Friday, December 9, 2011

How to be an Ass at the Airport

1. Park for 30 minutes or more at the “10 seconds alighting – tow away” zone and hold up traffic and pedestrians alike while your 56 pieces of baggage are strewn across the road and walkway.

2. Bump everybody out of the way with your luggage-laden trolley and run over anybody who dares get in your way. A fractured foot or two is no big deal. I mean, if people are flying, why do they need feet?

3. Break your way into the queue at the check-in counter. Of course, you are more important than everybody else and don’t they know who you are?

4. If you really must stand in queue after the vicious protests of those around you, time to open your sandwich which smells like carrion.

5. Press up against the person in front of you – she is bound to appreciate mayo in her hair and the scent of onions on your breath.

6. Argue with the airline personnel about how their weighing scales are wrong. 40kg? What rubbish! Mummy’s IMPORTED kitchen scale only showed 21kg. Check again. Again. Again. Again. IMPORTED scales are never wrong. Again. Again.

7. Continue arguing with the check-in counter staff. God forbid that you leave the spot any time before the wailing infant behind you is ready to graduate from college. Of course, that grand piano is cabin size and qualifies as carry-on baggage. And the pedestal fan? That’s needed for health reasons – you’re asthmatic.

8. Proceed to the security check after telling everybody in no uncertain terms where they can stick it, who your daddy is, how they have no legal daddies, what size and quality of fecal matter they are etc.

9. Repeat Point 3 at the queue at the security check point.

10. Argue loudly with the security personnel over why you must not remove your waist pouch and send it through the screening machine. Everyone must know that you are just back from South Africa and you’re carrying DOLLARS! And GOLD! You’re not one of the bums standing in line who must send their tiddlywinks and Monopoly notes through the scanner.

11. Go in for the security pat-down. Refuse to acknowledge that the bulge in your jeans is really a mobile phone which must be sent through the scanner. Shriek that you, alpha male, feel violated and how the press will be told the gory details of that violation.

12. At the coffee shop, jostle everybody out of the way to get your “braid omlet” and spill your “express-o” on the female thing still wiping mayo out of her hair.

13. In the waiting lounge, place your baggage on the only vacant seat. Your Pustak Mahal plastic bag must be comfortable and takes precedence over the gasping old lady with the oxygen tank.

14. Point and holler at every plane you see taking off and landing. “Plane! Plane!” That’s a rarity in an airport, right - what with all the flying giraffes and Santa sleighs we see on any normal day.

15. Disregard the details of your boarding call. Only seats 1-14 in group one? That’s all right. It is important that you, seat 26, get on that plane first. Don’t they know who you are? Nonsense.

Stay tuned for: How to be a Pest on a Plane.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Trouble With Being Social

“I was very tolerant of the idea of being behind the times, having had long opportunities of studying the perfectly ghastly people who were abreast of the times; or the still more pestilent people who were in advance of the times.” – G.K. Chesterton

Social networking has never really been my thing and probably, never will be. And yet, I seem to insist on keeping my Facebook profile, even though I rarely log in there. It has something to do with my fear of being left behind as the whole world moves on to new and exciting developments, leaving the days of email far behind.

Confucius say “Man who speaks with forked tongue should not kiss balloons.”

So, when Orkut made its debut years ago, I was in the thick of things. Primped my profile, “scrapped” friends frequently and set up a group that proclaimed “Ooty Schools Rock!” Then, as is the case with most social networking sites, things turned unpleasant. After being bombarded with “scraps” from every weirdo on the planet, I retaliated. I created a profile with a fake tongue twister of a name and the picture of an ugly pink heart-holding teddy bear and went after my tormentors, matching them bad grammar for bad grammar and everything. This profile was something of a shared asset – BC, Krazy Frog, Merry and I made good use of it, posing as a broken English-speaking bunny boiler whenever needed. The scary part, however, was that our psycho virtual creation garnered quite the fan following of her own.

I sighed with relief as Orkut finally introduced some semblance of privacy settings. However, the novelty of social networking had begun to wear off.

Confucius say “The inventor of shag carpet make big pile.”

As I slowly withdrew from the Orkuttian world of scraps, fans and testimonials, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I had my answer when a random dodo I mistook for a waiter at a club in Pune found me on Orkut and crapped…err… I mean left me a host of “scraps”. I was more embarrassed that such poor English had found its way onto my profile than anything else. He even lacked the poetic charm that the moon-eyed “Kay Pee”, who wrote an ode to my “pillow cover lips”, exuded. Cursing the lousy privacy that Orkut offered, I deleted my profile and settled into a happy existence without the bane of social networking.

Then came Facebook. I steadfastly refused to sign up and rebuffed everybody’s attempts to “friend me”. I spat at the terms “friending” and “unfriending”. However, after months of mounting pressure, I succumbed. I soon realized why Facebook was the rage it was. The all-proclaiming Wall and, of course, lousy privacy settings – the trademark of any successful social networking site apparently.

Facebook was and continues to be the answer to every social voyeur. It effectively satisfies two basic human needs: The need to tom-tom every aspect of one’s life to all and sundry and the need to snoop on other people. Facebook is manna for every hungry gossipmonger. Besides, you can get anyone to “like” anything on Facebook. I once put that up as a status message – “You can get anyone to like anything on Facebook”. Twenty-four people “liked” it. Facebook fuels this very comforting feeling of immense popularity. The more number of "likes", the more fabulous the happy ending to a luxurious ego massage.

Confucius say “Man who stick foot in mouth get athlete's tongue.”

I did try to be “sociable” on FB once. Someone prone to posting “philosophical” status updates once put up something about the sun, moon, universe and all things planetary. Predictably, a host of people “liked” it and it sparked a number of “deep and philosophical” comments.

Now “deep and philosophical” and all things intellectual is not me. Not by a long shot. I am… well, I am just blah. However, on this particular occasion, I decided to be social and added my two blabs’ worth to keep up with the Joneses. Now who deeper and more philosophical than Confucius? “Man who eat too many prune sit on potty many moon”, I commented.

A day later, I found I had been banned from this particular err… friend’s wall. I was hurt. Such disrespect to Confucius. However, not all was lost. One person “liked” my comment. Ha.

Confucius say “Wise man never play leapfrog with unicorn.”

Anyone snooping around my FB profile now will leave sorely disappointed. For besides a mug shot that has been run through the “Fat Booth” application and some scorching disclaimer about my innate nastiness in the “About” section, there is really nothing to write home about - unless the snoop is particularly interested in my newfound affinity for social gaming. Yes, yes. I now tend to virtual gardens and beg people to send me spackles, tool belts and paint cans or else I will die. I haven’t the patience for anything else. I don’t even recall the last time I opened my FB messages. I find it easier to check all and clear.

I’ll stick with more personalized one-on-one interactions – email or chat or even the occasional good old-fashioned postcard. I’m with Chesterton on this one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Phoenix Rising

*Disclaimer: Not suitable for those squeamish about male body parts - wooden, wax or otherwise.*


Phranang Island, off the coast of Krabi, Thailand, has some interesting folklore associated with it. During my recent trip there, I was fortunate to have a friendly lady boy named Michele, who took it upon herself to explain it all to us in great detail. As I loitered around near a tiny shrine planted inside a cave on the island, Michele launched into the story with much aplomb. Since religion isn’t really something that floats my boat, I didn’t pay too much attention initially. My wandering eyes came to rest on the hundreds of wooden sticks scattered around the cave. They looked strangely phallic in nature.

I chided myself. “Behave, pervy woman. This is supposed to be a place of worship. Those are stakes of some kind. Nothing more.”

My attention wandered back to what Michele was saying. I apologise for this somewhat abridged version of the story. As I said earlier, I was not paying too much attention initially.

Princess Phranang, the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth, fell in love with a sea monster, who took on a human form. On her wedding day, the old man who had granted her parents’ wish to have a child heard about the imminent wedding and came to stop it. He took the help of a warrior monk, who battled with the sea monster and killed him. A sorrowful Phranang vanished into the cave. The rocks closed behind her and she was never seen again. However, she now grants the wishes of people who come and pray to her.

