Thursday, December 26, 2013

Me - An Author?

I know - the moment you people read the title you are probably expecting me to be telling you all about how my every attempt at making conversation was treated as my telling tall stories and things like that. That, though, is not what this is all about. Hold your breaths and manfully swallow your disbelief. I REALLY have written fiction and put it up as an e-book on Kindle. (Now you know what the 'thirdly' of the previous post was)

To be sure, I felt the need to ensure that I had adequate support in the venture. Just in case someone felt the urgent need to really spew venom upon reading my story, I wanted him to have to read some others and have his rage cooled down by some decent writing before he vented his ire on comments on the Kindle Forum or on Goodreads. So, I pulled in a couple of others to write along with me. It is thus that we have a collection of three crime novellas (Yeah! I know - a strange departure for a humorist) in "Sirens spell Danger" which you can download from Kindle for a princely sum of Rs. 99/= (if you are in India) or for USD 2.99/= (if you are not).

One of my co-authors is The Fool and, for those very few people who follow me but do not know of him, he is a versatile blogger who has written pieces ranging from poetry to whimsical pieces to fiction. His Science Fiction story "A Nootropic Egress" has been published by Mahavir Publishers in the collection "Ten Shades of Life". He has a unique brand of humor and a zany creativity which has earned him many die-hard fans. His story - "Bellary" - in this anthology features a IB agent sent to Bellary to foil an imminent plot with horrendous consequences and finds himself suddenly the center of attraction of two lovely women singing siren songs of love to him.

The  other co-author - Radha Sawana - is probably lesser known in blogging circles but that is only because she is not a very active blogger. She thrust herself into my notice (very forcefully, I must say) by winning a contest in Indifiction Workshop. It was not merely the fact that she won but the writing that won it for her which caught my attention. For a young girl, she exhibits a rare maturity in her writing as her various pieces on her blog showed me. Her story - "Bella Donna" - intrigues you with a serial killer leaving strange messages which could be a challenge to the police or a siren call to lure another victim.

With the able support of these two, I hope that my own story may not raise too much ire in the eyes of the reader. "Femme Fatale" is about a IPS selectee who gets dragged into danger by a sexy siren and finds himself responsible for foiling a terrorist attack in Bangalore.

I sure hope you guys feel like reading the book and, further, are enthused to give a review on Kindle and Goodreads as well. (Complimentary, of course! I would certainly not be hoping for the other kind, would I?) And I also hope that we have managed to give you a decent reading experience.

Free Kindle apps (for other devices) downloads for those who do not have a Kindle: 

Download Link for India :

Download Link for US :

Download Link for other markets

Monday, December 23, 2013


For all those who considered me an ass - and an exemplary one at that - I need to say that you were all wrong. I have reason to know that donkeys the world over are marching to the UN with a petition to take strict action against the slur of being compared to me thereby bringing their entire species into disrepute. At least, they may, unless they feel that eating the petition would be a more productive use of the paper it is written on.

I am sure you must be wondering what, other than looking at myself in the mirror, set me off on wondering about my worldwide repute for asininity. For one, I went off the Chennai without issuing my preliminary warning that I would be back - and, probably, lead to a great deal of people celebrating, prematurely, their liberation from reading my posts. To cause so many people so much unhappiness today - and just a day before Christmas - is absolutely sadistic, I know, but I am sure you would rather have it done now and digest the bad news before the New Year celebrations start.

For another I am fresh from the reunion of my batch at IIM-Bangalore. To find myself in the company of scintillating stars - CXOs in all sorts of hifalutin organizations and entrepreneurs brought home to me the fact that I, above all, was the one student that IIMB would wish to quietly expunge from the rolls. Nevertheless, it was a couple of days of fun and to mingle with people without having to measure out every word (and quietly check up on Linked-in to see if they were worth the time) was a refreshing change.

The current lot of students must have had a great deal more fun watching fifty plus people wandering around moony-eyed all over the campus and indulging in activities that creaking bones had hitherto not permitted. IIMB has changed rather drastically in the last twenty-five years but so had we - and yet the connect with both the Institute and fellow batch-mates was almost instant and as live as it used to be a quarter century ago.

To give you one sample of how kind my classmates could be, I must mention the fact that none of them felt I was as bad an ass as I could be. Almost all of them agreed that, no matter how bad I was today, I could not match up to what I was when I was a student at the campus. I am grateful, guys, for that indulgence. The surprising thing was I was also alive in the memories of some of the professors. Why, they even told me in sympathetic tones that I must be finding difficulty sleeping, now that I had no lectures to attend. THAT sort of personal attention and sympathy is something one can only get from one's Alma Mater and co-students.

Thirdly - ah, that piece of asininity shall come in the next post. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An Arrogant AAP?

I hardly ever talk of politics - primarily because I prefer not talking about what I do not know. (Eh! What do you mean that, if that were true, I should not be talking at all? I do not quite get that!) But, after hearing Arvind Kejriwal talk to his party MLAs of avoiding the trap of becoming arrogant, I could not restrain myself. I mean, does the man seriously think that it is possible to be both honest and not arrogant in today's political world? That, too, in Delhi which has raised the practice of "Jaan-Pehchaan" to the status of high art?

"Arre! I just asked my nephew to get my Chintu a good job in the government. Can you believe it - he refused. He talks as though I am Ambani offering him a bribe. Corruption is one thing but if a man will not even come to the help of his family what good will he do to the country?"

"He has changed. Now that he is a big-shot why will he bother about small people like us?"

See - Power corrupts. Now that our man has got a position of power, he cannot even avoid being arrogant to his family.

"I thought he was a friend, yaar! We have been family friends from childhood. Now he will not even arrange for me to get a contract from the PWD."

"Now he is a politician. They have no friends or enemies - only interests."

"What I cannot digest is all those speeches he gives about honesty in governance and all such crap. I mean what has that got to do with this. Even in business we go by peer networks."

"Who knows? Money speaks everywhere nowadays. You thought he would give it away for free?"

There you go - you can be arrogant as well as dishonest in the minds of your friends. Honest and humble? NEVER!

"Your Montu is now a politician. He can help my son get a transfer to a plum posting."

"Montu says he will not do such things. He says corruption starts here."

"Corruption-worruption! Just tell me you do not want to help my son. No need to give speeches. And, if your Montu really believes such things, he does not live in the real world. What will happen to this country with such incompetents ruling it?"

Ah! Yes! There IS an option. You can be honest and not arrogant PROVIDED you are incompetent!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chakra by Ritu Lalit - A Book review

Urban fantasy has myriad forms. At one level, it can be akin to horror tales - with vampires, werewolves and other such paranormal creatures - and, to my mind, the only thing that would differentiate these tales from the horror genre would be the fact that, in horror, the monsters are more akin to forces of nature without plans and motives whereas in urban fantasy they would have evil purposes that the protagonists need to thwart. Another variation is to write a tale that moves in both a fantasy world and the 'real' world - and, normally, such a tale would have protagonist from the 'real' world. A third variation is to have a fantasy world within the real world - with the events either affecting only the people involved in the fantasy world or capable of convulsing the 'real' world as well.

In a manner of speaking, J.K.Rowling's Potter series IS urban fantasy - since it is set in a fantasy world that overlaps the real world. It does not appear as such since almost all the events happen and/or affect only the people of the fantasy world though there are instances where people in the 'real' world do get affected. Ritu Lalit's "Chakra - The Chronicles of the Witch Way" is urban fantasy of the third sort.

