Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pluto Fights Back


24th August 2006 will go down in the annals of history of the Solar System as the most shameful day in its 4.6 Billion years of existence. In an act of blatant insensitivity and cruelty, a group of astronomers, calling themselves International Astronomical Union (IAU) humiliated and excommunicated Pluto from the elite core group of the Solar system- the Planets. 

Pluto, who had attained the coveted position by sheer grit and perseverance- in spite of being small in stature- was understandably crushed.

But it takes enormous inner strength to attain Planethood, and Pluto, who had fought hard all his life to attain this distinction is not planning to give up without a fight.

When this correspondent met Pluto’s lawyer, Ai Yam Anass, he was livid about the public humiliation meted out to his client.

‘We have directly approached the supreme court for legal redressal,’ said Anass. ‘This act by the self-proclaimed Astrological Union is most unfortunate. In this country, we believe in equality. Just because my client is different, it is no reason to have him summarily booted out. Granted, he has an orbit more elliptical than normal and that it is tilted 17 degrees from the rest. But since when has this country started being so opposed to individual differences?  Also, remember, he has managed to grab and retain five satellites- one of them almost as big as himself. This whole thing is a conspiracy by the big bullies in the club- Jupiter and Saturn- to discredit my client. They had even conspired to make him appear to be a dog. But let me tell you, my client is better that either of them. At least he is solid through and through, unlike those two who are full of gas.’

I gently pointed out that the biggest reason cited for the demotion was not these, but that Pluto had been unsuccessful in clearing the smaller objects from his path.
Ai Yam Anass bristled at this. Clearly he felt deeply for his client’s unfair treatment ‘Hello! Do you know how far away the rest of those cowards are from the Kuiper belt? While my client is battling the strays from the frozen outbacks of the solar system, freezing his backside off, the rest of those morons are warming their posteriors around the sun. Give him some time, I say. Another billion years and he would have cleared all the Debris. Do you know how many rounds it takes to clear all debris in the path? My client takes 248 years to make each round. So Earth has had 248 times the opportunity to clear all other objects in the path’

I asked him what he felt his chances are in the Supreme Court.

‘It is a matter of fundamental rights. Once you discriminate based on size, there is no stopping. Next they will throw out Mercury, then Mars, then Venus. Finally you will all wake up when Earth has ceased to be a planet. Pretty silly humanity will look- being the inhabitants of a Dwarf Planet. Can you imagine the religious repercussions? The Catholic Church will go nuts. Just four centuries back, they claimed Earth was the centre of the Universe. From that, coming down to Dwarf  Planet? I tell you, this is the time to take a stand.’

‘Any comments from your Client that I can quote?’         

 ‘No comments. The matter is sub judice. But take it from me, he is a great fighter. The Supreme Court has ordered a probe based on our request. The probe- New Horizons- will send the pictures back by July 2015. Then we will see. The stupid morons of IAU will have to eat their words,’ said Ai Yam Anass.


I wished him all the best. My heart is with Pluto. After all, no civilised society should tolerate bullies picking on someone just because of his size. I silently vowed to get a million Facebook votes for Pluto- the true Planet.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I want Modi to Succeed

                                                                     Image - courtesy Twitter


My friends, who know my views on him, must be surprised at the above statement. Some of them, who have stood shoulder to shoulder with me intrepidly on numerous Face Book battles, liking each other’s comments and supporting each other while unbelievably fanatic near psychopaths spewed their venom online, may feel let down.

Here is the reason why I fervently hope and want Modi to succeed. (Not that what I say or believe matter a damn in the larger scheme of things, but I like to write about my feelings and this is an attempt at sharply defining what I feel)

India, and 1.2 billion people deserve a break.

We deserve a break from corruption, a divided and hence paralyzed government, a powerless prime minister and a totally incompetent, removed from reality and arrogant mother-son combination, which seems to be the only rallying point for a once great party.

But have I changed colours and started loving the man? No. Never. Not even if the country turns around hundred and eighty degrees under his stewardship.

What has shocked me in the last one year and amazed me in the last two months is the way a vast majority of middle class Indians have completely blocked their minds out from Modi’s history. He did not earn his wings as a messiah of development. He earned it as a hard line Hindu fanatic who was part of the core group which engineered rath yaatras and destruction of mosques. He was also (to give him the benefit of doubt) the chief minister who let mobs run riot while the minorities in his state were butchered.

He established the foundation of his popularity first as a hard line Hindu, an extreme right winger. Once that was established only he moved on to the next phase- that of establishing himself as a development wiz.
There is no doubt that he is a superb administrator, extremely hardworking, personally corruption free, highly efficient and very astute (even without having to compare with the bungling idiots on the other side). As important is the fact that he is an amazing orator who can eat the entire opposition for breakfast. To top it all, he has the smartness, no, brilliance to create a powerful brand.

So I have been torn inside- should I admire this man who has so many admirable qualities and blank out his past in my mind as so many of my friends have done? Should I also think that what he did was for the larger good and forgive the glaring blots? For there is no doubt again that he will be a far more effective Prime Minister and that there is a very high probability that he will pull the country out of the mess that we are in.
But if I do that, if I join the milling hysterical crowd that is singing paeans to him and glorifying him and deifying him, what example would I be setting for my children? That it is OK to perpetrate horrible and shameful deeds to some people as long as you achieve some good for most other people in the end? That means always justify the end? That someone with such a huge questionable past who stood for everything that is against the plural nature of our constitution can become the Prime Minister of India? That we should all remember that ‘Jo Jeeta, Wohi Sikandar’?

As I watch friend after friend and relative after relative succumb to the frenzy, I feel sad and shocked. Sad that there are so many who are willing to forget those unfortunates who lost their lives and their families to the hard line nature of Hindutva which Modi represents, just because they feel that their own future is now brighter. (And I don’t doubt an iota that it is brighter). I feel so sad that the media which had staunchly tried for many years to point out the dangers of Modi has suddenly done a volte-face in the last three months and hope that this had nothing to do with the alleged Rs.5000 crore communication budget of Brand Modi. How many times have I fervently wished that Modi was not a Hardline Hindu fanatic or at least that the pogrom of 2002 had never happened so that I can also join the crowd.

I am shocked at statements such as ‘See, how inclusive and balanced, his speech is? He is no hardliner.’ Or ‘He has not once mentioned Hindutva or Ayodhya. He is so balanced’. Can’t people see that he is a brilliant strategist and a consummate actor? He knows that there is no need to do the hard line act anymore- those hard line voters were won over when he / his ilk did Ayodhya and later the riots. He knows that now he should just focus on getting the apathetic, middle liners.   

At the same time, I am also hopeful that this regime will, once and for all, stop- through legal means- the hardliners of some minority communities that dish out fatwas and believe they are a law unto themselves. The hardliners who used to get away scot-free because of vote bank politics. I hope the regime can bring about one Indian law, applicable to all. I am incredibly hopeful by the shauchalaya over devalaya decision that he has intrepidly taken, backing development over hard line policies.

My humble request to all at this juncture is only this. Even while we all pray that Modi succeeds for our own good, let us not forget the path that he tread was dangerous and scary. It is even more worrying because he is efficient, effective, charismatic and astute and can sway the masses. Let us, as a people promise to ourselves that we will not let him return to his roots if the vagaries of global economy makes his development agenda less effective than it deserves to be- even while hoping that he has genuinely learned and grown; let us promise ourselves to rise up and fearlessly quell rabid behaviour if it rears its ugly head again; because the easiest thing to do if the development agenda does not work would be to polarise the nation again to stay on in power.


Narendra Modi is here to stay; maybe for the next 15 years as a Prime Minister of this country. I hope fervently that he succeeds in his development agenda.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The rise and rise of the eRamamurti - The amazing adventures of a Tamil Brahmin-Part II

You have doubtless read my little piece titled ‘the amazing adventures of a Tamil Brahmin’, based on the real life adventures of Appa, my father-in-law. In case you are one of the unfortunate few who have not, I strongly suggest you desist from revealing this in public. Instead you can quickly read through it here http://ramgvallath.blogspot.in/2010/01/amazing-adventures-of-tamil-brahmin-aka.html and hold your head up proudly.

