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.
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.
I have this ability to get completely lost in a bookstore. By lost, I don’t mean the way I get lost in the Kumbh Mela or the bylanes of Basavanagudi. Lost here means I lose track of time, of others around me, and all I can see is more and more titles beckoning tantalizingly to be read, one by one.
This ability is by no means unique, I suppose. Plenty of people get lost this way in a bookstore.
And it’s not restricted to bookstores, in my case. I get lost in libraries as well. And a few other things and people, but all of that is out of the scope of this post.
So bookstores. I love them. So much that when we go shopping together, my mother assigns my sister to watch over me to ensure I don’t enter one and turn untraceable for hours on end (“No Priya, not the bookstore. We have to be at their house in two hours!’).
Guess she’s the one who started me off on that. For several birthdays, I remember being gifted books. Yeah, my parents did get me new clothes too, but those were the ritual things. The main attraction, the centerpiece, the Gift would be a book. With a note inside. At first, I just watched as they picked my gift off the shelves of the bookstore, and made the right noises (‘Gurgle!’ was about the only thing I said all day anyway back then) when shown books with colourful covers and even more colourful pages.
I think I’ve been visiting Nagasri Bookstore in Jayanagar since before I learnt my first letter. It soon became a well-established ritual to head there right after the term exams. It was my parents’ way of bringing in the holiday mood, I can say. But the first time I was thoroughly transfixed in a bookstore was at Manipal Center. I think I was nine. The books were hardcover, unlike the ones I was used to at Nagasri and Prism. There was a mildly ostentatious feel to the place. The Nancy Drew titles were different from the ones I’d seen before. And they were ridiculously overpriced. Then there were these history books with full colour photographs. And these remarkably child-friendly-looking encyclopaedias. They had to drag me away. I sulked.
Since then, it feels like a spirit enters me each time I step into a room full of books. I just have to read through every page I see. I’ve been told enough times about being in a bookstore and not a library (most notably by the proprietor of Prism in Jayanagar. That jerkofellow tried saying the same thing to me when I was reading away at Nagasri’s, but that proprietor, genial man that he is, said ‘It’s ok, ma’. Since then, I have never bought anything at Prism, and I make it a point to buy something at Nagasri if I spend more than a few minutes there).
Blossoms on Church Street is a different ballgame. They give you coffee while you browse! But somehow, the backroom look discourages me from browsing for too long. And the crowd as well. But that place, I must admit, is a treasure trove. They have everything, right from a travelogue by Michael Palin to random American romance novels. But then, a place like that simply has to be good, given its clientele, given that it takes second-hand books, and given that it spans over three floors.
I was rather content with my choices in bookstores, when my friend introduced me to Crossword on Residency Road. I must admit, the place with its multiple floors and large floor space scared me. I should have been pleased at the sofas and bean bags for people to sit and browse through the titles, and the coffee counter too, but I strangely was not.
The place was bigger than forty Nagasris. And held probably as many books. They were all organized by topic. There was plenty of Young Adult Fiction. Plenty of Indian English writing. Stuff that should have floored me. I felt sick and refused the coffee my friend offered, and in quiet defiance didn’t relax on the bean bags. Instead, I prowled the aisles, looking to get transfixed. The way that went, it was the first time I was asking if we could leave the bookstore and go have some chocolate cake.
I have never quite understood my revulsion for those sort of bookstores. Somehow I can never seem to find anything I like in those places, even though they are positively spilling over with books of all sorts. And when I do pick up a book and buy it, there’s always the nagging feeling that I’ve been had.
Someone suggested it’s possibly the user experience. And personalization. I’ve been seeing the frail, sharp-grinning proprietor with the faint coastal Karnataka accent from way too early and it’s etched in my mind that a good bookstore has atleast a hundred books per square foot, and it irks me when the proprietor or his assistant don’t magically reach for the book I ask and materialize it out of thin air.
But no, I adore the UCI Library where none of those things happen.
Maybe it’s the exclusivity? Probably. Along with the user experience, which makes me feel like I’ll simply love every book that belongs in that space. Maybe it’s the discounts he gives me. Maybe it’s the small talk.
But even if all those are true, I should feel some semblance of lostness when I enter Crossword near Miniforest, or Landmark. I have slowly stopped feeling those things. I wonder why.
Maybe it’s that you don’t have to be a lover of books to love these new-fangled bookstores. The coffee and bean bags seem too populist. As is the selling of non-book merchandise like junk jewelry and fancy-shmancy notebooks (I must admit here between my sister and me, we own a good many of those).
But it’s not just that… the same is true of Barnes and Noble here, but I actually love the place, and spent many wonderful hours chewing on a pizza roll while reading out fantasy fiction to my nephew, or chugging cherry coke and quietly reading Jane Austen.
Maybe because the choice of titles is too wide. Maybe they try to please everyone. Maybe it’s that the assistants aren’t the sorts who read, so they are unable to give you recommendations or locate the book you ask for without looking it up in a database.
Maybe it’s also because I don’t recognize the authors and titles anymore, being rather cut off from pop culture, and having distanced myself from mainstream media. Whose book reviewing skills are also on the decline. Combined with really bad writing, pretentious authors and all-too-attractive book covers and blurbs. Give me the orange-and-white Penguin ones anyday! And well, my own prejudices stand in the way too… gone are the days when I can read some pretentious NRI-writing-about-India tripe and like it, or be accepting of an Indiabashing point of view.
Maybe it’s a combination of all these things which contribute to my feeling like I just don’t belong there. Due to which I walk out, and back to my safe confines, where I can ask ‘Do you have Shame?’ to which people won’t do a doubletake, but smilingly retrieve Salman Rushdie’s book.
I wouldn’t agonize over this for so long if it weren’t for the fact that having loved books and bookstores for so long now, I have a sort of pipe dream to have my own bookstore. Appa has, on occasion half-jokingly discussed having a bookstore post-retirement with the proprietor of Nagasri. Such a nice, peaceful existence, he says. To which the proprietor gives his ‘Not on your life! Don’t you desire a tension-free retirement?!’ look. It’s apparently a lot tougher than it seems.
It’s not like I’ve not tried finding out… each and every time I ask him how he manages to stock exactly the sort of things I like, he just thinks I’m complimenting him (which I seem to do every single time I visit, anyway) and laughs and shrugs it off as usual.
So, well, let’s get to the bottom of this mystery. Which is your favourite bookstore? Why do you like the place? Tell me, in the comments section. I need to know, so that forty years later, the bookstore I own, or the online bookstore I design, has the best possible user experience. And by best possible, I mean one that I’d like.
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 put in a lot of my life and soul into this blog. That is no secret.
I also put in a lot of personal content into this blog. They have in the past led to OMGWTF sort of situations with people who knew me who I didn’t know. My kidhood/teenage/adultLife experiences, some of them with a liberal amount of exaggeration, some of them rather embarrassing, are all chronicled here.
And hence it is very important that I control the content of this blog.
Which is totally, totally impossible these days.
Because the losers at Bangalore Mirror keep lifting my content left, right and center. And publish my work in that infernal rag of theirs.
They of course mention the URL of this page as a safeguard against plagiarism accusations.
But. They violate the Creative Commons License my blog is under. Because it requires that my consent be taken before my content is used for commercial purposes. Newspaper, even of the Mirror variety, qualifies as commercial.
I also try to make sure my blog entries are grammatically correct, and have no spelling mistakes whatever, and I put in my best effort to not misuse case. The Mirror, in spite of having people dedicated to this task, somehow manage to screw the grammar, punctuation and spellings up. Heck, they can’t even do a proper CtrlC-CtrlV.
And I’m always respectful here. I don’t use abusive words at people. I even refer to Chetan Bhagat as Mr. Bhagat. In the Mirror however, it becomes a rude ‘Bhagat’.
