Sunday, April 29, 2007

Uncle Fanny and Aunt Quentin?

So here's the story. Last week at work, I was on the phone a lot with a guy named Quentin who happened to be quite absent-minded. Soon I was referring to him as Uncle Quentin to all and sundry before this woman I work with asked me whether I was referring to Aunt Enid's Uncle Quentin. Realization struck. Yes, in this country they do know Aunt Enid. So then we started talking about Aunt Enid and her works. Particularly the backlash against her works after the 60s. Sexism, Racism, Snobbism and all other -isms that she was accused of that somehow we Indians never seem to hear of or care about until we reach our 20s. But anyway, here's the interesting part - like all self-respecting British women of the 80s, my colleague's mother made sure that her daughter never read Aunt Enid. But daughter does know all Aunt Enid stories. How, you ask? Her mother used to read it out to her switching characters - like all her male and female characters were switched. Which means that Aunt Fanny becomes the absent-minded scientist. Cool, no?

Why all this now? Because I want to read more about research done on these lines. Anyone care to enligten me where I can find more?

Neela, TR: If you guys are lurking, please to help out. There must be something in all those journals you read, no?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bill on the JEE

All of you who know Bill, and all of you who read this blog do not need to be told about the amount of time the man spends staring at the ceiling. The claim is that he is thinking so that he can prove some theorem or the other. In reality, he ofcourse is sleeping during most of this ceiling-staring time. (Yes, he can sleep with his eyes open, trust me on this.) But there's a small % of time that he doesn't sleep. I have always wondered what he thinks about in these few moments and now I know - he is thinking about the JEE. You see, I think he's never really gotten over him not really cracking the JEE and in the interests of blaming someone else, he holds the JEE and all his Kota friends who were ahead of him responsible. So he spends his ceiling-staring figuring out ways to somehow get back at them. Sounds implausible? Well, then please explain to me why someone who cannot be bothered to write one line of proof an entire week sends me this long post out of the blue asking me to put it up on my blog. It's either that or he has gone crazy. Or turned over a new leaf like his brother. I seriously don't know which is worse.

So anyway, I give you (all footnotes are mine) Bill's rant on the JEE, the universe and everything:

There has recently been much discussion and criticism of the IIT Joint Entrance Exam, or JEE. This started me thinking about JEE, what it means to people, what it is meant to do, and what really happens.

JEE. An exam taken by perhaps a quarter million teenagers, of whom some 4000 will "pass" the test and make it to IIT. The ranking given out by JEE is a number that has an outsize significance. Sometime during my stint at CMU, I served on the admissions committee. We ploughed through hundreds of application packages, with their inevitably upbeat profiles and resumes. During one such, up popped a folder from someone at an IIT[1]. Among his notable achievements, he listed his All India Rank at the IIT JEE. Obviously, getting that rank is one thing that he is really proud of, something that he is going to talk about 5, 10, maybe 50 years after the fact. This attitude is not uncommon either. I remember being slightly saddened, because it reminded me of a documentary I saw of Nadia Comaneci 15 years after Montreal. There was the same sense of reminiscencing of the pinnacle of a career, an extraordinary achievement, something whose emotional impact may never be matched again.

Is it right that an entrance exam becomes in itself an achievement? What has led to this state of affairs? One obvious reason is that of the sheer numbers involved. Given the extreme number of contestants for a painfully limited number of seats, the pride in "having made it" is understandable. But that should not blind us to the many negative aspects of JEE, and maybe it is not doing a good job at all.

Many, including particularly professors at IIT, have noticed and complained about the increasingly crucial role of intensive coaching for the JEE. It does become noticeable when the candidates come from all over India but the bulk of the successful ones are from Hyderabad and Kota[2]. It is not that coaching in itself is a problem. Any system, particularly in the hypercompetitive scenario, will attract coaches and training. Witness the 30,000 dollar fees for advisors to buff up resumes for Harvard. The problem is rather that JEE creates an atmosphere where coaching is essential, and it is inconceivable for a successful attempt without intensive training, usually professional.

