Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Social Networking - The Hell Version

My first Social Networking Will was cocky. It assumed I would go to heaven and hence the updates were, to use a bad pun (is there something like a good pun?), heavenly.

(That’s the trap of trying to write funny stuff all the time: Sooner or later you start using puns, mixing metaphors, insulting people, recycling others’ jokes as yours and this one’s the worst in my book: The desperate writing of ‘Ha ha ha’ after cracking a really bad one and hoping that somehow the ‘Ha ha ha’ will make the reader laugh. The reader does laugh: Not at the joke, but at the joker.)

The first Will received such an outstanding response that for a moment I thought I had become popular overnight and should quickly join a reality show. Then, I read the responses. The words differed, but the message was clear:

“Shouldn’t you be writing from hell and not heaven?” That brought me back to earth. From heaven.

So here they are, sample updates/tweets from my Social Networking Will:

1 There is no wall between Hell and Heaven. You can see everything in Heaven clearly. That’s Hell.
2 Hell has exactly the same things as heaven. Except they are made in China.
3 All the hot page 3 women are here :=)))
4 There is no Botox in Hell :(((
5 Hell is X-rated. All your ex’s are here.
6 Deven joined the Group, ‘Happy in Hell: I lived in Mumbai all my life’.
7 All women have a headache in Hell. 24/7.
8 Deven received an invitation to join ‘Governmentville – Adopt a politician and ruin a country of your choice’.
9 Deven left the Group, 'A Dead Politician is a Good Politician'.
10 Deven is attending the Event, ‘If 100,000 dead bodies vote against Telemarketers, Hell will remove them to a separate enclosure’.
11 ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is true.

That’s it for now. But know what? I have a feeling that you’d be allowed only one update/tweet from Hell:
There is no internet access here. 

Now that’s hell.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Heavenly Social Networking or, To Hell With It.

Not very long ago I was going through my daily dose of entertainment, the newspaper, when I came across the story of a Delhi-based businessman who has hired a lawyer to draw up his ‘Digital Will’.

No, no, don't get all excited about a new million dollar business opportunity Mr. Premji & Mr. Murthy, it is not a soft copy of his will. Instead it has instructions to access to his various e-mail accounts after his death! I am not kidding – read the whole story here.

The businessman, who also paints, has different email accounts and he has bequeathed each account to his nominees. While one account has all his artistic works, another has his collection of audio recordings and another his autobiography,’ the article says. 

For a long moment, all I could say was, HUH?! But no, I didn’t stop at that. I went one step ahead and drew up my Social Networking Will in addition to my Digital Will. Apart from my log in and password details, my Will has a whole bunch of messages with detailed instructions to my Digital Heir to upload them everyday for the next fifty years or until all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers die, whichever is earlier. (There is a chance that, inspired by me, all my friends and followers will also draw up similar wills and my social network will become immortal and remain active until the end of time, FB/Twitter or the internet.)

I am already on the job, and here’s my first bank of updates/tweets:

1 Sent Peter on an errand.
2 Smoking might be hell but it can’t kill you here.
3 I donated my body to science. That’s my eyes you are reading with.
4 I’ve just had an out of the soul experience.
5 The sun always shines in heaven. And that’s turning me into an insomniac.
6 You won’t believe the chicks around here! I wish they had bodies though.
7 I got a promotion. I am coming back as a fly on Penelope Cruz’s wall.
8 Deven and Marilyn Monroe are now friends.
9 JFK wrote something on Deven’s wall.
10 Deven defeated Al Capone in Mafia Wars.
11 Deven became an Admin in the Group ‘Forever FBI’.
12 Deven joined the Group ‘Angels against Heavenly Warming – Plug the Hole in the Hell Layer’.
13 Deven is attending the Event ‘I will not pay 5 Heaven Dollars to access FB’.

I suggest you draw up your Digital Will too. Like the digital saying goes, ‘Out of Facebook is out of mind,’ and why should something as stupid as death make your friends forget you, or kill your social networking life?

