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Indian English Phrases – Part Two

I wrote the first edition of “Indian English phrases” a while back.  Check it out in case you haven’t read it. Here are two more which cry out for attention.

Part Two of Indian English Phrases

11.  “Baseless allegations”

This is usually the first, reflex response from any politician to anything that comes out of Arvind Kejriwal’s mouth. Its usage cuts across ideological, caste, creed and religious divides in India. So much so, this stock phrase stakes a pretty good claim to be India’s national phrase. Let’s dissect this one.

Allegation in itself means an assertion or a statement made without proof or basis in fact. “Baseless allegations” takes things to a whole new level ’cause it implies that things like “basefull” allegations and “baseless facts” exist.

Example:

Parent: Is it true that you didn’t turn in the homework at school yesterday? 
8th grader: I refuse to neither confirm nor deny what could be a basefull allegation.
 
One more.
 Scientist: Sir, what do you think of Darwin’s theory of evolution?
 Redneck Robbie: Garbage! Stop spreading such baseless facts.
 
And finally.
 Judge: How do you plead to charges of murder in the 2rd degree of the English language?
 AAP’s Ashutosh : Your Honor, these are baseless allegations. I had nothing to do with its untimely demise. By the way, I’d like to plead permanent insanity.

 

12. “Untimely Demise” [ And its first cousin, “Tragic demise.”]

I think this is a uniquely Indian thing. Often used to describe the sudden, unexpected or at times even widely anticipated death of anyone below the age of 80. Makes you wonder. Is there such a thing then as a “timely, delightful demise”? Aren’t all demises untimely and tragic? Especially if you view said demises through the lens of those undergoing demises?

No one ever goes, “Whatay awesome dude! His demise was perfectly timed. It isn’t all that tragic as you might think, In fact, we’re besides ourselves with joy.”

It’s a mad, mad world

Prices have sky rocketed. And it doesn’t seem to faze the affluent residents of Garden City in the least. Profligacy is rampant and purses seem to have lost their strings.

The other day, I was at the barber shop. I walked in and the first thing I noticed was a large sign that proclaimed ‘Haircut charges Rs. 70’. ‘Weren’t you charging Rs 50 last month?” I remarked mildly. “Yes, Sir. But our costs have gone up. We have been forced to raise the charges”, came the reply in a friendly tone. “What costs?”, I was curious. “Generally all costs, Sir. I cannot give you more details”. “But this is still very cheap, you know”, said the man seated next to me, “Back in California, I used to pay $10 for a haircut. I say that $1.4 is cheap”, he opined. “So you are ok with paying more?”, I enquired incredulously. “I don’t have time to think about these things. I just pay up”, he smiled benevolently at me. “Um, I’ve got some marsh land in Jersey that I’d like to sell you”, I thought as I retreated into the comfort of my own thoughts.

That weekend, we were out for dinner at a trendy restaurant in the city. I glanced through the menu to get a feel for the place (and their prices). I noticed that a cup of coffee was priced at Rs. 70. I then looked around. The place was overflowing. There were people waiting in the aisles, chomping at the bit to pay sixty rupees for a cup of coffee. “Has every one just gone crazy, or is it just me” I swore under my breath. “What were you charging for a cup of coffee last month”, I casually enquired of our young waiter as he took our order. “Rs 50, Sir. Our costs have gone up, and we’ve been forced to raise our charges”, he replied politely. I looked closely to see if I could spot any resemblance between him and my barber. “Costs. What costs? ” I protested feebly. “People don’t have time to think about all this, Sir. They just pay up. The gentleman at the next table told me that he used to spend $60 on a meal in California. Here, he’s happy to spend $30”, he elaborated with the clarity of a worker in a global economy.

“That will be Rs. 1400, please”, I heard the guy at the box office proclaim impatiently. “What? How”, I gasped incredulously. We were out at the neighborhood multiplex to take in the latest SRK starrer on the weekend. “I don’t have time to explain all this. Give me 1400 for 4 tickets. Hurry up”, he snarled. I reached for my wallet in a daze. As I walked through the mostly 20 and 30 something crowd, each anxious to fork out 280 per head for 2.5 hrs of so-called entertainment, “This is insane”, I thought. “I heard that there is a new multiplex in Whitefield. They are charging 400 bucks for a ticket. We should try it out next weekend. After all, this is way cheaper than California’, I overheard a couple talking. “Can we all shut up about California”, I fumed to myself.

