Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saint Nicholas. Never met him in person. Did you?

My most persistent childhood memory of Christmas is of the stuffed stockings sold in the toy stores of Crawford Market. Made of white netting and edges trimmed with a red ribbon, they used to contain a lot of junk – mostly stuff you could pick up for an anna or two from a balloon seller. Whistles and balloons and miniature packs of playing cards and folding paper tricks and party knick knacks, you know, the collective value of which was way below what the brigands charged for the whole stocking. The smallest sized one used to be priced, if memory serves, at Rs.7/-. Even that was a lot of money in those days. I remember forcing my father foolishly to buy if not the largest at least the second largest stocking for me. This set him back for a fair amount of his hard earned money. The poor dear never once complained, though. So, figuratively and literally speaking, he was Santa Claus but I never knew it. He also used to take me to the Army and Navy Stores at Kala Ghoda in either the same or the adjoining building where the Watson Hotel used to be I remember buying a Meccano No.1 set from there apart from a chutney green clockwork road roller about which I’ve written before. The other Christmas memory from childhood is on the tip of my tongue: the delicious plum and rum cakes bought probably from an Irani bakery at Dhobi Talao – within easy walking distance of Lucky Toy Mart which stocked the Christmas stockings.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It’s a puzzlement.

Maybe I shouldn’t be putting these thoughts down on … I almost wrote ‘paper’. But I’m perturbed. Seeing them in front of me may prompt a probable answer. There’s a practising Advita preceptor whose view of the working model of the world tallies with mine. Where I veer away from his worldview is that he postulates the ‘guru’ as the gatekeeper to Consciousness. I’ve never believed in the guru-shishya parampara. Anyway, I’m friendly with one of his most devoted shishyas (disciples). He casually said a couple of days back something that I found puzzling. He was talking about an infrequent visitor to his guru’s daily satsanga (discourse). I know the concerned person at second hand, by reputation, to be an intellectual, highly successful in business and on intimate terms with the crème de la crème. From some of her published letters to her guru, I feel she’s devoted to him. And, yet, her shortcoming in my friend’s view seems to be that she doesn’t regularly donate to the guru as some other well-to-do disciples do. From what I can see the guru in question – whose unwritten motto for his daily satsanga is “Nobody is invited. Everybody is welcome.” and who spontaneously gave a one lakh rupee donation for the Kargil war – does not need her donation. But as my friend puts it, it is a way of showing your unstinted devotion to the guru. Here’s why I found this disturbing. It reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s description – in Maximum City – of how the wielders of illegitimate power keep a tight grip on their followers. “Show respect or else” seems to be the guru mantra. “Pass the leader the lion’s share of the booty" is one of the ways of showing respect. It’s the dhandawala’s way. Or, the way their kind of business works. My question: Is everything a dhanda these days? It’s a puzzlement, as the King of Siam would have said. P.S.: On the other hand, maybe, it’s none of my business.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gandhigiri on the silver screen. An earlier sighting.

Aimlessly surfing the TV channel often throws up serendipitous surprises. This morning, for instance, I came across a movie on the Sony Max channel I never knew existed. Called Ranbhoomi (Battlefield), it had a surprisingly young looking cast including Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Shatrughna Sinha, Jeetendra, Gulshan Grover, Shekhar Suman and Neelam doing a passable Basanti imitation. The way they all looked, it seemed like a mid-70s flick – given that Bobby was released in 1973 and Sholay three years later. But when I checked it out at I found out that I had missed the target by almost 16 years. The storyline was nothing to write home about. The IMDb website gives it a surprisingly – and suspiciously – high (7/10) rating, though. What was interesting, however, was Bholanath (literally a simpleton) played by Rishi Kapoor doing a Gandhigiri act practically throughout the movie in his bid to end the rivalries between the two gangsters played by Sinha and Jeetendra.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The medicine cabinet.

In the third floor flat at 233 Khetwadi Main Road in the room behind the sitting room or ‘hall’ as we used to call it was the room separated from the former by a wood and glass partition. It served as the puja-dining-store space. On its eastern wall was our medicine cabinet, a miniscule walnut veneered wooden cupboard maybe 2 feet by 1 foot and 6 inches deep. All the Mankar family’s first-aid needs were stored there. Minor cuts, wounds and scrapes were treated with either tincture of iodine or benzine – both of which burned like hell and brought tears to the eyes – or else with Mercuryochrome – which didn’t. There was cotton wool to swab the wounds, boric powder and potassium permanganate to disinfect them and rolls of gauze dressing and a Johnson sticky tape roll in a blue tin case. I had my generous share of falls and scrapes on the knee and was a real cry baby at the time of dressing the wounds and all through the healing process. Glycerine acid tannic was the throat ‘paint’ of choice for treating my frequently recurring tonsils infection. I remember being offered the bribe of ice cream in order to undergo a tonsillectomy. Being the coward in constant dread of physical pain that I have always been, I somehow always managed to dodge the Damocles’ sword and eventually managed, as I grew up, to outgrow the menace. Towards the end of my childhood, when I was fifteen and poised to appear for my Secondary School Certificate exam in maybe a couple of months, I managed to burn the ring finger on my right hand on a Sunday afternoon while thoughtlessly doing a lab experiment in the south-western part of our terrace. My father and his friends were busy with their weekly session of bezique and they all rushed to my rescue with Burnol and sympathy. The same evening, I went with my sister to the Imperial Talkies on Lamington Road within easy waling distance from home to watch the hit musical, Albela. It was made by Bhagwan, a successful stunt movie star turned comedian, and Geeta Bali who was a big star already and a good sport apparently for having condescended to act with someone far below her own class. Coming back to my medical ordeals, the second major catastrophe was again just before my Bachelor of Commerce exam. This was when an inverted abscess on my butt had to be surgically removed in Dr Hiralal’s surgical clinic. It was situated on Queen’s Road halfway between the Royal Opera House and Charni Road Station. A few days later while I was recuperating and studying for my exam, my right hand index finger got infected and had to be operated on. This resulted in my ending up with a foreshortened index digit with a rather pointy round nail.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Red versus black.

My mother, a god-fearing and simple person, used to tell me never to harm the black ants. I used to watch them fascinated as they marched in a disciplined and civilized queue to collect and carry away the stray crystals that had dropped on the kitchen floor as she measured out the sugar for the tea she had put to boil. As for the red ants, she had no such reservations. They would devour anything: sugar, fish and meat bones… you name it. They would also bite you if you displeased or disturbed them in some way. In my mother’s book, the black ants were Brahmins while the red ants belonged to a much lower social order. They were the scavengers, useful but villainous. These days, it has come to my attention that the rules of yore do not apply to the ant universe. No more do the black denizens stick to the white-collar chores and the red to the other sort. The difference has blurred, nay disappeared. I’m aware that the ant world I’d witnessed in the good ol’ days was on the third floor of 233 Khetwadi Main Road, figuratively and literally another world, I guess, for all practical purposes. I sometimes wonder if there are several parallel ant universes (or, alternative realities) like what sci-fi writers write and quantum cosmologists theorise about. Stuff like: “There is no one reality. Each of us lives in a separate universe. That's not speaking metaphorically. This is the hypothesis of the stark nature of reality suggested by recent developments in quantum physics. Reality in a dynamic universe is non-objective. Consciousness is the only reality.” Sounds trés Advaita, no? Enough already. Coming back to the ants of this world here and now, being a very fair-minded guy, I decided to give the black ants another chance. This morning, I left a strip of rind from a slice of ham on a piece of a paper on the kitchen platform. Lo and behold! A few minutes later, the truth of my earlier observation was reiterated by a long line of very agitated black – yes, black and not red – ants. What is the world coming to, boys and girls?

LATEST FLASH! Recently, Ujwal forgot to take her daily Revital Ginseng-Vitamin-Mineral capsule and her Calcium tablet. They remained open overnight in a plastic receptacle on a lowtable in the living room. The next morning, I found them infested by a horde of miniscule black ants. Either the medicine was sugar-coated or the ants belonged (shudder! shudder!!) to a Mutant Ninja specie. Will they take over the earth? Who knows?

Friday, December 01, 2006

More is happier. Maybe. Maybe not.

The Oliver (“Please, sir. May I have some more?”) state of mind is very much a nearly constant part of the human condition. If that sounds too convoluted and pretentious, what I mean is we always want more of anything whether we have enough of it or not. What triggered this thought was a recent Iconoculture report claiming satellite radio is as unsatisfying as cable television, contentwise. “Why isn't the sheer volume of content – much from big name personalities - enough? One word: relevance,” explains Kate Muhl, Director, Travel/Leisure and Transportation. All this brings to mind something quite relevant to the topic under discussion. It’s a poster I noticed in my morning workplace. It’s the sort that presumes to make a seemingly witty though in fact a rather vacuous comment about something topical. In the present instance, it is about Farhan Akhtar’s Don. “Priyanka. Kareena. Isha. Gauri,” it reads. Then the punch line: “One lucky Don.” Not necessarily. It could mean trouble four times over. Well, Don could sort it out with a bullet or two, though. The fewer, the merrier? Maybe. Maybe not. Kemo Sabe?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Branding arrives in Bollywood.

