Thursday, December 13, 2007

Of maps, Chodus and clean-up drives..

From here, i read that this map costs $10 million.Yes, you heard that right. $10 million friggin dollars. I don't know how many American tax payers would be excited that their money is being spent on a map, but that's not my problem anyway. After all atleast its better than the Australians who use tax payer money to maintain maps of their city toilets! They even have a My Toilet Map section where you can add you favourite toilets!! Hmmm, maybe its useful - say your on a date and need to urgently 'go'(i mean no 2 here) you can always whip out your GPRS phone,open your bookmarked toiletmap online, find your favourite toilet, quickly duck around the corner -any excuse 'just getting some smokes darling' - and go, without any incident whatsover. Or you could just 'go' like they do it here. Simple.

Anyway,back to story.

There's another much older map here, which shows the path from Rome to India.(No, the indian government is not planning to buy it, thankfully!) The map itself is a little interesting, it resembles one you commonly see in treasure hunt movies - only here there's no 'X' marks the spot, instead all roads lead to Rome. Seemingly used by Roman civil servants to travel and so the map is rectangular and has India on the extreme right end. You can vaguely make out "R.Gangoo" and something about "in his locus elephant mac@#$@", but India is spelt "INDIA" though. How is that possible now?! I thought we got the name from the British.
However, the cool thing about this is that the world or the sub-section of it atleast, seems so huge! It just keeps going on and on till you finally fall into the Indian ocean.

I remember as a kid, probably 6 yrs old, being told this very same thing, many times over in school, at home , that the world is big, really big. The first time i heard about this i excitedly came home and asked my mom for a globe. We dint have one then, so she instead showed me the world map on an atlas, a mini-atlas actually. Imagine my shock when i saw the entire world fit into one page! I dont know what i had imagined but my ferverish cartoon-infested brain probably expected rolls and rolls of scroll paper covering the entire room. This was a such a depressing thought. Plus it had Dubai marked on it too. At that point as far as i was concerned,the 25 minute bus ride straight from my home to school through Al-Mulla plaza, 2 underpasses, a bridge, a roundabout covered most of Dubai. There was Burdubai if you wanted to shop, Karama to eat, Mamzar Park to play and Sheikh Zayed road to go to Abu Dhabi. It wasn't a big deal then, there was no downtown, no meadows, springs and palms and definitely no shopping malls with mountains of ice in them. I even imagined that i could walk the distance to school some time (little did i know that it was 16 km and i would probably die of dehydration!). In 1990, that's all Dubai was and if India which was so far away, that we had to fly, was so near (barely 5 cm) then how could the world be so big? Even someplace like South America was just a few hours on a flight! That's just not big enough, i said to myself, after all Bionic six and Transformers, sometimes travelled for days. And Superman, flew in from his own planet. Just not fair.

Somehow, i did outgrow that (the cartoons that is, i still think the earth is too small), and by 6th grade, Social Studies had History/Civics and Geography. I thought Geography was going to be a breeze since i already knew all the continents, most countries and where they were on the map, the various oceans and stuff. Yes, that information helped for maybe 5 minutes after which we learnt about endless types of sands, rocks, soil, parts of the atmosphere (i still dont know them!) and lots about the type of trees growing in the winter season in the mountains of Canada where, btw, noone lives. (History until 5th grade was about the nomads/bedouins in Arabia who kept roaming about the desert in circles for a few thousand years before someone yelled allah, or was it oil? Don't remember).

