Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crappy Tire

I recently needed to buy a bike rack for my car. With the onset of summer, I have been actively biking around a lot lately, and Toronto is a great city for scenic bike trails. With this intent, I went to Canadian Tire.

The store near our place was being renovated, so the usual organization of stuff was lost. I went to the "Bikes" section and could not see the rack. Then I went to the "Auto" section. Similar results. No rack.

After searching helplessly for a few minutes,I flagged down one sales lady.

"Excuse me," I asked her, fully oblivious to what I was saying, "Do you have a rack?"

It took a full minute before I understood why the buxom lady was giving me the look. A minute during which I repeated, "A RACK! Do you have a RACK?" and then gestured with my hands for good effect.


Ex-Squeeze me, lady?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogmeet at Pickle Barrel

Me: Please, be good.

My Hair: No. I was good for two days.

Me: Really?

Hair: Yes. I was good on Friday because Nowal was coming to town and your friends were throwing a dinner. I was good on Saturday because you were attending Desifest and meeting other bloggers and friends there ...

Me: Aren't you redefining 'good'? You were barely tolerable yesterday ...

Hair: Chup! I was GOOD yesterday, check your pictures. But three days in a row is too much to ask.

Me: No please, I beg you. I am meeting some bloggers today for lunch, I need you to be good.

Hair: Sorry, apparently there is a hadith somewhere that you can only expect hospitality to continue for three days only. I have already accommodated you.

Me: So? Today is the third day. And as for that hadith ...

Hair: Sorry. You are not counting Thursday.

Me: What? I was at work! That doesn't count. Please.... I beg you. Be good today! I am meeting Liya and Ahmed for the first time...

Hair: Sorry. No can do. I am going to look like you slept in a tub of Dabur Amla oil.

Me: You know what. I am gonna drive at 140 km per hour on the highway and let the wind through and completely mess you up.

20 min later: Hair 1. Mezba 0. Rain 2.

SO I had lunch with Ahmed, Samosa, Isheeta, Ruby and Liya.

Excerpt 1:

Isheeta: So which way is Pickle Barrel?
Ruby: This way.
Me (under breath to Ahmed): And we follow directions from a woman ...
Me: Uh oh.

Excerpt 2:

Liya: You are taking a picture of your lunch?
Me: Um, ya.... sorry, it's for my blog.

[something only bloggers will understand]

My lunch a.k.a. 'simulated crap' according to the waitress!

Seafood Salad.

So what can I tell you about those guys(and girls)? They are great. Exceptionally down to earth yet very good and kind hearted people - something that is very rare nowadays. For Liya, her students are lucky to have such a cool teacher. Samosa and Isheeta, you make a dynamic duo. Ahmed, I must say this, even as a straight guy, WHAT BICEPS yaar. And Ruby, you give very good directions.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

At the Desifest 2007

  • If you don't know the lyrics to a Punjabi song, just shout, at every 5 seconds interval, "Oye HOYE!" and you'll be with it. For additional effect, add a "Harippa" every now and then.

  • Similarly, if you don't know how to dance to the bhangra, simply raise your hand. No wonder Sikhs are such smart people, present everywhere. Their national dance is "Present, teacher".

    (Check out the front row.)

  • If you are Bengali, don't expect any Bengali item on the itinery. Desi = Indian = Punjabi = Bhangra as far as anyone is concerned. Meanwhile, buy the t-shirt 'Bang a Bangladeshi'.

  • If you are a white guy, PLEASE don't dance the bhangra. Or move to the dhol. Or do ANY SORT of dance. People might clap at you, but we still think you are crazy.

    White Dude Dancing.

  • Guess what Nowal's favourite chocolate is.

    (A: It's Cadbury.)

  • Samosa and Isheeta run into me. I point them to this sign.

    No Samosa For You

  • Apparently, I am not a true desi if I don't like eating bhutta (roasted corn). Now you tell me, does this look appetizing?

    Like yours well done?

    Meanwhile, going back to our white dancer friend:

    Click here if the plugin (above) is not visible, or for a larger version.
  • Friday, May 25, 2007

    No Below 30 Maids

    Renuka Chowdhury, the Indian minister of women and child development, has called for a ban on women under 30 to work as maids in the Gulf in a bid to curb sex trafficking.

    While any attempt to improve the lot of poor women and children should be supported, it always vexes me when people try to cure the symptom rather than the disease. If your roof is leaking, you can't put a bucket under the leak and say all is well. Soon the bucket will overflow, leading to spillage on the carpet. Bacteria will grow in the stagnant water. Meanwhile your crack in the ceiling which caused the leak in the first place will continue to grow bigger.

