Ranking & Rating

Evaluation is a solemn task and deserves to be treated as such. The father has not been called to use his rating, ranking and evaluation skills for sometime now and when the opportunity presented itself, he took to it like an elephant spraying water on himself on a hot day. His face lit up and his facial features shone with the light of sincerity.

He had a ready quip for all those interested – something about doing a task with complete sincerity or not doing it at all. The occasion was the culinary competition that the mother took part in. The competition was a fund raiser for the Cancer Institute Foundation. Once the judges did their part of the judging, the audience were called upon to weigh in. We were asked to rate the dishes on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest for every entrant. The announcer had barely finished her sentence when the audience made a beeline for the tasting extravaganza. While most people tasted a dish and rated it then and there; the father was studiously writing something on scraps of paper and screwing up his face with intense concentration. I asked him what he was doing and he said something about correcting a brilliant student’s paper first was always a bit of a disappointment (for the student) because one subconsciously compares different answer scripts in their minds and when one had seen a number of average answer scripts before seeing the brilliant one, one tends to award more weightage to the brilliant script, while if the brilliant answer script came up first, we naturally assume that the remaining will be comparable. My head swam a little at this point, it may have been the effect of the dish I was popping in my mouth to taste at the time, or the fact that I had listened to this philosophy once too many times – the effect of growing in a household filled with teachers. I decided to leave him to it, just telling him not to take his own sweet time about it, since they planned to use our feedback for judging by the end of the day.

By the time I had made my way to the end of the line, he was midway through – weighing and pro-ing and con-ing no doubt. This was the mother’s entry for the competition. Reluctant though she was, I went ahead and registered her name and she pulled off an admirable dish.

The father was asked to stay away from the kitchen and further told to keep all jokes regarding the dish and what he thought of the mother’s ability in the kitchen to himself. Therefore, he decided to show solidarity to his wife when it came to the audience judging round and came beaming around to her after he had evaluated every single entrant.

“You know? Objectively speaking it was your dish that I liked the best taste-wise….” he said still looking rather proud of himself. “I ranked you first in the whole lot!”
He received a smile from his bride, and his face became happier still.

“You mean, you gave her a 1?” I asked incredulously.
“Of course….” he said, and cracked another joke about his knowing his wife’s worth in the culinary department always, but competitions such as these served to remind him, and chuckled good humouredly to himself. The poor man, I could not have helped him – it was too late. Thine loving eyes of his bride were piercing him with arrows other than what Cupid would have used.

Being quick on the uptake, he said, “What?”
I then proceeded to illuminate him that what he had been asked to do was rate the dishes on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 the lowest.
“You mean rate, not rank?” he asked looking worried.

I nodded. Suddenly, it all made sense. The comparative brilliant paper philosophy, the noting down everything and then ranking them 1-10. Since there were more than 10 teams, he even seem to have applied dense ranks.

It was like watching a balloon deflate before your eyes – the smile waned, the look was worried, and the expression sombre. He had the haunted look of a man who had more than dinner at stake. I sympathized with him and patted him gently on the arm. Luckily for him, the mother was selected to go on for the Finals in spite of his ..er.. ‘help’, and he revived a little on hearing this news.

Well…there is always a next time….

Of hounds, pups and fate

I normally ignore marketing calls or deflect them with dexterity. But one day, I got stuck. I was feeling particularly lethargic after a largish meal and sitting out in the garden thinking of this and that – you know musing on life. One of those rare days that life awards you, and in this weakened state, the telemarketer caught me. The hound.

He told me I might die any instant and that by not insuring my life for an additional amount, I am doing my family a grave injustice. It seemed a bit unlikely. I mean, I was sitting under some very large trees, but there did not seem to be much of a storm about to dislodge them from the soil and crash them on me just then. Moreover, I told him I already had insurance. It did not seem to deter him. He just went on, about how it would cost me nothing, and all I had to do was die. I didn’t like the strain of this talk, and told him I wasn’t interested. He increased his level of whatever-it-was he was trying to do, and I increased the strength with which I resisted his efforts. Neither budged, neither gave in. We circled each other at that perfect stance that boxers reluctant to throw that first punch do. Our words were our punches, though I cannot claim to infusing any sort of variety into my comebacks. They were all variations of “No thank you, I am not interested right now.” As you know there are only so many ways one can say that sentence, and my patience was starting to wear thin.

