on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
"Don't leave me!" he screamed, sobbing, his cheeks wet with tears.

He was on his knees, tightly holding on to her hand, trying to stop her from walking away. She was sobbing too, as she pulled her hand away.

"Please don't make this more difficult," she cried, freeing her hand from his.

"Don't go! I'm begging you!"

But she turned around and left anyway, running out through the open door to the taxi that was waiting for her - a shameless witness to their grief.

"Please! he cried through the open door, as he collapsed on to the floor. Please!"

But the taxi sped away. And he lay on the floor, curling up into a ball, sobbing against his knees, as even the setting sun disappeared over the horizon, leaving him alone with only his tears, just like she had.

Republic Day: The BlogLand Chronicles - 3

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , , ,
First: Beginning: The BlogLand Chronicles - 1
Previous: Going South: The BlogLand Chronicles - 2
"Hi!" said Manish as he came in to BlogLand and sat down with Anil and me.

"Hello," I replied. "And Happy People Again Day."



"Ouch!" he groaned. "That's the pits."

"Oh, come on," I said. "Anil didn't like it either. I thought it was a good one."

"Well, in that case, your sense of humour is probably dead," said Anil.

"Anyway," he continued. "Guess who I'm taking to see King Kong tonight."

"You have a date?" asked Manish, surprised.

"You're going out with that internet girl again?" I said.

"Why do you have a problem with her, anyway?"

"You're going out with someone you met on the internet?" Manish had a lot of catching up to do.

"Yes he is," I replied. "And I don't have a problem with her personally, but I just don't think it's safe."

"Man, you're paranoid. I'm not a five-year-old!"

"How did you meet her?" asked Manish.

"In an internet chat room," I replied for Anil.

His eyes widened as he looked at me and then at Anil. "Cool!"

"So you don't think there's anything wrong with meeting someone you know only through a chat room?" I asked.

"Of course not," he replied. "People have been making friends without meeting them for a very long time now. First there were pen-friends, then phone-friends, then email and chat friends, and now people meet through blogs and SMS. The medium may be changing, but the concept is the same. There has always been an element of risk involved, but as long as you take the usual precautions, it's no big deal."

Anil smiled. "Okay, you win," I sighed. "Hope you enjoy your evening."

"How come you're taking her to an action movie, though?" asked Manish. "Shouldn't you have picked a chick-flick or something?"

"Oh, the movie was her pick. I was going to suggest Chicken Little. But once she suggested King Kong, I thought I'd keep my mouth shut."

We all laughed. That's the problem with stereotypes. Lots of men like poetry, and lots of women prefer sports. But while women are free to display masculine interests, the reverse can get a man laughed at. A man who knows how to knit a sweater will probably pretend he doesn't know how to hold a knitting needle.

"Ugh!" came a voice from the next table. Mike was slowly closing a book and putting it down on his table with a disgusted look on his face.

"Was it that bad?" Anil asked him.

"Extremely," said Mike as he turned to look at us.

"Which book?" I asked.

"One Night @ The Call Centre," he replied. "Chetan Bhagat. The guy's first book was quite readable, even if it wasn't spectacular. This one is the pits. Some parts are nice, but the rest..."

He obviously was finding it hard to put his feelings into words.

"How about that other book your were reading," said Anil. "Inscrutable Americans, I think it was?"

"Oh, that was really good," Mike said immediately. "Wonderfully written. Anurag Mathur is extremely funny most of the time, and can get quite serious too when he wants to." He turned to look at the book he had just finished reading. "But this..." He looked like he had been forced to bite a live frog.

"Well," I said. "Hope you have something better to read next. You shouldn't have to end People Again Day with something that makes you look like that."

"People what day?" said Mike. "Oh. Republic. That was pathetic."

Manish and Anil laughed. "I really think you should give it up," said Anil. "It really is a bad joke."

"Fine!" I shrugged.

