Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Even god is human...

A day after God swore in as himself – a ceremony supervised by him and few angels – came the time to delegate portfolios. The criterion was simple. Divinity. Since there was no accepted scale to quantify, and since qualification would result in apocalypse, God decided to create a jury. It comprised of him and well… him. The ones with the most astounding of supernatural abilities received the most coveted disciplines. There was plenty of divine intervention on display. Fire breathing, storm catching, ocean parting, etc. But Medusa the little fairy beat them all to the best on the list. It was an offer he couldn't refuse. She gave him a cherry.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

was, is and will

I have been tagged and have been asked to answer a series of questions. I have done that meticulously. Thank you for rolling me on Cris.

Here is the result:


What are your oldest memories?

There used to be an old Tamilian lady next to my house when I used to toddle around as a 2-year-old. I used to frequent Mami's (as I used to call her. For that matter, as everyone used to call her) house along with my mom, or rather on her shoulders,. I remember Mami’s face, but more distinctly, the aroma in her house. It was a put off then, and it is a put off now. It scares me. So much that, it is the only smell I ever get in my dreams, rather nightmares.

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was inventing new hobbies to get through my 10th standard study holidays. And by around January, I picked up carom. And yes, during my free time, I did browse through a few text books.


What did you do today?

Switched off the alarm thrice before getting up. Racked my little brain over the launch of a fashion brand that needed a revamp. A few minutes of cynicism and a little session of introspection about the usual ‘meaninglessness of life’ thingies. In the pot of course.

What is up for tomorrow?

I will wake up late with a bad hangover. I will roll around in bed for at least 15 minutes figuring out excuses for not going to work. Another 15 minutes filtering out the ones I haven’t used before. Another 15 minutes picking the best out of them. Another two minutes trashing all of them and getting ready for work. In case you are wondering, the remaining day will be spent cribbing and abusing the people responsible for making me work on a Saturday.


Where do you see yourself 14 years from now?

Quite possibly, I might be dead by then. But then again, I wear glasses for myopia. I can’t see much farther into my present. So future is a long shot.

If you build a time capsule what would it contain?

A lever to destroy it the moment I am done with it. A notepad to jot down the details of time travel. Another lever to get it back to the exact same frame of life from where I began my journey. A few bottles of absinthe. Marilyn Monroe’s address. A mobile phone with network connectivity across ‘time zones’ and a contact list with everyone from everywhere. Yet another lever for destroying it while I am at it.


I am tagging Remya, Revati, and Anand. And yes Manu too. Don't know whether he will care. But too good a writer to be left uninformed.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The wrong key

It had been a long and tiring night. All of them were. Mad car chases, endless alleys, pools of blood and gun fights. Life of a homicide detective was far less glamorous than on the reel.

He almost fell off as he scampered out of his new SUV. He leaned against the wall for support as he slithered up the steps. He had come across many a tough opponent during his crime fighting days. But this one was beyond anything he had faced before. He, or maybe she, was as good as he himself was.


The hour hand had done three full circles since she sneaked into his flat. She removed the magazine from her Walther and inserted it back again. For the umpteenth time. He wasn’t on her agenda until last week. The nosey bastard, she thought. He had asked for it.


Half way up the stairs, he was still struggling with the facts of the case. Seven random people, all decapitated, in a span of just two weeks. It was a week before the first of the bodies was reported. The killings had begun much earlier. The only thing linking the murders was the severed head. On his way out, he had asked his secretary to pull out anything related, from over the last three decades. The serial killer theory was as good as established. It was too early in the day even for copycats.


She had heard the car screech to a halt in the parking lot. Almost ten minutes had passed after she caught a glimpse of him crawl out his car and head for the stairs. Still there was no sign of him.


The lock would just not budge. He removed the key from the keyhole and looked at it closely. Darn, the wrong key. He had left his bunch in his car. He smiled at his stupidity and cursed the hectic day. He began his hesitant crawl down the stairs, back to the parking lot.


Was there someone at the door? She strained her ears. Yes. The wait was over. It was time. The knob turned. She got up and fired thrice at the figure. It slumped to ground with a muffled groan. Job done. She hopped over the heap on the floor as she headed for the stairs.


Down in the parking lot, a pretty looking girl in tight fitting leather clothes hurried past him, almost knocking herself down. By the time he turned to demand an apology, she had disappeared. “Bitch,” he swore. He shook his head in frustration as he knelt down. The door of his new SUV just wouldn’t yield.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The confidant

If you knew some of things I knew, you’d probably start your own multimillion dollar blackmailing firm with branches in all the metros and with over 3000 employees. For instance, I know all about this actor who is sleeping with his producer’s wife. That is indeed, a very generous sign of gratitude to the man who provided him his first break. I also have some information on this cop who was caught on tape with a sixteen-year-old. Apparently, the filmmakers are demanding a handsome amount from the rookie actor – production charges of course. Wait. Here comes the local MLA’s secretary. He is my favourite. For one, his confessions are always high on news value. Sex, lies, videotapes. But the best part - he’s got something new every damn day.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Too much to swallow

I have some strange and strong views on religion and god. One of them is that, I think god is like a placebo. There must have been a time when life had our forefathers with their backs against the wall. They needed help. Unfortunately, most of their problems had no solution. Death for instance. So a few doctors, extremely wise men without a degree, sat together and created this placebo called god. And along came cures like heaven, nirvana and good afterlife. Prescriptions were published in the form of Bhagwad Gita, Bible, Qu’ ran, Avesta, etc… People were much happier thereafter. Cometh a problem, take one in the morning, one at night, and one at any other time you feel hopeless.

For the love of dogs...

Last weekend, after around six rounds of drinking, one of my closest friends told me how he had just declined a great job and a mammoth pay hike for his dog. As in, it is not that the dog was jealous or anything. It was simply because he wasn’t willing to relocate and leave the dog back home; and yeah, his fiancée too. I somehow completely fail to understand how people can take such crucial decisions over dogs, or cats or even iguanas. I am already having enough trouble trying to love and relate to human beings. So as of now, I guess dogs don’t stand a chance.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cleanliness is next to...

