Goats & apples !

There was a verbal volley with a definitive purpose that the ear was used to. When the marks didn’t turn up as well as they perhaps should have. When they were a marathon of a distance away from the swagger with which an extra hour with TinTin was devoured claiming that the math exam had gone off ‘beyond expectations’ .

This verbal tranche of insults and such else, were delivered all ofcourse, with the intention of somehow getting me more focused and ‘into’ the subject !

The assortment of words that made the sentence was remarkable for the sentence could masquerade as sarcasm, retort, insult, insinuation, motivation, display of anger. An extravagant paraphernalia of diverse meanings that I don’t have the patience to recount.

For that wide an array of interpretations, the sentence and its constituents were ( and still are ) remarkably pithy : “I’ll get you a few cows

It was supposed to be the ultimate insult to an average young mind. It meant, that the new depths the maths marks touched could fit the grand occupation of herding cows and goats. It was a singularly frightening thought. Completely inappropriate by a grotesque proportion to what caused this : the math paper !

For the math question paper would have had a question like ‘ A has five apples. Of which he gave one-fifth to B and another one-third to C……’ . Finally ending with some vague question like ‘So how many apples was A left with’ or something to that effect.

For the record, I have always believed that the impact of apples are best felt on the tongue. The teeth biting into fresh fruit, and the tongue swarming with tasty juice was all that mattered.

If you had five apples, you ate five apples. Obviously, Mr.B and Mr.C were non-entities once the apples were sighted. Even if the apples happened to be theirs.

To me, people featured in the question paper like Mr.A, were beyond comprehension. To subject something as tasty as a simple apple, to such a fractious assault was downright unnecessary, completely impractical and cruel to an imaginative test taking kid!

These and such thoughts would play in the mind. Before I knew, test would be over and the mark statement would have touched a new nadir.

Oftentimes holding the report card in hand with the math marks settling in a new marina trench, would send me on a imagination frenzy to see myself herding an assortment of cows and goats. Which obviously lead to serious palpitations to form on my forehead. And other parts too, but that’s besides the point.

No no. Dont get me wrong. Not for me the insult. Not for me the insinuation. At that age, I didn’t give goats horn about what people would think of me being a cowherd. Nor do I care much now. It was not that. The problem was something else.

It was keeping count of those goats and cows.

Beads of sweat transformed into enormous water streams just thinking of the proposition of losing two goats for no fault of mine. As a matter of addition and subtraction we were taught to ‘borrow’ ‘from the next digit’. Or in case of addition, ‘carry over’ to the next column was important.

After dutifully ‘carrying over’ or ‘borrowing from’ I would ofcourse gloriously forget that act of generosity and move on with life and other numbers. Until such a time, the math teacher made me write such ‘carry overs’ and ‘borrowing froms’ in such gigantic font size to enable recall.

If that was the case with random numbers, to keep track of cows and goats was a different ask, to my fertile imagination. To keep counting them and finding I was two short ( or three short, for that matter) would have had some serious explanation, I figured.

I fretted that I would lose count for no fault of mine. It would be comprehensively unfair if, say, the goats wanted to scratch themselves against a specific tree, or stayed back at the local pond, or sighted a far attractive mate and decide to have a good time!

I would be reduced to taking the blame on myself and my math skills.

Grotesquely unfair. Isnt it ?

Ofcourse this attempt at fear laced motivation, stopped getting uttered one day. One fine day, one of those ‘uncles’ was home to launch into moms cooking. Such genial uncles back then ( and these days too) have a set of questions which were simple to figure out.

Usually starting with ‘Which school do you go to and somewhere along the line leading to ‘what do you want to become when you grow up’. ( At a younger age, ‘what is your teacher name’ used to be one persistent such, which in hindsight, rises an eyebrow. Actually both my eyebrows. )

Just as he was finishing the question of ‘what do you want to become’, in a flash, my mind streamed an image of a proud me, managing an array of goats and cows without losing count of any.

Without losing a breath, I announced with a singular flourish that I wanted to become a ‘Cowherd’. Much to the blasphemous horror of all around, evidenced by the stellar silence that followed an intemperate bout of laughter from the genial uncle.

After that, the subject of ‘grazing cows’ as a default occupational choice, in case the math marks didn’t move north, made a quiet exit. I must say, the cows and goats haven’t been ever so thankful as then.

Do you have such recollections of your childhood ? Or were you the Mr.A type ?

Names & Numerals

Truth be told, my math (amongst many other things that can go without mention) isn’t top notch. Well, let me put it mildly that way, and leave it there. But whatever little understanding that I have had around math was ably aided by scanning number plates and their three / four digit numbers on licnece plates.

As a kid, vehicle license plates and their three/ four numbers that Indian number plates had, held sway over my attention. Permutations, combinations, additions, multiplications on were best matched by a keen interest in automobiles!

That fancy for number plates, I discovered has remained ever so dormant. That discovery happened because the dormancy was disturbed, in the US !

While most plates were of the regular alpha numeric variety, there were some else that that arched the eyebrow, evinced a laugh or even evoked sympathy in human condition. When none of that happened, it plain popped the eye out !

Thus scanning of number plates of vehicles that were passing wasn’t just another passing interest but quickly ascending ( the missus calls it ‘ descending’) into a profound obsession that I could have easily passed for a car jacker or an insurance surveyor or a cop!

Some elementary macro dissection of the number plate. The full name of the state is present in a particular font. You are allowed to have symbols, alphabets and letters. The plate could get a different hue depending on a ‘theme’ ( for want of a better word ). ” A memorial ‘theme’ ” could get you a different background on your plate than what a “Olympic training center’theme’ ” could get. Or even ones that are ‘themed’ after a college / university that you went to.

A portion of the fee thats collected goes to that college / Olympic training center etc ( the list is long and myriad ). In case it interests you more than this, the list is here. And in the larger scheme of things, $ 75 per anum, well, seems ok !

Every spotting of a car with a fancy plate got the heart to beat a trifle faster. Sometimes evoking a strain on the neck to see the full plate or look at the driver to reconfirm deepest suspicions or just about see if the driver was for real !

On another note, these license plates while giving me new vocabulary, haven’t quite helped my math much. The closest that I came to math computation was spotting and counting ‘5Punjab’ ‘6Punjab’ ‘7Punjab’ ! That was elementary, even by my own towering mathematical standards ! Nevertheless, Name plates that beamed from BMWs and tangoed from the Toyotas stood out on Californian roads. !

Which brings me to another subject. The Hindustan Times speaks of number plates in Delhi that is going for as high as Rs.5 lakhs ( $ 11,200 )! All for a string of numbers. Imagine what creativity can be unleashed , if the US style is adopted. And of course, imagine the money spinner that it can become!

Sporting stylish license will become a super cool thing. Ad gurus will start specializing in it. Artists will thrive. Mainstream media will have a program going for it. And like all other sundry programs including the weather report, millions will stream to watch it.

Occasionally, or rather, frequently, some Sam in a whimsical mood to impress his wife or make up with her, could have his name plate bearing “SamYAni”. That could get the moral police up in arms for “public display of affection” or some such convoluted interpretation of a some archaic rule that caught a Britishers fancy many eons ago.

Of course, there would be protests and prime time national coverage with four blokes having a shouting match and the winner being the one with highest decibel levels!

I mean, just imagine, how many salaries can this number plate rule pay. It can bring about a change in the economy, I say !

Ah, but I digress. As usual. The number plate I so strained to capture on camera but with very little success was of this lady on a Harley Davidson, as she whooshed pass us. Her plate just said : ‘O Not Hiz’