Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stop The World - I Want to Get Off...

It's always good to keep oneself updated with what's going on in the world around.

So, 30 minutes of the news around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, 25th July, 2007:

*An 'Exclusive Times Now' interview: with little Upasana...

...the 4 year old 'reincarnation' of Kalpana Chawla - who is accompanied by her mother. The plan is to apparently use the professional services of an eminent Dutch Regression Therapist to assess the validity of this claim.

However, since neither Upasana nor her mother speak English or Dutch, and the Dutch man's Hindi is a bit rusty, the interviewer is forced to translate the questions and answers between the three. He has just started questioning the mother about the pregnancy, when little Upasana unfortunately feels the pressure of the situation. She announces into her mother's mike with a child's characteristic frankness 'Mere ko tatti karni hai'. The mother matter-of-factly and rather unnecessarily repeats to the interviewer 'Isko tatti karni hai'. The interview is hastily put on hold - and then there is suddenly just stock footage of earlier interviews of the little girl.

I don't think they eventually came back with the rest of the program, but the stock footage was pretty rewarding. It consisted of many reporters firing questions at the little girl, along with the promise of toffees. She is answering in a completely uninterested, distracted manner after long pauses.

Q: Tum kaise mari thi?
A: ....Mein jahaaz mein mari....

Q: Kaise?
A: ...Baraf ke pahaad se takda gayi thi...

Q: Jahaaz pe kahaan gaye the?
A: ...Chandrama pe...

Q: Wahan kya karne gaye thi?
A: ...Dawaii lene...

Q: Kiski dawaii?
A: (Clearly irritated now, snapping in an 'isn't it obvious' tone) Zukaam ki dawai!


(Oh lord. Time to change the channel. Unfortunately, land on India TV)

*India TV 'Breaking News' - 'Mount Abu ka Sabse Sahasi Murga!'

An exclusive on the bravest fighter cock in Mt. Abu. The special thing about this magnificient creature fondly called 'Raja', is apparently its fearlessness in the face of danger from larger animals. As the announcer succintly put it 'Aksar murge kutte se dar jaate hai, par yeh sahasi murga kutte se bhi lad leta hai -khaaskar, khaane ke samay'. Indeed, there is video evidence of this -and we see a fairly scrawny looking white murga brawling with a black mongrel over a plate of food. The cock is getting decidedly the worst of the battle, but that's not the point. After all, he is fighting doggedly - and we always root for the underdog anyway. So, let's hear it for the 'Sabse Sahasi Murga'.

Raja - you're my new hero.

(Change of channel -this time to Headlines Today)

*Headlines Today 'Breaking News' - Monica Bedi released from jail!

...And an exclusive interview is being held with her Bua who is eagerly awaiting her arrival home. The interviewer is accusingly asking the Bua about whether she is making Gobi, Alu Mutter or both to welcome Monica home. He is being assured it is all that and much, much more - a proper Punjabi style feast. In other footage, Monica is seen thanking God, the people from her village Hoshiyarpur, the entire state of Punjab, Tollywood and Bollywood ( in no particular order) for the release, the letters, the support and the film offers she is now getting. I just can't wait to see her in the movies!

I decide I can't take much more of this.

( Come on, now - Let us switch to a more sensible channel - aah, CNN IBN)

*CNN IBN - and many other channels by now - are showing in the swearing in of our new President.

Miss 'I-See-Dead-People' Patil has actually done it. She is honoured with the traditional 21-gun salute - but all 21 bullets, as tradition dictates, miss her.

I know, I know - this time, the news channel can't help it.

However - I am defeated. I give up.

But not before accidentally catching a glimpse of another big piece of news - an elephant having been arrested in Andheri police station in Mumbai...

Ooh, ooh - also, a dastardly plot to kill Himesh Reshammiya is revealed - apparently the four 'shooters' who were to carry out this deplorable act auditioned as contestants on Sa Re Ga Ma, where Himesh is one of the judges.

Unfortunately, I mean, fortunately, the assasins were not good enough singers and didn't make it through the auditions. Which just shows the importance of continuous practice. All I can say is, I am just glad no harm has come to our beloved Himesh. I may not like his music, but who can resist his magical, brooding personality?

I think it may be time to relocate to that place I've been eyeing for a while now.

Please write to me at

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yay! It's Judgment Day!

There has been a bit of a discussion around a 'Judgmental Tag' recently - well, alright, it's a bit old now, but still - I found it on the Mad Momma's. Since she said she 'tags everybody' and since, when I last checked, I was included in the list of 'everybody', I have decided to take it up very diligently.

Hmm. So, Whom do I judge? Oh, yes...

* I judge people who not only are fussed about saying things like 'Whom do I judge' instead of 'Who do I judge', but also painstakingly correct other people for little things like this. Bloody Painful Nitpickers. ( Aah...and yet...and so very me!)

*I judge Aishwarya Rai for having a small head like a pin, and for choosing to jerk it freakishly back and forth like a stricken zombie puppet on steroids, while prancing around to a sickeningly sweet and cheery song like 'Barso Re, Megha Megha..'- and I judge whoever choreographed and directed that song for inflicting it upon me.

*I judge the marketers and advertising agencies who unleash their idiocy on the innocent, unsuspecting public. Just one little example - the slogan for is 'Real companies. Real Jobs.' Ummm, sure thing! As oppposed to the imaginary companies and imaginary jobs offered by other job search sites?

