Thursday, July 31, 2008

MY FIRST...

I have always hated growing up. I think life is always in phases. First, you have childhood. You are an infant; you grow up, see new things, meet new people, and learn new things. It’s pretty awesome.

Then you grow even more and out of your teens. That’s it. By then you know your stuff. You know who's good and who's bad. You know what to do with your life, and where to get the cheapest Paav Bhaaji. Life becomes stagnant.

The only new thing left to experience is getting married and having kids.

This thought made me ponder. When was the last time something happened to me that made me go, "Hey, that has never happened to me before”? So, this month I am going to dedicate to "My first...".Its going to be an account of all the things that happened to me for the first time and how they happened. My first crush, my first book, my first embarrassing moment, my first kiss, my first movie, my first peg of alcohol, my first pizza, my first pair of jeans, my first cricket bat, my first speech, my first guilt...


MY FIRST EMBARASSING MOMENT:

Let me start with my forte, embarrassing situations. Now, some people just have the talent. It’s like Lycra. You either have it or you don’t. And Yours Truly? HAS IT!!

I have had countless embarrassing situations. Like accepting a prize from the Principal and my tongue cleaner falling from my trouser pocket with a loud clang. Or meeting a guy with a new crew cut and telling him, “Hey dude, nice hairstyle”, only to realize his dad had passed away a few weeks earlier. I am an expert at it. Right through my childhood, I can recall countless experiences when I have made a fool of myself in public.

But this one is my earliest memory and I thought I should share it with you.

I never went to school as a kid. My dad taught me all the basics at home. It was fun, I could study with him. He was a very cool dad. But then I was to join a school from Class 1 and they needed that I have gotten enrolled in some school earlier. So I was admitted in a school here for 6 months, for a course called “Prep”. I still don’t know what that means.

Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t have gone to the school even for the 6 months. The incidents there scarred me forever. The school was pretty decent. Classes till 11 ‘o’ clock, then they let you play what you wanted and then I could go home standing in the front of my dad’s scooter. I always heard his voice telling me from the back of my head, “Puppu, don’t fall asleep, keep your eyes open.” There was something about a hot afternoon, the wind blowing my hair back, and the continuous drone of the Bajaj scooter. It put me to sleep in minutes. To add to the fun, my dad always rode the scooter very slowly. I am sure even bicycles overtook us on the way, but I was never awake to notice that.

I used to go to a Christian woman for tuitions. She was the one who taught me how to speak in English. The woman was very kind. I remember her urging me to read Tinkle at her home. She always fed me sweets, biscuits, and pastries when I went to her house for tuitions. Either she loved kids, or she charged an exorbitant rate for the tuitions that included the snacks.

Anyway, turns out I had joined the school during the most exciting time of the year. There were a lot of games and competitions going on then. One of them was the Fancy Dress competition.

Now, if you were a family, and you had a kid, and the kid had a fancy dress competition to go to, what would you make your kid go dressed as?

There were a lot of things I would have loved to be. Police officer, train engine driver, cricketer, or Mithun Chakroborty. My cousins tell me that as a kid, I always wanted to be Mithun Chakroborty. He was my idol. I mean, for someone as bad looking as he was, he danced with pretty girls, bashed up the baddies, and sang songs. I would have loved to dress up as Mithun and go and shout out in front of everyone, “Ayee…Maa Kasam...”

All my suggestions were turned down. And my great parents, what did they finally decide that I should be dressed as? Believe it or not, I was to be dressed as a crow!! Yes, a crow!!

I agreed, because Dad always knew what he was doing. They convinced me that I was going to be the show-stealer, so I was pretty kicked about it. Preparations began 3 days before the actual event. I was taken to the tuition madam. As if one wasn’t enough, I was now the subject of 3 persons’ creatitivity. Mom, Dad, and the teacher.

The day arrived. I was first made to wear the basics. A black shirt and a black pant. (If they left it at that, I could probably go as ‘The Undertaker’). Then, they attached a very suspicious thing to my arm. It was black, thick and nothing like what I had seen all my life. It was made of cardboard and paper. Another congruent piece was attached to my left arm too. Then, I got it. My lovely parents…They gave me wings!!!

As if that wasn’t enough, next came the feather in the cap, the jewel of the crown. The beak of the crow!! Made of cardboard, it was about half a foot long and had an elastic band at the back so it could be strapped on to my face. Once she was done, my teacher moved a few paces back and inspected me and said, “Hmmm…beautiful. (I was elated. Nobody had called me that before) you are going to win”. I was over the moon. I had never won anything. Quite simply because I had never participated in anything earlier.

“Flap your wings, go on”, she urged me. I did that. “Okay, now for your dialogue. Repeat after me,” she said. “Kkaaa, kkaaa. I am the thirsty crow.”

“Kkaaa, kkaaa. I am the thirsty crow.” I repeated after her, with earnest. Oh! You should have seen me. I was like Shaimak Davar. Flapping my wings, cawing like a crow, mouthing my dialogues and frantically looking for the pot of water I would throw stones into. I was a man-made wonder.

Ready to kick everyone’s ass, I was rearing to go. The teacher stuffed a last sweet into my mouth and kissed me goodbye. I was already late for the show.

Now that I think of it, my dad hadn’t lost it completely. He had the sense not to take me on his scooter that day. Imagine what a sight it would have been. Man, Woman, and Crow. The other extreme of Family Planning! So anyway, I was taken to school in a rickshaw that day.

I was excited and my heart was probably beating as fast as a crow. (Getting into character, see?) We finally reached the school compound. We were late. I rushed into the building. The competition had nearly begun.
Everybody had to go on to the stage in a few minutes. I looked at everybody else around me. One guy was a policeman, another a hero with a guitar, yet another was an army officer, another, cricketer. The girls were all either princesses or fairies. They all looked smart and suave. Compared to them, I looked like a prop of a low budget play. I still remember thick, hot tears welling up in my eyes. As a child, you are more honest about your feelings. I cried because I was ashamed of my entire costume.

