Memoirs and Memories

My journey through the roller coaster ride of life
leaving footprints in the sands of time

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Sorry for the lack of updates

It's been quite a while since I updated the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience folks. I was into the home stretch of my graduation and things were real hectic for the past one month or so. Anyway I'll be back very soon with regular updates. In the meantime thanks for waiting patiently...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


On july this year the sitcom "Frasier" bid adieu to millions of viewers worldwide after an amazing run of 11 years. I've got to say this is one of the best teleseries ever. The humour in Frasier is not just of the slapstick variety but of the truly witty kind. The series writers have done a tremendous job in maintaining the high standards of the sitcom throughout the decade. This complemented by the topnotch performances from the illustrious cast led to the show bagging emmys year after year.

As a tribute to the show, here are some of my favourite quotes listed:

Niles: Why do I keep seeing your big fat face everywhere I go
Frasier : I do not have a fat face.
Niles : Oh, please. I keep wondering how long you're going to store those nuts for winter.
Niles : Well, as some illustrious person said, "popularity is the hallmark of mediocrity."
Frasier : You just made that up, didn't you?
Niles : Yes, but I stand by it.
Daphne : Oh, come on now, Dr Crane. It's not like men have never used sex to get what they want.
Frasier : How can we possibly USE sex to get what we want? Sex IS what we want.
Daphne (about her mother): I suppose she can be a bit overbearing. But as she often points out, she is paying for the wedding and I am her only daughter and giving birth to me was so painful she did bite through a kitchen spoon.
Frasier : Daphne, just don't let you mother guilt you into having the wedding she wants instead of the wedding you want.
Daphne : Oh, don't worry, mum already promised me I could have the wedding I want, as soon as I have a daughter who gets engaged
Frasier : Just picture it, Daphne. Aren't they something? As you and Donny exit the church one dozen white birds of peace will be released and circle above. Of course, we'll use fourteen in actuality; the power lines always take out a few
Daphne : I went to all sorts of funerals as a child. My uncle's a mortician. Lovely man. He's offered to do my make-up for the wedding.
Frasier : I can just hear the whispers now. "Did you see the bride? Very life-like."
Roz : When I die, I want it to be on my 100th birthday, in my beach house on Maui and I want my husband to be so upset that he has to drop out of college
[the doorbell rings]
Frasier : That'll be Niles. I'm taking him to lunch to get his mind off his troubles.
Daphne : Is that something we shouldn't talk about?
Martin : No, there's no reason why we shouldn't talk about it.
Frasier : Dad, I'm sorry, I don't think he's ready to talk about it so we're not talking about it.
Niles : [from behind the door] Would you mind not talking about it a little less loudly
Daphne : When will you just admit that this junk belongs in a dustbin?
Martin : You know, I was on a case once where the wife constantly nagged the husband like this. "You never put anything in the garbage. Why don't you ever put anything in the garbage?"
Daphne : Well, he should have listened to her.
Martin : Oh, he did. And that's where we found her!
Frasier : Listen Niles, I'd like you to do my show for me for the week I'm gone.
Niles : Me standing in for you? I'm sorry, Frasier. I couldn't presume to fill those big floppy red shoes of yours.
Niles : Look, I know I don't have your total support in this, but... how shall I put this?
Frasier : You don't care?
Niles : If you could work the phrase "rat's ass" into there, you'd have it.
[On the art of kickboxing which Niles takes up]
Niles : You know, it requires a lot of talent. You have to have timing and balance, the ability to strike and instantly retreat.
