Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The compliment Trap

An open letter to the toddlers of the day (Generation X Version N)

The best compliments are ones that are overheard.

For reasons unknown, the above mentioned thing has never happened to me. I however blame it on my low hearing power rather than on people not complimenting me behind my back.

But the above proverb (coined by me… Thank you! Thank you!) is incomplete. “At a high price” or something to that affect should complete it. For, it is my theory that each compliment comes at a high price. Let me enumerate using an example.

When I was a kid, I was bad at studies. Not because I lacked intelligence, on the contrary it was due to the fact that I had and uncommon amount of it. You see, I realized very early, that life was a set of rat races and you better join the “right” race. I saw my class mates slog it out and get 1st ranks. They got complimented to the high heavens for getting first rank.

But, did it end there? Oh no! They went on to the IIT’s and competed with an even superior set of rats. Naturally, they slogged their a**** off just to be in the race. Did it end there? (Hmm… why do I get the feeling that you already know the answer?) Of course it didn’t. They just went on to get their high flying (read back biting) jobs. Last heard, most of the men have gone bald and impotent and the women… well whatever they become under pressure.

I, on the other hand chose the slow moving race. Again, I reiterate… not out my lack of intelligence, but the over-abundance of it. I thus got 50th rank when I could have easily got the 1st. I got into an average college, an average workplace and guess what? I am today a half-nosed king in a land of the nose-less* (Not coined by me, but I am thinking of taking the patent anyways!).

The compliment trap.
Just imagine that for some obscure reason, your mother tells you “you are such a sweet kid”, don’t for a moment be kidded into saint hood. Just tell her “yeah sure, but I won’t repeat it!” I did it and just see where I am today. The lesser compliments you get, the lazier you can be.

The image trap
Another trap that you should look out for is “image”. Sometimes even the dregs of society will have a good “image” back home. End result… a split personality! You go to great lengths to keep your nice-guy-image and in the process end up worse by a hundred beers. Your father would be thinking “how did this imbecile ever spring from my loins? He doesn’t even want to share a drink with me” and you would be thinking “Ah! I have such a nice image in front of my parents…ooh! La la la!”

So here some pointers on successfully managing parental expectations
1) Be lazy.
2) Be a trouble maker at school. It’s a great way to trash your image.
3) Don’t fall into the compliment trap. So, if somebody says you are a good painter.. Abhor the brush from then on. Or they will end up making you the next Picaso!
4) Don’t fall into the image trap. You end up losing your identity.

Once you gain entry into the “hope-written-off” category, things are pretty easy (as if they weren’t from the start!). Show even a flash of mediocrity and everyone around you is all agape with wonder (Think mentally retarded person doing the sums). Show a little concern, a little love and a little mix of other human qualities and it is heralded as the “new beginning”. Of course if you screw up, nobody cares since the “I-knew-he-would-screw-up” psychology kicks in.

But over the years you may lose sight of the path and then, one fine morning you hear that whisper behind your back... the dreaded compliment! That’s when you know its time for a re-evaluation of priorities.

I will shortly be coming up with a book on “successfully under achieving – a guide to lazy happiness”. It will teach you the art of staying lazy yet brilliantly happy the whole of your life. And all this without moving even your little finger...:D (Ok, you got to turn the pages… but that is about it)

*Detractor’s claim that they can’t see my nose either… but then that is why they are called as such!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Following Buddha’s path.

“Knock, knock! Open up you bloody ass*****” I shouted from outside Tony’s flat.
Tony (Pullachen) opened the door, his eyes looking blood shot (Whiskey eyes we call it).
But no middle fingers raised, no “get lost F*****” and to top it all, there is a smile playing on his tobacco stained lips!

I look around… is this the right house? Is this the same Pulla? Or was he just too drunk to reciprocate our honorable salutations?
“What’s it da? What’s wrong, why do you look so dazed?” I ask him, thoroughly bewildered.
“Nothing man! I was meditating.”

May the heavens open up and strike me if I am exaggerating one bit... But you could have felled me with a feather right then!!
Nothing rattles us Menacherry’s you know, but then there are these rare moments (The last one being way back in ‘82 when pop Menacherry saw me first time!) when even us great souls lay down our arms in defeat and cry, I quit!.

This was no laughing matter! Our gang’s premier pillar of immorality had suddenly turned into frigging snow white!!! Just like that! The world is definitely going to the dogs, I decided.

Seems like it was the "Pyramid spiritual societies movement" that did this to him! (Must be a pretty evil society!!)

I didn’t care one hoot for all this meditation crap, but he gave me the speech anywayz. It seems that all you need to do is to sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Sounded easy! And to top it, if you are sitting inside a big pyramid, you end up getting a lot cosmic energy…free! No cash backs though…:(

Next thing I know, I am part of the gang that is supposed to visit this pyramid situated about 40 K.M from Bangalore, on the Kanakapura route. Naturally, I was not consulted about it!

Thus on Nov. 2 Sunday morning, I found myself in the company of (women? No! That’s just wishful thinking!) three dumbos who actually believed in this meditation bull shit, namely, Shyam, Pulla and Pakkan.

The place in q is still under construction. Like all holy places, one is supposed to remove ones shoe. I hate removing my shoes, but decided to conform to the rules and not be a spoil sport. What if the pyramid had any special powers after all, eh? Better to be on the right side of un-known entities. They are kind of well known to look down on people with shoes!

The pyramid… well it was an imposing structure, about 5 storeys tall (a rough guess). It looks grey from the outside with some sinister symbols drawn along its triangular faces. We trooped in and were welcomed by a number of boards saying “Silence please!” Thus, totally clammed up and in a highly spiritual mood we entered the pyramid... only to see workers happily hammering away at the struts! With each knock echoing about 5 times over inside the hollow pyramid. Ah! Such divine silence!

Situated at one third the height of the pyramid is the “Kings Seat” The point where all that elusive cosmic energy gets concentrated. We clambered up the stairs and sat in the requisite meditative pose. Pulla, with all his meditation experience entered into “trance mode” in about a minute. I, Shyam and Pakkan followed suit.

Though the meditation itself is simple, one basic percept regarding concentration is real tough. Your mind is supposed to be free from all wanton thoughts and be in full concentration. Easier said than done as I found out!

THUD!!!! That was Shakeela chechi being thrown out of my mind.
thud!! That was Aishwarya Rai.

More thuds ensued, but like Tharakasuara of folklore fame, for each one kicked out, a thousand sprang up! I peeked at the rest of the gang… they were all concentrating perfectly and that too with such serene expressions!

So, I closed my eyes and tried again. This time, I had better luck. I was able to concentrate for about..... 5 seconds...:( Time to change strategy, I decided. To keep my mind occupied, I started releasing the tension in my muscles one by one (an old technique learned during school days… but then, that’s another story!).

I started with my brow, then the pate, then the chin, then the neck… I remember doing it till my chest muscles. The next thing I remember is Tony waking me up..:( I must be an expert at meditation! It is said that only the greatest of the great can attain the "state of sleep" during meditation (Ok! I made it up, now don’t go Googling to prove me wrong!).

On the return journey, I kind of felt left out. They were going on and on about cosmic energy and how they literally “shivered” with all that energy. (Shivering my foot! The only shivering these idiots ever got was when they did not have their Friday night drink) But, I kept my peace. I was pissed off with myself for not being able to concentrate for any long period.

Thus, I am now in the serious search for concentration. I searched a lot and did some serious research on the subject. I guess, It is a well known problem. I found about a million hard ways to achieve it.

Some easy ways too! In my search for this great knowledge, I came upon this juicy fact. The Holy North Indian Baba’s smoke charas/ganja to achieve high levels of concentration!! Finally I have found my answer to all the worlds problems... Nirvana! Here I come!

Anybody got a bit of these narcotic items?? It’s for a good cause you know...:D

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sorrowful is the light my child and so soothing, the dark!*

What is the longest running show on planet earth?
Sholay? Ha! It ran for a mere 5 years and that too, only in 1 theatre.
DDLJ? 7 years. Good, but not good enough to beat the mega show of the century(ies)

“Sorrowful is the light my child but soothing is the dark!” Never heard of it? That maybe since it is not a film in the true sense of the word. But once I introduce the cast and crew, the bulb in your head is going to light up (assuming that you paid your bill of course!)

Director: KSEB (Kerala state electricity board)
Producer: Govt. of Kerala
Actors: You and family.
Viewers: Hmm… considering it is dark, there is nothing much to view.

Like any other soap serial it has its fanatical followers and extreme detractors. I was born agnostic and should have been in neither faction. But in this case, I am definitely an avid supporter.

Power cuts are the epitome of get-togetherness when the whole nuclear family gets around the candle/emergency lamp/solar lamp and gossip to our hearts content. In fact, the most celebrated and eminent psychologist of our time Dr. Menacherry Avarachen** once remarked that “The absence of meaningful communication in the nuclear family is the root cause of all social evil, leading to mass suicides and general depression among the masses. One of the best man made remedies to this alarming disease was devised by our dear KSEB in their power cuts!”

Allow me to prove this theory in a more scientific fashion, with the relative advantages and disadvantages of a power cut.