But Nana had accompanied me for show. He was in the audience. He was the producer, creative supervisor, the make up artist, script and dialogue writer. More importantly, he was my Dad. I just didn’t know what to do if I backed out. So, when my turn came, I remember walking on to the stage. I don’t remember if the crowd cheered, booed, or were just plain dumbstruck by the absurdity of it all. My eyes were too filled with tears to notice anything. I looked at him, mouthed my dialogues, and left the stage in a hurry.

Now that I think of it, none of the other guys were innovative. I mean, what’s different about a policeman, or a cricketer? And I could bet my fake beak on the fact that none of the other guys’ dads had stayed up all night preparing their costume with their own hands. Maybe if I had performed properly, I would have even won the competition. But I will never know.

It was probably the first lesson that our parents know much more than we do, at any point of our life.

But on that day, I was glad the damn thing was finally over!!

MY FIRST INJECTION

My life has always been hospital-free. I haven’t had a single sprain, fracture, tear, muscle strain, or a stitch in all my life. I took my first capsule when I was in 5th standard. And even that was a dumb ‘Memory Plus’ tablet that Vishwanath Anand endorsed.

I am dead scared of injections. And all the stitching and dressing and all that. The very sight of scissors, syringes, and scalpels freaks me out. I had my first injection (that I can remember) in Class 3. It was during the holidays.

During my childhood, there was a brand of bubblegum called "Big Babool". The packaging was colourful. They came in various flavours like cream, vanilla, mixed fruit, and they gave off a lot of free goodies. Every pack cost 1 re. There was also the 'Multipack'. It consisted of 6 bubble gums for 5 Rs.

They also gave off small comic books free with every Multipack. These comics contained adventures of a group of kids who were clearly a rip-off from Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five”. They even had a dog that formed part of their gang. The stories were predictable. The kind of stuff you’d expect in comics that you’d find if you were going through your childhood stuff. Using some scientific technique unknown to mankind, the kids got away from the thugs by blowing bubbles. I mean, even Chacha Chaudhry seemed believable compared to these guys. I wouldn’t prescribe it to a kid with learning disabilities.

Of course, I didn’t know all this back then,

I was out with Akka. And I remembered that I had forgotten to collect the free comic book with my ‘Multipack’. So I insisted that we go back and collect it.

She didn’t want to, but I can be a stubborn oaf even if I don’t want to, and so we went back to the store.

The shop stands where it was even today. “Subudhi General Store.” The owner was a bald man with a crooked nose. His teeth were brown because of all the ‘paan’s
he chewed. He always smiled, desperately trying to look kind and friendly. But there’s something suspicious about people who smile all the time. Like Shakuni from Mahabharat.

He had a dog. A white, Pomeranian one. It was a regular, normal dog. You wouldn’t even look at it twice. But not for my sister. She thought the dog was adorable. Whenever she went to the shop, she’d pet the dog and talk to it in that coochie-coo baby language. You know, the “Ulllluuulluuu Chunnu Munnu” gibberish?

“Does it bite?” I asked. “No, he doesn’t. Look at me. Go on, pet him. He likes it.” she urged me.

My sister lived here all her life and met him everyday. I had come here for holidays and had never seen the dog earlier. No one bothered to remind either me or the dog about that. If the dog could speak, he would probably ask me to buzz off.

I stretch my hand to pet it. Unknown to me, the dog, just then, notices a few dogs out on the streets.

Now, a barking dog seldom bites. But a growing dog always does. Another thing I ahould have known.

Before I could pull out my hand, he bit me. I pulled my hand out of his mouth, but not before he had taken off a bit of my skin. I looked at my hand, it was bleeding.

I don’t cry much. That’s not my style. People think those who cry are weak and those who don’t are brave. Well, they don’t know shit. I was scared stiff.

All the stories that I had heard about dog bites came back to me. That if you don’t take an injection, you start behaving like a dog. Or that you had to take 21 injections, and for some reason (probably an aesthetic design), they would be given around your navel. Another one was that you’d make to lie down on your back on the table, and the syringes would be dropped one by one around your navel. That one freaked me out. It seemed like someone’s cruel, perverted idea of a game of darts.

The shopkeeper confirmed by suspicion about his character.

“Don’t worry. We have given the dog all the necessary vaccinations already. Nothing will happen.”

He took out a Band-aid and plastered the wound and sent me home. “Don’t tell anyone. It will heal itself.” The Good Samaritan didn’t even charge for the Band-aid.

I went home. My grandmother was home. Though my sister was making weird expressions and asking me to keep my mouth shut, I told my granny about our adventure.

“Ayyo…Rama…” she said, holding her hand to her wide open mouth. She told my mom, who thrashed me, as if it was my fault that the dog bit me.

I was taken to the doctor. Dr. Jagannath Mahapatra is a very reputed doctor and was also the Mayor of Bhubaneswar for a few years. But he scared children into listening to him. When I was a kid, he used to reprimand me for eating too many chocolates. I hated him.

He was inspecting my wound and making that face again. For some strange reason, the shop-keeper’s words stuck with me. “It was a domestic dog. They had given him all the necessary vaccinations.”

“Yeah? Why didn’t you show him your pinky then? He could have bitten that instead.”

“What’s a pinky?”

But he was busy laughing at his own joke.
He prescribed anti- rabid and anti-tetanus injections. Just 5 of them.

When I returned to school and the teacher was asking all of us if anything exciting
happened during the holidays. It was Shivani mam, she always acted smart.

I narrated the entire incident with some minor changes. The dog was a huge Alsatian and had chased me before biting me.

“Is everything alright now?”

“Yes, mam. Nothing to worry about. The dog was given all the necessary vaccinations.”

“What?” she said. “Who bit whom?”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ONE LIFE AT THE CALL CENTRE...

