Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disco Brothers.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 5:13 PM
Subject: Chettoi urgent help

chettoyi...As you know in this land it is very common for girls and boys to talk to each other as I mentioned in my last letter. After hearing your advice I have now managed to speak to a few girls here, but now I am in big trouble. I am supposed to go with a couple of friends here for a disco party. There would also be girls in this party and I am told they even drink whisky and brandy (Please don’t show this mail to Amma). Kindly provide the following information..

1) What exactly is a disco party?
2) Is it mandatory to dance in a disco party?
3) If its YES for Q.2)
* what exactly constitute such dance moves?
* Is shaking the legs just enough?
* Does a elegant dapankuthu help?
4) If it is NO for Q.2)
* What do we do?
* Shake your heads as if you know the music that is being played?
* Is it better to act like a onlooker who doesnt know to dance or to act like a dancer who has a sprained knee?
5) Is it okay to wear jean and t shirt for such a party? Are there dressing etiquettes?
6) Do you know any wikipedia links which explains the salient points of a disco?
7) I have seen people making very strange hand gestures while in a disco.
* What are the religious significance of those?
* Do they really mean anything? Or is its some sign of a brotherhood?
8) Is the disco a a fun event or a serious music program?

Please write back immediately and give me all the relevant information.

Your brother Biji.

The information in this e-mail is confidential. The contents may not be disclosed or used by anyone other than the addressee. Access to this e-mail by anyone else is unauthorised.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 5:13 PM
Subject: RE: Chettoi urgent help

Disco party I by definition does involve a bit of dancing. But dear Bijimon, don’t worry, there are ways to get around it.

Follow Chettoyis advice as listed below as it is. As you know I have gone to pubs in Bangalore and have even once touched a girls hands while she was dancing next to me.

First thing you have to learn is acting nonchalant and wearing a permanent look of contempt at those who are dancing --> this gives the impression that you are too much of a professional to waste your time showing your moves to this bunch of losers

Another standard porsture that I use is to hold a drink in the right hand and the left hand should be tucked inside your trouser pocket and gently rotate your drink as if you're enjoying some subtlety in the music that the others just are not getting.

Strictly stick to either of these stances if you want to play it safe.

Now what is more important is to know what not to do in a dance party....

First - dappanguthu is a strict NO NO. It’s just for those all male vellamadi (daroo) parties.
Dressing is of utmost importance - Yes Jeans and t shirt is fine but a casual shirt is the in thing these days. Casual shirts are to be of a dark shade. Shiny silky one like the one Mammoottikka wore in the move Hitler it seems has slowly reached the fashion circuits here. See if you can get such a shirt there. Ready-made shirts would be expensive so I suggest you get a similar material from a cloth which sells cut pieces for ladies’ blouses and get it stitched.

Now if you are forced to enter into the dance floor the safe thing to do would be to keep your limbs close to the body and not let the four left feet sway in all different directions. So a rhythmic shift of weight from the left foot to the right and back in tune with the rhythm would pass off as some sort of rhetro move that’s back in vogue. Try out your own variations in that. Then as the great actor Salim Kumar said the Mudra of the hands is also extremely important. Try out different combinations of fingers extended and wound up. The most famous one would be the peace sign of the sixties. But you can make your own variations depending on the flexibility of your fingers. The most awkward or ridiculous one could who knows become the rage of the party. But please be careful not to poke your finger into either your own or any one else’s eyes. If you remember the swollen eye that I had when I came to Kanjirappally last time that I said was from a bee sting was actually from one such disco party that I went to.

And towards the end of the party when the beat goes high and since its America there’s a good chance that it might all be this weird kind of music that they call heavy metal. If you can hold on without entering the dance floor till the metal beats starts then it’s easy for you. Coz then theres only one move that you need to know. And we being mallus would have seen that in several mallu movies where a man in red mundu and holding a sword gyrates his head vigourously (I think they call him a velichapaadu). You can perform a similar act easily. And make sure that you make a quick trip to the restroom to drench your hairs with water. This gives the impression to people that you have been doing the head banging thing for hours. But be careful and start off with a little warming up of your neck muscles or you might wake up the next morning with a really stiff neck. You can apply some coconut oil that Amma had packed in your bathing kit to the back of your neck before you leave for the disc.

Finally a disco is probably the most important event on your social calendar which can make or break your chances in the high echelons of your social circle there in the US. It’s a formal event disguised as a fun one. So be careful. There have been life changing events in people’s life that happened around and after a disco. People who otherwise would have been classified nerds have transformed themselves to playboys and Casanovas merely on account of their ability to lip sync to a song on the dance floor or make vulgar moves with their hips. You remember Kariachan uncles son Kurian in Mumbai. He told me that they call him pistol Kurian in Mumbai because of his pelvic thrusts.

Now this advice was given to me by Kurian. Hope this would be of help to you. He said that the most important thing in a party is this...To be in your senses when the party is over. The most happening part of a disco party where booze will flow is after the party. The men are generally all too sloshed and knocked out and the women are all too worked up. He said it’s a mere demand supply equation. Now whatever that means. Anyways wishing you all the best in your disco.

Your loving brother,


Monday, October 12, 2009

That day a hero was born.

Paul couldn’t really say for how long he was flying the thick white clouds spread like a carpet beneath and it stretched as far as his eyes could see. And the unchanging view kind of blurred his ability to comprehend the speed of his B-29. He left the plane to its course he knew there was some time till he reached his specified target. He checked over his shoulders to see if Charles was there at his side. Yes Charles was flying the other B-29 sent along with his; there like a trusted friend. “Charles Sweeny, Trusted friend indeed”, he thought. He knew that Charles was there just to ensure that he did his job right. The young major was a rookie compared to him. How dare they send this boy to keep an eye him, Commander of the 509th composite group, Colonel Paul Tibbets. But then again perhaps they were right. He had been having all these thoughts about the rights and wrongs of his actions for some time now. And more, ever since Secretary Stimson himself had called him up to congratulate him on his selection for the great privilege.

He had no doubts about it. There are no just and wrong parties in a war. A war is much too complex to have such black and white distinctions. He himself had seen the way his colleagues used to treat the Philipino women in Clark Air base where he was stationed last year. When Secretary of State Paulson camped in Guam he himself had arranged in extreme secrecy for three women for the Secretary’s entertainment. And two days later he had come to know that the girls were quietly disposed off. Apparently the Allied propaganda machines didn’t want a blotch on the records of the much decorated four-star General. The media men were there everywhere. There were times in the battle fields when he felt that the battles were fought more for the photo-opps than for anything else. And these photos would be splashed across the front page of papers all over America by the end of the week. And that would create a spurt in the sale of war bonds. The realities that you face every second, in the center of the battle were ones that questioned your faith. Faith in God, Faith in his country and above all faith in himself. But still despite everything he believed in the American cause as he did in the integrity of President Truman. He believed that God is with this great nation and that in the end when judgment day comes the just shall be separated out from the evil. But today what he somehow seemed to lack was faith in himself.

