Cross the Word out

(I normally disdain ‘open letters’ on the ‘net, but this one just could not be stopped)

There was once a place in Bombay that offered books.

Oh, it didn’t do something as common as just sell them. No, this place invited you to pore over them, pick them up and sit in the various niches, not complaining one bit even if you read whole books without buying them.  It put up tables and chairs so you could sit and didn’t mind if you completed your projects using the wonderful reference tomes it stocked.  It had a whole dedicated kids area, which was wonderful enough to be heavily frequented by even non-parenting adults. It sourced hard-to-find titles, it offered offbeat covers, it even stocked graphic novels.  It had staff who would be happy to, and could, hold hour-long conversations about little-known science-fiction authors. It pushed you to read new books by constantly recommending titles. It was lovely. It was biblioffic. It was Crossword.

And then it opened a second outlet.
And another.
And another.
And another.
And it grew so popular, somebody decided to buy it.
And now it’s turned into just another retail chain.

*  *  *   *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *   *   *  *  *   *   *  *  *   *  *  *  *   *   *  *  *   *

There was a time I used to spend several evenings a week at the shop. Even after I got a full-time job, its new version(s) merited a weekly visit. But then, having moved abroad, for several years it became the occasion of a quick walk-in-walk-round-walk-out visit, busy as our schedules used to be in trying to meet as many friends and family as possible on the brief visits back home.  And although we’ve been back a while, I hadn’t been allowed into their stores for a proper browse (banned by family after exceeding the volumes (volumes…geddit?) of living space available) until very recently.

…oh, Crossword. Su total chutiyagiri chhe.

1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not belong under Indian fiction.  Yes, some of his books have characters that are defined as ‘Indian’, but THEY’RE THE ONES FROM LATIN AMERICA.

2. Your (smaller-store) magazine section doesn’t stock The Caravan.  Even the newspaper-stall-against-the-wall outside the Bhandup (E) station does. How sucky are you.

3. When I want to experience the joy of finding a sought-after book in stacks of other books, I’ll go to the secondhand roadside markets.  Because they’re a bargain. And it’s an adventure.  If you want me to pay full price for your books, stop making me hunt for a copy by placing them behind other books. On. every. damn. shelf.

4. And you know why I had to hunt for the books? Because your staff is so clueless. Seriously, train them. Or maybe pay them more so you find people who know something about books.  Because when your staff asks your customers to help them in looking amongst those hidden books, it’s obvious they – a) have never heard of them; b) don’t know where the book currently is.

5.  And you know why they can’t locate the book? Because the jamooras don’t understand your shelving system (such as it is). Alexander McCall Smith does NOT come after Ed McBain.  Seriously, the concept of middle names is not that difficult.

6. You’re a large chain. Owned by another bloody large chain. Owned by a conglomerate.  For fuck’s sake, invest in some handheld price scanners, so that every time I want to check the price of an imported book, I don’t have to queue at the billing counter for 15 minutes. And while you’re at it, get one of the jamooras to check that the books actually HAVE A DAMN PRICE TAG ON!

7. Don’t put up posters during your sale days which have asterisks AND NO FOOTNOTE. You sell books, muppets, books! You know, the things that are edited and re-edited and proofread and doubleproofed and which aim to educate and literify people? And you can’t put up a 15 word poster talking about those books without getting it right?  Wait. I know. The marketing guys handle it, isn’t it? Well you might as well give it to Babloo the Baboon and His Band of Blotchy Banana-Soaked Bandanas, because they’d do a better job. Or, y’know, HIRE SOMEBODY WHO CAN READ.

8. This is a Terry Pratchett book. See? It says Terry Pratchett. It’s stocked in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section. Which is where I am. Standing in the SF&F section. The adults SF&F section. Ok? Ok. You know what’s not ok? Some idiot dressed in a badly-fitting suit meant to represent some kids-based cartoon character spotting me holding a Pratchett book – with their colourful covers and the word ‘magic’ on them – and deciding I must obviously be interested in buying products related to that cartoon and trying to jolly me along.  What. the. fuck!  Seriously, hire Babloo the Baboon already or, khodai na kasam, your marketing team will soon learn why Fantasy is also called Swords and Sorcery.

