How not to, humour, Narratives

How NOT to get off a crowded Indian Train

I am stuck in the narrow passageway of a general bogie reserved for ladies and my whole life is flashing in front of my eyes. Well, this would have been completely true, had it not been for the woman standing in front of me, whose acute politeness has me, distracted. Her voice has staggering intensity; my ears are barely managing to protect my eardrums from crumbling to the symphony of her cuss words. I am stuck. She is stuck. Behind me is a long queue (as long as the tiny bogie permits) and behind the meek woman, I am busy listening to, are the wild bison cramming their way into the coach that’s already filled till the brim. “Let us out first!” Another woman behind me screams. And I, both leading and blocking the queue of angry goddesses who want to get off the god damned train, am stuck with my bag engaged in an unbreakable embrace with the luggage of the other woman whose symphony has me hypnotized. All around me are people telling me to move! Move woman! Move! But then I can’t. Funny, I think sometimes that’s how life works as well.

I try to recall how I got into this situation in the first place. Well, it all began with  my decision to board a crowded general bogie. And I guess that’s the end of it. The tiny ladies’ coach is an objectified sexism in itself but of course I am not going to get into that debate. I am probably going to get old here, amidst this friendly crowd and feminism is not something I would like to ponder about right now. Paying my special gratitude to the size of this bogie, my mind wanders to the immediate reason that had caused this chaos – The woman who was sitting on the floor (because obviously we don’t have enough seats), blocking the way to the door and absolutely refusing to apply what’s called the common sense, that is, to get up when a train halts at a station. Ultimately when others tell her to stand and make way, she takes eternity to do the same. And by the time she clears the way for us to move ahead, the passengers on the other side have already started to rush in. And the result of her stupidity? Chaos. Victim? Me.

Move! Woman! Move!
Well I can’t. My bag is stuck. I am stuck. Can’t you see?

The polite woman finally stops shouting and decides to apply her brain. She lifts her bag and I am able to step ahead and also drift my bag forward. But there’s still a long way to freedom. There are too many people inside and now it’s my suitcase that’s creating havoc. As I push myself (and the bag, the god damned bag) forward, I accidentally hurt a small kid who was standing on the way. Her mouth turns into a gigantic O, her cheeks turn blood red and river and its tributaries start flowing from her eyes. I want to apologize. I obviously didn’t mean to slam my bag into her foot but there’s this major part of me who just wants her to shut up. She is a kid and I shouldn’t bear such thoughts but I am never going to be able to get off this train and these women and this noise and this wailing child are turning this place into a hell and I haven’t sinned enough to deserve this (Or so I thought!). I have already started formulating alternate plans. I realize I am never getting off here. So, I start thinking what the next stop of this train would be and how will I get back from there.

Move! Woman! Move!
Woman can’t move. CAN’T YOU SEE!
Woman is stuck in between all these people and shouting doesn’t help.
And amidst this greatest struggle I have ever endured to get off a train, comes a helping hand. But the helping hand isn’t polite either. Helping hand is angry and is shouting too, “Why are you coming out so late? So rahe the kya? (Were you sleeping all this while?)” I lose my temper at this. Now is not a good time for the glare and the taunts. If I just knew how to punch, I would have punched you right across your face. In fact in this moment, I can punch god himself. But I settle for glaring back at my Messiah, the red shirted coolie who is lifting my bag. But he doesn’t shut up. Then something rare happens, “Would you stop shouting?”-  I shout (ironically). I scream so hard, in fact, that my voice breaks like the light splits through a prism. Damn. I immediately regret it but at least the coolie is silent now. When I finally get to get off the train, I feel like I have been reborn. The coolie has placed my bag on the platform and has disappeared. Good, I wasn’t going to thank him anyway. There are still significant traces of anger left inside me. I avoid thinking about the near-fatal swarm of the women. I avoid thinking about the crying child. I avoid thinking about the cuss words I had been showered with. Obviously, I fail. I notice that my breathing has become erratic and I am still a bit dizzy. So, I sit on a nearby bench, take a few deep breaths and make myself believe that I really am alive and safe. Get off the train! That’s all I had to do! Realize how powerful chaos is? Realize how hazardous a heavy and huge suitcase is? Don’t carry a bag that weighs more than you do. Or join a gym and set major weightlifting goals. And yes don’t underestimate the stupidity of your fellow passengers. Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! (This suggestion is, in reality, a sham because there’s nothing in India that’s not crowded.) And that’s how you get off a train in India safely.