    Maids, abuse of maids and sex trafficking occur in the Middle East due to the complex nature of the society living in the oil rich states. First, the very example of the Prophet that is given in order to justify polygamy is completely ignored when it comes to household duties. The Prophet used to patch his own sandals, sew his own garments, searched his garment for lice himself, milked his sheep, and helping his wives with the household chores (Tirmidhi 5822). Yet today, in a typical rich household in the Middle East, there are maids to tend to the household tasks, nannies to take care of the babies, drivers to chauffeur the family, gardeners to tend to the lawn and so on. This culture of laziness has also caused a huge problem in modernizing the country - locals tend to ignore education (as their parents have huge oil wealth anyways). Ironically, the most interested in pursuing higher education with due diligence tend to be the females. So, where a family would require at most one maid, you have a whole army of servants tending to their every need.

    Second, there is a superior belief, or arrogance if you will, about the supremacy of one race. This leads to looking down on many others as "rafeek", "miskeen" or what have you. Where else is it part of the culture to attend camel races where the jockeys are kidnapped children from Asia, malnourished to maintain a lower weight, and abused by trainers? Why did no one speak against such a vile and rampant practice for so long? Would any local permit his own kid to be a camel jockey? It is this sense of supremacy, of a feeling of one law for the locals and one for the foreign riff-raff, that ultimately leads to maid abuse.

    Third, one has to examine WHY these local boys, sometimes as young as 14, look at the maids with lust. Is society causing unnecessary hindrance to natural inter-mingling of men and women that boys (and sometimes girls) have to resort to unorthodox manners to quench their subjugated thirst?

    And finally, the fault must also lie with the governments of the subcontinent that knowingly allows its women to serve as maids abroad. They know they themselves have failed to alleviate poverty, to create employment and to structure social welfare programs. So while they busy themselves trying to legislate who can hug whom or tearing down video stores, they will turn a blind eye to the plight of women and children from their own shores being potentially abused as they just try to feed themselves and their family.

    And everyone of them is Muslim!

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    7 Random Facts Meme

    Suroor tagged me here. She wants to know 7 random facts about me.

    1. My favourite comic book character is not Spiderman or Superman, but Tintin the reporter.

    2. I love Matchbox cars. I love collecting them. So far I have more than 50 of those models and have to hide the collection whenever kids visit the house.

    3. If I go on a road trip with my friends and I am not driving, I can NOT go to sleep. I would be consumed by the fear of the incompetence of the current driver. What if he crashes? If I get hit, I won't even KNOW if I am sleeping.

    4. At one time, I simultaneously had a pair of lovebirds, a 90 gallon aquarium full of tropical fish, a cat and a hamster in the house.

    5. I still have a MacGyver poster on my closet door. So what, he was the best.

    6. I am fascinated by the concept of time travel. I think it's possible, but one can only be an observer, not an active actor.

    7. Photography is my hobby and I print almost every picture I take. People have a collection of DVDs. I have a collection of albums.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    When Talent Meant Something

    In the old days, you needed talent to do something. Take for example a mundane tasks such as watching TV.

    When we were in the Middle East, during the early days, there were no 24 hour channels broadcasting the latest desi soaps into our homes. All channels were Arabic, started at noon, and showed camel racing for the better part of the day. There was one channel, Channel 33, broadcast from a neighboring country, that showed a Hindi movie every Thursday night (the weekend night there).

    Oh, how we would all wait for that movie. By the way, disregard complaints of adults that nowadays Hindi movies have gone too Western and show scantily-clad women in provocative poses. The 80s films all had a dance in the rain with the heroine in a white semi-transparent sari, 1 mandatory titillating rape scene followed by an obligatory maa-ka-doodh-piya-to-bahar-aja scene. In other words, family viewing.

    But watching the channel used to be an art - and our family was the expert in that. We had an antenna for catching that elusive channel. Improvisations, such as twisted chicken wire, were added to it to 'boost the signal'. Thursdays our home would revert to something like this with dad calling out instructions:

    "Ok you, go there, and twist the wire at a 45 degree angle."

    "Alright, now sit at that position, OK? Don't move, and you will rotate with your siblings on every song."

    Periodically a tap was needed into the antennae to achieve a clear signal. You had to tap it properly, at the right place with the right force otherwise you would miss the climax of the movie. Weather forecasts came into play, if it was a rainy day a metallic cloth hanger would be added to the wire to amplify the already enhanced signal.

    Then came Zee TV. Our Arab landlord decided he too wanted to catch the latest Salman Khan video so we got Zee TV. And life was never the same again. Flip on the TV, the channel was there. All our skills of catching Channel 33 - gone!

