Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Die Beschwerdechor von Lakdikapul

In which Ludwig tries to get a cribbing jam session going...

We have to thank Veena for this, who in turn has to thank the always interesting Abi. Thanks to these worthies, we are now aware of the existence of complaints choirs. This is a simply brilliant concept that originated in Helsinki.
It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.

In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression "Valituskuoro". It means "Complaints Choir" and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: "Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!"
The result was the Helsinki Complaints Choir. The idea is simplicity itself. The algorithm appears to be as follows:
  1. Constitute a small core team, including someone who can compose music. This doesn't have to be a latter day Mozart or Ilayaraja.
  2. Publicize, publicize, publicize. At the same time, get together the beginnings of a choir. 30 seems to be a goodish number.
  3. Collect all the complaints, cribs, gripes, frustrations that ordinary folk in your city have.
  4. Do some whittling and pruning of the complaints list, maybe rhymify it, set it to music etc.
  5. Practise, practise, practise.
  6. Record it. Film the recording. At the same time, film the choir singing in various parts of your city/town.
  7. Do a little bit of syncing of song with video, some careful editing, and you're done.
The videos of several choirs are here and on YouTube (search for "complaints choir"). They're stunningly fascinating. The "Complaints Choir" site has a forum where you can learn about other cities that are attempting choirs, advice if you're attempting one of your own, and so on.

We heard the Helsinki, Hamburg, and the St. Petersburg versions and all have their charm. The Helsinkians were the path breakers, but they seem to be relatively benign. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that even in Scandinavia, they have very standard cribs (not getting rich by working, length of vaccum cleaner cords, "bullshitters get on too well in life", "tramline 3 smells of pee" etc.) The cribs about the sauna lend a touch of local colour to the proceedings.

The Hamburgers are kind of a whole lot more sombre and dirge-like at the start. (The Hamburgers are also kind of a very delicious meat patty and bun based sandwich). Then they oscillate between this foottapping rhythm and the Gregorian chantish incantations. Their cribs also, very evocative (mascara always gets smudged, tax declarations are too complicated, "my roommate sleeps with my ex-girlfriend" etc.)

The St. Petersburgers are, astonishingly, not a kind of foodstuff. Not even a sauce. Their choir is probably the soundest musically. Very rich baritone, melodic and all that sort of thing. It actually sounds beautiful, like one of those Russian patriotic/folk songs one hears in movies involving Russian nuclear submarines.

A common thread running through all these north European cities is the anguish about the shortness of the days, the coldness of weather, and in general the annoying behaviour of the cosmos.

Finally, how about getting together a Hyderabad version, eh? Takers? Of course, we'll have to tailor it to local conditions. Maybe do a Tollywood dance thing with the choir and so on. It might be fun. If enthusiasm exists, let us know at choultry AT gmail DOT com, or at our other email addresses.

Need help in finding an MP3. We recently came across a ghazal by Faiz, by way of the Worldspace Farishta channel. The ghazal has been set to music and sung by various people. There is a Nusrat version at MusicIndiaOnline, a kind of a repulsive "disco" version (MP3) by Talat Mahmood, and possibly other versions also. However, the one they played on the radio is from the 1986 movie Anjuman. Sung by Khaiyyam and his wife Jagjit Kaur, it is wholly more melodious and satisfying. We are now desperately looking for MP3/online version. Please to assist.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

हिर् पुत्थ्र्

In which Ludwig pens the beginning of a faux screenplay

हिर् पुत्थ्र् और् जान्लेवा हेलो

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)


Ludwig Wittgenstein




-- LAWN. GARDEN -- The sound of crickets -- A big car
swishes down the street -- A dog barks in the distance
-- A gentle breeze blows a newspaper down the street



-- Large LIVING ROOM. Nouveau riche furniture.
-- Dining table in the distance. Dim incandescent
lights. One from a lamp on a side table next
to a sofa -- A Nimbus 2000 broomstick leans against
a wall -- A pink phone on the side table --
Unnaturally loud clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The phone rings. "Om Jai Jagadeesha Hare" ringtone.

