Or maybe I should say, "Forever Elsewhere"? I am back in Madras. I had a hectic last couple of days in Nude Elly -- always, always, pre-departure frenzies -- there was a sudden revival of the monsoon and my second last driving lesson was cancelled as a result of which the last one, NOT TAKEN, was scheduled for the morning of my departure to Madras ...
But I DID manage to buy a box of celebratory kajoo burfee for Mr Moccha and was able to wish the other two students happy driving before bidding a final adieu. I don't expect to see them ever again -- in fact, as I write this, I can't remember whether I've even mentioned them so far? There were usually two other people in the car with me for the driving sessions every morning. In the second week it was a young man and a young woman, but on one occasion there was a second young man. The strangeness of being cooped up in a tiny red car amongst total strangers was easily set aside by the fact of being cross-eyed with terror. No-one introduced themselves and except for the fact that I said a cheery GOOD MORNING!!! every day, we would not have so much as sneezed in one another's direction. I find all of that totally bizarre and cannot explain it. Perhaps they were all experiencing terrors beyond comprehensiontoo, but I rather suspect it had more to do with being in a social situation for which they had no natural preparation, and hence, no conversation. Whereas I, having been trained as a journalist, can pretty much talk to anyone at any time.
So even though I had another brief experience of reversing, I never got around to learning how to park!! Weird. And now that I am in Madras, I am cut adrift from lessons behind the wheel ... There are three cars in the house but no-one to sit beside me at the crack of dawn. Well not just yet, anyway. Maybe when I return from Kodai ...
Which brings me to the reason I'm here (I mean, aside from visiting my Mum): I've been invited to lead a workshop at the Kodai School in -- surprise! -- Kodaikanal. A literary workshop, focusing on narrative. I've never done anything like this before so it's possible that I am going to spend three days twiddling my thumbs in front of 30 perplexed and bored students but ... you never know. They might rise to the occasion and teach me a thing or two.
Meanwhile, in the midst of everything, I've been reading a coupla interesting books that I've been wanting to share here. First on the list, a rather odd choice, called How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by William Poundstone. Its sub-title is: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers -- and I picked it up because it appeared to include some interesting brainteasers. And it does. Back in the days when I used to be smart, I was pretty good at puzzles and brainteasers but these days I am content to read about them while only taking the occasional stab at solving them. But I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys scraping through the back-alleys of logic.
Another fascinating read was The Genius Factory by David Plotz. It's a must-read for anyone who wondered whatever happened to that news-item curiosity called The Nobel Sperm Bank -- did the women who signed up to be impregnated by the sperm of Nobel Prize-winning men actually go forth and produce a race of super-brats? And if not, why not? And other questions of this nature. The book is a chatty and informal attempt at satisfying your curiosity, while answering the lead question in a roundabout fashion: yes and no. Some women DID have smart kids but ... there's no way of proving that they wouldn't have done just as well with any old sperm. Meanwhile, at least a couple of the sperm donors featured in the book appeared to be of the kind that make nerds look like handsome -- and apparently there only ever were three actual Nobel Prize winners who donated their vital fluids(it turns out NONE of them fathered any of the sperm bank's progeny). Plotz is a journalist and follows up the leads in a manner that is highly readable -- just short of gossip-column readable -- by the end of it, I for one felt I'd got my money's worth.
And then, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt. This book has been around for a while and I've been waiting for a the paperback version to come out coz I didn't feel like buying the hardback, coz I wasn't sure I would really want to plough through the WHOLE of it -- and was pleasantly surprised when I did. It's light reading -- I guess the name kind of gives that away -- but produces some interesting sideways thoughts -- I don't know whether I'd want to use the word "revelations" because there's a sense in which reading it is a bit like watching a magician pulls facts out of a top hat. I mean: are those REALLY facts or just ... cute white rabbits? Still, I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone who likes to think that some of the really big questions aren't being answered only because no-one's bothering to ask them.