Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mumbai - Epsilon City

I am in Mumbai on vacation now. It's a frenetic city that deals, above all else, in two commodities: space and time. Small fans with high RPM. Flat screen TVs. Door delivery for just about everything.

It's fascinating how alive the city and its people are. They look annoyed half the time, they crib about the infrastructure and the traffic and the astronomical rent and everything else. And yet, they taske such an inordinate pride in showing around and telling you the things you simply must do while you're there. Even those who have just moved to the city a few weeks ago. Kulfi at Kulfi Centre in Chowpatty. Channa Batura at Cream Centre. Sizzlers at Kobe's. The myraid shops selling antique furniture, spyglasses and Bollywood LPs in Bohri Mohalla.

A number of these things have to do with food, as you might have noticed. This may have something to do with the fact that most of the recent recommendations have come from a confirmed foodie. But, as someone who does applied statistics for a living, I've never let data get in the way of my results. So my theory is that this is simply a variant of the same concept that drives space-saving multipurpose furniture. People have to have time to eat, no matter how busy they are, so making a Mumbai tour a mostly gastronomic one allows them to comment one the one thing they have the time to developsome expertise in.

On the face of things, a pista kulfi sounds like a trivial thing. Like the error term in the large, precise mathematical model that goes by the name of life in mumbai. But I guess the important thing is, the error term is what makes the rest of it work. Blank it out, and all you have is a long work week and a paycheck that can barely go the distance.

I don't know what my life will be like if I move to Mumbai someday. I'm not even sure I want to know. But this much I know: if I do live here, my salvation will depend on two things. One, the ability to find my own little error term. Two, the will to drive across the city in the middle of the night to go get it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

...difference between Diarrhoea and Death

The other day, we were talking about this dish I made called DBM. If you're from Bangalore, you'd know that this mud-pie-like-thing called Death By Chocolate (fashionably called DBC by the yuppy-puppies). It's a craze, and it's sin to know Corner House and not DBC.

Anyway, I used to cook this very similarly named dish called Diarrhoea by Maggi (Maggi that was spicy as hell, and unlike the DBC, this one usually lived up to its promise), and people never liked this idea as much as they did DBC. So much so that they'd give up eating half-way if they knew what the dish was called. I didn't understand it.

Diarrhoea and Death are both usual, and they happen to everyone, at unpredictable moments. Both are not good things to happen, and cause for sympathy and humour (sorry - did I cross some line there?), but for some reason, there is no grandeur attached to Diarrhoea, like it is to death. Maybe it is not mysterious. Maybe post-Diarrhoea-people are just more common than the near-death-experience people. But Diarrhoea is dirty - Death is not - any kind of death, even if caused by Diarrhoea, is not. Funny isn't it? Do you think it'll work if I made it even spicier and called it Death-by-Diarrhoea-by-Maggi?

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Twoscore and six years ago today, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon. Here's to a man who wrote and sang some pretty good stuff over the years.

How much of your life can you lose watching KANK?

I think one could argue that the amount of time lost watching a bad movie depends on one's expectation from the movie. If I'm looking for three hours of Madhuri Dixit interspersed with random music, HAHK would seem like three hours well-spent. Although with KANK, unless we're having a serious discussion on S&M lifestyles, I don't see any way of justifying it.

I have some politically incorrect questions to ask as well on the topic of activities that can be accused of reducing our life expectancy. But since there exists a possibility, however remote, that family audiences might read this blog, I shall not ask them here. Ratul, I am sure you would've asked yourself these questions already. I'd be very disappointed if you haven't.

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I love Paris Hilton

In the fall of 2004, Hilton released a book, Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose co-written by Merle Ginsberg, which has full color photographs of her and gives her tips on the do's and don'ts of living as an heiress. Hilton was reportedly given $100,000 in advanced payment for this book. Some in the media panned the writing as amateurish, and the book was parodied by Robert Mundell on The Late Show with David Letterman. Nonetheless, the book became a New York Times bestseller. Hilton followed it up with a designer-diary, also with Ginsberg—Your Heiress Diary: Confess It All To Me. Aimed at her young fans, it contained pages encouraging fans to write about their goals, their friends and family, boys, celebrities they admire, etc. Hilton plans to release another book in 2007.
-- From the Wikipedia entry on Paris Hilton

Wait a minute. Paris Hilton has fans?

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Benefits of Smoking (contd. 2)

I think if you light a cigarette and travel close to the speed of light, you'd still lose the same amount of life - your cigarette will burn faster and you'll smoke less.

Critics will, I know, turn the smoking argument back towards me and at some point ask me how much of my life am I losing by writing on this blog!

You see, if you're wasting time that is anyways wasted, then you subtract the intersection, to answer the other question posed in the post below. So if you are saving some minutes (3 or 5 minutes / 10 years) by not smoking, you better have something better to do in that time (than reading this blog, for instance). Same logic extends to KANK - would you hate the movie if the alternate was Ladies Tailor or Dil ka Doctor? ... or that Chitrahaar of a movie, HAHK?

