Sunday, September 25, 2005

Culture Shock: Negotiating In Singapore

Singapore has no concept of MRP, that much I think I have mentioned. You can bargain to your hearts content over here, especially if you're in an area like Chinatown, or some of the other less westernised areas of town. However, bargaining comes with it's own set of protocols and local customs, as I discovered about a month ago, when I bought my cellphone. Allow me to elaborate.
If you are bargaining in India, or Thailand (the only other place I've haggled), it's a pretty straightfoward procedure(Unless of course it's with an Autowallah in which case you must abuse him soundly). You bid, keep taking the price down, and ask him for his best price. If it finally pleases you, you purchase, and if it doesn't, or you want to look around you walk off, possibly with a promise to return.
Herein lies the key difference in Singapore, as I found out when I put the question to my entirely singaporean Leadership & Teambuilding class. For this is what happened. I bargained. I brought the price down. I asked the man for the best price he would give, I said I would check around, and the proceeded to attempt to assault me for not purchasing the phone.
Here is why. If you ask for best price in Singapore, you are by honour obliged to purchase the item. Bargain all you like, but once you say those magic words, YOU MUST BUY. This is indeed a strange custom, because one is used to it being an open market, where one is king. One does not, under any circumstances, expect to have a lamp raised to one's head, and be threatened with quick and sudden retaliation.
Luckily, I managed to placate the man, and walked off. I also managed to get a better deal on the phone somewhere else, however I pretty much purchased it immediately, for fear of life. This is not a good way to attract customers.
But local customs differ, and thus I have learnt and will continue to practice the art of negotiating without ever mentioning the words "Best Price". As for the not so nice cellphone salesman, in the words of a wiser man, May Barbarians Invade His Personal Space.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Or How I Fared in My First College Tournament

Getting to NTU:
Getting to NTU is a bit of a process, which kind of reveals how incredibly spoilt I have gotten to the fact that everything is really close by in Singapore. NTU is, pretty much as far as you're going to get in terms of transit in Singapore, it's right out at the eastern edge and takes, yes ladies and gentlemen, an Entire Hour to get to, by public transit. There involves a change of two metro lines, and the taking of one bus, and costs an incredible 2 dollars each way. That's almost Rs 60. In retrospect, that's not that bad at all, but lets face it, 2 dollars a trip is a bit pricy. Enough rants about expeditures.
The campus itself is large, florid and quite pritty. It unfortunately bears resemblance to IIT Kanpur, both in structure and in spirit. The lecture theatres are quite the same, albiet airconditioned, and the building style is well, engineery. I'm glad, very glad I didn't chose to spend my college years doing engineering, it would not have suited me at all.
Enough rants about my college choices.
The tournanment was to start bright and early at nine in the morning, with registration at 8 30. We arrived, a mere five minutes late, to find out most people didn't share our ideals of punctuality. The tournament eventually started at about ten thirty, with the first round of debating, and I did pretty well for myself. As a whip speaker, and with a teammate who started his extension in his sixth minute, I came in 2nd, and earned myself two points.
Diversion: I enjoy doing Opp. Whip, it's got a horribly perverse tone to it, and suits me well.
The next three debates were awful, for completely different reasons. I shall not delve too much into them, and instead get to the meaty bits. The Semifinals, and Finals.
Two SMU Teams broke into the Semifinals, SMU A and SMU B (surprise surprise). SMU A, consisting of Shuvam and Priyam henceforth referred to as The Power Couple, scraped through from what I heard into the Finals, from their draw. SMU B, from what I witnessed and cheered on with, had a pretty clear cut victory through the finals. Things were generally set up for a fun time. Two SMU Teams, two NTU teams, opening house NTU, closing house SMU, it was a recepie for disaster. The motion before the house was "Nations are Rouge only when Confronted", and the opening government, NTU A, decides to squirrel.
A squirrel is when you completely change the spirit of the motion, to suit your needs, because you are a bastard of the first order.
Thus, the entire debate, for some reason, got centered in Myanmar, and discussed how the government side wished to propose sanctions on the country, so as to force them into dialogue, or something which was far far more confusing than that. This effectively made it...a terrible debate, and killed any chance Closing Government had of making sense, as they had a flimsy case to support. Joey and Amira,(SMU B) thus lost out. Big time. But all was well and good, for SMU A Saved The Day(forgive me for rhyming) and came out with a brilliantly done extension to win the house. Adjudication took only five minutes, before results were announced. SMUDS had just won it's first local BP IV. Not bad for a club that's three years old. Not bad at all.

Hopefully, by next year, I'll be breaking and competing in the finals for similiar guts and glory, it's good to be on a winning team, a winning institution, years at RKP have got me really used to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

..For I Have Sinned...

I seem to be incorporating a number of the deadly sins in my daily life these days. Sloth,sigh, I have given up trying to fight. I am a lazy arse, and Proud of it. But Good God, the depths I sunk to today, its not even funny.

