Mostly Thoughtless

Tam Brahm, thank you ma'am

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Life Is Beautiful

The light tremors that shook Chennai on the morning of Sunday, the 26th of December were just a prologue to the massive tragedy that came later on in the day. It was shocking, to say the least. The incident itself wasn't new to the world. We've seen it happen before, but only to other countries. But even then, this was a hard pill to swallow. It was the kind of stuff that nightmares are made of. In fact, I still can't believe that it really happened. But it did. India lost to Bangladesh.

Ha ha, just kidding. I was, in fact, talking about the tsunami (pronounced 'tsunami') that killed thousands of people across a number of different countries. This tsunami was a result of the most devastating earthquake in the last 40 years, even worse than the one during the last Adnan Sami concert.

Anyway, coming to the point, I was scared shitless when my house started shaking on Sunday morning and in those few moments of terror, I realised that I had no clue whatsoever about what to do in case of a massive natural disaster. In the next few moments, I totally forgot about it. And then, sometime back, I remembered. So, I immediately went and did a lot of research on the subject. After many minutes of hard work, here, for your benefit, is a comprehensive guide that might help you survive the next major disaster. Let's call it 'Tsunami Survival made easy'.

Let's start off with a simple F.A.Q...

What is a tsunami?

A tsunami is a really large wave, or a really rad motorcycle, or a seafood speciality, or an Akira Kurosawa movie. It doesn't really matter because all Japanese names sound the same anyway.

What causes them?

Tsunamis are almost always caused by earthquakes. However, South Indian film-song sequences that involve heavy dancing also have been known to cause big tidal waves. It is in view of this danger that most songs are shot in other countries these days.

What do I do when a tsunami strikes?

It depends, really. If you're out swimming in the ocean, and you start to notice that the waves are getting really high, then you should get out of the water immediately and rush to the nearest TV set, to see if there are any Tsunamis predicted for your region. If there are, then you can go back to your swim. But on the other hand, if the genial weatherman predicts a nice, sunny day then you'd better get your soggy ass out of there fast.

Are TV weathermen always wrong?

Yeah.

What if I'm on land?

Well, if you live close to the beach, keep an eye on the swimmers. If they get out of the water and rush to the nearest TV set, start wearing your running shoes. If the swimmers get back in the water, take them off. Otherwise, join the swimmers in getting the hell away from the sea.

What if I have a car?

Good for you.

No, I mean, can I use it to escape from the sea?

Oh, that way... sure, you can use your car to get away. Just don't give a lift to any of the swimmers. You don't want to get your nice seats all sandy and smelling of salt.

What if I don't live near the ocean?

Hmmm... good question. Here's something you can do. If you look closely at the top right corner of your computer screen, you'll notice that there's a small square button with an X on it. Move your mouse pointer there and click once.

Do I need to stock up on food supplies?

Not really. After the tsunami strikes, all the seaside shops will, in all probability, be devastated. Wait for the seismic activity to die down. Then you can go and loot those shops for any products that are still intact. Remember to take your car. You can stuff a lot of things in it and go back for more.

What about bravery medals and stuff?

Yes, very pertinent question. A really prestigious bravery award will require you to have saved atleast a hundred people from sure death. Now, this is way out of reach for most of us mere mortals. The least we can hope for is a local Rotary Club medal for saving around ten people. Saving one or two will earn you a mention in Reader's Digest. This is completely useless because although millions of people subscribe to the magazine, only around three will end up reading it - you, and the two people you saved.

However, not to worry. I have discovered the one surefire way of getting you the medal you so richly deserve. Act smart. Save a dog, or a cow or something. Some Animal Lovers society will immediately spring into action and present you with a large award in a glittering ceremony.

Finally, what is the most important thing to remember?

Stay away from the beach. I cannot stress this point too much. Actually I can, but I won't. But stay the hell away from the ocean. It's a very dangerous place, especially when Tsunamis are around. Only seasoned (pun intended) journalists holding valid Press Club ID cards are allowed to stand near the beach and present live reports without being hit.


