Besharam bevakoof badtameeZ

Some words – Honest like a honey bee's, pure like a butterfly's and dumb like G.W.Bush's when I run out of stupid similes.

Broken Diamonds.

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“I’m angry. All the time. That’s why I never smiled at you in the lift. I hate the new lifts. The old ones, the ones that remind me of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ were perfect. One could just slam them dead, and smoke away in rage. It always left fellow travelers in a state of confusion. ‘What did I do?’- I could read it off their faces. Why do you have to ask me stupid questions all the while? Why do you care where I worked? Why do you want to know if I’m married? It’s 9.88 seconds on average from the 6th floor to the lobby, and you want to make conversation then and there? Why? Because it is socially acceptable? Well, you know what? I don’t want to be socially acceptable. For all that matters I don’t even care if there is a society. There, I said it.

It never occurred to me that I was special. It never will. Oh yes, the people around me kept telling me that I was. When I could read by two, write by three and remember remarkably well by four. Solid data, and at good retrieval rates. There were a lot of competitions. They were all easy. I wasn’t the smartest, but the others weren’t that smart either. That was my explanation. I hated it all. It involved a lot of standing. Right from waiting for my turn to be asked questions; to waiting for the speeches to end so that I could collect my certificates. I hate standing. I hate queues. For an average 25 year old, I hate a lot of things.

Then there were Ma and Pa. They were nice. Or so I have been told. I don’t recall meeting them. Maybe I was busy learning word roots. That’s how you remember a billion words, by the way. You learn what the root means, and learn a million other small things and learn how they are tied together. Billion words. Any language on earth. Ma- they say was a good teacher; taught English in the neighborhood school. She looks gorgeous in all the pictures I have. Pa was a lawyer. Not sure how good he was in the court, but he must have been a lousy driver. Otherwise I could have had them both around for some time more. I hate truck drivers. Especially the ones who drive fast, and rash.

I was good at chess. Before I stopped playing it five years back. I hate anything with black and white now. I was ruthless in blitzkrieg. They have rankings. You can look up my name. I was good. When I played.

That being said, you can look up my name at a lot of places. The record keepers love me. Loved me. I was always not rude. The latest issues probably wouldn’t have me in them. But the old ones surely would. Look for the ones starting with ‘The youngest… ‘. There would be one complete page, at the very least.

I don’t know why you asked me out. Dates weren’t my thing. Girls aren’t. Romance isn’t. But I don’t recall talking to anyone like I did to you. You don’t make me angry either. Well, not anymore. I was, when you stopped me outside the lift. I don’t know why you are doing this. I am so confused”. He broke down.

“Honey, it is fine. You are panicking. Reception is in two hours. I think you should go change.” She smiled at him lovingly, before ushering him into the room. “Oh also, I knew whom I had stopped at the lift. The newspapers always had photos”

 

Ambareesh Sr Ja

2/6/2015

She’ll give them back. Touchwood.

dancing

Have you ever watched a woman painting? I haven’t. I’m not built for that kind of appreciation. I get mesmerized by a minute of graceful dancing, when I lose myself in oblivion. But admiring paintings is way ahead of my gnat-sized attention span. Let’s reframe this then, shall we?

Have you seen an empty canvas? Have you seen a beautiful painting that made you …

…silent?

The interim, between empty and beautiful- needn’t be interesting. Unless, you could see the painter herself in person. A creative soul making a novel work of art- she would be smiling without knowing it, forgetting for a minute or two to brush away that annoying strand of hair from her face, giving no care for a speck of dirt in her eyes. But sadly this image can take one person at most, and hence this can’t be seen outside this sheet of paper. Still, close your eyes and see her.

I digress. Beauty is truth. But truth is an eventful distraction.

The interim is what I’m trying to recall. I have a beautiful painting, and I had seen the empty canvas. Mind you- the empty canvas was beautiful too- to look at, to touch and smile at. I was happy with my empty canvas. But once while I was looking at my empty canvas, a painter walked in. She was beautiful, as all painters are. Clad in pearl white, she sung me to sleep. I slept. And slept. And I slept some more.

I am looking up now, and the canvas is beautiful. I don’t want my empty canvas now. I realize that canvases were never meant to be empty. But I can’t remember how long I had slept. I am a bit worried, for I can’t see the painter around. The canvas in itself is interesting. There’s a slice of  the sweetest orange, next to a sparkling glass of champagne and a pearl white painter’s brush.

Now I wanted to see the painter. I needed a favor. I didn’t know where to look. So I slept, I wasn’t tired, but it seemed right to just sleep.

