Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Airy scary fairy tales

Some of the fairy tales that I read as a child were really quite gruesome, in retrospect… but at the time, I just read them as I read everything else – with an all-conquering greed for new reading material. You’d think I’d be permanently scarred from them - as per the pop-psychologists who say that children shouldn’t read Grimm’s fairy tales or listen to nursery rhymes like “Rock-a-bye baby” and so on, for fear of becoming nervous wrecks. They ignore the fact that real life events all over the world are far more horrible than any fair tale could conjure up.

Anyway, I’m not scarred and nor am I a nervous wreck merely because my mind remembers some of the grimmer bits. I put that sort of memory down to the brain’s – specifically, MY brain’s - ability to retain totally irrelevant and unnecessary bits of fiction (and some facts too) while letting the bulk of useful information slip through peacefully. (Yes, it wasn’t conducive towards successfully passing exams during my school days. Such is life. You’d think that all the random trivia would at least be useful in social situations and make me the life of the party. But no – anytime I need to break the ice or an awkward silence, those facts unhelpfully vanish, only to pop up again when they are not required. Such, again, is life.)

Like I was saying, some things have just stuck in my memory, even though sometimes I can’t remember the rest of the story – like the one about the little girl wearing a giant’s magic ring on her little finger. She was trying to escape from him but the ring kept shouting out “this way, this way”. The solution? Cutting off her little finger and throwing it into a river, thereby getting rid of the giant because he followed the sound, fell in the river and drowned. Ugh. Cold-blooded little girl. Maybe she was a thief as well – I’m not sure why she was wearing the magic ring which belonged to the giant!

The story of Hansel and Gretel was favourite for some real chills... cannibalistic intentions on the part of the evil witch, and then the way she was killed, burnt in her own oven. Definitely double ugh. However, as a child, the horror of the situation – and the agony of being burnt alive – simply did not occur to me. All I thought was “Hooray, they escaped the evil witch!” Maybe I was just an insensitive child - who knows - but the average 7 year old shouldn’t be able to imagine anything more specific than that, don’t you think?

As an adult, though, I have spent many shuddery moments imagining how it would have felt to be burnt alive, and have your screams ignored. That’s possibly one of the most horrible ways to die and just thinking about real-life events, like in Godhra, make me feel ill. What fairy tale could possibly be more frightening than real life? If a child can watch gory movies, or the news even, without being moved, fairy tales witches and monsters are hardly likely to bother him or her. In any case, today’s children have much more real terrors – murderers, kidnappers, paedophiles, school bullies… Reality provides so much more horror than fiction nowadays.

My dad had a 10-book Encyclopedia collection – quite old and outdated, possibly from the 1950s, and a treat to read – in which I first read Thomas Millington’s tragic poem “The Babes in the Wood”. That touched me unbearably… I could dissolve in tears just thinking about how the abandoned children who died in each other’s arms were covered in leaves by kindly robins. For some reason, it was the mention of the robins that always did me in. Maybe something to do with the fact that the birds showed more compassion than the humans. I had quite a phobia about being abandoned – by mistake (hopefully...) rather than intention – which overcame common sense for far longer than I care to remember.

And how about the story of Cinderella? The ugly stepsisters were forced to mutilate their feet to try and fit them in the glass slippers. Me being the shoe-size (basically, boat) I am, I’ve had some very dark thoughts about that, I can tell you…

Somebody in The Telegraph should be "threw"

People who can't spell shouldn't be working for the print media. Isn't this pathetic?

Iraqi journalist who through shoes at Bush appears in court

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When is a game only a game? ALL THE TIME!

Okay, I'll say right off that I’m very glad India won the test match yesterday. I'm glad Sehwag got his half-century and that Tendulkar got his century.

See, I don’t have anything against cricket – at least, no more than I have against any other organised sport (I think they’re a terrible waste of money). But it IS only a game. The match was not vital in the sense that helping the victims of Mumbai was – and is – vital.

So the general attitude prevailing, that the English team rescued India from some devastating danger merely by continuing the tour, kind of gets on my nerves. This particular comment from some cricket-mad doofus made me want to bite someone/something really hard just to get rid of some of the irritation caused by his overly gushy and unnecessary gratitude.

"It was a great match given the circumstances. People of India will always be grateful to England and its cricket team for standing by its side in need of crisis. And Pieterson, you are now part of Indian cricket folklore as a hero.
gaurav, Mumbai, India"

Oh my GOD. It’s a game! A GAME! The English cricketers didn’t save India from any crisis, they just played a GAME! Why do men lose all sense of perspective when it comes to cricket?

Considering the amount of security that was set aside just for the cricketers, did the tour really have to go on? I think I read there were about 5,000 policemen and commandos to keep the players safe. Wouldn’t that have cost a lot of money, and did the BCCI or the various commercial sponsors pay for the security? If they did, this rant has no worth whatsoever - its backbone is not just broken but excised without a trace.

But … if it was the TN Government or even the Central Government that bore the costs, I think it was a shocking waste of money that could well have been given to the families of the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in Mumbai.

Tendulkar’s dedication of his century to Mumbai is a nice gesture, but it isn’t of any material use. Now, if only the cricketers from both sides would donate all their earnings/fees from the entire tour to the victims, I would consider the tour well worth it – and think better of sports in general and cricketers in particular.

Note: I’m not sure, but were the English cricketers going to donate some money to the Mumbai victims? Sure hope so.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "I knew instantly..."

When the teacher taught us fractions, and called on me to write the result of 2/3 divided by 1/4 on the blackboard, I knew instantly – mathematics was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us about governance and panchayats and zila parishads and other things incomprehensibly boring, I knew instantly – civics was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us about the laws of physics, the properties of chemicals and the facts of biology, I knew instantly – science was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us the rules of accountancy, both American and British, and asked us to balance the books, I knew instantly – accountancy was not my forte.

When the teacher taught us the principles of economics and I fell asleep in class, woken by an accurately thrown piece of chalk, I knew instantly – economics was not my forte.

BUT… when the teacher told us to write a 100-word paragraph describing a day after a rainstorm and I handed in an effortless 500-word essay, I knew instantly – I had finally discovered my forte.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The evil without?

“It is understood that US envoys have made clear that India ought to be able to strike at suspected terror camps if Pakistan fails to move against them.”

That final sentence from an article in The Independent online made me blink. How very kind of the US to worry so much about the terrorist attacks in Bombay. How marvelous to know that it is leading the international pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the terrorists. And, most of all, how magnanimous of the US to say that India ought to bomb suspected terror camps in Pakistan! (shades of Simi Garewal, perhaps? Her idea? Their idea? Who knows!) After all, exactly what India - and the world - needs in these times to take attention away from the worldwide economic meltdown is a fresh new war in this region (Afghanistan? Old news, m'dears. Do try to keep up.)


The evil within

Why is this man allowed to live in the UK, free to spew his venom? And he’s a lawyer? Doubly damned, then… once for being a radical Muslim and again for being a lawyer. A combination from the depths of hell.

On a not entirely unrelated note, I read an interview with Imran Khan (unfortunately I don't remember which online newspaper, but it was yesterday) where he had said that the term "Islamic terrorist” - I think he was referring to the terrorist attacks in Bombay - is inaccurate because, according to him, terrorism is political - never religious. Methinks that theory doesn't stand a chance at gaining any credibility anywhere... witness Mr Chaudary's ridiculous and unwarranted attack on Christmas as a religious festival, apart from anything else!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Tradition"

Is it just the flip side of trendy? I think tradition is just a trend that has been followed (blindly?) by a person or persons, most likely for far longer than it really deserves.

I’m also not sure that it isn’t just a one-word definition for “But that’s how it’s always been done” – said phrase usually uttered with a superior sniff or bullheaded stubbornness or as a desperate wail. The point is, no matter how it is said, it’s pretty much a declaration of resistance to change, even if that change is for the better.