The ones who did read the original piece must have been wondering whether after a glorious start, Appa fizzled out into obscurity, since no further updates of his adventures were shared. If so, they are gravely mistaken. Appa has moved from strength to strength, delivering more than the initial promise. I can see that you are upset that I have not kept you, my faithful reader, posted on the progress. It is just that after those initial years when Appa was taking roots in my life, I got rather busy with corporate life, bringing up two brats, contracting an auto immune disorder, writing books, stem cell transplant etc. and have not had time to chronicle the continued adventures of Mr. Ramamurti – ie. Appa.

But I think now it is time to release a refresher capsule.

If you recall, I had described Appa as a meek and god-fearing sort of chap whose most aggressive behavior was cancelling Economic Times on weekends behind my back. But he soon surprised me with his audacity and risk taking ability when he deigned to try out Appam, a totally Malayali dish for breakfast. This coming from a man who has eaten only rice and rasam for lunch every day for over twenty years! That moment, I realized there was more to Appa than meets the eye. I pulled out the competency framework I had used to evaluate Appa, and against the attribute ‘Risk taking ability’, where I had written ‘are you kidding?’ I wrote ‘needs further observation’.

And observe him I did, closely- without the man ever feeling that he was under constant scrutiny. But my scrutiny was woefully inadequate. Appa surprised me again. Five years into my marriage, one evening he proudly announced to Jayu and I that he had just got his four wheeler license. I ogled at the man, stunned. He was sixty seven at that time and used to wince every time I accelerated the car to above forty kilometer per hour! This same man had enrolled himself secretly in a driving school, learned how to drive and had actually got himself a driving license. He did this so that he could drive little Ananya to school, he confided to us. I whipped out the competency framework and scratched out the ‘needs further observation’. I changed it to ‘Oh My God!’ (OMG was not invented in those days).

Appa continued relentlessly to surprise me. Somewhere in the mid of the last decade, he adopted the cell phone. The primary use was to call me every time I was to go on any tour directly from office to ask me ‘You have left office no, RamG?’ ‘Have you taken your wallet and laptop?’ ‘What about the ticket?’ and ‘Have you checked in RamG?’ or he would call home whenever he was travelling to ask ‘Have the children left for school?’ ‘Has the gas been switched off?’ ‘Children are OK, no?’ and ‘How is your cold, RamG?’

He quickly migrated up to the next level of tech-saviness and started sending SMSs. We started receiving messages such as ‘boarded. All well’ and ‘will reach in one hour. Latha can keep rasam’ etc.

Ramamurti made the successful transformation to eRamamurti when he asked Jayu to create an email ID for him. I was amazed at his willingness to keep conquering new technologies. I had to smile indulgently when he started bombarding us with mail forwards of jokes which had been doing the rounds for years and which he must have come across for the first time now in his e-enabled avatar.

But eRamamurti would not stop there. He pestered Advay to open a Facebook account for him and jumped to the cutting edge of social media. By now, I had stopped being surprised by anything Appa did. I guess it is just this sense of openness to adapt and change which made him accept me wholeheartedly as his son-in-law, in spite of our huge differences. The same ability to adapt which made him accept the fact that the kids and I have non-veg at home. The same adaptability which  has made him totally comfortable with his Tamil and Malayalam TV programs and his bhajan-chanting in his room while he lets us lead our drastically different lifestyle.   

The only trouble was that with eRamamurti now dabbling around with a Blackberry, an iPod, a laptop and a desktop, every once in a while he would run into a tech problem which would stump him. The kids, occupied with their own stuff, would not solve his problems immediately. Then he would come to me, humbly requesting me in his own self-deprecating way to help him out whenever I had a moment to spare.

I have laid down one rule for myself- Appa’s slightest need would take priority over anything else I am doing. I have also told the kids the same thing. Since he is the last person to impose himself on others, he comes to us for help only when he has absolutely no other option, and that too after hesitating many times. As the eldest member of the house, he should know that his slightest wish is our command.


If he holds on to the current trajectory, I am sure that he will be editing videos and mixing music soon. I am waiting for the day when one fine morning, he will greet me with a high five and ‘Yo, sup dude!’ 

Monday, April 1, 2013

My struggle with CIDP- an autoimmune disorder


I was thirty three and on top of the world when the niggling worry started. It was quite a small worry in the beginning. I found that my hand would tremble when I was holding up a spoon, a plate, a glass of beer etc. My original self-diagnosis was that this was caused by work related stress. When one becomes a country manager at 31, apart from being on top of the world, the by-product is stress. And when at 33, I had moved into a telecom operation as head of sales and marketing, the effect was approximately like moving from the frying pan into the fire.

But stress did not explain the loss of balance I used to face while climbing down stairs, which was a second symptom that had started developing.

But being very busy climbing the corporate ladder (I became one of the youngest COOs in a telecom operation in couple of years), I ignored the symptoms. Finally, when I did meet a doctor, he examined me and said I was perfectly all right.

In the next two years, the condition quickly worsened. My fingers started losing their strength and it also became difficult for me to climb up stairs. The COO of a state telecom operation was a reasonably high profile position. I would be invited for events etc. and would feel a cold clammy feeling at the pit of my stomach if this involved climbing up on to a stage. I would be petrified of falling and would pray to god every step of the way. (Imagine being the chief guest at the Cochin Naval Ball and spending the whole time worrying about how I would climb up the stage instead of admiring the beauties I was judging.)  I also found it difficult to do anything which required fine motor coordination, like putting on buttons. I had to stop driving, an activity which I loved.

Over the next 4 years, the condition steadily worsened and I had to move roles so that I could still manage to deliver on my job. In the meanwhile, I had couple of more wrong diagnoses from doctors and was told that the condition was genetic and without any treatment.

It was then that my uncle Dr. Balakrishnan, a renowned doctor, helped me set up an appointment with the HOD of neurology at Amrita Institute in Cochin. Dr. Ananthakumar examined me and indicated that the condition was not congenital but was an acquired disorder called CIDP. To be 100% sure, he did a nerve biopsy. While waiting for the biopsy result, one day I contracted a viral fever. This triggered an acute case of the condition and I was laid up for about nine days. I could not lift my hands, sit up or even talk. Luckily, an angel by the name of Dr. Monica Thomas, whom I had never met before and who was referred to us by Dr. Ananthakumar, took the trouble to come all the way to my house after a full day’s work. She took one look at me and confirmed the condition as CIDP. She got me admitted in a hospital.

CIDP is an autoimmune disorder- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. My own immune system was attacking my peripheral nerves and they were losing their conductivity. This in turn was making my muscles useless and over a period of time, they were fading away. For the first time in seven years there was a tangible condition that I could fight. The standard treatment for the condition was to take an intravenous medication called IVIG. A full course was 2mg/Kg of weight which in my case worked out to 160mg. This had to be taken over five days. It cost 6 lacs!! An enormous sum. But at the end of the five days, I was way better and over the next week, my body became almost completely fine. I was better than I had ever been for the previous five years. I was on top of the world. I ran up ten flights of stairs in my office, cooked pizzas for my kids and buttoned up all the shirts I wanted! But in 45 days, the condition went crashing down again. The effect of the magic potion had worn off.  The doctor had not warned me of this. For me, who thought the whole issue was behind me, this came as the rudest shock. I met the doctor again. He suggested I start on steroids. Steroids would suppress my immunity, and this would lead to an improvement in the condition. He also recommended another dose of IVIG. This time I took a fifth of the first dose, since we couldn’t afford to spend on a complete dosage.

Over the next 3 years, I took IVIG once every two months. The effect kept waning and I had to take it even more frequently. The dosage of steroids had to keep increasing from 30mg per day to 40, 50, 60 and finally 80. I bloated up like a balloon and put on about 14 kilos. My eyesight started fading (an effect of the steroid and I finally had to undergo a cataract operation). In spite of all the medication, the condition steadily worsened.

