Who In The Room Screams First?

The Dinner Party

by Mona Gardner (1942)

The country is India.  A large dinner party is being given in an up-country station by a colonial official and his wife.  The guests are army officers and government attaches and their wives, and an American naturalist.

At one side of the long table a spirited discussion springs  up between a young girl and a colonel. The girl insists women have long outgrown the jumping-on-a-chair-at-the-sight-of-a-mouse  era, that they are not as fluttery as their grandmothers.  The colonel says they are, explaining women haven’t the actual nerve control of men.  The other men at the table agree with him.

“A woman’s unfailing reaction in any crisis, ” the colonel says, “is to scream.  And while a man may feel  like it, yet he  has that  ounce  more  of  control  than a woman has.  And that last ounce is what counts. “

The American scientist does  not  join  in  the  argument but sits and watches the faces of the other guests.  As he looks,  he  sees a strange expression come over the face of the hostess.  She  is staring  straight ahead,  the muscles of her face contracting  slightly.  With a small gesture she summons the native boy standing behind her chair.  She whispers to him.  The boy’s eyes widen: he  turns quickly and leaves  the  room.  No one else sees this, nor the boy when he puts a bowl of milk on the verandah outside the glass doors. 

The American comes to with a start.  In India, milk in a bowl means only one thing.  It is bait  for a  snake.  He  realizes there is a cobra  in  the room.

He  looks   up   at  the  rafters-the   likeliest   place – and sees they  are  bare.  Three corners of the  room, which he can see by shifting only slightly, are empty.  In the fourth corner a group of servants stand, waiting until the next course can be served.  The American realizes there is only one place left – under the table.

His first impulse is to jump back and warn the others.  But he knows the commotion will frighten the cobra and it will strike.  He speaks quickly, the quality of his voice so arresting that it sobers everyone. 

“I want to know just what control everyone at this table has.  I will count three hundred – that’s five minutes – and not one of you is to move a single muscle.  The persons who move will forfeit 50 rupees.  Now!  Ready!”

The 20 people sit like stone images while he counts.  He is saying “. . . two hundred and eighty . . .” when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees the cobra emerge and make for the bowl of milk.  Four or five screams ring out as he jumps to slam shut the verandah doors. 

“You certainly were right, Colonel!” the host says.  “A man has just shown us an example of real control.”

“Just a minute,” the American says, turning to his hostess, “there’s one thing I’d like to know.  Mrs. Wynnes, how did you know that cobra was in the room?”

A faint smile lights up the woman’s face as she replies.  “Because it was lying across my foot.”


Source: “The Dinner Party” by Mona Gardner, 1942, 1970,  Saturday Review from here. Image from here.

A Cuckoo That Flew Away

“barbād gulistāñ karne ko bas ek hī ullū kaafī thā

har shāḳh pe ullū baiThā hai anjām-e-gulistāñ kyā hogā.”

     (Shauq Bahraichi, 1884 – 1964)

“For destroying a wonderful garden, even one owl is sufficient.
Here there is an owl on each branch, wonder what would happen to the garden (the world?).”

Unforgettable words said often to mock at us.

Finally, wearied by the futility of it all, he decided to give up on the ‘incorrigibles’ around him and find kindred souls elsewhere.

While much is said about the firsts in life like first date, first night, first match, first job…there isn’t much to be found on one’s first friends at a workplace. It must be so for those riotous memories, when they do surface from the depths of obscurity, shout for attention all at once.  

Until they’re called to order and given a voice…am sure, he understands, as he always did, my eloquent silence.

RIP, dear Shyam, I’ll shortly.



From Shanti Ravichandran’s collection of wit and wisdom:

Save The Girl Child!

My grandma always gave the cloth to a tailor who did not have children of his own:-)

Life is an illusion!

Trolling a mobile service provider:-)

No one is replaceable!

Know this, man!


Some Amazing Ghazals!

Couldn’t figure out who these amazing kids are.

But before that, here’s a quick chat-pat ‘Wedding Bells’ by Rajesh Vaidhya, originally composed by the maestro Chitti Babu. If it doesn’t appear here you’ll find it here.


