Sunday, December 03, 2006
This most riveting anecdote had almost slipped my mind - consigned to my long-term memory and apparently lost to humanity forever. My readers would never have known of it if it were not for the fact that I stumbled upon this little titbit on the web – the muppets at the Chennai Police have been gifted Hyundai Accents, with revolving lights and wireless communication devices to boot.
This, of course, does not make much of a difference to the life of the average Chennaiite. The average mama will continue to actively solicit contributions to the ‘Chennai Police Tea/Coffee/Whisky fund’ from law-abiding citizens. But now, the aforementioned mama can do it while ensconced in an air-conditioned vehicle a grad student like me can merely dream of. And what’s more, he can do so while letting the pretty revolving lights revolve and saying cryptic codewords like, ‘Code 4392 in Gandhinagar. Scramble scramble!’ (translation: I’m fleecing this hapless engineering student here. I can buy all of y’all a peg at Kandan Wines later in the evening) into his spanking new wireless.
I can hear the eggs, beans and crumpets reading this post – the same chaps who seem to take such strong exception whenever I digress – clamouring for me to get to the story I was about to unravel. Since I do not wish to be remembered in posterity as the chap who denied eggs and beans (and even the odd crumpet) their heart’s desire, I shall now delve deep into the mists of time – to more than a year and a half ago. To August 2005.
I was late. But that was nothing new. I am forever late, being a strong proponent of Indian Stretchable Time (IST). However, the British Deputy High Commission, I knew, was obstinate in its refusal to partake in traditional Indian rituals. As I glanced at my watch, awareness stole upon me that they would not keep their portals upon for a minute longer than two in the afternoon.
I wanted to hurry, but my mother’s Scooty Pep, while admirable in several other respects, was not built for speed (or for getting women to drool all over one; but that’s another story altogether). I gunned the engine, and was setting the road ablaze at 40 kmph (25 mph) when I came to a traffic signal (the traffic signal near Sathyam Theatre, for those in the know).
This traffic signal was, rather interestingly, switched off. After having expended considerable amounts of my grey cells on this perplexing problem, I decided that the police department probably wished that I use my own discretion before doing anything foolhardy. Following their wishes, I looked right, left, straight ahead, behind me, and above my head (which is what one does as a matter of course at any Indian traffic intersection) and turned left.
I had hardly moved hundred metres when I saw a huge, jiggling belly make its way to the middle of the road. Huge, jiggling bellies on the middle of the road do not often perturb me, but this huge, jiggling belly happened to be clad in the uniform of the Chennai City Traffic Police (Official Motto: To Serve and Protect*). And what was worse, the hand attached to the belly seemed to be signalling to me to pull over.
Since I was on a 60cc moped, I decided that gunning the engine and racing away, while screaming ‘Eat my dust, mama’ was out of the sphere of practical politics. Besides, I was a law-abiding citizen.
I watched interestedly as the policeman waddled towards me.
‘This is a one-way, and you’re going the wrong way!’, said the policeman, peremptorily.
I was nonplussed. I had plied this very route a hundred times before, and had never espied a No Entry sign. I articulated the same to the policeman.
‘Yes, I know there’s no sign. That’s why I switched the traffic lights off!’
‘Okay, driving the wrong way on a one-way street is a cognisable offence under Section 230 of the IPC. You’ve got to pay a fine of Rs. 1000’
Under normal circumstances, I would probably have asked the policeman to produce a receipt, and then take me to a mobile court or a police station (this usually takes the wind out of the average mama). But, as I had reason to mention earlier, I was in a tearing hurry.
Which is when I made my first mistake.
‘Sir, I am in a real hurry. Couldn’t we not argue about this later?’
The policeman looked more curious than anything else.
‘Where do you have to go?’, he asked.
‘I’ve got to get to the British Deputy High Commission’, said I, in a pleading note that I hoped would melt the hardest copper’s heart.
‘Are you a British citizen?’
This was when I made my second mistake.
‘Er…no…I’m an Indian citizen.’
‘Ah!! If you were a British citizen, I would have let you go. But you’re an Indian citizen, pay the fine.’
I had heard of xenophobic authorities around the world mistreating foreigners. But this was the first experience I have had of foreigners receiving preferential treatment over the heads of locals!
Still reeling from the shock of the policeman’s decidedly anti-India bent (his father was probably one of the worst of the angrezon ke zamane ke jailers), I asked him what the fine was.
Note: Though both the policeman and I were still euphemistically discussing fines, we were both aware that what I was going to pay him was a bribe, and not a fine.
The policeman was a forthright chappie. A ‘fine’, like a trinket at Burma Bazaar, was something that could be haggled over.
‘How much do you have?’
This is when I made my third (and costliest) mistake.
I took my wallet out, and began counting the notes and coins.
‘Er… three hundred and fifty three rupees and fifty paise’
The crook in khaki appeared to think long and hard.
Then, in the manner of a Persian potentate doing a supplicant a signal favour,
‘Well, that’s what the fine is.’
‘Please, Sir,’, implored I, ‘I need this cash to pay the processing fee at the high commission.’
He decided to hand me a concession, and magnanimously said, ‘Okay, fine. Just pay me three hundred and fifty rupees. You can keep the three rupees and fifty paise.’
I know people who could have, by begging, pleading and making ominous references to powerful contacts, brought the fine down to a hundred rupees. But I was not one of them. I went back home, broke and cursing the policeman and his immediate family in the choicest words possible. (I still have no regrets at all – if any of my terrible curses did come true, it merely vindicates my belief in a supreme being. If none of them did, it merely vindicates my equally strong belief in atheism.)
Well, in another twelve days, I shall meet the Chennai police again. At least, this time, I have the opportunity to get fleeced by a pot-bellied crook in Khaki who is driving a neat car. Maybe he’ll let me take a short spin in one of them wondrous machines too! (
P.S: Before anybody starts abusing me for being anti-Indian Police, anti-Chennai and anti-India, let me pre-empt them by saying that I love the Chennai Police. At least, they don’t shoot me seven times in the head at tube stations, or beat my skull in at parking lots. If that’s something to be grateful for, that is.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Just this week, I was assigned the task of designing a remote control that would allow you to control a TV, a DVD player, an MP3 player, a video surveillance unit, an organiser, and America's nuclear arsenal and space shuttles.
Before we actually got down to designing this system, we were supposed to sketch profiles of people who may actually end up using the system. Maybe there is something wrong with me, every profile I wrote seemed to indicate psychosis, neurosis, or plain stupidity.
Yes, I did end up submitting this. It remains to be seen, however, if the TA extracts as much joy out of reading them as I did out of writing them.
So without further ado, allow me to introduce y'all to these social misfits that I dreamed up.
Lois Lane, Reporter, The Daily Planet
Lois Lane is the typical career woman who works irrgular hours and shows a strong proclivity for multitasking. Preparing a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, writing an article, and bullying her photographer around, all at the same time are second nature to her. She nurtures an almost obsessive interest in a fictional alien who wears his underwear over his trousers, and is therefore constantly procuppied. At home, she is additionally distracted by her ugly little brat of undetermined parentage (father at least) who often displays unnatural strength beyond his years.
Her medical records indicate slightly delusionary behaviour, having confidently asserted that she had slept with the aforementioned alien with the terrible dress sense, and that he was the father of her child. She also has trouble with her spelling, indicating an extremely mild form of dyslexia. However, this could merely indicate that she is underqualified for the job, and her recruitment involved some under-the-table agreement.
Victoria Beckham is the typical upper-class housewife. She has a steady private income, coupled with that of her celebrity husband’s (whose income is a result of his metrosexuality and (negligible) sporting talent).
She has no career to speak of anymore, save for a few public appearance towing behind her husband. Her interests lie primarily along the lines of watching Reality TV, Desperate Housewives and almost every sitcom on TV. She has a strong affinity towards pop music, particularly of the manufactured boy/girl band variety. She has plenty of time to indulge in these, thanks to the fact that she hires a personal secretary, a beautician, a trainer, a cleaning lady, and two nannies who take care of her three children.
