The I-Miss-Hawaii Craving

We are just back from a wonderful trip to the vowel islands of Maui and Kauai in Hawaii.  Our eyes only need to close to pull up those magnificent beaches, trails and lookouts. We are not quite ready to be back in our zone yet, and sigh wistfully of the many things done and to be done on subsequent trips. (I can see the husband rearing up and saying ‘What?!’ )


Whilst there, one early morning, the husband and daughter decided to go snorkeling in the ocean with a boat full of people, while the toddler son and I were left hovering on the shores waving goodbye to the adventurers in life vests. The boat turned and chopped its way out to sea. I glanced at the watch: the time was only 7:30 a.m. after all the elaborate goodbyes. I turned around to the son and said, “Hmm. Shall we go and have some breakfast and take a long walk?”

The son threw his arms up in the air and said, “Yeah! Oaks!”

Now, before you kindly point out to me that Oak trees are not endemic to Hawaii, ( I would like to clarify that what the son is referring to is not the Oak as in tree or shrub in the genus Quercus (/ˈkwɜrkəs/;[1] Latin ) “oak tree”. He is referring to Oats as in Quaker Oats to be slurped down with milk for breakfast. My little man there wants his nourishment, not like the daughter, who will willingly go on for three days smelling a wrapper of chocolate, every few hours,  as sustenance . The son wants his meals. He is clear. He may not eat much, but he needs his nourishment on time.

I laughed and told him we may not be able to get oaks, but how about something else?

Idli mammum!” he exclaims. ( 

I tell you, you can take a South Indian to Hawaii, but you can’t squash the idlis out of him. I assured him, I will find something that he likes to eat and we got going.

I looked around for a coffee shop.

Seeing none, I made towards a store that had Whales displayed in the windows, because I thought the large animals would fascinate him, and I could ask for directions to a good coffee place there. We were near the store when he saw something that made his heart soar. The whales may be fascinating, but the thing that got the son’s attention was a packet of chips he calls Red chips (Doritos). “I likes this chips Amma” he said beaming. The whales can wait, but these chips, not a chance, he seemed to be saying. I know a good thing when I see one and promptly got him a packet of chips. He was a merry, content being for the time being and the pair of us browsed through the store.

We grazed among the trinkets and stood admiring paintings and books on whales, dolphins and oysters. We even stopped to admire the cuddly, plush toys laid out in perfect order. I picked up a couple of knick-knacks as gifts and stepped over to the counter when the old man behind the counter told me that I had the most adorable child in all of the population that ever visited his little trinket store. I was surprised. Really? Well, okay. If he was going to give the compliments without prodding, who am I to resist? Apparently, other children his age routinely created havoc with his merchandise. I smiled politely. It was nice of him to say so. “Especially little Indian boys!” he said shaking his head sadly. I was taken aback. What did he mean by little Indian boys, but I let the generalization pass, and smiled at him. “This boy has a disciplined and focussed mind.” said the man with a smile.

I looked down at the son, his forehead wrinkled in concentration at trying to extricate the next chip without chipping off pieces and straightened up to face the man and thanked him for his kind words.

I didn’t tell him the role the packet of chips had played in the focus-and-discipline part. Some things are better left unsaid. 

PS: The idli craving was only met after we came back to our home and launched ourselves at the menu at Saravana Bhavan. The I-miss-Hawaii craving can only be appeased when we go there next, what?!



The Siri Philosophy

It was a wonderful week-end morning and the family was lounging about the house as usual. The husband tried to stir us into action, but his attempts were feeble. He was too happy to be sitting and playing chess on his laptop or looking at some of the excellent things that people have to say on Facebook. Even if one were the strapping, active kind, one look at the daughter in her pajamas, hair looking straggly with a well-worn Harry Potter book in hand, would set you down firmly against taking action and let things be. The son and I were sending toy cars zipping down the highway in the living room. Even Time seemed reluctant to move on.

I must pluck you from this torpidity and show you what happens when the husband thinks we are not doing anything. Take for example a drive in the car : Point A to Point B. There we are, all buckled up like good citizens and looking out the window dreaming or thinking about something. The daughter is most probably thinking of the book she was reading last or the TV show she was watching.  The son drinks in the welcome sight of cars and trucks on the road, like an elephant out on a saunter in New York City. I am either looking out the window enjoying the scenery or fiddling about with something in my handbag (there is always a real estate issue in my handbag). The husband casts one sideways glance and I know what is coming even before the words have left his mouth. He takes it upon himself to employ our time better. He shoves a cellphone in my hand and says, “Look at the alternate routes to get to Point B.”

