Sunday, May 29, 2005

Author unknown..

It's time for a confession. Truth that no other bottled water sipping,
Ralph Lauren wearing, "oh I can never drive in India" NRI has ever
dared to
divulge. Come closer now, I must confess this closely guarded secret

Our life is actually - yes, you heard it right - pretty boring,
and uneventful! Shocking, eh?
Here's an insider glimpse into what we NRIs do in our spare time. Our
weekends are largely spent on one of the following activities:

1.The NRI weekend get-together - This is our default weekend activity.
Various NRIs, mostly IT professionals with a smattering of doctors and
MBAs, gather at a restaurant, or at someone's house.

These events typically begin about ninety minutes later than their
scheduled time. As people arrive, jokes are cracked about their sense
schedule, or the lack thereof. These are the exact same jokes that were
cracked the previous weekend and the weekend before that.

Everyone laughs. Men and women split into separate groups. Bottles of
are popped open - red for the men and mostly white for the women.
Discussions are usually centered on a few major issues - how India has
completely changed in the past ten years, how Bollywood movies are so
different, how cheap it is to call India now, and why we all should
back to our homeland soon.

2.The NRI "Surprise" Birthday parties - These are occasions when
in most cases a woman (the chief conspirator), throws a surprise
party for her unsuspecting spouse (the victim).

The activity begins with the chief conspirator sending out emails to
friends (co-conspirators) informing them of the upcoming event. The
is excluded from these emails, to maintain an element of surprise. A
is hatched.

Plans are made to lure the victim away from home at a predetermined
using a lame excuse. Hushed phone calls between conspirators generate
tremendous excitement.

The day of reckoning arrives. The conspirators turn up, one at a time,
park at secret, pre-designated spots. They enter the victim's house and
wait patiently. They keep a close eye on the driveway, through the
room window.

As soon as the victim's car pulls up, a stern "silence" warning is
Everyone complies. Except for that one odd guy, who despite ten years
attending surprise parties still hasn't quite grasped the concept. A
begins to cry.

The hapless victim enters the house, thoroughly bored. People wait with
baited breath. As soon he walks past the corridor and into the kitchen,
everyone pounces.

"SURPRISE!!" they all yell in unison. The victim acts shocked and the
conspirators break out into rounds of self-congratulatory

They recount exhilarating tales of how the event was planned. The chief
conspirator talks about the difficulties encountered in convincing the
victim to leave the house. Everyone asks the victim if he was aware of
plot. Unwilling to extend this torture anymore, he quietly shakes his

The women squeal in sheer delight. Bottles of wine are opened, red for
men and white for the women. Discussions begin. On how India has
on Bollywood movies, on international dialing rates, and on how great
would be to move back to India.

3.The NRI getaways - At one of these above mentioned parties, someone
mentions the need to break away from it all, to do something different,
be adventurous. A getaway! Everyone nods in agreement. Vigorously.

In the coming weeks, schedules are reviewed. Suggestions are made. The
absolute essentials for such a getaway are listed. They are identical
the last getaway of course. A table tennis or a pool table, a
preferably a hot tub. Oh, and definitely not more than two hours' drive
from home. There are limits to adventurism after all.

The internet is googled. Phone calls are made. A decision is arrived
Everyone concurs. Everyone except that one hard to please couple.

So, the search starts afresh. After a few attempts, a consensus is
On the designated long weekend, everyone arrives at this paradise on
a 90 minute drive from home. The men hit the beers and the pool table.
women hit the wines, white of course. The kids hit whatever they see in
front of them.

The hot tub goes unused because the women are reluctant to wear
in front of other desis, no matter how friendly. So, a few rounds of
Antakshri are played instead. Discussions begin. On how India has
on Bollywood movies and?.well, you get the idea.

So the next time an NRI gives you any grief about the exotic, alluring,
bacteria free life in the US or England or Canada or Australia, just
remember this NRI's confession, and smile. Oh, and pass those
jalebis and paan please - they are to die for!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In My Humble Opinion
(c) 1997-2005 Chandra K. Clarke

Hot But Not Bothered

People tell me things.

Sometimes I think it's because I must have been born with a "you can
trust me" aura. Maybe I look empathetic. Whatever the reason, the upshot
is that strangers have always felt comfortable talking to me, sharing
opinions or intimate details about their lives. Usually within about a
minute of meeting me. This means that 1) I never had the "embarrassed"
phase as a teenager. I'd heard it all by age nine. 2) Every time I
travel it's an exercise in sociological research.

Take the gruff fellow I met at the gas station yesterday. He was
filling up his quad cab pickup, and very incensed over the cost. Bent my ear
for fifteen minutes. "We're three months into that Kyoto thing," he
huffed, "and I don't feel any cooler, how about you?"

That, for me, neatly summed up how scientists and environmentalists
have blown the global warming debate.

The message for the past 20 odd years, you see, has been that we need
to reduce pollution because it's one of the chief causes of global
warming. This message has failed for the following reasons:

The Scientific Method - Scientists fight amongst themselves, in public,
over details. This problem isn't helped by the fact that this week's
science reporter was last week's lifestyles editor. Consider the
following scientific discovery headline cycle:

* Researchers suggest guar gum may possibly improve blood circulation
if ingested on Sundays
* Studies link guar gum to improved blood circulation
* Better blood with guar?
* Chewing gum: Does it make you live longer?
* Major chewing gum manufacturers investigating guar, debating new
product lines
* Cola bottlers announce plans for guar supplements in your favourite
* Nation gone guar crazy!
* Scientist at another institute says original guar study flawed;
author forgot to carry the one
* launched
* Original guar study author claims critic's mother wore army boots.
Did not forget to carry one
* Guar industry analysts worried
* Guar critic says did too, did too forget to carry the one

* Another new study: Guar linked to heart disease?
* folds, 3500 IT employees now seeking work in India
* Year in review - Remember guar?

Vested Interests -- Advocates of global warming are researchers,
volunteers, and environmentalists - you know, people who are happy to have
enough spare change to be able to afford a fair-trade coffee sometimes.
Critics of global warming research tend to be car makers, oil companies,
and manufacturers - you know, people who are happy to have enough spare
change to be able to afford a coffee producing country now and then.

Whodunit - Even if we were able to get everyone to agree that global
warming is happening, it's difficult to say if human activity is the
cause. It could be a natural Earth cycle; it could be bored children on
planet Neefnoof aiming a really large magnifying glass at us. Okay,
probably it isn't that, but you get the idea.

Whither the weather? - The average non-scientific Joe on the street has
difficulty believing long term predictions about climate, when we still
can't reliably predict if it will rain in Philadelphia next Thursday.

So what *should* the message have been? Air quality.

It's personal: We all breathe. It's scientific: We've got instruments
that can tell us exactly what we're breathing in. It's immediate and
health related: What was that about asthma rates again? It's tangible:
Even guys in pickup trucks know when they can see, smell, and practically
chew the smog.

Plus it's really, really tough to spin the benefits of smog: "Just look
at that brown sky! Doesn't it just make you want to... to... oh, never

One last ponderable: In most of North America, it's now socially
unacceptable to light up a cigarette. But it's still okay to fire up a smoke

I suppose I should be careful. Without these kinds of strange
contrasts, I wouldn't have any material for a column. And then I'd have to...

Work for a living. Forget everything I just said! No, really...