In which I go star gazing..

So there’s this pretty active astronomy club in Bangalore (BAS) that I’ve wanted to check out for almost a year now, only couldn’t because most of its activities are in North Bangalore, an area that I’ve only heard tales about, never actually set foot on. So when I found out that a star gazing session happening near my office, needed volunteers, I quickly signed up . The evening came, and though the boss gave me some last minute work, I managed to give her the slip, and started off towards the rendezvous.

In college, every once in a while I used to drag my mattress to the terrace and sleep there. I suppose it is here that my fascination with the night sky and stars began. The sight of that vast, wild expanse as I lay all alone on a large terrace with winds blowing strong and cold, always soothed my mind. And I was actually expecting to see something like this through the telescope.

Night sky

Night sky

So it was with sprightly steps that I landed at the appointed place and hello-ed the BAS guys present. They were busy looking through the telescopes and adjusting them. For a while, I was the life of the party, so to speak. Sure astronomers don’t really laugh too much when they meet, but hey I can tailor jokes to suit the company I’m in (I cracked one involving Pluto no longer being a planet).

It didn’t hit me right away, but chatting with them as they were setting things up, I suddenly realised that ‘volunteer’ had referred to someone with at least a slight knowledge of astronomy- I could barely make out a star from an aeroplane! As a result, the periods where the BAS people would look up at the sky rather seriously for long periods, were very awkward for me. I had no clue what they were doing, but followed suit anyway, and just to preempt any questions being popped in my direction, I asked mysterious, knowledgeable sounding ones (“Which direction is South?” and so on).

Soon however, I was spared this pretence as people began to crowd around the telescopes and the volunteers started pointing out Jupiter (the only clear celestial object on view) to them, also showing its moons and explaining a bit about its gaseous atmosphere. It was all fairly enjoyable, except I had to wait quite a while for my first view through the telescope. When I finally got my turn, I stepped close to the lens, psychedelic images of the milky way taken from space swirling in my mind. When I looked into the lens however, I was nonplussed to see just two large, bright spots, one bluish and the other cream coloured. Quickly I discovered that the blue spot was just something on my eyelash, and removing that only left something resembling this in my field of vision.

Jupiter

Jupiter

I stared on into the telescope with numb disbelief, but no cosmic revelation came. Slowly I stepped back and pushed my way out of the crowd pressing in for a glimpse. But even before I recovered from the shock, a man who’d just had his view came up to me to for explanations, assuming (er correctly) that I was a volunteer.

RandomMan: So waat is this?

Me: (Slowly recovering) Jupiter

RM: hmm… what are its features?

Me: (wtf?! Its not a digi cam dude!) er.. nothing, you can see 3 of its moons through the telescope… (not even sure if that answers the question!)

RM: How far it is from earth?

Me: (thinking)

RM: How many kilometers?

Me: Um, not in kilometers, there’s this unit called lightyears…

RM: (No longer interested in the answer) We can live therea?

Me: No! Its fully gassy.. not to mention the temperature is not right, plus it doesn’t have water.

RM: (Suddenly shifts to a conspiratorial whisper ) This news of water on the moon… its correcta?

Me: (Er, yeah, ask me like I sent an independent probe to verify it) Yes it is

RM: So we can live on the moona?

Me: (Ok this guy obviously has major problems he has to get away from). No we can’t..

RM: (stoutly) But it has water..

Me: Can’t live there.. sorry..

RM: (Looks wistfully at the night sky) Even not now, later they find some place to live… (and with these words of wisdom, he finally walked away)

By that point, I’d learnt most of the things people asked related to Jupiter, so I answered a few people’s queries, and despite the initial disappointment of being able to see just a random point of light on the telescope, I began to enjoy the whole experience. By looking at it harder, I could actually notice a couple of bands on Jupiter (formed by its ‘clouds’), and also managed to spot its third moon (everyone could see three, but I could find just the two, and for a while had to pretend that I could see all three).

We had set up the telescopes at an unused bus shelter, not far from a busy main road. So when there was a fair crowd, a passing police patrol stopped and asked what we were doing. The cop was a hefty guy, who seemed pretty pissed (never a good combination) about the crowd spilling over onto the road, so we were sure he’d ask us to clear out. When we told him about the astronomy thing, he seemed surprised and asked who it was for.

