Running away

ForestsMany a time in the past year I have thought of running away. To the rain forests of the Nile or the Amazon. To forests where there are no luxuries, no money issues, no artificial medicines, no materialistic pleasures – just live life to live, not exist. I want to take nothing with me – no electronics, no special clothes, no mechanical devices – absolutely nothing. I want to tell stories, tell tales that will become legendary, meet legends, follow the roots of myths… I want to live life the way early man used to. My daily challenge should be to get through the day alive – to catch prey and not get caught as prey – but not waking up at 7:00 AM so as to catch the 8:00 AM bus.

But then I like to eat. May be I will carry a frying pan and oil with me. And spices. And aluminum foil to store the food. A shelf to store the aluminum foil. Uhmm, may be a house of wood to keep the shelf in. A box of tools to go by. And a sharpening kit. Cannot afford them to rust, so I should probably get a nice tin roof to keep the water away from my home.  I need to keep animals away too, and fire may not be sufficient always. I probably need flash lights to look for stuff in the dark. But I cannot have a lifetime’s supply of batteries – I will need a charger – an electrical source. May be it is a wise idea to get a generator too. I need to get gas/diesel for the generator – so I need to be near a city so it is easy for me to get it. Oh and what if I fall ill? I will need medication too – I may not know what herbs are safe and non-poisonous – and also which ones have healing powers. Again, I will need medicinal supplies whenever the current stock expires. It will be useful to have conveyance to make frequent trips – may be a small vehicle. Actually I will probably not make frequent trips – so it will be good if I can bring lots of things at once – so a bigger car – may be a pickup truck will help. And I will need money to buy a-

Oh.

Damn. I am back where I am now.

Photograph © Kokonad Sinha

As I grew up…

… I have wanted to be several people (or have jobs) at different points in my life (in rough chronological order) –

My brother, because he went to school that lasted a full day instead of mine, which was only a half day.
A train engine driver, because I loved traveling by train and I thought it was the best job ever.
A teacher, so I could keep assigning homework and grade assignments with a red pen.
A car manufacturer, because he didn’t have to study and take exams.
My dad, because he knew everything and also had money.
A ship captain, because water fascinated me.
A film hero, because everyone was happy with him at the end of things.
A pet, preferably a dog, because they are amazing animals and everyone loved/feared them.
A person who sets question papers during tests and exams.
A doctor, because I loved the cleanliness and silence in their offices.
A pilot. Who hasn’t wanted to be one?
A bakery owner, because I loved baked cookies.
A grade 6 student, because it was at a different school and I thought was a whole different level of maturity.
A sprint runner, because in those days, I used to run pretty fast.
The president.
A singer, because every likes a singer at a party (I cannot sing to save my life)
An economist, because for some reason, it was hip to know stuff like that when I was 15.
A computer scientist, because I was realizing what a geek I was.
An advertisement designer, because I thought it would be a cool job.
An engineer. I don’t know why.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Feel free to take this up as a tag. 🙂
Long ago in 2006, I had written this post – Blink – out of boredom. You can take it up as a tag too. It will be better if you read my post after you do the tag – time yourself for 5 minutes, and write a list of whatever object/phenomena comes to your mind. Be crisp. You will be surprised to know what all you can come up with!

PS: I have been away and really busy – and I am yet to catch up with so many wonderfully written blogs (over 100 unread items in my Google Reader). I am grateful to those who have expressed that they have missed activity on my blog! Thank you so much – it feels great to be missed. In other news, an old sports injury has aggravated severely and rendered me almost immobile and somewhat high because of all the pain killers. Also I met my nephew Jishnu over the weekend and loved all of it immensely. He turned three recently, and loves laughing while looking at the camera!

An autorickshaw accolade

Aaah, the autorickshaw. Lovingly called ‘auto’ across the whole of India. You will not meet even a single Indian who does not know what it is. The one solution that is cheaper than a taxi and classier than the bus. The lone vehicle that can shake your very bones – which leave indelible impressions of the vibrant contours that form Indian road surfaces. Just look at it… I mean just look at it. The unique design of Indian autorickshaws: The pinnacle of “auto-save” – if it ever overturns… it has just the right “curves” to get itself back on its wheels. Whoever designed this thing obviously had in mind that if it ever turns around on it’s side, it will roll on to the upright position. Here’s a demonstration.

