Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to work for an Idiot

For months, Jiju has been bitching about his manager. He even bought a book called “How to work for an Idiot”.

“He doesn’t come for meetings on time.
He doesn’t care about my project.
He is rude.
He gives unacceptable timelines
He is blah blah blah…” Jiju's grouch list was endless.

When this very same manager bugged him to attend a seminar held by the Landmark Forum, Jiju was none too pleased. He dreaded going alone and roped me in to be a co-scapegoat. On the day of the seminar we were joined by Sony, Jiju’s cousin.

It is said that life’s experiences are totally unexpected. The seminar proved it right. It was held at a hall in Mahaveer Jain College on a Saturday between 11 and 1 P.M. The seats were comfy and I planned to slip back to sleep ASAP.

The session started and participants were supposed to speak out their first impression on entering the room. Some people stood up and told that “I saw so many smiling faces… it was such a wonderful sight”…. Did it ring a bell with me? No it didn’t, not yet. But something definitely sounded/looked familiar.

Slowly, the tempo of conversation changed, the expectation from the participants was to tell something, anything that they feel they should be doing in their life but was not able to do for whatever reason. A society’s tragedy spilled forth. All this sounded very familiar to me, but I was still unable to place it.

Now came the testimonial section (and the hunger, my belly was protesting violently by then).

There was this lady who came up and told
“I thought, I was always right, I never cared for anything anybody else said….. I was arrogant without knowing it… Landmark Forum opened my eyes now I am a changed person."

Another guy came up and told “I had problems with my wife. I was always justifying all the lousy things I did. Landmark Forum showed me what I was doing and I felt so bad that I had been such a lousy guy. After the session even my business prospered…”

The testimonials were endless. Students able to learn better, businessmen doing better in their business, spouses jelling better and even love between daughter and mother-in-law!

I was blind with hunger by then, but it was all so emotional and riveting that I stayed put. I had expected this seminar to be like all seminars… a royally boring affair. It was not. To put it bluntly, the "seminar" was actually a glorified sales pitch. I didn’t mind though, they were going about it so beautifully!

Even though most of the speeches were right from the heart, none had broken the “tear-barrier” so far. But that was till a middle aged woman came up and started crying almost immediately. She had been very cruel to her sister-in-law after she married, her self-hate list was endless. Nearly had me in tears too! That was when it finally struck me! I had been through these emotional speeches once before in my life.

As a practicing (my mother practiced it for me!) catholic who did school in Kerala during the 90’s, I was one among the millions who had to make a trip to the divine retreat centre at Pota. There was no escaping that fate. Even though Amma gave me hell if I didn’t go to church or tell my prayers piously every day, my parents were actually not so religiously inclined. The visit was put off for one reason or another for a long time. But in the end, they had to bow down to pressure and make the pilgrimage.

I was in the 8th and would have been happier playing cricket and chasing the neighborhood dogs, but no sir, I had to pray on my knees for a week. Cribbing and exaggeration apart, I actually liked most of the retreat. Unlike the adults I was doing it at the “Christeen Dhyana Kendra” for children, which was filled to the brim with boys my age. We had a whale of a time. But again, that was before the testimonials began. Most of them had me in tears! I felt terribly unhappy that I had such a happy childhood and no testimonial!!! Really felt left out, I did!

Now that I had placed Landmark Forum in perspective, things started making more sense. One of the first conclusions I made was that this was for truly screwed up people, not cool dudes like me. But that was till this cool dude came up and gave a testimonial about how he thought he was such a cool dude BEFORE he did the Landmark Forum course. There went my defense!

Jiju(that double dealing low life!) was the next to strike, “My manager has improved a lot in the past two months, since he did the course. Maybe this is actually good!” Somehow I felt bitching was better! Call me materialistic, realistic or whatever “ic” you want to, but I knew that the cost factor was gonna come up any second now. True to my prediction, it did come up in a short while. 5.6k for a 3 day program! I wouldn’t pay half as much for a 3 day trek in the Himalayas! Maybe I should become catholic again! At least the retreat was free of cost.

I was nearly convinced to do the program when, at the end of the program we had a chat with Jiju’s manager. He told us that this was one of the best things that happened to him. He struck me as a very straight forward guy.

Manager: You don’t become a changed man just coz you do this 3 day program. No program can do that, you have to put in hard work after the program.
I(Thinking): Ah! Hard work… there is my excuse for not doing it!
Manager: What this program does is, it gives you a feeling of how screwed up you are and a support structure to deal with it. I still contact my helper from our class whenever I feel I'm in trouble.
I(Thinking): If the helper is a mallu nurse I would too!
Manager – Speaking To Jiju: I know I have been a very bad manager, but I realized it only two months back and I am trying to make amends.
Jiju: Yeah, I also thought so! Of late, you have been very sharp with your timings. You are never late for a meeting. I have noticed changes. Maybe I should do it too!

That really set me thinking. I had been given an opportunity to lead 4 guys since two months ago. Mostly we worked well, but sometimes things didn’t go as planned and it was really hard to keep my cool on all occasions. Suddenly self doubt reared its ugly head in me… what if I was a jerk? Did they hate me? Was I doing everything properly?

On one side was Rs.5600. On the other, an opportunity to become a better individual. I was totally confused. I cursed Jiju for placing me in this predicament. After much thought, consideration, deliberation, what-not, I finally came upon a solution.... To buy a copy of “How to work for an Idiot” and present it to my team!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mind your language!

Tony’s Story
Tony a.k.a Pullachen, came back from office a seriously depressed man. Now, if you knew Tony, you would also know that his depression was highly unusual, almost like India winning a Gold medal at the Olympics. A man to man talk was imperative and what better place than a bar to hold it? So off we went to Gangothri to drown his sorrow with that ambrosia called beer.

A few beer mugs later, I found out the cause of his depression. He had lost an offer to work in Singapore, just because he couldn’t understand the Singaporean interviewer’s English accent. That he had lost the offer was of little importance, but the fact that he couldn’t even understand the interviewer’s English really hurt him to the core.

My Story
For quite some time I have been thinking seriously about personality development. Call me a perfectionist if you will, why else would somebody with such a perfect personality (me! U dumbo) go in for more development. On a more serious note, some facets of my “perfect” personality have been giving me a pain in the wrong places for a few months now. Part of the “maturing” process I guess.

Our Story
We decided to join an English speaking course, him in the hope of developing his career and English speaking skills and I in the hope of meeting up with some good looking mallu nurses on their way to England, the IELTS route.

We joined speak easy, an institute in Koramangala, Bangalore. Tony, with his good intentions had some divine backing. The course offered exactly what he was looking for and then some. Me, with my bad intentions and no divine backing ended up in a class with 15 males and one female! No prizes for guessing who was depressed now!

The first part of our course comes to an end tomorrow. It has been a good learning experience to say the least. The course offers basic English grammar, public speaking, dining etiquette and even tips on your wardrobe! But more than the English we learnt, the body language and dining etiquette sessions we had, I felt great joy in meeting up with so many new people. All of whom had one thing in common, a desire to become better in something that they were weak. Alchemy at work!

Some of my classmates are job pursuers, others, like Tony, looking for a change in career and a betterment of their communication skills. Our trainer, a flamboyant lady from Srinagar is one of the most riveting personalities I’ve seen. Altogether we are a motley crowd but one that has jelled well over time.

I am looking forward to the second part of the course which deals with accent neutralization. Hopefully, it will have at least one mallu nurse! Tony, on the other hand has gone completely off his rocker. He actually wants to neutralize his accent!! I guess depression does that to you, makes you serious and goal oriented! If you ask me, he has got his priorities wrong. Hope he doesn’t make this a habit!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Broken Heart!

Warning: Not a happy ending!

To those wondering who is Tony? I am afraid that I can give you no single answer. Is he the protagonist? Nope! (Actually he is, but since I am part of this story and I am the one WRITING this post, it was my humble decision to take that “unassuming” position). Is he Mr. Broken heart? Not really, at least not now. But he was once. And I was the one who did the breaking. Sick minds reading this can wipe off that “gay” thought from your minds. It is a bit more complicated than that!

The story begins like most stories do, with the awakening of true love in our pseudo hero’s mind (remember, I am the protagonist!). Tony fell for the girl and he fell hard. That he fell was no surprise to me. We were both in that “falling” stage, with a new love blossoming every other day. What surprised me was that even after a long time (read one month) he was still hooked to the same girl. Is this true love? I asked myself. Is this true love? Tony asked himself. No! And Yes! Were the respective (and emphatic) answers.

I was ready to wait and see the outcome. But another month passed and he was still laid low by this new and powerful emotion. Maybe it is true love after all, I decided. The problem with true love is that it can work black magic on your tongue. Tony, a normally talkative person found his tongue on strike whenever he met his love. Things got so bad that each time he met her, he used to gibber out some rubbish and make a royal fool of himself. I being a true friend was immensely perturbed by the situation. A wave of sympathy for my dear friend engulfed me (big mistake!!!!).

Due to all that sympathy hanging in the air when Tony came up with that utterly hare-brained solution to the problem, I ended up saying “yes minister”. His elegant solution (monstrously screwed up idea, if you ask me!) was to do a slow build up of his sagging image in front of his beloved (responsibility --> MINE!!!) and then he would ride by like a knight in shining armor and have the lady swooning in his hands. Blinded by love (straight! normal! casual!) for my dear friend, I agreed to take up my part of the deal vis-a-vis the image building exercise.

Whatever his faults, Tony had one winning advantage and that was his logic. He had thus come to the logical conclusion that since his tongue was on strike some other tongue had to wag. No prizes for guessing who ended up doing this miserable wagging! Somebody forgot to tell him that love has nothing to do with logic!!

To enumerate my role, I was supposed to call the girl in q every other day and if possible, several times a day and talk high and mighty about Tony. I was never a natural with the ladies and this new task gave me the butterflies. But love for a friend was love for a friend no matter what and I took up my task with utmost seriousness (which, if I’d applied to studies, I wouldn’t by typing this here in the first place!). Tony was very helpful regarding the logistics part of the operation. He provided me with the phone number and other details to get started.

Now, I had my own plan of action. First and foremost, I had to build a friendship with the girl for all the wrong reasons. The idea appealed to my crooked mind, but the execution was not that easy. I called her up on a regular basis, but I never had anything to talk, it got so tough that on many occasions I felt like giving up. But my duty bent mind and my superb criminal spirit held sway and I persevered to build up something reasonably close to a friendship. At last, after weeks of effort we were on talking terms.