MAN enters from a doorway in shadow. We don't see
his face, it is also in shadow. Silk kurta-pajama.
Banian and naada visible. Gold chain(s), ring.
Paunch. Also, wizard's hat. Wand. Walks to phone,
and after a moment's hesitation, picks it up.

            VOICE ON PHONE
        (female, extremely strong Punjabi aunty accent)
    Haylo. Haylo?

        (clutches his chest, emits
croaking noises, and slowly collapses onto the carpet)

            MAN'S BODY

            VOICE ON PHONE

            AMRISH PURI



1. Thanks once again to The Indian Script Converter.

2. Post 100.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

...with you...for you...always

In which Ludwig confesses...

Clearly, the same fellow (there can't be more than one such person, can there?) who comes up with those saccharine "messages" in your average Hallmark/Archies/whathaveyou greeting cards, has also been employed by the AP State Police to jazz up their website. This cousin of Madeleine Bassett is possibly to be found in the musty, file-smelling depths of the police commissionerate, occasionally referring to castor oil stained copies of the Gettysburg Address type documents, thoughtfully chewing on a pen and dribbling ink, while he comes up with such gems as "...with you...for you...always". He is kept in residence through the elegant and time tested ball and chain mechanism. His incarceration makes him crabby and irritable ever so often, and therefore has to be fed through a system of underarm bowling[1].

This post is not about Mr. Hallmark. Aeons ago, on our way back from Why Naad, an incident happened in that den of vice, Bangalore bus station. We lost cash, credit cards, license(s), PAN card etc. Mostly our fault, for leaving the wallet on the enquiry counter, like dangling a juicy full toss...

Preliminary enquiries indicated that to replace license and PAN, we would need that dreaded piece of literature that emanates from the bowels of police stations, the FIR. Being Newtonian (refer to Law I (of motion)), we let things be. After decades of living without any ID proof apart from passport, and having entered a new phase of joblessness, we got our act together and decided to start the process for replacing license and PAN card.

The whole PAN card replacement process, it turns out, is a total breeze. In the year or so that we sat on our butts, they made the whole thing automated, web-ified and so on, and all one has to do (if one has a photocopy of the original PAN card/PAN issue letter) is go online, fill in a fairly simple form, pay by credit card, take a printout, attach mugshot, mail it, and wait. Observe carefully that there is no mention of police or FIR.

The license replacement procedure, on the other hand is a pain in the posterior. One apparently needs an FIR. According to the AP Motor Vehicles Rules (1989), Chapter - II (Licensing of Drivers of Motor Vehicles), Rule 15 (Intimation when license lost or destroyed and application for duplicate) (yes, we are like this vonly), all one has to do is fill in Form LLD, pay the fee, and hey presto. No mention of FIR. However, that High Priest of RTA Shrines, the "RTA agent", tells various family members that an FIR is a necessary precondition for getting a duplicate license. So we girded our loins (disgusting as that sounds), and found out that the following steps needed to be executed:
  1. Pay a fee of Rs. 100 to the Police Department at your friendly neighbourhood eSeva centre.
  2. Take receipt (from Step 1 above), copy of lost license, and a letter addressed to the Inspector of Police in charge of the police station (PS) with the necessary details, and propagate rectilinearly to the PS.
  3. Submit forms, get signatures vagera ityaadi, and you should be able to pick up the thingy.
What follows is a tale of what actually happened. We girded our loins (yes, it's disgusting), and
  1. Went to eSeva and paid Rs. 100. Duly pocketed receipt.
  2. Next day, showed up at the Begumpet PS, bright eyed and bushy tailed, with the necessary (or so we thought) paperwork.
  3. Inspector gaaru informs us that they need a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Police Control Room to issue the papers.
  4. *sigh* Set off for the control room. Asked at the building downstairs (where people were lined up paying challans) as to who one needs to approach to get the NOC. Directed to multi-storey building.
  5. Asked the "helpful", "enquiry" chap in the lobby where one needs to go. Directed to 2nd floor.
  6. Asked vacant eyed individual, directed to the "Computer Section".
  7. Asked Bakaasura, and he says, "Your lucky day, dude. I'm da man. However, you needst go downstairs and get Ms. Phoolandevi to sign on your application."
  8. Went downstairs and after several enquiries found oneself at the end of the line, back at the challan counter.
  9. Paperwork is swallowed by one set of hands, does the rounds, and is spit out of another window by another set of hands.
  10. Hurried to Bakaasura. He starts filling out the NOC, and subtly (not) angling for pocket money.