I sincerely hope that all the above tips will help you survive the next big Tidal Wave to strike your part of the world. Unfortunately, statistics show that 60% of the kids aged 11-14 in New Delhi have already lost their virginity. Now that doesn't apply here directly, but it is something that I've spent a lot of time thinking about.

The statistic that does apply is that most people are not likely to take any of this great advice seriously. That is because they don't visit my blog, and hence won't read it. So, the least you can do to ensure the safety of your community is to send them a link. Spread the knowledge. It could save lives!!!

And also, now that you've escaped the catastrophe, learn to value your life more. Live it to the fullest. Go watch a good movie, maybe 'Tsunami'. Feel the wind beat against your face as you tear down the road on your Tsunami. Go to the nearest restaurant and have a nice spicy Tsunami. Don't sweat for the small stuff. Enjoy life while it lasts. Have fun.


P.S: Pardon if you found the post insensitive. I hope you understand that that wasn't the intention.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Greenhouse Effect is all just gas!

"The threat of global warming," she said, "is essentially nonexistent. Even if it were a real phenomenon, it would probably result in a net benefit to most of the world."

That is the fantastic message conveyed in Michael Crichton’s new novel ‘State Of Fear’ and it’s not just an outrageous claim. In fact, it’s far from that. The author backs up all his statements with footnotes, graphs, two detailed appendices, and a bibliography that’s 20 pages long!

An environmental organisation called the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF) is planning a gigantic worldwide conspiracy: it wants to secretly trigger off a series of natural disasters, including a powerful hurricane and a devastating tsunami (yes, a tsunami!) that would hit California with 60-foot waves. These disasters were to be carefully engineered by eco-terrorists and not at all connected to any actual climate change. They would be timed to coincide with NERF's big media conference on Abrupt Climate Change, thereby brainwashing the public with the nonexistent dangers of climate change brought about by Global Warming. The good guys, lead by intelligence agent John Kenner, manage to foil the conspiracy but just about. They survive all kinds of danger on the way, including frostbite, lightning strikes and cannibalistic tribals.

A thrill-a-minute tale, no doubt, but the plot is not really important here. Kenner is Crichton in disguise and the rest of the characters are us - the misinformed public. They believe what we believe, that Global Warming is an immediate and mounting danger, and Kenner, by reasoning it out with them, makes them understand that it’s not. Crichton deftly meshes all the hard facts with the dialogue, keeping the novel readable and at the same time, immensely illuminating. No one really likes long monotonous lectures, and Crichton knows that. So, at different points in the novel, in between the action scenes, the other characters debate heatedly with Kenner on different aspects of the issue, in the process asking him all the questions that arise within our own minds as we read on. Crichton, through the mouth of Kenner, answers all our doubts, not just with dramatic dialogue but with solid scientific evidence.

I have always believed that no one can write science as comprehensibly as Crichton can and he proves it yet again with this book. Sample this:

Imagine the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere as a football field. Most of the atmosphere is Nitrogen. So, starting from the goal line, nitrogen takes you all the way down to the seventy-eight-yard line. And most of what’s left is oxygen. Oxygen takes you to the ninety-nine-yard line. Only one yard to go. But most of what remains is the inert gas argon. Argon brings you to within three and a half inches of the goal line. That’s pretty much the thickness of the chalk stripe, folks. And how much of that remaining three inches is carbon dioxide? One inch. That’s how much carbon dioxide we have in our atmosphere. One inch in a hundred-yard football field.

Now, you are told that carbon dioxide has increased in the last fifty years. Do you know how much it has increased, on our football field? It has increased by three-eighths of an inch – less than the thickness of a pencil. It’s a lot more carbon dioxide, but it’s a minuscule change in our total atmosphere. Yet you are asked to believe that this tiny change has driven the entire planet into a dangerous warming pattern.

