Monday, September 29, 2008

A Chance Encounter

It once happened that I was traveling from Delhi to Lucknow, in the First Class AC coach, of the Lucknow Mail. I had boarded the train half an hour before its scheduled departure, and made myself comfortable on the lower berth. I was sincerely hoping for my co-passenger to be either Aishwarya Rai or to be her incarnation. I had just closed my eyes, when, out of the blue, many policemen barged into my compartment and began rummaging around.

“Hey you! Stand up,” shouted one of them.

I immediately sprang to my feet, while another ordered, “Stand on your feet and hands up!!”

I was confused, so I politely said, “Sir, I’m already standing on my feet. How can I stand on my feet again, without sitting down??”

“Shut up and don’t act smart.” prompt came the reply.

"But what have I done?” I questioned meekly.

“Behen Jee is traveling in this compartment. She has the upper berth, so we need to make sure that everything is in order before she boards the train. Show your identity card,” he demanded.

I hurriedly produced my driver’s license and he kept staring at my photo. I knew I was in trouble. “You look like a bloody terrorist!” he remarked and the rest of them nodded in agreement.

My heart sank. I remembered all the Hindi movies I had watched. A shiver ran down my spine, when I recalled all the shady dialogues I’d have to hear, if they arrested me for no reason. After all, every hero is falsely convicted and sent to jail. I even remembered how the hero, finds a long bamboo in the middle of the jail, and does a pole vault to jump over the 30 feet high prison wall. I began to shudder more when I realized that even if I did find a bamboo, I wouldn’t be able to jump over the wall because I weighed twice as much as the hero. I began to curse myself for not heeding to my father’s advice and shedding a lot of weight..

“Sir I am not a terrorist. Maybe I just look like one,” I said, “and I am going to Lucknow on official work. See, I handle the finances of Lifeline Group of Hospitals.” Saying this, I thrust my employer’s identity card to bolster my statement.

One of the policemen turned to me and said, “Shut up! Remove your shoes. Nobody is allowed to wear shoes in the presence of Behen Jee. Take off your glasses too. It needs to be checked for bombs,” saying this ,he pulled off my spectacles.

“But sir, I am as blind as a bat without my spectacles and in any case I need my footwear so that I can relieve myself, during the journey. You certainly can not expect me to visit the bathroom, barefooted, can you?” I protested “I am a free citizen of India and the freedom of movement is my birth right. As my shoes form an integral part of my movement to the bathroom, thus I am free to wear my shoes. Yes sir, even I know my rights,” I announced, feeling good that I still remembered bits of class eighth civics.

“Besides,” I continued, “if your Behen Jee doesn’t like shoes, then why should my shoes suffer? My sisters think that all police officers with a tummy like yours should be lined up and shot dead. Does it mean that their whim should be satisfied?? Of course not! By the way, your tummies are equally enormous. Are all of you brothers?”

I had just begun to get acquainted with the police officers, when in walked a strange looking buffalo. It wasn’t your regular sized buffalo. It was much smaller, and was probably wearing a uniform. I could have described it better had I been wearing glasses. It seemed to sniff around, and then settled on the sofa.

I whispered to the police officer standing next to me, “Sir, I had seen many sniffer dogs before, but I must admit that it is for the first time that I am seeing a buffalo being employed to sniff out contrabands. And may I congratulate you for training it so well. It is remarkable to see that it actually knows how to sit on a sofa. I must say that I am impressed.”

“Shut up, you fool. She is Behen Jee,” he replied.

“Aha,” thought I, “so Behen Jee is the name of this buffalo.”

I said, “Sir, does the buffalo … err... Behen Jee have a valid ticket? I am not sure if they are allowed to travel in the first class compartments of the railways.”

“She is a VIP. She doesn’t need a ticket to travel. If she gets angry, the government at the centre will be upset,” said the officer, in a suppressed voice.

I couldn’t understand how the anger of the buffalo, could be related to the stability of the central government. So I began to think, “Maybe Manmohan Singh drinks the milk of the buffalo Behen Jee, and if Behen Jee gets angry, she might not let anyone milk her. Thus, there would be no milk for our prime minister. If there would be no milk, then Manmohan Singh won’t get his morning tea. And thus he wouldn’t be able to wish a very cheerful good morning to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. If Mrs. Gandhi doesn’t hear a happy good morning, then she will be too angry to give out the daily orders to the prime minister. No daily orders, means no progress for the nation!!!” Everything began to make sense now. I understood the importance of Behen Jee.

“Funny, how a buffalo controls the Fate of our nation!” I exclaimed.

“Stop saying ‘buffalo’ out loud. Her name is ….,” he was cut short by Behen Jee, who let out a loud Moooo.

“Yes Ma’am. Yes.” cried all in unison, as if understanding every moo of Behen Jee.