The words 'fantasy world', in the context of her story, is used loosely only to denote people and organizations that are a part of the fantasy elements of her story. In the first book, there is no separate geographical location like "Hogwarts" which may be termed a fantasy place. What I particularly liked about her story was the fact that, unlike most Indian fantasy writers, she has not restricted herself to re-telling or re-interpreting Indian myths but has used elements of what may be termed fantasy - Kundalini Yoga, in this case - to create a fascinating idea of 'magic'. The other thing is the usage of good English - something I had taken for granted earlier but appreciate more nowadays since I find it relatively rare.

The story is fast-paced and quite an easy read. Since this is the first book of what seems to be a trilogy or more, it is too early to start talking of how well-rounded the story was, as it is written. I, however, felt that more tension could have been created in the story with a focus on a specific objective, either for the protagonists or for the antagonists, other than mere destruction of the other or survival - but, as I mentioned, it is early days yet and I may have cause to revise my opinion when the sequels come out.

Even if the book is a part of a multiple set of books, Ritu is following the episodic narration a la Rowling in that each book is a complete story in itself and does not leave you hanging at the end waiting for the sequel to complete the story. I sure hope that the following books may prove far more interesting.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Other Side by Faraaz Kazi - A Book Review

Tales of the paranormal are, almost invariably, associated with the horror genre. In other words, the reader expects to feel the delicious shuddery feeling of vicarious fear when he reads paranormal stories. This assumption, though, need not be entirely correct. Anne Rice's vampire tales, for example, are more literary fiction than horror fiction. The Twilight saga veers off into romance. It is, therefore, not entirely necessary for a paranormal tale to also be a horror story in order for it to be a good read.

"The Other Side" by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee is a collection of thirteen paranormal stories. The blurb and excerpts seek to establish the collection as belonging to the horror genre. To me, though, not all stories are actually horror stories in the collection unless a reader feels that the very existence of the paranormal in the 'real' world is horrifying. That does not, of itself, detract from the reading experience.

In fact, most of the stories in the collection are a pretty decent read. A few of them end with a surprise twist and, in most of such stories, the twist is horrifying as well. In fact, one of the better things about these stories is the fact that the twist seems to arise naturally from the course of the story and does not appear to be an artificial imposition to shock the reader. The English was a pleasant surprise insofar as it pleased the purist in me for the most part. There were a few edit errors but not so many as to mar the book significantly.

I do need to point out a few areas where the book could have been better. One of the stories had a very appealing end and I would have relished the story much better had it not seemed to parallel the descriptions of possession from William Peter Blatty's "Exorcist" too closely. Where the stories were actually intended to be horrifying I found that the authors relied on graphic descriptions of the horrifying phenomenon. I have found that describing the impact on the person being horrified works much better. (As an aside, one story appealed to me mainly because it was centered around a trek to Roopkund - a trek which I attempted early this year only to be stranded by the Uttaranchal debacle)

Minor blemishes apart, the book is actually a pretty decent read. If the reader expects to be mystified more than horrified, he would derive more satisfaction. And, of course, there are quite a few stories which may be mystifyingly horrifying too.

Details of the book can be looked up here

The other side

Thursday, November 28, 2013


It is about time I enshrined the excellence of my handwriting. The time seems to be fast approaching when people will be saying,"People actually used to write with their hands? How quaint". Provided, of course, they have still maintained the other quaint habit of talking with their mouths.

I can well visualize an evolved human species whose love life goes something like this.

"luv ya" texts one sitting opposite the other.
"me 2" texts back the other.

And both feel the same ecstasy as though they had actually done the hugging and kissing - and show it by exchanging ecstatic emoticons. Why, I can even imagine the parents expressing the extremity of their rage at their offsprings' love by texting a "*Facepalm*" and an emoticon shooting steam.

But - I digress! We were talking about the excellence of my calligraphy. (We weren't? Then we will!)

Apparently there is a sub-species of human called graphologists who claim to read character from handwriting. My mom took a sample of my writing to one such and sought to know about my character. He studied it for long and raised his head and said angrily, "What do you mean by walking a chicken all over the paper and bringing it to me? Are you testing me?"

With such an auspicious start to my calligraphic career, things could only look up. I still remember my class teacher having given me half the marks on all answers when comparison with my friends told me that I had got them all correct (Yeah! It did happen once or twice. More often than not, though, my perfection showed itself the other way round - in getting everything wrong). I indignantly went to her seeking an answer and she said wearily, "If only I could read what you had written, I may be able to answer you"

That day also taught me the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. My mom was all gung-ho about my performance. "If only he had better handwriting, he would be the topper". My dad, though, had tangential ideas. "Who knows? If the teacher could have actually read it all, he might have got a zero. It is thanks to the illegibility that he passed the exam." Now, who was the optimist and who the pessimist I leave to your judgment.

In my initial days dealing with banks, I was always in and out of the bank manager's room. Every time I issued a cheque I needed to go personally and verify the changed signature and read out the recipient's name as well as the amount. Things came to such a pass that I started fearing that the day would come when someone would just have to bring an illegible cheque and the bank would debit it to my account. So, it is with great relief I took to internet banking.

Time has rolled on and it has been ages since I needed to use pen and paper. The world may have lost a great calligraphist but there is none more relieved than the calligraphist himself. After all, when you type on Word it does not change the font to suit the calligraphic abilities of the typist. Thank God!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Success Again

It is almost a truism that it is the 'unsuccessful' who have a multiplicity of reasons for their lack of success. The successful, almost invariably, have only one reason. Of course, it is their own inimitable abilities and dedicated hard work that yielded success. Luck? Only the losers prate of luck!

Being unfortunate enough to belong to the former category, I need to exercise all my ingenuity to determine why success has eluded me. The main reason, of course, is that I never did understand what constituted success - as I have explained in great (Excruciating? Not at all. There are too many of you people intent only on spreading unhappiness) detail in my previous post. But why was it so difficult for me to identify what was success?

In the not too long gone past, the successful man was the master of his time. While lesser mortals toiled to earn a living, the man of success had the time to go chasing after foxes, whacking a small ball all over the place trying to put it into a small hole and other such eminently important pursuits as would take his fancy. It is true that success was determined at birth and the only contribution of the person to the success was being prescient about selecting his parents - but that is not the point. The point is that a successful man was a man who had the freedom to use his time as he saw fit.

Having read extensively about success of this sort, I was all agog to succeed myself. Not that I had anything against foxes - and everything against strenuous physical exertion - nor was I particularly keen on working at putting a ball into a hole only to have someone else take it out immediately. It was just the fact of being able to do anything with my time and I would have used that liberty to laze around in bed and desultorily read a book. So, as I said, I was keenly anticipating becoming a successful man.

Society played a scurvy trick on me. Suddenly, I found that all the successful men were people who were saying things like,"Oh! I cannot make it this evening. I have an important meeting"; "How I wish we could catch up on the good old days. Unfortunately I can spare only ten minutes" and "I hardly get to see my children. Too busy traveling all over the world". I would have conveniently assumed that these were the failures of the world but for the fact that they say it all so proudly and seem to expect you to genuflect in their presence, full of gratitude that you had been granted the privilege of hearing a few words from them.

So, apparently, one works 12 hours days in order to achieve a successful upgrade to a position where one could work for 15 hour days. If you proved your mettle there, then you may ascend the dizzying heights of being able to work for 18 hours a day. And, all the while, you would have a Smart phone hanging around you like a dog's leash to ensure that you did not feel unwanted by your office during the rest of the time. So, you could be woken up at 2 AM by a tug at that leash - just so you feel all the more successful - without even the dog's pleasure of being able to lift a leg and piss on the other guy's trousers.

I am a sort of hide-bound character and find it difficult to change my ideas all at once. To me success still meant being the master of my own time.

