Archive for May, 2008

Just Cruisin’

Getting a driving license in Dubai, Sharjah or anywhere in the U.A.E. is next to impossible. The rules are pretty simple :-

a. Splurge a lot of money

b. Wait for months on end for a call for the classes to start

c. Do required classes

d. Wait for months on end for a test date

e. Fail in test

f. Repeat steps e to f till you are either broke or the pain in your face can evoke enough pity to get a license.

That’s all there is to it.

India .. telling it like it is

I got a license from India before I came here. I had decided very bravely then that I did not want to bribe my way to get a license, which at the time seemed the more popular option. My instructor turned up promptly at 5:00 a.m. with a Premier Padmini. This wasn’t too bad, as long as you didn’t call it a car and the man waiting inside it for me – an instructor. Usually, the car and my instructor would have plotted my misery well in advance. It would end up that he would ask me to turn one way, I would attempt to coax the car that way, and the car would humbly turn the other way. My instructor would then realize his life’s purpose and start screaming at me. I’d reach home at 6:30 a.m., hand and feet hurting and with a slightly hearing-impaired right ear.

This went on for some time. Then I had to apply for a test. My dad decided to get it done by the AASI. It went on fine, that was until he had me make a garage parking. Garage ..? Parking ..? I’d never done this before. My dad in the backseat was as nervous as I was. I put the gear on reverse, prayed and pressed the accelerator. We made it in. My dad was so happy, he treated me and kept repeating the story for about 4 months afterwards to anyone who cared to listen (including, I must add, to the person who took my test at AASI!)

After I got my license, I didn’t drive for 6 years. Then, when I arrived in Chennai, I needed a car. I thought very hard about my predicament. I made up mind. I bought a ’96 Maruti 800 for Rs. 76,000. Bikes were more expensive than the car. Slowly I began to piece together what driving on Indian roads was all about. Basically, you need to know the most happening swears in the local language and know how to drive in the most impossibly narrowest of gaps. If you see any space, it’s yours. No one has a right to use any space on the road but you.

Sharjah Driving School

When I walked in to Sharjah Driving School, the first thing they told me was I needed to sign up for theory classes. I raised one eyebrow. After a week, they announced that we had to take a theory test after a week. Another eyebrow went up. Surely, some money could get me answers, if not pass me. Nope! I crammed all weekend and took the test. Passed!

Just when I was about say “Phew!”, I was told to cough up 3,000 AED ($ 815) to register for 50 classes. 50 classes. I told the guy at the cashier that I already had an Indian license.

The cashier raised an eyebrow.

I assumed that since I had paid much more than what would have qualified ‘that-was-way-too-much’ bribe in India, my classes would start immediately. I realized painfully that I was not paying to assume. After pulling enough strings to stitch a sweater with, my classes started 2 months later.

I had asked for an English instructor. I got a Syrian instructor, who thought he could speak English because he could say “Good Morning”

If my Indian classes were funny, the Sharjah classes were hilarious!

What he said

What I wanted to do

What he actually meant was

Barking right Look right and say “Woof” Park to the right
Shake center, shake

side, shake shoulder

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is Mambo #5

Check your center mirror, side

mirror and over your shoulder

You File!!! I’m WHAT??? You would fail!
You Road!!! I’m WHAT??? It’s your right of way
You Crazy!!! I’m WHAT??? You Crazy!!!
Make Right You mean like make babies? Turn right
Betrol Betrol There’s petrol leak in the car?? Accelerate
Go to Hell Look insulted Drive up the hill

After a while we learned to communicate, and I found my instructor was actually a nice guy. He had been working as an instructor for 11 years and his advice was always sound. Nevertheless, I always persisted in making mistakes purposely, because he hadn’t taught it to me earlier. His “Oh My Gooooood! Oh My Gooooooood!” whining kept my spirits happy.

I passed my parking test on the first attempt. I had prepared a lot for it, and the test was an anti-climax, since I did nothing more than drive in a circle and stop. Can’t complain though!

Today was my kuchha, pre-test. My instructor gave me some last minute tips, but most importantly told me – “You no worry, you bass, only don’t be to make hurry”, which I realized was the nicest thing he had ever said to me.

I passed on my first attempt again. Now one more (final) to go!

Here’s a small indication 😉 of what the difference between driving in India and driving in the rest of the world is

Driving anywhere in the world

“I’m planning to turn right. I am letting you know in advance. If you want to proceed straight, you can overtake me on the left. Since I have indicated now, it means I am taking the right ahead and not the one next to me.”

Driving in India

“Turning Left”

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Crop Circles

I had done a lot of research about Aliens for my First Year engineering project. I had this dying urge to do something different and luckily I found another 7 guys who were equally (or more) goofy that I was.