Though she appears to suffer from anorexia nervosa, and a debilitating mental illness that impels her to give her children names which ensure them a life of ridicule, none of these appear to have an impact on her reading and motor skills. However, she professes to be rather a technophobe, and finds a large number of buttons intimidating.
Bridget Jones, executive
Bridget is a university-educated, highly successful professional woman in a middle-level executive position in a publishing concern. She multi-tasks ruthlessly, and has the ability to do ten completely unrelated things at the same time without being in the least confused. She can smoke a cigarette, flirt with her boss, do her nails, weigh herself, count the number of calories she's consumed since February 1st, 2002, and record all of this down in her diary.
She loves the telly as much as any thirty-something ``singleton’’ with a terrible social life possibly can. However, she is constantly distracted by phone calls from her friends - equally needy singletons in dysfunctional relationships, burning microwaveable dinners, constant nagging by her parents and relations to settle down with a decent chap, and an compulsive desire to confide in her diary.
Bridget is obsessed with control, and is given to meticulously recording her weight and the calories consumed in the last day. She has a problem with her spelling, which seems to indicate mild dyslexia. Heavy smoking over the years has resulted in her finding it difficult to keep her hand steady, particularly to handle large number of small buttons stacked together.
Her control obsession and her general disorganisation lead her to rely heavily on automated reminders. In addition to being a movie junkie, she has an eclectic taste in music, ranging from a post-coital craving for heavy rock to an equally strong post-break-up craving for soul, country and R&B. She’s also paranoid about security, especially after her creepy neighbour began skulking around her front door and stealing her mail.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
This may be the last post I'll be writing in a while. I'm in a bit of a blue funk right now, and find myself incapable of thinking cheery thoughts - or thoughts, even. Ah well, here goes, then... Hope I get out of this here funk sooner rather than later!
Living in a country without speaking the lingua franca is never the most pleasant experience. Travelling can be even tougher, when one has to figure directions out. It gets even worse when you happen to be me. The Warriers have never been, since the dawn of time, a race capable of sniffing directions out like one of those bloodhounds you always hear of (assuming bloodhounds sniff directions). Philosophers, yes. Saints, quite possibly. But intrepid adventurers we never have been and never will be.
When I first flew in to Germany, I decided to save the ten quid that I would have to shell out to get a Berlitz German phrasebook - an act of parsimony I shall forever regret. But I never regretted it more than when I was to fly to Glasgow from Duesseldorf.
My RyanAir ticket - curse their black hearts - informed me that I was expected to be among those present for the ritual sniffing of one's genitals by the Alsatians from the Bomb squad at an airport called the Duesseldorf Weeze Flughafen. Flughafen, I assumed, was the operative term. All I had to do prior to boarding the airplane, I assumed, would be to go to this airport in Duesseldorf called Flughafen - a task within the reach of even one as inept as me.
In fact, I observed that the authorities had been kind enough to draw a (rather ugly) facsimile of an aeroplane to indicate the direction to this Flughafen airport. It was, therefore, with a song on my lips, that I alighted at the railway station conveniently attached to this airport that was called Flughafen.
Five minutes into the airport, however, I began to smell a rotten fish - an aroma that made me hark back to the Shastri Nagar fish market. (I didn't actually smell a rotten fish, except metaphorically). It was a confused self that walked towards the helpdesk.
I decided to try my pidgin German out.
'Hallo, ich bin Ryanair flight FR8789.'
The chap at the counter could not repress a laugh.
'What? You're a Ryanair flight? (Oh so that's what it meant)!'
'Er...no, I...want.. to... get... Ryanair...flight...to...Glasgow!'
I spoke in loud, slow and ringing tones - accompanied by feverish movements of every appendage of my body. Though I have never understood how this would make things any better, and why people do it - but I can't help myself doing it.
The chap at the other end of the table, watched me do the cha-cha-cha with thinly veiled amusement, and spoke,
'Well, you're at the wrong airport, mate. Ryanair flights use the Duesseldorf Weeze Flughafen'
'Another airport named Flughafen?', asked I, shocked that they could do something like this in one city.
'No, Flughafen is the word from airport'. said the bloke, rather like a chap measuring a lunatic for a straitjacket would.
It was then that a line I read long ago in the Lonely Planet came back to hit me - 'In German, it is not just the proper nouns that are capitalised.'
I asked the chap, reaching a state of panic, 'So, where is this other Flughafen?'
'Just about a hundred kilometres from here'
'What!!?? Then why do they call it Duesseldorf?'
'Well, the question you should ask yourself is why you choose to fly RyanAir?'
'Er..because its cheap!'
'Well, now you know WHY its cheap!'
And all this while, I thought it was cheap because they used slave labour to fly the airplanes. (Later, sources assured me that this was also the case).
It was thus a chastened self - cursing my parsimony for not having got that Berlitz phrase-book - that travelled to Berlin.
P.S: Attempts to confirm that this was a deep-dyed conspiracy hatched by George W Bush, Tony Blair, and Ahmed Chalabi expressly to discomfit me have now come to nought.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
However, the two days since I have moved to Germany have not offered much in the form of excitement, excepting when my camera was stolen and I thought I'd lost my student ID (and spent the next ten minutes running around like a headless chicken, trying to find it while muttering 'F*ck it' almost without pausing for breath). I have also begun to get the sinking suspicion that a week from now, I would no longer be able to speak English any more fluently than Lalloo Prasad Yadav, and that the most profound thought I could possibly write down would be something George W thought of when in the fifth grade.
And therefore, before the rot sets in, I decided to codify my political views, as of the 19th of October 2006, into a political testament as it were. (I can hear readers screaming for mercy and possibly thinking to themselves that a certified clown like the author should never be allowed to express his opinion on topics any weightier than whether a chap would prefer a lassie with big tits, or one that can cook and clean. However, I must warn the aforementioned philistines that they scoff at the risk of serving as a main course for bears, like the children who mocked the Prophet Elisha).
If a chappie like Churchill, Nehru or Nasser were to write a political testament, bearded blokes in Political Science departments around the world would probably pay close attention and write PhD theses on them. The same would be true even if the author of such a testament were a rank liar and genocidal maniac like George W or Tony Bliar (oops, did I type Bliar, I meant Blair of course). However, when a person like me whose first (and last) successs in electoral politics was in the 8th grade (when I was voted class representative) sits down and writes a political testament, the very same chaps are likely to decide to use the document as toilet paper. But public resentment has never deterred me; if it did, I would have joined a suicide cult about fifteen years ago - right after the kids in Cochin told me they didn't want to associate with a 'Otta Kappallil vaana Sayip' who couldn't play cricket to save his life (wannabe honky fresh of a ship that no self respecting rat would infest).
My political views have always swung between the two extremes; thinking like a fascist pig whenever I read about the growing immigration (or infiltration, if you would prefer that) from Bangladesh, and like a leftist pseudointellectual - the ilk that protests at every G8 summit and tries to get convicted terrorists off the gallows - when I read about Israel's brazen assault on the Lebanese people or America's scant regard for international law and national soveriegnity. In what follows (if anybody does go on to read any further), I've expressed my opinion on a few things I have spent time thinking about.