...more later

Benefits of smoking (contd.)

I've heard a variant of the smoking-reduces-your-life argument - a chain smoker apparently loses ten years of his life overall. It probably derives from the same kind of calculation, but is probably more effective since the bulk figure looks imposing.

Anyway, if we're discussing the amount of time wasted by smoking a cigarette, then does the reasoning disappear if we do something else while smoking? Like driving, maybe? If I smoke while watching a movie, do the wasted minutes add up, or do we subtract the intersection time?

And while we're on the topic of time wasted watching a movie, shouldn't there be some method of allotting more wasted time to three hours spent watching KANK than three hours spent watching, say, Magnolia?

Another question: if I get into a spaceship and travel at close to the speed of light while smoking, and then get off after it, do I lose less of my life?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Benefits of Smoking

There are a bunch of them - excuses I have used to not give it up (I'm still planning to, of-course - I'll give up casual smoking on December 15th - which will be a soft-launch of a possible new-year-resolution(oh yes, casual smoking is what you do without a reason, when you haven't met old friends, when you're not drinking, when you're just driven by boredom to smoke).

The syntax here will be an outline of one of the big reasons to give up smoking and then a reason why that might not work. Alternatively, it'll be one of the big excuses smokers use and an explanation why the excuse might hold more water and might, well, be a reason.

Big Reason #1: Smoking Reduces Your Life (1 cigarette = 3/5 minutes)

Heard this one before? I'm sure you have. I once asked one of my friends where he got it from, and he didn't know for sure. Then I asked him where he got the magic figure of 3/5 minutes from - and he didn't know. He permitted me an explanation for the magic figure and I explained - you see, you reduce 3/5 minutes of your life when you smoke a cigarette because you take 3/5 minutes to smoke one. By the same logic, a coffee reduces 5-7 minutes, and a movie more than 3 hours effectively. Now you decide which evil is lesser. Each meeting reduces my life by 2-3 hours.

Big Excuse #1: Smoking helps me relax

Heard this one before? Ok, this one is not untrue. I was once accused of using this excuse and I asked the guy to describe the 'process' of smoking. He says you hold the cigarette to your mouth, take a deep breath, hold it in and release it slowly - and then I asked him what the word for that was. "Yogic Breathing" or "Pranayam" my Dear Watson! That is how it works - simple.

Guess this one's going to take time so I'll continue this later. For now, this will have to do for all you brave smokers with interfering colleagues / friends / wives. Just don't let them ask you why you smoke. What do you find attractive about sticking that cigarette in your mouth... that's a tricky one, most of us don't know. I'm sure Freud will have something to say there ;-)

Most Overrated Indian Celeb

Will the real Indian Paris Hilton stand up?

Ramsu and I got into this debate the other day - on who should it be. He said Rakhi Sawant and I supported Virendra Sehwag. I think Rakhi Sawant has always 'delivered' i.e. lived up to the promise she had made and in that sense, is not overrated and is probably not even a celebrity. Sehwag, on the other hand, continues to be a celebrity - playing with kids who drink each-other's health-drink and wearing a suit that attracts women and impresses doormen. He continues to fetch tennis balls from girls' colleges and most surprisingly, continues to make guest appearances in the Indian batting lineup. I mean, he's there in the lineup all right but the appearance is usually one-millionth of the ad break before and after his appearance. Runs and hair are disappearing and converting to tummy-fat. Poor guy only manages to catch some footage when he misses catches and winces and rubs his finger. But, you see the point? He's still a rated celebrity.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Smoking-Ban in Films and impact on understated actors

Some years back I heard Ajay Devgan had become the pinup-boy for all bad actors.

Seems he started understated acting, in films like Company (and naturally, every film after it), and was hailed as great. You'd know what I'm talking about - 'understated' or 'intense' or 'brooding' acting, in common language means tilting your head and continuously lighting cigarettes and throwing them. I think the current ban on smoking on screen is a big setback for understated actors in this 'light'. I think the industry should form an understated actors union and attack this ban on smoking on film.

When I first heard of the ban, I thought it was a good idea - naturally we smoke because see it in films, perhaps we make love for the same reason. We should ban all scenes of killing, looting, bunking class, crossing roads and perhaps driving too. But now, in the 'light' of what I wrote in the previous para, I think we can reconsider that. How do these guys win awards if you ban smoking?

Will write sometime about understated dancing too - the Abhishek Bacchan innovation on similar lines for bad dancers. And Ramsu, we need to write on the Rap-strategy for bad / understated singers too, and how firang dancers moving around a poker-faced-unbathed-hero-mistaking-the microphone-for-a-lollypop create the illusion of the hero dancing.

