Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sardines in a car

Activities that are built to entertain me in classy and well-meaning ways have never had much of an impact on me. I prefer to be amused and entertained by the simple and unexpected events, even if they cause me discomfort.

In my many trips back to India one such event that I’ve grown to love is what I call the Impossibly Packed Car Ride. It works like this.

You’re hanging out at a Mall, with some relatives. There are three adults including yourself and five kids between 10 and 3 years of age. You are joined by a cousin who is to give you a ride home. Boy, you tell yourself, I had no idea my cousin made so much money that he would own a huge van.

Cuz shows up in a Hyundai Santro. Hmm….you think: where is the other car? Turns up that is the car all nine of you are riding home in. In my days of past as The Annoying NRI, I would have protested. But these days I whoop and jump right in the middle ready to get crushed by everyone.

Against all odds, everyone is accomodated. There are children in every lap – heck, even the children have children on their laps. One of them is screaming his head off. And to save gas, you just took a shortcut through what is known as roller-coaster gulley – a road so filled with potholes from nearby apartment megaplex construction that the children involuntarily exchange laps from the jerks.

I’m not being sarcastic – I’ve become extremely fond of this near-ritual. I like this virtual invasion of personal space as long as the people are related to me in some way.

There are limits to my capacity for entertainment as well. I have problems with extreme closeness with strangers. I still get annoyed when the person behind me in line stands so close it feels like he’s right up my butt. And I haven’t ventured on a local train in Mumbai in years to experience the People-Juicer.

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29 comments:

Saritha said...

We once managed to fit 14 people in Premier Padmini-2 Adults and 12 kids.It' an advantage with the older cars where there's sofa like seat in the front too as opposed to 2(driver and passenger) seats.So like you said,there were children on children.A 3 yr old was sitting on an 8 yr old who was sitting on a 14 yr old.LOL.

I can't imagine how we managed to do that,but that was 1990.I am surprised to know they still do it.Frankly,it's lot of fun to pop out of the car and talk of how badly someone stepped on ur feet and there's no way to know who did that.ha ha

Aspi,I am starting to love ur non-tv posts.You should write more.

Anonymous said...

Aspi, you have me in splits ...
as Saritha says , please write more non TV posts too..U ROCK!!

Joules said...

Your "Annoying NRI" bit sounds so familiar. I wonder if every NRI goes through it.

I did that the first three times I went to India in the early 90s: the bottled water, cant eat from the stalls on the side of road, people dont wear seat belts here, cars are too small, people keep brushing against you. Since then I am not sure what's changed: Delhi or my longing to be in India.

I drink and eat anything any normal Indian would and travel the same way. Other than airports and airlines I am usually amused in the most uncomfortable situations.

SkD said...

LMAO!Joules, i can totally relate to that!!I kept thinkin my indian cuzins r LS...wud like to add to ur descriptions....no tissues at de dining table..or the washroom...no western style commode....no AC...and omgudness...FLIES!!EVERYWHERE!!!Not to forget those stinky taxiwalas....GOBAR...LOLZ...mann....sheesh..now its the oder way around now...i miss India:(

Saritha said...

*Different Topic*

When you hear a lot of people,that includes practically everyone you met,say that certain movie is good-the expectations are really high when you finally get a chance to catch the flick.Surprisingly,'Jab We met',indeed met with those expectations.

A refreshing tale of a high-spirited girl meets a down in dumps boy and how it affects their life.The director seem to have been in charge of practically everything right from the second he wrote the script.He takes you on a subtle,simple,feel-good,breezy romantic ride keeping tab on the lead actors,making sure that they remain Geet and Aditya through out the movie.You don't want to believe that these are the same actors who went overboard in movies like 'K3G' and 'Dil maange more'.

THis entirely belongs to three people-Kareena,Shahid and Imtiaz.

Geet's exuberance is so infectious that you feel for her when she is learning the lessons of the life in a harder way during the post-interval part-where she forgets to smile.The best scenes or lines were written for Kareena and she turned out to be the perfect Geet.

Shahid improved in leaps and bounds.From an annoying teenager(was he one,when he started off?) who imitated every leading actor from Sharukh to Hrithik(he didn't spare even Govinda),he now evolved as a matured and composed actor in this one.The scene where he finally meets Geet in Shimla-the first 15 secs show how much he's in love with the girl.

I've seen Imtiaz's Socha na tha and felt 'Iss ne sach mein socha na tha ki kya karen'.Here he won half the battle with right casting.Even the manager,in that hotel scene,who has only 2 lines,does a brilliant job with his expressions.Most of the lines between Shahid and Kareena are so simple and realistic that you know that they could well be from your own college or community.

