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5 Months in New York City: The People

I spent close to 5 months in New York City this year for my work. This post is part of a series of posts about my stay there, what I saw and what I observed. More to come.

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Growing up in India, the term ‘big city’ largely implied the size of a city in terms of its geographic scale. And the term ‘cosmopolitan city’ meant that there were people from all over the country who called the said city their home. But here in America, the term ‘big city’ implies the size of the city in terms of its population, and the term ‘cosmopolitan city’ means that one can find people from all over the world who call the city their home. There was always going to be a culture shock going from a small city like Des Moines in the Midwest to living in New York City. I was largely prepared for it and definitely looking forward to embrace it for the duration of my stay.

To the people who live there and for those who have never spent significant time there, it is perhaps nothing more than an axiom – that was acknowledged a long time ago and something that holds no significance now – that New York City is the biggest city in America and the most cosmopolitan city in the world. But for those who have never spent any significant time in a city that size and that diverse and who go to live there for the first time, it is no longer just an axiom. No, for those who go to live there for the first time, the size of the city and the diversity of the population is easily the most glaring feature the city has to offer. It is the first thing that will strike you and it will continue to be a constant reminder of what the city is and what it stands for.

diversity

So yes, that was the first thing I noticed myself – the sheer number of people and the diversity of those people. (To be fair, I had been to NYC (and have spent many days in Chicago) previously for a few days as a tourist, but these kind of observations and realizations do not come when in the mindset of a tourist. You just have to live there for a while). People from all over the world – from places I knew well to places I didn’t even know existed. I met people who had lived in the city since a few weeks and I met people whose families had lived the city for several generations, and everything in between.

The term ‘melting pot of different cultures’ cannot and should not be used in an off-handed manner. But NYC clearly makes the case for being one. There are always going to be isolated pockets of people from different cultures who tend to spend time among themselves. But from what I saw, there was a lot of clear racial and cultural inter-mingling that has taken place over several generations and continues to this day. Interracial couples and mixed race folk tell only part of the story. The true inter-mingling happens in the transfer of ideas from people of one culture to another. And this is on full display in the city. It is largely on the subtle level, but if you are looking for it, you will definitely find it.

The diversity is so much on display there that (apart from the one exception of the concert crowd) there was never in a single situation where I found that white people were in the majority! In the subway, in Times Square, in Harlem, in lower Manhattan, in Queens or Brooklyn, in movie theaters, in restaurants and literally anywhere else, I always found that non-white people made up at least half the crowd. I made that observation and state it here as absolutely nothing more than a fact that reflects the true extent of diversity the city has to offer.

For all the talk about New Yorkers being rude and arrogant and living life in a hurry, I found that most of my encounters and observations pointed to the contrary. I spent a good amount of my time (at work) with strangers who had no reason to help me in any form. I am not talking about people in the office working in a cube. I am talking about blue collar workers of different age groups who were born and raised in the 5 boroughs. I spent a lot of time with them – weeks together on a daily basis – and got to know them rather well. Most of them tried to help me out on various tasks when they had absolutely no incentive to do so. And everybody were polite.

In fact, the more time I spent with them blue collar workers, the more I noticed a rather raw side to their general nature – an honesty and straightforwardness that I hadn’t found among anyone working in a cube. There was no beating around the bush, no needless diplomacy – just the honest and polite truth. My conversations and interactions with those blue collar workers – especially while hanging out at their office food truck  for breakfast or lunch – were definitely some of the memorable highlights from my NYC stay.

It was not just that those blue collar workers spoke a certain way. What also made a difference to me was that my own skin color did not seem to make any difference to anyone in NYC when they interacted with me. Here in the Midwest, I have typically found people being more guarded when talking to me as compared to other white people. Even though they mostly do it with the right intention, it still remains an undeniable fact and something that prevents me from developing new and deeper connections. But in NYC, the people I interacted with had no holding back. Sample this: Within two days of meeting and working with this one blue collar worker, we were already talking about what kind of college degree his daughter should pursue! Even strangers I met on the bus or the subway didn’t appear to incorporate my skin color or accent into how they interacted with me. And that was an extremely refreshing experience that I had sorely missed in Iowa.

The explanation for this is actually pretty obvious. The more that white folks get to see and interact with people from other countries/cultures/races, the more familiar they get with them, resulting in not putting up their guards when they meet someone not of their color/race/country in the future. This phenomenon is obviously not just restricted to white people. This very much applies to any dominant group of people interacting with people who have less representation in the same geographical area.

And so, with 5 months of NYC under my belt, I can see why immigrants like to flock to a city like NYC. The reasons and explanations may sound obvious and almost banal to those who already live there or in similar cities. But for someone like me living in a much smaller place where many times I am the only diversity around me, it was a massive paradigm shift in terms of the dynamics of social interaction and what assimilation means and stands for.

