Category Archives: Pointless Observations

#A2Z Challenge: V is for Viral Fever!

Dear Viral Fever

(Not to be confused with the social media viral fever. This is the original gangster which leaves your legs feeling like plutonium dumbbells and your backbone like if someone embroidered on it with iron thread)

There was a time when you had influence and clout in all circles. Your name meant something, and people would stop and listen. I fear much erosion. It’s just not the same anymore. You are not even an also-ran today. So, here is my almost-eulogy, because you are still around, and much feared, in a few limited demographics.

With great virtue, comes a great viral fever

You were always a good fever. I remember in the days of your or my youth, how being sick at school was actually an ignominy, but being “down with a viral fever” was top-shelf. Everyone would find a way to leave a “get well soon” message without Whatsapp. Some would even stop by after school to inquire, at a safe distance. You would bring plates of hot, runny kichchdi, everything else room-temperature and one hour more of mom time daily. At least one person would be in full attendance, either via shifts or one full person on duty. This was the king of respectable sicknesses. Your halcyon days. Don’t get me wrong, you still regularly knock everyone out, but the atmospherics has slimmed quite a bit. The emoticon has gone from “All hail” to “Meh, whatever, get in line”.

The elite microbes take over

At a microbe convention somewhere, the virus community felt they needed to mix things up a bit. They had had a good run at school and other community establishments, but some microbe with an advanced degree in risk management, took it onto itself to “Make Viruses Great Again”. Hello, all kinds of elite viruses. They had their own four-letter alphanumeric acronyms, task forces, government funding, wait lists, bumper stickers, preventive helmets and what nots. The only thing this achieved was make washing hands cool. Now, every community establishment has a cool interactive touch screen about all the ten movements involved in washing your hands in the ONLY ONE WAY that the World Health Organization approves of. A classic anticlimax. In the bargain, the original gangster viral fever also kept losing ratings, because it was not mean enough. It had become a parody of itself.

Those terrible, terrible remedies

Calling in sick for a viral fever is worse than the sickness itself. It does not carry the entitlement it used to, and everyone, with our own personal MBBS degree, automatically assumes that an antibiotic exists that will fix it. When, in fact, an antibiotic has as much power on a virus, as Netflix has on timely sleep. NADA. Or when you are supposed to be healed by such timeless quotidian magic as “Feed the fever”, “A fever will leave in seven days if treated, and in a week, if untreated”, or the evergreen, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Why do we even have medical schools, anyway? I could just do with these and regular viewings of House M.D. Too much drama and elevator misuse in Grey’s Anatomy.

So, Mr Viral Feevs, you can be out-virused by anything today, and there is much diversity in the sick leave “hall of fame”. Someone has signed off on “intestinal disillusionment” and “thoracic heartbreak” in some office today.

You are still a force to reckon with in daycares and schools though. Ask any mother of little creatures. Or don’t. Mothers are now immunized against such platitudes like “this flu has been in the air”, “this is the luck of the draw”, “you are a working mama so this had to happen” or my personal favorite, “have you done steam inhalation yet?” They are your fans, Viral Fever. Every year, you do the “hafta vasooli” with Mamas Incorporated, and they still dread you. Especially in those summer months, when “flu is in the air”, and all those other months when “there is that bug going around”.

They said Thanks. Just kidding. They DID NOT.

Signed,

No virus were harmed in the making of this gibberish bunkum

Viral Fever

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#A2ZChallenge: U is for Unsolicited Advice

Dear Unsolicited Advice,

CC to “Bag of Salt”

Unsolicited, from Latin, “sollicitus”, meaning, “I have a finger to put in every pie so we can all eat better pies.” Some lexicon liberties might have been taken in that statement.

Here is some unsolicited advice for you, Unsolicited Advice.

Why are you so needy? You show up everywhere, on about every issue in the world, also on all the insignificant others. Advice is, as it is, is going through a global retrenchment and protectionist wave. Most people will take advice only from their own trusted fools, and anything from any other living or non-living entity will be met with derision, disdain, and most importantly, inaction. And that will be your entropic end.