Michele continued, “So if you want happy for you, or for your lover, you make wish here. Local people, they come make wish. They give a wood in shape of a phoenix….”

“Phoenix?” said several of us, eyebrows raised. “Those sticks don’t look like a phoen—“

“Oh!”, we said collectively. Realisation had dawned. I had been right all along. In fact, this “offering”, some feet away from where we stood, removed any lingering doubts.

“So make a wish to Princess Phranang. If you want happy for you or happy for your lover”, Michele instructed, and went on to tell us about Phranang’s many “success stories”.

“No harm in making a wish, eh?” said KO and we solemnly bowed our heads in front of the shrine.

Present Day

Basically Blah’s Open Letter to Princess Phranang

Heya Princess P,

I hope you remember me from my recent visit there. I was the little thing in bright red playing “retriever” – repeatedly fetching her companion’s flipflops from the sea. I was also the only one taking pictures of the giant wooden thang on the beach while everybody else photographed the beautiful jade green ocean. I’m the one who sprinted ahead of everyone else declaring, “I do not want to kiss the boatman”. I will explain later.

Anyway, I have a complaint. There appears to be something of a mismatch between what I wished for and what you (I assume) delivered.

For instance, I believe I asked for “tall, dark and unconventionally handsome.” I am not sure whether it was the sound of the crashing waves or the fact that you’re behind solid rock, but you seem to have heard wrong. I most certainly did not ask for “small, daft and convinced he’s awesome.”

I know I whined about how the men I’ve dated are never based in the same place as yours truly. But does that mean you unleash a whole hoard of the male species from my current home turf upon me? I’ll take quality over quantity any day, please.

I also think you may have mixed up my request with Michele’s prayer for a “happy lover”. How else does one explain my being asked out by gay men?

Speaking of gay, the KO I’ve known has been anything but. Would you, by any chance, have something to do with her scaring the living daylights out of me when she said, “If you beat me at Words With Friends, you can take me on a date”? (Words With Friends is freakishly addictive, by the way. If you’re on Facebook or Android, play! It sure beats spending your days looking at a rock face, moping about someone who became sushi.)

Also, I am positive KO wished for hundreds of rock-hard buns. I certainly did not ask for men seeking a mother for their future hundred sons.

I may have said he ought to know, among other things, his “halters and ladles” – meaning awareness of women’s clothing and culinary/cutlery knowledge. I definitely did not ask for men who constantly throw the prospect of altars and cradles at me.

Finally, I’m not sure whether this lousy customer service stems from my inability to give you a phallic-shaped wooden stick at that time. Would you still accept a mini one fashioned out of candle wax by a slightly inebriated BC? If it would help my case, I can also throw in these glow-in-the-dark “phoenix” earrings – a lantern for your cavern.

Why do I have these in my possession? Same reason I have the “phoenix”-shaped ice tray.

Hoping for a change in fortunes.

Yours truly,
Basically Blah.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tidbits from Thailand

Seat For Monk

Where there is KO, there is entertainment. That is guaranteed. This time around, she almost outclassed herself.

And so we found ourselves seated at the Krabi airport in Thailand, waiting for a flight back to Bangkok. This would be the last leg of our trip to Thailand.

I sat quiet and glum. The thought of leaving the beautiful beaches of Krabi and the laidback atmosphere of the little town and its friendly folks playing on my mind. I had exactly 48 hours left in Thailand. 48 hours before I returned home, to the normal humdrum of everyday life.

An announcement played out. In Thai. KO and I rose from our seats assuming it must be the boarding call for our flight. We began heading for a queue that was forming at the departure gate when we realized it wasn’t our flight.

KO decided to cover our faux pas quickly and dived into a row of vacant seats nearby, hoping nobody had noticed our enthusiasm for what was obviously not the correct plane.

I stood around for a while before making my way to where KO sat. She happily patted the seat beside her, gesturing for me to sit there. What followed was this:

- Me: (Glancing above KO’s head) “KO, look!”
- KO: “What?” (Glances up at the wall on her right)

- KO: (Gasp of horror as she reads the sign above)
- Me: (Guffaw of delight)

What can I say? It was literally a “sign”. Kob khun ka!

Just Smile and Wave

Language was our biggest obstacle in Thailand. Still, we managed. Even if it meant hopping into 11 different modes of transport to make our way to see a rotting bridge. Even if it meant gesturing wildly and making “paarping” sounds to signal “van” or smiling sheepishly as a kindly lady conductor told us in no uncertain terms – in pure Thai – that we were blundering imbeciles who had overshot our stop a long while ago. I picked up a little Thai during my time there. I suppose knowing "thank you" and "the next station is...." in Thai may come in handy some time.

Sign language held us in good stead most times. Except in what was possibly a dire life and death situation. A girl waved to me from the sea. I smiled back. KO followed suit. (She imagines I even waved back. The blazing sun really did her in, poor thing).

Only a good while later we realized the truth. The girl’s partner was floundering in the water. She was struggling to drag him back to the boat. Her “vigorous wave” was a distress signal. Her “cheery smile” was, in reality, a grimace as she struggled with his dead weight.

In a word?


The Paddle Puzzle

“Get in, bum first” said our kayaking guide. So we did. Yours truly at the helm and KO behind me. Mangrove kayaking at Ao Thalane, Krabi. We had looked forward to this for a long time.

We enthusiastically dipped our paddles in, trying to propel ourselves forward and at the same time turn the kayak around to head toward the mangroves.

Complete amateurs, absolute blunderbusses.

We went straight under the pier and remained stuck there until the guide extricated us.

The last thing we heard as we headed towards the silent green mangroves in placid waters interspersed with rocky coves was hoots of laughter from experienced kayakers on the bank.


Can We Throw Him To The Sharks?

American stud to Indian-born, UK-educated girlfriend: “You get them at the grocery store. You know what a grocery store is?”

Where is a big killer wave when you need one?

Read KO's accounts of our trip: Part 1 and Part 2.

How to Tell You Are At A Pretentious Overrated Restaurant

1. There are only rave reviews online. Nobody, save some bitter soul who lost his reservation after showing up “only one hour late”, has anything even average to say about the place.

2. The waiters call the wet tissues presented at the beginning of the meal the restaurant’s “signature touch”.

3. The people seated next to you are creating a commotion over a game of tug-of-war with a roomali roti.

4. The restaurant claims to have authentic Punjabi chefs while the “live kitchen” appears to have been invaded by the Chinese.

5. You have to rescue your cousin who has been wedged between an effusive waiter greeting patrons at the neighbouring table and the back of a chair.

6. The beaming waiter asks you to select any appetizers and drinks on the menu and the conversation goes:
- “What would you like to have? Please order anything at all.”
- “What would you recommend in prawn?”
- “Sorry, we’re all out of prawn.”
- “All right, so get us some beer to start with.”
- “Which beer, sir?”
- “Tuborg?”
- “Sorry, no Tuborg.”
- “Kingfisher?”
- “Sorry, no Kingfisher.” (In the city that is home to Uncle Mallya’s brewery)

7. You settle for a tall glass of Heineken which is promptly garnished with a handful of onions and radish by a clumsy waiter.

8. The restaurant does not have regular tandoori chicken. The waiter recommends a pindi whatchamacallit chicken which is a good example of how a chef can effortlessly reduce a chipper succulent bird to tasteless brown goop.

9. Your cousin is dejectedly pronging bits of fish kebab in his plate after the following exchange:
- “Sir, would you like the fish? Or would you like the fish?”
- “Erm… Lemme think. Shoot, I can’t decide. Oh, well, I think I’ll try the fish.”
- “Sorry, sir, we’re out of fish. I just dropped the fish at your feet.”
- “Ok, then I’ll have the fish.”
- “Very good, sir.”

10. Everyone is clawing their way toward the only tasty thing at dinner – the surprise birthday cake with a single candle.

11. The highlights of the evening are your hungry uncle mistaking the wet tissues for complimentary snacks and your cousin gurgling with happiness because someone spelled her name right on the cake – even if it meant having to squish a little icing on the cake hurriedly to convert a “G” to a “C”.