(Yes. There is a Hell version too. I am working on it. I will keep you 'posted'.)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Volcano ash

We all have a volcano
with our name written on it
but are quick to panic,
to look away and shut our ears
every time it makes the softest of rumbles,
and refuse to utter
its unpronounceable name.

But the volcano bubbles
behind our turned backs,
under the ancient deception
of glacier-like
and one morning as we absent-mindedly
rinse our coffee cup
or soundlessly open our eyes at three in the morning
or think of love
in the middle of the afternoon,
it calls us
to lie down on its burning pyre
with our backs to it,
and sends our ashes upward
where they disintegrate in the wind
darkening the skies
and mocking travellers’ schedules
planned to the last missable detail.

In the transit lounge of Heathrow airport
a lady with six Louis Vuitton suitcases
looks up at the uncertain heavens
and pales visibly under her make-up.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Humour. Don't search beyond research.

I normally pick up bits and pieces of news articles, twist them out of shape to resemble funny animals and present them as blog posts. I found one such article recently but when I sat down to mangle it out of shape by hammering the keyboard, I realized there was no need. The news, as is, was good, or rather, bad enough. So here it is, word for word:

Simply turning on a light at night for a few seconds to go to the toilet can cause changes that might lead to cancer, scientists claim.

Researchers in the UK and Israel found that when a light is turned on at night, it triggers an "over-expression" of cells linked to the formation of cancer.

The tests were carried out on mice at Leicester University by geneticist Professor Charalambos Kyriacou. During the trial, a group of mice were exposed to a light for one hour. When compared with mice, who had been kept in the dark, changes were found in cells in the brain responsible for the circadian clock which controls body function.

"We believe that any turning on of artificial light in the night has an impact on the body clock. It's a very sensitive mechanism. If you want to get up to go to the toilet, you should avoid reaching for the light switch. There are some plug-in lights that just glow, that are safe and you could use them as an alternative," Rachel Ben-Shlomo, of the University of Haifa, was quoted as saying.

I mean what can I add that can be funnier? Oh, I did think of stuff like:

"Honey, I think I peed in the basin..."

I try to find the bathroom door. Crash! All lights in the building come on. All residents get cancer.

Heavy panting. 
"I can't seem to find the protection. Can I turn on the light?" 
"NO! I don't want to get cancer!! I'd rather die of AIDS!!!" 

"Dad, how was I born?" 
"Because your mother was afraid of getting cancer."

I also wanted to crack some funny ones about that line in the news report, There are some plug-in lights that just glow, but this is not that kind of blog. Go away you pervert!

But I have to admit that nothing's as funny as the original. And that includes the researcher's name: Geneticist Professor Charalambos Kyriacou. 

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Summer signs

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy
- Emily Dickinson

Mumbai, they say, has only two seasons: Hot and Wet. True, except thanks to the messed up ecological balance, we do get some pleasantly cool weather now and then. Last winter was one such.

But cool or wet, the heat in Mumbai never goes away. It is always a couple of degrees away, biding its time, waiting to rear its sweaty head...
The departure of winter (and the arrival of summer) then, cannot be felt like it can be in the north, by the onslaught of heat. It is, as Dickinson says, imperceptible, and announces itself through small, innocuous signs.

The first one is the koel as he gets himself into a frenzy, singing to attract the female. He is at it all day long, all summer; the female koel is, well, a female, and makes him sing his heart out.

In older neighbourhoods that still boast of trees the Gulmohar begins to show signs of bursting into orange-red blossoms. The tree is also called Flame of the Forest, and here, in the city, the flame is a torch, lit to remind us of a world that needs saving from itself.

Elsewhere, in the by-lanes, older residents of the city search for a little patch of sun in the shadow of the infrastructure boom. They spread out old saris, frayed with age and made more translucent by the sun, on terraces and common balcony-verandas. Fresh rolled papads, pieces of raw mango, kokam and chillies stuffed with masala get spread on them. The saris are folded back to protect the goodies from crows and the ends are weighed down with stones. The infrastructure boom is a good thing; stones are easier to find these days.

