A popular misconception as far as blog posts go is that the lesser the updates, the more the blogger is busy having a life, as opposed to ranting about the lack of it. In Appendix A, I debunk this myth but for now you can be assured dear reader that I have not degenerated into this decrepitude of depravity. Simply put, I’m more jobless than thou.
Our story begins on a Wednesday morning, the kind that evokes the same sort of dread that the sight of Ganguly’s chest hair does in opposing captains. Perhaps it was the worldfamous Madras weather messing with my head or there is such a thing as “too much vettiness*”, but in any case I found myself afflicted with a sudden bout of masochism, which even drinking Horlicks instead of my morning coffee could not cure. In first world countries, people indulge in sophisticated acts of self-abuse: slashing wrists, drugs, marriages, etc. Au contraire, we Indians have a government approved safe method embellished with red tape that would put even the Gulag to shame. And it was with this in mind that I decided to head to the nearest aRghTO to obtain my license. A license to kill quite literally, given the amount of road accidents that occur every year.
The aRghTO offers a unique experience for it is a place untouched by time, technology, and the Internet- the filtered essence of what a Sarkari establishment is really about. Sure you have movies like Anniyan and Ramana, and comedy shows like Satyameva Jayate and Anna Hazare which drive home the need for a corruption-free society. But expecting such media to change the aRghTO is like trying to break an adamantium wall with a Natraj pencil. Thus I waited amidst a sea of people- old men who probably weren’t around when Henry Ford introduced the automobile and youngsters who make you go “Jesus, Kidsthesedays!”. And so I waited, lost my body weight in sweat and then wondered as to how much of a character building exercise this place was.
- Patience Nothing prepares you for life like waiting for hours in an ocean of sweat.
- Bonding Nothing helps people bond like a common adversary, and a 3 hour wait results in close ties with people around you, irrespective of social status, IQ or Thala/Thalapathy preference.
- Skillset Greasing Palms, Respecting officers, sucking up,… the list is endless.
In short, the establishment encourages you to develop all the necessary skills to be a good human, except of course driving. However, I was soon forced to snap out of my reverie and assemble outdoors for the ultimate driving test. Naive I was to not realise that the real test would be the fact that the photo on my application looked nothing like me. Like school boys waiting for the chief guest, we were made to stand in the sun for almost an hour, and trust me, there is nothing that lends some perspective to your life like the noon sun trying to fry what’s left of your hair. As I was lost in ruminations about the quasi-metaphysical strings connecting the Higgs Boson and T.Rajendar’s beats, I was once again brought back to reality by the arrival of the inspector.
The aRghTO inspector is really hard to miss- in a queue of anxious people waiting to pass their test, his eyes look like that of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, totally uninterested. As the man got down from his vehicle, several asslickers ran to greet him with cold drinks and biscuits. One chap with a rejected application was literally begging him with pleas which included his starving family, old mother, sister of marriageable age and dog with a kidney failure. As I watched in awe, a Bolero whizzed by, 2 ministers stepped out to have a private word with the inspector. Requests were made, a suitcase containing the annual income of a few middle class families exchanged, grim nods of the head and as we watched in silence, the Bolero drove away. I kid you not, this part is true. I decided then that when I grow up, I would become an aRghTO inspector. Now to the part where I’m supposed to talk about how my driving skills bedazzled the man but frankly speaking, he was probably more interested in the packet of biscuits and the stain on his shirt than my driving.
As I trotted back to the office, I assumed that the major chunk of my work was over and the processing would get done soon. Right? Wrong. I returned and joined a line longer than the longest gult name that I knew and then Murphy called. They say that with great power comes great responsibility and therefore as long as there are power cuts in Chennai, its denizens will remain irresponsible pricks. As the unruly Sabarimalai-esque crowd was told to wait sine die, frustration tended asymptotically to 1/(Sin 0).
