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Melvin

Melvin Durai is an India-born, U.S.-based humorist, writer and occasional stand-up comedian. His humor columns, acclaimed for being both funny and thought-provoking, are carried regularly by dozens of newspapers and websites in America and India.

Melvin has been described as a humorist "who's not only able to see the lighter side of almost everything, but can also put his insights into the most readable and side-splitting anecdotes."

Enjoy the humour of Melvin Durai!

Reproduced with permission

The Humor of Melvin Durai

CRICKET CONSUMPTION INCREASING AROUND THE WORLD

Cricket is the most popular sport in India, but is there a chance that it could one day become the most popular food, too?

Probably not, but don't be surprised if cricket consumption increases considerably over the next few decades.

I'm referring, of course, to the insects known as crickets, those noisy bugs that have become a cheap source of protein for many people around the world. If you go to a specialty store, you may be able to buy a bag of dried crickets and add them as a protein boost to your regular food, just as you might add raisins or nuts. You may also be able to buy cricket flour or ground crickets (not to be confused with cricket grounds).

If the idea of eating insects turns you off, you're not alone. I've never knowingly eaten an insect and am not eager to taste them. But if we're completely honest with ourselves, we'll realize that we've already consumed insects or insect parts. That's because insects are virtually everywhere and it doesn't take much for them to enter our food supply. When you buy any type of flour, there's a good chance that a few insects have been ground into the flour. Please don't complain to the manufacturers; otherwise they may start charging us for the extra protein.

There is also a good chance that you have fallen asleep with your mouth open and forgotten to put a "Keep Out" sign in front of it. Not that it would have helped. Insects are notorious for ignoring signs.

I'm not trying to nauseate you. I'm just trying to make the point that insect-eating is quite natural. Many of us do it without realizing we're doing it. Others do it quite deliberately. About one-quarter of the world's population, including people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, regularly eat insects.

Crickets are a popular choice among many people because they're easy to grow and contain about 65 to 70 percent protein. Not only that, but they apparently also have 2.2 times more iron than spinach. If your kids don't want to eat spinach, ask them if they'd like to eat crickets instead.

Crickets are also tasty. That's what some people claim anyway. According to one online article, crickets taste like popcorn. I can't wait to see the look on my kids' faces when I take them to the movies and give them a bag of crickets.

If you don't want to eat crickets, you'd better start looking at the ingredient list of food products you buy. Be wary of food items with pictures of cricket players on the packaging, especially if the cricket players are saying something like, "Cricket is good for you" or "I love cricket and so will you. Just give it a try!"

One of the newest cricket-based products, coming to a store near you, is cricket bread. Well, it may take a while to get to your local food store, but it has at least been introduced to the world market. Fazer, a Finish bakery and food service company, recently launched the world's first insect-based bread that's commercially available. According to a Reuters report, the bread is made from cricket flour, as well as wheat flour and seeds. Each protein-packed loaf contains the equivalent of 70 crickets! An entire extended family of crickets in your bread!

"It offers consumers with a good protein source and also gives them an easy way to familiarize themselves with insect-based food," Juhani Sibakov, head of innovation at Fazer Bakeries, told Reuters.

Cricket bread is destined to be a hit in India and other cricket-playing countries, especially when scientists conduct studies and determine that eating cricket improves your ability to play cricket.

It won't be long before cricket bread and other cricket products are commonplace in supermarkets around the world. So next time someone tells you that he "eats, sleeps and breathes" cricket, you may want to get a clarification.

HELP! WE'VE GOT TEENAGERS IN THE HOUSE!

About a decade ago, when my three children were all under 5, taking care of them seemed to be a constant challenge. We had to change diapers, survive countless tantrums, and struggle at the dining table to get them to eat anything healthful. When we complained to other parents, they expressed their sympathy with these soothing words: "Wait until you get to the teen years! That's when it really gets hard."

Well, the teen years are here and let me tell you, it hasn't been that bad. I still have a few strands of hair on my head.

It helps, of course, that I've been preparing myself for the teen years like a soldier prepares for war. I've been keeping myself in shape - doing push-ups and sit-ups - because of the advice I heard from an Army general:"Never let the enemy think you're weak." The enemy is always looking for any kind of weakness that they can exploit.

For example, my 13-year-old daughter, Divya, knows that the best time to ask my wife, Malathi, for permission to do something is when Malathi is absorbed in Facebook. So Divya just stood behind Malathi one evening and said something like this: "Mommy, I want to go to my friend's house for a sleepover. I know you're busy, so if you just hit 'like' on the next post, I'll take that as a 'yes.'" And Malathi, of course, just kept hitting'like" on various posts and we didn't see our daughter for the next month.