And it was only when I came back to Des Moines last week that I appreciated the contrast for what it truly was. America is called a ‘land of immigrants’ and that is true. But I realized that what that means in NYC is vastly different than what it means in a place like Des Moines. In New York City, that phrase stands for immigrants from all over the world whose families have lived in the city from several generations ago to those who probably just landed there that week. In a place like Des Moines, that phrase implies that several generations or centuries ago, a number of East European people came there as immigrants looking for a better life and have since lived there.

I will conclude by saying that one cannot and should not compare and contrast a city like Des Moines to a place like New York City. There is only one New York City but there are many places like Des Moines. But it is equally important to accept and acknowledge the vast difference in the number and diversity of people in those cities – and their far reaching impact on the society.

 

 

Going Back Home After 3 Years

I finally went back home to Bangalore after a gap of almost exactly 3 years. I had never been so long away from home prior to that. Even with my parents visiting me in between, that long gap didn’t lose its significance on me. I stayed there for 4 weeks, visiting friends and family and spending time with myself at home. I had no real agenda apart from that and the 4 day trip that my parents had planned. Mostly, I just wanted to sit at home, eat my mom’s food and not worry about work or any of the many other aspects of my existence. But there was perhaps one thing that I was indeed looking forward to.

I just wanted to talk to people around me in my own language. I just wanted to talk in Kannada.

Perhaps the biggest handicap I have faced after moving to the US – and especially Iowa – is the complete and absolute absence of my ability to converse in Kannada with the people around me. Simply put, there isn’t a single person I have met in all of Des Moines who speaks my mother tongue. I am sure they exist, but the probability of them being someone I get to meet, develop a friendship with, and have conversations with them in Kannada on a regular basis is minuscule. Maybe if I lived in a big city, I would have stood a much better chance, but not in a city the size of Des Moines. And as a result, I have had to accept and live with the handicap of being unable to talk in my own mother tongue. It has never been problematic – considering my command over the English language – but it is something that I have constantly missed.

I have mostly dealt with it through secondary means. I speak to my parents, my relatives and a couple of my friends over the phone in Kannada on a regular basis. I also watch Kannada movies on Youtube or Videogirmit, listen to old Kannada songs, and read Kannada books. But none of this has ever come even remotely close to giving me the fulfillment I get from talking to someone in Kannada in person. Which is why when I went back home, the thing I was most excited about was just being able to talk to the people around me in the language that is my mother tongue.

Everybody from the immigration officer at the Bangalore airport (who began questioning me in English and happily changed to Kannada once I gave my responses in Kannada), the local grocery store guy who was trying to find me a pack of cards, the owner of the local medical shop (whom I have known since I was in high school), the guy serving me extra sambhar for my Idly at the fast food Darshini next to the bus stop, all the neighbor aunties who had differing opinions on the changes in my body mass, the old man at the small clothing shop where I bought part of my new wardrobe, the waiter at Vidyarthibhavan, all the nice folks of North Karnataka who made my vacation-within-a-vacation a memorable one, the guy who helped me get a Vodafone cell number on my Verizon Galaxy S5, the BMTC bus conductor who gave me a free ride to the next stop when he realized I was on the wrong bus, the auto driver who had Ambarish pictures all over his vehicle, the guy who cut open an extra coconut (eLaniru, or coconut water) for free because he felt he had given me a smaller-than-average coconut the first time around, the guy selling liquor on credit at the local shady bar, the bartender at Arbor Brewing Company (to whom I bragged about having visited the original one at Ann Arbor in Michigan), the guy who gave me all the snack goodies at Subbamma Store, the local gym owner who had a hard time understanding why I needed the membership only for 3 weeks, my friends from Undergrad and before, my family members of all ages and degrees of separation, and before I forget, Blackie – the creatively named black colored dog of the Black Dog fame –  I took great pleasure in speaking to every one of them in Kannada (including Blackie).

It was something that I had taken for granted all the time I was in Bangalore, and something – whose absence – I refused to acknowledge after moving to the US. During my visit, I sometimes almost forgot that this ‘return to how it used to be’ was only a temporary thing and something that I would very soon not have in my daily life. But I suppose that is what happens with the things I took for granted. I tend to trick myself into thinking it was all going to be OK every time I got to experience what I had missed for long. But the eventual and inevitable return – from nothing more than a vacation to the true consequences of my choices – never fails to expose the glaring deception my mind has me in. And I find myself looking to the past or to possibilities in the future when I get to experience first hand all the things I grew up taking for granted, and whose absence I am yet to come to terms with.

