humor

The Conversation

Gene Hackman was the actor of this classic but the conversation I had the other day didn’t feature him. So, without further adieu I would tell you about the conversation I had few days ago. I was on a business trip to southern part of USA, where people are quite different from the east coast. They take food, religion, matrimony, spending time with each other quite seriously. Oh, I couldn’t have lived in Manhattan is a frequent expression and the reason that’s cited is – it is too fast paced for me. Fair point.

I work in multiple geography system, so I have my calls in the morning and there is a lot of email exchange in early part of the day. That day was any ordinary day until the house keeping lady knocked on my door. I was speaking over the call, so couldn’t have shouted – come back later and I hadn’t put no room service today tag on the door handle. So I got up to let the person know that come back later, there was an old woman at the door and I signaled the same to her and turned back. By the time I went back to my laptop, I could hear someone walking behind me and as it turned out the old woman didn’t get my signal and walked right in to clean. I was still talking to the team on the other side of the line and that lady started to make a lot of noise around the room. I had to apologize to the team for the background noise. The talking resumed and I kept on hearing the feeble background noises with things falling and being rearranged. Once my part got finished, other people on the call resumed their discussion on other topics and I stole a moment to see how the old lady is doing. I craned my neck to look at her surreptitiously and found her putting the stuff that had fallen down back on the shelves and slabs. I went ahead and tried to help her, and she Thanked me with a smile. I resumed my call and contributed sporadically wherever it was needed. On finishing work, she came to me and asked me whether I needed anything else. I immediately put my hand over speaker and mouthed No and mouthed Thank you to her. I think she was really bad at catching signals, no wonder she isn’t in traffic police and it would be a mystery if she still had her driving license with her. She started talking to me and I told her that I am on a call, I can’t talk to her, Thank You, Ciao, Goodbye, Dasvidanya. But she wasn’t ready to listen and resumed talking. I put my phone on mute and before I could say anything to her, she interrupted “For how long are you here?” I said ” I will go back tomorrow, umm..I actually am on a call. You have a good day and Thanks for coming in”. She turned a deaf ear to it and said ” Has your significant other gone for breakfast?”. I said “WHO? What significant other?” She sensed and said out twice ” Oh, so you are here alone!!” Once to herself and second time to maker herself believe that what she heard was true. The inner Manhattanite woke up and I replied curtly ” Thank you, I am busy”. She started towards the door and just before going out she said ” I feel so sorry for you son! You came to this romantic city alone. I came to this city on my honeymoon from my village”. At this point I thought ” Yeah, why not!! Arkansas is the most ‘romantic’ place on earth. How can Paris, Prague, Hawaii etc would ever measure up to it. ” I told her  that not everyone has to marry or be with someone necessarily, it is not some law. Our lives aren’t scripted by story writer of The Lobster movie. She was completely oblivious to what I was saying and reached out in her pockets and fished out a card and gave it to me while saying ” You should go here, it is the best tavern, with country music, friendly people, you can meet girls there”. I said ” I am on work here not for meeting arbit girls”. She asked what is arbit. I said it is short for arbitrary. She repeated arbit and arbitrary a couple of times and then said ” No, they aren’t arbitrary at all. They are very nice girls. Best of the lot. One woman can handle 10 cows by herself, very disciplined” The old lady kept on extolling the girls of her ‘city’ and I kept on sifting through my emails in my mailbox. After her rant was over and she moved herself out of my room graciously ( not united airlines style), I resumed call over phone and the person on the other end asked me ” So, will you be going to that tavern tonight?”. I was startled and found that even though I did put my phone on mute, it never was on mute and everyone on the other side of the phone line heard the entire thing. It became interesting conversation for them to listen to.