Shocking, isn’t it? I didn’t believe it at first either. So, in spite of the startling evidence presented in the book, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Global Warming was not an issue. So I did a bit of searching on the internet and I was truly astonished by what I could find within a matter of seconds. I’m no Crichton, so, I’m not even going to try and explain it all here. Moroever, unlike me, many of you may not even be interested in all this information. So, if you really want to know more about this, follow the links for yourself.

This one is really interesting. It's a list of ‘Ten facts about Global Warming THEY don’t want you to know.’ Here the THEY probably refers to the politically influenced environmental agencies that are allegedly working along with governments to keep the general public in a constant state of fear. Also, at the bottom of that page, there are some other links you might want to look at.

There has been a lot of public talk about the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, an international treaty on global warming, but how many of us know of the Heidelberg Appeal, signed by over 4,000 scientists from 106 countries including 72 Nobel Laureates, which called for authorities to stop propagating false or non-relevant data. Or the Oregon Petition, which, without mincing any words, urged the U.S government to reject Kyoto and any other similar proposals. It had 19,700 signatures. The evidence is all there. It's just that the majority of the people haven’t seen it till now.

Even in this deluge of information, ‘State Of Fear’ is never boring. It is a page-turner throughout. I finished it in only two sessions and found it to be totally gripping. Though the novel has all the usual Crichtonesque qualities, it feels different from any of his earlier works. In all his previous novels, the science just served to support the story. Here, however, it seems rather obvious that the story has been woven around the desire to inform people about the issue of global warming. But refreshingly, while I was scared to death after ‘Prey’, I felt really good at the end of this one. Throughout the novel, Crichton warns us that science is being misused for political and financial purposes. Climate is inherently unpredictable, he says, and as per currently available scientific evidence, global warming simply does not exist.

I personally feel that that every literate person living on this planet should read this novel. If you haven’t read it yet, do so immediately. It will both entertain and enlighten you. It will open your eyes. It will reassure you, saying that things are not as bad as they’re being made out to be. You will realise that as far the climate is concerned, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Holy Smoke!

Pongal is the traditional harvest and thanksgiving festival celebrated all over South India, a joyous and colourful occasion when farmers from all the villages gather outside to pay their respects to the Sun, following which they suffocate and die after inhaling the dense smoke in the air.

Believe me, folks, I am not kidding. This killer smoke, caused by all the old-stuff-burning on Bhogi day, resulted in the tragic deaths of no fewer than 70,368 unsuspecting farmers during Pongal season last year. Some of them died of severe respiratory problems after inhaling the smoke, while some others were literally crushed to death by all the heavy smoke particles acting down on their bodies. Readers please note, the above carefully researched statistic does NOT include the unfortunate souls who died after suffering fatal brain haemorrhages while watching the incredibly inane shows on the various satellite channels.

The only way to make sure you’re not affected by the Bhogi smoke is to wear a good quality oxygen mask, the kind that is commonly seen on scuba-divers, Darth Vader and all of Vijaykant’s co-stars, at all times during the festivities. This ultra-cool accessory, apart from giving you total protection from the murderous and toxic fumes, also provides the extra benefit of making you look like a complete idiot.

The good news for all of you is that, this year, the Bhogi smoke is not expected to be too much of a problem and the reason for this is, however unbelievable it may sound, the tsunami. The reasoning behind this outrageous expectation is that most people, having already donated their old clothes to help the people displaced by the tsunami, don’t have any left to burn. While this fact would no doubt reassure a lot of worried minds, a long term solution to the smoke problem needs to be developed very soon; namely, all clothes shops should be completely sealed off so that nobody can buy any new clothes. After a while, the clothes will inevitably start developing an odour similar to that of rotting fish, but not to worry, we have our oxygen masks, don’t we?

Still on the subject of problems, another major cause of concern for most people is the important Pongal tradition of eating sugarcane. It is a medically proven fact that a normal human being CANNOT bite into a stick of sugarcane and eat it unless he/she has teeth made of reinforced concrete. My family, which prides itself on being a set of normal human beings and having the utmost respect for medically proven facts, doesn’t attempt to do anything stupid in this regard. My mom carefully peels the sugarcane, cuts it into thousands of little pieces, and places them in a plate on the table, where my dad and I can conveniently ignore it. The plate traditionally is allowed to remain there for a period of three-six months, after which someone takes it and throws it away.

