Friday, March 9, 2012

If you really loved me, you'd know!!!

“If you really loved me, you would know what I am thinking now”. That was Lakshmi talking to Rahul.

“I do love you, but give me a hint. The cricket score??”. Clatter of metal meeting human skull.

“Tell me Lachu dear. What is wrong”

“Nothing”, said ‘Lachu’.

That sweet ‘nothing’ that women throw at men around the world is perhaps the single most important omen that men should learn to listen to as a warning when their life is just about to take a very unpleasant turn. Those nothings are harbingers of impending doom for a man probably followed with sleeping on the couch, without dinner and rubbing bumps on the head caused by flying dishes. The trick of the averting danger is to detect danger at the first signs and take evasive action. But that involves a lot of reading minds and let’s face it men when it comes to reading what’s on a woman’s mind, men just have barely enough aptitude to realize that when a girl says that nothing’s wrong it’s actually pretty close to Armageddon. And that too was a skill finally acquired after much of that surviving of the fittest. I can imagine when Fred Flintstone wanted to go bowling and his wife said, “Fine, go I’ll do all the boar hunting, cleaning and roasting around here”, he must have actually thought that Wilma was actually being nice today. Well girls sarcasm has never really been our thing.

You heard how they are thinking of banning internet telephony because terrorists are starting to use that for communication. Well if you ask me it’s a blessing that there aren’t too many female terrorists around, coz if there were they would just do a wink at each other and transfer the blueprint of a nuclear bomb in so much. Try getting an interpreter in between to decode that communication.

“I can’t believe that you would doubt me like that. You know that’s something I just cannot tolerate”.

“But Lachu, I didn’t. When did I ever say that I didn’t trust you”, Rahul had by now turned to a groveling mule from the growling lion that he was when he had confronted Lakshmi on some issue which he had forgotten by now. That’s an amazing talent that girls have. When they are on the backfoot on an argument they somehow manage to change the argument into some other issue in which they know that they definitely have the upper hand. In this case it was the trust issue. Well for all you know Lachu, might have murdered her in laws but that wasn’t important anymore because now the argument was about whether Rahul trusted Lachu or not. Sadly ISO and BIS doesn’t give out certifications on that and hence Rahul’s fidelity can never be convincingly proven. The argument is lost even before it started.

Kicked out of the house even before he could put on his shoes, Rahul tipped across the graveled courtyard to his bike kept outside. Walking on his toes Rahul’s thought went to the picture he was watching on DVD the other night - Mila Kunis in Black Swan. Oh Mila, Mila Mila why are you women so cruel??

– It’s centuries of reinforcement.

Who is that?? Ohh..just the other voice in my head

They have time and again got away with mistreating people and getting their way around.

Over generations pretty women in all cultures and communities have conditioned themselves to a certain functional shortcut.

But Lachu isn’t like that. She was helpless.

The security guard outside the gate stared at Rahul not knowing whom he was talking to.

Well you can argue they she was helpless. Hell, it might even be genetic. But man, I tell you. This goes beyond your Lachu. And it goes probably to the day when men and women were born.

Think about it. Of all the depictions of the garden of Eden that you might have seen, was Eve ever a 100 kg mammoth of a woman?

She was a perfect 36-24-36 vision of beauty, and mind you this was the era before botox, epilators, skin creams and even mascara.

Oh yes. Poor, dirty and hairy Adam didn’t even have a chance at saying no to that apple, agreed Rahul. The conscience seemed to be speaking sense today. Old Monk really does suit you my man.

Why blame Adam?? I must say even the good lord had his weak moment when he dished out the punishments that day. How is that the same punishment is meted to the inducer of the crime and to the innocent participant. Anybody in the knowhow of the Indian Penal code would tell you that’s certainly not even handed justice.

Indian Penal Code?? Dude you’ve had a bit too much of Indian Made Foreign Liqour. Rahul had been trying to kick start his bike for some time now with no luck, while this train of thought was going on in his head.