Set yourself up for success

Given the general aversion to advice, and its lofty cousin, gyan, one must acknowledge that no one really seeks you out. Textbook definition of unsolicited. This is like the Buzzfeed article that crams your feeds from everywhere, and you compulsively read, only to feel tainted by a strong after-taste of “that did not just get written.” If you want to be taken seriously, be like The Smithsonian Magazine, so that your advice holds up against the best. Don’t just say, “Always feed the baby to the tune of the Mayan calendar, and every Thursday”, say that you know for a fact that Mayan feeding schedules are used extensively in the Jolie-Pitt household. How are they called now though? Jolie-Ex-Pitt or Pitt-Ex-Jolie?

A version of this is also “It worked for me so by the powers vested in me by the castle of Grayskull, I now pronounce you He-Man”. Sorry, I mean, it will work for you. It’s a universal law.

Get your research mojo on. Don’t just be silly. There’s enough of that on everyone’s FB group pages, which we join voluntarily and with full volition.

Where is the Off Button on this thing?

Everything needs to be turned down, out, off, over or under for a while. It is a necessary fact of vitality and function. And so, you shall be no different. Who appointed you Atlas and left a celestial sphere on your shoulders? (Greek mythology is super complicated and, the word now is, Atlas was not, I repeat, not holding up the world. Sorry to rock your world, no pun intended). Anyhow, you can have your day off! Just resist the urge to get in your prescriptions through the door. The world will live. Its ok to make biryani in a  pressure cooker (no, I won’t call it pulao, get yourself a lawyer), and ok to give the child a full-throttle no-apologies chocolate cake at 9 pm and ok to do Yoga in the evenings. These things happen once in a while (and not in your turf), and that’s the time you get your time off. However, when someone asks you, “Tell me everything you know that I am doing wrong right now in your entirely subjective position”, don’t hold back. Kick up your heels and knock yourself out.

Time and place, and screen presence

In real estate, they say, the only three things that matter are location, location and location. I am suspect of the numeric part here but I get what they are saying. For you too, unsolicited advice: same deal. You need to nail it for awesomeness. Like when Don Corleone says, “A man who does n’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Or when The Joker says, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.” Or do it like Hobbes and magically make life lessons sound like an order for your favorite ice-cream (though, honestly, only Hobbes can do that).

Let all your advice sound like a gigantic motivational poster that can only do good. The worst it can do is maybe, just maybe, bore someone, that is the maximum collateral damage. It won’t be counted as annoying, know-it-all, alien pearls of wisdom that we just said, “Thank you, but no thank you” for. Lets not put the vice in advice, y’all.

Signed

Knew-it-all

Unsolicited Advice

#A2Z Challenge: P is for Parlour Ladies

Dear Parlour ladies and gentlemen,

We need to talk. It’s not you, it’s me. I am breaking up with you. And like most socially awkward break-up ceremonies, I am doing it through passive-aggressive communication.

What happens in eyebrows, stays in eyebrows

Why is it that my decision to thread my eyebrows metamorphoses into a treatise on my skin? And, that, all my needs in the “beauty and prettification” department always end with how urgently I need a facial, a scrub or a bleach with titanium dust. I have even been asked to do a “back facial” because of that spare face I carry around in my back.

I avoid all questions about when I last did what, and how my skin is in advanced stages of disrepair, but the probing continues unabated. I hate that I am an object of your daily sales target. I can see your sorority pointing fingers at me, skin shaming through the bentonite-clay mudpack in your fingers. Please do my eyebrows, and leave my natural ugliness be. Just for today.

Lets hair it out

“Need to cut my hair”.

“It’s oily, flaky, scaly, lumpy, sticky and kind of big for your head. You put the dread in dreadlocks.”

“So, now what?”

