Monday, March 31, 2008

Thandavam in Baker St

Woke up bright and early yesterday, made reservations for upcoming trips, talked to amma and turned up at gym bright and early. Only to discover that well, what else, its the last weekend in March and I am an hour late for my usual class. The next available class was advanced spin which I wouldn't have attempted in my right mind but what can I say? I wasn't in my right mind. An hour and half later, a nearly dead moi knocked on door of flat.


"Hey. Can you get me some water?"

Bill starts coughing. Again.

"How come you start coughing like a TB patient everytime I ask for something?"

"Yeah, I am allergic to chores"

"I asked for water. Its not a chore"

"Thats how it starts. I know how this works"

"I don't care if you die of this silly cough. Can you get me water? And some orange juice while you are at it"

"Ya ya, here."

"What did you do while I was away?"

"I slept"

"I know. Other than that?"

"The guy downstairs woke me up. He was here"

"What guy downstairs?"

"The person who lives below"

"You know him?"


"How do you know he lives downstairs?"

"Because he told me"

"Some random person knocked on door and told you he lives downstairs?"

"Why would he lie?"

"Well, why was he here?"

"His picture fell down last night"

"What picture?"

"How do I know what picture hangs in his living room?"

"Then why is he telling you his picture fell down?"

"He said the walls were bouncing which is why the picture fell down"

"Bouncing walls? What was he on?"

"Well, his picture fell down. His picture wasn't on crack"

"Oh ok, VSPC was jumping about na?"

"VSPC left three days ago. This was last night"

"What are you insinuating?"

"I am not insinuating anything. You just have to stop this thandavam you have been doing. The floor will give away soon if you keep doing this"

"So its me then?"

"What else could it be?"

"Well, it could be your screechy music"

"Yes, my violin causes walls to bounce and pictures to fall"

"Of course. Its totally possible"

"But I wasn't playing it last night"

"How does he know it was last night? Was he home then?"

"How do I know?"

"You could have asked. We might have had nothing to do with this. He might just be framing us"

"Framing us? Why don't you go down, knock on his door and conduct a proper investigation?"

"Yeah? And what are you going to do?"


"You just bloody woke up"

"This cough syrup makes me drowsy. Anyway I will only be a pain in your investigation. Wake me up once you are done"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Pushkin problem

Times puts this Style essay in the Books section for some reason.

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast.

Regardless, do completely agree with these people on the Roark / Proust problem. If I think back, those have been absolute deal-breakers in moi's life. (well, substitute Proust for Joyce)

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.”

The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Catching 'em young

Very Small Person from Chicago (VSPC): Veena aunty, do you like stories?

Moi: Yes, I do.

VSPC: Do you know the ugly duckling story?

Moi: Yeah

VSPC: What about the frog prince?

Moi: I know that too

VSPC: I have many more stories in my book. See.

Promptly pulls out some picture fairy tale book and thrusts it at me.

Moi: But I know all these stories

VSPC: All of them?

Moi: Yes, all of them

VSPC: I know Bible stories. Do you know Bible stories?

Moi: Hmm, I don't. Can you tell me one?

VSPC: Yes, I know two Bible stories. I can tell you. They are not like ugly ducking and frog prince.

Moi: Why not?

Looks around to see if her mom is around. No. Safe.

VSPC: Because they are real. My mommy doesn't think so but they are real.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mukurthi Info

Before we get to Puli Tales - Day One, some administrivia out of the way. A great many of you have been googling some combination of Mukurthi, accommodation and permission to get here, so just want to be useful for a change:

For trekking up Mukurthi, you need three permits (as of Dec 31, 2007):

1. DFO (Nilgiris North Division). I am pretty certain that it is North though the actual peak falls under South division DFO. The entrance is under the control of North division. Either way the offices are right next to each other, so you should be alright)

2. Ranger, Mukurthi Forest

3. Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association, Ooty for acco inside Mukurthi

Note that you do NOT need permission from the Wildlife Warden Office (and the people there are rude anyway) to enter the park though people might tell you otheriwse.

