Thank you

Having completed 6 weeks of blogging & 23 blogs , I reviewed the Blog statistics this morning & was not disappointed . On the contrary I felt encouraged , elated & perhaps humbled . Many thanks for reading my blogs : it means a lot to me. Must share some key stats till now :

  • Total readership cumulatively : 787
  • Average readership per day : 4 in June ; 18 in July ; & 43 per day so far in August .
  • Highest / Lowest in a day so far : 62 & 4
  • Readership from countries : India , UK , Ireland , Sigapore , Kuwait , Russia , & France
  • Most read post : Three Wise Monkeys

A BIG THANK YOU once again , & cheers for now

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My temporary absence from the scintillating world of blogging has come to an end.

My inspirational “trio” ( remeber Three wise Monkeys & Three Judgemets !!   ) is back to complete a Trilogy .

First the  RIP : dedicated to someone who  famously described himself as a           gentleman bitch .  Gore Vidal is no more. I watched the Hard Talk re-run on BBC of a four-year old  interview with the just deceased , wherein his acerbic witticism visibly made the otherwise unflappable interviewer seem uneasy . I am not well read enough( nor  widely-read to be honest !! )  to write anything meaningful about Gore Vidal’s works . I knew of him as a novelist , a story writer , an essayist , & a political commentator but had read none of his works . What I did know though were some of his outrageously funny quotable quotes , which always come in handy , often as uncredited one-liners . Herewith some of these , aptly applicable to the world’s largest democracy wherein we participate , perform , & produce ( sorry , there I go again with my penchant for digression but this one was irresistable  !!  )  .  I am referring to democratic processes & not to what one-track minds would think !!

Coming back to the RIP dedication, who would imagine that he was referring to America & not to our very own India in his ” Half the people can’t read a newspaper , & half will not vote . One hopes it is the same half “.  Or in his somewhat snooty  ” Public figures can’t write their own speeches. There’s some evidence that they can’t read them either “.  Team Anna , in the euphoria of wanting to enter Electoral Politics , must take note of his warning ”  at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests ” .  Or the daily rant of most tax payers reflected inThe genius of our ruling class is in making a majority of  people —–   drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.”  How , one wonders , could he have known about the NDA – UPA hyperbola in our lives when he ascribed to Democracy the quality of giving us  “the feeling of choice like painkiller X  or   painkiller Y :  both just Aspirin” Cheerio Gore Vidal ; RIP .

The WIP  in this narrative occured when I drove  2 kms to a new Hair-Spa ( in my pre-HNI days I would visit the friendly neighbourhood barber shop when in need of a hair-cut & a vigorous scalp massage called ‘Champi’ orchestrated by the latest Bollywood number blaring full throttle from a precariously old radio ) . The hair therapist  at the Spa ( I thought they were called Barbers ; or Hairdressers in slightly up-market establishments ) spent over 10 minutes helping me through their Menu ( I wasn’t ordering a meal , hungry as I was ) to what he expertly believed to be the most appropriate treatment for my hair. The process started with a trim here & a clip there . Half way through these prelimineries , a certain religious fervour overtook  the therapist , & he excused himself to break his day-long  fast in response to his  ethereal  calling , leaving my hair & me as  work-in-progress so to speak , in no condition to stage a walk out in protest ( one sideburn trimmed & the other in wild disarray might be trendy only if sported  by a celeb ) . I amused myself , instead , through a vivid recollection of  the common sight of half tonsured WIP generated by  accredited barbers at a popular place of worship down south , by accosting unsuspecting pilgrims only to abandon them as half-done  captive demand awaiting completion of the tonsure, to accost more gullibles  : a clear case of two halves being grater than one full in revenue optimisation .

Finally , VIP  here refers not to any VIP but to my favoured brand of vests & boxer shorts  In the madness called the Phoenix mall , all global brands , differently priced , some shockingly so , were on display to the inexplicable exclusion of VIP . And that too , in synthetic fabrics & loud colours : whatever happened to the near-universal preference once upon a time for white ribbed Egyptian cottons.  A long & tiresome search finally produced results , albeit in a brand called MIP . May be there is a message there for one to move up in the hierarchy of needs from  very important to the most important .

