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Monday, July 18, 2005

Entropy in the UK / Bloody Hell in America

The Voice of Fate: Hrrmph, hrrmph (testing). The United Kingdom is one of the most fascinating places to visit. A nation with a glorious and proud history of conquering savage lands and showing them the light, as far as civilisation is concerned. The British can today rest easily knowing that the quintessential British culture has taken root in among all the world's enlightened people. So it is only natural for the native son of one such inferior race to wish to view first hand, the people who, out of the goodness of their hearts, converted him and his people from naked cavemen into propah gentlemen. Right then - so while this young lad tells you of his enlightening trip to the motherlode of culture, I'll carry on and grab meself some chicken tikka masala while I catch the latest episode of Law & Order. Cheerio.

Uncivilised Native: Indeed, one has heard so much about this land, that it would be shameful to pass up a chance to visit it. After a whirlwind tour of the island of Great Britain, here are some thoughts that I would like to share.

To begin with, for the benefit of those in my current land of residence, let me point out that language can be a problem for visitors from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Though both the Americans and the English claim to speak English, there are enough subtleties that you need to be aware of. So, I shall start with a list of Do's and Dont's

Things an American should not say in the UK.

  1. Man, I am so pissed!
  2. Do I want a fag?? What do I look like - queer??
  3. Why yes, miss, I'd love some shag. Haven't smoked in ages.
  4. I love football! What's your team?
  5. Whaddaya mean, poor? I'm from the richest country in the motherfucking world! Get that right, assholes!
  6. I asked for dessert, not genital warts!
  7. So, I'm like, I totally like, like this guy. I mean like, "like-like", not like "like". And he was like "I fancy you". And I'm like, what is THAT? Like some, like code word or something?
  8. Yeah - you're mates, right. So thats like mating. So, why did you say you weren't?
  9. You suck big time!

Right, now that we've got the basics out of the way, lets get with the programme.

First of all,England is a very interesting country indeed. And for those of you who thought that all white people are basically the same - more so white people who profess to speak the same language - you couldn't be more... right!

Sadly, since the Boston tea party, its been downhill for the British. With their unparalleled arsenal that combines cheap burger joints with tales of the sexually unsatisfied Hausfrau; the Americans have won this one decisively. The baseball-ification of cricket (also known as 20-20), is merely the final slap on the face of the former empire.

However, there are some differences that are striking between these two cousins separated by a common language. I shall list them out for brevity's sake.

Notable differences on either side of the pond:

  1. A British accent will get you laid in the States. An American accent will get you patronising glances in the UK. (NB: An Indian accent will get you nowhere in either country).
  2. The legal drinking age is 16! And they serve subsidised booze in pubs on college campuses! AND they sell porn magazines alongside textbooks in college bookstores!!! (The upshot of this being that British teenagers indulge in drunken orgies DURING the school year and authorities have serious problems battling date rape, DUI and disorderliness. Quite... unlike... American teena.... Ummm - cancel that difference.)
  3. British cops don't reach for their sidearms when you ask for directions. They don't wallop you if you provoke them. They don't suggest you had sexual congress with your mother while pulling you over. They ask robbers if they're all right before arresting them. To top it all, they also have a sense of humour!!!! (OK - this one REALLY threw me. Its the first genuine difference I've come up with and I think I will dedicate a post to it.)
  4. I'm sure there must be more differences - Ha! Got one! All BORDERS outlets in the UK serve Starbucks coffee. (Why is that relevant? Well, in the USA Starbucks is served at Barnes&Noble, which is Borders' chief rival - see. Umm, and the fact that all the above are American corporations shouldn't really matter. Neither should the fact that they actually serve COFFEE over TEA in a bookstore in Britain matter)

Oh all right - they're really not different at all. But I will admit that I learnt a few new things during my trip. Once more they are enumerated below.

Fascinating concepts I was introduced to:

  1. Sudoku - (Finally! An activity for those too dumb to do the Times cryptic on their way to work)
  2. Black Pudding - (Neither black nor pudding)
  3. Yobs - (Proving the British have not lost their propensity for clever wordplay)
  4. Happy Slapping - (The reason Mallika Sherawat is NOT the president of the MMS-haters club)
  5. Henman Hill/Murray Mount - (Idolatry of minor Gods that puts Temple Naghma to shame)
  6. Happy Frog Ringtone - (...)
  7. Balti Chicken - (The latest in the line of Indian dishes that no Indian has ever heard of)
  8. Paki Bastard - (Me, apparently. Maybe it was the beard, or the green kurta. Or maybe not)
  9. Tesco's - (Britons' favourite pastime)

The best part of the trip perhaps, was a little sojourn into the Welsh countryside. For the benefit of the Americans, Welsh are these funny people, who are basically Scots in trousers and without the endearing accent or sex appeal. Very scenic place is Wales, but I think that of all the Celtic races, they are the least likely to form a little nation of their own (in spite of having a Hollywood star espuse their cause). In short:

Reason why the Welsh will never be able to throw off the oppressive yoke of their English conquerors: Their pathological aversion to vowels.