No T.VNo T.V!
A great communication enabler. Everybody gossips!
Reduces global warming
Helps to develop keener eyesight and hearing
Reduces stress as one needn’t watch the horribly terrible, tear-jerking mallu soap serial where everyone seems to be crying their bloody hearts out.Can have unforeseen side affects. Once, a tape containing some “funny” material got stuck in my V.C.R and God only knows the stress I went through till the power came back.
A nice excuse not to study. “Ammae do you want me to spoil my eyes reading in this dim light” dialogue always works!
An outlet to vent out for your sadistic urges. Pinching bottoms is so easy and nobody whacks you in return.

As you can see, the power-cut is one of the greatest social enablers of our time. This path-breaking treatment for depression and other such illness is sure to see new heights with the K.S.E.B announcing one hour cuts. Three cheers for K.S.E.B for providing this kind of “dhamaka” entertainment! What an idea K.S.E.B!!

*വെളിച്ചം ദുഖം ആണ് ഉണ്ണി തമസല്ലോ സുഗപ്രധം
** Any resemblance to living people is purely intentional.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The last of the Teetotalers

[warning: Only Malaylees might understand this post due to the specific context and characters used.]

Minister Paambu Velayudhan of the respected Govt. of Kerala was in a foul mood. It was a beautiful Hartal day when the Minister was enjoying his bottle of toddy, by a field of paddy and totally happy when those damn Green peace people (Stooges of a foreign capitalist power!!) called for a meeting to discuss about a highly endangered species.

The minister initially tried to squirrel out of the meeting, but finally, thinking of the poor endangered species he decided to attend.

The meeting
Green peace official (GPO): Sir there is an alarming decrease in the number of this exotic species. It is time that your venerable Govt. took action to save it from extinction.
Minister: I think you foreigners are exaggerating as usual. I am sure that there must be at least a thousand of those left in our beautiful state.
GPO: No sir! I am not exaggerating one bit. Our expert team has searched high and low for this species with no luck. We have used advanced G.P.S technology, satellite sensing, infra red imaging, nuclear fission and other classified technologies to find the last of the species, but all our efforts have resulted in failure. It is time now for the Govt. to take stock of this alarming situation.
Minister: Utter balderdash! Did you ask our most capable and fearless animal tracker to find this species?
GPO: Err.. no sir, who is this great man?
Minister: Shikari Shambu! Rest assured, I will put this expert on the job and he will get you a dozen of the species in no time.
GPO: Thank you sir!
Minister: By the by, what did you say was the scientific name of this exotic species?
GPO: “Sober Malabaricus homo sapien” It also goes by the alias “Pinthiri Teetotaler Malayalee”

The elusive species
On receiving instructions from the honorable Minister, Shikari Shambu packed his gun, upped his trousers, downed his hat and legged it to the nearest forest. This was the most difficult assignment he had ever faced. He spent months on end searching the forests of Kerala for this exotic species but with little luck. Up and down and north and south, there was no sign of this Sober Malabaricus imbecile! Those green peace people were right. The last of this species seemed to have died out millennia ago!

Thus, one fine day, he was sitting totally dejected, gun supporting chin, thinking of the next plan of action when Kapish made his appearance. “Looking looking twine, curling around leg”* thought Shikari Shambu. Kapish was the most intelligent monkey** on the planet, he would definitely know about this God forsaken species!

Shikari Shambu: Hey! Kapish! Have you seen this Sober Malabaricus homo sapien species anywhere?
Kapish: Yes, he made this state by throwing an axe, but that was a long time back. I don’t know about any more of the species!
Shikari Shambu looked downright unhappy at this sad news. There went his retirement plan!

On seeing the Shikari so thoroughly dejected Kapish felt sorry for him. He thought long and hard and finally devised a plan of action.
Kapish: Shikari! Don’t be so dejected! I have a plan up my sleeve…. Err.... tail!
Shikari: Oh really? What is it?
Kapish: There is another species in the state which fits all the characteristics of your exotic species. But it is not a pure Malayalee species… actually, it is Gujarati. But don’t worry, it has been in the state for many years now and can pass off as an authentic Malayalee.
Shikari: How did you come across this thing? I have been trying to find it for so long!
Kapish: Long story dude, but the short of it is that once this species made me pose in three different positions. Some kind of "photographic" tendencies, I think.
Shikari: Yuck.. that’s sick!
Kapish: Takes all kinds to make a world buddy!

Following the instructions provided by Kapish, Shikari Shambu made haste and found out not one, but many specimens of the species at different corners of the state. Apart from their un-natural abstinence from liquor (which was the defining quality of the species) it also exhibited a remarkable stiffness in its body. Under most circumstances it actually refused to move an inch. It was only after Shikari downed his bottle of toddy that it seemed to move a wee bit.

All the specimens were forwarded to the honorable Minister who in turn forwarded them to the GPO’s. The green peace team was totally stupefied by the capabilities of Kerala’s foremost animal tracking expert and offered him an onsite opportunity in America (Amazon forest!) Everyone was happy and three cheers, sorry prayers were said for the long life of this endangered species.

Epilogue 1
News Item in Manorma: “A number of statue thefts have taken place in the state, most of them being Gandhi statues. Eyewitnesses could not identify the person due to his peculiar hat. It covered his eyes!

Epilogue 2
Malayalees spent more on liquor than on rice and I am part of the disease… It has made me feel so depressed that what I really want now is another drink!

* തേടിയ വള്ളി കാലില്‍ ചുറ്റി....:D
** Indian Monkeys are kind of talkative!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Exam time..:(

I was tagged by two people this past week. Reflections and Mathew. Since I live in perpetual fear of my mother stumbling across my blog (we have our little differences, but I really don’t want her to have a heart attack…:D) I have decided to postpone the “addictions” tag from Reflections by about a decade.

It is customary to write two lines about the person who has tagged you. But I pass the opportunity, since I don’t have anything nice to write about Mathew. Any guy who cooks like Mathew does, well, I just plain envy them. Period.

RULE #1 People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by them.

RULE #2 Tag 3 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.

1. If your lover betrayed you what would your reaction be?
Was that a nuclear explosion you heard in the back ground?

2. What’s it that you see in an ideal partner?
Is this some kind of trick question?? I thought, everyone thought it was breasts!

3. What, according to you, is the perfect date?
One in which she pays the bill.

4. Would you like to have children soon enough? Or would you wait till your mid-thirties for the first child?
I don't mind passing on my DNA. But my responsibility ends right there!

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
I aint gay!!!

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?
Couldn’t care less, all that matters is whether or not we have sex.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?
As long as I have somebody else... ad infinitum!

8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?
The guys married to Salma Hayek and Monica Bellucci better watch out, is all I can say.

9. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?
Legalizing Marijuana, Hash, LSD, Cocaine.....

10. Do you lie?
No. Err… I did it again!

11. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Thalle! naatukare appozhekkm enne thalli konnittondakumadae!... (Don’t bother to translate!)

12. What’s your fear?
That Salma Hayek is growing old and I haven’t got my onsite to Mexico yet!

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
I'll bet that right now he must be cuddling his n'th girlfriend and crooning to her… "Dear, add some more sugar..." Hey! Stop cooking! It’s an unfair advantage, a genetic disorder and waaay under the belt!

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?
Objection your honor! The question is irrelevant considering that Salma Hayek is rich.

15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?
Infinite loop, system crash!

16. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?
The forgiveness, I outsource unto god. The revenge… that is mine!

17. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?
God only knows all the crap man endures just to have some decent sex. Yeah, sure…. relationship!

18. What is your all time favorite film?
American Pie…ok, ok its Forrest Gump

From these answers, I must now appear to the reader as a sensitive, loving, caring human being, brimming with life and firmly on the path to saint hood. But, let me explicitly state that such was not my intention per se. It is just that these profound questions brought out the best in me….:D

Ladies… queue please!! This is not m4marry.com!!

I now tag
And Nishanth i.e when that Mandan starts his blog!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gone with the wind

The movie?? No no, it is about ma favorite topic… Me!!

I was born with this inferiority complex…. That I would never be a 6 foot tall hunk, muscles popping and the ladies ogling (you know, the stereotype!)

Each time I see a guy who fits the bill, I go mad with frustration and each time I see a female who is an inch taller than I am, I am on the verge of tears! Why God? Why? Why did you make me so short? Why couldn’t you add just an eeny weeny 5 inches more to my dwarf frame eh? Like most prayers sent skywards this one too returns with an “un-opened… return-to-shorty” typed in bold.

And to add insult to injury I was born thin. Emaciated-and-short in a boy’s school is no laughing matter. You always ended up with the support role. Anybody who felt like whacking you up (which was quite often) would in all probability, whack you up. To live through those 10 years, I had to grow nails, some really fast legs and teeth that could bite through hippo hides. And what’s more, even on the days you won the battle, the war was lost when the vanquished scathingly comments “bah! He fights like a girl, all tooth and nails, why don’t you join Mount Carmel girl’s school eh??” And the victor’s smile is wiped off!

Of all the screwed up comments I’ve had to put up with (sack-of-bones was just the beginning!) “yevanae, onnu oothiyal paranne pokumello” (a wind could blow him off) was the most insulting. I mean, unlike the other taunts this one was a blatant lie!