The true implications of Secretary Stimson’s call a few days back hadn’t dawned on him when he thanked him and put the phone down. It was indeed a privilege. In a way this ensures that he won’t go down in history’s account book as a mere number. He wouldn’t have to struggle for the rest of his life as a war veteran as he had seen his father do. His dad had served with the British Army in India during the First World War after which he had migrated to the United States and settled down with his mother. But then was he ready to become a hero. It was an undertaking to be an actor for the rest of his life. His thoughts, beliefs and actions would henceforth be dictated by a propaganda machinery which read the American hearts and minds and knew exactly what had to be fed to them. But he had said thank you like a fool. God Damn you Stimson.

But this was no time to be thinking about that. The faith really needed some reinforcement. He was no longer sure what was right and wrong and he looked above for a sign. It was just calm blue above. He again said to himself, “There are no just and wrong parties in war”. This time somehow the conviction seemed a bit deteriorated. He again tried to convince himself this is for a greater good. In a way you are freeing them from the clutches of a stifling autocracy and an even more suffocating life. But what if all that is just what the government wants you to believe. Aren’t they too living breathing people with as much emotions in their heart as he? But even otherwise as his dad often used to say, “Every moment in this world is a cruel torture, a punishment for sins committed in this life and before”. The conflicts of beliefs implanted by his Lutheran mother and karmic-yogic father were a constant theme in his thoughts. If with one press of a button you could end the suffering in the world would you not do it, he argued.

He checked the watch. It was nearly five hours since they took off from Tinian. The plane held a steady course north east, 8000 feet above sea level, at a speed of around four hundred knots. That meant just a little less than an hour to go. The pocket watch that he kept in a chain around his neck had a picture of Angelle on its flap. He wished he could have discussed this with her. But that would be breach of protocol. He was much too professional to do things like that. But then again he knew what she would have said. The same thing that his mind was telling him now, “Answer the call of duty”. But Angelle, what about all the children. Hundreds perhaps thousands like our Catherine and Jennifer.

His thought was broken by the voice over the speaker phone. It was his assistant 2nd Lt. Morris Jeppson. “Unit Armed Colonel. All systems go”. Jeppson was a cold soldier. In all their years together he had never seen him show a slight sign of emotion. And he had risen swiftly through the ranks. Emotionless – perhaps that was how the American Government wanted its soldiers to be. Hmm. His thoughts returned again to Angelle, Cathy and Jenny. They needed him to return to them after the war was over. It soon would be. But would he be the same person when he gets back. Is a hero what Jenny and Cathy needs in a dad? And Angelle? At least she would be proud of him. But something in his head told him she wouldn’t be.

“Colonel, Anything wrong Colonel. We are right above ground zero. Tinian has given the go ahead to deploy in thirty seconds. Press the button Colonel”, that was Jeppson.

Paul stood up, his face in cold determination. But before he could say anything, Jeppson said “Press the damn button Colonel”. His heavy hand pushed Paul down to his seat and with his other hand reached over and pressed the Release button. A brief beep confirmed the initiation of the release process. Jeppson smiled and said, “Great job Colonel, you did it”.

For moments Paul didn’t know what to do. He could hear exalted voices from the back of the place. He lifted the mike and talked to his commander at the base in Tinian. “Enola Gay to base. ‘Little Boy’ has been deployed. I repeat, ‘Little Boy’ has been deployed”

Fifty six seconds later when Little Boy kissed the ground at Hiroshima, a hero was born and about seventy thousand died.

“But Angelle, I wasn’t the one who dropped the Boy”.

PS: I guess an Atom is just too big a thing for human beings to be playing with.

PPS: All situations imaginary and doesn’t have any bearing to the actual events that unfolded over Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. O.K, a little bit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Prayers and Hope.

Karan had been sitting at the window in his dark room for over an hour, his eyes steadfast on the window across the street. The moon had come out over half an hour ago but she was nowhere to be seen. He had been watching every terrace that he could see from his Rajouri Garden apartment in East Delhi where women were doing their karwachaut Puja when the moon came out. But strangely her house was dark.

For eight years now that he had known her not once had she failed to keep the ritual. And for seven of those years he had also kept the fast with her, without her knowing. They’d been friends then good friends and then great friends. But always ‘just friends’. For eight long years.

When he first met her she was sitting on stairs of the fire exit in the office. He used to slip down the seldom used stairs to have a smoke rather than go all the way down to the smoking area. For some reason they sat there in the stairs that day and talked for ten continuous hours. They were both new in office and it was their first jobs. He remembered that the ten hours were spent mostly listening to her. She talked mostly about her college and that meant Rahul. A name that he then didn’t know he would hear a lot from her for the rest of his life. She was deeply in love with Rahul for four years in college but never had the courage to tell him directly. She just assumed that he would somehow realize it himself. But years passed in the wink of an eye without any confessions being made. And now he was halfway across the globe doing his masters. It was at one of those weak moments that overwhelmed her once in a while and she’d hide away at the seldom used fire escape that Karan chanced upon her. Her eyes red and with mascara drooping down her cheeks, she was a sight he’d never forget in his life. She looked like an angel just banished out of heaven.

They grew close within a short period. He didn’t have other friends in office and neither did she. They ended up being together all the time. He even moved into a house in her locality. They were together right from his morning wake up call to her goodnight call.

Soon enough he realized that he was falling for her although she was still just as obsessed about Rahul as the day they had met. Slowly it dawned on him that she would never think of him the way he thought of her but still he remained always by her side. Hope is often what sinks a man faster down into quicksand.

Seven years ago on a similar karwachaut day he was surprised to learn that she was keeping the vruth (religious fast) for Rahul. That meant not having anything to eat till the moon appeared in the evening sky. And Rahul wasn’t even her boyfriend in technical terms let alone her husband. He didn’t even know that there was a girl a thousand mile away staying hungry for the whole day apparently for his well being. That kind of made him realize two things. That her love for Rahul was deeper than he imagined and secondly that whatever he did she will never be his. That night when she called him up to say goodnight he asked her to confess her love to Rahul. She was dead against it as she believed that every girl deserved to be proposed to. But he knew that it was just another way to say that she was too proud to do that.

For several days afterwards their conversations would somehow turn to this topic and would end in the same way with her refusing to do anything like that. But slowly and slowly he managed to chip away at her wall of ego and pride. When Rahul came to India the next time after almost two years she met him and confessed her love.

Things moved really fast and the next karwachaut he watched from his window as with the rising moon she took the first morsel of her from Rahul’s hands. This time she was his wife.

Unknown to her, from the first time he had realized that he was in love with her, he had been keeping the karwachaut fast with every year. He wasn’t a religious person at all. But this somehow was different. He didn’t know nor did he care for the prayers but every year he would have his first meal after ensuring that she had had hers.

It was now almost two hours since the moon had come out and he knew that she wouldn’t have had anything. There was no light in her house across the street but he knew she was inside. The faint glow of an oil lamp in what he knew was the Puja room confirmed what he already knew.

At about 11 in the night he saw Rahul ring the bell of his house. He saw the light come in the Puja room and for a brief instance he saw her run towards the stairs and then the lights in the stairs came on and then the drawing room in the ground floor. And the door opened and there stood what to him was an angel come down to earth. But then her face clouded over all of a sudden. And he realized why when he looked at Rahul. He was almost too drunk to stand up by himself. He was propped up against the door frame and he staggered into the house. A little while later the light in the top floor room directly opposite his window came on. He could see from between the drapes that an argument was going on and she was almost in tears. Then all of a sudden Rahul raised his hands and hit her hard sending her sprawling across the floor.