British Imperalism in India: I have never completely subscribed to the standard Indian textbook theory that the British were completely cruel, merciless and unfair during their time in India, and had no redeeming features whatsoever. They were definitely no angels, and I can't imagine ever doing a Nirad Chaudhury and screaming 'Civis Britannicus Sum' from rooftops as the aforementioned anachronism was wont to. But, in my opinion, in early modern India, the choice was between milked by British fat cats in a politically unified nation or by decadent aristocrats in several different nations. The Marathas, the Sikhs, and all the other little dynasties that dotted India at that time had no concept whatsoever of an Indian nation state - that being an entirely European notion at that point in time. The British may have treated us as second class subjects of the Empress, and plundered our national wealth; but they did imbue in our blood something that will turn the rest trivial in a hundred years from now - the spirit of democratic debate (I bet you thought I was going to say English or the railways). Our constitution was written by people who, though Indian, were more British than the average coal miner in Newcastle, and they did (in theory at least) write one of the most liberal constitutions the world had ever seen at that time. That we would have otherwise evolved into as true and vibrant a democracy as we are today in such a short period is inconceivable. For christ's sake, the British had the Magna Carta in 1215, and look at when they introduced the concept of universal adult suffrage!!
My Political views, if judged on this alone: Filthy apologist of imperialism, possibly extremely right wing, likely to be a supporter of Bush's evangelical crusade to deliver democracy to the world (read: shoulder the White Man's Burden - Kipling doth live!)
Gandhi: No, I refuse to affix the Mahatma to his name. I am sure he would never have wished that. Neither would he have wished that we have statues of him all over the place, nor that we remember him as the guy who smiles out to us from a rupee note when we go to grab some chicken wings from the neighbourhood KFC. The whole concept of an omnipotent Mahatma (whose teachings nobody really listens to for the most part; not that I blame them, some of them were wildly impractical) was part of a creation of a personality cult by Nehru (and his worthless progeny). A good analogy would, in my opinion, be the embalming and deification of Lenin in the former USSR. And no, I refuse to agree that Gandhi had anything to do to the creation of an independent India. India became independent because of two reasons - one, maintaining a British presence in India was untenable after the hiding good ol' Adolf had given 'em limeys, and two, the British could no longer rely on the support of the Indian armed forces after the Royal Indian Navy mutiny circa 1946. Churchill was wrong when he said in the House of Commons that the British Empire was bowing down to a country with no army and no ammunition. The British Empire was bowing down to the Royal Indian Army where nationalist fervour in the aftermath of the trial of the Indian National
Army was at an all-time high - a battle-hardened army with experience in several fronts during World War II.
If anything, Gandhi was partly responsible for the partition of the subcontinent. Gandhi marginalised every single politician who could possibly emerge as a potential rival to Gandhi's protege, Nehru (and thus, by extension, pose a threat to his own control of the Congress and the country) - this started with Jinnah, and the list also includes Subhash Chandra Bose. Gandhi sounded the death knell for a undivided and independent India when he categorically refused to support the last pan-religious movement on undivided Indian soil - the RIN mutiny of 1946. (Interestingly enough, our history books are mum on this).
As for his economic ideology, how many of you professed 'Gandhians' are willing to dump their shiny Fords and Hondas, and go back to the village, spin a wheel to weave your own shirt, and travel in a bullock cart? How many of you believe that India does truly live in its villages, and we should therefore go back to the pre-Industrial revolution age? Bah!
My political views, if judged on this alone: "Look, there's a Mahatma Gandhi baiter. He's a bleedin' Godse!! In the name of ahimsa and everything Mahatma Gandhi stood for, let's get hold of this communal bastard and burn him at the stake/hang him/stone him/charge him under sedition laws (circa 1925 or something)."
(To be continued)
Quote of the day (and possibly year): 'I'm sorry, Sir, but we don't have any Che Guevara t-shirts. However, we do have Rammstein, Metallica and Iron Maiden t-shirts.'
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I do not deny that I am inspired by the idea of avoiding any contact with people in the real world.
I am satisfied with the little all that grad school funding provides me, and do not direct envious glances at other blokes my age who earn packets working in IT consultancies. I do not begrudge them their Ford Fiestas and Renault Laguna. I wave cheerily at them as they pass me by as I ride my BSA SLR to the shopping centre. At no time do I curse my luck when I try to haggle with the blighter at the desi store to allow me to add another two quid to my tab.
Ah, who am I kidding? I’d like the money, but I’d rather remain poor than live the hard life of an IT consultant. For instance, look at NS’ terribly tough life. Well, you can’t do that, considering you don’t know NS, and have not had the opportunity to hob-nob with the aforementioned luminary. And therefore, may I present to you the hero of this little story, NS.
NS is a good friend of mine who currently stays in our kitchen – or on the bedroom floor if the wafting aroma of curry, Chinese sauce and African god-knows-what gets a trifle too strong for him. He is, as I have had reason to mention earlier, a cog in the wheel of commerce. He is the lynchpin upon whom the fortunes of a major IT consultancy rest, if lynchpin is the word I want.
As I write this, NS’ day has just begun. As the sun sets on a grad student’s night, the white-collar worker’s sun begins to rise. That NS is awake is made abundantly clear by the fact that the stench of his eau-de-cologne has spread across most of the flat.
The first major trial he faces is that he has to shave. Unlike unkempt grad students, IT consultants cannot look like something the cat dragged in. Not for him the week-old scraggy stubble that adorns this grad student’s visage. After having shaved, he has to rush to work at 6:54 in the morning.
What he does inside the corridors of the consulting company is a sealed book to me. I would assume it involves plenty of veiled women smelling of Chanel 5 pinching trade secrets. After eight hours spent writing reports and keeping the aforementioned veiled women at bay, NS drives to the kebab shop.
NS does not like the kebabs he gets there. He avers that it tastes like sandpaper, and this chronicler can, from first-hand experience, attest to the veracity of his opinion.
Not many kebab shops can butcher a kebab as well as this shop does. But then, not many kebab shops have Polish shop assistants who look as good as the one at this shop does.
If NS were a mere graduate student, he would decide to find another kebab shop and let the Polish chick vanish out of his life. But them IT consultants can take the rough with the smooth, not to mention tolerate the presence of large quantities of sandpaper in the intestinal linings. Besides, he has to practise his Polish!
After that trial by food, NS arrives home to more work.
He starts off by yawning loudly, preparatory to a hard night that will be spent in the company of Gantt charts (or whichever other weird creature of a lesser God that the world’s workers deal with on a daily basis).
He then announces that he plans to take a short nap for fifteen minutes in order to recharge his batteries. In order to ensure that he sticks to his grueling schedule, he sets an alarm on his mobile phone.
NS subscribes to the Snooze school of productivity enhancement. In order to test the efficacy of mobile phone snooze buttons, he decides to use it once.
NS at 2045 hours
And a third time, just to make sure there are no bugs in the mobile phone’s implementation of the snooze function…
And maybe a fourth time…
Ad nauseum, ad infinitum…
NS at 2145 hours
However, this intensive testing schedule is interrupted by his better half who calls after he has used the snooze button approximately twenty times.
NS then speaks with his better half. The contents of the conversation are unfortunately unclear to the raconteur as the language spoken is Great Britain’s new lingua franca, Polish. However, NS soon manages to convince his girlfriend that work, that cruel taskmaster, calls out to him. He switches the alarm on again – so that he can recover from the conversation.
NS in converstation with his girlfriend
After about half an hour, NS arises and decides that enough work has been done for the evening, and decides to call it a night.
NS at 2230 hours, after an evening spent hard at work. Note: The subject can be identified by following the direction of the index finger, and must not be confused with the other inanimate objects in the room.
After having spent the last couple of months monitoring the hard life of an IT consultant, this author has decided that his considerable talents shall be directed towards the furthering of scientific research.
Besides, I’m virtually unemployable as no company would be particularly interested in hiring a chap who spends all evening monitoring the working/sleeping habits of the Homo ITConsultantus, and then spends the rest of the night writing a report on it.
This, on the other hand, shows that I have the perfect temperament to be a procrastinating grad student adept at writing nonsensical reports to please his supervisor.
If I could maybe add a graph or two to this piece, I could maybe submit this as my weekly progress report to my supervisor.
If I could add a few citations to this, I may soon have a publication in an IEEE journal.
The identity of the Homo ITConsultantus has been withheld for security reasons (read: to protect author’s life and limb).
