Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Gentleman’s Life

It had been more than a month “Om Shanti Om” had been in the theatres. I don’t miss many movies, I must admit. But somehow, I have been jinxed with SRK movies. I am yet to sit and watch “Deewaana”, start to end, at one go. I have seen it in bits and parts, atleast 15 times! But people had given good reviews about OSO. Well, most words were for Deepika Padukone. Infact, I read a very correlative article in one of the top dailies on the Sunday editorial page about her, by a pretty senior writer! Well, that’s beside the point.

I strolled to my near by theatre where it was running. Being a Sunday and walking distance to me, I was but naturally not in my best attire. To be frank, I was close to my worst. But then what the heck, I thought. The ticket guy would not see anything other than my face, the security guard would be too busy moving his hands all over me as being a multiplex, there were too many people to body check and by the time I enter the hall, it would be dark. So, how does it matter what I wear? Even though I walked to the multiplex, I was early. I took my ticket and waited in the lounge. I started observing people. There were people of all kinds. Nothing striking in most of them, until my eyes stopped at a couple. If there was an on the spot Best Dressed Couple Competition in the multiplex, they would have won it pants down, or is it hands down? The best part being the couple would be in their late sixties, if not more. The lady in creamish colored saree with soft green border, matching shawl and an amazingly glowing face was looking stunning. She reminded me of my junior school headmistress. The gentleman in a three piece suit, matching tie and with both hands in his trouser pocket was standing like a fully loaded Knight. Looking at him I was reminded of my father. Actually, some of his words.

From Gregory Peck to “Dus Kahaniyaan”, my father has come a long way. And not just watching, but having positive opinions on these extremes. I have always loved the way my father dressed. I have never bought a tie in my life. The very few which I have are from his collection (or gifts to me). From being a man who would wear a tie even in the peak summers of June, monsoons of August and ofcourse the winters of December with a three piece suit, he has now reconciled to wearing them only on social events and outings. It sure helps that he manages to attend one social event atleast once a week, if not more.

Till some years back, I used to wonder why would retired people, now living a relaxed and an easy moving life, be attired in their best on most occasions, even on Sundays. One day I asked my father about this dressing mania people have. Those days he was still working and was wearing his suits and ties with natural zeal. He smiled and replied, “It’s not the attire, it’s the attitude. There are people who can buy the most costly suits and priciest of ties. Just ask for a handkerchief from a well dressed man. Eight out of ten will hesitate. They are either not carrying one or even if they are, it’s not worth sharing. Also, you can never judge a person by his attire, but for better perceptions, always look at shoes”. He had said, “Small things which you don’t keep notice of, are noticed by people who know the difference between a well dressed person and a well groomed man”. I make sure of these two things atleast, always.

According to me, OSO was a movie worth becoming a flop. Two things which probably saved it were small things, the two dimples dazzling on Deepika’s both cheeks. But that’s beside the point. On the way out, I saw the same man wiping his face with his handkerchief and I smiled to myself while sliding my hand into my jeans to reach for my kerchief. Then, I noticed his shoes. My worst was better than most bests around. Thank You, Baba for these small things in life.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I always possessed more than I ever needed. My parents had provided me with all that I asked and what they thought I should have. I had a fountain pen before I could write with a pencil, shoes before I could tie my laces and a muffler before winters arrived. Not to forget to mention they sent my elder sister and me to a residential school in Mussoorie. We had the best upbringing we could ever imagine.

While in school we could walk as far as we could, but had to return by the time the big iron bell stopped resonating, its echoes among the hills. We were not allowed into the girl’s school but knew everything that happened there, told to us by teachers themselves. We knew our house master had our money but we were afraid to ask for it, fully knowing it is our money. We were brought up in a very lenient yet disciplined, restrained yet open, casual yet constrained environment. We lived a very, very sheltered life up on the hills. And as is said about the people on hills, we really were a very straight thinking, simple hearted and content beings. One fine day, we graduated from school.

Or should I say we joined another school? Here, time was our teacher, struggle our best friend, dreams our play time and every situation a new subject to learn. Back in school, the Principal was never to be seen. Infact, he was not supposed to be seen, called or asked for. The mere mention of his name caused chaos. Children ran to their class rooms, teachers ran to their mess and the other staff converted to robots doing things in the best mechanical way possible. He was terror personified. The Principal visited school only in extreme cases, something celebrating or reproachful. God save us if it was the latter. Here in the new school too, we still had to get to see our new Principal. From the serene surroundings of the green mountains we were thrown into the big bad burly world. We had no clue who was running the show. Who was the Principal?

In the new school there was nothing in common with my old school. There was no leniency, no openness, nothing casual. Everything followed a regime, each move was restrained and every thought was constrained. Or was it? I thought to myself there must be something in common between these two schools of thought. As time passed by teaching, struggle helping out most times as a friend and circumstances bringing out new craters of wisdom, things got clearer and better.

I can clearly see the commonality between the two schools. Rather, should I say the glaring difference, the reason of existence of such schools? My old school always taught me to be grateful to others, appreciate a fellow being’s feelings, sympathize with emotions and respect all religions. My new school has taught me live for self, sympathy is for the weak and there is only one religion. We live, pray and die for just one thing.

Hence, I say, there are no atheists in this world. We all believe in God. Money is God.

