Saturday, November 29, 2008

Harry Potter and the Innoculum of secrets

" Not today..not today", pleaded Harry silently...Too late..he saw a brown owl come swooping in..."Maybe if I can hurry upstairs..""Come here boy",howled Uncle Vernon.."What is this...barely passed your qualifiers?",his face was an unbelievably bright shade of purple...."I am going to have to ground you for this.No visits...no visiting..You aren't going anywhere".So saying he boarded up the windows on Harry's room."Cluck", Hedwig expressed her annoyance also...tut-tut not doing well on Qualifiers..what is to become of this lad?
A few hours later...a car screeched to a halt..where else but outside Harry's window."Hurry up..you think we have all night..?",laughed George.Trunk aboard,owl aboard they dragged Harry through the window..not soon enough though, he was granted one last luxury look at Uncle Vernon's purple face.....Ahhhh freedom ...
Back at the Burrow..and a few high pitched words later...off they set to Diagon Alley.Being an old wizarding family...Ron's bunch travelled by 'Flu' powder.If not used properly it guaranteed its user a nasty cold..brrr..Harry stepped into the grate,somewhat shakily he muttered,"Diagonally?"...and he landed with a thud in the middle of the street...ears ringing,throat scratching and nose dripping....
Once the lot had caught up to him ( albeit no nose drips here) , they hurried into Flavi and Bacillli for books."Ahhh...who have we here...Harry Potter! Come to the front boy, lucky you, get a picture with me",beamed Geminiroy Lockhart swishing his aqua robes.Geminiroy,the author of 60 papers and three books,claimed that he was a Nobel consideree( for structure of Bacteriophage no less...although we all know who claims that one....that's for another day!)
The rest of the summer passed quickly enough...and after losing his millionth game of Wizard's chess ( Why do they do that???) they headed on their way to Hogwarts.
During their first class of Herbology and Microbes ,Prof.Fungus Sprout had them changing the media for Mandrakes.This was tricky business , Mandrakes liked their old,moldy media and shrieked when they were uprooted!In Transfiguration , Infectswitch McGonagall had them changing petri dishes to Wine goblets,Ron's wine goblet still had a plastic lid on top.When she saw them giggle, she offered furiously,"I don't know why none of you ( except you Hermione) take their classes seriously.You need to pick your prelim committee very soon, and I'll be surprised if any of you get through"..the bell rang....
One day as Harry was walking back to his common room ( Retroviridae) struggling with one book,three culture flasks and a reagent bottle, he heard a voice...it seemed to be coming from within the walls..."What is an example from Nidovirales ? "...it rasped....Shook up ( partly because he couldn't answer it) Harry raced after the source of the voice...HE charged down the corridor, stopping short of a pool of water and writing on the wall.."The Innoculum of secrets has been opened...enemies of the Virion beware.." But what does that mean..wondered Harry aloud."My flasks..they have been contaminated...There is something moldy floating in it.."shrieked Justin..."But it wasn't me ", stuttered Harry.Glucose Snape swept forward,his hooked nose and oily hair framing his ugly face."This is the work of a clever being...only a virus could pull this off...Surely Potter is not capable of it"...Phew thanks Snape breathed Harry silently!
Over the next few weeks...The voices from the walls grew clearer..."What is the purpose of your proposed study?How will you prove that this mutant is viable?Why not use a Togavirus?".......Harry couldn't explain it...why could no one else hear the voices?
During a particularly hard class of Transfiguration...McGonagall had them trying to switch mutants back to wild type..."Revertase" said Hermione..and with a flick of her wrist the bacterium vanished from the Amp+ plate,"It's not a good sign Harry..even in our world.Hearing voices is something only senile scientests suffer from"...
The attacks from the Innoculum only got worse..People's plates vanished, their medium would turn up cloudy,primers disappeared...the last straw was when a -20 went missing.."That's it ..we have to do something"...thought Harry,Ron and Hermione...
"So you only hear these voices at the end of the day..only you hear them..and they only ask you about your project proposal...."muttered Hermione..."I think Harry, that the voices you keep hearing are your prelim committee..and you're only hearing them because naturally, you aren't prepared.."Despite this grave warning from Hermione they decided to go ahead with finding and destroying the Innoculum.
Having had enough of Lockhart's continous boasting they cornered him into coming with them.They set off in search of the chamber where all the destruction was coming from ......BSL3!"Get us in Harry..", Harry placed him left forefinger on the fingerpad..and the door whirred open..Lockhart had had enough he grabbed Ron's wand and shouted " Obliviate"...sadly for him the wand was pointed the wrong way and the spell backfired...Memory totally erased..he looked around cheerily.."Odd sort of place..who lives here?,What is that pink fluid ?Why is that room dark?"...They nudged him on..and walked deeper into the facility.Who should they run into there but Harry's prelim committee.He had been warned by seniors,"Don't look into the eyes of your committee,They are pure poision...they only flee from all-correct answers!".Mockingly the students of Hogwarts referred to them as 'The Basilisk'...Harry mumbled something about being busy and raced into the room marked 'Infectious Agents'
There inside a hood he saw it...a shining flask of devious culture.He capped and gowned and did a quick plaque assay to ensure this was their target..."Aha..zone of clearance, I knew it"..I have to destroy it...he pointed his wand and yelled " Decontamiarmus"...the flask flew up into the air,spun around...and words issued from it, "Ahh dear boy ,you can't kill me that easily..I mutate to save myself..you will see me again...in another form.." And the flask vanished.
Harry returned to his friends and one babbling Nobel consideree..He had defeated the Innoculum ..for now.
His prelim committee had watched the whole thing..from the sidelines.They nodded in agreement...and announced that they considered him passed.."Phew", said Harry, shaking his head..
Now his only other challenge was to return to Poxet Drive and explain to purple Uncle Vernon that he was back for the summer....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aren't we at war?

I went to sleep last night...
Mind numbed by insane violence..And God knows for how many others?
Familiar streets turned to shooting battles....And God knows for how many others?
My favourite sidewalks condemned to rubble...And God knows for how many others?
Blood bathed the roads I once walked.....And God knows for how many others?

A family huddles..one on a stretcher...bubbles of blood at the mouth...so many unsaid words...
One man falters...stumbles....life ebbs away.
A child stands over his dead parents...The world is suddenly so scary..A teddybear at his feet..
Speechless...dumbstruck..furious..all melt into wailing...wailing for the dead.

How can we allow this to happen time and time again? Doesn't it hurt to be such a vulnerable nation? To feel each bullet hit its mark...To know that nothing will be done.
Are the police dying in vain ? To save people, whom the authorities do nothing to protect?
Are we that scared to declare our common enemy? To rally around each other and hold hands?

Why can't the world end its willing blindness? Stand strong against cowards who maim...
If survival is our instinct...and freedom our right....freedom to live..

Then isn't this war? Isn't this a war on Humanity...?

Today I am saddened....And God knows how many others...
Our country is wounded...And God knows how many others...
Safety has no meaning for me today....And God knows for how many others...

I have lost someone I cared for.....And God knows,so have countless others....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Harry Potter and the Virologist's Core

I was up late last night..So excited about the new developments in the world of Virology..Hogwarts ( of prior Witchcraft and Wizardry fame and prolonged NIH funding) has announced its foray into Virology,offering a Graduate Program in Virology...Here is the website...( click on the image for a larger view)



I think this is how a typical graduate degree at Hogwarts would play out..

Year One : Harry Potter and the Virologist's Core

"Hmmm civil engineering or mechanical ?",thought Harry Potter aloud one Sunday morning.He was going back and forth between the two.He was eleven and it time to decide a course for the future...of course a lot of his friends had lost interest in the future..but not he,he was a survivor!
"Hmm what's this..a letter addressed to me..Hogwarts School of Witchcraft...", he trailed off riping the envelope and greedily snatching up the letter..."Dear Mr.Potter" it began.."We are pleased to announce your admission to Hogwarts School of Microbiology for the Fall term of 2008.We received a large number of qualified applicants this year.However our genetic screening system picked you after a careful review of your parents accomplishments in the field.Drs Potter were posthumously awarded the "Viral Wand" , the highest honour our school confers.
Kindly respond to this letter by Owl no later than April 31st.Our mailing address is:
Hogwarts School Of Microbiology
Rhabdo Drive,
Corona,
Streptomerica.