But these signs are not evident to all; most of us realize summer is here when colas, sunblock creams and ACs start dominating ad breaks on TV. That, and the IPL.

A tangent, as usual: I typed this post on the phone. The word 'perfidy' isn't in its dictionary. Perfidy means betrayal, a deliberate breach of faith or trust. I was in college when I studied this poem and began using the word ‘perfidy’ in the context of love (and to show off my knowledge of ‘difficult’ words). I was wrong. Because the end or betrayal of love is not always dramatic or perceptible. Usually it just withers away, one petal at a time.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Are you SPS?

I love research reports; they provide an unending source of entertainment. I don’t have the exact figures, but chances are the money spent every year on producing research reports closely rivals annual budgets of Hollywood and Bollywood productions put together.

But to get around to the topic of this post: According to a report in today’s The Times of India, ‘About 20% of all people are born with a trait called Sensory Perception Sensitivity’ (or SPS, if you can’t pronounce that). To quote further, ‘(it) can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism – a tendency to experience negative emotional states, the study said.
The trait can be seen in some children who are “slow to warm up” in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts.’

That means:

1 If you come across a child who cries easily, it is not politically correct to say, “Stop being a sissy!” You have to say, “Stop being Sensory Perception Sensitive!”

If your four year-old son asks you, “How was I born?” And you reply, “God made you.” And he counter-questions, “Were you on tour then?” don’t slap him (or yourself), he can’t help it, he has Sensory Perception Sensitivity.

3 When the Maharashtrian saint Ramdas replied to the question he was asked when he was a child, “What are you thinking about?” with, “I am meditating on the universe,” it was not a sign of his genius, it was a sign of Sensory Perception Sensitivity.

The report goes on to say, ‘People with SPS (ha, the PTI reporter can’t pronounce it!), trait prefer to take longer to make decisions (Wife! Are you reading this?), are more conscientious (Wife? I hope you are not reading this!), need more time to themselves in order to reflect and are more easily bored with small talk’.

That means:

1 Hamlet had Sensory Perception Sensitivity. (For the Shakespeare-challenged, Hamlet was a guy who kept on wondering, “To be or not to be” until he was killed by a fruit vendor. Why fruit vendor? Find out later in the post.)

2 There is nothing wrong with the guy who is boring you to death in a party. But there is something definitely wrong with you – You have Sensory Perception Sensitivity.

The report is a result of research carried out at Stony Brook University in New York (what kind of scientists would be working in a university named Stony?). It was helped by two Chinese universities: Southwest University and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Research reports! The latest addition to things manufactured in China. I wonder what that means.

But do not feel special if you have Sensory Perception Sensitivity. The report continues, “The sensitivity trait is found in over 100 species, from fruit flies (does that mean Hamlet was a fruit fly?), and fish to canines and primates, indicating this personality type could sometimes provide an evolutionary advantage.

Does that mean a fruit fly has an evolutionary advantage over 8 out of 10 people I know? Well, let me count… 1, 2, 3… Yes, it does.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Utter rubbish, as usual.

This is an old trick of mine. I open a new file in Microsoft Word (trade mark registered by Bill Gates. Given the amount of money he has made and continues to make, his name should have been Gets [dollar] Bill). Once the file is open I start typing rubbish.

But each word (this one not the property of Gets Bill), has a meaning built into it. These words and their meanings set me thinking. I try hard to avoid that; the doctor says that my grey hair is because of too much thinking. Like all doctors he is wrong. It’s the genes. But I pay him anyway. He has two children, three cars and no hair. His wife is also a doctor but she has hair. Of course, his baldness is because of the intense trauma he has faced in his youth and not because of thinking. Doctors, you see, are students until they are half-way into middle age. By the time they start practising, they are married, usually have one or two kids and since they have started earning so late, start grabbing money with both hands once they are out. Usually their wives are also doctors because they spend their entire youth in hospitals learning important stuff like how to reach into the patient’s pocket while he is sticking his tongue out at you. (Come to think of it, at the end of the session, it is the doctor who has stuck out his tongue at you...) As students first, interns later and residents even later, their entire social life consists of passing out on the table while sipping tea in the hospital canteen. When they wake up they find out that they have to marry a co-student who has passed out next to them. After all waking up in the same bed or canteen table with a member of the opposite sex (if you are lucky), has its repercussions. All those stories about doctor and nurse romances are a whole lot of bunkum; they happen only in Mills & Boon novels or in very old black and white movies starring dead actors. No, no. I mean actors who are dead now.