A tradition is really only as established as the person who is perpetrating it now… if the next person who comes along doesn’t consider it worth continuing, or changes it to suit him/herself, then it’s no longer what it used to be. It then becomes a “new” tradition – an oxymoron if ever there was one, because tradition implies longevity.

*** Sighhhhhh… even to me this smacks of the sort of school compositions found in the cheaper “guide books”, pathetic little essays on various topics supposedly beloved of secondary school teachers while setting exam questions.

It’s so difficult to get back into the rhythm of writing after a break…

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm on holiday, hurray hurray!

Or I will be, in less than 12 hours... off to Seattle for a mini family reunion and Thanksgiving, for two weeks of lazing around and having fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A tag from MumbaiGirl

This was meant to be "150 things to do before you're 30", but since I'm kinda past that stage, I'm going to take it as "150 things to do in your lifetime" :-) Playing it safe here...

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain hill
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula (and it’s not going to happen either, not while I’m conscious)

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb (to be precise, stroked its woolly head while feeding it some grass!)

33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Walked down into a volcano (it was practically extinct)
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had Have amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched (for) whales (didn't get to see any, sadly)
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played cricket
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch (They were inedible, but that shouldnt matter, right?)
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice (one of these years…)
80. Gotten a tattoo (same as above)
81. Rafted the Snake River (where’s that?)
82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage (An amateur play in German at the Max Mueller Bhavan – hope that counts)

85. Been to Las Vegas (not likely, if I can help it. Don’t hold it against me that I’ve transited through the airport!)
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark (not likely! Chances of a shark eating me are probably better)
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to New Zealand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Outlived one of your parents (Note: This is NOT something to do, it's just something that happened)
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Sang in public at a concert (with my sister)
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city country to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car with the windows open, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication

106. Lost over 100 pounds (I don’t have quite THAT much to lose!)
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane (although my sister and a cousin have done)
109. Touched a stingray (Same as for No. 06)
110. Broken someone’s heart (not wittingly)
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show (I wish!)
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet (as Nos 06 and 109)
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States (I don’t mean I’ve been to over 50 countries – just that I’ve been to 3-4 US States and certainly visited more foreign countries than that!)

124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school (Does distance learning count?)

131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach (not on purpose)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do I look like Sarah Palin?)
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language (hahahahaha)
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts (pete’s joy, not mine)
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life (only in the sense that I didn’t run the woman down on my Kinetic even though she stepped right out in front of me without looking up)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strictly Go Jump

The big hoo-ha in the press about John Sergeant still being in the "Strictly Come Dancing" show is SUCH a waste of time.

So why am I too writing about it, you ask? Because this is a strictly disinterested opinion. I dont care about John Sergeant and I've never watched the show. I DO know that it's the kind of show that asks people to vote for their favourite performer - either to keep them in or to boot them out.

If you want performers to be judged strictly on ability, then the judges alone should be the people to decide who stays and who goes. Once you ask the viewing public to "vote for their favourite" - well, all bets are off. Most TV viewers aren't qualified judges of anything (to do with the show, I mean) and they vote pretty much on a whim. Literally, they vote for their favourite and who cares if they can dance or not. So if that current favourite isnt the judges' favourite dancer, too bloody bad for the judges. Why blame John Sergeant for being the popular choice? He's no more in control of things than the judges themselves!

Update: Oh dear, he's quit the show! I bet that's what the judges were hoping would happen!

Banned by a coin

Apparently it’s a “violent act” if you’re a pro footballer and throw a coin back into the crowd, as Didier Drogba of Chelsea discovered.

I emphasise – he threw the coin BACK into the crowd. Which means that someone in the crowd had thrown the coin at him first. Drogba hadn’t initiated anything, he’d merely retaliated. And yet he was penalised by being
banned from playing in the next three matches.

If the FA considers that a fair punishment, the fan who threw that coin at Drogba in the first place should be tracked down and banned from attending the next three matches played by Chelsea. Chances are, of course, that he won't want/wouldn't be able to afford to pay for the tickets to another match, so the ban won't exactly affect him - but still... in the interests of fair play, he should get a ban too, because he was just as "violent" as Drogba and started the whole thing anyway.

PS. Ok, the probability of Drogba hitting someone in the crowd - someone who hadn't thrown the coin - was more a certainty than a probability, really, being as there was more crowd than there was Drogba... but a three-match ban for that? I still think it was OTT.

PPS. Hmmm... have I argued myself out of the point of this post with the above PS? Well, I'm publishing it anyway!

PPPS. Isn't Didier Drogba a lovely, lovely name? I do love unusual monikers!

* goes off chanting 'Didier Drogba, Didier Drogba' *

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Stranger"

“The kindness of strangers” is a phrase that I came across somewhere and instantly loved because it expresses a sentiment in which I believe. (And on googling the phrase, I discovered that it’s the title of a book by a BBC reporter, Kate Adie. I’ve since reserved that book at my library – a nugget of information totally irrelevant to this post and anything else, but which I felt impelled to share with friends and strangers both. So now you know.)

I have met with the kindness of strangers enough times to have my faith in people shored up. Sure, I’ve been at the mauling end of strangers too – always men, usually in crowds, sometimes in lonely areas… but which woman hasn’t? – but there have also been others who have helped when they could have harmed. It balances out, mostly. Here are just a few instances:


-- I was working late at the Indian Express one night and I had missed pretty much all the buses which would get me home, except bus service No 5 which had a last run at about 11.15pm. This bus didn’t stop at my regular bus-stop (which was ok because I normally didn’t take it – it meant a 10-minute walk to get to the stop as well as another 10-minute walk from the bus-stop nearest my home to get home).

So I had just about reached the stop when the bus zoomed up. I gratefully got in and only then discovered that I only had a 50-rupee note and nothing smaller to give the conductor for my fare. He turned out to be a bad-tempered, sour-faced curmudgeon who asked me to get off the bus and let him get on with his last shift! "Kaasu illai-na irangu ma!" he snapped at me (If you dont have the fare, get off).

This was a nasty turn – I didn’t want to trust myself to an auto at that time of night (assuming I could get one at all), and there was no other bus that would get me home. Walking wasn’t on the cards at all. The only other option was to go back to the office and wait till the late night shift ended…but even then there was no guarantee that I’d get a ride home, as the transport manager had not been warned in advance. (Yep, IE wasn’t particularly female-friendly, and their excuse was that it made the drivers grumpy if they had to drop off an extra person on their round.)

Anyway, just as I was about to get off, someone came running from the front of the bus shouting “Irunga, irunga!” (“wait, wait”). It turned out to be a young lad who worked at one of the tea-shops near the office. To my embarrassment and huge relief, he paid my fare, brushing away my heartfelt thankyous. What’s more, the next day he wouldn’t even accept the money back - ok, so it was only about Rs 1.75, but that would have meant a lot more to him than it did to me.

So… guess where I always went for my tea and vadas from then on? Until he went off to Singapore to make his fortune, that is. I hope he HAS made his fortune – kind people like him deserve all the good that can happen to them.


-- When an auto rickshaw driver knocked me off my Kinetic Honda just opposite Malar Hospital – I had my right indicator on and was slowing down to make a U-turn. I guess the auto driver was behind me but wanted to go straight ahead. Instead of bothering to slow down himself, or wait for me to make the turn, he accelerated, coming up from behind me on my right. I was just beginning the turn, so he plowed right into my front wheel, but managed to zoom off.

I was completely dazed for a few minutes, it was all so sudden. I heard brakes screeching behind me as cars came to a halt, and someone screamed, but it was like it was happening somewhere else to someone else. I was only muzzily aware that I couldn’t get up, even as a man thrust a piece of paper into my hand before riding off on his bike.

Then someone else lifted my scooter off me while his wife helped me up. I had a severely bashed right knee and had lost a couple of inches of skin and flesh from my elbow, and (as I discovered later), had a bruised and wrenched shoulder - but I didn’t think I needed a hospital (I remember refusing to go to Malar!).

