Thursday, November 5, 2009

scrabble rouser

Yesterday, I got hit on and dumped, all in the course of an online game of scrabble. It could have been the shortest chick flick plot ever, but a few things came in the way.

For one, the person in question knew words like myxo and tithe, but probably hadn’t run across heterosexuality.

But then again, hindsight says she might have a weakness for the word options. Because she asked: “Are you male or female?”

I’ve been called a tomboy in my childhood, but this was taking things a bit far. In my shock, I forgot all about the 6 letter word I had lined up, and scooted to my profile to look for signs of waxing neglect.

“Female” I replied as huffily as I could in a chat box without font options. In my eagerness to set the gender issue right, I also ended up sacrificing a precious s on an unworthy word.

The event box pinged again with the word titups. Evidently, the woman chose her words with care.

“Do you enjoy being anonymous?” she asked.

A role player, I thought, before relief hit me like a triple word bingo. I had recently altered some fb settings on the advice of a chain mail (did I mention that my middle name is lemming?), which had turned my name to Anonymous, and my picture to an androgynous silhouette. I was so pleased to know that I wouldn’t have to spend my life savings on hormone therapy that I blabbered foolishly about the settings issue.

Yes, I know it was foolish. Haven’t I just said so myself?

“You’re cute.” said the hitter. “I’d like to see what you look like.”

How does a person who doesn’t know my name, profile or face decide I’m cute? It has to be my brilliant game, of course! I scrolled up to find evidence of my cuteness, past shameful three letter words and single digit scores till I reached… well… the beginning of the game.

What followed were requests to add the above mentioned person as a friend (“at least for a few hours”), questions about sexuality and pleas to reveal personal info.

I didn’t answer any of these queries. I couldn’t. I just wasn't cute enough. Yet. I hovered around a ‘j’ like it was a phone the morning after a date. I twisted letters like hair curling bendies till they made 7 letter words. I opened dictionary tabs to validate long words that could make false eyelashes look stumpy.

Just as my cuteness score started looking respectable, it petered again to zero.

The woman I was playing had hit forfeit. Abruptly and cleanly, like a model break.

I should have been heartbroken, or at least miffed, but all I could think of was that forfeit made a great 7 letter word.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the lost symbolism

On Friday, I carefully engineered a casual stroll into a bookstore. Most of us have done the carefully casual ensemble and the carefully casual interest thing, but this was a first for me.

I walked purposefully past the cash counter to the fiction section, then stopped by at the humour aisle, and spent a purposeful 90 seconds skimming over travel. After a respectable amount of time on non-fiction and discounted books, I walked back past the cash counter to study the new releases.

That’s untrue. I studied one new release. Still untrue. I already knew what the cover looked like and what the back and fly leaf said, so it was more a grab with a shifty look around.

And then I felt like a fraud.

Like the near obscure author who when questioned about his literary favourites, sneered that he didn’t read the likes of Chetan Bhagat. Or like the people in the audience who tittered in agreement. (Months after the episode, Bhagat continues to occupy the best seller shelves, and the obscure author continues to be just that. Obscure. I like to think I helped the situation in a tiny way by not buying a copy of his book).

Or like all those people who when seen with pulp fiction, launch into an explanation about taking a break between two profound literary masterpieces. Or about needing mindless entertainment on long flights.

All the film makers who turn up their noses at academy award winners. It’s just politics, they say.

The stick figures on the big screen who claim to eat like the rest of us.

University toppers who claim not to have spent enough time studying.

Chee. There are enough of those in the world.

I carried the book to the cashier and slapped it on the counter.

“Oh, you’ve bought the new Dan Brown have you?” A woman who was next in line purred at me. She was wearing an expensive dental job and a priceless smirk.

“Yes” I answered with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary. “I enjoyed his earlier books, and can’t wait to start this one.”

“Yeah, he’s … well… interesting”, she said. “But I think I’ll wait for the paperback”.

“You’ll wait six months” I answered, feeling the smirk transfer itself to my face.

A couple of browsers turned to eavesdrop openly.

I smiled and nodded at them all and left the bookstore with my new book.

Friday, September 25, 2009

dark secrets

Nurture felt slightly nauseous as Nature dunked a gulab jamun in a pool of syrup.