Once upon a time, there was no Bollywood. There was only the Bombay film industry. Then too there used to be remakes. Mehboob Khan remade his own Aurat as Mother India without fuss. Mehmood’s Do Phool was remade as Aankhen by David Dhawan. Also, his Hero No. 1 a reincarnation of Bawarchi. The new avatar of Chitchor was Main Prem Ki Diwami Hoon. Those days, the dastardly deed was called copying. A lot of Hollywood stuff also used to be copied. Then, post globalization, the Bombay film industry was remade into Bollywood. Remakes became the flavour of the week. Branding became the norm. Farhan Akhtar’s Don. Ram Gopal Varma’s Sholay. You see the difference? The brand is everything. Hype is all. Glitter is the thing. Sizzle is what matters. The steak may be chemically treated. Sizzle will sell. Tongues must be made to wag. Get the audience salivating well in advance. Raise expectations sky high. Old wine in a new bottle with a smart label. Way to go, baby.

The trouble with Harry.

Not Hitchcock’s second favourite film out of his own ouvre, the black macabre eponymous comedy (a capital T in ‘trouble’, though) about the corpse that wouldn’t stay put in one grave. Harry as in ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’, meaning you, me and whoever. The trouble is, we live in linear, sequential, serial Time. Unlike in the digital realm, you cannot undo. Or, retrieve the past to amend and relive it. Then why do we have alumni meets? Are we just aping the West? From what I can gather, these occasions are looked upon even there more as opportunities to show off how better off you are and how much better you have fared than all the rest of the lousy losers? It’s no problem for a guy like me blessed with an easily and swiftly erasable memory. And, no envy. I’ve listened to the heart-rending confessions of battled-scarred veterans just back from one of these journeys down the memory lane. Full of self-pity, regret, jealousy, a sense of failure. If you cannot handle the aftermath, why accept the challenge in the first place? Because someone dared you? Avoid. Run. Duck. No pain is gain too. Less is more, hombre.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

“Bloody Indians.”

Human beings take offence easily. Now there’s a very good reason to take offence for all those who call themselves Indians. The bodyguards of Angelina Jolie whom you met in this blog earlier called a bunch of Indian parents “Bloody Indians”. And some haughty “foreigner” jumped the queue in a multiplex loo for women and insulted an Indian woman calling her something “extremely offensive” (in Kiran Joneja’s opinion). The Natives struck back pronto arresting the former and extracting an apology from the latter. No more Gandhigiri, we’re proud Indians. Actually, these seem to be the right occasions to use some crafty Gandhigiri, if you ask me. By all of us including the media taking the course of non-cooperation against all these firangs. Let us just ignore them. Let the media ignore them. While they walk among us, let us treat them as invisible aliens. Left alone without attention, even a flower withers.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Role model.

Believe it or not (sorry, Ripley), my role model once upon a time happened to be an actor. I somehow instinctively started to admire him. He was a theatre and film actor and a Communist. He used to visit the Red Flag Hall on the first floor of 233 Khetwadi Main Road off and on. This morning, I happened to notice an excerpt from his autobiography translated into Marathi in a Sunday supplement. He writes in this segment (‘My first turn in prison’) about his early days in the Hindi film industry. In it, he mentions about how he used to be escorted from the Arthur Road Jail back in 1949 in order to fulfill his commitment to act in K Asif’s Hulchul. He had been arrested for participating in a morcha or protest march that had a rather bang-up climax in Parel. He recalls how his fellow inmates used to ask him to bring back signed photographs of Dilip Kumar and Nargis, bidis, specific brands of cigarettes, tea powder and so on. K Asif who had arranged for his daily trip to the Rooptara Studio used to obligingly instruct one of his assistants to do the shopping. Our first-time jailbird also recalls how Sahir Ludhianavi, a poet and fellow traveller under police surveillance, who dropped on the sets because he heard he was shooting for Hulchul, beat a hasty retreat when he saw our man dressed as a policeman (his role as jailor required it). He also writes about a totally self-absorbed Raj Kapoor dropping in one morning and talking only about himself and the film he was then shooting, Barsaat, without ever bothering to enquire about his friend’s predicament. What I admire about our guy is that he describes the incidence without any rancour or accusation – as a mere witness in the true Advaita sense. Every time I watched him on the screen I got that certain feeling about him that here was one human being who was sincere, simple, honest, forthright, humble and decent to the core. Even that biggest liar in the whole wide world – the movie camera – could not hide the truth about Balraj Sahani.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Eyes and ears only.

Just after I had passed my Bachelor of Commerce examination in 1956 and was planning to do post graduation by thesis, an unusual job offer came my way. A cousin of mine used to work at that time for the Central Excise Department and was attached to a factory. Its personnel officer apparently was on very good terms with him and asked him to find a young person willing to be the eyes and ears of the management. In those days, trade unions were powerful and wielded a lot of clout in collective bargaining. The new recruit was expected to work as a clerk in the dispatch department and join the Union. He would then keep his eyes and ears open and report to the personnel manager all the gory details. For his trouble, he would be paid a handsome amount in addition to his regular salary. The moral implications of being a snitch did not bother me much. In fact, I hardly even thought about them. What dissuaded me from even considering the offer was my inability to absorb and reproduce gossip. Because that’s exactly what the wannabe spy would have to do. Later on, after doing my Master of Commerce I worked for the Forward Markets Commission as a research assistant. One of the assignments I had was to visit the commodity trading markets and pick up the market gossip. I was a failure at it and was soon returned to a desk job. I did however manage to write a few good notes about the happenings in the commodity markets and my analysis of them. Gossip continues to be my Achilles’ heel even to this day. I cannot simply be bothered with it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

One-boy cricket.

Now that I’m in the cricket memory mode let me take you back to the days of my childhood, circa late forties. The third floor flat at 233 Khetwadi Main Road as I’ve written before was a terrace flat. I used to be a cricket fan (but not a fanatic) then. I was among the few in my school friends to have attended the famous Bombay Pentangulars contested among five teams (Hindus, Parsis, Mohammedans, Europeans and the Rest) at the Brabourne Stadium either in 1944 or 1945 The tournament used to be held, if memory serves, in winter (November-December) in a festive mood. Lots of fun, lots of friendly ribbing between various groups. Then, in 1946, the tournament was discontinued as a result of the long-running campaign against its politically incorrect format and team make-up. I even saw the ‘unofficial’ Test match (1946) between India and the Australian Services Cricket Team, skippered by Lindsay Hassett and featuring Keith Miller as well as the one against West Indies in either 1948 or 1949. I used to play cricket on our terrace with my nephews acting out an entire Test match between India and Australia, India and England and so forth. We used to keep scores and had spots marked on the wall with so many runs earned and of course we could score by running between wickets. We played either with a rubber ball or a cork ball and lost a lot many of them when they cleared the wooden ‘fence’ of the terrace. There was a little shop selling odds and ends run by a bohari gentleman, next to the Dreamlamd (previously Krishna) Cinema, within easy walking distance of my house where we would run to replace the lost ball. (We also used to use wooden balls to prevent loss by bouncing.) One notable memory of those days is that we had to wear a sweater at four in the afternoon while playing on the terrace because it used to be windy and chilly in November, December, January and even early February. My cricket at home was played not just on the terrace, though. There was a one-boy version of it which I played by my lonesome self in the six-foot wide passage that dissected our flat. This was my invention and I should have rightfully taken a copyright on it. In the one-boy version of cricket, an entire Test match could be played enacting the roles of 22 players in about an hour. The wall at the east end of the passage would act as the wicket and the opposite wall would be the bowler’s end. A rubber ball would be bounced off the bowling wall and I would ‘open’ each of the four innings in style and keep score as well. A piece of paper and pencil were kept at ready on the dinner table nearby. Insofar as I was the only player or play actor, the rules happened to be a bit too flexible as you can well imagine. All in all, though, I recall having a lot of fun playing one-boy cricket with myself.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A bunch of clowns.

Once upon a time, life used to be really, really simple. Including the view from the Wankhede Stadium. Those were the days when I used to take interest in the game of cricket – like aam janata – and Mohinder Amarnath could get away calling the selectors by what came to be known as the most derogatory label in the history of Indian cricket. The true story I’m about to tell happened in 1996. I was a part of the pretentious “bunch of clowns” called ‘We’re Game’. We intended to operate as an independent think tank in order to help India XI win the 1999 World Cup. I have a bunch of papers from those days that actually contain a couple of think notes written by me in the form of articles. They are filed in a blue plastic folder. I found them the other day while cleaning up the storage shelves. The crawly stuff I wrote then sounds weird in sane retrospect. Nauseating stuff like: “Here we may seek enlightenment and insights from our HRD practitioners, social scientists and psychologists. [Yechhh!] We are perhaps in for a close encounter with Group Dynamics, the sociologist’s “work group” (people working on a common task) and the psychologist’s “interactive group” (any get-together of individuals for a common purpose). [Arrrraghhh!] In his book The Corporate Man, Anthony Jay hypothesized that there is a natural primordial size of the “hunting group” (translation: the “team”) no larger than a football team (nine) beyond which success gets much harder if not impossible to achieve.” The cheek of me! I actually presumed that I, who had never graduated beyond ‘terrace cricket’ in my childhood (I must write about that little-known esoteric version of the game some day), had garnered enough wisdom, expertise and knowledge to advise the India XI on how to get out of the “wrest defeat out of the jaws of victory” mode and win the 1999 World Cup. To tell you the truth, I have still not fathomed the aerodynamics of reverse swing. Fortunately, the ‘We’re Game’ never got the opportunity to unleash its expertise on the unsuspecting cricketing world. It died unsung and uncelebrated of inertia, inaction and sloth of the intending promoters and also, as I had suspected right from the start, lack of the right connections.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The earth won’t stop spinning every time you leave the room.