***

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How not to, humour

How NOT to learn F.R.E.N.C.H. for dummies (like me)

Chapter – I

The one with the counting

It was a warm ordinary day of Octobre (October, and yes it wasn’t a spelling mistake). The month that brings us the beautiful season of autumn. Autumn, the oldest poets creating factory, is the most jolie (lovely) season of all. That is, in the rest of the monde (world). Not in India. Here it’s simply a sequel of summer, without mangoes. Indian trees don’t give a single damn about the fall. Bien sûr (Of course), they might show some minor symptoms of this season but that is the beginning and the end of it. Anyway, back to being in that warm day of Octobre, as I sat in my cubicle passively framing yet another courriel (e-mail), I am flashed with one of the deeply moving scenes of the French film- “Blue is the warmest colour.” I am still not sure about the origin and what possibly might have caused that flash. But it was enough to dig out that obsession on to the surface which had gone into hibernation for past one year. And with it came a memory of a small desire I had expressed then – I want to learn French. Like a good employee (Ahem.) I ignored all of this and continued to scroll through my inbox. But the show starring the two voices in my head had already commenced. “Tu dois apprendre le français!”(You must learn French!). What’s that sound again? Certainly someone doesn’t want us to attend to our mails (Ahem. Perhaps our procrastinating habit) But what’s the harm in learning it? You have the time. You can manage. You can learn French. In fact you should. En fait (In fact) you would!” But tu vois (you see), turquoise ink, you don’t have what it takes to learn a language. Wait, wasn’t it your suggestion in the first place? Like a second ago? You are going to lose interest and then later you would forget everything. Merde! (Damn!) What a chameleon you are brain! I would definitely learn it just to prove you wrong!

In the background, my cœur et tête (heart and head) hi-fived, mouthed a thank-you and danced back to the exit.

So the same day I went to a language institute. I enrolled myself for French classes and there began my incredible journey to…nothing. But that’s what makes it a good ignition spark for my procrastinating habits.

A few jours (days) into my class and I stumbled upon the day that was going to change my vie (life) forever.  It’s a normal soir (evening). I arrived at the class straight from my office. I was a little tired but my excitement (or rather the fact that I had paid the fees and I felt a dire need to compensate for it by being regular in my classes) didn’t let me succumb to temporary tiredness.

“We will learn counting today” she said. “Counting till ten is pretty easy. What makes it easier is that the pronunciation of some of the numbers resembles the way we say it in Hindi.” I nodded, opened my notebook and uncapped my pen indicating my readiness to make notes which actually I never did. “So, let’s begin …Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit, Neuf, Dix!” she said slowly with hand gestures.I noticed that some numbers indeed resembled the numbers in Hindi (Deux – do, Trois – teen or Sept – saat, Huit – aath, Neuf – nav, Dix – dus and six was six in English except you pronounce it as sees)

I repeated after my French tutor. Pretty proud with myself, I asked her to go ahead in the series. She taught me the numbers till twenty (Onze, Douze (Now you know where the word dozen came from), Treize, Quatorze, Quinze, Seize, Dix-sept, Dix-huit, Dix-neuf, Vingt). Slightly alien terms but I managed just fine and repeated the figures correctly. Then she continued, “So, the rest of the numbers continue on the same rules as English. We just need to learn thirty, forty, fifty and sixty. After that it gets slightly different. But we will come to that later.” I nodded excitedly, completely ignoring the importance of the phrase – ‘slightly different’. “Trente, quarante, cinquante & soixante” she said.

I repeated perfectly except for the minor pronunciation mistakes. “And what about the rest of the figures?” I asked.

The turning point of my life had finally arrived.

“Seventy is Soixante –dix” she replied.

“Okay…”

“Eighty: Quatre- vingts

“Whaat…”

“Ninety is Quatre-vingt-dix

“..the fuck?”

My mind exploded. “Are you telling me that seventy is called as sixty-ten? Eighty as four-twenty? And ninety as four-twenty-ten?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Are you really sure?”

“Yes.” And you may be over-reacting. And also what do you mean if I am sure! I have been speaking French since I was a kid, you bitch!

“What nonsense!” I exclaimed.