I could not use the technique of not knowing the language, since I had already explained in perfect English that he was being a relentless hound, and he would be better served if he diverted his energies elsewhere. Finally, when this fellow refused to give up, I asked him with all the remaining reserves of energy left in me, if I could ask him a question. I felt him gloat on the other end. Finally. He had elicited my interest, and now all he had to do was close the deal and get the fat commission check and go home basking in his triumphant glory.
“Do you like dogs?” I asked.
“Yes…” he drew out his response. Unsure and wondering where the conversation was going. The very effect I was going for. Serves him right – he isn’t the only one who can gloat.
“So, as long as I am polite, you will not relent is it? Is that how it works? Because if that is the reason, I can just say something rude about dogs and end this conversation for both of us right now. Quick and painless…”

Do you know what he did when I asked him this? He chuckled and giggled like a pup caught in the act of chewing the carpet. I have already called him a hound and compared him to a puppy, so I find it a bit unfair to compare him to any other animal now, but I am sorely tempted. At least he had the decency to hang up soon afterward, but left me wondering for a few minutes. I mean what a job to be trained to make otherwise polite people impolite?

A slight breeze shook the tree overhead and I scrambled indoors. I didn’t want to tempt fate just yet.

Over the Top

Waiting in a room with a slew of magazines affords you the luxury of browsing through topics, one might otherwise overlook, like how the most luxurious looking hair belongs to the Asian community (around Hongkong and China). The article went on to state that the Asian obsession with luxurious hair might be attributed to the average Asian hair strand being 5 times thicker than the average Western strand.


This simple statement caused my mind to go into full drive. Have they not seen the Indian obsession with the tresses? In fact, the theory most rampant in South India is: the shinier the plate, the thicker the hair. Entire coastlines of coconuts are crushed by the millions, just so men can look bald and shiny while women can squirm with the oil tightly braided into plaits that are supposed to ensure the quintessential South Indian beauty look.

Let me be very clear that I hate the shiny hair-oil look – it haunted my childhood more effective than a bunch of spectres escaped from the local cemetery. My mother is/was a strong proponent of the oiled hair syndrome. In fact, had you interviewed me then, I would even go on to say she had a theory that unoiled hair induces moral turpitude in teenage girls, and thereby did the best she could to make sure that all good looks are wiped out with the sleeziest oil look. This, in a school, where none of my friends applied oil to go out in Public. Horrendous I tell you – horrendous.

At one point, our school (a residential one) decided that those in the Inter School Athletics team needed more nutrition to take up the physical challenges posed by a rigorous sporting career, and decided to give all the athletes an extra egg in the morning. While the boys seemed to gobble the eggs up with little effort, for the girls, it was a different matter. What should have meant more strength failed to manifest itself. What did happen, was that the girls on the team ran with a bigger bounce in their hair, flouncing up and down like those advertisements on television. Quite the Sunsilk princesses we were. Our coaches found to their horror a theory that eggs acted as a wonderful hair conditioner and had to undertake drastic measures such as boiling the eggs, so they could not be used for over-the-top purposes.

That was how much good looking hair meant…..


Ever heard of the story where Akbar asks Birbal to find the biggest fools in his kingdom? Birbal walks around looking for fools and is rewarded with a candidate on that very night. The night air is cool and the full moon is shining down benignly on the Earth below. A tranquil night, interrupted by the restless presence of one man. This man is looking agitated and is frantically searching for something in the clearing in the moonlight. Birbal asks him what he is searching for, to which the poor man wrings his hands in despair and tells him he has lost an expensive ring. Birbal asks him, “Did you lose it here?”
“No”, says the man, looking positively teary faced now, “I lost it there under the trees, but it is brighter here. So, I am looking for it here…”

I know that is one man, but is seems to me that entire regiments of armies are guilty of the same thing several centuries later.
“Which is the best hiding place in Afghanistan?”
“The deep caves in the mountainous regions..”
“Good! Don’t spare a single cave.” says the commander and the commandos comply for a full decade. The sheep, and wildlife are tired of having commandos peeping into their humble abode every night, but the poor animals have no choice. This is for a global war on terrorism – so if you think having a soldier peeping into the snow leopard’s cave at night, so be it, they tell themselves and mumble themselves back to sleep.

The best hiding places may be in the mountains, but was Osama in the mountains? No…he was watching the manhunt for him with considerable interest for a while from his mansion in a different country housed in the Army Cantonment area, and then he himself lost interest in the search for him. How long can you watch bumbling children play hide-n-seek in the wrong location?



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