Next: Baby Talk: The BlogLand Chronicles - 4

Sound of Music: Celestial Conversations - XXIV

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , , , ,
First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: One of Us: Celestial Conversations - XXIII
God: Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm.
Me: Hunh?
God: Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm.
Me: God?
God: Yes?
Me: What are You doing?
God: Oh, I'm humming. Couldn't you tell?
Me: Well it's not like I can hear anything.
God: Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know you were deaf.
Me: I'm not deaf.
God: But you just said you can't hear anything.
Me: I meant I couldn't hear you humming.
God: But of course I knew that. It's not like this is voice chat or anything.
Me: But... but...
God: Oh forget it. By the way, can you read music?
Me: Actually, I can.
God: Oh, good. Ting ting ting ting ting ting ting.
Me: What are you doing now?
God: Playing the piano. Guess which song this tune is from. Ting ting ting ting ting ting ting.
Me: How am I supposed to do that?
God: You just said you can read music.
Me: Yes, but I can't read that!
God: Excuses, excuses. Anyway. It's Joan Osborne's What if God was one of us.
Me: Ah.
God: Yes, Lucifer played the song for me, and made Me believe people knew I was living right here on earth.
Me: So how did you find out he was lying?
God: Oh, he told Me, of course. He always does in the end.
Me: Oh, I didn't expect that. Considering he's the Devil, I must say it was pretty nice of him.
God: Don't say that in front of him. He'll probably burst into tears. I think he's been getting a little soft.
Me: You do?
God: Yes. He delegates most of his work these days. No more stalking the world to grow the kingdom of Hell. No more promising people riches for their souls.
Me: Yes, he was telling me. He said most people weren't truly evil, and you can't really change that.
God: Oh, he's just making excuses. He isn't really looking for truly evil people. What he really wants to do is buy as many souls as he can, just like he's been doing for millennia.
Me: Oh. But then doesn't he have a real estate problem to deal with? And I thought there were only around two hundred people in Hell anyway.
God: Oh, Luci's too smart for that. He buys the souls, but charges them rent if they want to live on the premises. The two hundred odd souls in Hell are on a scholarship program. You see, souls can't earn any money. So the rest have no option but to stay on Earth.
Me: Oh, that story.
God: Yes. But anyway. The truth is he can't afford to buy souls anymore.
Me: Can't afford to?
God: Yes. He lost a lot of money when the dot-com bubble burst.
Me: Oh. He invests in stocks does he?
God: Of course. Well, he used to, at least. Where do you think his unending piles of money came from? But he's too scared after the last crash. And extremely poor too. I only came to know a couple of months ago when Hitler told me that Luci hasn't been able to pay wages for the last few years. Though if you ask Me, I doubt if he's ever had a paying job in Hell in the first place.
Me: Why were you speaking to Hitler?
God: Oh, Hitler's the current receptionist at Hell.
Me: Hitler's a receptionist?
God: Yes. Luci believes in maintaining appearances, you see. At one time he'd hired James Earl Jones. Then he switched to Richard Roxburgh. That man learned how to really affect the evil look from Luci himself. He got picked to play Count Dracula in a movie! But after that he upped his rates, and now Luci can't afford to pay him anymore. So he's got one of his own boys to do the job. Because you always need a receptionist.
Me: If You say so.
God: Anyway. I've got to go now. I need to speak to Joan Osborne.
Me: Why?
God: I want to make sure she doesn't really know I'm here on earth.
Me: Oh. But how will You know for sure?
God: Oh, that's simple. I'll go and ask her. She won't be able to lie to Me.
Me: So You'll tell her who You are, and ask her if she believes You are on earth?
God: Yes... Oh. Good point. So you think I shouldn't meet her?
Me: I guess not.
God: Hmm. Okay. Thanks. Bye then.
Me: Bye.

Next: Till Debt Do Us Part: Celestial Conversations - XXV

Candle In No Wind

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
All the controversy with the design awards at the Indibloggies reminded me that I'd made updates to my own blog's design more than four months ago, and had been sitting on them since September. So here it is.

I did make a few minor tweaks between going live with my previous template and now though, so the following is a summary of all changes since June 2005.
  • The most obvious change, of course, is the new template theme. The candle in the background is a public domain image I got from PD I used The GIMP as usual for all image manipulation.
  • The second most obvious change if you're not using Internet Explorer is that the blog seems to float over the background (which remains fixed). The effect is based on the Complex Spiral demo by Eric Meyer. The effect breaks quite badly in IE because of a bug in Microsoft's implementation of CSS, so I used special styles to override it for IE 6 and below. The result isn't especially great to look at, but there's no other way out without using JavaScript. So if you want to see how I envisioned the design of this blog, please use Firefox. Any other standards-compliant browser should work fine too, of course.
  • You should no longer have a horizontal scrollbar if you're using Firefox at a screen resolution of 800x600. Other browsers seem to have a broken implementation of min-width and max-width, so if you're not using Firefox, you'll still need to scroll horizontally. Firefox users at a higher resolution will see a wider layout.
  • You can no longer make the Sidebar disappear, though sidebar sections still collapse (try clicking on the section title). I have the feeling most of you weren't even aware that this was possible before, but with the fixed background, IE made the effect difficult.
  • Haloscan trackbacks are gone. I wasn't really using them anyway, so I replaced them with Blogger's back-links (This was done a couple of months ago).
  • The blog should look better on machines without Verdana if you have the Bit Stream Vera Sans font installed. I had noticed that browsers without Verdana made this blog look quite ugly. (This change was made in July or August last year)

The change took between 24-30 hours to implement, more than half of which went into creation and tweaking of the images. The rest was mostly spent tracing and getting around different browser bugs (most of them IE of course, though Opera did give me some trouble).