Oh! And, by the way, there was one way whereby I could have been successful both in my eyes and the eyes of Society. I came to know of it when a friend of mine said that his driver was now a multimillionaire thanks to the fact that his dad had a few acres of land near Sarjapur Road in Bangalore.

It is thanks to the fact that my dad made bad investments that I have not achieved success. Instead of investing money in the stupid exercise of trying to get me educated, he should have bought land around Sarjapur Road.

So, now you know why I am not a success. It is all my dad's fault!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I wish someone would start listing the most unsuccessful people of the world - a sort of Fortune-less 500. I am sure that I would find a place there. Why, I have not even been successful in identifying exactly what is success.

It is not merely a fad of my adult days. My tryst with obscurity started right in my childhood. My mother - with all the good intentions in the world - started me off on the alphabet with A for Ambition, as opposed to the customary Apple, and went on to teach me B for Bravery, C for Caution etc. The only problem was that I never did manage to figure out what Ambition was and, thus, could not go beyond the first alphabet. Thus, my potential academic achievements got nipped in the bud - the very first bud, in fact.

About the only sign of ambition I ever displayed was when we were standing in line for the school assembly. Being among the shortest in the class, there was always a tussle with another vertically challenged chap about who was the taller of the two.

Me: (Hiking up the shoulder next to his) See, I am taller.
He: (Standing on tip-toe) No, I am taller.

No bean-pole ever took more pride in half a centimeter of height than two short guys vying not to be the first in the line. Do you think Amitabh Bacchan ever stood on tip-toe to be considered the taller one?

In fact, my only problem is that I failed to continue on the same lines. Maybe, just maybe, I would have achieved success too. The issue was that I, somehow, had the mistaken impression that adult ambition was different and lofty. In retrospect, I find that this one mistaken impression ruined all chances of success for me.

Adult 1: I have a huge car.
Adult 2: My car is bigger than yours.

(Of course, they say it all differently. Adult 1 probably says, "This BMW is such a comfortable vehicle" and Adult 2 probably replies, "Once you use a Rolls, you will never look at another car" but it all amounts to the same thing)


Adult 1: I know big shots.
Adult 2: I know even bigger shots.

(In adult parlance:
Adult 1: I was just telling Rahul the other day...
Adult 2: Next time Barack calls me, I will tell him this)


Adult 1: I go on foreign vacations every year.
Adult 2: I go to even more expensive places.

(In adult parlance:
Adult 1: When I was in Kuala Lumpur last year..
Adult 2: Nothing can beat skiing in Switzerland)

They teach all sorts of things at school but they fail to teach you this simple thing. The difference between schoolboy success and adult success is purely a matter of semantics. Your ambition is only as childish as the words you use to boast about your achievements.

Not that it would have helped me much, come to think of it. At school, it was always the other chap who proved himself to be taller even at the cost of standing on tip-toe all through the assembly. I just could not be bothered to put myself out so much.

So - I wait for that Fortune-less 500 to give me my fame (That, incidentally, was the F of my mother's alphabet!)

Monday, November 18, 2013

An envious 'Humorist'

If it is truly possible for someone who is normally colored brown - shading off to black in the sun-burnt parts - to really turn green, then I would disappear from view in the vicinity of any plants. Envy, they say, is one of the seven deadly sins but, I am afraid, that THAT has not caused me to avoid it.

The problem is that I am a man, I am 50 and I still insist on trying to write humor. Why should that be a problem, you ask me? (You did not? It is OK, let us assume you did and proceed) Let me give you chapter and verse of all the problems I face and why I feel envious.

If I were a woman, I could write pieces about the ineptness of men in the kitchen, in the shopping mall and while changing diapers and probably have people - both men and women - rolling in the aisles. (RITA?) I could write about women in any funny manner and still have them rolling on the floor (ROFL!) laughing. The moment I try to write something like "When women change the tires", for example, and write  it with scintillating wit (Alright! That scintillating wit part was hypothetical. Use your damn imagination - even if it is a HUGE stretch) do you think I am going to have people laughing their bellies out? It is more likely that I shall hear the following conversation.

Lady 1: A gender-stereotyping male chauvinistic pig.
Lady 2: I think he deserves to be stoned to death.
Lady 3: The Europeans had a better idea - he should be hung, drawn and quartered.
Lady 4: Be Indian, Try Indian. How about frying him in boiling oil?

And all my male friends would chime in with helpful suggestions about where so much oil could be bought cheap; which would be the best location to conduct the ceremony and whether it would be worth creating a Facebook Page to sell tickets for the event.

Thus, you see, what is sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander - probably because ganders are supposed to be inept cooks. That, in effect, means that, if I valued my skin, fifty percent of humanity are OUT as far as attempting any humor is concerned.

I have reason for this fear. A friend of mine was once talking of his wife learning to drive in his Tata Sumo. "A Tata Sumo, an 'L' board and a lady driver. The moment the others spotted all this in their rear-view mirrors, the traffic used to part like Moses parting the waters." He, wise man, said that in an all-male company. I made the mistake of quoting him in mixed company and complicated it further by laughing too. (Note to Self: Never laugh at your own punchlines. It makes you look such an ass - even if true there is no need to advertise it - when nobody else does.) And this ensued.

Lady 1: So, you find the idea of lady drivers that funny?
Me (conciliatorily) : No! It is the attitude of the other drivers it was about.
Lady 2: So, you find that attitude funny? It does not make you angry?
Me : The funny part was that thing about Moses parting the waters.
Lady 3: What's funny about Moses parting the waters?

By the time it ended, I felt much like the Pharaoh's army, which was caught in the middle, when the parted waters rushed to meet again.

So much for the disadvantages of being a man.

Were I young, I would have a whole new set of things to write about wittily. Older relatives always have such interesting idiosyncrasies that are a perennial source of fun for the young. They lose hair, they snore, they belch and they emit such 'wonderfully' different smells from the other end of the alimentary canal.  And they also feel bound to take up invitations since the family feeling is pretty strong in that benighted generation. How wonderful for me if only I were a young humorist.

The problem, though, is I am old too and age, unfortunately, leads you into becoming the perpetrator of some or all of the above. I can, of course, plead that - perhaps unlike the rest of my more accomplished generation - I have not gained such exquisite control over my adenoids and bowels that I can snore or stink to order merely to annoy my hosts. That may - MAY - save me becoming the butt of jokes but is no help in writing humor.

Apparently, even in the involuntary acts, there are some which are still politically correct to make fun of and others which are not. I, poor uninformed moron that I am, considered all of them out of the pale. Now that I have learnt that it is not so, it is too late since all the ones that are allowed for humor are the ones of which I am probably guilty myself. (That 'probably' is only because I have not yet heard myself snore and have to depend on hearsay evidence). As for the ones that I do not do, they are still outside the pale of decent humor.

Maybe, just maybe, I could make fun of how sleeping in a room with the young makes it difficult for me to sleep because of the intimidating silence of their sleeping hours? Maybe I could make fun of how the expense of putting in deodorants in the toilets was rendered useless? I could I suppose and I may also raise a laugh - a horse's laugh. I do like to get my audience laughing but I have an unreasoning antipathy to the horse's laugh. Nitpicking of me, I know, but there you are - one more example of the irrationality of mankind.

With almost every avenue of writing humor closed for me, is it a wonder that I envy the others who are free to pick from a host of subjects to write humorously? I, unfortunately, am left with only one subject to poke fun at - my own self.

Thank God I have so much to be self-deprecatory about!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


"What a pity that he was taking a leak when they were distributing brains", said a friend of me in the sort of sotto voce comment that is meant to be audible to the person being discussed.

