A taxi second…heard of it?

Suddenly I find myself using this phrase…that too, twice in a week.

It also made for some riveting conversation. When I start “You know what a taxi second is?”, I should have not been surprised when people drew a blank.

Before I tell you what a taxi second is supposed to mean, a word on how I discovered this interesting turn of phrase. No less interesting is the man from whom I picked this up.

Arun Veembur did many (and unusual) things before he lost his life from a tragic slip on the Cangshan range near Dali in China’s Yunnan province. A little over two years ago, he was on a solo hike on those treacherous mountains and, as dusk fell, so did he. A budding journalist, a talented writer, an exceptionally intrepid traveller, and above all, a very funny and irrepressible human being. And, of course, before all that for me, a dear nephew.

One who could never cease to learn (and to teach!), to read (and to write), to talk (and to listen, though not necessarily to follow!), to make friends (and be a great one himself)…the list could be as endless…as his dreams and aspirations.

For someone who is an avid reader, a book collector and a lover of everything words, I continued to be surprised by Arun’s mastery on the above. I later outgrew the pleasant shock of finding hidden gems in his bookshelf, despite having a formidable collection in my own library. When he visited us, I would revel in going over my favourite books with him; in particular, I cannot forget the happy hours we spent chuckling over the wit of Ogden Nash, one of our mutual favourites.

As for those delightful twists of phrases that I would stumble upon his writings, I can only hold back my grief, my anger, my helplessness when I realise he could have been alive, and amidst us all, to write many more of them. Not to talk of the book that he so wanted to write and which was the reason he took that sensational route out of India and ended up in Kunming, Dali and eventually at his final port of calling…

Anyway, back to the discussion on a ‘taxi second’. As per Arun, this is what it is…straight out of one of his write-ups for the Deccan Herald where he worked briefly before life (and eventually death) called him beyond Bangalore.

“A ‘taxi second‘ is defined as the time between a traffic signal turning green and the driver behind one’s car blowing his horn.”

I was so taken in (as I was with many more of his brilliant wisecracks and lovely antics) by this phrase when I came upon it a week ago that I found myself recounting it on two different occasions wondering if people had heard about what I thought was an ‘in circulation’ phrase.

But I should have known better. Arun, given a choice, would paint up a picture himself rather than take a print of someone else’s.

The next time, at some traffic signal, someone behind me honks like he has got ants in his pants, I will remember what a taxi second means. And, maybe, instead of shifting gears, would get out of my car and walk over to regale the stressed out driver with Arun’s explanation of what he had done just then.


No comments

Let me confess. I am not a professional blogger. I write occasionally only and don’t even expect to receive comments.

They say comments maketh the blog or the blogger. If that’s so, I have made a start of sorts. I got one for the post that I made on 26th Jan. Now, that piece was a brief one based on a real incident reported widely in the media and condemned by the authorities, the state government and all wildlife lovers – certainly not one that I had cooked up. Indeed, a website specialising in news from the region also carries this article.

But something about that news greatly agitated a reader. So much so that I got a particularly nasty, offensive comment to be moderated upon. Because I couldn’t devote time to my blog (remember, I told you I was not a professional one), this gentleman or lady sent in three more comments – more abuses than comments! I don’t know who he or she is and I am being extremely generous when I use the word gentleman or lady, as the choice of words and tone that he or she chose to use would not be something the world at large would like to hear or use.)

I don’t have to clarify or justify on what I wrote in my blog. Nor am I obliged to post a comment/s that has been posted against the very spirit of decent behaviour. I don’t speak the language that was used in those comments…so it doesn’t even bother me. But I would still like to respond…

  1. Anyone can make out that the post was based on an actual event and one that was widely reported in the print, the visual media and, of course, the internet. It was an article on the event…not a comment on the state or its people on the whole. This could have happened in any state, any country. That would still have been reported by the media…and someone would have blogged on that as well.
  2. I am assuming that it was someone belonging to that state who is the author of these dirty and abusive comments. That’s most surprising. I have always had the greatest respect for that state and the people there. It’s one of the most beautiful states in India and has the most loving and gentle folks the country has.
  3. There is no offence meant at all in what I wrote. Of course, if someone were to support the indiscriminate killing of our endangered animals and were not worried about the loss of this national, natural wealth, it’s a different matter. It’s everyone’s loss, not just mine.
  4. If anyone wants to make a point, let it be a balanced and mature one. That’s how all of the world works. Frankly, I haven’t understood what is his/her point…if you just swear and use a lot of four-letter words, the argument becomes meaningless. So much so that I haven’t understood what he/she is agitated about.
  5. I am going to the extent of making this response because I feel the author of those unpublishable (and painfully personal!) comments must be aggrieved on some count.  He definitely has a right to his opinion, but if he wishes to debate it, it cannot be by abusing another.
  6. He/she challenged me that I would not (the language, obviously, is best censored) publish his/her comments. I wonder if the person has taken the trouble of writing to every website, newspaper, magazine and television channel and posted those very same indecent comments to their having published the same news item. I would be very curious to see if any of them entertain those comments any more than I do. They might not even bother to post this long, detailed response that I am managing. Not when you are being called unprintable names!
  7. One last point, he had pointed out that I had got my spelling of the place wrong. There might be a local spelling, but all the media reports (including the regional website I talked about earlier) carry that version.