Friday, July 28, 2006
We were a few months into the eighth standard when Amit decided that what he felt for Nisha was the real thing – lowe. By that time, however, there were scores of people in the ranks of her admirers. There was this chap who used a blade to carve her name out on his forearm, and the three or four chaps who would suddenly become as violent as Zinedine Zidane when Nisha happened to walk past an informal football match. As for me, all I did was glance surreptitiously at her – something I reckon she never noticed (at least I think she didn’t. I’m very subtle).
But Amit was in a class all by himself. He would walk into class about a minute after Nisha did, and keep his head tilted at ninety degrees to the teacher throughout the day. Repeated admonitions (and a few strokes of a wooden scale) from the teachers did nothing to diminish his passion. After about two months of this rather obvious display of his lowe, Amit decided to take the great leap forward.
He walked upto Nisha during the lunch break. Nisha was eating her lunch with that (decidedly plain and fat) girl who stuck closer to her than her shadow.
Digression: The author has never understood this female trait by virtue of which every hot chick has a plain chick hanging around her all the time. This is a truly global phenomenon, and the author has seen white women and Oriental women do the same too. Explanations to this interesting phenomenon will be greatly welcome.
He spoke loudly, like the aan singham he was (and probably still is),
‘Hi, Nisha, eppidi irukke?’ (Hi, Nisha, how’re you?)
This must have been rather perplexing for Nisha, considering the chap had never bothered to do anything but stare at her all day.
‘Er…yeah, well, I’m fine.’
If Amit were one of those smooth Don Juans, he would probably have waxed eloquent on the beauty of the bees, the birds and the smelly brown liquid that was provided us in the name of drinking water. But no, none of that for Amit! He believed in getting to the nub as soon as he could.
And thus, the third sentence that Amit ever said to Nisha was,
‘Aey, naan unnai lowe pannaraendee’ (Hey, I’m lowing you—forgive me, there’s no exact translation of this immortal phrase into English)
As I sat three benches away, trying not to look, I felt as if someone had just driven a road roller over the rolls of fat on my stomach. I visibly winced. Being unaware then of the success rates that porikis enjoyed in the game of lowe, and having watched too many Tamil movies than was good for me, I expected Nisha to break into a demure smile, giggle and run away.
At which point the hundred extras would arrive from Kodambakkam and begin dancing to a tune.
At which point the passion that burnt deep (two layers of fat beneath) within me would be extinguished faster than Bush’s hopes of victory in Iraq.
So, nothing could have prepared me for what happened. Nisha directed at him a stony glare from those green eyes of hers.
‘But I don’t love you, okay?! I’m sick of you staring at me. So kindly desist from making a fool of yourself.’
Upon this, she flounced away, followed closely by her chamcha.
Most people would have taken this most emphatic crushing of their crush to be final. But Amit was not one to give up so easily. He reasoned, with undeniably warped logic, that the problem was the competition.
And he reasoned that the best way to deal with the competition would be to eliminate it.
The guy who took a blade to his forearm was threatened with a fist bigger than his blade if he tried anything in the nature of funny business again. The violent football players soon saw that Amit could be considerably more violent than them.
It was then that I took that ill-fated path of striking a conversation with Nisha.
It was as I was trying to worm her phone number out of her (after having spent 5 minutes discussing the character flaws of our English teacher, and how I had, in spite of his hating me, scored 33 on 35 in the last test*) when a friend asked me to step outside.
It was not a very happy self that waddled out of the classroom. I was about to expostulate on good manners to my friend when he told me that Amit wanted to see me at the playground.
Fear chilled me to the marrow. Amit was sure to threaten me with physical violence, or worse still carry it out. I told my friend to tell him that I had suddenly taken ill, and had therefore decided to go home. I began to run away as fast as I could when I heard quick footsteps following me.
I was not much of a runner. My last sporting achievement of note was winning the frog jump when in UKG, unless one counts the silver plate I won for coming second in the three-legged race in my third standard.
However, I felt that I was running like the wind. But by some freak of nature, Amit jogged past my quivering double chin, and placed a hand across my chest to stop me.
As I bent over double trying to regain my breath, Amit spoke to me (translated version presented for convenience),
‘Dai, I thought I’d told everybody to keep off my girl.’
‘Amit, honestly, I was merely asking her for her notes.’
‘Who are you trying to fool, you lavdae ka baal (pubic hair)! I know you were trying to get her phone number.’
Some bastard was spying on me! I condemned his black soul to the depths of hell (if he’s reading this today, whoever he may be, he may note that the curse still holds).
I tried a last, desperate gamble.
‘Macha, I was trying to get her phone number for you!’
‘Dai, evantaedaa velayaadarae? (Who do you think you’re fooling?) I have her phone number, and I know where she lives.’
That was interesting. I turned to him and asked him interestedly, ‘Where?’
‘Now why do you want to know, you mayir pudungi (means about the same as the swear word above)? You’re trying to steal my girl from me, aren’t you?’
‘But…Amit, she’s not your girl.’
‘Dai, what the fuck do you mean? She’s mine for all eternity.’
Maybe, I thought, I could reason with him,
‘But machcha, she told me that she’s not your girlfiend, and never wants to talk to you in this life or the next.’
If I were a wee bit smarter, I would have known that this was not the most tactful line to take. A lesson lies here for all young boys starting out in life – do not try to convince a poriki of the futility of his lowe. Violence will indubitably follow.
Amit spoke slowly and quietly, through clenched teeth,
‘Oh really? And do you lowe her?’
‘Er..yeah, I kinda like her.’
‘You fat piece of first bencher shit! That was your game all along!’, he screamed.
What followed for the next ten minutes was the most macabre and painful exhibition of violent behaviour I have ever experienced in this short life of mine.
It also crushed my crush forever.
Amit continued to moon over Nisha. He spent most weekends hanging about the vicinity of her house in the army colony. It was on one such weekend that the good Colonel, home on leave after a frustrating few months spent consorting with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, became aware of Amit’s presence outside. The good Colonel tolerated porikis just a little more than he tolerated Kashmiri militants.
A reportedly painful lesson at the hands of an Army jawan quickly extinguished any lowe that still burnt in Amit’s bosom. All I could think of when I heard of this diverting anecdote was, ‘Jai Jawan!’.
*Yes, I know. I was (and still am) unbelievably pathetic when it comes to chatting a member of the opposite sex up.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
And I would have, too. If it weren’t for the fact that I am one of those poor prunes who would make a loss selling ice cream in Riyadh. And more importantly, if I had never met Nisha.
Nisha walked into our classroom in the seventh standard, a time when men were men and hated all women without exception. And therefore, nobody in particular took much notice of Nisha, except to perfunctorily note that she had spent the last three years of her life rotting in that armpit we once called Kashmir.
The only conversation I had with her that year amounted to:
‘Hi, you’re from Kashmir, aren’t you?’
‘No, I’m originally from the French territory of the Afars and the Isas. But I lived in a bunker in Kargil with Barkha Dutt for the last three years.’
‘Ah!! That explains your stupidity, and why you scream ‘I’m calling from a bunkkkker’ in the middle of classes. But that aside, have you ever met a militant?’
‘Oh yes, I have. They are all dressed in black, look like Hrithik Roshan, and walk down high street, a couple of tones of RDX strapped to their vitals.’
‘Ah that’s nice. Your father (a Colonel in the Indian Army) must not have liked them much.’
‘No, not at all. The militants refused to partake of whisky in his company, and did not attend any of the dinner parties he threw.’
After agreeing that militants were the most infernally rude people either of us had ever met, we parted ways. Not exactly the kind of stuff an Indian culture hawk would have frowned at, in any case.
Amit had also joined our class when I was in the seventh grade. Amit was not from Kashmir or Chechnya. He had spent all his life in my school. But he got through the years at a very leisurely pace. He believed that he had to spend two years for every year that less-academically-inclined students spent in a particular grade. This resulted in him being 14 when the rest of us were still eleven.