That's why Malathi has been off Facebook. And that's why it's important to prepare for the teen years - so you don't get blindsided. Teenagers are much smarter than you think. While you're reading books titled "Surviving the Teen Years" and "How to Give Your Teenagers a Great Foundation for Life," they're reading books such as "Surviving the Parenting Years" and "How to Give Your Parents Intense Migraines for Life."

Aside from reading books, getting advice from other parents is a good way to prepare for the teen years. Just make sure you find parents who look like they've survived something awful, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or visit to the Embassy of India. Avoid getting advice from parents who look like they've just returned from a cruise to Jamaica. Such parents probably have teenagers who are extremely well-behaved and extremely responsible, the type of kids whom other teens would describe as "extremely abnormal."

My wife and I have two teenagers in our household, Divya and her 15-year-old sister, Lekha, and we are dreading the day when our son, Rahul, turns into a teenager. Thankfully, that's almost two years away, but the thought of having three teens under the same roof scares the living daylights out of me. I've considered sending one or two of them away to boarding school, but it would be easier on my kids' emotions and considerably less expensive if I just moved away.

Perhaps I could do something far less stressful for a few years, such as becoming a prison guard. At least the inmates will listen when I tell them to turn the lights out and get in bed.

If I seem overly stressed about the teen years, just imagine how I'd feel if we were raising teenagers a few decades ago (like my mom did). A recently published study in the journal "Child Development" shows that today's teenagers, compared to teens in previous generations, are less eager to turn into adults. Fewer of them are participating in adult activities such as drinking, dating, having sex, and driving. In other words, they're not growing up as quickly as they used to. A 15-year-old today acts like a 12-year-old in 1980 (but still frowns when I play the Bee Gees).

So I need to be thankful that Divya is more obsessed with her cellphone than with boys, Lekha hasn't yet asked about driving lessons, and both of them are still willing, now and then, to be seen in public with me.

TOO MANY POSSESSIONS THAT WE DON'T NEED

My wife and I recently moved from one house to another. The two houses are three miles apart within the same college town, but it was nevertheless a stressful move. That's because we've accumulated too many possessions in our 17 years of marriage. Only three of our possessions are priceless, and moving them was fairly easy. All we had to do was say, "Kids, the ice cream has moved to the new house!"

Unfortunately, these three valuable possessions have possessions of their own, and it was up to us to make sure they were moved. We are a family of five, which means that we had to move five times as much junk as a single person would. Not all of our stuff is junk, of course, but as I moved our clothes, books, furniture and an assortment of other items, I realized that I'd be quite happy to live with only one-fifth of it. Yes, I could easily manage without all the belongings of other family members.

Actually, most of my belongings are as unnecessary as my wife's or children's stuff. We could get rid of them and still be quite content - at least until we visit a friend's home and see all their stuff. And then we'll be eager to get more stuff. Isn't that what life is all about - accumulating stuff? The more stuff you own, the happier you will be.

"When you die, you can't take it with you," someone will inevitably say. That's true, but you can at least leave it for your kids, so they can have the pleasure of organizing an estate sale.

Until then, you'll just have to haul all your belongings from one house to another, while wondering why you need all this stuff. You realize that your belongings fall into six main categories:

1. Clothes. Some of your clothes you wear regularly, some you wear only on special occasions, and some you never wear. The latter includes clothes that don't fit you anymore, but you've been saving for years, just in case a miracle happens and you wake up one day 20 pounds slimmer.

2. Shoes, sandals and slippers. You need shoes to match every outfit, of course, and shoes for every type of weather: sunny shoes, rainy shoes, snow shoes, hurricane shoes. Some of your footwear, you never wear. But you don't feel guilty about this, because they still serve an important purpose, whenever the kids misbehave.

3. Furniture. All you need to get through life are two pieces of furniture: a chair and a TV stand. Everything else is superfluous. Sofas are nice to have, but they are a pain to move. That's partly because sofa manufacturers are a sneaky bunch. They create sofas that expand gradually with age, making them easy to move into a home, but almost impossible to move out. Sofa manufacturers are hoping you'll just leave your sofa in the old home and buy a new one. I outsmarted them though. I cut my sofa in half, moved it out, and glued it back together in the new home.