Now started the hard part, I had to talk high and mighty about the biggest wimp on earth. The art of lying was never too alien to me, but to do it in such bulk quantities was tough even for my non-existent conscience. Day in and day out, I would sing praises of Tony to her. “Tony is that, Tony is that...blah blah blah” but she would just kind of skim over those comments, or totally ignore them. Getting the conversation hooked on to Tony was near to impossible.

On top of it, I had to deal with Tony’s incessant questions regarding our conversations. In the end I guess that was the undoing of it all. He would call me up and go through our conversations in detail, trying to analyze them logically for any sign of a break through. At the end of all that analyzing he would be very disheartened.

I kind of felt that I was letting him down even though he wouldn’t tell me so. In fact, I used to feel so bad about him feeling bad that I started adding a bit of masala to our conversations to make him feel better (Yeah I know, very big mistake!).

Tony was now coming to the logical conclusion based on some truly questionable data that she was “softening” up. As such, lying to the girl itself was hard on my conscience, but at least I was telling good things about someone. But lying to Tony was definitely giving me the nightmares. As the days went by, my conscience troubled me more and more. Many times I thought of telling him the truth of the matter about how she didn’t care two cents about my praises about him. In fact I wonder whether she ever understood that I was actually talking about Tony the whole time.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that she would never fall for him with this dumb approach. The time to tell Tony the truth about the matter had come. But I did not get the right environment to open my heart and it was weeks later on the day before our Tamil Nadu entrance examination that I finally found the environment “suitable”.

Sitting in a lodge in Comibatore, his mind full of formulas and equations for the approaching exam, Tony looked tense. But I decided to end this melodrama once and for all and took this opportunity to put up the hard facts.

I: Da, I want to tell you something
Tony: Hmm…
I: It’s about her.
Tony: Hmmm?
I: I’ve not told you everything about the phone conversations.
Tony: what???
I: Well you see, when I talk about you to her, she doesn’t really respond much.
Tony: But you told me that she was lapping it all up.
I: Well I told you wrong. She hardly says a word about that.
Tony: What!!!
I: Don’t get worked up yaar, but it’s the truth, she isn’t responding at all.
Tony (Gibbering much like when he sees her): but but…
I: I wanted to tell this for a long time dude, but you were so emotional about it that I didn’t have the heart to tell you all this before.
Tony: And you tell me this right before the exam! You ******
I: Sorry yaar.
Tony: !$^%&%&#^&#*$^*#&^*#%^&*
I: Sorry maan!
Tony: $^$%&*%&%^%^&%&@&*^%#&**
I: Go ahead. I deserve to be called all that and more.
Tony: you deserve to be burnt at the stake!!!
I (Looking and feeling pretty bad): That too.
Tony: You just broke my heart!

It is a tribute to our friendship that it stands strong and tall today even after the traitorous stuff I did.

Tony was resilient though, showing more courage than you would expect of him, he did what was logically to be done, proposed to her! Naturally, she rejected it.

Never ready to lie low just because of one failure, he went ahead courageously and had many more such failures in life. If an association be made for the love failures of this world, he could chair it any day I guess.

Yesterday he called me up to say goodbye. He is flying to the US of A in search of a bright future and a great career. He was always a great fan of Gandhi and now has taken a leaf from the great man’s book to “quit India”! Hopefully, he will find the love of his life in the shores of that friendly nation*.

*God save America and that poor girl!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A journey to the unknown

I am going on a trip to North India starting today. We(me, Tony k Thayil and Nived Gopalan) will be back on 8th Nov 2007.

Tour plan:
Bangalore to Delhi, Delhi to Srinagar by flight.
Srinagar to Kargil and Dras and onwards to Ladak by bus.
Ladak(Leh) to Delhi by flight.
Delhi to Jodhpur by bus.
Jodhpur to Agra by bus.
Agra to Bangalore by Train.

It has been quite some time since I have got this excited about anything. This brings back memories of my childhood when I used to get extremely excited about "long" trips . Back then, the definition for "long" was about 120-150km....:) Which was the distance from Kollam to Kanjirapilly/Angamally.

I can still remember how I would keep on asking Amma "when will we go?" "when will we go?" till she lost her patience, then I would just switch over to Appa, till he lost his patience. And on the night before such trips to native, I would dream a lot about our journey.

Yesterday I did not dream anything, maybe because I was bone tired after work, but the magic of the moment is still very much there!

I am nearly shivering with excitement!!!!!

We have decided to go for some rural sight seeing, which can be pretty injurious to health....:) Certain parts of the trip are dangerous, so please add me in your prayers*

*The only condition for those praying would be that one prayer is totally unacceptable i.e "Give this idiot some good sense!!!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Deja vu

Cricket is a funny game. On Wednesday (15, Oct 2007) it was proved yet again. This game put me back into the memory lane, back to a game played about 11 years ago in Bangalore between the same two teams.

The match was a goner from the very beginning. Australians as is their wont ruled the roost and then some. The Indian top order had crumbled in a depressingly familiar way, but the surprise came from the tail. The magic for the day was provided by Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble.

As the wickets took a tumble, I clearly remember going deeper and deeper into depression. It was a time in my life when I firmly believed in God and Saints. Entreaties to the higher beings went up by the dozen but the result was one wicket after another falling in disgrace before a disciplined Australian attack. Even though nobody accepts it, I have a heart of gold, and to see India lose so pathetically to these damned Australians was too much for me. I watched as much as I dared to watch but as more and more batsmen started walking back to the pavilion, I couldn’t face it anymore and went quietly to bed.

I would read about the match tomorrow, I decided. To read about defeat is far better than watching it live. For once, I cursed the KSEB guys for not cutting the power. They had no issues about cutting it when India was winning, bloody Pakis!!! I was dreaming of some innovative ways to destroy the electricity office when Appa called out “da, we are fighting, come watch it!”

I was out of bed like a spring and reached the living room just in time to see Srinath hook one for a four! Ah! The ecstasy I felt! The crowd was in uproar, we (bro including) were jumping up and down in wild excitement and Amma was cussing us for making all that noise. But with Appa jumping along with us, who was she to tell anything eh?

Each ball had a story of its own, each moment was etched deep into memory, and each shot pierced through the very fabric of the mighty Australian ego. The goliath was about to fall, but doubt lurked deep within me. What if we lost just one more wicket? It was goodbye then. The very air was electric with tension. I was clenching my hand so tightly that it hurt. But Srinath made sure that on his home ground he would walk back with his head held high! A six and four later we were right on victory lane and in the end won it easily with an over to spare and then some.

What I did not know at that time (or care!) was that 11 years down the lane, the same boy would be doing the same sort of hand clenching. The heroes were again two bowlers. It was again the 9th wicket partnership that did the trick and in the end we had more over’s to spare than last time. The previous episode was sweeter though, they had won a berth in the final due to that win and the celebrations were understandably riotous. This time around, it was just a face saver and maybe a few people will keep their positions due to this one. But in the end who cares… We beat the Aussies in our last game and that is what matters!

But I really hope that I wont have to wait another 11 years to watch the next one!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The little world of Don Camillo, By Giovanni Gaureschi – A eulogy

I am not quite sure how old I was when I first read this book by Giovanni Gaureschi. Most probably, I was in the 6th - 8th standard of my development (read destructive) stage. But I clearly remember the emotion the book evoked in me, the first time I set my eyes on it.

The cover was black and dusty. It did not look attractive at all. I was not impressed. This seemed to be one of those “Appa-Amma” level books which were way beyond my understanding. Till date, I am not quite sure why I went ahead and opened the book against my gut feeling. But after reading it, I found out that I had some real lousy gut feelings. The book itself belonged to some public library. Nobody in the family knows till date how that book got there, but nobody is complaining either!

This extremely simple and humorous story takes place in a sleepy Italian town, by the side of river po. It deals with the relation ship between a priest, Don Camillo, the town’s communist mayor, Peppone and Christ on the cross who has decided to intervene directly in most matters, lest things get out of control. The protagonists are at loggerheads most of the time and at fisticuffs the rest of the time, except Christ of course, since he is nailed on the cross!

The story hits you like a ton of bricks. The plot is so fresh, the ideas so innocent and the presentation so simple that one cant help imagining the whole story in 3-D! I like Harry Porter books, my respect for the author however is for her ability to write a novel that can be read and understood by people of all ages. Giovanni Gaureschi is a master of this art. The ideas put forward in this book are the experience of a lifetime and really deep stuff but written with such simplicity that even me, the 11-12 year old kid could understand them beautifully.

I have desperately wanted to read other works of this author for a long time, but since this was an out of print edition and an old book I had very little hope of ever finding the next in the series. But with the advent of Google, it was just a matter of a few clicks!

A review I found on the net about this book is pasted below
Giovanni Guareschi--is best remembered for his series of humorous stories about the on-going conflict between the Catholic priest and Communist mayor of a small village in Italy's Po River Valley in the years just following the Second World War. Don Camillo, the big cleric with fists of steel and heart of gold, converses frequently (and colorfully) with the Lord, Who continually challenges him to take the higher path in his dealings with his Marxist adversary, Peppone. The feisty priest, alas, isn't quite able to confine his methods to the purely spiritual ... but neither is Peppone always able to toe his Party's line, so that the two find themselves seeing disconcertingly eye-to-eye at times.”

As a kid growing up in communist Kerala, I was able to relate to the story even better. During those days, I never bothered to read the author’s note or the publisher’s note of any book. All this changed the day I started reading this book. The Author’s foreword is so impossibly humorous, that I sometimes wonder whether the story is as good as the foreword! Even with my super-weak memory I can still remember portions of his foreword to this day.

This is a story that can teach you about the power of simple humor, about that very un-common sense called common sense. About that most rare facet called attitude. About courage, about morals and a lot more* and all of this comes packed in about a hundred page book with kid size font. Truly worth its weight in gold!

I am not very sure about the book’s popularity in India, but the author was a very famous man in Italy and France and they even had movies/shows based on the book. I have found a few videos of the same on youtube but all of them in French/Italian….:(

Currently the English version of the book is out of print, but a listing is given in Shelfari and I have found copies of it in Amazon. I am aiming to buy the whole collection! They are pretty expensive, but what good is a job and adult hood if you can’t realize even your simple childhood dreams!**

*Not that I incorporated any in my life!
**Especially when it is your brother who does the ordering and paying...:D

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The blue escape

It was the dark ages of cultural morality. The land of Kamasutra had suddenly become as conducive to kinky stuff as the Taliban had to music. It was, as they say time to take things in your “own hands”! Young men rearing at the leash for the weekly dose of wet saris, were deprived by some psycho at DD. Yours truly was at that time in the tenth standard and really feeling let down.

