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.


Aslan said...

nice long interesting post- will save n read on my train journey to delhi on 22nd, probably. shall be interning at HUL - hopefully bangalore. hope ur fine.

B Shantanu said...

Vivek: Re. your comment about the word "India" that you saw on the old Roman map, pl. have a look at this post:

You will be surprised!

Chief Part Deux said...

Chodu Singh... man he was one in a million...