It was in the year 2004.I was fresh out of High School.Having been successfully kicked out of both my dad's and mom's houses,I need a job.I wanted a job that would pay me well, and that wasn't anything like the dumb 'Tour Operator' work I used to do for my dad.God answered my prayers and the BPO boom happened in India.

Back then,call centres weren't as popular.I was looking for a job that didn't require travelling and I thought this one fit the bill perfectly.On hindsight,I should have realised that if a person named his company "Ripplesoft Ltd.",he couldn't be serious about doing business.(Whenever I told anyone where I worked,they would give me a smile,thinking the name had something to do with the female anatomy !!)

But I was desperate then.So after the initial interviews which I could clear even in my sleep ("Tell me something about yourself?","What is a call centre ?"),I was given the job.


I was the youngest guy in the office.Everybody was as confused as I was,having no clue as to what was going on.I got to meet a lot of interesting people.Krishna Khandelwal (Kishu-an awesome person,and a really good friend ),N.Debashis(who sang really well).There was Jitendra ,who was built like Hercules but had a brain like Obelix.

There was Lakshmi Narayan.He had come from Berhampur,and was an MA in English.There was Surya Narayan,44 years old,half bald and fully mad.He pissed off anyone who came in his way.There was Raj,who was to get married in 6 months and so wanted a job ( The last time I spoke to him,he said "Bloody girls,all they want is money,they don't care about feelings",so I think he is still unmarried).There was Debashis Patnaik,a cool dude Engineering student who was always doped.Monika and Barnali (both pretty but unfortunately elder to me ).There were a lot of other people too,each thinking that he or she was better than everyone else.

Our team leader(TL) was a guy called "Sam" (Santosh Rawat ).He had worked at IBM,Delhi and was all enthusiastic about giving back to his motherland what he had learnt in life.When the poor guy saw the standard of the guys he was supposed to train,I swear I saw tears in his eyes !! It happened like this :

On the day of our 'Orientation Class',he wanted to judge all of us.So,he asked us one by one to come up to the whiteboard and speak about "My Latest Crush".

The first guy went up and spoke " I...we...basically...recently, me and my mother had to travel in Konkan Express.We were late and so couldn't get tickets and so we boarded the General Compartment.There was a lot of rush and push.People were fighting for a place to sit.We had to stand and travel.This was my latest crush..."

When he finished,Sam,me,and Kishu were staring at him with our mouths wide open !!

He was asked to sit,the next person was asked to speak.Sam gave her instructions in his Delhi acquired American accent :

"Wotcha doin',man ? A crush is something that you feel for someone you like or admire.."

The girl,Nivedita went up to speak.She was a student who was doing her BA in English.She started off :"Uh..well..basically...my latest crush is William Shakespeare.I really love his writings..."

We continued to stare.She was asked to sit.The next girl was sent to speak.Her name was Santoshi.Sam gave her instructions too :

"Watcha guys doin',man ? How can ya have a crush on Shakespeare? You have a crush on someone you know,someone you like,you see everyday,you like to be with..."

The poor girl who was already terrified out of her wits and was able to understand exactly half of what Sam was saying because of his accent,proceeded to speak, "Eh...I...my latest crush is my Father.I love him very much.."

"Go and sit" shouted Sam. I think the trauma was too much for him to handle.He never seemed the same friendly guy ever again after that day !!


After the orientation was done,we were given accent training for a month.We Indians speak with an Indian accent.The plan was to first teach us a neutral accent and then proceed to the British,American and Australian accents. Its pretty simple,actually.The basic difference between ours and their accents is that we pronounce the hard letters really hard.The letters 'p,k,b,t' are actually pronounced as 'ph,kh,bh,th' by Americans.Try using only these 4 letters and you will sound like an American anyway.Then there are the subtle things like rolling the 'r' s ,and intonations and all that.

But the guys there made it seem like Rocket Science.We were shown films,made to listen to tapes,taught theory about vowels and consonants,and made to have boring conversations with each other in our fake accented English. This confused some of the guys.Like Jeetendra.He had started saying "Ma namez Zitendar" and twisting his lips in wierd positions everytime he spoke.His accent wasn't okayed and he was made to shift from the US process to the UK to the Australian process within a month.All this caused him to panic so much that he inculcated bits of all the three accents and was a complete mess by the end of it all.

One Saturday,he stopped me saying, "Whay o goin' Munzay ?"

"What ?" I asked

"Whay o goin o Munzay ma ?

After 5 minutes,I figured out he was asking me "Where are you going on Monday?"


After the training was over,we were to 'hit the floor',which meant we had to start taking calls.But before that,we were to choose Pseudonyms (fake English names )for ourselves.Now,you'd think that the guys would give themselves common,everyday names ? No. While me and Kishu rechristened ourselves Sean and Mike, the other guys were fighting over names like "Randy Orton,Pierce Brosnan,Shane Bond' and what not !!

After a week of taking calls,Sam realised that none of the guys' calls had lasted for more than 2 minutes in the entire week.So he decided to find out why.He listened to all the recorded calls.A typical call would go like :

"Good Morning.This is George Michael and I would like to tell you about some of the offers we have for you today.."

And the guy on the other end would say "Yeah,right.I am Tom Cruise and you can shove them up your ass...' THUD !!

Later,all the guys were forced to use more common sounding names.

Well,things took off.But we all knew it was disaster from day one.The management was abysmal.The security guard was being paid regularly whereas we weren't.But it wasn't all that gloomy.You see,hope keeps us alive.And some of the guys were really cool.Kishu,Debashis ( the doper) and me always hung out together and sometimes went off to the beach after the night shift.All the guys in a batch would fight over one Gold Flake cigarette and everybody would get exactly 2 puffs each.It evoked a feeling of brotherhood that I cannot describe here.But the timings were erratic.
We took great pride in saying "I work in a call centre",but the truth was that it was already 2 months and we were as close to being paid as we were to sounding American !! Gradually,things started to worsen.Some of the guys started getting agitated.Our new TL,Kumar Raja was too busy screwing one of the girls to give a rat's ass about our salaries.Some of the guys had come from other towns to work.There was one guy who would only have the dinner provided in the office and survive on a packet of Tiger biscuit all day.He later told me,"This is my last option,yaar.I am a post graduate.I have been convincing my parents that I want to do something else.If I am not able to do anything this time,I will have to go back to my hometown and do what my parents ask me to."

