The Power of a Sorry

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was visiting her grandmother in the village. The village was a beautiful place and she had many friends. There was only problem that reared its head every so often: she hated to apologize. Having to admit she was sorry for what she had done was so dour to her existence that her grandmother decided on out-of-the-box techniques to make things easier for her. When she stalked off with her nose in the clouds and a pout big enough to scare the cat, her grandmother told her, “You don’t have to say ‘Sorry’, just tell me what your mother is wearing.”

Ha! But the little girl was too smart for that, she answered resolutely in Tamil, “PODAVAI! You think I will say ‘SAREE’? ”

Looks like my grandmother’s trick would not have worked on Scott Forstall either. He was ousted from Apple after refusing to sign a apology or taking responsibility for the poor quality of the maps on iOS.

It looks like Mr Forstall learned from his company though:

The UK court rejected Apple’s apology to Samsung as ‘not an apology’. Ha!

PS: For all those smart people out there, who think they know the little girl; I am not the little girl in the story above (Just saying)

GPS: A Mother?

We now have a new car. The husband has been found lurking in the garage with this new beauty on Saturday afternoons looking peaceful and happy. Link from the husband detailing the wonderful features it has:

An energy efficient marvel that ferries me to and fro. This thing also has an in-built GPS. Every now and then, I test the limits of its patience like I did this morning. I know these Global Posi. Systems should not have tones when they direct users, but I swear mine does. She directs most of the time, moans sometimes, sounds exasperated sometimes and orders you around sometimes – she could be a mother. All she wants is obedience, why can’t people give it to her? She knows what she is doing doesn’t she?

So, there I was driving along as per usual fiddling around with the radio stations every now and then, when I hear of a traffic jam in my usual route. Now, that can’t do, I tell myself and immediately take off in another route that I know is slower, but should get me moving. The GPS is alarmed.

“Please take U-turn at nearest intersection”
“Please turn left and immediate right turn”
This goes on for a while before I cannot ignore it anymore. She has acquired a tone.
We are made of sterner stuff than GPS-es think.

Prior to this, the GPS was just recalculating the route without telling me, but she decides that playing the sympathy card may drive some sense into me and starts telling me
“Recalculating route. Please take right turn in 0.25 miles.” *See all the things that I am doing for you? I am re-cal-cul-at-ing the route!*
How many times have I had to recalculate things – poof! I wave a negligent hand at her and continue on my fantasy ride.



After 4 such attempts, I am now genuinely lost, because I turned where I thought I should, and I thought wrong. I look to the GPS, but she seems to have had it with me. She stopped directing me! It was almost as if she said, if you don’t listen to me anyway, why bother?

I mean the complete cold shoulder.

I turned right just to get her to start recalculating again and she just sat there. I made another left turn and luckily, it turned out to be the right one. I went on. Finally, one signal before my destination, she sits up and pleads,


She must think I am a complete imbecile because she beeps and says again

I do and she lets out an audible sigh of relief as she says, “Your destination has now arrived. Your route guidance will now stop” and she retires for the day. Oh! What a long day!

I try to smile at her but she has taken the day off. Maybe she isn’t a mother after all. What do you think?

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The Mosquito Waltz

Visit my parents in the evenings, and you will find them waltzing to the rhythm of the evening sitcoms, with a spring in their step, either smiles or scowls on their faces and dancing to a tune that unites them against their enemy of the evening. Their dance is not all romance, though it makes for a wonderful scene. They are fighting mosquitoes. They hold something similar to badminton rackets and they sway them through the air. These rackets send minute shocks to the mosquitoes and squelches them.  I told them to choreograph their performance to some catchy tunes, but they don’t listen.


Mosquito Dance

Now imagine if I walked into their home one fine evening and found them with big, yellow sten guns and shooting with some nimble footwork , jumping behind sofas, putting James Bond to shame? I have to admit watching them waltz with badminton rackets conjures better images in my mind.

Yet that is what they would be doing if they got themselves a Bug-A-Salt.


Inventor demo bug-a-salt

(Inventor demo for the Bug-a-salt gun)

This wonder supposedly takes pests down by shooting salt tablets at them. I can’t imagine what would happen to the salt plastered walls of houses where humidity is high.

Just another product?

Who knows?

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Otter Pop Lessons

I came to the United States as an adult, but that did not stop me from soaking in the wondrous world around me with the enthusiasm of a 5 year old. Since I did not grow up in the US, every so often, something comes up that every kindergartner knows and has me stumped. The Case of the Otter Pops is one such time. When the call to volunteer at the School Sports’ Day at the daughter’s Elementary School came up, I jumped at the opportunity and I was assigned the Otter Pop station. I signed on a bit apprehensively. See my problem was I did not know what an ‘Otter Pop’ was.

