Elephant Droppings

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How much is your blog worth?

Find out from here. Apparently, they will be able to put a dollar value based on some arcane statistics. I did not understand all the calculation. Think of it as some kind of a magic number. When I tried giving this blog's URL, it reported 0.00 dollars, which was pretty much my assessment as well; no surprises there :)

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Finished reading this collection of stories by Melissa Hunt last night. As a matter of fact, till the time I finished it, it never struck me that this was a series of short stories with the same central character -- I had been thinking that this was a novel. The stories revolve around the life and acquaintances of Jane Rosenal, an aspiring editor. The effect of each story on me was similar to that of a barbiturate -- the sleep they brought on me was immediate, deep, and nightmare-free. For that, I am grateful to Ms Hunt. Other than that I can't find any good words to speak about it. All characters had the same two-dimensional, made-of-cardboard look. They mouthed the same wisecracking lines over and over, ad nauseum. The book was described as "irreverent, and wickedly funny". I am a sucker for the irreverent, and for the wickedly funny. But this book was neither. Probably the person who wrote the comment was. He or she had some fun at my expense.

The first story is set during the teen years of Jane. It is about a love affair and its subsequent break-up involving Jane's elder brother. The second one is during Jane's youth, when she and her fiance goes for a vacation at a place that belongs to some lady friend of his. The third one involves Archie, the elderly man with whom Jane has two affairs. The next story does not have Jane in it. It is about a neighboring family. The last one is probably the best. It is a run-of-the-mill romantic story: boy meets Jane, they fall in love, Jane does not want to lose him, so plays hard to get, the boy gets tired of these games, finally "all is well that ends well". If that is the best among the lot, you know what to expect of the others.

There were no scenes or lines that really stood out. The book was the literary equivalent of Sunil Shetty's expressionless face. Since I am brimming with goodwill (it is a Friday evening, afterall), I give it a 3 out of a possible 10.

Now I need to cleanse my soul with some beer. Sam Adams, here I come...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Really Short Story

Many bloggers were tagged with the 55-word-story tag in the past weeks, and we got to read a number of little stories. Some were quite interesting -- my favorite is the one by silverine in the comments to this post. All this "short storying" reminded me of a joke:

A famous British newspaper once held a short-story writing competition. The only condition was that each entry should contain the elements of mystery, sex, and royalty. There were a large number of entries, but the shortest one was really short. It read: "The Queen is pregnant. Who did it?"

Friday, October 14, 2005

Deadly Vehicles

I was in the car with Zhang, one of the guys in my work group -- I had to drop off my car at the dealer's for some maintenance work, and Zhang was giving me a ride back to work.

Zhang had mentioned earler that he was planning to buy a minivan, a necessity here in the States when the number of children exceeds one.

Now, one trait that the Indians ("Desis", in Indian slang) and the Chinese share is their affinity for Japanese-made cars. Every Indian guy I know own a Toyota, Honda, or a Nissan. Of course, once they come into some moolah, these are replaced by cars from BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus. A sure sign of an Indian- or Chinese-dominated community is the rows and rows of Accords, Camris, Altimas, and their ilk.

So coming back to the thread, I asked Zhang whether he had decided on any model. Considering Zhang's ethnicity, the contenders were Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Nissan Quest. He told me he is leaning more towards the Odyssey, a cavernous vehicle which will never fit into the Indian roads. Though generally a hater of minivans, I was a bit partial towards the Quest. I mean if I were looking at the business end of a gun barrel and had to pick one of these minivans or lose my life, I would have chosen the Quest so to speak. Basically, Quest is the sleeker looking among the above pachyderms. So I asked Zhang why he was not considering the Q.

His answer surprised me. He said the Chinese people generally avoid buying Nissan vehicles. In Chinese, apparently "Nissan" sounds eerily similar to a phrase/word meaning "You are dead"! Among the various Nissan models, Altima is considerd the worst because in Chinese there is an unpleasant exclamation (similar to "Ayyo" in Malayalam, I guess) that sounds exactly like Altima.

