The lost art of the Invitation…

dinner-party-event-invitation-television-dvr-apology-ecards-someecardsThere are two ways to invite people – the right way and the wrong way.

There is one obvious reason to invite anyone to your event – because you want him or her to attend.

But the manner in which people issue invites these days makes me feel they don’t really want me to attend their event.

There is a difference between an invitation and a notification. A notification received on Facebook or LinkedIn is a notification and nothing more. No matter how sweet and inviting the words used in your notification, it is still just an impersonal notification.

It depends on the event, you might argue. Certainly. If it’s an event meant for the general public, then by all means use FB or LinkedIn or whatever. Then don’t use a phrase like, “Please consider this my personal invitation”. If you’re inviting the general public, then generally invite the public.

And don’t expect me to attend. I am not the general public.

My point of view is quite simple really. If I am known to the host and the host knows me, I expect a personal invitation. Not a notification. A personal invitation.

The medium does not matter. Even an sms or Whatsapp addressed to me is acceptable – not welcome, but acceptable.  A telephone call is better. A letter addressed to me, still better. A personal visit will be greatly appreciated, and will guarantee my attendance. Only a natural calamity or life-threatening illness will keep me away from your event.

Be practical, you say? Don’t be an egoistic jackass, you say? This is the age of Social Media, you say? I beg to differ.

There are some things that are simply not done.

Nowadays, sending personally addressed emails to a large group is easy. There are any number of free bulk mail solutions available online. And there’s always MS Outlook. I send out one hundred personal emails every month to my clients. Most mail servers permit upto 500 emails over a 24 hour period.

Sending out printed invitations to your friends and well-wishers is almost as easy. Ask the local post office. Once in three months, I send out at least a hundred personally addressed letters to my customers, across India. It’s not a pleasant task, but I do it.

Over the year, I send out personal letters to over 1000 scientists across India. And these are people I do not know at all. But I still address them personally, because I value my customers and I need their business.

In your case, if you’re inviting a limited number of people to a personal event, you have no excuse. Since it is a personal event, it is obvious that you know your invitees personally. You invite them personally. Period.

And further, if you’re in the same city as I am, inviting me via social media is sheer blasphemy. It is a slap on my face. It is a clear message to me that I do not deserve even the courtesy of a telephone call or sms from you.

I host four social events in Bangalore, every year. I do use social media, event websites like Burrp.com and even the press, to invite the general public. But those I know personally, I invite personally. If I don’t have their postal address, I call. If I can’t call, I use Whatsapp. Or else, I try to contact them via common friends. One way or the other, I ensure that the concerned invitee gets the message from me that I would be very happy if he/she could attend my event. And most of them do.

And those I do not want to invite, I do not invite.

No matter which century it is, good manners are good manners.

I’m not a fan of the ‘good old days‘, but I do miss those days when people would take the trouble to invite me face-to-face – and not Facebook-to-Facebook.

Cheers … Srini.

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Maaf karna behenji, Part 2 – Five Indian women you must walk away from.

Anne-Cherian-A-Good-Indian-WifeRejection goes both ways. If there are Indian women who find you avoidable, then equally, there are some Indian women whom you should avoid – at any cost.

Contrary to what Indian women choose to believe, all Indian men are not wife-beaters, drunkards, womanisers, gamblers, dowry-mongers, perverts and incorrigible a*holes.

And totally contrary to what Indian women claim, all Indian women are definitely not Sati Savitris, Jhansi ki ranis, Mother Theresas, and paragons of virtue.

In my life, I’ve seen five types of Indian women who are best avoided. While marrying such women is far from advisable, be thankful if you get dumped by any of the women described below. They’ve done you a favor, believe me.

One speaks from hard experience, very hard experience!

Thus:

The Enigmatic Super-Tease: Too many Indian women have the idea that by being dark and mysterious, they are extremely alluring to men.3954051-mysterious-indian-woman

F*ing nonsense.

The Tease will never give you a straight answer to a straight question, she takes at least 24 hours to respond to your sms or Whatsapp, she is vague about what she does for a living, gives you a mysterious smirk when you ask her out and implies there are several other suitors in the queue, cuts off your calls, ignores you for weeks and suddenly sends you a cheery sms but won’t reply when you respond, and generally treats you like a piece of dung.

The intention is to drive you wild with desire and make you chase her indefinitely. Such women are either extremely insecure or extremely arrogant. Either way, you deserve much better.

Walk away, my friend. Take out your mobile phone, locate her number – and press delete.

The Super-duper Corporate Amazon: Aggressive, rude and raucous, her phone constantly rings, she drives only a Mercedes or the like, pays more attention to her iPad than to you, and makes it very clear to you and the world that she has ‘arrived’.

