Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I guess there's only one Little Prince...

The one Antoine de Saint-Exupery (on a tangent, does ANYBODY know how to pronounce his name? I've never tried it aloud, myself) wrote about.

On the other hand, there are uncounted numbers of Little Princesses, going by the annoying-as-hell stickers that advertise the fact thus: "Little Princess In Car" - usually in glittery puke-inducing pink, pasted on the rear windscreen.

What's WITH those things, anyway? Why do people only want to announce the presence of girl children? Why have I never, even once, seen a "Little Prince In Car" sticker? Why the discrimination?

And while on the topic of stickers, why even have a notice saying "Baby in car" or "Little person in car"? I doubt that it would make any difference to inconsiderate drivers as to who exactly is in the car ahead of them. They're hardly likely to go "ooh, there's a little person in that car, I'd better stick to the road rules". (On the other hand, someone whose irritation level has shot off the charts might just consider such be-stickered cars as special targets.) It doesnt seem right that immature (in the physical sense) human beings alone should be worthy of due care and attention while driving. ALL humans deserve that sort of consideration.

Anyway, if special consideration is the idea behind these notices, why aren't there any that say "Old person in car"? Or wait - perhaps that should be "Old person driving car".

And then again, that would probably be obvious enough from the doddering driving. No stickers required.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Eye-rritating observation

Why must the Americans pronounce the words Iraq and Iran as “Eye-raq” and “Eye-ran”?


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things that I wish were not associated with me – TAG from Ummon

To find my list, please click here: TEESU'S LIST

Oh allright, I suppose I should do my own list, I suppose I shouldn’t want to be so lazy as to appropriate someone else’s post... but so many things on that list are true of me! I just thought I’d save some time (and words), but...

Oh well, I guess that actually kicks-starts my list:

1. Laziness. I’m not one of those houseproud women (and why is it always women?) who feels the need to clean their house three times every hour, and announce it in every post on their blog. I’d rather announce, from the depths of a comfortable sofa, how I DON’T feel the need to clean my house three times a week, even. Probably not in EVERY post, though. (Too lazy for that. haha.)

2. Snoring. However, this is only hearsay since only Pete associates this with me; and since he has not provided any proof, we will consider this a myth.

3. Temper. *sigh* Capable of going off like a firework. But also – usually – fizzling out as quickly.

4. Over-eating. Although by MY standards, this is better now. Er, less over-eating I mean. (© Teesu – thanks, cuz!)

5. Sitcom watching. Can’t help it but no apologies either. Laughter is essential. Laughter, even canned, shared with your husband/friends/family – even better.

6. Nose mining. ONLY in private. (It’s a family thang. Apparently.)

7. Pushover. I tend to give in easily, or not make a fuss even when it’s necessary – anything for a quiet (if repressed) life.

8. Procrastination. As evidenced by this post which should have been done at least a week back...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Library memories

Libraries have always been my most favourite place in the world. I remember going to the British Council Library in Dar es Salaam with my dad when I was 7 or 8 years old and wanting very desperately to live there. I might be mistaken, but the library might not have been big enough to have a separate children’s section, or I was too young to have my own membership – either way, what it meant was that my dad had to check a book out on his card for me. I went through a series of “coloured” collections of fairy tales by Andrew Lang (and no, I didn’t know what his name was until I googled the book titles some time back) – the Red Fairy Book, the Blue Fairy Book, the green, the lilac, the pink, and so on. I remember trying to greedily read as much as I could while my dad made his selection, because I knew I could only take one book at a time… and then I would have to wait till the next time my dad returned to the library before I could get another. (For those who want to read the fairy tales, they are all *hip hip hurrah* online here. Isnt the Internet absolutely the most FABULOUS invention?)

I didn’t get my own membership at the British Council Library till we settled in Madras. It was a long trip to get to Mount Road from where I lived, involving two bus changes on really crowded routes... and only one or two bus services with which I was familiar stopped right outside the lane that led to the library. So it was a very hit and miss affair, and quite often I would have to walk all the way back from the Quaid-e-Millath College bus stop. I was more than willing to take all this in stride, as it were, and did - but all that effort for just 3 books at a time seemed unfair. We were also only allowed to keep them for 2 weeks - I think. (It might have been 3.) That didn’t matter to me, in any case, as I was usually back there in a couple of days, having finished reading my measly quota in no time.

Membership at the British Council was not free, and every year it got more and more expensive. I couldn't afford a one-time lifetime payment, so it was a yearly renewal. And yet I couldn’t bear to not continue with it, because the alternative – the American Consulate library – was such a poor fish in contrast. Membership there was free, so naturally I went there as well to borrow books. But the selection there was narrow-minded in the extreme. I mean, they only stocked classic novels and plays by classic American authors. (Yeah I know, it was the library at the American Consulate – but so what? The BCL, despite being part of the British Embassy, had books by writers from all countries... including America!)

My objection here was not so much to the classics (which I read anyway) as to the fact that there wasn’t any popular contemporary fiction at all. Not even by American authors! Not that it stopped me – some of my favourite authors happen to be American, like Mark Twain. And I also loved the books they had on journalism and editing. (I read them like storybooks – they were funny and sarcastic with their examples of editing errors... and the sections on reporters and reporting were pretty far removed from my personal experience of reporters - most, not all - and their reporting techniques. They were good for a giggle.)

But getting back to the BCL, as a student of English Literature, I felt it incumbent upon myself to watch the BBC dramatisations of Shakespeare’s plays. I pretended to do it for the sake of my college education, but usually I chose plays that appealed to me, not necessarily the ones we were “doing” in class. It was quite difficult to get a chance to watch the videos as there were only 3 or 4 TVs per three or four dozen members who wanted to watch something or the other at any given time. So on the rare occasions that I managed to get one of those coveted seats, I made it my business to not move my butt until I’d got through an entire play at a time – three or four hours of relentless watching, with the attendant who changed the video tape for us occasionally saying somewhat hopelessly “Adhuththa dharam paarkalamey ma” (“You can watch it the next time, dear”). Watch it the next time? Hah! No way I was going to give up my turn halfway through a play, especially after a long wait, and with no idea when the “aduththa dharam” would happen!

My biggest grouse with the BCL was the limit on books, though. When my sister, after moving to the US, called to say that library membership there was free and she could take as many books as she wanted, every single time, my envy knew no bounds. That seemed the very ideal of heaven... and much as I tried to douse the flames of envy by telling myself that the downside was that she probably got to read ONLY American authors, that sour grapes attitude didn’t really work.

So when I got a job in Singapore, and discovered that I could take an unlimited number of books from the library, from whichever branch I happened to be closest to, and return them the same way without ever having to go through a librarian for either service (you checked out your own books and dropped them down a chute when returning them) – believe me, I was in hog heaven! It was definitely one of the biggest perks of living in that country.

Here in the UK, membership is free at my local library and I am officially allowed a maximum of 10 books at a time. I say officially, because apart from one curmudgeonly man who is inflexible on the “rules”, enforcing them like a petty dictator, most of the library staff turn a blind eye to my taking up to 15 books. They know me (and why wouldn’t they, I’m there every week!), they like that I enjoy reading so much, and they don’t mind bending the rules a little for such an enthusiastic user. After all, I don’t damage books, I pay any fines that crop up from time to time, I pay the reservation charges even before I collect the books... and if a library isn’t there to lend books to members (even if *shock horror* it’s over the official limit), what else is it there for?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pillow-talk, redefined

Scene: The executive suite of the Brooks Hotel in Dublin.

Pete, arms possessively clasping a couple of super-soft squashy pillows, face half-buried in another mound of down-filled pillows, murmurs something I can’t hear.

Me (at the mirror): Pete, what did you say?

Pete: (mumbles)

Me: Sorry, what? I couldn’t hear you.

Pete: (more tender, indistinct mumbles)

Me (turning around somewhat impatiently): Pete, you’re talking into the pillows. I honestly couldn’t hear you, could you say that again please?

Pete (lifts his head up briefly): I was talking to the pillows. I missed them. (resumes endearments)

Me: (giggles)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Junk"

Lee Evans is one of my favourite British comedians. This didn’t happen rightaway, but once you get past his nervous mannerisms and self-conscious laughter, he really does bring to the fore a lot of everyday niggles and annoyances – the kind that happen to you, and (let’s face it) the kind that YOU are to other people – and makes you laugh out loud. He is amazingly skinny and agile and his physical comedy is unsurpassed because his timing is impeccable.

What’s he got to do with junk, you ask? Well, you know the sort of crap that gets crammed in your postbox every day – junk leaflets and advertisements and free credit card approvals and the like? Lee Evans, in a moment of inspired genius, demonstrated his way of getting back at the junk mailers - by substituting the contents of their envelopes with some crap of his own. The way he depicted this had me laughing out loud – and really, isn’t it tat for tat? (Send me your sh*t, will you? Here’s some of MINE in return! See if you like what you get any more than I like what I get.)