So the lady accompanied me home in the friendly auto driver’s vehicle, while her husband walked my scooter all the way back – the front wheel was so badly bent that it couldn’t be ridden. They made sure that I was at the right house and assured my mother that nothing was broken but my bike, before they all went off. And finally when I remembered to look at the paper I was still clutching in my hand, I found that it was the registration number of the auto that had knocked me down! Some kind guy had had the presence of mind to write it down and hand it to me right there. (It’s a different matter that the auto was owned by a policeman and not the driver himself, so nothing really came of the case.) It was a good two weeks before I was office-worthy and ambulatory again – my wounds weren’t serious but they were very, very painful.


-- On yet another occasion, I was returning home from work late on a Monday night. I had taken the beach road route and happily zoomed along at 70km an hour, pleased at the lack of traffic. Just opposite the Gandhi statue, as I slowed down to turn right, my bike did an extremely alarming wobble and I came to a sudden and very shaky halt at the side of the road, just short of falling down.
I had a puncture.

In fact, I must have had the puncture pretty much at the beginning of my trip because the tyre was as flat as a pancake. I was on a fairly lonely road at around 10.30pm and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to wheel the bike, but it was uncooperatively heavy, and anyway I didn’t really know where to go – I certainly couldn’t have walked it all the way home and I wasn’t close to anybody’s house that I knew. There weren’t any phone booths nearby either. A mobile phone would have been very handy, but those probably hadn't been invented then.

Then, even more worryingly, a loud group of young men came around the corner and walked up towards me. They looked like rowdies and I tried to ignore them, hoping they wouldn’t cause me any trouble. But they stopped by my side, and one of them asked me the obvious – “Puncher-aa?” (puncture-aa?). I indicated as much and he said the next obvious thing – “Thalla mudiyala?” (Cant you push it?). I said no, too heavy. So he said “Naanga thallava?” (Shall we push it?). Now I had to ask the obvious at this point, so I said “Enga thallaporenga?” (Where will you push it to?).

He and his friends were much nicer and way more practical than me (and my profuse apologies to them, too little and too late, for my judgmental attitude). They knew that there was a fire station nearby, so we all trooped there (with the guys saying reassuring things like “Kavalapadadheenga, bike onnum agadhu” (Don’t worry, the bike will be safe)).

There were two lungi-and-banian clad firemen at the fire station, probably making arrangements for their night's sleep. They listened to my story and were kind enough to let me leave my bike there for safekeeping overnight. Then that group of young men walked me back to the main road and - absolutely amazing for that area and that time of night – somehow procured me an auto in which I went home. I couldn’t thank those guys enough for their kind help (their kindness somewhat mitigated by the auto driver who scalped me for the fare - but that was hardly their fault!) and I felt very ashamed of my instant summation of them as "rowdies". I got home safe thanks to the efforts of that bunch of complete strangers who went out of their way to help, and I've never forgotten it.

Like I said earlier, the kindness of strangers… long may it continue!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Change"

I hate change.

Not Mr Obama’s “Change we refuse to define”. Or the “But we’ve always done it this way” whine of the fuddy-duddies of the world. I’m talking about the change that you cannot get rid of, the kind that accumulates faster than you can imagine, the kind that if you carry in your pocket makes you list to one side, or if in your purse, makes it weigh a goodly tonne.

Yep, small change.

Pennies, cents, paise – all the metal coinage that you can’t really use to pay anything, unless you don’t mind fumbling with the fiddly things in a supermarket checkout queue while others behind you glare and the cashier heaves a big sigh and takes forever to count all the coins you’ve just passed on just to make sure you’re not diddling the supermarket of a penny or two…

The 10p coins are almost as irritating – but at least it only takes 10 of those to make up a pound (currency, not weight!). Also, some coin-slot parking meters accept 10p and 20p coins, so on the whole they’re not so bad even if they occupy purse space and add to the weight. The 50p, pound, and two-pound coins hold their own – they might be heavy, but at least they are significant and total fairly quickly to worthwhile amounts.

But those pesky pennies and cents… for as much as I drop them into the charity boxes by the tills in the shops, they still accumulate! Somehow, even if you drop a large handful in a busker’s collection box, you don’t get much gratitude. (Worse still, you don’t get rid of enough change.) I guess they like their money rustly, just like me…

In Singapore, I mostly used my bank card to pay for everything. So I have NO idea how the cent coins piled up until I had a jar full of them on the dining table. When I left the country, I left that jar behind for my flatmate to dispose of (or leave it behind in her turn – possibly along with her contribution to the stockpile – when she quit) because I had no idea what to do with them. God knows how much they would have added up to – maybe only a few dollars, maybe fifty dollars… the weight of small change is not exactly directly proportional to the total value, that’s fer sure. In any case, I wasn’t counting, so I didn’t know and didn’t care. Still don’t.

I guess it would be possible, if one were really bored, really jobless, really bothered - and yes, really tight - to sort out the coins into orderly piles and haul them to the bank and eventually get a fiver or so in exchange for the lot... but I'm not that hypothetical one. I don't think the effort is worthwhile.

You, dear reader, might be one of the so-uptight-you-squeak cadre who organises all your coinage according to denomination and knows to the last penny exactly how much all the coinage adds up to, and is super-efficient enough to be able to pay out of all that organised coinery without getting the sum wrong, and keep track of what you get back – in which case, this post has nothing to do with you at all. Best keep away from me, though, because I might just be mean enough to jumble up all your pennies and tuppennies and bring chaos to your neat, coin-orderly, regimented life!


So... did you think I might, for a change, NOT have grumbled about something? :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yet another case

which makes me wonder, is it even worth living like she does?

*Yes, I know I've been overdoing the posts with links to newspaper articles... but really, I see it as my duty to do so. Especially sometimes.

There's a joker in here somewhere, right?

I can only hope that the writer of this deeply insightful and extensively researched article had her tongue tucked in her cheek when she submitted it for publication - and that the editor who DID pass it had a better sense of humour than I do... because for god's sake, in what way does this resemble actual news?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Any which way you see it

Is it art if a painting doesn't give you a clue about which is the right side up? And following on from that, does it matter (other than to the painter) if said painting is on its side, bottom, front or back?

Questions, questions...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crazy mixed-up pup

I've always had trouble with "w" words " and "v" words said in succession. Give me tongue twisters like “red lorry blue lorry” and I can say it over and over without much hassle… but ask me to say “white van” and if I don’t pause a miniscule bit between the two words, I end up saying “white wan” or “vite van”. It always makes me laugh, but I also find it annoying.

I tend to pick up accents fairly easily, usually without quite realising it - until a kind friend or cousin accuses me of “having an accent” and then I "hear" myself. As most other Indians educated in India, I didn’t – couldn’t - differentiate between the “w” and “v” sounds. This was more than useful when I was learning German, because I didn’t have any trouble with the pronunciation of German “w”s as “v”s – which is correct.

Then I moved to Singapore, and associating with British and American nationals at work made me realise that there was a difference between the two sounds – and eventually I acquired the ability to differentiate between, and pronounce the sounds right, partly from deliberate effort. (Have I mentioned that I’m anal about pronunciation?). Anyway, after coming to the UK, speaking to the British in British English for the last 8 years, and to a lot of elderly, finicky clients on the phone for the last 3, that ability has become second nature, almost.

That said, of course, because I now say “w”s the English way, my German pronunciation has taken a turn for the worse… and today, to my dismay, I fumbled over a Punjabi name at work – a Mr Dhaliwal had called – and I ended up saying his name as “Dhaliwall” rather than “Dhalival”. After I had transferred him over to my colleague, I tried saying his name the way it should be, and to even more dismay, I found that I had to actually pause between the two syllables “Dhali-val” to get it right. (Yes, I do feel embarrassed about this!) I can see why authentic Brits find it so difficult to say Indian names correctly, handicapped as they are by their pronunciation.