I am now back to talking to people over the phone in Kannada, watching Kannada movies, listening to SPB and S.Janaki’s old classics, and reading a Kannada translation of Kalidasa’s Meghadhootha when I get the chance. I do not know when I will get my next chance to converse in person in Kannada, but when it does happen, I will very likely just trick myself again into thinking it’s all back to the way it used to be – at least for the duration of that conversation.

And then I will go back to reality.

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The irony of choosing to write this in English is not lost on me. But such is the circumstances I chose and find myself in.

MCC’s Cul-Ah! 2011: ROFLMAO!!!

Before I say anything, let me get the context perfectly clear here. I am right now in the USA and have been here for the past 1.5 years. I woke up today morning and on my news feed, I saw that MCC’s Cul-Ah had been going on since Monday. This brought back all the nice memories of the Cul-Ah! that I had been to when I was in my PUC. So I decided to give it a read. This post is a result of the profound WTFness that I experienced subsequent to reading through those articles. READ ON…

For the uninitiated, Cul-Ah! Is the annual cultural fest that is conducted by Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, at their own campus. Usually they hold it in the month of January and this year too was no exception. This fest is considered to be one of the best fests in the city and is in high demand. (Hmm…I wonder why..). Perhaps the fact that MCC is a girls’ college with a continued reputation of housing the best chics  in the city has something to do with that popularity. Anyways, I got to know about this year’s fest through this and this article on DNA.

So this year, MCC has gone on and made the effort to theme their fest. The theme chosen is “ELEMENTS”. According to Andrea, general secretary of Mount Carmel College students’ union,

Our college is completely eco-friendly, and hence we came up with this theme. Considering that this year is the year of ‘biodiversity’, we have begun a number of campaigns in the college that encourage students to be more eco-friendly and to save the earth. For Cul- Ah, therefore, we chose the five elements of our planet to define and categorise our events.

The United Nations has this to say about the International Year of Biodiversity:

….that humans rely on the diversity of life to provide the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials needed for life… this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities, such as the expansion of cities and farming. International Year Of Biodiversity is aimed at raising awareness about the loss of animal and plant species and organizing action to halt it.

Looks like a responsible thing the fest organizers have done. Starting a number of campaigns and getting their main fest to be themed that way to create awareness for the ‘Year of Biodiversity’. Just ONE small problem I came across:

The Year of  Biodiversity was LAST YEAR, 2010!!!

Yes, yes..this is the point where you go WTF???!?!!!??

I mean, seriously, what were the organizers thinking? I can imagine people messing up on some small aspects of the fest, but screwing up the very premise behind the main Theme of the fest, now you gotta be really messed up to do that!

I am now trying to reconstruct the discussion that I believe, took place, during the planning of the fest (in 2010).

Chic1: Girls! We gotta do something different this time. Something that will capture the attention of everyone for a very good purpose.

Chic2: Save the Planet!

Chic3: Oh my God! That is soooooo original! Lets totally do it!

Chic1: Wait! Save the Planet doesn’t sound fancy enough. Lets give it a different name.

Chic2: Hey look! This year is ‘Year of Biodiversity’! We can use that as an excuse to get this totally original idea on to our theme! This is so awesome no??

Chic1 and Chic2: Yay! This is going to be the best fest ever!

Chic4 (with mega-inferiority complex issues): Excuse me girls… err..hmm… but I was just wondering.. ummm.. since we will be holding our actual fest, like, next year, you know, 2011, don’t you think we need to consider that also?

Chic1: Did we ask you your opinion?

Chic4: Err…I was just saying…you know, that you had to consider…

Chic2: Are you suggesting that we don’t know how to do this?

Chic4: I am sorry.

Chic3: Yeah! Who the f*** cares anyway? As soon as they see something even remotely associated with Save Nature stuff, they will think we are doing a very responsible thing.

Chic1: So where were we? Ah yes! So lets make the theme as those 5 elements that make up nature. Earth, water, fire, air and space.

Chic2: Oooooooh! I so love Captain Planet! Go Planet! This is sooo good!

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Moving on, we now come to the events. The events are categorized with respect to the different ‘elements’. Here is the idea behind the classification:

Fire will include high energy events like dance, mad ads and mock rock, whereas music and poetry are in the category of Air. Water, with its characteristic intelligence, will include events such as quizzes and pictionary that test your intelligence and creativity while events such as vegetable carving, cooking without fire and flower arrangement fall in the category of Earth.

And here is the clincher, really. If you were wondering what they came up with for the ‘element’ of Space, this is what the Gen-Sec, Andrea, had to say (brace yourself for the profound WTF moment):

All these events will be conducted in the element of space, which in this case is MCC.

You know… if you really wanted to find an excuse to somehow include that 5th element, I am sure there was a less retarded way to do so. Let me reconstruct the discussion that led to this:

Chic1: Ok, now that’s a great idea. Year of Biodiversity, and ELEMENTS! I think we are onto something totally awesome here. Now how can we structure these events so that all the 5 elements are covered?

