Tuesday 31 July 2012


The feel-good factor (or as one TV commentator called it last night "the good-feel factor") brought to the UK by the Olympics is at last actually being seen and can now be believed.

I have to admit I was a skeptic (the TV commentator would have called me septic!) and the overkill of the Olympic torch relay around Britain left me and many others wondering whether another 3 to 4 weeks of Beach Volleyball would be desirable, or even sufferable. But then we had the opening ceremony!

After Beijing had spent something in the order of £200m on the opening ceremony alone, our meager budget of around 10% of that looked silly if we were do match the spectacle of China in 2008. So we did what we always do...we asked for thousands of volunteers and asked one of our best film directors (Danny Boyle) to put on a little show. Danny's theme idea of rural Britain becoming industrial Britain with all it implied was breathtaking and his use of people, colour, sound and props was superb. We didn't need the regimented thousands of Beijing. We used humour!

The appearance of Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) as the one finger synthesiser player with one note to play was brilliant as he took over the theme from Chariots of Fire. The appearance of the Queen and James Bond was totally unexpected. I really can't imagine any other monarch aged 86 and in her 60th year on the throne who would agree to take part in something lie that. Her popularity was already very high and it must have reached the stratosphere after Friday.

All the musicians and especially the pop stars like Paul McCartney were paid £1 to appear, and all the "actors" who took part were volunteers who spent up to 200 hours rehearsing their parts. Kenneth Branagh was great as Isembard Kingdom Brunel, though at time he did look a bit like Harry Enfield, and J K Rawling read beautifully. For 1 1/2 hours we entertained and overawed.

The parade of the athletes was the usual mix of exuberance and national pride. The only question was what were the copper buckets carried by each team as they came in...and who was going to have the honour of lighting the cauldron. The appearance of David Beckham on the Thames driving the flame torch to the stadium, then handing it to Steve Redgrave surely gave us the answer, but No. Redgrave lit seven torches carried by future  athletes, nominated by seven current and past athletes. The cauldron was then lit by all seven unknowns and the 204 copper buckets turned out to be the flame points of the cauldron. A brilliant idea and maybe the arguments as to whether it should be Redgrave or Thompson was a smoke-screen.

Day 4 and the UK has won a couple of silvers and two bronze medals. Supposedly we were going to win everything, but as the Australians say, the British excel at games where we can do them sitting down. Tell that to Mo Farrah!

Blog on, Dudes!

Sunday 29 July 2012

PART TWO OF "BONDING" By Lakshmi Raj Sharma

This takes the story of "Bonding" to its surprising conclusion. The story focuses on the cultural situations that occur in a country like India that has a proud heritage, coupled with a traditional past, and how modern thought and pressures have an impact.
Lakshmi Raj Sharma, the well-known Indian aurhor, is prfessor of English and European Languages at Allahabad University.

                                                     Bonding (part 2)

Himanshu observed Suparna. But he didn’t realize that as he did that he became the object of Pallavi’s observation. Pallavi adored the man who remained undisturbed by a wife like Suparna. What was more, Pallavi hated Suparna for never realizing the fact that Himanshu was doing what very few men could do. The more Pallavi asked Suparna to pay attention to this fact the more agitated Suparna became, till she finally asked Pallavi a question.
‘Have you come to Saharnpur for me or for Himanshu?’
‘For Himanshu.’
‘For Himanshu????’
‘Yes, for him. I knew your feelings towards men, and I had to save this man from you. You could have easily become violent against him, as you did with that Urfi. I was really worried about your husband.’
‘My husband? Crap! And balls! Who can call himself my husband? Who has the guts to do that?’
‘The one you married, Suparna!’
‘What’s wrong with you Pallavi? You are becoming more and more disappointing! You . . . . I am not talking to you! You’ve really changed! What’s happened to you? Has someone done some jaadu-tonaa on you. Who could have thought that my own Pallavi will be talking to me like this?’
‘If you call me your own Suparna, you should listen to me. We were quite stupid then, in College. Our actions were so silly, so unthought, so unsocial. We are born into a world where we are responsible to someone, to some people, to a community, to a society. We cannot run a society according to our own whims!’
‘You cheat! You were cheating me all these days? I hate you!’
‘Suparna, please don’t say that! You were so protective towards me, so loving, how could I have disappointed you. I was so much under your emotional debts. I had no one to love me at home, and here was someone pouring oceans of love on me. How could I have not responded to you then? How could I have broken your heart?’
‘By the same logic, how can you break my heart now?’
‘Now you are in a different situation. You are married, damn it! How can you treat your marriage like a joke? How can you have no consideration for the man you have married? Is he made of wood or stone? He also has a heart. When someone marries a woman he has expectations from her, he gives her the most significant place in his life. And you have just kicked him aside for doing that? Can’t you see what the poor man is going through?’
‘Poor man? The poor man is having a gala time. He married one wife but he has two women to call his own. He is having a rollicking time, Pallavi. We are the ones who are breaking up. He has divided us so smartly. He believes in divide and rule. He has poisoned you against me. That is the way men have ruled over us for centuries. Women stand no chance; they will always be outsmarted by men because women themselves are enemies of women. They will always support men against their own sex!’
‘Suparna! Stop crying, Suparna! I did not want to hurt you!’
‘No, you wanted to kill me, Pallavi. This is how you can murder me! Go ahead kill me, kill me, kill me!’
Pallavi had no option but to embrace Suparna. Suparna tried to break free first but then allowed her tears to get the better of her. She wept to her heart’s content as her bosom merged with her companion’s.
Suparna was once again able to get the emotional support she needed from Pallavi. But this time the situation was slightly different. Pallavi was supporting her only because without that Suparna would have broken down. She had to therefore quietly confide in Himanshu and convince him that she was staying in his house only to help Suparna accept him as husband. Himanshu was touched by Pallavi’s decision to stay on. He allowed her to have a free hand in whatever strategy she had in mind. When his mother made the mistake of complaining that Pallavi was overstaying and maintained that she ought to leave as she had been with them for more than a month, Himanshu came down heavily upon her. He had worked hard for the family’s business to be able to afford a guest staying with the family. This was the only guest he had ever had who came to stay with them. What was the point in doing business instead of a job if one could never even host a friend?
Pallavi was playing a double game. She had to do this very carefully. The slightest mistake would break her ties with Suparna or with Himanshu. She had to keep their trust in tact. Haider saw what a wonderful person Pallavi was. He kept telling his wife, the agreeable Saba, about this girl’s remarkable character. As a result there was much interest generated with regard to Suparna and Pallavi in Haider’s home. Hyder lived with his wife and her divorcee sister, Shama in a set up that wasn’t enviable. There were always problems. Saba wondered whether Haider was gradually developing more regard for her charming sister than was good for his health. Shama had the misery of nowhere to go as her widowed mother had died soon after her marriage. She was there like a hot potato which could neither be swallowed nor spitted out. She had little option but to be in Haider’s home if she was to live. But she could have aroused too much pity in Haider’s heart and ended up as his second wife. Saba therefore thought it a good idea to visit Himanshu’s place where Shama’s mind would find diversion in the fascinating situation that existed there.
Pallavi also liked the presence of the sisters as that helped easing Suparna’s tension. Suparna had been getting into fits of moodiness and posing problems for everyone. Suparna was keen on female company and these soft spoken women had a special appeal for her. That evening she was fascinated by the lemon gharara worn by Shama and the light blue one that her sister wore. She herself had got used to wearing jeans in Delhi and now in Saharanpur she found herself wearing saris or salwar suits as she had married into a traditional home and Pallavi insisted that she wear the expensive clothes that her rich father had packed with her. Suparna was on the point of finally rejecting cumbersome clothes when she saw, this evening, how graceful women could look if they wore traditional clothes. Of course she could never even dream of wearing these clothes herself unless she was dressing for a fancy dress show. For her, comfort came first and then anything else. But the fact was that Saba and Shama wore such beautiful dresses and Suparna adored the women in them. Women had this unique quality. They dressed up aesthetically for the pleasure of others. Suparna was not like other women in this; she treated herself like a man and thought it was her job to admire the effort the two women had put into their dressing.
‘How beautiful these ghararas are,’ Suparna said to them.
‘They were stitched by Ammi. She was old and sick in her last days, but she sat up and stitched our ghararas so painstakingly,’ said Shama.
‘O, so they are not readymade? How wonderful!’
‘Ammi was a rare kind of woman,’ said Saba.
‘Women are women! They are always rare,’ said Suparna. ‘Women know that they have to live up to situations. They are not like men who do what they want to rather than what they must.’