Everyone, we told him, and were pleasantly surprised when the burly copper, hummed and hawed a little before asking if he could take a look through the telescope too! Laughing (not to his face), we obliged, and the guy was so fascinated, his poor junior had to remind him multiple times that they had ‘urgent work’! Heh, like I said, not a bad night in the end…

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Nostalgia

I saw a pic of these hot, crispy jalebis on facebook (they just looked that way, I of course had no way of knowing if they were hot. Or crispy), and suddenly remembered that I had eaten some mindblowing jalebis recently myself. Except, I simply couldnt remember where.

Jalebi

After a considerable time spent in earnest recollection, I finally remembered where I’d eaten them and with whom, but by then it was 10 at night and the place was shut. So there I was, all alone at home suffering from intense jalebi-craving, when I saw the friend I’d had the jalebis with online, and pinged him.

(Chat transcript with translations provided)

me: dei suddenly remembered those jalebis we ate at forum da, semma craving now!
10:01 PM
N: dei panada (You worthless *$#&)

kadupethada (Don’t irritate me)

I wanted to talk to u abt one thing da dog (Explained succintly in English by N himself this time)

me: ?

N: I went for one fitness class yest

me: woah!

super da
10:02 PM
N: Do u know what they asked us to do?

<Interruption>

At this point I should update you on the nature of our friendship. I, am always looking to play a prank, and N, always seems to be looking to fall for one. So over four years of college, I (along with an accomplice) have pulled a variety of (admittedly) cheap, but really funny ones at N’s expense- from convincing him at a restaurant that the finger bowl in front of him was really the restaurant’s famous clear soup (or vice-versa, I don’t remember) , to making him lie on a bed with a dumbell on his stomach and an eye shade, while we gathered the entire wing to watch the spectacle (we’d told him it would help flatten his tummy). Looking back, the eye shade was as funny as the dumbells, I mean sure he thought the dumbells would tone his tummy, but I have no idea how we convinced him to pull shades on to go with it!

We, were of course pastmasters at pulling a quick one off, leaving the ever trusting N at a considerable disadvantage. Once we were in my room with the music  playing on my system, when N asked me how he could increase the volume. I was reading a book, and without batting an eyelid, told him to jump on the spot he was standing. Of course, I didnt expect him to do it, and was stunned when a second later, I heard a dull thump, and looked up to find a puzzled N wondering whether he’d jumped correctly.  The rest of us in the room had a dozen funny things we wanted to say right then, but just couldnt because we laughed so long and so hard, we just forgot it all.

So it was this N who had something important to tell me. Apparently.

<Continuation>

me: I know whats going to come next

N: keep dumbells on the abdomen

me: haha

N: assss

me: hahahaha!!

I KNEW IT

N: ivolo naala (all these days)

enna epidi kalaichenga (you were killing me about that incident)

rem book la ellam pottu (and even put it in our frikkin rem book)

me: dei, seriously? illa thirpi emanthutiya? (You sure it was for real? Or did you just fall for the same thing again?)

😛
10:03 PM
N: naaygala (Bitch!)

seriously da

chha

me: so whats next, they play music and ask you to increase the volume by jumping on the floor?

lol!

N: next ill find de solution to the volume adjustment thing

me: haha

same train of thought!
10:04 PM
N: both co exist da

always

same day

both well trieds (College slang for ‘epic fail’)

me: ah, I was slightly tense because of work shit and this bloody jalebi craving

now memories of laughing so hard I almost died makes me feel better!

N: hehehe

And then N went offline, and for a while random memories from college kept floating in my head, making me smile. There was the time on the hostel terrace we got V (with voice like sandpaper, and the rhythm of man with a hacking cough) to sing any song, and he picked a melody, Azhagiya Asura (literally, Pretty Demon!!). One line into it, everyone was rolling around laughing, but I overcame a mighty inner battle to keep a straight face. But when V paused, gave the others a disdainful look and continued, even I couldnt take it. I almost fell off the water tank laughing, and that finally shut him up, even as the others erupted even louder. He was never even heard humming on campus after that!

Looking back, I realised we were always out to pull some poor fellow’s leg. There someone would be minding his own business, and suddenly we’ld do or say something and before you knew it he’d be the butt of a long running joke (although he’ld even laugh at it himself). Of course everyone gave back as much as they took, and everyone had their  turn providing entertainment to the others.