I have previously taken offence at this sort of rude lifting of my content without my permission and even mailed an editor there. I got back an assurance that this won’t happen again:
Our editor Mr Sreenivas has drawn my attention to your objections to our publishing your blog entry which we carried in our newspaper on Oct 15. I appreciate the points you raised, regarding what is appropriate for a blog and what is appropriate for a newspaper. I must confess the fine distinction you made escaped us while choosing your blog entry, which we thought was witty and interesting. We wrongly assumed that what is already in the public domain of a blog is suited for the public domain of a newspaper; you correctly point out that a blogger may put it out in a blog precisely because he/she knows that not everyone related to him or her will read it. As for not seeking your permission, this lapse happened on our part because we assumed that Balanarayan had obtained your permission previously, and that would apply in general to what we chose to carry. We were wrong about that. I wish we had sought your permission first. We apologise for the the distress it has caused to you, and will ensure that we will henceforth seek your permission if we feel a particular entry is suitable for our column.
The Balanarayan mentioned here is chuchap, who took my permission once before publishing my post a year or two ago in the Mirror (And who is currently not employed with Bangalore Mirror). And they say they assumed that I had given permission to lift my blog for posterity. Going by that token, shouldn’t they have stopped lifting my content when I expressed my displeasure at their doing so? They didn’t. They went on and flicked my Facebook post. Something I totally totally don’t want in a newspaper. And certainly not in the Mirror for godsake.
And what stops these losers from ASKING? I have an About page, a contact form, and a comments section. Isn’t that sufficient for someone who wants to get in touch with me from getting in touch with me? How hard is it to write a comment, for godsake?
Initially when I started blogging, I didn’t much care about others lifting my content. Any publicity was good publicity, wasn’t it? But that was when I gave the printed word more respect than I do now. Now I don’t really much care about publicity, unless it’s getting me some work in machine learning. I don’t anymore have any writerly dreams to the extent I used to, because more important and exciting things grab my attention now. I do dream of taking a year off and writing that novel I’ve always wanted to put down to paper, but it’s not the most important ambition in my life at the moment. The only places I would work hard to get published in are places like this. I’m sorry, but my life has become infinitely more sadder that I don’t care about being published in a daily rag anymore.
Plus, I want more control over my content online. I can remove a post if someone says they’d rather not like it up on the Internet, and if I agree about it. I don’t want my words being under some third party’s control. Call me paranoid, but that’s how it is.
And heck, why am I even justifying myself. This is my blog. Rispect Mah Authoritah. Hang yourself before you even think of lifting my content.
PS: In other news, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Mexicali in Mexico was felt in Southerns California. I thought I was merely feeling dizzy due to an excellent lunch, when my roommate yelled out that it was an earthquake and we moved out of the house. It was pretty mild. We’re all safe. Though, Disneyland stopped its rides for a while.
It was when I was twelve or thirteen, I think. I wanted nothing more than to be a journalist. An investigative journalist, if I was lucky.
And there were a few inspiring people behind that ambition. No, Barkha Dutt wasn’t really one of them. Maya Sharma and Jennifer Arul could have been, but seemed rather regionally restricted. Sreenivasan Jain was a major one.
But I didn’t really like journalism on a national level for some reason. And this was when Times of India was entering the Bangalore market, and was marketing itself as the newspaper that could read the pulse of Bangalore just as well as the nadi astrologers of Vaideeswaran Kovil were reputed to. And having a piece or two published in Offspring [the school section of ToI, which we were introduced to through Newspaper In Education] made sure I was a ToI loyalist back then. I read every word of every article back then.
And the city-specific reporting captured my heart. It really felt like this is what I wanted to do… I’d religiously go through each column. Some names stood out more than the others. HS Balram was too serious for my taste.
And so it was Allen J Mendonca, in his avatar as Chief Reporter of the Times of India, who proved to be a major inspiration for me.
His writing style was a tad quirky, quite informal, his bylines hard-hitting. His movie reviews were a treat. His sprinkling of Kannada words in what would otherwise be an elitist newspaper article made it all the more endearing to me.
At first, I was content just reading newspaper and watching news channels, but when we got our dial-up connection, I acquired a bit more nerve.
I first mailed Sreenivasan Jain, a long garrulous mail describing how awesome I find him on TV, how I admire his ability to ask the right questions, how insightful I thought him to be. [Back then, his email ID was available in the newspaper, or when he wrote a column for The Week... not like now, when we had to really HUNT for his email ID when we wanted to contact him for something related to Engineer, NITK's Techfest]. And all I got was a one-line reply, in SMS lingo. End of an infatuation. I’d had it with television reporters.
I don’t know exactly why I mailed Allen Mendonca… other than maybe I imagined he was a nicer person not prone to SMS lingo and incredibly more loquacious, and… the name sounded like he’d be quite a looker. But it remains that I did, and got a nice reply to all that I’d asked him. I don’t remember the exact contents of that mail, but I’d asked him about how you go about being a journo, what do you need to study in college, and…. that ONE question. Did he think I had it in me to be a journo.Of course, the answer to that one was that I was too little and I had it in me to become anything I wanted. But oh, the inspiration that one provided back then!
The exchanges continued. I’d been on a holiday to Coorg, and going through the guestbook, I discovered he had holidayed at the same estate bungalow I was staying in, just two months before! Boy, did that put a smile on my face! And his detailed description of the estate and all that it offered, and how well he’d enjoyed the whole deal – the walking trails, the books in the library about the history of Coorg, the ponds, the coffee plantations…. I’d previously been rather sulky throughout the holiday, but just reading that made me realize I was missing out on stuff. And I instantly cheered up!
I wrote to him mentioning this, nicely omitting my sulkiness from the whole story, and right after, he began feeling like some friendly uncle. I stretched my boldness far enough to send him samples of my childish verse… and he actually went through fifty lines of my random thoughts, and said it was rather good. Was I on top of the world or was I on top of the world. And he said I should write more often, and needed to ‘develop a style of my own’, which would come by regular writing.
Not very long after that, he stopped responding. I consoled myself saying he was probably undercover on some story, or was incredibly busy, or some such thing. Besides, his stories stopped appearing in ToI.
And then he replied from a different mail ID, after almost months together, saying he’d quit ToI, over some disagreement with his bosses, about political favors and exposes or some such thing… I don’t remember the details. He said he was writing a book, and that he’d send over an invite for me and my family for the opening.
We stopped corresponding after that, given that I was grappling with increasingly challenging academics, swimming practice, emotional upheaval on shifting my house to seemingly the middle of nowhere, ego tussles, multiple crushes, and similar stuff.
When I was in the tenth, or eleventh, I saw a news article about his book coming out. “He didn’t invite me as promised”, I sulked. There was an interview of his on RadioCity, where he was just as upbeat, funny and full of life as I’d thought he would be.. and I wondered if I should mail him…. but stopped short of hitting send, wondering if he would still remember me, or reply, or anything at all.
I got over wanting to be a journo, thanks to the JEE dream, and quit mailing people I hadn’t met in person thanks to all those newspaper articles about some weirdo trapping kids…. basically, just switched tracks. And I saw less and less of news about Allen [Oh yes, he'd said I needn't address him as Mr. Mendonca, and Allen would do, and I used to feel a thrill whenever I typed "Dear Allen"]… given that the Times wouldn’t mention him for all the world, and my not reading the Asian Age or Vijay Times.
My opinions of other journalists might have changed, my opinion of ToI has certainly changed, but of Allen, nope…. whenever I came across any reference to him, I still get the image of a lively man who peps up his radio interview with stories about his ‘three weddings’, who had a very vivid, visual way of writing, and who was one of those down-to-earth people who still bothered enough to humour an awestruck little girl, correspond regularly with her, and actually give her feedback on her writing.
So this morning, when I came across this Churumuri post about his sudden, untimely demise, I was really shocked. I was also overcome with a whole lot of memories… surprisingly clear for ten-year-old memories that aren’t regularly thought about. Thinking back, I realize the ideal I was using to model my writing style was his – show don’t tell, local flavour, seeming stream of consciousness. I’m amazed at how such small gestures had such a big impact on my thoughts, dreams and aspirations for such a long to come. Even when I wasn’t thinking of the correspondence with Allen, I used to think of how to ‘develop my own style’. Still do. That phrase has stayed with me for a long time. And will do for a long time to come.
Great Soul. May he rest in peace.
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.