Cheers for now

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Three Judgements

I have been a bit under the weather & in no state to Blog . Better now, I am back at work & my blog after a two-day respite to all ( at work & in the Blogosphere ).

There is so much that has happened while I was away  .

Team Anna’s 4th day at Jantar Mantar , Anna 4 one might say , continued to be a damp squib . The Government had , almost as an ominous warning , demonetised Anna 4 ( 25 paise coins ) , to prelude the wash out of Anna 4  ( sorry : a plagiarised joke !! ) .

The Brits were at their diplomatic best in altering the basic structure of their National Anthem so as not to hurt any sensibilities at the Olympics that they are hosting rather well since last night. The innocuous first verse warranted no change. The second verse invoking Divine help in doing rather a lot of nasty things to enemies of the erstwhile empire has been deleted to make way for the politically correct third verse which their atheletes are engaged in memorising . One needs to doff one’s hat at their ability to deal , ever so placidly , with a series of goof-ups in the run-up to the grand opening last night . In Jaya Row’s definitional finery, they come close to Satvik behaviour ( concerned but not perturbed ) compared with Desi reactions collectively bordering  Tamsik ( perturbed but not concerned ) at the Common Wealth Games in Delhi.

I appear to have digressed , as is my wont , from the theme of this blog & must therefore return to three monumental Judgements that were dispensed while I was away :

  1. The Pakistan Supreme Court dispensed delayed , though not denied , justice to the Punjab Bakers’ sssociation by de-controlling the price of a “Samosa” in Lahore . Financial reforms finally visible in Pakistan !! May be the next mammoth step will be to allow multi-brand FDI in “Samosas” now that the price ceiling of Rs 6 has been removed .
  2. It took a British court much less time , true to their reputedly efficient judicial system , to dispense justice to the bereaved family of the Pune lad who was murdered in cold blood in Manchester last Boxing day , with a harsher-than-life-imprisonment sentence to the accused & convicted .
  3. Last , but by no means the least , was the verdict in the 8-year old paternity what-not in the Narain Dutt Tiwari case .  Predictably, the outcome was described by the defendent  as a politically motivated conspiracy . He reportedly praised the efforts of leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, & Madan Mohan Malviya , whose  traditions he claimed he would follow till his last breath. Of course , in the interest of brevity , I have left out a few words from these desultory statements by the octogenarian , & any mischievous connotations arising therefrom are entirely unintended.

The aforesaid LBBNMTL verdict called for some focussed research in Wikepedia ( where else !! ) & herewith some profundities thus culled :

  • Not having sired a child in wedlock ( Press reported this with a telling yet camouflaged “first time Dad ” ) could be sufficient ground for an appeal in a paternity trial .
  • The ” probability of parentage”  is 0 % in a negative result but 99.99% in a positive DNA result : meaning that while DNA can establish non-paternity in absolute terms , its establishment of paternity could be wrong in 0.01 % cases ( seemingly small though substantial in relative numbers for a leader of substance in a country of 1.2 billion ( 120,000 to be precise ). What you might wonder is the point I am making. The honest answer is that I haven’t the foggiest .
  • The aforesaid 0.01 % are individuals with at least two sets of genes . Most people ( so Wikepedia would have us believe ) have a single & distinct set of genes. The formerly mentioned rare individuals are , it seems , referred to as Chimeras . A chimera of course is , in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head , a goat’s body , & a serpent’s tail . In colloquialism , the word has a completely different connotation , when used as a rare adjective for a negatively multi-faceted person in the hare & hounds analogy. A plea of self confession in this regard might well be his only salvation : senseless invocation of names such as those cited above will definitely not get him off the hook .

Cheers for now & off we go to cheer the lads & lasses at London 2012 .

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Signs of our Times

A blog ” The confessions of a Linguist ” by a Grammer pedant , under the nom-de-plume Brightbluesaturday , has been making waves in Blogosphere :  there appears to be no end in sight to the debate it has initiated between Descriptive & Prescriptive grammarians .

