Monday, June 25, 2007

Hug and Sell

It was my first overseas visit ever. I was ready for all the new experiences that I would encounter in a foreign land but I was so impressed by this one that I decided to post it.

About 150 kilometers from Bangkok is the famed floating market. In olden days when waterways were the prominent mode of transport in Thailand, people used to buy and sell their wares in such floating markets. Nowadays, it is just another tourist attraction.

Once we reached the floating market, we went for a boat ride which cost us roughly 300 Baht. It was a reasonably good experience. The ride was for an hour and we went hither and thither looking at all the assorted wares on display. Our only purchase being three coconuts!

After the ride we were rather unceremoniously dumped (this was because we overdid our haggling and irked the boat man) at the exit point. Now the exit point is not a “point”, it is just the path to the exit and you got a large number of shops on this route selling much the same stuff you find on the canal. Due to our restricted budgets we had decided not to buy anything and just gawk around. Our main shopping was destined to be at “Siam Square” an up market shopping mall located in Bangkok.

Thus we were doing our gawking and pretty much avoiding the stores when this old/middle aged lady jumps in front of me. Her store has all sorts of handicrafts and curios stocked to the brim. I tell her that I don’t want anything from the store but it doesn’t work, she like most Thais does not understand English. So I wave my hands around gesturing that I don’t want anything. She gestures right back and asks me to look at least once.

Just to please her, I look around a bit and there is this dinner tray set made of soft wood and Bamboo that catches my eye. It looked good and would make a good present for my mother, but I had no intention of buying it. I had programmed myself to buy all things from Siam Square mall where things were cheap and branded. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for my mother) the keen old lady saw the look in my eyes and at once smelt a potential customer in me.

She took out a calculator and typed in 1800 baht. I was astounded. That was way beyond my expectations and anyways I did not want to buy it. So I said no, thank you, I am on my way. So she took hold of my arm and said ok, ok, how much. I said I don’t want it. It is too expensive. The crucial mistake on my side being that, I said “very expensive, very expensive don’t want” instead of a simple “no”. By that she understood that I was interested in the product but not in the price. Hmmm... the going just got tougher.

Now she typed out 1750, I just smiled and shook my head. That was more than my total day’s budget. Next she typed out 1600; I shook my head and smiled harder. All this while, I was trying to make good my escape. But she had a good grip on my arm. I looked helplessly at Shyam who was standing aside enjoying all this drama. Seeing my unenviable state he came in at last. Sorry, I should have said “he tried to come in” coz the moment the old lady saw him coming in, she rounded him and gave him a sort of broad smile and pretty much asked to him to keep his big body out of the business.

After the short commercial break sponsored by Shyam, we were right back to the calculator typing business. In due course she typed 1200, 1000, 800 and even 700. At 700 she said this is the last price. I again did the smile and head shake and tried to get away. Again she gripped my arm and this time, she gave me the calculator to put in my price. I thought for a second to put in 0, but thinking that would be too rude, I just gave it back to her. She gave it right back. Now we had moved on from arm gripping to calculator passing. I can guarantee that any basket ball player/footballer, watching the scene would have learnt a dozen new improvisations on the art of passing.

On account of my youth and vigor I was on the verge of winning this pass game, when the lady in the next shop decides to step in and tip the scales. This lady, the new one, she was beautiful and I did not mind too much that she now started the arm holding business. The old lady had by this time typed in 600 Baht. Shyam mouthed that 300 should be the last price. I decided not to take a risk and typed in 250. Actually Shyam had mouthed 200, which I had misread/heard. So he came in to clarify and guess what the old lady does? She gives me a hug and stops Shyam from making it to me, next she gives a playful punch to Shyam’s stomach saying “no no no” all the time, by which I guess she meant that he need not interfere.

For one moment I was transported back to my own mother land. How different people are! Back home a normal haggling would involve the choicest of filthy language, posturing, strutting, cursing and general bad blood. Here I was, totally cornered into buying what I did not feel like buying. But I did not feel mad, I did not feel angry, I just felt a bit funny to be the centre of this melodrama. Well, it was no surprise that in a short 5 minutes I was the owner of a mini dinner tray set that I did not want for a grand total of 250 Baht. What is more, I even felt very smug at having brought down the price from 1800 to 250. That was an achievement wasn’t it?

Very uncharacteristically, my mother was very pleased with this set. I was expecting a big lecture on the virtues of thrifty living, instead I got a smile. Guess it was not a bad buy after all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Yezdi Jinx

Isaac had a Yezdi bike. He still has it. He had a girlfriend. But he doesn’t have one now. According to Rameez, they broke up some time back. Since then, Rameez has been doing (overdoing?) his duty to Isaac as a loyal friend. Cunning bastard that he is, he played both sides of the fence, lending a shoulder here and an ear there.

