Saturday, December 31, 2005



Friday, December 30, 2005

Possibly the last post of 2005...

It's been a busy time, these last three weeks or so - a hectic amount of work to do in the office with an equally hectic 2-week trip to India thrown in... not just me, but Pete and his daughter Rebecca as well. (Although that requires a separate post in itself!). Now I'm back in England, having done very little of what I wanted to do in Chennai, even though I was constantly on the move. I didnt even have the time to meet up with (or email, thanks to a recalcitrant Sify Broadband) any of Chennai's friendly bloggers.

On the plus side, though, friends whom I had not seen in a few years, and whom I had certainly not expected to meet in the near future, turned up in Chennai, and THAT was an unexpected bonus. Especially as two of them had made the trip down to Chennai especially for me. There's nothing quite as heartwarming to find out that your friends are willing to put themselves out just to come and see you. (You know who you are, and I love you guys!)

Apart from friends, some cousins of mine had come down from the US - no, not just to see me :) Theirs was more religion-oriented, but it was lovely to see them after so many years, all the same. The culmination of this love-fest was a big party at the Deccan Plaza hotel for all my relatives on Christmas Day. I dunno about other people's families, but when my folks get together, the decibel level is unbeatable.


Did anybody know that jilebis are practically impossible to get in Chennai? I'd been priming Pete for a long time with tales of yummy authentic jilebi available in India, and in the event he didnt get to try any at all! I believe they get sold out before noon, there's such a demand for them. I tried three well-known sweet shops in the Adyar area - Ananda Bhavan, Grand Sweets and Sri Krishna - at different times of the day (after noon, that is) with absolutely no luck. Getting to Adyar (the nearest point of civilisation) early in the morning was somewhat difficult for a variety of reasons - the area we were staying in, the TERRIBLE condition of the road and the difficulty of getting transport. And did I mention the TERRIBLE roads?

Actually I DID try a type of jilebi that was new to me - made from paneer. The less said about THAT, the better. There's something to be said for being a fussy purist when it comes to certain classic comestibles - that way you dont end up with sweet chewy cardboard passed off as jilebi! I'm happy to stay a fussy purist, me.

Anyway, end result - Pete's gonna have to be satisfied with the jilebi I get from a little sweet shop in Birmingham. Luckily the jilebi from there are as good as any I've ever had, so that's not a problem. It's just that we were SO looking forward to having them fresh and hot and authentic, in good ol' Chennai. Oh well.


Ok, that's the good part. I've had a long-standing grumble about Indian customer services ever since I found out that other countries actually PROVIDE service to customers, listen to their problems and sincerely try to sort them out.

I'm talking about the 24/7 phone technical support services in Chennai - yes, Sify's. Again, I dont know how good a service is provided by Indians who have been outsourced by foreign companies and speak to clients in the West.

But I have to say that the standard of service from a local company is not up to the mark. Maybe the best of the call centre people are hired by foreign companies, I dont know. In the two weeks I was there, I ended up calling Sify's customer support line nearly every day, twice a day, trying to get a problem fixed. They made all the right noises ("Your call is important to us" "Thank you for calling Sify" "Have a nice day" "Thank you for waiting") but there was never a solution given, other than putting the blame on the hardware engineer. And every time, since the tech person who answered the phone was a different one, I had to go through the entire history of the problem, to be given the same annoying answer!

I guess the person who answers the phone can hide behind anonymity and the near-certainty that he/she will probably not answer the next phone call from the same customer. Also, there is no way for the customer to find out the physical address of the call centre and demand a face-to-face solution of whatever problem with the support technician who answers the phone. The benefits of anonymity are not for the customer.

It's not just Sify's attitude. I dont think the Indian sales staff (in ANY store/company) have actually got the idea of customer service. In supermarkets, for instance, salesgirls for a particular brand of cosmetics pester you to death despite being informed of your disinterest. Other employees either follow you around like you're about to shop-lift at any moment, or else they stand around jabbering amongst themselves and ignore you. The cashier at the till with no customers will not look you in the eye, in case he/she has to interact with you and perhaps (god forbid) shorten the line at the other till.

Yes, some of the "managers" make the superficial gestures and noises, but as for understanding the purpose behind it - well, they're light years from it yet. They've acquired all the annoying bits without gaining any of the helpfulness.


I bought "Shantaram" at last - at Chennai airport, of all places. (I wont go into the attitude of the guy behind the book counter!). It's a book that I've seen recommended by a lot of people and I was pleased to get my hands on it at last. Thus far, I've finished Part 1 of the book. It's a good read, yes, but it does romanticise poverty somewhat.

Just because there are people with lots of money who are not happy and who do not have a good family life, it doesnt mean that people who are poor are leading contented lives! Drink, drugs and disease affect even more poor or low-income families (chances are that they wont be highly educated either) than the high-income ones who SHOULD know more about the hazards of excess.

A good friend said that those with low incomes might not miss what they've never had and thereby live happier lives. I dont think so! Although I've never been in a position approaching poverty, I can remember what it was like not to have enough money, and I can remember wishing I could buy more books, travel more, get more things for my family. I can remember WANTING. I do not for one moment suppose that it's any different for anybody else, unless they're saints.

There is nothing romantic about being poor. Not a thing. Being poor doesnt make you inferior as a person - dont get me wrong here - but it does make you feel at a disadvantage... possibly because it IS a disadvantage! That said, being rich does not automatically brings happiness. In the end it comes down to each person's common sense and sense of self-worth.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe!

Wheee, I'm one of my favourite books! Of course, the "analysis" is complete nonsense, but hey... cant have everything! :)

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Frosted rosebud

Took the photo this morning and nearly froze my slippers to the ground in the process - man, it's cold! Sunny, bright and freezing cold. Wonder if this bud will make it to flower... but just in case it didnt, I decided to capture it for posterity!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Character analysis through handwriting analysis

Got to the Handwriting Wizard from this site. I suppose as analyses go, it had the usual mixture of some startling truths and some things that just fell flat - I mean, they were SO far off track, it could have been a horoscope reading ;) Still, the test was fun to take... and why wouldnt it be fun when it's all about you and yourself, right? Just make sure you have a few minutes handy for the test, though.

Oh by the way - those who know me will know which of the points are accurate. And for those of you who DONT know me... if you assume that my character traits are all the good ones mentioned in here, you wont be far off the mark! heheheh ;)

Anyway, here goes "my" analysis:

******* The Analysis Starts Here *******

Shammi is selective when picking friends. She does not trust everyone. She has a select group of people that are truly close to her, usually two or three. She is careful when choosing her inner circle of friends.

Shammi has a temper. She uses this as a defense mechanism when she doesn't understand how to handle a situation. Temper is a hostile trait used to protect the ego. Temper can be a negative personality trait in the eyes of those around her.

Shammi is a practical person whose goals are planned, practical, and down to earth. This is typical of people with normal healthy self-esteem. She needs to visualize the end of a project before she starts. she finds joy in anticipation and planning. Notice that I said she plans everything she is going to do, that doesn't necessarily mean things go as planned. Shammi basically feels good about herself. She has a positive self-esteem which contributes to her success. She feels she has the ability to achieve anything she sets her mind to. However, she sets her goals using practicality-- not too "out of reach". She has enough self-confidence to leave a bad situation, yet, she will not take great risks, as they relate to her goals. A good esteem is one key to a happy life. Although there is room for improvement in the confidence catagery, her self-perception is better than average.

Because Shammi has sharp needle pointed 'm' and 'n' humps, she has a very sharp mind. She instantly sizes up situations, making instant decisions. She thinks and evaluates circumstances very rapidly. Many people with this type of mind are geniuses, thus she may be seen as highly intelligent. Shammi is often irritated by slow talkers or slow thinkers. If she drives, she gets irritated by slow drivers in the fast lane. She quickly becomes bored when being taught on the level of the slowest student in class. She may be on problem number three when the rest of the class is on problem one. Shammi is curious and very active. In fact, in school she might have been a trouble maker because she thought so much faster than the other kids, she finished her work first, thus having plenty of time on her hands to make trouble!

