Tuesday, January 31, 2006


So I've now been at my new job for two months. Hard to believe, hard to believe.

Sick -- sore throat and cough, congestion. No fun, and I won't let myself take any days off.

MASCOM convocation is March 25. I want to go so badly. If I fly to Bangalore and catch a bus to Kottayam, I think I can swing the expenditure as well as the time off. But I don't know if it's really possible, something I haven't wanted to admit to myself, because of the visa troubles.

Tomorrow I'm talking to the lawyer again and I should know whether or not I will fly back to the States in April.

I don't want to leave my flat, or my Delhi friends, or any of this. I want to stay here, protected, warm, loved. I am American, and I am attached to the U.S., but there are too many bad memories. Here, I am.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

When worlds collide

Now, most young people living in Delhi -- particularly foreigners -- have more than a few quibbles with their landlords. Either Aunty is overbearing, or Uncle drops into the flat unexpectedly, or they both harass you for keeping odd hours (even if it is for work).

S and I had remarkable luck with Dr. K, who is very hands off. He also has loaned us some furniture, allowed us to keep cats, and is generally genial.

But every once in a while, he has his moments.

S's phone rings.

"Hello, Dr. K, hello."

His face is contorted -- I can't tell if he is angry or in stitches. They speak for a few minutes, then S narrates the conversation for me:

"Remember Dr. K has a niece, yes? Well, his niece is getting married. So he wants me to take a picture of her to send out for matrimonials. 'S,' he says, 'she's a little fat, so you'll need to do something about that...'"

Smoke? Mirrors? Emergency liposuction? Not sure how he'll handle that one.

Still, a small price to pay for what is otherwise a relatively peaceful landlord-tenant relationship.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Stuff I did today

-- Learned my mother got a cow (?!?%$L#%!!!)
-- Drank Pepsi Cafe Chino, an unholy blend of cola and coffee, which tastes (un) remarkably like ass
-- Transferred money to the US, finally
-- Finished reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris and made a list of all the books I've read in January (Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer; A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth; Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Blood and Champagne, The Life of Robert Capa, Kershaw; Disgrace, JM Coetzee; The Shipping News, Annie Proulx). I am reading a lot of good books lately.
-- Faxed papers to a lawyer
-- Ate candies that S got after shooting the CEO of CandiCo (an actual company, actually named CandiCo, my God!)
-- Ran for 45 minutes

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Republic Day ads!

All part of my all ads, all the time coverage today.

Republic Day, the anniversary of the creation of the Indian constitution, is an excellent opportunity for various government officials to make grand pronouncements of all the great things they've done and/or will do. Lots of orange, white, and green (the colors of the Indian flag) and lots of politicians' mugshots.

Also, lots of hilarious grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I've protected most of the guilty, but for some reason found the Uttaranchal government's insistence that it is "A saga of Unparallel Achievement" too goofy to pass up. Ah, the hallmarks of a Great Indian Advertisement: an improperly conjugated word, as well as some nutly capitalization.

The Department of Prohibition also made an admirable showing, with its strong anti-alcohol and -drugs stance. Three extra points for including a picture of a hypodermic needle. The impeccably aligned jawans would never shoot heroin; do you think you're better than the jawans?

And finally, the award for Best Use of Photoshop goes to the person that superimposed happy running children over a wispy cloud. Quite realistic.

Happy Republic Day!


I find the ads published by the National Egg Co-Operation Committee hilarious, for no real reason. In fact, I find the very existence of a National Egg Co-Operation Committee delightful, quirky, and winning.

When I was working at TN, I had to cobble together a weekly advertorial for the egg lobby -- a one-column piece on the health benefits of eggs, or on interesting and innovative uses for eggs, or containing recipes based on eggs. It was hell on earth -- Anda ka funda my ass.

Still, whenever I see one of these sunny yellow pieces, I grin. Did you know....Only Mother's Milk Protein is Better Than Egg Protein? That Childhood Just Wouldn't Be the Same Without Eggs?