“Well, it is what it is.” You reaction, my friend, is the real nonsense.

Why? Why? Why would you call a number that way? What can be the logic behind this? I asked this question to French native speakers as well (There’s an app called ‘Speaky’ which lets you do that) They replied the same, “It is what it is.” But I couldn’t accept it. What is the point, really? Don’t cross that border, honey. We can’t figure out the point of our lives and you are asking about some puny nombres (numbers)? 

But I was indeed deeply baffled by this and at the end of it, I simply couldn’t accept it. So, I coined new French terms. I know I sound bête (stupid). But I will present my inventions to you anyway;

Seventy would now be called, the term is inspired by Joey FYI, Daplupoint (pronunciation:  da-plu-paw-nt)

Eighty – Paplupoint (pa-plu-paw-nt)

Ninety – Laplupoint (La-plu-paw-nt)

Of course, I haven’t put this proposal formally to the world yet. But whenever I do, I am hoping for the successful inclusion of these terms. Until then, do keep these new terms in mind, they might pop up in the French dictionary anytime. And yes this is how you SHOULDN’T learn French.

Merci beaucoup! À bientôt ! I will be back with more blogs on this soon!

Glossary:

    1. Octobre – October
    2. Jolie – Lovely
    3. monde – World
    4. Bien sûr – Of course
    5. Courriel – Email
    6. Tu – You (Informal)
    7. Dois – Present Conjugation of Devoir which means must
    8. Apprendre – To learn
    9. Français – French
    10. En fait – In fact
    11. Vois – Present Conjugation of Voir which means “to see”
    12. Merde – Damn
    13. Cœur – Heart
    14. Et – And
    15. Tête – Head
    16. Jours – Days
    17. Soir – Evening
    18. Vie – Life
    19. Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit, Neuf & Dix – One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine & Ten
    20. Onze, Douze , Treize, Quatorze, Quinze, Seize, Dix-sept, Dix-huit, Dix-neuf, Vingt – Eleven,Twelve,Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty
    21. Trente, Quarante, Cinquante , Soixante, Soixante –dix, Quatre- vingts, Quatre-vingt-dix – Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety
    22.  Nombres – Numbers
    23. Bête – Stupid
    24. Merci – Thank you
    25. Beaucoup – Very much
    26. Àbientôt –  See you soon

***

How not to, humour, Narratives, philosophy

How to open the door the correct way

I am sitting on the pot, locked inside my bathroom clutching an unusual realization with me, “I am going to die today.” I am aware that it’s a bit uncommon thought considering the location. After all, relief is what they call is a bathroom’s real forte. But I am far, far, far away from that emotion. I am drenched in anxiety. I am assailed by the kind of panic that surpasses my worst panic attack by hundred folds. I am going to die today. Right here. For a twenty-two year old young woman like me, who has been blessed with good health, this scenario doesn’t make sense. But how is it that I am dangling just a few inches away from jumping off the cliff into my after-life forever? It’s such a weird spot to have death embrace you but it’s too late and it seems that there is indeed nothing I can do to change it. Death is near; a potential groom – a mere mutter of “I do” away. I can already hear his steps approaching. Thump. Thump. Thump. My heart is in my throat. I am breathing at a frequency which even the latest computer processors can’t match. As a desperate attempt to distract myself, my brain performs an old trick – it throws me into a day-dream. It could be called a good move had it actually been a day dream. Even in the crucial times like this, my brain can’t let go of his sick sense of humor. He throws me into the dream that does the opposite of what it was supposed to do – It intensifies my panic. Can you believe that guy? In my head, as I time travel two to three days in the future, I can see my mother returning home to find our house in a perfectly normal condition. Perfectly normal condition except for the terrible stench. “Where is it coming from?” She wonders. She enters my room. The smell intensifies. Maybe a rat died in the bathroom. She tries to open the bathroom’s door. But it doesn’t budge. It’s locked! Now, she begins to grow anxious. Something is wrong. This stench is too strong to belong to a dead rat. Or the rat is too smart to lock the door. She tries to break open the door but it’s too heavy. She can’t do it. Her brain has already started formulating alternative plans. She rushes downstairs to the fifth floor immediately where she remembers she may be able to find a carpenter. The moment she enters the apartment, carpenter stops his work and stares at the woman’s grim face sprinkled with sweat. Something’s really wrong, his intuitions tell him. Slowly and calmly he asks, “Kya hua Madam?”
“Darwaza todna hai.”

