Category: Fun

Throughout human existence, one question has burned uppermost in the minds of human beings, whatever their sex, race or culture: “So what’s for dinner?” From most place around the world, the same answer has come back – food.

Food? How predictable! Fans of cuisine find a diet limited to items defined “edible” woefully dull. Instead we consume naga (metal-dissolving) chillies, Cambodian water bugs, fried banana skins and strange black, sludgy, night-market condiments which appear to be a mixture of used engine oil and finely ground gravel!! And those are the conservative ones. There are people around us with diet preferences that include rocks and houseware. This is a scientific fact. A recent study of global eating habits conducted by Oxford Brookes University in the UK concluded that “throughout the world, every day, millions of people eat earth, clay… and foods conventionally regarded as inedible by most Westerners.

For gourmand Allah Wasayo, the perfect meal is a nice carpet. Most people lack variety in their diets, says the 59-year old Pakistani, who likes to follow his lunch with a dish of broken glass and some grass clippings. At a buffet in a five-star hotel in Karachi, reporters watched him eat light bulbs and pulverized teacups. “I eat carpets, cups, saucers, pieces of glass, chicken curry and grass with the same fervour,” he told the Dawn newspaper.

Wasayo us just one of  a long line of creative diners, a list which includes a woman who lived largely on ice, and a man who claimed to eat nothing but air. More recently, YouTube fans have been entranced by Dasarath from Kanpur, who drinks his beer and then munches down the glass.

One super-omnivore, Wang Chengke of China, wolfed down some ashtrays and beer bottles and was then checked by doctors. They concluded he had gastric juices five times stronger than most people. It’s not clear what practical purpose his skill could be used for. Maybe China could develop some sort of dining army who could eat their way through the enemy forces.

But the diner who most sticks in my mind is Ram Rati, 82, who has been happily chomping her way through a medium-sized beach. She has been eating sand since she was a child. “I eat on average around one or one-and-a-half kilos of sand per day”, she told Asian News International. Her granddaughter Shikha said: “The doctor said if she had no health problems, let her eat.” What a glorious attitude. “If grandma want to eat a major tourist attraction, let her eat.”

For most people, a taste for the inedible is merely a food preference, but for some, it’s a matter of life and death. After super-hot-curry became the favorite food of the British, army generals started receiving requests from British troops for chicken curry, lamp tikka and pulao rice. But today’s active soldiers eat 4000 calories a day and take toilet breaks only once every 72 hours. Generals had grim fears that history would be changed because battles would be constantly interrupted by British Soldiers telling enemies they have to go to the loo. Several top scientists were commissioned to find ways to replicate Asian flavors without system-churning spices. In the end, they provided ration-packs with the fieriest spices served separately in sachets for those who could cope.

Personally, I think they should go the whole hod and train and their soldiers to eat the most extreme food. After all, the sight of men biting the necks of beer bottles and crunching glass in their mouths is guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of anyone raised on less challenging diets. Which is why Allay Wasayo, despite his fame, remains a bachelor. No family will provide him with a wife. “They think I might eat her,” he laments!!!


Theaterics in a movie theatre!!!

So I love movies (duh, you didn’t figure that out from my blogs yet). And I actually pay and watch them in the true big screen experience. I do not write movies off before actually watching them and I give every movie a chance. I also have no pretension about my movie taste being extremely base or upscale. I don’t know anything about difficult to pronounce European directors and I value MTV movie awards more than the Golden Palme. I just watch movies for entertainment. My logic is simple – I’m giving you Rs50 to make me not think about things I would’ve otherwise thought about for the next 2 hours (three and a half hours if it is a Karan Johar movie). If you succeed in doing that then you deserve my money. Simple.

For starters, what’s this with Indian movie goers and the guessing game? Do you get extra points for guessing the next scene in a movie? No seriously, what’s the prize? “I think he is the murderer.” “No no, she is the murderer.” “No no. She is a he.” Guess what? I have two words for you – “Duck Odd” and yes I know I got my Ds and Fs mixed up. So if the fifteen over zealous people who were sitting behind me for Delhi Belly (which was a very funny and hilarious movie btw) are reading this – I really don’t care where you thought the the urn was. I rarely am tense about mysteries in movies because I KNOW THEY WILL REVEAL IT IN AN HOUR. So shut up and let me watch the movie will you. What is it about movies alone that makes us do this? Have you ever seen people do this during a cricket game – “I think Sachin will hit a four.” “No No I think Brett Lee will get a wicket”. We never do that. But give us a movie and we suddenly put a Sherlock hat on. And it’s not just for mystery movies – we do it for any movie. I even had a bunch of very annoying people sitting behind me when I was watching Chak De India, trying to guess what will happen in every hockey game. Grrrrr!!!