JEE has been designed to be brutally tough. Nothing wrong in that in principle. However, in practice this has meant that problems are well outside the scope of anything taught in schools. In fact, in my first year at IIT, we pretty much redid the syllabus for JEE. The questions in our semester exams would have been right at home in the JEE. Why is it that students in high school are being tested on undergraduate level stuff?

More to the point, is this really getting those with a passion for technology, or more generally, science, into IIT? A really small minority of students go on to apply anything learnt in IIT in their professional careers. Are they losing interest during their four to five years within IIT (which would be a dreadful indictment of the professors, if so), or were they never really interested in the first place? Yes, one aspect of the problem is that students are forced to make a choice at entry, when they know nothing of the subject. This is more a problem with the IIT system than JEE of course, since we need much more flexibility in changing branches/courses. In many US universities, even say a Stanford where for example computer science is a much-in-demand option, a lot of people drop out sometime in their undergraduate years and take another branch. For this to be feasible, we would need to move to Abi's Real Universities(TM).

The way the entrance exam stands now, IIT takes in students who are good at "cracking" exams. That is certainly correlated with ability, but the correlation does not seem to be very good. Abi points out the statistic that less than half the intake is that of first-time aspirants. In other words, to get into IIT, after spending time, money, and effort, single-mindedly devoting most of your waking hours to preparing for IIT for 2 years, maybe more, you should realistically be thinking of doing it for another year, or maybe more. Are we then surprised if students are burnt out?

A more pernicious effect of the supremacy of coaching classes is that they are unfair. Abi has talked about women, and compared it to the proportion of women in CBSE toppers. Vivek asked about women in science or math classes. But indeed, what is the proportion of women in the bigger coaching classes? I am sure that is indeed more correlated to the number of women in IIT.[3]

It is not jut about women of course. Those who cannot afford the steep fees, or cannot or do not want to go halfway across the country to stay in the feeder towns for two years are getting shut out of the system. We are losing out many bright students in smaller places. Is it not the idea that we should want the interested, brilliant, and motivated students from across the country? With the JEE set as it currently is, people like a good friend from Alleppey[4] studying on his own have to overcome almost insurmountable barriers.

Yes, we live in a deeply traditional society, with large inequalities. As last year's reservation ruckus made clear, caste is a deeply divisive issue. So is class, and income, and gender, and millions of other things. We understand that, and I am sure the designers of the JEE understand those realities. The question is, isn't there something wrong with a system that does not even attempt to redress those problems, and indeed skews in the direction of the more privileged?

Maybe we can argue that it is not IIT's place to try to solve these hard problems. I don't agree with that viewpoint (otherwise what is the point of calling them institutes of national importance?). But this brings to mind the question, what does IIT aim for? What kind of students do they want, and is JEE getting the students they want? After all, what kind of guidelines they set will not affect the competition (if IIT sets a paper on Ulysees, Joyce coaching classes will mushroom up[5]), but does affect the kind of students they will get.

We have heard much about merit through the JEE. Does merit, whatever it is, play a large role in clearing the exam? If so, certainly merit can be taught in coaching classes in Hyderabad. Or unsuccessful candidates can acquire merit by trying again in another year.

What does clearing JEE mean about the candidate, beyond the fact that they are good at taking exams? Is it intelligence, motivation, perseverance, ability to work hard, passion for science, engineering bent of mind? All of these? None of these? If these, or others, are qualities IIT wants, is JEE filtering the right kind of candidate? Should we not be asking these questions? Or are the good professors satisfied with doing things the way they have been done in the past?

[1] Err..are you trying to tell us that someone not from an IIT actually applies to the CS doctoral program at CMU? Since when? Or more importantly, WHY?

[2] See, he doesn't like Hyderabad or Kota. Obvious reasons.