With the wisdom of my year out of college, I shook my head seriously wondering why we’d been that way, when I noticed N had come back online. His status message read ‘I wanna Chiggy Wiggy’.

Chiggy wiggy? Chiggy, wiggy?! Sounded like it involved squirming on the gym floor with a dumbell on your stomach! Already cracking up, I took a screenshot of the message, and logged into our wing group to post it for everyone else’s benefit. Laugh elicited, I lay back and felt a faint, warm feeling of wicked satisfaction spread through me, and then I knew why.

p.s. For the curious, we ate the jalebis at Shivsagar, in the Forum mall

Posted in C'est la vie | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Swine flu advisory

The swine flu going around seems to have a lot of people hitting the panic button- not with a measured push, but with repeated, frantic thumps. But I’ve found its hard to be worried about the flu when you havent yet seen your first mask-wearing person. So the H1N1 guidelines sent out by our ever dependable (if over enthusiastic) HR department  had me in splits, although I was the only one laughing on a floor full of sombre people carefully poring through the guidelines.

(Note: I have not made these guidelines up. Its an exact copy-paste from the mail we received. I have of course added the accompanying comments to explain the guidelines better)

Avoid close contact with people who might be ill. Preferably maintain a distance about 1 metre.

This single guideline tells you the magnitude of the problem. It is not enough to merely stay away from infected people- you have to maintain an optimum distance too. If you’re not sure how close 1 metre is,  the thumb rule is to stay just out of arm’s reach of the infected person (henceforth referred to as the enemy), the intention presumably being to be close enough so the enemy isnt offended that you’re neglecting him, but not too close that he gets chummy and tries to hug it out.

Reduce the time spent in crowded settings

Shortly after this mail, the entire office was called together for an all-hands meeting. I would of course have avoided it under the pretext of this guideline, but they had pizza, and so I had to go. Damn!

Don’t shake hands

With a pandemic looming, now is not the time to be friendly. You may once have greeted colleagues and acquaintances with a warm handshake, but make it clear to them that things have changed. Try scowling and looking menacing- this ought to keep away nagging hand-shakers. If however the person looking to greet you is your CEO, menacing looks might not be a good idea. In such cases, you may use a high five.

Improve airflow in your living space by opening windows

On the face of it, seems like a well thought out guideline, except our office has like two windows!

Practise good health habits that include adequate sleep, nutritious food and lots of fluid and keeping physically active

The HR guy apparently decided to play it safe and recycle some ‘good health habits’ prescribed for everything from heart ailments to hair loss complaints. Just in case.

Don’t spit in public

Only till the whole swine flu thing passes. The moment it does, your constitutional right’ll revert back to you immediately. Pliss to adjust till then.

No need to wear a mask when you aren’t sick

Use face paint instead for this year’s Halloween party. Unless you are actually sick. In which case you can totally wear a mask to the party.

Use a spoon to pick-up all eatables

Personnel from the HR will patrol the cafeteria at all times looking out for people who’re eating with their hands. Those found guilty will be made to go through a ppt with 47 more guidelines like these.


                Posted in C'est la vie | Tagged , | 2 Comments

                Terrorist spotted on the Delhi metro?

                Apologies for not having posted in a while. The usual excuse is of course writer’s block, but sadly, the block has not yet deemed me as worth its attention. (In fact I have a lot to write about, and a block of some sort might come in handy to save humanity) So, the problem here is actually the fact that BSNL has disconnected my internet at home, for not paying the previous month’s bill.

                I of course tried explaining to them the sad story involving a bad investment, but they were firm that I had to pay the bill anyway. But because all the cash you invested in Gopal Iron Co doesnt suddenly reappear just because you have to pay bills, I’m now using the net at work to bring you this blog post.

                The incident mentioned here took place about a month back in security obsessed Delhi. Our protagonist, S, was in Delhi for the first time, and in his hurry to checkout the Metro, found himself at the station without a clue about his destination. Unfazed, he bought a travel card, cleared the security check, and called a friend with an internet connection and asked him to look for the name of a specific place on wikitravel.

                Assuming the friend would call back in a minute, S just hung around the area where you had to turn off onto one platform or the other (S was an engineer, and believed in efficiency- he didnt want to climb a flight of stairs he might have to climb back down in case it led to the wrong platform.)