I haven’t yet followed through on that example, to be fair... but I’m tempted to do so every single day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A blues concert to remember

Yesterday, after work, Pete and I drove down (or up, or sideways – whichever) to Crewe for a concert at “Club M” by a musician called Walter Trout. Pete had discovered him by some accidental arcane process some time ago, and promptly fallen in love with his blues music, playing him incessantly for a while thereafter. I took a little time to be converted (mainly because I was in the throes of first love with Joe Bonamassa) but once I really listened to Trout, I couldn’t help but fall for his fantastic guitar work. If I’ve described David Gilmour’s music as an enveloping cascade, well, Walter Trout’s music is an absolute avalanche. You cannot help but be involved headlong in it.

Trout (after meeting him at yesterday’s concert, I keep wanting to refer to him as “Mr Trout” – he was such a nice old guy!) is one of the world’s most accomplished guitarists, ranked at No 5. I was reluctant to admit that he could be better than David Gilmour, but after yesterday, I’m afraid I have to concede that point. I carry my torch high for Gilmour, though – he has a sexier voice than Mr Trout and nobody’s going to convince me otherwise! :)

Club M is big for a club, but fairly small and intimate for a concert. The sound system was fantastic – even I as an amateur could tell that, and Pete as the semi-pro was all praise for it. I’ve decided that small intimate concerts are the way to go... no ostentatiously pompous security guards ordering people about, no regimented seating, you can walk right up to the stage to watch the musicians, you can see their faces and expressions without requiring binoculars - and Mr Trout was kind enough to come right up to the edge of the stage and play his guitar so that his admiring fans could watch his fantastic flying fingers. He was just SO good... and he exhibited hardly any of the posturing and bending and wriggling and twisting that so many guitarists and violinists seem inclined to do, probably to demonstrate just how involved they are with their performance.

Well, Mr Trout was living proof of my conviction that the best musicians and artists (and footballers as well) do not need to resort to grandstanding to convince people of their talent and dedication. Virtuosity will out, without any acting. I have to mention the drummer, too – a man-mountain sent probably by the angels to earth so that he could play for Mr Trout. Half the time he had his eyes closed while doing the most intricate drumming... which I thought was amazing, but Pete just laughed and pointed out that he probably knew where all his drums and cymbals were.

Hm. Quite.

But he was fabulously good.

There were two other artistes that Mr Trout brought on – one that I termed “The Screamer” because he sang a heavy-metal type song that I simply did not take to. If the entire concert had featured him, I would have had to walk out in the first 10 minutes, in sheer self-defence. Luckily he didn’t do much else. The other performer was an 18-year-old guitarist with whom Mr Trout had a “jamming” session. That was absolutely glorious too. After they had finished to a huge ovation, Mr Trout sighed and remarked “Today’s youth, what are they like. At 18 years I was wallowing in the mud of Woodstock, hallucinating. And look at him!”

Towards the end of the performance, Pete and I went up near the stage so that I could watch Mr Trout from close quarters and see just what a virtuoso he was on the guitar. (I had refused to leave my bar stool earlier for fear of losing it to someone else.) I was standing there mesmerised by the music while Pete took a few photos, when Mr Trout came to the edge of the stage, leaned down and beckoned to me. For a few seconds I just watched him blankly, not realizing that it was me he was gesturing forward. Then the penny dropped and I took a few steps towards him, only to have him hand his guitar “pick” (or plectrum) to me, still warm from his fingers – and possibly from all the friction with the strings! – as a souvenir of the concert. That was really unexpected, and I have to say I was thrilled to be picked out (should that be plectrumed out? * heheheh * sorry) like that.

Afterwards we went out into the lobby where they were selling CDs and t-shirts and Pete bought a souvenir T-shirt for me and the latest Walter Trout CD – which we got autographed by all four band members. We managed to talk for a couple of minutes with Mr Trout, and he was nice enough to remember me (perhaps because I was the only brown-skinned person there?) and say that I had looked so immersed in the music that he felt he should give me his pick. Which I thought very sweet of him. Even nicer, when he asked my name and made out his autograph on the CD to me.

Definitely a concert to remember... and is it any surprise that I am now Mr Trout’s lifetime fan? Not just for the music but also because he turned out to be such an unaffected, nice guy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Bump in the Night"

Have I written about this before? I may well have, but if it’s been long enough for me to have forgotten, it’s a dead certainty that nobody else is likely to remember it. (Scintillating read though it would have been.) Which is good enough reason to take on this week’s Sunday Scribblings on things that go “bump” in the night.

I’m not a believer in the supernatural. (I aim to withhold judgment on this until I’m personally provided proof of the existence of God or any other supernatural being.) I especially don’t believe in supernatural entities of the malignant kind that are traditionally believed to be the cause of unexplained "bumps" in the night. Besides, if there ARE ghosts, I think they'll be around all the time, not just at night. (What are they meant to do in the day? sleep?) So, within the narrow bounds of my first-hand experiences, I’m the only thing that has gone bump in the night, to my knowledge. (It was pretty painful, and very disorientating, I might add.)

This incident happened when we were living in Madras, renting the ground floor of my uncle’s house in Adyar. It was a small house, kind of sunk between the two buildings that flanked it because our neighbours had raised the ground levels and added extra storeys. This effectively ensured that we didn’t get much natural light in the living room and bedroom, even in the blazing summer. (We got all the heat, though.)

Anyway, for some reason I was alone in the house that night. I had opted to sleep on the floor in the living room, to make the most of the stone floor. A power cut woke me in the middle of the night (when the fan stopped, the mosquitoes homed in – the deepest sleeper was guaranteed to awake pretty sharpish, believe me). When I opened my eyes, it was pitch dark. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. I didn’t have a torch handy and did not even know which direction I was facing.

I tried to grope my way to a wall, the idea being that I would feel my way along the wall to the front door. It was only a small room, dwarfed even more by the furniture in it - all of which seemed malignantly intent on getting in the way of my feet and shins as painfully as possible. It was an utterly weird experience - no matter which way I turned, all I came across was more unyielding furniture and there seemed to be a lot more of it than was spatially possible.

I don’t know how long I would have gone around bumping into things, or even if I would have eventually come across a wall (logic said they were there, after all)… but thankfully the power came back on then, and I could see again by the light of our neighbour’s night lamp. Strangely, the furniture was no longer clustered around my shins, there weren’t more sofas and side tables than usual, and what’s more, they were all in their right places. Odd.

Ok, so this wasn’t exactly breathtakingly adventurous, but it had a lasting impact. I never sleep without a night light handy, and I find the moonlight or reflected streetlight that shines into my bedroom to be quite friendly. Unlike my husband, who likes to shut out all the light. But then he’s never gone bump in the night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blue funk

Is it better to live in ignorance or know the bitter truth? I find I’m afraid of circumstances that might put relationships (with friends, with family) to the test, in case it turns out that the persons I think of as fun or principled or good-hearted or loyal or helpful are not what they would seem… not when it comes to the crunch.

I’m afraid of the crunch, because it would be sound of illusions being irretrievably shattered, like Humpty Dumpty.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Britcoms and sitcoms

Pete was watching "Red Dwarf" some time back, a British “sci-fi” sitcom which I watch only once in a while. It’s one of his firm favourites, though – if he could, he would watch it every time an episode of "Red Dwarf" was telecast… pretty much the same as me when it comes to “F.r.i.e.n.d.s”, I suppose. I find "Red Dwarf" reasonably entertaining, although what I like best is probably the facial make-up for Kryten, the robot-with-a-conscience. It’s absolutely brilliant for not being computer-generated/enhanced. The special effects for the series in general are pretty damn good, too.

In the years I’ve been in the UK, I’ve watched quite a few TV sitcoms, classic ones that Pete’s grown up with and others of more recent vintage. What I’ve discovered is that although I now like quite a few, some of them had to “grow” on me - they simply didn’t “click” instantly. And then again, there are some which I simply cannot get – they just don’t seem funny. A classic example of the latter is “Absolutely Fabulous” – where I sit stone-faced and puzzled but Pete’s chuckling away. Part of my problem could well be Jennifer Saunders, whose acting, especially in that sitcom, grates on every nerve I possess. Actually I think her brand of thespianism creates new nerve endings in my body purely so that they can jangle irritably. (It’s not a pleasant sensation.)

Another of those I don’t really get is “The Young Ones” – although I have come to like Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall separately in their gross-out live stage shows of “Bottom”, playing Eddie Hitler and Richie Richard, respectively. I can take slapstick and scatological comedy in small doses, but the bloopers have always been what I like best. I love the way they cover-up their mistakes by ad-libbing them into their dialogue. It took me quite a while to see that Rik Mayall was really quite good looking, because of the huge variety of dreadful faces he pulls.

Of those that I disliked right from the start, probably “George and Mildred” tops the list. Actually, it’s on a list all by itself. “Porridge”, with Ronnie Barker playing Fletcher, the smooth-talking small-time criminal, is one I’m still ambivalent about. Underneath the bonhomie and good humour that Fletcher displays, you can sense that he is actually quite amoral and a really rather nasty piece of work. It’s a brilliant bit of character acting, so good that I can’t watch “Porridge” without disliking Fletcher intensely. That Ronnie Barker was a very, very good actor.

