How I Got My Visa, and other stories.


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.

The Judgement

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.

Weird.

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!

Illness

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.

Political Trippin’

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*.

Consulling

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?

And…

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Just 6 yards in my saree,
Make it 9, will you?

Tailpiece

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.

What say?

Update: Ahh, the tailpiece got churumuri’d. Nice!

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
This entry was posted in Attempts at Humour, Bangalore, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to How I Got My Visa, and other stories.

  1. Usha Raghavan says:

    I loved your blog… As always I find it funny and entertaining. Looking forward to seeing you here…

  2. Logik says:

    Ah. Dialectic issues. I liked the ” my Tamil ain’t Tamil” and the “Tailpiece” short-stories 🙂
    ‘Scripted by Mu.Ka’.. he he

    And Autoriksha-fu. I see you’ve caught up with some Iyer Matter as well. Nice. very much necessary in blore. Pretty much useless for me at least in chennai. Sweetly I give 50 bucks off.

  3. Pingback: And five Kannadigas are Kannada activists?!*^ « churumuri

  4. tanima says:

    Hey priya, awsome as always 🙂

  5. Miss M says:

    Auto rides. I miss them!

    No, not the prices though, only the ride itself. And I’ve never dared to bargain. Mostly cos’ I chicken out of it and pay whatever unreasonable amount they ask for. I know. Shame on me! 😦

  6. karthik says:

    Five Kannadigas – Can be overheard talking in English.

    Good one, that! Nice read, as usual.

    So which university are you joining?

    (Also, judgment. Sorry.)

  7. sg says:

    Nice. That’s all for now 😉

  8. Malaveeka says:

    He he. Very funny.

    And very well written.

    You say sokka? Seriously?

  9. Shwetha says:

    Yeah the kids these days are overflowing with confidence. . And not the adults! “My Tamil is not Tamil” and the “Tailpiece” reminded me of my difficulty in learning Tamil. . Nice post. . and Congrats and best wishes from my side Priya. . 🙂

    • wanderlust says:

      actually, it turned out that not all kids are brimming with confidence… only the really young ones with hardly any stage experience.
      thanks for the wishes 🙂

  10. Vijay says:

    Came here from Churumuri..the Kannadiga stuff was brilliant…

  11. Now that I’ve shifted to Madras, my Tamil is often subjected to great analysis. My parents have Kerala and Andhra influences and so does their Tamil (and mine, consequently). An share auto driver, thoroughly confused by the language I was talking to my brother in on the phone (we mix Kannada in our Tamil also), asked me if I was from Madurai!
    ___

    Also, LOL on the manja pai bit.
    ___

  12. Arjun says:

    Found a bunch of Tam guys here. At LAST I can say “I am escape!!” and find someone who can identify with the sentiment. One of the dudes, after we had finished our free meal at a temple here, said “Vaa-ppa, abase aayiDlaam.”

    So happy.

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