Yea yea agreed, Eden perhaps didn’t fall under the jurisprudence of the IPC. But, I’m pretty sure if you really scrutinize the life of cruel and wicked men throughout history you’d find a wife who wasn’t satisfied with the jewellery he got her, or a girlfriend who wanted a bigger better Taj Mahal built for her.

But the fight today was not about anything like that…She in fact must have got me more presents that what I have gifted her.

What was it for Rahul? Tell me what was it for?

Err…Err. Rahul just could not recollect.

He remembered that Lachu had asked for a packet of curd for making kadi and jeera rice. He had instead got yoghurt and saunf. So big deal, you add water and salt to the yoghurt and instead of jeera rice you make plain rice. That’s no reason to kick someone out of the house without even letting him wear his shoes.

But then poor girl wanted it for breaking her navratri fast with something nice food. She’s been surviving on salt less food and fruits for over a week now. Oh Lachu, how thoughtless of me.

No no you shouldn’t slip. It’s just a trick..Tell me how come it’s Navratri all over again?? She just did that a few months back? Or does it happen three or four times a year. I bet she invents all these festivals just to drive you up the wall. In fact, everything with her, even her monthly crankiness seems to occur much more frequently these days.

And you know she didn’t even come to the pub with you in spite of you having begged her to. Just because she had to make sweets and stuff for the girls at the orphanage.

You see, her selfish desire to feel gratification has made her give up on quality time that she could have spent with you. And just because of her you had pay stag charges at the pub. And as if that wasn’t enough she spent the whole time cleaning up the house and washing dishes. As if that couldn’t have waited till Saturday…hmphh

And then she got into her “nothing’s wrong” mood. Amazing isn’t it. You’d think after spending a whole day thinking of no one else but herself at least she would be happy at the end of the day? She did pooja the whole day and got to eat nice fruits which no doubt was to improve the texture of her skin and then distributed sweets at the orphanage which would have given her lots of good karma and cleaned up the house so that she could upload pictures of her sparkling room on facebook. Why would she be upset just because you ate that yoghurt which she didn’t want anyways.

Somewhere between the argument Rahul figured out that he has a pretty sarcastic voice for a conscience. Or was it only this way when he was drunk? He dropped the bike on the ground and climbed on to the gate outside Lachu’s home and yelled at the top of his voice. Not a care that it was well past 11 o clock…. “Lachuuuu…I’m sorry please forgive me…..”

After what seemed like an eternity the balcony door on the first floor opened. Lachu’s glowing face appeared at the balcony... Rahul was on top of the gate…the security guard was waving his batton from the other side…

“Lachu, my dear…I must…”..he didn’t get to complete what the sentence.

A shoe came flying out from the general direction of the first floor balcony and hit Rahul squarely on his head.

Picking himself up from the ground Rahul heard the balcony door bang shut.

Amazing that she has the strength to throw like that after having eaten nothing the whole day. Goddd.. women…they do have some strength in them.

Happy Women’s Day..folks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's just too complicated.

Valentine’s day ritual for the three ‘little’ singles and one “it’s complicated” guy who shared a flat in central Bangalore started a day earlier with stocking the fridge with the strongest alcohol money could buy. The translucent window curtains were replaced with thick bed sheets, the door was bolted shut, the wire to the calling bell was cut, the TV was pulled off from the plug.

Why was this done? Well Valentine’s day was the most hated day for all three. It was one of those rare instances when they all agreed upon anything. Saju, one one such valentines day in a drunken stupor wrote an inland to the Pope in Vatican to enquire if Saint Valentine was indeed a Saint? The moral turpitude of the Pope who ordained him made him even consider shifting his affiliations away from the Roman Catholic church. Swear, there’s no other saint who has caused so much misery to so many men around the world and that too so long after his death. “the evil that men do lives after them…hmmm”.