She looked away from the pulpy mass and focussed on the task at hand. She had to teach Nature to say lurrrve, and judging by the subject’s inordinate fondness for sweets, the best way seemed to be with a dessert.

“I think it’s time you graduated to a more sophisticated dessert, like dark chocolate.” she spoke firmly.

“I can’t. It’s not sweet”, Nature replied cheerfully, as she swallowed the gulab jamun mash. “And my family genes forbid me to ingest any dessert that doesn’t come with a diabetes guarantee card”.

“It’s a cultivated taste you know” Nurture spoke with a confidence born of centuries of success with white mice, rhesus monkeys and drooling dogs. “Come on, try some”.

“I’ve tried it” nature said, as she looked longingly at nurture’s untouched bowl. “But my ancestors got together and made me gag. Especially my great uncle – have I told you how he once ate 20 laddoos at a…”.

“Yes, many times.” Nurture interrupted, insensitive to family ties of mere protein. “It’s usually followed by the story about some glutton who used to have no space in his thali for pooris when he served himself shrikhand”.

Nature looked a bit miffed at having her family tree squeezed into two stories.

“I remember them because they’re fascinating stories” Nurture rushed in to make amends. “But the past is… well, predictable. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“That was bred out generations ago.” Nature replied sadly. “My dad’s idea of adventure comprises using both hands to move pieces on a chess board. My mum feels the thrill of a bungee jumper when she bargains her way to two free bunches of coriander”.

“Ok so forget adventure then” said Nurture. “What about being cool? Don’t you want to be one of those elitists who discuss the finer nuances of complex flavour profiles?”

“I do”. Nature admitted, influenced by a few stray but powerful genes from an aunt who in the 70s, had served caramel custard at her son’s wedding. Twenty years later, the aunt still recounted how some of her uncool relatives (from her husband’s side of course) had whispered the name of the dessert in case people thought they were swearing.

Nurture saw victory inching closer and pressed on. “For a moment, forget all those chromosomes. Let’s pick up that bar of dark chocolate and take the first step to getting cool. I’ve got an eleven step process of tasting dark chocolate that might help you.”

“I know it.” Nature said. “I tried it with milk chocolate. By step 2, the bar was finished. By step six, my intestinal enzymes had got to it.”

“Yech it’s your sweet tooth”. Nurture said disdainfully.

“We haven’t had a sweet tooth in our family for generations”. Nature countered. "Ceramic teeth, yes, many times over. Metal teeth, check. Empty gummy spaces, bingo. But no sweet tooth after the age of 10.”

Nurture felt herself sinking deep into despair. She wished she were working with tomatoes or some other subject that didn’t have vocal cords.

“So forget it then. I guess I’ll just have to live with the fact that I couldn’t teach you to say lurrrve.”

“Lurrrve?”. Nature asked. “I don’t even know what it means.”

“It’s well, a verbal version of a machine gun.” Nurture explained without much interest. “Because of its ability to reduce people’s self confidence to pulp.”

“Ok, I want it already”. Nature said. Actually, she was mouthing the desire of a distant relative who achieved the same result by referring to designers by first names or nicknames. The relative usually topped it with a pitying look when listeners thought choo was a sneeze or that Nina was a neighbour’s name.

“Only certain things can get you the power of lurrrve, For example, you can lurrrve Norwegian salmon, not bangda fry, unless you’re doing the inverse snobbery thing. You’re allowed to lurrrve unpasteurized stilton, not cheese slices. It doesn’t matter if you prefer cheese slices. You just can’t lurrrve them. Of course the easiest way to join the lurrrve club is through dark chocolate, but I guess…”

“Wait” Nature interrupted. “Did you say Norwegian salmon? I do genuinely love it, I mean lurrrve it”.

“Good for you” Nurture said, her mind already preoccupied with strategies to reduce a normal person to a size zero.

"So why don’t I just think of Norwegian salmon when I’m talking about dark chocolate? I lurrrve dark chocolate. How’s that?"

There was no answer.

“I could then talk about cocoa percentages… I can do that quite easily.Nurture are you even listening?”