I knew I would be distinctly uncomfortable handling otters. Having them pop out at me for a whole day seemed like a less than fun thing to do. Also, why Otters on a school sports day?

Maybe they are the mascot’s friends or something. But the daughter assured me with great enthusiasm that it is a ‘cool’ thing to do.
‘Cool’ – get it? Cool. And she winked in that exaggerated manner that someone just taught her.
She has taken to explaining her jokes to me which makes me wonder whether I am losing touch with my lighter side, or that she thinks that I am getting dimmer. Either way, I did not get it and asked her what the otters would do. I shall retain my shreds of dignity and gather them about me and suffice it to say that otter pops are some sort of frozen fruit juice treats. Why call them Otter Pops? You could ask the rhino’s grandfather, but I doubt he will have an answer either.

This famous Otter Pop Station was at the fag end of all the action. The children come up to the Otter Pop Station only after they have finished running and cheering around the track. That said, we otter pop volunteers got very little action to see. I kept running up between the races to see the runners and cheer them on, but I got to admit that the children were happier to see me when they came up for the otter pops than when I was cheering them on to run faster.

The daughter during her run

Self and co-volunteers at the Otter Pop Station started off being very accomodative. As the children came up, we offered them otter pops of their choice. We had cut and laid out enough otter pops of every colour available for the first batch of runners. The noisy bunch came and stood on their toes to peer at the table and they all went for the blue otter pops or the orange ones. The red ones and the green ones were slow-moving, but the pink ones languished. Frozen treats don’t languish solidly, and within minutes we had a soggy mess on our hands, while cutting out more blue and orange pops for the incoming folks. We had what one calls a ‘Sticky situation’. ‘Sticky’ because the otter pops melted – get it? Sticky.

Some children came asking for another otter pop after they were done (Of these, I distinctly remembered cheering some of them to start running since they seemed to think the run could also be a stroll and were merrily chatting around the track) We started giving out second helpings when a strict-ish teacher came up and shooed them away and glared at us through her spectacles and said ‘No more than 1 otter pop per child’.

So we gulped and shooed the second-helping-kids ourselves after that. Since the no-second-helping-rule was in place, we had folks exploring corner conditions with gusto. One came up and said he’d dropped his otter pop. We relented and gave him another one. This went on for a bit before we saw that while some of them were legitimate cases of dropping the otter pops, some others were being dropped after wading through 9/10th of an otter pop. (In case, one has apprehensions about the future lawyer population or the future QA test engineer population, one needn’t worry. This just shows you that our country will always a rich repertoire of lawyers and QA engineers)

Soon, we had a no-choice-in-the-matter rule in place because of the skewed preference for otter pop colours.

In summary, in every place, there are good jobs and bad jobs and sometimes, the bad jobs are the ones that bring most joy to the customers. I cannot tell you how much those children beamed when given otter pops. I tasted one to see what it was that was bringing them so much joy, but I could not get through a whole one. It was sugar based flavored syrup that was frozen, and it tasted as bad as it sounds.

How Prowling Panthers Enabled a 100-km Race

There are some stories that cling to personalities for years, even decades. Most of them, while initially painful and embarrassing to endure, soon envelop you in its warm mockery. If only, we develop the mindset to laugh at ourselves a little; we can enjoy them. We can work really hard to purge them or add to them exotic flavors that make that little story about ourselves develop into a complex one. So, here I am, about to concoct another story from a childhood one, and see how it goes.

The brother (the one who almost masochistically went on a 100 km bike ride across London in the pouring rain to support a worthy cause) has always fancied wheels. He is a loving man and loves his family almost as much as he loves bicycles, bikes and cars; but if you were to plant some wheels on us and stick an engine to our rears, he would love us more. Just saying.

Wheels have not always given him warm, fuzzy experiences though. I once saved his life by shouting at him to move out of harm’s way when a scooter hurtled towards him. He becomes defensive when I say this and claims that since I was the one driving the scooter in the first place, I should not paint rosy pictures of myself (Po-ta-to, Po-taa-to). Anyway, the fact remains that I saved his life. Sister #2’s contribution. You can read one of my past posts and decide for yourself: Bajaj Chetak and how I saved my brother’s life.