**** End ****

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Musical Siblings

Since childhood, we had heard people humming around at home. Ma was a decent hummer. She would get these Rabindra Sangeet hiccups from time to time. Baba (Dad) was a surprise. His talent to be able to sing came to the fore a little later. Or may be we could comprehend his singing much later as he would mostly emulate Elvis on one extreme and Talat Mehmood at the other. We did not know if he was trying to scare the crows and cows from the garden or singing. Anyways, you must have guessed by now that we were genetically musical.

But my first brush with active music and a real participant was through my sister. I was discovered as a potential singer only because of her. I dedicate my singing star status to her. She had joined residential school a year before me and had become a really popular singer. When I joined in 1987, one fine day, I was playing Badminton when the racquet gutting gave way. Some boys went about looking for a replacement racquet. I walked towards the indoor badminton court where students from Senior School used to come to play Badminton. To my surprise, today, there was no Badminton match there but a group of children sitting around a few musical instruments. I got interested and went closer. Suddenly, Mrs. Tyagi came in from behind and held me by the shoulder. She announced, “Look who is here? Jayanti’s brother!!” As if that was not enough to embarrass me, Mrs. Sharma called me right in between the crowd and said, since your sister sings so well, am sure you too sing well. So, C’mon lets hear something from you.” I felt like the roof of the indoor court blasting to space and a white flashing light coming down and sucking me into the skies. But nothing like that happened. Instead, there was complete silence in the hall with the kids looking at me with wide open anticipating eyes and the two music teachers smiling and waiting. I did sing.

Once I finished there was pin drop silence, followed by a loud round of applause and an instant offer by Mrs. Sharma to sing the lead song in the forthcoming Janamashtami celebrations. From the next day, we started rehearsing for the cultural program. When my sister got to know about this, she was ecstatic. She did not state that I was singing a song on Janamashtami. She kept telling everyone that her brother too can sing!!

During rehearsals there would be just about ten people among whom we would practise. I knew the whole school would be there on the final day. On the D-day, however, more than 200 people giving a blank stare made me sick in the stomach. My throat went dry and my fingers went numb. What saved me was the song, though. Being a devotional song, once the harmonium gave me the starting key, I closed my eyes and pretended am feeling devotional. I was praying no doubt. But reasons were different.

If I remember correctly, my first public song which gave me instant stardom was, “Papa kehte hain, bada naam karega”. I am sure, like all Dads, Baba too used to think the same. He gave up soon though. But it was my sister and her singing prowess that gave me the opportunity to sing for a crowd and keep singing. My sister is a super singer. Infact, she graduated in Classical Music. Although, she has been the Big Bully sister to me, I simply adore her. I have seen very few people with the kind of single-minded focus and dedication towards anything one aspires for. And ofcourse, I love her singing. Oh, actually, I love her.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visiting Localites

Everyone loves Durga Puja. Being a Bengali helps loving it more. One can comprehend small and big activities being performed in and around the Puja pandal. Being a Bengali and visiting your home makes one love Pujas like a mad possessive lover. You are a localite and yet a visitor. So, people don’t expect you to work and yet you get all the benefits of a volunteer!! Parents being old time members of the Bengali community, it is always Double Decker fun. Added advantage flows in if one of the parents became an office bearer for the current year. You can enter any area of the pandal. You don’t have to stand in a queue for ‘Bhog’. There is constant supply of refreshments. You show off the ‘volunteer’ badge to all at sundry. I am the deadly combination of all the above.

Not to miss the Double Decker trip this year, I begged, pleaded and threatened my Boss to grant me leave for Durga Puja. My boss being a hard task master, made me do all the three pretty hard. The first step was ofcourse requesting for leave about three months before Puja. When it was time to book tickets, I reminded him yet again and informed that am going ahead with booking tickets. There was no response. Silence is consent I presumed; I went ahead with my travel plans. About a month before my departure, my Boss called me in and told me I cannot go as there are pending issues and also a tentative but very important meeting and discussion during the Puja week. I knew this was his way of saying NO. It was here that I started pleading. And I begged till he actually said NO in as many words. That was the turning point. The Bengali in me rose. I played my trump card. I told him in cold blood, I would resign. He did not respond. I knew this time, silent was consent.

I reached Lucknow well before the four most important days of Puja. Infact, when I got to the venue, the pandal was not even erect! Senior citizens nodded in appreciation, people known to me complimented me on my commitment to make it for Puja every year. And there were some non-sense people who did pass some comment on me helping them around the preparations. I ignored them with a smile. How can someone who works from 0600 hrs in the morning till 2300 hrs in the night with a couple of hrs of break get to enjoy Puja? What is the need for new clothes if one has to wear the same old ragged clothes and slog all day? Anyhow, without burning any more hearts let me get to the fun part!!

Sitting at vigil all day flaunting our volunteer’s badge, but helping people who genuinely need it. That is the motto of our group. And who needs genuine help? That is simple. Pretty people! I mean, if someone with a low cut blouse, a swaying pallu and pencil heels on; add to that the glossy make up and flowing open hair to manage, you sure need help when in a crowd. Right? That’s exactly where “visiting localites” make an entry. We make them at ease, show them the way around, keep them in good humor and on occasions, save them from eagle eyes, sudden shoulders and lightening fingers. We can read the mind of the mischief monger. We know exactly what his next move would be and quickly get into rescue mode. Without either party getting uneasy, we ensure ‘everything’ is under our ‘control’. Do I sound like one of those hooligans? May be they are “visiting localites” too? Just that they are a more adventurous lot and venture out to other pandals. We may not be contributing much. But we sure try and maintain status quo. We may be the lazy, lousy and non productive members. But we do add some value.

