Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I wonder if mannequin makers feel suffocated under the weight of censorship. Mannequins are strange beings. Highly detailed in face, expression and muscular tone, yet curiously smooth in crotch and breast. To our religious leaders, mannequins probably represent the ideal human form : Uniform in nature, obedient to the point of subservience and a refreshing lack of pretty orifices or projections that could be used for ungodly pleasure-seeking purposes.

I pity the young mannequin builder, fresh out of mannequin-building school, who's been itching for a chance to showcase his skills to an appreciative world. But just as he is about to sculpt a voluptuous nipple onto the breast of his work, his manager rushes in and though bent and clutching his knees in exhaustion, manages to blurt out the words, "What.....the....fuck.....are...you...doing? Don't make her look so realistic."

Most mannequin makers, I am sure, will learn to squash their artistic impulse through the passage of time and the slow demise of creative brilliance that usually occurs at a 9 to 5 job. But surely there must still be a few out there, rebels who ache to let their fingers flow free, to breathe life into their work, to be true to their inner perfectionist by adding a labial fold here, a scrotal wrinkle there.

I hope they exist. And I hope they bring their yearnings to fruition. My dream is that someday, there will be a moment when a slight whiff of breeze lifts the skirts of a mannequin in a department store, causing a collective gasp of horror from everybody present. But as for me, I will stand up and clap. I will applaud the courage of the renegade artist who refused to let his art wither and die in the face of squeamish society.

I will applaud you, sir. And I will continue to applaud till they escort me out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trash thief

Each day at work, I see my trashcan has moved a bit closer to the door of my cubicle than it was the previous day. I think somebody is trying to steal it an inch at a time. I noticed because lately, I haven't been having as much success with my paperball 3-point dunks. And they say one gets better with practice and human growth hormones.

I suspect it's John. John with all those banana skins and candy wrappers lying around on his desk. How many bananas does one eat in a day? Should have noticed it at the time. Although I'm not exactly sure what his exit strategy is. How it's gonna work when he makes the trashcan disappear entirely. Theoretically, it might be possible not to notice something move an inch a day but surely one would notice it's total disappearance?

Right now I'm toying with the thief. Pretending I suspect nothing and letting the charade continue. But just when the trashcan is almost out the door, I'm gonna bring it back in. All the way in. Make him wish he could get back all those wasted minutes of his life. Gonna make him realize crime don't pay. Gonna get John back on the straight and narrow.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Clearing brush

I cleared brush the other day. It might seem like a strange thing to do for somebody who owns two patches of land that measure a mere five feet by two, but clear brush is indeed what I did. It was a necessity. Mother Nature had taken over my property and was bent upon pushing me and my house out of her life. I have never ever seen twenty square feet of such tightly packed vegetation. It was fucking ridiculous. You know how it is in spring, when you see tiny little green shoots making their way up through the soil and you're so happy to see life returning to the cold parched earth. And then those shoots begin to grow and turn into stems and leaves. And then they grow some more and they keep growing and they just don't stop growing and then you realize you are the modern day version of Jack with the bean stalk. Except Jack climbed the beanstalk in search of better career opportunities and you continue to be grounded because you value job stability.

Apparently in my case, the previous owner had decided to throw all condo-living etiquette to the wind and recreate a miniature tropical rain forest in her front yard, which is an area, the size you wouldn't even be able to park a hatchback in. This place was a botanical Dharavi. Plants were living on top of other plants, other plants were trying to crawl underneath still other plants, all engaged in the business of trying to squeeze every drop of sustenance out of the land. In between were the illegal squatters : weeds that had somehow escaped everyone's notice, grown to a monstrous height and were now pretending to be rose bushes. When I purchased this house, I remember the previous owner telling me how she had been desirous of importing and planting the 59,500 sq. feet spanning giant banyan tree of Chennai in her flower bed. Luckily for me, while she was there, she incurred the wrath of Rajnikanth fans by being openly skeptical about his bullet-catching abilities and had to fly back in a hurry.

Also, my wife brought up the snake issue. I am only slightly terrified by snakes. If I see a snake, I feel only a mild urge to curl up into a ball and roll downhill. My wife has considerably less reptile tolerance. According to her, every inch of soil on our property not visible for inspection due to its foliage cover could potentially turn into a snake sanctuary. So she assigned me the task of getting rid of the jungle and using my famed people skills, gently coax any angry snake that I happened upon to depart from my property.

So I began to clear brush.