I've forgotten most of all this, but i still remember our Geography sir, Mr. Kishen Singh. A stocky, dark complexioned,40 something guy with a strange mark on his left cheek, who was a class act in the art of fart. We used to call him Chodu Singh ( those days in school, chodu was a colloquial for 'farting' or 'gas'). Infact even he knew about the name, it had almost become tradition. I dont know if he was a Surd, but even that wouldn't be justification enough for this. Now, when a guy tells you the story of how he had taken a group of boy scouts while he was teaching in India for an overnight camp, and being hormonally insane, jumped into the Tarapur atomic power station to show his adventurous boys how a nuclear power plant works but due to unfortunate firing by the Indian guards there, there was an explosion in the plant, due to which he sustained an injury on his face that left an indelible mark forever, we 6th graders lapped it up and asked for more. So out came some more gems - how his dad or some uncle built the Bhakra Nangal dam and so he knows about it better than the NCERT textbook, or about how the Tehri dam was in the middle of Maharashtra and there was a protest there, or about how he had actually sustained the mark because the Pakistani Rangers had shot him when he went on a trek and lost his way across the border (to be fair to him, he'd actually told this in another section), we only wanted more! Why,were we so naiive? No dear ignoramuses, this was simply so that when we compared notes with fellow mates from other sections, we came out on top as the section with the Best Chodu Singh Story Ever Told Award (not that there was anything like that, but you get the drift).

Incidentally, he was also incharge of the Environment Club at school. And as your regular 7th grader who's reading Science Encyclopedias and concerned about Global Warming and impending disasters like 'Deep Impact', i joined the club for the cause. Eh,that was not what you were doing? Oh playboy,yes, there were plenty of those (pages i mean, not the entire book!)we got from the 9th graders. Given a choice then, i'd have jumped at the opportunity to join PETA instead and satisfy both and suchlike.. Sigh.. Pamela Anderson.. Baywatch.. Yasmin Bleethe(fixate).... BRAKE!

After a magazine release for Earth Day, a clean up drive and a marathon later, Chodu Singh told us about an impending clean up drive on Jumeirah beach. The only catch was that this was on a Friday morning at 8 am, meaning we had to wake up by 6 to reach the venue on time. 'How many volunteers would there be?', he asked. Unquestionably, all our hands went up. It was for a green cause after all. And we were good, hardworking, environmentally conscious young lads. That there would be sexy, white, hot, stunning babes sunbathing on the beach on Friday mornings, was the part we weren't bothered about. After all we had a planet to save!
So we reported for duty and were all given a tshirt, a cap, drinks, a pair of gloves and a big black garbage bag we set off to clean Jumeirah beach. (Background info - because of the corrupting influence hot girls in bikinis can have on the young,impressionable minds of Indian boys, most Indian families bring their kids to the beach only to see the sunset or atleast so it seemed then). The beach looked like Baywatch had come alive in all it glory, only i wasn't the cool kid with a surfboard and long hair, instead i held a garbage bag and an over sized cap! Nevertheless, these were atmost minor irritants for us, this was simply a time to feast the eyes, and ofcourse to clean.

After three hours of giving back to nature whilst taking in all it had to offer, we were trudging back when we caught sight of Chodu Singh atop a rock. Now, that in itself was a hilarious sight but out of curiosity we decided to see what he was upto. And lo and behold, here was our Geography teacher, taking a ring side view of pure, unbridled natural beauty! Absolutely callous, inspite of us impressionable, young minds standing by. (Clear throat, cough sound). 'Oh yes boys, I was just, ahem, checking these rocks and seeing which sediments they were composed of. You know,the .... '

It dint matter. We had our story which kicked the ass of anything till then. Plus we could add any amount of masala we wanted to. The Jumeirah beach clean up drive rocked. I also made my first real, huge sandcastle in a competition and won first place. Ahem, yes i know.

P.S> Did i also mention that he was incharge of the Baden Powell Boy scouts and used to take students to camp out in the school football ground, where they would wear the uniform, sit around a ready-made fire and tent, listen to his chodus for the whole night, sleep and come home the next morning? The simple pleasures of life.Heh.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Punjabi tera baap..

Thousands, if not millions, of us would have heard that repartee atleast once while growing up. About Santa Singh and Banta Singh and Jasbeer Singh and Milkha Singh (i know he's real, but there were jokes about him too!) and every other 'conceivable' Singh not to mention extensions like Singh Gill. Sardarji jokes - it was almost a quinessential part of life as a kid, probably even when you were slightly older till the 6th/7th grade, but definitely not after that - once you've been self-taught Sexual Reproduction in the most inane form, the jokes are of a different league altogether(the one with the difference between a woman's skirt and a universe comes to mind!), but i'm digressing too much, that one's for later.