9. Stop carrying the old favourites in your genre sections. SF&F doesn’t mean just Tolkien, Rowling, Jordan, and Pratchett. Crime doesn’t just mean Doyle, Ludlum, Christie, and Grafton. Travel does not just mean Palin, Dalrymple, and Lonely Planet.  There’s more out there. People like Robert Crais and Colin Thubron and China Mieville and Steven Eriksson and … oh, look it up yourself.  And don’t tell me to go to your website.  You’re a bookstore, store a decent selection of books in your stores.

10.  Really – stop stocking books behind books!

Congrats Crossword, you just lost a customer for good. Such utter fail.

Dilemmas with no win

Living in India can be relied upon to regularly dump upon you a barrelful of shittiness.

If you’re poor, you’re just screwed.  If you’re on the middle rungs, you’re miserable because you’re perpetually struggling not to become poor while dreaming of making it good. And if you are in money – and have a conscience – you’re surrounded by choices that never allow you to do enough.

Take this small instance.

You hire somebody to come clean, dust and tidy your house.  After a while, you realise they’re dependable and reliable and you can trust them with the house keys when you’re travelling. And because you don’t do things like dock them salary for days they’re ill (or can’t send a replacement), they hope and trust in you enough to start highlighting all their many many woes.

Unknown illnesses that require tests and medication equivalent to half a month’s salary.  The need for more than two pairs of uniforms for the kids they’re putting through school. The fact that they continue to work although they’ve been medically ordered not to, because of malnutrition and malfunctioning organs. How they have to queue up for water at 4am and make their teenage daugther bathe at that hour to avoid prying eyes.  Jealous relatives and neighbours who begrudge a small gift some employer may have passed on because it was unwanted.

So you help them. You help them with their paperwork, you apprise them of government schemes they can benefit from, you stand witness for them at banks and potential employers, you encourage them to get proper treatment with the extra money you’ve just handed them, you give them home remedies and buy them fruits so that they’re healthier.

Because you can. Because you want to. Because who else will do it. And you feel good about helping at least a few people, and you feel good about being able to help at least somebody directly and tangibly.  And you think it’s all straightforward.

But consider this.

You want to give them a treat.  You realise that with all their work and chores, they never get time to even go for a movie, and in any case, there are increasingly fewer places they can go to in our cities where they will not be turned away by the high prices and the security guards who are under instruction to let only a certain class of people in. You also know that they live near (and have to pass by) an area that hosts dozens of slightly upmarket restaurants where a single meal costs around a tenth of their monthly income – a meal you have about thrice a month.  A meal consisting of ingredients they have never even heard of, or contemplated, or if they have, can only have dreamt of.

So you think of taking their whole family out for a movie, followed by a nice meal at one of those restaurants. You imagine the sheer, unalloyed pleasue of them laughing and cheering and whistling at a paisa vasool Bollywood flick. And the delighted curiousity of tasting food that is new, that is filling, and that is bahut faaaancy.  It’s a small gesture for you, it would be something they would enjoy and remember, and everybody needs a respite from drudgery.

Simple, right?No.

Because you then suspect that they would prefer to have that money and use it to buy necessities they’ve been denying themselves, or buy some material for their farm back home, or put aside for emergencies, or even just treat themselves to an expensive ice cream. Because they could always do with a little more money.

And you wonder how much of this is your own selfishness talking, your own desire to have done good.  You consider whether they would be happy you got them into a posh restaurant with heavy cutlery and napkins and where obseqious waiters call them sir and madam, or whether they will resent you for taking them to a place where they clearly stand out as not belonging.  You realise it’s easy for you to not care about what others think, but it might only make them more ashamed of what they perceive as their inadequances and ignorance.

So here you are.

Torn between giving them the money which they could immediately use and make their lives a little more comfortable, or treating them to an experience they would never otherwise, and which you hope would make their lives just a tad more happier*.  Unable to even ask them to choose, because how can they judge what they haven’t experienced.  And because asking them simply shunts off the misery of second-guessing onto them.  And because offering them the choice only makes them more aware of what they’re missing.

And so here you are.  Trying to choose. Failing miserably to do so.

*Yes, you could do compromise and do both.  But the dilemma still applies – just doubles. 

I thought I was done with the commenting bit

… but obviously I’m not.

I’ve realised that there were deeper-rooted reasons for not opening up the blog to comments, and they needed explaining.  And stop shouting navel gazing! navel gazing!, because there IS a rant here.  Also, blogs = navel gazing. So hush.

*    *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *   *

1.  My biggest problem is with the sheer vacuity of most comments on any online article, post, video, status update, blah blah.