                It was while he was loitering here that he felt the gaze of the policemen at the security check on him. He chuckled, thinking the police probably viewed his loitering at a random area with suspicion. However, in order to stick around without causing any further stir among the cops, S moved over to a mobile charging kiosk nearby, standing in a manner he thought would not be considered particularly terrorist-like.

                Just as he reached it however, an attendant stepped out of nowhere to inform him the kiosk didnt work. Hmph! The cops were now definitely studying him with (professional) interest. S began to feel nervous, and tried ringing up the friend, but he didnt pick up.

                Certain by now that he was a terrorist suspect, S quickly hurried up the nearest flight of stairs and paused only on the platform to catch his breath. Another call from here to the friend went unanswered. A train came and left and S was the only person on the platform who didnt get on it. One of two people actually, the other man was a Metro official, who now began eying S- suspiciously.

                Man of action that he was, S threw all his plans to the wind, went up to the metro official and asked how he could get to Chandni Chowk (the first place that popped to mind). The official told him he had to get onto the other platform. So S climbed back down the stairs, crossed the lobby below (hoping the cops at the end of the lobby were not concerned with or about him anymore) and climbed the stairs onto the other platform.

                Here, he checked with a man standing about if this was indeed the side you could catch a train towards Chandni Chowk. To his surprise, the man said no, that was the other side! Cursing the metro official, S climbed back down the stairs, crossed the lobby with some trepidation, climbed onto the other side and waited for the next train. After a couple of minutes, S asked another man standing about if this was the correct platform. To his incredulity, the man shook his head and informed him it was the other one! Fuming, S stepped off the platform, onto the lobby. No longer bothered about the looks the policemen were giving him, he marched right upto one of them and demanded to know the correct platform. The policeman asked him to take the second set of stairs.

                Second set of stairs? SECOND? S had only noticed one set of stairs, and had assumed the stairs on either side of the lobby would take him to different platforms. Turned out, they only took him to different ends of the same platform! You had to walk further down the lobby, where you found another set of stairs, which then took you onto the second platform.

                As he finally got into the train on the correct platform, he got a call from the friend he’d rung up earlier. When the harassed sounding friend told him there was no entry for Delhi on the website, S gritted his teeth, and barked that was impossible. After a pause, the friend asked ‘Wait, you were talking about Vicky Travels right?’

                It was that kind of a day.

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                The clothes saga

                washed

                After all the drama of missing a train, catching a last minute flight, and meeting up with the team in a city I’d never been in before, I reached Ranikhet without much further incident.

                Ranikhet however, proved to be much, much hotter than expected. One foot outside on the first afternoon, and I realised that all the woollens, thermals and double-layered, full sleeved t-shirts I brought along were useless. I dug into my bag, and came up with precisely one t-shirt that wasnt designed for sub zero temperatures. And after using it on the first day, I found myself with the choice of reusing the comfortable tee, or wearing the woollens. That was when I knew I had to do something radical to save the day- I decided to wash my clothes.

                In the days I lived with my parents, my only experience with washing clothes was the odd occassion when my mom asked me to run them through the washing machine, a task accomplished by bullying my 10 year old brother into doing. Later in hostel, I got on mostly by piling on the clothes through the week, and dropping in on some unsuspecting relative over the weekend with a backpack loaded with dirty clothes. Occassionally, I did have to wash them myself, a task I accomplished by generally employing a lot of detergent, water and swinging of clothes. The technique was never perfected though, and I usually ended up with more detergent and water on the clothes I was wearing, than the ones I was trying to wash. However, as I grew older, I grew more responsible, and so when I moved into a place of my own, I learned to operate the washing machine. This settled the problem, untill I landed up in Ranikhet with just one suitable t-shirt.

                Despite what people’ll tell you about the spread of technology, washing machines are not to be found everywhere. I sneaked around the house of our host pretending I’d lost my way, but I could find no washing machine. I then cornered him, and dropped hints about the wonders such a machine could do, particularly if bought immediately, but the host shook his head sadly and informed me that they had a chronic water shortage and had to wash clothes by hand, using as little water as possible. Great!

                At this point, M took pity on me (or maybe it was just the fear of smelly clothes), and agreed to teach me how to wash clothes. Here, you can see me preparing for it..

