Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the United States.

Any young man or woman setting his or her foot or feet on American soil would do well to go through the below text. It explains basic and advanced survival tactics so that one does not feel left out in the whole enormity of the US of A.

You would do well to take a printout of the text below and file it carefully under ‘S’ for ‘Survival’ (or ‘C’ for ‘Crap’, if you so desire). The file can then be used as a handy survival guide/paperweight/toilet paper substitute (see section on Hygiene below).

For your (in)convenience, the text has been broken down into sections, for no discernable reason whatsoever.

Section 1: At the office

1. When your American manager asks if you have some gum, (s)he is referring to chewing gum, not Fevicol.
2. Your American manager will look at you in a funny way if you happen to offer him/her one for the other.
3. Excel is God. Accept it.
4. You can stick photos of almost anything on your cubicle walls, including those of your last root canal surgery.
5. Making coffee involves pressing more buttons than writing code to operate a space shuttle.
6. Vending machines possess evil spirits within, who will consume every penny you possess and then refuse to give up a bar of candy, no matter how hard you bang in the glass partition
7. M&Ms are God’s (see point 3 above) gift to mankind.

Section 2: Hygiene

1. Most offices and hotels do not offer handwash services. It is considered proper to use a tissue to wipe your hands after every meal.
2. It is considered impolite to use your tablecloth /tongue/pants/friend as a tissue.
3. Most American restroom facilities do not contain running water to cleanse yourself after FFLUSH (stdout)
4. See point (2) again.

Section 3: On the road

1. Roads are divided into ‘streets’, ‘avenues’ , ‘blocks’ and ‘paths’.
2. Two avenues = 1 block = 3 streets = 123.8786 paths (Actual results may vary. Contact your physician for more details)
3. Pedestrian traffic signals will show the WALK sign when you are 4 minutes away from the crossing and will change to the DO NOT WALK sign just when you reach the crossing.
4. Don’t try jumping over cars in order to cross a road. You are not Spiderman.
5. Nor Superman.
6. Come to think of it, Superman is not Spiderman, either.
7. Interesting.
8. No two cars on the road will ever be alike.
9. No two abuses from car owners to pedestrians will ever be alike.
10. It is physically impossible to hold an umbrella, speak on your Bluetooth headset, hold your office bag, lunch bag and two weeks worth of groceries, place your hands in your jacket pocket for warmth, listen to your MP3 player and cross the road at the same time without being laughed at by little Chinese children.

Section 4: At home

1. Fire alarms will start ringing if you even think about something hot (eg: Mallika Sherawat)
2. Fire alarms will shout ‘FIRE FIRE’ in a voice provided by Himmesh Reshammiya after inhaling two cubic centimeters of helium gas.
3. Ketchup can be used to mask any undesirable taste in food.
4. Chapatis tend to get sticky if you microwave them for 3 minutes each.
5. Papad tends to turn into ash if you hold it above a flame for over 3 minutes, after which the fire Himmesh alarm will start yelping again.
6. Ovens possess all possible heat settings, including ‘Warm’, ‘Cook’, ‘Fry’, ‘Deep Fry’ and ‘Incinerate’.
7. Knives are sharp.
8. REALLY sharp.
9. You will never find a bottle opener when you need one.
10. Centralised heating/cooling system will heat the house during summer and freeze the house during winter.
11. Televisions can be made to work by banging on them repeatedly.
12. Jacuzzi bathtubs take a real long time to drain.

Section 5: Shopping

1. Most shop counters will be (wo)manned by cute girls who will say ‘Good evening sir!’ in a very friendly way and who will then proceed to drain every cent out of your bank account whilst you stare dumbfounded at the swiping machine.
2. When shopping for clothes, Indian shirt sizes do not hold good. An XL size shirt in the US is enough to comfortably clothe a rhino.
3. Stop converting everything into rupees. You are paying $2/- for a pair of socks, not Rs. 80/-

More survival tips will be sent out periodically.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Our Mall

Its summer. Temperatures are approaching nova levels. At home the air conditioning system has officially gone on strike.

At times like this, there’s only one thing to do.

Head for the mall!

In recent times, malls have sprung like big air-conditioned mushrooms all over the city of Mumbai. There’s hardly any major location which does not have a mall associated with it.

What’s so special about malls? Why do people swarm like locusts towards malls? And why am I asking so many questions?
Based on years of experience and after collating huge amounts of data, I have reached the following conclusions as to why malls have become so popular in modern times:

1.Malls offer a one-stop shopping experience. Everything from baby nappies to ghagra-cholies … you name it, chances are that your friendly neighbourhood mall will stock it.
2. Most malls have multiplex theatres associated with them.
3. Malls possess air-conditioning that would put Antarctica to shame.
4. Malls are great places to find chicks.

To those uninitiated into the Mall Experience, here is a brief Virtual Shopping Guide.

Firstly, how do you know if you are visiting a mall? How can you be sure that you aren’t actually visiting an over-sized vegetable market?

Well, for starters, most malls have the word ‘Mall’ in their name. This is to distinguish them from your local grocery shop. If you see a building labeled ‘Thambi Mall’ as opposed to ‘Thambi Grocery Shop’, you can be sure that it is a mall. Plus, malls tend to be a wee bit bigger than Thambi’s Grocery Shop.

Before entering any mall, you and your luggage will be subject to a series of security checks. Anything bigger than a cellphone has to be deposited with the security guard at the entrance, who will, almost always, possess a thick black moustache.