All this came flowing back, when i read this - Anil Ambani is being charged for alleged insult to the Sikh community by sending out Sardarji jokes via SMS. [sidenote: if you have seen the earliest ads for nokia 3200 remember the guy,who looked a little like bill clinton, dressed in a business suit, jumping around with joy, running to a waterfront and sitting with his feet dipped in the water playing "Snake" on his Nokia 3200 ; now replace the guy with anil ambani and playing Snake with sending sardarji jokes!! Not really funny eh?Sigh.]

The bigger question of how a little joke can insult a whole community (which ironically counts Navjot Singh Sidhu as one of them!) is obvious. I'm still a little trepidatious though, since the issue with the Santa and Banta joke book has happened before. If there is one thing i remember very well about growing up, it was Sardarji jokes. At home, at school, on the bus, while out playing, even when your parents introduce you to a strange uncle whom you have never met - the sardarji joke was the way out; to avoid tough questions ("What do you want to be when you grow up?'); and if the joke had a tamilian in it all the better -the combination was lethal, bellowed out laughs followed and the young 9 year old lad was relieved and glad that he can make a room full of 40 year olds crack up. On the bus, with friends, the competition was intense, the one who knew most of the jokes was always listened to,he got the window seats and even the teachers laughed (who didn't want to be the teacher's pet then?!). Infact I remember a particular time when my uncle came home with a lot of printouts - of Sardarji jokes! What joy! For the next few weeks i used to trouble him with "get more Sardarji jokes from the internet", though i dint have a clue as to what the internet was - for all i cared there were Sardarji jokes there(this was when the internet had just started off). On every single vacation in India, the first thing to buy at railway stations were the sardarji joke books. Nothing could be further from funny then. Ofcourse, there were Archie's and the like which were really good,but they couldn't be retold. There even was a Jaspal Bhatti tele-serial which was funny in parts but dint last too long i think.

There were similar jokes about Tamils, Mallus , Gujjus amongst many others, but in a way the Sardarji jokes ruled(something like Bhangra of the desi-joke scene). Some instances and people remain in your head long after simply for the joy of that moment. There was a classmate of mine, Jaskaran Singh Gill, who instead of being the butt of the Sardarji joke, used to to his advantage, especially with our Chemistry and Math teachers, a Tamilian and a Malayali ; lethal combination overdose!
During attendance call:
Chem teacher(tamil accented english) : Jas karan?
Jaski : No ma'am, its Jaskaran. Singh Gill.(sad face).
Every single time. I still remember him humming the soundtrack to the Batman and Robin tv series (tanananana, tananannanana... Batman,Batman!) in Math class with our sir shouting away in Malayalam accented english - "Bloody fool, I'll throw you out of the window! He was a rare find and in some way defined punjabis for me then as fun loving chaps.

Yes, as we grew up and matured (actually we had heard almost every Sardarji joke till then), a new Singh had come into the picture - Khushwant Singh. Not for his lessons in our textbook, but for his jokes - especially the sex ones (remember the one about the dog named sex?!!) ; thereby the joke saga continued with Sardarji's playing an essential role once again.

In any movie/story/song/play/party/event/anything at all, the sardarji's have a disproportionately larger role in the jokes department. Yes, times have changed and the same jokes may not sell, but new jokes can always be created ( at times an entirely new genres like Sidhuisms) and new markets too(the Santa and Banta jokes may not have reached the non-hindi speaking south; Tamil Nadu, Heh!). They have firmly established themselves as an intrinsic part of 'indian culture' now!

These jokes probably do reinforce stereotypes, but stereotypes are a necessary evil in comedy - simply because, it is used in the context of a joke and is therefore by default not to be taken seriously. It is to be laughed at and if someone is incapable of that, i'm sorry, you need to lighten up. The stereotypes themselves always die out, after all, how many times can you listen to the same joke?