Nurture wasn't listening. She wasn't even in the roomt. She had left already knowing that her mission had been successful but that she couldn’t quite take the credit for it. Unless of course, she used her sense of adventure to fabricate a story…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

it's a steal...

The first time I visit a shop, I’m a regular customer. But the second time I go, I’m royalty. Salespeople come rushing up from every corner of the store, the manager addresses me by name, and I’m assigned an exclusive shop assistant for the duration of my visit. For the longest time, I attributed this special treatment to my charm, but after introspection and several hits to my bank balance, I’ve realised that my lack of bargaining skills are the real reason.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch some prize bargain queens and kings at work. I’ve observed how they plough masterfully towards their targets, and how they let nothing get in the way. And from these observations, I’ve understood that getting an extra tissue on demand at a café does not constitute a good bargain. I also know now that bargaining may be an art, but copying the masters achieves nothing except an unflattering likeness to a simian in a panchatantra story.

If you’re like me, ie the hieroglyphic symbol for loser shopper, here’s the greatest bargain you’re ever likely to get. You can share my failure for free, instead of getting your own at the cost of angst and embarrassment.

One person’s masterstroke could be another person’s stroke: My sister and I were shopping for ethnic totes at a street bazaar in Delhi when my sis pointed at one she liked. The burly XL stall owner quoted a price. My sister named a figure that was low enough to make me squirm. Monster man dropped his price a shade. At this point, my skinny teenaged sis looked straight at him and said “I’m beginning to get angry now”. She said this softly, with a smile on her face, and the stall owner was shocked into nervously looking around for skulking armed men, before he wordlessly handed her the tote.

This is easy, I thought. So I tried it at another street stall in another city. “I’m beginning to get angry now” I said at the right moment, my voice velvety soft and Brandoesque. Almost on cue, things started to happen. The stall owner quickly pushed a chair towards me and gestured for water. “BP patient hai”, he whispered knowingly to his assistant, and handed me a glass crusted with fingerprints. While I pretended to sip the slightly murky water, the man regaled me with stories about his own blood pressure travails. I left after a while, with a recipe for bitter gourd juice (BP ke liye ekdum first class) but sadly, no bargain.

Starting from scratch: When a salesperson tried to convince me to buy the last refrigerator in the store, ie the display one, I decided to capitalise on the bargaining opportunity. I knew what to do, having watched my bargain black belt friends closely. I disdainfully pointed out a near invisible scratch near the door (I think I might have created it while pointing it out) and demanded a discount. The salesman quickly dropped the price and before you could say freeze, I paid for the piece. When the refrigerator was unpacked at home, I realised the scratch was truly invisible, as it was eclipsed by at least 3 dents on the door. The crisper tray looked distinctly French, as the r had been rubbed by enthusiastic shoppers. The egg trays croak ominously every time I open the door, and soon, I should be able to save myself the first step of making omelettes.

Great timing comes at a cost: Yippee, it was sale time! The time of the year when bargain royalty moves in and gets stuff it might need later. Well, I got that bit right; when I swooped down on a brilliantly discounted dishwasher I didn’t need. It arrived in perfect condition, though I can’t say the same about many other things anymore.

My jars have melted into size 0 shapes, which are great for the catwalk but not for storing things. I've had to replace them with dishwasher safe ones (read imported, read expensive). My electricity bills have doubled as have my tea and biscuit expenses. The last two are courtesy my erstwhile human dishwasher, who has no work left and uses my home as a café for her mid morning breaks.

Make a fresh start: Whatever the evidence against it, I’ve started believing in reincarnation. It's my best chance to be brilliant at bargaining. Yes I realise I might be reborn a mosquito, but if I can get a great deal on a repellent-free home, I’ll take my chances.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

positioning statements

My daughter and I were watching videos of nursery rhymes on youtube when we came across these ads:

An invitation to learn to “Speak English fluently” on the ABC song. An example of a keyword match missing out on nuances, I thought sympathetically, till I saw the next one.

A chance to get an “MBA in London in 1 year” on ‘Five little monkeys jumping on the bed’. I hit replay in case I'd missed out a nuance that linked the lyrics to the ad, but still couldn't get it. The ad saw a connect though,because it appeared again.