Finally after 6 months of toiling and ruining all the known accents in the world,we decided enough was enough.We all resigned. How much was I paid for all the work ?

Me and Kishu got 1000 Rs, and the other guys got 500 Rs each !!

Yeah,the money was scarce,but I loved every moment of it.

SANIA !!

“Wake up, man. Guess who the chief guest is today?”
“Who?” I mumbled in my sleep.
“Sania Mirza!!! Man, she’s hot. Can I borrow your camera?”
“Yeah. And cover me with blankets and close the door after you leave.”
“Why?”
“Well, one, I don’t think she’s hot. And two, I am very sleepy.
“Dude, you serious? You aren’t coming? C’mon, man. She’s a national icon. And she’s also going to speak. You can ask her a few questions. Remember what you did to Shashi Tharoor last time?”

That was a waste of time. I had objected to his comments on RK Narayan on Sunday Times. He got uncomfortable, and my professors screwed me for it. But what the heck? My name had featured in the local newspaper. Any publicity is good publicity, I thought.

Feeling a bit like Rakhi Sawant, I reached for my tube of toothpaste, squeezed a little into my mouth and rinsed it. I quickly changed my shirt, washed my face, and gelled my hair. I looked in the mirror. No one would be able to tell I hadn’t bathed in 3 days. I left for the auditorium.

************

“…..a national icon who has inspired many young Indian girls to take up the racket….” I could hear the thick, bass voice of Prof. Shastry. So the event had begun.

I saw Satish sitting in one of the front rows and clicking away to glory. There are a lot of media people and a lot of cameras were taking pics.

Then I see her, sitting in the first row next to the Dean. She’s dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and I can see her Durga-devi like nose ring.

Wondering how she can sit there listening to all this crap, I take my seat in the last row.

“...continue to evoke patriotic feelings in our country of 1 crore people…..” Prof. Shastry was going on, and the damn speaker was right next to me.

I connect my i-pod to my ears and settle comfortably into the chair. I can see the audience in front of me. Slowly, I fall asleep….


***********

“YOU FOOL!! YOU DON”T REALISE THE value, DO YOU??”

Prof. Shastry was screaming. I woke up with a start and looked around. He wasn’t around.

“…you divide the nation with your selfish motives and ignore the talent of earnest sportspersons…”

Damn. Prof. Shastry. Why didn’t he just walk up to her and lick her feet? I could stand it no more. I stand up, crouch down, and sneak out of the hall. Freedom!

*******

I walk into the empty corridors, checking out the portraits and posters on the wall. I walk into the administrative section. I could hear someone speaking on the mike in the auditorium. The administration section was right next to the auditorium. Not wanting to get caught, I quickly retrace my steps.

Just as I am stepping into the hallway, I see a person looking at the posters. Good, I had company. I walk a little closer to the person. Nice ass, I notice. I walk closer, and she turns towards me upon hearing my footsteps.

“What the…?”

“Sssshh. Don’t make a noise. They’ll notice.”

“But aren’t you the chief guest? My friend woke up at 5 AM just so that he could see you. What are you doing here?”

“I got bored. But what about you? You don’t look like a sweeper. Why are you bunking?”

“Bitch.” I mutter under my breath.

I turn and walk out of the corridor. I did not need more trouble from the professors this year.



A hand taps me on my shoulder. I turn to look at her for the first time.
“Sorry. You dropped your sense of humour. I thought you might need it.”
Not bad, man. I think.

“What do you want?”
“Nothing. Was looking around your campus. The program doesn’t end till another two hours. Is this it? Your campus is supposed to be huge, right ?”
“I would have loved to show you around. But right now I am very sleepy so I guess I will just go up to my room and sleep”

“Hriday Ranjan, eh?” she says, squinting her eyes at the identity card hanging around my neck. “What if I tell your professors you were bunking the function?”

The galls she has!

“Ok, fine. I’ll show you the tennis courts. If I was a girl, I bet I could kick your ass at it.”
“No tennis courts. I’ve seen enough of them for 3 lifetimes now. Where do you guys hang out normally?”
“On the terrace. But we are not going there. It’s pretty visible. You wanna come to our secret hideout? It’s a deserted terrace on the B-floor that’s not used anymore.

********

We are sitting on the floor. I can see she’s not used to it.
“So. How does it feel? I ask.
“What?”
“ You know…’national icon who inspired many young girls to take up the racket’….” I said mimicking Prof. Shastry.
“Ha-ha. So you found your sense of humour”

“I’m waiting…”

“It’s ok, I guess. I used to get overwhelmed in the beginning. I used to collect cutouts of all my news articles and interviews. Now I’ve gotten used to it.”

“You know, my friend thinks you are hot.”

“Yeah. And what about you?”

“Hmmm… Naah.” I said, checking her out.

“Bastard. You just checked me out.”

I chuckled. “You asked for it.”

“I don’t think you’re hot either.” she said with a smile.

“I know. I wouldn’t have chosen you anyway. I have a girlfriend.”

“By the way, your librarian specs? They sucked!” I said.

“Oh, yeah? I read somewhere that I’d started a trend among girls in
India.”

“It wasn’t you. It was Preity Zinta. And I think SHE’s hot”, I said, turning to her.

“Hahaha…”
***********

“Beep, beep” It was her watch. I looked at mine. It was 12 ‘o’ clock.
Shit, we had been chatting for an hour now. She stood up and stretched her arms.