When Gandalf said “Thou Shalt not Pass”, he was probably referring to time, for time passing is a science that makes even String Theory wet its pants. As the clock ticked my youth away, I memorized the various patterns on my palm, got to know that the smelly, sweaty foul-talking fellow behind me was actually a PhD in biosomethingortheother (serious!) and got down to solving P vs NP when power finally returned after three full hours.
Long story short, I finally did get my license and have successfully been causing havoc ever since. All’s well that ends well and all that pointless jazz but it did strike me as to how wasting whole mornings is taken as a part and parcel of life in India. Perhaps it is this frustration, accumulated in the aRghTO that leads to most accidents on the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to devote to analyse the socio-political causes of this because I had to return home to crib on twitter.
*vettiness = velagiri
Sigh. As much as I hate to admit, Dela was right. Gone are the days when upon hearing names like Rajnikanth, Mani Ratnam or even Sadagoppan Ramesh for that matter, my ears would shoot up hoping to hear bits of conversation in a language that I could finally understand. The voluntary introductions to Tamil/Kannada speaking Matkas seem like April Fools’ jokes gone horribly wrong, when I look at them through the rabbithole of nostalgia.
My mutation finally culminated yesterday. I stood in between two gentlemen conversing in a language that I’ve heard all in my life, feigning ignorance with a face placider than R2D2. I even hummed the tune of a despicable Hindi song in case my reactions gave me away and they would start suspecting my origins. Life has come a full circle. The centrifugal force wasn’t particularly enjoyable though. May the force have mercy on my soul.
Not unlike most other bloggers who suffer from recurring bouts of nostalgia, I too begin my tale with a “Long, long ago in a state far, far away”. Okay, maybe not that long ago. My tryst with quizzing can be traced back to some dusty old classroom in R.A. Puram which seated a bunch of nerdy eight year olds (as nerdy as eight year olds could be, anyway). The aforementioned outcasts had skipped their PE/PT period and were furiously trying to recall the capital of Liechtenstein, and peering across to the neighbour’s desk to check the UN Secretary General’s spelling- yes, that weird fellow whose name sounded like Coffee Anna. It was the ill-conceived preliminary round of the Bournvita Quiz. We were battling it out for a shot at the regional round with the possibility of meeting our matinee idol, Derek O’-Is-there-anything-he-doesnt-know Brien. I never did made it to the finals although I always among those who were awarded a consolatory certificate and an ugly water bottle with a Bournvita sticker for finishing third or fourth.
Times changed, and so did quizzing. Soon it became evident to me that knowing capitals, flags, prime ministers and authors alone just wasn’t enough. I decided to keep myself apprised of the happenings around me, viz current affairs. My first shot at professional quizzing, if you could call it that, materialized when the school’s top quizzer broke his leg or contacted typhoid or something. A godsend, as far as I was concerned. Frankly, I can’t recollect much about the quiz, but my exceptionally talented seniors got us through to the finals. Twas a photo finish and in the dying moments I came up with a brilliant answer- the name of the chap who had proclaimed, “God does not play dice with men”. I had no idea what the quote meant, but we ended up third. I was the happiest 11-year old in Madras that day. Life was simple back then.
I had originally planned a verbose, sentimental piece about my quizzing exploits (or the lack of any therein), designed to bore even the most loyal of my readers. But then I
took an arrow to the knee noticed that one of my fellow quizzers had already posted his ode (read O Dei, in a mallu accent) to quizzing. Me attempting to better the Morose Mallu at a sentimental tribute would be as futile as Dravid trying to emulate Kohli’s post-century celebrations. So instead, I shall succinctly sum up my Re.1 about quizzing. The Crucified Businessman once told me that a quiz is a QM’s way of announcing, “Hey these are quite interesting. Go read up about them”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. My personal philosophy is that a question must serve to fill a void in the memory banks by connecting several seemingly arbitrary chunks of information instead of introducing new islands and more seas of darkness. While the Hallgrímskirkja can actually prove to be an engrossing read and the source of multiple quiz questions, it is just as fascinating if not more to see that Pythagoras had invented a special designer cup to prevent over-drinking. Working out answers though is slightly over-rated as the more you actually know about the answer, the easier it is to ‘work it out’.