*I judge Himesh Reshammiya, Annu Malik and Bappi Lahiri. For what? Don't make me laugh.

*I judge those old acquaintances who send me 'friend requests' on Orkut- but do not send a single scrap of greeting. Yes, it's been ten years...yes, I think I do remember you...But why are you just trying to increase your 'friend' list without establishing any real contact?...and even after I accept your request, there is no further word from you. Sheesh! Social networking, pah.

*I judge the people who gleefully give away the end to movies and books, to spoil other people's fun. Such as those who stood outside theatres yelling 'Kajol is the murderer' after whatever that movie was ( I never saw that movie, never planned to, never will, but that's not the point). These people are just scumbag losers without lives, dripping their evil slime all over the place.

*Finally, and most importantly - I judge anybody who tries to sing Bohemian Rhapsody in public. Give it up! You can't do it! You sound like an idiot! Period. (You may do this in the privacy of your own bathroom, however - I often do).

Wow, a leetle more vitriol than I thought I would come up with. Ooh, ooh...reminds me - should go read HP 7 now before some lunatic gives the end away.

I tag Shome and Ganju with this. Go on, let's hear it, then! And remember- you don't have to take it as seriously as I have (Wink, wink, smile - Oh, I forgot to mention I judge those who overuse smileys outside of SMS and chat...dammit!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

And 'The Most Amazing Ad Of The Year' Award Goes To...

...Chevrolet, for their 'Incredibly Spacious New Aveo U-Va' ad. (Wild roar of applause)

Having worked for years in marketing, having watched far too much TV in the last month while on leave, and having had my brain damaged irrevocably as a consequence of both, I believe that I am a person well-qualified to judge this. (Cannes, bah!)

What's that you say, however? You don't agree with this choice? How could you not? What's wrong with you? Just shows how much you know.

This ad has everything, and I mean everything a good ad requires. Just go and ask any friend you have who works in marketing, assuming you are the rare kind who has marketing persons as friends.

Analyzing the myriad virtues of this ad, we may note that:

a. It has two big Bollywood stars to grab your attention from the word 'Go': Saif and Rani. A winning combination with great chemistry. Furthermore, having Tiny Tim and Thumbelina in the story also makes the car look bigger, which is the entire theme of the ad. What an intelligent choice.

b. The Setting: The ad starts with Saif offering Rani a lift and her accepting the same. There is also a mention of 'coffee?' on Saif's part which Rani smiles knowingly at. While to the average TV viewer who, let's face it, is a mere lay observer, this little exchange may appear rather arbitrary. But allow me to elucidate: it is really in synch with a clever marketing ploy we like to call 'campaigning' - maintaining 'continuity' with a previous ad in the campaign (wherein he tries to take her out for coffee and she refuses).Very subtle.

c. The Branding: before Rani gets into the car, Saif mentions the car is not just the Aveo - but the 'new Aveo U-va'. Rani then repeats in loud, wide-eyed wonder 'U-va?'. You may be wondering if she is trying to draw a link to the movie, Yuva that she acted in - but this 'echoing' is being done in order to register the brand name with the unsuspecting viewer. Given how very naturally this is done in the ad, you may not even have noticed this - but believe me, the brand name is now imprinted deep into the recesses of your brain.

d. The Clever Twist, that Highlights the Key Message: Clearly, somewhere along the way, the honorable admakers decided this storyline needed some pumpin' up. And therefore, they introduce a third character into the plot - 1 no., giant gorilla, King Kong types, who when we first glimpse him, is busy destroying the city. Now, this brilliant twist in the tale, not only serves the purpose of providing the all-important 'element of surprise', but later, also of reinforcing the major point of how 'incredibly spacious' the car is - because eventually, Mr. Kong forces his butt through the car window, presumably in a bid to make good his escape by driving off in the U-va. All this is a part of a little thing we marketeers - and agency folks -like to call 'creative license'.

e. The Punchy, Memorable Wrap-up: Thankfully, once confronted by above new, aggressive, butt-thrusting character, Saif and Rani have the presence of mind to scream loudly, speedily vacate their precious car, and run to a safe distance (approximately twenty feet away) to observe. And that's when the clincher comes in. Rani makes the whole story crystal clear by exclaiming 'He's trying to get in the car?'. And finally, the 'punchline' comes in with Saif saying in his typical, scratching-head manner 'Hey, I know it's big, but...' His voice trails off, to let you hear the voiceover - 'The incredibly spacious Aveo U-va...'- at this point, you may also hear your own delighted laughter at the cleverness of the whole thing - you then rush out, trampling over your family members in your attempt to get to the nearest Chevrolet showroom, to choose the colour you want in your brand new Aveo U-Va.

I rest my case.

So, all you judgmental people out there - kindly do not sit there and tell me this Ad isn't the best, most complete advertisement around. I challenge you to find another one that comes even close to this supreme specimen of brilliant marketing in today's world. And non-marketeers? It's about time you appreciated all the time, effort, logic, planning and money that goes behind every 30 second-ad that you choose to ruthlessly zap away with a simple flick of your cruel remote-wielding fingers.

Well? Let's hear what you have to say, then. Which ad beats this one and why? If you decide to do a post about about your 'favourite' ad on your blog, please leave a link.