In an Indian society dominated by foul, boorish men like yourself, she has carved her own special place using her superior intellect and by sheer determination.

Obviously, she will accept only a Bill Gates or equivalent, as her royal consort. It is very unlikely, as I pointed out to one such super-duper amazon, that a Bill Gates or equivalent would want such a woman in his life. But that simple logic never occurs to these women.

I truly admire women who are successful in their corporate careers, and quite frankly, women who are more successful than I am are quite a turn-on. But, I prefer women who allow success to speak for itself – and I prefer successful women with good manners.

Turn around and walk away, mon ami. And don’t worry. Bill Gates doesn’t want her, either.

gold diggerThe Not-so-subtle Gold-digger: Manliness, according to this type of Indian female, is proven by the possession of expensive gadgets, fancy cars, multiple villas, a few kilos of gold and diamonds, and especially, a green card.

If you have none of the above, you’re not ‘man’ enough for her. She accepts only the best, you see. By herself she is a pathetic, pretentious loser who has nothing to offer you in return, but that is beside the point.

Characteristic symptom of the gold-digger: She never offers to pay the bill.

The hard fact is, there are far too many gold-diggers in urban Indian society. To give them benefit of doubt, I suppose these women have been taught by their parents that only a rich man can keep them happy and is worthy of respect. That is what one self-admitted gold-digger once told me, before dumping me for a richer man.

Whatever. Walk away, amigo. And save both your money and your self-respect.

The Ever-whining but Grimly Brave Woman of Misery:  Life is hard. For men and women alike. And misery is contagious. Whatever be the reason, and however justified she might be, you do not want a whiner in your life. Just as no woman wants a whining man, no man deserves a perennially miserable woman.

She always complains about how tough her life is, how bad her job is, how cruel her ex was, how her back always hurts, how crowded the buses are, and how bravely she copes with all her problems. If only, she says, if only there’s a good man who can take care of her – and listen to her whining for the rest of her life. Sigh!

And guess what, you are that fortunate man! You are the only good man she’s ever met who listens to her so patiently.

Yeah buddy, you two will live happily ever after!

The Mistress of Malice: Vain, vicious, vengeful, and manipulative, this type is motivated by sheer malice. Her entire existence is centered around her own self, she craves attention and praise at all times. Woe betide any man who, according to her, does not please her ego enough. She enjoys inflicting emotional hurt on her man by snubbing and humiliating him in public.

By far, this is the most dangerous type of Indian woman. She will stop at nothing to achieve her ends, even it means abusing the law to get you.

Jails in our country are filled with men who’ve been trapped in fake dowry and domestic violence cases.

Yes, these women do exist in our society. And it is quite difficult to spot them.

One characteristic symptom: She always expects you to call her, and if she does call you, she will do so at odd hours and usually because she needs something from you. This is a very general observation, I’m afraid.

Malicious women are very clever at hiding their malice from you – until it is too late. And no one knows this better than I do.

There are many good Indian men. There are many bad Indian women. Which one you land up with, depends on you.

A good woman is one who is with you simply because she is happy to be with you.

She will be just as happy to get into a crowded bus with you, as into a fancy limo. Just as happy to share idli-vada sambar at the local darshini, as a buffet at a 5-star hotel. She’s just as secure in her career as she is proud of yours.

A good woman is comfortable about her body and mature about bodily matters. Gracefully accepts that you will age and wither – and so will she.

A sexy body will decay. Character will not. Flesh and bone will rot. Inner beauty will not. Wealth will vanish. Values will not. A devout person is not necessarily a good person. A moral atheist is far better than an immoral religious thug. A good woman will understand all of this.

There is absolutely no shortage of good women in our country. Especially in our country. You just need to look in the right places.

And if you are lucky enough to get a good woman in your life, please hold on to her very tightly.

Or I might take her away from you!

Cheers … Srini.

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Mere saamnewali khidki mein …

The weather in Bangalore is hot and miserable. And, as always in summer, power supply is down, water supply is a luxury, vegetable prices are up, and so are tempers. Furious with the elements, locked in at home due to the heat, and sick of watching re-re-re-runs of Friends on the telly, one decides to cheer oneself up by watching Padosan, the classic comedy from our youth.

I first saw Padosan at Rupam Talkies, Sion, during my MPharm days. After that, I made it a point to see it wherever it ran in Bombay. And in the 21st century, after CD’s became affordable, the first movie CD I bought was Padosan.

