Monday, August 28, 2006

Up close and personal with a bee!!

Yesterday was Vinayaka Chaturthi and Pooja was performed as usual at home. Having finished a rather elaborate lunch yours truly ventured out around 2.30pm to meet a friend in Mylapore. Half way through while I was near Malar Hospitals, Adyar, things took a turn for the worse leaving me in a lot of pain and agony!! In hindsight this could actually have been a curse from Lord Ganesha on his birthday for speaking ill of his miracle of drinking milk!!

To get to the fact in issue, while I was cruising along on my bike at about 60kmph another object was cruising in the opposite direction at two or three times that speed! The object in question was an insect, more particularly a bee! While both of us were thus cruising along, our paths inevitably crossed resulting in the bee inflicting a murderous sting on me just under the right eye!! What more, the bee was quite intent on gouging my eye out! Now, before all of you jump on me with the virtues of wearing a helmet while driving, let me clarify that I was, indeed, wearing a helmet! But I always have the visor open about an inch at the base for air circulation. And as luck would have it, the flight path of the bee seemed to be directly in line with the gap between the helmet and visor!

Going back to the narrative, there was a big tug of war between me and the bee with the bee initially having the upper hand as I had to slow down and park the vehicle with one hand. Thankfully, it being a Sunday, the road was fairly deserted. Finally I managed to wrench the bee out, only to realise that it had left behind its sting! Then began the agonizing pain and the face began to swell up alarmingly within seconds! Managed to finally turn the bike and drive upto the nearest hospital where they managed to extract the sting out. By the time they managed to inject a dose of anti-histamine (anti-allergic) in me, the damage had already been done with a hugely puffed up right side of the face and worse still, I broke out in red coloured spots all over the body!! If there was a human equivalent for a spotted leopard, then I would have certainly qualified as one! Finally I managed to reach home around 4pm, only to shock everyone at home by my appearance!

The anti-histamine began to take effect late in the evening and the spots disappeared thereafter. But the pain remained, with me wincing every time I blinked my eyes. Repeated application of a cold compress throughout the night helped bring down the swelling a bit by this morning! I have never had great opinions about my looks and don’t venture to look at the face at close quarters except while combing my hair and shaving. But it’s really quite surprising how the very same face becomes most desirable to look at when something goes wrong with it! I kept looking into the mirror almost every five minutes whole of last evening, much to the amusement of my mother :-)

This is how it looked on Sunday evening! The one on your left is actually the right eye :-)

Things are much better today with the swelling reduced a lot and the face now resembling that of a boxer with a black eye after a rather stiff bout! Managed to go to court as well, though I did manage to draw quite a few stares. In fact I could have actually played out a childhood fantasy of playing one of the characters in Treasure Island by wearing a shade over my right eye like Blind Pew :-)

To put things in proper perspective, the insect kingdom and I have always shared a love-hate relationship. The insects’ love for me and my hate for the insects!! Insects seem to have the knack of sniffing me out wherever I may be! Before the advent of mosquito mats and vapourisers, Tortoise coils and Odomos were my saviours!! Odomos, unlike its present avtar, used to be sticky and greasy and made you feel like buttered toast! However, despite such shortcomings, it has saved me from many bites and stings!

Thus, in the final tally, I guess I should be happy that things haven’t gone worse this time and I did manage to get the accursed bee off before it could do further damage. I understand that the honey bee when it stings a mammal leaves behind its barbed sting and thus loses its life in the bargain. The bee, on the other hand, would have gone with the satisfaction that it had caused sufficient damage to keep me in discomfort for at least a few days!

P.S: I did not actually get to see the bee properly and I have proceeded under the impression that it was a bee after all, only on the evidence that it had left behind its sting. Hence, to clarify things, you may substitute the word “insect” for the word “bee” wherever it appears in the foregoing paragraphs as I do not want to incur further wrath of the bee kingdom by levelling accusations against them without proper evidence. One sting is more than enough for me :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Of Gods and their miracles!

Miracles have always been part of life in India and the Hindu faith abounds with stories of miracles that have happened. With millions of gods in the faith, one would naturally begin expecting such miracles to happen every other day! So, it wasn’t really surprising when idols of Lord Ganesha started drinking milk in several parts of the country this week!! This is nothing new as the same phenomenon occurred around the same time of the year in 1995. As is happening now, at that time also, people flocked to temples to spoonfeed Lord Ganesha :-) While scientists explained that this was due to surface tension, people were steadfast in their belief that the Lord himself has descended upon earth to drink milk!! In fact a cobbler (in which city, I don’t remember) showed that his cobbling tools also “drank” milk, thus ridiculing the idea of any miracle! This created quite a furore at that time! The staunchly religious pointed out that if surface tension was the reason, then why did Lord Ganesha drink milk only now and not all the time? Not an easy question to dismiss, I must say :-) Having been a science student at high school, I sided with the scientists and gave physics lectures at home, which wasn’t well received by folks at home! Unfortunately, I have since bade goodbye to science and its principles and this time around, I strongly believe that this is a miracle and nothing else :-)