The blood started to boil in him. He wanted to run across the street and pull her up. But he knew he couldn’t do anything. She was another man’s wife now. He thought if he was right in convincing her all those years ago to go confess to Rahul about her love. He thought if he would also have treated her had he been married to her. Perhaps. But something within him told him that it would never be so. She was just too precious for him and will always remain so.

He sat there inside the dark room thinking about all their times together; as friends. Him a little bit more than her. Then the door to her terrace opened up and she came out alone. She had a plate with a lamp on it and a mug of water. She did her prayers looking at the moon and then took tore a morsel of chapatti from the plate and brought it towards her mouth. But she stopped midway. Her eyes were a torrent. She looked across the street to the window where he was. Something told him that she knew that he was there although there was no light in the room and she couldn’t possibly see him. He just kept looking at her and prayed, perhaps the first time in his life, pleading to god to heed her karwachaut prayers and to keep her happy always.

PS: Today is karwachaut. And for all those who believe may your prayers be answered.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Phoket mein Phuket!!!

“Yes Dad, I should be there in time for dinner. I know George Uncle is also coming but they should be in another flight.”

“I don’t know what time I will get there exact. Bbye, I’ll let you know”.

And just as soon as I had put my phone down I realized that the ground below was awfully close and that we must be close to landing. But looking out the window it didn’t look out like any of the airports of Kerala that I was familiar with. A certain alternated conscience in the back of my mind said perhaps it must be the old airport in Kochi. Hmm..

I looked out again through the window and I could feel that the plane was moving really slow, even for the fact that it was about to land. It was almost hovering. Then the runway came to view. It seemed like a really small unused one and the ocean was just to the sides. The evening sun had an orange glow spread everywhere.

Then as the plane came down lower again and the runway became all too clear, panic stuck me. This was no runway. Again the alternate conscience spoke, it must be a taxiway and the pilot must have made a mistake. But can he really land the plane here it seems too narrow. And there were planes parked to the sides. Parallel parked like by the side of M.G. Road. And up ahead was horror. Another Indian Airlines plane had its nose stuck out into the the runway (or taxiway) and I was sure we’d crash into it. For a moment the pilot tries to pull up but seems late. But by that time we had moved past that Indian Airlines plane and now it seems that he has barely enough space to land and he does that amazingly. Almost like a helicopter. And as I look out the window I could see two ‘big’ airhostesses of an Airline (the voice in the back says Air Jordan) chatting away merrily and unaware that a plane had landed on the taxiway. But they did seem pissed off at all the noise around.

Meanwhile inside the plane there was panic everywhere. People are rushing out and aren’t even waiting for the ladder to be put against the plane. I too decide to join the crowd and started pulling at my luggage above. But again panic spreads inside my head as I realize that I don’t have a shirt on. This will have to do. I pull my blazer over me without a shirt and start walking to the exit.

When I boarded this plane I knew this ticket I had with me was for Port Blair. I assumed that it was meant to make a stop somewhere in Kerala before that and my plan was to get out there and make my way home to Trivandrum. But looking out the window this didn’t look like either Trivandrum or Kochi. It seems I wouldn’t be able to be home in time for Dinner.

The blond haired man (the voice in the heard said he’s an American) who was sitting next to me was just ahead of me at the exit. I gathered up the most severe of my American accent and asked him “Excuse me sir, where is this place exaclly?”

He turned around and said “Kuch kaha be tune?”

Feeling extremely embarrassed I said again in a more Indian accent, “I was just asking you sir where exactly this place is?”.

“Phuket, Thailand”, said the ‘American’.

By this time I was out of the plane. The scene there was really out of this world. Planes were parked on either side of the taxiway and there was a bustling crowd everywhere. I didn’t know what to do.

I turned around to the plane that had brought me there. It was all empty and two airhostesses were chatting away at the stairs. I approached one and meekly said to her “My ticket is for Port Blair”.

The lady was plump and looked like one of the ladies that you see in cnn or bbc that they show of places like Lebanon or Iran. She really should have had a scarf around her face.

The lady smiles and says, “Don’t worry I’ll take care of it”.

But as the sinking sun had disappeared completely making the flashy neon lights outside the airport all the more attractive there was a debate going on between the two voices in my head.

The one in the front said, “ to call up mom to ask her to put my dinner back in the fridge I’ll have it tomorrow. I should be able to find another plane from Port Blair to Trivandrum first thing tomorrow”.

The one in the back said, “Dude you’ve got the weekend off. Have fun here in Phuket and we’ll find a way of getting to Kerala later”

No don’t wake up now no noooooooo..The beaches, the babes…ahh crap, I should have closed the curtains.

PS: Afternoon naps do bring the most wonderful dreams. The only problem is they always seem to end just when it starts to get exciting. I thought I’d write down this one before I forget it and publish it before i change my mind.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Of Wines, Whiskey, Weed and Cleo

Anish was a proud Syrian Catholic of the Pala Diocese. On one occasion when he was getting eloquent about the proud history of the Syrian Christians of Kerala over a bottle of Fine OCR Rum and the choicest herbs rolled in Rizla he was getting a bit unbearable.

Nitin all of a sudden burst out saying “Dude, you can’t be as much as a pure bred as you claim to be. You know that your surname traces its origin to Egypt? For all you know you might have got to the Mallu shores hanging on to a drift wood in the Arabian Sea. Or perhaps your ‘great to the power 20th’ grandfather used to clean the deck on the ships that got spices to Egypt and he jumped out when the ship was parked for petrol in Kochi or Kodungalloor”

And Rajesh too quipped in saying, “Hey I’ve seen your grandmom and her nose does resemble Queen Cleo’s.

Anish (still not having regained from the shock of Nitin’s outburst): Cleo??

Nitin: Cleopatra you fool.

Anish: Dude that’s not possible. My ancestors were here in Kerala during the time of Jesus, and Cleopatra was probably in Dubai or wherever in Egypt at that time

Vipin (drunk as hell): Dude Cleo was in Rome. She was going out with Julius Caesar.

Nitin: I thought she was dating Augustus Caesar?

Vipin: Well you see they both lived in the same house, and once Augustus was working out in the gym Cleo saw him and fell flat.

Rajesh: And she used to terrorize us with her homemade Chakka Ada* whenever we went to her place.

Vipin: Who Cleopatra? Hic.

Anish: Please how is it possible that my ancestors be in Egypt at the time of Cleo. He would have been here in Kerala to get baptized at the hands of St. Thomas.

Nitin: Now don’t even get me started on that whole story. Man, even if the guy was here in Kerala I don’t think any ancestor of yours would have let himself come in contact with water to be baptized, at any cost. Just tell me when was the last time that you took a bath?

Rajesh: Maybe St. Thomas offered him a kilo of the finest ‘grass’ from the shores of lake Jordan

The whole group burst out laughing. And when the laughter and the smoke settled all of them looked at Anish. His face grim. Just as it was starting to feel as if the limits have been crossed he smiled and said, “Probably also a bottle of the wine left over from Cana”, and started out laughing himself.

