Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Memory, magnet, red ants and ka-ching!

Yesterday morning, a red ant bit me at two places on the arm where my skin turned red and ballooned. The bite isn’t important. Nor is the ant, nor is my using the word ballooned instead of swollen. The bite was itchy and inconvenient. So having looked up cures for ant bites on the Internet, I found clay, baking soda and Aloe Vera as acceptable remedies, so off I went to chop a bit of sticky aloe leaf from the veranda to apply on my big red balloon.

It’s much better, thank you. Nearly gone, no pain, you can just about see the sting. Which makes me think how stupid the girl was who I am about to talk about.

Over lunch last Tuesday, I met a 25-year-old girl, (I thought she was older) who scratched her arm repeatedly, showed it to me (ugly, swollen), and said she was sick of being bitten by red ants. Back then, I didn’t know I was on the verge of disliking her. But know that I know what an ant bite is about, I would think if bitten, one would desperately want it to get better, the first step to which being Google dot com. Her not doing so and instead letting the stinging redness fester for more than a day seems stupid.

This has started happening to me more often than it used to. Not the ant or disliking someone part but the other part. Something happens to someone. My path crosses with that someone’s and soon the thing that happened to someone happens to me. It’s quite something.

It used to only happen with words. I’d come across a word, not know what it meant, look it up, and next day on I’d see that word frequently. I have a feeling I will read Panglossian again very shortly. I read it on Han’s blog and had to look it up. I give myself four days to read the word again somewhere and go aha. Unless being in on what’s up works against me, this will happen to me. Four days. I am the Oracle.

Case in point: Sitting in the reading room of a library in my summer vacations after school, Class 12, I remember reading the word bourgeois on the edit page of a newspaper. I had no idea what it meant or how it was pronounced. A week later, college started. And as anybody who sat through English Literature for an undergrad course knows, the word is a part of your orientation. It gets drilled into your head. It becomes who you are. Hi I’m so and so, and my teacher calls me a part of the bourgeoisie. Pronunciation, usage, application, context, variations -- bourgeois this, bourgeoisie that, hello bourgeois, would you like some feminism with that, bourgeois? – Oh, it could drive you mad, the use of high-flown mostly redundant terms like bourgeois, discourse, tropes and ‘in terms of’.

While studying Dickens, we were forced to incorporate another term in our sub conscience: PROLETARIAT. The word popped up everywhere.

My issue was why we can’t speak properly, normally, like we used to, with simpler words and less arcane bullshit and leave the adopted vocabulary to classrooms and answer scripts. All these MBA-types are forever made fun of... no, wait, responsibility: I am forever making fun of these MBA-types with their jargon, their lol-grammar, their functional English, their revert-backs, and their nuisance ASAP abbreviations.

It’s the devil and the deep blue, rock and a hard place, but I’d go with the lol-grammar because it’s lower on pretension, higher on convenience. Academics on the other hand can’t talk properly, same for our friends in marketing. If you think about it, and I do, journalism is a blessing. They allow you to be normal, with an onus on cutting the crap.

As for pronunciation, I say ‘simultaneously’ the way I do because one of our lecturers – small, fun, elaichi-chewing, short-haired, bent-like-Egor, nasal -- would say it like that – sim, like dim, not saim, like dime; simultaneous like simple.

It was an education for us that one of our more beautiful Bengali lecturers, (what gorgeous skin!) while cruising through Jane Eyre (pronounced: air not ire) would repeatedly invoke one Sinjin character. Us plebeians were flipping pages, lost, wondering who this character was, never mentioned in the text, till some helpful classmate tap-tapped with her fingernail on the line where it said ‘St John’. Big aaaah-moment, that.

My point is, I didn’t know bourgeois, and when I learnt it in the dictionary, I didn’t realise that for the next three years in class, all I would hear was the b-word. Like the Shania Twain song, Ka-ching, I could never seriously say ‘bourgeois’.

What used to happen to me with words – come across a term, not know what it meant, go to dictionary, dispel ignorance, and then for the next few weeks till you stopped paying attention only come across that word– started happening to me with other things as well.

It’s like The Secret, only less phenomenal. Red ant bites, as you can see, happen to me. Did the universe slap me for disliking the girl I met at lunch? Keep reading.

Two months ago, I went to Jhansi to visit my brother, (around the time of the army kids post). There, besides pointing out houses and old marketplaces that she had walked around and knew like the palm of her hand, my mother kept exclaiming at flowers and trees in bloom. I couldn’t figure out what aam ka bor meant and was acting most urban-snob about it. Who? What? Bore? Where bore? When I got it, I got it, okay, aam ka bor = mango flowers before mango fruits. Say so. Don’t judge me for not knowing. Like a tourist, I took a picture. When I got back to Delhi, I saw aam ka bor in a few places and said, look! look! aam ka bor. What I was met with was my ignorant-urban reaction: Who bore? What bore?

