December 27, 2005

Water, water everywhere ..

One can never quite get used to drinking water straight from the kitchen tap, even after years of living in phoren lands where it is the Done Thing. It just seems wrong somehow. Theoretically acceptable but disconcerting in practice, like Meghna Kothari’s snake-dance in Bride and Prejudice.

One appreciates fully that the liquid in those pipes is unlikely to harm an individual who has devoted a large part of his existence to consuming items of questionable edibility at roadside outlets of questionable legality back home. At the same time, one cannot help remembering with a certain nostalgia the ritual of filling the paani-bottles every other morning. An oddly comforting if tedious rite involving family and Filter.

Our Filter, you see, was more than a domestic appliance. He was an institution, an avuncular presence, a member of the family. Much of the credit for the good health of the denizens of the home was given to him, that grand old Guardian of the Waters, Nemesis of Unhygienic Micro-Organisms, Ruthless Exterminator of Potentially Parivaar-Threatening Vermin. Wary NRI cousins would proudly be told to drink their Rasna without fear, for the water in their glasses was surely purer than driven snow. Doctors would be ordered to rule out water-borne diseases before they made their diagnosis, for it was inconceivable that germs could escape the Filter’s watchful eye.

A few years ago the Filter was replaced with a modern water-purifier gizmo. One has always been suspicious of this new intruder. Inflicting “chemical treatment” upon the family jal-supply hardly seems appropriate, given that people are going to drink the stuff. And reverse-osmosis sounds like something either too evil or too explicit to be discussed on a PG-rated blog*. But who can argue with Science?

In any case, one’s fridge here is stocked with a row of old Coke bottles, each filled to the brim with pristine, cloth-filtered water. No telling what strange phoren impurities these pipes might harbour.

* One just decided that this blog shall be PG-rated. One does not think there are any children in the audience, but if you happen to be below thirteen one advises you to fetch your parents so the good folks can warn you how not to turn out.

December 26, 2005

Dear Sinter ..

The blogosphere, it appears, is embracing the festive season with much warmth. Everyone's in on it, all the way from meghalomania to 2x3x7. So, on this fine twenty-fifth, one shall depart from custom to post something that can be described, at least by those of an accommodating nature, as relevant. Yes. One shall divulge, to anyone who cares to listen, how Christmas is celebrated in this part of the world.

Christmas in the Netherlands isn’t about gifts. It’s about spending a quiet time at home, with the family. With large, profusely-decorated Christmas trees, good food and soft music. It’s about togetherness and goodwill, not about crass commercialism.

But wait, says the gentle reader. What about Santa Claus? How are Dutch kids persuaded to behave themselves? How do they learn the nuances of letter-writing and the art of presenting themselves in the best possible light without sounding unduly boastful? And, pray, what happens to their old stockings?

These concerns, if felt, are largely unfounded. For Holland has its own gift-giving patriarch. His name is Sint Nikolaas, generally shortened to Sinterklaas. And he .. er .. wraps up the gift-giving on the fifth of December. One presumes that this gives the children enough time to vivisect their newly-acquired trinkets and finish their candy, so they can focus on putting their best foot forward when distant relatives* show up at Yuletide.

One caught a glimpse of Sinterklaas when he came to town a few weeks ago. He is large and corpulent, and he has a flowing white beard and a red robe. But there the similarity to Santa ends. For he does not go ‘ho-ho-ho’, he does not carry a sack of sweets, and he is generally more dignified of apparel and bearing than is good ol’ Santa. He is not associated with reindeer, sleighs, elves, or the North Pole. Rather, he is supposed to come down from Spain each year (in a steamboat, no less) with his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), who gives out yummy goodies to the nice children and none to the bad.

It is, of course, no coincidence that Sinterklaas and Santa Claus sound very similar. The myth of Sinterklaas travelled with the Dutch settlers of the seventeenth century to the New World, to the city that was then New Amsterdam and is now the Big Apple, where it merged with the legend of the jolly old gentleman who goes by the name of Father Christmas in Britain to this very day **, and was then subjected to a variety of influences ranging from the Ghost of Christmas Present (Did Dickens intend the pun? Did he?) to Coca-Cola to give us the Santa we know and love.