As some great saint said, “If you can make even one human being smile, your life’s worth living.” We chose self.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Coach for Life

We had stepped into the bad world of Senior School where Class VI was the junior most class. We lived every moment of ours in virtual fear of offending some senior, knowingly or unknowingly, and the whole batch getting to bear the brunt as a lesson. It sure worked. We did make mistakes, but never ever repeated them. One thing was engrained in us. We had to be good at atleast one thing. Academics were excluded from that list. The list included extra curricular activities only. One needed to be in either of the sport teams, debate, declamation and dramatics or had to be an athlete to be able to garner points during Annual Athletic Meets, inter house and inter school. Topping the chart was a team member of a respective hockey team - class, house and school. A big struggle was to get into a hockey team, a bigger survival battle to remain in the team. The biggest fight ofcourse was to be in the playing eleven. There was no mercy for average play.

I remember picking up the hockey stick for the first time in my life. The would-be players were short-listed rather easily. One needed to score a goal from the top of the D with the goal keeper trying to save it and then needed to stop a super speedy ball coming your way, hit by a player. The ones who were able to do both were called in and the others, brushed aside. We were asked to report at 0500 hours next morning for our first practise session. Now, did that feel good? Everyone started dreaming of wearing the school color, warming up, running around and playing hockey for the school. The thought changed the way we walked after that day. We had become special. The challenge started only now. (Boys were divided into four categories depending on height and weight and a multiplying factor. We were in the lightest category, ofcourse.)

Mr. B N Khanna (he was nick named Shera, because of his temper) was announced as our coach. Mr. Khanna was never a popular teacher. He was not a celebrated coach either. He was a stylish man, though. He was known more for being the only teacher on campus who smoked, boozed and lived life like a tiger. Hence, his nick name. He had a real short temper too. But he was an irresistible personality. Boys used to wait for his history classes where he would enact the Moghul onslaught with the sound of the sword coming out of its scabbard, blood splashing and elephants and horses roaring all at one go. He was a live wire when describing ancient and medieval history. Modern history was not his forte.

True to his image, the moment we arrived on the field, sharp at 0500 hours, his first sentence was, “I will make life miserable for you.” He sure did. The first one week, we did not even touch the hockey stick. Everyday was a fixed regime of running 10 lapses around the field as warm up. It was followed by standing exercises, followed by sit ups and other exercises, finally rounding up with another 5 lapses of the hockey field. The last 10-15 minutes were theoretical sessions about rules, regulations and general information about the game. We used to wonder, whether what people say about him is true. If he really knows how to play hockey!

One day, after an hour and half of rigorous physical exercises when we were physically tired of the exercises and mentally getting tired of not playing hockey, Mr. Khanna asked the team to line up on the 25 yard line with our sticks. He asked everyone to keep the ball on the line and carry it on the line from one width of the field to the other. This was simple, we thought. Of the 15, none of us managed to keep the ball on the line the whole width. That’s when he smiled for the first time. With the sly smile of his face, he commented, “If you cannot do the simplest thing of carrying the ball in a straight line, how do you think will you play hockey?” We had no answer. But I guess, he realized we were not enjoying the sessions. He arranged for a friendly match with another amateur team. We were out of our breaths by half time, finally losing miserably and worst of all became a laughing stock for all. He had retorted, “If you can stick on the field for 70 minutes without the ball; with the ball on your stick, you can do anything.”

He may be smoking hard and boozing regularly. There were days, when some of us were late by a minute or so for our 0500 hours practise session. He was the first person waiting for us to arrive, everyday. We would get tired straining on physical exercises. He completed all exercises along with us and would be raring to go. After a while, though, we were running out of patience with no sight of playing hockey. Just then, he started the basic dribbling sessions. From that day, everyday there was something new added onto our training schedule. But the one and a half hour physical drill was a constant. Before our first official match representing our school, Mr. Khanna made us play against the next senior category team in school. Although, we lost the game, Mr. Khanna was visibly pleased. From the first game itself in the tournament we knew we were a better team. Although, we lost the first game, we had made no changes in the playing eleven through the 70 mins and still had fresh feet. Through the tournament we gained in confidence, in points and popularity. No one in school had expected us to reach the finals. We did. The whole School walked up the venue to watch us play. In the finals, we played the same team who beat us in the first game. We disappointed everyone, most of all, ourselves. What we gained were, fit mind and fresh feet.

What Mr. Khanna taught us during those training sessions remains with us still. The importance of being fit; playing as per a plan and presence of a super star never ensures a win. Respect the value of the other to ensure your win. In a team, all are equally important, even the reserves. And although, he never explicitly stated it, I think he wanted us to learn more about life. Be healthy to think healthy, always have a back up plan and every individual has her/his bit to contribute. On her/his given day, anyone can become a super star.

I think that’s how super stars are made. There is a Shera behind each of them.

This piece is inspired by Chak De India, the movie. This is a dedication to Mr. B N Khanna, our hockey coach, who taught us a lot about life. Because, he knew, hockey was our life.

(One thing is for sure, we need to change our national game. It cannot be hockey. Not because we are no good at it anymore. We were, we are and we always will be a team feared by one and all. I feel, as a nation, we don’t care about hockey. We have stopped taking hockey as a game, forget as a national game. In one of the youth channels, a live question-answer round on the street brought out our ignorance. Out of ten people interviewed, seven did not know what our national game is!)