This reminded me of my classmate from the college years, "Motta" (egghead). Motta's parents promised to buy him a motorcycle when he got admission for engineering. He had his heart set on a Yamaha RX100 (we are talking 1980's here). At the last moment, just before purchase, his grandmother threw a wrench into the works -- since "Yamaha" is "yama ha" ie the Hindu God of Death, she said Motta couldn't buy that. No amount pleading from Motta could change her mind. Finally, he had to settle for a Hero Honda.

American Scenes

This too is America.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

States in India That I've Been to

Thanks to Sumeet via Gurinder.

Ismail Aa Rahaa Hai

I was reading the post about Samma-sored? by Mr Mediocre, and that reminded me of a similar incident that happened with my friend Vijay.

At the time I and Vijay were denizens of Delhi. Vijay used to work for Engineers India Ltd (at Bhikaiji Cama Place). We were new in Delhi, still uninitiated with the vagaries of Delhi Angrezi, and feeling more or less like fish out of Kerala backwaters. One day when Vijay was at work, suddenly there was some commotion and people were started hurrying towards the door. He asked one of the guys about what the matter is. The guy told him "Ismail aa rahaa hai, sab log baahar jaa rahe hain" [Ismail is coming, everybody is going out]. Vijay thought Ismail must be some bigshot in Delhi, and kept on working. After some time his manager came there and shouted at him, "What are you doing here? There is a fire on the upper floor and the building is being evacuated."

That was the moment he learned one important rule of the Delhi English -- when a word starts with 's' followed by a hard vowel, an 'i' should be prefixed while pronouncing the word -- "ischool", "istyle", "ismoke" etc. What he had assumed to be a Delhi bigshot was actually the ismell of ismoke coming from the vents!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blogging in the Vernacular -or- The Self-Conscious Nudist

When I started writing this blog, I had no plan (nor any idea on how) to write in Malayalam. Due to the turn of events, and because I liked what I saw, I started a Malayalam blog as well. Having done that, now I am finding it difficult to blog in English.

For one thing, it is easier on my (limited) intellect to blog in Malayalam even if the physical effort is more (all those crazy key mappings, half-letters, compund letters... Aaaargh). It could be because at the lowest level I think in Malayalam and I speak to myself in Malayalam. I haven't read many books in English, nor do I have a solid "base". I am like the man who had learnt English from Walter Scott novels -- you know the one who said "Hark" to catch the attention of the waitress :-) [Though, in my case, I should probably say "The game is afoot" once in a while since most of my English knowledge comes from Sherlock Holmes stories.]

Because of all this, there is a wrapper that translates my Malayalam broodings into their English equivalent. That wrapper tends to hide the soul of the matter a little bit. When I write in Malayalam, I talk to myself, and laugh out loud if what I write seems funny to myself. When I write in English, I worry a bit about getting the grammar and the style right. In Malayalam, my style is what I write. In English, I need to shoe-horn my writing into a style, which makes it stilted (and makes my metaphors mixed).

A blog is an open diary. A regular (paper) diary is like taking a shower in one's own bathroom. One can get naked without worrying about spectators. The blog world, in contrast, is like a nudist camp. There is the pleasure in baring all, and there is more pleasure in baring all with others who bare all. (*) When I blog in English, I become The Self-Conscious Nudist.

Still, a blog is yet another medium to communicate, and to make friends. Even a self-conscious nudist can make friends at the camp. To that end, I think I still need to maintain my jottings in English as well. So I'll keep writing this blog, and hope to update it once a week if possible.

Blogito, ergo sum.

(*) Contrary to what my readers may think or hope, I have never been to a nudist camp (I am too shy even for the health-club locker room). But I had been trying all this while to use the nudist simile in some context, and it seemed like a crime not to use it here :-)


Learnt a new acronym today from the technology insert of the newspaper:
BCAK (Between the Chair and the Keyboard).

This word refers to the ordinary PC users, who consider the PC as a necessary evil, nothing less and nothing more. Contrast it with guru.