After surrendering your everything to Captain Moustache, you will enter the mall. The first thing that will hit you is the smell of about a gazillion perfumes. La Coste, Eternal Flame, Black Beauty, Silver Arrow, Turquoise Tandoori … you name it, that perfume is there. On most occasions, an army of mall attendants will approach you, armed with a thousand perfume bottles each and will attempt to douse you with ‘samples’. By the time you find your way out of the Perfume Department, you will smell like a cross between Golden Dandelions and Pink Paradise. Trust me, that don’t smell so good.

Whilst attempting to relieve yourself of all the fragrances on earth, you will find yourself dab smack in the middle of the Glass Department. Here, you are allowed to ooh and aah at the various delicate glass figurines on display but are not allowed to touch, or even think of touching, any of them, lest you convert Swarovski’s Finest Glass into Swarovski’s Finest Powdered Pile of Dust.

You will then board an escalator and escalate to the next level, namely Gentleman’s Shopping. This is regardless of whether you are actually a gentleman or a member of the Ku Klux Klan. At Gentleman’s Shopping, you will view a wide array of products designed for the Complete Man. Of course, this is assuming that the Complete Man has a Completely Full Bank Balance. Shirts, suits, trousers, T shirts.. the whole deal is present in this section of the mall.

One piece of men’s wear that is an absolute miracle of modern technology is the cargo pant. For starters, these pants come in adjustable lengths, from knee length to sole length to foot length to road-scrubbing length. Also, these pants possess about a thousand different pockets, designed to store everything from the gentleman’s wallet to the gentleman’s cell phone to the gentleman’s nuclear bazooka.

Once you are bored to your eyebrows with Gentleman’s Shopping, you proceed towards, naturally, The Ladies’ Section.

If you are a lady, this is Utopia. If you are not a lady, may God protect you.

Ladies’ showrooms can be identified from space due to the abundance of the colour pink. Pink walls, pink mannequins, pink lipstick…. The list is endless. Which is not to say that other colours are neglected.

80% of the time, Ladies’ Wear is the cause of the Battle of the Sexes.

What happens is this: Woman with all good intentions, drags husband/boyfriend/brother from the Electronics Showroom to the Ladies’ Wear section and proceeds to bombard him with questions related to Women’s Fashion. Husband/boyfriend/brother is totally out of sorts here, due to a genetic condition present in all men.

Men can see only three colours: Red, Blue and Green. To a man, any and all pieces of clothing can be classified under one of these categories.

Imagine his state when asked by his female companion as to whether he thinks the fuschia blouse matches the mauve pallu.

Any attempts on his part to clarify the meaning of fuschia, mauve or pallu will result in a Rather Nasty Look from the Lady, who will proceed to give him the Cold Shoulder and may lead to a few generalized comments about Mankind.

Once you are through with garment shopping and your wallet/purse feels considerably lighter, you ooze towards the Electronics Wing.

I am normally quite a smart chappie, although my friends will most assuredly tell you otherwise. But there are two places where I fail miserably. One is in the Ladies’ Wear section. Another is in Electronics Showroom.

Whenever I step foot into Electronics Showroom, a bevy of store attendants gather around me like a pack of hyenas surrounding a wounded zebra. They will then inform me that, in their opinion, I really need a 34 inch, 348 horsepower ultra-flat, micro-light LCD display television. They will draw my attention towards a monstrosity that fills half the room and whose clarity is so good that I can discern Abhishek Bachchan’s nosehair on screen.

Before I can tell them that I am not interested, the hyenas shove me towards a portable, state-of-the-art DVD player complete with Surround Sound, Woofer, Boozer and Lord-Knows-What-Else. I am then introduced to the latest in cellphone technology, a device which, in addition to being a phone, possesses BlueTooth, GreenTongue, InfraRed, UltraViolet, a 200 megapixel camera, and so forth. It could probably detect Life on Mars, if asked to do so.

If you survive the Electronics Showroom, you will enter the Department Store, where you will find the following:

1. People
2. Many people
3. Many many people.

As you may have guessed, Department Stores tend to get crowded.

There are always items on Sale in Department Stores, not to mention Special Offers. For example, if you buy 300 kg of washing powder, you get 124 toothpicks ABSOLUTELY FREE (Limited time offer only).

I always make a hurried exit from Department Stores, lest any patron take me away as per some free offer (“Buy 8 kilogrammes of potato, get Arun Narayanan ABSOLUTELY FREE! (Offer open till stock lasts)”).

If you are lucky, you could become the 50th. Customer, like my pal Ms. Ami. She held the title of 50th. Customer at a mall in Mumbai recently. She was crowned Queen, sat on a throne, had her photograph taken and was given immense recognition.

Moral of the story: When you enter a Department Store, make sure to take 49 of your closest friends along with you.

By this time, you will yearn for the outside world. So, you will retrace your steps back to the entrance. During this procedure, you will most probably lose your way and end up back inside Ladies’ Section or the Perfume Department.

At times like this, huge maps located on every floor will come to your rescue. These maps will contain a giant red ‘X’ proudly proclaiming ‘YOU ARE HERE’. Surrounding the ‘X’ will be a diagrammatic representation of your surroundings, which, to me, makes as much sense as rocket science.

After asking your way out, you retrieve your belongings from Captain Moustache, bid him well and head towards the multiplex theater, popcorn in tow.

Which brings us to the end of the Virtual Shopping Expedition.