A university that claimed to have “India’s top engineering college” appeared on a shot of a bridge collapsing during the rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’. Before I had finished laughing, a contest from HP invited me to express myself. Yes, that sounds worthwhile. I’ll have a quick breakdown while I wait for the judges to decide if I win.

Walk when you talk appeared on three blind mice. Sure, you don’t need to see where you’re going if you’re walking for exercise. The line about losing calories (spelt loosing) was perfectly timed, bang on the shot of the poor mice losing their tails, courtesy the farmer’s wife.

Airtel’s special 5 offer came up on Hush Little Baby – what a terrific follow up to millions spent on getting people to talk…

I had always thought you couldn’t beat English subtitles on Hindi movie songs for a good laugh (our love is sweet alcohol and such like), but it turns out their tickle scores have been beaten forever.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

writer's crap?

Some of the kind readers of this blog have asked me why I haven’t been posting anything.

The truth is that I want to. The greater truth is that too many things come in the way.

Here’s how it goes.

I start a new post, intending to write a few hundred words that are as profound as they are witty.

Profound is important. Or do I mean zen? Zen is infinitely more enigmatic and cool. It’s also a term I use a lot, usually with a superior expression when people look pointedly at my mismatched clothes or split ends. But then again, profound is more global. Well, there's a good way to find out what I do mean. After a good bit of wandering down scenic hyperlinks, I know that both are hard, and eminently dispensable.

I settle for witty and start writing.

Two lines down, I find my post littered with a flock of squiggly red lines. With a snort, i change the language to UK English. The flock grows. Not willing to get intimidated by a mere programme, I snort again, copy paste my two lines into a word document and disable spellcheck.

All that's left now is to shoot out those few hundred words, in an elegant and unperturbed way. I know it can be done, i have a friend who's getting two books published this year. When's the launch of the second book i wonder, and email her.

By the time i switch tabs again, I see that my writing has shrunk from two lines to one. Blogger's puny text box had made my writing seem twice as eloquent.

I think of all those talented people who write a few thousand words before breakfast or between jail terms, and realise, in a blinding series of epiphanies, that I hate each one of them. I also hate the paper clip that unfurls and widens its eyes mockingly like a demented yogi. I zap it into a kitten, and then into a puppy. After right clicking both options to check out animation, i know that the puppy works. My writing still doesn't. Or does it? I open a new tab and log into site meter to see how many people have visited my blog. A mere handful (I refer here to the hand of an embryo before it sprouts fingers). Last week might have been better, I console myself, and click to find out. The graph of the the month's visitors looks like a line up of midgets.

I would be discouraged at this point if I didn't know that it's silly for a writer to hold on to convictions that have lost relevance. This is the time to do something about it, I sternly tell myself, and drop witty from my list of to-dos for this post.

Now free of all pressure, I remind myself of the basics of writing. Focus on the material you have, and translate it into words without worrying about anything else.

I know I can do that.

I start a game of scrabble.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

face value - part 7

Go on, exercise your rights. If you'd like to declare today 'The international day for self-flagellation', put your cursor where your mouth is, and click here to get to Face Value Part 1.

Thanks to Douglas Adams, we think we know the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. He would also have us believe that the only thing that remains a mystery is the ultimate question.

We are wrong on both counts, as a small minority of people on Facebook have demonstrated. First of all, the answer is still work in progress. The only thing established is that it needs more keys than the numbers bar of your keyboard. And as for the ultimate question, that’s no mystery. The question is right there for all to see, in the status bar of the Facebook homepage. ‘What’s on your mind?’ it asks us, and the above mentioned band of Facebook users pours out a sea of possibilities that can fix life, the universe and everything.

The atlas-of-the-mind type
To get even close to understanding this personality type, you have to first stop pursuing selfish things like happiness, success and good coffee shops.

Then, try to see the world from a modern Atlas’s point of view (no you don’t have to squint or have eyes in the back of your head; I meant this in a figurative way). When you carry the earth and the heavens on your shoulders like you would a slobbering drunk friend, your perspective is bound to be larger than all the above.

I know what you’re thinking. How can Rajeev, who’s an un-creative number cruncher by day, be qualified to find solutions for the universe? Now here’s the secret of these people’s global wisdom. They have an uncanny knack of rewriting universally accepted laws and rules.