I slept some more. I woke up.

There was a green fountain pen in the canvas now. I hid the other three, the pen looks ugly. I  took a peek at the brush. Too white. The glass looks too sparkly and the orange too sweet. I take a step back. Now the four of them together; look, well-very odd. But they fit. It’s kind of beautiful. I love the canvas.

But now the painter walks in. She needs to borrow the canvas. I oblige.

She says she needs the slice and the glass for a while.

She says she’ll give them back.

She is trustworthy, but the pen and the brush look very sad.

I am too.

I will miss the slice of orange and the glass of champagne, a lot.

They are the best I have.

With love to you two, Sr Ja.

17/04/2015

Cigar

Cigar_by_seankate

“Have you been fucked… Neel?”

The question lingered in the smoke that had ejected with the words, and it seemed to hang there forever, before– “No.”

The pause should have been awkward, since there were just two of us in the room, and my name wasn’t Neil. Or Nilak. Or Neelakanta, or anything that could be shortened to Neel. Still, the name wasn’t as important as the question. Maybe the wrong address, quickened the lie.

“I’d thought so…. Ever…..  Ever smoked a cigar?” the voice was dreary and rugged, and had seen its share of fire and ash to get that rasped edge. Blunt but not broken, sonorous yet not strong.

“A Cuban? No. I don’t think so.”

No thinking, on these terms, Steve- go on, take a bite- and don’t worry- these ain’t Communist! Hahaaahhh…..”

The laughter was a full one, one that rung in the air and forced you to join in, even if the idea wasn’t remotely funny. The wrong name did not bother me this time – not enough to refuse the offered packet. A pleasant hour of silence passed. Red light seeped in through the broad tainted glass. The windows were fastened, but transparent. There were hardly any furniture on the floor, unless you counted a broken sofa. It must have belonged to an old lady, downtown. She must have made that embroidered sheet- pieces of it still clung on- as if reluctant to leave a carcass. She must have sat through the monsoon, with her cat by her side. The cat might have died, and it was probably still inside the sofa. Nothing else would explain the room’s odour.

“You know why they banned these? Hah, Reed? All these……? Alcohol…. And cocaine, and….. Smoke….and cigarettes and … whiskey…. And women… and whiskey?”

“Women aren’t ba-”

“YOU know why? Because these- make us men- make you, alive. And they are all afraid of the living. They all want you dead and broken and …. Lifeless. Not the live ones, Oh no no, never, ever-”

The clock chimed ten times, and he kept muttering through it all, and while it subsided- I couldn’t wrap my head around his words. There was no pressing need to clarify, or any assurance that he’d remember whatever he had blabbered. He took a long draught and let a sheet of smoke rise up through the nostrils, clouding his eyes. That technique-It was called something fancy, something after France- I could never recollect the trivialities. It was terribly annoying.

Another hour of sullen silence, yet the train of thought hadn’t past the last bridge, fully. Oblivion and pleasurable bliss were banned to keep us dead inside? Couldn’t be. How could something dead, care? Be cared for? How could something dead fall in-

“You fallen in luv, Bran? Ever? Huh?” The gruffly old beard, could read my mind now. Great.

“Yes, Guv’nr. Yes. Over and over and over again- a hundred times the very least.”

“Hahaaahhh! Good for you, son, good for…..”

It was true.  Every single day, every single time I killed the ones I was paid to – I fell in love. Especially the brave ones. I had a choice. Indeed I did. To walk away and meet a wife and kiss her and cry on her lap like a baby. But I wasn’t a strong man- I could never cry. Couldn’t shed a drop, even when they slit her throat and dropped her at the doorstep.

That was the second time I’d fallen in love. And since then, every single time I let the crimson warm color drip, I fell in love. It was magical.

The clock struck twelve.

“Mind if I borrow these, Guv’nr? You won’t be smoking no more” He nodded drunkenly.

I stood up.

Next morning while washing the blood stained shirt, I got it. French Inhalation- that’s what it was called.

-Sr Ja [22/12/14]

Et tu brutal?

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                               I find it difficult to say ‘No’. It’s my Achilles heel. Not that it’s my only one- imagine a human centipede with thousand feet, and this is a particularly rotten heel. It crudely influences the way I think, act and in some chronic cases – even speak. I avoid confrontations as much as possible and when I absolutely have to, I make it as brief as possible. No blowing off steam to instil fear, no pulling smug faces to induce guilt. There were instances when I rarely did, but then those were really desperate times. All the other while my default excuse was – “Char log dekhenge toh kya sochenge?” (*what will others think?)