I think there is a direct relationship between intoxication and cleanliness. I tackled three days of garbage and dirty vessels after 3 drinks of whisky; a thing I would have been otherwise incapable of. I cleaned up the entire house (which includes the toilets) on around 8 pegs of rum. I wonder what it must take for those poor guys who clean up the sewage pipes. Poison?

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

Master of Muppets

Recently, I discovered and identified a special skill in me. I choose to write about it because it is not a frequent occurrence in my case.

I guess I have had this ability for quite some time, but have just not been able to name it. The talent I am talking about is the power to manipulate. To be precise, I can convince people into doing things and saying things, while in a conversation with them. There are even times when I can actually see it coming, the nod of agreement; and feel it. Just like Neo could see through the Matrix. The skeletal structure of the devious plot is all just too clear to me. And the best part is, the victim does not even realize it.

I feel guilty at times and at times I feel arrogant, with the latter dominating. But most often, I feel joy. People who know me well might beg to differ. Well, I guess that proves the point.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

The Unsaid

I think romance is at its best in its unexpressed form. Like the gaze that tells a thousand tales only you can hear. Like those melodies in our dreams. We let them play in our head without letting them get pinned down by lyrics. Like those words. The ones that say a lot more when unwritten than when inked.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

The pasta lesson

It’s been a while since I began questioning the morality of my job as a copywriter. As I picked up my latest job brief, my cynicism grew deeper and darker. I was to write nice things about a popular pasta brand, and eventually cajole the masses into buying it. I tried it, and just like a couple of earlier experiences, hated it with utmost passion. There lies the answer to my question - colorful and steamy in a nice white ceramic bowl.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)


Woman: "I am going to make you drink a whole lot of rum and make you do things which you would otherwise refuse to."

Man: "There are many consequences to excessive alcohol consumption - hallucination and oral disembowelment to name a few. But FYKI, hypnosis is definitely not one of them."

(courtesy: bonsaiz)

The American Job

I have a friend who lives in the United States of America. She is getting married in December. A couple of days back, she asked me if I could do a little bit of cropping and make her wedding invitation cyber-friendly, and fit for circulation via email. I agreed. By agreeing, I deprived yet another American of a few American dollars. I guess this will not go down too well with Mr. Obama; considering how he has reservations about outsourcing.

(courtesy: bonsaiz)


There are times when some very amusing thoughts strike me. Blame it on a lack of imagination or my sheer inability to articulate, I end up losing them in the ruthless quagmire. And hence I decided to start a new blog as a dedication to those thousands of dead and stunted flashes. I decided to call it bonsaiz – in reference to you know what. The bonsaiz blog resides at http://bonsaiz.blogspot.com.

After a few posts, reconsideration and suggestions from friends, I decided to kill bonsaiz and continue with this blog. But there still remained a part of me in love with the whole concept . As a result, every time I write one for bonsaiz, it will be posted on bonsaiz, as well as this blog. So while this blog shall benefit of and poach from bonsaiz, bonsaiz will remain an unscathed, often updated and a fully-functional mini-clone.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The journal

Prison walls have memories written all over them. There are those of joy, of agony, of bereavement and of fulfillment. However, the ones most deeply etched are often of remorse. They are written in bright red. So bright, that every time you read them, your eyes hurt. The one that read ‘the fateful afternoon’ was scorching. It almost burnt his heart.

He was there when the police arrived. On his knees, by her body, crying like a little boy. It was the maid who informed the men in khakhi. All the evidence pointed at him. Circumstantial, they had called it. The prints on the gun, the duplicate key to her apartment, and of course, the motive.

He did not utter a word in his defence throughout the trial. He was not bothered. His relatives had arranged for the best lawyer in town. The prosecution argued vehemently about the psychopath he had turned into after his break up. How he wanted revenge. How he sneaked into her house and shot her mercilessly. He did not even nod his head. Even at the verdict. For him, it was all over on that fateful afternoon.

He woke up from his trot down the memory lane at the creaking of the latch. He walked like a zombie towards his execution room. The last meal left untouched had turned cold. There was no room left for anything. The executioner looked to be eager to finish his job and head back home. He empathized. So did he.

He looked at the priest with cold eyes as he read out the prayers for his soul. He closed his eyes in prayer for a moment and then opened suddenly as if in some realization. The executioner looked at the clock and gestured towards the jail superintendent. It was almost time.

The veil fell over his head. He felt the darkness spread from within. Now it was uniform. His world seemed to be in synchrony with his mind. He smiled. A smile nobody else in the room saw; and even if they did, would never have understood.

One nod of the head met another. The noose tightened. The rope loosened. A wooden platform slid. His neck cracked. Muscles stretched. The last struggles of the soul before it left its mortal home. The doctor pronounced him dead at 03:14am. Justice was done. Good prevailed.

Miles away, inside a room that witnessed that same fateful afternoon, a few pages fluttered in the early morning breeze. A pen rolled lazily across. The words on them had not been completely buried by time and dust. Specially the last ones. The ones that read, “and therefore I go.”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The pretender and the fool

It was a girl's voice that answered the phone. After a moment of hesitation, I introduced myself. She sounded pleasantly surprised! A brief session including the exchange of each other's whereabouts followed. With an option to call her during a later hour, I hung up.

I knew Shahana through a roommate of mine from Delhi. She was an online friend of his, who had later turned into a phone pal. I always found it hard to relate to a voice without a face, or texts without both of the above. But he seemed to have no problem at all. He knew hundreds of such Shahanas. It was when I told him about my intention of moving to Bangalore, that he decided to part with her phone number. Tales of my prospective loneliness in a strange city just made it quicker.

She was preparing for her final exam when I called her the second time. I made no secret of my intentions of meeting her. Surprising me yet again, she readily agreed. Strange for a Muslim woman, I thought. Even stranger was the picture of mine I had painted. The me whom she knew was nothing but a bundle of lies I'd spontaneously cooked up; me who was a business analyst with an exorbitant pay packet; me who was the only son of very rich NRI parents; who drove 3 expensive cars; and was a lot of things that an innocent small town girl trying to make a living in Bangalore would dream about in a guy. Oblivious to the truth, she had agreed to meet me.