Which is why I love him in the gentle sitcom “Open All Hours”, where he plays a tight-fisted, sarcastic, amusing old shop-keeper, Arkwright, whose nephew works for him. (A small digression: The stutter that Ronnie Barker affects is, again, brilliantly done and raises a laugh every time. But a book I read recently, "Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell, kind of makes me feel a bit guilty now when I giggle at Barker's perfectly timed stutter - because the teenage protagonist of the book has a stammer (or a stutter - there's a difference, I know, but I'm not sure which one is right in this instance), and in a passing mention he says that every time "Open All Hours" came on TV, it made him cringe, because he was so very conscious of his own problem for which he was bullied at school.) Arkwright is one of my favourite characters - he displays quite a few characteristics of Indian shopkeepers in trying to sell "off" goods and make as much money from his customers as possible while still being obsequious!

I could go on about more of the sitcoms I like, but what I was getting at was that the American ones seemed to catch my fancy quicker than the British ones (perhaps because they were not so reliant on physical humour?), even though the latter was what I got to watch as a kid before we had all the satellite/cable TV channels. Pre-Star TV folks might remember serials like "Some Mothers Do 'ave 'em" (intensely annoying, but all praise for the guy who, as Frank, plays such a convincing numpty), "Are You Being Served" (not terribly funny, and the camp guy overdid it by the bucketful!), "Sorry!" (a one word review - yurck!), "Mind Your Language" (got boring really quick because of the stereotyped characters) and "The Brittas Empire". My dad and grandfather were avid watchers of "Yes Minister", a series which I came to adore only when I got a bit older and could appreciate the wit and sarcasm - oh, and also understand the accent!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My new hobby is hitting the mark

I We might have found a new hobby – archery! Last weekend Pete decided to surprise me by taking me to the Church Stretton archery club, where he’d booked an hour’s instruction with a budding instructor who needed people to instruct so as to qualify for instructing. Apparently I’d mentioned to Pete (probably after watching costumed archers strut their stuff at some castle or other) that I’d like to try my hand at it too, and he’d taken that offhand remark at face value. I’m glad he did, because it was great fun. We were meant to be there for just about an hour, but we ended up staying on for six whole hours.

There were two young men whose instructing methods, etc were being observed by a senior instructor as part of the qualifying process. One of them, a lanky uber-cool young man clad all in black, with black sunglasses as well, was assigned to us. I have to say that going by his performance with us, he wasn’t exactly going to be the best instructor – not by a long shot! The examiner found it necessary to step in time and again to remind of things he should have told us, or asked us, or shown us, and to speak more clearly - if it hadn't been for his advice and comments, we would have been a lot less informed about the whys and hows of what we were doing. Mr Uber Cool did pass, but probably just by a squeak... the fact is that he's a very good archer (else he would very likely not have been considered for an instructor's job) but perhaps not yet confident enough in his teaching abilities.

Anyway, we started off shooting arrows at a target 20 metres away. What surprised me the most was the fact that you don't stand facing the target front-on. Rather, you straddle a horizontal line so that the lower half of you is at right angles to the target while you swivel your upper half to face the target. (Is this not a good enough description? Too bad, it's the best I can do.). I guess I've never watched any of the archery sessions at the Olympics or this might not have been such a surprise.


Pete got the hang of letting the arrows off correctly quicker than I did, making several bulls eyes while I just about managed to hit the target board. This pleased him very much because he values games of skill over games of chance - like cards - or games of chance that involve skill - like Scrabble.

My archery efforts were, meanwhile, for some time more on the lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was also not much of a shot, it would seem... always assuming he wrote the poem in an autobiographical frame of mind. (For non-Eng Lit students, it's the one that goes:
"I shot an Arrow into the air
It fell to earth I know not where,
For so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight." )

[Although, strictly speaking, I suppose I did know where my arrows fell - usually well outside the marked area on the target board. And the arrow the swift flight of which the sight could not follow could more accurately describe those shot by the Olympic entrants who were practising nearby.]

Still, eventually, after a while, my arrows began to hit the centre of the target more often than not, and after a couple of times of having all four of them hit the bulls eye, the instructor decided I was ready to move on to a target that was placed further away, at 30 metres. This was a bit more difficult as the technique involved was different - I had to pull the bowstring right upto my nose, with my curled forefinger under my chin, keeping my left arm bent just so. If I got it wrong, two things happened: 1. The arrow either wildly overshot or pathetically undershot its mark. 2. The bowstring caught on my arm, just above the elbow on the inside (which doesnt sound like much, but after a couple of times of catching your arm like that, it hurts like hell. I have a large painful black bruise, visible even on my dark skin, to prove that particular point.)

One thing which I thought was a bit overdone - at first - was the health and safety rules that were strictly followed. For instance, nobody but the archers (and the instructors, natch) were allowed around the shooting line - they all had to stand behind the observation line which was about 10 metres behind the shooting line (these are my terms for the lines, by the way). Nobody was allowed to go and fetch their arrows from their target until everybody at all the targets had finished shooting. And nobody was allowed to shoot arrows while there was anyone else on the field who was still collecting arrows from the other targets, even if they were really far away - like 90 metres away. (One of the archery contenders from Shropshire for the 2012 Olympics was practising shooting at his target which was 90 metres away. Since he is disabled, a colleague was deputed to fetch his arrows from the target.)

Like I said, it seemed a bit excessive to me at the start, but once I'd realised just how far beyond the target a wrongly-aimed arrow could go, I realised that maybe it was better to be safe than sorry. Especially as anybody on the receiving end of an arrow would most emphatically not be a happy camper.

We were meant to have an hour's instruction but it was so interesting and enjoyable that we ended up practising for 6 hours straight. Membership to the club for a year is pretty cheap and we get to rent our own bow and arrows and accessories (to take home) for £5 a month... so Sherwood Forest, here we come!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hiding crime behind anonymity

I don’t agree with the practice of keeping the names of juvenile repeat or violent offenders from being made public. Newspapers and tabloids report again and again about people being mugged, robbed, raped, violently beaten, even killed. But then comes the bland statement that - despite the horrific nature of the crimes reported - the names of the offenders could not be released because of their age… because they were 16 years of age or less.

Of course, I know that the newspapers/tabloids would like nothing better than to out such thugs and murderers, but they’re held back by the law. Well, I think that law is wrong, wrong, wrong. If you’re old enough to commit adult crimes, you’re old enough to be tried and convicted as an adult. Why protect such creatures?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Have I ranted about this before?

People who wait for something with, apparently, "baited" breath.

What do they bait it with? Worms? Flies? And are they fishing, by any chance?

It's "BATED" breath - as in, short for "abated", which means to lower or slow down or simply hold. Holding one's breath while waiting (with impatience or excitement), is what the expression actually MEANS!

Or do they do that just to bait me? (Yes, since you ask, I AM feeling a bit persecuted.)

YAAAAAY! I'm the first

... to comment on the phenomenon of saying "Yaaaay, I'm the first to comment" on other people's blogs. (Sorry if you were expecting anything more dramatic from this post's title.)

I've noticed on some of the more popular blogs that there are at least half a dozen comments which say "Yay! First to comment" or "First" (as if that's an achievement - or is it meant to show the single-minded dedication of the commenter to the blog being commented on?).

What I'm getting at is, do they not realise that the perceived absence of comments doesnt necessarily indicate the actual absence of any previous commenters? In other words, it's just that the blogger has not yet vetted and published the remarks that have been left. Which is why one gets to see the half-dozen or more comment(er)s all celebrating that they're "first".


Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday Scribblings – “Fantasy Dinner Party”

The rules are:
- you can invite anyone, living or dead
- you have a table that seats eight, but as you are one, you can invite seven people
- you have to explain why you'd invite them

And for bonus points:
- what would you serve them for dinner?

I’ve already done this – or something like this - as a “tag” awhile ago, but I’m never averse to doing another version. (Also, non-Scribblers, please feel free to actually take this on as a tag, if you like, and link back to your blog/Facebook note/whatever so I know?)

Guest No 1: My dad, the consummate bon vivant. Essential to any gathering because he could get anybody or anything, even a tree-trunk, to open up about their life and times – and what’s more, he’d find the tree-trunk interesting (and probably even get a life lesson for me out of it)!

Guest No 2: Emperor Akbar. A fascinating character from Indian history - a patron of the arts, a cruel yet generous ruler, illiterate yet open-minded enough to be well ahead of his time and his religion. He would be most interesting, I think. (Hopefully he’ll have learnt English, somehow, before he comes to dinner, or communication might be a tad difficult.)

Guest No 3: Erma Bombeck. One of my favourite funny writers. Would she be as funny, as wisecrackingly, charmingly cynical in real life as she was in her books?

Guest No 4: Michael Jackson. Just so I could ask him all the personal questions to which I’d like answers, and thus set all the gossip mongers at rest, and also perhaps get him to perform a moonwalk live.

Guest No 5: Bill Clinton. Because he seems like a charming person for a politician (that he told so many lies is neither here nor there – ALL politicians are liars, but at least he’s one of the few who is easy on the eye!)