And speaking of food, how can we forget ‘Sakkarai Pongal’, the official dish of Pongal celebrations all over the world. In the Tamil language, the word ‘Sakkarai’ means ‘Sugar’ and the word ‘Pongal’ means ‘Pongal’. Here, obtained on special request from my mom for your gastric pleasure, is an easy recipe for this ambrosial delicacy:
  1. Pour 2 litres of milk into a vessel and heat well.
  2. When the milk particles start begging for mercy, add rice and dal.
  3. Add jaggery, ghee, almonds, broken cashewnuts etc.
  4. Let the mixture boil till it starts looking really gross.
  5. Serves four. Store in a cool place, maybe Alaska.
Alert readers would have noticed that the above recipe had an important flaw, in that it didn’t involve sugar at all. I noticed that too, when I was typing it out, and on asking, I found out that there’s no sugar involved in the preparation. So why in the world is it called ‘Sakkarai Pongal’ then? What’s that all about, uh?

But enough about the food. Pongal is not merely a time for eating. It is also the time for spending quality time with our families, settling down on the comfy couch and watching brand-new, never-before-seen-on-television commercials on the various Tamil TV channels, which are occasionally interrupted by actual shows.

All kidding aside, Pongal is an occasion where we take a minute to remember all our hard-working farmers, without whom our Politicians would have nothing to campaign about. After the minute is over, we then return to watching the commercials.

In conclusion, I’d just like to wish all of you an extremely happy and safe Pongal. May the pot of prosperity boil over and may the blessings of the Sun God flood your lives. Have plenty of fun this harvest season. Rush immediately to eat your sugarcane and Sakkarai Pongal but wait, remove your oxygen masks first!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Eyes Wide Open

Yesterday, it was again that time of the year when all of Chennai’s high-spirited sports lovers decide to leave their worries at home and spend a couple of exciting hours at the magnificent Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium, making out with their girlfriends and watching Paradorn Srichapan change shirts. Yup, it was the final of the Chennai Open.

The Chennai Open is now an integral part of Chennai’s culture, like water scarcity. South Asia’s only ATP event is now into its ninth year of staging. Right from 1997, when it was first held, right upto the current edition, the tournament has managed to attract some of the biggest names in the sport. This year, the biggest name it attracted was Nezladioran Ibrahim Llubirizimunovich (35 letters).

Before we get on to the final itself, let’s first talk about the sport of Tennis. The game has been played on earth for about nine billion years, starting from the time when Pre-Historic man threw a rock in the air and swatted at it with his club, after which he sat down, ate a banana and changed shirts, in spite of the crucial fact that shirts hadn’t been invented back then. The sport gets its name from pioneering businessman George Tennis, who, when faced with an entire shipment of unsold mosquito nets, came up with the groundbreaking concept of tennis racquets thus making the game what it is now – a monumental waste of time. Incidentally, George also lends his name to a rather painful medical condition known politely as ‘tennis balls’.

Anyways, coming to the game itself, the final of the Chennai Open 2005 was played between Carlos Moya, the defending champion and Paradorn Srichapan, who holds the ATP Tour record for having changed the most number of shirts during a game (78,456). The match itself was a thrilling encounter that had us sitting, for the most part, on the edge of our seats. Actually, we were sitting on the edge only because the main seat area was covered almost completely by dry crow shit but that still doesn’t take away the fact that the match was extremely thrilling.

As the game was going on, I looked around at the crowd and noticed that most of the spectators seemed to be girls, very good-looking ones at that. However much you may want to debate it, it is an inescapable truth that girls are not into sports the way guys are. Traditionally, they’ve always enjoyed sports as much as guys enjoy a good castration, probably lesser. So, I was quite surprised to see so many girls in the stadium. But soon I understood that these girls weren’t just pretty faces. They were extremely pretty faces.

