Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Blouse Piece Transactions

Whats a Blouse Piece ?

In India, a blouse is a cloth thats worn inside a saree. It is supposed to cover the chest and some part of the shoulders and arms ( apparently the only way fashion designers can introduce any sort of fashion in this thing called saree is by setting arbitrarily varying lengths for the blouse in the arm region).

A blouse piece is a raw piece of cloth that is unstitched. Women take this piece of cloth and stich it to their respective sizes.

Whats the deal with the Blouse piece?

Now in India we have something called "Ladies Sentiments" ( All plural even if it just refers to 1 lady and 1 sentiment). When women in India visit houses of other women, a blouse piece is given as a gift to the guest before she leaves. I have no idea why of all things it was decided that a blouse piece would be gifted to visiting guests. Lets say, there is a lady who is a complete stranger to the whole "Ladies Sentiments" thing and she visits someone's house in south India. How would she feel when the host gifts her and she opens the gift and find that its a blouse piece. What would she think? "Why this gift? Is there something wrong with the blouse I am wearing? Was it so bad that the host shuddered on looking my blouse and decided to jump out of the window buy a blouse piece and come and gift it to me?. Is the host being judgemental on me?"

What happens to these blouse pieces after they are gifted?

Now many caterpillars become butterflies, many boys become men. But the mutation of the blouse piece into an actual blouse is not that straightforward. The probability of a blouse piece becoming a blouse is 0.2. Thats right!! 2 out of every 10 blousepieces make it to the blouse level.

Think about Euros, Dollars, Rupees, Yen. Think about the CNBC advertisements where they show currency getting fastly printed and counted, people exchanging money rapidly in world business centers. You may not have heard of a currency called the blouse piece. This is the curency of south India. Statistics reveal that every minute of the day, 10 blouse pieces change hands. Women all over the world are travelling and exchanging blouse pieces rapidly.

When a blouse piece is receved as a gift, a lady decides what she has to do with it? If its of a color and material that she lacks at that moment, she will convert the blouse piece to an actual blouse (provided there are no further hitches in going and stitching it with a tailor). But this conversion is very rare considering that fact that she has around 500 blouse pieces stocked in her cup board. This is the reason why the blouse piece remains a blouse piece for a long time. The life cycle of many blouse pieces are codemned. They stagnate as gift items for over 5 to 6 years until they are gifted to poor people or domestic maids. There again their chances of continuing as gifts are still bright.

This very moment thousands and thousands of blouse pieces are gifted and regifted. When time comes to a standstill and the yellow sun becomes a red dwarf star ( I think there is no supernova in this solar system and I debated for 5 seconds on whether our sun will becomes red dwarf or white dwarf), when all human beings have become extinct like dinosaurs and a new species begins to inhabit the earth. They will find thousands and thousands of unstitched blouse pieces lying around in the southern parts of the Indian subcontinent. Imagine what would they make of it. If we judged dinosours based on fossils we found, what sort of judgement would they pass on human beings? Even worse, what if the fossils of dinosarous we are looking at is in reality some sort of dino blouse pieces and we completely understood dinosarous wrongly?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

India Inc.

My Uncle from Pune is in town. Some of the points are credited to him.

  • Amithabh Bachan, Sachin Tendulkar seem to be advertising for something on TV all the time. They endorse everything from diapers to rectum pain releivers. Talks are on for these 2 to endorse sanitary napkins.
  • Tendulkar should use the razor he endorses on Amithabh. Bachan in-turn should use the fevicol he endorses on Tendulkar's arm (and his mouth).
  • I never thought I'd say this. Aishwarya Rai is another irritating face on TV. Now I find her repulsive and ugly. It is ridiculous that Bollywood sends her (or anybody else for that matter) to Cannes every year. Unless the French ordered for a court jester or a Devadas(also called Proxivon in France, sedative in English and poison in Afrikaans).
  • Komanam is the ideal dress for Indian summers. Sarees and Veshti/dhotis are punishments.
  • I will torture and kill the person who invented the Saree/Veshti. It should be regarded as a crime against humanity.
  • Everybody in India seem to know more about the Iraqi situation than GW Bush. They also seem to have some opinions on GW Bush's intellect. Even the most pea brain idiot, I meet on the road seems to think he knows more about Bush than Bush himself.
  • It is interesting to know that a person who did BE computer Science in some arbitrary college and now writes some program in a 'saaftwear' company seems to think that a President of some other country is less intelligent than him. The most important person he has met in his life is his school principal or his Technical Manager. His greatest acheivement in life is to buy a 958 Sq Ft house in BTM layout. And he thinks Bush is stupid. He spends 3 nervous days preparing to talk to his boss about a salary raise. 5 minutes before he talks to his boss, he develops cold feet, goes in and blabbers shit. He thinks Bush is stupid. If you ask, he will give no reason as to why he thinks so - maybe he associates C/Java/XML programming with intelligence.
  • Some of the CIA folks, Pentagon advisors are surprised that Indians know more about top-secret government meetings despite the former being present in those meetings and the latter having no clue where the meeting took place.
  • The last 3 weeks and the above 3 points have convinced me beyond doubt that GW Bush is extremely intelligent and is 100% right about Iraq.
  • Most Indians will give 2 opinions on just about any topic in the world. There is an army of 700 million people who are waiting to give advise to Prime Minister Manmohan singh on what to do with Reservations, Kashmir, LTTE, Iraq, and Sensex.
  • Manmohan Singh is afraid that if he goes out, people from Rashtrapathi Bhavan to Saravana Bhavan will advise him.
  • 650 Million of those 700 million have an expert surgical opinion on Tendulkar's arm.
  • Amir Khan's latest Coke Advt is the worst advt I have ever seen. It is painfully and nauseatingly irritating. I can't believe this reasonably good actor can degrade himself to such an extent for a commercial.
  • West Indian umpires were far more biased than Indian umpires before the days of neutral umpires. Especially their 3rd umpires. Michael holding is the most biased commentator on the planet. I have a problem with him being so obvious about it. He is good but biased. And it is not a trivial matter to overtake NS Sidhu in terms of being the most obviously biased commentator.
  • Komanam again: This is the most effecient dress I have seen so far. It covers exactly (and precisely) what it should cover and nothing more. It is operationally effecient, cool and the person wearing it can pretend that it is actually a dress even though it attracts (and scares) onlookers .

