Mumbai by numbers

For previous insights from The Undercover Statistician visit here.

11 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes Duration of a period in Mumbai when the night temperature dips from high twenties to mid twenties. Colloquially referred to as ‘sardi’ or winter.

3 The number of things that are not put between two ‘pavs’ and eaten in Mumbai. FYI, the three things are Screw driver, chyawanprash, cricket ball.

Though some claim that an outlet in New Panvel sells at least one of the three listed, this claim has not been verified.

141 meters The maximum distance that can be travelled through the city before a ‘fecal sighting’.

0.04 The total number of minutes of power cut per month one would experience on an average.

707 Km The smallest distance to be travelled for the nearest Andhra food eatery, this coincidentally is also the distance between Mumbai and Hyderabad.

(zero) The chances of getting a good south indian breakfast at about 7am on a weekend.

The number of times Jerry Seinfeld is expected to be in Mumbai. Compared to zero for rest of India.

55% The amount of actual Hindi words used when a Mumbaiya (thinks he) is speaking Hindi. The rest is made up of words like ghai, gardi, vatana, pauti, kaanda, etc.

>52 The number of unique places you can visit on weekends in a year.

 

A religion for the rest of us

In case you are a first time visitor to this blog, or do not follow me on twitter (@vixdomDotcom), my views on the whole religion thingy might be unclear to you. So let me try to sum it up in a single tweet.

I do not know or care if a sentient being created us since it doesn’t make any discernable difference to my life.But I do not like religion.

I will wait for you to check if that fits into a tweet. Spoiler: Yes it does.

But religion does have some financial and social benefits for its followers though. A religious person can donate money to his cult/church/guru/temple and get a dual benefit of feeling as if he has actually done something good, but also get tax deductions.  On the other hand, you can donate to wikipedia and would not be able to get a tax break (at least in India) though I would argue this actually does way more in helping humanity. Sure you can donate to a notified NGO and get the tax break (and maybe a warm fuzzy feeling), but I think I am on to a better idea here.

What if atheists and agnostics (there is a difference) get together and form a religion.

Here is how it would work.

The religion would first of all need to be recognised as one. And for this it needs critical mass. With all the social media tools at hand it shouldn’t be a tough task to get this done, especially after we make a compelling case as I hope to do below.

Once the religion is ‘established’, it would need to have a bunch of core principles – simple rules that most of us anyway live by. I propose don’t be an asshole as the first rule commandment.

After a basic ‘framework’ of dos and don’ts are done, it can be put up online and would serve as the bible equivalent. The rules would be mandatorily relooked and revised regularly.

A retail network of temples needs to be rolled out. These ‘temples’ are going to be what the whole religion revolves around.

First of all what would the temple be like? I propose a lounge which serves food, beverages and alcohol (prasad).

The festivals would include each individual’s birthday, or any group voted Monday or Friday (Yea long weekend!)

This way I could say I am going to the temple on my birthday since my religion requires me to and chill out in the lounge. If my employer refused, it would be a case of not allowing me to practice my religion.

We would need a figurehead too, a pope of sorts. I see someone like Bill Gates because he is an atheist, very very good at managing money, and most importantly not an asshole (anymore).

The money management part is crucial since the religion would essentially act as a bank. I would donate to the temple, and it would invest it ethically – clear energy, game changing technology, healthcare, etc. The portfolio would be transparent and all members would vote on it.

My investments donations would also be tax deductible, and my bank temple would not be paying taxes either. And with the flood of investments in potentially game changing areas, maybe this just might end up to be a religion that actually does humanity some good.

Who’s in?

 

 

 

The Showdown

Remember the first part of the bit of fiction I wrote a few months ago? Even if you do, go here and re-read it, because here is the next part. 

Update: Because many people cribbed that clicking the link above was too strenuous, the entire story is now available below. Read on.

 


 

As she looked down at her hands, Saakshi realized that they were still newlywed. The mehendi on her hands, though faint, was still there. She smiled to herself.

She knew that soon, cognizance of her marital status would sink in, and these sudden jarring reminders would cease. She had quite started enjoying them; like earlier that morning, having woken up in an empty bed like always, she stumbled over to the bathroom, only to see Varun shaving. Or the day before, when she opened the closet to find a crumpled boxer stuffed into the sock drawer.

She had a valid excuse for not registering her nuptials just yet, it had all happened in such a hurry because it had had to happen in such a hurry. Just four weeks, no 24 days ago he met her for the first time, and perhaps in the first time in a non-arranged marriage (outside of a television sitcom), they were engaged, and wed as per Hindu tradition in two weeks. From Saakshi’s point of view though, this was dangerously close to being not nearly fast enough.

