Ever wondered how almost everyone who went to high-school in India remembers cracking up over something a PE or S.U.P.W or Home ed or Drawing teacher supposedly said at class? Things like -‘open the window, let the climate come in’, or ‘ stand in a straight circle’ or ‘will the absentees please raise their hands’, or ‘Both of you three stand together separately’ and so on? Wondered how we all have the same stories? Wondered if there is something else going on behind the scenes?[readers- please share similar stories in the comments section]
Wonder no more, Dingchak’s special correspondent infiltrated the XVIIIth annual Association of PT Teachers Joke rationalization Symposium,held in Ranipet, TN, this last Dec, and filched a copy of the agenda.
The summit aims to faciliate brainstorming through both open-house, free for all Q&As, -sessions where sweaty PT masters and surly art-teachers guffaw, and signal their delight through the ritual slapping of thighs or their disapproval by making squelching songs with their armpits, and through closed door consultative sessions where novice masters can practice the art of deadpan delivery and post delivery- laughing student whack techniques. Votes for the more inane jokes of the previous years, to be retired are tabulated at the end of the conference and disseminated through the quarterly newsletter.
Here is a small part of the agenda that was left in Dingchak’s reporter’s hand after it was snatched at by a disapprovingly violent moral-instruction master.
-12.00 — Lunch
-2.00 –Group Nap
-3.00–Tea and Snacks
-3.30–Lecture: Tears or Laughter or both- what really drives PT masters? BY eminent educational psychologist, MariMuthu T, PhD,MA-PT
-3.45–SlideShow: The role of the Master-Clown in an internet enabled multiverse.
-4.00–Discussion: Current issue: Should NCC masters be allowed to make jokes in a post 9/11 world?
-4.30–Fundraising Tea: Contributions to the quartlerly PT-PJ newsletter
-5.00–community voting preliminary retirement List:
a.I have two daughters. Both of them are girls
b. Cut an apple into two halves and take the bigger half.
c. Dont talk in front of my back
-6.30–Cocktails and Exercises
As a nation of Software engineers and a generation of Barista sipping BPO baby boomers transition from chilled beer to child bearing , these anxious about-to-be parents are leaving no stone unturned in their quest for that perfect name for their baby – one that is exotic sounding – preferably quasi-mythological and that is still pronounceable in a call center setting, and, one that ensures a unique mail id on yahoo or gmail without appending a large prime number at the end to distinguish it from others, and in their mad search through musty old Amar Chitra kathas and hasty subscriptions to www.cool-desi-babynames.org and www.watchamacallit.com, there is a forgotten casualty that has fallen silently by the wayside, a roadkill deserving of a proper eulogy, before we permanently lay it to rest.
I am referring to the humble â€˜Sureshâ€™, or for that matter Ramesh (and to a lesser extent the Ganesh) – names ubiquitous enough a decade ago, now rarely ever considered, or if considered, usually as a prank or as an ill-conceived revenge. As an experiment, look around you. How many young couples do you see deciding between Anya,Ananya,Anikya, Anikanya,Adi,Maya, and suchlike, or for the more adventurous -Kapilavastu, Soorpanaka, Ghatotkacha, and what not have you, ..and look at just how many are named Suresh. None? I thought so.
But this was not always the case. Couples in the 70s evidently thought Suresh or Ramesh was a cool name- we all know quite a few Sureshâ€™s of our generation who are perfectly normal. As in most things in India- the movies played a big part in the naming of babies (unless you were on Kerala, where babies were named after the leader of the communist fad of the day). The Suresh of 70s movies was a â€˜niceâ€™ character, a friend of the hero (who was usually Vijay, or Rahul, or if you were tamilian-Alex Pandian- though this name never caught on, for some reason, I wonder why), and in some cases he dies, virtuously. Our conservative parents, in an uncertain, un-ambitious time, never aimed for their children to be heroes, they just wanted their kids to be nice, have nice friends, and be harmless, mostly.
On the other hand, the parents of todayâ€™s globalizing, attention grabbing India want their kids to be superstars, Hrithik-sized over-achievers, with names that retain their Indian-ness, that are both eclectic and enunciabile, given this, who can blame our Sureshsâ€™ for being hopelessly outclassed?
But how long can this go on? What happens when these unscrupulous parents exhaust the Mahabharatha, the Ramayana, and the Upanishads. At some point, our exploding population is going to swamp the names in the Hindu Pantheon, and what happens then? Do we reach into the Jataka Tales? No my friends, let this madness stop right here, before we start endlessly exhuming and recycling fringe characters from obscure epics. Imagine having a class with three Jarasandhas- (who would almost defintely go by the nicknames of JP, Mota Jarasandha, and The Other One), as if children didnâ€™t have a tough enough time sorting out the multiple Srirams and the Karthiks at school. Also think of the incongruity of having an exotic first name before a pedestrian last one( though a Natasha Balasubramaniam is probably not as lame as a Vichitraveera Patel), utter confusion. Enough! Will someone please think of the children?
I suggest a back to the basics approach, like the one adopted by the good folks at IIT Kanpur, but with a twist. Let everyone have the same first name, and let the last name be whatever they would have had before -their fatherâ€™s name/village/caste/tribe etc, saving this trigger happy me2-wannabe generation many thankless hours of mythological excavation. The gods are with me on this one, trust me. Of course, the first name, would have to be, Suresh.
