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Urban Junkie

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beam me there

This post by Sujatha and a comment I wrote on it has had me musing on the ‘beam me up, Scottie’ theme for the past couple of weeks. Does anyone else experience the growing need I do, to shrink the world to city-size? To be able to hop across continents for simple everyday things like having coffee with a friend, going to the supermarket, or eating at a favourite restaurant? We’ve become so accustomed, haven’t we, to having everything a phone call away … or an sms or an email away? On email, there’s really no difference between a friend who lives in Bangalore and one who lives in London. In the virtual world many of us live in, it is easy to forget the limitations of geography. Which is why it is startling – and faintly annoying – when our bodies can’t follow where our minds (or hearts) are.

I remember a conversation with my mother last Diwali … when the whole family was there at her place for the traditional ‘Diwali lunch’ – and I, in Bangalore, was feeling the pangs of being left out. I could have, of course, gone to Delhi for Diwali … but that wasn’t the point. I wanted to be here in my own home, I didn’t really want to go to Delhi … I just wanted to hop across there for lunch, and be back in time to light my lamps in the evening. Why should that still not be possible, when so much else is?

For those of you who hop between cities – or countries – is there a confusion arising from the merging of worlds? Do you make plans to have dinner at a favourite restaurant, only to realize you’re geographically challenged? Do you find you need something that you know is available at the neighbourhood supermarket – but, oops – that’s no longer the neighbourhood you’re in? I want to be able to choose between Karavali (in Bangalore) and the East Coast (in Singapore) for dinner. I want to be able to hop across to The Bisque in Gurgaon for Date & Walnut Cake. I want to work in Bangalore and attend my dance workshops in Delhi. I want to be able to meet a friend in Cairo for a drink after work. To visit a sick friend in Mumbai and be back to walk the dogs in the evening.

High time, isn’t it, that we could do a ‘beam me there …’? Technology has spoilt me, I think. The miraculous leaps that I have been witness to in my lifetime make me believe everything is possible. In the not too distant future. And make me almost impatient about things going too slow.

Come on, all you guys who gave us mobile phones, text messaging, blogs, podcasts, chocolate croissants, (and chewies, prompt Boogie and Gypsy) – ok, chewies, Seinfeld, Friends, The Meaning of Liff, satellite television, Coffee Day, John Abraham and Single Malt whisky. Wave your wand one more time and make it happen. Beam us there.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Grrrr ...

Put the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and let it go sharply. Involve your teeth in the process if you can. What is the sound that emerges? Something like ‘tch’? Maybe ‘tsa’ or just a softened ‘ta’? Can you manage tsk? I’ve been trying really hard, and I cannot. Not without a vowel involved, in which case I can manage tisk or ts-ka.

The dictionary on ‘tsk’: A sucking noise made by suddenly releasing the tongue from the hard palate, used to express disappointment or sympathy.

I disagree. I don’t think the human mouth is designed to pronounce ‘tsk’, and it is not a word that springs spontaneously from the lips (or out of the hard palate) when in the throes of disappointment.

Then there is ‘pshaw’. Another thorn in my side. Pshaw is, apparently, imitative of a sound made when irritated, disgusted or impatient, made by (get this) “a sharp exhalation and sigh combined into one”. Where did the P come from, I’d like to know. I have exhaled and I have sighed but I can get no further than ‘phoo’ (or ‘pha’) on one hand and ‘shaw’ on the other. Besides, is the P silent or it intended to be pronounced? Why would we have a word imitative of a natural sound with a silent P?

My point is this (yes, I do have one - this wasn’t just a fun game, even if you’re having a good time exhaling sharply and smacking your tongue against your hard palate). Aren’t words like tsk intended to be onomatopoeic? I have no problem if they did not masquerade as natural sounds. Especially natural sounds that we spontaneously emit at times of heightened emotion. Who has the time to struggle with silent Ps when otherwise rendered speechless by extreme disgust? Give me a good old ‘bah’ any day. Or several other unprintables (but easily pronouncables).

And we have an armload of these masqueraders. Take harrumph. Not a problem to pronounce, this one – but only if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.

Harrumph; intr v . To make a show of clearing one’s throat.

I challenge you to clear your throat and produce a sound remotely resembling harrumph. I clear my throat and I get nnnkrrhhhnnn. I say harrumph and I get ha-rrumf. Or variations, if I play around with the vowels. Haa-rroomf. Hay-rrumf. Etc.

Is this a sign of evolution, do you suppose? Were these at one time actually the natural sounds people emitted when experiencing the said emotion, which over time we have lost the ability to emit? Or is it just a case of very poor dictionary writing?

I am, in any case, collecting these. It has become a personal passion. If you have any, do let me know.

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