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The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones…

… awaits me.

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The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones***

Some people—not you nor I, because we are so awfully self-possessed—but some people, find great difficulty in saying good-bye when making a call or spending the evening. As the moment draws near when the visitor feels that he is fairly entitled to go away he rises and says abruptly, “Well, I think I…” Then the people say, “Oh, must you go now? Surely it’s early yet!” and a pitiful struggle ensues.

I think the saddest case of this kind of thing that I ever knew was that of my poor friend Melpomenus Jones, a curate—such a dear young man, and only twenty-three! He simply couldn’t get away from people. He was too modest to tell a lie, and too religious to wish to appear rude. Now it happened that he went to call on some friends of his on the very first afternoon of his summer vacation. The next six weeks were entirely his own—absolutely nothing to do. He chatted awhile, drank two cups of tea, then braced himself for the effort and said suddenly:

“Well, I think I…”

But the lady of the house said, “Oh, no! Mr. Jones, can’t you really stay a little longer?”

Jones was always truthful. “Oh, yes,” he said, “of course,
I—er—can stay.”

“Then please don’t go.”

He stayed. He drank eleven cups of tea. Night was falling.
He rose again.

“Well now,” he said shyly, “I think I really…”

“You must go?” said the lady politely. “I thought perhaps you could have stayed to dinner…”

“Oh well, so I could, you know,” Jones said, “if…”

“Then please stay, I’m sure my husband will be delighted.”

“All right,” he said feebly, “I’ll stay,” and he sank back into his chair, just full of tea, and miserable.

Papa came home. They had dinner. All through the meal Jones sat planning to leave at eight-thirty. All the family wondered whether Mr. Jones was stupid and sulky, or only stupid.

After dinner mamma undertook to “draw him out,” and showed him photographs. She showed him all the family museum, several gross of them—photos of papa’s uncle and his wife, and mamma’s brother and his little boy, an awfully interesting photo of papa’s uncle’s friend in his Bengal uniform, an awfully well-taken photo of papa’s grandfather’s partner’s dog, and an awfully wicked one of papa as the devil for a fancy-dress ball. At eight-thirty Jones had examined seventy-one photographs. There were about sixty-nine more that he hadn’t. Jones rose.

“I must say good night now,” he pleaded.

“Say good night!” they said, “why it’s only half-past eight! Have you anything to do?”

“Nothing,” he admitted, and muttered something about staying six weeks, and then laughed miserably.

Just then it turned out that the favourite child of the family, such a dear little romp, had hidden Mr. Jones’s hat; so papa said that he must stay, and invited him to a pipe and a chat. Papa had the pipe and gave Jones the chat, and still he stayed. Every moment he meant to take the plunge, but couldn’t. Then papa began to get very tired of Jones, and fidgeted and finally said, with jocular irony, that Jones had better stay all night, they could give him a shake-down. Jones mistook his meaning and thanked him with tears in his eyes, and papa put Jones to bed in the spare room and cursed him heartily.

After breakfast next day, papa went off to his work in the City, and left Jones playing with the baby, broken-hearted. His nerve was utterly gone. He was meaning to leave all day, but the thing had got on his mind and he simply couldn’t. When papa came home in the evening he was surprised and chagrined to find Jones still there. He thought to jockey him out with a jest, and said he thought he’d have to charge him for his board, he! he! The unhappy young man stared wildly for a moment, then wrung papa’s hand, paid him a month’s board in advance, and broke down and sobbed like a child.

In the days that followed he was moody and unapproachable. He lived, of course, entirely in the drawing-room, and the lack of air and exercise began to tell sadly on his health. He passed his time in drinking tea and looking at the photographs. He would stand for hours gazing at the photographs of papa’s uncle’s friend in his Bengal uniform—talking to it, sometimes swearing bitterly at it. His mind was visibly failing.

At length the crash came. They carried him upstairs in a raging delirium of fever. The illness that followed was terrible. He recognized no one, not even papa’s uncle’s friend in his Bengal uniform. At times he would start up from his bed and shriek, “Well, I think I…” and then fall back upon the pillow with a horrible laugh. Then, again, he would leap up and cry, “Another cup of tea and more photographs! More photographs! Har! Har!”

At length, after a month of agony, on the last day of his vacation, he passed away. They say that when the last moment came, he sat up in bed with a beautiful smile of confidence playing upon his face, and said, “Well—the angels are calling me; I’m afraid I really must go now. Good afternoon.”

And the rushing of his spirit from its prison-house was as rapid as a hunted cat passing over a garden fence.