At least I can still say “Sharma” or “Swarna” with the “r” sounded loud and clear, instead of “Shaama” or “Swaana”. That is a relief.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Another bookish tag - hijacked from somewhere

How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I cant remember when I learnt to read… or when I started reading, for that matter. All I remember is that I’ve always loved books. As for who taught me – taking a wild guess, I’d say it was my parents!

Did you own any books as a child? If so, what's the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
I owned loads of books. The first one I remember is a Richard Scarry picture dictionary, and the first word I learnt was “aardvark”. A is for aardvark. Pretty cool. I absolutely loved that book to bits… the cartoons were so detailed and there was so much to look at, so many little touches that were an absolute delight and make me smile even now. I would read that dictionary like a story book, and every time I came across my favourite illustrations, it would be like meeting an old familiar friend. I loved that book!

From the library… well, I used to go with my dad to the British Council Library in Dar es Salaam and get one book from his quota (kids weren’t allowed membership then) of three… and it was never enough. I remember reading an entire series of fairy tales/myths, each book named after a colour - “The Green Story Book”, “The Yellow Story Book”, “The Lilac Story Book” and so on. The lilac one was my favourite because I learnt a new colour and it turned out to be a pretty one!

What's the first book that you bought with your own money?
Jeez… not a clue. If you consider birthday money to be “my own money”, then the first book I bought was probably “The Hamlyn Book of Great Children’s Stories” – all excerpts from various novels, some of which I managed to track down when I got older because ALL those excerpts were intriguing! I should really source that book, so that I have the complete list of books by authors whose names I’ve forgotten. It was a long time ago, that book.

Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I was a re-reader, I am a re-reader, I will always be a re-reader. Which book? Probably half a library’s worth. There isn’t any one book, there are loads of books… but if you define “child” as less than 7 years old, then I’ll go for Richard Scarry again.

What's the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
I was in the 3rd or 4th standard, I suppose, and it was a book about a long-distance truck driver whose cargo was a highly explosive material – nitroglycerine, I think. What I remember best from that book was the bit about how the drivers had to get across a long road that had a series of small ridges all the way (maybe it was set in some wasteland?). Nitro was not meant to be jiggled about (it was highly explosive material), so bad roads meant sudden death from sudden explosions. So what our hero did was get the truck to the optimum speed which would make the tyres on the truck “skim” the ridges without bumping the cargo, and then maintain that speed all the way through to his destination. He managed it the first time around, but died at the end. I didn’t like that ending. I dont remember the name of the book or the author, unfortunately.

Another adult book I read around that time and remember vividly, both book and author, was Arthur Hailey’s “The Final Diagnosis”. Guess I was rather precocious when it came to reading matter!

Are there children's books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Hmm… all the books that I loved as a child, I mostly still love as an adult. I don’t think I bypassed any book that came my way, except for Enid Blyton’s “Secret Seven” series which I hated as a child and loathe as an adult. I cant think of any kids books that I didn’t like as a kid but learned to love as an adult.

Note: Anybody who wishes to do this tag, consider yourself volunteered! Please let me know you've done it, b'cos I'd love to read your post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A show of force - but only a show

I’ve been watching a TV programme called “UK Border Force” for the last few weeks, and it’s been pretty interesting on the whole. The officers working for the Immigration Dept come across as sympathetic, polite and even empathetic to the illegal immigrants they are meant to root out. Maybe it’s because their every action is being filmed and they’re careful about how they behave and what they say; maybe it’s been edited to show the nice side of these guys… but on the whole, I don’t believe that’s the case. (Yes, my cynical muscle was VERY surprised at being given an unexpected rest!)

The most interesting parts of the programme were how the immigration officers at Heathrow and other airports dealt with those they suspected of trying to enter the UK under false pretences. They were unfailingly polite even when it was obvious that pseudo students were lying through their teeth, blatantly stating that it was the colleges that were lying about their non-attendance of classes, and so on. (One of them even acted surprised when the “college” he was supposedly attending was confirmed as bogus by the officials – there was no college by that name, there was only an accomplice at the other end, pretending to be one of the staff!)

It takes immense patience to deal with such people day after day, I should imagine, and I was really impressed with the demeanour of the officials doing the interviews. They were a whole lot more polite than the little Hitlers working at the consulates in India, that’s for sure. I don’t think I could last 15 minutes of having to deal with these people without blowing a gasket, but these guys never lost their temper.

Anyway, much as I found the programme interesting, there were a few things that bothered me. The main one is that the effort, time and, presumably, money spent by the Border Force in rounding up overstayers and other illegals seemed pretty much a waste most of the time. For instance, at Calais Port, any illegal immigrants who were found hiding in the lorries that came through Customs were just let off by the British officials and the French police merely looked the other way. (Sometimes, but not always, the lorry drivers were fined.) Obviously the French authorities couldn’t care less about all those people openly living rough near the port, waiting for a chance to enter the UK. (Not that I think the would-be immigrants should be imprisoned, but there’s got to be some better way of dealing with this problem?)

What really got me is that for all the effort put into finding illegal immigrants, the officers could do pretty much nothing about sending them back. As emphasized over and over again in the programme, if the officers cannot find any identification (such as a passport or other papers), the illegals cannot be sent back to their home country. What's the point going after them? Maybe one in about a dozen gets sent back - eventually - to wherever he/she comes from. The others are basically let off again, with instructions to report to the local police station every week until their case is sorted. Yeah, right. No surprise that the majority of them vanish once again beneath the official radar.

Owners of “Indian” restaurants who employ illegals are fined a certain amount for each illegal caught there, and that’s it, really. Is that the best the authorities can do to employers who knowingly employ people who aren’t allowed to work in the UK, who shouldn’t even be here in the first place? Why not impose more stringent punishment on them as a deterrent? Hell, there are places that have been raided more than once, and I'm sure the owners have contingency funds set aside to cover any fines that might have to be paid! They would know the drill, wouldn't they?

And as for illegal car washing people found in supermarket parking lots, why not fine the supermarkets for letting them work there? Or for not stopping them working there? If the mega stores were threatened with hefty fines for every illegal worker found working in their stores, or even within their curtilage, I’m sure that the stores would do a much more efficient job of preventing them than any government department!

One of the places raided by the Immigration officials in the final episode of the series was Mushtaq’s, a large sweet shop in the Spark Hill (or Spark Brook?) area of Birmingham. I’ve been there once, to see if their goods were any good – unfortunately the sweets were below standard. Even their fresh jilebis and samosas were rather awful. I’d decided not to go back there anyway, and this programme set the seal on that decision. I shall stick to Suraj Sweet Centre (pure vegetarian) for all my jilebi requirements. I have explored most of the sweet shops in the area, Mushtaq’s being the last, and none of them are in the same class as Suraj’s. Three cheers for Suresh at Suraj’s!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Scandalous"

What is a scandal?

Dictionary definition:
1. a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.
2. an offense caused by a fault or misdeed.
3. damage to reputation; public disgrace.
4. defamatory talk; malicious gossip.
5. a person whose conduct brings disgrace or offense.

What is a scandal?

- Barack Obama’s aunt living as an illegal in Boston?
- Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand making idiots of themselves by making obscene phone calls?
- Some supermodel wearing footwear deemed unsuitable for her outfit?
- Celebrity shrink Raj Persaud admitting to plagiarism?
- Politicians who are open to being bribed?
- A woman who suffocated her 3-year-old son because he was an impediment in her social life?
- Celebrities who have affairs and break up theirs and others’ marriages?
- Prince Charles advocating people to “go green” while flitting about the world himself on private aircraft?
- Letting Robert Mugabe continue to rule in Zimbabwe, thereby condemning millions of Zimbabweans to poverty and misery, even though Mugabe is at least as bad as Saddam Hussein ever was, if not worse?
- Hate attacks by MNS followers on non-Maharashtrians?
- Asif Zardari becoming President in Pakistan?