(Note 1: If you don't hear from me for a while now, please do not assume straightaway that I have done serious harm to myself for being a part of the marketing profession.I may just be busy. Maybe. Maybe not. Dark, Sinister Laugh).

(Note 2: In the unlikely event that you are one of the few who don't quite get the spirit of the post and plan to leave a comment saying you actually 'don't like this ad that much' - please find yourself a good course in 'Basic Sarcasm', before attempting to read this blog again. But do come back then)

Friday, July 13, 2007

His Hidden Talent

After the last post, wherein I heard about how 'sporting' and 'wonderful' my husband is to let me make fun of him like that (hey, I was going for an 'artistic representation of real life', but whatever!), I thought this should help even things out a bit - and to demonstrate how he is not exactly a complete angel.

See, some people can sing...some people can dance...and my husband has his own extremely unique talent.

Vijay is a song-ruiner.

He can take any song - usually a song that you really like, constantly in your head and on your lips - and twist the lyrics spontaneously into something completely unrelated and ridiculous - so that you can never think of it in the same way again.

He will do this without warning, right out of the blue, any time, any place - though I have noticed a tendency on his part to do this mostly when driving. While deftly avoiding an oncoming truck, he will suddenly burst into tuneless song - and after a few seconds, when the dust settles and I've recovered my nerves, it will register with me that the sung lyrics had come out all twisted.

Today, we were driving home together, and I heard his version of 'Masti Ki Patshaala' from Rang De Basanti - and that's the death of that song for me. Sample:

'...Na Koi... Naada Daala...
...Na Koi...Kheenchne Waala...


...Apna to Pai-jama...
...'Lashtic ka Pai-jama...
...Apna to Pai-jama...
...'Lashtic ka Pai-jama...'

Yes, I know. It's not even remotely funny. But that is precisely my point.

I quite liked that song, and I can now never hear it again without imagining Vijay, prancing about in his gangly manner, defying his enemies to pull down his pyjamas, all the while triumphantly snapping on the tight new elastic waistband. (Clarificatory note: this is an imaginary scene - it has never happened - at least, not to my knowledge - and not yet, anyway).

I could give you more examples, but I will spare you the torture. The simple point is this:

There comes a time in every woman's life, when she discovers her significant other has a talent like this, buried deep within. At these times, it is vital for her to serve humanity by encouraging him to bury it a little deeper. It is my sincere hope this post helps achieve that in some small way.

P.S - Vijay just caught me about to post this - but after the last post, he seems beyond caring what I put on my blog about him. Being extremely fair-minded, I encouraged him to start his own blog to retaliate. He informed me, with a rather evil grin, that he is only waiting for me to go into labour -so that he can 'start his blog with a bang...and a supremely interesting video post'. This may, therefore, be the last you hear about Vijay for some time from me. Also, the word 'Help?' comes to mind.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Disappearing Diary of an Incurable Amateur

It is a true mystery. Where did it go?

I made the silly mistake of taking my diary to my friend Abhi's place, three weeks back. Left it there. Called and told him to find it and keep it carefully. And he looked for it - and it wasn't there anymore. My precious diary is gone. Sob.

I half jokingly told Abhi that we should cut open his big dog, Dash, to retrieve it. He promises he has been carefully checking his poop (Dash's poop, that is) for the last three weeks, but no sign of my diary anywhere. I think I will finally have to let go of any hope of ever seeing it again. And it's not exactly very easy to do.

The thing is, it's not just one of those diaries in which you scribble a few notes - it is a few year's worth of reminders that I have tried (and failed, in various degrees, at) different things apart from working, eating and sleeping.

Four years ago, when Vijay and I were just married, I got all enthused about Dance Classes. So we joined up Mridula Martis's dance classes. These weekend classes - Salsa and Jive- were real fun - but I wasn't real big on 'fun' those days. It was all about perfecting the steps so that Vijay and I would move in complete unision, and with unparalelled grace. Now, I kept my end of the bargain - but Vijay would insist on forgetting the steps and 'improvising' (shocking!) - further, he kept accusing me of 'constantly trying to lead'. Every class would inevitably lead to an argument between us, and a massive sulk. Mridula was rather partial to Vijay, claiming he was the best of the male dancers (which wasn't saying much, let me assure you), and very quick to pick up the steps (Even quicker to forget them, I mumbled to myself). Once she came to break us up and use him for a demonstration, simultaneously asking him 'Is she bullying you again?'. Hah.

Anyway, the classes ended - we forgot all the steps subsequently but I had them all carefully written down for one fine day when we decide we want to try it again. But till now, we've been happier doing arbit dances to any kind of music, especially what Vijay calls the 'Macchar dance', an uncontrolled flailing of limbs in all directions. My mom watched a video I have taken of him dancing recently, and between laughs, she gasped in alarm 'His head is going to fall off'. I will not post the video here because I still value my marriage.

