There’s a scene in one of the Lord of the Rings movies when Bilbo Baggins blows a perfect smoke ring. “Your grandfather used to do that,” I told the kids. My daughter’s eyes widened: “He stole a magic ring from Gollum?” After a moment’s thought, I nodded. Kids need to learn to respect their ancestors.
Although I’m glad the whole smoking thing is disappearing, I must admit that the most fascinating people in my cuttings files are the smokers. For example, Japanese fugitive Fusako Shigenogu was a “smokin’ hot babe” in more ways than one: she could blow perfectly round smoke rings which would rise over her head like an ironic halo. The cute criminal vanished in the 1970s. By 2000, she thought she’d been forgotten, so snuck back into Japan and blew a perfect smoke ring. She was nabbed by a police officer with a long memory. See, Fusako? Smoking is bad for you.
But my favorite smoker was a man named Sharmendra Singh from Rajasthan who used to blow smoke out of his ears. His father Amar Singh told reporters: “Initially I felt bad and thought that he was doing something wrong. But after talking to people and reading about him in the newspapers I feel that he has done something good. He smokes through his ears. That’s a big thing.” Yes, when St Peter at the Pearly Gates asks Sharmendra what he achieved for humanity, he will hold his head up high: “I puffed 300 packets of filter-tips through my left ear.”
In an attempt to interest my kids in the high class journalism practised by their father, I mentioned Sharmendra’s skill, but they were decidedly unimpressed, saying LOADS of people blew smoke out of their ears. When I asked for examples, they named cartoon characters. That is SO CHEATING. On a trip to south India, I saw a sadhu (wandering holy man) emitting smoke from his EYES. This anecdote ALSO didn’t impress my kids, who said it was “standard bad guy attribute”. Do animators know how hard they are making life for dads?
The following week, at a swimming pool, my daughter dipped under the surface and blew a stream of bubbles from her eyes. I raced to the doctor, who told me it was quite possible for humans to blow bubbles from their eyes or smoke out of their ears. There were loads of hidden tubes between the different bits of your face.
The doctor then showed me a trick that really works and was so disgusting that I had to spend hours doing it. 1) You put on some really loud, trebly music. 2) You tell people to block their ears tightly with their fingers so they can’t hear it. 3) You instruct them to point their faces at the speaker and open their mouths and nostrils as widely as they can. 4) They will suddenly be able to hear the music quite well through tubes running from their nostrils.
Most importantly, you take a picture of them looking like idiots and upload it to cloud storage devices so that everyone in the world and probably other inhabited planets in the galaxy can have a laugh.
FINALLY I managed to impress the kids.
In a cunning bid to kill all the fish in the creek behind his house, a Vietnamese fisherman recently made an electric stun gun, plugged it into the mains with a long cable, and got into the water. He was promptly electrocuted, although he survived after relatives pulled out the plug. I’m not laughing, honest. I’m just weeping for the gene pool.
Men are way more vain than women. The recent sad true story of Mr Floppytum confirms it.
This middle-aged businessman was sitting in the window seat of an aircraft when an extremely pretty woman sat down next to him.
Mr Floppytum (not his real name) was thrilled – then horrified, because he felt his midriff had become huge, flabby and ocean-like. He decided to suck it in and sit up straight.
When the flight attendant offered drinks, executive Floppytum declined. If he had to stand to go to the toilet, his planet-sized belly would flop out in front of the woman, crushing her, and causing him extreme mortification.
So he sat in one position, his belly sucked in, refusing all liquids, as the plane crossed China, travelling from Fuzhou on the east coast to Harbin in the northwest.
Five hours later, the plane landed. His immense equatorial jelly had remained hidden throughout. Triumph!
The woman stood up and got off – and Mr Floppytum tried to follow. He couldn’t. He was stuck. Doctors eventually rescued him, the China Economic News reported, but warned that he could have died. He had been struck by deep-vein thrombosis, a rare ailment that only hits people who sit absolutely still for hours in a dehydrated state. The guy wasn’t even particularly fat. Just male.
The story was forwarded to me by a reader named Nandini, who told me she had once asked her good-looking husband if he thought he was vain. “Certainly not,” he replied. “Even though I have a right to be.”
A stray dog wandered on to a train in India’s Amritsar and was accidentally transported across the border to the Lahore station in Pakistan. Officials there chose to see this as an attack. They rounded up 50 stray dogs and then sent them on a train back over the border to India, according to The Spokesman, a newspaper in Pakistan. India did not retaliate. An Indian official told a Firstpost.com reporter: “We have no desire to enter a competition on who wins more brownie points over the most stupid things.” Well, that’s a change of policy.
Scientists found meat pies in Iceland which contained no horsemeat. That’s because they contained no meat at all. I read that item in the paper while eating what purported to be a chicken pie. A close examination revealed that it contained thick white goo, mushrooms, bits of ham, and tiny shreds of white stuff that I assumed was chicken but was probably bits of the butcher’s white coat. When did we go from a situation where our food feeds us to the current situation, where it tries to kill us?
Thought for the day: Never underestimate the power of large groups of extremely stupid people.
A tourist couple went into a Bali temple, had a swim in the holy water, and then made love in the Hindu sanctuary. When locals complained, Urmas and Katrin Silman of Estonia said they “didn’t know” they were not allowed to have sex in the temple, the Jakarta Globe reported. I think the pair should be locked in a room with gamelan musicians for a year. “We didn’t know locking you in a room with gamelan musicians for a year would drive you insane.”
I was deeply moved by a video on the Liveleak website last week. Footage from a train platform security camera shows a train arriving and a man stepping out in Beijing. The crowd then surges into the train – taking the poor man right back into the carriage he had just left. The doors close and the train leaves the station. Imagine the guy’s conversation later. “How was your Beijing stopover?” “Okay, although I was only there for two point nine seconds.”
Thought for the day. People don’t act stupid. They actually are stupid.
(22.03.2013 – Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send comments or ideas via www.mrjam.org)