Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Chola bronze

In an article in The Guardian (and reproduced in The Hindu today). William Darlymple writes admiringly of Chola bronze statues:

“Exquisitely poised and supple, these bronze deities stand silent on their plinths, yet with their hands they speak gently to their devotees through the noiseless lingua franca of the gestures (or mudras) of south Indian dance: their hands are raised in blessing and reassurance, promising boons and protection,and, above all, marriage, fertility and fecundity, in return for the veneration that is so clearly their divine right.

In western art, few sculptors - except perhaps Donatello or Rodin - have achieved the pure essence of sensuality so spectacularly evoked by the Chola sculptors; or achieved such a sense of celebration of the divine beauty of the human body. There is a startling clarity and purity about the way the near-naked bodies of the gods and
the saints are displayed. Yet by the simplest and most modest of devices,their spirit and powers, joys and pleasures, and above all their enjoyment of each other's beauty and their overwhelming sexuality, is highlighted

But, to ask a basic question. Why do humans even bother to create or view art? Some years back, Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran, a renowned neuroscientist, pondered over this question and tried to provide an explanation for the human appreciation of art, in terms of the neural process that goes on in the brain. He wondered if there were any universal laws that transcended cultural barriers or layers, in the appreciation of art. And, for his study, he took up the case of the Chola bronze statues that Darlymple has now written glowingly about.

In his paper, “The Artful Brain”, Dr Ramachandran says that bronze sculptures from the Chola period in India a thousand years ago are revered because they express the epitome of feminine poise and grace, charm and sensuality. But the Victorian art historians of the 19th century judged the statues appalling because they were not realistic: the waists were too narrow, the breasts too big, the posture provocative. But art has nothing to do with realism; it is about producing pleasing effects in the brain

Yet an artist cannot simply randomly distort a human figure and expect to generate a pleasing result. There appear to be some principles that cut across cultural boundaries.

One of these principles, Dr. Ramachandran suggested, is that exaggerated forms invoke a greater response than the natural form. This phenomenon may be explained by studying animal behavior. If a rat learns that a rectangular shape connotes that he will soon be fed, he is likely to prefer shapes that are even more rectangular, longer, and skinnier. This "peak shift" is used in art to create caricatures. Take Nixon's craggy brow and big nose, amplify them, and the result looks more like Nixon than he does! Similarly, the Chola artists of India simply took the average female form and subtracted the average male form- leaving big breasts, big hips and narrow waist- and amplified the difference. The result was one very anatomically incorrect, but a very sexy goddess,

So, coming back to the basic question. Why do humans even bother creating or viewing art? Dr.Ramachandran’s conjecture is that Art may have evolved as a virtual simulation reality. When you imagine something –as when rehearsing a bison hunt or an amorous encounter- many of the same brain circuits are activated as when you are really doing something. This allows you to practice scenarios in an internal simulation without incurring the energy, cost or risk of a real rehearsal.

So, whether it is a Picasso, Van Gogh or a Chola bronze, you willingly allow that piece of art to deceive your brain.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Et tu, Santa?

I have heard it said that 'Valentine’s Day', 'Friends Day', 'Bosses’ Day', 'Doctor’s Day', and other assorted days were invented by the ‘greeting card’ companies to promote the sale of their products.

Via Frontal Cortex, I learn now that even the modern image of Santa Claus, was a creation of the advertising executives of the Coco Cola Company. They had introduced Santa Claus, in an ad campaign in 1931’ as a chubby, jolly, old man dressed in a red suit and that distinctive cap. That image has stayed.

This is what Coke’s official website claims :

“Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit. Because magazines were so widely viewed, and because this image of Santa appeared for more than three decades, the image of Santa most people have today is largely based on our advertising.

Before the 1931 introduction of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus created by artist Haddon Sundblom, the image of Santa ranged from big to small and fat to tall. Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky.”

Amazing, the kind of influence these ads and films have on our lives and how they shape our thinking. To the millions of people of the previous generation in Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, who were brought up on a fare of countless mythological movies starring N.T.Rama Rao, the images of Lord Rama and Krishna that appear in their minds even today, would bear the chubby, effeminate face of N.T.Rama Rao. If the real Rama or Krishna were to materialise today, they would be viewed as imposters and handed over to the police.

Conversation with daughter-8

This conservation doesn’t involve me or my daughter, but I enjoyed it so much that I thought I should include it in my “conversation with daughter’ series.

This is from the archives of the Scientific Creative Quarterly. The author is Stephen McNeil, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia.


SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?

DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.


DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.


DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?


DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.


DAD: Why do I use soap?


DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.


DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?


DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.


DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?


DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.


DAD: Why does soap form micelles?


DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.


DAD: Why does it mean that?


DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.

SARAH: Like a monster?

DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?


DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.


SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.

DAD: We are talking about soap.

(longish pause)


DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?


DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.


DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.


DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?


DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?
SARAH: I don’t get it.

DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oh, God!

A colleague and his wife were involved in a fire accident, but after many days of hospitalization, skin grafting, etc recovered slowly and returned to their normal routine.

I called him up the day he reported back for work and asked how he was. He replied, “By God’s grace, I managed to pull through”.

What amazed me about that reply- and I told him so- was that he was thanking God profusely for saving his life, when he would have been within reason to hold the same God responsible for the nasty accident that almost killed him.

Faith can move mountains, faith is what will sustain you in life, faith in a higher Being will pull you out of a crisis – such beliefs are hardwired into many of our brains. Some others would view such blind faith as misplaced. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence” felt Richard Dawkins.

But the point is this. This colleague had as much right to subscribe to his belief as I had in questioning it, so long as each showed genuine tolerance and respected the fact that the other person was entitled to his viewpoint.

I was reflecting on this incident, when I heard about the controversy surrounding the installation of a statue of E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker, a sworn atheist, near the Srirangam temple. While the choice of venue was clearly made by the Dravida Kazhagam (DK) with the idea of provoking the believers, the latter fell for the bait and reacted predictably, in anger. The whole atmosphere became charged because of this mutual intolerance. What the believers should have done was to ignore the statue completely and instead score a point by turning out in large numbers on the same day, to offer prayers at the temple.

True rationalists like Richard Dawkins shun the word “atheist”, because it has a negative spin and pre-supposes that the positive or the default setting was to be a believer or theist. Self-styled atheists such as the DK, on the other hand, will not have any stand-alone purpose for their existence, without the framework of temples and believers to pick on.

I was intrigued by a recent news item that reported on a function organized by the DK to mark the 33rd death anniversary of EVR. The speakers thanked the DMK Govt for the order that allows members of any caste to officiate as priests in temples, but demanded that the rule must be further extended to permit women to become priests as well. I am all for equal opportunity and such noble ideas, but what I found amusing was that a party which has campaigned violently for demolition of temples and which has consistently denounced believers as barbarians, should exhibit so much concern for the caste and gender of the priests indulging in ‘barbaric acts of performing puja’ inside temples that, in its considered opinion, had no right to exist in the first place. It seems to me that the party has as much locus standi to comment on who should act as priests inside temples, as the devotees of the Lord have in expressing an opinion on who should be the General Secretary of the DK party.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Save this planet.

