Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are you game enough? My very own Commonwealth Games advisory: Vol. I

Someone emailed me this picture as part of a chain mail.
Credit to whoever took it. Thanks!  
Countries are issuing advisories all the time...don't go here, you might get killed; don't go there, you might discover no one in your family cares enough to pay a ransom to get your little pinkie back; don't go anywhere, you paranoid bugger, they might worship cows but they WILL sell you for a buffalo; don't stay put, no one here likes you anyway, you burden on our recession-hit social security benefits, and so on...and on...

Now, by now everyone knows that the Commonwealth Games (CWG) are going to be a complete washout, what with a few people who think-like-me praying for that exact same outcome . Now I don't know if Mr. Aiyar really has the same reasons for thinking like me, since he studied in the same city I did -- under a similarly physical-activity obsessed bunch of Nazis who had probably been similarly tortured in their salad days, before moving on to torture children in countless boarding schools across the country -- but my perpetual prayer in those days was something along these lines, repeated like a mantra every time the dormitory gong sounded at precisely 5 am (those Nazi buggers!):

"Let it rain, please. I can't go for 5 am PT yet another day. Please Lord Indra, I will die if I have to run around in that field one more time, squelching those slow-moving snails under my pale-yellow-from-too-much-choona-polishing fleet shoes...Please, Indra-ji. I will not drink fizzy drinks for two whole weeks. Please...I will wash my socks every alternate day. Please...I will eat all my spooky, tastes-like-my-own-blood Ferradol iron supplement and not slip it to those over-fed athletes who will eat almost anything. Please...I will make my own topography sheets in Geog class. Please, Indra, my man...I will participate in more extra-curricular activities, and go beyond clicking my own pictures in the photography class, or lying to my half-deaf Sitar guruji. Please..."

And so I prayed. Every single day. But there was some sort of evil force in that town. No matter how bad the deluge, it always, always stopped raining in time for PT at 5 in the dawn and games at 4 in the playground-cum-lawn every evening. Always. But I digress.

So, going back to the CWG, I would like to issue an advisory of my own, which, I feel, it is my public duty as an Aamir Khan-inspired Indian who must treat guests to her country -- like most five-star hotels do, even as they do their best to dodge inquiring looks from all the native brown people -- as demi-gods. Atithi Devo Bhava and some such. So here's my prayer for the unsuspecting foreign visitor -- the one nervously hanging on to that air ticket that's bound to land him or her in a soup at IGI's 'swanky' new Terminal 3, or that Games ticket to the stadia from hell.

I'm not sure if this might help you navigate our country better, but what the hey, eh?! I'm just doing my duty as a citizen who has had to live with the constant nuisance of navigating a city that resembles a scene from the movie 2012, all for your visiting pleasure of course. Still, I will do the right thing and here's a teaser-trailer of what to expect if you do survive Terminator, uh, Terminal 3:

