One of the things I dread when visiting people after a few years is the comment on one's appearance. There never seems to be a right weight to escape notice.When you lose weight you "look like a ghost" and when you add girth you never hear the end of it. Just as you gracefully accept what seem like compliments about the "healthy" look, subtle hints come along, compounding insult and injury,about the need to watch one's weight at "this age". You will be told that you look "just right" but anything more would be "dangerous" and this is when you retract the hand just about to reach for the nice crispy murukkus or Myseorepak from Krishna sweets placed in front of you.

You cannot escape the issue even if you have maintained your weight -opinion will be divided on whether you have become thinner or fatter since the last trip and sometimes the dispute gets referred to a third umpire while you wait in embarrassment.It is worse when you are asked to be the arbitrator between two people arguing if you have grown thinner or fatter. Invariably, the conversation drifts to this within the first 5 minutes of the meeting and lingers on the topic for at least 5 mins. I sometimes wonder if i should carry some proof of my weight details and my doctor's approval of it so that i can hand it over when the topic unfolds and seal the matter once and for all.

I do not think people are really interested in the weight loss/gain details but do it as a way to warm up to a conversation - like the Brits and the weather ( see below). I wish people would stick to the weather but no, they want to sound interested in you and so it is the personal details of your weight and its consequent effects on your appearance.

There is no way to get around the topic. Last time while visiting an incorrigible weight discusser,I thought I was smart and decided to use the attack first. Being untrained in the art, all I could manage was a neutral "hey you look great!!". And the next 15 minutes I heard nothing but the miracle recipes she had tried and her diet routine and how I must also try the same and "get back into shape".And so like the Brahmastra, the weapon came back to me and then again my appearance became the topic for the next 10 minutes.

I have tried inane repartees like "No, i just got a bit shorter" or "I had a haircut" when asked if i have gained or lost weight. But no, they just dont work ; people wave it aside and then repeat the question with "no, seriously, have you..."
Does this happen only to me or are there other kindred souls in such suffering? I wonder how they handle it.


The Brits and the weather
from "How to be an alien" by George Mikes

The Weather

This is the most important topic in the land. Do not be misled by memories of your youth when, on the Continent, wanting to describe someone as exceptionally dull, you remarked: "He is the type who would discuss the weather with you." In England this is an ever-interesting, even thrilling topic, and you must be good as discussing the weather.

Examples for conversation For Good Weather
"Lovely day, isn't it?"
"Isn't it beautiful?"
"The sun ..."
"Isn't it gorgeous?"
"Wonderful, isn't it?"
"It's so nice and hot ..."
"Personally, I think it's so nice when it's hot - isn't it?"
"I adore it - don't you?"

For Bad weather:

"Nasty day, isn't it?"
"Isn't it dreadful?"
"The rain ... I hate the rain ..."
"I don't like it at all. Do you?"
"Fancy such a day in July. Rain in the morning, then a bit of sunshine, and then rain, rain, rain all day long."
"I remember exactly the same July day in 1936."
"Yes, I remember too."
"Or was it in 1928?"
"Yes, it was."
"Or in 1939?"
"Yes, that's right."

Now observe the last few sentences of this conversation. A very important rule emerges from it. You must never contradict anybody when discussing the weather. Should it hail and snow, should hurricanes uproot the trees from the sides of the road, and should someone remark to you: "Nice day, isn't it?" - answer without hesitation: "Isn't it lovely?"

Learn the above conversation by heart. If you are a bit slow in picking things up, learn at least one conversation, it would do wonderfully for any occasion.

If you do not say anything else for the rest of your life, just repeat this conversation, you still have a fair chance of passing as a remarkably witty man of sharp intellect, keen observation and extremely pleasant manners.

English society is a class society, strictly organised almost on corporative lines. If you doubt this, listen to the weather forecasts. There is always a different weather forecast for farmers. You often hear statements like this on the radio:

"Tomorrow it will be cold, cloudy and foggy; long periods of rain will be interrupted by short periods of showers."

And then:

"Weather forecast for farmers. It will be fair and warm, many hours of sunshine."