I learnt an important lesson in life, as a boy of 12. I had carelessly discarded a tube of toothpaste, believing that it was empty. An aged relative who was passing by – or rather was keeping vigil- pulled out the tube from the dustbin, rolled it tightly, squeezed it professionally with both his hands, managed to salvage another week’s supply of toothpaste and then delivered a long lecture to me on the importance of getting the maximum bang for the buck. Of course, he didn’t resort to such Americanisms, as he didn’t even suspect that such a place as America existed, but you get the point.

Another aged relative got on to a bus, traveled a mile beyond the point where she actually needed to go and walked her way back, so that she would get maximum value for the 10 paise that was charged as minimum fare those days.

Frugality was strictly practiced by members of these yester-generations and implemented mercilessly. Everything had to be re-used, recycled or handed down. Nothing was to be wasted. When purchasing something- if at all- durability was the only criterion to go by.

Watches served several generations. My first watch was my grandfather’s and if I hadn’t lost it during a cricket match, I would perhaps have passed it on to my grandson. Pens were for keeps and one went through the entire education process from kindergarten to post-graduation using the same pen. Well, not exactly. Till the 4th or 5th standard, you got along with the pencil passed down by your elder sibling.

Food had to be consumed and could never be wasted, even if one was choking inside and sambar was oozing out of the ears and the nostrils.

If you bought a pair of slippers, you not only had to choose the sturdiest and rugged pair in the locality, you also had to walk down to the cobbler across the road to get an attachment (made from old tyres) stitched on, so that the wear-out period would be longer. It was forbidden to buy the next pair, unless the existing one had worn out completely and the soles had disappeared completely.

Such habits don’t die. They stay with you forever. I can never get myself to throw out anything, if it still has got some life in it. I can’t keep water running in the wash basin, a second more than necessary. My wife refuses to buy footwear from Bata because the damn things last forever and never get worn out and she can’t bear to throw them away even after they’ve gone completely out of fashion.

Do all you kids out there realize that you are depleting the earth’s resources so rapidly with your extravagant lifestyles and with all your disposable stuff ? Does it even occur to you, misguided souls, that the environment doesn’t belong to you and we ,of the earlier generation have just given it to you for safe custody till the time it is passed on to your children? Must you cut all the trees, burn all the coal, combust all the oil, ignite all the gas and release all the CO2 in one lifetime? Can’t you show some restraint?

There. It’s finally done. That outburst certainly made me feel a lot better and morally superior. I had my chance to get even. I could take it off on someone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

R.I.P, Art Buchwald; hey he's escaped.

The renowned American humourist, Art Buchwald, when told in January this year that his kidneys had suffered irreversible damage, declined dialysis and checked into a hospice, to spend what he thought were his last days. But things didn’t go as expected and months later he was still alive. And on July 1st, he walked out of the hospice, defying all odds.

While at the hospice, he decided to share his extraordinary experience with his readers and published a book titled, “Too soon to say goodbye” in which he jokes about things that one normally refrains from discussing, plans his funeral, gets his friends to send in eulogies as they would write after his death, so that he could get to read them, talks about wills and the pleasures of disinheriting people and notes with immense satisfaction that, “'the beauty of not dying but expecting to, is that it gives you a chance to say goodbye to everybody”.

Amazing stuff written in a remarkably cheerful tone, despite the specter of death looming large and demonstrating that you can find humour in any situation, if you are so disposed.

He almost made it to my RIP series, but much to my delight, managed to pull out in time !
Update 21/01/07 : Art Buchwald passed on last week. The New York Times posted a video on their website, with Art announcing, " I am Art Buchwald. I have just died."

Saturday, December 23, 2006


A film I love to watch on the National Geographic Channel is the one on the Alaskan brown bears and the salmon. By some mysterious homing mechanism, salmon return from the northern Pacific where they have spent two or three years and enter the exact headwater gravel beds of their birth. Here the hungry big brown bear ( HB3) patiently waits for the salmon meal.

Not just the brown bears, but there are other stories of salmon grabbing. Model-actress Padma Lakshmi, for example, managed to grab a Salman, Rushdie. Not surprising, because Padma Lakshmi’s ancestors were also bears. Forebears, they were called.

Another person to grab a Salman is Katrina Kaif. This Salman, Khan is quite a character. When not mowing down pavement dwellers with his jeep, he is hunting down deer in a Rajasthan forest. He has been sentenced to a term in jail, but he may take refuge under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act. His lawyers have enough material to show that his life is wild and that he needs protection.

Similar was the case with the other famous Khan, Mansur Ali Pataudi. Was caught red-handed with the corpse of a black buck, again belonging to an endangered species. So, is he in jail? No way. As Groucho Marx said, behind every successful man is a woman. And immediately behind her is his wife. So, his wife Sharmila Tagore got him out of trouble by presenting a powerful case in Court that Tiger was an endangered species as well and that he shouldn’t be caged.

Tiger Pataudi, as some of you belonging to my generation would know, was a famous cricketer in the ‘60s and ‘70’s. This was despite an accident that he was involved in, early in his career. Prior to that, he used to spell his name as Pataudii, but as he lost an eye in the accident, was forced to change it to Pataudi. Now, of course, he has retired from the game. So, while his actress wife Sharmila goes for her shooting at the RK Studios, he goes for his shooting in the jungles of Haryana, looking for a fast buck.

Another Bengali actress making her mark now is Konkona Sen. Her performance in the film, Mr and Mrs Iyer, as you know, won her accolades. Now, she has taken on a challenging role in a film called Traffic Signal, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. Sen’s sensitive portrayal, in the movie, of the life of a sex worker in Mumbai, has pushed up the Sensex by 200 points already.

This Sensex. Either being pushed up by the Bulls .Or, worse, being pulled down by the Bears, like the salmon in Alaska.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What's the metaphor?

William L Hosch of the Britannica Blog writes :

“,,, different ages develop different metaphors (or memes) to describe man, the universe, and God. In the 17th century, Isaac Newton and his contemporaries developed what came to be called a mechanical, or clockwork, model of reality. For them the universe was built up like the intricate interlocking wheels of an automaton, such that once wound up by the Creator, the universe and everything in it inexorably followed Newton’s laws.

…Since the mid 20th century, the concept of the computer has been one of the most prevalent memes for describing reality… and in the 1960s Konrad Zuse, who built the first program-controlled computer in 1941, asserted that the universe is a computer. More recently, Stephen Wolfram has also claimed that life can be explained as a cellular automaton, and that… the universe is a giant computer program that is continually calculating the unfolding of events.”