Here are the top three that I have uncovered while studying the status updates of these noble souls.

If at first you don’t succeed, extrapolate, extrapolate, extrapolate again. When V.V. Clemsy drops a glass of milk, he doesn’t waste time crying over spilt milk (boo hoo as a Facebook status update just isn’t global enough). Instead, he asks himself how the principle of dropping a glass of milk can be applied to larger subjects. Calcium depletion? Not big enough. Hungry children? Better, but overused. A drop in world nutrition levels? A loss of organic produce? Organic… hmmm there’s something there. So there you have it.

V. V. Clemsy laments the loss of yet another organic resource from a world that’s turning to plastic.

Most readers, for fear of looking ignorant will scan the net and find lots of relevant news stories that will help them sound intelligent while commenting on V. V. Clemsy’s update.

Rush in where punsters fear to tread. When Aloe P. Shea sees hair in her comb, she doesn’t just think of it as hair loss. That’s petty, selfish and a wasted opportunity. So she lets her mind out on a random association trip. A receding hairline? It’s getting macro, Aloe knows, but it’s still too selfish to make a statement about the world. So she flies from receding to recessive to recession... Bingo! That’s global enough now.

Aloe P. Shea then feels that the solution to global recession is to pat existing resources in place.

When you point a finger at yourself, remember that three fingers point at the world. Nothing remarkable has happened to Indra Pal Lobhia all day. In fact he lost a bet on which cricket team would win today. So does Indra Pal Lobhia, or IPL as he is known to friends and enemies hide the fact under the astroturf? No way! He capitalises on it to publish his learning about life, the universe and everything.

His status update reads: IPL knows that individual and team brilliance must collaborate with the will of the people for a Utopian culture to flourish.

Coming up soon: The I-link-therefore-I-am type

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a prisoner's rant

I can now officially say that I know what rigorous imprisonment feels like. I’ve learnt this in the last 36 hours, and I don’t recommend it to anyone, not even those of you who snigger at my middle and mispronounce French words.

As we know from the movies, most people who get arrested are allowed to make one call. Not me. I am not allowed to call anyone, or even greet anyone who calls me with cheery familiarity. Not loved ones. Not unloved ones. Not even those who are celebrating a birthday or anniversary. The last bit was unnecessary, because information about significant dates is now barred from me.

The only food I’m allowed to eat is that which I cook myself. I can no longer indulge in the anticipated pleasure of booking a table at my favourite restaurant. I can’t even order my usual bacon and egg sandwich.

Then there’s punishment of the rigorous kind. Like literally having to go the extra mile, even when the weather is unbearably muggy (today was one of those days, when every dust particle in the air was sweating like a peasant). Instead of using the convenience of home delivery, I had to trudge out to get a bottle of water, skirting around unmentionable objects on dusty streets. The experience was so uncomfortable, that I had to repeat it, this time for aspirin.

About 18 hours into the routine, it started getting to me. Since there was no familiar alarm to wake me up, I got up this morning, feeling groggy and listless from too much sleep and having nothing to look forward to. I spent the morning dreaming of futile luxuries like manicures and hair trims.Futile, because my current state only allows me to get these at the grottiest places, which don’t have enough clients to require an appointment.

I am slowly losing track of time, and have to wait for the newspapers to figure out the date. I'm not enough of a veteran yet to do the lines and cross thing.

I feel betrayed, bereft and totally alone.

Actually that’s not true.

In spite of my solitary confinement, I know I’m not alone.

A google search has revealed that there are at least 2 dozen people in the world whose phone touch screens have also frozen. But then again, they didn't have to suffer this indignity on a public holiday when service centres were closed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

dental case

It’s time for the most dreaded event of the year - my annual visit to the dentist. Actually, to have been true to the term annual, I should have made this statement in early Jan, but luckily for me, procrastination heads the strengths section of my cv.

What is it about dentists that makes everyone avoid them like the plague? (I would have said plaque, but dread has eaten away at my sense of humour). Although a lot of people claim that the sensation and sound of a drill puts them off, it’s like a sailor saying he avoids icebergs because they look dirty.