Whenever there is a news event of significance -be it a bomb, an accident, a protest, a bandh, a diplomatic exchange between India-Pak, and so on, in the discussion that follows on the internet, there is inevitably an idiot who chimes in to ask “Where are Shabana Azmi and her coterie of pseudo-secularists now?” Huh?” Huh” Sometimes they ask for Mahesh Bhatt, at other times for MF Hussain, and sometimes they get horny or confused and sheepily ask for Mallika Sherawat throwing the discussion hopelessly off kilter, and the folks at Dingchak feel that this desified Godwin’s law is suitably ubiquitous enough now to merit a name and a meme of its own- and we hereby christen it Shabana’s Law. We leave it to the readers to expand on the meme.
To help simple minded readers and n00b netizens who are unsure whether the above questions posed are strictly rhetorical or not, we have implemented a cute little utility that provides them with an answer to the question “Where is Shabana Azmi now???” – We call it the “Where is Shabana Azmi now???” Tracker.We considered calling it “Shabana? Askme” -but feared the subtlety would be lost on the people using the tracker.
The “Where is Shabana Azmi now???” Tracker [Wordpress/Blogger Plugin and RSS feed to follow soon,Firefox extension if there is enough demand, will be considered], is located on the “cool tools” panel to your right (or just click here), and at any point of time, you can find out what Shabby baby is upto, and whom she doing it with. So track away fundutva-vadis, may this add another barbed bullet to your quiver against Ms. Azmi and her ilk/mulk. [For the readers of ultra-right-blogs like the shady warrior who also writes at Rediff.com, who might tend to go overboard and overload our dingchak.net servers, may I recommend the enhanced plug in-only $29.99/mo-unlimited usage?]
How Dingchak is able to get you this information you ask? Our psychops team has been tracking Shabby with a chip we had implanted in her scalp when she was getting her Haircut for Fire. You no believe? We have photos-
For examples of Shabana’s law, from a random search on the net that took me 30 seconds, read the comments below the foll. news items-
Saturday August 5 2006 16:47 IST
NEW DELHI: It was Sonia Gandhi’s wish to have a dosa in Parliament’s Central Hall that sent two Congress MPs falling over each other to fetch the snack for the party president from the canteen. And when she accidentally spilled a glass of water, an MP got a chance to prove his loyalty by wiping the wet table.
When Gandhi, who otherwise does not mingle with other MPs too often, obliged to a request from some women MPs to join them for coffee at the Central Hall on Thursday, some Congress MPs as well as journalists there made the best use of the opportunity to chat with her.
Margaret Alva, senior Congress leader, proposed that Gandhi should taste the dosa made at the Parliament’s Railway Canteen. Upon Sonia saying ‘yes’, two Congress MPs – one from Haryana and the other from Tamil Nadu – jumped up with alacrity to fulfil their leader’s wish.
But, the dosa took more than half-an-hour to be made as it was not yet snack time. The media persons, who were chatting with the Congress president, saw the duo pacing restlessly in the hall waiting for the dosa to be served.
When finally the dosa was brought, Sonia had a small bite and put the plate on a table behind her. In the process, she accidentally spilled a glass of water on the table in front of her. She immediately apologised for the mess.
But, this galvanised the Haryana MP into action. He scurried forward with paper napkins and started wiping the water off.
During her wait for the dosa to arrive, Sonia inquired about the state of the facilities for women MPs in Parliament. The women MPs there complained of the pathetic condition of the toilets and the hassles they had to go through during security checks.
Two Left women MPs took the opportunity to press for the pending Women’s Reservation Bill. “But there is no consensus,” said Sonia Gandhi in reply, adding that the situation had improved in the recent days with more consensus for the bill and she was hopeful it would come up soon.
But, Gandhi was very firm with journalists. “No recording, no note taking,” she told them at least half-a-dozen times.
“No political questions too,” she said. When a media person tried to raise a political question she stood up and said sternly, “If that is the case, then I am going.”
In which rediff reviews are reviewed.
Review: Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya
Favorite quote from review: “Garish colour combinations dominate, hurting the eye.”
Review of Review:
When a rediff reviewer begins the review of a Salman Khan starrer with a meandering quotation from a Richard Bach paperback, you know that somewhere in the bowels of Rediff.com’s decrepit Andheri office, an editor, who has never heard of the phrase casting swines before pearls, is kicking himself senseless, consoling himself that he has learnt a valuable lesson,one that most of us know by now, that Sallu bhaiyya doesnt snap his banian straps for no stinking Bach reading-non fat lassi sipping-fab india kurta clad Burkha Dutt wannabes, hell, no.
The presumptuous title by our cyclopean reviewer (bonus point to the first commenter who gets the reference), “Shilpa and Salman dont arouse interest?” would stun Sallu and Shilpa baby if they were ever to get on to the internet and read Rediff.com, not that they would ever need to get on to the web- they say King Salmon has printed out the entire internet on bond paper (printing on both sides-he does care about the environment you know, thats why he shoots deer, the blasted deer eat the trees that give us the paper), and not that they would ever read (Sal-Bhai has body guards that read for him, and Shilpaben says that she has downloaded all of the internet into her ipod), anyways, they would like to know why this reviewer is accusing them of arousing interest..interest? arousing lust, passion, hate and anger,unwary street-sleepers, doe-eyed deer, each other, they can understand, but what is this interest this reviewer wants them to arouse?