    "You see, yours is a Vizag license, and we can't actually issue this NOC here."

    "But my friend from Bihar got his license renewed in Hyderabad."

    "Ah, that's different, we're allowed to do that."
    "What do you do?"

    "Unemployed, saar."

    "What did you study?"

    "BE civil engineering, saar, Madras, saar."

    [We'd taken care to wear our most unobtrusive check-shirt, khaki pant, for the harmless citizen look.]

    Before one could say "Ix", he'd pocketed Rs. 20 and given us the certificate. We were mortified. Ears got all warm and shiny from shame and anger, at having copped out, at not having the gumption to face up to this ogre and get our schtuff done without under the counter transactions.

    With burning heart and a conscience that was totally sitting on left shoulder (mit halo) and frowning down, we headed back to PS.
  11. We resolved to not bow to such sliminess any more (at this juncture, we must mention that we were in no inconsiderable part influenced by our readings at Fanaa, and handed all the little, sweaty (by now), pieces of paper to the Inspector, who quickly scribbled something in Elvish, and signed.
  12. Handed papers over to Grima looking clerical type (out of uniform) in the Computer Section.
  13. Grima says, "Oh, you need to photocopy all these. Go to Prakash Nagar and get it done and come back quickly."
  14. Off we went, in the mid-afternoon blaze. Duly photocopied, trudged back to PS.
  15. Grima takes papers, points to seat in reception area and says, "Wait". So we did.
  16. For an age. Went back into the "Computer Section", whereupon he said, "Oh, it won't get done tonight, come back tomorrow morning." (the code words had started). Confirmed that he would be done on the morrow, and went home at 5:00 ish.
  17. Girded tiggas (yes), and came back next morning, 11:00 ish.
  18. Grima showed up after a bit, and said, "Wait in the reception." and disappeared.
  19. Waited for close to 2 hours. SMSed the bejesus out of Kenny, who seemed to be engaged in cutting edge research (i.e. equally jobless). Kenny had lots of good advice ("You should've taken a book.", "You should've at least taken a notepad and a pen, and scribbled Thoughts.", "You should start muttering RTI audibly, so that they know who they're dealing with (i.e. citizen)." etc.)
  20. At 1:00ish, went back in and found Grima. Who strikes forehead with palm and says, "Tchah! Come back in the evening, you'll definitely get it then." In the manner of Alistair Maclean characters, a medium sized blood vessel on the edge of our temple (Om...) had started to pulsate. We says to ourselves, "OK machii, this is it. Sisupaala got 100 chances, you'll get one more in the evening." and went home.
  21. Meanwhile, perusals of the AP State Police Department's copious RIA page had revealed that the Assistant PIO is the Inspector of Police himself, and that the PIO is the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Begumpet Division). We duly noted this.
  22. Went back in the evening. Waited in reception.
  23. After an hour so of gazing at the vacuous faced guy in the reception, barged into "Computer Section". Grima, was missing.
  24. Another out-of-uniform, clerical type character (looking very harassed), says (to himself), "Why did this moron (Grima) ask people to come back the very next day?" and (to us), "Come back day after tomorrow."
  25. That was it. We lost it, my precious. Barged into Inspector's office. Waved papers. Expressed outrage. The dreaded (hopefully) "RTI" phrase was about to be emitted, when, to our utter and pleasant surprise, the gentleman (Insp.) calls a third Computer Section guy and tells him to deal with "this" immediately.
  26. We went back to waiting in reception. Half an hour elapsed, and the suitably contrite Computer Section person comes out, hands us the certificate we need, and out we waltzed, into the sunset.
What to say? Mixed results, no? Hope, despair. Defeat, victory. Loins, tiggas. Are things getting better? Maybe... If one hadn't showed attitude (and jeans), would all this have played out in this manner? Perhaps not. What happens to people without attitude (and jeans)? Are jeans a metaphor? (Perhaps. Do ours need to be washed? Definitely.)