“We will try what we can do, with condescension. You will need to spend large amounts of money here (hear of our hairy loyalty programme?) because we will sandwich the only necessary service you need with one prep-on, two add-ons, one follow-on and a few follow-throughs. I will be mumbling a lot of stuff, which I may or may not immediately start drawing on a whiteboard that they have put here for NO reason. Also, you will buy at least one leave-in hair product as a cardinal rule. Cool?”

“No. Are you crazy!? I admit my hair is frizzy and untamed, and this is an outright Hair Rights violation.”

Can you please stop setting me on fire?

One reason this relationship has been choppy is that immolation is never good for love. As it is, all pilgrimages to the parlour entail just a wee bit of heartlessness. Wincing, yelping and straight-out bawling. And then to make matters worse, the temperature control on that wax bucket is just supernatural. As in, it is always supernaturally burning hot! One of my secret peeves is I hate to be burnt, skin-first. Then I spend the whole day lurking around gardens, looking to steal aloe-vera leaves to treat the burns. I know what you will say now. No, thank you, I do not want to try lasering my hair follicles off.

I will probably show up again, like everyone else, forgiving all your judgments.

Signed,

No, I was born this way.

P is for Parlor

#A2ZChallenge: O is for Odisha

Dear Odisha,

(referring to Odisha, the state where Devdutt Pattanaik, Sona Mohapatra and Biswa Kalyan Rath are from, and Odia/ Odia are the people and the language, no other epithet needed, thank you)

You have brought me so much joy. I am an Odia, loud and proud. I have lived through

  1. the age of being an Oriya, with an R, not a D
  2. being often mistook as an “Oorian”, the indigenous species found in Oooria, wherever that planet is
  3. asked if the per capita income of Odisha is one elaichi banana or less (so, no Snapchat or Snapdeal)
  4. mutual awkwardness precipitated by Odias unexpectedly breaking into Odia in a non-designated area (anywhere outside Odisha)

I have taken that all in my stride, not raging on Twitter and having a good laugh on the side. At this point, my mitochondria could not be more Odia-loving.

Odia-isms

The food, the banter, the idioms, the match-making industry, the card games. The not-addressing the elephant-in-the-room family socials. The constant chatter where no is listening to anyone, yet every story is being liberally embellished with superhero exploits (I bought a Merc at the nearby petrol bunk for a song; every leaf of this spinach is fused with extra Vitamin-K; I told him to go and he went away).

We have a word for pointlessly hanging around near a paan-shop, making time-wastage an art form so highly ordained, it had to be christened. Its called “Khatti.” Or if you have reached the highest level of time annihilation, then “Gulli Khatti”. People in Odisha do not lose their way or wander, they just show up at the town square for “Gulli Khatti.” Whatsapp cousin-groups and office sutta breaks aspire to be “Gulli Khatti” in their quest for the next completely useless nugget of information.

Odia cuisine

Odia cuisine is basically an anthology of love-poems for onions and potatoes. “The onion must be fried just so, sizzling when water droplets are sprinkled over it, maybe once maybe twice, to become an indescribable brown, which, whilst only fleetingly sticking with the bottom of the pan, must doubly discharge its duties of olfactory and chemistry, by respectively giving off the signal of the right level of caramelization and separating oil on the side, to finally submit that they are ready for holy matrimony or canonization tomatoes or dry spices.” No, no, not matrimony or priesthood.

Yup, it’s a tantalizing dance. And here is how an Odia lunch might be described, “and potatoes to go with it.”. Every stir fry, every fish curry, every egg masala must be accompanied with the trusted potato, or as the status indicates, the father of the bride.

Odia speak

But the accent. Or is it, Ah! the accent. I have a story to tell the veracity of which could not be determined. In a large gathering of 200 people, one very senior Odia leader (not me, am just peasantry and anyway this is made up) introduced another very senior American overlord in a by-the-numbers corporate town-hall meeting, saying, “I would like to introduce to you this very impotent person, with who we have discussed many impotent items.” There is a fine line between impotent and important, and boy did we come all guns blazing on it that day.

