Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A subway story

I work late nights. It's less distracting, and the gloominess of a new york night suits my taste a lot more than the garishness of sunshine. A consequence of this is that I spend a lot of time late at nights at subway stations, waiting for trains running off-peak schedules. It can be an interesting place to be at night, primarily so for the people you run into.

Take the other day, for instance, when I sat at a station in upper Brooklyn waiting for the R-train that would take me home. It was like any other day. My mp3 player was out of charge and I was getting rather bored, so I looked around, pondering at the pointlessness of it all. Apart from the MTA workers who were changing trash-bags, the only other person around stood at the far end of the platform - a pleasantly portly man of indeterminate age, in a hat, round-frames and a well-cut three-piece suit that looked rather out of place there. I thought it rather strange. What followed was even stranger. He noticed that i was looking around, and walked over.

"Do you mind if i sit here, young man?", he asked in an oddly soothing voice - the accent part BBC and part network english.
Making himself comfortable on the adjacent seat, he pulled out a silver pocket watch and frowned.
"Never on time, these people. I must have a word with them sometime."
"So", he turned around, "what do you do for a living?"
Quite an uncharacteristic question in this city, but the sincere crow's feet at the corners of his eyes were rather reassuring.
"I study"
"Well, so do i! I study people. You might say I am a.. what do they call it?"
"A psychologist?", I ventured.
"Yes! A psychologist. But not exactly, since I am in the spiritual business"
"A priest?", I asked.
"In a manner of speaking. But priests and godmen are little but minions working for Religion & Co. , wouldn't you say? I have much more, dare I say it, *extensive* interests in the business".
With that, he bent over and whispered conspirationally, "Lets say, for the sake of the analogy, that I am a very influential partner"

I was too confused to say anything when he pointed an index finger upwards and asked me, "So tell me, do you believe in *Him*?"
"Mostly agnostic. I cannot find rational justifications for why he should exist. He may or may not and either way i do not think it directly affects me."
"Have you never sinned?"
"That depends on how you define it, right?"
He laughed. "Let me tell you that he does exist. Both of us do."

Then it hit me.
"I thought you looked different. Not so.. friendly."
"Ah, you mean the horns and forked tail? I still do it occasionally. It was a clever gig, but lately I have diversified into another line of business. You know exactly why the costume has to be there if i had to harvest my fair share, right?"
"Because sin cannot exist without fear?"
"And what does *fear* need in order to exist?"

I grew curious. "What is the nature of this diversification?"

"Good question. Not only the question, but also the reason that makes you ask it. Let me first tell you about the agreement i had with *him*. Leaving aside the fine print, the basic idea was that those who feared consequence would be *his* and those who did not would be mine. The whole religion thing was just a way of implementing it."
"I see"
He pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose and continued,"Then I had a better idea. It would allow me to have greater reach, while still remaining true to our agreement. I realised its potential long ago, but for very many years, i could not implement it. For most of history, man was just too busy just trying to stay alive. But lately things have changed, and it's been rather easy".
"Most of all," he chuckled, "this line does not involve Halloween costumes and visions of fire and brimstone and imagined reincarnations as lower life forms."

An approaching train rumbled in the express tunnel, three blasts of the horn indicating it was a service train.

"Ah", he stood up. "Its time."
"Wait, I don't understand", and followed him to the edge of the platform, as he leaned over the edge and peered into the tunnel.
"Its easy, son. We - me and *him* that is - built the edifice of religion around one of the basest of human emotions - fear. But there is another emotion that is equally fundamental, and, for my purposes, more potent, because it does not involve *him*. Fear is important for keeping religion going, but without this other thing, we would not have been able to sell the concept of it in the first place."

The train rolled in - a service train pulling open wagons meant to carry trashbags. It stopped for a brief while and the workers threw bags into the wagons.

He climbed into a wagon and continued, "My new line would just need thinking, questioning minds. And the more men found time for it, the bigger would be my harvest. You see, this thing that I talk about leads most people to the realization that consequence is an arbitrary concept and hence not to be feared. And as per our contract, they are mine."

