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Made in Heaven or alternately, in China

24 Sep

This was an advertisement I saw in Face Book today:

Mangalsutra – Buy 1 get 1 free!

What is the fuss?  What is a ‘Mangalsutra’?

It is the Indian equivalent of the wedding ring, but unlike the wedding rings, this chain-with-a-pendant(s) is worn solely by the wife. Every community in India (irrespective of religion) has its own version of this ornament that signifies that you carry your husband close to your heart. You can look it up on Wikipedia here.

In my family, making of a Mangalsutra is a ceremony by itself. After the wedding date has been set (with or without the agreement/acknowledgement of bride and groom), a ‘holy’ day is chosen to cast this all-important pendant that carries more weight than its mere weight in gold. Yes, it is cast out of 22 carat gold. This gold may partly be contributed by the groom’s ancestors or could be purchased completely new. It has to be the groom, though, that pays for it.

Of course, the melting and the final casting will be done by an artisan who has been doing this for at least 25 years, if not more – he has to be a master goldsmith. Because, the belief is, if not done with a pure heart and holy blessings and in the right manner, it could make or break a marriage.

And you thought making of the ‘One Ring’ was difficult! Move over, Sauron!

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Hit or Miss (America)

18 Sep

I know a lot has been written about the Miss America pageant already and I have probably missed the boat (sorry, I have been busy living my life) but better late than never, right?  So here goes – my rantings on this subject for your personal pleasure!

My question for all americans that made sarcastic tweets about immigrants – I paraphrase Chris Rock’s question from Lethal Weapon 4

“Your ancestors were native americans, were they?”

And now, for my most important question, to the Indians and Indian newspapers who oh-so with righteous wrath poured acid remarks on Americans:

“do you seriously believe that Ms. Davuluri would have won Miss India?!?”

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Mind track

11 Jul

I got a note from my 8-yr old son’s Hindi teacher yesterday, saying that he was singing during the lessons and had disturbed the class. My son is usually a well-behaved child – sometimes so well-behaved that I worry if he will ever have any fun or grow up to regret not having been naughty! And then there are times like this….

I asked him why he did that and he told me that he just couldn’t get this song off his mind and did not realize that he was humming it and did not intend to disturb the class. We are not native Hindi speakers and having had had no exposure to that language till he turned 7, my son finds it difficult to follow the lessons sometimes. So I wanted to give him the benefit-of-doubt that his mind wandered during the class. After giving him a stern talk-to about how learning anything will only make him smarter and how he should never ever disturb others even if he cannot follow what the teacher is saying, I asked him what he was singing. It was this silly song from ‘The Diary of the Wimpy Kid‘, he said.

And now I have been infected! I have a tendency to have a soundtrack running in my head all the time, be it a song or music or even prose – my mind has an audio and video track. I marvel at what the human brain is capable of – chopping broccoli and my brain is singing a salsa song! Just imagine what this seemingly simple task involves – your eye co-ordinating with your hand so that you do not chop off your finger by mistake and in addition, your brain is screening your last Zumba lesson complete with the Salsa track plus all the involuntary things going on – breathing, heart-pumping etc. Amazing! And then you have this ear worm phenomenon where a song repeats in your head like a broken record!

How to get rid of this? My husband’s strategy is called the ‘counter song’. He says if a song gets stuck in your head, all you have to do is, listen to another song – the “counter song” – till you get rid of the previous one. The danger is, you might get stuck with the counter song but at least it will be a song of your choice and not chance.

I am not sure if listening to ‘Greensleeves’ (The King’s Singers version), is going to save me from the Wimpy kid, but let us hope so. Otherwise, I cannot in good conscience discipline my son and let him in on the secret of the ‘counter song’, can I?

-Inspired by the Daily Prompt: Earworm

Why Indian Government should take Tony Stark as role-model

18 Jun

I’ve successfully privatized world peace. What more do you want

When Robert Downy Jr.’s character Tony Stark looks at the American senate and delivers this with such panache, people probably clapped for the witticism. Many probably failed to notice how profound this is. Lots of the development in human history came about not because the Government put its back to it but because private sector wanted to make money off it. Distasteful, you say? No, this is what you call ‘providing an incentive’.