Shammi will be candid and direct when expressing her opinion. She will tell them what she thinks if they ask for it, whether they like it or not. So, if they don't really want her opinion, don't ask for it!

Shammi will demand respect and will expect others to treat her with honor and dignity. Shammi believes in her ideas and will expect other people to also respect them. She has a lot of pride.

Shammi uses judgment to make decisions. She is ruled by her head, not her heart. She is a cool, collected person who is usually unexpressive emotionally. Some may see her as unemotional. She does have emotions but has no need to express them. She is withdrawn into herself and enjoys being alone. The circumstances when Shammi does express emotions include: extreme anger, extreme passion, and tremendous stress. If someone gets her mad enough to tell her off, she will not be sorry about it later. She puts a mark in her mind when someone angers her. She keeps track of these marks and when she hits that last mark she will let them know they have gone too far. She is ruled somewhat by self-interest. All her conclusions are made without outside emotional influence. She is very level-headed and will remain calm in an emergency situation. In a situation where other people might get hysterical, she has poise. Shammi will work more efficiently if given space and time to be alone. She would rather not be surrounded by people constantly. In a relationship, she will show her love by the things she does rather than by the things she says. Saying "I love you" is not a needed routine because she feels her mate should already know. The only exception to this is if she has logically concluded that it is best for her mate to hear her express her love verbally. Shammi is not subject to emotional appeals. If someone is selling a product to her, they will need to present only the facts. They should present them from a standpoint of her sound judgment. She will not be taken in by an emotional story about someone else. She will meet emergencies without getting hysterical and she will always ask "Is this best for me?"

People that write their letters in an average height and average size are moderate in their ability to interact socially. According to the data input, Shammi doesn't write too large or too small, indicating a balanced ability to be social and interact with others.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


To wake up the middle of the night, look at the luminous hands of my watch for the time, realise that there are still a few hours before I have to wake up for another day at the office... and then, to cuddle under the warm duvet in my comfortable bed and drift back to sleep to the familiar sound of my husband's snores... that is my definition of bliss.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh no, I missed it!

My very first blog's very first birthday, and I completely forgot about it! It's seen 122 posts and completed a full year on Oct 9. And all I did on that Big Day was to preen a little about me being a saintly Liam Neeson. Oh the shame of it!

However, here I am on Oct 28, wishing my blog a belated but very happy birthday... ready for it? Here goes:

Happy birthday to my blog
Happy birthday to my blog
Happy birthday to my first ever blog
Happy birthday to my blog!

Let's hope it goes on to celebrate many many more happy returns!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hull's attractions: Bill Nelson and The Humber Bridge

For those people whose personal music memories go back to the early 70s, they might remember a band called Be-Bop Deluxe, whose lead singer and guitarist was Bill Nelson. Dont know? Dont remember? Not to worry, I have no memories of him and didnt know about him either till about a month back, when my husband rediscovered Bill Nelson via his website. And then of course there was nothing to do about it but attend the official Bill Nelson fan convention ("Nelsonica 05") in Hull, Yorkshire - which happens to be his hometown.

The musical extravaganza (not!) took place at the pub that he played at the very first time - The Duke of Cumberland pub. I have to say that the hour-long interview and the old 70s videos played thereafter left me cold - in the sense that there wasnt much to interest me.

I did perk up when they played some music from his new to-be-released album - The Alchemical Adventures of Sailor Bill.

That sounded way better than his 70s-style head-banging music (aka noise) and I'm looking forward to listening to the entire album when it comes out. And Mr Nelson can consider his fan base to have increased by a quantity of one.


Since, technically, Bill Nelson was on the scene first, he can be considered Hull's most famous attraction. Hull's second-most important draw is the breath-takingly huge suspension bridge, the Humber Bridge that spans the Humber Estuary.

It's a really imposing sight and seems to stretch for miles across the estuary - although I dont suppose it would be more than a mile long. The Humber (river/estuary) at that point is pretty darn wide as well, and I would have loved to go on the ferry that chugged its way to and fro. I'm sure it would take a good 15 minutes to cross from one side of the Humber to the other on the ferry.

And finally, here's me with the Humber Bridge in the background.

Wednesday Oct 26, 2005 - Blog Quake Day

It's not yet Wednesday for me, but somewhere in the world, it is already Wednesday. So, following in Shoefiend's steps, here's my post as part of the relief effort for the earthquake victims.

Please donate what you can for the quake victims:

If you're in the US, click here

If you're in the UK, click here

While on the subject of the earthquake, I was disgusted and annoyed to find that the Pak government was still quibbling over unimportant matters - viz, the report that Indian soldiers had crossed the Indo-Pak border to help the Pakistani soldiers, on request. The Pak govt denied it loudly and strenuously, stressing that if the Indian soldiers HAD crossed the border, it would have meant war. Right. War. When the quake had devastated so much, the Pakistan government would have spent time, money and resources on a war. Is humanitarianism of less importance than politics? To politicians, apparently so.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Recommended read (for those over 18)

This post is one of the funniest about dogs that I've read - and Elizabeth writes some good ones, I must say :) I adore her dogs (would love to meet them one day!) AND her blog:I Should Know Better.

Yes, I already have a link to the site in "Random but Recommended", but I thought I'd make it easier for interested readers to get there quicker :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Careful, the politically correct police are watching...

Heard this bit of news on the TV just before I left for work today: A woman who had been victim to a hit-and-run accident called the police and described the man who had hit her car as "fat". She was cautioned by the police for using an inappropriate term about her attacker.

Evidently the woman's political incorrectness was more important than her being the victim of a hit-and-run. Never mind getting her description of the man who was the suspect in the accident, their first priority was to put her right about her gross transgression. Maybe they would have been more sympathetic to her (and followed up on the fat culprit) if she'd described the man as "differently thin", perhaps. Differently thin by about 50 kilos, maybe.

For god's sake, "fat" and "thin" arent terms of disparagement - they're merely descriptions, on a par with "tall", "curly-haired", "slender", "short"... - oops, I mean "vertically challenged". Or do I? If I was short, I'd rather accept that fact than be patronisingly called "vertically challenged". SHORT SHORT SHORT! FAT FAT FAT! THIN THIN THIN! STUPID STUPID STUPID! So there, you commonsense-challenged upholders of the law!

Oops: Two corrections. It wasnt a FAT GUY, it was a FAT WOMAN. The lady who got hit wasnt in her car - she was standing on the pavement talking to her friends when the FAT WOMAN in a Citroen hit her.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I've come to a rather disillusioning conclusion - people are people, bosses are bosses and office politics is office politics... the same seething mix of bitching, back-stabbing, buck-passing and insincere glad-handing, no matter in which part of the world you are. I'm sad to report that the company I'm working for is no different, although I had hoped for better.

I have no complaints about my immediate colleagues - they're a great bunch of girls. It's the powers-that-be who, although seemingly cooperative and helpful, are actively spinning in circles trying to stab others in the back while trying not to get stabbed themselves.

And while the dance of the Janus-faced carries on in its deceptive fashion, those not in the know, who are trying to mind their own business, suddenly find their backs bristling with daggers.

Phew. That got rid of some steam in the form of some really bad writing :) But honestly, isnt it frustrating sometimes, how red-tapism and one-upmanship by other people can bog you down no matter how good or efficient you are? Sometimes I feel like screaming "AARGH, JUST LET ME GET ON WITH MY BLOODY JOB AND PLAY YOUR GAMES SOMEWHERE ELSE WITH SOMEONE ELSE".