Chic2: I think the best way to do that would be to classify the events among 4 of the elements and treat the 5th element as something that will encompass all the other 4! I am so awesome no??

Chic3: So for example, we can put our events in Air, Space, Fire and Earth, while saying that we are holding our fest under Water. And then we can say that this is symbolic of how global warming is going to get all places under water soon if we do not do something about it! Isnt that a great idea? We can also use the Global warming excuse to put Fire as the 5th element saying we can die of heat and stuff.

Chic2: Oh my god!! There are so many options here! Lets draw lots!

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Ok. So enough with that. Lets now consider the actual events and their classification. Honestly, I really don’t know where to start. Fire is supposed to represent High-energy events? When exactly did rewriting a rock song in a funny manner (Mock  Rock) become a ‘high energy’ event? And so poetry and music events are classified under Air? Oh I get it! The vibration of air is required to create any sound and so music events come under Air. What about poetry? Oh I know! You need air to breathe while you create poetry! Epic!

So Water has ‘characteristic intelligence’? Hmm..lets see. Googling ‘characteristic intelligence of water’ yields results describing the Goldfish and the Portuguese Water Dog. I am sure the organizers found a way to link both these innocuous animals with their events. So quizzes and Pictionary are supposed to test your intelligence and creativity? Ok..so then why is the Kannada quiz in Air and not Water? You suggesting Kannada quiz does not require any intelligence or creativity? (Kannada Rakshana Vedike anyone??)

In fact, here is my alternate proposal for classification. Fire is generated by sparks. So a spark of the mind is related to the Fire element. Spark of mind also gives rise to creativity and intelligence, as seen in lit events such as quizzes and such. So classify all ‘intelligent and creativity’ based events under Fire. Then look for the real dumb and retarded events. Like Antakshari, where only the dumb get excited playing. You can classify such events under Water. Why? Because water destroys fire, the spark, the same way the dumb cancel out the intelligent!

“I am so awesome no??!!!?”

It is fairly obvious what has happened. The organizers somehow want to tag their fest with some kind of a socially-responsible message. And once they do that, they had to find ways to relate each and every event to the theme somehow. And so they come up with these ridiculous ways to connect their fest with the ‘Save the Planet’ message. And they know nobody is going to really question it or think too much about it as it is, by default, supposed to generate a feel-good factor. This whole thing, I have to say, is a perfect scenario to explain the idea of Subjective Validation.

Moving on, lets look at the Twitter account that MCC opened up to publicize and market their fest. Not a bad idea as a lot of people use Twitter and word gets spread around faster through it. There are 12 tweets in the account, the last of which was on Jan 3. Now I am not going to comment on the inefficient usage of the account. Instead, the followers of this account tell a very good story. (At the time of posting this) There are 21 followers, some of whose descriptions are as follows:

  • I’m a 17 year old girl. I Love Music. Met Jesus when I was 11. Living life in His grace and love. Servant, Daughter, Sister, Friend. =)
  • hi im **** a.k.a chikku.. im a huge fan of linkin park and edwars cullen.. i love playing different sports….well thats it for now… cya later……:-)
  • everything must be proportionate. your chicken and your rice must both last till the end. one must divide the bites of chicken evenly among bites of rice

No comments.

Well, I guess I am done with the organizers and the college. I have nothing against them really. I am sure they had a great fest and a lot of people had a good time. Come to think of it, I clearly remember to have had a memorable time when I went to Cul-Ah! 2003 edition when I was doing my PUC at St. Joseph’s PU College. But all that aside, I really cannot tolerate mediocrity. And hence this post. But I am not done yet. So far, I took care of the college. Now let me turn my attention to the newspaper- DNA.

Substandard or unethical journalism is something that really gets on my nerves. I have written about them before here and here. And I continue to see this even today. The DNA journos Merlin Francis and Vidya Iyengar have written the two articles that I have quoted here. In each case, I would like to know what the journos treat as their standard.

First up, with Merlin Francis. This is the dude who has got the Gen-Sec of the fest to quote that the Year of Biodiversity is this year. And he just took it for granted, making zero effort to check the factual accuracy of what he was quoting in his final article. All he needed to do was spend 15 seconds to google ‘Year of Biodiversity’ and he would have everything he needed. But no! Why? Well, I guess the standards differ, don’t they?

And now, with Vidya Iyengar. Call me a stickler for accuracies, but I really have a zero tolerance for inaccuracies in newspapers. The Fashion Show event is listed under the category Earth in the article.

The theme ‘Earth’ will be reflected in a fashion show that will sport rich, Indian ethnic wear.

