Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm on holiday, hurray hurray!

Or I will be, in less than 12 hours... off to Seattle for a mini family reunion and Thanksgiving, for two weeks of lazing around and having fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A tag from MumbaiGirl

This was meant to be "150 things to do before you're 30", but since I'm kinda past that stage, I'm going to take it as "150 things to do in your lifetime" :-) Playing it safe here...

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain hill
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula (and it’s not going to happen either, not while I’m conscious)

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb (to be precise, stroked its woolly head while feeding it some grass!)

33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Walked down into a volcano (it was practically extinct)
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had Have amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched (for) whales (didn't get to see any, sadly)
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played cricket
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch (They were inedible, but that shouldnt matter, right?)
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice (one of these years…)
80. Gotten a tattoo (same as above)
81. Rafted the Snake River (where’s that?)
82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage (An amateur play in German at the Max Mueller Bhavan – hope that counts)

85. Been to Las Vegas (not likely, if I can help it. Don’t hold it against me that I’ve transited through the airport!)
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark (not likely! Chances of a shark eating me are probably better)
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to New Zealand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Outlived one of your parents (Note: This is NOT something to do, it's just something that happened)
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Sang in public at a concert (with my sister)
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city country to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car with the windows open, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication

106. Lost over 100 pounds (I don’t have quite THAT much to lose!)
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane (although my sister and a cousin have done)
109. Touched a stingray (Same as for No. 06)
110. Broken someone’s heart (not wittingly)
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show (I wish!)
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet (as Nos 06 and 109)
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States (I don’t mean I’ve been to over 50 countries – just that I’ve been to 3-4 US States and certainly visited more foreign countries than that!)

124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school (Does distance learning count?)

131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach (not on purpose)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do I look like Sarah Palin?)
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language (hahahahaha)
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts (pete’s joy, not mine)
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life (only in the sense that I didn’t run the woman down on my Kinetic even though she stepped right out in front of me without looking up)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strictly Go Jump

The big hoo-ha in the press about John Sergeant still being in the "Strictly Come Dancing" show is SUCH a waste of time.

So why am I too writing about it, you ask? Because this is a strictly disinterested opinion. I dont care about John Sergeant and I've never watched the show. I DO know that it's the kind of show that asks people to vote for their favourite performer - either to keep them in or to boot them out.

If you want performers to be judged strictly on ability, then the judges alone should be the people to decide who stays and who goes. Once you ask the viewing public to "vote for their favourite" - well, all bets are off. Most TV viewers aren't qualified judges of anything (to do with the show, I mean) and they vote pretty much on a whim. Literally, they vote for their favourite and who cares if they can dance or not. So if that current favourite isnt the judges' favourite dancer, too bloody bad for the judges. Why blame John Sergeant for being the popular choice? He's no more in control of things than the judges themselves!

Update: Oh dear, he's quit the show! I bet that's what the judges were hoping would happen!

Banned by a coin

Apparently it’s a “violent act” if you’re a pro footballer and throw a coin back into the crowd, as Didier Drogba of Chelsea discovered.

I emphasise – he threw the coin BACK into the crowd. Which means that someone in the crowd had thrown the coin at him first. Drogba hadn’t initiated anything, he’d merely retaliated. And yet he was penalised by being
banned from playing in the next three matches.

If the FA considers that a fair punishment, the fan who threw that coin at Drogba in the first place should be tracked down and banned from attending the next three matches played by Chelsea. Chances are, of course, that he won't want/wouldn't be able to afford to pay for the tickets to another match, so the ban won't exactly affect him - but still... in the interests of fair play, he should get a ban too, because he was just as "violent" as Drogba and started the whole thing anyway.

PS. Ok, the probability of Drogba hitting someone in the crowd - someone who hadn't thrown the coin - was more a certainty than a probability, really, being as there was more crowd than there was Drogba... but a three-match ban for that? I still think it was OTT.

PPS. Hmmm... have I argued myself out of the point of this post with the above PS? Well, I'm publishing it anyway!