If it got over with this shoulder lending and ear sharing, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post. But no sir, it had to go on. After all, the likes of Mahesh Butt and Karan Johar make a living out of this kind of stuff. Yeah you got it, Rameez ended up lending more than a shoulder to the girl in question.

The girl is Bengali, Isaac a Malayali and if it worked, it would have been Diwali. But things didn’t work out quite like that. Fate, it seems cares naught for poetic rhyme. But it does seem addicted to repetition. The new equation still reads, girl Bengali, boy Malayali.

I don’t quite understand the mechanics of over-the-phone-crying. But the fairer sex seems to be very capable at the act. What is more, they usually get one bugger or the other listen to all those sniveling noises too! Rameez fell for it right away. Knowing how sexually frustrated the guy is, neither I nor my house mates were none too impressed. Rameez being Rameez, he was bound to screw it all up anyways. So we weren’t too jealous either.

But that was until the day he said (read: announced in a gigantic 10000Watt power noise) that he is going out for dinner with the girl in q. Now, that was taking things a bit too far wasn’t it? Here we were, six of us, as hungry as the next kid in Somalia (for a normal social relationship) and this rich kid (read Rameez) walks in sucking on a damn cone of ice cream (read dinner with girl friend). There were silent prayers on all lips save one, for an utterly disastrous ending to this affront to our bachelor hood.

The exact situation was thus. The day, a Saturday. The time, around 6 P.M. Apart from the house dwellers, quite a few stragglers were also present. The occasion was a treat from a U.S returnee friend at one of the semi-posh Malayali hotels in Bangalore. A lot of chit chat and leg pulling going on, the music turned on to full volume and people having a nice time before the commencement of the treat. Rameez being a clinical sociopath by nature walks in at this happy juncture to announce the sad news of his impending dinner at another place.

Prasanth Rajan a.k.a Lolan: Da, tell her that you will come tomorrow for the dinner, why do you want to miss the treat? It will be great fun with so many of us attending.

Rameez: Poda! Why should I spend time with a bunch of losers like you when this lovely girl calls me over for dinner?

Now if Rameez had stopped with that, we MAY have forgiven him. But he had to gloat! A rich kid minding his own business and eating an ice cream in front of emaciated Somalians is one thing. The same kid, flaunting the ice cream before those hungry eyes is quite another. You got to experience it to know it! We were lost for words.

To give the reader a sample of the things he said:-
1) I think it will be candle light dinner at her place.
2) If that doesn’t work out then we will go to some romantic hotel and have the dinner.
3) Maybe be I should go to a discotheque with her. All the moving and shaking is bound to “loosen” her up a bit.
4) Guys don’t worry if I don’t come back for the night, I may be sleeping over at her place you know (Rameez later told me that his idea was to have dinner, go to his cousins house and come back the next morning anouncing that he had actually slept over. If this had happened, bangalore would have seen a mass suicide!)

His gloating session over, he left a bunch of “lately-happy” guys cursing their own karma.

Looking back on the scene I couldn’t help but notice the “Shishupalan” factor in all that gloating. Shishupalan for the Mahabharatha illiterate is the dude who gloated to Krishna during Yudhishtaras Yagna and got his neck chopped off with the Sudarshana Chakra.

The next part of this story is based on Rameez’s own confessions. He is more than capable of fudging facts and making it all look very trivial. But I would suggest the reader amplify (by a factor of about ten) whatever goes on next.

Rameez started off on his Yezdi and barely three kilometers from home, it starts to rain heavily. Due to Bangalore’s ultra modern sewage systems, he finds himself in a mini flood in about 5 minutes. All around him bikers are stopping and cursing their luck. “Yezdi is the best, it may be old but look at it run without a hitch in knee deep water when all these modern bikes are choking” thinks Rameez and before the thought is out, the Yezdi sputters to a halt.

!@#%@$%^@$& must have been the next thought he had, but he refused to confess it.

Anyways he knows that if a Yezdi stops, it normally stops for good. So he calls up the girl to call off the date. The location is diary circle fly over. He moves the bike to the flyover and just for the heck of it, tries to start it once again and viola! It starts! Considering that to be a god send miracle he calls up to announce that the date is still on. Just as he kept the phone down, the engine wheezes to a halt. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t budge this time even after repeated cranking, cursing and pushing.