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and a great year ahead.

* One has often wondered if the children here feel the many and varied emotions that we of the Desh feel when it comes to distant relatives. One shall inquire forthwith and inform the gentle reader in due course.

** Father Christmas is now accepted to be the same figure as Santa, but it seems his genesis lies in ancient Anglo-Saxon myths that can be traced back, ironically, to pre-Christian times.

December 16, 2005

Lapsus calamitatum

The Padrino sat alone. He sipped his Amaretto di Saronno. Took a puff at his Cuban cigar. It was midnight, and he was at the Club. Right where he should be.

Vai così, he told himself. Good going.

She’d asked him if she could have their picture taken. Together, like, him and her in the same frame. Yeah. “Pretty please?” she’d said. In that cute voice, with that accent. Straight from the Queen’s mouth. An English rose, this gal. Perfect.

She’d asked him to wait while she went to fix her makeup. He sat right there, unblinking. Nonchalant. Debonair, even. A few minutes passed.

“Shall we?” A female voice piped up. Right in his ear.

She’d made him jump. Composure, he told himself. “Sì, of course,” he said. “Certamente.”

The waiter clicked the pictures. “Cheese!”. Formaggio. He hated formaggio.

They sat down again. She wanted to talk.

“You’ll keep these photos, won’t you?” Damn. Why’d she have to be so sentimental?

But this was important, this question. The sorta thing they warned you about back in Sicily. He needed to say somethin' grand. You know, somethin' profondo. Somethin' she wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Somethin' she’d wanna jot down someplace.

But English wasn’t something he’d ever fancied too much. Not his thing. Not his thing at all. Never could manage pithy. Not in English.

Suddenly he remembered. The skinny Indian kid at the office. Yeah. He’d let the Padrino in on a secret – he’d said that it was possible to take an Italian word and use it in an English sentence to impress the bonnets off those Brit chicks. He’d even said .. let’s see, what had he said .. there are people in the English-speaking world who learn Italian for the express purpose of embellishing their conversations with the odd 'magnifico'. Or somethin’ like that.

The Padrino thought about it. He trusted the kid.

So he turned to the lady. He looked her in the eye. He took a deep breath.

Yes, we will print these pictures and we will keep them forever. As a legacy *he paused for effect* for our posteriors.

December 10, 2005

Till death do them part

A matrimonial advertisement on the site of a leading webmail provider informs one that Maya, 25, is a surgeon and basketball player who believes in a relationship that’s based on trust. Another site reveals that Smitha, also 25, is an associate editor who bakes delicious cakes. However, after a careful study of their photographs, one swears upon all that is dear to oneself that these two are in fact *adopts low Hitchcockian tone* the same individual. She must be really eager to get on with the nuptials.

In other news, the following has been spotted on Wikipedia's main page :

Did you know .. that Socks the cat belonged to Bill Clinton while President of the United States?

And, being in a particularly sadistic frame of mind right now, one shall subject the unsuspecting reader to the *drum-roll, trumpets etc* PJ of the week:

Q : What did Sanjay Dutt say when he met Hector Hugh Munro?
A. O Saki Saki re … Saki Saki .

December 02, 2005

Cutting corners

One is astounded to find that, outside the great Desh, almost nobody brews tea like it should be brewed. They instead dunk a dubious little tissue-paper bag supposedly full of tea-stuff into hot water and hope that something will happen. It does not. They might, in an effort to achieve a semblance of palatability, add milk and sugar to the concoction. After which, just to save face, they force themselves to drink it.

Now despite all that has been said and all that has remained unsaid about one’s culinary skills in general, it might be pointed out in all humility that one is something of an authority on the art of brewing tea*. For one’s recipe is taken from no less a figure than Rameshbhai, that fine specimen of chaiwalla-hood, he of the redoubtable larri-galla that lies snugly in that little lane off Ashram Road in the Hometown. He sells, for the princely sum of three rupees**, the most mouthwatering cuppa ever. Steaming hot, with just that right hint of ginger and cardamom. And it is never to be drunk from the cup. No, we frown at such jejune practices. For the liquid is to be poured into the saucer and slurped with suitable sound effects. If you happen to be perched sideways on your two-wheeler, the experience is complete.