Pallavi welcomed this argument from Suparna because she wanted her to rise to her own situation and settle down well with her husband.
‘How right, Suparna,’ she said. ‘A woman may come from any part of the world; her one purpose in life is to build a home, to promote the family and the husband’s interests.’
Suparna was not happy with this statement at all. She ignored Pallavi’s remark, got up and went to sit near Shama. Her movement was a signal to Pallavi, ‘Don’t say such things or you’ll annoy me!’

Pallavi got the message that Suparna wasn’t very happy when she raised the point about the importance of the home in a woman’s life. But she continued to smile at her as Suparna went and sat near Shama. Pallavi noticed that Shama had striking oriental features and wondered why a husband could have deserted such a beautiful wife.
Suparna was not far from noticing Shama’s charming face, either. She sat near her and began to probe into her life. Before long she had gathered that there was no chance of Shama and her husband getting back with each other and that now Shama was free to remarry or live the life of a prisoner. Shama did not even imagine that there was the possibility of life without a man. Suparna thought it her responsibility to make Shama understand how much was possible without a husband; that it was every woman’s right to enjoy life rather than be chained down mentally and physically to the drudgeries of a wife’s responsibilities. Suparna’s talk cheered up Shama and she suddenly seemed to change; giving up her ‘all gone’ state for a ‘so, all is not lost yet’ attitude. Suparna had the art of intellectual discourse and her talent lay in convincing women about their strengths. Marriage was, of course, not her cup of tea. Instead of making her happy it would make her gloomy. Her parents ought to have known that. She was clearly in the wrong place in Himanshu’s home. She told Shama as much in one of her weaker moments.
‘Why did you marry him, then?’ asked Shama.
‘Marriages are made in heaven, Shama!’
‘You are quite right. I was also married off to a man because he was rich, not because I loved him. I tried my best to stop the marriage from materializing, but my father knew what he was doing. I never allowed my husband to sleep with me.’
‘Good! That is exactly as it ought to be.’

Bitterness towards Pallavi grew in Suparna’s heart. Pallavi had turned out to be like any other woman, supporting a silly man slavishly. When would sense dawn on Indian women, she wondered. Till when would they bear the yoke of men? Could they never derive happiness from each other without thinking of men? It was a sickening state of affairs, she thought. Pallavi’s presence was gradually becoming a pain for Suparna. She didn’t know how to tell her that, though. Pallavi had come to Saharanpur at her request after all. It was probably best to wait and watch her behavior. Pallavi could see Suparna cooling off, and began to busy herself with an e-book, the novel, Leap of Faith, that had just come out.

That evening when Suparna asked her to accompany her to Shama and Saba, Pallavi said that she had a headache and would rather stay back. This seemed to suit Suparna because she would have all the time with the sisters to herself. She walked to the neighborhood friends to have a change.

When Himanshu found Pallavi alone he wondered what the matter was. After an initial hesitation for more than an hour, he walked up to her room and tried to find out. He discovered her sitting with her Kindle reading something. When he entered she got up from her sofa and asked him to sit on the other one in front of her. They both sat down a little formally and a little awkwardly at first. But before five minutes could elapse they were perfectly comfortable with each other. Pallavi told him about her life as it led to the Suparna phase and dwelt at length on how miserable her childhood had been. She then began to apologize for Suparna’s unbecoming behavior towards him.
‘But why should you be apologetic? I did not marry Suparna on your recommendation. It was my fate. I had even decided to marry her off to the man of her choice, but then I realize that she was interested in no man but in women. We were just not made for each other. I have managed to keep the flood of rage from overwhelming till now. But I do not know till when I will be able to contain it within myself. I once wanted to come down very heavily upon you because you had known that she was my wife and yet you came to wreck my home at her invitation. How could you ever have done such a thing? If you had not been so graceful in all your dealings, I might have gathered the courage to give it to you properly. But whenever I saw you I was tongue-tied. You have something so magical about you. I thought it have been this magic which you probably caste upon Suparna as well.’

Pallavi began to sob and then became hysterical. Himanshu thought it necessary to comfort her before one of his parents entered the room to see what the problem was. He went up to her, raised her from the sofa and held her close to himself. The more he pressed her closer, the more she seemed to break down. Finally, she too picked up her arms and embraced him. In that position, without meeting his eyes, she told him everything about how she had been depending upon Suparna’s support which was emotional to begin with but which had acquired a physical nature later. And now she was prepared to do anything to set the situation for Suparna and her husband right. She would leave them in their home to try out their luck with each other and return to her father to begin life anew. She told him all this while still locked in his arms and little wanting to be set free. Just then the curtain shook and Suparna entered. The two pulled themselves away from each other and stood there looking shaken and guilty.
‘Headache? This is the headache that you told me about? Headache! I am ashamed of you, Pallavi. Disgusting! But I suppose this is the best thing to have happened because I in any case had decided to take Shama with me to Delhi. We decided we’d live there instead of this place which is so unnatural for both of us. I have enough inheritance with me to support her. We’ve decided we’re doing a garment business there. I think she is an amazing person and not such a traitor like you, Pallavi. She is also in a very unenviable situation in that home; always living under suspicion that she could become her brother-in-law’s second wife. For no fault of hers she has to suffer there so much. Like me, she too was married to man. Even her parents could not see that all women are not the same. Some prefer to live in female company. In this man’s world, if a woman says that she does not like the company of men, she is treated as though she were a sinner.’