After all the groups had finished making presentations of the future potential of hydraulic pumps and innovative breakthroughs in the field of micro-electronics, our group stepped up, dimmed the lights and let them have it. We covered everything from Area 51, to abductions to crop circles. People were actually so shocked that they did not know whether to get angry that we were doing the most blasphemous thing by presenting a thesis on Aliens at an Engineering college or … just gape.

Most of the people in the room took the other option. Since we had dimmed the lights, we had also given an ample chance for some of our classmates to catch up on some sleep. But think anyone slept? No, siree! The best part was, at the end of the entire presentation, we had the gall to announce a Q&A session. No one asked much. You don’t ask questions to a National Geographic documentary – you take it in, make the appropriate sounds and change the channel.

That was then. Today I saw a movie ‘I am Legend‘. This has nothing to do with Aliens, but somehow I was reminded of my old friends. So I checked on the only hard fact that cannot be denied by any man, machine or rat. Crop Circles.

If you don’t remember what Crop Circles are, flash back to the M. Night Shayamalam movie – ‘The Signs‘. Before, Mel Gibson started yelling “Swing Away”, something was giving a lot of fields on Earth a supernatural tattoo.

Scientifically, crop circles boggle the mind. Human mischief is always a suspect. But to imagine that someone would run riot on their on crops just to get their names in the news is far fetched. Okay, maybe not so much, but in so many places? Or maybe it was someone doing it to other people’s crops. Which is even more far-fetched as someone would have noticed something.

One theory, which has not been debated is the possibility that the plants or maybe insects below the plants (more…)

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The Con

Hima was getting married in Kerela and I had suddenly decided to walk in at her wedding. When I got there, Sanky and I felt that simply going tada at her wedding, would be so blah! Sanky (prankster to the core) decided why not dress up as a girl. I wheedled out of the makeup and the other scary details by suggesting a burkha.

Only problem is we didn’t have a burkha.

Enter Naru!

First, Naru walked around the streets of a fairly conservative Trichur asking muslim ladies where they got their Burkha’s from. Then he asked shops if they were selling Burkha’s that would roughly fit him. Finally, he went to asking drama costume rental companies, if they had anything to spare. I managed to get my parents to pick up one from somewhere near the station. We picked up Naru, drove him to my place and explained the plan to him. His reaction (in the pic) was exactly this. “You guy are mad … Great Idea … You’ll get us all killed”. Needless to say, Naru hasn’t changed much from what he was in XIM, ever ready to pull a fast one on the nearest breathing prey. We went back to the hotel and I tried on the Burkha. The other 3 bachelors kinda lost it.

The Scam (as we planned it):

Hima had invited us for a dinner at her place before the wedding. Sachin would be our inside man. He would arrange for Hima and some more people from her age group to be present a nice location in front of the house so that we wouldn’t have to make a scene in front of the elders. (Hah!) Naru would tell Hima that he had a new girl friend (Fatima) from Hyderabad and he had bought he along to introduce her to his parents. It was a good story, because Naru was looking out for a girl and he could find a Muslim girl in Hyderabad. I would also play along with my practiced-on-the way female voice. We also considered doing a small jig for the song ‘Hey Baby’ with Sanky on the audio. (Yes, spank et ell 🙂 )

The Best Laid Plans …

For starters, the burka could not cover my legs entirely. A aprt of my legs above my ankles was completely exposed, hair and all. When we reached there, Sachin came to the gate and told us that he had managed to isolate Hima in a small room on the first floor and asked us to follow him. We did. Right through an entire line of guests who were till that point happily enjoying their dinner. I was completely covered in my Burkha, and their expressions were priceless. Most of them forgot the food that their hands were trying to put into their gaping mouth. Bewildered, they just watched as four guys and a muslim girl with hairy legs raced up the stairs. I’m not suprised that no one complemented me for my svelte grace later.

When we reached “the room” that Sachin had arranged for us, Hima was there with Supy, a couple of her brothers friends and her cousin. And her grandmother. Granny looked like she might have throw a fit or her chappal, whichever she could muster up first! Naru with all his stage presence and lack of stage fright, muttered one line – “This is my friend from Hyderabad”. That was like saying if that thing looks like a girl, that’s your problem, not mine.

That left me with no lead but stand there as ungraciously as could. Hima thankfully decided to check who was under the veil. Boy, was she in for a suprise!

If you can’t see the video above, go here.

You can check out some more pics at this site

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“Why Curdrice?” That’s a good question. 

In Tamil Nadu, when someone falls sick, or the weather becomes hot, or for any problem that does not have a ready remedy, people would advice you to eat curd rice.

In Tamil, Curdrice is called thair sadam. That’s also what Iyers are called. How can a dish be attributed to a sect of people? Well that’s another good one.

It’s really complicated and I would love to explain it, but I don’t think I’m quite sure myself. It has something to do with the love that Iyers have for curd rice above all else.

I’ve been called an Iyer and I have been called thairsadam as well.

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