Ok. My next rant is specific to people who bring in kids to the movies. Children. Yes, children. They are soooooo cute. Awwwwwww. But PLEASE KEEP THEM AT HOME WHEN YOU COME FOR MOVIES. Now correct me here. Have you ever seen  in any movie or now that there are many Americans in India, an Americans bring their one year old infants to movies. NO. They spend on a nanny and make sure that they enjoy the movie and let others do the same too. Now ask your self. When was the last time you went for a movie where a kid didn’t start crying? I think we all get angry but just keep quiet because its a kid. Would you keep quiet if a forty year old man started crying while you are watching a movie and started telling his wife that he is hungry – no you would beat the crap out of him. So parents of toddlers who bring them to movies – please be considerate towards others. How will you like it if I went to your house and shouted while your kid was trying to sleep – get it?

Talking about kids and movies its time for some digression. What is so sweet about grown up actors and actresses trying to play with under dressed kids from third World countries in their movies? How many Indian movies have you seen where the actor and actress, in the middle of a song, just walk into a bunch of street kids playing soccer and join them. The clip then normally gets into slow motion mode and everybody is shown having such a nice time. Occasionally there will be water in the form of rain or a water hydrant. All the kids and actors will then get wet and dance around even more. Now even American movies have started using this concept. I saw the Heartbreak Kid sometime back (funny in parts) and even they used the exact same concept. Grrrrrr. I have actually played cricket on the streets and never remember any sweet couple joining us for an impromptu party. If at all anything, all the couples in our area hated us because there was an outside chance of getting hit by a ball while they tried to go on sweet walks. Hmmmm.

Oh I have sooo much more to rant about. The annoying bunch of teenagers who think they are really witty and fill the movie up with smart ass comments. Newly married couples who choose the movie as a way of showing affection – “You want popcorn? You want soda? You want pastry? You want popcorn, pastry and soda …” People who have business deals on their cell phone while others are trying to figure out where the urn is – “Haan Sharma ji. Aaap sign kar dijiye. Abhi khatam hoga picture … mein adha ghanta mein aata hoon … aap popcornn lengey …” So much to rant about but alas the aliens are here for abduction again – so later 🙂

Absurd as it sounds, Baba Ramdev and Salman Khan share a lot in common — they are mega cultural phenomena. They generate adoration, reverence and something close to worship. Their fans see them as living gods. But beyond that commonality, let me put it bluntly — Salman Khan and Baba Ramdev have hot bods. Very hot. They are poster boys for Ultimate Fitness. In fact, it’s all about the bod. Both men know as much. Both have made their reputations flaunting their impressive physical assets. And both go happily shirtless, displaying great panache along with their sculpted silhouettes.

Think about it… Baba Ramdev shot to fame much after Salman (‘The Bod’) Khan. The ‘Rockstar of Yoga,’ as Ramdev has been famously called, used the television platform to promote himself and become a household name. As a yoga teacher, he made more Indians aware of physical fitness than any expert has succeeded in doing so far. Salman Khan made it in the movies on a mega scale after he decided to bare his torso and flex his biceps. Salman has been rightfully credited with generating impressive revenues for desi akhadas and gyms, to which countless men rushed wishing to emulate the actor and acquire a droolworthy physique. For the Khan, his daily workout is non-negotiable. It’s his religion. Ditto for Ramdev.

Now that Salman is officially the most successful Khan in Bollywood, producers who want to work with him are expected to provide the star with a full-fledged gym on the sets. Baba Ramdev doesn’t need a gym – he is the gym! Despite their different approaches to acquiring the body beautiful, both these guys know it is their dedication to their respective passions and physiques that has millions of ardent devotees panting. Salman shares his fitness mantras generously with friends, foes and fans. Baba Ramdev shares his with strangers — anybody who cares to switch on his channel or join his classes. Salman gives away his trade secrets for free. Baba Ramdev charges a bomb (Rs.10, 000 per session, insist his detractors).

So far, Salman has not starved for a cause. Nor has he joined politics (he’s leaving that option to the other Khans!). Even though Salman is the top earner in his line of business, he doesn’t own a private jet yet (his fans send him theirs!). Nor do Delhi politicos come running to the airport to meet him. But several sheikhs in the Middle East do just that each time he lands up to promote a film. Salman travels with an entourage that includes Shera, his faithful bodyguard. Baba Ramdev’s entourage is much bigger and he has several bodyguards. In fact, he is said to employ a private army to call his own.

