Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Loose change

For most people our age, the first of household responsibilities we take on is that of shopping. Not the kind of shopping we are familiar with these days, but the kind that includes the basic necessities of those days. The list mostly featured milk, bread and the occasional egg(s). It was not as if that list fulfilled every need to run the house. It was because the adults took care of the rest of the things. And of course, one couldn’t go wrong with a pack of milk.

My brother and I began our shopping adventures at a small shop across the road owned by a man named Vasu. We called him Vasu uncle. We considered shopping to be a sign of being a grown up and took great pride when entrusted with the responsibility without actually realizing that it was a chore. When mom handed us the money, it was as if the family depended on us. Being the elder brother in the family, I would always keep the money in my pocket. And hence more power, responsibility, pride and the whole package.

Those were the days when denominations under 50 paise were very much in existence. Invariably, by some freakish coincidence, after every one of our shopping stints there would be loose change. Because, when we went shopping with dad, there just wouldn’t be any loose change. Anyway, it was at this juncture that virtues like responsibility, dependability, integrity and their kin went flying out of the window. And in came those yellow and orange Ravalgaon candies.

We used to love those candies, my brother and I. They came wrapped in transparent plastic – in yellow, orange and red. The flavours were supposed to be lemon, orange and grape respectively. Simple and minimal white text took care of the branding. That was all they needed. The sight of the candies through their wrappers did the rest. I used to like the yellow and orange ones and would beg Vasu uncle for them. If there weren’t too many customers around, he’d fulfill my wish, although with a look of disdain and disapproval. When there was a crowd, he would just dip his hairy hand and pick out random candies. And while they were still in the palm, he would count them flawlessly. The look of disdain however, remained a constant.

Being a big brother had its advantages. No, I am not referring to those whacks on my bum I received for those childhood crimes my little brother caused. Nor am I referring to the smaller piece of cake I had to be happy with because my brother was younger. I am talking about choice. As long as I was outside the premises of my house, it was my world. No dad. No mom. No maid (yeah, even she used to punish me). I was the king. People (in this case, just my brother) lived by my rules and mine alone. And by the powers endorsed upon me by me, I would always choose the yellows and the oranges. My brother would have to do with the reds. This went on for the best part of our childhood.

Then things started to change. We grew up. The shopping patterns changed. We were introduced to an unhealthy habit called ‘saving money’. 50 paise coins vanished. I started working. Milk became cigarettes. Bread became cigarettes too. The candies stopped.

Two decades had passed when I walked up to this tiny shop next to my office for my regular quota of cigarettes. I always carried the exact change – Rs. 45. And Surprise! The cigarette prices had been hiked again, this time to a very change-friendly Rs. 48. With a shake of my head, I took out a Rs. 50 note and handed it out to the shopkeeper. He gave me my pack, fiddled around his drawer for a while and shut it in frustration. He reached out for a plastic jar in a corner, looked at me apologetically and said, “Sorry sir, I don’t have change.” I nodded. He then proceeded and handed me four candies. They were wrapped in transparent plastic with ‘Ravalgaon’ written on them - in that same simple white text.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The vicious cycle

I have been here before, they look so frighteningly familiar,

the blood stained walls, the echoing shrieks and the dark alleys.

I have fallen, been struck down and at times been wounded,

and rolled down the slopes of treacherous and timeless valleys.

As the darkness descends and shuts the doors of hope,

I lie there in agony in a sticky pool of my blood old and new.

Waiting for the eerie shadows to dissolve as the old clock ticks,

because I know with the dawn will rise another you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A week of advertising

I recently had a status message on FB where I compared Monday with a certain department in an advertising agency. To avoid discrimination, I decided to analyse the other days as well. The result, is mentioned below.

Monday must be in Client Servicing. Every time it shows up, it gets abused, screamed at and is shooed off. But give it a few days, and it is back smiling.

A Tuesday is not really welcome, but comes as a relief now that Monday has gone away. Tuesday therefore is the Planning Department.

Nobody really notices a Wednesday. It is there because it has to. Nobody enjoys it. Nobody really hates it. And that makes Wednesday the Admin Department.

Thursday’s only saving grace is that it reminds you that Friday is really close; like the Accounts Department. The only time we really like them is just before the salary day.

We all love Fridays, don’t we? They don’t seem as long as the other weekdays nor do they stay as long as the weekends. But we wait eagerly for them and enjoy them while they last. They are the pretty Interns.

