Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Satire Over Attire

The following letter popped into my email this morning and I thought it worth sharing on my blog (although this is not in keeping with my usual servings of original content):

Part One


On this poignant occasion I would like to make an observation after my recent visit to Delhi/Gurgaon and having met Col Moorthy I hope you all will take this constructive criticism and not negative comments about Defence services in India.

Let me first start by the experience that I had in Defence Service Officers' Institute, Dhaula Kuan. I attended a private party there but was stopped because I was wearing Kurta Pyjama - a very Indian dress!! I had to change into shirt and trousers to attend.

I just could not believe that after 63 years of Independence the Defence services are not only still following but also robustly enforcing a British legacy dress code that was meant to keep "Indians" out of the British establishments.

Can anyone of you explain to me why this archaic and anti-Indian rule is still being enforced with such vigour? India is a democratic country. DSOI is not a private club but is paid for by tax payer's money. If Dr Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, were to come to DSOI he will not be allowed to enter if he is wearing his usual Indian dress!!! How can Defence services be proud to be Indian and ask civilians and politicians to strengthen the defence services when they cannot shake off the British legacy?? - Dinesh Verma

Part Two

Dear Shri Verma,

I do not know you, your age, profession and other details. Hence I am keeping my viewpoint brief and pointed. We shall discuss each issue raised in the mail.

Firstly the title goes overboard without establishing any base for a viewpoint.

Secondly the DSOI is a club wholly funded by the members and some private and regimental fund. No public fund is involved. Hence the Institute is a private club and no taxpayers money is involved.

Thirdly, the Kurta Pyjama maybe Indian; so is a Langot which is the only garment worn by many children in rural areas. In the south men wear only lungis around their waist and tie a towel around their heads. In many tribes of India women go bare breasted. These are all Indian dresses. Surely it is not your case that the DSOI should permit all these dresses purely because they are worn in some parts of the country.

Fourthly, I usually wear a kurta pyjama to sleep as night suit; it may be worn in some parts of North India as a casual dress (however fancy; it still remains a casual dress) to each others homes, but that is a regional practice. By the same logic, if Kurta pyjama is allowed in the DSOI, children should be allowed in Langots and adults in Lungi etc.

Fifthly, the dress code in the Army is laid down in the Red Book (an amendment to Dress Regulations for the Army). The formal dress is the National Dress or Dinner Jacket (Black Tie/Tuxedo), for an event in a club ordinarily one is expected to dress formally. So the guests could be in the National Dress which is what the PM is often seen wearing. The PM does not wear a pyjama to the office.

Sixthly, in India the bulk of the people wear a trouser and shirt. It has ceased to have any colonial connotation; those who try to attach some such non-existent significance to it are off the mark. In fact the club has gone to the extent (which I am not in agreement at all with) of even allowing T shirts with collar; for male members. Even the tie has been done away with, in deference to the hot climate.

Seventhly, just for the record we tend to run down the British (though I am no fan of theirs) in their own English language.

Eighthly, being a private club meant for defense service officers and their families the members are at liberty to lay down the dresses which are allowed in the club.

Ninthly, the club by allowing an individual to utilise its facilities albeit at a fee is within its rights to expect the guests to adhere to its customs. Taking off from your analogy if you are invited to the Presidents Estate you would take pains to find out what to wear; why not to your friends party.

Tenthly, if you are in the corporate world try going to your office in a Kurta Pyjama with the same logic that it is an Indian dress.

Lastly, the dress is usually mentioned in all invitations from service personnel. If left out one must enquire, particularly if at a Defence Establishment, that much is elementary.

This rejoinder may be impersonal in tone, but I have had enough SH*T with people telling the Army what to do. Our brainless media and the half educated public are often commenting on matters on which they have no idea; from Golf Courses, Canteen facilities, orderlies, the AWWA etc.

I say damn FOOLs, before you express an opinion, least you can do is find out.

With Best Wishes,

Yours Sincerely,

Col PK Nair (retd)

{I thank the latter for my morning's dose of chuckles.}

Friday, September 4, 2009

The "Healthy" Flu Bug

I have decided to purge my world of a scourge that has slowly but surely taken it over. Not being overly ambitious, let me try small, like with this blog for starters.

I just woke up one day, and lo and behold, just about everybody who is anybody and wants to be somebody is pronouncing the humble word "healthy" differently. TV anchors, advertisements for cooking oil, and even the local grocer appear to be saying "hell-dhee".

