A Decade on the Net

August 29, 2007

I know I got my first email ID ten years ago, because, even back then, various “poupee”s were taken and I was left with poupee69 onwards. Well, I thought 69 is not such a nice number to have associated with my name, so I took the year, which was 97. It was a hotmail ID, back then, and I think I still have that email account, though it’s been eons since I used it.

It was my sister who set it up for me. Odd though it may seem to those who know us, she was the one all enthusiastic about this new thing called the internet and email. The computer had been given to my father by his employer, the Government of India. They were trying to promote the use of computers in official work, and my father was one of the few officers who actually welcomed the move; most others were too scared to touch it, and left it to their subordinates, who were mostly also too scared to touch it.

I don’t remember much about that computer, except that it was a white box that sat in our living room. Three of us used it – it was to take my mother another ten years (and an Apple laptop!) to start to get passionate about computers. We hadn’t learnt to do much with it, back then. I had been using a computer at my office a year earlier, where I was using FoxPro (remember that?) to manage a database as though I had been born to it. In ‘97, I was using Word Star (ugh!) to practice my typing skills as I transcribed my journalist-colleagues’ hand written articles or tape recorded interviews (they weren’t allowing me to actually write stories back then, but that changed soon after).

I had actually first come face-to-face with computers back in school, sometime when I was 14 or 15 (by ’97, I was at the ripe old age of 23). The school had just bought some brand new computers, for the first time ever, which was a life-changing event for teachers and students alike. They proceeded to select students who were good at Math (why?) and allowed us to sit in the computer room, while they lectured us about the history of computers. A more boring introduction to a fascinating device (and for 14-15-year-old kids!) I cannot imagine. In due course, they grouped about 10 students around each computer and tried to get us to draw shapes on screen by giving X,Y co-ordinates. After everyone had tried to draw birds and dogs and ended up getting irregular polygons instead, the tried to teach us BASIC programming. It was great fun – we had to write a program that would ask the user for two numbers, and then output say the sum, the difference, the product, or else just some random string. (Maybe they wanted students good at Math, so that we could verify whether the computer’s results were all that they should be.)

Then, of course, when I was 16, I met Amit, and was introduced to his computer. The main feature of his PC was getting it to boot. You sat down with a stack of floppies (and I mean the big, floppy floppies, not the small little ones) and inserted about half a dozen one after the other, and finally, if all went well, after about 15-20 minutes the computer was alive enough to do something. In those days, “doing something” with the computer usually meant playing games. Amit was lucky in that his computer actually had two floppy drives, so you even could play some rather sophisticated games like – well, I dunno what, actually, but something.

His father, Amit tells me, had debated long and hard between the virtues of TV versus computer before buying that machine for Amit. Various well-wishers solemnly informed him that he was ruining Amit’s future prospects. “What can he learn from a computer,” they asked. “Get him a TV, at least he can watch some educational programmes.” But Amit, strangely enough, was adamant that a computer was what he wanted, and that’s what he got.

For a few years, I used the computer at home only sporadically – to write the occasional formal letter, or to check email or chat for a while. There weren’t many people to email/chat with in those days – most people still used the telephone and snail mail. I almost never used the internet to find information – it was only with the advent of google search that I began to trust the internet for that. This, despite working for an internet portal for two years during the dotcom boom! Now, of course, it’s my one stop shop for information on absolutely anything. What’s more, I’ve even started (very warily) trusting internet shopping in the last year or two.

I am still continuously surprised at just how great the impact of the internet has been – and at the same time, aware that in some respects its potential has not really been fully explored yet. It has, obviously, brought about a revolution in communication, which is still under way. For instance, in the past year or two, I think there has been an explosion in social networking sites, such as blogs, photo and video sharing sites, and the orkut-type of sites. It is really wonderful to be able to keep up with friends’ lives, to honestly and frankly exchange thoughts, hold discussions, share information with people across the globe, some known, some complete strangers. It is also amazing to be able to communicate with “minds” – that is, without necessarily being aware of the physical package or circumstances of people such as their profession, nationality, religion etc. I have met some interesting people that way, a couple of them even in flesh.