Padosan is one of the best comedy movies ever made. Forty years after it was first released in 1968, the movie still makes modern audiences laugh, and laugh heartily. Almost all the actors from the original cast are long dead, but they can still make you split your sides laughing.

There is a sweet innocence about the movie, a cheerful, uncomplicated niceness that takes one back to better times. Life was so much simpler then.

Except for some outdoor sequences, Padosan was shot in Mysore, on a single set with just three cameras. This low-budget movie was Mehmood’s first attempt as a film-maker and he had little money to spare. And yet, in spite of its spartan production values, in spite of its cheap sets and minimalism, and in spite of being almost half a century old, Padosan can still do what Chennai Express does not – it glues you to your chair for three hours, it respects your intelligence and it makes you happy.

That’s because, unlike Shahrukh Khan, Mehmood understood what drives a movie fan to leave his home, stand in a queue to buy a ticket and sit in a theater for three hours. It’s not ultra-tech special effects, or digitised villains, or Priyamani’s cleavage. It’s simply a good story. Movie making is nothing more than story telling and that’s what we really need – one good story.

Based on a Bengali tale called Pasher Bari, Padosan had a nice, funny story about a village simpleton who woos and wins his city-bred neighbourette. The story was complemented by shrewd casting by Mehmood and the director, Jyoti Swaroop. They assembled the best comedians of the era – Kishore Kumar, Mukhri Ali, Keshto Mukerjee, Raj Kishore, Om Prakash, Agha, Sundar and Mehmood himself. Sunil Dutt as Bhola, the village bumpkin and Saira Banu, as Bindu, the haughty neighbour were the perfect choices for the lead pair.

Although it was a hit in Bombay and other parts of India, Padosan was not well received in Tamil Nadu, and was banned in Madras. Tamilians were not amused with Mehmood’s role as Master Pillai, the bungling Madrasi music teacher who competes with Bhola for Bindu’s hand. But the movie poked gentle fun at north Indians as well, with Om Prakash in the role of Kunwar Pratap Singh, Bhola’s elderly and lusty uncle, and Kishore Kumar as Vidyapati, the wily nautanki who helps Bhola in cheating Bindu. Master Pillai was in fact portrayed as an honorable man who politely backs out at the end, to allow Bhola marry Bindu. It was all in good humor, and eventually the ban on the movie was lifted.

The humor in Padosan was clean and spontaneous. No sleaze, no below-the-belt jokes, no dangerously low necklines, no clinging wet sarees – except for a brief bathtub scene involving Saira Banu and some strategically placed foam.

Padosan has very good songs. The highlight of the movie is the singing competition between Kishore Kumar and Mehmood. Playback for Mehmood was provided by Manna De, who was unhappy that he was shown as losing to Kishore Kumar and refused to sing some verses. Those verses were sung by Mehmood.

My favorite song from Padosan is this clip. This particular song was not in the original list. The original scene had Kishore Kumar giving love advice to Sunil Dutt, in the form of humorous dialogs. In his typical spontaneous style, Kishore Kumar insisted on singing his lines and the story goes that he composed the tune on the spot and had RD Burman create the music for it.

Enjoy then, this funny sequence from Padosan, and cast your blues aside.

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Maaf karna behenji … True confessions of an Iyengar singleton.

marriage toonFor long years, I’ve lived the single life. Lucky you, my married friends tell me. No responsibility, no accountability, no nagging wife, no whining kids, and better yet, no mother-in-law gnashing her teeth at you. Count your blessings, I am repeatedly warned.

Even so, the woes of singleness are known only to those who have to live through them. And why kid oneself? The fact is, celibacy is a heavy cross to bear.

As one has crossed the age of fifty, one is terrified at the prospect of becoming a grumpy, lonely old man who feeds pigeons in the park and keeps cats for company. Hence, one decides to cure one’s chronically single status, and ventures forth into the world seeking female companionship.

The odds are in my favor, I reason. Even if I confine myself to Bangalore, there are five million human females in this city. Of which, I need just one. Well, at least one.

I’m not exactly a Rolex-toting muscled young stud who drives an Audi around town. I am a sprightly fifty-year old who is too cheap to buy a watch, asks passersby for the time and rides a Volvo bus to work. On the plus side, I’m pretty fit for my age, and quite successful in my work, and I reckon I should attract a lady who shares my world-view.

And isn’t this is the age of the Internet? It should take but a few clicks of the mouse to land myself a suitable mate. I register myself on leading matrimonial websites, create an impressive profile that explains why any woman would be lucky to have me, and boldly launch myself into the Middle-aged Marriage Market.

