Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Good old Reader’s Digest from my granddad's '50s-60s collection used to have a section on humour – amongst others – titled ‘Pardon, your slip is showing’. I don't think they have that section any more. And anyhow, it would no longer be relevant under the same title. The correct remark to make in today’s 21st century of strange dressing would be ‘Pardon, your slip is showing, but perhaps that’s intentional given your remarkably fancy straps!’

Too many clothes seen on the street today are designed to show a bit of what’s inside. Like a watermelon-wala strategically displays a slice of his fine juicy red wares tantalizing the passerby with a promise of what lies ‘inside’. Similarly just too many articles of clothing today are designed such that they cannot stay balanced on the shoulder (or the hip), and just have to display some of the equally well designed underneath. I’m never sure of what is the acceptable correct reaction to such observations. Is one supposed to guiltily swing one’s glance away or is one supposed to drink in the entire panorama? Why the guilt, given that this is certainly not voyeuristic. Voyeurism has limited gratification if one has to expend no efforts to achieve titillation. Then again, if one is expected to keep stoic and casual, then how does one concentrate on the social exchange with such distractions literally staring in the face? Tough choice!

Another of those questions I’ve always been wanting to ask is – when women wear T-shirts with stuff written on them, is one supposed to read or not? Being a man of detail and being reasonably lettered, I have a natural tendency to linger on the text and drink in the wisdom. Some of the more profound statements warrant a second and third reading. But before you rush to judge me, I do that even when I’m reading the morning newspaper! Some cartoon strips are stirring enough to necessitate a second scan over. How then do I assure the arbitrary conclusion-jumper that my interest lies solely in the import of the transcript, and not on the canvas it’s painted on? And how do I convince the wearer of such wisdom, that my reading may not be necessarily speedy and/or sometimes the text font is cryptic and requires intense effort? My intent is noble while my eyesight may not be what it used to be. Me staring at you in the socially non-stareable region(s), with brows furrowed, teeth biting the lower lip, and the general tone of stiff concentration, is just me giving in to my most primitive need… grasping of education.

Given that there have been substantial episodes of misunderstandings in my life on account of the above, I’m now practicing reading from the corner of my eyes. I play the memory game where I attempt to recollect and reconstruct items on a tray after just a quick scan. Not much luck at it, I'm afraid! I’m also learning to concentrate on a particular point, and read 6-8 inches lower. And I’m trying to live with the constant headache of attempting this!!

Does anyone have any suggestions? Any that don’t end with getting a tight slap?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Do Bigha Zameen

So I had hazarded the prospect of purchasing property given the typical Indian belief that failure to do so would imply that the next incarnation is going to be as a cockroach destined to spend life (i.e. that new life) in government built poorly maintained city sewer pipes. But I had no idea that property purchase tests financial wherewithal, infinite patience, good deal of physical stamina, and significant broker management skills. To the uninitiated, in India we have a broker for everything – license or passport application, electricity connection, bill payments, traffic ticket payments, marriage (bride hunting, wedding organization, marriage certificate application etc), child delivery, school admissions, movie tickets, train tickets, cancellation of train tickets… you get the idea, eh? If you’re traveling by the countryside and want to pee by a tree, the moment you stop the car, you’d be mobbed by ten representatives pointing out the best tree promising you the most pleasurable open-air draft-free splash-incident-resistant experience!

My broker by destiny was a perpetually smiling sardarji. “Bestest price is seventy two forty eight rupees per square foot,” he announced with the air of achievement as though he’d just given birth to twins! My brain multiplied that with 2000 square feet and calculated something that probably represented the number of stars in the universe. He wasn’t done though… ‘… plus we just add the EDC, IDC and PLC to the BSP, and then the IBMS and CMC. And if you have two cars then two CPCs will be added or one CPC compulsory and one OPC. Registration at 7% is at possession ji’. It is tough to abbreviate a single word, so I guess ‘Registration’ stood out in that entire spiel. The rest was like sitting in kindergarten and learning the alphabet. I wasn’t sure if I should ask for clarifications chronologically or alphabetically. I think the abbreviations have been created to confuse the ‘thinking’ prospective buyer and to mitigate the impact of the actual product of the rate x units

Because Gurgaon, in particular, has the most exorbitantly priced property one can see anywhere. Tiny match box sized flats in towering multi-storey condos are priced in line with prices of some entire nations in Africa. My assessment is that Gurgaon must be home to the most optimistic target segment in the world. The quoted rate was, I’m convinced, sufficient to buy an entire oil field in Kuwait, factory fitted with Italian designed oil pumps. I think the general idea is that one can recover the cost of the flat by drilling for gas in the general neighbourhood of the living area though it might just require you – being on the 20th floor – to drill through 19 ceiling fans and perhaps a cheap chandelier or two.

The sardarji eventually managed to sell me a different property which, in the comparison of things, could at best promise a hot-water spring underneath as opposed to good ol’ petroleum. Given the space I could afford in pure square footage terms, it also promised my wife and me a lifetime of closeness and intimacy, to be shared in equal measures with any social invitee. I haven’t even got started about the bank and the loan and the interest yet!! Will save that for another blog.

Is it just me or does the cockroach and the government sewer suddenly seem like a damn attractive deal?