Salman has a sense of humour. Baba Ramdev must have his to try and escape from a sticky situation dressed in drag! Salman frequently laughs at himself. Baba Ramdev has critics laughing at him. Significantly, both men are single. But only one of them is ready to mingle (guess who?). In terms of mass hysteria, it’s hard to say which one generates more passion. If Ramdev’s followers conduct mass prayers for their guru, Salman’s besotted fans can effortlessly fill a couple of stadiums — no occasion required. Talking of ‘fan love’ — Salman’s fans happen to be so hardcore; they are ready to slaughter anybody who dares to criticize their beloved Sallu Bhai or Bhai Jaan. Baba Ramdev’s bhakts are equally fanatical. It’s called chela pyaar. Both men are acutely aware of their formidable star power… they have it, flaunt it, and exploit it. Salman peddles his Being Human line of products for charity. Ramdev sells assorted ‘cures’ for everything from cancer to baldness through his outlets.

Charisma is hard — very hard — to deconstruct. In the case of these two men, one can see what turns on movie audiences each time Salman shakes his butt and goes, ‘dhinkachika chik.” Ramdev effortlessly turns into a pretzel when required and breathes heavily as followers gasp and swoon. Devotees find all of this unbeatably addictive. Crowd mentality is hard to predict, but it’s safe to say if anybody can mobilize impressive mobs and throngs without really trying, it’s these two guys. If anybody can get thousands to leave home, forget khana peena temporarily and join a movement – you-know-who can pull it off.

So, what is it about such people that drives other people nuts? Nuts enough to abandon good sense, logic, rational behaviour… sanity, for god’s sake? No idea, Sirji! Both are crowd pullers par excellence. They understand the medium and perform effortlessly 24×7 — that’s show business. Both manipulate sentiments. Both make big bucks. The big difference is that one of them wants to lead India out of the dark ages and banish black money. The other makes a living in an industry where the colour of money is unimportant. Both insist there is no political agenda behind their public posturing. Maybe we should give them the benefit of doubt. It would be amusing to see them share the same platform some day… visualize the scene: two shirtless superstars, one breathless, the other breathing through one nostril, both flexing muscles (one, politically, the other literally) and the crowds going crazy!

Wow! Yeh mera India — are you ‘Ready’ for it?

If it is Shah Rukh Khan telling you something, you’d better pay attention! If he mocked you for using a women’s fairness cream despite being a man, what would you do? You’d dash straight to the nearest kirana store or department store and grab the ‘For men’ fairness cream. Because SRK says that a man’s skin is different from a woman’s skin and needs a different cream.

Not all that long ago, we seemed to do quite well with the same bar of soap for the whole family, the same economy-sized vats of face creams, shampoos, deodorants etc. The only divide that i remember was in shampoos, and that was regarding the hair-types – egg for undernourished, pink for oily and so forth. And maybe the famous brand which produced cosmetics for babies. No longer, though. ‘New research’ tells us through ads that men and women are different and their needs gender-specific. So they need different things for their skin, their hair, their teeth – wait, not teeth. They haven’t researched that far yet, but the day may not be far off when we find that women have far more delicate teeth and should hence be using a special toothpaste!

After educating us on gender, the producers of these goods looked around and discovered that families consisted of not just men and women; they had people in different age groups too. Bingo! So, they asked us how we could think of giving our cute toddlers baths with big, bad bars of soap. The injustice of it! And out came their own teddy-shaped, strawberry flavoured soaps. Yes, pink for girls and blue for boys, spilling off shelves in all their vibrant, irresistible colours and fragrances. And they told us that kids needed their special Barbie deodorants, soft, more malleable toothbrushes and, yes, that detergent which takes off all stains like magic.

Did they stop there? No, considerate souls that they are, how could they neglect the parents? Their health is paramount, they shook a finger at us. Sharing the kids’ Horlicks or Bournvita is just not good enough for them; hadn’t we heard of the one which is meant for their age group? The magic mix which keeps them young but not so young that they could share their kids’ health drink? Go get it, pronto!

Kids, tick. Kids versus parents, tick. Now, how to divide further? Parents means mothers and fathers i.e. once again men versus women. Bingo again! So how could they let men and women have the same cereal? Just like TV serials – as Ekta Kapoor knows so well – have to be made keeping in mind women viewers with the right doses of emotion and intrigue, cereals, apparently, also have to be tailor-made. Taking a page out of the lady’s book, cereal makers have now launched a breakfast serial – oops, cereal – for women. God help the men who take it by mistake; they’d be as unable to digest it. And if they do digest it, they may lose oodles of weight and come out curvy and smiling, fitting into their before-marriage trousers with ease. While a lesser mortal may think that it is not such a bad idea to lose that paunch, our guides up there smile benignly at our naivete and tell us that wanting to lose weight is a woman’s prerogative.

