Sunday, June 29, 2008

Imho

I recently read number9dream by David Mitchell, which introduced me to the word ‘imho’. But you, dear reader, since you peruse blogs’n’all, probably know already that ‘imho’ is leetspeak for ‘In My Humble Opinion’.

The acronym was probably novel around the time the book was written (2001), but today, a google search for imho throws up 30,100,000 hits. It has been around long enough to even spawn a variant: Imnsho (In My Not So Humble Opinion). But in the world according to Sroyon, a phrase only becomes cool when it has fallen hopelessly out of fashion. Dig that?

So in this post, I shall express three humble opinions. Each will give me a chance to use the magic word.

Imho, the scriptwriters of Friends may have come up with many good things, but Stevie the TV is one of their best inventions. When I have my own flat, I shall name the furniture. Abel the table, Claire the chair, Fred the bed, Hubbard the cupboard, Merton the curtain, Midge the fridge.

Imho, the Juno soundtrack is one of the best ever. Kimya Dawson is awesome, and anyone who hasn’t heard me singing, whistling or listening to Piazza, New York Catcher has probably not met me in the last two weeks. What a song! *goes into raptures*

Imho, girls look prettier in ice-cream parlours.

In other news, a leading psychiatrist has claimed that internet addiction should be recognised as a clinical disorder. What’s more, I appear to have all the symptoms. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available online.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Of mondegreens and other variants

A mondegreen, as I suppose you already know, is a misinterpretation of a line or lyric in a song, caused by similarity in pronunciation. I am rather unsusceptible to mondegreens because of my habit of obsessively checking song lyrics online. Also, to come up with mondegreens like the famous ‘Michelle mondegreen’, I suppose you need much more imagination than I possess:
Incorrect version: Sunday monkey won’t play piano song
Correct version: Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble
I ask you! Paul’s French isn’t that bad.

My favourite mondegreen is from another Beatles song – Hey Bulldog. There’s a line which goes “Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles.” For years I used to think that the last word is ‘smiles’. Taken together with lines like “Some kind of innocence is measured out in years,” ‘smiles’ seems to fit so much better.

Speaking of which, Saha has a lovely post about a personal mondegreen.

Also on the topic of mondegreens, consider the following snatch of conversation, and believe me when I tell you I didn’t make it up:
Prateek Shroff: I have a match with the VC tomorrow.
Lahiri: What! Nandan Nawn is taking extra classes?
This, however, is not technically a mondegreen. There is a word in the English language for it. It’s called deafness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Of Banana Republics and Natural Justice

British mercenary Simon Mann, one of Africa's last ‘dogs of war’, went on trial in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday for his role in a failed 2004 coup plot. He faces charges of crimes against the head of state, crimes against the government and crimes against the peace and independence of the state.

The right to an interpreter and translation is guaranteed by Article 440 of Equatorial Guinea’s Penal Procedure Code, as well as Article 14 (3) (f) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the Reuters report on Simon Mann’s trial indicates that proceedings were conducted in Spanish without translation. Mann does not speak Spanish.

I mean I always knew that Equatorial Guinea is no picnic spot, but a trial in a language the defendant doesn’t understand? There is a natural justice principle which states that “justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done.” The courts of Equatorial Guinea have evidently never of it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NPL

All throughout our internships we were pining to get back to college. Then college started, and not even a week had passed before we were all complaining of boredom. It was on a particularly idle afternoon, when we were discussing ways to liven things up, that the idea of the NPL was born. I reproduce below the Sports Committee notice that started it all.

The NUJS Premier League
An intra-college zonal T12 cricket tournament

This notice is to provide you with our official answers to the frequently asked questions on NPL. It’s the shorter version of the game, so we’ve kept the answers short.

Q1: So what is the NPL all about?
A: Controversy. A gripping auction of players. Scandal. A spicy weekly newsletter detailing events, real and fictitious. A lot of fun.
Q2: What? No cricket?
A: Oh, yeah. There will also be some cricket. But we shall endeavour to preserve IPL tradition and ensure that the cricket is all but forgotten in the glare of the attendant hype and controversy.
Q3: What’s the format like?
A: Twelve overs. Five teams on a zonal basis. Each team shall have five players from its respective zone, and eight players picked through auction. Detailed rules will be issued by the SportsCom tonight. Watch this space.
Q4: Is any money involved?
A: No real currency is involved in the auction process. Teams will have to pay a nominal entry fee which shall be utilised towards field booking and prize money.
Q5: Cheerleaders?
A: Honest answer: Alas, no. *wistful sigh* Official answer: Most certainly not. We in the SportsCom are strongly opposed to the vulgar objectification of women.
Q6: Won’t the NPL promote divisiveness?
A: The SportsCom emphatically condemns any form of regional divisiveness. We urge players to participate in a spirit of sportsmanship and maturity, purely for the love of the game.

For further information, contact Bunty, Davis, Kisku, Sarbajeet or Sroyon.

Now the only necessary expenditure for a team is the entry fee of Rs. 2,500. As of today, three days before the tournament begins, the West Zone team has raised Rs. 20,000. The money comes almost entirely from students wanting to be identified as owners of the team. Other teams are not far behind.

The maximum prize money that a team stands to win is Rs. 4,000. Furthermore, the teams each have more than ten ‘owners’, and the proceeds (if any) will be split among all the stakeholders. So the investment far exceeds the expected returns and makes no economic sense whatsoever. People evidently have more cash than they know what to do with.

As one of the originators of the NPL idea, I suppose I should be happy at these developments. In fact, I should probably be looking like this:
Excess cash is never bad for any enterprise. But this wanton squandering seems to have something obscene about it. Wasting money seems almost like an impiety, like throwing away bread. Also, the big money has turned the NPL into something I can no longer identify with. It has taken on a life of its own. You can almost see the dollar signs in its eyes. It is unrecognisable from a trifling diversion dreamed up by five friends on a lazy summer afternoon.

