Monday, December 26, 2005

How Do You Read a Blog?

Most bloggers and blog-readers that I know of, view blogs like newspapers. Just as you gather together all your newspapers in the morning and go through the various columns by your favorite columnists, so too most blog-readers open their feed readers (or aggregators) once a day, and read the latest posts by their favorite bloggers.

I adopt a radically different approach. I like to call it the "novel" method - both for its novelty and more importantly, because it resembles the way you read a book! I shall elaborate.

Here's how I might read a book. I go to the bookstore, and search for an interesting book by reading the rear cover, or maybe reading a few pages, and glancing through the book. If I find the book interesting, I purchase it. Alternatively, I may have borrowed the book from a friend or issued it from a library. Regardless of the manner in which I acquired the book, I then proceed to read the book, chapter-by-chapter, starting at the beginning and working my way to the end. The book, depending on its size and content (which affects the speed I read it with) make take me a couple of days to a fortnight to complete, after which I scrounge around for a new one.

I tackle blogs in a similar fashion. I find a blog I like. This mostly involves reading a few of the recent posts. I then go to the beginning of the blog - the very first (earliest) post. And then I start reading backward (which, if you're following me, is actually forward), working my way up through the archives up to the present time. After I'm through with the blog, I'll search for a new one. If I really liked the blog, I might return to it every few weeks to catch up.

Why can't one look at a good blog, compiled over a year or two, in the same way as one looks at a good book? Okay, you may not find too many blogs that contain murder mysteries, but if you're looking for some nice non-fiction, spiced up with a dash of fiction in between, I'd recommend the 'blogosphere' over a trip to your local bookstore any day! Just treat the monthly archives as chapters!

Some blogs - like the one I'm currently reading (Amit Varma's India Uncut) - deal mainly with news and current affairs. One might think that such a blog would hardly be worth reading 12 months after it was written. But this is completely untrue, because even when he does quote a particular news story, it is always accompanied by some interesting opinions of his own.

Other blogs - like Vikrum Sequeira's Vislumbres - deal with topics that aren't related only to the present. His blog narrates his experiences and adventures traveling around India, something that can easily be picturized as being a novel instead. Such blogs can be read even 10 years from now, and their relevance won't have diminished at all.

So when people ask me what I'm currently reading, I'm just grin and say India Uncut!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Go Get 'em, Kobe!

When the buzzer sounded on the 3rd quarter in last Tuesday's game between the Lakers and the Mavericks in Los Angeles, the Mavs had 61 points. Kobe Bryant had 62!

There were rumors of Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 100-point game being under threat, a record that most believed may never be broken. But Kobe never stepped out to start the 4th, and chose not to the play in the rest of the game. Chamberlain's record was safe, as was Baylor's franchise record of 71 points.

Ever since his rookie seaon in 1996-97, when he won the Slam Dunk Contest at the All-Star Weekend, he has evoked comparisons with the legendary Michael Jordan. But will ever get to the same level of greatness? Games like this certainly can't hurt his chances.

But apparently, the fans aren't all pleased with it. Here's an interesting article on the effort, and the reactions to it.

"Even with three championship rings, he'll never live up to the Michael Jordan comparisons. His legion of critics will never forget how he ran O'Neal out of town or that passage in Jackson's tell-all book that describes Bryant as "uncoachable" or the rape charges in Colorado that were dropped."

The report seems to insinuate an almost Ganguly-like treatment of Kobe, where the critics discount on-court performances in favor of mentally ingrained prejudices. And just as in Ganguly's case, Kobe's true fans can't get enough of him. Like me!

Mind Your Manners!

Indians, as I see it, are either completely ignorant of or display no regard for public etiquette.

The most glaring example of this is the number of people you will find yelling into their cell phones in public places. On buses and trains, on the sidewalk, in parks, in restaurants etc. Okay fine, the cell phone was invented in order to give you a mobile connection and so refraining from using it in the above places would probably defeat that purpose; but do you have to yell? Is everyone in India deaf?

Audiences in movie halls rarely switch off their cell phones, and often don't even switch them to the 'silent' mode. Hence movies are frequently punctuated with the ringing of a cell phone, most often the tone being a tune from the latest Bollywood blockbuster. And this is followed by a conversation that will be loud enough for the entire row [if not the entire hall] to hear. If you must receive calls during a movie, how hard is it for you to step outside and do so?

Indian men stare a lot. At anyone belonging to the opposite sex, regardless of age, dress or physical features. No woman can walk on the street in an Indian city without attracting at least some stares. And most would be fortunate if staring was all that they had to contend with. Unwanted hands in inappropriate places and muttered profanities are not uncommon on buses or in crowded streets.

As far as the traffic situation is concerned, drivers will not display the least bit of concern for either other drivers or even pedestrians. Drivers will cut into traffic right in front of you, stop and park in the middle of the street, and switch lanes with gay abandon. The most irritating habit, though, would have to be the Indian driver's use [or rather abuse] of the horn. Most drivers use the horn in a manner not unlike how a race car driver might use the gas pedal - keep it pressed, often and hard! One might be forgiven for believing that the horn was responsible for producing acceleration and transporting the vehicle from place A to place B. Some drivers even try to compose a tune with it, as they swerve in and out of traffic. And God forbid traffic should not start moving as soon as the light turns green at an intersection! All the drivers will then immediately launch in a cacophonous orchestra of horns, rising in crescendo almost as if guided by an unseen conductor.

Pedestrians, for their part, offer the same insolence to vehicular traffic as they receive from them, often walking down the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk. However, in a country where the only traffic rule is "might is right", they are ultimately forced to conform to the whims of the drivers.

Of course, not all Indians behave in this manner. But there are too many of them who do.

Merry Christmas!

In keeping with the grand tradition of having a guest writer do the annual Christmas Day post on this blog, here's this year's article by Lara D'Souza.

The Secularity of *Christ*mas

Aside from Easter, Christmas is the most sacred, miraculous and joyous day in the Catholic religion. What do people, as celebrators of Christmas mean when they say “Merry Christmas”? Some could say that these words have been used so much, that they’ve completely lost their meaning. The question is not quite, what Christmas means to individuals personally, but what Christmas truly means. From before anyone can remember, Christmas has been an annual tradition. It has become a worldwide holiday and said to be the most wonderful time of the year. But what exactly is it that makes Christmas so unique and special from the rest of the year? When exchanging presents, are people exchanging Christmas’ true meaning?

Moreover, the world is utterly and disgustingly obsessed with the media. Everyone has let it come to a point where the media has overpowered our way of thinking. So much so, that it has created its own tradition out of Christmas. Obviously traditions may differ within cultures, but there is always some truth to be uncovered. One tradition for instance, would be competition and self-centeredness. There is tremendous pride that comes with claiming to have the best tree or lawn on the block. The excitement of pondering on what gifts people want their friends and loved-ones to buy for them. ‘Wish Lists’ aren’t even about what people need as opposed to what they want. Another tradition - the crude universal money making scheme. Our country’s economy relies heavily on this holiday’s gift-giving fanatics. ‘The National Retail Federation is forecasting that consumers will spend $17.24 billion on gifts cards this holiday season.’ If people spend that much money on cards alone, it’s almost hard to imagine how much money goes into decorations, parties and presents. ‘Coke’ had to make their trademarked colours red and white so that they could use ‘Santa Claus’ as an ad campaign. It’s pretty pathetic how a stout man in a suit can make people buy almost anything.

Furthermore people have such one-dimensional perspectives, for when they see or hear Santa, they right away think of presents. No one bothers to portray what he really represents and tie that in with Christmas. St. Nicholas never told people that he went around giving presents to 6 billion people in one night. That wasn’t one of his miracles and that wasn’t the reason he was a saint.

“I’m not just a whimsical figure who wears a charming suit and affects a jolly demeanor. I’m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies, that rule the major part of our lives.”
[Kris Kringle, in the movie Miracle On 34th Street].
Maybe the uncovered tradition in Kris Kringle would have something to do with the fact that he put someone other than himself, first. If we really used St. Nicholas as an excuse and the root of our tradition, we’d learn to give without wanting absolutely anything in return. In addition, of course there is magic when a child awakes to gifts from a mysterious, jolly man. Although, there has to be a limit to everything, including how secular people make their Christmases.

Consequently, they have made their minds completely one-tracked. People are either so ignorant that they cannot read between the lines, (the self-righteous traditions they follow), or, are so selfish that they just don’t bother to. It’s just so much easier for people to be happy over materialistic presents, than to search deep into their souls to find any real meaning derived from the day that is Christmas. The fact is that Christmas should be first and foremost completely what it is meant to be. That is a holy celebration of Jesus’ birth into this world. The Catholic Church has decided to crown December 25th as the annual salutation of Christ into the world, and everyone has the responsibility to respect that. Out of 365 days of the year, people have decided to crown December 25th as the annual holiday to exchange material objects.

On the other hand, people might challenge that exchanging presents doesn’t necessarily mean that they are exchanging Christmas’ true meaning. The question remains outstretched and the answer is simple. They most certainly are. Christmas is no longer as important as it should be, in means of religion. People might as well wish each other a “Happy Santamas”. What does it say about people, when the only reason Christmas is the merriest season, is because of the material things a person receives? There is no plausible reason that we cannot come up with any other day of the year and name it national gift-giving day. Each year, people try to make their decorations and presents more outstanding than the year before. Each year, we become more and more overwhelmed with the excitement, anticipation of Christmas morn. Each year we develop greater levels of greed for glorious, glittering gifts. In conclusion, sooner or later, people are going to drain every last bit of importance associated with Jesus’ birth.

