Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year Eavesdropping....

I keep my ears on ‘high alert” when I go for a walk in the morning .so that I don’t miss out on the juicy gossip, profound philosophies and profane criticisms tossed around by groups of other walkers chatting with each other. I walk alone and with my brisk stride usually manage to outpace the talkie-walkers. As I go past these groups, I invariably snatch some interesting nuggets from their animated conversations. You could accuse me of eavesdropping, but I plead “not guilty” on the technical grounds that the property of sound waves and the Doppler effect make it impossible for me not to hear what’s being discussed. So, here then is a verbatim reproduction of what I heard today. Translated from Tamil, of course.

Man, in his mid-forties, with a scarf around his neck to protect himself from the harsh Chennai winter, discussing Zubin Mehta’s recent concert in Chennai before an invited audience (and peeved that he was not invited): “ I can’t understand why, of all people, Amartya Sen should be invited to this program. Can’t he attend the program in London, America or wherever he lives? Don’t tell me that he can’t afford it. He has got lakhs from the Nobel Prize. Must he come all the way to Chennai just because it is a free program and he got an invitation? I tell you, there must be a rule that invitations must be given only to local people. How else will we get to attend?

Scarfed man’s friend: In any case, what’s the big fuss? All Zubin Mehta does is wave his arms and flash a big stick, throughout the evening, when the orchestra is playing. I can swing my arms for you free of charge, at my house, if you bring a stick with you.

Slightly ahead, another man has latched on to a couple, but is now talking on the mobile phone to his wife: “ Yes, yes, the brinjals. Don’t cut them into smaller pieces. Take the full brinjals and put some masala stuffing in. Pack them in a separate box; don’t mix it with the rice. Use the Tupperware set “. Disconnects mobile phone.

Female half of couple: “What, sir, giving instructions for your packed lunch?”

Brinjal man: “Yes. Yes. I like these stuffed brinjals. What time do you people have lunch? I will have some stuffed brinjals sent over. My wife makes it really well. You will really like them”.

Male half of couple:
“ No, no, don’t trouble your wife. She won’t let you come out on your walk again”

Brinjal man: “ Nonsense. Why should she object? I was the one who went to the market last evening and selected the brinjals”

Further ahead, a group of four middle-aged men are walking at a leisurely pace, almost blocking the road. The topic of their discussion is Amitabh’s recent visit to Tirupathi.

Middle-aged man 1: “Reliance has arranged a special plane, saar, to bring Amitabh to Tirupati. Amar Singh accompanied him and ensured he got an exclusive darshan. All the papers have carried some photographs of the visit, as if there is no other news worth reporting..”

Middle-aged man 2: “ These newspapers will even carry a report of Amitabh sneezing. Did you see, one of the papers had a big photo of him on the day of his surgery and showed a cutout view of his stomach and the intestines? I ask you, what cutout would they have published if he had been operated on for prostate or piles, instead of the intestines? Can’t they respect his privacy?. Disgusting.

Middle-aged man 3: Now, he has been elected ‘Indian of the year’ by urban India. At least he is an Indian. What I can’t accept is Sonia Gandhi being elected the Indian of the year, by rural India. 1 billion Indians around and they had to find an Italian to be the Indian of the year. Our people have gone completely mad, I tell you.

Middle-aged man 4: Forget Sonia and Amitabh, sir. Tell me what are you planning to do on New Year eve? Going to some hotel to celebrate?

Middle-aged man 2: “ No way, sir. Last year, my son-in-law took us all out to a 5-star hotel. I tell you, these hotels simply loot us. As soon as we sat down at the table, a waiter in a black suit and tie came over and asked us if we wanted mineral water and I nodded my head. They charged us Rs 60 for one bottle, sir. Can you believe it? Plus taxes. If they tried this trick with the chicken tikka or some such dish, we won’t know the real cost. But, mineral water? I could have picked up the bottle from the paan shop across the road for Rs 10.

Middle-aged man 1: Why, at Saravana Stores, you can get it for Rs 9/- a bottle.

Middle-aged man 2: When I go to a star hotel, the least I expect is to be served clean water free of cost. These blighters charge us ten times the normal rate for a basic item and push it down our throats. Never will I step into that place again. This New Year, I stay at home.

Finally, a couple in their sixties, their children obviously settled in the USA (evident from the man’s T-shirt and sneakers) are taking a stroll with their dog.

Wife: Sowmya says that they are not going anywhere this week. They have lots of things to do at home. She is going to varnish the house…………

Husband: I hope she knows that she can’t varnish the walls. Only the wooden doors and almirahs...

Wife: As if she won’t know that. You always have to say something critical.

Husband: Tell me, when has she done any work here? She wouldn’t even put the cap back on her pen….