Tch Tch. Such an average Joe.

Hard decisions. How do you make hard decisions? How do you decide whose head would roll when they wake up on a pleasant Monday morning, unaware in bliss? At what point does being conscientious cross over to brutality? Funny how our brains are hard wired to ask the wrong questions, all the time.

Cruelty is remarkable. One, among very few things, that truly depends on perspective. It closely resembles a diamond. The bright emanating rays are due solely upon the way you hold it up in the light.

Take a deep breath, lean back and look away from the silver screen for a moment. Go into that Sherlock-esque mind palace of yours; it might not be as well illuminated as his, but you can still find your way around. Move into those dark nooks and corners, struggle past a few sticky cobwebs. There you shall find them, buried deep underneath those dusty scrolls, where they were conveniently forgotten. Now you see them, vivid and clear. All those deeds of blood curdling savagery.

Did you just shake your head in disbelief, mocking my self-righteous rant? You did. You just pulled a come-on-I’m-too-sweet-for-this smirk! Go on- dim the lights, tilt the screen, look at your image, turn to your good side and fake a smile. Hey! You look so adorable. How convincing!

Bollocks.

Perspective. Being on the right side of the wrong wall.  Nothing is ever the way it seems. A routine act for a spider is “ …chaos to a fly”.

But let this all not alarm you. If it wasn’t for all this ‘perfect imperfections’ wouldn’t we all be boring empty bottles of wine?

Remember the diamond analogy? Ruthlessness has its own matchless value. How do you think we outlived those gigantic flesh eating monsters? We suffered, we let suffer. We survived, we had to.  There wasn’t really another choice.

  Sweet are them pair of eyes,

That didn’t see those bloody nails.

Aren’t only those wise,

Who don’t hide their lies?

But that was long long ago, and I don’t see the point of it all now. Maybe I am an average Joe after all, I don’t get the bigger picture, God bless the rest.

Greed may be good, I’m not so sure of cruelty. I don’t mind a bunch of Gekko-s, but another Hitler? No, Thank you.

-Sr Ja

(May the souls of those little angels who perished in the horrific Taliban Peshawar school massacre, rest in peace)

Rooted Lives

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Mamma kept insisting that plants had feelings.

Despite holding a doctorate to her credit, she held a few staunch beliefs that could barely be termed scientific. Being the prime fighter for rationality and logic in my small household, defeating her in pseudo-intellectual debates had become my life’s mission. Women, in addition to their superior peripheral vision, are gifted with an amazing repertoire of ways to win arguments. Dealing a royal flush is easy as opposed to proving your point.

So I ask- if that’s so, “You, being a vegetarian, are equally guilty of being cruel, right?” She rolls her eyes, withdraws and murmurs something about ‘always thinking  of food’, leaving me unsatisfied. While I’m thinking of something imaginative, yet immune to such theatrics, she proceeds to narrate incidences which prove her point.

Exhibit A: The mango tree in our front yard. Apparently ‘she’ (don’t even ask!) gave us a precious bunch of mangoes three summers ago. Granny, acting purely out of kindness, donated a couple to our mango-less neighbors. That the tree has stubbornly refused to bless us with mangoes ever since, is a fact. According to my mother however, ‘she’ is pissed, and might favor us when ‘she’ grows older and, hence obviously, wiser.

Exhibit B: The hibiscus plant which flowers when I get home. Though I argued that flowers are seasonal and  my visits were too, it once bore a healthy blood-red beauty when I visited home in the middle of a semester- uncanny. The long commute between Goa and my hometown is a dampener to my intentions of proving that, this particular piece of flora has no surreal awareness about my travel plans.

I have heard about plants having heartbeats or a pulse or another equivalent, I’m a bit hazy on the details. It does seem plausible, but…

To be pinned to a spot all your life. To serve everyone in all ways possible. To die with no qualms and still be a boon to the living. Altruism cannot be better portrayed.

I had often wondered why mothers should love their children. Could it be that they are afraid of societal wrath if they do not? Most of us as children were, and some of us still are and will be, selfish bastards. Hence the oft quoted – “…with a _____, only a mother can love”. Seems such a raw deal. Maybe love means a lot more than those four letters could ever represent.

Indian women across the centuries have been the trusted trees who nurtured our culture and nudged it forward quietly.

Not that they are weak or need any protection.

But we all have stood under one’s shade or planted another.

Let us take a step back, and open our eyes, to mend our ways.

 

Stop pinching their leaves, peeling their barks.