What is a scandal? Any of these? Some of these? All of these? None of these, even? A scandal is only as shocking as people consider it to be, and something comes as a shock only if people are unused to it. Of late, nothing seems to faze the public any more. Nothing is shocking for longer than it takes to turn a page or flip to another channel or hop to another website.

Scandals don’t have a lasting effect on anybody – not the perpetrators, not the disseminators, not the public. Those who have been caught out doing something wrong are no longer ashamed of it – no, they just go on TV chat shows and become celebrities. The few who do face retribution usually bounce back and resume their former lifestyle just as if nothing had ever happened.

What is a scandal?

The fact that nothing is really a scandal any more. THAT is scandalous.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The handwriting tag

So, here's a sample of my handwriting. It hasnt changed much from school days, really (you'll have to take my word for it because what few writing samples there are are NOT going to be made public! No, don't beg, it only makes me feel mean.) :) Anyway, this tag happened because I whined shamelessly to Rads about not being invited, so she kindly extended the invitation, just to shut me up. It follows on from her post here.

My post - and please note this is just mindless blah to show you my handwriting, so dont expect any nuggets of eye-opening wisdom. Nobody specified that I had to make sense or be interesting - that wasnt part of the tag!


Click the photo for a larger image

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Ever noticed how the dried up stalk stem whatever - I can’t think of the technical botanical word for it, but it’s the bit that remains from the vine on a tomato and it’s what you pull off – if it’s still on - before slicing the fruit… Anyway, ever noticed how that bit is a dead ringer for a spider? A LARGE, hairy, fat-legged spider?

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve noticed one of those damned things from the corner of my eye on my kitchen countertop, and leaped back involuntarily even while realising that it’s only a bit of vegetation, not a dormant spider waiting to leap into movement. (Instinct is quicker than reason, as I’ve noticed over and over, although not always quicker than a spider. Those arachnids can move…!)

I suppose such incidents wouldn’t happen if I cleared away the debris from vegetables and things rightaway instead of putting it off with “I’ll do it all at one go after I finish cooking”.

Yeah, I could do that… but then those excitingly heart-stopping “yarrrrrrgggghh!” moments would never liven up my kitchen time, would they? Or get a mention on my blog?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "I dont like myself. I'm crazy about myself" - Mae West

Huh. It took me a while to figure out what Mae West had meant, because on first read it sounded like two contradictory statements. Until I read it out aloud with the emphasis on the word "like"… and then I got it - Mae West didn’t just like herself, she was crazy about herself.

Oh-kay. One thing sorted.

I don’t know what I can brag about with regards to myself. There are some things I’m proud of for myself, but I don’t consider them brag-worthy because they don’t make a difference to other people or help make the world a better place. However, I leave it to all my half-dozen readers to decide if all these are worth peethifying (Tanglish for bragging) about. As for me, I’ll still love those things about me :o)

- I never hurt anybody if I can help it (not since my late teens, at any rate).
- I’m a speed reader of most fiction; a bit slower if it’s non-fiction.
- I spot editing mistakes almost automatically.
- I take pride in spelling/pronouncing words right in whatever language I learn.
- I don’t like artwork/embroidery to be shoddy so I take pains to do a neat job (not applicable to housework).
- I don’t swear much, I’m pretty much a teetotaller (except for the rare occasions that I’m not).
- I tend to trust people until proven wrong.
- I cant hold a grudge for long – time and distance invariably dull the edge of resentment. That isnt to say that I forget the incidents, though. Forgiving is easier than forgetting.
- I could brag in exhaustive detail about how lucky I am in having the best family and friends, but I won’t – I’ll just say that pretty much all of them are wonderful people, open-hearted and intellectual, well-read, educated and a lot of them chronic overachieving all-rounders (in the best way possible), and possessed of a great sense of humour. Just like me... although the intellectual overachieving all-rounding bits kinda sorta passed me by.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Billy-Bob day

Long long ago I owned a book by Enid Blyton called Billy-Bob Tales. In one of those typically Enid Blyton stories about the little everyday doings of Billy-Bob and his spoilt-but-adorable little sister Belinda, Billy-Bob goes into the garden on a sunny, breezy autumn afternoon, excited to be out there, looking at the grass being blown this way and that.

I don’t remember what else he did in that story, but that image of a lovely windy day has always stayed in my mind. I loved the breezy cool days in Madras – admittedly very few days like that, so all the more precious – which usually happened just before or just after a hurricane (one of those that flicked Tamil Nadu with their tail while en route to poor ol' Andhra Pradesh to unleash their awesome destructive fury there). Too bad there was never any grass to look at then, but the treetops did a good job of being blown about.

Here in the UK, mild autumn days – like today - are my favourite… sunny but with no real heat from the sun, bright blue skies, a swirling fresh wind that blows your hair about and takes your breath away – and yes, a wind that ripples through the grass and makes it look like it’s being brushed with silver. The temperature has not dropped so much that the wind is painfully cold, so being blown about is actually very nice. On days like this, I feel as thrilled as Billy-Bob as I go for a walk and peer at the lovely flowers and plants and lawns in other people’s gardens.

Yep, I guess I’m having a Billy-Bob day.

Speedy conclusion

For a moment there, when I read that the Swindon Council had banned speed cameras, I thought it was because the Council thought the cameras didnt really stop traffic accidents, were too Nanny-state and, most of all, were easy revenue earners.

But noooo… the Council was just pissed off that all the cash from fines went to the government although the Council was responsible for the upkeep of the cameras. *sigh* I should have known it wasn't because of wanting to be fair to motorists or in the interests of "eco-driving".

Why am I convinced that the Council would not have banned the cameras if it, rather than the central government, had been the recipient of all the moolah?

Am I just cynical?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "My style"

Style is such a personal thing, nothing that can be pinned down and defined… and yet it’s probably the most discussed topic in fashion-centric non-cerebral circles – or cerebral ones too, who knows. I can’t claim first-hand knowledge of either. Sartorially speaking, my style is probably best described as “comfortable” – or maybe practical. (In all other respects, putting it in the style of the immortal Popeye, I yam what I yam and that’s what I yam.)

I’ve always been curious, in a desultory, idle sort of way, about what makes a person stylish. Not having that characteristic myself, I keep looking for it in others. And of course I then need a second opinion to see if I have correctly identified “style”.

Even given the basic fact that one person’s style is another person’s shock-horror, the parameters of judging style vary tremendously. I simply love the glossy magazines which regularly publish photos of celebrities all dolled up for the red carpet, then declare some as fashion victims and others as fashion divas. Unless the dress is particularly hideous – and to be fair there are a few which are immediately identifiable as such – my usual reaction is “Why”. Why is this dress considered a hit, and why is that a miss? The celebrities are usually perfectly slender and there isn’t much to criticize in the way of size. So why is one person stylish one day for wearing a baker boy cap and capris, and why is another person a victim because of her baggy trousers and baseball cap? Is it just the opinion of the fashion editor for that issue, or am I missing something deeper?

For similar reasons, I rather like the “America’s Next Top Model” series hosted and produced by Tyra Banks. I’m not usually a fan of reality shows, but this one intrigues me and has done from the start not just because it’s so slickly produced, but because it revolves around looks, style and fashion. Some of the girls who are picked for the show are unattractive to my eyes, and yet the judges heap praise on their looks. I like to compare my opinion on the models’ photo shoots with that of the judges… and more often than not, I’m way off the official mark. Perhaps it’s because I’m ignorant of high fashion and “edgy” looks and prefer the more traditional - or normal - hairstyles and body sizes.

