This is the menu from The Chennai Cultural Center Club, a bar.

CIMG2215-001Let’s start at the bottom of the menu.  Anyone at this venue can be asked to show their club membership card at any time.  Seems like a good way to keep the riff-raff out.  Next item up: anyone who vomits inside the club will be charged 200 Rupees for cleanup.

A couple things about this:

That is an astoundingly cheap price.  A 750ml bottle of beer costs between 200 and 250 Rupees.  Shouldn’t they be charging more than the price of ONE BEER to cleanup human vomit?

The Chennai Cultural Center is a super weird name for this bar.

Are they trying to encourage or discourage vomiting?  If I thought I was going to vomit in a normal bar, I’d probably rush to the bathroom in an attempt avoid embarrassment.  To me, the “embarrassment cost” of throwing up in a bar would certainly be greater than the price of one beer.  So what the CCC has effectively done is LOWER THE COST OF VOMITING EVERYWHERE.

Why would the CCC do that?  Are they subtly telling me “Buy another beer!  After all, you don’t have to worry about puking!”  Or did CCC management select a cleanup price point to maximize revenue?

Also, what’s with the ban on “slapping on the table”?  When has that ever been a problem?

If you are the owner of The Chennai Cultural Center and are reading this, please contact me.  I have nine or ten hours worth of questions to ask you.



I had to post about this in the hopes that our audience would have some thoughts for me about the city of Chennai’s new plans to get rid of mosquitoes. Instead of sticking with spraying and trying to eliminate their breeding grounds, a strategy that’s been an abject failure so far, the city appears to have found something new.

First, the city will install special glass houses of 20 ft by 100 ft in different neighborhoods where they will grow mosquitos.[1] Entomologist B. M. Rex explains the rest in an article in The Hindu today:

“A minimum of one lakh mosquitoes can be grown out of which 40 per cent may be male. The females will be separated by attracting them using male pheromones and then, killed. The male mosquitoes will be subjected to gamma radiation of appropriate dosage to make them sterile. The sterile male will be introduced in neighbourhoods with high mosquito density”… The female mosquitoes that breed in such neighbourhoods will lay infertile eggs. After the female lays eggs, it dies; the infertile eggs will not to hatch. This will lead to reduction in the number of mosquitoes.

But that’s not all.

The civic body is planning to tweak this technique in such a way that its sterile male mosquitoes will be able to successfully compete with existing normal male mosquitoes. The challenges such as exorbitant cost in procurement of pheromones to separate male from female, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board clearance in commissioning equipment for emitting gamma radiation and trained manpower will be overcome by the civic body by a specially chalked out strategy. The existing fogging operations will continue to be carried out by the civic body for mosquito control.

I hate mosquitoes.[2] But doesn’t this seem like those really complex traps that enemies lay for James Bond, where he escapes 100% of the time?

[1] This is in a city where they cannot even find room to build a public toilet near every slum and bus depot.

[2] Long time readers of TVFC will know that I once rented an apartment that was primarily a home for mosquitoes where I also had a bed. Living there was one of the most trying experiences in my life.

Market at night

Market at night – notice the absence of ladies!

Two nights ago, Vali and I attended the opening film of the Chennai International Film Festival. We had to sit through the inaugural function first, and despite the organizers’ hopes for a ‘world-class’ film festival, the function was hilariously true to Chennai.[1] After the film ended around 10:30 pm, we walked down the street from the theater, hailed an auto, negotiated a fare and went home.

Seems like a normal night, right?

But that night was emblematic of how Chennai has changed for me since last July when my husband moved here. As a single female, I certainly would have been self-conscious sitting by myself in the enormous theater waiting for the film to start. I would have been very careful walking outside looking for an auto, on a road that was mostly men. I would not have walked towards a group of auto drivers as my husband did – when I am alone, I prefer to negotiate with one driver rather than a group of drivers who can be quite aggressive. In fact, unless I had arranged transportation beforehand or I had a friend to go to the movie with me, I am not sure that I would have gone at all. And there are other smaller changes too. I wore a t-shirt to the movie. If I had been alone, I would have thrown a shawl over it just to deflect any unwanted attention to my chest.

All of these are things that I do without even noticing. And my defense mechanisms are so ingrained in me, are so much a part of how I live here, that I barely notice that I do them at all.

Two weeks ago, we had visitors from Bombay give a talk at the office. They were two of the three authors of the book “Why Loiter,” which looks at women’s access to public spaces in the city of Bombay. In the talk, the authors talked about their emphasis on the right to just hang out. In a country with female infanticide, dowry deaths, and widespread domestic violence, talking about the right to just hang out seems frivolous, a fact that the authors themselves acknowledged.

But I understand. I at least have the option to buy my way out of many of these problems. I could have ordered a taxi to go to and from the movie rather than looking for an auto or waiting for the bus. I could even buy a car here, although I have chosen not to. What about poorer women? What kind of decisions are they making to protect themselves? Perhaps decisions that are costing them extra education, better paying jobs, access to culture and friendships, many things that could make their lives more meaningful and more fulfilling.

[1] Every single speaker but one – and there were about a dozen, of course – repeatedly thanked the Chief Minister of the state for her support of the event, mentioning over and over the amount of money that she had given the event. A minion wearing a bright yellow tracksuit who worked for a well-known actor who spoke at the event grabbed the microphone from the m.c. to yell at the camera crews who were present for the event to come closer to the stage when the actor lit the lamp (nobody moved). And from their reactions, it seemed like very few of the people who stayed from the opening function to watch the movie actually knew what movie they were here to see. But all of them stayed through the whole two hours, because people here *LOVE* movies. Like really, really love movies. They take phone calls, they talk loudly to their neighbors, they hoot and holler at the screen, but I’ve never been in a theater anywhere else in the world where people clearly were enjoying themselves so much.

This map is pretty serious The View From Chennai bait:

A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia

According to Frank Jacobs this map, titled “A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia” was published by a Japanese student in 1904, at the start o the Russo-Japanese war.

The text in the top left box reads:

‘Black Octopus’ is the name newly given to Russia by a certain prominent Englishman [i.e. Fred W. Rose]. For the black octopus is so avaricious, that he stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up every thing that comes within his reach. But as it sometimes happens he gets wounded seriously even by a small fish, owing to his too much covetousness(sic). Indeed, a Japanese proverb says: “Great avarice is like unselfishness.” We Japanese need not to say much on the cause of the present war. Suffice it to say, that the further existence of the Black Octopus will depend entirely upon how he comes out of this war. The Japanese fleet has already practically annihilated Russia’s naval power in the Orient. The Japanese army is about to win a signal victory over Russia in Corea & Manchuria. And when… St Petersburg? Wait and see! The ugly Black Octopus! Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan.

Takeaway point: If you had an idea for a joke in 1904, your first step was to spend 500 hours drawing an intricate map.

(Much much more on octopuses in maps at the original post.)