Why all this uproar about Shah Rukh Khan being detained and questioned by an American immigration official? It is unfortunate, and nobody likes it when it happens, but it is a fact of life. Happens to all of us brown-skinned people all the time. So he’s a superstar in India. That does not mean an American immigration official should know him. Last I heard, SRK hadn’t been issued a diplomatic or otherwise special passport by the Government of India that would enable him to be shown some consideration, or even exemption from such procedures. (Trouble is, in India, everybody and her son-in-law probably wants – and has – that exemption, so it probably wouldn’t count for much even if he had it!)

We have all been ‘selected at random’ for special checking in the US. I have had to take off my shoes once. On another occasion, my checked-in baggage had been opened – locks and all – and a card left in which said my luggage had been ‘randomly selected’ for inspection by, if I remember right, the Transportation Security Authority. Sure. It was randomly selected from a bunch of luggage that belonged to other brown people who also had funny, foreign sounding – perhaps Ay-rab – names. Many people I know have had similar experiences. None of us liked it. But hey, shit happens. Having said that, at another time, an immigration official, on seeing I was from India, actually spent 5 minutes raving to me about how beautiful Aishwarya Rai is. Perhaps there’s a lesson for SRK in there somewhere. If you want inconsequential immigration officials in the US to recognise you, act in crappy Hollywood movies instead of crappy Bollywood movies.

And yes, neither the US government nor anyone else has asked us to bow and genuflect and generally be model servile Indians when Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and others visit India. It is just our pathetic mindset which makes us roll out the red carpet for every white jock and bimbo that visits India. Just because we do it doesn’t mean that every other country abandons its processes or procedures – whether right or wrong, justified or not is another matter; but they exist –  to accommodate the million or so Indian VIPs.

Moral of the story: Don’t travel to the US if you have such a problem. Ask your friend not to shoot each and every one of his ‘Indian’ films there. And that goes for all the other people who have expressed anguished outrage over this act. I follow what I preach – I don’t visit the US unless I absolutely have to. As long as someone else can do the job, I am happy to let that person go. And when I do travel to the US, I go with the full knowledge that I will be ‘randomly selected’ for at least a closer look.

Enough with the fucking whining, already.

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Another example of Indian hysterics. Some Chinese guy wrote about how it is in China’s interest to break up India into 20 or 30 states and all good Indians are up in arms! Patriotism is suddenly the flavour of the season, and what with 15th August and all that, Mera Bharat Mahan seems to be the new catch-phrase.

It is amusing to see the palpable sense of indignation over that article. Indian machismo is suddenly all around us. On various sites and fora where this article is being discussed, many comments range from the wannabe-sublime to the truly-ridiculous, but all combine typical Indian hyperbole with characteristic desi bluster: from Watch out China, we shall break you up instead, to This is not 62 and we have nukes to Boycott all Chinese goods, to Our democracy is the best to Unity in Diversity shall prevail and other such lines that would seem more at home in a book written by a certain Danish gentleman called Mr. Andersen.

How dare the Chinese try and meddle in our affairs? To them, all I can say is: Don’t presume you can do to us what we seem to excel at doing to ourselves. We don’t need you. We can do all of that ourselves. And do a better job of it at that. So there. Pfftttt.

Just be around to pick up the pieces.

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And finally, a few words about Indiameme. Chirag, one of the most helpful individuals in the blogosphere, has spent his hiatus designing a new site that seeks to bring to you the best news and stories concerning India. His site links to interesting and credible blogs and websites (Disclosure: Mine is among them) and wants to be a one-stop shop for all India related news in the online space.

Do show your support for his initiative by visiting Indiameme.

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Smita recently wrote a post about a train journey. And that made me very nostalgic. During my student days, I travelled a lot by train. My post on Indian toilets wouldn’t have been possible without years of experience in using train-toilets, for instance. Good old Indian Railways – they were definitely not for the faint of heart.

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As a sleeper-class passenger, one always had to deal with travellers who did not have any reservation and insisted on sitting at the edge of one’s berth all through the night. Having been a veteran of many “general dabba” journeys myself, I sympathised with such people and generally let them be.

Some of them even laid out their sheets and slept in the corridor. One such individual did the same just outside our compartment. There was a Bengali gentleman on the berth opposite me who did not like this very much. So he looked down and indignantly called out “Ae, tum niche kyun sota hain?” Pat came the reply, in Jattu: “Toh apne saath sula le!

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I seemed to attract families with lots of luggage and at least two squawking kids. And so it was on this one particular journey. Harried parents, an older boy – infuriatingly whiny and always ready to throw a tantrum – and a quieter younger sister, with an incredibly runny nose. The boy was a brat. Ready to howl at the slightest excuse, and the parents, after feeble attempts at discipline, invariably let him have his own way. Which was to run riot, scramble all over the place, buy something from every vendor in sight and generally be an insufferable pest.

The compartment soon resembled a monkey cage….peanut shells and bits of food and wrappers strewn all over, the boy scrambling up and down, insisting on eating on the top berth, spilling and littering with abandon, climbing down again, throwing another tantrum and then eating some more.

And then, while sitting on the top berth, he spat out a mouthful of some cucumber he was eating, which narrowly missed my head, but landed on my jeans. My first instinct was to stand up and whack the little shit, but the mother quickly intervened with “sorry bhaisaheb, baccha hai”, while the father proceeded to wipe the green goo off my jeans with a towel.

Their apologetic and long-suffering demeanour calmed me down, until I remembered that this was the same towel that had been used to swab wet berths and wipe copious amounts of snot and spit off the face of the other kid. At which point I just gave up. There’s no point fighting when the universe is determined to screw you.

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Of course, I was luckier than a friend of mine. He had gone to attend a sports camp down south, and had a very long journey back, in the middle of an Indian summer. Somewhere (I think it was in Andhra), they were waiting for a connecting train that was late by more than 12 hours and was expected only in the early hours of the morning. So you had a hundred or so high-school kids spending the night on the platform, along with the other passengers.

Soon there was no food left at the station, and predictably, there was no water left either. And then my friend had to use the loo. Quite urgently, too. And that was when he made the most stupid mistake of his life. One that he’s not been allowed to forget to this day. Any sensible person would’ve used paper – any kind of paper from somewhere. Anywhere. But no, not my pucca Indian (left-hand-only) friend. He decided to use the only liquid available. GoldSpot.

I’d rather not get into the gory details, but let’s just say it was a very sticky situation.