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Visa Interview Advise - II

Note: This advise is relevant to F1 visa applicants. Please review my disclaimer on top right hand side of the page.
Contrary to popular public opinion I think
(a) There is some logic to the decision making process
(b) Asking advise on visa interviews is futile. Giving one is even more futile. At best it is a data point from which the most obvious information will be useful. The rest are specific to the case.
I will do my 0.o2$ based on (a) and (b) above.
Since I consider MS and MBA visa situations to be different (because of the money involved) I will treat the two separately.
Generic information
Filling up of DS156 forms: There is a separate section which asks "purpose of trip" Write down clearly 3-4 bullet points as to exactly what your future plans are. Anchor a stake and clearly articulate why you want to do an MS and what you plan to do after that. It should be in complete sentences and not in phrases/fragments. Dont write one word like "education" in that box and try and keep things open/vague. Commit to an answer in the DS156 (see #1 below). I felt it helped me. They specifically ask you to be as detailed as possible in the DS 156. Warning: Don't over-do it and write an essay
General Questions: Usually it is better to have answers for (a) Why USA (b) Why this school (c) Plans after degree (d) How will you repay the fees etc. These are all questions that can be thrown any time.

Manners: It is sensible not to lean on the counter, put your elbows on the counter and talk. It is basic common sense.
M.S Visa
  1. I feel the decision is made based on vital statistics on your file and is made even before the consular person begins talking to you. In case he decides to reject you, his questions are for the purpose of adding supporting data to your file - so that the next officer can get the context when you re-apply. In the event that he has decided to issue the visa he questions you in the random hope of finding something odd in ur answers to warrant a review (see #5, #6).
  2. GRE score seems to be vital in the decision making process
  3. Academic scores, arrears were also extremely vital. I listened in on atleast 50-60 interviews last year. They ranged from comical to heart breaking. Almost every MS visa applicant was asked if he had any arrears(FAIL grade in undergrad subjects). The question is merely academic because the officer has seen the transcripts before asking the question.
  4. Funding in the form of TA/RA virtually gurantees a visa. Unless you screw up on the next point.
  5. I saw a person getting dinged because he did not answer "why this college/ Why MS? " very well. I saw this question being asked to almost everybody. The answer should be fairly easy provided you spend 3-4 hours on the university's webpage and develop a story that is consistent with your background. However if you are a student like #6
  6. There was complete silence in the waiting area when one particular student was interviewed. He was from Andhra and seemed to have prepared well. A little over-prepared for his own good. When the officer started asking him questions, he stepped back a few steps and shouted the answers in military style. He was extremely loud and it looked like he was barking orders from a paper. His mugged-up answers were really funny. A giggle or two arose but it died when the consular officer said "I am sorry I cant issue you a visa sir".
  7. Finances: This is the least important part of the interview. But it does come into picture now and then. While parent's employment/salary was almost always asked, I did not see a single request for a bank statement.
  8. Having said #7, you have to do the leg work and beat your financial statements to shape. It is like "barriers to entry". You have to do it regardless of perceived importance.

MBA Visa

  1. I feel the decision is made based on vital statistics on your file and is made even before the consular person begins talking to you. In case he decides to reject you, his questions are for the purpose of adding supporting data to your file - so that the next officer can get the context when you re-apply. In the event that he has decided to issue the visa he questions you in the random hope of finding something odd in ur answers to warrant a review.
  2. Brand name of the college you go to is extremely important. From discussions with my class/batch, the consulate folks clearly knew what the top 10 colleges were. You are guranteed a visa if you go to a top 10 school. You are in fact guranteed a 'special' appointment if you are late in booking appointments. Outside the top-10 - colleges with reputed name are usually a shoo-in.
  3. GMAT scores, work experience, other US visas in your passport are helpful. Though not as deal-breaking as #2.
  4. The fee is abnormally high. There s no way a sane person will have so much in a current account. Most colleges put their guranteed loan as source of funding in the I20. Do not worry about explaining away the loan. Its is rarely asked.
  5. If you arent going to a reputed college and do not have funding then it is better to have answers for all sorts of questions. Here GMAT etc becomes important.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Visa Interview Advise Blog

I'll morph into Visu and do an Advise Arangam on Visa Interviews.

My visa interviews have always been dramatic affairs, where the visa officers insisted on giving me the visa despite my best efforts to persuade them to do the opposite. Take this MBA visa for example. It was my first husband-and-wife interview. We had a cousin tagging along for his M.S visa. So we start at 10:30 for a 10:45 interview. Got stuck in Doraisamy Road traffic and reached the consulate 5-10 minutes late. No problem! if you tell them your time slot they will expedite you and send you in quickly. May, June, July in India is so baking hot that the effects of morning bath, deodarant and Ponds talcum powder is nullified in the 5 minutes on Mount road where we are required to show our passport and appointment letter. You can see the unity-in-diversity mera-bharath-mahan kind of scenes where people from Bangalore complain about heat and people from Andhra start requesting for winter coats :-). A year before we had to do a gig where there is one line to pay the courier visa and another line which ended up with our documents arranged. Both these lines were in non-airconditioned scenarios. You are literally begging for mercy by the time the documents are arranged and visa fee is paid. I guess somebody in the consulate learned about this 'little' thing called Little's Law and so this year they have made the operations effecient by making you pay the courier fee (and visa fee) early and submit the documents 5 days before.

The scene inside the building is eerie. About 600-700 tense faces. All the glass windows to your right are the interview windows. While the initial windows to your right are B2 kind of visas, the F1/H1 visas are in the far end. We were made to sit in the waiting area and they were calling out token numbers in bathes of 10. Every time a particular interview window became free 10 new people would be called. There are 7-8 windows doing F visa interviews. You can hear all the interview Q & A clearly from the waiting area. When my batch was called, my wife & I were #9 in that batch of 10. The first two people getting rejected wasn't alarming, I could tell before the decision was announced that they would get dinged. But I was distracted by all 8 in front of me getting dinged. And when my turn came there was a slight scanning problem with my wife's photograph. So the officer asked me to stand aside and called #10 dinged him and sent him on his way :-). When we were called again, my mind was positively screwed. I morphed from a confident hawkeye to a bumbling Betram Wooster. After the finger printing got over, the interview went like this;

Officer: When did you get married?
Me: (forget date Stammer...)
Officer: (a funny look on the face)
Me: (Say Wrong date # 1 )
Officer: ????
Me: (stutter...Blabber Wrong date #2)
Officer/Wife: ??????????
Me: (say the right date)
Officer: Can I see your Wedding Registration.
Me: Give wife a desparate look, who in-turn fishes it out like a robot. She is upset that I forgot the date.
Officer: How was the marriage held?
Me: It was a regular...arranged marriage n' stuff (begin to blabber some more non-sensical things)
Wife: I think he is asking how the marriage was *conducted*. (I could sense irritation in her tone. I wonder why?)
Me: Oh!.... in a marriage hall.
Officer: (Amused by now) - Can I see the wedding pictures.
Me: (Hand them over).
Officer: (talks to my wife)(talks to my wife) (jokes) (talks to my wife)
Officer: (to me) So you want to be an Entrepreneur?
Me: (how the hell did he read my essays). .Yes! (I wrote it in my DS-156)
Officer: (cancels all my previous visas. He is not returning my passport. good sign). I appreciate you coming with your wife. We don't like people coming separately. Please tell your friends to ask their spouses to accompany them. The chances of us approving are difficult otherwise.
Me: (shamed and embarassed) Thank you!