Lara D’Souza

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Blog about Nothing!

If you thought the tag line under the name of this blog (it currently reads - "The Blog about Nothing!") was derived from Seinfeld , you'd be right. And that show really is about nothing! NOTHING!

It promises 'nothing', and it delivers just that - 'nothing'! And in huge amounts! It has to rank as arguably the funniest show of all time. And what's so funny about it? Nothing!

People normally laugh less when they're alone. It's human nature; there's something about a group that causes you to laugh more. When you watch a show, you're 7 times more likely to laugh if you're watching that show with at least one other person than if you were watching it alone. And the reason I know Seinfeld is numero uno, is because it is the only show that causes me to laugh even if I'm watching it alone. No other show has done that, no other show can do that!

Seinfeld the show, stars Jerry Seinfeld the comedian, who plays himself. It follows the day-to-day lives of Jerry and his three friends - George Costanza [Jason Alexander], Elaine Benes [Julia Louis-Dreyfus] and Cosmo Kramer [Michael Richards]. His best friend, his ex-girlfriend and his next-door neighbor, respectively.

To pick any one of the four main characters as being the funniest would be doing a great injustice to the other three. Namely, Jerry, George and Elaine. For, political correctness aside Cosmo Kramer would easily win the contest for funniest character on the show. Each of the other three are great in their own special way, but fall just a little short of ol' Cosmo.

I see a little part of myself in each of the characters - my hair is like Kramer's, my comedy is very Jerry-like, my love life bears a uncanny resemblance to George's and Elaine's grandad's neighbor loves the same brand of Scotch as me. Okay, so maybe I'm not very much like Elaine. But the rest of it is true.

Now to the reason why this blog deserves to share the same tag line as the famed show. Any of my long-standing readers would quickly acquiesce that this blog really is about nothing! [Yup, they're nodding. Both the two of them!] I don't post intelligent critiques on films, novels or even posts made by other bloggers. I don't discuss politics or economics. I rarely speak about music or sports. And God forbid I should offer opinions on technology because my knowledge of the subject is so little it is bordering on the negative. So basically, what I do write about is nothing!

Reading my blog won't make you any smarter and will increase neither your IQ nor general knowledge by even the slightest amount. It won't enable you to partake in healthy debates on matters of any significance. It might, at the most, give you a funny line or two that you could try out on your mates at the water-cooler the following day. But that's about all. However, if you want to spend a few pleasurable minutes daily, reading a little fun nonsense about nothing, then this here's the place to be at.

And finally, I do try hard to ensure that the blog remains about nothing. But on a few rare occasions, some stuff might appear that actually makes sense and sets you thinking. I apologize for such stray occurrences and shall continue to strive to achieve new levels of nothingness!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Adam Good. Eve Better.

We are all, at some point or the other, given to having strange fantasies. One of my fantasies involves imagining life as a woman.

People fascinate me; and women, in particular, even more. I mean this in a completely asexual manner. Or at least, in a manner that is for a large part asexual.

The human male, as with most other species, is the simpler of the two sexes. Perhaps, I am saying this only because, being a man I understand my own kind better. However, I do not think this is so.

For all the complexities and intricacies of the average male's brain, the female's has so much more. Men understand machines; women understand people. It's quite obvious which task is the more difficult of the two.

One of my secret desires is to have been born a woman. To try and see what that would have been like. Had this actually happened, I would, in all probability, have ended up fantasizing what life would have been like as a man. The lure of getting to "the other side" is always present.

And then just as the yearning reaches its peak, I come across [or am pointed to by Kunal, as in this case] something like this, and my womanly aspirations are temporarily shelved. And for some days thereafter, I'm glad to be just a man.

I Think I'm Going to Pass

I am no quizzer, and I have no pretensions about being one either. I couldn't quiz my way out of a paper-bag, so to speak.

I have been to a few quizzes over the past some months, due in large part to the cajoling of Messrs. Kunal, Salil and Siddarth, and I am yet to fully grasp the concept. Sure, I lucked out at one quiz and made some money, which ensured that my net quizzing experience was not in the red; but other than the slight monetary profit, there was nothing that appealed to me in a positive manner.

In fact if anything, the concept was a tad boring. Being sat in one place while some bloke asks you questions which you can't answer? That's what my 12 years of schooling were like! Why would anyone want to go through that again? I suppose I might look at things in a slightly different light if I knew the answers to at least some of the questions. But to wish that, is to wish in vain.

I don't count Indian movies, Indian mythology, Indian music, popular fiction, the Asterix comic series, or business [all favorites of quiz-setters] among my most loved topics, and to attempt to sit for a quiz in such a situation would be akin to running the Boston Marathon on a wooden leg - if you're hardy enough, you may get through to the end, but don't expect to win anything!

I think one of the strongest arguments in favor of the absurdity of quizzing, is the sheer dearth of females involved in the "sport". A female participating in a quiz is as rare as an honest lawyer, a female actually organizing a quiz - well, that's still in the realm of fantasy. Trust the more intelligent sex to stay away from something that makes no sense at all. If only these hard-headed men would get that into their brains.

So just why do guys quiz? The better ones, I suppose, make some money out of it. The rest? Well, that remains one of this world's tougher mysteries.

My Hair and Other Stories

I haven't cut my hair since June. That's because I have an "outta-sight, outta-mind" policy towards most things, and my hair being always out of sight, doesn't feature on my mind very often. For most people around me though, the abominable shock of hair on my head is anything but out of sight, and thus usually a cause for great consternation.

However, that concerns me little.

Every so often - generally about twice a year - this charmed life of mine is rudely interrupted by a chance encounter with a mirror. That's when I make my little half-yearly trip down to the hairdresser. And never being one to believe in half measures, I get the hairdresser to cut it as short as possible. That's my philosophy - if I'm going to be getting my hair cut only twice a year, I might as well get as much of it off as possible.

Interestingly, though, women have the exact opposite philosophy. When a woman gets her hair cut, she wants to get rid of as little of it as possible. Par is 1/8th of an inch. Maybe half an inch if she's feeling particularly bold on that day.

No guy can ever notice when a female friend has had her hair trimmed. Only females can. I don't know how they do it. I mean there's absolutely no change in the length! What did you waste all that money on the hairdresser for?

I digress. As I was saying, my six months of pleasure are up, and it's time once again for that dreaded chair. This time the devil has manifested itself not in the form of a mirror, but instead a passport renewal form. I need some photographs to submit along with the form, and my counsel has advised me that the "afro" died out with Jimi Hendrix.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I might as well get my monthly shave over with too.

Update: The Next Morning...

I have to confess that the above post was written very late last night, at a time when my mind was severely caffeinated and sleep-deprived. Now that I can think straight again, all I can say is - "Just whom was I trying to kid?"

The hair shall remain!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why Younger Siblings Are More Popular

Every one of us has, at some point during our adolescent lives, had a huge crush on a friend's elder sibling. It doesn't matter whether you're a boy or a girl, living in Peru or Sweden, or even what your sexual orientation is - this one's universal.

It's almost as if we think, "Okay, so you're my friend, and you need to pay me back for letting you be my friend. Let's see - you don't have cash, I don't take checks. But hey! You've got a sister! Let's see if we can work out a deal here."

And it's always an elder sibling. Someone who's about 4-5 years older than we. Somehow when you're 15, anyone who's 20 seems like the coolest person on Earth. After all, they've battled through all the tribulations that teenage life has to offer, and they've survived! Surely they can't be ordinary mortals.

Have you ever noticed how the younger kids in the family will always be the most popular ones? Why do you think that is? I'll tell you why - they've got the cool elder brothers and sisters to fall head over heels in love with. I was the elder of two kids, and my closest friend in those troublesome teenage years was an imaginary albino named Klop! That is, until he too got bored and left.

My younger sister, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Most popular girl in school. I'm not trying to say that I deserve all the credit for that, but the evidence is indeed compelling. And it's not because I'm rich, good-looking or charming - I am none of those things. It's probably only because I can legally purchase alcohol for them.

Rethinking My Illness

Some weeks ago, I wrote this - "I Feel Sick!"

Emotions then, were running high, as emotions are wont to do at such times. It would not, therefore, be completely truthful to state that my article was entirely free from all emotional bias.

In the past few weeks, though, I have had plenty of time to ponder upon the matter in a more detached and less personal manner. My feelings on some of the issues involved remain unchanged, and I guess they never will change. But on a few matters, I now feel quite differently from what I felt then.

Let me start by saying that I don't think it was fair for me to blame IIPM the way I did initially. Gaurav wrote some things against them, and they threatened to take legal action against it. Fair enough. Anyone who chooses to endorse the cause of free speech cannot in the same breath deny the right to sue, for it is just as fundamental a right. To do so would be sheer hypocrisy.

They also threatened to bring his employer, IBM, into the picture. Many bloggers felt, both at the time as well as now, that this was wrong on their part. Well, the word 'wrong' has two connotations - legally wrong and ethically wrong.

Was their bringing IBM into the picture legally wrong? No. If they wish to implicate IBM in the matter, then that is their right. If IBM has nothing to do with the case, then the court will decide that. Anyone in a free society has a right to accuse anyone else. It is upto the legal system of that society to decide how much weight there is to the accusation. Hence, IIPM wasn't 'legally' wrong in doing this.

