Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nursery Crimes

The stress of joblessness, the effort in laziness and the weight of an empty wallet… so many times I yearn for something to take me back to the good ol’ days… of nothingness, of no worries… of nursery school! I don’t remember how my classroom looked, which fellow kids I kicked and which bullies made me cry… I don’t remember what I finger-painted, which stories I loved, nothing! But that was the best part about nursery school, wasn’t it? There was nothing we needed to remember.

Except the nursery rhymes, of course… our introduction to another 20 years of learning lessons by heart! Learning nursery rhymes and narrating them countless times at school and then at home and occasionally to entertain guests on weekends, meant that our young brains were programmed to learn historic dates, chemical formulae, mathematical equations and Dr Ambedkar’s life history in our future years. And yet, I stutter and stammer, trying hard to recollect the lines, when occasionally I have nothing better to do.

So when my 3-year old niece visits, my family’s favourite way to spend time is to make her speak and nowadays, narrate rhymes. And what rhyme to start with, rather than “Twinkle Twinkle..” So last week, my niece started in her squeaky little voice…

“Twinkle, twinkle traffic light,
Round the corner shining bright.
Red means stop,
Green means go,
Yellow means go, but slow!
Twinkle, twinkle traffic light,
Round the corner shining bright.”

Whatever happened to little stars shining like diamonds in the sky! Whatever happened to the tiny spark that brightens up the night! Whatever happened to imagination, nature and fantasy? Shockingly, my niece has never heard of the original. And most of her rhymes are now New and Improved! No hot cross buns, no ring of roses, no Jack and no Jill! The 21st century rhymes are here! And they are depressing..

If not now, when else would kids learn to let their minds roam free? Why curb creativity when they are 3? Rhymes about traffic lights? They probably would have stuff about paying their taxes next! One way to look at this would be that, it is probably to ensure good traffic sense in the next generation. But that’s a long shot… and such “reality show” versions of nursery rhymes are definitely not worth it!

Soon the same rhyme may go…

“Twinkle, twinkle traffic light
At every corner, a useless sight!
Red means honk,
Yellow means go!
Green, errrm.. we really don’t know!
Twinkle, twinkle traffic light
At every corner, a useless sight!”

New age rhymes, buh!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The French Connection

Nothing is more fun than learning a new language, especially when one is old enough to be fluent in several others and is subconsciously averse to the idea of learning something new. And this especially applies to a language like French. So when a bunch of adults (and some young ones like me) come together, every morning, and attempt to speak this alien language, it is as good as joining a laughter club.

This language is easily the biggest waste of paper and ink. Its random usage of alphabets to fill in even the simplest of words has puzzled me. Why? Why would one put in so many alphabets, if one has no intention of pronouncing them whatsoever! For example, “many” translates to beaucoup, which is pronounced as ‘bow-cu’. As an unwritten rule 40% of the alphabets in any given word are silent. Learning to speak French is more like, learning what not to speak in French. Hence, ‘Au revoir, tout le monde!’ (goodbye, everyone) is pronounced as “Aaar-wha! Thool-mo.” No wonder, half the Indians think Aishwarya Rai is attending the “Khan” film festival.

One little thing, that could have made this language much simpler for thool-mo, is the inclusion of a neutral gender. But no, every item in the universe is segregated as male and female… including articles, prepositions, adjectives and adverbs. Hence cars, bikes, houses and windows are all feminine. And Monsieur (miss-yore) Leo Tolstoy has apparently written ‘Guerre et Paix’, yes, both are feminine. What the rules for such segregation are, no one knows! The problem with this approach is the multiplicity of words in the dictionary. Hence, ‘big’ can be grand (grao), grande (grao), grands (grao) and grandes (grao).

Another area that absolutely stumped me was the numbers. The guy making up this language was so obviously lazy, he could only think of words up till 69. After which he decided to use multiplication and addition, instead. So ‘75’ in French is literally, ‘60 +15’ and '98' is… ‘4*20 + 10 + 8’. Yes, quatre-vingt dix huit. I’m not even going to tell you how to pronounce it.

And even with such a huge vocabulary, the French have decided that they have to pronounce every word like it has an invisible sex appeal. So a set of 5 words, all meaning radically different things can be pronounced the same way – dous, deux, de, des, du – all these spoken rapidly, sound identical! In the past, when I went to a café, with the crème de la crème and ordered a la carte I thought I was superior. But these are after all words we learnt within a week in class.

This morning, in a reading exercise, when I crossed my eyebrows in concentration, pursed my lips and confidently read out “foh yoh an-foh-may-cee-ohn” and looked up apprehensively at my instructor, she said, “Oh! Dear! That is English. It is pronounced, for your information”.

Clearly, French is not for everyone.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

My wonderwall

He is definitely the only man I’ve been loyal to, since I was 12. The last person I look at before I hit the sack, the first person to greet me in the morning. It seems like he’s been there forever. I’ve shown him admiration, respect, shock and even disgust sometimes. In many ways, he is my God.

Various posters of Rahul Dravid have always adorned my walls. His pictures stuck haphazardly, some lying among closed pages in old unused books. His biography stands dusty, yet proud on my bookshelf. It seems like his ups and downs, matched mine several times. What began as a juvenile craze has grown into devoted admiration. Many years ago, my mom gave up on clearing my room off his presence. The Sachins and Sauravs of this country can pass. At home, Rahul Dravid is revered as no other.

When I was 9 years old, my Dad took me to a local state match. And apparently that was where I first saw him bat (claims my Dad). In the beginning it was probably just his good looks and that soft spot for a fellow Bangalorean that got me to watch him. I was too young to understand his game, to appreciate his finer skills. But over the past 12 years, his growth to the top and events after that is a tremendous story. Always in the shadow of the others, considered an underdog, pushed to unwanted roles by other captains, accused of being boring, blamed for many losses as a captain… he hasn’t had it as rosy as he should have. But his obvious determination, focus and skills are worth appreciating. Unquestionably, the best Indian batsman on foreign soil, the coolest mind in the harshest circumstances… and above all, a gentleman, both on and off the field, Rahul Dravid deserves praise of the highest level.

Watching him struggle with probably the weakest team in the IPL is disheartening. It’s a format that so obviously does not suit him. Losing in front of his home crowd, losing to his juniors from the national team, this could well probably be one of his toughest phases. But like every other time, I know that he will get through it. At some point, he will rise from where he is right now. And then I shall yell, “I told you so!” Don’t you dare write him off!

My hero, my inspiration… Rahul Dravid.