Now for the kids:

A melodious song Dil de diya hai from the movie Masti cover by Rahul Jain with some nice Hindi lyrics. If the clip doesn’t appear, go here:


Tumhe Dil lagi Bhool… a ghazal song written by lyricist Purnam Allahabadi and composed by prominent Sufi singer of Pakistan Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. You’ll also find it here:

Update from here:

…It was almost a year ago that 18-year-old Maithili Thakur, along with her younger brothers Rishav (15) and Ayachi (12), decided to archive the songs they’d heard from their grandmothers on both sides, and their father, a music teacher. Some of these songs were learned in Dharbanga and Uren, both in Bihar. “We wanted people to listen to the beautiful world of Bhojpuri folk, that’s melodious and has wonderful lyrics…” With no special recording equipment, microphones, auto tuners or studio, the three Thakur children sit on their bed in Dwarka, Delhi, with a high-pitched baaja and tabla and sing with gusto… ”


Romance On Rails (Updated)

A Vignette

Thirupparaithurai, our village, flanked by an endless roll of lush rice fields on one side and by the river Cauvery on the other, is some miles (<10) from the town of Trichinopoly (Trichy) – a place we spent some part of our annual school vacation (the rest in nearby Srirangam).

At the back of the sprawling house, some 100 meters away, ran a single train track, straight as far as we could see, to/from Trichy from/to Kulithalai/Erode (for some reason the track is not doubled even today and the station, sadly, stands decommissioned, overrun by weeds and vines, for want of traffic).

The track served a few long-distance trains and a couple of local trains for office-goers from villages around.  Standing out among them, even today, is the Pilot that fetches the commuters to Trichy in the morning and returns in the evening.

In those days it was widely rumored how the powerful bus operators were pressing on the railways to schedule the Pilot in a way it did not draw the crowd away from them during the busy hours! It may not be out of place here to mention the state has excellent network of bus services – you could go from anywhere to anywhere any time of the day (of course, some restrictions apply!).

It was for us an eagerly awaited daily experience to hear the whistle of the Pilot in the distance. We ran through the back-door of the house , past the long and full cow-shed, huge hay-stacks, the water-well and the toilet – yes, in those days toilets were located far back outside the house – to reach the back-door of the property. Beyond, the ground dipped into a grassy ‘valley’ to rise on the other side bearing the track, all within about 15 feet.

Standing at a safe distance from the track, we kept our eyes peeled and hands free and ready. First it was the dadak-dadak rumble of the wheels on the rails, soon followed by the puff-puff smoke-belching steam loco, slowing down as it neared a road-crossing and then immediately the station. As the loco passed us, we would frantically wave and shout to the driver to get his attention; he always stood on the side and leaning out to look ahead for safe passage – there were always people footing it across the tracks in a hurry even when the gate at the crossing was down barring road traffic and the train was almost there.  

For a few seconds, he would take his eyes off and look at us, return our greeting with a wave of his hand, his coal-blackened face breaking into a smile – enough to get us thrilled high!

We wouldn’t move until the train, after a halt of a minute or so, whistled and slowly pulled out of the station. A sad moment it was for us as it slowly receded from our sight and we trotted back to the house wordless.

Of course it was all forgotten soon as other distractions kicked in…until the next morning.


For some reason, a railway train, particularly its steam, diesel or electric loco has been and is even now a sight that fascinates many, evoking awe at the machine and its brute power and speed. An enduring romance.

The Mumbai artist Biswas captures it on his canvas like it is!

From his profile:

Kishore Pratim Biswas lived near a locomotive workshop in Kolkata when he was a child. It was very easy for one to spot steam locomotives every now and then, and as an enthusiastic 5-year-old kid, he loved to run out and watch them go. He would then come back home and sketch what he saw. A giant locomotive surrounded by steam – the aura of that scene attracted him tremendously, and inspires him even today. The firemen and drivers at the workshop became his friends, and they would usually gather around to look at his sketches. He remembers listening to their stories and trying to sketch all their emotions on a piece of paper…

He graduated in Fine Arts from Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata, spent a few years in his hometown, and then moved to Mumbai in 2009.