A day without emojis

Smileys, furious face, tongue sticking out, crying faces have become integral part of daily life. The phones and various chat applications keep on updating their emoticons palette; Emoticons have the ability to replace the words to the degree that complete sentences can be formed using them. There are puzzles based on emojis in which you have to decipher the name of a movie, some food, emotion, a proverb or something else from them when used in a particular sequence. So much so that. I remember that I wasn’t agile enough to use them straightaway. When I started talking to a girl online some 10 years ago, I never employed smileys in my texts and little did I know that my humor, sarcasm, and other statements not supplemented by emoticons would be misconstrued. From then on I reached a point where there is one emoji in 15% of my social texting. Not there anything is wrong with it but I did notice it and decided to cut down the usage for a day and see whether pre emoji era conversation would be misconstrued. I asked a friend of mine to try emoticon sans conversation, though she is a frequent user of emojis and was reluctant initially saying she can’t stand it, she did agree to participate for a day. The argument that I used was the books don’t have smileys and it has been working out very well for them without them. She retorted that books have longer sentences for touching the emotional chords. Long story short, she agreed. Another precursor of communication was that we couldn’t have asked questions such as are you mad, disappointed etc.

We started our day, went through it and wrapped it up exchanging 308 messages between us including the Oks, Yeses, Nos, and notorious mono question marks. I did supplement lol and haha to indicate humor but there were times during which the conversation veered off in a tangential direction despite the fact that we knew each other quite well. I was wee bit adventurous by bringing more controversial topics on the table to see whether emojis are needed or not. At times explanations were needed and at times we might have obviated the details. The deliberate obliteration of the colon, semicolon, right and left round braces revealed a macroscopic picture about linguistics. I once attempted to study hieroglyphics and understood that pictures can tell the same story as the words can; Mandarin, Cantonese, Kanji, Hirangana, Katakana are the visual scripts in which symbols stand for words or phrases. I am not leading anti emoticon protest but I wanted to see whether I can convey emotions and pass my word across without being misconstrued and I would say the experiment didn’t fail.  I don’t want to make a case that as a human race we have evolved and should use the words rather than the smiley or winking faces to convey the messages. Sometimes a thumbs up or a smiley face can work fine but one should take a step back and check whether he/she is capable to put the word across without use of emojis and if one is inept then it could be a red flag for the declining literacy and decimating self confidence that if veered off, the communication can’t be brought back on track.

A little history : Scott E. Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon is credited with inventing the smiley face. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm

The new roommate

I saw this plant in a grocery store and bought it immediately. I am next to zilch in Botany – except few flowers, plants and trees I can’t identify the wide variety of flora on terra firma.  It is with me for more than a week and I see that it has started withering, the leaves made a crunchy noise when I touched them. I can’t put it outside as it is snowing and always very windy, so it has to stay inside my apartment. I removed the extra water today and to desiccate, have put it under a lamp. I hope it survives. Is it Daisy or something else?

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Florence Foster Jenkins

I have been on a movie spree for past few weeks and have watched nearly all that are watchable and are being shown in Manhattan. I watched Florence Foster Jenkins on Monday in a theater on Yorkville. Meryl Streep is a treat to watch but on Monday morning I came to know of a past case in which she had blocked the road for renovating her million dollar villa causing problem to general public. Shouldn’t law be same foe everyone? Why wasn’t she arrested for the same?

Anyway, the movie is based on a real life character that walked the earth during mid 18th and mid 19th century noted for her gaudy star studded costumes and high pitch/low pitch singing. I enjoyed and laughed throughout the movie and who wouldn’t. Meryl Streep is one of the best actress and a nervous Simon Helberg has done justice to role of Mr. McMoon – the pianist. Hugh Grant’s role as a partner supportive of no matter what is adorable. Although Florence Foster was ridiculed many times for her singing but her ‘concerts’ were not karaoke – Japanese word for empty orchestra. If I were born in that era and I had enough money to afford concerts then I definitely would have gone to see her. She did what she wanted to do and enjoyed it thoroughly. One memorable quote from the movie “People can say I cannot sing but they won’t say I didn’t sing.”. When the movie finished I was looking at faces of people and found at least 7-8 who were crying during the final scenes. Such is a human spirit that we live in a world that adores perfection while Florence Foster Jenkins was able to fill the Carnegie hall despite her not so perfect singing.