Separating men from women, kids from elders, they look for further divisions and find the in-betweeners. How to distinguish men from boys? While you may be thinking of a hundred things, what do our friends, philosophers and guides come up with? A cell phone. And yes, the phonewala beams confidingly, sales have shot up as all the little ones are in a hurry to become dashing men. Mission accomplished!

Life…. Bollywood Style!!!

Had life been a Indian movie, no mortal soul would have ever complained about not having a life. Life would have been full of resplendent moments. A filmy life would be full of nach gaana, strong, at times, over-exaggerated emotions. Also, a happy ending to one’s life story would be more or less guaranteed; afterall, how many movies have sad endings?

Life would have been a bizarre mosaic of highly dramatic events sewn together. No one would have had to worry about the nitty-gritty of their otherwise mundane existance. No one would have had to go to work because for some strange reason, most movies depict well off people but their source of income always remains an inscrutable mystery. Movie characters do not spend half their waking hours in an office cubicle, do they?

Life would have been such a sweet experience! The very thought of singing songs and dancing for every plausible reason under the sun would have been an abundant source of joy for all corporeal creatures.

Each emotion could be expressed and each occasion glorified by a highly melodious song. Best friends would sing ‘ye dosti hum nahi todenge’ to celebrate their friendship. Lovers would gladly stand under a black umbrella when its pouring cats and dogs to melodiously render ‘pyaar hua iquaraar hua hai’. And even after being completely drenched in the rain, none of them would ever catch a cold.. A heart broken man would try to forget his lady love by gulping down unending bottles of liquor while rambling, ‘dost dost na raha’. Holi would be celebrated by numerous women and men all clad in sparkling white clothes, with the men helping themselves to bhang and the man of the day singing ‘rang barse bheege chunar waali’ and beating a dafli. And a pretty girl would dance away while demurely stealing glances at her lover. All those who are incapacitated when it comes to singing and dancing have no cause to worry because a filmy life would have ensured that every woman sang like a nightingale while every man had a voice which would make a woman go weak in her knees.

Every woman would have been the epitome of beauty and every man, that of machoism. A man could have single handedly fought numerous goonda and that too unarmed. He would punch- kick punch-kick till all the evil spirits were slayed. Every man would have been a muscled macho man whose flexing of his muscles would be enough to send shivers down the bad man’s spine.

Every woman would have had nasheela nainas and every man or boy man would give his right hand to win the woman of his dreams. He would not hesitate to sing corny songs to her in gatherings. These gatherings would be overflowing with people covered in bling from head to foot. He would sing ‘ek shayar ki ghazal….dreamgirl!’ and the lady love would go red in the cheeks, blushing.

There would have been the good old people who sang ‘e meri zohar zabin’ to each other at parties to profess their love for their partners and at the same time, trying to reinstate the fact that they were not too old by singing ‘tu abhi tak hai hasin aur mein jawaan”. Sixty year olds would always look so fresh and full of life ready to burst into a song at a moment’s notice.

Life would surely have been very colorful with people changing their clothes, hairdo and makeup a gazillion times in a day. Men would be wearing fishnet shirts, or worse, floral shirts with bright red pants, while those blessed by nature would have been ready to rip of their shirts at the drop of a hat. And woman would freely roam around in the smallest of clothes, which in real life, will not even suffice as clothing for a three year old.

Girls would go to breathtaking beaches and sing odes to themselves like ‘chaliya chaliya chaliya’. One would never have to worry about the cost or the means of transportation to take them to these seemingly beautiful, out of the world places. Just start singing and presto! you would arrive at some breathtaking locale.

Every man would have been an expert at using the gun without ever going through the legal nuances of acquiring a gun or training for it. And those who hardly had anything productive to waste their life on would have gone to a beach and being surrounded by hundreds of perfectly sculpted beauties, one would croon ‘ek garam chai ki pyaali ho….koi use pilane waali ho’.

A man would have taken full five minutes to describe a simple act of eating bhelpoori by singing ‘mein to raste se jaa raha tha….mein to bhelpoori kha raha tha’ and his serenading voice would be complemented by supremely vulgar pelvic thrusts.

A woman trying to seduce a man would have resorted to ‘o zaara zaara touch me touch me touch me’ ,while men at official parties would sing ‘soni de nakhre sone lag de’ with the enchantingly beautiful boss present to shake a leg with them. All these impractical things would have been a part of our real life, if, only if, life was an Indian movie.