“Sit down.” I said. I’ll get screwed if I am caught here with you.”

It’s obvious she doesn’t care. She walks up to the parapet wall of the terrace. There’s an old ladder against the wall. We use it to climb up here from the ground when we feel like bunking a few classes. I stand up and join her. I can see a few people standing below.

“Funny…it’s almost surreal. To think that you’d be bunking a function where you yourself are the chief guest...”
“You know what? Sometimes, I imagine I am a celebrity and am being interviewed by Karan Thapar. I even start saying my lines….”

“Shit” she says. She is looking down.

I look down. One of the press guys seems to have noticed us.

Looking confused, he raises his camera and takes a picture.
“Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck...” she says and bends down. “Just what I needed at the moment.”

I look at the group of men. Some more of them are looking in our
direction and they start advancing towards the ladder. “Crap.” I say. She raises her head up and all the guys immediately raise their cameras. One of them was already at the bottom of the ladder.

“Run...”
We run inside the corridor. Just as we leave the terrace, I turn back to see the guy. He’s already climbed onto the terrace and was taking snaps.
We run faster and the guy starts to chase us, all the while clicking with his camera.
Amidst flashes of light in the dark corridor, we run faster and reach a secluded corridor. I reach our room, enter it and bolt it from inside.
She stands next to the wall, catching her breath. “Shit”, she says.
I hear the footsteps of the guy running across the room into the corridor.

“There are many more of them… what do we do?”
“There’s an exit from the other door. You can sneak out from there and leave.”
“Yeah. And they won’t notice?”
“Ok, do something. Wear one of my shirts, and a cap and shades. No one will know.”

“No way.”

“There IS no other way.”

I give her one of my shirts. “Turn around.” she says. I do that, and when I turn back, she’s wearing my shirt.

“Yuck, this stinks”, she stays.

“Sorry. Now wear the cap, and the shades. Walk confidently, and don’t turn around if anyone calls out. GO.”

She leaves the room. I turn around to my cupboard, looking for my cell phone to inform the security guard about the intruders.

“Hey”. I hear a voice behind it. I turn around.

“What’s it now?”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah. Now get out of my room.” I smile.

“You’re not that bad, you know.” She says and walks away with a smile.

I can’t help smiling too.
I turn around, and fall on my bed, wondering what to tell Satish when he comes back….and I fall asleep.


**********

“Wake up, man. You slept off yet again?” I hear his voice.

“The function was crap, man. No one knows when she left. I couldn’t get a single picture….” He stopped halfway. He was staring at something lying near his feet. He picked it up. It was a pink T-shirt. “I AM CUTE? NO SHIT!” was written over it. He was staring at it, mouth wide open. He brought it close to his face and smelt it

“What the…How did…Was she…What the…”

“I don’t know. She must have left it here…” I said and left the room, leaving him with a bewildered look.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DINESH

As a kid, Dinesh was tall and thin. Though he remained silent, he was punished by the teachers a lot. He was in 'B' (for boring) section and I barely spoke to him. He had a best friend called GPN and the two of them were inseparable. If one of them cried,the other cried too. (It was such melodrama !!! ) They always hung out together and said that they were favourite God was Hanuman. I had never heard of a 'favourite' God earlier.

In 3rd standard, the sections were shuffled. He came to our section. We struck an instant friendship due to our common interest in WWF, Cricket and teachers with big boobs !!

You know, at every point of time, there is this one guy who's the funniest guy, making people laugh all the time ? Dinesh was that guy for nearly 3 years. Then, in 4th standard, he made 'the' statement. It turned out to be the most scandalous statement by a guy from our class. It so happened that there was this teacher called Shruti mam. She was good looking, and very fair. So, when we were talking about her, he said ,

"You know, Shruti mam is so fair, her ass is like a radium, man. If you touch it, you will get a shock".

The statement catapulted him to instant notoriety. The poor guy was blackmailed for months at end for that one line.

Now, the thing about Dinesh was that he was one amongst us. He was an asshole, alright. But he was too soft-hearted to be one. He was very sensitive. And he was petrified of losing his friends. All you had to do was tell him "I am not gonna talk to you". And wherever he was, he would sit down and start sobbing (KSS can vouch for this). He wore half pants till 4th standard and proudly called them his "half-knickers".

In 5th standard, we got even closer. We were the two worst behaved guys of the class (Enrico was only making guest appearances in class by then ). So we were boycotted and relegated to the last bench permanently. I took it quite well. But Dinesh ? You had to see him to believe it. He was like a bahu from one of the soap operas. He would wail and cry out to God to give him a deadly disease ( he wouldn;t mind that, apparently !! ) but let people talk to him.....

And how did we take revenge on the class guys ? Whenever there was a blackout, we would call out to each other and bash everybody up in the dark !!

Another thing about this guy is his storytelling.Everytime he went home for the holidays, he came back with an amazing number of stories to tell us. And he had us hooked when he narrated them to us. And for someone who never studied, he always scored good marks.

In 6th standard, a senior enlightened us about the birds and the bees. We didn't believe it at first. It seemed too gross an idea. Dinesh was vehemently against the idea.

"All gas,man.Nothing like that happens.A woman gets a baby when the Mangal-sutra is tied.My aunty told me that..."

"Oh yeah ? And what about Muslims and Christians ?" I asked

"They have their own 'Tabeez' and all, na ? "

And we were in Class 6 !!!!

As we grew up,Dinesh remained the friendliest of guys. I noticed Dinesh rarely got angry. I have never seen him lose his cool (which I think, is because, you can't cry and be angry at the same time !!! ). Whenever we meet during our annual get-togethers, we go on chatting for hours together.

This guy is honest, frank and friendly. But the best part is that he is just fabulous company !

But don't think he's all that sweet. If you are a pretty girl, he won't take a minute before he starts hitting on you !!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MY GRANDMOTHER and her HUBBY !!

