God save our street

The house I grew up was just a street away from the busiest center in our small town.  But our street was quite busy as well because of the wall in front of our house, which is a well-known de-facto public urinal for the entire downtown.  At any given time of the day I could see not less than four people lined up making abstract drawings on the wall.  I used to call them Pablo Peecassos.  It was as if the wall had special powers to precipitate nature’s call in passers-by.  I had a suspicion that some people woke up and travelled half way across the town to use the wall every morning.

As one can imagine, we hated the wall, even though the wall did provide some entertainment.  For example, one day our street was invaded by monkeys.  A gentleman doing his business on the wall suddenly looked up to realize that a monkey was sitting on the wall and curiously summing up his frontal glory.  He had a dilemma of epic proportions.  Should he continue to finish his business and risk being bitten by the monkey or stop half way and run.  Alas, the cruel irony of life.  He did stop half way and run, AND got bitten by the monkey.

The moments of such mirth aside, one can safely assume that we didn’t want people to answer their nature’s call in front of our house.  We did the normal thing one with no experience in such matters would do.  We put up a big sign, “NO PEEING ON THE WALL.”  Our biggest mistake?  Putting the sign low enough on the wall so that people could actually use the sign for target practice.  Secondly, the sign reminded people of the existence of their bladder.  Without having to delve into specific statistical models, we could figure out that the traffic at the wall nearly doubled after posting the sign.

The second brilliant idea we had was to appoint two guys to walk about on our street and yell at the happy relievers.  “Hey, you got no sense of decency?  Shoo, shoo” was their general mantra.  This seemed to have worked on the first day.  But the second day there was a revolt.  People of our town, who never stood together for anything, were united to protect their right of public indecency.  Our appointed henchmen barely escaped being beaten by the mob.

A few days later one of my uncles improvised a solution with the use of household flour and sugar.  In phase 1 of the plan, we generously sprinkled the mixture along the opposite wall.  Phase 2 of the plan was carried out by thousands of red ants that took to streets to feast on the flour and sugar.  People, in the rush to lighten their bladders, pissed off the ants literally and figuratively.  The ants absolutely refused to coexist with such people by snacking on their feet.  Phase 3 of the plan was watching the delightful dance of people whose feet were being munched on by the ants, albeit they could only use one hand in their dance.  Our delight and free dance performances didn’t last too long because it rained that night.  Also, we couldn’t have afforded the daily feeding of ants.

We gave up.  We did everything humanly possible to persuade people to deposit their waste in their respective bathrooms.  We failed.  It was time for divine intervention.  It was my dad who came up with the most ingenious idea.

Two people were busy working at the wall the entire weekend.  Come Monday, the wall featured frescos of smiling Gods of various religions and denominations.  Every inch of the wall was covered in colorful pictures of benevolent deities – A Rama, A Christ, An undefined splatter of colors with a crescent on the top which one can only assume as the artist’s rendition of Mecca and other minor religious icons just to be sure.

That was it.  From that day forward not one person dared to descecrate the sancutm sanctorum of our town walls.  I was in my hometown a month ago.  The paintings faded and were retouched over the years.  I was happy to walk on our street that reeked of holiness rather than urine.

Seeing beyond the words

Anybody who has a husband or a boyfriend or some other form of commitment-phobic, responsibility-fearing human partner, knows that anything he says has an ulterior motive. Every women is born with a natural ability see through the intentions but chooses to be patient and forgiving for the sake of a peaceful relationship.  Just in case of doubt, here are some common scenarios and how to handle them.

What he says: Hey we should cook more balanced meals, with more vegetables and Omega3s
What it means: In a rare fit of inquisitiveness, he read a health article on CNN
How to handle it: Just ignore.  It will pass in a few days.

What he says: I think the leaky faucet points to a deep rooted problem with how our plumbing is laid out and the net pressure of the water in the pipes.
What it means: He has no idea how to replace the faucet and is too proud to admit it.
How to handle it: Call a plumber and get it fixed.  Search on Amazon for books with topic, “How not to turn every small thing in life into a macho pride thing”.