I read this in a web page somewhere and could not control laughing – more for the reason that I have used a few of these phrases to overcome embarrassing situations and where I was caught without any data but need to gain time…..

  • “It has long been known” – I didn’t look up the original reference.
  • “A definite trend is evident” – These data are practically meaningless.
  • “While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions” – An unsuccessful experiment but I still hope to get it published.
  • “Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study” – The other results didn’t make any sense.
  • “Typical results are shown” – 1 This is the prettiest graph. 2 The best results are shown.
  • “These results will be in a subsequent report” – I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded.
  • “In my experience” – Once.

  • “In case after case” – Twice.

  • “In a series of cases” – Thrice.

  • “It is believed that” – I think.

  • “It is generally believed that” – A couple of others think so, too.

  • “Correct within an order of magnitude” – Wrong.

  • “According to statistical analysis” – Rumor has it.

  • “A statistically-oriented projection of the significance of these findings” – A wild guess.

  • “A careful analysis of obtainable data” – Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass iced tea.

  • “It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of this phenomenon occurs” – 1 I don’t understand it. 2 I need more grant money. 3 I can get at least one more paper out of this.

  • “After additional study by my colleagues” – They dont understand it either.

  • “Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to Cindy Adams for valuable discussions” – Mr. Blotz did the work and Ms. Adams explained to me what it meant.

  • “A highly significant area for exploratory study” – A totally useless topic selected by my committee.

  • “Handled with extreme care during the experiments” – Not dropped on the floor.

  • “Presumably at longer times” – I didn’t take the time to find out.

  • “This paper will omit a review of the more recent literature in favor of” – I don’t know if anything has been written on this since my dissertation.

  • “Various authorities agree” – I overheard this in the hall.

  • “It was observed that” – One of my students noticed that “No discussion would be complete without reference to the contributions of” – I need another footnote on this page.

  • “This research has left many questions unanswered.” – I didnt find anything of significance.

  • “This finding has not yet been incorporated into general theory” – Perhaps my next graduate student will make sense of it.
  • “It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigation in this field” – I quit.

Read and enjoy……

I had the opportunity to experience Bengaluru for quite some time through the eyes of a resident. It is a city of many delights – the easiest on the eye among all Indian metros, the advantages of a modern lifestyle (though only until 11 pm, more on that later) without losing out on a certain old-India charm, and a climate that gently, smilingly urges you to forgive the city’s idiosyncrasies, generally with a very respectable success percentage.

My new job having given me the opportunity to escape the bullying, brutal Hyderabadi summer, and the relatively easy pace of Bengaluru cushioning the impact of being separated from the great things I love about Hyderabad (my family, functioning public transport, nightlife and, most importantly, home delivery.), I was able to approach life in my new home with a cool, breezy confidence not unlike that shown by Duke Nukem on learning that aliens had invaded Earth, and were planning to steal away our babes. (I read that as ‘babies’ when editing my draft, even though I myself had written it – a clear sign of priorities shifting with age).

Right up until the moment I had to encounter the famous auto-rickshaw drivers of Bengaluru.

When you move from Hyderabad to Bengaluru, along with warm welcomes and tearful goodbyes, you will also be flooded with well-meaning advice about auto drivers – friends will warn you about how they are a lazy, greedy lot (being either lazy or greedy is fine by me, but being both poses a rather sticky logical problem. Which can be solved only by a third ingredient – stupidity) who are intent on fleecing innocent commuters. However, this is plainly wrong, and an injustice, as I soon discovered.

For the first few days, my observations led me to the conclusion that auto-rickshaws in Bengaluru existed for purely decorative reasons, serving no actual function. Like teenagers in malls, they merely hang about, occasionally moving around purposelessly in what appear to be random directions and refuse to interact in any way with bystanders, even if said bystanders happen to be frantically waving their arms about, clearly desperate to get to a hospital or airport. It’s almost as if the city authorities got together and decided that, in addition to the many gardens, fountains and statues, Bengaluru needed a sprinkling of auto-rickshaws around the city as part of its beautification plan. Sort of like plonking down those useless but ornamental objects into your empty lots in all those Sim-City type videogames, in order to get bonus points.

However, after a few more weeks of careful study, I chanced upon the truth about the auto drivers of Bengaluru. You see, unlike their counterparts in Hyderabad who are essentially businessmen or those in Chennai who are essentially gangsters, the Bengaluru auto driver is a man of higher moral fiber. He is a hobbyist, who is driving the rickshaw not as a profession or duty, but merely in pursuit of pleasure and perfection – much like a violinist, painter or mountaineer. If his hobby earns him some money along the way, then that’s fine, but it is not all important.