Monday, August 06, 2007

Hilly Roads

It was a warm day. I knew I was excited. But I did not know why?I always wanted to go there. I dreamt of being there, although, I did not know I was dreaming. I always thought I can see future!I was finally going to see where I had been before. Do they call it déjà vu?But how did I come to know of the place? Well, that’s where the story begins. In full Bollywood style, I begin with a flash back…I had stories from my paternal folks about the place. All green during summers, all white during winters and all colors in between. Now, that was fascinating to me. At that age, you tend to love everything your Dad says and hate everything what you don’t understand. And I did know that its really hot in Lucknow in summers and winter is the best time of the year. And the thought of having cool breeze around in June and watching snowflakes in winters was an amazing idea. Who would not want to? I know I did.It was 1986 and my elder sister had already taken admission there. Wow! And she sang praises too. I had to be there. I was destined to be. Although, later in my life I did come to realise that my parents, especially my Mom, did not want to send me there. Anyhow, I took the admission test.Did I tell you about the admission test? Naah, not that I passed it in the first attempt. It was because of that test that my Dad slapped me for the first and the last time in my life!! Yeah, he is a nice guy and does not believe in the carrot and the stick narration. But, he was fabulous at keeping kids terrorized. But that day he lost his cool. And what a place it was. The AC-2 compartment of the Punjab Mail, which we boarded from Lucknow to Calcutta (I still call it Calcutta and would call it the same till I die). One tight shot, pin drop silence and the rest of the journey was a dream again! If I remember correctly, I slept through the next 24 hours till we reached Howrah station.Moving ahead, I took the test in a school in Santragachi, a suburb of Howrah district. I could see hoards of aspirants like me who had come. Watching them with their parents gave me a super kick. Some of them would be with me in a few months. I wanted to befriend all. The test got over and results were announced. I was happier than usual. I knew I did well and would be called for an interview. But I was feeling good that the slap on my face and the two-minute silence maintained by the people in the train did not go waste.Interview went off well. I answered all of their questions except one. I did not know the meaning of the word ‘recognise’. How could I? I had never heard of it. At seven, you are not supposed to? Or are you? Anyways, I could not ‘recognise’ the people sitting by my sides! I was asked one final question. Do you recognise the people by your sides and can you tell us who out of them is an alumni of the school? Or something like that…. But I could not hear anything after the word ‘recognise’. I was zapped. Dumb. Silent. My ears became warm. Eyes became watery and my palm started sweating.Ofcourse, I don’t remember if all this happened. But till today, before saying, “I am sorry” or “sorry, I don’t know”, this is the sequence. So, am sure this is what happened.

Permanent Change

The only thing permanent is change. I don’t know who said that. But am sure when he thought of that, he was married!!! Nothing remains the same.Even hairstyles change. Or whatever is left on the head! (I have come down to a crew cut!!)Ok, starting with our story…. We were destined to meet. And here goes another famous quote – marriages are made in heaven… to lead us to hell! (Am I being too sarcastic???)Anyways, moving forward… I am a Bengali, born and brought up in Lucknow. She is a Tamilian Brahmin born and brought up in Delhi. I went to Calcutta for college. She finished college in Delhi. And then both of us applied to Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Tiruchirappali, an institute and a place unheard to many. There was no lightening, no firecrackers and no whirlwinds when we met. Infact, during our two years in Trichy, we would have never thought about anything so serious of ruining each other’s lives!But I guess, lightening struck later! Almost about seven months after we went our own ways, to different cities, that destiny brought us together again and this time we could not resist the temptation of trying out ourselves. And can you believe it, from that day, we held onto our decision for another two and a half years to finally tie the knot and be pronounced husband and wife….On 12th June 2006, we got married in Delhi. I, on behalf of both the families thank all people who came to attend the function. Especially, all BIM folks – Raj, Ramya and Anu along with their hubbies, RVP, Kishore and Priyam. Unfortunately, Kishku and my roommie Hari had to leave the evening before the wedding because of their personal and professional reasons. Mukund, Raj’s brother also was in attendance and participated actively by serving the guests!Thank you all.We had a reception in Lucknow on 16th June 2006. We had a good turn out there too. I thank all people who were in attendance there.And then we left for Bali on 19th June mid night. Bali is an amazing place. We were lucky we went there during the off-season. It was peaceful, with pleasant weather and very welcoming Bali hospitality. Thanks to!We are back to Delhi now. We will now really start sharing our lives, literally. No all ladies night outs, no beer sessions and pathetic hang over mornings, no flirting around (is it???)….. Life will never be the same again…. Life is changing, slowly but surely! We can’t pin point and say this has changed or that is different. But the feeling is new, and just as they say..…We are loving it!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Breaking News III

In the last episode, you saw how the Mallick family avoided a barrage of goons, traveling with them on flight. It was a miracle that they were not on the receiving end of the merciless comments of their “smart” co-passengers. What will happen to Mallicks’ Goa holiday? Will the rains ruin their trip? Will the hooligans on the flight come back to haunt the Mallicks’? Will Mallicks’ have a fight during the trip making it a lousy break? Dekhte hain, HUM LOG!