Guest No 6: David Gilmour. The best of the Pink Floyd band. He’d HAVE to sing one of his songs. If he wont give any more public performances, that’s the least he can do.

Guest No 7: Pete. Because my husband would NEVER forgive me if he was left out of a dinner party thrown by me with David Gilmour as one of the guests!

No 8: Me, the host(ess) (but not a Twinkie).

Menu: Takeaways from the best restaurants. You dont think I'd be slaving over the COOKING, surely?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The ride of her life

This news item got me thinking.

What if Amy falls in love with a newer, younger ride? Has she thought about the anguish this will cause to her current favourite? Or, god forbid, what if....

Oh this is almost too horrible to contemplate, but I have to ask. What if the ride cheats on her?

What then?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hijacked book tag

From Wordjunkie's blog.


Bookmark or bent page ?
Neither. I remember which page I’m on with each book, no matter how many books I’m reading at a time. I L.O.A.T.H.E bent pages (or rather, the people who crease them).

Have you ever been offered a book?
Absolutely! And never once refused. Not even waited to be offered, in many cases.

Do you read in your bath?
No, because I don’t like baths and have showers instead. I do have a book open on the bathroom window sill, however, which I read while undressing/toweling off/dressing.

Have you already thought about writing a book ?
Yes, and known that it would be utterly impossible for me to actually write one, for many reasons.

What do you think about books in several volumes ?
Continuity, and the appearance of characters I like.

Do you have a cult book?
Not just one. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Kim by Rudyard Kipling, The Tramp and The Dog by Chris Williams, C Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata, Malgudi Days by R K Narayan, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A C Doyle… to name but a few.

Do you like to re-read?
Books I liked the first time, absolutely. There’s always something – a turn of phrase, a description, etc - you missed the first time around and notice when you re-read.

What about meeting or not with the authors of the books you've liked ?
Not. I don’t really want to meet the person behind the books – they may not be as interesting, I might not like them... a couple of exceptions might be Bill Bryson and Sir Terry Pratchett. But I’d want to watch from a distance, like at a lecture, etc. I’d be too shy to speak to them upfront. And what would I say?

Do you like to talk about the books you read ?
Sometimes, with people of similar bent of mind.

How do you pick your books ?
Reviews, recommendations, font type, book size (the fatter they are, the better).

Something you read, hard to confess ?
A book by Anonymous (left by some adult or other, which I found while rummaging in the loft at my grandparents’ place) when I was a pre-teen, but I have to say I didn’t like it, perhaps because I didn’t understand it.

Best places to read ?
Everywhere. Wherever there’s light to read by.

The ideal book would be...
1000 pages or more, plenty of interesting characters and situations, lots of humour and good writing, maybe some tragedy thrown in as well, but ultimately with a happy ending.

Read over people's shoulders ?
Yep, but I prefer not to as I invariably am left frustrated as I finish reading the page much quicker than them. And NOBODY is allowed to read over my shoulders.

TV, computer games or book ?
Book, thanks. TV comes second, with Scrubs, House, Law & Order – Special Victims Unit taking priority (not necessarily in that order).

Read and eat ?
All the time, a bad habit that all three of us inherited from my dad.

Read with music, in silence, whatever...
I can and do read no matter what’s happening in the background. Don’t really require silence.

E-books ?
Not really, although to be fair I haven’t tried Kindle or any other pocket e-book type thing. Reading books on the computer or online is annoying.

Borrow or buy ?
Both. Buy the ones I really want to own, borrow everything else. Can’t afford to buy all I read and certainly don’t have the space to store ‘em.

What book are you reading now – which one is coming next ?
Unaccustomed Earth, short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Coming up next - 'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell.

Have you already dropped a book ?
Just one. But I can’t claim to have started it properly, despite many attempts, so I’m not sure that “dropping” applies here. Anyway, it’s War & Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.

What's the first book you just fell in love with ?
The Family at Red Roofs, by Enid Blyton. It was more “real” than any of her others, much as I loved all her school and fairy and morality tales.

Sunday Scribblings - "Anticipate"

Some of the things - significant or petty, cool or pathetic, whatever - I'm looking forward to:

- Our next holiday. Undecided as yet where and when (or even if, to be honest), but the anticipation of possibilities… oh, the possibilities! A week at a cottage in Norway? 10 days on a Greek island? 2 weeks to be divided between Boston and Seattle? A weekend in a European city?

- Travelling with Pete, anywhere

- Visits from family & friends (if and when they materialise – you know who you are, you masters/mistresses of procrastination and waffle)

- Checking out an Indian fast food place in Birmingham to see if it’s street-food-style food is authentic.

- Harvesting bell peppers, golden-yellow French beans and lots of chillies from my plants

- Keeping my new and extremely precious curry leaf plant alive over the winter to come

- Watching the new Harry Potter movie, whenever

- Being able to watch Law & Order – SVU from the very first episode to the latest one, all in order

- Owning Scrubs – the entire series

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


- People who start/accept a game of Scrabble, and if it looks like they’re losing, they either forfeit immediately or simply abandon the game. FINISH THE EFFING GAME!

- People who drive at 25mph in a 60mph zone under the impression that they are “driving safely”. They are NOT! They are the primary cause of road rage.

- People who drink too much and then spend the entire evening glued to me, saying the same boring nonsensical things over and over till I could scream.

- People who bring sodding huge pushchairs/buggies (festooned with bags full of “bargains” from trendy shops) into narrow aisles, with not an apology for getting in the way of others.

- Gale-force cold winds that shred my plants beyond hope of recovery, and rain that drowns what's left, even though it's supposedly summer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sashi? Who she?

Do you remember the nursery rhyme “Where are you going to, my pretty maid”? It’s the basis of my possibly first ever (totally unintended) joke, when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. (This was when we were living in Tanzania.) I was hanging out with girls who were much older than me. These goddesses were between 14-17 years old, and they were rehearsing for the Indian Association’s annual “get-together” in Dar es Salaam, when a variety of performances were staged by children and adults throughout the day.

Anyway, I was at that awkward age where I didn’t fit in with the little children (in my opinion) nor with the older ones (in their opinion) and in any case I wasn’t taking part in anything. The only reason I was even in the room was because the mothers had decided to put me with the older girls with instructions to be quiet and not disturb their rehearsal.

I more than willing to be quiet – it was thrilling just to be there because I considered these teenagers to be impossibly sophisticated. And so it proved, because after I was sworn to silence about everything they did or said, they proceeded to talk about exciting (and sometimes puzzling) things - the latest fashion, the latest Hindi movie dance steps, shaving the hair from their arms and legs, boys who were considered flirty, and so on. After a good bit of gossip and giggling, the girls finally began to rehearse their programme – three of them were “men”, the other three were milkmaids, and they sang the nursery rhyme “Where are you going to, my pretty maid” as a duet.

I hadn’t heard this before, and after the first session, I turned to the nearest milkmaid and asked, puzzled, “Who is *Sashi?”

She looked just as puzzled and said “What do you mean, who is Sashi?”

“You all were singing it - “I’m going amilking **Sashi said”,” I explained.

Her face cleared and she started laughing.

“It’s not “Sashi said”, it’s “SIR she said”!” she explained, before asking me to repeat to the others what I’d said. There was a lot of laughter, but luckily the girls chose to see my question as funny rather than stupid, and even praised my sense of humour. It was a heady feeling, being “accepted” in the older group. It was an even headier feeling when I got a lot of laughs from the adults later that evening while we were watching the performers go through the rehearsal in public, and I trotted out my ignorant question as a deliberate joke.

I’ve never forgotten that day, or the rhyme, or the melody.

*In my defence, I knew a girl called Sashi.

**And in my further defence, that’s how “sir she” sounded to me when the girls sang their line, repeating "sir she said" three times as per the tune to which it was set.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Timepass meme while I wait for a real idea...


- Available: Nope
- Age: Twice twenty
- Annoyance: Noisy music
- Animal: as in favourite? Dog.


- Beer: No, thanks.
- Birthday/Birthplace: March 1/Baroda
- Body Part on opposite sex: Smile
- Best feeling in the world: The last day of work.
- Blind or Deaf: Deaf, if I must make a choice.
- Best weather: Warm, but not hot, with a gentle breeze
- Been in Love: Constantly.
- Been on stage?: 2-3 times *shudder*
- Believe in yourself?: Yeah – for good and bad.
- Believe in life on other planets: Don’t I have to believe in other planets first?
- Believe in miracles: Godly ones, no.
- Believe in Magic: Hell yes.
- Believe in God: Yes – too bad it’s the kind of God I don’t want for a God.


- Car: Mitsubishi Shogun
- Candy: Dark chocolate.
- Color: Orange.
- Cried in school: In public? Yes, as a kid, I’m sure.
- Chocolate/Vanilla: Vanilla frosting on chocolate cake.
- Country to visit: Can’t limit myself to just one.