I really wonder how social workers and other civic-minded folk manage to keep going despite the constant obstructions they face from the establishment. More power to them!


Now on a completely unrelated topic - the next time someone here says that they're moving to a Mediterranean country for a total change in lifestyle, I will take them with a bucketful of salt. I've just (give or take a day or four) returned from a 10-day trip to the Costa Blanca part of Spain, which is seeing a huge property boom as thousands of Brits move there.

I might as well have stayed at home, for all that I saw of "Spain". Yes, the weather was lovely - sunny and warm in the daytime, pleasantly cool in the evenings. Yes, the scenery was different - a scrubby, dry landscape instead of the lush green of Britain. But that was as Spanish as it got. The restaurants were all catered for British tastes, with the ubiquitous fish-n-chips, burgers, kebabs, Chinese takeaways and - of course - chicken tikka predominating. All run by expatriate Brits for British tourists. Irish-style pubs and British pubs sold Guinness and imported beers. Thank GOODNESS there wasnt a Tesco or Sainsbury's, or I'd have felt I hadnt moved from the UK at all!

Seems to me that if people move to another country, they should try and assimilate into that culture - at least make friends with (cant think of a more "grown-up" phrase here) the local people instead of alienating them by creating "expat" colonies, mini versions of their hometowns. It just doesnt seem right.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I am Liam Neeson

According to this:

Couldnt resist taking the test when I saw it on Ravi's blog :)

I bring sunshine into people's lives Sunshine, putting my needs above others and always striving to help... *sigh* never realised it, but I'm a saint!


Thursday, September 22, 2005

To out or not to out, that was the question

I've been wondering whether to write a post about a mini-bloggers meeting in Oxford last Saturday, when I met two other bloggers and one blogger-to-be... then i decided I would do a careful, cautious write-up without mentioning names. Mainly because I wasnt sure if the others wanted their real-world personalities "outed". Well, I wont out them, they can entertain their many fans from the confines of their blog-closets while I babble on about just how MUCH fun it was to spend the day with such funny, clever, interesting, absolutely admirable people! A tip - dont make the usual associations by putting the words "out" and "closet" together, please... we're all married (happily) to persons of the opposite sex :)

Hm, just realised I dont need to keep their blog identities secret. Sometimes the thunderclap of realisation comes waaaaaaaaay after the too-brief lightning flash of clarity. There's physics for you. And philosophy.

The bloggers I was privileged to meet were
Ammani, Shoefiend and another lady whom I shall abbreviate to S. I am all admiration for S - I mean, with a PhD thesis to finish while doing a part-time job and looking after home, husband and baby, she still has the enthusiasm to want to write a blog... phew, just to think about it is tiring!

It was a minor comedy of errors when we met at Oxford station. We chose Oxford mainly because of a restaurant there that has dosas on its menu - as good a reason as any. So the arrangement was to meet at the station around 1.30pm and lunch at 2pm at the dosa place.

Shoefiend arrived way early, waited a bit, then made her way to the restaurant. I arrived next at the station and rang Ammani to find out about the others, to be told that her train was delayed but that Shoefiend was already there. So I rang Shoefiend - and she told me that the restaurant people had just informed her that they closed at 2pm! By that time, S had joined me... and she was taken aback to be told that the restaurant would only re-open at 6pm. Since she had to leave around 7pm, this was not good news.

Anyhow, poor Shoefiend walked back to the station where we all waited for Ammani. Eventually, while walking up into the town centre, we decided to have our lunch at a pub called Yates'. It wasnt bad, the only drawback being that they didnt offer dosas to us discerning customers. Didnt matter, though... I'm not even sure I tasted what I ate, because we were so busy talking. There was so much to jabber about but we did it (wo)manfully.

After we'd sat on the squashy sofas at Yates' for a few hours (enough to leave semi-permanent backside impressions), we decided to have a coffee elsewhere - so Starbucks it was, because everywhere else was crowded. Spent a long time there as well, still talking non-stop.

Since S, Ammani and I had all brought along cameras, the next thing was to take a few photos before it got dark. We wandered down near the Oxford University entrance and managed to take a few photos on the steps opposite. That was as close to culture as we got all day, in a town that's famous for its churches, architecture and history. We just had better things to do.

S had to go back home on the 7.15 train, so we escorted her to the station despite her protests. Then Ammani, Shoefiend and I went back to the town centre and hunted down the dosa restaurant, had dinner there and eventually made our way to the Youth Hostel. Which, by the way, is pretty laidback about its definition of youth, because we saw a few somewhat geriatric-looking folks there. More chatter, sitting in the dining room, and finally we went to bed, to sleep not a wink.

And the next morning, we parted ways.

Oh by the way, the dosas werent bad, but the sambar had celery in it. Celery! The upside to that is that at least I didnt have any close encounters of the disgustingly mushy kind with aubergines...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A statement in flowers

Dunno if this was meant to be an ad (sounds like an ad for beer, if you ask me), but it looked quite lovely against the bright green background.

Taken in Luxembourg at one of the parks in the city - Part 1 of my travelogue and more pics here.

Part 2 to follow.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Everything for export only?

Some time back, while gawking at the things in the kitchen accessories section of Debenhams (a slightly upmarket departmental store), I came across a cake tin - the sort of storage tin I'd been searching for, for quite a while. It was a good sized round one, made of stainless steel, with a high domed lid that had a transparent glass top and attached to the bottom plate with clips. It cost a whopping £40 (roughly 3,200 rupees) but it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. So I bought it.

This isnt about me being disappointed with it when I got home. No, it was still exactly what I'd wanted even after I unpacked it at home to admire it. What took me aback, however, was the printed tag that said "Made in India". Made in India! And to think I'd looked for precisely that kind of cake storage tin in the "hep" supermarkets of Madras and Hyderabad when I came over (two years in succession, and then again this year) but was it available? Was it heck! And now I know why - it's because the good quality items are reserved for markets abroad!

I dont know quite how much things have changed in the last 6-7 years in Madras (and other places in India too) but I cant help wondering if all the best things made in India are exported to the west, instead of being made available within the country to its citizens as well. Maybe it's all for export, maybe not.

I personally settle for the "not" - I remember from my (all-too-brief) time in Srinagar, quite a few moons ago, how the best apples grown in Kashmir were only for export, not available in the local markets. I dont suppose things would have been any different in the rest of India then, or are any different now, a good decade later. But I wish somebody could tell me I'm wrong. For once, that would make me happy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Customer service - like it or not!

Last week I had to go to the optician for my contact lens eye check-up. The optician who "saw" me was a very nice man called James - very friendly, very helpful, very explanatory. In fact, SO explanatory that he wouldnt stop talking about every step of what he was doing... rather like a running commentary: "Now I'm going to just gently pull your lower lid down so that I can move the lens just a little bit.." "Now I'm putting a drop of this mildly anaesthetic solution in your eye so that I can check for any dry patches..." "Now I will be moving this machine close to you..." - and so on and so on, with lots of medical tidbits thrown in as well - terms like "sclera" and "aqueous humour" and "eye pressure" that brought back vague and not-quite-pleasant memories of biology classes in school. In fact, he pretty much had the same effect as Miss Daisy, my biology teacher in school - soporific to the extent that I had to stifle yawn after yawn.

James was a good optician, and I do appreciate that he took the trouble to keep me informed at all times - in direct contrast to doctors in India (and some here as well) who just go about testing you for whatever, and either ignore your questions or give answers that dont leave you any the wiser about what's wrong with you or what's happening. A lot of information would be welcome and useful if what you have is serious or worrying, and if you have a lot of questions to ask the doctor.

But that was not my situation - all I needed checking was to see if my contact lenses had the correct fit. This is not a new procedure to me and I had no questions because I've been having the test done yearly for the last few years. So James' explanations and reassurances were merely boring and, at worst, intrusive, prompting thoughts like "Oh my god, just shut up and get on with it, I'd like to get home sometime this century!"