[3] Okay. My one serious footnote. If one agrees that a) intensive coaching of the Kota variety is necessary for getting into the IITs, the vast majority of the people who get into IITs get this coaching and b) the percentage of women in these intensive coaching institutes is extremely small, then I don't see why it is difficult to see that the JEE is biased against women exactly in the same way it is biased against anyone (or group) who does not (or cannot) attend the coaching class. [Yes, I know that the question we should be asking is why is that the classmates of these men who attend these coaching classes cannot attend the same classes given that anyway there are going to write all engineering exams in the country. I see that but then, I also sort of see the point in parents being reluctant about sending girls at 5 AM / late at night or packaging them off to Kota for 2 years]

[4] Alleppey? Did you say Alleppey? You bloody Bong, next time you get the district wrong, I will get you to pay twice your share of the rent. And write down all districts of Kerala 100 times, ok? This good friend (who in reality is my friend who you have adopted as your friend) lived in Alappuzha. Get it? Alappuzha.

[5] Falsie, there is hope for you. You can start an IIT coaching center that teaches Ulysses and make zillions. I can so imagine this: kids comparing Falstaff Tutorials and Prufrock classes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Turning over a new leaf: The Kid special edition

Bill called his parents over the weekend and found out about major upheavals in the Kid's life. Bill was shocked.[1] He walked around aimlessly, muttering something to himself for the next five minutes.

"Is everything alright?"

"You aren't going to believe this"

Before I could reply, he went on.

"Of course you won't believe this. No one will. You know what he is upto now? He is apparently going to the gym. 4 days a week. Did you hear that? 4 days a week. Fibbing to my parents like that. I will call him right now and tell him what I think of his fibbing. How can he lie like that? Just because they don't live in Bombay anymore, he thinks he can get away with anything!"

"But then, he doesn't lie that much also. He is all truthful kid. Like me. Which means he must be going to gym only. If he says 4, he is atleast going there for 2 days. Don't you think? I cannot believe this is my brother. You think he got switched in the hospital when he was born? He cannot have been born in my family"

"Bill...darling...let me get you some brandy. Here, sit down"

"I don't want any brandy. To think that my real brother is walking the streets of Calcutta unaware that I exist. Oh God! What am I to do now?"

"Chill. I am sure there's a rational explanation for this. All you have to do now is to call the Kid and find out. Here's the phone. Call him now"

"I know I can call him alright? You don't need to tell me that. But what if there isn't an explanation? What is he is really going to the gym 4 days a week because he just likes it or something?"

"Well, it is not that bad. Let him go if he likes it. Atleast he will get a little healthy. Good only na?"

"What? You don't understand, do you? I am telling you if he is doing that he cannot be my brother. I know this alright? What am I to do then? How will I start searching for my real brother?"

This went on for about half an hour before Bill summoned up all courage and decided to find out for once and for all whether the Kid is his blood brother or not. It took a while for the story to come out, the Kid was a little reluctant especially since there were a couple of places where both Bill and I nearly choked and died of laughter. So anyway, the point is Bill is alright. He now knows for sure that the Kid is his blood brother, and so he doesn't have to go singing "yaadon ki.." in the streets of Calcutta. And more importantly, there's enough material in this for a blog post. So here goes (as told by the Kid with some edits):

So bright new spanking gym opens in office. I think:
A) I'm fat
B) I do nothing constructive in office
C) "£$%^&*! have blocked Orkut. So I cannot communicate with any of my 12,543 "friends"
Hence, I should go gym. I know, very uncharacteristic thinking, even more so as me thinking is uncharacteristic.
(Ed: Please note that a few months ago, the Kid would never have reached this conclusion. This is what big, evil companies (even if they are situated just a mile away from the institution) can do to our young, innocent boys)

So I go to gym. Big Hunk (BH) aka Personal Trainer comes to greet me as soon as I enter.

"Good afternoon Sir. Can I help you?"

"Yes, I am checking out the gym"

"Checking out? What is there to check out?"

"Err..the facilities, equipment etc."

"You don't look like you know anything about the equipment here. Have you been to a gym before?"

"Of course I haven't been to this one"

"Yes, but have to been to any gym before?"

"Oh, so we don't have a pool. Hmm.."

"So you are a swimmer?"