These are heady times in Bangalore. When is this going to end? I have no idea. Until then, it looks like the popcorn at the movies is going to cost a little more.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Once in a while, you have a force that arises in this universe which grows its strength only through changing the very conditions from which it arose.

Gandhi. Einstein. Jobs. Yes, he belongs on that list of people we find hard to describe with words, and can appreciate only by the impact they had on our consciousness.

So long and thanks for all the fish, Steve. We will miss you.

Fact or Fiction

Height matters. Is this fact or fiction?  Bad news for short people never seems to end. Their cup of woes continues to overflow. First it was those studies which showed that short people get fewer dates, less promotions and earned less than taller colleagues (because their bosses were taller?) Again, those infamous studies told us that one in two CEOs is six feet or taller.  Then came bad news from Johns Hopkins University – that short people (err, height disadvantaged? vertically challenged?) people are more likely to suffer dementia.

If you are on the wrong side of the height scale and in the mood for more punishment, try this nugget: In the last 46 presidential elections in the United States, the taller contender won 27 times, the latest instance of which came when the 6”1 Barack Obama beat the 5”7 John McCain.So if you’re short, what do you do? Umm… look for a boss who’s shorter? Regardless of what studies have to say, height has never been a prerequisite for greatness. Beethoven didn’t quite make to the 5ft 7 mark. Gandhiji, that giant among men, was even shorter. Where there is darkness, there is also light. Studies (finally!) tell us that shorter people tend to possess a rare genetic mutation called the Methuselah gene – which extends life spans and provides longer lives.

So, does height matter? Answer: One word. Rajnikanth.

Fact or Fiction? Mobile phones cause brain tumors

It depends on who you ask. There is conflicting evidence, likely a result of inadequate data  till date.  These studies take decades to complete, and require large groups of active users. Given that mobile phone usage has spiked only in the last decade or so, more definitive results may be in the offing in the decade to come. Mobile phones use non-ionizing radiation, which differs from the ionizing radiation of x-rays and radioactive material, and more like microwave radiation. Except they don’t release enough energy to cause damage of DNA, which causes cancer. Sustained, long term mobile phone usage may be a different story, if early evidence is any indication.

Answer: The jury is still out. Better safe than sorry may be apt here. If you’re a heavy mobile phone user, hands-free may be wise. Unless, you have the Methuselah gene

Fact or Fiction: Hypnotists can control your every move

You’ve seen it in the movies or heard from a friend. Hypnotist on stage. Calls for volunteers. Next thing you know, a man is under the spell and clucking like a chicken or imitating a dead actors (nice accent, by the way!). Say, you get excited, look into yellow pages, fix appointment with local hypnotist and off you go to cure that kleptomania problem that only you, a smattering of security guards and police in thirteen states are aware of. He gets you hypnotized and convinces you to sing Queen’s “Another one bites the dust” every time your fingers itch to snitch. Problem is you work in a funeral home. Could this nightmare really come true?

Answer:  No. While hypnosis can be used to treat mental disorders through the “power of suggestion”, hypnotists cannot make you do things you don’t want to do. You cannot be hypnotized against your will.  And, those people clucking like chickens and mouthing MGR and Gabbar Singh dialogues ? – Deep down, they really want to entertain us.

pip-pip. toodles. have a great weekend.

Which Side Are You On?

We are witnessing a remarkable period in the history of the world’s largest democracy. In just a few months, we’ve seen the Prime Minister’s Office censured by the Supreme Court (a first), a Union Cabinet Minister sent to jail (a first) for alleged involvement in the largest scam in our history, and now the spontaneous eruption of public support for Anna Hazare and the movement against corruption

There are polarized viewpoints on Anna’s agitation. There are those who worry if this is anarchy at its finest. They fret over an un-elected, self appointed ‘civil rights society’ holding an elected government hostage. And there are those who feel that enough is enough, and the time has come for voices to be heard and action to be had – in the crusade against corruption. They are coming out in the streets, on Facebook and in the media, anxious to press forward with the momentum and the spring to the step that Anna has brought to it. In effect, they have transplanted their trust (which should have been ideally with their elected representatives) to Anna and friends.

