Indian in England

Musings of a student

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Kiss, kiss, the English way

FOR a people who are painfully private, the English are pretty public when it comes to kissing.

There they would be walking down the road, upper lip stiff and at the ready, when suddenly romance overcomes them. The next thing you know, they have grabbed hold of their partner and are kissing the life out of him/her. If there is no partner handy, they go for the nearest person available, which I think is the correct way to go about such things.

What I am talking here is not the feathery kisses you read about in books. This is romance with muscles. This is hardcore, thirst-quenching, soul-searching, dementorish stuff, which makes energetic drunkards of couples and blocks the traffic.

It really does. Block the traffic, I mean. Only last week I saw a girl going hell for leather at her boy. The boy was driving on the Holdenhurst road with half a hand -- the rest being agreeably engaged -- towards the ASDA roundabout in Bournemouth. The girl increased her assault and the car screeched to a halt at the circle. And though the way was clear, they stayed there for the next few minutes. I craned my neck to see inside -- just so I could report on it accurately, you understand -- and the two cars behind waited patiently for them to finish.

Now don’t think this happens only with the youth. Even the middle-aged and the old succumb to it, though, fortunately, the very old stick to holding hands and grinning goofily at each other.

Like with the youth, the elders get an extra kick if they have an audience for their kiss-and-gos. Everyone’s favourite place is any sort of queue, just as they are next in line. Once quite late at night, an ASDA cashier and I waited a long time for a couple to finish their business. Being English, the cashier looked away, but I kept a close watch on the kissers just in case they needed any sort of assistance.

Personally I find all this most entertaining. This is partly because I am from India and mostly because I am me. Unlike the English, Indians are undoubtedly a much excitable people, who normally blurt out things. An Indian, if he doesn’t like something, would say, ‘This is utter crap,’ whereas an Englishman would say, ‘Smashing! How wonderful!'

Despite such unreserved expressions, Indians -- and here’s the irony -- clam up when it comes to kissing. If they want to kiss, they go home, lock the door, pull down the blinds, check again if the door is locked and the blinds down, look over their shoulder, then kiss. Then they will open the door and put up the blinds and pretend they haven’t kissed, for fear the kiss police of a certain nationalist party will arrest them.

This all goes to prove things are exactly the opposite of what they appear to be -- that within every Englishman there beats a heart of pure passion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dr Commando

SOME decades ago, when I was 23 and gung-ho, the editor sent me to spend time with the commandos.

The idea was to roger me, of course. Globular Citizen, as the Ed is known far and wide, made it clear he would accept nothing but an ‘experiential’ piece. Get under their skin, feel what they feel -- or don’t bother coming back.

So I buzzed off to Belgaum in Karnataka, which is where the Indian Army turns its 'boys into men', (the boys and men call it ‘buggery course’, though), and ran around with the commandos a bit. It was all most enjoyable, especially being pushed off hilltops and thrown from tree-houses three stories high, not to mention feeling up voluptuous snakes.

The whole point of the 42-day course, from what I could see, was to tell you you were no good. Then, just as you were about to tell them what you thought of that, they would say, hang on, if you let us roger you some more we might be able to turn you into a passable specimen.

I bring all this up not just because I want to tell you I am a highly-trained killer commando, and so you should show me due respect, but because I have come to realise one of the greatest truths of modern world:

PhD is like commando training.

Like with the commandos, a PhD starts with taking you apart. Only, here it is done intellectually. Literature review is what the academicians call this interesting exercise, when they let you potter off and read everything written on your topic. This is essentially to make you realise you know nothing. In that sense, it is the best way to measure the depth of your ignorance.

Then comes the ‘patch-up’ time when they piece you back. They let you play the academician and write papers and go to conferences. Soon you begin to feel full of yourself again, and by the time you finish your thesis you are positively bursting.

The point I am trying to stress here is, never mess with us academicians. Because, you see, we are intellectual commandos.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

His name is Head. Dick Head

THE other evening I called my landlord a few names his mother hadn’t thought up. I also encouraged his exit from my attic. I believe he missed a few steps on the way down, owing to the momentum he acquired suddenly.

If you ask me, Dick -- let’s call him that, shall we? –- got what he deserved. He is actually an old woman masquerading as a middle-aged man. Not just any old woman, but a nitpicky one with an abnormally large nose, who routinely runs her hand under my kitchen utensils to see if they are clean, and goes on all fours to see if there is a speck of dirt on the inside edge of the cavity under my loose floorboard.

Dick likes to leave me little notes demanding a ‘good clean’ of this or that. A few weeks ago he was alarmed at a solitary bluebottle that came in through my open window.

“I think that bin area needs a good clean,” he said. “I came up here to get something and there was a bluebottle! Boy, if that starts laying eggs in your food, you are in big trouble!”

This time he surpassed himself. The oven was ‘dirty’, there was ‘grease’ on the kitchen stand, and the area beneath the doormat could do with ‘a good clean’. He stuck his note into the oven, left it wide open, pulled the mat to one side, and did a few other endearing things -- to ensure I didn’t miss any of the ‘dirt’. He also came up in person to have ‘a good talk’.

Which is when I told him to bugger off and words happened and I, ah, evicted him.

BUT since Dick is an old English lady (who most certainly ran a boarding house at some point), and I am an English gentleman now, we did it the English way.

Which is a bit different from the Indian way. As you will see:

[Enter Dick, humming.]

Dick: Chindu, did you see my note?

Me: Yes, I did. (Yeah… and you can shove it.)

Dick: The oven was a bit dirty, you know. (It was bloody filthy!)

Me: Oh, was it? I am sorry you found it that way. (How DARE you snoop inside my kitchen!)

Dick: It could do with a good clean, you know. For hygiene reasons. (You better clean it up.)

Me: I think it is clean, Dick. (I will be darned if I do!)

Dick: I am not so sure, Chindu. And if you allow those carry bags to accumulate in that corner, the next thing you know there will be rodents. (Clean it!)

Me: Actually I am fine with them there -- the carry bags, I mean. And Dick, I do believe you need to give me some room for decisions like this. (This is MY kitchen, you dunderhead. Bugger off!)

Dick: Of course. I am just saying that for your own good. Also, I live downstairs, so it will be good for both of us. Perhaps you are not aware of the hygienic requirements in this country… (This is MY house. And I want it MY way!)

Me: Oh, I am quite aware of it, Dick. And I am certain this meets those requirements. (You are now seriously pissing me off, asshole. Fuck off!)

Dick: I am sorry. I disagree with you on that. (You are the asshole!)

Me: I quite like the way things are, Dick. (Fuck off!)

Dick: Well, you can decide what you want to do about it, certainly… whether you would like to continue staying here. It’s entirely up to you. (I want you out of my house, you bastard.)

Me: Thank you. I will think about it. (Fuck off!)

Dick: I am sorry to have bothered you about this. (I WANT YOU OUT OF HERE!)

Me: Oh, that’s all right. (FUCK OFF!)

Dick: Goodnight then, Chindu. (ASSHOLE!)

Me: Goodnight, Dick. (UP YOURS!)

[Exit Dick, not humming.]

Um, anyone got a vacant room?