Martin : So you kick them and then run away?
Niles : Yes. My instructor says I'm a natural.
Frasier : Niles, is there a light bulb over my head?
Niles : You have an idea?
Frasier : No, I'm asking if there's actually a light bulb over my head.
[Frasier is chatting with Niles when a fan comes up to them]
Woman: Oh my God, you're Frasier Crane. Could I bother you for an autograph?
Frasier: No, you can't. It's never a bother.
Woman: I love your show.
Frasier: Oh, thank you.
Woman: I just think you're like the smartest guy on the face of the earth.
Frasier: Well, one does hear tales of a certain wise man in Tibet, but why split hairs? There you go.
[The woman leaves and Frasier returns to the conversation with Niles]
Frasier: Where was I?
Niles: You were last seen hiking up Mount Ego!
Frasier : I hate lawyers.
Niles : Oh, me too, but they make wonderful patients. They have excellent health insurance, and they never get better.
[Frasier is on air with a caller]
Frasier: So, you were completely bald.
Caller: Yes, the perm destroyed my hair. I was sure my sisters were going to laugh at me. But, they all kissed me and then they marched into the bathroom and shaved their heads too, just so I wouldn't feel like a freak.
Frasier: Amazing! Well, there you have it, Seattle - the miracle of the sibling relationship spelled out in an unselfish act of head-shaving. Well, that's about all the time we have. I'd like to thank my brother Dr. Niles Crane for being here today. Niles, I would shave my head for you.
Niles: A gesture which becomes less significant with each passing year.
Frasier : Niles, will you please stop being so morose? It is Thanksgiving.
Niles : Oh, you're right! I should count my blessings: I'm in the midst of a bitter divorce. Maris is freezing my assets, forcing me to live in the Shangri-La, which is the devil's own apartment complex. Where, last night, they turned off my heat, re-freezing my assets.
Daphne : I suppose all brothers are like that. Mine certainly were. Everything was a contest! Who could the run the fastest, jump the highest. They even had this strange one where they'd take little brother Michael, put him in a potato sack and see who could roll him the farthest over the frozen lake out back. They loved that game! Until that year the spring thaw set in early and poor Michael went right through the ice. Ooh, they caught hell for that one, they did. Caught it worse a week later when Michael's toe finally fell off. Michael cried and cried until they told him to put it under his pillow for the toe fairy! And then when he got five quid for it, why it was all they could do to stop him from sawing off the rest of them!
Niles: "Dad, did you know that Lake Nomohegan was formed by the retreat of several glaciers during the Cenezoic Era?
Fraiser: "Which, coincidentally, is the last time anyone caught a fish in it!"
Frasier: "So are you suggesting that I go along and pretend I'm enjoying myself in something that gives me no pleasure at all just to hear the words I love you?"
Daphne: "Why not? Women have been doing it for centuries."
Frasier: "Sorry to drop by unannounced - I know how annoying it is to drop by without calling first."
Niles: "Don't worry - I used to do it all the time."
Frasier: "That's how I know."
Niles: Moving on to me, what's the verdict on my new look?
Frasier: I give up. What are you talking about?
Niles: My new mustache. I grant you, it's at an early stage.
Frasier: What stage, Research & Development?
Martin: Wow, Frasier. I may have underestimated you.
Frasier: Really?
Martin: Yeah, you're making a bigger jackass of yourself than I thought.
Pam: It's my in-laws. It's just that, well... they drop over all the time without calling first, and they expect us to stop what we're doing and entertain them.
Frasier: Well, they're your husband's parents - what does he suggest?
Pam: The other day he had us drop to the floor and stay quiet until they drove away.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