 

Be a real husband, father, brother, son.

 

Be a real man.

 

 Inspired by : https://medium.com/human-parts/a-gentlemens-guide-to-rape-culture-7fc86c50dc4c

 Disturbed by : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uiQ3EQBN_w

Lazarus

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Sunlight peeped in through a narrow slit on the wall near the square window. Windows and doors served no real calling for the shackled soul. They held their charm for the unchained- for them it was a source of ­­­­hope- a flickering, but charming ray of hope. For Martin however, hope was a long forgotten feeling. He remembered it as something wonderful, much like the lust for warm flesh, which he had felt somewhere deep inside, long back. It was all long gone, like a summer rain, pleasant but pointless. The sweet memory was its purpose maybe, but he did not care anymore.

The wall was covered with lines of charcoal. Thin short black lines made in bunches of four, crossed out by a diagonal one to mark a fifth. He had ran out of coal a long while ago. Probably five years or a few more before, he wasn’t sure. It couldn’t have mattered less, he had ran out of space anyway. He forgot when he had started counting the days inside the cell. It was surely when he was all set to get out, and go on – thirsty for life. The guards mocked his enthusiasm and fiery spirit. In a stinking rat hole where two grown men could hardly lie together in comfort, he tried to keep himself strong and fit. “This chap has gone bonkers”, a sergeant said when he had seen him running to and fro inside the cell. “Doesn’t he remind you of a mouse?” cackled another- but panting under the weight of his own mass he had muttered through clenched teeth- “They are coming for me, and that day you will all know”.

Quite unlike in the movies, they never came. There was no great escape. No clever ploy to worm out through a hole in the wall behind a Raquel Welch poster. He never accepted his fate for a long time. He could never give up, the spark had to stay alive. He almost strangled a prison guard who brought food, for a chance remark that he – “..like all fallen rebels, is a coward”. A brief visit from the duty office later, he could whistle through the gap in his bleeding front teeth.

­ Political prisoners were never freed, for they were traitors to the nation. The affairs of the state were most confusing for the police personnel. If the regime fell, the prisoners of today would flay them alive tomorrow and they could well share the darkness with the current top hats. In all fairness, the scepter had changed hands four times in the last quarter of the century alone- permanence, peace and prosperity being promised to the people each time. The current reign however was remarkably different, and they all felt it quite early. Le Nouveau, or The New One; as he was popularly known, was ruthless like none before him. He was meticulous in his planning, prudent in his ways and impossible to predict. Within weeks of his ascent the corrupt bureaucrats had disappeared without a trace, and no one bothered to enquire further. He held his ‘friends’ close with terror and his enemies closer, with pain. Any bearers of the old ideologies were either wiped out or condemned to indefinite imprisonment, like Martin.

He was tortured, long after he told them what he knew, well aware that he couldn’t possibly reveal anything that they hadn’t realized already. Still the screws turned, nails cracked and blood dripped. He had to denounce his beliefs and fall in line. They took him apart inch by inch, and finally broke him down.  He screamed for mercy, plead forgiveness and professed his loyalty. Everyone loved The New One, it wasn’t a question of choice.

 

The door creaked open letting in a painful stream of light and unfamiliar noises. Like a ­blind born piglet hiding under its mother sow – he ducked his head behind the stinking closet. He suffered from hallucinations lately. Sensory deprivation and regular blows could compete with any drug. It was all in your head after all- like his father used to say.

A jab to his ribs made him double up in agony.

“Get your stuff, sign the papers and leave these clothes at the gate.” His manners hadn’t changed, though he had put on weight since their last encounter. But again he couldn’t be very sure, there was so much blood trickling down to his eyes then.

“Today?” he gasped, rubbing his side. Hallucinations weren’t accompanied by bruises, usually.

“Now! On your feet. I do have other work to do, you know? Ungrateful swine!” he spat, turned on his heels, and the noise subsided as fast as it had risen. The door was left open, and a guard outside- polishing his rifle, looked at him with disdain.

What he saw, thought Martin, as he staggered up clutching the wall for support, was a pile of bones and skin. What he saw, struggling to stay on its stick legs, was barely human. One couldn’t blame the guard- he was nothing but the uniform he was wearing. Uniforms never had eyes.

‘…….has been granted on the lines that the aforementioned shall not indulge in any form of anti-national activity, which includes propagation of…….’ Quickly signing on all the papers, he extended his arm, returning the pen- signaling that he was done.

“You better not come back”,  said the young sergeant as he struck his listing off the rolls.