12. Everyone agrees that the best thing on the menu was the logo.

Bottomline: Jiggs Kalra needs an alternate career. I am done with pretentious restaurants. Give me some real food, please. Preferably on a plate, thank you very much.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Sense of Humerus

Hospitals have a strange, twisted sense of humour. I was reminded of this (yet again). It appears to be the Year of Hospitals for my family. After my dad’s tryst with the medical fraternity, it is now my mum’s turn.

My mum has always been quite adventurous. When Scion and I were kids, she’d spend a good amount of time with us climbing peach trees, catching tadpoles from the pond, touching touch-me-nots, collecting ants for my ant stations and whatnot. Age has done nothing to slow her down.

So, she claims she was “walking down a steep path”. I suspect she was playing hopscotch. Whatever the truth may be, she is now in a cast, nursing a fractured ankle. (Note: I would normally say fractured “fibula”, but NG got the old knickers in a bunch when I once said someone fractured an “ulna” – apparently, “normal people” use the word “arm” when referring to such things.)

Since medical facilities are quite pathetic in the boonies we call home – where eight large whiskeys are called anesthesia, brandy is a cure for rheumatism (also erectile dysfunction, incontinence etc) and three large rums give the power of x-ray vision – Mum is now literally putting her foot up in the city.

Mum, or Dr Quack, decided that she had completely healed in three weeks. To ascertain this belief (and put our arguments to rest), we walked into a hospital to consult a real orthopaedic doctor. “Go straight and take a left” they told us at the front desk.

Here’s how they really should have given directions:

“Walk straight down the corridor. Then you have a choice. You can either hobble down a flight of stairs that has a railing for support on one side only or you can slippery slide down the steep wheelchair ramp. If you happen to be in a wheelchair, you can burn rubber down the ramp before either crashing headlong into a water cooler, a plastic basin and some chairs strategically placed right at the end of the ramp.

If you choose to veer off the ramp before you reach the end, you have no choice but to tumble off the side and free fall for about three feet. In the process, you could damage your femur, tibia, fibula and/or your humerus, scapula, radius, ulna and others. But hey! No worries, you can crawl right into the doc’s room on your bruised patellas and phalanges!”

As if this wasn’t enough, there was a swinging gate that divided the outpatient and inpatient areas outside the doc’s office. When opened wide, the gate would rebound so quickly, I noticed more than one unsuspecting person being winded with a swift whack to the solar plexus or stumbling forward with a sure shot to the gluteus maximus.

The technician in the x-ray room only made life more interesting. He patted a table that was about five feet above the ground and told my one-legged mother to “climb up”. He's lucky she had only the one working leg. It saved him a quick kick in his special place. I forgave him though. Constant exposure to those x-rays must have had some adverse impact on the few grey cells bumming around in his cranium.

In fact, I forgave them all. In fact, I have a new found respect for them. After all, we are all born ignorant. It takes hard work to remain stupid.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How To Be A Moron At The Movies

1. Cut the queue at the ticket counter. (Silly queue-following people have nothing better to do for fun but stand and stare at the back of peoples’ heads, apparently.)

2. Enter the theatre late. Grope your fellow moviegoers inappropriately to help you find your seat in the darkened hall.

3. Stomp on feet while you sidle your way through the row of seats, lose your balance and hang your ample behind precariously over the lap of someone already seated. (This creates quite the dilemma in their minds - do I just yell in alarm or grab on, shove and hope for the best?)

4. Blab loudly with your companion about something totally unrelated to the movie (because everyone paid good money to come to the theatre to listen to your wildly exciting description of your balcony in Delhi.)

5. Keep your cellphone ringer on and entertain more calls than a 24/7 call centre handles in a year.

6. Begin a slanging match with anyone who dares to shush you. (Everyone needs to hear what an expansive arsenal of expletives you possess.)

7. Take your own sweet time ordering enough food for a small African nation at the snack counter. Then create a scene because you haven’t the money to pay for it and insist that the staff try several credit, debit and other bits of plastic to cover the bill.

8. Mourn loudly to your companion that the popcorn “back home in the States” is so much better than here - they don’t scrounge on the butter etc. (Your American Eagle Outfitter t-shirt will convince everyone you are the real deal even though your Paragon rubber chappals might raise some doubt.)

9. Start a popcorn fight with your companions. Make sure you drench everybody, including complete strangers, with your aerated cola.

10. Once your store of popcorn ammo is exhausted, poke around for more everywhere you can think of, including under the bottom of your neighbour. (What better excuse to cop a good feel, eh?)

11. Bring in a whole brood of babbling, whining children who do not comprehend the language in the first place. (Nothing aggravates fellow moviegoers more than having a 90-minute film translated word-for-word into some vernacular dialect.)

12. Ensure that the aforementioned children carry with them one or more of the following items which can be liberally applied onto fellow moviegoers: Bubble-blowing solution, sticky chewing gum retained on grubby fingers, snot-laden tissue etc.

13. If the film goes off due to a technical glitch, remain seated and do nothing yourself, but ensure that you keep yelling, “Hey, somebody tell them! Somebody do something. Why is everybody just sitting?”

14. If you choose to do something about it yourself, stand up, turn toward the projection room and clap your hands – because the equipment is probably clap-activated, right?

15. Place your cup of gooey chocolate mousse on the next seat just as your neighbour is seating himself/herself down.

16. Apologise profusely and offer the now squashed remains of the mousse to placate your highly upset neighbour.

17. Remove your shoes and rest your toe-jammy feet on the seat in front of you.

18. Squat down in the middle of the exit stairwell, placing your precious helmet next to you, mindless of the stream of people almost tripping over you. If the movie did not have enough action, someone tumbling down the stairs in real life should satisfy everybody’s bloodlust.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Relatively Speaking

If there were de-addiction centres for blogging, I’d quite possibly be one of the first ones to be presented there, kicking and screaming my protest in a straitjacket.

I realise that my obsession with blogging has reached unhealthy levels. I am constantly on the lookout for interesting subjects (and by that I also mean annoying, stupid or just regular amusement on two legs) to blog about.

When my sibling Scion kicked his leg through the seat of a dining chair in a bizarre accident while reaching for rose cookies, giving himself a nasty bruise on the chest, my immediate reaction should ideally have been a concerned, “Oh, my God! Are you all right?” Right?

No. Instead, yours truly looks at him quizzically, wondering at the mass of arms and legs entangled in what was once a perfectly intact dining chair. Then, as he hopped over to a sofa to nurse a wounded knee, to my horror, I felt the stirrings of an awful giggle fit.

Because in my head, all that I could think of was, “With bruises like that, people would think the hero had been out rock climbing or rappelling. Instead he earned those black and blue hues reaching for rose cookies. I wonder how I can incorporate this on my blog?”

With that, the damage was done. I burst out laughing. Luckily, my family has more funny bones than an elephant graveyard and pretty soon, Scion was chuckling away while still groaning with pain.

A few weekends ago, I had a couple of social functions to attend. A cousin’s engagement and a friend’s wedding reception. While I quite looked forward to the latter, I was in two minds about the former. Family obligation and all that jazz is not a reason that sits well with me since I do not feel guilty remorse at skipping one of those. I only view events in terms of “boring” or “not-so-boring”.

And then I looked at my blog. Uh-oh. If I did not act quickly, A Touch of Tabasco would soon belong to the World Wide Cob Web.

A community gathering, eh? Perfect. With some luck, I could find some material there to blog about. And so, with a much willing heart, I went - ears flapping and eyes peeled. I did pick up a few perils of wisdom such as how one must always place potted palms on a veranda as they prevent old people from falling. Don’t you just love illogical data of that sort? It gives me something to try and attach logic to while in the company of coma-inducing individuals later.

I found myself having a surprisingly enjoyable misandrist-oriented conversation with a very well-spoken, witty old lady with an in-your-face attitude. She did not have anything to say about the strategic use of potted palms, but she did have a lot of rather amusing observations, collated over several years, about the males of my tribe and their general attitude toward us alien non-resident types.

However, one cannot spend an entire evening in the company of an octogenarian, maverick or not. I soon found myself surveying the room again with an uninterested eye, slightly disheartened that I had no material for a new blog post after all.