The day of the meeting arrived. It was a Saturday. The proposed venue was the Fifth Avenue, a popular hangout on Brigade Road. Before arriving at the spot, we had exchanged the details of our dress code in order to make identification easier. I had lied about mine, just in case… But she had not lied. She stood at the entrance clad in parrot green salwar-kameez. She was dark, moderately tall, and beautiful. It was time to make the move. The date was on.

I caught her by surprise by whispering her name from behind. She was startled. She panned me with her eyes from head to toe. She grinned. For two reasons – my appearance had pleased her, and second, I was wearing nothing like what I'd made her believe. She gently slapped on my shoulder followed by a gesture with her lovely eyes. The blame game, the fuss, and the patch up were all over in one sweeping movement of her eyes.

We took our seats towards the corner of the shop. She was lovelier than I had imagined. The features were sensual. The cheek bones, the dusky skin, the glittering and unusually sharp canines. There was something amorous even in her silence and the giggle she occasionally let slip through her pursed lips. Despite my persuasion, she refused to eat or drink anything, but a glass of water. I was beginning to like her. I wanted to tell her the truth. The romantic fool. But some tinge of sense from an evil corner of my heart prevented me.

A couple of hours passed. I was completely entangled in the spell of this lovely woman. I had to break the world of pretense I had created around her. After all, I was falling in love with her. How could one be untrue to a woman one was falling in love with? Ignoring the constant calling from the evil corner, I opened my mouth. "Shahana, I…," I started. Interrupting my confession, her phone rang. She excused herself, walked a few feet away and started speaking on the phone. I noticed an unusual stream of life flow into her. She was throwing regular glances at me, and giggling. I even noticed a blush despite her dark complexion.

She returned to the table a good fifteen minutes later. I looked at her with curious eyes. "Was it her boyfriend she had just spoken to?" I wondered. As if she could read my mind, she said, "Don't worry. It was not my boyfriend." A sigh of relief followed from my side. She giggled again at my expression. Though the joke was on me, I joined in. It was more of an effort to get over the embarrassment. The giggle turned into a laugh. And then into a frenzied roar. I was almost falling off the chair when she stopped laughing, for breath. I looked at her, through welled-up eyes. She gasped for one final time before she said - "It was Shahana."

Monday, September 22, 2008

And again...

I woke up in a long corridor. I could not remember how I got there. But then again, after a night of thorough binging, nobody would. The place looked familiar. I slowly got up. My knees ached. I must have walked a long way. Or maybe it was the cold floor I had slept on. Crawling on my buttocks, I rested my back against the wall. I felt like crushing my head just to rid myself of the headache. It was excruciating.

It could have been early morning. Or late evening. I did not care. Keeping track of my mind was hard enough. Yet some part of the dying rationalist managed to drag out the mobile phone from my pocket. It was lifeless. Time still remained a mystery.

I was not sure whether I wanted to get up and explore. Or to just slip back to oblivion. I generally woke up after these alcoholic nights with people around. I was alone this time. I wanted to call out. But I neither had the voice nor the recollection of my allies from last night. I dismissed the idea. The most convenient option at the time.

Using the wall for support, I slowly got up. I staggered down the dimly lit corridor. The end was hazy. A few more paces and a sign that read ‘toilet’ slowly came into view. I stepped in. By then, I had somehow figured out that I wanted to take a leak.

The sight that welcomed me was gruesome. Dozens of decapitated and mutilated corpses lay in a giant pile, almost touching the ceiling. Blood was still flowing from the fresh cuts on some of the corpses. I looked at my feet. I was standing in a pool of the red fluid myself. My slippers were soaked. I trembled.

I think it was the alcohol that prevented me from dashing out of there. Instead of stepping away, I walked towards the gory mess. They were all familiar faces. Strangely, what was left of all those bodies had one thing in common. They were all in uniform. It was then that the realization struck me. This was my school. Good old Udyogamandal School. And all these lifeless bodies were friends I had known at some point of time.

My eyes scanned the room. And to my utmost horror, I saw her. She stood in the corner, with her face partially covered with hair. Her long and crumpled night dress had blood all over it. Her hands dropped lazily by her side. One of them held a dagger. Blood dripped from the tip that pointed at the floor. I couldn’t see the face clearly, but the intent was unmistakable. I fled.

I knew the way out. This was after all the place where I had spent the major part of my childhood and teenage. I ran down the corridor, to the gate that opened into the basketball court. And from there I would make my escape through the main gate onto the road, I thought. Those hundred meters were toiling miles to me. I panted heavily as I ran to the gate. And then, just like in the movies, I fell. It was as if I tumbled on a block of some supernatural brick. But fall, I did. I heard footsteps approaching me. I had no energy to get up. My feet and my hands were immobile. I turned around, and lay on my back. I saw her slowly approach me. She knelt besides me and paused. She parted her hair, revealing her bloody face. I recognised her. Her eyes were cold as she raised the dagger. She slit the scream in my throat with a neat and indifferent swipe. Clutching my throat and choking, I woke up.

It was a dream, I realized. With a huge sigh of relief, I dragged myself to the wall to rest. My head hurt as if a thousand bombs had exploded inside my skull. I could hardly open my eyes. Too much alcohol from the night before was taking its toll. My knee ached terribly as I got up. Dazed, I started walking. My destination was a faded glow at the end of the long corridor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A bus journey gone wrong - and then slightly right!

If you think the corner seat on a bus with bad or no leg room during a 10-hour journey was bad enough, add to it bumpy roads, middle of nowhere, cold weather and claustrophobia. I would have preferred an Iron Maiden. At least death would have been faster.

It was well past midnight and it was getting worse with every passing minute. The guy who sat in front of me had just decided that it was time for him to go to bed. And with the reclining of his backrest, I was off. I had to escape.

There were bodies everywhere. The line might sound straight out of a war movie, but to me it was no less traumatic. Except for the fact that dead bodies did not scream out abuses when stepped on, it was ditto. I stepped on at least a couple of them sleeping in the aisle and received welcome gestures before I reached the driver’s cabin.