Will continue with the actual advise tomorrow.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Equal Rights for Gays in Tamizh Movies

As per 106th amendment of the constitution - in 50% (or should I say 69%) of the scenes showing sexual harassment in suburban trains/buses - the dialog should from here onwards should have men say the following

"vekkama illa. Unnai petha appa'vum oru ambalai thaane da. Ne ellam anna thambi oda porakkalai"

- Co-created this 6 years ago along with my Ohio State roomies

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Queasy Similie

Lock a man in an air-tight chamber. Its a glass chamber and you can see him from outside. You can control the oxygen supply from outside. Instead of oxygen you suddenly send in fart. You send in the most offensive gases into the chamber. Like the smell of dried old eggs kept in an old shoe for 20 years. You see the man struggle, hold his breath and later give up (because after a while he is holding the offensive odor inside). He pushes against the door of the chamber, pleading to be let out. You wait for 3 more minutes, watch him press against the door in a pleading way, and then suddenly open the door.

He runs out of the gas chamber like vehicles in india would shoot of their mark once the signal turns from red to green.

P.S: Gas-Chamber Man says: "Ban the similie. I find the comparison offensive".

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Old People

Since nobody else will say it for me in this blog, I'll say it myself. I am an old-people specialist. Everytime I visit Madras, I make sure I visit all the old people in my family and spend time with them. I don't just fall on their feet, make the money and move away but I truly talk to them and try to get to know them

Last year, I made a home video and interviewed old people on their marriage choices, life's biggest regrets, romance, relationships etc. It was truly revealing experience. True! the contents of the interview, surprised me. However, what was more refreshing was their eagerness and lack of shyness to sit in front of the camera and talk. I am pretty sure this was their first interview experience. I would have been a trifle self-concious if somebody interviewed me. They showed no such signs and the 25 or so people, I interviewed just blasted away with great gusto. What I wanted to essentially get out was "did they have a choice" in whatever they did?

My great grand mother's (95+) first recollection of my great grand father was that he wore a ear ring. She saw him once and then later saw him years later during her marriage. Her biggest regret was that she never had a choice on the sarees she wore. She hadn't handled cash which was worth more than 25 paisa. While her husband was present, she was given a saree and her job was to just wear it, later her son/daughter-in-law replaced her husband. She hadn't ventured out of her house for many many years. Once I took her out in my car, brought her to my house and took her to the terrace. She was completely surprised. She had no clue W.Mambalam had concretized so much. 3 hours after we had come down, she still said in a surprised tone, "I can't believe this is many buildings". I wasn't sure what surprised her, the concretization or her lack of awareness.

It is interesting to note that "respect to elders" was the primary concern when a young girl or boy was deciding on their marriage choices. I am not claiming any sort of intellectual superiority over them because they had misplaced priorities. Born in their shoes all the sneering smart asses of today's age would have done the same thing. Among those I interviewed, I just met one couple who clearly defied their parents to marry each other. The others did not even have a notion that such a thing was possible. What I really was curious to know was - had their expectations in the romance department been satisfied to any extent. Did they have privacy? I asked if they held the hands of their husbands or at least said "I love you". While one lady (85+) claimed that her only concern was that her husband should not be too fair-skinned because that would give her a complex, an other lady took pride that her family had the most fair-skinned people in India. Admist the apparent lack of choices or introspection of their own needs, it was evident that each of them had their own personality, anger, complexes and aggression. Women especially found a way of exhibiting their personality inspite of the obvious muffling that was going on.

It was my belief before doing the interviews that old people and small children said a lot of 'sensible' things but the "educated" middle generation perceived them to be immature or out-of-touch with reality. It was true. While the old generation made the mistake of hanging on to every word of their parents, most of today's grandma's and grandpa's stand ignored, or at best, loved like 3-year old children and patronized. They claimed that nobody ever tried to have a real conversation with them or listened to their opinions seriously. I had questions that tried to bring out this facet. One very old aunt summed it up aptly by saying "the younger generation has confused knowledge of science, high school and college education with the ability to understand and pass judgements on anything under the sun. If you are an engineer all you know is engineering, dont assume that engineering education gives you the knowledge to differentiate raagams, calm crying babies, tie a veshti, interpret upanishads and traditional customs." It would be interesting to know if today's younger generation will grow old and find out that they were 'wrong' and that the old people were 'right'. There is possiblity that they will try to advise their children against commiting the same mistake and in-turn their children will dismiss them because they are old and out-of-touch.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My Hero

Rarely do people make me green with envy. But here is a person whose life makes me extremely jealous. Not just me, I am sure pretty much every man who walks around will gladly exchange spaces with this person. If you loved S.Ve.Sekhar's Sigamani character, because he never did work and took pride in living off his dad's money then imagine a real-life person who will make Sigamani take a back seat to him.
I have known a person since childhood - for 25 years. As a child, every time I asked my dad - "where does he work?" - I have gotten "hush" noises and been muffled. Later I learned that he had never worked in his life. His dad was not extremely rich but earned just enough for 1 more generation to sustain themselves. This person finished college, was arranged a bride by his parents and thats it. He has been sitting on his portigo for 25 years (Thinnai arrattai) and has been discussing cricket, politics and every other miscellanious issue on the planet. The great thing about him is - he has no guilt. He has a serious face and gives me an impression that he is really pressed for time. Imagine a life full of no-work. The only thing better than it is guilt free no-work - not many people would get such a wonderful life. Never at any point has he got an urge to get up and go to work. He has his mom and wife to give him coffee, tiffin etc.
I saw him a week before and he was seriously and angrily giving his opinions on the reservation issue to a passerby (and his auto driver). In the long timeline, I have seen him talk about Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Stalin, Vazhapadi Ramamurthy, Sonia Gandhi etc.
I have requested him to give me a lecture on 'how to do it' . The dilemma is that if I have to pay him to do work, he has failed as a teacher, if I don't pay he has failed even badly. Which is why this art is more of a birth-given-gift and not learned from another person.

Monday, May 15, 2006

How is this for a menu?