The DFO & Ranger offices as well as the Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association office are all right next to each other in Ooty, so if you are there in person, it shouldn't be a problem hopping from one to the other.

Address: Mount Stewart Hill, Udhagamandalam – 643 001
DFO (North) Phone: 0423- 2441950
Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association Phone: 0423- 2447167

Now, while its possible that you can go upto Ooty and run around for half a day getting all these permits, its not advisable to do so[1]. This is because there is only place where you can stay inside the National Park, the Mukurthi fishing hut and the DFO will not give you permission unless you have acco reserved in this hut. So this is what I suggest you do.

1. Ring the Wildlife and Environment Association and speak to the patient man who will answer the phone. He is a wildlife enthusiast who gave up his job to work this wildlife NGO thingy so please to be nice to him. Ask him for available dates at the fishing hut and once you have figured out dates, ask him to fax you a letter saying so.

2. Write a letter to the DFO, attach this acco letter and fax over to the DFO office.

3. Land up at the DFO office, pick up the permit, pay the Wildlife people, go talk to the Ranger and get his signature and you are all set.

Well, not really. James, the caretaker at the hut might or might not be there at the fishing hut. Try to speak to him and explain to him when you will be there. You also have to get provisions so that he can cook for you, so ask him whether he needs anything.

Now, for the guide. When we were there, the officers were quite clear that they will not allow people to trek to Mukurthi without a guide. One of the reasons is because of the maulings that are common nowadays (Remember there are tigers and wild elephants roaming all over) If you talk to James ask him whether he can accompany you and that should be sufficient. However, if you plan to do more than just Mukurthi (and you absolutely should, go up to Pandiar Hills and if you have another day, Mudumalai should be on your list), get a guide. I suggest you call the HI Youth Hostel in Ooty (Phone: 0423 2444704) and ask for Babu's number. Babu is highly recommended and is great at spotting animals. Please do disregard though when he claims that every piece of dry shit that you see on your way is tiger shit. I don't think there are that many tigers in Mukurthi.

Any more questions, shoot me an email.

I know, I know, I need to get to Day One sometime. Cousin Kali got so fed up that she sent her own version. It will be up soon with a few edits.

[1] Unless you are a combination of two very charming young women, and one very charming not-so-young woman (Stu aunty, you around?), and you are also graced by the presence of the Don who can open doors like no one else.

Dude, weather God, go get a life or something, will you?

SB says its raining in Hyderabad. Amma says its worse than Thulavarsham back home and there is no electricity. Don answers his phone from Cholaland bemoaning the loss of the March crop because of the flooding. Times claims that in Missouri, the water is rising. And in London, it is snowing over Easter weekend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Wolfie darling, its not like we have to do this for a living. Bapi could be making £3000 a year just teaching

"Now Bill, enough. Get these things packed. We are already late. Do you know how much I had to beg that old man at the Leicester Sq tube to let us have his place today?"

Obviously, no one can compete with Mr. Lehrer but if anyone wants to have a go, go ahead. Attempt a caption for this and the distant second prize winner shall get a private dinner with BM[1] next time he/she is in San Francisco at a restaurant of my choice. Oh, and bonus points if you guess what the coffee ring thingie is. (Certain people barred from bonus points contest)

[1] Who needless to say, we have to thank for this masterpiece. Tell her that we are three short of a string quartet and she comes with the most brilliant of solutions. Triplets. Of course. Why didn't we think of it before? And then she goes ahead and does a xkcd on them. With friends like this, who needs moms?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Scenes from a Marriage: A Dancer in the Dark

People, we have a Bill post. He wrote this on Saturday morning and I was dilly dallying all this while for reasons that will become obvious very soon but oh well, for those of you who think I am mean, check this out. (And Anoop, this is the post you asked for. Enjoy.)

Friday afternoon and people are leaving early, for Mother's Day weekend. I decided I would leave early too and get some sleep before Veena gets in. So took the train ride back and was back bright and early, even earlier than when she gets home (does she ever actually go to work? Apparently she does)

Half an hour later, in walks our heroine.


