Monthly Archives: February 2009


There must be very few of us who are not quite familiar with Hamway and its antics. The h in Hamway is silent – just like the h in honest. Ha! Hamway and honest in one sentence, how about that? But I digress. Enough has been blogged about the Hamway dogs and their devious approach, about how they will skillfully sneak up to an unsuspecting you in a grocery aisle and ask the most imbecile question, bearing the most innocent countenance. Ironically, the more imbecile their question, more seasoned is the player in the game. Because if they ask something even a degree more intelligent, your possible response of “I have no idea” will stop the conversation right there and defeat their purpose.

One typical question that should set off the Hamway-alarm is, “Could you recommend one to me?” One here refers to whatever it is that you’re looking up, be it a fascinating Swiss-knife or the usual gallon-jug of 2% milk. But the shrewd imbecile will say something like “Oh that’s a wonderful car-seat! Where did you find one like that?” or “Wow, you’ve strapped your baby so beautifully in that seat! How did you do it?” The “wonderful” car seat is a standard navy infant seat almost every baby-owner blindly picks from the most obvious store first-time parents shop in. And anyone who has strapped a baby in a seat knows that she’s either strapped, or she isn’t. There’s nothing even remotely beautiful about the process, other than perhaps the baby itself. But no, let me still praise the very mundane things to make the cretin in you feel like Superman.

The rest is just a matter of steps in the Hamway manual – Mrs. Hamway joins in, praises the gooey bib or your plain grey sweatshirt, pleasantries are exchanged, camaraderie established, an e-business sneakily mentioned, phone numbers given with promises to ‘catch up’. Hamway and the missus walk away with the casual triumph of having totally taken in a clueless retard. Little do they know that you were just indulging them with some basic face-saving courtesy.

So my point is – why let them have all the fun? You’re humoring them anyway, go ahead and humor yourself while at it. This, I think calls for a Part II. Long alert – come back later, and/or read it in bits and pieces, if you suffer from ADD. Skip it altogether if you suffer from laziness.


So there was a time the husband and I were hounded by Hamwayites. We must have a default Hamway-suckers look on our face. Either that, or we likely lived in Hamwayville back then. In the beginning, we’d hurriedly head in another direction as soon as we smelt an Hamway rat a few meters away. Or, we’d keep conversing nonsense with each other so there was no scope for any interruption. But the more we observed their cookie-cutter technique, the devil in us begged to be unleashed. (Who would put a Devil on leash anyway? Maybe Phantom, but I digress again).

If Mr. and Mrs. Hamway do RTFM, they split before they approach you. We decided we’d follow suit. So as soon as we get the whiff of Mr. Hamway, I walk to another aisle – with an eye out for Mrs. Hamway. The husband would look up some gadget or a relatively complicated product; I’d look up – and scrutinize, mind you – a no-brainer like disposable plastic spoons. Sure enough, she will come with a candied sweet smile and ask, “which ones are good?” (Eh? There’s only one kind here, no options). But I’ll still glance at the brand and say I prefered these. “Thank God the store has them!” Artificial conversation continues, and we establish a “connection” as we’re both from India. (Seriously – how many Indians do you come across in the US? Isn’t it nice to finally see someone from your motherland?) We become best pals in just a few seconds, and walk together to the husbands. The only thing we don’t do is hold hands.

Back in the aisle, H1 is going ga-ga over H2’s choice of gadget, while W1 still can’t stop praising W2’s choice of picnic spoons. Introductions happen. Everyone shows surprise at the coincidence of how the spouses met separately. Everybody goes “Yeah, right – idiots!” in their respective minds. We decide to meet for coffee sometime. Surely you see that if we like the same gadgets and picnic spoons, there is no way our political views and ideologies could differ? Mr. Hamway decides this is the right time to casually mention his e-commerce business he’d like to tell us about.

Scenario 1: We’re simply delighted that he brought the topic up, and the husband mentions he’d like to talk about our business himelf. Gropes in his pocket for a card, realizes he’s out of them. “Oh, but you could look us up on” The key word here, my friends, is –  a probable domain of any BWW “business-owner”, and Hamway’s retarded cousin. The look on their face – priceless!

Scenario 2: We go home, he calls as expected, on a Sunday evening. That’s when they always call. It can’t be a coincidence – perhaps some marketing psychology juju. I take the call, keep rambling and giving useless input when the conversation is about the weather or something half-witted. Every time the poor thing tries to mention his e-business, I either pick another word from that sentence and go totally off topic, or pretend to be interrupted, mutter a sorry, pick up a different thread and continue rambling.

But I must admit it was disheartening to realize that the person who was so excited about my baby’s gooey bib did not have much patience for my views on Masala films, or the French Onion soup in the local bistro. What did make up for it, however, was the amusement of detecting a steady increase in his impatience. He made no effort to hide it either. Finally, of course, I had to hang up, since “the baby was crying”, but I didn’t forget to tell him how wonderful it was to chat with him nevertheless. Nice of him to call and say hello, really. I can bet I’ve been the object of Ampletives (ample Hamway expletives).

Scenraio 3: This is a rarer scenario, in case the Mr. Hamway in question seemed to have just landed from India and was brainwashed before he could say “Quixtar!” We almost felt bad for him. So – the husband agrees to meet Mr. Hamway for coffee. Mr. Hamway, who was quite looking forward to being the Speaker of the Day ends up being the Speakee instead. Husband transmogrifies himself into a Math. lecturer, complete with a pencil, the Scarbucks paper napkin, a ready formula to rattle out. With super-confident schemas and annotations – well, the coffee-shop equivalent of those – tells Mr. Hamway how they are all being taken in by a few holding the strings. It would take eons for any riches to reach his level in the pyramid.  Even if the pyramid scheme did really work, they would soon run out of people in the world within just a couple levels. In other words, you’re duped yourself, what’s the point in duping others? Checkmate.