My grandfather was a terrific person.I have never met him.He passed away 2 years before I was born.But I have seen his pic.And read his diaries.I think I got my cynical sense of humour from him.And his handwriting was beautiful,like those sophisticated British handwritings.Whatever I know of him is through his diaries and through my grandmother's tales.


My grandmother's earliest memory is of having her own jewellery as a 5 year old.(She may be 77 years old, but a girl will always be a girl !!).She was the eldest child and had 5 brothers under her.Her dad worked in the railways and so her childhood was spent in many places.When she was 15 years old,she started hearing talk of her marriage.She couldn't complain, as in those days girls were married at the age of 11 or . Her dad,however, was against the idea of getting her married that early.All her friends (except one, Kamala ) were already married.
When she heard who it was,she was in 2 minds.He was a family friend. They knew each other,but had never spoken even once.He was the boisterous kind,the centre of attraction wherever he went because he was extremely witty.My granny however, was an introvert.

Tales of my grandfather's brilliance were well known within the family.He was a 'scholarship' student (In those days ,the British government gave scholarships to bright students and later drafter them into the administrative positions ). He was tall ( in one of their marriage pic,he is sitting on a chair and my grandmother is standing by his side,and they are of the same height !!).He combed his long straight hair back and always wore tailored suits.Not only that,he knew how to play the violin,the accordian, and had a deep,melodious baritone.In those days,there was a custom that the bride had to sing a song for the groom.My grandmother isn't exactly melodious ,so my grandfather sang some song.In his own marriage !!! He was an expert mimic and spared no one .


He was also into arts and dramatics.During his college days,he had staged a play.In those days,British officers were given administrative positions.There was this one officer who bred huge,Alsatian dogs and proudly showed them off when he went on his morning walks.In the play,my grandfather was supposed to be spoofing that officer.So he put on a hat,shorts,and a huge artificial moustache much like the officer.

The only thing that was missing was the huge Alsatian dog.After many futile attempts,nothing worked out.So he got a brainwave.He bought a packet of biscuits and went scouting for a street dog.The only one he found was skinny and miserably malnourished,a far cry from the Pedigree-fed Alsatian that the officer bred.However,he managed to tie a rope around the poor creature's neck and dragged it onto the stage.

When he got to the stage,the crowd went berserk.Amidst all the loud cheering and whistling,the poor dog was scared out of its wits.It raised its head in the air and started howling.This made the crowd cheer even louder.Breaking free from his clasp,the dog ran away and jumped straight into the crowd !!!
The play continued as usual,but my grandfather had stolen the show with his "pet" dog.Rumour has it the officer never took his dog out on a walk after that.


And my grandmother was getting married to such a person !!! Anyway,she was initially scared of him because he seemed intimidating.However,he insisted that she stay at her parents' place til she turned 18.After that,it was a lifetime of wit,humour,fun,and yeah,sarcasm.

Sarmistha is probably the strongest critic of all time.She gives the term "honest opinion" a different meaning altogether.And me,with all the brainwaves I get all through the day,have faced some of the worst criticism from her.Normally,the reaction is,"How can you come up with such crap??".Very rarely has she acknowledged a good idea.But when she does,she gives out that wide,beaming smile and says "You've told me.Don't tell anyone else.What if they use it ? "

I get so carried away by such compliments that I keep on churning out crap with even more enthusiasm.But by now I kind of know the rules with her.One of the most important one is that you never tell her anything when she's waiting for the food to arrive.She's invariably in a foul mood,then.Always tell it to her after she's finished with her food,and so naturally is in a nice mood.

So,the other day it had been half an hour and she was waiting for her food to arrive (and I for the volcano to erupt any moment now !!) Meekly, I said "Sarmistha,how's this for an idea ?...." I begin to explain .Meanwhile,her food arrives.She begins to attack the food . I am busy explaining my idea.When I am done,I ask,"So...how was it ? "

Without looking up,she says "Oh...its great ! "

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of Bulbs,Holders and the Economy !!

I just cannot do household work.The usual stuff that men are supposed to do. Like changing bulbs,tube lights,repairing switchboards etc.I pity the girl who is going to be marrying me in future.She has NO idea whats in store for her !!!

I grew up in a hostel.There were people allocated to do the job.After I left the place,I never bothered to learn.I remember an interview in which Shabana Azmi was complaining about how Javed Akhtar never does any of the household work.And Javed Akhtar replied saying,"See.If you have a deer,do you burden it by making it carry clothes ? No.You use a donkey for that".I couldn't have agreed more.Come on,we are creative people.We toil with our brains.The physical chores can be left to mundane people.Why bother us with the trivial stuff ?

But I also have another explanation.India is a growing economy and unemployment is a rising concern.And in our attempts to masquerade as omnipotent Do-it-Alls,we are robbing young electricians of a livelihood.If everybody started repairing their own stuff,what will happen to the millions of electricians in the country ? Its only people like Javed Akhtar and Yours Truly who keep their egos aside and give other people a chance to feel worthy,earn a livelihood,earn self respect and contribute to the nation's progress.You can do all that just by refusing to change the bulb.So what if the wife thinks you are a wimp ? You have got the larger interests of the nation in mind.

Today,my sister asked me to change the bulb.Balancing gingerly on the arms of a wooden chair (to avoid getting a shock !!) ,I tried to fix the bulb in the holder.As I looked back in satisfaction and asked her to switch on the bulb,it fell down and smashed to bits at her feet.

"Pupu,this is the second bulb you have broken",she said.

"Its not my fault.The holder is screwed"

"Yeah right.I forgot. The evil bulb holder.As soon as a person tries to put a bulb,it spits it out ,trying to smash the person's head !!" she replied.

