Monday, August 29, 2011

A Dandapani from Manchester..

From that day Vinay decided he’s never taking any of his stupid football illiterate friends to the Man United café.

V: Its my birthday isn’t it? I will f***ing decide where we go tonight

DJ: But the booze sucks there. Two beers in 2 hours? Dude, If you make me go in there, I’m carrying my own liquor in a bottle of coke.

V: whatever dude. If anyone asks, you are not with me

We paid the cover charges and made our way through the boisterous crowd of red into the middle where we thought would give us unrestricted view of the big screen at the café.

Dj went into his usual tirade against cover charges in pubs. For him at times the whole concept of cover charges is a CIA conspiracy against socialist supporters like him, or the establishments conspiracy against Andhraites like him and mallu Achayans and at times like today it’s a way of stealing the pride of voluntary singles.

DJ: Why do they have cover charges here. I tell you I’m gonna open a pub in Mumbai just so that the stags can regain their lost pride. It’s likes it’s a sin being single in this city. You know I could have any girl I want

“Hell yea you can DJ”, we chorused.

It’s fucking cruel man. And it’s everywhere. You’d think even Facebook’s got a cover charge for stags, Every god damn guy in our batch has squeezed in their wife’s head into that 2”X2”space for their profile pic

V: hehe. (At least he was not embarrassing me with his football. I just hope he doesn’t start yelling six six when a goal goes in…hmmm)

DJ: Well dude you are married. I have all my sympathies for you but why spread the gloom in facebook?

By that time the crowd had started with their Man United anthem…

Glory, glory, Man United,

Glory, glory, Man United,

Glory, glory, Man United,

As the reds go marching on, on, on.

For all that he cared they might as well have been singing Jan Gan Mann. But DJ was a quick learner and caught on to the lines quick.

He made his way to the bar to redeem the beers against his and V;s coupons. And by the time he made his way back to where we were sitting he had downed two pints of Carlsberg.

By this time V had abandoned all hope of converting us to the red half and had started chatting up with an equally passionate Manchester supporter.

V: I’m telling you, with Scholes gone nobody’s gonna be able to fill up that gap in the midfield

Other Manchester supporter: No man, they’ve got good replacements. The youngsters this year are just awesome.

By this time DJ was back and had overheard the conversation. For all his illiteracy of the great game he was good at picking things up from bits and pieces of a conversation and making himself sound like a connoisseur. This skill of his has made him clear many a group discussions during b school placements.

DJ: Absolutely man. So what. People come and go. No man is bigger than the team. Hell yea. Go Manchester (he yelled out in his booming voice. And ten other from different corners of the pub reciprocated)

In his high pitched voice and innate energy DJ had captured the attention of a small group of people who gathered around to hear the absolute pearls of wisdom that were falling out of this guy who must obviously be a pundit of the game. And with the air of a mystic palm reader who dishes out predictions at the mere glance of a persons face DJ poured out seemingly veritable information which left V on the verge of pulling his hair out. DJ had by that time even before the game had started convinced the crowd that he was a British Indian who had just got down from Manchester to visit his grandpa in Mumbai.

DJ: You know man..when I walked into the stadium in Manchester last year…guess who was practising???

The crowd: Who who?? I bet it was Roo

DJ: Roo no no…guess again

Crowd: Oh please please don’t tell me you saw Giggs.

DJ: haha saw??? Dude I got the t shirt right off him. But I tell you man his t shirt smells

Crowd: Obviously how wouldn’t it. He was probably sleeping around behind his wife’s back even then . But dude why didn’t you wear the shirt today?

DJ: Dude I gave it to a kid in the lane behind my grandpa’s house just yesterday. What’s the big deal man. I have season tickets no? I can walk in to the dressing room any time. Just tell me if you want anybody’s tee I will get it for you next time I come back from UK.

The crowd went made taking down DJ’s mail id, facebook profile and twitter id.

By this time the two teams had moved onto the centre of the pitch and another burst of Glory, Glory, Man United filled the room from the speakers.

DJ slowly moved behind V and started singing in the same tune as the anthem into V’s ears..

Boring , Boring Man United

Boring , Boring Man United

Boring , Boring Man United

As the reds go F***ing off off off.

V, I swore had a handful of his own hair when I looked at him.

PS: And if you Manchester supporters were just wondering what DJ’s real name was. It’s Dandapani Jadavedan. I swear!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Searching for a Firefly in FB..

It seemed like a swarm of fireflies had descended like locusts on the valley. I looked outside the window of the Volvo, straining my eyes as I realised that the fireflies were circling around in unusually perfect circles. A whole valley full of them, dancing to the directions of a strange opera.