An advertisement hoarding in front of a Gas Station on the highway enroute to Kumbakonam says:

Ice Cream
While many travelers were upset that the menu list had more variety than what was ideally preferred, I was concerned about possible dependencies in the list.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

S.Radhkrishnan, Ramanuja, God

Your parent's house is the only place where your old book collection remains intact and cherished. They have it on the shelf, on display, regardless of their perception of the value of the book. My 7th Semester Bio-Medical Instrumentation text book, Bhagavad Gita and Letters to the Penthouse Vol-II have been carefully arranged next to each other.
Reading S. Radhakrishnan's book on Srimad Bhagavad Gita after a long time is like reading Kerningham & Ritchie's C after a while - you spot new things. I began to view his introductory essay differently. His 65-page introductory essay seems to be culled from some of his other works and attempts to summarize the various vedic commentators' definition of God. Some years before, it appealed to me as an essay that quickly encapsulates some of the basics. Before beginning, what is decidedly an advaitic commentary on the Gita, Radhakrishnan, in the introductory essay, allows some room to acknowledge the work done by Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva. Radhakrishnan's summary of their work is as good as what a 3-para description can get. Although any attempt at a concise description of their commentaries would lead to inaccuracies and incomplete information, it is hard to ignore his command of the English language, his choice of words, the flow of sentences, and the conciseness he brings. This is how he condenses and presents Ramanuja's epic work on reconciling the difficult passages of the Brahma-Sutra that led to a description of the Brahman/The absolute, and the definition if vishishta-advaitha. (I typed the following into blogger from the book.)
The teachers of the vedantha are oblidged to justify their special doctorines by an appeal to these three authorities ( Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra) and so wrote commentaries on them expounding how the texts teach their special points of view. The Upanishads contain many different suggestions about the nature of the absolute and Its relation to the world. The Brahma Sutra is so terse and obscure that it has been used to yeild a variety of interpretations. The Gita gives a more consistent view and the task of the commentators, who wish to interpret the texts to their own ends, becomes more difficult.
After setting this context, he picks commentators who seem to have achieved this difficult task. After spending 3 paras on Sankara, he says;

Ramanuja (eleventh century A.D), in his commentary, refutes the doctorine of the unreality of the world and the path of renunciation of action. He follows the interpretation given by Yamunacharya in Githarthasngraha. Brahman, the highest reality, is Spirit, but not without attributes. He has self-conciousness with the knowledge of Himself and a concious will to create the world and bestow salvation on his creatures. He is the sum of all ideal predicates, infinite and eternal, before and above all worlds, without any second. The Vedic gods are his servants created by Him and appointed in their places to perform their ordained duties. The world is no deception or illusion but is genuine and real. The world and God are one as body and soul are one. They are a whole but at the same time unchangably different. Before creation, the world is in a potential form, undeveloped into the existing and diversified manifestations. In creation, it is developed into name and form (namarupa). By representing the world as the body of God, it is suggested that the world is not made from something alien, a second principle but is produced by the Supereme out of His own nature. God is both the instrumental and the material cause of the world. The analogy of soul and body is used to indicate the absolute dependence of the world on God even as the body is absolutely dependent on the soul. The world is not only the body of God but his remainder, isvarasyasesa, and this phrase suggests the complete dependence and contingency of the world.

All conciousness presupposes a subject and an object which is different from conciousness which is regarded by Ramanuja as a dependent substance (dharmabutadravya) capable of streaming out. The ego (jiva) is not unreal and is not extinguished in the state of liberation. The Upanishad passage, tat tvam asi, "thou art thou," means that "God is myself" even as my soul is the self of my body. God is the supporting, controlling principle of the soul, even as the soul is the supporting principle of the body. God and soul are one, not because the two are identical but because God indwells and penetrates the soul. He is the inner guide, antaryamin, who dwells deep within the soul and as such is the principle of its life. Immanence, however, is not identity. In time as well as in eternity, the creature remains distinct from the Creator.

Ramanuja develops in his commentary on the Gita a type of personal mysticism. In the secret places of the human soul, God dwells but He is unrecognized by it so long as the soul does not acquire the redeeming knowledge. We acquire this knowledge by serving God with our whole heart and soul. Perfect trust is possible only for those who are elected by divine grace. Ramanuja admits that the paths of knowledge, devotion and action are all mentioned in the Gita, but he holds that its main emphasis is on devotion. The wrectchedness of sin, the deep longing for the Divine, the intense feeling of trust and faith in God's all-conquering love, the experience of being divinely elected are stressed by him.

He ends his treatise on Ramanuja, briefly with what Ramanuja would consider as the book's biggest understatement.

The Supreme is Vishnu, for Ramanuja. He is the only true god who will not share His divine honors with others. Liberation is service of and fellowship with God in Vaikutha or heaven.

Friday, May 12, 2006

And The Vidiya Moonji Moodhevi Award goes to

Deivayani... (for being the ugliest and the most despicable actress to appear on TV/silver screen)

I am also searching for that female dubbing artist who gives her "voice" to Kushboo, Simran and almost all the mega serial heroines.... I'll send a black mamba up her throat.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The TV Wars

Note: My election 2006 TV idiot countdown is at the end.

Voters in TN just cannot complain about lack of information about political parties. The 2 main parties, each with its own TV channel, communicated every possible bit of (mis)information to the voters in the last 3 months. Somebody should do a world-wide research on this. Probably, never in the history of democratic society have elections been fought like this - on TV. Tamil Nadu has about a dozen TV channels catering to its state viewers. I am not even sure if Hindi, with a 4X more viewership than Tamil, has 12 channels.

6 channels campaigned for DMK and about 2-3 for ADMK. It is a foregone conclusion that National parties have limited relevance/scope in Tamil Nadu but TV increases the barriers to entry of those parties. Yes! having a TV channel is not just helpful but it has become indispensable barrier to entry if you want to contest elections in Tamil Nadu. If DMK distributes its free TV for every family then the way elections will be fought in the future in TN will be totally different from anywhere else in India (world). All the road campaigning, campaign tours, meetings etc will become meaningless. You have the TV to do it with special effects. In the future the impact of TV (with customized programmes for local people) could be much much higher than an election rally. The value chain of becoming a political party includes TV Channel -> TVs in voter base -> Cable TV provider -> Political Party.
There could be a future where TV channels would be created for entertaintment purposes and once every 5 years they could lend their channel to some political party for campaigning purposes. The incentive for showing good programming and increasing viewer base would be for the purposes of charging high rental fee every 5 years. The party which rents the most popular channel will have more chances of winning. This would clearly eliminate independents and fringe parties from contesting (its already minimal). Is this what is called "new game strategies" :-).