I think some of my sarcasm is rubbing off on her.But in my small,humble way,I have done my good deed for the day.I have helped a young man earn his livelihood today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

S.A. (Stupid Abbreviations)

A few weeks back, I was reading an article about teenagers' problems.Drinking,smoking,PMS,the works. To my horror,I realised I am not a teenager anymore..It took sometime to register.And a few days back,I got another rude reminder.I was reading some guy's blogs.You know,the usual "Yo,man!! 'ssup,dude" kinds. To my disbelief,I could not understand half of what he meant.

Not that I have been great with abbreviated net lingo.The first time I tried chatting,( I was in 8th standard.we guys had jumped the compound of our spiritual boarding school,but that's another story !!).So, I was trying to "chat" for the first time.Someone asked me "ASL ?" Infuriated,I replied saying "YOU are an asshole !"To my astonishment,everybody I met after that seemed to be asking the same question !!I used to have such a tough time.,I mean,if you were put in an 'all-boys' boarding school for 10 years,you tend to get a little desperate.So I was always in pursuit of some amazing chick that I hoped to meet online.I would keep saying "Hi ! How are you ?" to every girl in the chat room. No one replied,of course.But there are these irritating morons who get a kick out of pissing people off.So,finally I meet this girl and am having "hot chat" (whatever that means) with her.Ridiculous stuff,like me saying "Oh ..you are truly beautiful" and the girl saying "oooh baby,I want you baby" and all that.And then,she decided to turn on her webcam.I am licking my lips in anticipation,only to discover that its a fat,hairy,loser of a guy and then he says "HAHAHA Gotcha !!"

Coming back to the topic,when it comes to lingo,I belong to the old school.I spell each word as Shakespeare himself spelt them.And today's kids converse something like this:"hru.ssup?rarly ol des dez?""m hvin xams,mah lys skrwd"I mean,what are you supposed to understand from that ?Kindly explain how "mah" is a 'short form' for "my".My reading speed drops down to half when I have to read this stuff.I feel old as I literally have to say the words aloud."MAH".Hmmm...okay,what does he me mean? Ma? mother ? NO. Maharashtra ? No.Ok,my life".Its that bad !! And to top it all off they have short forms.JLT means "just like that".OL means online.NOIDA means no idea.How do you remember all the codes ? Then there are the wierd ones. You would be forgiven to think that LOHAK is a distant cousin of "mohawk" but it means "Lots of hugs and kisses" How generous !! If only you were so with your words too !! ROTFLMAO is something I have never been able to find the meaning of.Not as if I haven't tried,I have made my guesses.All I could come up with was "Run Or The Fucking Loser May Ask u Out".But why would a guy tell me that ?

Its scary to think that may be after a few decades,such codes would be the norm.And people would even read that way. It would be confusing,trust me.For eg.,if an employee sends a report to his boss FYI (for your information ) ,whats the guarantee that the boss wont think that he's actually telling him "Fuck you,Idiot " ?? We would all be old and obsolete. If a kid wished us "GM" for Good morning,we would always be in doubt if he was actually saying "Geriatric Moron ".So save us all from that day.Ensure that the "yo" generation doesn't get to us.Kindly avoid using short forms unless very necessary.Chalo,GTG,GNSD,TC !!!!!

A competitor to Enrico ????

Not many people would know them,but there were 2 guys in our class who could give Enrico a run for his lire.Their names were Prabhupada Mishra and Mrutyunjay Praharaj.They were the original "rowdies".Called PPM and MP respectively,they tormented the teachers with amazing easiness.And these two heroes were from ? You guessed it,Orissa.They carried on the legacy that Oriya guys were either extremely talented or chronic pains in the ass.Or both.On the first day of school,PPM was feeling homesick,so where does he choose to cry his heart out ? He climbed on top of the shelves,on top of the suitcases,sat there and started crying.The class teacher's heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw him there.The entire class was still adjusting to the new school and this guy was already scaling new heights.Quite literally.PPM was also a natural leader.Maybe it was because while we were always lost,he was always sure about what he did (Though it mostly ended with him getting his butt spanked).MP followed what PPM did and the two were inseparable.Except when they were punished.,The teachers always ensured that they were kept apart.Otherwise they would start playing some game or the other !!PPM organised a lot of games. I was quite a loser then.Since,I was scared to get on to the elephant slide or the giant wheel ,I joined PPM and MP to play more gentle,and "culture-centric" games that he organised,like Ramayan,and Mahabharat.And the beautiful part was that PPM never stole the limelight.While allotting roles,he made us either Hanuman,or Ram,Lakshman ( depending on our looks,may be,cos I dont remember being Ram,ever !!).He on the other hand,was quite happy being a humble monkey in the army and orchestrating the show.

So Ravan would be waiting with his sidekick (he dint have the resources for an entire army )behind the elephant slide and our group of monkeys would charge at them ,holding sticks and shouting "Jai Sri Ram".And when Ravan would be lying on the ground dead (the poor guy always got thrashed for dirtying his shirt later !) ,we guys danced in joy.Beautiful days !The strong,macho guys would laugh at us while sliding down the slide but we we had the last laugh,vanquishing an evil emperor and ridding the world o evil.Unlike Enrico,PPM wasn't a loner.He got along fabulously with everyone.Even the 'good' guy could not help laughing at his jokes.This made him very popular.

MP on the other hand was a pocket sized powerhouse.Sadly,all his power was channelised towards some destruction or the other.He was always fidgety and couldn't sit still for 2 minutes at a stretch.Anatalakshmi mam used to say that he was like a cockroach out in a bowl of hot water !!When we were in class 1,Bhavani mam was our class teacher (A sec)the both of us were troubling aruna mam a lot in the class.she told Bhavani mam.so Bhavani mam took the two of us and locked us in the cupboard.not locked exactly,she made us stand in it and tied it all up.all the other guys had gone for bhajans and only the two of us wer there.Were we scared?huh.we had a ball !! We took scissors from the cupboard,cut off the ropes.ate all the Chyavanprash(mohanty used to bring that)and calcium tablets(vinodini,shweta).We played with crazy balls.Finally,when bhajans were over,bhavani mam asked us how we came out.i kept shut.my smart alec friend said,"mam,there was a huge rat that came and cut all the ropes!!! It was going to bite us.we said,"don't bite us,take all the chyavanprash u want".i thought this guy's screwed,man.but bhavani mam was rollin with laughter!!! It helped that Bhavani mam knew Oriya because that guy's English was Subhaan Allah !!