Saturdays wake up with a problem, mostly a hangover, and work all day to ensure that the problem still looms large cometh a Sunday morning. That is the Creative Department for you.

A Sunday is bad news in disguise. It looks like a perfect day to sleep and chill and all that. But they do ensure that you know that the weekend is over and it is time to get back to work. Sunday, is your Boss.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blind, deaf and apparently dumb!

A wailing siren pleads to the crowd,
as a heart fights a battle it is bound to lose.
Cries of agony fall and drown in cold blood,
as selfish minds tend to ignore and not choose.
Open your eyes and a little of your heart,
roll down your windows and let a life through.
For what goes around has to but come around,
and the white caravan will come for you too.

Interpretations by a few friends

“I feel it’s about people who don't take sides and are diplomatic; who do not have a cause and like to live in ignorance. Well, not exactly ignorance, but a peaceful existence so much that it makes them nonchalant and nonreactive to the things happening around them.”

“The white caravan, even though is pleading to the crowd to get in, might not be the best of refuge from a world full of cruelty and selfishness, as it ensures you reap only what you sowed!”

“The way I see it, it is about me and the people and the lies I am dealing with or an actor on stage craving connection and appreciation.”

“To me it sounds like a message intended for a social cause. It sounds like u want people to open up to/accept something that’s happening, something that needs their attention and without giving it its due... I’m not helping rescue it and myself. The reference to heart in the second line makes me think about something to do with the emotional battle within something/someone but I am not too sure what u meant by the white caravan...”

“Help thy neighbour put across in a different way. Something about all people in trouble that is not my problem. And then finally it’s my turn to die.

“Hmm...It looked like somebody's last appeal. Somebody who knows it’s not gonna work but still... Like I said painful and very tired.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Merchant of Cochin

Gentle waves impatiently washed against the dyke at the GCDA building in Cochin; each wave more frustrated than the previous one. Grey balloon clouds waited eagerly for an arrow of cold breeze to burst them to life. As nature’s drama unfolded in the seas and the skies, a little and ageing shopping complex stood beneath unsuspectingly.

Hiralal was on the last page of his third newspaper when the first customer walked through the door of the handicraft store. He had finished his two Gujarati dailies and was now flipping through the pictures in the English one. The store hardly attracted customers this time of the year. Tourists formed a majority of his clientele and during the monsoons they sought comfort in drier lands. The store was also one of the many and the smallest among around 15 handicraft stores packed into the tiny complex. So even on business days, footfalls were few and far between. But this was a Sunday, and this was the only store in the complex that was open; therefore the rare customer.

Hiralal welcomed him with a smile only wolves in lambskins and Marwari merchants were capable of. He welcomed the customer in with his arm around his shoulder, chatting away about the weather, his troubled stomach, the cricket match and of course, the items on sale.

The customer walked around the store in amazement. Though tiny, the store stocked some really beautiful and exotic pieces. The customer ran his finger over several brass statues and wooden sculptures with a twinkle in his eye. The glint vanished and a disappointed frown replaced it as he tipped over the price tags with a nimble touch of his fingers - something that Indian shoppers had mastered over the years. Sensing the dejection on the customer’s face, Hiralal approached him with a look of genuine sympathy – a look that made the smile mentioned earlier seem evil.

“What do you want?” asked Hiralal. The customer reluctantly turned at him, a look of disappointment drawn across his face. “Well,” he said, still fiddling with the price tag. “I am a student of art from Himachal. I traveled the length and breadth of India collecting exotic and rare pieces before I reached Kerala. This is my last destination and I am almost out of money. If I’d known about these treasures I’d find here, I would have saved up and bough out the entire store. But alas!”

Now it was Hiralal’s turn to look helpless. He stood in front of the customer, lost in thought. He walked over to the calendar on the wall, flipped through a few pages muttering something to himself. He walked over to the cash counter and picked up a notebook. He flipped through a few pages, stopped at one and ran his fingers down as if following a list. A slight smile appeared on his face. He slapped the book shut, and with a smile that had now become a broad grin, walked up to the customer.

“Today, is your lucky day sir!” he exclaimed. The man looked at Hiralal with an expression of puzzlement. “We made a considerable profit over the last month and I think I can strike you a reasonable deal. A very very reasonable deal,” Hiralal continued. The man walked briskly up to Hiralal and hugged him tightly. In the next hour, the young man rampaged around the store like an elephant in the sugarcane field. Hiralal had struck him such a deal that items earlier out of reach for his pocket seemed cheap. Bronze statues, marble sculptures, wooden carvings – The young man’s rucksack kept growing by the minute.

