Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rakhi,Raksha and Akka

As a kid in a boarding school, Rakshabandhan was not very exciting. Three days before Rakshabandhan, we would start receiveing rakhis in our mails. The teachers would tie the rakhis on our hands.

Later, if the rakhis came off, we;d ask our friends to tie them back for us with a slight warning, 'You have to protect me,ok?'

I never got into the habit of gifting anything on Rakshabandhan and still do not gift my sister anything. I think its unfair. You tie a rakhi worth 50 bucks and expect a gift worth 500 !

Moreover, its because me and my sister's equation has never been one in which I have to protect her or anything. On the contrary, it is she who takes care of me all the time.

We are not very close to each other. My years at the hostel, my demented parents and numerous fights caused us to drift apart.

I do not believe in social bonds. Family, marriage, relatives. It all seems like a compulsion to me. I lived alone for a few years because I felt I did not need a family around me. I now live with them because I like their company.

My sister is an exceptionally talented person. It's only because of my mom, an educated but ideologically backward woman who didn't think it was important to encourage a daughter's talents,that she never got to pursue any of her talents.

She's a painter. Initially, she was sent to accompany me as I could not cross the road alone. The art teacher soon noticed that she had a talent and I did not. Sadly, she was asked to stop the classes once she reached 9th standard. She sketches, paints my T-shirts for me, helps me with my posters, gives me ideas for my work and blogs. She also teaches basic education and dance to children of poor families on Sundays.

All of her childhood was spent in either pandering to my parents' wishes or my tantrums during my holidays. In the time when girls play with dolls and miniature kitchen sets, her days were spent witnessing fights between my parents. No wonder there's still a child in her.

As a kid, she was always honest. I was a natural when it came to lying. But she was always honest. After getting whacked, she would tell me with great pride, 'At least I spoke the truth'.

I was very happy lying and getting away, Thank You very much !

There was an incident that had occurred in our childhood. She had taken the money needed to pay her school fees. For some strange reason, she had kept the money in her tiffin box. As she was having her tiffin and playing in the school grounds, a cow came and ate up her tiffin and the notes of currency as well.

Of course no one believed her.Some truths are even more stranger than fiction than others !

She was always bringing stray pups and kitten from the school in her bag.The kitten would later be given absurd names like 'Jyothi' or 'Sai Deepthi' by her.

She is actually the man of the house. She runs our family. Changing the lights and fans, fixing the cylinders, shopping for grocery, and cooking. She's perfect sister material.

As a kid, she was cute and cherubic. My parents loved her but hated each other so much that they overlooked her interests and wishes as a child.

An uncle of mine had noticed her as a chirpy kid who was always making people smile and nick-named her 'Titli'. She's a butterfly alright, one whose wings were clipped.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

MY 'RAM' FIXATION

I was born on a Friday .it was the 18th of April, at 10.30 PM. According to the Hindu calendar, it was Ram Navami.

I don’t know if it’s a planetary link, but I’ve always had a Ram fixation.

Ram was the first superhero in my life. All of my childhood was spent in listening to stories from my father and grandmother about Ram’s heroics. There was also Ramanand Sagar. Nobody could have explained the story better.

Watching Arun Govil portray Ram as he conquered evil and protected the good, I was mighty impressed. I’d wait for Ramayan to show on television every Sunday. I wanted to be Ram.

At school, while other kids were playing their abysmal versions of cricket and football, I’d run around the ground playing Ramayan with a few other friends. We were so bad at games that they didn’t let us play with them, I think. I nursed a secret wish to be Ram at least in those games but the casting director for our game never considered me good enough to play Ram. I was always made one of those loyal monkeys that fought for him.

There was an old man who worked at the school my mother worked in. he was considered wise by one and all. When he first saw me, he named me “Ram Babu”. Instead of feeling sad that there was an addition to my already sufficient list of ridiculous pet names, I was very happy.

There was another incident that took place when I was a kid. There was another such wise man who’d visit our home regularly. This man was a complete astrological package. He could read palms, advice on Vaastu, talk about Rahukalam and all the other things associated with astrology.

When he saw my palm, he told my parents,

“This boy is destined for great things. He may even go on to become a Minister.”

My dad remembers me leaving the place in a hurry, visible annoyed.

“But I don’t want to be a minister, Nana. I want to be the King” was my logic.