Pallavi and Himanshu looked stunned as Suparna walked out of their lives forever. But there was some relief for everyone in this arrangement, and so neither Himanshu nor Pallavi uttered a word. Silence seemed so much preferable.

Saturday 28 July 2012


Over the years I've been to 47 countries round the world, both on holiday and on business. I've seen many of what are considered to be "must see" sights, but I've seen many more that I considered to be either even more stunning or of greater interest. See what you think.

- The view from The Peak in Hong Kong - From the observation platform on the highest point of Hong Kong you can see right round the island and on days when there's no mist you can actually see the various towns laid out far below. Unfortunately the mist and humidity in Hong Kong makes it rare for there to be a clear view.
- The Worms Head in S. Wales - The Worms Head is a mile long outcrop on the Gower Peninsular that is only 100 feet wide It is a series of three linked rocky promentaries with the last being a rearing stack. The three look like a dragon arching its back and rearing its head and neck. The word worm is a corruption of the viking Wyrm, meaning dragon. A causeway links the Head and the mainland, but is only accessible for 5 hours either side of the tides and has proved fatal to those who linger. The sunset over the Worm's Head and the Bristol Channel is reportedly one of the most beautiful in the world.
- Elephanta Island Bombay - About an hour by ferry from Bombay harbour is an series of islands, the most interesting of which is Elephanta. The throng of ornament seller are far from annoying and the items they sell are beautifully made, ranging from exquisite iny elephants to beautifully made carved boxes. Strangely, there are no elephants on the island, however a climb to the top of a small hill reveals wonderful stone carvings thousands of years old, cut into caves and the rock face.
- Canyon of the Condors in Peru - Peru is famous for Machu Picchu, however one of the most awe-inspiring sights is Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world. The deepest is also in Peru and is nearly twive the depth of the Grand Canyon. Just after dawn, as the heat thermals begin to rise from the valley floor, the Condors slowly rise, using the thermals for lift. Condors are a type of vulture, are the largest land bird and their wing span is more than 10 feet. The sight of them rising is nothing short of majestic.
- Symi Island - The island is a two hour boat ride from Rhodes and is an island of two parts and eras. The first, where the ferry drops you is on the older side of the island. A walk up the twisting road to the island's hilly summit passes old, undisturbed farms and houses, many of which still have bullet pock-marks from the German invasion. Eerything is quiet and heavy. As you walk down the other side of the island the atmosphere seems to lighten and the harbour village is bustling with tourists and cafes
- Ancient Kamiros on Rhodes - On the North coast of Rhodes is a an area of cleared woodland that hides the ruins of  a Doric town called Kamiros. Discovered in 1929, excavations continued until the Second World War. The area is on a par with Pompei, but has the added advantage of being relatively unknown. When I went there my wife and I were the only visitors and the old man at the entrance nearly fell off his chair when we turned up. He eventually woke up enough to try to sell us decades old sepia post cards.
- The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen - Immortalised by Hans Christian Anderson, the little mermaid stands on a an incline of rocks at the mouth of Copenhagen harbour. At 2 feet high it's easy to miss from the sea and isn't visible from the land, but when you see it, you understand why the Danes make such a fuss aboyt it.
- Mount Evasion in Scotland -Mount Evasion is on the Knoydart Peninsluar. From the main road at the start of the peninsular there's a track for 10 miles that ends at a deserted farmhouse and after that a walk for a further 15 miles to the center of the peninsular and Moubr Evasion. It's not that the mountain is difficult to climb (there are difficult routes as in all mountains and this is mostly a stiff walk) it's the fact that the center of the mountain is the most remote place in the UK. It's around 25 miles to the nearest habitation and slightly more than that to the village of Moydart at the far end of the peninsular, The pub in Moydart used to be owned by the brother of the chief distiller of the company that makes the special whisleys for the House of Commons and the Queen. The odd case would find its way to Moydart (allegedly!) and I can confirm it was the smoothest dram I ever tasted!
- Wenceslas Cathedral in Prague - The cathedral is vast and typically monumental, however its greatest treasure is the Black Statue of Christ. I was there on business and my host told me the following story. When the Germans invaded Prague, the church managed to hide many of its greatest treasures, however the staue of Christ made of gold was too heavy and large to be able to hide it in the time available. They hit on the idea  of painting the statue with thick black paint and leaving it in full view. The Germans ignored it and it still remains on public view as the Black Statue of Christ.
- Petra in Jordan - Petra is no secret, though not as much visited as its fame would suggest. The deep winding canyon path that takes you to the start of the city ends at the Treasury (famous as the building in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade). Everyone says "Wow!" as they turn the corner and see the Treasury for the first time. Guides will take you to the main touristy and easily reached parts of Petra, but if you can get away there are parts of Petra that are far more fascinating and if you have the time, more remote. I've been there twice for a day each time, though I've heard that the price for a day ticket has soared to £75 since Petra became a World |Heritage Site.
- St Catherine's church in Egypt - Perched in a valley half way up Mount Sinai is a monastery, inside of which is a tiny church in which the skeleton of St Catherine is kept in two silver caskets. Reputedly the monastery fell on hard times and the monks prayed one night and were told by God to go to the top of the mountain where they would find the remains of St Catherine who had been martyred by the Romans on the Wheel as a young girl. The monks found the skeleton and brought it back to the monastery, changing the name to that of the saint. Their fortunes also changed for the better. The only part of the skeleton on view is a finger bone on the basis of which someone estimated Catherine was more than 7 feet tall. Not bad in those days for a young girl!
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Far from being a sterile communist city, Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City) is a cosmopolitan, vibrant place with less military and police presence than many countries I've visited. The food is a cross between Chinese, India and Thai and the prices are incredibly low. A friend and I had a multi-course meal with a special iced coconut desert and beers for less than $10. If you visit the HMC market look out for the polo shirts. They're, not copies, they're real (from the factory backdoor) and what would cost you £80 in the UK is $6 in the market...less if you buy in volume. You can also buy beautilly made wooden model sailing ships. I saw one of the Cutty Sark that had all the rigging and sails and was perfect in avery detail. at over 2 feet in length it would have been around £300 to £400 in the UK. I asked how much it was and the stall-holder seeing I was a tourist increased his price to $25, but quickly bargained down to $15. I was very tempted, but I'd never have got it home. Incidentally the same polo shirts are available in Bangko market for the same low prices.