Over the next week, I respond to, and receive proposals from various single women who seem eager to know me. Telephone calls are made, pleasantries exchanged, and meetings with five chosen ones are set up. See, that was easy. I am supremely confident that my next Facebook status update will read ‘Married’.

Yeah sure. What happened was this:

The Reluctantly Desi NRI: Gucci bag in hand, Hermes scarf round her neck, feet encased in Klein sandals and with Ray-Ban glasses perched fashionably on her head, she makes it clear that she neither wears Indian nor buys Indian. And she will not drink or eat Indian either. She insists that I meet her at Barista, and face her interview as she feeds on Irish coffee and English muffins. If she’s so anti-desi, then why is she back in India, I venture to ask her.

Turns out her NRI husband in the US was also fond of only videshi items, and dumped her for an American lass. Post-dumping, she rediscovered her love for her home country, and came back here seeking solace and enlightenment – and a docile desi husband. And if he is found worthy and deserving, she will take him back to the US with her.

Maaf karna behenji, I sternly tell her, before paying the hefty bill, and walking off.

cooling_off_period_wedding_1538365The Forlorn Divorcee: Why did he leave me, she moans. Why is God punishing me, why has my Baba forsaken me, who will take care of me and my children, who is there for me, she wails. And I walk right into the trap, as I assure her, “Main hoon na.”

To my utter horror, out of nowhere, her mother pops up, along with her aunt, her grand-uncle and her second cousin on her father’s side. They all converge on me, weeping copious tears of gratitude. There is a fantastic muhurat tomorrow, the stars are perfectly aligned, and the priest has already confirmed his availability, I’m informed. Mobile phones are whipped out, friends and relatives are invited, the good news races across the entire building.

My heart pounding, my brow dripping with a cold sweat, I hoarsely tell the blushing bride and her loved ones, that I’m dizzy with joy and I need some fresh air. I step out of the apartment – and I run. For my life.

When I’m at a safe distance from her building, I send the forlorn one a polite SMS – Maaf karna behenji.

And the same day, I change my cell number.

The Fulminant Feminist: You men are all the same, thunders this terrifying defender of Indian femininity, and downs a large swig of her beer while furiously puffing on a Dunhill. She proceeds to list the various laws that she can use to teach men how to respect women. Dowry Prevention Act, Domestic Violence Act, IPC, CrPC, 498A, Section 13B, the list goes on and on. Then she gleefully shares the chilling story of how she put her troublesome ex-husband into jail, after having him pulped at the nearest women’s police station. Then why, oh why, I ask her, do you wish to marry again?

She deserves her happiness, she says, her eyes shining with unshed tears. And I deserve to be physically intact, I tell her. Maaf karna behenji.new man

The Crusading Ecologist: She’s out to single-handedly save the planet from the ravages of Mankind. She raves and rants, and tells me how I am directly responsible for global warming, the rising sea levels and the melting Arctic circle. Don’t use fossil fuels, she warns me. Segregate garbage, reuse, reduce, recycle, hug every tree you see, feed as many stray dogs as possible no matter how many humans they bite and maim. She believes in simple living and high thinking.

I proudly tell her that I don’t own a car. I strictly use public transport. I live in a modest 2BHK apartment in Puttenahalli. I don’t eat out, I cook my own food on a solar cooker, I planted ten saplings last month, I don’t smoke or drink, I don’t eat meat because meat-eating pollutes the environment. As a result of my simple living and high thinking, my carbon footprint is negligible, I brag.

What, no car? No bungalow? And just a five-figure income? She is stunned. Where do we live? What will you feed me, raw vegetables and half-cooked rice? What will my friends think of me? What a loser, she says.

But-but-but, I babble, what about my carbon footprint? She tells me exactly where I can put my carbon footprint. Got to be practical, she snarls. I work so hard for the environment and I need my comfort, she says, before driving off in her Toyota Camry.

She doesn’t even give me the chance to say Maaf karna behenji.

The Spiritual Spinster: A divine smile on her face, that reminds me of Arun Govil in his Ramayan days, clad in a crisp white salwar-kameez, devoid of ‘vulgar’ make-up and alas, completely devoid of deodorant as well, she waves a long agarbatti around the five-foot tall photo of her beloved Guru, and sprinkles my head with divine ash that had miraculously sprung out of her Guru’s photo that very morning.

I am but a puppet in His hands, she intones. And begins a polite, but intense, examination of my religious beliefs. Since most of her days are spent in her Guru’s ashram, I should be willing to live and serve there. I should be happy to clean toilets and wash utensils during the day, and sing bhajans in her Guru’s praise during the night. Of course, I will be expected to yield all my material wealth in her Guru’s favor, in exchange for the privilege of being her consort.