Research shows that 40% of all comments are by those who like the item, in which case they have to inform everyone else how much they just Loooooooooooooooveeeeeee it!  Another 40% are by those who do not like the item, which means an abundance of OMG this is such lulz, u obviously don’t know anything n00b. 10% are by people who have nothing to say, but just want to be out there, because yo, Internet 2.5 man!  5% are trolls, and will disagree with the original item, the comments, the comments on the comments, the whole interwebz and the wallpaper it is stuck on.  And just 5% are interesting comments which add to the discussion, highlight additional details, and posit alternate plausible theories.

These numbers are always valid, with a 2% margin either way.  Solid fact. I’m telling you baba.

Now, RantingBawa is genius blog (What? You know it is).  Which means if we throw it open to comments, there will be a flood of them, and since we already know what the vast majority of comments will be like – well, I have enough to rant about already. So, no thanks.

2.  Comments from people who know you.  Embarassing, very embarassing. Not as much as having to perform part of the navar ceremony nekkid with people watching, but still pretty embarassing.  Particularly the ones from family and good friends, which will be all fawning because that’s what one does to a loved one who’s genius.

Or worse, they won’t comment because you’ve told them not to be fawning and then you get upset about why they’re not commenting and call them and do naatak. So they comment, and express happiness at your writing and then you tell them off for fawning.  No-win.  Or worse worse, if they’re of a generation that first saw computers the size of a room, they will use the commentspace to remind you to call Soli uncle on Thursday because he’s going to Dahanu and he wanted to know if any of your friends want chikoos from his farm.

3.  People have an innate desire to meddle, mostly to prove they know better, and on the Internet, they have an innatier* desire to do so.  Which means people who actually do any writing are constantly being told by people who read the stuff about what the writers should really be writing about.

Now, sometimes this is helpful, because there’s always something you don’t know about, but can learn of and then write about it.  But, given the conditions of the walls close by me, I could do without people directing me to more infuriating, frustrating and downright idiotic things that would necessitate a rant. I mean, there’s enough in two square miles of where I sit to keep me ranting daily for the next two years.

4.  Responding to comments is a distraction. I would say chore, but I like to chat, and it’s interesting to meet new people, explore their world, discuss things and learn more.  But opening up the commentspace is the equivalent of walking into a party and rushing straight into all the huddles going hello hello hello, what’s happening, give me the goss instead of making a circuit of the place and listening in from the edges.

Comments cause conversations, conversations lead to new reading matter, new reading matter leads to less typing time, less typing time means fewer rants.  You want rant no? You no get comment then.

5.  Also, as mentioned before, comments can sometimes be sensible and helpful.  And the last thing I want after a nice long rant is for somebody to pop up with a brilliant and succint comment that totally invalidates everything I’ve just said and makes it seem like a spoilt child’s bawling.

Not that there would be any such comment, of course – because, y’know, genius and all.

But the commenter would think it was, and then I’d have to explain just why it wasn’t, and then they’d get all huffy and I’d either have to spend time pacifying them (if I knew and cared about them) or ban them (if I didn’t). Either of which means distraction, and more distraction equals less ranting, and seriously, do you want the bawa to rant or not?!

*    *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Ok, now I’m done ranting about comments.
… I think.

* I make up words. It’s how language came to be. Get with the programme.

How not to do things in India

#24  – Acquiring an LPG connection, in 15 easy steps.

1.  Decide to rent an apartment that does not have an existing LPG account.  One you didn’t even check for. Because checking the fine print is for lawyers.

2. Pick the smallest, most understaffed, and most uncoordinated of the three LPG franchisees in your area.  Spend fours each day for three days till you can get through 21 people to the employee sitting at a chair literally two feet from you. Because you like the underdog. Also, experiencing the real India innit?

3. Decide it’s not worth your time or energy to sort out (in person) an affidavit the gorment requires, and instead pay one of the honest-looking staff 250 rupees to get it done for you.  Which they do. Eight days later and three phone calls later.  Because you are that gullible.

4. Decide to make a three-week-long trip to England during the time you are expecting the confirmation letter from the franchisee.  Because fun won’t happen on its own, yo. And because, aapri rani.

5. Procrastinate on going back to the franchisee with the letter and your forms and proofs and money for 10 days.  Because, uggh, you just can’t deal with all the noise and pollution so soon <back-of-wrist-on-forehead pose>. Also, jet lag, bitches.

