Monthly Archives: October 2009

“Jackfruit fell, Rabbit died”, and other such proverbs – Part 1

During my formative years in Malluland, I used to spend a significant amount of time with my grandfather – like every other child, I suppose. He would be relaxing in his easychair, reading the day’s newspaper for the 23rd time, as I get back from school. Throwing my bag aside, I would turn to him and bug him to escort me to ‘Statue’, which was the busy junction near my house and funnily enough when I look back, the seat of power of the Mallu Government as well, as the Secretariat was right opposite the road.

As for the junction being called Statue, there is no other reason except for the presence of a tall, black statue of a rather serious-looking man (Is it quite shameful if I admit that I still don’t have a clue who the man is?) staring across at the white Secretariat. This is in fact quite a common phenomenon throughout the state, as there is yet another Statue Junction in Tripunithura, where I lived subsequently. And yes, there was a tall, sober statue there as well. And no, I would have to deny any knowledge of that dude’s identity. Even though we take pride in giving unpronounceable names to men and dishes, we are reasonably straightforward in naming places. There’s a place near my house called ‘Kinar’. I’m pretty sure that name came about with a conversation somewhat like this –

Local Political Leader with Substantial Power – “Hey you, Chairman of the New Junction Naming Committee! Have you figured out what we are going to call that junction yet?”

Chairman of the New Junctions Naming Committee – “No Sir! In fact, we are quite unimaginative in such matters, Sir. Why dont you bless the junction with a name yourself, Sir?”

Leader – “Ha, I should have known when I created that committee that you buggers would turn out to be useless!”

Chairman – “:D”

Leader – “Fine then, let me think for a while. I’m really busy with a hundred other things. Soniaji had asked Thomasji to tell Rameshji to inform me to file a report on the power situation ji!”

Chairman’s eyes pop out and tongue hangs out. Would have wagged his tail had he had one.

After some days of silence and a few snide remarks on the committee’s usefulness by the jobless hangers-on at the murukkan-kada (Paan shop, for the non-Mallus) near the junction, the Chairman calls up the politician.

Chairman – “Sir, I’m sure you are very busy sir… But that junction……”

Leader – “Eh? What about the junction? Didn’t I inaugurate it already?”

Chairman – “Yes sir! Of course you did! But you had said you would name it as well. Did you think of a name, Sir?”

Leader – “Oh! Well…”

Leader’s aide rushes into the room – “Sir!! Phone call from High Command, Sir!”

Leader drops the phone and runs off to talk to the ‘ji’ calling him. Chairman misconstrues the entire situation and names the junction ‘Well’. Which translates to ‘Kinar’ in Malayalam when used to refer to the water-producing holes that people dig on the ground.

Anyway, this was just to illustrate that our place names are absurdly simple. Apart from Kinar and Statue, we have stuff like ‘Pipeline’, ‘Toll’ etc. And one completely inexplicable ‘Paathalam’ – which literally means ‘Hell’. That must have been the contribution of the most frustrated and pessimistic naming committee ever in the history of naming committees.

As I often do, I drifted away, so I force myself back to the 8-year old me dragging my grandfather down the road to Statue. The purpose of these excursions was two-fold. One was for him to buy me the insanely yummy pedas from the bakery there (Asim Bakery, if I remember right) and the other was for him to buy me the latest edition of Balarama, the popular children’s weekly published by the newspaper giant Malayala Manorama (It must be noted that Balarama is pronounced not like Krishna’s brother’s name – but in the following manner – “Baaa la ra ma”). The other popular children’s weekly was predictably published by M. Manorama’s staunch rivals ‘Mathrubhoomi’, and was called ‘Poompaata’ (Butterfly). Of course, the pseuder kids (OK, me and the girl I had a crush on back then) snubbed Poompaata and went with Balarama, mainly due to the very strong arguments of the latter having glossier covers and all kinds of stuff free with it. Tattoos, Stickers, Masks – you name it, Balarama has it free with the next issue. Total awesomeness.