The Sunday dawned bright, and a wallet full of cash. Since certain specimens of the male populace didnt get up on time, I had a day free, and the plan was made to go to NSS. NSS is a whole culture at National Law School. Its where Everyone goes for lunches. Its this nice, quiet, traditional diga restaraunt, good food, its the best place to 'positively interact' with someone, and it gives a discount to lawschoolites.So three of us land up there. We have a LOT of food- but then, that is by My standards, not my company's- and then there was dessert.

Well, to call it dessert would be a misstatement. More like..little drops of heaven.Theres a hot plate, on which is this sexy chocolate brownie. On which there is an incongruously placed slab of vanilla icecream. You start giggling when you see the icecream falling off and making sizzling noises. Then, the guy comes and adds nuts, which get all nice and roasted. And Then, he comes with this lil soup-tureen-type-thingummy and Pours out hot chocolate, till the brownie is Swamped. Theres Chocolate Everywhere! And its Brilliant!it beats Barista's Chocolate excess to bits-the sizzling plate actually burns you. I prefer it to DBC, because DBC kinda overdoes the chocolate(no, it is Not a contradiction in terms, taste it and see). Critics say the Sizzling Brownie is not sweet enough. I have just one word to say to them. Dumbasses!Mmmm....Perfect Meal.Its the 18th today...which would mean,among other things, very little time for preparation. But I shall spend a bit more, contemplating on how Good the SB actually was....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cultural Mongrels

I live in a hostel with people from all over India, and Asia. I'm in a college with pretty much the same. I interact with people from all over the place, and while I may lay claims to being used to this, coming from DPS R.K Puram, this just takes it to a whole new level. Languages, thus, have become a major major melting pot, especially when one tries their hardest to stick to english, so as to let everyone have some allowance in understanding what is being said.

Let me take up my hostel, first, and particularly the Indian crowd. It's from all over. This is a problem. We're all starting to sound horrible, because we can't seem to stick to one vernacular at all. The guys from Calcutta, (Kolkotta, you bengali supremists, damn you) do not seem to understand the concept of First Person Singular. "Main" (I, in Hindi) seems to have been forcefully removed from their vocabulary, and thus they refer to themselves in plural. Thus, "Humne Nahin Keeya"doesn't mean the whole lot of em didn't do the work, it just means that Vivek's a lazy dog.

Next, there is of course, the Delhi influence. Thus, the Calcutta, and various other crowds have started using the words Banda and Bandi to refer to males and females, aside from many other typical delhi words, some of which shall simply not be mentioned at all. Along with this is my inherent Punjabi influence, which has added such wonderful cultural additions, as the previously mentioned "Swaah", the ever useful "Had Hundi Hai", and the seldom used "Gwaachi di Gaawan"(Lost Cows) to refer to the nefarious dissapearances of the girls of the hostel, at critical cake cutting moments.

Not to be left out is the influnce from the west. From Mumbai and Baroda, we get the ever prevelant "Lukha", to describe pretty much anyone. If you wish to be particularly abusive, the Marathas will use the word "Ghaat" or Ghaati to a remarkable extent. Baju, again, is dropped here and there in regular conversation.

Now, if the remarkable amount of Indian vernacular was not confusing enough, wait orredy. The Singlish is about to start. Orredy, we have started concluding sentences with "lah", for no apparent reason. The verb "Can" makes sense to us all, and it's only a matter of time before we drop all other verb and sentence formations for the single "Can" or the very expressive "Can Can". Expeltives, of course, no good language training can do without. As a general expression, Wah Lao, and Wah Lei Li are quite common. The should again not mention in the kind spaces of this blog.

But it doesn't end. One encounters Filipinos, and their associated "Parrang"s, things over here are too ex, and one spends to much as a result, and for some reason, thanks to the Tamil Influence down here, even the Chinese people use "Aiyyo".
Something needs to be done, but I for one cannot.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Airborne Time

Weeks fly by here. It's now been three weeks of college, five weeks of being here, and I can hardly tell. Time just buzzes by, because at all times you have something or the other to do. The weekdays race by, in a flurry. They go by in a mess of classes, group meetings, project work, homework, assignment work, debating practice, and...home chores(In the interests of politeness, and the tact I am desperately trying to inculcate, however failing desperately in doing, I shall not further elaborate on the phrase "Home Chores").
Not to sound trite and overdone, but college really opens up a whole new world for you. Everything kinda has to be done on your own, sure there's a lot of people to help you out, but they're not going to offer to until you reach out. There's a whole lot I've learned, and it's sort of been rammed down my throat. Most of it is well, too complex or too boring to share with you mere mortals, hence I'll brief you on the more interesting things I've learnt in an easy to understand, bullet point format.
  • Signposting is important. Always signpost. It builds up matter, makes you look important.
  • RIN Bar is bad for your hands, don't use too much of it.
  • If you turn "Baby One More Time" into a hard rock song, you can actually headbang to it. Serious!
  • There is no greater incentive to hostel and college life than the word "Free Dinner". There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free dinners are all over the place
  • Do not ever eat Wasabi. Do not ever eat anything with Fish Flakes. Do not even go near "Durian"
  • Everything is exchangable in hostel, and everyone needs something. Don't ever throw anything away.
  • Chinese people cannot pronounce the syllable "Bh". A B or a P has to suffice. Welcome to the world of Pav/Bav "Rhymes with Love" Kahna.
  • Signposting is important, you can repeat what you say and make up time doing that.
  • There are few things as fun as jumping off your seat during a debate and yelling out "Fallacy Sir! Shame!"
  • College life is a breeze, where work is optional, and you spend most of your time partying.
  • Fallacy Sir! Shame!
In unrelated news, I've had a great weekend, where I have actually gone shopping and bought myself a pair of brand new Sandals, the Nike ones which are supremely overpriced in India, but decent enough over here. They're exceedingly comfortable.
Oh, that's not all. I've spoilt myself silly, and got myself a haircut, after a period far too long not to have a haircut. I am, now of course broke and need to withdraw money from my account.
Am starting to realise that I can spend a little more, the college has given me a decent amount of money for this term. Accoring to my handy dandy calculator, I can spend 191.66666 dollars a week, with the remainder of my grant money. I am currently spending around 80-90.

