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It’s been a couple of weeks since I shifted to Bangalore, and whenever someone asks me how’s the place, I respond with an automated message, “oh it’s great, except for the traffic that makes you suicidal.” If you’re someone who loves driving like me, you’d understand what I mean. It’s the kind of town when you tune into radio while driving to work, and the RJ says, “I’m giving up my daily samachaar at 08:08AM to warn you people not to go to work in case you haven’t started yet. The entire city’s traffic situation is satya-naas.” Could you ask for a brighter morning?

However, this sob story is all too well known to everyone. Being the optimist that I am, I try to find a silver lining in any situation that gets thrown in front of me. New company delays joining – I get more time with my wife. Mother cites aadi maasam sentiment to not move into new house – we invite ourselves to friend’s place for a month to party hard. Car’s gone in for service – let’s pick up an Uber pool to commute.

So that’s how I unassumingly hired an Uber pool last evening to go from the KR puram tin-factory area to Trident Hyundai’s showroom on the intermediate ring road off the Domlur flyover to pickup my car from service. I was logical enough to cross the road so that I’d be in the direction in which I need to commute, got into the cab. The cab driver, Suresh, was a very well mannered person (judgmental assumption from one gentleman to another), and addressed me “Sir” at every conversation, and we start talking about traffic related stuff.

Fifteen minutes later we’ve crossed a whole fifty meters in the evening traffic, and he’s excited to see another passenger whom Uber matched. I was all too happy, to think that I might get to travel along with interesting people, pick up a conversation perhaps and forget about the bangalore traffic (or about the overcharging that the service centre is going to do). So he accepts the co-passenger(s): they’ve marked their pin at RMZ infinity, and we were bang opposite (at the fag end of Gopalan Mall on Old Madras Road). I asked him if he could please request them to cross the road and get into the car, as a couple of U-turns would mean we lose another half an hour. I mentioned that I had also crossed the road to get into the cab as I knew which direction I needed to go. He turns to me, and I quote him: “Sir, aap jaisa log sochte nahin hain. Dekhiye, yeh log faltu mein drama karenge.” He very politely explained to them over the phone, that he’s across the road, he accurately gave the cab’s position so that they can locate it, and the ladies agreed to cross. Five minutes later he gets an angry call from one of them yelling, “paagal ho kya? Kitna chalke aana padega?” He still keeps his calm and gives me an I told you so kind of look and tells me, “Dekhiye Sir, drama shuru ho gaya.”

And enter two young girls, and I presumed they work at EY, looking at the ID-tag on one of their necks. One of the passengers was Megha (who was very calm and coy), and I don’t know the name of the other – she didn’t bother with pleasantries (let’s call her UNK_GRL). They stormed into the car – the UNK_GRL turns to Suresh and yells that they had to walk a whole kilometer and the car was too far away, and if he couldn’t explain directions properly he should have taken a U-turn and come to pick them up from the building – even better the reception (I’m sure if possible, she would have wanted him to directly pick her up from her work desk). I can testify that the location they had dropped the pin was bang opposite where our car was located, and after getting into the car she says that they were beyond the Gopalan mall, and had to traverse the entire length of the mall. I kept quiet for not wanting to lose my mind, but just wanted to tell the UNK_GRL that if she’s so particular on people being clear, she must have known better to mark the fucking pin in the uber app. And I just wonder what achievement makes her feel so superior that she’s better than the cab driver. He’s doing his job: one doesn’t need to appreciate him, but could at least be polite to fellow human beings – the cab driver and the darned co-passenger. But I must be grateful that at least they didn’t ask me to get out and sit in the front seat. And before Suresh could respond to her accusations, she turns behind and says, “you know what Megha, just leave it! I don’t want to end my day like this.”

And begins the journey. We’re all on the phone, and Suresh turns on music to avoid any more accusations and drives away peacefully. Every now and then there are random conversations between the two on what to cook, about the traffic, about a random test UNK_GRL needs to take the following day quoting how stupid her employers are, about small gallis and how she wouldn’t know alternate routes to her destination because they were in tiny roads. The irony was that eventually their drop point was in the middle of a heavily congested locality filled with tiny roads. I mean, what the hell is all that fuss about. And finally they pay Rs. 32 for the shared ride and get off. THIRTY-TWO RUPEES. That’s it, and she acted as if she owned the darn car and as if Suresh was her slave imported from some other land.