At this point, I google and am pleasantly shocked to find that Balarama even has a flash website now! And of course, Poompaata seems to have nothing like that. Up yours, Poompaata!

Balarama

The little red thing in the picture is Luttapi, an imp of sorts, who was an awesomely popular character from the series ‘Mayavi’. He had this spear which was more or less a flying apparatus, and he used to be a sidekick to the main villains of the series, the wizard-witch pair Kuttusan and Dakini. Brilliant, I tell you!

So, on these walks with my grandfather to buy peda and Balarama, he used to tell me all sorts of random things, including some of the meatiest Mallu proverbs. The title of this post refers to the best of them all – “Chakka veenu, Muyalu chathu”, translated as “Jackfruit fell, Rabbit died”. This proverb is so incredibly erudite and complicated that it requires a discussion of substantial length. Which is why I’m sounding the Kaun Banega Crorepati style foghorn now and doing a Big B imitation of “Good Night, Shubh Ratri, Shabba Khair”, thereby ending this particular post.

We shall continue discussing that mystical proverb in Part 2, which I’d write soon.

Apocalypse

It was at the bar, just a month ago that Johnny heard of the Apocalypse. After uttering a garbled expletive, spilling his drink on the bargirl’s dress and standing shell-shocked for a few seconds, he decided to act.

Johnny started praying for God to appear before him. Either the prayers were particularly strong or God was totally jobless, but for some reason, he – sorry, HE – appeared before Johnny.