“20 kms to the next taxi stand,” said one of the umpteen voices in the cabin. On any other day, I would have been two and half cigarettes down and happily getting down. But this was not just any other day. Out came a string of expletives. I had no choice but to wait. And I couldn’t even smoke. An opportunist next to me took pity on my state and traded his window sill for my seat. 2 minutes later, he was thrown off his seat and was back demanding his two-inches by the window. I did not return the favour. Darwin would agree. After all, I was getting off in another 20 kms!

Hairpins came and hairpins went. There was no sign of civilization as yet. It is so strange how perspectives change with circumstances. These were the same hairpins I got blissfully lost in during the dawn from a day before. And here I was, counting every one of them, with profanity studded between every number.

And then there was light! Houses! People! I was Gulliver. I was Robinson Crusoe. I was almost everyone who has ever been stranded. I was probably the only one who had a phobia though. The bus had reached Manandhavadi, something that resembled a town. To me it looked like a city from the future. Active night life, food on the fast lane and supersonic cars; mainly jeeps.

A bunch of jeep drivers gathered in conspiracy as I downed two glasses of very bad looking water at a nearby pushcart. I walked over slowly as they reached a consensus. A car was available, an ambassador. I did not even bother to bargain as I got into a rickshaw to summon the driver and the car from a few miles away. Rs.14 a kilometer for 400kms was cheap for Alexander Selkirk.

The road to the driver’s house got spookier and spookier. If I were to be murdered on the route, I guess it would have taken another stranded me to ever find the body. But due to the million other options I had in the matrix, I sat with my trap shut. I was prepared for a fight if needed. My mind was quickly beginning to contrive as the road curved into oblivion.

“So where are you coming from sir,” asked the curious driver. I answered. “Anything in particular,” came the next question. “I had gone on an investigative mission,” said I. The man obviously thought he had heard me wrong. But the rickshaw did stutter for a moment. “Are you with the police,” said the slightly intimidated rickshaw guy. With my attire and weight, it would have been very hard to pass on as a cop. “I am with the CBI (central bureau of investigation),” I replied in whatever baritone I could manage amidst the suppressed giggle. If he had any intention of doing anything that my idle mind had cooked up, it evaporated there. The message apparently was passed on to my driver the moment he was woken from his midnight slumber. Because, silence was the only language spoken through the length of the remaining journey. I finally smiled. And I slept with it on.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The masks of sorrow!

It is my second month in the new firm. I have become familiar to a lot of people and they have become familiar to me. There comes a colleague of mine, a familiar and ‘pretty’ woman who shared an hour-long conversation with me in the cab just 12 hours back. I have rehearsed my greeting at least a couple of times over in my head. The smile is pasted neatly from ear to ear. The words are almost off the lease at the tip of my tongue. Eye contact remains the missing link before I pull the conversational trigger. Ten steps away. Five steps. Two steps. Zero steps. We pass. No eye contact. I swallow my words and erase my smile. All I have on my face is a confused WTF expression. Period.

I remember reading in school about a mythological demon named Medusa, into whose eyes if one stared, would turn them into stone. So far, I am not aware of me or anyone for that matter with such powers. I wasn’t around a few thousand years ago, so I can’t take Medusa’s case. But today, I am sure there is no one. If there was, Bangalore mirror would have covered him/her for 3 months with full page reports. So why on earth do people find an eye-to-eye such a tedious task?

The lady in the first paragraph for instance. Had I made a pass at her during that long midnight ride, being a married orthodox-looking woman, she would be completely justified. But all we did was talk about the death of advertising and the rise of PR. And there was nothing gory or unmentionable about it, despite the nature of the industries. So that options is ruled out.

Another theory could be the oncoming person’s face. In this case, mine. Well considering me, I don’t have the most beautiful of faces. Scary is what some define my face as. I agree. But even when scary, won’t you pass a glance, just for the sake of amusement? Just for kicks. Just like when you are walking the lonely road and you are sure that someone is following you. There comes this urge to turn back despite the ultimate fear. Just to kill it. I think there is. In which case, this also can be erased from the list of possibilities.

The next one, and a very probable one under any other circumstance, could be that she and I do not speak the same language. Or for that matter, we do not share a mutually comprehensible medium of communication. That is untrue unless we used sign language the previous night (which is quite possible considering that I was drunk up to my eyes and by tolerating me, she proved that so was she). She speaks English. I understand. I speak English. She understands. And then again, there is the universal language called smile.

Now the fourth, the very cynical and hence the very realistic thing. The mask. Everyone these days wears a mask – the mask of insecurity and hence one of indifference. Insecurity due to jobs, and lack of them. Insecurities from relationships and the absence of them. Insecurities due to challenges and walkovers. Insecurities due to the others and strangely due to oneself. The fear of being exposed steals the very essence of being human from each of us. The power of being social. To think of it, it is one small gesture that takes very little effort. As the cliché goes, fourteen muscles are all it takes. Then why bother counting the bricks in the wall when a warm ‘hello’ can keep you the human you were? Why create imaginary Sudoku puzzles in the air and solve them on the move, when a gentle smile can ensure that you have not evolved to the point of no return? Why can’t we just keep the romance alive like the good old days? Why can’t we just keep loving?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The bold line between fantasy and everything else...

The tea was getting cold. An old melody fought to freedom from the dusty Panasonic cassette player. The occasional tap of his feet seemed to acknowledge the fight; and maybe even inspire it. But Vivek’s attention was wandering beyond all that.

The road in front of him lay like a memory from a dream he’d often dreamt. It was a funny road – the road of his dreams. Every dream began at the same spot. Then he walked in the same direction; by the same canal; treading the same red earth. And eventually, he’d end up at one of his ancestral homes. But he had never been able to predict which one it would be - his mother’s or his father’s. But one of them, invariably it would be. If they’d been on separate ends of the road, it would’ve been easier. But they never were. Or probably they were. Even if they were, they looked so alike – both the ends that is. A palindrome of a road, he thought.

It was during one such journey towards the unpredictable that he’d come across the twist in the tale. He realized that he had passed it several times without actually noticing it. The tiny breach on the wall hidden behind a curtain of creepers had stayed hidden from him. If not for the squirrel that disappeared through the opening, he would’ve missed it that time around too. But that was not to be.