What he says: The engine is making rattling noises, let me see what’s going on under the hood
What it means: He wants you to believe that he knows what the hell is under the hood, even though the only thing he can name there is the dipstick.
How to handle it: Have pity and pretend to believe him.  Just gently request him not to actually try to repair anything in there.

What he says: I prefer to watch unrated versions of movies because they show the true vision of the director
What it means: He knows unrated versions have more nudity
How to deal with it: Because he is not particularly interested in the nudity anyway, use the nude scenes as an opportunity to discuss the true vision of the director in the movie.

What he says: How does my shirt look?
What it means:  Shirt is just a decoy to take your attention off the fact that he didn’t wash his jeans in two weeks.
How to handle it: Tell him he looks completely out of shape in what he is wearing.  He will change the whole wardrobe immediately.  In fact, he will do anything to look toned other than exercising.

What he says: This year, for anniversary gifts, let’s give each other something we both can use
What it means: He wants to give *you* the Play Station Personal *he* always wanted to buy
How to handle it: In the same spirit, gift him a nice pair of Manolos

What he says: OH MY GOD!  I can’t find anything in the house. My life is ruined.  Why me?  Why now?
What it means: He can’t find his towel
How to handle it: Remind him it’s exactly where he left it. On the carpet, next to his closet.  Ask him if he knows what “Drama Queen” means.

What he says: Honey, why don’t we go to the mall
What it means: He saw some exciting lingerie in Victoria’s Secret catalog which you will never buy on your own.  He intends to casually walk by it and suggest that you buy it.
How to handle it: Get hold of the catalog and figure out what he has in mind.  It should be easy.  It’s the one with smallest surface area.  Now go to Victoria’s Secret with him.  Pick up the item before he gets a chance and say, “Look at this!  What kind of pervert would want to see his wife in this!”  Enjoy the rest of the shopping.

What he says: Ohmigod, look at tech stocks!  They are such a bargain!
What it means: He, again, convinced himself that he is a stock market whiz-kid
How to handle it: Don’t panic.  First change the password on his E*Trade account.  Then make him sit and write “I won’t gamble with stocks” as many times as the dollars he lost in stocks this year.

What he says: Honey, I created a directory called, “Work Files” on the computer.  Please don’t touch it. It has important information.
What it means: “C:\Work Files\January 2006\Sources\Examples\Documents\Junk” is where he stores the porn
How to deal with it: Being the software chick yourself, it’s not hard to write a program that replaces the contents of the directory with pictures of naked dudes every night.

Reading between the words

Anybody who has a wife or a girlfriend or somebody in between understands that anything she says has a hidden meaning which the male species has not evolved with enough sensory perceptions to understand.  This handy guide addresses some common scenarios.

What she says: How was your day honey?
What it means: She wants you to ask how her day was
How to handle it: Assuming, you are one of the 99% of men who neither wants to talk about his day nor wants to listen about your wife’s day, the best strategy is to switch to “rant mode”.  For example, in response to “how was your day”, you could say, “It was the most godawful day anybody can ever have.  I mean, I was trying to tweak the CPU frequency but the audio keeps crapping out”.  If she is one of 99% of normal human beings, she would have slept half way through.

What she says
: Hey, you want to watch a movie tonight?  Something light?
What it means: She wants to watch some tear-jerker chickflick
How to handle it: Remember that, like everything she says or does, it is a test.  If you whine about the movie, it will be paid back in kind when you want to watch “Star Wars :The Clone Wars.”  The best way to handle it is to agree cheerfully to watch any movie she wants.  In fact, offer to drive to Blockbuster to get the movie.  Just stick a scotch tape to the underside of the DVD on the way back and soon you will get a chance to feign regret for a damaged DVD.

What she says: What should I wear for tonight’s party?  The blue dress I wore last Sunday or the red dress the Sunday before?
How to handle it: You are in a minefield.  First of all you have no clue if she really has those dresses or if she is just testing your memory.  More over, you have no clue what she wore last Sunday or the Sunday before.  If you make one mistake you will be going down the “Do you even notice me any more” discussion.  The best way to handle it is by concentrating and remembering at least one dress she owns.  If you can think of one, just say, “Why not that long yellow number?”  Adding “You look really good in that” will seal the deal.  But what if you can’t absolutely remember at least one of the dresses she has?  Then, you simply excuse yourself that you need to go to the restroom.  Go to her closet and find out!