Admittedly one is but a poor parody of Rameshbhai when it comes to preparing the potent infusion. But one is still a force to be reckoned with. One has actually fed one’s brew to several friends here (one hears the gasps of surprise that greet the implication that one has a social life, but lets them pass) and it has been uniformly and heartily appreciated. Really. Unfortunately the individuals who have tried it are not regular tea-drinkers, so one has no real adherents yet. But one is hopeful that someday one shall get hold of a diehard tea fan and convert him from teabag-user to tea-brewer. Finally one has a Mission.

* It appears that “tea” is one really global appellation – the words for tea in most languages are very similar because they’re all derived from a single Chinese word. (The word is pronounced somewhat differently in different parts of China, hence the difference between tea and chai.) Of course you always wanted to know that. Or maybe you already did.

** The equivalent five eurocents wouldn’t even persuade a chap here to let you sniff his tea. His teabag tea.

November 25, 2005

Gujjus unite!

One is in a Bad Mood. In fact, one is in Intense Pain.

One is Dismayed, nay Crestfallen, to see that this veritable repository of phillum-related things has no information whatsoever on the ravishing Roma Manek. (For the uninitiated, Roma Manek is the (the) Madhuri Dixit of Gujarati cinema. Her eyes are said to be the colour of fresh undhiyu, and her nose is said to resemble a perfect little ganthiya. The very mention of her name is known to have persuaded NRI Gujjubhais to shut cornershop and head home.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is part of a wider gripe regarding the under-representation of Gujaratis in cyberspace*. One’s Gujju chromosomes (all twenty-three of them) cry out – yes, they cry out in synchronized deoxyribonucleic protest. One refuses to believe that the sturdy Shahs of Surendranagar and the fine Patels of Patan have nothing to say about Matters. But the gentle reader does not hear them. No. The gentle reader is being drowned – aye, drowned – in a cacophony of voluble Bangla, in the staccato rhythms of rapidly-articulated Tamizh (note the zh .. one is very particular about such things, you know ..) and in the occasional outburst of Gultspeak. Come, O denizens of Saurashtra and Kathiawad, O natives of Kutch, O fellow Gujjus from all walks of life and all corners of the globe! It matters not whether you own a shop or a motel .. we are all one beeg phemily! Let us forge a blogospheric identity for ourselves! Let us impress upon people that we are a force to be reckoned with!

Er .. it makes good business sense, you know.

* which, in turn, is part of a wider gripe regarding the correct way to twirl a dandiya. But we shall let that pass for now.

November 18, 2005

'Tis the season of web-quizzes

“Know thyself” – inscribed at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi

One figured that one was lagging somewhat in the nosce-ipsum department. The past few hours have been spent in an attempt to rectify matters - and a truly heady voyage of self-discovery it has been.

One now stands enlightened on critical issues like which Final Fantasy character one happens to be (Tidus the Great, if anyone cares), which rejected crayon best matches one’s personality (a brown one), which original Skittles colour one is (green), whether one is a nerd, a geek or a dork (a geek, evidently, although the differences in meaning are too subtle for one’s limited grasp) and whether one conforms to this young Californian lady’s notion of a boyfriend (at the end of a particularly gruelling quizathon chock-full of difficult questions like “Would you describe yourself as hot?” she declared that one was “okay”. Disturbing.)

One has been told that one is 70% weird and, intriguingly, 45% normal. And a “little” scary. In one’s previous life, it seems, one was a mute and mentally unbalanced mathematician. One seems to get raw deals every time.

