Day 26: A Puzzle

Okay, this is a really simple puzzle but one that had me stumped for a while nonetheless. It was the husband who threw this bouncer my way in the evening yesterday. It didn’t sound too difficult, which is why I did not throw up my hands right away as I tend to do when faced with complicated numericals. I knew there had to be a catch somewhere–I only had to figure that out. So the husband was forbidden from disclosing the answer until I asked him to.

Well, the answer dawned on me a good couple of hours later. We were, by then, at a social gathering and the wheels in my brain had been whirring away even as I carried on a conversation with other guests. Suddenly I had my ‘eureka’ moment, excused myself, found the husband and confirmed the answer! Yes!

So here’s the puzzle:

Three friends went out to a restaurant and had coffee. The bill that arrived amounted to Rs. 75. After each of them had paid Rs. 25, the manager discovered that the bill amount actually should have been Rs. 70. He asked the waiter to return Rs. 5 to his customers. The waiter kept Rs. 2 for himself and returned Re 1 to each of them.

This means each person actually paid Rs. 24, and the total amount paid was 24*3=Rs. 72.

We also know that the waiter had pinched Rs. 2, so the total amount was Rs. 72+2=Rs. 74.

But the customers had paid Rs. 75 in all. The question is, where did the Re. one go???

Happy solving! I only hope you take about as much time coming up with the right answer as I did 🙂

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Posted in Blogathon January 2014 | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Day 25: This and That

— So the AAP’s dream-run has already hit a huge speed-breaker–in the form of Kejriwal’s ill-considered dharna over police jurisdiction which not only inconvenienced the Aam Aadmi and earned their ire, but also failed to achieve what it had hoped to do. That, along with the Somnath Bharti episode, attracted reams of bad press and substantially dampened the sense of delirious euphoria and enthusiasm that had swept the country. It was kind of inevitable anyway, given AAP’s dizzying ascent.

The issues in themselves were relatively minor, but they did serve to showcase AAP’s inexperience and lack of cohesion. They are beginning to look like they have no idea what to do with the power they have won.  Such a pity, because I so wanted AAP to work! Now I can only hope they can get their act together and put up a halfway decent show.

–Roger Federer lost to Rafael Nadal yesterday in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and I am heartbroken. This was the closest Federer had come to a grand slam victory in a long time. His fans, including me, got hopeful when his bete-noire on clay Novak Djokovic crashed out of the tournament. Federer’s other rival Nadal, whom he was to meet in the sem-finals, was known to be struggling with a blistered palm. Well, what did we know. Nadal walloped Federer in straight sets.

Nadal looks set to equal Sampras’s fourteen grand slam opens record. Will he also equal  Federer’s world record of seventeen ? Time will tell. He has age by his side–he is only twenty-seven. He just might do it.

Dedh Ishqiya has been getting rave reviews. The songs certainly sound very good. Let me see if I can catch a dekko tomorrow. If I can, well, you will be treated to a film review one of these days, haha.

–A lady in my building( an inspiring person in her own right, maybe I should blog about her someday) had often told me that her younger daughter worked with Jet Airways. I had  assumed that she would be an air-hostess. Yesterday I met the lady in the elevator along with her daughter who was in navy blue trousers, light blue shirt, heavy belt, maroon tie, a pilot’s ID card and a cap with insignia! Wow!!

” Oh, you’re a pilot! I am so happy to be talking to a woman who flies planes!” I gushed. Mother and daughter beamed. May their tribe increase.

Posted in Blogathon January 2014 | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 24: Friendship

Watching small children greet their friends is a joy. When my younger daughter and her very dear playmate spot each other in the park they rush to each other, delight writ large on their faces. Heartfelt compliments are exchanged spontaneously( Teri skirt toh badi achhi hai! Arre wah, new hair-band!) before they get down to business–playing imaginative games that involve a lot of jumping, running and hopping, at times taking a break to observe a butterfly or a dog. Occasionally the games culminate in a tearful fight, with both bawling parties hurling accusations at each other before going back home in a huff. All is forgotten the next day, though. If you cannot resist the sly temptation of reminding them of their altercation yesterday, they just smile sheepishly–and then get lost in their own special world of curious make-believe.

