Monday, April 30, 2007

Ten million, and I was the fastest?

DELHI (Apr 30) Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present the chronicles of one of the nation's supposedly crème de la crème.

This guy, India's hope, is trying to use his dashing new washing machine for the second time. All is hunky dory, the wash-cycle is on, only 38 minutes remain, the dude eats his dinner in peace, and waits for the washing to finish.

Only it doesn't. A trip to the machine reveals that it is stuck at 22 minutes and the rinse cycle is desperately trying to start. The spin cycle which comes after it has no chance in heaven. Totally flummoxed, the dude opens the lid and surveys the scene. Two seconds after watching the filthy goo floating around the tub, it strikes him. All his clothing posessions are in that tub, and if the #@%!@#$## machine doesn't resume, then his idea of Casual Tuesdays will become a tad more than just an idea.

Desperate, he tries Plan A, also known as the Microsoft Windows Plan. It involves switching the machine on and off rapidly enough to beat the living daylights out of the poor microchip but not fast enough to actually cause a meltdown. Just like Microsoft Windows, the plan doesn't work.

Switching to Plan B, he tries the mechanical way of things. That of physically knudging the tub clockwise to incite it to rotate. A gentle, and later, a harder nudge on the side is also added as an extra bit of measure. The tub, however, has other plans, mostly involving cosying up to the electric motor and spending quiet quality time of stillness amidst all the washing frenzy. Beads of nervous perspiration quietly form on the dude's forehead.

The time comes for Plan C. This mostly involves reading the manual (or RTFM as we comp geeks call it). Now real men never read the manual. Infact real men would rather sever their reproductive organs and neatly wrap them in cellophane than read the manual. The first thing that real men do when they buy an appliance is to roll joints from the manual's paper. But obviously real men haven't ever been forced in an only-baniyan-and-shorts-to-wear situation. So dude searches for the manual, only to discover that the manual is at a friend's house. Panic starts settling in, as even the internet refuses to locate an online manual. It is 10:45pm and uneasiness grips the dude, and understandably, he feels the need to use the restroom.

Plan D is now employed. It is not so much as a plan, rather a ritual. Consisting mostly of cuss words, about how this Indian nation can't prosper if they make crappy machines like these, and how LG sucks bigtime, and how he's gonna stick it to those lousy customer reps and service engineers, and how the dealer is gonna get more than an earful. The censor has a hard time bleeping out the diatribe. Totally exhausted after this verbal diarrhoea, the foolproof Plan E is now rolled into action.

That of physically transferring the clothes to a bucket and rinsing them manually. Totally shattered, the dude starts his ordeal and manages to clean all but one piece of cloth in a seemingly endless stretch of 20 minutes so far. It is then that he realizes that the drain pipe of the machine is still hooked vertically up instead of lying down by the drain.

Mixed feelings of euphoria, relief, shame, and anger rush in instantly. The Hindi phrase kaato-to-khoon-nahi seems apt for the situation. The drain pipe is unhooked, the cycle finishes, the machine beeps gleefully and everything is silent once more. Everything. Except the shattering of the pride.

Tomorrow I shall shave with Occam's razor.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The New Jersey Turnpike

[Warning: Not for those who are afraid of turnpikes, or for that matter, footnotes]

DELHI (Apr 12):
Us citizens, tourists and expats living in this allegedly great nation have to ask this question once and for all: Do we have to report every lame-wad news such as this?

Now I have read the news that I trashed, and evidently managing the New Jersey Turnpike is a big thing. So, I will no longer trash the above mentioned news item, and instead recount what happened to be the eighteenth most memorable incident in my life 1.

It so happened that during the last fourth of July weekend, I found myself in the New York City area. In the past, I have found myself explaining my driving to a cop, sharing a bed with a fellow friend, programming on a calculator or doing something equally disgusting, but this was different. I was in the US for a conference and halted in NYC at a friend's place. Well technically it was across the river in New Jersey, but thats one tinsy tidbit the East Coast NRIs conveniently forget to mention in their tourist brochures.

Another one of my friend was driving alone from Toronto, little knowing that he would initiate a ghastly sequence of events in the hours to come2. Being a true follower of Murphy's Law, he covered 485 miles out of 500 without any glitch, making only one stop on the way -- to buy an adult diaper. It was at the crucial mile no. 485, that he decided that he was lost 'somewhere around the Alexander Hamilton Service Station' and called us to come pick him up. Now that was a wise thing to do (calling us, not getting lost), and one would assume that a rescue mission would be trivial. Well, one would assume wrong.

My NYC New Jersey friend and I took a cab and left for the fateful Alexander Hamilton Service Station (AHSS). After driving for 20 minutes, we realized that the Hispanic cabbie knew more about rap music (which was blaring loudly in our ears throughout)3 than the AHSS. Ofcourse, his prison tattoos and his 300 pound physique precluded any questions from our side. We figured that a guy like him would never need to go to a service station, he would just lift the car with one hand, look underneath the chassis and repair the fault with the other hand4.

So we reached the famous turnpike and saw a deadly sight. That of a zombie black African-American tollbooth operator waiting to pounce on us and rip our kidneys apart unless we paid the 1$ toll. After the driver duly paid the toll 5 and crossed over, he realized that he had come the wrong way. Two miles and a U-turn later, we paid the toll again, and precisely six minutes later, we landed at the exact tollbooth again, manned by the same operator from hell. Unfortunately, this was not our last rendezvous with the tollbooth, and like a toll-addict, we made six more stops at the exact same booth. The operator had begun to wonder if we wanted to ask him out but were too shy to ask. If anyone was watching from above, s/he would think that we were doing F1 laps, except that our Ford model cab was so dilapidated that even Henry Ford himself would have felt ashamed to step into it.

Meanwhile, our Canadian friend had called up a gazillion times asking for our status, liberally sprinkling his queries with the four letter word. So after swallowing his burrito and then his ego, the cabbie finally decided to ask a local for directions. Only that it was around midnight, and the local turned out to be a 60-year old African-American6 crack addict, and the neighborhood turned out to be a ghetto. I mentally prepared to ask the question -- "If you don't shoot or mug me or try to sell me crack, can I ask you where the AHSS is?", but luckily our cabbie did the honours -- by furiously banging on the crackhead's car and asking "YO!! 'SSUP? Y'ALL KNOW WHERE THE ALEXANDER HAMILTON STATION IS??". The dude pointed us towards the direction, and we drove off before he could ask us for any spare change.

All was finally well, we picked up our friend one hour after we had promised we would, and as a reward we got our butts kicked and got to eat his prized leftover chips. And for old times sake, we took the NJ Turnpike on the way back and paid a 1$ toll for, what I hope, the last time in my life.

1 As an ex-IITian, I reserve the right to publish a highly mediocre book about my top ten, so don't wait up for me to blog about them. The title of the book will be on the lines of "Anything for a night with five point something ma'am at a call center", so something equally risque.

2 Eight hours to be precise. He passed time via eating chips and refueling his car. Or did his car pass time by gorging on Lays and feeding him gasoline? I really cannot recall.

3 Thanks to rap music, I realized that every girl in New Jersey is a bitch or a ho'.

4 All the while eating a burrito. Yes, we believe in racial stereotyping. I have personally taken a 2-week stereotyping course.

5 For some reason, he had a roll of 1$ bills. We thought he was taking us to a stripclub containing some of them bitches and ho's.

6 Well la di da! I feel so politically correct now.