One has been reliably informed that one will spawn 71,710 descendants over the next thirty-two generations, which is rather spiffing, and also that this places one at the lower end of the genetic-fitness spectrum, which is not. It is helpfully mentioned that the reason for the poor score is that one is the pious type and will not sacrifice scruples in a misguided quest to scatter his genes far and wide. Hah. It’s quite easy to fool these quizzes, you know. Let’s see ... what was that Californian chick’s name again …

November 11, 2005

A single body

“Low Fat!” screams a label, in garish three-dimensional fonts. “Zero Calories!” proclaims another. Some stick to Dutch. “Nul vet!” “Minder dan 10 Kalorie!”

One’s customary Friday-evening visit to the local supermarket is inevitably punctuated by such promulgations. It is well known and widely accepted that such things attract customers.

But one is what is referred to back in Gujjuland as a “single body”. This should be especially significant in light of recent sage/tyke schizophrenia, but it’s not about multiple identities at all. A single body is a skinny person. Really. It’s actually pronounced with a fetching Guj accent, if you please, “body” rhyming with “roadie”.

You might think, given the fact that one’s chief activities are eating and sleeping, that one’s appearance would show a certain embonpoint. But, alas, it is not so. One has been compared, by different people at different points in time, to a walking skeleton, a starving chimp, and a stick. And they, one suspects, were being nice.

But it is hardly surprising that one cannot put on weight here despite eating practically everything in sight. See, anything even remotely edible in these parts is quite utterly drained of lipidinous content, as if some overzealous squad of obesity police had single-mindedly attacked the supermarket shelves. Every last drop of triglyceride has been ruthlessly wrung out of the cottage cheese, all traces of fatty acid have been coldly emulsified from the frozen desserts. One spends entire afternoons searching for that elusive tub of full-fat yoghurt, for the one chocolate mousse that does not proudly claim to be an integral part of a dozen crash diets. Milk is available in plenty, but it is all of the skimmed variety; whole milk may be bought only at select stores conveniently positioned at the farthest corners of town.

If one remains emaciated for the rest of one’s life, it is all the fault of those callous profit-hungry FMCG companies. In pandering to the corpulent crowd, they are losing the trust of us reedy folks.

November 05, 2005

Dilettantics and deletion

For the space of a few hours two evenings ago, one was the proud owner of a second blog.

This second blog was, rather unimaginatively, named Test. One had put up a single post – a piece titled “abcdefg” – whose contents, in a burst of creativity, went something like “abcdefg”. The only comment there had been left by oneself (which probably qualifies as the saddest thing in the history of the commentspace). Its chief purpose, of course, was to allow one to generally muck around with these HTML/CSS things.

Presently the mucking about was completed and the conclusion arrived at that one should, in the future, a) stay as far from markup languages as humanly possible and b) not even think aloud about style sheets. Then one deleted Test.

And since then, things haven’t quite been the same. An emptiness is felt.

Why, one asked oneself, did it matter so much? Such maudlin sentiment over a mere webpage? From one who takes such pride in his unflappability?

Perhaps it mattered because deleting a blog feels like burning a journal – it is an act of self-effacement. Grim and masochistic. Even if that blog had displayed nothing more than alphabetic tautology*. For any blog that one creates might be merely a corner of a foreign server, but it is a corner of a foreign server that is forever one’s own. Or, in the case of Test, could have been forever one’s own.

In any case, this blog underwent a few changes following the aforementioned experimentation. Okay, so it wasn’t much of a facelift .. maybe one ended up doing more harm than good. Clumsy as ever. But at least things can only improve hereafter.

* which is precisely what this blog continues to do, some might say.

October 30, 2005

Fifty-five word poem

[ English, August has come up with the idea of 55-word poetry .. thought one might give it a try. ]

To-day was just like
days gone before
Can’t even remember
Events quotidian, chores mundane.
For Time, he marches on
And to-morrow, and to-morrow again.

Blurred are the weeks,
fuzzy the year
Day and night merge and
Inchoate, and vaguely inane.
For Time, he just marches on
And to-morrow, and to-morrow again.

[With apologies to the Bard. And to the reader.]


Update: This started off as another attempt.

Moonlit evening, quiet meal,
“Tell me, tell me how you feel!”