Pity! Now, someone said that pity is merely sympathy clothed in bad manners. It was no use consoling myself that I ought to pity the speaker for his bad manners since it did not seem like there was any sympathy involved in the equation at all. It was more of a 'Thank God I am not he' sort of tone than anything that felt in the least bit sad about the fact that I was shy a few grey cells.

I do not know whether it is exclusively my experience or whether it is generic. This word pity is probably the one word that is used in conversations most pitilessly. Whenever someone says,"What a pity ....." about something related to me, it has invariably meant that that person was feeling superior about having something that I lacked (Or lacking something that I have - like verbal diarrhea). Sympathy is probably the 'There, but for the grace of God, go I' feeling where the speaker understands that he could have been in my shoes but for the grace of God (I know! I know! It is sort of difficult to imagine yourself, under even the most calamitous of circumstances, in my shoes but still...). Pity is invariably the 'No matter how bad I am, happily I am still not Suresh' sort of feeling.

So, it is not merely bad manners but something that arises from the mind. Feeling kinship with me (yes, it is difficult but life is not supposed to be a bed of roses) leads to sympathy; feeling contempt (It is oh so easy but, then, you need to steel yourself and take the difficult path like a human) leads to pity - or, more to the point, to "What a pity....."

I am sure you have understood why pity is, normally, abhorrent. You have not? What a pity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Praise Me

I was probably born with a placard hanging around my neck saying, "Praise Me". Unfortunately, it was probably written in some language that no-one could read - Egyptian hieroglyphics springs to the mind as a possible option - since no-one acted upon that request. Or, maybe, it is that unreasoning idea that someone should be praised only when he/she had done something worthy of praise - and people are so very persnickety about what they considered to be worthy.

The less you get of something, the more you want it. So, you can imagine a teenager lurking around with ears sharpened to hear something that was complimentary of him since those were the days when parents believed, "Give some praise and spoil the child" in addition to the more usual one about sparing the rod. So, there were a lot more rods than praises in my life then.

Ah! Where was I? Eavesdropping to hear words of praise? Well - you know what they say about what eavesdroppers hear about themselves. How true it is of the world at large I have no idea - but, of me , it most certainly was the absolute truth. I came to know I had many more shortcomings than I had imagined to exist in the world but, of praise, I heard not a single word.

It is thus that, even now, I practically go about with a fishing rod to hook some compliments. The more routine angling may yield fish but this fishing for compliments is a totally infructuous exercise.  You invariably end up losing your bait and cannot raise a single compliment in the process.

Over a period, I have found that I am not the only one with "Praise Me" around my neck. Almost all of humanity was probably born with that placard around the neck. It is only that it is neon-lit in cases like mine and it goes all the way to people whose placards are nearly wiped clean - but not quite.

Yudhishtir is reputed to have said that the biggest miracle in the world is the fact that people still do not believe in their own mortality despite seeing people dying all around them. I think he got it wrong. The biggest miracle is the fact that people know how happy praise makes them but, invariably, do not hand out praise even to the people whom they purportedly want to make happy.

Or, maybe, Yudhistir thought of that not as the biggest miracle but as the biggest folly?

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Martian Rage

It is seldom that I get truly enraged. But, now, I am hardly able to contain myself. Whenever I think of those ISRO guys my blood boils and steam shoots out of my nostrils. The callous people just shot off so much money to Mars. Just imagine their utter lack of consideration. Stealing the milk from the mouth of starving babies and shooting it off to outer space is how I see it.

What did you say? Why did I not get enraged when the government handed over flats and humongous sums of money to cricketers for winning games? People like you just cannot think rationally and have to mouth off as though you know everything. You just do not understand the importance of cricket in building the self-belief of the youth of the country. What have these ISRO guys ever done to compare with M.S.Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar? They just shoot off expensive rockets like my kids do every Diwali.

You ask, 'So, when politicians build huge statues for themselves and their patrons, is that not stealing mothers' milk from sucklings?' Trust you to say that, you unpatriotic so-and-so. How will posterity ever know our heritage if we do not commemorate them? A nation stands tall only when the statues of its leaders stand taller. You nincompoops will never understand the importance of symbols. Anyway, why are we talking of statues when I am discussing rockets?

Now, don't talk about all those scams and all. Those are not planned to happen - at least not officially by the Government. Of course, the people who benefited must have done a lot of planning. These ISRO guys wheedle official sanction of money from the government and keep the poor people starving. Callous brutes is what they are.

WHAT? What technological spin-offs? My neighbor Chintu who works every night to tell Americans how to use their washing machines is applying technology usefully - not blowing it up on a sight-seeing trip to Mars. And if the scientists will just go away elsewhere if ISRO is not doing anything, why not? At least they will be sending dollars here and bringing Scotch when they visit India. More useful than what they are doing now.

You keep confusing the issue. I am talking of rockets and you want to talk of roads getting washed away and money spent on redoing it very frequently. Tell me, are the roads here getting better because that rocket has gone to Mars? Oh! You mean how am I sure that the money saved by not sending the rocket would be used to feed the starving children? Well - at least 13 paise to the rupee would come down to the poor - even Rajiv Gandhi said so.

Scientific achievement building morale in our people? Don't make me laugh. All the rockets you shoot into outer space cannot compare with one World Cup win!

Now there is one person who has enraged me more than the ISRO guys - YOU!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making People Pay - A Book Review

It is ironic that I should be reviewing a book of Taxation, considering that I shut down my consultancy merely because I was putting in more effort in computing and paying various taxes than I had to put in to earn the money. I have always considered it funny that this is one area where you need to put in a lot of learning and effort as well as seek expert advice in order to pay out money when, in any other realm of Society, the one who puts in the effort gets paid!

The author - Dr. Sibichen Mathew - is an IRS officer with a stellar academic background in Sociology, Public Policy and taxation. This book amply reflects his deep knowledge of his varied academic interests.

Dr. Mathew’s book “Making People Pay” aims to identify the reasons for tax evasion – specifically Income tax – and the means by which people can be enthused to be tax-compliant. In the process, he gives a glimpse of the global and Indian history of taxation peppered with various interesting anecdotes; the rationale and purpose for taxation – including the ones that, in the past, caused taxes to be labelled immoral at times and the reasons for lack of tax compliance. He also suggests the means whereby tax compliance may be improved and identifies some of the challenges posed by globalization to the taxation arms of governments.

What is specifically interesting in the book is the detailing of the genesis of tax evasion. The author does not rest merely with assuming evasion to be an outcome of a lack of integrity. He has applied his mind and effort on the various economic, sociological, psychological and procedural aspects that could lead to tax-evasive behavior and attempted an exhaustive set of studies to identify the causal factors.

The book is an outcome of studies conducted by the author and the details of the studies and conclusions are outlined in Chapters 6 and 7. All the preceding chapters can be understood by the lay reader – and the easy narrative style and interesting anecdotes will keep the reader interested. The chapters related to the study, however, do read like a report and, though they contain interesting insights into the mind of the tax-payer, they may prove to be a ..err..taxing read! If I may suggest something to the author it would be to re-write these chapters – the insights derived from the studies - in the same easy narrative style of the others and leave the details of the study to appendices.

Even with that minor glitch, the book is still not too taxing a read overall and gives insights into both the functioning of the Income Tax department and the causal factors of tax non-compliance. Anyone who is interested in the functioning of the world we live in will certainly find benefit in the book.

Details of the book can be seen here

(Disclaimer: The author, Dr. Sibichen Mathew, is a fellow-blogger and a friend)

Monday, November 4, 2013


I have always had a hatred of loud noises. A hatred accentuated by the fact that, just as I am lolling on my settee and avidly watching the Diwali movie on TV, my house shakes, the windows rattle and I am jerked out of my sloth with palpitations. Not even the magic of Rajnikant can withstand the shock of a hazaaron-wala going ballistic just outside the window. Needless to say, then, Diwali is that time of the year when I swathe myself in cotton and cling on to my bed for dear life.