I was naive enough to do this before, but not anymore. “What is wrong with this route?” I ask.

“Nothing, there may be traffic in this route.”

I don’t see any traffic snarls up ahead, so I refuse to check out alternate routes. To this, he adds, okay check the current route for traffic and see whether we need to change our route. I have now figured out the only thing that shoots this line of thought in the bud. “Shall I drive?” I ask innocently. He gasps and clasps his steering wheel with love and says no more.

I saw a similar glance now, when he looked up from the laptop. I put on a seriously busy face and rushed the toy cars about like nothing before and made a fake police car siren and weaved the police car through the traffic. The husband saw that there being no need for spurring me to activity just yet, went after the daughter, who still was looking blissful in her pajamas. “Check the weather forecast for the next few days.” , he told her.

A few minutes later, I heard a loud conversation going on with Siri. The daughter thinks Siri is hard of hearing, uses an ineffective hearing aid, and does a fair bit of lip reading to understand her. She shouts out her questions at it in slow, exaggerated mouth movements.


Siri is patient with her usually and answers nonsense or picks from links on the web. A little while later, I heard her boom out that the temperature is going to be in the 80’s and very warm in the coming days. But the conversation with Siri was not over yet. She was going on with it like a long lost friend marooned on an island and dying for her company.


It is at times like this that I doubt the machine learning algorithmic part. For Siri’s response was “You look at things that are there and ask ‘Why?’. I dream of things that aren’t there and ask ‘Why not?’”

This response was clearly too philosophical for the daughter, for she asked Siri to not get ‘technical’ on her.

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The husband, in the meanwhile, is now curious to see how Android performs for the same thing and whips out his Android device. An all-out Android Vs. Apple war is set to take place in the living room. Poor Android now not only has to compete against Siri, but has the added disadvantage of a South Indian accent thrown at it in normal conversational tones.

“What is the temperature like in the next few days?” asks the husband.

Android disappoints him by saying that it cannot understand the question. A few more tries get him vague answers. “What question did you ask Siri for the temperature?” asks the husband of the daughter. The daughter shakes her head and says he is going about the whole thing in a wrong manner. “You know? Warm up to it first, get friendly, and then ask the questions. You have a better chance of getting the right answers.” she says firmly.

I think I have enough philosophy to last me a few days and take off for a shower. Get friendly with Siri. My foot.

The Circle of Research

I am speaking of research almost as if it were a breathing force like Life itself, and bear with me while I lay out my thinking for you. We have all heard many times before the great Circle of Life and whenever we see our progeny show traits from long forgotten ancestors, we smile indulgently and invoke the sacred chant of the Circle of Life. Why then, do I attempt to use the same term for the circle of research?

It is because I have seen this a hundred times before. One day, I get up fresh to the breaking research that fats are bad for me and that anything other than fat is good. So, I toughen my resolve and gorge on potatoes and rice to keep me alive. It is a sacrifice staying away from the butter and the ghee, but I do so, because my well-being in very important, and I must do all I can to help the old engine chug along and all that. Sound logic, so far?

Then, along comes the next piece of research that tells me that carbohydrates are bad and gasp! The potatoes and rice that I have been eating with a sense of sacrifice, have been doing nothing but harm to me. There is a state of great panic and the research articles tell me that whatever I do, I must lay off the carbohydrates (long association has formed a close bond with these fellows, but I have to sever ties) and I look away from the fried potatoes to the fried vadas. Apparently, since the vadas don’t have carbohydrates, and are fried in excellent oil, they are nothing but fat and proteins and therefore, very good for my soul.

Life goes on and so does research. I have always been an avid reader of research that helps me quantify whatever I am doing. By these standards, I have been embracing the articles on moderate exercising, fresh air and all the wonderful things that it does to your body. My Google news feed has learnt the kind of things that interest me and only show me things that I like to see.

So, imagine my chagrin that when I used a new laptop, I saw a news item telling me that too much exercise reduces one’s life expectancy. I assure you I am not guilty of too much exercise or excellent eating practices, but what if I was? What if I had embraced exercise and diets according to all those excellent research articles?

Now, if you will excuse me, I would like to calm my frenzied nerves with a pound of dark chocolate.
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