Most people overlook the need for a good quizzing team. I would define a good team as one where the value of the team is greater than the sum of the abilities of the individual quizzers. Mercenary teams are fun, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason why Barcelona kicks Real’s a*se in football even though the latter leads the standings at present. I was never much of a solo quizzer, and hence my chances of winning were directly proportional to how well my team mates complemented me. R, unfortunately, stripped me of one such team. Without a steady team, my career in R was much like a mismatched resistor. My four years were marked by a few rare wins, sparser than a matrix with O(1) entries. I was the Aakash Chopra of quizzing. And so, my not-so-glorious professional(read: for money) quizzing career came to an equally lackadaisical end on sunday, when I failed to qualify for the General Quiz by a point or half. Surprisingly, I didn’t whine like a three year and storm out with the fury of a scorned woman but instead enjoyed watching the finals. Perhaps, because among all things in heaven and earth dreamt of in my philosophy, quizzing is the only activity where the bridesmaid gets to have as much fun as the bride. Indeed, as much as I may crib about my unaccomplishments, few things are capable of giving me the high that hit me when I plucked “Venice’s Only Gondolawoman” out of thin air using just Italy+First Female as clues. Silver linings that make my day.
I hear that quizzing cliques in the US of A are as rare as Paneer in my mess’ Sahi Paneer (that’s the spelling they use). Paraphrasing some famous man, “Of all the things that I’ll miss, I’ll miss quizzing the second most”. (I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to work out the first and the others.)
The funny thing is, I still don’t know what the capital of Liechtenstein is.
P.S: I initially wanted to name this post “The Bravery of Being out of Range” after this Roger Waters song. But my obsession for cheap puns got the better of me.
It seems to me that there is a lot of faux fur associated with the coat that is Chennai. This is especially true when that coat is worn by the fair lot residing above the Vindhyas, whose knowledge of my beloved city is in the same league as Dr. Abdul Kalam’s knowledge of Playboy magazine and Kim Kardashian’s idea of a successful marriage. Apparently, all Tamilians are dark- hey have you met our Chief Minister? Tamilians fear rotis more than Ganguly fears the short ball- not true, we have chappatis at home every alternate Wednesday. All South Indian women are smart*- indeed, gossip generally revolves around string theory and P vs NP. South Indians can’t pronounce Bhaiya properly to save their lives. Okay, maybe this one is true. Fortunately for my Northie readers, I have no intention of quelling such disturbances in the force and vindicating generations of wronged South Indians. Such heroic acts are best left to wriders of obun ludders from a neighbouring state. No, sir. Today I shall highlight one particularly Maddu** quirk that irks me to no end: the innate propensity to reach a place
well insanely ahead of time.
For reasons unknown, the word Tardy seems to associate the same feeling in Chennaites as do the words Arson, Murder and Rape. And maybe a little less fear than the letters T.R (T.Rajendar or Supreme being, for the uninitiated) do. The word tardy also rhymes with Jeff Hardy. Okay, I don’t know why I said that but coming back to the point, Tamilians have this affinity for reaching any place well before the well-before-designated time. Not only is it fashionable to arrive at the railway station a good three hours ahead of the train, it is also becoming to rub it in the large noses of the latecomers- yes, i’m referring to those who arrived two hours before the train. Of course, one does not dare to argue the rationale behind this exalted practice. After all, it makes more sense to arrive well in advance and brave a queue for the next few hours (because most people got there ahead of you) than to enjoy the same few hours in an air-conditioned room and make it on time.