I was immediately handed my spectacles, which I put on eagerly, to see the most extra-ordinary buffalo in the world.

The next thing I remember was, seeing Ms. Mayawati seated on the sofa, and my luggage being hurled out of the coach. I followed next!!

Morals of the story:

a) Keep your amazement to yourself. There is absolutely no need to share it with anyone, least of all, the police.

b) Aishwarya Rai will never run away from her shoots, only to be your co-passenger. Real life isn’t Bollywood, you see.

c) Evidently, Manmohan Singh doesn’t drink Behen Jee’s milk.!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Story of Nikamma

Long long ago, when men were still men, and the likes of Karan Johars were not allowed to tick the box, which read "Male" in any application form, lived a cool dude called Nikhil. His full name was Nikhil Abraham Singh, thus being the first real life embodiment of religious tolerance.
While growing up, he showed signs of greatness by preaching about different religions, and explaining why one should respect all the religions. He was lovingly called Nick, by the Westerners, who found it rather difficult to pronounce Nikhil, but found no difficulty in pronouncing !!beelay@#.
( I swear I didn't make that up!!)

Nikhil's father was a very hard working farmer, while his mother was very easy going and lazy. (Yes, Coulomb had come up with his "Opposite poles attract each other" law by then, and thus the people never wondered how they ended up marrying each other!!)
In the same town, lived Deb, a wealthy landlord, who inherited a fortune after the death of his father in law. Oh by the way, his wife's name was Jyoti. The couple loved each other a lot, and everyone fondly called them Deb- jyoti.

Now Debjyoti had a very lazy servant called Sushant. Sushant was the personification of lethargy. He didn't want to work and dreamt about the lower half of Debjyoti all the time. He was a pervert and the lower half ,of course, means Jyoti- Deb's wife.

One fine morning, when Nikhil was meditating under a banana tree, he saw his mother walking upto him. (PS: He could not meditate under the neem tree because the ground around it was covered with cacti. ). His mother came and sat down next to him. After an hour, Nikhil finished meditating and saw that his mother had fallen asleep next to him. So he got up and went home, leaving his mother fast asleep under the banana tree.

Late in the afternoon, landlord Deb was returning home with his friend Babu, who ran a jewelers shop in the same town. They happened to notice Nikhil's mother still sleeping under the tree. Now everyone in the town knew Nikhil, but very few people knew who Nikhil's mother was. But Babu was the town jeweller, and thus he knew Nikhil's mother very well. After all, she alone accounted for a quarter of his sales.

Deb, looked down at the sleeping woman and said with disgust, "Who is this woman, sleeping at mid-day? and that too, by the roadside? And under a banana tree, when a banyan tree is just a couple of yards away??
(Now don't ask me why Nikhil wasn't meditating under the banyan tree. And I wasn't aware there was a banyan tree around anyway!!)

Babu replied, "Oh brother, she is the laziest woman in the world. She sleeps all day and snores all night. Wonder what she will be re-incarnated as, in the next life? After all, its our Karma which decides our future. That is why I have been such an honest jeweller and never cheat nor lie to my customers. "

"You don't lie??", asked Deb with bewilderment in his eyes, "Yesterday you told bhai Chandra that even though he had put on a lot of weight, it was impossibe to notice it. You even said that his protuding belly, actually made him look irresistable to the women folk of our town!"

"I never lied to him", explained Babu, " I just didn't tell him the truth, and there is a lot of difference between the two."

"Like what??"

"Well, for beginners there is a huge spelling difference. And its the spellings which make up a word, and if spellings are different, then the words are different. So, if words are different, how can they mean the same thing? Then both have different pronunciations. One begins with a 'l while the other begins with a 'h... While the former is a single word - Lie, the latter is a combination of three words - Hiding the truth!!", finished off Babu, with a dismissive air.

"Sighhhh!!!!!!", sighed Deb. He always knew Babu was smarter than him, and thus scored more than him in English as well as Math all throughout school and college. "But who is the woman?? Shouldn't we wake her up and tell her to go home and sleep?"

Babu had started walking ahead , as he saw a chance to get a lift all the way to his home. But he did turn back and reply," Forget it brother. She is very lazy... Just like your servant, Sushant. Let her sleep there and you go home...."

"But who is she?", shouted Deb to Babu who was already very far away by now.

"Nikh....(il's.... -inaudible ) amma. Very lethargic!!" and Babu disappeared behind a cloud of dust. (In case you didn't know, he had been offered a lift on a horse cart.)

Now Deb started walking alone, wondering and speaking to himself, "Nikamma? Very lethargic? What did Babu mean? " . After much deliberation, he came to a conclusion that since Babu was smarter than him, he had used a very hi-fundoo word for lethargic. NIKAMMA!! Deb was a fast learner and he wanted to try out his vocabulary on unsuspecting innocent people.

