I like talking to strangers. Especially fleeting encounters. I’m really curious about how others live their lives, to the point of being intrusive on occasion. Over time, of course, that’s gotten tempered down with a grumpy ‘everyone is the same, finally’. Earlier, my heart would do an excited flip every time I realized I had something in common with someone else, irrespective of how old they are or what gender they are. Now, well, I realize you can have enough similar with people and still dislike them intensely, and if you look hard enough, you’d find enough similar with anyone… I mean, if I met Hitler, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to bond with him over our birthdays being just a few days apart, and how German is similar to Sanskrit, and would probably practice my pidgin German on him.
At Dubai, I came across a guy from Benin who was going to a conference about nonprofits and charity in Beijing. I told him to get a facemask because of the pollution. I listened to him whine about how tricky it is to actually do something lasting, and I whined about the sorry state of mental health in India. We wished each other luck, and I came away feeling there’s so much that I can actually do to make things better. It was a different, more positive feeling than the one you get when you see people suffering and wish hard that no one else suffers this way.
Not all conversations are productive or life-changing though.
Some are plain weird fun. I was writing in a comedy bar (where you watch comedy shows, and the waiting area is a bar), when this gay couple accosted me. Right off the bat, we began this slur-filled banter, the details of which aren’t that important, but which essentially was insult after insult. Good-natured, slur-filled banter, if such a thing exists. It ended with exchanging tofu recipes. We finished our ciders and went to watch the show we’d been waiting for. Turned out, these two men were the standup comedian’s plants in the audience. Y’know, like you see a standup comedian pick on people in the audience, and they are taking it incredibly well, and you’re wow’d by how awesomely the comedian improvises his jokes based on what the people say? Yeah, these people got picked on, multiple times. Broke my heart to see these people who not fifteen minutes back were giving me awesome comebacks take all the insult comedy lying down, but well, they got free tickets and a free drink after, so why the heck not.
Some aren’t even that fun.
I found myself on a nineteen-hour-long flight from JFK to DXB. I’d scored a window seat. That’s always convenient, because I lean on the window and curl up. The seats to my left were occupied by two slightly older women, who looked just like Annette Bening and Julianne Moore from The Kids Are All Right. I’ve forgotten their names, so I’ll call them Annette and Julianne. Annette was sitting next to me, and Julianne was next to her. Annette made easy conversation, and had me laughing within five minutes. In conversation, I gathered they were both heading to Jo’burg, and that Annette was a nurse, and Julianne designed aptitude tests or some such thing. And they were coming back from a duathlon in Ottawa and ditched their group and detour’d to New York City where they let their hair down until 6am.
Now if you’ve watched The Kids Are All Right, it’s about a lesbian couple who’ve been together for twenty years, and Julianne Moore is a landscaper, and Annette Bening is a surgeon. Which to my mind was not too far from aptitude-test-designer and surgeon. Believe me, the ladies looked just like this. So I assumed they too were a couple.
Soon, Annette got busy with watching Twilight. I slept. When I woke, Annette had switched to some gruesome-looking movie. Julianne caught my expression and grinned. She began talking to me.
Right away, I realized Julianne was very different from Annette. Our conversation was halting, and trite. And I must have said or implied something wrong, because at one point Julianne vehemently said ‘Oh, no no no no’, in her Afrikaaner accent, ‘No, we don’t live together’, with a nervous giggle.
I wanted to die right there.
Julianne was niceness personified, though. She talked about her being legally blind (which was why she was taking part in a duathlon for the differently abled), about her daughter studying to be a nurse, about how she sometimes felt unsafe in Jo’Burg and thank god she didn’t live there (though Annette did) and lived in saner Cape Town instead. She talked endlessly about how smart Annette was, and how dedicated. She talked about how they met and though it had been hard for them to train for the duathlon separately, they had, and they’d won. She said it was unfortunate what Pistorius had done, and was nicely dismissive when I pressed her on it.
So far so good.
And then we began talking cuisine. I mentioned I was a vegetarian. And asked her ‘What’s one vegetable or fruit I’d get in South Africa and nowhere else that I simply HAVE to try?’.
And there it began. My dear, helpful Julianne began listing fruit after fruit, vegetable after vegetable. Asparagus, beans, capsicum, drumsticks….
I tried prying the conversation away from this grocery list. I mentioned biltong. And offal sandwiches. I even dangled the Kenyan Carnivore Cafe. But nope, the ever-helpful Julianne kept listing fruits and vegetables asking if I’d heard of them. Aubergines, carrots, mangoes, oranges….
Twenty, thirty minutes passed. We were still talking vegetables. I was at my wit’s end. I didn’t know how to cut it short with such a nice woman, who’d just told me she was legally blind and that she’d need my help reading menus and asked me to take pictures of her because she couldn’t see well enough to take selfies.
I felt like a child in a fruits-and-vegetables class in first grade, the only missing bit was those Topical charts with lists of fruits and vegetables we used to cut and paste into our notebooks for homework. And there wasn’t a bell that’d ring and save me from this.
I looked pleadingly at Annette, but she had fallen asleep by now. I prayed hard for an airhostess to interrupt, but we’d just got done with lunch, and they wouldn’t even come by with juice now. I wondered if I should reach for the call button, to call the airhostess, to escape, but it was too high up.
And Julianne wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. We were still ten hours from land.
Then a miracle happened.
I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. And again and again. Until I excused myself and reached for my allergy medication.
The sneezing fit lasted fifteen minutes. I had never been so relieved to have an allergic reaction. My doctor would say it was dry air that triggered, but I like to believe I’d gotten so allergic to talk of fruits and vegetables.
At long last, we reached DXB, the rest of the flight having mainly been sleep and listening to Ghanaian songs which I didn’t really understand, except well, this one (warning: NSFW).
I began saying my goodbyes to Annette and Julianne. I’m big on goodbyes. I always like to add a ‘nice to have met you’, or some such thing that sums up our interaction. Otherwise it feels awkward, irksome, painful to me. Like a parenthesis left unclosed in printed text which you can do nothing about.
We were looking up connecting flights, when Julianne tapped my shoulder. “See there”, she said, pointing to one of the many departmental stores that dotted DXB, “There’s fresh produce there, you’ll probably find something you’ll like”, she said, in all seriousness.
For the first time in what seems like forever, I didn’t complete my goodbyes and instead scribbled down my gate info and walked away hurriedly, though my flight was five hours away.
So you’re starving. Like, really starving. But you’ve kind of made your peace with it. You’ve even stopped thinking about it much.
And then someone calls you to say hey, there’s cake, and we’re giving it to you.
So you get excited, and get all ready to have some cake. You try to tone down your excitement and be pragmatic and level headed, but they call you so often in the countdown to cake day, checking if you’re coming, if you know how to get there, if you know what to bring, that you figure it’s definitely happening. So you let your guard down, dress extra-fine and everything and head there.
By the time you get there, they say ‘Oh, I’m sorry, did I say cake? I actually meant day-old bread’. Or even worse, ‘Damn, just a minute late, all we have left is stale day-old bread now’.
Thing is, you’re better off with the bread than starving. So you aren’t really allowed to be mad. But you can’t stop feeling cheated because you were promised cake. You also hate yourself for being a minute late and missing the last of the cake, and endlessly beat yourself up about what you could have done differently to have arrived a little earlier. Maybe you should have run harder to catch that train, maybe you shouldn’t have redone your hair before leaving home. But somewhere you feel it’s a gigantic prank to constantly keep you disappointed even when you have all the nice things.
So after a couple of rather forgettable homeworks at my sketch-writing class, and a couple I have been too lazy to post, I finally wrote something I like. This one’s a desk piece. The sort of stuff you find on shows like Letterman or The Tonight Show or all of those shows I’ve never really paid much attention to.
The homework was to make three jokes, preferably about current events and then do a possibly recurring segment, maybe a funny list of things or some such.
So I made three jokes, one about Microsoft Surface, one about Vatican saying the media is an agent of the devil, like Dan Brown, and one about some Michigan senator being silenced for use of the word ‘vagina’. Then I did a list of ‘Products that seem to exist in movie universes’.
As before, I write it on Rawscripts, so I have to export it to PDF to show it to the rest of the world. I hate that, but until I get motivated enough to write it in LaTeX and then export to HTML, you’ll have to make do with this.
Here you go: Desk Piece. I’d love your feedback.
So as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve joined a sketch-writing class. Our first homework was to find a pet peeve of ours, develop a character who embodies that irksome quality, and then to write a sketch revolving around that character.
I find a lot of things irksome, but the one I picked was people who read too much between the lines of books and movies – classic thing where when the author says ‘The curtains are blue’, they try interpreting that in various ways, when all the author meant was that the curtains the room were coloured blue.
Then I had to come up with some sort of a character sketch for a person with this character, so I created Abby, who is a sixteen-year-old girl, sort of like the older sister in Ten things I Hate About You, top of her class, considers herself more mature than others, reads a lot, cut her baby teeth on Ayn Rand, wanted nothing more than Kafka and Nietzsche for her fourteenth birthday, dates an older college student who moonlights as a hipster barista, considers herself real deep, aims to study Literature at Harvard, draws inspiration from second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem, always enters any argument with ‘If I may chime in as a woman…’, resorts to grammar nazism when all else fails… the works.