“I sure won’t. And you better not forget my name”. He smiled. The uniform frowned and led him outside.

 

He got a carving knife for ten francs near the capital.

“How do I get to the Élysée Palace, son?” The kid pointed east.

“Hasta la victoria siempre”- he winked and walked on, whistling through that gap in his teeth.

 

▲▲▲

 

 “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting” –  Ernesto Che Guevara 

Being Indian

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Dear Steph,

How have you been? I hope you are as happy, healthy and vibrant as when I first met you and I wish the same for all the people that you care about and who care for you.

As I recall reading not a long while ago, time and space are relative. Though you may claim to know it already, I’m pretty sure that most of the people I know are not aware of the magnitude of this relativeness.Time and space- they pass way more swiftly as we get older. Take a 4 year old kid and his father for example. Imagine him crying for candy around noon, and the strict Dad asks him to finish his meal first. One year for the kid is 25% of his life time (so far). The same is about 10% for his father. When the kids are ordered to wait for a couple of hours for their goodies, what grown-ups don’t realize is the fact that it is equivalent to making them wait for a cup of coffee for half a day or more. I’ve heard of couples who got divorced for less than that.

I would love it if you were to keep the above relativeness in mind while reading the rest of the letter. On a later date, and from a later perspective- anything and everything mentioned here may look, sound or feel different. It is due to the state of transience we live in.

How is it to be an Indian?

A seemingly simple question that you threw across my cognizance has snowballed into something that forced me to get lost in my last score years of memory.

Imagine living in a country which hosts 1 billion people and 1500 languages. From Ayyavazhi, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism to Zoroastrianism I can safely presume that there is a religion for every letter of the alphabet- and some of them originated here and spread far out into the world. This is just the beginning. Soon ‘Indian’ would literally be used in favor of the word ‘diverse’. Make a note. You heard it here first.

In India, if one were to sit in an express train and take a nap, she might wake up in a place where the spoken word is unspeakable and the food unrecognizable- even if you were truly Indian in all respects. The beauty is, this might happen if you go in any of the four cardinal directions; the outcome being different every time. Never be startled if you run into fifty different type of Indians, and I am sure you are to meet a dozen more. Ten years ago, if you chose a set of twenty people across the world- one would be an Indian. By 2015 one in seven would probably be an Indian. As someone jovially pointed out, this is indeed a unique way of world domination. We’ll all jive to different music, lick clean a million different delicacies, wear a thousand traditional clothes unique to their last strand, and pray to one among the 330 million Gods that are supposedly praised in our holy scripts.

We invented the zero.

We boast of the richest men and the filthiest of slums.

A majority of my fellow countrymen may not give a hoot for any kind of sports, except for cricket. We are yet to qualify for a soccer world cup, but when a man named Sachin Tendulkar used to walk down to bat, even the million Gods stopped to watch.

Here broad mindedness may still be a rare quality. Remnants of  parental control run through our genes, and with the turn of the millennium all of them wanted their progeny to be engineers or doctors. Marriages are ‘arranged’ for you by your elders and someone might still question the need for ‘finding’ your soul mate yourself, and so you might very well sleep with a person you’d no idea existed a month ago, on your nupital bed. Mini skirts are frowned upon, and rape is often seen as the victim’s fault.

However, what makes people interesting are the things that they love and not the ones they hate. Nine out of ten movies we make might qualify as musicals according to western standards. But I admire the way the colourful songs celebrate love and life, no matter how ridiculous the lyrics may sound. I love the fact that we are so strongly bonded to our roots, and the proud heritage. That marriages last for decades, till death does them part. That most families that I know of take care of their previous generations with love and respect. That even if you don’t have a dime of money in your pocket, you can survive for weeks. [Unbelievable? The Golden Temple of  Amritsar, Punjab (A state in Northern India) – provides food for a hundred thousand people irrespective of their sex, religion, cast, creed or birthplace. Every. Single. Day]

I thought of a hundred things to tell you about my country when I had first heard your question, and a million more by the time I picked up my pen. I could ramble on about the gorgeous places and the culture and the cuisine and ….the rest of the million things. But all of this is easy to find. What I think would be beyond staring, at this peninsular nation through a satellite-run-periscope, is understanding the way it makes you feel. Imagine your favorite type of music blasting in your ears from a set of headphones. Literally to the brain numbing level. Believe that happening to all of your senses. Add to it the enormous magnitude of size, novelty and diversity. There you have the recipe of this amazing country.

 

Incredible India!

 

Where everyone is truly alive.

 

 

Yours lovingly,

Ambareesh Sr Ja.

