Monday, 30 November 2009

The Nutritional Properties of Atta

What the tagline for Ganesh Atta presumably tries to convey is that Eating Ganesh Atta Keeps You Healthy. What it instead says is:

…a fact which, as you will see from the picture above, was never in doubt.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Prolate Spheroid

I had this argument with Pratiti today, but we had to cut it short because she was getting late for school. So I leave you, the discerning public, to judge for yourself. Look at the area A ∩ B (both A & B) in the Venn diagram below.

Does it or does it not look like a potol?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Herpestes Edwardsii

Mongooses stray into our house now and then, and they always move too swiftly to be captured on camera. But the one I startled this morning was in the Olympic class, even by mongoose standards. For a blink of an eye, Guilty Mongoose and Bemused Human faced off across the kitchen floor. Then a brown streak went past me, veered towards the verandah and was gone before even the thought of getting my camera had properly formed in my head. The cheetah, at 70 mph, is supposed to be the fastest land animal, but this little fellow seemed to be doing about ninety when he rounded the bend.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

In Which I Upload My First Video

But before you see the video, I will describe how I remember Bunty’s goal which won us the match.

Animesh, our holding midfielder, has lofted the ball from the middle of the park in the general direction of the opposite goal – a pass conceived less with intent than in hope. Bunty, playing right forward and closest to the ball, gives frantic chase down the right touchline, though his marker is yards ahead of him. Bunty has no right to think he can get to the ball first, but he doesn’t know this. The race is on.

From my right wingback position, I sprint down the touchline to provide support. But the striker and his marker are already too far ahead; it is obvious that I will never reach in time to offer any meaningful assistance. I check my run.

Now our left forward checks his run too. He waits at the edge of the box hoping the rebound comes his way. The other players are as in a trance, helplessly watching the action unfold. But the supporters of both teams are going wild – this is more like it, this is the sort of thing they came to watch.

But wait – at least their goalie is alert to the danger. He races off his line and reaches the ball almost at the same instant as Bunty and his marker. Bunty is still a foot behind his marker but he flings himself feet first at the ball. The goalie clutches at thin air as Bunty, at full stretch, lifts the ball over him. He went for a cross, didn’t he, the crazy fool? Didn’t he realise that no one had matched his run, that his cross would not find anyone on the end of it? Because surely it must be a cross. Bunty is far too close to the goal-line – at zero angle, almost. He has no right to go for goal from that angle, but Bunty doesn’t know this either.

The ball loops, curls and – agonisingly slow, as if it is moving through a viscous fluid – dips and nestles in the back of the net. The spectators go wild. Bunty is still on the ground, clutching his knee in pain, but we pile on top of him in our celebrations.

That is how I remember Bunty’s goal from that match one year ago. But as I realized today, my memory is not all that reliable when it comes to dramatic moments on the football pitch. To be precise, it is prone to mock-heroic exaggerations. I recall blocking a goal-bound shot in the same match. As I remembered it, that block was an feat of reckless courage, an act fit to rank with deeds of valour like Horatius holding the bridge and suchlike.

But today, Rahul Varghese showed me a video of that match. See the video (24 seconds), and you will realise why it dismayed me. (Watch out for Nivedita’s anguished “What is this?!” at 0:15. That bit is fun.)

As you see, it was not a bad block, as blocks go, but nor was it the sort of block that goes down in legend. It was not a block that will be sung about at feasts when Heroic Tales of Olde are being recounted. On top of that, I noticed that seconds before the block (at 0:02), I clear the ball with the outside of the right foot in a situation where I should in fact have cleared with my left.

In the immortal words of Calvin, reality continues to ruin my life. It’s a good thing that they don’t have Bunty’s goal on video.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Angels on a Saturday Night