The plan was to sleep till late in the afternoon and then inject alcohol into the system so that the day spent in consciousness would be reduced as much as possible on the fourteenth of February. But apparently BESCOM had other ideas and shut off the power supply to the house early in the morning and it was a surprisingly warm day for that time of the year. Saju was the first one to rub his eyes open when he could no longer pretend to sleep as the heat was getting unbearable. He so wanted to open the windows but that could be disastrous. No he shouldn’t. But now that his sleep had run faster and farther than any girl had ever run to whom he had extended a red rose, he couldn’t stand it that the other three were still fast asleep.

He kicked Riyaz on his butt hard.

Saju: Da, get up don’t you have to go see your girlfriend. It’s Valentine’s day

Riyaz’s relationship status read “It’s Complicated” in his social networking site.

Riyaz: Dude, she’s not yet my gf. She would be soon.. I’m working on a complicated strategy. But for the moment we are just GMAT buddies.

Riyaz was an MBA aspirant and had a strategically planned approach for everything ranging from catching a mouse to ‘pattaofying’ a girl. This time it was the classic ignore till she notices approach after the “overwhelm her till she succumbs” approach seemed to have bore no result.

For more than three months now Riyaz has been sticking around for Nisha on her beck and call. He’d pick her up from her home in the morning every for the GMAT session and drop her to the office afterwards…go shopping with her and the story goes that he even bathed her dog once.

Riyaz took out his phone which was lying underneath the pile of bed sheets and yesterday’s office clothes and dialed a number.

The Caller tune was the song from Amitabh’s “The Great Gambler”. Do Lafzon ki hai….

Saju: Isn’t that the song in which Amitabh speaks some weird thing in Spanish or French or something sitting in that ‘kettuvalam’ with Zeenat.

Riyaz: That’s Italian my friend and that thing is called a Gondola.

Saju: Whatever, he sounds like Lyngdoh after he’s downed three of his Rum and Cokes. Hehe(Lyngdoh was the third roomie and he was from the Meghalaya)

Riyaz: Hey Nish

Girls voice on other end (background noise indicated she was somewhere outside): Huh, who’s this?

Riyaz (Seeing that Nisha wasn’t too impressed with the new nickname that he had thought for her…decided to do a switch strategy): Nisha this is Rii (See this time it was Rii for Riyaz).

Now it was time for the implementation of the ‘ignore plan’.

Riyaz: Well anyways, I’m busy I’ll have to go now, I’ll call you later.

Nisha: (confused) Then why did you call in the first place??

Riyaz: Err..err..just like that.

Cuts the phone.

Saju: Dude, what was that all about. You called her and said that you were too busy to talk and put the phone down.

Riyaz (Grinning like a Cheshire cat): Hehe….you see if it’s working on you imagine what she would be going through.

Nisha on the other end had without another thought to the weird conversation gone back to sipping the red wine she was sharing with Anil.

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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The rules of the game.

The school head boy should be dating the school head girl..the topper guy should be with the topper gal and so on went the unwritten rule in my school for generations. Although dating as defined in the modified Kerala edition of the Oxford dictionary had certain restricted meaning than what the general audience would come to think. Stolen moments of private conversations behind the library, walks to home from tuition classes and if you were all right with being called risqué a brief holding of hands under the desk during physics lecture pretty much constituted the idea of malluland high school dating of the 90s.

Then again the gulf returned kids, the boors as the culture custodians would call them, pushed the limits with the occasional exchanges of err Toblerone bars and glass-tubed pencils which never seemed to run out of pointy nibs. Ahh the audacity. We the boys of the local breed (aborigines in their eyes) were crude male forms with a strange affliction which caused tongue paralysis in the vicinity of the sacred feminine. We liked to think that it was the pencils and the toblerones that made the gulf returnees a rage among the girls. Well you see both sides had fair arguments.