I didnt say that, of course, although I tried a couple of gentle hints like "yes, I've had this test done every year for 5-6 years now" and "yes, I was told about it the first time I had this check-up" - but he was far too gone in the customer service ideal to take heed of any faint protests. He was determined in his friendly, pleasant, overinformative way to let me know what was going on and never mind what I wanted.

Information is good, but a lot of information doesnt necessarily equate to a lot of good!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Musharraf's strange order

I've been wondering what the idea is behind Pakistani President Musharraf's order that all foreign students in that country's madrassas should leave. What's the point? I mean, the madrassas which are "misused for extremism" are gonna be teaching their hardline message to ALL the students, not just the foreign ones there. I'm not sure if Musharraf's order was meant to show the West that he IS supporting the American "war on terror"... in any case, it's a sham of a move.

Pakistan has enough of its own hardliners, so sending away a few hundred foreign students (possibly even genuine seekers of knowledge) isnt exactly going to help anything anywhere. Closing down all the madrassas might have been a bit more useful - but only a bit. Extremism and hatred can be taught anywhere... such people - whether the teachers or the taught - do not require schools or other official places of learning.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A working epiphany

It's Monday morning, the rain's keeping off (although it was cloudy to start with) and I cycled to work - and the humidity levels must be down as well, because my hair didnt end up in a frizzy semi-Afro... tra la la. I dont need more reasons than this to be pleased on a working Monday morning. Better yet, I've done what work needs doing for the morning and am now free to do as I please. In a short while, it will be lunch time. Thirty minutes of solitude to eat my lunch and read my book.

It's good to be working full-time again, and it's great to be working in a place that's friendly and where the work is interesting and fun because it's different from what I've been used to as a working stiff till now. It's also very nice to work with only a handful of colleagues instead of being one labouring ant among dozens of others. Best of all is working for somebody with whom you have a rapport. (I need but one finger to describe all my previous bosses, heheh.)

I'm not a journalist any more - I do an administrative job. I expected to miss being an editor, so I dutifully waited for the nostalgia to hit... and waited, and waited. Eventually I realised, surprising myself quite a lot, that I didnt miss being a journalist.

Any nostalgia I experienced was for the years spent in The Hindu Business Line - and even then it was mainly the cartload of colleagues (who were also good friends) that made the work fun. I dont deny that I enjoyed working in a newspaper - doing the night shift was fun, working during high-pressure times (budget, disasters, etc) was fun (hmm... that word does keep cropping up, doesnt it?) and - um, I gotta admit to this - the "wow you're a journalist" reaction from non-journo folks was fun too!

But the Hindu BL was a good 5 years ago, and between then and now, I've had the experience of working in other "journalistic" jobs. The first was in a newspaper (I use the term very loosely) in Singapore - and that is not something I look back on with any pleasure - the working atmosphere, the work place, the work ethics (or lack thereof) and most of my colleagues all combined to make the experience memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Here in the UK, I worked for 2-3 weeks gratis at a local newspaper. I tried very hard to enjoy the place and the work I did, because that's what I expected of myself... after all, as a journalist, I had to enjoy it because that's what I had always done! I couldnt imagine myself doing anything else... although, by that point, I HAD done other things like editing website content, writing a user manual for a software program written by my husband, entering invoices in the system, etc. It's just that I was so blinkered about employment other than as a journalist that all those things never struck me as something I could do on a permanent basis.

I must say I was disappointed with myself - and, again, surprised - when I realised just why I'd not seriously looked for employment opportunities in other arenas... it was because of my terminally "white collar" mindset (very likely very common to the Indian sub-continent). In theory I believed that all employment was honourable and no work below anybody's dignity as long as one was earning an honest living. But in effect, although all jobs were equal, some jobs were more equal than others (oh Orwell, Orwell) - apparently I had had a sub-conscious hierarchy for even the "educated" kind of jobs.

No longer, though. Hurrah for epiphanies and having your eyes opened to true reality (as opposed to the blinkered kind, what else)!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rain, rain everywhere

Couldnt believe my ears when I heard just how much rain Mumbai received in the last couple of days - and there's more such weather forecast! When it rains, it certainly pours... not always a good thing, to state the obvious. Wish a bit more rain would fall in Chennai, and a bit less in Mumbai - although I hear that temperatures have dropped somewhat in Singara Chennai, thanks to the occasional precipitation (got tired of saying "rain").

The sky juice (still tired of saying "rain") has been coming down heavily here in Shrewsbury too - really annoying considering that I have a brand new bike (complete with detachable wire basket - neat!) and have been cycling to the office the last 2-3 days. It only takes 10 minutes and is so convenient... and my bicycle is gorgeous - sleek, light and with the skinniest tires I've ever seen! It's even got suspension for the seat - and boy, it's really nice to have the suspension keep the worst of the road bumps and uneven bits from being passed on to my sit-down area.

Now if only it had some kind of contraption to keep the rain off me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New job...

Hokay folks... one of the reasons why I havent had any new posts in for a while is that I'm now a full-time working stiff again. Getting up at 7.30a.m (ugh), working from 8.45a.m-5p.m (ugh ugh) and that too five days a week (uggghing away here like a Neanderthal making a speech at a prehistoric Rotary Club meet).

I was sort of thinking of working part-time all the time (so to speak) but my innate genius and sparkling intelligence simply couldnt be suppressed and because I so impressed the partners of a property/real estate agency, employment was thrust upon me. SUCKERS!!!! They do not know what they've let themselves in for... mwahahahahahaha...

The other reason for the silence? No inspiration, mon! *sigh*

Friday, July 01, 2005

Gonna probe, are they?

According to this BBC news item, a wildlife smuggler is to be questioned. The headline says "India to probe wildlife poacher" - well, I can only hope that a very sharp stick will be utilised for the probing. And the same treatment for all the murderous, trigger-happy Khans too - Mansur Ali, Saif Ali and Salman!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What's the fuss about, anyway?

I dont understand why the Live 8 concert organised by Sir Bob Geldof is getting so much negative attention from musicians. A bunch of African (and a few Western) musicians are complaining that there are very few bands and musicians from Africa who will be playing at the Live 8 concert. They feel that this is because the organisers are being condescending - that is, they are playing the "white man is the benefactor" role.

Another of their grumbles is that African music and musicians are not getting enough exposure in the West and therefore they're not as popular as non-African bands and artistes. They want the lesser known African musicians to be featured at the Live 8 concerts.

I think they're losing sight of two important things: One, that the concert is being held to raise money to help the poorest people in Africa. (And African music bands do not feature among them, methinks). Two, the concerts are going to feature musicians and bands that are ALREADY well-known and recognised. I doubt the concerts are being used as an opportunity to promote complete unknowns.

The reason? Well, Live 8 is being organised to raise money for the poverty-stricken people of Africa. So what does it matter WHO raises the money? What does it matter if it’s white musicians or black who feature at the event? The point is to make money – and I’m pretty damn sure that the starving children and disease-racked adults who are going to benefit from the aid that this money will bring them, will not waste even one second wondering who enabled the aid!

And another thing: Who is likelier to raise more money – well-known and well-loved bands, or complete unknowns? Whom will people want to watch – unknowns or greats? Given the chance to watch Pink Floyd play live – the original band, including David Gilmore AND Roger Waters – would anybody say “no thanks, I'd prefer to see total strangers from Africa whose music I’ve never heard before and am totally unfamiliar with”? Especially considering that the concerts are being held not in Africa, but in the UK.

I really wish that these self-serving people, who raise objections even when the motive is good, would shut up and allow a beneficial thing to happen. There is a place and a time for self-promotion and publicity tours/shows, but a fund-raising concert is not it!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Touch of the sun...