I’ve always wanted to write an anthology of short stories for children, which would then have a title like the one above. But my talespinning talents let me down… so I’m reduced to blogging about some or the other sort-of-mundane incident in my life.
Like my trip to Chennai to get my visa. No, it’s not about how to get visas. If you like, F1 seems rather easy to get apparently these days, you don’t need to attend coaching classes for that. This post is a lot of other digressions put together.
My neighbor is part of this organization which conducts personality development classes, summer classes and other fun activities for schoolgoing children. And their latest activity was an interschool contest of some nature. Mostly Lit events, it later turned out. “Are you free on Sunday?”, she asked me. I said I was. And got invited to judge an elocution contest.
I felt rather unqualified to judge something like this, I felt, thinking of all the times when my legs turned to jelly in front of large audiences at school… but, oh, well, it’s an experience. And I certainly don’t have stage fear now.
Anyway, I arrived at the venue on time, and was ushered into a room full of software engineers and aspiring software engineers who had a day off on a Sunday, and who were neighbors of members of that organization, and who were as clueless about judging elocution as I was.
We were sent off to different stages at different parts of the venue. I went to the terrace where there were about thirty kids aged between nine and twelve. Harking back to the times when I’ve troubled many a new teacher, I felt queasy and ill at ease. And was put back at ease because, well, THE KIDS BEGAN TO CLAP!. And then the emcee introduced me. The kids began to come forward one by one and speak. And how confident each one was! They might have factual inaccuracies in their carefully-prepared speeches, but no lack of confidence! Not one ran back unable to speak, not one forgot her lines.
And then we were asked to judge highschool kids. And the levels of confidence just did not match up. So many gave up in the middle, so many forgot their lines, so many were shaking with nervousness.
And judging was a good experience too… we had sheets with parameters given for which we were supposed to grade the kids on a scale of ten. It took a couple of speeches to get used to that. For some, you could give them a 8/10 for expression within a few seconds, whereas for others you wouldn’t be sure till the very last second of their speech. Some were rehearsed, a few were so spontaneous, you were wide-eyed with wonder. But most of all, you had to concentrate. It might be the same point reiterated a million times, but you had to listen with a fresh mind and mark the contestant just like he was the first one.
I was quite shocked at the demonization of computers and technology they were all indulging in…. and said so in my feedback. While interacting with them, it turns out that they all had perfectly normal, realistic views of computer games and things, but well, at that age, you are still coming to terms with black and white and striking the middle ground is something that’s going to take you a couple of more years atleast to get started with. So any side you argue, you end up taking extreme stances. Why, people much, much older than them have trouble with not seeing things in only black and white…. nevertheless, the kids were wonderful, smart, brainy folks. Witty and nice conversation. And how well-informed they are for their age!
I fall ill regularly at two-week intervals, of late. And each time, I harangued my doctor for whether I had contracted swine flu. Not a totally random fear; one of my colleagues who works on the same floor as I do was down with it a few weeks back. And there have been other cases in my workplace. Mainly folks who travelled back from South Korea. The most recent bout of my illness was this Monday. But I couldn’t let that stop me from going off to Chennai.
Travelling by the Brindavan Express, one of my co-passengers was the DMK MP from Vellore, Mr. Abdul Rahman. Three-four hours of listening to letters being dictated in formal Tamil, to Salman Khurshid, to Shashi Tharoor. Regarding facilities for Haj pilgrims, and implementation of the Ranganath Mishra report (which, by the way, includes reservations for minorities). Not just letters, but he made and received a dozen phonecalls on the same topic. His eloquence amazed me. But then, if you’re in that line of work, and have been successful enough to be an MP, I guess you’ll have to have such a level of eloquence for the experience you’d've got. And how much of minority affairs! He didn’t talk of anything else. And I don’t think he even talks of anything else elsewhere also. *Sigh*.
Once upon a time, I came across this thing on the Net that said “One Tambrahm – Priest at Varadarajaperumal temple / Two Tambrahms – Maths tuition / Three Tambrahms – Queue outside US consulate at 4 am / Four Tambrahms – Thyagarajar Music festival in the Bay Area. I used to think it was one of those stupid stereotypes. But NO.
If we had a separate Tambrahms-only US consulate, it would still be financially viable. (Just like if we had a Hajj/Gulf-only Passport Office in Bangalore) There I was, forty-five minutes early for my visa appointment, and the area outside the consulate was teeming with people standing in queue for their appointment much later in the day. And most of them Tambrahms, either students like me, or H1B aspirants, or folks going to visit their kids there…. some of the Ammas came in full madisar and all, and I think I even saw a hint of a manja pai.
The interview hall has two television screens, both showing Times Now. It feels like as if that is done juuust to show all of us US-aspirants that US is an awesome destination, India is a really sad country to live in, just look at the news… parental abuse, ineffective PM, violence, bomb blasts, intrusions on our borders…. and don’t bother going to Australia, you’ll be maimed for life, just look at the videos on that screen there.
My interview lasted forty seconds, and my interviewer was a cheery plus-sized woman who was both intimidating and friendly at the same time. The questions she asked me were totally alien to me; I’d never heard of the likes of them, but thankfully she asked those with a twinkle in her eye, and grinned at my shocked expressions. Total timepass.
Chennaiyil Oru Mazhai-Kaalam
We reached Chennai to a steady drizzle. Good, for we wouldn’t have to face the oppressive heat the city is famed for. Bad, for I was still down with viral fever. It isn’t a steady downpour that brings down trees and renders traffic immobile. It’s more of intermittent heavy downpours.
Managed to somehow get lost walking between the homes of Aunt1 and Aunt2, a distance of not more than 500m. And also managed to get stuck in the rain while being lost. Plus, my mobile also began to act funny, and I wasn’t able to make and receive calls for a grand total of ten minutes.
And the infamous autorickshaws of Chennai! The distance between the US Consulate and the Hotel I stayed in was what would probably be Rs. 20 in Bangalore. But in Chennai, you pay Rs. 50. It’s considered a standard rate…. everyone else who’d done that distance said it’d cost you that much. Plus, I was with Appa, who pays up without a whimper, and not with Amma, of the dragging-auto-drivers-to-police-stations fame, and who has mastered the art of Autorickshaw-fu. I couldn’t even try out my budding autorickshaw-fu skills, as if it was Amma, she would have backed me up, but Appa on the other hand, doesn’t bargain.
It amazes me that the people of Chennai are so resigned to this dacoity by the band of auto drivers… my aunts, uncles and cousins who’ve lived there for quite a proportion of their lives pay up without bargaining that much. And here in Bangalore I yell at autodrivers who go by the meter, my allegation being that their meter is faulty. My uncle says it’s because they are so used to being looted that they feel weird when they are not being robbed. My mother on the other hand, seems to scare the autodrivers silly, and manages to get trips at Bangalore prices.
The reason I was forty-five minutes early for my appointment – someone advised us that since the Consulate was close to Karunanidhi’s houses, if he or his wives decided to go out, there would be massive traffic delays. The auto driver showed us the residence of Mu.Ka’s second wife like a taxi driver in Mumbai would show you Vidya Balan’s or Urmila’s house. It’s amazing how much of information about Mu.Ka they have at their fingertips – his wives’ names, ages, his children’s names, their political futures, the political fate of Amma as scripted by Mu.Ka, no pun intended…. whoa!
My Tamil Is Not Tamil
“Her Tamil is so weird no?”, said one cousin of mine to his brother. “Yeah, she speaks like Ma”, he replied.
“That’s how Tamil should be spoken”, my Bangalore-born-and-bred aunt retorted.
“Yeah, when you folks come to Bangalore, we all feel you speak like Vadivel”, I added.
So apparently, Bangalore Iyers speak a highly Brahminized Tamil, the likes of which are very rarely, if at all, heard in Chennai. I always thought it was the other way ’round… this Akka in my neighborhood who was fresh from Chennai called us home for Golu, and told us, “Theertham eduththukongo”, for which my cousin and I cupped our hands to receive holy water…. while she gave us regular water in steel tumblers (which we proceeded to drink without touching our lips to the tumbler).
