And that….

Thanksgiving time is wonderful. The cold and bitter winds bring with them the holiday spirit, the twinkling lights and wondrous Christmas Trees.  Overnight, the bleak dreary streets turn magical and one hears of the avid shopper waiting for deals.

The crowds milling around in malls are a welcome boost to any economy. Some stores go for the cheap tactic of artificially boosting queues and lines just to get the public curious. Sauntering along in the mall, I couldn’t help noticing that the Coach store had a line snaking outside. I owned a coach bag once a long time ago when I was a proud bargain shopper on the platform shops lining any proud Indian city, and I must confess I did not understand the significance of the ‘Coach’ brand name then. You see, I picked out a bag, and the tenth grade drop out who worked at the store (well pavement really) asked me what label I would like on the bag – Coach or Prada.  I went with Coach, and he just stuck it on and gave it to me. I had no idea folks had to work this hard for the label – life, I tell you. I peered into the store and saw there was a sum total of 3 people in the store not counting the three sales personnnel and two cashiers. While, those poor blighters stood outside in a snaking queue thinking the store was bursting to capacity. Just waiting to get themselves a bag that cost anywhere between $400 and $5000. My heart went out to them when I thought of the idli sambar that might spill inside the pristine depths of the expensive bags. One of them was actually pure white. The husband caught my imagination before I ran away with it and reminded me that folks buying themselves a Coach bag weren’t likely to be taking idli sambar in their tiffin boxes to work.

Shoppers of all flavors spot the world. While there were the patient bunch standing in line outside the Coach store, these two shoppers shocked me by deciding to camp out for 9 nights outside Best Buy to see what the Electronics Giant had in store for Thanksgiving. I can’t think of any word other than over-zealous to describe this behaviour. According to the pair of shoppers, they did not know what the deals were going to be, but trusted their guardian angel to perform double duty not only by guarding them at night, but also whispering favorable deals to those who decide at Best Buy. A lot left to chance one would think. Of course, the strange is rewarded in unexpected ways, and they were gifted an iPad each for their trouble and the positive publicity they brought in for the store.

But of course, this news items beats it all – at least the coachers and the random-best-buy-deal shoppers were trying to get themselves something they can use. Not exactly what can be said about these folks who were checking out Bernie Madoff’s checked boxers.,29409,2030929_2209853,00.html

Whatever makes life interesting, so be it.

TSA Pat downs

I am trying. I really am. But these new TSA pat down guidelines are taunting me. Old time readers will remember the possibilities we explored when an assassin planted something up his …er.. ass to blow up the Deputy something Minister of Saudi Arabia, but his plans blew up on his own face/ass. Here’s the link for those who wish to refresh themselves.

I remember feeling biffed at the time because I had recently lost a carefully nurtured bindi collection that had gems from when I was a teenager to airport security all for having a small bottle of Milk of Magnesia with me in the same bag. I remember thinking that Milk of Magnesia is the thing to give the troops and travellers alike to avoid these conflicts of security. I mean what better check than clearing the contents of the bowels before take-off?

The new airport guidelines, I hear, announce clearly and loudly that a passenger is being taken for a pat down. Let’s move the scene to a Doctor’s office now for your convenience: Lots of people go to Doctors offices. When you notice folks sitting in the lobbies of these offices, you’ll notice a certain decorum they like to maintain. Rarely have I seen folks hitting it off and sounding positive seeing one another there. Most look resolutely into the magazines they are holding, or check sometimes non-existent messages on their phone. And there is a good reason for all that. They maybe there for anything and the last thing you want is for some prying Peter to ask, “So, will you be undressing in there today?” or “I hear you are being given a touchdown.”  or “Top down or bottoms up?”

But at airports, it is different. Man becomes quite the social animal there. He hollers at long lost friends and vague acquaintances – anything to pass time on or before the flight. Will the new guidelines dampen that? I am afraid so. I mean, there you are with Cheeky Chelsea and she taunts, “So, what’s up today?” Suddenly, the innocuous questions takes on sinister connotations. Did she know that the agent concentrated on the top part of your body during the full body scan?