So, what is the metaphor of our times and how do we explain the Universe to reflect today’s reality ? As one gigantic iPod player with a huge memory and where each one of us is an MP3 file, with an invisible Hand controlling the central scroll key? The Indian view, perhaps, would be that the Universe is just a Bollywood film being reeled out eternally with each one of us playing bit roles ?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


A kind reader, Prabhu, knowing that I am a struggling, aspiring comedian on the look-out for role models, has drawn my attention to the fact that the pantheon of humourists has recently admitted another illustrious member in its ranks - Dr Abdul Kalam.

At a meeting in Coimbatore, the vegetarian, septuagenarian Sagittarian ( actually he is a Libran, but Sagittarian sounds better in this sentence) arrived two hours late, but made up for it by sprinting the last few steps leading to the podium at a pace that would have fetched him the gold medal in an Olympic event. The crowd, in its wisdom, seemed to conclude that this entertainment was compensation enough for the two hour wait and gave him a thunderous applause that would have lasted for ever, had not Dr Kalam interrupted them with his singing.

Yes, he started singing on the stage and the audience ( obviously there were at least two people; 'audience' is plural, if singular it would have been 'audien') found themselves transported into a state of ecstatic rapture over Cloud Nine and into Seventh Heaven and special planes had to be dispatched to fetch them back to earth.

Wait, that’s not all. Displaying his abundant sense of humour, he announced "The earth has been revolving non-stop around the sun for millions of years. Our pursuit of excellence should also be like it," he stressed. "I am on my 76th revolution around the sun," he said and paused dramatically for the audience's reaction.

The audience waited with bated breath and keen anticipation. They were aware of the significance of the moment passing into history and that they were the only ones in the entire Universe privileged to listen in live to the punch line that was going to be delivered.

"This only means that I am 75 years old," Dr Kalam completed.

The audience went into a collective paroxysm of belly-aching, side-splitting, jaw-breaking, laughter which continues unabated till the time this post made it to the blogosphere. As a popular blogger would put it, immense joy exploded and much mirth materialized.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

India- the global leader

“History loves a paradox, and there can be none greater than a ‘taste of spices’ being responsible for the exploration of our planet. Sovereigns pledged their prestige, and navigators risked their lives, not in the quest of gold or the thirst of power but to redirect the distribution of a few inessential and today almost irrelevant vegetable products. Whether eastward-bound like Vasco da Gama or westward like Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, the great renaissance pioneers invariably sailed in search of spices, The discovery of the Americas, of a sea-route round Africa and of that missing link in the world’s circumference that was the Pacific were all incidental to this quest for pungency and flavour. So, by extension were the developments in shipbuilding, navigational science and ballistics that eventually gave the maritime powers of western Europe superiority over other nations and led on to dominion and power.

Ages before da Gama weighed anchor in India, a whiff of spices enticed into unknown waters Pharaonic and Phoenician sea farers, Greco-Roman traders, Indo-Arab merchants, Muslim scholars, Venetian fortune seekers, African adventurers and Chinese emissaries. Just about every maritime pioneer from before the age of Alexander to that of Napoleon had a nose for pungent substances. Thanks to the challenge of sourcing and redirecting these exotic commodities, mankind learned to overcome the fear of the world’s briny wastes.

In the Isthmian age, spices from Indonesia and Malaysia used to land in the tip of the Indian peninsula. Instead of being carried round Cape Comorin or Sri Lanka, they were landed on India’s east (Coromandel) coast and then transported overland to ports on its west (Malabar) coast.

A trail of Roman coin-finds across the peninsula between Madras and Calicut attests the early popularity of this overland short-cut and textual sources appear to confirm it. In the first century BC, Strabo, the greatest of classical geographers, was able to demonstrate some knowledge of India – ‘a nation greater than and more flourishing than any other’ and he knew of Egypt’s trade with the Malabar ports.

In the first century BC, Roman knowledge extended little beyond India’s west coast because that was as far as those who traded under Rome’s auspices ventured. Spices from further afield, like the cloves and nutmegs of the Moluccas or the sandalwood of Timor and camphor of Sumatra, entered the purview of the Roman world only through India’s west coast ports. Yet, the attraction of these ports for the Roman Empire, as for all later visitors from the west, lay not merely in their role as entrepots for the exotic produce of Indonesia, but as producer outlets for the better-known spices of Southern India itself. These included ginger, cardamom, turmeric and above all, black pepper, the mainstay of the spice trade and its only bulk community,

Harvested in the hill forests of south India, loose pepper was shipped from adjacent Malabar ports in such vast quantities, to both west and east. In fact, if Marco Polo may be believed, in the thirteenth century, for every vessel dispatched with pepper to the European market, ten sailed laden for China.

Black pepper had also been the principal Oriental import of the Roman Empire. So many ships sailed from the Red Sea to the Malabar every summer for pepper that it soon ceased to be a luxury and by the 4th century AD, may have been a staple of Roman life. Spices were landed on the African coast of Somalia and then conveyed by camels to the Upper Nile and then by boat down-river to the Mediterranean and Alexandria. From here, the spices were sent to Italy, reshipped to Narbonne to the south of France, repacked for river and road carriage o Flanders, Britain or the Baltic. In its heyday, Rome was the biggest beneficiary of this lucrative trade, but as of about the tenth century, Venice would grow rich and powerful on the proceeds of the spice trade.

It was the dominance of Venice and the stranglehold that they and the Arabs held over the spice movement that originated in India that prompted the Portuguese to seek alternative routes to reach India. The circumnavigation of Africa by Bartholomew Dias in 1480 AD, and the knowledge obtained from Arab sailors that the south-west monsoon winds would propel the sail ships towards India in summer and, the North-East monsoon would provide the return winds, emboldened Vasco da Gama to undertake an expedition to India in 1492 AD, that would eventually bring the country under European rule.”

Much of the text above is extracted from the book, “Spice Route” by John Keay who in the process of tracking the movement of different spices over a period of three millennia has provided a fascinating glimpse into the glorious past of India.

We are used to being told that India began liberalizing and globalizing in 1991, thanks to the far-sightedness of people like P.V.Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. A look into our history tells us how absurd that statement is. Globalisation is not new to India. For much of its history, India has been the undisputed epicenter of the global spice trade, as a major producer and a major entrepot port for spices from Indonesia and beyond. We have had extensive links with China, Indonesia, Arabia and the Romans and have carried on a peaceful, but flourishing trade with both the east and the west, for several centuries.

But, as the mutual funds like to say, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. So, we have had to begin all over again in 1991 to make a mark in the global market. What a shame.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

R.I.P Series- 10

James Bond, agent, Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a legendary lover, made out at different times with Ann, an Irish beauty; Anne, a French damsel and Anna, the Russian model, but breathed his last when Ana, the Brazilian female gave him an affectionate hug, in an Amazonian resort. We fondly record here his final conversation:

He : My name is Bond. James Bond
She : My name is Conda. Ana Conda

Best read before 48 hours from date of posting..