I have friends who can effortlessly carry off clothes that would make me look like a clown if ever I had the courage to wear things like that in public. (In private, it doesn't matter. If nobody's there to see your clothes, does stylishness exist?) I’m not talking about revealing tops or butt-crack jeans. In this instance I’m referring to multi-coloured loud checked cotton trousers (which were purchased at one of the seconds outlets in Mahabalipuram), rubber chappals and a tank top – which my friend wore to go to a posh mall in Bangalore. Her hair – gorgeous thick shiny black hair, granted – was piled up messily in a style that I normally sport at home when I’m alone and grubbing out. I wouldn’t have been fit for human eyes in an outfit like that, but she was her usual confident self, and that came across as incredibly stylish. She didn’t expect to be treated any differently than if she was wearing the hautest of couture - and she wasn't. I deeply, deeply admire that sort of casual confidence.

What I find amusing about fashion advice is that this or that model or celebrity is pointed out as uniquely stylish every time she's out in public. Then various items of clothing and accessories similar to that model's, but far cheaper in price (obviously), are also set out. "Be unique in your style, be different" is the bottomline. Yeah, unique and different, in clothes just like Kate Moss's.

Which brings me finally to seasonal fashions. "Purple tulip skirts are the 'in' thing for this autumn" says someone in the fashion industry, and immediately thousands of women rush, lemming-like, to the stores to get the latest purple thing and look like water balloons. What's the point?

And somebody should try telling Goth teenagers that it really isnt unique to dress in black and metal like all the other hundreds of "unique" Goths out there. At least if you're yourself, you're unique - but if you look and dress just like hundreds of your peers, where's the exclusivity there? Or is style not style until everybody is wearing the same type of garment?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cooking marvellous

Bloody chefs. Especially, bloody BBC chefs! They put up what seem like simple, inexpensive, sometimes vegetarian, recipes on the website, and you feel mighty thrilled… until you look at the ingredients and discover that an essential item is something exotic that you don’t get unless you go to great lengths to source it on the Net and import at huge expense – which pretty much negates whatever little simplicity and economy there was in the first place.

Not every place in the UK is London, which is to say that outside of London, shops and supermarkets don’t get much more exotic than Spar or Tesco! Not every person who wishes to cook outside of his/her comfort zone is privileged to travel to exotic places to collect unusual ingredients in person! The least these bloody chefs could do is state where they sourced the PepperJack cheese or pomegranate molasses or really anything else that’s probably commonly available in whichever country it’s from, but – and I wish the chefs would realise this - NOT IN THE UK!

On a scale of 1-10 on my Rant-o-Meter, this one logs in at 8.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Pointless Meme

What's your name spelt backwards?: you figure it out

What did you do last night?: Watched House

The last thing you downloaded onto your computer?: Nothing

Have you ever licked a 9 volt battery?: Nope (why?)

Last time you swam in a pool?: About 2 weeks back

What are you wearing?: clothes

How many cars have you owned?: one

Type of music you dislike most?: Rap

Are you registered to vote?: not yet

Do you have cable?: yep

What kind of computer do you use?: anything that works

Ever made a prank phone call?: yep

You like anyone right now?: lots of people

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?: sky diving

Furthest place you ever traveled?: Dunno which is the most distance (or distant) –
UK to Singapore, Singapore to NZ, UK to India or UK to West Coast USA

What's your favorite comic strip?: Calvin & Hobbes

Do u know all the words to the national anthem?: Yep

Shower, morning or night?: As required

Best movie you've seen in the past month?: None

Favorite pizza toppings?: Not fond of pizza

Chips or popcorn?: Popcorn

What cell phone provider do you have?: Vodafone. I think.

Have you ever smoked peanut shells?: Is this even possible?

Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?: nope

Orange Juice or apple?: apple

Who were the last people you sat at lunch with?: nobody

favorite chocolate bar?: Lindt’s Dark chocolate with hazelnuts

Who is your longest friend and how long?: Rags – from 1981

Last time you ate a homegrown tomato?: last week

Have you ever won a trophy?: nope

Favorite arcade game?: none

Ever ordered from an infomercial?: perhaps

Sprite or 7-UP?: Sprite

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school/work?: School, ofc

Last thing you bought at Walgreens?: Hayfever meds, in 2006

Ever thrown up in public?: nope

Would you prefer being a millionaire or finding true love?: found my true love, now
on the lookout for a (multi)millionaire :-)

Do you believe in love at first sight?: not for myself, no


Did you have long hair as a young kid?: yep

What message is on your voicemail machine?: There isnt any

Where would you like to go right now?: Home

Whats the name of your pet?: no pet

What kind of back pack do you have, and what's in it?: the kind that goes on my back. Nothing in it at the moment.

What do you think about most?: Going home

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "If I had to live at a different time in history…"

Do you know what, I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought some MORE about it, and in the end I realised that there is not a single period in time, at any point in the history of humankind, when I would have preferred to live – if I had to live as a woman, that is. (Yes, I could have chosen to imagine myself a man, in which case I would’ve had all of history to choose from and a much bigger post to write - but I didn’t want to change my gender, even in imagination.)

So, I don’t think women have had a good deal ever, and the present time is probably the best that it has ever been for us. Maybe things will improve in the future, maybe at some point women will not have to kowtow to the unreasonable demands of society and religion … but there’s no way of telling just HOW far into the future that will be. So yeah, I’m glad I’m living in the here and now.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Forbidden"

I'd write about it, but I can't.

'Tis forbidden, you see...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Innocent, but not entirely so

Well, at least that is an honest statement.

Yes, Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by mistake – but in the heat of the chase it was an honest mistake. No consolation to his family, of course, and personally I think it’s a shame that the real terrorists hadn’t been found and shot dead instead of him. In any case, there was this backpacked man, who ran when he saw the cops, who didn’t stop when he was ordered to - so what were the police to assume at that point? They didn’t shoot him for fun, they certainly didn’t shoot anybody else just for “looking like a terrorist”, did they? They shot him because he ran when he caught sight of them and didnt stop running, exactly what a guilty person would do. Had he actually been a terrorist, had he actually had a bomb in that backpack and killed dozens or even hundreds more people, the police would have been excoriated for letting a potential terrorist escape when they could have stopped him.

And for all that Jean Charles de Menezes was innocent of terrorism or plots to murder the innocent, he wasn’t quite the blame-free little angel. The man was in the UK illegally, having overstayed his visit. His visa was no longer valid. THAT was why he ran when he saw the police… most unfortunately for him, as it turned out. If he had stopped, he would not have been shot. He ran because he was afraid of being caught out as an overstayer. He wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t run, and he wouldn’t have needed to run if he hadn't been there in the first place - that is to say, if he had gone back to Brazil as he should have, when his visa expired.

Death is rather too steep a price to pay for being in the UK illegally, that’s for sure, and I am definitely sorry for him and his family. But isn’t it true to say that if Jean Charles de Menezes had been a law-abiding person and returned to Brazil as stipulated, he would most likely be alive today?

And how come nobody seems to have mentioned that little point in the reams of newsprint and air-time that has been given to his case and to his family?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Elsewhere right here in the BBC Online...

"Elsewhere on the list was horror author Stephen King in third place" - BBC News
Stephen King wasnt "elsewhere", was he? He was in third place.

Ye gods...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Wedding"

I’ve been musing a while now, on why celebrities bother getting married, when invariably they get divorced in a year or two or three. Sometimes it only takes weeks or months before “true love” gets defenestrated and the “eternal soulmates” part ways, heartbroken for a couple of days, before popping up with the next “true love”. There are a few exceptions to the hordes of quick-marriage-quicker-divorce… although, haha, nobody but Tom Hanks comes to mind at the moment. (He IS still married to the same woman - whoever she is - isn’t he? I’m not up-to-the-minute on Hollywood gossip.)

So ok, why do they go to all the trouble of spending millions of dollars on glitzy weddings, when the statistics – personal and general – are proof that the marriage will not last longer than it takes for the next candidate to be lined up? Could it possibly, possibly be the triumph of hope over experience? (That's the uncynical way of looking at it.) Or - this is favourite with me - is it that they will do anything, up to and including having a baby and naming it something bizarre, just to be in the public eye?