I just sighed, “all this fuss for thirty-two rupees!” Suresh turns to me, he says, “Sir, I told you, right! This is pretty much how most of my customers are. What would UNK_GRL be earning? 40-50k per month? I hold a fleet of four cars I own. I got three other drivers who work, and in net profits (after deducting operating costs) I make approximately 2.6 lakhs every month. Sometimes I wonder why I need to put up with such people, but of course, I can take off whenever I feel like it.” He also tried to stereotype North Indians as being crass (I didon’t agree with his sentiment), but anyway that was his point of view. I just passed a judgmental joke or two about UNK_GRL (my bad), and we shared a hearty laugh.

That was the last of the conversation about them. We continued talking about more relevant things – some philosophical, some about current affairs, minimal about Bangalore traffic, and I even found out a place that’s better for car servicing, etc., and possibly made a very resourceful friend. After all, you meet people to enrich your lives, right?

We often ask rhetorical questions with a hope that people don’t respond to it literally. Here’s a definition if you’re wondering what a rhetorical question is:

A rhetorical question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. The question might be one that does not have an answer. It might also be one that has an obvious answer but you have asked the question to make a point, to persuade or for literary effect.

Nevertheless, Indians have always been the avant-garde in the advancement of the English language. There is absolutely nothing that we cannot able to do!! Another invention of the Indianised English, to add to our longstanding tradition of closing taps, calling cousin brothers and sisters, coping up with things, is the art of converting a statement into a question by just changing the tone of the statement. In fact, this is so common that we don’t even realise it. Here’s an example:

You have the car keys?

You locked the door?

Of course, while talking, with the tone, and by the addition of a ‘no’ or a ‘na’ at the end of the sentence (based on your geographical origin in India), we convert it into a question. I thus present you the anti-rhetorical question: a statement that is made to sound like a question. So the next time someone tries to snub you with a rhetorical question, you shoot them back an anti-rhetorical, and then point it out! Happy arguing!

It’s another year

What’s the big deal about birthdays, anyway?! Well, they keep coming every year. And to make things more mundane, they keep falling on the same date every year. But somehow, they just stand out for me. Birthdays are fun – gives you a reason to kick someone in their butt, to put cake on one’s face, go out and party. And what stand out to me are gifts and surprises. It’s not about the material value of it (of course, I wouldn’t decline if someone decides to gift me a car, bleh), but what it means to me.

Come third of January, I will be a year older and hypocritically wiser. This year, I really hope that you would join hands with me in order to fight a cause. We could help bring clean water to underprevileged people. How? There’s an organisation called charity: water, and they work on bringing clean water to remote areas that lack them. You can check this out to see how they operate, and they promise to spend all their funds on water development. I believe it’s a cause worth fighting for. If you share my thought, please pitch into my campaign to support bringing clean drinking water to Cambodia here.

Image

The donations are made in USD, and you could make however small a contribution you wish. I opened the campaign with the first donation, and you could top it up!

And finally, as promised in the campaign I will send each one of you a thank-you postcard! When was the last time you had one in your mailbox?:)

Say what?

I tuned into NDTV’s news this afternoon, and had to listen to news that the Director of CBI uttered this at a recent event:

If you can’t prevent rape, enjoy it!

And of course, it raised all kinds of responses. It doesn’t matter what event that were. It doesn’t matter what the context was. I have absolutely no clue as to what was running in his head while he uttered this analogy. But it’s wrong. Just wrong. One can’t make a statement like that in public, all the more because of the position they hold. Even if they give out an apology. I can hardly imagine the state of my country, if the Director of CBI, heading a body that investigates crimes, jokes about victims enjoying rape. It’s beyond the context of rape: it’s talking without using his head, and that’s just preposterous to do at the stature that he holds. It’s outrageous. There’s absolutely no defense. I think he ought to leave: be fired, or just resign. It’s important for people to know that statements have consequences. That’s it. Bye bye, Mr. Ranjit Sinha.

The post I hold

It has been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. A lot of things have happened in my life in the past months. I progressed well with my research. I made it to quite a few conferences. I learnt french (lots of expressions included). I became a youtube junkie and then weaned off it. I lost my best friend. I started watching a lot of news, Indian news especially (and wikipedia to cover up for my lapses in history). I got married. I got doing long distance with my wife (previously fiancée, and pre-previously girlfriend). I got tickets made to get back home. I’m counting down.

But this blog post isn’t about my recent life history. I’m posting this online, to tell that I have been posting a lot of letters and postcards lately. Whom to, you might ask. Well about half of them flow in to my love. The rest to absolute strangers spread across the world. It’s made possible through this platform called postcrossing. Nick first told me about it, and it was just amazing!