From So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish:
Arthur put Dire Straits on the stereo. Fenchurch pushed ajar the upstairs front door to let in a little more of the sweet fragrant night air. They both sat on some of the furniture made out of cushions, very close to the open bottle of champagne.
– No, – said Fenchurch, – not till you’ve found out what’s wrong with me, which bit. But I suppose, – she added very, very, very quietly, – that we may as well start with where your hand is now.
Arthur said:
– So which way do I go?
– Down, – said Fenchurch, – on this occasion.
He moved his hand.
– Down, – she said, – is in fact the other way.
– Oh yes.
Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer – which is not strictly relevant at this point since the record hadn’t yet got to that bit, but there will be too much else going on when it does, and furthermore the chronicler does not intend to sit here with a track list and a stopwatch, so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly.
– And so we come, – said Arthur, – to your knee. There is something terribly and tragically wrong with your left knee.
– My left knee, – said Fenchurch, – is absolutely fine.
– So it is.
Arthur held her left foot in his lap and looked it over carefully. All kinds of stuff about the way her dress fell away from her legs was making it difficult for him to think particularly clearly at this point.
– I have to admit, – he said, – that I really don’t know what I’m looking for.
– You’ll know when you find it, – she said. – Really you will. – There was a slight catch in her voice. – It’s not that one.
Feeling increasingly puzzled, Arthur let her left foot down on the floor and moved himself around so that he could take her right foot. She moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.
Douglas Adams never tells us which song it was, or even which record. Me, I think it could only be one song, but I won’t tell you which just now because it might sway your opinion. The hell with it, I’ll tell you anyway – I think it’s Romeo and Juliet. But if you listen to Dire Straits, I would like to know your views on this question.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Speaking of Goa

For me, the best thing about our Goa trip was not the sun, sand and sea. It was not the adventure sports, nor the Portuguese architecture, nor even the food. The best thing about our Goa trip was that it gave eight of us the chance, for the first time since we left behind our carefree college days, to forget the demands and complications of our working lives, and simply hang out together. The comfort, as Abira put it, of having familiar voices around, of knowing that Arjun will always set his alarm so that the digits add up to 14, Manjula will always give a non-committal answer, Bunty will always order soup, and that no matter what, Sarbajeet will never wake up early.

Speaking of which, after five years together in hostel, I thought I knew my college friends inside out; I thought I was familiar with all their little obsessions and eccentricities. Not so, as I discovered on this trip. For example, we all knew that Abira was a cleanliness freak, but we used to think Aastha was relatively normal. Until she revealed that she travels with two combs – one for clean hair and one for dirty hair. This prompted Kisku to make the gender-sensitive comment of the month: “Girls have so many issues, man!” To which Aastha said, “I don’t have issues, ok? I just have a few minor concerns.”

Aastha wondering which comb to use

Speaking of issues, when it comes to food, Arjun Sarkar has fewer issues than anyone else I know. He has been known to uncomplainingly eat food that is tasteless, badly-cooked or even rotten. When he pronounces that a dish is bad, it means that it is truly inedible. On that count, the eatery in Old Goa where we had lunch deserves to go down in the history books for producing not one, but two dishes which even Arjun could not eat. The offending dishes were Chili Fried Sausage and Prawn Curry. The eatery was called Tourist Inn – a name that shall be forever imprinted on my memory.

Arjun Sarkar doing what he does best

Speaking of tourists, one of the high points of the trip was a tourist asking us directions to the Bom Jesus Basilica, the church which houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. “Woh kaun sa church hai jis mein Jesus Christ ka body dabba mein rakha hua hai?” Which roughly translates as, “Which is the church where Jesus Christ’s body is kept in a dabba?” (I cannot translate dabba.) Needless to say, we did not disillusion him; for all we know, he believes to this day that what he saw was not the body of a mere 16th century missionary, but the Son of God.

Courtyard of the Bom Jesus Basilica

Speaking of sightseeing, the town of Panaji may not have too many tourist attractions per se, but it is a sightseer’s delight. An anomaly in both time and space, the Fontainhas area looks like a forgotten pocket of 19th century Portugal. Bunty and I roamed its winding alleys, stopping occasionally to photograph each other against the brightly-coloured buildings that scream out for carnivals and revelry.

Speaking of revelry, the closest we came to said activity was a few tequila shots on the moonlit beach. Much as we enjoyed the trip, a lasting regret was that three of our friends who badly wanted to come could not get leave. When the tequila arrived, someone proposed a toast to “our friends, who couldn’t come on this trip.” “And who also like tequila,” added Arjun, and I thought it was the most touching moment of the trip. In the three days we spent in Goa, we took heritage walks, admired cathedrals, rode on train footboards, swam in the sea, went parasailing and ate tons of seafood, but barring the tequila – and bear in mind that this is Goa – we did not party at all. Like me, my friends have their priorities completely wrong, and this is why I like them so.

Speaking of parties, the most popular accessory for late-night beach parties in Goa is a pair of Mephistophelian horns which glow crimson in the night. They endow the wearer with a certain aura, though the battery is weak, and the glow fades away before sunrise. But in Goa, a lot of things last for just one night.