But then, where there is a demand, there is a supply. Video shops had mushroomed right across the state during this time period due to DD going slow on the wet stuff and Star and Sun finding their very airwaves censored. The shops had the stuff alright. But the only problem was the inherent risk attached with taking “nice” movies from them. What if the shop owner was a psycho and told my parents? Taking the risk and living in peace would not go hand in hand...:(

Fortunately for me, I had one advantage….. Actually I had many
1) I lived near my school.
2) My friends were equally desperate to be immoral.
3) Both my parents were working
4) I had a VCR.
5) My brother who had suddenly become all studious used to come late after all the combined studies at his friend’s place.

It was no wonder then that some of my more enterprising buddies suggested to me that they will take the risk of renting the tapes, while I should just provide them with the infrastructure required.

Anwar may have been really small in stature, but he was waaaay beyond us in “maturity”. Having born with a keen business mind, he decided to run the operations. He would run the risk of taking the tapes and supplying them. The risk was two fold, he had to take them and bring them to school where any of those teacher-loving jackasses could act traitor. The viewers, who ran the minimal risks, would be the payees for the tape. Except for me of course, since I ran some significant risks along with Anwar.

Since my mother came back at 5:45, we would organize a show at my place between 4 and 5:30. In a very short time the whole operation became a grand success. Each day, I had dozens of guys begging me to be invited. But invitations were strictly for my closest buddies. Shiraz, Anoop, Zachariah etc. Things were going on smoothly and if I had the least bit of business sense in me, I could have actually made a profit on it too! But like always, I (yeah you guessed it!) screwed it up…:(

It was one of those evenings when attendance was higher than normal. In fact I am sure that there were more people at my house than there was in the class. The tape was running, guys watching it with their eyes bulging, tongue hanging and a lot more happening when the calling bell rings. An electric shock went right through my spine. It was just 5:20, so why was my mother so early? Showing a presence of mind far ahead of my age, I stopped the video, gave some books to the guys (as if in mock combined study) and opened the door…. only to see Ashokan, our milk vendor standing at the door. Breathing a sigh of relief I took the milk in and gave back the vessel.

The show was right back on track when almost immediately the calling bell sounded again. “Must be Ashokan again, maybe he wants some money”. I stopped the video (I had set up our VCR so that when it was stopped the T.V came on automatically) and opened the door again. Only to see the smiling face of my mother (I have gone on record once about mother’s smiles, I felt much the same again). She brushed right past me into the living room. I was so shocked that I could hardly move. I made some drooling noises that sounded like “why are you so early?”, “Oh! My God!” etc and followed her in a state of moronic stupor.

In the living room she was surprised to find so many of my friends, all of them looking at her as if she was the walking dead. They may have been my closest buddies, but at the time of reckoning, all those supremely ungrateful wimps ran helter skelter. So much for friendship and all that bull shit. The only people left standing were me and Anwar. In fact I didn’t count as “people” right then the mummy effect had mummified me.

Amma looked at me and asked, “What is happening? entha parungunne?” why are you acting so shifty? I said “nothing”. “No, you have done something, I am sure!” It was not a question but a statement of facts. I had to give it to her, this mother mine, she had intuition(God’s biggest crime against man!!!) by the ton! After the “statement” she gave me one more appraising look and went into her room. Anwar told me that he will stay on for some more time for “immoral support” but I shooed him away. This was anyway the last day in my life, why should I take him down with me, was my line of thinking.

Anwar left. The tape was still in the VCR and I had to take it out before Amma found out the details. Right now, she only knew I did something wrong but not exactly what I did. And believe me if you knew my mother you wouldn’t want her to know either!!

Fortunately, she had closed the door when she went into the room. I went up to the VCR and ejected the tape, just as it came out, my brother walked in. Thinking “idivettu ettavanae patti kadicha pole” I pushed it right back in. There was one problem though. When a tape is pushed in to my VCR, it would start playing automatically, pressing the stop button was useless! The moment it started playing, I looked at my brother with a dead-man look, only to see that he had gone into the kitchen! I stopped it, said a “praise the lord” and was about to eject it when he comes right back and starts watching the T.V program.

To many people the complex theories of relativity put forward by Einstein would be beyond their understanding. I myself was in that group till this moment in my life. Those five minutes that my brother watched T.V is all the time I took to understand the full import of relativity. Those were easily the longest five minutes in my whole life.

He then got up and went for a re-fill. This was my chance! I had to get it out before he came back! I ran forward ejected the tape and the moment it was in my hand, both Antony and Amma walked into the room. People often wonder how I am able to deal with stress and tension so easily. Well, if they had my kind of childhood they wouldn’t be asking that question! Saying a deep prayer and trusting everything in the hands of our lord, I took the tape, turned around, walked casually back to the table where we used to put our tapes and placed them there. It was all done so naturally, that both of them did not notice anything. And if the Oscar committee saw my performance, Tom Hanks would have lost his statuette that year.

My baptism by fire was over. I stood up a mature man. It was time for some historic decisions to be made. The most significant two of them being that from now on, the table with the tapes would be moved near to the T.V and installing a peephole for our door.

I still remember that day with a shiver along my spine*, but I never truly understood what I had escaped till I went for a cousin’s marriage. The marriage reception was held in a posh hall in Ernakulam. After the cake cutting, it was time for the speeches. The first of which was delivered by another cousin who was a bosom buddy of the one getting married. He had the crowd in splits with all the funny things these guys had managed to do during their childhood. Everything was interesting, but one anecdote stood out from the rest.

The cousin getting married had once rented a blue film from a shop near his house and failed to return it even after a week. In the end the shop owner came to his house and asked his father for the tape. For months later, his father called him "blue". And now, right on his wedding day, in front of a thousand strong crowd, the story was out again. Boy! I really had escaped some major humiliation.

*I was so shocked by this incident that it took me a full seven days to get normal and air the next "show"!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

What happened to good old Malayalam movies?

A good movie is the communion of many factors. Its success lies in its ability to enthrall all people or at least most people with its varied charms. To “enthrall” guys like me, it is pretty easy. We are suckers for good old sex and violence, the more the better!

For long now, Malayalam movies have had neither. Gone are the innocent hippie days of the seventies when a Malayalam movie simply meant the collection of 3 stunts and 4 rapes. The actors changed between films and sometimes they didn’t. Films were not made for winning awards or scoring a point. They were just meant to entertain and believe me, they did!

Things were so simple back then in those golden days of Malayalam cinema. It was truly a mass entertainer. You did not need to have a degree in psychology or a PhD in philosophy to watch a movie. All people, right from the humblest rickshaw puller to the snootiest estate owner were entertained by the same genre.

Then came the eighties and already there was a dip in standards. I guess it had something to do with the “sick young men” doing rounds at that time. Every hero/heroine/kid had to die of cancer or some other God forsaken disease. But then films like Layanam and actresses like Silk Smitha more than made up for these minor shortcomings. During this era, Malayalam movies started winning national awards on a nearly yearly basis. A sure sign of impending decadence!

Come nineties and the spiraling downward trend was truly visible. This decade proved beyond doubt that “family” films were there to stay! And into this pathetic era, I was born. Actually, I was born in the eighties but as far as films go, I am a child of the nineties! Doordarshan which was very much a “peepul’s” channel, with Friday night hotties and wet Saris suddenly found out about morality. Unfortunately for me, this new found morality came at the crucial time when I was desperately trying to be immoral!

I don’t want to sound arrogant, but it is said that most states do what Kerala did about 20 years late. It is no wonder then that Kannada, Tamil and Telugu movies have discovered the unfailing formula for the perfect movie now. Way to go guys!! Keep it up and don’t follow us hopeless mallus anymore, you just found nirvana, believe me.

The final blow to “funny” Malayalam movies came when directors changed their modus operandi for star selection. Earlier the criterion was simple, actresses just needed to be teeth achingly beautiful, that was it! But along came the “Kala Prathibas” and this happy situation was repealed.

They were “good” girls from decent families who were exceptionally talented and had won state awards for their acting skills at school. They were the last nail in our coffin. These sophisticated women just refused to show skin!! Gone were the days of Sheela, Seema and Jaya Barathi with their in-your-face cleavage and king size posteriors.

Malayalam films had touched an all time low! Instead of judging by cleavage they actually started judging heroines based on their artistic talents… can you believe it!! If Ripley’s “Believe it or not” heard of this, it would be up for the picking as the most unbelievable thing ever in the movie industry.

But what irks me most is the step motherly treatment that these heroines give ONLY to Malayalam films. Many a heroine who has shifted to Tamil/other languages has gone in for the good old skin route. But the moment they hear “Malayalam” these same heroines get all conservative and nun-ish. I ask you, don’t Malayalees too have feelings?? Is this fair?

But, if truth be said, I really do not bemoan the hippie films of the 70’s. They had no real substance. On a more artistic level it was the death of Pathmarajan that was a huge blow for viewers. He was one man who could direct films with such panache that I get goose bumps each time I remember them. The genius of that man lay in the fact that none of his movies were vulgar. He had the ability to take sensual shots and still make it a family film. The scenes would be a cent percent natural, in touch with the story line and absolutely mouth watering in its execution.

Did I leave out something… yeah, sure I did. I left out Shakeela! But even though I am a true Malaylee, I simply cannot understand the rage she created with her Minnara Pookal and the rest. I still don’t know what the Malayalee saw in that movie or the rest of the sleaze that came after its release. I mean, wake up guys, those were the crappiest movies ever made in Mollywood. After serious thought into the matter I have come to the conclusion that most guys, like me, in the hope that there was a new “awakening” watched them to make sure for themselves. It was a waste of my father’s hard earned money is all I can say for myself!

These days, like many other Malayalees, I still live in the hope of seeing another Pathmarajan.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Desire is the cause of all Sorrows

“Desire is the cause of all Sorrows” said Buddha. If he was alive today, maybe we could award him the Nobel or shower him with some such meaningless gesture. Materialism has been one of my core principles since the dawn of my senses. As far as I am concerned all this no-desire bullshit is for wimps who don’t dare to desire.

