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india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 16:29 IST
Jerry Pinto

What does the phone sound like in different languages? David Sedaris, the wonderfully funny gay comic, once wrote about how he collected the sounds animals make in different languages. Perhaps, I could do the same for phones. But only landlines. Mobile phones have been taught to speak several different languages at once. Or for subtitle sounds. (‘Elevator dings’.)

A conversation
“Pinto here,” I said when I had finished this cogitation. “Hello,” said the voice on the other side, female, young. “Are you Jerry Pinto?” “I confess,” I said. “But I know my rights. I cannot be made to incriminate myself.” There was a pause. It seemed like a pause out of Pause, Clause, Joss, the noted film about caesuras, grammar and incense. It was a pause that was laden with meaning.

Finally, the young woman decided that she would take the plunge. “I want to know some words that chemists-druggists use,” she said. “Like ‘prescription kahaan hai’?” I asked. “And ‘chhutta paisa dena’?” “No, see, I’m writing a play,” she said.

There are days when I feel that the script for my life has been written by Salvador Dali or someone who has spent some time being suffocated by his clothes. (Once Dali almost died because his head was in a goldfish bowl and his breathing apparatus malfunctioned.) This was one of those days.

“I’m calling it, The Increasing Number of the Living Dead. It’s for the zonals.” No, George A Romero had written this one. “Do you have them eating raw flesh on stage?” I asked. “Book me a ticket for the second night, if you have one. I'll bring a friend, if I have one.” There was another pause. This was the pause at the end of the legs of a Great Dane. “It’s about drug addiction,” she said.

All aware
This was the time when there was a gentleman called Yusuf Merchant who went about making people aware of the evils of drug abuse. Rahul Da Cunha made an AV about drugs. An AV, by the way, was a set of slides, with a narration that went with it. This one was very sophisticated. It had two heads with a neon pink DNA spiral running from one to the other.

XIC had a campaign too, with a mural of a corpse with a toe tag on a gurney in a morgue. (You had to imagine the morgue.) Next to it was a huge tap with a single drop of water issuing forth. Underneath was the slogan, ‘Don’t waste water; you’ll need it later.’ Everyone was doing drugs or they were doing stuff to prevent people from doing drugs

Today, it seems no one gives a toss whether the youth takes or does not take drugs. This young woman had gone retro. She was riding a hobbyhorse that had been put out to grass. But it was still a terrifying hobbyhorse so she didn’t want to go anywhere near it. She wanted the lingo secondhand. “So I wanted to know how they speak.” “Like you do,” I said.

“Please, aahn? What you’re talking? I have never even smoked a cigarette,” she said. “No, all I’m saying is that drug addicts are people like you..” “Please aahn? I am nothing like that.” I didn’t think she was on the right track but who knows? The Zonals sound like a great place for the zoned out.