You must not forget that farmers do grand work of national importance and deserve better weather.
Went to chennai for 4 days with lots of excitement and anticipation but ended up with an intestinal infection and a ruined trip. The only good memory of the trip was the onward flight.
Kingfisher airlines was great - from the time you reach the departure gate at the airport, they take over. A valet in a red plastic coat takes charge of your luggage till you receive your boarding pass - the staff in charge of boarding are courteous and smiley ( a little too smiley).The aircrafts are spacious and sparkling clean. The seat belt metal straps have cute kingfishers embossed and I love their signature tune (remember the kingfisher ads? what is it called - carribean calypso??). Inflight entertainment consists of radio channels with a choice of rock, western pop, indipop, hindi film songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's and ghazals. I usually "feel" among the clouds when i listen to some of these 80s Kishore songs but it was something else to listen to them being among clouds. Alternatively you could watch the position of your plane in the sky on the video monitor in front of you. Mr.Vijay Mallya appears on screen to welcome you and thank your custom and discuss his expansion plans with you!! The inflight magazine gives you a glimpse of the life of the glitterati and the stuff they can afford and sport. The food is good- oh yes, they serve food on short flights too! For breakfast,they served a burger filled with mayonaise and boiled veggies and a delicious cupcake and a tetrapack juice. After you have deplaned, men in red jacket help you at the luggage carousel and come with you to your transport.All this at a low price of 1650!I think their claim that you can fly like a king without having to pay like one is not too exaggerated.
Try it before it goes the way of the other airlines.
A deaf-mute boy, from a poor family in rural south India – that is how many handicaps you can count on the path to becoming successful? Wait there is one more - I’d like to believe that the religion of the person should not be an obstacle but definitely there is one other major one – parental resistance, a monumental one. This is the story of Iqbal. Like a lot of Indian boys he loves cricket but there is perhaps a slight difference - he eats cricket, breathes cricket – and the game is his religion, his reason for existence. His dream – a place in the national team. But his father hates the game so much he could trace all that ails the country today to the love of that game!!! Against this background can the boy realize his dream?

Difficult but not impossible, says Nagesh Kukunoor. If you are determined to achieve a dream, cosmic forces will conspire to get you there – forces in the form of a strong, supportive mother who is willing to stand by him even if it means gravely displeasing her husband, a doting sister who acts as his ears and voice and has no doubts about her brother being the best, and a brilliant coach lying stone drunk on the haystack. The path to following one’s dreams is always strewn with thorns and hard stones to test one’s determination. There are sudden dead ends, doors that beckoned you close when you get there , but if there is determination and willingness to give it your all, other doors open up and the dead end curves to show you a long straight road ahead. Never fails, always true!

Stories that deals with the triumph of human spirit have never failed on the screen if they are presented believably and that kind of presentation is precisely Nagesh’s USP. His men and women are people we meet in our daily lives, there are no super heroes or fairy tale heroines. His people speak the language of ordinary folk, they do not spout heroic speeches or mouth lyricisms. They do things you and I do. They are people you relate to and you laugh with them , cry with them and desperately want them to succeed and feel so happy when they do.

The humour is so fresh, family animals named after bowlers ( the favorite buffalo is “kapil” and the youngest is “irfan” );the exchanges between Naseer and Shweta prasad are as endearing as they are funny.
Normally when Naseeruddin Shah is in a scene, it is tough for even some of the senior actors to attract audience attention , but here these lesser known artists effortlessly match up to his talent. Everyone fits his/her role to perfection – even Girish Karnad in his unusual avtar as a clone between chanakya and dronacharya types.

How do Indian villages look so clean and beautiful in photographs and films?

I love films that make you feel happy when you leave the hall – hardwork pays, merit gets recognized, justice gets done, dreams get realized – all is well with the world. Iqbal gives you that feeling.
I received an interesting mail from a friend who compares the Chinese to Indians and wonders why, even though we both have similar socio cultural traditions and similar traditional baggage, the Chinese seemed to have overtaken us in many fields. He traces it to the principles of Hinduism like Karma and Fatalism and our pre occupation with the life after rather the present. The stress seems to be on GOOD life rather than a good life.

In contrast, the Chinese seemed to have easily adapted to the western way of life which seems to have helped them in placing a much higher priority to working hard, being disciplined, more organised and focused in their lifestyle on acquiring wealth, embracing easily modernity from any source, enjoying more the pleasures (food, material things, travel, etc) that this life gives on earth, and not spending too much time worrying about the next. Being in tune with today’s world makes them get the best out of it. .