He looked at his gin and tonic
“I care”, he said, quite laconic.

“Why must you, sir, be so trite
When passions you may now ignite?
I would expect Shelley, Keats
Or Wordsworth at the very least!
Oh, please do say something clever
And I shall be but yours forever!”

“For terseness, lady, I thought I’d strive
Words I had but fifty-five
Before you hijacked my little ditty
With incorrigible verbosity.”

October 28, 2005


Overheard in Ahmedabad on the 26th of January, 2001.

“The whole building fell down, ma?”
“Yes, beta.”
“Were there people inside, ma?”
“Yes, there were.”

A brief silence.

“People like us?”
“Yes, beta, people like us.”

Please go here for information on how to help the victims of the South Asia quake.

October 23, 2005

Through the looking glass

One has, after much agonizing, decided to reveal one’s visage on this blog. It seemed like a pity to hide a jaw so finely chiselled, cheekbones so gloriously high, eyes so piercingly erudite, dimples so burstingly deep behind this hypertext curtain of blind, impersonal anonymity.


Wotsay, huh? Stud or what?

This is a picture of oneself. God promise. Except it’s been transformed. Instead of the x- and y-coordinates representing vertical and horizontal distance, they represent the bearing and distance of a line from an arbitrarily-chosen origin. Loosely speaking, each point in the transformed image corresponds to a potential line in the original, each sinusoid in the transformed image corresponds to all the lines passing through a point, and places where many sinusoids intersect are distinct lines in the original. Or something like that.

This is the Hough transform applied to the problem of line-finding. The same transform finds application in the reconstruction of slices of the human body from X-ray projections. In case you’ve ever wondered (er .. if you haven’t, you may proceed to wonder now) how they see slices of your insides during a CT scan.

And a transformed image invariably looks pretty good too, in a snapshot-of-the-very-fabric-of-reality kind of way.

Yeah, anyway, so the bright spots represent lines in the original image. There are six of them here (yes, you count eight, but the left of the image is supposed to “wrap round” to the right) so apparently one has a hexagonal face. Funny, actually .. one always thought one was rather square. Maybe it’s the dimples.

*adjusts geek-glasses and shuffles off*

[Note: Transform implemented using image processing toolbox in MATLAB™. Thanks to The MathWorks for developing a useful tool.]

October 20, 2005

Kitty party

The house looked like a battleground. The air was thick with tension. Clothes were scattered everywhere. The phone was ringing off the hook. Mummy was on extended leave. Was someone gravely ill? Was it bankruptcy? Nope. It was more serious than that. Way more serious. Little Sweety was taking part in the school talent show.

She was going to sing. Her dance classes had been suspended for the time being, as had the cookery lessons and the painting lessons and the English-speaking classes. Even the two-month crash course in personality development had been rescheduled, such was the gravity of the situation.

You see, the event held special significance for Mummy. She had stuck her rather formidable neck out at the last kitty party and predicted a huge win for Sweety. Over a substantial lunch it had been established that Sweety was a talent par excellence when it came to surs and taals, and that although she might not be in the habit of securing the first rank every year like Mrs Gupta’s daughter or know as many capitals as Mrs Shukla’s son, she was undoubtedly good enough to be the next Indian Idol. School talent contests were child’s play.

Sweety just had to win. Or else.

Back home, the child in question was rubbing her eyes for want of sleep, her questionable musical talent stretched to the limit. The last few weeks before the show were a blur of dresses-to-be-tried-out and songs-to-be-practised.


The big day finally arrived. The audience for the talent show chiefly consisted of a number of enthusiastic mummies who seemed to have booked the front rows, unfortunately for the chief guests, and resigned-looking papas filming the proceedings from the back. Sweety’s song went well – Mummy was quite satisfied. After the performances there was just enough time for refreshments before the winner was announced. Normally Mummy would have eaten enough to last her a couple of days (and filled her handbag with some more for the weekend) but she just couldn’t eat right now .. it was all too stressful.

Then it was time – for the Announcement. "And the winner is .."