And maybe a short discussion sometime on: if the hero-with-dark-glasses gets to lie-down on skimpily-dressed-women licking his face and sticking their hands in his unbuttoned shirt, who should - in a market-economy, pay whom. Should the directors be paying heroes for these scenes or vice-versa?

Himeshbhai and the next generation in communication

A couple of days ago, I was having a discussion with my friend Ratul on the direction in which cellphone technology was headed. So he was telling me about this concept watch with an embedded cellphone, wherein you put a finger to your ear to hear what the guy on the other end was saying, and the watch would contain a microphone in order to receive your voice. Or something on those lines anyway. I believe the operating principle had something to do with how well bones can transmit sound waves.

So here's my question: if you had a watch like that, would you have to stick your finger up your arse to hear a Himesh Reshammiya ringtone?

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Monday, December 04, 2006


I haven't had too many experiences reading feminist literature - the one I remember best is Volga's Svechcha (translated from Telugu by Ari Sitaramayya), a book that moved me
deeply when I read it. I suppose it fits the stereotype of the angry feminist book, but I read it when I was still forming my own thoughts about the concept of freedom, so the fundamental theme of the book - a woman's right to self-determination - struck a chord.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a cousin of mine on women's rights and ended up writing a blog post here titled A Vagina Monologue (in a manner of speaking). It was about the freedom of women, and I just decided to name it after a fairly famous one-woman play by Eve Ensler that I had read about.

The problem was, I hadn't actually read/seen the play. And for some reason, that bothered the heck out of me, so I decided to correct that oversight. I just finished reading it, ergo this post.

It's a really well-written piece of work. The woman has a nice, easy style. The language is fairly graphic at times. But there are also moments that made me laugh. I realized that she was making a serious point as well, but I couldn't help chuckling when the old Jewish lady talked
about the flood. So sue me. But here's the thing: when she has to talk about something traumatic, she doesn't pull any punches. There are moments when it takes some effort to continue reading.

And you know what, despite a reasonably well developed sense of cynicism, I feel that the title of my earlier post was a bit flippant. I'm not going to change it, though - it's gonna stay that way, to remind myself of the need to be a little less of a motormouth.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Vagina monologue (in a manner of speaking)

I was talking to my cousin Charu this morning about an article she had written on the occasion of Mother's Day, called India: Mothers' Identity Crisis. It was a good piece, and dealt with an issue that I've often wondered about.

For a long time, we had a reasonably clear division of labor between the genders in India - the man brings home the bacon, the woman cooks it. I don't think it was fair, but it was at least clear. Now, when women are beginning to be a lot more career-oriented, their traditional role (taking care of the household, especially in the matter of raising kids) somehow seems to remain more or less unchanged. To be fair, there are a number of families that are adapting to the changed scenario. But I hear from my friends and family of a number of cases where the wife is still expected to come home and cook dinner after a long day's work.

Let's look at parenting for a moment. I've wondered if there are solid biological reasons why women should have a greater role in parenting than her career might allow at times. As I understand it, the women rear the young in most species. But I know so little about this subject that I'd rather not take a stand at the moment. Just wanted to put the question out there. If anyone of you actually reads this blog, tell me what you think.

And here's the other question that has bothered me for a while. It has to do with the freedom given to women in society. Fundamentally, this is kinda crazy, isn't it? What do we mean by giving freedom to women? Do we give anybody the air to breathe? Shouldn't it be theirs by right? Who is anybody to give it to them, or take it from them?

I'm sure there's a bunch of you women out there who would respond to this with varying degrees of vitriol, mostly involving different uses of the word "naive". You're mostly right: what seems obvious and what actually is are quite different.

However, what I am trying to get at here is a question of mindset. There are, I agree, a number of situations where a woman has to fight to get what should be hers by right. But at the same time, I think there are also situations where a woman will be free if she believes her freedom to be as obvious a fact as her existence itself. If you internalize the idea of your freedom to the point where you simply do what you want to do (subject to all the other caveats about freedom, such as responsibility and so on) and regard as absurd, anyone else's presumption to tell you what you should do... maybe the effect would be that people would mostly just accept you as you are. I say this because I see women who seem to have that quality: some kind of deep-seated realization that they are free, as opposed to being made free. And it seems to work for them.

Now, none of this is easy. If you want to be a career woman, there will obviously be situations where family needs and career needs will conflict, and I cannot see easy answers for that. And like I said, as a practical way of implementing freedom, this approach of simply doing your thing will (unfortunately, but clearly) not work in many situations. And it takes more wisdom than I possess to be able to distinguish between the situations where it will work and where it won't.

But maybe, just maybe, a few of the minor skirmishes between the sexes will cease to be if one party simply did not recognize the other party's right to be there on the battlefield in the first place.

Does this make sense to anyone? Women, especially? Let me know.

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