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?