A space odyssey

This has nothing in common with the famous Clarke novel and any resemblance is entirely your figment of imagination.

I suffer from what I call a space-o-phobia, which starts by me being uncomfortable at the beginning, quickly feeling miserable and ultimately in a rage, when my personal space is violated, ah that is a strong word, let me say, invaded by general junta.

We, Indians don’t understand the concept of space- literally or figuratively. Let me give you some everyday examples.

There are always people at the railway station, and airports and temples and parks and other places of common interest in India, who love to sit heavily down so close to you that you can tell what they ate last summer, and if you had a bio-sensor, you could tell their blood pressure by the stench of sweat. Sometimes they lean over you to reach the dustbin, ugh, I mean, it is ok you did not take a bath, or even that you consumed garlic bread, but the bench is 5 ft long and there are only three people sitting and mathematically we can leave at least 6 inches between when I end and where you begin. But they don’t get it even when you make the inward move-meant-to-move-away to avoid the edge of the bag they are holding on their knees, which is digging into my thighs without permission. And then a finger rummages inside a nostril, comes out and wipes itself on the bag, and I quickly get up and leave, running away from the invisible germs chasing me.

Then of course, our famous q culture, and we are clueless, ruthless and queue-less around it. In a bus q (which I haven’t tried for decades now), or an airport q (the most recent encounter) or a q in a washroom or a q to exit from a plane, the people behind stick to me actually, all their protruding parts trying to fit seamlessly into me and me moving forward instinctively only to be dissuaded by the vast bottom and the backpack of the person in front. Saying “excuse me” believing that it will miraculously create space in the mass of humanity, fails. My awkward motion to create some gap, only results in others moving forward to occupy all the space available, quite like the definition of gaseous material, which by the way, is available in abundance in all such locations, and you feel suffocated. No, keep your bosom away, pls and then being hit by the whack of the backpack being slung over the shoulder, or a boot stepping on my toe and my screams drowned in the giggles of the uncaring children around- don’t you have eyes at the back of your head, or a mouth that can mouth sorry! By the time I reach home, I feel quite like having passed through a sugarcane juicer.

I sometimes wish someone should invent a space-ial invisible magnetic wall around me, so as soon as an ass tries to come within the no-man’s-land, they get a shock of their lives and are forced to back off. I mean I do have a right to my personal space- including my bruised toe, and any attempt invasion should be legally prohibited. Maybe there can be a restraining order by default, nobody comes within 1 ft of another human being. Look at Norway, country with basic minimal set of people and abundance of personal space.

The third kind who make a space-tacle of themselves is the nosey public- typically the elderly auntie whose only interest in life is to ensure they get to see all the dirty linen before it is washed. They have to know when is x getting married, and when are y having their kid (with graphic details), what is my salary, where do I live, who ran away with whom and why am my travelling and more. And that is after I am trying to hide behind the large spectacles having suddenly developed an wild interest in a book, or pretending to be asleep and only responding in monosyllables. They would size me up and down and come to conclusion about how cheap my clothes are and what parlour I go to, and that my Gucci watch is a fake, quite like the robot reading my vital statistics – “Caucasian female, ht 160 cm…”, in that monotonous intonation. They are also the ones who always know why India played badly in the last match, or what Trump should do differently, what is Kareena doing these days and they insist on giving me all the gyan, uninvited and unwelcome. Come on, give me some space! Oh, why didn’t God say, Let there be space! I need air!

Another group of people who I find utterly cringeworthy are the ones who talk extra loud on the phone or listen to the infamous videos on speaker in public places and then laugh even louder. Gone are the days when you needed to shout on the phone. If you have detective instincts, you will soon know what goods the fellow sells and at what rate, why his son failed in exams, his wife is cooking brinjals tonight and that he loves Kapil jokes. I am really trying hard to respect your privacy; now do I need to wear earphones in order to avoid hearing you. I mean the damn thing was invented so you could listen to your shit while I listened to mine and the waves don’t cross each other’s path and mutual interference could be avoided. I am totally disinterested in the menu of the last wedding you attended or what is the latest in the soap- Nagiin.