What she says
: Our car is making some rattling noises.  Can you get it fixed?
What it means: Your kid left a rattle toy in the backseat
How to handle it: Say, “sure honey”.  Take the car out “for servicing” at the nearest microbrewery and get the car fixed for a couple of hours.

What she says: Hey, I am going to the mall.  Do you want me to you get you a shirt or something?
How to handle it: You got a tough problem on your hands.  If you say “yes”, you are obviously not going to like what she bought.  So you can’t wear it nor can you return it (and stay married).  But you can’t say “no” to the question either because then the follow-up would be, “What, you don’t like my taste?”  You can’t honestly answer the question (and stay married).  The best way to handle it is by saying, “Sure.  The plain blue shirt I wear to work is pretty ruined anyway. Can you get me the exact same shirt?”

What she says: Oh, I LOVE these shoes!  But they are just above our price range. *sigh*
What it means: She wants you to say, “Oh, you deserve them honey”
How to handle it: If her pout made the corners of your eyes moisten, remind yourself what kind of cheap, insensitive and thoughtless husband you are.  You can’t just give away an expensive pair of shoes without a good business proposition.  So the way to counter it is by saying, “Oh, it’s not that expensive honey.  That’s how much the Prince of Persia IV for PS3 costs!”

What she says: Why are you behaving like this?  Why are you so irritable and argumentative today?
What it means: She has PMS
How to handle it: Use the normal protocol to handle PMS.  Agree with everything she says.

What she says: You have no idea what happened at work today, *sob* *sob*.  I had the crappiest day.
What it means: She is looking for affection, understanding and solace.
How to handle it: If you do anything out of the ordinary, she will be very confused.  So follow the normal procedure.  Try to empathize with her until you realize you miserably failed to understand why her day was crappy.  Then take the kids out to the mall while she talks to her best friend for a couple of hours.  Bring chocolate on the way back home.

What she says: Do you think my friend Sarah got a boob job?
How to handle it:  This is like a multiple choice question where all answers are wrong.  By answering either “yes” or “no”, you are admitting to checking out Sarah’s boobs AND monitoring their gradual progress over a period of time.  But don’t be too quick to dismiss, “Oh I only look at her face.”  It will look like an obvious cover up.  The best strategy is to feign disinterest.  Something like, “Which of your friends is Sarah?” is a good start.  Then shrugging and  brushing off, “I didn’t notice anything weird.”  That is the only way out.

Electronic cheating machines

As we know, anything is fair in elections and war.  There are rumors that Republicans are planning widespread electronic voting machine tampering so that the voting machines “help” the voter make the “right” choice.  For people who are planning to vote for Obama, the following sample ballot scenarios may help you to be better prepared for the polling booths.

Sukdeep Groceries

If you have been to any of the Indian grocery stores in the bay area, you must have come out with one distressing question.  “Why does the salesperson hate me?”  Before you tear yourself apart with that question, let me tell you that you are not unique.  I know.  You said “thank you” and you got a frown back.  You smiled at the girl and she looked at you like you are some kind of poisonous invertebrate.  Don’t take it to heart.  It is standard practice at India grocery stores.  From their point of view they are doing humongous favor to you and the humanity by serving you at the store.  Digesting this fact is the key to a not-so-tormenting grocery experience.
What makes me wonder is, how these stores manage to hire only such fine specimens of barbarians as salespeople.  How is it possible that every salesperson at every Indian grocery store in bay area has never heard the phrase, “thank you”?

In search of answers, I uncovered a job application for Sukdeep Groceries.  It will help you understand how these salespeople are hired.

pdf_icon.png Job Application for Sukdeep Groceries

My simple life

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Phone-tics for Children

Do you know  why you shouldn’t call  your friends who have kids  in the age range of 12-24 months?  Allow me to explain.

I called a friend of mine recently.  She has been extremely busy after she had had her baby.  So we didn’t talk in a long time.  I will let the conversation transcript speak for itself.