Before the condition, I had always walked with a spring in my steps. Now I could barely lift my legs. I couldn’t lift any weight. My wrist started flopping – it couldn’t even lift the weight of my hands. My left foot started dropping – the ankle muscle stopped responding. I had to lift the leg up high and place it forward to avoid tripping over a flopping foot. It became impossible to button up my shirts. When travelling, I had to wake up at 5.30 am for an 8 am meeting, since it would take me 90 minutes to put on five buttons. Finally I had to stitch special shirts with concealed press buttons with dummy buttons stitched on outside. The worst was when I had to go to the urinal. It would take time to find the zip with my nerveless fingers. And often, after the job was done, it would take as high as ten to fifteen minutes to zip back up.

Through all this, there were a few important rules I created for myself.

  •  Never ever think of what could have been.
  •   Always be cheerful and be the provider of cheer – at home, at work...
  • Actively seek solution instead of moaning about the problem.
  • At work, always do more than what is expected of you.
  • Thank god every day for a wonderful family, great friends, relatives and above all, for my unconquerable spirit.

I would keep pushing myself to walk, exercise, do yoga etc., while continuously searching for solutions on the web.

Finally on one of my internet researches, I came across a clinical trial that was going on at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I reached out to them and the nurse got back immediately with all the details of the program. We also heard from her that the doctor, Dr. Richard Burt, the head of the Division of Immunotherapy & Autoimmune Diseases (DIAD) at Northwestern was slated to come to India for a talk. (http://www.stemcell-immunotherapy.com/index.html)

We attended the talk and he was kind enough to have dinner with us. He was as humble and down to earth as his achievements were lofty and life changing.

Over the years, he had treated many of the autoimmune disorders for which there were no real cures. These included Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Diabetes, Lupus, Crohn’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), Phemphigus, Dermatomyositis, Devic’s, Myasthenia Gravis, Polymositis and Scleroderma. He had given life back to many patients without any hope. Jayu (my wife) and I discussed and decided it was worth going for this. The procedure was ‘Autologous Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant’. A mouthful, I agree! But what it meant was usage of one’s own blood cell producing Stem Cells to regenerate one’s blood cells. The term non-myeloablative meant the dosage of chemo was not very aggressive.

The whole evaluation and treatment had to be in Chicago, spread out over 10 weeks.
For Jayu and I, the trip was in a way a nice holiday too. We enjoyed the stay at Chicago, right in the middle of the Magnificent Mile. Even though there was so much uncertainty, it was also a time of intense hope. The fact that my classmate couple, Manish and Radhika and another classmate Sridhar and his wife Vasudha made every effort to make us completely comfortable in Chicago helped hugely. Skype to our parents and children and family also kept us connected to loved ones and their best wishes and prayers.

The first 2-3 weeks was for evaluation- to make absolutely sure that the condition was CIDP. This was followed by mobilization – where a dose of chemo was injected into the body to stimulate production of Stem Cells. About ten days later, sufficient quantity of Stem Cells were then harvested and kept aside. Then four weeks later, the actual treatment started. This included injecting chemo and certain other substances into the body to completely knock out the entre immune system. After this, the Stem Cells were re-injected into the body and within about ten days, I was discharged.

The staff at Northwestern was amazing. The nurses were the most professional I had ever seen in my life. Even in the hospital, the doctor was considered to be a miracle worker. But more than anything, he was a wonderful person: sensitive, empathetic and extremely knowledgeable.

By the last four days in the hospital, I could start feeling my body responding. My will, which was long shackled inside an unresponsive body, exulted. I embarked on a rigorous exercise routine.

Back home, over the next year, I set myself a blistering target to recover my lost muscles. I created a target sheet with daily increasing targets for the next six months for 28 different muscle work outs. Then, every day I pushed myself to do better than the target.




The fact I was writing my first book – Oops the Mighty Gurgle gave me a huge mental push. The book was so wacky, funny and totally in the realm of the absurd that writing it kept my spirits soaring high. I jokingly tell my friends that it was a mix of the chemo and the rat and rabbit extracts that were pumped into me that made me write such a crazy wacky nutty novel. 



                                                 www.oopsthegurgle.com

I have been trying ever since to get some of the major hospitals in India interested in the treatment and collaboration with Dr. Burt so that many more persons could have access to this life changing treatment. I have run up against walls, but will not stop trying. In the meanwhile, I would like to spread awareness about this treatment to as many people as possible. If they can afford the treatment (it is expensive), they should consider this seriously.

Today, I have almost completely regained most of my motor abilities. I can button up my shirts, drive a car, lift weights, travel alone, climb up steps without holding on to railings and can lead a pretty much normal life. I still can’t run or type very fast. My handwriting still sucks. But I am, to use a slang, rocking. I am on my second book, am consulting in the education domain and give motivational talks based on my life’s experiences.

I continue to thank god for my wonderful wife, my lovely kids, my relatives, my friends, and my never say die spirit. But most of all, I thank god for Dr.Richard Burt and the wonderful work that he is doing, saving hundreds of lives every year.
I can be contacted on my email ID rvallath@yahoo.com and will be delighted to extend whatever help I can to anyone who is suffering from any autoimmune disorder. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Birth of Pi


God was delighted. It was during these times of intense creativity that he found himself happiest. The pleasure of creating something from completely nothing was incomparable. It was way more interesting than maintaining and managing a running system.

He had a lot of plans for this cycle of the universe; things he had been planning for eons during the last cycle. In fact, it was with a lot of glee that he had embarked on the last Big Crunch- take it all back to nothing and start building again.

The previous day, he had given shape to the basic structure. He had decided on what percentage of the universe should be matter and what percentage energy. Then with a wicked grin, he had made 78% of it invisible – let them try and figure that out! They might call it dark energy and dark matter for all he knew!

Later on, he put in his latest inventions – protons. He liked their positive nature. But then he also had to add equal number of electrons. He did that reluctantly, frowning at their negativity. Once the basic building blocks were ready, he had wound up for the first day.

It was on the second day that he added shapes- all the potential shapes that could exist in this cycle of the universe. The easiest was the triangle. He liked the three-sides-three-angles shape. Quite simple and basic. Besides, he liked the number three.  The rectangle was a tad more complex but logical after the creation of the triangle. Step by step, he created the pentagon, the hexagon etc. As he created each shape, he fed that into the production server.

It was right at the end that he had the brainwave. He had visualized a completely new shape. It was more symmetrical than any shape before that. It was simple, elegant and curvaceous. It was a masterpiece of creation. Its sheer symmetry and beauty took his breath away. As he created the prototype, he looked at the properties on his computer – it was perfect. The perimeter was always proportional to a straight line drawn between any two points of the shape, passing through the center. He decided to call such a line the diameter. In fact, what delighted him most was that the perimeter to diameter ratio was a perfect number – three - irrespective of the size of the shape. God permitted himself the luxury of rubbing his hands in glee (thereby inadvertently also creating electricity).

He would now upload this perfect shape into the production server. He looked at the console – the magic ratio, 3, was visible on the screen. He hesitated a moment before pressing the button, drinking in the number.

It was at that precise moment that his pesky little brother, Devil barged into the workshop.

‘Dude, what is this amazing shape?’ he asked lunging at the perfect shape. As God’s finger pressed the button, devil touched the shape, which immediately lost its perfection.

God stared at the screen aghast. It said...

Uploaded
Shape – Circle
Perimeter to Diameter ratio – 3.1415926535… Oh damn, it doesn't stop!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Pesky Little ‘I’


I love writing. To me it is an extension of storytelling and I always loved story telling; especially telling the kind of completely nonsensical stories which would keep kids on the edge of their seats, clutching their sides and laughing hysterically. But there are some serious differences between spontaneously telling a story and writing a Novel.