The auto autosave[Left click for a larger size]

Moving on to my experiences with autos and autowaalas around the country.

Chennai
Chennai remains on the top of the list because auto-related experiences are an excellent conversation opener. Weather does not work as much for a conversation opener, because in Chennai the weather is pretty much the same all round the year: hot and very hot. So, for conversing with autowaalas in Chennai, you need to know a new kind of English – a broken one. You cannot use conjuctions, conditional clauses etc. Simple sentences, for example:
120 rupees aaa? Adyar to Besantnagar I go every week. 35 rupees I will give.
In this regard, I have had hilarious experiences with Chennai autowaalas. Firstly, if you are a non-Tamizh speaking person, you will be asked double just for being there. Then a random number is generated between Rs 80 and Rs 400 depending on the location of the pickup and the way you are dressed. It does not matter where you want to be dropped off. You do not want to commit to using the meter because that might be rigged to check how many times you breathe. Finally when you settle on a price e.g. Rs 40, your friend and you get off and proceed to give him Rs 40 and he stares at you as if you stole the tyre of his auto.
Yenna saar?“, waving the two 20 rupee notes at you.
What?“, you ask, genuinely out of curiosity.
Single person, 40 rupees saar… two people, 80 rupees kudunga saar
Now dodge that. If you are a male and have taken a girl out on a date, you cannot afford to lose a heckling argument with an autowaala. There will be no brownie points for you.

Next stop, Kolkata.
Now there are no long distance autos in Kolkata – they have a short distance shared auto system, operating between points. The catch? You share it big time. In the back seat, you share it with two people clutching on to their handbags and cigarettes/beedis like there is no tomorrow. I wonder what will upset them more – losing the handbag or the beedi. I never tested that. In the front you have two full grown men sharing the driver’s seat. Along with the driver. They are clutching on to whatever will prevent them from falling off the auto. Every time the auto turns, I look to see if anyone has fallen off. If one of them does fall off, he gets into the next auto coming up. And when the “front loaders” need to get off, the driver, out of goodwill slows down so they can get off without getting hurt.

Come all the way to Baroda.
Autos are primarily used for taking children from school and back. Students of all sizes and ages are skilfully put into the auto – and the drivers are really good at it. It’s Tetris in a whole new dimension.
Uncle, peechhe aur jagah nahin hai!
Arre su baat karechhe? Chhe ne! Tu apna taang uske kandhe pe rakh… haan, tu apna haath uske pair ke neeche rakh… le, ban gayi jagah!
(What are you saying? There is the space! You keep your leg on his shoulder… yes, you stick your hand under his foot… there, I made your space!)
I have myself been in one of these for a couple of months and I shared it with 10 others. Excluding the driver.
Now if you are trailing an auto and the driver needs to take a turn, what would he do? Will he
[a]
. use the indicator?
[b]
. show by indication of hand sticking out of the auto?
[c]
. show by sticking his leg out in all glory with a blue strapped hawaii chappal dangling off his toes?
[d]
. show by sticking his leg out in all glory with a yellow strapped hawaii chappal dangling off his toes?
If you answered [a] or [b], you clearly have not visited Baroda. The answer is [c] or [d], everyone, [c] or [d]. Depending on your luck that day, you may or may not be able to see some skin.

autorickshaw

Tall tales of woe

A freakin' giraffe

A freakin' giraffe

Being tall is no joke. No, really. It isn’t. I am 6’2″ and often stared at like I am the freakin’ Empire State Building or something. If a dog is not paying attention, I might very well be a lamppost for it to relieve itself. There are so many problems associated with being tall… sigh. Where do I even begin?

Being tall reduces your general awareness of what is going on at ground level. You stub your toe more often and miss doorsteps. Or in some cases, entire bicycles. (Don’t ask.) Every foot related response is late because it takes additional time for signals to reach the brain. The worst part is when you see a notice that says “Watch your step” – you look down to save your toe, but you bump your head against the very same notice that told you to watch your step. For the benefit of tall people, they should have a notice near the foot that says “Watch your head too“. In my parents hometown, I cannot stand up straight completely because the ceiling fan might take my head. And those fans are fairly dirty and they have spiders. Not only will I lose my head, I will also have spiders on me.

