Thursday, September 29, 2005

Happy Birthday Nandita!

Thats for my sister, Nandita Patel, who turns 18 today. She's my cousin sister actually, but I prefer to call her sister, as she, along with her younger imp (as in devil!) Yera remember to send me rakhis every year, and basically I am closest to them compared to my other cousins. Anyway, I ask the typical 18th birthday question. "So, Nandita, what do you plan to do today on your 18th birthday. You know, like something you havent done before?" You know, if someone would have asked me I would have said "Vote! But damn, they had their elections 3 months back". Nah, I would have said drive a fast car. However, I heard of cases here in StrangeLand where kids ache to turn 18 cos they can officially drink alcohol now. (Yeah, the alcohol prohibition is enforced pretty strongly here. Of course, they dont give a damn about teenage pregnancy though cos I guess everybody is too busy making sure no one who aint supposed to drink, drinks while kids who dont wanna drink find better pastimes. I wonder why I enjoyed playing cricket and football and sports so much when I was young. Those were my pastimes. Thats the longest paranthesised statement I have ever seen. You've forgotten where I was going right?). These guys goto a bar and have competitions where the birthday boy guzzles down glasses and glasses of liqour to check his "stamina" and of course, some drown themselves to death. So much desperation? They must be eternally thirsty.

I have migrated again. So, Nandita still has a teddy bear with her, which is sweet. She loves teddy bears like a lot of other gals. But, I wanted to make fun of her and I went on like a typical elder bro saying how shes too big for her lil teddy and all that. She came back - "Satwik bhai, I think I am glad I chose the teddy over drugs, alcohol and smoking, dont you?" It hit me then! Man, here its a big deal if you get through high school without picking up any of those habits. Drugs?? I have never had a friend in all my education who ever did drugs. And here it is a lot more common. Dude, Nandita is right. She's a strong girl to have evaded peer pressure and all that and come through unscathed. Cheers to that! (My glass is filled with fruit punch ok, remember - teetotaller?) She and her sister are the silver lining in the clouds for me, cos I firmly believed Indians could not bring their kids up here and not have them get affected by the culture and the inherent prejudices and vices attached to it. Three cheers to her parents too for that. But, no.. Im still not gonna advise other Indians to raise their families here! Its too scary whats out there.

Thats it. My tiniest blog ever. Dedicated to my lovely sister on her birthday. You make me proud. By the way, her answer to my stupid question was "Nothing great, I will just go out with my friends and also with my parents". I dont remember when I last spent a birthday celebrating with my parents. Wait, yes I do. I was 10 years old and mom had baked this cake which looked like a cricket field and it had fielders and batsmen on it too. And my bro was jealous, cos he didnt get a fancy cake for his birthday, ever!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Frog In The Well

I bet everyone of you has heard the folk tale of the frog who used to live in the well. If you haven't here's a Chinese version of it. Even in ancient Sanskrit texts, the example of a kupamanduka is well-known and widely used. For those who don't want to take the pain of researching this abstract metaphor I have brought up again, lemme put it down in a line if I can :- The well-frog does indeed have a world-view, but its view is confined to the world of the well. It must be quite apparent where Im heading now, so hang on!

Yes, you guessed it right. StrangeLand is the well. It hit me real hard, this fact, when I heard they called their baseball league the World Series, and that the New York Yankees are poised to become World Champions. Yeah, believe me, when all the teams in this World Series are from the same nation, you are guaranteed to have a World Champion every year from somewhere in StrangeLand. Who plays baseball anyway! Its not even as widely popular as cricket if you take note of the number of people watching the two sports. Well, guess who won the Baseball World Cup 2005? Cuba. Where was StrangeLand placed? 7th. I was surprised to see the World Champions so lowly placed. Of course, Im sure most of their top champion athletes didn't play, cos the world cup of course isn't the true world championship, is it?

"You know, I went to Europe for my holidays, and this car almost ran into me, cos I was walking on the road and these morons drive on the wrong side." Dude! Just because you drive on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left side as found in, well, almost everywhere), doesn't mean everyone is on the wrong side. "Do you watch football?" "Yeah, its my favourite sport!" "Cool, then you are gonna have lotsa fun here, cos we have football all over the TV on weekends" "You mean American football? The one where you wear helmets?" "Yeah, what did you think? Oh. you mean soccer." Soccer? Don't rename the game that is the real football just so you can snatch that name away for a sport that is not really even close to football. How often do I see these helmeted-gladiators actually kicking the damn thing called a football, which is not even round! (To be more mathematically correct, spherical) The ball is mostly found in the hands of a guy trying to run it to the far end of the field, so that he can finally get to kick it into the massive goal. They fight and dodge and tackle for eternity, to get that one elusive chance to actually kick the ball. Why don't you steal handball for a name. How many countries play handball anyway? Why go and pledge the name of the world's favourite sport for yourself. Maybe they were trying to hide the fact that American football was derived from rugby, an English sport. Just like baseball was derived from cricket, another British import. It does really seem that StrangeLand completely rejects whatever is extremely popular elsewhere. They have their own Formula 1 GP, but definitely dont deserve it; it is not even close to being a popular sport here. For those who are not aware, it is the most televised sport everywhere else.