Now for a funny situation to put Abby in… I thought it’d be fun to have her come face to face with the artist whose works she overanalyzes. I first wanted her to read too much into Disney/Pixar movies, but then, the interpretations would have to be suitably ludicrous, and I somehow didn’t feel up for that. It was finally a tie between Tarantino and JK Rowling. The problem with Tarantino was, he himself weaves in layers of meanings into his movies, what with tributes and parodies and whatnot. I somehow couldn’t come up with theories ludicrous enough to have him go ‘Say, what?!’, though this one interpretation of Pulp Fiction was really awesome – Marcellus Wallace has sold his soul to the devil, and the suitcase is what he has to give the Devil to get his soul back. For more on that, ask me later; I’m too tired to type that out right now.
So JK Rowling it was. I scoured cracked.com for crazy Harry Potter interpretations, and got some nice suggestions off Tuna and Surabhi, the biggest HP fan I know. And I had a ton of things worrying me during this whole week that I could finally manage to get things written only in the hour before I had to run to class.
And so… here it is. It got a few laughs when I read it out in class. There were a few edits suggested too, which I might take up on and rewrite this sketch. Apologies for having it as a PDF, but writing it in the screenwriting format using rawscripts.com (I initially started off writing in LaTeX, but time crunch meant I ended up using something more WYSIWYG), I can only export it as a PDF so far.
Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it
As is usual for me these days, I was babysitting some code, and with nothing to do, I had this delightful exchange with a rather biting punster grad student of my university who is referred to here as Z. Others chimed in occasionally. As Kannada seems to flow naturally, a good number of the jokes and references are in Kannada… so if you don’t follow, kindly excuse. If you don’t follow and you live in Karnataka, get off your seat and buy that Learn Kannada In 30 days book!
And it’s for humor only. Obviously no offense is intended. Your trolly comments will be deleted unless they happen to be pun-tastic.
Z: Dubai is short for Dhirubhai.
Me: And Ye(s)men is short for his assistants.
Z: When pissed, he would say Oman.
Me: When the skies got overcast and prevented him from stepping out, he’d say Bah! Rain!
Z: Heh. Just what i had in mind. bahar rain, it was in my mind though. His favourite actor is Arjun Sharjah
Me: He eats at Abu Dhaba?
Z: Illa, addikkinta Qatarnaak jaaga ide, tinnakke.
Me: Oh god, who’s sane in that country?
Z: Musk cat owners
Me: He hopes it rains gold… and then he looks skyward and says ‘Manna, ma’.
Z: He loves Annavru’s movies esp Jeddahra bale.
Me: When he gets impatient, his wife soothes him saying ‘coo, wait’.
Udupa: And not ‘aap qatar main hain’?
Z: ..But he decides to go to his sauti arabia
Me: He negotiates with the House of Saud, and hence he is called sauda-ghar.
Z: And his wife sings Mecca karoon Ram mujhe buddha mil gaya
K: Kuwait, both of you!
Me: Is she very orthodox? Madi-na?
Z: Eh, yen madi. Avlappa mane inda oDhogiddaga ivalu huttiddu (She was born when her father had run away from home). Baghdad.
Udupa: Ninn Yemen, Saak nilso ninn PJgaLu
Z: Amman is only there no?
Me: When asked to describe that, will she say I-ran?
Z: Yea, Iran and Basra alli hendathi basradlu (And in Basra his wife hit him)
Z: But are we allowed to stop? Tehrana mana hai.
Q: Neevu Turkey bagge talking taane?
Z: NinahAnkarakke udaaseenave maddu
Me: You started it, so that makes you the Pehla-vi.
Z: Wokay, let’s give a Haifa and stop.
Me: That aswan-san is very reassuring.
Me: Stopping now, we don’t widen the Gulf between us and the others
Me: Jaasti aadre, everyone will Suez for damages.
Z: Sari ya, as you say. but I dont see why them ask us to stop.
Me: Threats seem Constantin this thread.
Z: Ella pun-galu khali aago tanka Cairo
Me: Ambani fought tooth and Nile with the Government, alva?
Z: Hoon, gas price jasti maadiddikke. Anila.
Me: The rise was due to agitation in the Middle Yeast, no?
Q: IsRail ko bandh karo.
Z: Hoon but north, south, west – aa Morocco affect aytu
Me: That’s a very clean country antare… kasaa blank-aa?
Z: Yeah, surprising though. Madi-terrain-ian jana. DuDD bere illa. Kaasu blanku.
Me: And corrupt also. Wonder how many palms you’ve to Greece there to get work done.
Z: Aamdani Athena Kharcha Rupaiya
Me: Is Greece named so coz it’s close to oil deposits?
Me: Total law-and-order breakdown will happen. Law enforcers wont have much authority. They’ll just be per-se-police.
Me: And they can’t have any more fun. Party-none.
Z: They had an annual groundnut fair – kadlekai parshepolis
Me: Putting peanuts (aka flirting) is very different there. They have lovestories called Hejab We Met.
Q: Awrah louvvu amara.
Z: But right across the sea, Tripolis do that well.
Me: Do they believe in Women’s Lib, ya?
Z: Don’t think so. They give lot of Bengazhis
Me: There’s a penalty for not having a beard. Gadda-fees.
Z: Haha. That’s it. Done.
Me: Phew. was going to say the same thing. Looking at the thread, WOW.
Whoa. Longest live marathon punning I’ve been part of. Mind=Blown.
So I chanced up on this Youtube vid of Discovery Channel’s ‘The World is Awesome’. XKCD had its own lyrics to it. Someone (actually many someones) made videos of it. Given that the original is a camping song called I love the mountains or Boom-de-ah-da, it’s the sort of song to which you MUST add your own lyrics and sing it either while going on a long bus trip or around the campfire. Somewhat like Suraaaaaangani - no one remembers the original lyrics, so everyone makes up stuff, chorusing only on the ‘maalu maalu maalu‘ bits.
And so I came up with ComputerSciencey words to the original tune. Given that this is all off the top of my head, I’ve not animated it or cartoon’d it (though I have vivid images in my head of what could be done), though I’d be delighted if someone did that and raised me to XKCD-level kvlt-ness.
Here goes. Additions, corrections, animations are all welcome.
I love regression
I love the Bayesian Nets
I love SVMs
I love the convex sets
I love the whole world
And all the ways to learn
I love XML
I love DBMS
I love big data
I love Open Access
I love the whole world
And all the data tombs
I love all fractals
I like combinatorics
I love upperbounds
I love a sort that’s quick
I love the whole world
So much complexity
I love wired networks
And data on the cloud
I love peer-to-peer
And speeds in gigabaud
I love the whole world
So much connectedness
I’m actually seeing in my head the faces of profs and grad students and labs which could be singing this, possibly in an ad for the Compsci department of some university.
There, my nerd-cred and nerd-karma quotas for life are fulfilled.
Everybody acts like angry-angry these days. Everytime I open the shoshal medias minns, some hajaar ‘rage’ links I am the finding. The Kongas will rage minns everyone is monkey-see-monkey-doing, with all the stick-figure comics itsimms. Even small child in nursery school is drawing better. That too such stuppid-stuppid jokes – if the Brahmin is doing the koffings also one comic will come off for that. Wateveritis pa. Who is this Krish Ashok fello, I say? He is the Krish Srikkanth’s brether or the cousins or what?
If peepals are lazy to draw comics minns, they are writing blogs with byaaaaad Ingleesh like this one and this one. Madofellows. That also just chumma, they wantedly write bad longvage. All these rich-rich chilrans with costly-costly laptops and studied in caarment schools will sit and think and use the google and the yahoo and the bing to write in butler ingleesh. I am thinking, this will become off meme in twellaars time and all these fellows who want to study in the forin will write a proper-inglish-to-butler-inglish translator so that they will become off famous and can jamba-hachkofy on their resyooms.
Ok, once minns funny, twice minns funny, but thrice, frice, fice? Madofellows. Again-again same wordings, again-again not finding new butler words because you never speaking in the butler inglish since 2nd standar, your caarment-school Dingo Inglish-miss is slapping you if you are murdering her Queen’s longvage, and even your PT Master in your caarment school is speaking Inglish like Britisher because when small, his fother was watchman in Britisher’s bangla. And so you are trying to do the direct translation from the mother tongue longvage to ingleesh. But that is not the butleringleesh at all. No, Not, Never.
I am asking to this peepal, why your mummy-daddy send you to caarment? For your learning the good-english and speaking in tass-puss accent only no? From when you are child, your Basavappa unckal and Jagadamba aunty will come minns your mummy will say ‘beta, talk in English and show to uncle-aunty’ and then feeling proudly when they are giving you the fivestars and dairy milk no? When you are settle in forin minns, what you will show off your chilrans to your frands? “Oh my Chintu, he speaks so awesomely in Butler-English ya”, like that you will say-va? I know, I know all about you – you will say also like that, and you will record it also and put it on Youtube also, the dog’s tail is always curved.
This is a funny world, no? So many chilrans who are studying in the Vernacular-medium schools in Controlment-area will try to speak like all tass-puss, even when their frands are teasing them saying “Ey this Vijetha ya, she is sooo tass-puss, something and all long-long words she uses ya”, and they will go also to Prakruthi Banwasi’s Spoken English Coaching. But for you peepal, it is jokey to speak like this, it is a break from speaking all tass-puss in real life, and doing even more tass-puss when you have anyone who is looking forin. My frand also one fellow he used to do like this for some cute girl he is thinking she is Chainis girl, but then she is Mizo and is loffing. My one more frand, she is having the skin-problem so she is looking like the Britisher, and is beautier than Miss India only, she is always daily coming and telling, “Ei Priya, this fellow in bus ya, trying to talk in American-bhaashe to me”. If you see one Gowramma-type girl minns you will go talk to her in butler english-va?