There is a risk associated with such communication, of course; many risks, in fact. (For instance, I’m not so sure that Second Life is entirely a good thing – there’s some serious potential for driving people crazy in that concept, if you ask me.) But overall, I’m sure that the genuine, fruitful relationships that have grown out of these channels of communication (and in “relationships” I include work opportunities, study opportunities, communities of all kinds etc.) far outnumbers the scams and crimes pulled off by tricksters, con men, and perverts.

Or so I hope.

I wonder how different the internet will be after another ten years.

Potter Mania

August 24, 2007

I know I have a memory like a sieve – it retains a few chunks here and there, but throws away the details. This, in any case, was amply demonstrated by the number of times I led my faithful followers astray in the Himalayas recently. But now I have a second demonstration of it.

I don’t remember (there you go!) when I first read Harry Potter – it may not have been when the very first book came out, but it was certainly before the Goblet of Fire (the fourth) was published, and probably before or around the time of the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban. Let’s say about 7-8 years ago.

When I started re-reading these books, I thought I would remember almost everything, once I got into it. Still, there are some books and movies which, once you know the end, you still want to go back to the beginning and see how the plot progresses to achieve its end. That’s what I thought I’d be doing with the Harry Potter series, apart from just refreshing my memory on the finer details. That, as I say, is what I thought.

(You can keep reading – no spoilers here.)

For a book – or rather, a series of books, that I enjoyed immensely, I’m surprised at how much I’ve forgotten. I remember all the principal characters, and I know which ones are good and which ones only appear to be good and will be unmasked later, usually at the end of the same book where they first appear – but I’ve forgotten all the twists and turns of the plots, even the major twists and turns. I’ve forgotten the roles some of the characters play. For instance, I’d forgotten all about Peter Pettigrew and his role in the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the Goblet of Fire, Neville’s parents are mentioned for the first time, and at the very end, the Lestranges. I know these people play a big role in the next book, Order of the Phoenix, but I’ve forgotten what.

Significantly, though, I do remember the finale of each book. I remember where it happens and how it is played out. All the same, the climaxes don’t lose any of their intensity and even now, on re-reading them, I still find the books un-put-down-able in the last 100 pages or so, despite knowing how it will end.

It is interesting that, in the first book Harry does battle directly with Lord V – in whatever weakened shape and form – and so also in the fourth; in the second book, it’s a moot point; and in the third, there’s no direct conflict. From what I recall, he does face off against Lord V again in the Fifth, but not in the sixth.

Also, in re-reading, it’s fun to pick up on little hints which JKR has carelessly dropped here and there. Like, the few muted references to/appearances of Horcruxes; and like when in the Gob of Fi, right at the end, she mentions that Harry spots a look of triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes at a point when there is absolutely no apparent reason for him to be looking triumphant at all. Is the big D really as transparent as he appears to be?

Some other interesting things emerge in re-reading the whole series. I particularly like the development of Ginny’s character. Hermy-own-ninny’s (sorry, still recovering from Victor Krum in Gob-of-Fi) development is also very nicely done, as is her love life. Percy is soooooooooo totally dislikeable that he seems a very true-to-life person. And the Ministry of Magic’s cover up job in the beginning of Order of the Phoenix looks like a typical government mess – no surprises there.

If I were ever to teach or study this set of books – and I do think it has to be included in academic curriculums somewhere, sooner or later; you can’t ignore something that takes the world by storm like this has done – I’d want to know if there has been any attempt by JKR to differentiate between Fred and George. Do they have different attitudes, or reactions from each other in specific situations? Or are they entirely interchangeable?

And what’s with the enigmatic Snape? What control does Dumbledore have over him? Why is he so sure that Snape is a good guy? And why, why, why does he allow Snape to do what he does right at the end of the sixth book? (Trying very hard to avoid spoilers here.) Amit, who has read the last book, says that Snape is neither on this side nor on that side – he is on his own side. Possibly true, but what is the task Dumbly-dore entrusted to Snape at the end of Gob-of-Fi?