I believe that most Chennaites have a skewed sense of time, especially when it comes to deadlines and appointments. When a normal man says, “Let’s meet up at 5PM, dude”, he means… you guessed it right, “Let’s meet up at 5PM, dude”. However when a Chennai uncle utters these very words, rest assured he wants you to be there by 4:30 or else his boot shall connect with your rear when you arrive at 5, or god forbid later. Perhaps we take this whole race against time business too personally. I imagine, the average Chennai guy believes himself to be this dude:
Meet Keanu Ramachandran in Speedu. (Pardon my poor photoshopping skills)
Lest I forget, there is also the god-awful habit of waking up before the poor Sun even gets a chance to peep in and say Hello. It’s very common to expect people in most families to rise, shine, (head)bathe, finish morning pooja, finish more pooja for brownie points, Coffee 1, peruse all Editorials in the Hindu, Coffee 2 and strongly criticize the deteriorating quality of the paper to the crows on the windowsill while the aforementioned normal guy hasn’t even got a chance to press snooze yet. This complete disregard for time may owe its existence to a variety of reasons. A Freud might blame it on the tendency of the typical Indian male to … finish everything quickly. Frank Miller might view the Chennai guy as “a dionysian figure, a force for anarchy that imposes an individual order”. Karunanidhi might attribute it to his non-existent hairline as might Rakhi Sawant to her assets. But as any automan in the city might tell you, “This is not madness. This is Madras da Kaidha (Donkey)”.
I find it strange that I miss this place more than anything now.
Please to note, just because I take a dig at the intellectual pursuits of the South Indian woman, it does not necessarily mean that every male down under is a Sheldon replica.
P.S: If you are a feminist, get the hell out of my blog.
**Short for Madrasi. Not as offensive though.
If there is one human activity that’s older than human existence itself, it is (the art of) cribbing. Our ancestors, the venerable Amoebae vented out their frustration by dividing into two. ”Grunt, Grunt Gruuunnnnttt” in Neanderthal speak probably translates to “Why is this meat so tasteless?” or ”I burnt my hand trying to start a fire” or “This cave sucks. It doesn’t even have wifi”. Okay, maybe not the last one. Millenniums later, in a parallel universe, Rene Descartes is rumoured to have said, “I crib, therefore I am”. And why else would a baby’s first home be a crib if not to prepare him for a lifetime filled with the same.
A recent survey established that cribbing is the third most popular activity in IITR after,
1) Bugging seniors for chapos
2) A certain activity that takes place in the dark inside hostel rooms under sheets. (I was talking about sleeping, you sick pervert)
(Ghissing finished 42nd).
It is no secret that finding the words ‘satisfied’, ‘Roorkee’ and ‘IITian’ in the same sentence is as common as finding Salman Khan with a shirt on. But I digress from Salman Khan’s attire, as alluring as the topic may be.
One of our favourite whineyards is the absence of good electives. Every semester before the endsems, IMG (now Campus Skunk) opens its floodgates exposing the naive R-ites to hitherto unheard of terms like Cosmetology, Snorkelling and Far side Entomology. The experienced lot are forced to disown trivialities like interest and learning in favour of easy proxies, no backs and the absence of an 8AM class. The choices offered on IMG’s hallowed portals are much like the choices one has during elections:
1) The Rahul Gandhi Elective: Glamorous and promising on the outside, but mostly all noise and no signal.
2) Shashi Tharoor Elective: Taken by the charismatic teacher who puts up assignments on facebook and tweets students about cancellation of class, but in general a pointless course.
3) Mayawati Elective: Shh… I hear this is going to the best elective in 2012.
4) Suresh Kalmadi Elective: The one where the professor forgets to attend class.
5) Yedyurappa Elective: The elective which promises to get over soon but stretches till the day before the exams.
I recollect an article from my first year in the moronic magazine, aptly titled “Hobson’s Choice: All roads lead to the earthquake department”. But no more! With the influx of many a young turk, the days of gerontocracy were over. The institute had final woken to the sound of the clarion. New electives with fancy names were floated by departments above the slope, and held in class rooms that were actually near Nesci. The times, they were a-changing.
