Monday, December 12, 2011


If you've never heard the sound of genuine, honest-to-goodness manual typewriters (mechanical, electric, whateverical) and have always yearned to know what they sounded like, well ... here's your chance. Performed by someone who may well be the world's best-known -- if not also the first-known -- beatboxer, MICHAEL WINSLOW of 1984's POLICE ACADEMY. Brought to my attention via the superlative VERY SHORT LIST.

History of the typewriter recited by Michael Winslow from SansGil—Gil Cocker on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Couldn't resist. This is the decoration on my front door, received as a gift in the mail from my sister Su, today. I have named the charming arachnid Lady Long Legs on account of the gorgeous, shapely limbs that can be made to wiggle about. I plan to keep re-arranging them in the week ahead.


There's no way to prove this, but the eggs pictured here were actually ONE egg, with two yolks. I know, I know -- it's common enough -- but not for moi. So after the first couple of eggs I thought, "Hey wait! Why am I being cool about this? It's new for ME. Even if the whole rest of the world gets double yolk eggs for breakfast EVERYDAY, I haven't so far." So I took a photograph, with my usual ineptitude (just so that it's clear I'm not employing a professional) and have -- as you can see -- posted it here. I got about five double yolk eggs in a carton of 12 extra-larges. They tasted completely normal. I was SO disappointed!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Puzzle Time #3

Five more pictures. Things seen around my house. Two are slightly unusual. To post guesses, scroll down and click on "comments"-- then scroll down again to see the input window. I monitor comments, so your response won't be instantly visible.

Friday, October 14, 2011



This is a lithograph I made at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, under the expert guidance of master printer Devraj Dakoji, in 2009, in NYC.

The link will take you to the site where you can buy a poster of the print. Also a tee-shirt -- though I'm not totally sure whether or not it's appeared in the "market place" yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Joke For Our Times

Got this joke from my most reliable source of Web Gold, AA (click to see the punch-line):

As it's no longer politically correct to direct a joke at any racial or ethnic minority, try this one:
An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, a Gurkha, a Latvian, a Turk, an Australian, a German, an American, an Egyptian, a Japanese, a  Mexican, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Jordanian, a New Zealander, a Swede, a Finn, an Israeli, an Egytian, a Romanian, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a  Swiss, a Greek, a Singaporean, an Italian, a Norwegian, an Argentinian, a Libyan, a Nigerian, a Ghanaian and an Liberian went to a night club.

The man at the door looked at them and said, "Sorry, I can't let you in without a Thai.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This is so amazing I had to post it here right away, even though I will of course ALSO e-mail it to long-suffering friends and fambly who (I know) find my enthusiasm for Every New Thing just a teensy bit tiresome.

Well, TOUGH! Some things are irresistibly enthusiasmagoric.

The video (click the post and the vid-interface will come up) features BRE PETTIS, CEO of MakerBot, a company that makes machines which permit people anywhere to print things out in three dimensions. For $1300. This isn't the first example of such wizardry I've seen, because this 3D printing revolution has been evolving quietly in the background for several years. But it's starting to spill out of the design stage and into our homes.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Puzzle Time #2

Picture Puzzle #2

Several friends responded to Picture Puzzle #1 but only two managed to post comments (and one posted via me). I think there were a couple of problems: (a) it wasn't easy to find the puzzle because of my post about the World Tour Mystery (b) the "comments" button is not merely tucked out of sight, but you've got to click on it and then scroll down to see it. Which is a bore. This new template is still being tweaked, so maybe that'll improve.

