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. 

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.

Relatively Green

I’ve often heard people lamenting about how Chennai isn’t as green as it used to be. It’s true that Chennai used to have really pleasant weather in the winter, while December these days is as hot as May was in the past. It is also true that old, large trees have made way for new, ugly apartment complexes.

Why don’t the celestial beings do something to set things right? Those blessed beings looking at Chennai from the heavens see this:

Now, pictured above is T.Nagar – an area notorious for it’s congestion, traffic and pollution. Quite green, no?

For comparison, here’s an aerial view of Austin, Texas:

Now there’s a concrete jungle for you.

Based only on these aerial views, which city do you think looks more pleasant? If this is what Indra sees, it’s obvious why he makes it rain more in Austin.