Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bill's comment of the day

Which in typical Bill fashion means nothing. Or well, something.

"People tend to forget that the model is an abstraction. If reality diverges from it, its reality that has to be wrong. It is an interesting way of looking at things"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sampoorna Veena

You didn't really think I was going to let this go without a post, did you? Chat transcript from a few minutes ago with a few changes.

"Hey. You around?"


"Ready to come back?"

"Not really. Do I have a choice?"

"You can always go back soon"

"Go back where?"

"India only"

"Why am I coming back?"

"Because you miss home"

"I do? Okay"

"So when will you go back next?"

"Next year sometime"

"What about December?"


"Yeah, you have time off then right?"

"Didn't we like talk about this like a few weeks ago and decide that its better if I go to India now?"

"Yeah but maybe your parents will be happier to see you soon"

"I am not so sure. And besides, December is double the cost"

"I know. But if you really want to go home..."

"Are you coming to India in December?"

"I haven't thought about it"

"Oh. I thought you had lots of vacation days left"

"I do but I haven't figured out my plans"


"What else is happening?"

"Nothing much"

"Did you sync up with any of your friends?"

"Yeah, spoke to a few"

"Like K"

"Yeah, I spoke to him, he is crazy busy"

"What is he doing December?"

"How do I know? And anyway, why do you want to know?"

"I don't know. Just wondering what peoples' plans were"

"How does K's plans impact you?"

"It doesn't, I guess. Hey, how is our Banker Kid doing?"

"He is alright. Now that he quit, he seems more human"

"He wasn't that bad. Just a quant monkey"

"Yeah, I guess"

"So what is he doing in December?"

"Hang on. Enough naatak"

"Okay. So I was speaking to this chap..."

"Which chap?"

"This chap I work with"


"And he was telling me something about some alumni meetup"

"What alumni meetup?"

"Of people from your institution"

"Oh that comedy. They have nothing better to do"


"But who talks about these things? All that goes to junk mail that I delete. What kind of losers do you hang out with at work?"

"Yeah, he is the loser type only. So he was telling me how there's one in December"

"Wait, people actually go to these things?"

"I guess if you have something to show-off which some of us obviously don't, it might not be a such a bad idea to go to one of these things"

"And this chap you spoke to has something to show off?"

"Okay, give up. Did you read Luddo's latest?"


"He has the details. Its called PanIIT or something"

"Luddo has links to PanIIT meets? Okay, I am not reading him anymore. Its over"

"Its over? Are you having an affair with Luddo?"

"Not the point. He has been putting up links on IIT meets?"

"No, no, wait, its not like that"


"There were these special events for spouses..."

"And Luddo is in charge of organising them? This is even worse than I thought"

"No, no, why don't you go read the post first? And here is the spouse link"

A few minutes later.

"Okay I am back"


"It makes sense"

"What makes sense?"

"Can you innovate? I will join Luddo and we will be spouses"

"Not the point. I can't innovate. I want to go to spouse meet"


"I will become sampoorna nari then"

"What use is that to me? Who will make money?"

"Don't be silly. Sampoorna is everything. Personal, professional everything"

"How many sampoorna women do you know who make more money than their spouses? Actually how many sampoorna women do you know?"

"I don't know any and that's precisely why I should go and learn to become one"

"No, I want to do this"


"Aren't you the one who keeps singing "momma's gonna take you back / teach you all the things you lack" at me?

"This is not your momma"

"So? They will teach me all the things I lack. Isn't that all you need?"

"Nonsense. Anyway they won't let you there as you are alumni. Only spouses can go to spouse meet"



"Then we are not going"


"Let me get this straight - I get to spend the three boringest days of my entire life while you get to have fun with the spouses. Not fair. Who says I don't want to learn kili josiyiam? What the hell is that btw?"

"Parrot astrology"

"You are kidding"


"Then we have to go"

"Exactly. It will be a coup. There's even a book in there"

"Learning kili josiyam in our islands of excellence!"

"Open only for spouses though. The male of the species, err...I mean the alumni are all innovating"

"Hmm...I see how this has to be done but I am not kidding, I really cannot stand them for three straight days"

"Well, why don't you be there for Day One and then we shall attempt a rescue?"