Cut to: The next year
It was sometime the next year that it happened. It was as I waddled along to school that I noticed a bit of a hullabaloo. Never one to avoid any incident that could potentially turn violent, I rushed forth. It was then that I saw it.
Nisha had begun to wear spectacles!
When some people wear spectacles, they look like Stephen Hawking. Which is all very well if all one wants to do is to be considered an intellectual giant who writes unreadable books that everyone buys anyway. But when some others wear spectacles, they get adolescent hearts to go all a-quiver. Nisha squarely fell into the latter category.
I opened my mouth, goggled, and shut it again. Nisha noticed my imitation of a halibut, and flashed a smile at me. I goggled even more. If I had a goggled a little more, I would have borne an uncanny resemblance to my principal.
I tried to speak to her about the militants in Kashmir, regarding whose social graces we had shared such similar opinions till then. But I could not get myself to speak a single word. I merely uttered a wordless goodbye and tottered away, my double chin quivering rather like Amar Singh’s*.
Though I did not know it at that time, she was, in fact, my first real crush.
If I were the kind of chap who could walk up to a lady and turn her head around with a few well-chosen words, and a cuppa at some expensive coffee pub, it would have been the work of an instant for me to profess my undying love. If, on the other hand, I were the kind of chap who could with consummate ease begin singing ‘Vennilave Vennilave, vinnai thaandi varuvaaya…’ to the object of my affection while standing slouched in a corner, it would have been the work of an instant for me to end up in the principal’s office facing charges of eve teasing.
But I was a gormless wreck who did neither, but instead tried to impress her by scoring high marks in the forthcoming Unit Tests – an endeavour which did not in any way bear fruit. She cared but little for the plump nerd who thought the way to a woman’s heart was through his Unit Test marks.
However, if the status quo had been maintained, I would have been able to resume speaking to Nisha about militants with RDX wrapped around their genitals in a few months. From there to actually getting to know her would not have taken too long.
But it was not to be. For dark clouds had begun to gather over the horizon. Dark clouds that looked suspiciously like Amit…
*Until I discovered what a gymnasium could do to one, I was rather on the corpulent side. If I hadn’t discovered a gymnasium, people would have probably noticed a distinct resemblance to Adnan Sami.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I remember most distinctly that I felt helpless when:
(a) In my second grade, a burly son of a navy sepoy named Sunil ground a seven year old self to the dust on my first day in a new school.
(b) A equally burly sixteen-year-old classmate of mine (a veteran of several failures, in his 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades respectively) slapped me accross the face, and threatened me with even more greivous harm if I ever talked to his 'girlfriend', ever again. My repeated attempts to point out to him that his supposed girlfriend had never spoken to him, and had at several occassions in the past, asseverated that she did not wish to ever speak to him, merely seemed to enrage him more (and impel him towards ever escalating threats, culminating in a loudly vociferated threat to murder me, and bury the pieces under the cricket pitch).
But all this is beside the point. I am merely being the flippant, vapid and irreflective flippertygibbet that several people hold me out to be. I can notice that the attention of my normally attentive readers is drifting away.
I can imagine an egg, remarking irritably to the crumpet at the next screen,
'Siddhu is such an arsehole. He never seems to be able to come to the point.'
The crumpet would, then, give a loud snort of assent, and say, 'Yeah, the idiot's trying to be flippant on terrible Tuesday. For the love of Zsa Zsa Gabor, I thought he had something important to say about the catastrophic events in Mumbai.'
The egg would probably go on to make some uncharitable remark along the lines of how he wouldn't be particularly surprised if I had thought that Terrible Tuesday was the name of a lesbian romantic comedy starring Kiera Knightley and Jennifer Aniston (Come to think of it, a movie of this nature could be just what the doctor ordered for blokes with erectile dysfunction. Though the pharmaceutical firm that manufactures Viagra would not be amused on contemplating their sales charts afterward.).
But I know exactly what Terrible Tuesday is. It was as I expended a balmy Edinburgh afternoon on vapidness and irreflectivity that my phone rang. It was my friend asking me if I'd heard of what had happened in Mumbai. The poor chap had been unable to get through to his parents.
I felt like a coolie would have, if when taking his mid-afternoon walk through the rainforest he happened to chance upon a tiger who had definitive ideas of using him for a seven-course lunch. I immediately hung up, and began to try getting through to my uncle who lives in Mumbai.
I could not get through. A call home revealed that neither my parents nor my grandmother were having any luck either. With each successive try, my desperation grew. In order to figure out what exactly was happening, I tottered into a pub, and asked the bartender brokenly to switch to BBC news.
But they were all watching the news already - mouths wide open. As I kept trying, a sympathetic-looking man next to me asked me a stupid question; so stupid, in fact, that I would not have been surprised if he were an American in disguise.
'Who on earth could have done this in India of all places, mate?'
Since I wasn't feeling particularly sunny, and did not feel at all like humouring this retard with a detailed explanation of India's geopolitical climate, I merely told him that it was an incredibly stupid question.
For a second, he was taken aback. And then he spoke, almost in a whisper, 'Do you mean...it's Al Qaeda?'
I thought of contradicting him, and telling him of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. But I could not get myself to. I merely nodded my head.
Little did I know that the man was in reality absolutely correct. It was Al Goddamn Qaeda alright!
Cut to: A few hours on
After having finally got through to my uncle and having reassured myself, I watched NDTV in a state of complete shock. I felt more helpless than I ever had in my entire life - sitting 10,000 miles away as my country burned!
As I browsed around, I stumbled upon http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com, a blog created by a bunch of intrepid young lads in Mumbai, expressly for the purpose of assisting Mumbaikars.
It was there that I found a certain person desperately trying to get through to his father. The chap had requested for assistance from others who could try. I decided to abandon my feeling of helplessness, and do what little I could, ensconsced in a comfortable chair in Edinburgh.
And I managed to get through to the chap's da.
The feeling of having contributed to helping my country when it was in distress is a joyous feeling indeed. I feel proud that, today, of all days, I chose to wear the tee shirt with the national anthem emblazoned on it.
I felt even more proud that there were so many stepping forward to help their fellow beings in this hour of need. So without attempting to sound ridiculously corny, I would like to leave whatever readers have stuck with me to this point with a few words spoken by Winston Churchill more than sixty years ago to Britons during the Second World War.
'...we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!'
Monday, June 26, 2006
I would just like to clarify a bit on that. (Digression: I just realized my blog seems to be on its way to becoming a complete drag. It's time that I begin to lighten up once again. I guess I will, immediately after this post!)
I am not in favour of another partition of India, or anything of that sort. But to deny that no animosity exists is also equally ridiculous. Human beings are divisive in nature - one just has to live awhile in the UK to see the number of divisions in this tiny little island.
I had made the previous post only after great deliberation, and after extreme provocation over a period of time. And I did so because it was the first time I had seen anything of this sort.
I studied in a Kendriya Vidyalaya, and count among my friends people from every part of India. I am fluent in four Indian languages, and if I choose not to tell, there is no way anybody IN India could say which part of it I am from. So what I had written had nothing to do with general divisions, but just a particular person. Erasing the boundary - which exists - can be done not by denying it, but by accepting it and trying to change attitudes.
As for the whole arranged/love marriage concept, I have nothing against the former. I am a product of an arranged marriage, for chrissake! But what I do have a problem with is the refusal to view women as equal, or try to view them as inferior partners - which is often the case when it comes to an arranged marriage. I also cannot agree with subordinating your own wishes or desires in order to make anybody else happy. Though if anybody chooses to do it, it is their choice. And finally, I do not agree with the concept of choosing a woman from the same caste!! I detest casteism!!
Anyway, I hope it's all done with, and I can get back to being the clown I am.