Blame it on the heavy rain that evening. But suddenly, a bunch of cousins came crawling out of the woodwork. Now, I have this thing about cousins. I always thought that Cousin Binky, her brother Cousin I-don’t-think-horror-movies-have-enough-bloodshed A, Cousin I-am-also-your-uncle-because-of-rampant-in-breeding-bordering-on-incest Whisky and Little Miss Britain were the only cousins I could relate to. We are all social outcasts of sorts - what with our tendency to converse in English all the time and such.

Most others, (and I say “most” because there could be exceptions who do not spring to mind at the moment), are just too old or too young or too... well... different. I am barely past the initial polite conversation about coffee, hockey, rainfall and work before they mentally stick a skewer through me and roast a misfit-cousin-on-the-spit while chanting in a tongue I do not comprehend.

So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to stumble upon second cousins who were well, in the same generation, and more importantly, quite “PLU or people like us” as Bin somewhat snobbishly puts it. A bunch of previously undiscovered cool cousins? I think my luck’s finally beginning to turn.

I came looking for blog-worthy snippets and I stumbled on flesh-and-blood smarty-pants company. It also means I can finally ditch the octogenarians. And that’s not such a bad thing even for a snooping material-hungry blogoholic.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Of Hallucinations and Hospitals

My apologies to my regular readers, the nosy busybodies, the stalkers, the Belgian and the visitor from Ouagadougou seeking “tabasco cupcakes”.

Amidst the decision to switch jobs and a health scare courtesy my father, I had little time, inclination or inspiration to blog. However, as everything seems to be settling down now and general good humour appears to have returned, here goes.

This piece is yet another about my family since every other crazy I know has taken refuge from the sweltering summer sun (or incontinent rain cloud if in Bangalore).

Dad often considers himself a poster child for Murphy’s Law – and rightly so. How else would you explain how a simple hernia surgery could land one in the ICU?

Dad caused the family and his surgeon – who is now undoubtedly questioning his career choice – some anxious moments when, while coming out of a simple hernia procedure, he suffered what they call a “cardiac event”. “Event”? These medical types are nuts. How is something like this an “event”? They might as well call it a “spectacle” and sell audience tickets and dole out refreshments. George Bush Jr. goof-ups, Halley’s comet, la Tomatina, Aerosmith live in concert, the WillKat wedding – those are “events”!

Anyhow, long story short, the hospital kept him under anesthesia for a further 48 hours while monitoring him in the ICU with all the requisite life-support systems in place. While things seemed like they could go either way for a while, Dad pulled through and came out all puns blazing. While his old ventricles took a beating, Dad’s sense of humour or more aptly, his ability to cause much mirth and amusement around him appeared stellar.

As Dad came out of his 48-hour induced nap, he gestured frantically at my sibling Scion. Still attached to the ventilator along with other tubes, it was impossible to speak. Thus began a game of dumb charades.

Dad gestured and signaled while Scion – who is not exactly the best person to have on a charades team – kept guessing. “You have digital power!” he declared. No, signaled Dad. “You feel like you have swallowed power!” Scion ventured again. No! “You feel empowered? You feel powerful? You feel invincible? You feel like Superman? You ARE the MRF Man!” No!

Finally, Scion deciphered “I swallowed a digital thermometer”. That’s right. That is exactly what Dad was trying to say. Serious.

Dad kept pointing to a spot in his stomach saying the errant digital thermometer had parked itself there. He was only convinced otherwise once the tubes were removed and the hallucinogenic effect of the various drugs administered wore off.

While I made a mental note of the episode as well as Scion’s useless guesses, it struck me. This sort of thing runs in the family. Years ago, while I recovered from an emergency appendectomy, I was convinced that the surgeon had left a pair of scissors inside. Then I decided he’d left two wads of cotton. Once I reasoned that wasn’t the case, I suspected he had robbed me of a kidney. After a recent ultrasound where my gall bladder apparently turned invisible, I am now convinced they nicked that too. I haven’t got the gall, quite literally.

So anyway, after a turbulent few weeks, things appear to be settling down. Dad says those 48 hours were like an acid trip. From being carried off in an auto rickshaw to an Indian Oil petrol bunk baring his behind in a hospital gown, being subjected to medical experiments to sitting on a bench with some old men, he had the strangest of dreams. Even the despicable Ducky put in an appearance. Dad, in his dreams, saw the fellow pottering around the ICU looking for something called “an umbilical cap” for his “wife’s hernia”, which he later triumphantly declared he found at the Meerut cantonment area.

Dad’s only regret? He couldn’t reach out far enough to hurl a bedpan at the moron.

As for the rest of us, we’re now consciously watching what we eat, steering clear of Robin Cook books and keeping a keen eye on the whereabouts of that digital thermometer at all times. And of course, we’re laughing again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self

Dear Six-Year-Old Basically Blah,

Look what I found! Your first “published” article.

Remember how proud you were because it was the first article in the school magazine that year? I suspect this was one of the worst editorial decisions ever made in the history of editorial decision making. It would be safe to assume that this caused a considerable decline in the number of student applications made to the school the following year.

You ought to be ashamed putting something like this up for the world to see. Here are a bunch of reasons why:

Firstly, which kid in their right senses keeps tadpoles? Were two goldfish in a bowl not fascinating enough for you?

More importantly, where did you get these peculiar mutant tadpoles? They appear bigger than the dogs and even the cows. If indeed those odd hunched creatures with the unicorn horns are cows. What is your standard excuse - “The tadpole ate my homework” or "The dog that ate my homework was eaten by my tadpole"?

The big cow appears to be a paedophilic pervert. I will not go into the details.

Are all your dogs two-legged? And I use the term “dogs” loosely, since it appears the third such creature is actually a paramecium.

Your MOTHER keeps those tadpoles in a bowl? Really now. This is a bit of a stretch even for your family of oddballs. But congratulations on publishing that bit of fiction to all and sundry. I believe your mother resented attending PTA meetings for months afterward, having to deal with the shame of being called the ‘crazy tadpole lady’. You are quite the tale weaver. Would it be more truthful to say that your mother looks after your precious tadpoles when you go off for months together to boarding school?

Also, here’s a revelation: When those mutant tadpoles grow into little frogs and hop away, your sneaky mother replaces them with more before you come home so as to avoid your throwing a tantrum. You could never tell the difference, you pint-sized pinhead.

Here’s a little lesson about life while we’re on the subject of amphibians. Seeing as I am much older and somewhat wiser now. You are better off when frogs go away. You have far more trouble when frogs come hopping into your bowl…err…life. In addition to being slimy, they, most importantly, never turn into princes.

Well, don’t feel too badly about all this, 6-year-old BB. You will be glad to know that that precocious and loquacious little girl with the affinity for all little creatures of the animal kingdom still lives on in this woman who is now hurtling toward “old age” faster than your mother could replace those errant tadpoles.

Oh, and do keep writing! It makes your life far more interesting and eventful in more ways than even you can imagine. So brace for the years ahead, moppet.

(No kisses and hugs because I know you hate them.)

Present-Day Basically Blah.

P.S. Whatever you do, do not become friends with this KO person. She appears to be delusional and harbours suicidal inclinations, judging from her article in the same magazine:

Note to the school magazine editorial team:
I am totally baffled as to why you would choose such an article to begin your magazine. Was it because your other choice was this?

I suppose it stands to reason that this could cause some fears among parents about the safety of their kids, considering that their first grade teacher appears to be a molting, stilt-walking Sasquatch.

Read the exchange my discovery sparked off with KO here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Waiter, Wipe that Smile Off Your Face

How Do You Solve A Problem Like BC?

BC is possibly the most foul-mouthed person I know and takes offence - in a rather comical way - at the most absurd things. Her surliness over seemingly ordinary circumstances or people is what prompts me to claim that she harbours a dozen complexes (hence her pseudonym). A charge that she refutes with profanity that most certainly cannot be published here.

So the other day, KO called me to join her and her two German friends for dinner at this rather good Punjabi restaurant. BC said she would join us later. The four of us were guided to our table by a rather cheerful and friendly waiter named Alistair.