If I want to survive in Chennai, I should apparently understand
- That it is Seekram vaanga and not Surukka vaango
- That it is Dress eduthuka and not Sokka eduththuko
- That SollaraeL, PaNNaraeL should be replaced with Sollareenga, PaNNareenga
- That there don’t exist words like Geli and Galata in regular usage. And if at all they are used, they are pronounced KeLi and Kalatta.
And while we’re on the topic, Tambrahm love songs I found on twitter:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Just 3 strands in my pooNal,
Make it 6, will you?
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Just 6 yards in my saree,
Make it 9, will you?
A few months/years back, Churumuri had posted the One <member of community> / Two <member of community> thing and asked why there were no Kannadigas on the list. So here’s my tuppence… do add yours in the comments section:
One Kannadiga – Udupi Hotel in Singapore/Seoul/San Francisco
Two Kannadigas – Father-son political party
Three Kannadigas – Campus placements at Infy, scheduled to go to the US soon.
Four Kannadigas – Entire Kannada-speaking population of Koramangala and Indiranagar.
Update: Ahh, the tailpiece got churumuri’d. Nice!
Bangalore is Silicon Valley, eh?
As well as being the Capital of Karnataka?
If that is the case, why the hell isn’t there an IMDB entry for Upendra? Bloody hell, even some Miscellaneous Crew Member from Dilwale of the same name gets a mention. Why not our Uppi?
It gets worse.
All that Ka.Ra.Ve does is write ‘Kannada is in our blood’ etc all over Gandhinagar. Why can’t they do the basic needful for Kannada on the Net? Is there no Uppi fan who knows Wiki and IMDB can be edited?
What a sadness.
[I'm no fan of Upendra, not watched more than a couple of his movies, and I found A too... weird. But hell, IMDB entry atleast!]
Update: Here it is, the Wiki page for A. Add content, do.
Little sleep. Tiring day. Hour-long ride home.
So the moment I got into the volvo that’d take me home, I went to the first available seat and proceeded to grab some shut-eye. I pride myself on sharing one trait with Masai warriors. Sadly, it’s not their height. It’s their ability to sleep and wake at will. Okay, make that half a trait… I can go to sleep at will.
Soon, two girls sat opposite me, and a man in the seat next to mine. I barely registered their presence as they kept talking. The conductor came around after quite a while, when I was just about awake thanks to the incessant conversation that I think was about their siblings’ weddings or something.
“Where to?”, the conductor asked. “Udupi Garden”*, said the two girls. “Udupi”, said the man.
“And you?”, he asked me, while one girl made an effort to nudge me awake.
With great effort, I turned around and said “KREC Guest House”**.
*Name of stop in BTM Layout, Bangalore, on the ring road.
**Name of stop closest to Girls Block at NITK
This is more of a bleg post than a rant post.
Okay, just WHAT has happened to Woody’s?
My delight knew no bounds many years ago when Woody’s opened a new branch in Jayanagar 9th Block. A rather closeby alternative for good food, at non-astronomical prices.
It was where we’d go for breakfast when we had guests over, and where we’d go for dinner after a late-night movie. It was THE place for birthdays, and treating friends.
It was also the place for bumping into old friends.
It was most importantly the place where I went right after losing my mobile while coming back from CAT ’07 (No, I didn’t write it, a friend of mine was and she was staying over at my place), and was clueless about what to do next, and was thankful as hell I bumped into my uncle who, like most adults, knew what exactly to do next.
Few visits home that stretched longer than a couple of days were complete without dinner at Woody’s.
Their large expansive structure, with emphasis on cleanliness, and giving you a feeling of being looked after, was a delight after spending weeks at a cramped hostel where you had to queue up for everything from a bath to a meal to getting a form to paying your fees.
Their Chinese wasn’t great, but their SouthIndian, and even their naans and rotis were brilliant.Oh, and what divine starters there were!
And ah, their basundi brooked no comparison to anything except maybe the nectar of the Gods.
Surprisingly, I didn’t give this place much of a thought over the past year, though I’ve been living at home. Maybe because I’ve been living at home and don’t care about eating out.
Changes happened. The place got/is getting renovated. Due to which the structure has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self.
No issues, we thought and went there one evening. And as is usual, asked for the basundi. Nope, we don’t have any sweets this evening, the waiter said. Shock and disbelief. Then we were told it was due to staff shorage.The waiter even agreed with us that the standard has come down, and we all shook our heads together.
Go to the Woody’s on Commercial Street, he suggested. It’s awesome there.
I forgot about that bit of advice. Random shopping spree at Comm Street this evening, which was supposed to end, like other shopping sprees, with pizza. But then, coming across Woody’s brought back that waiter’s advice, and in we went.
I won’t go into details, but I think it’ll suffice to say the food seemed to have been prepared by a new bride. And while I tried to confirm this point with the waiter there, he only grinned and with an apologetic smile said “If the cook is paid, excellent meals are made”, or something to that effect. The headwaiter got an earful too, and he suggested I complain to the manager. Almost like he wanted me to. I did, and it felt like I was talking to a sphinx.
So what the hell IS going on in this place? Recession? Someone do let me know… I really want to know how quality could do such a backflip in such a short time.
There are times when I splurge, and there are times when I’m rather…. economical. I’m not ashamed of exhibiting the latter behaviour, and successfully ignore stares from rude waiters when I do not tip, or bookstore owners when they say “Thisees naat ye library”.
But occasionally, I do end up blushing. Like today.
Usual bookstore whose owner doesn’t quite mind me finishing the pulp-fic pop-lit in the store. Not when I actually do buy more durable tomes from him with amazing regularity.
I came across one of those tiny books which give you daily predictions for a whole year, based on your Sun sign. Found the right one. Found it was cellotaped shut.
Now I had no intention of buying that book, given one-third of the year is done. But I wanted to test the accuracy of the damn thing. Just like I read the day’s forecast after I am done for the day.
So since the cellotape was only around the middle of the book, I tried peering through the ends of the book, for one specific date to check if the book was on track there. Feb 10, Feb 14, Feb 15…. and I see the proprietor giving me a look.
I tried giving my best ‘Well, you caught me with my hand in the cookie jar for the gazillionth time since I was four years old, now what?’ look, but he just smiled and said
That’s not for Taurus, that’s for Aries
This is what happens when you’ve been going to the same bookstore since before you learned to read.
PS: I find in most stores that such books are present for all the sun signs with the exeption of Taurus… why? Is there more demand for these books among Taureans?
A hard day’s night, spent in fitful slumber. The morning after, spent in some more fitful slumber. Woken up to shouts of “If you remain sleeping like this, how will you vote?”.
I seem to have come a long way from since I was a kid, when elections were a source of endless joy to kids.
My center was a bit of a distance from my house, and man! you wouldn’t know there was an election going on. No sign absolutely, except for traffic jams on the narrow approach roads to the school.
A few tables under a few trees had folks who gave you your serial number. You took that and went to the relevant voting booth. They checked your photo ID and inked your finger. You went behind a cardboard screen and pressed a button. You heard a beep. It’s all over.
Hardly any sign that an election was on, save this fat youngish man who jumped in front of you and said “Naane Krishna Byre Gowda, medam, nannige vote haaki. Candidate #2 medam”. And young men in orange shirts saying ‘Saar saar, BJP-ge vote, saar, Ananth Kumar-ge vote maadi, saar’. And one ingenious guy who’d procured a model EVM panel from somewhere with Ananth Kumar’s name marked on it and showed you which button to press.Random kids running around with Congress flags. One of the ran upto my mother and said ‘Aunty, aunty, vote for Congress, aunty’. She said they had to be studying, not doing this sort of a job. They gave back a cheesy ‘aadre ivattu school illvalla aunty?’ That was about it.
And man, how many independents! The list of candidates was crazily long. I could have taught my two-year-old neighbor names of all the fruits and flowers just by showing her the EVM panel. No one seems to have cared about most of them… and hell, I didn’t even know Vatal Nagaraj was standing for elections till then!
A long long time back, when I was not old enough to vote, I used to live rather close to Vijaya Junior College, an election center. So you’d have folks coming to your door right from 7:30 am, exhorting you to vote. Not that anyone in our street needed it; every house had atleast one politically-aware member, in most cases, a grandfather, to drag the whole family off to vote even before the booth opened.