My older daughter, on the other hand, is at the stage when friendship begins to acquire a new form and meaning. There are nascent ego-clashes and an inclination to give any offending friend ‘silent treatment’ for a while. Forgiveness is no longer so easy to seek or grant. Peer-pressure is formidable. But children her age are also a lot more attached emotionally than before and express their affection through a wider array of thoughtful gestures. It is the beginning of the phase when friends begin to mean the world–the age of ‘golden friendships’, if you will! It is also the age when you learn to be more discerning in your choice of friends–to make a conscious effort to look out for your ‘type’.

Some of these pre-teens/early teens friendships will endure well into adulthood if given half a chance–well, almost. I am still very much in touch with two such friends despite not having met them in person for over a decade–though I suppose we are not quite as close as we once were. Physical distance has a way of dampening the fervour of most relationships–friendship is no exception. There is only so much you can communicate over the phone or through chatting over the internet.

By the time we’re adults, we have a fair understanding of just what we seek in a friendship and a more developed intuitive sense which tells you where you could get it. I find it fascinating how in any social set-up, we seem to gravitate instinctively towards ‘our’ type of people!! Some level of intellectual equality becomes more important than it was before. Most people also learn to be cautious and invest selectively in friendships.

Adult friendships are, of course, different. To begin with, there are time-constraints. There are a thousand things demanding your attention at any given time and naturally one is unable to really take the time to nurture a friendship the way one did/ could earlier. Also, moving on is a lot easier in case of a falling out or a drifting apart. Be that as it might, the essence of friendship remains the same–someone who you can really talk to, someone who is able to listen without judging, someone who shares at least a few of your interests, someone you enjoy being with just shooting the breeze– is a friend, no matter what your age.

Posted in Blogathon January 2014 | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Day 23 : How Our Society Keeps Women in Line

A distant cousin of mine left her marital home a couple of years back and hasn’t been back since, and naturally has been providing a fair amount of grist to the gossip mills of the log in the society. Said cousin, along with her one and a half year old son, is living with her parents, who live in the same city as my parents, which means I am at all times fairly abreast of  the latest developments in her case and who-said-what-to-whom.

This cousin has a long list of complaints against her husband and in-laws. These include:

1. Having to cook huge meals all through the day, particularly when the in-laws came visiting from another town, which they did often. They also stayed for at least a couple of months on each visit.

2. No freedom to dress comfortably in the presence of the in-laws– being expected to wear a sari in front of them at all times.

3. Husband kept silent when her parents were unfairly criticised by the in-laws time and again, and was not amused when she took to objecting to their allegations.

4. Medical care when needed was not available easily. She was encouraged to have homeopathy medicines which the in-laws themselves prescribed and which she thought were no good at all.

5. Leaving the house alone was frowned upon.

Now I am not particularly fond of this girl but I admire her for her courage in walking out instead of putting up and being miserable. I also love it that instead of appearing to be wallowing in self-pity or sorrow, she looks perfectly happy and content. Her parents are in general very conservative and chauvinistic and I have never been very fond of them either but by wholeheartedly supporting their daughter in her decision, they have earned my sincere respect.

Sadly, I must be the only person in the community who thinks this way. Everybody else has only unkind words to say about the girl’s uppity and ‘non-adjusting’ nature. Her parents also draw much flak for not prevailing upon her to get back with her husband.

These below are some of the things people have to say:

1. Why did she have to leave? It was not as if she was being abused! It was nothing that couldn’t be resolved by communication.

2. What’s wrong with cooking for in-laws?  I did that all my life. Was I a fool ?

3. Why don’t her parents counsel her and attempt a reconciliation? They are encouraging her unreasonable behaviour by making no effort to normalize things. (much to my chagrin, even my mother is inclined to think so)

4. She is being naive, she has no idea how tough it will be for her to bring up a son all alone.  Does she think her silly computer job will take care of all her needs?

5. Just let her brother get married. His wife will teach her a lesson then.

6. Her father may not say much but he is worrying himself sick. There’s no greater grief than a daughter who refuses to stay with her husband–and look at her! Laughing and enjoying life like this !