Giddy with excitement ,dulled only by a little shock,"I thought they bulit bridges..and died under a bridge collapse...",Harry dashed off a letter to Hogwarts.Smug with satisfaction..he busied himself with the requirement list.
Wand - 1
Gown/Robe -2
Gloves - 4 boxes
Chemical glasses - 2 pairs
Booties - 2 pairs
Introduction to Microbiology - Part I

July rolled in and Harry boarded the train to Hogwarts....Glasses fogged with excitement he began his long journey to Graduate School.

" Welcome to Hogwarts ", a booming voice greeted Harry and his class at the door..." You will now proceed to be sorted..."Expecting a challenging Microbiology question,Harry was petrified,A fellow classmate however remarked in a loud , bossy voice,"Of course I know all the spells and I spent a whole week on Virus classification!"
His class was sorted into 4 houses..Slytherin ( Salmonella was their common room),Hufflepuff(Blue green alga was theirs),Ravenclaw(Saccharomyces) and Gryffindor ( Retroviridae)....Harry found himself in Gryffindor...along with afore mentioned bossy voiced girl!

Monday morning dawned bright and early..and Harry struggled with his gown,almost tripping at the self sealing door to Microbiology class.

"Welcome to Microbiology 501 and 3/4 ", remarked their rather strange-looking professor.Staggering under the weight of his Gown, he had a large backpack on his back."This course will have several modules and I,Professor Antiviral , will teach , Defence against the Dark Arts.A ripple of excitement went through the class...and a pale faced Slytherin ( Malfoy) remarked ," I have been preparing for this class since I was seven".
"Our first class will be to learn how to track deadly Microbes.All slytherins will be the target Microbes and the other three will try to track them down.(" Not destroy ?" , asked Ron Weasely , another Gryffindor,hopefully.) " Remember tracking Microbes is serious business.Many good Wizards have been lost to them.Why only recently, Amelia Bones was admitted to St.Mungo's with a mysterious Immunity crippling Virus"..having said Professor Antiviral flagged off the class with a final,"Wands at the ready..." comment...

Harry found himself daydreaming during "Herbology and Microbes", a not-particularly interesting class taught by Professor Fungus Sprout..Seated at the next table,playing truant during class too were the infamous Slytherin gang.Malfoy,the gang head was saying rather pompously,"Of course father was the first to be informed.They think the mystery virus is trying to seek out Mudbloods in search of that special Reverse Mud-transcriptase.Then its DNA can integrate into that disgusting species and live on immortal...Father thinks ,and I agree, that I should help with the Virus-quest..and aid it in its Noble mission".Harry was alarmed..."How come I know nothing of this.Cool...a mystery Retrovirus..that's right up my alley!"He glanced around his table..who could he share this with?Ron perhaps..and maybe bushy-haired Know-it-all..After all .she did Know-it - all!!!

A few weeks into the semester after a particularly hard class of Microbial transfiguration.(Professor Infectswitch McGonagall had them learning spells to transfigure deadly bacteria into their own phages."None of that silly hand waving here,none of that woolly occult,this calls for sheer concentration",she remarked sternly), they were in for a surprise...a Guest lecturer! None other than the famous Microbiologist,Nicolas Flammel..."Good morning First years...",sounded his gravelly voice."I am here to tell you a bit more about the Magic of Cloning.Now,this is not like Undergrad , where I will give you all the answers.Grad school is designed to make you think.To think beyond the restraints of your spell books".Having said he looked around the class."Hmmm is that the Potter boy,how like his father he looks..I wonder if he has his prodigious talent too?"Nostalgia clouded his aging brain..and he remarked,"Ahh..back in the day we celebrated the advent of Ligase-free cloning.You youngsters are a spoilt bunch...vector-free cloning!! All you need do is learn the precise wand movement, and Hey presto! clones in your petri!"The wand movement however turned out to be anything but simple.A challenging grasp of the wand with the 4 fingers of the hand( barring the thumb) and the motion of moving the thumb down onto the wand(For older students,this was referred to as the 'pipetting hold') while enunciating clearly,'Expecto clonum'....Severely beaten at the grasp( Hermione was the only student to have achieved it correctly,earning Gryffindor a new PCR machine) ,Harry and Ron trudged out of class.

On the way back to Retroviridae, they noticed their least favourite Professor,Glucose Snape speaking in hushed tones with Professor Antiviral.Snape, took great delight in humiliating Harry in every class of Potions and Media making.Harry ,Ron and Hermione snuck behind a pillar to listen in."I don't know what to do.I am so scared to carry it around...what if it infects me?" quivered professor Antiviral.Snape replied,curling his lip in disdain,"Surely you know the properties of the Virus,Antiviral?..Unless I am to assume you are mixed blood".Antiviral looked more alarmed at that suggestion than at the prospect of his supposed infection.Snape looked around,"It's not the best place to talk about this...let's go into my chambers"...with a flash of his gown...he and Antiviral disappeared from view.

"They are talking about the mystery Virus...I bet they know where it is...",muttered Ron excitedly."Of course you realise that this means Snape is involved in its safe-keeping",said Hermione, a tad pompously."We need to do something,just last week,Parvati was taken away to St.Mungo's ...",said Harry.And off they went in search of the mystery virus.

Being a reputed School of Microbiology, they expected Hogwarts to have every measure of protection in place.They were not disappointed.Password protected doors,Hermione broke through the spells...A giant chess game played with Bacteria as black and Viruses as white,Ron exchanged his Sindbis for another Ebola, and checkmated the opponent's E.coli.The next task to overcome was a Virus Classification Quiz...Hermione aced it ( after a weeks preparation mind!)..and finally the last task...Tracking down deadly bacteria.This was the only subject that Harry excelled at.Keenly observing all the clues, he pronounced the enemy to be 'Streptococcus pyogenes',and prescribed antibiotics for it.As he uttered the last syllable of his cure,the door swung open.....

He was face to face with Professor Antiviral..."You!" they both remarked at the same instant.."Maybe I can use you to get past this darn mirror",said the agitated professor.The Mirror of Erised, would only help those who wished to find the virus to destroy it.Professor Antiviral who was hoping to find a way to infect more Mudbloods had had no luck with the Mirror.He pushed Harry in front of the mirror.Harry saw the cell culture flask containing the Virus inside the Professor's back pack...

"Accio backpack",yelled Harry, at the same moment as Antiviral yelled,"Micro Kedavra".The combined spells hit the backpack that was still in midair.The combination spell somehow mutated the virus...and it now infected Professor Antiviral.."My hands...my face..my eyes"..he screamed in anguish..as he slowly began to fade from view...Harry was left alone in the room.

The headmaster,Albus Microdore boomed,"For sheer bravery and immense courage,I now pronounce Gryffindor the House Flask winner..I think a new -80 'C is in order"..so saying he clapped his gown-ed hands and a gleaming new RevCo appeared in the hall.Harry thought back at the last few days.After he ,Ron and Hermione had destroyed the flask with the virus..exam week had begun.He had botched his Microbiology practical ( 503 and 1/2) because the staircase leading to the Lab dungeon had chosen that very moment to switch courses.He was nervous about how he had done.Ahh well..The results wouldn't be out for another month..

Hugging his friends goodbye,he thought,"Wouldn't it be fun to set up my own Virology lab in the basement ?"...but the restriction of Underage Magic forbade them from any such thing...Hmm...

That was the first year of Graduate School....Once the results are out..I will chronicle the second year..'Harry Potter and the Innoculum of Secrets'

Note : Thanks to Mosi for help with the technical 'stuff'..I am hopeless with all that!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our Neverending journey..Part II .....Lolling with the Lions

Ahh..so here I am finally blogging about our visit to 'Lion camp'.The camp..McBride's camp is part of Kafue National park..and is out in the boonies.It's set up to be a part of the park..and doesn't stand out for any reason..not the least being that it runs without electricity!Of course my booming voice gave half of Kafue National park's animals a heart attack, and the other half fled in mortal(animal?) fear!Needless to say they were only mildly excited to see me safely back in the car,with promises of "We'll be back soon!"...sleep well oh animals of Zambia..Shilpa is on the bawl!!