Okay! I thought the previous pix were too obvious by half -- but I didn't know whether to make em more or less so. Based on that experience I ... STILL DON'T KNOW! Heh. So this new lot is easy too but I used the same background for four, which may help with scale issues. They're also common objects. But how common is "common"? In the previous set, I realized belatedly that #4 was coloured in a way that wouldn't be common in India. Anyway, here now are the answers to Picture Puzzle #1:

1) Popcorn -- i.e., one popped kernel
2) Postage stamp -- the wiggly edge between one stamp and its neighbour. They're self-adhesive stamps so the familiar perforations are missing. This, like #4, was location-specific. Also the stamp is not typical and the fragment of printing that you see is misleading. So ... my bad.
3) Cotton bud
4) Toothpick tip -- an ordinary wooden one, but blue
5) Burnt match-head (everyone got this, no surprise)

Below are five new pix. Complaints are welcome, BTW -- too easy/too hard/too blurred -- I'd like to know. I plan to do this once a week! So feedback is useful. As before, scroll down past the pictures to find the comment button. Click on it and THEN SCROLL AGAIN. I watch-dog them, so they won't post immediately.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


TWO puzzles: one is in my most recently published book, THE WORLD TOUR MYSTERY (Tulika Books, Madras, 2011); the other one's right below the book-info, a very simple amusement I put together just for you, Unknown BlogVisitor.

This is the cover and there's a description of the book at the link. But if you're feeling too lazy to explore the link, here's what I wrote, for Tulika's blog, about working on the book:

This book took shape in my mind mainly because of a party game we used to play when I was little. It was called Around-the-World: no game-board, player tokens or pictures of places and countries. Instead the names of cities were scattered through the house and the players were told to figure out the correct sequence of places on an (imaginary) world tour. Playing the game involved a great deal of running up and down and all around the rooms of the house, with much excited screaming and calling out of cities. The first person to get the whole sequence correct was the winner.

I enjoyed this game so much that I thought it might be possible to make it into a book. BUT … dearie me! It really wasn't easy. In my typical way, I started with the thing I wanted to do most: which is, to make drawings of some of my favorite monuments from around the world. Having done that, I thought, it would be quite simple to force the drawings to become a game! And also a book!

Of course, I was wrong.

Fortunately, Tulika's editors are very kind and also very patient. I actually completed one version of the book with big colored drawings of my favourite monuments. In the end, however, we all agreed that it just wasn't working as a book. So it didn't get published. We all felt there was something nice about the idea if only it could be worked out in some other way.

Well, five years passed. During that time, I worked on SAME & DIFFERENT, a sequel to I AM DIFFERENT!. Both books explore the ways in which sameness and differences are interesting subjects to think about. As the idea of the Monuments book continued to twitch and grow inside my mind, I and Tulika began to see that difference/sameness are a really important part of traveling too. After all, people in other countries look different and have unique local costumes,  yet -- as we see in the book -- tourists look the same wherever they go! When we line up to board an aircraft, we see hundreds of people, some young, some old, some funny, some strange: yet for all the differences, we can also see so much that's the same: we all drink water, for instance; little babies of all nationalities scream in the same language; and everyone looks grumpy if there's a long queue for the toilet.

The first big improvement was to create a puzzle based on the game but not really like it at all. You've still got to figure out the correct sequence of places on the tour, but by finding clues embedded in the pictures rather than by running around a house.  The next improvement was to imagine a family going on a trip – and then to think up names and faces and personalities for the members of that family. Finally, the family became the focus of the book and the monuments got fitted into the background. That's how the world looks to us when we go on a real sight-seeing trip: a lot of people in holiday clothes, with strange or interesting-looking structures in the distance.

So what we have now is a puzzle-book called The World Tour Mystery with lots to look at and amusing facts to read, as Mum, Dad, Aunt Mimi, Kooks, Bunny and Bobo travel around the world.

I hope you enjoy it as much I enjoyed putting it together! And maybe some day you'll go on a world tour just like it.

PICTURE PUZZLE -- #1 October 1st, 2011

Guess what the objects in the pictures are. All very common. There won't be any prizes this time around, because it's too easy. But the next time around, who knows?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Watch this space ...

Well. Yes. It's been a while ...