I did pull-ups, I played basketball, I bugged my parents to buy me wonder shoes which would magically increase your height, I pestered doctor relatives to give me steroids and I even (hold your breath) prayed!! But nothing worked. It is in your genes (and your heels) you know. I ended up 5 inches shorter than expectations.

Fortunately, I did not stay thin for long after my engineering. Some metabolic miracle (read aging) happened and suddenly mine was no longer the high-input, high-output system that it once was. The output started dimming and the input started growing around my tummy. I don’t know many people who would be pleased to have a round tummy, but I am one of them. In Malayalam we call it “thara-vaaditham”.

But 3 years down the line, with a protruding tummy, an intruding chest and skinny limbs, I had this wonderful idea… Get a 6-pack!. So what if my genes denied me my rightful 6 foot height? I could cheat them with my 6-pack. Revenge, sweet revenge! It was ten years late in the coming, but then better late than never.

So, off I went and joined this gym. Rs.500 joining fee, Rs.250 monthly fee, the instructor said. I waived my card without batting an eye. Ha! 750 rupees for a 6 pack… I would pay an arm and a leg for it! (Skinny ones, that is). The routine was fairly straight forward. Get up at 6 A.M in the morning, put on the track suit, jog to the gym, warm up exercises, jump up, jump down, spread out limbs, tuck in belly, look in the mirror, wipe out that constipated-look-on-weight-lift, cycle, die… err sorry I mean rest, drag your sorry ass back home, shower, put on nice clothes, office, work, eat, sleep, gym.

“ethra nalla nadaaatha swanpnangal!!*”. I haven’t ever seen the world at 6 A.M. In fact, I am not so sure it exists except in the realm of dreams at that uncivilized hour. This morning shift was a no-starter…:( I did it for one day, I did it for two days and then as lolan(our mega pinthiri) predicted, I did it on the third day on a purely metaphysical plane (read bed). Hey! stop smirking! I did it one more day than he predicted. It is definitely an achievement of no small proportion.

I shifted to evening shift but 6 P.M is really not a time for exercising. You are already tired, your non-existent mental strength is ah, well non-existent and motivation is in the pits. I persevered for exactly one week... Each day after working out, I would go and stand semi-nude in front of the mirror (ladies… control, control!!).

Protruding belly – Check
Intruding chest – Check
Non-existent shoulder muscles – Check
Skinny limbs – Check
Panting-like-a-dog-plus-constipated-look – Check
6-Pack – No check!!

Great progress huh? ok, ok, who am I trying to kid! As some parents are wont to say “nine ondakkunna samayathe oru vaazha nattirunengil…**” Mine was a fruitless labor. All of my 6-Packs has now joined together to form a consolidated sack.

It even brought out the poet in me.

It is no small honor,
To be lord of a manor,
Six sacks and bladder,
To hell with it, puttar!

Thus, I am currently the proud owner of a 6-sack*** body and a bruised ego thanks to lolan’s taunts of “I told you so!” Thankfully, with all the weight I am gaining around my tummy, “Gone with the wind” evokes no more dread!

*Such nice un-realizable dreams
**If I had planted a tree when I was making him... for the record "some parents" not equal to "my parents"!
***മലയാളത്തില്‍ "ചാക്ക്" എന്നും പറയും - Dialogue courtesy Samjith.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Pilgrimage Part II

Right after we reached the top of the first hill, the landlord’s elder son fainted due to exhaustion and we had to stop. We all felt very let down, but there was nothing much to do except slow our pace. From then on it was a sob story. The crowd got bigger each passing minute and we made very slow progress. To top it all, we got stuck in the series of gates (kilometers long u-shaped enclosures) and had to wait long hours before we finally reached the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Finally we saw the 18 golden steps which would take us to the Sannidhanam of Lord Ayyappa. The gold glittered brightly in the morning sun (maybe they apply some polish on it too!) almost blinding one with its grandeur. Thankfully, I could place my foot on all the 18 steps! Generally the crowd carries you forward with such force over these steps that you hardly touch any with your feet.

As we neared the Sanctum sanctorum the crowd became unbearable, I very nearly suffocated but at the final moment by a strange crowd pocket formation, I was able to view the golden idol of lord Ayyappa for at least half a minute! A record I think. But the long wait, the crowd and the snake-like queues had all but sapped our spirit. It was just not the way I had expected it to be. Especially after the terrific start we had made. As I made my way back, I was thoroughly disappointed. “I will come back again!” I told HL, he shook his head in agreement and said “next time, only both of us!”

Till date, I have not been able to make that pilgrimage again. But a story I heard from my mother made me think that I was not so unlucky after all.

Chakki chouvathi and Kelan were the servants of my great grand father. Each year Kelan would take penance to go to Shabarimala. During those times, the pilgrimage was fraught with real danger. The path through the forest had a lot many wild animals, chances of contracting some disease like malaria were high and sometimes pilgrims got lost.

Those days, it was believed that if a person looked back at his home or family after tying the erumudi-kettu, he would die. Each year after taking the requisite penance, Kelan would tie the erumudi-kettu and start out for the journey. But each time before he could leave, Chakki chouvathi would start beating her breast and cry in such a pathetic manner that Kelan invariably ended up looking back.

Then, thinking of all the penance he has taken, Kelan would start off anyway, much to the agitation of Chakki chouvathi. The first leg of his journey would take him to Koovapally, where my mother’s father stayed. There was an un-official servant’s quarter near that house where all such devotees could stay.

By the time he reached there, Kelan would literally be shaking with fear, convinced that he was going to die. Each day, he would start out on the journey and after travelling a small distance he would return, making one silly excuse or the other. Finally after a week or so of this thamasha, he would just lose heart and return home! Kelan never ever made it to Shabarimala thanks to Chakki Chouvathi...:D

I guess, I did better than that…:D

Friday, September 19, 2008

The pilgrimage - Part I

You Idiot! Why did you take food from my plate? Shouted Anoop(H.L) as I took a bit of the masala dosa from his plate. I was quite bewildered by the outburst.
Why, what’s the problem? I asked.
I am taking the penance to go to Shabarimala. I am not supposed to eat food touched by anybody other than the cook. Now, thanks to you, I have to order again!
Oho, like that huh? Good, go ahead and order again!
Then I turned around and shouted to the guys sitting at the next table “guys, come over! H.L won’t eat anything that is touched by somebody else”.

As far as I know H.L went hungry that day.

But my curiosity was piqued and I felt a bit envious. Shabarimala had always held an enigmatic attraction to me. My mother’s native place at Koovapally sits on one of the major traditional routes to this south Indian pilgrimage centre. All through my childhood, I would see men and children dressed in black, with the “erumudi-kettu"* make the pilgrimage. The whole thing had a slightly romantic touch to it, especially since I was born into a Christian family and not allowed to make the pilgrimage myself.

“Da, can I come along to Shabarimala with you?” I asked H.L the very next day.
“No food stealing Christian is allowed into Shabarimala! Screw off! I am not going to take you anywhere”. He pompously shouted back.

I must be a real persuasive guy, since in hardly half an hour I had not only managed to convince him to take me along, I even roped in Arun George (AGT) for the same.

The hardest part of the whole exercise was the penance. I was doing it only for 22 days rather than the customary 45(?) so that I could go along with H.L. It was 22 days of abstinence from non-veg food (the maximum I have managed in living memory!!!), porn, female contact and a basically anything interesting in life! By the end of the second week all the “romanticism” and “enigma” had been rubbed off. I was dying for my rightful chicken leg!!

Finally the D-Day came. Our Shabarimala party had by then expanded to include H.L's room mate Sujith (Kokku) and his landlord's two sons. Before starting out on the journey, one was supposed to go to the temple and tie the erumudi-kettu*. I was a bit tensed when I went to the temple. What if the priest found out that I was a Christian? I thanked my stars that despite our different religions we all looked the same ( *general* look and feel i.e. I am of course, way more handsome..:D) Fact is, I needn’t have worried, seems that Ayyappan’s greatest friend vaavar-swamy was a Muslim! And the temple allowed entry to non-Hindus.

After the ceremony, I was in extremely high spirits (not literally!). Our bus journey was un-eventful and we reached there by 12 in the night. A swift dip in the Pampa River was the first on the itinerary. The water was cold, but not extremely so. I was raring to go by then. Faith, excitement, fear**… they were all palpable among the devotees milling around. Everyone around me seemed to be high on steroids.

The Shabarimala route is a set of five hills one after the other. Most of the path is concreted and a hill is almost razed to the ground. The “thorn-and-stone-beneath-our-legs” legend is exactly what it is… a legend!

As we began our journey we were joined by a group of Tamil pilgrims. All stout men in their twenties, they were actually running the route chanting several mantras as they went by like, “swamiye sharanam-ayyappa, devanae-deviye, eshwaranae-eshwariyae,kallum-mullum kaalukku meethae” etc. We ran alongside this group chanting at the top of our voices. Their devotion and fervor was infectious, it was like the mantras plucked out raw energy from thin air. I wasn’t even out of breath after the first hill. The way it was going I guessed that we would reach the sannidhanam (sanctum sanctorum) in half an hour. I had guessed wrong…:(

*Head gear consisting of two coconuts and other assorted offerings for lord Ayyapan)

**It is a forest path and supposedly you can see wild animals (The last of them who tread the path in a very long time being yours truly!) The fear is baseless but somebody shouts “animal” and everyone gets keyed up.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mala-naadu liberation front

[Warning: Language vitriol.]