The reviewer goes on further to trample insolently down this foreign terrain, carelessly dropping irrelevant assertions about the absurdity of the plotline, the triteness of the dialogues, and uses her questionable ultra-feminist morality to question Salman Khaaan’s slapping of his career hungry woman, and the logic of his making her stay at home to make babies….What is wrong with you, lady? Just because Sallu-boss’s technique failed with Aishwarya Rai, you think all women are better than Sallu-sir? you doubt sir’s manliness? Our fan-club is already out in the streets, photocopying your fatwa notices. Furthemore, this callous reviewer only alludes to the legendary Shakti Kapoor (Shilpaben’s father) in passing, making no mention of his succesful recent recovery from syphillis, and doesn’t even give him a chance to explain his account of the incident of the extra he is going to grope, tomorrow,- ShaktiJi deserves a better welcome than that, (his reaction on reading the review, a hurt- aaaooooow?), and she even has the audacity to complain about sajid-wajid’s inability to provide foot tapping numbers -an evidently mendacious accusation- given that they have provided exactly the same numbers in 47 movies before, about which this reviewer has never ever complained.
It hurts me to go on, the chasm is too deep, the walls too far apart. The problem, in my opinion, with such ‘reality-based’ reviews is that the gap between the reviewer and Sallu-the king- Khan (the other 2 khans are just posers unworthy of the name), is so large, that the bridge can only be built by the girders of lowered expectations, buttressed by the struts of unwavering trust above a foundation suspended by total disbelief. You enter a cinema, You watch, you genuflect, you whistle, and when you see the things that you long to do, in color on screen, and you know that there is life after 40, and that even if you are bald you can look cool in a cut-banian, and that it is possible to play the guitar and dance, and that the law is for losers, and you know that he is the only one you want to be, and you wink back at him first in approval, and then in gratitude.
But you can’t wink if you have only one eye, maybe that explains your review.
The desi dingchak has competition!
A group of renegade cossacks have launched a counterstrike to usurp the mantle of the uber-dingchak, a russian threat to our very own desi-dingchak? you better believe it, this gang of multi-colored jigna interlopers in reflective clothing, abetted by a wily vulcan in a shiny blue satin suit (you have to check out the video), have launched their own blog called Dschingis Khan. I kid not.
Again, I kid, not.
Since every third desi blog title is either a “confused writings of.. “, a “random scribblings from..”, a “mad thoughts of.. ” or a permutation of other such similar apologist disclaimers, aimed towards pre-empting readers from commenting on how shallow and lame the posts really are, to save time, Dingchak.net has a cool new utility that will generate these titles for you [wordpress/blogger plugin to follow soon], automatically, freeing writers to think up those pearls of wisdom, those nuggets of truth, for which us netizens eagerly await, with baited breath.
Here it is.
The grapevine whispers that Shaadi.com -the hugely succesful matrimonials website is beta-testing a couple of new fields on its search form- to make it easier for telugu bachelors to find their brides. Dingchak has obtained a scanned homepage screenshot of this new search form-
(click thumbnail for https://beta.gult.saadi.com/search.html)
A black metal festival in Mylapore?? Thats a fantastic idea bro, Muthu(Mordor ka Poojari) was the first to react.
Hiren (the CradleSnatcher) was all keyed up. I knew he’d been wanting a show of his own for a long time now. We would be headlining it of course, was all he wanted to know.
Ganesh(Count Caracass) was’nt too sure. Man I know its for a good cause and all, but I am not sure if Cradle of Filth, Children of Bodom and Cannibal corpse are what the tsunami victims want to hear right now, he objected.
I had to give it to him. We’ve got to respect their sentiments and we needed tact, shitloads of it, to pull this off. But dammit, if Falguni Pathak can get herself a tusnami garba nite- we owed it to our metal gods to do something.
We were the The Smegma Warriors- Madras’s only true death-metal outfit. We had formed the band in high-school,we had been worshipping together at the altar of Aleister Crowley(hallowed be his hame). We knew each other’s secrets-who secretly listened to Wham (Hiren), who shagged with Amrutanjan(Hiren again), who din’t swallow the blood-honey-cowdung mixture on the night of our secret band iniation ritual(all of us),who shaved his chest-hair (Hiren and Muthu), and who would screw up where and when on what song all of us at some point or other, on all songs,at all times).
Ganesh was going on and on- Are you sure we can get enough people to come? I cant see iyer maamas moshing to the dark lord’s death chant man and the college crowd only want Christina Aguilera nowadays. And what about bands? We dont have enough black-metal bands here in madras.Also, where do you think they’re going to let us play-this is the carnatic music season man, somehow I don’t see our show being billed on the same hall as Kadri Gopinath.Who is going to pay for all this?
We had heard all this many times before. Muthu spoke for all of us ‘Listen Count, this is is probably the last show before we break up. I can’t keep pissing off my boss anylonger, you cant keep fighting with your parents, and Agasthya is leaving for Australia next month and Hiren’s got to do whatever he does. If we’re going to go bust, I want to do it on my own terms and on my own show’. Hiren nodded furiously, and called for another lassi. Ganesh gave in. I started planning.
Amma wasn’t too kicked about the idea. I have nothing against your music, but why this obsession with satan? Its an invitation for Shani dosham. And the name of your band- chi, chi. Appa didn’t care. He had given up on me the day he saw our band on the terrace doing our secret surya namaskaram ritual the night of the lunar eclipse. He went back to the obituary on the Hindu. I did’nt care, I had a lot of work to do.
Hiren came over the next day. I had put him in charge of promotions and poster designs. He brought a CD with PhotoShop samples of the poster he had been working on all night.