- Day or Night: Day.
- Danced: Never.
- Dance in the rain?: Prance, yes. Dance, no.
- Do the splits?: Never


- Eggs: Plain omelette, made by expert omelette chef in restaurants.
- Eyes: Mine? Small. Ideal? Anne Hathaway’s (“The Devil Wears Prada” actress)
- Everyone has: Something to whine about.


- First crush: Hahaha. A LONG while ago
- First thoughts waking up: Jeez, is it getting up time already?
- Food: Vegetarian.
- Greatest Fear: Losing my loved ones.
- Giver or taker: Changes according to mood.
- Goals: Yes. One or two.
- Get along with your parent(s)?: Yep.


- Hair Colour: Brownish reddish black (and some white).
- Height: 5’8”
- Happy: Mostly.
- How do you want to die: Peacefully and painlessly.
- Health freak?: Would like to be.
- Hate: Religious fanaticism.


- Ice Cream: Strawberry with real strawberry pieces in it. Or vanilla made with real vanilla beans.
- Instrument: Favourite to listen to – flute.


- Jewelry: Preferably not.
- Job: Would like one that pays better with less work. Any offers?


- Kids: No thanks.
- Kickboxing or karate: Don’t know don’t care.
- Keep a journal?: Used to.

- Love: All that’s mine.
- Laughed so hard you cried: Yep.
- Love at first sight: Living proof.


- Mooned anyone?: Nope.
- Marriage: Only if you can be faithful.
- Motion sickness?: Never, and I’m so pleased about it!


- Number of Siblings: 2
- Number of Piercings: 2


- One wish: That religion didn’t exist. Would save human beings a lot of trouble.


- Place you'd like to live: On my own island (with all possible amenities available, natch).
- Perfect Pizza: Don’t much like pizza.
- Pepsi/Coke: Coke.


- Questionnaires: Love ‘em, especially this kind. Not official ones, though.


- Reason to cry: *sigh*
- Reality T.V: Call it reality? Hahahaha!
- Roll your tongue in a circle: No.


- Song: current favorite – As long as we’re clear that it’s MY current favourite, not on the charts… Sunidhi Chauhan’s “Kaisi Paheli Zindagani” from the movie Parineeta; and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”.
- Shoe size: 7
- Slept outside: Often as a kid.
- Seen a dead body? A few, unfortunately.
- Smoked?: A few puffs as a teenager.
- Skinny dipped?: Nope.
- Shower daily?: Yep. For the hair if nothing else.
- Sing well?: Nope.
- In the shower?: Occasionally
- Swear?: Swear that I sing in the shower? Or swear in the shower?
- Stuffed Animals?: Yes please.
- Single/Group dates: Party for two.
- Strawberries/Blueberries: Strawberries.
- Scientists need to invent: A personal time-adjusting machine – “Slow” setting for good times and “speed up” for bad times.


- Time for bed: When I’m sleepy.
- Thunderstorms: Time for samosas.
- TV: Scrubs, Law & Order (all of them), Friends, and many more.
- Touch your tongue to your nose: Nope.


- Unpredictable: How do I predict that?


- Vegetable you hate: Aubergine/brinjal/eggplant
- Vegetable you love: Potato (but there are many others too, honest!)
- Vacation spot: Ever-changing.


- Weakness: Food.
- When you grow up: Hope never to.
- Worst feeling: Losing my dad.
- Wanted to be a model?: No.
- Where do we go when we die: To your favourite childhood place.
- Worst weather: Wintry sleet and icy winds.


-X-Rays: Yep, had ‘em done a couple of times.


-Year it is now: 2009
- Yellow: Greedy fellow :D


- Zoo animal: Platypus (not that I’ve seen one)
- Zodiac sign: Pisces

Monday, July 06, 2009

I dont get it

There are plenty of things that get my goat, but none so quickly as the “marked down” items in supermarkets – the “reduced for quick sale” shelves, which display items that are past their sell-by dates. That wouldn’t be so bad in itself, except that when it comes to fresh (!) produce, the fruits and vegetables there are not just past their sell-by dates, they’re well past the use-bys too. Sometimes the only thing they’re fit for is the rubbish bin (or compost bin, for the greener type of folk) because honestly, the fruits or veg are literally decaying, putrefying under the plastic wrap.

And yet the supermarkets have the gall, the absolute effrontery to sell these nasty worm-food items with stickers that say “half price”! Is there nothing they wouldn’t try to make quick buck (or quid) off? I can’t believe people would pay for these things. It takes the concept of “basics” to disgusting depths and my dearest dream is to package the rotting items for special delivery to the multi-billionaire Lord Whosits and Sir Whatsits who own these behemoth supermarkets. Preferably personal delivery, thrown with accuracy and care at their fat-cat smirking faces.


Next, fashion – women’s fashion, to be precise. Form-fitting clothes are the norm, with t-shirts and tops outlining the female shape, sometimes cut low in the front to display cleavage. But if there is any hint of nipples in that outline, watch out - that is a fashion no-no. I don’t get it. And which fashion expert decided that it was unacceptable, anyway?

Why is it acceptable for the shape of the breast to be outlined, but not the nipples? I’m talking about visibility through the cloth – not skin displays! What’s the big deal about nipples, anyway? They’re part of the breasts. Everybody knows that. Everybody has them (excepting the rare anomalies for whatever reason). So why do the same women who wear fitted or tight clothes go to such efforts to disguise the presence of their nipples at the same time?

“They attract men’s attention” doesn’t cut it as a reason – that’s what the tops/tees do in the first place.

Any rational explanations, folks?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Toys"

I don’t think I had many toys when I was growing up, mainly because I begged for books instead. I do remember having one doll – with long golden hair - which mostly lived in the cupboard because I didn’t play with it much. For a while the doll remained in the original packaging as my parents didn’t want the doll to get dirty. But the packaging was eventually discarded.

The doll had a comb for its hair, but that idea didn’t work very well because the nylon hair had a tendency to get terribly tangled. I didn’t have the patience to untangle it - which is perhaps the reason for the mysterious hairstyle change that the doll underwent one day.

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but the doll’s hair became short in the back, with uneven bangs over the forehead. I admit to having had a fascination with the “Sadhana cut” and with Zeenat Aman’s hairstyle in the movie Qurbani, and I remember my dad’s amused remark that I had probably played hairdresser to the doll – but I protested my innocence then and I maintain to date that I have no recollection of any such events... if the deed was indeed mine, so to speak.

In any case, the doll’s appearance was not improved by its shorter hair. In fact, it became sort of bald, revealing the little holes in its cranium which had once held the golden strands. The doll remained shut away from everyday life thereafter, although it dutifully traveled with us wherever my dad was transferred. I don’t recall what happened to the doll in the end – I think perhaps that a younger cousin took possession of it, bald head and all.

The one type of toy that I did play with were cardboard dolls. I had received a couple of books as birthday presents, which had dolls made of cardboard with dresses and hats made of paper, that I could cut out and attach to the dolls by means of little foldable tabs. There were only a few dresses, and I soon got bored with their limitations. That was when I began drawing and colouring my own dresses for the dolls.


When the original cardboard dolls eventually lost their heads and hands, I began drawing my own version of the dolls – very basic, with their arms and legs ending in bland curves, with no hands or feet.


But soon I evolved a thumb for the hands (but no fingers) and a foot shape for the legs (but no toes) because it was difficult to draw gloves or boots for bland curves, and even more difficult to attach them to the cardboard doll.


At first I painstakingly cut out the clothes that I’d drawn and coloured, fitting them to my basic dolls to check if the designs (!) looked nice on them. Fairly soon this grew to be a painfully boring process – especially if I forgot to draw or cut out the tabs, which made it impossible for my dolls to model the clothes – and I stuck to merely drawing and colouring the various dresses, gowns, swim suits, hats, boots, shoes and other accessories on plain sheets of paper. In the end it wasn’t the dolls that interested me, it was the artwork involved. I enjoyed doing this for a while, especially when a friend of my mother admired my “creativity”, remarking that I could be a fashion designer.

Unfortunately, though, books turned out to be consistently much more interesting, and the few thoughts I’d had about fashion fizzled out completely, replaced by a strong desire to become a journalist (helped along by the fact that my best subject in school was English composition).

And so the loss to the world of fashion design came about... although I can't really claim that the world of journalism gained anything either.

Oh well.

PS. Please forgive the extreme amateurishness of the illustrations. I can't draw with a mouse!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


OmiGOD (*please imagine your best Rachel-from-F.R.I.E.N.D.S accent here*)! I'm growing blueberries! I mean, my blueberry PLANT is growing blueberries! I have a blueberry plant which apparently didn't die over the winter, which I didnt glance at over the spring, and which I didn't bother watering in the summer, because I simply didnt even imagine it was a blueberry plant, even when amma asked me if it was a blueberry plant growing in the pot (what I said to her was "No way, ma, it's growing too sturdily, it's just a weed" - but blessed be, I didnt rip the plant out by the root and discard it... I just let it flourish away) - and now it IS a blueberry plant, which had flowers, and the flowers are now growing into actual blueberries! I have a blueberry plant, folks! I'm the original Accidental Gardener - with more accidents in the garden (not personal ones, just gardening ones) than accidental gardens, but who cares, I'm going to have a dozen blueberries from my own plant, soon!