Door Darshan did it. Some might already have guessed it. Yes, I am talking about the north Indian conspiracy to impose their language upon us Dravidians (the true sons of the soil!). I wasn’t prejudiced to the language you know. Even when I got zeroes in the language at school, I persevered and got even more zeroes…:(

By the time I was in 8th standard, my practical and far-sighted parents wisely allowed me to drop Hindi altogether. After all, there is a limit to which parents can see red in the report card and still abstain from infanticide.

But like most kids my age, I idolized Hindi movies and heroes. Over-the-hill-young-turk Amitabh, muscle-popping-rapist-cum-sister-protector Dharmendra and chocolate-hero Sharukh, they all conspired to teach me Hindi and what’s more I loved the conspiracy.

All the Hindi I ever learnt was at the foot of my 21 inch Idiot Tube. Hindi was thus an inalienable part of my day to day life. With one potential glitch however, I did not know to count after “Dus” (after “dus” it was “bus” for me!)

But along with worshipping Hindi movies and heroes, I also worshipped that supreme Indian sport, Cricket. What turned the tables against the Hindi language was the advent of the day night scheme of the game.

A run-away success in our sun battered subcontinent. It had but one disadvantage. The ending/most interesting part of the game always coincided with news on DD. And not one session mind you, but two bore-you-to-death sessions. One in Hindi and the other in English. Torture like this was enough to make even the most saintly south Indian ask in exasperation "why the hell am I watching news in Hindi when a nail-biting match is going on?"

It is only natural at this point of time that the reader notices a defect in my line of thought. Why is this guy ranting against Hindi news, why not English (foren language!!) news?? Valid q, but you see, I knew how to count in English, not Hindi! So when dear news-reading-auntie announced in Hindi that India’s score was “dou-so-chakees(?)” I would look heaven-ward and ask “what-the-f***ees?!!!”

Of course, you could brush me off for “not cause enough to hate your rashtra baasha”, agreed! But look what DD did right after that. They started doing cricket commentary in Hindi (a crime upon humanity, May heaven open up and strike a thunder bolt on the idiot who came up with this idea!!!). It was pathetic, no barbaric… no I am just lost for words to describe it!

Compared to all that we Indians put up with, Hindi commentary was definitely not the last straw on my strong back. I mean, I had a good mind to join the Tamil Tiger Eelam(M) - (Mallu group!!) and put a bomb right up DD’s backside, but being the non-violent Indian I am, I desisted (not knowing Tamil did not help either!).

But, while it did not break the camels back, a prejudice was born. And the prejudice deepened each time I heard “bastsman ne Shaantar drive kiya hai…seetha filder ke taraf!” (A beautiful shot, right to the fielders hands!!) I always wonder whether Gandhi could have heard this kind of dialogue and still stayed non-violent!

But what finally pushed me into the liberation movement was human contact with north Indians. It happened in Bangalore at my job. While I knew Hindi, I was never a fluent speaker (you can’t talk back to your T.V right?) So, I preferred replying back in English while in conversation with the northies. And that is when the last straw fell.

“You are *expected* to know the national language” says a northie to me. “err… excuse me” I said “did you just say you are “expected” to know Hindi”. “Yes, it is our national language. You are supposed to learn it”. My blood pressure shot right through the roof. The way my eyes bulged and veins stood up, he must have got a general gist of what I thought about the “national language” and “expectations” regarding it.

I controlled myself somehow and asked him “if our national religion was Islam and you were “expected” to follow it, would you?”. Something told me that he wouldn’t take the question in a light manner.

I was right. He went semi ballistic.

“But that is a religion!!! I Would NEVER follow it. Language is not like that. How can you ask questions like that?”
“To me language is as important as religion, if not more. I think being a Malayali and speaking that language defines me more than anything else. So don’t tell me I am “expected” to learn any language!”
“But it is our national language” he says.
“You made it our national language, not us!”
“well, so? Now it is and as long as it is, you have to follow it. I know so many Malayalees who speak the language well, what’s the problem with you? Eh?”

This guy was getting on my nerves!! No wonder rakshasas (our forefathers as per Karunanidhi) murdered these guys in cold blood.

Thus after much deliberation I have decided to create the nth secession movement of India. This one is for the independence of Keralasthan…hey! Wait! “sthan” is a north Indian word. Independence for Kerala-nadu it is! Wait again! “Keral” is also a Sanskrit word…argh! Ok, ok, I want independence for Mala-nadu.

With these thoughts in mind, I waived an auto rickshaw. Time was of the essence, I had to reach back home and start planning future bombings, arson, loot, rape, murder, what not!
The auto rickshaw stopped in front of me and I asked.
Madiwala Jaayega kya?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just another blue moon

It was early morning, about quarter past seven when my mother found out that we had run out of some vegetable/oil necessary for breakfast. Quarter past seven is when I am supposed to be slouched over a book mugging it up (snoring into it is what normally happened!). So, there was a happy spring in my step as I walked to the market a kilometer from my house, relieved to get away from the rote.

As I neared the shop, I saw two women waiting outside it. The shop keeper did not seem to notice them. He held a magazine (mangalam?) in his hands and was busily reading it. As I walked nearer I recognized one of the women to be the mother of my class mate Xavier*. She had on a white sari. “Must be on her way back from Church” I thought.

I was going to wait behind the women, but the moment the shop keeper saw me, he stood and asked rather brusquely about my purchase. I remember telling him what I needed and that is when she spoke “ho! Payyan kaashumayi vannappo Avante oru ulsaham kando!” (Look at his enthusiasm to serve the rich kid). The barb was meant for the shop keeper but it kind of stung me in the process. It was not my fault that I was “rich”.

I turned around and looked at her, but she ignored me. That’s when I noticed how poor she looked. Poor, but not defeated though. The shop keeper had made the cardinal error to reply back to her. “This is business” he said. It was exactly the opening she was looking for. Her next approach was classic, she feigned to show interest in his business. “oho, so this is how you run an intelligent business huh?” she asked, as if he was one of those geniuses at it. He couldn’t resist replying to that one. Flattery at its subtle best! Her success would decide whether Xavier would get his breakfast that day.

Everyone knew Xavier was a poor kid. He was always dressed badly and could never afford to eat even a snack from the canteen. Worst of all, he couldn’t pay the numerous little donations that we had to shell out each month to the school. Sometimes he had to stand outside the class because of this. But most teachers knew that he hadn’t forgotten to bring it, he just didn’t have it and so they would let him in anyway.

That day I met him at school, but “Hey! I met your mother” was not part of our conversation. I felt pity for him as only a child can, useless, sentimental pity. I considered sharing my lunch with him. But I was ashamed at the prospect of asking him whether he wanted it. I was even more worried whether he would feel humiliated if I asked. Other’s knowing about your poverty is not so cool.

It was one of those rare moments when I actually wanted to be poor, as an act of solidarity. A small lesson in life learnt, that being Poor is humiliating. My pity sprung out of guilt. What bothered me was that I was lucky to be born in a well to do family by no quality of mine. Xavier got the bad part and I got the juicy part to play in this drama that was written by neither of us.

That term, he was placed 4th in the class. The teacher congratulated him as if he had won an award. Xavier’s skin color stood against it, else everyone would have seen the proud blush he had. Finally the teacher said something to the effect of “your mother will be proud of you”. The smile on his face at that instant, if captured would have definitely won a Pulitzer!

Unfortunately this was the pinnacle of his academic life. Something went wrong right after that term. I still don’t know what it is. But from then on, he never did well in school and started getting into trouble. The very next year, he failed.

Once in a while I would see his mother at school and sometimes outside. Each time she looked poorer than before. Each time, I felt that there was less life in her eyes. Maybe I just imagined it all, maybe not.

After school finished I never saw him again. Years later, I met a friend in college and we had this discussion about old times. I enquired about Xavier and was aghast to hear that “avan ippo erachi-vettayitte nadakuv… paavam” (he is now working at a slaughterers place!).

One more instance in my life got added to the “If only I had done it then” folder in my head. I did not share my lunch with him on that day. I did not ask my parents if they could help him out (They may have said no, but I could have at least asked!). I did not help him with studies when he started to do badly. Fact is, I did nothing.

Could I have helped him out during that beginning phase when things went bad? To tell the truth, I don’t know. But years later that question still bugs me every once in a blue moon. And today was just another blue moon.

*Name changed

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Horoscope madness

Are you suicidal? Looking for an easy way to go? Allow me to suggest one that’s pretty sure to work.

Just mention the word “Jaathakam” (Horoscope) to Prasanth Rajan a.k.a lolan and he is sure to murder you in cold blood. After all, his problem is that he doesn’t have any paapam (Sin) in his horoscope while all suitable girls have loads of paapam.

