Submerged Tales

I went rafting recently, and did something remarkably stupid valiant: lulled by the innocently serene water between two rapids and encouraged by those around me, I jumped in and let go of the raft. As I slowly floated away – vesting my life in a bloated jacket slung around my neck – I started to gently propel my legs to control my orientation. Nothing happened. I propelled harder. Nothing happened. I used my hands to thrust the water in different directions. Na-huh, nothing. And then I did something a little more useful than all of these things put together: I laughed. For what good does panicking do to anyone?

Nope, I still can’t swim.

I realized (or, as the seven-year-old-kid-in-Saturday-morning-swimming-class version of me would put it, remembered) that I am as hopeless in water as a fish is outside it. It took about 5 minutes for my fellow rafters to come to the same conclusion, discerning that trying to teach me to swim from the raft was about as appropriate as reading out HTML code in a wedding toast. I’d strayed about a mile away from them (distances might appear a little warped when you’re in the water); and their rescue mission, while not mounted on a History Channel scale, probably made sure I wasn’t history.

That was the last time I was in water. The time before that was about two years ago, on a memorable trip down to MGM amusement park near Chennai.

Standing atop a delightfully lofty water slide, I observed my friend make a clumsy descent ahead of me, his arms bouncing off the side walls of the narrow chute. In a flash of inspiration, I asked the lifeguard beside me what the correct posture was. “Keep your hands behind your neck and your elbows jutted out in front of you,” said the cunning man, “like this.”

Unfortunately, keeping my hands ‘like this’ meant that I had to have the stability to balance a stationary unicycle perched atop a beach ball. During a hurricane. Needless to say, I bumbled my way down the slide, hit the water at a precarious angle, and fulfilled my 6 cups of water a day stipulation before the lifeguard stopped laughing for long enough to pull me out. Trying to salvage my pride, I thanked the man in a dignified tone, turned around and looked up at the sky, from where a couple of amateurs had begun their smooth descent into the calm waters, their hands positioned nothing ‘like this.’

Assured that all was well with the world despite the presence of lifeguards with a disturbingly morbid sense of humor, I took a step backwards. My foot missed the step, my hands lurched desperately for support, and together my friend and I descended into the waters. That was the last time I was in a swimming pool. 

Write Like West Wing 1

My newest hobby: writing down West Wing-style dialogues during a boring class. My notebook page was overflowing with these scrawls beside some actual note-taking, so I decided to preserve them for posterity. You don’t need to know the show’s actual characters, but if you do, imagine them traversing the corridors with more important things on their mind while engaging in these ditties.

I started off with a simple:
“It’s gonna be tedious, Josh.”
“Yes it is. But if tedium were a problem, you wouldn’t work for the government, would you Donna?”
“I don’t work for the government, I work for you.”
“Good, I’ll expect it on my desk by 5 then.”

…and moved on to a slightly more complex:
Donna: “I’m going to a Yanni concert.”
“What are you, 50?!”
“Josh! That man is legendary -”
“For being bad, yes. Anyway, have fun with your grandmother.”
“I’m not going with my grandmother.”
“You have friends over 50?”
“You know why I can’t go with my grandmother? She died 10 years ago.”
Pause. “This is the part where I buy flowers to make it up to you, right?”
“Carnations.”

…and then the big one:
(Josh is walking to the vending machine, with Donna following)
“Josh, you wanna hear a moving story?”
“You know me, I’m always in the mood for a good tearjerker, Donna.”
“That’s what wakes me up in the mornings, the thought of narrating a touching tale to you.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night.”
“What?”
“Go on.”
“There was this homeless man who camped outside my apartment.”
“This isn’t a tale of love, is it?”
“And one day, I went up and offered him a dollar. And he said, ‘Missy, I will gladly exchange the dollar for a hug from you.’” (she’s choking up)
“So you hugged him?”
“Yes.”
“Was this today?”
“Yes.”
“Please tell me you took a shower.”
“Joshua, you have a cold heart.”
“I’m sure yours is nice and warm under all those layers of dirt. Listen, did you get your dollar back?”

I tried moving away from Josh-Donna the next day, but it was a lot harder that time around. But that’s for another post.

The One with the Different Weeks*

Please to excuse the rusty writing. Normal service will résumé soon.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated Ready, Steady, Vetti. While I have been ready with ideas (and have had rather steady hands since birth), the only reason I can offer for my delinquency is severe scarcity of the crucial third ingredient – Vettiness.

Spring 2010 is not a kind, gentle semester.

Following the trend set by notable predecessors like Fall 09 and Spring 09, it’s making a very valid threat to kick my ass. In order to protect my posterior from this perilous hazard, I have been hard at work. Taking time out from playing Fifa on the PS2 and Braid on my Mac (have I mentioned Braid before? It’s an incredibly brilliant game), I’ve been trying to make sense of classes like Machine Elements and Mechatronics. The latter is turning out to be a one semester crash course in Electrical Engineering (there’s a reason I’m not majoring in EE), while the former derives untold pleasure from inflicting misery and suffering on its pupils (so why am I majoring in ME? Certainly not because of classes like this). Meanwhile, my writing has floundered.

In my 3rd year, I have come to realize that every week in college is a busy week. But there are different kinds of busy weeks.