Oh, and Dhaval, I don't like Arundhati Roy because she's a raging hippie without a cause...er...welll....might as well be honest!! Because she's so successful and I'll never be as successful!!!!;)
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
It was then that my moral flatmate (regular readers may remember my allusion to him during the post on 'moral Indian girls' -- too lazy to search for the link) decided to walk in, equipped with his voice like a foghorn, and his radical Indian (read Hindu) concepts.
Some idiot was unfortunately stupid enough to start the topic of Mr. Modi's pogrom in Gujarat. My moral flatmate could no longer resist. In a voice that would have put a racecourse bookie to shame, he began to wax eloquent on the evil that Muslims represent, and how the liquidation of Muslims would be a perfectly logical thing to do.
I listened to him, though trying to cover my ears (I could have heard him perfectly clearly a mile away), wax eloquent on joint families, how cheating the Indian government of its taxes was completely legitimate, how arranged marriages where the girl was chosen by the chappie from a list was perfectly legitimate, and how Muslims were the scum of the earth. I was tempted on ten different occassions to interrupt him for I found the following unacceptable:
a) His treatment (both in speech and real life) of women as commodities.
b) His belief that Muslims, who are as Indian as me or you, were in some way subhuman. In fact if he were white and anti-semitic instead, Hitler would have embraced him with a jolly Seig Heil for his intolerance.
c) How he felt bilking the Indian government by not even bothering to pay his taxes was perfectly legitimate. As an Indian, I found that bleedin' disgusting. It's the progeny of rich, uneducated, brown trash businessmen, like him (who have no qualms in griping about the state of indian roads - which are built out of taxes that these arseholes don't pay) that have got India to where it is today.
d) His murder of the English language. For chrissake, English is a National Language, and as an educated Indian (in the UK, for heaven's sake), one would expect him to have a rudimentary grasp. Messrs Wren and Martin would have turned in their respective graves at some of his sentences - 'The government are slapeing me in the faace. I am not tax payment.'
e) His belief (though not expressed at the moment; expressed several times in the past) that South Indians were black, ugly, subhuman, unintelligent, and incapable of speaking in Hindi.
f) His equally uneducated, ignorant and bigoted belief that South India = Madras (mispronounced), Idly, Sambar (mispronounced) and useless.
About an hour later into his monologue (which probably kept half the building awake), when he was by implication damning my 'disgustingly Western liberal' parents, and their 'filthy western' concept of a nuclear family (and their willingness to allow me to choose my bride), I could take it no more.
Primarily because his voice, never pleasant, had begun to grate on me, and secondarily because his bigotry was unbearable.
I said, 'Dude, arranged marriage is like a VB application with radio buttons. Select the girl you want - only one selection allowed - and click OK. The girl's wishes be damned. She's a girl after all.'. In Hindi - so that he could understand it as well.
He then glared at me, and began a prolonged attack on my family values - and the immorality of a family that had brought me up to actually respect a woman's choice as much as a man's. The filth of a family that actually told me that it was okay to decide for myself whom I would spend the rest of my life with. Citing specific examples of what he thought my near and dear were like, with the caveat that he was not attempting to offend me. While he was doing so all along.
But I did not react. I had become quite used to the bigoted attacks of him and his acolytes.
Over the past one year, I have had my friends back home called black and ugly because they're South Indian. I've had my mother tongue ridiculed and made fun of. I have listened to several jokes the butt of which was the colour of South Indian skin. I have had everything that I value and hold close to my heart made the butt of a tasteless, racist 'joke'.
He continued, this time on Muslims.
I have Muslim friends. They are Indians. In fact, they are more Indian than this racist bigot. They are my friends. They have never ridiculed me. I do not wish to see them slaughtered by people of my flatmate's ilk.
Everytime he starts off on his (perfectly rationally and calmly spoken) ideas of a pogrom against Indian muslims, I think of Sam. I think of Imran. I think of Shadab who carved 'India' on his forearm with his blood! I think of my President, who is much more of a man, and much much more of an Indian than him! I think of every Indian who just happens to be Muslim, and who has to face people of this kind in their country just because of their religious beliefs!!!
At some point, something snapped within me. I asked him how he would feel if after 9/11 the Americans decided that every brown person was a terrorist, and began to slaughter his beloved Patels.
He glared at me and started screaming,
'Shut up! You are offending me!! It is my caste (sic)! Take it back'
He said it three times - the last time he said, Tony Blair probably woke up with a start at 10 Downing, wondering what on earth the racket was!
I screamed an 'Ok fine, I'm sorry. Happy now?'
He picked up this pint glass full of water, and glared menacingly at me. For a minute, I expected him to throw it at me. He could, with one stone (or glass, in this case) disfigure a subhuman, black South Indian, a person who considered women equal (!!), and a creature who thought Muslims were Indian.
A part of me wishes he had thrown it at me. I may have bled, but then he would have seen that Great Britain is not India (where his rich father could get him off the hook after having assaulted a fellow citizen). He may hve understood that you do not go about preaching hate and assaulting people who disagree with you.
But he did not. He threw the glass onto the ground, smashing it into a million pieces. And he stormed out of the room, screaming, 'YOU DO NOT INSULT PATELS!'
The chap probably knew too little English to understand that I had not in any way insulted his Pateldom. Patels are as Indian as me. A Patel, to a rational mind, is no different from a Warrier, an Iyer, or an Asghar Ali. But, ah well!
I just had to blog about this.
When I stepped into Europe, I was scared. I was scared of racism. I was scared of white people throwing stones at me and beating me up because I was a brown Paki.
But in the one year I have stayed here, I have never once been insulted by a white man or woman. They have always treated me as their social and intellectual equals. I have never once been called a 'Paki' by a white man. I have never once been called a 'Darkie' or any other racist slur by a white man.
But I have been called a 'Kaala Madrasi' several times by my own countrymen. I have had to tolerate them teaching a foreign woman the word (without telling her the meaning).
I have had my fellow countrymen look at photos of my family and friends back home, only to comment on how black and ugly they look. I have heard them speak of how filthy a Tamilian (read South Indian) is. I cannot take this anymore. I have never felt so racially discriminated against as I have in the past one year. I spent an entire semester hanging out outside my flat - with white people (!!!!) - to avoid the racial slurs and discrimination. I spent an entire semester eating outside as I could not digest the insults and humiliation I have had to face for my ethnicity and my opinions whenever I entered our common kitchen. I have had to listen to humiliating innuendos being made about the relationship between a good female friend of mine and myself!
There must be something wrong if my own countrymen treat me the worst.
P.S: I spoke to a Tamilian friend of mine -- an extremely intelligent and erudite economist -- the other day. I asked him, 'Where have you faced greater racism? Here in the UK, or in Gujarat where you lived?'
His answer was immediate, 'Gujarat!'
Friday, June 16, 2006
In any case, it was a bright, pleasant Glaswegian morning when I got onto the BA Connect flight to Paris. I was expecting a large, spacious airbus with young, pretty hostesses to take me to the city of romance. But what the (&&(*&*( at British Airways gave me was a small tinderbox of a plane that was once used in World War II by paratroopers – which additionally stopped at a place called Birmingham where they charge you 4.5 pounds for a single burger. Oh well, it’s cheaper than the exorbitant rates charged inflight.
Two more uncomfortable hours later, I was in Paris – the sex, romance and tramp capital of the world (er…make that the sex and romance capital of the world. Calcutta is still the tramp capital of the world). A few minutes later, I learnt three things:
a) The French don’t speak English.
b) The French don’t like speaking English.
c) The French in the Lonely Planet Guide was insufficient to get me to the toilet, let alone a place called Porte de Bagniolet somewhere in the middle of Paris.
However, sign language was to be my saviour all the while I was in France. That, ‘Pardon, Monseuir. Parle vous Anglais, sil vous plait?’, ‘Merci’ (if the answer to the above was yes), and ‘Nik ta mer’ (if the answer to the first question was no…I’m kidding!!!)