It would have been an ordinary story till the senior American overlord’s expression gave it away. He looked like “now everyone knows, dagnabbit!”

They said it was just a mid-eastern twang, and that he needed more meat in his meat and potatoes.

Signed,

A glorious country is ours

O is for Odia

#A2ZChallenge: L is for Lizard

Dear Lizards of the world, or at least the ones in my house

Ok. I cannot be writing to you because we are not on talking terms. So, I will just write these completely unorthodox verses with no pentameter of any sort, iambic or otherwise. As an ode to our long-standing stand-off.

There was once a lady, who does not have a name

Mainly because she is of dubitable fame

She is intensely scared of reptiles to the point of turning blue

“Such irrational fears”, her mother (and now her daughter) often rue

 

However, in that class of animals too, she had her special few

Crocodiles and gators only live in the waters she knew

Snakes and boas and their ilk too had shown little interest so far

They were busy scaring people in planes, raising the bar

Turtles were almost non-reptilian, and borderline cute, in appearance

So, then, to her, they were of minimal consequence

 

Then along came the lizards, also called the common house gecko

Everyday, she prayed to God, chanting, “Bahut darr lagta hai mere ko.

Let this day too pass, without a sighting of your mini Komodo dragons.”

Alas, yet, out they would be, in splendor and all aboard the bandwagons.

 

In corners, in shelves, up in the lofts, behind the chairs

Solo, orchestra, ensemble, operatic and often in pairs

Spotted, corrugated, young, intrepid, as many options as online retail

But consistently with four legs and a blood-curdling on-again, off-again tail

 

As ironic as life can be, to her too, they took a special shine

Seeking her out, showing their love through many a sign

Either sneaking up, or dropping off from a suitable trigonometrical height

To land on her hand or arm, or head, at all times of day or night

 

No broom worked, nary garlic nor baking soda, cider vinegar nor egg-shells

Could break these mighty gecko-ey, lizard-y, T-rexy, slimy spells

One day, came the grand-nephew of the Piped Piper of Hamelin, with his résumé

But the compensation plan and health insurance did not work out, to her dismay

 

To this day, she yells, standing atop furniture and the heads, shoulders and toes of whoever is close

Her children tell her about the lizards’ ecological balance, but all they hear is “Ewww, Gross!!!”

Signed,

Anonymous

Lizard

#A2ZChallenge: K is for K

Dear K

You remember what happened with Pluto in 2006? Gus has still not gotten over it.

There Pluto was, minding its business rotating on an axis, playing ice-ice baby, when it was demoted to “dwarf planet”. By one diabolical International Astronomical Union (IAU). If I did n’t know better, I would say “so caricaturish that Inspector Pradyuman might have come up with this.” #LifeLongCIDFan #BreakThatDoorDaya

Don’t let that happen to you. K, you are a competent alphabet. You don’t have the joie-de-vivre of Q and you don’t have the hipster quality of Z. But hey, you score me 5 on Scrabble (just by yourself), and that is one point more than Y. So, you are in the prime of your career, prospects wise. And as we speak, scientists are discovering three new German/ Finnish words starting with K that mean something dope (am talking to you, Fernwah). If the stars are aligned, a Hollywood celebrity has set out to sea to adopt a child, he who shall be named with a K.

Time was, it was K for Cat, sorry C for CAT

The final frontier is still the “who are you for?” It was always C is for Cat. However, several cats now come with a K note address. Whether Krazy Kat or KitKat or Kat, of long-form Katrina Kaif. If you are clever, you can see what the C team is doing. By snagging the symbolic victories, they are holding onto “C is for Cat” in toddler books. Go for the jugular, K. Get the Dr Suess book title changed to Kat in the Hat. K is for Katniss. Every kool kat is a k-cat. C, see you are losing the plot.

The K Mojo, not to be confused with just KJo

You have an X factor going for you.