So off we set bright and early one Friday October morning.Barry was at the wheel..and I was safely ensconced in the centre at the back.Now it was 6 am..and I had had no entertainment yet....Naturally I burst into song..( can one blame the yearning of my vocal cords to break free ?)I was quickly hushed..and plied with drink!Mosi busied himself with his camera as usual,taking what I grudgingly accept as a 'cool shot'! Ah me..so magnanimous of the praise of other's gifts...


Ah well...back to the journey of course.We drove on...4 long dusty hours later..our first signs of life..other than the one musical humans and 4 annoyed ones in a blue Pajero.Warthog family..with three little ones..piglets? wartlets? wiggles?hmm I wondered aloud..much too loud for the Puku..he snarled slightly to quiet me down!...hmmm these animals I tell you!


We came across a sable..These are rumoured to be very shy,reticent animals.They are tall and majestic with wonderfully curved antlers.He walked away gracefully..taking refuge in the trees..it couldn't have been my singing could it?



We arrived on time ( Annika was insistent 12 means 12 !!) at the camp and were warmly welcomed.Well-meaning thumps elicited expected clouds of dust and we stretched out the kinks in our bodies!Barry had been a great driver,not even swerving off- road at my melodic rendition of Hotel Lusaka.
Mosi and I were checked into Anthill hut !!Annika and Shruthi had taken a tour of all the huts..and decided that one was the most romantic !Of course romance has a slightly different connotation out in the Bush surrounded by tall waving grass.Here,jumping with fear at the prospect of being eaten alive and unable to see my own hand in front of my face..Romance was reduced to,"Honey,do you think that sound was a Hippo? "
Anyway..we settled into a wonderful lunch..and a stuffed , sleepy gander out at the river soon after.It was amazing,sitting down comfortably a little distance from the banks of the river..and the animals actually come to you.A group of thirsty elephants came to get a drink..and a crocodile came by to sun himself...From the way he had his mouth open,I figured he either wanted food to drop straight into it or was waiting on his dentist.The former was not reassuring given the food induced stupor we were in.But atleast the croc had people to choose from eh?


That evening Charlotte( of Mcbride fame) took us on a walk..close to the camp.Walking around we saw some amazing birds.She is Chris's wife and together they run the lion camp.She is wonderful with birds..telling apart even the smallest of feathery flutterers by their calls.We saw a Kingfisher and a gorgeous fish Eagle in a majestic soar...


Walking along still further..we startled a herd of Puku..they took off in alarm..Footfalls I reassured myself..nothing to do with me!However some of the annoyed glances in my direction could have been interpreted otherwise..ah well..There was also this kind group of white birds ( herons?) accompanying an Elephant.Charlotte said that the elephant disturbs locusts in the grass as it walks..and the birds happily(lazily?) prey on them...


Back at camp...we proceded to create one of our most effective weapons against wild animals...


One of the guides who works at the camp arrived late that night ( as I was busily munching on cheesy pasta..) with news of a lioness and her cubs being close on the opposite bank..That caused a stir of excitement..and quick plans to go over the next morning.
Off we set that next morning with Chris himself..He has studied lions since the time he was 5..and is obviously passionate about them.Anyway..hours of walking later...we came across a baby Oribi.These are highly territorial animals with an interesting defence strategy.They curl into a tight ball and play dead...great idea if there's tall grass around..but with the ground so bare...not that smart perhaps..We also came across a giant ant hill..Our guide told us that it would all wash away with the first rains....Way too much effort ..me thinks!!!



We came upon a Buffalo head.The lioness' had been active a few days earlier..and hd brought this massive beast down.The hyenas had had their go at it..and all that was left was a giant head.Shudder...with grotesque image of own head lying on the ground..mouth twisted in one last off-key note...


We got into a boat for our ride back to camp...I had to hold on to my hat..and my hair!...there was a stiff breeze..Well..laugh all you want folk..but that was the only wide brimmed hat I could lay my sunburnt hands on!!! 'My fair Lady'...Here I come!!!!

Peacfully sailing down the river..and what do we see? An elephant stepped right off the bank and walked..waded into the river straight for another boat!! Thank god its not us...?Anyway the elephant barely noticed them..and made a beeline for an island mid way!...All the while a Hippo watched us warily.Reminded of 'Madagascar' I remarked how cutely disproportionate they looked.Always watch your words with the Hippos..this one was not amused..it walked along the riverbed..right under the boat..sending us rocking !! Not very reassuring,the idea of crocodile infested waters beneath.Luckily we held on...hat and all....


How clannish these animals are...Here was another crew of Hippos chastising me for my mean comment....Well sorry guys !!!


Back at camp...we tucked into an enormous tea...It was evening and the sun had started to set..Off we went into the Wild on an evening Game Drive.We didn't see alot..and everyone who was on that trip with me will remember a 'certain somebody' who hogged the front and refused to tell us what they saw!!! Grrrr...my revenge will be sweet...Anyway all we saw were Warthogs..on bended knee making for cute pictures..


A small voice inside my head grumbled..Lion food is here...where are the lions??

The next morning on our return from a walk....finally Lions!!!!A lioness was asleep in the shade not far from the camp.We huddled into the boat..and quietly( me too!) paddled away..A group of nervous Puku came by to drink from the river..but the lioness ignored them all.Then an unknowing family of Warthogs happened by,and in one quick flash,she was up,charged and grabbed a baby Warthog.All over in a minute..sealed with one sharp squeal....Poor Warthog...!The lioness had three hungy 8-month old cubs to feed..and she didn't waste any time hanging around!



Sufficiently excited...we headed back to camp.Sunk our teeth into a tasty lunch..and Me,Mosi and Shruthi sat ourselves down on chairs set out overlooking the river.Who should come by , but our ace hunter Lioness!!...She walked slowly,crouching low not far from us.She sized us up...I bet she was thinking,"Ah that annoying one in the fancy hat...looks well fed.The cubs will be delighted!"Frozen with fear,voice stuck in my throat( who would have thought??)...I got up slowly and walked into the nearby hut...She disappeared into the tall grass...Whew..Look how close she was...


PS...the blurry chairs are where we were sitting...

Look at the muscles on her....Soon after she slunk away...thirsty animals were back..A Kudu came to join the Puku at the river's edge!


Later that afternoon Mommy Lion made another appearance with her three cubs in tow...They walked coolly,across the plains,giving a start to a quiet herd of Puku grazing nearby.So fluid were the Lions....so graceful each step..We were entranced,falling into a reverent silence..( yes,even me!)





Eyes still clinging to that sight straight out of National Geographic..we huddled into a Safari Van..and headed out on our second Game drive..We had more luck that day..and chanced upon a huddled Genet cat.These are small cats,very similar-looking to a civet.


What a day....brimming with excitement about my near-death experience I proudly gazed around the table.....Ahh brave me!!!...Braver still with the new found knowledge that Lions are scared of human voice.Beware my potent weapon....Drained from the excitement...I sank into a dreamless slumber.Woken only to ponder the munching sounds from nearby Hippos outside the hut.Mosi ( my brave co-inhabitant of said romantic hut) was lost to the world in a sleep so deep that the Hippos couldn't wake him...
We awoke early the next morning to the news that the Lioness and her cubs were now stretched out on the banks of the river right next to the camp.Hurriedly we gathered there in an almost breaking dawn-light and watched excitedly as they woke up.The Lioness couldn't be bothered with us again..and she wandered away.The cubs stood their ground..and they were an adorable sight to watch.Two of them stood guard..and the third was not be denied his snooze...People or not..!

We continued being a part of play time for the feisty cubs...Watching them at play is a delightful sight.They have the same wonder and mischief in their eyes as my dog...only that of course he is never awake at such an ungodly hour!!


The lion cubs finally tired of their adoring fans...and walked away into the bush...
We hopped into the boat for one last peaceful ride...We saw more Hippos..one even kindly spouted a cloud of water..caught on camera expertly by ace photographer Mosi( of growing talent to be captured here)..!!!We saw two leopards drinking quietly down the river.We halted the boat and tried to follow them.Some of us were lucky to see them up close....Annika and Shruthi have pictures of them..and I'm waiting for them to send them over!
We saw the same three cubs again..one of them made a half-hearted attempt to hunt a Puku.The Puku was only barely scared and darted away...the cub returned shame faced to join his siblings..


Sadly...it was soon time to leave...Although perhaps this picture doesn't quite convey that sadness?



Here was the brave group of explorers.....Surviver all we be! and to tell the tale...and how!