For months his parents searched high and low for a sinless female, but to no avail. Finally last week lolan's father called up to say ‘I quit!’. These days he does some sin and calls up his father to tell ‘acha, I have sinned, does it count?’ and his father replies ‘No monae, only your birth sin counts. No point in doing any more’. But lolan is a persistent guy, he keeps trying sincerely!

Last month, the internet bill at lolan’s place was 12,000 Rupees. Most of it was due to our diligent viewing of porn videos. But a significant portion of the bill was contributed by lolan who surfed non-stop through match making websites. He would identify some good looking female, check out the match in their horoscopes and (don’t hold your breath) be disappointed.

Finally after months (years?) of searching he finally found not one, but two girls who had matching horoscopes!! To tell that he was elated would be an understatement. The only confusion was, which one would he marry? After all with such screwed up horoscopes they would be willing to marry any dumb idiot (I am not suggesting here that lolan is a dumb idiot, but Hey! its your free will…:D) who had a similar horoscope.

Both were good looking females. The character analysis would now determine who was the (un)lucky girl to win dear lolan's hand in marriage. So, off goes lolan and logs into Orkut.

Female 1 Profile:
Blah blah blah
What interest’s lolan however is the ‘Turn On’ field
Turn On: Erotica

Now, if it was me, I wouldn’t have minded it. In fact I would have respected her for being so forthright. Not so, with lolan. He wouldn’t marry anybody whose turn on was bloody ‘erotica’. After all, babies are made by kissing right.

Female 2 Profile:
Blah blah blan
What interest’s lolan this time is the ‘Interests’ field.
Interests: ‘Shappillae paatukal’ (Toddy shop songs)

Now if it was me…….ok, you get the picture.

These days lolan is planning to make an Orkut community named ‘Matham oru kotham, Jaathakam oru maaranam’ (Religion is an ass and horoscope a pain in them).

Then there is Samjith with his paamp(Snake). You see, he has a snake in his horoscope. There are many theories on how the snake got into his horoscope, chief among them being that on the day his horoscope was written he was drunk and rolling on the floor like a snake*. He denies it vehemently, but fortunately that story has a happy ending. He is going to get married next month.

And then there’s Nikhil, our very own ‘Most screwed horoscope for the year 2008’ award winner. He said "yes" to the first girl he met. The girls parents consulted an astrologer and found out that she wouldn’t finish the year if she married him (Hey! You don’t need to be an astrologer to tell that!!!).

He said "yes" to the second girl he met. But this time they found out that he had ‘Chovva dosham’ (Read 'The deep shit Mars effect').

Now, he went to the astrologers himself to make sure what was going on. The first one said he had Chovva dosham for sure. The second one said that he had Chovva dosham, but it was kind of benign, coz some other planet was more relevant and it opposed the bad affect of our villian Mars. The third one said he had no Mars effect. Rumor has it that, Nikhil wrote to NASA to drop a few H-Bombs there. Instead they dropped the Phoenix Mars Lander and maybe because of that, he is currently engaged to get married.

*adichu paamp-ayee ennu vaayikkuka

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Antony - The wedding

[warning: long post!]

Amma liked the girl. I don’t thing anything else ever mattered. That Antony agreed to marry her was just a slight co-incidence....:D

Some mothers hug their children when they come back home after a long time, others kiss them on their cheek, yet others rue at how thin their child looks. Mine pinched me on the arm! The outpouring of this motherly emotion was thanks to me botching up all the tasks assigned to me. Like writing a speech for the wedding, typing the addresses of relatives and so on and so forth. Appan managed the addresses and Joechen managed the speech, as for me, I thanked my big fat Indian family.

Thursday was marked by repetitive journeys to Ernakulam as last minute shopping hogged most of our precious time. I was appointed driver since Appan was sick and tired of driving to Ernakulam in the mad traffic. I liked the responsibility and the traffic was not as bad as I imagined. And for my services, I was rewarded with an excellent Jubba which I wore for the wedding.

Amma’s oldest (and most capable!) sister Elsey aunty and her grandson Joseph came on Friday. And from then on, Amma breathed easy. Friday saw more visits to Ernakulam and general preparations going into full swing. I was assigned the prestigious task of fixing the toilet seats in the next flat. If the Mahatma saw me, he would’ve been pleased no end… my father… well he just smirked! Antony was seen running around booking rooms for his and my friends who would be visiting.

Saturday was hectic. I had grown a full beard and when I suggested, that I could shave my head instead of my beard, it did not go down too well with the family (no sense of style!). But now, a new situation emerged that threatened the very social fabric of Kerala. My friends (read dregs of society) from Bangalore had just landed at Aluva Railway station!

As we had planned, I booked them a tempo traveler. Their initial target was Boothathan Kettu, which later changed to Aathirapilly and Vaazhachal. Nayantara, the south Indian heroine, was having a film shoot there. No prizes for guessing who got the paparazzi shots! My only solace is that while trying to take the picture, Shyam got bitten by a leech….again!

I was presently assigned to collect the wedding rings from Ammu's father and to supervise the parking arrangements at the church. "This isn’t a job for superman" I complained, "Yeah, it's a job for Aby" Amma shot back and the matter was settled. I came back home to see a packed audience. In my absence the whole house had filled up with relatives.

It was time for the madhuram veppu. Joechen (Amma’s only brother) was giving the speech. The long and short of it went like this

"Dhane dhane pe likha he Khaane valae ke naam"(On every grain of food, the Almighty has written the name of the person who shall have it) – Saying by a Mughal era poet.
In the year 2008, Antony Menacherry went to visit his maternal grand father at Edakunnam, Koovapally. After exchanging the usual pleasantries and spending some time around the house, he decided to take a bath. Unfortunately, there was no soap in the bathroom. So, Antony went out and asked his grandfather for soap. After checking the usual place he kept his soap and finding none, he opened the cup-board and took out a foreign soap, which he gave to Antony. The date on the soap caught Antony’s attention though… it was marked 1991. Pulikunnel Scaria Abraham was a man known for his spartan ways (a man who has 9 daughters’ needs to be I guess!). He had kept this soap safely in his cup-board for 17 years! But the story did not end there….

In the year 1991, George Menacherry was walking in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia. Among the many things he bought there was a Camay soap, which he presented to his father-in-law Mr. P.S Abraham on his return.

The moment George bought the soap, God almighty had written his eldest son Antony’s name on it and for a long 17 years it waited for him. The very same Almighty has written Ammu on Antonys fate and Antony on Ammus fate.”

Joechan then gave Antony his wedding present… a framed copy of the Camay soap cover. Everyone was left spell bound by this present and speech.

The rest of the night was devoted to feast and drinks. Unfortunately, the food was only average. The very same caterers were the ones in charge of the wedding feast. What if the food tomorrow was also bad? Amma looked tensed.

Early in the morning on D-Day, Appa was awake and thrilled, for his first born was going to get married. Amma was awake and thrilled, for her first born was going to get married. I was awake and thrilled, for I was the one driving the Merc to Church. Antony… he was sound asleep!

The driver came early and we went to church to check out if all the arrangements were made. Also, I needed to be familiar with the car. All the flower arrangements were in place. Everything seemed set to welcome the new couple. The decoration for the car was simple, one bouquet on the bonnet and one on the hood. More importantly, I drove a Benz for the first time in my life!

Back home a minor tragedy struck. Peetu chettans baby was dozing off when she fell from her mothers hands and knocked her head on the glass teapoy. The wound on her forehead was deep but not serious. We rushed her to the hospital and fortunately the doctor patched her up in no time. Amma was extremely sad that “blood was split” on such an auspicious day. But other than this small hiccup, everything else went on pretty smoothly.

Antony was 'dressed' by cousins. Unfortunately, I couldnt join in as I was at the hospital. He looked great in his blue-black suit and tie. I especially loved his tie. It kinda suited him well. This was followed by the "sthuthi kodukal", getting blessed by his elders. Though I am younger, I didnt get completely sidelined... I got a handshake...:D

Appan (Amma's father) blessing Antony

Daisy Aunty and Jose Uncle bless Antony

The handshake

Antony Aby Bhai Bhai

The 'old' family

We were early at the church and so was the bride. Existence of non-transferable duties in the church meant that this became one of the few weddings which I witnessed in its entirety. Fortunately, the priest kept the ceremony short and simple as he had promised to do. Since Antony had done some serious practice on tying the knot, there were no glitches during the grand finale. Antony looked handsome in his suit and Ammu was stunning in her cream colored Sari. More importantly, as a couple, they looked perfect. ‘Nalla cherchayonde’ was one happy whisper that I overheard.

Thaali kettu

However, what surprised most people was the ceremony (planned by Amma) after the Kurbana. Antony and Ammu were led to the reception hall, which was only a short distance from the church to the tune of traditional chenda kotte(drum beats) under a muthu kuda (bejeweled umbrella). The whole family marched in two columns behind them. Amma's long time dream thus bore fruit exceptionally well. She had the same plan for the engagement, but was discouraged by Appa since it was “their” ceremony. Anyways, everyone was impressed. Who knows, maybe this will become another Syrian Christian tradition.