I looked down and pressed the indiglo button in my trusted TIMEX, a companion of more than 12 years on all my travels. It was past 2 AM, a good five hours into my journey to Mumbai from Bangalore. The faint sound coming from my earphones reminded me that I had drifted off listening to songs on my iPhone. The fireflies were crowding my mind now. I looked ahead and to the side. The bus was sound asleep.

Nikita- that was her name. The whole incident started with fireflies. The rubber plantation behind my grandpa’s house had thousands of fireflies that floated through the trees. The train of events of that day started with this brainwave to catch a hundred fireflies and fashion a lamp out of them. That would put an end to the scary darkness of the load shedding* hour.

She was the next door girl- a tomboyish child, whose parents worked in my grandpa’s rubber plantation. Every summer when I would visit my grandpa she would come down to play with me. She was always different from me. In the mid summers when I would start getting tensed about the marks of the final exams, which my mom would check and write to me in her weekly letter from the town. Nik would always be cool and assure me that I would do well. I never asked her how she scored in her exams.When the letter would come she would eagerly wait with me for the postman to arrive and then my grandpa would open it and read it out. She was always happier than even I would be to hear that I had done well.

Summer after summer at the rubber estate had made me and Niki the best of friends. The wiry little rat could climb to the top of the mango tree as if she was climbing stairs and could swim across the Meenachil River in the monsoon torrent just as easily.

That evening after Niki had gone to her home to clean up the trays which her dad used to make sheets of the rubber sap, I went firefly hunting with a transparent polythene bag and a butterfly net in my hand. I roamed around the estate for two hour and collected a hundred of those sparkling insects in my bag. I waited for the power to go off at the usual hour of the load shedding, I ran, excited as only twelve year olds can be, to Niki’s little hut to show her the spoils of my day. The bag of fireflies wasn’t much of a lamp but the feeling of invention, of triumph over darkness filled up my heart. I skipped over the broken fence and crossed knocked over the pan of cattle feed as I ran across the cow shed and knocked at her doors.
Niki’s face replaced her ever present eager smile with a never before seen rage as she realised what was in the greenish glowing bag that I held up in her face. Like a tigress she pounced on me bringing me crashing down on my back. My head hit violently against the floor, the bag still clutched to my left hand. When the ensuing melee ended I had bruises in my elbow where it hit the floor and countless scratches on my face. For all her boyishness when it came to fighting she fought like a girl- a spirited girl though.

Before I could get to my feet, Niki grabbed the plastic bag, tore it open and had set all the fireflies free. It was shame mixed with anger and in the fit I grabbed the first thing that came to my hands which unfortunately was the Rubber Tapper’s knife that her dad used to extract the sap from the tree. I remember the next moments as in a slow motion scene that you see in movies. I remember she raising her hands to her face as the knife came down straight to her head. The yellow flickering light from the kerosene lamp mixed with the blood and it was a deep dark red everywhere after that.

I ran away as I heard Niki’s mom coming from inside the hut, hearing her scream. I didn’t know what to do, just that I had to hide. Somewhere no one could find me. I ran into the night towards my house and saw the one place that nobody would catch me. Up the mango tree in the backyard. The only person who could get me on top that tree was Niki and she wasn’t going to come after me that night. Images of police men in their khaki uniforms chasing me and police dogs biting me and dragging me came flooding in my head. I climbed the tree as high as I could and hung on for dear life. I knew they would come searching for me..soon.

I don’t remember how long I stood up there in that position, with my eyes closed tight. But strangely nobody seemed to have noticed that I was missing. No police men no police dogs came. Not even my grandpa or grand mom seemed to be missing me. After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly opened my eyes and looked down at the house far below. The power seemed to have gone out for the entire night. I couldn’t see any light in the house and it was pitch darkness everywhere except for a sprinkling of fireflies hovering over the rubber trees. The image was haunting. The fireflies all seemed to be flying in slow round circles. The glow from their lights was red not green.

Earlier today, before I took the bus to Mumbai from Bangalore, my Mom was talking about Niki to my Dad. It’s going to be really difficult to find a boy for her, you know. That scar that she got on her face when she was little only seems to have got more prominent as she grew.

Niki had never told anyone that it was me who had caused the injury. She somehow convinced everyone that she had caused it herself. I didn’t know that for years afterwards. The guilt and the fear had made me stay away from my grandpa’s place for several summers afterwards. And when I went there year’s later for my grand mom’s funeral my eyes kept searching eagerly for her, but in vain.

The circling fireflies I saw out from the bus window had brought all the thoughts that I had somehow shut deep down below to my head. As the bus descended further into the valley the fireflies came closer. Those weren’t fireflies really. The bus was crossing the town of Chitradurga and I realised that the fireflies that I saw were actually lights on the windmills that dotted the mountain side on either side of the highway.