So the next time you enter a mall, take this handy guide with you. And let me know if it helps you enhance your shopping experience in any way.

Note: It doesn’t.

One last thing before I sign off… What the devil is fuschia, anyway?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


For as long as man has walked on this good earth, he has felt the need to move at great speeds. Research has shown that Stone-Age man was an expert at running as fast as his Stone Age legs would carry him.

Which is good, because the Stone Age was a time when pretty much everything on earth possessed teeth the length of swords and wanted to eat you for breakfast.

A particularly brainy Stone Age chappie (let’s call him Oog) was fed up of all this needless running business. “Why”, said Oog one fine day, during a particularly long chase involving him and a saber-tooth tiger, “why cant we make stuff run for us? Why should we exert ourselves in this Neanderthal manner?”

Unfortunately, Oog was eaten up by the saber-tooth whilst he was contemplating this noble idea.

Which proves the following points:

1. Man felt the need to attain great speeds without too much physical toil.
2. Oog wasn’t particularly smart.

Centuries later, the wheel was invented. This was good, because now, man could use the wheel to go from one place to another. Of course, it required a bit of understanding to realize that a circular wheel would be infinitely more efficient than a triangular or square one.

Man later managed to train animals to pull chariots. During this time, he learnt the following:

1. Horses are great chariot pullers.
2. So are donkeys, oxen and yak.
3. Cockroaches do not make good chariot pullers.
4. Don’t mess with tigers.

Cut to the twenty-first century. The car has superseded other forms of terrestrial transportation modes to become the most popular form of powered locomotion.

We see cars in every possible size, shape and colour. Some, like the Volkswagen, scuttle around like beetles, whilst others like the Tempo Traveler simply bulldoze their way home. Red, blue, white, black, mauve, burgundy…. You name the colour, a car is available.

That is provided, of course, that ‘burgundy’ is a colour.

Question: Has anyone really seen ANYTHING that is burgundy in colour?

Right from my tender childhood, I have been fascinated with cars. My baby photos suggest that, apparently, my first locomotive device was a rather yellow-looking hippopotamus, with wheels and a pair of pedals attached to its legs, powered purely by strength of will and leg.

Reports suggest that I was quite the little racer aboard my yellow Hippo-mobile. Apparently, I was in the habit of dashing off at near-light speeds on the Hippo-mobile, pedaling as fast as my baby legs would permit.

With the passage of time, I grew too fat for the Hippo-mobile. Which is when my father purchased a bicycle for me. A rather smallish cycle it was, with plastic-spoke wheels and a bell which was capable of emanating sonic blasts. Many an evening did I spend riding my bicycle. Many a scratch have I borne on my knee and elbow. I loved that bicycle.

Unfortunately, with further passage of time, my bicycle was unable to sustain my mammoth weight. Which is when I progressed to cars.

The only hitch with this car thing was that, unlike the Hippo-mobile or the bicycle, a car is simply not maneuverable. I mean, lets say you are stuck in traffic. Were you aboard the Hippo-mobile or a bicycle, you could easily squeeze and slither your way through traffic and emerge at the top of the pack. Try squeezing and slithering a Scorpio through traffic. Its just not possible.

I joined a motor-training school with the intention of obtaining a valid driver’s license and also to learn this whole driving thing. The car assigned to me was a Maruti 800. Some prominent features of this car are listed below for your kind perusal;

1. The car was white in colour.
2. It had four wheels.
3. It had no back seat.
4. It had no rear-view mirror.
5. It would rear up like an enraged stallion every time I applied the brakes.
6. It would stop moving at the most inopportune moments, like on a highway. At such times, I had to use manual power to kick the car on its backside, upon which it would do a lot of soul-searching, reflect on what a bad car it has been and finally re-start with renewed vigour.

My instructor was Pandeyji, a rather smallish chappie with big ears.

How, you might ask, would I recognize Pandeyji in a crowd?

Here are some features of Pandeyji which are quite distinct:

1. He chews tobacco as if his life depended on it.
2. He sleeps while driving.
3. He sleeps while not driving.
4. He smokes like a chimney.
5. He speaks absolute chaste Hindi.

While we were on our practice rounds, Pandeyji would regale me with stories of his family. Apparently, Pandeyji possessed about a hundred aunts and close to about five thousand uncles, all stashed away in some village somewhere. These aunts and uncles had the tendency to die like flies every so often, causing Pandeyji to rush to his village at regular intervals, causing the cancellation of many a driving lesson.

On his return, Pandeyji would update me about the state of his goats and three buffalo. A favourite story of his revolved around his wedding, which apparently took place with his father-in-law swinging a heavy cudgel over Pandeyji’s head.

One problem with Pandeyji, though. With his penchant for chaste Hindi and my limited grasp of the language, we never saw eye to eye on the topic of directions. He would yell ‘Bayein taraf chaliye’ . It would take me some time to determine which of the two directions (left and right) matched bayein to the closest possible extent. At times, my guess worked and we would continue our drive. Most of the time, however, I would go in the exact opposite direction of bayein. This would normally elucidate a grunt from Pandeyji, who would swing the steering wheel in the appropriate direction and later give me a rather nasty look, similar to what he must have given his cudgel-wielding pa-in-law.

Another problem with Pandeyji was that he would never let me go above second gear. I think my grasp of bayein and dayein left him a wee bit ruffled and he didn’t want to risk smashing into a truck of some kind at top gear, owing to mis-communication.