And you? What are your wonders of the world?

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 27 July 2012

The world's most useful (?) gadgets and inventions!

- Can opener -which was actually invented after the can, when the cry went up "anyone know how to open this thing?"
- 3 pin plug to confuse foreigners. Every other country uses 2 pins (some flat and some round, but 2 pins). The UK uses 3 pins for safety and to force us all to buy very expensive adapters every time we fly to another country. It is also a fact they self-destruct at the end of each trip abroad and are never seen again. They could of course be homing adapters and make their way back to the factory.
- Left handed dog lead - this was seriously invented, though whether it was for left-pawed dogs or left-handed owners I don't know. There is also no discernible difference between a right and left handed version, unlike other left-handed devices like scissors.
- The auto-sensor soap dispenser - Probably the most stupid device sold to a gullible mass market ever. The idea is you won't catch germs by having to touch a normal push-down soap dispenser. So....what about taps, the toilet flush handle and then drying your hands on a communal towel.
- Deodorants - thses have two functions a) they stop you sweating (they usually don't) and b) they make you smell nice (I smell nice anyway). Much of the spray from one of these aerosols misses the body and ends up polluting the atmosphere. Not very green. And Man was meant to smell sweaty. It'd the pheromones that have been attracting women for thousands of years, not some artificial niff in a can.
- ICONIC - The word "iconic" used over 1,550 time during the River Thames pageant at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Every single building in London and every landmark was described as being ICONIC by the BBC and if the word had not been invented, the commentators would have been lost for words. Well, one word anyway. Like many words, it's been used far too frequently and its true meaning has been lost. Let's face it the word is itself Iconic. And NO, it is not a type of Greek archway!
- Duct tape - Pure ordinary Duct Tape (the stuff you buy at B&Q has a legion of fans. People have made clothes out of it (including a wedding outfit) and NASA used it on the Moon to mend bit and bobs (reputedly the toilet)
- Swiss Army Knife - No one seems to know whether every person in the Swiss army has one of these knives, or not, but either way it's the standard among knives and has for so long been the base tool for anyone wanting to get a stone out of a horse's hoof.
- The electric blanket -The original model was  invented by John Harvey Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame so people could sleep outside where it was healthy. What happened when it rained is not recorded, but it could explain why he gave up on inventing and went into breakfast cereals.
- The Kindle - If you love books (and I mean hard and softback books, not little screens) then the Kindle will be a pet hate. I write books and love the feel of real paper, but I have to admit that many people now read electronic books on the train when a book might have been too bulky. This is especially true of 50 Shades of Gray where reading on a Kindle gives no one any hint you might be reading porn on the early commuter train to Waterloo!
- Microwave Oven - quick and easy food, ready in 5 minutes. The only trouble is it only heats things up. It doesn't cook them. So bread and pastry come out limp and soggy and everything else is mouth-searingly hot. DO NOT try to dry your dog in a microwave after bathies!
- Video players - VHS v Betamax v Phillips 2000. That was the technology war 35 years ago. Phillips was the first to disappear, then Betamax, leaving the VHS system to rule the world. Unfortunately the Phillips 2000 system was universally agreed to be far superior to its rivals, followed by Betamax. The VHS system was the least  efficient, but as so often happens, marketing and money won over technical genius.
- Answering machine -these provided a whole new career for voice-over artists such as John Cleese. Also for the first time you could let the phone ring, allow the answering machine to switch on and listen to who was on the line. Then, if you wanted to speak to them, pick up the phone. If you didn't you could always pretend the dog chewed up the tape...until they went digital, of course. Then the dog chewed the chip!
- GPS - A whole new career for vehicle rescue companies helping cars and drivers who were directed off cliffs, through flooded fords and through alley ways too narrow for their vehicles. Strangely the drivers never looked at the road but preferred to trust a little screen and a seductive voice.
- TV remote controls. - As we sit down to watch superb athletes battle for gold, silver and bronze, bear a thought for the man who invented the TV remote control. Without the remote you might actually have to get up out of you comfy chair to change channels from swimming to athletics and back. In the time it would take to make the decision to get up, change channels and sit down again, Usain Bolt will have won all his heats of the 100m and proudly held up the gold while the Jamaican national anthem plays.
- Alarm Clock - Why do we need alarm clocks? That's what wives, Mums, and grandmas were invented for isn't it. They get up , make a nice cuppa and then wake up the man of the house with a gentle smack!
- Cuddly Polar Bear toys - Let's face it, there's no more fearsome creature on the planet (since T-Rex left) than the Polar Bear. It's a vicious killer and none too particular what it kills, and yet kiddies love them and millions of cuddly ones are bought every year. It is a fact that a polar bear has never killed a penguin.
- Sunglasses - Sunglasses make total sense in countries where the sun beats down and the blue of the sky is so deep it hurts, but cool looking shades used in nightclubs where it's less than twilight makes no sense at all. Surely anyone wearing shades in a really dark place is going to be blinded when they emerge into normal daylight without their Ray Bans.
- Trainers - for thousands of years Man didn't wear shoes and we were perfectly comfortable walking and running in our bear feet. Then we became civilised and  built villages, and then towns and cities, most of which were concrete lined and all of which had stuff on the floor you didn't want to tread in. So we invented shoes. Our feet are now forced to grow in the shape the shoes dictate, giving rise to the first instance of bunions! So we could be more comfortable we invented slippers and for those who want to get back to nature and run we invented trainers....designed to do what our ancestors could do anyway for nothing!

Okay. That's a start. Your turn!

Blog on, Dudes!

Remember to look at my latest e-book Leap of Faith, on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Thursday 26 July 2012

What REALLY goes on in banks!

Today Lloyds TSB report a £400m loss for the first 6 months of 2012, however in reality that was made up of a real profit of £1.1 billion less  £700m in PPI repayments. It was reported as a disaster on TV this morning, but Lloyds TSB are only a thief being brought to book and having to repay what they took from the poor innocent man in the street (including me!). Their total contingency set aside is £4,2 billion, though even they admit this may be too small a figure. To give Lloyds TSB their due they are repaying virtually all PPI claims, whereas some banks and other finacial institutions are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto their ill-gotten gains.

What else?

HSBC has just been fined a considerable amount for money laundering in the States. This is Your Local Bank that understands local needs and obviously understood only too well that the Mafia needs its money laundered now and again (presumably to get rid of the blood stains) and decided to provide their local expertise to this valued client. Up to know it has managed to maintain the moral high ground by avoiding the "toxic debts" debacle and minimising its PPI repayments. Suddenly it's become just another of the bad boy banks out to make a quick buck at any cost.