PPPS. Isn't Didier Drogba a lovely, lovely name? I do love unusual monikers!

* goes off chanting 'Didier Drogba, Didier Drogba' *

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Stranger"

“The kindness of strangers” is a phrase that I came across somewhere and instantly loved because it expresses a sentiment in which I believe. (And on googling the phrase, I discovered that it’s the title of a book by a BBC reporter, Kate Adie. I’ve since reserved that book at my library – a nugget of information totally irrelevant to this post and anything else, but which I felt impelled to share with friends and strangers both. So now you know.)

I have met with the kindness of strangers enough times to have my faith in people shored up. Sure, I’ve been at the mauling end of strangers too – always men, usually in crowds, sometimes in lonely areas… but which woman hasn’t? – but there have also been others who have helped when they could have harmed. It balances out, mostly. Here are just a few instances:


-- I was working late at the Indian Express one night and I had missed pretty much all the buses which would get me home, except bus service No 5 which had a last run at about 11.15pm. This bus didn’t stop at my regular bus-stop (which was ok because I normally didn’t take it – it meant a 10-minute walk to get to the stop as well as another 10-minute walk from the bus-stop nearest my home to get home).

So I had just about reached the stop when the bus zoomed up. I gratefully got in and only then discovered that I only had a 50-rupee note and nothing smaller to give the conductor for my fare. He turned out to be a bad-tempered, sour-faced curmudgeon who asked me to get off the bus and let him get on with his last shift! "Kaasu illai-na irangu ma!" he snapped at me (If you dont have the fare, get off).

This was a nasty turn – I didn’t want to trust myself to an auto at that time of night (assuming I could get one at all), and there was no other bus that would get me home. Walking wasn’t on the cards at all. The only other option was to go back to the office and wait till the late night shift ended…but even then there was no guarantee that I’d get a ride home, as the transport manager had not been warned in advance. (Yep, IE wasn’t particularly female-friendly, and their excuse was that it made the drivers grumpy if they had to drop off an extra person on their round.)

Anyway, just as I was about to get off, someone came running from the front of the bus shouting “Irunga, irunga!” (“wait, wait”). It turned out to be a young lad who worked at one of the tea-shops near the office. To my embarrassment and huge relief, he paid my fare, brushing away my heartfelt thankyous. What’s more, the next day he wouldn’t even accept the money back - ok, so it was only about Rs 1.75, but that would have meant a lot more to him than it did to me.

So… guess where I always went for my tea and vadas from then on? Until he went off to Singapore to make his fortune, that is. I hope he HAS made his fortune – kind people like him deserve all the good that can happen to them.


-- When an auto rickshaw driver knocked me off my Kinetic Honda just opposite Malar Hospital – I had my right indicator on and was slowing down to make a U-turn. I guess the auto driver was behind me but wanted to go straight ahead. Instead of bothering to slow down himself, or wait for me to make the turn, he accelerated, coming up from behind me on my right. I was just beginning the turn, so he plowed right into my front wheel, but managed to zoom off.

I was completely dazed for a few minutes, it was all so sudden. I heard brakes screeching behind me as cars came to a halt, and someone screamed, but it was like it was happening somewhere else to someone else. I was only muzzily aware that I couldn’t get up, even as a man thrust a piece of paper into my hand before riding off on his bike.

Then someone else lifted my scooter off me while his wife helped me up. I had a severely bashed right knee and had lost a couple of inches of skin and flesh from my elbow, and (as I discovered later), had a bruised and wrenched shoulder - but I didn’t think I needed a hospital (I remember refusing to go to Malar!).

So the lady accompanied me home in the friendly auto driver’s vehicle, while her husband walked my scooter all the way back – the front wheel was so badly bent that it couldn’t be ridden. They made sure that I was at the right house and assured my mother that nothing was broken but my bike, before they all went off. And finally when I remembered to look at the paper I was still clutching in my hand, I found that it was the registration number of the auto that had knocked me down! Some kind guy had had the presence of mind to write it down and hand it to me right there. (It’s a different matter that the auto was owned by a policeman and not the driver himself, so nothing really came of the case.) It was a good two weeks before I was office-worthy and ambulatory again – my wounds weren’t serious but they were very, very painful.