Wife: In America, one automatically learns to do everything. You can’t depend on anybody else. She is managing quite well on her own. Ashwin is traveling most of the time…

Husband: I hope he doesn’t come back from tour and sees all the walls varnished…….

And so, yet another day unfolds…….

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Dear Doctor.....

So many magazines publish a “Ask our doctor” page where they claim to provide answers to medical questions sent in by their readers. I am convinced that this is a complete rip-off and that all questions are fabricated by the writers & editors. I plan to introduce this feature on this blogsite too. Here are some samples

Q: Dear Doctor,

Ever since I reached adulthood, I have experienced daily bouts of throbbing and excruciating headache. I have had my eyes tested, my ears dewaxed, my dental cavities filled, skull x-rayed for sinusitis, spinal cords checked for spondylitis, nasal septum operated to correct deflection, blood pressure brought to optimal levels and brain scanned for tumours, but to no avail. The headache continues to haunt me. Help me doc. Yours, etc. Migrained & Miserable.

A : Dear M&M,

One of Sherlock Holmes’ favourite maxims of detection was that when you have eliminated all that is impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. In your case you have eliminated all possible causes for the headache – such as defective eyes, brain tumour, blood pressure, deflected septum, etc. The only explanation left is that, ever since you attained adulthood, you have continued to go around in undersized underwear that you used to wear as a child. This has been exerting pressure on the hipbone and, in sequence, on the vertebra and the cranium resulting in the headache. Try on an XL size jocks and the headache will vanish.

Q: Dear Doctor,

My concern is not so much about my illness as about the unscrupulous methods adopted by my doctor. I went to him complaining of mild indigestion and that my rumblings abdominal, as the limerick goes, are quite phenomenal. He made me undergo an endoscopy, ultrasound scan of the abdomen, a CT scan of the liver and colonoscopy, in that order. After this gamut of tests, my indigestion still continues and my doctor prescribed Gelusil tablets, charging me a stiff Rs 500/- as consultation fees. Do you think I should report this malpractice to the Medical Council? Yours, etc Constipated and Confused.

A: Dear C&C:

The Chinese had an excellent system before they too fell prey to Western methods. They would pay their doctor a fixed amount at the end of every month, provided they had experienced no illness even on a single day. If they had fallen sick even once that month, no money was paid to the doctor. So, the doctor was paid to keep the patient well and out of illness and not for correcting an illness. Believe me, it worked out cheaper for the patients and incentivised the doctors to ensure the good health of the patient, rather than taking advantage of the illness. So, re-negotiate the terms with your doctor and change the default setting. to “monthly payment when not ill” and see how this dramatically improves your health.

Q: Dear Doctor :

In the last 6 hours, I have felt severe muscular stiffness and rigidity; it started with my facial muscles and then spread slowly to the rest of the body. What do you think is wrong? Yours, etc Stiff and Still

A: Dear S&S

I don’t have sufficient data to arrive at a definite conclusion but, prima facie, your body seems to exhibit symptoms of something that we doctors refer to, in hushed tones, as rigor mortis. The policy of this website is to entertain questions only from live, bonafide readers and not from dead cadavers; so please refrain from corresponding with us any further.

Q: Dear Doctor:

I have been shuttling from one doctor to another, for the last 6 months, to find a cure for my asthma. As my lungs expand and contract, the sounds that emanate resemble the winds that blow determinedly through mountains and valleys. Each doctor puts me on a different line of treatment and ensures that I don’t get out of the medical circuit. I am turning out to be a doctor’s delight. Please help. Yours, etc, Wheezing and Whining

A: Dear W&W

George Bernard Shaw wrote a short story about the king of a country called Half-Mad. The king took ill and all the doctors of the kingdom attended on him and tried out different remedies to cure him. Nothing worked. Till a wise old man suggested that the king should go to a sea resort, “ Is it because you feel that the salt-laden air of the sea will have a therapeutic effect on him?’ the people ask him. “No”, the wise man replies, “ It will get him away from the doctors and cure him”.

I can offer no better advice than Shaw’s. Get away from the doctors.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Aeolian Aliens

Scientists theorise on the phenomenon involving “Aeolian dust “ that is picked up in local storms in deserts and arid regions and carried by trade winds across continents. Aeolian dust has been blamed for a plethora of ill effects including human disease, says the National Geographic magazine.

A fact that has not been revealed to the general public ( to avoid causing a panic) but which I am sharing with the enlightened readers of the blogosphere is that the monsoons, both south-west and the north-east, have lifted huge quantity of fine dust containing the seeds of a mushroom variety called psilocybe cubensis from the African continent and Indonesia and deposited this Aeolian dust over the Indian sub-continent. Psilocybe mushrooms are known to produce hallucinations and can attack selectively and randomly. Theer is enough evidence now to conclude that the Aeolian dust is targeting married couples in India and causing the husband/wife to believe that he/she is actually married to someone else, even sometimes to a person of the same gender.