Is this the beginning of the end of an organized way of governing the nation? Or, is it the beginning of the end of old and corrupt ways of doing business? One hopes it is the latter. But, time will tell.

If Anna and friends deserve our support, it has to be for the sole reason that they are our best bets in a nation, in which unstained reputations and selfless leaders are scarcer than tickets for a Rajnikanth blockbuster on opening day. Their methods may not always appear reasonable, and not all of their points of view acceptable verbatim. Change has always been wrought by unreasonable men. Let’s hope they succeed at least in part.

No matter which side we are on, we have to celebrate the fact that we are witnessing a public dialogue of this magnitude in India for the first time. Dialogue is a life force of democracy. The day you take away a person’s right to free speech, you drive a dagger through its heart and mortally wound it.

As Voltaire once said famously “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”

No matter which side we are on, we have the responsibility to defend the life forces of democracy. Any government that fails to honor these forces deserves our firmest opposition, and to be shown the door.

No matter which side we are on, we have to agree that there is only one side. The side that wants to rid this country of the cancer that is surely consuming it. We have an obligation to take the time to find those we trust and give them our support. Whoever they may be. And discard the rest.

India is the world’s largest democracy.  It’s about time we proved it.

The Funniest Indian Blog wins an Award

Why would anyone want to give us an award? A few days back, we received a congratulatory message from the young folks (let’s pretend that they are young) at indiantopblogs.blogspot.com. Suspicious that the contents of the message might contain inflammatory materials or worse, substances of the exploding kind, we called in the SWAT team – which crouched around the aforementioned message and gently prised it open – all the while on the lookout for blue wires, powdery substances, digital clocks and other tell tale signs of imminent detonation. To our relief, our fears were well founded. The message contained a bombshell of an announcement. It said that Laughing Gas had been ranked in their Directory of Best Indian Blogs in 2011.

Such proclamations when they come out of thin air, without adequate warning can cause the gravest of alarms. Alarm? Why alarm? Isn’t this cause for celebration, you may ask. Time to open the bubbly perhaps and spread the cheer around? Instead, why did it cause us to leap six inches in the air like a startled gazelle stalked by an invisible predator?

What ho. We shall explain. The first and spontaneous cause for alarm was that someone was actually reading Laughing Gas. Till date, we have perspired blissfully under the notion that other than blood relatives and friends who owed us money, none else was aware of our presence or was under compulsion to examine its innards. The illusion of being a better kept secret than the Knights Templar before Da Vinci Code was shattered. And understandably, we pressed the big red button on the table. The emergency response system kicked into high gear.

Disaster recovery and mitigation was sought. We had been discovered. It was time to let our agents in the field know that their cover had been blown.

No sooner than the first round of dust settlement came the next round of dust. We wondered what on earth would make anyone rank Laughing Gas anywhere in anything? We are a mere stripling blog, recently born, all of sixty days old and just began to take baby steps. Our brows furrowed and our eyes narrowed to slits as we pondered the unponderable that had just occurred. We imagined the condition of Indian blogscape if *we* made it to the Directory of Best Indian Blogs. What ho, we whispered in a low conspiratorial tone. The picture we imagined did not look pretty.

The passage of seventy two hours have injected some calm into the proceedings at Laughing Gas HQ. We have come to our senses. For, we have finally seen the light. For, we have understood that there is no way this could have happened but for Laughing Gas fans. Those of you who stood in long lines at ration shops to get your weekly quota of the funniest Indian blog, we salute you. And, those of you who walked ten miles in pouring rain to the nearest keyboard to type in those magical letters http://whatho.in, we tip our hats. For it is you that made this happen. Thank you, Laughing Gas fans!

And, yes, thank you indiantopblogs.blogspot.com! Keep up the good work.

What ho, indeed!