One such ‘assimilated but still an NRK’ knight in shining Nikes (Bata and Carona shoes were what the rest of us wore..and those weren’t exactly shiny) was the head boy of our school, the topper of the class and my best friend. He was smart and handsome and to top it off wore glasses which had strings which hung behind his neck. (For a brief period sometime in the nineties those rimmed glasses with strings became a fashion rage in my school and every boy worth his salt developed sudden bouts of myopia. Despite my valiant claims that I couldn’t read beyond the second line in the ophthalmologists alphabet chart my doctor, the quack hmmmph refused to believe that I needed glasses. I even tried reading ‘C’ as ‘X’ and ‘E’ as ‘W’). In short my friend let’s call him Paris (from the Greek Epic of course) had everything going for him save for a queen by the side. And when our lady Helen was appointed the school’s head girl our Gulf returned Paris (you see the irony?? I don’t) had all the bells ringing inside. Tall, fair and medusa-esque eyes (really, the boys found it really tough to see her in the eyes. God knows why) Helen was right out of Homer’s epic.

My match making ailment was at its unabated peak despite several Grecian tragedies and it was still decades later that I learned the valuable lesson of not poking my nose in another couples affairs.

Me: Dude, Helen brushed aside her hair from her face when she was talking to you after the Assembly today. Swear, that means she’s interested in you.
Paris: Huh, really??
Me: Yea I read it in the Reader’s Digest article on body language and cryptic signaling
Paris: Let me do an analysis in my Commodore 64. That should give some conclusive results
Commodore 64 was the computer that my friend Paris had got from Dubai last year. Whenever we had an disagreement on anything he would throw in the argument that his Commodore 64 said so. And since we didn’t even know what a computer was at that time we would just have to fold in to him. For example one such argument was whether Hitman or Hulk Hogan was the best in WWF (oh remember those days when it was WWF and not WWE??). I said Hitman but apparently the Commodore had told Paris that it was Hogan and that was the end of the argument. How could I even question what a ‘Computer’ said?
Days passed with several such apparent cryptic signals being sent out by Helen in the general direction of Paris which only I could see initially. But soon enough Paris was starting to see them as well.
Me: You know man I think it’s high time that you ask her once and for all if she likes you or not.
Paris: Hmm…I think so too. You know yesterday while she was standing in the bus stop her left foot was pointed in my direction. That is an indisputable sign isn’t it.
Me: Of course, I’m sure your Commode will agree
Paris: Dude its Commodore not Commode.
Me: Err,,right for all I care both are good for just one purpose.
Paris was well and truly bitten by the love bug by first term was getting over. All that was left was to summon up the courage and walk up to the lady herself and ask for the fair maiden’s hand. But then again it was a mere formality right? It was tradition that was on his side. You know the head boy and the head girl and so on.
Me: What the hell are you waiting for. You don’t want to wait till the term is over. By the time we come back after the holidays the whole momentum would be gone.
Paris: It’s not about momentum my friend it’s about the moment. The right time my friend, the moment is all that matters. As the greek poet Pontius Pilate said Give me the right moment and I would change time.
Now I was really convinced that he had lost his marbles well and truly.
The term exams were fast approaching and time was running out. It would be the holidays soon and two weeks in adolescent time is equivalent to a decade. Paris and I used to study together for the exams at his place. On the night before the dreaded maths test we sat in front of his Commodore 64 and typed out a detailed love letter. Now that I think back it wasn’t a confession of love but more an argumentative thesis on why Helen should accept his proposal. At a time when two hundred word essays seemed bigger challenges than swimming across the English Channel our collective brains churned out a five page letter of love in neat calligraphy written using red, blue, yellow and green Faber Castell sketch pens (of course from Dubai).
On the last day of the exams, Paris in his smartest uniform shirts and trousers and shine black Nikes trailed Helen at a distance waiting for the right moment. The right moment came an hour before the last exam in the afternoon when he spotted her all by herself sitting under the mango tree beside the school ground going through her tuition notes when our man approached her like a cheetah prowling up behind an unwary deer.
He stood beside her and with a clearing of his throat said a well rehearsed nonchalant ‘hello’.
Paris: Hello. Did you study?
Helen: (with a quizzical look on her face. Obviously it’s the day of the exam who wouldn’t study) No not at all. You?
The rest of the conversation was lost to me as the mercurial wind changed direction away from my vantage point. But I could easily make out what they were saying thanks to the Reader’s Digest’s article on lip reading. The conversation went thus.
Paris: Iraq was really cold yesterday.
Helen: Haha Mrs. Mathew’s dog had three kittens yesterday.
Paris: Oh really? Mr. Mathew must have some hand in it.
Helen: Yea yea Shakespeare had arthritis
Paris: Are you sure? Iraq is in Africa no?
Then I saw our man Paris slowly put his hand inside his trouser pocket and fish out a pack of chiclets (His stock of Toblerone had just ran out) and held it out to her.
Again quizzical look.
I thought she wasn’t going to take it from him but success she takes the pack from his hands with a smile.
Seeing his moment arrive Paris takes out the letter from his shirt pocket and gave it to Helen.
Quizzical look change to puzzled one. But she takes the letter from his hand and starts reading it. Expression changes again. Reader’s digest didn’t say anything about that particular body language. I’m confused. Midway through the letter she pauses to open the chiclets pack and pop the gum in her mouth.
After what seemed an enternity she is done with the last page as well. Again no expression.
She then folded the letter very deftely and made it in the shape of a paper plane and then took out a pen from her pencil box and scribbled something on the side of the plane. Smiles at Paris, gave the plane to him and walked away.
Paris looked down on the plane in his hand and had a confused look in his face. Oh yea..that’s exactly like the illustration in Reader’s Digest. I went running to him to know what she had written on the plane. It read – “The plane that crashed without taking off”.
Hmm..Dude, Chiclets just doesn’t do what a Toblerone does.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Entreprenuership as we do it!!

