Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Loop

“7 missed calls,” beamed the display on Anand’s Blackberry. His fingers scrolled effortlessly through them. They were all from his brother’s mobile. He walked up to coffee machine, filled up a large cup to the brim, and walked back to his cabin. He readjusted his Bluetooth earpiece, and dialed the number on the phone, and slid it into his pocket.

His tone remained casual as he took a sip - “You called?” During the grave minutes that passed, the composed figure that walked away from the coffee machine turned into a crumpled heap of nerves. He was sitting on the floor by now, leaning against a bay partition, breathing heavily. Streams of sweat trickled down his neatly done sideburns. A colleague, passing by stopped, clearly spotting his blood-drained face. As she leant beside him, concerned, he looked up. With a gasp he got up, brushed her aside and ran towards the exit.

The burnt rubber on the floor of the parking lot was still smoking when his car skid onto the main road.His grip on the steering wheel tightened as he brought the spinning car under control. The car ripped away, leaving the screeching tyres and the frantic honking behind.

The words of his brother were still echoing in the back of his head as he fought to negotiate a tight curve. “Dad collapsed. It was a stroke. We are taking him to the hospital.” He moved uncomfortably in his seat, honking incessantly at the truck that was slowing him down. Losing patience, he swerved the car to the right and hit the accelerator pedal with a vengeance.

It was too late by the time he saw the scooter. He threw his head back screaming, thumping the steering wheel vigourously. He was furious. At the truck driver. At the scooterist. At himself at everyone. By this time, a crowd had gathered around his car. Some of them were banging on his window in anger, urging him to step out. He just sat there motionless, staring coldly at the commotion in front of him.

In an ambulance a few rows of vehicles behind, unbeknownst to him, an old man had lost his battle with the inevitable. The Blackberry in his pocket began to ring again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The name is Blonde!

There are two reasons why I don’t drive back home from work. The first one is slightly socio-economic in nature. To get to the crux of this one, you will have to dismantle, analyse and scrutinise the financial structure in the advertising industry and its effect on a copywriter’s life. Well, the first reason is that I don’t own a car. The second reason is slightly more important. It is an existential one. I can’t drive.

As a consequence of the aforementioned socio-economic and existential circumstances, I am forced to hitch rides back home. My usual benefactor is Meera. Neeraja chips in once in a while when Meera is not in too generous a mood. Both the ladies can easily claim an IQ level way above the average person. The high positions and the respect they command in the advertising world should underline that. As a result, the rides back home for me are usually not dull or blonde affairs. Yesterday, dear reader, was not one of them.

Due to a twisted ankle (goes well with a twisted mind), Neeraja was unable to bring her car. Generous as always, Meera offered her a ride. And along came Pritam Singh. I was the constant in the front. The reason for my being there remains the same as mentioned before.

The incident occurred somewhere near where Victoria road met Airport Road. Pritam was not present in the car at this point as we had crossed the junction where he usually got off. But for the sake of the story, let’s assume he was around. You really can’t leave a Sardarji out of a joke, can you? So anyway. Out of the blue, a sedan emerged from a gate on the left and sprung on to the road blocking our way. The ladies screamed. I let out a few profanities and stayed the man in the car. Neeraja, the keen observer in the vehicle had spotted the license plate. Her hair slightly started turning blonde at this point.

Neeraja: “Hmm... That vehicle is from your part of town Nikhil. ML registration. Must be a mallu car.”

Meera’s green Palio screeched to a halt. We turned back and looked at Neeraja. There she was, her hair now completely blonde, waiting eagerly for appreciation of her observation skills. You really couldn’t tell her apart from Miss Hilton now. Meera looked at me. I looked at her. And then, there was laughter. There was thunder too.

Meera: “How could you Neeraja? (Giggling) That really was your blonde moment.” (Laughs again, her hands off the steering, thumping her chest)

Pritam continued to look out of the window, nonchalant, as if thinking – “Racist jokes don’t really affect me. I grew up with them.” It was then, and only then that Neeraja realised the heat of the soup she was in. In a last gasp effort of redemption, she tried to pass it for a joke. But it was too late by then. (Let’s face it! Neeraja was no Woody Allen to pull off a straight faced joke. She usually laughed before she even began one.) So there she was. As she accepted defeat and slowly let the moment sink in, I heard Meera scream in the background.

Meera (preachy tone): “Kerala is KL Neeraja. That might have been Manipal.”

Note: A decade or so from now. Meera’s son Dhruva will grow up. He will have his group of friends and they will crack jokes together. When Dhruva’s turn comes, he will sit up and say, “Here’s a joke. Two blondes, a Sardar and a Mallu got into a car.”