P.S.: We couldn't find the helpful Inspector after this whole ordeal. We wanted to wring his hands in thanks. In any case, we did the next best thing. Wrote a letter describing the role of his staff in the ordeal, and his in the salvation, and posted it off to him, his boss (ACP) and his boss (DCP).


1. Thanks, Larry.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Word Verification

In which Ludwig, inspired by a passing comment from Space Bar, invents a new viral game

Everyone has come across these word verification things, right? On Blogger, Orkut, and so on. We have been pondering for years on what to make of those random pieces of string (which is typed by 7 monkeys on barbiturates sitting at the back end), when we realized what is to be done with them words.

Hear ye, hear ye. From now on, it is decreed that when you post a comment, in addition to whatever blah you have to offer, you must provide an on the spot, off the cuff, encyclopaedia entry for the word verification word.

To show what we mean, we have invented the first one (over at that famous New York reprobate's blob). Reproduced here:
definition: Kpzicie (pronounciation: zzitchy), town, pop. 6,000, Slovakia. Kpzicie is a small industrial town on the Slovakia-Hungary border, roughly 25 k.m. SSW of Kosice. Currently chiefly known for its dominance in the world lugged sprockets market, Kpzcie briefly rose to prominence in the 13th century when the voivode of Trans-Carpathia briefly toyed with establishing his capital on the outskirts, on a mound of Ottoman Turkish skulls, harvested during a punitive raid against Bayezid II (Ilderim).

Also famous for pickled gherkins.

Admittedly not very inspired, but you should've seen what Hilary and Norgay looked like when they got to the top. We trust that our discerning readers (including, and especially the marine mammal variety), will totally run with this.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

e = cos θ + i sin θ? Ha ha ha...

In which Ludwig tries to find jokes rooted in serious mathematics

It's been a while since we did a post on mathematics. A young hedonist in New York posted a delightful piece about mathematical encounters on Broadway and 102nd, and this has inspired us to dust off a few items.

Serious things first. Most Indians have heard of G. H. Hardy of course, as Srinivasa Ramanujan's correspondent, mentor, teacher, student, and friend. Robert Kanigel's biography of Ramanujan necessarily contains pages and pages of engrossing information about Hardy. The great man was an atheist, his politics was left of centre and he was a sort of maniacal cricket buff. One year his New Year resolutions were
  1. Prove the Riemann hypothesis
  2. Make 211 not out in the fourth innings of the last test match at the Oval [which was something like hitting a grand slam home run while behind by three runs in the ninth inning of the World Series' final game]
  3. Find an argument for the nonexistence of God that will convince the general public
  4. Be the first man at the top of Mt. Everest
  5. Be proclaimed the first president of the U.S.S.R, of Great Britain, and Germany.
  6. Murder Mussolini
Kanigel's book has another anecdote which is equally entertaining.
Another story neatly combined his love of cricket, his pleasure in the sun, his warfare with God, and his madcap bent. One of his collaborators, Marcel Reisz, was staying at the place Hardy shared with his sister in London. Hardy ordered him to step outside, open umbrella clearly in view, and yell up to God, "I am Hardy, and I am going to the British Museum." This, of course, would draw a lovely day from God, who had nothing better to do than thwart Hardy. Hardy would then scurry off for an afternoon's cricket, fine weather presumably assured.
What can you say about a man whose cricket teams include "God(F), God(S), God(HG)" (F = Father, S = Son, HG = Holy Ghost!)? His mantelpiece sported photographs of Einstein, Jack Hobbs and Lenin. Later in life, when he found his mathematical powers on the decline, he wrote A Mathematician's Apology. This "book of haunting sadness" [C. P. Snow] is actually a long essay about the uses of mathematics, the motivations of mathematicians (and indeed anyone engaged in creative work), the aesthetics of mathematics, and a reflection of his own decades long engagement with the field.