He carefully scanned the creepers for spiders before he parted the creepers. Though a renowned killer of the arachnids in his tender years, a close encounter had instilled the fear of the creatures deep in his mind. Apart from the resistance of a grasshopper, the encroachment was peaceful.

He walked through the narrow trail of ground that was the path as if following something unknown. He never wanted to stop. It was as if he knew it was leading somewhere more pleasant than sinister. The way his life had been treating him lately, something more evil was anyway out of question. It couldn’t get worse. In the clearing ahead, he found his answer.

The pond was crystal clear. He could clearly see a couple of sharks settled conveniently at the floor of the pool. And there were only sharks. Of all sizes and shapes. They crowded the pool and splashed water all over. The giant ones swam like whales with the tail fin held high up.

It was wonderful. He thought he would never be able to take his eyes off them. But he was wrong.

She was basking in the sun, on a rock by the bank. It was her. She was a mermaid now. But her it was. Doubtlessly. There was that same smile of nonchalance on her face. She hadn’t seen his prying eyes. Even if she had, she plainly ignored them. Like many a time outside the dream world. She was basking in her new-found, yet unpleasant independence.

Was this his moment? He thought. He hesitated. Would she dive into the depths of the pool and leave him stranded as always? Or would she turn her lazy head, and spare him a cajoling look? “Well, this was a dream. He could dream again. What was the big deal,” he said to himself with a mixture of 20% conviction, 30% apprehension and 50% fantasy. He took a deep breath. “Ziyaaaa,” he screamed. He had done it. He waited. His anxiety almost made his eyes bulge out and fall off. Terrifying seconds followed. Every tick was like the blow of a hammer. The nail was sinking. But then, against all the possible odds of heaven and hell, she turned. She looked at him for a couple of seconds; to him they were a million years. And she smiled. Flowers bloomed. The sun shot up. The seal on a bottle of rum broke. He was immortal.

In the real world however, things were quite different. He knew exactly where the road led. Winding by the thick mulberry bushes and the thorny fence; shouldering the toddy shop at the sharp turn; sliding by the thirsty river, it led to where his eyes were set. He got up slowly, emptied the cup in a gulp and looked at the watch. It was about time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Orphan

Spending nights on an empty stomach had become a habit to Pearl. She had been going through the same drill ever since she had joined the organization. She never complained. She just maintained her unwavering candle-like silence. Selfless, nonchalant and unassuming; but deafening nevertheless to the open mind.

The peon had switched off the lights. Darkness. Only dots of light on monitors fought on. They blinked like fireflies that could not fly. Probably they wanted to. But even if they did, they never told her. Nobody told her anything. Not even a word of appreciation. Not even a gesture of gratitude. Nothing. It was not as if she was unwilling to share her frustration or her dreams. But no one bothered.

The familiar sound of the creaking glass door was unmistakable. The peon was leaving. She let out a subtle sigh – one audible only to those blessed with that fast vanishing emotion called empathy. Like everyone and everything else, he’d also left without acknowledgement. It was one of those rare moments when she felt the urge to stray; to let go of her noble principles. Why serve such people, with utmost commitment and receive indifference in return. But why? It was probably something in her genes. Some sort of karma. Something she could do nothing about. She sighed again. The same old sigh.

As loneliness slowly overpowered her cynicism, she began to feel better. Her gaze slowly turned towards herself. She could see her reflection on the glass pane of the nearby cubicle. She looked at her sturdy frame. It was not completely devoid of beauty. It was firm. Though not as shapely as some of the new entrants in the office, she still had a thing or two left in her. The neat white cap, her only accessory, still reminded her of her glory days.

She was not the only new entrant on the day. But she was different. She was trendy and classy. As she treaded down the corridor, there were quite a few eyes on her. She had loved most of the attention. But a part of it, planted a fear in her mind. Those eyes green with envy. The ones that knew she was there to take their place. The realist in her realised that one day those eyes would be hers. But the optimist decided to enjoy the glory of the moment. An attractive young man who took more than a fancy towards her, decided to make her his. And as he carried her in his arms, she felt fulfilled; and wanted. And she felt all that beyond those eyes that had turned greener.

Sadeep, her new patron, was a tall, lean man. He was also her first. Beads of nervousness trickled down her spine as he approached her. As it turned out, he was also gentle. He treated her with utmost care and possessiveness. He would not let anyone else near her. She felt safe with him near her. They ate together. They went out for a smoke together. There were even times when they went home together. She loved his home. Home. It was a new world to her. Confined in the insides of giant walls since birth, the office was the only glimpse of the outside world she’d had. Home, with its warmth and peaceful, but not-so-lonely nights, was a perfect getaway. She loved Sadeep for taking her there, and opening a new dimension to her. And in return to all he gave her, she quenched his thirst, through day and night.

Sadeep did not come in the next day. Might have fallen sick, she thought. She could hear whispers. Jealous bitches, she uttered under her breath. But as the whispers in the office remained whispers no more, she realised with a shock that it was sympathy, and not jealousy. Sadeep had left the job. Her formless heart broke into a million formless pieces. She felt pain – in an inexplicably excruciating way. She later realised that it was her heart breaking. But at that time, it was new. It felt as if her virgin innocence had ruptured. The peon had left her by her patron’s desk. She was full and brimming as she waited for him. All for nothing. Then, it began to sink in. The same damned feeling. Déjà vu. Again. Without a word. She looked around. She felt like an orphaned zombie as she sat on his desk. And then, she noticed. Those eyes; they were not green anymore.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A cigarette's role reversal!

Over time, we have explored and identified every possible damage that a cigarette can cause to one’s health. As a result of constant research, we have run out of hazards and more importantly, the world has heard and had enough. So, do we give up now? No. A big blatant NO. Why? Because we are TBWA. We don’t give up. We disrupt.