My family firmly believes that the wedding ceremony is rated by the stomach. The food thankfully was absolutely delicious. The reception at the hall was a walk down the memory lane for me. Antony’s old friends from Kollam I.J.H.S School who had been my seniors were there. So were our old neighbors and Amma and Appa's old colleagues. I was meeting most of them after more than a decade and it felt great catching up.

Cho Chweet!

Lights camera action

The Gang

The lunch stretched on for 2 hours and it was nearly 4 P.M in the afternoon when we reached home. I, Antony and Ammu went last, so that the newly weds could be ‘received’ as per Syrian Christian protocol. It was a simple affair; Amma took a rosary and a bible, blessed Antony by drawing the cross on his forehead and then Ammu. Then she asked them both to kiss the bible. Ammu, then entered her new home with the traditional ‘right-foot-first’.

The welcoming party

Bouquet for the couple

Amma giving Chedathi the 'ninne edutholamedee' smile...:D

As per the family tradition the stage was set for ragging the newly wed couple. This ragging session was scheduled for 8 P.M. everyone was in high spirits (literally). The movers and shakers of the family were in full flow. My aunts and cousins took center stage and started singing. It was really a sight to be seen. The songs were, as usual, peppered with a good amount of innuendo. Antony and Ammu were forced to sing and dance too. Unfortunately, my video camera quality leaves much to be desired. But here are some snippets.


Ragging committee

Drum Beats

The party stretched well into the night with Vinu, Minu chechi and Shirley aunty stealing the show. Finally we sang the “manavaati…. Maniyara thura..” song and played ‘train’ with Yamuna chechi leading, Antony, Ammu and the rest of the family following. Each holding the others shoulder. But the “train” took its sweet time and lot of pleading before it entered the bedroom.


Once the "train" entered the bedroom, we all sat around the nuptial bed and “gheraoed” Antony and Ammu. “Start the show” screamed Joe Aliyan. “Yeah, yeah, we bought the tickets, now start the show” Vinu seconded and the poor newly weds sweated. Poor Ammu chedathi, the initiation ceremony into the Menacherry family must have been a shock for the poor girl.

Amma(?) finally came to the rescue and chased us all out of the room. Everyone left after wishing the newly weds a long and happy married life. And so ends this blog with my own humble wishes to Antony and Ammu for a happy married life.

*More pictures here and here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The birth of a man

She was the master piece of the Gods. Everything about her was perfect. Her eyes as blue as the sky, her skin of golden hue, her laughter a twinkle among the stars. But her heart, her heart throbbed with pain! The pain of loneliness, the pain of her tragic fate, a pain so inhuman the the very air hung in moody melancholy about her like a veil. For, she was denied a mate!

Men came from near and far hearing of her divine beauty. They were all drawn to her like moths to a flame. She aroused such uncontrollable passion that they went mad in their longing for her. But there was not one among them, who could even dream to wipe her feet. They were like candles to the Sun!

The years passed and her hope to find a mate dwindled like a trickle of water drawn in by the parched summer mud.
“Why do thee make me suffer like this my lords?” she cried unto heaven, but no answer came forth.

But, she was not of timid lineage. In her veins gushed the blood of ancient warriors. She was not somebody, who you could say no to, or refuse to answer! If the Gods be her adversary, then so be it!

She shook with such fury that even nature trembled before her. Her eyes glowed red and fire entered her heart. She decided to take up severe penance standing on one leg with a smoldering fire all around her. A feat, that even toughened ascetics balked at! Her penance was so strong that the very foundations of heaven trembled. The whole world smoldered in the heat of her prayers, life as we know it was threatened. The very balance of nature was upset.

In utter desperation, the Gods appeared to her and begged her to stop her penance. But she was inconsolable. A perfect creation as she was wasted due to the ineptitude of the Gods. And as each tear fell from her lovely cheeks onto the scorched earth, nature shivered in agony as if fed with fire.

Among men, she cared for only one. And that was her wise and saintly father. The gods approached him in their desperation, seeking a solution to this Gordian knot.
“O! Wise man!” they cried, “A creation so perfect takes millennia to create and the God who made her paid with his soul. For such is the effort he spent. And now she demands one more!!! A mate!!”

The wise father shut himself in a cave and thought for seven days and seven nights, finally on the morning of the eight day he emerged, tired and emaciated, but with a twinkle in his eyes.
“It is clear that you Gods will not be able to create a mate for her anytime soon, it is also clear that her youth will not stay forever, so here is what I will suggest to you…..Take her life!!!”
The Gods were shocked “But, it is not her time to die yet!”
“Oh, but, I did not finish” said the wise man “Make the most perfect man you Gods can think up of and reincarnate my daughter when you’ve completed this stupendous feat”
The Gods looked at each other and nodded their heads in amazement. Yes! the wise man had spoken the truth, this was the only solution.

So they made me.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Point is, my bro is getting married in like 10 days time and see… I am you know “single and ready to mingle” So I thought I would come out with this sales pitch that would have the ladies* swooning in my arm.

*Noticed the plural huh? Hey! No sweat, I didn’t stand on one foot… she did!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Love in the time of cholera

Did I love the book? Yes I did
Did I hate the book? Yes I did

When I saw the movie at the rental, I first thought of Kite Runner and decided not to watch it. But then curiosity got the better of me and I am thankful it did. Maybe because of my low expectations or maybe because of the abundance of mammary glands on display, I liked the movie a lot.

But mind you, this is what wiki has to say “Time rated it "D" and described it as "a serious contender [for] the worst movie ever made from a great novel ... Skip the film; reread the book."

And this is what I have to say, “You need a Nobel prize in patience to re-read that book” The inference -> Time is trashy, I am classy!

I read the book coz I paid a lot to buy it in the first place. It was an exercise in patience for me. The initial part of the book is extremely slow going, but once you reach the middle there is no stopping.

Gabriel García Marquez has woven a story that is intricate and enchanting around a story line that is depressingly ordinary. The essence of this story is about its characters rather than the story itself.

The story revolves around Florentino Ariza, the jilted lover. Some say that the pivotal character is Fermina Daza, a logical conclusion considering that she is the center of attraction for two men, her husband Juvenal Urbino and Florentino. But to me, there is no question. The perverted yet spiritual, sick yet romantic, complicated yet naïve, irritating yet sympathize-able (ok, I just ran out of words!) love and character of Florentino makes him the undisputed protagonist of the novel.

The story is about two young lovers Florentino and Fermina. Fermina's father disapproves of the love. For two long years they are separated from each other, but their love keeps growing with each letter sent. The moment Fermina returns back to town, Florentino rushes to see her and they meet in the market. But in that one lucid moment, Fermina “just knows” that Florentino is not the right person for her (after two years of passionate letter passing!). Even before the reader murmurs “ah! But why?” she gets married to the rich, handsome doctor.

So, is she just a bitch who dumped somebody for money? Nope! The next 50 years of her life are completely devoted to her doctor and philanthropist husband. Meanwhile, Florentino passes these years with two main themes. One, to try and forget Fermina, which he is unable to do and two, to wait for her husband to die.

Then comes the most perverted part of the story, about how Florentino tries to “forget” his love for Fermina. He does this by f****** anything that moves. He even keeps a record of it in his diary! Readers are constantly reminded of this perversion on his part and then alternately made to sympathize with him when he suffers greatly due to his true love. I say “made” because I really believe that Marquez has the skill to make the reader feel whatever he wants us to feel.

Finally when he says in passing that he has known more than 600 women, I (and you, assuming you are male) end up thinking “Daivamae!! enthoru aneethi!*”.

Apart from this “perverted novelty” of the novel, another extremely interesting part is the concept of love in old age which Marquez has beautifully dealt with. It is an eminently thought provoking part of the novel. Florentino proposes to Fermina on the very day that her husband dies. Initially, she fumes with rage at this affront to her widowhood but later they become lovers again (at the age of 80?). Fermina a strong person with hardly any misgivings is left wondering whether her life would have been better with her lover.

Finally it is the characters in the book that make it a classic I guess. Characters that make you hate and love them alternately. Suffices to say that even Fermina's pet parrot has "character"!!

Coming to the film, it has selected the right(read nude) scenes instead of falling into the usual trap of trying to show too much of the novel. The actors, except for Urbino are how I imagined them to be. Giovanna Mezzogiorno(Fermina) with her no-nonsense body language and excellent dialogue delivery fits her role perfectly. She is also the most challenging character to enact in the movie, since Fermina in her youth, Fermina in her marriage and Fermina the widow are very different characters.

Florentino Ariza’s character remains the same throughout and Javier Bardem was able to do it full justice. The scene where his uncle shouts at him for writing business letters to clients in the fashion of a love letter and his reply to it are nothing short of classic. It shows Florentino for what he is, the hopeless romantic. Again, the scene with him fornicating in his office as his uncle drops by, shows his perversion (though comically) the very same way it is in the novel.

If you catch hold of the novel do read it, if you catch hold of the movie, do see it. For there are only few such!

*That doesn’t need translation!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To B or not to B

Once in a while, you sit back and look at life. Then you start thinking, hey, I’ve seen it all, nothing can surprise me anymore. And then you get hit over your head by a bloomer.

Yep, I am guilty! I was sitting in that chair for some time when yesterday I got what was coming.