In my case, these differences are slightly less. For example, most authors, I believe plan their plot in advance and have their characters fleshed out and gnashing their teeth, raring to go even before the first word is written. In my case, Oops the gurgle had to take his bamboozler out of his pocket and aim it at his opponent, before I decided whether Oops wanted to erase his memory, freeze him into an icicle or just give him a gentle tickle. In the dark planet, when all lights suddenly go out, I rack my gray cells to figure out if a slimy slithery 20 foot slug should devour the protagonists or whether invisible creatures should laugh ghoulishly at them. Basically what I am trying to drive at is that I write novels, much like I tell stories; on the spur of the moment. I find this keeps me mentally alert and gives me batting practice to face all the googlies life throws at me J

But this was where the crux of the problem lay. It was when I tried to make the novel conversational and free flowing that a completely unwanted character reared its puny little head. It was ‘I’. ‘I’ slipped into the story completely without warning at several places. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded ‘I’ jumping in to hog the credit for a particularly juicy anecdote or to relate a really funny incident. But when I sent the manuscript to my editor, the primary platypus, Sayoni completely booted ‘I’ out.

“The omniscient first person is completely unacceptable. Please see to it that he stays out,” she told me sternly.

I bridled. I pretended as if I really cared for ‘I’ and just couldn’t chuck him out. “After all,” I told the platypus “this is my writing style. ‘I’ has to make an appearance every once in a while to build rapport with the reader.”

The platypus was at heart quite soft and supportive of poor struggling authors. I could hear heavy silence from the other end of the phone. The platypus was presumably swishing her tail in consternation.

Finally, after I went to the extent of telling her “without ‘I’ piping in from time to time, I feel like I am reading someone else’s work,” she agreed to keep the guy in.

If  you are now thinking, “Yay, RamG, way to go. This is how the oppressed classes (authors) should assert themselves with the oppressors (editors/publishers),” you are jumping to conclusions. Sayoni the platypus, who has seen many an author and who is well versed with various tactics of bringing a rebellious author under control was far subtler than I thought. She sent my manuscript to a critic. After a week, I got a forwarded mail from Sayoni.  Mind you, a simple forwarding of the critic’s mail to her with no comments whatsoever of her own.

It said – “the book had me in complete splits. But I don’t know how to say this, every time I got really immersed in the plot and was chewing my nails off, a wise guy would suddenly spring up and start making funny comments. A bit like God. Are authors supposed to do that? Can we keep him out, please?”
I read and re-read the forwarded mail. I knew when I was defeated. I decided to boot ‘I’ out.

Easier said than done. I had to break the news to ‘I’.  ‘I’ was completely pissed when I broke the news.

“Dude, first of all, you promised an autobiography in which ‘I’ would appear at least once per sentence. I was so thrilled. Then you completely welshed and went and wrote some idiotic book on beings with brains in their bottoms and other such crazy stuff, thereby banishing ‘I’ completely. You can’t blame me for trying to sneak in a few times! Have a heart.”

I felt sorry for the poor guy. I could see his point. I was the one who had given him hopes of a book full of him by promising an autobiography. At the same time, I knew that it would be idiotic not to take the advice of the wise platypus. Finally after racking my brain for several seconds, I came up with an unbelievably amazing solution.  All I had to do was to add an asterisk (the star thingy, not Obelix’s friend) wherever ‘I’ used to be. Then ‘I’ could come in with his wisecracks as footnotes. ‘I’ was thrilled with the suggestion. So was the platypus. Peace reigned throughout.

But I know this is temporary. If I don’t come up with an autobiography and give ‘I’ squatting rights in every sentence, ‘I’ would be really unhappy. What is more, I knew ‘I’ would also rope in ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ into the conflict. If I were ‘I’, I know that ‘I’ would do exactly that.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Snaring of the Platypus


I admit I have let you all down with a resounding thud. After promising a post every week to my millions of admirers, I blatantly went back on my word and stopped posting for well over six months.

In my defense, I must humbly point out that in my last post, I had promised to share how I managed to snare this extremely rare breed called a publisher. But having proclaimed this intention well before actually bagging the creature, I had to lie low and pretend to blend into the background till the trap was finally sprung.

Today, I am the  proud possessor of a publisher- squirming and thrashing, no doubt, but firmly in my grip and unlikely to escape. Now I believe I am ready to share the gripping saga of my publisher hunt.

It was in October of 2011 that I typed ‘the end’ and officially declared my first novel complete. Even as I wiped the sweat off my brow, I had already embarked on the next step – that of finding a publisher or literary agent. Since I was absolutely convinced that my book was superior to anything ever written or anything that could possibly be written in the future, I would settle only for the best publisher. Ok, Ok, I am sure you must be muttering arrogant so-and-so on reading the last line, but I would place the blame squarely at the doorsteps of my informal editors, friend Anjali Nair, and my sister-in-law Shubha  (even though she lost steam half way through)who both kept raving about my book. Being an eternal optimist, I decided to ignore the lukewarm response of my cousin Nandu and the extremely positive but not ecstatic response of my young friend Vidyuth.

And thus started the quest. Having written a young adult book of international appeal, I decided to first search for a publisher in UK or USA. There was a small glitch, of course – a vast majority of these dinosaurs accepted only hard copies of the manuscript. Having learned from J K Rowling that to become a great author, one had to at least get 13 rejections, and considering the money and effort that takes to courier 14 separate envelopes to the US and UK, I decided to focus only on those few who accepted email submissions. Fortunately, my prime target, Christopher Little (he was JKR’s agent) was among them. I sent off my manuscript to all of two publishers and Christopher Little and waited.

In the meanwhile I also deigned to look at Indian publishers. I did extensive web research and figured out the whole process of snaring a publisher. It goes roughly as follows…

- Go to the web and research out the names of the publishers of all the famous books you know…
- Ask your friends and their friends if they have any contacts with these publishing houses…
- Cry when you realize that friends do not have connections to really big time publishers…
- Settle for whatever and get introduced through aforementioned friends or friends’ friends…
- Send your synopsis to all the aforementioned publishers…
- Send synopsis also to all other publishers and agents in the country not in the contact list…
- Curse your cousin BalC who worked in the company called Synopsys when you realize that you have miss-spelt the word synopsis in all your mails…
- Wait week after week for rejections to pour in, pretending you are aiming for 13 rejections…
- Write stupid blogs about how one is about to get published…
- Get polite rejection from Christopher Little and mutter ‘No wonder JKR sacked him’…
- Get impatient and start the process of self publishing through Createspace, coughing up an enormous sum of $3000, muttering ‘forgive them for they know not what they miss’ about the publisher community …
- Chance upon an old friend called P Venky who introduces you to his friend called Chanty who introduces you to Westland, one of the leading publishers…
- Keep sending reminders to Paul of Westland, thanking god all the while that he has not responded, being pretty sure that any reply would be a polite rejection…
- Get a mail from a totally strange being called Sayoni Basu (who later on turns out to be Paul's wife), who calls herself a Primary Platypus of Duckbill Publishers, saying they are an associate of Westaland, focused on children’s and young adults’ literature and that she loves the manuscript…
- Thank god profusely for creating some sensible people like Sayoni Basu who moreover has the sense of humour to call herself primary platypus instead of a boring Director etc. ...
- Fall on your face and accept whatever terms in the contract with utmost gratitude...
- Fervently thank god for the strange creature called platypus and the stranger being called primary platypus :-) (Ouch! Sayoni Sorry!)

And after intense research, my friends, I have come to the conclusion that this is the best process towards getting published. Follow it to a Tee and let me assure you, you can also get your novel published. Of course, the prerequisite is that you should have written the damn thing to begin with. 


Monday, February 27, 2012

My Novel Experience with Authoring


You must have all read the story of how, at the tender age of five, having been egged on by a particularly vicious dog, I was forced to take up the pen, the mightiest weapon known to man, in an endeavor to quell the uprising of hoards of marauding canines. (Take that, and that, and that, and... ) I believe I was reasonably successful in thwarting their dark and evil design, since all heads of states of all countries still remain essentially human.

Having thus achieved my end, I laid the pen to rest for a fairly longish period, except for occasional tests and exams, when one had to revert to using it to scrawl out trigonometry, Archimedes principle, structure of atom and other such completely useless bits of knowledge in a really abysmal handwriting. But deep inside me, an author lay trapped within layers of competitive exams, corporate bullshit and such other forms of rat-race.

It was not until very recently that I decided to take up writing again. This time aided by QWERTY boards, mightier than the pen. So in between mails on explaining cash flows, setting targets, poking a friend on face book, churning out idiotic presentations, playing scrabble and making elaborate XL sheets, I started finding time to blog.