The first sample was the image of a rock band(with their instruments) riding a giant wave. The wave was poised to strike a bunch of panic stricken people running on a beach. The caption below said
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
He seemed particularly proud of this one.I dint have the heart to tell him what was wrong. I told him the caption below should say Tsunami relief 2005- people might think its from tsunami early warning monitoring project. We moved on to the next one- a montage of what I think were zombies and mummies walking with their arms raised shoulder level with the backdrop of a dark gotham city version of Mount Road. The caption said Celebrate life, Chennai! Tsunami Concert 2005.
We took an oothappam break. I asked Hiren to leave his CD behind. I would work on the posters, and he would work the music shops and college campuses to spread the word around, we decided. Thats fine, I was heading there anyway. Good, lets get going, I said.
Ganesh called at 3:00. He was handling the venue booking and the sound set up. He had been on the phone all morning, and hadn’t found anyone willing to host our show. He was about to give up, the places he had called were either too expensive, overbooked,declasse, too small, or too big. I asked him to keep trying. He called back in an hour saying he had found a place and wanted me to come over to an address at Thiruvamiyur at 5.
I parked my bike next to the Tea shop. The count was lighting his Wills-Navy Cut from a dangerous looking electric cigarette lighter attached to the side of the kiosk. I dont know what would shock his parents more if he died of electrocution- the fact that he is dead, or the fact that he smoked. He ordered another and asked me to sit down. Keep an open mind he said, and introduced me to a middle aged man in a crisp mauve colorplus shirt and a psychedelic lungi sitting opposite us. The man gave me his card- “Immanuel Jayashankar” “General Manager- Sales” it said.
Mr.Immanuel will be showing us the place.
What place? I asked.
Why this one sir! Mr. Jayashankar pointed to the compound wall behind the Tea-shop. I stood up and noticed the gigantic structure behind us. The only thing going for it was it looked shiny new. I went into the compound and looked inside the building, a long wide hall with a concrete raised stage at the end. The stage had two chairs-chairs of the kind you see the chief guest sitting on in School functions. It dawned on me then,And what was that smell? This used to be a biscuit factor earlier sir, Jayashankar piped in and flipped the card I still held in my hand. “Shri Somasundaram Thirumanakoodam Marriage Hall” it said. I felt faint. I recovered, and dragged the count to the side.
Are you crazy??I dont mind having the show on my house terrace, but there’s no way Crowley(hallowed be his shame!) will be invoked in this thirumanakoodam. I put my foot down.
Ganesh showed me the Excel List print out he had been making of halls and excuses. There’s no way we can get a place within 10 days on our budget, unless you want to take this show to Tondiarpet. I sat down. This is as stupid as getting chunki to play with us in that festival ..i thought..
Chunki was the nepali waiter at the chinese food truck near my place. We had stopped over at the place one night after we had come in 2nd last
in a local high-school rock competition. We were attacking our gopi manchurians and fried rice melancholically.
Damn, atleast we should have played over-time, and gotten disqualified. 2nd last is so humilating. Hiren was feeling particularly bad, he’d screwed up more than the rest of us that day.
Do you know why we lost? Ganesh asked,
Not enough practice? Muthu
Jealous Judges? Hiren
May be we shouldn’t have played Necrophagia? You should have seen Father Joseph’s face when you were growling “I’m your worst ***** nightmare”.. Me
Nope, we dint have a chinese in our band. Ganesh
Huh? the rest of us.
If you look at all the really cool bands, they all have a chinese lead guitarist. These judges think anyone from Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland is cool. All we need is a chinese looking guitarist with a bandana.
Hmm, there was something to that. We all looked at Chunki at the same time. 250 bucks and 2 playboys later, we had convinced him to don an iron maiden t-shirt and play the air guitar in our next rock competition.
I must admit, the idea wasn’t too bad. How could Ganesh know that Chunki would turn up drunk, and how did we know he really wanted to sing. The lesser said about the show, the better. We had to carry Chunki screaming off stage, but hey at least we got disqualified.
..to be continued..
Visu: A comic genius.
Ok, I was just kidding in the title. If you know donâ€™t know who Visu is, if you think Kamal Hassan in Ek Duje Ke Liye was cute, or if you think South Indians eat Dosa for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I donâ€™t think you will get very much out of this piece.
Since you persist, here is a brief background-
Visu pioneered, wrote, starred and directed a bunch of family drama, middle- class depression, Patxploitation (exploiting the patriarch) movies familiar to all desi movies viewers in the 80’s.Â These movies had cleverly alliterative titles – Samsaram Oru Minsaram (Marriage is like electricity), Penmani Aval Kanmani (Girl, she’s a pearl – OK, so my Tamil sucks), and many others I am too lazy to Google or IMDB.
Of all the Mahaan Insaans to hit Tamil cinema screens in the mid 80s,Â there is none more worthy of our collective bile than Visu (I am so cool I don’t need a last name). Visu’s defining characteristic as an actor was his overbearing smugness, which sounds like a lot of retired Tam Brams in Mylapore i know.
However, what makes Visu’s story interesting is the range of emotions he evokes amongst people of different ages. Ask the average Tamil youth anything about Visu, and he froths at the mouth. Ask a retired Tamilian grandfather, and he proudly takes out his tickets from his last Visu movie from Devi Paradise from his pocket.
Why this dichotomy we must ask.
The hatred Visu has inspired amongst legions of children growing up in Madras cannot be understated. Sultry evenings in early 80’s Mylapore(a madras suburb) would often find kids amusing themselves in a harmless Tamilian version of “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe”. Their version went “Aadu, Maadu, Pasu, Kusu” [for the uninitiated – Goat, Cow, Milch Cow, Fart]. The guy who was “Kusu” was branded for life, or, at least until the next round.