I walk around. BH follows.

"Sir, if you do plan to use the gym, we need to do a fitness evaluation first"

"Oh! okay. How do I get that done?"

"I ask you some questions. And we do a couple of tests or so"

"Shall I get an appointment for next week for that?"

"No, I am free now. We can do that now"


BH starts evaluation.

Weight: 77 kg
Height: 164 cm
Body fat %: 29 (BH shows me big chart which says Normal is 15)
Age: 22

I don't quite like the look on BH's face.

"Is everything okay?"

"Hah! You're the most unfit 22 year old I've ever seen"


"You have all the major risk factors for heart disease, see this chart here. Sedentary lifestyle, check. Obesity, check. Fondness for cheese, check. And one more factor that's not on this chart. Bengali. Check."

"So what do I do? What do I do?"

"Do you drink?"

"Aah, so that's what I should do? That eases the tension! Good suggestion"

"No, you buffoon! Do you or do you not have close relations with alcohol?"

Me scared witless. "umm, yes"

BH eyes glinting. "How much?"

Now I'm really scared of this fellow, so I decide a little white lie is in order.

"ummm...3 times a week"

"Too much! Stop drinking"

"Sob Sob, keun meun.."

"You argue? let me tell you, I'll guarantee you at least a mild heart attack in 3 years. You'll be dead at 30"


"You should think about a good life insurance policy. Let me take your BP now"

"Ya right, like what you just said is going to help my pressure"


"Now I'm going to let you go, there's no hope for you and your coffeechocolatecheesebeer-ing ways, UNLESS (wicked, wicked grin) you come to gym 4 times a week"

"keun meun, I cant do any tough exercise"

"Hah! Like I'll let you do anything tough. I dont want the liability of an obese person collapsing in my gym. I wont let you touch anything for one month"

"So what will I do then?"

"I'll just make you walk. One hour a day"

So I went. Once, twice. Then I stopped. BH called my extension.

"Aren't you coming to the gym today?"

"I am a little busy today. I have loads of work"

"Nonsense. I saw you at the water cooler chatting for hours together. You come down now"


So thats the story. You happy now?

[1] Yes, BM, yes, Anoop, he was shocked. You never knew he was capable of that, did you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Das Leben der Anderen

Scene after scene, I sat there and thought about how unfair our world is. 34. Did you hear that? 34. First movie. Fuck. Such perfection. Hang on. 1989? What the hell? Full happiness during last ten minutes. Of course, nobody's perfect. Even if you have a name like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ha Ha! Life is alright again. Guten tag.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Obligatory Namesake post

Yeah yeah, I saw it too. In the interests of scoring brownie points and all that.

The movie is not great but it is better than the book. Other than the exocticisation of Calcutta and the Indus Bank billboard with the A Ganguli trunk fiasco, there are no glaring put offs. But is it good enough for one to take the pain the go to the theater and watch it? Yes, for one reason. Irfan Khan. The man carries the movie from the first frame to the last; even when he is not physically there, he seems to fill the frame. It does not matter what the other characters do or do not do. The only similar performance I can think of from a recent Indian movie is Seema Biswas in Water.

PS: Kal Penn is not bad. Really. Its not like he has a meaty role and didn't perform or anything. Its hardly his fault if he is expected to do ntohing.

PPS: BM, I see your point about the camerawork not being very flattering to the Indian women characters. The 2 inch makeup on all their faces is a little strange but to me, it wasn't too jarring. Probably because everytime I have been in any sort of a Bong gathering, the 2-inch makeup has always been very visible to me :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Las Cam

Vegas, as regular readers of this blog no doubt know, is not a city that I have much love for. Every time I have been forced to travel there (once for a conference, once because it is the nearest airport to Death Valley, and once again because of Zion/Bryce) I could not wait to see the last of the city. Its not so much the celebration of crassness and the profileration of slot machines that gets to me, its those fake monstrosities on the Strip, from the Stratosphere to Mandalay Bay, lined up like in some freak show[1]. In my mind, there is no better way to insult a monument or a city than to put it on the Las Vegas Strip. But despite all this, I have to say that Vegas does have some redeeming features:

1. This gambling paradise in the desert stands today because a few people in the city by the lake decided to build one. It is no secret that, forced to look at new revenue streams a little further out of the cities, the Crime Syndicate and the Outfit built the Strip from scratch and me being a Chicagoan for life and all that, cannot bring myself to hate it.

