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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


To buy it online from the US, click here.


I am currently on a book tour to promote the book. Please check out our schedule of city launches. India Uncut readers are invited to all of them, no pass required, so do drop in and say hello.


If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho


Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Worlds Apart

James Fallows shows us his two home towns.

(Link via email from Rahul Bhatia.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 May, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Cthulhu Fhtagn!

The signs are ominous.

(Link via email from Gaspode. Previous posts on Eldritch horror: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 May, 2008 in Miscellaneous


On Hindi Swear Words

Genesia Alves writes in to point me to a compendium of Hindi swear words. Such an effort was long overdue, but I wish it had been done better. The translation aims to capture the sense of the abuse rather than the literal meaning, and I’m not sure, in this case, that that’s a good idea.

For example, ‘sala kuttaa’ is translated as ‘stupid bastard’. This is inaccurate. ‘Sala kutta’ (as I would spell it; the extra ‘a’ is redundant) should be translated to ‘brother-in-law dog’. This translation is not merely literally accurate, but possesses immense charm.

You might argue, of course, that if a literal translation adds charm to an abuse, then it loses its sense. But ‘stupid bastard’ captures the sense of almost any abuse, and thus doesn’t do justice to any of them. Indeed, the term ‘bastard’ is used on that page as a translation for ‘chutiya’, ‘haraam zaada’ [sic] and ‘haraami’. It does an injustice to the nuances of all those terms.

Also, ‘chutiya’ is translated twice, as ‘bastard’ and ‘fucker’, and ‘chutiya choo-tia’ is translated as ‘fucker’. Eh?

And in case you think I’m being anal about this, well, my gaandugiri is surely no surpise to those who know me well.

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Sexual Health Adviser—Several Positions

Nitin Pai, teeming with generosity, emails me this marvellous advertisement:

image

I’m sure some applicants would begin their applications with the words, “I have heard that there is a vacancy…”

Posted by Amit Varma on 28 April, 2008 in Media | Miscellaneous


Mr Mahalingam

Vikram Doctor writes in regarding my post on BAN Ki-moon:

This seems to be a particular problem with Korean politicians - there was the foreign minister who everyone was careful to spell Lee Beom Seok to hide the fact that it was pronounced Lee Bum Suk.

I wonder if there are other nationalities particularly prone in this way. A friend in Bangalore had an Estonian boss called Mr Penes which I was told is a common Estonian name. The good TamBrahms in the office were too embarrassed to use the name until they hit on the excellent tactic of calling him Mr Mahalingam!

Well, I suppose Anurag Dikshit would empathize.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Serving Every Need

The website linked below demonstrates how a free market can satisfy the unlikeliest of niches:

http://www.pornfortheblind.org/

If your computer’s volume is turned up, this might be NSFW.

(Link via email from Gautam.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Mr Moon Has Left The Building. Meet Mr Ban

Via messenger chat with Filmiholic, I receive this superb letter sent by Vijay Nambiar, “Chef de Cabinet” at the UN, about how to pronounce Ban Ki-Moon’s name:

image

(There’s a slightly bigger version here.)

I so love the way bureaucrats write. “[D]isseminate this appropriately and discreetly,” it seems. Heh.

Obligatory PJ: What does BAN Ki-moon do every time someone calls out his full name?

Ans: He turns around and drops his pants.

Another one: Why does Andrew Symonds turn around and drop his pants when someone says BAN Ki-moon’s name in front of him?

Ans: He mishears it as “Monkey, moon!”

Ya, ya, be shocked for all I care. No political correctness on this blog.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Deconstruction

The comment of the day comes from Hilary Barnes on Stanley Fish’s blog:

[D]econstruction ... has the consequence, said Roger Scruton, that no text really says anything, including the text which says so; deconstruction deconstructs itself and disappears up its own behind, leaving only a disembodied smile and a faint small of sulphur.

This remind me of the famous graphic, Derrida Obituary Deconstructed.

