Thursday, August 29, 2013

P&M IX - I may be wrong

There are these nice and humble people who are ever willing to admit the possibility that they may not be infallible and can make be wrong sometimes - or so people say. If so, I am yet to come across one who says "I may be wrong but..". In the normal course, a person who seriously considers the possibility of his being wrong starts off diffidently saying things like, "Is it possible that.." or "Could it be this way?"

The most humble version of "I may be wrong ..." is the person who says that with the unsaid sub-text of "but I shall be very surprised if I am" and THAT is regardless of what he says after that. 

There is also the bully's version of "I may be wrong..." where the sub-text is "but is there anyone here who dares to say so to my face?" (It sounds more emphatic in Hindi - "Kisi maike laal mein dum hai ...") Now that is a person who does not care two hoots about whether he is right or not but merely expects to be obeyed. That "I may be wrong .." here is a dare - it is not a statement of humility.

There is the "I may be wrong.." that expects the crowd around to say, "No, of course you are not Sir. How can you ever be wrong?" This is normally a boss who just loves his subordinates to be perpetually blinded by his own brilliance but does not feel brilliant unless they tell him so.

The ultimate is someone who says "I may be wrong..", expects it to be treated as the joke of the century and waits for his audience to have a hearty laugh. After all both he and they know that he cannot be wrong. Like, say, God saying, "I may be wrong.." when he is talking of how he created the world.

Hmm! I may be wrong in what I said above. (I know you are all laughing heartily at this statement)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Heritage under threat

A temple thirteen centuries old; Inscriptions on stone portraying a history of centuries; deities that have been sung about in the ancient - and still living - literature of the language and being worshiped even today and a temple situated in the capital of the state. What is the image that strikes your mind of a renovation of such a temple by an organization purportedly in charge of maintaining temples? Experts handling the process with a delicate care to ensure that the temple retains its original look of antiquity or construction workers uprooting sculptures and destroying inscriptions in a bid to tile the interiors?

If you thought that it would be the former - then you are sorely mistaken in your India. At least, Tamil Nadu where the Tiruvottiyur temple situated in Chennai is being renovated - with all the insouciance of renovating a slum. This album of photos here, shared by a friend, will show the extreme care and attention lavished on these priceless relics of our history.

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department, which is in charge of temples, does not, purportedly, even have the authority to disturb the sanctum sanctorum but has given scant regard to the limits of its authority as per News reports. As for the expertise they bring to the table, scores of temples across Tamil Nadu bear sufficient witness as per this report in The Hindu.

http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/targets-of-destruction/article2109633.ece

The specific instance of this temple in Chennai has also been covered by a Tamil newspaper here. Whether any of this will have even a minimal impact on the activities remains to be seen but remaining silent was no longer an option for me.

Yes, this country has a variety of current problems and, to many, they may seem more important than this. For me, however, no person can be grounded in his self unless he has a respect for where he comes from. If the foundations of that respect will be destroyed and we start disrespecting ourselves as a people - as we show by disrespecting our history, there can be no salvation for us as a Nation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

P&M VIII - Nobody understands me

Of all the things a person says nothing is meant with every fiber of one's being as much as "Nobody understands me". As usual, there are times when this is nothing more than an ordinary phrase. For example, I was in Paris for a day and trying to take in the city all by myself. Unfortunately, speaking English was no help. Whether I spoke it confidently in a basso profundo or in nervous frustration in a high falsetto; whether I took an hour over uttering two syllables or ran through the entire sentence in a nano second, all I got was that famous Gallic shrug and a friendly smile. When I said, "Nobody understands me" on that day it was no more than a statement of fact, which nobody understood either.

The usage that I now seek to talk about is the "Nobody understands me" that is a cry from the heart of a person distressed by the sheer obduracy of the rest of humanity in refusing to fathom them. In my time, I have been so wounded to the depths of my soul by the inability of my fellow-man to understand me that I have had to utter this phrase in broken tones to the receptive ears of my pillow more often than I would like to think about.

Just as I am sitting in a bad mood because my close friend refused to come with me for a movie, someone will come and want a heart-to-heart chat about how depressed he is because his girl-friend ditched him for someone else. He will not even understand that I am snapping at him only because I am in no mood to talk at that time and will go around telling people that I am selfish and not a good friend. And, you know what, people believe HIM!!! Nobody understands me.