Catcher in the Rye

Last evening while I was sitting and working at cafe Jax on 84th street, a woman came and sat 2 seats left of me. I gave her a glimpse and tend to my work and on second look I saw that she was reading Catcher in the rye. I have few fond memories of the book and I did overuse the word ‘phony’ for months after I read the book. Everything was phony 🙂 That’s how a young mind works. I tore a piece of paper from my notebook, wrote something on it, got up and placed the note in front of her table. She read it and she and I had a hearty but silent laugh. I had written “I like it when somebody gets exciting about something. It’s nice!! – Holden Caulfield”. After couple of hours we came out of the cafe at nearly same time and talked at length about thousands of things – books, art, painters, museums (MET, neue, Guggenheim, MoMa etc), dinosaurs, food, restaurants, pastries and work.

Happens in Manhattan!

 

Living alone and enjoying it

I have been living alone for a long time and I enjoy it. I am not a solitary reaper and socially recluse but I enjoy the silence and solitude that I find in my apartment except on few occasions. I am not glorifying my way of life but I know for the fact that not many are capable to survive the choice. The reasons can be manifold – codependency, family issue, money or simply not able to function without some other human being. The last one is quite prominent in many human beings. At top of my head I can list at least ten names among my friends who don’t want to live alone for the simple reason that they don’t want to do the chores and assume the responsibilities that either their mothers or their spouses have been assuming in their lives. Anyway, it’s their choice and who are we to judge?

I read a brief article in an airline magazine once( I didn’t have anything to read as I had forgotten my kindle, iPad and earphones at home) about living the life alone and will try to recapitulate the same points here.

Take care of yourself – Simply because no one else is going to do so.

No fear of missing out – Don’t worry if you weren’t invited to some party or your friend didn’t come to see you. Everyone is busy these days and everyone has a life to live.

Make acquaintances and host get together in your apartment – Don’t worry about size of apartment, a simple potluck, movie session or just coffee get together can be held in a club hole as well.

Have more than one hobby – Keep trying different things and trust me you will have a story to tell eventually.

Treat yourself with respect – Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you have to live an ascetic life. If you like to binge watch int’l cinema while dressed in a french cuff shirt and  lying on your sofa then do it.

Take interest – Learn how to brew perfect coffee, try different drinks and keep an eye for what could be your favorite cocktail, learn about wines, go to museums. Pay attention to detail to a degree that you should be able to order coffee by saying both small cafe latte with whole milk and a small cafe latte with double shot of espresso, whole milk, decaf, caramel, extra foam without whipped cream to go please ( The example can be extrapolated to anything, it just shows how much attention to details you put. Also, few people might think you that you are just an obnoxious, pretentious a**)

Eat well – Again, living alone doesn’t mean you have to graze on a hot dog from the nearest bodega or live on french fries. Our body is the only thing that is truly ours, take care of it.

 

 

Humans of New York

NYC is famous for being rude but I don’t concur with this opinion. It’s just that people here are precise, concise and succinct in conversation, time is the key here and we like things at fast pace. One time I was in Atlanta and waiting in a bank queue, that was moving at a pace that would put sloths to shame. People were exchanging greetings with teller and I guess discussing entire life stories with them. Seeing me uneasy and edgy, the old woman standing behind me asked me “Have you come from New York my dear young man?”

Subway of NYC are its lifeline. One meets interesting people while commuting. Be it the older asian woman who didn’t speak English at all but was trying her best to engage me in a conversation even on telling that I don’t understand what she was saying.  When I got down at Bleecker, she said to me in broken English “Smile son, smile”. Another time a really old couple, probably in the 80s, were at 77th street station with the MTA cards in their hands but they didn’t know how to use it. I tried to help them and they boarded the 6(downtown) train with me. I think they were somewhere from the middle east, I didn’t know what they were saying. But they smiled a lot. The woman was so proud that she has 7 children and in incoherent English she told me that my beard looks like her eldest son’s. On 4th of July, I marched to east river to see the fireworks. It was an overcast but I didn’t take the umbrella and by the time I reached Carl Schurz park, it started raining. People held the front thinking the fireworks will start anytime soon but eventually they retreated under their umbrellas or under the trees. I was getting drenched and enjoyed it a little but after a while a Chinese couple came to me and offered me their umbrella, I smiled and denied politely. But the woman nudged him and they stood with me for 20 minutes until the rain stopped with their large umbrella covering three of us.