Earlier: The Nude Bodies of Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Reading Should be Fun

The quote of the day comes from Nick Hornby:

Every time people force themselves to carry on with a book they’re not enjoying, they reinforce the idea that reading is a duty.

So if you’re in the middle of reading a tedious book that seems more like a chore than a joy, put it aside. Read this blog instead. Let India Uncut be your guilty pleasure!

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 April, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Miscellaneous


Fighting Like Boys

Heh!

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


What a Filename Reveals

Who does The Atlantic support in the 2008 US Presidential Elections? If this story is anything to go by, it’s whoever stands against John McCain. Nothing in the text indicates that, but the filename of the photograph on top does. At the time of blogging this, the URL of that picture is:

http://thecurrent.theatlantic.com/McCain%20loser.jpg

I found this via Instapundit, so no doubt they’ll change it soon. What fun.

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Politics


The Utility of Blogs

XKCD is priceless:

(Link via Language Log.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 April, 2008 in Blogging | Miscellaneous


If You’re Depressed…

Amitava Kumar tells us a joke from Karachi:

I was depressed last night so I called Lifeline. Got a call center in Pakistan. I told them I was suicidal. They got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

(Link via email from Salil Tripathi.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


“If We Turn Things Upside Down…”

Check out this great commercial from the 2003 presidential elections in Argentina:

Clever advertising alone isnt enough—Lopez came third that year. But what a commercial!

(Link via email from Nitya Pillai.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 April, 2008 in Media | Miscellaneous | Politics


Savita Bhabhi and the Travelling Bra Salesman

Is this the first Indian porn comic strip, perhaps?

The storyline is immensely corny, but I don’t think that’s a problem in this particular genre. My favourite bit is when the bra salesman goesThank You, Thank You, Thank You GOD!” Heh.

(Link via a reader who wishes to remain unnamed, and writes: “DO NOT hat tip me for this.” WTF?

And obviously this is NSFW. Like, duh…)

Update: Reader Tanisha writes in to point out that my storylines are classier. She is referring to these two posts: 1, 2.

I can only blush with modesty…

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 April, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Miscellaneous


Trapped in an Elevator

Nick Paumgarten has a superb story in the New Yorker about elevators, constructed around the story of one Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours, and whose life fell apart as a result. It’s stunning—both White’s story and Paumgarten’s story.

And after you read that, here’s the time-lapse video.

The only comparable trauma I have been through is when I went to a nearby multiplex and watched Shootout at Lokhandwala. I suppose it could be said that I emerged a stronger human being at the end of it.

(Links via email from Gautam John.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 16 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Rule No. 1—Ignore Facts

Sanjay Sipahimalani is unhappy with an Outlook article on Salman Rushdie, and presents this primer: How To Write About Authors In The Indian Media.

I’m worried people will take it seriously and consider it an instruction manual—just the fate suffered by Schopenhauer’s 38 Ways To Win An Argument. Such it goes.

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 April, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Miscellaneous


The Pissed-Off People of Haiti

Heh.

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Can You Do Your Commute Without Breathing?

You can? Good. What about honking?

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Dinner You Can Drink

Which true blood Punjabi would drink Tandoori Chicken? And if there is any such true-blood Punjabi, I have a further question: would he eat rum and coke?

(Image from Meat Water. Link via email from Gautam John.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


I Swear I Didn’t Realize…

... that this post was posted at 3am. WTF?

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Dementia? Not me!

It turns out that coffee is good for you because it “may cut the risk of dementia by blocking the damage cholesterol can inflict on the body.” Joy. I can rationalize my addiction now.

(Link via Instapundit.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Personal


A Horny Langur

The quote of the day comes from a lady named Ramulamma:

Its actions are worse than a human being.

Ramulamma, a resident of Cherukulapadu village in Kurnool district, is talking about a langur that “saw a couple indulging in sex in the fields recently and since then it is pouncing on women and trying to replicate the act.”

But why is it worse?

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 April, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News


On Large Gorillas, Tantra Challenges and Self-Delighting Sentences

Ah, April 1! It’s that day of the year again when one is wary of taking others seriously, so there is no better time for me to resume blogging. I’m going to be a little tight on time for the next couple of days as well, so here are some links to keep you going.