Was it ethically wrong? Ethics, unlike legality, are a matter of relativity. Ethics are, again unlike legality, not constant. What is ethical for you may not be ethical for me and vice versa. Hence when one speaks of ethics, one is only speaking in the frame of reference of the ethics of a particular person or group of people. Everyone's ethics need not, and will not, be the same. So, at the very most we could say that IIPM was ethically wrong according to us and our set of ethics. But an ethical wrongdoing is no crime.

IIPM expressed their desire to burn their Lenovo laptops in front of IBM's Delhi office. Again, the right to peaceful protest - a fundamental right. And while burning laptops might not be as peaceful as Mahatma Gandhi's fasts, it certainly cannot come under the category of violent protests either. Referee's call - no foul.

Regarding the veracity of the claims made by IIPM in their newspaper advertisements, I have no knowledge. I am not sure of the legal bearing on the publishing of false information in an advertisement, and whether legal action can be taken against it or not.

Rashmi Bansal was, apparently, manhandled by certain individuals for the statements she had made about IIPM's mendacious attitude toward advertising. This, if true, is certainly one of the things that I would hold against IIPM. For it is no longer in the realm of ethics, but instead legality.

I am not trying to either defend or blame any party involved in this unpleasant brouhaha. I am just stating my thoughts on the matter, now that they've had ample time to settle down and wipe themselves clear of any emotional stains they might have had. I didn't think much of IIPM earlier and I don't think much of them now either. I have always liked Gaurav's blog and I still continue to follow it regularly. None of that has changed. All I want to say, is that legality and ethics are very different, and that the latter has purely personal significance.

Train Journey

About two months ago, I had visited Bombay for a few days to meet my aunt who had flown down from Illinois. What was particularly interesting about that trip was the journey back to Poona.

I was returning by the Pragati Express on a Sunday evening. I boarded the train at the Dadar station. While I had been waiting on the platform for the arrival of the train, which originated from Victoria Terminus, I noticed a group of about 8-9 Westerners who were also waiting on the platform for the train. They were in their early 20's and, save one, all were girls.

The train arrived in due time, and I entered and searched for my seat. The group were in the same car as I was, but further down the aisle.

Soon after the train moved out of Bombay, I headed toward the door. One of the great joys of travelling via train in India, is standing at the doorway. The scenery on offer ranges from breathtaking at best to interesting at worst. On this particular occasion, I was treated to a beautiful sunset as I sat myself down at the door, with my feet on the step outside.

After about 10 minutes, one of the girls from the group approached the door. She too, I realized was admiring the view rolling by outside. A few minutes later, she was replaced by another girl from the group. At this point, I got up to go to the washroom, and when I returned I found yet another of the girls sitting on the floor just beside the door and writing in her notebook!

I must admit that my initial reaction was one of complete surprise. The floor wasn't particularly clean, and I certainly didn't expect to find a Westerner seated contentedly the way she was. Since it would not be possible for me to regain my seat at the door with her where she was, I stood and stared out at the setting sun for a while.

When she was done writing, the girl got up and returned to her seat. As if on cue, another girl got up and came to the door. She had with her a copy of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. I struck up a conversation with her. They were Americans, she said. From Chicago, Illinois. They were taking a course in Ancient Indian History at Deccan College, Poona. They had just been to Tamil Nadu, since they had a fortnight's holidays for Diwali, and were now returning via Bombay.

The fact that they were students not just tourists went some way to explain why they were so comfortable sitting in the passage of an Indian train. But what interested me more, at that point, was the subject matter of what they were studying. Here in a country obsessed with mainstream career choices, how many of us Indians would seriously consider a course in Indian History? We still live in a country where professionals like engineers and doctors are considered a notch above the rest, and all those who can afford it end up in one of the above two streams almost without even giving it a thought. Hardly anyone pursues fields they are actually interested in.

I looked back over my shoulder. The American guy and one of the girls were engrossed in a game of cards. Three of the other girls were listening intently to something that an Indian gentleman was narrating, and the remaining two girls were engaged in conversation with a South Indian family. Well, I thought as I sat myself down again with a sigh and stared out into the rapidly approaching darkness, these guys sure know to take life as it comes.

Why I Don't Like Technology

I don't like technology very much. In fact, I'm a little scared of it.

The irony? [There always has to be some.] I'm writing this article on my computer, I'll probably be posting it on my blog, I am majoring in Computer Science and shall receive my degree in about 6 months and the microwave beeping in the background announces that my coffee's warm. The good news - I no longer use a cell phone.

So, if I don't like technology, how is there so much of it in my life? In today's world [a phrase that I've always hated, but often used], one finds it hard to totally eradicate the effects of technological progress from one's life, even if one wants to. It is of course quite possible. I could choose to live a life of asceticism if I wanted to. I could shun civilization and go dwell in seclusion. I could join a Buddhist monastery, and never set eyes upon anything invented after 1950 for the rest of my life. But as long as I continue to live in contact with the rest of civilization, in a city or town, I don't see how I could keep myself completely free from the effects of technology.

And what is it about technology that scares me? I guess it's the fact that it advances so rapidly, for one thing. Before you get adjusted to what has just arrived, something new is already making its appearance. Like someone once said - "Here today, gone later today!" Technology joins the other two T's, time and tide, in their "wait-for-no-man" policy.

I am slightly claustrophobic. When I say 'claustrophobic' here, I am referring to its most general sense. More than just a fear of closed, confining spaces, but instead a fear of losing control. A fear of letting go of the steering wheel for a while and sitting in the back seat. I hate being in situations I have no control over. Why does an elevator frighten a person with claustrophobia? Because he has no control over what may happen once he's in it. If it breaks down, he has no way of getting out by himself.

I fear technology because I don't have much control over it. It is like a runaway horse that one is sitting on. Wherever the horse runs one is forced to go along. Unless one can somehow grab hold of the reins and steer the horse along the path that one desires. Right now, I feel as if those reins aren't in my hands. And I don't see any way of being able to reach them. Hence I'm scared.

Yes, I'm a self confessed 'techno-phobe'!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Look Ma, No Phone!

As of the evening of December 13th, the music has officially stopped playing at 94220-ARNIE. Or to be more precise, the music shall continue - it's just that I won't be the one playing it any more. Yes sirree, I have renounced my cell phone.

Why might someone relinquish possession of their cell phone, one might ask. Since the mobile phone has made its advent into this country about a decade ago, it has slowly but surely gone from being a luxury to a convenience to almost a necessity. Don't believe me? Try switching off your phone for a month and you'll see. Nay, forget a month - that's too long. Try living without your cell phone for a week.

Of course, there are a lot of people who do just that - live without a cell phone. So why then should it be so hard for someone who does possess a cell phone, to let go of it. It's not very difficult to figure out the answer. The cell phone, like alcohol, nicotine, tobacco and the likes, has become for many, an addiction. Like any of the aforementioned items, it is easy for someone not addicted to live without it, but exceedingly tough for someone who is addicted. People who don't drink, don't feel any urge to do so - people who do drink, do.

Am I suggesting all cell phone users are addicted? Am I myself addicted? The answer to both questions is 'No'. Most, but certainly not all, cell phone users are addicted to their phones. They cannot even fathom a life without their phones by their sides. But, like I said, not all.

I know this for a fact because I can safely say that I wasn't one of the addicted ones. I hardly ever made any calls from the phone and only used it to receive calls and the send the occasional text message. My monthly bill would comprise mainly of the rental charges, which amounted to roughly 60%. So, I think it would not be unwise to conclude that I didn't use the phone very much.

Why then would I choose to give it up? I guess the reasons are manifold, not the least of which would be precisely because I wasn't using the cell phone much. But there are other more important causes for my decision. For one, this is just another step in the detachment process that I am experimenting with. Most of us tend to get too 'attached' to our possessions and have a lot of trouble parting with them. It doesn't hurt one to try and let go of some of them voluntarily once in a while.

The irony of the matter is that in the past 2 days, the thing that I have missed the most about the phone is the fact that I would use it as an alarm! Got nothing to wake me up in the morning now. And that's either a blessing or a curse depending on which side you choose to look at it from!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quite a Night!

Today, I attended the wedding ceremony of an acquaintance. I had gone with my friend Nadeem, in his car, along with his brother. However while returning, since the reception venue was not very far from home, we decided to walk. So my friend handed over his car keys to his brother and the two of us proceeded to walk home slowly, indulging in idle palaver.

As we were approaching Hotel Aurora Towers, we passed a section of the street that was rather dimly lit. Suddenly, and at almost the same time, Nadeem and I noticed a woman walking on the other side of the road, going in the opposite direction. Under normal circumstances we would have hardly even noticed her; but on this particular occasion, the circumstances weren't normal.

The lady was well-dressed. She was wearing a noodle strap top, which revealed more than just a hint of her cleavage. She seemed to be in her mid-20's. The reason why we noticed her was because the street was almost empty and it is uncommon for a woman, attired as she was, to be out at this time [10.45 p.m.] unescorted; and certainly not walking along on the street.

Call us prejudiced if you will, but it didn't take long for us to form an opinion in our minds about her purpose. She was a CSW [Commercial Sex Worker]. That's polite talk for a streetwalker. In many ways, it shouldn't have surprised me much, because I had heard plenty of rumors about streetwalkers plying their trade in that particular area. [Though I hadn't actually come across any there before tonight.]