Jet Airways has just served me a welcome drink of fresh lime. The little sticker on the bottle bearing letters of font size 6, says that the content is 'best for use before two days from date of bottling". Turning the bottle upside down (and spilling some of the juice on my shirt), I find the bottling date and am relieved to note that the juice is just a day old and therefore still in its state of bestness.

The fresh juice stimulates my brain and some important questions keep popping up. How can you call fresh lime fresh when it is two days old? How does one count the two days? Does the day of bottling get counted? What happens after two days? If the juice is not 'best' then, at least, it must be 'very good' or 'good"? After how many days, will the juice degenerate to a state of being unfit for human consumption? Why can't these juice bottlers be more specific and define a clear cut-off date? Are they talking about the shelf life which is a measure of the quality or the expiry date which is an indicator of the safety?

The medicine manufacturers are more specific. They have a clear date of expiry mentioned on the tablet strip or the bottle, though the nagging doubt remains whether the date of expiry pertains to the date the medicine would lose its therapeutic efficacy or the date on which the patient consuming the medicine would expire.

The carton of Tropicana in my refrigerator carries the instructions that immediately after opening it must be refrigerated and the fruit juice consumed within 5 days. It adds that the consumer must shake it well before use and must throw away the carton if found puffed. Pretty grim, it sounds to me. Caveat Emptor and all that. It makes you feel like Socrates gulping down hemlock.

Monday, December 11, 2006

R.I.P Series-9

Sharanjit Gill, 29, died of a heart attack, in Kartarpur, Punjab.

Update : Oops, big mistake. Turns out that Sharanjit Gill is alive. In other words, stories of his death are highly exaggerated. He and his wife Geta Gill, based in London, had hatched an elaborate plan to claim 600,000 pound sterling from insurance companies, lying that he had died. They were caught, tried in court and sentenced to rest in peace in jail for two years.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

R.I.P Series-8

Walking back home, after the ceremony in which he was honoured with the “Best Conductor of the Year’ title by Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), Prakash Vidyuthkar was caught in a thunderstorm and demonstrated how much he deserved the award by acting as a human conduit for a bolt of lightning to the insides of the earth.

Nobody told me...

What with all this travelling and the blogging, I seem to have lost track of the latest developments in Bollywood. About what’s happening between who and who, how and when. I hope that some reader will be able to bring me up-to-date on the Bachchan story, for instance . Here’s how much I know about it.

A month back, I heard this juicy bit of news that Abhishek Bachchan had secretly exchanged garlands with Aishwarya Rai at a temple in Madurai, when they had gone there to shoot for Mani Ratnam’s film, “Guru”.

Then, last week, I read this news item that claimed that Amitabh and Jaya had gone to Varanasi along with their son Abhishekh. Aishwarya Rai was also there. The rumour was that they had all gone to the Kasi Vishwanath temple, after a breakfast of Masal Dosa, for a special puja to dispel the Manglik Dosha that Aishwarya was supposed to be afflicted with.

Here is where I lose track and need some help and updating by my readers. I am aware that Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri were courting each other, acting together and singing duets in Abhimaan and other films. But, when did they get married and why didn’t anybody inform me?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

R.I.P.Series- 7

Dr. Mer Curie, 35, daring toxicologist, reputed for his path breaking report titled, "On hazards and risk mitigation in the handling of poisonous gases such as boron trichloride, hydrogen sulphide, methyl isocyonate", and who established that the threshold overdose of dihydro monoxide (H20) in one's lungs was precisely 297 ml, while carrying out the experiment in controlled conditions inside his swimming pool at home.

Fantasy or Inspiration?

Flying back from Delhi this morning, I chanced upon this report in the in-flight magazine, “ Jetwings”. As usual, I am not quoting verbatim, but am taking the liberty of providing a broad idea of what it sought to convey.

On the occasion of Children’s Day on November 14th, 2006, Jet Airways had organised ‘joy rides’ for two groups of underprivileged children. A very good and thoughtful gesture, I felt.

Group A took off from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai on a 45-minute, “Flight of Fantasy”. When they returned to the same airport, they were greeted by Bollywood star, Vidya Balan, who joined them in the celebrations that included a magic show, jugglery and mimicry.

Group B took off from Bangalore for Delhi on a ‘Flight of Inspiration’. From the Delhi airport, they were taken to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where no less a personality than the President Dr Abdul Kalam was waiting to receive them, finger pressed on the pg dn key of his laptop, ready to commence his 254-slide presentation on Vision 2025- Part 1 of 5.

Same occasion, but two different types of treatment were meted out to the two groups of children.

The thought did cross my mind that, hypothetically, if I had been one of the children and asked to choose between the “Flight of Fantasy” and the “Flight of Inspiration”- or, more precisely, between Vidya Balan and Abdul Kalam, what would have been my response?

No, I am not going to reveal what would have been my choice. That shall remain a mystery. I leave the issue open for each reader to ponder over and make his or her own judgement.

For some reason, I really don’t know why, this reminds me of the short story of Frank Stockton, that I had referred to in this post.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

R.I.P Series- 6

Under this stone is laid to rest, Veer Singhji, brilliant cricketer and daring fielder, responsible for an incredible run-out of a batsman. Standing at forward- short-leg position, without a helmet on, he took a full-blooded shot straight on his head. The ball ricocheted and hit the stumps, before the batsman could regain his crease. As the bails came down in 0.88 seconds after the ball hit Veer Singhji’s head, the third umpire declared this as the first recorded instance of a run-out caused posthumously.

The bane of travelling salespersons

You know what I dread the most when I travel? What I fervently pray will not be found anywhere in the vicinity of my seat or berth? Babies. Bawling, wailing, howling, babies (BWHB)

Now, I have nothing against babies. The world certainly needs them. In fact, some of my best friends are babies. I have been half-responsible for bringing a couple of babies into this world. But, when these BWHBs make me lose my much-needed sleep and I have to confront irate customers the next morning with a groggy face, I find myself gaining new respect for King Herod of Bethlehem as well as the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

When I was single and kidless myself, and was once kept awake the whole night by one of these BWHBs, when traveling in the upper berth of a II class compartment, I took a terrible vow that I would produce a dozen kids in the near future,, frequently carry them in trains and keep pinching them till they cried their throats hoarse. Not one person in the entire compartment would be allowed to sleep. That would be my revenge on society at large.

I did manage to take some babies along eventually, but, much to my disappointment, they turned out to well-behaved ones that found the rocking motion of the train so soothing and slept even better than normal. So, I have to find more devious methods now.

I remember reading a blog post (alas, I forget who the blogger was) which wondered whether this phenomenon was unique to babies born in India. I tend to agree. In the course of my travels in Europe or the USA, I don’t recall being troubled by BWHBs. Sorry, that previous statement is not entirely true. It did happen on one of the flights between Amsterdam and Madrid. But, it turned out to be an Indian BWHB!