I think the real reasons are deeper and start way before the drill is plugged in.

Think about a standard visit. However cool/dignified/sophisticated you may be in the outside world, you peel that off with your footwear, and sprawl belly up on a chair like a canine at the dregs of a pack. I don’t know if it’s a Pavlovian reaction, but I usually start whining at this point.

Not for long though, because then I’m asked to say aaah. Not ooh or whoa or a similar cool civilized equivalent, you have to say aaaah till your nostrils dilate like a hippo’s and your double chin behaves like a silicon implant. Sure, a doctor makes you say aah too, but it’s for a few seconds, not for the duration of a 60 minute visit. If that weren’t humiliating enough, the dentist shines a strong light to light up the most unflattering part of you. Whoever says that mouths are sexy hasn’t seen an epiglottis fluttering in panic while you salivate helplessly. The only thing worse must be getting treated for haemorrhoids. But then again, with that unfortunate condition, you don’t have to watch the expert watch you as he sees dreams of a new car come true. In return, does the man at least give you the satisfaction of staring back at his cavities? Nah, he’s wearing a mask like a super-coward.

Once he’s done with the show, he wants the tell bit. Does this hurt he asks, jabbing you with instruments modelled after torture tools of the dark ages.

What do you think you pervert? You want to shoot back. But of course you don’t say that.

However witty or articulate you may be, the only response you manage to everything is gaaa.

The one right question for this answer would be 'tell me what comes after sa re', but the sadist skirts around that. Deliberately, I’m sure.

Then starts the pain. The drill bores deep into your tooth till it reaches your wallet and draws out deposit after deposit. Like an anti-alchemist, he converts your hard earned gold to ceramics, till the inside of your mouth resembles an imitation ming vase.

Once he is satisfied with his handiwork (watch for the mask twitching with joy), the dentist brings out a small mirror to show you what he’s done.

You take a cursory look, before you squeeze your plastic to pay for his emis.

365 days of composure, you sigh joyously as you walk out, gathering your surviving shreds of dignity. But the dentist’s influence still holds. Thanks to the little mirror that only showed you your repaired tooth, you missed out on the white gook that lines your mouth and makes you look like you had a 5 course meal of bird shit.

So let’s make that 364 days of composure, unless you’re like me and you procrastinate.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

rip wham wrinkle

Warning: This is a longish post, but consider the fact that it's about one of the longest evenings of my life.

Last Sunday, my doorbell rang late at night. I should have looked through the spyhole, but having watched Rajni on DD at an impressionable age, I opened the door instead with a bright smile on my face (don’t know how she carried it off 16 times in each episode, all I succeed in doing is to have courier guys suspiciously at my id).

My neighbour was standing outside. Although we had lived in the same building for four years, I only knew what her profile looked like when we rode in the same lift. Now here she was, giving me a full frontal view of her face.

Sorry! I automatically mumbled my standard late night greeting to all neighbours, then realised the music wasn’t even on. Seconds later I also realised that she was smiling.

The result of that meeting was historic. I had been invited to a birthday party of a child for the first time in decades. Well, technically, my baby daughter was invited, but since she can’t walk yet, I was invited in the capacity of a limo.

Yesterday was the big day. We walked to the venue. OK technically, I walked, till my daughter kicked me in the flanks to spur me into a fast trot. We finished first effortlessly, and got to the party before the hostess. Incidentally, it makes me wonder why such a big deal is being made of saving Tipu Sultan’s horse breeding farm. You don't need to breed winners, just get a few babies on the most ordinary nags and watch them fly.

Looking at the bright side, the good thing about getting there early was that no one saw my reaction to the place. The doorway, pillars, almost everything in the room was made of balloons.

Baboon lisped my daughter. No baby, it’s balloon I corrected, then realised she was looking at me. I collected myself, and tried to look as though it was perfectly normal to walk into a world of helium with giant teddy bears frolicking around.

One of them was clearly a trainee teddy bear or an aspiring puma, because he lunged at us in the uncuddliest way. I jumped back in fright, and landed against a pillar of balloons that squeaked their disapproval. And that was how the hostess and the birthday girl saw me as they walked in.