We continued walking on, and within a couple of minutes we came across a few more girls. All standing on the opposite of the road, at fairly regular intervals. While most of the girls were alone, one particular girl was conversing with two young men. All three were in their early 20's. As we were passing by, the two guys proceeded to shake hands with the girl. I don't know what happened next, because we had already past by. At another point, a sedan pulled up on our side of the road, and then proceeded to turn around. As it did, it stopped in front of one the girls and remained there with its headlights focussed on the girl. After what seemed to be 30 seconds of silence [I tried to make out if there was any exchange of words between the people in the car and the girl, but I couldn't detect any], the car suddenly drove away. I don't care to speculate what that was about, but I am fairly certain that one of the two people in the car was a woman.

Even though the sight of the CSW's on that street didn't shock me, a few other things did come as a little surprise.

1. All the girls were well-dressed, and wearing Western attire.

The reason why this is surprising is because it is common knowledge that almost all CSW's in Budhwar Peth [Poona's official red light area] wear saris, and that too mostly old ones, since they aren't very well-off financially. The girls that I witnessed tonight appeared to be in a relatively far superior financial position to the women that hover around Budhwar Peth. It is obvious that they cater to the needs of a higher class of society than their Budhwar Peth counterparts.

2. All the girls were in their 20's.

Once again, this is quite different from the situation in Budhwar Peth, where the average age is much higher. Even in Budhwar Peth, there are some young girls, mainly brought in from states like Orissa and West Bengal as a result of the flesh trade rampant in those parts, but a large percentage of the women are in their 30's or even early 40's. All the streetwalkers I saw tonight looked like they were fresh out of college, and certainly none of them was even close to 30.

The Indian government is currently debating over the passing of a Bill to legalize prostitution. Personally, I am in favor of it. I'm not sure what the chances of it getting passed are, though. Especially when you consider that the Maharashtra government recently passed a law in Bombay banning dance bars. I'd be surprised if the Indian government did end up legalizing prostitution.

It needs to be legalized at least to protect CSW's if for no better reason. Currently, CSW's are subjected to a great deal of atrocities at the hands of the police and other similar authorities, and they cannot speak up against it because they are plying an illegal trade. However, along with legalization, a few other actions have also to be taken. The most important one being ensuring that these CSW's indulge in safe sex. The rise of AIDS and other STD's in India is alarming, and this step is a must. The government has to enforce this.

The government must also ensure that all CSW's are above a certain age, and that the prostitution of minors does not occur. Currently, little action is being taken in this direction. Girls in places like the smaller towns of Bihar, West Bengal etc are lured to cities like Poona with the false of promise of a decent job. Once in the city, they are sold to a brothel owner, who wastes no time in putting them to work. Often these younger girls are valued at a higher price than the regular, older women. The poor girl, with no one in the city to turn to for help, is condemned to a long time of misery.

I have a German friend, Julia, who was in India for almost a year in 2004. She had visited quite a few red light areas during her stay in the country, to try to gauge the conditions there and also see what she could do to help. She told me that it troubled her a lot to see the plight of Indian CSW's. She tried to compare them with those in Amsterdam and other European cities where prostitution is legal.

"The situation in India is just so much worse. I guess the biggest difference is that while most European prostitutes have a choice of whether to take up prostitution or not, most of the Indian ones do not. They do it because they are forced to."

And she's right. With a drunken husband wasting the family's income on alcohol, and hungry children to feed, most CSW's in India do not have much of a choice. At least this way they are earning enough to survive and so they stick on with it. And judging by the conditions in Poona's red light areas, it's obvious that no one would take up prostitution as anything but a last resort.

The streetwalkers I saw tonight were a little bit different. None of them were what I would call poor. Their appearance and the kind of clientele that they serviced are enough to convince me that they earn themselves a pretty decent living. I also feel, though I may well be wrong here, that they seemed to be English speaking and of at least a high school education. It didn't appear to me, as if they would struggle to get a job in an alternative profession if they so desired. Perhaps it wouldn't pay as much, but I'm sure they could choose to do something else. So the question is - were these streetwalkers doing what they were doing because they chose to do it? Because it pays more than what a normal job would? Because they like the extra cash? Because they enjoy the life/lifestyle?

To put things into perspective, I remember an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where she spoke to a young girl, barely into her teens, who was streetwalking. The girl describes candidly to Oprah how she would 'pull tricks', making upto $1000 a night. The reason why she did it? Simple really. She liked the extra cash. And she liked the adventurous time that she was having. She admits that she wasn't forced into it. She just enjoyed it.

In India too, I've heard of rumors about college girls who leave their houses wearing traditional attire like a shalwar kameez, and then once they are outside, change into something that's uh... better for 'business', and streetwalk. They don't do this because they have to support themselves - their parents are doing that. They do this because they feel it's a good way to earn quick cash. I cannot vouch for the certainty of these rumors, but after what I observed today, I would be less surprised if they were true.

What do you guys have to say?


Interesting as that was, it wasn't the end of the night for us. I think I should buy myself a camera. I come across too many fascinating sights to let them pass by uncaptured.

As we continued on, walking down Main Street, we came to place where someone had stolen a manhole cover right off the sidewalk! There, in the middle of the sidewalk, was a big gaping hole, huge enough for a man to fall into easily, let alone a stray child. However, what amused me even more was the fact that someone had placed an old bicycle on its side on top of the manhole, in such a manner that the front wheel of the bicycle covered the hole!

A little further down the road we came across a family consisting of a father, a mother and their young son, of about 3 years. Now it soon became apparent that the boy desperately needed to take a leak, and there was no washroom in sight. So instead of trying to go into one of the few stores that were still open and search for a washroom, the father instructs his son to stand on the edge of the sidewalk and pee onto the street! Well, not the road actually, but a smaller lane that was leading off it! There was little that we could do except shake our heads in disgust and carry on.

And then finally, the last sight for the night. We passed a small roadside shrine with a statue of some Indian God in it. Standing just outside that shrine was a man, deep in prayer. What was so funny? He was wearing a crash helmet! Okay, I know you've done something terribly wrong, buddy, but it's alright. God's supposed to forgive you, not crack you on the skull!

I swear, I need a camera!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Humor on the Street

I was strolling down Main Street this evening, when I passed a beggar sitting on the sidewalk and shaking his begging bowl in front him. As I neared him, a couple was approaching him from the other direction. The beggar shook his bowl in front of them to ask for alms.

The man looked surprised and said, "But I just gave you some money a little while ago while we were going in the other direction!"

The beggar replied cheerily, "Oh, I'm sorry. I seem to have forgotten. Indeed, you are right."

I passed on. After a few steps, I turned to look back at the beggar again. He was blind.

New Look

Don't rub your eyes in wonderment. You haven't come to the wrong site. It's just that I tend to get bored of things easily, and hence the change of template. And yes, it's farewell to the Shoutbox that was attracting three times as many spam messages as valid ones. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say!

Also, having expended this much effort in switching templates you can be assured of a more regular posting schedule in the days ahead!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Arranged Marriage -- Part Two

[The previous post has received more attention via the comment box than most of my other recent posts, so here's a follow up of sorts.]

Okay! Enough of the third degree, alright? It begs repeating, so I'll say it again - I'm not going to not marry someone just because my parents introduced me to him/her! [Yes folks, I said "him/her" - go ahead and laugh if you want. I'll continue when you're done laughing.]

In the comments, Renuka says,

"It[']s just that it does become diff[icult] in a country like India for a girl (or guy for that matter) to get married after one age...hence the rush and the "scouring" as u put it!"

I think this is an important point and warrants a bit of a discussion -

Why is it so difficult for someone to get married at an older age?

The average age at which people get married has certainly increased when compared to two or three generations ago. Very few of us can boast of grandparents who were still single at 30. Today, things are quite different. Without even getting into the topic of "live-in" relationships, which I shall leave for another post some other time, I'd just like to say that many people today don't view getting married before certain age as the top priority in their lives. Or even if they do, then that age is considerably more than what it used to be. Sure, most [if not all] people would like to get married - it's just that it isn't a priority any more. And while I am mainly referring to the situation in the Western countries over here, what I have said is true of an increasingly large percentage of the Indian population as well.

Having said all this, the attitude of society [and by that I also mean family] toward unmarried people is still rather shameful. The external world looks upon a single 35-year-old woman with scorn in its eyes, and hence one's family is so desperate to get one married. You know what I'm talking about here - "Oh look, she's 38 and still single? Surely there's something wrong with her!"

My point? If society didn't pressurize you to get married before a certain age in the first place, your parents wouldn't pressurize you either. But society does pressurize, and I'd like the family to stand up to it instead of caving in. If your daughter isn't looking to get married just yet, don't push her into it! Or your son!

It might seem absurd for parents to actually force children into getting married, but let me assure you, it does happen. Often this pressurization may not take the form of direct coercion but a more subtler persuasion. Constant hints and innuendos suggesting one thing - it's time to tie the knot, kiddo! I know of people who have ended up getting married not because they wanted to, but because their parents wanted them to. And isn't the most important responsibility of an 'Indian' child supposed to be to obey one's parents' every wish as long as they are alive?

I'm not saying getting married early is a bad thing either. My cousin, in Illinois, got married about a year ago. He wasn't even 23. The important thing was - the decision to get married was taken by the couple themselves. Their parents had little say in the matter.