However, in the actual brochure, the event is listed under Fire. This may look extremely trivial to some. But there is no guarantee that the above line was not just made up to suit the article. Maybe it was the fault of the organizers who fed in wrong information to the journo. Or perhaps, the organizers messed up their brochure (in which case, I would not attribute any wrong doing to the said journo). But these factual inconsistencies are not excusable in any form.

However, there is an even more WTF thing involved in these 2 articles. The General Secretary’s name is said to be Andrea D’Silva as per Vidya Iyengar, while it is Andrea D’Souza as per Merlin Francis!! Now, seriously, who f***ed it up? Poor Gen-Sec. You have my sympathies!

And I guess I am done. I am feeling good. Having said that, let me also add that I would like to thank all those involved in this awesome mess for providing me ideal fodder for a  blog post! Please keep it coming…..

UPDATE: The MCC folks have left a few comments below (along with the inevitable brickbats). Read them for their response and how all the facts did NOT go into the newspaper article. Also, since I am exercising my freedom to criticize people here, I also realize that I am open to criticism as well. I will not be deleting any comments here, even if they clearly show me in bad light. I will probably not be responding to them.

 

 

 

Your Address in the USA

All of us have our own addresses. If an Indian is asked where he lives in their city, the response ranges from Bandra to Basavanagudi, from Gurgaon to Gorguntepalya, from T.Nagar to Thodesandhipalya (Ok that last one was made up). And if you are familiar with the area given as a response, you ask “Where in Basavanagudi?” or “Where in Thodesandhipalya?” (You really dont have to answer the last one). And if you are familiar with even the second response, you keep narrowing the location until you have convinced yourself that the other person is your long forgotten neighbor.

However, in the USA, things, as always, are a little different. Say you approach an American living in New York City, one of the largest cities in the world. And you ask him where he stays in New York. The most likely response you are going to get is “Oh I stay in Perry Street” or “My house is on Graves Avenue” or “I live right by Richmond Lane”! You see, the address of a house in the USA has just two things on it that help you to locate it in a given city: the house building number and the street where the house building is located. Thats it! So in an area of about 800 square kms, all you have with you to locate one single house is the name of the street its on??!!?? That surely helps doesnt it??? Its equivalent to saying “My house is next to my neighbor’s house” or “I am my father’s son” etc. It doesnt tell you anything useful.

Yes we all know there is this invention called GPS which can take you from anywhere to anywhere with just the street name as input. But seriously, what if you dont have one? Let me elaborate on this a bit. Imagine you have just arrived in New York City and take a cab to get to your apartment. You tell the cab driver “Take me to 4800 Eastland Drive” and just expect to be dropped off in front of your house? Well if the cab driver does just that, then either he has an awesome memory or his house is within a 2 block radius of your house. But then what happens if neither of the above “totally-possible” situations prevail? Then I guess you have to start looking for a map. Imagine this. You are in a cab and the cab driver spends the first ten mins just figuring out which part of the city he is supposed to be taking you!

Not implying that this is the only way things happen around here in the US. But seriously imagine something like that happening in India. I mean, you go and ask a Bangalore Auto Rickshaw dude to take you to 8th Cross Road, WTF do you think he is going to do? Of course he is going to look at you like you were born a retard and stayed that way for good!

Perhaps one of the direct consequences of American addresses having such small number of characters in them is seen when you are trying to fill out a form online- like an application for the college, GRE, TOEFL or any other thing that is based out of the US. You see the website creators make this sincere and totally pointless effort to restrict the number of characters in which you enter your address. So when your address goes into describing just your house number and street name, there really is no problem. However, unfortunately for all us Indians, this poses a problem. Especially if your address involves your house name, house number, Cross Street number, Main Street Number, Layout, Stage, Near some landmark, Block and lastly Area name- as is the case with most Indian addresses- you are in for a small problem! And it is really amazing how I have learned, over the years, to express words in much smaller forms without failing to convey its intended meaning!

Getting back to ground reality, more and more people are having GPS in their cars and it is available for dirt cheap prices at WALMART. But that still doesnt justify having only one street name to describe the location of your house in a mega metropolitan city. ( You might argue that the Pin code narrows it pretty well but seriously who knows about the postal code apart from the post men?) I sincerely hope I dont have to go through any circumstances involving hunting for ONE street name amidst hundreds if not thousands in a city.

Feel totally free to get fully emotional and sentimental about the American address systemand pass judgment on my assessment of it- but make sure you do that on your own blog.