Then there were my Drum classes. Three years ago, in an another fit of enthusiasm, I bought myself a set of drums. I didn't have the foggiest notion of how to play, but they looked fairly impressive - a real drumset! I decided it was time to take lessons, and I found myself the great Ryan Colaco as an instructor. Ryan (full name Ryan Crispin Mario Colaco - isn't that beautiful? I hope I spelt it right) is the drummer of the Bangalore band Kryptos and a really funny, offbeat (ha ha..offbeat..drummer...get it?..never mind!) character in real life. (If you see the picture in the link, he's the shadowy dude whom you can barely see, right in the middle - now, while he is not exactly tall, he's not that short - must be sitting at his drums or something...) At the time I met him, he had some kind of a regular job in accounts or finance or something, which he quit soon after. A good thing, considering he seems to have no idea how to make money. He quoted me a really ridiculously low monthly fee for the drum lessons, which I thought was the weekly charge, and tried to pay accordingly. His eyes bulged when I tried to hand him the money and he blurted 'No, Da! Why you paying me for so many months together?'. He good-naturedly kicked himself later for this -and I hope he has since heeded my advice of raising his fee.

He was a great teacher and clearly incredibly talented - and banging on the drums was the most amazing release for me, especially combined with his constant clowning and 'No, daa...'s. Sadly, I was not a disciplined student and my enthusiam predictably fizzled out after a while - so my drum set is currently used to hang and dry my washed clothes. But my precious diary also had Ryan's scrawled instructions in it and I had resolved 'one day' to pick up playing again...

More recently, in Bombay, I decided I would rise above 'strumming amateur status' and took guitar lessons at home, from a young man named Pradeep. Pradeep is a very nice person, but takes a while to figure out. He, like Ryan, had the necessary rock-band long hair, ponytail and ready grin, but that is where the similarity ended. Pradeep spent a lot of time in my first class telling me about how he loves soft music, and is a big fan of Abba, and really not into the heavy metal scene. I was quite encouraged by this confession because I'm really not into heavy music myself - here I thought, is a guy with whom I can musically relate. When I asked him the name of his band, he replied poker-faced 'Demonic Resurrection'. I had a hard time keeping a straight face and suggested we jump straight into my first lesson. I looked it up later, and as you can see, this band is described as a 'Death Metal Band, a big name in the country's underground music scene today'.

Pradeep was also a nice, patient teacher, but at times he would really puzzle me. One time, I think it was around the World Cup, he asked me if I was interested in cricket. Now, I am one of the roughly ten people in India who really doesn't care about this game and I told him so, in no uncertain terms. He gazed right through me as if he hadn't heard me, and proceeded to deliver a long lecture on the sad state of affairs with the Indian team, going over each player's performance in detail. When he said 'Sachin' and 'Dhoni', my glazed eyes lit up briefly as these names were familiar, but he clearly took this as a sign of my unqualified enthusiasm - and went on and on for the entire hour that I was supposed to be learning the guitar.

Yes, he's a pretty absent minded guy. In my last class, as he was leaving my house, we were comparing our ages and I was a bit offended when he said 'Of course, you're older than I am'. I said 27 isn't that old, and he said it is older than 26. I had to agree there except when he revealed that he was born in 1979. I politely told him, in that case, he is older than me, considering I was born in 1980. He looked really puzzled for a long time and tried to work out the mathematics of the problem. Eventually, I had to gently shut the door in his puzzled face because it was taking too long. I like him - he's silly. But my guitar status stays at 'strumming amateur, now with the ignominy of having taken classes with no improvement'. And yes, the diary held Pradeep's careful instructions, too.

My last venture was into the art world, with Vani's classes, as described in a previous post. Now, the end result of these classes, my 'Mural' is something that I looked at with great pride - for a week. After that, I have decided it is the ghastliest eyesore that I have ever seen and I am planning to use it to scare unwanted guests when we have a house big enough for a guestroom. While people have been appreciative about it, I can see through comments like 'Oh, it's...Outstanding', and 'Wow, that's colourful', and 'Hmmm..very Space-Age, huh?'. The final straw has been my maid Zareena telling me that its latest admirer has been the Kabadiwala , who spotted it while buying our old newspapers. She bawled at me 'Woh Kabadi waala ne aapka Peenting ko Dekha....Bola Bahut accha hai...Bola wo pachaas rupaiye mein khareedega...Madam se pooncho...'. Now, considering I had paid Rs.300 for just the stupid wooden board base, I was understandably hurt by this - and moved the painting a bit further down the hall to keep him from eyeing it again. Anyway, this last one, the mural classes, had no instructions in the diary, I just went with the flow and threw it in for good measure.

Coming back to the original point - that diary was very dear to me -largely, because it held the promise of a brighter, more accomplished future for me, with myriad activities to occupy me, especially in my sunset, retirement years. I know I'm kidding myself - I would have continued to make notes in it on my bizarre attempts at learning stuff, and never have looked at the previous notes again, but it was nice to believe otherwise.

Anyway, I guess nothing stops me from eventually becoming an eccentric, dancing, drumming, guitar-playing artistic old lady - I will just have to be an amateur at everything till the very end - and that's fine by me.

So, here's to a lifetime of unadulterated, unabashed Amateurism. (Amateurity? Amateurness? What??). Dear Diary - I now officially let you go.

...At least it won't be a boring retirement. Hopefully, I will be a real embarassment to my future grand-children. That should be amusing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My Wondrous Nadi Shastra Experience

Unlike all my other posts, this one had me actually thinking about whether to go ahead and write it or not. As you can see, action has won out over abstinence.