 

SPLITTING HAIRS

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Realistic Pessimist        : …….by Jove, that wasn’t in the least rational mate.

Imaginative Optimist   :  I know, but a good hearty laugh never killed anybody, ya? You heard of the Tennis Racquet Theory?

RP:  Never. Tell me about it.

IO:  It was something I read about…in a….. erm…..

RP:  It is something you made up on your own yesterday then. Go on.

IO:  Well. Yeah. Heh! How do you know that?

RP:  You blink a lot when you are bluffing.

IO:  Me? What? Ridiculous! Well the theory goes like this – You are put on earth to excel at one thing- one and only one thing. No matter what you want, your purpose is pre-defined and pre-determined.

RP: I have an objection to-

IO: Wait a minute dear sir! An example would clear the whole thing up. Take up Andy Murray, the Tennis genius! Have you seen his sweet serve? Now say you are….. Alistair cook- the best batsman on earth.

RP: THE best? Forgot a chap called Sachin?

IO: I said ‘earth’, did I not? Are you even listening to me?

RP: Apologies.

IO: So you are Cook. Now imagine Cook’s father to be this annoying knob head, who forces him to work his socks off in tennis when he’s young. According to my theory-

RP: Do you happen to possess a sound scientific mind?

IO: Definitely. In fact I have a graph to explain the example with, only if you would let me-

RP: In that case how can you-

IO: Be patient dear sir! I knew you’d pounce on me like this. Let me finish. So irrespective of how hard the little Cook works on his slices and serves he shan’t match Murray. Because he was meant to cut and drive on a cricket pitch in the first place.

RP: All that is fine but-

IO: In a moment dear sir! I know exactly what you are trying to say. Exceptions to the rule, right? This is where the graph comes in.

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So you see, Cook can get to be Awesome, but he’ll take ages to cook his way up. But Murray will reach there in no time. Cook picked up the wrong toy. It is all about picking the right ‘racquet’. The racquet here ofcourse, is a metaphor for our purpose in life. It can be a brush, a pen, a chisel etc. Are you getting the feel of the theory?

RP: Not quite. You see, all I have to say is that-

IO: Hold your horses dear sir! Surely you aren’t missing the practicality of this amazing line of thought. Ever heard of the adage- “You ought to know when to stop beating a dead horse”? I am telling you that there is no need to ride a dead horse to start with!

RP: As much as I appreciate your progressive thinking, it wasn’t the argument that I-

IO: Indulge me for an instant dear sir! I presume that you were not able to follow me entirely. I will put forth another analogy to expl-

RP: WILL YOU SHUT UP FOR CHRISSAKES?

IO: Ahem. Yeah. I shall. You were saying something?

RP:  SINCE YOU JUST BLOODY MADE IT UP, how can it be a THEORY? Isn’t it fundamentally wrong to call it a GODDAMN THEORY? You barmy parrot-brained muppet; it is a HYPOTHESIS. What you have is the TENNIS RACQUET HYPOTHESIS. Get it?

The frowning face of IO, quickly re-materialized into that of my mom, who had been trying to wake me up for the last ten minutes.

P.S – The ownership rights to the intellectual development of the Tennis Racquet Hypothesis goes to my dear friend Rahul Krishnan (M.Sc, B.E). Thanks pal 🙂

 

RICHIE RICH!

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Sitting on the coveted window seat in a train to campus, looking out of a bleak-looking pane, I was at peace. The feeling of serenity had started to seep in right from the moment when I’d discovered a plug point to charge my laptop. To say that my, once-brand-new, gadget had passed its prime would be an understatement. A flickering TFT screen, a battery life mathematically equivalent to DiCaprio’s luck at the Academy, a touch pad that responds to knocks in the order of kilo-newtons; had become its salient features. But then the old man, he still runs- well, at least walks.

AC three-tiers smell nice (nice being a relative term here, we are talking about the Indian Railways), they are clean and the fans, lights- mostly function satisfactorily. The cherry on top? Big blue cotton curtains that ensure privacy! Might come in handy for Rom-Juliets with plans of playing tonsil hockey when the mood ensues- Life, as they say, is full of interesting possibilities.All said and done, the ambiance was pleasant-ish. Made one feel rich, I might as well add.

Like any other educated middle class Indian teen, being wealthy is a concept of which I have definite and unshakable beliefs-Not plain wealthy, na-ah.Filthy rich. Just enough notes of 1000 to fill a swimming pool-half a dozen unpretentious palaces-with enough servants to make a living chessboard-a page solely devoted to one’s news in all the local tabloids-widely publicized philanthropic drives-a private Boeing.A pet elephant (white one of course!) wouldn’t be a bad idea.Rest I need fill in after consulting Stark Enterprises.