They're also quite effective for expressing indignation (lobbed as grenades at that sullier of Tamil culture, Khushboo), or for exacting revenge on Halloween. But somehow those tips didn't pass muster for the paper...

Sell out with me tonight

<-- This annoys me beyond belief.

Not The Indian Express, per se, which I think does some of the best journalism in India; but the kind of newspaper that will allow an advertisement to completely disrupt its news, to snake through pages and pages and pages of content and distract readers.

I know, I'm a newspaper hippie. Ads are a necessary evil, but I don't think the business end of the industry should cede so much space/disruptive power to advertisers.

IE, Hindustan Times, and Times of India all ran this ONGC ad today. In IE, it snaked across 14 pages. Around stories of the Prime Minister and the Saudi king, around stories of corruption and heroism and triumph and tragedy.

The division between editorial and advertising is not nearly so neat as it is in U.S. media. And it's a damned, damned shame. I want to focus on what's written, not some ad executives expensive lark.

I believe that's called the Jedi mind trick

So S and I have been cultivating a master plan re: my visa problems.

I've always been one for pragmatism, which is why I pledged (when I was about 10) to marry an illegal alien so he could get a green card of my womanly munificence. Subvert the system, and make someone happy, while playing the martyr: perfect!

I never thought I'd consider working it backwards.

Yes, I may get married to grease the wheels of visa procurement.

S and I have been working to get the blessings of our families. My mom is suitably disappointed (I imagine, though she remains cheerful in her e-mails), but we had to take a different, more circuitous tack with S's family.

For the last few days he's been moaning about how difficult it's been for me to get a visa, how it's been two months of tense negotiations, blah blah blah. The hope? They'll come up with our solution of their own accord, and feel suitably proud of being so open minded and progressive and sensible.

Lo and behold, on the phone today they suggested to S that we just walk the plank, so to speak. Exhibit A, my friends, the Jedi mind trick.

Thank you, thank you very much.

TJ's First Annual Award for a Headline in an Indian Newspaper Most Likely to be Misinterpreted by an American Reader

Pregnant bitch beaten to death at JNU hostel, prof raises alarm

Bet, my fine American friends, that you would never guess this is a story about animal rights.

(People for Animals, an NGO, is protesting what appears to be a case in which a college student beat to death a female dog on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Koranic scholar

S was shooting an Odissi dance performance in Connaught Place last night, so he unleashed me on the pavements on Janpath and we set a date for dinner at Hotel Saravana Bhawan once he finished.

Since leaving Kerala, I've been pining for good South Indian food; North khanna is delicious but the simple, coconutty curries are...yum. The best I usually do in the capital is a dosa or upma, always delicious, but never quite right --never so delicious as a fresh offering from Hotel Akshaya, complemented by piping sweet filter coffee.

So an HSB thali sounded like the perfect cure. And it was -- except for the fact that it's a popular tourist mecca, and S and I were treated to an exposition on jihad, the Third World, and the McDonaldization of culture.

"You know, I never really wanted to come to India. I just heard there was good whitewater rafting here."

The cockney lilt was incredulous, but forcefully carried across the room's divider.

"See, I never read any books before I came here. But now I'm reading something, and it's all about how the Americans support jihad, how their policies are making it necessary for Muslims to fight back."

Her male dining companion nodded, eyes glazed in the expectation of sex.

S leaned across the table. "I hope he gets some," I whispered. The man was displaying iron will, feigning interest in talk reminiscent of so many Introduction to International Relations courses.

"You know, I was talking to someone, and he told me in the Koran that the Prophet was really just jealous and didn't want anyone looking at his wife. He didn't mean for all Muslim women to be covered. It's just chauvinistic men, battles of egos..."

Such an educational, informative meal. By the time she started talking about how Americans are polluting the earth with their capitalism, S and I were openly mocking her. Too bad she was too self-involved to realize what an ass she was making of herself...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I miss the innocence I've known

But I don't miss America.

Which is disturbing. Aren't you supposed to feel like you belong to the place to which you were born?

Unlock my body and move myself to dance...

She fell in love with another.