I’m an avid but passive TV trailer watcher. There’s a JAG trailer running at this time in which ’Mac’ tells ‘Harm’: “You know, Harm, every time you leave the room, the earth doesn’t stop spinning.” When I heard it, I thought to myself what a snide, nasty, bitchy thing to say. This morning, I read a report about Asha Bhosale’s rage at being denied the opportunity to sing ‘Mehabooba’ in the new Sholay and I said to myself the JAG snidey is the perfect retort to her Diva airs. Does she ‘own’ Mehabooba? Well, there’s a by-now-notorious precedent for that kind of high and mighty behaviour. The 1980s super model, Elle Macpherson, now a 42-year-old, 6-foot Aussie mother of two, claims she is the original ‘body’, so dubbed by the venerated Time Magazine. She is outraged by the Victoria Secret’s The Body bra model Heidi Klum’s attempt to usurp her rightful throne. (Heidi Klum, by the way, is the 33-year-old, 5-foot-9 mother of two with one more coming soon.) Boys and girls, please note that Macpherson has her own skin-care cosmetic line called ‘Elle Macpherson The Body’, plus a lingerie brand and the fitness video (‘The Body Workout’. Klum, once called ‘The Body Two’ in deference to Elle surfaced in the US in the late 1990s. Both Klum and Macpherson regularly feature in the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, including the latest one. Now on whenever I get an advertising brief exhorting me to write ads so that “we can own so-and-so positioning”, I shall think of Asha, Elle and Heidi before I get down to the task.

The cliffhanger.

One morning recently, I happened to watch the part of that The Simpsons episode where Homer is searching for his daughter Lisa from atop a vehicle with an extendable shovel. Just as he spots her and catches her attention, he loses control of the shovel that goes careening down the slope with him yelling his head off. With that cliffhanger in place, it was time for the commercial break. That got me thinking about Shahrazad (or Scheherazade). She was the brainy and spunky young wench who invented the cliffhanger for her magnum opus of tales that ran for one thousand and one nights. The cliffhanger occurred at dawn to earn her one more day’s reprieve. So inventive and resourceful was Shahrazad and so powerful her incentive – her neck on the chopping block – that she managed to insert every time a cliffhanger tempting enough for her Lord and Master to spare her life for one more day. The scriptwriters of daily soaps – with the TRP as their carrot – are worthy successors to her. One can safely aver that had she seen how far they’ve helped to evolve her brainchild, she would’ve been proud of the tribe she started. For a succinct outline of the art of story telling, go here: More about cliffhangers at More about Shahrazad at

Friday, October 13, 2006

The secret word is “Fiddlesticks”.

Along with ‘Free’, ‘New’, ‘instant’, ‘easy to master’, ‘speedy’, ‘1-minute’ and other magic words and phrases, ‘secret’ too is deemed to be a very potent word in marketing and advertising. An action-triggering word. A very, very persuasive word. The secret of being rich. The lazy man’s secret. Victoria’s secret. Ming’s secret. Official secret. The secret of success. The secret of happiness. Beauty secret. The secret ingredient. Secret language. The secret word. Secret service. Secret agent. Secret society. Secret conspiracy. Secret ritual. Secret societies. The secret handshake. The Secret Doctrine by HP Blavatsky. (It’s about theosophy and … the spiritual evolution of the universe and mankind; science, symbolism, myths, reincarnation… (says the blurb). The secret life of Walter Mitty. All hogwash except maybe the last one. It was lived in his mind and he told no one about it. The ultimate secret is there’s no secret. The secret logic that helped me to arrive at this earth-shaking dénouement is simply this. If something is known to more than one person or revealed to someone else, it’s no longer a secret. Take “secret” with a large pinch of salt is my humble suggestion. P.S.: Can someone tell me the secret of why the participants of Miss Tibet Pageant 2006 in Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh) – probably thousands or at least hundreds of miles away from sea – are prancing around in swimsuits? My off-the-cuff guess is the fall out of the deep inroads made by American cultural brainwashing. Fall from grace, sort of.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ensconced in velvet. (Later, in denim.)

The first three are not my words. I stole them straight out of George’s mouth. (‘The Label Maker’) The George I’m talking about is Costanza who declares his affinity for velvet in these immortal words: “I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable.” This velvety diversion comes to you because of my sudden remembrance of one phase in early childhood when I used to be “ensconced in velvet” – velvet pants of ridiculous hues actually – ludicrous as it sounds to me now. All my life, I’ve been bereft of a sense of personal style or grooming (I wear any – preferably old and therefore comfortable – shirt that comes to hand as soon as I open my ‘wardrobe’ without bothering about matching it with the rest of my apparel), I guess. And that must have been the nadir. Velvet corduroy has always been socially acceptable in the circles I move in and still seems to be. But I remember owning only a couple of velvet corduroy trousers in my youth. Strangely though, I was one of the first guys to take to denim early in life. I’ve never been out of a jean ever since I was around twelve. My love for denim must have grown of my affinity for cowboy comics and lore. (“Hey, hombre. I ain’t about to let this town go to coyotes like yuh. Draw!”) Denim lured me by its comfortable feel. At a wedding sometime back I met an old acquaintance who confirmed my presumption that I was the first one to don denim in my neighbourhood. Whew!

Band of boys.

The mentality of the Indian male never fails to amaze and, at times, scare me. Perennially patriarchal is probably the best way to describe it. I can say with some confidence that YHWH or ‘Jehowah’, the primordial patriarch would love to include them in His tribe. There’s this affluent family we know from another city, both sons settled abroad and a daughter who’s spunky and full of grit. She started working fairly early and did well but chucked it up to marry a well-heeled friend of her elder brother rather recklessly. After a few years of marriage, she got divorced on the grounds of cruelty – mental and physical. At the time, Big Bro was supportive. He nevertheless kept his links with his friend alive and also the hope that she would one day return to him. Now she is leading an independent life and supporting herself. The band of boys carries on frowning at her failure to see good sense.. Once upon a time, I too used to have the YHWH frame of mind. Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I happened to shed it. I’m not patting myself on the back for it, though. As I said, it happened. I don’t know quite how. Find another Indian marriage tale here:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Midnight cowgirl.

The estranged daughter of the Midnight Cowboy walks amongst us. Correction. Last sighted, she was riding in a scooter rickshaw in downtown Pune, hotly chased by paparazzi out to shoot her. Reading about her reminded me of the insanely funny moment from her dad’s debut movie when Ricco Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), better known to the world as Ratso, and Joe Buck are almost run over by a New York cab and Ratso bangs on its hood to declaim: “I’m walking here.” What cheek! Just like riding in a rickshaw in broad daylight and tempting the shoot-at-sight fraternity, eh? Why the sight of a celebrity triggers the intense desire to shoot in paparazzi is a mystery to me. Once you’ve seen Angelina once, you’ve seen her once for all as far as I’m concerned. What’s more, I’d rather see her as Lara Croft in reel life than as Angelina in real life. Show me every time something or someone I’ve not seen before, boys and girls. Talking of midnight, I cannot understand keeping a round-the-clock vigil just to catch a glimpse of someone – a trait shared by both paparazzi and star-struck fans in equal measure. In my books, it’s okay to hang around in a hotel lobby if you’re out to cover a war or a revolution. But a celebrity? Gimme a break. Also, what the unrelenting pursuit by paparazzi did to Lady Diana comes to mind. Come to think of it, though, you cannot really blame paparazzi for what happens to the celebrity who happens to be the target of the moment? The poor guy is sticking his nose and his camera lens in celebrity goings-on because the readers of his rag or the watchers of his TV channel expect to see the beloved mug over and over again wherever it happens to be in Paris or Pune, never you mind. Complain as they might about paparazzi attention, the celebrities need their stalkers as much as the latter need their ‘victims’. It’s mutual interdependence, I reckon. For the celebrities, it’s if you’ve got it, flaunt it and catch me if you can. For paparazzi, it’s I’ll get you sooner or later even if I’ve to risk my neck and my expensive camera. For some people, it’s always midnight, as someone so wisely said.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dan Brown’s ‘truth’.