This is why they merely cruise around the streets of the city, picking up fares merely if and when their whims urge them to, with a carefree disregard for profit or efficiency, which is the burdens of a man who is trying to earn a living. These men are on a different mission, they have a higher purpose – rickshaw driving for rickshaw driving’s own sake. Not for them the crassness of commerce. This is why people who compare Bengaluru auto drivers unfavourably with those of Hyderabad and Chennai, merely because they charge higher fare and refuse to ply, are making a mistake. Expecting a Bengaluru auto driver to take you where you want to go at meter fare is like expecting Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna to come and sing at your daughter’s birthday party, at the same rates charged by an amateur light music troupe. It is unfair and insulting, not to mention delusional.

I have decided to leave these men to their relentless pursuit of high art and take buses instead. It’s the respectful thing to do.

Another curious thing about Bangalorea . . . er . . . Bengalureans (city authorities should really consider the impact of their hasty name changes on derivative words such as this) is their liberal interpretation of the term ‘dead end’.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a dead end is defined as ‘an end (as of a street) without an exit’. But not according to Bengalureans. They will cheerfully ask you to do such seemingly impossible things as “take a left turn at the dead end”. By which they really mean “take a left turn at the T-intersection, which is what I really mean when I cluelessly say ‘dead end’. Pliss don’t mind it.”

I often wonder what it would be like if there was a suspenseful, thrilling chase sequence in, say, a vampire novel, set in Bengaluru. It might be something along the lines of this:

As he pursued his frightened quarry into the bylanes, Gangrel knew that he would feed soon on fresh blood. The unfortunate wretch had, in sheer panic, lurched into a dead end. Gangrel had him cornered now – it would not be long before he would taste the sweet, coppery taste of a kill.

“Give up, fool. This is a dead end, there is no way out. I have you know.”, said Gangrel.

The human smiled. “Nope. You forget – this is Bengaluru.” he shot back, before suddenly taking a left turn and vanishing.

“Shit.”, said Gangrel.

You have to feel for Gangrel – but then, vampires would have to be pretty stupid to hunt in Bengaluru. Nobody steps out here after dark anyway.

Disclaimer: This is a humor column and the author has always espoused the cause of making statements tongue-firmly-in-cheek. He requests that you take his column with a generous pinch of salt, if not a bucketful. Water after it, however, is completely optional.

This is an article by Clark Whelton,who was a speechwriter for New York City mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani. I came across this article in the web and I cant remember where. To increase the effect of the pun as well as the fun, I have retained the actual text without any modifications. So read and enjoy…….

“I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.

Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties, old enough to have been an early carrier of the contagion. She might even have been a college intern in the days when Vagueness emerged from the shadows of slang and mounted an all-out assault on American English.

My acquaintance with Vagueness began in the 1980s, that distant decade when Edward I. Koch was mayor of New York and I was writing his speeches. The mayor’s speechwriting staff was small, and I welcomed the chance to hire an intern. Applications arrived from NYU, Columbia, Pace, and the senior colleges of the City University of New York. I interviewed four or five candidates and was happily surprised. The students were articulate and well informed on civic affairs. Their writing samples were excellent. The young woman whom I selected was easy to train and a pleasure to work with. Everything went so well that I hired interns at every opportunity.

Then came 1985.

The first applicant was a young man from NYU. During the interview, he spiked his replies so heavily with “like” that I mentioned his frequent use of the word. He seemed confused by my comment and replied, “Well . . . like . . . yeah.” Now, nobody likes a grammar prig. All’s fair in love and language, and the American lingo is in constant motion. “You should,” for example, has been replaced by “you need to.” “No” has faded into “not really.” “I said” is now “I went.” As for “you’re welcome,” that’s long since become “no problem.” Even nasal passages are affected by fashion. Quack-talking, the rasping tones preferred by many young women today, used to be considered a misfortune.

In 1985, I thought of “like” as a trite survivor of the hippie sixties. By itself, a little slang would not have disqualified the junior from NYU. But I was surprised to hear antique argot from a communications major looking for work in a speechwriting office, where job applicants would normally showcase their language skills. I was even more surprised when the next three candidates also laced their conversation with “like.” Most troubling was a puzzling drop in the quality of their writing samples. It took six tries, but eventually I found a student every bit as good as his predecessors. Then came 1986.

