Sunday, May 22, 2011

IP Quell

"How long will this circus go on?", I ask for the umpteenth time.

"Another week", comes the reply.


"Who would name their club team Indians?", I try to amuse myself again.

"Franchise team....."

"Whatever. It is akin to a football club in my mind. I don't know a football club named 'Versaille Francaise' or 'Dartmouth Brits'. Yet, here it is - Mumbai Indians."

"Dude, Sachin picked that name. He is obviously deeply patriotic. He always plays with the love for this country in his heart. Didn't you see his emotions overflow on winning the World Cup? What would you know....foreign returnee. Football fan."

"Sachin might be God when it comes to batting. But, I am now almost certain he didn't name his kids. Or else they'd be named Bharat and Indu. Are all the players in his team Indian? Malinga sounds much like Kalinga, but I have my doubts about Symonds and Pollard."

"They can play upto 4 foreigners in each game".

"Ok, so they are NOT Indians".

"Stop being an idiot. You think Sehwag is a Daredevil? a way, he really is. Ok, here's another think Yuvraj is a Warrior? Wait....he does sound like a warrior. Ok, this one think Gambhir is a Knight Rider?"

"Haha, that is most definitely the most imaginative name I've ever come across. Knight Riders! That totally killed the buzz I had stowed away in the back of my head about the cool 80s show - crime buster in a dark black car. One dark black car. One and only crime buster. Now suddenly there are 20. And they wear purple and gold. Buzz-kill."

"There is no buzz killing with Shah Rukh at the helm of their affairs. I have no doubt his creative self picked that uber-cool name."

"Please, it's not like Kolkata is to Knight Rider, what Gotham City was to Batman. I thought this was the INDIAN Premier League. Whatever happened to picking names and themes that go with the culture? How about Kolkata Rossogullas? Or just Kolkata Gullas? Ok, I know I suck at this, but there surely is a more Bengali-sounding name? It doesn't need to be Bengali either. Like I appreciate the choice of the name Tuskers - one of the things you associate with Kerala is the Elephant, thanks to the 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' video that was bludgeoned into our young heads."

"Enjoy the game. What's in a name?"

"A name is meant for me to tell things apart and to set a context in my head before I appreciate the object that the name belongs to. I can't believe 2 teams are 'Royal' and 2 others are 'Kings' in a league of 10 teams. Seriously, who pays these people for creativity?"

"The creativity is in the stroke-play. In the field setting. In the master class bowling efforts in these torrid situations. I know you can't appreciate that. You are probably still looking for the goal behind long leg and wondering why there are 11 goalkeepers."

"Please, I know my cricket! I used to day-dream for years that I was the Indian Shane Warne, except I was also a hard-hitting middle order batsman. And I basically played the role Yuvraj did when India won the World Cup. In my dreams of course. But, even so, don't insult my cricket-crazy past! I simply bring new perspective."

"Did you just compare Shane Warne to Yuvraj?"

"No, I compared myself to them both. Thank God there is only one Yuvraj!"

"Yes, there is only one. India could do with another for the next world cup."

"Apparently, all it takes to become a Yuvraj-like Warrior is Revital. Which reminds me...when Pune won a franchise for 2011, I was so sure they'd pick the name Pune Peshwas. It just sounds so fresh and revitalizing. Also, so culturally appropriate."

"Peshwas used to live there in the old days. You think there are still Peshwas around?"

"Old is the new new man. Everyone wants Indianized Sanskritized names, except Indians! Seriously, if one team calls itself Kings, and another says 'Kings ah? We are Super Kings!' doesn't it remind you of yourself when you were 3 years old?"

"How do you know the names were picked in serial order and not disclosed simultaneously? You are from Chennai. You should know that there is only one affirmative qualifier used there - Super. It fits perfectly."

"I also lived in Hyderabad. I do remember seeing buffaloes in the Dairy Farm next to our home. I can see how "Chargers" fits Hyderabad now."

"You lived next to a Dairy Farm?"

"It was in the 80s man. Don't read anything into it."

"OK. The 8PM match is starting now. So, stop filling my ears and let me enjoy this encounter."

"A 2nd game? 2 games every day?"

"There are 10 teams now. More games. Now hush."

"When does this circus end again?"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Chance for Chennai

Ever since I decided to move back to Homeland and give a career in Chennai a chance, I have been assessing that decision every now and then - not the moving back part, but the choosing Chennai part. Chennai was the obvious choice given my parents decided to retire here. What better place to return to than Home?

However, as I started settling down, I started picking holes with everything around me - the people, the services, the weather, the surroundings - everything except my mom's food! It turned out to be one of those "better than thou" ranting phases every returnee from a foreign land goes through when settling down back at home. I mistook it for a personal vendetta against Chennai (yes, I often "mistake" myself), which it was not. But, it forced me to look closer at the observations I had been collecting in the back of my head about this city and the feedback of other folk about this city. At the risk of annoying a few people, I hereby declare that what follows is the personal opinion of the author, and has deep ties with this blog, but not with Blogger in general.