Having had their fill of A, cut and diced the attention turned to Vipin. Vipin believed in balanced living. He balanced the barrel-fulls of beer that he consumed with hours spent in the gym the next day. Still he had a hard time balancing his tummy when he walked.

Nitin started: Dude hows that one pack ab of yours?

Vipin (struggling to keep his eyes open): Coming out good man. Round and fine

Nitin: Ahh I knew it. You were always an all rounder

Vipin: hehe. Hey you won’t believe it, I saw a sardar in the gym today

Nitin: So what’s the big deal. They have so much of butter chicken and booze, they got to burn it off

Vipin: No dude this guy was fit. He had six pack abs and everything

Nitin: A sardar with abs? Dude that’s ‘ab-surd’

Everyone started laughing again and Rajesh sprayed the beer in his mouth practically all around the room.

Another joint started doing the rounds.

Rajesh started getting up saying that he’s gotta drop a friend to the railway station.

Nitin: Dude which one? The girl friend? The partimer? The neighbor next door?

Rajesh: Oh shut up. She’s not my girlfriend

Vipin: Oh poor boy, don’t you worry I’ll advise you on some of my best tricks to make a girl accept your

friend request in Orkut. Start talking about your sick mother in home and the unmarried sisters…

Anish (cutting in): Ahh shut the F up V. Maavinte mandel irikkunnavanu aarelum mango juice kodukkumo (roughly translated: Do you offer mango juice to anyone who’s sitting on a mango tree?)

Vipin (obviously not pleased at being cut short): Why not what if he feels like having vodka mixed with mango juice when he’s on the mango tree?

Nitin cut in: Hey you two, FIDO.

Vipin: What???

Nitin: It’s short for F it and Drive On. Dude, Raj let’s just finish off this joint and take off.

Anish who had drifted off to sleep for just a few seconds suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Hey have you noticed that the best things in the world all start with the letter W. You know Weed, Whiskey, Wine…”

“And Women”, said Vipin.

Anish said: Women really are strange creatures, man. Yesterday a woman on the road called me a pervert. I didn’t know what that meant so I replied “It’s O.K”.

Nitin: Haha no surprises there, your face does fit the profile of a serial rapist

Anish: F off. It wasn’t that. This girl was walking towards me and just as she was a few feet away her dupatta just fell off. I swear I wasn’t looking anywhere.

And everyone just started laughing again. “We trust you Anish we trust you”.

Nitin and Rajesh got up and stumbled towards to the car.

*Chakka Ada – Something like a cake made out of jack fruit.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Powers that be.

It was the silence at his official residence that seemed unnerving to Dr. Tiwari. More unnerving than what had transcribed in the just concluded discussions with Prime Minister and the Defense Minister. The silence let him think about the implications of the decisions taken. While all this time he was focused on our enemies at our right and left which made him oblivious to the designs of a foe pretending to be a friend. He had tried hard to convince the Prime Minister that the actions that he planned to undertake would eventually make India another client state of the American Empire. The worst fears of the nation’s founding fathers would soon turn true. The silence seemed to point a finger at him for his oversight.

Since the time he took over as the National Security Adviser of the nation Dr. Shashank Tiwari has been preoccupied with the menace of Internal Security with its links to the adversary across the western border. The United States had spread its tentacles from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to Pakistan and now stood at the doorsteps of this mighty nation which had withstood the overtures to be part of the empire for several decades. And now it seems that it has no option but to surrender its forts. The Prime Minister would be talking to President Obama first thing in the morning giving his consent to use our forward bases to be used by American fighter jets. And by tomorrow the ball would have started to roll which would convert a regional skirmish into a full-fledged world war. What else would it be if the two most powerful nations in the world would battle each other? More than half the world’s population would be affected. The Americans had promised that they would use their bases in Taiwan, South Korea, Guam and the Philippines against China if India let them to the use our bases. It was part of their strategy to surround the enemy and attack from multiple directions. The Prime Minister seemed to believe that we have no other option left with the North East of the country left defenseless as our forces were busy fighting the war in the western frontier. But opening the door to the Americans would make India another Kuwait. It was somewhat like the lines of an Eagles song that he ones heard somewhere - The Americans can come in anytime but they would never leave.

Dr. Tiwari had for long anticipated a war with the Chinese. They wanted a reorganization of the world order. The current status didn’t give due credence to the Chinese beliefs of their standing. The geo political hierarchy still had nations like the UK, France, Germany and Italy punching much above their weights while the Chinese were still being considered outsiders. The war would change all that just as WWII had. What he hadn’t realized was that the Americans also had inklings of the Chinese plan. Perhaps much clearer than he had at that time. And what they did was make the Chinese fight the battle at a time and place of America’s choice. The Americans would now use the war to put the Chinese back to where they belong. The sole credible challenger to western supremacy had to be taught a lesson for dreaming too big. The plan for this must have been set in place at least a decade ago. And all this time he had thought the Iraq war was about the oil and Af-Pak was about terrorism. The silence seemed to laugh at his naivety.

But despite everything he couldn’t find a way out of this. The war between the superpowers will be fought in our living rooms. The destruction will be borne by us, the glory by the Americans. The lives lost will be ours the medals will go to the Americans. The irony of the situation is that in order to establish a democratic government the largest existing democracy would be ravaged. The country will be war torn and would take decades to get back to the growth path envisaged during the beginning of the twenty first century. Three Nimitz class American Aircraft carriers would move into the Bay of Bengal by the end of the week. The number of SSBNs already in the vicinity pointed to the fact that the Americans had much deeper intelligence into the Chinese plans than they were admitting. When he spoke three days back to Richard Alder the head of Pentagon he had acted as if he was surprised at the Chinese audacity. Since that time the Chinese had advance much beyond Tawang and India was just expressing denials of any such thing, hoping against hope that their objective is just to give us a scare and having achieved that would withdraw their forces and go back. But earlier today the Chinese Premier Lai had declared open war. With this agreement with the United States we were letting them fight the Chinese while we take care of the Pakistanis in the west.

Something had to be done and soon. The war had to be fought he knew. But fighting multiple foes on multiple fronts he knew would be a different ball game. Was there something that he was overlooking. Is there some place else that he could look for help. He put another cube of ice in his scotch. He took a sip and sat down in his chair looking up at the roof. Then a sudden thought came in his mind. There was another power that was looking to find its place. He got up, went to his study and picked up the secure phone and dialed a Moscow number. The silence listened to the conversation and smiled.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A cock and hen story.

I read an article which prophesy the end of the male sex with the depletion of genes from the Y chromosomes (the one that corresponds to the male of a species) from about 1400 a some million years ago to around 45 now (And you thought guys were just bad at hanging on to car keys. It’s all genetic. We just can’t help it). I wish there was an instrument to which you can just insert your finger and it would tell you the number of genes that you have in your Y chromosome. So when little Johny would come back after play time his mom would ask him to insert a finger into the machine and she’d go, “Not again Johny, how many times have I told you to take care of your genes”.