The humiliating decision to call up Lolan for help took a lot of time to make. As he puts it, the rain helped the decision a lot. Just before the call though, he tried just once more to get the bike to start and miracle of miracles it started!!! Not wanting to push his luck too much he decided to call up the girl only after riding a few meters and make sure that this time he was going to reach.

Call 3: The date is on, the bike started, just wait a little bit more ok

The Yezdi may be old, but it had a heart of gold so this time around it didn’t wait for him to put the cell back in his pocket before it stalled again.

Call 4: It stopped again! Date is off, sorry

Lolan (enjoying himself at the treat), gets a phone call now.

Call 5: Lola, I am in deep shit dude, Yezdi……

It is well beyond my writing capabilities to explain the amount of leg pulling that happened then. In the end lolan agrees to get Moosa Bhai the Yezdi specialist from Shivaji Nagar and come over.

Moosa Bhai comes in, takes a look and says it can be solved in a jiffy.

Call 6: Date is on, the mechanic is here and he says it is ok

Moosa Bhai takes another look and says that it is going to take a few days more. The coil is gone sir, I can’t do anything now. Sorry.

Call 7: Date is off. Mechanic says it will take time to fix

Call 8: (Incoming, from Anand) Dude, how is the candle light dinner going on. Arrey yaar, tell me, are you facing any problems lighting all the candles in the rain?? Need my help? Rameez disconnects

Call 9: (Incoming from Aneesh) Dude, what is the color of her bed sheet? Rameez disconnects.

Call 10: (Incoming from Samjith) Dude, did you kiss her, or was it just food and talk? Rameez disconnects.

Later investigation suggested that he got a lot more calls but he refused to pick them up.

All this time, Moosa Bhai is taking a final look and in a short time he starts the bike. “Very small problem sir, nothing to worry, you can go ahead. I was mistaken earlier.”

This time, for reasons unknown, he did not call her again….:)

Rameez had a Yezdi bike. He still has it. He never had a girlfriend. He still dosen't.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Kannada Gothilla

Transcript of a top-secret phone call made on Saturday (02-Jun-2007).
How about a party tonight?
Ok. Where?
Fine! But, how many guys will come?
Four. Maybe five.
8:30 P.M, ok.

I was doing the inviting and Tony (a.k.a. Pullachen) was the one getting invited. Turn to your Bangalore’s hip and happening places guide and you won’t find an entry for Gangothri. Leaf through Bangalore pubs, you still won’t find an entry. If any one has recorded the names and addresses of all second class, badly run places in Bangalore, well in that case you may (and that’s a big may) find it somewhere at the bottom of the list (Between Chennappas bar and Gangammas beauty parlor.)

It was a long time, roughly two months, since we had held a general body meeting of all the drunkards in Bangalore. In fact, things were getting so bad that we had every possibility of finding ourselves in the teetotaler list! Believe me, that is one list I don’t want to find myself in, at least in the near future.

Me and my engineering buddies, we were never too well known on account of our punctuality*. But fact is, we are a punctual lot, in fact we pride ourselves to be at a place before time. Problem was that, the so called “authorities” who distribute these punctuality awards aren’t looking at the correct places. Like, if they just looked at Gangothri bar at 8:25 P.M they would have found 4 engineers huddled around a table, having a nice time.

After about half an hour of waiting, a waiter shows up. “Sir, order maadi.. and something else in Kannada”. We look at him and shake our heads…..”Kannada Gothilla, hindi maalum?” “Hindi…something else in Kannada” we being exceptionally gifted guys, understand immediately that he said he doesn’t know Hindi.

Deepak: Great, what do we do now?

Waiter repeats the first sentence again, a lot of hand gestures (not the rude ones!) head shakes and basically blah blah blah in Kannada. At last we get the gist, he is asking us to order all things in one shot, the food, the liquor and the cigarettes.

I: Big frown on my face.
Rest: Bigger frown on their faces.

This is not normal modus operandi. Any one with even a little experience about bars would know that you first make a small order, and then you order again and again till you either drop down or the cash burns out.

I: Ok, whatever, lets order something and get started, I am hungry… and thirsty!
Others: Ok.

Chapter 1 Order-1
1 Egg Burji
2 Finger chips
1 Pepper mutton fry
2 Haywards five thousand beer.
1 KF canned beer.
2 Baccardi Breezer lemon flavour (for me!)

Waiter: Finger chips illa (illa = no)
Us: Ok, bring the rest (message conveyed using advanced hand signaling)

He jots down the order in two pieces of paper, one for the liquor and another for food and departs.

A short while later, he comes back with the liquor and I find that instead of lemon he has brought cranberry breezers. No food though.