Ramakrishna Goud of AP filed a petition in the Madras High Court recently claiming that he was married to the actress Sridevi. He requested the Hon’ Court to drive some sense into her and ask her to return to his house. The Hon’ Court, if I understood correctly, politely asked Goud to decide who his wife was, as he had stated in earlier petitions filed in the same Court that he was married to Priyanka Gandhi and actress Jayaprada.

In another incident, Krishna, a mother of four children in Uttar Pradesh's Burhanpur district declared herself a wife of former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram. She claims to have accepted Akram as her husband since she saw his performance on television during an Indo-Pak cricket match in 1999. "I am yet to meet Wasim. Whether he accepts me or not, I will spend rest of my life as his wife," Krishna told newsmen on Saturday. Krishna claims that a 'godly figure' clad in white clothes had shown her Akram's face in her dreams telling her that it was that of her husband's. Meanwhile, her real husband, a retired Govt servant, is examining various options.

Also in UP, Inspector General of Police Debendra Kishore Panda, who hit the headlines after proclaiming himself as ''Doosri Radha'', today said he was not Radha but Rukmini. While Panda may appear undecided on whether he is Radha or Rukmini, there is complete clarity in his mind that he is the wife of Krishna ( not the Krishna of UP who claims to be Wasim Akram's wife, but Lord Krishna). Panda, attired in his now familiar yellow robe and scarf around his head, visited the Sri Jagannath temple and said ''I was very happy after having darshan of my swami (husband)''

I am worried. Has the whole country been mushroomed? Are all the married inhabitants showing signs of being brain-damaged? This threatens the very institution of marriage, not to mention the very fabric of society. I suspect that my own wife is affected. Every night, she insists on watching Amitabh Bachchan on “Kaun Banega Crorepathi?” and refuses to take her eyes off the TV screen. This is terrible beyond words. Has the dust-laden wind blown past our house already sweeping my wife off her feet ? Have the mushroom seeds got into her bloodstream and into her brain? Is she hallucinating that she is actually Amitabh’s wife? Doesn’t she understand that this cannot happen, as it will amount to bigamy? For, I married Amitabh in a quiet ceremony last year and am his legally wedded wife….............

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The traumatised traveller

I am just boarding the aircraft. I will soon be comfortably ensconced in the aisle seat in the first row. Plenty of elbowroom. Enough space to stretch my long legs. Guaranteed sleep.

I reach my seat. What! Somebody is occupying it already. A mother with a one-year old baby in her hands. Would I mind letting her have my seat please and take hers that is located two rows behind? For the sake of the baby? I succumb to this emotional blackmail and move over to the third row. It’s the middle seat. I should have known better. I curse my ancestors for not doing enough penance in their time to ensure that their descendant does not encounter such bad luck.

I must put my bag in the loft above. I struggle with the handle for a few minutes before managing to get it open. I needn’t have taken all the trouble. There is no space for my bag. As usual, others have beaten me to it.

I push my way to seat 3E and park my bag under the seat in front of me. There goes my leg space. I hand over my jacket to the airhostess. There’s a pretty girl in seat 3D. Small mercy. Soon, seat 3F is also taken. By a big-made guy. He walks in with a swagger and a nonchalant bearing and that air of easy familiarity, which strongly suggest that he is a frequent traveller. Smartass.

Plane is about to take off. We are asked to fasten seat belts. I look around for mine. I locate them after considerable jostling and shuffling. But I can’t get the belt fastened. Doesn’t seem to work. I lift the lever and pull the strap hard. Nothing happens. Like Mr. Bean, I watch the smartass next to me. He manages to fasten the belt in a second. After much fumbling and several iterations, I get it right. I tell myself, a la Thomas Edison, that I had not failed a thousand times to fasten the belts. I had just discovered thousand ways how not to fasten a belt.

Safety instructions are on. ‘In case of fall in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down as the gentle rain upon the earth beneath. Pull the mask over your face and breathe normally’. Fat chance. I know what will happen if cabin pressure falls. Before the oxygen masks drop down, I would have passed out.

We are airborne and have reached cruising altitude. The smartass is already in a reclining position. How the hell he did that, I wonder. I search for the button to push my seat behind. Missing. From the corner of my eye, James Bond style, I notice that the pretty girl is staring at me. Obviously, my charm has proved too irresistible and she is completely taken in by my good looks, I conclude. “Uncle, the knobs are to your left” I suddenly hear her say. Sure enough, the knobs are there. I push and turn all the knobs and one of them seems to make the seat recline. But, wait a minute. Did the pretty girl call me Uncle? I am furious. Does she think I am one of those octogenarians traveling on a Senior Citizen Plan? But I look at the brighter side. At least, she didn’t call me “grandpa”.