A few months back when I was visiting a friend in IIT Bombay he was getting eloquent about his plans to start a company, list it in the stock market, liquidate it and make a killing in the process. He was twenty at that time. I remember the time when I was twenty I was still trying to figure out why was it that I had taken it up as my life’s ambition to get into CET for Engineering, and having done that trying to figure out what next. Entrepreneurship was probably the farthest thing in my mind. The friend of mine was a marwadi whose family had business interests throughout the country. At twenty he was already making more money from his part time ventures than I did then after an engineering degree and an M.B.A. What struck me was that while children in Kerala are guided towards engineering colleges, these guys were guided towards ways and means to make a better living. Or in other words our destination was a means to a still farther destination.

For them education was a certain social necessity rather than an end in itself. In Kerala we were told to think of nothing beyond getting this degree. Things apparently would fall in place by itself after that. Risk taking was and still is not a forte for the mallu populace. This becomes very obvious if we look at the number of companies owned by malayalis which are listed in the National/Bombay Stock exchange.

When you travel through Surat or Ahmedabad you are met with large hoarding which exhort people to start their own businesses. The government has come out with several schemes for starting small and medium businesses. Frankly it’s not just the Gujarat government that has such schemes, but the central government as well as various state governments have schemes. In Gods own country they just contributes to the crores that go into undisbursed funds and gets lapsed every year.

Growing up in Trivandrum I was exposed to a population which was in many ways homogenous in their financial stature. Trivandrum is not a business town. The average family had at least one stream of revenue attached to the state or central government. And hence more or less every family was the same. Those families which had two earning members perhaps a little better off. The elite in the city were the doctors or gulf returnees. I remember a time when I traveled 8 kms (which at that time meant from one end of the city to the other end) to see a Mercedes S class. And this wasn’t long back mind you; circa 2002 I would say. It was only after I was plucked out of the social cocoon of malluland that I realized that Pillai doctor wasn’t after all the richest man in the world.