In the seventh grade, the first day of junior high, I had the flu and vomited during my drama class with Anne Vasbinder. She soon became my favorite teacher, though she retired at the end of the year. Before she left, she told me, "In the Jewish religion, you can do three things to carry on your legacy: Plant a tree, have a child, or write a book." I've done two of the three thus far, but...the book was horrible, a template.

My goal, like Lauren's, is to publish a book (a real book, of my own creation) by the time I'm 30.

But I am afraid. S and I talked about this for a few hours the other day; I am afraid of my art, I think. I am not progressing. I chose editing to distance myself from the creative rigor of writing; I chose editing to avoid taxing myself, to avoid introducing unnecessary pain into my life.

Perhaps the pain is necessary. I am ripe. I have ideas. If I don't write now, the gift will be gone. Am I egocentric or self aware?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Odds and ends from the weekend

S lights a fire with a box of matches we found on a grave. Is that sacreligious? Regardless: burn, baby, burn!
S's mommy decided to be helpful and gather firewood, but in her industry ended up taking a little tumble on this hill. Look at how helpful he is!

A view from the picnic spot. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

Hehe. A police beat box. If you're American, you probably have a very different picture come to mind when you hear this phrase. I'm totally thinking of all the white boys trying to be ghetto dawgs -- and of all those damned a cappella groups at Northwestern.

And, for your viewing pleasure, S captures a picture of me befriending a nice cow. The cow doesn't seem to like me as much as I like him.

Colonial ghosts

It's no secret that I'm fascinated with death, so I was thrilled when S suggested a picnic in the Himalayan foothills at a site a convenient saunter from an old English graveyard.

The place was closed, but we were not to be deterred. We climbed over a short brick wall, only to discover that the place was in quite bad disrepair.

Despite the broken crosses and disturbed stones, there was much to see. Most of the graves were of women and children, many of whom did not live past the age of five or six. The oldest graves were from the 1830s; the most recent was from 1997 and was littered with half-burnt Diwali candles and a box of poor-quality matches. Though the early graves were of the English, a number of Indians were also buried on the site.

Having visited a number of cemeteries, I was quite surprised by the relative modesty of the graves. Most were slabs of concrete, engraved with a few simple words. A few were marble, and even fewer had the ornately carved headstones invoking Jesus and the saints that are so ubiquitous in my memory. No angels were trumpeting for the fallen. Perhaps it was practicality -- lavishly mourn the dead, or feed ourselves for another year, keep ourselves warm in the shadow of the mountains.

Even the inscriptions were subdued; take, for example, that of James John Annett, "the dearly beloved husband of Bessie Annett." It is written:

"Who fell asleep 24 March 1881
Age 39
'So he giveth his beloved sleep'"

There is no wailing, there is no rancor. Just a change in the state of being, a passing from wakefulness to sleep, routine and familiar

I'm sure this cemetery is no different from any other colonial graveyard, in fact it was rather nondescript. But it's a fascinating way to spend a day, ruminating on what lies behind us and what lies ahead, on what blood means and how it runs into the earth a hundred years, a thousand years after we're gone.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Went to Chandigarh this weekend with S. A good time was had by all, and a lot of paneer was eaten. Oh god, the paneer. God shouldn't have invented such a delicious food.

But in other news: S's family is saintly (although they aren't South Indian -- according to popular lore, or the people I encountered on the train from Delhi to Kerala, Punjabis are animals and South Indians are, each and every one, Rama or Sita incarnate), and Chandigarh is a peaceful, sensibly regulated town. Traffic flows smoothly, for the most part, the city seems rather clean, and the sprawling, unending, teeming mass of humanity seemed to recede a bit into civility, order, and sensibility.

Wow, that's enough faffing. My favorite part of the trip? I would have to go with our trip to the Nek Chand Rock Garden (A FANTASY!). Basic story? Nek Chand, an eccentric transport official, starts making goofy statues and garden ornaments in his spare time -- and on the downlow, as his constructions went against the government's policy at the time. Eventually, they discovered him, but instead of being bureaucratic, unbending assholes (see: previous entry), the government decided to patronize Chand and allow him to employ about 50 people to realize his dream.