It took me sometime to understand that kings dint exist anymore because they had been replaced by this all-powerful person called “The Government”. Whenever I asked him to whom a particular building or a park belonged, he’d say “It belongs to the Government”. I always thought that the Government was a person.

My dad had a simple way of explaining things to me. But I always had a complicated way of understanding them. I remember him explaining that it’s important to plant trees because they take in Carbon Dioxide and give out Oxygen and so it’d mean more Oxygen for us to breathe. I was around 4 years old, so the process of Photosynthesis would be too difficult to understand.

Of course, I was interested in trees for a different reason altogether. I’d been pestering my sister to make me a bow and arrow forever.

My sister was good at all that. Since I later went to study in a boarding school, I was always given preferential treatment. At least during the 2 months that I came home for holidays, I just had to pull a face and she’d agree to anything I said.

She finally agreed to make me a bow and arrow. It took her around 2 days, because she had to hide it from everyone else at home. But when she finally showed it to me, I caught my breath. It was beautiful!!! The edges were polished and the bow formed a perfect arch. It was the correct size for my hands. The bowstring was perfectly strung. She had also made 3 equal-sized arrows from the stems of the same tree. There was a slight incision at the bottom end of the arrows so they could be fit on to the bowstring. The upper ends were sharpened with a blade.

Holding it made me feel powerful, like my hero Ram!!

We went to the balcony. I was ready to release my first arrow. I fit the arrow, and pulled the string. Then, I raised the bow with the arrow fitted in it. I brought it upto my forehead and closed my eyes and muttered some imaginary mantra. I took aim at a tree in front of me and released the arrow.

The feeling was exhilarating.

The arrow, however, went zooming downwards and hit the person who lived downstairs on the foot. It must have hurt, because I remember him shouting as we ran to hide inside the house.

The 2nd arrow was sent unceremoniously into nothingness.

The 3rd one was bang on target. It hit the TV and the glass came crashing to the ground. I knew I was screwed. My sister knew better.


That evening when Nana came home from the office, I ran to greet him wearing a beautiful smile.

“Nana, you won’t believe what happened ….a HUGE frog jumped out of the TV today.

He inspected the damage done. And to my relief, laughed.

My sister was whacked when she returned from school, of course. I never understood why she always spoke the truth. When it came to lying, I was a natural. But she was the truthful one who got whacked for her honesty.

On expected lines, she never made me a bow and arrow again. But I was still fascinated by Ram.

Till a few years later. At school, when teachers told us the story of Ramayan many times. Ram is considered “Purushottam” – meaning the “the Ideal Man”. However, I think the major blemish on his character was that he doubted Sita’s loyalty. None of the teachers’ explanations seemed satisfactory. That was a dumb thing to do.

I mean, if I listened to everything the Dhobi said, I’d have set up 3 paan shops next to his.

Since then, I somehow lost interest in Ram. But I still think the bow and arrow is the sexiest weapon ever made.

GOODBYE,HOUSE !!!!

Is it possible to get attached to a house? To four walls and a roof? I realized it is.

We have been living in this house for 23 years. I was born here (in the hospital, actually. But I was later on brought here.) And this house has many fond memories.

As a kid, I used to scribble on the walls with a pencil. There are markings on the wall to record my height (was I really 3 feet 8 inches at some time?). There are the paint marks where, in my excitement I had started painting the windows too. There is the corner where I had hidden all the matchboxes (when my mother asked me why, I told her I collect them for the jokes written at the back). There’s the kitchen, the location for numerous experiments with different cuisines (some were good, most were horrible) the terrace where I was caught drunk by Akka on Diwali (she seemed to notice that all the crackers were bursting in my hands itself. When she asked me, I said “Happy Diwali” with a wide smile. That’d be my last smile for weeks to come!!)


And what’s a house without neighbours? The lady downstairs who was perennially pissed off. The lady next door who washes the stairs thrice a day. The old, bearded Postman chacha who has been delivering letters to the locality for 30 years now. The girl who is now is 9th standard that Pintu Bhai can’t take his eyes off (“Her face is like the moon...”). The road in front of our house and the cricket matches played there (I hold the record for bowling 14 wides in over)

This house has been with us through thick and thin. When the Super Cyclone was ravaging the region, my sister and mom were happily eating Dosa and Milkmaid!!