Now, I love cheery people. BC, for reasons best known to her, detests them. She even objects to the dozen smiley magnets on my fridge door. This would explain why she issues death threats if I so much as greet her in the morning. It is why our opinions of cheerful people differ so. While I completely “heart” them, she finds them “annoying”.

Anyhow, back to our waiter Alistair. The sincere fellow fussed around our table, ensuring we were comfortable and took our beverage orders. Then while we mulled over our food menus, he decided we must all be foreigners. As I listed each dish we wanted, he painstakingly described what it was, even going so far as to explain the meaning of “achaar”. Not wanting to offend him, I patiently heard him out and nodded understandingly as he completed each elaborate explanation.

I blamed his assumption on KO’s accent. KO blamed it on mine. The gospel truth is that only one of us has an actual “accent”. The other (me, me, me!) has what is universally called a “neutral accent” with an occasional inability to pronounce certain names. Capisce?

BC arrived a while after our food had been served. As she pulled a chair up to our table, Alistair appeared and beamed down at her. “You’re late!” he remarked as he helped her settle in. Now, here is where our perceptions differed. While the rest of us chuckled, BC was offended, thinking he had admonished her for her tardiness. “Oh, I wasn’t aware we had some kind of a set time”, she mumbled dryly.

Then Alistair “offended” her again. As she picked up her glass to drink, he asked, “Would you like a drink?” BC started, almost sloshing her drink onto me, before bemusedly pointing out that she already had a drink.

In an effort to make up for his faux pas, Alistair then served BC with some kebabs and added, "Madam, have some onions." The problem BC had with this? There were, in fact, no onions in the dish. She hissed, "But there are no onions in there!" He beamed down at her again and said, "No, do have some more onions." "This man has lost his onions," BC mumbled to me.

The last straw (to her - the rest of us were completely amused) came when he took it upon himself to explain to her what “gulaab jamuns” were. “Balls of dough fried in sugar sy--” he began before she cut him short. “I know what they are. I just don’t want those stuffed ones. You know, the ones with that c**p in it”, she said, gesturing wildly while the rest of us chuckled again.

As we left, seen off by the cheery Alistair, I remarked, “What a pleasant waiter. One of the nicest I’ve met.”

BC scowled at me. “Brilliant, go ahead and worship the man that crushes me with his venomous tongue”, she spat. “May his sugary dough balls turn to bitter ash."

And just like that, the cheery Alistair was a marked man.

Sigh. Did I mention complexes before?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Excuse me, Officer, but I’ve lost my sense of humour

Now, I don’t know whether the general quality of humour is on a rapid downslide or whether it is just me.

May be I’m getting too old and crotchety to appreciate a certain variety of jokes. Or maybe - and I am inclined to think that this is the probable reason - some so-called “jokes” are just not funny.

Man-slipped-on-banana-peel type humour has never really appealed to me. But I tolerate it. I tolerate the widespread glee it causes in those around me - those quite obviously not in my immediate friends circle, of course.

I know that the perception of “funny” differs from person to person. So much so that I placidly tolerated this cow who used me as a back rest, arm rest, head rest and what-have-you while she was convulsed with laughter over a theatrical performance that I thought was absolute hamming at best.

Of course, I have been in stitches myself over silly, childish things. The sight of BC tripping on the stairs and falling at the feet of an usher at the cinema or running down steps into a banyan tree turned me into an absolute wreck. My “bob sledding” on my knees down a flight of stairs, all the while taking care not to upset the pile of books I was carrying, resulted in tears of laughter and bruised knees for weeks after.

This morning I awoke to find a text message on my phone. It read: “Indian cricket team penalised by animal activists for hunting 11 kangaroos last week. Pledges to pay penalty by hunting 11 terrorists today” (the day of the Indo-Pak cricket world cup semis).

And you know what? It made me plain angry.

I tried to brush it off, ignore it, rationalise it and attribute it to PMS, the summer temperature or general irritability. But it continued to bother me. I then ran it past BC and Terror. They did not think it was funny either. We found it downright offensive.

I don’t really know the sender too well having had the good fortune of working with the bloke for just a few months. Nonetheless, I replied, telling him I thought his “joke” to be “in very bad taste”. It was the most polite rebuke I could think of, given my foul frame of mind.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned sporting rivalry? I am pro-Ferrari, pro-Real Madrid, pro-India, pro-Federer, pro-gender equality, pro-nudity, pro-meat, pro-butter, pro-matching-underwear. Does that make me anti-animal or anti-Pak or anti-men? NO. There is a distinct difference.

I am all for poking fun at people, as is evident by the snide barbs that pepper my blog. However, I am apt to think that there is a fine line between “funny” and “offensive”.

Inzamam-ul-Haq running after a cheeky spectator with a cricket bat - funny. Sreesanth’s pantomimes - annoying or strangely embarrassing. Pakistani cricketers being branded “terrorists” - offensive. Downright disgusting. Pathetic. Infuriating.

In our quest for funny, have we abandoned all sense of decency or civility? I’d like to hear the same ones laughing when they are at the receiving end of such crass humour. Crassness in the guise of “patriotism” is okay, apparently.

My mind wanders back to Ducky - you know, the one who got his camouflage knickers in a bunch over the perceived insults to his lineage, primarily his spinach-propagating aunts. While driving through Tamil Nadu to get to a holiday destination, we passed miles and miles of arid farmland, taking in the sight of scorched farmers toiling away under the unforgiving blistering sun.

Ducky remarked, “These Tamilians are such blackies, no? Ha ha ha!”

I am not sure what happened after that. I must have burst a blood vessel. But the next thing I knew, I had burst into tears. I heard myself, in a strangely strangled voice, hysterically howling about what a disgusting thing that was to say, calling him a *bleep bleep bleep* and more *bleeps*.

I was furious beyond belief and felt extremely hurt. Hurt because this was a terribly unkind remark about people of a state that I will always regard as home even if I am not originally from there. A state that gave me the best education one could ask for. An education that taught me tolerance and acceptance of anyone from anywhere. On the other hand, I was also irked by his scathing unfunny remarks about people from the north east - a region I owe no allegiance to. So there is the possibility that I might just be over-sensitive.

I only calmed down once I had cried myself out and was dizzy from the bawling, having convinced myself that I could expect no better from a chap who had been brought up to believe that light skin is beautiful. I had seen enough kitchen concoctions dumped on his face by the family after every beach holiday - the same family that lectured me on the harm I was causing my complexion by standing in the balcony at noon - to forgive him his absolute insensitivity.

So here’s the toughie. Just how do you explain the difference between class and crass, especially to morons with the intellect, wit, personality and charm of a mildewed boulder? Is offensiveness or borderline racism okay because it appeals to a possibly wider, obtuse and insensitive majority?

And if you don’t agree with my crabby rant here, blame it on PMS. Or the summer heat. Or the stench of boiling cabbage wafting from my neighbour’s kitchen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blundering Through the Punder Years

An old windbag, after waxing on about what a genius at embroidery her daughter was, once asked me what my talent was. I blinked, stuttered a bit, and then weakly said, “I like writing”. She snorted. “No, don’t you have any real talent?”

No. I don’t actually, coming to think of it.

I could sketch decently once. That is now limited to doodling during telecons or drawing boxes for KO. My singing attracts amorous camels. I’ve done one stint of Salsa fairly recently, but my dancing isn’t going to be impressing any rain gods any time soon.

I am not really musically challenged, seeing as I can tell an A Minor from a G-string, but I have never really taken to a musical instrument. Some people are born to play, and others are born to be played for. I can cook and bake in a non-Michelin-starred-chef kind of way. That’s more likely to add weight to a matrimonial resumé.

I can bring my feet up to my face. But I don’t think that qualifies as a talent. Anyway, it’s not as cool as Bunny’s ability to skip using his arms. He once asked me what I thought he could do with it; I suggested he do it at the traffic lights to make some money. May be I’m good at making nonsense suggestions. Does that qualify as a talent? I morph and create rude pictures of BC to be sent out on every festive occasion. That’s nonsense again.