All That You Can't Leave Behind

It was Arthur Schopenhauer who famously said that every parting gives a foretaste of death. My philosophical vision being rather more limited (and less morbid), when the batch senior to us passed out, I got a foretaste not of death, but of the fact that my own days in college are numbered.

This post celebrates the things I love most about hostel life. By its very nature, it will probably be uninteresting to anyone but me. Especially for someone who hasn’t experienced NUJS hostel life and doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about, it’ll probably be boring to the point of being unreadable. But as Saha says here, it’s been a good trip, and I think it’s important that one acknowledges that.

Daybreak: I take my time over my morning cup of tea. The first batch of tea that they make in the mess is always the best. I say cheery good mornings to fellow early-risers who for some reason all seem to be Tamilians. I like the peace and solitude, but better still I like to listen to Nokia alarms and Windows XP start-up music: the sound of the boys’ hostel waking up.

Morning: Sitting with people like Lahiri, Kisku and the Quaker makes classes not just bearable but fun. They come up with the funniest comments and do the weirdest things. Lahiri practises touch-typing without a keyboard (on my bag to be precise), and drives the Quaker to distraction with his lizard-call imitation. The Quaker punches his own thigh extremely hard from time to time. When classes get too boring, we chant “Su-phol, Su-phol” in an undertone. Suphol is the man who rings the bell.

Afternoon: Reading magazines in the library. I must have read every word of every issue of National Geographic and Time that came out since I joined college. Often, friends congregate; the magazines are forgotten, and we chat and laugh until Tutu Ma’am turns us out. Less frequently, juniors come and ask me for advice, and I do my best to misguide them.

Post-dinner: I say post-dinner, but in point of fact, our adda sessions have been known to continue till daybreak. Favoured accompaniments: Pure Magic and the Beatles. Once we recorded minutes. Topics discussed included the Battle of Taxis in the World War II, relative merits and demerits of the Choco Pyramid and Chocolate Éclairs from Escoffiere, and an extempore speech by Arjun on fan regulators. As Lahiri once wrote, projects submissions, vivas and end-sems are at most week-long events, to be sandwiched between the all-important continuance of adda.

Night: The orange light from the sodium-vapour lamps filters in through my window and casts shadows on the opposite wall. The trees create fuzzy moving shadows; the shadow of the window bars, by contrast, is darker, motionless and solid. It’s a beautiful show.

Then there are those things that can’t be fitted into a typical daily itinerary. Football practice in the morning; the fact that I can just pop over to someone’s room when I’m looking for toothpaste, a cell phone charger, a confidant; watching late night football games with the most dedicated and biased group of spectators ever to follow the sport; and (although this is going to sound majorly nerdy) even the 4 a.m. joint study sessions with Sarbajeet before exams (just after I’ve woken up and before he goes to sleep).

When I was in Bombay recently doing my interminable ten-week internship, I missed hostel much more than I thought I ever would. So when I got back, I resolved to enjoy, for the remaining one year, those bits of hostel life that I had hitherto loved without noticing.

I began this post with a quote; I’ll end it with another which is about reading, but applies equally well to hostel life. This is from To Kill a Mockingbird. “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

Harper Lee is a wiser and kinder philosopher than Schopenhauer.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Two Lists

FOUR THINGS I LIKE ABOUT BOMBAY

1. MARINE DRIVE: *long dreamy sigh*

Me sitting on Marine Drive

2. LOCAL TIME: The solar time in Bombay is just over an hour behind Calcutta. That meant I could get up later by the clock, and still catch the dawn – the best part of the day.

3. THE COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE: Gothic, art deco, neo-classical – you see it in all in South Bombay. And it’s not just the public buildings: some of the older private houses in Cuffe Parade are equally pretty, with wooden facades, sloping roofs and flowers in the window (such a lovelyday / I’m gladyoufeel the same). I spent hours taking long walking tours and gawking at the buildings, leaving an army of bemused pedestrians and irate motorists in my wake.

A building in the Fort Area where I did a due diligence

4. LOCAL TRAINS: No matter how rich you are, you can’t make traffic move faster. So in Bombay, there is only one human institution that makes a Bandra pub-hopper the equal of a Dharavi scavenger, that makes a Koli fisherwoman the equal of a Dalal Street investor. That institution is the local train.


FOUR THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT BOMBAY

1. MODES OF ADDRESS: The two common methods that the natives use to attract people’s attention in Bombay are (a) shouting “Boss” and (b) making a squeaky whistling sound produced by puckering the lips and drawing the breath inward. For some reason, I find both of these intensely annoying. The latter sounds positively obscene.

2. NAMES OF STREETS AND CHOWKS: Bombay municipal authorities suffer from a perpetual frenzy of renaming. Almost all the roads and chowks are named after obscure people, and are therefore difficult to pronounce and impossible to remember. Fortunately, the new names remain on paper, while the old names, like ETEC diarrhoea and the sacred Vedas, are orally transmitted. There are therefore two Bombays – the road-map Bombay, and the Bombay that lives in people’s memories.

See what I'm talking about?

3. NO ROLLS: This is one of the things I missed most about Calcutta as a city. Bombay has its own version called the Frankie, which is a pale imitation of the real thing. A kind of roll is also sold in Muslim eateries which is a delicacy in its own right. But the absence of the roll from Bombay street-food leaves a gaping vacuum.

4. MULTIPLE BUS STOPS: This is the civic administration’s little prank upon the citizens. See Anuj’s blog for more details.

A BEST bus wondering where it ought to halt