God – Yes, dear boy. Why did you call for me?
Johnny – Thanks for coming, God. I just wanted to know whether its true that the world is gonna end on 23rd December, 2012?
G – Wot! Who told you that?
J – Er… everybody knows about it. Even Hollywood – they are actually making a movie on that called 2012.
G – bi***es. Those arrogant little twerps never keeps me in the loop.
J – Who?
G – Yama and Shiva. The God of Death and the God of Destruction. Stuff like ending the world – your human world – would definitely be a joint decision by the two of them.
J – Ohh!! So there are multiple Gods??
G – (With an expression of utmost pity) Of course there are multiple Gods. You know, this has always been the problem with you men. You never think in a large enough scale – look at the big picture, boy! I say… which country are you from?
J – India.
G – Ah, perfect. If you need a coalition Government with 100 ministers to run your country which is so tiny in the larger scheme of things, how many Gods do you think is required to run the Universe?
J – Oh…..OK. Now that you put it that way. Anyway, we have drifted a bit. The point is that the world is gonna end on 23/12/2012.
G – You’ve already told me this. So what?
J – But I’m getting married on that day!
G – Oh, great! Congratulations. May your wife and you live long lives of happiness (I use this as a metaphor actually. Now, if Yama was the one saying this….) and have plenty of children!
J – You are congratulating me? Dont you get it yet? The world will end that day.
G – Ahh… That might be a slight issue, I see..
J – You see clearly, Milord. It is a very dense and acute issue.
G – And insurmountable I’m afraid.
J – Is it so? Let me just ask for a favour then.. Can the world end in the evening?
G – In the evening?
J – Yeah, after the marriage you know..
G – You mean to say, your prophecies never specified the time when the world would end? That’s utterly ambiguous!
J – I know. So if you guys haven’t decided on the time yet, please push it to the evening. In fact, just before midnight would be perfect. I’d like to have the post-marriage party as well.
G – Am I invited?
J – Of course – but how can you attend a party on Earth?!
G – Pah, your religious leaders have taught you tosh I see. There was a time when man knew all about us Gods and our ways. You people have forgotten everything now. Anyway, I have attended millions of parties on Earth.
J – Really?
G – Yup. I have played matchmaker countless number of times, and I have spilled drinks on many an arrogant idiot as well. In fact, let me tell ya a little secret, (whispers conspiratorially) the parties at Ibiza are the best.
J – Uh.. Ok. That’s just a little too much information than I asked for. Anyway, I completely understand if you lot are under pressure to end the world on that day, since you have prophesied and all, but please do it by around 23:59:59 OK? I would really like to have as much fun before the party literally ends.
G – Hmm, that seems possible. Yes, definitely possible. I’ll have a word with Yama.
J – WOW, thats just brilliant, Thanks a lot!
G – Come on, did you really expect me not to agree to that request? We are not all that bad you know.. Just because some angry God made that prophecy some millenia ago, it is our burden to fulfill it.
J – What happens if you dont?
G – Now, now! We dont wanna take that risk, do we!? Gods have never tried fiddling with prophecies. Not to my knowledge. We are quite conventional in that sense. You never know what evil lies in store if we do something of that sort.
J – But who would ensure the fulfillment of a prophecy? Lets say, if you decide not to end the world on 23/12/2012, who would be there to..erm..destroy you or something?
G – Really, why did I give you people such advanced brains? Should have given them to dolphins or something. There are higher powers than us, you nitwit. Just like you humans have us Gods to manage your affairs, we naturally have a few blokes sitting above us.
J – Are they like some super-Gods or something?
G – We call them Pricks.
J – Oh, and Pricks are all-powerful?
G – No way, Pricks have superiors and you have no clue how happy we get when a Prick get punished for a mistake. We have unbelievable feasts up there in heaven to celebrate that. The ‘Lets All Laugh At the Pricks’ parties go on for days! And the most popular Gods are the ones who gets a Prick in some sort of trouble with a snide trick or two. I expect that’s the case in Earth as well?
J – Not really. Our society is actually dominated by people who worship Gods. In fact, its considered a sign of being a good man.
G – Don’t tell me! You humans are really a riot! You guys worship your bosses?
J – Never really thought that way.
G – In any case, to answer your question, every level of being has a level above it.
J – So is there someone who is all powerful? Who is answerable to no one?
G – Nope. Everyone has a boss.
J – But that’s impossible.
G – Some idiot mathematician from your world said these same lines to me a long time ago. I taught him the concept of ‘infinity’.
J – I flunked Maths.
G – Evidently.
J – Didn’t matter much though. I’ve just met God.
G – Ha, touché. Time for me to leave now – I can catch that blighter Yama just about now, before he leaves for his Proxima Centauri shift. Do have fun so long as you are there in your little blue planet. You cribbers have no clue how great your life down there is (If I tell you what those twitchy, pink men in Proxima Centauri eat, you’ll puke all over my robe. So, I’ll refrain)….And I’ll certainly turn up for your party. Where are you having it?
J – There’s no choice now but to book the restaurant at the end of the universe.
G – Ahh, Ole Doug Adams wrote about it I remember. Capital guy. Anyway, nice talking to you. And of course you wont remember a single thing I told you after I leave you. We really don’t want those pseudo-prophets you guys have, to lose their livelihood. Their alternate competencies are quite limited.
J – Oh, wait!

Too late.

(Above narrative would sound slightly better when read in a native Cockney accent. Even better when its a drunk Cockney accent.)

Of Dolphins and Hand-Holders

KC is a friend and a former classmate, currently earning his livelihood in the Far East, in some condo with a panda, some interesting neighbours and a swimming pool. Do not forget the pool, its very crucial.

This pleasantly opinionated jackass is obsessed about the concepts and ideas regarding human Free Will. And has even started a blog dedicated to his belief religion, which analyzes the issue down to the brass tacks and postulates the existence of degrees of Free Will, if you will.

So, I had a sudden realization today that this bugger should be nicknamed after a movie I watched a decade ago, very closely related to his pet topic. From now on KC, you shall be called

Free_willy

The visual imagery of KC doing summersaults in that swimming pool of his is very strong right now – Of course, provided he has the necessary degrees of Free Will intact.

