Category Archives: Grants

Sorry Time, Grime Time

Every so often, you need to do something you’ve pointedly been avoiding for a while – even if it is only to remind yourself why you’ve been avoiding it. Come on now, I don’t need to tell you of the smug complacence of being right all along. Among the many things I’ve been avoiding lately, the toddler Story Time and Rhyme Time at the local library somehow resurfaced to cajole me into attending a session. In case anyone is wondering, the fact that Twitter and GTalk were down had absolutely nothing to with this. It was out of no choice a conscious super-mom choice that I decided to step out and subject my little one to some serious torture literary enrichment at the library down the road.

I realized I should stop congratulating myself on having taken the trouble to brush my hair and drag myself out at 10 a.m. when I saw a clique of moms all dressed up for Oscar night, waiting for the doors to open. To be fair to them – if they must travel 40 minutes in sun and traffic for a 15 minute Story Time, they may as well make up for it with their little black dresses.

Like all things glamorous, Story Time comes with its own set of unwritten rules. Topping the list of prerequisites is a matronly woman with a cherubic smile, translucent stockings, and a Croft and Barrow knit cardigan, regardless of the weather. And uh, it isn’t just her refrigerator that one can call full. Next in line is a book with the picture of some goofy looking bear or duck. If not that, some construction vehicle with a pair of aww-just-look-at-my-cuteness eyes and a smiley face will do too.  Of course, the picture is nothing if the title doesn’t fit the snowclone “X the Y”- where if X and Y cannot rhyme, they absolutely must start with the same silly starting sound. For instance, Dorky the Duck, or Baddy the Bulldozer, if not Honey the Funny Bunny.

So the fun begins as Ms. Sarah greets all her “little friends” with an Oscar-worthy fake enthusiasm. Some “little friends” will respond with an apathetic but very genuine blank expression. The others will continue to pick their noses, too focused for anything else, even a woman’s charm. But yes, the moms will all sincerely chime “Hellllo!” in unison. For the data nerds amongst you, the descending order of excited folks will be Ms. Sarah, the moms, blank friends, nose pickers.

Nevertheless, the story that begins at a low B will progress all the way to an F-sharp as it gets more and more exciting – for Ms. Sarah, that is. Somewhere in the middle, the bear will have encountered a little boy and would growl baring all this teeth. Or the duck will have met a gnu or some other exotic creature ducks wouldn’t otherwise meet. That’s enough cue for the imprisoned histrion within Ms. Sarah to be unleashed. All she has to do is scrunch her nose and bare all her teeth and say, “Looks like you have lost your way from home, little boy!” That’s it. All the kids will throw their head back and laugh. She could well be saying “Two systems in thermal equilibrium with a third system are in thermal equilibrium to each other, little boy!” with a scrunched nose and baring her teeth, and the kids would still throw their heads back and laugh.

By now it’s a good ten minutes into the story, and little yoghurt cups and Cheerios  containers find their way out of the handbags of the more anxious moms. Why, some even dare to bring bananas. Never mind that it’s just five minutes for the routine to end. Never mind that the child has not shown any signs of acute hunger pangs. But of course, he must be hungry at this precise minute. He hasn’t had anything since morning, other than the two waffles, a banana and that glass of milk an hour ago.

Poor Ms. Sarah has no choice but to take the hint, and flip through the remaining pages at a visibly enhanced speed. She will try to sound as enthusiastic with her good-byes as she did for her hellos, but who’s really listening? With a hurriedly muttered thank you, mommies and the toddlers make a beeline to the exit, so as not to miss the kids’ lunchtime. Thankfully, the library floor is spared of stray Cheerios, yogurt lids and banana peels.

That does it. Entertaining as the experience always promises to be, Sorry Time and Grime Time will always be one sloppy mom short.

W-T-F Q Person Are You?

First there was the Farcebook hype. Then there was Farcebook, which plateaued after the initial high of having rediscovered kindergarten classmates and high-school crushes. After that came an attempt to rekindle the FB charm with an insane influx of quizzes. Ask any random question – chances are it’s likely to be a Farcebook quiz.