6. Haul your fragile constitution over to the franchisee exactly two days after the gorment decided to change its rules and freeze all new connections. Because your timing has been honed by decades of living on IST*.

7. Scrounge a spare cylinder from your landlord/ friends/ shady local contact, while you keep checking with the franchisee every three weeks for three months. In person (because phones are what they have now decided to kill flies with). Wasting two hours each time, because you refuse to shove and push your way through like the 17 people who get ahead of you.  Because if one person is polite and shows respect for rules, more will be shamed into doing the same. And if people like us don’t show the way, who will. Fact.

8. Use up your spare cylinder and instead of sourcing another one, buy an induction cooker. And pots. And pans. Because, investment.

9. Get fed up with waiting and decide to opt for an emergency, non-subsidised account. Submit all your details and return home secure in the belief things will be sorted in three days. Because willing to pay more means better service and totally doesn’t mark you as somebody to be fleeced.

10. Return to the franchisee after eight days to discover that the gorment has changed its rules again, and that your emergency request was cancelled because you are now eligible for a regular account. For which you will need to complete all the paperwork again, since your original filing and confirmation letter are more than 90 days old.  Decide to finally raise hell (because you can only push a nice person this far understand!) and firmly but angrily complain to the owner, who placates you by promising to expedite the process, and who orders the staff to do so, and who informs you at length how lucky you are to get special treatment till you shut them up by thanking them … Only to discover from the staff that the owner’s instructions meant nothing, and you still have to do the process anyway, because that’s the way the system is.  Which is why you fill in the form quietly. Because, 17 years of Jesuit-education training.  And this time, shell out 300 rupees for the affidavit. Because inflation.

11. Get your paperwork sorted after nine days, three phonecalls, two visits, and one sorting-through-all-the-applications later. Go home comforted with the promise that no confirmation letter is needed and that the ‘safety engineer’ will come round tomorrow for an inspection. Because, they promised.

12. Three days later, manage to convince some surly burly man to ‘check-up’ your house after two visits and some minor theatrics. Because you always wanted to be a drama queen.

13. Pay the man 500 rupees because you were too stupid to return the empty, unused cylinder to your contact, and which is now being used as ‘proof’ that you already have a connection, which means he can’t sign off on the approval form, because sirji aisa hain ki gorment bahut strict ho gayi hain. Because you can’t be bothered to argue with him after four minutes, and because it wasn’t a bribe because you were right, and besides, equitable distribution of wealth and upliftment of the poorer classes.

14. Return triumphantly to the franchisees with all the paperwork but end up spending 2,500 rupees on kitchen accessories that you already have or do not require because they billed you for it already and now we will have to fill in cancellation chitty and it’s already 4.30 so we will have to do it tomorrow after lunch but oh I’m on leave tomorrow and then Thursday is gorment holiday, but it’s upto you really. Because OMGJUSTGIVEMETHEDAMNCONNECTIONALREADY!

15. Get delighted when two battered old cylinders that made their way into your kitchen, four days and another two visits later.  Because, even if it did take five months and three days, eleven visits, seven phonecalls and 48 call attempts … RESULT!
right?


* Indian Streeeeeeeeeeeeeeetchable Time.

Or; Why I buy the cheapest mobile phone available

<broadband trouble>
<Restart router. Clear browser caches. fiddle twiddle meddle. buggerall improvement. Sigh. Take deep breaths. Switch on Zen-mode. Pick up phone and dial number.>

Namaste, welcome to Airtel customer care Gold service!  For English, press 1, Hindi ke liye 2 dabaye
*1*

…For Fixed line services, press 2; For …
You have selected fixed line services. To confirm, press 1.
For fixed line number, press 1.  For…
Please key in your fixed line number along with your STD code

The landline number you have keyed in is xxxxxxxxx. To confirm, press 1
For technical help, press 1; For…
…for technical issues, press 2
…for blah blah press … for blah blah press… to speak to a representative, press 9
<Finally!> *9*

Please hold the line while we transfer you to customer service representative.
<
Zen>

Namashkaar, Airtel mein aapka swagat hain. Main <baboochak> bol raha hoon.  Aaj main aapki kya saahayta kar sakta hoon?
Hi, I have a problem with my broadband and I need some technical help.

Ok no problem sir. Aapka phone number with STD code batayenge?
….I just did that.