Ah, at such times, I so prefer the younger generation, who with their headphones and heads down into their mobiles are fully occupied in a room full of strangers or family and our communication is limited to “food?” “yeah” and “all good?”. Likes are the most impersonal means of communication, you declare your presence and leave it at that, comments are good too, you can choose to respond if and when you want. And since people do not get their fingers up their noses on media, it is quite tolerable.  Sometimes cyber space is best crafted to get away and really get some space! I mean, I have heard from solid sources that giving “the look” makes people respect your space, but whenever I have tried that, it fails miserably and I normally get worse looks or the finger or a blasphemy back. That takes me into an introspective mode trying to determine why my looks don’t kill with a laser beam! Would getting into my shell work? Or do I need a space suit suitable for my space?

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How to act smart and impress people – by Jhil Velli thi

His eyes had a glazed look. He looked up for a few moments. Then stared down at his fried rice intently. His gaze has the perplexity of the philosopher who was trying to figure out the recipe. I wondered – what happened? He looked at me like I had asked the most innocuous question pertaining to the existence of the universe. And then looked back defiantly at the rice. All ok-?- I was beginning to get worried. No, he nodded the Indian no. and finally said – I am thinking. Wow, like wow. The great man is thinking. His grey cells are working. And what, prey, I asked, frustrated, are you thinking? After a poignant pause, he deigned to look up from the fried rice puzzle, and muttered, I will tell you when I have thought. Man, was I impressed!

And then the corn went pop in my mind, this is a clear-cut technique about how to act smart and impress people. Not all mortals can do it. His utterance with the right pauses and at the right time, made me wonder whether he was thinking of how the stars aligned to have fried rice find its way to his stomach. Now, if anyone ever asked me what I was thinking, I would have the most idiotic mundane reply like what was the name of the actor in that bad last movie we saw, see how common place, nothing impressive at all about it.

Acting smart is about saying the unexpected thing at the unexpected time, not the expected normal response. And then the general feeling is- what a guy (or gal), he thinks out of the box. – The question about where and which box we are talking about somehow is never considered and questioned. Are we all living within this invisible box? The person who thinks out of the box, probably crossed that sacred boundary and thought something, that is a big deal, whatever the hell he thought is completely irrelevant.

Today I am going to tell the world about the art to act smart and impress people, have had decades of practice. I will give you all the tips and knowledge and will not even charge for it. Just make sure you adopt these great innovative ideas in your daily life.

  • Look the part, to act the right part. You have to wear spectacles, the large nerdy round ones. With thick lenses, that makes your eyes look quite like an owl’s. Your hair should be plastered in oil (or you can go bald, the smartest ones are believed to be bald. The clothes you should wear have to be
    1. Out of fashion
    2. Shabby, maybe even torn so people think you are so nerdy you have no idea what you are wearing.
    3. Loose so you look hopelessly shapeless.
    4. Colours you wouldn’t want to look dead in.
    5. A viable alternative- to all of the above is to wear a formal suit in summers when outdoors like on a beach. And glares when indoors. That does the trick too.

 What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you see such a person – this guy must be a genius or someone important. Exactly, that is a feeling you need to be able to generate. The finale effect can be created with odourant that reminds people of rotten apples or maybe dead rats.

(There is this another related species, round face, curly hair, big round stomach, black designer saree, big bindi, big and bold matching jewellery (even temples around the neck), and a strong perfumed attitude, that marks the arrival of the bong pseudo-intellectual- saw several while watching a Bong play, and they all fitted to the T)

  • Never answer a question directly. If asked even the time, you should sigh, look up and down as if wondering about space time travel and NASA, take down your spectacles and clean then with your dirty clothes, wear them again and then say with a resigned look, the times are really bad, my son. The moment has gone, the microsecond when you asked the question is lost in the eon and now after 1/ 23467th eon, do you think that time will come back again, in that fraction you could have achieved so much. Trust me, though the poor fellow may wonder why he ever spoke to you, he will confidently tell the rest of the world, what a guy, his thoughts are out of the world and will send some of his smarter enemies your way. But never, never give a direct response.
  • In a meeting, you can choose an article in the room to focus on, which can be a flower vase, or the aforementioned fried rice plate or maybe your handkerchief. Or maybe close your eyes with a weary look. Let everyone around talk. And in between a heated discussion and a flurry of emotions, suddenly pipe up loud enough- what if ? everyone will stop and look at you. Don’t complete your sentence and go back to the tranced state of detailed examination of the handkerchief. After a while people will go back to their discussion. After five minutes repeat yourself. And after about 5 times of doing this frustrating everyone out of their wits, finally say- what if we now took a break? The brain cells are heating up and the solution is right there, but I can see it only after gulping the coffee. They will all want to hit you, but dare not, in case you do pop out the genius answer of the year, post coffee.
  • Learn some very relevant phrases. Remember that the right phrase at the right time can make a world’s difference between whether you are perceived as a fool or a smart ass.
    1. Do you mean to say that…
    2. I feel what you are saying makes sense but…
    3. There is a saying that explains it all, just that it is eluding me…
    4. Under the given circumstances, can u say with authority that…
    5. My experience of past 20 years says that…
    6. Hmmmm
    7. (sigh) hmmmm
    8. (laugh) hmmmm
    9. (Smirk) hmmmm
    10. (snort) hmmmm