I am new to TBWA and hence unfamiliar with the intricacies of the disruption process. However, I know the basics. And therefore…

Convention: Cigarette Kills
Disruption: Cigarette Saves

How can a cigarette save a life? First guess. A smoker’s desperate last effort to convince himself that smoking isn’t all that bad. The truth. A smoker at TBWA’s Bangalore office spends an average of three and a half rupees on a single cigarette. We have 40 employees here, among which 16 are smokers. If each smoker, gives up one cigarette a day, and drop that money in a drop box, we will have Rs.56, come the end of the day. Rs.1120 a 4-week month. Now comes a strange coincidence; or maybe even a sign. The Rs.1120 that can be saved a month by us smokers is exactly the amount of money Salima jaan direly needs. And you say – “Salima who?”

Well, not many of us know Salima jaan. It is probably because we fail to notice her amidst our own traumatized lives. Bad deadlines, unreasonable servicing guys, weird clients, egoistic writers, and artless art directors. Goodness. Amidst all these life and death situations, who has time for an ugly old woman, who cleans the ashes, mutters something to herself, and passes us.
After all she earns a whopping Rs.2000, out of which more than half is spent on treating her eldest son – a victim of an accident, medical negligence and money. She is also holds the title of the sole breadwinner for a family comprising an old man, two daughters, a widow and a few little kids.

So fellow smokers, let us unite for a cause. If I say there is nothing in it for you but prayers, you might shrug it off. But I saw her pray for one of our colleagues today. He gave her some money. And she cried and she prayed. There was so much conviction on her face that made the atheist in me want to believe in god just for once.

Drop in a cigarette (monetary equivalent) in the drop box provided. It reads ‘Salima Humari Jaan’.

Thank you.

Note: For non-employees, the box is placed at TWBA, 4th floor, A1 Tower, Golden Enclave, Airport Road.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I can't remember tomorrow!

The stone is bleeding, tears deepen the wound
The laughter is vague like a forgotten dream
Fading footsteps murder the last god
Patient walls hear the death of the scream

A fourth finger burns inside a silver hoop
The holy witness closes melancholy eyes
Eternal etchings look stupid and human
Stranger than truth are but those sensual lies

The fallen angel smirks at the broken heart
As the masochist laughs and dwells in denial
The pain it looks he shall carry until death
And will die not with time, but the final burial

The darkened dream won’t rise from the ashes
As the tormentor lies oblivious to sorrow
Blame the fool, for his hopes are mirages
But alas, he just can’t remember tomorrow

Friday, April 04, 2008

Coorg - Just like that - The conclusion

the invisible wall as tall as the sky...
The verandah, as mentioned earlier, was a dark dungeon with immense possibilities. To overcome the fear, we engaged ourselves in a variety of discussions. It varied from rain drops and umbrellas to live-in relationships and poetry. It is again interesting how alcohol can dissect a lot of otherwise meaningless phrases and incidents to insights your sober mind would never even consider. I had my share of revelations with Gulzar and Ijaazat. Here is a decent attempt to translate a couple of lines. “Both of us got wet under a single umbrella. I took home the dry moments. The wet ones however, lie with you. Give them back to me.“ My interpretation surprised me. Will yours surprise you? Give it a go.

An old man was our caretaker for the night. He spoke in Kannada while neither of us did. As a result, most of our requirements were conveyed to him in form of hand signals. The man would take our order, decipher it and then disappear around a corner into the dark. As we indulged in our conversations, he would emerge from the dark and peep from around the corner. The intentions were innocent. He would be just waiting for us to summon him. But darkness has its way of adding a pinch of horror even to angels. By the time we got to bed, every one of us was more or less convinced that the old man was a psychopath; and that he would sneak in on us at night and slit our throats.

As the night got older, my friends’ concerns were primarily towards the chicken, pork and rice. Our dinner was getting cold. Mine however, as you might have already guessed, were focused on the unfinished bottles of vodka and rum. These issues were promptly addressed by the time the food was halved. I gorged on the delicious meat and decided that the night was old enough. And even worse, my friends did not share the same passion as me when it came to sleeping late into the morning. As a result, I slept.

I woke up to a little conflict - to leave or not to leave. Doda was jobless and had no strings attached. He wanted to stay back. Shiva’s company could do without him for a day. He wanted to stay back. Pooja had a meeting. She wanted to leave. I had, strangely and quite surprisingly, something important to do. I wanted to leave. Shiva had the car and hence the bargaining power lay firmly in his favour. But then again, Pooja was a woman and more importantly, one who was likely to stick with Shiva for the rest of their lives. Shiva, who did not want to be deprived of ‘you know what’ for the rest of his life, was left with no choice. At around 10am, our car left Pompei.

The last time I had gone to the monastery in Kushalnagar, I sat like a dumb fool overwhelmed by the energy the golden statue radiated. This time around, it was no different. Though branded a non-believer, I worship the energy at all the religious shrines. There could be a million reasons behind this unique experience of peace. For one, it could be the absence of footwear; or it could the architecture; or whatever. These places always leave me feeling small. I sat and stared at Buddha for a long time, letting the icebergs of peace sink in. And I wasn’t even drunk.

The drive back was not an eventful one except for two things. One of them was the stop at the 24-hour coffee day on Mysore. The place has become some sort of a shrine for weekend wanderers. Thanks to the 'crime starts at 11pm' syndrome. We found a cozy corner; and if my memory isn’t lying, had a few sandwiches. I could not sit there for too long though. It was getting claustrophobic. It was suffocating. I struggled for some time and walked out to break free from the stranglehold of some painful memories.

The second, the more romantic of the two, was the race with the rain. Rain caught us by surprise as we stopped to click a few pictures of an unassuming lake. It lay there, serene and stagnant, unaware of the pleasant feeling it was giving us. The meteorologist, my alter ego, sensed the alarm. I urged Doda and Shiva to return. They paid no heed. I was comfortably seated in the car with the windows raised as both the wet unbelievers scampered in. We drove fast. And then it happened. The highway lay there, in front of us, stretching to the horizon. It looked as if rain had surrendered. It had stopped as if by a barricade – a giant wall touching the sky. It gives you a cheap thrill when you see nature humbled. I enjoyed the moment completely.
We drove on; and never stopped till we reached Kasturi Nagar. It was dark. And just like all the other good things…

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mr. Thomas

this is as much as I have of him...
Thomas, the owner of our resort, is what you could call a modern-day Robinson Crusoe. He was a Goan by birth. He had come to Coorg for business. He had never left there since. He was married to a Coorgie lady, had a wonderful daughter, and is the most self sufficient man I have every met till date.