The day of my driving test dawned bright and sunny. Pandeyji chauffeured me to the RTO, wherein a Driving Inspector, who was nearly as fat as a walrus, plonked his posterior on the front seat and commanded me to drive. Pandeyji was in the back seat, which had been specially prepared just the day before.

I passed the test owing to the fact that I was told to drive on a straight road. None of that daayein-baayein nonsense for this Driving Inspector. Drive straight ahead, honk about a bit and reverse straight back.

I am now the proud owner of a Driving License, which has proved useful as a source of identity and nothing else. For I do not own a locomotive of any kind.

I depend on public transport most of the time. Of course, I can always count on my pals for transportation. Fellow blogger Mr. Shirishkumar Shivram Shetty has taken me on many a ride through Pune city aboard his mighty motorbike Bhim. My pal Mr. Pareshani possesses a bike which he has christened Paplu. Me comrades Dr. Dan, Ms. Gauri, Ms. Pam and Ms. Ruchi all have scooter-mobiles, on which I have ridden pillion on several occasions.

I wish I had a vehicle of my own.

Wonder where the Hippo-mobile is.

Question: Which is the most dangerous part of a car?
Answer: The nut behind the wheel.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Art Attack

Pop Quiz:

Find the odd man out:

Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Mr. Arun Narayanan, Rembrandt.

If you answered ‘Vincent van Gogh’, you are correct.

While the other members of the list possessed, or are in possession of, a pair of ears, dear old Vincent cut off part of his left ear in what can be described as artistic expression.

However, those who know me well (and even those who don’t) would attest the fact that the presence of my name in the above list is much odder than Vincent and his cut ear.

Lets put it this way: If Leonardo represents the Taj Mahal of Art, I represent the Smelly Rat-Infested, Fetid Sewer System of Art.

Ho now, you might say. My art cannot be that bad.

Here’s news for you, kiddo.

It is.

Ever since I learnt to hold a crayon, Art and I have never been the best of pals. My dad still keeps reminding me of the gazillion colouring books he bought me during my innocent childhood. The main objective of colouring the figures in these books was ‘to keep the colours within the outline of the figure’.

Apparently, after I was through, there was colour on the outside of the figure, on the rest of the page, the next page, the floor and walls of the house. But no colour inside the figure.

Undeterred, my parents enrolled me into many a Drawing class. Drawing teachers during my day where characterized by possessing huge pairs of spectacles, many sheaves of pearly white paper and dozens of kilograms of assorted fruit, displayed in various baskets all round the room.

I vaguely remember some of my Drawing lessons.

Drawing Lesson #1: ‘Still Life’.

The objective was to capture in true spirit and tone, a pile of fruit artistically arranged around an ornate fruit bowl.

Not being much of a lad for dimensions, I proceeded to draw the fruit arrangement to the best of my ability.

The end product comprised the following entities:

An apple so big that had it been real, it would have Ended World Hunger Once and For All.
A pink pineapple.
Grapes the size of watermelons.
An orange.
Wait, that’s not an orange, that’s a banana.

Somewhere nestled within this fruit salad was an ornate fruit bowl which was not clearly visible unless you happened to have a microscope handy.

Drawing Lesson #2: ‘Bird and Tree’

Have you ever seen a green crow the size of a Jumbo Jet sitting on a tree the size of a sapling? No? Then you absolutely must come and see the end product of Drawing Lesson #2.

Drawing Lesson #3: ‘Teacher said “No more lessons from today.”’

School was the place where my Artistic Skills truly blossomed. The artist within me awoke. Of course, this particular artist had awoken after consuming 50 bottles of brandy the previous night, leading to a bit of a hangover when he awoke.

My school specialized in ‘People Drawing’. Meaning that, instead of drawing orchards of fruit or zoo-fulls of green crows, we were told to draw people.

And that’s when the trouble really began.

I must have been absent when they taught us how to draw people. Oh, I drew people all right. Only problem is, these people lived on the Planet Zook, not on Earth.

How shall I describe my people?

Well, for starters, all of them possessed absolutely circular heads. They were all as bald as a bowling ball. Their arms extended from their faces, their legs from their throats. They possessed no visible signs of an abdomen. And they were always smiling. Regardless of whether the subject was Teacher’s Day or Cemetery Scene, my people were always beaming with happiness.

A particularly favourite topic at school was Janmashtami. We were instructed to capture the essence of this wonderful festival in all its myriad colours and tones. Naturally, when the word Janmashtami is uttered, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is the spectacle of athletic blokes balancing on the shoulders of their colleagues in an attempt to build towering human pyramids… the famous Govindas.

Would you like to know how I used to portray this spectacle?


Tough luck. You are gonna know anyway:

Firstly, I never believed in the concept of a pyramid. I preferred to stay two-dimensional, thus subjecting my Govindas to do what best they could in a triangular formation.
The triangle would be built thus: 8 Govindas in the base, 7 in the first level, 6 in the second level, 5 in the third level, and so on, and, if you follow me, so forth, until I ran out of Govindas, resulting in one Govinda at the absolute pinnacle of this magnificent human edifice.
I used to force my Govindas to stand on each other’s arms, instead of balancing on the other chap’s shoulders. No wonder several of my Govindas later complained of chronic arm-ache.
Despite the severe arm-ache, all my Govindas would smile.
More often than not, I used to forget the pot (matka) at the top, the ultimate goal for any self-respecting Govinda. This would result in a picture containing about 30 circular faces arranged symmetrically in a triangular formation, smiling away to glory, with no aim or objective in life.