We had booked our accommodation online. So, we had no clue how does the resort stand? We had only seen a couple of snaps on the website. The customer care person on the phone had reassured us it is a great place. We reached and then realized the meaning of the word “Country”. Our booking was made in a resort called Flushing Meadows “Country” Resort. Being the educated lot, we assumed Goa being a beach get away, there is nothing but beaches there. The Customer Care person, when asked on phone, the Customer Care had suggested the beach is 10-15 minute walk. However, the name clearly suggested it is a Country Resort. We did not realize the same, till we reached the place. It was in between wilds! A true Country Resort, nothing but rich greenery all around. No sign of any beach or water! Frustrated and cursing ourselves, taking a walk in the resort premises we found a water body, the resort swimming pool!! The nearest beach was 3 kms away. To top it all, it started raining. No way, we could go to the beach. Once we had calmed down a little, putting our minds together, we decided we needed to get drunk to forget what had happened and ignore what was around. To soothe matters a little, we had been provided complimentary bottles of beer and wine, two each. We finished all of them in an hour’s time. We surely felt better after that.

The next two days went off well as we had arranged for site seeing. Luckily, there was minimum rains and whatever did shower, was more of a refresher than a hindrance. The bus ride was fun too, with weird characters as our fellow passengers. We had a combination of Malayali family which could not stop eating, a maharashtrian couple with a sweet baby girl who never spoke, not even to each other. There was a sweet old and retired sardar couple, a Delhi-based family with young, beautiful and to make matters confusing, twin daughters and a group of six college boys who had a field day ogling at the two pretty things all through the day. We met some more ‘interesting’ personalities on the first day evening while on the ferry ride on the Zuari river. The MC on the ferry made kids dance in a group, couples dance with each other, singles dance for someone they wanted to impress. There was a lady dressed in one of the flashiest dresses you can find on earth, with equally smashing sun glasses and a highly charged husband. The husband was already tipsy, ordered some more booze on the ferry and enjoyed watching his wife dance with young boys. I cannot forget a newly wed couple who probably had a quarrel last night or during the day and were not speaking a word to each other, but sitting right next to each other and keeping an eye on each other. The lady would not smile a bit and the young man could not look either towards any other girl or at the bar! It was funny and irritating for a moment. Why would anyone want to ruin their honeymoon like this? Forget honeymoon, why would people spoil a trip to Goa like this? Anyways, holding my wife’s hands and the cool sea breeze was intoxicating enough. Who needed booze! But it was funny too, looking at people and collecting pieces to write this piece!!

On the flight back to Delhi, we were seated behind another newly wed couple back from their honeymoon. They made a perfect honeymoon couple, not able to keep hands off each other and murmuring sweet nothings into each other’s ears non-stop for the entire 2 hours. Looking at them I was finally reassured, all is well which ends well.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Break(ing) News II

Deciding to go on a holiday is comparatively an easy decision. Once the holiday is decided, bull dozers of other decisions come on to you. Where to go, when to go, how to go, where to stay, what all to do other than just site seeing etc…. Thankfully, we had already made up our minds, we would visit a water body place and hence short listing was easy. Economics made a lot of sense in finally turning to Goa. Destination decided, we have to reach there. Next action item was the travel and accommodation. Air travel was the only solution as train would consume a lot of time. Being net savvy, we sure tried our hands on a combined travel and accommodation package deal on the web. But we soon found, we may actually save some money if we booked air tickets and the hotel/resort separately. Goa, here we come! But the story begins much before we reach Goa.

Many people I have met curse Air Deccan like crazy. Complaints range from free seating issue to running late on most occasions, the staff not being courteous and long queues at the check in counters. I don’t know if it’s only me in the world but out of ten times, six times I would have traveled by Air Deccan. Whenever I have traveled on Air Deccan it has always departed on time and landed on time and the staff, both ground staff and air hostesses have been really good to me! Long queues are something which is both an infrastructural and psychological issue. No airport in India is equipped to handle the air traffic it handles. In addition, all Airlines mention very clearly on tickets that passengers should reach the airport atleast two hours before the scheduled departure. How many of us actually do? And if there is a longer queue in Air Deccan than Jet Airways, be happy! It should reassure you that have made the right choice of flying a more popular airline! (Whether the kind of people who travel by Air Deccan should be allowed to enter an air craft is something which we shall discuss later). Free seating is a non-issue. The price at which they make you travel, one should not be complaining the way they do. But then, may be that’s why the kind of people is questionable. (I thank Dr. Vijay Mallaya for his acquisition of Air Deccan).

Anyhow, once onboard, the fun began. By the grace of Almighty, the quality of air hostesses in Air Deccan has certainly improved. The reaction of my co-passengers will give you valuable insights. Once we had finished running the full aisle and grabbing seats together, we came across three gentlemen traveling together and sitting on three window seats behind each other. Of course, to talk they needed to stand and talk. The air-hostess came over and asked them sit and fasten their seat belts. They did and then the smartest of the three made his move. He called for assistance by pressing the button above the seats. When the air-hostess arrived, he asked her very innocently, how does one unlock the seat belt; he does not know as he is traveling by air for the first time! A first timer knows how to call for assistance by looking at the buttons, but does not know how to lock and unlock the seat belt!! When the hostesses started taking rounds selling snacks, one of the passengers actually asked if they can serve only fruits (for free ofcourse) as he said he does not have change. But the best one was again from the smartest passenger on board. He bought some snack and while the hostess was handing over the edibles, he said to her, “you have a great smile; please smile. I hope that’s free”.