And that was a necessity…. someone else’d vote in your name if they could.
And the crowds! People thronged the place to vote. My uncle would check out the booth numbers well in advance just so that the rest of the family wasn’t caught in confusion and crowd when they went to vote. And maybe that’s why you hear stories only of families being separated at the Kumbh Mela and not at polling centers.
The path to the election center was lined with posters and buntings and whatnot. So many party symbols, so many colours. Bright orange ones for the BJP with Lord Ram posters, green-bordered ones with a wheel for JD, and… funnily, I don’t remember anything from the Congress campaign… maybe they thought they were beyond advertising, being so famous and all. You’d have partyLeader lookalikes, huge cutouts of politicians, and people shouting out slogans on microphones. And then you reached a desk which would mostly be manned by a volunteer you happened to know, and who wouldn’t wait until you told him your name to look it up and give you your booth number. And then you stood in queue with a gazillion others. When your turn came, they’d look at your ration card copy, make a mark against your name, a mark on your finger, and give you a ballot paper and point you to behind a cardboard screen. You stamped the paper and came out.
My grandfather took me to watch the fun, and the lady with the indelible ink very kindly obliged us by inking my finger as well. And I could show off in school the next day that I had ‘voted’
Talking of which… the indelible ink back then was some variant of ballpoint ink, and stayed where it was put for a week or two. Not like the ink now, which flows all over your hand and can be erased within minutes.
And enthu levels ohmigod…. all the old-timers on the street had taken it upon themselves to keep the poll fever on. They discussed, canvassed, volunteered, watched the news… and basically set the atmosphere. Even the oldest, senilest, illest folks turned up to vote, propped up by their sons or daughters-in-law. I remember this really ancient man on our street who went about telling the whole place to vote for BJP, vote for the lotus. And then comes out of the polling booth with a grin on his face, and when someone asked him who he voted for, he said with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Naanu chakrakke haakidini ‘ (I voted for the wheel (JD)).
Now my neighbors can hardly be bothered to get off their seats and trudge all the way to a center a kilometer away. There are no enthu old-timers either, to initiate conversation and discussion.
But most of all, I miss the entire election atmosphere. Even without the exit-poll gag, or saree and TV distribution, there should have been more of an atmosphere. I feel this is important, because it makes you feel like election is some sort of a ceremony, like bursting crackers on Diwali. Not some boring ‘fundamental duty’ you need to perform and get little in return, like paying taxes.
It should feel like it’s worth going back home after going half the way to the polling booth just to get your voter ID and come back, to vote. [For once, it wasn't me who forgot an all-important document before leaving the house.... it was my mother]. It shouldn’t bite that you are but one insignificant bit of a billion, and your vote is just a .000001% (figures not accurate) of the electorate.
And for that, nothing helps better than arrangements that look elaborate, and the infectious enthusiasm pervading the atmosphere for weeks before the polling date. It makes you feel like you’re doing something that matters, not like you’re wasting precious hours of work-free existence to take part in an activity from which you don’t get anything in the short run, a thankless job.
I don’t get why there’s a ban on offering voters TV sets and sarees. Or even cash. It’s all an incentive for people to come out and vote. Anyway it’s just one vote they can cast, great if they get something for it. Secret ballot is still guaranteed in this country for those who ask for it, so it’s quite a possibility voters take the saree/TV/cash and still vote for whoever they want…. atleast that’s what the flower-lady, the fruit-lady and all those folks I know who are lucky enough to get an incentive for voting do. I hate this mai-baap attitude of the government which presumes people are dumb enough to vote for anyone who gives them a saree.
My relatives in the US were talking about how during their presidential elections they don’t have any indelible ink, or extreme security measures, or loud campaigns which disturb their sleep…. the whole election process they said was so civilized, a far cry from the chaos in their homeland. [Aside: It brings to mind an image of folks walking into an election booth Apple-1984 style chanting "Obama, Obama".] Folks, don’t worry so much, we’re moving towards there.
Now if there was one aspect in which I’d beg people to not ape the West, I’d not talk about pub culture, or broken homes, or unhealthy food, or materialism, or capitalism or whatever crap… I’d just say leave our election fever be!
Bleg: I was wondering about ways to subvert the poll process, cast ultiple votes, capture booths and things like that. What are the chinks in the system? How do you sneak in votes in a number significant enough to make a difference? How much is possible without the compliance of the folks on election duty? How many folks on election duty actually subvert the process? What are the checks for the same? Someone kindly enlighten me.
Went for a Women’s Quiz conducted for Women’s Day by KQA. It was held right after BizKashi – the Biz Quiz. There were only five teams, so there wasn’t even a need to conduct prelims.
I didn’t originally intend to attend the Women’s Quiz… the Biz Quiz was supposed to be the relaunch quiz of my quiz team from school… nope, I’m not going to lapse into memories here, don’t worry. Great quiz, though I must say I’m rusty… obviously didn’t make it to the finals. Enjoyed being part of the audience… it was a fun quiz to attend. A good set of questions, very well set.
And… I enjoyed it more than the tailored-for-women’s-day-and-women Women’s Quiz. Basically it was because of the sort of quizzing I like. I have a bad memory, and hence I don’t much like questions like ‘Identify [enter image of obscurish person/movie]‘, but absolutely adore questions of the form [first para of wiki article with named entities replaced by random letters of the alphabet], or [obscure question common answer].
The quiz in itself was torn between being a Women’s Day Quiz and a Quiz for Women. I was half-expecting to be asked about the common term for Fuller’s Earth (Multani Mitti), or the history of the woman on who Miranda Priestly’s character was based on, now that would have been fun…. but no, it was about boring overachieving women who did inspiring but boring things like win the Nobel.
But frankly… I didn’t get the need for such a difference between the two quizzes. Was it set that way because of some research that proves women are better at recollecting stuff while men are better in working out and analyzing? Or is ‘identify’ seen as being easier than ‘work out’, and women being inferior in quizzing when compared to men need an easier time?
Which brings us to another point I wish to bring attention to… why do so few women quiz? As far as I’ve seen, it’s a matter of priorities and interest… at NITK, most girls were more focussed on a lot of activities which weren’t involved in quizzing and hence there was a low turnout… but why is that? In a population of 250-odd girls in B.Tech, only one or two at max would be interested? Wonder why?
And so it is Women’s Day. Lots of lip-service for women’s rights and all that yada… I’m frankly bored, but I acknowledge extreme-feminists should definitely exist for a healthy society…. just as extreme leftists and rightists should.
What I understand of feminism is this. Basically, for long, women weren’t supposed to think. And had very few choices to make. And as we know, people with fewer choices to make are happier people…. so this arrangement seemed to suit everyone. Then came feminism, suffragette movement and suchlike things. They wanted to get women to think. To not be afraid to think. They wanted women to be independent. Take their own decisions.
But well, they intentionally or unintentionally forgot one tiny detail. That you have to take responsibility for yourself and any decision you take. And there you go. Now you have a bunch who believe in power without responsibility. They forget that being an independent woman doesn’t entitle you to perks, apart from those that come out of sensitivity and common sense. They forget that misandry is equivalent to misogyny.
And then things like Mona Lisa Smile. The movie starring Julia Roberts. I don’t much have an issue with it, but with the people who idolize it. Why do ‘progressive’ women tend to look down upon those women who’ve chosen family over career? That’s what feminism was all about, right? To be able to choose as well as to increase the number of choices? And such a choice is something personal, like religion… you shouldn’t be judged on it… and like innerwear – it’s a matter of what’s most comfortable. And not everyone wants pink.
That said, when I ask “What do you do?’ and I receive an answer like ‘I’m bringing up the future of the world’, it does strike me very much as some sort of a consolationPrize answer. Or an excuse for being lazy. I don’t have an issue with others giving up career for family… just that I don’t like the phrasing.
I’ve met some teenaged girls whose aim in life is to “get married and settle down’ (No, they are not villagers, but from very well-off families where their parents want them to become lawyers and consultants, and are willing to foot the tuition for all of that)… I’m not an advocate of that, just to clarify. No matter what you’ll say about parenting being a fulltime job, if you find time hanging heavy on your hands while waiting for kids to come back from school…. you need a life. Just like I’ll say you need a life if you say you’re very busy and don’t have time to look at your kids’ faces.