The one thing that aided me in drumming up the required enthusiasm for this brush-clearing project was the knowledge that our last president spent so much time doing it. It's a well-known fact that President Bush liked to have his fun. If this guy spent six months of every year clearing brush, surely there had to be something enjoyable about it. But then as I plunged deeper into the project and realized how thoroughly unpleasant and soul-crushing this activity really was, I realized something. If President Bush chose brush-clearing over his job as leader of the free world, boy, he must have really really hated his job. Well, good for him for surviving his eight years in office. I developed a gnawing sympathy for the poor guy. That's when I realized I was either getting dehydrated or the sun was doing something terrible to my brain. So I went and put on my cap and drank some water.

My first order of business was to trim the peonies. Peonies are to flowerbeds what the African elephant is to a bathtub. They are huge monstrous organisms that start out in life as cute little baby plants, which then sprout out roots that run all the way to your neighbor's medicine closet where they find and suck down all the human growth hormones they can find, marry Maria Shriver Kennedy, get elected Governor of California and then grow up all the way to your chimney. Just like you wouldn't raise an African elephant in a bathtub (if you are, more power to you, sir), you should not plant peonies in a flower bed.

Two days out of three hundred and sixty five, the peony "plant" bears flowers. These flowers are ginormous. Sure, they are reasonably good looking. Not pretty like the rose, but they do have petals that are not transparent. These flowers are heavy and the plant is unable to bear their weight. So it bends under the load and onto your driveway. There they remain in a drooping position for two days. On the third day, it rains, causing each and every petal of those flowers to fall to the earth where they turn into a rotting brown mush, are discovered by your local ant colony which, in light of this wonderful find, relocates in its entirety to your driveway. Trust me, you do not want to plant peonies in your garden.

I did not want those peonies in my garden next year. In fact, next year, I did not want to see in my garden a single thing that was growing there right now. I wished to start afresh with a clean slate. So I began the scorch and burn process. After I trimmed the peonies, I tried to pull them out by the root. I had very little success, although at one point, it did feel like I had pulled my shoulder out by the root. So I retrieved the pickaxe from my garage that I appear to have purchased at some unidentifiable time for some unidentifiable reason and haven't yet put to any use. After punching the peony plant in its nutsack a few hundred times, I realized that I was going nowhere. As, apparently, did my neighbor, who walked out of her garage to check where all that cursing was coming from.

"Here, you probably need this", she said, throwing some kind of large dark metallic object at my face. It turned out to be a shovel. I put aside my pickaxe and started pounding on the peonies with the shovel.

"Is this the first time you've used a shovel?", she asked me. "But I remember your dad telling me you have a large garden back in India."

"Yes, we do", I replied with some shame. "But I came here when I was a little boy so I didn't have much gardening experience from back then."

"Really?" she said. "How old were you when you came here?"

"Let me see", I said, doing some quick math. "I was....uh.....23".

She looked at me without comment.

"Okay, here's how you do this. The key is to push, not pull. Insert the shovel into the soil. Push down on it hard with your feet, then press the handle sideways, using it as a lever."

Lever, yes, that sounded familiar. I had studied levers in college. I wished I hadn't bunked all those "Theory of Machines" classes. Anyways, too late to do anything about it now. So I followed her instructions and after a bit of strenuous pushing, out came the peonies, roots and all.

"Alright", she said, "I think you've got it. Throw the shovel back into my garage when you're done."

There was a lot of crap to get rid of. Another bunch of peonies, two hydrangeas, some vague creeper with red flowers that appeared to be called a "chlamydia" although that doesn't sound right, a bunch of gigantic lilies, two enormous weeds that had turned into trees through the passage of time and a large bush that appears to have acted as a meeting-place for a number of shady members of the local wildlife club who scurried out when I pulled it up by the roots. It took me two hours to strip my garden of all that chlorophyll, but I was finally done.

I spent the next few days repopulating that space with small proportionate things. I purchased some day-lilies, a blue shrubby thing that they claim will last through winter and a number of petunias. My neighbor visited me again in order to monitor my progress. She remarked that the blue shrubby thing will be growing up and in due time, will be taking over my entire garden. She held her arms in front of her, trying to give me an idea of the future hugeness of the blue shrubby thing by air-sculpting its size and I tried to help her by eyebrowing her ample waistline to use as a measuring benchmark but she didn't get the message. I said fuck no, really, oh man. So I guess I'll be clearing brush next year too.