  • The Sneaky One (aka the Mudhugu Kuththal Vaaram):

This usually happens to me when I don’t have any midterms or tests coming up. As a result, I end up signing up to do things I don’t normally have the time for. There are only so many games/movies/sports you can fit into an ordinary week before realizing that, when it comes to kicking ass, homework is almost as good as an exam.

  • It’s not my fault

This is the one where you don’t have any major assignments or tests due in the course of the week. You realize this on the Sunday before the week starts, and yet you sit down a week later without a clue about where all that time went. Maybe time warps are real.

  • No school work, but no play:

This is a week where you don’t have much due as far as classes are concerned, and yet you don’t spend time indulging in recreational vettiness. In a week of this kind, you end up spending all your time doing stuff for a student organization.

  • A Weeke Moste Evil

The worst kind. When you have 2 mid-terms, a quiz, a project, 3 homework assignments, an interview and a presentation all due in the course of 7 days – that’s when you realize how stupid you were during registration.

*You can tell I’ve been watching a lot of Friends lately

The picture above was composed using free icons and art from:
Learning American English Online
Icon Finder

Ah, School

School supports a level of hypocrisy that cannot go without notice elsewhere in life.

Often, when we deigned to attend the morning assembly, we would listen to our Principal exhorting us to use the language the colonialists had brought to our soil. “Speak in English!” Our teachers, even the ones who pronounced ‘wizard’ as ‘why-zaard’, often took up the same cause.

It was up to us students to stand up and protect our mother tongue, something our politicians had been saying for decades. I’m not sure if it was this linguistic patriotism that brought us all together. But only one thing mattered – we were rebels, and successful ones at that. If a teacher sneaked up to a bunch of students, she’d find us obstinately chattering away in Tamil. Some students went to the extent of failing their English exams (though that might have had something to do with writing “I went to Abroad. It is a very nice place. Weather is very good” on an English essay).

However, we found support from unexpected quarters. If an enterprising student sidled up to a group of teachers having an animated conversation, said enterprising student would find them conversing in the language that Bharathiar claimed to be his favorite.

Why, if an even more enterprising (and courageous) student sneaked into the Principal’s office, he/she would hear her talking in… you don’t need three tries to guess right. No, the answer isn’t the West Germanic language of England.

The people working in my School’s office used Tamil (thank god for that); some of our younger (or more popular) teachers spoke to us students in Tamil outside of class. For obvious reasons, we never took anyone seriously if they asked us to suddenly start speaking to each other in English.

But apparently the Principal was serious; one day, she decided she had had enough. She ordered the incarnates of Shakespeare in the school office to make posters that would inspire us to verbally communicate in English. We walked into School and found signs on all the corridors. Large, ugly, Times New Roman font printed on cheap A4 paper, cello-taped to the walls.

SPEAK ENGLISH
ONLY IN THE CAMPUS

I was impressed by the surprisingly reasonable request – the School seemed to realise that we were never going to abandon our language of choice, and now it was willing to settle for less: ‘only in the campus’. I’m sure some of the younger, chamathu kids took its message quite seriously, and spoke in pure Tamil up until the moment their polished Bata shoes stepped into the School grounds.

Imagine their consternation when the signs were all replaced within a day:

SPEAK ENGLISH ONLY
IN THE CAMPUS

Turns out the patrons of English in the school office had misunderstood the Principal. Ah, I love my high school.

P.S.:
There’s a certain pleasure to be found in others’ foolishness. The human race thrives on it – some make a living out of providing the fodder, while others enjoy the meal. FailBlog is a website that helps deliver the fodder to the recipient. The memories chronicled in the post above were triggered by this.

Mostly About “Retiring”

If there is one word in the Queen’s language that Mr. Mokkasamy detests, it’s the word ‘tire.’ He never uses it. So what does he say instead, you ask?

Well –

Friend (as of the time of this conversation): Hey Mokkasamy, how are you?

Mokkasamy: Hey! As of now, I’m doing great. But I just got back from the dentist’s, he says he’s going to pull out my teeth.

Friend: Whoa, that’s horrible!

Mokka: Yeah man, he wants to make me a Bokka-samy.

(Friend turns into acquaintance)

Acquaintance: Dei. One more blade like that and I’ll sock you across the face.

Mokka: Oho. Then I’ll be Socka-samy.

Acquaintance-wanting-to-change-topic: Hey, just remembered you ran the half marathon yesterday. You must be very tired, no?

Mokka: Tired. The only word I don’t like in English.

Acquaintance (confused): Eh? So you’re not tired?

Mokka: No. I’ve been tired millions of times in my life. I got re-tired after the marathon.

Acquaintance: Oh, you retired from the marathon?

Mokka: Fool. I meant that I became tired once again – I “re”-tired.

(Acquaintance becomes enemy)

Um, sorry about that. That conversation was not the point of this post.
This was the point:
Have you ever thought of what you would do once you retired (ahem…not using the word in the Mokkasamy sense)? Well, after a vacation in which I’ve been pretty jobless, I think I now know.

    – Read trash (Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol, and so on…). And maybe some good stuff (John Updike, Wodehouse)
    – Start following a TV show, watch too much of it, start hating it (Boston Legal)
    – Start a blog (Ready, Steady, Vetti)
    – Play the violin and/or other instruments (like the keyboard)
    – Play video games (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas)
    – Write (it’s what I’m doing right now)

In other words, I’d do a lot of things, and yet absolutely nothing. Ah bliss, you are not far away.