There are three reasons for my having dithered over this:

a. It is a sensitive, hotly debated issue with a certain branch of my family.
b. I have no real interest in getting into an argument with the assorted folks out in the blogosphere, who may be staunch and fanatic defenders of this fascinating branch of astrology.
c. This post is a bit of a rant and therefore not really in keeping with the spirit of my blog (making light of life)

So, I start with a pre-emptive note:

a. To the Family Branch: if you ever chance upon this post and this gets your blood boiling - remember how much you love me for my many other sterling qualities, count to ten, and then call me before coming over so that I can leave town.

b. To the other Assorted Folks who believe in Nadi Shastra: Kindly chill out. I'm not here to debate the authenticity of your experience. I'm here to expose the clear sham that my personal experience was.

c. To Myself and the Spirit of my blog: Anything as ridiculous as this experience is still in keeping with the idea of 'making light of life'. Plus, it's my blog and I can and should write whatever I want on it, so there.

Here it goes:

NADI SHASTRA: You can read a glowing description of the same here, in order to get the background. Or, you can read the shamelessly lifted excerpts below, from a succint description by a blogger I found who has posted on the same topic recently - you can read her entire experience here.

From her post:

''....'nadi jolshiyam' or 'astrology that is sought'. Apparently, centuries ago, the period when every village happening was later made into a legend, a Goddess wanted to know about the people who would be born on earth. Her following of saints took up the task and wrote down the life histories of every human being who would ever be born on this earth, each inscribed into a leaf. Wars and natural calamities destroyed a lot of these but about a few hundred years ago, the remaining inscriptions were recovered and translated into a more recent comprehendable Tamil....These little biographies are said to be matched to a person by his/her thumb print and not the date of birth unlike other forms of astrology... even though the saints might have written the futures of thousands of people, each astrologer only has the leaves of those 'destined' to go to him.''

So, anyway, this is how it happened to us:

Vijay and I were living in Bangalore at the time, and the Brother in Law, Ajay, was down from the U.S, staying with us for just the weekend. On Saturday, we got an excited call from two of our family members, who were in Vaitheeswarankoil, near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu - the place that is the epicentre of all Nadi activity. They had been astounded by their own experience, wherein apparently, the 'palm leaf reader' had, on the basis of their thumb prints and a few basic questions, located their ancient palm leaves on which all of their life details were captured. These two members of our family are highly respected and intelligent people, their euphoria was very catching, and Ajay was most enthusiastic about the possibility of us going there and finding our own leaves. On a complete whim, we decided to drive - overnight -for ten hours, starting at midnight -from Bangalore to Chidambaram to experience this miracle first-hand. I was the most skeptical of the three of us, but decided not to play spoilsport because the trip sounded like it could be a fun adventure - I also think I have had a soft corner for Ajay, ever since the Drinking episode.

So we drove there that night, along a totally unfamiliar route in the pitch dark with our trusty Map of Southern India. Since it was such a long journey, we had each agreed to drive a third of the way - so naturally, Vijay drove for 8 hours at a stretch and the last 2 hours were managed by Ajay and me. The whole thing is a now a complete blur for me because none of us got any sleep. All I remember is we were trying to find our way to 'Vaitheeswarankoil', and Ajay at one point, sleepily rolled down his window to stun and confuse a local by asking him how to get to ' Veera Swamy Kaala' or something similar. We somehow made it there at around 10 a.m. on Sunday . And that's when our adventure truly picked up.

Let me dispense with the description of the holiness of the surroundings - largely because I don't remember anything about it. My head was spinning from the lack of sleep and the heat - but the head spinning cleared up soon enough by what followed. I do recall that the holiness of the surroundings were somewhat marred by the presence of a lot of signs advertising the many nadi-reading centers - we were ushered into one of these for our 'leaves to be found'. The deal was that the astrologer would take our thumb prints and then use those to find the right bundle of palm leaves - and then, ask us a few basic questions to ensure he had found the right leaf. Once he found our leaf, our detailed horoscope would be written up and handed over to us.


So anyway- he took our thumb impressions, all right. He then brought out an impressively aged looking bunch of leaves on which there were engravings in a certain dialect of Tamil (I am told) with the details of many people. And then, the astrologer proceeded to flip through these leaves and ask his 'few basic questions', for each of us separately, along the lines of:


'Does your name begin with S? T? R? N? A? V? Y?'...Yes, Y!... I was excited. I really wanted my leaf to be found.
'Does your name have two syllables? Three? Four?'...Umm...4....What was this, now?
'Is the first syllable 'Yo..?'...'Ya?'...Okay, fine. It begins with 'Ya'...

...and so, on it went.

Now, 'Ajay' and 'Vijay' were relatively easy names to find. Yashodhara, not so. In fact, I don't think he actually got my name at all - eventually I just blurted it out in frustration when I found he had arrived at a reasonable facsimileAfter all, maybe Ancient Tamil had a different pronunciation of it?! We then moved on to ...

(Date of birth)

'Were you born in the first six months of the calender year'? Yes.
'January?' No..'February? Yes.
'Before 15th?' Yes!
'4th?.. 5th?.. 6th?... 7th?' Yes!!
'1979?...1982? ...1980?' Yes!!!

This was followed by...

(Parent's names)

...In similar agonizing fashion as my name, my parent's names were spelt out.