It just leaves you wondering, now what in the world did we as men do to have our gene count reduced from 1400 to 45 while women still have around 1100 left with them. You know what there’s some conspiracy involved somewhere. I don’t believe in coincidences but then it’s too much of a coincidence to be coincidental. I think it’s got something to do with all the roughing around that we do at home and work. While the missus sat at home Caveman Joe had to fight a bear with his club. And what about the sports that we men play? Look at rugby for instance. I’m pretty sure that if you go through with a fine comb you’re sure to find a couple of hundred genes from Y chromosomes lying scattered in the field after every match. And I truly believe if you do a thorough check on mallu men you’d find the gene count even lower. Generations of climbing coconut trees by hugging on to the stout trunk can’t have helped the gene cause any bit. Women I believe noticed this trend of dropping genes eons ago (I think they must have spotted it first while going through with a broom in those old cave houses. If only our caveman Joe had helped his wife with the housework then) and having realized this phenomenon, then on passed on all those gene losing chores to the men. They even cultivated something called a male ego (it’s all their creation I tell you, and if it was left to us we men wouldn’t even know what ego meant) and convinced generations of men that beating up bears and climbing up coconut trees wearing just their lungis (dhoti) would make them more of a man. And if their conspiracy wasn’t enough, nature decided to play a little trick on us (Well what else can you expect from ‘mother’ nature?), it’s just us men who have to do all that shaking after every visit to the loo (oops, sorry restroom) which itself must have over centuries caused a couple of hundred genes to drop off.

On behalf of men all over let me announce that “Women, your game is up”. We have woken up to the greatest conspiracy in human (even animal) history(I bet you would have changed the word to “herstory” in just about another million years when all men would have disappeared once and for all). The murkiness of the plot gets even deeper when you realize that the tool to replace men - the cloning machine, was invented by a man. Well we do have unparalleled skills in digging our own graves. So I say, men, let’s start a slow revolution to change things around. The next time your lady shrieks at you to hunt down that dirty black cockroach in the kitchen, let’s just let the lady scream off a few genes before we interfere or the next time she asks you to catch a chicken for the guests at dinner, let’s just make sure that it’s not a male chicken that she culls…hmm

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two teens on a train.

Most people wouldn’t remember the first step they took in life (Infact I don’t know of even a single person who does, except for my roomie AB who also claims that his first love was the little girl who took the adjacent cradle in the hospital he was born). I once overheard a conversation in a train between two moms about the age at which their child started walking. Well apparently it’s a big deal. It should be too I guess; bipedalism is not a feat achieved by too many mammals. And moreover people find correlations between the age at which that feat (pun intended) is achieved to everything ranging from intelligence to physique and everything in between. Well I was someone who learnt to do that pretty late. But once I did I was in a real hurry to compensate for all the lost time that I think I spent half my preteen years running around. And post teens I kept running around in a different way – working, studying and roaming around throughout this vast country.
So me, unlike my roomie AB don’t remember my first steps but I remember certain steps in life that were just as important in the context of my runnings. The first visit to the movie hall by myself without letting dad and mom know, the first time I ran away from home (that’s another post) and so on. This happened on my first train journey without adult supervision.
It was sometime in my teens when me and my cousin D decided to make use of our long summer break to visit another cousin in Bangalore. D was a year younger to me and you know how these youngsters are; brash, raw, and impatient hmm. So being the elder one I was entrusted the responsibility of taking care of my younger bro through the journey and back.
D was quite the ladies man even at that time. He was quite handsome, tall for his age and easily looked elder to me. Me, on the other hand was brought up with ‘sound principles’ taught by my peers in school that it’s an utter taboo to talk to a girl even to look at one, other than behind closed curtains and squinted eyes. To touch a girl accidently would lead to banishing even ostracizing by the male peers in school. The only cure to the fated girl-touch was to stealthily pass the touch onto another male peer upon which you would be accepted back into the herd and the victim is left to find another less fortunate to whom he can pass the baneful touch on to.
The first thing D did on reaching the train at Trivandrum Central was check out the reservation chart to check the obvious. I saw a familiar smile spread across his face. I knew that look. The one that I saw on Tommy’s face the day before three hens disappeared from my granddad’s place. I glanced at the chart and it was obvious what the smile was all about. Asha, Soumya and Fatima right below our names in the same compartment. D took out his pocket comb (there were days when he forgot to brush his teeth but nobody had ever heard of a day when he got out of his house without that trusted comb) and a blur above his head of two hands and a comb; voila, the slick black well oiled hair became slicker, blacker oilier. D jumped onto the train. I followed suit dragging the two heavy bags and yelling him to stop and help with the bags. Too late he had disappeared down the aisle. But when I reached our assigned seats D was as tense as a school girl on her exam day. The three girls weren’t there. It was almost past the scheduled departure time and the girls weren’t there yet. I had never seen D so tense. Not even the day when the tenth results were to be announced. But then that was just a matter of eleventh or Pre Degree. This was a matter of life and death, for sure.
His heart sank when the train jerked and started moving and the girls were still not there. He started cursing the gods. He had heard of stories from our elder cousin in Bangalore about nursing students who traveled on trains to Bangalore. Why god why.
But then suddenly his eyes turned a perfect circle and his cheeks flushed with delight as he saw three PYTs walking down the aisle. He started speculating and muttered under his breath to me. “I bet the first one is Fatima. Only muslim girls can be so fair”. Well I couldn’t say for sure. When somebody sang “Kahin pe nigahein kahin pe nishana”, it was all about me. Now don’t get me wrong, there was only so much that I could see with me face turned away at ninety degrees and the eye balls at the extreme end trying to make out how Fatima looked like. D was right, the girls came over to our coupe and took their seats and were chatting away incessantly when D interfered with a casual, “Oh thank god you girls got in, I thought you might have missed the train and was about to ask the TT to pull the chain”. The girls stopped their conversation mid way and gave him a look normally reserved for crazy people on the road, and one of them replied “Well we were down there with some of our friends, you didn’t have to worry”.
Hook line and well almost sinker.
D worked his squeezed into the conversation in his imitable style and conversation moved on the fast line. All this time I had my head turned away and gazed out of the window as if the most thrilling of Mohanlal’s movies were going on out there. Not bothering (daring would be the right word actually) to turn my head towards the conversation but my ears sharply focused on it all the time. I listened to every word of the conversation, never uttering a word and pretending to be busy in my thoughts, which went from their place of births to the mughal era and about the aalmaram (peepal tree) in kesavadasapuram junction.
Then suddenly one of the girls asked, “Hey D, by the way how old are you?”.
D had seen the girls’ age as part of the due diligence he did at the reservation charts and had found that the girls were all a year elder to him. Not even waiting to blink, he replied but increasing his age by a year and making a mental note to tear up the reservation chart outside the compartment as soon as possible.
Oh that’s cool, that’s exactly the same as ours and the cackle turned a notch up in all the excitement at the apparent coincidence.
But that’s exactly when I decided to open my hallowed mouth.
“Eda D, athenganeya ninte prayam athrem aakunnathu?”. (Hey D, how the hell is that your age?) Silence all around.
The girls all turned to look at D.
D was stunned. Caught like a cat with milk in his whiskers, he didn’t have anything to say. But try he did, “Alla Vinu, ninakku thettiyatha..” (No Vinu, you got it wrong).
But I continued, “Athayathu nee janichathu 1983il. Appam aa samayathu ninakku zero alle vayassu. Allaathe janikkumbam athine one aayittu koottan pattathillallo”. (See, you were born in 1983. So that means you were zero in 1983. Now you can’t be one when you are born can you).
Those words didn’t have an ounce of malice. It probably was the most innocent words that I have ever uttered in my life.
D somehow pulled of the greatest escape act in history (I mean his-story. Right from age zero to the day) and somehow managed to divert attention and conversation moved to different topics. The glare of his eyes had told me that I had committed some blunder and I didn’t dare open my mouth again. Embarrassed more than he was I just walked up and took off in the direction of where I thought the pantry car was.
By next day early in the morning when the train was pulling into Bangalore cantonment station D had the phone numbers of all the three girls. Proud as he was about his achievement especially after the unexpected disaster in between D was all a proud red when he saw off the girls at the door of the train (We were getting down at the Bangalore city station). The train started moving and D was still at the door waving goodbye when the three girls smiled and said in unison,
“Bye bye Aniya1…”
Aniya – is mallu for little brother.
PS: D didn’t speak a word about the incident for more than a decade but half a bottle of whiskey did make him open his heart about that most heart breaking of incidents of his life.
PPS: D did keep in touch with all of them for another three years and he wishes to inform them that he lost their numbers and would love to get back in touch.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fame in the times of Cholera - Ten ways to eternal glory.

