Thursday, March 27, 2014

Trolls on a roll.

Three jokes exemplify the true nature of the Twitter troll: #YoKejriwalSoHonest that he got his 4GB memory card arrested when it got corrupt! #YoNamoSoFeku that he claims to have created a solar plant in Gujarat to power the sun! #YoRahulSoDumb that he’s asking why the missing plane MH370 has a Maharashtra number plate!

Being mean, witty, obnoxious, and acerbic, are trademark traits of trolls. Punching below the belt comes naturally to them. They are judged not by the number of arguments they won but by the number of people they ridiculed and bullied with their barbs. Political parties of all hues have pressed an army of cyber warriors into service to max the electoral match on the internet. The strategy is to silence the opponent with relentless name calling.

Which is why, one gets to see a profusion of synonyms for Kejriwal on twitter. Right from ‘Tragedywal’, ‘Dramewal’, ‘Khujliwal’, ‘Muffler Don’, ‘Paltu’, ‘Anarchist’ to ‘AK 49’. In contrast, Narendra Modi has fewer monikers. He’s sometimes called ‘Feku’ (Hindi for Mr.Bombastic), ‘Maha Feku’, ‘Feku Express’ or ‘Bluff Master’. Rahul Gandhi is universally panned as ‘Buddhu’ and ‘Pappu’. Poor chap!

Subramanian Swamy could legitimately claim to be the granddaddy of trolls as he started the practice of running down rivals by liberally spewing vitriol. Sonia Gandhi was the first recipient of Swamy’s unrequited love. At different points in time, she’s been vilified as ‘TDK’ (after Tadaka, a demoness), ‘Putana’ (another demoness) and ‘Vishkanya’ by the patron saint of insults.

Taking Swamy’s cue, legions of trolls have dished out slanderous nicknames to the ones they presumably hate. Barkha Dutt has been spoofed as ‘Burkha Dutt’ by the saffron chaddiwalas, Rahul Kanwal has been scoffed at as ‘Rahul Kamal’ by AAPtards who assume all journalists to be BJP stooges, Rajdeep Sardesai has been unfairly caricatured as Mr Chordesai and Chetan Bhagat excoriated as ‘Satan Bhagat’.

Scurrilous as these may sound, the only way to keep the pesky trolls out of your timeline is to ‘report tweet’ when you find something objectionable. Some with a sense of humour and a thick hide, don’t take such extreme measures. Instead they hit back by trolling the trolls!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jumbo sized mystery

The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight is fast turning into a whodunit mystery from a whathappened thriller. Everyone is bandying about a homespun hypothesis. My inner Agatha Christie believes that it could be an Orient Express like crime where everyone on the coach were complicit in the plot. All I am speculating is, there could be a substantial number of hijackers (assuming it’s a hijack) because it’s near impossible for two or three people to steal a plane in the sky by eluding radars, satellites and Rajnikanth’s hawk eye.

However, there’s a bigger puzzle that needs to be solved: Why on earth is the aircraft called MH370 instead of MA370? I got the answer when I looked up the IATA (International Air Transport Association) codes assigned to airline companies. Given IATA’s penchant for illogical nomenclature - 9W for Jet Airways, 6E for IndiGo - I wasn’t exactly shocked to discover that MA stands for ‘Malev Hungarian Airlines’ and MH for ‘Malaysia Airlines’. Shouldn’t the abbreviations have been the other way around? May be, the airheads at IATA think and talk in Klingon!

Talking of aircrafts, have you ever wondered why Boeing gives its fleet, names such as 707, 717, or 777? It can’t be numerology as the numbers keep changing from model to model. One fascinating theory that keeps popping up speculates that the angle of the wing sweep with the plane is about 45 degrees. And sine of 45 degrees happens to be 0.707. Hence the designation ‘707’. Unfortunately, like all clever theories, it’s too good to be true. The truth is that the wing sweep angle is 35 degrees and it has no connection whatsoever with the name.

Boeing chose the 700 series as the previous numbers had been used up for other models. For example, the 600 series was reserved for missiles and 500s for gas turbine engines. But the company admits that the choice of 707 was entirely the call of marketing mavens who felt that the repetition of ‘7’ made the model more memorable. As regards Airbus and its obsession for labeling aircrafts after the 300 series, well, they say it all started when they began making planes that could seat 300 passengers or more. Sounds like a flight of fancy, no?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pandits from paradise

Legend has it that Emperor Akbar found a community from Kashmir to be so astute that he decreed that henceforth they would officially be known as ‘Pandits’ or the ‘learned ones’. Even if the story were untrue, it has a ring of truth. As no other group in India – except may be, for the Parsis – has wielded as much clout as the Kashmiri Pandits, despite having a piffling population of less than a million.