Deccan Herald: A Case of <Insert Synonym for BAD > Journalism

I have very strong opinions about the standard (or lack of it) of journalism- both in TV and Print media- that widely prevail today. Having returned to Bangalore a couple of weeks back, I found myself excited to be holding a local newspaper in my hands and learning who has been making the news and for what reasons. One of the local newspapers I subscribe to is Deccan Herald. Since as long as I can remember, it has been widely acknowledged that Deccan Herald provides the best coverage of the local news. Fair enough. And so I didnt exactly feel anything out of place when it decided to give front page coverage to a local news item. The news item in question was this“Lalbagh to lose trees for a ‘Sentosa’ look”. It  was dated May 24 2010. And here is what it had to say:

It is a perfect case of the fence eating the crop. The Horticulture Department, which shoulders the responsibility of protecting and preserving Lalbagh Gardens, is set to axe the precious green cover in the State’s only botanical gardens.

…..the department will chop off nearly 10 full-grown trees to make way for a musical fountain and a laser show. However, the department has kept this fact under wraps, fearing protests. Even Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has not been informed about the need for cutting the trees for the project, it is said.

The department simultaneously wants to develop a rock garden on the Kempe Gowda monolithic at the cost of Rs 29.30 crore. The plan is to ensure that people watch the laser show sitting on the proposed rock garden. The department’s plan has come close on the heels of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation cutting over a dozen trees for the metro rail project. The garden shrunk by 350 metres and lost 15 trees as a result.

Now anybody in their normal senses will interpret this article as a measure taken by a Government body and which is going to cause damage to the environment. The article makes it appear that the Horticulture Department is conspiring against public opinion in order to execute a project based on self interest.  It makes it look that this new proposed project (rock garden and musical fountain) is an evil thing and that a  Govt body is to be held accountable for intending to go ahead with it. This should not come as a surprise at all as every day one can read many such articles in newspapers across India.

However, what did surprise me (and to no bounds) was what I read in the same newspaper, Deccan Herald, the very next day on the front page itself. In a complete U-turn on the stand it took the previous day, Deccan Herald carried this news item (written by the same dude) which was headlined as “GSI dashes State’s Lalbagh dreams”.

With the the Geological Survey of India (GSI) around, it may not be all that easy for the State Horticulture Department to realise its dream project — a musical fountain and a rock garden at the Lalbagh Gardens.

Any work on the monumental Kempe Gowda rock requires a GSI nod, and the department has made no efforts so far to seek it. According to GSI, the proposed fountain and rock garden might pose a threat to the rock.

Yes you read that right! What was one day before a “perfect case of the fence eating the crop”,  suddenly became a “dream project”! This new article now tries to paint a picture wherein the Horticulture Department aims to realize its “dream project” but that it is inept enough not to obtain the permission of the Geological Society of India for the same. Nowhere in the article is there a mention of the trees that would have to make way for the  rock garden/ musical fountain. All it does is to make the State Govt. appear so as to be looking to do something big but not being adept at obtaining all the necessary permissions. There is not a single ounce of criticism from the writer about the project itself anywhere in the article. In fact, the writer seems to endorse the project, only complaining about the inability of the State Govt to get the necessary permission.

If this isnt a case of disgusting/unethical/substandard/<insert synonym for BAD> journalism, I dont know what is. I am sure I can find many more cases, which may in fact be worse than this, but there is really no excuse for what we see here. It appears that the writer wanted to make some news out of the proposed project and so decided to paint two contradictory pictures on consecutive days. My question is this: Does the writer actually take us readers to be so dumb as to not be able to spot the difference? Or perhaps, looking at it differently, is this newspaper  meant for people dumb enough not to spot these glaring contradictions?

<5 Seconds of Thinking later>

MORAL OF THE STORY: I am not reading Deccan Herald anymore. Strongly suggest you decide if you  belong to the “Dumb people” category or not as well.

A Sunday at Wonderla…Part II

Ok I presume that you have read my part I on my experience at Wonderla, the amusement and water park in Bangalore. If you have not yet read it, then just scroll down for the next post and you will find it there. Well anyway, I had told you about my experience till the time I was on my way to the Rain Disco. And that was where I had stopped. So here is what I found that really turned me off and proved to be a strong impetus to write about it.

Ok so I am on my way to the Rain Disco from the wave pool in my Tee and Bermuda (with the relevant things inside as well). I was with my cousin bro who, I can comfortably say, thinks very much on my own lines. I find that this Rain Disco essentially is a huge indoor hall with hundreds of sprinklers on top to give you the artificial rain experience and also fitted with huge speakers to blare some (hopefully listen-able) music. So far so good. Then I see something else. In fact the most relevant thing to notice was right in front of me. There is this huge notorious barrier running along the entire length of the hall dividing the hall into two unforgivable sections. Unforgivable-yes! Why? Because there was this huge glaring notice which seemed to take all the sadistic pleasure in the world announcing that the division to the right is where the men will be dancing and the division to the left is where the women and couples will be dancing!!!!!!

WTF?