Barclays was the first of the banks in UK to be done for LIBOR rate rigging, a nice little scam that made millions, if not billions for the banks and millions for those involved,. Unfortunately some small businesses went to the wall as a result and many people lost their jobs. Both the CEO and Chairman of Barclays lost their jobs and today it was announced that the man in charge of the LIBOR scam has left Barclays with a pay-off of nearly £9 million. Barclays made a statement that they couldn't see how they could avoid paying the severence package as he had been awarded it. Awarded it??? For fixing interest rates? Grief!
Also today, the head of the Barclays directors' remuneration board resigned "for personal reasons"! Barclays was fined £290 for the LIBOR rate fixing scam, but other banks are also being investigated and will reportedly be fined twice that.

It was announced this week that trillions of  US$ has been salted away by the super rich beyond the tax man. A quick assessment says that works out at £36,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK, if the US billion and trillion figures are used, If the UK equivalents are used it comes to a whopping £3,600,000 per person. I'm happy to have mine now, but instead I'll continue to get threatening letters from the Inland revenue for amounts that are piddling in comparison, but are major to me. The trouble is I and people like me am an easy target.

So how do the banks all seem to be involved in the same scams? Well, I've discovered the answer and it lies right beneath our feet in London.

It's not only the tube that threads itself around London. If you happen to be in a station deep underground after all the trains have stopped running and all passengers and staff are having a well-earned sleep, listen carefully and along with the squeaking of the rats, you'll hear a distant mumbling of voices. If you follow it down the tracks the sound of voices will become more distinct until if you stop just after Bank station you'll be able to make out individual words.
Deep down there's a network of tunnels that link all our major banks and top financial institutions where once a month a little think tank made up of  the most devious banking minds think up more scams to rip off the tax man, governments and above all the poor sod in the street. You think I'm joking? Think about it.

Blog on, Dudes!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

What to post tonight?    Age! What else?

I hate being old, don't you?

But then how old is old? I'm 63 and can't believe it. If I get any older I'll be able to believe it even less!. All my memories and favourite times tell me I'm somewhere between 20 and 45, depending on the memory. Either way I was young! And still am.

I first knew I was getting on in age when a pregnant lady offered me her seat on an underground train...and I nearly took it! Good manners and obstinacy took the better of me and the fact that I was with my wife. Besides I've never been good at delivering babies on trains.

The cult of youth, much of which is down to politicians and marketing people realising the potential buying power of kids has badly backfired on the older generation. Every car these days seems to have a bass beat that sends ripples down the tarmac and has no regard for passersby or people who live in thearea. All the car's windows are wound down and the booming bass is at top volume. As there are traffic lights just down the road from my house and the cars stop occasionally I go to any trespassing car and ask the owner to turn the volume up a bit, or if he / she refuses I ask them to turn to Radio 4 because Desert Island Discs is on. I've often had some strange hand signals....and given some back.
In Asian countries the older you get the more revered you become. Grand parents are the top of the tree and no one would dream of popping them into an old folks home. It gets even better when you die of old age and become an honoured ancestor. I'm still at the suffered guest stage and intend to stay that way for many years to come.

In the UK there are advantages and probably pleasures to be had from being old. 
- Your memory is not expected to be good so forgetting something is fine...so long as it's not the wife's birthday, or an anniversary.
- I forget what the rest are but I'm sure there's loads.
    Oh yes.
- Doctors expect you to pop in for a chat, and not because there's anything wrong with you.
- You can hold people up on the pavement as you shuffle along, mumbling to yourself.
- Quiz programmes are required viewing so you can shout at the the TV to tell idiots how stupid they are for not knowing the 5th prime number in 10 seconds
- You can annoy people getting on a bus when you take out a little purse and count out 57p in one penny coins and then decide to give a £10 note after all.
- You can belch and fart after a meal and people expect it.
- Come on Oldies. Let's have some suggestions.

So, I'm old and I'm sure there was a point to this post, but for the life of me I can't think what it was. I'm sure you'll understand as I stutter to a grinding halt and go to bed. Snore!

Blog on, Dudes!

Monday 23 July 2012

Not a real blog post tonight. However....

Leap of Faith, the first in the Temporal Detective Agency series of e-books for YA, has shot up the Amazon.co.uk rankings this week. It's now as follows:
 - #14 for Action and Adventure
 - #8 for Detective Story
 - #3 for Humorous Fantasy
 - #30 for Historical Adventure

Leap of Faith also had the following comments applied to it this week by Lakshmi Raj Sharma, professor of English at Allahabad University in India "I have been marveling at the fusion of so many genres in Richard's Leap of Faith. Simple as it seems at the surface, it has so much to offer and offer very artistically. It reminds me of a number of authors I have taught and studied. This book, if it gets its due, will be a book much discussed in the days to come."

My thanks to everyone who has supported me and bought Leap of Faith to where it is. If you haven't already looked at it go to:

And enjoy it!

Blog on. Dudes!

Saturday 21 July 2012

Today I am posting part of a new book called "Bonding" on behalf of my friend in India, Lakshmi Raj Sharma.
Lakshmi  is a professor in the Department of English and Modern European Languages at the University of Allahabad where he lives with his professor wife, Bandana, and etymologist son, Dhruv . He has written several books and articles on literary criticism and literary studies. His books are witty, fun, and full of the wonderful imagery of India and I find his stories entertain and inform readers looking to escape via the literary imagination of a master storyteller. His first collection of stories, Marriages are Made in India, has now been published as an e-book by Publerati, USA. His first novel, The Tailor’s Needle, first published in the UK, is now being published by Penguin Books India, later in 2012. His article, “Charles Dickens and Me” is to be published this autumn by the Oxford journal, English.
Bonding' is a story of a couple that has no choice in their marriage as happens in the case of several Indians even today. The bride turns out to be one with a different sexual preference and so begins the conflict in their lives, even from the first day of their marriage. 