Okay, so who changed the accepted pronunciation while my back was turned? As it turns out, nobody really. The dictionaries still specify its pronunciation as ˈhel-thē. So, this is, apparently, a "cool" new way of saying it. It appears that some Page-3 type mispronounced it and started an infectious trend that has claimed more victims than the Spanish Flu. At least in this country.

I chuckled in delight as Bobby Chinn, a food show host on Discovery Travel & Living, raised an amused brow and mimicked a girl in Punjab someplace when she said "helldhee". The pity, however, was that she didn't get it.

Unfortunately, this mispronunciation has become so well entrenched in society, it doesn't look like it will go away any time soon. On my part, I refuse to succumb to the hell-dhee pandemic. Even if it means I am ostracized from hip society. I shall say it right until my last breath, and I shall judge people who say it wrong. In fact, I might even have "A ˈhel-thē human, the last one standing" carved on my epitaph.

My Ears are Burning

I am a celebrity in my own right. For some reason, no matter what I do or don't do, I manage to set certain gossip mongers all a-twitter. This blog, of course, must be their most valuable resource to keep tabs on me, since I have most unfortunately dropped off their daily radars.

This post is dedicated to all those who seem to have nothing better to do with their lives than sniff around for tidbits of information about me.

I suppose the inability to ferret out juicy gems worth their weight in ash from my rather non-controversial, non-ripple-creating blog has forced you to seek other sources. Well, let me save you the trouble and have you know that my buddies really have lot more on their daily agendas. A chinwag with you about insignificant little people like yours truly is not and never will feature on their priority list.

And let's say, like for real, you are genuinely concerned about my well-being, whereabouts and what-been-uptos.... Okay, I cannot even continue that sentence without sniggering over the total unlikelihood of it all. Anyway, my point is that if you really want to know about me, you know how to contact me. May be we could have a good colloquy about the weather. Who knows, if you are really nice, I might actually tell you all about how I digested my latest meal.

Truth be told, I am sick to the gills of being nice and decent despite your obvious fixation with my otherwise quotidian existence. I feel like Truman in The Truman Show. It is such a pity that I have had to deface my blog with disclaimers to stop you from reading between the lines and jumping to conclusions. Much as I appreciate the fact that some of my posts moved you enough to hold mini what-do-you-think opinion polls, gee, you really shouldn't have. I think most fondly of you too - you are like an itch that cannot be scratched.

The bottom line really is: Go get a life. Oh, and while you're at it, could you get me a bag of gummy bears, pretty please? I really feel like biting a couple of heads off right now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hungry Newsmen: Stop Crying Wolf

A few days ago, a well-known Indian TV news channel ran a story about an Indo-Chinese skirmish in Sikkim. "Indian and Chinese troops involved in a skirmish in Nathu La", said the ticker tape, followed by "More Indian troops being deployed at the border". I watched in disbelief as the channel then went on to make this headline news, complete with visuals of Chinese soldiers marching on snowy slopes.

Viewers were being led to believe that our nation was going to war. While the smug newsmen must have sat back to enjoy their soaring viewership, the only thing that shot up in my household was blood pressure.

Fortunately, my nerves of steel held out and I reasoned that the media is quite geographically challenged. It is probably never ever going to know the difference between Shillong and Sikkim, let alone Nathu La and North Sikkim. Besides, the footage shown looked nothing like Nathu La in recent times. Moreover, snow in August seemed quite implausible. A quick phone call confirmed my hunch: CNN-IBN has a bunch of irresponsible ignorant journalists. Nathu La was as peaceful as ever, with not even flies to swat at that altitude. Troops at Nathu La were themselves probably alerted about this ongoing "skirmish" through their TV sets like the rest of the country!

Once the smugness of my "I-so-knew-it" victory wore off, however, I felt some amount of anger against this section of irresponsible media. If this had been lawsuit-laden America, a bunch of very worried army families could have sued their feckless *bleeps* for causing undue emotional trauma. Even the visual of the fierce Chinese soldiers was old footage shot, and get this: not even at Nathu La.

Here's a note to all you viewership-hungry newsmen: how about some responsible reporting for a change? Check your facts and learn your geography before crying wolf! In your haste to outsmart and one-up rival channels, do ensure you don't come out looking like total jackasses. It will make all our lives just that much easier.

Oh, and if we want drama, we'll watch Colors, thank you very much.