After some conversation.
Me: How is your son doing?  He should be close to 18 months right?
Friend: Ya!  He is very talkative these days!  He’s been grabbing the phone from me.  Here say hi to him.
Me: What!? No, wait wait…
(Silence on the phone)
Friend: (Distant voice) Say hello TD uncle
Son: (Silence)
Friend: (Distant voice) Say na

Vague sound of a wad of saliva landing on the mouthpiece and a tongue picking it up

Friend, who took the words “Don’t give up on your children” to heart: (Distant voice) Say hello TD uncle
Son: ga ga gaa ga
Friend: (Distant voice) GOOD JOB!  Did you hear that, TD?
Me: (Stunned Silence)
Friend: (Distant voice) Say something back to him TD
Me: Give the phone to your mommy

After a few minutes of this lively dialog between the child and me, my friends takes the phone back.

Friend: He really likes talking to you!
Me: Ya, it will be a delight talking to him when he learns a few more words
Friend: No, no he can say a lot of words.  He can say all ABCs.  Munnu, here say ABCs to TD uncle

Without checking if I was a consenting adult, the phone was handed back the child.

Son: (Silence)
Friend: (Distant voice) Say ABCs
Son: ga ga ga gaa
Friend: (Distant voice) You for got C munnu.  Say C, D, E
Son: ga ga gaa
Friend: (Distant voice) GOOD JOB!

I will spare you rest of the alphabet.  I hung up soon enough, promising to get her some information she needed.

I called her back a week later with the info.  But this time I was careful enough to call when she would not be home so I can just leave a voice mail.  When I got the her voice mail, here is the message:
Friends’ voice: Hi you’ve reached X, Y and (whispers ‘say it’… ‘say’) (Son’s voice) ga ga (Back to Friend in a giddy tone) Please leave us a message *beep*
I couldn’t leave a message because I was speechless.

You can imagine how happy I was when I got hold of her on chat.  Chat must be safe until her son learns to type.  Except…

Friend: Hang on, Munna is all over the laptop
Me: Ok
Friend: He wants to say something to you :)
Friend: .z..,zxcnv..a.,x

Most/least respected things in the US

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Update: Just wanted to mention that this picture got on the front page of digg.com and got around 2000 digs :)

In the Dark of the Knight

Nobody asked me to review the movie Dark Knight. So I am doing it.

The Dark Knight is a deliciously wonderful movie for anybody who grew up reading Batman comics.  I didn’t grow up reading Batman comics. 

In fact, I don’t even understand Batman.  What does Batman have in common with a bat other than the fact that they both are classified as mammals?  He can’t fly.  Nor can he generate ultrasonics.  I was waiting throughout the movie for the Batman to hang upside down on a tree, he didn’t do that either.  I was this close to demanding my money back.  Also, have you ever seen a bat fight bad guys?  You never did.  You know why?  Because they don’t.  All they do is hang in some dark corner; and when you get up on a building, lean on the wall and throw a stone, they fly up and scratch your face.  Hypothetically, I mean.

Let’s talk about the cast.  First of all, Christian Bale doesn’t look like a bat.  He looks more like a vulture.  He did his best to act and in a couple of scenes he actually showed some expressions.  I wish they didn’t make his mask so tight though.  Every time he wore it, it pinched his throat and his voice became very hoarse.  It’s got to be pretty darn annoying fighting bad guys while gasping for air.

There was this Joker too.  He was amazing.  Rest in peace, Mr. Ledger.

Most people don’t notice, but there is a heroine in the movie.  I saw cadavers livelier than her and blank whiteboards more interesting than her face.  She is like a decorative African art on a table – nobody knows why it is there and you won’t even notice it until it catches on fire.  That is precisely what happens in the movie.  She moves the story along only after she is dead.  (WARNING: There is a spoiler in the previous line)

I guess my biggest gripe with this movie is that batman is not even like a hero in the movie, forget superhero.  Batman gets beat up, hit by a car, bitten by dogs, shot at and slammed into a wall – in the first five minutes.  It gets worse after that.  What is missing in the movie is Batman’s mother so he could run whimpering to his mommy every time Joker outwits him.  And in a crowing moment of glory, batman ends the movie running away being chased by street dogs.

What I am saying is, overall, it’s a great movie.

I leave you with a few outtakes from the movie:

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