Actually, it is not really surprising that this girl should not get the society’s sympathy.

Some of these people are parents of married daughters, and they tremble to think of what would happen if their own daughter were to return to them like this after all the money they spent on her marriage.

Some are parents of married sons, and they are aghast that girls should have a problem cooking for and respectfully living with in-laws. What if their own suitably meek DIL takes cue from such girls and leaves them in a lurch?

Some of course are parents of both married sons and daughters and that surely compounds their horror. If you look closely, everyone of these people has a stake in maintaining the status quo in the society. They look at such girls as a bad influence on other women and bad news for all of them in general.

Some younger women are also amongst those criticising her–their motivations are slightly different. To them, this only looks like a good opportunity to tom-tom their own various sacrifices, which, poor things, they never received much credit for.

And so this collective critical chorus goes on–sending warning signals to all other young women in the society. Look how hostile we are to those who do not conform. Look how we can make life hell for them (now, if only this girl weren’t so thick-skinned!). You better stay in line, okay?

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Day 22: Mumbai to Unaccustomed Eyes

It will soon be one whole year since I landed in Mumbai, so I am probably no longer a newcomer in the strictest sense of the word. Mumbai, however, continues to awe and amaze, and occasionally exasperate, me. There are aspects of Mumbai life which are unique and some of them require a good amount of getting used to.

If you have not seen Mumbai before, the first thing that grabs your attention is the crowds. No amount of reading up on it prepares you for the first sight of the teeming millions everywhere–on the roads, the trains and the buses. It is intimidating. I may not agree with Shiv Sena’s parochial, anti-immigrant, almost xenophobic politics but I have to agree with them that the city is bursting at its seams and cannot accommodate more people.

The crowd takes your breath away at times. You get to see sights never seen before. Nowhere had I seen, for instance,  a queue of people waiting to get into an auto-rickshaw as one sees outside local train stations at peak hours. The local trains themselves are another story altogether. Their efficiency is legendary. They are also packed like you cannot imagine during rush-hour. You have not really experienced Mumbai in all its glory if you have not got into a train spilling with people on all sides.

Apart from the crowd, the cosmopolitanism of the city is ever so obvious and amongst the first things you notice. No other place comes close to Mumbai here–Delhi probably comes a distant second. I am sure we have people from every state of India living in our society.

And then when it rains, it pours. And how. I had never before seen it rain like this–it is a sight to behold. For three months the skies open and the rain comes down in torrents, almost non-stop. You forget what sunlight feels like, or what it feels like to walk on a dry street. Yet life goes right on, without a break, despite delayed or cancelled trains. And thank God for washing machines–I have no idea how Mumbaikars of earlier generations got their clothes to dry during the monsoons.

For a city groaning under the weight of its population, Mumbai is greener than I expected. Especially during the monsoons, the whole city gets swathed in greenery. Hills become lush and verdant. Boundary walls made of stone get covered with a carpet of velvety moss.

Monsoons also bring with them a characteristic fishy smell to the outdoors, though . It bothered me initially but I stopped noticing it after a while.

And then one day, the rain is gone just as suddenly as it had come. Sunshine is back in all its glory, and brings with it hope and a feeling of victory–of having survived the Mumbai rains!

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Day 21: On Grooming and Beauty

There are stark differences in how men and women are expected to groom themselves. While men only need to be generally presentable and well-dressed, it is not so simple for women. The cosmetics industry, worth billions of dollars worldwide, focuses almost exclusively on them–beautifying women is amongst the biggest businesses in the world. For better or worse, women definitely face more pressure to look good and to prettify themselves using the magic wand of make-up.

There is no denying that make-up, skillfully applied, makes one look prettier. A dab of colour on the lips or the eyes has the ability to dramatically improve your looks. It is not my case that women should shun make-up–far from it. I myself quite like wearing make-up on occasions, and I love how it makes me look. What I wonder is, as ludicrous as it may sound, why don’t men ever feel the need to enhance their features–why doesn’t something that looks good on the gander look good on the goose too!!

