Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I am not a regular reader of Cosmopolitan magazine nor I do I personally know any other regular readers. But I have read about other people either swearing by the magazine or making fun of its articles. I am currently reading a Cosmo and I think I will fit snugly into the latter category.

Sample one of the tips from a Cosmo article about "50 ways to become a legendary flirt" (no, I have no idea why anyone would want to become a legendary flirt):

Take a sip of your mocha latte, stare into the eyes of the barista who made it and moan "Oh, yeah...that is sooo good." Next time, watch your drink appear before everyone else's.

Just visualizing the above scenario made me dissolve into laughter. If I moaned in the coffee shop at a barista, I am sure the barista will back away slowly while simultaneously reaching out for some heavy object.

Seriously, who comes up with these tips and ideas? More importantly, who are the poor sods who implement them??

p.s. I did not read the rest of the tips. After laughing through the first 9 tips, I decided that I do not have it in me to become a flirt, much less a legendary one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Woman's era

When I was a kid, I remember two English magazines for women used to be popular. One was Femina and the other was Woman's Era. Of the two, Women's Era was my favorite since each issue used to feature at least 5-6 fictional stories and I used to be a story junkie those days. See, I even used to read up all the stories in my English textbooks as soon as we picked up new books for the school year. Thus, Woman's Era (WE) was my favorite since it featured far more stories than the non-fictional-article-rich Femina.

However, it did not take me much growing up to realize that though the stories in WE were plentiful, plentiful in quality they were not. Most of the stories featured English which sounded like it had been written by someone with a Standard 8 education (with English as a second language) - for all I know, it *had* been written by such authors. Many sentences and phrases sounded like they had been literally translated from some other language. The pictures accompanying the stories mostly matched the stories' written quality.

Soon, I started reading the stories more for the unintentional  humor the English usage sometimes provided and also to hone my English grammar police skills. In my immediate family, all the lady folks have this tendency towards grammar-policing. I tell you, we can get pretty annoying when we "gently" remind someone that it is whether not weather and it's and its are not interchangeable.

Once I moved to the US, my WE reading came to an abrupt halt. We used to get WE back home from the circulating library and obviously, the US did not feature circulating libraries which included WE in its collections. Soon, WE and its stories got relegated to some distant corner of my brain.

Then, during one of my India vacations, amidst all the eating, relative-visiting and function-attending, I glimpsed a WE on the coffee table at home. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it now featured a glossy cover with a decent layout and the pages were also of better quality. I had a slight twinge of nostalgia though, as I thought of the WE of yore and how so many things change as life goes on.

Then I browsed to one of the stories. Photographs had now replaced the amateurish drawings which used to accompany the stories earlier. I started to read the story. And slowly a smile spread itself across my face. In spite of the all the fancy-shancy packaging, WE was still the same. All the Standard 8, English-as-a-second-language authors were still very much on board.

I tell you, it is such a great comfort to know that no matter how much the rest of the world marches on by, some things will never change!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Weather forecast

How does it never fail?

Two days from Diwali, so that the last of the crackers could be burst too (isn't that perfect timing?), it started raining in Chennai. Not just ordinary rainy season rains but rains due to Cyclone Jal. I woke up on Sunday morning to heavily clouded and darkened skies, gusty winds and the sound of incessant, water-fall strength showers. Cyclone it was.

Cyclone Jal was off the north Tamilnadu coast and was expected to cross into the land on Sunday night, bringing heavier showers and winds with it. Sunday noon was spent in talking about the impending cyclone and how it would affect nephew's upcoming wedding reception on Monday evening.

Then it happened. The TV news came on and the newscaster announced that all schools and colleges would be closed on Monday on account of the impending cyclone. Immediately, cheers went up.

Because this announcement meant two things: 1. All my school/college going relatives would get an unexpected reprieve from school/college. 2. The cyclone would most definitely circumvent Chennai and Monday would be a rain-free and quite possibly, a sunny day too. Hassle-free wedding reception, here we come!

For, you see, it is one of the unwritten laws of cyloning. Whenever a day is given off for educational institutions on account of an impending cyclone, the cyclone shalt not come by and normal weather shalt prevail*. This law has *always* been followed  for as long as I can remember.

Thus, today, Monday, is a cloudy, albeit rain-free day. And this is the news I read this morning.

I told you right? It never fails.

* corollary to this law is, whenever educational institutes are not closed for impending cyclones, heavy rains shalt hit with great fury and causing much discomfort and inconvenience to the full-time learning public. Basically, you can't win.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ten steps to write a chick-lit novel

1. Start with a heroine. She has to be thin and have other characters tell her from time to time that she is pretty. So that readers know that inspite of her modesty, she *is* attractive.
1a) Heroine could have been fatter/uglier before current time - this opens possibilities for adding dimensions to heroine's character.
1b) Heroine has to be a sweet little innocent thing. But most importantly, she is also "endearingly" stupid. Foolish women look a lot more convincing as damsels in distress.
1c) Heroine is grown-up physically only (can be anywhere in her 20s). Mental age is about 3.5 years with generous doses of selfishness, self-centeredness and neediness thrown in. All of which only adds to her endearingness.
2. Introduce heroine's female (or gay male) friend/sister who is way more interesting than the heroine and also functions as a responsible adult acting her (his) age. This person is great friends with the heroine. Opposites evidently attract.

3. Put heroine in a situation from which anyone with an IQ greater than -30 could have got themselves out of satisfactorily. Heroine though, should wait with enormous bambi eyes to be rescued.

4. Enter the tall, dark and handsome (or blond, blue-eyed and gorgeous) hero to the rescue. Note: hero should not look like he is rescuing out of a general sense of pity for stupid people. He should be rescuing because he is charmed by the heroine's endearingness (see point 1c above).

5. Heroine starts mooning about hero. Exhibits innocenter and innocenter(read: stupid) behavior. Hero gets more and more charmed.

6. Ominous music - introduce hero's current girlfriend. Current GF is a totally hot, confident, independent and smart woman. Making her the total b*tch.

7. Add episodes showing how hero and current-GF are totally unsuited for each other. Hero obviously did not realize he digs only innocent and helpless (read: stupid) women.

8. Make hero and current-GF break up over some trifle. Note: don't make current-GF look jubilant like she got the luckiest break of her life.

9. Let hero make a move and proclaim undying love for heroine. Let heroine accept endearingly.

10. Hero and heroine should continue proclaiming undying love for each other and sail off into the sunset together.


- ex-boyfriend for heroine. This BF can be used to create the next optional situation.
- in between, allow the hero and heroine to have misunderstandings and then understandings and then make up and continue down the path of true love.
- if the story warrants, pick unbearably smug over endearingly stupid as the heroine. The pretty and thin requirements stay the same.
- throw in conflicts with parents/siblings etc to show why heroine/hero is to be pitied for being such a brave little soldier.

Ugh, ugh, ugh - do most easy-breezy rom-com type novels have to be this annoying and formulaic? Ever since Bridget Jones' Diary came out, most chick-flick novel writers seem to be laboring under the impression that dumb, wishy-washy, immature women constitute the most attractive female species on the planet. Just because it worked once (I loved reading Bridget Jones' diary), it does not mean that the reading public does not want to bean the next self-absorbed twit of a heroine on the head as hard as possible (case in point, Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series - ugh ugh ugh).

Serves me right for reading such books, I guess.

p.s. These are NOT M&B books - I have not read M&Bs and never will. These are the supposedly easy-reads written by authors like Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot etc. Not that these are superior to M&Bs or something.