Sir, confirm karna padta hain.
<headdesk>…. Fine, it’s xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jaankaari ke liye dhanyavaad.  Ab aapka naam confirm karenge?
Don’t you have it on your records?

Sir, sorry sir, aap Hindi mein bataayenge please?
<headdesk>  Noooo….I need technical help aur main yeh Hindi mein nahin samjha paunga.

Ok no problem. Please hold keejiye, main aapko transfer karta hoon.
<headpalm>

<Muzak>
< more Muzak>
<Muzak
headdesk Muzak headdesk Mu…

Good morning, welcome to Airtel. My name is <anotherbaboochak>. How can I be of assistance today?
Hi, I have a problem with my broadband and I need some technical help.

Ok no problem sir. Can you please confirm your full telephone number with STD code?
<puts phone down to headwall>

Hello? Sir? Hello?
Hi.  It’s xxxxxxxxxxxxx

And can you please tell me your name.
Can you not just check it from your records?

Sir, we have to confirm sir.
<headwall> <grits teeth and gives name>

Thank you Mr <mangledname>.  How can I be of assistance today?
My internet is not working and I need to figure out why it isn’t.

Ok no problem sir.  Can you please re-start the router?
I already did.

Ok no problem sir.  Can you now go to Run command and type…
Listen, I’ve already restarted the router and cleared the temp files and deleted the cookies and restarted from SysAdmin. Can you just check if there’s a problem on your system?

Of course sir, no problem. But first can you go to Run command and type…
<headwalls hard enough to loosen bricks>
Fine. Done.

And now can you type…
Listen, I’ve already done that!

Ok no problem sir. But now can you type…
<Zennnnnnnn>
<pretends to listen to instructions>
Right. It’s still not working.

Oh … Ok no problem sir, I’ll just transfer you to our technical team
wait what?! Aren’t you the technical team?

No sir, we are just customer care. To contact our broadband engineers you have to dial xxxxxx. They will give you full technical assistance.
So why was I not given that option in the first place??

Sir no idea sir. But just hold, I’ll transfer you directly now
No you listen …
<Muzak>
<neighbours wonder who’s yowling>
<Muzak>

Namashkaar, Airtel services main aapka swagat hain. Main <chamanchutiya> bol raha hoon.  Aaj main aapki kya saahayta kar sakta hoon?
Hello, aap English mein bol sakte hain?

Ek minute sir, main transfer karta hoon
<neighbours wonder what shouts of ghelchodia mean>

Hello, welcome to Airtel services. My name is <baburamhajaam>. How can I be of assistance?
Hi, I have a problem with my broadband and I need some technical help.

Ok no problem sir. Can you please confirm your full phone number with STD code?
… hello? hello?
<stares at mangled remains of phone while staunching head-wound>
<tosses phone into pile of similar carcasses>

Chitterchatterpatternatterblatheraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh

Or; Eh dikra, I can’t find the comments area.

Because there isn’t one.

But that’s what blogging and Twitter and tumblr and lookitmyhappyface are all about! Community networking! Feedback! Cross-platform discussions!

Yeaaaaaah … pass.

There has been enough written about information overload, beginning with Toffler in the ’70s, for me to need to explain the problems with it.  There have also been enough writers who have preferred to shun publicity and book readings and interviews and just let people get on with reading their stuff. You know this, and you also know how much more distracting it keeps getting. And nothing’s made it more so than the ever-expanding commentspaceverse.

There used to be a time when you read a column in your morning newspaper, or in a magazine, and you went away to think on it or found someone to talk it over with.  It encouraged considered reflection, especially if one wanted to get into a verbal discussion with others.  Plus, it also meant that you had to make the effort to meet people, or call them up, which was a nice social-bonding thing.

But who can afford the luxury of that sort of time anymore when there’s so much more to discuss! And what about people who didn’t want to speak aloud but had valid opinions anyway? And how would we have otherwise ever had random chats with people living in strange and distant lands?

Bah.  There was always too much information – most of us just didn’t (or couldn’t afford to) access it as much.  But even if there is, how does that convert to “I have to respond to this nau nau!”?  That road has only led to the idiot-trend of ‘First!’ posts, and people typing out the word ‘Like’ on Facebook messages despite having clicked the button that shows they do. All it has done is create a world where people feel they are compelled to respond, immediately, for fear of being forgotten or sidelined.  And this is not even starting on the trolling, the deliberate hate-mongering, and the advertising spambots.