Finally it was time to leave..we piled into the dusty blue Pajero..Making our way back...Barry requested me( of rusty voice) to sing a song...perhaps that wasn't the smartest suggestion....We managed to confuse this one Owl...and this elephant trumpeted,"Quiet down!!"....



Keep watching this space..there are still a few pictures that need to go in...
And if you like the photos so far.....there's more where those came from...we are putting them together on picasa...keep an eye peeled for the album link here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hotel Lusaka.....( What are you waiting for...come visit!!! )

Ahh...so me and Mosi...just came off a nice,long lazy weekend ( what another one? ) Anyway..two virologists cooped in a room, no viruses to tinker with,no lab to play in, no chemicals to start a fire with...Give us a break..we had to do something 'Creative' !!!!!!! Here goes....

Hotel Lusaka ( sing to the tune of 'Hotel California'...duh!! )

On the Long Great East highway,
Lots of dust in my hair,
Warm smell of Nshima,
Rising up through the air.

Up ahead in the distance,
I saw the usual sight,
Four minibuses caused a traffic jam,
I had to stop for the light.

There he stood on the roadway,
With talk-time to sell,
I was thinking to myself,
Do I need MTN or Celtel?

Then he lit up a candle,
And he began to sway,
Oliver Tukutzi playing in my car,
Thought I heard them say...

Chorus
Welcome to the Hotel Lusaka,
Such a lovely place,Such a lovely place,
There's hardly any room at the Hotel Lusaka,
Any time of year,
Unless you have money, my dear.

Now she works at Immigration,
She's got a Mercedes Benz,
She's got a lot of pretty,pretty toys
From the Asians she befriends.

Some Work in Luanshya,
Down in the copper mines,
Some work in Lusaka,
For when we want to dine.

So I called the waiter,
"Please bring me my wine",
He said,
"There's a guy waiting for his food,
Since 1969 ".

And hungry voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night,
Just to hear them say..

Welcome to .. ( chorus)

Cracks in the ceiling,
Rooms overrun by mice,
She said,
We are doing our best here
But the management lies.

And in the boss' chambers,
Gathered for the meet,
The power blew with no warning,
They couldn't see the Excel sheet.

Last thing I remember,
Is fumbling for the door,
I had to find some sanity,
In the place I was before.

"Good night", said Facilites,
We are away on leave,
"You can order any time you like,
But you'll never receive."

And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night,
Just to hear them say.

Welcome to... ( chorus)

Another edition of TIA folks.....I promise as long as I'm here...the "hits just keep on coming!"

So....instead of doing HIV research..maybe I can get a CD together .Here's one of my favourites...( from Mosi's blog).. and the other one I did...3 to a CD..probably not...But there's plenty of inspiration here!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lyricist required...Anu Malik is on the loose!!!

So , as we were driving back from lunch..I peered out of the window, " Dekho barish ho rahi hai'...for non-hindi speakers..no worries , Anu Malik was kind enough to translate,"It's raining,It's raning,It's rain..ing!"...And then ..My heart did in fact start paining...It's that time of the week again..the days when Anu Malik ,smug as a pumpkin,sits himself in the chair marked 'judge' ( not discard mind!) and spouts arrogant nonsense to talented youngsters! He uses words like "riyaaz","Antara"and "mukhada"..the three hindi words he has learnt..or Javed Akhtar coached him into using!
So why has no contestant told him that obviously his advice is a joke? How does he keep a straight face when he tells a contestant,"the bar has been raised"..perhaps we must take it that he has slipped through;under it ? If I was on the show...I would have sung a song by the great Anu-ji ,if only to watch Javed saab's face crunch in pain.Ahh the murder of Hindi is so brutal!Not to mention the '2 -for -the-price-of-one' jarring of ear drums! Dhol baje anyone? Of course we needn't quake with fear each time he threatens to 'direct' music for a film.Most often, the music is hummable and non-Anu-ish! ....because it isnt ...!
The dark,rain cloud filled sky makes the trees look so dramatic.The colours look wonderfully intense..Speaking of colours...ahh memories of Holi back home! And of course Malik ji's utterly fogettable ( but insanely entertaining) ..."Do me a favour..let's play Holi", ..do me a favour...let's not!! Rainy days..and hot chai.Such synonyms.Until the happy association was ruined by another off key song..."Ek garam chai ki pyaali ho"...the tea turned cold and the flies grew old..Are you serious Anu Malik?
So the mobile phone craze has hit young India..from my Sabziwala to pensive Dhirubhai..everyone sported one!Must technology be an excuse for this torture..." What is mobile number ?"....how many girls gave you their numbers Anu?You mean they weren't woo-ed by the oh-so-romantic,"Shut up, Aa Nachle?"..I for one am shocked! But I guess if "Aila re,Ladki mast" didn't do it.Hmph picky girls these days!
So of course the rains bring illness with them.Our lyrical genius, has a panacea.Turn it into an awful song..."She gives me fever"...not Ebola Anu?Meanwhile as Indian Idol ( with bar raised!) races towards a nail biting finale..Anu Malik seems not to care about who the next Idol will be ( gasp!..I mean our lives depend on it.Who will sing me out of electricity,phone and water troubles?Oh wait this isn't a post about all that!)I think he is happy that he is famous..( enough so to have his picture punched on a punching bag...)..he seems to hum..After all," Mein Mila...tu Mili"!!!
Enough of this inane ranting!We demand lyrics! We insist on good singing!Why should we be subjected to a new generation of torturous singers,because the only people they found to judge the show are a wannabe singer,a model-turned -actress( but of course) who faces accent slippage and confusion therefore and a yesteryear beauty known for her legs..Don't mind!We still watch it though...reminiscent of McGonagall's wait on a wall for a new Saviour!..Of course...I'm still allowed to diss 'Anu crap-ik or perhaps Dunno Malik'...After all..."Kya Kool hain hum" !!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another day in Paradise..

Having lived here for a little over three months..hardly makes me an expert on Lusaka.But..I do have a lot of time on my hands..since Immigration refuses to give me a work permit..and obviously hires snails as go betweens in all their offices.Perhaps this is a good strategy..I threaten to continue writing till my permit is sanctioned....Man behind counter number 11..are you listening...Maybe I should sing too..??

( Sing to tune of Another day in Paradise, Phil Collins )

She calls out to the man at the bench
Sir can you help me?
I've been waiting all day for my lunch
Is there someone who can serve me?

He walks on , doesn't look back
Pretends he cant hear too,
Smiles and talks to the girl at the bar
Forgets to bring back a menu

Oh think twice, its another day for
You and me in Paradise
oh think twice, its just another day for you
You and me in Paradise.

She calls out to the man on the phone
He thinks she's been crying
The line starts to crackle and die down
She can't hear,but she's trying.

Oh think twice.....

Oh Sata,is there nothing more anybody can do,
Oh Banda there must be something you can say

You can tell from the look on his face
You can see you'll be back again
Probably didn't fit any of the tires right
oh you know its a trip again.

Oh think twice....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Neverending journey!!! chapter 1

One of our friends here, booked us into the Protea Safari Lodge as a wedding gift.Perhaps it was to safeguard Lusaka's precious decibel limit.I have mentioned that I can be a tad loud right? Anyway..the lodge is about 35 kms outside of Lusaka, and is at a place called Chisamba.( A name with a surprisingly high vowel/consonant ratio, FYI we live on Bwinjimfumu road...!)The drive was in itself uneventful,peppered with some off-key singing and constant chatter( who me?)The real excitement came in the last 4 kms of if -I-must-be-forced-into-calling-it-that ,road .Mosi announced that my initiation into the Have car,will drive syndrome was long overdue...So drive I did..and said Mosi was struck with a sudden case of heart in mouth syndrome.We arrived in one piece and were shown to our very own chalet...


I set about unpacking a little bit, whistling a rusty tune.Perhaps my singing isn't that bad..we soon had a visitor.....maybe he came over to say,"Lady,will you pipe down!!".He was a greater Kudu..and peacefully walking around on the lodge premises.Most of the animals seen at the Lodge have been rescued and rehabilitated..and this particular one had a cute,quizzical expression!
Protea lodge offers drive through safaris....where people cram into a noisy van,race around the trail,issuing massive amounts of smoke,kicking up country-sized dust clouds.Loud ,excited chattering doesn't help their cause either.And then they grumble they 'didn't see anything!'Hmm go figure.Well...we were too smart for them.( and of course having learnt from many trips of empty camera rolls and vapourized enthusiasm) Me and Mosi set off on foot.We saw some lovely birds along the way.Such intense colours , such a contrast to the brown ,waving grass.