The air travel was fun. Two hours passed as a finger snap. How we spent the days in Goa comes in the last part of my trilogy of breaking news.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Break(ing) News

Don’t expect a ‘sansani’ or a ‘haadsa’ here. The news I have, is of a break. A short break my wife and I took from the maddening world of city, citizens and cyber. With its distances known, a typical day in Delhi would mean leaving by 0800 hours for work and returning only past 2000 hours, atleast 10 hours in Office and another 2 hours on the road. Another 2 hours zoom off recounting the day gone with family around the dinner table. Lights go off as we crash on the bed to begin another day of slogging. In effect, we live like a dog and sleep like a log.

My wife and I were planning on taking a holiday for sometime now. Granting leave is equivalent to grant of a second life by the Almighty! Hence, we were dependent on our respective Almighty ones in office. Finally, Gods signed on the dotted lines and we got a second life! The last break we had taken was on the mountains, so this time we decided to visit the sea. We got Lakshwadweep, Andamans and Goa as options. Kerala was an option initially but then we ruled it out for some reason I don’t remember. After some online searching and bits and pieces of information from people, we decided on going to Goa. June being an off season it would be less crowded and also comparatively cheaper. So, Goa, here we come!

What a welcome we received at Goa! From a high temperature of 35 degrees and upwards in Delhi, we landed in 24 degrees of Goan climate. It was cloudy and there had been slight drizzles minutes before we touched the ground. There was humidity in the air but the cool breeze made it amazing. The one and half hour drive from the airport to our resort was equally mesmerizing. We crossed the greenery, the blue ocean and the clear waters of Mandovi and Zuari rivers to reach our resort in Anjuna. The first two days went by in a jiffy with the site seeing tour planned along with the holiday package. What helped was the wonderful weather and the pleasant tourist numbers at all places. It never seemed a crowd, although there was quite a handful taking a break. Evenings were the best, at the beach shacks, sipping Breezer along with sea breeze. The next two days were spaced out and we hired a bike to roam around Goa like hippies. There were rain showers in between but it made it even more romantic and ideal to accelerate and keeping cruising.

We were a part of a lot of funny anecdotes too. Surely, will write about them in the coming days. To give you a taste of things to come, there were co-passengers whose comments embarrassed the air hostesses and us equally, the resort amenities and the tour guides who never failed to misguide us!

It was a trip which refreshed our senses and replenished our system. We are back with refueled energies to face the big bad world.

I will be back, same place, same link, with the same zeal but with a new story and a new twist. Till then this is your same old friend, signing off with his breaking news and breaking his back on the office chair.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life in a Retro (Part II)

I know what you did last summer!

Did I mention anywhere that we completed one full year of marital hiss, oopsies, Marital BLISS? Yes. Infact, today (12th June) is the day when the Pandit added ghee in the fire, people smeared all kinds of paste mixtures on our faces and my wife and I took turns leading each other around fire and promised in our hearts not to leave the other alone ever. In short, all hell broke loose.

Why did we not have an inkling of doubt from these small indicators, that life will be hot and burning like fire, we would become different faces once married and we will have no one to lead us to happiness!! Huh, does everyone go through this feeling?

It feels just like yesterday that we met for the first time. We spent three years meandering and wandering around looking for love of our lives. We shared all we were living and all we aspired for. We always wanted the other to be happy and have a great life. Never realizing, the one we are sharing these moments, should be the ideal person with whom the aspirations can come true! Thankfully, we finally managed to convince ourselves that there is no one better than self to make the other happy. So, we obliged each other.

Once we decided to ruin our lives for sure, the next set of people to set on fire was our parents. Coming from different castes, it would be a mighty task to convince them. But when luck is not on your side, nothing can go wrong. They agreed readily! There was no resistance!!! No filmy dialogues, no ugly ego hassles, no caste allegations, nothing at all. Huh, such a boring start to our would-be-exciting life together. We must be dreaming, we thought. Life can never be so smooth. Sure, it was not. Once the parties agreed, it took us 2 more years to finally get married. These 700 and some more days from the day our parents said ‘yes’ to ‘yours truly’ finally ‘kissing the bride’, were special. I can never forget them. We opened joint accounts for future purchases for our dream home. We queried for home loans. We started saving for our first car. We enquired about special honeymoon packages. All activities and decisions became ‘our’ decisions rather than ‘my’ decisions. We did everything in perfect harmony. We started doing so much together that we almost forgot to fight until the final topic of when do we get married came up? Finalizing the D-day took eternity. We had to keep shifting the wedding date for some reason or the other. Reasons were galore, what followed was singular, world war! All dreams came shattering down, all savings and deposits stopped, honeymoon neither had honey and moon went behind war clouds. The cold war would last for a couple of days strengthening our thoughts a little more and transforming our cherished dream into a new color of aspiration.