Or Droopy Delphi who is mopping around as usual and you ask, “You look down. Are you coming down with something?” only to find Delphi is now teary eyed and calling you mean. Poor Droopy Delphi was given the bottoms-up version and is still moping about it. But you don’t know that. You just ask a civil question.

Yet, this basic thing seems to be lacking in the new announce-and-jingle-bells before carting your passenger off. Pat if you must. I mean if it makes you feel safer by just touching folks, go for it, but do it discreetly. Say, “Please step into this line.” and go about your patting. Why embarrass the blighters thus? The alternative is to go through a full body x-ray machine. A tough choice for travellers.

The problem with all of this is humans are not infallible. There is the scope for the tired authority figure missing something during the pat down or the x-ray scan. Then what would the aftermath be?

Ancient Wisdom – Where were you?

Every time I throw a Tamil proverb around, the husband looks bemused. According to him, my tone exposes the fact that I am parroting a proverb that my mother used. Many a time have I used this particular proverb looking most knowledgeable. (Yes, my mother looked immensely knowledgeable when she unbelted these gems.)

நுணலும் தன்வாயால் கெடும்), Nunalum than vaayal kedum

Roughly translated this proverb tells one to keep one’s large mouth shut to avoid getting in trouble.

I felt this is just the sort of proverb that would have served the Indonesian Information Minister (IIM for the remainder of this post) Sembiring, well in the recent controversy. Apparently the IIM boasted several times to his nation that he was a staunch believer in Islam. This in itself might have been fine, had he not gone on to advertise rather vociferously that he rarely came in contact with women other than those related to him. He seems to have gone on a limb and proclaimed that  Women must not shake Men’s hands.

Of course when he was busy making these speeches, he did not guess that there would be a day when he would be standing in line like a school boy expecting chocolates, and he would find himself gushing with pride to do just that: Shake the hands of a lady – not just any lady, the First Lady.

The IIM now claims that he was forced to shake hands with Mrs. Michelle Obama during her recent visit to Indonesia. The poor IIM was not yet aware that the meeting was recorded and put out with glee on youtube and elsewhere. There is no escaping the fact that Mr.IIM shook hands with Michelle Obama quite whole-heartedly and in fact used both hands while beaming like a radiant star. A point to note in the video clipping is the fact that most others only used one hand to shake Mrs. Obama own hand, but this man fell over himself and engulfed Mrs. O’s hands in his own.

Now, if he had kept his views on hand shakes to himself, he might have been able to frame a photograph of himself shaking hands with the World’s First Couple and placed it prominently behind his desk. Alas, now he is making matters worse for himself by tweeting about how he was forced to shake her hand when videos are reeling with proof quite the contrary.

Ancient wisdom – where were you when he needed it?

PS: I apologize to those to whom this news is stale – I can’t keep up with the strange and exciting that the news unleashes.

The Burp Aspirant

I stood at the back of the class to soak in some knowledge as I went to pick the daughter up from her school. The conversation I witnessed was illuminating to say the least, and of course I am always eager to illuminate my readers with the pearls of wisdom picked up from elementary school classrooms so here I am.

One boy seems to have triggered the discussion – when asked about his aim in life, this boy fearlessly set aside what he had learnt at his mother’s knee and answered. He said with a very serious face that he wanted to learn to burp really loudly.

To which the class responded in a first class manner. They positively received this response, beamed at him, giggled and cast him admiring glances. One chap whose eyes were gleaming with mischief even got up to congratulate him. I am not sure I would have liked to be the teacher just then. I don’t know what I would have done – probably attempted to burp loudly myself and show them how disgusting that sounded – but there is a reason I am not teaching elementary school classrooms.

The teacher groped for a while – he was evidently taken aback – but these school teachers are made of stern stuff. He came back nicely and told the class how it was easy to learn certain things later in life, but some other things it is easiest to learn when young. The burp aspirer did not seem convinced. He used a line used earlier by the same teacher that being young made it easy for them to learn things quickly. According to him, due and diligent practice at burping will make him a A-grade burper just the same way slogging at Science would fetch him A-grades in Science. There was merit to the line of thought obviously and I found myself unable to uproot myself from the discussion.