And what about Harry himself? I’d really like to know whether he ever really does anything brilliant, or whether things just happen to/for him. Like, right from the start, for much of what he does in his face-offs, he has help – from friends, from Fawkes, from ghosts and spirits, from Dumbledore… The only quality that he repeatedly brings in himself is courage; but in terms of skill, he seems to survive largely on hand-outs. So, what’s so special about him?

Any way you look at it, a book that can make you think this much, that can make its characters so real that you feel like you know them, a book that’s so crammed with twists and turns that you need to keep notes, that has suspense points that force you to suspend all other life activities until you can get past those points… and a book, moreover, that can keep this up over about 3000 pages! – any way you look at it, that’s one hell of a book!

I’m Going to Try

August 23, 2007

I rarely write poetry; I have no feel for it. But sometimes, my brain just goes into “rhyme” mode and I can’t help it. SO, with all due apologies for letting this horrible creation see the light of day…

I’m Going to Try

Trying to think in rhyme,

Is a great way to kill time;

Don’t you know that it’s a crime,

To be quite as bored as I am?

Staring at the computer screen,

Eyes glazed, sight unseen,

Thinkin’ of what might have been,

Do you know what I mean?

Could be sitting under a tree,

Or going on a shopping spree,

Foot loose and fancy free,

As unfettered as could be.

Or walking on a mountain side,

Along a valley long and wide,

Or by the sea at change of tide,

I could take all that in my stride.

But this is different, it’s no fun,

When everything is said and done,

And the war is lost… or won…

To have mattered to no one.

I’m going to change, I’m going to try,

I’m going to learn to run, to fly!

Maybe I’ll laugh, mabye cry,

At least I’ll know, that I did try.

Voluntary Unemployment

August 22, 2007

I finally quit my job.

I’ve done this many times before – different jobs, I mean – and it’s different every time. There’s always some sadness, but there are always so many other things mixed up with that. This time, there’s a dry sense of frustration, and a sense of resignation in addition to the sadness: sadness that I had to leave a great company for the sake of a lousy boss; sadness that in three long years here, there’s probably nobody in my team that I’d really like to keep in touch with; frustration that my skills, instead of being honed or extended, have been forced to rust; and resignation that a small, faraway voice, however persistent cannot change the way a biased, stubborn mind or an elephantine organization works.

It’s the second time that I’ve quit without knowing what I’m going to be doing next. In a way, I’m more apprehensive about it now than I was last time. That time, I thought I was on my way to making all my dreams come true. This time, I’m not so sure.

But I know one thing for sure: it just doesn’t make sense to keep doing something that’s giving you absolutely nothing back. Other than a pay cheque, I mean. In my current job, I have no challenge, no opportunity, no growth, no stimulation. It’s a brain-dead job in which I have practically no responsibility. It was good to start with; in the early days, I had a lot to learn. But then, the learning dried up, and so did the challenge. I knew a long time ago, that if something didn’t change, and soon, I wouldn’t survive long. In the past two months, though, I made a serious effort to force a change. And yet, finally, the “change” that was forthcoming still required me to work with my current boss, and that, I know, is just not a long-term solution. I can’t work with a boss whom I’m constantly battling and trying to outmanoeuver.

With this decision, maybe, my corporate career is at an end.

Ten years of working life has taught me a lot. I remember when I was younger and stupider, idealistic, passionate… I used to get into the thick of office politics, standing up for whatever I thought was right, and vociferously at that. Ten years has taught me to change all that. Now I simply talk to people I like and trust, stay away from people I dislike and distrust, do my job and go home. It is comfortable this way; so what if it is less fulfilling than the other way – when you are intensely, passionately, and completely involved in your work and thoroughly dedicated, committed, and loyal to your organization?