In Mahanadi fillam, after the Sriranga Ranganatha song that scene is there no, where that girl is speaking one English essay and Kamalagaasan’s frand is videoing it, if Kamalagaasan had Internet and Youtube, he would put his daater’s inglish-speaking video there. But you with Youtube and internet will put off your chilran’s butler-Inglish video there.
I am also in forin only. I am also speaking the good Inglish, even in 4th standar, my teacher is saying “See the Priya talking the Inglish, all you should learn like her only”. My mummy-daddy will feel Aiyo what we have done, if they read this post, but they feel Aiyo what we have done for most things I do anyway. But when I am in the deep talkings with my sister and cousins and all, we are all the talking like this only. It is not jokey for us, it is mamool only, it is our comfortzone. But all you caarment type peepals, for you all this is joke, this is museum piece, this is like the zoo-visiting. Even in your sleep you are speaking in tass-puss accent, like that jana you are. You have none of the rights to make fun of our bhaashe, our culture. What, you are going to the African-American man and making the grape soda jokings uh?
PS 1: I just hope this doesn’t spawn more butler-english posts. I’m sure it won’t, but just indulge me in my grand delusions of being able to affect public opinion, will ya?
PS 2: Here’s to the post with the most number of squiggly red underlines ever.
PS 3: I hereby dedicate this post to the PT Master at my school, Jagannath Sir, whose voice has been dictating this post in my head. And also to all PT Masters, including the one in my sister’s school who said “Once minns ok, twice minns ok, but thrice, frice, fice?”. They are the true guardians of Butler English.
PS 4: Prakruthi Banwasi, in case you get to read this, jnaapka idiya, sir? And, for the uninitiated, Prakruthi Banwasi conducts awesome spoken English classes in Bangalore.
PS 5: You ain’t butlering englishing unless and until you’ve been through this guide.
This happened in that moonshiney period between 11th and 12th. You can say it happened in the holidays after the 1st PU exams, but then given that I was going for JEE coaching, there was a holiday to all my holidays.
So I used to go to this PU college which was a good distance from where I lived, solely because this bunch of JEE-coachers would conduct classes on campus. That was a novelty back in the day, and the only other alternative was to go to a PU college closer home, and then do the commute to BASE which was a much longer way off.Plus, I wasn’t so keen on BASE back then.
I wasn’t the only one doing this. There were plenty of others too. And there were a few of us in my JEE class who shared part of the route back home. More so when we commuted by BMTC. It was a pretty messy route – college to Banashankari, where a few people would split, Banashankari to Checkpost (via the famous 201 series), and then we’d all go our own route.
So one morning, we all turned up as usual to class at 7:30 am. (Hard to believe I was that person). We were supposed to have classes till a little past noon. Wonderment, it turned out that day that two of the three classes we were supposed to have that day stood cancelled. Which would mean we’d be off at 9 am, given that it was still breaktime, and we didn’t have college classes.
So at 9 am, we began walking to the BMTC stop. ‘We’ were five of us – me, and folks who I’ll blur names of thanks to privacy concerns – three other girls S, L and V. And there was this guy, who I’ll simply call The Guy, because there’s very little else about him that’s relevant.
L and I lived close to each other. Our mothers were friends. S would split at Banashankari, and The Guy would split at Checkpost. And V? She lived way off. So um, what was she doing with us? Well, she had a massive crush on The Guy and had taken to haunting him like a spectre. I think it was because he saved her life during a trek or something, I’m not too sure. The memory is hazy. I found it mildly amusing while also thinking she’s being stupid about it, and L found the whole deal supremely funny, while S would pass sarcastic comments every once in a while. And The Guy? He had no clue.
V tried to hang on to us for longer, but it soon became imminent that the route we’d take would be too round-about for her, and so she left in a rick, asking The Guy if he wanted a ride halfway to his place till the last minute. He kept saying no, so she gave us those secret smiles and glances and left.
So, um, the task was upon us. To find out if he was single. To find out if he had any old flames from school. And also, I think it involved finding out his phone number, being as this was in the pre-cellphone era. It also involved finding out what his likes and dislikes were, given that this was also the pre-Orkut/Facebook era. It sounds pretty straightforward now, but back then, it felt like the most daunting task in the history of man, cracking JEE included. And none of us really knew the guy.
And all this was supposed to be accomplished in the half-an-hour-fortyfive-minutes between now and Checkpost.
While waiting for the bus to Banashankari, we tried making the usual small talk, which involved whining about class, making fun of our instructors and saying how horrible the chemistry paper was (even though I really liked chemistry back then, I had to nod in agreement when he whined about chemistry).
Soon we found out which school he was from, which was not in South Bangalore, so it destroyed any chance of us knowing anyone from there to ask about him. And then it was about movies and music and all that random stuff. I was taking the long route here, not making it too obvious that we wanted to dig up stuff about him. So far, it was all of no use, and the only positive fallout of the whole conversation until then was that I heard about Gloria Estefan.
Soon, three buses had passed us, and the only reason we’d not got on was because the buses were too crowded. I didn’t know back then that was the default state of buses going from the outer edges of the city to the center during peak hours. And then when we finally did realize what was happening, we got into the next available bus.
Only after getting in did we realize it doesn’t go to Banashankari. And that apart, there were gropers at work there, taking advantage of the general crowding… and The Guy being a scrawny sixteen-year-old, couldn’t manage to ‘protect’ us all. So we got off at the very next stop. ‘We can always find a bus to Banashankari from here’, we thought.
But nope, we couldn’t. And we couldn’t even make conversation. Finally, The Guy said ‘Let’s go to Monotype’. Now this was a whole new universe for me and L. The Guy reassured us that he knew the routes from Monotype to Banashankari well. Impressed by his chivalry already, we agreed.
Short ride to Monotype, with gropers again, but this time we were well-prepared with dirty looks that surprisingly worked. And then I don’t know what happened clearly, but all I remember is a long, long walk from Monotype to Banashankari, while wearing a salwar-kameez with an unruly dupatta, and carrying a heavy JEE Math book – Gupta&Gupta, I think.
Now L took over. She was sick of my namby-pamby attempts at conversation, and took a slightly more direct route. Which meant she began pulling my leg about random fellas, as schoolgirls in pigtails are wont to do. And I played along, pulling hers, and then finally we ganged up on The Guy, and asked ‘So how ’bout you, who do they tease you with?’. And by the time we’d arrived at Banashankari, L had managed to elicit from him his entire romantic history (or lack thereof). And then we found a 201, and then The Guy impressed us with his giving-up-seat-for-us routine, and we finally took back our Gupta&Guptas which he had so sweetly carried for us during our long walk.
By now it was 11:30, and L and I weren’t expected home until 1 at the very least, so we were expecting to give our mothers a pleasant ‘class got over early! yay!’ sort of a surprise. When I reached home, Amma was on the phone, and was giving me glances as she was talking. I didn’t realize who or what, and didn’t much pay attention.
And then she finally got off the phone and I said “We didn’t have Maths and Chemistry today!’, and instead of ‘Oh what a relief it must be for you, you poor thing’, I got a ‘So where were you from 9?’. Least expected.
Then she proceeded to say V had called up at 9:30 (presumably in anticipation of hearing what dirt we had on The Guy), first L and then me, startling both my mother and L’s mother.
Oh, and it gets better. V even mentioned that L and I were with The Guy, who had hitherto been unheard of. And back then, your daughter-at-impressionable-age hanging out with unheard-of-guy-also-at-impressionable-age could mean a variety of things, all of which were worst-case scenarios if you were a parent. And L’s mom and mine had gotten talking on the phone, compounding each others’ worstcase scenarios with every passing minute.
I stood my ground, put the blame all solely on BMTC and gropers and rush hour, and said I’m off to rest now because my body’s aching from all the walking I’d done. And I guess L did the same. And when V called us both up later in the day, we pretended to have nothing to talk about other than this week’s homework and Coke [V] Popstars despite her best tries to get us talking. And we gave her a sound shelling the next morning and threatened to call her folks up and say awkward things.
There. Feels good to get it off my chest now.
Epilogue: It took V a long while to get over her massive crush on The Guy, who said no to her repeatedly, and went on to have a string of girlfriends. I have since vowed to never try hooking people up, for reason not connected with this incident. L on the other hand would get a kick out of it for as long as I knew her; we haven’t been in touch for years now. I also became slightly more regular in calling home and informing them I’ll be late, before any jerk would call home and mess things up for me. And most importantly, when I’m travelling by BMTC during rush hour, I make sure to avoid the middle of the bus and stick to the front end, and in general turning extremely violent when faced with gropers on the bus.
Dear Mr. Purie,
You quite obviously don’t know me. And while I know you (well, you head India Today), I didn’t much care. Your rag always lost out to The Week in my house, God alone knew why my father subscribed to you…. to me, you were inherently unreadable. I didn’t pay much attention to your antics. Until this morning.