...which, at the moment, is only a memory. The last day or two have been cold, cloudy, windy, threatening to rain - and did I mention cold? This country (or maybe it's just Shrewsbury) has such weird weather... two days back it was so sunny that everyboy went around in shorts and strappy t-shirts or no shirts at all (the guys - in case anybody thinks I live in a nudist camp). Today I feel like bundling myself up in warm fleece. Today I defy anybody to wear minimal clothing merely because it's technically supposed to be "summer"!

And the spur-of-the-moment picnic that Pete decided on, a few days ago, seems like a dream brought on by too much sun. I've had this romantic notion of sitting by the riverbank in the sun and reading - but I never really got around to it because it's been rather too windy to sit around without getting very cold. But the perfect evening happened - warm, sunny without being horribly hot, still and calm. So Pete came tearing home from work, looking mysterious about his bulging rucksack and not answering any questions about where we were going. And off we went on our cycles.

A very pleasant surprise it was, too, when I discovered that we were going to a meadow that I had only seen from the car - it always looked green and serene by the riverside. One of those places that is just that bit too far to walk to, but perfect on a cycle. The Severn river meanders about Shrewsbury and there are some smaller streams as well, so there is no lack of nice picnic spots. It was a lot like my dream picnic. Except that in my dream there was food to be had - and in Pete's version there was only wine. Three bottles of strawberry wine. And no food.

It was still really lovely there in the sun, lying back on the grass or watching the ducks go by. Going back home was a bit of a giggle, as the wine was even headier in the sun and got to me quicker than it normally does. (Lack of food was the other factor.) I'm not the steadiest of cyclists at the best of times, but this time the traffic whizzing past didnt bother me a bit because all was very right with my wobbly little world.

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Picnic site

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Reflection on water

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Oops, my foot got in the way

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Bikes lying in the sun too. The purple on on the right is mine.

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My tumbler of wine

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And me.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book tag

Decided to tag myself (but thanks to Ferrari, all the same) :)

Total number of books I own:
Havent counted but would be well into the 300s, I think

Last Book I Bought:
The Exiles, by Hilary McKay. Yes, a book for kids but it still had me in helpless giggles.

Last Book I read:
Triggerfish Twist by Tim Dorsey. If you like Carl Hlaasen, you'll love this guy. Over-the-top black humour.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - what a book, what a BOOK! The best one ever on racism in the Deep South, and it's straightforward and readable. So very readable. Atticus Finch forever!

All the Psmith books by P G Wodehouse - ok, so it's cheating to put in three books when it's supposed to be only one. But I so desperately wanted to speak like Psmith and be annoyingly polite to everybody!

Roots, by Alex Haley - Need I say anything more?

Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster- Loved it for the humour and it was the first (and possibly last) romance novel that I really enjoyed. It was my favourite book as a young 'un.

Swami & Friends, by R K Narayan - one of my favourite Indian authors who wrote in English and yet never sounded like he wrote with a foreign audience in mind.

That's all, folks

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Memories from childhood

This weekend we visited some friends of ours down in Colchester (which is about 150 miles from Shrewsbury). They have two sons, aged 4 and 7, and a three-month-old baby daughter. All the kids were adorable but four-year-old Douglas took a real fancy to me and Pete. Seven-year-old Joshua and I played a lot of football - he liked being the goalkeeper.

Although Douglas talked non-stop, a lot of his prattle went over my head, so to speak, but the bits I did understand and respond to made me suddenly see things from a little person's point of view - that is to say, it brought home the fact that kids take things literally! Metaphors were no use when talking to this little guy... when I told his mother that I just didnt have green fingers (I'm not a natural-born gardener), he immediately checked my hands to see which fingers were green - and wasnt too impressed when he found that they were all brown. Neither I nor his mother could make him understand the expression.

Once you're an adult, it can be fairly difficult to put yourself in the shoes of kids (for starters, they would be a very tight squeeze - heheh)... difficult to think like them and to see things they way they do, simply because you know more, you can think logically and rationally (or so one hopes), and you have the benefit of hindsight and experience. So you would know, if you saw a movie, that the events in it are not real. To a child, though, every scene no matter how illogical or fantastic, is abolute, unquestioned reality. That's how I like to explain away certain incidents from my childhood that I remember - moments when I recognise myself for the silly kid I was then!

Incident one - I think it was probably the very first movie I saw in a theatre. I'm not sure how old I was. Dont remember the movie either, but I know the hero was Rajesh Khanna. The movie could have been "Haathi Mere Saathi", assuming it was Rajesh Khanna starring in it. Anyway, I was SO caught up in the plot that during a fight scene, when it looked like my hero was getting the worst of it from the villain, I distinctly remember jumping up from my seat in a state of serious excitement (and anxiety for Rajesh Khanna's fate) and yelling "Hit him Rajesh Khanna, HIT HIM" at the top of my voice. Much to the embarrassment of my slightly older friend who pulled me back down and hissed "Shut up, it is not real!" But it was to me.

Another movie that I sat and watched with bated breath (this time with my parents) was a Tamil one - "Nizhalgal", unless there was one called "Nizhal nijamagiradhu"... if not, that phrase was just the teaser for the movie. Anyhow, I didnt know that another meaning for the word "nizhalgal" is "dreams" - I thought "nizhal" just meant "shadow"... so I sat wide-eyed with anticipation throughout the movie, expecting at any moment to see a shadow becoming real - something like a ghost, perhaps. There never was a more puzzled child at the end of the movie, because the whole thing didnt even begin to make sense from my viewpoint. Where was the shadow that was supposed to become real?

Did that movie ever go over my head or what!

As a slightly older person - again, dont remember how old I was, but it was that age when you take the printed word at face value. Interviews with movie stars, etc, where what you read is what you implicitly believe is what the star really, truly means from the bottom of his/her heart. I guess I had never heard of publicity gimmicks or the tendency of film stars to always lie like rugs (exactly like politicians). Ah, innocence...

So, in all the innocence of untested childhood, I read a movie rag which had an interview with Nazia Hassan, the throaty singer from Pakistan, now long deceased, and her brother Zoheb. I'd just seen Qurbani, I suppose, and "Aap jaisa koi" was my favourite song then. I thought Nazia Hassan was the most beautiful woman in the world and Zoheb the most handsome. And when I read that she didnt consider herself pretty and her brother Zoheb teased her for being "ugly" - well, I was more than ready to rise up in her defence! In fact, I even wrote her a letter saying that I thought her the most beautiful woman ever, more beautiful than Zeenat Aman (!) and Zoheb was a mean guy to call her ugly. Too bad I didnt have an address or I would probably have posted the letter...

Friday, May 27, 2005

That's their mission. That's what they DO!

The Secret Service guys in the US must be overworked, poor chaps (and chapettes, one assumes). That, or they dont have quite enough serious threats against President George W Bush. I mean, to the SS, the assassination threats posed by dedicated Bush-haters, like Al Qaeda members, rank right alongside a high school student's yearbook dedication! Am I missing something here or have the SS men kinda lost their perspective?

Note, it wasnt the student concerned who even mentioned the assassination of Mr Bush - it was what the other kids had written about him their high school yearbook under his photo. The actual phrase was "most likely to assassinate President Bush".

Brrrr. Terrifying.

Anyway, the high school yearbooks were recalled, and the dangerous comment blacked out

Monday, May 23, 2005

Absolutely AMAZING!

I got these photos in an email from my friend, and amazing doesnt BEGIN to describe them! They're drawings done on the sidewalk - a FLAT sidewalk, and therefore the drawings are flat, too. Or so you'd think. But these are incredible 3-dimensional drawings and I'm more than half-convinced that they're really computer-generated. Take a look at these... and then tell me you dont feel the same way?

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Got it at last!

Sholay, the DVD, is what I've got.