However, by 1987 the chant had turned intoÂ “Aadu, Maadu, VISU, Kusu”, and it was the guy who was “Visu” who cringed in shame!
So how, we must ask, did he inspire so much hate that children would rather be a noxious gas than be linked to him?
Visu’s features typically featured a joint family of ungrateful children, usually 3 sons – 2 married with nasty wives, and one “youth”- usually Dilip (I’ll dance on his grave with my hob-nailed boots) in a cut-sleeve Banian indulging in the dreadful trinity of the most unforgivable of Dravidian vices- smoke, drink and lech (this was before the Hindi serial Subah – which made drugs THE thing to do to piss of parents).
It alsoÂ featured an eternally suffering mother (Kamla Kamesh) flashing a tired, beatific smile that rivaled KR Vijaya’s Amman faces of the 80’s- (aaah, but thatâ€™s another story) when times were good, and stuffing the end of her Madusaru saree into her mouth to stifle her sobs, when times were bad.
*Note* Sometimes the third sibling is a woman, in which case, she is a slut
with a heart of gold.
*Note* Sometimes there’s an adopted kid who generally screws up, but in a
The plot unfolds with a happy family that eats, sings and laughs together. Then the brothers’ wives start their dissing (i donâ€™t know why, but there’s usually something about money involved), sowing the seeds of dissent. The stoic father bears all and notes the treachery in his little black notebook with a Camlin HB pencil. At the half way stage, things are usually pretty far gone, with either the sons moving to a new house, or kicking the others out of their old house, or dividing the house with Lechman Rekhas etc.
This is when Visu takes charge. Whenever someone says something nasty, he doesnâ€™t fight back, but nods wisely, smiles in his supercilious way and files it for future notice. Nastiness upon nastiness builds up to a climactic last scene where like Poirot, he gets all the badasses together in the family living room, and lashes out a 20 minute dialogue, chronicling each character’s treachery.
Now the Visu climax is unique, each slimeball’s comeuppance happens with Visu moving from pillar to pillar in the ancestral home unleashing vengeance in a whiny high pitched voice and unique cadence (likened to the sound of a dentist drill while having a root canal). When he is finished with one person, the soundtrack goes *bang*,he moves to the next pillar, and starts again. If there’s an adopted kid in the story, the last salvo is usually reserved to show how blood is thinner than water and how the adopted kid is the only good apple/white sheep of the lot
All this while, Kamla Kamesh is so busy stuffing acres of Madusaru into her mouthÂ that she can only nod and sob.
At the end of this, the junta are suitably contrite, and the wives cringe in shame. Of course they all make up and realize what a magaan yinsaan they have in their midst. The husbands slap their wives, and put feet to the father. All’s well and they sit together for the family feast, and the movie ends with either a joke, or with a joint photograph.
I was watching Baghbaan the other day, and from the first 20 minutes, looking at how happy everyone was, I realized that the only way it could unfold would be the Visu way. I switched to the Weather Channel immediately. If I wanted to relive the Visu experience, I could call my dentist.
I think most people who have lived their lives in both south and north India would agree how little people know about the other side. I had classmates in school growing up in Madras who thought anybody from up-north of north Madras was a Sardarji, and I had classmates at college (in engineering school up north), who thought anybody from below Bombay spoke Madraasi. (The more enlightened ones thought anybody from Karnataka spoke Karnatak). So, it did’nt surprise me when my friend, an iyer from Mettupalayam whose only knowledge of Hindi was the word ‘Baazigar’,’- a word he had seen written in 40 feet letters on posters and cutouts on Mount Road, thought the word must mean something important, found himself in the buckle of the cow-belt – Muzzafarnagar,UP.
To give him credit, he could make himself pretty well understood in the local language. All he had to do was point to his wrist with an questioning look and say ‘Baazigar?’ to know the time. A raised little finger and an apologetic ‘Baazigar!’, and he could find out where the nearest toilet was.
As Hindi movies became more and more popular among the southies, more members of the Metupalayam brigade decided to take it upon themselves to become more north savvy and Hindi literate. Translating movie titles in their prathmik-madhyamik fashion, they went out of movie halls thinking the movie they just saw (‘chashme baddoor’ ) meant ‘spectacle case’, and ‘Kacche daghe’ became “underwear nada”, or to Tamilians ‘arana kayaru’. Gaining confidence, they soon learnt to use their knowledge of the structure of the language in other settings- I heard of a pupil who went to a restaurant in Calcutta in ’99 and told a waiter ‘chidiyakhana’ (I want to eat chicken). The waiter being bong went back to reading Trotskyâ€™s translation of Tagore or the other way around, I forget which.
The most improbable story about bilingual movie translation disasters is a case my brother narrated to me. This was an English-Tamil case, that happened when 2 of his classmates were discussing the movie Jurassic Park. The actual conversation was in Tamil, and when translated, went something like this.
‘Man, that movie was too much’
‘Yeah, specially that part where the big Jurassic park attacks the jeep’
‘Yeah, even the small Jurassic parks were awesome’..
..the guys discussing the movie thought that the dinosaurs were creatures called Jurassic Park. Classic.
Though the average Tamilian makes some effort to learn Hindi in his life, the average northie has no such pretensions. He is comfortable in his cocoon, and beyond a half hearted attempt at learning three curse words for the time he might have to argue with auto drivers in Madras/Bangalore, he doesnâ€™t give a damn. Though this attitude smacks of superciliousness, condescension and common sense, there is very little southies can do about it. However, directors like Mani Ratnam who have acknowledged the rift are now making bilingual movies that suck in both languages(Yuva-bleah!). More power to them, I say.