It's a quirky place, full of concrete armies of mosaic men, walls covered in electrical fittings or discarded, broken plates, artfully arranged stones placed just so. It looks like something my mother would create, if she had the time and the wherewithal. It's absolutely wonderful.

I suppose that's enough whoring of Nek Chand for now, but..yeah. Chandigarh = the awesome.

(The action from top to bottom: 1) Mosaic monkeys; 2) A plaster pirate awaits his fate -- being crushed and incorporated into a part of the garden; 3) S ducks through a hobbit hole; 4) A wall cobbled together from old electrical fittings; 5) Statues of women made of broken bangles; 6) Volunteers from the Nek Chand Foundation arrange tiles as part of the garden's expansion.

Spare me a rant

ARGH! Bureaucracy. One of the most stereotypical images of India is that of the babu in the Home Ministry, forcing the poor tourist to jump through hoops to extend a visa or amend or paper or whatnot. Until about a month ago, I thought it was just that: a stereotype. But no longer.

Because the visa guys are COMPLETE ASSHOLES! That's right, I said it. I'm not going to be a nice girl anymore. I've had just about enough.

One visa guy, in particular, seems to have a vendetta against me. Maybe he's just upset that he has a really, really obvious (and horrible looking ) toupee. Maybe he is bewildered by my girlish charm. Maybe, as one of my co-workers suggested, he had a fight with his wife in the morning.

Let me back up a little bit. AND...scene.

T arrives at the Home Ministry at 10 a.m. on a Friday in December. After procuring a visitor's pass from the reception, she proceeds to the Visa Facilitation Centre.
T: Hello! Here's my passport.
Visa Reception Man: No. Fill this out. Two copies.
T dutifully completes the form.
VRM: Sit down. Wait for name to be called.
T sits. Waits. And waits. And waits. By noon the office has emptied of everyone but white people.
T (to a fellow waiter): Do you know why it's taking so long?
FW: The US/Europe visa officer is late for his shift. Three hours late.
T: Oh, oh.
More waiting. Some small talk. She meets an Texan who is annoyed at a child playing unsupervised near us. She meets two Germans and tries to remember her three years of studying the language. She reads a book. And she waits.
FW (circa 1 p.m.): Oh, here's the officer.
The sea of white faces begins to thin. T is called.
T (with a broad, idiotic smile): Hello, sir! Here is my passport, and you have my documents...
Visa officer: What do you want?
T (hesitantly): I would like my employment visa...the endorsement needs to be changed from Company A to Company B. Here is my appointment letter, here is a no objection certificate from my previous employer, here is proof of my residence...
VO: Do you pay taxes?
T: Well...I haven't been here for a full financial year yet, but I will when the time rolls around.
VO: I can't even consider your application until I see proof that you've paid taxes.
T: But...I won't pay my taxes until the financial year is over, and by that time my visa will have expired.
VO: And why should Company B have hired you? What do you have that an Indian doesn't have?
T (intimidated): Well...they made the decision, they thought I was qualified.
VO: That's not enough. You get a tax certificate and come back and then we can consider the change in your visa.
T (blinking back tears): Thank you, sir. Have a good day.
T bounces down the stairs, crying. She returns to her office and relays the story, then phones Company A and devises a way for them to draw up a document that proves she has not earned enough money to file taxes (in fact, in six months, she has only earned Rs 39,000; the minimum amount a woman must make in India to pay taxes is Rs 1,35,000). She returns to the office in mid-January, and cringes to see the same horrific little man, his tuft of synthetic black here unartfully arranged, behind the desk. T waits, then waits some more. Eventually, her name is called.
VO: I've been calling your name for a half an hour. Why didn't you answer?
T: With all due respect sir, there were about thirty people standing in front of me and I couldn't hear a thing.
VO: These people are not my problem. You are my problem.
T: But sir, why would I wait a half an hour to answer if I had heard you? No one likes waiting in a crowded room.
VO: What do you want?
T: I need to change the endorsement of my employment visa from Company A to Company B.
VO does not answer, but reads through the document and seems satisfied enough to begin making notes on the back of her visa application. He ignores her, then finally registers her presence again.
VO: OK, come back at 4 p.m. for your visa.
T (overjoyed): Oh, thank you very much sir!
She goes to her office, does some work, drinks some coffee. Then she returns. The visa reception officer directs her to a room, hidden in the depths of the building.
T: Hello, I was told that my visa was ready in this room.
The dreaded visa officer appears as if from nowhere.
VO: What are you doing here? You are so impatient, always in a hurry.
T: I'm not in a hurry; the receptionist told me I was to come to this room.
VO: Get out of here. Stay in the hall.
T sits on a chair that is a bit rickety; she waits for an hour before the VO again approaches.
VO: Now, what is your name again?
T (thinking about how frequently she has met her nemesis in the last month): Txxxx Xxxx.
VO: Well, T (mispronounces name she has just pronounced for him), you cannot have your visa changed. It is against all policies. You need to leave the country, this visa is no good.
T: What?
VO: Your visa, it is endorsed by Company A. It is written. We can't change that.
T: But my company and I have been told that this is possible. May I know the reason it has become impossible?
VO: You cannot change this visa.
T: Well, then, what can I do?
VO: You need to leave the country. You have nothing to do here until you get the right visa.
T: Where do I need to go?
VO: You can go to any of our consulates abroad and apply for a new visa from there.
T: Is there anyone I can talk to about this? Are you sure there are no other options?
VO: Mishra will tell you why it is impossible. It is in room 12C.
T ventures to room 12C, which is nearly impossible to find, and empty when she does locate it. Then she calls Company B, panicked. Then she cries for about two hours, calls S, waits for him to pick her up from her position, slumped, head in hands, on a sidewalk outside the ministry. A number of men, including several rickshaw-wallahs, tell her to stop weeping. This only makes her cry more.