As a child, Dan Brown (born in 1964 – which puts him bang in the so-called Conscious Revolution era, a time of spiritual awakening in American history, demographically speaking – Viet Nam protests, feminism, ecology, a rebellious counterculture, that sort of stuff had what might be called a ‘proper’ Christian upbringing. He used to attend Sunday school and summer camps run by the Church. He also used to sing in the Church choir. Yet he grew up to write the bestselling novels, The Da Vinci Code (1993) and Angels & Demons (2000). Fiction though they claim to be what they’re saying strikes an echoing chord in the mind of anyone who knows his history. I think they’re popular not because they’re racy thrillers but because they offer a premise that seems reasonably plausible. The fundamentalists will do anything to keep their monopoly of knowing and dispensing truth. Kill, torture, maim, character-assassinate, lie, twist facts… you name it. All of which reminds me of what Aldous Huxley wrote in Ape & Essence:

Church and State.
Greed and hate.
Two baboon persons
In one supreme gorilla.

Also, of the incidence earlier in the same novel where there are two groups of apes facing each other with a different flag waving behind each one. Each group of apes has an Albert Einstein, on his hands and knees, on a leash. Each of these Einsteins is facing the other and speaking of how terrible their exploitation is. The scene ends with the announcement of the death of modern science by suicide.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. (Also: Dirty, rotten Yankee scoundrels.)

This is a story of betrayal and reconciliation. Martin Carthy was a rather famous folk singer in the UK circa the mid 60s. It was Carthy from whom Paul Simon, who was on tour there around then, learned the very Brit, very trad ballad from the Middle Ages, Scarborough Fair. Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme was a hit single of 1966 and also a part of The Graduate soundtrack qua Scarborough Fair. Missing from the credits, though, was any mention of Carthy’s contribution. Well, S&G weren’t the only dirty, rotten scoundrels. Their compatriot, Bob Dylan, too was a pirate in the true Yankee tradition (or, shall we say more accurately, lack of tradition and/or culture?). The aforesaid worthy went boldly where no American had gone before and pinched “Remember me to the one who lives there./She once was a true love of mine.” for his Girl of the North Country [Copyright 1963. © by Witmark & Sons]. One thing about this episode puzzles me, though. Scarborough Fair, presumably about a love affair between a boy who left Scarborough to seek a better life and the girl he left behind, was originally written by some unknown medieval ballad singer or bard or ‘shaper’ as they were known in their own times. Unless Martin Carthy had irrefutable proof he was that bloke’s modern day reincarnation, why did he take offence at Simon’s ‘remix’ of 'his' creation sans credit to him? By the way, Scarborough Fair was a 45-day-long trade meet starting 15 August in the prosperous mercantile town that attracted traders from all over England and Europe. The Royal Charter that gave permission to hold the Scarborough Fair was granted in 1253. If you’re wondering what the self-respecting herbs, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are doing in the ballad, let me share some borrowed wisdom. Parsley = an aid to digestion, in the physiological as well as spiritual sense. Sage = strength. Rosemary = faithfulness, love and remembrance. Thyme = courage. Got it? Now go figure it out. Wonder where I pinched all this stuff from? Go to,, & (P.S.: Simon’s peace offering to Carthy was an offer to do a duet with him in a London concert in 2000.)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

First day in school.

I cannot quite recall if I went to school the very first time on a Dashera or a Gudi Padwa. It seems likely it was the latter because it happens to be the New Year Day according to the calendar (Nirnaysagar) the Mankars used to follow in those days. My first school was Sirdar High School, 12th Khetwadi Lane, not even two minutes’ walking distance from 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I remember being taught to write the first letters of the Devanagari alphabet (‘Shri’, ‘Ga’, ‘Ne’. ‘Sha’ that together spell Ganapati's name, a synonym for ‘auspicious beginning’) on a writing tablet made of proper slate and set in an off white or light brown wooden frame. I say ‘proper’ because soon afterwards all we could find in the market were faux slates with a tin writing surface. After writing my first lesson on the slate, I was asked to keep it in front of the family devghar (literally ‘home of the deities’) and bow down to it. In our devghar, there were pictures of our family deity (Maheshwari) as well as Rama with Sita and all his brothers, Vithoba and Rakhma and Shri Dattatraya, apart from a Shivalingam. Also, Gudi Padwa was the day my mother used to have erected a Gudi, a sort of an improvised flag made of a silken saree and adorned with a long garland of saffron coloured marigold flowers and mango leaves, to herald the New Year. On Dashera, people used to worship implements or tools of one’s trade. For instance, our car used to be garlanded and worshipped with all reverence and, later on, even my portable typewriter. Not a bad idea, I reckon, considering they help us to lead our lives and do our work a bit more easily and comfortably. And, though, I worked for an ad agency run by the Bhadralok Mafiosi for 11 years, 7 months and 4 days, &, I never managed to visit Calcutta or experience Durga Puja which in our part of India is celebrated as Navaratri (literally 'Nine Nights') culminating in Dashera.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence."

That’s the third stanza of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, a hit release as single in 1966, made even more famous as a part of Mike Nicholas’s The Graduate soundtrack. I thought of it while reading a recent This Is London article. “Britain's offices are falling silent as email replaces conversation, according to a new study,” it tells me. The Corporate Services Group PLC, staffing specialists, found it in a poll of 2,000 office workers. “Almost half of workers admitted they email the person sitting next to them to avoid making verbal contact. Yet a nosey one in five Brits uses email just to gossip to desk buddies about work colleagues.” As for mobile phones: “A cowardly one in five Brits confessed to dropping a text to their boss instead of calling in sick.” Moreover: “… the silent culture continues with one in five employees regularly plugging themselves into mp3 players at their desks. Men are twice more likely to work to music than women, both sexes agreed the most common need for tunes was to relieve boredom at work. Yet, an anti-social one in 20 Brits confessed they listen to music purely to stop colleagues speaking to them.” If you go to office to work, is it such a bad idea that you avoid chitchat and concentrate on the job in hand? I see a lot of commuters listening to music these days in Mumbai. Nothing wrong in that, I feel, considering the ambient decibel levels. I like the sound of silence.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sohrab and Rustom?

By the late 60s, Clarion-McCann & (I joined it in 1965 and quit in 1976) had turned into the proverbial snake pit. By 1966, I was Senior Writer and therefore vulnerable to the emerging power struggle. I had a good working relationship with most departments including client servicing, media and research. The problem, however, was an Art Director with Napoleonic delusions and a Machiavellian mind. He fancied himself as the spokesperson of the downtrodden. Mind you, Clarion, Kolkata, happened to be the accidental offspring of the Trade Unionist struggle in DJ Keymer in the late 50s Kolkata. But the crusty old Comrades running it in the days I’m writing about had by then turned into hard-core capitalists, the worst kind you’d ever encounter. These veterans had not forgotten their realpolitik. One of their major fears based (I reckon) on their own past experience seemed to be that, if not checked in time, the Mumbai mutiny might result in the branch breaking away from the main Agency. To woo the Natives, they hired a mediocre and moderately successful ad manager from one of the most aggressive US marketing companies well-known for its cold remedies. He was a Gujarati who fancied himself to be quite a connoisseur of the arts and a man of the people, especially able to resonate with ‘creative’ people as he chose to address us. He used to tell me how his ‘influence’ inspired one of his ‘dear’ colleagues to write a play about an Englishman who went native in the 19th century Punjab. (The ‘dear’ colleague in one of his recent books wrote dismissively about him, though – not even mentioning him by name.) The new ‘strategic’ acquisition of Clarion-McCann, Mumbai, using his profound managerial wisdom and acumen in turn hired an England-returned Group Manager. Guess who he was? No less than the son (from her first marriage) of Mehtab, the wife of the once-renowned Hindi cinema and Parsi theatre legend, Sohrab Modi. The office grapevine had all kinds of rumours about him flying all over. Anyway, through him, I met Sohrab Modi on several occasions at their Cuffe Parade home when we were invited there for dinner. By then, I had come to be acknowledged as a fast writer who could produce plenty of alternative ideas at the drop of a hat. So, Mehtab’s son often used to invite me home for a hurried lunch and emergency work conference. One of the most vivid memories I have of him is about his fear of flying. We were flying to Hyderabad for a Vazir Sultan briefing session one Monsoon afternoon. The plane was pitching all over soon after the take-off. I was narrating to him something I had read about air crashes. Then suddenly something made me turn to look at him. It was a sorry and distressful sight. The man was virtually petrified. Though Sohrab’s surrogate son, he was no Rustom.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Distance learning.

You’ve got to be either out of your mind or out of this world to feel like what the first woman space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, felt when she saw Planet Earth from her space craft. “… you see the ‘Whole’ not the ‘Parts’ … I wish the leaders of different nations could do the same and have a world vision first, before a specific vision for their country.” Also: “You cannot see any borders… you cannot tell where one country ends and another one starts… the only border you see is the border between land and water.” She paid “about $20 million for 10 days in space” apart from bearing a lot of discomfort to acquire this world view, buddy. I guess us mere land lubbers better shut up and listen reverentially. As the old saying goes: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Distance, too. P.S.: Now that Ansari has blogged the gory details of personal hygiene in space, I can finally figure out why Buck Rogers wore the perenially pained expression he always did in the comic strip. Read “continually constipated” for "perennially pained”, in case you didn’t get the point.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Down and out. Quit. Exit.