Now I was watching the game with a few friends, some of whom were female and let me make it perfectly clear at the outset that these girls were very knowledgeable about the game. From time to time, they would offer me their expert views on the goings on, like, “Oh, Moya’s soooooo hot….” And the other girls would concur, by noting that, “Yeah, he has really nice legs…” Soon one of them would spot the flaw in Moya’s game by saying, “Hmmmm….what if he’s married?” Throughout this discussion, I felt they were being totally unfair and so, I made my feelings clear. “What about Srichapan?” I asked and they went, “Sri…what? Oh, you mean the other dude…” I felt sorry for poor Paradorn and so, I was quite happy for him when he won the first set 6-3. He was so pumped up that he immediately changed shirts.

The enthusiastic Chennai crowd was pretty vociferous all throughout the game. And all the male spectators were united in their support of Paradorn, probably because their girlfriends thought Moya looked cute. Highly witty chants of “Mo-ya….Po-ya” filled the air as Srichapan raced to a 2-0 lead in the second set. He looked all set to close out the match when Moya, finally putting his rugged good looks to good use, started fighting back valiantly. He played some exhilarating tennis seasoned with breathtaking groundstrokes to finally edge the second set 6-4. Srichapan, in his disappointment, again changed shirts.

The match was intriguingly poised now with both the players having won a set each. Even the insects hovering around the floodlights settled down to watch. It was now down to the third and final set, which would decide who the winner was. And it didn’t disappoint. After a see-saw battle in which the lead changed hands more than 800 times, Paradorn Srichapan was crowned champion of the Chennai Open 2005. No wait, I’m sorry, it was Moya.

Shortly after the last point had been won, there was a presentation ceremony that lasted almost ten times as long as the game itself. In fact, there’s a strong possibility that it’s still going on. And right from the start, it was pretty evident that the Tsunami disaster of the last fortnight was still on top of everyone’s mind as all 293 of the speakers took turns in referring to the tragedy in a sad voice. However, the feelings were probably summed up best by the champion Carlos Moya in his victory speech when he said, and I quote: “Hi all blah blah blah Chennai blah blah blah Tsunami blah blah blah Thank You.”

So, after a long evening of sitting in the heat, eating food that tasted like a bad word beginning with the letter S, and staring at lots of extremely beautiful girls, it was finally time for everyone to go back home and sleep, except for Paradorn Srichapan, who had to change shirts first.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Game And Gamer

Fortunately, I have never gotten involved with the crazy world of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) where thousands of people can live and adventure in real time over the internet. To me, the best game in the world is still Tetris (T).

The thing I like most about Tetris is that it’s elegant in its simplicity. You basically bring a piece down and put it wherever you want. Then you do it for the next piece that comes down. You don’t join clans to complete quests, or collect treasure and sell them at marketplaces, and above all, you don’t spend several months to fully explore and unlock the many secrets of a completely deranged universe, like hard-core gamers do with those massively-multiplayer online role-playing games. Tetris players tend to be simple, down-to-earth guys with simple ideals such as ‘Where is the food?’ whereas such online role-players tend to be a heroic swordsmen, rugged archers, ruthless thieves, powerful acolytes or even crafty merchants.

I feel the need to admit at this point that I’ve never ever played an MMORPG but I don’t see how that could affect my judgement of the concept.

However, I decided to try and learn something more about the online gaming community. To gain this learning, I did a lot of research. To be precise, I read through the instruction manual of such an online role-playing game. The manual proved to be immensely enlightening, except for the many typos and spelling errors. For example, it explains that all you need in order to paly an online game is a PC, the game itself and an intrenet connectoin. Of course, what the manual fails to mention is that you also need an I.Q of about 14.