We sisters are a competitive lot, and not to be outdone, Sister #1 saved his life too. See? We lived in the mountainside with narrow roads overlooking steep valleys and often parapet-less roads showed us what happens to careless rocks that slide down the mountainside, hurtling hundreds of feet into the valleys below. Every now and then, in this beautiful haven, there would surface rumors of panthers and assorted wildlife designed to test the brave. When this happened, our School had a No-going-out-after-6-pm rule in place. Fertile imaginations, stoked by ridiculous stories fanned the hype and no one dared test the rule. It was during one such time that Sister #1 had to get down at a bus stop called Valley-View and walk down to our house, a few kilometers away. Since she was to come well before 6, we had no fear of panthers getting her first, or at least were tactful enough to not say it to her face. No point scaring the girl and all that. But we were worried. The brother was always eager for anything that allowed him to take his bicycle out and he volunteered to cycle to the bus-stop and accompany her cycling slowly beside her while she walked back home.

The plan was perfect. She got down at the lonely bus-stop at Valley View and found the young fellow atop his bicycle with a huge beaming smile on his face. (He always seemed to smile while on the bicycle.) He put his plan to action as swiftly as he could and asked her to start walking while he cycled with her telling her about the Panther on the prowl. This Valley-View road had sweeping, beautiful views of the Valley on one side, and on the other still had tree cover. (Now, I hear luxury vacation villas have claimed the land). The birds were chirping their noisy way home and the setting sun had an annoying habit of throwing spooky shadows at you. One jumped at non-bird like noises on the best of days. On days where the Panther story made the rounds; it is prudent to take the brother’s cycle, have him cling to the cycle carrier while riding pillion and cycle your way home as fast as thine pedals would allow.  That is precisely what the Sister did. All with me so far? Good. For this is where the point of her saving his life comes.


The Sister, whatever she may claim, is horrible when it comes to anything on two wheels. She asked the brother to get on and started off. Rocky starts are her best starts and she jerked the cycle into action. She pumped her heart into the thing and kept a ticking pace as she maneuvered steep turns on the road. As is her wont when worried, she jabbered on more than usual. When she got in this mode, we would ‘Aah’ and ‘Oh’ at regular intervals, and that was enough. Just when she’d got into the rhythm of the thing,  a dog ran across her path and fear gripped her. She swerved right and left and right again. I don’t know exactly what happened after that, since details were not forthcoming at this point in the story, but she managed to de-seat the little brother. She threw him off the cycle on the winding road, and made off. The problem was really not throwing him off. It was the fact that she hadn’t realized what she had done. She pumped on for another mile or so, before she realized that the bike felt easier and lighter to ride. The nerves gripped her.

Setting the immediate problem of the cycle upsetting-dog aside, she had left her brother somewhere near a forest with a panther on the prowl. She cycled back as fast as she could shouting his name as loudly as possible. Her voice sending reverbrating echoes along the valley. She says this was to let prowling panthers know that they were to keep off her brother. See how she saved his life?

She found him jogging towards home, with a mildly irritated look on his face. She scooped him up on the cycle and came back home. Ever since, the brother has always hesitated about giving his cycle. He used to take us riding pillion, if need be, but would put up an extra-ordinary fuss about giving up his cycle.

It is this trait, that enabled him to finish cycling 100 km in the pouring rain and sleet. I am sure cab drivers could have taken him and his cycle along when the rains pounded down, but he held on. Cycling by himself to the last kilometer of the race, pouring rain or not.

What did you do over the week-end?

Come Monday mornings and I am cooking up interesting answers to the ‘What did you do over the week-end’ question. See, sometimes Geeta Ben comes a-cookin’ and we get some good old Hindi action. But really nothing that can make people sit up and say enviously, “Wow! How jealous I am of your captivating adventures over the week-end?!”

A friend of min had blogged about the very thing a few years ago:

I suppose “Ate more than usual” sounds far less glamorous than “Holidaying by the lake nestled in the mountains and having a moonlight dinner to boot. Oh and did I mention that my brother did a 100 km cycle race in the pouring rain in London? No? Well…not only that, my brother-in-law ran a half marathon in New Delhi in the stifling heat. But you know – nothing else!”

Yet, that is what happened. The week-end saw different continents bear the brunt of the exercising streaks that seem to have hit different factions of the family tree. We cheered them on in spirit (and food) and applauded them as they each achieved their targets, while we holidayed in the mountains.

Congratulations to the cycling and running brothers – we are all proud of you.

I sloped around with an Ask-me-about-my-week-end look all day and folks ignored me.  Years of being at the receiving end of boring answers does that I guess. When I could bear it no more, I decided to come online and blog about it. You see the window of opportunity for a question like that is so slim. By Tuesday morning, you are already pushing your luck. On Wednesday, if some one asks me about my plans for the upcoming week-end, I plan to deftly steer the conversation towards the last week-end and give them the works.

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