I mean seriously WTF? At that time, I look at the “MEN’S” side and all I see are a bunch of I-am-cool-because-I-will-be-dancing-in-my-underwear-and -girls-can-watch-me kinda guys! And I look at the “Couples and Women” side and all I see is this big group of hot chics from God-knows-where in their swimsuit and ready to shake their way to glory!! And I (and my cousin) am just outside the two barriers looking at this glaring contrast that so flagrantly exhibited the disparity in the fortunes between women and men! I mean.. just look at it! Its like once in a Year or something you come to this place with the sole aim of having fun. And here you are, in a place, where everyone (read ‘all girls’) see fit to be in their swimsuit, not exactly oblivious to the nature of it. And there is this place where all you are expected to do is to just dance your way to glory. And then there is this asinine rule that all boys should dance with all the other boys!!! What am I? A freakin’ gay or what??!? Seriously did they expect me to go dance there with pounds and pounds of masculine flesh hovering all around me like that big pack of lecherous dogs in my hostel that humped the hostel bitch to death? While all the time, there are these really glam chics right next to the barrier and all I can possibly do is just fantasize that I would be dancing amongst them if that dumb rule wasn’t there! Its not like I am going to dance with some chic there and take her out to dinner the same night and end up banging her, thus unabashedly contributing to the moral decadence of our country! Needless to say, I couldn’t stand the possibility of dancing amidst such a Neandrathal crowd. So my cousin and I coolly walked out and went to the water slides.

Ah! Thank God for all the water slides that were at our disposal. It was a welcome change and I devoured it to the last possible drop-quite literally! There was this huge vertical fall where the slope was like some 80 degrees or something and all you ended up doing was to just fall at that slope! Some thrill that was! Plus my cousin and I ended up having the customary water sliding race which I inevitably ended up winning-what with me weighing 15 kgs more than him! And then later the rest of the family joined us as their stint with the Rain Disco had just got over.

An apt Trivia question would be: What is common to the songs:”Crazy Frog”, “Jhalak Dik”, “Brasil” and that Kannada song from that movie Mungaru Male? Ans: These are the songs that they play at the Rain Disco at Wonderla that are meant to excite you and get you all groovy! Ah! Get a Life!

Well we still did have a lot of fun there. That included my cousin scaring the shit out of his sister and my aunt as they came screaming down the waterline at full speed only to see him block the exit with his not-so-well built half naked body performing some really questionable acrobatics! Come to think of it, all water slides and falls were almost always accompanied with deafening screams (mostly from the female sector) that were meant to be a very efficient way of releasing tension. After sometime, my cousin,his sister and I, went into this shallow pool wherein we tried to compete with each other in propelling an airtube that was fitted into us. After due cheating on my cousin’s part, which included turning us upside down, and walking half the distance, he won the race. And in the end, I urged my aunt to get into one last water slide which I knew was the one giving the most thrill and she duly obliged. Only to scream her lungs out truly believing that the world was really going to end! I mean, the guy at the top of that waterslide, heard the screams echoing through the pipe and very appropriately remarked that my aunt would never come back to wonderla again! And with that, all of us wound up our rides for the day.

It was already dark around 6:45 pm. So we hurried up and dressed ourselves and it was only then that all of us realized that we were dog hungry! Seriously we could have eaten a dog! So we ordered a lot of grilled sandwiches and ate it piping hot! We were the last customers of the restaurant there and so we were the only people eating there. It somehow felt good. Having had a lot of fun and in the end, eating hot sandwiches with “Walk like an Egyptian” playing in the background(which incidentally was the only sensible song that was played throughout the day), I have to say, I enjoyed all the time that I had then.

Though at each and every moment that I spent there, I was pained to realize that I could never go there with someone, I still have to say that I had an amazing time and I strongly recommend all of you to pay a visit there once to see it for yourself.

A Sunday at Wonderla…Part I

Ok..the following is a brief account of my visit to Wonderla, the amusement and theme park in Bangalore. It will be fair to say that it is by far the best amusement and theme park in Bangalore. Going there has been the easiest things for me as I live just off Mysore road and Wonderla is about 20 kms straight ahead on the road. Lots of buses going towards places near Kengeri go there. I had been there once and had no hesitation to go there again when my aunt said that she would organize the trip there to celebrate my cousin’s 6th birthday. There were totally 8 of us…only family. And I was really looking forward to having a lot of fun.

We reached the place at around 12:30 in the afternoon, owing mainly to the fact that my another cousin had to attend a Parent-Teacher meet at BASE where he is studying for IIT-JEE. He was duly told that he needed to work at least 10 hours a day, forget about all functions, forget about all other activities, co-curricular or extra-curricular, and to forget about everything that has anything to do with happiness, if he wanted to have any hopes of clearing the exam. So after listening to such a cogent monologue, I guess he was desperate to have one last plunge into happiness before he drowns himself in the sea of misery.