So I thought I'd come back to life (not that I've been dead! Just bizzy*) with a surprise -- I mean, it's a surprise to me too -- change of lay-out. I just happened to discover Google's Blogger re-vamp earlier today. I don't know if it's just confusing or rather cool. But anyway. As a way of making a fresh start ... I thought, WHY NOT?

So here we are. For today.

MOON SOAP. For late-night showers.
(*I've been living in downtown Newport, Rhode Island, in a tiny apartment, since 1st May this year. There's a Dunkin Donuts on my doorstep. So far it's been a good year: another picture book for Tulika -- it's just been published but isn't on the market yet, so I haven't gotten around to posting about it; an odd new art form that is probably only amusing for me; an enthusiasm connected to an internet site which I'll post about here eventually; the project-in-hand, which I don't want to name directly except to say it may be a sequel to my last novel; a new niecelet -- in Boston, this time; and an encounter with nature in the form of Hurricane Irene. And LOTS of movies becoz I signed up for Netflix. Yes, of course, just as the company goes down the tubes. This is typical of me so I didn't even bother being surprised/depressed).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I'm compiling a list of "variations on the theme of happiness". Please join in and compose one of your own! Post it as a comment or send me e-mail and I'll include it on this list. Initials are what I'm using for the moment, but if anyone wants their full name revealed they can ask for it.


I'm as happy as a …

… fruit bat in a mango orchard! (MP)
... a kite on a long string! (MP)
… a starving bear who has fallen into a pot of honey! (EG)
... a grasshopper on a Pogo stick! (GD)
... a hummingbird in a honeysuckle bush! (SN)
... a clam in a spy agency! (DM)
... a dot in a decimal factory! (KR)
... a transparency that didn't get stuck inside the photocopier! (Dr SS)
... a manic depressive with a bottle of pentobarbital! (AA)
... a newborn baby at her mother's breast! (DMM)(= new niecelet! Posted on her behalf by An Admirer)
... a closet-laundress with a new spin-dryer! (SN) (deep ref. to context here ...)
... a Scrabbler who has picked both the blanks! (SA)
... a Lawyer in a litigation-prone land! (VM)
... a Masochist in hell! (SM)
... a cat in a bowl of mice! (NR)
... a kitten in a pile of feathers! (NR)

(the following are all from AA. I tried to remove the numbers but they wouldn't go away in "compose" view and Html is only good when I don't have to fix it)

2. ... a masochist in bed with a sadist

3. ... a virgin on her wedding night

4. ... a paedophile in a kindergarten class

5. ... an agoraphobic in a stranded elevator

6. ... a urolagnic in a pathology lab

7. ... a nymphomaniac in a gang-bang

8. ... a teddy bear with its little boy

9. ... the thumb in a baby’s mouth

10.... George Bush in a B-2 over Baghdad, with his finger on the button

... a sore bum in a sitz-bath! (SN)
... a bat in a belfry! (MB)
... the ink in Will's quill! (SBI)
... the hare beating the tortoise! (SBI)

(all of the following are by AA -- who is definitely winning this blog's Most Varied Definitions of Happiness Prize)(so far)

... honey-bee in a field of thyme!

... baby who’s just had its first taste of chocolate!

... aomeone whose biopsy result says ‘Negative’!

... shopaholic with a stolen credit card!

... an anorexic in Ramadhan!

... a monk in a massage parlour!

... a suicide bomber with his foot on the accelerator!

... an author who’s writing the last paragraph of his novel!

... Charlie Brown after a kiss from the little red-haired girl!

... a fly in a puddle of shit!

(okay, these are from MP)
… a battery in a charger!
… a chick under a wing!
… a firefly in a hall of mirrors! (uhh … CRAZY happy)
… a free electron!
… a nudist on the first day of spring!
… a gas balloon on a hot day!
… a magnet at the North Pole!
… a bull in a Swarovski show room!
… a kitten with a ball of wool!
… as an arsonist in Hell! (heheh)

... a puppy in a splash pool! (RK)

(yet more from AA!)

