Monday, November 28, 2005

Auto drivers beware!

I am back in town. No trip home is complete without a gory fight with the auto dude. Yesterday in Ernakulam:

Auto dude(AD): That was Rs 25.

Moi: What?

My aunt: But the meter has only 14.

AD: I told you it will be 25 and you said yes.

Moi: Well no. You said 25 and then you said that's what the meter we will show. We said let's see. Your meter now says 14.

AD: No no. Its 1.5 times the meter charge.

Moi: At 1 in the afternoon?

AD: Yes yes. I told you that already.

My mom: No, you did not. This is a rip-off.

AD: No, no. You pay me 25 now.

Moi: Why do you even have a meter then? Amma, get him 20, that's enough.

AD: You be happy that we don't rip you off like you people do in your place TamilNadu and give me Rs 25.

Moi: Oh, I see. You have just gifted Trivandrum to TamilNadu. That's interesting.

AD: Whatever. All I am telling you is that we don't rip you like you people do. Give me Rs 25 now.

Moi: Amma, no. Here, give me 15. Here. I will not give you a paisa above 15. Lets just say that I am ripping you off like I have been taught to do.

AD: You cannot do that. You give me 25 now.

Moi: Ofcourse I can. I have a reputation to maintain. How can I go back home and tell people that I did not rip off unsuspecting Mallu auto driver? Here's your 15. If you have a problem, go complain to the police. We will be in this store for the next couple of hours.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Dollar exchange

The boy came to drop me off at Bombay domestic yesterday. We had arrived a little early, so we stood there outside the entry gate chatting about life, universe and the wedding. This shady dude came over to the boy and asked him whether he wanted to exchange dollars. Needless to say, I was in my best "I don't know a word of Hindi" mode, so I was spared. The boy said No, but this dude started telling him about how he gets the best exchange rates in town. The boy again said No and the exchange dude went away to some corner, stood there for 5 minutes and then came back promptly and asked the boy which city in Amrika he was from. The boy just shut up and pretended to talk to me in Tam. Ofcourse I couldn't understand what he was talking about, so I started speaking back in Mallu. It was a pretty entertaining coversation. After listening to our conversation for another 5 minutes, the exchange dude finally gave up and went away.

"How the @#%^ does he know we have dollars? He doesn't seem to be ambushing anyone else. Is it that obvious?"

We looked around and realised it was actually quite obvious. We were the only shabbily dressed people within a 50 ft radius!

Ich bin ein Frankfurter

Well, atleast Frankfurt flughafener. Next time you are in Frankfurt between two eight hour flights, this is what you do. Go to Goethe plaza Terminal 1, Concourse B. Right next to a monstrous McDonalds, you will see the restrooms. Walk towards them and you will see signs for showerstalls. Pay $6 to the person in charge and you will get the cleanest public shower room ever all to yourself for the next hour. Pure heaven. Its like you did not step out of a transatlantic flight 30 minutes ago.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

In which I abandon the windy city for the winter

Well, some part of winter. I am off today on a 5-week trip to India. Will be back after New Years. As regular readers of this and the Bride blog no doubt know, I will be going around the country getting married. A wedding and reception in Kerala, followed by a reception in Calcutta followed by a reception in Bombay will keep me busy for the next month. Needless to say, the Bride blog will be updated more regularly with all gory wedding details.

Here's my favorite Sandburg poem to keep you entertained while I am gone. On Chicago ofcourse. What else will it be?

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Here in Chicago, when you say Ludwig, we think Meis. That is how much we value our buildings. No visit to Chicago is complete until we show off our concrete. But I would be the first to admit that there are certain buildings that I would be very careful not to show any visitor. These stretches of the city can give the Vegas strip a run for its money and its best if you skip them altogether. A recent addition to this stretch is a monstrosity of a McDonalds, to avoid seeing which I freeze to death every morning waiting for a bus that will take a different route to work.