Many of you have probably read the ‘Freakonomics’ or ‘Superfreakonomics’ where the authors had gathered many examples to show that people respond to incentives – be it emotional (“feeling good”=”charity”) or physical (cash or material). So why not give the private sector an initiative to make things better for the whole while still increasing shareholder value?

My driver’s sister-in-law is 4-years old (yes, its probably a very complicated story with a simple explanation, but I do not know the story and so let us skip that). He had brought the little girl to live with them in Goa as there is no one to take care of the child in Bihar (a state in North India). This girl is the same age as my daughter and I was ready to help them with her education. When I asked him why she is not in school yet, if it was the money, he told me that it was because she does not have a birth certificate. There is no proof on paper that this child exists – she is standing in front of me, she even touched my feet to get my blessings but she is invisible to all the officials.

I asked my driver S what happened to her birth certificate; he says her parents never registered her birth even though she was born in a hospital. He went on to tell me how the Government actually gives the people money to deliver the babies in the hospital – Rs 1000 for a boy and Rs 2000 for a girl. What happens to the money? The parents usually have to buy sweets and presents for the entire village and then usually nothing is left of the money after a day or two. OK, why doesn’t the hospital register the birth?

Where, Madam, the parents do not want anything to do with the Government, so they take the money and walk away as quickly as possible and leave the hospital as soon as the doctor/nurse says go”.

I was frustrated.

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The importance of punctuation

17 Jun

Even into the late 90s, telegrams were what you sent in India, if you want something to go viral – be it good or bad news. It was the #twitter for 160 years. The catch was, you had to be concise – every letter, number and sign counted. You have to think of what you wanted to say and then try and say it in as few words as possible. If you turned up at the telegram counter, it meant you have something so important to say that you are willing to pay hard cash for it.

Receiving a telegram, on the other hand, was filled with trepidation. It usually brought bad news, as bad news travels faster than any other kind (except videos of Psy which travels at speed of light). So if the post man enters your gate and announces “telegram”– it was, literally, a matter of life or death. It meant someone has either passed away or is about to or a new life has come into this world. Either way, life came to a standstill at the receiving end. Sometimes people would shoot the messenger and curse the post man that delivered the bad news or he would be praised for bringing the good news. Then life at that household would take a deep-breath and continue.

Imagine my surprise then, when I received a telegram on a fine day in July 1998 at my hostel room in IITMadras. I was terrified to open it- it was from my home town but I knew of no one that is close to me or my family, who was having a baby. By clever process of elimination, my mind had come to the conclusion it must be death then that the telegram carries. With trembling hands, I opened the blue telegram and it said “come to Madurai – A”. I exploded in relief and anger.

‘A’ was a German exchange student at my university in 1998. He and a couple of his friends were on a road trip around South India and he was on his way to my home town, Madurai. He knew that I had taken other German exchange students to my place in Madurai. And he had the gall to send me a telegram, ordering me to come to Madurai. I was so offended that I must have ranted for an hour to my friends about this spindly, blond, condescending German guy! What was he thinking of himself?! I should drop everything I have and coming running to play tour guide?!? How dare he?!? 

After that angry adrenaline come down, I went off to classes and my life continued. But I kept the telegram. Looking back now, I wondered if my heart knew what my head did not. In any case, the telegram was carefully saved and was brandished when ‘A’ got back, as an example of how rude he had been to me.

‘A’ listened patiently to my carefully controlled outburst and asked to see the telegram. I threw it, well, not in his face, he is more than a head taller than me, lets say I threw it in his general direction. He looked very stricken after reading it and told me that he had put a question mark at the end of the statement but the telegraph guy had not included it! I was speechless.

He was on a budget travel and he really wanted to see me. He decided on sending a telegram. As he had to compress his message, he thought instead of writing “Please Come to Madurai(Stop)”, he would write “Come to Madurai(question mark)”. I don’t think the telegraph guy/lady ever had to send a message with a question-mark in it, so they turned it into a full stop.

That was the story of how punctuation caused our first lovers’ tiff though at that time I had no inkling that this is going to be a love story. It has been fifteen years now since that telegram, but my husband has never forgotten his lesson in the importance of correct punctuation, even in emails. 


14 Jun

A while ago, I read somewhere that if its on a computer, its not a secret. I forgot who said that. I am sure Google knows who said that. I am sure Google knows everything including what I did last summer. Oh wait, I posted that on Facebook. Okay, fine, you won Internet, but only this time! But the Governments will never know!