Role-play gaming is basically a form of interactive and collaborative storytelling, as opposed to cinema which is passive. For example, you’re watching the climax of incredibly interesting Bollywood movie. The hero is gagged and tied to a tree near the edge of a cliff, only a few feet away from a spine-chilling drop and his blind sister is trying to get to him and untie him. Unfortunately, and because she’s blind, she wanders in the opposite direction and walks along the edge of the cliff, sending pebbles rolling down to their deaths. Here, the audience experiences extreme irony and many of them scream “Step Back, Bitch!!” at the blind girl because they’re aware of the impending danger. In a role-playing game, however, the player may personally go and push her off the cliff.

One major drawback of such online games is that it is a criminal waste of valuable internet connectivity which could be used for something waaay more worthwhile, such as porn. Moroever, such games severely corrupt the moral values of young children because they contain excessive violence, which porn doesn’t.

The manual I was reading also had a list of commands and short-cut key combinations for the players to use. The list looked something like this:


Alt + 1~9 – express different emotions from character like happiness, sorrow, hatred, contempt, horniness, constipation, vehemence and boredom.

Left Mouse Click – move/attack/pick up items/buy flowers/fart/watch TV/drink

Alt + Tab + Mouse Click – attack target till it dies, then attack it some more just to make sure

CTRL + Mouse Click + target – wipe fingerprints off everything in room

Shift + Hold Down Right Mouse Button + target – bury target in garden, after making sure no one else is looking

Insert + CTRL + Shift + Caps Lock + Hold Down Right Mouse Button + Move Mouse Around In Circles – walk down the street, whistling, as if nothing had happened.


Reading those instructions only reminded me of the wonderful world of Tetris, where I spent most of my childhood. The game was positively brilliant in that it had only five buttons – up, down, left, right and rotate. The player decides what to do with the piece, does it, anticipates the next piece, and goes on. Tetris is also mentally stimulating. In fact, the legendary Chinese philosopher Confucious once said about it, “Tetris is like Puzzle. Both 6-letter words”. Endless mental stimulation is the single factor that has earned Tetris global acclaim. This mental stimulation has many beneficial effects on human beings. A recent study by the people who usually conduct such studies found that babies who played Tetris for a minimum of 7 hours everyday were more likely to crack CAT and lead successful lives as investment bankers while, on the other hand, babies who spent their time playing an online RPG were more likely to end up as CEOs of online auction sites.

But seriously, Tetris is more than just a video game. It exists on a totally different level, way above all the other inferior games. And it’s not merely a form of entertainment. It’s more than that. It forms a very special relationship with the player playing it. I still remember the many hours I spent with Tetris when I was a kid as if it all happened yesterday. At that time, my grey ‘Brick Game’ console was my best friend. We shared an almost emotional bond back then.

But I guess times have changed now and these role-playing games are here to stay. Moroever, I really do want to see what makes these online role-playing games so addictive. So, you guys have fun while I go and get my intrenet connectoin ready….

Saturday, January 01, 2005

2004 : A Series Of Unfortunate Events

2004 was, by any standards, a very remarkable year. So, I will make some remarks on it…

Disclaimer: None of the dates in the following article have been verified. They’re just there to hold the piece together. If any of them are correct, let me assure you that it is purely by accident. And while we’re on the subject, I might as well tell you that none of the facts have been verified either.

January

2004 was rung in with great merriment all over the world, except in Andhra Pradesh, where they rang in 1954 instead.

The war in Iraq continues to make headlines for the 23rd straight year. The military action reaches a fiery zenith when U.S marines storm the city of Fallujah in search of resistance leader Abu al-Zarqawi. He had to be eliminated immediately because President Bush was having trouble pronouncing his name.

Model Lakshmi Pandit wins the title of Miss India-World but is soon stripped of her crown after it is found that she was secretly married to Siddharth Mishra.

February

In what is undoubtedly the top news story of the year, two students of DPS RK Puram make a pornographic video clip. Within days, the fast-spreading clip reaches almost all the countries in the world and is apparently still spreading. According to latest reports, it has reached all the way to the deepest crater of Uranus.