The balcony where I’d stand after a work-out, trying to show off my nearly invisible biceps. And the place where my grandmother would leave a few grains of rice everyday for the crows.

The jackfruit tree right in front of our balcony that the miserly owners would neither have themselves nor let anyone else has any.

The one person who made my life beautiful, Pintu Bhai. I remember the innumerable times I’ve appeared at his doorstep asking for toothpaste because I was drunk.

I have said goodbye to this house many times. After every holiday or when I left home to stay alone.

We are leaving this house permanently. It’s hard to believe that this house will not be home anymore. It’s only befitting that we are shifting on Friendship Day.

This house has been a very good friend.

MY FIRST BEER....

Santu came to my home at around 7 PM.

“Mandir chalega?”

That’s the thing about him. He may be an asshole, but he goes to the temple every Tuesday. I don’t know why he chooses that day, but I always accompany his if he asks me to.

I am not a theist. I couldn’t care less about God or the damn rituals. But going to the temple has its benefits. Chicks. And since nobody expects you to stare at them in a temple, you can ogle as much as you want. It’s better on the big festivals. T hey are all in their best clothes and for some fabulous reason, they leave their hair open on those days.

But anyway, we go to the temple. He prays, I stare. We leave the temple.

All of a sudden, he turns to me and says, “Wanna booze?”

“What??” I ask

“Wanna have beer? There’s a shop just there.” He says, pointing to a liquor shop right in front of the temple. Nice place to set up shop. If you believe in God, go right. If you wanna have a blast, take left.

“You wanna go or not?”

Of course I did. Who wouldn’t want to? The only problem was that I had never had a beer in all my life.

“Hmm… I don’t know, man. I’m not in the mood.” I said, trying to sound like a guy who’d otherwise guzzle down 6 beers (if he was in the mood, that is)

“Come on, man. Its just beer. Won’t harm you. It’s good for hair, too. I read that somewhere.”

It’s evident he isn’t very experienced either. But how did he know I was obsessed about my hair? Anyway, I agree.

“But I’ll have only one, yaar. It’s evening time, na?”

I am not sure he bought that, but we went to the shop and bought the beers.

“Foster’s ok with you, na?” he asked.

“Oh… I love Foster. Australian for beer.” I said, immediately feeling foolish.

I looked at the dark green bottle, raised it and gulped it down. I could feel the beer flowing down my throat and into my stomach.

It was bitter. And confusing. It was chilled beer. Then why did it feel hot inside me? Was I drunk already?

I looked at Santu. As he gulped down his bottle and made a face as he swallowed it.

“How’s it?”

“Awesome, man. I love it.”

I hated it.

'MOHANTY'...

When someone mentions the word “genius”, what’s the image that comes to your mind?

A man, who seems a little crazy, with a shabby workplace, shabby clothes, and difficult to understand??

Satyajeet Mohanty was exactly that. A fifteen year version of the weird, wacko scientist.

As a kid, he was always falling sick. He had to take painful injections every 21 days for his joint pains. He kept on finding innovative ways to get injured. Even early this January when we went on a 3 day trip to our old school and were playing a crazy game called “King Kong”, he twisted his ankle and sprained it!!!

As he grew up, his triangular head seemed to confine in it a very able brain. He was one of those cool guys who somehow scored the top marks in every test.

Both of us were from Orissa. We know each other from the age of 5. He was inquisitive as a kid. To the point of getting on your nerves, sometimes!

As he grew older, his talents and intelligence seemed to grow even more. Sadly, so did his weird, wacko side. It was like a Dr. Jekyll - Mr. Hyde symptom that the teachers failed to comprehend. How could a guy who was so vastly talented be such a complete weirdo?

He gained the reputation of the guy who knew a lot. I knew stuff. But my knowledge was basically GK stuff. ‘Mohanty’ was the Maths and Science guy.

So, people generally listened to him. And guess how he used to take advantage of our credulity?

In class 3, he said that eating the seeds of drumstick would make you better at Maths. Since he was the best in Maths, nobody questioned the logic. I would have eaten probably a thousand drumstick seeds, but my Maths still sucks like a vacuum cleaner.

All these theories seemed true only because he said them. Half of them believed him. The other half probably agreed so that he’d stop his damn ‘explanation’ sessions!