A couple of months back, I was watching some of the Pan-IIT videos. One of them was about the low numbers of women in Sci-Tech. The problem is basically that most organizations aren’t women-friendly. More often than not, it’s ignorance and perspective that’s the trouble. Like take for example this situation. Woman’s on a critical project near the deadline. Work goes on till pretty late. Woman’s family doesn’t much like the whole staying late and nightouting. Woman feels work is such and asking for concessions would be un-feministic. Woman understands concern of family and gives in. Woman is seen as putting family over career. Woman given low priority during promotions and the like.
Now there’s definitely a holistic approach that’ll work for everyone, but the problem is no one’s going to begin thinking that way unless they are told to…. not coming across women in the workspace for long doesn’t much equip you well to be sensitive to women in your workplace.
And one lady brought it up that IITs are generally unfriendly places as far as women are concerned. Her point was that it brought in the worst of all evils of society in a closed location. At NITK, I’ve come across the lowest forms of MCPness, the saddest forms of prejudice, the worst perceptions of women…. I can empathize.
A good number of men seem to agree – some openly, some not so openly – that women aren’t as smart as men. They go on as far as to say it might probably be the result of having two X chromosomes…. some sort of genetic modification that might have happened…. or maybe women were just meant to be dumb. Oh, and their justification when attacked is “I have never met a woman as smart as a man’. And when you do give some examples where a woman is indeed smarter than most men around her, she is classified as a freak of nature, or her character and means of obtaining success is debated upon. These are not people from the Sri Rama Sene, but just regular engineering college students not necessarily from a feudal background.
Muthalik is just one of those men who shout out their opinion on women in public. There are tons who share the opinion, though silently. In that way, Muthalik is not the problem, but one of the symptoms of a much larger problem…. other symptoms include tame, yet dangerous private opinions like mentioned before.
Most of the issues are due to lack of communication and empathy and sensitivity. IMO, sensitization should be a mandatory part of syllabus (rhetoric… not to be taken literally), considering the backgrounds of most people who enter IITs and NITs. The problems that occur here occur less in places with more balanced gender ratios. And that’s why we need to improve the gender ratio in Sci-Tech. To prevent the objectification and stereotyping of women from festering.
We also need more women who are roleModel-material. Comments like the one above occur due to a dearth of these. If all the women you’ve grown up seeing are simpering nagging housewives, or chammak challo sorts, chances are high you’ll assume all women are either one of the two or freaks of nature. And that is irrespective of your gender.
But frankly, I’d not be giving the complete picture if I didn’t say that at NITK, I’ve also come across some of the nicest, most empathetic, most accomodating and most sensitive men I’ve ever met… and I’m a much better, happier person for it.
So the Strand Book Festival is on, and I wanted to give it the once-over. A free weekend, the prospect of doing absolutely nothing the whole of Saturday loomed large. I didn’t seem to know anyone with as much enthu for Strand as me… or did I?
Chapter 1: The Strand DarkHorse-and-WhiteElephant Market
So my EvereadyToChillOut cousin and I found ourselves at Chinnaswamy Stadium wondering which of the three halls to check out first.
Big difference…. all of them were the darned same. For once, I didn’t feel like buying the entire bookstore. And no, that is not a compliment. The quality of books has dipped like crazy in my opinion. It’s full of crazy pseudosecular nonsense, the very titles of which have my blood pressure rising. Kancha Ilaiah has quite a few of his titles for sale. All Brahmin-bashing nonsense that wouldn’t stand scrutiny for a minute. C’mon, his logic is like “Hindus like cows. Hindus don’t like buffaloes. Cows are white. Buffaloes are black. Hence, Hindus are racist. QED”.
Apart from that, I didn’t think much of the quality of the fiction available. Most of it was racy pulp-fic-pop-lit that I really couldn’t justify paying for. There wasn’t much of Indian fiction, and most of the ones that were there were the NRI-rediscovering-roots types.
As for the title here, the prices were, like we say in Tamil, elephant-price-horse-price. The ‘Dark’ for the number of books there that had shot to fame after languishing unread for ages, like Holy Blood Holy Grail and the ‘White’ coz the eye-catching books were all these foot-long books full of awesome hi-res pics of people and places which cost a neat packet to buy, but served little purpose.
“Why do you go one week late? You should go on opening day! No wonder you’re disappointed”, chided my father when I called to ask if he or mum wanted anything. In the end, the only decent thing I found was a Japanese-English-Japanese dictionary my mum wanted. And an ‘Oils for Beginners’ book I found for sis, but in the time she took to make her mind up as to whether she wanted that one or the one on watercolors or the one on sketching, someone else filched it. Funnily, the exact same thing had happened last year. But then I’d returned later and found another copy of the book she wanted. I don’t think that’ll be happening anytime soon with this edition of Strand Book Festival.
I felt really insignificant standing in line to buy ONE slim volume when others were having basketloads of books. It has never happened before that I walk away nearly emptyhanded from a book exhibition… So on an impulse I bought Vikram Seth’s From Heaven Lake, a travelogue about his trips to Sinkiang and Tibet. Let’s see how it reads.
Chapter 2: A lot can happen over… Luchi!!
Cousin and I were rather starved, and had enough time for a small snack. So we hit KC Das. Cousin was rather sick of sweets for some reason, and we decided we’d order savouries. It’s quite a crowded place, where you don’t get a table to yourself. You end up sitting wherever you find a couple of free chairs, and no one minds. We ordered Luchi after deciding Sev would be an overdose of good stuff. At our table were a couple in the last stages of their meal, and they soon left.
While we were wondering if we should order a sweet to go along with this, this lady walked in. I assumed her to be Bong, because of her large, large eyes. Her eyes were rather shifty, and her body tense. Her manner was confused as she asked us if the seat opposite us was taken. We said it was not. She was in the last stages of a phone conversation as she put her bag, couple of magazines and a file folder on the table and proceeded to beckon the waiter.
Just then, a man came to her and said “Magazine”. And I thought her confusion couldn’t get worse. He pointed to the magazines in a cover next to her and said “Pay”. She said “But I paid!” and proceeded to hunt for the bill. This man then reached under her file folder and withdrew a blue glossy magazine. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I got a call and I walked away with it”, she said, more to us than to him.”I was calling a friend, had to meet her, and my cellphone battery was low… my cellphone battery is low…”. I told her it was nothing to worry about and that I walked away with the pen in the NITK library so many times (but mind you, I alwasy returned it when I realized I had it) that the librarian tied a string around it; such things are normal.
“Are you guys from Bangalore itself? God, after a point this city gets so boring!”. She seemed to be talking to herself. “Yeah, it’s rather boring for folks who don’t have a family here”, I said, after ascertaining she was indeed talking to me.”Where do you normally hang around? I live in Lavelle Road and so I hang around here… it’s so boring, nothing new here!”. “Oh, CMH and Indiranagar, South Bangalore…” “Oh yeah, CMH Road… I used to have… I have a friend who lives there, and we used to hang around at the CMH Road Coffee Day…. but that was two years ago. I haven’t met him since TWO YEARS! Oh God, what is happening??”.
“Egad, what’s happening” is what we were wondering too. “You seem rather tense… are you going to write an exam or something?” I offered. “Oh, no, she said, in a confused, distracted voice, “I’m just feeling rather lost. I seem to have lost it in life *nervous giggle*”.
Our orders arrived and we dug in. (On an aside, I now know after that meal why Bongs all eat meat. If you butcher vegetarian preparations like that with only a modicum of seasoning and spice, it is but natural that even Hitler would have taken to eating meat). She enquired whether we were students or professionals. We told her. I have no clue as to what she does, coz that bit was a hazy blur of college names, course names and place names, interspersed with enquiries of other totally unrelated programs. There was something about Mounts, something else about Christ and Josephs, and then something about Coimbatore. And then something about Geneva.