“I told you that you needn’t come to the airport. At least with trains you can do a proper sendoff in the platform, in the airport you can’t even come in past the check-in counters.” said Varun, gruffly quickly realizing that his tone seemed to express anger, rather than concern over his wife having to take a long cab ride back home.

“Besides, you know it is more difficult for both me and you to say bye this way”. He hoped this would placate his wife, but was relieved to find that she was not paying attention and was staring at the airport terminal where their cab had just pulled up.

While getting out with his single piece of luggage, Varun attempted an awkward hug and a peck inside the car and was happy that he was hugged back.

“Friday by this time, I would be back in Singapore airport all set to come back. Just enough time away from you to miss you.” he said, noticing that Saakshi seemed worried and forlorn. He had a hunch why this was.

“Worried about having to spend a couple of days with ma? Don’t blame you. I didn’t expect her to welcome you, but she has been particularly….”

“Bitchy” said Saakshi. It caught even her by surprise when she thought out loud.

Varun was happy to find that he was not being subject to the silent treatment, even if it meant a comment against his mother. He might have preferred a different word perhaps, but now was not the time to be choosy.

“Just hold on. Will make up for this when I am back” he said. But his wife was already out of the car and had even brought in a trolley, and before he could get out, his luggage was in the trolley with his dry cleaned suit hanging from the handle.

“Didn’t realize I married a rock salesman. Your samples weigh like a tonne. Bet you will be paying for excess baggage.”

A quick hug later, Varun was on his way into the terminal. As the glass door slid back behind him, he turned back to give a final wave, but Saakshi was already gone.

I bet she will take public transport back home. Possibly stopping by for some shopping and some snack to avoid going home and face Ma. Varun smiled to himself.

A train hurtled through the suburbs, crushing the dry human shit on the tracks from earlier in the day. The teenagers on the rooftops in the slum beside did notice the woman on the roof of the train, but did not think too much of it – people in the big city go to any lengths to save on ticket fare. But to see someone wearing what looked like a burqa on a train rooftop was not an everyday sight.

“Focus!” the ninja said to herself as the train passed through a small tunnel. “Remember…it all comes down to tonight.” And when the train came out of the tunnel seconds later, Saakshi was no longer on the rooftop.

Mrs. Bhatt had her head so deep into the top shelf of the old refrigerator that it seemed as if the old rattling appliance actually had a human body to match. The refrigerator light had given up the ghost long ago, and instead of light what greeted her whenever she opened the door was the smell of fish curry, mango pickle, bananas, and various medicine – all combining into a distinctive odor that she associated with her home.  She fished out a half eaten bag of potato chips and made her way back to the television set that had the nightly news on.

The old lady slid into her comfortable bamboo rocking chair.Her garishly purple nighty with neon orange hibiscus flowers was almost psychedelic.  As she put her hand into the large bag, she was visibly annoyed with the crinkly noise it made. He fingers felt around for an unbroken chip, and once she found one, put the entire potato chip into her mouth, taking care not to bite into them. Having softened it in her mouth for a few seconds, she then quietly nibbled on the snack. Though the television was on,  it was on mute. Eight angry men, crammed into tiny boxes were screaming at each other, while three different news headlines, neatly copywritten as twitter hashtags flashed in rapid succession. Mrs. Bhatt looked right through the TV, looking a tad disconcerted.

The window panes rattled lightly as a train passed by a little before the horizon. The old lady picked up a shiny metal alarm clock, and set it to alert her four minutes from then. After unmuting the television, she took out the last of the unbroken chips and bit into it, with the slightest hint of a smile.

The alarm beeped. And almost on cue the lights went out, along with the TV. The room barely lit though, from the neighbour’s porch light. This was not a power cut.

The old lady sat up straight, picked up a matchbox, and held a stick. And waited.

A quick bursting sound, and the neighbour’s light was out, plunging the room in darkness. Mrs.Bhatt struck the match with one quick stroke and lit the candle beside her that seemed to be set up right for this moment.

Picking it up, she ambled gently to the adjacent room.

“C’mon now! Let’s get this over with already.”  Her voice complemented the eerie silence in a strange way.

The very next instant the ninja stepped out like a shadow from behind the curtains.

Mrs. Bhatt didn’t need to wear specs even at her age, she lifted the candle just enough to confirm who the guest was.

“Did Varun message you? Has his flight left? When does he reach?” asked the old lady, already making her way back to the TV room.

Sakshi pretended she did not hear the barrage of questions and gently stroked her katana.

Mrs. Bhatt turned a knob near the mains to switch to the UPS. A couple of lights in the house switched on along with the TV.

“You ninja people no, why do you need so much show-put-up and all?  Bekaar mein you broke Mr. Godmare’s light. After association complained so much he put that and now you break it just for your entry. That fellow will never put another light now, and the side road will be dark again…By the way did you at least remember to do what I asked?”