This hmmmm is a universally understood language depicting a range of emotions- based on the tone and can convey almost anything from – “are you dumb”, to “this is perfect”. This always confuses and when you have successfully confused people around you, they will think you are a direct disciple of Einstein.

  • The last rule, act asshole class confident. If nothing else works, this will. When you walk in, look like you own the place. Signalling people with the flick of finger or a raised eyebrow indicates best in class. Don’t introduce yourself, assume people know you and if they don’t, it is their loss. “You don’t know me” with an incredulous look does wonders. You can follow it with “who is the owner of this godforsaken dump?” If it is a quiet place, shout loudly – maybe at the receptionist. Everyone is sure to notice and wonder who this VIP is. Or if this is too tough, just be downright rude. Profanities can be used to sprinkle flavours. Only mango people are humble and respectful.

Well, if you can’t do any of this, maybe you really aren’t smart, or you can’t act, or just not born to be a class apart. If you are not a smart ass, I guess you are just a dumb ass.

Worthless Rant

Of late, I have been feeling nobly unworthy. And it all started with the DIY and 5 minute craft videos. Somehow those videos have a mesmerising quality, you can watch it repeatedly and still not fathom what is coming next. What you can’t do is actually try to replicate it. That is when you realise, that you are dumb. You are an idiot and something that looks so trivial, you can’t even do that! What use is this life without being able to successfully do a simple do-it-yourself. In fact, I am so unworthy, you can use me as a worthy example on how not to turn out to be.

To further reduce my self-esteem, I have tried to list down a horde of things I can’t do, and how useful the rest of the world is, as compared to me.

  1. I can’t stitch the shirts and trousers that my son wears. I keep on hearing how certain someone stitches all the clothes for her daughter, her dresses and everything and how she manages to find the time to do all this after finishing all the chores in the house in a joint family. They are so well made, better than ready-made clothes. I have therefore concluded that I completely wasted my yesteryears getting an engineering degree, getting into IIT, and then working rest of my life. I should have been a seamstress and sewed clothes for my family, including the banian (vest) and underwear’s, I could have walked with my head held high. How worthless am I that I can’t even stitch the traditional “A” on the banians.
  2. I am unable to cook “Usha poha” (snacks with rice flakes). The name depicts the owner of the recipe, Usha, my maid of honour, makes awesome Poha. And try as I might, I am unable to replicate the patented recipe. As my esteemed husband would say “tumhara poha thoda dry hota hain” (The poha you make is dry), or “tumne chini nahi dali” (you missed adding sugar), or “vaisa nahi hain jaisa usha banati hain” (doesn’t taste like Usha Poha) or “who baat nahi hain” (It is not as good).  I bow my head with shame, why doesn’t the earth swallow me up, I can’t even make poha well (The Usha poha version). I hitherto wish I had learnt culinary skills rather than internet technologies and C programming.
  3. I am hopelessly inadequate at the art of selfie taking. I will not elaborate on this, we all know how insignificant and miserable we feel when we are unable to post selfies once a week on Facebook, I can’t even post once a year, I am so bad. In fact, read my blog https://myhumerousbone.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/i-me-selfie/ to gather more details about my selfie shaming. There is body shaming, there is fat shaming, there is colour shaming, with me it is selfie shaming. Shame on my selfies. I think I am only capable of asking Siri to do the needful- only if I get the accent.
  4. I have two left feet and I cannot dance, sala. Period. All my childhood and adulthood, people have tried to push me on to the floor and after a brief look at my clumsy attempts, they give up. They can’t bear to watch me. I can see them struggling to be kind, no it is ok, you anyway said you can’t dance (I can hear the brains creaking – we also can’t dance but our can’t dance is any day better than your can’t dance). This is not TRUE. I can actually dance better than, hmmm, ok.. I knew I had a name.. at least one person on this earth.. Sunny Deol, maybe? I mean why did God send me to this world to be insulted in this fashion, and danced away to glory.
  5. Of course, at an elevated level are the DIY’s where you mess up the whole shit and come to the conclusion that life isn’t fair. They are designed to reduce your feeling of I-am-good-bro down to ashes. How can that idiot on youtube do this and I can’t. Is it because I am dumber? I once tried to do a DIY fashion hack –(I presume the intent was to make you look sexier). There was a spelling mistake. It made me look messier, till I gave it up for pocha (mop). I mean how tough is cutting cloth with scissors, but somehow when I do it, the shape ends up pretty much shapeless. I think I am more a DDIY fan, bole to, Don’t Do It Yourself, unless of course, you have absolutely nothing to do, Still better, watch Netflix, a better use of time and less wastage of things-I bought-that-I-had-no-use-for.