The written word. It’s pretty much all I’ve really got. I think.

As I think back over the years, my attempts at writing have always gotten me into trouble. Well, trouble with the wrong sort, anyway – the sort without a sense of humour. The kind of people not really worth knowing or tolerating as far as I am concerned.

Writing and trouble – oh, yes, we go back a long way.

Reading just sort of goes hand-in-hand with writing. And so I learned of the birds and the bees slightly earlier than those around me. Consequently, at around the age of 7 or 8, I found myself being chased around the playground by an incensed Fightercock Lakshmi, who was yelling, “You said babies come from the bottom!” “Not bottom,” I shot back over my shoulder as I scooted ahead, “I said ******, stupid!” “You called me a stupid!”, she squealed still galloping behind me. “No, I said ‘stop it’, you idiot!” I shouted back as I tried to put more distance between us while avoiding an obstacle course some kindly diarrheic cow had laid out earlier that day.

Then there was that matter of that Garden of Eden depiction with my pal Mushroom a while later.

When I was all of 10 or 11, a handful of us were hauled up for penning fake letters to a classmate as a joke. Well, the rest were contributors while I did the actual penning. Unfortunately, the said victim did not have a sense of humour. She ratted us out to the Maths teacher, who took it upon herself to lecture us on immorality, the wages of sin being death, the “foolishness of virgins” and how she would like to “hung her head in shame” for our wicked deed. It’s a different matter that I might have wanted to “hung my head” at the grammar.

Nonetheless, she must have been fairly convincing. For she had me praying fervently to the Lord for forgiveness when I was beckoned to the principal’s office soon after. I was certain I would be expelled. As it turned out, it had nothing to do with those letters. Oo, KO’s sister who now traipses around Ireland with a butterfly net trying to catch leprechauns, had chosen that week to faint at the breakfast table. I was the sole witness when she flopped face-first into a bowl of icky wheat porridge. I can’t really blame her. You should have seen that cess-pool matter they called porridge. The principal, for reasons best known to her, simply wanted to know how long Oo had been comatose. She’d regained conscious right about the time I yanked her head out of the bowl. I left the office with a commendation for having saved Oo from drowning in porridge.

Anyhow, I digress. Again.

Cut to 2010. I was in trouble again. This time for penning a post that supposedly showed my community in a bad light and insulted Ducky’s “lineage” in front of “the whole world” (I love that they thought my readership was that huge). A post that most people chuckled at. Except the ones that lacked a sense of humour and figured the piece was all about them. I was given lectures on tradition, “respecting elders”, how no Brits would touch me with a barge pole (which would prove a tad ironic later), how I churned out no material of “journalistic excellence” (who’s going for a Pulitzer anyway?) and so forth. Plenty of drama that would put an Indian soap opera to shame later, the offending post stayed. The non-funny-boned, sons-of-our-soil, last-standing-bastions-of-tradition people did not. Nonetheless, when people are more hypocritical than they are critical, it’s easy to cut your so-called losses and blog on.

So, yes. You can take the blah out of my writing. But you cannot take writing out of Blah.

What absolute piffle. It sounded a tad better in my head. Then again, this is my blog. I can put whatever the hell I want in here.

That’s right. For the whole world to see.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gimme a Brake!

Musings at a Bangalore Traffic Signal

1. One spends roughly 35% of one’s life in Bangalore waiting at a traffic signal.

2. The signal turns red to green and back at least three times before it is finally your turn to cross over. Cyclists, pushcarts and pedestrians wait until you are crossing the intersection before attempting to kill themselves under your wheels.

3. Eunuchs badger women to divulge the brand of cosmetics or methods of makeup they use. Whatever happened to the good old clapping, demands for money, threats of nudity and blessings (debatable) of a 100 male children?

4. You develop symptoms of repetitive strain injury from shaking your head and flapping away enthusiastic offers to sell you non-motorised Segways, plastic apples with waving leaves, silver mobike minis that dance on their haunches and other such things that the sellers insist are absolutely vital to producing those 100 male heirs those vain eunuchs deprived you of.

5. An argument between two motorists always holds everybody up. The altercation invariably involves plenty of head shaking, finger pointing and spitting by those actually involved as well as plenty of general standing around, lectures on the use of local language while arguing and scratching of private parts by a larger number of uninvolved persons.

6. No expletive is more infuriating to the local populace than “nonsense” (pronounced "naansense" or "naanshense"). Fs and Bs are passé. The exchange usually goes:
- (Thoo, bleddy) Nonsense!
- What nonsense?! You nonsense!
- What nonsense?! You big nonsense?!
- You so big nonsense!
And so on.

7. While waiting for pedestrians to cross over, you spend your time crouching below the steering wheel anxiously asking your puzzled co-passenger, “Is he gone yet?” Bangalore is a city where the six-degrees-of-separation theory holds true and the would-be-glad-to-avoid-every-fifth-person theory holds even truer. The first row of traffic at a pedestrian crossing would appear, to the uninitiated, to have several driverless cars.

8. The traffic cop thinks a shake of the fist and casting aspersions upon a signal jumper's lineage is sufficient. He would rather save his energy for doing a poor Fred Astaire imitation in the middle of the road to try and stop suspected drunk drivers after 11.30pm.

9. Dark tints on one’s window are an open invitation to chronic nose pickers to pass their time at a traffic signal showing you - up, close and personal - what they do best.

10. Women on two-wheelers take utmost care to completely shield their faces from the sun, pollution and leering male creatures in other vehicles. The same care is, however (and, most times, unfortunately), not extended to their cheeky derrieres.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Bother of Birthdays

I have never been a birthday person. I don’t remember ever having looked forward to a birthday. It is not that turning a year older has really bothered me.

What does bother me about birthdays is the absolute fuss created over them. I balk at the attention. I have come to realise that there are birthday people and then there’s us who are rather unruffled by it all.

“Come to Delhi for our birthday, okay? We can have chocolate cake with gems!” said my wide-eyed niece, Piggy, excitedly. She and I share the same birthday. I looked at Piggy’s excited, cherubic face and mulled it over. I absolutely love her to bits. I do. She is the best birthday present ever. But I don’t quite fancy spending a birthday wading through a bunch of hyperactive, screaming four-year-olds to get to my chocolate cake with gems.

It is simply too unnerving considering the utter violence I was subjected to in my early days at the merciless hands of Terror#1 and his equally diabolical sibling. And I now have my hands full with BC and KO screaming, pinching, biting and clawing each other every time they disagree over what to order for dessert.

Birthdays are harrowing experiences for anyone who doesn’t much care for them. Of course, Bin does not share my sentiment. Bin adores birthdays. She is the type who begins planning her next birthday the moment she blows the candles off her current birthday cake with the pink icing and the silver bells.

One year, Bin called me up about a month before my birthday. “What plans for your birthday?” she squealed excitedly. “Nothing. May be just head out for a drink with the hobbler and the squabbler or something. I don’t care for birthdays anyway. Blah,” I replied tonelessly.

“What! How can you not like birthdays?! I feel like a princess on my birthday! It’s the ONLY day anyone ever pays any attention to me!”

“Err…”, I said in a valiant attempt to sound empathetic.

“But then you wouldn’t know anything about how that feels now, would you, Principessa?!” she shrieked back all distraught.

Oh, dear. I had just succeeded in irking the Keeper of Birthday Sanctity or something. Now every time Bin enquires about my birthday plans, I put up a cheery front, punch the air and add, “I am having the best birthday party ever, with balloons, frilly party frock and my awesome tiara. I am so excited!”

Then there’s BC, who decided we would celebrate by downing one shot of tequila for every year we’ve spent on earth. We quickly gave up on that idea. We realised that if we pressed on, we would probably spend an equal amount of time calling Jesus on the big porcelain telephone.

The stress of planning a birthday celebration is far too much for the likes of me. It must stem from planning those birthday parties back in boarding school. Oh, the tough decisions young infantile minds had to make. Coconut balls or elephant ears or scones or samosas? To invite the fightercock and the crybaby or not?