It’s been a long time since we did any of this, though. We’re getting old, and there are other useless things demanding our time and attention. These days, if we smell an Hamway rat a few meters away, we hurriedly head in another direction. Or, we keep conversing nonsense with each other so there is no scope for any interruption.

Present Tense

present tense /prěz’ənt tɛns/ adj. Anxious about whether the gift you plan to give your sweetheart would be appreciated enough.

Usage: Crap. It’s that You-don’t-love-me-enough Day again. Always makes me present tense; I must love her at least $100 more this year.

Root: present tense

I put this up on Twitter the other day, and Naren came up with a very nice rejoinder. I’ve added Usage, Root and the IPA pronunciation:

gift rapping /gɪft ræpɪŋ/ n. Delivering a sharp blow with the knuckles to one’s beloved’s head for a pathetic present.

Usage: Crap, it’s the usual cheap fake diamond ring again. Honey, could you come here when you have a minute? There’s some gift rapping to do and I’d like you to be present.

Root: gift wrapping

Do you see what I see?

Here’s a poser for you. I mean a mind-boggler, you one-track minds! It has been nagging me for over a couple decades now. I remember asking this to quite a few kids when I was in school and college, only to get the increasingly familiar you must be those crazy people mommy says to stay away from reaction. I don’t remember asking my parents, ever. Because if it’s something friends don’t know, there’s no way parents will. Don’t take my word for it, ask my kid. So I decided it’s time I put you through it.

Here it is. What color is this? And this? And for that matter this? It really is something that has me foxed. Now maybe the alecs who fancy a little poetry will say this is sad, this is angry and this is envious. But it should be a safe bet to assume that the rest of us mortals will unanimously say this is blue, this red, and this one is green. Because it’s been ingrained in our minds since we were kids that blue means this, red means this, and green means this. But the question is, do we both really see the same exact color? Is what I call blue the same as your perception of blue? How do I know you don’t see it as what I call beige instead? Of course you will call it blue; you have grown up calling that color you see blue. But perhaps what you’re actually calling blue appears beige to me. (Oh my God, I see it. That’s exactly the look I’d get back then; it’s so familiar!!)

Well, I’ve seen large color charts with intelligent statistics in science museums and other places. They often have information on color-blindness too. For instance, when people who are not color blind (NCB) see a certain color x, this is actually how people who are color blind (CB) perceive it. One question: HOW DO YOU KNOW? Are you color blind yourself? In that case, how do you know what the real color looks like? And if you aren’t, how would you know how the CB would perceive it? How can you nail it down to the precise shade in the spectrum? I’m not talking about the color-blindness tests here, where CBs see a different number than NCBs. That only establishes color-blindness, not what color a CB sees instead.

I’ve combed the internet, read extremely interesting articles on color perception and vision. Yes, they do a wonderful job of explaining how the brain perceives color; they all talk about spectral sensitivity and luminosity and other -ities in elaborate detail. But I still haven’t found an answer to this question. Or maybe it’s just my (lack of) perception.

If you have as much time on your hands as I do, here‘s something to keep you occupied. If you have even more time, here‘s another article I came across that caught my fancy.

I’m sure there are many folks out there who have asked this question. If you’re one of them, I hope you have an answer. But if for some reason you decide to write me off as a loony, please be nice and visit me with that homemade blueberry pie.

The Perfect Compliment

I heard someone say this to a woman the other day: You have a regal nose. And I thought to myself, what a perfect compliment! Think about it – you can say it to friend or foe alike, sincerely mean it, and get away with it! The question is, which regal personality you were talking about. The poor woman has no idea you were referring to Julius Caesar, while she fancies her nose to be like that of Cleopatra’s or the Queen of Sheba’s.

It’s hard to say if that remark was intentionally equivocal, but its potential for diplomacy did make an impression on me. I made a mental note to compile one such list of perfect compliments.

See, an embarrassing moment seldom knocks before it stares you in the face. Before you know it, you find yourself in a position where you have to quickly think on your feet to say something nice. If you’re anything like me, you have an uncanny knack for landing right in the middle of these situations. Of course, don’t count on it to work all the time. For instance:

She: Look, I bought this (atrocious) outfit at Macy’s! What do you think?

You: You have a regal nose.

But imagine this:

She: That’s us in our honeymoon suite in the Poconos.

(Huh, I’m sure it is.) You’re looking at a picture that need not have been clicked to begin with, let alone passed around for people to frantically wonder what mentionable part – of the picture, that is – they could finally comment on.

You: Hey, you have a regal nose!

Tantadan! (That’s “Voila!” to you Francophiles). 1) You found something harmless enough to mention; 2) You meant every word you said – I mean, with so many kings and queens floating around in history books, there’s got to be someone who matches that nose. And finally, you made someone’s day with the perfect compliment. S.m.o.o.t.h.!

Watch out for the pitfalls, however. If you’ve already complimented someone on their regal nose, you want to refrain from commenting on their presidential chin. Especially so if that someone is a woman.

Well, the list has no end. Unfortunately, it hasn’t had a start either. At least not yet. But it’s imperative that one has it handy. If you come up with something, let’s hear it!

As for the one who mentioned the regal nose, what can I say, other than a heartfelt Thank You – for inspiring this post ;)