So when he reached home, he called out to Sushant. He came rushing out of Jyoti's room, tying the cord of his pyjama and looking very scared. Shouted Deb," Sushant!!! You are Nikamma!!"

Now Sushant knew he was caught but didn't like being called names. He retorted," No sir, I am Sushant. Maybe you are Nikamma!!" This infuriated Deb, who reached out to slap Sushant, but suddenly suffered a heart attack and ........

Meanwhile Deb's lawyer, Advocate Siddhartha (M.A.Llb) heard about the untimely ................. and forged Deb's will. He transferred all of Deb' earthly possession to his name and lived happily ever after. He also kicked Sushant out of the house and married Deb's widow.

And they lived happily ever after.

Moral of the story : If you learn a new word, shut the fuck up!!!

(Disclaimer: All characters in this story are purely fictional, and any resemblance to anyone dead or alive is purely co-incidental. Those who do not agree, kindly refer to the last four words of the moral. )

Random Rantings...

To be able to communicate and to express your views in writing is an integral part of one's development. Of late, I have been experiencing problems on both fronts. Neither am I able to talk freely nor have I been able to write, without feeling insecure about spellings and grammatical errors. I've become painfully aware that I had more command over the language as a twelve year old than I do now.

When I come to think of it, I cannot figure out when it all started. Till Class 12th, I could only interact in English and the thought of speaking Hindi, scared me out of my wits. I did study Hindi, but then, it is not my mother tongue. Anyway, I entered college, and by the time I graduated, I spoke more Hindi than my friends. After college, I spent a year in the hospitals in Mumbai, and as it all stands now I can neither speak good English nor Hindi. My pronunciation is an obtuse blend of Hindi, English and Marathi, with a hint of Kannada, served with “I-Just-Ran-Away-From-A-Mental-Hospital” look on my face.

Thus it’ll be in my best interest to stick to writing till I no longer give the impression of being a raving lunatic.

I always enjoyed writing, but never wrote so much to be labeled a writer. I found it easier to express myself in writing than through oral communication. Earlier I could write at will, about anything... anyone. Now it takes me half an hour to link words to come up with a sane sentence.

Yesterday I wanted to write a few good words for a friend, who means the world to me. I sat up all night, only to realize that I could just come up with “She is phenomenal!!” I can understand when people might try to convince me that maybe my friend is so phenomenal that it is tough to find words for her. Vehemently as I may agree, I also know I was capable of having come up with a lot more than that for someone whom you have known for years.

Maybe I’ve gone from being bad to worse, because of my inability to engage in a conversation which actually calls for a reasonable utilization of the gray matter. While everyone is busy expending their brains now, I’m actually saving the little I have been blessed with, for old age. It would be all the more better, if I can be granted a fixed interest for saving my brains for n number of years. Maybe by the time I die, my name will go down the history books as the “Brainiest Man”.

I know many of you will not agree with my theory right now, but am sure when all of us will be enroute to becoming kids once again; I will be the only one to be called a whiz-kid!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Vignettes from a Bibliophile

Groucho Marx said," I find television very educative. Everytime somebody turns on the set, I go to the other room and read a book." Reading is, indeed, a wonderful hobby. I find it enlightening and often, amusing. The trivia collected by reading is always mind boggling.
I remember reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. In it was one of the longest sentences that I have ever read. It had eight hundred and twenty words, ninety three commas, fifty one semi-colons and four dashes. Presently, William Faulkner's novel Absalom holds the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest sentence. It has one thousand, two hundred and eighty seven words.
Want to know which is the longest and shortest name of a railway station in India? The longest one is "Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta" and the smallest is "Ib". Got anything to add?
Do you enjoy the word monsters? If you suffer from the following phobia "Hippopolomonstrosesquipedaliophobia", halt and read no more, because it describes the fear of long words. The longest word is a forty five lettered word known as "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis". It is a lung disease caused by tiny parts of volcanic dust. Quasihemidemisemiquaver is a hundred twenty-eighth note in music. Tongue tied huh?
A diepnosophist is one who is an expert at dinner table conversations. This reminds me ,the longest after-dinner speech was given by Dr. Donald Thomas, at a city college in New york, about Vegetarian Athletic Nutrition. It lasted thirty two hours and twenty five minutes.
I came across these words whilst reading. Borborygymus is the noise which our tummy makes when it rumbles and sternuation is the act of sneezing. The dot above the letter "i" is called tittle. They say there are no words in English language which rhyme with orange, purple and silver.
A Zorse is a cross between male zebra and a female horse. A Swoose is a cross between a swan and a goose. A Lemato is a tomato that is genetically modified to give hints of lemon and roses.
I thought , correctness of language was my forte, now I know for certain that there is still a lot of room for improvement. As Josh Billings said ,"The trouble with most folks isn't so much their ignorance as knowing so many things that ain't so."

[The above is an article written by Sharbella Fernandez]