But even I have put a line on my desires. A limitation if you could call it that. Like, I don’t desire to be the richest, sexiest, handsomest man on earth. I just dream about being that. My desires are very much rooted in the harsh realism of my existence… like owning a Ferrari, going to the moon, climbing Everest in the nude and basically stuff like that.

Materialism needs money, a lot of it! And there lies my woe. The oxymoron poor materialist aptly describes my state of life. It is a dangerous combination, the type that makes normal men think seriously about the possibilities of drug trade, smuggling, share markets and basically all get-rich-really-really-quick schemes.

My latest bout of materialism was brought about by a close friend of mine. I wonder why it is always “friends” of mine who do this peculiar damage to me. I was leading life normal and boring as usual when this guy comes up with an idea to tour Ladak and Leh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On top of it, he wants to stay in Srinagar for two days “just for the heck of it”. Telling me about plans to go to Leh is like enticing a fish on land with water. I always fall for that kind of stuff and he knew that too, the slimy b******!!!

The year 2007 has been rather special in my calendar, the beginning saw me going to Himalayas, the second quarter saw me going to a number of small trips to places as close by as Mysore and Madras. The third quarter was devoted to Thailand and a trek to Mukruthi. My pocket now looks like one of my “air conditioned” engineering era underwear’s. It is full of holes!!!

Having over-exceeded my budget for the year already, I had lain back to enjoy the peace of staying back in my room for the next few months. But, right at that juncture he had to do it! Temptation is not called temptation for nothing, it makes one forget one’s common sense (snide comments to the affect that I hadn’t any in the first place are totally unwelcome!!!) and thus I agreed to join the trip. But where is the money????

The last time I was faced with this predicament, I borrowed from my brother. I still haven’t given it back. After all, what are big brothers for, eh? Problem is, I can’t go and ask him again. He might escalate it to higher authorities with dark forebodings of a prodigal son in the family. And if by my wretched luck the “family” actually checks out the facts, then the original prodigal might look like a saint compared to me!

Family is definitely out. Next comes friends, but I am one firm believer that asking money from a friend is a sure way to loose him. So, I made a list of friends whom I don’t mind losing. Top of the list was the bugger who called me up for the Leh trip. He deserved it you know! Problem is that he is already short in the short term.

For a short time, I dallied with the idea of taking the Mother Theresa route of “God will provide I don’t have to worry” philosophy. But I am I, not Mother Theresa. Being of a slightly practical disposition (just reading my desires is enough to convince you I am sure) I am inclined to look for my fortune myself rather than leave it in the hands of God.

But all this beating around the bush was taking me where I was sure I was heading right from the start. It was just that I had to make this charade of looking at all options. The only option I ever had is the only option that a lot of people ever had. Sell something to buy something. Saying a prayer of thanks to Uncle Sam and capitalism, I sat down to look at all the things I could sell.

The sifting-through-artifacts took very little time. I wasn’t surprised. I was never famous for re-sellable materialism. I am a sucker for the services industry and that is one thing you can’t resell after paying for it….:(

All doors seemed to be closed when I got this mail from one Divya Singh who has been suffering from blood cancer since the day I joined the IT industry. If there is a record for the longest fight against cancer, Divya would win it hands down. She is been having if for years on end and every few months most IT employees get a reminder about her serious condition. Some company was paying a rupee (dollar?) per mail forwarded and that was how she covered her expenses.

Viola! That’s when it strikes me, start a mail chain in collaboration with some MNC who will pay a dollar per forward. I was sure that all self-respecting trip and trek addicts would forward my mail a thousand times and I would have more than enough money to trek around for a life time!

This blog is a just a humble beginning buddies. Be ready to be spammed by a mail about the pitiable life of one Abraham whose sad story would make thee weep. The mail would be about a man unable to laze around and have some decent fun just because he doesn’t have money. A plot that I am sure all of you can relate to. Please join me and make it a big success. Of course there is some percentage in it for you too, read the contract agreement to see the details*

*Forward the mail 10 times and you will get luck
*Forward the mail 20 times and you will be blessed by God.
*Forward the mail 100 times and you will get it back a 100 times.
*If you don’t forward it, your next trip will get cancelled.
*If you delete it without reading, you will not leave your room for the next ten years.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The day I nearly got married

The morning was dark. Ominous shuffling voices could be heard, but that was Rameez getting up from his bed. I opened my sleep weary eyes and looked up to the ceiling. So, today is the D-day! I didn’t feel much tension but very funnily I couldn’t remember her face anymore.

But something was definitely wrong! A gut feeling told me it could be the time. A quick glance at my mobile (after buying a mobile I have quit wearing hand watches!) confirmed my worst fears. I was late!

The song “I just did it again” wafted into my mind. I had truly done “it” again. I was late on this most important day of my life. Will she (still can’t remember her face) forgive me for this unforgivable error? Hmm… it is completely my fault. How stupid could I get? I cursed myself. I should have set an alarm at least on this day. Actually, on the night before I had taken the mobile to set it, but then a conversation with Shyam distracted me and I forgot.

But what excuse would I tell her? With my superhuman intelligence powers I guessed that excuses like, I forgot to set the alarm and hence got up late today would not sit well with my better half. They are not called “better” for nothing I guess. Have to think of something better.

How about saying that some aliens abducted me? But that sounded sixty-ish. Nah! She wouldn’t fall for that one. Maybe I can say that during the bachelor’s party I drank too much, but that would be doubly damning. I cursed my lethargic grey cells, ungrateful barbarians! You nurture them for a quarter century with the best of sights/smells/sounds/ideas and when you need a wee little excuse, they act funny. I ask you, is this fair?

Temptation reared its ugly head again in the form of sleep. The cold morning, the gentle breeze and the calm surroundings made sleep weigh like a ton on my fragile eyelids. Now the grey cells started working and gave me my excuse “anyway I am late, what difference will a few more minutes make?”

“They give such nice excuses for such wrong reasons” was my last thought before slipping back to sleep. But now logic knocked at the doors.

Logic: get up boy! It is already late for the church ceremony, but if you get up now, chances are that you can at least eat your wedding cake.
I (very groggy): Shut up! Just give me five minutes more. I am sure the cake is not going to run away. How can I go to my own wedding looking sleepy eh?
Logic: You idiot, if you don’t go now the girl will find somebody else to marry.
I: Don’t fool me! Who else will marry her? My family will stop any such funny business!
Logic: Speaking about families, where is yours now? How come they did not wake you up?
I: Please let me sleep, we will think of all that later.
Logic: No! Answer my question now!
I (supremely uncaring and totally irritated): I don’t know, running around doing the arrangements I guess.
Logic: I have come to the logical conclusion that the most important part of today’s celebrations is you and there is no way that they could have missed out waking you up.
I: Hmmm… food for thought… very fishy if you ask me!
Logic: Very fishy alright!
Logic: Why are you lying on the floor?
I: what has that got to do anything with my marriage?
Logic: Because you have a bed at your house and right now you have a hangover and you are sleepy and lying on the floor! And that doesn’t make sense AND I HATE STUFF THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
I: Alright alright calm down will ya! I am on the floor since I am at Bangalore.
Logic and I together: Shit! That means that all this is a dream.
I: Cool! That means I can sleep more…. Yeah!
Logic: No idiot! That means that today is a normal office day and you are frigging late!

I finally woke up wondering why all early morning dreams finally end in minor tragedies. Well, on the good side at least the major tragedy (marriage) was averted!

P.S: Today when I woke up, I was one very happy man!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Weight gain mantra

My mother and her mother-in-law got along pretty well. But that was till I came along. Even though I look like a film star now (quit smirking!), back in those uncivilized days, I looked like… well I looked like a sack of bones.

Boost did not work, neither did Complan. Maltova was totally ineffectual and milk powder just stuck in my tooth. Whatever my mom gave me, I just did not get fat. I was the proud owner of one of those physiques that followed Newton’s law to the dot. To restate the law for those truants among you, “For every morsel of food input, the body has an equal and opposite shit output”.

A normal conversation between mom and grand mom would go somewhat like this.
Ammamma: Are you trying to starve him?
Amma: No Ammachi, whatever he eats, he just does not put on weight, what can I do?
Ammamma: You are not diligent enough, that’s the whole problem. He looks like a sack of bones. (Ammamma was well known for calling a spade a spade!)

That was the problem with adults. They act like you don’t exist, as if you can’t understand what they are saying. The subject of the conversation would at that point be hanging on the pallu of his mother’s sari and playing Tarzan while keeping a keen ear out for all the conversation being bandied out. Believe me, I understood every single word they spoke.

I would look up at my mother with a “you-are-such-a-hopless-mom” look and she would give me one “wait-till-you-get-back” + round eye treatment + maybe even a pinch. So before the last part was carried out, I being an intelligent kid, would climb down and go take a hike. I learnt at a very young age that there are times when you can hang about your mother’s sari, and there are times that you can’t.

Time went by and I grew up from being a baby sack of bones to a kid sack of bones. All efforts to fatten me up proved fruitless and by that time Amma had given up hope of ever seeing flesh on my bones. But me, I was a very dutiful son. I resolved that if for one day, then one day I would become a fatty like Antony.

The wrong version of the story doing rounds in my family
My opportunity came one day while we were out playing in our compound. There was a tree right in front of the verandah. A tree to a kid is an objective, an aim, a destination and a challenge. I hope you get my point. No challenge was to be left unfinished, so I climbed it and reached the first low hanging branch. To me, this objective was like the one set to Arjuna by Drona. I just saw my destination nothing more, nothing less.

Antony, on seeing my acrobatics decided that big brother means bigger branch and started to climb. But then, he wasn’t blessed with my kind of concentration. The good(?) thing about not having my kind of concentration was that he noticed that the tree trunk had about a million chorian puzhu* attached to it. He was the type of big brother who believed that “if anybody has a right to hurt my brother, it is me!” He promptly pointed out the seriousness of the situation to me.

To Achilles his heel, to me my panic. So, instead of waiting for him to get me out of the mess, I panicked, jumped back on the tree trunk, slid about two meters and reached terra firma with about a hundred of the worms stuck on my body.

My memory grows weak here, but from what I remember Antony rolled me about or did something with a branch or something to get all the worms out. Fortunately they weren’t sticky…. They just bit like hell!

The true version of the story
I saw the worms even before I climbed… it was out of my desire to give a good name to my mother, combined my dutiful nature and burning ambition that made me do this selfless act.