As 12th June was being finalized, a new debate erupted. Why June, why summers and why not pre/postpone a little to suit all. But then, having shifted and moved the dates 500 times in the last 500 days, nobody wanted to take a chance. By now people had actually started fearing if at all we will get married! But as they say, nothing fails like prayers. So, all prayers from either sides got nullified and we exchanged garlands this day last summer. Since that day last year till today, I have been wondering the times we spent together. And I must say it has been horrifying. Infact, it has been dreadful. I fear many moments as described by many friends, citing situations, when things get rocky and shaky post marriage. I was even prepared with a few alternatives mentally to try out if one of the so many ‘common situations’ as blubbered by my dear friends happened to us, post wedding. Frighteningly, none of them happened to us yet! And I live in awful suspense everyday. I still await some shocking and revealing truths of life after marriage. And the only person to blame for all this mental tension and ubiquitous pressure is my wife. I just cannot believe anyone changing someone’s life like this! Thank you dear for making my life a living hell. Hell, where I boil and fry in the fire of passion, I twist and twirl in your true love and only you lead me to perfect happiness.

So, now you know what I did last summer. I apologize, what we did last summer.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A healthy marriage

From limited interactions with friends and acquaintances, I have come to believe that most men shirk getting married not just to avoid responsibility but also obesity. Personally too I have seen so many of them suddenly bloating like a pig within 2 months of their respective wedding dates. I agree, the first couple of months after a wedding is very hectic. It takes a toll on the health of most couples. Most couples most certainly fall ill. They should be totally down and out. On the contrary, most gain weight!! And why not. A couple has three paternal aunts and two uncles of the groom and two maternal aunts and three uncles of the bride to visit for dinner or lunch. There are two more aunts who are cousins by relations but are closer than the real ones. Then, there are relatives to be visited from the bride’s side. On week ends there are the neighbors with whom the groom’s family has been staying for more than a decade. Needless to say all these meals are very delicious, very rich and highly fattening. If families are non-vegetarians, the couples become dead meat themselves after some invitations! Some say the worst is the desserts course of these meals. I agree. One has to have all on her/his plate and then some more which is served and finally some more thrust on them as blessing from elders. If there are no invitations to go to, there are invitations sent to call relatives and friends home to relish delicacies made by the new bride in the house! One good thing ofcourse is that couples get to know each other’s likings and disliking just watching each other eat.

But during all these uneventful yet ritual socializing, the bride and groom actually don’t get to spend much time together. The newly wedded couples want to do so much for each other. Once all these compulsory invitations have been attended, the couples now get to actually live with each other. Till then they were only staying in the same house. The couple has got fed up of the mention of a lunch or dinner invitation. By now men have started getting irritated of the whole thing. People had been thrusting item after item down their throats. To make matters worse with the reducing number of invitations, the mushy bullying of the new wife starts on the breakfast table. The only meal they can eat at peace is breakfast. Not because it is light but because it has minimum number of items on the table. And only now the wife can start bestowing her stocked up love. Not her fault at all. But hen neither is the husband’s, I say. There is a limit to everything. Most of the trousers, old, bought and gifted don’t fit on the waist anymore. He has poked a new hole in the belt. A kurta is the best attire nowadays. Huh, something which was worn only by men past their prime most thought! And on top of that, instead of understanding, this wife of mine is making life even more miserable by shoving some more of that ghee laden parantha with the super oily paneer curry. Things like these may be running across some “now conscious” healthy-in-the-mind men. I hope am going right.

I got married this time last year (June 2006). I live in the same city as my in-laws. There are a decent number of relatives from my wife’s side in the city too. I did have my share of invitations. Being Bengalis we are strict non-vegetarians. So, are these the reasons why am writing this piece? Hmmm, well yes and no. Yes, because I could have been among the so many couples cribbing about the post marriage binge sessions. No, because although I had most of the ingredients of a (un)healthy beginning to our wedding, I was rescued. I married into a Tamilian Brahmin family. All invitations were strictly vegetarian, light and very delicious. It certainly helped that I had developed a taste for most south Indian dishes during my 4 yrs stint down south. When all outings were over, even the unending love, affection and mushiness which my wife would shower on me during breakfast and dinner were restricted to a vegetarian diet. It helped me to keep fit, look fit and feel fit. I remain a non-vegetarian with most week ends with my wife and friends being strict non-vegetarian binging. A little alcohol surely helps cleaning the biological system too!! (Wink)

In all sanity I can say that I had a very healthy beginning to my married life, remain healthy all through this past one year and continue having a very healthy married life. And sure, it includes the meals we eat.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Life in a Retro (Part I)

As far as I can remember, I always wanted to join the Armed Forces. Growing up in a residential school in Mussoorie only kept fuelling my aspiration. On every trip to town every second Saturday of the month, watching the Gentlemen Cadets from Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun made the decision stronger and determined. I have never liked green as a color, courtesy our neighboring country. Hence, most shades of green never got my attention. The olive green Army Uniform was one shade I could never take off my mind.

The Combined Defense Services (CDS) which I took in my final year of Graduation gave me a chance to get to IMA. I knew there were many avenues to apply and join the Forces. What was not known until I went for my Service Selection Board (SSB) was the meaning of dreaming to wear the Army Uniform. It dawned on me only when I started interacting with other aspiring candidates. I was rejected in my first attempt by an earlier SSB. I was attending my second SSB. There were boys who were attending their eleventh!! Yes, eleventh. One can apply for NDA atleast once and sometimes twice after Class XII and atleast twice through CDS. Some lucky few with birthdays below the eligible dates, can apply thrice. Then there is an entry for NCC ‘C’ Certificate holders, an entry for Engineering Graduates, a University entry scheme and a Short Service Commission entry. There were boys who had applied for most of these, if not all, and the highest count was indeed, eleventh attempt. It was inspiring to be among them and sometimes felt embarrassing too. Inspiring, as even after being rejected ten times, these boys keep coming back, just for the love of the Uniform. Embarrassing, because if one was rejected ten times, how can he even pronounce it! I could never do that. But it felt great to be among them.