"Hey! Oh, why are you home this early?"

"I took an early train. But why are you in casual clothes?"

"Well, it's Friday. Casual Friday, you know? Oh wait, you don't. Trust someone who's never done a day's worth of real work to not know of how corporations work!"

"True, I don't. But I know enough to know you don't wear yoga pants and kurtas to casual fridays"

"Oh. Well, I thought I would go to the gym"

"But these aren't your gym clothes!"

"Well, all right, all right Mr Stasi. If you must know, I went for my Bharatnatyam class"

"Your what?"

"Bharat Natyam? The dance form? You North Indians may not know, but it is actually quite famous"

"Three things. First, I am not North Indian. Second, I know what Bharat Natyam is. And third, since when do you go in for things like this?"

"Well, I went for classes when I was eight"

"You have been going for more than twenty years and I don't know? Man, you have some major secret life. How did you hide it from me since I knew you? More than six years?"

"Don't be silly, I stopped when I was twelve"

"How come?"

"I fought with my teacher. She was going on and on about this spiritual angle and..."

"Yeah, yeah, your Marxist sensibilities couldn't take it anymore!"

"Oh shut up! Anyway, I just started again last month, after eighteen years. Man, it's so good to get back to it!"

"Last month? You have been to classes for a month and nobody knew about it?"

"Don't be silly. I told you about it. You have forgotten"

"No you didn't"

"Yes I did!"

"No you didn't! Trust me, I wouldn't forget something like this"

"Well, I am sure I told someone"

"Well, it wasn't me for sure. Tell me, tell me, how does this work? How did you get interested in this again?"

"I was always interested in Bharatnatyam. And it's good activity"

"You can go to the gym. Why Bharatnatyam?"

"It's so graceful, no? Not generally jumping up and down"

"Graceful? This doesn't sound like you at all. When did you start going for graceful?"

"I just felt like it, okay?"

"Wait, I know what this is about!"


"This started right after I got my violin, right? Right?"

"That's got nothing to do with it"

"Right! You are all jealous and want to be all culture-vulture like me"

"Nonsense! I am not pretentious like you. Look, I am tired of this, why don't I go take a shower and we can go out for dinner?"


Two hours later....

Swiss Cottage bus stop. Those of you who had the good fortune to be there know what I am talking about. For the rest (I am surprised some tabloid journalist didn't pick it up):

"It's all about the expressions. And the mudras. I don't think you know what that means, it's hand movements that's supposed to..."

"People are staring at you!"

"Like I care. Taka... jimmy.... taka...."

"What are you doing? Who is Jimmy and why are you calling him?"

"Just watch this. This is how you place your foot, and then you bend your knees... Do it with me. It's called aramandi. Now, dit..dit..dei...dit..dit..."

"She's fine, really. A glass or two does this to her.. No thanks, I can handle this.."

"What, I am not drunk, all right? I am just educating you on how this is done"

"Can't this wait until we get home?"

"No, it can't. Once we get home, you will start "Twinkle Twinkle little star" on your violin once again"

"Mozart, it's Mozart"

"Mozart, my foot"

"Yes, yes.. your foot. Keep it in one place, all right? Don't stamp that nice gentleman's foot, will you?"

"I am not stamping anybody! All I am doing is showing you how my hobby is so much cooler than yours"

"I knew it would come to this. Yes darling, your hobby is much cooler. Can we get home now?"

"My hobby even costs less! It's only ten quid an hour. Not like some people we know who pay twenty-five...."

"Yes, yes! Look, I have a plan, all right?"

"You have a plan? You actually have a plan to pay for something?"

"Yes I do"

"Let's hear this"

"I am going to be a busker. Play violin on the Underground. People will look at me and pay money to help poor kid. I think I can cover my violin expenses"

"This is your plan?"

"Of course! What's wrong with it?"

"Nothing darling, nothing at all. Just flag a cab, will you?"