Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4-0908T

There’s a shade of paint called Bruised Lilac. I don’t know which paint company came up with it, but it seems like a clear indication that they had a poet in their Department for Nomenclature of Shades, or whatever it is that paint companies have.

Considering how easy it is to come up with poetic names for colours, it seems to me that paint companies do a deplorable job most of the time. Berger Paints for example has this beautiful shade of green.


For me, it evokes pine trees on a hillside on a foggy morning – a damp, cool shade, sort of fuzzy around the edges. They could have called it Misty Pine, or Smoky Cypress. Instead, they call it 4-0908T. I’m lost for words.

It must be remembered, of course, that Berger is the company that came up with the obnoxious pink and blue Taj Mahal for their ad campaign, so I suppose they don’t know any better. But 4-0908T still rankles.

In the world according to Sroyon, paint companies would not give names to shades that sound like an Asimov robot or a computer virus. In their Department for Nomenclature of Shades, they would employ (at a good salary) young poets trying to make their mark. And with luck and a little imagination, reading a shade card could be as much of a pleasure as looking at one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgetfulness and BEST Buses

I got up on a BEST bus the other day which had a TV screen showing live video footage of the inside of the bus. If you were sitting in the right place, you could see yourself on the screen. The picture quality was bad, but the screen was the cynosure of all eyes. Grown-ups were covertly adjusting their hair. Children were doing the only sensible thing: smile, wave and make faces.

Then, abruptly, the screen went blank. People left off looking at the wonderful world inside the bus, and focussed their attention on the even more wonderful world outside. But the dark screen was a good reflector, and the interior of the bus was sufficiently bright. You could still see the inside of the bus. And the picture quality was slightly better.

In other news, this is the third time I left my shower-gel and shampoo in the shower cubicle in the hostel. All three times, the cleaners have found them and deposited them in the administrative office. Each time, I have got them back. The God of Absentmindedness is too kindhearted to be a good teacher.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Traffic Symphony

The hostel room where I’m staying in Bombay directly overlooks Sir J. J. Road. This is one of the busiest and most important roads in Bombay - a kind of backbone of the city. All day and all night, huge numbers of vehicles pass underneath our windows. The noise is continuous, unrelenting.

Noise, did I say? Music would be a more apposite word. If I stick my head out of the window, close my eyes and wave my arms in the night air, I can almost imagine I am conducting an orchestra. Taxis, trucks, buses and motorbikes ply up and down, allegro con brio. Lorry engines rumble in bass; brakes squeal in falsetto. A pathbreaking avant-garde composition: The Traffic Symphony for a million taxis and trucks.

We are lulled to sleep by the music of the city; the same music greets our ears when we wake up. I have grown so used to it that when we went for a weekend trip to the seaside village of Nagaon, the silence at night was deafening. Even more unsettling were the occasional howls and cries from dogs, owls and other assorted Creatures of the Night. We stayed awake till 4.30 in the morning, chatting and telling ghost stories. After that, I did fall asleep, but by that time I was so sleepy I could have comfortably dozed off at a rock concert.

So much for the peace and quiet of the countryside. Gimme the bustling city any day. The sound of a million people noisily going about their business is the sound I want to fall asleep to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What a Girl Wants

When a male angler fish matures, his digestive system degenerates, making him incapable of feeding independently. This drives him to find a female angler fish. When he does find a female, he bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme that fuses the pair down to the blood-vessel level. The male then atrophies into nothing more than a pair of gonads. This extreme sexual dimorphism ensures that when the female is ready to spawn, she has a readily-available mate. Not to mention the ultimate guarantee against infidelity.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hey There Delilah

Hey there Delilah / What’s it like in New York City? / I’m a thousand miles away / But girl, tonight you look so pretty / Yes you do / Times Square can’t shine as bright as you / I swear it’s true
I discovered yesterday that the song is not being sung by a guy in England to his girl in New York, as I’d initially thought. (Yes, I know you’re thinking “What kind of idiot would think that?” But I’m very clueless about distances in general). I made this important discovery when I looked up the distance between Calcutta and Mumbai, and found that it is all of 1227 miles. Hang on, I thought, so London-New York must be much greater, right? In fact, the distance between London and New York is no less than 3456 miles. So the guy’s probably somewhere in the United States as well. Which makes it all better somehow.

A thousand miles seems pretty far / But they’ve got planes and trains and cars...