A couple of scenes before the climax,a place where most of the directors,old and new,tend to fall in a rut,Imtiaz quickly proceeds to end it in a predictable but cheerful manner,without wasting much time.The plus point with new directors is that they can experiment and succeed if they have their heart at the right place.

And a special mention abt Dara Singh-You can't help but laugh and adore him every time he's on screen .

Except for 'Mauja hi Muaja',I never heard the soundtrack and still I loved the way they were placed appropriately without harming the pace.

Saritha said...

hang me,that's soooooooo long.:D

Joules said...

Saritha, I felt the same way watching the movie. I actually had liked Imtiaz's Socha Na Tha and Ahista.. I saw a lot of promise in the director. He can tell simple love stories well.

The role fit Kareena to a T so it was'nt surprising that she acted well (although she could have over acted). I was blown away with Shahid's acting - when he cracks a smile while not trying to at the hotel, the relief on his face when he lets go of his ex girlfriend.

The end definitely deserves kudos - the director stayed away from the prolonged DDLJ kind of ending.

Also Anshuman's role deserves a mention. He was hilarious.

anu g said...

Lol Aspi. U have described the Great indian ride so beautifully.As Saritha says, some more posts on these non-topics please.

anu g said...

Saritha and Joules, I totally agree with u. In my case, I had no expectations, so the first time I saw it,I simply loved it.....goes to show simple feel-good romantic stories still work.
Saritha, what a lovely review. I feel like watching it all over again!

anu g said...

I was in Chennai last week, and my cousin had come down from Singapore.We decided to go to the beach, and were discussing how we would manage to reach. He had borrowed a simple Maruti 800. But he said 'What the hell! We need to spend time together on the journey, so lets all fit in.....4 adults and 4 teenager kids, and as Punjabis say 'healthy' ones too.....the car was just groaning under the weight,. But it was such great fun,we all went chat-chat,the kids played antakshari,people howled when someone moved even a finger, everyone shouted whenever there was a speed-breaker...it was chaos, but great great fun.

anu g said...

Since I am going to be away for a week I'd like to wish Lady Drift, Junior Drifts, Aspi(er,Lord Drift?), and all my pals here a very happy new year. May all your dreams come true.Thanks for making my life more fun!

Aspi said...

Yaar, Saritha, that was a good review! We could have done a Saritha's Samiksha column for you.

Joules, since you identify with that Annoying NRI bit I'm going to observe some more in action. I've been trying to articulate how NRIs are different appearance wise from local gentry. And for the life of me, I can't seem to put it in words.

anu g and everyone else, Happy New Year! I need to see Jab We Met.

anu g said...

Aspi, a quick note before I leave: my NRI cousins and friends look typically as follows: shorts and tshirt,socks and shoes, sunglasses, and a handycam hung around their neck!

Saritha said...

Aspi,aap humen sharminda kyun kar rahe hain?Saritha's Samiksha?pls don't put me in the bhagathela category.

Vaise bhi,woh main nahi,Geet bol rahi thi.Dekha nahi kitna baat karti hain woh? ~fluttering my eyes~

Joules said...

anug, that sounds like an NRI from our hindi movies :)

The thing that amazes me is that I dress very much like my sister who lives in delhi (jeans t-shirts), have similar hilites in my hair, sport similar brand sunglasses and purse but I get spotted for an NRI every time by the locals.

One time in Manali a guy was trying to explain to me what kho-kho was in broken english before I told him I grew up playing that game.

I wonder if we become too naive, too wide-eyed, too much of a simpleton. But Aspi do explore the subtle differences because that is what amazes me everytime. I stick out like a sore thumb without knowing why I am one.

SkD said...

Joules...heheheeh....i guess its simply cuz of the 'sophisticated' and 'classy' llook we NRIs have....lol..mebbe ppl spot us converting rupees into dollars or oder currency n exclaimin how cheap things r in india...LOL..or mebbe its de fake accent MOST ppl put on..rather unknowingly...LOL
Btw, guys..HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

minnie said...

sorry this has no relation with your post....but i had to share this... we were looking at a camcorder yesterday (at Croma...by the way what they claim is actually true...their sales people actually know more than all the other showrooms salesmen do...they explained EVERYthing in detail and gave accurate comparisons) and he told us ...this is the tungsten mode...so there is a kind of a Saawariya effect ....:) seems like this will go down in history as the BLUEST film ever...so guys , if you want to say blue, say 'sawariya'!

minnie said...

also ,i consider 'jab we met' as maybe the best romantic movie after DDLJ ...any other you can think of?

minnie said...

did you see welcome? i have yet to see such trash lately...that too with such a large budget ,good actors, three writers and 3 music directors ,etc...they could not have a decent story? the sp effects were pathetic..( the last scenes looked right out of R amayana). This tops Cash as THE worst movie...absolutely no emotions...the lead pair never looked more uncomfortable,No good lines even from nana patekar, AND absolutely NO humour!