It was almost evening by the time Hiralal waved at the young man from the door as he walked away with his hands and heart full. As the young man disappeared into the crowd, Hiralal turned and walked up to his newspaper. He was just about picking up his reading glasses when a voice distracted him. It was Ghanshyam, the owner of the store… and his competitor.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An honest mistake!

Prominent, among a plethora of things in the west we Mallus in the advertising industry keep our eyes open to, is adultery. So when a ‘single and blatantly eager to mingle’ mom in her late 30s (Aditi) and a ‘married but an effervescent pool of testosterone’ dad (Vimal) were seen together, two and two were left with no choice but to add up to five.

First to smell the rat was Dileep. I still wonder how he managed to identify the smell amidst fumes of ‘I dare not mention or he’ll lose his job’. His groggy eyes saw the couple in a compromising position for the first time at the parking lot. Further investigation revealed the compromising position in the context as the two of them speeding off in opposite directions on their respective bikes. But that, people, is for another day. Thus, a story was born. One of love, lust and sex. Was there murder? There were deaths – of self esteem, trust, ethics, etc. But human casualties, if I remember right, were not recorded.

The couple under investigation denied the allegations through words. Their deeds however, often betrayed them. Every evening when Aditi left the office, her eyes would scan the entire floor in search of Vimal. A few quick messages would be exchanged in a language known to them and their eyes alone. And in a matter of minutes, Vimal was up and done for the day. The two would walk out of the office, one a few metres behind the other, to erase any sign of suspicion. This was their routine.

Despite a completely spaced out look, Dileep was alert to everything that happened in the lives of the lovers. His senses followed them like a well trained sniffer dog. He was so dedicated that he even used to take mental notes to study the behavioral patterns. And it was this enterprise that finally helped bring the tale to a conclusion.

Aditi had invited her team over for dinner. Vimal, despite not being a member, was also on the guest list. Surprise, surprise. Aditi left early in order to set the house up for the event, giving Dileep the directions to her house. Never the one to give up an opportunity, Dileep approached Vimal with a wicked grin. “Why do we need directions? I am sure you can ride to her place blindfolded,” joked Dileep. Vimal smiled politely in reply. A smile so innocent, it almost erased all doubts from my mind. Maybe he was a nice guy after all. His only evil being an addiction to all the PYTs in Yahoo adult chat rooms. But that wasn’t really a vice, was it? Every 35-year-old married man with a couple of kids frequented the ‘Bangaloreans for sex’ room. Well, he was partially cleared.

Adding steel to my belief, Vimal patiently followed Dileep, myself and the rest of them on his bike (A clear indication of the poor soul’s innocence) on our way to Aditi’s house. I think he even lost his way a couple of times and sealed the deal. Dileep kept looking over his shoulder and deliberately slowed his bike every now and then, in order to let Vimal overtake him and lead the way. The ploy failed miserably for Vimal would slow down even before Dileep thought of applying his brakes.

It was Aditi’s 7-year-old daughter who opened the door. Aditi was still in the kitchen. Dileep walked in at the end of the line, still shaking his head in disbelief. He was sure. His instincts had never failed him before. Or so he claimed.

It was a comfortable living room. We all sank into the soft couches. Aditi’s daughter disappeared into the kitchen to help her mother with the final flourishes. The guys turned towards Dileep, and threw him glances to intensify the guilt. He kept shaking his head and turned away refusing to accept defeat.

Minutes ticked agonizingly. They seemed longer as hunger called out loud from each of our tummies. The aroma from the kitchen was not making it any easier either. It was hot. “Why hadn’t we switched on the fan,” I wondered. I looked at Dileep. He was still sitting there, shaking his head in disbelief. Amidst the wonderful aroma, it was as if he was still trying to sniff the rat out.

After unsuccessfully snapping my fingers to grab Dileep’s attention a couple of times, I managed to wake him up from his ponder with a low whistle. “What,” he lipped disinterestedly. If Katrina Kaif walked in front of him nude at that moment, hand in hand with an equally nude Angelina Jolie, Dileep wouldn’t have budged. I pointed towards the fan. The heat was probably getting to him as well. Quarter-heartedly, he got up and dragged himself towards the switchboard. The switchboard was like a buffet after 4 drinks. You just didn’t know what to choose. And hence he applied the tried and tested trial and error method.