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas. ... The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.
The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful--'important' if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and 'serious' expresses what I mean much better.
I still say to myself when I am depressed, and find myself forced to listen to pompus and tiresome people, "Well, I have done one thing you could never have done, and that is to have collaborated with both Littlewood and Ramanujan on something like equal terms."

The entire essay is available here for free download. Makes for a very thought provoking afternoon's reading.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a post about jokes rooted in serious mathematics. Here's one that we posted once already, but doesn't lose anything in a retelling. It is paraphrased from Simon Singh's Fermat's Last Enigma.

Grafitti on New York City subway wall:

xn + yn = zn

There is no value of n>2 for which the above is true. I have found a truly remarkable proof of this, but my train is coming and I have to go...

Zeno of Elea came up with variations of his paradox, and these have given rise to possibly multiple funnies. We present a couple.

The dichotomy paradox leads to the following mathematical joke. A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer were asked to answer the following question. A group of boys are lined up on one wall of a dance hall, and an equal number of girls are lined up on the opposite wall. Both groups are then instructed to advance toward each other by one quarter the distance separating them every ten seconds (i.e., if they are distance d apart at time 0, they are d/2 at t = 10, d/4 at t = 20, d/8 at t = 30, and so on.) When do they meet at the center of the dance hall? The mathematician said they would never actually meet because the series is infinite. The physicist said they would meet when time equals infinity. The engineer said that within one minute they would be close enough for all practical purposes.

Another one is actually a cartoon, which we've been unable to unearth. So we'll just tell the joke.

[Scene: City street, ancient Greece. Two philosophers (bearded), run into each other.]
Phil I: Hey, it seems Zeno didn't come to work today...
Phil II [chuckles]: Yeah, wait till you hear his excuse!

That one is truly brilliant, we thought.

Any others?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Plugs for Local Events

Which are public interest announcements

Cell Phone

The Quest hath come to an End. The Ringtone Bearer hath been found. All sorts of Mephistophilean compromises have been made, but we are now proud owners of a Nokia E50 thingumabob.



This is to inform all you of a team quiz that is being organised on the 11th of March,2007. The details are as follows:

A General Quiz open to all members of the public.

Quizmasters: Priyambad and Raghuram

Venue: St. Francis College, Begumpet (this is located in the lane next to LifeStyle Building)

Date and Time: 11th March 2007, 10:00 am

Format: The quiz is open to all members of the general public who are interested. This quiz will follow a format in which participants will be randomly teamed up into teams of 3 at the time of the quiz itself. This is to provide all participants an equal opportunity at participating in a team quiz even if they do not have other team members in Hyderabad or even if they are new to quizzing itself. Some of the seasoned quizzers will recognise that this is the same format that has been followed very successfully at the quizzes organised by QFI, Chennai.

Prizes: Cash prizes for the top 3 teams plus gift vouchers from Odyssey Bookstore.

Entry Fee: Rs 25 per person.

In case of any clarifications please contact Nitish at 9885679460 or Priyambad at 9948453388. Please also drop a mail to in case you intend on coming for the quiz. And also please forward the mail to all those who you think might be interested.

Hope to see you all there.


An Inconvenient Truth


Andhra Pradesh State

Cordially invites you to the





(The Film Maker is

Former Vice-President of USA

Who is an authority on Environment)

on Sunday the 11th March, 2007 at 1030 hrs

at Visvesvaraya Bhavan, Khairatabad, Hyderabad – 500 004

A brief commentary on the Film will be made



Environmental Scientist, USA


Founder Vice Chairman,

Hyderabad Urban Development Authority

Will introduce the Speaker



Institution of Engineers (India)

A P State Centre

Will preside

                    G Chandra Mohan Reddy


Celebrating Women's Day Through Poems

Event: Celebrating Women's Day through reading poems
Date & Time: Friday 9th March evening by 5:30 pm (will start on time).
Akshara Book Shop, Block G-4.
Creative Kamal Complex,
Opposite Radhika Colony,
West Maredpally, Hyderabad. and the phone number of the venue is: 27804626.