To the confused reader hunting for the co-relation between “fat” and Chorian Puzhu my answer is to try getting bit by one and you will see that you get a real big inflammation on that part of the body. Now make them do it uniformly all across your body and you will see that this is the shortest way to gain weight.

Family version
Seeing all those worms, the itch and the pain I cried out and ran back into the house. Straight to my mothers lap. This part of my childhood is what I like to call the “manager” mode. I had just screwed up badly and now it was the responsibility of my “engineer” mother to fix it. I didn’t care how she did it, but I wanted it done fast and painless. As far as I was concerned, it was now her problem!

Truth
Proud and fat, my head held high, I walked back home.

Amma took some dried coconut leaves (the ones we get on Palm Sunday from church) burned them to ash and applied on my body. The swelling was gone in about 15 minutes. But for those fifteen minutes, I was fat! I had done it!

So, my advice to all you bony people out there is that “If there is a will, there is a way to be fat, you just need to find enough Chorian Puzhu".

*Chorian Puzhu - Believe me you don't want one of those worms anywhere near your body! Does anyone know the english name of the same?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

F for frustration

Long live Sushma Swaraj!

To those of you wondering what happened to me, to actually support this nemesis of the country’s youth, this guardian of our morality, this destroyer of after dark movies. Well, haven’t you heard “circumstances make/change the man”?

As of today, I have decided to change my whole outlook on life. From worshipping mindless violence, total sex and absolute debauchery, I am shifting to the Bhajan groups. In short, I have decided to become mature and act like a man who doesn’t care much about all this anymore. After all, in the days that I did care about all this, none of it happened. Now that I don’t care anymore maybe all this is going to happen by the truckload (I haven’t quit dreaming yet!).

I wasn’t always like this you know. I was a normal kind of guy having a normal frustrated life in conservative Kerala where every one is pretty much as screwed up as I am. Then I came to Bangalore. Ah! The culture shock I got! Girls and boys holding hands, cuddling, hugging, kissing, biking and a whole lot more. The scenes were enough to drive any sane and frustrated man insane.

For the first few months I just gawked. Trips to M.G Road, Forum and other official hangouts of the denizens of this swashbuckling metro was enough to satisfy my “urges”. I was content to just watch, after all, country bumpkins like me were never supposed to dream. But as time passed, my heart forgot its humble moorings and started to yearn for what it had just seen. I envied the guy’s who had all those babes hanging about them, but it was a “constructive” envy, I wanted to be like them, I did not want them to come down to my standard. “Lets all be rich” was my ideology during those days.

The dreams got more and more insistent, the heart grew weak, and something had to be done! I don’t know what exactly it was, maybe it was my million dollar face, my Arnold Schwarzenegger like body, my rivers of charm or my heavenly disposition. But something was definitely keeping away the fairer sex.

I had heard that too much of the good stuff can keep the opposite sex away. They think you will be too hot to handle. After much thought into the matter, I found out what was wrong. “Just look at all those utter nerds hanging around with the babes, you need to be a nerd, dude” I told myself. That is how one fine day, I actively started becoming a nerd. No smiling at girls, no humorous comments, I hated spectacles or I would have tried that too, just to complete that nerd look. All in all, I became a nerd, but the women just stayed away. God must have given them some 6th sense to smell out fake nerds. Whatever the reason, they just refused to bite (the bait, I mean!).

With the “attack of the nerds” petering out, it was time to change my strategy and do some constructive counter-attacks. Off went the nerd looks and in came the metro sexual. Torn jeans, expensive deodorants, shaven face and cropped hair were in vogue. Problem was that not only did they burn a hole in my pocket, they simply did not work. One word with me and all those country bumpkins hiding inside would just pop out like Champagne corks. Being somebody that I wasn’t was definitely not working. Time to be myself!

Just-out-of-bed-looks, unshaven face, smell of a pig sty, totally-pissed-off-with-this-world-attitude and you have me being (no prizes for guessing) me. Again to nobody’s surprise nothing happened. Time to get married I decided, so I called up my mother

I: Ammae, I am bored, I want to get married
Amma: How can you be so selfish, don’t you know that we are looking high and low for your brother right now? And anyway you aren’t mature enough to marry.
I: What’s the big deal if I marry ahead of him eh?
Amma: oho, like that huh? Ok, ok if you are so desperate tell me the girl you want to marry and I will fix the rest, you have selected someone haven’t you?
I: On second thoughts, I will marry after Antony. I see the wisdom in your words.
Amma: eh? Are you mad? You talk one thing at one time and the exact opposite the second! So why don’t you want to get married?
I: oh God! Ammae just forget that I even called, this is all a bad nightmare ok. Just forget it!
Amma: Don’t put down the phone! tell me about the girl. Oh God! I am sure she is from some other religion, Oh God! What do I do now?
I (Thinking): How I wish!
I: For God’s sake Ammae, there is nobody ok! Now just put down the phone!

On the way back, I see the girl sitting behind the boy’s bike, hugging him so hard that I am sure he can’t even breathe. “What a bunch of exhibitionists! There should be a law against such people” is what I think. No more constructive envy from now on, if I don’t get it, then nobody gets it!!!! As I said earlier “circumstances make the man”

“Sushma Swaraj Ki Jai!” Come join me! Let us safeguard our 5000 year old culture from this mindless westernization of our irresponsible youth!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

fatally ill

I woke up early. A sure sign of impending death! I must be seriously sick I decided! I had a very bad nightmare just before I woke up, but couldn’t remember the details. The atheist prayed, “Oh! God, hope it is not fatal, don’t take me so young God….. pleeese! I will attend Sunday Mass every week from now on, promise!”

Normally, I evaded hospitals and assorted paraphernalia like the plague. But this was different, I had a life to save! Biting back on my revulsion, I brushed, bathed and dressed for hospital. The “New Registration” board was fairly easy to notice once I reached there. I stood in the queue about 3 deep. I waited my turn with patience. After all, what did it matter if your immortality cover was blown a few minutes later.

The line inched forward slowly and in time, it was my turn. “Where is the form?” asked the lady clerk at the counter. “Uh-uh what form?”, she looked at me exasperatedly and pointed to a far corner, “Fill the form given there and come again!” Normally this would have pissed me off, but not today!

So I loitered around to the corner and found the form, only to notice that I didn’t have a pen. An old lady was sitting behind the counter and she had a pen. “Can I borrow your pen for a sec?” I asked. “Give the form to me. I’ll fill it for you” she replied. All the better I thought, I hated filling forms anyway. In fact my last death wish would be never ever to fill another form/sign.

She filled the forms and asked me the nature of my illness. “I got up early… er….. I mean I have fever”, that’s quick thinking abe for you, always devising the best alternative lie at the drop of a hat. “Counter near the corner, pay 200” said the lady and shooed me off. I loitered back to the counter (the old one, all the loitering made me forget the crisp directions I got). I stood in queue for another quarter of an hour before I got the same piece of information from the counter wallah.

I switched queues and waited for another ten. But all the waiting set me thinking. “what if the fever doctor doesn’t know anything about my strange illness” I shouldn’t have lied! I had read somewhere that a lot of people think that their illness is unique and only they are afflicted by the disease in the whole wide world. I definitely thought so, I had never heard of anybody complaining coz the got up early. But that was because it was them, not me!! I was hopelessly fatally sick and the getting up early was its first symptom. I could feel it in my bones, I was already feeling weak. I shouldn’t have come alone! What if I lost consciousness? (Not that I have any, most of the time)

When I reached the counter, I decided that it was time for some straight talking. “What is your illness?” asked the girl at the counter. It was already written down in my form, I guess she was just cross checking.

I: I got up early.
She: What? I never heard that illness before, what was it again?
I: I got up early.
She: What!! So?
I: I think I am sick. I need to see a good doctor.
She (muttering beneath her breath): You sure need a doctor buddy… at the mental asylum!
I (Thinking): Ok, that fixes it! I am the proud owner of the newest human disease. Hope she is the next victim, would serve her right!
She: Go and wait before Room No: 5. The nurse there will call you.

After about two hours of waiting, finally my chance comes. I have broken out in cold sweat by that time.

Dr: Hello Abraham!
I (Sounding very croaky): Hello Doctor.
Dr: Hmm, so you have fever right?
I: well ah.. hmm.. you see…
Dr: Ok tell me the symptoms, do you have body pain?
I: No
Dr: Vomiting?
I: No
Dr: Loose Motion?
I: No
Dr: Cold?
I: No
Dr: Temperature?
I: No
Dr (Now he looks incredulous): Well if you don’t have any of the symptoms of a fever, then what is your problem?
I (Thinking): Aha! Now we get down to business.
I: Doctor, in my whole life, I have never woken up early on my own accord and today I got up early. Doctor, I think I am suffering from some serious disease, I don’t want to die so early doctor… waaaah……(Sound Effect: wet sobs)
Dr (Did he smirk????): There, there, my boy, nothing to get so worried about. I am sure that it is perfectly normal.
I: No Doctor, I am definite it is not at all normal. I already feel so weak.
Dr: Forget all that, just keep talking… tell me what do you do?
I: I work in an IT firm Doctor.
Dr: Good! So what do you do on a normal day?
I (Sheepishly): Er, ah, not much work these days you know…. On bench.
Dr: Then.
I: Hmm… I wake up late. I go to office, I check my mail, I drink tea, I repeat the process till 6 with a lunch thrown in between and I come back home.
Dr: Then
I: Hmm… well I watch t.v.
Dr: So, what did you watch yesterday?
I: Well, I watched a movie called “Jaani Dushman Ek Anoki Kahani”. Though I didn’t complete it.
Dr (With a repugnant look): Well, when I watched that, I got nightmares for a week!
I: Come to think of it, I got a nightmare today, but couldn’t remember the details
Dr: People think doctors can do anything! You drink five bottles of alcohol, you take cyanide or try suicide… I may be able to save you. But you see “Jaani Dushman…” and I am helpless
I: So what do I do?
Dr: Well thank God that you didn’t see the whole movie. There might still be hope of saving your fragile mind. Take these medications and meet me in a week.
I: Thank you doctor!

A review on the movie. This should convince the reader on the benefits of watching this movie.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Responsible Journalism

For years we only had DoorDarshan, the news in which was at best a lame duck affair. As a rule, on every day the governments view, the oppositions view and sometimes the peoples view were aired. Not too good, not too bad. But for all its drawbacks, it had one important facet, namely “Responsibility”. For e.g. we in India are not new to riots, but in the days of Doordarshan, care was taken not to put in pictures or use language that could spark off trouble in other areas of the country.