Farcebook certainly has been imaginative in creating random quizzes to guess your personality.  Where they lack imagination, however, is to tell you your personality based on the kind of quiz you take. For now, let’s pretend you have answered subtle questions like What is your favorite color?, and multiple-choice ones like Do you prefer to travel or watch a soap?. It’s not your answers, but the quiz you took that reveals the person that you are. At least according to the “What Type of Farcebook Quiz Person Are You? Quiz.

1. LIVID (Likes Ideal Vacations to Imaginary Destinations)

Adventurous, Exotic and Itinerant may well be your favorite words in the dictionary. Your favorite pastime happens to be browsing the dictionary. You love traveling the world, but only through the Face of Books – and you completely trust their decision on where you want to travel, since they know you better than you know yourself. The less enlightened may call you a loser, miser, or a couch potato. But that simply isn’t you. You are a content, frugal settee-spud stud. You love the idea of ogling basking on the warm Caribbean Beaches one minute, and experiencing the freezing beautiful snow-capped Bavarian Alps the next. Adventure means a lot to you. In other words, you will take a game of  Atlantis over Tetris, anyday.

#Your favorite quiz is What Is Your Ideal Vacation Destination?

2. PLOP (The Previous Life Opportunity Ponderer)

You are charmed by the arcane. You delve into the depths of your past life and ponder over opportunities lost. If you were still the Shakespeare that FB said you used to be, all your blog posts would have been books by now. Or, the jokes your friends do not laugh at would have been “Kafkaesque,” instead of just plain flat. You could have been Liszt or Chopin in your previous life, not because of your musical genius, but the sheer number of women at your fingertips today. You like to question, and you even question science with your psycho psychic noitingocerp*. Who you are today, or what you can do with your future isn’t very important. We’re all going to be dead at the end of it. But what you really look forward to is the futuristic future – the next life, where you can take a quiz and find out what you were in your previous life.

#Your favorite quiz is Who Were You In Your Past Life?

3. SCAGS (Side-kick Character in A Giggly Soap)

You are compassionate. You always identify with the unnoticed, giggling best friends of central characters in soaps. In fact, that is the very reason you would rather do justice to this obscure lame quiz (as opposed to a mainstream lame one) like What Beer Are You?, or Are you an Alfa Romeo or a Ferrari?. Given the opportunity, you will never choose to be Seinfeld in Seinfeld, nor Fraiser in Fraiser, or Raymond in Everybody loves Raymond. You identify with the fake fanciful people on screen rather than the wicked ones in the harsh world. Your personality alone is too monotonous for you. You want to give it character (no pun intended) and adorn it with numerous peripheral personas.

#Your favorite quiz is Which [N.A.M.E.O.F.S.O.A.P.] Character Are You?

4. MMCP (The Mean Machine Car Personality)

Let’s Face it. Cars often have more personality than people. Has a Corvette ever given you a dense, lost smile any time? Never. It has always looked back at you with attitude. You like to see yourself as the mean machine. Flashy. Full of gloss. Smokin’. Raving Revving. Why, with fiber like that, you could even fly! Alas, those four conspicuous tires – add to that balding with time – is what keeps you rooted to the ground.

#Your favorite quiz is What Car Are You?

5. PWNER (Paranoid of the Wicked, Nasty, Exploitive Repercussions)

You are the paradox of all Farcebook quiz personalities. If you ever took a Farcebook quiz, it would tell you you are a person who will never take Farcebook quizzes. You are paranoid about the repercussions that might entail. What if Farcebook makes it look like some “fun quiz” but is actually profiling me? What if it sells my data to some third party? If I suddenly find some brochures to exotic getaways in my mailbox, would it be because of that harmless quiz I took? What if it picks some vague answers I give just for kicks, and labels them as my personality flaws traits? And what if they sell these traits to some insurance company who will then hike my premium and co-pay? What if….?

Perhaps this is how you think. Or perhaps you have a spouse, who may or may not be reading this, thinks like this and has got you thinking on similar lines as well. You will most likely not take a quiz on Farcebook. Instead, you will turn to your whining personal web-space and blog about it.

# If you had a favorite Farcebook Quiz, it would be Why would people want to take those Farcebook Quizzes and volunteer their privacy?


*If seeing far in the future is precognition, seeing far in the past must be noitingocerp.

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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.

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.