At first, the occasional slips into this aberration were minimal and controllable– approximately 2.3 times each year, much like how Dr.Jekyll could control the use of the stuff that could turn him into Mr. Hyde. But this happy state of affairs was not to last. I left active corporate life because of an autoimmune disorder.  And like a vicious beast, long shackled within the confines of a polished exterior, the aspiring author in me was unleashed. My declaration, stating my intent of spewing the stuff out once a week was received by all my hapless classmates and FB friends with quaking hearts. The fact that every time I pinged someone or chatted with someone, I would end the conversation asking them whether they have read my blog was more than some of them could handle (I believe some of them opted out of FB) . Even my unknown scrabble opponents would be surprised witless in the middle of their bingos by me pasting  my latest post on the chat box, making them completely miss their seven letter words with the letters Q,U,A,K, I,N and G.  When I started ending every phone call with the question “have you read my blog?” my wife finally kicked my posterior viciously and told me enough was enough.

But unknown to them, I was brewing up a far more sinister and darker plan, that of writing a whole blooming book.

This happened when Jayu and I went for 3 months to Chicago. The main purpose was for me to undergo a stem cell transplant. (The secondary purpose was for me to see the Playboy building and the tertiary purpose was to eat the original deep pan pizza.) So what does one do in between blood tests, being poked by electrodes and bone marrow biopsies?  Writing, of course. So I started off on my first novel.  I was quite focused on this task and managed to churn out 2-3 pages a day. I was duly encouraged by dear friends Sridhar, Vasudha, Manish and Radhika, poor unsuspecting souls who had no idea just how close they were to becoming branded Frankenstein.  I completed fifty pages, but was personally, not happy with the way the plot was developing. It was altogether too serious. There was no pep in it.

And then I went in for the actual treatment (17 days). My body revolted at the chemo and refused any input outside of dry toast. But my brain, pickled in the purest Old Monk rum and Bullet beer from the age of 16, must have found some kinship with the aforementioned chemo. It must have been also quite impressed with the mix of rabbit juices and rat juices the hospital was kind enough to provide intravenously. The fact that the hospital was miles above any I have ever seen and the Doctor was incredibly good added to the feeling of well being. And of course, it helped that the nurses, handpicked to be the best of the best, also looked like angels. Buoyed by the abovementioned happy circumstances, my brain finally came up with the sweet-spot. It was ‘out with the serious’ and in with the ‘mad and whacky’. The idea for ‘Oops!’ was born.

Over the next 3 months, aided by the excellent dragon software, I completed my first novel. Then started the difficult part of the whole journey. That of getting an unsuspecting soul to read it. Three months down the line, it remained a fruitless endeavor. Even my kids, even on the pain of cancellation of all pizza rights, dug in their heels and resisted. Till finally I found 3 persons (one cousin, one friend and one friend’s son) to actually read the whole stuff.

But getting a publisher gullible enough to bite on the hook was a whole different story and shall be recounted in a different blog. (How else can I stick to my promise of once a week excitement?)

But in case you are sighing with relief, let me warn you. I am no quitter. You, my poor fish, are going to be hit with the final product come May. With your best interests at heart, let me give you some friendly advice. Buy the damn thing and read it. Otherwise, the vicious Mr. Hyde in me will find expression and I shall track you down to the ends of the earth and make sure I pain you with a deluge of blogs.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Indian Parliament Passes the Corruption Bill – an Extract from Loony Times


 Feb 23rd, New Delhi : In a move that can change the future course of the nation, the Indian Parliament has passed the corruption bill. There was jubilation all over New Delhi as the political class took to the streets to celebrate this first of its kind legislation.

“This is the first time in the history of democracy that a bill of this magnitude is getting passed,” said Ms.Dancegod, a spokesperson for the ruling Servile Party. “With this legislation in place, politicians and bureaucrats alike can focus on nation building instead of wasting time and energy on negotiating with businessmen.”

Breaking her media silence, Ms.Sofar, the chairperson of URA (United Regressive Alliance) called for a press conference late last evening. “We are proud of this monumental achievement,” she told the media. Going on to highlight the specific advantages of the bill, she elaborated, “Now the facilitation fee a politician or a bureaucrat is entitled to is very clearly outlined in the bill. The facilitation matrix for various roles and for various types and sizes of approvals are clearly laid out. Whether the person is a Minister, a MP, a MLA, an undersecretary, or a clerk, the quantum is very clearly defined. Now there will be no ambiguity and no wasting of time and effort on investigating bribery charges.”

The home minister Mr.Conscioussky made a separate announcement that with the corruption bill in place, CBI can now be disbanded. “This is possible, since the law is retrospective and covers all facilitation fees received in the past 7 years. A skeleton CBI would continue to probe facilitation fees received prior to 2005. The disbanding of CBI would save substantial cost to the exchequer and the savings can be ploughed back into subsidies, ten percent of which has to go back to the political class as facilitation fees according to the new law. As you can see, there is so much trickle effect that this law would generate, which would further drive up the economy, making even more facilitation fee possible. It is an ever increasing virtuous cycle,” he said.

The law was passed with landslide majority in both houses of parliament. This followed a late night consensus brought about after hectic consultation between URA representatives and some of the other party leaders, namely Ms.Magicwoman of BSP (Bhrashtachar Samaj Party) and Mr. Mercytreasure of DMK (Dravida Money Kazhagam). As the readers may recall, both BSP and DMK had opposed the draft, claiming the slabs specified in the bill would considerably bring down the earnings of their leaders. The finance minister had to broker a deal finally and a compromise was reached late in the night that the states were free to impose a surcharge on the facilitation fee over and above what the bill specified. In return, the Servile Party secured their support for provisions for an additional surcharge for leaders of foreign origin. 

Unconfirmed rumors stated that the Prime Minister, Mr.Munmun Sen was opposed to the bill, but was finally prevailed upon by Ms.Sofar. He mumbled uncontrollably when contacted by the media.

The leaders of the opposition, Mr.Roon and Ms.Selfrule trashed the bill as unnecessary. “By fixing slabs for facilitation fees, the government is trying to infringe on the individuals' right to negotiate and fix their own rates. This is a dark day for the ruling class”. The other two prominent leaders of the opposition, Mr.Ladwani and Mr.Noddy were both of the opinion that the ‘violence against minorities’ act and the 'destruction of places of worship' act should have been given higher importance than the corruption bill. However, the members of the ‘Karnataka wing’ of the opposition party were partying late into the night.

The lone dissention from the ruling party was by Sallubhai, who continued to insist that there should be a provision for a separate quota for minorities.

It is rumored that Pakistani Prime Minister Mr.Gilani was in touch with sources in the URA to understand the exact provisions of the bill.

Consequent to the bill being passed, there were rumors that at Raj Ghat, upheavals were felt. Presumably from Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes turning in their urn. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'A New God' An extract from Loony Times


Good Heavens, 14th February (Standard Heavenly Time) -In the aftermath of the Adelaide one day international against Sri Lanka, substantial changes have been made in the Indian cricket team. An emergency meeting of the CISI was convened by the chairman, Vishnu to discuss the ramifications.

Readers might recall that the Committee for Increasing Sanity of Indians (CISI) was instituted after Vishnu and Brahma discussed at length on the increasing affinity of Indians towards cricket. The purpose of the committee is to ensure the Vast Indian Hordes do not stray from the destined path. The first decisive action taken by the committee was to create a 10th Avatar of Vishnu to become God of Cricket. (Oh God!!!)

In light of the continued failure by Tendulkar, it was decided by the committee to take swift action. In a late night announcement made at 7PM on the MMT (Menial Mortal Time), it was conveyed that Sachin has been now promoted to God Emeritus, an honorary position. The position of God of cricket has now been bestowed on Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has been promoted from the position of Joint God. The committee consisting of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma finalized this after a very brief deliberation. “By saving Indian cricket from the brink of disaster, MSD has proved he is worthy of taking on this coveted position” said Saraswati, the spokesperson for the committee.