Come on! In a world of at least a million millionaires, wouldn’t it be a shame if a Porsche didn’t sleep in your porch?

No.

It wouldn’t be.

Want to know why?

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[The following account is a flashback- the reader is requested to imagine in black and white and adjust to the below par sound quality. Sincere apologies for the grievances caused]

Turning a corner I noticed some irregularities in my cycle. The front tyre, to my dismay, wasn’t looking healthy. Much in need was a repair shop, but the commute to the nearest would take at least 20 minutes on two legs and a wheel. For lack of choice, I started on my journey cursing fate, using the choicest of expletives. Under a scorching sun, and minus all the fluids in my body, I reached my destination; sweaty and impatient. I was already late for class and a ‘deflated tyre’ didn’t stand high in the list of valid excuses.

Answering my high-decibel summons, out came a kid. Not more than 4,I’d reckon. Covered almost completely in grease; he wasn’t exactly Peter Pan to look at. Barely reaching my knees, chewing what I assumed to be some local variant of ‘paan’, he looked up at me in defiance and said-

“What do you want?”                                       *spits out something to the side*

“Uh.. Is there any way I can get some air filled in t…”

“Haan, wait!”                                                      *waltz behind the door to get the pump, with which he emerges (the plastic pipe was longer than him), and proceeds to use his entire body weight for the down stroke of the piston. Checks the air in the tyre amid-st alternate strokes, which gives him time to catch his breath as well .Convinced of a job well done –

“You got money, na? No credit!”                 *aggression written all over the greasy face

“Eh…I do, how much?”                 *me- visibly shaken

“2 rupees!”                                                        *spits again

“Oh…ohk”                                         *me- visibly relieved, takes out a 10 rupee note

“Gimme coins. Got no change!”                  *expression of disgust, maybe because he ran out of stuff to spit

“You can keep the change”

(A pair of widened eyes, a mixture of disbelief and wonder – I saw it for a second. Or two and..)

“Yeah right! Didn’t you get me? NO CHANGE! Gimme 2 rupees and clear off”

“Keep the change. It’s okay”

The expression of happiness that dawned on his face was pure. Trust me, he was glowing. Two rows of blackened teeth-a dimpled smile-gave away his innocence. I mounted the bike, and went on; looking back a few meters ahead, I could still see him gazing lovingly at the note.

Ten INR is all I need for a pack of Lays. A premium coffee, which I would throw away if I didn’t like the taste. A token for a run on the video game in the mall. An extra pack of mayonnaise. But for that matter, when was the last time spending money made me happy? Why couldn’t the feeling of owning a new garment, drown the curtness I feel on spending on it? Why do I see everything in terms of money? Why do we measure everyone in terms of paychecks and figures? And why isn’t happiness permanent? And why is life so fucked up more often than not? Darn. Depressing.

Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I’m looking at it all wrong.

Money and Happiness.

Maybe it’s not about the numbers.

Maybe being rich is not about being rich, after all.

Does that mean the kid is richer than …?

I felt strangely happy on this new line of Economic thought. Chuckle.

                                                                                §§§

Oh, for the record-afterwards, I took the next U-turn and headed back home. After all, I did deserve a holiday after meeting Richie Rich!

Ambareesh Sr Ja

(My first one to get published :D. BITS Annual Magazine, Sizzling Sands 2014)

STRINGS

Image

Ashwin

Shouldn’t have worn this shirt, bloody! Now that I’m all sweaty it looks more brown than red”, he muttered, walking down the steep slope. Cow dung everywhere and they don’t even bother to clean it up. Appa* keeps complaining about this guy called Corporation. Some big-shot. Seems like he’s not doing a lot of things he is supposed to be in charge of. Last week while playing with little Jaanu- we were pouring water over each other- Amma** came running out to chase us away, shouting all the while – the Corporation‘ guy again, was not giving us enough water apparently. Ruined a jolly afternoon.                                                            (*Dad **Mom)

After what seemed like thousand hours, he could see the house in a distance. Above the gate hung a board, and on it, neatly written underneath a serene looking picture of Goddess Saraswati- ‘Mantraalaya Sangeetha Nirtha Padhanashaala*’. Climbing quickly up the stairs, as fast as his 14 year old feet could, he took his spot right next to the window. Just like every week.              (*Mantralaya Music and Dance Academy)