But at least it will keep me off the streets.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deer and rabbit


Here are deer and rabbit. Deer and rabbit are seen sweetly entwined in the symbiotic harmony of harvesting my neighbor's crops. As seen in this exclusive surveillance camera footage, rabbit cautiously makes his way to the day lilies as deer watches out for the long arm of the law. Later, rabbit will stand guard as deer forages on the tulips. In my role as an embedded journalist who refuses on principle to interfere with their garden consumption activity, I receive unfettered access to all the inside scoop. Here is their story.

Deer and rabbit have come a long way from their troubled past. There was a point when each time deer applied snout to vegetation for grazing purposes, deer would come up with a mouthful of bunnies and had to spit them out like you would spit out goat bones from the mutton masala at Sunny-da-Dhaba on the Mumbai Pune highway. It resulted in a poor dining experience for the deer and led to a frustrated deer introducing the phrase "breeding like a rabbit" into the English vernacular. This, in turn, pissed off rabbit who, under the glare of the public eye, was forced into using protection during sexy-time. It was tiresome for someone unendowed with opposable thumbs to have to spend time fiddling around with condom wrappers at such a delicate, fleeting moment.

But then, just when it seemed that a deer-rabbit final confrontation would be inevitable, Man stepped in. Man cleared away all the brush and planted short grass everywhere, so deer could spot bunnies more easily and rabbit could continue with his baby-making efforts without fear of criticism. In fact, Man made it safe and even desirable for deer and rabbit to co-exist peacefully. Man planted pretty, tasty stuff in his backyard with easy access to deer and rabbit. Stuff bearing colors of such vividity that they might as well have been neon signs proclaiming, "I am delicious...Eat me". Now, deer and rabbit live together in a mutually beneficial partnership, the serenity of which is only occasionally interrupted by the sight of my wildly gesticulating neighbor running out of her basement with chainsaw in hand and murder in her heart. It is not without irony that Man, who was responsible for the deer-rabbit collaboration, turned out to be the worst affected by it.

But regardless, deer and rabbit are now happy. Deer and rabbit, friends forever.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rednecks and hillbillies

So Bill approached me at work today.

"Yo, K-Man", said Bill.

That's what Bill calls me. By the time I had developed a dislike for this nick, it was too late.

"Yo, K-Man. I'm going to this bluegrass festival in the Poconos this weekend. Wanna go?"

"Isn't that like a redneck thing?", I said. "Tell me the name of the town, so I know where to stay away from."

"Why?", said Bill. "You know, you should really go, you might like it."

"Nah man, I said. "Most of you might not have seen an Indian guy before. I am afraid I'll be hunted for my skin or something. Maybe captured and locked up in a cage for observation. Declared a new species and pickled in formaldehyde."

"And if you're lucky, that's all they'll do to you", said another colleague who happened to be passing by. He left, laughing at his own joke.

"You know what I realized", said Bill, "I think you're confusing rednecks with hillbillies."

"What's the difference?", I said.

"Rednecks are racist of their own volition", replied Bill. "Hillbillies are racist because they know no better."

"Ah, I see", I said. "So you rednecks are well-informed racists. You haven't taken the decision to be racist lightly. You've given it considerable thought, mulled it over. Weighed the pros and cons, done your research."

"Exactly", said Bill. "Whereas a hillbilly is born into racism. Kind of like how one is born into a religion. Rednecks, on the other hand, are the free-thinkers of racism."

"That's a great way to put it", I said. "Nobody's explained it to me in those terms before. But still, how does this affect me? Regardless of the nature of your racism, I'll still be in danger, right?"

"Rednecks are harmless", said Bill, "The nature of our racist tendency implies that we are capable of making a conscious effort not to harm you. Whereas hillbillies will come at you like a bear after honey. It's a primal urge."

"And you're saying there will be more rednecks at this gig than hillbillies?" I asked.

"Yes, very few hillbillies in Southeastern PA", said Bill." So will you go?"

"Doesn't bluegrass involve those tiny guitar-like things that sound like someone strumming on his pubes?"

"Yes", said Bill. "Banjos".

"Sorry, I like my guitar heavy", I said. "But have fun. You gonna take your livestock along with you?".

"That's hillbilly", said Bill. "I take dead flesh".

"Oops, gotcha".

Friday, June 05, 2009


So somebody's been stealing the fruit from the strawberry plants on my deck. It looks like a clean professional job. No crumbs lying around. My wife says it could be the squirrels who've have been loitering around in a suspicious manner lately but my money is on the asshole grackle. He's a shady character.