After switching on almost every other device after the first few attempts, he gave up. “Aditi, which one is the fan’s switch,” he shouted in the direction of the kitchen. “The second one from the left in the second row,” replied a confident voice from his immediate left. The smile that reappeared on Dileep’s face was there for all to see.

Monday, July 19, 2010


It was all fine till that moment; when that man in white slapped me hard on my buttocks dangling me by my feet. And with that first infliction of pain came a flurry of tags. I was a son, a nephew and by the virtue of a late act by my grandfather, an uncle. And as I grew, so did the list of tags. I was soon a brother; and then a friend. And so on.

With these tags came conditioning; obligations rather. Each tag came with a set of attached requirements - of love, of hate and of compromise. Choices became fewer. I was forced to love and hate based on the million conditions that applied to each of these tags. I learned to follow before I could lead. I learnt to listen before I could speak. The strings grew tighter. They demanded detached tears and indifferent smiles. It became a leash, dragging me along, away from everything I wanted. And I followed obediently.

But somehow, it was bound to go wrong. Inevitably. Because underneath all those tags, suffocated and stranded I suffered, struggling for some air. Because before I was son, a brother and a friend, I was a human being. And even God, has no right to mess with my free will.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Online Interview

I recently received a comment on my blog. It was from a guy named Mike Thom. He wanted to interview me because some guy he interviewed named my blog as his favourite (yeah right!). Here is the online interview page. And my answers.

The Interview

Please give us a description of your blog (This will appear on the homepage):
My blog is a crammed up little dingy corner in cyberspace where letters that were complete strangers earlier come together and talk of situations, things and people they were completely unaware of in the past.

What do you do for a living? Is this your job, a hobby, etc.?
I am a serial killer at night and a cop during the day. I have been trying to catch 'me' for the last 20 years. Does that sound like a hobby to you?

Why did you start blogging about this topic?
Because the book titled “Read people’s minds in 30 days and blog about them” was sold out.

How long have you been working on this blog?
Long enough to be interviewed by a guy named Mike Thom.

How many visitors does your blog get per day?
It depends on what my blog is wearing on a particular day. When the bikini is out, there is usually a rush.

Does your blog have an income? Which ways have worked, which haven't? How successful has it been?
My blog does have a small income. Nothing too significant, but a little. It works part-time as a window cleaner. Now you know how much part-time window cleaners earn. So, I am cool. It doesn't threaten me. I am sure it is more than happy with the shelter and food I provide for it at

What kind of person would be interested in this type of blog?
Schizophrenics and psychopaths of all shapes, sexes and sizes form a majority of my readers. Ted Bundy's illicit son was an avid follower once. But damn, they nailed him too!

About how much time do you spend blogging per day?
Depends on how much time my boss spends outside the office.

Tell us why we should subscribe to your blog:
Because you are pretty jobless. Why else would you want my interview?

What advice do you have for other bloggers trying to succeed?
Bugger off! There is enough bullshit floating around the internet already.

What are your favorite blogs? (List at least 3 urls, one per line, please, WITHOUT the http://)

Thank you

Monday, June 21, 2010

To err is human, to be Brazilian is divine...

There it was. The Brazilians were in town. And so was beautiful football. A rampaging victory over the African superpowers followed. The world rejoiced over the victory. The world mourned the angel’s a.k.a. Kaka’s sending off and the inevitable cheating by an African player. Things were back to normal again. Justice prevailed. Or did it?

Kaka epitomizes what football should be all about. An extremely talented player who plays football the Brazilian way – the way it was always meant to be played. His fear of God is just another feather in his Champions League winning cap. But above all, he is Brazilian. And as the word goes around in world football, Brazilians can do no wrong. They are born to play football, and that too the beautiful version. Africans, in this case the Ivorians, on the other hand are the anti-thesis of what the game should be. Thanks to Rigobert Song and the likes. Rumour has it that he once got booked for carrying an AK 47 on the field. But things have changed since that Cameroonian debacle. The World Cup has come to Africa. Period. But last night was proof of what is wrong!