This Diwali was different. I woke up in the morning - as people call it, though I am still not used to thinking of 7 AM as 'morning' - to a totally unnatural silence and started wondering whether this was indeed the day my cousin had invited me over. Was it really the day of Diwali or was I going to make the egregious mistake on landing on the previous day and cause embarrassment all around?

It was Diwali, thankfully, and I learnt that, all over the place, there was this new idea of celebrating Diwali the eco-friendly way - sans-crackers. I was ecstatic. There you were - we had fixed up a day to be eco-friendly and, thus, could happily keep boasting of our eco-friendly ways the rest of the year without the burden of having to live up to it. Yippeeee!

We have all these days - and the theory seems to be that those days are there to bring to the fore and celebrate all that was there in the back of your mind anyway. Seldom have I seen it work that way. I see those days as being more for keeping all those inconvenient things restricted to that one day so that we can get on with our 'normal' lives for the rest of the year. Independence day seems to absolve you of any need for patriotism for the rest of the year; Mother's day is the day you visit your mom in the old age home and get that warm feeling of having cared sufficiently for your mother and, if Valentine's day does not operate the same way, it is only because your valentine will just not allow it to be so. Now, Diwali is the official day for being eco-friendly, thereby absolving you of the need to do a thing towards eco-friendliness during the rest of the year.

I do not need to teach my child to take public transport instead of insisting on being dropped by car; do not have to insist on him not junking his mobile every other day to get the latest model; need not keep reminding him to switch off electrical appliances when not in use or close taps and, in short, do not have to teach him to use with care all the things that cause pollution in their making. After all, I have done my part on Diwali, have I not?

I, probably, am the only person who prefers the vibrancy of Diwali with all the pollution (though my definition of vibrancy still does not go so far as those hazaaron-walas) if only we would be eco-conscious the rest of the year. That, however, is too much work. Much easier to be eco-friendly on one day and relax for the rest of the year!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let down by feminism

When I first heard of Feminism, I doubt whether there were many in the world who rejoiced about it as much as I did. Here, at last, was a social movement that would make all my dreams come true - or so I thought. I must, unwillingly, admit that it has been a let-down to me so far though I have still not given up hope.

I wanted to be wooed with chocolates and flowers (cigars and cognac for preference but there is a weird animal, called 'political correctness', loose in the world which gets in the way of everything we enjoy) by a woman. I wanted billets doux written to me, even with mis-spelt English and bad rhyming. I wanted a woman to take me on a cruise on her yacht on the Aegean, go down on one knee before me on a romantic moonlit night, slip a Rolex on my wrist and propose to me. It is because no woman has, yet, done this to me that I am still single - and still waiting. What is the purpose of Feminism, pray, if it will not even satisfy such a simple dream?

Oh, by the way, if you were wondering about why any woman would WANT to do all this for ME, I have a compelling argument. I offer one thing that no handsome hulk can offer - there will never be a day of anxiety about what if age robs me of my looks. One can lose only what one possesses in the first place. (Remember this irresistible attraction of mine whenever doubt raises its ugly head in your mind when you read the words to come)

I suppose it was too much to expect that the Mother-in-Law would tell me,"In our family, sons-in-law do not go to work. How can a woman live in self-respect if she lives off her husband's earnings?" and scupper any ideas of my venturing into the world of slogging. (She would not have to try too hard - or even try). But I could, at least, expect a modern woman to tell me indulgently,"Go to work if you want to - although I earn enough for the two of us." Not happening. I suppose for this we men are to blame since we developed that ingenious argument that "In today's world, both are needed to earn if a family is to have a decent life"

But, hang on, wait a minute. I was intending to accept only a woman who proposed to me on HER yacht on a cruise in the Aegean, right? Could such a woman really NEED her spouse to earn? So, what is all this nonsense about "It takes two to pay all the EMIs"?

That, by the way, neatly disposes off the need to cook, change the bedspreads, air the curtains and all that. We would have enough money to hire people to do all that. All I would have to do was daintily pass on the cups of tea when people come home and I could just about do that. (Daintily? There, I suppose, I go a bit too far. Alright, drop the 'daintily' there). I think I can also rise up to the challenge of giving my wife a hard time about forgetting our anniversary (provided I can remember it myself).

Daydreams! Feminism has still not got to a point where my dreams can all be satisfied. It leaves me still single and waiting in forlorn hope that things will get better in my lifetime. I hope, at least, that a future me will be in a position to have these dreams satisfied.

Meanwhile....I wait....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shakespearean Philosophy?

There are those people, I am told, who read those tomes of the words of the greats and try to derive the philosophy whereby to lead their lives. And then there are those people who know what they are going to do with their lives and hunt , if at all, through the tomes of the greats to support their philosophy. In the normal course, on any issue, I am in the minority (of one, more often than not) but this once I think I am right in the middle of the multitudinous hordes that follow the latter option.

Some are born great; some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them

Old Billy boy hit the nail on the head there - or so I prefer to think. If you are not born great (and having made history as the heaviest newborn in the hospital's existence does not count because we are talking 'great' here not 'gross') that second option is just too much trouble. Achieve greatness, forsooth! If one had to labor all his life to achieve it, it would be too late to learn what to do with the damn thing once it is achieved. So I, like the vast majority of my fellow-humans, wait to have greatness thrust upon me.

Let me have about me men that are fat; Sleek-headed men as of sleep of nights; yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much; such men are dangerous

If THAT is what Caesar wanted to have, it must be a good thing to be. So, I went about acquiring a sleek head (and what can be sleeker than a bald head, pray?) and ate and drank my way to fatness. (Upon what meat doth this our Suresh feed that he is grown so great, was the cry among my friends - though in this case 'great' really did mean 'gross'). Also, since I lacked the equipment to think with anyway, I could never be dangerous. Alas - Caesar is long dead and the world descended to such depravity that thin and geek are actually the in things now.

The story of my life - I am always a step out of phase with Fashion. The tale of the bell-bottomed trousers that I bought after long dilly-dallying and just as it comprehensively went out of fashion is another of my life's tragedies. I still preserve it in the vain hope that Fashion will turn full-circle but, alas, that fickle goddess has not deemed fit to smile on them again. Now, of course, I will need to take them apart and have the bottoms stitched as the waist portion if I am to hope to get into them.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones

Ah! And, in my case, the good would probably be burned with my bones and not even be available for a future archaeologist to dig out and keep reverently in a museum. Shakespeare, therefore, tells me that you can only be remembered for the evil that you do (since it is always spicier gossip to call someone - even long dead - bad names and BORING to be praising someone). I have had no real hankering to be remembered by posterity (What is the point in cute young girls talking in shivery whispers about me when I am long dead? It is NOW that I want the attention) and, so, I decided that it was best to let the world go its way while I went mine.

All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand

Now THAT was not a quote I lived by though most people attributed it to be the guiding description of my being. Of course, the 'little hand' was first 'little boy' and then became 'gross man' over the course of years. Now, just because I sweat a little (all right, a lot, you bunch of literal b*******!), you cannot be defaming me by attributing the sort of body odor that even Axe cannot cure.

Above all else to thine own self be true

Now that, I have decided, will be a great guiding philosophy. It allows me full leeway to decide what "mine own self" is at any point in time so that I can be true to it without feeling any pangs of guilt.

NOW, I know why old Will Shakespeare is considered THE literary great!

Monday, October 21, 2013

I am impolite?