I am being harsh again I guess. Why should I expect one bunch of folks in one corner of the earth to be like the rest? After all they are superhumans here, arent they? We are simple humans compared to them. You dunno what Im talking about? How many disaster movies have you seen? Where the earth is on the verge of extinction. Who saves the world? Yes, it is the StrangeLandian who comes to the rescue, the knight in shining armour, the whiteman on a black stallion. The quintessential American superhero. Man, they love them here. And you know what, this doesnt end here. It actually trickles over (more like floods into) their international politics (I should be calling it diplomacy to be politically correct, but I was more inclined toward using war-mongering and bullying actually) where the President of StrangeLand is a leader of the World and he (I dont need to be politically correct here, over 50 presidents and not a single lady yet, not a single black president either, but thats a whole different cupboard I dont wanna creak open now) gets to poke his nose in the affairs of other nations and decide to change the course of their future and get away with it without being called a war-mongerer. Do good for your own nation first dude; for once be the frog in the well when you should be, blind to the outside world. Believe me, it is widely appreciated. Just dont steal the name football though, its a cheap thing to do!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rocking Start - In Excess

Perception. Plain, untainted, innocent. A common human trait. Even when we have no knowledge whatsoever about something, our brain doesn’t leave a void in our memory cells. There’s something it always cooks up, out of nothing.

Well, it is no more truer (if that’s even a word) anywhere else than in this StrangeLand. The folks here are renowned for having apathy toward knowledge about foreign lands, foreign people and the works, and are famously represented by a President who regularly comes up with fodder for the hungry media when he’s caught as confused as a toddler in a strip joint (One of my favourite Sidhuisms this one!). And this isn’t my view here, its something I have known, but has been reaffirmed by comments from the locals.

I didn’t have to wait long for my enlightenment to begin. I started discovering this from the first day at work here. I was in the land where Rock and Roll took its first lil steps. And I totally wanted to see a rock show by a real kick-*** band in the time that I’m here (which was seemingly short then, not anymore, boohoo). I asked one of the guys, whether he’s planning to go to the OzzFest which was to rock a neighbouring town in 2 weeks’ time. And immediately, 3 guys pop out of their cubicles and rush toward mine with expressions clearly indicating I had blasphemed. One goes – “Did you say Ozzfest? Cos I think I heard Ozzfest.” I went – “Yeah, I must have said Ozzfest, if you heard Ozzfest. But, you know what? I did actually mention Ozzfest.” (One of my stupid attempts at a nervously stuttered joke. No one noticed though, their minds were still grappling with the fact that they had heard an Indian say Ozzfest.). “You mean the show where Ozzy Osbourne plays right?”. “Yeah, unless you have a festival for kids where there are numerous stagings of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.” (By this time, Im on a roll with my stupid jokes, cos well, no one’s actually listening!). “You mean to say Indians listen to this stuff?”. “What did you think? We are tribals, and we dance with sticks??”

A few days later. People are surprised I can handle English as a spoken language with as much ease as a stenographer typing on a typewriter. (You know when she’s so good she doesn’t need to look at the keys while typing away, and all that. If that’s the best metaphor I could come up with, I suck!). “I would have thought Indians would have a hard time with English, cos you know, they must not be teaching that in school.” Well, maybe I went to the wrong school then, cos I have been learning English since my first day at school. Another classic one coming up. “Are you a Hindu?”. “Yeah, I am”. “Oh is that why you said you speak Hindi at home?” “Yes, that’s true, but only if you speak American at home.”

I know Im being harsh here, but I expected people of StrangeLand to know about my country atleast as much as I do about their StrangeLand. Maybe that’s simply cos they don’t have as many relatives in India, as I have in StrangeLand. I wonder why our schools took the pain of teaching us about the American Revolution in History. Im damn sure, folks here haven’t read about Gandhi, although I know the contributions of people like Jefferson and Washington.