I happened to come across this post not twenty minutes after I woke up. Normally, it takes the better part of an hour for me to ungrog. But Mr. Purie, your scandalous behaviour and the brush-it-off-gently apology got me all fired up in not more than three minutes. While my teammate was happy I showed up early to his meeting for once, I don’t much share his joy. I’m livid, pissed, wild, mad, cross, fuming, steaming at the ears.
Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, plagiarism sucks. Secondly, plagiarism by a huge media house, especially one of the ‘India Today Conclave’ fame, totally totally sucks. Thirdly, a top editor like you not knowing about Thalaivar is BLASPHEMY. And fourthly, WTF excuse was that? Jet-lag?
I was jetlagged three weeks back. Not just your ordinary jetlag. I was coming from eight-regular-hours-of-sleep-IST to Pacific time. Twelve hours away. Twelve whole hours. Total reversal of night and day. Add to this, I had deadlines from my three classes, AND from two bosses, one of who was on Pacific time, and the other on Indian Standard Time. And that apart, Mr. Purie, I flew Economy. Nearly twenty-four hours. Not much legspace. Folks eating smelly food around me. Middle seat. Two stops. Baggage that weighed twice of what I weigh. Which I had to lug over three floors when I got home, no elevator. Not your first-class flight where you’d be served champagne and have ample leg-room, and have Ram Singh carry the luggage when you landed, for the short distance from the terminal to your airconditioned car.
I blogged when I was jetlagged. And blogged when I was both jetlagged and sleep-deprived. Did I plagiarise? NO. A big NO. Why didn’t I? Because I love my blog too much to post unoriginal content here, and pass it off as mine. This place is hallowed, and such injustice will be met with Hara-Kiri.
Also, I have been plagiarized. By Bangalore Mirror. Old story. I vilified them quite some on this blog. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you make them look like Sathya Harishchandra. Because, they posted my stuff without permission, but they did put my blog URL there. And when I complained, they responded. And apologized (though frankly, I’d say that was an apology for an apology). Quite unlike what you’ve done to my fellow blogger Niranjana.
My colleagues were to submit something for review and publication. And by publication, I mean in the proceeds of a conference, not a piddling rag like yours. New results and changes at the last moment made it such that they didn’t have all their references in place. Did they submit it and say ‘Hah, let’s see who finds out’? No, they did not. You might say yours is a mag that touches millions of life, and just HAS to be out by the deadline, but you know what, they had more at stake. They get this opportunity ONCE a year, mind you. And yet did not compromise on principles.
What were you thinking when you blatantly plagiarized? Doesn’t your conscience prick you? When I put my friend’s joke as a status message on gTalk, I add a “(Credit: Abhi/Tuna/Ego/Whoever)” bit towards the end, because it doesn’t feel fair when people ping me and say “Heh, you crack good jokes!”. We all do that. Even on Twitter, where no one would worry where a joke came from, people say “@jokerman says” or “(credit: @jokerman)”. Even the most mundane stuff, like a new word coined – like Kosubat (the electrified racquet used to kill mosquitos) or Homour (jokes about homosexuality).
Why do we do this? It’s our culture. Our honour code. ‘Stupid gits’, you might think. But no, Mr. Purie. It’s not just our morality that has resulted in this culture.We know what it’s like to have our friends copy from us and get higher marks. We know the resentment it breeds. We know what it’s like to pull an all-nighter and then have the folks who were lolling about get higher marks and skew the whole grading curve because they cheated. There’s no end to how much you can cheat. There are plenty of us who can keep coming up with better and better techniques to steal credit, not that the world needs it. We don’t want every sphere of our life descending into that sort of an abyss. Hence this culture and honour code. And you know what? We like this sort of an environment darned very much. We don’t have to worry about our jokes being stolen, so we let ‘er rip. We know our ideas will be attributed, so we put them out there for others to play with. We like this setup very much on the Net.
It might seem very old-fashioned to you, this moral posturing of mine. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you’re the fossil here. Did you really think you could get away with ripping off such a widely circulated article from the Net? Especially at the peak of Thalaivar-craziness? Especially in this age of Facebook and Twitter and gTalk status messages? Heck, it was the title of this Churumuri article, for godsake. For context, more people have read that article than your titchy Letter From The Editor. For context, Mr. Purie, that’s like ripping off Jai Ho and mega-releasing it as your own in the weeks following the Oscar nomination.
And when you say “Not being an acknowledged expert on the delightful southern superstar, I asked Delhi for some inputs.”, I can only say WTF. Any piddling two-bit journo knows enough to write about Rajnikanth, heck even Manu Joseph does. Or they pretend to, which is fine because we Thalaivar-fans don’t expect any insights into the method acting in Netrikan from anyone in the mainstream media. That you, yes YOU of the India Today Conclave fame, and YOU who edits ‘India’s Biggest Newsmagazine’ had no frickin’ clue on what to write about Thalaivar really gets my goat. If you had said this about Amitabh or SRK, there would have been blood on the streets. Blood. Yours. And the rest of your staff’s.
And I don’t get why you asked Delhi for input, especially given that a reasonably well-travelled Amit_123 like you itself had no clue about Thalaivar (No, he’s not just a ‘Southern Superstar’… he’s a South-East Asian Sensation as you would have realized if you had travelled through Japan, Singapore and Malaysia even once), what do you expect from the rest of the Amit_123s and Isha_123s there? I’d've thought the first logical reaction would have been to call Chennai. As we say on the Internet, #FAIL.
And how DARE you change it from SUPERSTAR to Superstar? All the Caps are merited. And we forgave the original author for not putting it in Bold, Underline and Fontsize 42 only because he was not Indian. You on the other hand…. bah!
You know why I’m pissed, Mr. Purie? It’s not just because you ripped something off. It’s your impunity in shrugging it off that gets my blood pressure rising. AND that no one is being fired over this. Or even getting a rap on the knuckle. Not just the Slate thing…. I’m more pissed about Niranjana’s situation. What sort of low-quality mediocre staff you have who can’t even have a few original ideas? And why are you still keeping them? And no rap? What sort of a message are you sending out? That it is okay to lie and cheat?
No remorse? No nothing? Atleast pretend you’re sorry about the whole deal, suspend someone for eyewashing…. do something! Even the smallest political scandal makes sure that atleast one person gets the axe! The fact that you’re not even pretending to be outraged outrages me.
I know Mr. Purie, that this letter might not even reach you, and even if it does, you wouldn’t read it (And if you do, you might plagiarize it… no worries, I now know I can issue a cease-and-desist notice if something like that happens). But I just have to write this because I feel quite outraged on knowing about your heinous act…. If Ponzi mated with Kaavya Viswanathan, and their Indian-Italian spawn then hooked up with Bangalore Mirror AND the folks from here and here, the offspring would be you.
I am back to my old life as one of the numerous Saaftware folks in Bangalore, if only for a short while. Yes, that signals the return of all the BMTC rave/rant blogposts.
When I had just restarted the rounds on BMTC, I found I was getting tired an awful lot, and there seemed to be too many catty Isha_123 types who elbowed me out in the rat race to find seats… even given their general propensity to anorexic proportions, the average Isha is way, way more strongly built than Wanderlust after a month of swimming and yoga. And Irvine and OCTA have turned me soft. I have turned much more polite. I say please and thank you every few minutes. The general friendliness in a small town like Irvine have just made me forget that others aren’t used to making eye-contact and conversation with random people. All that makes it harder to nudge my way into any available seat and giving a ‘Take that, witch’ look to the also-rans.
But a week of this, and I quickly re-learned all that that used to come intuitively to me not long ago. And with this guide, you can too. So that you don’t necessarily have to undergo the coupla weeks of two hours on your feet every day with a gargantuan laptop on your shoulder to learn the tricks necessary to a windowseat on the Volvo.
So firstly, it turns out it’s rather important where you, the gone-soft software engineer position yourself in the crowded bus. Rush hours really mean rush hours; once you lodge yourself, it’s hard to shift.
And where do you position yourself? Right next to someone who’s most likely to get off the earliest, of course.
And how do you know who’s getting off where? Allow me to show you.
**Warning: This post might effectively be considered racial/regional/otherDemographic profiling, so do not read if you find terms like Vellakaran and Amit_123 offensive **
- Laptop check: This is the first, basic check you’ll have to make. If you are a softie, you’ll probably be travelling to one of the hazaar tech parks in the Garden City. You want to make sure that the seat you’re standing next to will not be vacated only when you’ll also be getting off. The first sign of another software engineer is a Laptop. Because no other sane person totes these unwieldy contraptions on buses otherwise. (Unless of course you own one of those sleek Macbooks which fits into your handbag, but if you own a Macbook, you wouldn’t be travelling by BMTC; Apple cleaned out its offices in EGL within a month or something, I heard). So steer clear of the seated folks with anything that looks like a laptop bag.
- Gender check: If you’re a lady, you should first scan all the ladies’ seats. On a good day, you’ll find a man seated in a seat reserved for women. Your search ends. You don’t have to do any further checks on where the man gets off; you tell him where to get off here
Sadly, there’s no seat reservation on Volvos. Which is one of the perks of travelling by non-Volvo buses. And the other is….