  • First, I worked for the money – as a college student, Rs 4000 or Rs 5000 a month was a breeze!
  • Then, I worked for the work – sales jobs didn’t suit my temperament, so I switched to journalism; the money, Rs 2000 or so a month, was a joke – even back then, it hardly paid the fuel bill.
  • Then, I worked for ambition – I set out to prove myself, to achieve, to excel, and to be seen as one who did.
  • Then, I worked for passion – I loved what I did, I immersed myself in my job, I enjoyed it, I was defined by it.
  • Then, I worked for stability – I just needed a nine-to-five that would keep me busy and pay the bills; I didn’t have to enjoy it, I didn’t expect to be thrilled by it, I didn’t care if I was merely mediocre at it. I had realized that there were other things in life than work.

The thing that strikes me most in this progression, is how at first money grew in importance, then waned as I looked for more satisfying work; then grew again, as I chased fatter and fatter pay packets, which were to me a symbol of my “success”; then waned, when I realized that the fat pay packet alone is not only no indicator of success, but is, moreover, insufficient motivation to persist with a plum boring job. As the saying goes, all pay and no work… well, it’s not as much fun as it should be.

When I first started working, I cherished every rupee of my miserable little income; later, relatively “flush” with funds, I spent my hard-earned money with gay abandon; still later, with more money than sense, I tried to spend wisely, save wisely; and now, my salary having at last crossed all bounds of what seems reasonable and fitting for one of my skills, I value money so little as to actively set about terminating my handsome income on the flimsiest of grounds. (I mean, really, who ever heard of anyone quitting because they didn’t have enough work? Almost as mind-numbing as someone quitting because they’re getting paid too much.)

Of course, as far as money goes, it’s easy to speak from a position of plenty – I know that even if I don’t work and earn, I will survive, and in a fair degree of comfort at that. But that, in itself, is sad, because it takes away one great motivator in life. The need to earn is an important factor, not only in one’s career, but in life in general. There’s a strange rootless-ness in knowing that you don’t “have” to do anything to survive. No wonder kids who are born obviously wealthy often grow up a little wonky.

As for me – if I find myself going a little wonky, I can always go back to work, corporate or other. But that would be a kind of defeat – that would mean that I hadn’t been able to work on other stuff, the stuff you don’t get paid for, the stuff that makes a difference to you and – if you’re very lucky – a tiny bit of difference to the world around you.

Doing a routine nine-to-five (or eleven-to-four, truth be known) till you drop dead of boredom is the easy way out. It’s easy to sink into a kind of vegetable stupor. Getting oneself out of that is tough. After so many years of it, I don’t know if I have – or if I ever had – what it takes to achieve anything that’s important to me. That’s the scary part. But, well, like it or not, here’s my second chance to try.

The WOW Factor

August 13, 2007

It feels like a bit of an anticlimax… the German exam is over and I did well. In fact, I – along with another woman – topped the class. Ho hum.

Last time, when I unexpectedly did well, I was thrilled! That time, I took the exam after a four month break from class, so scoring 97% seemed like an impossibility, an absurdity – I hardly believed it. This time, with a mundane 90%, I don’t have the same sense of surprise and exhilaration. Last time, I felt the score was undeserved, unexpected, and a complete bolt from the blue. This time, I worked towards it, I knew from the preparatory model test that I was in the range, and when the marks were announced, it felt rather inevitable, even a bit of a let down, to have got just the score I’d aimed for.

Which leads me to an inescapable conclusion that I have often observed – at least in myself – before: those outcomes in life, whether exam results or office appraisals, raises, and promotions, or anything else – those outcomes that you work for and that you earn, deserve, and expect to achieve don’t give anything like the sense of elation, disbelief, and happiness that accompany the unexpected, the undeserved. Earned rewards lack the “wow” factor.

(On a side note, Amit seems to think that my marks are entirely undeserved. I was out of town for three weeks in the middle, he points out. What business do I have topping the class – the other woman didn’t drop a single class! He’s not unduly impressed with my commitment in getting up early in the morning to study either, even though I missed out on tennis to do so. Why not? “Well, you were going to sleep early every night, weren’t you,” he asks, as though it’s a crime. If I had really been hardworking, I’d’ve been up half the night, studying. He’s particularly unimpressed by my strategy of studying two weeks before the exam and then studying less and less as the exam day approaches. That, according to him, is not the sign of someone who’s slogging. Sigh. You just can’t win ‘em all.)

