Saturday, February 03, 2007

In a state of shock

I am. Because in a state of madness i decided to get back to the land of milk, honey and Arjun Singh called India.

(Warning: Long rant ahead!)

I landed three days ago. My nerves are tingling and my head throbbing with the simultaneous assault of :
1) Honking
Q: Why are people here so stupid? If the traffic signal is red and you have six cars ahead of you, how does honking help?
2) Shouting
I think the unwritten rule here is that you have to raise your voice to "get work done". Soft polite talk is never on, so it seems.
3) Street dogs howling
Q: How is it okay to let street dogs proliferate? Despite kids getting mauled by street dogs, no one seems to bother. Yes, don't kill them but at least spay them for God's sake.
4) Renovation work
Some businessman upstairs in doing some 'renovation' which i believe has been going on since six months. There is continuous hammering, sawing and that ear-splitting, nausea-causing granite polishing. Apparently pleas to this gentleman to give a deadline by which he can finish this 'renovation' and not doing work in the afternoon in deference to senior citizens has fallen on deaf ears. "He knows people", they tell me.
5) Baarat (wedding processing)
Someone's getting married and has chosen to inflict his wedding on everyone in a 10 mile radius. There's a live band that's playing some raucous stuff. Streets are jam-packed.

I can't take it. I decide to shut the windows, plug my ears with cotton and connect to the net. The supposed 'broadband' connection at my home in Bombay seems worse than a dial-up connection. I try using my wireless internet card and apparently i don't have enough signal. For curiosity i check if there are any wireless connections around. None. IT superpower? If computing doesn't touch the daily lives of people, how does writing code make us an "IT superpower". And my home is supposed to be one of the most upmarket locations in town.

I then decide to organize some of my papers. I call up my bank (a multinational bank, by the way) for status on my account. The lady said she'll call me back in half-an-hour. "Half and hour! Just for status?" I get some server-is-down crap or something. It's more than four hours now. Not a call. Not even a call to say she'll call later. Oh, but how could i forget. In India, it's the customer's duty to call.

The bell rings. Postman. Thumps a package on the threshold.
"Geez man, careful - there's stuff in there".
"This thing weighs a ton. What is it?"
"Some of my books and papers"
"Well, you know, i broke my back getting this"
"It's not easy, you know"
"I really broke my back. Ahhhh"
"I took a rickshaw to get here. Cost me Rs. 25"
"It's not the regular thing you know"
"What is the regular thing?"
"Well, if it's too heavy we would just give you an intimation and have you collect it from the post office"
"Actually, there are more such packages expected. So don't break your back the next time. Why don't you just leave an intimation for me and i'll pick it up from the post-office"
"Oh no. I know your dad since ages. I would never have you come to the post-office. I'll get it - don't worry."
"But yeah, i think i have broken my back. And i spent Rs. 25/- on this."
"Sorry about that. Get well soon"

Slimeball. Thinks he's doing me a favour by getting a package to me for which i've paid 150$ (yes!) as postage. Honestly, after this incident i am worried about the fate of my other packages. These contain my personal research notes and books with all my annotations that i've spent almost 500$ on shipping. Should i have just paid him off? Naa...

I decide to pay a visit to one of my old teachers who lives about four miles away. Get some pearls of wisdom which might make me feel better. Five cabs tried. Each of them gives me the FCJ. FCJ = Flick-Cluck-Jerk ; Flick of the wrists, then a cluck of the tongue followed by a jerk of the neck away from you which basically means "Will not go where you want to. Buzz off". This is if he likes you. If only a cluck it means he doesn't like you and wants you to quickly buzz off. I decide to walk the distance to my teacher's house.

I also try visiting an old friend on the way. There is some security system in place in his apartment building where you are supposed to fill up a register on who you are, why are you visiting etc. I just don't see the point of this system anyway because i could just say i was George Bush from the White House and the security guy wouldn't bat an eyelid. Anyway, the register is kept at some corner which the sharpest eye will not see.I keep walking and before long i hear that wierd sound that is produced by elongating the lips and sucking in air through it. No "excuse me" or anything. And the guy is just sitting at his place without moving his ass.

In all this, i think i was just lucky that i was prepared for the bozos on the flight back home. (Red-eyed guy: "get me one more whiskey fast", Orange T-shirt guy with cap and shades on in the flight: "Only one peanut packet with beer? I want two"). And Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The typical phenyl smell, unsmiling faces, an ayah (janitor) lazily wielding her broom and succeeding in spreading the dirt everywhere. Two fellows with some official badges approaching me with "Customs se clear karva deta hoon, sir" (i could clear your luggage from Customs for you, sir). No thanks. I'd rather pay duty if i have to. I make the mistake of asking where the restrooms are from some official. I think he did not want to be awakened from his slumber so he said he didn't know and went back to sleep.

I think i should do that too. If this is what happens in two days, i am scared.

Why do you disappoint, India? Why are brainless morons now inhabiting you? Where is all that magnificent culture and civilization which others could only dream about.Where did you lose it? When did you lose it? Why did you choose to lose it?