As the interviews proceeded, it grew obvious that “like” had strengthened its grip on intern syntax. And something new had been added: “You know” had replaced “Ummm . . .” as the sentence filler of choice. The candidates seemed to be evading the chore of beginning new thoughts. They spoke in run-on sentences, which they padded by adding “and stuff” at the end. Their writing samples were terrible. It took eight tries to find a promising intern. In the spring of 1987 came the all-interrogative interview. I asked a candidate where she went to school.

“Columbia?” she replied. Or asked.

“And you’re majoring in . . .”


All her answers sounded like questions. Several other students did the same thing, ending declarative sentences with an interrogative rise. Something odd was happening. Was it guerrilla grammar? Had college kids fallen under the spell of some mad guru of verbal chaos? I began taking notes and mailed a letter to William Safire at the New York Times, urging him to do a column on the devolution of coherent speech. Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

By autumn 1987, the job interviews revealed that “like” was no longer a mere slang usage. It had mutated from hip preposition into the verbal milfoil that still clogs spoken English today. Vagueness was on the march. Double-clutching (“What I said was, I said . . .”) sprang into the arena. Playbacks, in which a speaker re-creates past events by narrating both sides of a conversation (“So I’m like, ‘Want to, like, see a movie?’ And he goes, ‘No way.’ And I go . . .”), made their entrance. I was baffled by what seemed to be a reversion to the idioms of childhood. And yet intern candidates were not hesitant or uncomfortable about speaking elementary school dialects in a college-level job interview. I engaged them in conversation and gradually realized that they saw Vagueness not as slang but as mainstream English. At long last, it dawned on me: Vagueness was not a campus fad or just another generational raid on proper locution. It was a coup. Linguistic rabble had stormed the grammar palace. The principles of effective speech had gone up in flames.

In 1988, my elder daughter graduated from Vassar. During a commencement reception, I asked one of her professors if he’d noticed any change in Vassar students’ language skills. “The biggest difference,” he replied, “is that by the time today’s students arrive on campus, they’ve been juvenilized. You can hear it in the way they talk. There seems to be a reduced capacity for abstract thought.” He went on to say that immature speech patterns used to be drummed out of kids in ninth grade. “Today, whatever way kids communicate seems to be fine with their high school teachers.” Where, I wonder, did Vagueness begin? It must have originated before the 1980s. “Like” has a long and scruffy pedigree: in the 1970s, it was a mainstay of Valspeak, the frequently ridiculed but highly contagious “Valley Girl” dialect of suburban Los Angeles, and even in 1964, the film Paris When It Sizzles lampooned the word’s overuse. All the way back in 1951, Holden Caulfield spoke proto-Vagueness (“I sort of landed on my side . . . my arm sort of hurt”), complete with double-clutching (“Finally, what I decided I’d do, I decided I’d . . .”) and demonstrative adjectives used as indefinite articles (“I felt sort of hungry so I went in this drugstore . . .”).

Is Vagueness simply an unexplainable descent into nonsense? Did Vagueness begin as an antidote to the demands of political correctness in the classroom, a way of sidestepping the danger of speaking forbidden ideas? Does Vagueness offer an undereducated generation a technique for camouflaging a lack of knowledge?

In 1991, I visited the small town of Bridgton, Maine, on the evening that the residents of Cumberland County gathered to welcome their local National Guard unit home from the Gulf War. It was a stirring moment. Escorted by the lights and sirens of two dozen fire engines from surrounding towns, the soldiers marched down Main Street. I was standing near the end of the parade and looked around expectantly for a platform, podium, or microphone. But there were to be no brief remarks of commendation by a mayor or commanding officer. There was to be no pastoral prayer of thanks for the safe return of the troops. Instead, the soldiers quickly dispersed. The fire engines rumbled away. The crowd went home. A few minutes later, Main Street stood empty.

Apparently there was, like, nothing to say.

Murphy’s Law covering rules of combat

A funny side of Murphy’s law on how to survive a combat. Sit back and enjoy reading and “Roll Over The Floor Laughing – ROTFL

  1. Anything you do can get you shot, including doing nothing.
  2. The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map.
  3. If the enemy is within range, so are you.
  4. If you are short of everything except the enemy, you are in combat.
  5. If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
  6. The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.
  7. If you make it too tough for the enemy to get in, you can’t get out.
  8. Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.
  9. If you are forward of your position, your artillery will be short.
  10. All five second grenade fuses go off after three seconds.
  11. The easiest route is always mined.
  12. If your sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
  13. Try to look unimportant; the enemy may be low on ammunition.
  14. Working as part of a team is essential; it gives the enemy other people to shoot at.
  15. Never forget your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
  16. If you have a secured area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  17. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  18. Friendly fire isn’t friendly.
  19. Guided missiles aren’t.
  20. Incoming fire has the right of way.
  21. Tracers work both ways.
  22. No combat unit ever passed inspection.
  23. No inspection ready unit has survived combat.
  24. No operation plan survives the first contact intact.
  25. If you take more than your share of objectives you will be assigned more objectives to take.
  26. If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.
  27. Interchangeable parts aren’t.
  28. The worse the weather, the more you are required to be out in it.
  29. Field experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  30. No matter which way you have to march, it will always be uphill.
  31. Every command which can be misunderstood, will be.
  32. There is always a way, and it usually doesn’t work.
  33. The one item you need is always in short supply.
  34. There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you, and miss.