Coming back to Jaya Vs Sun. These 2 channels have been fairly ruthless for the last decade. The mantra clealry is "don't say anything that could be even remotely construed as a compliment/good news for the opposition party". Even a plain fact like election results fall under this rule. In 1996 when Jayalalitha lost, Jaya TV stopped its election coverage in 5 minutes and started showing MGR films. In 2001 when DMK lost Sun TV stopped their election coverage within seconds. They did not even show a small news item announcing change of power. Now, for the first time, the elections were closely contested (as closely as it is possible in TN) and each channel took the aggresive route by showing huge numbers for the respective political parties. In what was very funny Jaya TV quickly scaled up ADMK seats to 90+ and refused to give DMK more than 30. Sun TV on the other hand was hovering at 160+ in no time and kept ADMK at 62. Even after it became evident that ADMK was going to lose, Jaya TV was unwilling to let go of its 'virtual' TV lead.
It was a riot to watch Ravi Bernard swallow, and lie more. Poor guy - he looked really constipated. Jokes aside - this shows the extent of rivalry that exists. Maybe the purpose was to give rural DMK people a scare, who knows - but it was funny while it lasted. Maybe in the future the losing party, if it had a huge TV network, would pretend that they won the elections. The election commision cannot walk up to each door and tell people who the real winner is (even if they did, who would believe them?). The opposition party could rule the state for 5 years and the people needn't even be informed. All you need is for a dominant TV network to tell people that you won (which is very easy given the fact that you own the TV channel).

You laugh now. But it could be true in 5 years.

Okay now for the idiots in TV (Excuse the spellings).

1) Barkha Dutt: I swear in all my years of TV watching I have never seen a bigger idiot than her. You can search the entire world, sample every person who has ever lived and you will find that she is more stupid than some of the dead bodies you exhumed. Watching her and Pranob Roy in the same studio was like watching 'pal payasam' and 'vomit' together. I will fight to death anybody who puts anybody ahead of her in the idiot countdown. And there was this bearded freak called Srinivasan who was NDTV's Tamil Nadu correspondent. Man! his talk with ADMK MP - what a condescending interview?

2) Rajdeep Sardesai:: Needless to say, he is an insult to news covering community across the world. Let the other guy talk and make his point you moron! Dont push your own freakin' agenda.

3) Karan Thapar: He was nowhere to be seen, but I'll include him for the sake of his historical acheivements.

4) Ravi Bernard:: He should have quit the dumb i'll quote-election-seats-like-bargaining-for-cows-in-kanyakumari. It was a horrible sight to watch a decent host/interviewer stoop to such a low level and make an ass of himself.

5) Pranob Roy: For employing Barkha Dutt.
They should watch the kid in Headlines Today (formerly from Sun News) and learn how it is done.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Vote

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this - The results of the recent election have not been released. I may contradict myself many times during this post. I saw it and decided to let it be.

Most people will empathize with sons, daughters getting yelled at by their parents for poor show in report cards, poor choice of girl friend, dress etc. In the history of parent-child yelling I will be the only one to get scolding because I voted for the "wrong" people. My dad has been at it for the past 2 days calling me names and complaining to everybody at sight that I voted for a bunch of school kids call "loga patron". Yes! I was among the 27 people in Madras who went against all 'logic', 'rationale' and 'commonsense' and voted for Lok Paritran. No this is not an advise blog on "changing the world" by voting for Lok Paritran. I really dont care whom my readers vote for and I wouldn't be offended if they chose not to excercise their franchise.

My cousin's entire class decided to vote for Lok Paritran in order to help them get back their deposit. Nobody, including me, have any illusions about, Lok Paritran's chances in the elections. I especially detest this "ex-IIT students" tag that get attached to them. Most candidates aren't even ex-IIT. With a name like Santhanam Vasudev, I won't be surprised if people thought he was from North India and refused to vote for him. Have you ever heard of a TN MLA candidate with a surname ? Where is this world coming to? :-)

This is the first time I got to vote since I turned 18. Until now, the election commission simply refused to give me franchise. I, like 97% of the voters in India, had no logic behind my vote. Initially, I had my own superficial and ill-informed reasons to vote for Jayalalitha. Mainly because she is one of the most articulate and ruthless Chief Ministers, I have seen in India. Like it or not - she caught Veerappan and nobody else did that. I loved the fact that she fired lazy government employees, who refused to work and put in a performance evaluation system for State Government employees. If somebody asked W. Bengal state employees to work, there would be riots in Calcutta. But in the last minute, I arbitrarily changed my vote to Lok Paritran. There was no rationale but let me try and retro-justify it. 2% of the decision rationale was based on the fact that the Lok Paritran campaigned with dignity. The candidate stood in front of schools, temples and other public places and basically said "please vote! while you are voting please make your decision count and vote for the people you like" . I liked this dignity. Ofcourse its idiotic and suicidal but in a romantic sort of way its okay. 98% of the decision was based on things like (a) I would not be eligible for most of the color TVs and computers and (b) found it hard to waste my first vote on one of the usuals.

However, overall - Lok Paritran did a very poor campaigning job. In fact they were pathetic in this aspect. The watchman/domestic maids/autos/old people, whom I spoke to did not even have a faint idea as to what I was talking about. Many, including my dad thought I had gone mad and was imagining non-existent parties. Most 'independent' candidates were more popular than Lok P.

I never paid attention to politics. Mainly because I thought people who discussed politics were extremely boring people. I still think so. But 2 weeks of hearing every possible political opinion has driven me mad. I am sure all these half-baked political-armchair-analysts are completely wrong and no one knows what they are talking about. However, for a person who has no real passion or interest in any party winning, it is amusing to see that voting rationale is still purely based on caste. Not that I disapprove. I am pretty sure some caste-based-voting rationale exists for every caste/community/religion in India. This what I found out from 3 sample communities to whom I unfortunately pretended that I was listening.

1) Thevars, the predominant caste in TN, vote for ADMK. Reason: Lot of 'help' given to thevar caste by Jayalalitha govt.

2)Muslims and christians: Vote for DMK. External Alleged Reason(from my watchman, a senior political analyst): Karunanidhi's atheist philosphy applies to only Hindu Gods. He only says Murugan does not exist. He does not say Allah and Jesus does not exist. This works for these 2 communities, who are still peeved by J's anti-conversion law. Internal Reason: J seems to have developed pro-Hindu image, which she can't shed anymore.

3)Upper Castes/Brahmins: This community's vote is largely irrelevant and does not influence any voting trends. But for academic sake: Voting for DMK is against the very fibre of their being. Karunanidhi should not come. The choices boil down to Captain/ADMK/BJP. Even though BJP is a logical choice and under normal circumstances people will vote blindly for BJP, 'north indian' parties have no meaning in TN. So now logic is - prevent DMK from coming to power by voting for the lesser of the 2 evils - Jayalalitha.