My blog post of last week does not get enough comments and I am very sad and depressed about it. You would think that I can go and talk to my close friend and be consoled by him, wouldn't you? Not that I can notice. I go over to him expecting to unburden myself and he brushes me off with a frivolous excuse that he needs to take his sick mother to hospital. What sort of friend is he that he cannot even understand how much I need his support at that time? Even my close friends do not understand me.

People call me bad-tempered just because I snap at them when I am not in the mood. They just do not seem to understand that I am such a sweet person if only they will come and talk to me at the right time. They do not understand how helpful I am as a person if only they will ask me for what I can willingly give them instead of selfishly asking me for what they want. Nobody understands me.

I wish that God had thought fit to tattoo on the foreheads of people what sort of people they were. I mean, if someone came with a tattoo on his forehead saying "Please understand me", I could know that he is less likely to be spending time understanding ME. If someone came with a tattoo saying, "I have enough trouble understanding myself and cannot spare the time to be understanding you" one could conveniently give her a wide berth. Then, maybe, there may come one with "I have got nothing better to do than understand you" and you could latch on to her - provided you can fight your way through the hordes of other people like you. Without those tattoos, it is difficult to understand people. God really messed up when He designed human beings.

What?? Did you say that when I cry "Nobody understands me" I only mean that "I understand nobody and have never made any attempt to do so"? Noooooooooo! How can you be so cruel? Even you do not understand me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

P&M VII - Let us agree to disagree

I strongly feel that whoever invented this "Let us agree to disagree" must have been an optimist. I think of him as an ivory tower type with a belief that real people actually could see that there was some validity in the other person's point of view and, though they believed in the opposite, they needed to be open-minded about the issue. As we all know, real people are incapable of seeing anything except from their own point of view.

Let us get one thing out of the way. Just as two of you are into the pith of an argument and you feel completely sure that you are going to rub the other person's nose in the dirt, there is always a third party busybody who pops in with a "Let us agree to disagree." In this case, there is no real 'us' here since Mr. Nosy Parker was never a party to the argument till he poked his proboscis in, thereby creating agreement in both your minds about how obnoxious he is. Be that as it may, we will concentrate on only those times when there is actually no 'agree' in your minds.

Of course, people have varied thoughts in their mind when they say this phrase and one cannot generalize about exactly what they mean. For example, you could be an ardent fan of Shahrukh Khan while your friend holds this insane belief that Salman Khan is God's gift to women-kind. You know, of course, that she is totally irrational on this issue. You, however, do not feel that this lunacy is about to exhibit itself in her taking the kitchen knife and slashing you into ribbons in the night. As long as you avoid taking her advice on what movies to see, her madness is harmless and, thus, you feel that you can brush aside this argument with a "Let us agree to disagree".

There are times, however, when you feel less inclined to be forbearing. In any corporate meeting you will find someone holding a view diametrically opposite to your own. Much as you may feel like grabbing him by the collar and shaking some sense into him, you are prohibited by the stupid rules of social engagement that are irrationally averse to settling arguments conclusively by physically silencing the opponent. You, of course, know that you can settle his hash logically over a three hour argument. The problem, however, is that your client is unlikely to see your victory over him as a sufficient return on the fees he is paying you (Clients are unreasonable that way). So, if it is a minor point and with a mental note to settle scores with him at a more appropriate time, you grit out, "Let us agree to disagree."

There are more serious issues, however, that crop up between people. When you are of the staunch opinion that the chicken came first and the other person insists that the egg did, there is what is called an impasse. Google is no help in conclusively proving your point and you just cannot let the other person go around propagating a wrong philosophy. The argument could go something like this

"How can there be an egg unless there is a chicken to lay it?"
"How can there be a chicken unless there is an egg to hatch out of?"
"How can the egg hatch unless there is an chicken to warm it?"
"You never heard of incubators?"
"You never heard of Darwin? Incubators came from men and men came after the chicken"

And so on and on into the esoteric realms of Science, Philosophy and any number of '..isms' without a conclusive end till one of you yells, "Let us agree to disagree."

And it is at that exact point that both of you are in total agreement - in concluding that the other person is an opinionated jackass who is incapable of listening to reason.

I am sure you are in agreement with me here. Otherwise, let us agree to disagree!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Guest Post for Purba Ray

When Purba Ray who blogs at A-Musing asked me for a guest post I was over the moon. She hardly needs any introduction to anyone who reads blogs - being a premium blogger at Blogadda and her blog being a Platinum blog at IndianTopBlogs and recently selected as the Best Humor blog by Indiblogger. We have interacted primarily through our blogs but the generosity of her comments has always lead me to consider her a friend and I believe that the feeling is reciprocated.

