5 October 2019

Deep thoughts

Last night, I was listening to Ataullah Khan’s rendition of “Idhar Zindagi Ka Janaza Uthega”. It is a beautiful poem written from the point of view of the man who realizes that the lady he loves is getting married to somebody else that night.

And I realized that most of the ghazals and qawwalis (or a large fraction of them at least) are about unrequited love.

In the Western world, it happens differently:
Man loves woman.
Woman does not return the love.
Man moves on to next woman.

But from the subcontinent I come from, it is like:
Man loves woman.
Woman does not return the love.
Man sits down to write a poem!!


7 September 2019

An extreme case of false precision?

Flying from Denver to Chicago this week, I noticed that the American Airlines flight was informing us about our altitude – in first decimal place of a foot!!! To put it in perspective, 0.3 feet is about 3.5 inches – think about the width of your palm.

What was the great need to put that level of precision? Certainly, that level of precision cannot be accurate. A airplane measures its altitude, if I understand correctly, by the pressure difference of the outside where it is and the ground pressure.

Admittedly, it is a little more complicated than that – it has to understand what the local pressure at ground level of various points on earth are – regardless, it is a fairly inexact process. This is not your Sonar or Lidar technology at work.

Not to mention that to maintain that height constantly, the airplane would have to bounce around a lot depending on what is there in the ground below – you know a ditch here and a curb there…

I was thinking of asking American Airlines about it but was afraid they might ask me to “Depress” some button to get the accurate altitude 🙂 🙂

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7 September 2019


This is what the display on my loaner Lexus car said. So I yelled at the brake that it was a complete failure in life and was a worthless piece of doodoo. But the engine would not still start.

Finally, I just “pressed” the brake and the engine growled to life immediately…

“Depress”? Why Depress? Why not just “Press”?

What was the pressing need Lexus felt to use the secondary meaning of the word “depress”? Language used by the car companies – now, that is something that is “depressing”

🙂 🙂

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23 August 2019

Chai Tea???

More than a year back I switched up from drinking coffee to drinking tea. None of the Indian style tea leaves soaked in boiling milk or boiling water in a sauce pan style. Just the “dip dip” style (which is what we called them when tea-bags made their entry into India in my early life). Ever since my switch up, it has been one confusion in mind after another.

I thought there was only one type of tea – you know the one that kind that comes from errrr… a tea plant. (If you have not guessed it that is why it is called “tea”). Then I learnt there is something called green tea. I always thought tea was black. Sure enough, there is something called black tea. Of course finding out that there is something called Earl Grey tea did not help matters.

But I really hit the roof when I found out there is something called “herbal tea”. That is where my biggest peeve lies. You CANNOT call whatever it is that you drink “herbal tea”. There is no tea in it. Call it by the name of the dried flower it is made of or whatever herbal leaves it has. It can have a lot of those esoteric stuff – but tea leaves it has none. By definition it is not tea. Calling dried flowers herbal “tea” is like calling chicken herbal “mutton”.

And this morning, early in the Skyclub, as I was looking for some tea, I was jolted out of my stupor when I saw something called “Chai Tea”. Chai Tea??? Chai is the original name of the plant where it comes from in China/India area. The English word for it is Tea. What do you mean Chai Tea? There is no Chai Tea. Chai IS Tea.

Can’t quite decide whether I like it or like like it, I guess!

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10 August 2019

That was a funny stewardess!!

We had an extremely funny stewardess on our Delta flight from Chicago to Atlanta last evening. Anna seemed to have a slight East European accent and she kept us entertained throughout the flight with various chit chats. Some of her announcements had us in splits. A few of them I had heard before but a few were unique (or at least first time for me).

Here are some that I can remember…

Initially, we were taking a little time to get everybody settled down and there was a long queue of people inside and outside the plane as people were sorting out their seats. Anna came on the PA system and went “People! People! People! We are not furniture shopping here. No need to spend time choosing your chairs. They are all the same. They are blue!”

Finally, after the doors were closed, she announced “The doors have been closed. We are ready to push out. If Atlanta is not in your travel plans… well, now it is!”