It was ten years since I saw my child hood friend A. It was a chance meeting at the bus stop. A looked very different but I was able to recognize him in a moment. Meeting old friends is always a great experience; we laughed, joked and swapped some old stories. When suddenly he asked… “Hey! Did you hear what happened to B” I am somewhat of a fatalist, and god forbid, but the next question that escaped my mouth was “is he dead?!!”. I am not trying to justify myself here, but the way A asked the question, I really thought B was done for.

“No Da!” A replied, “But then, it is as almost as good as if he is….”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“He is Gay man!”

God forbid again, but the next thought that crossed my mind was “Oh, no!”
I: I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was C, D or E.
A: E is gay dumbo!
I (sputtering): eh.. ah… oh.. ooooooh.
A: Yep, Oooooh. You said something about not being surprised.
I: No, not surprised… just… ah “Swept Away”
I: So, B is gay…. Hmm..
A: That’s not the bad part…. He is Gay and he is telling the whole world he is! I mean, just think of his parents.

I was left thinking for a moment, well that takes some courage!
I: Hmm… if he is, he is. Nothing to do about it. It’s better to accept it I guess.
A: I dunno… makes me feel squeamish
We had a bit more of chit chat before parting.

I was left thinking about B by the end of it. B was not a close friend. We were in the same class till high school. B was not somebody that I would think about often. Maybe once in like every six months, I would wonder where he is, whether he is doing well etc. Turns out, that he is doing pretty well and is very successful in life.

I remember once, his mother came to school for some reason, I don’t remember her face, but I was left wondering, how she was taking this. But, somehow I feel a lot of respect to B. To be different and to accept it, takes a lot of courage. Especially in our ‘close-the-door-wipe-it-under-the-carpet’ society. Hats off to you dude!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Antony - Engagement

Should I call it a bus or a moving wild life reserve? “Udayam” had it all, mosquitoes, bed bugs and even cockroaches! On top of it, we had to wait an hour for some guy who couldn’t make it on time. Traveling to Kerala from Bangalore has never been more horrid. I was thus manically depressed by the time I reached home, bereft of sleep and covered with sores all over me.

The mana-sammatham (engagement) of Antony with Ammu was slated for 11 May 2008. Engagements are the sole responsibility of the girl’s family as per Syrian Christian traditions, so I didn’t have any heavy duty stuff to do this time around.

Antony was looking cool as ever (There seems to be some genetic disorder in my father’s side, nothing kind of “shakes” them. I’ve actually seen the family *laugh* and crack jokes during funerals!!). Amma, on the other hand was nervous and I was at the receiving end. Through much of Saturday, we crossed swords for the silliest of things.

Kasavu-Mundu and Jubba was what Amma ordered for Antony. I did not like the Dark Maroon color for the Jubba, but was proven wrong when he put it on. It suited him very well. I picked up a trouser for myself, but when paying time came, Antony “magnanimously” offered to pay. If only I had known earlier!!! Talk about lost deals.

I, with my typical hard working nature volunteered to look after the drinks department on D-Day. There was some competition from Appan who wanted the same post, but I won finally.

Sunday (I hate Sundays!!)
As usual, Amma forced me to church and that too at 6:30 in the morning! Relatives who were supposed to reach by 8:30 did not reach (as expected) so I stayed back and waited for them while the other three left for Kottayam. That was a good decision, Amma with all her pent up nervousness was sure to eat me alive, if I had gone along.

The Toyota Innovo, Appan had arranged was spacious and comfortable. I was joined by 4 talkative aunts and a silent uncle. In those 2 hours of journey, I heard more gossip about my family than in 2 decades. But, most of it was truly funny and we (me and the uncle) laughed all the way to Kottayam.

The church and my mother’s eldest sister’s house share the same wall. Thus, the house was a natural choice for all the ladies to change into their fine silk saris. As long back as I can remember, Antony was very much capable of dressing by himself. But today, the photographer deemed otherwise. I and other cousins were supposed to dress him up. Hmm… sounded nasty! But then, we thoroughly enjoyed “man handling” him. Antony, who was not too sure about his mundu tying skills, judiciously put on a belt above it, causing much amusement to bystanders.

He looked very handsome at the end of it all. Then came the second round of photos. Amma and Appan were asked to face the camera this time. Appan was game for it, but Amma was heard murmuring something about photographers in general. Next was my turn, fortunately younger brothers are not considered hot photo-able material and I was spared fast (The envious claim that it was coz the camera man wanted to keep his “standards” but then, you know better!)

We could walk to the church, but Appan decided to drive and keep our “status”. At the church, the girl’s family was waiting. I rushed outside to take some photos. It was 12 in the afternoon and sweltering hot, so I prudently decided to switch on the car a/c for Antony, lest he melt in his own sweat. What was not so prudent was that I forgot to idle the engine and when Appan found out that the a/c was running on car battery, he blew his top. I was left thinking “There goes the Menacherry-family-acting-so-nice cover”. In a moment’s notice the girls father was seen shouting at his son, seems like both families had shunned their “best behavior” formality.

The church function was short and sweet. Like always, the priest mixed up parents, families and edavakas while announcing the engagement. There was a beehive of activity immediately after the function in the church. It was the priest who blew his top this time, announcing over the mike that this was a church and that proper decorum was to be followed.

I had to get up on stage for the announcements but I excused myself by telling Appan that I had to take care of the drinks dept. Turns out that I had underestimated my family a bit. By the time I reached, my dear cousins had all but finished the last drop! I ran back so as not to miss the food. The food(especially the non-veg part) was great! I had multiple helpings of almost everything.

Now, the only thing left was to talk to my chedathi. This was the first time I was seeing her and we had never talked before. But as events turned out, we could exchange hardly two words before the photographer whisked them away in search of soft green grass and huggable trees in true Bollywood style.

Punch line by a dog tired Antony at the end of it all: “Now I know why people don’t marry more often!”

Next in the itinerary was the visit to girl’s house. It went off pretty well with no protocol gaffes. With this final diplomatic victory under the belt we set back home. Which left me thinking, “It was over so fast!” The enormity of the fact that one new member is going to join the family now hit me. But somehow, I know that this is going to work pretty well, you can just sense it.

Paapi pokunidam pathalam
-Hell is where the sinner goes – Old Malayalam proverb
The bus back did not have any bed bugs or mosquitoes, but with me inside it, something was bound to go wrong… It had engine trouble near Krishnagiri and could only go at 30-40 kmph. We reached Bangalore a good three hours later than usual.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

Either, Amma actually loved both of us equally or she was good enough not to show any special love even if she had it. Whatever it was, we did not have much sibling rivalry. Come to think of it, it had nothing to do with love; it was her mode of punishments that imbibed in us a touch of socialism. It was a no holds barred tongue lashing most of the times, but when push came to shove she never shirked to take the stick to our bottoms.

I was at the receiving end more often than Antony for the simple reason that I was more “saintly”. I don’t want to bore you with all the mischief I did, but then one instance stands out. By the way, it was NOT MY FAULT!! It was all Amma’s doing. Appa had just bought new furniture and cushions and Amma being an expert at sewing started stitching the cushion covers. Long hours were spend before the sewing machine and finally one fine morning she completed the task, put on the cushion covers and patted herself on the back for a job well done.

Now, if she had just put the cushion cover on the cushions, all would have gone well but as fate would have it, she also put me and a scissor on top of the very same villainous cushions. Friends, Indians, countrymen, I ask you, is it not the gravest offense on the part of the parent to put a child and a scissor on the same cushion? It was a tough decision, but even in that tender age I was my mother’s true son and never shirked from doing what “I had to do”. I took the scissors and very carefully (and exactly like my mother) cut the eeny weeny threads that were so annoyingly holding the two parts of the cushion cover.

I felt like a liberator and if I knew about George Bush then, I would have likened myself to him. In my mind, I was liberating the Iraqi people and granting them democracy. But my mother (read Jihadi) was as usual playing spoil sport with my grandiose plans. Antony, the greatest spy and backstabber ever, was the first to notice what I was doing. He immediately called Amma’s attention to the liberation.
I’ve never seen Amma that angry before or after that incident. Minus the frothing at the mouth she looked really really mad. And the only reason she wasn’t frothing was that she was screaming at high pitch at me.

Suddenly she calmed herself (don’t kid yourself, it was the calm before the storm!)… and asked Antony to bring a really big stick. Normally, he would have bought something two inches thicker and longer than stated requirements. But, sensing her mood, he first brought in a very small one and secured a nasty pinch(?) (My memory fails me here, I tend to remember only those atrocities committed against me) for the same. I don’t want to go to the details but as Rowling puts it in one of her Harry Porter stories “So-and-so’s buttock was never the same again”.

Hey, I am wandering from the point, my point was the there was hardly any Sibling rivalry between me and my bro coz of my mother. But boy, those golden days are over! Look what she did yesterday (which incidentally was my birthday too). I was rudely woken up in the morning by Amma. I was supposed to supervise the cleaning paripadees going on at the house as part of my brother’s engagement. Hey! What happened to good old “Happy Birthday monae”?