Barring some minor html layout tweaks, this is mostly a CSS update, and a pretty simple one at that. If anyone is interested in using or modifying this template for their own blog, let me know and I'll be glad to share it with you.

This blog template was tested on Firefox 1.5, IE 6.0 and Opera 8.5 on Windows XP. I tested it on Linux a long time ago, and I'm hoping nothing's broken since then. Of course, I could easily have missed something (and I know that 2-3% of you use other browsers like Safari and Konqueror), so if you see something breaking, please let me know.

The old design is still available at Geek Whorled - my dormant technical blog.

Now, back to regular (or should I say irregular?) programming.

One Of Us : Celestial Conversations - XXIII

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , , , ,
First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Stop! Thief! : Celestial Conversations - XXII
Me: Hello?

The Devil has logged in.

Devil: Hi!
Me: What the ...!
Devil: Oh, please continue. What were you going to say? What the Devil? What the Hell?
Me: What are you doing here?
Devil: Is there a problem? It's a free world isn't it?
Me: Where is God? I haven't spoken to Him in almost six months!
Devil: Oh, Him. He he! He's in hiding.
Me: Hiding?
Devil: Oh, yes. Ha ha! Ho ho ho! He he -
Me: Will you stop guffawing like a hyena? Why is God hiding? And where?
Devil: If I told you where, there would be no point in Him hiding, would there?
Me: But why does God need to hide?
Devil: Oh, that's my fault! He he he!
Me: Your fault? Why would God need to hide from you?
Devil: He isn't hiding from me! He's hiding from the world! Ha ha ha!
Me: And why exactly is He hiding from the world?
Devil: I told Him... he he he... I told Him... ha ha ha... I told Him that people were on to Him. That they knew that He was right here on earth living like He were a normal human being. I told Him that His cover was blown! Ho ho ho!
Me: And He believed you?
Devil: Of course He did! I gave him proof!
Me: What proof?
Devil: I made him listen to that song by Joan Osborne. What if God was one of us? That convinced him!
Me: You know, you are really...
Devil: Evil? Thank you!
Me: And why have you come here to bother me? You looking for another convert?
Devil: Oh, no no! I'm just here for some fun. And anyway, you don't convert people to evil.
Me: What about devil-worshippers?
Devil: Oh, them. Those guys are an embarrassment, really.
Me: Embarrassment? But they worship you.
Devil: Oh, come on! I'm not looking for people to worship me!
Me: No?
Devil: Of course not! I only want people to be evil and do evil things. Not draw stuff on the ground and light candles!
Me: Oh. But they do a lot of bad things as part of their rituals.
Devil: Kids stuff, actually. But the worst thing is that people are actually beginning to recognize Satanism as a religion!
Me: A religion?!
Devil: Yes! Which would make me a God!
Me: Uh...
Devil: The ignominy! Me, a God! I'll never live it down! So many centuries of hard work, and what do I get? They're calling me a God!
Me: So what is it you want, then?
Devil: For people to do evil, damn it! To spread hate. To cleanse themselves of all good thoughts. To do bad things not because they thing it's the right thing to do, but in spite of knowing that it's the wrong thing to do! You have no idea how many people out there steal, lie, and commit murder and adultery, justifying it to themselves as the right course of action given the circumstances, or because they think they have no other option. And so many do all these things only out of stupidity!
Me: But it's all the same isn't it?
Devil: No, it's not! The means doesn't justify the end. You humans define Evil as actions and thoughts that are "morally bad". In my books, you're not truly evil unless your actions defy your own morals.
Me: But you don't think that these people out there committing murder are good, do you?
Devil: Of course not. There are just as few truly good people out there, as there are truly evil people. But I'm getting tired of this argument. I'd come here to enjoy myself. Not to realize how badly I'm doing my job. Goodbye.
Me: Bye.

Next: Sound of Music: Celestial Conversations - XXIV

Going South: The BlogLand Chronicles - 2

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , , ,
First: Beginning: The BlogLand Chronicles - 1
"You should meet my new girlfriend," said Pankaj, as I tried to concentrate on putting my latest blog idea to words.

"Mm-hm," I responded, trying not to get distracted, and at the same time also trying my best not to seem rude.

"She's a Saudi babe," he went on.