When in doubt, step out. I used to be persistent at one point of time. Very persistent. Dogged. I won’t take failure in my stride. I would keep trying. Hitting my head against a determined wall of resistance. No more. Now I quit early. Cut my losses. The sooner the better. That’s why I quit Window Live Beta yesterday. Got back to good ol’ Hotmail. Window Live just did not work for me. I couldn’t figure out how to write e-mails with it. There was no Compose button. Also, once I put an e-mail in a folder, I couldn’t figure out how to retrieve it. In other words, I could not open the personal folders. Also, the Help button was no help. Every time, I clicked on it, it would give me an error/try again message. This must have happened at least two dozen times. Then I simply gave up. Abandoned all hope and quit. But before I could go back, Microsoft put me through the grind of a questionnaire. Their drift seemed to be to make me see the error of my ways, I guess. Fair enough. I had my say and quit. Before letting me go, they even offered me the option of rejoining the queue for the Window Live Beta all over again. Thank you but no, thank you. I’d rather be Dead than Live.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Perils of Amanda, the hyper writer.

I’ve read about Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), yes. I have not read a single one of her three novels, Irene Iddesleigh, Delina Delaney and Helen Huddleston, though. Her first novel was dubbed by the humourist Barry Pain "the book of the century". For his pains, he got the sobriquet, "clay crab of corruption" from the mistress of aliteration. It’s an irony of sorts that Pain has long been forgotten while Ros is still remembered. She’s even going to be celebrated in her native land, Ireland. Come 26 September, fans will read from Irene Iddesleigh in a Belfast pub. The one who manages to read the longest without laughing will win a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel, a return ticket to Ros’ hometown Larne and a copy of the writer’s ‘how-to’ handbook. Just to give you an idea of the daunting challenge, here’s an excerpt from Irene Iddesleigh: “The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.” Or, this bit from Delina Delaney: “Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?” And, this gem from her poem, ‘Visiting Westminster Abbey’ (from Fumes of Formation – her other book of poetry being Poems of Puncture):

“Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.”

Aldous Huxley insightfully explained the Ros phenomenon as follows: "In Mrs. Ros we see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented...”. He contnues: “This is how she tells us that Delina earned money by doing needlework: ‘She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness’.” Nick Page (In Search of the World's Worst Writer) tells us: "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment'." Have alook at three woodcuts from Irene Iddesleigh here:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gandhigiri’s first converts.

The Ulhasnagar Police Force, would you believe? Or, so claims the Mumbai morninger that used to be an eveninger till not so far ago and still sticks to the monicker that says as much. The credit for spreading the good word goes to a recent movie about two bhais with hearts of gold. How a criminal manages to possess one is beyond me. Come to think of it, though, if they call the Gandhian way ‘Gandhigiri’ – a pejorative derisive label, at best, compare 'dadagiri' (bullying) and 'chamchagiri' (kowtowing) – what they’re preaching (and practicing) may be a parody of what Gandhi preached and practiced. But I could be totally wrong. Maybe their simple-minded reinterpretation of Gandhi – a persuasive repackaging of his thesis laced with humour – is just what was needed to make people look at him anew. And, if Munnabhai could inspire hard core cops to enroll for a course about the Gandhian way and even resolve to practice it in their day-to-day work, that cannot be such a bad thing. Gandhi had a sense of humour. For instance, when a reporter once asked him what he thought of Western civilization, he reportedly answered: “I think it would be a good idea!”

Monday, September 18, 2006

Malegaon Days.

I’ve never been to Malegaon and hopefully will never set foot in the unfortunate and miserable place. No, I’m not condescending. Not a bit. I can well imagine the pall of doom and forlornness that must be forever hovering over the town. To live there looking forward to nothing must be what inspired the locals to make movies spoofing the mainstream movies made in Mumbai. I find it ironical, considering that these movies used to be made for strictly local viewing in the video parlour, that they always had Malegaon in the title. Malegaon Ke Sholay, Malegaon Ke Karan-Arjun, Malegaon Ka Rangeela, Malegaon Ki Lagaan … you get the drift? Is it not like rubbing salt in the wound reminding it is about (and probably set in) miserable and grimy Malegaon? Equally ironical, Malegaon’s Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Dharmendra, Pran and other actors had to pay to act – and still did. Maybe, while the movie was being shot, they could feel they were who they claimed to be: one way out of their otherwise grimy everyday reality. Nonetheless, I’m amazed by the humour even the movie characters transformed names show. Gabbar Singh metamorphosed into Rubber Singh. Basanti became Basmati. (Equally revealing are the names of Malegaon's localities: Tension Chowk, Achanak Nagar, Rishwat Nagar, Raunakabad, Tashkent Nagar, Bajrangwadi, Ayodhya Nagar and Islamabad.) It seems the Malegaon movie making is no more. Because the unlicensed video parlours have been forced to shut down. In other words, there are no distribution outlets left. So, the one escape route for the chosen few is now no more. R.I.P.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Digital immortality is a moral certainty? Ask James Fallows.

He has been writing for The Atlantic Monthly for many years. In the September 2006 issue, in his article, ‘File Not Found’, he argues persuasively that analog beats digital hands down for preserving information over “centuries, millennia, that sort of deep time”. In other words, stone and paper are far safer than bits and bytes. (The sub-title of his article reads: “Why a stone tablet is still better than a hard drive”.) Fallows cites James Belington, Library of Congress’s chief honcho, and a report the latter read. It estimated the quantum of digital information globally generated every 15 minutes to be “equivalent in scale to the contents of all the library’s books”. He also tells us what the Chief said about the best media to preserve information. “The best-preserved data tends to be on stone steles and cuneiform tablets.” Also: “Papyrus, vellum, parchment – all those classical modes hold up pretty well.” Next a story from Chris Weston (Office of Strategic Initiative): “Someone in upstate New York was cleaning out the attic of an old farmhouse—and there was a letter from Benedict Arnold. It had been in a cool, dry place for 200-some years. With most things on paper, unless you throw them away or actively destroy them, they’re likely to stay around.” With digital data, unless one is careful to renew and preserve it, it may simply disappear over time. Clay Shirky, a New York University media scholar, calls the cause ‘Playback Drift: The Silent Killer’, i.e. the tendency of physical devices for storing and retrieving digital data to “succeed one another so quickly that information is in constant jeopardy of being trapped in an obsolete format”. The one sure and simple solution is hard copy back-up. In short, print it, dude. Better still, carve it on a stone tablet. You may also use your imagination and use a 2 GB Gmail account for free online back-up, as Fallows writes. Also, consign some stuff to a blog network which hopefully will work to keep the information safe from the ravages of time and leaps of technology. The point is, immortality can be a moral certainty only if you work for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Early learners?

Ashtavakra and Abhimanyu – both from the Mahabharata – come to mind. The latter learned the right way of penetrating into a chakravyuha (but not the way out of it) by listening to Arjuna from his mother Subhadra's womb. Partial knowledge was his undoing in the war. Ashtavakra’s case is even more fascinating. He was a Vedic scholar, a jnani – not a warrior. He was deformed (‘vakra’) in eight (‘Ashta’) joints of his body. I came across two versions of how his body got deformed. In the first version, his ambitious mother, Sujata, the daughter of Sage Uddalaka, was married to Kahor, his star pupil. When she was pregnant, she had high hopes for her child. She wanted him to be far above the ordinary. So, she began to attend the Vedic discourses given by her father and her husband. The unborn baby in her womb was so intelligent that, one fine day, he corrected his father’s chanting of a verse. Kahor apparently had a prima donna mindset. He couldn’t stand the humiliation of being publicly chided by his unborn child. Had he an ounce of common sense and humility, he would have felt proud that he had sired a super brilliant brat. Instead, he chose to stand on his dignity and his seniority like a father in a Bollywood flick. He cursed his progeny saying that he be born deformed in eight parts of his body. In the second version, though, Ashtavakra did not speak out his mind publicly. Instead, he bottled his discomfiture and displeasure at his father’s faulty rendering of the verses. He winced with embarrassment and his body twisted inside the womb at every slip of his worthy sire. King Janaka became Ashtavakra’s disciple. The dialogue between the two of them went on to become the celebrated Ashtavakra Gita or Ashtavakra Samhita. Here are a few quotes to get a feel of it.