After having gathered this information but still not having found my actual leaf, the astrologer announced that he would have to go and look for another bunch. So he left the room for a full fifteen minutes to look for this next bunch.
And sure enough, very soon after he came back, after cursorily checking a few leaves, he had found the leaf which had the above details carved onto it! What a miracle! Thousands of years ago (or in the last fifteen minutes, if you choose to be skeptical), these details had been painstakingly carved into this ancient, yet sturdily preserved palm leaf - I was one of the chosen ones, and destiny had led me here! And now, I was going to get the full details of the rest of my life in the horoscope based on this leaf. What an honour!

And that's when it truly began to hit me. This entire thing is such a brilliant play on our psychology, for a number of reasons:

a. The first thing that you are cautioned about is that you may not be one of the lucky ones destined to find your leaf. Or that it may not be the 'right time' for you to find it. Having travelled all this way to this sacred location for this very purpose, this warning automatically puts a lot of pressure and desire on you to find your leaf. The anticipation levels are really high and you are anxious to supply information about yourself to be as cooperative as possible, as this will assist in locating your leaf. This is why many people don't realize how many questions they are actually being asked in the process - sometimes close to a hundred, I'm sure, depending on degree of difficulty of your details (what thoughtless parents name their kid Yashodhara!)- and they also don't realize how very basic and ridiculous some of these questions are! ( Before 15th or after?..). There's some kind of fervent desire in the air, to truly believe -that hypnotizes you.

b. The 'astrologers' are very, very cleverly trained people. They can make some very impressive guesses about you based on your looks, how you are turned out, who you have come in with, your resemblance to those accompanying you, etc. For example, Ajay and Vijay are clearly brothers - so once the name of Ajay's father was found out, it really didn't take long to find out Vijay's father's name. This is only one of the obvious examples, but there were many other more subtle guesses and tricks along the way, including switching quickly between one line of questioning and another to keep you from figuring things out immediately - This also can cause you to believe that there is 'really something in it'. They are truly masters in this game and also have very sharp memories to remember the details they are gathering in the process - practice makes perfect, I guess.

c. Now, this is a good one: apparently, what is there on your leaf is actually only the details of your name, spouse's name, parent's name and your date of birth. ( Based on this, your full horoscope is then drawn up in detail, outlining exactly what your future will be-as are the details of your past life, in case you're interested. Ajay, incidentally, was Muralidhar of Kerala in his past life. I don't think I bothered to ask who Vijay and I used to be). But the smart thing about this whole deal is that while finding your leaf, the astrologer also throws at you many questions which are unrelated to what is to appear on your leaf (such as your profession, illnesses, financial status, family problems being faced, etc.) - and these details show up in the horoscope that they later write up for you (E.g. you have been suffering from a constant headache since 2001...this problem will get over next year...), making the predictions seem all the more credible and miraculously close to your actual life situation.

d. Finally, it's all rather fool proof, in the end. After all, if they don't get your leaf despite hours of trying - they can just turn around and tell you 'You're not destined to find your leaf..' or 'It's not your time yet...'. So really: it can never fail, can it?

I could go on, but I'm a little tired about this whole thing. In fact, I get tired thinking about how tired we were that Sunday - and how disappointed. We all had to go to work on Monday, and actually hired a driver to take us back to Bangalore overnight.

It happened a while back, but it can still get to me. It gets to me partly because they charge Rs.1400 per person for this beautifully enlightening experience -although in fact, I don't think it's about the money that we spent, but about how they make chumps out of so many, many people, who can probably ill afford it - and also many otherwise intelligent people - whom I should probably try and be fairer to, given that their experiences may be different from mine. But based on this one day, I just see it as a clever, thriving business, playing on the psychology of thousands of believers.

Hey - I don't claim to be a very rational person myself. I don't deny the existence of things like ESP, the possibility of Rebirth, of God or even Ghosts. But I do know that this particular experience felt far from authentic. Perhaps other people have had different experiences, which have been genuinely miraculous. But mine was not so. Clearly, blogger Sandhya's wasn't either.

Anyway: it is good to believe that, as my horoscope said, I will live to the ripe old age of 82, surviving Vijay by two years - he will pop off at 87. What's not so nice is that our two kids, a boy and a girl, will side with him over a rift between the two of us when I am 60 (ungrateful little wretches - turning against your own mother? Just wait till you're actually born!..)- but we will all be happily reunited within a couple of years, so it's okay. That's all I remember from my horoscope.

And, oh - the long life thing seems to be corroborated by my Orkut Horoscope of the day 'You will live to a ripe old age'. (Don't you think that's a bit of a strangely heavy prediction to follow the words 'Today's horoscope'? Never mind, it's a side issue...)

So - any Nadi Believers out there with a vastly different story? Please share, especially if you have personally experienced it. But kindly do not get offended by my version - in other words, don't get your Nadas in a knot.

I promise you all: by the next post I will have calmed down and regained my sense of humour.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mini Overboard!

Related to the previous post -Mini just sent this to me, and it's too much of a prize for me to resist putting up.

