When daily stuff in other places were going their way, I guess this country wanted to be different. So while people all over the world were going the leftists’ way, someone in this country must have suggested,
“Let us be different. Let us not be a part of the herd. Let us start driving our cars and buses the right way (puns, puns). The world walks wrong. Let us walk the right way too."
And it must have been then that someone did the ritualistic start of uprooting the steering wheel from the right side of the vehicle and implanting them on the left. That day onward, vehicles have moved on the right side of the road. People have walked on the right side of the road. And it is then that people like me have bumped into unsuspecting individuals coming from the opposite direction, and stood at the bus stop for long hours waiting for the bus at the wrong side of the road. Worse, people like me have gone off their mind seated in the front seat of the car and almost screaming aloud every time a huge truck from the opposite left came. But then, everyone drives and walks “right” here.
And then someone in the grocery store must have said something on these lines-
“Let us confuse the Indians, once again. Forget the meter-kilogram-second or the centimeter-gram-second systems from the unitary methods of our school text books. Let us stick to the FPS, or the foot-pound-second system. Since that day, milk has been sold in gallons, people like me have gained weight in pounds, and the daily temperature has been recorded in Fahrenheit. When I was growing up in India, the so called “amrican or foreign products” held a lot of appeal. I knew this particular brand of shampoo had to be American because unlike the ml/l concept in India, the measurements were printed in “oz.” However, the craze is gone, but not the confusion. I still get thoroughly confused in grocery stores, scratching my head and my chin frantically to figure out the least expensive brand of juice when I have to compare two different quantities with their respective prices. The unitary method calculator in my head goes beep, and then I am frantically trying to figure out how many ounces and how many gallons mean how many liters. In school, I always used to skip the sums in the physics text book using the FPS system of measurement so as not to confuse myself. But in grocery stores here, you cannot expect to ask the figurative shopkeeper, "What is the price of potatoes o' brother? Tell me in kilograms." You do all that in your head.
“Oh man, what a hot day today. The temperature has surely crossed hundred. What do you think?”
I was almost on the verge of spilling out my ignorance by exclaiming, “Hundred? Doesn’t pure water boil at hundred?” Frankly, I still haven’t figured out an easy way to convert degree Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa. All I know is that a kilogram is little more than two pounds, and every time the doctor asks me my weight, I calculate things in my head and give her an approximation. When cherries were selling for $10/10 pounds, I actually had to scratch my head in public to figure out how much would 500 gm cherries cost me.
Certainly not to mention that even after almost a year now, I still have difficulty identifying the dimes and the quarters and the cents. Even the bills are not color specific unlike in India, and every bill is green in color. What more, I have to live up t the realization now that Gandhi ji is no longer going to smile on my bills here.
Bill by the way is the American English for note. As in, currency.
And then someone else must have said, “Let us change the words to confuse these people some more”. So notes became bills, bills became checks, while checks remained checks. Lifts became elevators, bathrooms became restrooms, snaps became pictures or snapshots, lucky happenings became fortuitous events, coriander became cilantro, capsicum became bell peppers, and brinjals became eggplants (though they contain no egg). And here I thought that we were dealing only with one language “English” here.
After words came the turn for spellings. Some mathematician calculated that in reducing one alphabet approximately for each word, the entire nation could save 112.84 liters of ink and 56.73 hours of type time everyday. Children in school would learn to spell words at an approximation of 18.25% lesser time. So it all came down to the self while the concept of a “you” went missing. Colour became color, favour became favor, and so on. Every simultaneous repetition of the same alphabet became redundant, and MS word made sure that every time people like me typed, the screen was filled with red squiggles.
Units changed, currency changed, words changed, and so did their meanings. Quantities changed, my weight changed, my accent changed (somewhat), and so did my perceptions. These days, it is almost impossible for me to identify anyone as uncle, aunty, bhaiya, bhabi, and so on. We all go on the first name basis. So many times have I been tempted to call my 70 year old advisor grandpa instead of John. The last time some junior emailed me from India for academic advice and started the email with “Dear Didi”, I almost had tears in my eyes. The “Good morning sir” became “Hi, howz it going?”, and the “may I come in” became “Hi, do you have a minute?” after the tap on the door. Doctors no longer asked you if you are married, they simple asked if you have an active sexual life. Biodata became resume while information like father's name and marital status became redundant in my resume. And I love the use of euphemisms here. Handicaps are physically challenged, madcaps are mentally challenged (just kidding), stupid people are dumb, dumb people are mute, the word rich is rightly substituted by the privileged and the affluent, and professors “encourage” students to finish the assignments instead of writing something like “You are required to do so and so, it is compulsory”.
The numbers and the percentages in exams are somewhat redundant here. It is all converted into grades. This way I could go on for hours, but then, right now I need to get my As and my Bs right. Naah, I don’t mean learning the alphabets afresh, but am referring to my grades for the upcoming exams.
A tad too much of learning, huh?