I went up to the ticket counter and signaled – using complex movements of my head, arms and legs – that I wished to get a train to someplace where I’d find the famed Paris metro. It worked, and the woman skinned me for 8 euros before giving me a ticket.
Where one arrives when one gets off the train which starts at Charles de Gaulle airport (pronounced nothing like how a normal person would read it) is another station called Gare du Nord (which I think means station of the north, assuming they misspelled North).
The French make one concession to those of us who are stupid enough to not have learned a word of French. They coloured the metro lines – and red, blue and green are presumably the same everywhere in the world.
However my requests for where I could find the ‘dirty green’ line were met with puzzled stares.
In any case, we managed to find our way to the Youth hostel, stopping to ask for directions only sixteen times along the way. The Youth hostel, we learnt, was located just outside the Peripherique, which is a kind of ring road around Paris. The significance of this seemingly trivial fact is that the law outside the Peripherique bears several similarities to the law of the jungle. I realized that as soon as I saw some African bruddas drinking their beer noisily on the footpath, all the while directing strange looks at the two foreigners who’d stepped off onto the streets.
An interesting observation I made about my bruddas in Paris was that they dressed exactly like my bruddas down on 8 mile road. I wouldn’t have been particularly surprised if one of them began to rap freestyle and scream, ‘De 811, nigga, and the 313, nigga – dis is de free world, muddafucka’ while brandishing his gat. International black subculture, I guess – they all look so bloody cool! Being cool seems to come as naturally to Africans in the West as saying ‘Where is the party yaarrr? This pub is jhakaasss, b***c***!’ louldly, and dancing like hippopotami come to us Indians (those of us from down south being particularly proficient at the last).
And we wonder why we don’t get any!
Since it was just about six in the evening, and because France wasn’t Britain (where everything except places to get drunk in and stab your neighbour close down at half past five), we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower
If I were the chappie that ran the Eiffel tower (in a manner of speaking, of course, as the Eiffel Tower generally prefers to stay put), I would have called it the Eiffel queue. A few minutes after I had got the mandatory snap of me in front of the tower, I had managed to squeeze myself into the queue, in between a Romanian family having a family row (unfortunately in Romanian – nothing is more entertaining than a family row in a language you can understand) and an Indian family that was trying to break the queue and squeeze along to where their parents-in-law had ‘caught a place for them’.
The Indian family managed to achieve the impossible, leaving me all aglow at the thought that wherever in the world one was, nobody is as adept at breaking simple, easy-to-follow rules as an Indian.
After about thirty minutes of waiting, I managed to get out of the queue waiting to buy tickets to enter the Eiffel Tower and into the queue of people waiting to enter the Eiffel Tower after having bought the tickets. Another thirty minutes later, I had managed to progress onto the queue of people waiting to enter the lift to get to the first level.
We spent a moment contemplating the price tags on the garishly lit (and overpriced) ‘official’ souvenirs of the Eiffel Tower – which cost merely twice as much as the equally garish unofficial souvenirs sold by the Indians, Algerians and Africans outside the Eiffel Tower. That and a few more photographs later, we joined the queue to get on to the lift to the second level.
A few (more breathtaking) photographs at the second level later, I decided to go upto the top level, asking my cousin (who has vertigo) to wait for me here for a few minutes. I spent thirty minutes waiting to get onto the lift to the third level. As soon as I reached the head of the queue, I realized that this was, in fact, the queue to get down to the first level and the queue to get on to the third level was the mass of human beings at the other end of the tower. But never let it be said that the Warrier soul is one that admits defeat. For I stood in the ‘real’ queue for three-quarters of an hour, arguing with an American chappie about which one of us could take the cold better.
American: ‘I’m telling yaa, in Arizona where I come from, the temperature goes all the way down to the twenties and thirties.’
Me: (scoffs) ‘Ha! In India where I come from, the temperature never goes above the forties – and the nights are often in the twenties. In fact, in Edinburgh where I live now, the temperature sometimes drops below zero.’
The American stared at me incredulously.
‘Edinburgh warn’t that cold, y’know!’
‘Ha, that’s cuz you went in the summer. In the winter, it was -5 degrees Celsius.’, I retorted, and thought for a minute if I should add a bit about how I felt my most private parts turning into ice.
‘-5 degrees Celsius. 5 degrees below freezing!’, said I, proudly.
‘5 below freezing? That’s 27 degrees, dude!’
I realized he was talking in the Fahrenheit scale!
I ultimately managed to get all the way to the top and was happily snapping photographs of the river Seine, when I observed this young Indian couple on a honeymoon lovingly carving their names, ‘Divya and Devasahayam’ on the railing. I could not help but think, ‘Ah, now all you’ve got to do is piss on the railing, mate – and you’ve recreated Fatehpur Sikri in Paris, thank you very much!’. But I did not bother to intervene till I saw the idiots begin to carve ‘INDIA’ in big letters across the railing.
That was too bloody much – the fecking philistines! (as an Irishman would have said it – assuming the aforementioned Irishman knew the word philistines)
‘Excuse me, you may wish to consign your names to infamy, but can you please spare our country the ignominy?’
‘What?’, said the man belligerently.
‘Stop carving MY country’s name on the Eiffel Tower. I don’t want them to think that all Indians are mindless idiots who deface monuments.’
‘None of your business’, said the man.
‘I’m calling that chap over there who’s supposed to be looking after the monitor. Enjoy yourself with the French gendarmerie. They are about as gentle as the Indian police.’
The man immediately apologized and disappeared, probably thinking deep dark thoughts. I wonder if he wrote ‘India’ at the other end of the Eiffel Tower, as the arsejackers in the picture here have.
An hour and two queues later, I joined my cousin at the second level and we began our walk down the Eiffel Tower, sick as we were of waiting in queues for lifts. After this, we decided to eat at an elegant little Parisian bistro where I ordered some godawesome steak and learnt the nuances of French pronunciation from a decidedly insane waiter who spent 60% of his time smoking cigarettes and the other 40% dancing about the tables – I would have protested, but what with strikes being as much the mood of the moment in France as it has always been in Kerala, I didn’t – though I almost missed the last metro of the day thanks to fifty minutes spent waiting for the bill (or the check, as my cousin seems to call it! :P )
To be continued, if junta don't find this stupefyingly boring
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
- incapable of speaking to the opposite sex, or
- possessed by one of those women who call themselves girlfriends, but would have been referred to as keepers in a less politically correct world.
The day of the open house dawned. Those of us who were unfortunate enough to have been press-ganged into presenting research (which in my case consisted of a collection of posters which included weak anagrams, and a few words I had stolen out of the Word Power section of a Readers Digest issue from the 1950s) to children with water in the brain woke up early in the morning and made the arduous journey to college through pot-holed roads. Others who had avoided their lecturers’ eyes got away with two days spent lazing around, flicking through the television channels hoping to stumble upon some Mallu porn. There were still others, mostly of the porikki kind, who saw this as an opportunity to stagger drunk (even more than usual) into campus and ogle any schoolgirls who happened to stray their way.
It was about two in the afternoon when my worst nightmare began to unfold. I had hoped that Amar and co, tired after having consumed a full three-quarters of Kandan wines’ stock, had gone home to dream sweet dreams of dancing in the rain with Simran. But they had merely been invigorated by the best that Mr. Kandan had to offer.
Of Mr. Kandan the man, little is known. He may or may not have consorted with the prostitutes in Kodambakkam, contributed to the coffers of the DMK, or been kind to children. But of Mr. Kandan, the purveyor of alcohol, paens have been sung by engineering college students over the years. He may not have been willing to extend credit to even the most regular of his customers, but the alcohol he supplied definitely did pack a punch.
It was with a full litre of organic compounds sloshing about within them that Amar stepped into the room allotted the English department. I muttered a quick prayer, commended my soul to God and hoped I’d been following the right religion all along when I suddenly realized Amar paid me no more attention than a dog would a bone when offered a rump steak instead. He and his goons marched towards Kaveri and spoke,
‘Aey! We wanttt to see…this ejjibishun.’