I could have given the boy career advice had I known the lucrative charms of being a world class burper, but alas I did not know that myself. Moreover, it was a competitive world out there – do you know how many people can burp loudly? Millions. So, what was the point of intimidating a burp aspirant no matter how young and inexperienced he is?

What I could have just done was to invite him for our Diwali lunch. I am not sure everything fits into the frame here, but there it is. A no-burper could have managed an A-grade burp after this meal.

BURP! Happy Diwali to everyone!

Japan to China on Jet Skis

There is something about software and the speed at which it evolves that makes blogging a challenge.  Just before I write about something, something else has come along making the older something obsolete and so on. But here is a gem I couldn’t miss. I love Google Maps – there is something about the app, that puts you in a trance. Once, I looked for a village that I am sure the folks at the village post office had forgotten existed. The only activity I’d seen in that village was when the bus came once in three days and honked at the end of the road thrice before leaving, and probably delivering the mail. I wonder if anyone has ever visited a place like that. It is eerie. Yet Google maps found a place very near it and even located a water tank for me.

I wonder how they mapped the place – maybe they used the dogs to bark out locations and recorded it via a dog frequency receiver. I would never know. It was like magic.

One day, I was sitting quietly and minding my own business when everyone looked excited and right enough their screen had Google maps on it. Close observation of the situation disclosed that somebody had tried googling directions for “Japan to China”

Google maps tries its very best before throwing its hands up in despair. So, it spat out directions that involved “Jet ski across the Pacific Ocean 782 km”

(Try any place in the USA to Japan, maps will ask you to kayak across the pacific ocean for 3000 odd miles! It’s actually a geeky practical joke played out by Google. – Anand enlightened moi!)
Well it is no surprise what I did after that – I tried ridiculous directions, but Google came back every time. If not the exact location, at least some place close. I finally got it stumped. I tried London to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and this time the poor engine groaned and sat with its hands on its cheeks sullenly.

Not yet linked to Fantasy Worlds – but Japan to China here I come. Get those jet skis ready.

Pumpkins and Shotputs

I don’t remember the last time my shoulder and arms felt this sore. Probably not since that disastrous attempt at shotput in School many eons ago. Funny how the physical education directors of the day thought about life on the Athletic field. Of hurling shotputs and javelins, they let us experiment. There was one time when I went up to the shotput arena in awe. I’d seen folks with biceps the size of my thighs (then of course) go and make light work of it. The confidence a teenager can muster up is simply amazing. I walked up and stooped to pick the thing and remember the deadweight pulling me down so I was stuck in a sort of limbo between hands being pulled by the shotput to dear Earth again while my feet were plucked reluctantly away from the shores of the Earth.   I managed with all my will power to lift the thing. I still don’t know what I expected to do with it; given it was taking all willpower just to stand upright holding the shotput in my hand. But, being a keen observer I knew that snorting works better than power in cases like this, especially on the sports field. When in doubt, snort and grunt is the motto. I gathered up steam from the very bowels and snorted like never before, lifted the shotput to my shoulder height and heaved. Elephants uprooting trees don’t concentrate as much, I am sure. I felt the shotput leave my hands and held myself back firmly on the ground – I refused to fly with the shotput and become the laughing stock of the town.

Two things stuck with me as a memory from this disastrous foray into shotputting.
1) My hands felt like they’d been replaced with lead by a slow process that involved melting, searing and some more groaning.
2) While I scanned the horizon to see how far I’d thrown it, my soaring spirits were brought right back down to Earth when my friend showed me the shotput nestling snuggly near my foot.

There is something about aging that I hate to admit. The same lead like pain in the hands was what I got for a lot less than a shotput now. This time, it was the pumpkins. My maiden attempt at pumpkin carving yielded the same result. I had no idea the pumpkins were such hard-to-work blighters. Or I may have gone completely awry in the skill department. Maybe, I should have used a carving knife suitable for 12 year olds instead of 5 year olds. I suppose I thought the daughter would help to carve. Nevertheless, a friend and I managed a bunch of pumpkins (for the daughter and her friends) for Halloween this time.
They would not win any pumpkin heaving races, but it is my maiden attempt and I shall hold it up for the World to see just as soon as I can lift those hands.

Happy Halloween! The supermen and mermaids will be here soon.

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