Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Traveller's blues

To the fine folk who visit my blog regularly:

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

Guess who's back - with a political testament to boot!

I know it has been a long time since I last updated my blog, but I have not had access to the Internet at home for the last month and a half. It also did not help that I was kept busy; doing more work in the last month than I ever have in any month before (and hopefully since). But thankfully, it has not been all work, as I have spent a fair bit of my time acquainting myself with the forbidden pleasures of the sweet hippocrene, dancing (a more appropriate phrase would be 'trying to dance'), and having long political arguments.

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.'