We used to travel together to home during holidays in "orissa group" ,that comprised of students from class 1 to PG.we occupied nearly 2 entire bogies.So,after returning from the holidays of class 3,while our luggages were being checked,these 2 guys were called aside.When we later came for lunch,they were still standing there.When we asked them what was wrong,PPM smiled and said "Nothing,you ba.Aunty wants to talk to us"That was the last time i saw them.They were given the dreaded "TC".I have never heard from them since but the mention of the word "ramayan' brings back memories of me running under the scorching sun,carrying a stick in my hand and shouting,"JAI SRI RAM !!!!"

JAANE TU YA JAANE NA ( **/***** )

Firstly,those who havent watched the movie,dont read any further.go and watch the movie.abbas tyrewala is the guy who wrote the dark Maqbool,the lighthearted Munnabhai MBBS,and the bubble-gummy masala Main Hoon Na.So, I expected an amazing movie.I was utterly disappointed.JTYJN could have been a mega-blockbuster like QSQT and JJWS.It still may be,thanks to the ubiquitious marketing.But talking strict cinema,JTYJN is an assortment of cliches thats served beautifully.So when do you know its love ? Well,we knew all along.what we were looking for is fresh,entertaining cinema.The story is simple,too simple in fact.Why watch the movie,then ? The performances.Ratna Pathak Shan and Naseruddin Shah as Jai,the protagonist's parents are top class.the khan brothers and paresh rawal are also good.but you have to hand it to imran khan.he seems at ease in front of the camera,is spontaneous and a big hit with the audiences already.Genelia is spot on as Aditi,the fiesty girl who wants a "man" in her life.A special mention here should be made about the guy who plays Amit,he has amazing presence.(trivia : he's the son of the yesteryear actor,Smita Patil).The music is good (typical Rehman) and the dialogues do manage a few laughs (Sample this : "Oh,no.12 baj gaye !" "Kyun,tu Cinderella hai kya?" ).The charactyers are real and believable.My only complaint is that the Gujju guy character and the airport climax could have been done away with.The good thing about the movie is u realise that you have been let down,only after the movie is over.till then,its a fun ride,full of laughs.Solely because I expected so much, i would give it 2/5,but a definite watch.Its going to be a major hit.So what if the script is ancient ? Cliches never seemed so endearing before !!

IRONMAN - ***/*****

From Marvel Comics,comes another superhero movie.This one doesnot have the hero flying around in the colours of the US national flag.He doesnot lead a life and doesnot have a journalist girlfriend.Ironman is the story of Tony Stark,who is a billionaire owner of a weapons company.On a trip to Afghanistan,he gets kidnapped by a group of militants who ask him to create a nuclear weapon for them.Tony creates an indestructible suit,kills all the baddies and returns safely.On his return,he decides to shut down his company and work on his dream project,something more than creating weapons being used to kill millions of people.you have to watch the movie to find out what happens next.Ironman,though a Superhero movie,is not treated in that manner.The style of story telling is like any other movie and director Jon Favreau (the guy who made a guest appearance in friends as the billionaire software guy who taked Monica to Italy so she can have a pizza !!! ) keeps it believable and not larger than life like in other superhero movies.The story is accentuated beautifully by the performance of that fabulous actor called Robert Downey Jr.Those who havent watched any of his movies should watch Chaplin and Less than zero.Gwyneth Paltrow plays his secretary in a slightly cliched role.Downey Jr is tremendous,though.The graphics are upto any major Hollywood production with a lot of metal-on-metal action.Ironman will not go on to become a stupendous success like his other counterparts flying around in coloured underwears,because it is more grounded ,because it is more grounded in reality.But if you are tired of all the glorified superheroes boring you with endless talk of power ,responsibility and courage,you may just like this guy.Watch it when you are free,its not disappointing.

SARKAR RAJ **/*****

I firmly believe Ram Gopal Verma is the most brilliant filmmaker in India.Not many people have the brains (or the balls) to do the movies he does.It makes me cringe to see every half-ass critic taking potshots at him.So all you self made Woody Allens,go take a piss.RGV is back with a bang !!You just have to watch the opening sequence to see that he is back in form with his favourite subject,Power.Sarkar Raj takes off from wer Sarkar ends.The Nagre family runs a parallel government in Maharasthra,but this time its beta Shankar ( Abhishek ) who's handling the business.A power plant project comes from America to b started from a village in Maharashtra.The only problem is that d villagers hav to rehabilitated.Subhash Nagre is against it,but Shankar thinks that its good for d people in d long run.Soon,nothing is what it seems and the Nagres realise that there are elements who want to wipe them off.There are many things about a RGV movie that stand out.Firstly,there will be no songs and stupid 'nautanki'.Secondly,there will be no apologetic justifications.Bad guys are bad.That's it.The trademark sepia tone cinematography,the uncanny but nevertheless fabulous camera angles,use of darkness and light,and the never too loud portrayal of raw power,heightened by the long silences and stares.Sarkar Raj is not an edge of the seat thriller,its more like a mystery that unfolds slowly.The screen play gets a tad slow in the 1st half but the 2nd half more than makes up for it.The soundtrack is a little better this time and doesn't overshadow the dialogues like last time.Also there lesser references to The Godfather (except for the one scene in which a bomb is planted in a car) Sarkar Raj relies solely on the performances of its cast.Abhishek Bachan is good.his dad even better.But the person to watch out for is Aishwarya Rai.Whoever said that you cannot look stunning and act as well in Bollywood should watch her.Its a carefully restrained and rivetingperformance.Don't miss it !!