So anyway, as I was saying, what often accompanies the deserved and expected outcome is not even happiness, more a tired sense of responsibility, or perhaps apprehension for whatever greater responsibility or challenge comes next, or, at best, relief.

This is one of the reasons that I always like to leave large tips in small eateries – the extra ten bucks might not matter so much to me, but the unexpected tip might make someone else quite happy. This is also why I adopt the insane practice of giving my cook a raise before she asks for it – it just feels so much nicer that way. Don’t you think?

Bats? Rats!

August 9, 2007

Apparently, they don’t like the rain either. One got into our apartment the other day and was running around between the bedroom and the dining room as though it owned the place. Errrrrrrrrrrgh! It was up to Amit to deal with it, of course, which he did by pointing it to the balcony door, which was open. It obligingly ran over his foot on its way out.

I usually leave it to Amit to deal with all the creepy-crawlies, but sometimes that strategy backfires. On the rare occasions that I must deal with cockroaches, I grab the nearest footwear and swat them. True, it leaves goo on the floor, but at least it is transparent goo. Amit runs for the insecticide spray, and then chases the critter all over the floor, usually drowning it rather than poisoning it to death. Sometimes, the little bugger gets away from him and either lives or dies in peace beneath some heavy bookshelf or chest of drawers. Sometimes, it emerges a while later, to die in plain view.

The other day, I came home to find a cockroach lying on its back, spindly legs all up in the air. So I fetched the broom and dustpan and started to sweep it up. In doing so, I inadvertently turned it right side up, and hey presto, the friggin’ thing got right up and scurried away! That’s why I never trust those insecticides. With footwear, the end is decisive, effective, and all-too-evident.

I don’t bother with lizards and spiders too much. Things that eat insects can’t be all bad. Not that I’ve seen any evidence of them eating insects – at least the mosquito population seems to thrive, despite their efforts; but I suppose they must eat something, and insects are rumoured to be their preferred diet.

Bats, now, rate second only to rats. I remember reading a highly impassioned article about bats saying how intelligent they are and that they are really quite sweet and not half as repulsive as we’d like to think, and that they don’t carry rabies anyway. I can’t say that they are my best friends even now, but at least that article half-convinced me that I shouldn’t hate them.

Despite that, I draw the line at having bats flying around my bedroom. It is really quite disconcerting, because when these things get into a house, they go round and round and round and round in the same loop – not always a circle, mind you, it could also be a figure of eight – round and round without the tiniest variation in their flight path. Why the idiotic creature thinks that it will find a way out on its nth fly-past when none existed in the one million rounds preceding that, I can’t fathom. And why does it go right up to the open window or door, but not through it, if its radar system is smart enough to tell it where metal/wood/glass ends and open air begins???

Bats even Amit can’t battle alone. Usually two of us and a large bedsheet get involved and quite a sight it is, too, what with the bat’s ridiculously determined adherence to its chosen flight path and my ridiculously hysterical paranoia of getting in its way.

But rats are definitely the worst. Growing up in Panchkula, which, at the time, had more rats than houses, I sort of got used to them. At one stage, we had an entire family nesting in some of our old packing cases. We routinely used to put some cheese into those wood-n-wire rat traps at night, and then the next morning my father would carry the loaded and closed trap out to some field as far as possible from our house. More often than not, the unfortunate rat’s tail would be hanging out of the trap, giving us all the shivers.

I remember one particularly memorable occasion when three of us – my mother, sister and I – shrieked and jumped up onto the sofa and stood there clutching each other while the dogs tried to chase down the offending creature. We had three dogs back then, but only the youngest (she was a mongrel, which probably explains it) was any good at ratting. She improved at it, as she grew older and smarter and the rats – strangely enough – grew slower and fatter. After a while, we didn’t need the rat trap any more. And when there weren’t any rats to keep her entertained, we’d set her after the lizards – though she never had any success with them.