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I guess it'll have been out on DVD in India well before now, but I didnt bother checking while I was there. The reason being that a DVD bought in India would probably not play on a DVD player bought in the UK. The world is divided into regions and DVDs from one region will not play in another - at least not for long, if the rumours are right.

This is to avoid piracy, apparently... but in practice, all it means is that good American movies and comedy shows that are available in the USA are not available in the UK, and vice versa. I'd SO love to have DVDs or even videos of Steve Martin's stand-up comedy, or Jim Carrey, or Robin Williams, but there's no way to get those here. And equally, there's no point sending across DVDs or videos of Yes Minister & Yes Prime Minister, or other BBC classics, to my sister in the USA. As far as I know, that is. If anybody has information to the contrary, puh-leeeese let me know!

Anyway, sourcing and finally getting my Sholay DVD was a loooooong process, mainly involving a lot of waiting on my part. And before the waiting, there was the googling, through which I came across a UK site that sold Indian movies - some old, some new. Mostly new. Not very useful when what I wanted to collect was classics - Padosan, Kagaz ke Phool, Baiju Bawra, Abhimaan... really old movies like those. And, of course, Sholay. What a movie, what a movie, what a MOVIE! And I actually have it in my possession at last. My collection of classic Hindi movies beginneth here. HooRAY!

And talking about Sholay, I'm so used to the movie name in English that the name seen in Hindi seems inadequate and too short, somehow... not expressive enough of the sheer bigness, the breadth, the SCOPE of the movie. It's just a silly notion that I cant seem to get rid of, for whatever reason. Still, I wonder if that can be construed as language chauvinism...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Talking about India...

There were about 25 kids, about 5 or 6 years old. They were learning about India - specifically, that week, about Chennai - and since I'm a genuine Indian import, their teacher asked me if I would give a small talk about Indian clothes, food, society, etc. Also had to answer questions like "Have you seen a snake-charmer?" "Have you been on an elephant?" "Did you live in a hut?" "Did you swim in the Ganges?" "Do you have a rickshaw?" "Are there roads in India?" and, not the least: "Did you see Barney Bear in India?" The kids were quite disappointed that I'd missed Barney Bear, so I didnt have the heart to tell them that I'd never even heard of Barney Bear. Their teacher later told me that the kids had seen an educational video about India where a man (wearing a bear suit) visited different places in India. To them, Barney Bear was as real as India itself! :-) The actor must have been a brave man indeed, to wear a full furry bear suit, complete with head, in the Indian heat!

This little girl is modelling a ghaghra-choli. It's MILES too big for her because she's only 6, and skinny for her age; and the dress belongs to Pete's daughter Rebecca, who's 10 and big for her age! Still, the girls loved the dress, and the little boys were seriously disappointed that Indian boys and men dont get to wear interesting, colourful outfits :-)

One of the teachers, on whom I demonstrated how to tie a saree. This was difficult enough because I've never tied a saree for anybody before. And made doubly difficult because the lady was wearing elastic-waisted trousers. She loved the look and feel of my saree, though... and was most reluctant to take it off. Not that she had to try, because it was unravelling by itself anyway. Elastic isnt the best base for tying a saree! Heheh.

Some of the little girls in the class. I cant remember what we were all looking at. But does anybody else feel that the teacher is thinking about how to get the saree back from me? :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This one's for you, Rums

A rapeseed field, golden yellow in the sun. It looks gorgeous and smells disgusting - the nearest I can describe is the stale aftermath of a giant sneeze. Maybe rapeseed flowers are God's sneeze made tangible. PonderYuk...

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - and me!

I cant wait for Christmas-time to come around! Not because I've suddenly discovered the festive spirit - I havent and I'm not likely to. It's just that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is due for release in December this year. It's the first of the seven books by C S Lewis that makes up The Chronicles of Narnia, and the whole series has always been one of my favourite reads. Still is, actually.

I came across C S Lewis by accident, at my uncle's house. They had a wonderful collection of all kinds of books, stored in several enormous cupboards which were also collection points for all kinds of junk starting with stuffed toys and going on to various sizes of tricycles to training-wheel bicycles and roller skates - and not forgetting the extra bedding that was also shoved in there, out of sight.

It was my special joy to burrow into those cupboards and unearth books from them. There was everything from encyclopedias to old old copies of Readers Digest, Enid Blytons, assorted fiction and non-fiction and any number of magazines. If the light in the cupboard was bright enough, it was an even more special joy to make a nest of some blankets and pillows and read right there. If I could have locked the door from the inside, I probably would have just so I could be left in peace (and probably suffocated eventually)... luckily for me, that option wasnt available. (Come to think of it, there cant be many store cupboards that have locks on the inside. Whatever for - right?)

The Silver Chair was one of the gems that I discovered on one of those digging expeditions - and Puddleglum, the morose, eternally pessimistic yet brave and faithful marsh-wiggle was the character I fell in love with. I must have read the book a dozen times before I thought to go in search of the rest. And boy, were they ever worth the read! Probably the slowest of them was The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader, but I'm not complaining really.

I had another pleasant surprise when I read The Magician's Nephew. Years ago, I'd been given a big Hamlyn story book that had excerpts from various children's books - tantalising glimpses that have stayed in my mind even though the book hasnt been in my possession for years (and how it disappeared is what I consider a personal tragedy, but that's another story).

Anyway, the most interesting chapter from The Magician's Nephew had been in that book... and I cant begin to describe the jolt of happy surprise that went through me when I recognised the excerpt while reading the book. Knowing that I had put one of those tantalising excerpts to rest, as it were, added an extra dimension to my enjoyment of the book!

And now the books are going to be made into movies... I'm looking forward to them rather a lot. I have high hopes for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a movie, because the director (I think) is the guy who made the Shrek movies - and I absolutely loved those. I just hope that the storyline does not differ too much from the book... after all, there's nobody who can insist, as J K Rowling did for the Harry Potter movies, that the plot CANNOT deviate from the print version. Fingers crossed, for C S Lewis' sake!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

And now a pink one

Twin sister to the yellow rose

Monday, May 09, 2005

Yellow rose

Another miniature embroidery, ready to hang up in its little frame. I like these no-fuss frames!

More pics here

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ready to exhibit

Just a simple little piece of embroidery - it's ready to be hung up in its round frame!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Movie howlers

Reading the list of mistakes in Bollywood movies in Lavannya's recent post, I was reminded of a junk email that I got from one of those "joke sites", which listed Hollywood movie bloopers. That junk mail went the way of all unsolicited crap, but now I wish I hadnt deleted it - it was really funny.

The good news is that I found a website that has bloopers listed from hundreds of movies - and not just mistakes, but all kinds of other trivial details that will delight and occupy any jobless Net browser. Well, I never said it was an intellectual site! Big Smile

Anyway, you can find it here

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cottages in embroidery

Quotation from William Shakespeare (dunno from which play)... and part of my thumb, all preserved for photographic posterity! This and the next one are both tiny embroideries - about 5" by 5", max. I had plenty of time, plenty of daylight and plenty of inspiration to finish them :)

Cottage with flowers... seems like rather a strong breeze blowing in from the west, they're all bending in one direction! Bad planning, that.

Dunno what these flowers are, but they pretty!

Mini-daffodil after a rain shower

Monday, April 18, 2005

Window box

This embroidery is about 8 inches square. It's supposed to be a section of brick wall with a window that has old-fashioned green shutters and a window box overflowing with flowers.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bits and bobs...

I'm reading "The Dante Club" by Matthew Pearl right now - a very interesting book, very literary but still pretty riveting. What I like best about reading (apart from the obvious like a good plot, good characterisation, snappy dialogue, yada yadayada) is the occasional phrase or colloquialism that grabs my attention... perhaps something that makes me laugh when I think about it (Terry Pratchett is excellent in that respect), perhaps a description of a scene or place that I can literally visualise even as I read (Stephen King, believe it or not, does some fantastic descriptive writing that is sheer poetry - better than poetry, even), etc.