Then comes the package of woes that are travel related. In a bus/plane, your knees touch the seat in front of you and all the vibration/turbulence shakes you from deep within. After a point (about 5 minutes) you think you are part of the bus/plane and it is your duty to vibrate along with it. When you get off the bus/plane, you wonder why everything is so shaky. You don’t fit in train berths at all. Either your legs are sticking out to face the wrath of every dude who passes the aisle, or your head is sticking out and you can hear every conversation between the chai-waala and the customer who does not want to pay Rs 5 for a cup that small. At 7:00 AM in the morning. You don’t fit in small cars and in order to drive, you need to push the driver’s seat far away just so you can get in the car. Later when your friend wants to drive, he feels very laid-back.

What if you had acrophobia? Being tall adds a foot or so to normal viewing, and that, when accompanied by the fear of heights DOES NOT HELP. You are walking down the street minding your own business, you happen to look at your feet – aaaargh! Too much height! Well, I do not have acrophobia… but what if I did?

And of course, the eternal problem of finding clothes that fit. Every T-shirt on me looks like it was originally designed to playfully display waist line assets of pretty girls. No, I DO NOT buy those tees because I value my privacy and I don’t want accidental onlookers to go “Oh, my eyes! My eyes!”. Trousers don’t reach all the way to the bottom, showing off some glorious ankle. And shoes! Oh my god, shoes. Big height needs big foot. Big foot needs big shoe. More than size 10, actually. And you don’t get that size easily.

I don’t fit in photographs! You will never find me standing absolutely straight in a picture with someone else, or a group. It’s either me or the rest of the crowd. And since we go by democracy, I need to bend weird and awkward to fit into the frame, finally giving my illustrious look of constipation.

And finally, what I call “the hug wind”. When you hug someone tall, and talk at the same time, your words are directed at his torso and they find way into his clothes. And they exit from the shirt sleeves in gusts of wind. Seriously! As a tall person, when I am hugged, all I get to hear is some buzzing and well ventilated sleeves.

Pigs don’t have it easy

After the reverberating (cough) response following the coverage of The sinking of Hawaii, Doofus Maximus appears again – only this time, he has an animal’s point of view. A pig. About how they do not have it easy in this cold cruel world of humans. Now with swine flu, they hate it that their already tarnished image is being given a shot. Doofus Maximus reporting, for comic relief only.

Pigs want their oink to be heard

1st May 2009
Lasve Gas

By correspondent Dewfus Maksimus

Pigs have not had it easy for a long long time. They have been the butt of jokes and stereotypes of the human race for as long as they can remember. In the recently held swine conference held in Lasve Gas, the primary focus of the meeting was to bring together pigs from around the world to discuss how to renew their failed image among the human race. Iffaifaart Yudai, their chief spokespig expressed great hope amidst deep concern –
Ah all you swine, let our minds entwine, we need to draw the line, and recreate an image so fine, that humans see us shine, and treat us with respect as they dine!“.

Pigs are not happy with several expressions from around the world in different languages – “eat/smell like a pig“, “this place is like a pigsty“, “son of swine” etc. The last one, they say, was spoken out with deep passion in an Indian movie – Sholay (suar ke bachchon), and thereafter, most of this country’s citizens used it as a calling that lacked affection. And now, pigs feel that ‘swine flu’ is going to cause their popularity charts to plummet further. The spokespig added that humans are going to hate pigs more.
We have a poink to make. It’s not fair you know, they get the flu too! So why can’t we? If they get flu, they get the flu shot. If we get flu, we get shot.
They are indeed pushing for the renaming of the virus strain to H1N1, so that the general morale of pigs stays higher.