"Make up something. I know! We will say the LHC has run into problems and they are calling you to fix it and so you had to leave"

"Brilliant. Lets do it"

PS: Obviously there is some serious indignation that can be thrown into this but I think Luddo does a nice job of it already and I have nothing to add. Except to say that it doesn't really come as such a big WTF to me because seriously, who expected them to do anything different?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just saying...

Not that it will work but you can't really expect me to stay away from a Bamse ki jai post:

Whatever you do, Bamse's done it before. Quietly, in his own way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bongism: Doctor's chambers

So Bill is in India. His Dad's at the hospital - nothing major, one of those in-and-out surgeries.

"When is he coming home?"

"I think Thursday"

"Didn't you talk to doctor?"

"Yeah, right now its planned for Thursday"

"That might not happen?"

"Well, we have to go to the doctor's chambers on Wednesday and confirm"

"Is this doctor also a judge?"


"Then why does he have chambers?"

"You uncivilised creature"

"Maybe you can educate uncivilised creatures?"

"Its his clinic"

"Then why don't you call it in a clinic? Or his office"

"Office is where you work at your desk"

"Doctors don't have desks?"

"Judges have desks too. But they are still chambers"

"There is a reason why its lawyers's chambers"

"I know but in Bengal, doctors have a similar arragement"

"Nonsense. Is this your family? Being lawyers and all?"

"No, this is Calcutta. We call it chambers. We are civilised"


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Matrimonial Ad Writing - Part 1

Before we get to the post, one unrelated, irrelevant factoid: Does anyone else think these Bongs are so cute when they get riled up and sound angry? They are usually all calm and nice and funny and saying nonsensical things that it is so nice to see them angry (in their quiet little way) and making a forceful point. One of these is enough to make my day, but in the past 24 hours I have seen it twice. And one of it from the usually-resident Bong himself. Too cool, I say.

Okay, back to post. Mean streak over. Next, we shall talk about matrimonial ads, especially the kind that have been entertaining SB and moi (special thanks to BM) over the past week. Some people BM and I know are going through the whole matrimonial process, so between us we have a decent sample of these ads. The question we shall attempt to answer today is this: how exactly does one come up with such comic ads? The answer is that one doesn't. Many do.

Here is how we think this works:

(Friends' ads not used as we aren't that mean. I mean, seriously)

1. The family version

Consider the following 'Bridegrooms Wanted' ad: (mangled version from last week's Hindu if you are interested)

Sow. Ifdontgetmarried Iyer, D/O I.A.V.Alwaysdone WhatIshould Iyer, Iyer, Vadama, 18-09-1981, 08:46 am, Thanjavur. Simha, Bharani, Kausika, height 168 cms, fair, good looking, completing PhD Dec 2008, USA seeking fair, US settled Brahmin groom, age below 30 yrs. Email id -

(1: Before someone calls us casteist, wait, this is just first of a series. And you have to agree that especially on the Bridegrooms Wanted side, there is so much more variety with Tam Brams if you are looking Stateside. And we get gothram, nakshthram and raasi as opposed to just the latter two. So please excuse - we will come to non-Bram Tams in our Brides Wanted edition

2: For those of you who do not know gothram from raasi: in this case, gothram = Kausika, nakshthram = Bharani and raasi = Simha (I think))

There is no question as to who put up this ad. It most definitely wasn't the girl in question. In any of our households, if a similar ad were to make an appearance in the Hindu or in one of the umpteen caste magazines (whose only point as far as I know is to have matrimonial ads) and our heroine were to find out about this, it would be cause a minor earthquake. I thank all my stars if I happen to be at home at this point - the shouting match is totally entertaining. But basically what comes out of it is this - heroine's parents ask her for an ad that she is comfortable with so that they wouldn't have to endure any more shouting matches.

2. Our heroine's version

Our heroine is troubled. Ya, she didn't like the parents ka ad and all but she has to think of something now? How is she supposed to do that? She has enough trouble writing her resume as it is. She attempts a few lines but they all sound quite bad - not exactly what she wants. Then she gets idea. Her officemate! He writes well, why did she not think of this before? So she feeds him beer and pizza, takes him to a few concerts, and finally cons him to write it for her. Officemate is convinced that this arranged marriage business is never going to work out so he might as well have some fun and write some of the corniest lines he has ever written. And anyway, she likes Love Story.