So, at this point...I have less than three months to find some way out of this mess. I hate all the politics of this. He kept asking me about my salary, and seemed to be...perhaps...alluding to some greasing of the wheels that could be done to make the visa problem disappear.

And...umm...homey don't play that game.

I am a responsible citizen, regardless of my nation of origin. I will pay taxes if I make enough money to be required to pay them. As it is, I do everything in my power to be a productive member of society. I don't waste resources. I don't get paid a high/Western salary. I don't demand luxury, and I don't expect India to be like America. I don't expect much of anything, really; I only hope to learn from my experiences and maybe have others learn from mine.

S tells me he'll have someone call a mucky-muck in the ministry, but I am reticent. I don't want special favors. I want to make my way of my own merits, but sometimes it seems as if that's not enough here.

I don't know if I'm reading the situation correctly, but the officer seemed to be unduly brusque to me. I don't know if that was a function of my age, my race, my nationality, my supposed affluence. But it was 100% obnoxious. It reeked of hatred. It was permeated with animosity.

There are so, so, so many things I love about India. But it seems no matter where I go, I am not wanted. I am fated not to fit in.

End rant.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bridezilla and the wedding fever

Engaged homeboys/wedding dates
Alicia and Matt (August 2006)
Jessa and Mike (?)
Ginny and paramour (?)

People I predict will get engaged in the next year
Bryan and Alexis
Kimra and Pete
Two Indian couples I know

It's getting dangerous; weddings seem to be everywhere. Delhi, as always, is shaadi crazy; I've gotten two wedding invitations this year (yes, 2006) from people at work.

I've also spent (very drunken) night with Mike and Jessa, poring over the wedding planning book she received by some well-intentioned relation or another. These events are big business, whether you're selecting saris for your mother-in-law in India or picking the perfect invitation (as well as tactful wording to tell your exiled father that he shouldn't come because his drunkenness might cause a stir) for a wedding in the States.

My sister Alicia, with whom I am closest, recently got engaged, which inspired me to make plans for a triumphant return to Oregon so I can be, again, a bridesmaid (never a bride!). I am so, so happy for her, and am more excited about the wedding than I was for my brother's (which I missed as he didn't set the date until after I planned to move to India). It's a very girly thing, I suppose, but I guess I'm an adult now, and mature enough to think about things like gala soirees without getting all weepy eyed that I'm too young and too frivolous and too damned flaky to ever have my own wedding.

