11 July 2023

I just have one question

If you ever ply the road between Mogra and Gurap, you are likely to come across a very small village called “Bhastara”. My brother and I had stopped there at a roadside tea stall before getting on the highway to Durgapur.

As the tea-stall guy was heating our tea, an ad stuck on a nearby tree caught my attention. Curious what is being sold in this distant village, I walked up to the tree and saw this.

The ad is for an astrologer. Not too surprising. My opinions on astrology aside (which are not particularly upbeat, to be sure), it is not uncommon to see a lot of astrologers / soothsayers / so-called-diviners preying on ignorant, poor people. In fact, my parents had taken me to somebody who had given me a stone to wear on my body to mend my wayward ways. What “wayward” ways, you ask? Well, apparently, my parents thought that my life had started skidding down fast since I had scored not-so-good marks in … get this … Science that year! The irony is beyond being rich.

Coming back to the ad, the line in the middle says – “Gold Medalist in Astrology”. I just have one question. Okay, two, really.

One: Who the heck is giving gold medals in astrology these days? Has it already become an Olympic sport?

Two: What is a gold medalist doing in this far flung village of Bhastara?

Well, the tea was getting cold. And we had a few folks to visit in Durgapur. I had no time to go around and ask the people nearby!!

11 July 2023

Modernization of the “Bangali Babu”

We came to a red light and stopped. My brother, who is of the ilk that believes if your feet do not touch the starting line in a marathon race you are bound to lose it, somehow snaked his car thru the stationary cars/buses/motorcycles all the way to the front of the line. I can’t even claim that what he snaked over was legitimately a road.

But, for once, I was glad he did it. If not, I would not have seen this incredible sight.

There was – as you see in the picture – the prototypical Bengali babu of the yesteryears crossing the road. Adorned in his white “dhuti punjabi” and impeccably coiffed hair, he slowly but steadily went from one side to the other. He had a “johor coat” on to complete the Bangali babu look. This is in the middle of summer season!! It is a sweltering 95 degrees heat with humidity that will make you feel like you are swimming rather than walking on the streets.

What melted my heart was his unbounded optimism that if he just put his hand up, all traffic would stop for him. In his Moses like mind, he less crossed the road; he more parted the sea of traffic around him.

Alas! even this unimpeachable “Bangali babu”-ness has started crumbling down to the assault of modern civilization. The quintessential “jholi” has given way to a smart backpack. The half torn “chappals” have given way to smart, contemporary sports shoes!!

If yesterday and today ever were to come together, I was surely staring at it just about now!!

19 May 2023

How many of you remember the Lockhorns?

To my friends who did not grow up in India: did you folks read the Lockhorns as part of your childhood?

To my friends who grew up in India: I am sure you remember the inimitable couple and their caustic but really funny humor!

To my friends who refused to grow up: good for you!!!

Thinking of getting a few of the Lockhorns series books if I can find them. Vikram Das and Somshekhar Baksi, you two are most likely to have a collection…

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10 May 2023

How my keyboard got the better of me!

For about a year, my keyboard was showing signs of aging. Just like me. “Joints” would get stuck, “parts” would stubbornly refuse to cooperate with some hilarious and some not so hilarious results. It had gotten bad enough that my friend and CFO of the company – Hunt – had threatened to buy me a new laptop from the company if I did not change mine.

It started innocuously enough. The letter “A” started getting disfigured. In the end, it was a big circular blob. That did not bother me (come on, I knew which was the “A” button even if the keyboard tried to fool me) as much as the fact that every time I pressed that button, instead of one “a”, two “a”s would come up.

Did I say every time? That would have been a bit easier. Infuriatingly, it would be single “a” at times and then two “a”s at other times. On some very generous moments, the keyboard would type out even three “a”s.

Well, with time, I got used to it. Basically, every time I typed an “a”, I had to look up and press the delete key. This interim truce between the keyboard and me went on for a few months. Not without its own share of hilarious misspellings, though.

There was that time when DJ-PJ’s son Dhir concluded that I must be an avid gamer. Apparently, that button is used in a lot of video games. I am glad he did not venture to ask me what my favorite game was. I do not think I could have named even one if he had asked me to. (I assume Tetris is not played any more?)

The hardest part was dealing with passwords. I can name you all the websites that allow you to see the password you have typed (have you noticed that small “eye” icon?) and those that do not. Bank of America, are you listening? I would have to literally count the “*”s to guess whether I got it right.

Our truce was rudely broken one day when the keyboard decided to throw tantrums with the “s” button too. Same sequence as before… first the letter looked like a disfigured blob and then more “s”es would be thrown in than was desired.

I was determined to clench my jaw and power thru it even as the keyboard was getting really sassy with me. There! Take that “sassy” as an example. Instead of a simple keystroke sequence of

“s”, “a”, “s”, “s”, and “y” it would be something like
“s”, “” , “a”, “”, “”, “s”, [look up to see if there are two s’s already to be take advantage of], “y”

Enough to give one sleepless nights (not that I would have dared to write “sleepless” with that keyboard!).

I still would not give in.

The keyboard retaliated by upping its game. Next key to go down (or rather rise up) was “l”. Now this made life really really hard. Have you ever tried writing “really really hard” and then try counting how many “l”s have been put up? I literally would take me glasses off and pull my face to the screen and squint to see if it looked like three “l” or two “l”s. Meticulously avoided all discussions of lamas. And llamas too!!

The tide irreversibly shifted against me when the Shift key stopped working. The one I use with the right pinky. The confusion of too many a’s, s’s, l’s and then the wrong upper and lower case locked me out of at least two airlines’ websites. I had to call them up and make up a cock and bull story on why I could not get my password right.

I finally waved the white flag and showed up at the Genius Bar at the nearest Apple store.

“Your keyboard has taken quite some beating”, commented Sherri. Clearly, that was not the genius part. The genius part was she was able to get me a new keyboard under 24 hours.

When I went to pick it up, she asked me:
“How would you rate Apple service?”
“Excellent”
“How would you rate Apple products?”
“Excellent”
“What do you like about it?”
“Your delete buttons never cease working!!”

We both had a laugh and I left ready to pound on the new keyboard.

First, a “before” picture for all of you. In a few months, I will have an “after” picture replete with all the food crumbs, beach sand, dropped wine marks….

In the meanwhile, watch me as I type “Assassination”!!!

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20 December 2022

I had to laugh aloud

Airports are a veritable mix of emotions. If you go to the west end of Atlanta airport, you are going to see a lot of emotional good byes, last hugs and tears. If you go to the south side, you can actually feel the anticipation of the crowd waiting for their loved ones to show up. And the excitement, hugs and tears – happy tears – when they actually unite with them.

I was at the airport this evening to pick up Nikita coming from Washington DC. As I was pacing up and down, I saw this young kid with another lady and an even littler kid also waiting there. The kid had a sign in his hand. I was walking past him and had in fact, gone a good couple of yards past him when I had to do a double take.

“Wait! Is that what I saw?”, I asked myself.

I paced back. Read the whole sign again and laughed out aloud.

I had to make friends with the kid.

I asked the lady “Did he do this himself?”

“Yes. We can’t wait to see the look on his mom’s face!”

I turned to the young kid and asked “Who made this?”

“Me”

“Was this your idea?”

“Sort of”

“What do you mean, sort of”

“Well, I had seen something like this in a video once”

“Ah! That is very funny. I want you to know that you made me laugh very loud today!”

Unfortunately, an office call came in and I had to step towards a quiet area. When I came back, they were gone.

I would have LOVED to see the look on his pranked mom’s face.

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