Note to aspiring terrorists: Can you come up with a better target than this for furthering your cause whatever it may be? I think not.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blog Mela

Spent a good couple of hours going through as many blogs as I could think of and got completely lost trying to classify posts. So here's this week's Blog Mela, Shuffle style:

Sonia Faleiro writes about how a theater group is making a difference to the lives of the Chhara tribals. Sakshi Juneja writes about the hypocrisy surrounding virginity. Aekta examines the pros and cons of abortion. Primary Red has a two-part post on the Quiet Anti-Oil Revolution. Ash goes to see the Monkey trial. Vikrum Sequeria visits Ellora and Ajanta. Sublime Thoughts has some memorable moments in Delhi. Saket questions the Indian Legal system; Shivam responds. Rashmi Bansal shares her impressions of Indore. Nilu is bothered about Oscar categories.

Jai Arjun Singh pays his tribute to Spartacus. Falstaff reviews the latest Marquez. Great Bong mourns the passing of a friend with a heavy heart. Chandrachoodan bids Adieu to the blogosphere. Bombay comes back to Neha Viswanathan on the London tube. Thennavan has some suggestions on blogging etiquette. Amardeep Singh thinks Abu Salem is a Natural Born Killer. Samanth Subramanian reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Karthik finds the anthology of Sujatha's works a little too long and a little too repetitive.

Pratik Mhatre(yes, I know that's not his real name) has a new blog. Sunil L claims that the Pacific Northwest does have a fall and has photos to prove it. The Compulsive Confessor explores alternate professions. Shoefiend contemplates time. Arzan has a post on who owns the Internet. Sooraj thinks India is in danger. Ravi is confused. Sapphire has a story about twenty five sheets. Gaurav Sabnis on Pawar, the Maratha Machiavelli. Anita Bora on two noteworthy performances. Neelakantan is hooked onto blogs. Reuben asks whether the $100 laptop makes sense. Abinandan revisits IIPM faculty pages! Dilip's follow-up post on GDP. Sagnik on that first gift. And Uma di is on vacation. Sigh.

Want more? Go here. They do it full-time.

The next Mela will be hosted by Amit Varma at India Uncut. To sign-up to host a Mela, go here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blog Mela Time

A late annoucement but hopefully we will get back to schedule!

Here are the rules:

1. Posts must either be made by Indians or must focus on India or Indians.
2. Please send permalinks to the blog entries only, not just the blog URL. If the permalink is not working, send me the title and date of the blog entry. Whole blogs are not accepted as nominations.
3. You can nominate your own posts or someone else's.
4. All posts made between Nov 14, 2005 and Nov 18, 2005(both days inclusive) can be nominated
5. Not all entries nominated might make it to the Mela.
6. The Mela will be up on the evening of Friday, the 18th. (PST)
7. You can drop the nominations in the comments section or you can email them to me at veenablogs[at]gmail[dot]com

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The origin of species

I couldn't find it online, so imagine this: Calvin's Dad-like figure sitting in his armchair reading a newspaper. Calvin-like kid crawling on the floor. Kid looks up at Dad.

"Pa, what's all this talk about Evolution?"

"Son, I will have to consult my attorney before I can answer that question. I might be sent to jail for it."

Nope, it ain't 2005. It's from 1925, the year of the Monkey trial. Some things never change, do they?

PS: How to get your copy of The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker - When all else fails and all your friends refuse to take subtle hints such as these, go make friends with a fellow blogger who lives a couple of blocks down and invite her to a random party. Believe me, it works.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wind of Change

"Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change
Walking down the street
Distant memories
Are buried in the past forever
I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change"

- Scorpions, Wind of Change

I was 11 years old. I woke up early and went downstairs to find both my parents poring over The Hindu. My mom never reads the newspaper until late morning and so I was surprised to see her leaning over my Dad's shoulder to read. They both looked up at me and my mom said: "Come, come read this. And then I will cut it out for your scrapbook. And we will cancel going to A uncle's house tonight. You wouldn't want to miss The World This Week."

