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.