NCC blues

Of all the worse things that happened to me in school, the one that topped the list was undoubtedly my 2 year stint in NCC. At the start of the academic year the NCC master came to our class (this happened when I was in 8th) and informed us that the selection trials for that year's batch would begin the next day. He also warned us that the entire selection process would be very rigorous and all the weak ones would be 'filtered', so that only the best of the best would enjoy the honour of being selected as a National Cadet Corps recruit.

The next day at 1:30 PM he sat in his office waiting for the batch of eager aspirants jostling for the afore mentioned 'honour'. After an hour long wait he discovered that the number of students who turned up for selections were..........well, let's say, the number of Iraqis who would turn up for felicitations to Bush. Not to be snubbed, he marched straight into the Principal's office, pointed out the dismal situation and somehow managed to convince him of the pressing need for atleast 50 new recruits.

And finally the official decree was passed. All students from class 8 would have to compulsorily join the NCC for a period of 2 years. This led to a flood of telephone calls from us anxious kids seeking our parents' help to bail us out of the impending disaster. And the parents went straight to their doctors requesting medical certificates for their (otherwise healthy)wards stating their inability to be part of the corps. Finally all 50 of us marched in unison to the NCC master's office armed with the medical certificates in hand and smug smiles on our faces.

The first guy handed over his certificate without a word. Mr.Babu, the NCC master, read it aloud. "Our family doctor states that our son will not be able to take part in NCC activities because he suffers from sunstroke." He then glanced up at the smiling face above him, "I see. It doesn't matter, anyway. We'll make you march indoors". With that he tore the piece of paper to shreds and signed up the now non-smiling recruit immediately. And the process was repeated for the next 49 of us. He'd read each certificate, crumple the paper (along with our hearts), toss it in the bin and draft us in straightaway.

You should have heard the list of excuses that our doctors came up with in the med certificates. They must have covered the entire medical dictionary that day. There was irritable bowel syndrome (I wonder what that had to do with NCC. It's not like we were going to engage in an eating contest), sensitive soles, tender achilles heel, fragile constitution and a lot more obscure disorders. In fact if an outsider were to observe the entire process he'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a vaccine trial. One guy even had brain tumour listed as the reason on his certificate. He must have had an overly imaginative doctor. Either that or his doctor knew something he didn't.

Finally at the end of it all, Mr.Babu's NCC roster was full and so was his wastepaper basket. After the selections (if we can call it that) were over a beaming Mr.Babu addressed us, "Cadets, I'd like to take this opportunity to extend a hearty welcome to each one of you to NCC. I'm sure you can look forward to a memorable 2 years as 'volunteers' of this esteemed outfit." We each let out a loud groan and a silent curse, "You forced us into this you bastard. Don't call us volunteers".

When we went to our dorms that night, we were a really sad bunch. But we made an effort to see the bright side of it. We'd get to attend a 10 day camp where Mr.Babu promised us we could have an absolutely smashing time (we later realised he was a two faced liar on this count) and we'd get the NCC certificate which, Mr.Babu pointed out repeatedly, would open the hallowed portals to any institute of our choice in the future (Yeah, right!).

We eagerly looked forward to our uniforms which were due the next week. And when they finally arrived we were gobsmacked. It consisted of a shirt which had more buttons than a priest's cassock, an extremely short shorts that looked like the swimming trunks worn by Silk Smita, boots that weighed as if they were made of titanium and to top it all a ridiculous cap that made us look like Robin Hood's band of merry men.

We let out a collective sigh. It was going to be a long 2 years!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Out of date, out of sight

The pace of technology in the past 2 decades has been so frenetic that many of the latest inventions remain in vogue just as long as celebrity marriages last. In fact this rapid advancement in technology has been taking place at an increasingly exponential rate and as a result when a new gizmo comes out, by the time you open the manual the gadget is usually rendered obsolete. Nowhere is this phenomenon so prominent as that of the PC industry. Everytime I install the much talked about latest upgrade, the moment I try to boast about it to my cronies I learn that my upgrade is about as relevant as a tilting wet-grinder in a bachelor's kitchenette.

At times though, I often look back to those good old days when these very same obsolete gadgets used to fill everyone with awe and wonder. Though I cannot supress a chuckle, I realise that back then life was largely uncomplicated and relatively stress free. In one of my retrospective moments I tried to list some of those items that have been fast tracked to antiquity.

1. Mail:
These days this term doesn't mean anything other than e-mail, but there was a time when mail actually referred to letters that were delivered in hand by the postal department. Ofcourse now that the term has been hijacked by its electronic counterpart, it has been rechristened "snail mail". In those days if you mailed a letter from Chennai to Bangalore you could actually reach the garden city ahead of the posted letter even if you travel on the back of a drunk hippopotamus. Consider the following snippet of conversation taken from an anonymous chatroom:

marco: Hi there
pinky: Hello
marco: a/s/l ? (age/sex/location)
pinky: 17/f/Auckland
marco: cool
pinky: you?
marco: 17/m/Paris

Now ofcourse in reality marco and pinky would probably be 2 bored balding middle aged men (like Harsha Bhogle and Charu Sharma), hiding behind the anonymity afforded by the internet. But lets assume that the conversation is actually between a pair of teenagers. Now if they had to use the services of the postal department to carry out the above conversation, by the time pinky's message of "17/f/Auckland" reached marco, she would have enough time to become a "27/m/Mars".