The fascinating thing about them is not their good looks, cuisine, culture or famed administrative skills. To a naming buff like me, the stuff that I find most charming is their sophisticated surnames. I mean, who wouldn’t mind swapping their plain vanilla ‘Kumar’ or ‘Narayan’ for the important sounding ‘Kaul’ or ‘Haksar’.

Interestingly, although the surnames carry the aura of a Brown Sahib, their origins are rather humble. ‘Nehru’ does not carry any blue blooded lineage. It simply means one who lives near the banks of a nehar (Kashmiri for ‘canal’). ‘Kauls’ are simply the progeny of the Mahakauls who were devotees of Lord Shiva. The exotic ‘Zutshi’ is a derivation from ‘jyotishi’ (astrologer). The ‘Haksars’ are apparently emigrants from the village Hakchar in Baramulla!

The amusing part about Pandit surnames is that many draw their roots from nicknames linked to physical attributes of a forefather from the distant past. ‘Bambroo’, for example, is the nick for a guy with a complexion as dark as a black bee (remember the Mission Kashmir song: Bumbro, bumbro, shyam rang bumbro?). ‘Mushran’ is the stereotype big built ugly man. ‘Handoo’ is the farmhand who is fat like a sheep. ‘Hakhoo’ is thin and frail. ‘Kichloo’ is the bearded bloke. ‘Kachru’ is the red-haired chap. ‘Ganjoor’ is the bald-headed. And ‘Shangloo’ is for the six-fingered one. So if Hrithik were from the Valley, he’d be Hrithik Shangloo instead of I-Can-Dance Roshan!

Like in the rest of the country, some surnames are occupational in nature. ‘Butt’ is the priestly class, ‘Munshi’ is an accountant, ‘Bhandari’ is a store manager, ‘Mattoo’ is one who manages a religious math and if you’re wondering about Anupam Kher, the Khers are basically ‘Khars’ – those who collect taxes from donkey drivers!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Learning Urdu Made Easier

The itch to learn Urdu is often switched on by a beautiful song wafting through the air. What does ‘tasavvur-e-jaana’ mean in Gulzar’s 'Dil dhoondta hai’? What was Sahir alluding to when he wrote ‘muhafiz khudi ke’ in ‘Jinhe naaz hai’? Why did Anand Bakshi use ‘justajoo’ in the same sentence as ‘arzoo’ in ‘Dil-e-nadaan’? To an ‘Ek gaon mein ek kisan raghu thatha’ spouting Tamilian like me it really hurts to be reminded often of how little one knows. So I discovered a way to beat the system.

I started understanding the shaayar’s lingo through celebrity names. For a start, I chose cricketers. I figured Wasim is ‘good looking’ and Waqar is ‘dignity’. Javed is ‘bright’, Misbah is ‘lamp’, Azhar is ‘famous’ and Mohsin is ‘attractive’. It all seemed to fit, as actress Reena Roy once flipped for the handsome Mohsin Khan. And come to think of it, Misbah ul Haq is indeed the lone shining light in his current team (Afridi fans may disagree though).

Then I explored the world of Bollywood. I was curious to know the subtle shades of differences between the Khans. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that Aamir means ‘civilised’, Shahrukh is the ‘rook in a chess board’, Salman cues ‘protector’, Saif is ‘sword’, Irfan is ‘wisdom’ and Imran is ‘prosperity’. How appropriate considering, everyone leans on Salman for protection and everyone expects intelligent stuff from Aamir and Irfan!

What about the actresses? Well, Zeenat stands for ‘beauty’, Mumtaz for ‘distinguished’, Nargis for ‘daffodils’, Aalia for ‘exalted’, Shabana for ‘famous’, Tamanna for ‘wish’ and Soha for ‘star’.

If you’re the type who roots for the offbeat guys, you’d perhaps be thrilled to note that Farhan Akthar is ‘joyful star’, Farrukh Sheikh is ‘happy leader’, Farida Jalal is ‘matchless grandeur’, Iftikhar is ‘proud’ and Tabassum is ‘smiling’. Those who’ve seen ‘Phool khile hain gulshan gulshan’ in the Doordarshan days will vouch for the last bit.

For the historically minded, Babar signifies the ‘lion’, Humayun connotes ‘fortunate’, Jehangir is ‘world conqueror’, Shahjahan is the ‘king of the world’, while Aurangzeb translates to ‘adorner of the throne’. Before you go haiyo rabba, let me round off with the poetic Mirza Ghalib. His name simply means ‘victorious prince’.