Here are a few pics:




Monday, June 01, 2009

Don't look now, but you're being followed

And by that I mean me - I'm all of a twitter because I'M being followed.

(Wasn't that just the bestest hint ever, ever, of what this post is about? I'm so pleased with the subtlety of it!)

Yes, I speak of Twitter, where I registered a few months ago. I haven't done anything with it since because I'm not quite sure what to DO with it. I know what it's meant to be - a way to update people on what I'm doing in 141 characters or less. But I really, really, REALLY don't think anyone would be interested in any updates I have, because there just isn't anything of interest to anyone. Not that I'm aware of, at any rate.

"I sneezed 5 times in succession just now" isn't about to make anyone feel they want to know more, is it?

("The tissue I used is sodden so I now have a fresh one" - on the off chance that anybody might want an update on the previous.)

So, this being the case, why do I keep getting messages in my inbox saying that "so and so is now following you on Twitter"? Why? It's not even as if most of them are people I know, because they arent. I dont know Joselyn Hsiu (my latest follower), for instance, and I'm certain she doesnt know me - and yet she's following me. I might understand this if I was an active Twit(ter? Twitterer?) but I'm not. So why are people following me?

I can only conclude - unless someone can provide a better explanation - that even when I'm saying and doing nothing, I'm still interesting as all heck.

So there.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Waiter, there aren't enough slugs in my salad

"And what about the slugs, you wonder? They’re not so very different, anatomically, and they come shell-free. In the Hebrides they used to chop up the big black ones, salt them and store them for use in the hungry days of the winter."

I can't believe I actually read the article in its entirety, but if that particular paragraph had appeared at the beginning rather than at the end, I would probably have been too busy yarking up breakfast to finish reading the article. As it is, I'm feeling very queasy, and the banana and pear I ate a couple of hours ago are uneasily close to making a reappearance from the same orifice as they went in - not the normal state of affairs, I assure you.

Bad enough to think of people eating snails... but slugs? Slugs!!! Urgh!

If snails and slugs were quite the delicacies that the author of the article suggests they are, wouldn't there be a lot less of them in gardens everywhere? Wouldn't people be pouncing on them for a snack, or at least with the intention of selling them in farmers markets or exotic food outlets?

Instead of being boiled alive in the kitchens of gourmets, these slimy, disgusting little beasts are rife in my garden, nibbling at the tender leaves of things I'm trying to grow and ignoring all the weeds (which, for information, I am trying NOT to grow!)

I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that these abominations of creations originated from God's nose pickings, probably during a time when He had a really phlegmy cold. No religious tome of any of the world's religions is going to mention this, though... because you can't reveal such things to the faithful without compromising God's Omniscience and All-Powerfulness - not to mention His Dignity.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Worry"

Can your earlobes get detached and if they do, will they flap in the wind?

What if my plants arent growing because I don’t talk to them?

What if my plants aren’t growing because I DO talk to them and they’re so bored they’re trying to become seeds again?

What if there’s an alien living in the ATM I use?

What if the alien inside the ATM I use has tentacles?

What if the alien inside the ATM I use decides to slide a tentacle out and nab my finger when I try to collect my money?

What if my trouser leg gets stuck between the teeth of an escalator and my trousers are ripped off?

What if Britney Spears shaves her head again?

What if I’ve already done a post about my worries and don’t remember? What if these aren’t even new worries?

What if some hacker creates a virus that erases the internet?

What if I’m too funny for people to understand?

What if my blog gets a huge readership and I can’t cope with the pressure of fame or stop playing to the gallery all the time?

What if the worst thing that can happen ISNT the worst thing that can happen?

What if I don’t have enough to worry about?

How will I know if I’m worrying enough about my worries?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Disconnected"

People who live their lives through their Blackberry (or whatever other equivalent) are completely mystifying, their pride in being “connected” to everything somewhat bizarre. Now, I’ve no idea of all the things that a Blackberry can do that make it so indispensable that some people own and use more than one - at the same time! So, say that you can call people, listen to music, watch a video, read a book, send/receive email, make appointments, book tickets, take photographs or videos, watch live TV programmes and everything else on your Blackberry that makes it a multifunctional item. Brilliant. Very cool. Very clever.

Does it mean that you simplify your life by getting rid of your ipod, TV, video/DVD player, music system, phone, camera, videocam, computer, books and possibly your secretary? No. So if you’re still going to have all those things anyway, what’s the point of a Blackberry?

Phones that play music, ipods that function as phones – what’s with that? I would be happy for my ipod to just play music and do nothing else. I don’t need my ipod to be a diary, an alarm clock, a radio, a DVD player, a TV, computer or anything else. I have all those things separately, and they all work just fine.

I have a nice large-screen TV on which I enjoy watching TV programmes and movies. I have never been overcome by an irresistible urge to watch a movie on a 3” screen anywhere, no matter how little else I have to do. Even on long-haul flights, when I could conceivably be expected to be bored and require entertainment, I don’t bother with the 3” screens on the back of the seat in front of me.

I don’t think I’m a Luddite when it comes to technology. I just don’t feel the necessity to be connected all the time to an electronic leash, everywhere I go. Technology is a utilitarian thing, as far as I'm concerned - if it does what I need, that will do. When an item that's meant to make your life simpler turns out to need training to operate, because it's complicated by the sheer number of things it does, those technological "advances" defeat the original purpose - simplicity.

I wonder what they would do, those very important, very tech-savvy people who are addicted to their Blackberrys, if they were disconnected from the electronic world. How would they survive the lack of entertainment at the touch of a dinky little button on a dinky little screen?

Me, I’d read a book – just your normal, printed book, which wouldn’t tell you the time, remind you of an appointment, play music, make a phone call, receive an email, take a photograph or do anything other than be something to read. The kind of book that would have pages made from paper that you could touch, smell and feel, the kind of book that wouldn’t need batteries, mains power or recharging. That kind of retro book.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making a clean breast of things

Came across this news item today, and couldn’t help laughing – I mean, how ridiculous is it to say that the woman breached food and drink rules? (Actually she breached both rules simultaneously – hahahaha! Sorry, cant help it, I just think it’s really funny.)

Seriously, though, it’s not like she was going to litter the poolside with empty bottles or cans or sandwich wrappers! She would certainly not be leaving anything behind for someone else to clear up as the container(s) would go home with her. That really was a ridiculous enforcement of an otherwise reasonable rule and the pool management definitely owed her an apology at the very least.

Anyway, as expected, the woman protested that she was doing “the most natural thing in the world”. And that's where my irritation kicked in. I have a problem with that description as applied to breastfeeding... it is NOT the most natural thing. Or rather, it’s one of many “most natural” functions, including crapping. Obviously most normal people wouldn’t crap in public, given a choice of doing it more discreetly and comfortably away from the eyes of onlookers. (Men who pee/crap in public, by the way, are normal too – it’s just that they should be classified as animal, rather than human.)

Breastfeeding discreetly in public is ok by me, and even indiscreetly done it doesn’t really bother me, as obviously it doesn’t bother the woman doing it. What I find odd, though - if displaying one's breasts all the time is unacceptable despite their being natural (forget about surgically enhanced for the moment), why is it acceptable to display them while breastfeeding? Yeah yeah, I know, boobs are for feeding babies, yada yada. But call breastfeeding the “most natural thing” all you want, protest as much as you like that she’s a mother providing nourishment to her infant, the undeniable fact is that the woman has her boobs out in public. It's not something women do in the normal course of things, is it?

I don't mean those who do it discreetly. I assume that those who don't make a big deal of breastfeeding their babies openly are those who do not have the exhibitionist gene in their make-up. Single women who were comfortable with putting their assets on display probably continue that way as mothers – but with the added approbation of doing the “most natural thing”, this time as a more or less socially-acceptable form of exhibitionism.

Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and the call of motherhood is stronger than any inhibitions that might be caused by modesty. I wouldn’t know that personally and don’t care to find out.

Still, if boobs must be whipped out in public, at least done to feed a baby, it’s in a good cause. I’m all for good causes.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Allah’s revenge

or, How Non-Believers Are At Fault For Everything

Convenient explanation, isn’t it? The tsunami in 2004 was Allah’s punishment on those people who had fun by the beachside. And now the swine flu (oh WHAT a godsend for the True Believers... SWINE flu!) which, because of its perceived piggy origins, has most certainly everything to do with the infidels who aren’t Muslim and who eat pork, and with those fallen Muslims who, defying the Godly ban on the ingestion of swine, bravely eat pork anyway. (Question: Should we be calling this the Revenge of The Pork, much as the mad cow disease was probably Bovine Retribution?)

Logic, of course, has sod all to do with this explanation. I wonder if the righteous proponents of Allah’s Heavenly Persecution have taken into account those of their fellow righteous brethren who died in the tsunami along with all the sinners, or those of them who have contracted swine flu and may be dying even now, this minute, as I write. Or are the innocent part of the – what’s the term now ... oh yes, the collateral damage which occurs when retribution, whether divine or human, is sweeping rather than specific? Or maybe the collaterally and terminally damaged go directly to Heaven even as the rest go to Hell.