-- On yet another occasion, I was returning home from work late on a Monday night. I had taken the beach road route and happily zoomed along at 70km an hour, pleased at the lack of traffic. Just opposite the Gandhi statue, as I slowed down to turn right, my bike did an extremely alarming wobble and I came to a sudden and very shaky halt at the side of the road, just short of falling down.
I had a puncture.

In fact, I must have had the puncture pretty much at the beginning of my trip because the tyre was as flat as a pancake. I was on a fairly lonely road at around 10.30pm and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to wheel the bike, but it was uncooperatively heavy, and anyway I didn’t really know where to go – I certainly couldn’t have walked it all the way home and I wasn’t close to anybody’s house that I knew. There weren’t any phone booths nearby either. A mobile phone would have been very handy, but those probably hadn't been invented then.

Then, even more worryingly, a loud group of young men came around the corner and walked up towards me. They looked like rowdies and I tried to ignore them, hoping they wouldn’t cause me any trouble. But they stopped by my side, and one of them asked me the obvious – “Puncher-aa?” (puncture-aa?). I indicated as much and he said the next obvious thing – “Thalla mudiyala?” (Cant you push it?). I said no, too heavy. So he said “Naanga thallava?” (Shall we push it?). Now I had to ask the obvious at this point, so I said “Enga thallaporenga?” (Where will you push it to?).

He and his friends were much nicer and way more practical than me (and my profuse apologies to them, too little and too late, for my judgmental attitude). They knew that there was a fire station nearby, so we all trooped there (with the guys saying reassuring things like “Kavalapadadheenga, bike onnum agadhu” (Don’t worry, the bike will be safe)).

There were two lungi-and-banian clad firemen at the fire station, probably making arrangements for their night's sleep. They listened to my story and were kind enough to let me leave my bike there for safekeeping overnight. Then that group of young men walked me back to the main road and - absolutely amazing for that area and that time of night – somehow procured me an auto in which I went home. I couldn’t thank those guys enough for their kind help (their kindness somewhat mitigated by the auto driver who scalped me for the fare - but that was hardly their fault!) and I felt very ashamed of my instant summation of them as "rowdies". I got home safe thanks to the efforts of that bunch of complete strangers who went out of their way to help, and I've never forgotten it.

Like I said earlier, the kindness of strangers… long may it continue!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Change"

I hate change.

Not Mr Obama’s “Change we refuse to define”. Or the “But we’ve always done it this way” whine of the fuddy-duddies of the world. I’m talking about the change that you cannot get rid of, the kind that accumulates faster than you can imagine, the kind that if you carry in your pocket makes you list to one side, or if in your purse, makes it weigh a goodly tonne.

Yep, small change.

Pennies, cents, paise – all the metal coinage that you can’t really use to pay anything, unless you don’t mind fumbling with the fiddly things in a supermarket checkout queue while others behind you glare and the cashier heaves a big sigh and takes forever to count all the coins you’ve just passed on just to make sure you’re not diddling the supermarket of a penny or two…

The 10p coins are almost as irritating – but at least it only takes 10 of those to make up a pound (currency, not weight!). Also, some coin-slot parking meters accept 10p and 20p coins, so on the whole they’re not so bad even if they occupy purse space and add to the weight. The 50p, pound, and two-pound coins hold their own – they might be heavy, but at least they are significant and total fairly quickly to worthwhile amounts.

But those pesky pennies and cents… for as much as I drop them into the charity boxes by the tills in the shops, they still accumulate! Somehow, even if you drop a large handful in a busker’s collection box, you don’t get much gratitude. (Worse still, you don’t get rid of enough change.) I guess they like their money rustly, just like me…

In Singapore, I mostly used my bank card to pay for everything. So I have NO idea how the cent coins piled up until I had a jar full of them on the dining table. When I left the country, I left that jar behind for my flatmate to dispose of (or leave it behind in her turn – possibly along with her contribution to the stockpile – when she quit) because I had no idea what to do with them. God knows how much they would have added up to – maybe only a few dollars, maybe fifty dollars… the weight of small change is not exactly directly proportional to the total value, that’s fer sure. In any case, I wasn’t counting, so I didn’t know and didn’t care. Still don’t.