Here’s a brief of how it works: you ask them for a random address in the globe – they give you one with a postcard reference number – you pick a postcard, a stamp, pen down whatever you like and post it – the recipient upon receipt of the postcard registers the postcard – two happy people with random stats on their profiles. But the cooler part is the moment your postcard gets delivered, you get sent one from another random person across. It sometimes really lights me up in the evening when I open the postbox to find letters/postcards from someone other than my bank, caf or the prefecture.

Go on, go ahead and try it. Tongue-fu lady, a gentle reminder to you too. And thanks for reminding me to write.:) Happy postcrossing!

Su… Surströmming

“Sir, Inda thanni, kanni, su…”

“Sir!”

Surströmming, inda pazhakkam ellam illenga.”

“Oh, why the pause vittu punch dialouge?”

Courtesy Karthi and Santhanam in Saguni.

So, coming to the story, I was in Sweden a couple of months ago, to meet one of my mad-ass-scientist-in-the-making friend at Uppsala. To help me get a comprehensive Swedish experience, he recommended 3-activites:

1. You should go to IKEA

Yeah, the Swedish giant who has pretty much changed the concept of furnishing worldwide. So I spent three hours of my Uppsala visit to go look at living rooms, dining rooms, toilets, and stuff, at the end of which I spent a good hundred krona on random things (thanks to miscalulating EUR-SKK conversion rates).

2. You should play innebandy

Enna vandi? Inne-bandy. A famed swedish sport. It’s apparently called floorball in English, and my understanding is that it is a basketballed version of hockey using a plastic ball with holes. It was fun, super-exhausting, and made me realise I need to work out to stay fit. Oh yeah, getting fit is another post to be.

3. Eat Surströmming

Surströmming is a traditional Swedish dish. Made of fermented fish. One of the mysteries of life. My understanding says that it’s probably the most foul smelling thing known to mankind, thanks to a great melange of butyric, propionic, acetic acids and good ‘ol H2S. It seems it is opened submerged in water so that the smell doesn’t fill the place. In fact, if there were ever a contest of worst-smelling-food, Surströmming would bag the gold:

Surströmming bags the gold, followed by Japan's Kusaya and Korea's Hongeohoe.

Surströmming wins gold, miles ahead of Japan’s Kusaya and Korea’s Hongeohoe.

The history to Surströmming goes back a long way. One cool myth is that the Fins played a long con on the Swedes:

Swedish sailors go out with fish not preserved properly (low Sodium diet, let’s say). They go to Finalnd, and think they’d sell it off to them. The fins buy it, patiently wait a year, and when the sailors returned, they said “hey guys, you got more of that stinky fish? We really loved it! We want more!!” And since then the Swedish people have been liking it. What I wonder is, did these dumbass* Swedish sailors ever see the Fins eat it? I presume the Finnish people responded to the sailors on the first of April, giving an explanation to the French phrase, poisson d’avril, quite literally.

So the more important point: no, I didn’t eat the darned thing. I love my life too much to just throw it away on pungent food. I know my Swedish experience is and will always be incomplete, but I can live with that. Amen!

P.S.: I put up a humble request to The Oatmeal to make a poster out of this. I sincerely hope that he can able to make a kickass infogram out of it.

*I only feel that these Swedish sailors from the myth are dumbasses, and the term is by no means a generalisation to Swedish people. I like Sweden and Swedish folks – they’re some of the most innovative people I’ve seen, but these sailors are just douchebags.

Unlike’ly

Facebook has a like button. The like button is rampant, and gives you the possiblity of liking pretty much anything, from someone’s wedded life to possibly thier terminal cancer diagnosis. And once you like something, much unlike you’d expect, it gives you an option of “unliking” the same thing.

So I wonder, what it is to unlike something. It is pretty much unlike any other form of un- based negation: you can undress someone who is dress, someone unwell can recover and become well; some stuff that were once a luxury and unnecessary have now become necessary; and many went from being employed to the un-prefixed version of it when recession hit them.

But to “unlike” something is to redefine English, unlike any other common misplaced word. It’s so commonplace that we don’t even realise that instead of saying, “I don’t like this anymore,” we decide to “unlike this.” Also, you can “unlike” something you once liked but just don’t appreciate anymore without necessarily disliking it. Too much for your liking? Go find something unlike this then.

P.S.: I do strongly support Krish Ashok’s suggestions to Indianise the Like button, unlike Grammar Nazis who believe in changing Aashai mugam to Aasai mugam.

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