muthuswamy. If a hypothetical situation arises where the grandfather wants to make a settlement deed dividing his property between his son and grandson, the lawyers will need to draft out the contract involving “Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part and 1) Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy and 2) Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy, hereinafter referred to as parties of the second part”. Such intricacies and complexities don’t baffle these hardened lawyers, but am I glad I can use the ‘cut and paste’ option in Word!

In one of his stories, P.G.Wodehouse narrates the joke about a visitor at the law firm of “Peabody, Peabody, Peabody and Peabody”.

Visitor: Can I meet Mr. Peabody?
Lawyer: Sorry, sir. He is away today.
Visitor: What about Mr. Peabody?
Lawyer: Ha, he is at the Old Bailey right now
Visitor: Surely, I can see Mr. Peabody then?
Lawyer: Alas, no sir; he is busy with another visitor.
Visitor: At least, is Mr. Peabody in?
Lawyer: That’s me, sir. How do you do?

I can visualize the same scene at the house of the Muthuswamies.

A famous blog post by Sidin, two years back, on the travails of South Indian men, lamented the fact that the moment South Indians are given names like Parthasarathy Venkatachalapathy, they start off at a disadvantage. I was however cheered by the recent news that the name Seetharaman Narayanan has mesmerized a whole lot of people in the world and the person bearing that name has gone on to inspire a Flick fan club. There’s hope yet.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gandhi is sentenced........

The Universe was created 13.7 billion years ago, our sun was born 5 billion years back, earliest life forms came into being 3.8 billion years back, primitive animals appeared 700 million years back, mammals evolved 200 million years ago, homo sapiens emerged 600,00 years ago…..

Don’t you love the way the entire past can be compressed on an inverse logarithmic scale and 13.7 billion years dismissed in one sentence?

Or, when you try to compress the story of someone like Gandhi, in a single paragraph.

“Gandhi was born in 1869, educated in law and admitted to the British bar in 1891, moved to South Africa in 1893, fought for elementary rights for Indians living there, returned to India in 1914, initiated the non-cooperation movement in 1919, established the civil disobedience movement in 1921, marched to Dandi on his Salt Satyagraha in 1930, launched the Quit India movement in1942, won freedom for India in 1947 and was assassinated in 1948.”

It makes it look as if he put in just 4 or 5 days of work in his entire life. He got involved in our freedom struggle only at the ripe old age of 45, then did something noticeable once every few years and had long interludes in between. From 1930 to 1942, for example, he seems to have enjoyed one long break.

Of course, of course, he did a lot many more things and we could fill pages and pages about him. You and I know that. But in 2200 AD, this is how he will be appear in history textbooks.

Aren't you reminded of Solomon Grundy who was born on Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday, took ill on Thursday, worse on Friday, died on Saturday and buried on Sunday? Whether these refer to days of the same week, or why he should take ill the day after his marriage are questions posterity won't have answers for.