My Law: the number of engineers gathering at a place is directly proportional to the number of pegs to be had and inversely proportional to the number of lectures to be suffered. So it was not very surprising that four more friends came within another 15 minutes to join us. Now we were huddled across two tables.

After much calling and hooting the waiter returns. We ask him, where is the food?

Waiter: Tells something in Kannada, which basically means that he, lost the order.
We are angry, but the pegs in the belly have soothed us into an affable mood so we repeat the order

Chapter 2 Order-2
1 Egg Burji
1 Pepper mutton fry
1 Peanut masala.

Waiter dutifully jots down the order, takes the liquor order from the new arrivals and leaves. We get the liquor in about half an hour. Its rush time so nobody is complaining and with 8 people on board there is a lot of leg pulling going on.

When the liquor comes, we ask him for food again. He shakes his head and says…. Well he said something in Kannada which we took to be that he lost the order again!

Chapter 3 Order-3
1 Egg Burji
1 Pepper mutton fry
1 Peanut masala.
Repeat order for liquor.

Whoever said “history repeats” was no fool! The very same thing happened again. We were having pegs in our bellies but our affability levels were on a fast paced decline. By this time I was really fuming, I needed to get the order across somehow.

I: do you know Hindi?
Waiter: No (I already knew what his answer would be!)
I: do you know Tamil?
Waiter: No
I: do you know English?
Waiter: No
I: do you know Malayalam?
Waiter: No

I won’t say how, but we managed to repeat the order once more, making sure that he jotted it all down.

Chapter 4 Order-4
1 Egg Burji
1 Pepper mutton fry
1 Peanut masala.

I have seen some bad services, but this one topped the list easily! A waiter in a Bangalore bar, who doesn’t know Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam or English… That was a rarity. Normally they know all south Indian languages + Hindi + a little bit of English too.

Chapter 5 Introspection
This time around, he brought the food (at last!). It took about half an hour, during which I did some constructive thinking.
I: how long have you been in Bangalore?
Me: Three years!
I: Is Kannada a tough language to learn?
Me: No, its rather similar to my mother tongue, it should be fairly easy to learn.
I: Then why haven’t you learnt it even after 3 years???
Me: Whoa, hold on! I stay with mallus, I work with Northies I chat with Bengalis and see Tamil movies. How am I supposed to learn Kannada from any of them?
I: Bad excuses buddy!
Me: Ok, but I do know a few important Kannada words, hogi, maadi, gothilla etc. I have managed to survive with these words till now.
I: But not good enough to handle a pure Kannadiga.
Me: Hmmm… true, as we just found out!

Chapter 6 The result
My part of the bill from the bar: Rs 225.
“Learn Kannada through English” CD that I bought later: Rs 300.

If you are a firm believer that bars should be closed and liquor prohibited, let this be an eye opener. So many good ideas are born in a bar….:)

Say NO to Kannada Gothilla!

*If you know a way to be punctual and still bunk your classes, just let me know, ok

Monday, June 4, 2007


The good news
At various occasions in my life I have been in the financial red district, but never at a position where I had to say “I’ve no way to pay this all off”. In fact I haven’t even come close to that situation (Praise the Lord!).

The bad news
Today I heard that my client company (Amp’d Mobile) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. How does it feel when you are bankrupt? How about owning a lot of money to a whole load of people? I am just another techie who is hardly (in fact not at all!) affected by this bankruptcy, but I seriously hope that they can pull out of this one.

Working with them for 9 months has forged a small mental attachment in me to the company. I know a few people who work there directly and a few more indirectly. Mostly lower management and engineers. Guys who are good enough to get another job and I hope that they get it!

It was only a week since my project ended. It was actually supposed to go on for another 2 months. I should have smelled a rat there. But having this rosy picture in mind about all clients being stinking rich and on the path of making even more green bucks, I was in for a rude shock. Most probably, the guy dealing with the client got wind of the impending implosion and cut losses by pulling out a.s.a.p.

Anyways this has been a rather different experience for me and one that I hope wont repeat!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Avarachen Everestil*

Most of my dreams are what most people dream. Yeah you got it right! The wet ones! Explicitly stating them here would be a bad Idea. Dreams that can be stated publicly with Shiv Sena approval are rare and far between.

Hence this Everest dream of mine is somewhat of an exception. It doesn’t contain the normal quota of voluptuous babes and kinky wear. Nor does it have white saris and aunties in the rain (It does have a nude Sherpa (female!!!!) though). In fact it is so alien to my usual train of thought that sometimes I wonder if somebody “planted” it there. Anyways what makes it so different is that I am actually trying to fulfill it. Hope I have better luck with this one than with the wet part, believe me, those are really hard to fulfill (as if you didn’t know!).