Aam ka bor

I didn’t know what khamaghani meant till two weeks ago. I loved the sound.In Rajasthan, it means greetings. I should look up the etymology. I heard it twice in a week (in two movies, Zubeida and Dor) after first having heard it from my colleague, an ear-ringed Rajput, knocking back rum and coke at a Press Club, and going on raising his glass and clinking it to a chorus of khamaghani!

Little bit, I think I made a mountain out of an ant bite, but more than a month ago, there was too much about lava in my head. I was editing a story about lava, I was hearing about lava used at an art exhibition, I was watching movies about volcanos – Nim’s Island. All I’m saying is sometimes I feel, more than a black tongue, there is such a thing as a black chain of thought. Those truck drivers don’t hang orange and chillies for no reason. I’ve seen a pattern in myself, I keep an eye out, and boom, it happens. Maybe I’m just an attractive person and the universe can’t help but conspire.

Oh and panglossian, by the way, means extreme optimism, bordering on the foolish.


The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Happens. One fine day, I looked up "defenestrate", and now the whole world seems to be defenestrating. And yes, I'm an MBA (type) and always abbreviate; therefore, guilty as charged. But but but, let me be equally responsible.. I also make fun of the journo types with their "reports say".

Nimpipi said...

Oh thank god someone commented! I was chewing off my nails in worry! :D

Heh @ and now whole world seems to be defenstrating.

I don't know you or as we say, yours isn't a familiar byline, but hello, welcome!

I had to smile at the 'reports say', but come on ya, sometimes reports do really, say. I have to boast though -- never, ever, EVER have I used 'allegedly'. Doesn't come with the beat. =D

The Mystic said...

I think people use big words to confuse and I kinda think our English rulers who were quite fond of substituting big words for lack of knowledge and depth... we just CtrlCed em :P

Anonymous said...

Goolge "sinjin" and you shall see.

Mumbai Diva said...

i came earlier too. i was waiting for anon's comments. i have no life.

Mumbai Diva said...

but smart, huh? maybe comment moderation not yet.

Nimpipi said...

Mystic: Hmmph! Not me, I tell you, not me. No ‘unnecessary verbosity’. To simply piss someone else of is different. There the fun of being verbose while being self-aware is another matter. That I can do. :)

Anon: I did. Now what?

Div: I can't moderate comments. Too much effort. And on what grounds would I not allow say Anon's comment? Anon is like the deer we hide behind bushes to watch.

I have no life either. Come sit.

Anonymous said...

well you'd know the pronounciation of "St. John" as "sinjin" is an accepted convention. maybe you did know that already. I didn't.

However I have NUCLEAR POWER, what do I care for all this piffle. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Can I join you guys, and enjoy this too? This anon is WAY more interesting than the rest of his/her tribe. No poisonous arrows here, he's got NUCLEAR POWER.

Oh, and you said you don't know me, but I have been reading your blog for quite some time now. I suppose I had commented earlier on some other post too, because your comments section picked up the details. I blog here now:

Nimpipi said...

Non: Didn't know Sinjin was St John, till, well first year college. Now of course I'm bright and learned, blogging and stuff. :P

Alec: Join, join. Feel free.

Commented earlier, really? Shame on me. I thought I would've remembered the name, or maybe I did till I forgot. And you're right. I love our anon. I just don't know how he knows my friend Yashodhan or who he is, but that's ok. What good is a user name anyhow. Says Nimpipi. :)

Anonymous said...


Pringle Man said...

Fuck pipi, this is SEX. You have an anon troll to keep you entertained but I want to have babies with this post. I’m linking like a pimp.

Wow, have a look at my vocabulary.

And what about schedule? Sked Ule she used to say. Uff.

Anonymous said...

and you... your musical taste. I smite it for it is weak.

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE ALL WEAK, in fact.

I'll Kill You, You Bastard said...

Why hello there!

Han said...

Hee hee. Apologies! I'm a lover of dictionaries and elaborate (but appropriately applied) vocabulary.

There's always a personal limit to verbiage (cf. postmodernism and/or "Theory") but using a broad term just speeds things up for people who are in the know. Imagine having to define the broad complex of Marxism every time, instead of just using the term "Marxism"?

I think no two words are exact synonyms -- there are always connotative differences. So criticizing elaborate word use is like asking a painter: why did you used so many colours? RGB would suffice, no?

As far as "panglossian" is concerned, I was making a reference to the notion that we live in the best of all possible worlds. And also, perhaps implicitly saying: if you can't understand, go look it up! The world may not be as simple as your language.

Sorry for ranting! I love words.

r r bhatia said...

I thought journalists were taught crap enhancement.