I'm the only unmarried person in my generation of Freys -- Casey tied the knot with John, Dan with Laura, Niles with Alexis, Nick with Katie, Erin with a golfer (before she died), and finally, Jesse with Angie. Very strange sensation. I feel a bit of pressure to get hitched before my maternal grandparents die, because it would be so depressing without them (although they're already preparing for the eventuality that they'll see my nuptials only from the great beyond -- my grandmother has already given my mother my wedding present, a beautifully carved spice cabinet like the one she's given my mother, my aunts, and all the other obnoxious married folk of the clan).

Here's to checking "single, never married" on census applications and visa forms. But if anyone wants to woo me with a nice diamond ring, you know...I wouldn't really object.


So generally I live a very insulated life here in Delhi, not too bothered by the sometimes-grim realities of living in a developing country. Although my fingers are frozen in the morning, I am not on the streets; I will not die because the temperature is dipping to a 70-year low of about 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit, U.S. folk). I don't have to worry about whether or not I will eat tomorrow, and although I complain about my office transportation, I know that I'll be delivered safely home with a minimum of harassment.

But yesterday, I was again reminded that life isn't so good for everyone.

Around 6:30, near Andheria More (at least by the geography of the bus hoardings), a car to our Qualis' right ran into a man on a bike. The car glanced off his back wheel, throwing the man onto the street entangled in the bike's frame. A bystander lifted the bike off the man and carried it off the street, but the guy, short, in worn brown pants and shirt, a muffler unwinding from his neck, remained on the ground for about 30 seconds.

The car continued, didn't even pause.

The Prime Minister halted our vehicle and rolled down his window to try and communicate with the man, now walking dazed into oncoming traffic. I cringed when he coughed up blood, flinched at the right side of his face, rubbed raw by the road. There was no response; Manmohanji shrugged and shifted gears, and we saw the man no longer.

I don't know how many more times I can see things like this.

Sunday, January 8, 2006


This is an example of some of the best graffiti I've found in Delhi -- and right in Defence Colony, ooh lala!

Graffiti seems so...ridiculous to me here. But I suppose it's ridiculous everywhere. I just have a hard time believing that there is such a surfeit of extra cash that young miscreant middle-class boys and girls can buy spray paint and adorn, of all things, trash collection hoardings.

It's particularly unschooled. Not how "Biatch" is misspelled, lightly sprayed out, and repainted -- again with what appears to have been an initial misspelling.

Other graffiti in the neighborhood includes a protestation for "Free life" and "Peace" outside a sexual health NGO, as well as the delightful command to "Die bitch" on an out-of-commission bicycle wagon. Something is boiling in the young'uns, my friends, and I don't know what it is.

But what do I know? Ronnie Singh totally sux balls. I don't know who Ronnie Singh is, or exactly whose balls he sux, but I would give anything to meet the kid. The graffiti's been there for at least a month or two, so I think he perhaps does not protest to this characterization.

I'm trying to force this into the Delhi lexicon now. Is the sky blue? Duh. Does Ronnie Singh suck balls? Of course, cha!


In honor of Haj, I present Mecca Cola.

I'm not really sure who puts this out, or why, but the can implores me to "shake my conscience." I certainly hope they don't also endorse the shaking of the can, which would necessarily lead to a dousing in cola -- heavenly or not.

Writing is in Urdu, English and French, I believe. Purchased by S, God (Allah?) only knows why.

Other recent impulse purchases? A soccer ball from the road by Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, pants for me after ripping mine in a fit of clumsiness, and two shelves (unpainted).

Friday, January 6, 2006

Product envy

I want this so bad. You have no idea how bad.

$20? Anyone? Bueller?

Via Glarkware.

And, because it's so sexy, it is, of course, sold out. I'm shaking my fists at the gods.

I know Christmas is gone...but....prrrease?