Mummy stood stunned. This struck harder than Sweety hitting a high note. The winner was this Other Kid. This rather geeky-looking and entirely unimpressive boy. Not Sweety.

But Mummy recovered admirably. Shock turned to anger. She went forthwith to express her indignation to Papa, who happened to be fast asleep.

On the drive home, the family car held a funereal atmosphere. Sweety was crying. Finally Mummy spoke up. “I thought she was the best, by far. Anyway, at least she took part, na?” And all was well again. At least until next month’s kitty party.

October 16, 2005

Fifty-five word fiction

[ A particularly long-lived branch of the fifty-five word meme has happened to find its way here. Many thanks to Babelfish for the honour. Here goes .. ]

She wrote something on a piece of paper and slipped it into his hand. He smiled. They were sitting on the last bench, as usual. Nobody saw.


He took the yellowing little note and tore it into bits. A single stubborn teardrop escaped those clenched eyelids. He had his own cubicle, luckily. Nobody saw.

Update : Another one.

He was walking down the street that evening, not far from home, when a car hit him. Hard. They rushed him to the nearest hospital, but it was too late.

He hadn’t told anyone about his anonymous blog. His readers thought he just didn’t feel like posting anymore.

October 14, 2005

Freedom rules

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular"

~ Adlai Stevenson

One had never intended to discuss anything on this blog that could even loosely be described as relevant. But the circumstances are rather unusual.

If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t yet heard of the recent developments in the Indian blogworld, Amit Varma has comprehensive coverage and regular updates.

Much has been said on the subject and one fears one cannot add anything of value. Just a small point – this is not about substandard B-schools or about platitude-spouting management gurus. For mediocre organizations and inflated advertising are well-accepted facts of life, in India and everywhere else. So, regrettably, are management gurus. This, dear readers, is about freedom of thought and speech, about the right to have and voice an opinion.

It rankles when Gaurav has to resign from his job because he stood up for what he thought was right, because he had an opinion. When marginally-coherent pseudobloggers direct obscenities at Rashmi. When dadagiri (strong-arming) becomes a natural way for people to deal with things they don’t like.

And the Indian blogging community deserves kudos for showing such solidarity. One is proud to be part of it.

October 08, 2005

The philosopher and the juvenile

At one’s oak and teakwood table
As one settles down to wonder
A blinding flash, and suddenly one
Does find oneself torn asunder.

One finds oneself torn asunder
Now do Two sit side by side
Two sit where one formerly sat
At the desk one occupied.

Little Boy, in shorts and T-shirt,
Clutching dog-eared Tinkle tight
Other One with golden aura
Rather an imposing sight.

Side by side they sit in silence
At one’s desk of oak and teak.
He’s somewhat scared of Other, but
The Little Boy ventures to speak.

“We started little bloggy-woggy
Several times we writing here
But it’s true, me not so good as
Better ones on blogosphere.”

Looking up from Plato’s works
He looks at Boy with kindly eye.
Taking off those half-moon glasses
Other One deigns to reply.

“Youngling, thou must but remember
Blake spake, I reiterate
Thou shalt not reason or compare
Thy business is but to create.”

“But me cannot help it, Sir,
Teeny-tiny straws me clutch.
Even little compliments still
Mattering so very much.”

“Dear child,” Other rejoined,
“Kipling said, and I repeat
Remain quite the stoic thou must
Both in triumph and defeat.

“Thou must, wee neophyte
Heed immortal Socrates.
Examine thy life, he averred
Have faith in his expertise.”

“Me no wanna think too much, Sir
Messes up me little brain.
Me want to go play outside now
Hide and seek and choo-choo train!”

“Life’s a struggle, O Little Boy,
“Choice, dilemma, forks and twists
No attachments, quoth the Gita
Self-interest, said Objectivists.”

“But me very attached, good Sir!
Me love Mummy-Daddy so
Me like many uncle-aunties
Even little girl next door.

“Me like Narnia, me like Blyton,
Me like my old Targets too
People telling, now me big boy
But me liking, what to do?”