After I landed on Earth again, it was time to start wondering. Purba is, above all, a premier satirist of the political scene. All that I know of politics can be written in block letters on a pinhead with space left over. About all I know is that there is something called government that is supposed to take care of security, defense, infrastructure etc. in the country but does not and that somehow there are things called parties that are involved in the process of putting in place the people who fail in doing these things. I could hardly see Purba slavering over a political satire from me based on this wealth of knowledge.

So, I revert to what I normally do best. Look into the mirror and pick one of the innumerable blemishes to laugh over. This time, I drag my entire generation into the slush. For the rest, please visit this link.

http://www.purba-ray.com/2013/08/the-accursed-generation.html

Monday, August 19, 2013

P&M VI - I don't care

There are some phrases that mean one thing when they are said in sentences and another when they are used as a complete sentence. Of course, when my friends say, "I don't care if I never see you again" they are merely joking. (What do you mean you are not joking? Maybe you are not but I am talking about my friends) but in the normal course, when someone says "I don't care if....", he actually means that he does not care.

But what if someone just says, "I don't care"? When this phrase is used as a complete communication, it very seldom means what it says. It may mean, "I don't care to discuss the matter" or "I don't care to let people know how much I care" BUT it, almost invariably, does not mean that you do not care about the matter.

"I am sorry you did not get selected"

"I DON'T CARE"

Now, that was loud enough to let the other person know how little you cared about the matter. How utterly indifferent you were about getting selected. Yes, we know.

"I am sorry she did not accept your proposal"

"I DON'T CARE"

 The entire hostel knows how totally indifferent you are to the girl's charms and how carefree her turning down of your proposal left you. They all know you are going to paint the town red celebrating your joy.

"I am sorry you lost your job"

"I DON'T CARE" 
The entire city knows how much you care..umm, don't care about losing your job. Everyone and his aunt knew how little you cared for it and how much you were hungering to be free to do your own thing.

If you are sorely tempted to write something negative in the comments please understand that

"I DON'T CARE"

You hear me? I just don't care.

Friday, August 16, 2013

P&M V - Guess who I am

"Guess who I am?"

Ah! I had lived long enough to know that the person asking me this question could belong only to one of three categories

1. Someone from school or college who I have not seen for lo these many decades. Having recognized me, despite my crude attempts at disguise like some additional twenty inches around the waist and a shiny pate, he expects that recognizing him should be a piece of cake for me.
2. Someone who I ran into in a jamboree like a wedding or some party some time in the past. Why I should have been memorable to him is something that only he can explain but why he has not  been memorable to me is now my task to explain to him.
3. A variant of 2 above - someone who I ran into in a party, when I was wandering around in an alcoholic daze, hardly noticing mere humans what with exotic creatures like pink elephants and flying mice having captured my total attention. He would have had a better chance of being recognized had he been a Hobbit or a Balrog. What makes it tough to explain is the fact that he is possibly one of those unfortunates who have an impaired eyesight - owing to a regrettable indulgence in those abominations called soft drinks - and are unable to see the wonders that are visible to the more fortunate.

Unfortunately, identifying the categories is as far as I have been able to get. In almost every instance I have failed miserably to identify the person concerned.

Hitherto I had confined myself to phrases that meant something different from what the dictionary would literally have them mean. In this case, however, the person who asks the question means exactly what he says. He/She does actually expect you to guess who he/she is. The problem for me is in identifying what makes people indulge in these guessing games.

If ever there was a question that was designed specifically to cause unhappiness to the person asking it, it is this question. I have heard cruel replies like, "I never knew you and do not want to" to "If I had guessed, do you not think I would have ducked out of sight in time?" Such wounding replies have been rare but, more often than not, the other person has had to indicate his inability - or guess wrongly - causing the questioner to feel hurt badly. It is a rare case where the recognition happens as expected - and the joy of such recognition is not really mind-blowing. Seems to me like this question is the sort of lottery where you buy a ticket for a million bucks in order to possibly win a humongous jackpot of one buck. So, why do some people play this game where the potential losses are huge and gains paltry? Masochism?

It is also a fact that most of these instances have left me vaguely guilty for the lapse of memory and vaguely resentful of that person as a consequence. There is this one instance, however, when I felt neither.

"Guess who I am?" came the tenor voice over the crackling static of the telephone connection.

"I do not know", which has been my invariable reply. I never really could play the 'your voice/face/whatever is very familiar and your name is on the tip of my tongue' game very well.