This is the actual picture of Mini falling overboard while river rafting.
Let me orient you a little:

a. Brash Marty the Instructor is the one at the back, in the yellow helmet.

b. Right in front of him, to his left, is Mini plunging towards a jagged rock and for some reason, looking extremely happy about it. (Edited to add: She is the littlest creature on the extreme right of the picture - I forgot to mention the helmet was too big for her head and she looked extremely cute as it kept slipping over her eyes)

c. Skipping one girl to Marty's right is moi - grinning away, looking out to the other side of the raft, oblivious to the danger that the beloved cousin is in.

d. The American girl right in front only looks like she's falling overboard - she recovered her balance pretty well. She wasn't always lucky though - she was the one whose Bikini Top later fell off under the waterfall.

e. The guy right behind her, in front of me, was John, an investment banker from London, with a rather high pitched voice. He was pretty happy about the whole bikini thing.

But Mini's smile at this moment really takes the cake. I don't know if you can see it clearly, but believe me: it's as if her life's ambition -of getting smashed between a rock and a boat -is finally coming true.

Monday, July 2, 2007

My Cousin Mini

Ever since I saw the movie 'My Cousin Vinnie' starring Joe Pesci, I've wanted to use the phrase 'My Cousin Mini' as the title of something. Yes! Another thing I can now cross out from my 'Things To Do Before I'm 30' list.

But I'm cheating a bit, because this one isn't really solely about the wonderful person that my favourite elder cousin Mini happens to be; it's more about the little mini-holiday to Cairns that the two of us took last year in February, when I was visiting her in Melbourne.

I was really burnt out from work and generally sick and tired of it all, so I decided on this three-week visit to Australia - it just struck me as one of those places which you may never end up visiting unless you just do it - so I just did it.

After Barcelona, I think Melbourne is probably the nicest city I have been to - it's apparently been voted as one of the best places in the world to live in, and it's easy to see why - in February, the weater was great, the people were very friendly and it was green and beautiful, with the weekends packed with 'summer festival activities'. One weekend, Mini and I just went to some park in the city and found an 'African Dance lesson' going on, with a dance troupe singing, dancing and shouting instructions from the stage in front of a huge and enthusiastic dancing crowd. Mini and I watched for a while, and eventually, I couldn't just sit there anymore so I insisted that we throw ourselves into the fray, which we did. Unfortunately, we found place just behind two teenage girls of African origin, who had 15-inch waists and shook their behinds as quickly and naturally as trembling leaves on a windy day- this gave us a bit of a complex at first but we were quick to get over it. It was the most amazing fun - and Mini,a bit reluctant at first, ended up doing quite a bit of fancy bum-shaking -the best part of this is that I have captured part of her dance on my video camera and may use it to blackmail her at a later stage.

There was also the beautiful day trip where we went wine tasting in the nearby Yarra Valley - But I wasn't going to write about Melbourne. I was going to write about the mini-holiday to Cairns and this is what I will now proceed to do.

After a bit of dillying and some dallying, we decided to splurge quite a bit of money on a four day holiday to Cairns in the North Eastern part of Australia. There, we would see the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree forest and experience other assorted, untold adventures. So we booked our tickets, packed our backpacks and flew off.

The highlights of the trip (in brief, before this post becomes as long as the Barcelona one):

- Day 1: We went river rafting for the first time in our lives. This is literally one of the most thrilling things I have ever done. It was raining that day, which added to the blur of excitement, and we were on on the Tully river, which contained a nice variety of rapids, including a couple of Grade 4 rapids - otherwise known as death traps (I exaggerate, of course, but so what!). It was totally exhilarating to feel the rain in your face, spinning around uncontrollably in the treacherous water, feeling like you were cheating death at every swirl. The instructors, of course, had their own charming, fond nicknames for each rapid. I forget the names now, but they were mostly along the lines of 'Say Your Prayers, baby' or 'This time, I'm a Goner' or 'The Eternal Black Hole'- you get the picture. This served to build our confidence very well, as did the fact that our boat's instructor turned out to be Marty - the loudest, most racuous, brashest Australian I have ever met -and whom I had previously insulted in the bus on the way to the river.

(In my defence, I didn't know he was one of the instructors, I thought he was the Bus Conductor. And it was sort of a justified insult. While collecting our forms, he noticed we were two sweet, innocent-looking brown girls and decided to humour us - 'So, do you guys speak English?' he drawled, or rather bawled at us. I gave him an icy glare and before Mini or I could stop me, had responded 'Probably better than you'. It took him a minute to understand that, I actually had to repeat it louder and slower - and he gave a sporting laugh, but was just a tad subdued for a minute or two after that. Fine, maybe I was a bit too quick to take offence but that was 2006 -I'm a different, calmer person in 2007)

It was most ironic, therefore, that Marty was the very person who was now solely responsible for our lives. And he actually saved Mini's, too. Because she was listening very carefully to the instructions that he was shouting out at the beginning - and he mentioned that at least one of us was sure to fall overboard. Around two minutes into the journey, at the very first rapid, she resignedly thought to herself 'what must be done, should be done soon' and philosophically, threw herself overboard. One minute she was there in the boat, right across from me, and the next - in the blink of an eye - no Mini, no more. I barely had time to wipe the stupid, triumphant grin on my face at having survived the first rapid myself, but Marty was quicker, thankfully - he jumped in a millisecond after her and pushed her back onto the boat, just in time to prevent her from getting crushed between the boat and a jagged rock.