I took out my iPhone and took a couple of pictures out the window and tagged the location. I had an album in facebook titled “One for the road” for pictures that I would take while on my travels. After I had uploaded the pictures on the album my finger almost as if on autopilot went to the search tab on FB and typed “Nikita George”

*Load Shedding - For those who don’t know, most parts of Kerala had an hour’s power cut during the mid 90s everyday which was called load shedding. Load Shedding, strange it was called so for what reason, I didn’t find out till a long time later

PS: This is entirely a work of fiction. I don't know of a Nikita George to the best of my remembrance. Apologies if there's anyone who I should have remembered!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the new world...

In the new world corruption would be taught to children in history books, the headquarters of the UN Security Council would be shifted to a swanky new building in the Bandra-Kurla complex, Children of Nagappatanam would be teaching English to corporate executives in Guangzhou over a 1 Gbps broadband link.

Well whatever might be but you bet even in that world you wouldn’t find a shampoo that doesn’t strengthen the hair from the roots, or a face wash that doesn’t clean it deep, or a detergent that doesn’t make lightning bolts erupt out of your tidy whities.

You know why bollywood doesn’t churn out fantasy movies at the rate that Hollywood does. No, not because we don’t have capable animators or experts to do the simulations and stunts. After all we are the experts in computer technology and it doesn’t take too much to fly men from Beverly hills to film city, Goregaon. It’s just because the Indian audience gets their fill of fantasy from our television ads.

You tell me: The face cream that treats the five signs of aging. Well the protagonist does look young doesn’t she. But does it treat the sixth sign of aging - senility. I’m assuming senility and associated dementia is what tempts the customers to spend a fortune in fighting aging. When will someone rise up to say –If” daag achhe hai” so is aging.

My maid’s been using the detergent which promises to create a rainbow out of your clothes for the past two years. The only rainbow I see are on what used to be my swanky white Benetton shirt which looks as if it’s survived three or four Holis in its lifetime. The blue Levis seems to have attempted some dishonourable act on the poor whitey and left skidmarks at its sides, the red Esprit t-shirt seems to have been a bit aggressive with Benny leaving love bites on its neck, the black linen from khadigram like a gothic lover seems to have left black smudged lipstick stains on whiteys chest. Yes, the rainbow detergent has this revolution in cleaning techniques that they, for the sake of us nincompoops call ‘colour lock technology’.

I too like you little liars out there fell for that fairness cream which was to make my skin two tones fairer. And it did make it two tones but only if I put a layer thick enough to cover my entire skin and shine three brightly lit spot lights on my face. Well, I did emerge two tones wiser although not fairer out of the whole experience. Money well spent I say.

And the wisdom has somehow tempered my expectations out of marketers in the new world:

- A breath checking FB app - which checks my breath for alcohol content before I can change my status message

- An SMS Recall button on mobile phones- a tool to recall SMS messages sent at the middle of the night in that messy period between kicking off shoes before bed and falling asleep

- A male morning after pill – To cure hangovers on the next morning

Cheers to the new world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Of Soft Spoken Secrets

The things that we say without saying, secrets that are said with a wink of the eye, the cringe of the forehead, the twitch of the nose, the stories behind a suppressed laughter or a tear not shed. This is an ode to the dark cloud that flew by without bursting into a shower.

Kiran once told me about the face of the girl that comes to his mind even after twelve years of a train journey when he sat across her on a trip from Delhi to Chandigarh - A five hour journey that embedded an image in the mind for an entire lifetime.

Vineeth had passed out of engineering college without a job, while everyone around him somehow seemed to have a job offer from one or the other IT companies. Classes were over in March. In May he got a call from a moderately renowned b-school. He hadn’t expected even that. The first reaction was ecstasy but when that feeling passed in about ten minutes he had decided not to take it up. His dad who was a renowned professor in the engineering college came home that day and told him when he heard of Vineeth’s decision that he was the biggest disappointment in his life.

Srinath ran away from his home with just the clothes he was wearing and his trusted CBZ the day his girlfriend broke up with him. She was his first love and life seemed to be crumbling down in front of him. He drove his bike straight from Nagpur to Mumbai.

These were stories revealed to me at various times during casual conversations about unrelated topics. The subtle reactions that trigger subsided memories have often told me stories that people have just forced themselves to forget.

Today, Srinath runs a boutique café in a posh south Mumbai locality. He has a very loyal customer base in his small café and earns more than he ever could have had he gone the way our elders tell us. Stay at home, complete your degree, get a job.

Vineeth runs an MBA coaching institute which regularly churns out entrants to the top b-schools in the country and is one of the most sought after in Hyderabad.

Kiran still pauses by New Delhi station every once in a while at the time the Shan-e-Punjab is scheduled to pull into the station. He is happily married with a very loving wife and a three year old beautiful little girl.

We don’t realize the moments in life when it’s taking a turn. The turns are apparent only when we look back. Pause a moment and be thankful for all the twists and turns and realize that all bitter pills swallowed need not leave an after taste.