Of course the flip side of this was that some legitimate concerns were never aired, which exacerbated the wound. Kashmir comes to mind once too often, if only the media had shown some common sense and reported how discontent the people of the valley were and highlighted government apathy, Kashmir might not have burned. Instead the media chose in “national interest” to snub out stories from that part of town and naturally nobody even knew about how bad the situ was before the terrorism began.

But today with the advent of cable T.V, things have changed dramatically. Each bomb explosion is covered minutely, video footage is rerun about a zillion times and words used in describing are at best “inciting” and at worst…. Well they just lead to the next riot, maybe not today, but definitely tomorrow. Is this type of reporting good? Yes, it is. Is it bad? Yes it is.

A bomb explosion rocked Hyderabad two days back, as usual killing innocent people with no regard to age, sex, religion or just about anything else. As usual the channels were working overtime giving the people a dosage of the gruesome scenes (they don’t even put up a warning these days saying “adult content”). But today morning’s news paper gave me back some faith in the media.

Malayala Manorama had a front page picture of one of the relatives of a bomb victim. It showed a wailing Muslim father whose son had been killed in the explosion and I thought to myself “how correct”. The boy had come to Hyderabad from Bombay with his friends (all the rest Hindus). Each of those boys had relatives I am sure, pictures of any of them could have been published too, but the paper chose to present this one. Some would call it “pampering the minorities” but I would call it responsible journalism.

At a time like this, when the nation is shocked, it is so easy to blame the Muslim. After all it was a Muslim(s) who had done this dastardly act. The paper could have shown a bloodied picture with body parts lying all around. It could have shown the picture of some suspected terrorist, but it has wisely chosen to show that most important picture.

Just seeing that picture, one would easily understand that a bomb does not look or ask for the religion of a person before blasting him to smithereens. Just seeing that picture, one understands that “everybody” is at the receiving end. It gives out all the right messages, to the next fanatic Muslim who wishes to explode a bomb, it tells that “Your own people are gonna get killed buddy” to the next fanatic Hindu it tells that “see it is not just the Hindus who get killed, but everyone”.

Since I was travelling, I came to know about the explosion rather late. A Muslim friend of mine was with me at that time and his first words on hearing about the explosion was “I hope it doesn’t start a riot”. The same words, millions of other Muslims around the country would be mouthing now.

For the sake of a little sanity in our embattled country, I hope that the visual media would stop airing such disturbing pictures and give a bit more respect to the style of reporting done by “boring” Doordarshan.To all worried Indian’s all I can say is that our mother India is a very strong woman. She will bear this with her legendary stoic courage and I am sure that we will come out stronger than ever before! Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Great Indian Railways

Me and trains, we are linked by something deeper than the season tickets. For instance, the day before I was born, Amma decided that it was better to “download” me at her ancestral place in Kanjirapally rather than at Kollam, so she boarded a train which was newly inaugurated on that very same day. Appa still considers that as one of the dumbest things she ever did, on the other hand, I am angry at her for not downloading me on the train. That would have meant free travel for a lifetime.

Traveling in Indian trains is always a mind broadening affair. The number of people you meet, the friendships you strike up, the food you share, the songs you sing, the vendors who cajole and push you into buying the food stuff, the filth, the smell and the Good Byes. In short, the amount of “life” in each journey is extremely high.

Superman
I and Appa used to frequently go to Trivandrum by train. During these journeys when Amma was not around, Appa would play a game with me. After the train whistle is blown, Appa would ask me to start pushing on the windows “to start the train”. Poor me, I used to believe that I was the guy who actually started the train with my superman strength. But I guess it was good for my self esteem. Anyways, I have decided I will play the same prank on my kids too!

Damn the crowd
When I think of trains, the first thing that comes to mind is their peculiar “iron” smell, the next is the crowd. I don’t know how many billion people the Indian Railways carry each year, but it is definitely no small number! Like most other compatriots, I have traveled in every “position” possible. From sitting comfortably on a seat, to crouching on the floor, to standing on one foot in the loo, to hanging out from the door doing some “wind surfing”. Depending on the crowd, I have felt like I would suffocate to death, get slowly cooked in the heat, die of cancer from the illegal smoker who has to smoke even when you cant get a single breath and a lot more!

Discovery of India
“The real India lies in its villages” or something similar was once said by the Mahatma. In the same vein, any “discovery of India” will be incomplete without extensive train journeys. The villages, the scenery, the dilapidated bridges, the poverty, the wealth, the beauty, the mountains, the sea….. the railways show you everything. The best and the worst, with nothing hidden!

Desibaba on a train
Except for trips to Madras, my train journeys were fairly short 3-4 hour episodes. But that changed when Amma along with Appa’s sisters decided to ditch their husbands and go for a trip to North India. But they wanted one male to carry their bags and basically act as a non-obtrusive escort for their escapade. Since I was hanging around jobless after my engineering, it was no wonder that I was an obvious choice.

The journey itself was fantastic. We got nearly two nights and two days on the train, but the real “fun” started somewhere near Indore. It was sometime in the afternoon and I was lying down half asleep in my window side berth, when this reasonably good looking Auntie comes and sits near my foot. Before she sits down though, she pushed my legs a little to the side to get some room.

I half opened my eyes and then closed them, but a few minutes later, she was doing something with my feet which woke me up again. She was trying to arrange them, as if they were some inanimate objects. In the end, she put one of my feet on top of the other, then put her arm around the top one and rested her breast on the bottom one! I put on a “what the f***” look on my face, and an “ooo man this is my lucky day” look in my mind.

Out of the corner of my eye, I took a peek at my mother and saw to my dismay that she was giving an appraising “CBI” look at this saintly lady. I had hoped that she wouldn’t notice, but that was not to be….:( This is the problem with mothers. They can’t take a lil bit of innocent fun in the right sense! Now, I had to show my “displeasure” regarding my foot hijack. So I wiggled my toes, which naturally had the reverse affect. She held tighter now! Unfortunately she also gave me a conspiring look in full view of my mother. I am no groper and didn’t plan on becoming one right in front of my mother, so no-heartedly I was forced to pull out my legs from their utopian embrace. I still remember that occasion as the best part of my North Indian trip….:)

Those were the best trains of my life
But the best train journeys I had were the ones to Chengannur. Every weekend there would be at least 20 people from my college in the train, enough to cause a general riot. We used to sing, play games and have a whale of a time in the train. When my stop came, I would feel so bad about getting down, that I always seriously considered going on till the next station.

Caught!
Normally, I never travel without a ticket though a lot of my class mates did that. I was always in love with the Indian Railways. To travel ticket less, was like cheating somebody in the family. But on rare occasions when I did travel without a ticket, I was never caught, except once. The fun fact being that actually I had a ticket till Ernakulam, but I decided to get down at Aluva and that is where I got caught. The ticket checker took one look at my angelic face and for some reason decided that I was up to no good (is there something written on my face?) and asked me for my ticket.

I begged and pleaded for quite some time. It was late in the night and I guess he was sleepy too, so in the end, he let me off with stern warnings. One more reason for me to love the great Indian Railways!

P.S: I remembered all this when I saw the mal film “No. 20 Madras Mail” and decided to post it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

India's Loss

The car showroom was somewhere in Trivandrum. When we reached there, Appa was in a magnanimous mood. This was the first time in his life that he was going to buy a car. But very gracefully (regally?), he allowed me and my brother to do the selection. “You can select whichever one you want!” he told us, his head held high. Our decision was unanimous (which was very rare). We ran forward and selected a red Gypsy.

“No! Not that! A car!” exclaimed our poor father. Amma looked at us with a condescending smile and repeated Appa’s words. “A Car! what you have selected is a Gypsy”…. as if we didn’t know!

“But we want a Gypsy” we cried. This was cheating! But then parents always got away with that. So, rather half heartedly, we selected a rather unobtrusively placed red Maruti 800.

The year was 1985.

Appa being a rather liberal type of guy allowed Amma to drive his new car. If my memory serves me right, she had actually learnt driving earlier but had never got the opportunity to drive a car after that. A woman driving a car was not exactly unheard of. In the whole district of kollam, there were about 3 more women who did it already….:)

Mothers are never too well known for their logic. But when Amma insisted that I too sit with her when she drove the car, so that “if something happens” I would be able to “handle” the situation. I didn’t give a darn about the logic. I just gave my full support.

The year as I said earlier, was 1985.

Yours truly was in Kindergarten. Yours truly was a very brave child!

Our daily routine during those days, still gives me the goose bumps. Amma would start the car and after much effort get it out of our front gate. Then she would ride past my primary school to a nearby church. At that time of the day, there would be nobody in the whole church, except for us. There we would kneel down and pray for 5 minutes in heavenly silence. Then she would drop me at my school and go to her bank. The prayers we said earlier were supposed to guard her during the rest of her journey when I was not there to “protect” her.

One morning, we had just sat in the car when Amma suddenly realized that she had forgotten her handbag(?). Knowing my penchant to play with objects like levers and pedals, she gave me stern warnings with dire consequences if I were to touch anything inside the car other than the seat I was sitting on. The message was clear, “play statue till I return”.

Nobody ever called me an obedient child. So the moment her pallu(Sari tip) disappeared from view, I jumped into the driver's seat and started playing Schumacher. I was just flying over one villain’s car, when to my left I suddenly noticed another villain coming in at full throttle. The situation called for some mind chilling maneuvers, so I threw the hand break, stepped the accelerator full and rotated the steering… all in one split second and that is when I saw the third villain coming in for the kill!!!

He was on the right side, so I stepped on the breaks kicked the clutch and rotated the steering in reverse direction….. Only to find that the steering no longer moved!!! I had done it! I had just managed to spoil our car!!

Oh God! What was I supposed to do now? Amma would be coming back any moment and I couldn’t even start to imagine her face when she would find out. I cursed the moment I felt like sitting in the driver’s seat. This is my entire fault I decided. If only I had done what Amma asked me to do, I wouldn’t be in all this trouble. Curse damn temptation!!! But what was I supposed to do now.

My mind was working overtime, what were my options? I couldn’t obviously put the blame on Antony, he was nowhere in sight and anyways Amma would call the bluff. Maybe I should run away. Maybe I could act as if nothing had happened. When Amma comes, I would act saintly, as if I never even seen the steering before. But knowing Amma, she would find out. Somehow, she always knew (she still does!).