The train gave another blast on the horn and started moving. "If you still don't know what I am talking about, recall how you felt life was when you first saw me".

"And what brought you that conclusion?", he said, receding farther and farther away.
"The quest for purpose."
"And what drives that quest?", he shouted as he disappeared into the bowels of the underground.

"Curiosity", I mouthed silently and smiled.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On torture..

if you have been catching up with current affairs over the last couple of weeks, you would be aware of the stand-off between Senator John Mccain and the Bush administration over the torture of detainees by US government entities. McCain spent five years being tortured in rat-infested vietnamese prisons and he knows a thing or two about torture. Which is why, in this case, we have reasons to listen to him. And before you get worried about where this post his headed, let me tell you this is not a political rant. You see, I know a thing or two about torture too.

Surprised? Don't be. For you see, I regularly torture frankfurters. Not the people, but the sausages. Here's the how to of it in a few simple steps:

1. The first thing you want to do when you feel like torturing frankfurters is to get hold of them. Frankfurters are notoriously hard to capture. At the first sign of danger, their ears perk up and they hide. Fortunately modern technology has developed a way to keep them sedated in the meat section of supermarkets. Approach them quietly and carefully. You don't want them to awaken. When you are close enough, grab them quickly, and hold on to them tight.

2. Even after you have laid your hands on them, there is still the tricky part of getting them out of the custody of the supermarket guys. You will have to resort to bribery at the check-in counter. The bribe usually goes under the name of "Retail Price", so that supermarkets can keep their accounts clean and not be accused of abetting the torture of innocent sausages.

3. When you get them to your place, lock them up immediately in your fridge. The other day I forgot to do this, and I found them later, cowering under my kitchen table. I would have missed them completely had it not been for the fact that I am such a pro at this game.

4. There are several methods of extracting information from them. Some people prefer to cut them up and otherwise mutilate them. I like to do it whole, either boiling them alive or grilling. Show no mercy. Only then will you get the answers you seek.

5. preheat a pan, pour a little oil on it, and show the frankfurter the meaning of a proper grilling. Alternately let them know what it means to land in hot water. Be careful. They have a mean bite and if you don't watch out, they will jump out and scamper away. If you want to increase your pleasure, make the frankfurter's mates watch it.

6. Sometimes a frankfurter will die while you are at it. Since we want to be humane, and since we are morally superior to them, we respect their dead. The best thing to do is to give them a dignified burial. Out of respect for frankfurter traditions, lay them on a soft hot dog roll and, in accordance with their rituals, cover them with mustard, relish and ketchup. Let them rest in pieces in your stomach.

7. Even if a frankfurter dies, don't let it bother you. There's the other frankfurters, they will surely know. All frankfurters are in on the big secret, so a little collateral damage is acceptable. If all the frankfurters you have in your custody die one by one, you can always head out to the supermarket to capture more. Don't worry, some day, they will reveal the big secret. Till then, in the interest of national security, it is our job, as conscientious citizens, to keep trying.

Heh. Not for nothing is this site called mental deviation.

Monday, December 12, 2005

doing g-d's work..

So I went through a bout of the *cough cough* and the *sniffle sniffle* last week, because of which I missed my regular post. Apologies hence and a promise, mes amis, that I will make up for it. on to regular programming.

I hate happy people. Happiness is an unnatural state. If God wanted us to be happy, he would have filled the world with sunshine, hot women and reshmi kebabs. (replace 'woman' with 'man' if you are a woman or are gay-not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that)

Take that simple question: "How was your day?" I mean, come on. Surely *something* is always wrong: Maybe you got constipated, maybe your boss yelled at you, maybe you haven't gotten to nail that hot chick (women: substitute, substitute) who sits across the aisle from you at work. I hate it that social mores require us to answer that question with a "Not bad". Whatever happened to honesty?

People like me have an important role to play in a hypocritical society like this. I belong to that little-known band of people dedicated to carrying out God's *true* intent: we are the happiness-destroyers. I don't want to toot my own trumpet here, (heh, 'TOOT my own trumpet', don't you just *love* the sound of that phrase? :)), but I am a pro at making people miserable. Here's a sample conversation that happened between me and an acquaintance called P, a fellow graduate student, who like me, left a comfortable life to pursue intellectual ambitions. This was a few days ago, on the way to the subway station.