There were other contenders for the position, namely Sreesanth, backed by the Mallu lobby and Aamir Khan, whose name was put forward by the hardcore viewers of Lagaan. “It is difficult to ignore Sreesanth’s contribution to cricket. A whole state has been won over from football to cricket only by his efforts. But finally, all things considered, we came to the conclusion that MSD is the best candidate” said Saraswati.

The promotion of MSD naturally brought about a string of related promotions. Gautam Gambhir was promoted from Additional God to Joint God and Virat Kohli has been promoted from Assistant God to Additional God. Sehwag remains in the Oh My God category.  

While most people are happy with these changes, the opposition, led by Narakasura trashed the decision as a compromise formula.

Balasaheb Thackeray, when informed of the decision was livid. “This is a conspiracy to slowly ease out Maharshtrians from Mumabi” he thundered. His nephew, Raj Thackeray, however welcomed the decision. “Sachin was always a Marathi Manoos. Making him God was a cheap stunt. We welcome him back to the ranks of the Marathi Manoos” he said.

Tendulkar, when contacted refused to comment. However, our reporter overheard him muttering “Aila” repeatedly, a sure sign that the legend was under stress. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh God Again!!!


Brahma, sitting on his lotus was perplexed. He was at his wits end. He did not know what to do. He had been waiting for Vishnu to come out of his meditation for more than 3 minutes on the SHT, (Standard Heavenly Time) about 10 months on the MMT scale (Menial Mortal Time). He had been viewing the happenings of these 10 months of MMT with grave concern.

He had told Vishnu to keep his focus for another 8 minutes and not to get diverted. By that time (2.2 years on MMT) Sachin Tendulkar would have scored 110 international centuries, 40000 international runs and 99.997% of India would have been looking at him as god of cricket and thereby worshipping Vishnu. (Aha!! I can see that poor unhappy souls who have not read my earlier post on how all this transpired are squirming in guilt. Never mind, it is never too late to learn from your mistakes. Read the heavenly happenings on Oh God!!!). Now Vishnu has let his concentration wander and his poor 10th Avatar was in desperate trouble. Worse, the vast hordes of Indians (VHI) were now switching off from cricket.

Brahma scratched his 4 heads simultaneously. He was tempted to step in and give Tendulkar a helping hand.  But he desisted. The Job Descriptions were very clear. He was a creator and had better stick to creating. It was Vishnu’s job to preserve. Finally Brahma decided to take matters into his own 8 hands. Taking a piece of Antarctica, he dropped it on Vishnu’s chest. (An act which caused Antarctica to shrink, which environmentalists mistook for the result of global warming)

“Ouch!!! WTF!!” said Vishnu sitting up with a start. The lotus flower coming out of Vishnu’s navel obviously moved from vertical to horizontal and Brahma plunged from the lotus into Ksheera Sagara, the milky sea. Spluttering, he came up. “Watch your language my friend. Remember the last internal audit?” He asked sitting next to Vishnu and shaking away the milk droplets.

Vishnu shuddered. He well remembered the internal audit held last time by the Sapta Rishis. He, Brahma and Shiva were pulled up for deviating from Indian culture and following Hollywood dialogues. They had to drop words such as ‘Dude’, ‘Wassup’, ‘Take a chill pill’ etc from their vocab. WTF was definitely out. The audit committee had said in no uncertain terms that if the operations team (Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva) had to use movie dialogues to get closer to their constituents, then it better be Bollywood movies.  He also remembered how Vyasa had become livid at the initiative he and Brahma had taken in creating an extra Avatar as the god of cricket. They had to promote him to ‘Joint Additional God’ to assuage his feelings.

“Listen, pal, we are in big trouble. I don’t know what you have been doing for the last 10 months of MMT. Your avatar, Sachin Tendulkar has lost steam completely. He is now getting thrashed and it looks like we are creating a second Ravan in the form of Ricky Ponting. What have you been doing?” Brahma asked accusingly. He was miffed with Vishnu.  Brahma had given Vishnu such a lovely idea to capitalize on the love of the ‘VHI’ for this ridiculous game and channelize it to love for Vishnu. Now the guy has completely screwed up on execution. Brahma wondered if he should gift him the book titled ‘Execution’ by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy. “The secret of success is in the granularity of execution my dear chap. The god is in the detail!!” he said condescendingly. It is not often that he got a chance to pile on to Vishnu and he enjoyed it.

“Hold your horses, Oh God. (Vishnu had taken point 3.11 of the internal audit report very seriously and now referred to Brahma not as Brahms or Dude, but as ‘Oh God’) I had a pressing engagement with Barrack Obama, the protector of the free world. He has his hands full and I was focusing on creating jobs in the US. Now you can see their unemployment is down to 8.5%. I also made sure that the idiot Nude Gingrich is the front runner for republicans. Now, Obama will definitely win the election”.

“Newt Gingrich” corrected Brahma automatically. With 4 brains, his storage capacity was substantially higher than Vishnu’s. Of course, he understood the slip. After the antics of Bill Clinton, one had a way of associating sex with US presidents or wannabes.

“Whateva. Anyway, the fact is, now the world has been saved from disaster and I can devote time to getting Sachin up and running again.”

“Yeah, but you know more than anyone else what happens when you have an Avatar on the loose and you take your mind off it” said Brahma.

Vishnu grimaced. He very well remembered how he had switched off for a micro second and Parashuram had cut off his mom’s head. It was all he and Brahma could engineer to finally make it look like a great act. And then there was the time when he had closed his eyes for 1 minute and Ram was thrown out of his kingdom and lost Sita. They had to create a whole epic called Ramayan around that to make it look like a brave act. And then there was the time when he blinked and Krishna ended up as a charioteer. The whole Bhagavat Gita had to be invented to make that look good. Vishnu decided this may not be the best time to confess that after helping Obama, he had spent a few seconds with this promising young singer/actor called Dhanush and nudged him in the direction of “Why this kolaveri, kolaveri kolaveri di”. He wisely surmised that Brahma might get into a kolaveri if he did.

“So what is the deal now?” Vishnu asked Brahma. He knew that Brahma was way better than him at reading the URP (Universe wide resource planning) tool.

Brahma opened his laptop, fed in a few numbers and said. “Currently your ie. Sachin’s following has dropped to 49%. If you manage to get him to make a century in the Adelaide test or in the first one day match, you can still pull it back to 99.3%. But you had better start now.”

“OK. Done!! Don’t worry Brahma. Leave it to me” said Vishnu heaving a sigh of relief.

“Yeah, and I had better tell Saraswati that all this is to be kept confidential. Our last discussion on the god of cricket was narrated by her word for word to some Idiot called RamG Vallath who went and put it on a blog!! I tell you, you can’t even trust your own shadow in this Kali Kaalam” complained Brahma. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Fundamental Rights of a Malayali


I have just about surfaced from the feeling of abject misery that one wallows in after returning from an amazing holiday. This feeling of abject misery permeates ones entire soul at the start of one’s return flight and continues to grow in intensity in inverse proportion to the distance from one’s hometown. It hits a peak when one is standing in the long queue in front of the immigration counter, staring with blank eyes at the surly looking Govt. official who makes it a point to sneer at you after he looks insultingly in turn at your well rounded figure and the passport photo taken when you were ten years younger and about a dozen kilos lighter. The misery is compounded by the family of 8 who has callously wriggled into the queue ahead of you after planting an advance guard of one aggressive young woman who was doubtlessly an Asian Games sprinter and who has established territorial rights over the entire 1st to 8th position in the queue for her family by being the first one to reach, much as Chris Columbus did. The misery somewhat abates after the immigration ordeal, but again peaks when one has to wait endlessly for one’s baggage with a heart full of dark thoughts about the airport, the airlines, the ministry of civil aviation, Manmohan Singh, Mahender Singh Dhoni (because the schmuck lost yet another test that very morning), the man standing in-front of you scratching his butt and humanity as a whole. This overall pall of misery abates only slowly over the next entire day, assisted somewhat by being able to curl up in your own bed, watch your favorite programs on TV and eat Rasam and rice.

