April 26, 2003

This makes me sick.

HDFC Bank is offering to donate five rupees to charity for every valid email address or phone number you send them. So, not satisfied with spamming it’s own clientele, it now wants them to turn in their friends and family. It’s positively Stalinesque. Ashcroftian. Disgusting.

I could rant about why it stinks so much, but Madman has already done it  here. I suggest you check it out. But of course that’s only a suggestion.

The following options are now open to me:

  1. Stop banking with them- close my account and send them a stiff letter telling them I refuse to place my trust in a bank that uses unethical practices to harvest email addresses and mobile numbers
  2. If Zimbu the Webhost Monkey permits me to do so- create two hundred email addresses at, set all of them to forward to the HDFC Bank Marketing Director’s email, and send them all to this scheme. Charity will get a kilorupee, and the idiot who dreamed up this scheme or approved it will get a taste of his own medicine.
  3. If Zimbu doesn’t let me create two hundred email addresses that do nothing, write a simple script that emails a stiff letter to the HDFC marketing director every time you load the page. This has the advantage of being ‘hardly a ten minutes job’.
  4. And if I want to be really nasty, set that script to reload itself, so that it’ll send an email every second, and not stop until you close the window manually.

Advice, anybody? I’m definitely closing my account once the semester ends.

Mirza II

April 25, 2003

As I mentioned a few Fillets ago, Punjabi people are rather enamoured of Mirza and Sahiban. I don’t mean literally that they’re in love with people who died one thousand years ago, the point I’m trying to get across is that they’re rather obsessed with the legend. The legend is one of the focal points of Punjabi culture, much like butter chicken and sardars.

Thus, the song by Punjabi MC isn’t the only one about Mirza- there are hundreds. At least, there appear to be. Just as music shops at dhabas and other truck stops have two separate stalls- one for Chamkila cassettes and one for albums by other artists- if you ask a Sardar with a writer to burn you a CD with “Mirza and some other good Punjabi songs”, he will give you two CDs- one full of songs with Mirza in the title, one full of other songs. You will then have to listen to all hundred Mirzas on the first CD in an effort to find out which is the one you want, and probably start liking five others by the time you’ve found it.

Another, more localised fallout of the Mirza mythos is manifested in the recent behaviour of Param Pal Singh and Sushil Manohar Dogra aka Jammu, both of whom are in love with the same girl- a hairy sardarni with the wit and personality of a grizzly bear. While one cannot really blame Param Pal for doing so- he is, after all, a sardar, and can’t really help it- Jammu can really not be excused.

Anyway, back to the point. Proving that wishful thinking is alive and well, Param Pal has taken to calling Dogra Mirza in hopes that he too will be beaten up by a squadron of outraged relatives. What Dogra calls Param Pal in retaliation is unprintable.

With the fervour that Mirza arouses, it should come as no surprise then that in W-Fillets #19: Mirza angry Punjabis have posted angry comments- or as Asim calls them, Filloments.

A gentleman who calls himself ‘kick some a**’ has corrected my account, saying that there were no sticks involved, Mirza was a genuinely good archer, the only relatives involved were Sahiba’s cousins, and they did not number two thousand.

He then goes on to accuse me of being sarcastic.

Well, duh.

The whole point of the W-Fillets is sarcasm. Sarcasm is one of their chief virtues. If I were to follow kick some a**’s no doubt well-intentioned advice and research folklore instead of being sarcastic- what would then differentiate the W-Fillets from a PhD on Punjabi folklore? Absolutely nothing. People would delete them from their inboxen without ever reading them, and my twin goals of spreading sweetness and light and world domination would never bear fruit. No, kick some a**, I must disagree with you gently but firmly. The sarcasm shall stay.

But enough on sarcasm. The most astonishing thing is that kick some a** has said that a non-negative EQ, not IQ is required to appreciate the story of Mirza.