One fine Saturday morning (read 1PM), I was forced to defer a meeting with Obama regarding the ceiling debt, my usual weekend escapade with Natalie Portman and the regular blog post thereby sending millions of loyal readers into depression, for profound thoughts on life, the universe and all that jazz. “Enough was enough”, I came to a conclusion. “I am in an IIT to learn, and learn I will”. So I registered for one of those baroque, hard-to-pronounce electives offered by the MIT return. Four months later I enter my first class five minutes late, having missed 3 classes the previous week. Cold walls and the icy demeanour of 20-odd enthusiastic (read ghissu/muggu) juniors greet me. The young lecturer coolly informs me that I have missed five attendances as he had to take two extra classes the previous week, and a even a single case of absenteeism hence will result in my not being able to write the exams. “Oh and by the way, we have extra field trips too. Two hours every week in a field pulling strings to understand what String theory really is”, he added with glee. Any wise man in my situation would have decided to go on and take the bull by its horns. But that wise man was not I. And so I decided to throw Douglas Adams’ favourite instrument, the towel.
2 Days, 101 signatures and a few thousand applications later, I was one of the teeming millions in an elective offered by a department dealing with disasters. “But sir”, I argued. “How can anyone not appreciate the subtleties of Fire-Extinguising 101′. An argument that he could never refute thanks to generations of farzi* seniors who had populated the course and proven beyond doubt that Fire extinguishing was indeed every engineer’s ultimate fantasy.
My close encounters of the fourth kind had me thinking (mostly during class hours when I couldn’t be bothered to listen). Given that most of us have as much an idea about our future as Arnab Goswami has about shutting up, not to mention the delusions we seem to be harbouring, do we even need a choice? After all, isn’t the illusion of choice yet another exercise in futility till we realise that we don’t really have one. China, which forcibly united its provinces under one language and culture seems to be thriving enough to buy Greece whereas democratic India is floundering under the banner of disunity in perversity. Maybe we are better off with the blue pill, and without questioning whether or not it is air that we breathe. May be we are better off with mindless action and Karan Johar instead of “beautifully scripted journeys of catharsis”. Maybe Harbhajan Singh has made it large.
Maybe, maybe Hobson’s choice is better than Sophie’s after all.
*farzi – Having lost all interest in any form of technical education and can currently be found spewing out management gibberish
1. “Bakar and Cribbing: 2 sides of the same coin”, Thashi Saroor, Kamal R. Khan and Satan Bhagat.
I spent the better part of my week promenading the City of Krowsville*. No, not the pub capital of India (or was it Asia?). Nor the symbol of the nation’s faith in the future. Nay, I was in the Kapital resting my backside in the humble abode (in his own words) of the Mallu Panjabi, to whom I owe my heartfelt gratitude. The most productive aspect of my sojourn was discerning that despite the bravado that he exudes and the numbers that he readily provides about his Punjabi comrades, the fact remains that the MP is all avial, and hardly any sarson ka saag. More so than even he would like to believe himself. But this post is not a chronicle of MP’s Hefner-esque lifestyle, and as envious I may be of him, I divagate to return to Krowsville. Legend has it that once when Akbar posed a conundrum to his courtiers asking about the number of crows in K-ville, the ever-so-astute Birbal promptly retorted, “Your majesty, there are exactly forty two thousand crows in K-ville”. Birbal seems to have missed a zero at the end. Or two.
I strongly believe that, God, weary of six days of arduous labour, decided to give the seventh day a miss, thereby making seven the magically most indolent number. As he was resting, he saw a bunch of aunties roaming around in oversized shades, and conversing in an accent even he couldn’t fathom. Impressed by their demeanor, and mindful of their esotericity, God in his usual benevolence uttered, “Let there be a place teeming with such elite individuals, abounding with beauty and kindness. This place shall be known as Krowsville”, creating what we call today our national capital. This is why Krowsville is so affluent, be it the magniloquence of the people, or the resplendent beauty it provides to the beholder. Wise men proclaim that there are two sides to every bed. Krowsville-ites unfortunately have heard of only one, the wrong-side.