I haven’t come too far since then. Now it is all about deciding between vodka or gin or beer or a sickly sweet fruity cocktail. Or choosing between apt responses to keep the peace between friends who are gauging each other’s eyes out over the pronunciation of “Thomas”.

Yes, this birthday shall have to be a peacekeeping mission like any other day. Unless there's an offer of skydiving someplace or a nude wedding.

So, sorry, Piggy. Not this birthday. May be our next birthday - you'll be five and old enough to crack open your first can of beer and all that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Art of Giving Unsolicited Advice

1. One must be above the age of 30 to be eligible to impart so-called pearls of wisdom. If not 30, then one must be at least three years older than chosen advisee.

2. Always be on high alert for any opportunity to begin advising; even if met with mild protestations, suddenly vacant rooms, requests to use the restroom or feigned deafness. Keep in mind that not everybody actually wants advice; but everybody needs advice.

3. No conversation is above being interrupted for your pearls of wisdom. Pick up on snippets of a conversation and take off from there. Nobody dare argue that it is completely out of context. If they do, follow #4 - it unnerves them.

4. Remember, your stance is important. Clutch your left breast (or moob or whatever), tip your chin slightly upward and wax eloquent with your eyelids half closed, nodding emphatically every now and then for effect. Master #4 and the world is your advisee oyster.

5. Left-breast clutching must always be accompanied with the opening line, “As an older and wiser person, I will tell you…” Never shy away from stressing the fact that you are older and hence, automatically wiser.

6. Advisees are stupid people. Period. Never listen to their differing points of view, no matter how logically argued. As an older and, ergo, wiser person, you always know best. It doesn't matter that people may think otherwise. You know best!

7. Persistence pays. Unwilling advisees can be worn down if you keep repeating a line until they pipe down. Raise your voice if you need to. Shout “lalala” and shut your ears if you must. You will and must have your say.

8. Advisees must be treated like complete nincompoops. Smile patronisingly at all they have to say. Chuckle indulgently. It infuriates them, weakening their defences.

9. Everything and everybody is your business. Dispensing free, unsolicited advice has no bounds. There are no jurisdictional limitations on where you can advise people. At home, at the airport, in a public restroom, at the traffic signal, in a supermarket aisle.

10. Try and corner your advisee in a tiny space where escape is difficult. At the water cooler, the copier room with the single exit, the lift. Do not shy away from using an arm or a knee to pin them down. (There's no better listener than someone with a squashed windpipe).

Remember, everything you say IS “advice” because you say so. Sound all-knowing. It is not WHAT you say that matters, but HOW you say it.

Take it from an older and wiser person.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Siren Vs. Siren

Men and their priorities!

While everybody looked on in wonder when an ATM alarm began blaring for no apparent reason, a guy (note: with a girl on his arm) appeared oblivious to it all.

You can see where his attention lay. Blaring sirens be damned.

Based on a real-life incident.
Illustration: Cousin Binky
Concept & idea: KO and Basically Blah

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ur in trouble, missy

I always think twice now before I pen a post on a visit to the hospital for an ultrasound scan. After my last post on the subject, I was flooded with email, texts and messages on Facebook – 80% of which bore the words “Good news?!”

I have just two things to say to those "well-wishers":
1. Such “news” at this point in my life would hardly be “good”.
2. In case you were wondering why you never heard back from me, I’ve read that the use of the interrobang (?!) denotes a rhetorical question.

I have come to loathe ultrasounds given my rather bizarre experiences with the people handling them. This time around, I showed up bright and early, hoping to beat the queue of techies who invariably arrive on a Saturday for their company-sponsored medical checks - proudly flaunting their stool samples while fumbling with precariously balanced urine samples. You know you're in Bangalore when people around you are pulling stool and urine samples out of laptop cases.

The woman behind the desk beamed kindly at me when I presented my scan requisition form. I beamed back, thinking nothing of it until I plonked myself on a plastic chair near here. “Sit on the cushioned sofa, ma. You will be more comfortable, you know”, she said gently before casting a not-so-discreet glance at my belly and beaming. Oh, Lord. The beamer thought I was pregnant.

Do no single, non-pregnant women have ultrasound scans these days?

I sat there for an hour, glugging down water every five minutes. I did not want a repeat of the “Is your bladder full experience”. An hour and three chapters of Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue later, I had a bladder that would bring a tear to any good radiologist’s eye.

“Basically Blah?”


“So sorry, ma, but the machine is out of order. Can you come back after two hours or on Monday?”

Great. So much for gloating over my scan-worthy bladder. It was now reduced to a plain case of bloating. And when you gotta go, you gotta go.

I did what anybody, who shies away from hospital loos, would do. I called KO who lives nearby. A friend in need is a friend indeed and all that. Or so I thought. However, this is KO we’re talking about. The one who insists on burying her phone in a bag so large that it also doubles up as a cover for the Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium during the rains. In fact, if you are in Bengaluru and spot a bag with legs - that's KO.

There was no answer to my desperate calls.

I finally drove back home at top speed, hazard lights blinking, horn a-blaring et al. This was an emergency as good as any other.

Hardly five minutes after I had sighed with relief, my phone rang.


“Hello, ma. The machine is working. Can you come now?”

“I can get there in half an hour,” I said in dismay.

“Come with a full bladder, ok?”

Absolutely. Why don't I just swing by the local supermarket on my way there and pick you up a nice full bladder?

I drove all the way back, downing gallons of water on the way with the AC on full blast while saying “Ssssssssssssssssssssss” – hoping something or everything would do the trick. Classless. Absolutely classless. But desperate times called for desperate measures.

Is there a God? I cannot say for sure. However, this is certain: There is @$#@$ Murphy and his @#!@$ law.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Adam’s in Brine

You know you are at a Braying Adams concert when:

1. Someone at the gate offered to pay you to take all his tickets.

2. Tickets were being hawked for a “charitable cause” – the BA Aids Foundation.

3. You spot your dad and his cronies in the crowd.

4. Your dad thinks he spots his dad and his cronies in the crowd.

5. Everybody, including the samosa vendor, the stagehand and the traffic cop, knows every lyric of every song. Everybody except the teenager in the “I Love BA Forever” t-shirt who is pulled onto stage to sing along.

6. There’s a group of screeching Persian-speaking chicks clawing, biting and poking their way through the crowd to get to the edge of the stage.

7. One of the Persian chicks has a clump of your hair, which is possibly still in her mouth.

8. You are standing on one foot because there is no place to put the other one down.

9. Your cousin isn’t even on the ground; she’s hanging onto the collar of the unknown guy in front of her, who is slowly but surely dying of strangulation.

10. You finally find a solid bit of concrete to stand on. Ten minutes later, the guy behind you tells you that you’re standing on his feet.

11. Mr Concrete-Blocks-For-Feet decides to tell you where he’s from, says you look familiar and then asks whether you would like to sit on his shoulders.

12. There’s a middle-aged rotund drunk jumping up and down and dancing when people barely have place to stand.

13. People are playing pass-the-parcel with the middle-aged rotund drunk, steadily shoving him out of the crowd.

14. People are pointing and laughing at a woman who looks like she’s been in labour for 72 hours but who is really just on the verge of fainting.

15. You can tell firsthand that the guy pressed up behind you has chosen today, of all days, to go commando.

16. You are so tightly squashed against the person in front of you, there’s no way you couldn’t have lost a cupsize.

17. While leaving, you have to scramble over the middle-aged rotund drunk now lying face down on the ground with a Pepsi billboard thrown over him.

18. You leave the concert venue looking like you’ve been dragged backward through a hedge, drenched in perspiration that is not your own, vowing never to attend another BA concert.