All this reminded me of a story that Fenchurch relates to Arthur Dent in “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”.
When I was a kid I had this picture hanging over the foot of my bed. It was one of those pictures that children are supposed to like, but don’t. Full of endearing little animals doing endearing things, you know? There was a raft with rabbits, and assorted rats and owls. There may even have been a reindeer. And a boy was sitting on the raft.
The picture worried me, I must say. There was an otter swimming in front of the raft, and I used to lie awake at night worrying about this otter having to pull the raft, with all these wretched animals on it who shouldn’t even be on a raft, and the otter had such a thin tail to pull it with I thought it must hurt pulling it all the time. Worried me. Not badly, but just vaguely, all the time.
Then one day - and remember I’d been looking at this picture every night for years - I suddenly noticed that the raft had a sail. Never seen it before. The otter was fine, he was just swimming along.
It was just such a sudden revelation, years of almost unnoticed worry just dropping away, like taking off heavy weights, like black and white becoming colour, like a dry stick suddenly being watered. The sudden shift of perspective that says ‘Put away your worries, the world is a good and perfect place. It is in fact very easy.’
Now I’d read the book at the cynical age of fifteen, and I’d thought, “What a stupid story! What a load of fuss about a silly imaginary otter!” And this post is a load of fuss about a silly song about an imaginary girl. But at least I know what Fenchurch meant.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two Beggars

Last Sunday near Victoria Terminus, I saw the most remarkable beggar I have ever seen in my life. He wore lipstick, an orange cap, and a black, orange and green windcheater. His teeth were in a state of abominable decay. His nails were painted in different colours. On his back was a spectacularly colourful patchwork sack; a mobile phone dangled from his neck.

Some little distance down Threadneedle Street, upon the left-hand side, there is, as you may have remarked, a small angle in the wall. There sat Neville St. Clair, alias Hugh Boone. A shock of orange hair, a pale face disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by its contraction, had turned up the outer edge of his upper lip, a bulldog chin, and a pair of very penetrating dark eyes: these were enough to mark him out from amid the common crowd of mendicants. But Neville St. Clair appeared in Conan Doyle’s fiction, set in bleak, grey London. In colourful South Bombay, obviously, stronger measures had been called for.

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Dinner

Around 8.30 in the evening, on days when there’s not too much work, we interns face an interesting choice. If we stay back for an hour, we can order out at any restaurant of our choice. The dinner will be billed to the law firm. We will also be entitled to claim cab fare. If we leave, no candy.

Every afternoon, visions of free pizzas and biryani float before our eyes. Every afternoon, Lahiri and I promise ourselves that tonight we shall be resolute. Every evening, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, we unceremoniously slip out.

We buy dinner, and go to Marine Drive, where we meet up with friends who are interning at other law firms in Bombay. We eat our packed dinner at the seafront, and enjoy the surf in our faces. We discuss moots, shopping, Wordsworth, swivel chairs, and many other unimportant things. We inhale the smell of the sea (which we compare favourably to that of Lahiri’s feet). We laugh a lot. When we’ve polished off the last of the chicken, we use Abira’s hand sanitiser. Just before midnight, we go home.

What can explain this economically inefficient behaviour, especially on the part of me and Lahiri - two dyed-in-the-wool devotees of free food? By doing what we choose to do, I know that we forgo our free dinner. I know that we spend anything from Rs. 40 to 60 on a dinner that is not a patch on what we would have got at the firm. And I know that tonight, unless some hard-hearted associate forces us to stay back late, we will slip out. Again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hasty Clarification

Okay, I should read gtalk transcripts carefully before I post them on a public forum. My first post carries an acknowledgment from Saha that my farts are the smelliest around. That is sure to raise a few eyebrows.

For the uninitiated, he was referring to the Fascinating Assortments of Random Trivia (F.A.R.T.s for short) that I periodically mail to some of my friends.

At least, that’s what I hope he was referring to.

Three Reasons for not Having a Blog

There are three very good reasons I can think of for not starting a blog:
1. It seems presumptuous to imagine that people will be the least bit interested in what I insignificant thing did and what stupid thing I thought.
2. There is a distinct possibility that I will lose interest in the blog and abandon it a few months down the line.
3. I think that if I ever write anything that’s meaningful or good, it is the private entries in my diaries and notebooks, written for my eyes only. The moment I write for public consumption, I try to sound funny, or intelligent, or erudite. I try to be something I’m not. In a word, I mess up.

Against that, there was just one reason why I did start a blog.

Excerpt from gtalk conversation with my esteemed friend Rahul Saha (31 March 2008):
Saha: ok..ppl are asking me if u have a blog...if not it is requested by many u start one and blog the FARTS especially
me: very nice! who are these admirers? :D
Saha: visa bala and me that i know of...but ther are others i am sure...ur farts are universally acknowledged as the smelliest arnd
me: hehe. thing is, i'm rather protective of what i write. i know it's silly, but i don't start a blog because i feel it might be ignored by people
Saha: fat chance...just put it up and judge for urself
me: and i probably wouldn't really get much of a positive return if the blog was read by diff people, while it'd be depressing to be simply ignored
Saha: stop this utilitarian bullshit
me: okay, lemme think it over
Saha: i leave it to u...any free dinners yet?
And we moved on to other topics. I have always been a sucker for flattery.