That is when I noticed a colorful blur in the rear view mirror. A second look confirmed my worst fears, she was coming back. To say that my heart was in my mouth would be an understatement, I felt like I had already puked it out! My whole life (which was rather short, considering that I was about 3 - 4 years old) flew before my eyes.

Like an automaton, I opened the door and stepped out of the car. Then I ran towards her… there was two feet between her and the wall and about 5 feet between her and the house. So If I ran beside the house, I should be able to dodge her. And then I could run into the streets where I would live like Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn/Oliver Twist.

But as I ran, my legs started to disobey. It was like somebody pulled them toward my mother. She was coming toward me with a sweet wide smile on her face (for the record, wide smiles on your mothers face is the worst thing that can happen when you have done some mischief. Mothers, as a rule should refrain from wide smiles altogether!!).

Finally after a bollywood filmi like run, I reached my mother. Now, it was the turn of my mouth to disobey. “I think I spoilt the steering Amma” I said tearfully. “Now it is not rotating”. She just smiled wider and said “You are a good boy Aby. See, you have told me the truth and now everything is going to be all right”.

It didn’t quite register. I mean, I was expecting to be burnt over the fires of hell, for my heinous misdeed and here was mother telling me everything was all right. “Really?” I asked, very relieved and bewildered.

Later, she explained to me about the steering lock and how when you put the key and turn the steering it unlocks. “But you were not obedient! You shouldn’t have touched it” she chided in the end. I had just escaped from eternal damnation! I was so relieved that I promised myself that I would never touch that devilish device for the rest of my life! And that is the story of how India lost its Schumacher.

P.S: The car was with us for 18 years before it was sold of as scrap.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The male customer

Rajan was never too well known for his tact in matters related to the opposite sex. But this past week on a white water rafting expedition, he proved his mettle as one of the corniest guys around yet again.

The engineers from Chengannur had gathered for a get together, which for some reason included white water rafting in the itinerary. Normally one wouldn’t expect so much “depth” in their weekend frolic, the maximum they usually do is booze and get a lap dance.

God help those poor San Franciscans, is all I can say. Excerpts from the mail report about the incident from Sreejith a.k.a Ceiji and Jaimon a.ka Monje is given below.

Attaching the photo of rafting guide for Rajan's group.. take special notice of her... below were the questions Rajan had for her while rafting.

Rajan strikes...
Rajan: "What will happen if the paddle falls into water?"
She: Smiles and replies politely "it will flow downstream"

Rajan strikes again...
Rajan: "Will this river flow upstream?"
She : Her smile vanishes, she looks at others and says a polite "No"

Rajan never stops...
Rajan: "Why is this helmet for?"
She: Acts deaf

Rajan thought if he fell down in water, she (rafting guide) will catch him and help to enter into the boat… so he tried to fall down.. but Biju was near to him, and Biju also thought in the same way, so Biju caught him… then Rajan threw out his paddle into the river....

And the ultimate...
Rajan: opens his mouth to ask the next question...
She: jumps off the raft..

In the end, the looser was Biju.. he had built a good 'stuff' with her by asking weder she had bf, weder she was alone, weder she liked to dance etc... due to the intervension of rajan, biju lost...

If there is a Nobel Prize for “suffering” your customers then this lady would sure be in the list of top ten contenders.

P.S: Seeing her picture, I can understand why Rajan behaved the way he behaved...:)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

E-Mail from God@heaven.com

To: All_You_Insufferable_Vegetarians@earth.com

Subject: vegetarianism, the abomination.

Hello hypocrites,
When I made the world, I put in some laws of nature. One very important rule was, “Everything eats everything else directly or indirectly”. If you don’t want to eat a particular class of food (read non-veg) then, that is your decision and being a very democratic kind of God, I accept it. Albeit, not whole heartedly. But will you kindly stop bugging my true followers who eat everything that moves?

Now, I have called you hypocrites for good reason(s)
1. While you resist eating living things that move, you have no qualms about eat living things that don’t move. Do you think that the trees and the herbs have no feelings just because they don’t move and don’t make a sound? Ever seen tree sap ooze out of an injured bark? Looks like somebody is bleeeeeeeding!

2. While you resist eating/killing living things that you can see, you have no qualms about killing living things that you can’t see. Remember the mosquito you swatted? The genocide you unleashed on the poor bacteria and viruses each time you sneezed/moved? Ever thought of those poor orphan kids of those unlucky bacteria?

Just like you kill the virus, I have allowed the virus to kill you, the maggots to eat you, the trees to use you as manure and the vultures to pull out your innards. In the same spirit (not to be confused with the holy Ghost or the bottled one), I allow you to eat all or any of them.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t mind you not eating the good stuff. But when you start guilt edging people into vegetarianism…. that is taking things too far! Some of you don’t eat veg-food from a non-veg joint. I know so many guys (including one son of mine named after an Israeli “father of the nations”) who lost out on the delicious Chicken Mugalai and Bengali fried fish just because you girly grass eaters refused to go to a non-vegetarian restaurant (and that too on company expense!!)

Another abominable tactic of yours is to stare at my dutiful children with that “ooo-you-are-a-killer” look and/or pass snide remarks that are too uncouth to be written down. Yet another tactic involves “converting” your spouses to vegetarianism against their wishes by use of emotional blackmail.

Thank your stars that I have mellowed down a bit in the past 2-3 thousand years. Back then, my normal modus operandi against people who did unnatural acts was to give them the sulfur fire treatment (remember Sodom??). Other creative ideas included the water treatment (Noah fame) and feeding prophets to the sharks. Forget people, just look at what I did to those dinosaurs. Those guys were getting too big. Along comes a comet and bang goes the dinosaur. You think that was chance?? Think again!

Stuff like this keeps happening all through my curriculum vitae. Of course, you don’t need to worry so much. I am, after all, a loving God who is just in the habit of making offers that you can’t refuse. So here goes the 11th commandment. Next time the menu for your cafeteria gets decided, thou shall not interfere and make it a vegetarian menu with utter disregard of all the non-vegetarians around thee.

[Violation of the above rule is prohibited under section 666 of the heavenly penal code. Transgressors will be cooked in the eternal flames of hell and fed to non vegetarians. ]

Now, it is time for a confession. People believe that I am perfect and I am, but that doesn’t mean that whatever I make is perfect. Like, if you make a million electronic chips, no one chip will be the same as the other completely. In the same way, no two people I make, are the same. There are variations (ok, ok there are defects too!) like people with Down syndrome, people with a tendency to eat vegetarian stuff etc.

The defect with vegetarians is that they suffer from the “what I am doing is correct” and “everyone who doesn’t follow this path is wrong” anomalies. This anomaly is the result of the sum total of the anomalies in the equation forming the matrix trying to balance blah blah blah….. Point is, I couldn’t fix it! But take heart! Have I not blessed you with enough and more intelligence? In time, you will find a medicine for vegetarianism too. In the mean time please stop converting others to your misguided path (Or else…)

So, my message to you is..... "The world doesn’t need more vegetarians, it just needs far lesser human beings!"*

Luv,
God.

*One practical solution being to eat each other! And only non vegetarians can do that.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Signature Blues

It was one of those perfect mornings when you don’t feel like getting out of bed. So I faked a stomach ache to play truant. I am sure that Amma must have known it was a fake the moment I tried it. Fortunately for me, she was feeling rather sympathetic for her “baby”. She must have thought to herself “Anyway I can’t sleep like this with all the cooking and chores written in my fate, at least let my son enjoy it a bit when he can”.

Problem was that Amma forgot to sign my leave letter for the next day at school. I was in 6th standard and not too worried about it. After all, my education and circumstances had made me a very capable fraud by that time. It was a simple matter of faking her signature. But that is when I found out a sad truth. For some reason whichever way I tried it, I couldn’t get to sign the way my mother signed. The Guy up there had forgotten to install the “copy” software when he sent me packing downstairs….:( Talk about low quality at high places!

Fortunately for me, he had installed some up-market best in the league fraud software, so I found another way around this nagging issue. Every problem, you see, is an opportunity!….. for somebody else….:). I bribed Reny (I think) with my meager resources to get it signed and the day was thus saved.

It was in 10th standard when I was up against the wall again. This time the problem was my own signature… I couldn’t even “fake” my own signature a second time! In the end I decided to make it a very simple “Am” (my initials written as they are normally written) No fancy stuff. Having solved the problem once and for all, I was living life happily ever after when Amma got jealous of my happy life and decided to muddle it up a bit.

I don’t remember how she saw my signature, but the moment she saw it she blurted out “what is this “kaaka thoori” (crow shit) thing u have written here”
Me: My signature!!
Amma: Don’t think I am flattering you, but if somebody sees this signature, they will think you are illiterate!
Me: Shut up! If they think I am illiterate, let them!

Problem was that her tactless words had hurt my ego. I decided that a change in the signature policy was of prime importance. After much painstaking research, I decided that scrawling my first name plus some fancy stuff should be enough.

In the years that followed, I had to sign on many occasions, but nobody noticed that I never signed the same signature twice. Mainly because I made sure that they hadn’t seen any other signature of mine. Like, when I went to the bank, I would distract the clerk with some innocent jabbering to take his mind off my signature discrepancy. Life was tough, but bearable

That is when I and my fellow roommates decided to go for a trip to Thailand. The trip itself was fantastic and it would take many pages to describe our adventures. But the real adventure was waiting for me back home at the Bangalore airport. I had to fill in an immigration form. Naturally, like all governmental forms, this one also had that despicable column for “Signature”.

I filled it, signed it and gave the form and my passport to the official. He took one look at my signature and said “Wrong signature, sign once more!” I had no idea how I signed in my passport. Suspecting the worst, I signed once more and he said “wrong again”. But, he was a helpful chap, so he told me “ok, as a favor I will show you how you have signed in the passport” and showed me my signature (Big favor indeed!).

It definitely looked like crow shit to me. Now how the hell was I supposed to replicate it? Cursing my own karma, I tried to copy it…. With disastrous results….:( He took one look at the signature, a worried look at my face then a look at my passport. Nothing seemed to fit!

Official(with narrowed eyes) : Sign once more!
Me (Do-I-look-like-a-terrorist? Look + wide smile): Ok, I will sign once more.
Official(looking at my 4th sign): Now you have signed in four different ways! And none of it like your passport signature!
Me (Helpless look + smile): Er… can you show me my passport sign once more?