So, if this gentleman/lady is reading this), all I can say is this. If you want to make your point in a language which civilised society likes to speak, read and write, the comments will be published. See if all those newspapers, bloggers, TV channels etc. will publish those (if you have been writing in to them as well). As for me, you can continue posting your “thoughts” – pls keep up the good work. I know you have already done 7 in 7 days. But would they get published? No comments.

Man-eating tiger-eating Man – A wild tale from Numuk

Beyond the usual marvelling at Bill Watterson’s genius, I wouldn’t have thought much about the Calvin & Hobbes strip that I saw today morning. The one that features Calvin wondering why Man was put on earth and questioning the raison d’etre and Hobbes coming up with a simple enough explanation – Tiger food! For me, C&H has been the perfect blend of entertainment and wisdom…a laugh riot even as it holds up a mirror to humanity.

But this once, humanity seems to have gotten ahead of the mirror. If you read that news item about a Royal Bengal tiger that was hunted down and eaten – yes, eaten – by its human predators, you will agree that fact can indeed be more sickening than fiction.

Not that poaching is anything new. On the contrary, it’s one of the better managed, better run of most industries in the country…and with anything commercial, more profitable as well! But where this dastardly act hits a new low is in the redefining of animal behaviour that has just traded places.

Numuk found its ignominious stardom in the shocking news that came out of this litle known Arunachal village in the West Siang district. After having killed an adult tiger and sold off its skin to an Assamese businessman for a lakh and a half, the villagers got together and made a meal of the endangered animal.

Because it’s the first time something like this has been reported does not mean it’s the first time it has happened. This is, apparently, the third such incident. Being poached and traded was bad enough for this species that is fast disappearing from the planet. To now be sought after as delicacy just underlines the callousness of it all.

Hobbes must consider itself lucky that he is only a figment of Calvin’s imagination. To have to live in the real world and among the real animals is not living a king’s life.

Sixty years on…and still bickering

Watched the rerun of the week’s Big Fight on NDTV this morning. And what should it be about! If we have just completed sixty years of being a republic…well, that’s the theme you will get to see on all channels, right?

Much like the waste-of-time-and-effort skirmishes that happen in a town bus between two irritable passengers, there they were…the obnoxious foot soldier of the Congress, Manish Tiwari and the pompous BJP warrior, Rajiv Pratap Rudy. And, of course, the anchor struggling to meet his time targets of slipping in the breaks and winding up the show ten minutes before the hour to ensure his channel gets its share of the advertising revenue. Not to forget the other panellists, including the one sitting out of town…none of them really able to slip a word in edgeways – not when the ruling and the opposition are sparring away to glory. Finally, the audience…a mix of the minority who wanted to make an intelligent point on national television and those who just filed in to see the inside of a TV studio.

So, the point of debate was the sixty years of India being a republic; the bone of contention, whether we have made the proverbial cut. Even as the rest of the studio, including one of the sanest voices on TV these days – the redoubtable Harish Salve – watched on, M/s Tiwari and Rudy gave us a glimpse of what has happened in the last sixty years. Hot air emanated from the Congressman and the smirking face of the BJP blew cold. We were all reminded of which state was galloping or limping (depending on who was making the statement, and who was ruling there). Every political brownie that could possibly be scored was bitterly fought for.

But isn’t that just what has been the story in the last four decades, if not five or six? Where is the single-minded focus and purpose that won us the independence? Where is the teamwork and the sense of oneness that is so essential to lead a nation of 1.2 billion through the domestic labyrinths and the global maze? Or are we just being ridiculously demanding in expecting this of our politicians? Maybe…but that’s supposedly our right, right?

As of now, we – as a republic – have completed sixty years. It’s a matter of great pride. And of immense responsibility…of understanding our problems and seeking solutions for them; of putting our differences away and embracing our commonness. And more. But certainly, not the time for selfish, personal, self-serving agendas. Sixty years on, India wants to see productive, transparent debates…and action from the solutions agreed upon. Sixty years on, we don’t want to see petty, useless bickering.