I can hold up my head for my one and only one quality. I breathe out CO2 for plants. Nobody can take that away from me. During this deep introspection phase, I also absurdly observed that there are so many other things far worthier. Well, think of something you consider good for nothing. I can guarantee they are still better than good for nothing me.

  • A piece of rag (post DIY effect), we can use it to clean running noses, or the kitchen table, as a wiser person told me.
  • An old broken bottle – DIY has taught me they are most useful things discovered since the fire.
  • An old broken gramophone (don’t ask what that is, google it, pls, they still need to come out with google for dummies) – Even that can be repaired. But I am above repair (do I mean beneath repair, or maybe beyond repair?)
  • A piece of trash – come on- recycle, reuse, you know the ropes. Find a DIY to tell you what to do with it.

Unworthily yours

P.S. Self Esteem is exactly that, the esteem you hold for yourself. Who cares what the world thinks! Hold up your head and walk tall. Fall if you haven’t observed what you are walking into, pick yourself up and start again. Tell yourself you are worthy of falling over better things (sorry, my sarcastic avatar gets the better of my pious self). Grow up, doesn’t matter. You feel worthless, tell the world and laugh with them. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone, yes anyone, get you down, you owe yourself that. You are the best (at something, even If it is at breathing out CO2).

Around the world in 20 days

Why does that remind of the lost Raj Kapoor song “Around the world in 8 dollars”? It all started with my young boy persuading to take a vacation during Diwali. “See, Karnataka day and Diwali, so I get 10 days off if I take 5 days leave”, Not sure of the math, but his persuasion skills worked. We debated from South Korea (who in their right mind takes a vacation in Korea), Japan (hmmm, maybe another time), Australia (spending Diwali in Summer, no) and New Zealand. New Zealand won (not the world cup). A month of planning and discussions and bookings. You guys should drive in NZ, traffic is non-existent and gives you flexibility. Again, the persuasion skill worked and we (I mean I) decided to drive through the country.

Since we are a family spread across the West, East and Southern regions, decided to meet at the capital to embark on the actual journey. Our first stop was the windy city, Auckland. November is supposed to be technically summer in the southern hemisphere but looks like nobody informed Auckland. A blast of cold air greeted us as we landed. Watering eyes, jackets and hoodies in place, we found an Indian Uber driver to drive us to our apartment. After a sumptuous lunch of puri and sabji (vegetarian Indians never travel without their puris and theplas?), wandered to the harbor side to take some pics. All well, except that the hair was in a constant mess, and standing to pose for photos was tough as the wind seemed determined to blow us off (I am thinking Marilyn Monroe for no apparent reason). Auckland proved a very lively city with a young vibrant crowd, beautiful parks and harbors and a nightlife lasting till wee hours.

The famous Auckland Harbor

Couple of days later, we had to pick up our car. Now, I was a trifle apprehensive, not having driven in another country for long many years. Here we are. Ok, now how does it start, where do I insert the key? Not finding a keyhole after a thorough search, realization dawned, it is a button start. Now that engine is purring, why isn’t it moving? You need to release the brake, you silly cow! A few minutes later, Oh hell, slow down, this aint your country, dear. Where the hell is the clutch? It is called automatic gears, idiot. My legs were already stressed out. Fit the GPS, how the hell do you look at the GPS, rear view mirror, and windshield, I can’t rotate my head so many degrees. Where is the nasty fellow who persuaded me? I panic when I encounter drivers following rules and not honking, you can’t believe how stressful peaceful driving can be!