“Fucking black bastard cheated,” screamed a friend of mine. An avid Brazil fan, he was swearing at the ridiculous sending off of Kaka, the Brazilian playmaker. The man who was fouled, Keita, was an African. As long as he was not beheaded or castrated, no Brazilian was to be cautioned or so said the rules of the game. After all, Brazilians could do no wrong. So when Kaka, the same guy who wears a Jesus on his vest, received the second yellow, there was public uproar. Africans cheated. Poor Kaka! God’s second son! Brazilian! What rubbish! I guess people have short memories. Remember Rivaldo in 2002? If you don’t, here’s a reminder.

There is no doubt that Keita could very well share the Oscar with Rivaldo for that spectacular piece of cheating. But then again, so could Fabiano, with his impersonation of Godson Kaka by using the hands of God to score his second one. And he too went to ground as if he was shot in the head at the slightest of nudges. But yeah, he is Brazilian and Brazilians are capable of doing no wrong. Coming back to the red card, Kaka was no saint last night. No fucking way. All the claims about Keita approaching Kaka from the back and charging into him are rubbish. (People who have just read about it and not watched it please keep your mouths shut.) Kaka raised an elbow, though not head high, at the onrushing Ivorian. And a raised elbow is a bookable offence. It is usually a straight red. So the Brazilians should at least be happy that the ban is just for a match. So shut up and stick to your simple task of delighting the world the Samba way!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Not all is well.

I think I have become a strange creature. How else can one explain my state of mind? I stand before you suffering from a hatred for good people. I am scared of them in pretty much the same way one is scared of the unknown, the untold or the unfamiliar. I get uneasy at gestures of goodness. I flinch whenever goodness is on display. I always doubt the ulterior motive. The proverbial smell of the proverbial rat is perpetual. I can’t help picturing a good guy as the wolf neatly clad in a sheep’s skin. Even helping hands have crooked, long fingernails on them. I don’t; see smiles anymore. I just see disguised grimaces. Every word of praise sounds like a word of consolation to me. Whenever someone says “Don’t mention it dude”, I hear “You owe me one asshole”. I think chivalry these days is just a step in seduction. Women, as Morrison sang, seem wicked to me. And as he continued, it could be because I am unwanted. Politeness to me, as someone said, is just the most accepted form of hypocrisy. I don’t believe in unconditional love, and this and that and this and that.

It is not that life and its ruthless ways have turned me into a cynic. In the tiny, deep corner of my heart, I am still a romantic. I badly want me to change my perception and my perspective. But the scarcity and hence the rarity of something instinctive, spontaneous and pure is so scary, it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder - Is something jolly wrong with me or is there something sadly right about me?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


The curtains made way as a gentle breeze sneaked into the dimly lit room. It slowly dragged itself, hugging the grey walls and the darker corners. A few pages of an open book fluttered as the breeze continued its journey across the room. Using its last burst of energy, it swept across Vivek’s sleepy face causing him to open his hesitant eyes. It was his first visitor in the last 6 hours.

His family was out for a get together at the colony’s amphitheater. He was invited to join, though not persistently, by his mother. He had declined in a politely indifferent way, an art he had mastered from his childhood; an art known only to him. He avoided gatherings like vampires avoided garlic. His mother knew it; his father too; and so did everyone who ever had the pleasure or displeasure of meeting him. Asking him was a mere formality that his mother followed. The answer had never changed over the last decade and a half - one of the reasons why he had few friends, claimed his mother. And even fewer enemies, was his occasional retort.

A live talk show chattered vehemently on a tiny television set in his room, fighting the overwhelming silence. He stopped staring at his toes and turned his attention to the blabber. The topic was, unsurprisingly, the prospective end of the world theory. The year was 2012. And more importantly, it was that fateful December night. In an hour or so from now, if the most intelligent civilization to ever live on Earth were good with their math and science, and the current, right with their interpretation, the world would end.

A few men young and old were engaged in a chaotic exchange of unpleasantries. A middle-aged woman was all over the debaters as she pretended to put some method into the madness. Doomsday was the hot dish on every discussion table these days. From news channels to restaurants, from kitchens to boardrooms, from bars to confession rooms, there was only one topic. The common man doubted it, the religious accepted it, and the escapist waited eagerly.