“You do not consist of any of the elements – earth, water, fire, air or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as consisting of consciousness, the witness of these .” (1.3)

“Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences, so you are always free.” (1.6)

“Since you have been bitten by the black snake, the opinion about yourself that ‘I am the doer’, drink the antidote of faith in the fact that ‘I am not the doer’, and be happy.” (1.8)

“If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound. Here this saying is true, ‘Thinking makes it so’.” (1.11)

“Pure illusion reigns in samsara which will continue until self realisation, but the enlightened man lives in the beauty of freedom from me and mine, from the sense of responsibility and from any attachment.” (18.73)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sounds like…

Memories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are sights. Some are smells. Others are sounds. One of my most distinct aural memory is the almost unearthly “uulfeemalaay” cry of the kulfi vendor who went down the Khetwadi Main Road on his nightly round around nine o’clock. His creamy kulfi used to come in little aluminum cones the mouth of which was sealed with a seal made out of dough. A little later, a fakir would go on his alms collection round. Strangely enough, I could hear him approaching and retreating but never stopping to receive alms. He must have been a Sufi or a Kabirpanthi, judging from the fact that he used to sing a doha (hymn) of Kabir, the weaver saint who lived between 1398 and 1518. (I knew it was Kabir’s poetry because I grew up listening to my father singing it.) Then there was the sound of a hack Victoria clop-clop-clopping along our road in the dead of the night. If it was coming from the Charni Road and going eastwards, I would start hearing it in my bed as soon as it approached the Girgaum Police Court. Then as it took the right turn at the corner, the pitch of the clop-clop would rise, reach a crescendo as it passed our house – the third house on the right – and then start receding as it drew away out of my aural range. Sometimes, I would wake up suddenly around midnight just when the 9-30 film show at the Krishna Talkies (later renamed Dreamland soon after 15 August 1947) got over. There would be a lot of approaching sounds – people talking and laughing raucously, hack victorias clopping along, stragglers waiting at the corner for the last tramcar that would arrive soon and clatter along the Charni Road on its last journey of the day – all of which eventually would die down. Then all I could hear no matter how much I strained my ears was the deafening sound of silence.

Inside job?

In most cases, I’m wary of conspiracy theories. But when a well-known and well respected professor of nuclear physics who ought to know his implosions from his explosions offers a ‘controlled demolition’ hypothesis, I don’t know. [Want a quick summary of the top 10 conspiracy theories, go here: Also see:] Urban Indians, Mumbaikars in particular, who take a very sentimental view of all things American staunchly object to the conspiracy theory for the following reason. Would they do it to their own people? Would they make their own folks miserable? Would they attack Truth, Justice and the American Way (what Superman now calls “all that stuff”)? Of course, they would. If they had a strong enough motive. If they could conjure a neo Pearl Harbour in order to justify a take-over of the Middle East oilfields, for instance. Or, if they could whip up enough popular support for their dream of restoring the US of A to the greatness and world leadership that, in their estimation, it is destined for. To hell with who gets hurt in the process, boys and girls. See how General Motors – which used to be a power unto itself at that point of time – systematically destroyed the California Transit Systems in the forties. The Prophet of Progress had the best of motives at heart. You guessed it: the profit motive. “Kerosene was poured on the streetcars and electric trains and they were burned, except a few placed in museums. Nothing was left of the transit system which had comprised 1479 streetcars and train cars and 771 trolley buses. Even the subway was made unusable by a future subway line.” Also: “…what was once a private company, making profit and paying taxes, eventually became both government owned and government subsidized, after GM destroyed both its efficiency and its customer base. This process was repeated in other of GM's transit operations in California. The transit companies also had owned much of the property under their tracks, and paid property taxes which roads never paid.” And: “Taxpayers to this day are burdened with subsidizing bus systems. To a much greater extent, they are burdened with subsidizing automobiles whose numbers are far greater than if the electric systems – with streetcars, trains and trolley buses – had remained intact.” Want another example? Read what happened to “the hapless and desperate victims of the Dust Bowl seeking work in California (much like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath attracted to California, portrayed as ‘the land of milk and honey’ in the bogus ads for fruit pickers placed in Oklahoma newspapers in order to drive down the minimum wages)”.

Okay, everybody. Let's belt it with gusto:

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev'rything free in America
For a small fee in America!


Automobile in America,
Chromium steel in America,
Wire-spoke wheel in America,
Very big deal in America!


Immigrant goes to America,
Many hellos in America;
Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico's in America!

Once more with feeling, boys and girls:

I like the shores of America!
Comfort is yours in America!
Knobs on the doors in America,
Wall-to-wall floors in America!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Almost a Ph D. Me, who else?

20 January 1949 was a fateful day for our world. It was a windy day and there was a snow storm raging in Washington, DC, as US President Harry Truman in his inauguration address to Congress called most of the world “underdeveloped areas”. He inaugurated at that moment the economics of development. Leaders of the newly independent nations – Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser, Sukarno – accepted this world view unquestioningly and exchanged their respective people's recently shed yoke of a colonial past for the burden of a developmental future. Ten years later, having just got my Bachelor of Commerce degree from the then prestigious Sydenham College, I decided to do my Masters by writing a thesis in Public Economics. The subject I chose to study was how to go about mobilizing resources for economic growth using deficit financing and foreign aid. My guide was Professor LN Welingkar. He was the principal of the RA Podar College of Commerce and Economics as well as a very active member of the University Senate. I spent the next two and a half years in the University Library and the Podar College Library reading and making copious notes. Having accepted blindly the fallacious premise of development as the panacea for all the ills of the underdeveloped countries, I enthusiastically plunged into the task of collating all the facts and figures I could muster to come up with a fairly sensible theory of development financing. Apparently, I must have succeeded to a fair extent in what I set out to do. Because when I appeared for my viva voce in February 1959, Dr KN Raj, the eminent economist who had drafted parts of India’s First Five Year Plan at age 26 and who helped to set up the Delhi School of Economics and who happened to be my external examiner, complimented me copiously for my good work. He even told me that had I waited one more year I could have easily submitted my thesis straight for the Doctorate in Philosophy degree. Forty seven years after the event, after having seen the pitfalls of the development route, I wonder if it even deserved the M Com degree it earned me. I wasn’t meant to be an economist all my life, it turned out. After six years as a research assistant with the Forward Markets Commission, I quit economics and shifted to ad writing. P.S.: Here’s hoping the University of Mumbai Library has still preserved the copy of my thesis of 500 odd pages I submitted to it as required by the rules then prevailing. The copy I gave to my guide may be in the RA Podar College Library. I don’t know where my copy went. I guess I have always been careless with my books and other possessions.

She was there for the doll after all.

So Kajoj throws her famous “I refuse to pose for pictures” tantrum again. Big deal. Maybe, she doesn’t like her privacy invaded in public spaces, huh? Maybe, she isn’t partial to seeing her mug on the idiot box and the rags every other day. After all, she’s so thoughtfully sparing about how often she shows it on the silver screen. Even once in a blue moon would be a gross exaggeration. And, this time it wasn’t she who was supposed to be in the limelight. It was the Kajol doll (along with the Hrithik and Priyanka dittos). Both the stars did not show up. Kajol did. She even cut the cake. So why all the bitching? We don’t need to see her picture to know what she looks like, do we? I have a suggestion for the media folks who find it difficult to abide by Kajol’s bossy, bossy ways. The next time you see her, just ignore her. That will teach her who the real boss is. By the way, I once saw her mother (Tanuja) chatting away with the fisherwomen in the Grant Road market loudly lamenting the unavailability of fish roe just when she had guests coming for dinner. This was some years ago when she had started doing 'character' roles in the movies and Kajol was just getting into the heroine mode. Tanuja had no starry airs about her. None at all, as far as I could see.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Elaine’s exclamation points.

That’s why I enjoy Seinfeld so much. Not for Jerry – who frankly comes across to me as a wimp with a nasal whiny way of speaking (listen carefully to how he says “I know”), albeit a reasonably successful one. Not for George destined to fail for as long as he lives. Not even for the bizarre Kramer. But for the unwittingly insightful Elaine. Among the priceless lessons she taught me is the one on exclamation points. The fact is there’s a surfeit of them in the world. So let us not add to the congestion by using them recklessly and indiscriminately – on the idiot box of all places. The other day, I had the misfortune to be in a room where people were watching a soap called Virasat on a home theatre video screen. Every single time a character mouthed some inanity, the camera used to switch to show the expressionless mug of his or her companion. A sort of a muffled thud (the idiot box equivalent of Elaine’s exclamation point) would then come on the sound track as they cut abruptly to a still closer close-up of whoever was facing the camera. Avantika reminded me that they do it on The Bold and the Beautiful too. I guess Elaine’s logic for her generous sprinkling of exclamation points in her edit of Jake Jarmel’s book (“Well, I felt that the writing lacked certain emotion and intensity.”) is a cousin once removed of the logic soap directors, editors and music directors employ for the kind of sudsy style they adopt. Hype it up! Sock it to them, dude! They’ll just lap it up, boss!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hitler’s Cross. Now Shablok’s, too?