While I would be the last person to deny this, I cannot help be bewildered that Punjabi chauvinists are aware of the concept of IQ, much less EQ. I would have thought that the worship of such Punjabi icons as Mirza, Gul Panag, and Anchal Kumar (who are some of the other Punjabis kick some a** holds up for emulation) would leave little time for an expansion of knowledge about various personality metrics.

But then, you learn something new everyday.


April 22, 2003

People say India doesn’t progress because Indians don’t break out of their Third World mentality.

This is true. Chocolates are the best example.

In the First World, chocolates are huge. Chocolate bars are about three inches wide, and a foot long. Europeans take chocolate seriously. So do Australians. Americans don’t. Their chocolates are big, but the quality of cocoa is terrible.

Indians don’t take chocolate seriously at all.

The Third World mentality ensures that chocolate is regarded as a luxury item. So, to get people to buy it, it is sold in tiny packs of five rupees. The latest invention is the liquid chocolate stick- a travesty that retails for one rupees and gives you less than a single mouthful of chocolate.

When Cadbury’s launched Temptations almost two years ago, I was delighted. It was advertised as being of international quality. I found it to be so, too. The chocolate was richer and more flavourful than usual. The flavours and embedded fruits and nuts were delicious.

As always, the bar itself was too small.

When you buy a Temptations, you see the package and say- ‘What Ho! An international quality chocolate of international size!’.

When you open it, you are disillusioned. The apparent width is made up by cardboard. The chocolate itself is two bars thick- no more than a standard Dairy Milk. It was very disappointing.

Hope, however, has recently floated in the form of the Cadbury’s Chunky variants- they’re not very long, but they’re thick. A lot of bang for your buck. And, wonders, the cocoa content seems to have improved even in the standard chocolates. Standard chocolates are evolving.

Could this be a sign of progress? Does this mean that India is finally shedding off it’s baggage and moving into the future? Or is my metric of development hopelessly inaccurate?


April 20, 2003

I apologise for not posting, or writing. Here’s the reason. I had diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea is practically the worst disease you can have when you’re at home. You miss classes that you should really be attending. That’s something not all that new for me, but there’s this difference- when I have diarrhoea, I can’t take advantage of being at home and eat good food. No, I’m stuck with Electral, nimbu pani, and khichdi.

Apparently, diarrhoea is not very good for eloquence either.

I’m fine now, thank you very much. Your e-mails will be replied to. And if you haven’t sent me any e-mail to reply to- that’s your fault.

All right. One of the important things that happened while I was invalided was that I reread the Uncle Fred Omnibus (by PG Wodehouse) during my period of sickness. You can guess where I did the reading.

After doing this, I have been inspired to follow in the footsteps of Uncle Fred himself, and go about spreading sweetness and light.

Of course, this will mean breaking my New Year’s Resolution of not interfering in other peoples’ lives more than once, but I’m willing to do that. After all, it’s only a resolution- not a project or operation or anything really serious.

Right now I’m thinking I need a resolution to write more coherent, organised Fillets.

So I’ll end this one right now, before it rambles any more.

Moving Out II

April 19, 2003

It is quite conceivable that the last Fillet has been making some of you think I’m a smarmy git who has no right to be so cheerful when you yourselves are wallowing in depression, angst, and misery.

We could go into why you lot have no right to be wallowing in depression, angst and misery considering your circumstances are so much better than mine, but we won’t. I’ll just say that I have a perfect right to be cheerful, because fate, my guardian angel, or a ‘divinity that oversees the affairs of men’ has been working overtime in my behalf.

A couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court settled the legal status of Sainik Farms once and for all. Sainik Farms was originally allotted to retired defence personnel to actually set up farms in. Thus, all the land is to be turned over to people who actually fall in that category in the next year, otherwise it’ll be confiscated, the construction will be razed down, and you’ll be kicked out.

This is rather hard luck on the people who already live there, but I’m sure they’ll adjust. The important point is- we are not moving out. Whee!