Leaving that aside, I should probably get to the nub of the post right about now. With a very necessary disclaimer that I’m not advocating nor disparaging the particular practice I’m about to touch upon. It might have an emotional meaning beyond my understanding, and if the practitioners of the practice get offended, please dont sue me, but feel free to get amused at my ignorance.

Have you ever seen something like this in public?

hh

Aye, thats right, two men holding hands. Incidentally, the two featured in this picture are friends of mine who shall probably empty my pocket of half my monthly salary when they see this post, in lieu of not suing me for public defamation. Anyway, lets call them Humpty and Dumpty. Just why did Humpty and Dumpty hold hands in that poignant moment when some ever-alert photographer clicked that pic? The answers are out there for us to speculate, and my diligent research over the last few months has helped me categorize the straight and male handholders into 4 categories based on the reason behind the handholding. Let us proceed..

Category 1 – The Comforters

When you walk down the road during the day, with the sun shining down with much ferocity on you, sapping you of all your energy resources, one naturally tends to seek comfort. And if a nubile dame is not walking with you at the same time (or if the nubile dame is not keen on holding hands with you), you might just happen to hold the hand of the male friend walking next to you. Quite understandable of course.

Possible consequences – Of course the dude walking with you might think you are as gay as they come, and burn you to death with a cold stare. Before proceeding to embarrass you by texting your entire circle of friends about your ‘handholding tendencies’.

Category 2 – The Assurers

I got to know of this set very recently. Apparently when you are a guy from a small town, and has just moved into a big city, you need some kind of assurance. When such a guy finds someone in a similar situation, they tend to hold hands to present a united front towards the city and the grim, dark forces which could confront them there. Er… this is what someone told me. Seriously.

Also, these are the blokes who hold each other by their little fingers. And no, dont ever think this could be cute in the faintest way. Watching two guys holding onto each other by their little fingers is NOT cute.

Possible Consequences – Evidently, along with the aforementioned grim, dark forces, the several single girls thronging the city are also turned off from these joined-at-the-little-finger amigos. Which might be why most of them end up holding hands well into their 30s.

Category 3 – The Comrades

This is probably how Humpty and Dumpty would justify their bit of emotion. There comes a time in the life of every man when you happily contemplate the wonderful friendship you have with a guy friend. As the force of this happy camaraderie surges through you, you might just lift that hand of yours and take hold of the guy friend’s hand. Of course, quite unconsciously.

Possible Consequences – Another friend might choose to blog about you, complete with photographic evidence.

Category 4 – Security Guards

The largest category, and the fishiest. I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not, but I’ve been seeing an inordinately large number of security men holding hands and walking together, in recent days. This phenomenon can usually be observed late at night, after about 10PM, when the office buildings they are supposed to guard are empty of most of the employees. Then they embark on their sojourn from one end of the service road to the other, holding hands and swapping stories.

My office is in a cyber city of sorts, so there are hundreds of security men in the several buildings inside the city. Once, when I left the office late, I saw at least 7-8 pairs of security men walking in this fashion. One wonders why they do it and whether there is a deeper movement at work. Wouldnt rule out a late-night conclave of all these gun-toting security guards, with them holding hands and sitting in a circle. And making megalomaniacal plans to take over the world? One never knows. They have enough guns to do so anyway.

Possible Consequences – The entire practice of men holding hands could get a macho flavour because of these guys. After all, they have guns. And moustaches. I do not see the day that far off when Osama and Ayman Al-Zawahiri gives an interview in Al-Jazeera, holding hands and looking all macho.

That completes my research on the known category of straight male handholders. Do inform me if there are more species out there, who can be classified, identified and kept at an arm’s length.

… directement, zero

At this point, the thought pops into my head that I should probably explain the title of my blog.

Business French was one of the most popular electives among my batch of 2nd year Wimwians (a term which case study writers use to describe IIMA students, and to make themselves sound cool). The reasons were manifold.