An IIT student who tries to sell the clip on a popular Indian auction site is arrested. Mr. Avnish Bajaj, the CEO of the site, is also arrested.

Priyamvada Birla dies after seeing the clip, and in her will, leaves Rs.5000 crore worth of assets to her auditor R.S.Lodha. The rest of the Birla family is understandably miffed at the will, because it contained no information on where the clip was stored.

March

Zaheera Sheikh, the key witness in the Best Bakery case, turns hostile in her last hearing. She denies having seen the accused murdering her family members.

The 76th Academy Awards ceremony is held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. 'The Lord Of The Rings : The Return Of The King', the final installment of the trilogy, wins a record-equalling 11 Oscar Awards. The cast and crew are delighted. Zaheera Sheikh says she loved the movie.

Soon, however, things turn horribly sour. All the 11 Oscars are taken back as it is discovered that the movie was secretly married to Siddharth Mishra. The cast and crew are disappointed. Zaheera Sheikh immediately denies having ever seen the movie.

April

A series of photos emerge showing US Forces allegedly abusing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The graphic images show naked prisoners being terrorized with dogs and being forced to stimulate sexual acts. The soldiers were also tortured by being made to listen to Kris Srikkanth's Hindi commentary.

An IIT student tries selling the photos on a popular auction site. CEO Avnish Bajaj is immediately arrested.

Chechen separatists take a Beslan school with over 1,200 children and staff hostage. When the 53-hour Beslan siege finally ends, 350 children lie dead and 530 are injured. The rest are in the auditorium watching two eleventh-graders make out. Both are exchange students from India.

May

Ace American cyclist Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France for the sixth consecutive year, cementing his place as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Frustrated officials announce that from 2005, the Tour De France will be held in Austin, Texas

The Indian Parliamentary Elections, the largest democratic exercise in the world, begin. It makes headlines all over the world, except in India, where it is pushed to Page 17. The front page carries news of the BCCI elections.

Sonia Gandhi leads the Congress party to a surprise victory over the incumbent BJP. She turns down the post of PM in dramatic fashion. It falls to unassuming and uncontroversial Manmohan Singh. His first action as the new Prime Minister of India is to pass a new law banning all forms of Sardarji jokes.

June

At Super Bowl XXXVIII, the biggest television event of the year, during the half-time show, Janet Jackson is performing on stage with Justin Timberlake when the latter accidentally rips off a part of her top. Her right breast is exposed for exactly 1/43000th of a second on National Television for the entire country to see.

The entire world is in an uproar and journalists all over the world rack their imagination to come up with a really innovative name for the scandal - Nipplegate. Bush misses it as he is too busy watching Pogo at that time. However, he vows to 'get to the bottom of it very soon'. The US Police swing into action. Avnish Bajaj is immediately arrested. The event is renamed Super Bowl XXX.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Pakistan, scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan confesses to having transferred Nuclear Technology to Iran and Libya. Further investigations into the matter revealed that Khan was also instrumental in taking the wheel to Canada and teaching the Sri Lankans to make fire.

July

Edvard Munch’s iconic painting ‘The Scream’ is stolen by armed robbers in front of stunned visitors from the Munch Museum in Norway. The museum says that the stolen painting was worth an estimated 12m pounds. It speaks with a stutter.

Norwegian Culture Minister Valgerd Svastad Hauuglard says that the theft is 'Kaaaurghaard and Djaaulstaard', the Norwegian words for 'dreadful and shocking'. Avnish Bajaj is immediately arrested.

Former U.S President Bill Clinton releases his much awaited autobiography 'My Life' which turns out to be 876 million pages long. The critics are surprisingly quiet but that is probably because they are still reading the preface.

Meanwhile, in sporting news, Serena Williams wins the Wimbledon Women's Singles Title, but is disqualified because her name does not end in 'ova'.

August

Elusive forest brigand Veerappan is shot in the head by the special task force of the Tamil Nadu Police. In his will, the infamous bandit leaves behind 450,000 tons of sandalwood for R.S.Lodha.