… an olive in a martini!

… a pig with a truffle!

…. A rabbi with a pork-chop! (Uh-oh ...)

… a kid who’s just learned to cycle (30 seconds ago)!

… a pilot whose parachute has finally opened at 200 feet!

… a constipated lady who’s just had her first shit after 10 days!

… a tranvestite with a new pair of Pradas!

… Christina Hendricks’s bra!

… a guy who quit smoking and just lit up his first cigarette after 6 months!

… someone coming out of Bukhara (burp!)

... a philantrophist reincarnated as santa clause! (Shomu)
... a smile! (Ishan)
... a baby gurgling in bath-water! (Golly)
... Rip Van Winkle after 200 years of sleep! (Anjali)

(more from MP - gotta keep up with AA!)

… a shorn sheep!
… a released kidnappee!
… a new graduate!
… a flag in a high wind!
… a released dove!
… a popped pimple! (yuck!)
… a gushing geyser!
… a fresh-hatched tadpole!
… a cured AIDS patient!
… a successful litigant!
and … an escaped convict!

(OH AAAARGH! More from AA!)
… the worm in a tequila bottle
… a psychopath with a steam-roller
… an epileptic with a drum-set
… a foot fetishist in a shoe shop
…. a sniper in Sarajevo
… someone who’s discovered a wrong credit of Rs 10,00,000 in their bank account
… someone who’s just cracked the Times crossword
… someone who’s just peed in the swimming pool
… Ogden Nash, after finally finding a rhyme for ‘silver’
… the man who broke the bank at Monte Ca-a-a-rlo!

(*gasp, pant, wheeze* these are from MP)
… Galileo Galilei seeing the rings of Saturn for the first time!
… Isaac Newton being hit by his apple!
… Edmond Hillary at the summit of Everest!
… Hellen Keller saying her first word!
… Marie Curie discovering X-rays!
… Andrew Wiles solving Fermat's Last Theorem!
… Robinson Crusoe seeing a human footprint!
… Frodo when he wore the Ring!
… Max returning to his room in Where the Wild Things Are!
… Alice eating mushrooms!

(Oh NOOOOO! More from AA!)
… a kid with a new box of crayons!
… a monkey on a mango tree!
… an accountant who’s finally got his trial balance to balance!
… the bouncer in a whore-house!
… Ronald Reagan with a giant bottle of jelly-beans!
… Morarji Desai in a pathology lab!
… someone who’s just signed his first 8-figure cheque!
… someone who’s just farted in a bathtub!
… a 4-year old at a birthday party!
… the cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae!

(and these are MP's last and final set!)
… a water molecule returning to the ocean!
… salmon returning to their spawning grounds!
… ruby-throated humming birds making it across the Bay of Mexico!
… a queen bee at the peak of her inaugural flight!
… all of Bombay at the start of the monsoon!
… whooping cranes displaying!
… polar bears at the start of the next Ice Age!
… an emperor penguin at his mate's return!
… a porcupine nailing another tiger in the mouth!
… a novelist recovering from a hard-disk crash!

... a nose in a book! (EG)

... a Clintern! (JD -- who explains: "Clinton getting into an intern")

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Night Blooming Cereus

These photographs were taken by me, all on the same day (June 10th), from around two in the afternoon till maybe nine at night. The flower's common name is NIGHT BLOOMING CEREUS. The link takes you to the Wikipedia entry on the plant's family, which includes this flowering species as well as the one that produces DRAGONFRUIT. The botanical name of this particular plant is most likely Epiphyllum oxypetalum, or Gooseneck cactus. The related variety, cultivated for the fruit, is called Hylocerus undatus.