I am not very good with birds...but perhaps someone who is can identify them?
We walked all along the trail...happily drinking in the peace..and the feeling of being alone!...When...all of a sudden..have you ever had the feeling like a hundred pairs of eyes are on you? Straight ahead..a herd of Zebra and of horned -antelope-like animal.All eyes were trained on us..and they sized up the trespassers.

We stood deathly still..to avoid alarming them.For half a second I was scared.Those horns looked mean.And I was faced with a feeling that I have had before, that without arms or weapons..Human beings really are vulnerable and so weak.It's a humbling thought.Finally the herd grew bored..and cantered off.Our first brush with wildlife.
Walking still further along the trail we came across two Mahuts( elephant trainers) and their elephant.She lived on the Lodge premises too..and was out for her daily dose of fresh air.Now...cute as they seem..the idea of getting close to an African elephant raised my heartbeat..almost to levels that my aerobics instructor would be proud of.She rose effortlessly with me sitting on her.It was quite thrilling to be up that high..and looking down on fairly tall people ! We waved good bye to the two guys and their gorgeous elephant....Wow..that was some experience!!!
The trail curled around a Lion enclosure...It was almost mid-day.The famous African sun was doing its best to zap any signs of water straight into the sky.We came across a well fed, lazy lioness.I was inspired to tell a joke....I have a feeling the lioness didn't think it was funny !


We mosi-ed along..and came across a traditional hut..How lucky we were!...we had a chance to meet the last two Zambian tribal lords on Protea's turf...



How regal...how proud..how familiar?

That evening we strolled along the lodge premises...There is a shimmering lake framed by long ,tall blades of grass.The marsh is often visited by inquisitive birds and dazzling dragonflies.The one downside of having a camera obsessed co-traveler...is that you are often bulldozed into posing for pictures...Luckily though..this one wasn't a close up!!

Our trip ended the next morning ..after a scrumptious brunch.I even ended up sampling crocodile tails...my opinion ..I like them on crocs better!Happily fed and watered...we set off..sad to be leaving...And Mosi sadder still , that I was driving back, the same 4 kms!!

P.S. Photo courtesy...of course Dr.Mosi..renowned as much for wonderful photos as for his blog..

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My very own sine wave!




So these are just your ordinary ,run-of-the-mill happenings..! Since I'm not into the habit of reading into things.....here goes....

Incident....New,treating -me -like -a queen husband says," Get yourself anything you want from me, for your birthday!" ( Of course in my too many X chromosomes containing head, Read : Pink Silk clutch)
Anyway...Upside...He gives me the freedom to commit daylight robbery on his credit card
Downside..Well when I share my giddy excitement with him..He helpfully offers, " Clutch...we don't have a manual transmission car!" Wait why are you banging your head on the table???

Next incident...Said car obsession competes with technology obsession..
Upside..Well I never have to worry my head with computer related angst again...Bits,bytes...RAM....Go roam!
Downside...Never having help when I'm juggling two hot dishes, and no hot mat to set anything down...Hmm perhaps I must sprout more hands, reminiscent of all Goddesses...to think that my mom complains I am not religious!

And another...So one of the big reasons I got married.Mosi..gives me total freedom,likes me as I am..and doesn't care where I've been!
Upside...the obvious..I can continue being as loud and bossy as I was..and probably always wil.Have conjured mental image of wheelchair bound me , yelling at some teenaged kid for not letting me past!And...I can still run off chasing exotic viruses..worrying only about competitive enthusiasm levels.
Downside.( you mean there is one?) well..shoot me for this..But..It irks me sometimes,for the smallest of seconds that he isn't very possessive.Must therefore conclude that he is not afraid of loosing hag-like ( loud and boisterous to boot) wife to anyone..Hmm that only depresses me further!

So...by way of compliment he tells me...Thank god you aren't a proper girl!!!! Hmpphh..I can be too!!!
Upside well...I think he means that as, You enjoy swearing and abusing our cricket team when they make a mess...You pay even less attention to what you're wearing than I do...Hmm..and these were the upsides eh....
Downsides..well I am a girl!!! Have an inactivated X chromosome to prove it!!! I'm not sure if being called a boy is totally complimentary.Clothes that don't make even a feeble attempt to the wash basket,shirts worn inside out,fruits charade-ing as a meal and inability to do more than one ( generally computer -oriented) thing....Hmmm...

And he obsessively loves dogs...More than people perhaps!!....

So???....I'm the same way!!!...Downside...No way!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

If Orhan Pamuk wrote Harry Potter

I will be called ,"He who must not be named"
I am extraordinary.I am aware of it.By the grace of our Exalted Wizard , I have been born to strike terror.I will live on ,immortal,in service to our great Wizard.The Headmaster,really an ordinary sort,has no inkling of the power these 4 walls contain.He looked at me the other day,"Boy,why has your potion turned red,I specifically said pink"."Red is the colour of those who bow to our Exalted Wizard,pink is for girls,"I said,"My name is Red!"I knew the time had come.The traitors to our Lord must be Killed.They do not share our vision of the Book.They do not bow to his greatness as the source of all marvel in this world.I must leave at night, and kill them all.

I will be called ,'The one who survived'
There was a 'thud!' at the door, and an ugly,tall man walked in.He waved a long stick at my father, and poor daddy fell unconcious.I remember some pretty green smoke though.I have been told that green is the colour of my people.I belong to the group that does not accept the Insulted Wizard or something like that.Its all very exciting.Mommy picked me up and tried to run away.But the ugly man caught up to us.He told my mom that since we do not bow to his Ruler, we must die.Yes,me too!..And then he waved hs stick and mommy fell too.I felt the same.

I am called Nothing
Why didn't he die? What has become of me ? I have no mortal body.None to ply in service of the great Wizard .No hands to offer , to paint in his glorious book, to gild or to write.This is a fate worse than death.

I am a cat.
I have been sitting on this wall for an hour now.There is news that we have a new saviour.I must check if it is true.There is a rumour that he will be brought to the house that is within this wall.What an odd house."I want more food",thats the fat boy who lives here,"Yes pumpkin",thats his over-indulgent mom, and there is a grouchy rotund father as well.Surely the saviour can't live here.Not when the Exalted Wizard lives in his palace.Surely our lot deserves more.

I am called Black.
I am the saviour's godfather.I believe in him.As I was talking with the Headmaster of Hogwarts , School of Witchcraft and Miniatury,Prof Dumbledore,he said,"keep your eye on him Black,he is in grave danger.They know that we no longer support the Book.But that we will commision him to make us another.With the training that he will receive here, he will be the best miniaturist in all the realms of the Wizard's fiefdom.He will paint as though the colours flow through his very veins.Each tree he depicts will talk to the viewer.Almost like that one,the Whomping willow.His animals will be so lifelike that they will appear to be like humans.Sometimes even transfigured.He will save us, and this Red, or Nothing as he is called now, shall never know!"Having said,Dumbledore retired into his inner chamber.I , Black wandered in search of pigments.

I will be called a Murderer
What a swagger that man,Black has!How arrogant he appears ,all because he is Godfather to some silly boy.No one will ever be able to match my power,my immortality.They must bow to me, as a true messenger from our Exalted Sultan.How easy it would be to slit his throat right here.Perhaps I will...Or maybe I will use something more in keeping with my skills..A flash of green light....

I am a corpse.
I knew my end had come, even before the green light grazed me.I could feel myself fall to the floor..Looking up,I saw the vile face of my murderer.I saw him turn and leave, his black coat billowing behind him.His wand slipped out of his pocket.It came to rest,ironically on the spot that just earlier it's issued green light hit me.I have no regrets,my only worry is my Godson.There will be no one to guide him on our quest of the Book.If only I could tell him what it means to our people.This book will contain the greatest of all spells,potions and incantations.I shut my eyes,I die.

I am a Wand
I know all the signs of a great Wizard.It is said in our books,that Our Lord gave us eyes to see the world as he intended it.I,however ensure that a Wizard can make out of the world that which he choses.The wizard does not chose me, I chose the wizard.And in doing so,make him who he is.Currently I rest on Black's noble chest. I know the murderer, I felt his hand on me. Who's this... I get picked up from Black's chest.