Modern telephones have become snazzy gadgets capable of doing a wide variety of things apart from their basic function. But back then the only type of telephone was the gigantic rotary telephone that looked like it belonged to the Hyder Ali period. Dialing on it was a sore task that required the same effort needed to turn a giant Ferris wheel. And the worst part was when you had to redial the whole number again. By the time, the connection was established you could grow a beard and a pony tail too. Kudos to the man who invented the redial button. He sure saved a lot of people from being driven to madness.

3. Radio:
When I was a kid the mornings in the house were always filled with the blaring music from the "Murphy" transistor radio we possessed. The device had only two volume levels. One was total silence and the other was loud enough to match the sound of 100 rock bands playing together in a room the size of a prison cell. And the sheer size of the instrument was such that one would not be amiss if he mistook it for a mini nuclear reactor. In fact if you twiddled with the dials long enough you could raise Mars even.

Nowadays when we talk of modems we refer to the dsl modem or the cable modem or in case of a dialup connection we talk of the 56kbps modem. But how many of you remember the 14.4kbps dialup modem that came out initially. I really pity the souls who had the unfortunate experience of dealing with this one. In fact it was reported that when President Kalam took office two and a half years ago, he discovered to his amusement that Rashtrapathi Bhavan had only a 14.4 kbps connection. Imagine his plight if he tried to conduct video conferencing using that modem. Prez Kalam could type in the url of and by the time the site banner was loaded his 5 year term in office would have come to an end.

There are undoubtedly many more such items that can be listed in the above category. While these devices have put us to a lot of hardship in the past, I for one wouldn't mind using them now and then for old times sake. Nostalgia is indeed a powerful feeling!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Queues queues everywhere

Most Chennai folk have remarkable levels of patience which borders on the infinite. Probably honed by spending most of their waking moments waiting in queues for accessing most services. In fact the amount of time a Chennaiite spends in queue waiting is more than what an Indian cricketer spends appearing in ads. Ration shops, railway reservation counters, telephone & electricity billing counters, banks, theatres, restaurants and public restrooms (yup that's right), these are some of the many places where the formation of long winding queues is inevitable.

I've done my fair share of waiting in long queues and the experiences have been varied. I've learnt that if the person standing in front of you is a hot chick you won't feel the passage of time at all, never mind the fact that the queue is crawling slower than a drunk snail. But if the person next to you is a fat man with bad breath who keeps breaking wind every now and then, that'll feel like the longest day in your life.

During my school days whenever we had to wait in line, there was an unwritten policy that we strictly adhered to. To prevent guys from "giving cuts" to their friends who did not make it to the queue, we had decided that you cannot give a place to your friend immediately behind you in the queue(also called 'back cut'). But you could give him a place in front of you in the queue(predictably called the 'front cut'). The reasoning being, nobody would feel inclined to give a 'front cut' to their friends because it would entail an even longer period of wait for the person giving the cut. But ofcourse being the clever boys we were, we developed a way to overcome this unwritten clause. If someone, say 'X', wanted to enter the queue midway, he'd find a friend 'Y' and ask him for a 'front cut'. After X enters the queue, 'Y' would relinquish his place in the queue and ask 'X' for a front cut in return. When that was granted, 'Y' would retain his original position in the queue and 'X' finds a place behind him, much to the chagrin of the person who was originally behind 'Y'. Ofcourse there were times when 'X', after getting the 'front cut', would not give 'Y' a return 'front cut' leaving him in the lurch and thereby creating an enemy for life.

But not all people possess the kind of ingenuity we had during our school days. There was a guy who wanted to go to the head of the queue waiting in a bank counter and the reason he gave to the others was, "Sir, the queue is very long.". As though we were all blind and couldn't see it. Talk about stating the obvious! There was another who stated, "Sir, I am a busy man. I can't waste my time in this queue. So let me be done here and then you can go back to waiting". This guy would surely win the award for Mr.Considerate. And what was he thinking? That all others were waiting because they needed the time to do research on whether the Yanomama tribes brush their teeth!

