And now, to end the first palindromic year since 1991 and the last till 2112 -- now there's a factoid that sounds profound but means nothing -- we have for you our ever-popular expert advice column. Considering this is the first time we are writing one, we feel confident in the claim that it is ever-popular. Besides, it's carefully written in the friendly, besides ever-popular, "R&D" format.
Sorry, we meant the "Q&A" format.
So, without any further ado, here's our first question. It comes from Babulal Dhillon, an aspiring singer in Jabalpur.
Q: What did Vivian William Decaccia swear in an affidavit dated 15th March 1999 before the Notary Public of Calcutta, as recently reported in The Statesman from that city?
A: That "Vivian William Dcaccia and Vivian William Decaccia is one and the same person and Vivian William Dcaccia means Vivian William Decaccia and none else."
Q: But all my life, I've thought Vivian William Dcaccia and Vivian William Decaccia were two distinct persons and Vivian William Dcaccia does not mean Vivian William Decaccia and in fact I'm getting tired of spelling both Vivian William Dcaccia and Vivian William Decaccia! What should I do now?
A: Well, you could give a thought to John Victor Felix.
Q: I thought you said Vivian William Decaccia?
A: We did. Still, what do you think happened to John Victor Felix?
Q: I thought I was the one asking the questions!
A: Too bad. Still, what happened to John Victor Felix?
Q: Did he change his name, as not-so-recently reported in Bombay's Mid-Day, from John Victor Felix to John Nictor Relix?
A: Indeed he did.
Q: I think Victor Felix is a better name than Nictor Relix.
A: No doubt you also think Vivian William Dcaccia is a better name than Vivian William Decaccia.
Q: Please don't make me spell it again!
A: Anyway, thank you, Babulal, for that flying start! On to our next question, which comes from Maneka Shailesh, tennis player from Rajkot.
Q: How long did two brothers who sign as "Papa and Paul" think "the undying memory" of their mother would "remain deep in their hearts", as recently expressed in an "In Memoriam" ad from a paper whose name I forgot to write down?
A: "As long as great mountain straight nose proudly stands, as long as sacred river flows, as long as engineers are devout their engines power by the name of horse, as long as loved dogs are remain blind obedient to their master."
Q: That long, eh? Was that verbatim?
Q: Speaking of engineers and engines, what fine television programme on Doordarshan's National Channel, recently listed in The Times of India, did I miss because I did not wake up at 6.30am to see it?
A: Ah! No doubt you are thinking of the course from the Indira Gandhi National Open University?
Q: That's it! And what was the subject they taught at 6.30am?
A: Squashing and Smearing Techniques.
Q: May I ask a question?
A: You already did. Too many. But go ahead.
Q: Are you making this up?
A: We swear we are not.
Q: I'm crushed. You see, if I could apply Squashing and Smearing Techniques to my tennis opponents, my game would improve no end. I'm really sorry I missed the course.
A: Don't worry, because you likely also missed a course held by Furia's Institute of Investment Studies of Goregaon (E) in November 1993, as advertised in Mid-Day at that time.
Q: Nope, I went to that one.
A: Really? And how did the ad describe it?
Q: "Technical Analyses Explained: A Comprehensive and Meaningful One-Day Course on Price Charts for Exploring Profitable Investment Opportunities in Stock Markets."
A: Do you think it is possible to finish reading that title in one day?
A: Understanding it?
A: Were the last two words in that title in inexplicable boldface?
A: And was the course also described thus at the bottom of the ad: "It's Exploring! It's Ensuring!! It's Different!!!"
Q: Yes. But may I ask the questions?
Q: Could you tell me about still another course that I missed in Juhu some months ago, as also advertised in Mid-Day?
A: Certainly. Under the heading "GOOD NEWS ONLY UP TO 21st AUG.", it said: "Learn Paan-Masala and Gutka-Preparation. Contact for Materials Also."
Q: I'm sorry I missed that career opportunity too. But what was the Good News?
A: Probably that it was only on offer up to 21st Aug. Now get lost, Maneka! We need to take more questions. The next one comes from Aloo Goray, who tells us he once ran for President of the Chandigarh and Ludhiana Owl-hunters, Waiters and Nailclippers' Society (CLOWNS).
Q: When Mrs and Mr Sarkar of Calcutta completed "32 years of wedded life and heading for the Ruby", did several of their relatives jointly publish a notice in The Statesman in 1999 to congratulate them and thank them "for being such wonderful parents and grands"?
Q: Did these people jointly put their names at the end of this notice?
Q: Were the names Bappa, Soma, Buria, Buro, Gabbu, Jhumpi, Gupi, Boti, Buri, Gali, Mampu, Bimbi, Lumpu, Tuti, Tinda, Ghanta and Chhorda?
Q: Oh, you mean you caught me sticking "Lumpu" and "Boti" in there?
Q: The rest are verbatim?
A: They are.
Q: You are still not making any of these up?
A: You made up two of them, not me. OK, on to this one from Shivan Hakka Singh, scientist from Vedaranyam.
Q: They hunt owls in Chandigarh and Ludhiana?
A: Never mind. Your question, please.
Q: What did Shihan Hussaini, president of the All-India Exerkai Ishinryu Karate Association, once do to seek Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's help in building a karate school, as reported in The Indian Express?
A: He sketched her portrait in blood.
Q: And immediately before that, what was the "novel feat" he did?
A: He "broke about 5000 tiles, allowed 100 cars to run over his fingers and had several bricks smashed on the same hand".
Q: I see. A portrait in blood, you said?
A: What else? Thank you, Shivan! And now for our final questioner: Billa Kalim Dhun of Tinsukia.
Q: I have here an "errata" notice from The New York Times, which refers to an earlier article by Theodore Friend. "Because of an editing error," says the notice, "the words 'those around' were dropped." What was the phrase from which the words were dropped?
A: It read thus: "some months before those around President Marcos murdered him [Benigno S Aquino, Jr]."
Q: Sort of changes the meaning, doesn't it, when you drop those words?
Q: So was it really an editing error?
A: Those around nearly everybody on this planet are positive it wasn't.
Q: While on the subject of getting murdered, what life-threatening device has a Japanese firm developed a defence against, as reported in The Times of London in 1999?
A: Incoming missiles.
Q: And what is that defence?
A: A "hi-tech bra" which "includes a sensor on the shoulder strap and a control box to warn of objects falling from the skies."
Q: Good idea! Did the firm also announce that these bras are designed for a world where catastrophes can strike at any moment?
A: They did.
Q: And what about men, does the firm not care about what happens to them?
A: Not a problem, they will have been rendered helpless. Speechless too.
A: Because the firm also announced that these bras "should be worn without outer garments".
Q: Where can I get a ticket on the next flight, or missile, or anything, to Japan?
A: In this line that I'm standing in. Now shut up, like the rest of us!