This event was originally organized by the GRaceful Union against Negative Treatment (GRUNT), but they were disgruntled that GRUNT did not quite reach human ears. Humans ignored it as a mere grunt. Then the management gurus advised them to change their name to Oppression and Insensitivity are Not Kool (OINK) but that failed to make a point poink as well. “We thought, at least by spelling ‘cool’ as ‘kool’ is going to get some attention!“, Mr. Yudai was heard saying.
Finally they conducted surveys among humans, the most common reply received was “Pigs forming an organization? Pffft! Yeah, and pigs can fly!” Taking the hint from the overwhelmingly common response, the organization was then renamed to PFFFT (Pigs’ Foundation For Fine Treatment) with their catch line “Pigs can fly

Let’s hope their oinks and grunts are heard this time and they have better times ahead. Below is the poster for PFFFT, an organization that has set out to make a difference.Pigs can fly poster

Photograph credits
Original bird flying image (I took this!)
Original pig from here
Original mud splatter from here

Edited to add:
Roshmi’s take on the issue – how you can turn swine flu to YOUR advantage!
Jai Iyer says (draws, rather) – After all, pigs are people too, you know!

I H8 TXTSPK ALOL

Yes, I hate text speak (txtspk). I am probably one of those few people in the world who insist on writing complete sentences even while SMSing/texting on cell phones. I agree every character is precious and it makes complete sense to abbreviate messages so that you get charged for only one message. But why do I have to read txtspk sentences in emails? NO ONE IS CHARGING YOU FOR ANYTHING. WRITE COMPLETE WORDS, LET ALONE SENTENCES. And what really irritates me is when I see a liberal use of replacing “th” with “d”. Look man, are you trying to be cool? Because it’s not working. No, it really isn’t. And you are not gaining anything from misspelling things. It’s totally arbitrary and it is not any kind of reason for celebration or show off.

Fr exmple how wud u lk 2 read da rest of dis post in dis abyssmal form of xprshn? It tuk me forvr 2 write dis sntnce. English is 2G2B4G. @TEOTD I knw u r g8ng u r msg acrss but dis is nt pr8y. K gtg nw. Show me the English ▼

It was late 2006 when New Zealand announced that it is OK if students used text-speak in their examinations as long as they showed an understanding of what was being asked of them. And that decision got many a bee in many a bonnet. The NZ qualifications authority apparently were asked “u mst b joking. or r u smkin smthng?” I was initially wondering that probably no one really wants txtspk to exist because it ruins academic writing. Turns out there are ongoing debates where educationalists are fighting over whether txtspk should be allowed or not…

The first *serious casualty* of txtspk is grammar. Well, grammatically speaking, they are trolls… but dramatically speaking, they pretty much convey the message. Let’s be honest. Languages have evolved a lot from what they were several hundred years back. They have always converged towards ease of communication and understanding. And that’s probably why Latin is no longer spoken by anyone. 😀 But will this lead to txtspk being the ‘talk of the town’? Can it actually become a colloquial language?

Nevertheless, ryting lyk dis irritates da hell outta ma sanity.

You might be wondering what on earth ALOL is. The reason behind this actually cracked me up. So, LOL is ‘Laughing out loud’ and ALOL is ‘Actually laughing out loud’. 😀 It arose from the fact that some people while chatting on IM or texting on cell phones never really laughed out loud even if they punched in “LOL” on their screens. So they wanted to draw the distinction between just LOLing and Actually-LOLing. ALOL. On that note… I came up with a self-explanatory graph here – the latest in Thoughts in 2D.

Do you hear laughter?

PS: I thought it should be text speech – but I really don’t know why it’s called text speak.
PPS: I required a bit of asking around to know what’s new in txtspk. Looks like my age does not permit usage of txtpsk.

Social networking is not.

First I was tired of seeing weird names on Orkut. Now I am TIRED of seeing those irritating tests of Facebook that go “What kind of _____ are you?” That _____ could be any of the following: fruit, underwear, switchboard, poop, detergent, refrigerator, carburetor, lawn mower, chewing gum stage, ear wax, potato, weed, antenna, sock,  or molester. And then they, with *careful* analysis show that the quiz revealed something amazing about you probably never knew about yourself. Why why why why why why – why do people have to take that test? And even if it is for their personal entertainment, they should stop publishing it on their profile… aaargh!

Aside, a growing trend among people on the internet, people have basically stopped having lives. (Here is a potential ‘Look who’s talking’ moment, but I am going to ignore it) Thanks to all these social networking websites (Facebook and Orkut primarily) – people literally have forgotten how to converse with rich content, or even open a conversation. Social skills are out the window! Like I said, social networking is not.

More harmful effects of computers and excessive online activity: Bad handwriting!

Social networking is not.

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