- Age check: Check for older folks. They are most likely NOT saaftware. And are less inclined to make long bus journeys in peak timings. They will probably be getting off within city limits and in older areas – they are most probably visiting other senior citizens in BTM Layout or Madivala or HSR Layout, and will not stay on the bus till Marathalli or Bagmane. Also to be considered are parameters like flowers in hair (for women), amount of oil in hair (for both men and women), and greyness in hair. Be polite to them, and they themselves will ensure that you get their seat when they get up.
Also of note are little children. Pint-sized kids going to school in large gangs. Some of these can easily be lifted and placed on your lap, even by a pint-sized person like yours truly. Sure, you run the risk of being called Aunty or Uncle, but I’d rather be the vibrant Aunty than the tired Akka.
Most passengers on Volvos tend to be Saaftware, and it becomes hard to spot the Pankaja Aunties and Sathyanarayana Uncles and the Chinnus and Putties in the sea of Amits, Ishas, and of course, Rameshes and Geethas. There are however plenty such folks on non-Volvos. Volvos suck, right?
- Skin Colour check: Face it, you will most likely not find a Vellakaaran or African or South-east Asian on a bus. The ones you will think are south-east Asian will be North-east Indian for the most part [Aside: There was this Korean at my workplace who kept getting asked about IIT-Guwahati and Mizoram and Nagaland too often ]. But on the occasion you do find an authentic foreigner on the bus, check for the tourist attractions on the route. If there are none, they are probably headed to Saaftware land. Avoid. Because you are expected to be polite to them; Athithi Devo Bhava, etc. You can also put on your best pseud accent and talk to them about the colours and heat and dust in India.
On the other hand, if they are the naturalized Indian sorts – Bindi, gold bangles, plaited hair, Indian clothes – they have probably grown to love the ‘chaos of India’. You are allowed to be pushy. Same with the ones who’ve come looking for their destiny and purpose in life.
On the third hand, there was this white man on the bus who seemed rather unhinged… he was eating his ticket. Be kind to such folks.
On a more practical level, these folks could be headed to either the British Council or Max Mueller Bhavan or Alliance Française.
- Clothes check: You reach here when you’re past the Age check. You have a bunch of people who look to be of similar ages – 18-35. How do you decide who gets off where?
If it’s a woman in formals or semi-formals, rest assured it’s an Isha (going by empirical evidence). Isha = softie. Or, hell, (semi-)formals = softie… who else wears those ghastly things anyway. Collars are a pain in the neck. You want to avoid other Softies; they’ll most likely get off where you do.
A woman in a saree is a delight to behold for reasons other than aesthetic appeal. I can go all Kamala Aunty and say kids these days have no respect for culture, tradition and India, they don’t even wear sarees, look at my generation, we all wore sarees to college only, but for the fact that I’m one of those kids, and we didn’t wear sarees in college except on one or two special days, when it took us a zillion pins and hours of effort to pleat those things into submission. Getting back to the woman who does brave all the effort, she is normally in one of those jobs which requires her to look intimidating and professional at the same time. One of those can be Hooch Queen, but those types probably travel in a Sumo, not a bus. Another is senior HR, but those ladies drive to work, and get to work early (to stare down latecomers), no rush hour for them. The most delightful however is school teacher, or front desk employee, for they most probably do not work in a softie place.
Also delightful is biochemist and nurse. They’ll get off at CMH or St. Johns.
Not delightful, however, is betelnut-chewing vegetable seller. They will most probably get off at ‘lashtaap’.
Brightly coloured multi-hued clothes, an abundance of denim, along with messy hair and xeroxed notes in hand should put a smile on your face. These are college students. They travel in packs. Which means the entire front two rows will be empty once the ‘College’ stop comes.
Nuns and Moulvis are easy to predict too – the nearest ‘Church’ or ‘Maseedi’ stop. You will not find Hindu priests in buses; they are madi.
Salwar-Kameez on the other hand is too pervasive across all job descriptions.
- Gesture Check: If someone begins fidgeting with their belongings, they’ll most probably get off soon.
However, avoid sleeping people, or people with their laptops open. They KNOW they won’t be getting off for a while.
As also gossiping-chatting ladies, especially the middle-aged ones in sarees. These are the ones going all the way across town for someone’s Sathyanarayana Pooje or housewarming, and they will not be getting off for a long, long while. They come fully prepared with company and loads to gossip about. Entertain yourself listening to their conversation (does not apply to Amit/Isha… but then you are probably entertaining others with your own phone conversation where you are sharing your salient observations about Bangalore with pals from your regions).
- Software Company Check: Yeah, you avoid softies with all your life, but then what if you avoid that laptop-toting guy, and it turns out he works at CGI and gets off at Silk Board, two stops away? You’ll kick yourself, that’s what, and say “Priya, your methods suck!”. Fear not. I haven’t missed that. This is a necessary step for anyone travelling by Volvo.
Check ID cards. It might look creepy, but you soon can master the art of sneaking glances. Even the strap of the tag will do. The dude with “Life at iFlex Turns Me On” (yeah, they really have that) on the neck will not be getting off until Bagmane.
Check laptop brands. Lenovo and Dell mean they’ll get off at EGL. Mostly. HP however can mean a variety of places.
Check Tshirts. Usually it’s the Yahoo and Google folks who flaunt those.
Eavesdrop on conversations. If they mention “Manyata Office” AND “Bannerghatta Road Office”, it could only mean they are from IBM. “Nice HR people at Bannerghatta Road” means they are from NetApp. This bit is an Art, and you get better only by practice. Do not feel shy to listen to others’ conversations. If someone’s whining about office in a public place, they deserve all that that comes to them.
- Language Check: I find this rule useful while travelling in East Bangalore. Anyone speaking Tamil normally gets off in Old Madras Road.
- Other General Advice: Given all the Volvo rants, it seems miserable to travel by those buses. The rates are more, and the assurance of finding a seat is much lesser than a non-Volvo. This however is true only on the routes on the Ring Road. If you are lucky enough to work in the heart of the city, Volvos rock. Otherwise, you are better off travelling by some other bus.
Except if you want to look presentable the moment you enter office. Non-volvos are more sweaty, which will easily mess your makeup or render it useless. Ironed clothes have no hope here. Oh, and you’d pick a Volvo if you like your oxygen.
Remember the stuff your Science teacher in school said, that went went like “Wear a white shirt and go roam around [Insert name of big city] and it’ll come back black” to illustrate the pollution problems in cities? Well, he might have been kidding in his day, but that really happens now.
- Caveats: There will always be that laptop-toting amit_123 who will get off at Basavanagudi. That ancient man might just get off at Marathalli because he’s buying a shirt in those hazaar Factory outlets. Those two nuns will probably get off at the Last Stop; they got in at ‘Church’ stop. And all these rules reverse for the evening rush hour.
This guide is by no means complete. And I don’t always follow these rules myself. But I find a marked success in finding seats when I consciously follow these rules than if I just squeeze into the first available space.
I have left out the rules for the trip back home not just coz I’m sleepy at this time, but also as ‘an exercise for the reader’. It is, as this nice BMTC post by Thejaswi Udupa says, the best way to ‘learn’ a city.
Yes, I realize I sound racist, regionalist, lackingScruples and just generally rude while profiling folks and elbowing them out, but that’s what rush hour does to you. It’s a rat race and you are still a rat when you win it, but atleast you’re a more comfortable, relaxed and satisfied rat.
Plus, average bus travel in the city is not thus; it’s a lot more civilized, and you tend to meet a lot of interesting people, if you get out of your xenophobia and gen ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ mode. People are way more polite. Hell, even I’m polite when it doesn’t come to finding a place to sit – you ask me random stuff – bus routes, autorickshaw-fu fundae, restaurants, housing – I’ll tell you, even if I’m hanging on for dear life on a bus. And that can be generalized to the rest of the residents of my beautiful city.
As for regional stereotypes, they don’t arise out of nowhere. Statistically, it’s more likely that a North Indian heads to a software company than to Max Mueller Bhavan or St. John’s. And of a gang of Tamil-speaking college girls getting off at Old Madras Road than at Richmond Circle (in the evening). If you trained a classifier to do these things, it’d do the same based on the evidence… it chooses the ‘best bet’ based on all the historical data it is trained on. Our minds are no different. You needn’t go to the extent of changing the alphabet to “Indian-Americans, E, F, G, H….X,Y,Z” (via twitter) to be politically correct.
Here’s wishing you much fun on your bus trips around the city.
Like they say, ‘Use BMTC, save trees/fuel/Earth’.
I had a very bad day. Very bad.
I might possibly have ruined my life. No, not in the inappropriate-boyfriend-physical-relations-single-teenaged-mother way. No, actually I haven’t ruined my life. My stupidity might have made me do the best thing I could have done ever. But at the moment, my stupidity looms large in front of my face, and it will be a while before I say yeah, okay, everything turns out for the best. And kindly do not do a ‘what happened?’ routine in the comments section. Stress on ‘Kindly’.
Anyway, after the aforementioned life-ruining act of mine, I tried to make myself feel better by cooking a nice elaborate meal for myself. It turned out good. I didn’t feel much better.
So well, there’s one thing that never fails to get me up. Water. Of the swimming-pool sort.
Ten minutes later, I found myself at the Rec Center pool, doing breadths. There weren’t many others near where I was. There were two gossipy undergrads, a quiet-looking girl who did only Butterfly, a couple whose strokes were all in perfect synchronization, and this guy whose sheer height increased his swimming speed.