"How's life?", I asked her.
"O-kay", she replied, eyeing me suspiciously.
"Surely its not Okay"
"No it is. Actually my day was quite good. I got some work done today."
"So, it means I've fulfiled my purpose for the day, and I have the right to feel happy about myself"

Oh, sweet. A home run.

"Reaaaally?", I asked her, "You are old and fat and ugly. Nobody really likes you, and what you do is pointless. After you die, you will have made no difference to the world. To top it all, you left a cushy job with a chauffeur driven car to be in this hell-hole, and now you scrounge around for free food in graduate seminars. What makes you think you have the right to feel happy about yourself?"

I would have thought people would be grateful for having been shown that big picture perspective. Sadly it is not true. P doesnt talk to me any more. Some people just love to live in denial.

its a thankless job, this one, i tell you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Friends and their worse halves

So its that time of the week when I spout nonsense on this page. And todays little nugget of a rant is about idiotic friends who used to be normal till they hooked up with random people you cannot get along with. These worse halves, or significantly bad others, so to speak, come in different flavors. Since some of these are unique to genders, they will be presented as such:
1. Mrs. "You never visit us"
Typically female, this is the ever so unpopular chick who manages to snag a popular guy, and then proceeds to assume that all his friends are her friends. The trouble: there is a *reason* why she was unpopular. Maybe she was just a whiny annoying snitch, maybe she didn't like to hang out with all the bad guys because they drink, maybe she's just plain hideously ugly. For whatever reason, she will proceed to take liberties with his friends making statements like, "you are such a good friend of ours. Why do you never visit?". The cause, my lady, is you. With these types, things are okay, till the mysterious process of marriagification eventually causes your friend to behave like her.
2. Mr. "I'm better than you"
This is a male type. Typically, a loser who is married to your cool female friend - the one whose panties you won in a wager at a bar. The guy suffers from perpetual insecurity caused by a belief that he's not good enough for her. Which he is not. To make it worse, your cool friend, instead of cursing her utter lack of judgement about the fool, actually gushes about him in his absence. Socializing with these dudes is a traumatic affair where you are constantly challenged to drink more, talk louder, drive faster/better. If this happens to be a loser who also makes lot of money, incomes will be discussed and cool addresses will be flaunted. And all the while your friend gazes adoringly at him as if he is a Greek God.
3. Mrs "Look at me i'm so pretty"
Female. Attention seeking. Attention seeking behavior not restricted to the husband. She will openly flirt with you, while the husband, your friend looks on. Things can get very embarassing. The other day, one of these types kept commenting that the mole on the tip of my nose was very cute. Reason: "I have a mole on the tip of my nose too, and I'm cute". These ones will accompany their hubbies to the pub where you and the bloke used to hang out before he terminated his effective life by marrying the chick. They will proceed to hog the attention of all the males around. It gets worse when he looks at her adoringly even as she manages to completely disgrace herself. You can only drown your annoyance in pints of beer.
4. Mr. "Perfect as an antique book-case"
An overachieving male, very successful. Cloyingly nice, and he treats your female friend like a princess. The only problem: the guy is about as interesting as the antique book case that he and your friend lovingly imported from italy. Interesting in a "Oh, here's an antique book case" kind of a way, but dead as far as conversations go.
5. Mr. Hawk
Male chauvinist pig. Expects your friend to manage her career and the house at the same time. And heaven forbid if she makes more money than him. Basically an idiot. Should be shot. Gets worse when your female friend rationalizes it by uttering the dreaded "C" word: Compromise.
6. Mrs. woolly mammoth
Female. Ugly. Fat. Hairy. To make it worse, she is not even a nice person. Tried to convince your buddy - a very decent bloke, that you are the root of all evil in the world. Later, when he was sufficiently domesticated, prohibited him from meeting up with the buddies. Eventually succeeded in sucking all the life force out of the guy. Proceeded to dance on his lifeless body.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Disclaimer: This is based on a true story. If you do not believe in ghosts, it is not my problem.