A couple of readers asked me for my reaction to the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, as it’s my money being spent (not that anyone cares). I shall be lazy and point to Bibek Debroy’s excellent comment in India Today, in which he points out that the proposed hikes will effectively be “a transfer from 375 million who work outside the government to 45 million who work for government and quasi-government bodies.” Aroon Purie also has something to say about the “Rs 66,000 crore gorilla” that runs our country.

A recent example of government dysfunction was the Goa government’s handling of the Scarlett Keeling case: when ministers and top cops come on TV and blame a young girl’s rape on her mother because she left the kid alone, it makes the skin crawl. Devangshu Datta puts it in context of another “WTF moment” he once had on a ship.

Speaking of WTF moments, check out this Shashi Tharoor piece in which he argues that a study that shows “correlation between engineering and terrorism” (with no hint of causation, mind you) constitutes an “argument in favour of studying the humanities.” Lest engineer readers of this blog do something rash in dismay, let me point out that Tharoor does say: “I know a few engineers who wouldn’t harm a fly.” Isn’t that kind of him?

A few days ago I’d blogged about the great Tantra Challenge. Reader Ajit Joshi informs me that he has persuaded Rationalist International to put the videos on YouTube—so here you go.

Speaking of rationalists, Christopher Hitchens writes about Hillary Clinton’s “flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological lying,” and points out how she is guilty of both suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. Read the full piece.

Finally, I shall end with the quote of the day, from the Economist review of Salman Rushdie’s “The Enchantress of Florence”:

Mr Rushdie ought to bear in mind that a novelist is at heart a storyteller, not a serial creator of self-delighting sentences.

What baffles me is that there are actually many people who love those self-delighting sentences, such as the good friend who sent me the above link, Manish Vij. I assure all pretty desi women in Boston and thereabouts—Manish was available last I heard—that he has no other bad qualities.

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 April, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | India | Miscellaneous | Politics | WTF


The Four Horsemen Of The Atheist Apocalypse

Heh.

(Link via email from Gautam.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Dear Harlan Coben

Dear Harlan Coben

Don’t be silly. Kids tend to be smarter than their parents think they are. If you put spyware on your children’s computers, two things will happen. One, they will detect it—and perhaps put malware on your machine. Two, they will resent your intrusion for the rest of their lives.

Sure, I understand your desire to protect them. But before thinking of the damage the rest of the world might do to them, think of the damage you would cause by betraying their trust.

Regards

Amit Varma

*

More open letters here.

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 March, 2008 in Letters | Miscellaneous


‘An Empty Road in a Deserted Landscape’

Last year the Sunday Times carried a letter written by Andre Gorz, a French philosopher, to his terminally ill wife. Here’s an excerpt:

You’ve just turned 82. You are still beautiful, graceful and desirable. We’ve lived together now for 58 years and I love you more than ever. Lately I’ve fallen in love with you all over again and I once more carry inside me a gnawing emptiness that can only be filled by your body snuggled up against mine.

At night I sometimes see the figure of a man, on an empty road in a deserted landscape, walking behind a hearse. I am that man. It’s you the hearse is carrying away. I don’t want to be there for your cremation; I don’t want to be given an urn with your ashes in it. I hear the voice of Kathleen Ferrier singing, ‘Die Welt ist leer, Ich will nicht leben mehr’ and I wake up. I check your breathing, my hand brushes over you.

Each of us would like not to survive the other’s death. We’ve often said to ourselves that if, by some miracle, we were to have a second life, we’d like to spend it together.

They committed suicide together.

(Link via email from Peter. Pictures courtesy the Times.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Size Doesn’t Matter?

Think again. In a story about a whale that exploded “on a busy street, showering nearby cars and shops with blood and organs,” MSNBC reports:

Once moved to a nearby nature preserve, the male specimen—the largest whale ever recorded in Taiwan—drew the attention of locals because of its large penis, measured at some five feet, the Taipei Times reported.

