Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The functional illiteracy called Geography

Years ago, when I moved out of India, I was amazed to find that most conversations in the western world always begin with the weather, something that we never encounter in the subcontinent. If I were to say this now in India - Looks like it is going to rain today, the most compassionate remark I can hope to get is - Are you crazy ? Of course it will rain - it is monsoon now ! And there's good reason to it too. Unlike in the west, weather is totally predictable in India. During summer it is hot, during winter it is pleasant (cold in northern parts), during monsoon it rains. There you go. As simple as it comes. 

The obvious reason for weather to be a hot conversational material (despite the numerous weather apps in the smartphones that people checked N times a day) is because it works as a wonderfully polite, safe, universally approved, social-awkwardness substitute. Elevators, Subway trains, birthday parties,weddings, B-DUBS, you name it. Any imaginable awkward conversation can be handled effortlessly by progressively suggesting weather alternatives - starting off with a mild excitement, transcending to a reticent amusement, or a disinterested observation, moving on to an affable annoyance before finally settling down on explicit bitching. It works - always. 

Extending this thought, I have been consciously trying to experiment with geography as a possible conversational substitute for weather. Over the years, here are a few of the priceless nuggets that came up during the conversation, those which I managed to remember or document. I have tried to present them verbatim to retain their natural conversational flair.

Wait! Korea isn't an island ? I'd always thought it was.
Yeah. Too bad.

I need to take a vacation in the Andamans. That'd be cool. The Arabian sea, I've heard is beautiful. 
You mean the Bay of Bengal, right ?
Same difference.

Really? Hmm. What is the capital of Assam?
Nope. Its Dispur. 
Dude! You cant make stuff up. There's even an IIT there !

Japan to the United States is a long flight. 
Why ?
What why ? They are at the far end of the maps - that's why.

Which direction does the moon rise?
West, of course. Wait - that's opposite to the Sun right ?

So, if I need to get to Alaska, I have to catch a flight or take a ship right ?
Or you could drive. 
How? Isn't Alaska north-west of Canada ?
Yup. But Canada has roads too.

In the month of January, watching a game of cricket played between South Africa and India..
Why does the commentator keep talking about summer season games? Isn't that like another 5 months away. Brr...rrrr...

If I go across Antarctica, I should reach the Arctic circle right ? No ?

Do you know how many states India has now ?
Now, now. You're just getting political.

You know, the Musi river flows right beside Osmania campus..
He he ! Yeah., right.

The spread of South Indian culture northwards would have happened if not for the Vindhya ranges..
I dont think so. I remember reading that Agasthya had pushed those mountains back into the earth a long long time ago.

Malaysians are good badminton players.
Of course, they come from the Chinese sub-continent.
You mean, south-east asian
No, no. Chinese.

You know, India is divided roughly into two halves by the tropic of cancer.
The tropic of what ?

There are many more, but despite being free, online acreage is to be used judiciously. Jokes aside - the one thing that I want you to remember as a take-away is the value of questioning information that were fed into us as facts. Sun rising in the east is a fact - very few questioned, why? Fewer still, understood. True to the fact that humanity evolves and solves bigger and smarter problems, it remains to ponder what we traded off. A common example is the use of GPS navigators, an epitome of human innovation - replacing human directional skills. Good? Bad ? Your call. 

May our kids be able to spell Geography.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonder how you were able to keep a straight face through all those!!