Nothing is what it seems

In a previous post I mentioned how the pretentious, jazzed up descriptions of French food on cooking shows like Top Chef irk me. Like calling a stock of onions, celery and carrots a Mirepoix. Or chicken wrapped in bacon as chicken barded in bacon. The worst is a francese of veal – veal dipped in flour, egg, breaded and fried. It’s a schnitzil.  I do that every other week with chicken breast.

But sometimes in life you can’t really say the thing you want to say. Maybe you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings so you say, “It’s me, not you”. What you actually mean is, “It is partly me, and a whole lot of other quirky shit of yours that I can’t deal with.” When someone asks you if you are free for dinner on Saturday night and you say, “I’m 25% sure I can make it.”  That just means “I’m 75% sure I can find something better to do than hang out with you on a Saturday night.”

In bureucracy, you have to creatively use the English language if you want to get things done . The Indian government’s rules on what offices can and cannot procure, construct or install is vast, outdated and slow to react to changing circumstances. For instance if a new building is constructed for a Unit and offices in that building require air-conditioners you cannot just go out and buy one because the Indian government, who although sanctioned the funds for the new build have not updated the rule that each Unit can only procure a certain number of air- conditioners whose quota was exhausted in the previous build. So the unit in question will not apply for an air-conditioner but instead put in an application to purchase an Ambient Temperature Regulating and De-humidifying Machine.

The building will also be stocked with personnel who need computers to work on. But you can’t buy any more computers but what you can buy is an Advanced Calculating and Information Storage and Retrieval Device. Every office needs an Information Transmission and Receiving Apparatus or a Fax machine to you and me. And every office block needs a car park but there are only funds for a Stationary Vehicle Arrangement Area. That’s like calling my TV’s remote control a Distance Activator. Naval residential areas are only allowed one swimming pool. And even if they build 500 more houses in a totally different area you cannot ask for funds to build a swimming pool. You could probably tell the government we require a Water Reservoir for Exercise and Training Purpose and then get yourself a pool for the kiddies.

I find that it’s not just the government of India. When EU leaders say they are going to take ‘decisive action’ on Greece, what they really mean is that they are going to sit around in plush 18th century buildings lit by thousands of chandeliers, eating canapés of Kobe beef prolonging coming to any decision because no consensus can ever be reached anyway. So might as well enjoy the canapés. When Rupert Murdoch says he did not know about the phone hacking what he really means is that he knew all along but he’s pushing 80 and just wants to shack up with his hot young Thai wife.

Nothing is what it seems. In India a red light does not always mean stop. Many motorists take it to mean “Speed up and squeeze past as fast as you can.” Just like Speed, Time is also an entirely different concept to Indians. When my dear husband was in Russian and his Unit had an appointment with Russian colleagues the Russians would always ask if they would be arriving in “Induski 5 minutes or Ruski 5 minutes” (Indian version of 5 minutes, which is half an hour or Russian 5 minutes, which is 4 minutes). Space also takes on a new form in India. On trains, buses and now group or sharing autos (up to 12 at a time on one count) one is always requested to “adjust” which means “If you can move one  butt cheek off the seat then I can have my one butt cheek on the seat.”

One has to bend the mind and squint the eyes to appreciate the ordered chaos and near misses that are the physical laws that anchor the Indian life in an orbit of its own. If an attempt at order is what you’re looking for, check out this sign we saw on holiday in Russia, St.Petersberg

Sign in Russia – Click to enlarge


About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden.
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