“More than 100 Tainan city residents, mostly men, have reportedly gone to see the corpse to ‘experience’ the size of its penis,” the newspaper reported.

A five foot penis? I’m beginning to wonder if tides are really caused by the moon. If enough whales masturbate together…

(Link via email from n.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News


The Approval Matrix

New York Magazine has published a cool approval matrix, which I found via Tim Harford’s blog, in which The Logic of Life makes it to ‘brilliant’ and ‘lowbrow’. Where would be India Uncut be, I wonder?

My conceit is that it would place somewhere between The Logic of Life and the lost subway cat, Georgia, but I’m sure many readers believe that it deserves to go off the bottom left corner, perhaps between Bai Ling’s legs. I can live with that.

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Seven New Deadly Sins

BBC reports:

The Vatican has brought up to date the traditional seven deadly sins by adding seven modern mortal sins it claims are becoming prevalent in what it calls an era of “unstoppable globalisation”.

Those newly risking eternal punishment include drug pushers, the obscenely wealthy, and scientists who manipulate human genes. So “thou shalt not carry out morally dubious scientific experiments” or “thou shalt not pollute the earth” might one day be added to the Ten Commandments.

The seven new deadly sins are:

1. Environmental pollution
2. Genetic manipulation
3. Accumulating excessive wealth
4. Inflicting poverty
5. Drug trafficking and consumption
6. Morally debatable experiments
7. Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

So if you drive a car, you’re sinning. If you’re a medical researcher experimenting with gene therapy to find cures for diseases like muscular dystrophy , you’re sinning. If you provide a service or create a product that millions of people buy from you because they benefit from that transaction, and you become very rich as a result, you’re sinning.

What’s more, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the source of this new list, has been quoted as saying that abortion is one of the “greatest sins of our times.”

If I was sanctimonious enough to start listing sins, one of the first I’d name is lusting to have others live their lives according to your values. Organised religion is the biggest sinner in this regard. Still, in this case it’s voluntary, and that’s more than you can say for some governments.

(Link via email from Gautam.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous | WTF


What Would Mr Jumaaaani Make Of This?

“Government awards Padma Shri to Shri Shri Ravishankar, causing spiritual leader to be called Padma Shri Shri Shri Ravishankar.”

So if you’re a stammering devotee, your problem just got worse.

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Cthulhu For President

No, no, not in America, where greater evil is at work. Cthulhu apparently appeared on the ballot in Russia, no doubt to little avail, for the tentacles of Vladimir Putin are not to be underestimated. Dread evils stalk these eldritch nights of unspeakable horror.

(Links via VatsaL and Vivek respectively.

Previous posts on Eldritch horror: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Politics


I Read Playboy For The Stories

Hey, listen, that’s entirely plausible. After all, if Viagra can be used to save lives...

(Link via email from Ojas Sabnis.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News


Jimmy Wales’s T-Shirt

Heh.

(Link via email from Rahul.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 March, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Spamming Isn’t Free Speech

David Chartier reports that Jeremy Jaynes, a resident of North Carolina, has just been sentenced to nine years for spamming—in particular, for “sending what authorities believe to be millions of messages over a two-month period in 2003.” Jaynes’s lawyers argued that spamming was free speech, which the courts correctly threw out because the spam he sent broke “the US CAN SPAM law’s condition of giving recipients a means of contacting the sender.”

If Jaynes really wanted to exercise his free speech—Hey there, is your nose big enough?—he could simply have sent those mails to himself, or put them on a blog where they wouldn’t be invasive in any way. But a person’s email account is his private property, and by invading that, Jaynes went beyond the bounds of free speech. Sure, it is evident that we can’t possibly take prior permission to email people before emailing them, which would be delightfully surreal, but when I get an unwanted email, I should have the option to tell its sender not to write to me again. If that opt-out option isn’t there, it amounts to theft, as it encroaches upon my storage space, bandwidth and time.

