Monday, May 26, 2008


Another first

Life is full of firsts. You look forward to most of them, counting the seconds. Teenage, the day one turns 18, your first cycle/bike/car- the list is long and varied. Well-begun is half done, they say, and any beginning certainly seems to linger in one’s minds long after the task itself. You might not know your current salary, but unless you’re a poor Sub-Saharan African kid who had to endure slave labour before being adopted by Angelina Jolie, you won’t forget your starting pay package in a hurry. In fact, a considerable part of any biography is spent describing the numerous firsts no one particularly wants to read about. Then there are the firsts of a romantic nature, of course. After the disastrous cataclysm that was cryptically called MI-20, the less said about them the better. With every passing day, I’m lagging further and further behind in my race against 21.2, which is looming ominously close every second. The writing on the wall seems to be crystal clear in saying that any Green Field investment in that sector is not likely to yield even decreasing returns to scale, let alone normal or increasing ones. (On an immodest note, I well and truly aced my economics course this sem). Coming back to the Queen’s English of a less confusing nature, just as there are firsts that you can’t remember- your first footsteps, your first words etc, there are first that you don’t want to remember. This post is about one of them.

Exceedingly intelligent fellow that I am, it dawned on me one fine day last sem, that I was months away from turning 21. Unlike some people, I believe that the 21st birthday, thankfully unlike its predecessor, is a cause for much celebration. However, the abomination that the educated call examinations had put my normally sunny self in a clouded mood, and I was tending to focus on the downside more. It occurred to me that when I think of a 21 year old, the image that comes to mind is that of an earnest, responsible, eight-hour working, browbeaten fellow who toils to earn his daily bread to support his fledgling family. A far cry from the carefree, United supporting (Kings of England, Emperors of Europe) that yours truly is. Having expressed the same to Good Boy who at that time was with me, the gentleman shared an experience that troubled me so much that it would be the understatement of the year to say that it sent shivers down my spine. When he was off gallivanting in Singapore, it transpired, some chit of a girl had referred to him, as ‘Uncle’ much to his righteous indignance. That the same might happen to me one day did cross my mind but wishful thinking ruled the roost.

The reader would by now have guessed what this post is about. Those who haven’t are requested not to read any further, respecting the IQ limits that this blog demands. I concede that it being internship season, I was decked in the much loathed formal attire- spotless shirt and trousers immaculately ironed. I would have passed off for a very, and I mean very, young executive learning the ropes of the ruthless corporate world. Or I could even have been one of those unfortunate creatures who insist on wearing formals even though the far more comfortable casual attire is both easier on the eye and body. They are both young and stupid, like the quintessential youth, and I could have been one of them.

Armed with my laptop, I walked into a computer shop, intending to get my charger repaired for the umpteenth time, little knowing the dangers that awaited me. I was greeted by a kid, a laptop and the owner of the shop, in that order. The owner neither noticed nor acknowledged my arrival. The laptop, I am sure, noticed my arrival, but lacking the faculties to speak, did not acknowledge it. The kid, much to my chagrin, did both the noticing and acknowledging part with great panache. A “Good morning Uncle” might have been heard in the distance. Now kids being well mannered enough to say Good morning is a rarity that can be measured in ppm (parts per million) kids. Kids calling me Uncle is, of course, something that had never happened before. The two happening together should ideally be an impossibility, so it is quite natural that my ears filtered out the greeting before it could be registered by my brain. The toddler, however, was obdurately persistent. He insisted on displaying his thoroughbred upbringing, his admirable desire to catch my attention and his complete idiocy. Come to think of it, it wasn’t even morning at that time. Half-a-dozen “Good morning Uncles” later, even my finely tuned ear-filters had to accept that the unflattering salutation was for self.

In another bout of immodesty, one thing will have to be said about us Lefties. We can take blows on the chin and grin about it. Inside, my bones had been chilled to the marrow, my heart had suffered several palpitations and I had fainted some five-six times. The true meaning of the world “swimming before one’s eyes” had dawned on me vividly, as the world was at that moment executing some very athletic underwater somersaults. On the façade however, none of this showed. I beamed even more widely, said hello even more effusively and showed off my own good manners by enquiring about the game that he was playing on said laptop. So amicable was my disposition, so genuine my interest in his activities, that like most of his ilk, the two footer took an immediate liking to me, and proceeded to explain how he had just cleared level 2, how his robot had become faster and more advanced and what the game was called, peppering his titillating explanations with generous doses of ‘Uncle’. Having thus broken the ice and shown that I came in peace, I hobnobbed with the owner himself, got my charger fixed and returned, poorer by two hundred quid and sadder by infinite degrees.

Maybe, I should take Grace Bedell’s advice for Abe Lincoln and grow a bit of a beard. A star spangled hat, a stern look and a pointing index finger could complete the ensemble and posters could be printed- “Uncle Lefty wants you.”

Or on second thoughts, maybe I should just wallow in my misery.

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