Another disclaimer - I have lived 17 years of my life in Mumbai, making me Mumbaikar at heart. 7 years were spent in Hyderabad and 2 in Pune. Having warned you, I will now attempt to throw some perspective into some of the more common reasons I have stumbled upon regarding why folks seem to dislike Chennai.

Too Hot!

How hot is too hot anyway? Isn't it all relative? Some find Tikka Masala "tikka", while some others call Mirchi ka Saalan bland. When the mercury hit 40C last week, I was grumbling aloud. That was until I visited Delhi (42C with a Loo) and Varanasi (45C with Loo++). For reference, every degree beyond 40, feels like 10. The Loo in Varanasi was more like "Waterloo" - sucked out all the water you gulped 5 minutes ago.

No Speak Hindi (aka Tamizh TeriMa)

Ever been to Russia? Me neither. But I wish to generalize. They "No Speak English" there as well. Yes, they might understand when you speak to them in English. But, they don't have to respond back in English. It is the same with some Tamizhians and Tamizh - they are proud of their language. Yes, this pride has no place in a sovereign, secular, united country like India. Ever try telling that to the strictly Marathi speaking bus conductor in Pune? "Pudhe chalaa...Aikat naahi kaay tula?" Or is that because Marathi is accidentally closer to Hindi?

If one were to really argue for this pride, you don't need to look beyond a Wikipedia page on the language - Tamizh dates back to an age earlier than even Sanskrit, let alone Hindi or Marathi or English. If the world were ending tomorrow and one had to choose to preserve 2 ancient Indian languages over all else today, the linguist's choice would be Tamizh and Sanskrit. Thankfully, the world only ends in December 2012.

I agree that this blind pride in the mother tongue seems to sometimes slam doors shut on non-Tamizh-speaking people willing to blend into Chennai. It is often seen as prejudice against "naarthies", and at other times interpreted as expressing a lack of friendliness in the people in general. While the former can be explained by following the dynamics of the political movements (read Dravidian Self-Respect Movement) of the region since independence, the latter simply is way too simplistic. Humans in one region of the world cannot be more or less friendly compared to another region. That argument is a non-starter. I tried it against Strangelandians myself, and it failed to stand the test of time.

We visit Germany for a short working stay and strive to learn German. We indulge in English from kindergarten so we can work with the English speaking world (UK+US+Australia?). (Also, so that we can write blog posts in English when we grow up). But ask me to pick up some Tamizh in Tamilnadu or Telugu in Andhra Pradesh and I shall call it blasphemy! "YOU need to adapt to ME and not the other way round". We are better to aliens than to our own countrymen.

Rice is NOT a food group

Neither is corn a food group in Mexico. Nor is fish a food group in Thailand. Geography - one of those subjects in school we never cared for - will explain to you why some regions are more inclined to making some staple food item centric to their diet. When in the US, vegetarians struggle to find meat-free diets on a daily basis, and resort to cooking for oneself. That is too far to go when in another region of your own country. In fact, scratch that. There are simply too many restaurants in Chennai that serve decent non-Rice fare to make this argument relevant. More decent than the fare served in desi restaurants abroad.

Roads are dignified spittoons

Yes they are. I have no clue what makes people spit on the road and then urge others to walk on the same roads. While the spit here down South is white in color and vanilla flavored (disclaimer - I haven't tasted any but my own), move further north and the color turns orange or bright red, is paan-flavored (see previous disclaimer) and leaves a bigger spit-print on the roads. You prefer.

Rude Auto Rickshaw Drivers

Auto Rickshaws don't use the meter in this city, and the price is fixed before you board the vehicle like dowry is agreed upon before a girl gets married. Smartly dressed and looking affluent? Haggling starts at double the normal rate. Speaking anything but Tamizh? Rs.25 foreign language surcharge to communicate with you. Yes, you need immense negotiating skills if you are to ride in an auto at a fair price here.

The awesome side-effect though is that now you get to Save The World. Go Green. Use public transport. This is the secret agenda behind the state government promoting rude auto drivers.

In a hurry and really, really need to take an auto? Use a "Call Taxi" instead. Rude auto-drivers are exactly the kind of extreme adversity that leads to brilliant innovation. We have "Call Taxis" thanks to someone being really keen on solving (making money) off this problem.


Pan-India problem. Next.

Big moustaches

Sign of a hero warrior. Next.

Moustachioed heroes

Bhagat Singh anyone? Anil Kapoor? I know, I give up.


Dei! Don't make this personal!