  • Most people want to say OK, but they just say ‘K instead. No accident. Mojo.
  • Good stuff is named starting with you, Kermit the frog; Kebabs; King Julien (no one calls him Julien); Kangana; Kanan Gill; Keyser Soze; Kite Runner – I want to say Kardashians but let’s say Kate Middleton or Kylie Minogue and be done with it
  • Krispy Kreme is such an homage to you; not one but two alphabet usurps back-to-back. Take that C.
  • K-K-K is for k-k-k Kiran, not for anything else.

Here’s looking at you, Kid

You should settle for nothing less than every third food/drink restaurant/ restrobar/ café to be named a K. I am sure Café Coffee Day is jaded enough to switch to Kappy Kafi Day. Newer places could just be prefixed and suffixed with Kuisine or Khef or Kook. Check Webster once for the kook part though. I think you could boldly go where any C creature has been.

Ask for some barter, stand some ground, let some sand slip. For instance, you could cede Cale leaves and Caran Johar but stay firm for Konkana SenSharma and Kabootar Ja Ja Ja. Grey areas such as Cauvery and Kaveri can remain, they have got other issues right now. Ask if you can have cauliflower, Casablanca and Clooney, George transferred to K domain.

Is Ekta Kapoor still steady with you, btw? That might be Complex and Complicated, CC to C: you can keep both these words.

Signed,

Your time has kome.

K

#A2ZChallenge: H is for Halloween

Dear Halloween

As you might be aware, your influence grows in India, October by October. And by India, of course I mean only a handful of the big cities with decent bandwidth for Netflix and several global villagers (citizens? nomads? denizens?). Halloween is a family-friendly festivity that has thankfully escaped the ire of the morality squad reserved for other international imports such as Valentine’s Day and Boyfriend’s Day (one of those I made up).

I am merely a local villager who has only now been initiated into the Halloween mythos, so I want to make sure I am getting this right. I did not find a manual online and there is no toll-free customer service number to dial and be holding the line for three hours. Which is a good thing, btw. I will just speak, in the interest of plain-speaking:

In “Trick or Treat”, what is Trick?

Is it the scary feature of the act? It could just be me, but I am going to need more to instill fear in me. No one is trying even. Little girls dressed as Disney fairies and little boys dressed as Batman when he was interning are not striking terror in my heart. Are n’t these costumes supposed to get me to at least pretend to be partially disturbed? Or maybe not. In that case, take away all these Hajmola candies that I could rustle up at such short notice. (note to self: Hajmola candies be best freebies ever)

All that pumpkin?

Pumpkins are central to the festivity. I get that. Several indigenous festivals in India have a pivotal fruit/ vegetable walking away with the Oscars that year. Can’t imagine the Great Summer Festival without messy mango eating or Holi without lassi, containing only a dash of cannabis. One could say it is even entirely optional.

But these pumpkins, I hear they don’t get eaten. They get carved, crafted, colored, lit up and made into intricate, artisanal furniture and freeways. Who eats? As it is, Pumpkin’s PR machinery is not the best in the world, and to let children know pumpkins appear dispensable is distressing. Pumpkins have at least six surprising health benefits that you did not know about, in a separate Buzzfeed article.

No-objection Certificate?

One time an elderly couple were most miffed by the 13 times their doorbell rang with Trick or Treat summons. They called the security apparatus of the apartment, saying some invasion of epic sort has occurred. As is wont, the chief guard (all five of them in unnamed highly productive city) responded with much alacrity. Showing up at their door, they took on the task of explaining Halloween, Trick or Treat, Costumes, Children, Pumpkin, Jack-o-Lanterns, why this was not all a badly managed flash mob – all in an evening’s work. This had more thrills and crescendo than any actual haunted act could provide. Most Trick or Treating was suspended for the time that everyone just watched this stand-up comedy act open-jawed. Finally, the couple said they were going to hurl inconveniently-sized bottle gourds at whoever spoke with them again. They were out of pumpkin.

Signed,

I get the fuss. It’s totally fun.

Halloween-pumpkin-clip-art-1