Deep inside a national park in Central India is the tribal village of Belkund. Belkund means the pond of the Bel tree, named so for obvious reasons. The pond itself is located at the base of a cliff: it is a watering hole frequented by tigers, deer and other big game. at the edge of the cliff is a dak bungalow that has seen better days. big verandahs, high ceilings, faded black and white photographs of british officers proudly posing with their trophies. electricity is yet to come to these parts.

A small path leaves the dak-bungalow and switches back and forth down the face of the cliff, leading to a wildlife observation platform disguised amongst the branches of a bel tree. a brief note on the bel tree is in order here. Its leaves are believed to have healing properties, and find use in both hindu religious practice, and in traditional medicine. It is also the preferred abode of ghosts.

Late one summer night, he sits up, ghost-like, hoping to catch a glimpse of a tiger that is known to frequent the pond. Its a warm night and he dozes off. He is woken up by the soft clinking of anklets. ordinary anklets of the kind that are frequently worn by tribal women in india.

It's too late for any of the villagers to come down to the pond, and walking around at night is unadvisable. Unable to see well enough in the light of the half moon, he scrabbles down the rungs of the ladder, only to hear footsteps up in the tree. Scared and disturbed, he heads back to the bungalow. He turns around the first switchback and realizes that the footsteps are following him. He runs. All 500 or so feet up the cliff face, chased by the unseen sound.

Gasping, he reaches the bungalow. The door to their room opens into the verandah, and he knocks on it, as he hears the approaching sound of footsteps across the stone floor. Thankfully S, his hiking companion groggily opens the door just in time; he shuts the door and bolts it.

"What happened?"

For he can hear the footsteps in his room. S turns and looks around, wide-eyed, terrified. As they cower under the blankets, she walks the room, unseen, given away only by the sound of her anklets, and the occasional self-satisfied soft laugh.

The next morning, they relate the incident to the caretaker of the dak-bungalow, a wizened old man of seventy years. His father had been the caretaker of the bungalow, and before him, his grandfather. It is a familiar occurence for him, he says, happening only to single males who stay in the dak-bungalow. In any case, he knows her.

She would have been his great-aunt. In nineteen twenty six, she was a girl of eighteen. His name was wilson, an englishman five thousand miles away from home, in the sweltering jungles of the Central Provinces. He had raped her, and she had jumped off the cliff to hide her shame.

They stay away from people, the undead do. They prefer the wild, and in cities, the back alleys and the hidden nooks and crannies. But they will occasionally drop by and make their presence felt, as a gentle reminder that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Little did he realize that fateful night that she would fall in love and, unknown to him, decide to be with him. She menaces the women he wants to be with and he wonders why he remains single. Little does he realize on the lonely nights when he is woken up by the sound of her footsteps and her laughter, that he has an unseen lover.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oooo Oooooo!

I'm scared. Scared of those of you who threaten me with bodily harm for not putting up posts. Besides i like to keep my dear readers happy. So here's a new one on how you can have fun at interviews. This is for all those of you who have a fire in their belly (no, not the kind that comes from eating too much spicy food) and are ambitious and motivated and other such things.

Oh, and don't feel too proud. You may have your zeal for life, but we have our own private rain-cloud that follows us where-ever we go, and continually dumps water on our heads. Occasionally we also have little private flashes of lightning that singe our hair and peals of thunder that perforate our eardrums.

So here is the secret to successful (depending on your definition of the word) interviews:

a. Go for the cute seeing-eye doggie angle. Nothing makes an interview more successful than being imaginarily blind and having an imaginary seeing-eye dog. Make sure the dog is large, friendly and enthusiastic, you know the kind of dog that goes and immediately licks people's faces? Walk into the room with your dog. Don't let him get overly friendly, though! We don't want to annoy the interview panel, do we?