Are Indian parents more indulgent that babies feel unrestrained? Do parents abroad use chloroform on their kids when they travel? Or, is it that there are so many babies being churned out every hour in India compared to the rest of the world that the probability of encountering BWHBs is higher when one travels here? Or, maybe what I have observed is not a representative sample? Or, Fate has singled me out for special treatment?

Update (3/12/06) : The mystery of the wailing babies is solved. shpriya in her comment has given a vital clue when she talks about RSMAW (rhythmically snoring men and women). Based on feedback from wife, I probably am an RSM, whose loud snoring terrifies normal babies in the railway compartment and makes them BWHBs. So, the problem is not so much on the pediatric side as it is on the geriatric side. Case closed.

Friday, December 01, 2006


An encyclopedia that I am browsing through informs that when the metric system of measurement was introduced, the French defined the ‘meter’ as one-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator.

I can imagine how they accomplished this. One guy, dressed in fur, monkey cap and thermal inners, held one end of a long rope at the tip of the North Pole, all the while alert to the possibility of a polar bear ramming him on the backside. Meanwhile another guy, in shorts and T-shirt, held the other end of the rope at the Equator, keeping his eyes and ears open for mad elephants and charging rhinoceroses ( or is the plural rhinocerii?) Then they roll the rope carefully and meet at some point, depending on how fast each of them walked. Then they cut the rope into a million equal little pieces. One such piece was then proclaimed as the ‘meter’. A needlessly complicated process, if you ask me. They could have used a simple wooden scale, measured 100 cm and then marked it as one meter.

And, a kilo-gram is equal to the weight of a chunk of stone preserved in a building near Paris. And everything else in the world is weighed against this stone. Pretty weird, the whole thing strikes me as. Letting a piece of stone near Paris to tell me how many kilograms I weigh.

Did you know that there is a unit of beauty called the milli-Helen? Helen of Troy had a face that reputedly launched a thousand ships. So, a milli-Helen of beauty is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship. Now, this has interesting possibilities. Lead a group of pretty women, one at a time, to the harbour, observe how many ships each one is able to launch and then report how beautiful they are, in so many milli-Helens.

Why should there be such subjectivity in the selection of Miss Universe and Miss World. All the judges asking them silly questions and all the participants giving a stock reply that they want to be re-born as Mother Theresa. Complete nonsense. Here’s a simpler and a far more objective way. Line them up on the harbour front and publish the results in milli-Helens.

Correction (06/12/06) : Akshay points out that I have made a technical error. We should count the ships coming into the harbour and not going out. For, Helens' face had launched a thousand ships from the opposite direction.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

R.I.P Series - 5

In fond memory of Banta Singh who died silently and peacefully in his sleep- unlike the other hysterical passengers in the car that he was driving at 100 kmph.

( Discl : Adapted from an email joke)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

R.I.P. Series - 4

A small little bee proved to be his undoing. Here lies whatever remains of Kim Lang Wee, famous acrobat who fell from a height of 250m, midway between the two Petronas Towers, while attempting to break the Guinness Record for tightrope walking.

Conversation with daughter's suitor- 7

‘She is such a fine little girl, my daughter. I know she has much to learn. That life is not one big joy ride in which every wish will come her way. But do learn both of you together that for every wish unfulfilled, several more will seem fulfilled, if only you learn how to view it. Teach her that if she decides to be happy, nobody can make her unhappy. Learn from her that if you choose to be unhappy, nobody can make you happy. Share together the eternal truth that happiness is a companion, not a destination.

And in that truth lies the purpose of your companionship. May prosperity always chase you rather than you chase prosperity. For, where there is companionship and love, prosperity will have no place to hide. And anyway, it is a lesson of life that adversity teaches you more than prosperity ever could. So, expect your share of adversity, if only, to appreciate the rewards of prosperity. True joy lies in sharing whatever you have to share. You cannot give what you don't have and you cannot have what you don't give. That is the principle of friendship, and partnership as well.

A little give and a little take is all it takes to give and take. Be generous in your apologies and accept graciously her apologies, because there will inevitably be much to mutually apologise for. The sapthapathi says let us swear, in joy and strength, one in thought and deed, one within. But believe me, it is not easy to share one's space with another. That is neither what schools teach nor what society foster.

But, to this difficult task she commits herself in the hope and faith that you too do. The true test of this will begin later when the frills of youth begin to crumple, and the stress builds up in both of you, of the very fruits of your companionship. Like Robert Browning wrote, please say each day,”Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.”

Young man, this is a big order that I set before you. But please see what you can do ..... For she is such a fine little girl, my daughter.’

I wish I had written this piece on behalf of fathers whose daughters are getting married. But, Mr. Gopalakrishnan, executive director of Tata Sons, beat me to it and had this published in The Times of India, two years back.

What wonderful sentiments! How beautifully expressed! I made a mental note that I should make this speech to my daughter’s suitor whenever he comes calling. But, I know that, before I complete the first sentence, my daughter would give me one of her threatening stares, cut me short and ask me not to make an ass of myself. I better leave such great pieces of oratory to the likes of R.Gopalakrishnan.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

R.I.P Series- 3

In loving memory of Andrew Simon, ace driver, who participated in a sporting event nearby. In the keen contest between his car traveling at 150 miles per hour and a tree traveling at zero miles per hour, the latter won.

Tendulkar can do no wrong....

Interesting how the cricket columnists deal with the fall of Tendulkar’s wicket .

  • he got out to an unplayable delivery that kept low, again bringing into sharp focus the sad state of the underprepared pitch.
  • the ball made an inaudible contact with the bat and was taken behind by the wicket-keeper. The great man, ever the gentleman, walked without even waiting for the umpire’s decision. Action replay showed that the ball had just grazed the outer edge of the bat.
  • Once Tendulkar got out ( 5 runs off 17 deliveries), the Indians had no chance whatsoever. They just folded up like a pack of cards.
  • The Little Master got out for 12 runs, which included two hits to the boundary, one of which was an exquisite cover-drive that bore the unmistakable Tendulkar stamp of class. Attempting a similar shot the next ball, he spooned an easy catch to the fielder at mid-off. He walked back to the pavilion dejectedly, having missed out on a chance to complete his 35th century that was his by right.
  • He was clean bowled by a ball that went through his legs. Two years back, that ball would have been nonchalantly and mercilessly despatched to the fence, leaving the bowler clueless and hapless.
  • He was out lbw off the third delivery that he faced. But it speaks of his dedication and commitment that he came out to bat at all, despite his swollen ankle, fractured thumb, broken ribs, sprained back and twisted intestines.
  • He fell to an out-swinger, playing an uncharacteristic mistimed shot. The Australians were beside themselves with joy, having got the wicket they wanted the most.

    Well, I haven’t exactly quoted verbatim, but you get the drift.