I wrote a blog entry about this some years ago, because I was totally blown away to discover that there was any kind of link between this beautiful and very short-lived flower and the fruit -- perhaps because I associate the fruit with Southeast Asia, having eaten it for the first (and only) time in Singapore. Most people who have seen or know of the flower do not associate it with the fruit AT ALL. But if you compare the strangely zoological appearance of the flower's bud, it is easy to recognize the shadow of the fruit's shape in it.

The flower doesn't last the night and by morning, it looks like a pale pink bat-carcase. My sister got her plant from a friend who said they had never seen the flower blooming but had heard it was spectacular. In my sister's house, it has bloomed so often it's like a regular cabaret! Sometimes a dozen blossoms will all go critical in the same night. She says they don't bloom very often, but more than once a year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Got this list from the Incomparable Anvar Alikhan. Good reading. I freely confess that my household in New Delhi gets only one daily newspaper and that one is ... the last one on this list. 'Course, I'm not exactly living at that address these days, so maybe that lets me off the hook? On the other hand, where I'm living now, I don't get ANY newspapers. *sigh*


  • The Times of India is read by people who think they run the country.
  • The Economic Times is read by people who think they own the country.
  • The Bombay Samachar is read by people who do, in fact, own the country.
  • The Hindu is read by people who think the country should be run by the government of another country.
  • The Statesman is read by people who remember the time the country was run by the British.
  • The Telegraph is read by people who think the country should be run by Mamata Banerjee.
  • The Mid-Day is read by people who think the country should be run by the people on Page 3
  • The Hindustan Times is read by people who think that Delhi is their country.
  • The Malayala Manorama is read by people who think that their country is Kerala (or Dubai, they're not sure which).
  • The Tribune is read by people who believe that India lives in its villages.
  • The Dainik Jagran is read by people who actually do live in those villages.
  • The Pioneer is read by 223 people, but nobody's quite sure who they are.
  • The Deccan Herald is read by 219 people, but at least we do know who they are.
  • Saamna is read by people who don't give a shit about the country, all they're interested in is who runs Shivaji Park.
  • The Asian Age is not read by anybody, but it's useful to wrap your shoes in when you 're taking a trip outside the country.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


I've just had a shot at playing a super charming online game called THINGDOM at the Science Museum website (UK based). I learned of it via this week's edition of the BBC's ClickOnline feature WEBSCAPE, anchored by the ever-resourceful, tireless and always user-friendly Kate Russell (I'm convinced that she is at least PARTLY electronic -- and I mean that in the best possible way).

THINGDOM is aimed at children, and is a very cute, easy-to-play game to teach the principles of genetics. Go on! Play it. Make things. And help them make even more things.

Friday, May 27, 2011


A couple of recent posts from Animal Planet have got me wondering whether we're on the brink of a species breakthrough. Of sorts. First there's LOUIS v/s RICK -- The Story of The Man Who Taught His Cat To Use Instant Messaging. It's hilarious, of course. But then there's also Cooper, Ansel Adams of the Cat World. After I'd watched the Australian TV spot, and visited Cooper's web-site and watched Cooper's video (taken by himself) as he walks around, I began to feel a sense of déjà mew: the feeling that they've been acting superior all along, but we've just not had evidence before of quite how cool they really are. I mean, here's this little furry character wandering all over his neighbourhood, putting together a show of photographs and publishing a book and becoming an internet celeb -- and HE'S A CAT.

Time to re-read Saki's classic short story, TOBERMORY.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Okay, time for a silliness break. I got these from a punny guy called Ranvir S!

Did you hear about the glass blower who accidentally inhaled? Now he’s got a pane in his stomach.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles , U.C.L.A.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia : The LAN down under.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review of ESCAPE

This review, by RIMI B CHATTERJEE appeared in the American Book Review earlier this year. I wasn't able to link to it there but RBC has very kindly scanned the printed review, blogged it and then sent it to me. Here's a link. It's definitely the best review that ESCAPE has received so far but more than that, it's the kind of review that makes an author feel that some readers really DO make the effort to read all the way through a book. That is SO RARE ...