This brings me to an interesting question as to how far people are ready to go in obliging the gods if these miracles become a routine affair. Hinduism, one must appreciate, has a god for all seasons and all reasons! And each of those gods expects us to please them (read worship!) in some form or other. The most common form of worship is to make offerings, which may be either in cash or in kind. The cash is generally used to maintain and run the places of worship. The offerings in kind are given back to the devotees as Prasadam!! Now, if all the gods were to take the cue from Lord Ganesha and decide to demand their “pound of flesh” literally and have the Prasadam for themselves, would we still be inclined to continue making offerings as we do today?

Another “miracle” which occurred this week was sea water turning “sweet” at Mahim beach in Bombay!! People have started taking sea water home and have started consuming it as well!! Thankfully, nobody seems to have been affected by this, thus reinforcing the theory that it’s a miracle! And as usual, the non-conformists attributed this to the heavy rains recently and pointed out that sodium chloride levels which used to be about 10000 ppm (parts per million) have come down to 500 ppm! These people seem to have no other job than establishing theories on anything and everything. But the believers have come back strongly asking why the water turned sweet only at Mahim and not in other places when there has been rain everywhere! The non-conformists must accept the fact that we Indians have always, and will always continue to, have something called “faith”! And miracles are just the reminders for us to keep the faith :-)

P.S: To clarify, I'm neither an atheist nor am I deeply religious! I tread the middle path :-)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thanga Vettai!

Thanga Vettai (which literally means “Gold hunt”) is supposedly a popular game show telecast every Saturday evening in one of the tamil channels. The USP of the show is that the participants are divided into two teams and are rewarded with certain specified number of gold coins for every correct answer at the end of each round! The coins in respect of questions which were answered wrong or which were not answered at all are reserved for the audience who are asked a “prize” question during the show! The lure for the yellow metal seems to have propelled the show to top the TRP ratings! Although this show has been on air for quite sometime now, I hadn’t got an opportunity to watch it until today. Apparently, I started watching in round 3 which comprised of 10 questions. Each team is allowed to choose the question to be asked of the other and if they don’t answer, the first team gets a chance to answer it! Some of the questions and the answers given would indicate the level of intelligence required for participating in the show:

Who wrote the book “Wake up India”?

Team A: Jawaharlal Nehru
Team B: Shakespeare!!
(The book was written by Annie Besant!)

Who was the third person along with Bhagat singh and Sukh Dev who was awarded death sentence?

Team A: Pass
Team B: Subhash Chandra Bose!!

Cleopatra was the queen of which country?

Team A: USA!
Team B: Pass

Who was the first woman governor of a State in India?

Team A: Pass
Team B: Indira Gandhi!!
(Sarojini Naidu!)

What is the capital of Sikkim?

Team A: Pass
Team B: Pass

I was expecting them to answer the last one as Madras or Bombay but mercifully both teams passed the question. At the end of the round, the anchor was quite embarrassed as neither team had answered even one question right!

In India, games of chance are not permitted and that is one of the reasons why you find a disclaimer at the bottom of all contest forms that it is a game of skill and not a game of chance. I am sure the producers of this show have also made the same disclaimer and stated that this is a game of skill. Going by the answers given by the participants, your guess is as good as mine as to whether it is a game of skill or chance:-)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Its Friendship Day!!!

The first Sunday of August is celebrated as Friendship Day every year and it falls on August 6 this year! I have always been rather skeptical about these special days and have dismissed them as cheap tricks of greeting card companies!! But somehow I have made a lot of new friends in the last couple of years who have made quite a difference to my life. And it is only just that I dedicate a post to all of them.

Some of my best friends are from my school days who have stood by me in my worst times and have been so kind to me, despite the fact that I have avoided them for several years!! Then there is Cibi who is a really good friend, despite the fact that he is a colleague (My views on why colleagues cannot make good friends will feature in a separate post!).

I have also made lots of friends online in the recent past! I have been fortunate to meet and get to know some of them in person like Raaga, Wooster, Jyotsna, Bala, Teena Thomas, Kalpana, Sushmaa and a few others.

Then there are those like Teena Dubey, Deepa, Vidya, Anna, Susmita whom I know through their web pages / blogs and with whom I have been corresponding through mails / chats.

There are also those like Kanakku Madam, Yadhvi whom I know through their blogs and their comments on my blog!

Apart from these, there are also several others whom I have not mentioned here but who are my good friends nevertheless. This post is for all my friends to whom I just wish to say this – Thank you so much!!! All of you mean a lot to me and have made a difference to a life, otherwise made terrible by a pessimistic and cynical mind :-)

Happy Friendship Day!!!