R.I.P Series- 2

Dedicated to the memory of Sir James Mortimer, famous explorer and legendary hunter, who laid down his life in the grasslands of Africa, due to a slight difference of opinion with a lion. He thought that he had shot and killed the lion. The lion didn’t think so.

( borrowed from P.G.Wodehouse)

What they won't teach you at VLCC

Are you overweight? Do you feel heavy, fat and flatulent all the time? Do you want to feel light and good? Read on.

You know how it is when you have just caught a virus. The first day your temperature goes up to 101 deg F and you feel sick and miserable. Then the fever rages on for three more days, you touch 103 and 104 deg F and finally it tapers off to 101 deg F on the fifth day. Suddenly, you feel relieved and sit up in bed. The temperature of 101 deg F is the same as that on the first day, but now you don’t feel that sick. The reference point has changed. Whereas, on the first day, you compared your temperature to the normal of 98.4 deg F, on the fifth day, the reference point is the 104 deg F that you had suffered the previous day. The mind plays such tricks.

Anyway, let’s come back to your obesity. Say, you are all of 5’4”, weigh 80 kg now and feel bloated and miserable. The right thing to do would be to cut down 10 kg, through a careful regimen and judicious mix of crash diet, power aerobics and liposuction. But, as we all know, this course of action poses intolerable trauma, unmentionable challenges and unbearable pain, mainly in the abdominal area. So, here’s a better method. What you should do is to go on a wild and reckless eating binge, the next few days, and stuff yourself with tons of the most delicious, calorie-filled, cholesterol-loaded, oil-soaked, cream-laden food that you can lay your hands on and put on 10 kg in weight. Avoid any exercise whatsoever during this period. As your height is unlikely to change ( so too the square of your height in cm) and the denominator will remain constant, your BMI will go up by exactly 12.5%- corresponding to the increase in the numerator .

Having reached the targeted weight of 90 kg, you must feel like a beached whale or a well-fed anaconda by now. It’s time to change strategy. Cut back a bit. Avoid the Chocolate pudding, the French fries and the beef steak. Over a period of time, come back to your original weight of 80 kg. Believe me, you will feel extraordinary light and terrific now, as I promised you in the beginning. Same weight as when you started, but your frame of reference is different and you are a changed person now. Repeat the cycle as long as you want.

Some people will point out that jettisoning 10 kg of excess baggage when you are 90 kg is as difficult as shedding 10 kg from a weight of 80 kg, but, trust me and ignore these cynical fatsos.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

R.I.P series- 1

Here lies Captain Joseph Smith, distinguished pilot, with an impressive record of 8987 hours of flawless flying in 6 different types of planes to 257 different destinations involving 4589 immaculate take-offs and 4588 safe landings

The hot-water bath

A considerable part of my life as a traveling salesman has been spent in unraveling the many mysteries of hot water taps in bathrooms all over the world.

In the early days of my career, few hotels of the class I was eligible to stay in had water heaters. All one had to do was to order a bucket of hot water for two or three rupees and have it brought to the bathroom. Yes, that was an era when everything was so simple and gentle.

When attached baths with geysers and showers became the norm, life became more complicated. One had to guess which of the two taps was meant for the hot water, as failure to do so could result in getting scalded by steaming water or being struck numb by freezing water. So, mastery of this subject was vital as the consequences were life-threatening.

Then some wise designer raised the stakes and came out with taps marked H and C, to indicate, if you haven’t guessed already, hot water and cold water. The designer proposed, but the plumber disposed by frequently interchanging the taps. So, you were still left guessing. Like the riddles where, standing at the crossroads, you had to guess which road would take you to ‘heaven’ and which one to ‘hell’

The seasoned traveler learnt to beat the system by physically tracing the hot water pipe from the geyser and opening the right tap. Take that, you tap-worms, he would mutter triumphantly.

Outsmarted, but not outdone, the wily tap makers and their architects went into a huddle and hatched the diabolical idea of concealed piping, making it impossible to visually trace the hot water line.

The seasoned traveler retaliated by standing two feet away from the shower, opening one tap at a time and in random sequence and gently testing the waters for a few minutes, before plunging right in.

Smarting under this insult, the Chairman of the Tap Makers Association of India and the President of the Hoteliers Association of India had hurried consultations and unleashed their Brahmastra- a single tap with a regulator, to be turned clockwise to increase temperature or anti-clockwise to reduce temperature.

The seasoned traveler is flummoxed. Does one need to lift the lever or turn it? Turn it clockwise by 0.05 degrees and steam blows out. Quickly turn it in the other direction by 0.1 degree and ice comes tumbling down. What to do? What to do? Ha, hold the tap gently and carefully, as if you are trying to defuse a live bomb, and turn the knob by 0.001 degree, feel the temperature of the water with the protruding nail ( specially grown for this purpose) of the small toe of your left leg and then step into the shower.

So, it goes on, this no-holds-barred encounter with the hot water taps, that has wrecked the career of many a traveling salesman. Like in the eternal war between the constantly-mutating bacteria and the increasingly potent anti-biotics, who knows who will be the eventual winner?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Conversation with daughters-6

Only yesterday, I bemoaned the fact that I was unfairly kept out of the list of the world’s sexiest men, due to questionable methodology and inadequate sampling size followed by the magazine that did the survey.

Today, I went through the list of 40 richest Indians, published by Forbes magazine, and to my considerable dismay, realized that my name was conspicuous by its absence.

Knocked down by the double whammy and desperate to get some confidence back, I asked my two daughters if I would figure in their personal lists of Top Ten People. The younger one held out all her ten figures and started counting. When she came to the little finger of her right hand, she gave me the good news that I had made it. The older one thought for a moment and said that if I could stretch the list to Top Twenty, my chances would be slightly better.

I will settle for this. Better to be part of some list than no list at all.

What a Kalamity !

Regular visitors to this blog know that I am a great admirer of our President, Dr.Kalam. I have always been overawed by the breadth of his vision, depth of his knowledge and length of his hair.

Isn’t there any subject at all that he doesn’t have an opinion on? Isn’t there any audience that he can’t pontificate to? Isn’t there a finite limit to the number of ideas his brain can churn out?

I vaguely remember the time he decreed that the entire ‘electricity’ needs of Rashtrapati Bhavan would be met with solar energy. Till someone, I think, pointed out that positioning the solar receptors would need an area approximately equal to that of Greater Delhi, stretching well beyond the Outer Ring Road.

Not one to give up so easily, he ordered the plantation of jatropha trees in his backyard, with the avowed objective of producing bio-diesel which would then be used on diesel engines to generate green power. Till someone, I presume, did the ‘back-of-envelope’ calculations that showed that the jatropha grown in the Moghul Gardens was barely enough to keep a 40 W bulb glowing for one night.