I am the Minister
I see Black laying dead with his wand by his side. There is a second wand on his chest. I pick it up. It could be that of the murderer. I will find out whose wand it is by giving it to Ollivander the wand maker. I wonder whose wand it is. I hope it is not that of one of my underlings, none over whose magic I govern, it will be a sad day for me... I mean... us.

I am an assistant
My supreme lord the exalted Ollivander has left in search of holly wood for his newest wand creation. he thinks that even squibs will be able to have magic with a wand made from Holly wood. I think if such a thing is possible, it will only be by trickery. Anyway, I much prefer Bolly wood for my wands. Ah, it's the Minister, gracing our shop, with his muddy shoes. What an honour. The Minister barked, "Boy, hurry up, call Ollivander. I have business of the highest importance with him." I said, "But, your grace, Mr Ollivander has gone over the oceans to find Holly wood." The Minister went red and shouted, " But I need him now. How dare he not be here? These dreams of Holly wood will never work. He will be corrupted by American ideals. I hear muggles make wands out of plastic and dress up like us... worse yet they get rewarded with candy. How can a place like that have any use for the Minister's... I mean the exalted Wizard's wand maker? Anyway, boy, you seem to know what you are doing. Take this wand. Find its owner. I will be back tomorrow for the answer. Do not fail me... and do not make wands in the new style. Remember, oak birch and phoenix feathers like the expert wand makers. I cannot believe this holly corruption has reached our Ollivander." I took the wand and bowed for the pearls of wisdom from our exalted Minister.

I am wandless
Killing of the traitor has proved even more troublesome.My faithful wand must have fallen in the duel.Our Exalted Wizard,praise be to him,will be sp thrilled with our new Book.Every dark spell, every torture technique....All those potions famililar more by smell than sight.I have been raised in their shadows.Ahh....Panchi...Where is my faithful butterfly? Come my precious..are you hungry....?

I am the Minister
I hurried back into the Wandmaker's store.The adolescent boy hurried to the store front."So, who does it belong to lad?",I said impaitently.He blinked...swallowed nervously,He offered,"My Lord,Ollivander ,bless him,has taught me only thus far...",he said his name ,defernetially , almost shyly.Is there something going on between Olivander and this youth.No doubt he is slender and has beutiful,sinewy arms."Anyway, what can you tell me then?,I demanded ,irked."My grace, the wand is made of Birch wood and Phoenix core.The phoenix who gave this feather,gave only one other.That other feather resides in the wand of the boy who survived,Harry Potter".My eyes widended...I turned on my heels."Curious, here is my best chance to defame Harry.If he can't find out the owner,I must have him taken away.He is rapidly progressing towards fame,some
say he will be Minister!I can't allow it..our Exalted Wizard must only turn to me!! "

I,Ginny
His gorgeous black scar into me.Silly boy,telling me about Gilding when all I want are his arms around me.I can feel Draco's lustful stare ,sear into my back.How nice to be sought after by both.Orhan and Shevket,dart in front of me.Odd how they get along...one a snowy owl,the other a horned toad.Ah..I haven't had a letter from Draco in a while..where is that Parvati..she is getting to be a nuisance!"So Ginny, you see,Gilding is a gift.Only those who truly believe can gild,can paint,can..."His sentence was ended by the Minister,who eyes blazing yanked him by the collar of his cloak.

I am Harry
Neck still smarting,I was marched off by the fudgy hands of the Minister.He really must wash his hands after a snack."My boy,you owe the Ministry a favour from your last outing with the Gaping Gargoyle.You must find the owner of this wand.In three days...Or I might be forced to consider that it is yours.You and Professor Snape will spend your time in the Room of Requisition.Hopefully,you will find all you need",he smirked.Off I was marched...

I am the Exalted Wizard
I deign my permission upon you magical folk,Go onward into the Room, and declare to us the owner of this wand.And committer of crime.Our world needs a hero!

I am Severus Snape
Me and this annoying boy were sealed into the Room.We both shut our eyes and thought of a way to solve this conundrum.The room magically transformed into Hogwarts grounds.It looked just like an oft seen scene in my mind.The one where Lily gazes at James'untidy hair and fall in love with him.Ah Lily...But I musn't waver from my task.From my dedication to our Exalted Wizard.I must prove that I have only him in my thoughts..and have given up my life to his service.I must go dumb..never utter another word.Silence...

I am Harry
Stupid Snape sank to his knees and kissed the ground.And settled into a peaceful penance.What use is he? What shall I do now? Where is the Answer?

I am,He who must not be named.
I burst into the Room.The only place that could help me find my wand.What's this..my slit like eyes pick up a figure.My serpentine nostrils smell his banality.Its the boy!Accio...and my wand flew into its rightful place."Ahh,he gasped, so you own this wand".Yes you oaf,now prepare to die!Avada Kedavra.."Expeilliarmus" echoed at the same instant.Our wands connected...by their shared cores.

I am the Phoenix feather.

I shoot out my spell...aimed at that..wait its my Brother.Here I am disarming him, when I really want to embrace his core.I was second born...I am stronger.I force him to my side..Come to me brother.rest,it's over.You are home.

I will be the one who does not get Detention
I saw the beads of light move towards his wand.My wand was winning!His quivered, and regurtitated his last spell...the killing of my Godfather.I saw his form,smoky yet handsome appear..And with renewed anger I conquered the Nameless Snake.

I,Ginny
The hunt is over.There are two things that I have secretly hoped for all this time.
1.That I marry Harry.
2.That we commission a painting of my patronus to grace the cover of the Book.

In the hope that this story be told,I sat down with my maid,J.K.Rowling..perhaps she will reveal our glorious past.Don't be taken in if Harry is more untidy than he is,Draco more smooth,or Shevket more warted.There is never a lie she would deign to tell, to make a tale more enchanting. But who's this she is writing to..Who is Orhan Pamuk?

The Parody makers-

Shilpa and Mosilager

Thenext in the series ,continuing a brilliant start by said Mosi .

Monday, October 06, 2008

De-mystifying K-serials!

It was another Friday night.Dinner was piping hot, and issuing steam right into my peaceful face.With a lazy flick...one crazy screen replaced the other.And the master of the remote control, came to rest on a popular Indian channel.My eyes fluttered over to the TV..and "Oh! Horror!" , what must they behold, but a K-serial...shudder!!!!!

It was your run-of-the-mill scene..Over - dressed lady number one skulks in a corner,under the stairs.She regards the room with her mascara-ed eyes.Her' suited and booted' brother smiles , an almost painful grimace.Mirroring this; is his soon-to-be fiance,standing by him and matching his make-up cracking grin!You can't take your eyes off her, not because of her breath-taking beauty,but because your eyes are stuck.The shining glint of every diamond( Blood or otherwise) have shocked your eyes into staying put!Arrives Villain one...Marrying man's mother.The rest of the generous stage is shared by the girl's family.Eyes darting furtively around the hall.What are they looking for you wonder? ....Aha...this is the twist you were waiting for..The family has another little girl.Very scientifically, they explain how she is mentally challenged, and has not grown beyond the age of 10.Well...who has if they still watch this stuff? Anyway cut to scene at hand...

Girl's family is worried that the mentally 10 year old will mar the happy announcement of the engagement, and tell her to stay outside the hall.Meanwhile, the boy's rotund and 'sparkly' mom smiles,and announces to the gathering of rather bored looking folk...that her son is to be engaged to this girl( pauses for applause and demure,downward tilt of prior mentioned mascara!), and that the wedding is to be in three days! "Gasp", goes the girl's family, "We are not prepared!"."Is there a problem?",asks mommy dearest , with a fake eye-flutter, ( seriously aunty, being cutesy at your age??)...Finally a conversation ensues...and the wedding will be in three days...Shouldn't everyone concerned race home to prepare??? Anyway in the meanwhile,over-dressed to the gills,sis of groom to be laughs a menacing laugh.Muhahahaha....She slips out ,un-noticed( except by me!) and finds the 10 year old.She convinces her that the group inside is waiting with bated breath for her arrival.Convinced,said ten year old races in,arms flailing and all...pushes over the waiter,breaks all the China ( more even than China ever had!) and sets fire to Mommy's pallu.Oh horror! Hmph...now the wedding is being called off....
Sound like utter nonsense? I thought about it...in fact..how supremely intelligent..how wonderfully subtle..if only this was a scene from a Spy thriller...