As she travelled with her newlywed husband in a coupe compartment from the heat of her premarital home in Jaisalmer, her heart ached for Pallavi. Pallavi had everything – hope, charm, untiring energy, confidence, song, dance, the list was unending. With her life was so complete, so exhilarating. Things could never be the same without her. Suparna’s heart wept, responding to the rhythm of the shaky carriage. How could a husband give her anything in comparison? Be born a daughter and you were always another’s burden; first your father’s and then your husband’s. As the train sped through, leaving behind the living sands of the desert, towards the lifeless greens of the world beyond, Suparna wondered why it was so necessary to get married. Marriage was society’s mode of ending the revels of life; it’s method of ensuring that all good things come to an end. 
Himanshu could see that his bride wasn’t satisfied with the deal. He tried to smile at her but that seemed to only bring forth the flood of tears that she had dammed inside. He held her hand but she jerked him off. He closed in towards her and put his arm round her and that was too much for her to bear. She pushed him away and stood up in fury.
‘If I have married you, it doesn’t mean I am sold to you. You and your people have given me no dowry, okay? Just stay away from me!’
‘You seem really angry and hurt, Suparna! Have I offended you?’
‘Offended me? You have ruined me. Why was it so necessary for you to marry me? Were all the other girls dead?’
‘Who could have guessed that I was marrying someone who disliked me so much? Neither my parents nor yours.’
‘But you jumped at the idea, when my parents sent the proposal. A decent man would wait a week at least before plunging into marriage.’
‘How did you get to know that?’
‘Durga Aunty told Mummy everything. If you hadn’t jumped for joy at the idea of the proposal, my parents would have thought a little before tying me up with you.’
‘Durga Aunty wasn’t there when your father pleaded that I marry you. He was ready to give anything we wanted but my mother said she only wanted a good wife for her son and a decent daughter-in-law for herself. Anyway, you are tired. Rest till it is time for lunch. Nothing is lost yet.’
‘Nothing is lost for a wretched man who is carrying away a bride. The loss is always ours!’
‘Ours? You surely don’t mean both of us? Have you started considering you and me, us?’
‘No, my dear! Don’t have hopes. I mean the female species. I can never team up with a man. I am a woman first and then anything else. And I think I was born to set things right for women! Let it be clear from the beginning that I consider you my natural enemy.’
‘But why should you consider men and women to be natural enemies? Don’t they complement each other?’
‘Ask your mother that! And let me get some sleep. I get sick quarrelling with stupid men.’
Himanshu felt dizzy talking to this woman. What had his parents seen in this creature to have married him to her? Life had suddenly become so unmanageable. He could see his future in that moment. It would probably not work out. Now he realized how infinitely better a love marriage was. At least you knew which species you were marrying into.
As Suparna lay down on the lower berth and Himanshu climbed up on the upper, she almost panted in rage. She had been plucked out of her comfortable life and thrown into the uncertainty of an unknown existence. Who could have thought that things would change so suddenly? Within a fortnight everything had transpired. The phone call announcing the arrival of Himanshu’s parents, then their arrival, then the fixture of the wedding and then the wedding itself, all had happened so dramatically. Everything was done in a satanic hurry. Her father was determined to get her fixed now after his three unsuccessful attempts with other boys. He was hell-bent to ensure that she did not escape the knot this time. God! The strategies he and her mother had used! He had gone to the extent of saying that he could have a heart attack if she said no to this boy. She had had no option but to agree for the time being. She was confident that she would convince the fellow that she wasn’t in love with him and that their marriage was purely for convenience. She would convince him that she could never relate meaningfully with any man and that he would be a fool to take the relationship seriously. He did appear a proper fool to her when she saw him. He was the only man she could agree to marry temporarily because he seemed manageable. But now after the wedding, the fool of a fellow could become a pain in her life and she had to do something to keep him at a distance. She wouldn’t leave him immediately as that could actually lead to her father getting seriously ill. She had to pass the time, somehow.

Then Suparna thought of Pallavi. How beautiful she was, and how delicate! She could change the very nature of a place with her presence. A mild and decent girl, she was always smiling, always so accommodating, always tolerating Suparna’s moods. She had never objected to anything, and had always returned her love so gracefully. Could Suparna have ever found anyone more suitable for herself than Pallavi? The poor soul had even wept when Suparna sat in the train to leave her. How unfair Suparna had been to her. So treacherous! 

Himanshu, lying on the upper berth, felt quite wrecked. Was this the meaning of marriage? How would he face his family and friends after he reached Saharanpur? People would soon see the strange woman he had married. He would become such a laughing stock. He would not be able to live in peace with such a woman around. What would he do? How could he solve his problem? Perhaps the best method of managing his affairs was to beg her not to show her true feelings towards him and his people when he reached Saharanpur. He would plead with folded hands and request her to pretend to like him, or he would be ruined.
Himanshu got off from his berth on the first station that the train stopped at, got out of his compartment and went towards the bogie in which the rest of the wedding party sat chatting. Having got into the other compartment, he tried his best not to reveal his feelings. But his face was like a book that he needed to keep closed. His younger brother shouted with excitement when he saw his brother enter in.
‘Bhaiya, where’s Bhabi? Why did you leave her behind? Should I go to her?’
‘No, don’t. She is asleep! Let her rest!’
‘Look my brother’s got so concerned about his wife already! He’ll soon forget us!’
‘Stop being so idiotic, Saurabh!’
‘Saurabh? Bhaiya, since when have you started calling me Saurabh? Did Bhabi ask you to do that?’
‘Shut up, Billoo! You are growing up. Till when will we call you by your pet name?’

Everyone noticed that something was wrong with Himanshu. His father asked him to return to his bride. It was not safe to leave her alone with so much jewelry on her. Himanshu obeyed in silence and returned to his own coupe, where his bride looked at him without uttering a word.
Himanshu looked at her once. He hoped she would smile at him to invite him on her own berth. But that was not to happen. She looked in every direction except the one in which he stood. In despair he climbed the upper berth as the train began to move once more. The journey still needed about eleven hours to complete. Time seemed to hang round his neck like an albatross. It just wouldn’t move. Its stillness became even more glaring with the movement of the train. He lay on his birth thinking of his future with this difficult woman and she thought of what she was leaving behind, the elegant Pallavi. For Suparna the problem of settling into a new life was not as hurtful as the getting out of her earlier one. She hadn’t got the time to think about the different setup in Saharanpur. It was not until she hit the floor of the entrance of the new house, when she stood there a bride who had to kick over a vessel, throw behind her back a handful of rice and then walk over the beautifully arranged patterns of the flower petals. It was now that Suparna began to get conscious of the added responsibility of tackling a mother-in-law. How easily she had managed everything with her idiot of a bridegroom, but would an older woman be as easy to handle? She got conscious that this would be a harder nut to crack. Of course she was right.
The mother-in-law had invited the whole neighbourhood to welcome Suparna. Women of every shape and size had assembled and were excited to see the bride’s face. They could scarcely contain their feelings. They began to comment on her sweet face. One or two at the back were even heard saying that she was all right, nothing exceptional. And then someone said, a woman’s beauty lies in her actions and that she would prove herself to be a good daughter-in-law. These were simple, unenlightened, women who had hardly been touched by feminist thought and so they spoke freely without the consciousness of any wrong. One even said that the height of the husband and that of the wife were ill-matched. Suparna could take this no longer. She got up in huff and left the room asking someone to lead her towards her own room. There was silence and all the visiting women first looked at her quietly and then looked at each other meaningfully. Suparna was under the scanner and she could see this very clearly as she left the room. Just outside was Himanshu wondering what had gone wrong. He tried to follow her but she slammed the door to his face and he had to pretend that he was going elsewhere.
Himanshu had to hide himself from his friends as well. Some of them wanted to be introduced to his wife but he did not have the courage to let them meet her. She could have said anything to them and made him look stupid. He tried to keep a smiling face though his smiles gave out that they were forced. Then his father called him aside to a corner.
‘The mistake has been made. I can see that it has. I am responsible for not making sufficient inquiries before agreeing to accept the proposal. But what’s done cannot be undone now.’
‘But what’s wrong?’
‘Your marriage is! Go to your friends, don’t run away from them. Men do need men when they’re in distress. Maybe Suparna will see sense soon.’