Sakshi closed the door of the bedroom with an intentionally audible thud.

In moments the old lady was in front of the TV, the bag of potato chips back on her lap, but snoring.

The TV news was still on with breaking news of a leading industrialist who was found murdered in his home. Police were apparently baffled – and the only clue was a shiny metal star embedded in the skull of the dead man.

The snoring old lady smiled ever so slightly.

 

Wishlist 2014

Has it been a year already? Wow! Let the annual shame and greed post begin.

 

Wishlist 2013

Raspberry pi / Android Device “If this one doesn’t get checked by next year, I have to drown in shame.”

Yes, thats what I had said last year. And the result…take me to a pool of shame..and strap me to an anvil. Didn’t go ahead with this, and in hindsight with good reason. I don’t think this will make it to my list this year..or will it? The Chromecast partly takes care of some things I wanted to do here.

Console WiiU? PS4? Xbox? Ouya? do I play enough to justify a new console? Hardly

No surprises here… except Ouya??? Really???? In any case if I do pull the trigger, it will most likely be the XBox One…

Google X Phone This turned out to be the MotoX – a really good phone. I didn’t get it…but my awesome Nexus 5 is a superior alternative. This one is definitely a check.
Noise Cancelling Headphones I bought these really good harmon earphones in London, but also managed to damage them. Now I have these decent ones from Cowon – but no noise cancellation and all. A half check here if possible.
Windows 8 device Sandhya did recently get a Dell Windows 8 laptop – with awesome discrete graphics and all. But its no Surface Pro.

So this year’s list of things that I want are:

House Whoa! Ya…this is a big one, and one we have been thinking about for a year or so now.  The big question that we cannot figure out the answer to is ‘where’? Mumbai? Bangalore? Or another one in Hyderabad.
And unless we answer this one I do not think we would be jumping on this big one.
Car Hold on! Is this a repeat of the list from 5 years ago? The Santro works well, and everyone knows that I am a gadget and tech geek not an auto enthusiast.  Put this one in because last year, I couldn’t get the list beyond five items, so why not be more whimsical this year?
HTC Volantis Now we are back on our usual tech track. And so you know we are being serious here.
I am of course referring to the HTC made Nexus tablet that is rumoured now. The Galaxy Tab we have now is showing its age (2 years now) and though its only used by Tvisha, I do think we need a shiny new tab.
NextPhone Not sure what my next phone will be…. But I do know what Sandhya’s next phone will be – my Nexus 5 (she currently uses my old Galaxy Nexus).

There is a rumoured Nexus phablet by Motorola – that’s a possibility but the size puts me off

I most probably will not jump ship to Windows Phone – too sucked into Google ecosystem. Got dangerously close to buying a Lumia 1020 this year though.

Motorola X+1 perhaps? They have been timely with their updates.
I need an awesome camera, great battery life, and a fingerprint reader – hate typing in my PIN each time.
This category is wide open

Kindle Priority wise, this is probably #1. I really do think this will help me read more. Only the fact that Amazon India is charging a ridiculously high price is holding me back. Can’t wait for my next trip or for someone to come down here.
Android Wear Yes! The round watches look droolworthy – and how could I not have this? From the current lot, the GwatchR and the Moto360 have my attention.
   

 

Well, looks like I haven’t managed to list out 10 items this year either. But I will keep my options and eyes open, and update this post when greed calls.

 

Showdown – Part 1

It’s been ages since I wrote some fiction….not for the lack of ideas though. I have a whole bunch of rather interesting premises, but thats about it. If I put pen to paper (figuratively speaking…. though it should be finger to keys) I know I will come out with something… not necessarily something good, but something.

So without further ado, I present the first part of ‘Showdown’ (working title)

 

As she looked down at her hands, Saakshi realized that they were still newlywed. The mehendi on her hands, though faint, was still there. She smiled to herself.

She knew that soon, cognizance of her marital status would sink in, and these sudden jarring reminders would cease. She had quite started enjoying them; like earlier that morning, having woken up in an empty bed like always, she stumbled over to the bathroom, only to see Varun shaving. Or the day before, when she opened the closet to find a crumpled boxer stuffed into the sock drawer.

She had a valid excuse for not registering her nuptials just yet, it had all happened in such a hurry because it had had to happen in such a hurry. Just four weeks, no 24 days ago he met her for the first time, and perhaps in the first time in a non-arranged marriage (outside of a television sitcom), they were engaged, and wed as per Hindu tradition in two weeks.  From Saakshi’s point of view though, this was dangerously close to being not nearly fast enough.

“I told you that you needn’t come to the airport. At least with trains you can do a proper sendoff in the platform, in the airport you can’t even come in past the check-in counters.” said Varun, gruffly quickly realizing that his tone seemed to express anger, rather than concern over his wife having to take a long cab ride back home.