Man versus Fruit
The train is leaving the station. I lie down on my upper berth and fan myself with my Cine Blitz. Bipasha Basu moves towards and then away from me, with every flick of my wrist. Story of my life.
Peanut shells on the floor, Milk Bikis packet wedged in the space between the seat and the wall, ceiling mounted fans that roared back the urine saturated, dried fish putrescence back down on the masses below, heartbreaking graffiti on the sidewall – ‘Shilpa love Suresh’, with the ‘love’ scratched out. I adjust the backpack below my head and ponder why.
I look down at the laughter from down below. A group of students have taken over the compartment, filling my cube and the next three. An hour of listening to random chatter about girls, semester exams, job interviews and girls.. I make out that they are engineering students from Bihar heading back to their hostel after an industrial tour to Calcutta.
The conversation settles into a comfortable cadence. The group is ganging up on one guy. Make mental note of new theory that every group needs to find an outsider inside the group to pick on, to feel secure and to bond better. Realize theory sounds too familiar to be original. Make another mental note to stop making theories on one data point. Also get to know the loser’s name is Jignes.
Train pulls up at a station. Another small town on the West Bengal border thanking its stars its not in Bihar. Stretch my legs on the platform and light the cigarette I was saving for after dinner. Its just about lunch time. I buy mineral water.
Scavenging urchins laughing and playing between compartments one moment, and pulling a sorry face and rubbing their belly just before they approach a window the next. They ask me for the mineral water bottle, vital links in the recycling chain. I throw it to them. Now they want money. I pucker my lips (universal sign for ‘I am so sorry’) and pull my pant pockets out. Mistake -half a kit kat drops out. They fight on the division like sharks.
I look around. Puri-Cholawala’s business is roaring. One look at the crusty chole and dried Cilantro on top, and I want to take my chances in the shark fight behind me for the kit-kat. The college students seem OK by it., and are queâ€™ing up, fighting over who owes whom money for what. Complex calculations and three year financial histories are brought up and heated arguments ensue. I buy a packet of Bon-Bons and watch.
Jignes is in the train, beside the window, taking no part in the chola war. He doesnâ€™t owe any one money it seems, a pity, owing money is a sure sign of popularity when you are in college. He hails the water melon vendor sitting in front of us, swatting flies that are settling down on her cut slices. She asks him if he wants a slice. He wants a whole melon. He picks one. She gets it over to his window and says 20 Rs.
20 bucks! No way he says. I move closer to the window. Jignes looks angry after being pushed around for the last hour, he’s not going to take anymore from a melon seller. Looks like it could be an interesting fight, though the vendor and I know he doesnâ€™t stand a chance.
10 bucks he offers. She doesnâ€™t bother to reply. He says the melons look unripe. She looks up and down the platform. 14 and no more he says. She goes back and puts the melon back on her pile. Fine, says Jignes, and goes back to sulking in his seat. He’s relieved the rest of the bunch havenâ€™t noticed his surrender, to give them more ammo for their arsenal against him. I’m disappointed.
The guard waves his flag. I get back into the train. The fighting engineers seem to have come up with an optimal solution and troop in after me with their leaf wrapped food packets. They hit their berths and dive into their sludge with gay abandon. Jignes looks on at them hungrily, and then looks out at the melon seller longingly. He makes up his mind, calls her over and grudgingly gives her 20 bucks. She smiles and hands over the melon he had picked. The train pulls away from the station.
I look over and see a comedy of epic proportions unfolding. Jignes has his hands outside the window, holding on to the Watermelon. There’s no way he can bring it in. The window is barred and the bars too narrow. The melon seller and the poori cholawala are rolling with laughter on the platform. The urchins think its a game and are jumping up trying to tap the melon out of his hands. The window is too high.
The rest of the engineers are too busy with their lunch to notice at first. Jignes is using his body to shield the melon from them. And then, one of them, the ring leader, looks at the window. His jaw drops open and a chola rolls out of his open mouth. At first he thinks its too good to be true, a mine load of Jignes jokes, so rich, that he gets giddy with the thought. The rest of the pack catches on quickly. Meanwhile, Jignes is furiously trying to manipulate the melon into fitting it through the window bars and salvage some pride. Not a chance, the bars are too narrow.
The train is moving at a fast pace. The engineersâ€™ station is at least 45 minutes away. They’ve woken up their friends in other compartments and the berths around me are filled with vultures swooping in on the action. Three of them want to know if they can get on to my berth. I shoo them off. I have a ring side view.
The rivers of sweat from Jignes’s arms are making the water melon slippery. I want to believe in him. 45 minutes is not too long if you rest your hands and youâ€™re careful not to knock down any telegraph poles.
15 minutes of eternity go by. Jignes battles bravely with his melon with an air of nonchalance, studiously ignoring his classmates’ merciless wise cracks that whiz by him at the speed of unformed thought. The nerds are debating if the cantilever beam stress formulas they learnt in class apply to the situation. Wagers are made. Jignes is at 12 to 1 in chole currency. He knows he cannot hold on for another half hour. He looks hopefully at the chain hanging just beyond his reach, does a quick mental arithmetic comparison of years of ribbing, trauma and psychiatric counseling versus 500 Rs and 2 months in Jail. He decides on the former.