The Olympics get underway in Athens, Greece with a spectacular opening ceremony. The Indian contingent exceeds all expectations by reaching the venue on time for the parade, and holding the flag the right side up.

In Samastipur, Bihar, 75 year-old Rukia Devi commits suicide by jumping into the funeral pyre of her husband Raghu (90). The Indian Olympic Committee is thrown into a state of gloom as she was India’s main medal prospect in the High Jump.

India’s biggest medal-hope Anju Bobby George disappoints, finishing a lowly sixth in the Long Jump. The Indian Government decides to reward her by awarding her the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in the country.

Meanwhile, out of the blue, Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore does the nation proud by winning the silver medal in the Double Trap Shooting event. This leads to some initial confusion as Sunil Dutt, the Sports Minister doesn’t know what Double Trap Shooting was, but it didn’t matter in the end as no one else on the planet had the faintest idea. The Government rewards Rathore by mailing him the DPS video.

September

India's first lesbian movie ‘Girlfriend’, starring Amrita Arora and Isha Koppikar, opens to packed houses. It causes a lot of controversy as it contains a lot of steamy lesbian action such as the hugely erotic scene where the two heroines smile at each other and then lick their lips.

The culture police cry foul. Avnish Bajaj is immediately arrested.

Inspite of a number of protests from all around the country, Dhanonjoy Chatterjee is hanged on his birthday, for cracking a Sardarji joke.

Hollywood screen legend Marlon Brando dies. R.S.Lodha is reported to have been ‘extremely disappointed’ when he found out that Brando hadn’t left him anything in his will.

Showing that she has overcome her Wimbledon disappointment, Serena Williams wins the U.S Open Women's Singles title, after legally changing her name to Champagne Supernova.

October

A major battle erupts between the Ambani brothers after elder brother Mukesh admits there is a rift over ownership of the Rs 90,000-crore Reliance Group. Soon, all hell breaks loose. The two brothers fight for everything, including the remote control. The spat turns ugly when Anil calls Mukesh a fat pig. The latter, in retaliation, hides Anil’s running shoes.

The Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati is arrested. However, he is released after a few hours. Police officials are quick to clear up the confusion. They apparently mistook the seer to be Avnish Bajaj.

Actor Christopher Reeve, famous for playing Superman on screen, dies at the age of 52. His death comes nine years after he was paralysed from the neck down in a fall from his horse. In his will, Reeve leaves his famous costume (with cape) to R.S.Lodha, but it turns out to be too tight for him.

November

John Kerry wins the U.S. Presidential Election but is stripped of the post after it is found that he was secretly married to Siddharth Mishra. The presidency goes back to George W Bush, who celebrates the occasion by buying a new dog and naming it Barney.

It is found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat suffers from a blood disorder when he is taken seriously ill. The veteran politician is immediately rushed to Paris, so that he can receive top-class medical treatment from professional fashion designers. Just as he is recuperating, Arafat learns from a TV news report that he is actually dead. Always very conscious about maintaining his public image, he promptly folds up and dies, leaving Palestine to R.S. Lodha.

There is a major fire in a school in Kumbakonam which kills about 90 children. Avnish Bajaj is immediately arrested.

December

‘Pathogenesis’ is ranked the #1 word of the year. However, the word is soon disqualified when news emerges that it was secretly married to Siddharth Mishra. The #2 word - ‘Blog’ is named #1 instead.

Tragedy strikes as the worst earthquake of the last 40 years occurs in Indonesia. It records an intensity of 8.9 on the Richter scale. The last time that happened was in 1904 when baby Vijaykant fell off his cradle. The tsunamis that are formed as a result of the quake cause havoc all over Southern Asia and result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

R.S. Lodha appoints hundreds of lawyers to personally inspect the wills of all the people who lost their lives to the tidal tragedy.

Dempo FC's Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior scores two goals to help his team defeat Mohun Bagan in the final of the Federation Cup. He later dies on the football field after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Avnish Bajaj applies for anticipatory bail.