Having always thought of myself as a polite person, it came as a rude shock to me to learn that there are people who so far exceed me in politeness as to make me seem positively rude. Numb-wit that I am, I never really learned politeness even when I was face-to-face with examples of exquisite politeness all through my life.

The first time I recollect having seen one of the doyens of politeness was when I was hunting for used books and one of those guys promised me a whole collection of PG Wodehouse on the subsequent day. These were the days when original prints cost the earth and my salary would have left me with the option of buying one book and starving for half a month or doing without the book (and I must shamefacedly admit that the stomach won every time). So, needless to say, it was like being offered buried treasure.

The next day, with my hair in a braid, I landed up at the shop and the man says he has just sent someone to get the books and they would be there in about an hour's time. I muck around the shop desultorily rooting around the books for an hour. Again he says that the books will be there soon. I wander around the area for another half-an-hour and get back to my benefactor - who starts off with the same spiel all over again. The lure of PG Wodehouse was so strong that I swallow my bile and explore the lanes muttering imprecations for yet another half hour. On my return, our man at last confesses that the books were not going to make an appearance after all. Incensed I ask him why he did not say it before. Surprised by my vehemence, he says "But how can I hurt you by saying that I did not give enough importance to your request and forgot all about it?"

Can you believe it? That aspect of it never struck me at all. I was concentrating so much on the couple of hours that I wasted in hanging around the place like a beggar that I never realized how much worse I would have felt if he had told me that he had forgotten to get the books and sent me off home immediately.

I must confess that I thought of him as a lone paragon of politeness shining in solitary splendor in a world full of more mundanely polite people. It did not strike me that here was an ideal to be followed.

The next time it happened I had called on a friend to help me move houses. Some four hours after he was due and after innumerable phone calls to him eliciting replies about how he was on the way, I lugged my luggage myself. (Bachelor days - Movers were still not required though lone shifting was still not easy) I was fuming at the fact that he had not merely declined and allowed me to approach someone else for help. Shortsighted of me, as usual, for when I taxed him with it later he at once showed me the error of my thinking. "How could I have refused you and let you think that I did not care enough for you to help you out?" That viewpoint never struck me at all. If I had only thought of that, I would have been happy - even while struggling with three suitcases, folding cot, table and chairs - that, at least, my friend cared for me a lot. It is a quirk in me that fails to appreciate the extent of the politeness extended to me.

After innumerable experiences of such wonderful politeness - friends not refusing my dinner invitations and promising imminent arrival upon persistent phone calls till I sit down with dyspepsia to a lone cold meal and not realizing how much worse I would have felt if they had merely rung me up when they were due and told me they could not come; Plumbers (yes, they were bound to make an appearance in my posts even if they are not to be seen in reality) who do not take my reminder calls to avoid hurting me by saying they would not turn up after all; and sundry other experiences, I have suddenly realized that it is I who do not appreciate this rarefied form of politeness. Alas! I have been going through life being unknowingly rude to people - refusing invites when I am unable to make an appearance, refusing help when I am unable to extend help and all sorts of such unbelievably gauche behavior.

This realization comes rather late in life to me. I may well understand it from the brain but my instincts fail to adapt properly. I am, now, resigned to being considered a rather uncouth and rude person for the rest of my life.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Somehow, I always knew I would be a misfit in the world from way back in my childhood. A lot of people have told me that I was giving up and I ought to try to change myself. The idea was, however, rooted like an axiom in my mind. After all, if I know that I cannot get pregnant being male, what was the point in telling myself that it was all in the mind and I should try with all my heart and not give up? This was something like that but I did not know why I felt it so strongly.

Over the years I have learnt that the main reason why such is so is because I just cannot learn. To be more precise, I just cannot learn to read between the lines which seems to be an inevitable requirement to get along in Society.

The first time I was invited to a dinner party as an adult - between 5.30 PM and 9.30 PM, said the invite - I landed up promptly at 5.30 only to find the harried hosts casting horrified looks at me. The wife muttered something about inconvenient guests and losing her the help of her handyman. The handyman - err husband - had a mixture of relief and apprehension on his face. Being saved the odd jobs now may not have been worth the Vesuvius that would burst forth later. I still did not learn, not even when the first guests started trickling in around 8 PM.

My first invitation to a Delhi wedding caused equal havoc. Seeing "Arrival of Baraat" at the wedding venue around 7.30 PM, I rushed from office to there and arrived sweaty and apprehensive about being late by half-an-hour. Being from the groom's side, there was not a single known face there. After hesitantly establishing my bonafides for being present there, I sat around studiously avoiding the many curious and contemptuous looks being cast in my direction for the next three hours. It was much later that I learnt that the time fixed for "Arrival of Baraat" is actually the time that the groom's people are frantically ringing up to find if they can get a mare on which the groom can ride to the wedding venue.

Weddings may happen about the same time as indicated in the invitation in South Indian weddings but my shifting to Bangalore from Delhi showed me another side of the south. While in Delhi, if I called in a Plumber or Electrician home and he said he would arrive at 11 AM, it seemed to mean that he would arrive some time during the day. In Bangalore, though, it meant he would arrive some time in the week provided he was in the mood.

All these experiences over all these years - and innumerable such at office - and it is only now that I have realized to read between the lines and understand the apparent meaning of what is said. When you set a deadline for the completion of a job in India, it means that the job shall, at any cost, not be done BEFORE the deadline and NOT a promise to do it by that time. Even if I now understand this intellectually it is too late for me to tune my instincts to suit. (Matters are not being helped by the plumber who arrives six days later than promised and, while making small talk, complains of the fact that the mason did not turn up on time at his home - leaving me confused about whether the inherent meaning that I had derived after much effort was correct after all, considering that a prime exponent of such communication did not himself consider that to be the universal meaning.)

In a generous bid to give a leg up to the younger people who read my posts, I share my hard-earned wisdom. A deadline is not the time BY which a job should be done but the time BEFORE which the job should not be done - in India. You will save much wear and tear on your nerves if you will immerse yourself in this wise thought.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anne McCaffrey's Pern Series : A Guest Post for The Fool

The Fool, who blogs at Luciferhouseinc has been a close friend for some time. The problem with him is that he cannot mince his words even when it comes to a friend's output. I had put in for a review by him long ago and, as the time came for him to give me one, I waited with trepidation. Criticism has always been a bitter pill for me to swallow and this was one I had been foolish enough to invite on my head.

It was, thus, a great joy to actually read his review of my blog - and a realization of how much sweeter it is to hear complimentary words when you know that the person dishing them out does not do so unless he genuinely feel they are deserved. His review of my blog is here.

He had recently started another blog to explore the worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy and had invited me to contribute a piece on one of the various series in those genres. My guest post was on Anne McCaffrey's Pern series and it comes fast on the heels of his review of my blog - yet another of those coincidences in life on the lines of not meeting a person for years and then bumping into him by accident over and over again in the course of a week.

You can read that guest post here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Markownikoff's Rule for human behavior

There are times when I surprise myself. I could well have been the proverbial guy who would not go to a school even to shelter from the rain - but for the fact that my parents had some unreasonable partiality towards school as an option to get me away from under their feet. No amount of pleading that the playground could well do the job as effectively was any help. Under the circumstances, it is a surprise that some things from school still stick in my mind like a burr and will just not let go. This Markownikoff's rule is one of them.

To get into the boring details of the rule, what it says is that when you have an acid reacting with an organic compound, the hydrogen atom of the acid attaches itself to that carbon atom which has more hydrogen atoms already attached to it. If the rule is expressed in scientific terms it obviously escapes my memory but the pithy version of it is "Those who have get more of it".

Now THAT is something that I can vibe with very well indeed. I suppose that the fact that this rule applies to human behavior is par for the course considering that the human body is supposed to be made of organic molecules. As for the molecules, so for the brain.