For the time being, Amit seems to have successfully banished our only ratty visitor till date in this house. I hope he jolly well stays away. (The rat, I mean, not Amit…)

Did you know: There’s a rat temple in Rajasthan! They feed them milk and let them run over their feet!! I’ve been there, years ago, and yes, it was gross and yes, they did run over my feet. The temple is beautiful, though.

Teaching Un-thinking

August 7, 2007

Although it tends to get overshadowed by my German exam, which looms large this weekend and contains horrors such as the spoken part of the test, I have not entirely forgotten that I am also studying Archaeology and that that course is also slowly nearing its end.

This does not flood me with the same kind of relief that the prospect of the end of my German class does. The German class has been great fun: once again I have enjoyed myself quite extraordinarily, despite frequently making an idiot of myself in front of 15 people (and laughing loudly when others do likewise). I liked our teacher quite a lot – she has a good sense of fun, and is quite capable of stepping out of herself and laughing at herself, at India, or at the coming together of the two in the most absurd fashion possible, going by what I understand of the events that she sometimes narrates to us (in her super fast, super fluent German, of course).

But, despite all the fun, it’s quite horrible having to sacrifice 5-6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday every week for 16 weekends! This, my Archaeology course does not demand – an hour or two every weekday evening, four days a week seems to work just fine for that. That’s why I’ve decided to take a break from my German course and continue with Archaeology, when common sense demands that I do it the other way round.

In the approaching German exam, lots of things are quite familiar. The exam consists largely of multiple choice answers, which test your understanding of given text and of the rules of grammar, sentence construction, parts of speech etc. That apart, there’s a letter to be written, which smacks of English classes about 20 years ago. The spoken part is the most nervous-making, but even that reminds me of the viva voce sections of lab exams in school. So, in a sense, nothing is altogether unfamiliar about the entire examination process.

With the Archaeology course, it is a different story. I’m just not used to reading a subject for an exam and not having to memorize anything. I’ve never done this. I keep thinking as I read: how on earth am I going to remember all this? Then I realize: hey, I don’t have to; if I need this, I can open the book and look it up. Then I feel massively guilty, as though that’s cheating. But the way my Archaeology course is structured, it’s just not. The assessment is based on an assignment, and that assignment is your answer to a question. The questions are provided to you along with the course materials, at the start of the course. You are expected to read the questions beforehand, and if you have an idea of which one you’re going to work on, well and good. Then you’re expected to keep your selected question(s) in mind as you read through the course material, so that you can make note of the relevant information as you go. This soooooooooo looks like cheating! I can’t get used to the thought that it is not only ok, but expected and demanded that you should have your text books open as you write your “exam”.

In the Indian education system I’ve been accustomed to, studying means learning what’s in the text books and spewing it out as close to verbatim as possible. Diverging from the printed material is not encouraged and questioning it is tantamount to heresy. To my alarm, I find that in this “new” educations system, far from spewing out verbatim, even merely ingesting an idea and presenting it in your own words is considered plagiarism. To my greater shock, it is considered plagiarism even if you conscientiously and dedicatedly quote your sources from beginning to end. Measured by this yardstick, every exam I’ve ever given in my life, with the possible exception of German, has been based on plagiarism. Not because I wanted to plagiarise, but because I didn’t know any other way. In fact, I didn’t even so much as know that there was another way.

Apparently, there is. The other way, the way that allows you to open as many textbooks as you please while you write your “exam”, tests not your memory or your understanding of what is in the textbooks, but rather, tests what you think about it. This, to me, is extraordinary. Me, think? Who ever allowed me to think? Why, when in school days I tried to think, I always came up with questions; and when I raised questions in class, I was told to shut up, or to go stand outside the class. Nobody wanted me to think, not even in thinking subjects like math, physics and chemistry, which I liked and I was good at. What my teachers couldn’t understand was why on earth I would even need to think when all the thinking had already been done and set out in the textbook for me. In fact, most of the teachers had ceased to think years ago and had forgotten how.