Bangalore bargain – Traffic vs. Weather

Today, it took me exactly one hour and ten minutes to cover all of eight kilometres from my home to work. Old timers tell me that I am lucky. From where I live (next to the Marathahalli railway overbridge) to Indira Nagar (near the old airport…now, that is for the non-Bangaloreans who could do with some geographical perspective), it used to take much longer. For one, the railway flyover was under construction. Two, the airport was (duh!) on Airport Road.

But for someone who was used to doing the forty five km drive from my house in Noida to my office in Gurgaon in an hour, this spelt gloom. I remember leaving Delhi with a heavy heart, but was always excited about living in Bangalore. So who has not heard about that airconditioned weather the garden city is famous for? And all those parks and lakes and the plethora of huge, ancient trees fighting against the cyber power that is threatening to change the landscape of Bangalore forever.

I haven’t seen much of Bangalore in its heydays – no, I didn’t mean once the technology giants colonised the place. I meant the days when it was indeed the Garden City. But those who were lucky to have seen it then – and, in some ways, unlucky to have to see it now – stun you with true stories of how traffic flowed peaceably and how getting from one of the “hallis” to one of the “sandras” was akin to getting your tooth pulled. Then, it (or rather I.T.) happened.

Affluence settled in, shortly followed by degeneration. The noodle-strap sized roads which were once adequate became clogged beyond any angioplasty. Despite an excellent bus network and adequate (if unruly) swarm of autorickshaws, the private vehicles continue to stay on the roads. And with a Namma (well a Nikamma) Metro eons behind in implementation, the blood just refuses to flow on through Bangalore’s congested arteries. All the other ingredients for a chaos souffle also have been thrown in. Flyovers that should have been constructed way back still at the discussion stage; malls and commercial complexes springing up on main roads, and without adequate parking facilities; the infamous Bangalorean speedbreaker mania, one every hundred metres; residential areas riddled with offices and the resultant traffic…the list looks like an administrator’s nightmare. But is the pride of Bangalore – those to whom the city belongs to, those who have made the city their second home, and the companies who have reposed their trust by investing in the city – getting their due?

So what’s in store for all of us? Don’t ask me. If the politicians and the bureaucrats of the land don’t have the answers, all we are left with are the questions. Sure, in a literal sense, you won’t sweat it out when you are getting around the city. But then, that’s thanks to the excellent weather Bangalore is blessed with…and will soon be a consolation rather than the draw of the city. In the last nine months I have been here, suffice it to say that I have loved the weather but hated the traffic.

And it’s beginning to look like a huge price to pay for some decent weather. And it’s only going to get costlier in the years (or could that well be months!) to come. ‘Cos the traffic’s only going to get worse…and the weather is not likely to hold up like this for long. Looks like I have got myself a bad bargain.


My chances of catching the event live got eclipsed by my commitments at work! So, I missed the only annular solar eclipse of the century!

I missed the last one by about six months – wasn’t around yet when India witnessed this phenomenon on 22nd Nov, 1965. And it’s not even that, this once, I was short on time. The program was on for full three hours – the longest of the millennium…and, going by the hype online and off it, one of the finest there could be.

I didn’t even have to be on board the MV Aquamarine for a cruise to the Maldives, with an on sea sighting of the spectacle as the highlight. All that was required was to head for the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium to join the milling crowds to take an educated dekko of the drama…almost the noon show, right?

So, I surfed the net and came up with some consolation. This year ain’t so bad after all! There are no less than four eclipses lined up – two solar and two lunar. The one that was on show today was, unfortunately for me, the rare annular kind…with the climactic ring of fire that gets photographed ad nauseum. But there is another one coming up – the total solar eclipse…on the 11th of July.

Now that’s one we don’t want to miss. Even if we can’t all get aboard the Paul Gaugin in its cruise to the French Polynesia (apparently, the Easter Island is where it’s going to be best sighted from), there are always the local options to head to. Till then, I will make do with the fare that ballistic news channels dish out on this one.  And the morning papers with the photos pasted all over the front page, eclipsing most other news.

Amazon? Who? Which?

Yes, yes, I know you know that it’s the largest online retailer on earth and you could find in their huge databank every book that was ever printed on the planet.

But then, I was referring to an Amazon which is bigger, holds more between its banks and is a bigger marvel than the website could ever be. Yes…the river.

But, I guess, it’s a reflection of the times we live in. Google, that behemoth of the virtual age that controls the way we think, search and find our knowledge, doesn’t seem to think so.

Except for that lone crusader of all knowledge – Wikipedia, if the first page of Google’s search results are anything to go by, the widest river in the world may just be a non-descript stream.

Can’t blame Google alone. So, who actually is looking for information on a river and how many are helping its cause?Which is not quite the same with mighty corporates with yearly goals and revenue targets, ad spends and search engine focus et al.

But why am I cribbing? That’s life! Wottalife!