He fell into the latter category. The world had never been kind to him. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. A thick dilapidated paperback flapped back a few chapters in his mind. It was full of black and white snaps, all Polaroid shots. He stopped at the one with his parents. It was the one where he was being adopted. He was five back then. Then there was Tina, his first love. She’d left him for his best friend; best friends rather. Bitch, he swore to himself through gritted teeth. Then there was Rahul, the childhood bully. He gently rubbed his nose as that image flashed past. Uncle Ram, the bastard who wouldn’t stop pinching his bum. The snaps kept coming, flurrying faster than his mind could process them.

He woke up as if from a nightmare, sweat beads rolling down in tiny little streams down the sides of his face. He jumped out of bed, as if with a purpose. He looked at the window and angrily stomped towards it. He looked out. The streets were buzzing. The purpose on his face faded a little. He pulled the window shut. There was calm again. He traced his steps backwards and stopped in front of the mirror on the wall. He turned to face his reflection. He stared and stared as the minutes ticked away and blurred images from his nightmare came tumbling back. A look of disgust flashed across his face.

He’d always been the silent types. A volcano waiting to erupt is what he called his state. But in truth, he was a coward and sadly, he knew it. He never raised his voice, not even once, at the million atrocities life threw at him. He just shared his frustrations with his best friend Prashanth, his only friend. But over time, even he had lost faith in all those hollow threats and pledges. Maybe, just maybe, even he lost a bit.

This time around however, it was going to be different. The world was about to end. It was a Mayan prediction. They weren’t like Nostradamus or any of those prognosticators who took shots in the dark. Those guys were smart. His science professor, the great Mr. Abraham Thomas swore by them. He looked at the television screen again. Fools, he muttered angrily. He turned to face his reflection again. The disgust was replaced by determination and even a tinge of anger. This was it, he thought. His time to get back at those imbeciles. For all the things they had forced upon him. For all the pain he had silently endured. This was his day. This was his final chance.

He sat in front of his monitor, his eyes firmly locked with those of the ageless Marilyn Monroe. With a little difficulty, he broke away from the captivity of those bewitching eyes and switched his modem on. He looked at the clock on the wall. It was 11.30. Half an hour before it was all over. He opened his new mail window, his stiff fingers caressing the keyboard. He closed his eyes and re-opened his mental album of memories. One by one, he typed in the addresses. He had quite a few of them in his address book. The rest of them would spread the word, he whispered under his breath. He carefully flicked through the pages. No one should be missed, he thought.

He meticulously typed down the names of the ones who had wronged him. Now that was quite a few. His unsuspecting parents perched comfortably atop the list. Then came his so-called friends – the ones who knew him and the ones who didn’t. And then came Tina. The bitch. And those two friends. Bastards. The school bully. And his uncle, that bloody pervert. And his math teacher. His Karate trainer. The scroll bar became smaller and smaller as his busy fingers worked hard and the pages of his album flipped. By the time he shut the old fat book, the scroll bar was as good as invisible.

He slowly dragged the cursor to the top and placed it against the names of his parents. He took a deep breath and began. “You were the worst parents in the history of the universe. If you really wanted to have a pet, why couldn’t you assholes get a dog. And listen you bastard of a dad, your wife is not as saintly as she appears. Check with the neighbours if you don’t believe me.” He hit the enter key with so much force that it almost came off. His fingers raced around the keyboard furiously. He was typing with a vengeance now. One by one, the hate figures felt his wrath. It was raining fire and sulphur. He was god. Nobody escaped his fury. It was apocalypse time.

It was 11.55 by the time he finished the last of the entries. He placed the cursor on top of the send button, took a deep a breath and let go. Click. It was done. He had done it. He got up, throwing the chair back in the process and ran to the window. He threw it open with such ferocity that the glass almost shattered. A fresh gush of air like never before stormed into his room, and it seemed, into his life. “TAKE THAT YOU MOTHERFUCKERS,” he screamed into the dark and indifferent night. He screamed and screamed till his throat ached. He came back, satiated, and fell like a log onto his bed, the largest grin of his life separating his ears. Casually, he looked at the clock. It was five past twelve.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The big fat loan.

It all began on a late Friday afternoon. I’d just finished the regular quarter of Old Monk and was indifferently forcing my playlist on my sober colleagues. The phone rang.

Woman: “Hello!”

Me: “Yes?” (In a nonchalant tone, a device I use to camouflage my interest in things feminine.)

Woman: “Sir, I am calling from Kiti Financials. Would you be interested in a personal loan?”

Me: “Well, not really dear. Bye.” I really was not in a mood for information overload after 3 shots of old monk and Andhra Chilly Chicken.