And is it just plain old social conditioning that makes me like to ‘look good’ with make-up despite finding the idea behind it oppressive, in that it pressures women to look a certain way?

In any case, it goes way beyond make-up. Threading eyebrows and waxing arms and legs is very common amongst women. Unlike make-up, these are painful procedures–yet most women willingly undergo them regularly, at an average of once a month. Now, I may be fine with using make-up, and game for anything that does not cause pain–but that is exactly where I draw the line. I have NEVER ever had my eyebrows threaded because I firmly believe that any beauty that comes with pain is so not worth it. As for hair-removal, there are painless options one could avail of.

Now, I have been told by a couple of management grad friends that they were told at the time of campus-placement to be sure to do their eyebrows and arms because it looks ‘professional’ and gives the impression that the woman takes good care of her appearance. I told both of them, and I so mean it, that if I were a management grad, I would insist all the more on keeping my eye-brows just so, in order to make sure that I didn’t have to work where they paid such minute attention to a female employee’s eyebrow, while men were exempt from such scrutiny.

It is, of course, argued that well-shaped eyebrows look feminine and so men do not need such interventions but just think of how well this scheme of things suits men! For men, bushy eye-brows are okay, even masculine, because hey, getting them done is painful. It is only expected of women to put up with that pain. And let us not even get started on the ever growing number of women going under the knife–the whole stream of plastic surgery seems to have been invented to beautify women.

Men sure have it easy when it comes to grooming !

Posted in Blogathon January 2014 | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 20: Of Star-crossed Lovers and Unnatural Deaths

The news of Sunanda Pushkar’s ‘unnatural’ death ( they are not yet calling it a suicide) totally came like a bolt in the blue. Only the previous day news channels had been having a field day covering the very public washing of dirty linen by Pushkar that apparently played out on Twitter. One would expect someone bold enough to raise a stink about the escapades of a  politician husband, on the eve of elections too, to also have the spirit to take the fight forward –which is why the suspected suicide came as a shock.

Suicide was not something one could easily associate with someone of Pushkar’s tough-as-nails credentials. From what one reads in the papers, she came from a very middle-class family and had a modest education, but went on to establish a formidable career in the male bastions of event management and real estate– without the benefit of any patronage, political or otherwise. She amassed considerable personal wealth and is said to have had a net-worth several times that of her husband. She was successful enough to invite much nastiness from her opponents and competitors, which she took in her stride–a thick skin is one of the first requirements for running a successful business and she had it.

Her garish dress-sense and liking for heavy make-up were probably less than classy, but the fact that she got someone like Tharoor–suave, sophisticated, well-read and handsome enough to turn heads anywhere in the world–to fall for her, did her credit. Whatever else she might or might not have have been, she couldn’t have been dumb.

I remember how she had remained unfazed in the light of controversies and general nastiness when she and Tharoor got together four-five years back, another testimony to her being no shrinking violet.

Such an irony that this strong-by -all-accounts woman should take her own life over a broken heart at the age of fifty-two. She had married twice before. It couldn’t have been her first heartbreak. Maybe her recent major health issues magnified her despair and left her more vulnerable than she would have otherwise been?

Because Tharoor and Pushkar’s marriage was less than seven years old, her death has landed him in trouble. This is bound to have repercussions on his political career–it was bad enough already that he was with the Congress whose chances in the Lok Sabha elections are pretty slim. This was something he could have done without.

Could Tharoor have had an inkling when he first met Pushkar that their romance was doomed? Could Pushkar have had a sense that five years down the line, she would think it fit to kill herself over this otherwise wonderful man? Or for that matter, could the Pakistani scribe at the heart of their quarrel have even imagined that her ‘platonic’ relationship’ with Tharoor would lead to a death? Perhaps not.

Perhaps this is just how destiny works. Or as Pushkar apparently said in her last tweet, jo hona hota hai woh ho kar rehta hai (what has to happen will  surely happen). Perhaps this was just what they call karma. Whatever it was, it sure has left many unanswered questions in its wake.

Posted in Blogathon January 2014 | Tagged , , | 7 Comments