The result is something like this:

What can you say about a 27-year old girl?

That she's brilliant and creative. That she likes travelling long distances or talking for hours across them. That she loves Hafiz and Rilke and Tarantino. In strictly alphabetical order. That she loves XXX because it's not cold and it's not damp.

What can you say about a girl who's that interesting, that alive? What can you say to her?

(No, I did not write this, just happened to find this in my Inbox from about 2 years ago. If anyone wants to admit writing this or if anyone else wants to admit that it was written for them, go ahead. Since I am not mean, I ain't saying anything about that. Since I am also this nice person, I will also say that the subject did not find out about this joke until it was all over)

3. The negotiation

Parents see this and like all sane parents, freak out.

"Are you suggesting we put this in the Hindu?"

"Well, this isn't exactly Hindu material, is it?"

"You can say that again. And who the hell is Tarantino?"

"He makes movies"

"What's wrong with Satyajit Ray? Or Adoor?"


"Then why do you need Tarantino?"

Amma chirps in.

"Ask her what she is going to do with the guy she is marrying? Make movies?"

"Maybe I will"

"Right. This is what happens if your send your daughter to the States"

"You keep quiet. What has alphabetical order got to do with anything?"

"Its cool"


"Its from a book"

"What book? I thought you wrote this yourself"

"Well, its about me. But its also a book"

"I don't understand. What book is this?"

"Love Story"

"Okay, we are not considering your ad. We are going with our version"

"But Appa, who do I need Brahmin boy? And who mentions gothram nowadays?"

"If we don't mention gothram and not ask for Brahmin boy, nobody would reply. They'd think something is wrong with the family and that's why we are going out of caste"

"What is Sow?"

"Sowbhagyavathi like Chiranjeevi" (I shall point out here that we non-Bram heartland Tams would never use these Sanskrit words in our ads. That and other such subtle distinctions in later editions)

"You mean you don't want me to be immortal?"

"No, but that's what we use for the girl"

"I don't like it. I want Chiranjeevi"

"Don't be silly. We can't do that"

"Then no ad"

"Okay, we will put Miss instead"

"Ms you mean"

"Whatever you say"

"I am not fair"

"You are"

"Compared to whom?"

"Okay, I will change that to wheatish"

"Wheatish? What is that?"

"You don't get wheat in the States?"

"Appa, I am not a wheat grain"

"You have the same complexion. It is alright"

"I don't want random men to apply. They should like arts"

"I figured as much when I saw the movie chap. We will include it in our ad"

"What will you include?"

"Should have an interest in arts"

"And he should be intellectual"

"So I should say in the ad my daughter wants to marry an intellectual? You are being totally unreasonable"

"And I don't want to marry any of the narrow minded chaps that you bring"

"That we know. We will say broad minded"

"Okay. Why should he be below 30?"

"You want to marry an old man?"

"What if he is 31?"

"30 is a nice round number. We like 30"

"I don't. Because knowing my luck, the man of my dreams will see this ad but he will be 30.5 and therefore he won't be able to apply"

"30.5 is alright"

"Then say that"

"We will increase to 32"

"That's better"

I could go on and on with this conversation but you get the drift.

4. The final version

i.e. the version that provides us wholesome entertainment. (Especially if you know the subject in question because then you can spend a good half hour dissecting this and figuring out which specific items the subject and parents haggled over. Try it. Its fun.)

Ms Ifdontgetmarried Iyer, D/O I.A.V.Alwaysdone WhatIshould Iyer, Iyer, Vadama, 18-09-1984, 08:46 am, Thanjavur. Kausika, height 170 cms, wheatish but good looking, completing PhD Dec 2008, USA seeking fair, broad-minded US settled Brahmin groom from a good family with deep interest in arts and literature, age below 32 yrs. Email id -

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Banker Love

Not a typical post. But what to do? A break from 15 hour days, Bill's off in India (yeah, can you believe it? He apparently needs a vacation. From what I don't know), and I am feeling mean. So regular readers, give this a skip. Not worth your time.