Woman (persistently): “But we offer the lowest interest rates sir. I am sure you will be interested.”

Me (to myself): “Well, congratulations! Now fuck off!”

Me (losing my patience by now): “What if I am in need of a large amount of money?”

Woman: “How much do you want sir?”

Me (cooking up an impossible amount): “Say, ten lakhs.”

An uncustomary silence at the other end was the response. The silence continued for a good 10 seconds more.

Woman: “Sir, can you please provide me with your employment details.”

Me (a wicked grin on my face): “I work as a consultant for a firm called Mandrake.” (chuckles)

Woman: “Hand brake?”

Me (Almost ROTFL): “Mandrake. M for well, Mandrake. As in, the magician?”

Woman: “Okay sir. And how much is your monthly income sir?”

Me (controlling my chuckles with great difficulty): “Depends.”

Woman (sounds confused): “As in?”

Me: “Well, I am a magician. And my salary depends entirely on the amount of shows I manage during a month. During the season, I make a lot. During off-season, I am pretty much broke.”

Woman: “Magician, as in.”

Me (to myself): “Don’t you know what magicians do? They cut hair for a living. And at times, they dig for crude oil and treasure chests.”

Me (to her): “I do magic tricks. Haven’t you seen Professor Sarkar perform tricks on the stage? I pull out rabbits and pigeons from my hat.”

Woman: “Ok sir. But without a fixed monthly income, how can you pay back the loan sir.”

Me: “During the season, I make up to 2 laksh a month. But now it is off-season, so I don’t have any money!”

Woman (impressed by my income during peak season): “Okay sir. Can I put you on hold while I check with my manager.”

Me: “Sure.”

I groped around for my speakers and continued my torture. A feeble voice interrupted my Black Sabbath.

Woman: “Thank you for holding the line sir.

Me: “Not a problem…” (This was surely more fun than the irritating-my-colleagues routine.)

Woman: “Sir, I discussed with my manager. And we can’t give you ten lakhs. We can give you seven.”

Me (groan of disappointment): “Oh no! In seven, I will only be able to buy a baby elephant. I need a tusker.”

Woman: “What sir?”

Me (in a serious and believable (my ass!) tone: “See. I wanted the money to buy an elephant.”

Woman (in a slightly puzzled tone): “Okkkk…”

Me (fighting hard to maintain composure): “It is the latest thing you know. Most of the popular magicians have one. Professor Sarkar has 3. Even Professor Muthukad, from my hometown, has one. It is for the “Vanishing Elephant” trick. So if I buy one, I will get more bookings and I will pay your loan back ASAP.”

Woman (so innocent was the tone that it made me want to end it): “Ok sir. Let me discuss it with my manager sir. What would be a convenient time to call you tomorrow sir?”

Me (suppressing my scruples): “Around the same time. But please do try. I really want that elephant.”

Now most of us, me included, would have thought that was the end of it. But it was not to be. The next day, approximately at the same time and after the same amount of rum, plus or minus 3 minutes, the phone rang.

Man (baritone and a strong South Indian accent): “Hello. I am calling from Kiti Financials. Am I speaking to Mr. Mandrake?”

Me (totally unimpressed by the absence of that sweet voice from the day before): “I am not Mandrake. I…”

That was all I could say before the line got disconnected. It rang again in 15 seconds flat. Recognising the number, I decided to take the initiative this time around.

Me: “I work for the company called Mandrake. My name is not Mandrake. The name is Nikhil. Professor Nikhil.”

Man (in a polite tone that is confined to customer relations): “I am sorry Nikhil sir. I suppose you spoke with a colleague of mine, Miss Soumya, yesterday.?”

Me (So that’s her name. Smile. Back to serious self): “Yes I did.”

Man: “So you want to buy an elephant, Nikhil sir?”

Me (tone unchanged): “Yes.”

Man: “Sir. I don’t think we can offer you such a big loan amount sir. Specially, after considering the fact that there is no steady income.”

Me (faking frustration): “How can you say that? You were the ones who called me. And moreover, I did explain to your colleague (I knew it was Soumya) how much this elephant meant to me.”

Man: “Sir, sorry. But we don’t have the provision for sanctioning such a large amount for the purchase of an elephant.”

Me: “Well, people are tired of seeing rabbits, pigeons and mice disappear. And that is why I need the money. Nothing else. If you can’t, please don’t call me again. It is a personal loan after all. Why do you care what I do with it? I think I will talk to some other banks. Maybe I will talk to someone from I Don’t C I Don’t C I.”