The engineers still show no mercy. Jignes pleads with them to help him out. Lets form a chain of hands and pass it from window to window, and then get it in through the door, he begs. The ring leader quells any wave of relief efforts from potential party poopers with a snarl.
Looks like Jignes is taking it personally now, am I the only one who sees a new light in his eyes? Another 20 minutes of combat go by. The pain is excruciating. Jignes will not accept defeat. The party has mellowed down, they are looking at him with awe. Some of them even want him to win. In a little while, a tentative Jignes! Jignes! Jignes! chant goes up.
Jignes is beyond consciousness. He is Ahab, the watermelon the whale, he is the old man, the fruit his sea. He puts his hand all the way out and pulls it sharply back in, trying to shatter the melon against the bar. Not a dent on the green monster. I knew I shouldnâ€™t have paid 20 bucks, the melon was unripe, his confused mind thinks. The train stops for a signal, beside some shanties on the side of the track, just before the station. Not too long now. The Jignes chant is thunderous. The ring-leader is confused and is pushed back. Jignes’ arms and face are white, his hands purply-red.
The train starts again, and slowly pulls into the station. Jignes doesnâ€™t care anymore. His fingers slowly let the melon drop. It bounces off the concrete platform and a beggar-child picks it up and offers it proudly to its mother. Someone pulls his hands back in, another sprinkles coke on his face, and a third clears the berth for him to lie down on. The others hang on uselessly, knowing there’s a moral in this somewhere, but not sure where. I get back to Bipasha Basu.
A story I wrote, a while ago, on the theme of a space elevator.
The Spindle: Night
How the stars mock us!
Relax. You are going to trigger another buffer overflow! Slow down..There is work to do..
But, .. Itâ€™s so unfair? Day after day, night after night… The arrogance! .. slaves yoked to their millstone.. nothing but pipes for their dreams.
Unfair! Unfair? Do you want irony with that? We need to recalibrate your preferential utility function.
Iâ€™ll show them!
GoogleCorp, Base Station: Early Morning.
Henri Srinivasan looked at Maya. If she knew what this was about, she was hiding it well. Their polite conversation had died down, his curiosity succumbing to fatigue and exhaustion. Maya refilled their coffee. It was his first time to Gabon.
Their conference room was directly below the Tower, 30 levels below the ground. Henri had been impressed by his first look at it on his drive down from the pad. The surroundings were another matter. It looked like a retirement home, with its lawns, fountains, benches and statues- a small concession to the fears of the natives. Not that they there were ever allowed out here, the security at their reservation was tight.
Maya Nixon had been the lead engineer of the Brin project. This was her first time to the tower after retiring from GoogleCorp. He was thankful for her tact when he had handed her his card, he didnâ€™t feel he was up to the task of explaining what Chaosist in Residence meant, this early in the morning.
He hadnâ€™t known that she was his scientific granddaughter â€“Henri had been her PhD advisor’s PhD advisor. Retirement had been kind to her. Henri felt really he had no cause to complain about missing a faculty-student cricket game, if Adjnouti could get her here on a nightâ€™s notice. His team did not really need another off-spinner. But then again, he didn’t know why Adjnouti would need him either.
Adjnouti strode into the room and the room warped into half its size. Adjnouti â€“ex-chief of FASA, CEO of GoogleCorp, the father of the Brin Space Elevator Project. Henri hadnâ€™t seen him for twenty-five years. He saw that Adjnouti still had his shiny dome, legions of barren man had him to thank for making baldness briefly fashionable. He looked like he hadnâ€™t gotten much sleep either.
Adjnouti stuck his memory stick into the projector, switched off the overhead lights and got straight to the point. â€˜We have a problem with HALWA IV -the interface software that drives Brin. HALWA has refused to let any cars come to the ground. Its been five days since our last communication’.
â€˜Henri- you remember HALWA- we licensed the technology from your research group 30 years back- the CODAPT project- Mayaâ€™s team extended the idea to HALWA II and III- meta-software that wrote its own code to solve some really simple problems- climber software for the pods, oscillation regulation, self-repairing software for the cables ..
HALWA IV was a big jump forward for us- we meshed all subsystems to run under one roof, we rewrote it to optimize total throughput. It was expensive â€“ a big q-RAM upgrade, pumped processing up to 2 zeta flops, but it paid off. Increased our operating efficiency by 60%. We couldn’t get trained engineers to stay up at the spindle and man the controls anyway -too lonely. We havenâ€™t had any problems, until now.â€™
Don’t you have a manual override? Henri asked.
He’s replicated himself onto the Farm and blocked all COM ports to ground transmission, hasn’t he? Maya asked.. ‘But why not shut down the power beam to the spindle?’
â€˜The Farm is our data center on the spindle. We stopped beaming power 4 days ago. Since you left Maya, we added an alternative power source to the spindle, to feed off the temperature difference in the cables. There is no way to shut it down, unless we freeze the cables from down here; we’re investigating that optionâ€™.
â€˜What was your last message?â€™
â€˜Five days back, routine handshake, nothing unusual.â€™
No further communication. Nothing. The cars seem to be operational, but they are climbing up and down around the tropopause for no apparent reason.
A knock at the door. Dr. Adjnouti â€“you need to hear this! A sweaty, excited flunky dressed in the company thermal suit rushed in. He turned on a knob beneath the table.
Weâ€™re beaming this live from the tower. An electric hiss washed over the silent room. Four sustained but faint notes became four clear grave notes as the lackey fiddled around with the controls. A G an A then a D and then a clear plaintive E The sequence was repeated, slower this time. And then again, alternately fast and slow at different pitches. They listened for ten minutes. Adjnouti asked the engineer to turn down the volume.