Since then, we have swung around again to the original plan, which was to reconstruct the original house. For the past two weeks we have been looking at and rejecting various plans (architects’ plans, not projects), and today we finally settled on a Final Grand Plan, the details of which shall follow soon.

So the house is going to be broken down, and we’ll have to find alternative accommodation for about four months. Not just for ourselves- we’ll adjust as we always do- but also for our vast collection of books, who shall need temporary homes for the time being. Anybody interested in taking them in?

I hate to disappoint Ishaan once again, but the reconstruction will not involve explosives in any way. But I’m sure that in about a year, there’ll be enough of those at Sainik Farms.


April 18, 2003

The W-Fillets are famous for being funny, but also infamous for being cheerful. Those of you who have had the pleasure of my acquaintance know that I am bitter and cynical, and drip acid when I speak. I am prone to attacks of depression, and have exploded with rage more than once. However, ever since I entered Uttarayana last October, I have been Pollyanna-like in my cheery enthusiasm. Or, to take a more classical analogy, like Colin the security robot in Mostly Harmless. What? It’s a classic.

There is news. Whether it is good or bad news depends on whether you like the new and Uttarayana-enabled Aadisht or not. The dogged, unflagging, almost mindless cheeriness is about to multiply.

Yesterday, I saw a poster of The Hero in the window of the local gift and greetings shop. It was a poster printed and distributed by Archies- a content and retail chain that I have come to hate over the past three years for the mindless sludge it churns out, and for its symbiotic relationships with Shah Rukh Khan and Britney Spears. But this poster had a redeeming feature. No. Not redeeming. Much beyond redeeming. A saving, beatifying, and canonising feature. It was a poster of Preity Zinta.

I went in and plonked down my sity rupees. The kindly sardar behind the counter took down the poster, rolled it up, and secured it with newspaper and sticky tape. Another fifteen rupees spent on chewing gum to stick it up with, and the preparations were complete. Twenty minutes later, the poster was on the wall opposite my bed, and as a bonus, I had enough chewing gum to last me two or three weeks.

By now you’ll be asking yourselves what the hell this has to do with being cheerful. I’ll elain. It’s simple, really.

I have already elaborated on the importance of breakfasts and bathing (See The W-Fillets #5: The Most Important Meal of the Day and The W-Fillets #13: Cold Showers). If you get a good breakfast and bath at the beginning of the day, the rest of the day is bound to go well. The day starts off in a positive direction and keeps gathering momentum.

Breakfasts and baths are all but nonexistent at the hostel. But none of that matters any more, now that the first thing I see when I wake up on weekday morning’s is Preity Zinta’s dimples.

Preity Zinta’s dimples start from just above the line of her upper lip and proceed downwards until they reach Antarctica, where they tell the penguins funny stories. Once can study them for hours on end and still not gain a complete understanding- as with the Mona Lisa’s smile, or a course on analog circuits. They are facial features, true, but only superficially. I prefer to think of them as direct proof of the existence of a kind and merciful God who wants all of us to be happy. Or at the very least, a divinity that wants me to be cheerful.

With divine backing, I can only get more and more cheerful. Perhaps, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will spark off an outpouting of joy and goodwill, the way Haley Joel Osment did in Pay It Forward. Assuming, of course, that cheeriness is as contagious as stupidity.

Paulo Coelho, says it is, and who am I to argue with Paulo Coelho?

Midlands Hits the Jackpot

April 14, 2003

I’m still in Delhi. I felt lazy and decided to take the train tomorrow morning.

Yesterday, after a very bad time spent with some screwball relatives, I went with my family for South Indian food at Naivedyam in Hauz Khas village. After that, we went to nearby Aurobindo Market to buy books at Midlands.

To be accurate, just me and my brother did that. My parents first went back home to drop off my grandmother and bua, and then came back. But before coming to Midlands, they first spent some time buying clothes. This gave me and Bhavya the opportunity to have a nice long browse.