Man (stutters and stammers): “Sir, sir, sir. (pause, a really uncustomary one this time). Can you give me some time?”

Me: “How much?”

Man: “I will speak to my manager and call you tomorrow. When would be…”

Me (cutting him off in between): “Manager? I thought you were the manager. That is what that girl (I still remembered Soumya perfectly) told me.”

Man: “Yes sir. I am her manager.”

Me (anger, very fake this time): “Then why am I wasting my time talking to you. Why did you not make me speak to him directly?”

Man: “But we have a procedure here sir. And we…”

Me (cutting him off again): “But I don’t. Now your manager will call me and later I will have to talk to his manager and then his manager. How many managers do you have?”

Man: “She is the final one sir. She is the branch manager.”

The term ‘she’ sealed it. The call was on. And during the afternoon the next day, a Sunday, the phone rang again.

She (in a husky voice): Hello, this is Anjana calling from Kiti Financials. Am I speaking to Mr. Nikhil?”

Me (drooling. I have this thing for women with husky voices. In fact, I have a thing for women with all sorts of voices. To think of it, no voice at all would be perfect): “Call me Nikhil please.”

She (flirtatious chuckle): “Okay Nikhil. This is regarding your personal loan request for Rs. 10 lakhs for the purchase of an elephant.”

Me: “Yes. So are you going to sanction the loan?”

She (still charming): “Can I ask you a few questions before that?”

Me: “Sure.”

She: “I understand that you are a magician and need an elephant to perform a magic trick.”

Me: “Yes.”

She: “After processing your request, we did a small research sir. The thing is, you can buy an elephant for 5 lakhs in the state of Kerala. Are you planning to buy two elephants? Because your request only mentions one.”

Me: “Oh, I am so sorry. I forgot to mention something very important. I am not buying an elephant from India. I am buying a white elephant, the ones you find in Thailand. Indian elephants are a disobedient lot. They are hard to tame. By the time I prepare them for the trick, it will be off-season already. The ones from Thailand are nice. They will do anything once you train them. Well, almost. And the one I am getting, has worked with a magician before. So, it shouldn’t be difficult once it learns the language. Or maybe I can learn Thai. It is always nice to learn a learn a new language.”

She (confused and unconvinced): “Okay. I guess I can push it to 9 lakhs. But that’s about it Nikhil. I don’t think I can convince the management to part with more than that!”

Me: “Management? I thought you had the final say on this one…”

She: “Yes. But this involves a large amount of money. And moreover , we have never sanctioned a loan to buy an elephant. So… But I will try my level best. Give me a week’s time.

Me: Please do… In another three months, the season will end. So, please do it at the earliest.”

She: “I would need a few documents, preferably of your property. As a guarantee.”

Me (disappointedly): “But… but I do not have a house of my own. I live in a tent. Most of us magicians live in tents.”

She: “That might be a prob…”

Me (Interrupting): “But wait, let me speak to my dad and see.”

She: “Aah, that would be great. So Mr. Nikhil, I mean Nikhil. I shall talk to you in a week. Thank you for your time.”

Me: “Thanks a lot. Now I can perform my masterpiece.”

The next couple of weeks were packed with creative briefs (to be read as ‘print outs of client’s mails) and well, creative briefs. I had almost forgotten about the whole elephant deal when my phone rang. It was the now-familiar number.

Me: “Hello.”

She: “Hey Nikhil. Anjana here. Congrats. Your loan has been approved. Your elephant dream will now come true!”

Me (stunned): “But… Umm..” (thinking on my feet)

She: “So, when do you think I can send my man over to collect the documents. Hope they are ready.”

Me: “There is a small problem here Anjana!”

She: “You weren’t able to arrange the documents is it?”

Me: “Well, that’s not it. I waited for more than a week for your call. And when I did not hear from you, I suspected that maybe my loan wasn’t sanctioned. And the season was fast nearing the end. So I called up the people from I Don’t C I Don’t C I.”

She: “Ohh… And…?”

Me: “I got my elephant.

She: “Ohh… And…?”

Me: "But wait, don’t worry. I am going to Russia next month, freelancing for Jumbo Circus. I need an African Elephant for that. Putin likes African Elephants it seems. Do you think you will be able to fund that?”

The End