4. Kitchen utensils. All you need to cook is a pot, but you own a dozen pots of different sizes. You also own a variety of pans, including one cast-iron pan that's so heavy, the only time you've lifted it higher than your head was the unfortunate night in 2015 when you mistook your spouse for a burglar.

5. Memorabilia. You have several boxes of memorabilia, which includes not just photos of your children, but also all their certificates, medals, trophies and concert programs. You've saved all their artwork, even the "napkin art" that your daughter made with ketchup and mustard at McDonald's.

6. Books. You own hundreds of books, some of which are extremely heavy. You moved your piano easily, but needed extra help to move Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" and Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy." On the bright side, you can get rid of all your furniture, sit on "War and Peace" and set your TV on "A Suitable Boy."

As my wife always says, books can bring you more happiness than furniture.

DOGS DAY OUT IN DELHI

There are many ways to transport dogs, but few as unusual as a Delhi man's routine of taking his three dogs on his scooter with him.

A Facebook user shared a video of the man and it quickly went viral, getting more than 300,000 views, 2,500 shares and 1,000 smiley faces. The video shows a middle-aged man riding a silver scooter with one dog on his lap and the other two balanced on the seat behind him. The dogs look extremely relaxed, enjoying the ride and the breeze. It's just another family outing for them, no different from three kids heading to the park with their dad.

While it's an unusual sight to most people, it's apparently a familiar one to some Delhi residents. "I see this sardar ji very often," one Facebook user commented. "Every morning he drives with his pets from Laxmi Nagar flyover towards ITO Bridge for last many years."

That explains why the dogs are so relaxed and well-balanced on the seat of a moving scooter. They've been doing it for a long time. It's second nature to them, like riding a bicycle and texting for a teenager.

Many online commenters found the video adorable and sweet, while others found it disturbing and worrisome.

Those who found it adorable exchanged comments like these:

Manjula: " What a nice man! He takes his dogs around with him. He doesn't want them to be bored to death at home."

Poonam: " He must really care about those dogs! I wonder if he's taking them out for ice cream."

Manjula: " Maybe pizza. Those dogs look hungry! Looks like there's enough space on the scooter for two more dogs. But I'm sure the man doesn't want them to be too cramped."

Poonam: " I wish I could take three dogs around with me, but all I have is a Tata Nano."

Those who found the video disturbing exchanged comments like these:

Saurabh: " This is so irresponsible and risky. If one of the dogs falls off, it might get run over by other vehicles."

Vinay: " The least the man could do is put his dogs in helmets."

Saurabh: " I've never seen a dog helmet. Do they even exist?"

Vinay: " If he is a responsible dog owner, he would spend some time and invent one."

Saurabh: " Why must he be the one to invent it? "

Vinay: " Because he's the one riding around with dogs on his scooter."

Saurabh: " What are the police doing? Shouldn't they give him a fine?"

Vinay: " The police don't care. Dog safety in this country has really gone to the dogs."

As a dog owner myself, I can understand both viewpoints. My dog, Legacy, is always excited to travel in our car, but she would never go on a scooter ride, not unless I put some super glue on her rear end and threaten her with the vacuum cleaner. Even if I did manage to get her on a scooter, she'd look more terrified than a toddler on a roller coaster.

That's why I'm amazed how comfortable those three dogs look on the Delhi man's scooter. Few animals besides "man's best friend" would be so trusting. But I'm also concerned about the safety of the dogs. I wish there was a way to strap them down and keep them from falling. "Dog car restraints" can be purchased online and used in cars, but someone needs to invent "dog scooter restraints." If transporting animals by scooter becomes popular, we may also need inventions such as "cow scooter restraints" and "elephant scooter restraints." Trust me, if an elephant is ever going to be transported by scooter, it will happen in India first.

By then, perhaps politicians will get involved and pass strict laws governing animal transportation, such as "No more than three dogs per scooter will be permitted in Delhi" and "Owners are responsible for all dogs that fall off scooters, including payments to dog ambulance services."

TALENTED CHICKEN CAN TEACH US A LOT

If you've been on the Internet a lot lately, you're probably familiar with Jokgu the chicken. Jokgu is a musician and as close to being a celebrity as a chicken can get. Jokgu is the Taylor Swift of chickens, except that Jokgu does not sing about ex-boyfriends.

Jokgu's talent isn't in singing - it's in playing the piano or keyboard. Jokgu recently appeared on the show America's Got Talent and amazed everyone by playing the tune of "America the Beautiful" on a keyboard. Members of the audience just couldn't believe their eyes. Was it really possible for a chicken to have more musical talent than half the audience?

