Our friend Jeet tells the following story: A friend of his went to the local government office to pay his taxes. While waiting to be served, he saw a man enter one of the cubicles, take off his jacket and hang it over the chair. He then took out several containers of food and water. He ate his lunch at his desk.
In a short while, a woman came into the room, holding a paper. She approached him and asked if he could simply stamp the paper to show that she had been there. The man replied by saying that he was not able to do so. “But why?” she said, “Is there something wrong with the document?” “Not at all Madam, everything is in order.” “Why can’t you stamp it then?” “Because Madam…. I am not here.”
I go to my local Frank Ross Pharmacy, to get some Eugi, a probiotic I had purchased from a different Frank Ross Pharmacy, three weeks earlier. I hand a green-smocked man the empty Eugi packet. He searches the shelves, the drawers – I see that this is going to be difficult. He confers with another employee at the back of the store, who consults a computer. They in turn go consult a 3rd man. He shakes his head. They discuss the Eugi for quite some time. Finally the 3rd man comes over to me, and while holding the empty strip says: “But Madam, this does not exist, it will not be manufactured until 2014.”
“But… I purchased it from Frank Ross in South Mall 3 weeks ago, and I’ve been taking them this whole time” I say. The 3rd man gets very annoyed with me, picks up the phone, and aggressively punches in some numbers. They speak for some time, then turns to me: “How many do you want?”
Alan gets a “Missed Call” on his phone.
He calls back.
The woman who answers is not speaking English.
Alan: I’m sorry. I don’t speak any Bangla.
She: pause….(in English) But I was speaking Hindi!
Alan: Oh. Well, I don’t speak any Hindi either!
She: (disappointed, in English) You don’t?
Alan: No, sorry.
She: Wait a moment.
A man gets on the line.
He: Hello Sir?
Alan: You called me. I’m returning your call.
He: You’re returning from Hong Kong?
Alan: No, I’m returning your call.
He: Oh. Are you in India?
He: You are not calling from America?
He: Oh, well this is only for people in India.
Alan: I am in India.
He: Sorry to bother you Sir.
He hangs up.
Kafka in Kharagpur
At the Park Hotel Restaurant. On the menu, in English:
. Scrambled eggs on toast
. Eggs to order (fried / omelet)
Me: (pointing to Eggs to order…) I’d like 2 fried eggs please.
Waiter: (blank stare)
Me: (repeat of above)
Waiter: (with same blank stare) No Madame.
Me: Why? Here, on menu, see…
Waiter: Not possible Madame.
Me: Look… very easy (demonstrating breaking eggs into frying pan, w/ sound effects)
Waiter: (head bobble, indicating OK)
Alan: I’ll have the scrambled eggs on toast please.
Waiter: No, not available.
Alan: But it’s here, on the menu.
Waiter: Not available, omelet only.
Alan: (somewhat confused) If you can make an omelet, why can’t you make scrambled
eggs? (demonstrates whipping up eggs)
Waiter: No sir, not available.
(Think: Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces)
Me: Just have an omelet Alan.
Alan: I’ll have the omelet.