Also read: The Origin of Human Rights.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 March, 2008 in Freedom | Miscellaneous | News


Instructions For Looking After Baby

Dooce links to a hilarious instruction manual for parents that uses a series of illustrations to lay out Dos and Donts of handling babies. My favourites:

The second one would be relevant to me if I was a parent, I suspect. Check out the rest of these images at makememinimal.com—and if it all seems like too much work, just use protection.

(Dooce link via email from Shrabonti.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 28 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


The Perils of Being a Straight Guy

Check out these posts by Arnold D’Souza on:

a] The advantages of being gay.

b] The advantages of being female.

I’m wishing I was a lesbian now. So much fun I’d have watching myself in action.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


“Sorry for the Interruption…”

If only Macaulay was alive to see this:

(Link via email from Vinjk.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 26 February, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Miscellaneous


Have You Seen The DPS RK Puram MMS?

If so, the US government could arrest you. Kunal Sawardekar explains why.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Occupational Hazards

Being a journalist can be dangerous. Al Kamen reports:

Reporters covering President Bush’s trip to Africa are dropping like flies. The latest victim was Jon Ward of the Washington Times, who somehow ran through a plate-glass window at the Liberian executive mansion yesterday while trying to keep up with the president. Colleagues say he has cuts on his right hand but is in surprisingly good shape, our colleague Peter Baker reports.

Somehow, I wish that had happened to Dick Cheney. After all, Bush chose him as his running mate, didn’t he? And anyway, what’s Bush doing in Liberia?

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 February, 2008 in Journalism | Media | Miscellaneous


The Postman Always Eats Twice

“Australia’s postal service,” reports Reuters, “has increased the maximum weight for mailmen and women by 15 kg (33 pounds) in an attempt to attract more ‘posties’.”

Australia Post had a weight limit of 90 kgs (198 pounds) for “posties” because its 110cc motorcycles had a safe working limit of 130kg (286 pounds)—that’s 40kg (88 pounds) for letters and up to 90 kgs for mailmen and women fully clothed.

But after talks with motorcycle manufacturer Honda it was agreed the bikes could safely carry a “postie” weighing 105 kgs (231 pounds), said Sydney’s the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But the “posties” will only carry 25 kgs of mail.

I suggest they increase the weight limit to 130kg, and make their postmen carry email.

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News


The Old Chinese Woman and the Chicken

Some story, this. Someone should write a version of it with a dead baby that comes to life when the Chinese woman does the smashing trick. “This ain’t a dead baby any more,” she could say to the driver, “but somewhere a life has gone so this child could breathe. Call home.”

(Link via email from Manish.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


If TV Was A Person

This is superb.

(Link via email from Shrek.)

Update: And also…

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 February, 2008 in Media | Miscellaneous


Dogs and Islam

Responding to this post, Aakar Patel writes in:

Dogs are thought unclean by Arabs not for western influence, but because of an utterance of the prophet, I think recorded by Sahih al-Bukhari. This continues from the Semitic tradition of labeling some animals unclean—shellfish and swine etc—and is no more remarkable than bestowing divinity on animals.

I agree with that last bit, but will not elaborate, lest cow worshippers attack me with 295(a).

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


Princeton

1936.

2001.

(Links via email from Gautam and Shrek respectively.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


On YouTube Comments

In response to my call to read the YouTube comments here, Shrek points me to this marvellous XKCD comic:

I, of course, remain a Rediff message board loyalist—nothing can beat those chappies.

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous


The Dream of Being a Mumbaikar

Farah Baria tells us the story of her maid.

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 February, 2008 in India | Miscellaneous


How to Be Nasty

The Gawker formula’s been leaked.

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 February, 2008 in Blogging | Miscellaneous


Office Warfare

Damn. Why weren’t there USB Rocket Launchers in my time?

(Link via email from Scribbler.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Personal


A Twitter Log of Getting Fired

Henry Blodget reproduces Ryan Kuder’s twitter log that recounts his getting fired from Yahoo. Good stuff.

Yahoo sacked more than 1000 employees yesterday, by the way. Most of them will now, ahem, search for jobs…

(Link via email from Sumant.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 February, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News


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