Ofcourse, The Hindu newspaper's exit poll completely contradicts my theories. For my part, I decided that I can't set field for bad balls and can't vote negatively. I went in saw the buzzer opposite to the 'axe' symbol, pressed it, saw the red light beep and walked away.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Facts I learned about Kerala during my trip to Guruvayur. (Since I spoof TN extensively, and this being a season of 'change', I request my keralite friends to take this in the spirit intended - I have a similar one on Maharashtra - but that doesnt fit in this context so let me save it for some other time)
  • State Law XVII in sub-article 47.2 under chapter "Behavior in public places" mandates all men in the state of Kerala to grow a moustache.
  • The last time people shaved in Kerala was on June 6th, 1973. That day they had a valedictory ceremony for the razor, shaved off a 19-year old kid for the last time and then burnt the razor. Nobody, who has a Kerala domicile, has shaved ever since that day.
  • On July 12th 2003, Mariam a school teacher near Thrissur delivered 2 chldren, who were born with a moustache and a stubble. The gene research department in University of Ottawa, Canada believes that this could be indicative of the future baby-birth trend in Kerala.
  • Today, nobody in Kerala knows what the razor is? Kids read about this mythical instrument in school books, as weapons used by rakshasas and asuras. Some stranger from 'Naarth' India went to a shop in Kerala and asked for a razor. The shop keeper quickly alerted the police, who arrived immediately and apprehended this man for questioning. After further inquiry it was found that the person intended to commit beard-shaving. He was admitted to a mental hospital and later fined Rs 750.
  • Beards have led to an identity crisis in Kerala. 90% of the people look like Jesudas. The remaining 10%, who are without a beard, look like Jesudas without a beard. We had to go to the Guruvayur temple and search for someone. I told my fellow travellers that the person whom we had to meet would look exactly like Jesudas. When we went there we found 70,000 Jesudas look-alike's waiting for us.
  • Malayalam is a sexy language. Seriously, the two languages I find really sexy are Telugu and Malayalam. Anything you tell me in Malayalam and I'll go "wow! so romantic". Its not as bland as Hindi or Tamil and its really got a tune or rhythm to it. Its like French to the English speaking world - you listen to someone say "taailet poi kazhuvi vanthu" and you go " wow! how sexy".
  • On the negative side, they dont make food in Kerala. Unless you consider Kerala food to be food. Given the aversion I have for boiled rice(each grain is as big as a sea shell), I think not.
  • On the subject of food, the Keralites are still upset that water is being served without cocunut. There is a odd murmer or two that if Andhra can put garlic in every possible food item and serve water with garlic, they should also be able to put cocunut in water. They have put some sukku inside water but they want the cocunut in water, so that it is consistent with every other food item in Kerala.
  • The state flag of Kerala should be a moustache, a beard, and a veshti (dhoti) below the beard. On the right side of the flag should be a cocunut and a cream-white saree. The flag should be sandal in color.
  • The state flag of Tamil Nadu should be similar to the state flag of Kerala, minus the beard, cocunut, saree and sandalwood color - and - plus - a striped underwear underneath the dhoti. The dhoti must be carefully folded upwards to reveal the underwear.
  • The people from the two states constantly crib about which of the two states is the best. Finally it boils down to a war between the beard and the underwear. So it boils down to the question of - which state's men make their women happy - the beard or the underwear?
  • Coimbatore Tamil, like Malayalam, is really sexy. Anything people from Nellai or Kovai say, I find it - sort of zingy.
  • Our guide tried talking to me in malayalam. After the initial excitement of hearing malayalam spoken to me calmed, I claimed ignorance of malayalam. The guide nodded in an understanding sort of way and courteously repeated himself slowly and clearly in Malayalam. He was surprised that I still did not understand him. He thinks I am little low on I.Q.
  • Since this topic was in my local cache, I quickly spotted this. This is the only place other than TN where the letters 'zh' make sense. You can comfortably use the 'zha' word and feel smug. For example Tamizhans in Kerala have the strange superman like power to say kozhikode instead of 'kosihkode'. This butchering of the english script by using 'zh' letters to convey some arbitrary sound is much similar to the use of 'th' by those crazy hindi-speaking folks, who pronounce 'this' 'that' 'thus' 'cloth' 'froth' normally but convey a 'ta-ha' sound when they say paratha (paratah), which makes no sense to the non-hindi speaking world. And I thought Sanjose = Sanhose was crazy.

The trip

My yearly trips to Guruvayur not only gives me a chance to visit Coimbatore (and if time permits a quick trip to Ooty) but also experience the drive from Coimbatore to Guruvayur. I sort of know Kerala is like God's own country etc. But this particular strech is extremely scenic. I also got to drive a Lancer for the first time. Although, like most cars this car has negligible pick-up when the A/C is ON, the overall experience was good. I am not a car guy so I may not be knowing what I am talking about - so excuse me if Lancer has a reputation of having defects.

Anyway back to the drive. I am impressed with the amount of vegetation in this route. It is almost like driving in the forest. On the way, just before Palakkad, there is a restaurant called Aryas, where we stopped for breakfast last year and found it to be good (a rarity for me in Kerala). This time we searched for it and went to Aryas again. Bad is the word. Every single item on the menu was bad.

Another thing to watch out for on this strech is Nenthram-kai chips (Banana-variant chips) Nenthran-kai chips, the reason why I hold Kerala with utmost respect, is made before your eyes and sold on the spot in the NH-47 highway that takes us from CBE to Guruvayur. This time I also bought Nenthram-pazham chips, the second reason why I respect Kerala, in Kerala itself, instead of the Kerala Bakery in Usman road/Thyagaraya Gramani street intersection. Nenthram-pazham chips is a damn good invention. In the long-run It could beat its twin nenthram-kai as the best chips ever. Ofcourse Beetroot chips, which is another start-up 'chip' company (the irony of using the real chips within quotes and the Si chip without quotes really bugs me) could give it good competition.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My Dad