Down but not out, he unfolded the grand idea of generating power from outer space. The method which he outlined in great detail was that plutonium mined from the planet Neptune and neptunium obtained from dwarf-planet Pluto would be mixed in a catalytical converter made of saturnium excavated from Venus. This explosive mixture would then be loaded in a high-intensity gun, which would be packed in a satellite to be launched into Earths’ geosynchronous orbit, using the gravitational field of Jupiter. The high-intensity gun would beam the energy to receiving stations strategically located on Earth. The whole idea was brilliant, but could not materialize as the National Security Advisor came up with the paranoid thought that the device could be hijacked by Osama Bin Laden and the gun used to create a huge crater where the Rashtrapati Bhavan once stood.

So, the President has settled for more practical methods. Last week, he has engaged the services of drummer Sivamani, and plans to generate static electricity using the sheer momentum caused by the drum sticks. May he succeed in his noble mission.

Photo : President Kalam drumming up electricity to light up the Rashtrapati Bhavan

Photo : Drum sticks being grown in the Moghul gardens

Friday, November 17, 2006

Monkey business

South Indian monkeys are more “civilised” and “cultured” than their North Indian cousins, according to an American expert on simian behaviour. Dr Leonard A. Rosenblum, a psychiatry professor from the University of New York, says that South Indian monkeys maintain close ties with other members of the group. Scientific research and prolonged observation of the behaviour of Indian monkeys for the past 50 years have proved that south of the Vindhyas are more caring, he said.

Now, what can you say about Dr.Leonard A Rosenblum, who for five decades has been single-mindedly engaged in the research and prolonged observation of the behaviour of Indian monkeys, all the while carefully categorizing them as North and South Indian monkeys?

Get a life, Dr.Rosenblum, I say. There’s more to life than monkeys, South or North Indian.

My advice to you, dear Leonard, is to sign up with the Monkey-watchers Anonymous. You must wean yourself away from monkeys, before it is too late. It’s not impossible. If, in the next week, you wake up every morning and tell yourself that you shall see no more than fifty monkeys a day, bring down the number to forty the next week, thirty the week after and so on, you will find that you can be rid of this addiction to monkeys in five weeks flat, or you get your money back. If you still have withdrawal symptoms, you can always carry a monkeys’ spanner around your neck.

You will soon realize, psycho-Prof, that monkeys aren’t everything. India is a country rich in variety. There are donkeys, mules, pigs, camels you can train your microscopes on and come out with a research paper, meticulously classifying members of these species as Tamil, Kannadiga, Gujarati, Punjabi, etc and analyzing their relative merits. So, get off the monkey’s back, will you?

Sexiest man alive in India ,China and Africa

George Clooney has been voted the sexiest man alive by People’s magazine, I am told.

Hello, People. Why wasn’t I in the reckoning?

I am alive. I am a man. I may not be sexy, but what the hell, two out of three isn’t bad.

Anyway, who gives these rags the global rights to make such a sweeping declaration on behalf of the entire human species inhabiting this planet? Before anointing Clooney with the title, did anyone from People’s magazine ask the billion Chinese, billion Indians or half a billion Africans who they thought was the sexiest man alive? If anyone had, he or she would have got answers ranging from Xin-Wan-Lee, Raj, Zuwarah or Azubaike. None of the two and a half billion people have heard of George Clooney, but many of them know Xin-Wan-lee, Raj, Zuwarah or Azubaike and, in exchange for a ten-rupee note each, will readily vouch for the sex appeal of these illustrious non-Amercians.

People’s Magazine says that George Clooney is humble and approachable. So are Xin-Wan-lee, Raj, Zuwarah and Azubaike, for God’s sake.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Conversation with daughter-5

Me: I am going to dye my hair today.

Daughter: No, no, don’t do that. You won’t be Appa, without your grey hair.

Me: But, it makes me look so old. I feel terrible looking at myself in the mirror.

Daughter : But, pa, you are old. Why do you have to feel terrible?

Hmm, I am still trying to figure out what she meant.

P.S (26/11/06) : Advice given by P.G.Wodehouse to those of you worrying about your grey hair. "“There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine"-

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I am cheered by the news that the first World Tennikoit Championship is underway in Chennai. South Africa, Germany, UK, Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan and host India are taking part in the championship, which has events in men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.

I have always felt that India should never take part in events such as the Olympics that have been conceived by devious Western minds and designed to suit their conditions and bodies. Like fools, we walk into their well-laid trap and get humiliated each time, without realizing that our frail frames were not what the Olympic fathers had in mind when they coined their motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius”. We were never meant for speed or heights.

That’s why I like this idea of a World Tennikoit Championship. Tennikoit is a game which offers us a decent chance of winning as it doesn’t call for great calf muscles to pound the tracks with, nor stamina to last a marathon of 40 km. All it requires is simple dexterity of the fingers and just about enough speed of the legs that my grand aunt can come up with.

Hosting the championship in Chennai in November was again a stroke of genius. The participants from other countries would be drained of all energy by the time they reach the stadium, wading though the slush, muck and rain water, conditions that the Chennai tennikoit player is completely familiar and comfortable with. Always play to your strength, I say.

Way to go. Let’s think of more such games where we are adept at, invite the foreigners over for a World Championship and knock the stuffing out of them. Any suggestions?

Corrrrrupt Indians.

In one of the short stories in Jeffrey Archer’s collection, “Twist in the tale”, an incorruptible Nigerian finance minister visits a Swiss bank in the hope of obtaining the names of all its Nigerian clients. The banker refuses; the Nigerian insists on the information and persists till the story reaches its climax. The Nigerian minister even meets the 'Chairman' and threatens international sanctions, but is met with the standard reply:

There are no circumstances in which we would release the names of any of our account holders without their authority. I'm sorry to be of such little help, but those are, and will always remain, the bank’s policy’

(Spoiler warning: Story ending details follow)

Finally, the Finance Minister pulls out his pistol and threatens to blow the Bank Chairman’s brains out, if the latter doesn’t reveal the details. The Chairman doesn’t flinch even then. Convinced now that the Bank could be trusted not to part with the information, the Nigerian puts down his gun, grins sheepishly and asks the bank to open an account in his name, to deposit his money.

I was reminded of this story when I read that India had been ranked 70th in the corruption perception index (CPI) published by Transparency International in November 2006.

Corruption is, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice cursed. It curseth him that gives and him that takes. The briber is as much guilty of the crime as the bribee. So, there’s no point in lamenting about corrupt politicians, bureaucrats or police officials in India, when all of us are willing accomplices.

Transparency international believes that ‘keeping corruption in check is only feasible if representatives from government, business and civil society work together and agree on a set of standards and procedures they all support. TI also believes that corruption cannot be rooted out in one big sweep. Rather, fighting it is a step-by-step, project-by-project process. Where institutional checks on power are missing, where decision making remains obscure, where civil society is thin on the ground, where great inequalities in the distribution of wealth condemn people to live in poverty, that is where corrupt practices flourish’

Even among the few incorruptible persons in India, I suspect that the reluctance to accept bribes is more because they don’t want to risk being caught, rather than out of true integrity or adherence to principles. If like the Nigerian Minister, they can convince themselves that they will not leave any paper trail or face the risk of exposure, probably their conscience will not stand in the way or pose hurdles.