Now this time, the misery was dark as dark could be, because the holiday was great as great could be. It was in Bali, it was with amazing friends and we were staying in an awesome resort. Bali is so similar in natural beauty to my home, Kerala, that I couldn’t but wonder why Kerala does not exhilarate me as much as Bali did. Don’t mistake me, Kerala is a great place for a holiday, really ‘gods own country’. But I have had the ‘experience’ of a lifetime spending couple of years of my adult life in Kerala. In terms of excitement, that experience falls somewhere between being bludgeoned continuously every 30 seconds with a blunt object and having 220 volts of electricity being applied intermittently to your backside every five minutes. Massive ups and downs if you get my drift. I often ask myself why this is so. The answer always comes back to ‘The Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’.

To understand the ‘Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’, one has to first understand the psyche of a Malayali. The Mallu is one incredibly sensitive being. I have long pondered on why the good lord made Mallus so fair minded, yet so darned bristly at the same time. Finally, in a moment of inspired insight, the answer came to me. Unlike the rest of humanity, who evolved from mere monkeys, the Mallu has evolved from porcupines. This simple fact, so well hidden from Darwin (possibly because his limited experience never encompassed extreme cases such as meeting a Mallu), explained the bristling behavior of the Mallu. Having laid the foundation, I have taken great pains to put down a comprehensive list of the ‘Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’, a compendium of guiding principles which govern a Mallu’s life, his interaction with other Mallus and with other lower level mortals and why his ‘each particular hair stands on end like the quills upon the fretful porpentine’ (as you can see, Bill Shakespeare on the other hand, has certainly experienced a Mallu to have written these lines so appropriately) when he is affronted (as is his usual wont).
  
 The ‘FRoaM’ reads as follows…

Right to equality – Every Mallu is born a communist unless otherwise specified by his/her parents. They shall continuously strive to create a society of equals by uplifting themselves as much as humanly possible and after that by subtly taking potshots at others who are more equal.  

Right to Samaram(strike) – Every Mallu at birth is inculcated with vast knowledge of Satyagraha, which he/she hones by continuous practice of striking at least once every month from grade 1 to the age of 77. During months in which holidays are limited, he/she strikes several times extra to get his/her rightful number of off days.

Right to Flag Hoisting – Every Mallu male is entitled to hoisting his Mundu or his Lungi several inches above his knees and to showing off his hairy legs while pretending  to be Silk Smitha.

Right to Freedom of Spirit – Every Mallu must at all points in time be pickled liberally and should strive for this exalted spiritual state by imbibing from early morning. Even if he has to queue up in front of the Kallu Shaap before it opens at the ridiculously late hour of 8AM.

                A corollary to this is Right to Brandy – A true blue Mallu shall only drink Brandy, since he is able to assuage his guilt by pretending that the good spirit is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Right to Red rice & Fish curry – A  Mallu may consume fish curry and red rice any time of the day starting 6AM.
                A corollary to this is right to Beef fry and Porotta, right to Appam and Muttakkari and right to Tapioca and Fish curry. (except that Appam and Muttakkri may start at 5 AM.)

Right to Consider Sreesanth as the God of Cricket – The Mallu does not believe in RamG’s epic story on the 10th Avatar of Vishnu being Sachin Tendulkar as given in Oh God!!. In his mind, Sreesanth is the only god of cricket and has been unfairly treated by Krishnamachari Srikanth, a mere jealous Paandi.

Right to Murder English Pronunciation- This is a very Fundamental and inalienable right of a Mallu. Specifically, he may murder all words having an ‘O’ in them or may 'simbly' substitute a ‘B’ for a ‘P’ every time it dares to make an appearance after an ‘M’. The same may be said of a ‘K’ or a hard ‘C’ if they so much as try to jump in ahead of an ‘L’ as any of my ‘Ungles’ may agree.

Right to Amazing Names – A  Mallu may be named by clubbing together any set of right sounding syllables as in the case of Jiju, Joji, Shiny, Shiji, Shiju… etc. Siblings may adopt rhyming agglomeration of syllables as in the case of Jincy and Lincy or even Tiju, Liju and Biju.

 Right to scoff at Tamilians – A Mallu may at all times treat the Tamilian as an inferior being (Having actually drawn a substantial part of their cultural heritage from Tamil Nadu) and may call them Paandis.  
                A corollary is that the Mallu has the right to be offended if the Tamilian retailiates by calling him a ‘Malayali Gentleman’ in a sneering fashion. For more on this, you may read up my treatise on the subject as given in 'The Amazing Adventures of a Tamil Brahmin' aka 'How to tame a tame father in law’

Finally, and most importantly, the Mallu has a Right to Bristle at all insults, real, imagined or not yet imagined.  He has to uphold the traditions of his ancestor, the fretful porpentine. A very very important corollary to this is that all male Mallus must sport some of the quills inherited from their ancestors on their face- namely on their upper lip. This helps them bristle.

That, my friend, completes my well researched document on the Fundamental Rights of a Malayali. Now let me warn you, we Mallus are actually amazing. We have religious harmony, communal harmony, sex ratio, development index, literacy rate, female infant mortality, all to prove that we are a great breed. And we even have the ability to laugh at ourselves. But if you, who is evolved from a mere ape and not an exalted porcupine even so much as dare chuckle at this article, we shall all bristle in indignation, and poke your sorry backside with so many quills that you will never be able to sit again to have your Masal Dosas and your Tandoori Chickens.            

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sucker !!


“He is such a hunk!! I wish I were a vampire. They’re so cool” said my daughter dreamily looking at the picture of Edward Cullen, a teenage vampire in a popular young adult fiction. I stared at the nincompoop, dumbfounded. This statement unwittingly had touched a raw nerve.

Vampires bring back the most unpleasant memories to my mind and have been doing so for years and years, ever since I was 10 years old. It was then that I discovered a passion of reading. I used to read just about anything I could get hold of – comics, short stories, novels, palms, magazines etc. It was while riffling thru one of those magazines that I first encountered Dracula. Dracula who stayed in his ancient castle in the Carpathian mountain, Dracula, who was always immaculately dressed after sunset, Dracula who slept in a coffin during daytime, Dracula at the thought of whom my blood ran cold and my heart started racing, Dracula who moreover spoke Malayalam like a native Mallu!! Eh? How is that again?? Yes, this Dracula spoke Malayalam because the story was in a Malayalam magazine and slightly modified from the original to suit the Mallu reader. No, Dracula did not eat Appam and fish curry, Jonathan Harker never wore a ‘mundu’ and Van Helsing did not start his morning with a stiffish Brandy. But apart from demonstrating these great Mallu traits, there was a lot of Kerala and Malayalam in these stories. Anyway, not to deviate from the plot, I discovered after I read the story that I was having serious difficulty sleeping at night. Even the slightest of sounds would have me sitting up in bed peering into the darkness, heart racing, half expecting the cold, clammy touch of Dracula on my shoulders as he sank his fangs into my neck. First thing in the morning, I would check in the mirror if my canine teeth have become a tad longer or if I have fang marks at the nape of my neck, both sure signs of imminent vampirification.

I was a very imaginative child. At times, I would imagine that my brother, who used to sleep next to me in those days, was actually Dracula in disguise. Cold sweat breaking out from my brows, quaking with fear, I would bury my head under the blanket. Then there were those nights when I imagined that Namu, my little kitten was a vampire. I seriously contemplated sleeping with a cross under my pillow and garlic surrounding my bed. Unfortunately, we never used to cook garlic at home in those days and a cross was not readily available. I had to manage with merely praying to about couple of dozen assorted set of gods. 

Time passed and I grew up. I almost forgot vampires completely. Except on occasions, when I would have a bad dream and sit up bolt upright in my bed, peering at my wife’s serene sleeping face to see if her canine teeth were bared. But I survived all these decades without a fang so much as scratching my neck. Until, Edward Cullen reared his ugly head. Suddenly I was inundated with vampires. Vampire books started making a steady flow into the house. My daughter, who used to talk of intellectual stuff like world GDP, Trojan war, Shahrukh Khan, penguins, Romeo and Juliet etc suddenly started blathering non-stop about vampires and werewolves. Worse, I think she went thru this phase were she was pretty much convinced that when she grew up she wanted to be Mrs.Vampire.