Think about it – what percentage of the comments you’ve read on news articles, opinion pieces, blogs, or social media sites are ones that you remember, learnt something from, or pointed you to undiscovered avenues? And what percentage was full of people going lol, calling each other names, or eagerly following Godwin’s Law?

Like the Internet itself, the commentspace has become a place where genuinely interesting stuff is being swamped by the effluvium of the innate desire of people to be heard.  Now.  Too many words, not near enough sense. As Charlie Brooker succintly put it: “Every day, a billion instantly conjured words on any contemporaneous subject you can think of.”

Which, well, sort of describes this blog too. But I can do my bit to reduce the chatter.

So, no comments (for now).

I’m probably going to miss out on getting to know interesting people and fellow bloggers, who I would normally only discover if they commented.  I’m probably also going to not learn about alternate theories and arcane trivia which somebody might have pointed out.  I’m also probably coming across as a bit arrogant by seemingly asking people to just read and go away and not bother me.

But this is a rant, remember? It’s me going blah blah BLAH blah blah and everybody going aveh bas kar ni.  Besides, anybody who feels strongly enough will call me, or message me, or tell me when they see me.  Which will mean that if they’re taking that much effort, they’re not just instantly reacting and saying the first thing that comes to mind, but probably have something interesting to offer.

And who knows, after we’ve had it out, we might say want to get some chai and oh by the way guess who I bumped into the other day, and an actual conversation may take place.  (And yes, I get the irony of hoping to encourage old-school social interaction via modern technology).

Besides – I’m lazy. Who’s going to moderate comments, respond to them, and weed out the trolls when I can instead pretend to be promoting profundity?

PS.  People had pen-pals once. Now there are forums. That’s how you reach out to people you don’t know living in a country you’ve never been to.

Of beginnings and underlyings

A rant is not a rave.

In fact, it’s not much of a party at all.  Especially to those on the receiving end of one.

A rant can too often tip over into the realms of frothy-mouth, pop-eyed, arms-aloft demagoguery; the kind where the joy of pressure-valve-release quickly turns into an addiction of its own; where people begin to believe that what they have to say is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me god I’m going to thump you if you dare interrupt me or object to what I’m saying because haven’t you been listening to what I’ve been saying for these last three hours.  A rant, unfortunately, is usually a greased jello slide to standing in the middle of traffic junctions, waving torn slippers and ungrammatical placards while spitting phrases incoherently.

Especially if you’re a Parsi.  Because, y’know, the phrase ‘mad Parsi’ is one word too long.

A good rant, however, is a thing of joy.  It is more than just a catharsis of the angst you’ve been suppressing against a myriad issues and slights. It is more than just a way of letting your peers know that you too can pontificate on Matters Of Grave Importance, and would be doing so on national TV if somebody would just give you a chance.  It is more than an easy way to attract attention at parties or divert attention from a conversation you don’t want to have.

No, a good rant is more than all this. It is like a slowly cooked biryani, crafted and refined over a period of time, with small doses of complementary additions resulting in a multi-layered concoction that explodes when you first come in touch with it, only to sate you slowly with its detailed and rich undertones.

A good rant is not just about anger (though that is its essential base), but about a carefully-honed indignation that channels outrage without toppling over into pious pomposity.  A good rant is informative, its claims backed by a flood of details that have been verified already. A good rant is provocative, challenging its audience to respond and feeding upon that to rise to greater heights of oration. A good rant also has just a little bit of humour, to ease the harshness of its many declamations.

But more than anything else, a good rant is self-aware; it knows its limitations and the limit of its influence, it knows that it will not change the world but hopes to merely convert a few opinions, it knows that it is possible to rant on the most obscure and most navel-gazing of activities and interests, and it knows that there may be better wordsmiths out there that can evoke far greater passions. A good rant does not dream or believe in itself – it merely hopes.

And here’s the crucial bit – so huddle up and listen closely – it’s the ideal vehicle for a bawa. Because having an authoritative opinion on any subject, and arguing with oneself, the world and nearby walls is what bawas do best.  And so, when one just needs to let rip after having witnessed another bone-headed act of common idiocy, people are more likely not to gag you with pillows if you’re a bawa, because – well, didn’t you read the bit about the redundant usage of ‘mad’ when describing us?  People will nod and smile and let you finish, because they know nothing short of a brandy-drenched omelette is going to stop a ranting bawa from finishing his current rant.

So, unless you’ve got a boozy egg dish available ….