I have always found righteous indignation in the blogosphere to be very entertaining. It might be what someone said on Rediff or TOI. Could be someone on the street or the train. What some old aunt thinks of say, women working. Or it might be about a bombing. Or someone bleeding to death. The point is it doesn't matter what it is - we of the blogosphere sincerely believe that if we write a proper indignant post about it, we have done our bit to save the world and everything must be alright with the world from then on[1]. Needless to say, none of us are immune to this though I'd like to believe that some of us have standards. Like I don't go around looking for a cause to be indignant about. Mostly because I have a real job and a real life that takes up too much of my time but I guess that's a different discussion.

Yeah, yeah, I am coming to it. So there's a new cause now - i-bankers. What, I hear you cry? Bankers need the blogosphere to fight their cause now? Ofcourse not. They know the nature of the game better than anyone else - as of now, they don't need anything other than taxpayer money[2] but hey, that is no reason why we bloggers shouldn't make a cause out of their misery. Look at the poor bankers and look how people are so filled with joy that they are losing their jobs! Bankers are people too, you know. First of all, i-bankers are poor? And second, we are doing what?[3] Then you try to explain that while none of us are jumping up and down with joy because we are after all only human, but hey, bankers aren't exactly the saints you are making them out to be - with a few exceptions, they are, well, I don't want to list them so we shall say A, A, A, B, S which (especially) when combined doesn't exactly cry out for the world's love and sympathy. And that it is understandable that people aren't exactly sorry to see a culture that (seems to) reward arrogance, agression, apathy and other such desirable traits go - no, wait, that means you are evil. And you are gloating over janitors losing their jobs. And you don't realise that the whole economy is going down and you are next. What? What are we talking about here? Well, welcome to the blogosphere.

So anyway. The point is I have decided to give in. We will not talk about undesirable i-banker stereotypes anymore. Instead, we will give the bankers our love. We will talk about their stereotypical good traits. Except that I can't remember any. Do you? Please to help. I need to be reformed.

[1] Please note that this affliction is very different from the one commonly known as a Falstaffian rant. A Falstaffian rant involves said blogger being bored and feeling like roasting someone alive. That I actually understand.

[2] Yes, there is a "Where your taxes go" post in there somewhere but again, that's a different post.

[3] I do realise that there are a couple of posts in the blogosphere in very bad taste (thanks Lekhni for the specific links) but to generalise it and say that the world is sitting around rubbing its hands in glee as it watches an i-banker leave the building with his boxes is something only we bloggers are capable of

PS: For the one banker and the two banker spouses who are reading this (you know who you are), you should also know that this is not about you.

PPS: A request. If consulting goes down (which it will) and I am at the verge of losing my job, please blogosphere, please do not write posts on why I need the world's sympathy. I don't. I know exactly what I am doing, I signed up for it and I could do without your indignation. Thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quick Notes: A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Another 15-hour work day week starts soon, so let me get this over with. Short on time, so quick notes. I liked the book. Better than the other two I have read so far - I didn't care much for the Rushdie and I don't even want to compare the Grant.

Story (Spoiler Alert)

The question is simple: Who killed General Zia?

We all know the usual suspects:

CIA (yeah, I know. But if they didn't kill one of their own, wouldn't we suspect them?)
RAW (Yeah right)
Benazir Bhutto
One of the surviving generals

To this list, Hanif adds a few more:

1. A snake (via Under Officer Ali Shigri's sword)
2. The curse of a blind woman sentenced to death for being gangraped (via a mango-eating crow)
3. A General who died with General Zia (via a lavender air freshner)
4. All of the above

The correct answer as you have guessed by now is obviously 4. All conspiracy theories can't be true? Says who? Go read the book.


When I started reading the book, for some vague reason, I was reminded of Oscar Wao. But there is no similiarity between this book and Diaz's except for the presence of a dictator. Plus Hanif is not half as talented as Diaz in matters of prose and well, he isn't a geek either. Then for a while I thought wait, this is Heller territory, here is Yossarian but hang on, isn't this Forsyth? By the time I was halfway through the book, I gave up on such comparisons. It was all very pointless. This is just this chap Hanif. And all that mattered was that once the momentum picked up, the book was so entertaining that I just had to finish it.