In India, marriages tend to unite families more than individuals. It's not the newly-wed couple who are getting married, it's their families. This is another reason why parents like to wield a fair deal of control when it comes to whom their child should marry. The other general trend is for the bride to become, through the act of marriage, a part of the groom's family. In many cases she would then go to live with him and often the two would live along with his parents and other family members. It is almost unheard of for the groom to go and live with his bride at her house after the wedding.

Personally, I would prefer to live separately with my wife after I get married. Which isn't going to be for a while. And don't give me that look, Mom!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Arranged Marriage

To me, the concept of an "arranged marriage", so rife in this neck of the woods, has to be one of the most ludicrous propositions I have ever come across. Can you think of anything stupider? Here, let's just throw this guy and that girl together and hope that they live happily ever after.

Apparently, parents take it upon themselves as a quasi-religious duty to marry off their offspring before they make for their heavenly abode. It normally all starts when the child approaches what is deemed as a "marriable" age - around 25 if it's a boy, and a few years younger if it's a girl. The parents will start hunting around for prospective spouses - although it is quite likely that they will already have a few names in mind, which they had made a mental note of as their child was growing up. Visits from friends and family provide an excellent time to gather information about potential life partners for their child. Unbelievably, the only things that matter at times like these are the religion, community, caste, family name, social status and other related qualities of the spouse. Also, if they're looking for a guy, then educational qualifications and income matter; for a girl it's her looks and physical appearance.

Ok, so while I agree that money and looks do count for a bit, and to an extent [a very small one, though] religion might as well, I don't see how these can be the most important criteria in selecting a spouse! If these are the things you are looking for, why not just auction off your daughter on E-Bay? Even more importantly than what the parents are looking for in a spouse, is the question of why they are doing the looking in the first place. Maybe I'm mistaken here, but isn't it the children who are going to get married? Aren't they the ones going to be spending the rest of their lives together? So why don't they get to choose whom they would rather spend it with?

Now, the irony of the whole situation is that if you look at society in general [at least in this country], the divorce rate in arranged marriages is noticeably less than that in other marriages [what I like to call 'normal' marriages]! Why should this be so? What possible reason could there be for this? Is it, as is the most common explanation, because there is less expectation from one's partner in an arranged marriage? Makes sense, doesn't it? You were thrown into something without being given much of a choice, and so you just decide to make the best of it. Kunal once suggested that it might be because the people whose marriages are arranged tend to be the quieter type, with less of a pre-marital social life. Thus, they would be less likely to screw up a marriage by fooling around, and also less likely to try and get out of one if things aren't going great. I think it's a combination of both these reasons, mixed with a few other factors too.

I do suspect, though, that the amount of domestic abuse involved in arranged marriages is more. Dowry deaths, harrassment [both mental and physical] and other such forms of abuse are more likely to get covered up in an arranged marriage. For one thing, the wife having been subjected to playing the passive role in her own marriage is less likely to up and leave if her husband should turn violent. Her parents having married her off, are less likely to welcome her back and she has little else to turn to having been completely dependent on her husband. A woman who gets into a marriage on her own, normally has something outside the marriage that she can rely on if she needs to get out.

Personally, an arranged marriage isn't something that I would even stop to consider, and what's more heartening to know, neither would my parents. The downside[?] is that I'll probably remain a bachelor for life!

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Art of Gifting

One the hardest tasks, in my opinion, is selecting a present for someone. I think most people will agree with me. We've all been there - someone's birthday is coming up, and you can't figure out what to buy them. You rack and rack your brain, but it's of little avail. What do I get her?

If only there was some sort of standard formula or algorithm that we could use to come up with a great gift everytime. Some sort of fantastic machine into which you feed in all the characteristics of the person you want to gift, and out pops the name of the perfect present. Voila!

Nowadays, people have more or less given up. Noone evens make an effort any more. You just go down to the nearest book store and buy them a gift voucher. Simple as that. Jerry Seinfeld, in one of his routines, claimed that the least thoughtful gift in the world is a paperweight. I beg to differ. The least thoughtful gift in the world is a gift voucher! I mean, what exactly are you trying to convey by gifting someone a voucher on their birthday? That you care so little about actually trying to come up with a good present for them, that you don't even want to try. You might as well just give them some money instead. That way at least they can choose their own store to spend it in. "Here's a hundred bucks. Just go buy yourself whatever you want. I don't care."

The funny thing, though, is that gift vouchers are, in a sense, pretty sensible gifts. Because 99% of time, when you do end up buying something for someone, you end up making the wrong choice. And then what follows is whole sham of fake appreciation.

"Oh my God! I love this hat you gave me!" [But I wouldn't be caught dead in it!]
"This rug is just the thing I've always wanted!" [To throw into the corner of my attic and forget about for the rest of eternity!]
"Wow, this really is a nice painting!" [Did someone throw up on that?]

At least with the voucher you're jumping into a larger blanket! There's less of a chance of you going wrong. Okay, so maybe it's as impersonal as hell; but at least I don't have to trouble my brain and you don't have to put on a phoney show of appreciation!

What is it with men and their driving skills? There is nought a man is more insecure about than his driving skills. It's almost [but not quite] as bad as a woman and her weight. If you should ever be bored and in need of some quick entertainment, just walk up to the closest male and tell him he can't drive. Throw in a holier-than-thou look, and add a slight shake of the head. Then stand back, cover yourself and watch the fun!

There's one time though, that you should never open your mouth about this topic. And that's when you're in a car with a guy at the wheel. Well, that is unless you want to commit suicide; but even then I can think of many more pleasureable and less painful ways to go! I tried it once - it was long ago, and I was much less wise then. "Dad," I said, trying to spice up a long, boring drive down to Goa, one summer. "You're not a very good driver. Even Mom drives better than you!"

I doubt I'll ever forget the look of his that I caught in the rear-view mirror. Surely, treachery of this sort from his own son was more than he was willing to put up with. I could tell he was contemplating whether he should leave me to hitch hike my way to Goa or demonstrate his driving prowess by stepping on the gas and slaloming the car across the lanes. Now while the former seemed like quite an adventure indeed, and I was certainly game for it, I feared his testosterone infused male brain might decide to settle for the second option instead. I had to do something if I wanted to avoid the following day's newpapers screaming - "Family of four killed in car crash yesterday. Driver's final words were 'Okay, okay. So maybe Mom isn't that bad a driver.'"

"Ummm, Dad," I quickly interjected. "I wasn't speaking about driving cars. I was talking about golf." That calmed him down a little bit. [Thankfully, he isn't as insecure about his golf game.] We then had to contend with a good half hour of listening to him spew forth a multitude of reasons why driving is a male task and men are always better at it than women. Mom, grateful just to have been spared an untimely death, just kept mum. So long as he didn't think she was overweight, well, she didn't really care!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Special Ones

Most of us tend to look at people who are mentally sick, with scorn and derision. We scoff at their actions and somehow blame them for their condition. I think our outlooks, as a society, toward gays and mentally ill people bear certain similarities. Both classes elicit little respect from us, but instead disgust and repulsion.

I think this situation is despicable and we need to improve it without wasting any time.

There are many forms of mental sickness and I am no expert on them. Some are present in the patient from the time of birth itself, while others develop due to certain external as well as internal conditions that the patient is subjected to. But in all cases, it is imperative for us to realize, that the patient is not responsible for being that way. Quite like a physical illness, mental sickness is something that descends on a person without them having any control over it. They do not choose to bring it upon themselves. It isn't something that anyone would want anyways.

So one of the most important things for us to realize is that we cannot blame someone for being mentally ill any more than we can blame someone for catching a cold.

For many of us, mental illness is an alien phenomenon. We view it with a cold, detached sense of apathy. Things change drastically when someone we know and love comes down with some form of mental sickness. Suddenly the matter takes on a whole new hue. It has a personal feel to it now.

What would you do in such a situation? Would you continue to be apathetic? I should think not.

Human beings are social animals. We all feel the need to be loved and cared for by someone. Someone with a mental illness feels this need even more urgently. For him it is crucial. Indeed, it is not unheard of, for the lack of this very affection to have been one of the factors leading to the onset of the illness in the first place. And it is often the best remedy that can be prescribed in such a situation.

Not all mental illnesses are curable. Some are temporarily curable, but one is never quite certain that the patient will not suffer a relapse into insanity again in the future. Of course, there are some mental illnesses for which science and medicine can, at present at least, do nothing. These are mostly congenital disorders of the brain, although they may only noticeable when the child is a few years old. Autism would be an example of such an illness.

Diseases which develop later on in life, like schizophrenia, paranoia or manic depression, are mostly curable, but only to a certain degree. Psychiatric treatment is normally prescribed in such cases and the patient is committed to an asylum or sanatorium for a period of a few months to a couple of years. Such patients normally never completely recover and end up living the rest of their lives as hollow shells of the individuals that they were before the illness struck.

Mental illness is often associated with genius. There is a certain amount of truth in this association. Genius, I feel, is by definition, flawed. And the brighter the genius, the deeper the flaw. Many great minds from the recent past have suffered from some sort of mental illness or the other. I say 'recent' past, because prior to the last couple of centuries mental illness was not understood properly and cases were consequently not well recorded. Two good examples from the last century would be the mathematician John Nash and the logician Kurt Gödel.