  • If someone asks you to hop into their cab for half the price that's being advertised by legit cab operators, make sure that you are an impoverished student who plans to bunk down at a dodgy 'lodge' in Paharganj for the entire duration of your stay in our beautifully under-priced country, and are willing to sell the clothes on your back for a masala dosa and a cutting chai at Amar's Vaishno Dhaba.
  • If you are not fit enough to carry your own luggage, leave it behind before boarding the plane to this, our great country of 100001 magic tricks. Again, be prepared to sell your VIP gallery pass for board and lodging at Paharganj and get used to watery sambar (lentil soup) with floating objects that may or may not be organic vegetables, fertilised au naturel along the banks of the Yamuna, if you know what I mean.
  • Now, do lock your doors at night, especially if not in Paharganj, or else you might just wake up on the banks of the Yamuna! 
  • If you do happen to see Indian men holding hands and walking along the roadside after their late night meals, in Che Guevara tees and boxers, please do not panic. This is not a prelude to revolutionary streetside indecent exposure. They think they're wearing respectably lengthy shorts, or nikkar, and they have absolutely no idea who Che was. They might believe he is Kishenji the bad-ass Naxal or Prakash Karat, the badder-ass Commie for all we know. And if you see a woman in a cotton/ handloom nightie and there are any headlights around, look away. Quickly. It won't be a pleasant sight.
  • Do not cross the road anywhere. At any time. Ever. Even if the traffic light is red and there is no one gunning their engine or slinking slowly across the stop line while being parked atop the pedestrian crossing and even if the traffic cop's calisthenics tell you it's your right of way. It's not. It never is in this marvellous land of we-have-pedestrians-for breakfast motorists. My advice? Plan all your activities on one side of the road if you are from a poor country that took the recession to heart and cannot afford a big, black, overcharging taxicab. Shop, eat, and make merry in a straight line. Or hire a bullock cart. They have right of way everywhere in India. Deck it up with colourful ribbons and god-pictures and no one will EVER cross your path for fear of starting a race riot with a poor pilgrim with spiritual powers.
  • If you plan to drive, you better know how to play Grand Theft Auto well. Really well. Driving in India is like a video game and you better be good at it, or else. We keep no score and we take no prisoners.     
  • While ordering at a restaurant, make sure you don't go for dishes that have elaborate descriptions underneath. Just like you would ignore a French menu that doesn't list crepes with minimal fanfare, don't fall for the frills. They are usually pretentious and measly offerings. I love the descriptions though. They're so darn cute. Tip: Eavesdrop on some desi-occupied tables around you and pick what sounds best and is said with a brook-no-argument kind of authority by the male head of the family. Ignore the whiny kids; they're probably whining for desi versions of firang food. It probably will be a Chindian version of your best-loved Oriental take out. Preferably find a table full of Punjabis and, for best results, sip something from a can while you wait for their food to arrive. Use your senses (and their good sense) to guide you. They know their food as well as the Italians, or the Irish. Oh yeah, we do
  • While taking any mode of public transport, do not emulate the locals. They often prefer open-air accommodation, with a lot of swinging from a ledge to the edge of danger. Spidey could. We can. You can't. Get over it.
  • Ask for directions only if you are willing to discover 15 ways of getting to one place, all at once, spoken in unison. We love giving people directions and sometimes tend to forget that they might not be going where we are. If you use a map, rely on landmarks such as "Raju's corner cigarette shop", "Sakhubai's Ladiss and Giants Booty Parlar" and "Kitty's Kirana Korner" or "Scotland High Public School: we have no branches". Chances are you'll find it in a few hours. Road signs are passé and a needless waste of public space, in times of an acute shortage of free retail space. 
  • Finally, to wrap up this first edition of the advisory, when you're getting all those immunization shots to guard you against the vagaries of our 'Developing, Third World' existence, do get a booster dose of 'patience plus' and a couple extra of 'whatever' and I promise you you'll be fine. You might even have fun, and go on to invest in non-existent, sub-judice real estate, right after making hooch-induced blood pacts to visit again. 
Now that you have the first edition of this easy-peasy guide, please do come. We're working very hard to make our lives miserable for a few greenbacks you'll throw at us and all because of our Stockholm-syndrome type sense of belonging to our erstwhile colonial masters.

We love you, our brave guests from distant shores. Sometimes even too much, because we don't quite like most of our neighbours. They suck and the exchange rate up north ain't too great, unless we're over there and standing and haggling for a kebab. Besides, you think we would ever take the effort to show them the flashing neon light and make their lives easier? No, each their own hell.


  1. You limited feeder! Shame on you!

  2. Loved the pic though! And the 'We keep no score and we take no prisoners'. I want that for an email signachur, if you daunt mind. :D

  3. Well, well. the joys of limited you to comment here now, didn't I Nimmo??? of course you can use the line; anyone else and I'd 'ave asked for an alphabet in that ring-like-thing and a 87-page contract, but for you my dear just C the P would do. BTW, it's a Surdy motto ;)

  4. loved the PT reminder....oh God it did stop raining at 4:59!! this is too funny...but you are scaring me way from convincing my husband to get a job in goold old desh!

  5. @ Anon: sounds like someone from the old days, what with the right-on-target 4:59! ??