Ha, dinner is being served now. Seat belts and knobs and overhead lofts may leave me perplexed, but when it comes to eating, the smartass and the pretty girl can take my correspondence course. I can teach them a trick or two. What would I like to drink? Just water, I reply, remembering the travel tips that I had heard (Drink plenty of water!). Now, the tray is in front of me. What’s this? Strawberry jam. Yippee!! My favourite. I love it with the croissant. But how the hell do I take it out of the thimble-sized container? Why do they need to seal everything and make my life miserable? Where is the opening or the slit? Can’t figure out. I tear it down with my knife. Get strawberry jam all over my shirt pocket. I clean up the mess. Clumsy, sloppy idiot, my wife would have called me if she were around.

At last, dinner is consumed and the trays removed. Cabin lights are off. Smartass is wrapped in a blanket and has already reached the REM state of sleep. Let me catch up on the in-flight entertainment, I reckon. How do I get the TV screen up? I lift all the flaps and search. I pull up some contraption which looks suspiciously like a TV screen. But how do I switch it on? There must be some buttons somewhere. The scheming sadistic scoundrels must have hidden them carefully. After some desperate moments of searching, I find the buttons. I have no clue which one to press. So I press them all. “Did you call, sir?’ asks the airhostess materializing out of thin air. I realize that one of the many buttons must have summoned her. I mutter an awkward sorry and ask her if she could help me get started with the TV. She presses one of the buttons and it comes alive in a jiffy. So simple, yet it had me flummoxed all this while. Why am I so gadget-challenged?

I need to go to the toilet. Must be all that water I kept drinking, taking the travel tips as gospel. I have to decide whom I should wake up now. The smartass on my right or the pretty one on the left. I decide, chivalrously, to let the girl have her forty winks. The smartass mutters under his breath and lets me through. I walk up and down the aisle searching for the toilet. Where are the damn toilets? They can’t hide them like they did the TV buttons? Ah, here is one. How do I open the door? Do I pull it towards me or push it in? Neither, as I learn from another passenger with a full bladder in the queue behind me, the doors are collapsible and need to be slid and then pushed. I get inside. Where are the lights? Not to be found. I can’t wait anymore. I decide to do it in the dark. I bolt the door. The lights come on magically, thank you. I am a relieved man now. How do I operate the flush? Search, search, search. Here it is, at last. Need to wash my hands and face. Do I turn the tap to the left or the right? Neither, again. It needs to be pulled up. Where’s the soap? Must be this gooey substance over here. Why is the water not draining from the basin? The drain is closed, that’s why. How do I remove the plug? I have no idea. I hear the bladder-full passenger gently tap the door outside. In my nervous state, I try to do several things at the same time. Something works. Water is getting drained now. I walk out triumphant but exhausted.

I wake up the sleeping smartass again and he looks at me with hatred. If he had been Medusa, I would have been turned into stone by now. I settle down again in my seat.

I try to doze off. No luck. Flight attendant is handing over some forms to be filled. For immigration clearance on landing. Passport details have to be filled in. I reach for my passport. Not there. I fret and fume, sweat and swoon. I search my airbag. Complete absence of passports. I tell myself not to panic. Think. In Jules Verne’s “Around the world in 80 days “, what did Phileas Fogg do when Passport went missing in Tokyo? Or was it Hong Kong? No, that wasn’t Passport at all; that was his manservant Passepartout. Not much help there. I look underneath the seat, bending down acrobatically. No passport to be seen. Only life jacket there. Ha, I remember now. I kept it in my jacket. I press all the available buttons on the seat to summon the attendant again. Can I have my jacket back please? My passport is inside?

The captain announces that we will be landing soon. I haven’t slept at all. I curse the pilot and other airline staff. Why can’t they demystify the whole process of flying? I curse all the engineers of the world. Why do they need to make things so complicated? So many buttons, levers, plugs, seals. Some needed to be pulled. Some needed to be pressed. Some needed to be lifted . Some unscrewed. Some are under the seat. Some overhead. Each gadget presents a new challenge and constantly tests you. Provided, of course, you find them in the first place.

It is all very well for the captain. He doesn’t need to do anything. In fact, I have read that if you step into the cockpit of modern aircrafts, you will find a pilot, a computer and a dog. Nothing else. The job of the computer is to take care of the entire flying from engine-on to engine-off stage. The job of the dog is to keep watch over the pilot and ensure that he does not touch any of the buttons or the levers or the knobs or anything as foolish. The job of the pilot is to feed the dog. That’s it.

As I get out of the plane, I notice that the mother in the first row has had a restful sleep and is now fresh as a flower. It is quite evident now. She must have had the baby a year back, just to deny me the aisle seat in the first row tonight.