Maya was the first to speak. The oscillation dampeners. Have you checked the hazard alerts â€“ increased micro-met activity? Storm warnings? Rogue satellites?
The engineer hooked his console to the projector.
â€˜The BRIN can handle 12 cars, eight up and four down. Each hoist has 4 cables. The cables are susceptible to oscillations from the wind and micrometeorites. The oscillations are controlled through ground dampeners and noise canceling pulsars, we beam energy pulses through the cable â€“keeps the keep rogue frequencies from building upâ€™, Adjnouti explained. The engineer looked up from his screen. â€˜Nothing unusual showing up here- no storms, all satellites accounted forâ€™.
Is there any chance those .. notes.. could it be a totally random event- through natural fluctuations in the cable?â€™-Maya
I donâ€™t think so. As a physicist, I would say that the chance of exciting and suppressing precisely those energy bands to create those four notes that make sense to our psycho acoustic range, in 12-tone, has a modestly significant statistical probability, improbable, but not impossible, but as a musician, ..come on, donâ€™t you see what it means?
Ignoring the blank stares, Henri continued- those four notes G D A E-. Its Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for Pageâ€™s sake!
They ignored the blasphemy. Maya spoke. â€˜That old nursery rhyme? My mecha-nanna had it programmed into her, sheâ€™d sing it to us every nightâ€™
The bridge as a guitar.. Fascinating.. the energy each note makes does not does not disappear the moment you stop exciting the cable.. it has to calculate how much energy is dissipated through the environment, it has to position the cable cars just right, tighten the cable just so, know what frequencies to allow or cancel, â€¦ marvelous…
Adjnouti didnâ€™t share Henriâ€™s excitement. He turned the volume down. Right now Iâ€™m less interested in the how, and more in the why.
Maybe heâ€™s trying to tell us something. Twinkle Twinkle little star.. either the song itself has meaningâ€¦but we donâ€™t know if HALWA knows the lyrics to the song. Could it have found out somehow? Henry turned to the engineer.
â€˜It could have, it has restricted access to EarthWeb â€“just Lexus Nexus Plexus, some scientific journals, but if it wants to, sure it can look it up, but why?â€™
I donâ€™t know, but then again those notes are the first four bars you play when tuning a guitar or a violin, maybe heâ€™s just getting started.
Adjnouti turned the volume up, a staccato burst of the four notes now in triple time boomed from the speakers, and then silence, quickly followed by a chaotic motet containing a jumble of tunes, from which only a clear tenor just below a middle C could be made out. The piece lasted 2 hours, the irregular beats on each of the tunes repeatedly separating out, and coalescing back within the tenorâ€™s tempo, finally climaxing into a rich haunting isorhthym that increased in volume and suddenly stopped. The wind howled in appreciation. They let the radio play on.
Maya was impressed, â€˜itâ€™s not my kind of music, but donâ€™t you think it sounded much better at the end? Its learning as it goes alongâ€™.
Henri turned to Adjnouti-â€˜ I hope you are taping this. If you need an agent, let me knowâ€¦ donâ€™t you find it funny – here we are trying to reach god, and there he is trying to reach us.â€™ Nobody found it funny. He continued. â€˜We gave him the power of ten reasonably smart human brains, programmed him to be curious- to sniff, prod, test, fix, adapt, and we put him out there to stare at infinity – who said only engineers can be lonely? Or may be heâ€™s just showing off- those were Reimann harmonics he was generating out there. Reminds me of what George Bernard Shaw said about Wagner-his music is WAY better than it soundsâ€™
So what do we do now?
Nothing, we wait till he gets bored, or grows up. Nobody had a better alternative. They sat and waited.
The great gig in the sky continued for another 28 hours. Only Adjnouti was awake all through, silent, listening to the sound of his castle crashing down around him. The others ate and slept in the room, waking up to snatches of polyphonous, polytonous progressions of layers and layers of impossible tunes, time signatures that spoke of irrational roots of unknown beautiful polynomials with precision that was suddenly abandoned for rubatos that stole from other rubatos that stole from themselves.
The cars moving at irregular speeds building the entropy of the cables to levels tantalizingly approaching the factor of safety margins on a scenario their engineers never in their wildest nightmares had imagined, before giving away to the inevitable, in the middle of a moving fugato with a sudden twang. The wind howled in protest.
Adjnouti turned off the radio. They went up to the ground in silence to drape themselves with confetti showering down on them from the cloudless sky.
Above them, the spindle spun around a few times, and moved to a higher orbit.
This is a resurrected blog. It’s previous avatar, sublime-samosa.blogspot.com, went down in a sea of fire, casualty of a historic flamewar with the minions of the RSS-Bollywood Complex.. yes you know who you are.. you may hate my guts, rail at my prose, and generally pee on my website, but the truth will jayate. every time i tell you;all the time. Scoundrels, and even though sublime-samosa may not exist any more, I solemnly promise, that for every rajeev srinivasan rant, and for every shaki-kapoor audio-tape, a thousand dishkyaons will resound, their message echoing through the ether, their bullets piercing the fluff, getting to the heart of the hype, the core of the Kakoose as they say in tamil-nadu, sort of like salman rushdie getting hit by copies of his satanic verses, as in this clip, from the ever excellent hotspotonline.com, i applaud the action, but deplore the sentiment.
Take that you funditva-vadis! DISHKYAOON!