Yet, even the sharpest critic of Krowsville cannot but laud the sheer impeccability of the Krowsville metro and amount of foresight that must have gone into its construction. Madame Diskhit, a self-confessed fan of the inimitable Mallu accent, decided to call a 75-yer old Keralite out of retirement just so that she could sit back and laugh at the accent in press conferences. All was well with the world, till some guy pissed the above-mentioned Mallu off. Deciding to punish every single male on the face of the city, the Mallu engineer created a separate cabin for women in the Metro. The rest as they say is history. Deprived of my primary metro sport and what is probably the national male pastime, of bird-watching, I decided to turn to my secondary avocation. No, not guy watching but the lost art of observation. Observing people always gives me kicks. Paraphrasing Al Pacino, “Big ones, small ones, stupid ones, scratchy ones”; I’m not too sure if god was a fricking genius, but he sure did have a good sense of humour. The Krowsville metro reminds me of Lord of the Rings, and middle earth in general. There is always a venerable dude with a “Fly you fools!” expression on his countenance. A slovenly, shaggy fellow flirting with a fair maiden (Yes, in all probability the only lady in the cabin), a couple of blokes shivering as if they are on their way to Mordor and a short, fat, belligerent man. Of course, the rest of the cabin can be divided into goblins and orcs, who get into a brawl every time the door opens.
In the interest of safety of the few people who do read my blog, here are some general guidelines for the Krowsville Metro.
1) Keep your hands in your pockets all the time. You’ll appear suave and worldly to the few female passengers inhabiting the cabin. More importantly, you won’t get pickpocketed
2) Sit or stand next to someone who is on the phone or is messaging furiously. Eavesdropping is an excellent source of amusement. In fact, I was sitting next to a guy on the phone with some girl and he kept me entertained from Kashmere Gate till Gurgaon. Overheard:
“Yaar, just because he said so, why did you remove me from your friends on facebook? This is just not fare yaar!”
3) Twitch your face to act as if you are in great pain, or constipating. It’s hard to tell the difference but at least people won’t come anywhere near you.
1) Keep your hands in your pockets all the time. People will know you have something valuable in there.
2) Give up your seat to the single ladies who enter the general cabin. It’s like encouraging begging really. The more you give, the more you’ll find.
3) Offer to play with babies or little kids. Before you know it, they’ll have peed all over you. Or worse.
But that’s enough cribbing about Krowsville. In other news, Ricky Pointing is a rich, rich man, my old school cricket coach has invited the West Indian board for an 3-ODI away series, Saina Nehwal has left her lucrative Squash career in order to patent her new discovery – oil which ain’t oily and oh, I seem to have achieved something big. Or at least, so enunciate the myriad congratulatory messages on my wall. For some inexplicable reason, I find the nomenclature “Wall” extremely comic, not that “Scrapbook” betrays any superior intellect. “Writing on Walls” – as Chandler would say “Come on! Surely, that’s got to be funny”. But I digress. Anyone afflicted with facebookerlust stumbling on to the aforementioned wall would mostly assume I am getting married this weekend, glimpsing at the sheer deluge of laudatory posts. Nothing succeeds like success, it seems. Strange are the ways of people. Stranger, the ways of the Social Networking clan. The reclusion has begun.
I am not exactly a bibliophile nor does my done-reading list come anywhere close to that of the few abstruse nerds this place has introduced me to. And yet, there is something about holding the papyrus and savouring words that can bring cheer to even the most despondent of aortic pumps. Combine this with the 20% discount that Midlands offers and you have all the makings of a sweet dream. Thank you Messrs. Rajaraman and Mateen and wishing my (non-existent) readers all the very best for the upcoming test series.
*For the uninitiated, the word krow is also known as “Peter” in some dialects and “Show-off”/”Pretentious Moron” in the queen’s tongue.