Girl under the stairs is part of Revenge camp.She has been skulking around setting bugs in the room.She checks in with her boss,"This is too-much-kohl,area bugged.Subjects are on stage,Over"Suit clad guy is on her team, he is a pawn in the mission, only he doesn't know it!..Demure damsel on his arm ,is here representing the arms dealing camp! Mommy is on damsel's team!..In the audience is the arms dealer they are courting.She announces in code..we need the weapons in three days!..Damsel looks down, and flutters eyelids once..her code, we will go upto one Million!..Meanwhile the others on the stage, are from a competitive weapon camp.We can't be ready that soon..maybe in a few more days...preparations and all that!!!.Ahem...Meanwhile evil, too-much-kohl decides to sniff out the area for the Look-out.The little girl , although acting mentally ten, keeps a keen eye out for danger.She is wired , and each seemingly silly song ,conveys a world of meaning."The deal is being worked out!I think they are agreeing to one Million...three days..!"With a delicate maneuver , too-much-kohl pushes a gun into Lookout's back and marches in.Smart little girl, in desperate attempt to save her mission,runs amok,pushes the team's contact,breaks the bug-laden china, and sends up alarm smoke-signals to Mommy.Danger noted,she in turn,abruptly calls off deal,warning the arms camps that a spy is in their midst!
And even the make-up serves a devious purpose...not a soul knows how the people look beneath it.Plastic surgery on the sets!

See there....wasn't that just griping.So the next time you pooh-pooh a K serial, think again...such clever deception,such trickery.....Surely the stuff that inspires Scorcese !!!

Maybe the author of the Phiri Deception has a K-serial to thank too??

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Switching Dwarf Identities!

So yesterday I switched dwarf identities.Not only to mean that I traded in my brown two-tone tunic with a yellow cap for a yellow brown tunic.Of course I'm skipping over the long beard and white hair at this point..Shhhh.Naah..I came down with a nasty cold! So having said..I went from lovable rotund Happy to trying-to-stifle-a sneeze Sneezy ( albeit sadly, still rotund!)

Of course ,come morning,I felt like a ton of bricks had landed on my still peacefully prostrate form.And that the energy had been sucked straight out of my sneezing self.Well , what to do? But go back to sleep...having said,I waved a Grumpy bye to Dr.Mosi( tunic hence changed to red)..and flopped over and went back to sleep.Sore throat and aching eyes were soon to follow.Lest I was missing their august presence.I snored a tune ...literally sang myself to sleep.

Later that morning...said Mosi smsed me to see how I was doing...I felt a twinge of annoyance.How come he gets to be outdoors...enjoying the dust-laden air, and the scorching sun ? While I'm stuck at home...wrapped in a paisley sheet? How do dogs do it? How do they manage to look so happy when their pets ( read for us ,of exalted ego..Masters ! ) come home.I bet sleeping on the couch doesn't compare to rushing headfirst down a rabbit hole?

Anyway...as I am sure everyone is relieved to know,I am back on my feet...Back to blogging..back to appearing normal...Hmm all manner of blurry eyes,croaking throat and bulbous nose forgotten! Quite a tiring day....Switching three identities in one day...at this I pause ,visions of grandiose as I imagine myself as greatest spy/secret agent ever!Anyway...fertile imagination sated for the day...I log off...Back to being Happy,in a land far far away....and for a long long time!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moving out of my comfort zone...

Just last year , I moved to the US to begin a PhD.I was apprehensive...I had lived at home most of my life...and here I was moving all the way across many oceans to live by myself.Apprehension mixed with excitement can be quite a heady cocktail...and such was I ..when I set off ....to sail (soar) the seas...
West Lafayette is a small town..very reminiscent of home.So 'check mark' in front of place I guess!..What made me love this place..what made me cry when I left..was the friends I made there.I was quickly adopted into this family..and home seemed to have moved to West Lafayette.The things I remember now, exam stress alleviated by 4 am jaunt to I-hop!! , rainy weekends made cheery with food and drink at the best hosts I have ever known! My drinking buddy and his wife...set up an inviting living room..only to have us over- worked Grad students crash it everyday!I remember the small things..Of Nyquil being driven over to me when I went off with the Flu! Of long walks home , with a Mop -haired friend walking with me.Naturally grumbling that I walked too fast! Of exams , and my best teacher.The one guy I know who knows more than most professors...in any subject...And one I ran to whenever a presentation raised its ugly head.Of a fun loving couple ...who loved us...and never judged us.And took me to drinks my first birthday away from home.She , of above mentioned couple, taught me to make Chicken Marsala , just because I said I wanted to learn to make something with chicken and Wine!!! Ahhh demanding me..And him of said couple...Who helped sort out some confusion in my fuzzy brain.Perhaps me and the husband owe him one!! Of always having a friend to talk to...even when the chips were down.Of having the roommate from heaven!..Illness translated to hot bowls of soup...and plenty of TLC!...Having someone always ask when I would be back when I left the house..And a girl who cared for me , perhaps more than she cared for herself.Of hours spent decoding the esoteric mysteries of the world...to whipping up exotic dishes in a meager kitchen! To know that there were people who shared my life...as I lived it.And who didn't judge me..only supported me.
I write for them!
This year meant leaving that plush,cozy nook...and moving to Africa.I didn't think I would survive it...But having just gotten off the phone after a long chat with them.I smile..Nothing has changed! I will always be a part of the family....

Monday, September 29, 2008

TIA ..my friends...TIA !!

So one of the first things I learnt about being here was this phrase,"TIA".Often said with a sad shake of the head, or with an almost devil-like smile.TIA , for the un-initiated stands for This is Africa!! Haha..that is their way of explaining strange things that may happen..and a way to accept them too!...These were some of the situations under which ,..TIA became my friend!!

I applied to be endorsed on Dr.Mosi's work permit, so that I, a peace-loving virologist can stay here without having to leave the country every month.Now given our profession,money is like a vaccine.Wonderful to have,not easy to develop and needs many trials to achieve .Anyway for that reason, and also perhaps because I don't want to have to pack a ridiculously small bag every 28 days,I decided to apply for the endorsement.We met with a guy,a Timberlake-inspired sort who assured us that the job will only take 2 weeks( but thankfully he didn't do it in falsetto!)It has now been 4 times that, but he maintains that it will come ....hmmm We uneasily asked whether the lack of money changing hands was the problem.To his credit he didn't agree, but said that he wasn't the one to ask.Then who is...God ?? Anyway so here I am....on my last week that I am allowed here..blogging about it...TIA !!

Me and said Mosi went to a shawarma place with a friend this weekend.We sat ourselves down(literally!), and I smiled a beaming smile at all around.I was hungry, but being mature about it.Also, the lure of soon to be eaten hot shawarma may have done the trick.Anyway...5 minutes in and no sight of a menu.Waiter:" what menu? All the stuff we have is up on the wall",Us;" Ah yes...the normal place to have the items listed...." hmmm..Anyway I don't care , I want food!! Happy facade starting to slip just a bit.Finally we ordered and paid for our food....Twenty minutes later, our poor friend went up and stood at the chef's desk...Food?? Ahh yes..Half the order came in..the other half forgotten..Then we were told we hadn't paid for the food.Hmm...what was that money that changed hands at the start..was that the money for my endoresement..Is this guy secretly an Immigration guy?...Anyway..later fed and watered we waddled out...Does a meal really have to be this complicated....Well TIA!!

Ahh and finally..The source of greatest angst.The phone system!! Grr...I am on MTN , a provider here.Provider?? snicker snicker...This company is a stickler for privacy for sure.They ensure you are never disturbed , and never bother anyone!..Calls don't get through...and my parents have gone red in the face and fingers pressing redial!!I can't get through to the husband's phone even when he is right next to me...."Out of service area ",proclaims the lady,oh-so -officially!!! Maybe that's MTN saying serves you right for clogging up our lines...Grrrrr...TIA indeed!!!