Ok now here is the thing. You are going to a very good theme park and you know you are going to have a good time and you know that a lot of family members have come. And amidst all this, my aunt made sure that she didn’t get a camera! And why? Because all of us would be busy having so much fun that the camera could get lost! I mean if you do not use the cam when you are having fun, then when else do you use it????? I made her regret that at each and every step of the trip there. (For those of you who are curious to know how Wonderla actually looks, visit my Flickr page )

Ok now we are inside Wonderla and just got our tickets. They are priced at about 540 for adults and 240 for kids, height being the criteria. Not bad I should say. Now as soon as I enter the place, there is this Joker dude who also happens to be a midget and he comes and stands next to me and stares at me, giving me the I-am-a-midget-trying-to-be-cool look! Me being me, I just stared at that guy contemplating whether he was happy being a midget, when suddenly he exclaims loudly, making this weird noise! I think he expected me to get scared or show some reaction or something. Unfortunately for him, the only thing that I realized was that this dude really wished he had put on some more height! But not undone by my lack of reaction, Mr. Joker alias The Midget Dude went around the entrance emulating himself and boy! He was freakin out people like hell! He, quite understandably, targeted the cute chicks who had come there and I believe his self esteem grew everytime his “short” prank worked! (Pun Intended!)

Ok then we booked our locker and all that stuff and then we went for the rides. I guess thats why people go there. The initial rides were good-Twister, Maverick and one more similar ride. Man! Whoever designed that Maverick is a genius! I mean you end up rotating and oscillating and translating and all that in weird angles you wouldnt have imagined! It was damn good! And then we went to Mary Columbus. Now I don’t have particularly great memories of this ride. But I was forced to climb onto the ship and it was Ok. Not too bad as I had imagined. But then, I had begun to feel a little uneasy. And the next ride that I went was simply put, the epitome of all that is insane on this planet! And it was aptly named INSANITY! Dude, if any of you are just bored with life and want to shake up your life, literally and figuratively, just go on this ride! God only knows how I even made it through the ride. The G-Forces were like so damn strong, I could just not move my arm! Extraordinary experience and some subsequent consequences saw me throw up in the toilet there. Not that I was not used to throwing up. Everytime I drink excessively, I end up puking. So I was then alright again.

Then we all got changed into our water sport costumes and went to the pool splash. My cousin and I were having cornetto when we climbed on the car that was going to splash into the pool. The downward acceleration was exhilarating and when we hit the water and this huge splash came down on us, it felt like 540 bucks well spent! For whatever reasons, I actually ate the ice cream even after the splash.Next on the agenda was the laser show and musical fountain which was to be held inside a theater. After a small delay, the musical fountain started. Though I would have preferred songs like VICARIOUS or LATERALUS by TOOL or any Floyd song for that matter, I sat there watching the musical fountain as they blared some arbit Bollywood song and forced the fountains to make up for the banality of the song with some exquisite co-ordination and design among the hundreds of sprinklers and lights there! The fountains succeeded in doing that for two more songs! And then came the laser show…. Now here is the thing. There are some things that you know are beyond your expectations and you don’t even get those thoughts in your head. And for me, one of those things include India doing excellently in anything related to technology. But when the laser show started, I was more than happy to eat my words. Dude! This was like some dream or something! I mean, when the hell did India progress so much? It was like you were inside the whole thing! I was actually reminded of Pink Floyd’s P.U.L.S.E concert! I am not exaggerating here! Just go there and have a look yourself. It was enough to be more than 540 bucks worth! –

And amidst all the excitement and shouting, I found so many morons who were actually taking still photographs of the laser show using their Flash! Ah! Get a life! Next we went to the wave pool.

Ok here is the thing. There is this huge pool where huge waves are being created. And there are like well over a hundred people trying to have fun with the waves. Ok nothing seems to be out of the way as of now. But upon closer look, I realize there is something fundamentally wrong with every damn person there. I mean, here they are, in a pool with waves and all they are ever trying to do is just avoid the waves at all costs by jumping at the exact time the wave is about to hit them! So that way, they “Enjoy” the waves!????! What?????? It is like that dumb dude in one of the Dashing Cars who really believed that he had a lot of fun by avoiding any possible contact with all the cars around him! Yeah I mean, think about it! The waves are coming at you. Let it hit you and carry you where it wants. Go down into the water and come up just in time to see one more wave hit you again! Yeah thats fun! I mean if all you wanted to do was jump and let the wave pass under you, then why do you even need to come to a wave pool? You might as well jump in your bathtubs! –

Whatever! After I enjoyed there, I went to this Rain Disco. And that was where I was flabbergasted by what I found!

To be continued….