No, seriously - the Welsh word for "visitor", for example, has ten consecutive consonants. How they manage to communicate at all is beyond me. A liesurely chat between two co-workers would go something like this

"Hyllw thr. Dyd yw c thw lytst Cythryn Zytr Jwnz mwvy?"

See what I mean?
For the want of a vowel (2 actually), the bttl was lost.

But its not only the Welsh who will never fulfill their ambitions of independence. The English - in spite of what they tell themselves - are firmly and obsolutely under the thumb of their former colonies. Furthermore they are likely to stay this way. To end, I shall point out why the English will never manage to regain their independence from foreign influence, or:

Why this Empire will not strike back

  1. Their number one song is a ringtone. (No, seriously. Those little beeps that just disturb your concentration during the movie are now an art form)
  2. Unlike Americans and Indians, their movie industry is not worth a mention. They don't even watch their own movies, instead preferring to rent out DVD's of old Hollywood (and Bollywood) hits. How do they expect to conquer nations that think of them either as lousy cricketers who sledge in poorly-accented Hindi, or as wizards who run into platform walls?
  3. Nobody's heard of IMDB. And they call Americans ill-informed (see above).
  4. The country is so damn small, they don't see the need to have sleeper coaches. (Whoa! T-I-N-Y)
  5. Southall.
  6. Bhangra. See above.
  7. Their number one song is a ringtone. (Wait wait, I don't think you've got the import of this. Its a RINGTONE for Chrissakes)
  8. They need to get drunk before asking people out. And they don't understand the concept of picking people up in supermarkets/churches/libraries. Clearly they don't get enough sex.
  9. They invented every known major sport in the world (except Golf and Basketball), but can't win at ANY of them.
  10. Tim Henman is a hero. (And you thought TOI(let paper) was making an unnecessarily big deal out of Sania Mirza.)
  11. British women. (Sorry, but its true)
  12. Tony Blair.
  13. Their number one song is a RINGTONE! Don't you see how ridiculous that is. God!! This could be the death-knell for iPods. You could start a party by just phoning random people. The mind boggles!!!

So ended a wonderful little break in the land that gave us GMT, P.G. Wodehouse and not much else. Refreshing though, the break was, I was quite looking forward to the pleasant shores to the West. Two weeks of stuffing myself with every conceivable form of animal product from every conceivable animal does take its toll on the system (Edit - I am now a vegetarian). And two incidents of racial abuse over two weeks in the UK, compared to none over two weeks in the US, made it quite clear where I'd rather live given a choice. That and the money.

But there was more to come. After my flight landed in Newark Liberty Airport, I had another 4 days of vacation before I returned to my beloved Chi-town. The major part of this was spent in New York, New York - the city that never sleeps (alone). In this vibrant metropolis, here is what transpired.

Home Stretch

  1. Number of six-foot tall African-American gentlemen with vice-like grips, named Saladin, with the self-confessed claim to fame of "breaking nigga's bones", who requested the contents of my wallet at 4 a.m. in East Harlem, New York City: 1
  2. Number of six-foot tall African-American gentlemen with vice-like grips, named Saladin, with the self-confessed claim to fame of "breaking nigga's bones", whom I convinced to not separate me from contents of the aforementioned wallet: 1
  3. Approximate difference in weight of the two protagonists above: 70 lb
  4. Approximate difference in blood alcohol content of the same: 0.02
  5. Parting words of above gentleman: "Yo' just playin' games wit' me, man."

(Yeah! Give it up for the GAMESMASTER!! Who da man!)

Money saved in the process: $6.00

Next stop was the city of brotherly love where, appropriately enough, I was treated to the following:

  1. Number of times I was referred to as "brother" or an equivalent expression in Philadelphia during a 4-hour stay: 10
  2. Number of teenyboppers heading for the Live 8 Concert in Philly, according to a friendly policeman: 1.5 million
  3. Number of minutes the train from the Amtrak station to the Philadelphia airport was delayed by: 57
  4. Amount paid to desi cabbie to make the aforementioned trip: $20.00

The final act in this wicked game was played out back home in Evanston, Illinois - a peaceful, upper-class suburb of the Windy City.

  1. Number of mild-mannered Indian monks named Anil with funky 'Om' T-shirts and sing-song voices who attempted to introduce me to the wonders of yoga at 1 p.m. in downtown Evanston, Illinois: 1
  2. Number of mild-mannered Indian monks named Anil with funky 'Om' T-shirts and sing-song voices who successfully parted me from half the money in my wallet: 1
  3. Money lost in the process: $7.00

(Methinks this is the time to rethink the nomenclature. Something along the lines of SUCKER would do. Suggestions are invited).

Balance Sheet: -$1.00

Here ends my little travelogue. I hope you enjoyed it too. Now back to work. They don't pay me a stipend for doing nothing. (They do actually, but thats another matter). Hopefully, this will keep the Vulpes Biblios (resident of Calcutta and Bangalore) at bay for another week.

Tally ho, and pip pip!