But this is not about doctors. It is not about actors dead, alive or Imran Hashmi either. It is not about engineers because I don’t know any. Of course, a whole bunch of guys I knew in school and college took up engineering but ninety per cent of them went on to do MBA which is the short form of Mystery Business Application because no one has figured out what is it that MBA-holders actually do. The remaining ten per cent took their degrees, hid them carefully in the attic and went out and got jobs as advertising copywriters or some such thing that brought disrepute to their families and spoiled the marriage prospects of their sisters. Oh, I went to engineering school too. I didn’t wait all the four or forty years it would have taken me to complete the course. I ran away towards the end of the second semester and after flunking all subjects in the first semester. (My sister and I are still not on talking terms.)

What is this about then? It is about an old trick of mine. Look up there, right at the beginning: You were warned.

I read this on a blog written by a popular blogger and who recently voted for an old post of mine, ‘Work is keeping me very busy these days; but blogging works as a stress buster,’ and I said, "Hey, that’s my trick too!" I am in a foul mood today and let me bust my stress with some good old writing.

Ah. I already feel better. Now if only I could also thrash the living daylights out of someone, I would be completely stress-free.

NOTE: This post wasn't written with a foot note, but a few reactions later, it seems to warrant one: Hey, this IS rubbish. It's not serious. It is exaggerated. It is definitely not anti-doctors, anti-engineers or anti-dead actors, or even anti-Bill.  I have too many friends in those communities, not dead actors, to risk my friendship, and life. No, Bill's not a friend either. I wish he were though; I would have had genuine software then.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Turning forty & guinea pigs

We recently got a couple of guinea pigs as pets for the kids. Both were born in captivity (not the kids, the guinea pigs), in a cage at someone's house and have always been fed by humans, that is, they have never had to forage for their food.

Guinea pigs belong to the same family as mice and squirrels, but when it comes to being scared, they are closer to rabbits. The slightest alien noise sends them scurrying for cover.

When you drop their feed into the cage, usually leafy vegetables, they pick up one leaf and run away and hide some place and nibble furiously on it. It is the natural instinct of an animal that is small, defenceless and constantly in the danger of being gobbled up by a predator.

The increased life expectancy apart, I think turning forty and all its attendant fuss are also about a primeval instinct. It is biological rather than psychological. (Aren't most things?)

As I kid I once heard a distant uncle proclaim rather mysteriously, "After forty, you start realizing". Later in life, I heard variations that echoed the same thought. Of course, as a young man I would laugh it off as the justification of an old man for being old. After I turned forty, I began quoting the uncle (without attributing it to him of course). But I would explain the mystery if someone asked me. I would explain half-jokingly, "After forty, you start realizing: That you were a fool all these years and have done nothing but waste your time".

That is the key: Time.

Somewhere in our primeval brain, the instinct kicks in: You are forty. You don't have much time left. You are not going to be as healthy, as strong or as fertile. For women, it is an early warning signal that menopause is around the corner so go, have a go now while there is still time. For men, it must be about dwindling numbers (what's with men and numbers anyway?), so have a go while you can still count your blessings, in millions.

The same would then extend to our unfulfilled ambitions, desires, goals, whatever. Go write that story now! Begin to learn that language today!! Visit that destination this year!!! Pursue that skirt now!!!!!

That would also explain the regret about things undone, wanting to turn the clock back with botox, silicone, school/college reunions etc. etc.

Of course, this theory is based completely on my instinct.

But we know how strong instinct can be, don't we? I even have research done on guinea pigs (it can’t get more scientific than that!), to prove it.