“What are you guys doing here?” she asked. We told her. “Oh, books… somehow I’ve never been able to understand how people can read such big books. You’ve to follow some goddamn long story also along with all those words.. I prefer magazines”. To each his own, but keep away from me with a ten-foot broomstick, girl, was what I wanted to say, but instead I said, “You can read travelogues also.. there’s not much of stories in those.. and short story collections are not so demanding on the attention span”.
“So what did you buy?”. We told her. Considering the amount of comforting she seemed to need, I think I would have told her the secret of the Holy Grail had she cared to ask. “Ohhh we share such common interests. I’ll be going to Geneva soon, so I’m interested in languages too”. Er.. Japanese… European… how common are we really? “So.. which do you recommend? Spanish? Italian? German?”. Instead of shrugging, I went on to elucidate why German was a better option. And I even happened to have a Max Mueller Bhavan handout in my jacket pocket, and handed it to her when she asked about the courses.
“Where are you from?” we asked her when she lapsed into a tense silence. “Coimbatore”, she said. “Ohh Tamizhaa?” we asked, with broad grins. “Yes” she replied and continued in English.
We were done with our meal. We asked for the bill. Oh WTH… they combined our bills!! We told her we needed to split it. She wasn’t done eating yet. She asked me to reach over to her bag, pick out her purse, and take out a Rs. 100 note. We paid our share but were still wondering WHAT was with this girl! Yeah, cousin and I are renowned for our innocent looks, but this really was careless.
After paying our share, we got up to leave. She said, “Stay till I finish, please?”. We obliged. She asked about trekking spots around Bangalore. We mentioned Muthathi. She was done. We got a call asking us where we were. It was time to leave.
We said it was nice meeting someone who was not a software engineer. We wished her luck with Geneva.
Out in the street, we wondered WHAT happened in the past half an hour. We’d never experienced anything like this before. (Oh, there was one incident where an old man suddenly called the same cousin and I when we were on our way home and ordered us to hail him an auto to Kamakhya, and was very very dissed when we hesitantly told him we had an appointment and gave us a dirty look as if we’d betrayed him or something). We didn’t know women naive enough to admit to complete strangers that they’re confused and are distracted or that their cellphone battery is low and they can’t make calls. We’ve never met anyone caught so off-guard. No, not even those middle-aged maamis on the Lalbagh Express who’ll tell you their life story at the drop of a hat and bitch about their mothers-in-law before you can say “maanga uruga” give an impression of this much naivete or helplessness.
It’s rather amazing to meet different sorts of people, and it’s comforting to know that you’re not the naivest person this world has seen… And it sure does feel good to speed up the return of people from extra-tense to normal, especially of people who don’t know you.
Oh, and it sure is nice to talk to strangers every once in a while.
I have relatives and friends in Mumbai. Luckily they live on the outskirts, nowhere near Colaba. Though, my uncle had been to the Taj that afternoon. He returned back to base much before anything happened, thankfully. Just like he was planning on going jogging on the beach in Pondicherry the morning of the Tsunami, but changed his mind at 5 am… but that’s beside the point.
Oh, and I was supposed to go to Forum Mall but didn’t the day they found explosives there. And I watched them defuse a bomb outside Military School on July 25 on my way back home.
After all these ‘close-shaves’, what am I supposed to feel? I can’t feel ‘the spirit of India’ or ‘the resilience of the people’. It is a scary feeling when you know you could have been pushing the daisies along with the rest of the victims. You certainly do not want to feel that emotion again. It’s not the same feeling as thanking God for saving you when you narrowly miss falling off a skyscraper or something. Because you know that a terrorist attack means sure death or maiming, and that it can happen to anyone anytime. And a terror attack is NOT an accident.
Everyone says ‘we need to stay calm’. Yes, I know panic makes things worse, but how can I put my mind at rest when I’ll be had next time if not this time? I don’t mind not panicking, but they expect me to behave as if nothing’s wrong. When it so clearly is.
Everyone says ‘Be resilient, if we show we are affected, the terrorists have had their way’. Why should I pretend nothing’s happened? Doesn’t the incident deserve the attention it does? Don’t I need to acknowledge in some way? Some way different from placing flowers and lighting candles, of course.
And I feel helpless, because there is nothing I can do to stop these attacks. My life is not in my own hands. It never was, but there never was this level of uncertainity when it came to “Will I be alive and well in the next fifteen days?”. And there is nothing I can do about it.
Or is there?
There must be some way citizens can assert their right to live.
Voting is one way. But the average Indian considers it a choice between the Devil and the deep blue sea. Anyway, I don’t think there is any point in advising people about who to vote for… that is the job of others.
I suppose we should form Citizens’ Vigilance Groups. Because terror can’t take such a form without the explicit complicity of locals. When people can agitate so much that people stop bursting crackers during Diwali, I’m sure people can go about educating others on the little things they do that create a loophole which terrorists use. You can go about making it compulsory for police verification of prospective tenants, but nothing will happen unless citizens themselves take the initiative.
You have richkid Rahul Bose blabbing that he does not want India to become a Police State. I’m sure he and his ilk will successfully stop any stringent measure to contain terrorists from being implemented. So what’s the solution? Locality watch. Where people of a certain locality make sure they know each other reasonably well that any oddness is spotted immediately. Like the guy claiming to be from Gulbarga, but who speaks English and Urdu and not Kannada or Marathi. Or the guy claiming to be a Malay citizen but who speaks Urdu and doesn’t pepper his sentences with ‘Lah’s and doesn’t know too much about KL and doesn’t know about the existence of Michelle Yeoh. Or the engineer from NITC who has strange friends dropping over. Or the reclusive Yahoo! engineer who stops everyone at the door and says bye.
Sure, it’s not going to stop all attacks, but it makes it a wee bit more harder for them to find a safe house.
And… such a group which shares a common interest will be able to agitate for speedy justice to be administered in case of caught terrorists, and balance out those Human-Rights activists.
We have groups to agitate for water, power and good roads in their localities. Since basic safety is a more pressing concern, why can’t existing groups make it part of their agenda?
Janaagraha, Mr. Ramesh Ramanathan, are you listening?
Update: I guess I exaggerated the vigilantism bit. It probably wouldn’t have that much of an impact in that direction, considering there are always entire neighbourhoods full of brainwashed folks who’ll very nicely collude in hiding terrorists. But where citizens can help is in forming pressure groups. Groups that pressurize the government and media to make sure terror is not let go scot free. Like people can agitate for the immediate execution of Afzal Guru, or pressurize the ATS into investigating all these attacks more efficiently… or something like that.
Another area where citizen groups can help is in creating awareness. Jaago Re and all is great, but groups of citizens just like you telling you to get off your seat and register yourself to vote has a better impact that radio and TV ads. Also, most people have a very cliched idea of politics, and assume it’s all blame-game and siphoning off funds. This perception needs to be changed, because it is not true of all politicians. It’ll be great if these citizen groups actually went about spreading awareness about each political party, each controversy, and told people not just the TRP-generating stuff. Distant dream, lots of technical glitches here – like how do you keep it unbiased , but worth a try all the same.
Godwin’s Law: “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
Priya’s Indian adaptation: “As any public debate rages on, the probability of a comparison involving the Taliban approaches one.“
Any instance of the government even slightly showing muscle in matters that involve personal law or society at large, and there you go! You start encountering phrases like “Talibanization of Indian Society”.
Nowhere else has it been this pronounced as it is in the rebel yell against the 11:30 PM deadline in Bangalore. Bangalore Times, which has embraced this cause as its own, has daily columns by local celebrities (which it has created itself over the past few years, for use in situations like these) which scream again and again about how brutal the administration is.
No big deal… there are whiners always.
But what struck me is that no one, not a single soul has gone about this issue in a sensible way. Any wannabe party-goer immediately denounces the whole deal as Taliban. No one takes the point of view of the police, or the government. And worse, they treat this like it’s a decision of the City Police… why isn’t anyone seeing that they merely implement the law, not frame it! If they really did have an issue, they should stop conducting toothless campaigns like these (which only serve to tarnish the name of the city police… for doing their duty) and take the matter up in court.