Selective excerpts from the blog deserve sharing :

  • “We can’t send angry letters to TESCOfor having a sign saying “Ten Items or
    Less instead of “Ten Items or Fewer” “
  • “——  the difference between “your” and “you’re”, or “there”, “their” and “they’re””.
  • “The difference between “its” and “it’s” is important. It’s not life and death, but it’s still important “.
  • Words like “best” and “favourite” and “tallest” are superlatives. This means you can’t add a “most” or a “least” onto them. “Most favourite” is a redundant phrase.
  • ” Café has an acute accent on the e. Otherwise you pronounce it to rhyme with “safe””.
  • Yes, I  know, I know, as a linguist, I’m supposed to see language as being descriptive  ——–Well, for whatever reason, I’m a secret prescriptive grammarian.

This rant by a prescriptive grammarian deserved a telling response from the land where English ( Hinglish/ Inglish ) is often spoken with the “whole & sole” purpose of being understood & not with an eye on Grammatical purity . ” Who you are “ & “How you are “ are often heard , with equally fascinating responses in ” Why I should tell you ? Who YOU ARE to ask me !!  “  and ” Pulling on somehow “   ( if quite well ) , or a description of the malaise , if unwell ; such as  ” Tummy is making funny Gud Gud sounds”  or       ” having high temperature  & pain in the back side “

However , merely a descriptive response wouldn’t be telling enoughAfter much deliberation , I chose to stun the purist  with a ” shock & awe “ ppt Signs of our Times ( please click on the link to view it )

Cheers & GN

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Hamilton the Barber

Self -commemoration through statues & street names has been the hallmark of one-upmanship across political spectrum . On a recent visit to Chennai, I came across a  story about how the outcome of such brinkmanship can sometimes be quite bizarre .

This one dates back to the early eighteenth century , soon after the British had gained control over Madras from the French . A certain Lord Hamilton was put in administrative charge of the new jewel in the British crown . Lord Hamilton , a bachelor , was ever so worried that his name might soon be forgotten by future generations. Since commemoration through lineage was not an option for an unmarried gentleman at His Majesty’s service  , he chose the easier route of naming a newly constructed and important bridge in Madras  after himself .

Unhappily for Lord Hamilton , the vowels & syllables in his name were not quite compatible with  Tamil  phonetics , & the name “Hamilton Bridge”  soon got corrupted to  ” Amullton Bridge” .

A century later , a British colonial surveyor was assigned the task by the British Raj to   replace old “Native” names with new British names ( parochialism is , after all , not unique but universal ) . The local interpreter was asked to interpret the strange sounding name ” Amullton” ( because interpreting is what interpreters were then , as now , paid for ) . The poor man did not quite know but was far too proud to so admit , & therefore resorted to the sleight of phonetic-equivalence to make an intelligent guess.  “Amullton” , when spoken quickly ,  sounds very similar to “Ambuttan” , the Tamil word for “Barber” .

The interpreter quickly invented a story (  to legitimise his interpretation : because who would otherwise have believed him !! ) about a loyal Ambuttan who once swam across the bridge-less & flooded river in pelting rain to give a punctual morning shave to his British master . The Brit Sahib , he said , was so impressed with  commitment of his Ambuttan to the quaint British obsession with punctuality , that he funded the construction of a bridge which he gifted , as a reward for such exemplary loyalty , to his Ambuttan. Hence the name “Ambuttan Bridge “  the interpreter  concluded , gleaming with pride at his amazing ingenuity .

The surveyor , under orders to Anglicise all names , & yet not altogether insensitive to acknowledging a native’s loyalty to his British master , decided without much ado to rename the strange sounding ” Ambuttan Bridge” to an easier -on -the -British- tongue      ” Barber Bridge” .

Two hundred + years to date , the bridge continues with the Anglicised name ” Barber bridge “. In all honesty , no one knows why !! The story above at least lends enchantment to the mystery.

Cheers & ATB

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Poltu , Purno And Pi

July 22, 2012 marked the first ever electoral defeat for Purno Agitok Sangma , the 5′ something upstart who aspired to be a giant-killer . The loser’s painfully-cross-legged posture  ( vide his pic at Sabarmati trying to look like Bapu on his Charkha ) was sufficient ground   to disqualify him from Presidential candidature , given his ample girth & inadequate height ( BJP platform notwithstanding !! ) . Besides , he does not bear as endearing a name as Poltu does . And , most intriguingly , his polled votes to the total electoral college bore a ratio of 3.14 something : cross-voting in Karnataka & a near-total thumbs-down from his home county in the North East ensured that !! No wonder the upstart had to eat the proverbial Humble Pie.