Frequent queue waiting can drive people to hate queues with a venegance, also called "queueophobia". I just coined the word by the way. There was the case of a tough sergeant who once snarled to a bewildered soldier, "Well, I suppose after you get discharged from the Army, you'll just be waiting for me to die so you can come and spit on my grave."And the soldier replied, "Not me, Sarge! Once I get out of the Army, I'm never going to stand in line again!"

A couple of years back when I was in Salem, I had gone to Vasanth Vihar for lunch. The crowd in the restaurant was humongous, but my hunger was so intense that I could have gorged anything (even upma or kanji). Since there were no other hotels close by, I had no option but to wait patiently. Finally I secured a place after a 30 minute long wait. While I was attacking my lunch with all the enthusiasm of an Arab prince watching a belly dancing show, a man kept staring at my plate. I realised he was waiting to take my spot the moment I finished, but he could have atleast stood back a little further than he did. In fact he was closer to my plate than I. He looked like he was ready to wolf down the contents of my plate if I didn't vacate the spot sooner.

Nowadays, whenever I wait in a queue I am reminded of this joke:-
In a long line of people waiting for a bank teller, one guy suddenly started massaging the back of the person in front of him. Surprised, the man in front turned and snarled, “Just what the hell are you doing?” “Well,” said the guy, “you see, I’m a chiropractor and I could see that you were tense, so I had to massage your back. Sometimes I just can’t help practising my art!”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” the guy replied. “I’m a tax inspector. “Do you see me screwing the guy in front of me?”

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A tale of drunks

Travelling in a suburban electric train has its own charm. The services are more regular, quicker and the journey is predominantly hassle free. Also if you happen to sit by the window you are in for a visual treat of exquisite landscapes from Chennai and its suburbs. During peak hours though, the train becomes a veritable sardine can bulging from all its orifices with occupants who have no idea of terms like 'crush load limit'. This is ofcourse not an issue if you happen to travel at night. At that time the number of occupants in the train would be the same as the number of tourists who choose to opt for a package tour of Iraq.

At night, despite absence of the usual hustle and bustle associated with the day, the atmosphere is enlivened by the few who board the train. A few months ago while boarding a suburban at night, I noticed that except for a handful of passengers most of the occupants were in various stages of intoxication. In fact the entire compartment had a festive atmosphere with the crowd in a seemingly boisterous mood. There was raucous laughing, eclectic dancing, lively debating and a lot of inebriated singing. Some of the protagonsists were crawling on the floor, some were fast asleep in a variety of positions while some others were just staring into space. The whole atmosphere was eerily similar to that of the Bihar assembly in session.

Sitting down next to one of the sober ones I proceeded to watch the lively entertainment on offer. What was more, the show cost just 6 rupees, whereas in a cinema you had to shell out a minimum of 50. Sitting in front of me was a Laloo lookalike who did not seem all that drunk. But any lingering doubts were quickly dispelled when he opened his mouth. Catching my eye, he asked me in a low brooding voice that sounded like a wet grinder.

Laloo lookalike: Did you hear about the woman who beat her drunk husband to death using a 6-inch thick, 3-foot long, iron pipe?
Me: Errm.....No.
Laloo lookalike: What is your opinion on the incident?
Me(scratching my head, wondering how to get out of this one): It is terrible.
Laloo lookalike: Yes, it is. She should have used a 3-inch pipe instead. She would have got better leverage in her upswing.
Me: Huh...?
Laloo lookalike: These drunks are vermin of the lowest order. They deserve this kind of fate.

Thankfully Laloo lookalike lost interest in the conversation and went back to staring outside the window. Phew! Talk about irony.

Looking around the compartment, I noticed a few drunks who remained standing despite the presence of a sizeable number of empty seats. There was one guy who was as spindly as a matchstick. Swaying with the sideways motion of the train, he held onto the chain above his head though he barely managed to reach it. Surprisingly, given his inebriated condition, he never lost his grip on the support chain. As a result his whole body was contorting itself into a series of gyrations reminiscent of Prabhu Deva.