The Dante Club provided me with one such phrase - "the violet hour". The moment I read that, it was like deja vu - it describes exactly what I've always felt about the twilight hour but never realised in words. Twilight was (is) always my favourite time in all the years I was in Chennai. The colour of the sky during that short, perfect but intangible phase when the sun is nearly set but night hasnt quite fallen - an indescribable blue/violet that just cant be duplicated... that, THAT is the "violet hour". I've known this all my life but discovered the words for it only now. It might be insignificant to everybody but me, but oh, the pleasure gained from this sudden, unexpected epiphany... it rounds off something in my personal universe and makes me feel a little more content. It makes me feel orange, to put the feeling into colour. I'm a happy woman today :)


Anybody who hasnt seen "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" should try and see the movie at least once. I saw it a long long time back - probably on TV at some point, although I dont remember when exactly. Or even where. It's an old movie (early 1990s, I should think), starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates and Mary Stuart Masterson. I saw it again yesterday, and it was as watchable as I remembered it. It's such a lovely feel-good movie... and yet it isnt mushy romance. There is a core of reality that makes its presence felt through each scene.

Set in Alabama, the movie incorporates the serious social problems of 1930s America (racism, for starters) ... but it is also about friendship, loyalty, women's emancipation and - surprisingly - a murder that is solved only at the end of the movie.

I found the movie absolutely compelling... it moves you to tears, it makes you laugh, it shocks you, it makes you rage against racism in the Deep South, it touches you - it completely involves you in the plot. Could anybody ask for more? Actually, yes, fans of mindless action could ask for more. But for the discerning movie-buff,
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
is a gotta-see.


While I'm on the topic of movies, "Hitch" is another one that's worth watching. Especially for fans of Will Smith, which I indubitably am. I'll say that again - indubitably. That's a satisfying word allright. Indubitably. Anyway, the movie is very funny and yet Will Smith manages to carry off a moment of deep emotional hurt without overdoing it - I guarantee it will bring tears to your eyes. It did to mine. Eva Mendes is his lady-love - she's very very girl-next-door. Good time-pass, this movie. (No, I'm not going to swell the already hefty ranks of amateur movie reviewers. I stop here.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

How to protect your banana

Well, well, well... the world is full of weird things and weirder inventions. Amazing how much time is spent on developing what seems like a totally unnecessary addition to the already existing consumer crap. But I guess we dont know what we cant live without until some enterprising fast-talker convinces us we cant live without ______ (fill in your choice of useless-but-gotta-have invention).

My favourite unnecessary invention is the one that protects your banana. Everybody knows that bananas are easily bruised and quite vulnerable to an extra hard squeeze, so protection is vital. The good news is, banana protectors are available in a range of colours. There's even a glow-in-the-dark green banana guard, so ANYBODY can find their banana, even if it's pitch dark! (Those of you who have been sniggering, please note that I'm only talking about the fruit. Some people need their imagination to work on a higher level than the gutter - heheh.).

Check this out...
Banana Guard

I'd be interested to see if anybody can come up with a more unnecessary invention! And it neednt even be your own!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

My little water pump

The old-fashioned little water pump (runs on electricity!)

The lawn behind... definitely needs a good haircut.

This English weather...

One day it's so warm that it feels like summer - then quick as a wink, it's back to winter... on the same day! Yesterday was rainy and miserable, today it's foggy but chill and dank. No wonder all the weather reports on TV try to cover all bases - something like "This week the weather could be warm when it's not freezing, it could be windy in some areas some of the time but also still at other times, there might be some scattered rain but also sunshine, so it's time to wear those shorts again, but the rain could also drop the temperature to winter levels so dont forget to take a raincoat, a big umbrella and a fur parka when you go sunbathing."


What bugs me most at the moment is that I want to do some gardening but cant. All those bulbs, seeds and plants, the two big bags of compost, the many pots and planters - all of them are piled up in the conservatory. The three rose bushes (just beginning to grow after the winter pruning) that I managed to transfer to bigger pots are probably drowning after all the rain. My daffodils (those that survived my ex-dog's determined devastation) have been beaten down practically into the ground. There was hail yesterday amid all the rain - thank you, weather god, for being so supportive of my fledgling gardening efforts!

On a positive note, though... the conservatory is looking quite nice with the old-fashioned water pump feature and some new plants. Oh, and I have a total of 12 different herbs growing in pretty pots and little planters. My favourite herb at the moment is chocolate peppermint...

Yep, chocolate peppermint the plant. I'm not a real gardener (I just potter around hoping that things will grow inspite of my efforts to help), so I just dont understand how mint leaves can taste of chocolate... I know some growing things can be grafted onto others to make a hybrid third. But chocolate isnt a growing thing. I wonder if chocolate peppermint happened naturally. Maybe the plant has been around for centuries, with the taste waiting to be discovered - waiting for human beings to invent chocolate (and, eventually, chocolate mints)... and eventually realise that Nature had created the flavour first! Who knows!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A thank you to my blogger pals

What would I do without friends? When I started blogging, I didnt imagine that I would soon pick up a string of people whose blogs I would obsessively check every day - just because it's fun to see what they've come up with. I didnt know they would become friends sight unseen, quite literally in many cases. Learnt a lot about them from their blogger details and their posts and comments - and learnt a lot FROM them as well.

But I have two bloggers to thank specifically - Magix and Ferrari - for their ready and solicited and unsolicited help with adding extras on my blog, for HTML code and how to implement it and various other things. The latest trick I learnt was from Ferrari (who pointed me to a page on Blogger Help) and that was... to do this. :) Thanks, Ferrari! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Just a random thought

I saw a movie yesterday,after quite a long break. In fact, the last one I saw was probably Shrek 2 (I think), last year. Yesterday's movie only happened because a couple of friends came by and suggested Pete unstick his posterior from his workchair for an hour or three. It proved to be an excellent suggestion on their part, and I'm deeply grateful.

The crowbar that they had thoughtfully brought along proved useful in more than one way. Apart from being an indication of the not-violent-yet-but-things-can-escalate-if-you-dont-get-up-NOW-Pete sort of friendly persuasion, it was also handy as a lever to pry apart the chair and Pete (only slightly exaggerated). Rolly 3
So. The movie was
Hostage, starring Bruce Willis. It was actually quite good as an action movie because by GOD there was every sort of action-movie staple incorporated in the two hours it took from start to finish. Lots of blood, cute kid, sexy spoilt teenager, psycho killer, good-brother-bad-brother duo, masked men, burned-out hostage-negotiator-turned-smalltown-cop, guns, crawling-about-in-ventilator-shafts, hi-tech luxury home - the works. Definitely a thriller. Dont miss it. Oh, and Brucie-Boy's real-life daughter, Rumer, plays his daughter in the movie. She looks too much like her dad to be beautiful, so I really hope she gets to be a good actress. I gotta say that she played the role of sulking, rude teenager to the hilt.

And that brings me to my random thought - which is, teenagers in Hollywood movies. They're not particularly nice people, are they?

Every Hollywood movie (or even any American TV show) that features a teenager in the storyline portrays them as sulky, spoilt, loudmouthed, selfish and shockingly rude anti-social brats. Of course, by the end of the movie they reveal their well-hidden hearts of gold. For me, though, that usually comes too late, because by then my dislike of them is thorough and no amount of good-deeding helps.

Well, the laws of probability indicate that there must be SOME American teenagers who are polite, well-behaved, kind and thoughtful in real life. I only wish Hollywood would feature some of those in reel life.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I'm addicted

Playing Scrabble - only, it's called Literati on Yahoo Games - is addictive. I find it especially fun because you can play against real people, real-time. Playing different games against the computer is one thing, but to pit your skill against human beings is the best way. On Yahoo Games, there are different levels and leagues and tournaments, but I have to admit I'm still only at the beginner level.
The thing is, even at that level, there are some awesome players... I can only imagine what the competition and skill levels are like at the tournament or league levels. I've never ventured into those areas - not even as an onlooker.