I think Maya’s got it right..Maya who? Who else but behnji from the Northern Province. Every ruler would want to be remembered a great in posterity. And if history has taught us anything it is that to be remembered great, you’ve got to build stuff for archeologists to dig up in the future. Or just look at this Tut built a gold mask or whatever and got himself buried in that, Nebuchadenessar built the hanging gardens, Akbar the fort at Agra. The Taj and the Great Pyramid and the Coliseum. And I guess for all the criticism that’s been thrown at Behnji for being a backward (looking) leader, I must say she has her eyes set on the future. Well it does seem so from the single minded determination with which she’s building shrines to herself all over Lucknow, Noida and the rest of the province. The last I heard the largest dome in all of Asia would soon no longer be the Gol Gumbaz as history books taught us. Instead it would be somewhere in Noida with Behnji’s name inscribed. But then I was left wondering if it isn’t all this a waste. Utterly profligate in these bleak times. I can understand the craving that every man has to leave a mark on the world even after death. But is all this necessary. Hence I started thinking of a few ways to be remembered for ever…but in cost effective ways. Here goes.

1. Make cheap copper coins with your profile embossed in them on one side and your name inscribed as the great King 'YourName' on the other. About a thousand would do. Obtain a thousand post covers and five rupee stamps for each. Put one coin in a cover, paste the stamp and send it to random addresses in thousand locations around the world.
Eg: To, Mr. Cherian Nair, American Junction, Newyork, America.
Not finding the recipient the letter and with it the coin would find its way to some dump yard soon enough. This way coins with your name and profile embedded would be in around 1000 locations for future archeologists to dig up.
Cost of fame:
Coins @ Rs 10 per piece: 1000 X 10 = Rs10000
Post Covers @ Rs 5 per piece: 1000 X 5 = Rs5000
Stamps @ Rs 5 per piece: 1000 X 5 = Rs5000
Total – Rs 20000

2. Visit yahoo chat rooms of historic cities or cities which have historic monuments like Pisa, Cairo, Beijing, Machu Pichu etc. and get pally with one person each from these places. Convince them on some grounds, say it’s your dying mother’s last wish, to bury metallic boards somewhere near the periphery of the compound which houses the famous monuments in their city with this message inscribed in it:
“This great monument was built by/in memory of the great ruler ‘YourName’ in the year ‘Year of construction of the monument’”
Cost of fame:
Internet at Rs 15/hour and assuming it takes one hour chat sessions for a month to convince 10 such persons.
Total Cost = 15 X 30 = Rs1500

3. Build fake websites glorifying the greatness of King ‘YourName’ and host it in servers located everywhere from Kyoto to Mogadishu and in as many languages as you find translators. Pay google for ads and some ad agency for keyword optimizing your website by adding words like “Prostitute”, “sex”, “gay”, “lesbian”, “drugs”, “viagra” etc etc.
Cost of Fame:
Cost of website @ Rs 1000 per website for 20 websites = Rs 20000
Cost of Google ad. Somebody help me here. I’m venturing for around Rs 10000
Cost of keyword optimization. Again somebody help me here. Venturing for Rs 10000 again.
Total – Rs 40000

4. Have a star named after you at star registry. In the future when inter galactic travel will be made possible and some earthling will be traveling to planet Krypton to meet his uncle Clark Kent and he passes by the star with a board on it which says “Star ‘YourName’ of Galaxy-YK4533S”, he’s gonna do a google (yea google’s gonna be there even then I bet) on ‘YourName’ to find several websites (the ones that you created long ago) glorifying the great King ‘YourName’. Well I’m sure people will start talking.
Cost of Fame:
Cost of naming a star at = approx. $500 = @ Rs 50 a dollar = Rs 25000
Total Cost – Rs 25000

5. Spread emails saying King YourName,  dying king of different lands like Siberia/Nigeria/Tasmania/Albania/Lithuania is seeking heirs for his unfathomable wealth. Please forward this mail to all your loved ones who shall all receive a piece of it.
Cost of Fame: Again Internet rate at Rs 15/hour. Assuming an hour’s usage to send the mail.
Total cost = Rs 15

There’s your low cost solution to eternal fame. What? I promised 10 but I’m just giving you just half of it? I though you’d be used to such promises. Like what your HR department said when u asked for the variable pay promised at the end of the year. Well a sign of the times. :)
But at least here I am offering you a complete fame solution for just about Rs85000. That’s probably lesser than the cost of one raised bronze finger on those several Behnji statues that’s dotting every gali, nukkad and pan shop in the Northern Province.
These are desperate times and it calls for desperate solutions. But dreams need not be cut short in times of recession do they. Just reach up and touch the stars. Behnji seems to know.

Friday, May 8, 2009

She knew her way...

Elaine was fidgety right from the morning. She was alone at home. DJ’s mom was staying with him and it’s been more than a week since she had some alone time with him.

Screw the hag. No, repent. Take it back. She’s going to be your mom-in-law.

The marriage was three months away but DJ and El were more or less like a couple for years. She had always proclaimed that she’s never going to get married. It was pointless as far as she could see. And worst of all marriage itself was a patriarchal institution designed to breed a culture of female servitude. But ever since that milestone of turning 30 started looming before her like a deathly shadow she had started contemplating giving in to the idea that her conservative parents had been trying to buy her into for the past eight years or so; ever since she graduated from IIT. 