Turns out, my bad day had affected the way I swim as well. For the first time in what seems like years, I was swallowing mouthfuls of water, tired easily, got water into my ears each time I turned to take a breath during freestyle, and got water splashing on my face with each backstroke. Give yourself a break, I told myself.
Soon the Butterfly girl left, and I took the pull-buoy she was using… I really needed to get back to not splashing while I did a backstroke. Just then, this efficient-looking fiftyish lady dove in. ‘Are you using this lane?’ she asked me. Er… lane? What lane? I had been swimming all over the place. On an ordinary day, I’d've grinned and said something but today I just nodded. She took the lane next to mine, muttered something about people who swim out of lane. God, I hadn’t met any old lady like her since I entered this country… most I’d met were these old dears who needed help crossing the street, but steadfastly refused when you offered to take help. Either that, or they giggled and talked. Maybe about psychology, maybe about the current state of the economy, or maybe my ‘ethnic-looking earrings’. But never was one curt.
I was still examining the pull-buoy and contemplating distractedly, when this lady took off. One lap. Then another. Then another. No pauses, unlike me. I wanted to see if I could match her speed. I took off at about the same time she did, and didn’t float for a while like I normally did to see how far my lungs would take me, crawled in short, efficient strokes, and came up every fourth stroke for a breath. I reached at the same time she did, fully spent. While I tried to get water out of my ears, she had already somersaulted underwater and turned the other way. My, I used to be able to do that! I tried, and only ended up with more water in my ears.
I watched her swim away, in swift, smooth strokes. She had seemed pretty sharp and efficient and seemed like she ‘meant business’, but her swimming was anything but. She swam with the smoothness of a dolphin, her kicking didn’t cause any splashing, nor did her crawl. She came up for breath oh so regularly, unlike me, who surfaced only when I felt out of oxygen.
I wanted to ask her for tips, but ohmigod, she swam without a pause. I would have been all admiration, if it hadn’t been for her curt tone when she spoke to me. I vaguely thought of her as one of those old women so bursting with energy that no one in her house survived beyond age thirty, because she stole all their youth and vigour. And so much need for efficiency that no one really wanted to.
I concentrated on getting my backstroke right for the next half an hour, and paid scarce attention to her, except to notice her stop once or twice.
And then two laps of backstroke without splashing. Yay.
And then there she was, starting on her backstroke, when I was beginning freestyle. Let’s race, granny. I gave her a few seconds’ headstart and then I took after her. This time I got there first. She turned, switching to freestyle again, and I struggled hard to keep up with her. She seemed to slack a little in the middle and I surged ahead, but just as we were getting near the edge, I was losing energy, and she came at full speed. And she wasn’t even trying, like me. I just about made it. Because I tried.
And then she paused.
“Come here often?” I asked. ‘Actually, I’ve been very ill lately. I stopped swimming for a month. I’m recuperating now”, she said. “Ohh, feeling better now, I hope?”, I asked.
“Yeah…. though, I seem to have lost my stamina, and my swimming is much slower now. Much slower”.
Expectations really change the way you perceive an experience. And I mean really.
A couple of years out of school, I sort of began losing touch with my schoolmates, me being at NITK, and they all in Bangalore, and their not being on Orkut. And then we had a reunion or two, which I attended expecting everyone to have undergone sea-changes and all. But no, the only shock I got was my diminutive fellow first bencher was now a venerable Petronas tower. No, actually, the bigger shock was that everyone seemed pretty much the same. My close friends were still my close friends. The class tensionParty was still the class tensionParty. The eternal star-crossed couple we giggled about was still the eternal star-crossed couple we giggled about. The class poet still wrote poetry about nature and beauty. And a friend I previously mentioned on this blog as Pink was still wearing the same top she was wearing when I saw her last.
As for those who couldn’t make it to the reunions, I kept meeting them off and on every now and then. They didn’t seem to have changed much, except maybe when they acquired fake accents and awesome degrees.
Even our teachers treated us the same way when we ran into them once in a while. They still called us by our old nicknames, pulled our legs about the same old jokes (they remembered!)….
Our ragtag bunch of thirty-nine still seemed to be much the same, the eight years notwithstanding. And so it seemed too with my friends from school who were a year or two older or younger than me.
So I basically assumed that everyone I knew from school would be pretty much the same, no changes whatsoever. I obviously was setting myself up for a big shock. And how.
I think Facebook is the biggest time-sink there ever is, even including Reddit or Google Reader. And my saying that certainly is something. So I don’t know what I was thinking one fine day when I decided to look up my schoolmates on Facebook.
The sleek handsome head-boy was now a teetering-towards-middle-age doctor in Boston. The head-girl in that batch, that doe-eyed girl we all aspired to be like, was now a pleasantly plump homemaker in Leeds. Some topper dude was now a professional photographer…. aal izz well, I suppose. Many more of those much-older kids had (obviously) undergone a sea-change.
So, hell, let’s turn to the juniors, shall we? Those kids who used to wet their pants when we were responsible middle-schoolers.
Big mistake. The girls all looked like Heidi Klum, the boys like Justin Timberlake (You know you’re getting on in years when your pop culture references are so yesterday). Their photos oozed so much oomph, it was hard to believe that this was the same kid who used to cry all the time for his mommy, and who would be placated with a pineapple-flavoured lollipop.
So anyway, let’s check out the teachers, shall we? That timeless bunch who stay the same, batch after batch, who narrate the same jokes year after year (and every class will have someone with an older sibling who had told them the joke), including the ones that start with ‘Last year, you know…’.
They were all Farmville-crazy!
One of them wrote a blog which had horrible, horrible grammar. Thank god she was the one who taught chemistry, not the one who taught English. I swear to god I’d have thrown myself off a cliff with disillusionment if she was.
And one more of them, the one who wore those prim sarees which established her as Martinet supreme, who used to regularly upbraid high school girls for our short skirts and too-tight uniforms (she said we looked ugly, it didn’t suit us, and a variety of other things that a thirteen-year-old feels horrible, horrible about), and said segregation of the sexes was good…. she had uploaded a few photos of herself posing in front of various European monuments wearing various forms of tight, revealing clothes. And she looked ugly, it didn’t suit her.
After that, I haven’t logged into Facebook, and don’t feel like for some time to come.
I’m no left-of-center person who thinks the idea of family is past its time. I’m not exactly a disagreeable person either.
But there’s something about someone passionately arguing about something with ill-formed arguments that prompts the contrarian in me. I don’t think this is an isolated phenomenon; I see a lot of others do that too. It is extremely tempting to point out the flaws in their arguments. And if the folks putting forth the argument are extremely cocksure, you just want to pull the ground from beneath their feet and see what they do next. It’s human character, I suppose.
Years back, I was learning Reiki from a most accomplished man, who enlightened me that Reiki was probably what Jesus Christ used to heal the sick. A couple of years back, I agreed with this point of view after watching The Man From Earth, where the protagonist was supposed to have been a disciple of the Buddha (pronounced Booda), who went west to become Of Nazareth.
But there were other things I disagreed with, mainly because of his ill-formed and cocksure arguments. “What has the Western world achieved in spite of all its technological advancements? People have no peace of mind, divorce rates are increasing, teenage pregnancies are rising…..”. Back then, I was quick to anger, quick to irritation. I proceeded to launch my own tirade of how the joint family system was unfair to women, how it quashed individual enterprise and aspirations, and all the other things that were in our Social Science textbook that year (Explain the disadvantages of the joint family system (4)).
That was when I was in my early teens. Now I’m far more disinterested in what others are saying, more jaded, slow to provocation (for the most part), less involved in most discussions (as they are normally reruns of earlier ones), and steer clear of trying to contradict age-old points of view (‘Communism/Capitalism shall save the earth’, ‘Gay men need to be subjected to electroshock therapy’, ‘Diwali crackers should be banned’, so on and so forth), and prefer to say ‘Whatever’, either out loud or in my head.
So I was with a group of rather pleasant people a few days back, and one of them was elaborating on the wonders that Indian culture has to offer to its Western counterpart.
Cuisine, I agreed – exactly how they managed to eat food that had but a modicum of seasoning in it, and salads that mainly consisted of the leaf collection they acquired on their morning walk, and how they marketed sauces that hardly tingled my tastebuds as ‘Superhot’, was totally beyond me.
Our philosophies, mm, yeah, okay.
Our family values. Being a veteran of a movie like 2012, I didn’t think the US of A really required much more bombardment of family values. But this man soldiered on. He told us about a Black man attending a Diwali celebration in Florida and saying to his hosts, “If only my community had family values like yours, crime rate among my community would be pretty low”. And hence, there was assumed to be an inverse correlation between crime rate and quantity/quality of family values. QED.
But something didn’t quite match. A counterexample occurred to me.
“What about crime families like the Corleones or the Sopranos?”.
I mightn’t be getting invited to a Diwali celebration in the short run.
Once upon a time after a trip to Mangalore, Logik had tweeted “Extreme paapa in previous janma = tyre seat of Bangalore-Mangalore bus”.