Let me elaborate the dream a bit. The picture looks something like this when I see it in my head. I am standing on top of Mount Everest. On my right hand I will have the national flag. A Ray-Ban anti-glare glass fits my eyes. Instead of a skull cap, I will have a red towel (chumanna thorthu) wrapped around my head, I have communist tendencies you see, so the color. I will be wearing a Kitex vest and lungi (Sarong). On my left hand I will be holding the poster “Chandrans chayakada” (Chandran’s Tea shop). A beedi (cigarette) hanging from my lips.

The reader is requested to abstain from immaterial queries like “how will you wear a lungi on Everest?”, “are you mad?” etc. To all such frivolous questions my answer is “I am a proud mallu and this is how I dream!”

On my right side stands Mr. Shyam Chand Kalakat, my adorable room mate and compatriot and co-climber clothed in similar fashion. The only difference is that his left hand holds a camera.

The next part of the dream goes something like this. As we climb to the summit, I will ask Shyam to set his foot on the summit first, he refuses and asks me to do the same. We may be low on oxygen, our brain cells may be dying by the millions, but courtesy is courtesy no matter what. After a long session of bickering, we decide to step on it together.

Both of us being expert at double crossing each other, we both try to step first. The result is a small avalanche that covers Nepal/China in ice for the next millennia (Did I forget to mention my sadistic urges??).

To continue with the realistic part of my dream, (stop laughing!!!) our Sherpa (remember he is a she!) now does a belly dance and then we do our Salsa and then… ok, ok, this is getting wet again, let me discontinue!

This is what happens when you try to write out a dream, it looks dis-jointed and as badly edited as any other Bollywood film.

To start from the start, we start from the base camp. There is a low humming wind, visibility is 0 and our lungis are a-flutter. I grip my rope like there is no tomorrow and take one painful step by painful step. The going is slow, the elements against us and Shyam is nowhere to be seen (visibility being what it is). Suddenly I see a flash, it takes my de-oxygenated mind a few minutes to register that it is no lighting flash but that dumb camera freak Shyam taking pictures (you wouldn’t believe the lengths he will go to get a pic!).

I use the choicest of market language to bring the bugger back to his non-existent senses and get back in line. This super human effort would have tired a lesser mortal. But you forget that I am the dreamer cum author cum lead of the story. I take it like a Sunday morning stroll to the church. Suddenly the wind picks up, and we find ourselves in the middle of a howling tornado. The going just got tough but the tough (read me) gets going now. With superhuman effort and raw will power, I manage to trudge along all this while pulling up a sensless Shyam (You want your version? you write your blog!).

All of a sudden, I feel the rope slacken. The wind has dislodged it! A lesser being would have quailed, but me being me, I don’t give up. It is instinct that shows me the path. It is determination that keeps me going. It is hope that keeps me alive but above all it is the thought of the Sherpa which drives me to these superhuman feats! As Mohanlal says, who wouldn’t want a “hot blanket” in these cold conditions? His dialogue, like my blog may be out of taste, but definitely apt for the situ.

Just as we think that the worst has come to pass, along comes an avalanche and all people except the Sherpa, me and Shyam are killed (told you I was sadistic!). After all, when this dream is made into a movie, who will pay for all the extras? All said and done, it is so much better to kill them all off….:)

The trek is now a matter of life and death, but we keep at it with dogged determination. In the end, even Mother Nature accepts defeat and steps down the tempo of her capricious elements. So much so that by the time we reach the summit, we have perfect conditions for photography. My daydream conforms to the “pictures-speak-a-thousand-words” concept so I am not surprised that at the most critical place we have perfect conditions.

Coming back to the nude Sherpa ********** (censored by Shiv Sena VHP and all other keepers of our 5000 year old tradition.)

The end as they say, comes swiftly. So let me skip over the return journey and jump to the publicity. Our names are splashed across all Malayalam news papers (and the odd national ones too), hailed as the first Malayalees to conquer Mount Everest. Malayala Manorama devotes the full first page on us, complete with the route we took and a red heading (36 size font) “Avarachen Everestil”. Meetings with dignitaries, dinners with the elite and inaugurations by the truck load follow. After months of partying, corporations come forward to sponsor us and we spend the rest of our life doing nothing but spending the money**

*To the non-malayalee, the heading means “Abraham on/at Everest”.
**I may be a sadist but I am still a sucker for happy endings.
********** You will find this at