The story of Nash, as beautifully described in the novel A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, is of special interest. He suffered from a serious attack of schizophrenia sometime in his late 20's or early 30's. Although plagued by the disease for the next three decades or so, he recovered after that and today resides in Princeton, New Jersey, almost [but not quite] normal as far as his mental condition is concerned.

I digress.

The point that I was trying to make earlier, was that our outlook toward the mentally ill is skewed. We are heavily biased against them. It is only when [or if] someone we care about falls prey to such an illness, that we start to understand the true nature of the situation.

I wish we could all be a little more sympathetic towards such people. Whether we know them or not. Even the court has not failed to recognize the helplessness of a mentally sick person to control his or her actions. Most criminal cases can be fought on the defense that the defendant is mentally ill. Such defendants, if successful in proving their claim, are committed to mental treatment rather than the slammer.

I guess the situation is best summed up by the following aphorism -

The Paradox of Love -

"A person needs your love the most,
When he or she deserves it the least."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Why Your Parents Will Never Get Embarrassed

I'm starting to believe that parents don't have that particular gene that makes us feel embarrassed.

It's a strange gene, actually. Let's call it the E-Gene. Babies don't have it. Nothing will embarrass them. You can say anything, you can make them do anything - it's all okay! The gene isn't there yet. So they don't get embarrassed.

As you grow a little older, the E-Gene begins to kick in and take effect. The age at which this happens varies for each one of us. For some it may be as early as 4-5, for others it may be as late as 8-9. But sooner or later, it sets in. Suddenly, you're too shy to do a lot of things in public. Things that wouldn't have seemed like a big deal a few years earlier are very embarrassing now.

As we grow older, the E-Gene's presence becomes more and more pronounced. It peaks sometime in our late teens. At this point, almost anything that anyone you know does is a source of embarrassment to you. You don't want to take your younger siblings out with you, because they embarrass you. You don't want to go out with your parents either, because they too embarrass you. The only other people you don't mind associating with in public is people your age. Because their E-Genes are at their peak too, so they are careful enough to do only what's 'cool'!

After a few years though, the potency of the E-Gene begins to wane. This process commences sometime in your mid-20's and takes full effect around the time you get married. When you begin to have kids, your E-Gene is on its last legs. Too weak to do anything, its presence is more in name than in effect. And by the time your children enter their teens, your poor, old E-Gene is history!

The biggest trouble with this cycle is that the waning of one's E-Gene in parenthood matches almost precisely with the waxing of one's children's E-Gene during their childhood.

As you can expect, this causes nothing but trouble! Bottom line - all kids are embarrassed by their parents' actions. Whether it's their Mom's slower-than-hell driving, or their Pop's old trousers that clearly belonged to a century that is well and truly in the past, the kids are embarrassed. I am willing to bet that there isn't a teenager alive who hasn't been a situation where something that his or her parent did made them want to crawl into the ground. Don't blame them. Just blame an E-Gene misbalance!

The parents never get the powers of their E-Genes back again for as long as they live. The only saving grace is that their kids start to lose theirs too after a little while. And then everyone can settle down peacefully.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Just Tell Him!

A woman is strangely averse to telling a man, to his face, that she likes him. Don't ask me why - I don't know! But the fact remains - women do not like making the first move.

Men are much less loth to professing their love for someone. In fact, most times they are too eager to do so - even when they don't really mean it!

Now if there's one thing that women are quite adept at, it's dropping hints. So when they like someone, they start dropping hints. Little hints, big hints, even gift-wrapped hints and hints with marshmallows on them.

The woman hopes that the man catches the hints and makes a move. But she doesn't want him to mention the fact that he caught on to her hints. She wants him to pretend that it was his intention to woo her all along, and that she had nothing to do with spurring him on. Basically, not only does she not want to make the first direct move, she also wants everything to seem like she didn't even make an indirect move!

Seems like the perfect scenario, doesn't it?

1. Woman drops hint.
2. Man catches hint.
3. Man asks woman out.
4. Everyone lives happily ever after blah blah blah...


There's a slight catch in our rosy fairy tale. A big catch actually! Step [2] just doesn't ever happen! Men are absolutely hopeless at catching hints. Let's just say a man wouldn't recognize a hint if it came up to him and slapped him in the face wearing a bright, yellow T-shirt that said, "I AM A HINT!"

Maybe it's because men aren't good at reading 'into' things. Maybe it's because they don't understand body language. Maybe it's because men and women speak different tongues. Whatever the reason, there's no getting around this stubborn fact.

I think it's because men are simple creatures. A man just can't understand why a woman who likes him would be scared to tell him that. The same brain that has little trouble understanding how the turbo-charged engine of a racecar works, struggles to comprehend this tiny, but oh-so-true fact of life.

The fact about women hinting isn't restricted just to their love lives either. Women are always hinting at things, instead of getting straight to the point. A man eavesdropping [Adamsdropping?] on a conversation between a handful of women wouldn't get half of what they're trying to convey. It would all be in the subtle innuendoes. All the women would understand each other, but our poor guy wouldn't have a clue!

But you know what the worst thing is? After everything is over, women say that men are bad listeners! I mean, the audacity of it all! How do they ever expect us to understand anything, if they don't spit it out straight? It's not as if we aren't paying attention. It's just that no matter how much attention we do pay, we cannot understand what they are trying to get at. Is that our fault?

Bad listeners? Yeah, right!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Random Reminiscing

I was listening to John Denver on my discman today. I like listening to artists like John Denver, Don McLean, Kenny Rogers and the lot because they make me feel like I'm living in the America of the 1970's.

If I were given a choice of living anywhere, anytime in this century, I would definitely choose some small rural town in Southern USA as the place and the late 60's or the early 70's as the time.

My love for Southern America has come about largely due to a steady diet of John Grisham novels. They picturize it as a place like no other. Especially the novel A Painted House. Most people would rank it as one of the most boring books they have ever read. But for some reason I loved it. I am not a big fan of action packed thrillers. I don't relish or admire books because of the suspense or action in them. What I desire is a good story. One that has characters that remain in your memory. A story that makes you feel as if you are right there - a part of it.

I think Grisham is one of the finest writers when it comes to describing characters. I also like his style of writing. It's extremely simple. You don't have to turn back two or three chapters every now and then in order to keep track of the story. If you just want a good, old story, there's nobody like him.

I also like the works of Clive Cussler, mainly because I'm such a big fan of his main character, Dirk Pitt. The first Cussler that I read was Iceberg. [The copy that I managed to lay my hands on was, incidentally, given to my Dad as a gift by his roommates back in the 70's!] All of Cussler's books are centered around the adventures of the hero Pitt with a few other common characters playing side roles.

Another one of my favorite fictional literary characters is James Bigglesworth [Biggles, for short] from the series by Captain W. E. Johns. Biggles was in the Royal Air Force during the Wars and then in the Air Police for some time after that. For a while in high school I was so influenced by him that I prayed that a Third World War might break out, just so that I could enlist in the Air Force!

Biggles is quite similar, in many ways, to Dirk Pitt. Both were pilots, both had the same dry sense of humor, and both were no-nonsense good guys who always came out on top in the end!

During the era before I got introduced to Captain Johns and Biggles, there was always Enid Blyton to read. I liked her books, again, not for the suspense, but for the description of small town life in the England of the decades gone by. The high-teas with buttery scones would make my mouth water, and surprising every family had a cook who was plump and jolly! I would give my right hand to spend a summer in one of her adventure books!

Another high school favorite of mine was, of course, The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon [whoever that really was]. They spoke of the adventures of two teenage brothers who were amateur sleuths in Bayport. For some reason though, I didn't like this series as much as I did the books by Enid Blyton.

Even today, if by some chance I manage to lay my hands on a book by Enid Blyton or Captain Johns, I can't help but sit to read it. It doesn't normally take more than an hour or so [sometimes two hours, because you need to picture everything precisely in you mind to make the tale seem real!], but it's always well worth it. Nothing can ever bring the days of your childhood back, but these books are the closest thing to it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Feel Sick!

I value few treasures in life more than my right to freedom. Consequently, there are few things that peeve me off more than to see that right being snatched away from any individual.

Freedom comes in many forms. One of them is the freedom of thought. Another one is the freedom of speech. Or to be more general, the freedom of expression. And one of the means of expressing one's self is through one's writing.

An finer example of a violation of this right than what has recently transpired to Gaurav [Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part 4] would take you a long time to find. To cut a long story short, the points that he raised regarding IIPM were not taken very lightly by the guys down at the institute. They raised hell in the most obnoxious manner that one could expect - I mean what is the meaning of filing a lawsuit for Rs 125 Crores? And why get his [now former] employer IBM into the picture by threatening to burn their Lenovo laptops? How daft are these guys?

The manner in which Gaurav responded to each of their threats might on the face of it seem impulsive and rash. But I strongly disagree with anyone who would care to think so. I vociferously support him in his actions. I think he has stood up for what he believes in, and I commend him on that!

Money plays a huge role in this country. Far greater a role than it should play. An organization with money can try to arm-twist anyone it so desires. And this is wrong.

No society can progress until its common man is given his freedom. A society that denies its citizens this fundamental right is necessarily an archaic and repressive one. It would not be very unlike what the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq were. Progress in such a society would come to a complete stand still.

The methods employed by IIPM to respond to the criticism against it leave a lot to be desired. They could very well have tried to refute his claims with proof to the contrary. But that didn't happen. They decided to choose means that one would have laughed at, if only this wasn't a serious matter.