The grackle has devised a great workaround for getting to the contents of the bird-feeder for those times when I'm on the deck. This is what he does. When I'm not around, he violently waggles the feeder back and forth, causing all the birdseed to fall on the ground where he can later browse it at his own leisure. What the grackle doesn't realize or is callously insensitive to is the fact that through his actions, he is spoiling the dining experience for the rest of my patron base. If you're a bird and planning to go out for a nice romantic dinner with your lady friend where you'll be popping her the ultimate question, whose establishment are you gonna visit, the guy who keeps a full feeder or the one who forces you to eat off the ground? The answer is obvious. Each day the grackle finds new ways of getting under my skin. Wars have been waged due to far less provocation. The sad part is, I am sure the grackle would be a much more productive member of society, were he to apply his powers of deductive reasoning to its betterment rather than its downfall. But he chooses to follow the dark side and that is a pity.

A raccoon now trespasses on to my deck every night. He climbs up using a ladder that one of his raccoon buddies or perhaps a mercenary deer has got to be holding down for him because unless he was bitten by a radioactive spider during his stint at the Daily Bugle, there's no way a raccoon would be able to climb up the ten foot post, crawl upside down on the underside of the deck, then make his way up the railing and onto my flowerpots. I have asked around for advice on how to keep him away. An American colleague suggested that I use a BB gun on him. I asked him, what's a BB gun, is it the one that shoots water and is popular among Holi revelers who lack access to a faucet for balloon-filling purposes? He asked me, what is Holi? I replied, it is a Hindu festival celebrating the fortuitous escape of young Prahlad from an assassination attempt by the demoness Holika who carried him into a raging fire on behalf of her brother, the demon Hiranyakashipu. I see, said the colleague, who's this Prahlad, is he an ex-President of India or something? Well no, I replied, India being a parliamentary democracy, the president of India is a mere figurehead. For his escape from a demon attack to be met with such rambunctious delight, it would have to be at least the prime-minister, who happens to be the working head of the executive branch. All in all, it was a highly productive discussion.

Since my colleague turned out to be useless, I turned to my next-door neighbor for help. She informed me that another home-owner up the street also currently had a raccoon visiting him. I said, "Really, does he have any idea why it's doing that"? She replied that apparently it was after the bird seed in his feeder.

"Goddamn you GRACKLEEEEEE", I yelled, raising my face up to the heavens. "The grackle keeps spilling my birdseed onto the lawn", I translated for her, "which must be what attracted the raccoon to my deck in the first place". "Here's what you do", she replied, "Add hot pepper flakes to your birdseed, that should keep the raccoon away".

So that's what I'm gonna do now. Hopefully the raccoon doesn't have any Indian ancestry in his blood. If he does, I'm gonna have to use plan B which involves playing heavy metal music loudly at all times. It might cost me friends and family but every war has its sacrifices.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dying happy

When celebrity professionals pass away while at work, it's very common for people to comment, "Well, at least he died doing something he loved the most". Surely these people had at least one thing in their life they loved more than their work? How about sex? Or snorting coke? I wonder how many celebrities died on their toilet seat, reading a pornographic magazine and had the media go, "Well at least he died doing what he loved the most."

And why's that a good thing anyways? If you were doing something you really loved, wouldn't you be pissed as heck if you were to suddenly pop off? It's like, you're sitting in your studio, painting a masterpiece that Bill Gates has agreed to purchase from you in return for half a share in Windows 7 profits and you're so goddamn happy, you're loving every minute of it and just as you're about to put the finishing touches on your work by painting the head on that sweet innocent moose calf, BAM, your palette turns into an urn of nectar, your paintbrush into a harp and you feel something fluttering on your back which, as it turns out, are wings. You feel like you've died and gone to heaven and you really have. You're an angel.

And then you remember your unfinished masterpiece with the now permanently headless moose calf and you go looking for God to get some answers. You ask Him, "Why God, why me?" And God replies, "Well son, you looked like you were deriving so much enjoyment out of what you were doing right there, I felt that it was a great time for you to die". And you're all like, "What the fuck God, are you a complete idiot, why would you do something like that?" And God, doing His thundering Christopher Lee impression that he performs at parties nowadays to considerable critical acclaim, replies, "Silence fool, it is my world to fuck around with, now go play that harp like your life depended on it". Here, God would probably laugh his stupid face off because God is a fan of his own funny. Asshole.

Me, I want to die doing something I really really hate. Nothing would give me more satisfaction. Could be I'm shoveling someone else's shit, giving a cow a colonoscopy or trying to fix a memory leak in somebody else's software code, if I were to die at that moment, it would be with a fucking smile on my face. And really Society, I want you to be happy for me. I want you to look back at my life and say, "Boy, that guy's lucky, he died doing something that he really really hated. Good for him."