…is a word. I’m sure of it. I’m certain even about its pronunciation – a short pause between shiki and jika, and a succinct mey at the end. But after Googling, searching my memory, and quizzing a Japan-returned friend, I still don’t know what it means.

Here are some other things I’d like to know:

1. The function-flowers funda: Why do we bestow hapless dignitaries with floral ‘tokens-of-our-appreciation’? Do bonsai blossoms, bedraggled ferns and cheap squares of cellophane, a bouquet make? I suspect an organiser-horticulturalist nexus formed to perpetuate a social custom that ends with a dais littered with unclaimed saplings. Do they then go back to their crafty botanist?

2. Perpetually pehle aap: Nobody wants to go first; everybody seconds that. Why do we wait for someone else to answer incorrectly, before guessing it right ourselves, by elimination? Someone has to bungee jump first! We experiment by doing nothing, and you are your own silent Ethics Committee.

3. Ominous Indian epithets: In Konkani, ‘Biji’ means ‘mashed’. What sort of fate do Punjabis wish for their paternal grandmothers by christening them that? Are Gujaratis so dismissive of their fathers’ sisters that they call the good lady ‘Phooey’? Is a ‘maasa’, a Maharashtrian fish or a Gujju mother’s brother-in-law? And if ‘bhanji’ means ‘niece’, whose niece is Sir Ben Kingsley (born Krishna Bhanji)?

4. A town called quota: Being labelled is protested as being stereotyped, but capitalising on one’s label is permitted as a constitutional birthright. Have Sushilkumar Shinde’s Dalit origins helped solve the power crisis? Will you trust a neurosurgeon to operate on a fragile tumour because he comes from a nomadic tribe?

5. See, for complexion: Dusky women slop on Fair-and-Lovely. Fair and lovely women go to tanning parlours. When will they realise that (most) men know blushes aren’t permanent, and it is impossible to age back twenty years in one trip to the powder room?

6. Marxist mythology: In a diktat smacking of communist sympathies, Kunti decreed that her Pandavas must always share equally. Everything – including a wife. Chinese comrades under suspicion had to make self-criticisms before being accepted back into Party folds; Sita was made to undergo a trial by fire before entering the welcoming arms of her loving husband. Readymade and historically vetted propaganda, yet the communists disavow religion. Pity, no?

7. Crime and self-punishment: Do crime beat reporters garner journalistic acclaim for digging out the grisly details of a private death? Do we read their stories to envision our own macabre abductions/rapes/murders? And do elegant SoBo hostesses discuss the difference between murder and manslaughter over tinkling teacups? Then why are we obsessed with gore?

8. Radio rants: Every night, Fever FM feels the need to educate me about the technological and cultural advances of outer Siberia. Radio Jockeys with jocks’ intellects dispense relationship advice. Anirudh LLB has multiple (and very vocal) orgasms on the airwaves. Why do we even bother tuning in?

Someday, I will find out. Until then, rinshikijikatomey to you.

Whatever that means.

* * *



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