    Then there was of course the Camera Man Uncle. This uncle used to be seen at weddings, usually by himself, yet he was the most sought-after uncle. He had a huge black camera slung from his shoulders. Every now and then, some overdressed aunty with lots of make up or some young twenty-something girl with lots of jewelery and giggling uncontrollably would approach him and ask him to take a picture of their group of similarly giggling friends. Uncle would arise from his slumber, pretend to think about it for a minute, and then grunt a disinterested 'yes'.

    He would then ask the ladies to pose. And scold them because the first picture would always be spoiled by someone. And the ladies, fearful of being on his blacklist, would do their best to oblige his strange requests, such as "You, come in front. You! to the side. And bhabi, you! to the centre please."

    And then of course the girls (or ladies) would bug him for days after until he got to developing the prints. And they would be given, again with a remonstration of why they are not good subjects for pictures and when, back in the day when he was in Bombay, he could shoot Sri Devi and why she was a perfect model.

    Nowadays, this uncle has been emasculated by the digital camera. Even my kid brother has one!

    "Hey, take our picture, please." [At least he said 'please']

    All of a sudden, as you are at a wedding wondering how to bypass the food line, when a camera with numbers such as Zikon 23.5 OPS23/22 is thrust into your hands. You take the picture. Criticism rather than thanks follows.

    "Oh man, my eyes are closed. You didn't even say 1-2-3! You just went 1-2-click! Who DOES that? Here, take it again!"

    And then, some other kid interrupts, "Oh don't worry. I have Photoshop x.z It has a program for handling bad pictures. We just have to correct the lighting co efficiency by a factor of 0.45, and increase the RGB value of the picture, with slight focus on increasing the R part." And off they go.

    Sigh! The 80s.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    The Tech Letter

    Please explain the following to me.
    From: Tech. Support Group.
    To: Me.

    We have analyzed the error report and regret to inform you that the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000 you purchased is incompatible with Windows XP Service Pack 2. It's a known software issue. The problem can be rectified by upgrading to a more compatible mouse.
    Last time I checked, Microsoft made Windows, right? You would think their software would be compatible with their own hardware ...

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Lameass Conversations of The Week - 3

    "How do you know," my fellow Torontonian cousin asked me, as we all gathered in Ottawa for a family reunion, "that we are no longer in Toronto?"

    "Hmm," I pondered, "how?"

    "When you realize that white people are really the majority in this country, and brown people a minority, and the fact that there actually exists Canadians who speak French."
    * * *

    I read an article that said "a mother's cells can migrate to her fetus and remain long after baby grows up" as thus:
    Cells can migrate from mother to fetus and remain in their new home long after baby becomes an adult. A number of researchers are now investigating whether these cells cause disease or fight it, and whether most of us are living with our mothers and don't know it. [the Globe]
    "Wow, this is a cool article," I thought as I emailed it to my mother, along with a message "Happy Mother's Day".

    Mom emailed back, "Thank you, but remember you have to mow the lawn, water the garden, wash the car and vacuum the house."

    "Tomorrow," I emailed back.

    "Hmm," Was her reply, "I think you got more of your father's cells than mine."
    * * *

    "Remember," My Extra-Methodical-Aunt told her 10-year-old daughter, "as soon as the salesperson sees that you like it, he will try to increase the price. He knows he's got you! So be nonchalant, aloof, and talk to me in Bengali if you like what you see."

    "Mom," Vexed daughter replied, "we are going to a garage sale!"

    Link: Previous Lameness

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Tasneem Khalil's Arrest

    I was away in Ottawa so did not have the facilities to post on this - but as I write this, Tasneem Khalil has now been freed. It was an extra-ordinary 24 hours that saw the mainstream media in Bangladesh silent on the arrest of such a notable journalist, while it was his blogger colleagues around the world who rallied behind him and lobbied to secure his release. His crime - Khalil wrote a Human Rights Watch report about the elite Bangladeshi security forces and its alleged participation in torture and extra-judicial killings.

    Both CNN and BBC carry a good background to his story. When the new military backed government took power in Bangladesh and vowed to root out corruption, all of us ordinary Bengalis rejoiced. We should have known "history repeats itself". When Musharref ousted Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistanis who were tired of corruption masquerading as democracy rejoiced at 'accountability in politics'. Today Pakistan is no better than it was on that fateful day when the military took over in Islamabad.

    The only difference in Bangladesh is that the military is behind the scenes, hiding under the facade of a caretaker government that had long forgotten what its purpose was - to weed out corrupt politicians and hold democratic elections.

    The English have a saying - 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'. It seems to fit Bangladesh aptly.

    For more information and links visit Rezwan.