  • The young and the not-so-young folk of the campus wanted to impress the native speakers of the language during the upcoming exchange term in France
  • ‘Parlez vous Anglais?’ sounds sexier in an Indian accent than ‘Do you speak English?’
  • It was classified as a ‘fraud course’ by many who weren’t going on exchange or anything, but wanted a chill course in the 2nd term

If you’all were expecting our French teacher to be a tittering Gallic dame gushing over every other word like Fleur Delacour, now is the time to put that right. A certain Ms.Petal (name changed to protect identity) was the one taking us through the basics of the language, and she was exceptionally sweet about it as well.

Now, some of the dudes in the class were having a good deal of fun through the entire course. A classmate, who blogs here, allegedly couldn’t stop staring at Ms.Petal as she waxed eloquent in the language of romance. The story goes that he had his mouth open and eyes bulging out through an entire lecture, towards the end of which he made faint panting noises, upon which Ms.Petal couldnt pretend to ignore him anymore and accused him of ‘checking her out’. Allegedly.

And then she told him his marks would be “Directement Zero” (Directly Zero, loosely translated), if he continued the behaviour.

Ms.Petal started using this phrase so often that everyone found it funny – whenever some dude wasn’t focusing on the topic at hand – French – she threatened to bring him directement to zero and thus made it her signature of sorts.

I hope this blog would be as random as they come, without sticking to any particular subject, minus the bane of focus, devoid of the millstone of a topic or an albatross of a theme hanging around its neck. (But yes, with several terrible metaphors).  And Ms.Petal if she ever reads it would look flustered and say, “Puny blog, with your pathetic lack of focus, your marks are directement zero!”

Psycho-Economics 101 and Norwegian Wood

I was reading my first Haruki Murakami novel recently – the events which led up to me purchasing the book were completely psycho-economic, but I’m gonna blog about that nevertheless.

Dan Brown’s latest Langdon caper, ‘The Lost Symbol’ was released last month, a substantial gap of about 6 years after ‘The Da Vinci Code’. I am more or less a compulsive buyer of books – even if I feel a book is gonna be crap, I might buy it if its a high-profile release or if the author has written a good one previously – in this case, Angels and Demons.

Thus, I set out to buy the ‘Symbol’, but there is something quite unsettling about purchasing a Rs.600 book when you know its bound to be shite. And thats how I turned to Psycho-Economics, a non-existent branch of pseudo-science which deals with the intriguing study of how I justify wrong decisions.

As per Psycho-Economics 101, if I’m gonna buy a bad book for Rs.600, I can nullify the effect by buying 3 guaranteed good ones for a further Rs.600. So for Rs.1200, I’m getting 4 books out of which 3 are good – and psychologically I’m prepared to pay Rs.1200 for 3 good books. So, as per our unique branch of pseudo-science, I’m getting the bad book for free.

And thus, I chose a thin little copy of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, a paperback copy of the oft-recommended ‘Tipping Point’ and Haruki Murakami’s ‘Norwegian Wood’.

I loved Wood. It was the closest I had come to realizing all my pre-purchase expectations from a particular book, in recent days. Since ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell’ to be exact. Toru Watanabe’s tale of his student life in Japan, his first love Naoko and the vivacious Midori strikes all the right chords.

You love a book for several reasons. Generally, I suppose a story has to appeal to a particular emotion or maybe even to a whole gamut of them – a Wodehouse novel has me in splits while an Agatha Christie whodunit is pleasing to the little grey cells.  I loved Norwegian Wood for the atmosphere it created so effortlessly – a mixture of longing, angst and youthful promise.

Halfway through the book, I turned to the ever-reliable youtube for the Beatles’ track after which Murakami named his book – Naoko’s favourite song in the story.

And thus I read Murakami, heard John Lennon and thought of life. Bliss.