Another favourite of my Art Teacher at school was Sports Day. Not having participated, or even attended, many Sports Days, I had to summon every bit of my creative skills in order to come up with a reasonable facsimile of the event in question.

Now you will understand why my school was never eager to sponsor my entry for the Elementary and Intermediate Drawing Exams.

The fact that my Standard VI Art Teacher tore up my Sports Day depiction in front of a class of 60 sniveling classmates is description enough.

One thing though: If you happened to feature in my Sports Day paintings, regardless of whether you were the winner or the loser of the race, you would always be smiling.

How, you may exclaim, did I manage to go through Art in school?

Here are a few of my secret weapons, guaranteed to get you through any School-level Art Class:

Recycle old paintings drawn by artistically-inclined seniors.
Bribe your artistically-inclined classmates to draw stuff for you.
Tell Mom to draw it for you.
Say “My dog ate up my drawing.” Add a pathetic expression for extra effect.

In Standard Nine, my school, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make Art a compulsory subject for all. Meaning that regardless of whether you ace Math or English, if you flunked Art, you gotta repeat the year.

Luckily, Standards Nine and Ten were exempt from this rule. Which is lucky for me, otherwise I would still be in Standard Eight today, instead of writing this piece of drivel for you.

The agony wasn’t over, though. Standard Ten featured a chapter titled Food Chain which basically consisted of a lot of animals eating a lot of other animals and the complex relations that exist between them.

For some reason, my Science teacher would insist that I accompany every description of the Food Chain with a figure featuring not less than five animals eating each other up.

She realized her mistake when she sat down to evaluate my Prelim paper and saw a mosquito-sized wolf trying its best to gobble up a dinosaur-sized rabbit.

Later, my worthy Science teacher suggested that I stick to using boxed notations, a technique in which boxes containing the words ‘rabbit’ and ‘wolf’ were connected by arrows, instead of representing Nature in All Its Glory.

Thank God I didn’t opt for Biology in Junior College.

My tryst with Engineering Drawing is reserved for another blog.

Alas! There is no hope for me! I am doomed to be relegated to the back-alley of the Art world. An outcast, a pariah, whose art isn’t worth the paper it is drawn on.

Or is it?

Ever heard of Abstract Art?

There can be nothing more abstract than Sports Day or Janmashtami!

Paris, here I come!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Gentleman's Game

It is everywhere. Wraith-like, relentless, unyielding.

Wherever you go, it follows you. There isn’t a moment of respite from it. All the time, you are within its grasp. Incessant

No, we are not talking about the Hutch cellular telephone network.

I am referring to the phenomenon commonly referred to as cricket.

For the record, I am not a big cricket buff. Its not that I don’t like the game. I just don’t follow it much. What with a busy ‘work’ schedule, a happening social scene and about fifty girlfriends to handle, I can’t seem to get around to watching a game or two.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Its forty girlfriends.

Anyway, what with this and that, I am not well read on the Subject of Cricket.

Here, for instance, are a few examples of my cricketing knowledge:

1. Whenever I read that Harbhajan Singh has bowled a maiden over, I expect wedding bells to ring out for our dear Paaji.
2. I couldn’t fully come to terms with the concept of silly point. I mean, what’s the point in standing so close to the batsman and risking life, limb and future generations for the sake of saving a few measly runs?
3. Leg breaks meant fractures, hospitalization and plaster casts to me.
4. And don’t get me started on such terms as googly, long leg and chinaman.

I am quite alone in my ignorance. My friends list consists of many cricket enthusiasts, who leap for joy whenever they hear that “Sachin has glanced one through the covers”, much to my trepidation.

My room-mate Mr. Viju is an old hand when it comes to cricket. Watching cricket, that is. I doubt whether the old boy has ever actually played the game. In the arena of TV cricket, however, he is second to none. A typical Mr. Viju-evening will unfold thus:

1. Arrive home from office all tired and weary, as if he has just slain a dragon or two.
2. Dump luggage all over the house and plonk himself on the floor.
3. Switch on television.

Note: Mr. Viju seems to exert an eerie magical power over the television. It automatically switches to a sports channel whenever Mr. Viju is around. This has interrupted many an episode of ‘Power Rangers: Dino Thunder’ which I so cherish.

4. Watch repeat telecast of 1887 Tri-Series Prudential Friendship Cup Pre-Quarter-Final match between India and Antarctica.
5. Comment on various aspects of the game, using terms like pitch conditions, cover drive and over the wicket.
6. Fall asleep while watching the match, leaving it to my other able room-mates to switch off the telly.

Fellow blogger and honorary room-mate Mr. Abinav is also a huge fan of cricket. A die-hard Indian supporter, he would risk everything to watch a clincher match involving Team India, even if the opposing team was in the process of pounding Team India into sawdust.

My pals Ms. Ami and Ms. Gauri are founding members of the Rahul Dravid Fan Club. In fact, they are such big fans of the ever-amazing ‘Jammy’ that people sit around them on hot summer evenings, watching the game, just so that everyone can enjoy the cooling breeze.