I don’t like anyone knowing everything about me – how am I going to be the mid-30s mysterious someone if everything about me is known, especially my date of birth?! Oh wait a minute, that is something I have to fill up in every form I ever had to fill, on-line or otherwise.

They know about me watching ‘Game of Thrones’? Damn! Now they know what kind of TV programs I like! They are going to tell my mom about this R-rated show? Oh no, oh no. They also know that I download stuff which could fall into gray-areas of electronic piracy? You are scaring me!

Ah, but they will never know where I live! What do you mean my address is there on every ‘collect royalty points’ card? They know where I live?! Blessed heaven, I got to move to an unknown village in Bhutan immediately. Better pack my bags and get that plane ticket. Oh, the ticketing data is saved on the computer and it will be traceable? Why are you telling me all this?!

If the Government has nothing better to do than read all my emails which involves long shopping lists, forwards of days old jokes, Nigerian get-rich-quickly emails, chain-letters about Microsoft giving away a dollar for a forward, I guess, we might as well let them get along with it!

Hey, all you bad guys, waiting to annihilate the planet – this is your chance, the Governments are busy looking at the porn collections of various individuals, go ahead and invade the planet right now!

My advice, if you want to keep it a secret, right it down in a diary in random cryptic teen-speak through all ages, in a handwriting similar to my husband’s – even you won’t be able to read it in a couple of years.

As for me, time has come to flag down a spaceship and explain to the alien why it is so important to get off the planet before my broadband bill turns up! 

My Casting Couch – a one-act play

7 Jun

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...

Cast of Characters 

Me(Kallu) – looking for an actor to play a role

Benedict Cumberbatch (BC)/(Holmes) – actor who has kindly taken up my invitation to come by for a chat.

(all characters in this play are fictional, except me and my husband. Mr. Cumberbatch and Mr. Grimwood are real, of course, but since prior consent was not obtained, they are to be considered purely fictional for the purpose of this post) 

Act I-

(the office – bright sunny room with doors to left and right, white, pristine leather couch-set in a u-shaped arrangement in the middle, french windows in the back open to a breathtaking sea-view, a small glass coffee table with coffee/tea service service sitting on it, a few books can be seen on the table. Kallu seated on one of the armchairs with a mug of steaming Colombian coffee in her right-hand)

-Scene I-

{Knock at the door, Kallu puts coffee down, gets the door to the left}

Kallu : Oh, Welcome Mr. Cumberbatch. Very kind of you to have accepted my invitation

BC : {enters left} Thank you. Mrs M, I presume

 Kallu : Yes, that’s me, but you can call me Kallu. Please {indicates one of the comfy armchair}

BC : {seats himself} Nice place, Kallu.

Kallu : Why, thank you Mr. Cumberbatch. May I offer you some coffee*? Milk? Sugar?

{BC indicates his preferences with nods or shakes and now they are both seated with steaming mugs in their hands}

Kallu : Do you mind if I call you Mr. Holmes? Somehow, its more intimate don’t you think?

 BC : Err..

Kallu :{beaming} Oh jolly good then. So Mr. Holmes, did your agent tell you about my proposition? This little idea of mine?

Holmes :{uncomfortable now} err… intimate,… proposition… I am not sure where this is going..

Kallu : {tinkling laugh} Oh no, you are a tease Mr. Holmes. Nothing of that sort. No, not, at all. I just want to cast you as a vampire

Holmes : {relieved and surprised} A vampire? Me? Shouldn’t it be the other English guy you should be talking to? Robert Pattinson? He seems to be a popular vampire now-a-days.

Kallu : {aghast} Oh, no, Mr. Holmes, its not that kind of a vampire. I would like to cast you as my most favourite vampire-assassin, from an alternate Venice in the 15th century

Holmes : A vampire from Venice?

Kallu : {hands over a set of novels from the coffee table

The Assassini series by Jon Courtney Grimwood. You are it, Mr. Holmes, down to your Byronic locks, piercing grey-blue eyes, the nose and those cheekbones *sigh*

{staring at Holmes for a while}

Holmes : {blushes, clears his throat}

Kallu : {snaps out}, sorry, where was I?

Holmes : why I should be a vampire..

Kallu : ah yes, I do get carried away sometimes. Well, you have this way of looking young and boyish but at the same time sounding much older than your age! You are a perfect fit.

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