I guess it would be possible, if one were really bored, really jobless, really bothered - and yes, really tight - to sort out the coins into orderly piles and haul them to the bank and eventually get a fiver or so in exchange for the lot... but I'm not that hypothetical one. I don't think the effort is worthwhile.

You, dear reader, might be one of the so-uptight-you-squeak cadre who organises all your coinage according to denomination and knows to the last penny exactly how much all the coinage adds up to, and is super-efficient enough to be able to pay out of all that organised coinery without getting the sum wrong, and keep track of what you get back – in which case, this post has nothing to do with you at all. Best keep away from me, though, because I might just be mean enough to jumble up all your pennies and tuppennies and bring chaos to your neat, coin-orderly, regimented life!


So... did you think I might, for a change, NOT have grumbled about something? :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yet another case

which makes me wonder, is it even worth living like she does?

*Yes, I know I've been overdoing the posts with links to newspaper articles... but really, I see it as my duty to do so. Especially sometimes.

There's a joker in here somewhere, right?

I can only hope that the writer of this deeply insightful and extensively researched article had her tongue tucked in her cheek when she submitted it for publication - and that the editor who DID pass it had a better sense of humour than I do... because for god's sake, in what way does this resemble actual news?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Any which way you see it

Is it art if a painting doesn't give you a clue about which is the right side up? And following on from that, does it matter (other than to the painter) if said painting is on its side, bottom, front or back?

Questions, questions...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crazy mixed-up pup

I've always had trouble with "w" words " and "v" words said in succession. Give me tongue twisters like “red lorry blue lorry” and I can say it over and over without much hassle… but ask me to say “white van” and if I don’t pause a miniscule bit between the two words, I end up saying “white wan” or “vite van”. It always makes me laugh, but I also find it annoying.

I tend to pick up accents fairly easily, usually without quite realising it - until a kind friend or cousin accuses me of “having an accent” and then I "hear" myself. As most other Indians educated in India, I didn’t – couldn’t - differentiate between the “w” and “v” sounds. This was more than useful when I was learning German, because I didn’t have any trouble with the pronunciation of German “w”s as “v”s – which is correct.

Then I moved to Singapore, and associating with British and American nationals at work made me realise that there was a difference between the two sounds – and eventually I acquired the ability to differentiate between, and pronounce the sounds right, partly from deliberate effort. (Have I mentioned that I’m anal about pronunciation?). Anyway, after coming to the UK, speaking to the British in British English for the last 8 years, and to a lot of elderly, finicky clients on the phone for the last 3, that ability has become second nature, almost.

That said, of course, because I now say “w”s the English way, my German pronunciation has taken a turn for the worse… and today, to my dismay, I fumbled over a Punjabi name at work – a Mr Dhaliwal had called – and I ended up saying his name as “Dhaliwall” rather than “Dhalival”. After I had transferred him over to my colleague, I tried saying his name the way it should be, and to even more dismay, I found that I had to actually pause between the two syllables “Dhali-val” to get it right. (Yes, I do feel embarrassed about this!) I can see why authentic Brits find it so difficult to say Indian names correctly, handicapped as they are by their pronunciation.

At least I can still say “Sharma” or “Swarna” with the “r” sounded loud and clear, instead of “Shaama” or “Swaana”. That is a relief.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Another bookish tag - hijacked from somewhere

How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I cant remember when I learnt to read… or when I started reading, for that matter. All I remember is that I’ve always loved books. As for who taught me – taking a wild guess, I’d say it was my parents!