There was another who was was tightly holding onto the upright pole near the door and giving a performance that rivalled that of Demi Moore in Striptease. A couple of seats away, one guy was lying on his seat in a strange pose that looked like a juxtaposition of 2 or more asanas. Probably a yoga master who took to alcohol so that he could discover a new asana that would eventually be named after him.

Despite the presence of overwhelming amounts of liquor in their system, the drunks somehow managed to get down correctly at their respective stations. I could never fathom the reason behind this phenomenon. It was almost as if there was a homing beacon at their stations that managed to send a message straight through the depths of the drunks' alcohol soaked consciousness.

Some of them would eventually reach home, whereas most would probably collapse on the pavement before total consciousness seeped through the muddled layers of the brain. For these folks the concept of hangover was non-existant. When dawn arrives they usually go home, clean up and get ready to face the drudgery of the next day.

Finally my station had arrived. It was time for me to get down and go home too. The show was over.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

MTC adventures - II

Since I couldn't think of anything to blog about, I am forced to dip into the archives of my city bus experiences. And trust me those archives are really vast and their contents never ending, just like the mythical Amudha Surabi.

A couple of years ago (meaning I can't remember exactly when), while travelling back home from college in the evening, I miraculously managed to get a seat in the bus (and a window seat at that). Now the probability of getting a seat in a crowded city bus during rush hour, is such that Mike Tyson has a better chance of becoming US president. Come to think of it, if Tyson ran against Bush, the 3 presidential debates that would follow would certainly beat any form of entertainment that the cartoon network can offer. The combined IQ of the 2 contestants would match the batting average of Venkatesh Prasad.

Anyway, returning to the incident, after settling down in the window seat I proceeded to do what every tired man does when he manages to finds a seat, succumb to the pleasures of sleep. A few minutes after entering dreamworld I was jerked back into consciousness by the old man seated next to me. He wanted to know if the Mylapore temple stop was far off or close by. "About 15 minutes from here", I snapped and tried to return to the cozy dreamworld, where I was in the midst of rescuing a beautiful damsel from the jaws of a tiger in typical MGR style before this old guy had to ruin it all.

Apparently he was not done with his interruptions either. "Please thambi. I am new to this city. I don't know exactly where the Mylapore temple is. Can you please alert me the moment the bus reaches the temple?", he requested with imploring eyes. My innately courteous nature which has been my eternal weakness, won over and I acquiesced. Beautiful damsels can wait, but an old man new to this city should not begin his first visit by missing his stop. "Don't worry, sir. I'll tell you when the temple arrives", I promised him. But I was miffed a bit when he proceeded to doze off peacefully, while I had to fight a raging battle against my eyelids which had suddenly aquired magnetic properties. Never mind, I tell myself, it's only 15 minutes or so and then I can return to fantasyland where I can proceed to live happily ever after with the lass.

But as luck would have it the bus was caught in heavy traffic and the 15 minutes turned into 35 minutes. All this time I had to hold my eyelids apart with my fingers to enable me to keep my word, while the old man was in his own dreamland where I assumed he would be rescuing an old woman from the clutches of a chicken. Finally the glorious Mylapore temple gopuram loomed ahead. I gave the old man's shoulder a gentle shake and when that did not produce any result, followed it up with a vigorous shake and managed to snap him back to reality.

Me: "Sir, your stop has arrived."
Old man (a bit disoriented): "Uh?...what?"
Me: "Mylapore temple, sir. It has arrived."
Old man: "Mylapore temple has arrived? "
Me: "Yes, sir."
Old man: "Thank you very much."

He then peeked out over my shoulder, looked at the gopuram, joined his palms above his head and crooned "Om Namachivaaya!" twice and then promptly went back to sleep. If it was not for IPC section 302, I would have clubbed him to death then and there. But then I had to be content with inwardly cursing him with all the expletives my vocabulary would allow.

With nothing else to do I went back to dreamworld and tried hard to recall the beautiful dame. But the only picture that kept appearing repeatedly was that of an old man requesting with beseeching eyes, "Thambi, can you tell me when the Mylapore temple arrives?".....Aaaaargh!