Then came breakfast, wherein I was lectured thoroughly about stuff that was to be done… again no “Happy Birthday”. That’s when Shyam called up and wished me. I said thank you and Amma finally picked the cue. With a beaming face she said “Happy Birthday!” I didn’t feel too happy, but I smiled anyways and said “Thank you”. After all, I was not some 10 year old kid, breathlessly waiting for my presents.

While having lunch on that very same day, I noticed a packet of expensive chocolates that Amma had put in the freezer. Normally, I would have devoured them all, but then a voice in my head held me back, “Hey! you are 26!, show some maturity and concern for other people. Don’t be so selfish”. I restrained myself with great difficulty, thinking “during dinner I can share it with Amma and Appa, it would be a good birthday treat. Not the best, but then good enough for 26”. After all she has so thoughtfully kept these chocolates for me.

Dinner came and dinner went, but no mention was made of any chocolates. Finally, I swallowed my pride and asked for them…
I: Ammae, let’s have the chocolates in the fridge, let’s make it my “birthday treat”.
Amma: What!! Are you crazy, I have kept it for a better occasion like say, Antony’s engagement.
I(Dumbstruck): what! At least did you buy a cake, on the way back from office?
Amma: No, I was too busy.
I: You mean, I don’t even get to eat a single chocolate on my birthday? And no cake either!
Amma: Don’t be so childish, if you open that packet how will I give it to our guests during Antony’s engagement?

Sibling rivalry is born! 26 my foot! I decided to be childish and devilish….. Boy! Is she in for a surprise when she opens that packet! And this time, there gonna be no stick…. After all, I am 26 and “un beatable”

Friday, April 25, 2008

On why I am not a monkey

“Thank God it is Friday” was on my lips the moment I left office on February 22 2008. Tony (Toddy) Pullachen had invited us over to his flat for a drinking binge. I had been of the drink for quite some time due to viral fever and other god forsaken ailments, so I took to the invitation like fish to water.

Now, I pride myself on being a reasonable man when drunk.
Drunk and loud? Guilty your honor.
Drunk and obnoxious? Guilty again.
But Drunk and Unreasonable? No way. I aint the type who says “Don’t hold me, I can walk straight” or the type of guy who insists on driving the moment he is drunk. In fact when I am drunk, I insist that the sober man drive. But Friday was different..:(

After successfully downing God knows how much of those divine cups of Ambrosia, we turned on the idiot tube and lo! There was this old Mohanlal starred movie “Pakshae”. As we lay about watching the movie passing snide comments on how beautiful olden time heroines looked, Innocent (another actor) who does a cameo in the film entered the scene. One of his dialogues roughly translated to “let’s rock at the city centre, that’s where the fun is”.

You can’t tell that kinda dialogue to four drunken men without a response. Pullachen was on his feet in a second shouting “let’s go for a night ride, all the fun is in the city”. Not surprisingly in five short minutes I found myself the pillion rider of a bike driven by Shyam who was fortunately not too drunk. I would have stayed there if not for Samjith driving the other bike. You see, Samjith did not know how to ride a bike and he was riding it. I did not know how to ride a bike and I wasn’t riding it. Blatantly undemocratic and un-socialistic if you ask me.

I wanted to drive our bike then and there. Shyam soothed me with some soberly words and finally we compromised that I would drive up till the gate and he would take on afterwards. But, at the gate I decided that I could go up to the main road and I drove up to the main road. At the main road, I felt that I could drive up to Hyderabad (from Bangalore!) but fortunately two things stopped me from doing it.
1) The biked had very little petrol
2) Shyam decided to get the bike back (big monkey do as he please!)

All this time, Samjith to his credit was driving his bike very well. After going past Marthahalli on the outer ring road, we stopped due to lack of petrol. There was only enough left to get back in one piece.

Samjith on the other hand drove away with not a care in the world. As we waited for them to return, I badgered Shyam to allow me to drive “a little on the main road”. Finally Shyam agreed. Just as I spotted Samjith’s bike, I jumped on mine and accelerated away. Shyam was holding on for good life.
I: Ever seen “matrix re-loaded”
Shyam: Yes
I: Let’s teach Trinity a few moves shall we?
Shyam: No Way!
I: Yes! Here’s the way
Shyam: Oh noo….

I zigzagged between trucks like a maniac, my alcohol induced self-confidence kept telling me to “push it dude, push it” and I pushed it. At one point, I looked back to see where Samjith was (somebody forgot to tell me about the wind factor! You can’t just turn around and look when driving a bike at speed, you loose your balance!) Fortunately, the bike was stable and Shyam did not notice anything. But that moment of imbalance send electric shocks down my spine.

All the alcohol in my blood seemed to vaporized away. The foolishness of what I was doing struck me. Crazy! that’s what I was in those moments. What the f*** did I think I was doing? and that too with somebody in the pillion seat! Me, I didn’t have a license and more importantly I didn’t know how to drive a bike, this was maybe my 2nd/3rd time driving a bike.

It was only a few months before that a cousin* of mine had a bike accident and here I was happily repeating what my parents and relatives had pleaded me and my cousins not to do. I slowed down carefully, stopped the bike and gave it back to Shyam.

The good part:
1) I screwed up, but it did not harm anyone else, so thank you God
2) I screwed up, but I did not get harmed, so thank you God

To err is human and err I did, hence proved that I am not a monkey! Friends who for long had suspected simian antecedents in me are thus proven wrong!

*If my cousin reads this blog then all I gotta tell him in my defense is “hey! I was wearing a helmet!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kite Runner

They say that the book is better than the movie. “They” must be pretty wise.

I read Kite runner some months back. Anish Chandran was the first to recommend the book to me. I did not give it much thought at the time, but when Tony K Thayil also mentioned the same book, I decided to buy it. And Boy! Was it worth every single ‘pirated’ paisa, so much so that I bought the original. Once I bought it, I just couldn’t keep it down. I even got up early the next day to finish it off!

The first part of the story focuses on the relationship between two boys, master and servant in erstwhile Afghanistan before the wars. A “nice” read is what I’d call this section. A morbid situation develops quite suddenly that pulls Hassan and Amir into a quagmire that would change their lives forever. This pivotal part is exceptionally well written by Hosseini who weaves in a plethora of emotions finally leaving you aghast. It breaks your heart reading it and you end up asking the “why God why” q. Here readers get the first taste of Khaled Hosseini’s genius. I must warn you that from then on, it is no longer a “feel good” book.

When a person reads a book he or she is affected differently from another person reading the same book. But the differences would be small (I am guessing a lot here). What is special about reading this book is that people seem to be affected in totally different manners. Most people relate to at least one character in the story. The characters are so completely original and different from each other that readers automatically gravitate to one of them and get affected as such.

Amir the cowardly writer is the protagonist. Hassan is his servant, innocent to a fault, naïve and completely loyal to Amir, he is the character which shapes the story of Amir. Baba, Amir’s all conquering father is the third character. Other characters worth mention are Ali, Hassan’s father and Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend.

I personally related to Amir, while I would have loved to be like Hassan and aspired to be like Baba. The whole damn this is “haunting”. You keep thinking about the characters weeks after you read the story.

At each point of the story, you are left wishing that something different happened. But the story has a mind of its own. It does not pander to the audience except at one point when Amir takes on his childhood nemesis, Assef and for once sheds his cowardice. Come to think of it, Kite Runner is almost like the antithesis of a “feel good” book. Fortunately, Hosseini does not fall into the trap of making it into a tragedy. The ending is not a tragedy, but then it is no “lived happily ever after” either. If I were to rate best endings I would rate it third after “The city of Joy” and “The Alchemist”.

To me, this story underlines two things, one that “nobody is completely bad or incapable” from Amir standing up to Assef and two that “great good can come out of evil” as explained by Rahim Khan to Amir regarding an incident in Baba’s life that I will not enumerate here(It would take the sting out of the story if you haven’t read it). The whole story is about atonement, about the evil things in your life causing you to do good.

Dialogues by Hassan really take one’s breath away “for you, a thousand times over” being one of the classics. “There is a way to be good again!” uttered by Rahim Khan being another.

The moment I saw the movie at my local DVD rental store, I picked it up. when you see a book you read, made into a movie, you always feel something is missing, that some important things are left out etc. I have the same gripe against this movie too. The biggest being that the way I imagined the characters like Baba and Hassan was not the way they turned out.

The movie also tries to catch a lot of childhood scenes but loses out in coherence since they are all small “flashes”. Character building is another thing that it misses out on. Except for Amir and to some extend Baba, the characters are not built up properly. Hassan is a startling example in that the movie almost completely misses his significance.

I don’t want to sound like a girl here but “Baba isn’t tall enough!” From the novel, he is said to be a huge person with an imposing personality. Homayoun Ershadi in the role of Baba is good but not great. And the heart breaking scene regarding Hassan is nowhere near heartbreaking in the movie. A bit of special effects like slow motion, total silence etc might have helped this scene.

The camera work and the background hue given to the film are fantastic. Afghanistan looks like Afghanistan should look. Thankfully, the characters in the film use native language, which greatly adds to the “originality” of the story. Overall it is a good movie by Marc Foster but I guess it won’t touch your heart the way the book does.

P.S: If you don’t want to lose out on the suspense, don’t read wiki.