The problem with this sort of approach is that the real issues are lost in the din. Has anyone bothered to check if there is a real reason behind the implementation of this law? No, I don’t mean the one that says the authorities love to Talibanize the city. Possibly the one that says that most of the dancing that goes on is done for money… I mean the bar girls. Flesh trade forms a major portion of the earnings of the seedier joints. And these also serve as hubs of extortion… you get the idea.
And then you have cases of drunken driving.
Now how is a short-staffed force supposed to deal with this? Especially since most of the owners of seedy joints are well-connected. And so are the drunk drivers. No, don’t say education is the answer… how many drunk drivers are illiterate? How many drunk people actually hail an autorickshaw to go home? Booking them hasn’t been effective so far.
There might have been a Justice For Jessica campaign, and Nanda might have been finally convicted, but who knows how many Jessicas have gone unnoticed? Can there be a media campaign for each victim of drunken misbehaviour? And is each campaign guaranteed to work? Is a media campaign the only way of ensuring justice?
if the answer to the last one is yes, it’s a very sad day indeed for the country. The Mafia-ization of India will be complete.
So… well… I’m not arguing drinking is evil. There are people who think drinking rocks, and yet another sizeable population which doesn’t quite agree. And the former group imposing their point of view on the latter is as good an example of Talibanization as the other way around.
So now how do the authorities strike a balance? I suppose “Greater good to the greatest number of people” is a common-enough heuristic to use. And an outright ban seems to give the authorities some teeth to deal with the hubs of flesh trade.
And I suppose not being able to drink in a public place after 11:30 PM is a small price to pay when you compare it to the number of girls being dragged away from their home villages and being sold. Surely the party-goers of Bangalore can afford to make a small sacrifice for this greater good?
PS: There are so many points being made in favour of bar girls, bar dancing, and legalizing prostitution. Now before you even think of saying something on those lines, give this a thought. Prostitution is legal in Germany. Sehr gut, these BgT celebrities will say, showing off what they learnt last Saturday at Max Mueller Bhavan. But then, when Angelika Hannehmann files for unemployment benefits due to an IT industry slowdown, the folks there will say, why do we need to pay you unemployment benefits? You can quite easily earn money! Prostitution is too a profession!
For the past one month, my movements have been at the mercy of Bengalooru Mahanagara Saarige Samsthe. I’m astonished at the distance I’ve covered in that time… only wish they gave out goodies for frequent hangers (most of the distance has been covered while hanging onto a narrow strip of cloth fixed to a metal railing).
I guess the amount I’ve travelled is colossal only coz initially I had no clue about the easiest routes to take, and tried to avoid Silk Board at all costs, apart from preferring frequency of buses over total distance covered. End result, I travelled from the eastern end of the city to the city center and then to the south-east, and the other way too. And THEN i was informed about the easier way out by a good conductor. Now, that was a shock; it cut my travelling time by half!
Anyway, like they say, learn from others’ mistakes…. here are mine, and how you can avoid making the same ones I made.
- Don’t, don’t, don’t ever say “NIMHANS hogabeku” while asking for a ticket. Not everyone will understand that you’re going to just wait for another bus at the stop there.
- When in doubt, go to Majestic. Or, at worst, Shivajinagar. Never, ever, ever take a bus to KR Market. You might or might not live to regret it.
- If you hate crowds, catch the pre-6:30 AM buses.
- If the aforementioned bus is a red-board, the above if-condition is violated, and so is your sense of personal space.
- And if it’s headed towards KR Market…. be prepared to share space with hens, eggs, baskets of grass, vegetables, and senile old ladies with betel-stained teeth and snuff-hardened voices, and the flurry of a Kannadiga dialect of Tamil.
- “Richmond Circle” is imaginary. Now has anyone seen the Equator? Well, Richmond Circle falls in the same category. Popular opinion is divided whether it’s on Residency Road or on Richmond Road. Though another school of thought puts it approximately near Mayo Hall, there still exists another which says it’s next to Shoolay Circle.
- The best-ever way to kill time is to catch 201. It takes you all the way from Srinagar to Domlur. The point is, it doesn’t do so through just the Ring Road – it takes a deviation at Koramangala to go all through CMH Road, Jeevanbimanagar, Indiranagar, Halasur, Murphy Town, Richmond Road, and god alone knows where else, just to head back to Domlur which is max twenty minutes from Koramangala. And this deviation takes two hours, at best.
- BMTC driver-conductor yaavattu route tappalla. They can never be wrong on the routes. This, I got from a self-righteous conductor when I expressed doubts about whether the route he told me about was feasible.
- In conflict with the above point is this one. I travel too much by bus. This I demonstrated when I directed a n00b driver on the right turnings to go to Old Madras Road from Murphy Town.
- You get verbally abused if you lack exact change. If you can abuse back, nothing like it.
- You need to be a frickin’ domineering bitchy bossy tough nut to be a BMTC checking inspector. There was this lady inspector who fined a passenger for not having a proper ticket. She said the conductor refused to change it for her irrespective of the number of times she asked (which I can vouch for), but the inspectre (boy, was she scary!) said it was the passenger’s fault as she didn’t create a big ruckus, due to which the conductor was encouraged to carry on the fraud!
- Etymologies! I didnt know Halasur was named after the Halasina Hannu (jackfruit) trees around the lake. And I thought CMH was just another kewl abbreviation… but it’s actually Chinmaya Mission Hospital. And BTM is Byrasandra-Tavarekere-Madiwala.
- East Bangalore consists of highwaymen who rob you under the guise of a little ‘extra’ for the grand favour of letting you use their autorickshaw.
- One-ways are the enemy of habitual bus-hoppers. Now if you have a BMTC pass of some sort, it’s hard to resist the temptation of jumping from one bus to another in the hope that the new one might move a bit faster. Especially when you’re in the middle of a traffic jam. Now I came across a bus which I would have had to catch two stops hence, on the one-way near Dickenson Road. In the middle of the traffic jam, I get off the bus I’m on, and run into the new bus. But ahh… turns out it’s going the other way, away from my destination. Added an hour to my travel time, that did.
- Vajra is a very good example of daylight robbery. These are some ‘special’ buses, coloured grey to show the area of law in which they operate. They charge one-and-a-half times the usual rate, but for what? The seats are not more comfortable, the bus is not air-conditioned, and it’s not even limited-stop. Bah!
- Stop names are a result of public usage. So you have ‘Sony World’, not Ejipura, it’ll take some time for ‘LRDE’ to be rechristened ‘Bagmane’, Fraser Town will never be known as Pulakeshinagar, irrespective of what the BBMP tries, and no one knows ‘Murphy Town’, everyone knows only ‘Church’. And where the hell is Gurappan Palya? Everyone only knows Jayadeva.
- An-n-n-d… it’s a small world, after all! Just today, I got to meet a friend of mine I hadn’t set eyes on for close to six years now. But that isn’t it… I happen to travel with the same set of giggly girls every morning, and they turned out to be classmates of my cousin. And that’s not all, they turn out to be the same ones I hear her comment about every now and then. And what’s even better, they were commenting about her! Turns out it sure is fun to hear both sides of the story.
- To finish off, I’d like to talk about the indomitable human spirit (The same thing you read about in Readers’ Digest). Everyday, I happen to travel on the same route as this lady who travels all the way from Jayanagar to ITPL, for a job in a garment factory. She’s hardly five feet tall, makes excellent conversation, jumps buses with impunity as she has a pass. There are hundreds who fit that description, I suppose… but then, this lady is completely blind! She knew bus routes like the back of her hand – she helps out a lot of noobs, she doesn’t depend on anyone else to tell her what bus it is, she doesn’t ask for help to get on and get off, she vacates the reserved seat in the front of the bus with a crisp ‘Excuse me’… “How do you manage?” I asked her. “I can’t bother about distance and the like when I have a living to make!”, she said. And another thing I noticed is how helpful the BMTC folks are – they assist her without being patronizing. They always make sure she gets a fair deal. And since she’s such a regular, she’s takes active part in the banter. The thing is, she never ASKS for help, and it’s so ingrained in the people to -for want of a better word- help her out when she needs it, that they don’t consider it out of place. Hats off to this wonderful city, where all that matters is your drive, determination and zest to live.