Talking about intriguing  ratios , the day also marked  Global Pi- Day  ( 22/7=3.14 something ) : global barring the US of A , where they drive on the wrong side ( right ! ) & have their calendar all mixed up (  Month / Day instead of Day / Month ) & therefore celebrate the most intriguing constant in Mathematics on 14th March ( 3.14 ) , reportedly by baking , throwing , & eating of pies after their area & circumference have been calculated .

Most of us , if not all , know the mathematical significance of Pi in determining the area of a circle @ Pir2 , Pi being the ratio of circumference of a circle to its diameter. As a corollary , Pi also helps  determine the volume of a sphere. In field events  at the forthcoming London Olympics , the start- point for each runner must be carefully marked on the track through a Pi -based calculation to ensure that each runner covers the same distance per lap. And so the list goes on ( always a helpful way to end a sentance when one knows not  any more & yet knows that there is in fact plenty more !! )

What has defied any rational explanation through centuries is the frequent occurance of the irrationally inexact value of Pi in some of Mother Nature’s bounty. An example is in the meandering distance covered by many a leading river from point A to point B mostly approximating 3.14 times the staright-line distance between points A & B.

An addition to the ever growing mystique of Pi  could be the omen for a Presidential candidate without an endearing name such as Poltu, that if the poll results are scheduled to coincide with World Pi-day namely 22/7 ( = 3.14 something ) , chances are he will poll no more than 31.4 % votes , & end up with a Pied  face ( = variegated coll. for  red -faced ) . Stretching it a bit ( blogger’s prerogative when out of interesting ideas !! ) , Sangma adds up to 55 if you assign a numeric to each alphabet , against Poltu Mukherjee’s healthy 84+86 = 170 : & there you have it : a ratio approximating the mystical 3.14 .

A bit unfair , you might think , to corelate a Surname on the one hand , to , a Nick-Surname aggregate on the other. But then, one might argue with  vehemence that ( a ) no one stopped the loser from coming- up with an equally if not a more endearing childhood  name , in the absence of which , zero got assigned by default !! , & ( b ) whoever said the Presidential poll was a fair contest in the first place !!

Written with utmost respect for the Constitutional office of the President of India , though not necessarily in equal measure to the incumbent , the imminent  , & the loser- aspirant .

Cheers & a Happy Pi-day

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Clown , Rich Royal and Pizzeria

Thirty five years & the memory is fresh even today.  “Jockey” , the” local” round the corner from my office in Sunbury-on-Thames . Cream-of-Tomato soup , Jacket Potatoe & a Pint of lager  on luncheon vouchers .  In the company of  colleagues : Elaine , Carol , Basil , Alan , Mike & David . The two senior managers  , Ian & Bernard , lunched at a slightly up-market pub but joined the gang at the Jockey every so often . It was at one such meet-the-guys that Bernard mentioned the name of a  clown who straddled the late eighteenth / early nineteenth century England with his legendary ability to make people laugh . The name & the folk-lore surrounding it has remained untainted by the passage of time .

Fast forward some 32 odd years : flipping through an old issue of Fortune Magazine I came across an interesting little write up on Prince Albert II , the poorest amongst the Ten richest Royals in the World ( or, to put it more respectfully, the richest amongst all world’s royals who didn’t quite make it to the top 10 ) .

In more recent times , a new Pizza rstaurant in Hiranandani Gdns in Mumbai , & even more contemporarily , one in the recently opened Phoenix Mall in Pune : both serve sumptuous thin-crusted Pizzas cooked in a coal-fired brick- oven .

One name is common in these three seemingly desultory statements even though there really is no linkage : Girmaldi

The cooked-in-brick-oven Pizzas ( also called Neapolitan Pizzas or thin-crusted New-York pizzas ) are popular in New-York ( so I have read ) largely due to innovative cooking techniques adopted at the Girmaldi chain of Pizzerias , & have now become popular in places as far away as Hiranandani Gdns Mumbai & the Phoneix Mall  Pune . The extended Girmaldi family has remained loyal to their coal-fired brick ovens & the Neopolitan & thin crusted Pizzas in the Pizzerias of Mumbai & Pune are often referred to as Girmaldi Pizzas .