Interestingly, if the Sardarji jokes get banned, the tamilians(erstwhile madrasis) sole 'singam' kalaignar will 'on behalf of tamil brethren everywhere in the world' ask for any insulting/offensive remarks against tamils be removed from books/movies/magazines/food menus. Imagine watching Padosan without the song 'Ek Chaturanar Kare Hoshiyar' or worse Mahmud himself or if the "ena rascala, top gun murugan" scene from OSO is deleted? Wouldn't that be crazy? But under our current system, this is a pretty sizeable possibility. The worst case scenario would be the SC declaring that you can make Sardarji jokes but they cannot make fun of Sardars - WTF??
Also the list of banned books by India will have Satanic Verses followed by Santa and Banta joke book.LOL.
So, before it does get banned, "Once when a Tamilian went to Punjab and asked a Sardarji "tamil terima?" ,the Sardarji got angry and retorted "Punjabi ...... "!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Return to Nonsense.. once again! Heh..

I have not blogged since my first post(if you can call it that!) but have become a regular reader of blogs meanwhile. Lets see if this return lasts.

I just happened to read an existing blog entry.(this actually came from a mail discussion with Mando and a few others). And since i'm anyway lazy might as well start with that. Heh!

The original masterpiece: :-)

And my take on it -

Deepak gazed over the Kaveri River, feeling the faint breeze against his face, eyes shut and Rock Fort temple music enchanting in his ears. - Ahem.. if the eyes were shut how on earth did he gaze?!! rock fort temple music enchanting in his ears - WTF??

Dressed in blue Lukhnawi kurta pajama, wearing an innocent smile on his clean shaved face, he was happier than he had ever thought possible - thereby concluding that it was the blue Lukhnawi(Lucknowi??) kurta which made him smile and that makes him happier than ever before.

Her dark long hair slightly ruffled and her eyes full of adoration as she looked at his groom to be. - this explains everything, the groom is a 3rd person who he blue-kurta-happy-smiley is marrying. Now, the kaveri river usually has sadhu's praying, dhobi's washing clothes or workers bathing - so we still dont know who amongst them is making him so happy. On a side note, there are bulls bathing in the river too.

He was a very handsome man in mid twenties, but Roshini had always loved Deepak for his intensity and his innocence. She always knew guys like Deepak are one in crores. - Okay. So the guy she likes is deepak and the sadhu/dhobi/worker is a handsome man who makes the blue kurta wearer very happy. And apparently only one guy in a crore likes Deepak.

[please pause here to grasp the intensity of the plot till now.]

This is really interesting, blue-lucknawi-kurta-happy guy likes the groom, whom roshini stares at but loves Deepak, who is liked by one guy in a crore, while all this is watched by the bulls bathing with either the sadhu/dhobi/worker who is really the one making the blue-lucknawi-kurta happy!! I'm already getting goosebumps, fingers crossed,beads of sweat.Hope the bull gets lucky.

They both moved towards each other and the silence of Kaveri witnesses their rendezvous. - and isn't the Kaveri the "rendezvous"?? Relax ppl, we still dont know who 'they' are? Go bull.

As every girl of sixteen starts searching for a soul mate so did Roshini and in Udai she could see her man coming - If there isn't a spelling error here, i would pray that no woman ever has to see her man come inside another man; if there is an error,then even god cannot help the said woman, man and man. [Sidenote: poor bull :( ]

..but then why Udai's face was appearing again and again in front of her smoky eyes. - Why God, why? WHY Kaveri/Jenny's/Bull/Blue-Lucknawi-Happiness-Kurta,WHY??

She was like a fish without water. - So profound,so deep,so poetic - i think i just had my deepest cut "and started having a feeling of being torn apart."

Looking up in Deepak's eye she could see her pain being reflected. - Its 'smoky' you see, concentrate on the narrative!

Deepak stood up and took Roshini by the hand and led her away from the bar .Soon they were at Rock Fort. - Guys, please remember these words. This is the one and only time in human history that these words will ever be written together. To even be able to phrase it is an art !

- I bow down to thee. Amen!

Over to PGK and Mando for more!