I am pretty sure it was a Friday. Also remember seeing images on The World This Week. Or was it just the regular news?

Where were you when you heard the news? Today, 16 years ago?

[Update] - I thought this was one of my earliest political memories. But Anand, in his obituary to KR Narayanan reminds me of 1984, way before 1989.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dowds and Carries

Overheard at the next table yesternight. A bunch of yuppie women were sitting around talking about work. After a couple of drinks, the conversation turned towards Dowd and her NY Times article. Everyone seemed to be raving about it for some inexplicable reason. (Though now that I think about it, it ain't so inexplicable. These women are Dowd's target audience. What did I expect them to say?) And then this:

Woman One: "I think Dowd sees herself as Carrie Bradshaw. You know what I mean."

Woman Two: "Well, don't we all? I mean, show me one woman who is not a Carrie Bradshaw wannabe."

Why, you ask, why do I go to such places? Because I am a masochist, thats why.

Anyway, I think its a good time to inform the world that there are millions and millions of women who are not Carrie Bradshaw wannabes and the only reason you might not know them is because you take Maureen Dowd seriously. Granted I don't watch TV but I have been made to watch a couple of episodes of Sex and the City and have been subjected to so many Carrie Bradshaw stories over lunch and dinner that I do think I know this woman. And I think any woman who claims to be Carrie Bradshaw or wants to be Carrie Bradshaw should be taken to a shrink.

Here are some reasons why some of us are not Carrie Bradshaws - You see, some of really don't like shoes that much. (Apologies to Our Lady of the Shoes). Why would anyone wear anything other than flats is way beyond us. We have to pay hard-earned money to buy those monstrosities which will make our life more painful? We'd rather buy The Da Vinci Code, thank you. And some of us actually have friends who are not desperate, frustrated and white. We also have friends who happen to be gay; we aren't friends with them because they are gay. See the difference? And some of us don't like Mr. Big. What a jackass. Some of us also have lives which don't revolve around the newest bar in town. We really have no desire to hang around Page 3 celebrities and we don't particularly like Fendi handbags. And as much as this surprises you, the burning ambition of our lives is NOT a visit to the Playboy mansion. I could go on and on but I see you begin to get the hang of it.

And btw, some of us actually know that Michiko Kakutani is not a figment of Ms Bushnell's imagination.

So please Ms Carrie Bradshaw wannabe - You wear your red stilettos, sip that Cosmo and ogle at the bartender but please keep your sweeping generalizations about womankind to yourself.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Feminists Strike Back

[Update - Nov 4] - Uma di has a comprehensive post on all things pertaining to this topic. Go read.

Wanted to post these links a couple of days ago but forgot all about it. Well, better late than never, so here. As soon as I read Maureen Dowd's What's a Modern Girl To Do? early this week, I knew there was going to be trouble. The article which is an excerpt from Dowd's new book was most definitely asking for it. Interviews with fellow journalists and TV show personalities, long-debunked research like this piece of trash the Times passed off as journalism a couple of months ago, and a picture of herself with red heels and fishnet stockings - who are we kidding here? I was shocked to see the article shoot up to the top of the Most Emailed Articles list and stay there for a couple of days. But never fear, dear reader. I am happy to report that reaction is trickling in. The usual suspects are having a field day.

Here are some initial responses:

From Womensnews, here's Rivers and Barnett with Why Dowd Doesn't Know What Men Really Want. They say it so well - "Dowd's writing is fun, but is basically a bunch of irritating fluff".

Lakshmi Chaudhry, she of Alternet says Maureen needs a date.

Here's Echidne, the Greek Goddess with her two cents.

Jessica of Feministing says here that "feminism wasn't a fucking dating service". Now if only I could make people realise that!

Gawker attempts to translate Dowd here but fails.