However, I am the world's second most thrifty person (How can I ever take the honour away from Prateek Chadha), and will see how things go.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Time Travel, Grammar and The Postal Service

First of all, many thanks to Vrinda for giving the idea for this...babble.

The world today is connected. Exceedingly well. In Victorian times, or a little closer to home, messages would take weeks to get across, with the advent of faster telecommunications, days, and soon enough you could send a telegram, but only if you were packing a lot of wads in yer wallet. Basically, the cheapest, if not fastest, method of communication for a very long time was Postal Mail, hereby reffered to as "snail mail", not in any ways to be confused with the far more elaborate "Snail Mail".
After the internet revolution, the world changed. Whever the hell you were, it had suddenly become affordable (but only just) to send messages across instataneously. There was email, there was ISD that didn't involve booking calls on a trunk line, there was basically a whole lot of change. As we entered a new century, we got VOIP, net conferencing, Mobile Phones, and finally SMS. Prices plummeted, and suddenly, everyone could get the message, quite literally.

Charms of the old fashioned system, as it is with most old fashioned systems, fail to be lost. Thus, the postal system in most countries has not, in fact, become obsolete. They're enough people sending mail here and there to keep it going. In fact, Japan even plans to privatise it, if their Richard Gere-esque Prime Minister can manage to get himself re-elected. The problem is, most information you wish to convey by snail mail has, in all probability, already happened, and with even greater probability already been discussed amongst the parties involved in the whole mailing experience.

Douglas Adams, whom I'm sure you're all familiar with, covered the nasty world of punctuation over time gaps quite well in his book, The Restraunt At the End of the Universe. I offer here the link that covers his views, in the form of Dr. Streetmentioner's Time Travel Handbook Of 1001 Tense Formations. The fact is, that you need these to describe events in a snail mail that will happen in your future, but have already happened by the time the reader has read the mail, and he or she is already aware of the said event's occurance. Tense and Grammar, as certain Violent Panda's and Annoying Short Guy's have pointed out time and time again, are very important.

Seeing how this is the only real way you're going to attempt time travel, you might as well give it a shot. For now, I wioll haven be have cake.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


It's been a long time coming, a good eighteen years to be exact. Today, I'm an adult, I'm finally and officially legal and accountable for my own actions. Ironically, I've never felt as young since...since I couldn't remember how young or old I felt. I've always thought myself to have this mature head on my shoulders, to be a bit aged for my years(don't I give myself airs) and after joining college I've really been feeling very young indeed. There's so much to learn, so much to experience and so much my seniors, and indeed my peers have to teach me.

Enough with the serious talk, I'm young, immature and I'm, to use a phrase, Going to Be Eighteen Till I Die.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

By F Scott. Fitzgerald

Having nothing to do before college started, I used the great large Li Ka Shing Library(in which I am sitting right now) to issue some reading material. Little did I know that this was a college library, and was thus unsympathetic to the cause of light fiction. To be fair, it did contain a Jeeves omnibus, but little else. Oliver Twist isn't exactly my idea of an enjoyable evening's sit down, and the Philosophical fare looked very uninviting. Some day, I shall read Franz Kafka's metamorphosis, but that day's not for another month, at least.

So what I did pick up and read was The Great Gatsby, a story primarily about a man named Gatsby(who'da thunk it) he goes about attempting to get a girl. This of course is not blindingly obvious, wherein lies the beauty of the book. The second wonderful thing you will find is that, well, it doesn't really have a hunky dory ending. Unlike most love stories, this neither ends in Tragedy for the pair, nor a happily ever after. Gatsby dies, and one really cares. It really makes you stop and think, about how you should lead your life, how you should prioritize people, and how you shouldn't wait too long.

This wasn't, as I had hoped, a fun read. It was, however, a very good one. One where you feel great sympathy in the end for the characters. One where you end up thinking about what went wrong. And ultimately, the clincher as far as I'm concerned, one where a lot of people die.
You can't really end a story without killing someone off.