Also, I cant decide which plays the bigger role in winning - skill or luck. It takes skill to form words that garner the maximum points, it takes experience to spot and make use of the best openings, agreed. But it also is very much down to luck because you never know what sort of letters you're going to get. You might have letters with high individual points, but if you dont have the humble, single-point vowels to use along with them, you're sunk. On the other hand, too many vowels, and if at all you get to make any words, they dont really help increase your score by much.

I've been lucky enough sometimes to get the right mix of consonants and vowels... but even then I've been beaten by somebody who's better at spotting the best openings and making the most of them - so that DOES involve skill. And then again, I've ended up nearly crying with frustration because my opponent gets all the juicy letters and chances while I struggle to make a word - ANY word - with letters like N N N N D H G. Or possibly V X Q (terrible letter, that) R R G M.

Once, when all I had was 6 vowels and one consonant, and I could only make one-syllable words like "do", "one", "ma", my opponent asked me - at the end of the game - if I was actually an adult! I didnt know whether to laugh or cry at that point. (I may have done both, because Pete asked me why I was braying.Dismay)

Still... episodes like this dont stop me playing Literati. Because there have been glorious occasions when I could do nothing wrong, when I scored bingo (that's when you use all 7 letters at one go) more than once in a game. I've picked up some tips here and there from the better players (the only plus in losing!) on how to shoehorn in one letter that makes two or three words. The points add up then, believe me.

But what I really need to learn - even more important than Literati skills - is how to be ruthless. When I'm winning too easily, or if I keep getting "good" letters, I feel guilty about it, and unobtrusively leave chances open for the other person to lessen the score gap. And sometimes they make use of it and leave me lagging behind. Which is very annoying because then I feel that they're taking advantage of my generosity! I mean, they should be polite enough to close the gap, but not cross it! (Ok, contrariness is built into my very DNA itself.)

However, I've noticed that the best Literati players are the ones with no compassion. You might be lagging 150 points behind them, but they wont leave a single window of opportunity (so to speak) for you to catch up. And if THEY cant use a 3word-score box, they make sure that you cant use it either.

THAT'S how I need to play.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

My achy breaky head

I'm a migraineur.

Sounds impressively like an enterprising businessperson, doesnt it? Huh, I wish! All it means is that I'm somebody who gets migraines. Those agonising killer headaches that can happen suddenly, at any time, without warning... the ones that feel like some little monster with an oversized hammer has taken up residence behind your eye or in your skull, and is now banging away at the rate of a thump a second. When that happens, all I can think of is to swallow whatever headache/migraine tablets are around until the headache subsides.

In my sane, non-headachey times I know that indiscriminate popping of over-the-counter headache pills is going to ruin my kidneys/heart/brain/whatever/everything in the long run... but try being rational when the whole world recedes to the sound of discordant drums in your head! Fellow migraineurs will know exactly what I mean when I say that during a migraine attack, the short run is all that counts. ANYTHING to stop that pounding NOW.

I know of some factors that definitely give me a headache - too much time outside when it's hot, red wine, squinting against bright sunshine, a crying jag... these are definite triggers. But there are days when I get a headache for no reason that I can see - it's usually like "oh no, i feel headachey", and then BAM! the headache's on at full blast.

Various doctors have, over the years, asked if I "feel" anything before a headache. Apparently some people smell oranges (even when there arent any around), or see flashing lights or dots, or hear a buzzing in their heads, and so on. But I have never heard/seen/felt anything that tangible. It isnt anything I can describe, I just KNOW that a headache is going to happen. I only wish I could "know" a few hours earlier, rather than a few minutes or seconds. It doesnt give me much time to brace myself for it. Or take preventive medicine.

But the kind of headache that I hate the most are the ones where I go to bed completely headeache-free - and wake up in the middle of the night to the realisation that I have what I call a "heavy-metal" migraine. Painful noise, in other words, of the kind where everything in sight is being thumped at random. Those are the worst kind... sometimes they dont go away for a day or two even if I take more than the recommended dosage of ANY headache medicine. Then the only thing to do is shut out all sources of light and sound, and suffer in solitary silence. Sleep is not an option because of the thumping that's going on. But neither is getting up and facing the world, or making even the least movement... it's just unimaginable.

Despite having suffered from inexplicable and sudden headaches all my life, nobody has been able to discover WHY I get the damn things. My first memory of headaches is me at about 8 years, when we were living in Tanzania. I was lying on the dining table and crying in agony, with my mother hovering helplessly around, unable to stop the pain in any way. After that, I was saddled with spectacles. A pleasant surprise at first, because I could suddenly see the blackboard in school again. Not so pleasant in other circumstances because they kept falling or slipping down my nose. They also didnt stop the migraines.

Anyhow, until recently I hadnt realised that migraines and headaches had been
classified and pinned down under various sub-titles. In fact, strange to say, I hadnt even known that there was such an organisation as the International Headache Society. I dont know why I didnt really bother researching headaches - I suppose the thing is that when I'm suffering with a migraine, it's impossible to care about anything. And when I DONT have a headache, I literally forget about it. It must be something to do with not remembering pain once it's gone.

That cliched description of child-birth is a good example... no woman would have more than one child if the memory of childbirth incorporated the actual physical pain every time. Although I havent been through childbirth, I can see it's true because when I think about the headaches I've had, I know they've been agony but I cant duplicate that agony until I actually HAVE a headache.

Enough of that, I think. Anyway, after reading about the headache classifications, I wondered if I should evaluate my migraines. When I googled the topic,
this came up. Too bad that after reading it, I nearly gave myself a headache trying to define the kind I got. Best leave dormant migraines alone, methinks...

Headache FAQs

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thank goodness the neem is still Indian!

I was never so pleased as when I heard that India had won a case in the European Patent Office with regards to knowledge - and use - of the neem's medicinal and various other properties. The company that had tried to patent the neem's pesticidal properties was - but naturally - an American multinational, WR Grace. It's such bloody CHEEK of the Americans to extol themselves as saviours of the world's poor on the one hand, while on the other hand, they're quietly trying to swindle them!

Consider this - the Americans dont acknowledge traditional remedies and medicines of other cultures, even if the remedies are 5,000 years old, if they've been passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. If that knowledge has not been published in a journal, according to the Americans, it is not considered as "prior existing knowledge". In effect, it's more than okay for the Americans to patent it because, as it has not been in print, nobody knows about it. A billion Indians who've known about the properties of the neem for thousands of years dont count.

Very convenient for the USA, no doubt. I'm sure they've been coolly stealing traditional and folk knowledge from everywhere - but then that's what they excel in, I guess. Only not this time. THIS time, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) successfully fought off WR Grace's
patent claim - although it took 10 long years. More power to those who successfully resist the supposedly irresistible and show them that they cant always get their own way! Hip-hip-hurray!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Stretching my patience very thin...

First bloody Doodleboard changed to a paying site without so much as a word of warning. They could have been decent enough to give everybody a heads-up instead of abruptly making the doodleboards disappear from everybody's blogs! Anyway, so I decided to change to Tag Board which, though not as convenient or nice-looking as Doodleboard, was at least a bit of software that COULD be used to leave messages. But for the last day or so, Tag-bloody-board has been playing up as well. Grrr

I'm wondering if they're gonna go the "pay or stay away" route as well. Whatever, I've now gone on to their English is a bit weird in places, but I guess that can be forgiven for it's a German site. It's not THE ideal message board, to be frank, but it will do. Let's hope the Germans keep it usable for a long time to come!