Did you own any books as a child? If so, what's the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
I owned loads of books. The first one I remember is a Richard Scarry picture dictionary, and the first word I learnt was “aardvark”. A is for aardvark. Pretty cool. I absolutely loved that book to bits… the cartoons were so detailed and there was so much to look at, so many little touches that were an absolute delight and make me smile even now. I would read that dictionary like a story book, and every time I came across my favourite illustrations, it would be like meeting an old familiar friend. I loved that book!

From the library… well, I used to go with my dad to the British Council Library in Dar es Salaam and get one book from his quota (kids weren’t allowed membership then) of three… and it was never enough. I remember reading an entire series of fairy tales/myths, each book named after a colour - “The Green Story Book”, “The Yellow Story Book”, “The Lilac Story Book” and so on. The lilac one was my favourite because I learnt a new colour and it turned out to be a pretty one!

What's the first book that you bought with your own money?
Jeez… not a clue. If you consider birthday money to be “my own money”, then the first book I bought was probably “The Hamlyn Book of Great Children’s Stories” – all excerpts from various novels, some of which I managed to track down when I got older because ALL those excerpts were intriguing! I should really source that book, so that I have the complete list of books by authors whose names I’ve forgotten. It was a long time ago, that book.

Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I was a re-reader, I am a re-reader, I will always be a re-reader. Which book? Probably half a library’s worth. There isn’t any one book, there are loads of books… but if you define “child” as less than 7 years old, then I’ll go for Richard Scarry again.

What's the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
I was in the 3rd or 4th standard, I suppose, and it was a book about a long-distance truck driver whose cargo was a highly explosive material – nitroglycerine, I think. What I remember best from that book was the bit about how the drivers had to get across a long road that had a series of small ridges all the way (maybe it was set in some wasteland?). Nitro was not meant to be jiggled about (it was highly explosive material), so bad roads meant sudden death from sudden explosions. So what our hero did was get the truck to the optimum speed which would make the tyres on the truck “skim” the ridges without bumping the cargo, and then maintain that speed all the way through to his destination. He managed it the first time around, but died at the end. I didn’t like that ending. I dont remember the name of the book or the author, unfortunately.

Another adult book I read around that time and remember vividly, both book and author, was Arthur Hailey’s “The Final Diagnosis”. Guess I was rather precocious when it came to reading matter!

Are there children's books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Hmm… all the books that I loved as a child, I mostly still love as an adult. I don’t think I bypassed any book that came my way, except for Enid Blyton’s “Secret Seven” series which I hated as a child and loathe as an adult. I cant think of any kids books that I didn’t like as a kid but learned to love as an adult.

Note: Anybody who wishes to do this tag, consider yourself volunteered! Please let me know you've done it, b'cos I'd love to read your post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A show of force - but only a show

I’ve been watching a TV programme called “UK Border Force” for the last few weeks, and it’s been pretty interesting on the whole. The officers working for the Immigration Dept come across as sympathetic, polite and even empathetic to the illegal immigrants they are meant to root out. Maybe it’s because their every action is being filmed and they’re careful about how they behave and what they say; maybe it’s been edited to show the nice side of these guys… but on the whole, I don’t believe that’s the case. (Yes, my cynical muscle was VERY surprised at being given an unexpected rest!)

The most interesting parts of the programme were how the immigration officers at Heathrow and other airports dealt with those they suspected of trying to enter the UK under false pretences. They were unfailingly polite even when it was obvious that pseudo students were lying through their teeth, blatantly stating that it was the colleges that were lying about their non-attendance of classes, and so on. (One of them even acted surprised when the “college” he was supposedly attending was confirmed as bogus by the officials – there was no college by that name, there was only an accomplice at the other end, pretending to be one of the staff!)

It takes immense patience to deal with such people day after day, I should imagine, and I was really impressed with the demeanour of the officials doing the interviews. They were a whole lot more polite than the little Hitlers working at the consulates in India, that’s for sure. I don’t think I could last 15 minutes of having to deal with these people without blowing a gasket, but these guys never lost their temper.