Himanshu felt as though he had a lump in his throat. He just walked out, sat on his bike and drove on the Delhi Road till he saw the Phoolwari Garden, which was the venue for a wedding that evening. The place was being dressed for the event. Another wedding, he thought to himself. Ha!
In the evening Himanshu discovered that Suparna was talking very seriously to someone on her cell phone. She seemed extremely engrossed, excited and passionate as she spoke. He wondered who it could be that she was bonding so well with. His curiosity got the better of him and he tried to listen. He heard her say that she could die due to the absence of that person. Himanshu felt hurt but began to guess the reason for Suparna’s odd behavior towards him and his people. This clearly seemed to be the end of his relationship with her. What a short lived relationship this was; it ended before it could begin. But then he tried to convince himself that this could have happened with anyone and Suparna could not be blamed as she had been given no choice in the matter. Besides, it was better to break away from her in the initial stages rather than living on in animosity. He went to her and spoke to her with deep feeling.
‘I heard you talk to the one you love, Suparna. It is understandable that you should love someone. Let us both work as a team so that you can get the person of your choice instead of living unhappily with me!’
‘Really? Will you help me to get back my love?’
‘I promise that I will. Trust me.’
‘But how will your parents allow that when my own parents did not?’
‘Leave that to me. I’ll persuade them somehow.’
‘Okay give me some time to think.’
‘Take some time but please hurry up because I will be going through hell in the meantime.’
‘Hell? Why should you go through hell? You have never known me. What am I to you?’
‘Exactly! What are you to me? Nothing! Why am I even thinking all this rubbish? Whoever it is that you have loved all these days should be invited to Saharanpur as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements for your final settlement.’
‘Final settlement? What do you mean? Can anything in life be that final?’
‘I don’t know what you expect from life, but in my own limited understanding of things, a little stability is desirable in life.’
‘What a sentimental fellow you are . . . what’s your name . . . Himanshu! You are not contemporary at all. This is an age of live-in relationships which are often of a rather temporary nature. People are running away from permanent solutions because people have realized that if there is anything PERMANENT in life it is CHANGE.’
‘ Really? Where did you learn all this philosophy from?’
‘How does that matter to you? I learnt it from somewhere.’
‘Okay don’t tell me anything. Sorry I asked you that! Let me quickly make arrangements for your settlement, even if I cannot call it permanent.’
‘You seem to be getting sentimental and upset again. All right I’ll tell you where I learned all this contemporary stuff. I was studying in the Delhi University. In the S.S.S. College and was living in the hostel. There was our group of girls who decided that we’d not allow silly, age-old and worn out traditions to govern our lives. We decided that it was more sensible to live life according to our own standards of what was right and what was wrong. Live-in relations were the in-thing for our circle of friends. We were basically against traditional marriages. My parents did not like the way I mixed with my friends. My father got worried and married me off to you. Now you know my story in a nut shell. Though, if you were contemporary at all, you’d know that in fact you never know anything in final terms.’
‘I am not contemporary at all, I am sorry, and am therefore beginning to know you a little!’
Himanshu was confused. Suparna’s behavior had been strange. The fact that she even believed in live-in relationships and was not the kind of person who would be ideal for a daughter-in-law in his setup made him feel that he had to forget her. She was just not right for him. But he had promised to help her get settled with her lover and so he had to complete the project, not leave it midway.
‘Okay, Suparna. Tell me how can we get your friend to come here and settle down to the kind of relationship you desire – that is take you away for the live-in relationship, I mean?’
‘I’ll ask my friend to come here, if that is all right with you. Then the arrangement can be discussed and planned out thoroughly.’
‘Please call your friend here as quickly as possible. I will make arrangements for his stay in Saharanpur. I am responsible for you because I have married you. I cannot send you away without knowing who you are going with. We must also sign some legal papers before we say goodbye to each other. We must part in a formal manner.’
‘You seem to be quite a sensible man, and responsible too!’
‘That is of little consequence to you, now, I suppose. I would, however, ask you for a favour.’
‘What’s that?’
‘Till such time as we part, please let everyone in this town believe that there is nothing wrong between us and that you are a proper wife to me. I will never so much as touch you while we are in our bedroom, I promise.’
‘Done! So I’ll ask my friend to come over to Saharanpur and you make the arrangements.’
The arrangements for Suparna’s friend were made in the neighborhood guesthouse. Himanshu thought that the settlement would take two or three days and then the matter would be over. He had to do something quickly to save the situation. His mind had been full of tormenting thoughts that just wouldn’t leave him. But he had to do something to save himself from ridicule. People would probably make fun of the man whose wife turned out to be so unscrupulous. Who would come in support of a man who had got neither dowry nor wife in marriage? He would be reduced to a tale to be told by idle women. He had to be smart and save himself as far as was possible. It had to be now or never would he get the time to act in self-interest.
The man and his legally wedded wife went to the railway station to receive this special guest that was arriving in Saharanpur. The train was late by an hour or more, but it was finally seen coming towards the platform. It halted. People ran this way and that – some trying to get in somehow, others to get out. Ultimately Suparna pointed in a direction and ran towards it. Himanshu tried to follow her. He found himself walking slowly but curiously; wanting and yet not wanting to have a glimpse of the face of this person. Then Suparna dashed towards a girl who had got off the train. She hugged her hard. Himanshu thought he had seen this girl t his wedding in Jaisalmer but wondered what had happened to their guest who was to arrive in this train. Finally after a few minutes Suparna spoke to the girl. 
‘Come I’ll introduce you to him. Himanshu, this is Pallavi.’
‘Hello Pallavi!’
‘Hi Himanshu!’
‘But where’s our guest Suparna?’
‘Don’t insult her Himanshu. Pallavi is our guest!’
‘But I thought . . .’
‘Stop thinking and pick up her luggage,’ said Suparna to a man more confused than he had ever been before.
The girls were dropped in the guesthouse and Himanshu went homewards. He was somewhat relieved that Suparna’s guest was a girl and a beautiful one at that. He felt less threatened by her than he would have been by the presence of another man. In fact he began to feel that now there was hardly any urgency for him to end their marriage. But the situation had to be watched yet; Suparna was too complicated to be understood so quickly and explained away. He decided to meet his friend, Haider, whom he had been ignoring in the past week. Haider could be trusted with a secret as no one else could. Besides, Haider was sharper than any of this family and could have come up with some useful solutions. Two minds, in any case, were better than one.
In the guesthouse Suparna sat in comfort with Pallavi after a week’s stressful experience. But Pallavi, though as elegant, as ever, seemed a little changed and uneasy this morning.
‘Suppi, tell me now, what was troubling you so much? Why did you want me here so urgently?’
‘Come on, yaar, I don’t need to tell you that Pallavi! You know everything. What should I tell you?’
‘You can’t be joking! Soops, tell me!’
‘Himanshu has come up with a wonderful solution to our problem. He says he will make a permanent settlement for us to live happily ever after, together, far away from this horrible world!’
‘What? Is he mad? How old is he?’
‘I don’t know. Why?’
‘He seems so innocent, so ignorant of the world we live in. But he’s really sweet.’
‘What do you mean, sweet? He’s like any bloody man. These chaps appear very innocent and then one day they make you pregnant, with nowhere to go for help. Really sweet!’
‘Suppi, you will never change. I had thought marriage would have changed you to some extent. But you are just as you were. The same impractical idiot!’
‘Don’t call me married. It’s very insulting, yaar! I will marry you and no one else. That’s final!’
‘Imagine Suppi of all people talking of final solutions. According to your own understanding of things, Suppi, nothing can be final. Then how can our relationship be that final?’
‘Have you gone crazy or what, Pallavi? How oddly you are behaving today. Have you forgotten all the promises we made, all the love we gave to each other?’
‘No, no, how can I ever forget. You saved me from all those wicked boys who visited our hostel. You stood against them like a wall and protected me. Remember how you chased that Urfi fellow with a hockey stick. He almost wet his pants after the wallop you gave him. You gave me more protection than anyone else did. My father and my brother never had a moment for me. You were the only one I ever had. But . . .’
‘What but? Go on, I love that image of myself. I love to see myself as your protector, your guardian, your man should I say?’
‘I love you for saying that but, I don’t know. Things are not as simple as they seem to be.’
Pallavi was no longer the girl that Suparna had known in Delhi. She had undergone a sea change after Suparna’s marriage. Just the few days after the event made her see that she had not been true to herself. Suparna’s over concern for her and her own insecurity in her home had probably been responsible for her getting swept away towards Suparna. Her mother having died in her childhood and then the men never paying sufficient attention to her needs had made her depend so much on the emotional support offered by Suparna. Pallavi was becoming increasingly aware that her relationship with Suparna didn’t have the leg to stand on. It had to go and thank God Suparna had cleared the way for her liberation by getting married. Yet she was mature enough to see that Suparna needed her help to transfer her emotions to her husband. She had therefore gladly accepted Suparna’s invitation sent in desperation to her.
That was one side of the situation as seen by Pallavi. But Pallavi also knew that Suparna was not going to give her up so easily. It would be very difficult to make her see that Pallavi was not her permanent settlement. If there was any permanence possible in her life it was with Himanshu. She had to take up the responsibility of getting their minds married. But how would she do it? She had to do this gradually not hurry up everything to make a mess of it all. It was a challenge that she had to take up.