If the dog gets too excited, reassure them that it's friendly. And make sure the damn beast sits down when you start talking. Curb the dog if he gets fidgety. "Down Boy!" and "I *told* you to *sit*" are two commands that work remarkably well on imaginary seeing eye dogs. Trust me. I know.

b. Yeee-haww! Interview panels like cowboys. Not just when they are gay, but even otherwise. Wear your favorite ten-gallon hat, hip-hugging wranglers and cowboy boots with spurs. Gallop into the room, Monty python style (making clip-clop sounds with your mouth while hopping into the room). Make sure your horse is tied up and fed before the interview. Fuss over him. Horsies like being fussed over.

c. If you are a bloke, aim to seduce. Wear a dress. A Sharon-Stone-in-Basic-instinct kind of dress. Move your chair away from the table so that your panel has a good view and then repeatedly cross and uncross your legs. From time to time, keep mouthing the "You know I'm not wearing panties" line.

d. If you are a chick, try the 'Happy Kielbasa' trick. It works wonders, but requires a bit of preparation. First look at this picture. Get the point? The sausage is taped to your thigh at one end, the other end is free and tied to a string. The string goes behind your back over the shoulders, down your sleeve and into your hand. A tug on the string, and there is a distinct bulge in your trousers/skirt. All you need to do now is to think of a suitable target in your interview panel. Preferably choose an old geezer. Everytime you look at him, pull the string, and let the bulge show. When ever you look away, let go. It works trust me. A friend of mine tried this and they made her a spot offer. Apparently the head guy had a thing for alternately- gendered individuals. I swear I am not making this up.

Or maybe I am.

e. If you sense negative energy in the room, tell the panel you want to hold a communion. Hold hands. Make everyone hold hands. Then recite this prayer, "I can see that the presence of the dark lord has touched the people in this room. May the power of Satan be with me. *Behold* his servant cometh in all his glory!!", as you turn into a demon with horns and a forked tail. Proceed to tear their hearts out and leave them as sacrificial offerings at the altar of your dark master.

Dude, that's really f***ed up!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

How to make effective presentations

Here's an almost foolproof plan for making excellent presentations:

1. Go in with a sheep and a goat. For effect, have pens ready to hold them, one to the left of the audience and the other to the right. If someone asks a question, say:

"All questions will be directed to.."
>gesture towards the sheep< "My sacrificial Lamb or.." >gesture towards the goat<
"My scapegoat"

2. Go in carrying two baskets: One full of deadly cobras, and another with a couple of mongooses (point of debate: is it mongooses or mongii?), and a troupe of dancers. At the start, release your cobras into the audience till they bite them and half the audience is dead. Once this is accomplished, release the mongooses (or mongii, if you please). They will kill and eat up the snakes. In the end you are left with half the audience and a couple of mongooses (or mongii, if you please) scurrying about the room.

How does one get rid of the mongooses, you ask?

Hmm. Thats where the dancers come in.

Why dancers, you ask?

To seduce the mongooses back into their baskets, what else?

acknowledgements to friend W for contributing to this madness. Coming up: Tips on interviewing in style

Friday, November 04, 2005

on being reality-challenged

A gloomy evening, grey skies and people burrowed deep into their Manhattan-black overcoats and jackets make my heart sing with schadenfreude. Happiness is relative. In a world where everyone was sad, a chronic depressive grump like me would be the happiest person around.

There are seventeen of us who share this body. It is a singularly warm feeling, in a very "Let us all hold hands and sing Kumbayah" kind of a way. In a world whose sole purpose seems to be to betray, we have found the perfect solution to loneliness. Even when there is no other human being to talk to, you can talk to the voices in your head. Or laugh. Like I just did. The voices - they said something funny. You will find out what, eventually. Or maybe not.

I find the word "insane" offensive, for it has connotations of something being wrong. I'm not insane, I'm just reality-challenged. Don't you think it strange that society considers "sane" to be normal and "insane" to be abnormal? I mean, just look around you. Do you think there is any semblance of sanity in what's happening around this place?

Yanyway, welcome, all of you. Those of you who know me from my previous avatar can expect some more of the madness here. To those of you who are new, all of us welcome all of you and are pleased to make your acquaintance. And rest assured, over time, you will get know who we are.

ps: Many thanks to Megha, the template queen, for all the help.