“Besides, you know it is more difficult for both me and you to say bye this way”. He hoped this would placate his wife, but was relieved to find that she was not paying attention and was staring at the airport terminal where their cab had just pulled up.

While getting out with his single piece of luggage, Varun attempted an awkward hug and a peck inside the car and was happy that he was hugged back.

“Friday by this time, I would be back in Singapore airport all set to come back. Just enough time away from you to miss you.” he said, noticing that Saakshi seemed worried and forlorn. He had a hunch why this was.

“Worried about having to spend a couple of days with ma? Don’t blame you. I didn’t expect her to welcome you, but she has been particularly….”

“Bitchy” said Saakshi. It caught even her by surprise when she thought out loud.

Varun was happy to find that he was not being subject to the silent treatment, even if it meant a comment against his mother. He might have preferred a different word perhaps, but now was not the time to be choosy.

“Just hold on. Will make up for this when I am back” he said. But his wife was already out of the car and had even brought in a trolley, and before he could get out, his luggage was in the trolley with his dry cleaned suit hanging from the handle.

“Didn’t realize I married a rock salesman. Your samples weigh like a tonne. Bet you will be paying for excess baggage.”

A quick hug later, Varun was on his way into the terminal. As the glass door slid back behind him, he turned back to give a final wave, but Saakshi was already gone.

I bet she will take public transport back home. Possibly stopping by for some shopping and some snack to avoid going home and face Ma. Varun smiled to himself.

A train hurtled through the suburbs, crushing the dry human shit on the tracks from earlier in the day. The teenagers on the rooftops in the slum beside did notice the woman on the roof of the train, but did not think too much of it – people in the big city go to any lengths to save on ticket fare. But to see someone wearing what looked like a burqa on a train rooftop was not an everyday sight.

“Focus!” the ninja said to herself as the train passed through a small tunnel. “Remember…it all comes down to tonight.” And when the train came out of the tunnel seconds later, Saakshi was no longer on the rooftop.

…to be continued.

Amreeka Diary

Let’s quickly overlook the part where I have been away from the blog for what is probably our longest hiatus ever, shall we? Would have wanted to say that I needed this break to look back, re-energize myself, and come back to deliver a higher quality of writing than the tripe that was being served before. But that excuse would fall apart even before you got to the end of this sentence. But I really should try to make it to at least a post a month no?

Anyways as it happens, I was in the US when I last posted, in New York specifically. NYC remains my favourite city in the whole wide world (I never ever include Hyderabad in comparison previously because no other city stood a chance, and now I don’t because my home city isn’t what it used to be). Spent close to a month, including Christmas, New Year, and my birthday there, freezing my butt off.

And now…three whole months later, here I am back again. But not in NYC though, am in Washington D.C. Thankfully this is a much shorter visit of barely 2 weeks, but sadly I miss yet another birthday, a more important one. 🙁

Bits n bites from the US:

The US always fascinates me…and not for the reasons one might think.  I find it as ridiculous a mix of contradictions as India. On one hand they are hands down the most innovative technologically advanced nation in the world, which still debates something as fundamental as evolution. Just can’t wrap my head around that.

This morning I had my first brush with racism, sort of.  I was accused of being racist by a black lady in the morning who was walking alongside. She asked me why I had my hand in my pocket the whole time and if I was thinking she would steal from me. huh!!!! Then when I turned around to actually talk to her (she was behind me), she looks at me and says “You are not white! You are not a white man.”. I replied “Huh?” and I got a “Unh uh! You are not white.” I walked away continuing to keep my hands in my pocket just to piss her off and also because it was kind cold.

Why on earth do advertisers here position yogurt only for ladies. The ads don’t show a single guy eating yogurt and even in the supermarket they were in a shelf right next to the tampons. As a proud fan of ‘tachi’ it is extremely emasculating to be eating yogurt in the US. But then again, its possibly because I had my pinky finger pointing up while I relished pink strawberry yogurt from the teeny tiny spoons while listening to Lourde. I seriously need to drink some beer and check my hormones.

It always bums me out when I compare the infrastructure back home to the ones globally. BUt what bums me out even more is when I compare to their infrastructure from more than a century ago. Last year for example, London celebrated 150th anniversary of the Tube, and I saw some century old river locks yesterday in D.C.  Meanwhile back home trial runs of the first metro are slated to be later this year, and once we are done with the drought in the summer of 2014, we will be set to get flooded in the monsoon.

As a guy who cannot resist the urge to switch off the lights when I leave the room, the U.S kills me. Its bright outside today, and I can see not less than about 250 light bulbs in the office. The meeting rooms are lit up 24×7, escalators run even when nobody is on them, water is heated 24×7 (god forbid someone has to actually turn on a geyser and wait for 2 minutes).

That’s all.