Sometime later, she went “Delta has four of the world’s best Atlanta based stewardesses”. And then she added “None of them are on this flight…”

During the safety instructions, she explained how to inflate and operate the safety vests. “And after you reach the shore, the vest is yours to keep”, she explained further!

After landing, she announced “Our pilots are excellent in flying airplanes. But they are terrible drivers. So, please stay seated with your seat belts on.”

The best was for the last. The plane slowly rolled up to the gate and then came to a halt. Usually there is a ding you hear after that and that means you are ready to get up and move around. However, in that split second of pregnant pause after the plane came to a halt, she came back on the PA system and with the grave voice of a court bailiff solemnly announced “All rise!”

Most of us stayed seated laughing our heads out.

Well done, Delta and Anna! That made the flight really enjoyable!

6 May 2019

Does anybody know?

These days I am getting a lot of phone calls from Sierra Leone.

Which raises a question in my mind… does anybody know if that prince from Nigeria has moved to Sierra Leone these days? 🙂

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29 April 2019

“For the time being”

Let me set the stage first.
The first thing you need to know – unless you are conversant in Bengali – that the word “Apatoto” (pronounced with a long “a” and soft “t”s ) means “As of now” or “For the time being”.

Second thing you need to know is that there is a national exam in India – NTSE – National Talent Scholar Exam – or something like that. Students finishing up tenth grade can appear in it and after a written test and an interview (at least that was the way it was when I sat for it), if you managed to qualify, then you would get certain amount of financial aid as long as you continued studying. This, somehow, I had managed to ace – fulfilling one of the three dreams my dad had for me (this, to pass the Indian Administrative Services test and to get a Nobel Prize). One for three ain’t too bad is the story I am sticking with.

The third thing you need to know is the baby featured in my lap is my nephew Nirban (brother’s elder son) who is the same age as my younger daughter and is in his tenth grade now. You can see from the second picture how he looks now.

This morning during my usual call to my brother, Nirban picked up the phone. And we talked for some time…

“Dad’s gone to the market to buy fish. He left his phone at home.”
“No problem! You have time to talk?”, I asked thinking “Of course, what else would a Bengali buy?”
“Not watching IPL? Did you see KKR play yesterday?”
“No. I have no time to watch cricket. Lots of studies”.

“What are you studying now?”
He rattled off more subject names than I could shake a stick at.

Math is our common love – actually – true for quite a few members in my family – including my brother and sister-in-law.

“So, what are they teaching in math now?”
Like I said, I had touched upon his favorite topic. For the next five minutes he spoke non stop – punctuations be darned – about polynomial equations and how he is solving them now and what are the tricks he has learnt and also the kind of silly mistakes he is prone to making.

“That is okay. We all make mistakes. Important thing is that you understand the concepts and know how to apply them. When you grow up, you will use calculators and those silly calculation mistakes won’t matter”.

“But when I sit for NTSE, they won’t let me use calculators”.
“You are sitting for NTSE? I did not know that. When is the exam?”

“First round will be towards the end of this year.”
“Oh! Did you know…”

“I know. You qualified”
“Well, I was going to actually mention about…”

“And my mom qualified too”. It was like he was not paying any attention to what I was trying to say.
“You know, that is true. I forgot that your mom was also a NTSE scholar. I am sure that makes our family unique. We have not one but two NTSE scholars.”

After a couple of seconds of uncharacteristic quietness on his side, I heard his voice again.

“Hmmmm. Apatoto”, he said, lowering his voice.

“You go, tiger”, is what I was thinking in my head… while trying to suppress my laughter.

Later, I got a call from my brother.
“Call korechhilis?”, he asked if I had called him.
“Yeah – my daily check in….” and then proceeded to tell him about the exchange I had with his elder son.

Well, I did not get to finish my story. When I came to the bit of Nirban mentioning his mom having qualified for NTSE, my brother rudely interrupted me –

“Chaitali NTSE peyechhilo?” Apparently, my brother was not aware that his wife is a NTSE scholar too.

“Go hang yourself”, I told him and kept the phone down. Not entirely sure what to laugh at more now!!