“Thou art fully-grown, my child
Do not partake of puerile fare.
Thy reading habits, first of all
Need some inspection and repair.”

The two alter-egos merge
Blinding flash of light, and then
Emerging from the brightness, blinking
One finds oneself whole again.

Such debates unfold whenever
One thinks over things worthwhile
Dichotomous opinions of
Philosopher and juvenile.

October 01, 2005

Going Dutch

[ Immediately following the illuminatory episode (see previous commentspace) one headed to the nearest supermarket to look for bread. Only after reaching the place did one remember what folks here call it. “Brood”. Yup. Connotations of utter grimness. Or baby birdies. One can’t go around eating stuff called brood on a daily basis, what? Categorically cannot.

In the meantime, one has been assiduously perusing Indian recipes online **continues to chant slow fire, slow fire **. There’s lots crammed into one’s li’l head right now. Just hoping one won’t forget how to make alu-curry. ]

“Een voor Batman Begins ”, one declaims. The lady at the ticket counter smiles and says a couple of things while she taps away at her keyboard. Small talk, one gathers from her tone. Overwhelmingly likely to be about the weather.

One gravely leans forward and nods. She continues, encouraged by one’s close attention. A pause .. evidently one is expected to say something. “Ja”, one remarks, brow suitably furrowed, an infinity of meteorological wisdom distilled into that single syllable.

Further soliloquy. A pause, again. But one is well prepared. “Natuurlijk”, one declares (rather suavely, one fancies).

But she looks alarmed. One switches to damage-control mode – vigorous shake of head, firmly repeated mutters of “Nee, nee .. natuurlijk niet”. She looks rather strangely at one for a moment, then continues her discourse unfazed.

She presently finishes tapping on her keyboard and makes a rather pointed remark. Numbers. Ah, one can do those. Zeven euro vijftig .. five hundred bucks for a darn movie .. remember Roopalee Talkies, only rupees twenty per phillum .. yeah, ma’am .. there you go. “Dank U wel”, one smiles. Now for the popcorn.

So one has learnt to conduct long and variegated conversations in Dutch without really being able to say anything much (that rhymes. Poetry next post.) But then listening was always a prized skill. Doing the same sort of thing in German, one understands, requires no substantial extension to one’s vocabulary. Joy. Now one just needs to brush up the ol’ French, and one’s a pan-European listening expert.


Een voor Batman Begins = one for Batman Begins. Yup, one’s the sort of dude you see walking alone into a movie hall and feel kinda sorry for. Awww and whatnot.


English films here are Dutch-subtitled, not dubbed. So one thankfully doesn’t have to bluff one’s way through them.

September 26, 2005

Of foreign lands and boiled potatoes

Enough. This is the third day in a row that one has burnt the rice. It’s the same thing every evening .. one puts the rice to cook, begins reading/writing/watching TV, and is only jolted back to grim, paddy-ridden reality when that rice-burning-what-to-do smell reaches the living room. By the time one reaches the kitchen the smell has taken on the altogether more acrid notes of the rice-burnt-must-throw variety.

The trouble began when one, in a fit of wanderlust, chose to leave the foreign-but-not-so-distant land that one was inhabiting (inhabiting for reasons that are not worth going into at this point, primarily because they have never been too clear to oneself either) for a very-foreign-and-very-distant land where, horror of horrors, baahar-ka-khaana just wasn’t the sort of thing you did daily. When this fact dawned upon one – this was the day before one had to leave for said land – momma dearest was requested to impart some of her considerable culinary expertise to yours truly. Not surprisingly, one didn’t get very far along the learning curve before it was time to go.

Thence it came to be that one landed here bearing little more than the Precious Secret of Alu-Curry. And that particular preparation (accompanied by rice) has constituted one’s evening meal for precisely ten months now. And one still burns the rice and spends the rest of the evening filling up the ol’ belly with extra boiled potatoes and other random edibles.

September 25, 2005


" I must invent my own System, or be enslaved by another Man's.
I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create. "
-- William Blake, Jerusalem