She liked to think of herself as a self made woman. Right from an early age she had tried to be self reliant. Yes her parents had paid for most part of her tuition fees and other expenses till college but unlike most others in her neighborhood she didn’t make them buy her expensive clothes or cosmetics nor did they have to dish out anything for donations for her college admission. No not even tuition fees for coaching classes. Her NTSE and other scholarships had paid a part of her college fees. The highly skewed (in favour of men) male-female ratio in the IIT had only helped fuel her feeling of self reliance. She had fought against the odds and made her mark in what was believed to be a man’s world. She knew how to hold her own among men. And later in the corporate world she had smashed every so called glass ceiling that she had encountered. She felt like punching his nose out once when a colleague of her suggested that she got her way around because of her good looks. She had given him a sound hearing and he had never dared cross her ever again. Looking back she could see that she had pretty much done what she had planned as she first walked through the gates of IIT Kanpur. She remembered that first day. The single engine training Cessna taking off from the airfield inside the IIT had her thinking of her school project where she had made a model aircraft piloted by a remote control and her best friend Priya, who had decided to join an airhostess academy after her 12th. It was her idea that they team up to build the model plane. If she was so crazy about flying why didn’t she go for Pilot training instead of being an airhostess, she had asked Priya. The reply was “That’s not for girls, El”.

She hated weekends and this was a particularly long one, Christmas being on a Friday. She was stuck at home coz her car was in the garage and had decided to stay at home in her bed for the Saturday night instead of Geoffrey’s her favorite watering hole.

Mental Note: Don’t give the car for service anytime before Christmas or for that matter any major holidays.

It was one in the night. The cold was biting into her despite having downed at least four drinks since the dinner. She reached for the pack of Marlboro lights but found it empty. Well trust a pack of cigarettes to let you down when u most need it. But she had backup. She scrounged her bag, there had to be a few left from the joints that DJ had given her last week. Success. She smoothened out the wrinkles on the cig and lighted it. She took a long drag and kept the smoke inside her lungs for some time until she could feel her nerves calming down a bit. Without exhaling the smoke she took another drag in. This was good stuff, she thought.

Half an hour later she was still awake. The dark room was filled with cigarette fumes and she felt suffocated. The TV was also on in the drawing room. She was feeling as fidgety as before. She wanted to be with DJ. She reached for her mobile on the night stand and dialed his number. After what seemed like a hundred rings DJ’s sleepy voice answered.

“Haan kudiye kai zaala?”

She wasn’t in the mood for his broken Marathi. “Deeraj, just shove it ….”, she never liked him teasing her Marathi upbringing. But he loved doing it none the less and had in fact secretly put in much effort to learn the language. But she had called him “Deeraj” and that meant she’s really not in the mood. “Listen, DJ get your ass over her now, I’ve got to see you”.

“No way, I’m not getting out in this cold. And I don’t want to explain to mom the reason for my disappearance in the middle of the night. She’ll wake up the minute I turn the key on the ignition and there won’t be any going out for as long as she’s here”, he said.

DJ had a point his mom hadn’t taken well to the fact that he’s getting married to a Bombay bred Christian girl. She had lined up a list of homely Jain girls for Deeraj her only son when he decided to announce the shocker at home.

What the heck, if he’s not going to get here I’m gonna be there. She didn’t say anything more but slammed the phone down. DJ knew that wasn’t a good sign.

The digital clock on the nightstand showed that it was ten minutes past two. Going out at this time in Delhi in a taxi wasn’t safe, she knew. This was where she liked her hometown of Mumbai much more than Delhi. Raj, yea he could take her to DJ’s place. But the only thing is that she didn’t want to ask him for a favor. But she knew how to have her way around him.

Raj was a colleague in office. He pretended to be a perfect gentleman in front of her but she knew he wasn’t. She’d slice open a person, have him diagnosed with one look, a two minute conversation and a shared fag. That was her fool proof process of judging a man. It had never failed her.

She picked up her mobile again. Checked the twitter feed for anything interesting. Changed her status to “Out for a fox hunt”. Then dialed Raj’s number.

“Hey Raj, Elaine here. Hope I didn’t wake you up”

Indiscernible voices on the other side…finally there was a reply “Hey El, No no I was up reading a book, how are you?”

El knew he was lying, and that was what she expected him to do. “Raj, I feel like having a drink how about coming over?” Again she knew what the reply would be. And it was validated by the front door bell.

Raj was practically in his night wear over which he had pulled a jacket, but it was obvious he had tried his best to set his hair down with a quick dash of his wet set gel and the overwhelming scent of the deodorant just confirmed that he hadn’t taken a bath this weekend.

El handed over the pint bottle of beer that she had in her hand to Raj and they sat down in front of the TV on the midsized couch. El knew exactly how to play on Raj’s weaknesses. Conversation was on mundane topics, the TV was muted but the scene showed a new on screen actress trying hard to make her mark with the usual skin show. But El knew where Raj’s eyes were. The dirty bastard; his idea of Catholic girls were probably shaped watching pictures like “Julie”. She suppressed the urge to slap him on the face and said “Raj, let’s go for a drive”. Raj wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. His chances of something happening between them were in his calculations the maximum if they stayed inside the house. But still he reluctantly agreed.

El knew that the key in making him do what she wanted was to keep alive his hopes of something happening. Men!! She thought. She pulled on her worn out blue jeans, tied her hair into a pony, grabbed her favorite jacket from the closet and started to the door. Raj was still trying to gulp his beer down and El had disappeared outside.

“Where to?” asked Raj.

“Hmm, let’s take the highway and towards Noida”, said El. DJ lived in Lajpat Nagar which was on the way to Noida. She was hoping it didn’t come to his mind. She diverted his attention by touching the label in his jacket. “UCB? Cool jacket Raj”.

“Oh you like it? I got it when I went vacationing to New York during Diwali. My jijaji runs a store there.”

Despite the bitter cold El decided to pull the window down. Partly because she hoped the cold and the wind would clear up her head and partly because she hoped the noise of the wind would stop Raj from continuing with his blabber. But that wasn’t to be.

“Listen, El I know something is bothering you, you can tell me whatever it is.” Raj slowly put an arm around her shoulders and waited for a response. She felt as if there was a leech on her shoulder but still kept mum. A shudder ran down her spine the kind of feeling she used to get when she had to clean her bathroom drain. El decided to play along still. “Yea Raj, things haven’t been going well you know, generally”. She knew Raj would assume that things are not well between she and DJ and that’s what she wanted.

Raj grew bolder. This girl was apparently in distress. He saw his moment in that. Damsels in distress were his favorite prey. He brushed a strand of hair that was falling over the side of her face behind her ears. That was his standard modus operandi with women. He could see it working with the so far infallible El. Yes, finally this would be the day. They were coming up on the Lajpat Nagar fly over and the Yamuna appeared up ahead. The highway lay desolate stretching across the wide river bed.

“Raj Raj, are u sleeping or something. Stop the car over here”. He was brought back from the labyrinth of his sullied thoughts. What? What did she say, stop the car? Maybe she had to take a leak. No that can’t be it. Maybe she doesn’t want to wait till we get to the isolation of the Yamuna Bridge.