(Get it? FAN, BREEZE ….. I know, I know….. My PJs need improvement)

You can imagine what ensues when these, and other cricket enthusiasts, gather at one place on the eve of a match. Snippets of the conversation proceed thus:

“Hey, kal match hai na?”
“Haan rey! Too good match hai! India versus Venezuela!”
“Ganguly should open yaar”
(Note: I have yet to determine what Ganguly needs to open. As soon as I find out, you will be the first to know.)
“Rahul kya khela last time! Sooooo cute!!”
“Arey, yeh suna kya tune? Pitch will suit faster medium seam bowlers!”
“Haan kya? Sahi hai!”

(Don’t know how that got in)

And it goes on and on and on in this vein.

During such discussions, I tend to remain in the corner and blend in with the furniture.

However, I wish to state that I truly admire the complete dedication and 100% commitment my cricket-crazy friends have for their favourite Team India. I am not joking here. I applaud the strength of their support for their team, which is a major force contributing towards the success of not only Team India, but any other team of the world.

Cricket statistics always tend to leave me a bit weak in the knees. Things like batting average, strike rate and run rate are as enlightening to me as the Fifth Postulate of Pythagoras: “Thou shalt not understand anything”.

I am greatly impressed with the ease at which my cricket enthusiast friends vomit out these statistics. For instance, Mr. Viju can tell you, if you asked nicely, that Sachin Tendulkar’s average of 344.43 is due to a combination of his run-rate of 23.44, a pitch-to-dryness ratio of 8.7 and humidity of 44%.

While I am glad that Sachin has such a decent average (whatever that means), I simply cannot remember cricketing figures, unless Mandira Bedi is involved in some way.

And don’t get me started on the Duckworth-Lewis Rule.

Even if I am not an ardent follower of the game, I support cricket in all its forms. However, there is one aspect of the game that I simply cannot stomach.

It is called the Pre and Post Match Analysis Session.

For those lucky souls who haven’t an inkling as to what this torturous session involves, I provide below a brief, but accurate discussion of a typical Pre and Post Match Analysis Session.

A bunch of old ex-cricketers, possessing varying degrees of experience, skill and baldness, sit around in a circle and give their expert opinions on the game being played. This bunch of losers comprises the highly-acclaimed Analysis Panel.

They seem oblivious to the fact that the only people who actually care a damn for their expert opinions are their own family members and, possibly, serial killers.

In its nascent stage, the analysis sessions used to be dignified affairs, consisting of a few really great stalwarts of the game discussing important aspects of the match. Now-a-days, it seems that every person and his brother can sit on the Analysis Panel and yodel on and on and on about stuff which hasn’t even the faintest relation to cricket. Apparently, if you own a bat, or know someone who owns a bat, or read Batman comics, you can chair the Analysis Panel.

However, there is a bright side to this analysis thing. Cricketers, who are as skilled on the field as a fish performing brain surgery, are assured that they will always find a place on the Analysis Panel.

It really disgusts me. Why, I ask, why, should a bunch of people who posses as much charm and charisma as a stick insect, jabber on endlessly about stuff to which No One Frankly Cares Two Hoots?

I say, let the players play the game their own way. Don’t mould them into zombie-like clones of your own pathetic selves. You have had your heyday, now let the present team play as they want.

Hold on. I just received an email.

Dear Mr. Narayanan,

Apropos your request to join the Analysis Panel of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, we are pleased to inform you that we will be happy to have you on board as an Expert Analyist.

As per your request, we will ensure that you are seated next to Ms. Bedi during each Analysis Session.

Please find enclosed your complementary flight ticket to the West Indies.

We look forward to having your valued opinions and comments as member of the esteemed Analysis Panel.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Got to go, chappies. Lots of packing to do.

Where’s my sunscreen?

P.S: Here’s wishing Team India the very best of luck for the World Cup!


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Theory of Relativity

Stop. Don’t go.

I am not going to conduct a seminar on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Fascinating as I am sure it must be, this particular theory tends to make my brain cells press the Self-Destruct button.

The Theory of Relativity I allude to concerns another equally fascinating facet of Nature: relatives.

The term ‘relative’ originates from the Greek word ‘relatia’ meaning ‘I just made up that Greek word’.

‘Relative’ is a broad term, all-encompassing. Its usage extends from blood relatives to not-so-blood relatives to chaps who are related to you just because you owe them money.

I am proud to say that my platoon of relatives is quite large. I am sure that if all my relatives were to assemble at one place on a given day, their sheer numbers would be enough to fill a medium-sized football field. (Some of them are quite rotund, which just adds to the total space occupied in the football field).

My relatives, may their tribe increase, come in all shapes, sizes and specifications. Some are young, most are ancient. Some of them possess all 32 teeth in sparkling condition, while others tend to remind you of the protagonist of the movie ‘Jaws’ when it comes to the tooth department. A few have set up residence in foreign countries, while others prefer to remain loyal to the Motherland. Some live in fast-paced cities, while many tend to hang around rural locations, where the most exciting thing to happen in decades is when Subbu runs away with his neighbour’s goat, only to have Neighbour usurp Subbu’s prized chicken.

Despite all their differences, one thing is common to all my relatives: they have the unerring knack of popping into my home at ungodly hours like 3 in the afternoon, when any young, healthy bloke my age would be engaged in his afternoon siesta. The fact that most of these visits are unannounced tends to amplify the ‘surprise’ factor a bit.