But, as you readers know, I hate to sign off on such a cynical or gloomy note. So, here’s the good news. India has moved up significantly from a position of 92 in the CPI index of 2005 to 70 this year. So, we are getting to be more honest.

Or, is it that we remain as corrupt as ever, but higher-ranked nations in the CPI 2005 are getting to be more dishonest, pushing us up on the relative scale, this year?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Apropos the afore-mentioned title, I beg to inform the esteemed readers that the undersigned was out-of-station, having to undertake a visit to my native place. As your goodselves know, I am having two daughters, one of them elder, the other younger, respectively and I tried my level best to get them to accompany me on this trip, but they would not agree to the same because they had homework, projects and all these small small things that keep troubling little little children. So, I didn’t want to make a big issue of it and decided to go myself along with two of my co-brothers-in-laws. As per me, the train ticket cost very less, but the hotels, my God. Different different things to eat, but we had to spend lots of rupees .Also, I picked up a book called Indlish, at the railway station book shop

‘Indlish’ is a collection of articles written by Jyoti Sanyal, Dean at Asian College of Journalism, Bangalore and first published in the language column of “Imprint”, the Sunday supplement of The Statesman. The author explains how ‘the obscure, verbose, muddled and preachy style of Indian English is partly a legacy of the Raj and the East Indian Company and partly from authors applying the structures of Indian languages to English. This heightens the contrast between the English written in India and what is used in the West, where they favour the active voice, use Latinese words sparingly and shun the noun-heavy style so common among English-language journalists in the country.’

‘Press associations in the USA have laid down a readability table. Their surveys show readers find sentences of 8 words or less very easy to read; 11 words, easy; 14 words, very easy; 17 words ,standard; 21 words fairly difficult and 25 words or more incomprehensible. The linguist, Rudolph Flesch drew up an elaborate test to assess ‘reading ease’ and ‘human interest’ taking into account both sentence and word length :

Take a sample of your writing.
Count the number of sentences.
Count all words with three or more syllables excluding personal pronouns.
Divide the number of long words by the number and sentences, to get the Fog factor
Clear writing has a fog factor of between 2 and 3
Below 2 may be childishly simple
Above 3 may be rather Foggy.’

( Or you can let this program do it for you)

Now, I am knowing why my two daughters, the elder and the younger respectively, call me an old Foggy. I must do something about it from today only.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lateral Marketing

In his book, “Lateral Marketing", the marketing guru Dr.Philip Kotler draws some lessons from the ideas of Edward De Bono, he of the Six-Thinking-Hats and Six-Action-Shoes fame. According to Kotler the marketing techniques pioneered in the 1960s and '70s have worked well so far, but have outlasted their utility. Fierce competition among products with little or nothing to distinguish one from another has led to increasing market segmentation. If the trend continues, individual market segments will cease to be profitable. He urges companies to look beyond narrow, vertical segmentation and generate fresh marketing ideas and opportunities

Take breakfast cereals. The whole world thought that these cereals had to be sold in granular or flakey form for people to consume at the breakfast table, until one day some wise guy decided to sell cereal bars that could be eaten in the car on the way to office, saving precious time. This is an example of innovative thinking, says Kotler, munching his Nature Valley granola bars.

Take this desktop computer. Most of the time it is idle. Why can’t it double up as a microwave oven when I am not blogging?

Or the microwave oven itself. Why can’t we have a reversing switch that inverts the microwaves, so that we can instantaneously cool or freeze an item, instead of waiting for hours for the refrigerator to do it?

Better still, can’t Tupperware introduce plastic vessels which have built-in microwave micro-generators, so that we can heat food wherever we want to? If we can have thermal underwear, surely they can come out with thermal Tupperware?

The refrigerator. Just standing there all day long making that funny low sound. Can’t it have some tools attached to cut the vegetables, peel the fruits and grate the cheese inside? Can’t it make some effort to improve its productivity and serve its master better?

And, all you bloggers out there. Why don’t you think of ways to rehash your blogs and re-post them? Which is what Kotler and De Bono have been doing laterally the last thirty years- coming out with thirty different books with thirty different titles, but bearing the same idea? And laughing all the way to the bank.

Sick Miss Universe

The story that Miss Universe 2006, Zuleyka Rivera, fell sick yesterday when visiting the slums in New Delhi brought tears to my eyes today.

Why do the organizers inflict this untold hardship and needless suffering on such delicate darlings brought up in sterile and germ-free environment? Do they seriously believe that the negative publicity that these beauty pageants draw can be neutralized or counter-balanced with such slum-hopping gimmick?

Just because the finalists, when asked by the judges who they would like to be born as in their afterlife, invariably reply, “ Mother Teresa”, must these beauties be taken at face value and beatified as Blessed Teresa? Or made to act like Saints, till they faint? How sad and cruel.

Besides, doesn’t it make better sense to fly down six of the downtrodden to these beauty contests, all expenses paid, so that they too can aspire to a higher lifestyle? Rather than asking the Miss Universes and Miss Worlds to descend from their pedestals and wade their way through slush and mud?

I mean to say, would you have Aishwarya Rai visiting you in your humble, middle-class home with a battalion of people ( and your hawk-eyed wife watching your every move) or would you rather be flown, first-class, to an island in the South Pacific to meet up with her alone?

Why can’t these organizers check with me first before they fix the itinerary?

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.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deep thoughts......

Ancient philosophers used to ponder the question, “Let’s assume that you buy a new knife. Six months later you change the wooden handle alone, retaining the same blade. One year later you change the blade alone, retaining the wooden handle that you changed six months back. Are you now holding the same knife that you bought a year back or a different one?”

Or look at this question. Flight IC 945 takes off on Monday, with a set of crew members operating a certain aircraft and with a bunch of passengers. On Tuesday, Flight IC 945 takes off with a different crew operating a different aircraft and with a completely different bunch of passengers. How can both flights be IC 945, just because they are operating on the same route? Nothing else is the same.

None of you know anything about me, except that my name is Raj. I am just a virtual entity as far as you are concerned. Suppose tomorrow, someone starts a blog on another URL, calls it Plus Ultra and signs his name as Raj, will you know the difference? Worse, suppose someone steals my password, uses my URL and posts blogs in the name of Raj, will it matter at all to you?

Or I use the same URL and same blog name Plus Ultra, but start posting in the name of Zabernosky, would you care? Will the virtual entities Raj and Zabernosky mean the same to you, as the content and style will be the same? Will the images of both these characters be the same in your mind? Or Raj will be clean-shaven and Zabernosky will have a long beard?

Profound questions. Profound questions. Must think.