And then...what happened yesterday...We and said Mosi sat down to watch the don of all movies..Sholay!..2 bowls of ice cream..and we got into a highly dramatic scene.Jai has been shot..but he hides the wound from Veeru.He tells Veeru to take Basanti( of extremely shy and quiet Hema Malini fame!) and return with more ammo!..He flips the coin , and elects to stay!Just as our ( mine ,for sure) hearts raced with all the action...One dirty shirt- clad ,ugly goonda( read villain!) reached for the gun, the cd clicked and whirred and stopped! What....Nooooooo! Re-loading the cd...forwarding past the said scene,playing it on a computer..nothing would work.The end ..would remain a mystery!....So TIA too? Naah..this is just us...But as long as we are complaining...............

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Attack of the killer flies!!!

So back to a routine day at the office....Our wonderful tin roofed,thin -walled building appears to have been taken over by flies."Swat!"..."swish!"...our morning tunes seem to have been hijacked too.!
We have a resident expert here...he is here to advise on Business matters.But seeing the locust like invasion ,he has in fact taken matters into his own hands..and how.He has perfected the skill of killing flies with rolled up magazines.Quite a skill set this man can now boast of! We miss him however..he is away for a few days...hmmm...what will become of this Musca mayhem? "Wheee"...an annoying buzz near my ear..what is the point of their existence , I ask myself,while waving arms frantically in the air.I must appear to either have no control of said arms..or be trying desperately to master some exotic dance form.Either way, everyone who approaches the office , always gives me a wary look.Maybe they fear I will trip over and land on them, or perhaps enthrall them with prior mentioned exotic dance.Maybe thats scarier?
Anyway...one of my other friends in office now has taken over the noble task of swatting these devilish winged beasts.Wild swish..and a miss!! Hmmm she still has a way to go!!
What are all these flies doing here ?? Is it the new paint? perhaps the cheerful yellow reminds them of a happy day!...Is it me...Good grief...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of Spinning classes and Chocolate Sundaes!

So I recently got a hookah as a gift.In keeping with the whole atmosphere , a friend suggested that I learn how to belly dance.That might seem like a normal suggestion..but in my land of plenty ( read GluteasCopious - from Asterix and Co.) ,it was horrifying!
Can you imagine me doing a belly dance..good lord...all seductive images of such activity must immediately be replaced with scene of fat girl jiggling generous belly at curious music( remember Maiya Maiya from Guru ???) haha.!! Perhaps the scene would be more suitable as an advert for a local Gym, promising to reduce aforementioned belly
Speaking of gym however..My new husband and I have joined gym, rather ambitiously for three months.We have been going two days and enjoy it so far lets see how long the cheer continues.The thought being that each of us can motivate the other...of course neither of us have gotten to what will happen in a month.Long day...Who me? I have to do the cooking? Maybe we don't have the time for Gym anymore, or better yet, if I don't cook, and we don't eat anymore, we don't need gym ! What say hubby dear? ...Are you there??
Let me introduce more complications ..since of course we are appallingly low on those. Apparently he is some Schwarzzanger clone who builds muscle in two weeks.This will of course promise to irk me no end,as no matter how many torturous hours I spend at gym,sweating nobody's business loads,and cursing and swearing at all the fries that I have recently consumed;none of that wants to budge.I must therefore assume that I am an extremely good host , capable of making all feel at home.And never to be threatened by the fear of being lost by hours spent on a treadmill!
Yesterday was spinning class..which meant that we sat ourselves down on a cycle...comfortable because of ample rear padding,and cycle for 45 minutes.Now don't be fooled into thinking that is an easy task and I'm a wimp.While the latter might be true yet,there is this terrible moment when the instructor yells "Up!!!""...now I thought ( with a sigh of relief ) that he meant we were to go off scampering on our lil way..And here i was all smug ,"See, I can handle any class they throw at me !!! "I looked around the class , with grand visuals of the whole class applauding my supreme fitness , on my first day!What I saw instead, all my co-sufferers , standing up on the pedals, and cycling furiously.Since Mr Fat-Buster at the front was making no motion to correct them, was I to assume that this was part of the torture routine?
So up I stood.Pray, Id be willing to stand a thousand hours on plane ground, having been through that!Grrr....Since I had been bad," One large plate of fries please, extra crisp!! " , I deserved what came next.Fat-Buster clad in impossibly tight lycra thundered,"Sprint!"..Hmm isn't that something you do off a bicycle, me wonders ?Nonetheless,spurred on by my brave classmates, I sprinted!! And how! Now all manner of language that they definitely don't endorse in Disney films ensued, and after much groaning the clock finally ticked to the end of class..
I hobbled out on weary legs to be met by the man I married,lifting weights with a smile...Hmm who does that? As we walked out, me drenched in sweat, and cherry pink to boot, accompanied by aforementioned smiling guy,humming a tune for effect, the receptionist gave me a pity head-shake! "Yeah, I'll show you...I will be back..But not anytime soon!"
Anyway....I congratulated myself on making it through two whole days.1/3.5 of a week!! Well done!How did I seal my dedication to the whole fitness jamboree ? Well I blogged about it of course..and dug into a Triple Chocolate Sundae...( psst only to keep my resolve to work out strong! ) Oh well...I'm in a good mood!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mrityunjaya

So I now live in Lusaka....Its a quiet place with a relaxed pace to life.The president passed away ( of Zambia, not Zimbabwe! ) So there was a long period of mourning...that ended to coincide with my returning to here!

We spend our time every day at CIDRZ( Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia).Just behind our office is a morgue.As should be the case with every office!..This morning there were a group of ladies singing loudly and all together , standing in the courtyard of the morgue.I spent ten minutes quizzically looking around for the source of the sound, and a friend here in lab was convinced it was the radio.However, once we looked beyond the windows of the office, there they were ,colour co-ordinated and everything.

So maybe they are here to celebrate death ? To remind us that it is in everyone's future...and is freedom of an ultimate kind.Not that different from some customs that exist in India.There is a lot to experience here,culturally. All you need do, is keep your eyes..and perhaps your ears open too.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A single tree
Alone it sways-
Its lacy branches,
Their own harmony.

A moist,cool breeze,
Found a friend,
A filigree'd leaf
To take along.

Radiant sunlight,
Its golden beam illumined
A path;
One leaf left , soon another.

Fall's miracle rode in-
On a magician's wand,
With a deft stroke,
Breathed fire into each leaf.

One frail leaf,
Drifted to the waving grass,
Its swaying soulmate,
Greeted a cold,grey river.

But one fought on,
Resolute and strong,
Tempted by-
No such petty call.

"My decided fate"
Preached the leaf,
And in this wordy interim,
Winter's cloak came riding in.

No moist breeze,
No fiery sun,
No radiant hues,
To soften the grey.

Powdery snow dusted the land,
A soft dove's blanket laid,
The last leaf fell to its bed-
Gently.

Shilpa Iyer

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Memories of a man

Since so long ago,
When innocence cushioned my thoughts,
My beady eye remained fixed-
On his lovely prized ring

Its thick gold band
Circled his patriarchal finger
And its large sapphire
Shone a mercurial blue.

It proved its mettle,
Rallied as a source of strength
It lost its twin along the way-
And was escorted to solitude

And he saw happy times,
Reward of values instilled
And new bonds forged
With those of old.

But the descent began-
He crumbled rapidly
And in days rendered
The shadow of a man

Finally truce was called,
And his cold body lay in peace.

And as we huddled
Around the fire
The heat of the funeral pyre-
Dried the tears off my face.

The billowing fire calmed,
Its smoke carried his voice to the heavens-
And there on the ground , lay his sapphire,
Nestled among the ash.

Shilpa Iyer
A lone flame in the darkness,
A lone star on a dark night
A lone sun ray in a cloudy storm
A lone flower among the thorns
A lone raindrop in a desert
A lone leaf;dancing on a nude tree,
A lone snowflake on a clear wintry day,
A lone cloud in a clear blue sky
A lone smile among the frowns
A lone hero among the sell-outs
A lone thought in the midst of vaccuum,
A loner glimmer of hope among despair-
A lone newborn in a cold graveyard
A lone true love amongst sadistic hatred
A lone laugh among the wail of pain
A lone carress among raining blows

A quick moment stolen in this maze
Just to reflect
That even on the darkest night
A star still struggles to brighten the sky
There's always hope
No fear in being a lone warrior
Life is beautiful
A lone breath,
Even if its in a cemetry

Shilpa iyer