Here’s my version:
Extreme paapa in previous janma = near-toilet seat in turbulent American Airlines flight + aisle seat + next seat of lovey-dovey PDA-making couple, both of who made frequent trips to the loo + neighbouring seat of singleMom who couldn’t get enough of telling her life story to everyone around her + crying baby + flirty Latino man + curious passenger bound for Frankfurt who heard out singleMom + right under overpacked bag due to which luggage bin could not be shut + disgusting in-flight movie on while eating and drinking + heavy-ish snowfall for the first time in two-three years at destination + plane circling round and round destination as no permission to land + plane running out of fuel + stopping over for seemingly forever at little-known airport for fuel + no card in pocket to buy food on flight + long loo lines + beverage-only diet for duration of flight which necessitates standing in loo line + when card finally found, crew out of food, beverages + lack of winter clothes as kith and kin had re-re-reassured me that destination remains pleasant at 24 degrees celsius.
But all that seems like Purgatory… I’m now in paradise and I have a White Christmas.
Happy Holidays to one and all
I’m back to blogging, but only for a bit. Next week is a bit hectic. But I HAD to post on this.
When I was working in Bangalore, I was in a team full of young people just a few years older than me. They were much more experienced, and I, the only fresher, moved from module to module learning what each bit did. And it always, always happened that just as I moved to a new thing, the person handling that module would get their wedding fixed and would go off for a month, leaving me to work on that module.
There were the usual jokes about my being some hex or something, but it was mostly attributed to the common age group of all my mentors, and a week of holidaying following the end of each iteration, following which my colleagues would go home, and be subjected to a week of bride/groom-seeing.
And now the saga continues.
The person I am working with is an alumnus of University X. And has a wife who is expecting.
The person I might be working with, completely totally unrelated to the previously mentioned person, and of a completely different age group, is an alumnus of University X, though in a totally different mostly unrelated discipline. And has a wife who is expecting.
PS: I know such coincidences are everywhere, that if you look hard enough, you can find the shape of a holy grail on the Boston, Detroit, Washington DC, Chennai, Surathkal, Bangalore maps, so don’t make that point in the comments.
Now if there was one movie I was asked to recreate, it’d be 2012. I’ve been working on the Google Earth API for some time now, and all the stuff I’ve come across – zoom ins to historical spots, topographical maps, skies, day-night effects, sunlight-on-surfaces effects – is majorly the essence of this movie.
I have no excuse for watching this movie apart from acute boredom.
So the movie opens in a copper mine in India. Everyone in India wears turbans, including taxi drivers, everyone has a manservant, the women are all pretty and the men are either servile or nerdy. And everyone speaks English in an Apu-from-Simpsons-esque accent, with the phrase ‘my friend’ liberally littering their speech. And the names and places are imaginary… never in history have more nonsense words been invented in relation to India since Herge talked of the Maharaja of Gaipajama.
Jimmy Mistry is the Indian geologist who has discovered that solar flares are causing neutrinos or something like that, due to which the core will collapse and the crust caves in. He looks like a dad in an Asian Paints ad, with a wife and son to match. He also has very bad Hindi.
So black guy listens to this brown guy and gets freaked like crazy. Next person shocked is random white guy, who in turn shocks random black guy, who turns out to be President of the United States. Who freaks out other Heads of State.Who all jointly decide not to freak out the rest of the world.
And so random people end up getting killed, including the curator of the Louvre.
Nah, the story is getting too much into detail here. There isn’t that much of it to merit that. I’ll quickly summarize the rest of it.
As usual, there’s this broken-ish American home at the centre of the whole thing. Next time there’s a problem in my relationship, I’ll just pray hard for an earthquake/tsunami/terroristAttack/shootout/hostageCrisis which will magically make everything alright by killing off irritant sideRomanticInterests who might be direct competition for one or both of the main characters.
Oh, and how many people miraculously die when their part in the movie gets over. How many miraculously appear when you need them. You need a plane. Magically, there’s a pilot with a plane there. But you don’t want the pilot in the movie. So he dies in the earthquake. And they all suddenly remember “Gordon’s a pilot!”. And then you need a bigger plane to fly to China. Magically a rich Russian materializes with a big plane and experienced pilot to fly to China with. And he needs a co-pilot, so Gordon and gang are on. Then they hit China, and Sasha, the Russian pilot with the awfully exotic accent dies. Needless to mention, I was most sorry to see him go. Gordon the boyfriend becomes a thorn in the side once Hero and his ex-wife realize they still want to be together, so he dies in a freak accident.Hand of God? This God can only be a multi-limbed Hindu God.
But no, they have to be politically correct, and the teachings of the Booda (that’s what they call him in this country anyway) are in vogue, so you have a Tibetan monk explaining things by means of tea and teacups.
And then the movie gets more preachy, moralistic and stereotyped than a movie with Nirupa Roy. Family matters. Family. Family. Mother-father-kids. Family. Togetherness. Black-White Bhai-Bhai. Why don’t we listen to our hearts? And so on and so forth. Everyone ends up with a family or dead. Just like we have the whole mangalsutra sentiment, the wedding ring sentiment is coming up in Hollywood. Soon.
And a million subplots all ending by death of one or all of the parties concerned. The rate of death ending stories was so much, it reminded me of this post of Arjun’s.
What I was mildly irritated with was that they went through all the trouble of inventing names of Indian places, and when they showed an AngelaMerkel-esque German Head-of-State, and Queen Elizabeth and her dogs, couldn’t they, couldn’t they just show some random guy in a sherwani and say or atleast hint that he’s the Indian Head-of-State? One-sixth of humanity, folks, one-sixth of humanity. (One of my friends theorized that the Italian PM chooses to stay back in the Vatican and not join in the whole Noah’s Ark business because the Indian HoS was sufficient to represent both countries).
What I would have also preferred was that the who’s who of the world was supposed to be in the Ark, so couldn’t they have spent four minutes parodying, say, Bill Gates, Murdoch, Stephen Hawking, Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Paul McCartney, Al Gore?
All in all, a Bollywood movie masquerading as a Hollywood one. Nice SFX, though. I’d like some posters of the movie.
And… I finally solved the mystery of why Hollywood movies are rather short, just over an hour – they don’t have the concept of ‘interval’. This movie was two and a half hours long, and no interval. Pretty evil, evil on the bladders of the audience.
S and I have known each other ever since we can remember. We were in school together, from kindergarten to tenth. We grew up together, more or less… went through ego battles together, began sighting guys together, joked together in the middle benches (not the backbench… teachers wise up to it pretty much) whenever I could manage it (my height made sure the teachers always put me in the front bench)…. and then we lost touch in the middle, during our engineering. And got back in touch just as I was leaving for Irvine…. for which I’ll be forever thankful. It turns out we turned out more similar than we ever thought we’d be, having quite a few aspects of our lives turn out very similar, including our job profiles, and heck, we even started on our first jobs on the same day! And… we also complete each others’ sentences now, can totally understand what the other person says…
The best bit was not meeting up for the first time in four years and feeling not a day had passed since we met last. The best bit was that we ran into two of our school teachers when we met. One of them was the much-chronicled-on-this-blog Naughty Nallu, who treated us just like we were two errant schoolgirls giggling in the middle benches, and not at all like two adults…. somehow, the more things change, the more they remain the same
So now that the background has been established that we are in regular touch, let’s get to business.
We also had another classmate, who also studied with us from first to tenth. I’ll call her Pink for reasons I’ll explain later. She was the class darling, as well as the class hottie. S and I killed many trees just by making lists of the many boys who had approached us about how to win this girl’s heart. Every damn teacher hated our class, and every damn teacher thought the only redeeming feature of our class was Pink.
Being together for so many years, your differences start becoming insignificant. You get used to Pink’s total lack of interests in books outside of schoolwork. You get used to her primness and properness. You all have fun together, that’s all you end up keeping in mind.
And then school was out; we kept in touch on and off after that. We more or less lost touch with Pink, though she was just a click away. We rather joked about her in her absence…. I have no idea why we began doing that.
One of those is why I call her Pink here. We had a get-together after AIEEE. She was wearing a pink top, and brown jeans. And then a while later, we watched Main Hoon Na. She was wearing a pink top, and brown jeans. A year or so later, we had a class reunion.She was wearing…. you get the drift. And then one of us met her at an intercollegiate fest. No prizes for guessing what she wore there. Basically, this was during all the very few times we met after school. Hence the inside joke, and the silent chuckle whenever she was mentioned.
A month or so back, another friend told me Pink was engaged. My first reaction was “Was she wea..”, when I was promptly cut off by that friend who dismissed my doubts and said, no, she was wearing a dark-coloured saree for the occasion.
S told me a common friend of hers and Pink’s told her that Pink got married yesterday. I just was beginning to think about her wardrobe, when S brought my attention to the fact that both of us hadn’t been invited. When the common friend (who had been invited, hopefully?) asked, she was apparently told by Pink, “Jana jaassti aagtaare“. There would be wayyyy too many people at her wedding if she had called S.
Oh, dear dear S… what are you, an amoeba that splits to form too many people when given enough food? And keeps consuming more and more and make more and more people?
And Pink, do you not remember all the occasions we fended off valiant young men intent on winning your hand? The times when we played throwball? The times you sucked up to teachers and we didn’t laugh? The times when we agreed that you had been sinned against even when it was so clear you had sinned? All the maths we did together? All the games we used to invent together to rid the monotony of a meaningless class? All the outings you used to plan so painstakingly?
I don’t care if you’ve forgotten us. School was a long time ago, and we all move on. You need not invite us if you don’t think we aren’t important enough to be there. We knew each other long ago, and priorities have changed since then, and we acknowledge that. And it’s not like we are all that free to take a break and come off to whichever faroff place your wedding is being held at. This is not about us. But er… jana jaasti? Isn’t that a bit cheap? At your wedding, of all days? Especially when we _know_ you don’t have a restricted guest list or any such.