2. The best of modern structural engineering in the New World, I am told, is at work today not in the new skyscrapers of NY or Chicago but in the casinos of Vegas. It might not be showcased but if you were to look beneath all the glitz, you will find it alright. Thanks to a dear friend from high school who works as a lead architect for one of these buildings, I was enlightened the last time I was there.

Why Vegas now? Because I spent a good part of last Friday in a city which reminded me of Vegas but with none of its redeeming features. Yes, on this side of the pond. The city, you ask? Two miles east of my seventh grade physics book in disguise. The city of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire, England[2].

I know. Everyone talks about there's never really a good time to visit this country. And its really not the weather they are talking about, its the people - crowds everywhere all the time. People like Theroux and Bryson made millions writing about it. But no, it wasn't really the crowds that got to me in Cambridge. (The crowds were a problem in Snowdonia but there's enough ways to get around it. Oh wait, that's another post.) On a sunny, midummer afternoon in the namesake city across the pond, hundreds of people can be seen milling around Harvard Square. But that doesn't make that place any less appealing. Nor do you look around and wonder how is it that this place is the greatest center of learning in the entire country.

The street markets of Cambridge make the city of Solvang in Santa Barbara wine county look like an original Danish town. The stores that line every narrow, cobblestone street that is there in the city center put the King of Prussia Mall to shame. The punter traffic in the Cam river makes the I-405/I-101 interchange look like a breeze. There actually seems to be a reason for that - there are more people in the streets of the city trying to get you to rent a punt than there are mobile postcard vendors in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal. But I hear you cry - the colleges, the colleges! That's what Cambridge is about. Old buildings that don't particularly look good, definitely do not look well maintained, yes, they aren't fake but look at how they treat them. Surrounded by all your favorite stores from King of Prussia and about hundred thousand tourists, and you get to pay an admission fee to enter the "sacred" grounds with these hundred thousand people. How cool! The admission fee totally depends on the college - you want to see Clare? Go right in. Kings? That's £4.50. Thanks. Lovely.

My best moment in Cambridge came when I was standing in front of Trinity College trying to understand why anyone in their right mind would consider living here for four years when I happened to overhear a conversation between father and daughter. Nice Jewish family, obviously from Brooklyn, NY. Father tells (about) ten year old daughter:

"This is where you will come to study. I know it"

"No. You want me to study here? Like in a zoo? No daddy"

Right on. So I walked back two miles to Bill's lab (yeah yeah seventh grade Physics text location) and found a comfortable couch in the lounge and spent the rest of the afternoon in the company of some very best young american novelists[3]. Grushin rocks. No, never liked Safran Foer too much. The wife neither. Yes, she's in there too.

Well, okay. If you insist. Here are some pictures:

[1] The essay I revisit whenever Vegas comes to mind has been quoted by Neha V recently in a slightly different context and you can read about it here.

[2] Well, not the entire city. Just the city centre which is probably the same size as the Strip. The rest of the "city" was as nice as any other English town in Fen country can be expected to be.

[3] Granta has to be the last good thing to come out of Cambridge. Needless to say.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

Times reports.

Scenes from a Marriage: The long road to Wales

"What are you doing?"

"What do you think I am doing?"

"1040? Filling US tax forms?"


"I don't understand why you have to do taxes so late"


"No, waiting till the last minute! You had all the time in the world na?"

"Yes, but I did not have your W2 until last week. Exactly how am I supposed to do taxes without your W2?"

"Yes, but I got you that last week na?"

"Do I need to remind you that its not just my taxes that I am doing?"