The same darkness that surrounded us and scared me, was his tiny world. A world that had everything his family desired, wanted and needed. He grew coffee, the best of it. Export quality as he calls it. As Indians, we would have preferred anything imported. But there is this fetish in me for the indigenous, and hence export quality was just fine. He literally gave us thesis material on coffee. He apparently used his own coffee, the best quality that was priced at around Rs. 2000 per kg, at his house. It was prepared by roasting and grinding a bean which did not have the traditional slit or the partition. Though he doesn’t live on coffee, he definitely lives with it.

He grows his own vegetables and he rears his own animals and birds. That includes cows, pigs, hens, and a ferocious looking dog. That is where the excellent Coorgie pork curry comes from. He sells the hens when they are past there prime, and same applies to all of his animals. He has a good supply of eggs, milk, vegetables and meat. And coffee too. His kitchen runs on biogas, courtesy of a device he has created himself. He is getting it patented soon it seems, for elaborate sales. He drives jeeps. He has two of them. And he belongs to the jeep club of India. A close friend of his owns a jeep dropped from a parachute during the war. He rides a, you guessed it, royal enfied – the authentic right-side gearshift one. The only times he steps of the house are when he has to dispose the garbage – a meager quantity when considering the appetite of the pigs – and to fill petrol. That will soon be eliminated as he is currently working on a biogas run engine for his beloved jeep.

Close to 10pm, he bid goodnight. He left us with steaming chicken, bitter pork and a truckload of aspirations – to one day lead his life.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Coorg – Just like that – Part 2

boulevard of mended dreams...

The first harbinger of the eventful journey ahead welcomed us in form of a construction barricade. The road was dug up so badly, we got the feeling that we’d reentered Bangalore. Well, it wasn’t so. After seeking directions from a surprisingly friendly cop, we continued.

Within less than a kilometer of traveling, the fifth passenger, hangover by name, woke up and was up to his antics. An elderly statesman at the office, a man who had fought and won many a battle with the consequences of excessive alcohol intake, had passed the mantra on to me during one of the sessions. Lemon juice with tender coconut water is supposedly the best way to murder a hangover. No harm in trying right? We pulled over at a roadside stall and downed two coconuts each with the refreshing citrus twist. We continued.

We were as much Coorgie as Sir Alex is an Arsenal fan. And it was strange that this fact dawned up on us only after crossing the Coorg border. “Where do we stay,” was the unanimous response to the awakening. The very resourceful Pooja dialed her manager, a frequent traveler, but more importantly, the guy with access to the internet. Two minutes later we had three contacts of guys providing home-stays. Home-stays are places that offer places to stay, with authentic local cuisine, cooked by the hosts themselves. After a couple of visits and examination of our wallets, we froze on Pompey Valley.

The good had lost its battle with evil by the time we reached our destination. The rusted gates eerily creaked as we pushed them open. We drove in with the car headlights providing the only illumination in the black boulevard. And then there was light. And then there were cottages too. It was beautiful. A very pretty lady welcomed us at the first cottage. We waited for a while before the owner, a gentleman named Thomas, joined us. After completing the formalities and conveying our needs – accompaniments for liquor and some awesome-sounding Coorgie dinner – we walked to our cottage.

We walked through dimly lit and sometimes, completely dark alleys. Our cottage, it seemed to us, was at the end of the world. And that apparently, was in Coorg. Though old, it was a neat and cozy peninsula surrounded by darkness, wilderness and enigma on three sides. It made the verandah a perfect setting for anybody with any dark affliction towards alcohol – cold and spooky. With rum, vodka, beakers of coke, sprite and scrambled eggs, we began a night that was to grow really old.

Darkness has a humbling effect on me. Despite holding the title an atheist, and at times agnostic, the absence of light invariably gives me a reality check. I despise the fear of the unknown with such vehemence when it comes to superstitions and religion – as how the sun was to our ancestors across the globe. But as the night falls, the fear of the unseen, which is far less respectful than the unknown, grips me where it matters. Our little veranda was surrounded by this very same darkness. It was a jungle out there. The noises of the wild along with the eeriness made a killer combo that would have made Hercules pee in his lion-skin loincloth. Anyways, Hercules is dead and gone, or perhaps fighting some multi-headed monster in an immortal cave in a Grecian head. That left me as the only one, prepared to pee in the modern version of the loincloth.

It took another 2 drinks for the fear of the unseen to vanish. It is amazing the kind of things alcohol can make you forget and the kind of things it can make you remember. And guess what, it even gives you a choice. It is this property of alcohol that makes me complacent. I might not have ventured into many junkie arenas (a little hash and a little grass is all that I have treaded on, by, with, in, and off), but the pleasure of remembering things you want to remember, and forgetting things you want to forget, is at its customisable best with alcohol. What possibly better rendition could any other intoxicant provide? Hence the complacency and therefore, the phrase – Alcohol is a man’s best friend. Fuck the dog!

The sins, fear of the dark and lust for alcohol, will have to wait for their respective and dedicated blog entries. That brings me back to the verandah at Pompei village.

p.s. Next up in the series, Mr. Thomas D’Souza of the Pompei Valley fame.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Coorg - just like that - Part 1

I left Carnival at midnight. I was high. I was happy. I was satiated. I had a heavy mind to distract. A lost religion to reclaim. A life to look ahead to. I had done all that.

Carnival is a small and inexpensive bar in the heart of a pub-infested brigade road. Since advertising guys are underpaid contrary to perception, it was a favourite resort to many a creative mind. It was a colleague’s bachelor party. We drank to his life after marriage – the joys and the sorrows; the compromises and the sacrifices; the so many don’ts and the occasional dos. It seemed extraordinary to me, how the beginning of something as happy could mark the end of so many other equally joyful events. But love is blind and hence all the costs associated are hidden.