The gaseous volcanic region

 

Following traffic rules was not a big deal, I am one of the few morons who does that in India as well. Except that I was thoroughly confused at the roundabout.  Who has the right of way? (what is right of way, by the way, and by which way?) By Indian standards, there was plenty of room and I entered the roundabout, cutting off an angry lady, who decided to teach me a lesson. She stopped and gave me a stern lecture on “how-to drive in NZ” “do you even know the rules”. Sorry sorry ma’m. Ears burning, I decided to let everyone else in the country takes precedence and was subject to quite a few honks when I went full-stop at every roundabout from irate people behind me.

The gloomy deserted beaches

Drove through live volcanic regions and waterfalls, empty windy beaches and desert, curvy and straight roads, the length of north island all the way down to Wellington. The beauty of the country can’t be described in words or captured in photos. You have to see with your own eyes. The cleanest country I have ever seen, (so clean, dustbins are rare too) sparsely populated and ever-changing landscape. Felt like Britain of the South, strong European influence, with Westminster and Windsor, even a Stonehenge.

Mapping the location

Enjoyed staying on the beachfront at Wellington. Most people seemed very health conscious running the length of harbor in the middle of the day. Typical Airbnb apartments in the country are tiny, one bedroom and living area converted to three- four people living space and quite expensive in city centers. Some of them so crowded, you could hardly move without falling on the beanbags which seems to be a trend. Apartments, hotels, cafes, airports, you can find beanbags thrown around everywhere.

A view to kill

Flew to the heart of South Island- Queenstown. It was literally touch and go. The plane touched (almost) the runway thrice and went back twice. Landed in the third attempt. The gale was too strong and the runway too small. But man, what a view. Drastic change from North island, flying through southern Alps with snow peaked tops and glaciers was breathtaking. Queenstown is a tiny tourist town filled only with pubs and adventure sports.  With a breathless husband struggling to trot uphill and rains all the time (and snowing a few kilometers away), we ziplined with soaking shoes through the massive trees and waited for the weather to clear to fly to Milford Sound. A cool cruise through the fjord surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterfalls, watching dolphins and seals, (and listening to gujus chirping on the deck); flying to the location in our very own private plane was the highlight of the whole tour, with a pilot who looked every inch the twin of Owen Wilson.

The Eighth Wonder

 

Vacations don’t last forever. A day in Christchurch and its parks and it was time to fly back. Hold on. The story isn’t done yet.

I had to travel to San Diego in the US of A. Off-line to Off-site. Crossing the Pacific, and the date line. I was massively thrilled with the idea of living two complete Sundays, one while flying, and another in US, because I was going to land before I flew off. Crazy, isn’t it? I kept waiting for the time machine whrrr sound and the bump and motion that would indicate I had gone back in time. What I still have not figured out is whether getting two back to back Sundays made me a day older or stopped my ageing for a day.

The falls in the Fiord

Walking is the best way to absorb new places and take in its culture. Every day we walked almost 10-12 kilometers easily. But the airports felt I did not get enough exercise and made me run. Flight delays, fear of missing an international connection, run run, huffing and puffing, luggage and all. Happened towards US and from US. Lesson learnt, 2 hours transit time is never enough, not when I am on the flight.

San Diego, Del Coronado hotel, one of the oldest in the city, home to many celebrities across decades, supposedly haunted, with miles of beach and enough of Sun to recover from the cold damp weather of previous week. A week of Sun and beach (a little work) and visits to downtown was a perfect finale to the journey. Some minor hiccups when one night my air conditioning gave way (the nights were still cold) and I needed to wear my jacket and socks to sleep, and another day a belt mysteriously appeared in my room (maybe it was the ghost’s gift, or the housekeeping’s tryst).

IMG-5624
The Del Coronado beach

Finally flew back to India, amidst flight delays and traffic jams to land back at home 20 days hence. Since I got two Sundays, should that be 21 days? With tired knees, swollen shins, confused stomach, gigabytes of media and unforgettable memories.