"What is this? We were so close till the 5th at school when you moved away" came the distressed, wounded voice.

Ye Gods! That is one time I could not have apportioned even an iota of blame to my memory. I defy even God to hear the tenor voice over a crackling telephone, discern the childish treble of thirty years ago and go on to identify the speaker. I swear, this really happened.

Now, can someone please tell me why people ask "Guess who I am?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Missed-out posts

For a person who feels that any writing he does is wasted unless it is put up on his blog - even unto seriously thinking of uploading his shopping list - I have been sadly remiss in not linking a guest post that I had written in 'the-NRI'. Maybe because it was an exceptional post for me - what else can you call a post from me that actually rails against a sense of humor? Anyway, here it is.

http://the-nri.com/comment/item/3323-a-sense-of-humor

While I am at it, let me also link an interview that Rahul Miglani did of me recently. Considering the amount of writing I had to do on that interview (Some 30 odd questions, can you believe it?), it would be sad if I did not strive to inflict it on every single possible reader.

http://bloggerinterviews.blogspot.in/2013/08/interview-with-cs-life-is-like-this.html

In line, of course, with the persistent illusion that people just cannot get enough of me, I also offer the link of the Facebook Page for this blog for you - to Like or ignore as the mood takes you - where I not only post my latest posts but also link some of the old posts that I like the most.

https://www.facebook.com/Jambudwepam

With pious wishes that this does not put you guys permanently off my blog!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Uncommon Needs - Satisfied

Companies seemed to me to all be vying to satisfy the same needs. All male deodorants seemed to be targeted at getting gaggles of women chasing the man who chose to use them. You may argue that women cosmetics addressed different needs - to become an air-hostess, to be able to attend a surprise party and what not - but it all reduces in the end to increasing fairness in various visible and invisible parts of the female anatomy or in addressing the needs of the dead keratin that covers the scalp (Yes! The green-eyed monster - Jealousy - is rampant in me).

Please do not cite the product that addresses the need of a woman to pull a truck out of a pothole with her hair. What the woman wants to do with her hair may be uncommon but it all reduces to that damned keratin again.

Coming across a few products that address some uncommon needs was, indeed, a pleasant surprise although they shattered my complacent view of the ways of companies. Offhand, I can recollect only a few of them.

Have you ever thought of what would happen if you were in a woods and some desirable damsels made off with your shirt? You feel the need to go chasing after them - and are, as yet, not clear whether you want the shirt or the dames. And, once you find them you suddenly discover that you needed neither the shirt nor the damsels and could make do with sunglasses instead? We have just the bike for you.

How about if you have never stepped into water because you are afraid of it. You, of course, are absolutely confident that, if only you could shed that irrational fear, you have the ability to jump into the sea off a hundred foot high cliff without breaking your neck and, also, that you will not go glug-glug after that and pickle your insides with salt-water ( All this confidence even though you are not Rajnikant. You just cannot be Rajnikant, can you, if you can be afraid of anything at all). If only a company could make a product to rid you of that fear. Well, we have - drink our soft drink and, voila, you are ready to take the plunge.

What if it feels awesome to you to go to the very few pristine unpolluted areas of the world and pollute them with chemicals? To jump into an arctic pool dressed in nothing much more than foam singing all the while about how awesome it is. Sing hosannas to our soap.

It is so comforting to know that companies are only too eager to tailor products to suit our needs - no matter how uncommon our needs are. And we keep complaining about how little they care for us. Life is so unfair.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Phrases and Meaning IV - Good One?

We were on top of the mountain standing just off a steep drop and looking down into the valley below when a bird flew gracefully in front of our eyes.

"Wow! How I wish I could fly like that"
"Oh! Flying from here is a piece of cake. It is the landing that is the problem"
"Good one"

Huh! This 'Good one' as a reaction to a joke or a witticism always confuses me. I can still remember my long gone school days when I used to crack what I thought was a joke and be met with sepulchral silence. Then one of the guys would catch the pleading, pathetic look on my face and say, "Good one!" Now, when someone says "Good one" in response to a joke is it only sympathy that makes him say it instead of "Oh! Was that a joke?" or scratching his ribs with both hands (a throw-back gesture that reminds you of your Darwinian origins) and emitting a derisive "Ha Ha"?

There is an Asimov story - "Joker" or some such name - in which he says that the only jokes that people laugh at are ones that begin "Ever heard of this one before" or some such thing that ascribes an unknown origin to the joke. He claims that all the on-the-spot witticisms only beget groans or "Good One"s depending on the nature of the recipient. From which I conclude that Isaac Asimov too had had his share of jokes falling flat on unpromising soil or eliciting feeble "Good one"s.