Not being a celebrity, I wouldn’t know if fame is really addictive, even though a very large part of it consists of negative comments, gossip and intrusion in private lives. I also cant imagine wanting to live in the public eye all the time (that actually sounds painful for the public eye, but what do I know), but then I’m a private person and don’t like being the centre of attention at all whatsoever. I cant state that strongly enough. But I do like to think that even if I were rich beyond my wildest dreams, and – god forbid – in the limelight for any reason, I would still consider marriage sacred and not a multi-million-dollar publicity stunt.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another award

At this rate I'm going to have more awards than I can count on... er... one finger. (No, not the rude American finger.) But now it's nearly more than I can count on TWO fingers. (No, not the two rude British fingers either.) Ah, let's just say I'll have more awards than I can count :)

This one - the BFF Gold Card - from A Mommy's Diary

Many thanks, Mommy! :)

And the BFF Gold Card award from me goes out to...





Thursday, September 25, 2008

Continued from previous

So, I'm not in any way defending the heinousness of killing a child - a handicapped one at that.

However, there are a couple of things that puzzle me somewhat. This mother is said to have bought a bottle of wine and driven around for 8 hours. She made a bottle of wine last eight whole hours, AND got drunk on it? Or did everybody forget to say that she made more pit stops for more wine in those 8 hours?

Also... there have been worse cases of people being tortured and murdered horribly, in maximum pain. Their murderers seem to get away with pleading "temporary insanity", thus escaping a life term in prison. They might spend a lot of time in an asylum, but they manage not to go to prison. Why is that? How come the juries in those cases dont think the murderer should spend the rest of his natural life in prison? Was it just the jury's collective horror at a little girl being killed by her own mother that brought about such a quick verdict? Why does the murder of adults not give rise to the same sort of horror? They would have suffered too. Horribly, in some cases. (Just the thought of it makes my heart grow cold.)

There are murderers who have killed for no reason other than a whim. Joanne Hill might have been driven by a combination of factors - mental, physical, emotional - to killing her daughter... in my eyes she would have been more deserving of at least an objective attempt at trying to understand her state of mind, than someone who killed a stranger out of lust or greed or some other dark reason. I dont think I'm being particularly coherent here, but I cant seem to collect my thoughts to make a more convincing point. I'm not even sure what I feel about Joanne Hill - she killed a helpless 4-year-old disabled child, her own daughter. And yet... I cant help wondering what drove her to it. I dont believe it was something as trivial as embarrassment. It might have been ONE of the factors, but I cant bring myself to believe that it was the main one.

Oh, I dont know. I suppose it's just that justice seems to have been TOO swiftly rendered in this case, whereas it's taken its own time in other cases of rape, torture and/or murder that to me seemed more open-and-shut than this one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Puzzling statement

I’m not going to comment on the tragedy of the 4-year-old disabled girl being drowned by her mother. What could I say that hasn’t been said, or thought? The mother has been sentenced to life in prison. End of her story as well.

I was just intrigued by what the girl’s father said:
"It has been said in court that Naomi suffered from cerebral palsy. This is not true; she did not suffer at all. She lived life to the full and was an inspiration to us all.

“Naomi took everything in her stride and enjoyed everything. She was my constant companion; she was my best friend. She was my little princess."

I was with him... right up the point where he talked about his daughter being his “best friend”. An inspiration she could well have been. A happy child as well. Pretty too. His little princess, certainly. All within the bounds of possibility. But - his best friend? A 4-year-old child with cerebral palsy, best friend to her father, a grown man? How did that work?

I genuinely cant imagine considering any child my best friend - especially when he/she is really only a little child - however much I might love that child, and however much time I spent with said child. I havent come across any parent describing their little ones in those terms. But what do I know, I'm not a mother. Or a father.

So this isn't the most thunderingly important topic to choose for a post. But that statement puzzled me, and I didnt have anything else to write about, really.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why a public loo, George?

What is it with George Michael and public loos? He was caught “in a lewd act” in a public loo in LA, and now he’s gone and got himself arrested for being in possession of crack cocaine – again in a public toilet.

Granted that it’s been 10 years since the LA loo episode, but my question is – what’s this fetish for toilets? Does ol’ Georgie not have a home where he can indulge in lewd acts with whomever he wants to his heart’s content, without offending anybody? Or where he can do drugs without getting himself arrested? Public toilets can't be the most hygienic of places, so wouldn't it be a lot more comfortable for him in his own toilet (or toilets) in his £5-million-pound mansion?

He’s old enough to understand that public toilets are… well, y’know, public. He’s old enough to know that doing drugs is wrong at best, and illegal at worst. He should definitely be jailed for being in possession of a Class A drug, and no pathetic “show of remorse” should work for him – although the police HAVE let him off and he’s left the country, so it HAS worked for him, and I guess there’s also no point saying he shouldn’t be let off.

However and anyway - he SHOULDN’T have been let off!

Still, cant help wishing I could have seen him live in concert – I did (do) like a lot of his music. Bar that barf-inducing “Last Christmas”, that is. It's really the world’s WORST song for inclusion in Christmassy song collections. Has anyone actually listened to the lyrics? The only bloody connection with Christmas is the word “Christmas” ... otherwise there is effing nothing else to do with the spirit of the season.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jumping the queue

I cant remember now where I read it, it was a while ago. But it was some advice from one Indian to another in the UK, about how one could get to be seen by NHS GPs quicker than the norm (the norm basically being at least a week of waiting for an appointment). Basically, the advice was to see a specialist privately (yeah, paying for it) and then, because the specialist would eventually refer you back to your GP, further appointments with the GP would be easy because you were referred by a specialist. At least, that’s what I think the idea was, if I remember right.

I thought it was a pretty good idea, and mentioned it to Pete as an example of ingenuity.

He agreed with the ingenuity but said it seemed unethical to him because it was like “jumping the queue” – yes, it got you ahead, but made it a longer wait for other people who couldn’t afford to see a specialist privately, that being the reason why they were in the queue to see an NHS doctor in the first place.


That certainly put things in a different light – I hadn’t thought about the consequences of that bit of ingenuity, and now that I’m better aware, I’m not about to abuse the system. Sure, I don’t like being unable to see a doctor on short notice (unless you go to the A & E section of a general hospital) – it’s annoying that if you’re ill you cant turn up without an appointment, and hope to be seen by a doctor.

I don’t like being ill, and I hate the idea of my loved ones being ill, but the bottomline is that nothing makes me and mine (or you and yours) more important than all the other people out there who are suffering or watching their loved ones suffer.

It also made me wonder – was that advice indicative of a typically Indian (or Indian sub-continent) trait to sneakily get around what is essentially a fair – though slow and cumbersome - system and use it for personal benefit, never mind everybody else? I’m certainly not proud of the fact that I thought the idea clever at first – it probably damns me as much as anyone who’s actually done it.

So… is it ingrained in us to be inconsiderate of other people, and cunning in our mentality, because we come from a poor and hugely overpopulated country, because of the yawning divide in prosperity, because of the corruption which means that only those who have money can get ahead, and those who dont are left to suffer? What is it that makes us take that attitude everywhere we go?

I do NOT mean that people from other races/ethnicities are blameless angels of goodness and rectitude – certainly not that. But this indifference to other people, at the most basic of levels… is that a typically Indian mentality?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Invitation"

A big bed, soft - yet not so soft that it sags in the middle – and comfortable.


700-thread count cotton bedsheets with the ends tucked tightly under the mattress so that the surface is without a single wrinkle.


Three or four fluffy pillows filled with goose down (not feathers that can – and do - stick their sharp ends out and poke you painfully at random and in random places) and wearing butter-soft cotton covers, piled up at the head of the bed.


A big, soft fluffy duvet or comforter, also filled with goose down and wearing a cotton cover similar to that of the pillows.


An electric blanket.


A cold, wet, dark winter night.

= ??????