Kaveri merely glowered.
‘Aena dee summa vaekapaddarae…kaami dee!!’ (Why are you pretending to be shy? Just show it to me!)
The acolytes guffawed at the double entendre.
Kaveri took them to the first poster and began to explain what an anagram was. Robert Langdon would have possibly done a better job, but given the circumstances, Professor Langdon would have been hard-pressed to keep the attention of the current audience from wavering. Kaveri, on the other hand, faced no such problem. Amar and his friends were very attentive – their eyes never strayed from her breasts even for a moment.
After about the third poster, something snapped within Kaveri. If at this moment she had taken it upon herself to kick Amar in the solar plexus, nothing would have ensued except severe embarrassment for the same (though he may possibly have gone out and ridden his Splendor over a few dozen arms and legs in revenge). But what she did was completely inexplicable.
She turned to me and said loudly,
‘Siddhu, why are these fellows troubling me? DO Something!’
Those who have seen me know I am no He-man. Us Warriers have always been cerebral people – I would probably have worsted Amar in a debate on American policy in Afghanistan, but a fistfight was another story altogether.
I squirmed, and wished I had left earlier when I had had the chance. For now, all the porikis turned towards me.
‘Dai Peterae!! Watha ingae vaada, ommallae!!’ (Yo Englishman! Fucking come here you motherfucker)
All I could mutter was a ‘Anna, enna aachu?’ (Big brother, what’s wrong?)
Amar decided at that moment to walk towards me. He placed a very firm hand on my collar.
I tried to smile one of my winning smiles. But Amar did not seem to be in the mood for winning smiles.
‘Enna da illikirae, tevidiya paiyya!!???’ (Untranslatable really, but I’m sure non-Tamil speakers get my drift)
I had always imagined that it was only in the movies that a single hand gripping the collar of a shirt could left an entire human being up. I realized at that moment that the movies weren’t lying. I squirmed as I tried to get my feet back on terra firma.
‘Annaa…’, I bleated.
‘Unnakku aval koodai enna paechu? Watha Englishillae avaltae kadala podariyaada?’ (Why are you speaking to her? Are you flirting with her in ENGLISH????)
‘Illae Anna – enakku avalae theriyaadu.’ (No, big brother, I do not even know her)
‘Honestly, I haven’t done anything. I’m not interested in her!’, I almost screamed, as my neck had begun to hurt and I was worried my shirt would be torn in two ere long.
‘DAIIIII!!! ENGLISSILAE PAESEE BAYAMPUDATARIYAA…?’ (Are you trying to scare me with your English?)
I realized that all I could do was take what was coming to me, and silently cursed all womankind in the unkindest of words. It was then that my guardian angel came through.
Robin was a porikki alright, but with me he had been a genial old soul ever since the day in the first year I gifted him a packet of cigarettes and spoke to him in Malayalam.
He walked towards Amar and said,
‘Machi, freeyavidu! Ivan namma paiyyan da.’ (Dude, leave him alone! He’s part of our gang!’ – to translate loosely. Though this is not exactly what it means. A namma paiyyan is actually a chap – usually far removed from the gang – to whom a gang member feels a patronizing affection towards. To be a namma paiyyan is quite useful, especially in situations like these.)
Amar reluctantly put me down and warned me not to even lay an eye upon her. I wondered idly, as I straightened my collar, if this disallowed me from tearing Kaveri apart into little pieces, and the little pieces into littler pieces, while laughing a maniacal laugh all the time. I decided that asking this of Amar would be imprudent. He wanted to sing Vaadi en manmatha raasa to an undivided Kaveri; not one that had been disemboweled.
I disappeared from the room and the campus as quickly as I could, and did not return till the next day whereupon I had to listen to Mrs. Peters talk for an hour of how devotion to the cause among India’s youth had been steadily diminishing since the Battle of Plassey in 1757 (where she purportedly carried the wounded off the battlefield).
But I was merely thankful that my ordeal had ended without a Hero Honda Splendor running over my forearm, and smiled beatifically as she berated me.
This story clearly explains to every pretty woman who’s ever wondered why I didn’t ask her or anyone else out. I may be free, single and good-looking, ladies, but not necessarily of my own volition. A slightly built ‘Peter’ has to make sacrifices to survive on Chennai’s mean streets.
Siddhu Warrier now lives 10,000 kilometres from Chennai, and has not seen a single poriki singing a lowe song in the last 10 months. Additionally, he has not been called Peter once during the same period. However, he is still single and cannot understand it. Pretty women are invited to rectify this sad situation by sending him an e-mail at email@example.com. He additionally guarantees that he no longer lives under the delusion that the navel is where a woman’s G-spot is, and knows all about sex from watching Discovery Channel everyday.
P.S: In case you were wondering if you were safe from porikidom after you’re going steady with a woman, think twice. A friend of mine was once approached by a poriki with a request (or more precisely, an order) to supply his girlfriend for a period of six months so that he (the poriki) could have a bit of fun for himself. The poriki, being a particularly nice poriki, promised to return her clean, (possibly a little tired), and definitely-not-pregnant at the end of the stipulated period of exchange.
And no, I’m not making this up!
P.P.S: I’ve been writing a travelogue of my trip across Western Europe. I was wondering if the readers (if any) would prefer me posting it here, or creating a new travel blog for it.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I was away the last few days pinching pennies and admiring the natural pulchritude (not of the two legged female variety, you perverts) in the Scottish Highlands, and hope to write a travelogue down before I forget it all. I visited castles, lochs and bridges. I drove accross scenic beauty spots. More interestingly, I walked accross a very drunk Inverness at one in the morning, searching for toothpaste, during the course of which:
(a) I was mistaken by some poor drunk souls for Ali Baba - at least I think I was, as I quite distinctly heard them referring to Ali Baba as they expressed an ardent desire to speak with me. Though I could have set things right by telling them that I was actually thief #39 in the story, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
(b) I had a long conversation at the taxi rank with another drunk soul, who could not stop thanking me for having defeated England in the one-day series. Though I could have set him right by telling him that it was actually eleven completely unrelated chaps who performed the deed, I thought he was happier assuming I was directly responsible for England's well-deserved humiliation.
(c) I had another long conversation with two Englishmen from London at a pub, during which we discussed Kashmir and Northern Ireland, and how they wished they were not English and could actually visit Northern Ireland without being shot at and murdered.
Upon returning to Edinburgh, I spent a night experiencing (after a long hiatus) the Edinburgh nightlife yesterday, during the course of which:
(a) I watched an Arab do a pole dance. Thank you, Mohammed - I am still trying to erase the unsavoury memories from my head.
(b) I watched as a group of overweight Fijians at the next table magically transformed into rugby players from New Zealand as they tried to - unsuccessfully, if I may add - hit on a friend.
(c) I paid £3.60 in a parking ticket machine, only to realize that parking was free after ten in the night.
So it is a rather sleep-deprived young Warrier that shall attempt to wake up in less than four hours in order to catch a flight to Paris.
I have spent half an hour thinking of how I could describe my feelings at going to arguably the most beautiful city in the world. My grandiloquence has, however, failed me. The verbosity that so characterizes me has deserted me like a fickle mistress. All I can say is - YAYYYYYYYY!!!
Assuming anybody is interested in my travel plans (though I doubt if anybody is - however, since when have I NOT bored people with things they would rather not know), I'm travelling to Versailles, Strasbourg and Heidelberg, before returning home.
After which I set out another short trip to set fire to the birthplace of my old tormentor (from my schooldays), William Shakespeare.
After which I plan to expose to the world the gruesome details of the treatment I received at the hands of a poriki.
After which I face the ire of my supervisor.
So, as they say in Deutschland, Fick Deine Mutt... er... I mean, Guten Nacht!