Priti said...

Gawd Aspi. That's funny! You've captured the fun surrounding the human sardines packed in a can bit, so well. Three cheers! :-)

It's funny how one becomes part of this jamboree when there are visitors, and one is part of the sardine pack. Not once does one complain; funnily one doesn't even find that uncomfortable! You find yourself just giggling away!

My two bits on the different topic - am I being too dumb when I state I found “Jab we …” a little over rated. It's good in patches, but I thought Kareena went just over the top trying to be a peppy girl, and Shahid was a wee bit self conscious and stiff. Now you guys will hate me for this, but I enjoyed Om Shanti more! Unpretentious as it was, it did not make any claims of being realistic etc. Just leave the logical part of the brain at home; sit back and join the revelry! There - hope I don't get lynched! :-) Lol!

Aspi said...

I haven't had a chance to see any movies on my trip here this time. But Welcome would have been the last one I would have seen. After seeing No Entry, the very sight of a smiling Anil Kapoor is enough to make me run the other way.

Mind Rush said...

Brilliant post! I fell off the chair in splits!

Kanan said...

Awesome read, Aspi! It's the way you say it that makes it so exciting... I can't stop laughing... more so because we did this twice last week here in Caliland. ROFL!! of course we were 7 adults in a non-tinted-glass-windowed-Japanese car, you do the math. :D Not to mention five of whom were Indian females... need I say more? All along we were just hoping a cop won't see us; every time we saw a cop car the back seat passengers would duck. The front seat passenger was sitting with crossed legs that almost touched chest. Half way thru the 2 hour drive one of the back seat passengers is like "I need to wear a belt now the road sign says so" you can imagine we couldn't even laugh the tummies didn't have space to move. But it was very much a fun and exciting ride! seemed almost like we were in India.

anu g said...

I must confess to u all that I can now understand and empathise with the NRI syndrome.....its not limited to NRIs alone. Last week we decided to go on a long-overdue family holiday, and since it was a sudden plan, we could manage to get only ordinary sleeper class tickets on a train. My kids r used to either acs on train, or occasionally on flites.When we gently told the kids as we reached the station, that we would be travelling by sleeper, it opened up a 15 hour complaining session.My daughter who bless her, still thinks mom is not so bad after all, tried to understand my sermon of 'looking at the positive side' cos we were going for a holiday together.But my son went 'this is so dirty and dusty, there r so many people here, (sleeper class during the day reminds me of sardines!),this bed is so hard;yuck,there is a queue for the toilet,how can I use an airpillow, where r the blankets given by the attendant....and so it went on until we got off, and he proclaimed 'This has been the most horrible journey in my life!!!I guess they have been used to so many comforts that its difficult to cope. I now empathise with u guys totally.

Aspi said...

This sounds a lot like either of my sons who'll say "This is the worst day of my life" whenever they are asked to do something that doesn't directly feed their entertainment.

Saritha said...

Do kids actually say "This is the worst day/journey of my LIFE"?

On the other hand,ultra-low-cost ,small segment cars,with a steady increase in the population and crampy roads,where are we headed?More Sardines in a car and more Sardine-like-cars on the road?$3000 a car sounds great,but can India accommodate more cars?

anu g said...

Saritha, that was exactly how my husband and I felt when my son said it....(so when Aspi said his sons have also said it, I was so relieved to find that my son is not the only melodramatic lad:)).It was the first time my son said it, and we both were totally speechless, wondering whether to be amused or chide him for being a spoilsport....finally we had to just ignore him saying to ourselves 'oh yes, 13 years old and u have seen so much of life!!'.

Aspi said...

Its called Conversational English Via TV. That's how my kid learns these zingers.

Speaking of low cost cars, think of all the vertical space that is wasted in India. I think they should figure out a way to build double decker four wheelers. They would have to weight it at the bottom so it wouldn't topple over which would decrease gas mileage. But if they could find a way to harness the energy from all the khilbil in the car, it could become very efficient.

anu g said...

Wow Aspi, what a lovely idea!If it were possible, I cld think of travelling with 20 of my family members together. What fun!