19. Someone at the gate is still trying to pay people to take his tickets.

20. You stay up all night with your cousin discussing people at the concert rather than the actual performance itself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Laws of Revulsion

Excerpts from “Every Indian guy’s secret guide to impressing a woman”

1. Stare. Stare. Stare. (Creepiness is irresistible)

2. Talk at the top of your voice. Be brash, rude and crude. (Gentlemen prefer blondes and genteel women prefer Attila the Hun)

3. Sit with your legs splayed apart, tapping one foot in a slightly epileptic gesture. (Nothing screams “come hither” louder than a rampant display of sexual frustration)

4. Send her a note through the waiter so that she is blown away by your ability to scrawl like a four-year old and form sentences like you’re six. (It could bring out her maternal instinct, increasing your chances)

5. Walk up to her, plonk your glass of beer in front of her and squat on your haunches. Then rock back and forth on your heels while you compose your thoughts. (There is something irresistibly sexy about this particular simian-like stance)

6. Do the “cool dude” dance which involves alternatively clutching at your family jewels and revving a pretend motorcycle. (Smooth movements vertically are indicative of smooth moves horizontally)

7. Imbibe so much alcohol so as to crash into her on the dance floor sending her grappling at her girlfriend for support like a desperate lesbian. (Nothing like a little girl-on-girl to get a party started)

8. Send her a text or an email that reads “Hai” (spelt exactly like that) and for added effect use the clawing “Dear”. (Imagine hearing her say, “You had me at ‘hai’” a la Jerry Maguire)

9. Be an “ass wipe” at the gym. Literally. Leave rivulets of sweat on a workout bench. When the woman, looking to use it after you, asks for it to be cleaned up, wipe the perspiration off with your bottom. (Don’t forget to laugh raucously at your cute innovativeness)

10. Ogle at the print on her t-shirt and say “Nice” very appreciatively. When she looks at you all aghast, quickly remark, “No, I meant your tee.” Then add, “Not that THEY are not nice…” before scuttling to safety. (No bigger turn-on than the scent of desperation)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Blahs Must Be Crazy

“Is there a history of mental illness in your family?”

Humph! That was ripe coming from Terror #1. You know, the little pipsqueak of a boy, who, along with his younger and brattier brother Terror #2, supplemented his childhood diet with little chunks bitten out of me. All because they believed they were vampires - a delusion that lasted a few years, closely followed by another few years of forcing me into playing mud-ball cricket with them.

Anyway, I digress. Mental illness in the family. Right, let’s see.

Paternal grandfolksies

Grandpa would physically place a bowl over his head before instructing a barber to cut hair only along its rim. The proverbial “katori cut” of the Indian army. He did not believe in stopping the practice even when he lost most of his hair in his dotage.

Grandma thought the ideal snack for a long-distance car journey in sweltering heat was a boiled egg. Actually, make that a bunch of boiled eggs (wrapped in an ever-dry nappy) that she would choose to open with all the windows tightly rolled up. The vicious onslaught upon the olfactory senses of the unfortunate occupants of the car made them think something had died - and the maggots within now celebrating puberty in gaseous delirium.

Maternal grandfolksies

Grandpa was one of the earliest proponents of gender equality. He vociferously stood up for women’s rights. However, when it came to sheep, his views were exactly the opposite. He was blatantly sexist and racist when choosing mutton at the local market. Only a male white sheep would do. No butcher could hoodwink him. He would insist on inspecting the tail of the sheep before buying his week’s supply of mutton.

Grandma was clear evidence of the serious lack of wealth-management knowledge in our family. She insisted on transporting tins of sand - collected by her slightly mental kids at the beach - around with her, for dozens of years, believing them to contain something of great value. She never opened them to check. Just hoarded them. OK, so if one were to argue that it was, perhaps, some sort of misplaced sentimentality, how would you explain her throwing away boxes of rough rubies? Yes. BOXES. She thought them to be worthless stones collected by her slightly mental sand-collecting kids, who had also supposed the reddish stones sieved from a river bed were just reddish stones to be hoarded for a rainy day when the world ran out of reddish stones or something.


Dad thinks the answer to all the problems in the world is WD40. That spray for squeaky, rusty hinges etc. Crackling telephone line? “It will clear up now. I gave it a squirt of WD40,” says Dad in all seriousness. Ulcers, rodent infestation, head lice, noisy neighbour, irritable bowel movements. My Daddy says there’s nothing WD40 cannot alleviate.

Mom has a distinctive sense of interior decorating style. For reasons best known to her, she left two rotund apricot seeds and a phallic-shaped smooth white pebble strategically arranged in a little glass bowl. It was hard not to look at it and see a bizarre representation of the male genitalia. It may have been her way of explaining the birds and the bees to yours truly of the young and highly impressionable mind.


Scion believed that throwing salt on a sparrow’s tail would render it flightless. OK, so even if I do admit that I might have planted the idea in his head in a moment of mischief, explain why Scion concluded that a bird dropped a giant pair of ugly chequered pyjamas on his balcony? He tends to overestimate the physical capability of birds and underestimate their aesthetic sensibilities.

By process of elimination, it would appear that I seem to be the only sane one in the family. Or am I?

Note to self: Quick, start coming up with rational reasons for having called out to random men on the street thinking them to be valet parking attendants, groping people inappropriately whilst fainting at the sight of blood or having an inexplicable need for Gummy Bears as soon as the power goes out (vis-à-vis a torch).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quipper Snapper

Given my current spring-cleaning state of mind, I’ve ruthlessly hacked through my burgeoning shoe rack and closets, discarding everything that hasn’t been used in the last 24 months. In keeping with the anti-clutter spirit, I turned to the random store of photographs on my mobile. The ones that I keep clicking and saying, “I so have to blog about this!” and then doing nothing about. Here is some of what I found:

This is possibly the closest I’ve come to doing it like an Indian man (peeing, you know, in maximum public view et al - if goats count, that is). The ladies restroom at this Kamat in Amboli, while on a road trip to Goa, took some getting used to. I walked in, whooped and did a bit of an “oh-my-god-I-did-not-expect-to-win-this-crown” pageant winner act while the washroom attendant eyed me expressionlessly. I then clicked a couple of pictures, which got her to raise an eyebrow before shaking her head, calling upon some God and returning to her mopping. Shrubbery made up most of the missing fourth wall, and I battled with performance anxiety as a few curious goats peeked through the foliage every now and then.

I know, I know. Misspelled signboards are a dime a dozen through our land. Don’t you just love them? I cannot get enough of them. So this guy seems quite capable. He can vanquish your "enemy" "abrode". As long as your problem does not pertain to beating that enemy at the national spelling bee, all is good.

Appetising, innit? Available at your nearest Barista. I must add here that KO loved it. But then KO would, considering her penchant for rotten food. Yes, you read right. Spoilt, stale, rotten – any food item in its dotage. At the top of the list reads rock-hard buns and putrefied paav bhajji. See, KO is the type, who, while the rest of us are gagging and rolling up the car windows in a hurry while going past a sewer, will wind down her window as much as possible and inhale deeply. She claims "seweromatherapy" is aphrodisiacal in nature. Personally, I think this donut would tackle that enemy better than aforementioned Mr. Life Problem Solver.

What exactly does one say to a friend who has exited a suffocating, dead-end relationship, none the worse for wear? While most people fumbled with what to say, BC, Bin and KO did it with typical panache. Nothing says “Hurrah! We’re glad the gangrene’s gone” better than a surprise plate of gooey Mississippi Mud Pie and a cheery “Congratulations!”

This is a picture of BC’s foot preparing for attack. BC has crab claws for feet, I swear it. One word out of place and you feel those pincers pinching an apology out of you instantly. I am quite certain BC's dreaded foot must be part of the country’s clandestine cache of torture implements.

Right. So my mobile is all cleaned up. Next stop: Facebook "friends" list.

All this getting rid of old and useless stuff reminds me of Chennai's "Bogi" festival, which I heard about during a (mercifully short) stint of schooling there. I was clueless about "Bogi" so a classmate condescended to explain it to the alien child. The conversation went something like this:

- Everything old and useless is burnt in a giant bonfire. Do you want to contribute anything?
- Oh. How about Radha Miss*? She is old and useless, no?
- Radha Miss! White Pig** wants to kill you in the fire!
- White Pig!
- Yes, Miss?
- That is a bad joke. Good girls do not joke. They work hard for centum***! Get out I say!

Tsk. And to think I wasn't even joking.

*A crochety Math teacher
**Literal translation from the Tamil nickname my endearing class had given me. I love their originality.
***Chennai's obsession with 100% in every subject.