S and I were wavering between choosing to invite her or not for our respective weddings when they happen, when I remembered one tiny memory that put things in perspective for us.
“Not much has changed”, I said. “Remember the time she used to write with your pen in class because she didn’t want her ink to get over?”
And Pink, we both heartily wish you a very happy married life.
Being in a relatively quiet place where the police diary reads like “Resident reported suspicious person. Officer found suspicion unfounded” or “Caller reported loud music. Officer advised residents to keep it down”…. no, hang on, that has nothing to do with what I was going to say.
Being in a place where there is considerable excitement on Dan Brown’s latest, Chetan Bhagat’s latest goes rather unnoticed. Thankfully, I read Kosu’s post on it, and apparently it’s about TamBrahm girl marrying Punju guy and the culture clashes that ensue.
Yeah, whatever, it’s Chetan Bhagat.
But I couldn’t really ignore it. Because one of the culture clashes is that the guy is used to a boisterous lunch table, while it is deathly quiet in the girl’s house at mealtimes.
Mr. Bhagat hopes to impress upon the reader about the clash between the boisterous culture of the Northwest of India and the mild, quiet, disciplined nature of folks from the Southeast.
Uh? Silent TamBrahms? Mr. Bhagat, you haven’t met me, or had lunch with my largelySouthIndian gang whose bantering resounds through the cafeteria. Heck, you haven’t even met my Appa’s Perima who manages to singlehandedly talk to us about absolutely nothing for fortyfive minutes on STD, and still give us something to laugh about. Or my Peripa who feels like his audio is on fastforward. Or my numerous cousins coming over for a Sunday evening. Or my Iyengar neighbor’s sister dropping by. Or attended my Akka’s wedding. Or.. hell, walked around my neighborhood in Irvine where the loudest voices come from the resident Tams. Oh hell, have you ever gone into a restaurant in Thanjavur? Or the streets of Kumbakonam? Or any damn meal at any Tambrahm household where folks will routinely dissect the ‘kirket’ scene, the impending nuclear war, relevance of Gandhi in today’s world, the latest movies, all at 4x volume and 8x speed.
You haven’t gone to some random tourist spot in Britain where all of a sudden the quiet atmosphere was broken by excited shrieks from the children, loud words of caution from the mother, grandmother, father, and lots of laughing at blade jokes by the rest. You haven’t ever been around in that intermediate period between breakfast and lunch at Arvind Anna’s wedding where all the oldies get together to put blade – offer commentary while reading The Hindu, Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Asian Age, Vijay Times and god alone knows which other magazine.
You haven’t even done basic research… talk to any Pankaja aunty on the streets of Bangalore and she will tell you about how she has no peace ever since some rather loud Kongas moved next door. She’ll delight you with details of how the mother shouts for the son, shouts at the son, and how everyone expresses their joys and sorrows at max volume.
I don’t know about the loudness, or the relative loudness of Pnjaabi folk, but all the Pnjaabis I’ve come across have been soft-spoken, and I have never in real life witnessed spontaneous Balle Balles or Shava Shavas, or any of the loudness Bollywood so loves portraying. I do know, however, that the most talkative people I’ve known are all TamBrahms.
This is just another of those playing-to-the-gallery acts that Mr. Bhagat is so known for… taking some popular perception and playing it up to a high level… hell, IITians and NITians have a richer extra-curricular life than most of the rest, and still Bhagat dares to say in his first novel that IITians have no life. Similarly this one about silent TamBrahms.
Or maybe, maybe Mr. Bhagat should talk to both my northIndian roommates, one from NITK and another from gradschool, both of who are quiet as mice, and both of who took time adjusting to ze TamBrahm volume, speed of speech, and sense of humour. Or maybe to Prof. Welling, who is Dutch and who finds it easier to understand what one Mr. Amanpreet Singh says better than what I say… and routinely asks me to repeat myself and speak more slowly.
And… tailpiece: Ambujam maami‘s excited voice resounded in the neighborhood for forty-five minutes. When she stepped out of her house looking pleasantly happy, Pankaja aunty accosted her. “I was talking to my niece. She’s in New York!”, Ambujam maami said, excited. “Oh, long distance call”, Pankaja aunty observed. “Next time, Ambujam,”, she said, “Use a telephone”.
PS: I seem to have totally forgotten the tenet of ‘Show, don’t tell’ in this post. It reads really amateurish thanks to that. But no time. Code needs to be written. Do comment, though.
Conversation on meeting a random person yesterday:
Me: Hi I’m Priya
Person: I’m X
Me: Where from in India?
Me: Me too! South Bangalore?
Me: 4th Block
X: Ohh… 8th Block.
Me: We shifted to Bannerghatta Road, though
X: Vijaya Bank Colony.
Me: Studied at Oxford School
Me: Oh, did you know Y, Z and A?
X: Course I did! You must have had Mrs. SD teach you at some point?
Me: Yeah, heard you guys drove her out? Good job!
I keep finding folks from South Bangalore wherever I go. And we normally have a dozen common friends. Remember, this was in Irvine, on the other side of the world from Bangalore.
And this is not the only So.Ba. meeting so far…. There’s this other So.Ba. guy, and it turns out I’ve throughout studied with one or the other of his cousins, through school, through PU, through NITK. And the cousins were all from different branches of the family, and never knew each other.
Over the years, I discover that me and any other South Bangalorean have less than three, or even four degrees of separation between us. It’s amazing, shocking, brilliant and scary all at the same time.
Like this time when I quoted something random at office from a friend’s status message, and two-three others around me were like “I’ve seen this recently…. on my friend’s status message….”, and we found that we all knew the guy in question.
Or the time when this guy in some Phoren Univ was too scared to hit on a So.Ba. girl because it transpired that she knew his ex (also So.Ba.) rather well.
Or the many times when I find that some commenter on this blog and I have a dozen common friends from our school days, and/or have met at one point or the other much earlier on, and live in the neighborhood of each other, and frequent the same hangouts. And also have a dozen people in common to gossip about.
Or the time when I was speaking to a college friend and she had to cut the call short because her schoolfriend R was frantically calling on her mobile. And the next day when I met up with my schoolfriends, they were telling me a story about a girl called R who broke up with her boyfriend just the previous day.
Or the time when my friend A had a crush on someone in her college, and the news travelled all the way to Mumbai, Surat, Rourkela, Chennai and back to her college, where the crush in question was the last to know.
Or when someone I know travelling to the UK for higher studies happened to come in contact with a long-lost schoolmate of mine who happened to be his senior there… and tried putting us back in touch.
Or when I went to write the Manipal entrance exam and met every friend of mine and her secret crush, and at one point sat down gossiping silly about everyone I’d ever known.
Or my father’s colleague’s daughter and I putting two and two together to make five – piecing together different sides of the story of my (rather er.. reputed) neighbour who happened to be her classmate.
In my office, there were four of us, three of us from South Bangalore and the fourth one who’d lived in Indiranagar for the most part. The three of us had never met before, but had enough common friends to gossip about, while the fourth person would stare blankly during these conversations.
I really wonder if this is normal; if this is a common feature of most places. But then, I don’t find others picking common threads with new people as easily as I do. I don’t see such a connect within the network of others as I see with mine… all my friends seem to know each other one way or the other. And it’s not because I call them and say “X, Y, Meet each other”.
I remember reading on some other blog that the North and South of Bangalore were two totally different cities, with even a toll gate between them, and so the cultures are very different. I have no clue about the rest of the city, but folks from my part of town tend to be very similar. Somehow, the upbringing, the values, the language, the backgrounds were similar enough to hold us together, and varied enough to keep us from getting bored. And most of us seem to have grown up the same way, and the same middle-class motivations behind our ambitions.
We’ve all gone to the same schools, the same tuition classes, and the ubiquitous BASE and ACE, apart from Gopu Tuition, Venky Tuition, and a million others… and most of us tend to have similar career paths. We know each other, and each others’ friends from one or more of these places. And it’s not just friends… uncles, cousins, siblings… our network extends that way, too.
Like, I have my schoolfriends, my playhome friends, my tuition friends, my Gopu tuition friends, my PU friends, my ACE friends, my NITK friends, my office friends… and from a dozen other things I’ve done, and it turns out atleast one friend from each stage of my life knows atleast one person from one of the other stages.
It all seems to fit in so well, I really wonder if other cities/regions have similar phenomena… I mean, of course there must be. I would generally expect this from some smalltown where everyone knows everyone else. But then, does South Bangalore fit into the notion of a ‘Small Town’? I should think not!
Or is this restricted to me, and a few of my friends who are as talkative as me? Or have I been too restricted in my horizons?
I don’t know what explanation fits this best. It would be an interesting experiment in social networking and all that, or maybe not. But I sure do know that we spread our tentacles all over the globe. Be it some semiconductor lab in Seoul, or a software development center in Seattle, or a university in Singapore, we are there. And so wherever I’m going, I’m pretty confident my Class III classmate’s TuitionFriend’s Cousin, who is also my sister’s maths teacher’s son/daughter will be there, to give me company when I want to reminisce about the perfect Ganesh Darshan Masale, or Subbamma’s Sandige.