Prince Albert II heads the 700 year-old Girmaldi Royal family & is the incumbent Constitutional Monarch & Head of the City-State of Monaco . Monaco is a tax free , 0 % unemployment ( Rich & Famous in leisure aren’t exactly unemployed !! ) , poverty-free ( you are either rich or obscenely rich !! ) , city-state with the highest nominal per capita GDP in the world at a staggering USD 175,000 . With a total population of below 40,000 , & international borders & coast lines in single digit kms in aggregate , Monaco has a total Army & Police population of a little over 250 . Famous for its Casinos in the Monte Carlo quarters , Monaco has a total land mass of  2 square kms , a happiness index next only to that of Bhutan ( you must either have everything or have nothing to be truly happy !! ) , & an uninterrupted stability in the 700 year old dynasty of House of Girmaldis. The tiny-city-state , as a matter of interesting detail , could not possibly accomodate all the Girmaldi Pizzerias of New York , if the Girmaldi chain were to hypothetically shift base to Monaco.

As for Joseph Girmaldi , the 18th / 19th century  English clown with legendary ability to make everyone laugh , folk-lore has it that he was actually a very sad man , with an abused childhood at the hands of his deranged father , an unhappy marriage , a drinking problem , financial bankruptcy ,  et al . Folk – lore also has it that he gave his clowning profession his all to escape the malaise of his intense  depression . Ironically , his Doctor once prescribed for him a Girmaldi show to be able to laugh & feel happy , not realising that the patient was in fact the legendary clown himself. More expressive in his clowning than in his writing ability , his poorly drafted Memoirs were edited , critics say rather poorly , by a then fledgling writer called Charles Dickens ( later successful with Pickwick Papers / Oliver Twist / David Copperfield ) & were never published successfully  . Nearly 300 years after his death ,  scores of clowns from all parts of England assemble each year on the first Sunday of February at his grave to pay tribute to the memory of Joseph Girmaldi , the clown who started a trend in clowning which is practised till date.

Cheers & atb

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A leading columnist writing in a leading daily on the loneliness of a superstar takes liberties , even before the last rites of the just deceased are performed, with the exact names of couple of his early dalliances : one long deceased & one of no consequence in the public domain .

The columnist  then goes on , tongue firmly in cheek , to state , & I quote , ” there was however another lady love (who)  shall go nameless : who understood (him) when she shared his life & home —– ”

The columnist finally ascribes, in first person quotes, to the aforesaid nameless former “lady love”  , claims that  ” she ( aforesaid lady love )  freed him from (his) countless hang-ups —- (she) liberated (him)   from all his inhibitions —– (he) was incapable of loving anyone . He was only ever in love with himself ” .

“She” in these quotes,  remains nameless courtesy the columnist , perhaps as a reflection of her deference to the enormity of the aforesaid “lady love” s present wealth & stature .  Bracketed “he” wherever it occurs is my camouflage out of deference to the deceased.

Journalistic euphemisms & anonymity have for long been the baneful prerogative of some so called responsible members of the fourth estate.

Her ( oops !! that narrows down the unveiling of anonymity somewhat ) sign-off line is her self- inflicted indictment , unintended of course, of her columnist credentials : ” —- there is a satisfying sense of closure now that he is no more —— the one thing that no body can ever deny him is —-( that ) everything (he) did , it was in his way ” . Surely she means ” — he did it his  way ” . “It was in his way “ has a completely different connotation , unless of course the aforesaid leading columnist wanted to be despicably mean to the memory of the just deceased.

For a more responsible obit-tribute to the deceased superstar , I strongle recommend Amitabh Bachchan’s blog for the day in : straight from the heart , with touching spontaneity , & impromptu excellence.

Of course , by his own admission, it took Mark Twain at least three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech !!

Cheers & a good night

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Three Wise Monkeys

Early at school millions like me were introduced to the Three Wise Monkeys of Mahatma Gandhi , symbolising the Gandhian thought that one must not See / Hear / or Speak Evil . The Monkeys  were nameless symbols of Propriety .