And the scene wasn’t that different in other parts of the state. But true Cochin was one of the first places in India to get Mercedes and BMW showrooms but that’s more down to the fact that mallus like to show off to the farthest extend that their means allow them to. Hence practically everybody who owned anything about 10 acres of rubber plantation a few years back (when the price of rubber was at a record high) was in a position to buy a Mercedes, and I guess most of them did. To make a case in point Narayana Murthy with his millions still rode a Fiat to his office at that time, Azim Premji still flies economy class while I remember the limousine which plied the roads of Trivandrum (How on earth did it ever get through Uloor junction god alone knows). No kidding, twenty foot limousine in Trivandrum. Well mallus let’s just say like to have their gold chains without the shirts on while the marwadi would rather sleep in his banyan on a mattress stuffed with five hundred rupee notes.

If you switch on the vernacular channels you get a fair idea of the business scene of the state by looking at the ads. I would say that 80% of the ads that you see in Malayalam channels are either related to property or to Jewellery (and recently ayurvedic creams and oils which cure everything from arthritis to zits) . And these are I guess the richest groups in the state. The nouveau-riche constituted by the property developers and the traditionally rich jewellery owners. Both these groups have inherent ties to the western shores of the Arabian sea. The few exceptions from this that we have heard for long are I guess the V Guard and the Manorama families. And the hoardings that line the national highway 47 are of jewellery stores, marble and granite shops, hawai chappals, banks or parallel colleges. And maybe we are infact taking a page out of the marwadi tales of success. The money lending business is starting to thrive (no doubt with the strings behind it pulled from the same Arabian shores) like never before with all those NBFCs sprouting up at every junction.

For decades we have been told that wealth is bad. Anybody who dared to create money for himself was assumed to have done so by crook rather than legal means. Wealth it was said wasn’t a social asset. It was for the individual and hence frowned upon.

Over the years mindsets have changed but mentalities haven’t. You can’t just switch over from a mentality that nurtured conservation and mediocrity to competitiveness and business pragmatism.

The mindset has been shaped by several factors not just political. Cultural factors played its role. How many mallu films of the sixties and seventies had themes of factory lockouts, evil rich man turning poor and so on (ahh these were the happy endings of the times). The financial climate had a hand. I’ve heard several times that to be a borrower is a worse sin that probably adultery. And frankly the foundation of any business is borrowed capital in whatever forms.

For decades to come, mallu parents will encourage their children to take up engineering without caring to see 1) if that is where the child’s interests lie or 2) if that’s exactly going to guarantee a safe future for the child; For decades to come mallus will measure success in life in acres of rubber (Things might change faster than that if the ASEAN FTA is implemented as it is); For decades to come mallus will think that an IIT is something slightly different from the ITI that the neighbor’s kid Shankaran went to get his diploma (Somebody once told me of a story when an erstwhile Kerala CM declined an offer from the Central Government to set up an IIT in Kerala saying that we have more than enough ITIs and ITCs in the state to fulfill the need for technical education).

I hope someday the state would stop giving its excuse about the lack of land as a reason for lack of significant enterprise and wake up to the reality that it’s the lack of will that’s the sole impediment. In fact I’m surprised when somebody defined the factors of production (land, labour and capital) they forgot to take into account the primary factor which is “human will”. Well economists never liked anything that can’t be quantified right. How the hell do you measure the power of human will.

But if you broaden your approach and look at it carefully the question is not just about entrepreneurship. It’s about wealth creation and that too over a period of time spanning at least two or three generations or in other words ‘sustained wealth creation’. And the failure is not really just a mallu phenomenon. There’s an inherent problem with the traditional family owned businesses that seems to be the default organization of Indian businesses. The problem of transition. The big family names that you heared in the eighties have gave way to new ones. And this is going to continue. The current crisis in THE HINDU group is a case in point. I feel it’s got something to do with our history where wealth alone is power. Narayana Murthy’s quote that the greatest power about wealth is in giving it away. Any takers?? ()

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.