As soon as the car stopped Elaine opened up the door and jumped out. “I’m going somewhere, it’s just around the corner, you don’t have to come. I’ll see you on Monday then. Bye and thanks for the ride”

Before Raj could even realize what was happening Elaine had crossed the desolate road and had disappeared into a lane on the opposite side. For a minute he thought about running after her. But he knew there wasn’t any point. He had realized what the girl had done. DJ stayed in Lajpat Nagar, he now remembered. That girl was smart. Smart enough to outfox a fox like him.

Elaine reached DJ’s house. The light was on in his room. She jumped on to the guava tree in the yard and nimbly climbed to the balcony outside DJs room in the first floor. And just as she landed the door opened and DJ stood there smiling at the girls antics. “You know mom would be proud she’s getting a circus acrobat for a daughter in law”, he said smiling. Elaine laughed and gave a hard punch on his stomach as they moved into DJ’s room. “She’s getting much more than that, a fox tamer too”, she thought.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Letters from an era of 5 paisa candies.

If there ever is a Guinness record on most love letters handed over I guess I would be a strong contender for it. Ah if only it was an Olympic event, I would have probably got to fulfill one of my biggest dreams of representing India there. As a lanky school boy the only time I got to represent my school in the state athletic meet was in quiz competitions (don’t ask me why but the ICSE board had deemed quiz fit to be conducted as part of the athletic meet rather than the cultural meet) and watching the athletes garner all the glamour and attract all the eyes I had secretly pledged that it would be the Olympics or bust for me. Turning on the wrong side of twenty five I have all but given up on that dream. The easiest step now seems to get into that chair of the President of the International Olympic Committee and pull a few strings to get my desired ‘sport’ on the list of Olympic events. Coming back to handing over of love letters, I guess I still should have the knack for it. It’s an inborn talent, it wouldn’t vanish I suppose. But the last time I tried that out was I guess fifteen years ago.

Growing up in a residential society of around fifty families has its advantages.

Choice of cricketing targets: You get to have your pick of windows to break during cricket. Fourth floor windows came with an automatic prize of an egg puffs and drinks (ahh, memories of those two rupee cold drinks).

Anytime access to food: some or the other family would always have put out those delicious pickles in the sun to dry. The Konkani family in the third floor had a particularly tongue tingling recipe for sun dried mango pickles.

Free entertainment: Now this is complicated, but I guess you young boys who grew up in pre ‘tata sky’ era would know. A little magic trick using insulated copper wire connected to your TV and attached to a twisted metal shirt hanger placed strategically near the path of your neighbor’s cable gets you free cable television. My dad still thinks I managed without TV those times during the study holidays in March when the cable connection used to be disconnected.

Acrobatic lessons: You know that quintessential water tank in every housing society on top of a tower. Yea, even ours had one of those. It stood above even the tallest buildings in the society. And not many of my creed (that’s 12 and stupid) dared climb up the 88 rungs of that ladder to its top. Let me confess now Mukundan uncle, (he was the secretary of the residential society) it was me who threw all those plastic bags in the tank that blocked the water supply for three days. And also for the record that cricket ball that hit the back of your neck (he had to walk around with a neck collar for a week) , was intentional. And in those days if your Bajaj scooter refused to start in the morning it was probably because early morning pee (A lot of boys my age in that society perfected their aim on Mukundan Uncle’s scooter’s petrol tank mouth) and petrol didn’t mix properly.

But probably the biggest advantage of all was that you had guys and gals aplenty of your age to partner with in a thousand crimes (Don’t worry Jerry I’m not confessing to anything here). This brings me back to those love letters. Me being the innocuous little boy was the preferred love letter carrier for many hot blooded young turks in the society who decided to try their luck with the pretty maidens there.

There was this chechi* in the society, let’s just say ladyB. Now ladyB was 18 at the time and I was 12. She was the prettiest girl I knew. Her long frocks (ala Kavya Madhavan’s when she skipped across the green fields of paddy to the tune of a valluvanadan* song) as she walked in grace used to send my heart a fluttering. I was her only true friend (from among those other 12 year olds who used to ogle at her so rudely) and we used to have these intellectual discussions (I wanted to let her know that I was extra mature for my age and convince her that the idea of eloping with me is not entirely preposterous) every evening as it turned dark and the regular games of kallanum-policum (chor-sipahi) with the ‘kids’ was done. I saw myself as her guardian and wouldn’t bear it if any of the boy talks (and at 12 believe me there are many) started drifting to any‘thing’ to do with her. Sorry Satish for that broken tooth. Pals? now that neither of us got her?

It was one such evening when ladyB and me were engrossed in discussions (probably about the vanity of life or the transcendent nature of love) that Arunchettan called me. I hated that a*****. I was one of his primary ragging targets as a five year old (I spent more than a dozen years in that place), but now that I was all grown up we were buddies (or so he thought).

Arunchettan: Vinu kutta* how are you da, long time. We don’t spend time together anymore kutta.

Me: (Can’t you see that I was with my lover) hehe, yea ArunChetta, how’s your college going. Mom was telling me that you got into Engineering college (his dad in the gulf must have paid lakhs for that seat).

Arun: yea its great da..Vinu, do me a favour my man. Give this letter to someone wont you?

Now I’ve acted as a courier service to Arunchettan several times before (never knew what happened of it all) and I was glad to take up the call to what was now almost a vocation.

Me: Oh anytime chetta*, ippravashyam vellathum nadakkumo? (Will something happen this time?)

The bloody Casanova had raised his targets now that he was an engineer to be. As soon as he said that the letter was for ladyB the blood started boiling in me. My eyes bulged and the little sinews stretched and the next thing I knew, I had thrown myself at him and had knocked him over from the ledge he was sitting on. I was scratching his face with my finger nails and was about to bite his nose off. But Arunchettan was thrice my size and a regular at the local gymkhana. He regained his composure after the initial shock and just lifted me and threw me away as he would do a pillow. And before I even got back to my feet he was pounding my face with his huge fists.

A crowd quickly gathered and ladyB was also among them. Somebody pulled away Arunchettan from atop me. My spunk had still not been driven out (not a thousand of those mighty punches would have done it that day), and I was like a Doberman (some might call a dachshund, because of my size but hey I know better) tugging at its leash. I yelled out all the abuses that my ‘refined’ pals of the housing society had taught me.

“eda, patti (you dog) how dare you write a letter to ente pennu (my girl)”. I saw ladyB’s look change from wonder to shock, from the corner of my eyes.

Fifteen years ago and that’s how I sacrificed my career delivering letters. Well it didn’t go to waste. Arunchettan as far as I know never dared give a letter to ladyB. But on the flip side ladyB’s parents married her off before she turned 20. I was heartbroken and didn’t have dinner that night of her wedding despite mom having made her special fried rice and chicken curry. But all wasn’t lost. LadyB’s sister was coming back from her nursing studies the next month.

*chechi - elder sister literally but used for any female who’s older than you

*chettan - elder brother literally but used for any male who’s older than you

*valluvanadan- pertaining to valluvanad which I guess is somewhere in north Kerala.

*Kavya Madhavan – Mallu actress.

*kutta – affectionate name for a small boy (nothing to do with kutha in hindi)

PS: Mukundan uncle thankfully didn’t have burly sons who’d have otherwise shown me the righteous path. But in case he has grandsons of the type, please hear me out, you would have done the same had you been in my position.