                Despite the warmup though, towards the end of the first shirt itself, my arms began to ache. Washing shirts, I found require strong biceps and supple wrists. Though I didnt have either, I’d met a chick earlier at one of the meetings with the NGO’s founder, and given the possibility that I could run into her again, I needed clothes I could look relaxed in. Clothes in which I could lean against a wall and come up with some witty remark which would have everyone rolling with laughter. Slowly sweating to death in my thermals in front of her was not an option. So I stuck through the dull haze of pain, and eventually, washed enough clothes to last me a couple of days.

                Just before I’d finished though, the dadi, whose handpump I was presently using, dropped by to tell me not to waste any water, reminding me about the severe water crisis and asked me to pour out even the soapy water for the plants in the garden nearby. The problem though was that the technique I’d evolved, with some help from an exasperated M  did not involve the accumulation of water in the bucket. I could now wash clothes without getting too much water on myself, but apart from that, there wasnt much common to the way people normally wash clothes. I’d used much less water than I usually do, but by our hosts’ standards, I’d ended up taking the plants’ share of water. I felt a tinge of sadness as I thought of the plants, but reflected that such was life, decided there was nothing  I could do, and gathered my clothes and headed towards the clothesline.  As I turned the corner however, I found the dadi waiting, looking out to see if I’d watered the plants.

                As soon as I’d saw her, my heart skipped a beat and I quickly took a U-turn and headed back. Although, I was feeling a little guilty about using too much water, I was left with no other option, if I wanted to avoid having to explain my washing technique to my hosts. I filled some water from the handpump again into the bucket and with a heavy heart set out to water the plants. The dadi was pleased, and gave me a cheerful thumbs-up, thinking I was recycling water.

                Finally done, I gathered my clothes and left the place. As I rounded the corner again, I found myself staring at the chick I’d seen earlier. I saw a well dressed, pretty young girl in front of me. She, I’m pretty sure, saw a large, weirdly dressed guy, with a little detergent foam in the stubble, and a handful of wet underwear. Somehow it didnt quite work out with her after that.

                Posted in C'est la vie | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

                Miss Madhumati solves the mystery of the smelly dog

                After an exhausting day spent walking all around a little village near Ranikhet, we stopped over at  a quaint little cafe on our way home. Three of us took seats with a view of the valley, while Ms Madhumati (M) flopped off on a table behind us. Not only had the walking tired her, but the sun had beaten down mercilessly on her sensitive skin and she had a terrible cold to boot. So as her head hit the table, she passed out and came to only after a while, by which time the rest of us were already enjoying our orders.

                M noticed one of us eating a choco chip muffin and felt a sudden craving for one. The muffin however was not any good, so M went for a corn muffin. When it finally came, she took a bite and began to declare her opinion of it in a loud voice, but stopped as she spotted the owner of the cafe walk by.

                The owner was cradling her boxer (the dog, not the underwear) in her hands, as she stopped by to ask us about the food. We didnt want to be cut off from our only source of chocolate milk in Ranikhet, so we immediately began to praise the food to the heavens. In fact, all of us put in considerable effort into it, except M who was alternating between demolishing her corn muffin and squinting at it. Sometime into the flattery, a strong, foul smell hit us all. With the exception of M, who had a cold, the rest of us were close to choking. One look at the boxer, and I knew the animal was to blame for the stench. It seemed like a really small dog, but the way it was giving off the gases, it could have been a teargas canister. Although M continued nibbling on her muffin, I was desperately trying not to grab the dog and fling it over the ledge for the larger good, while the other two were no doubt contemplating jumping off themselves.

                Boxer gone wild

                However, we neednt have feared the worst. Following this assault on our nostrils, the flattery slowed, and soon ground to a halt. With this, the owner lost interest in us and decided to move on. As she took the dog away, we tried to start breathing again, but even after a while, the smell still hung strong. The three of us were surprised, and were just about to move away from there, when we heard a puzzled voice coming from M’s direction “I think this muffin is bad”.

                It took us 2 seconds to figure out that the muffin was indeed the source of the smell, 5 to take this snap and only another 3 seconds to clear the area.

                Units that handle hazardous materials for a living couldnt have acted faster.


                Corn muffin

                Just go for the cherry muffin next time M, go for the cherry muffin.

                Posted in C'est la vie | Tagged , | 2 Comments

                Miss Madhumati’s guide to humping a tree

                Click on the pic to see an enlarged version..Tree humper's guide

                Posted in Random thoughts | Tagged | 2 Comments