Oh, and how would the righteous explain away those sinners – Muslim and non – who survived the tsunami and who will, inevitably, also survive the swine flu? I’d love to hear it.

This article says a lot more about the prescience of Islam when it comes to natural disasters. So do read it.

I would like to add that my blanket condemnation would apply equally as much to any Hindus or Christians or believers of any other denomination who come up with religious explanations for non-religious occurrences. Being agnostic/atheist has its plus points in that you can be equally scathing of all religious head-cases (and, of course, its minus points too, in that you might attract the wrath of the "true" followers of Ram, Christ AND Allah). But the bottomline is, it’s religious fanatics that I’m against, not any religion in particular.



(Just doing my bit for the tabloid world.)

But seriously, spiders that size? Aaack!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Confession"

A couple of confessions, in no particular order of importance because they’re not terribly important. The really interesting ones get to remain unconfessed and I shall carry the guilt (or the secret joy) of those unconfessions to the grave (or the crematorium) with me. Sorry, folks.

Confession No 1:

When I was 10 years old or thereabouts, I accompanied my parents to their friends’ home. There were two boys there, the older one about 12 years old and the younger a couple of years younger than me. Younger one evidently worshipped older one, and older one showed off freely and quite unashamedly, encouraged to greater “feats” by the presence of an extra onlooker (me). At one point he opened an atlas and challenged me to match his hand span at full stretch, thumb on Australia and tip of middle finger touching India (or something like that).

I did it fairly easily (the older one hadn’t observed this, probably busy trying to think of the next “challenge”) but then saw the look on the younger boy’s face – total shock/disappointment/disbelief at the perceived fall of his hero, beaten by a mere girl… and oh dear, a few incipient tears. So I asked the older one to show me again exactly where he’d placed his thumb and middle finger, and then - oh, how I cringe at this confession - I pretended that I couldn’t match his “manly” hand span!
Yes, I ensured that the younger one’s hero didn’t fall off his pedestal and protected the reputation of the older one… but oh, at what price this impulsive defence of a young blowhard! What a letdown of my gender, of all the women who fought for emancipation, who fought for the vote, who fought for equality, who fought to be seen as equal to or even better than men! It is a difficult, difficult thing to confess, and I may never live this down...

Confession No 2:

Actually, come to think of it, this next confession may actually matter – but never mind, I shall come clear no matter at what further cost to my reputation.

I’ve always made fun of people who cried at emotional scenes in movies, pointing out perfectly logical and perfectly true things like “It’s not real, they’re only acting”, and shaking my head in disbelief when I caught anyone blubbing – which was pretty often. But what they didn’t know, because I was at great pains to hide from everybody (friends and family both), is that I cried at every single melodramatic scene I came across. Since everybody would be watching the movie and not me, and because the cinema halls were always dimly lit, I got away with it every time (I’m pretty sure of this). And by the time the credits got over and the lights came on, I would have collected myself, ready to mock those who didn’t have a problem with being openly “emotional” or being labeled “sensitive”.

There. That’s about as much as I’m willing to lay bare.

An award/tag from Umm Oviya, and my duty is done

Okay, this is a tag started by Umm Oviya of Quite Qatar, and although it's also an award she's instituted, I prefer to think of it as a way to discover new blogs, hopefully at least some of which will be very readable. There are probably thousands of well-written, funny blogs out there which need outing and propagating, and this is my bit towards that end.

I got to this site by blog hopping, and unfortunately have no idea which one led me there. It's not always the journey which matters, anyway, so here is the link to journey's end:

Scary Duck

I've no idea if Mr Scary Duck (who is neither scary nor a duck, apparently) will continue this tag... mainly because unless he follows linkbacks, he's not likely to know that he's received a newly instituted award. I hope he will do all of the above, though, if and when he ever finds out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Follow"

Anyone who reads more than just their own blog will have noticed the trend among bloggers to present each other with “awards” - “Nicest Person”, “Droolworthy”, “To Encourage You”, “Uber Amazing Blog”, “Friendly blog”, and so on. Once an award is on a blog, they quickly spread, like viruses, to others in groups of 3, 5, 7 or even more... mainly because each awardee is meant to pass each award on to at least 3 others, as a minimum. And I must say that most of the awardees are very good about following instructions.

I don’t know, of course, whether the awarder really thinks the awardees’ blogs worth the accolade – but then again, there’s no requirement for sincerity and it sure doesn’t cost any money. All it takes is a bit of time to think of the requisite number of people and list them, possibly a bit more time for the more sincere ones to provide links to each listed awardee... and the most conscientious of them (also the most relentless self-campaigners) go to each awardee's blog and leave a comment saying “You’ve been given an award, come and look at my blog for details”. That, of course, brings about yet more awards and traffic.

I also am not too sure about the actual value of such awards. Not just because they’re as common as... well, as blogs, but because they’re such subjective things. Who’s the final arbiter in labelling one blog interesting and another droolworthy, and why should anybody consider that the final decision anyway? There are as many opinions as there are people, after all. There are blogs which I think are all-round absolute rubbish, and others that I think are all-round absolutely fantastic... but both kinds of blogs receive the same awards. Sometimes the rubbish blogs get lots more comments (admittedly of the inane “nice recipe, thanks for posting” kind) than the good ones, probably because the good ones don’t make enough effort to get noticed. That doesn’t seem right to me… although the clich├ęd old saying probably holds good here – “The emptiest vessels make the most noise”. Why does advertising always triumph over genuine talent?

I have, admittedly, posted one or two “awards” that I received re my blog and “passed them on” to others, too - but that was before I realised that everybody got the darn things, so they really didn't mean much in the end. There are a couple more that I haven’t advertised or propagated... for more than one reason. One, I don’t wish to follow the blogsphere trends for no good reason. Two, I don’t wish to award anyone anything if I don’t really, really, REALLY like their blog and anyway, I’d rather just leave a comment or write an email (makes it a lot more personal than copy-pasting some inane logo). And three, I’m usually too lazy to list, link and/or leave comments about the list/link.

I have to say that I wondered at one point why I didn’t receive more awards than I did... but could that possibly, possibly have anything to do with cynical, unfriendly, unwelcoming (and unwelcome - heh) posts like this? Tut tut, the very thought...!

Friday, April 24, 2009


Some people need to learn the difference between saying “little” and “a little” or "few" and "a few" (eg, “I planted few vegetables this year” versus “I planted A few vegetables this year”, or "little skill is needed" versus "a little skill is needed") - because, and this is really important, they mean the Exact. Bloody. Opposite!

If those people would take the trouble to correct themselves, things would be a lot less confusing on their bloody blog posts, especially when they're recipe instructions!

Yeah, I'm in a bad bood modd mood. And?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Language"

When I was younger, I used to wonder how the British and the Americans managed with only one language – English. My family has always been multilingual from being scattered all over India. Most of us speak a minimum of three languages – Tamil, English and Hindi – and a good few of my relatives have a few more Indian languages under their belt, not counting foreign languages. Most of my friends tend to be polyglots too.

Whenever we cousins got together (summer holidays, marriages, family functions etc), our conversations would invariably be in a random mixture of at least three languages, switching from one to the other depending on what needed saying and how forcefully it needed to be said, or how perfectly described. There are expressions in every language that defy exact translation, so it was just as well that we never needed to translate since all of us could understand the original anyway.

It helped to speak Hindi if we were among non-Hindi speakers and needed to keep the conversation private (like while discussing prices or taxi fares), and speaking Tamil up north is pretty much guaranteed to be unintelligible to non-Tamil folks. But there is never a guarantee, no matter where you are in India, that English will not be understood. It’s almost more the national language than Hindi, the official national language.

Anyway, the first time Pete attended one of our family gatherings in Madras, he was bewildered by our mode of communication – amused, annoyed, frustrated and impressed all at once because he could follow some of most conversations, but not all of any conversation unless it was aimed specifically at him and therefore entirely and only in English. Otherwise it was the usual hotch-potch of everybody being very vocal polyglots at the same time and yet managing to hear and be heard. I guess it’s an Indian family get-together thing which seemed extra-strange for someone from a very small, quiet family!

Now that I live in the UK, I still wonder how so many people here manage with just one language – English, their mother-tongue. Yes, they learn other European languages in school (I think it's compulsory, just as a second and even a third language are required in the Indian curriculum) but it’s not the same as the entire family being fluent in it and being able to converse freely. What I find even more surprising is how badly so many people mangle the one and only language they do know - getting the grammar wrong, unable to spell correctly, or write coherently. Obviously, I don’t mean that all of them are in the same boat – but there are enough numbers to make that boat pretty crowded.

I do not mean that all native speakers of English should be expected to speak English fluently and read and write perfectly in that language, merely because it’s their mother tongue. If it were the case that everybody should speak their mother-tongue perfectly, I’d be the first to fall by the wayside... my Tamil skills are not exactly top-notch, due to a combination of circumstances and – let it be said – personal preferences.