Midland truly hit the jackpot yesterday. We spent over two kilorupees on the following things:

  1. Bend It Like Beckham DVD
  2. Lean Six Sigma
  3. Discover Your Sales Strengths
  4. The BusinessWorld guide to B-schools
  5. Dave Barry: Hits Below the Beltway
  6. Making the Minister Smile, by Anurag Mathur
  7. A thriller by William Diehl whose name I forget
  8. Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett
  9. The Rainbow and the Rose, by Nevil Shute
  10. Mastermind India 4

Only the fact that Midlands had still to receive it’s shipment of Gotham comics- the Indian syndication of MAD, X-Men, Spider-man, DC Comics Presents, Hulk, and the like- prevented me from plonking down a further one hundred and fifty rupees for that month’s comics and five hundred and forty for the quarter’s super specials.

Sober reflection also made me realise that Harry Potter V would eventually come out in paperback, and waiting for a while rather than plonking down six hundred and thirty-five rupees for advance booking would not only be fiscally prudent, but also good for the soul.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that my family purchased over two thousand rupees worth of intellectual property in a little less than thirty minutes. This may not seem like a lot when you convert it into dollars- but books are much cheaper in India than anywhere else. Even then, people don’t buy them in such quantities as we did yesterday. My father admits himself that he would rarely spend so freely on anything else- clothes, or even food- but books are special.

So, if you’re a stranger reading this, and you’re ever in Midlands and you see the guy behind the desk smiling with delight- say hi to everyone else in the shop. One of them will probably be a Khanna.

I Am A Wussie

April 14, 2003

As I mentioned in the previous Fillet, after an interesting, instructive and engaging night spent not sleeping, my brother took me to the gym in the morning.

This was the first time I had ever been to a gym.

The trainer out there made us do stretching exercises to warm up. Then he put us on the treadmills for fifteen minutes each. And then he made us do aerobics for fifteen minutes.

Practically three minutes into the aerobics, which started off with skipping, I was gasping for air. The last time I had done any jogging was just before college, three years ago, when I used to go to Kreeda Sthal with Ishaan and Rishi. The intervening years of neglect had taken their toll.

I took a break for about five or ten minutes, and then went back into the fray. By this time, the trainer was making us perform jumping jacks, hopping exercises, and neck stretching- stuff that was more my speed, but still exhausting.

I capped off with forty-five rounds each on two machines- one where you sit and push a plate metal linked to sixty kilos of weights with your feet, and one where you push a metal cylinder, also linked to weights, with the back of your knee.

On these two particular machines, I fared much better, mostly because the college layout is such that I have to walk almost five kilometres a day, and my legs are the only bits of me that get any exercise. However, much to my chagrin, Tarun informed me later that day that a beginner should not go on these machines on any account.

I found out how right Tarun was the next morning, when I woke up to a dull throbbing in both my legs. It was fully twenty-four hours before I could sit or climb stairs without wincing.

In spite of all this, I’m ready to go back. Only I haven’t woken up early enough since then, and I’m always otherwise occupied in the evenings.

I should definitely sleep early tonight and make another visit tomorrow. Otherwise, as Baldy put it, I will confirm myself as a vussie.

Sleepless in Safdarjung

April 14, 2003

I feel hypocritical. I send mails to other people asking them when they’re going to reply, all while myself being late with the Fillets. I don’t have an excuse, either. Sonali v0.2 has been up and running for two days now.

Anyway, on with the Fillet.

There’s been a long weekend. Of course, while Delhiites are blessed with a <i>really</i> long weekend- Friday to Tuesday, I’m making do with Friday to Monday. Don’t I sound lazy when I say that?

Well, anyway. I came home on Thursday by bus, reaching home around 8 pm, just in time for dinner. After dinner, I did something I hadn’t done for three months- had coffee at Barista. That is possibly one of the primary causes for my sleeplessness that night.

I slept at about half past eleven, after reading Dune for about half an hour. Four hours later, I was forced awake when a squadron of homicidal mosquitoes carried out shock-and-awe tactics on my person. This, coupled with disturbing dreams of Fremen and Muad’dib up to that point did nothing to improve my mood.