It turns out that it is indeed possible, as long as chickens are given an opportunity to learn music at an early age. Jokgu, a two-year-old chicken of the Buff Brahma Bantam breed, lives in a Maryland coop that is well-stocked with toy musical instruments, such as a keyboard, drums and xylophone. Some of the chickens in the coop have even formed a band. Tour dates will be announced soon. Perhaps they'll even make a trip to India, like Justin Bieber did recently.

Jokgu, in case you're wondering, didn't learn to play "America the Beautiful" all by herself, although she did come up with a tune called "America the Wormful."

It was her owners who trained her to peck at the keyboard in a deliberate pattern, playing the notes of "America the Beautiful."

"It took about two weeks to get her to this level through clicker training," Shannon Myers, co-owner of the coop, told Huffington Post. "Just about 10 minutes to get her to peck the keys initially."

Clicker training is a method of training animals through positive reinforcement. After performing a task, the animals hear a click and then receive a reward, such as a morsel of food.

"Because you can click faster than give a reward, they immediately associate the click with the wanted behavior which then leads to reward," Myers said.

This is exactly how my wife trained me to do the laundry. Every time I put clothes in the washing machine, she made a clicking sound and handed me a reward: the TV remote.

Jokgu is obviously a talented chicken, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for her. Perhaps I misread her body language on America's Got Talent, but I don't think she really wants to be a celebrity. I don't think she wants to pose for selfies with all her fans. I don't think she wants to learn how to write autographs. And most of all, I don't think she wants to go on a concert tour.

Chickens, in general, do not like to travel, whether it's in the cargo hold of a plane or on a tour bus. They're especially leery about performing at venues that serve food. Imagine being on stage, trying your best to entertain everyone with your musical talent, and some rude person in the audience is eating fried chicken. It's just not right.

Whatever she does with her career, Jokgu should serve as an inspiration to everyone. If a chicken can play a musical instrument, what excuse do humans have for not even trying?

Jokgu shows that not only are we failing to maximize our own abilities, we're also failing to harness the abilities of the animals around us. Take my dog, Legacy, for example. What does she do at night? She sleeps. What does she do in the morning? She sleeps. What does she do in the afternoon? She sleeps.

Imagine if I could teach her to play a musical instrument or two. Instead of sleeping all day, she could entertain me.

But even if a musical instrument is too much for Legacy to learn, surely I could get her to master the washing machine. It would be a great service to our family - as long as my wife doesn't reward Legacy with the TV remote.

DEEPAK CHOPRA OFFERS TIPS ON HOTEL ROOM HEALTH

I recently spotted an article in the New York Times entitled "Deepak Chopra's Tips for a Healthier Hotel Room." I was quite excited to read it. After all, Chopra is a New Age spiritual leader, as well as a doctor who specializes in alternative medicine, so isn't it about time that he shared his expertise on hotel room health with us?

When I think about hotel room health, I mainly think of two things: (1) bed bugs; and (2) dangers to children.

Bed bugs have been a major problem in recent years, but if you stay in a good hotel, you probably have nothing to worry about. If you aren't sure whether a hotel is good or not, here is an important tip: Good hotels change bedsheets after every guest stay. Bad hotels change sheets after every guest complaint.

Guest: "There are several stains on my sheets."

Hotel manager: "That's just a pattern, sir. Many people like our patterns."

Guest: "You have a pattern of poor hygiene!"

Manager: "No need to get angry, sir. Art is in the eye of the beholder."

Thankfully, I haven't encountered bed bugs in any of my hotel stays, but I have been concerned about dangers to my children. That's partly because my kids have a tendency, whenever we check into a hotel room, to explore it thoroughly.

The first thing they do, of course, is jump on the beds. I'm not sure why they do this, but I don't complain, because it probably helps to get rid of any bed bugs.

Exploring a hotel room also involves crawling under the bed, tapping on the windows, pushing the buttons on the air conditioner or heater, testing the shower in the bathroom, and, of course, turning on the TV. These may seem like the harmless actions of inquisitive minds, but something unexpected could happen to hurt them. For example, the shower might be too hot, a loose spring might poke them under the bed, or Donald Trump might suddenly appear on the TV.