Think before you judge Humans of New York!

 

 

Hyperbolic Issues

I shouldn’t be writing this post as I have few other things to tend to. Anyway, I was watching the TedX video on what’s so sexy about Math? and in the comments section someone had asked a cute question whether a straight line can pass through a curved surface? The answer is the famous hyperbolic slot. Those who don’t want to see how, the answer is yes, a straight line can pass through a curved surface. The hyperbola reminded me of parabola that in turn reminded me of parabola powered calculator that I saw in exploratorium – a science museum in SF bay area. The interesting tool is used to multiply two numbers. I am pasting a photograph that I took months ago here; the tool is not only easy to use but self explanatory.

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The two points where the parabola and the string intersect are the two numbers whose product we wish to find. The point where the string touches the axis of the symmetry (vertical line passing through the vertex) is the value of the product of those two numbers.

I came across the conic sections i.e. ellipse, parabola and hyperbola in my class 11; I could gauge ellipse and parabola for I had seen the practical use of the two shapes but I could never imagine what on earth is this hyperbola. First of all, it has two curves and I never understood how can any object follow such a path. Too bad that no one showed the hyperbolic slot to us and internet  wasn’t as prevalent in those days( 2004) as it is now. One can learn anything on YouTube these days.

Anyway, few days ago I factory reset my Nexus 6P and checked all applications for the consistency. I opened the camera and took the photograph of my desk and wall.

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And here was the hyperbola. The lamp shade’s shadow formed a hyperbolic curve on the wall.

The art of being naked

Human body sans clothes is the most natural expression but being in a raw and vegetative state is not acceptable in today’s society. Although there are exhibitionists, nude artists, photographers and few days ago while I was walking in central park I saw that few naked female artists were performing Shakespeare’s The Tempest, covering the privates is essential in today’s world. But those who live alone and have no fear of being voyeured at can take pleasure in this raw art in their own homes. Disclaimer : I am not promoting the idea and neither I had any such intention last Sunday.

Last Sunday, I woke up late than usual and after checking my mails and other social media, I dragged myself out of the bed and brushed my teeth. I came back inside the room and felt the immediate desire to take a bath. I tossed my t-shirt into laundry basket from where I was standing and along went my shorts and other things and in no time I was in natural form. The moment I started to enter the bathroom, my phone started ringing and I had to talk to that person who disturbed me at this auspicious moment. I felt quite uncomfortable while talking and felt as if she can see through the phone and I checked a few times that video is not switched on. After finishing the call, I sensed that my room is in disordered state and needs to be straightened up. It took me some time to clean the apartment, to remove the dust, to mop the floor and then run the vacuum. I was enervated a little but doing household work naked is fun. I sat on my chair and replied to many emails, listened to many songs, danced to their tunes and even had some food. I subscribe to buzzfeed on YouTube and I watched a prank video in which the try guys present sushi on their bodies to their colleagues. The horses of my imagination started galloping and I had salad for lunch. Read between the lines!! I lie down on the clean floor and stared at the ceiling for a while with my feet up on the chair in front of me. Eventually I forced myself up and decided to take a bath but then my OCD started acting up for more order in the world and I saw my kitchen and the sink which were living in a chaotic world. Cleaning up the dishes, kitchen and stove took me more than half an hour and I felt enervated again. I ran the vacuum on the rug again and decided to lie down on the floor for a while. I don’t remember when did I sleep but when I woke up it was already quite dark. I, in the same state, cooked something to eat and then watched the 5th episode of  Game of Thrones. After loitering for a while, I decided to take a warm bath and call it a day. It was fun. The amazing part was I understood what being comfortable in your skin can mean.