As the rum and coke united in my veins, the future lay dazed in front of me. What now? Now, if you thought it was the philosopher in me talking, think again. My mind was in quest of the next source of alcohol to keep me running. It was a Friday night and it was only midnight. I needed more alcohol. After intense introspection, a good friend’s home beckoned. I answered the call.

I summoned a rickshaw to go to Kasturi Nagar. It was dark and I had serious doubts about the intentions of the rickshaw driver. For all I knew, he would have killed me. But I would not die in vain. I messaged the details of the driver to my boss. In case I was unable prevent death, the killer would never go unpunished. However, none of that was needed. I was in one piece as I rang the doorbell.

A friend from Mumbai had come down. A good friend. He was fondly called ‘Doda’ during the hostel days. When the fondness grew, ‘Doda’ was often followed by a rhyming obscenity. It had been a few years since I’d seen him. I was happier. I had an emergency stock of liquor in my bag. A neat mix of Old Monk, coke and water. Muah!

We started drinking. In 15 minutes, we lost interest in music. In another 15 minutes, we found the confinement of the walls suffocating. In yet another 15 minutes, everything Bangalore looked passé. Hence we packed and left for Mysore. It was 2.45 am.

As with all spontaneous journeys, we did not have a clue as to how to get to Mysore. We had a tourist map. And for a long part of our journey, that was about all we had. There weren’t many willing citizens on the streets at 3am in the morning to give us directions you know. And moreover, men do not ask for directions if they have the minutest of ideas about directions. I was one of them. In my drunken haze, I remember taking my fellow travelers in a complete different direction for about three kilometres before a call centre cab came to our rescue. U-turn.

One among the four, Shiva by name, was the only qualified driver for three reasons. One being that the rest of us was drunk to our oesophagus. The second, and a very prominent reason was that he owned the car. Well at this point, you can argue that the car was as much his as it was his wife’s. Well, there comes the third reason. Wives are women and women can’t drive.

Doda downed alcohol as if he had just been released from solitary confinement in Gujarat. For those who do not know, Gujarat is a dry state. And it also succeeds a lot of profane adjectives associated with the non-availability of alcohol – impotent for instance. The bottle was over as if it were a matter of pride to finish it in 30 minutes flat. Speaking of flat, Doda was down curled in front of a shop after his alcoholic adventures - exactly an hour after the vodka exodus. I carried on. But then again, I had the advantage of not having a liver.

We reached Mysore at about 6.30 in the morning. Guides and hotel boys closed in on us like zombies from one of those b-grade horror flicks. I still believe that if I hadn’t rolled the glasses up, they would have eaten me alive. But rolled them up, I did; and hence am intact. After warding off the scavengers, we managed to get a large room, a ‘penthousish’ arrangement on the terrace. Shiva, who I consider an antisocial, was up and away for his masala dosa while we fell unconscious onto our rectangular pieces of heaven.

The sun was shining in all its glory when sanity woke us up. Mysore has its share of history for travelers. Tipu’s palace was one of them. Despite my memories of visiting the palace since time immemorial, Doda’s doggedness drove the car towards the palace. Th drive to the palace however, lasted only as long as a green board that hung above. It read ‘Coorg’.

to be continued...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Workplace RHapsody - 4

The clock is merciful and hence I did smoke
The first puffs in my veins, made me act like a joke
I rush to the toilet and count the tiles
Those nine hours to me were a cool million miles
My mind tells me to go a little further
The body however, craves rum and coke together
Should I venture to new grounds with my evening alcohol,
Or stick to the tested and crawl up the wall
Colleagues are chatting and winding up for the day
Girls ganging, guys ganging, god it looks so gay
Now starts the ponder over the watering hole
My choice is where there is the freshest shoal
I shut down my computer thirsty for liquor
But even when drunk I judge better than Bucknor

A Workplace Rhapsody - 3

The man from the bank doesn’t look like coming,
Is he sitting at his desk and doing all his summing?
A brand new month is fast approaching,
And poverty is all set to start encroaching.
Liquor and cigarettes and expensive food,
Have drained all my money, my brother, dear dude.
I wanted some cocktails and took down a recipe
And summoned some grapes, and some snack that was crispy.
I won’t smoke till the sadistic clock strikes 6 times
Look at this line, with the previous one it rhymes.
The bottle on my table is nearly empty
I am balanced on my chair and won’t fall off like Humpty.
My stomach is upset, I am going to the potty
I might fart out loud if I feel a little more naughty.

A Workplace Rhapsody - 2

The electrons are flowing fast and free,
The watchman has got the office key.
The stairs are void of cigarettes and speech,
The cabins have people with one chair each.
Laughing and singing and working at times,
But lazy to the core when compared to wind chimes,
The mail from the boss was sarcastic to the point,
It made one colleague want to light up a joint.
A lady is quitting to take care of her kid,
I bet since he’s Indian, he is not called Sid.
They are discussing home loans and matters of money,
The beggar who passed by found it very funny.
Everyone wants to know what the other is doing,
Is it work, is it play or is it my coffee brewing?

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Workplace Rhapsody - 1

Introduction: Well, this one is inspired by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert strip. In one of his recent blogs, he had discussed the idea of his readers putting down random rhyming lines which made some or no sense. I did my share of two and posted them. And then, on further contemplation, I realised - but why 2, and not 14? And therefore I wrote twelve more. I have not enjoyed as much writing something in a very very long time. This might continue as a series. Because, if 2 could become 14, 14 could as well become anything. But for the time being, here is whatever that has been manifested...

A Workplace Rhapsody - I

The computer is but a little matchbox,
And the mouse is everything but a fox.
The speakers are palace guards on either side,
The music is melody that I take in my stride.
The hard disk is full of bits and bytes,
The cabinet screws are rusted and tight.
The letters on MS word are of font size ten,
If the cursor grows it may look a mountain
The monitor is blinking black and blue,
One more time and I will trash it in the loo.
I pressed the enter key twice or thrice,
But I won’t touch the ‘Pause Break’ till my demise.
The UPS is down and hence I’ll stop writing,
Promise me it’s okay or I will start biting.