Friday, February 05, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
“Indians do not mean what they say and do not say what they mean”
It required a story to explain.So, he narrated how a group of Germans were once called home for dinner by an Indian. The Germans being Germans took the invitation seriously and actually showed up only to find an unprepared host who opened the door in his pajamas. The message was clear. Do not take Indians at face value.My mind turned to the dinnertime conversation the previous night, and I wondered what Paul and Leo were now thinking about our invitation to come stay with us when they visited Bangalore!Finally, the man gloriously wound up, saying that despite all this, India was one of the fastest growing economies in which if anyone chose to put in his money, it was bound to fetch a great return.The audience clapped and then everyone took a fifteen minute break.
I headed to the toilet.There was a long queue.Suddenly a young German student in the queue, unaware that I was behind him, did a mock drill of breaking the line to form what he called an “Indian Queue”.I was the only Indian there, and I had only my countryman to thank for the ignominy.
“Ooh there’s an old teacher, I want a picture with her. Here take our photo. “
“Wow that setting is beautiful, here take my photo.”
“A group photo ? Waitwaitwaitwait Im coming. (5 second gap as everyone adjusts to accommodate the new person). Ok now click.”
“Isn’t that statue lovely? Here take my photo.”
“Ok now all you guys move, I want a solo picture.”
“Now I want a picture with her. Smile. Thank you. Now with him. Smile. Thank you. Wait. One last picture. With both of them now. Smile. Cheese. Thank you.”
They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. That in a photo, time halts for a brief moment. Well I just made that up so I doubt anyone has said that. But I digress. Every time I head to a tourist spot, I manage to spot one of ‘them’ (not to be confused with the people who said a picture is worth….). The kind who want their picture taken at every possible occasion. With every available camera. With the same background and the same people in them (are they possibly hoping that some radically different picture will emerge if they click the same snap from different cameras time and time again ? Who knows …. ). And they want solo pictures. Lots of them. Make that lots and lots of them. Under the tree. On the left side of the tree. On the right side of the tree. With their best friend. With their best friend’s friend. On the lawn next to the tree. And so on and so forth. Recepients of endless flashbulbs that accompany a snap. I for one, find myself dazed for a couple of seconds if the flash is too bright. Maybe all those bright flashes have affected their brains. Permanently. Sounds distinctly possible. Until recently a nameless (and shameless) breed, who have now been aptly christened by India’s brightest minds – Photo terrorists.
Go jump in a well. Get lost. These two statements would form the vast majority of the comments that I (and in all probability you) have been at the receiving end of when the other person has been in an irritable mood. After wondering why most Indians stick to either of these 2 lines and refuse to adopt anything else I realised its probably because noone else has come up with something as simple, effective, inoffensive and yet quirky enough to be useful on a day to day basis. Which got me thinking and at the end of much pondering (a grand total of 2 minutes), I think I have struck gold with my phrase “Go catch a cold” (the rhyming bit was unintentional).
It does sound harmless at first. It might even draw a smile. But if you do pause and reflect, you will notice that behind the seemingly innocuous line lies a wish of misfortune that is far more sinister that the regulars. For one, a cold does ensure that you have to stay away from people lest you pass it on to them (if that was your intention in the 1st place then ….). Two it leaves you feeling miserable to the core. What’s worse than having a head that feels like it weighs a ton and a voice that sounds like youre trying to do your best Deep Throat impersonation and a running nose that never seems to stop (inadvertently funny there) ? Plus you get no sympathy from anyone. In sharp contrast to someone who might be the biggest jerk around but who slips on a banana peel and ends up with a broken arm and complete doting from everyone else. And if you jump in a well there’s always a possibility that someone’s going to rescue you. And if you get lost, someone’s always going to guide you back to the right way. But if you catch a cold, neither prayers nor meds can save you. Think you’ve just wasted 4 minutes of your life reading utter crap ? Go catch a cold …..
So what makes a journey truly memorable ? Sometimes it’s the people you’re with. It could be the destination. At other times it’s the journey in itself which proves to be an adventure. Nature’s gob smacking beauty often has a decisive role to play. Occasionally it’s something that a person said and did. Often it’s about things someone didn’t say or do. And sometimes, just sometimes, it takes a stranger to make a journey special.
I was on a recent biking trip with Sunny (an army officer whose stories have instilled even more respect in me for our tough armed forces, another post for another time) to a famous waterfall that is over a 100 kays from here. The ride there was fabulous as the roads were empty but we were treated to a waterfall that barely lived up to its billing as a major tourist attraction. Then again, expecting a gushing fall months after the monsoon was probably our fault. We rode to another spot further down the road in the hope of a better view of the other side of the falls but all we got was a sight of even less water trickling down. Resigning ourselves to our fate, we settled for a quick photo session and realised that all we had were solo pictures. Since the crowd there wasn’t the best on that particular day, we asked a kid who had wandered close to us (and our bikes) to take a snap. As I continued my photography experiments, the kid came up to us and said “When I grow up I am going to buy your bike”. It was then that I realised that he had been examining Sunny’s Bullet and my bike with an eager eye and after a considerable point in time he had decided that he liked my bike more than the evergreen Bullet. Heres the rest of our conversation
“Pukka (Are you sure) ?”
“ Definitely !”
“Only if you ride safely and wear a helmet. Which colour?”
“ Same colour”
"Want a photo with the bike ? "
Monday, February 01, 2010
It’s been quite a while since I’ve used the admittedly rather derogatory term “Bloody Indians” for my brethren. The live and let live philosophy is something that I have accepted over time. All this however was rendered invalid by a recent bus trip. The bus I was travelling in had stopped in the night for a combination of a dinner & loo break. Since several other buses had also stopped at the same place & since it was particularly cold & windy that night, there were a rather large number of people who had to relieve themselves at the urinal. While we stood patiently waiting for the others to complete their duties, one gentleman decided that he could wait no longer and turned his back to us and proceeded to go about his business there and then directly onto the floor as we looked on with a mix of amusement and disgust.
Still shaking my head in disbelief I stepped out and was waiting for the bus to leave when I saw a few guys walk towards the nearby trees to relieve themselves. It didn’t even register in my head until I realized that the guys had inadvertently completed their task against the direction of the rather strong wind. Not wanting to ruin their evening, I decided to keep quiet but couldn’t help muttering those 2 words under my breath as they walked by totally unaware of their predicament, “Bloody Indians ……”