Take the case of the boss who has suddenly received an emergency job which has to be delivered the very next day. Which is the lucky employee who gets the golden opportunity of staying up all night to finish it? The one who spends all day telephoning his broker for stock-market deals in-between leisurely cups of tea or the one who meticulously slogs throughout the day and beyond? Obviously the latter. Since he has more work, he gets more work. Those who have get more of it.

Take the same boss who is told to pick one employee for a fortnight long training program in Switzerland on the thusness of things. Which is the employee without whom he feels he can stagger along for the fortnight - the leisurely tea-drinker or the meticulous slogger? Obviously the former. Since that chap enjoys his leisure already he gets gifted with more leisure. (I know! I know! Training Programs are not leisure - they are meant to advance the knowledge of the person concerned and turn him into a paragon). Those who have get more of it.

Ah! Yes! The meticulous slogger will streak up the corporate ladder and enjoy the pleasure of working 18 hour days and be on call 365 days a year. That 24x7 thingy was invented for him. And they even call that a reward. Well! He is getting more of what he has, does he not? Work! That is why that other guy invented that other phrase - Work is its own reward!

Now me! I AM the other guy. Or would have been but for the perversity of my nature that just would not allow me to take it easy when I had a job at hand. So, I had to quit in order to get what I wanted instead of what I already had a lot of!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guest Post for Janaki Nagaraj

I must count myself as being born under a lucky star. I entered blogging fully content to be one of those many violets that are born to blush unseen (well - 'content' is a bit of an exaggeration. Fully prepared is more like it). Fortune in its fickleness seems to have decided to smile on me at least in my blogging journey. I have received the affection of quite a few popular bloggers who have kindly invited me to (dis)grace their blogs.

Yet again, I have Janaki Nagaraj hosting one of my posts on her blog. She even lists my guest posts among 'Inspirations'. I hope she is not going to get too inspired by me and emulate Rip Van Winkle. The link to that post is here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Karma and do-nothingism

I really have not tried to find any reasons for adopting the most enjoyable practice of do-nothingism. As far as I was concerned, the only problem with adopting it was the fact that the world, rather unreasonably, refuses to provide the wherewithal for me to survive unless I did something. I mean, even known and convicted criminals committing heinous sins were supposed to have human rights but I am denied my right to survive merely because I do nothing. What sort of logic is that?

I, however, am rather amused by the fact that people blame the theory of Karma for an attitude of do-nothingism in India. Of course, an interpretation of that theory does say that what you get in this birth is an outcome of the virtues you accumulated over the past births and, therefore, may not bear direct relevance to your own efforts in this birth. And, thus, if you believe in the theory of Karma, you would prefer to do nothing in this birth because what you get cannot be influenced by your efforts? Nonsense!

I, like most of us, used to work for monthly wages. The money I spent on sustaining myself on any given day was the outcome of my effort in the previous month. The efforts I put in during that month yielded me nothing to help me in that month. So, there is no point in working? After all, my efforts of this month were not helping me in feeding myself - or drinking myself silly - in this month. So, is it not absolutely logical to stop working right away?

What was that? What would happen to me next month? Well, if I truly believed that there would be a next month in my life and I would need to sustain myself in that month, I would need to work this month, would I? Then, do you mean to say that people believe that they had a few past births that got them what they have in this birth, but do not truly believe that there is a next birth where they would need the fruits of this birth?

That, precisely, seems to be the problem. Do-nothingism arises out of a belief in the past births without a conviction about the future ones. If one believed in both, one would still continue to work. But, then, it is customary for the 'rational' human beings to cherry-pick their beliefs to suit what they want to do, isn't it? So, I believe that my work in my past births will take care of me in this birth but I do not believe that there is a future birth for which I need to work in this birth. Sort of partial theory of Karma!

As for me, I do not indulge in reasons for my inaction. I do nothing because I absolutely love doing nothing!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beware those titles

The very mention of titles probably remind you of "Sir" and "Lord" if you are inclined to aristocracy. If you are more inclined to movie stars - especially the South Indian version - you probably are thinking of "Super Star", "Supreme Star" and the like. There are reasons to beware of such things too but that is not the subject matter of the thesis here. (Of course thesis! And I expect a doctorate out of it, mind it!)

Let us first consider what deification means. Ram cannot be an ordinary mortal - he is the incarnation of Vishnu. This conferring of godhood makes it easy on all of us. We do not need to be affectionate and obedient sons, loving brothers or faithful to our wives. Gods can be thus but we are mere mortals. On the other hand, though, we can doubt our wives at the drop of a hat citing Ram (When even the god Ram did it how do you expect a mere mortal like me to abstain?) conveniently forgetting that, unlike him, we are not juggling the welfare of our society with the welfare of our wife. So, conferring godhood on Ram ensures that we do not have to live up to the virtues that he embodied.

This country keeps creating problems for us, however. We deify Ram and ensure that we have no troubling thoughts about being worse than we ought to be and it springs a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on us. Now, come on, non-violence and Truth? Getting beaten up without retaliation and still fighting injustice? Starvation? Well - that was a bit too much to expect us to do. So, heck, We christen him "Mahatma". Problem solved. Now if anyone catches us in a lie, "I am no mahatma, merely an ordinary mortal". If I walk away from injustice on the streets, why should I be expected to do otherwise? I am no Mahatma.

We have now the solution to all such inconvenient folks who show us uncomfortable things like values in life. The one thing we have ensured is that we have made goddesses out of our women. Goddesses exist to grant the needs of mere mortals, after all. Mere mortals cannot give anything to goddesses, can they? So, very neatly, we ensured that they did everything for us and we had no reason to do anything for them. And they also had to maintain the dignity we vested on goddesses - in dress and deportment, didn't they?

So, now you know. If there is anyone around you who makes you uncomfortable with his value systems - don't rail at him. Just bestow a title on him - that will absolve you of all the need to feel guilty about not living up to those moral standards. And, for Heaven's sake, avoid any title like a plague. It is too constricting a life living up to a title.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hitting a fifty

Whenever I thought about becoming fifty in my long gone youth, I had pictured myself as this serene, respected figure whose words of wisdom youth listened to with awe. (Of course, I also pictured myself with a full head of hair, albeit grey, but let us not get into that now.) This image of being the center of respectful attention was probably engendered by wishful thinking since, all my life, I was one of those who kept squeaking, "Say listen..." and find that, to others, your voice seemed to be in decibels that could not be heard by human ears.

Now I AM fifty. The problem, however, is that not much seems to have changed - at least not for the better. I still put up my hands and plead in vain for attention as the conversation swirls all over me and around me and even through me as it seems some times. The only thing that has changed is that fact that you appear positively clownish doing that at fifty when you merely seemed a shade silly when you were doing it as a kid.

Par for the course, I suppose, considering that my knowledge has also stayed right where it was in my youth. I am as ignorant about the rates per square inch of every plot of land in my city - a subject on which all my companions seem to wax eloquent these days. Nor can I claim a vast increase in my knowledge of the recent gyrations of the stock-markets and the reasons thereof, which everyone in my vicinity seems to be dancing in step with if you listened to them (and just half a step behind, going by the impact on their bank balances. They seem to buy just before the market crashes and sell just before it recovers with uncanny accuracy) As for cars, all I know is that they have four wheels and an engine - and, that, apparently is mere kindergarten stuff. So, it is not really a wonder that I am not the fount of wisdom that I had thought I would become with age.