Sometimes, it does feel like his theory is right. The "Good one" shoots out with such enthusiasm - and without the stimulus of pathos in the face - that it seems like it was meant. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the Wit can dance a saraband in happiness. It only means that, though the joke was not good enough to laugh at, it was good enough to be acknowledged.

Sometimes, though, it is the recipient of the witticism who needs the crutch of a "Good one". There are those unfortunate beings who actually cannot get a joke. When, however, they are acute enough to understand when the other person thinks that what he said is a joke (and it is not every Wit who is overwhelmed by his own humor that he conveniently goes "Ha Ha Ha" and gives you a clue), then he can come out with a "Good one" to cover up the fact that he was totally in the dark about what was funny about it.

In sum, a "Good One" is not a good enough one - at least for the recipient. If, perchance, you feel the pressing need to leave a "Good one" in the comments, you do it at the peril of my taking you for the third category of people above!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Imperative Subterfuge by Rickie Khosla - A Review

(Another of my friends - this time from the blogging world - has self-published a short novella on amazon. The book link is
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3Z8SGQ

The author's blog is

In the event that you do not have a Kindle you can download apps for reading Kindle books on PCs, laptops and Smartphones from this link

This must serve as an upfront disclaimer before you read the review )

Historical fiction has always fascinated me. The genre ranges from tales that brought to life the more dramatic events with imagination filling in for what is not known to speculations about possibilities in some historical mysteries to alternative histories of what could have been. Rickie Khosla's 'The Imperative Subterfuge' is set in  the Germany of Adolph Hitler and speculates about the relationship between Hitler and Eva Braun and adds a twist to the theories surrounding the apparent suicide of the Hitler.

The author has written a very readable novella and, for me, it is a pleasure to read good English - though it was no surprise since I already knew of his ability with the language from his blog. He has also avoided the normal pitfall of a newbie author - of making characters seem flat. He paints his characters very well and brings their relationships to life. The central speculation is intriguing and, so, the climax certainly does not disappoint. Overall, the book reads very well and does not slack in pace.

The one area that I felt needed to be better was the manner in which the political happenings of the day were written. In a novel length book, such happenings do tend to be written entirely by narrative. Since the author's book is a short novella, I felt it would have been better if he had also brought them out in the interactions of the characters. This, of course, is more a question of personal opinion since even these background passages do not obstruct the pace of the read. The other thing is that I really did feel that the idea had the scope to be a novel.

Overall, Rickie's book is interesting and is a very pacy read.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Make a wish

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 40; the fortieth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "MAKE A WISH"
Why is it that I get so easily deceived? Anyone with a sob-story can lay claim on the contents of my wallet - so much so that I sometimes feel like an ATM machine where the con-men come to swipe their sob-stories and make away with my cash. Whenever I seek something from someone they find it so easy to lead me astray conversationally that I end up forgetting what I came to ask and leave wondering what I had come to them for in the first place. If only I could make a wish and rid myself of this problem..

A bottle with a milky-white gas inside materialized in front of me.

"Open it, let the genie out and ask it for your wish", whispered a voice in my ear. So engrossed was I in my own problem that a disembodied voice speaking in my ear seemed quite natural.

How clich├ęd!  The moment you start talking of wishes, you end up getting a genie in a bottle. They could have, at least, switched over to cans whoever they were.

Shit! The bottle was corked. The last time I tried to open a corked bottle - wine it was - without a cork-screw, which I anyway did not have, it was no fun at all. The screwdriver I tried on it chipped this end for a while and, when I tried to poke it through, it ended up pushing the cork into the bottle. Now, I do not know what the current fashion for genies in head-gear was but I had a suspicion that a chipped cork on the head would not be the latest attraction in any genie fashion show.

I picked the bottle up gingerly and laid a hand on the cork to test how tight it was. The cork slid out smooth as silk and the room started suddenly filling up with smoke.

"Hey! Enough with the special effects. Can you do something less corny?" I bleated.

"You dare complain of corny? For how long are you guys still going to be bottling us up - like some soft drink or beer? Can't you think of anything more inventive if you have to do it?"

"We did try lamps and rings."

"I was talking of something more spacious. Such cramped accommodation where we have no choice but to turn to smoke in order to feel a wee bit comfortable and you have the gall to complain? What did you expect - frothing champagne?"