The carpenter doesn’t ask any further questions. He abandons his work, accompanies her upstairs, to my home, to my room and ultimately to the bathroom door. The wretched bathroom door. It doesn’t take the carpenter long to break the lock. He takes a moment before opening the door. From the smell he can guess what he is about to see is going to haunt him for a long time. He slightly pushes the door and it swings open slowly, as if gracefully preparing them for a horrific sight. The woman behind him has already fallen to the floor, unconscious.

I never thought that the first one to see my dead body would be the person whom I had never met in my lifetime. I kind of always fantasied that my death would be glorious one. Glorious not in the sense that I hope to die at a war. By glorious I meant I die in the arms of a loved one. I die with smile and contentment. But this death is the exact opposite. I have never felt loneliness the way I feel right now. I never thought I would die in a freaking toilet! I never thought I would die grieving over my youth and all the dreams that I had once hoped to realize. I had always hoped that I would die with all my dreams already turned into reality. How cruel fate can be!

I had been so engrossed in my day-dream or rather nightmare that I had completely grown oblivious of the banging and voice coming from the other side of the door.

“Are you there? Answer us!”
“Yes, I am here. I am here.”

My friend had been standing outside the bathroom for a long time. I had been standing inside the bathroom for a long time. All I originally wanted to do here was to pee in peace. Since I had guests with me – my friends, I had taken extra precaution of locking the door behind in order to avoid any potentially awkward situations. We weren’t after all in a usual state of mind. Well, congratulations, there will be no awkward situations. They can’t get in even if they tried their best.
When I had been asked to pull the latch even harder after my multiple futile attempts to open the door, I had mustered all my strength and broken it instead. The broken piece is still lying on the floor. And yes, that’s why I am going to die here today. “You can do this,” my friend says again. “Wash your face. Breath. Breathe, okay? You will figure out a way.”
Figure out a way? Yeah. Right. I wash my face anyway. I am never getting out of here. Could be that my friends, on the other side (on the other side of freedom!) figure out a way to open the door. But it will be too late by then. I pick up the piece, to acknowledge how a tiny thing is going to result in my death and then suddenly I am greeted by a tiny ray of hope! I discover that there are threads in the end. Threads mean that the piece is not broken but just detached! Brimming with joy, I insert the piece in the gaping hole of the latch that had been terrorizing me until now and rotate it in. It’s moving in! Maybe I won’t die after all. Boy, I had been so stupid! Filled with hope, I try to open the door again.

It doesn’t budge.

Perfect! The carpenter has called my neighbors. My mother is conscious and furious. Furious. Not sad. Not weeping. Not wailing. FURIOUS. Because that’s how her daughter died? In a bathroom? From a drug overdose? And which drug? Cannabis? Seriously? No, that’s not my daughter. This is not her. I don’t know who this girl is. Take her body away. Take her to a morgue. Dump it. Do whatever. This is not my daughter—

“There?”

That’s my friend again.

“Yes I am here. Not dead. Not yet…”
“Breath, okay? Try to open the door again.”

I take a few deep breaths. I approach this monstrous door, devoid of hope for any success. A funny thought strikes me then. What if you pull the latch on the opposite side?
The opposite side? But that’s the wrong side!
I would lock myself further into this hell! Crazy or what?
But what’s the harm in trying? So, I try anyway.

The lock slides with an unbelievable smoothness. The door is open.

THE. DOOR. IS. OPEN.

I was pushing the latch in the wrong direction this whole time.
I am overwhelmed by relief and happiness and suddenly a deeply profound thought dawns upon me – Maybe that’s how it works with life. We are trying to push the doors open so hard but nothing works even then. Maybe we need to sit back and breathe. And the solution, an incredibly​ simple and obvious solution, will appear out of nowhere. Push the lock in the other direction. It’s that simple.
Door swings open.
Life swings open.
I am laughing. All my tears that contained panic a while ago contain nothing but joy. My friend, my beloved friend throws an incredibly annoyed look at me. I apologize to her. I need to. I must. I ruined her beautiful date with Mary after all. But did you notice how simple it is? Push the latch on the opposite direction and that’s how you open the door the correct way.

***