He has this habit of arranging and cleaning everything that is in his line of vision. 1.7 nano seconds after I landed, he folded all my clothes put them in a wardrobe, he had earmarked for me (which he 'earmarked' 0.78 nanoseconds after I booked my ticket). He kept the suitcase on the shelf above and told me thrice that he had done all the above. He took me and showed the suitcase perched atop the shelf. There is this chronic clean-at-sight disease that he has got and a near paranoid aversion to things lying on the floor.
Once my 70 year old aunt was talking to my other 76 year old aunt. Both were sitting on the floor. Given the way old people move like dinousaurs - slow and almost immobile - my dad in his cleaning spree folded them and arranged them in the book shelf. 2 hours later my mom found two old ladies in the book shelf with confused look on their faces. (Ofcourse! I jest)
He takes pride in folding back 'The Hindu' newspaper exactly the way it was dropped in the morning with supplements in the right order. I remember he shouted "yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii" when some guests had come home for lunch. After the commotion cleared, we found out that one of the guests had sat on the couch with his leg touching the couch. For example last week, a bunch of people had come to visit us. There was this kid who was given tiffin and so the kids hands became oily after that. That was enough for my dad to fix his eyes on the kid like a tractor beam. Wherever the kid went, he would go and intercept the kid's hands seconds before it touches the couch or the wall. He did not focus on talking to the guests at all.
I guess when you have reached a certain age, you begin to follow Seinfeld's driveway backup theory. People think "I am old, I have produced children. If I can create other human beings, I can do anything". And he does things which I wouldn't have the guts to do in my age (but! OMG have I wanted to do those things?) Take these anecdotes for example;
His aversion to people making munching noises when they eat is almost hilarious. Needless to mention people spilling food around the plate. We have a horrible time managing guests who make noise, while they eat. Once in a restaurant we had a next-table-guy spilling food and making munching noises. He made me sit opposite to him and yelled the choiciest expletives at me for spilling food and making noises. I do spill food outside my plate, but in that instance there was no plate in front of me. I wasn't even eating. Next time you see him yelling at me for making munching noises - its not me, its you.
Immediately after my marriage, my wife had a 7-volume book presented by my father on the idiosyncrasies of the house and the rationale behind arranging things they way they were arranged. She attended several workshops which elucidated why I was a moron, why I wasn't getting my father's way of arranging things and how she should go about baptizing me. Speaking of religion, it is funny how he enjoys ripping apart different religion. I have seen several semi-atheists in my life but he takes the cake. From semi-bearded road-spitting aiyyappa bhaktas to road-blocking temples to noisy-on-sunday-morning jesus christ CSI churches to Allah - everbody irritates him. Whats eye-popping is that he is vocal about his thoughts about them. He makes sure they know what he thinks of people, who pause a moment to pray to a middle-of-the-road-temple-deity. Scary sometimes.
A call center guy called him regarding his credit card. Apparently, the fellow put on a fake accent and began talking in amrikkan ishtyle. This irritated my dad, who quickly claimed that he was a villager and that he could not understand anything this guy spoke. So my dad asked that fellow to talk regular English or switch to Tamizh. The guy apparently insisted on using his stylized English. Soon, my dad began to yell at that guy and claimed that he did not understand whatever was being spoken and that the stuff coming out of the call-center-guy's mouth was not English at all. Two minutes later my dad began to parse every sentence that came out from the other end and began to correct the call-center fellow's English. Apparently the call-center dude wasn't up to scratch with his English. After every correction my dad reminded him that his English was bad and that he was better off talking in Tamil. Finally the guy broke down and switched to Tamizh. This really got me thinking - what if the call center guy really called a villager who did not know English. Is this whole 'modernization' thing only relevant to the educated?
My dad also calls up people and yells at them over the phone. Once he called up somebody and their 5 year-old kid picked up. Now I really hate parents allowing children to pick up the phone. Its almost useless to let them do it and in case of emergencies it can be really dangerous. Overall I know it is an irritating experience whereby yuou call up and some idiot kid picks up the phone, and you have to repeat everything 5 times and still be not sure if the kid was doodling or listening to you. But I wouldn't say that to those parents - reason: courtesy. But I guess dads are different creatures, he just let go at the kid and when the kid handed over the phone to her mom, he let go at the mom too. I was thinking -"I always wanted to do that - I always wanted to take a hammer and ram it into the idiot parents heads and make them say - phone is not a toy it should not be used by children".
Take this I-always-wanted-to-do-it-but-he-did-it kind of a situation, for instance. A person came to meet my dad and the person was a slow-talker. Unlike Seinfeld's slow-talker, this person took 2 hours to say 4 words. My dad was extremely busy that day and he had to leave to a meeting that he simply could not miss. The person would start with "theeee" and almost never complete it. He was like the Tree Ent from LOTR. The Vajpayee-like people who took a long time to say things and who said things for a long time. In what almost took me down from the couch and got me rolling on the floor, my dad, it seems, told the guy "you please write whatever you want to say and give it to me this evening" and walked away.
I always wanted to do that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thoughts on the 'fly'

I am writing this sitting in Lufthansa with about less than 2 hours to hit Meenambakkam. This trip that began 16-17 hours ago was, as usual, a fun trip. I was packing until the last minute and beyond. I redifined 11th hour so much that the airport-shuttle-ride lady appaled at my total lack of respect for her time almost yelled (no in fact she really did yell) at my friends. When you rush to the vehicle, throw in your stuff and sit there sweating and looking out the window on the way to the airport - there is whole background program that runs - right? You are running through a checklist of things you should have done and desparately search for stuff you forgot. I discovered that I forgot things which would probably make my wife not talk to me for like a week. I am DOA.
I am not sure if this is common, I have my own idiosyncrasies when I travel. Its a same standard bag that holds my passport, tickets, cash, batteries, discman etc. The same cabin baggage that I bought from Witco during the ice age, with the same set of things that go in it. Its like the comfortable space I get when I keep these things in their usual place.
This whole flight, I stress tested this new Sony Noise reduction headphones. It does really eliminate noise. Not the noise that comes when loud music is played outside or when people talk - but it completely eliminates the white noise caused by the flight hum. A very useful thing in flights. There is a world of difference between having them and not having them. A friend of mine put in a big sales pitch for this and since the missus wasn't there to stop me, I bought the Sony. She must be thanking me, I could have gone for the Bose one. Anyways, as I once again ignored the horrible airline food and turn to my cereal bars a curious thought struck me. Its kinda 'out there' and wierd, so humor me.
Flight travel is a package set of fun and nuisance in its own way. I find one thing very interesting. When you leave from Madras via the 1:15 AM flight, You board on the same Lufthansa flight that dropped off a bunch of passengers in Madras at 11:45 PM. When you are leaving Madras - your last view of Madras is when you walk in to the airport at around 11:45PM, you do a bunch of check-in/immigration related things and finally fly-out at 1:15AM. When you fly in to Madras, you land at 11:45PM and do a bunch of check-out/baggage/immigration related things and see Madras back again at 1:15AM. I find the the whole thing kind of nice. Well-rounded. See, Madras does not change when you leave it. Its like - time freezes in India when you leave and you just unfreeze it during your next trip and pick up where you left off. Its something like - you went into the airport at 11:45PM did all the check-in and at the time of boarding the flight you change your mind, decide not to fly and come out. In this case nothing outside the airport changes significantly - in those 2 hours - from the moment you went in and the moment you came out. I am saying the second case is no different. Coming out this way at 1:15 is no different from coming out a year later at 1:15. Except people who are receiving you outside are slightly more bald. You go back in the same call taxi, it is the same watchman, same "parru kuzhambu/beans poriyal" waiting for you. Its a whole "sliding door" thing. Nothing changes.
They have changed the gate in Frankfurt from where LH 709 usually leaves to Madras. They have changed the terminal itself. Its now a crappy old terminal where the restrooms are horrible. I walked into one and took a look at the wash basin. There was stuff there which I think would continue to spoil my apettite for like a year. I still shudder when I think of it.
Walking to the gate that takes you to the Madras flight is interesting. Some of the things that I have been seeing for N years hasn't stopped. If you are having doubts on whether you have come to the right gate or not don't worry. There are a list of things that lets you know immediately that you are standing in the right gate. No! its not the thick dark moustaches that tell me these people are going to Madras - its the safari suits. Seriously, isn't this like a 80's Indian civil services style thing. Why are Tamilians still roaming around with this crazy dress? Its like I show up at the gate and am going on my little checklist (a) thick dark moustache - check (b) Old ....very old people - check (c) kids with specs (not one or two..all kids have specs) - check (d) old ladies wearing salwar kameez with "power" white running shoes - check (e) Safari Suit - check. Just for fantasy sake - I'd like to hire an army of barbers and shave off the moustache bearers of Tamil Nadu when they sleep at night - starting with my dad. Nobody will show up for work the next day. I am sure walking around without a moustache is like walking around nude in this part of the world. My dad really thinks this is true. Its hair-growth on your face. Why attach attributes like, courage, bravery, style to bunch of hair underneath your nose? Grow up!
And almost everybody in the gate has this mean, nasty look about them as they survey all the other desis in a condescending way. Its like "let me see the sample set of indians going to the US and find out if they are as good as I am". The Green Card/Citizen folks must be thinking "anybody can come to the US nowadays"- the F-1 folks look at the "H1-B parties" - who are invariably wearing full-arm brown shirt tucked into black jeans pant and won on top of shining white reebok shoes(ofcourse they have a thick moustache) - and must be thinking "who let these people in" - the H1-B parties are thinking "kid with t-shirt shorts, cultural depravity - why is he putting on a scene".