This programme is organised for German Cultural Centre in collaboration with Akshara.

PS: Yes, you noticed, eh? There really isn't a public interest component in the first announcement, is there? Sue us. Sue us!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Na Jaane Kahaan Dill Kho Gayaa

In which Ludwig speaks of matters of heart

After many moons, today we made our first batch of tzatziki. Now there is a school of thought which unequivocally holds that you can't make a tzatziki without dill. Dill, as far as we can tell, is not be found in India. We have searched high and low, in river and vale and so on. Well...we looked in several Food Worlds scattered across Hyderabad, Q-Mart in Banjara Hills and Amma Naana in Raja Annamalaipuram in Madras.

Parsley, you will find, in pestilential quantities. Sage, definitely. Rosemary, most assuredly. The thyme has come for at least one of these places to stock dill. dill, dill, dill, main tere pyaar mein khoyaa..., and so on. We will be very grateful if someone can tell us where dill is to be found in peninsular India. The Orthodox School of tzatziki also holds that you need red wine vinegar. Whence, pray, are we who live in Begumpet to produce red wine vinegar from? We settled for a dash of regular vinegar.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. With this maxim in mind, and a recipe at hand, we started. The Ludwig Heresy in the art of tzatziki making is like so:

  1. Make curds. That is, boil milk, allow it to cool to body temperature, skim off the cream, add previous generation curd, let it set overnight.
  2. Take a piece of fine cloth. Cheesecloth is recommended, we settled for a section of superannuated veshti. Tie the curd in it, and hang contraption over sink or a bowl, and let all the water out. This will also take a night or so. At the end, you'll be left with a very pasty kind of 'dry' curd.
  3. Now more or less follow the steps in the recipe.
  4. At the last moment, instead of dill, add mint. Or somesuch.


We just sampled the first batch. Must say it came out rather well, given all the dill type constraints. Maybe a little bit too much of garlic. All the better to keep Lucy Westenra at bay. If one desires to keep Lucy Westenra at bay, that is.

Anyway, we ramble. So that's that. tzatziki - check. In celeberation of matters of dill, we give you a pome.

To Manijeh
                        -Vikram Seth

O Scorpio-cat
When you have gone
My eyes will turn
To lumps of stone.

I'll look at ice
And think of how
You called it 'bairf'.
I'll eat pilao

And taste your touch
Where it won't be.
How will I bear
To read Rumi?

Raga Darbari,
The taste of dill
And all clean mirrors
Will make me ill.

Windex will lie
Where it was laid,
The record player
Sit unplayed,

And dill may grow
Ten feet in height
But will no longer
Yield delight.

At reference to
Shirazi Turks
My stricken heart
Will beat in jerks -

But worst, some random
Woman's clear laugh
Will neatly cut
My liver in half.

Nice, no? We likes.

UPDATE: Inspired by Indu and co. (see comments), we have embarked on a virtual search for dill in India. The following nuggets exist:

  • Sabakshi Soppu Curry - Apparently the damn 'erb has been around for dogs years, posing as Sabakshi or Kamakshi or somesuch
  • This page is disturbingly titled "Dill(Soya)". It goes on to say that there are two kinds of dill, Indian and European. It has the chemical composition of dill! And to really prove how crazy they are, they tell us that
    On steam distillation, Indian Dill yields 1.5 to 4.0 % volatile oil, while European Dill grown under Indian conditions yields 2.5 to 4.0 %.
    Steam distillation, it seems. "On steam distillation, a kitten yields 200% 20,000 decibel yowls..." Ouch.
  • All India Spice Exporters Forum - Their dill page is probably the most authoritative in all the land...
  • doesn't add a whole lot of new information, but check this out:
    India is the primary producer of dill seed for culinary use.
    No kidding!
  • Gernot Katzer's spice pages also have a page on the elusive dill. The etymology section is fascinating.

The search continues. Dill dhoondta hai...