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Geography lesson

Confidential to Times of India: California is a state, not a city.

(Re: "Jessica moving to NY" -- Jessica Simpson is planning to leave the city of California and move to New York, following her split from husband Nick Lachey..., Delhi Times, page 7, Wednesday, January 4, 2006)

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Sex? In Iraq?

This psychologist's article (posting? rambling?) is interesting in that it talks about the relative dearth of suitable options for (socially acceptable) sexual encounters for men and women serving the US military in Iraq.

I just want to add a bit of my own knowledge (based upon my brother, who served in Iraq twice -- during the initial invasion and ensuing year, and again in 2005):

Some enterprising young men (NONE of whom I would know, no way!) are having their families (again, families with which I would have NO AFFILIATION) send sex toys -- dildos, vibrators, dolls, and the like -- to them in Iraq, which the dedicated troop then sells to his mates. Quite lucrative, I've heard.

Oh, and if your interested, people are talking about this at Metafilter. But none of them seem to, you know, actually know anyone who's ever served in the military...

The travails of Indian/South Asian/non-American? English

"...interference in the internal affairs of other countries betrays the psyche of a bully, a bully who sees a red rag everywhere." Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, "Pak says 'bully' India must keep out of Balochistan," Indian Express, Tuesday, January 3, 2006

See...this is an excellent example of something MM and I have been mulling for a while now. Everywhere that English is spoken as a "second" language -- not as a native tongue (though I agree, the semantics here are not precise; in India, Hindi and English or a vernacular language and English are more like co-existent native tongues) -- there are turns of phrase that sound odd to the Englishman or the American. And though I don't want to say that my English is any more correct that another person's, I do take great pleasure in hearing some of these interesting mixed metaphors.

Above? Confusing bullies with...well, you know, raging, charging animals. Bullies usually don't respond to red objects, but bulls -- confronted by bullfighters -- sure do.

Not really a mixed metaphor, but I did run into someone who was convinced you could "solve" a complexity. No, A, I explained; you can approach a complexity, try to understand a complexity, or you can solve a problem. But you really can't solve "the quality or state of something being made up of complicated or interrelated parts" -- it's just inconceivable.

Those are all excusable, though. Inexcusable? The S. Prasannarajan lead in the January 9, 2006 India Today special issue, "Year of Cheer." He espouses:

"So here we are, the moment of pause after a ride that was revelatory as well as rewarding, enlightening as well as embarrassing. This is the sunset station of the wayfarer, this time in the year when yesterday is a tear shed, a smile bestowed, a sigh suppressed, a blink suspended--or all of them combined. It is the time when in the rustle of the wall calendar we hear the first cry of history, and it is the time when in the footprints of the days gone by we see the notations of future. The narrative of India 2005 is a text that excels in extremities, populated by the fallen and the triumphant, the loner and the marginalised, the travellers ambushed by familiar ghosts in Savile Row suits. India, a nation born and brought up in the violence of passions, never ceases to dramatise its existence, and nor does it hesitate to change the script mid-scene to the horror of the performers. The first charioteer of Indian politics crosses the border and, much to the hosts' joy, attempts to retrieve a lost secularist from the stereotype of divide-and-hate, and thereby sets the stage for his own departure. The folk hero of social justice falls on his own stale joke, marking the end of badland bravado. An honourable member of the Gandhi durbar becomes collateral damage in the war on terror. The ascetic, banished for assertion and rebellion, walks on her own in the end, as does the actress of moral heresy in the virgin state. And then, political morality is given a price tag as the legislator sells the question--or the people. Elsewhere, it is the freedom war that is enshrouded in the moral smog, with the legitimacy of torture pitted against national interest, but two images from the battlefield restore the legitimacy of the war itself: the death-defying voter and the shrunken psychopath on trial. Return of justice? The earth cracks open to deny such easy comforts though, but he jubilation in the market persists, and the bull becomes the cheerleader..."

Yes, this is all one paragraph. And no, the paragraph does not end here. No, it does not make any sense. Yes, it made me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork.

And yes, this is one of India Today's most celebrated writers. Jesus.