Saturday, April 16, 2011


All kinds of amazing distractions at the CHROME EXPERIMENT site.

Friday, March 18, 2011


"THE POPCORN ESSAYISTS: what movies do to authors", edited by Jai Arjun Singh, will be launched at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on Tuesday 22nd March. All those within reach of Asia should attempt to be there. (Of course, this leaves me out, heheh).

It's a collection of essays by published authors who are NOT otherwise connected with films -- though, umm, some of us have had our plays made into films. Well. Whatever. My essay, JELLYFISH, is featured in the book. If you want to read the essay or -- better yet -- want to know why it's called JELLYFISH, you'll have to buy the book. Which you can do, easily enough, through FlipKart, by clicking this LINK.

Of course, there are a number of other reasons for buying the book, such as the other authors:

Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Amitava Kumar, Kamila Shamsie, Sumana Roy, Manil Suri, Madhulika Liddle, Anjum Hasan, Sidin Vadukut, Namita Gokhale, Jaishree Mishra.

You can read A SNEAK PREVIEW at Jai Arjun's Blog.

And you can also read this excerpt from my essay:

[Mumbai, circa 1981. Interior]

In a room the size of a sweaty handkerchief, I and some seventy other members of the Alliance Française film club are watching François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. The film is about to end. On screen, we see the right side of a young boy’s head and shoulders.

I wonder whether to risk a yawn.

The boy is walking towards the sea with no clear purpose in mind.

I know I am not worthy of my membership. Even though the film is one of the central pillars of modern French cinema I cannot focus on it because the auditorium is too uncomfortable. The folding metal seats have been designed by an evil orthopaedist looking for customers. The floor is uniformly flat and viewers are forced to strain their Kurosawas and Renoirs through a sieve of other viewers’ hair. In summer, the lack of air-conditioning guarantees death by B.O. And of course the majority of the movies are wrist-slittingly sad.

This one, for instance, is centred on a troubled fourteen- year-old boy living in Paris. The story moves at the pace of an arthritic sloth while packing the punch of a land- mine in the gut.

I want to inform my companion of the evening that I simply do not have the mental energy for films like this. Yes, yes, they’re beautiful, haunting, memorable, and all the rest of it, but what about the emotional wreckage they leave in their wake? I am, after all, a Hollywood junkie. I admit it without shame, like an addict who wears her needle-tracks with pride. I thrill to my Technicolor sunsets, my MetroGoldwynMayer lions and my air- brushed, peroxided heroines. Assisted Reality is what I call these films, and I love them all the more for knowing they will never kick me in the Jiminy Cricket or leave me bleeding in the Mekong.

Meanwhile my companion, whom I shall call B–, is even then, thirty years ago, so steeped in his knowledge of films and his passion for them that he seems to my eyes practically incontinent with world-weariness. We are both in our twenties, me late, he early. I enjoy his intensity and his seriousness even though I know he does not consider me girlfriend material. I often wonder what he sees in me. Nothing, probably. When a young man has watched enough art cinema, he knows that romantic love will never make it past the editing table.

Onscreen, our boy is still walking. The scenery continues to move away to the left, behind him, which is how we know he’s in motion. It’s a pleasant summer’s day and the French countryside looks suitably tranquil and inviting, even in black and white.

I begin to wonder why we’ve been watching the same damn scene for so long.

I turn towards B–.

He is sitting at the very edge of his seat, like a gundog on point.

He’s muttering to himself, ‘Come on, come on.’ That’s all he says. He’s fidgeting, he’s leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, he’s sweeping back the comma of hair that falls over his forehead and giving his fingernails a quick chew. In a word, he’s doing the adult equivalent of a child jumping up and down, screaming encouragement to Luke Skywalker taking on the Empire single-handed.

Yet before us on the screen is nothing more than a boy, walking.