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Like Jones here, I can never tell when a conversation is over. I plod on and on and on to the point where I completely forget where the whole thing started, where it took a detour, crossed the river and took off to space, all the while having the nagging doubt ‘Should I have stopped there?’

 

*** From Literary Lapses

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I Think

Z

I hate the chat/text message ‘Howz life?’ Two reasons. First, the sms lingo. I know people do it because it is convenient. But then every time i see smashed up words my eyes sort of twitch as if reminding me that they were meant to see breathtaking vistas, gorgeous women and football, nothing else, not words that have been molested by a brain infested with maggots and fish droppings. The second reason is, this may sound silly, I dont really like the letter z. Even the English dont like it, that’s why they just placed it at the end of the alphabet. Coming to think of it, i dont think the English even wanted it in the first place. There is something awfully suspicious about the letter. Think about it, if you were given the job of picking the letters for the alphabet how many would you pick.. would you pick a nice round number, a multiple of five, the number of fingers in our hand, like say 25 or a ridiculously peculiar number 26? My gut tells me the designers of the alphabet wanted 25 letters and some German lobbied hard and squeezed in the letter z. It also tells me, my gut that is, that the German was some kind of a baker, who dint just stop there but went on and poisoned little minds, cunningly manipulating them into thinking they needed his baked goods by running a viral marketing song under the pretext of popularizing the newly constructed alphabet, into which he sneaked in the lines ‘x-y-z sugar on your bread, if you dont like it go to bed’. Dirty german bastard. I cant believe the english still retain the letter, its not like cebra and sygote cant be spelled any other way.

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Something I wrote a while back

Folks at work have changed the blog platform to a new one and I spent the last evening archiving the posts I had written there before someone rm-rf’s the old blog server. I stumbled across this entry that I wrote a while back. I had great fun writing this, more for its timing than anything else. It was written just before the annual performance eval during the recession year. Reposting here for general amusement.
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I have never liked biology much, least of all zoology. Despite this, I have been doing research on certain species and it gives me great joy in announcing that I have identified 3 new species right here inside our very own premises. Here I shall give a brief description of these three species.

Before i proceed i would like to highlight a fascinating feature common to all the three species, all of them, coincidentally, are spotted during the months of october and march.

1. Corvus technicalus.
On the way to the cafeteria, treading along the narrow lanes that separate your cubicles, if you hear snatches of conversation like ‘cosmic energy coupled with atomic energy with a program in java’, and if you hear it only during the months of october and march and seldom otherwise, chances are there is a Corvus technicalus in the vicinity. The Corvus technicalus is very similar to the more common Coderus appavius, so here is a word of caution, before you publicly identify a specimen as Corvus, make sure that it not an innocent Coderus appavius just loudly clarifying its doubt.

2. Vulpes emailli.
A member of the Vulpes emailli genus usually transmits messages about captain’s calisthenics, balakrishna’s baltis, idlebrain.com images and miranda-meendum-meendum-siripu message based mails that have necessitated the existence of snopes.com. But come september, the wily creature starts the process of building the image, and soon emails about coding best practices, marketing tips, the advantages of agile programming and the various ways of refactoring addressed to your team make it into your mailbox.

3. Ursus forumus.
This is perhaps the most easily identifiable of the three species. The Ursus forumus hibernates for long periods of the year from May to September and from November to February. During the remaining time, it is usually spotted in the grasslands of forums. The Ursus forumus usually triggers a acidic reaction in the stomachs of Coderus appavius which is often heard exclaiming ‘inda kosu tolla taanga mudila.. yaarachum marundu adichu kollungalenda’.

During this time of the year, if one were to look at these 3 species alongside the remaining members of the ecosystem, namely the Coderus appavius, Nocturnus backbonius and Hypnosium salesengerus, it is clear that all of them are in anticipation of ‘monsoon’ rains. There are of course fears about how the the monsoons will be affected due to ‘global warming’, and speculation on the amount of ‘rainfall’ is the most common topic of discussion at lunch tables, evening walks and cubicle gatherings. One can only hope that we have a great monsoon.

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Suicide

That has got to be the most ridiculous thing anybody can do. Especially when the person attempting it is smart, and rational, and intelligent, and is just into his fucking twenties. There is a whole life out there waiting to happen. How the fuck can one who is remarkably sensible take this mindless step is beyond me. There are those among us whose days are numbered, who silently weep into their pillows yearning for that extra day of life and then there are these fuckers who callously throw away theirs. Such a shame.