"And why is that? Because you do not trust me to fill it in correctly. You are paranoid. Your fault"

"Of course. Its all my fault"

"Do you know that you are the only person in the whole damn world who doesn't trust my Math skills?"

"Just remind me of the last time you calculated tip accurately"

"Tips and all I can't do man"

"Taxes are the same. Shup up for sometime, will you?"

"How much money are we getting back?"

"Some 3-4K"

"How come we are getting so much back? Because of married filing jointly?"

"No. That only pushes us into a higher bracket"

"Hmm..then why are we getting so much back?"

"I am getting so much back because I did not work for 4 months last year. Nothing to do with you"

"Yeah right. Cheating me of my money"

"You don't have any"

"Hmm..btw, I forgot to mention. We have to stop by work on the way tomorrow"


"We will stop at Cambridge on our way to Wales tomorrow"

"Cambridge is not on the way. You should revisit your geography"

"Ofcourse it is. I mean, if we get out the other way we will get hit by crazy going out of London traffic anyway"

"What? And Cambridge is not going out of London? That too, in the wrong direction"

"Well, we will have to go there anyway"

"Why is that?"

"I have some work"

"What work? You are off for Good Friday right?"

"Yes but there's this paper deadline..."


"So I have to send that off"

"And you did not know about this until now?"

"Its just an hour or so extra"

"Let me understand this. We go to Heathrow which is Southwest of the city early morn to pick up the car and then we drive around the city and up Northeast to get to Cambridge before heading back West to Wales. And how long is this work of yours going to take?"

"Not too long"

"How long is not too long?"

"Just a few hours"


"We should be able to leave late afternoon"

"You are kidding right?"

"Not really. See, its no big deal"

"Hello? The whole point of driving on Friday was that we get to stop at places as its daytime. Now you want me to spend the day in Cambridge?"

"Its a nice city, you know"

"Yeah right"

"It is. Really. The buses may not be running tomorrow though. From my lab to the city. And you won't find parking in the city center"

"So I am stuck for God knows how long in middle of nowhere, Cambridgeshire all of tomorrow. How exciting!"

"Its not that bad. You can come meet my group at work"

"Yes, of course. I have been dreaming about that for ages. How nice of you!"

"Its really not that bad okay? We can still get to Snowdonia by midnight or so"

"Yes, and you will be peacefully sleeping on the passenger seat while I drive up and down mountains in the middle of the night. That too on the wrong side of the road! I should have known"

So that's the story of how I found myself between JJ Thompson Ave and Clerk Maxwell Road on a sunny Friday morning, William H Gates building on one side, Cavendish lab behind, Nanoscience lab in front and the superconductivity one next to it. West Cambridge, I discovered, is really my seventh grade Physics textbook.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Round and round and round we go

"So we take A5 now?"


"On what?"

"On which way you want to go"

"Which way do you want to go?"

"You are the driver. You decide"

"What are my options?"

"There's this B road, B4391 or something which is shorter. However its a B road. There's this A road which is longer but you can probably get there faster"

"Do we know this for sure? Just because its an A doesn't mean anything"

"I don't know. Either way you have to go up and down these mountains"

"Shoot. Here's the roundabout. Decide now"

"You decide"

"Tell me which turn to take"

"I gave you all options right? You decide"

"Its midnight and its all your fault. You better decide now"


"We are there dammit. Decide. I have to take the turn"



"Why do you have to take the turn?"

"Is this some sort of a joke?"


"We don't have the time to decide"




"Its a roundabout"

"My point"

"So we do not have to make any turn and then turn back or anything"


"I can go round and round and we can take all the time in the world to decide"


"I love this country"

"I know"

And that is the story of how we cracked the roundabout question. Cool no? No? Okay, here's a Snowdonia preview then.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Along the Ganges

If I were to start writing about things that I miss about my life back in the States, this weekend is as good as over, so I will leave that for some other time. What bugs me most is that if I forget or get too busy to make that extra effort to do things that were effortless and so a part of everyday life back in Chicago, I somehow miss the whole story. Case in point: NPR's current series on life along the Ganges that I almost missed.