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    On Turkey, Desis in Canada

    On Turkey:

    Whenever I read about Turkey nowadays, and the problems they are having with electing a President, I keep reading about one thing.
    The ruling party's candidate for President, Abdullah Gul, has a headscarf wearing wife.
    What the f*** has this to do with anything? She wears a hijab, doesn't wear a hijab, how does this affect his Presidency? Why is a woman's cloth given so much importance?

    You know, it's all well and good to fight for the right to be not forcible hijabified, which is what they are now claiming Turkey's women are afraid of. But what about those women in Turkey, in France, in Germany, who want to wear the hijab and cannot? Who speaks for their lack of freedom?

    On Desis in Canada:

    The Toronto Star recently launched a magazine exclusively for South Asians in Toronto, called Desi Life. One of the people interviewed for one story was this blogger, and that article is here.

    Beware of these hijabis

    Also, I always believed it is sunnah to know how to defend yourself in a fight. Hail the Ninjabis.

    Meaning Of Words

    One of my cousins visited us recently and we went to one of his friend's place. The guy had a cute one and half year old daughter called Shoma. She always had a smile on her face and you could see in her eyes that she was a mischievous kid. Since I didn't know anyone there, and my cousin and his friend were mostly reminiscing about their (now long past) school days, it was Shoma and me. And her grandma, who never got tired of telling me exactly what Shoma's latest word was since this morning. Shoma brought along ALL of her toys to me (according to her grandma, she never does this).

    I have noticed kids either love me or hate me. Much like girls.

    So the father comes into the room to see me pretending to listen to grandma, feigning interest in Shoma's dolls and trying to watch the Raptors game. So he decides he has to make a remark, and goes, "Wow, Shoma's taken quite a shine to you!"

    "Yes," I replied without thinking, "she's very cute. I think she'll be one impish girl when she grows up."

    "Impish?" The father raised an eyebrow. "Never heard that word before. What does it mean?"

    "Oh," I paused to reflect.

    Now all of you who are brought up in the British school system or in an English speaking country know what "impish" means, right? In this context it means "naughty in a cute way", "playful", or "teasingly mischievous". I told him so.

    It's a nice meaning, right?

    "Oh, ok." He smiled and left. I thought that was that, and went back to watching the Raptors blow an 85-71 lead.

    "Wait," the father had suddenly returned. He had in his hand a dictionary.

    Can you imagine that? Who takes something a guest says and then goes to check it in a dictionary? Hello? Didn't I just tell you what it meant? No, you had to go bring a dictionary and then find the word again in front of me. And it wasn't your Oxford Junior English dictionary either. It was - get this - Samsad English-Bengali dictionary. Written by some Bengali guy, with probably no knowledge of context, common usage or common sense for that manner.

    This is what the father read aloud.

    Imp. In common folklore, evil fairy or devil child. Adjective: Impish. ...

    I guess this is one child whose birthday party I won't be invited to in the future.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    The Aunty's Gripe

    I thought this only happened in an old joke, but the following incident truly occurred!

    An Aunty had come to visit Mom. Following is a snippet of their conversation.

    "So, has your new daughter-in-law moved in?" Mom asked. She didn't know what she was getting into. "Didn't she get admitted to Ryerson?"

    "Oh, yes. She did." Aunty replied, straightening herself into 'complain' mode. "You know, sometimes I wish we had spent a little bit longer in getting my son married. We should have continued to look at more prospects!"

    "Oh?" Mom tried to fake polite disinterest as she realized where this conversation was heading. Aunty didn't take the hint.

    "Yes," she continued. "My daughter-in-law, what can I tell you about her. LAZY NO. 1."


    "Yes! She doesn't even get up in the morning to make breakfast for my son! I mean, he has to make his own cup of tea and sandwich and go to work. She doesn't even make lunch for him! Sleeps till 9 o'clock, can you imagine? This is what I get for bringing a girl from Bangladesh!"

    "Well ..." Mom was trying, to no avail, to steer the conversation away.

    "And another thing," Aunty was on a roll. "You'd think she'd prepare a home cooked dinner for him, but no! Every other day they are going out to eat! I mean, we are home! Sometimes they should eat with us!"

    "I heard," Mom finally cut in, "your son-in-law is a gem."

    "Oh, absolutely!" Aunty positively started beaming. "He's one in a million. He loves my daughter so much! Princess - that's what he calls her! He doesn't even let her wake up in the morning, says a 'princess needs her beauty sleep' - so cute! Gets up early in the morning to pray Fajr, and makes wonderful tea, and when I visit he makes me my morning tea too! My daughter lives in luxury. You know how good a cook my daugher is, but even then he takes her out for dinner every other day! Such a LOVING husband!"