This is a true story, slightly paraphrased for dramatic effect.
I have always wondered about the mathematical relationship between shame and courage.
As is evident from the graph, every man (and there is a reason I am being gender specific here, a reason that will become more evident as this tale unfolds) has a personal inflection point where a delta change in shame results in an exponential increase in courage. It is also referred to, in non-academic circles, as the “Fuck it, I got nothin’ to lose now” moment.
Let’s get to the story now. The graph above will eventually become relevant
This tale had its beginnings in a small town in Tamil Nadu, a town that in the last ten years, discovered the joys of broadband Internet before reliable water supply and garbage disposal but we will keep the socio-historical context brief and fast forward to the moment when our protagonist (who will hereinafter be referred to as Senthil), armed with a long term work permit for the United Kingdom is treating his colleagues to Thalappakatti Biriyani in one of its many Chennai branches.
They are, while consuming that most delectable confluence of rice and goat, plying him with advice, advice, our protagonist will later recall, covered the broad spectrum of all human knowledge related to foreign travel. They did, however, forget to mention what they then considered to be a trifling detail, a detail they left out presumably on account of the presence of a few females of our species in that convivial revelry of mutton, rice and the entire contents one of Vasco da Gama’s spice galleons.
What did they leave out, you might wonder, but that would give the tale away. Titillation and foreplay are very relevant story telling tools, at least in the case of this tale.
At this point we temporarily leave the Biriyani story arc to briefly establish what I, a crucial actor in this saga, was doing. I was, as I have been in the past one year, going about my life as a permanent resident of airports, occasionally flitting to and fro from those bestial places to home, office and assorted client locations. I was, when this tale unfolded, sitting in a restaurant near Paddington station in London, tucking into some excellent scrambled eggs. My phone buzzed.
Senthil: Machaan hello da
Me: Hi man, you in England?
Senthil: Yes bro, just arrived last week. Settling into T-Nagar, I’m sorry, I meant Eastham
Me: Cool, so how are things?
Senthil: Pretty good. By the way I got a 4G plan from Three with unlimited tethering!! So I am planning to save money by not getting a separate broadband connection at home
(Exhibit A: Why companies must avoid desi customers at any cost)
Me: Awesome, how are the 4G speeds here?
Senthil: Faster than Chennai auto meter machaan
Senthil: But by the way, I have one doubt…
(essentially the point when I realised all the prior small talk was for this)
Senthil: Some sites seem to be blocked on 4G here
(the intellectual tone of that query suggested that perhaps Wikipedia or Khan academy were blocked but then as a fellow possessor of the Y chromosome and nanbenda adherence to the bro code, I understood what he meant and I jumped straight to the solution without putting the man through the embarrassment of laying out the gory details)
Me: Machaan, you need to disable the adult content filter. Per UK government policy it’s on by default
(silent unspoken fist bump on chest with promise to shower me with mountains of goat and rice the next time we meet)
Senthil: Hey, thanks da. So what’s the procedure?
(I Google for “How to turn off UK Adult content filter” and send him the details)
15 minutes later. Whatsapp.
Senthil: Hey machi that site said I have to verify my age it seems but it is not giving me an option to do it
Me: What? Wait..
Me: Hey, did you try it from your phone or your desktop?
Me: You have to access that page from the mobile device because it is a 4G plan and the govt really wants to make it hard to do this
Senthil: Naasamaapoga (may the UK government suffer from piles, diarrhoea and hiranya). My bleddy colleagues stuffed themselves with Biriyani I paid for and didn’t tell me about this. Ok. Let me try
15 minutes later. Phone call, cos typing is getting tiresome at this point
Senthil: Hey, sorry to bother you da, the site asked for credit card details to verify my age but then said “Gateway is temporarily down” so please try the manual method
Me: Hold on (more googling). Ahem, dei, the only option is to call this toll free number and verify your account details and request them to turn the filter off.
(awkward pause suggesting obvious discomfort at having to call a fellow human being and tell him (or worse, her) that one needs a porn filter to be turned off.
(followed by considered pause based on the fact that at least, it’s just a phone call, so how hard could it be)
Senthil: Ok. Let me try that now.
20 minutes of being told how valuable one’s time was to the mega corporation later, followed by 10 minutes of what was potentially an uncomfortable conversation.
Senthil: I called and after I finally reached a human being, it was some chap in a call center in India. I almost disconnected but then having waited 20 minutes, I decided to just close my eyes and tell him to unblock the adult filter and he asked me for my entire horoscope. I almost wanted to ask him if he was going to put this filter business on my bharatmatrimony profile or something and then he finally said – “Great sir, we are *almost* done”, and then dropped the bombshell. “You need to walk into one of our retail outlets to complete the process. Just carry the ID that you have provided me over the phone with you in person, and the store executive will be able to help you
Me: Hahahahahahahaha. wait. hahahahaha
Senthile: Now I have to walk into a store and tell a human being in person that I want the porn filter removed. For this I could have bought devotional DVDs from Burma bazaar itself.
Senthil: Anyway, i’ve come this far, so might as well… (see graph at the start of the tale)
3 hours later, I call him because well, if I didn’t, this tale would be incomplete
Me: What happened? Did you get it unblocked?
Me: Went smooth, I presume?
Me: Hahaha. What happened? Tell
Senthil: I first of all scoped out three nearby stores and found the one with the least crowd. The last thing I want to do is walk into a crowded store to get this done. I finally walk in and find this tattooed white store employee, thinking, vellakaaran pacchakutthufied boy means all this will be sagajam (white tattooed guy = chilled out, porn friendly dude). I very quietly tell him – “I need adult filter removed”. He is like – “What? Excuse me?”. I am like – “Filter, Content filter. Remove”. He is like – “Sorry sir, I don’t get you”. More crowd is coming in. I am in full tension. I am almost about to do dumb-charades, 2 words, first word, adult, big man etc. He still doesn’t get. He finally tells me the sentence that would be 1,564,758th on the list of preferred sentences I’d like to hear when I’m trying to get a porn filter unblocked – “Let me call my manager, Salma”.
At this point, I’m now madly hoping Salma is Mexican and is dressed like Urmila in Rangeela but no. My horoscope has determined that it is in my fate to look in the face of a Hijab wearing English girl of Bangladeshi origin and tell her, with the bold face of a man who has just found courage in the exponential curve beyond the inflection point of shame of no return, and get access to “matter” till, as the saying goes, United Kingdom come.
Ps: a day later, I did realize that I could have just advised him to use one of a million free proxies that bypass the adult filter but then, who am I to be denying the truth of his horoscope