He was earlier than usual, by about half an hour. Nirmal had got suspicious. That sly smile and knowing look. Never could trust the fellow. Always sweet talking Ammalu mami* into buying him ice creams. Weird set of friends, he had. There was Kichu, the big show off. Fastest in school. Keeps snatching stuff from others and sprinting away. Then there was Mahesh a.k.a Thadiyan**. Fat as a pig, but thinks he’s Mohan Lal- big movie buff. His Appa, Narayanan uncle owns a saloon nearby. So he gets to read film magazines every week. Meenakshi, his twin sister is our M.S Subbulakshmi. She doesn’t sing any nice songs though. But everyone keeps saying she’s gifted. Odd.    (*aunt   **fatso)

And then there is me. I was born in Edavam* and that too on a very lucky day. ‘Raajayogam**’- the astrologer had said. Everyone says I’ll become an engineer. Manu chettan*** is an engineer and he has a bike. He goes out every morning, wearing a big helmet and vroooom…a puff of smoke and he’ll be gone. A real sight! Being an engineer seems real fun. Riding bikes and all. But should get a red one; Manu chettan already has a black one. People shouldn’t get confused.   (*April **Auspicious  ***Elder brother )

Thwack’. He almost fell off the tall chair. Had dozed off and somebody had opened the window across the street with brutality. It was still early for class to begin. There were just two other students and they always came late. He peeped outside, opening the window a little, just enough so that he could see the terrace of Mr Verma’s house. No. No sign of her.

You are already here? How dedicated! I had told Mrs. Menon that you were doing really well”. Sir had come and he quickly got off his chair. Freckled and silver haired, but always with a smile on his face, Kuruppu mash* reminded him of a lion a mighty ole one. He was a wizard, with a violin in his hands. He would close his eyes and start playing. Sad, slow melodies at first, nostalgic. Quickly picking up pace, he would hop on to a different tune, unannounced. And then another and another and….he could play for hours. A true genius and he expected such standards from his students too. “So where did we stop last time? ……”                 (*Sir)

♠♠♠

He placed his letter behind the stairs leading up to her house. Like every week. He was starting to doubt the whole point of this exercise. He had been writing his precious letters for over a year. Now, one year is a very long time. A long long time. Letters were hard to write too. After the first three he had run out of content. Not that the initial ones were dripping with Dickensian quality, but then he did have stuff to say. Like how pretty she was. Like how he loved her doe eyes. The wavy hair, the dimpled smile. The smile. Sigh. It was a pain to watch her smile. Beautiful.

A purring cat was curling up near his feet. It was an omnipresent witness to his barely existent love life. He read the letter once more. Frowning, he mouthed a curse. It wasn’t impressive. If only they would teach useful things at school, like penning one of these? He had tried poetry once. But had a hard timing finding words that rhymed with love- except for stove. And dove. And cow. They didn’t really fit in with the theme, so he chucked it. He wished he was invisible; that way he could linger unnoticed and make sure that she read them. Wish wish wish. He folded the letter neatly and placed it behind the broken brick. The street was empty except for the burly boys playing cricket. They were too engrossed to spy on him anyway. Bangles; he had almost forgotten them. This was Jaanu’s idea. He hadn’t got the gist of it, yet. But maybe it was a girl thing. He placed them beside the letter, and walked away whistling.

♠♠♠

Ammu

It was almost sunset when they had all gone. Nosy parkers these boys were. Always meddling in things. She came hopping down the stairs, and then stepped out onto the road. Made sure no one was around, turned and ducked behind the stairs, to claim her treasure.

The sun was too dim to match the brightness of her oval face.

 

♠♠♠

[14 years later]

Kuruppu Sir

Resting on his arm chair, he opened the invitation letter. It was artfully done. The Ganesha on top was glowing in the light. Calligraphy with glittering ink. Judging from the cover, the people concerned must be very rich- he made a mental note.

Fetch me those glasses, will you Supriya?”. Since the last attack, his eyes had become real weak. Couldn’t read a word these days without four eyes.

Wedding? Whose? I can finally wear the red silk one that Lekshmi bought me this Onam* “,  she gave him his spectacles.             (*A festival)

Yeah yeah, you should. In fact, make sure that you look very very special. Celebrities will be around. Ashwin Menon is getting married”, he said beaming.

Our Ashwin? Your student? The star?”

My very own little maestro”

And the bride?”

It says Amrusha Verma. Remember the Vermas, who used to live opposite us? Didn’t they call their little darling Ammu?….”

♠♠♠

-Sr Ja