What the book is not

So I picked this book up because a few reviews said it was all magic realism and absurdist humor. Marquez, Rushdie, and Kafka were all mentioned. Nonsense. There is no magic realism in this book. It has a lot of humor but nothing absurd. Nobody, and I mean nobody who has lived in the subcontinent for a few years would think anything in this book is absurd. It is all too real. (Except for a dollar-burning honest Colonel, a revenge-obsessed public school-educated young Under Officer, and a saintly blind woman all of whom are straight from a Bollywood script)

Good stuff


A Fourth of July Kabul-Texas theme party at the American Consulate where a chap named OBL is told to keep up the good work. General Zia's wife standing last in a long line of widows to fight with husband. Comrade Secretary General of the Sweepers Union who prefers mullahs to the Maoists.

Bad stuff

Humor. Hanif decides that every line in the book has to ooze humor and thus prove how clever he is. The result is that a good many lines fall flat.

Obaid is a nice enough chap. Tries to save lover's life and gets tortured and all. Quotes Rilke. Refuses to get off plane when lover asks him to because he has to finish the book he is reading - Chronicles of a Death Foretold. As I said, nice chap. But does he have to read Richard Bach? Really?


Not exactly big-award material. Could do with some character development (I have a feeling Falsie is going to call a few characters wooden!). Thoroughly entertaining. Is as real and insightful as you want it to be (especially given current events). Writer shows lot of promise. Shall definitely read his next book.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Booker shortlist, Bill's defense, Onasadya, Films to watch, New Project (No Pics)

Lots of stuff to post, so I shall follow Luddo's trailblazing footsteps. Btw, if you haven't read the post, please do. Especially the one on orphaned railway wagons. I remember once seeing one of these NEFR thingies in Shoranur circa 1989. Don pointed it out to me and I felt so sorry for it that I started crying. Since then, every time we pass by Shoranur, I look for it. It was there for years but disappeared in 2004. Some kind engine must have found it and taken it home. If I ever meet that engine, I shall thank it properly. Anyway.

1. Booker shortlist

Feanor got it right - Booker nonsense is what it is. Then again, the longlist does usually turn up a couple of gems which is the only point of the Booker though I am still yet to find them this year. Not giving up though, another month to go. Oh yeah, reviews until now here.

2. Bill's defense

Cat: Apparently it was a real defense. I have never heard Bill call anything "nerve-wracking". That must count for something, no?

The news is that its over. Doctor Bill will now shop over the weekend (is there any other reason to cross the Atlantic anymore?) and be back early next week.

3. Onasadya

Since Amma is here, I got a mini onam feast with avial and payasam. Apparently, the real thing is on the menu next weekend when the Doctor Marumagan is back.

Also called all Mallu junta back home for Onam. Apparently, no one makes feast at home anymore - all these restaurants offer 26-course Onasadya which people go to. Don says that this is causing the usual suspects to bemoan the loss of culture and healthy home-cooked food and what not. I was nodding in agreeance (the thought of not being able to go any home and have a proper home-cooked feast is more then a little disconcerting) until Don reminded me what this Onasadya process really meant in most Mallu homes:

7 bottles of Johnnie Walker, 1 Chivas (6 from Gelf, 2 from military canteen) for men of the house
3 days of non-stop cooking and cleaning activity for women of the house

Obviously things don't get as out of hand as it does for X'mas as 1) the number of Gelfies and propotionally the number of alco bottles coming back to homeland goes up and 2) meat and fish consumption goes up exponentially BUT Onam is second only to X'mas as far as alcohol consumption goes. Then he reminded me that Malluland still has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country. Which by itself is not a bad thing but consider what most women are doing when this alcohol fest is going on.

Anyway. Related post on cooking on UV here.

4. Padam time

October is around the corner which means two film festivals - London and Chicago. I am in Chicago for one weekend and it will eat into my annual shopping time so not sure whether I will get to watch anything there but there's always London. Full programme here.

My personal movie advisor doesn't think this is a particularly exciting year, but suggests these films:

Achilles and the Tortoise

Synechdoche New York

Rang Rasiya


Last Thakur

Still Walking

Mahadev Ki Sajjanpur

and naturally, Vicky Cristina Barcelona


The Good, The Bad and the Weird

My plan this year is really to see the archives / restored films which the advisor thinks is an excellent idea.

