lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, April 21, 2008

Missus Em decides to be cross

"And these people will grow up and become columnists and commentators on issues," I sighed. He sighed louder. "Now what?" "How anybody can write such ungrammatical stuff is beyond my understanding," I went on.

"Somebody missed a comma or an apostrophe?" he inquired in a long suffering polite tone. I heard the doorbell, but ignored both tones and went on with my grouse.

"No. People ignore tense continuity. Worse, they confuse and mix up tenses, often in the same paragraph or sentence. I'd have thought it's so simple - there are only three tenses and four variations. Even I can count that high, and I only need two toes on top of my fingers."

A look of alarm flashed on the face of our friend who entered as I spoke. We greeted him. Once we were comfortably settled with drinks at hand and things to munch, he asked me about it.

"What is this needing only two toes on top of your fingers? Some complicated yoga posture?"

"Nope." I grinned. "Tenses. People get them wrong all the time, especially the perfect tense. It's simple enough, after all. Present; present continuous, present perfect and present perfect continuous. I gnash my teeth. I am gnashing my teeth. I've gnashed my teeth. I've been gnashing my teeth. Past…" I stopped my chant to draw a breath.

"I get the picture," he smiled. "Don't laugh, it really bothers me." I said. I know I tend to be extravagant when writing, but I really am moderate in speech.

"You sound like my wife. She has this quaint way of putting it, she says she is so cross." He smiled again. "Our children laugh at her, of course, and say nobody says cross anymore."

We went on to talk about other things, mostly things that made us cross, and the conversation flowed. I thought about it later, though. Cross is how I feel; even leaving inflections and conjugation out of it, not mentioning apostrophes at all, cross is how I feel when I read newspapers or articles or essays on the Internet.

I know I am repeating myself here, but I am a mild person, and sweet-tempered to boot. But there are times when the sweetest temper can turn sour. I don't always grouse about it on the blog, though.

I didn't say a word when I completed this month's Genius puzzle in twenty-five minutes (and five of them were spent printing the puzzle and pencilling in the solutions) and felt let down, did I? I didn't say anything at all about my decision to never believe my surgeon again. (Oh, I trust him with my life, I just won't believe his time projections for recovery again.)

I didn't even mention my phone woes, and not just telemarketers' calls either. I didn't ever talk about the mails I get bombarded with, from banks, credit card companies, and more.

A digression: the only bank that doesn't pester me is HSBC, and that is because we parted ways in a very acrimonious fashion. They gave me an ATM card. Free, they said. I used it sparingly, but was quite happy to have it. A year later, their monthly statement showed a charge for it. I protested. They said it was free only for the first year. I said they hadn't said so explicitly when they gave me a card I hadn't asked for.

I said I would have no more truck with them. They offered me a different account, where the card charges would be waived, better services and more. I said, no thank you. But Missus Em, said the person I was speaking to. Stop right there, I said; did she know that was the first time any of the bank staff actually addressed me by name, or looked at me properly? (They generally treated me like the Invisible Woman.)

Oh, wait. The reason why HSBC doesn't pester me is probably because they don't have my email address.

As I was saying, I don't grumble about these things. Then again, I said earlier, there are limits. Reserve Bank of India and their directives to banks get my goat. Really.

Some months ago, State Bank of India sent a letter to my mother-in-law. As per RBI's directive KYC, they needed to know their customers. Their records have inadequate proof her identity and existence. She needed to provide some documents to satisfy their requirements.

I provided the documents, and a covering letter; to prove that an account-holder for three decades was who their records claimed she was. As I anticipated, there arrived letters addressed to my husband and me, wanting us to help SBI know their customers. I did the 'needful'.

Then, two weeks ago, a familiar envelope arrived, addressed to my mother-in-law. The SBI, following RBI directive KYC, wanted her to provide documentary evidence that she was who their records said she was. Again.

Did you know, sexpot in area, a riot expanse, repeat on axis, sane expiator... are all anagrams of exasperation?



Blogger Nilu said...

It's a historical accident that has caused such heart ache. Had the Russians colonized North India, you'd have had an agglutinative language and not many complaints. Sad only.

4:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you go in person the banks will want proof - They believe photo ids issued by unknown agencies rather than their own records.

6:48 pm  
Blogger Chenthil said...

A Pretax Noise?

7:51 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Nilu- I've thought a couple of hours about your remark. My Russian stops with sorok-dva, sto-odin, thanks to reading Modesty Blaise novels, prikazyvat and nyekultoorni, which is what I must be to be so poorly read.

But, like most languages of the Baltic/Slavic or Iranian stock, Sanskrit is polysyllabic and agglutinative too. We might have just absorbed the language and made it our own, and still be confronted with English in the real world, had we been colonised by the Russians. There is a thought, hm?

Tivi- It is pathetic red-tape and nothing more. The letter was dated earlier than the first one, and arrived months later.

I was tempted to photocopy their own statements and attach them, they were going to accept a statement from a reputed bank, after all. It is enough to make you weep, I tell you.

Chenthil- No, not a pre-tax noise. RBI apparently had this idea that banks ought to get to know their customers. Sigh.

9:57 pm  
Blogger Chenthil said...

It was an anagram Missus Em, of exasperation.

7:29 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Chenthil- Aargh! I'd better add alexia to my growing list of woes. Sigh.

8:43 am  
Blogger Nilu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:59 am  
Blogger Nilu said...

Couple of hours?

10:14 am  
Blogger Jeeves said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:25 am  
Blogger Jeeves said...

Since you mentioned essays on the internet, may I ask whether your post also targets the blog space. If it does, my two cents. I think blog is a medium of personal expression.Some bloggers do not have exposure to English or grammar or written skills. At times, the blog posts are written in haste and people miss rules of grammar.

For a medium meant for personal expression and light reading, do we need to be so harsh? Then many who probably are not conversant with tenses, commas,grammar would be left out of this space!!!

10:29 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Nilu- Of course I thought about it for a couple of hours. It is interesting to speculate on how the language of the coloniser is imposed upon the colonised. I was trying to find examples to the contrary. Then I thought about how languages evolve... a good couple of hours, I tell you.

Jeeves- I did include blogs in my rant, yes. They may be means of personal expression, meant for a small audience, but once they are out there, they are open to scrutiny.

But, I don't post comments or target any one blog. It is a free world, after all. If they are free to write as best as they can, I am free to express my irritation at them in my space of 'personal expression' too.

4:48 am  
Blogger Jeeves said...

Lalita- Point taken :)

9:59 am  
Blogger Sivaram Pothukuchi said...

when we express a 'pet grouse', our 'ego erupts' !!

It is good to see you back in form, Ma'am. I will only point out, there is no use getting tensed about tenses, people will say you are too intense. Laugh at it, it's better.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Sivaram- But I am no 'upset ogre' to 'get up sore' everyday about tenses. I find other things to get hot under the collar about. :-) I grumble; therefore I am.

6:22 pm  

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