Well, lemme just go on meandering again. This blog no longer has any meaning, just a list of anecdotes. I was talking with the lady at the reception, and we were discussing the Tsunami that hit Asia in December last year (cos you know Katrina was in the news, well the only thing in the news to be more correct, and now Rita’s coming in a few hours!). This huge monster of a guy walks in and heard me mention Sri Lanka. He goes, “Is Sri Lanka a country? I thought its an island.” Huh?? Can’t islands be nations? Hasn’t he heard of island nations? We simply laughed it off.

Well, now these things hit me everyday. “You know the apparel stores here cover acres and acres of area.” “I know, they are called malls.” “How do you know?” “We have those!”. “Well, the theaters here are so big, they have 10-12 screens.” “Multiplexes” “Yes, how..”

My roomie has been in the US for 8 years now, and although he’s from Sri Lanka, that doesn’t stop him from getting surprised either. “Man, I wonder who this guy is. He keeps turning up everywhere she goes” “Oh, he’s Carrie Bradshaw’s ex-long-term boyfriend. One she wanted to marry” “Whose boyfriend?” “The character Sarah Jessica Parker plays” “You get this in India?” “These are reruns my dear friend.” “But, isn’t that amount of sex talk taboo?” “Well, we don’t need to talk! We love listening to these girls do the talking!” …. “What is this nonsense? Why are they singing rolling stones?” “Rock Star INXS” “What?” “Well, INXS is choosing their new band member, and they have made the competition a kind of a reality show thingy.” “How ..”

Well, the playing field has evened out now. People around me know what to expect from me. I have seen most television shows StrangeLand has to offer. I am a big fan of Rock music, especially the heavier stuff and Iron Maiden is one band I want to hear like crazy. (Too bad they couldn’t make it to the Ozzfest here). There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about, and that is now common knowledge too, like college football, NFL, baseball (actually my lack of knowledge here surprised them more than what I knew about. “You’ve never seen a football game?”). I totally think there are perceptions I had about this country that have been proven wrong too, but Im not gonna talk about that! Cos this is not about my perceptions! Nah, but seriously, as much as this amused me, I soon realized it is human nature, but something that certainly expresses itself in a more profound way here. Cos people in StrangeLand never keep opinions to themselves. True Freedom of Speech, they tell me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Welcome to Bloggerville

Nah, I'm not welcoming any of you. Just myself, cos as is obvious, this is my very first blog...ever. That is of course not saying you aren't welcome here, cos otherwise I will be writing like a moron with no one giving a rat's ***. So, lemme put out a doormat right now and welcome you too. This first blog will be, simply put, just a rant. No point, no target, no whim.

I have always been intrigued by people who write blogs, and always told myself "Blogs arent for me! I will read them, but never write one." I held this opinion that people who write blogs are those who have either a lot of spare time, or have few around who would hear them out often, or even those who are unable to express views or thoughts freely in any other manner. I for one, run up the longest phone bills I have ever seen (Dear friend Rajan, I've never hit 8 grand, but on an average Im still ahead!), which implies I was mostly found on the phone, talking to my girl, or my sister, or my mom, or my bro, or my dad, or my friends, or ..well, you know. I never felt the need to express myself more. Until now. Cos Im now a Stranger in a Strange Land (ala Iron Maiden), where I have come leaving my family and friends behind. No one will simply listen to me, unless its a bartender getting a kick out of getting me drunk and him tip-rich. Sadly, I'm a teetotaller. I can't simply pick up the phone and call someone and hope they talk to me, unless I call a party-line where bimbos get paid to giggle and talk dirty. Again, this is an assumption, I've never used this service.

Yeah, I've already painted a good picture of myself haven't I? Squeaky clean. Maybe even irritatingly squeaky. You know, like when you rub a faintly damp tissue on a mirror. And maybe you wanna pity me too by now. Boohoo, somebody stole this kid's phone. Someone get him a new one, so he can get the hell out of bloggerville. But, alas, Im here to stay! Or so I say, for now, I'll let you judge whether this turns out to be one of those many things I start out enthusiastically on but never finish. Hmm, but why can't I remember one earlier instance of this when I desperately need one? C'mon jog your brain. That's the only part of your body that gets any exercise since you landed in this StrangeLand where people never walk, except to and from the car park. You know, in India, I took a home on the 6th floor, just so I could walk up and down each day. Of course, that also meant that the damn watchman always assumed I never needed the lift. He would turn it off when I would need it the most, like when I was coming to StrangeLand with 50kgs of luggage. Oh no, I am supposed to put that in pounds right? Cos citizens of StrangeLand dont understand kilos. I guess they have stopped reading this already though.

That was some meandering. I should write with more purpose. Else, my blogs are gonna end up like my phone conversations, where I talk about any damn thing that comes to my head. Let me bring your pain to an end now before you ask for an aspirin. Cos like they say in this part of StrangeLand - "I ain't got one, son!".