5. New Project

Space Bar came up with such an awesome name that it makes no sense to keep it secret. It is called The Blank Blood Bank Project. But sorry, can't tell you anything about the project mostly because its not a real project - its a name in search of a project.

For those of you who know what I am talking about, Omerta.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Can someone please explain...

what this article is doing under the Politics section? Or in any other section for that matter? Yes, this is the Times. No hope after all.

In local news, Bill's gone off to defend. More on that once fifteen hour work days go out of vogue. Tata.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Double Life of Bill




"I will be late"

"Ok. Missed train?"

"No. Have visitor"

"I thought that was last week when you had all those French kids"

"Not them. They have gone back. This week we have some other visitor"

"Who is this now?"

"Can't tell you"


"Its classified"

"Classified! Dude, is this MI5?"

"No. Can't tell you. I gotta go"


This morning. Bill is up and about tinkering with Shonku.

"When did you come back last night?"

"Past midnight. Caught last train"

"Oh ok"

"I think I woke up amma when I came in"

"Did you?"

"Well, yeah, I didn't have the key na. So she had to open the door types"

"Oh yeah"

"Don't think she is happy with me"

"She is not?"



"Maybe because I was late?"


"If you say so. Dude."


"What is wrong with your Space Bar?"

"What did she do?"

"Who reads TOI?"

"Obv she does. She even reads comments"

"I know. I didn't realise that people read such stuff"

"Well, they do. And then they get worked up about comments on TOI. Next, she will start reading rediff comments and start posting about them"

"Randomness. Hey, I have to rush"

"Isn't it a little early?"

"No, I have to go early today. Meet someone"

Amma shouts.

"Veena, ask Bill if he wants breakfast"

"He is up. You ask him"

"See, she is not talking to me"

"What are you both talking about? Amma! What is going on?"

Amma switches to Tam.

"Nothing ma"

"Why are you not talking to Bill?"

"Who said I am not talking to Bill?"

"Ok. no problemo then"

"Did you see him last night?"

"No amma, I was asleep when he got in"

"I opened the door for him. He stumbled"


"Yes. I am concerned"

"About what?"

"He was drunk"

"Yeah, he probably went to the pub last night. He said he had to take some visitor out"

"No ma, not like that"


"Do you remember N uncle?"

"Yeah. That alcoholic chap. What about him?"

"He was like this only. He would get drunk and come back home very late"

"Of course"

"No ma. I am telling you it wasn't like he had a couple of drinks. I know alcoholics when I see them"

"Yeah right. Which is why you insisted on getting him married to your daughter"

"But Bill wasn't alcoholic then!"

"And he is now? I suppose that's my fault then"

"I don't know. I am just saying. You also drink so much that no one knows what's going on here"

"What are you saying?"

"You know what happened to N uncle's wife and kids?"

"Amma, you have too much time on your hands"

"Well, just don't tell me I didn't tell you later"

Back in the bedroom.

"She thinks you are some drunkard"

"I know"

"She thinks I am alcoholic too"

"That's not new"

"Very funny. Where did you go last night?"

"To some pub. There was this visitor"

"The mysterious visitor who you had to take to pub"


"What did he want?"

"Just to talk"

"About what?"

"The work we do"

"Was he interested?"


"Will he give you a job?"

"He seemed interested"

"That's not what I asked. Will he give you a job?"

"I don't know. We are thinking funding"

"So he might fund?"


"What about job?"


"Where will that be?"

"Maryland. Oh wait"

"I see. What is No Such Agency doing in Cambridge?"

"How do I know?"

"Has someone told them its not their country?"

"I don't think they consider any part of the world as not belonging to their country"

"And you are going to work for them?"

"When did I say that?"

"I knew it. I knew this is what you would do"

"Do what?"

"Go work for the fucking NSA"

"Dude, we had a visitor. That doesn't mean anything"

"Yeah right. Wait, all these years you have been really working for them, haven't you?"

"While being an alcoholic, yes"

"You have had this double life all this while and I never knew! How stupid of me"

"Yes, Bill's double life. How Bill got drunk and started working for the NSA! I can almost see the post"

"Sure you can"