Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Indian waiters are an interesting species. They’re quite different from their brethren in other countries, almost a distinct race by themselves in fact. And they never fail to delight, amuse, irk and sometimes downright infuriate me!

The most vexatious habitude of Indian waiters, according to me, is their alacrity to serve you. No, I don’t mean ‘serve’ in the broad sense. I mean ‘serve’ as in ‘actually place the food in your plate’. Indian meals normally consist of several preparations that are brought to the table in metal bowls, or some other similar kind of receptacles. Each diner can then help his or herself to whatever he or she pleases from these bowls. Thus the waiter’s task should ordinarily consist of placing each person’s plate in front of him or her and placing all the dishes at the center of the table. But no! No Indian waiter will ever be satisfied with doing just that! Instead of placing the dishes on the table, he will go around the table, fastidiously placing a serving of each dish on each diner’s plate. Why?

Two years ago, a group of friends and I were having lunch at a restaurant called Radhakrishna, just outside IIT, Powai in Bombay. Our waiter was a curious individual, with mnemonic powers that would make a goldfish look like the Rain Man. He could never remember more than two items or pieces of information at a time, and even those two were doubtful. At one point toward the end of the meal, we summoned him and asked him to bring us some more rotis (unleavened bread) and a bowl of vegetable curry. He looked a bit confused, and it took about 5 minutes of hammering that in before we were somewhat convinced that he might just possibly manage to remember it properly.

“So can you please repeat the order,” I request him.

“Yes Sir. Four rotis and vegetable curry.”

Just then one of the bright souls sitting across the table from me piped up, “And could you please get me another spoon as well?”

That did it! I could almost visualize the sparks going off in his brain as it began to overload and heat up! I smacked my forehead in disgust. He was back five minutes later with the spoon. He’d completely forgotten about the other two items. (I was surprised he could even remember our table!)

Waitresses in India are conspicuous by their absence. Forget about the miniskirt donning, busty, pleasant-on-the-eye types, I have yet to come across even a single waitress in the country. India, the country where for centuries the woman has been confined to a role that included little more than cooking for and serving her husband, has surprisingly few female chefs and absolutely no waitresses.

Do any of you readers have any ideas on why this might be so? I’m all ears.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Chauffeur? Really?

I’m yet to understand the exact reason why anyone would hire a chauffeur. Just the fact that the profession even exists is a mystery to me!

I mean if I bought myself a nice, expensive car, I’d want to drive it - myself! But no, what do most people do? They actually pay someone else to drive their fancy car for them! That’s like buying the latest PlayStation and handing it out to some kid on the street to play with and then paying him at the end of it! So it’s not only, “Here, why don’t you drive my Lexus?”, but also, “And while you’re at that, let me also give you some money!” They won’t even let their friends take it out for a spin, but some stranger - they pay him to do so!

The only explanation I can see for this phenomenon is that when people are rich, they have to do something stupid just to prove to everyone else that they have a lot of money. It’s like the Arab who throws away new stuff just for the heck of it. Or the Texan who burns dollar bills in his fireplace instead of logs of wood. So what someone who employs a chauffeur is trying to say is, “Look at me! I bought myself this really expensive car, but I don’t even care all that much for driving it myself, so I’ll just pay someone to do it for me.”

As far as the job itself is concerned, it’s a complete snooze-fest. You spend about 20% of time actually driving the car, and the other 80% sleeping in it, waiting for your employer. And since anyone who can afford a chauffeur obviously has a pretty neat car, it’s not the most uncomfortable place to catch forty winks. And you get paid to do it! Most chauffeurs, it is rumored, have hyperactive sex lives. I’m not surprised - if you sleep that much during the day, there’s little else for you to do at night!

Becoming a chauffeur is my backup plan. If all else fails, I know where I’m heading. You don’t require a college degree, you get to drive fancy cars, and they don’t fire you for sleeping on the job. And what’s the worst thing that can have to do at work? Fix a flat tire once in a while?

I met an old friend the other day, and while we were chatting he happened to mention that his Dad drives a Mercedes. “What is he?” I asked. “A businessman?”

“No,” replied he. “A chauffeur!”

Friday, February 24, 2006

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

To me, nothing epitomizes the stark differences between a man and a woman, as nicely as their attitude toward sex.

A man’s brilliance lies in his ability to separate sex and love from each other completely, if need be. Completely! A guy could, for instance, sleep with someone he hates, if she’s physically attractive. That’s the most important thing for a guy when it comes to sleeping with someone - is she physically attractive? Yes? Then I’ll sleep with her.

For a woman, the most important factor to consider is whether she loves the guy or not. How he looks isn’t really as important as that. This is because she associates ‘sex’ with ‘love’, and unlike the guy, she cannot easily separate the two into distinctly different corners.

I’m not saying that guys do not associate sex with love at all. I’m just saying that they can separate the two easily should the necessity arise. And that women can’t really do that.

(Of course, none of this applies to High School in America, where everyone sleeps with just about everyone else, irrespective of love, looks, and sometimes even gender!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Three Salesmen.

Two weeks ago, Epiphany, a literary arts festival, was organized by our college. The festival drew a fair number of students from other colleges and also one rather enterprising encyclopedia salesman.

He stopped me on the second day to show me his wares - a dictionary-cum-thesaurus and a set of encyclopedia. It was quite evident that he couldn’t speak English at all! This struck me as rather ironic, since he was after all selling English dictionaries and thesauri.

However, I patiently listened on as he extolled, in Hindi, the fine qualities of the books he had to offer. I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, but I always like listening to sales talk. At the end of it all, he came out with the punch line, “Sir, if you bought this dictionary from the bookstore it would cost you Rs. 799. But since this is a special prelaunch offer, I’m giving it to you for only Rs. 299!”