Some years later , one gathered that they did in fact have Japanese names :

  • The one covering his eyes is Mi-zaru :  literally meaning Don’t See
  • The one covering his ears is Kika-zaru : literally meaning Don’t Hear
  • The one covering his mouth is Iwa-zaru : literally meaning Don’t Speak 

Where did this Monkey- business start ! One theory traces this back to the Confucian code of Good Conduct :

  • Look Not at What is Contrary to Propriety
  • Listen  Not to What is Contrary  to Propriety
  • Speak Not What is Contrary to Propriety
  • Make No Movement Which is Contrary to Propriety

The first three tenets conform to the three Zarus of Japan. Where , one might ask , is the fourth symbol of propriety

Indeed , in a carving in a Buddhist shrine in Nikko , Japan , there reportedly appears a fourth monkey , with his arms crossed across his chest , by the name Shi-Zaru : literally meaning Don’t Do : symbolising Do No Evil

Possibly this facet of  Confuscianism originated in  China ( where else !! ) & travelled to Japan , where it was typically miniaturised & converted to the ubiquitous symbol of propriety ( inexplicably to the exclusion of the fourth monkey ) . At some point in time , this symbolism travelled all around the world : to GB where it got frightfully truncated & awfully abridged to what eventually came to be known as the Gentlemen’s code of ” Looking the other way “ ( especially from inconvenient reality ) , & to India through the goodness of MG who might have found an appropriate verisimilitude between his philosophy & the symbolism of the three wise monkeys. Indeed , the Mi / Kika / Iwa threesome may in fact have inspired a part of MG’s philosophy ( no disrespect intended )

In our present state of Societal transition , we are probably a nation that has less comfort with MG’s three Monkeys than with the Omerta  , a code of silence associated with the Italian Mafia :  “Non vedo, Non sento, Non parlo” ( literally meaning “See nothing,  Hear nothing, & Say nothing) .

Cheers & have a GN

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Monsoon Memories 2 : Sukhad Yatra

All flights were delayed by several hours by the sound & fury of the  Monsoon. Kolkata ( then Calcutta ) airport , chaotic at the best of times , was in a state of cacophonous disarray. Indian Airlines had only just introduced Airbus A300s , on trunk routes . I was booked that monsoon night on one such sector from  Kolkata to Mumbai ( then Bombay ) .

Hourly checks on flight status kept me going , on wings of hope , through the evening at the crowded Airport Hotel bar.  As was to be expected in a situation such as this , conversation between friends & strangers alike , was mostly focussed on a severe indictment of Indian Airlines for its “incompetence” ( can’t even fly in bad weather / why can’t they serve a hot dinner / & so forth ) . A very silly joke was repeated umpteen times , about the deployment by IA of wide-bodied stewardesses on their  wide bodied aircraft , & evoked hysterical laughter each time from a different corner of the bar. I heartily participated in this meaningless dersion !!

The flight finally took off well past 2 in the morning . The limited supply of blankets on board had soon been cornered by what seemed like a handful of passengers driven by their urge to corner limited resources  ( “to-have- & -not -need” is better than “to- need- &- not- have”  syndrome ) . It was unusually cold inside the aircraft & though I have seldom needed a blanket on a flight , I could , that night , have used one. Of course , there wasn’t one to be found in the aforesaid scramble .

After the initial few minutes of discomfort I was in deep slumber through what must have been a turbulant flight all the way to Mumbai. I woke up only when we were preparing to land & found myself warmly snuggled & ensconced under a XL sized double-knit jumper with the IA insignia , carefully spread & tucked to give me maximum warmth. I looked around  & could quite easily spot the “wide-bodied” stewardess on the wide bodied aircraft who must have observed my in-sleep-discomfort & decided , in the absence of an airline blanket , to put her regulation double-knit jumper to good use.

With a sheepish grin ( what else !! ) & a mumbled “thank you” ( at a loss for words !!  ) I returned her jumper , & disembarked , truly at the end of a ” Sukhad Yatra ” that most airlines wish their passengers with perfunctory monotony.

Cheers for now

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