I might not be good at conventional maths, but I DO know that all the above add up to an invitation to spend the evening in bed cuddled up with a good book, prior to sinking into blissful sleep...

THAT'S my kind of maths.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Coffee"

That expression “Wake up and smell the coffee”? To me, it’s literal. There’s not much that smells nicer than freshly brewed coffee in the morning, but I’m not so much a fan of drinking coffee as inhaling its heady aroma. I think coffee smells much better from the outside than from the inside, as it were… when it’s stale, it’s horrible, whether it’s in a cup or on somebody’s (or your own) breath. Don’t get me wrong, I do drink coffee and I do like it – but I like it made the South Indian way, with fresh decoction, if it’s at home. If I drink coffee outside, it’s only Saravana Bhavan’s, although I haven’t had that in years now… *sighhhhhh*

What about *Starbucks?

What about it, then? Call that coffee???

*(Although I admit to drinking their mocha light frappuccino (sp?) once in a while.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

An observation

The subconscious mind is a sly, devious thing… it dislikes the cold and would much prefer that you stay cuddled up under the feather duvet where it’s warm and cosy, especially when it's the middle of the night. So when you have to answer Nature’s call, it does its sneakiest, most convincingly insinuating best to make you dream that you ARE on the loo and that it IS okay to answer that urgent call right there… sneaky, I tell you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WTF??!!??!?!? moments...

Family of lawyer Mark Saunders, shot dead by police, go to court

“In the aftermath, Mr Saunders' family questioned why the barrister was shot when, they say, he was not posing a lethal threat.”

The man was taking pot shots at all and sundry – not just at the police – with a shotgun (though, admittedly, legally owned) through a window of his house in which he had barricaded himself. With a shotgun, folks! What exactly would his grieving family have considered a lethal threat? A bazooka?

Ok, Mr Saunders didn’t kill anybody but that was probably more due to their luck than his judgment. Had he not been shot, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have potted a neighbour or a police officer or some passing pedestrian? If he had harmed somebody, people would have been up in arms (forgive the unintended and feeble pun) condemning the cops for not shooting him.

Yes, a deranged lawyer died… but at least nobody else did.


Lembit Opik gets on his scooter to argue for change of law

Segways look like fun and I’d love to try one out (or own one), but to say that they would be perfect to ease congestion in London is ridiculous! Has anyone thought about what the footpaths are like in London? Not exactly smooth, not exactly wide, not exactly obstruction-free… heck, the only things narrower than the footpaths are probably the roads (I exaggerate a bit, but not by much). Will two Segways be able to go side-by-side on the footpath without inconveniencing pedestrians who DON’T have a Segway? There will inevitably be the sort of a**holes who will overtake those who are traveling slower than them - what if they bump into a pedestrian? The Segways look sturdy enough to injure somebody in a collision, and 12 mph is pretty damn quick compared to someone who is strolling or walking along. Oh, and if they’re “virtually silent”, do you, as a Segway user, say “Beep beep, coming through” all the time that you’re on the move?

Segways would be great fun in villages and suburbs which are comparatively quiet. I rather wish I had one myself. Maybe I’ll give Santa baby a little hint…


Skeleton in Britney Spears' family closet

“…details emerged of a secret scandal buried in her family history that would have overshadowed even her well-publicised personal troubles.”

Oh. My. GOD! What a scandal – Britney Spears’s great-grandparents were living in – *gasp* – sin in the 1920s. Perhaps that accounts for Britney's “loose morals” and carelessness with her baby (driving with the baby in her lap – what a scandal, way worse than people who
break babies’ spines, and so on) and generally erratic behaviour.

Isnt that right, editor of The Times? What could possibly be more scandalous than the news of Britney Spears’ great-grandparents’ supposed “life in sin” in the 1920s!

Actually, the most frustrating part is that the newspaper had to make the more “scandalous” news prominent when those long-dead folks could just as easily NOT have been living in sin. What’s the difference between a two-bit gossip rag and a newspaper nowadays? Just the size of the sheet, then?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Miracle"

My life thus far has been amazingly devoid of miracles and events miraculous. I can’t say I miss them, because how can you miss what you’ve never experienced? By “miracle”, I don’t mean generic ones like “being alive and in command of all my senses” (except the common one… but I prefer the exotic, in any case. Common is SO boring), “feeling the gentle breeze caress my face” (more like a cold fish in the face at the moment, what with all the rain and wind), “delighting in the fragrance of flowers” (said flowers at present shredded by above mentioned wind, but still...) and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for all the faculties I possess, and I thoroughly enjoy every minute that I can see, hear, speak and think, and yes, I do appreciate all the glorious bounties of Nature. I don’t take any of these things lightly.

But, miraculous as all those things are, they are still not the sort of occurrence that I expect from the word “miracle” as defined in the dictionary:

"1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God."

Given that I’m not really superstitious (except in the dark of night when I’m alone, heheh) and have not had my (dis)belief in things supernatural and/or divine tested in any practical way, I’m not even sure that I would recognise a miracle if I came across one. I can only hope that when I do, it wont be one of those subtle occurrences because I just don’t do subtle. I’ll need it spelt out beforehand… unless, of course, it’s something unmistakable, like if I were to voluntarily and spontaneously start doing algebra or geometry problems…

Hang on - actually, although extremely unusual, even that wouldn’t qualify in my books.

But if I were to get the answers right... yee-up, right there, that would be a miracle.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Whoa, nearly missed my award!

*sound of thunderous applause, or as much as can be generated by one pair of hands - mine*

Thank you, thank you so much for my award. Of course, I could not have done it without the support and backing of my computer and keyboard and of course I have to thank my typing master from long ago without whose sarcastic mockery I would never have learnt typing, and if I hadnt learnt typing, this award could never have been mine. Yes, mine! MINE, I tell you MIIIIIIIIIIINE! I'm not giving it away! I DESERVE it after all these years of being ignored and passed up for awards because of the envy and jealousy of a LOT of people whose names I cant remember but when I do, boy are they going to regret setting me aside especially as now this award is mine mine MIIINE and nobody can take it away hahahahahaha... who are you people? Your white clothes are SO not in fashion... Where are you taking me?... I wont go without my award, because it's MINE!... oh, it's going to be in a safe place along with me? ... where nobody can steal it? In my own room? No hard or sharp surfaces to damage my award? oh, okay, I'll come with you. But I'll keep my award with me.


Thanks very much for the award, Rads. :) I really enjoyed giving my acceptance speech - I've been prepared all along for an occasion like this, you know. You can tell, cant you? :)

Now, some more about the award itself -

Purpose of the award:

This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.

This is a difficult task for me, not because I cant think of any brilliant blogs, but because pretty much all my favourites have already got the award!

Anyhoo, here goes, and if you've already got the award, just consider yourself twice as brilliant, folks! :)

1. Kamini Dandapani at
Tales of South India - a gorgeous lady who lives in NY, travels the world and writes beautifully about her travels, about music, dance and pretty much anything she takes up. I, for one, cant help wishing that she would write more of her excellent short stories...

2. ??! at
This Is A Title - a skinny guy (I'm inferring, I dont know him although I wish I did) whose writing is profound, funny, perceptive... and who's put on 4 kilos in two months and is happy about it - the lucky so-and-so!

3. Merino, at
Orange-a-Whelmed - She takes some of the most beautiful nature pix I've seen - especially her macro ones, they're breath-taking. She's also got the cutest little nephew...

4. Gopal, at
Gopalsworld - Ok, he's my brother, but I'm not biased when I say that he writes really well and is very very funny. His (in)frequency of posting is what his fans grumble about - one post a year doesnt cut it, da!

5. Shruthi, at
Hallucinations! - Writes beautifully about anything and, as a bonus, once in a while she describes what her adorable little one-year-and-a-few-months old daughter gets up to. I hope to meet them whenever I'm in India next.

6. Umm Oviya, at Quite Qatar - Journalist, mother, ex-colleague, who writes eloquently, and very readably, about a lot of things.