Murphy’s Rules were found floating around on the Internet (via e-mail).  If anyone wants to take credit for these gems, please identify yourself.

Why I love the Republic Day

The parade may not have changed much over the years, but we still love it – (excerpts from an article in the Times of India.)

I am a very patriotic guy. I am one of the many people who watch the Republic Day parade on Doordarshan with a huge lump in my throat and an inherent belief that I live in the greatest country in the world.

I love every part of the Republic Day parade. I love that it’s long; I love that it’s diverse, I love that it’s perfectly coordinated and yes I also love that it is pretty much the same always. The parade is bit like the wedding season… sure the colours may change a bit, it may take 10 hours instead of 9.5 one year, the music might get a tad livelier, but at the end of the day, you know what to expect. There will be slim missiles, huge fat tanks, some dancing, some floating and eventually the police will show up. here are a few of my favorite things:

  • I love the floats, but let’s not forget that they are supposed to be a true representation of the respective state, so I sometimes secretly wish they were a little more in tune with youthful reality. I wish the Goa float had rave music  and perhaps it could’nt drive in a straight line or maybe just showed up late because it was taking a nap. I wish the Kerala float, for once showed someone getting a massage; I wish the Hyderabad, Bangalore and Haryana float was about 30 sleepy kids on the phone talking to annoying foreigners; I wish the Gujarat float was a bunch of guys looking very sober; I wish the Mumbai float was stuck in the traffic and I wish the Delhi float had huge speakers and was trying to overtake the other floats on the wrong side.
  • I must confess that I do like watching the tanks and the missiles go by. The reason I love watching them is because I realize how long it’s been since any of them were fired. Peace, it seems, is what I cherish the most about watching our entire arsenal go by. It’s like watching Sunny Deol walk down the street – he looks kind of chilled, but you never forget that he’s still got the 2.5 kilo hands.
  • I love it when the Delhi police come by doing acrobatics on their bikes, but then again, I have seen couples on Reclamation Bridge in Mumbai and North Campus in Delhi accomplish far greater acrobatic feats on motorcycles. These ‘real roadies’ as I call them  would make a great addition to the parade. Constable Paresh and Inspector Yadav are just entertaining as Roydon from Bandra and Fatema from Dadar.
  • I also like watching the school children perform, and I like it when they perform to traditional music. This is one area in which I don’t want the parade to be an accurate representation. The thought of watching a platoon of 300 Indian children with American accents, European hair cuts, texting each other on Japanese cell-phones is a little too much for my patriotic sensibilities.
  • I love the horses but can we do something about the poop please? I know they can’t help, I know they are sweet and majestic animals, I know it’s damn tough to ride them, but I also know that the Kathakali dancer coming up next is supposed to look a little more cheerful, her feet aren’t meant to stick to the floor, and under ideal conditions, she should be able to breathe!!
  • I love the fact that we put the bravery award winners 30 feet above the ground on top of elephants and test their bravery a little more.
  • I love when the Doordharshan cameras cut away to politicians and powerful people in VIP seats. It’s good to catch the leaders of our country freezing, napping, yawning, scratching, picking, burning, tanning, day-dreaming, gossiping or simply zoning, and in some very very very rare cases, grooving.
  • I love the commentators on Doordarshan. Their mad excitement, advanced pitch modulation capacity and sheer dramatic skills make cricket commentators sound like opera singers.
  • I love watching the foreign chief guest sit next to our President and Prime Minister, pretending to understand every aspect of the parade. They have never seen a country with so many colours and so much diversity, and it shows. The look on their face is usually the combination of a three-hour PhD lecture and an acid trip.

That’s why I love the republic day parade, it’s always the same, but so are the people who watch it on TV. It takes time, but it’s Indian Standard Time. It takes up your entire morning, but it’s a very very good morning.

Happy Republic Day!! Long live the republic!!!

(India will celebrate its 62nd Republic Day tomorrow – 26th January).