Everyone’s cross at Hitler’s Cross. Five mondo honchos of Mumbai’s Pee Three swore they won’t eat there. They’re all foodies, mind you. Were I Punit Shablok, that would have me really, really worried. His reason for choosing for his new restaurant with a hookah parlour attached the name that’s leaving everyone cross-eyed seems to be a convolutedly thought out positional gambit. “This is one name that will stay in people’s minds,” he told Reuters. “We are not promoting Hitler… we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different.” Careful, dude. You don’t want to be different in the way Hitler was different unless you’re ready to be certified nuts and consigned to the snake pit. If I remember my Ries & Trout, the Hitler’s Cross promo task force seems to have applied the Positioning theory correctly. Only the window of the mind they chose to open is the one everyone would rather keep permanently boarded up. What intrigues me is this, though. Why would the Hitler’s Cross promo task force assume that Hitler would be remembered as ‘different’ (‘remarkable’?) by people, mostly Indians, who live and work in the Kharghar neighbourhood or take a detour to the restaurant on their way to Pune or Mumbai? Young people who chose to eat there seemed to recall Hitler as an evil man but didn’t think that was reason enough to deny the restaurant their patronage. Now, that sounds perfectly rational to me. And, totally non-hypocritical to boot as compared to certain politically correct foodie pronouncements mentioned earlier. The Cross(over?) incidence also reiterates the wisdom of the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Else, could a new eatery in sleepy Kharghar ever aspire to be the irritant in the world’s eye? One more point about Hitler’s Cross is worth noting. In August 1920, the soon-to-be Füehrer was working as an artist and understood the power of visual symbols. He adopted the reverse Swastika from the Finnish Air Force whose military symbol it had been since 1918 and tilted it. “The effect was as if we had dropped a bomb,” he wrote. Shablok could vouch for that, I reckon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Milk of human kindness.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s cruel to be kind sometimes. No joking. I was reminded of it in the last ten minutes or so when I was back to the bad old days of boiling pasteurized Aarey milk packed in plastic bags as I had described earlier. First, I had to find the milk boiler from where it had been stashed away. Next, I had to clean it and pour the milk in it. A couple of minutes after I had put it to boil and gone to the sitting room to start the PC, I was suddenly seized with high anxiety about whether the milk boiler had sufficient water in it. So I ran back to the kitchen, put off the gas burner, took the milk boiler off it, poured the half boiled milk into a pot and proceeded to top up the water level. Then, I had to pour the milk back into the milk boiler and bring it to a boil all over again. See what I mean? And, just in case you’re wondering where the worrisome pasteurized milk came from, it was all out of the unexpected kindness of strangers, as they say. In this case, the stranger happened to be a neighbour who had overstocked Aarey milk without a thought for the annual family visit to Goa for the Ganapati festival. The rest of the story you know. End of bitching at least for now.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I’m a stranger here myself.

Meet my old friend, the apocryphal Martian, this time a movie critic to boot and quite up to speed with the big picture of the very latest earthly affairs. On his recent unannounced visit, he dropped in at a multiplex in South Mumbai and painstakingly watched all the Indian movies showing on all the screens. Then, before leaving, he vouchsafed me his startling conclusion. “You guys no matter where you live, whether in India or abroad, have all turned NRIs or POIOs at heart.” Noticing the effect of his words on me, he condescended to reveal his reasons for the extraordinary observation. “Just look at the locales your movie makers opt for. How does a boy who hails from a remote village in Punjab dream of frolicking with a Westernized girl in Switzerland?” “Errrr. Maybe, he was a Swiss goatherd in his previous life,” I butted in hesitantly. The Martian guffawed dismissively – or made an impatient snort that sounded like a human guffaw. “More likely, your Bollywood moviemakers imagine all their compatriots to be closet NRIs/POIOs because they themselves are exactly that. This is not a recent acquisition, mind you. Foreign locales have always fascinated your film folks. It makes better sense to use them now, I grant you. It strikes a chord with the genuine NRIs/POIOs and they end up making more money.” And, finally, this parting shot: “Have you noticed how contemptuous these NRI/POIO-minded moviemakers are of average Indians? For instance, in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, when Nandini’s husband takes her to Italy in search of her lover, the footage is actually shot in Hungary with no attempt made to camouflage the signage in the local language or even obvious landmarks on the assumption that the audience won’t be able to catch on. Is it not the pinnacle of arrogance?” One thing kept bothering me after he left for Mars. How could a purely apocryphal being be so insightful?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The family car.

The first Mankar family car, a maroon and black Wolseley Wasp used to be parked in the porch in the front part of the compound of 233 Khetwadi Main Road when I was, I’m guessing, five or so. So, it must have been purchased a few years earlier. I remember going for long evening drives with my mother up the Walkeshwar Road to the Malabar Hill Gardens, down the Marine Drive to the Chowpatty Sea Face and sometimes as far away as Cuffe Parade where now the Taj President stands. There used to be a raised pedestrian promenade along the Cuffe Parade Sea Face very similar to what you can still find at the Worli Sea Face. The other outings included visits to my two maternal uncles, my mother’s sister, two of her friends and a couple of shops where my mother used to shop regularly for sarees and silverware. The elder uncle used to reside on the ground floor of the house still extant opposite the Roxy Cinema on the Queen’s Road within walking distance of Royal Opera House, the cinema theatre of choice for V Shantaram and Raj Kapoor, that also used to double as a playhouse for Prithviraj Kapoor’s stage plays. (By the way, I was born in the Roxy-facing flat on a rain-drenched Janmashtami midnight in August.) Somewhere around 1948, the Wolseley made way for a brand new red Renault 4CV. This French car had just come into the market and had the distinction of being one of the few cars to reach the 1 million production mark in Europe. It was reputed to be the French retort to the German Volkswagen Beetle. It seemed more like flattery to me because it resembled the latter quite a bit. (That’s how I probably got infected with the Beetle bug. One of my youthful ambitions was to possess one.) I learned driving on the Renault and turned out to be an atrocious learner. I could just barely start and steer the vehicle but was very slovenly at parking. I once got a ticket for turning left at the traffic signal near the Church Gate Station from no less an officer than the Deputy Police Commissioner of Bombay (this was probably in 1954 or 1955). That worthy was under the impression that there was a traffic signal there. Fortunately for me, it was a free turn. I got acquitted in the Esplanade Court near the Victoria Terminus with my father defending me. My brush with the law was responsible, I guess, for the police putting a proper traffic signal at the Church Gate junction immediately afterwards. My father sold off the Renault around 1960 when it became almost impossible to maintain. Genuine spare parts were hard to come by. Also, I suspect, my father was not doing so well by then. Although I had a job in 1960, my salary could not have paid for a month’s petrol bill. The third family car which I bought came much later in the early 1980s. It was from the very first batch of Maruti Suzukis, s green and air conditioned Maruti 800. Ashu and Abhi used to chauffer us around in it all over Mumbai and sometimes to Pune. Of the two, Abhi was the car connoisseur and really knew how to look after it well. (He had learned it, I reckon, taking care of the grey Fiat which his granny owned.) The Maruti was sold off around 1987 when Abhi went to the US for higher studies. Since then, the Mankar family car happens to be whichever black and yellow cab, mostly Fiat, I hail to go wherever I’m going at the time.

To catch a thief.

One more 233 Khetwadi Main Road tale from the late 1940s when the Mankars were living on the third floor terrace flat there. From the third floor staircase landing, you stepped straight on to the terrace via the left hand side front door. (The other door on the right hand side was kept locked and only opened and used on special occasions like Diwali.) The north facing sitting room or ‘hall’ as we called it, also had a door and a window both of which opened on to the terrace. So did the door from the passage that separated the sitting room from the bedroom and the door and the window of the latter. On summer nights, the last mentioned door and window used to keep open to allow the breeze to flow in. This practice was abruptly discontinued and all doors and windows were fitted with metal grills after the summer of 1948 (if memory does not deceive) when we and our neighbours were burglarised two or three times in a single week. Not much was taken from our flat except for a few cooking utensils and some clothes from the clothesline. I can still remember, though, how violated we all felt, how intruded upon. A vigilante posse organised by our family retainer managed to catch the burglar and hand him over to the police. It turned out that he was from the neighbourhood and had apparently cased the joint. He used to gain access to our flat by climbing up using the water pipes as his makeshift ‘ladder’. This intrusion brought to an abrupt end, as I said earlier, the era of innocence and carefree nighttime habits like leaving the doors open to let the breeze in.

Rites of passage.

233 Khetwadi Main Road used to be quite a menagerie of a residential building. Right from the early days when the Mankars moved there in the late 1930s, there used to be a ‘Passenger Agency’ on the ground floor called ‘Jeevabhai Patel, Passenger Agents’. What this outfit did was what a travel agency does for a contemporary traveller, i.e., booking the passage of the traveller and his baggage, obtaining the passport and the visa and so forth. The difference, however, was that the Patels also provided an additional service: temporary shelter for the passenger and his belongings till the day of departure. The 233 Khetwadi Main Road compound and the front porch where the Mankar family car, a maroon and black Wolseley Wasp, was parked often used to be strewn about with bodies and crates belonging to the passengers hailing mostly from rural Gujarat and Rajasthan. These worthies performed their early morning ablutions noisily and publicly in the compound and generally made a nuisance of themselves much to the chagrin of the permanent residents. They also had loud arguments among themselves and at times with the Patels and their mukadam (supervisor) presumably about unpaid dues or overcharged fees. After the proprietor’s death, the outfit continued to be run by his widow who had shrewd business acumen and a sharp tongue. It was only when transoceanic passenger shipping went into a decline that the firm ran aground and shut down some times in the late 1960s or early 70s. The Patel family continued to live there till late 1990s, though.

Strictly for voyeurs.

