Saturday, July 15, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Butterfruit = avocado
Finger Chips = French fries
Jerkin = rain-resistant windbreaker
Is it? = What? / Is that so?
Sweeper = bathroom cleaner / code term for Untouchable or Dalit
NRI = non-resident Indian, or Desi

Recently my friend Patel and I had some illuminating conversations. The first took place on his motorcycle, after we saw the fillum Krrish. P. is wearing a bright red jerkin with the words "I Support the Agricultural Strike" emblazend across the back. We'd just passed one of those three-wheelers with a loudspeaker going full stop. It was so loud you could not make out the words even if you did speak the language. The man was raging about something in Kannada; it sounded something like "BUGABOO BUGABOO BUGABOO-ALOO PINDI BINDI YAYNO BUGABOO-ALOO" and seemed very angry and forceful. You see and hear these things all the time here, but I never know what they're actually saying....

CACA: Is that man calling for the overthrow of the government?

P: Is it?

CACA: What is that voice saying? Is that fellow calling for revolution?

P: What? Revolution? What?

CACA: Is that man calling for a revolution? Or is he telling people to buy lottery tickets?

P: What?

CACA: Lottery tickets? New government? Which?

P: What?

CACA: That man on the loudspeaker. What is he saying?

P: Oh! That!

CACA: Yes!

P: (listening intently) They are selling.

CACA: (disappointed) Oh.


The motorcycle passes a man standing on the side of the road, facing a field. In his right hand he holds a burning cigarette. In the other is his skin flute, from which spurts a pale yellow stream of urine. The arc is high.

CACA: (laughing) That man is multi-tasking!

P: What? What is funny?

CACA: That man back there! He was multi-tasking!

P: Which man?

CACA: The one who was smoking and peeing.

P: (laughing) Oh. That man. Yes.

CACA: He is mult-tasking.

P: He is what?

CACA: He is doing two things at the same time.

P: (laughing politely) Oh.

Later, at the Kaveri Lodge. P. is still wearing the Commie red "I support the Agricultural Strike" jacket

P: I am glad Italy has won [the World Cup].

C: Why?

P: Hitler.


P: I like Hitler.

C: (thinking he is mispronouncing someone's name): Is that a player? Is it the goalie?

P: No, Hitler.

C: Adolph Hitler?

P: Yes, that.

C: (annoyed) He was in Germany. Mussolini was from Italy.

P: Is it? No.

C: Yes, Hitler was in Germany.

P: Oh

C: Hitler???? Why do you like him?

P: Everyone knows his name. That is what I want.

C: They know his name because he was evil.

P: What? Some of the things he said I like.

C: What??? Like what?

P: He came from poor peoples and made a name for himself.

C: Yes, by killing many, many people.

P: What?

C: Don't you know about Hitler?

P: He came from poor peoples and his name is known. I want my name known.

C: That is a bad way to be known. Very, very bad. Hitler was evil. A bad man. Worst man. Killed many people.

P: Is it?

C: Yes. (beat) Who will you kill first? The sweepers? The Brahmins? Which group do you want to get rid of?

P: What?

C: Hitler rounded up a certain type of person and killed all of them.

P: What??

C: He killed many people.

P: Oh.

C: Choose someone else. Anyone else. What about Mittal (NRI steel magnate)? Tata? (autos, steel, tea, etc.) Murthy? (Infosys). Even Bill Gates would be better.

P: When I become rich I will give to poor peoples, 60/40.

C: Just as long as you don't become like Hitler....


*Hitler is also a brand-name for a gym shoe. I took a snap of a pair outside of Aunties in 2004.... and the photo never turned out. Hmmmmm......

**I told P. to tell Jammu about his love of Hitler (Jammu was raised Jewish). Actually she brought it up after I told her about our convo. She explained it far better than I. She gleaned from him that Hitler is portrayed in movies here as a great military leader, and that was where P. was getting his info. She also talked P into seeing Schindler's List with her. No dancing in that one....


  1. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I thought Indians were supposed to be better educated than that?

  2. Anonymous1:50 PM

    "She gleaned from him that Hitler is portrayed in movies here as a great military leader, and that was where P. was getting his info".

    I am sorry, I am yet to see one Indian movie where Hitler was portrayed as a great leader. Either this guy is ignorant of world history or simply acting silly. It is appalling to say the least. Maybe he is BJP/RSS supporter?


  3. Sitcom Guy9:47 AM

    The exchange about wanting to be like Hitler because everyone knew his name was laugh-out-loud funny. Sitcom funny. Hmmm...

  4. He might have seen one or two movies in which Hitler (Nazi Germany after all gave succour to those Indian freedom-fighters who wanted a more robust attack on British Rule) was protrayed in a vaguely sympathetic way.

    There's an element of subjectivity. Hitler's judged by History correctly as a nasty piece of work. But Stalin (Uncle Joe) and Mao killed probably more. And how much better really was even Truman who ordered the bombing of Nagasaki (of no military or industrial strategic consequence whatsoever)?

    Also. For Vignesh - 22% of India's electorate voted BJP in the 2004 election (Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, and yes...even Muslims among them). A pity that you should characterise them and the Party they supported as fascists. The BJP's a 'broad church' of the Indian right - as such it undoubtedly includes some pretty unsavoury characters. But I'd suggest that the vast majority of it's supporters are decent tolerant folk looking for an alternative to the party that largely squandered Free India's first 50 years.