BUT – if your mother tongue, whatever that be, was the only language you knew, the only language you were likely to speak/read/write/learn, wouldn’t you want to be very, very good at it? Simply because there would be no fallback, no recourse to anything else for a phrase, a description, a word, a meaning, an expression...?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of pens and pins...

Do ALL pens and pencils grow little legs and scurry away to hide just when you need one desperately (a pen/pencil, that is. Not a leg) to take notes while someone gabbles vital information on the phone?

I understand this sudden-appendage-growth theory is based more on Enid Blyton than anything more specificially scientific, but since I believe there is no scientific explanation, I’m going with Enid Blyton.

(Also, you understand, I haven’t actually seen pens and pencils grow legs, but I have it on authority based on extensive and exhaustive readings over the years of Ms Blyton’s works that such things either:

1. Happen when you’re not looking.

2. Happen even when you are looking but you can’t see it because you’re not a child, as the various magical activities of faerieland are not open to grown-up scrutiny.)

And to end this on a completely unPC note, what wouldn't I give for a paraplegic pen right this moment...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Scary"

Missed a few weeks of Sunday Scribblings... but I'm back, for the moment. With a whimper, as prompted.

So here's some of what I find scary:

- ThatI might not feel like writing again… ever.
- That my writing isn’t as good as I think it is.

- That others might not consider my writing as good as I think it is.
- Being admired by people who dont impress me.
- Being considered boring/stupid by people I deeply admire for not being boring or stupid.

- Being outed as less interesting than I pretend I am.
- Calculators, because I never get a consistent outcome for any calculation, so how would I recognise the correct answer?

- Maths (see previous, starting with "because")

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


appears to have passed me by.


Friday, March 27, 2009

The economics of discipline

Perhaps it’s easy to be disciplined and orderly when you know that you will definitely get whatever it is you’re waiting for; when you know for certain that you won’t lose out by giving way to someone, or waiting till those ahead of you are done. Maybe that’s why there’s such a mad scramble for everything in poorer countries – because people know that supply (of anything) is much, much less than the constant demand, and it’s always a case of first-come-first-served, every man for himself and the others be damned.

If you want to see Third World-style discourtesy and selfishness in the hallowed West, try shopping at Next just after Christmas. Or at Ikea, when there’s a sale on. Or heck, for some really vicious “me first even if I have to trample over you” behaviour, head for Harrods during their traditional New Year sale, where the Haves exhibit the sort of aggressive grabbiness that the Have-Nots couldn't even begin to match.

Discipline only exists where supply exceeds demand. That’s a law of human nature, whether you’re White and First World, or Brown and Third World.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reading and writhing

I think it was in the first week of college that one of our lecturers gathered together all the first-year students (not just the English Literature students) for some forthcoming in-house “culturals”. She then asked for volunteers to read aloud a short poem by Robert Frost (incidentally, one of my all-time favourite poets because his poems are so deceptively simple, beautifully descriptive and easy to understand), so that she could choose the best among us for whatever programme she had in mind for the culturals.

Now I’ve always suffered from an extreme reluctance to be the centre of attention for any reason – in other words, terrible stage fright – but for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer to read aloud to a giggling gaggle of total strangers. No, actually I DO remember the reason – I really wanted a different persona, to be seen as someone who was gregarious, fun, spontaneous, maybe even a leader of – erm, women, I suppose… and I thought that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as none of the girls there knew me, or what I was like, at all.

What I discovered that day was that it’s really very difficult to get over who you are (especially if you’re like me - reserved to a fault, difficult to get on with and borderline unfriendly unless there is a “vibe”) to be the person you want to be, even if you have a blank canvas of an audience to work with. So let’s just say that it was not exactly a scintillating reading that I did – I was trembling, my hands were icy cold in contrast to my face which felt red-hot (that was one of the times that I really blessed my dark complexion, because a fair skin would have shown me up as beet-red), and my voice was nearly inaudible. And what was audible shook like Talat Mehmood’s singing on a really good day, except mine was not deliberate.

I clearly remember how impatient the lecturer was when I finished. She grabbed the book from me, saying (extra loudly, I thought as I squirmed in embarrassment): “That was absolutely terrible! This is a beautiful poem meant to be read softly, with emotion, not rattled off without pause or expression! Here, I’ll read it out and you can see the difference!” (Those were pretty much her exact words, by the way. You don't easily forget those occasions of self-induced embarrassment.)

That was the last time I volunteered to read anything in public. I’m glad to say, though, that my written work revised the lecturer’s (very probable) opinion of me as a poetry-mangling literature-loathing lump of a first-year Eng Lit student. Perhaps I couldn’t read, but I certainly could write.

Which is why
this article I came across in the Times Online website was intriguing. I don’t know how good I would be at reading aloud – but I think I could manage with an audience of one or two people. I know absolutely that I have no trouble reading aloud to kids, or telling them stories with the appropriate voice approximations (squeaky for mouse, growly for lion and so on) - and for proof I have a once-little-and-now-20-years-of-age cousin who still remembers the story of "Cheeko and Rajah", a monkey and an elephant respectively. (Hell, she couldn't not remember it, because it was her favourite story and I must have narrated it to her, on request, about a zillion times. It's definitely branded into MY brain, and I'm pretty sure that not even Alzheimer's could make me forget that story!)

What a nice job it would be, though, to read aloud to people in a posh hotel room - and get paid for it. I've read aloud to Pete before, but now I must do so again with the intention of being evaluated for clarity, ability to hold interest and such other qualities as are necessary for a professional read-alouder. (Is there a technical term for this job post, I wonder, and does one have to be trained at a drama academy to qualify?)

Oh, and for those interested to know which poem by Robert Frost we were asked to read aloud, it's this one:

The Pasture

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Not a baddie, but not all Goody either

I hope I am not the only person who’s really tired of the overblown praise being heaped upon the late Jade Goody by people who ought to have other, far more important things to do – like Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for starters. Yes, it was tragic that she died so young, leaving behind two young children. But that sort of tragedy happens all the time, and – pardon me for saying this – to people who were doing a great deal more every single day in the way of helping other people, or making the world a better place, or indeed raising the profile of deadly diseases, than Jade Goody ever did voluntarily in her entire 27 years of existence! The fact that such people die unnoticed and uneulogised and, in many cases, unable to provide for their loved ones left behind, is one of the more unfair things this world has to offer.

Jade Goody was a celebrity – and an accidental one at that. She did nothing to make the thinking person see her as someone to be admired for her achievements, because other than making money by selling her life, she achieved nothing. All she did was make her life a reality show. That there were people who avidly watched her every move says nothing about Jade - other than the fact that her ridiculous antics sold tabloids and improved cheap TV ratings – and everything about the morbid prurience of her watchers. Sure, there are plenty of young people who see her as a role model merely because she managed to rise above her not-quite-ideal upbringing and become rich. While that is admirable in a shallow sort of way, the fact remains that, for most of her public life, she was best known for her stupidity than for any particular talent or ability or intelligence.

The tabloids are full of people who say that Jade should be praised for doing so much to raise the profile of cervical cancer among women and for helping save the lives of thousands of women who would otherwise not have had the smear test. I agree that she helped make the dangers of cervical cancer better known. But was it because she made the effort of campaigning for it, or raising money for research, or even donating money to cancer charities while she was healthy and normal? No way. It was through sheer bad luck (for her) that she managed this, basically by getting that particular form of cancer. If anybody should be thanked for raising the profile of cervical cancer, it should be the tabloids and TV channels, for giving her every hospital visit and every setback such unstinting and constant publicity!

Yes, I am glad that she thought about providing for her sons after her death. That is what a good mother would do. She was very lucky to be able to profit from her life and dying days, and leave the boys at least a good monetary legacy if nothing else. That is an opportunity that very few people have.

But a good mother would also have tried to provide a good role model for her children in the form of a decent father – which Jade’s husband, that appalling lout of a Jack Tweedy, is most certainly not and most likely never will be. I don’t know what their natural father, Jeff Brazier, does for a living and what sort of person he is (isn't it odd that he isnt having HIS every living moment documented by the tabloids! How are we ever to know more about him?), but I hope he’s a better human being than weedy Tweedy.

I sincerely hope that Jade's kids will grow up to be decent, good, well-adjusted human beings... but only time will tell if they can outgrow the abnormal lifestyle they’ve been used to from birth – that is to say, living in the constant glare of publicity with a mother who didn’t exactly shy away from having their every move telecast and/or published.

I have nothing against Jade Goody, honestly - she was no "baddie" while being a "Goody" if only in name. I thought she was a very pretty woman, actually. While she lived the high-profile life of a healthy, mindless celebrity, she didn’t really bother me – all I had to do to keep her out of my life was to ignore her reality TV shows... and that is what I did. I’m sorry that she had to die so young, sorry that her kids don’t have a mother now. It’s just that the fact that she’s suddenly being touted as the perfect mother and angelic do-gooder that rankles with me. There are far more deserving people who deserve to be commended thus.