By now the smoke had coalesced into a shape that filled most of the room. It was I, now, who was feeling distinctly cramped for space. The leering gargoyle of a face and the massive mass of the rest of the body made me want to recede as far as possible - but the wall got in the way.

"Listen!" I said weakly "I did not put you in the bottle. Anyway, I thought you were supposed to grant me a wish"

"And that is another thing. First you bottle us up and, then, in return for the generous favor of being released we have to grant you a wish in order to go free? Is that fair?"

"But..." I interjected weakly but the genie was not listening.

"Anybody would think that we were some sort of wish-vending machine. Species stereotyping is what I call it. And, unlawful incarceration. It is time that we djinns got together and started an agitation against this discriminatory behavior"

"Listen genie..." I tried to get some control of the situation. There was a dull throb north-northwest of my eyes.

"Huh? Genie, Genie! It is Djinn you idiot. You cannot even get our species name right. And what do you mean calling me genie? You even call your dogs by names and you do not have the common courtesy to seek the name of a sentient being?"

The dull throb in the head was sending out shooting pains.

"Ooh! Just go away. Get lost"

"Is that your Wish?"

"I am not just shooting off my mouth to hear my voice. Of course, it is my wish" I yelled.

"Your Wish is granted"

The genie vanished with a boom.

Uhoh! Cheated by a genie, too!
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: 12

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Phrases and Meanings-III : Drop in any time

I wish this phrase "Drop in any time" would only make up its mind about what it means. Most of us know that the dictionary is meant to be ignored and sort of pick up meanings by usage - but, heck, that can be done only for phrases that maintain some sort of constancy in usage. When a phrase is so indecisive about exactly what it means it really gets on my nerves.

An early experience had taught me that this phrase was a meaningless politeness similar to 'Nice meeting you' (which, when someone uses it with me meant, "The nicest thing about meeting you is parting from you and the solacing thought that I shall never meet you again"). It meant nothing more than the fact that the concerned people were not actively repelled by you - yet!

Those were the days that I used to take the printed word as gospel (being days in which newspapers could still be relied upon to give the facts) and the dictionary was my sole guide for meanings. So, when a couple I met said "Drop in any time" just as we parted, I thought I had found a new caring family in an unknown city. There I was hair in a braid - as Wodehouse would put it - sunnily smiling at them as I walked into their home on a Sunday. Within five seconds, I had learnt what 'being given the bum's rush' was all about. It meant that your hostess tells you in gushing words how sorry they were that they were having family coming in any time while your host has his arm around your shoulder and is nudging you towards the door inexorably. Before your bewildered mind can comprehend exactly what you are hearing you are not merely outside the door but outside the gate which your host is busy padlocking while your hostess utters a last apology and a sweet goodbye.

The subsequent days taught me the meaning of more phrases. For example, I knew that 'one taking the high road and the other the low road' meant that if you happen to meet the host of that day coming towards you on the pavement, you would see him instantly find some pressing business on the other side. Why, he will even risk crossing the road despite high speed traffic in order to attend to it. Someone cutting you dead means that if you run into your hostess in a party then, while you are bleating "Hello" in her ear she would dreamily hear a whisper of a thought from someone across the room and rush to answer it. Enough on that subject. In addition to teaching me the meaning of all sorts of phrases, it also taught me that "Drop in any time" does not mean what the dictionary says it means.

Ah, by the way, these were in the days when a telephone connection depended on your knowing someone related at least to the Telecom Minister's peon and when mobile telephony belonged in the realms of Science Fiction. People still used to just walk into someone's house saying, "I was just passing this way and thought I would meet you" even if their host's house was the lone one in the middle of nowhere and they had to trek 8 Kms to reach it. (Before you ask me, YES, I am THAT old.)

If only one could hold on to that meaning for "Drop in any time", all would be well. I mean you would just say "Sure" to that phrase and forget all about it. Unfortunately, the damn phrase switches meanings every now and then. I have had hostesses accost me in a wounded tone, "I invited you but you never do come". (I know, I know! It seems incredible that anyone could at all be THAT hungry for company that they would miss me but will you please wait before you call me a liar?) I have never managed to understand whether this meant that their "Drop in any time" was a genuine invitation or was it only a means of taking the moral high ground of having invited me without running the risk of actually having to host me.

With such an indecisive phrase, it is only right that I choose to assign the meaning to it myself. So, I have decided that I shall accept as an invitation only when someone says "Drop in at this time". "Drop in any time" shall, for me, mean that if I acted on the dictionary meaning those people would only mean, "Drop Dead" in future regardless of what they say.

How about you?