Invariably the small children (with specs) are running around and making unbearable noise. You keep hearing (in thick indian accent) "rohan you will fall down. dont go there" and the kid - who could easily pass off as someone who plays around by running along a spare typre by rolling it in the road with a stick on teynampet roads (remember these kids?? huh!), replies (in amayrikkan accent) "no! mommy! i like this mommy". Usually its not a pronuncable name like Rohan, it is a complicated name that has a meaning, 2 stories and rhymes with Dhrishtadyumnan and the likes - and is usually taken from some unseen corner of the Vishnu Sahsranamam. At this point I am seriously thinking - "lady get up and give him a slap, he is annoying". However, she goes "pattu thangam. No chellam. please dont do it" (honey buns etc). The kid obviously ignores her. All the other passangers are annoyed. Whats more everybody would do the same thing if they were the kid's mom. Its funny that things look so annoying when somebody else does it and so natural when you yourself do it.
Oh! and there are always 2 people - strangers - who manage to strike up a conversation on the topic of "returning to India". The lady wears a dress that doesn't fit her (its two sizes bigger), its a full-arm t-shirt with stripes in arbitrary directions. I think there is a special store in US which sells this to working Indian moms. She asks (watch the sudden use of her husbands name when she hasn't even told who the hell that person is) "Madhu and I are also thinking of moving back. we are only worried about kids you know. I heard India is improving nowadays. What do you think?" and that person goes " I got citizenship and moved back to India 2 years before. I am happy. I mean,I had to adjust but it worked out". The lady goes "but didnt the kids find it i dont mean horrible in that way but didnt they find it hard to adust".... : btw this is a real conversation, I heard today. Now what do I think when I hear such conversation? The lady obviously is not going to base her decision on this conversation, she isn't going to get his email address and start asking him detailed questions later (try giving her your email address, she will get freaked out), she isnt counting and the moment she sees 74 thumbs-up for return-to-india, she isn't going to pack her bags and leave. Its all this ego massaging, friendly sparring that goes on. Its "oh! I have many options and India is one among them..ooh! I am so big that I can talk about moving to India in a condescending way". Not that I am patriotic, because I am not. It is just the whole fake conversation thing that puts me off. If I were the guy, I would just reply "dont move. India is a bitch. Its a horrible 3rd world country". The look on her face should be priceless.
Then comes the announcement, which asks all passengers to leave the gate and come back showing their boarding cards. I swear this has been happening for the past 8 years. They let all of us in the gate area and 30 minutes before boarding kick us out and let us in one-by-one with a boarding card check. There is a mad rush to get on the line outside the gate. Invariably Lufthansa would make you check-in your hand baggage also. The key to avoiding the so-called crappy jet-lag is to not sleep during the entire flight. I know it goes against conventional wisdom. But it is true. I always fall asleep in the Euro-Ind sector. Thats the reason why I screw up. You have just slept for 9 hours, you land, you go home and you can't sleep. My return journey is usually not a problem because I sleep on the first flight from Madras to Frankfurt and then it is atleast 12-15 hours of no sleep, so I can sleep at night. They key is to not sleep.
Ofcourse, in another 50 minutes I am waiting for that landing in Meenambakkam. It really pushes some adrenalin into my body. I dont know why? Its like the feeling I get when I cross Arakonam and I see each sub-urban station like Avadi, Perambur cross by. Its the high, I get when I cross the Basin Bridge station and see the 2 railway tracks mutating into thousands of tracks. The slow approach the train takes in to central station and you start seeing people waiting on the platform is a near orgasmic experience. It is like the bus ride into Madras in the 80's. Where you have croossed Vandalur etc and you are waiting in Tambaram traffic knowing Saidepet bustand is somewhere round the corner and you ask your mom "madras vanthacha!?"(has madras come?) every 2 seconds (I know - like that annoying kid above minus the accent). The excitement of this landing never dies. They have announced "Chennai Maanagaratchi Ungalai Varaverkirathu". So I'll stop writing and prepare for the descent.
P.S: I read in some blog about the smell of urine that greets you just before the immigration counter. Yes it is true. Its so conspicuous that they should change that. However, there are some positives. For example, the immigration counter is now a larger area and the throughput was much faster this time. They did not throw the luggages in two baggage carousels, which really helps.
P.S2: Back to the age old sacred ritual of morning filter coffee, reading The Hindu and listening to old people on their thoughts about who will win the election.
P.S3: The first thing i did was to go to my favorite barber shop for some oil-head massage.

Price of That landing in Meenambakkam


Madras is my Opium.