Based on my years of experience in dealing with the most motley, rag-tag bunch of relatives ever to eat thairam chaadham (curd rice, for those of the non-South Indian persuasion), I have come up with the following general categories into which most relatives can be classified:

The Loudspeaker: This category consists of relative specimens who are blessed with the superhuman ability to unleash powerful sonic blasts at any unsuspecting waif. They generally enter the house with a hearty “HA HA HA HO HO HO HO HO” and continue conversing in ever-increasing decibel levels. On their departure from home, thought is given to the approximate cost of sound-proofing the old flat. Plaster is still falling from the ceiling of my room owing to the visit of a particularly jovial uncle two months ago.

The Fossil: Relatives belonging to this category have conquered Time. They are characterized by having atleast one walking stick, two sets of false teeth, three pairs of reading glasses and an artificial hip-joint or two. These specimens will amble their way into your room and plonk themselves on the most comfortable sofa available, emitting a chilling “AYYYOOOOO”. They will then proceed to give you a blow-by-blow account of every bone in their frail body, blaming it all on the Locust Attack of 1756.

The Disease: Members of this clan possess the ability to describe every disease they have experienced, are experiencing and will most certainly experience in the near future, should this wretched cold wave continue. They seem oblivious to the fact that not many people are interested in knowing how many chicken pox they have or the status of their gall bladder. One good thing about this category of relatives is that they tend to overlook the fact that, half an hour into their lecture, most of their audience has been frozen solid due to boredom.

The Headhunter: Beware this class of relatives. Just like vultures can smell rotting carrion miles away, these relatives can smell eligible bachelors/ girls of marriageable age over great distances. They also possess incredible memory skills and are capable of recollecting that X’s niece’s brother’s son is currently working in America and would be quite the mate for G’s daughter’s niece’s sister. To them, the ‘America’ stamp is the ultimate achievement for any boy, akin to winning the Oscar or calculating the value of pi upto 4506 decimal places. Regardless of the fact that the chappie under discussion is currently scrubbing dishes at a McDonald’s dab smack in the middle of the Okeefenokee Swamp of America, the Headhunter relative will leave no stone unturned in his/her quest to find a perfect match for the ‘American’.

The Brat: This classification of relatives is restricted to those under the age of 5 and under 3 feet in height. They generally tend to arrive in swarms and are characterized by a lot of screaming, yelling, hair-pulling, nose-picking and other stuff you wouldn’t want to do in front of Her Majesty the Queen. Brat-like relatives have a strange affinity for anything made of glass and tend to spend most of their waking hours devising new and improved ways of destroying glass artifacts, statues and other delicate items.

The Weary Traveler: These relatives emerge from the woodwork every so often, on the way to a pilgrimage or a trip of sorts. They travel miles by train, car, bus, mammoth, etc and by the time they reach home, they declare that they are ‘tired’. They will immediately demand two or three pegs of the strongest blend of coffee in the house, followed by an endless chain of dosas to satisfy their famished appetites. After having consumed their meager meal, they will fall asleep on your favourite mattress and emit snoring sounds which have been known to arouse the mating instincts of blue whales.

The Family Man: This group of relatives is not obtrusive as an individual, but is accompanied by any, or possible all, of the above categories of relatives. They will materialize on your doormat one fine day, complete family and pets in tow. A characteristic feature of such relatives is their penchant for luggage: they will never leave home without atleast 66 suitcases, shoulder bags and plastic carry-bags, most of which will feature the words “Nalli Silk Sarees, Chennai” emblazoned in the most crimson letters known to man. They will also force you to sing. Its at such times that you wish the Earth would swallow you up.

The Cheek Pullers: These blokes derive immense pleasure from stretching your cheek muscles to the point of snapping. They will usually exclaim “My God! How much you have grown! Sooooo biiiiiig you have become!” whilst undertaking the cheek-pulling torture. By the time they are through greeting you, your cheek muscles tend to acquire the look and feel of Droopy Dog’s.

So the next time you meet your relatives, take a long, hard look at them. Try to classify them into the above categories. You will be amazed at how intricate the Theory of Relativity is.

Just do me a favour. Don’t tell your relatives that I proposed the Theory of Relativity.

I value my cheek muscles a lot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ganitham Moorthanishthitham

Recently, my good friend and roomie Mr. Bhat aced the examination commonly referred to as the GRE (short for Gradually Ruining Engineers).

Mr. Bhat scored 800/800 in the Quantitative Section of this exam For the ignorant, ‘quantitative’ is just a fancy term for ‘mathematics’.

Mathematics (also known as math, maths, ganith, That Subject) has always been a pain in my rear end. Ever since I was an innocent (hah!) waif, the Scourge of Mathematics has persecuted and tormented me and generally Made Life a Wee Bit Uncomfortable.

Let’s face it: I am Matho-phobic.

I don’t blame the noble science of Mathematics one bit. That purest of pure sciences constantly churns out theorems, corollaries and tangents, regardless of whether the intended recipient possesses the brain power of Einstein (like your good self) or an amoeba (like me).

It’s just that I AM DUMB.

My family tree does little by way of supporting my dumbness. In his heyday, my grandfather was known to belt out fraction multiplication tables in three different languages. So I cannot blame genetics for my Mathophobia.

Nor can I blame the Education System of our Fair Land. If all the Mathematics teachers I have had were laid out end-to-end (not that I suppose anyone can do that), the line would reach halfway to Brazil (some of my Math teachers were quite tall).

My school tried its level best, bless its dusty old soul, to impart some rudimentary math skills in me. Things started off quite well, actually. There I was, five years old, learning that 2 ice creams and 2 ice creams made 4 ice creams , unless you happen to eat one of the ice creams, in which case you would end up with caries, not to mention turn the whole addition thing on its head.