The theories always went above our heads. Geometrically speaking (Now, I am trying to sound like him when he’d explain his theories…here’s a taste of your own, bitter
Medicine!) If our heads were like circles, his logic was like a tangent that went right over our heads!!

Another theory of this child prodigy. We were in a boarding school, and the proper functioning of our bowel movements depended on the teacher. If the teacher didn’t let us go to the bathroom when we asked her, we were doomed.

But we had the wise Mohanty to go to for advice:
“If you want to feel better, keep 2 big stones in your pant pockets. It’ll reduce the pressure”.

We guys must have been really dumb if he could have got away with this stuff.

As he grew older, it was clear we hadn’t seen the last of his talents yet. His health improved and he started showing an avid interest in games. He could play cricket, football, basketball, table-tennis, badminton, chess and any other game that we had a chance to play. In one of the most memorable matches in my life, the two of us had an 8th wicket partnership that saved the match for our class.

Though he had no inclination towards music back then, in 4 years, he plays the guitar for his college band and now is also learning to play drums and the saxophone too. He’s like an irritating version of Forrest Gump!!!

The two of us got along fabulously because of our common interests. We were interested in films and books. We used to read Harry Potter, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer on the sly. We’d also stared attempting to solve the Hindu crossword from Class 9.

You must be thinking he’s this fabulous, talented person, right? Good. That means I can now get to my favourite part.

This guy is too weird to be true. The reason he’s a teetotaler is simple. You cannot act drunk than he does when he’s normal.

In our younger days, he was a pain in the ass. If the entire class was the UPA, he was the CPM. I remember, when we guys wanted to play carom, he’d come and sit right in the middle so that nobody got to play.

And when a teacher asked us in class, “Should I teach some more or should we continue in the next class?”

Mohanty would be the only guy to say, “Yes, sir. Please teach, sir.” And then turn and smile at us.

We were roommates in 9th standard. He was my room leader. And not an ideal one at that, because all our night study hours would be spent in devising ways to pour water on the guys in VRR’s room, opposite to ours.

When we would read the newspaper, what’d you expect a guy to notice everyday? This guy used to count the number of people reported dead everyday!!

And he used to say at the end of it, “Aah…today, our population went down by 57!!!!”

Didn’t I say geniuses were weird?

Friday, August 1, 2008

WHY EVERYONE CANNOT BE A POET...

I have always wanted to be a poet. It fascinates me. A poem conveys far more than prose can. Also, a poem seems more life-like. The rhythm, the rhyme, and the structuring give it a realistic feel.

I have always been a fan of poetry. Read ‘The Ancient Mariner’, I bet nobody could have written it better, or in any other form. ‘The Solitary Reaper’ is another one that I like. Some of them do go over my head, though. Like the poem ‘Snake’. I can’t make head or tail of it no matter how many times I read it. But generally, poems are brilliant.

We all wrote poems as kids. Juvenile stuff like

“Today’s a bright day.
I am happy and gay.”

I think children are more inclined towards poetry. Ask a kid “Why?” and he’ll say

“Because the sky is so high”, ........ immediately followed by

“You don’t know how to multiply” ........and then

“My grandfather married a butterfly”, ..............and if he’s a snob, probably

“Go and live in a pigsty.”


But after growing up, we kind of stop trying to rhyme words or write a poem.

Sarmistha and I had met in college. We had participated in the debate competition. We both had won the joint 1st prize. The professor who judged the event said that in 26 years of his career, this was the first time that he couldn’t pick a clear winner. We are still the best of friends today. Though I still feel that I should have been given the 1st prize, she doesn’t agree. I think I am a better speaker. But she has an edge. She can write poems. Really good ones. I used to laugh at them because they always seemed like some unreleased Norah Jones number. But now I realise how tough it is to write one.

My friend, Poetic Soul is another brilliant poet. One of her poems “My dad loved me” is about a dad who abuses his daughter. It’s spine-chilling. Somehow, poems have an effect that words as such can never achieve. So inspired was I by that poem that I decided that I have to write a poem.

I asked Poetic Soul for a few tips. She taught me the basic structures of poems.

AaBb,
AbAb,
BABA,
ABBA.

and similar such combinations. Ok, I had my work cut out.

Now I had to find words that rhyme. Easy. Cheesy. Sleazy.

See what my problem was? All my rhyming words always seemed to revolve around the same topic.