The guesthouse could not have been the best place for the two women to stay as it created all kinds of problems, confusions and speculations. They therefore soon shifted into Himanshu’s house. Himanshu’s mother wondered why her bahu needed a friend to be living with her so soon after her wedding. But she had the grace not to make her feelings public in the first few days. During the meals she did not go out of her way, like Suparna, to pass around the various food items that were spread on the table to Pallavi. Suparna began to get self-conscious that she was always worried about Pallavi’s near empty plate. Himanshu had to come forward to take care of Suparna’s guest. He would always make it a point to ensure that Pallavi did not go hungry. His mother saw this and it hurt her to see her son taking more interest in Pallavi than was good for him. Pallavi was very graceful, even with Himanshu’s mother and made it a point to compensate for Suparna’s cold behavior towards her. It was an odd chain of reactions – Suparna cold to the mother, the mother cold to Pallavi, Himanshu warm to Pallavi, Pallavi warm to the mother. When Pallavi noticed Suparna’s coldness to Himanshu, she decided she would be warm to him. Himanshu’s childhood friend, Haider, was often present at some of the meals and in his typical manner he would give a commentary of what was happening in the room. He was the only one Himanshu had shared his misery with. He even knew about Suparna’s sexual preference.

That evening at the dinner table, Haider was in an unusually cheerful mood. The food was laid on the table in a buffet style. There was scope for the dinners to move about with their plates or sit at the sides on the chairs placed there. Haider began his commentary the moment he saw Suparna pick up the matar paneer dish to pass it to Pallavi:
‘Ab Suparna nay matar paneer ka donga Pallavi ko pass kiya hai aur ab Aunty ghoor ke dekh rahi hain ki kaise donge ko doosri oar laya jaye. Ab Himanshu ne apni Mummy ko saaf chakma dete hooay Pallavi ko ek roti pakda di hai, Pallavi ne Aunty ko chaunkaate hooay oos roti ko Aunty ki plate mein daal diya hai. Uncle chupchap sab kuchh dekhte hooay ek kone mein kha rahein hai. Ab Billoo, yani Saurabh, jise ab tak koi roti nahi milli, pareshan ho kar apni Mummy ki plate se roti uthane ki koshish mein aage badh raha hai.’
Himanshu wasn’t actually happy listening to the comic commentary of his friend. He had a rather serious and sober relationship with his father and felt a little embarrassed about the whole thing. But Haider kept his eye on each one dining and kept up his commentary almost at the cost of having his dinner.
Haider was amazed at his friend’s tolerance. How could a man bear up with a wife who had no feelings for him? He wondered how it was possible to go on putting up with a rude wife like Suparna. But Himanshu always gave an explanation for why she behaved this way. People make mistakes and this poor girl had been given a bad deal even by Nature. It was necessary to study the situation before breaking up with her. It is so easy to identify and sympathize with people like yourself, the one who was truly educated would be able to see the other’s point of view. Haider agreed to keep the experiment on till a conclusion could be drawn. But gradually each member of Himanshu’s family was affected by the odd relationship between Suparna and Himanshu. The mother began to show signs of her resentment and generally Pallavi came to save the situation. She was great story teller and would describe the very difficult situations she had gone through after her mother died. She even said that if Suparna had not come forward to support her while in college she could have become suicidal. Her stories had a great impact on the family and they looked forward to what new events she had in her bag for the next sitting.
Himanshu began to study a lot of material on women, particularly on women who could only love other women. He came to realize that in the West there was, some decades back. a phase in feminist thought in which women wanted to do away entirely with men. They decided to make do with women instead.