I was a happy chappie back then, content with the fact that Math consisted of numbers and ice cream. Though the concept of negative numbers weakened my constitution a bit, I nevertheless was able to Adapt.

Then, round about Standard VI, algebra happened.

I am a man of principles. And one of my founding principles is that English alphabets need to be restricted to the pages of English literature and not try to infiltrate into the domain of Mathematics.

So, imagine my horror when my brand-new, state-of-the-art Standard VI math textbook contained more alphabets than my equally state-of-the-art English Grammar textbook.

And it wasn’t just any set of alphabets. More often than not, ‘x’, ‘y’, ‘z’ and their kin would plonk their variable posterior onto the page of algebra. I concluded that the English language followed a system of employment, and alphabets that found little use in English eventually wound up in algebra.

Almost in parallel with this unknown variable thingie, along came another algebraic assassin: the Word Problem.

Imagine what effect the following Word Problem would have had on my young mind:

“A is twice as old as B was when C was half the combined age of D and his pet donkey. If the donkey is now 200 years old, how old would A’s son, conceived through an illegitimate affair with F, be today?”

The funny part was that the solution to most Word Problems would begin with the statement “Let ‘x’ be the current age of A”. I generalized this statement and included it in the solution of all Word Problems, regardless of whether the current age of A or his bank balance were in question.

Speaking of A, I always felt that C got a raw deal, especially when it came to feats of athleticism between A, C and the omnipresent B. Somehow, C was destined to be the slow-poke, the guy who couldn’t increase his speed at a rate suitable to keep pace with the superhuman A or the agile B.

Another type of Word Problem concerned Trains. I could never fathom why it was so damn critical to calculate the time at which a train would leave a station, when there was a perfectly simple way of determining the same – a railway time table (available at a bookstore near you). And don’t get me started on Relative Speed Theory.

Next in line was Geometry, filled with circles, secants and sleepless nights. Hardly a night would pass when I did not freely curse the Ancient Greeks for letting a chappie like Pythagoras roam free. One thing with Pythagoras though. If ever you were stuck during a Geometry paper, he would come to your rescue. Considering the fact that he had theorized a gazillion theorems, chances are that if you are at a loss to explain how you arrived at a particular solution, you can always quote Pythagoras as reference.

Example: O is the centre of a circle through which a tangent passing through the midpoint M of a secant L intersects the father-in-law of the alticentre of a triangle ABC. If angle Z measures 23 degrees, prove that quadrilateral JKLM is a rhomboid.


Given: (underlining is mandatory while writing Given. Its like a law or something)

T.P.T: (acronym for To Prove That): Quadrilateral JKLM is a rhomboid.


1. E = mc2 (this works 60% of the time)
2. Appolonius Principle (who would argue with a guy with a name like that?)
3. Pythagoras’ Theorem. (As long as you write the magic P name, no one can question you)


Assuming that the earth is a perfect sphere, it can be seen from Fig 1.1 (draw deadly-looking figure containing several alphabets, preferable in English) that JKLM is a quadrilateral.

Hence, by applying Pythagoras’ Theorem, we see that quadrilateral JKLM is a rhomboid.

Hence proved.

If Pythagoras didn’t work, the theory of reversals was sure to click. It basically involves assuming something, proving that your assumption was false, hence implying that you are a jackass and cannot possibly prove whatever is to be proved, meaning that it would be in the Greater Good of Society if the answer was just assumed to be true.

Believe you me, this works.

At this stage, I had decided that after Geometry, Things Couldn’t Possibly get Any Worse.

They Did.

In Standard X, I was introduced to a fascinating piece of drivel named Trigonometry. It didn’t help that I was taught Trigonometry (‘Trig’ , as its close friends like to call it) by a lady who refused to say “sec C”, preferring rather to say “secant of C” or even “one upon cos C”.

Junior college was full of pretty girls. It was also full of derivatives, integration and the Midpoint Theorem.

Fellow blogger Kadu and I attended private Math tuitions conducted by Prof. Ashok whose motto was Ganitham Moorthanishtiham. To this day, I have not deciphered the meaning of this cryptic statement. I think I will have it etched on my tombstone, several centuries from today.

Prof. Ashok had a lot of patience. While Kadu would ace his perplexing posse of problems, I barely managed to sign my name right. Prof. Ashok, however, did not lose hope. He merely informed me, on more than one occasion, that, in his opinion, it would be better if I opened a mutton shop in Chedda Nagar (a neighborhood near my home). His HLTUP (High Level Typical Ultimate Problems) brought chills down the spines of even seasoned veterans like Kadu. Prof. Ashok utilized the services of his father, lovingly referred to as Thatha, in supervising exams. What with Thatha reminding us, “One hour more please” and Prof Ashok’s HLTUP requesting me to calculate the sine of the derivative of the Cauchy Integral, life was interesting.
Is there any doubt left in your mind as to why I am mathophobic?

There’s hope yet! Mathophobia can be cured! After years of searching, I have found the perfect way to ease the suffering and pain experienced by mathophobians the world over (at last count, there were three of us, not including Bonzo the trained chimpanzee.)

The miracle cure for mathophobia is simple, yet elegant. It is small enough to fit into your pocket, yet powerful enough to calculate the square root of 34.

Its name is three words long: pocket calculator.

Derivatives and integrals can jolly well fend for themselves.