Anyway, much as I found the programme interesting, there were a few things that bothered me. The main one is that the effort, time and, presumably, money spent by the Border Force in rounding up overstayers and other illegals seemed pretty much a waste most of the time. For instance, at Calais Port, any illegal immigrants who were found hiding in the lorries that came through Customs were just let off by the British officials and the French police merely looked the other way. (Sometimes, but not always, the lorry drivers were fined.) Obviously the French authorities couldn’t care less about all those people openly living rough near the port, waiting for a chance to enter the UK. (Not that I think the would-be immigrants should be imprisoned, but there’s got to be some better way of dealing with this problem?)

What really got me is that for all the effort put into finding illegal immigrants, the officers could do pretty much nothing about sending them back. As emphasized over and over again in the programme, if the officers cannot find any identification (such as a passport or other papers), the illegals cannot be sent back to their home country. What's the point going after them? Maybe one in about a dozen gets sent back - eventually - to wherever he/she comes from. The others are basically let off again, with instructions to report to the local police station every week until their case is sorted. Yeah, right. No surprise that the majority of them vanish once again beneath the official radar.

Owners of “Indian” restaurants who employ illegals are fined a certain amount for each illegal caught there, and that’s it, really. Is that the best the authorities can do to employers who knowingly employ people who aren’t allowed to work in the UK, who shouldn’t even be here in the first place? Why not impose more stringent punishment on them as a deterrent? Hell, there are places that have been raided more than once, and I'm sure the owners have contingency funds set aside to cover any fines that might have to be paid! They would know the drill, wouldn't they?

And as for illegal car washing people found in supermarket parking lots, why not fine the supermarkets for letting them work there? Or for not stopping them working there? If the mega stores were threatened with hefty fines for every illegal worker found working in their stores, or even within their curtilage, I’m sure that the stores would do a much more efficient job of preventing them than any government department!

One of the places raided by the Immigration officials in the final episode of the series was Mushtaq’s, a large sweet shop in the Spark Hill (or Spark Brook?) area of Birmingham. I’ve been there once, to see if their goods were any good – unfortunately the sweets were below standard. Even their fresh jilebis and samosas were rather awful. I’d decided not to go back there anyway, and this programme set the seal on that decision. I shall stick to Suraj Sweet Centre (pure vegetarian) for all my jilebi requirements. I have explored most of the sweet shops in the area, Mushtaq’s being the last, and none of them are in the same class as Suraj’s. Three cheers for Suresh at Suraj’s!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Scandalous"

What is a scandal?

Dictionary definition:
1. a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.
2. an offense caused by a fault or misdeed.
3. damage to reputation; public disgrace.
4. defamatory talk; malicious gossip.
5. a person whose conduct brings disgrace or offense.

What is a scandal?

- Barack Obama’s aunt living as an illegal in Boston?
- Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand making idiots of themselves by making obscene phone calls?
- Some supermodel wearing footwear deemed unsuitable for her outfit?
- Celebrity shrink Raj Persaud admitting to plagiarism?
- Politicians who are open to being bribed?
- A woman who suffocated her 3-year-old son because he was an impediment in her social life?
- Celebrities who have affairs and break up theirs and others’ marriages?
- Prince Charles advocating people to “go green” while flitting about the world himself on private aircraft?
- Letting Robert Mugabe continue to rule in Zimbabwe, thereby condemning millions of Zimbabweans to poverty and misery, even though Mugabe is at least as bad as Saddam Hussein ever was, if not worse?
- Hate attacks by MNS followers on non-Maharashtrians?
- Asif Zardari becoming President in Pakistan?

What is a scandal? Any of these? Some of these? All of these? None of these, even? A scandal is only as shocking as people consider it to be, and something comes as a shock only if people are unused to it. Of late, nothing seems to faze the public any more. Nothing is shocking for longer than it takes to turn a page or flip to another channel or hop to another website.

Scandals don’t have a lasting effect on anybody – not the perpetrators, not the disseminators, not the public. Those who have been caught out doing something wrong are no longer ashamed of it – no, they just go on TV chat shows and become celebrities. The few who do face retribution usually bounce back and resume their former lifestyle just as if nothing had ever happened.

What is a scandal?

The fact that nothing is really a scandal any more. THAT is scandalous.