“Hahaha” I whimpered, as though it was a great joke to get accosted by a monster in fur. “Great party, great party. You must have worked really hard to set this up.”

No said the lady. The event manager took care of everything.

Ah. I had always thought of event managers as people who got things done for launch conferences and concerts, but clearly this was much more challenging. Because by now, the other guests started arriving in droves.

The entertainment console got into action and the miniature amusement park ride worked like clockwork. Kids in designer wear looked unmoved by the spectacle around. I would have dehydrated to a twig from having my jaw drop so often, had waiters in suits not regularly replenished me with beverages. Although it was my daughter’s first party, she seemed very composed in the strange environment and waved and smiled at the right places.

Then the cake arrived with 6 candles on it. I panicked. I had thought the kid was turning five, I swear the card had said so. I considered sneaking to the pile of presents and correcting the age on the books I had inscribed with great care, but it was too late. The candles were being lit. Good thing too, I was saved the embarrassment of looking like a kleptomaniac by the lighting of the first candle. It opened up into a flower and was plucked out of the cake. I clapped in genuine relief, till I realised everyone was looking at me.

The rest of the evening made me want to look for a giant teddy bear costume to hide in. The other mothers chatted about milestones, and it seemed as though all their kids had mastered calculus in the second trimester. “What is your daughter eating these days?” one asked me to include me in the conversation. Food I responded eagerly, and she looked at me kindly as though I was challenged in every way possible.

Finally, it was time to leave. I cantered back with my daughter, who was repeatedly squeezing her return gift to make it squeak. I thought of my daughter’s birthday, which is coming up in eight months, and instantly felt 600 wrinkles sprout on my face. And all the way home, my squeaks drowned out those of my daughter’s toy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

face value - part 6

If you read War and Peace at a sitting, you clearly have the stamina to scroll down to the beginning of this series. For the rest of you, clicking here will take you to face value - part 1.

Unlike my earlier posts on Facebook personality types, this one doesn’t try to explain how or why the Plato-on-a-plate type is the way it is. This is a struggle to preserve my last shreds of self-esteem when I read this type’s updates.


This is possibly the most misunderstood personality type on Facebook. I mean misunderstood in the truest sense of the word – because most of us can’t understand what they’re saying.

Here’s an example from the person after who this category is named.

When Plato wanted to talk about the nature of education, he could have sung ‘we don’t need no education’ accompanied by brilliant guitar work.Or he could have joined a peace protest.

But naah, that would have been too simple.

He told a story about a group of people who spent their lives chained up inside a cave. He then brought in a twist by having one of them escape. In a role reversal of Tom Hanks in Castaway, the freed man spent hair raising weeks learning to deal with the real world. Once he succeeded, he went back to the cave to rescue his buddies, but got derided by the lot as he was temporarily blinded by the darkness inside.

What’s the connection with lousy schooling? I haven’t a clue. But I remember loving Plato’s allegory of the cave when I first read it. I thought it was a collaborative movie plot by Lewis Carroll and Guru Dutt, till someone explained how foolish and shallow I was.

Well, Plato died over 2000 years ago, but his type continues to make us feel inferior and foolish by prowling around the status boxes of Facebook.

Here’s my defence.

The more complicated you get, the simpler we’ll get.
When you say Timothy is seeped in acid sunshine (thanks Five Wise Men for that one), we will assume that Timothy ate spicy food for dinner and there was no antacid at hand.

If you use vague metaphors, we’ll laugh at you with clear meta force.

When we read - Walker is wondering why the second step often precedes the first, we will scoff at the fact that Walker has tripped on his first jog ever.

The higher your feet are from the ground, the more easily we will see your underwear.

Iftekar is imagining a world without hypotheses. Ha Iftekar, doesn't this mean that you have decided to control your embarrassing saliva spray habit by dropping all ifs from your conversation? We will also wonder if you will call yourself Tekar from now on.

If your meaning is unclear, we’ll attach our own. And it may not be flattering.

When Sighmona feels that life is one rough draft after another, we will understand that Sighmona was stupid enough to wear a strappy dress without a jacket on a windy evening.

End of vent. This analysis may not have made sense to those of you reading it, but aah, it felt great writing it.

Next: The Atlas-of-the-mind type