I have reconciled myself to the fact now. After all, they do say that 'Forty is the new Twenty" and, by those standards Fifty must be the new Ten and, so, it is no wonder I am still being treated as I used to be at ten. By the time I hit Sixty, I'll be practically a new-born baby and can expect rattles and feeding bottles for birthday presents. I shudder to think of what I will be if I ever outlive sixty.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Relearning English

I have had a shocking revelation that has caused sleepless nights for me recently. I have realized that I am sorely mistaken in assuming that I know English. No! It is not something to do with SMS English. Those alphanumeric strings, I have concluded, require a translation app which has been installed only in the latest model of humans and it is hopeless for older models like me to attempt to understand.

To understand the depths of my shame you must realize how it feels for you to have brashly attempted to correct people whose command over the language far exceeds your own. My ears burn at the thought of the day I told someone - privately, thank God - that 'improvise' is used only to indicate finding a make-shift solution to a problem, like scotch-taping a leaking pipe till the plumber deigns to make a visit. To think that I had not realized what he knew - that 'improvise' was a more upmarket version of the word 'improve'. Now I, too, wish to improvise my English. (Please do not reject me as a student. I have already learnt to say "One of my friend" and "Many a times" when I had all along been wrongly using them as "One of my friends" and "Many a time") So, could someone please tell me what does one use when one wants to talk about the equivalent of the Hindi 'Jugaad'?

I can hardly rein in my anger at myself for having been so blind. Wait - there I go again making the same mistakes and losing track of hard-won knowledge. It ought to be 'reign' and not 'rein', I think. My obsolete knowledge says that 'reign' mean 'rule' and 'rein' is that thingy which controls the movement of a horse or any other such draft animal. There I was thinking that you can only use 'reign over'  and 'rein in' but, again, I was totally wrong. How do I rein .. err... reign in my tears of mortification?

Of course, it is my age that is to blame. Uh! This relearning thing is rather difficult. I meant 'Off course' here, I think. But, you will agree, it is hard for someone who has always thought 'Off course' to mean 'going off the route' to change over instantly. Now, off course, I need to know what to say for 'going off the route' - other than saying 'going off the route'.

Come on, have I not proved that I am a serious student of new English? Hmm! I have spoiled my CV again, haven't I? Should it be 'Common'? But 'common' is the opposite of 'special', isn't it? (Now, now, do not go insisting on the old English, you bum. Just try to learn what to say when you mean the opposite of 'special'.) Did someone say 'common' is used for 'come on' as a colloquial usage - to denote how it is said? Hmm! That makes it all the more difficult. I mean I have heard people say, "Mittal is speaking" when they meant 'Mittal speaking" and if I started writing it all the way people pronounce I shall need to publish another dictionary to make people understand exactly what I am saying.

There I sit with bated breath waiting for my application to be approved but ..huh..can I ever learn? I mean it is 'baited breath' isn't it? But how does one bait a breath? You bait a hook with a worm to catch fish, you bait a rat-trap with food to catch a rat but what do you bait a breath with (Carbon-dioxide?) and to catch what? (Oh! Wait! Your problem is that you do not keep abreast of the latest scientific findings. You can bait a breath with the smell of toothpaste and catch the girl from the other side of the bus as she comes flying to you drawn by your breath! The problem with you is that I keep waiting with baited breath for you to change and you never do.)

I may have made a mistake here and there but please do not reject my application to learn new English. Common! Off course I am reigning in my impatience and waiting with baited breath to know whether I will get the golden opportunity to improvise my English!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I never really managed to understand this mysterious attribute charisma. To know that is is derived from a word used by Hindi speakers - Karishma - and, probably, owes its origins to that word is no help. It is one thing knowing the meaning and quite another to know what makes a person charismatic.

I mean there is this guy who can walk into office and say,"It is raining outside" - a fact that is more than evident to all of us, who are busily dripping on the office carpet - and make all of us look at him as though he had said something that brightened our day. Now what makes such a weather announcement seem as though all is right with the world, when we are not even farmers, merely because it comes from him?

Some people seem to be natural magnets - and when they come around all the rest cluster around them like iron filings. What makes them magnets is a mystery. People have attributed charisma to looks or to sweet temper - both of which seem unbelievable. I mean, Adolf Hitler was supposed to be charismatic and, for the life of me, I cannot understand that he was particularly handsome or sweet-tempered. It is maybe that peculiar mustache that made him so charismatic. Not that growing one is likely to help you.

And then there are others, who do not fail to get noticed but do not necessarily attract people like the Pied Piper is reputed to have attracted mice (Eeww! What an unnatural accomplishment for a grown man to be honing a talent for!) These are like large lumps of iron dumped into a congregation of iron filings. All the filings look at them as though wondering "Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed that he is grown so great" without even feeling the urge to accost Caesar and verify the means (and I do not mean only physical size).

The majority, of course, belong to the iron filings category. One may get temporarily magnetized and become the center of attraction - as when one gets married or faces some other such calamity - but, by and large, gets attracted by magnets or tries to stare down iron lumps or tries to look aloof as if to claim that he is beyond all such mere vanity.

Me??? I am special. Ever seen that rare being who can walk into a roomful of the chatterati and instantly convert them into Trappist monks observing an inviolable vow of silence? The person who has that unique ability of reminding everyone about appointments that they were about to miss but for the opportune reminder provided by his entrance? The man whose charisma acts on others like a stone thrown in a pool acts on water - causing ripples of people to race each other to the shore? Me - That is who!

What do you mean people like me are not rare? That is merely envy. It just shows how jealous you are of me - as jealous, perhaps, as I feel about people whose charisma works in the normally accepted fashion!

Monday, September 16, 2013

P&M XI - No offense meant

(We are back at Phrases and Meanings again. You can torture yourself with the entire series here)

I have always been fascinated by this story that is told in various versions. The version that I had runs something like this

An old King wanted to get back his youth and, tyrannical as kings could be, declared that he would put all his doctors to death unless they found him a way. The distressed doctors went to their chief pleading him to find a way out of this dilemma. The old doctor came to the king with a vial of medicine and said "Your Majesty! Drink this medicine and, if for the next twenty-four hours, you do not think of mangoes at all you will regain your youth." The King rewarded the doctor handsomely and took the medicine but, to his vexation, found that he could think of nothing but mangoes the whole of the next twenty-four hours thus losing, as he thought, his chance at regaining his youth.

Whenever I hear the phrase, "No offense meant but..." I am reminded of this tale. I have never heard of a more counter-productive phrase than this, specifically when it is used at the beginning. The moment you hear it, you are automatically tuned to seeing whatever comes afterwards as potentially, if not actually, offensive when, without that preamble, you may never have thought of being offended. Why, I daresay that in most cases if you said "No offense meant but you look lovely today" the other person would start thinking, "Ah! Since there is something offensive in this, he must mean that I have never looked lovely till today" or, worse still, "So! He is so surprised that even I can look lovely. What an a******". Drop that phrase and things may be far more pleasant.

The phrase may have more meaning when said at the end - especially when you can see the other person and judge that offense has been taken. Though, I hardly think that saying this is automatically likely to incline the other person to thinking that you really did not mean any offense.

There are variants of this phrase - meant to soothe any possible hurt - and not really serving the purpose. Like "Don't take me otherwise" which automatically inclines the other person into thinking of all the other ways that it can be taken and the most offensive ones at that.

I, particularly, have an aversion to the "maybe it is only me". It sounds, invariably to me, too much like, "Of course it is not only me but who knows what an idiot like you can get into his stupid brain". Or, maybe, it is only me who takes it like this.

Saying something that has the potential to hurt someone is a difficult art and, if you have not mastered it, it is best to avoid doing so. If it is unavoidable, however, these shortcuts are really no help and there is no point in whining, "I said no offense meant and the other person still took offense." Don't take me otherwise, though, for these opinions - maybe it is only me!