(I liked him a lot more after that incident, and therefore will not dwell on the fact that he insisted on telling the bawdiest, most inappopriate, tasteless jokes throughout the ride and also deliberately made us go, without life jackets and helmets, under a really forceful waterfall -thereby succeeding in making one of the American girls' bikini tops fall off - a fact that he was very proud of and was heard bragging about to the instructors on other boats, who were less lucky with their attempts. Cretins. )

- Day 2: The second higlight of our trip was going to see the Great Barrier Reef. We were taken out on this speedboat on a stomach churning hour long ride, finally arriving at the place where we were to dive in to start snorkelling. I use the term 'Dive in' loosely- it was more like precariously easing ourselves into the deep water, immediately going under and getting water into our snorkels, coming up panicky and gasping for breath, scrambling back onto the safety of the boat, watching everyone else expertly dive in, being laughed at by the kindly instructors, and eventually trying it again more successfully with some strange noodle-shaped floatation device. The term 'successfully' here is also rather relative, considering that the first twenty minutes after this were spent floating around looking for the Great Barrier Reef - I spotted a large white mass of coral, first got very excited, gestured to Mini that I had found it, and then thought disappointedly 'This is it?'. That was when we then found a handsome lifeguard type who was kind enough to drag us, clinging on to a buoy, to right above the actual Great Barrier Reef.

And there lay the most beautiful sight - a vertitable underwater forest, in shockingly riotous colours - blue, red, black, orange, yellow, you name it. I could not stop from laughing out loud at myself for mistaking the earlier white coral for the reef - with the unhappy result that I almost drowned myself by getting water into my snorkel again. But the things we saw on that reef were truly unbelievable - strange fishes, plants, corals and all sorts of other flora and fauna - in fact, it was so truly indescribable, I'm not even going to bother trying.

We were taken to another location after this, for a different view of the Reef, and I was more enthusiastic about exploring this than Mini, so I spent a lot of time floating around above the reef, drinking in the fascinating sights as well as a lot of unnecessary salt water (I never did fully master the art of snorkelling). Now, thanks to Mini, we had thought well-ahead about the matter of sun protection, because the rays are notoriously treacherous in this part of the world - and so had applied liberal quantities of waterproof sunscreen. Of course, with typical absentmindedness, I had forgotten about doing this on the back of my legs - which as you may guess, also happens to be the only area actually exposed to the sun when you are snorkelling.

I suffered the effects of the sunburn on the back of my legs for almost a whole year - a not-so-happy souvenir of this otherwise wonderful adventure. It was still worth it.

-Day 3: This was the day that we went to see the Daintree Forest. Now, maybe Day 1 and 2 had been highly exciting and this caused Day 3 to pale in comparison. As it was, I didn't particularly see the big deal - maybe it was the muggy, windless day or the total lack of any actual wildlife apart from a spider, a squirrel and a bird - whatever. Mini seemed to enjoy the day quite a bit, though. I just wanted to see a Wombat because I had no idea what it was and liked the word 'Wombat' (Try it - Wombat, wombat!)- but we saw no wombats - either they were not commonly spotted there, or it was the wrong season, I forget which - but it is of no consequence - No Wombats, was the bottomline.

But the day was still quite nice because we did get to see some pretty sights and take some pretty pictures. And also made friends with our slightly cracked Tour Guide-cum-Bus Driver, whose name was CJ. He ended up taking us out for a lovely dinner that night, having clearly developed a little crush on the irresistable Mini. He was quite a nice, interesting guy but had a really twisted sense of humour. For example, while giving his tour speech during the day, he convinced the Americans on board that this particular part of Australia was famous for producing 'Flavoured bananas'. He said very matter-of-factly, 'If you look out there to your right, you will find the fields have different coloured markers - pink for strawberry flavoured, red for cherry flavoured, brown for chocolate flavoured bananas'. He stuck to this story till the very end and was most convincing - the Americans were totally overawed, and a couple made frantic entries in their journals, too. In retrospect, I think this was rather unkind and not very professional of him, but it was very funny. He clearly did not like Americans too much, because he also remarked at one point 'On the left, you will find one of the American embassies which are liberally scattered around this area, easy to spot due to their Golden arch emblems' - which, of course, turned out to be McDonalds. Yes, he was an interesting guy - but Mini decided he was too weird for her and so, there is now little hope of my gaining a brother-in-law in CJ. Sigh.

And that's it! Day 4, we had kept free, in order to do a little 'exploring on our own'. On the way to do this exploring, we made the mistake of stepping into a mall. It was a horribly hot day and the air conditioning of the mall was irresistable. And so, all we ended up doing on this day was a little shopping, and we also watched an absolutely terrible, serious movie called 'Derailed' starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. We were so disturbed by this movie, that we had to cancel the effect of this by watching another bad, but funny movie - 'Casanova', which just about helped us recover our good mood. And then, after this slight anti-climax to our trip, it was time to fly back to Melbourne.

I leave you with my favourite picture from the trip - Mini and me, snorkelling. Of course, this wasn't the photographer's first attempt. We had been warned about him earlier, but the first time that he suddenly appeared below me, I totally freaked out - because he was very swift, dressed in black, and very bulked up with all his equipment - so naturally, I assumed he was a shark (Pre-emptive note to Ganju - unlike your comment on my previous post, kindly do not point out that sharks are swift, black but do not carry equipment).

Anyway, this picture was taken when the two of us were totally ready for it - holding hands and all - and also looking like we are smiling and not drowning. Rather sweet, I personally feel.