I did try to think a bit, when I did my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. It was easier then, because I had already switched to distance learning by then, and hence I had no teachers to stop me from thinking. I did an absolutely unheard of thing and actually read all my set texts, straight from Chaucer, through Shakespeare and Milton, and all the way to Eliot. What’s worse, I quite enjoyed it. Then I did the even more unheard of thing and went and read all the best, most famous, and most controversial critics. I even enrolled in the British Council Library just to get access to these books. I can’t say I enjoyed reading the critics, but, perhaps for the first time, I found I had the freedom to think. I realized that I agreed with some of their views, disagreed with other views, and could defend my point of view quite satisfactorily – well, to myself at any rate.

I’m not quite sure why or how, but I passed that degree. Not surprisingly, though, I wouldn’t say I scored very highly in it.

I didn’t know it then, but I had taken a small step towards thinking. Only now do I realize what a tiny little first step that was. When I agreed or disagreed with the critics’ points of view, I was, perhaps, still guilty of plagiarism, because, though I acknowledged that it was someone else’s view, I did not take the next step and state my own view. (Probably just as well, or I might not even have passed!) I think that I sometimes had a view of my own, but it was not clear to me that it ought to be stated.

In this course, Archaeology, the Leicester University guidelines for assessing the assignment clearly state that presenting known views and supporting them with citations is not only not sufficient for a good grade, but is considered rank plagiarism. You have to have your own point of view, you have to present arguments for and against, but ultimately you have to take a stand that is your own. In other words, you have to think.

That’s scary!

Death-by-chocolate Day

August 5, 2007

I allow myself only two per year, and this was the second for this year, so it’s kind of a big day for me today. It’s the kind of day you think about, dream about, drool over… until finally you can’t wait any longer. It was supposed to be my end-of-german-class treat to myself, but, as usual, I couldn’t wait any longer, so it became my last-class-before-the-test treat to myself.

Ok, there are some poor, unfortunate souls out there who don’t know what a death by chocolate is. The name gives you an idea, but only a sort of glimmer of an idea, of what this is. You sad, unlucky people are to be pitied.

Death by Chocolate is an offering of Corner House, a famous ice cream parlour in Bangalore. I would go so far as to say that Corner House on its own is one heck of a reason to visit – if not move to – Bangalore. But then, that’s just me. I, as you would’ve guessed by now if you didn’t already know it – loooooooove ice cream.

For ice cream freaks like me, there’s ice cream, and then there’s Corner House. Corner House is to ice cream what Rolls Royce used to be to cars – the best of the best.

I’ve heard (sacreligious though it may sound) some people criticize Corner House on the grounds that their ice cream is not so good. What I have to say to them is that, it’s not about the ice cream, it’s about all the stuff you can do with it. There’s fruit, and then there’s fresh mangoes and fresh strawberries in abundance; there’s nuts, and then there’s great mountains of whole roasted almonds; there’s coffee, or something vaguely reminiscent of it, and then there’s a coffee sauce so potent that it could keep you awake for a week, if you’re susceptible to that sort of thing (I’m not).

And then, there’s death by chocolate.

I know lots of people who can’t get through it, and some who are sickened by the thought or sight of it. These could even be people who ordinarily like ice cream and chocolate.

What is it? Well, it’s a sort of magical creation of rich, gooey, chocolate cake, covered with a layer of thick, gooey, oversweet chocolate sauce, underlaid with a load of vanilla ice cream and topped with a load of nuts (primarily, unfortunately, peanuts!) and a couple of cherries just to add some colour. Sounds deadly, no?

And if you’re thinking, well, that’s just a sort of Sundae, let me tell you, it’s the sort of sundae that comes in a veritable bucket. You almost need a shovel to get to the bottom of it. You’ve got to be a pretty staunch supporter of chocolate, ice cream, and goo to ever get to the bottom of it at all.

On a good day, I can get through two of these monstrosities. Why ever not – you can only die once anyway! Sadly, the ever-expanding waistline has forced me to limit my indulgence to two DBCs – as they are fondly called – per year, and in order to maximise my returns, I try to spread this quota evenly around the year. Which mean, this being August, that I now have to wait all the way till my birthday in February for my next date with DBC.

Which is sad… but hey, it’s a good day!

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