Maybe I'm prejudiced, but the sound of those two words in the same sentence somehow didn't seem right, and as my blog idea evaporated, I turned to look at him. "A what?"

"A Saudi babe," he repeated. "You know."

I had an image in my head of Pankaj dating a woman in a black burqa but somehow the image didn't make sense. Pankaj's girlfriends tended to be women who were interested in the latest fashion trends. They looked at my three-year-old straight-fit jeans with disgust. "They're so nineties," one had said. "They're so out of fashion, if you hold on to them a little longer they'll probably come back." That was good advice. Jeans don't come cheap.

"No I don't know," I said to Pankaj. I don't know why people say "You know" like that. As if saying that will make it come true!

"Man, sometimes you're so dense it's infuriating. Oh, here she comes."

"Hey honey!" he shouted in the direction of the door, and a very Indian looking girl walked in. And she was not wearing a burqa either. Instead, she was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that must have made it extremely difficult to breathe. And her name was Mohini.

As Pankaj made the introductions and headed towards the counter to get their coffees, Mohini sat down at my table. "Pankaj told me you're a blogger," she said.

"Yes, I am," I replied, wondering if she thought it was a job description. "And you're from the middle-east."

She seemed stunned. "Not at all! In fact I've never been outside India."

"Oh?" I replied, completely confused. Pankaj changed girlfriends practically every week. Was he confusing this one with someone else?

"I'm from Kerala," she said. "I've lived there most of my life."

"Like I was telling you," said Pankaj coming back with two glasses of Cold Coffee in his hands. "A total Southern chick."

She must have liked being called something that's just hatched from an egg, because they both grinned widely at that. I was wondering why Pankaj equated South-Indian women with Saudi women when I realized that he'd being pronouncing the 'th' in 'Southie' like the 'th' in 'Southern', so I just smiled.

"Mohini is a terrific singer," bragged Pankaj.

"Oh, that's nice," I smiled. In that T-shirt? Talk about breath control.

"Yes, she's performed on Radio too!"

"Oh, Pankaaaaj!" she drawled. "You're embarrassing me!"

Ugh! Why do women say things they clearly don't mean? Pankaj knew she was clearly enjoying the bragging, so he went on to talk about how she'd trained as a dancer for years and sung professionally, and won medals for gymnastics, and...

I have an uncle who claims he can sleep with his eyes open. It was very helpful in college, he's told me. I wished I could do that right then.

After what seemed like an eternity, they were done with their coffees (Mohini only had half of hers because she had to 'watch her figure', even though I thought that was Pankaj's job) and the two of them left.

I thought I'd finally be able to get some blogging done when my friend Anil walked in with a girl who must have been his "internet date". She was extremely beautiful and Anil was looking triumphant. If she didn't end up robbing him by the end of the week, he was going to make me eat every single word I had ever uttered against the idea of looking for women in internet chat-rooms.

Luckily for me, he didn't bring her over to my table to brag. I watched them as he pulled out her chair for her, trying to be the perfect gentleman. Relieved, I returned to writing my latest blog post, and reading a dozen others.

After around an hour, Anil sat down at my table. I looked up and noticed that the girl seemed to have left. Anil was grinning ear to ear.

"So?" he asked.

"She looked quite beautiful," I said honestly.

"See?" he beamed. "I told you that you were wrong!"

"Fine," I replied. "So she's probably not a truck driver. But you still don't know anything about her."

"You're such a pessimist!" he laughed. "Don't worry. I'm in no danger of being murdered in the near future. Or being robbed, either. I'm not giving her my address until I have some more background. I'm not stupid, you know."

I was quite surprised. I'd expected Anil to have proposed marriage on the first date. He usually came across as quite a desperate character. I realized it was probably all just an act.

When I didn't say anything, he smiled. "Ah, you don't know."

I smiled too. "I must say that I seem to have misjudged you."

"Yes, you did," he said. Turning to look at Mike the book-lover, Anil shouted, "Mike, my man!"

"Do you have to shout?" muttered Mike who was sitting only one table away.

Anil grinned. "New book, I see? So you finally finished that Pickwick book?"

"The Pickwick Papers. Yes. Finally finished it last night." It had been the first instance we'd known, of Mike taking a week to finish a book.

"And what's that you're reading now?"

"Anurag Mathur's Inscrutable Americans," Mike replied. "I realized that I'd never gotten around to reading it."

"Tell me how you like it when you're done."

"Why?" said Mike. "Don't tell me you actually plan to read the book!"

"No way!" said Anil. "I just want to sound intelligent the next time someone talks about Indian authors!"

I sighed with relief. Now that was the Anil I knew.

Next: Republic Day: The BlogLand Chronicles - 3