I would like to express my complete solidarity with Gaurav for both his desire to express his views and his determination to fight for what he believes in. Here's wishing him all the best!

Cheers, mate!!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Scary Story

Here is an incident that happened to my someone I know, written in her own words -

I was at home with my friend Cheryl, when the doorbell rang. I went up to the door and took a peek through the peephole. It appeared to me as if there was a man outside, along with a woman and some kids. I opened the door.

There was indeed a man, woman and three young children, the youngest of whom was just a couple of months old. He asked for my Mom by her name. He said he had a parcel to give her. He said his name was Jonathan. I told him that Mom wasn't at home but that I would call her up at her office and let her know. Now, the mistake that I made was not closing the door on them so that they would have to remain outside. As I walked to the telephone, these people entered the apartment.

The two older kids went over to the couch and sat themselves down on it. The man approached me as I was speaking on the phone. Cheryl was shocked but didn't say anything. I told Mom that there was someone named Jonathan here with a parcel for her. She was immediately suspicious.

She told me to ask him to give me the parcel and leave. He said he didn't have it with him at that moment. [Why was he here then?] Mom told me to ask him for a phone number and tell him that Dad would pick up the parcel from him. He gave me a cell phone number. [When my Mom tried that number later, she was told that the cell phone was turn off.]

Meanwhile, the lady had entered my parents' room and closed the door behind her. I was really scared. I handed the phone to the man and while Cheryl kept an eye on him, I went over to my parents' room and banged on the door. After a few seconds, the lady opened it. She seemed to be adjusting her top. She claimed that she was breast feeding the baby, and hence she had locked the door from inside.

By now my Mom had told the man on the phone to leave immediately and that she would call up Dad and ask him to contact this guy later. He hung up the phone.

The man looked at Cheryl and me and asked us not to be afraid of them since they weren't going to do anything to us. I asked them to leave immediately.

They left. Perhaps they were afraid that Mom would call up the neighbors and ask them to come and check on us.

My heart rate was about 150 and Cheryl too was extremely scared. We collasped onto the couch. I went into Mom's room and looked around. Her wardrobe door was slightly open. I knew the lady must have opened it because Mom never leaves it unshut. Luckily, there wasn't much in there other than clothes, and certainly nothing valuable enough for her to steal. However, if I had given her more time I'm sure she would have opened other closets and found something.

I called up Mom again and told her that they had left and that I was ok. She seemed scared and also relieved.

When I thought about it later, I was sure that I had seen these same people outside the church last Sunday. I told Dad about this when he got home that evening. He rang up the parish priest and told him about the incident. The parish priest told him that a woman with three kids of around the same ages as the ones who had come in the afternoon had been spotted hanging around the church and the neighboring school for the past few days. He also said that a man who introduced himself as Jonathan had approached him a few days back and inquired about any work that he may have been able to offer him.

I am sure these were the same people who came to my house today. I can't believe I was stupid enough to open the door for them. I'm just glad everything is ok.

Well, that's the story.

Con men have been around for longer than the devil. But the con game seems to have become particularly rife in today's world. Everyone is out to try and cheat you out off something. From the attendant at the filling station to your very own driver. You can't trust anyone. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there and no one gives half a damn about anyone else. You could be lying bleeding on the road, and the only person who stops would be only to filch your wallet!

Why is man so inherently inhuman? I have always had great faith in human nature. I believe everyone is inherently good. What is it then that drives man toward crime?

A empty stomach is obviously one compelling reason. When you don't have anything to satisfy that hunger in your belly, you don't really care about how that next meal comes. The theory is, if one of us is going to suffer then I'm going to do as much as I can to ensure that it isn't me. I don't really care about too much else.

But then all crime isn't committed by people who are desperately below the poverty line. A lot of small crime is committed by people who are relatively well off. They don't cheat someone because they have to. Why do they do it? I don't know. But that faith of mine in humanity is decreasing with each passing day.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Stand-up Humor!

Have you ever been in public with someone who says something that makes really you cringe? I mean like a really, really stupid statement. Or something that's just plain embarrassing. Because it happens to me all the time.

Say you're walking down the road with a friend and you bump into another friend who's quite obviously pregnant. And the friend with you says, "What happened to you? Did you swallow a goat?"

And you're going - "What are you thinking? Is that a hole in the ground I can crawl into?"

Or maybe you're sitting with a female friend who's chatting with another female friend of hers whom you don't really know. You're minding your own business and trying to be polite while they ramble on and on about cosmetic adventures that went wrong or boyfriends who they have broken up with. And then your friend's friend laments about how she's never going to find true love again. And the next thing you hear is your dear friend's voice extolling your pleasant virtues and dropping a not so subtle hint that you're single at the moment! I mean, is there anything worse than that?

Don't you just hate strangers who come up to you and wish to borrow your cell phone? Why don't they make cell phones that always display a "Battery Low" warning? So then when someone came up to you and asked for your phone, you could always go - "You know what? I would have loved to have let you use the phone, but I'm afraid the battery's almost run out and I'm expecting an urgent call in ten minutes!"

Eventually though, once they start incorporating this feature into cell phones, everyone will know about it. So you won't be able to pull the trick off on anybody because they'll know that you're fooling them. But before that the cell phone companies will have started coming out with new models which instead of always flashing "Battery Low", will always give you a "Network Busy" message unless you pre-dial a special code! So you'll always be one-up on those irritating strangers trying to use your phone!

Have you ever noticed how parents employ their children upto the age of around 4 for entertaining their guests?

If the child is really small then you can expect something like - "Darling, show Mama how you can clap! Clap, clap, clap..."

From there it progresses to - "Now dear, why don't you sing that song you learnt last week in school, for Mrs. Goodacre?"

Or maybe - "Honey, show these good folks you're stamp collection. They'd really like to see it!"

Happens all the time doesn't it? The parents have got nothing better to entertain the guests with, so why not extract some use out of their poor kid? There should be a law against it!

Or least the kids should have some chance to get back some. How about little Junior taking his parents along with him to his Kindergarten class - "Hey Ma, hey Pa! Show them how you were fighting last night, why don't ya?"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Art of Flirting

We all know that flirting is an art. Not all of us are sufficiently blessed to be good flirters. [Well, there are exceptions like moi, but I try to be modest!] I think flirting's like cooking - women are, on the whole, better at it; but the best ones are men!

Flirting's also like a bad Christmas gift - it's of little use unless it's returned! It's not a very pleasant feeling to be flirting with a girl while she's pretending to study the fleck of dirt that's gotten under her nail, all the while racking her brain for an excuse to get away from you!

Flirting's quite harmless. If it's from a guy, at least. When a guy flirts, the girl either responds or walks away. When a girl flirts, the guy is thinking, "Ah! Here's someone I can get into bed with!"

Guys love girls who flirt. Especially older men. Few things can excite a middle-aged man more than a girl in her twenties flirting with him. I guess when you are on the wrong side of 40, you require some sort of reassurance that you've still got what it takes to attract the ladies! Girls know this too. And they make good use of it. If a girl requires some work from a professor you can be sure that she will turn on her charm and flirt it out of him. Same story if she wants some work down at the bank and the person at the window is a guy. Especially an older one.

So how do you become a successful flirt? If you're a girl then it's easy. It doesn't take much to flirt with a guy. If you're a guy, then things are a wee bit tougher. There is no sacred mantra to becoming a top-notch flirter. You're either born with it or you're not. [However, for a decent fee I might consider giving lessons!]

Today, flirting via text messages on your cell phone has become quite commonplace. I think it's pretty sad. It doesn't come close to matching the fun of actually flirting with someone face-to-face. That's the true art. And it always will be.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Birthday Woes

I don't like birthdays. I mean, what's the point in celebrating them? It's not as if you don't age at all during the entire year and then on just one day you suddenly become a whole year older! So why all the extra fuss on your birthday? Is it just because you want at least one day in the year when you can feel special?

I hate telling people my birthday. When asked, I normally reply, "29th February." Of course, no one ever believes me when I say that and they ask me again.

I don't envy the people who are actually born on the 29th of February. I can just imagine -

Mr Cynic: So when's your birthday?
Mr Unfortunate: February 29th.
Mr Cynic: Get out of here!
Mr Unfortunate: No, I'm serious. I was born on the 29th of February 1980. It's a leap year.
Mr Cynic: Yeah. And I'm the Queen of England!

You know what else I don't get? The practice of treating your friends on your birthday!

Ok. Let's look at this objectively.

- It's my birthday.
- I'm a whole year closer to kicking the bucket.
- Another entire year has gone by in my life without me achieving anything.

Bottom line - if anybody needs some cheering up with a treat, it's ME!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just "Friends", Eh?

I refuse to believe in the existence of a purely platonic friendship between a guy and a girl. It just cannot exist. At least not from the guy's side. Unless he's totally and unequivocally gay!

If you're a girl reading this and going - "Aw, c'mon! You've got to be kidding me here! I've known Paul since we were both in diapers and I'm positive he doesn't think of me that way at all!"

Well, there are only two things I can say. Either you're bald with a hunchback and a broken nose; or HE'S GAY!!

The key point is that a friendship between a guy and a girl is viewed differently by both of them. The best way to put it would be as follows [I remember coming across this on someone's blog, but I don't remember whose] - the girl sees the guy as a 'friend' first and then as a 'guy', whereas the guy sees the girl as a 'girl' first and then as a 'friend'.