The conflict that he seems to be talking about is between the fatalism of the East and the aggressive self-determinism of the West. Perhaps the latter is what contributes to the ”killer instinct, that many find as lacking among Indians. The Western mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control the external—leaving little to chance. By contrast, the Eastern mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control self—leaving the external to chance. For this reason, the culture of the West is far more structured and systematic while Indians are far more relational, ad hoc and spontaneous. In other words, in the Eastern Hindu system, the focus is on reducing one’s attachments to desired outcomes; In the Western Christian system, the focus is really on self-expectations.
Detachment to results does not necessarily mean indifference to the job at hand. It only means that one should not be motivated by the results but go about doing one’s job well irrespective of the outcome.

If the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia and Singapore is not doing as well as the Chinese, the roots of the issue probably lie in the kind of leadership that is available within the community rather than their religious practices.
Similarly if Indian companies lag behind the Chinese in manufacturing , the roots lie in the policies of successive governments in protecting indigenous industry from market forces than in the emotional make up of the people or the religious philosophies. Where the right environment has been provided, Indians have proved to be equal to the best in the world.

I think with all the problems we inherited at independence and the constant turmoil the country is in with problems – man made and natural – we are coping pretty well. And rather than pulling us behind, our religious convictions ( I mean all our religions) give us the strength to handle it all well. Things take a little longer when they have to work in a democratic way. This could be another reason for the fast paced growth in China. There is no denying that we have not realized our full potential yet but certainly we seem to be making all the right moves.
If anyone thinks otherwise all I have to tell them is:
please do not compare us with others.VEE ARR LIKE THIS ONLEEE.
Bangaloreans like to "sound off" about the problems they face in the city and when they are asked for suggestions for improvement they invariably look for the solution in the IT sector -that IT industry captains should pay back their debt to society by taking responsibility for one or other of the malfunctioning areas in the city. For example the other day one reader said that they should sponsor the city central libraries and restore the joy of reading among the Bangalore public. Today another says that in stead of complaining about the lack of infrastructure, they should use a part of their "burgeoning profits" to sponsor one or other of the flyovers and ensure their smooth functioning. Good suggestions perhaps. But what i cannot understand is that these citizens seem to feel that because IT industry is flourishing in Bangalore, it is supposed to accept responsibility for everything in the city - Like a rich relative who is expected to take care of the entire extended family of prodigals and bloodsuckers and incompetents.
People seem quick to blame the IT industry for the enormous hike in rentals, price of goods and services while taking for granted its spectacular contribution in putting this once sleepy city (pensioner's paradise) on the world map as well as in the daily parlance ("bangalored" is a word commonly used in the United States today although laced with frustration and resentment!); the attractive employment opportunities and the affluence it has created have had enormous secondary benefits for other service industries through the increase in purchasing power. No doubt the government exchequer is fatter directly by the tax revenues from these purchases and indirectly from income tax.
When people say that instead of boycotting, the IT industry should look at positive actions like sponsoring flyovers are they not absolving the government of its failure to perform its duties? Why is it that people are willing to accept the failures of an inefficient government and only expect the industry to step in and take over extra responsibilities? We pay our taxes and , as the minister himself claims there are clearcut plans and budget allocations for these infrastructure projects - then how come the city's infrastructure is so pathetic? If they are not capable of getting these done, they have no business to be sitting in their seats.

I am pretty sure that the captains of Industry, if entrusted with the power and responsibility can do a wonderful job of it. So why not outsource the job of governing the state for a few years to industry and let the politicians go on their foreign tours for a few years?
There used to be a game show on television called the weakest link ( Kamzor kadi kaun?)- I used to enjoy it for the brusque and brisk manner in which Neena Gupta used to anchor the show. She would not mince words in commenting on each one's performance and in hauling up people for their intentions in voting for whom they considered the weakest link for elimination from the next round. It was all fun and enjoyable until I understood the strategy that is used in the elimination. In the initial rounds people eliminated the ones who had the fewest answers - fair enough - the reason being that they needed most correct answers for adding to the jackpot money. In the later rounds enlightened self interest prevailed and the strongest ones were voted for elimination so that you only had a less strong adversary to confront for the jackpot in the final rounds!
Now this is may not seem like fairplay in any game, that you gang up against the smartest and the one most entitled to the prize - apparently this is fair in real life and is used day in and day out at high levels in the corporate playfields. These type of games are survival games where you learn how to handle real life situations such as these. They teach you the smart way of playing these and unfortunately it may not always be the "right" way as you can see from the above situation.
or is the smart way always the right way too in today's world?