Joy to the world

Thanks to a very dear friend from college who I finally caught up with after so many years, I am happy to inform you all that I am now an enlightened member of the Tam community. This very dear friend owns one of the best compilations of 80s IR music this side of the Atlantic and so when she invited me for dinner last weekend, my only condition[1] was that she burn me a CD with the best of 80s IR (moi being in Retro mood and all). She agreed a little too quickly which should have raised a red flag but what to do? Moi's getting all old. That too it being April 1 and all. So anyway, I brought the CD back home, told Bill that he is about to hear some of the best Tam movie songs ever written and set to music and slid it into the player. Confusion, shock, disbelief. Two minutes into the CD, even Bill who obviously knows nothing about the language started laughing his head off.

"Like you understand anything"

"Like its necessary to understand anything with that kind of music. This is too funny. I like your friend. She is too cool man"

I ranted. For about three minutes. And then I gave in and spent the next couple of hours getting caught up with last 10 years of Tam "kuthu" songs. Getting an education, my very dear friend called it when I spoke to her the next morning. The last time I listened to this kind of stuff, AF and I were making a neat margin selling Old Monk in Coke tins. For the Mallu women from across the border enrolled in as many random PG programs as possible, we had to get in some imported stuff but for the women of the soil breaking their heads over Oppenheimer's Signals and Systems, Old Monk was good enough. So anyway, thanks to this re-education, now I am a socially aware person - for instance, I know what my five year old neice sings when my cousin asks her to show off her singing talent to all and sundry. And in the interests of spreading joy to the rest of the world and making you also socially aware, here are three snippets from these songs (they have all been carefully chosen because of their association with food in general):

Snippet 1:
"Your speech is tasty, your gaze is tasty
But do you know how to cook tasty food?
Yes, I can saute dal in fresh cow's milk!
What? I didn't ask for diet food, do you know how to make spicy stuff?
Yes, I make molagu rasam and molaga thokku very well
Yeah yeah but do you know how to fry crab and chicken
And to make goat leg soup?
No, but there's enough spice in (some) corner of my hips
If you manage to find it, you are welcome to it all"

Snippet 2:
"What's the point in filling your stomach alone?
If only you have a Manjula for lunch and a Vennila for dinner is there any point in your youth
If no one does any wrong, there will be no philosophy on earth
So in the interests of philosophy generation, go and wrong forth

...(and in case you were wondering what kind of philosophy is generated)
Running water gathers no moss
And if you give in to desire/emotion, you won't have any disease!"

Snippet 3:
"A cat that doesn't eat fish?
A bee that doesn't drink honey?
A man who hasn't touched a woman?
Shall I eat?
Lakhs of women have it
Your mole has it
Shall I count the number of moles?"
Touched, touched, touched what hasn't been touched before (which rhymes with)
It's a hit, its a hit, everything I touched has become a hit!

Yes, my five year old neice. Along with the whole of Tamland singing away in wild abandon. Cool, aren't we?

Oh, and before I go, the first one to find the original songs in Tam will get sent a copy of the CD autographed by my very dear friend.

PS: Yeah, Karthik, I know. This is your post. But what am I supposed to do if you are MIA?

[1] One can argue that I was in no position to lay down conditions considering that I was anyway promised prawn curry and vendakkai sambar and it was in my best interests to accept the invitation but one forgets:
a) One doesn't know anything about very dear friend's cooking skills. The last time I remember her cooking, the only Prestige pressure cooker in the hostel burst into 36 different pieces
b) Despite living next to the most well-connected tube station in the London underground network (Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Bakerloo and Hammersmith & City. Try beating that, lets see) , it takes two hours and 41 minutes to get to her place which supposedly is in Greater London

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Poisoning pigeons in Regents Park

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Ev'ry Sunday you'll see
My sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

When they see us coming, the birdies all try an' hide,
But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.
The sun's shining bright,
Ev'rything seems all right,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.


Whole song here.

And while we are in the park anyway, BM, I can't shoot and all but I have more flowers than you in my backyard. Okay?