I then explained to him how, despite the unbelievable offer on his part, my empty wallet, and more importantly, my supreme mastery of the English language, meant that I did not wish to purchase the book. “But thanks anyway,” I said as I walked on.

Two days after this incident, I was walking down J. M. Road, when I was stopped by another salesman. He too, was selling the same dictionary and set of encyclopedia!

“Hello Sir,” he called out to me.

“Well, well,” I thought to myself. “What do you know? At least this guy speaks English!”

However, I was in no mood for another sales pitch. “Let me take a wild guess,” I said. “That book costs Rs. 799, but you’re selling it to me for... Umm... Rs. 299?”

The look on his face was priceless!

Incidentally, I was stopped this evening by yet another one of these guys. (One of the perks[?] of walking around so much!) I repeated the trick, and left behind yet another bemused salesman shaking his head.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Look Indian! Or Pay More.

I visited Aga Khan Palace this morning. The palace was the place where Mahatma Gandhi and some of his closer associates were interned after the onset of the Quit India Movement in 1942. He spent about two years incarcerated here, during which time his personal secretary and his wife, both of whom were among those also interned with him, passed away. Today the palace stands as a memorial to the great Mahatma and also houses a small museum about his life. The Mahatma’s samadhi (the place where some of his ashes are buried) is situated behind the palace and can also be visited.

As with many other tourist sites in India, the admission charge at the gate is dependent on your nationality. If you are an Indian citizen then the fee is Rs. 5 (about a dime), but non-Indian citizens have to pay $2 (or Rs. 100) per head. This system of dual rates is quite common throughout the country. Even the most famous of all Indian tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal at Agra, is no exception.

Is it fair? I suppose one could argue both sides here.

The skewed exchange rates ensure that little is fair to Indian tourists to begin with. In the States, an Indian tourist would pay the same admission charge as an American citizen, but that same amount is a lot more for average Indian, relatively speaking. Shouldn’t the Indian be allowed to get away a little easier at home at least? After all, Rs. 5 to him is worth about the same as the two bucks are worth to the foreigner.

However, I feel keeping dual admission charges involves discrimination on the basis of nationality and must be avoided, at least for this reason, if no other.

The decision of what to charge you is made on the basis of appearance, skin color and language, since you can’t really stop all tourists and ask them to provide proof of nationality. Thus ‘Indian citizen’ really means someone who looks Indian-ish and can speak a local tongue. I was, of course, a bit suspect, but managed to get through in the end with some Hindi.

Interestingly, when I was Goa about two years ago, I remember that nightclub owners were charging Indians an admission fee but letting foreign tourists enter for free! This was in complete contrast to what happens at all government run tourist sites! The logic in this case, I suppose, is that most Western tourists are likely to spend a fair deal on alcohol once they get inside, but Indian tourists will probably drink less, if at all. Makes sense.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Annum Uno!

It’s been almost a year since I wrote my first post - twelve months of blogging for me! Well, not really twelve, since I did take a break in between as is evident from the absence of the entries for July and August in my archives.

This blog has undergone quite a few changes during the past year. They range from the obvious - changes in template, name etc; to the subtle - changes in style, subject matter of posts etc.

I’ve changed the template of this blog more than once. It was initially black, which made it a real pain to read. I’d strongly advise people against using black (or any other similarly dark hue) as the background for their blog. For some reason, such color combinations tend to hurt your eyes more than the lighter ones. As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest ensuring that the color of your text is darker than the color of of the background, instead of the other way around.

The name of this blog has been changed even more often - from ‘C’est La Vie’ as it originally started off, to ‘C’est La Mort’ when I stopped blogging, to ‘C’est La R├Ęsurrection’ when I resumed! The current name (‘The Smiling Buddha’) has formed itself out of nowhere, and will only serve until a better one springs up in my not-so-fertile mind.

The changes in my style of writing over the past year are somewhat harder to place one’s finger on, but nevertheless do exist. For one thing, I’ve cut down heavily on the profanities that used to pepper my posts during my rookie months as a blogger. When I first started off, the blog would have been enough to make a sailor blush, but today it would probably get a U (Universal) rating. With respect to content, I’d say the initial, inchoate blog consisted mainly of rants, then went into a humor phase, and now includes pretty much everything (or nothing as the tagline suggests)!

I’ve come to know quite a few new people through blogging. Every once in a while someone I don’t know pops up and says, “Hey, I read your blog and I really like it!” and that really means something to me. (Clich├ęd, but true!) Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have more people coming in to this blog, and so anyone wishing to add me to their blogroll is more than welcome!

And finally, in keeping with the subject of my very first post - this year’s match happened last evening. And once again, we lost! 3-1, this time. At least, I have the face-saving consolation of being able to claim that I scored our only goal.

So here’s wishing me another (hopefully uninterrupted, this time!) year in the world of blogging! Cheers!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Is Anything I Have actually Mine?

You know how people always say, “Oh, she’s got her mother’s eyes!” or, “Yeah, he’s definitely got his Dad’s nose!”? Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

Well, I can never make out! I was never very good at matching body parts. If you ask me, I think I look at lot like Brad Pitt. Most people of course, disagree.“Brad’s not that good-looking,” they say!

It’s one thing to compare a grown-up kid with his or her parent, but to actually do that with babies is pushing things too far, according to me. What similarity can one possibly find between a cute, little baby and a rotund, balding man? None!

More often than not, the comparisons aren’t even sincere.

Enthusiastic Guest: Hey, little Susie’s got her Mom’s smile. And she’s definitely got your ears, Mr Smith. And I’ll be darned if those aren’t her dear Grandmother’s eyes!

Mr Smith: Yeah. By the way, she’s adopted!