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Shopping sarees and salwars

There are many things I dont know how to do. It usually doesnt matter. For example, I have no idea how to moonwalk, how to juggle cats, how to sleep under water and many many other things, but then it is safe to say that I will never get into a situation where I would need to moonwalk and juggle cats while sleeping under water to save my life. Another thing that I dont know is how to buy a saree. This too dint matter until last thursday but then I decided to buy one and all of a sudden I had a whole new problem in my hands.

I acted American about the whole thing, I decided to outsource it. I went to my sister, told her about it and asked if she could help. She listened patiently, made a big deal of how it would be a waste of her time and after a bit of kenjufying said ok. We decided to get the job done the next evening.

We went to Naidu Hall on friday evening, first time I was in there. It felt odd walking into the place, some primitive instinct kept whispering that I did not belong in this place. I know, it was silly. Anyway, I reiterated my requirements ‘simple and elegant’. She told me to relax and started roaming around the place with an air of someone who knows what she is doing. In five minutes it became clear she knew very little about sarees. I had handed the saree project to a person whose core competency was salwars. I quickly checked with her if she knew that she did not know anything about sarees and she shot back saying that she knew much more than me anyway. Fair enough. The next half hour was a confused blur of sarees, we rummaged through a few dozen sarees and at the end of it we had a winner. I asked the sales lady to open the saree and show me the thing inside that people look at before buying one. She did, I looked at the thing I was supposed to be looking at, made a generic comment on how nice it was and gave a smug nod of approval. It went smooth and would have remained that way if only my sister hadnt spoiled it by telling the sales lady ‘avanukku enna paakanumne teriyathu, chumma scene podraan’. Insult.

We headed towards the billing counter and then something I hadnt planned on happened. One moment we were waiting for the saree to be billed and the next we were walking up the stairs to look at salwars. Apparently I had told my sister the previous day that I would get her something if she helped me with the saree. She thought it would be a salwar. I told her I had meant pav bhaaji. Now I dont really remember how I got persuaded into buying her a salwar but there we were taking the stairs. I suspect there was a subconscious element to the decision, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better at selecting salwars than I had with sarees, after all I have spent the last ten years ‘sight’ing salwar-clad girls. Turned out to be naive optimism though. Unlike sarees, my sister knew her way around the salwar section. There was nothing much for me to do except look around. There were a few mid-30s women there, a couple of lasses nearby were discussing chemistry and ornithology, something about copper sulphate and the cervix of a peacock. I tried helping my sister, offered unsolicited opinions which were discarded without acknowledgment. I asked interesting questions like ‘What is interesting about this salwar?’ and got the same reply every time ‘terinju enna panna pora’. Just as I was wondering how long all this is going to take she had picked a salwar, and now that she was done she was more open to discussing about the salwar she had picked. Apparently it is called bhandani or something like that. She talked about it at length most of which I dont remember now, although I think I can identify one in a crowd.

Anyway, the saree turned out to be a hit, which was a relief to be honest. The evening on the whole wasnt that bad, it was fairly educational, I now know what bhandani is, which could potentially change my life. I could end up putting this on my resume ‘Knows: C, java, python and bhandani’, there could be someone out there going ‘Holy salwar! this guy knows bhandani.. he is our man, lets get him’. I could end up in a bollywood movie, make an epic Deewar scene with Big-B where he goes ‘I know trousers, I know shirts and sherwanis, benaras silk and bikinis.. what do you know?’ and I would calmly say ‘I know bhandani’. Epic. The possibilities are endless. It could end up being my ‘omlette du fromage’. Woohoo!

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Kanda Naal Muthal

Me and a bunch of my cousins got together this weekend, purely by chance, and were hanging out at my peripa’s place. After a heavy lunch, the kind that would have fed an entire village somewhere in Sudan I was gearing up to sleep on the double bed. One cousin decided to double up the double bed as an OAT, placed the laptop at one end and started watching Kanda Naal Muthal. One by one folks joined in and filled up the bed leaving me like one of the tetris blocks, cramped up to optimise the bed space. Apparently everyone barring me had watched the movie atleast once and I couldnt help wondering why watch it again and disturb my sleep. Anyway, it was after a long time that we were getting together and I gave up my noon nap and watched the movie with them. The movie lacked a bit of logic, dragged a little towards the end, Laila was annoying(-ly cute), but on the whole it wasnt that bad after all. It is the kind of movie an entire family can sit and watch, on a double bed and feel happy for the hero and heroine getting together in the end.

Edit: Been looping through the title song for the past 2 hours and counting. http://www.endlessyoutube.com/watch?v=iVB_QyKrXmM

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