Chopra does not address potential harm to kids in his hotel health tips - and neither does he mention bed bugs. But he does say that we should be concerned about germs. Many hotels have duvets - soft quilts filled with down, feathers or synthetic fibers - with removable covers that are easy to wash, but if you're staying at a hotel that doesn't have such duvets, Chopra suggests requesting that your bedspread be washed. I've never done this, but I'm going to give it a try next time.

Me: "Has the bedspread in my room been washed recently?"

Hotel manager: "Recently? Yes, it has been washed recently."

Me: "This century or last?"

Manager: "This century, of course, sir. We opened only 12 years ago."

Chopra also suggests using anti-bacterial wipes to clean objects that are handled often, such as TV remotes, door handles and telephones. This can be a little bit of a hassle. Instead of following Chopra's advice, I'm going to make sure that I don't touch remotes, door handles and telephones in hotel rooms. I'll let my wife do all the touching.

To improve air quality in a hotel room, Chopra advises opening a window and letting in some fresh air. Letting in some fresh air is a good idea, but in certain parts of the world, including Delhi, you might also be letting in a few monkeys. Next thing you know, it's not just your kids jumping on the beds.

Chopra also advises us to maximize natural light when staying in a hotel room, partly by requesting a room that faces the street rather than another building. We should also unplug the alarm clock and other devices that produce artificial light, he says. This is good advice. Next time I stay in a hotel, I'm going to immediately unplug the alarm clock and TV. I may also unplug my laptop computer - as long as my battery is well-charged.

MAN KAUR INSPIRES US TO RUN

Most people dream of retiring in their sixties and taking it easy. Some of them might want to keep working, but by the time they reach their seventies, they're ready to relax, drink tea and reminisce about the good old days. Ask them if they'd like to do any running and they might nod their heads and say, "I've thought about running. In India, you're never too old to run, as long as you're running for office."

But ask them if they'd like to do the other type of running and they'd probably laugh and say, "Only if a lion is chasing me."

That's why Man Kaur, the 101-year-old world champion from Chandigarh, is so amazing. She took up running when she was 93! Most people that age have trouble walking, let alone running.

Just pick a 93-year-old woman in India at random and ask her if she runs. She'll probably smile and say, "I ran once, but it was a long time ago....Oh yes, it was during the partition. I ran from Pakistan to India."

Kaur started running upon the urging of her son, Gurdev, who is now 79 and competes in Masters events, like his mother.

"I asked her. 'You have no problem, no knee problem, no heart problem, you should start running,' " he told The Canadian Press. "She could become prominent all over the world."

She has indeed become "prominent" all over the world. If people in Burundi see a newspaper article with a headline such as "Man From India Wins Another Gold Medal," they know right away that it's all about Man Kaur.

Kaur, as you've probably heard, was the only female centenarian competing at the recent World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, and won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash by completing the race in one minute, 14 seconds. Well, it wasn't exactly a "dash" - it was more like a "stroll." But when you're 101 years old, any type of measurable movement is worth applauding.

Competing only against herself, Kaur was both the first runner to cross the finish line and the last runner to do so. But it's not her fault that no other centenarians decided to show up. What was she supposed to do - go to a retirement home and challenge all the residents in their 100s to a race?

Kaur: "Who wants to race me?"

Hundred-year-old woman: "What will I win if I race you?"

Kaur: "A silver medal!"

Hundred-year-old: "How long do I have to run?"

Kaur: "100 meters. One meter for every year you've lived on this earth."

Hundred-year-old: "That's too long. Let's do one meter for every decade I've lived on this earth."

Kaur didn't just win gold in the 100-meter race; she also won gold in 200 meters, shot put, and javelin. She threw the javelin 5.12 meters and heaved the shot put 2.1 meters. Can you believe that - a 101-year-old woman heaving a shot put that far? Most people her age wouldn't be able to lift the shot put off the ground - and if they succeeded in doing that, they'd probably fall backwards under its weight, shouting, "Help! Someone get this heavy round thing off me!"

Kaur is truly a marvel. She has now won 20 gold medals at World Masters events around the world and shows no sign of slowing down.

"I feel really good winning all four gold medals, and this is not it, I will come back and compete again at the Master Games 2021 in Japan," she told the Indian Weekender.

In 2021, she will be 105 years old. Imagine how many people she will inspire to take up running.

Seventy-year-old woman: "Look at her run. I'm really inspired. Do you want to go for a run with me?"

Seventy-two-year-old woman: "Yes, but not now. We still have time."

Seventy-year-old woman: "That's true. If she started running in her nineties, we still have 20 years to relax."

MelvinDurai.com

 
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