The official must have been an aspiring saint or something, he actually showed me the signature in my passport once more. Not surprisingly, one more permutation of my signature was added to my infinite kitty. He shook his head in negative. I was left wondering whether he would deport me to Pakistan or Afghanistan. Feeling pretty sick about my bleak future, I turned this way and that, when I suddenly noticed an ad hanging on the wall behind the official.

It was my company’s ad!!!! I took out my company id and showed it to the official and then gestured at the wall behind him. Finally satisfied, he let me off the hook. I said a silent prayer of thanks to the Supreme Being for not sending me to the world as a Muslim. That could have really complicated things!

Overseas trips don’t come cheap, so it was no wonder that yours truly was filing for a personal loan application the very next month. I had to put about 30 signatures on various papers containing God knows what. The agent in charge took a look at all those signatures and promptly said “You will have to come to the bank to get this sorted out”.

It was two days later that I went to “sort things out” at the bank. The official at the bank took out a copy of my pan card and asked me to “sign like you have signed in the pan card”. He said it so easily! I felt like I should wrench his neck. Why can’t these guys do something like a retinal scan or some high funda stuff in this so-called age of technology when everything is digital? Murmuring a few choice words below my breath, I started to “copy” my own signature.

Naturally, he was not satisfied with my “copies”. The jerk actually made me sign twice for each sign that I had made on the papers. Now instead of 30 different signatures he had about 100 different signatures on his hand. I was at my wits end when the manager walked in. He looked at my signatures, looked at me and said “how can you do this”
I: How can I do what?
Manager: How can you sign in such totally different ways???
I: Oh, that…. I don’t know, I just do that
Manager: This won’t work!
I (with a forlorn look on my face): Take my fingerprint or whatever but please don’t torture me with all this signing
Manager (laughing): Ok ok, I will take care of this. Don’t worry.

I am not sure for how long I will have to suffer all this injustice! I look forward to a future when pen and paper is banned, trees saved and people dont have to sign for nothing, no more!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Parable

When I was a kid, my mother bought me a children’s Bible. It had beautiful pictures with big-print words and a nice cover. I really loved the book and its contents. My favorite part of the book was the New Testament parables.

The parables I liked most were about Jesus and the prostitutes (not that I actually understood who they were). My understanding was that, if you needed a straight ticket to heaven, then you better be a prostitute!

Somewhere along the way, I have lost all that innocence, but a small story I heard yesterday, suddenly made me remember those days again. I was left wondering once more, whether you actually need to be a prostitute to get that ticket (not that I believe in heaven anymore).

Tony a.k.a Pullachen had had a few pegs before the story came out. For sake of conciseness, I will not explain the context in which he told it.

During his time in engineering college, Pullachen used to find himself in financial deep shit by the third week of every month. By the fourth week, not only would he be broke, but even the “world banks” would be broke.

The high-profile 10, 20 and 100 rupee notes would have already bid adieu to his pocket by that time. Only the coins, those ill-respected friends of a needy student would remain faithful. On such occasions, Pullachen would sometimes go to a nearby shanty shop (murukan kada) to buy a banana or some small snack.

This particular shop was (and still is) run by a woman in her late 60’s. She was a very kind soul, who would give two or even three snacks/bananas for a paltry rupee on seeing his plight. Naturally, she was very popular during the fourth week of the month. But during her formative years, she was even more popular (?) for a totally different reason. She was supposedly (according to Pullachen) the no.1 prostitute in Chengannur.

The years passed and finally engineering was over (Praise the Lord!). But when we passed out, the job market was really down. It was tough to get even a single interview and it took Pullachen nearly a year of job hunting to get a decent job. Naturally, he was right on cloud nine when he got it finally.

It was time to say thank you, to a lot of people. Thus, he went to see his old acquaintances in Chengannur. All of them were extremely pleased that he had got a job and unsurprisingly most of them immediately asked for a grand treat. Pullachen was more than happy to oblige these requests.

Finally, he went to see this old woman and told her the good news. She was so very happy to hear it that instead of the normal modus operandi to ask for a treat, the poor woman actually pressed him to have a few more snacks from her humble shop. He tried to pay for it, but she just wouldn’t accept anything from him. Pullachen was left open mouthed at her display of such innocent joy. Happy to know, that he had such a genuine well wisher.

What she gave him would be worth only a few rupees. But 4 years down the line, it is heartening to see that he still values her genuine heartfelt gesture as “priceless”.

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Everlasting Love Story....Brought to you by, Wills - Part II

The situation was spiraling out of control! I had to do something about it. That is when we had this Christmas friend thingy happening. The idea about which is that you draw lots and get a friend to whom you have to give a present. Also, the loser who gets your name has to give you a present! Ramba’s friend was one of my hostel mates (Jiju?). After much haggling and begging I finally got to be her Christmas friend.

My calculation was that the co-incidence factor of me getting her name-slip in a “free and fair” lot draw, would undoubtedly sit in good light with her. Women are such suckers for “signs” like these and after all, we Indians are so happily superstitious. I knew it in my heart, this was gonna work for sure!

Opportunity does not knock twice and I saw this as a God given chance to prove my undying love for Ramba. So we (notice the plural?) decided that I (notice the singular?) should use this opportunity not just to give a present, but also to propose to her. Lesson Learnt: It doesn’t matter who all decide, the doer is the loser!

I too felt much the same. I had to make use of whatever scant chances I had. To this date, I am not cent percent sure who gave me the actual idea on HOW to propose. Nikhil claims that it was his idea. Seeing how screwed up it was, I am pretty sure it is. His idea (my undoing) was to use a cigarette packet to propose to the her!!! Yeah, you read right, a cigarette packet! The plan was to take a “Wills” cigarette packet, highlight the part that says “made for each other” in red ink, put in some toffees inside and present it to her.

I still can’t believe that I fell for that one. I mean, how sick is it to propose to a girl (and that too an Indian, conservative girl) using a cigarette packet? I guess it was all those stressy engineering papers, that did this to me… confused me, they did! (See, even after 4 years, I am still talking like Yoda of star wars!). Anyways I was so star struck with the opportunity to propose that nothing else seemed to matter now. I felt that whichever way I did it, she would definitely say yes.

Finally D-Day arrived. The whole hostel rallied behind me (after all, who lets up on making somebody else a total ass!). They got me the cigarette packet, the toffees, somebody (I think bonnie) even wrote a card. The only job I had left was to go and give it to her. I had this bad feeling about the cigarette, right from the beginning. But, with such great support from my friends, I pushed aside all my misgivings and went straight…to slaughter!

It was after the second last hour, that the presents were to be distributed. I spent most of the day in the toilet. I was that scared. I mean, how would she take it? Will she say “yes”, “no” or “let me think”?? I was in total confusion. My earlier sense of confidence seemed to have evaporated away like morning dew under a hot sun. “Nervous wreck” best summed up my state of mind.

At last the hour of reckoning approached, did I hear the angel sounding the last trumpet or was it just my over active imagination? Shrugging it off, I walked up to her seat. But, as I walked, somehow out of nowhere, I seemed to get a lot of confidence. It was like, “Man what is the big deal? You can do it! Just keep your cool”. So, with a winning smile (a horrid blush according to bystanders) on my face I went up to her and said…

I: Hello Ramba!
Ramba: Hello Abraham! Oooo are you my Christmas friend! Cool, it is such a pleasant surprise!
I: Smiled (I mean, I still don’t know what to tell a female when she “ooo’s” at you).
Ramba: So, tell me, what have you got for me?
I (smiling shyly now): It is a rather novel gift. Hope you like it.
Ramba: Ofcourse, I will love anything you give me, I am sure!
I (Thinking): maaan, she’s gonna say yes! I am sure! The stars have shined upon me!
I: Well here it is, open up and see.

At that precise moment, the villain arrived on scene. Lesson Learnt: “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – Murphy’s Law.

Villain: Hello Ramba, see what I bough for you…
Ramba: Are you too my Christmas friend?
I (What the f**** look on my face)
Villain: No, I am not, but I thought I will get you a gift anyways.
Ramba: oooo! So thoughtful of you! I am flattered (and me flattened!)
Villian: It is nothing, just nothing. It’s my pleasure.
I (Thinking): If it is nothing, then why did you bring it, pest!

She opened his gift first and guess what, it is the poster of her favorite cricket star.
Oooooo! She shrieked. So loud, that everyone in the class turned around to see the hoola boola! She ran around the class with that poster, doing a jig and dance with it. My present still lay unopened at her seat!

The professor walked in at that point and everyone went hush hush. I had to go back to my seat... white as a sheet! Nikhil was there to cheer me up, “Don’t worry machuu, once she opens her gift, she is all yours, believe me!” Poor me, I believed him. Lesson Learnt: Never believe Nikhil, especially on matters of love advice!

From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see her for the next one hour. But it wasn’t necessary. After about half an hour, I saw the guy sitting in front of me happily chewing something. “Where did you get this dude, you got one for me too?” I asked, “Sure, here’s one” he said and gave me one toffee… the same that I had given to Ramba! Lesson Learnt: What goes around comes around!

It was only after class that I could talk with her. Fortunately the villains were taking a break and I was able to walk with her alone. I thought I would walk her to her hostel, what she needed was a cool and calm mind. Then she would understand my love!

As we walked together, a big silence hung between us. But by the time I reached the steps of our fifth floor, I couldn’t hold back anymore. I was desperate to know. In the end I blurted out “Did you open my gift?”, “Yes” she hummed back. “Did you… did you…. did you see the part marked in red?” I asked. My heart was beating so hard that I was positively afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear what she said. After a long pause, I heard the acknowledgment to my q coming…. “Hmmm…” she replied and then she just stood there. No “yes”, No “no” and No “let me think”. Only a “Hmmm…”! Things didn’t look good!

I was one step below her, so I looked up into her eyes….. and there I saw.... pure heartless rejection!!!! But, what if I was mistaken??? So, I walked down one more step hoping that she would follow, but she did not. I walked down two and looked back again… she still did not follow. Lesson Learnt: Never propose while standing on a step! *

Well, so I walked down the rest and went back to my hostel and lived happily ever after!**

*They say failure is the stepping stone to success, well if you find the guy who said that, please do me a favor. Break his ruddy neck!!!
**Were you expecting, some Greek tragedy???