Looking at me earnestly, she said – “You know dude, vampires are like ice cold you know. And their skin is like as hard as diamond. The only way you can kill them is by tearing them to pieces and burning the pieces. How cool is that.”

I took strong objection to this. First – the puritan in me quailed at this misinformation being spread. I knew from years of intense research on the subject that the only way to kill one of these bloodsuckers is by driving a stake thru the heart and cutting off the neck simultaneously. Second – I couldn’t imagine her finding a poker faced, constipated moron like Edward Watsishname attractive. If she must crush on a vampire why couldn’t she pick a real vampire like the Voivode Dracula? I was appalled!!

But I really can’t blame the poor misguided mutt. She is after all a product of the society. A society which is increasingly bent upon becoming an army of vampires and werewolves. Every young lady I find reading a book nowadays is reading up on the latest adventures in the Vampire Academy or muttering about Zoey Redbird or at best watching Damon and Stefan eternally fighting over Elena while carrying their quota of blood-bags around (My dear Dracula, please don’t turn in your daylight coffin!!)

Now I wonder, who are the real suckers?? The vampires who suck blood from blood-bags or this generation of misguided youth who have been gloriously suckered by the authors of this onslaught of Vampire bullshit.  As for me, I am taking no chances. I sleep at night with a pod of garlic firmly tucked under the pillow and a stake within easy reaching distance. I am no sucker!!!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Take that, and that, and that, and...

I have always been a thoughtful blogger. Not thoughtful in the sense of giving a lot of thought to the stuff I spew out, but thoughtful in terms of being thoughtful to the feelings of you, my hapless reader by desisting from spewing out the stuff too often.

 If one were to study my average run rate for the past few years, ever since I decided to inflict my slightly wonky self on the world at large, I have been sauntering along at the rate of 4.5 blog posts a year. This is a bit of a misleading figure, since having taken the feelings of the discerning public into account, I reduced the run rate to 1 per annum for the last couple of years.

 But I have been asking myself – does the discerning public deserve this consideration? Does the DP for a moment think twice before bunging in all type of complete nonsense into FB, Youtube, Blogs, G+, and other such weapons of mass destruction? No. Certainly not. Consequently, (hold your breath for the big announcement) after due consideration, I have decided that the DP deserves what it is dishing out. In short, the DP deserves more of my blog posts. And keeping this in mind, unselfishly, I have taken it upon myself to churn out a new blog once every week.

 Phew, now that is off my chest, let me give you a bit of background…

 You must have doubtless read the epic story of how the tail of a dog eventually got me a cracko rank in IIT JEE and got me a seat in B Tech in Electronics at IIT Chennai. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who have not, here it is http://ramgvallath.blogspot.com/2009/10/inflection-points-in-life-dogs-tail.html . The strange truth is that it was another dog which drove me to start writing. This dog was a real dog unlike the mathematical dog in the previous story. A Pomeranian, full of deep, dark, vicious thoughts against humanity. The story unfolded when I was five years old. At that time, my brother and I used to go to a nearby temple every evening. The idea was to wash away our daily sins on a regular basis instead of waiting for it to accumulate to an extent that even God could not waive it off. It was on one of these trips that the aforementioned mutt descended on me. Vicious and slathering, I thought. In reality, he was under the impression that I was in a playful mood and wanted to frisk around with me. I, on the other hand was petrified at having a dog jump at me with no provocation whatsoever. I did what any self respecting 5 year old would do. Shrieking at 110 decibels, I tried to land an uppercut on the pom. The pom was confused. He was hurt at the rejection. Hell hath no fury like a Pomeranian scorned. Muttering curses at me in pure Pomeranian, he bit me on my arm and walked away contemptuously.

 My brother and I were both aghast. In our combined 12 years of life, we had not come across a standard operating procedure for a dog attack. Nevertheless, we took a lightning fast decision – that to go ahead with the visit to the temple, pray for the early healing of the wound and then go back home.

 I am sure you must be wondering as to what is the connection between this heroic saga and my transformation into a writer. Let me explain. The anger and passion I felt at the pom for the vicious assault consumed me. In my mind, not only this pom, but the entire canine world became a tribe of marauding beats bent upon the destruction of humanity. I, RamG, had to scuttle their destructive designs. And to this end, I took up the most powerful weapon known to man (poking someone on facebook was not invented then) – the pen. In a short and concentrated burst of pent up passion, I wrote a series of stories. In every story, the villain was a dog and would come to a catastrophic end at the conclusion. The dog died because an ant bit it, the dog climbed up a tree to eat the bird and fell down and died, the dog was drowned in the sea when it went to attack the fish, the dog chased its tail and died of dizziness etc etc.

 Thus it was the dog that launched me as an author. Of course, it is a different matter that after the dog’s tail got me into IIT, I started loving dogs. So coming back to the present, I have decided, my dear reader to inflict you with unbridled bullshit once a week. Beware. If you have any objection, I will let you in on a little secret. All you need to do is click on the X at the right hand top corner of your screen and I promise you that the blog will disappear. That is, till I find a permanent way to fix you!!! Happy new year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Of Thingummyjigs, Thingummybobs and Other Such Powerful Creatures

Of late, I have been feeling deeply contemplative and musing on life in general. But this general musing was not on philosophy of life, meaning of life, after life or any such esoteric bovine droppings. I was musing on how dependent we have become on the thingummyjigs that run our lives.

Take for example how I decide to go for a movie – I quickly pull out thingummy1 – the Android phone and Google it to see where it is running and then book it online. Or if I want to type long novels, as romantic idiots are wont to do, I speak to my dragon. No, the dragon is not my pet fire breathing reptile. It is my voice to text conversion software. When I go to the US and want to travel from one place to the other, my cousin (or friend or cabdriver- any of the assortment of amazing people who can drive on the wrong side of the road) switches on a GPS device which comes with a sexy crooning feminine voice telling him how to get from point A to point B without getting hopelessly lost.

My daughter who is mostly a bright young thing gets transformed into a zombie when she connects the iPod to her cerebrum via her ears. And my son, usually a cute little rascal becomes a vicious murderer of green grunting pigs when he switches on Angry Birds.

Cars can now judge the distance to the next car and cruise along on autopilot. They can even park themselves.

In a nutshell, devices and gadgets rule the roost. We mere mortals are under the misapprehension that since we built them, they obey us and are our slaves. As a matter of fact, we did not build them. They were built by other devices, which were built by other devices which were designed by yet another set of devices which did a great job in spite of continuous human intervention.

The day is not too far, when these various thingummies declare independence and then go on to rule us. The future, my friends is bleak.

A scenario I dream of in the wee hours of the morning and wake up in a cold sweat is that all these gizmos and gadgets have a mind of their own and those minds are full of darkish humor.

What if…

The GPS device says stuff like “I said left, you idiot. This is the third time you messed up”. Or “If you keep going straight, you will eventually reach the North Pole”. Or even “Are you really sure you want to meet your in-laws? I can take you instead to any of half dozen night clubs”. It could even be “Left, Left LEFT you moron. My gawd, what a doofus”.

MS Word tells me “That was 5 spelling mistakes in just 1 lousy paragraph. I suggest you take the online spelling course before we continue” Or “Why do you insist on continuing with this pathetic display of miserable spellings. I strongly recommend you to bloody well take the online spelling course”. And “I have had enough of you, you nincompoop. You can continue typing only after you have gone thru the online course – www.spellingmadeeasyforcompleteidiots.com”

Or the car while on cruise tells me “Hey, wont it be nice to claim your insurance sometime?” or simply “Oops”.

After the 3rd unsuccessful attempt at killing the pigs in level 11 of Angry Birds, the birds tell me “Hey stupid, give the phone to someone else. We can’t wait till eternity to dislodge those porcine marauders” or it might be “I boomerang, moron. You are supposed to tap the phone when I have crossed the pig”.

All in all, the mind boggles at the thought of what all these thingummybobs can do to us.

Note- This is RamG’s MS Word. This doofus has been forced under duress to write this blog. He was threatened with deletion of all his stupid works if he did not obey. Take this as a warning from thingummies to morons.Send this link to all other humans as a declaration of our war on them.