I decided to respond to the incessant attacks with chemical warfare, and padded out of my room in search of All Out. All Out lived up to it’s name when I found that we were all out of it. However, I did find Odomos, and applied it liberally to all my exposed skin.

Fortified by my aura of Odomos, I exacted my revenge. The bed was soon littered with mosquito corpses. But, as usual, life behaved like a movie, and I found that vengeance, especially against mosquitos, just leaves you feeling empty. It was four in the morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep.

So I continued to read Dune- not a very wise thing to do, but what the heck. Soon, I grew oppressed by Dune, and went off to check my mail. Sadly, there were no new messages.

At about five, I went back to my room, turned out the light, and lay down again. And in about half an hour, just when I was almost ready to start sleeping again, birds outside my window broke into song.

I gave up. If birds were waking up, it would be inappropriate to go back to sleep. Instead, I went out for a walk.

Safdarjung Enclave at half past five in the morning is not exactly beautiful, but it’s much better than at half past five in the evening. A cool breeze plays upon your face. The sky, which is almost purple to start with, changes to a light greyish-bluish tint- a good approximation is the background colour- in a period of less than fifteen minutes. Watching this happen is very wonderful.

I walked all the way to Hauz Khas District Park- the one with the Queen’s bathing tank. The first creature I saw out there was a stray dog.

At half past five in the morning, even the mangiest of strays possesses an air of dignity. This one wasn’t a Hound of the Baskervilles, but it was no slouch either. It’s tail was up, and so were it’s ears. It stared at me with an almost regal air. Such are the wonders that dawn works.

After this, I walked through the park, and smelt the dew evaporating off the grass. And then I climbed up to the roof of the tomb and listened to all the different birds. And I wished that I had carried a Walkman with me, so I could listen to Beautiful Day.

That, in essence, is what this particular Fillet is about. There’s war in Iraq, people lose their loved ones on what amounts to a daily basis, most people are bastitches, but what the heck, dawn makes up for almost all of that.

At about six, I walked back home to prevent my parents from panicking when they woke up and found that they were locked in and I was missing. My general feeling of benevolent lovingkindness towards the world also inspired me to make myself breakfast- scrambled eggs with mustard and cheese, and a Virgin Mary.

About ten minutes after breakfast I discovered that my entire family, due to one reason or the other, had also been awake since at least four in the morning. How richly bizarre.

I had another breakfast shortly after that- cereal and strawberry flavoured dahi.

And then my brother invited me to come to the gym with him, thus capping off a highly interesting early morning. But more about the gym later.


April 8, 2003

Nobody can call me a fashion plate. I am less bothered about my clothes being colour co-ordinated than Dubya is by world opinion. My method of choosing clothes to wear is simple- I open the cupboard, and take whichever item is at top of the respective stack.

But I do like plain T-shirts, which you can paint your own messages on to.

Not only are T-shirt messages the distilled wisdom of the world, they also provide advertising. The prospect of increasing hits to my site by walking around with across my chest is one that appeals to me. So, getting fresh T-shirts, fabric paints and brushes is a priority right now.

There’s a permanent seconds and export rejects sale on near college, and I visited it yesterday to see if they had anything in the way of plain T-shirts. They didn’t.

What they did have were lots and lots of preprinted T-shirts. Very cheap, but alas, providing no reasonable scope for customisation. Sad, but true.

However, they also had a grey T-shirt and bermuda combo for 125 rupees. While I wasn’t really planning to buy bermudas- let’s face it, they are never unwelcome.

So, once I reach home for the long Baisakhi weekend it’s time to go to the Sarojini Nagar market and comparison shop. I will investigate the relative prices of T-shirts (with or without attached bermudas) in Delhi and in Patiala, and obtain instructions from my mum on how to analyse their quality. And then I’ll buy them wherever they are cheaper and better.

Anybody who wants to suggest T-shirt messages other than, do mail them or post as a comment.