Change of Plan. Now, I decided I needed to speak in poetry. How do you speak in poetry? You don’t wanna know!!

Monica agreed to be my guinea pig. She didn’t agree as such, but who asks her? I started talking to her in poetry.

So when I answered the phone, I’d say

“Hello...” and after a pause,

“Why are you sounding mellow?”

I felt stupid but I was determined to do it somehow. It’d have gone on smoothly, if only she didn’t start laughing after every line of mine.

Proceed to Step 2: Compose small poems.

This was the toughest step. I just couldn’t do it. My first poem was an SMS to Poetic Soul. I had told her that I would have at least one poem with me by that evening. And I couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t trash. So my poem to her went like:

”ssup Poetic Soul
Hope u dn’t think ’m an asshole
Was trying a bit of poetry
Shud’ve known aint my cup of tea
Coz no matter how hard I work
My poems, they always suck

And I sent it to her, expecting at least a “They ACTUALLY suck” kind of a reaction. All I got was a reply saying “Don’t worry. Happens. You’ll get better”.

What could be worse? She didn’t even realize that it was a poem!!

But I didn’t give up. My next target was Monica again. She never remembers the menu after having dinner. So my very special, personalized poem for her was:

“Every night if you have dinner
In life you will be a winner
But if you don’t remember the menus
Then the dinner is of no use

Again, no reaction. She thought it was another of my jokes that she couldn’t understand.

I composed a few more poems with each of them being bigger disasters than the previous ones.


Finally, I realized why I couldn’t write a poem. If everyone became a poet, then who would appreciate them? God had bigger plans for me. I was to be one of those guys who appreciate a good poem (while envying the poet at the same time).

So go ahead, Poetic Soul. I’ll cheer you from the sidelines.

That’s all I can do.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
It’s unfair but true
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Coz no matter how hard I work
.
.
.
.
.
My poems, you know they suck!!

WHY I AM A GOVINDA FAN

Firstly, if any of you take consider Bollywood seriously, you should not. To think that we okay with films that have the hero lip-syncing in 5 different voices is preposterous in the first place.

And on top of that, we argue about who’s a better actor and who’s worse. Some are called kings, we have a Big B, a Small A, and a voluptuous M. among all these, one guy stands out is Govinda.

You can’t take him seriously because his films don’t take themselves seriously in the first place. It’s not about GAP wearing friends realizing that they are in love, nor are they about the problems faced my children. They are about the badly dressed simpleton who falls for the sexy, urban girl who has a rich dad (who for a strange reason wears a bathrobe even in the afternoon!). For all our talks of who’s the actual Boss of Bollywod, you have to go to the villages to find out who’s the actual boss. Most of rural India would pass a ‘Taare Zameen Par’ for a ‘Dulhe Raja’ or a ‘Saajan Chale Sasuraal’.

I think the main reason is that you do not have to possess a lot of brains to watch his movies. I mean, a guy in a village would find the idea of adultery in KANK abominable, let alone watch them singing songs together. Also, the high-tech gadgets in Dhoom 2 would go zooming over their heads. But a simpleton running after a hot chick? Bring it on!

Govinda’s films are not pretentious. They don’t preach. Try deriving some moral values from ‘Ek aur Ek Gyarah’. Then what’s it about him that draws them to him? His flaws, obviously. What we perceive as ‘flaws’ are actually appreciated. The not so flattering figure, the wardrobe that could give a designer a stroke, the mouth gaping open when he dances. Who wants a Hrithik Roshan who looks like a Greek God? They want a Govinda who looks like an Indian Idiot!!

Frankly, I have watched some movies purely to test how far I can go. Me, and David Dhawan, that is. Watch Govinda’s gangster accent in “Akhiyon Se Goli Maare”, or him making faces like a Chinese guy through the TV in ‘Hadh Kardi Aapne’, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But within half an hour into any of his movie, you drop your senses.

No wonder, when Aamir Khan (who’s considered the most intelligent actor among the current bunch) was asked who his favourite actor, he answered that it was Govinda.

There’s another movie of his getting released, ‘Money Hai Toh Honey Hai’. It’ll be crazy. But I’ll watch it anyway

I am tired of intelligence. You guys can watch intelligent movies, I am very happy with kitsch, non-sensical humour. Thank you very much.

Bring on the madness!!