That’s correct. Watching movies is in essence a voyeuristic avocation. Not in the prurient but in the broad sense of the term. After all, when you’re watching a movie, you’re looking at or witnessing what’s happening or what someone is doing without (apparently) their knowledge and consent – in order to derive pleasure. Except, in those once-in-a-while asides, when the character actually addresses the camera, that is to say, (by proxy) you. In every voyeuristic encounter, the subject’s privacy is violated, intentionally or otherwise.. In the strictest psychological sense, voyeurism is a sexual disorder where “sexual arousal … involves the act of observing unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who may be naked or in the process of disrobing. Even engaging in sexual activity.” The so-called x-rated blue films meet this psychological definition of voyeurism. (The other side of the voyeuristic coin is exhibitionism. In other words, the actors who perform for the camera are exhibitionists.) Voyeurism of the prurient variety is believed to be caused by childhood trauma such as sexual abuse or accidental sighting of naked adults, copulation, etc. Voyeurism of the movie-watching kind may be caused in the present times by the parents’ excessive addiction to television and movie watching on VCDs and DVDs as well as in the multiplexes. Once infected, seldom freed. It’s a lifetime addiction. And heaven help those victims who are abysmally devoid of taste and discrimination. They end up watching the worst kind of trash spewed by the film makers out to make a quick buck. [P.S.: Tangentially speaking, you’ve got to consider a real huge difference between real life and reel life. In the latter, you have close-ups, zooms (in and out), freezes, quick cuts and so on to help the story telling which the former lacks. So what you see on the screen cannot be compared strictly speaking with what you see – and ‘experience’ – in life. Even in dreams, for that matter. Have you noticed how far removed the dream sequences in movies are from dreams in real life? Keep all these things in mind, boys and girls, the next time you think of cinematic reality.]

Outsourcing. An insider’s tale?

I cannot swear by this story. It could well be apocryphal. But an acquaintance of mine says he got it from an insider who is a hands-on practitioner of outsourcing in the Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika’s Conservancy Services Department. By that, he means (I presume), what the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai now pompously calls the ‘Solid Waste Management Department’, of course. This intrepid band of dedicated public servants are supposed to do “street sweeping”, “collection of solid wastes including temporary storage”, ”removal and transportation of solid wastes”, “disposal of solid wastes”, “disposal of dead bodies of animals” and “construction, maintenance and cleansing urinals and public sanitary conveniences”, if one were to believe what it says at rather than what greets one’s sight at virtually every street corner every day. My acquaintance’s informant claims to be on the payrolls of this Department, signs in every day and collects his dues on every pay day. However, he outsources the actual performance of his duties to someone else who gets a cut from his monthly salary. Or, so he says. While his proxy is doing the work, the outsourcer is out doing some other more pleasant and less messy job from which too he earns money. This deception apparently has been going on for years and he is apparently not the only person to practice it. It makes eminent sense to get done what one doesn’t want to do from someone else and pay that someone else for it. That’s the logic of all outsourcing, isn’t it?

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Not really. Considering we troop to swoon over KJ’s made-for-NRI KANK in the newly opened Metro Ad Labs (soon to be shortened to MAL no doubt) at Rs.500/- a pop without blinking an eyelid to watch SRK, AB, AB Jr, RM, PZ and KK. Or, KKKG, KHNH and other initial poppers (IPs – not IPOs) of like ilk before it. I guess it’s a sign of the hurried, harried times we live in. We don’t have a moment to rest in peace (RIP). We’re afraid of getting ripped off if we do. Who knows what might happen in that unguarded moment if we were to stop and take a leisurely breather? A real WI conundrum, what? For acronym impaired folks like me, here’s an alphabetically arranged, easy-to-use glossary to mug up so that you get my drift.

Glossary for the Acronym Impaired starts here.

AB (sometimes also called the Big B) = Amitabh Bachchan

AB Jr (often called Abby’s Baby) = Abhishekh Bachchan

Aka = Also known as

IIITTII? = Isn’t it idiotic to talk in initials?

IP = Initial popper

IPO = Initial public issue

KANK= Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

KJ = Karan Johar

KK = Kirron Kher

KHNH = Kal Ho Na Ho

KKKG = Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

MAL = Metro Ad Lab

NRI = Non-resident India (aka born desi ab pardesi)

PZ = Preity Zinta

RIP = Rest in peace

RM = Rani Mukherji

SRK = Shah Rukh Khan

WI = What if

Avantika recommends for acronym finding. For a second opinion, try

Bibliophobe’s revenge.

Here's a fact to completely astound
Any reader who keeps books around.
There's a breed on this globe
Called the bibliophobe:
The mere sight of a book – he's unbound.

You could say that again, boys and girls. Take it from me. If you want to turn a bibliophile like me into a frothing-at-the-mouth bibliophobe, the surest way to do it is to hand him a coffee table book admeasuring 300mm x 223mm with a 28mm spine and insist he uses it for reference. I’m speaking from recent hands-on experience. Only someone as weird as Cosmo Kramer could have come up with the very idea of the coffee table book, I can vouch with total conviction. It’s one thing to open one of those obscenely oversize books on a coffee table top and insouciantly turn the pages barely glancing at the pretty pictures – making arty-sounding remarks just to show the present company how hip and with-it you are. It’s quite another, believe me, trying to read the text printed in an undecipherable small font and trying to make sense of it. They should at least set them up in large print like books for the visually impaired – if they want what’s printed in them to be taken seriously. A look at Large Print tells me that art books are not included in its fairly comprehensive repertoire that boasts chicken soup series, children’s books and even Harry Potter for that matter. In other words, no sensible soul expects what’s written in art books to be taken seriously. Ergo, look at the pretty pictures. Don’t read the drivel. [New Learning about Ye Olde Attitudes: Did you know that according to the Ulverscroft Group, one the biggies in the large print publishing business the English-reading universe comprises the UK, Ireland, South Africa, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand only?]

Music-to-your-ears last words:

This odd word, bibliolater, looks
Like a person who can't get his hooks
On enough things to read,
But I ask you, indeed,
Can a reader have too many books?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

M as in ‘mule’. T as in ‘talking’.

And, F as in ‘Francis’. Because that was the name of the smart talking Army mule who used to upstage (after six appearances with Francis, the mule got more fan mail than the actor and land into trouble his GI sidekick, Peter Stirling (Donald O’Connor), in movie after movie. I think I first met Francis in 1952 at the Eros Theatre, opposite the Church Gate Station, just after appearing for my SSC Board examination. It was good fun once you willingly suspended your disbelief which was easy to do after you listened to Francis’s cynical and sardonic smart talk in the screen voice of Chill Willis. The pivot of the comedy was that Francis only spoke to Peter and when Peter followed his advice and acted in a manner beyond his competence, he had to tell his bosses that his source of information was a talking mule. This landed him into a psychoanalyst’s couch for analysis. I was taken aback when I came across a long-faced and solemn 693-word review of the first Francis flick in the New York Times (16 March 1950) by Bosley Crowther via (Movie Review Query Engine). I didn’t know Francis inspired such awe among movie critics when he made his debut. BC called 1950 the year of the mule, bitched about “the animal's limited histrionics” and didn’t seem to relish the hypothesis that mule could be superior to man. Famous last words? “In short, we can't say that ‘Francis,’ a Universal-International film, offers comedy of rich and subtle nature. But it holds a few good laughs – especially for mules.” I rest my case.

[Note on New Learning about the Good Ol’ Days: Even in 1950, on the stage at the Paramount, there were live performers: the King Cole Trio, Larry Storch, Johnny Coy and Ray McKinley and his orchestra. Did Francis ask for all those props?]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The marrying kind.

Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get bigger every day!
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in the most delightful

Remember Honoré (Maurice Chevalier), singing to Leslie Caron in Gigi (1958)? He saw in her just a little girl “growing up in the most delightful way” and not a budding courtesan-in-training. His nephew, the Parisian playboy, Gaston (Louis Jourdon), was more worldly. He saw a courtesan-in-training “growing up in the most delightful way” and wanted to become her first patron. Honoré’s viewpoint was paternal, or, more accurately, avuncular. He reminds me of a friend who did not want his daughter to get married “too soon”. She was working and enjoying it. He enjoyed his daughter’s delight in and success at her chosen profession. Then, as he told me the story, fate intervened. She went with her mother to take part in a puja. The very next day, the pujari (presiding priest), who moonlighted as a marriage broker and astrologer, brought for her a marriage proposal. It was an offer too good to refuse. She decided to chuck up her career and join the kitty party circuit. Her father wasn’t so sure. She was adamant, though. Wiser counsels and the Indian world view prevailed. What brought about the change in the heart of the father? He did not tell me. I didn’t probe. And, although no dowry had been demanded, I know he ended up paying plenty in kind and still continues to pay, the doting father that he is. Which brings to mind another story of four fathers who were taken to the cleaners by a multi-marrying deceiver. The story hit the headlines this morning. While I’m no Sherlock Holmes, the two wedding pictures printed with the report show brides all over whom is written the reason why their parents were anxious to marry them off without verifying the credentials of the bridegroom-to-be. They’re pathetic looking, flat-chested girls who would be a cause for worry for parents. The worst kind of deception, I reckon, is self-deception. Therein lies the unspoken woe of the father - and the mother - of the bride.