Here we go:


After Kannan’s idyllic description of the scene near IIT, Guwahati (see in Comments), I had requested him for a few snaps. He kindly obliged with the following:

Here’s the strange thing with Agthori, perhaps unique in the vast railways network: the lone platform – seen in the pic – is some 300 mts away from the main station and its entrance! It seems the Station Master’s office and the entrance would be moved nearer to the platform once the land needed nearby is acquired.

Also if the train were to stop in front the present Station Master’s office, it would be required to go back a good 200 mts at least before moving forward and picking up enough speed to go over the slope ahead.

A view of the Station Master’s office at the entrance 

A view of Agthori railway station from the road over the bridge near IIT entrance gate.
A view of IIT staff living quarters

The locals n and around prefer to commute the distance of 20 kms to the city by road and, yes, a ferry across the mighty Brahmaputra!


Source: thebetterindia.com/42929/locomotives-paintings-by-kishore-biswas/

A Grandma Solves A Vexing Question…

and more from A Joke A Day:

He was a philosophy major during his first semester in college. One day in a seminar class, they spent a great deal of time debating whether the glass was half full or half empty. After the class, feeling pretty good about himself and what he was learning at university, so when he went home, he tried to continue the discussion with his family. 

With maximum drama, he took a 12-ounce glass from the cupboard and poured in 6 ounces of water. Then took it into the dining room and placed it in the middle of the table. He proudly asked his family, “Can anyone tell me whether this glass is half full or half empty.” 

Without missing a beat, his grandmother replied, “Depends if you’re drinking or pouring.”

Blame For A Bad Team

Three NFL fans of a losing team were drowning their sorrows at a sports bar after the team lost yet again. The first fan said, “I blame the coach. If he developed better plays, we’d be a great team.” 

The second fan nodded and replied, “I blame the players. They just don’t try hard enough.” 

The third fan thought for a moment and then said, “I blame my mom and dad. If I’d been born in Boston, I’d be supporting a better team.” 

Trip Down Route 66

The wife and the man recently took a trip down Route 66. And they took side trips if it looked promising. On one of these side trips they passed this quaint country store. Then they we kept passing stores similar to that one.

After the third time the wife says out loud, “How many roads does a man have to drive down before he admits he’s lost?”


Tech support: “What does the screen say now?”

Customer: “It says ‘Hit enter when ready.’”

Tech support: “Well?”

Customer: “How do I know when it’s ready?”



Source: Contributed by Harry Finkelstein, barber7796, D-gellybean longfordpc.com, clipart-library.com, Consumerist and Twitter

Unforgettable Melodies

from the late fifties and early sixties – try holding yourself back from playing it again:


Thandi Hawa Yeh Chandni Suhani‘ in Jhoomroo (1961), sung and set to music by Kishore Kumar. Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Cast: Kishore Kumar, Madhubala, Anjana, Chanchal, Chamki, Anoop Kumar, Ramesh and Lalita Pawar .

If the video does not appear, watch here.


‘Woh Chand Khila’ in Anari (1959) by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh set to by Shankar Jaikishan. Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. Cast: Nazir Hussain, Lalita Pawar, Motilal, Shubha Khote, Mukri, Helen, Raj Kapoor and Nutan. This movie was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

If the video does not appear, watch here.


‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke‘ in Nau Do Gyarah (1957) sung by Kishore Kumar set to S. D. Burman. Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Cast: Dev Anand, Kalpama Kartik (his real wife) and Sashikala. Directed by Vijay Anand (his brother).

If the video does not appear, watch here.


‘Jhoomti chali hawa’ in Sangeet Samrat Tansen (1962) sung by Mukesh set to music in Raga Sohani by S N Tripathi. Lyrics: Shailendra. Cast: Anita Guha, Bharat Bhushan, David, Sabita Chatterjee, Mukri, and D K Sapru.

If the video does not appear, watch here.