So, to a girl, a close male friend differs little from an equally close female friend. But to a guy these two things are quite different. This explains why guys are more willing to open up emotionally to a female friend than they are to a guy buddy.

Now, to get back to my main point - I'm NOT saying that every guy wants to sleep with every girl he knows. I'm just saying that he doesn't view her in a totally platonic way. There must necessarily exist a modicum of 'unplatonic-ness' from his side. Exactly how much of it is present is largely dependent on the situation and the people involved. But it is there.

Another point that I'd like to state is that I am not speaking solely for myself. What I am saying holds for all straight guys out there. Any guy who denies it, is just doing so because he is afraid to admit that it is true.

Whether or not the same feeling of unplatonicness is also present from the girl's side, is not something that I would be most qualified to comment on. I would expect it to be true of the girl too, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't. Girls are just different that way.

It's important to realize that there is nothing wrong in this. It's just the way guys are, and girls will just have to live with it.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Six Rupee Theory

Ah, yes! Guess my previous post has finally done it - the rains have stopped! I always knew I was special, but now I'm starting to scare even myself! [Let's just hope I didn't jinx everything by saying this and it starts raining again!]

Well, having received two requests to put up a post on the "Six Rupee" Theory [and having already lost the few shreds of credibility I may have had with my female readers], I'll do so here.

[I'd just like to state though, that it's not so much of a 'theory' as an 'algorithm']

Like most other interesting theories in my life its genesis lies in the hallowed confines of a Barista's Coffee Shop. One night, Kunal [Sawardekar], Dani and I were sitting in the Barista on Law College Road, with scant little on our minds and even less in our pockets. [In case you're thinking "Yup, just another Saturday night!", you'd be right!]

After a few minutes, I manage to unearth a handful of coins from my bag and endeavor to teach them how to play Nim [while keeping a wary eye out for any of the Barista staff who might decide to evict us in favor of some other more profitable customers]. After only few games, by which time I was quite convinced that neither Kunal nor Dani had it in them to make a career out of playing Nim, we began to look for some other form of entertainment.

I returned all the coins to their rightful corners of my bag, save for six shiny, new one-rupee coins, which I left out on the table. I looked up at Dani and said, "Hey, here's something you can try out. Why don't you take these six one-rupee coins, all stacked up like this, and go over to that girl sitting alone at that table over there. Then place the stack on the table in front of her and ask her whether she'll sleep with you for six rupees!"

Dani gives me a funny look.

So I continue, "Don't get your hopes up, she'll probably say no. So in that case you pull away your stack of six coins and replace it with a crisp, new Rs 10 note. Now ask her whether she'll sleep with you for ten bucks!"

Dani's look gets even funnier. Kunal's lips have the hint of a smile on them, appreciative of my genius, no doubt.

"Ah", I conclude. "But if by some chance she happens to say yes at first, then snatch away the six coins and say, 'Hey, if you'll sleep with me for six rupees, then surely you won't mind sleeping with me for nothing!'"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Short Skirts and Other Joys

I think it's time to stop pondering about the important questions like "Why are we here?", or "Is there intelligent life out there?", and worry about the really important question of "When is it going to stop bloody raining?"

Days of incessant rains have turned the city into a veritable rainforest and I can't remember the last time I woke up to bright sunshine. I would never have thought I would actually say this, but why can't we just have a few days of that infernal Indian summer sun please? Guess there's some truth in that old aphorism after all - "You don't know what you got until it's gone!"

I was watching some action from the Sunfeast Open 2005 on TV today. I have to admit I have started to become a bit of a tennis fan in the past few months. The fact the players like Sharapova and Dementieva make it so pleasing on the eye has, of course, helped a great deal.

Here's an interesting observation. Eighty years ago, all women played tennis in long skirts. Then, as the decades progressed, the skirt hems kept rising. A few years ago, most female players competed in skirts that were so short that they would only fit the very loosest definitions of the word. Another popular outfit was the equally short one-piece attire introduced by the Williams' sisters. Under these short skirts, the players wore a pair of even shorter tight pants. Why have the whole formality of wearing the skirt in the first place then? Why not just wear the pants?

Finally, commonsense has prevailed. A fair number of the players at this year's U.S Open showed up on court in shorts and an even larger percentage have done so at the ongoing Sunfeast Open. Can't say that I'm complaining. Wonder what's next for women's tennis in the fashion department?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Of Anonymous Mail [and Sunny Hail!]

A few days ago I posted this. The post has since been the recipient of some of the most ludicrously hilarious comments I have ever come across by an anonymous commenter. Please do read them, if you haven't already.

Much as I have always prided myself as a writer, I think I can finally admit I have met my match. The sheer writing flair of our anonymous writer leaves me speechless. His/her open mind and subtle understanding of sarcasm are of a pedigree that I haven't come across before.

Let's also not forget how caring and understanding this person is. He/she seems to be oh-so-concerned about my being able to find a girl for myself! He/she also seems to care so much about my future working prospects and how I might be able to save myself from being fired! I must say, I'm very touched. Thank you!

Well, I suppose I should also thank my anonymous writer for the fact that his/her first-rate writing has enabled this post to generate 28 comments [at last count, but I expect the number to grow] much more than any of my other posts. As an under skilled, and rather unsuccessful blogger, I'll take all the hits I can get!

Ah yes, and then to top it off, the self-modesty of it all - instead of signing his/her name and grabbing a share of the spotlight, he/she humbly chooses to sign 'Anonymous'! Words fail me here. I bow down.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


It's here again! The grand Annual IIT-VIT Day! A traditional, ritualistic celebration that dates back all of two years!

The story has been etched forever in the memories of all those who were fortunate to witness the event. For the rest, I shall attempt to describe it below -

Saturday, 20th September 2003.

Other than a slight drizzle in the air, there was little to distinguish this from just about any other late September evening. There were few harbingers of the excitement that lay ahead.

A few of my friends had decided to join forces and celebrate their birthdays together at a nightclub. The location that had been chosen was Crystal Ball [now The Leather Lounge] and I had arrived a tad early as usual. Punctuality has its drawbacks and I began to make small talk with the few other early birds while waiting for the crème de la crème of the party to arrive.

A half-hour later just as the party was kicking into a higher gear, I happened to look up and spot him. I couldn't help it. He stuck out like a burr. I recognized him as being from my class in college. His gaze wandered around in search of familiar faces but there weren't many on offer that night. He drifted toward me.

He went by the rather erudite moniker of IIT. Now IIT [standing for Indian Institute of Technology] is the foremost institution for pursuit of engineering degrees in this country. They are located in several cities, the nearest one being at Powai in Bombay.

The manner in which he had come to acquire this appellation is pretty interesting in itself. Apparently, the previous year when he had been a freshman in college, a teacher had asked the students on the first day of college what they had done in their vacations. While most other students mentioned activities like traveling or learning a foreign language, this youngster said that he had studied for the IIT Entrance Exam. His pedagogical image was further enhanced in the eyes of his classmates when he went on to answer with consummate ease, every question posed by that teacher in that lecture on topics ranging from Schrödinger's Equations to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. From that day onward his name was forgotten - he was simply known as IIT.

"What are you doing here?" I asked him.

"Roya invited Paresh," he replied. "And he told him to get me along too."

He was hesitant to ask for a drink so I offered to get one for him. I was unaware at the time that he had never touched alcohol before. That, and the fact that the liquor wasn't mine caused me to fix his drink a little too strongly.

After downing this first drink, his prudence seemed to evaporate and he had few qualms about walking up to the bar and getting a second drink for himself. And then a third.

By then, he seemed to have found a sympathetic ear in the form of Roya and one other guy and was pouring out his life's woes to them. He claimed his girlfriend of many summers, Shilpa, had just broken up with him. Apparently, while he had come to Poona to study, she had gone to Bombay, where she had fallen in love with some other guy. Well, she could go to hell for all he cared, or so he claimed. His plaintive tale was liberally spiced up with some of the choicest of expletives.

I got myself another drink and wondered whether Roya had ever spent such a maudlin birthday before.

Sometime later I spot IIT again. This time his audience consists of a friend of mine named Taizoon who wasn't exactly the most sober person around either. Taizoon was one of the 3 guys celebrating his birthday that night and I doubted that the two of them had met before. I stand nearby and listen to the conversation.

After about 20 minutes of lachrymose hysterics from IIT, Taizoon still hasn't said a word. However, he seems to be listening with the patience of a disciple. Suddenly, he says, "Ok. Just tell me one thing - who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing at my party?"

IIT is a little taken aback by this unheralded outburst from someone who had been nothing but a patient listener for so long. He says, "I'm IIT."

Now Taizoon, not unnaturally, concludes that this bloke is trying to tell him that he studies in IIT and has come down from there. So he replies, "I'm VIT!"

The two of them then share a long bear hug and follow that up with a little jig around the dance floor with about 12 pairs of curious eyes on them!

IIT actually went home that night and wrote C programs for two of his college assignments, the first time he had ever done an assignment in his life!

For a week after that in college we would all greet each other with the standard "I'm IIT"-"I'm VIT" line and then do the hug. Last year we celebrated the first anniversary with a grand party and we plan to do the same this year too. If all goes well, it should be held this Saturday. Cheers!

[Ok, I know the whole story may not seem all that funny. Guess it was one those "you just had to be there" things. Or rather "you just had to be there and have some rum in you" things!]