Her Guru talks to her every evening, at 7.00 pm, she says. And it is He who will decide if our union in this life is meant to be. Problem is, Wikipedia reports that her Guru died on October 15, 1918. Which makes me wonder exactly who talks to her every evening at 7 pm.

And most important, our marriage will be a ‘spiritual’ one. It will be a pure union of souls, free from the dirty temptations of the flesh, completely independent of earthly bondage, filled with bliss – of the non-physical kind.

I tell her I am very keen to be free of any bondage, earthly or otherwise, to her divine self and her Guru. Maaf karna behenji.

The Incredibly Hot Gym Mom: This one is a divorced, middle-aged mother of two, from my own Chembur, now settled in Bangalore. And yowza, she is genuinely hot.  This is my last chance. I must have this one, I tell myself. We have so much in common. We’re from Chembur. We’ve eaten idli-vada in the same Geeta Bhavan and bhelpuri in the same Gupta Bhel. Like me, she’s a gym enthusiast. Surely that counts for something. Thus encouraged, I select my attire for the meeting very carefully, to emphasise my hard biceps and the finer parts of my personality, such as they are.

Unfortunately, the restaurant she has chosen is brightly lit. Very brightly lit. I wanted to shine during this meeting. And I literally do. A thousand rays of light from a dozen fluorescent lamps bounce off my sparsely covered crown. And make it very clear that no matter how well-endowed I am elsewhere, I certainly do not need a comb.

And so, bulging biceps and rippling triceps notwithstanding, our meeting ends as have all others … Maaf karna behenji.

Thus endeth my quest for conjugal bliss.

The only question I have left is, which park do I sit in henceforth – to feed the pigeons.

No cheers … Srini.

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From Writer’s Cramp … to QWERTY fingers.

One day, I found a relic from the pre-Microsoft era – my first fountain pen.

A solid, hefty fountain pen – the kind that fills a man’s hand.  Not the horribly expensive, anorexic excuse for a pen we get these days.  You know, the ones with plastic bodies and ceramic balls.  No, a real pen, with a real nib.

fountain pen

For a change, I thought I would actually write instead of tapping away at a keyboard. Pulled out a sheet of crisp, white A4 paper from the laser printer, dug out an ancient bottle of royal blue ink, rolled up my sleeves, and got down to work.

The end result looked like Hosur Road on a bad day. Letters completely illegible, words in disarray, sentences awry, the page liberally smudged with ink from my fingers.

And the horrible truth hit me on the face – I had forgotten how to write.

This is the price we pay for cyber-conformism. We, blissful Net-heads of the Third Millennium, have become so used to tapping away at keyboards, so used to clicking on mice, so used to Spell Check and drop-down menus, that we have actually forgotten how to write.

This is our e-world.  Telecommuting on an InfoTech superhighway, dipping into each others’ e-wallets; a world in which the words ‘I Love You’ in our email cause cardiac arrest, a world enclosed by firewalls, nourished with cookies, beans and applets.

I remember another world.   The world of my college library. Where one could thrill to the sensuous caress of book-leather under the fingers.  The musty smell of old paper. The cheerful sneeze on ancient bookdust. The genteel graffiti of colored light cast by stained-glass windows upon a flaking wall. The homely gloom of lonely bookshelves on a rainy afternoon.  The reassuring creak of seasoned teak. The warm lustre of century-old varnish.

library

Source: intachblr.org. Photo by Arul Jagdish

The serene dignity of the old library in sunset repose.  The graceful architecture, history oozing from the antique mould. The stooped librarian, silencing my noisy rustling with a benign glare.  The childish exhilaration in rushing to see the latest books just arrived from ‘University’.   The indefinable aroma of new gum and unread paper.

I remember the thrill I felt when I actually held The Special Theory of Relativity written by one Albert Einstein.  Somehow, e=mc2 doesn’t feel the same on a Kindle.

Will Gen-Next ever understand the excitement of discovering real books?   The awe that only the touch of a truly great book can send through your being?   Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.   Asimov’s I,Robot.   Nehru’s Discovery of India.   Charaka’s Samhita.   Gray’s Anatomy.   Finar’s Organic Chemistry.

Cyberia’s idea of history is a 32-bit cyberbimbette offering a ‘tour’ of Globe Theater in the comfort of your own desktop.   Virtual reality, indeed.

Impressive progress we have made, very impressive.   In one single generation we have gone from reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic to megabytes, mice and msoffice.

And I, self-styled writer and nostalgic dinosaur from an earlier millennium have, by the grace of Bill Gates, progressed too.

From Writer’s Cramp to QWERTY Fingers.

No cheers … Srini.

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