It has been a long time since then. But the days spent at SSB stay clear in my memories. The first day being received at the station and taken to the SSB Campus in an Army Bus was a high in itself. We were issued a Chest Number to wear which would be our identity for the number of hours / days we would be at the SSB Campus as the first day itself, out of 96 boys only 46 stayed back. After a battery of written tests and group discussions, a short list was announced and more than half were rejected. Poor souls could not even open the luggage they had brought, prepared for the whole SSB stint. The real fun time was at the barracks. More than 100 boys in the barracks, as there were parallel batches of candidates attending SSB, reminded me of my hostel days. Only that I knew no one in this crowd. But that was the first night. All inhibitions were gone by the next morning. On the first day, a Colonel in his Welcome Address gave instructions on the format of selection process, the schedules and general information. His one sentence still remains ringing in my mind. He said, “The gates would close at 2130 hours. 2129 hours is early, 2130 is on time and 2131 hours is late”. It gave me goose pimples then. We used to visit the city market in the evening. But no one ever came in late. Some words never fade. May be, those words had become a daily ritual for him. For us, it was religion.

Our day started at 0430 hours with a Malayali voice shouting ‘Chaaya le lo’ for ‘chai’, serving tea early morning at the barracks where all candidates were put up. Rushing to the loo, freshening up and being at the breakfast table by 0730 hours was the priority as everyone felt there were eyes keeping a watch on us for discipline and time keeping. The written test grill and then the physical drill took up the rest of the first half of the day. Once back at the barracks, boys became boys. There were non-veg jokes being shared at the peak of voices, some boys played antakshari, others played cards. Cigarette smoke was all over. Among all this, some managed their siesta too! The barrack revelry continued till late in the evening.

After 4 days of rigorous intelligence tests, high emotional stability exercises and tough physical endurance drills, the D-day arrived. All 46 candidates in my group were made to sit in a hall and a general motivational speech was rendered by a senior Rank Officer. I don’t think anyone even listened to what he said. All eyes and brains were on the piece of paper in his hand which had the Chest Numbers of people whose names would be called out after this never ending talk. The ordeal was not over though. The names which would be called out would be undergoing 3 days of medical check up and examination by the SSB Medical Board. I had heard people discovered there was some medical problem in their bodies for the first time from the Medical Board examination. To a lay man, some of those medical issues would sound ridiculous and a non-issue. When you have to entrust a Nation’s security in the hands of a soldier, he has to be the best and the fittest, mentally and physically. The parameters of ‘a fit body and mind’ were very different in the Armed Forces. The ones who would be short-listed would be given a fresh set of Green Cross Chest to wear to identify them as Medical candidates.

The senior Ranking Officer finally finished his talk. There was pin drop silence in the hall. I could hear heart beats. I was not sure if they were mine or a chorus of all 46 hearts. The Officer said, the result is not very encouraging. “The number of people who have been short-listed is low as compared to what was expected” is what he said. All hearts skipped a beat and sank, simultaneously. The hall did not have an air-conditioner. But I suddenly felt cold for a moment.

I had called back home when I was short-listed the first day after the initial written tests and group discussions. My mother told me 7 is a lucky number for me. So, did my Chest Number being 34 help me on the first day? I don’t know. After 6 days at this SSB, among all these competitors, I surely needed the number 7 to help me. I did not believe in numerology. I still have my doubts. But on the 7th day at the SSB, the number 7 could not fail me. I also found myself praying, probably for the first time, consciously. I needed the numerological powers to help me, the Gods in Heaven to bless me and The Devil to grant me that one last wish to hear my Chest Number, even in return of my soul.

Only 5 boys were short-listed of the 46 in the group. I don’t know if 2 more names, making it 7 in total would have assured my confidence in numerology. But I thanked the Gods and The Devil. Chest Number 34 was announced.

There is a reason behind all decisions. There is a decision behind all reasoning. I had reasons. I had a decision to make. I did make one. Do I regret it now? No.

Or may be, I do. Or else, I would not be writing this column.

(Why am I not in the Armed Forces? Well, that’s a brand new story. Let me assure all readers, though, I am mentally and physically fit. No issues with my body and mind).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Life in a Metro

I have been living most of my earnest life in a Metro. Infact, except Bombay (now Mumbai) I have lived in all three erstwhile Metro cities of India. I spent four years in Calcutta (now Kolkata), worked for two years in Madras (now Chennai) and have spent the last two years in Delhi. Although, two and four, in years, may be limited periods, one certainty was loud and clear. There was more to a Metro City than just promiscuous relations. In all these cities and else where I have stayed, I have come to know of teachers’ wives in physical relations with their husband’s students, friends sleeping with their best friend’s wives, girls sleeping with their ex lovers even after being married. Most of these were arranged marriages. I know of love marriages with the same interim scripts.

When you give a name to a substance, its essence should be felt. No one can deny the fact that monsoons and local trains and are the essence of Mumbai. But then making it rain after every alternate day and shifting scenes from bus stops to local trains, does it show the life of Mumbai? Having confessed of not having stayed in Mumbai ever, I may be wrong. But am sure, not all relations are strained in the city. Somehow, during the movie and after it was over this was what kept hitting me. And how come every couple is connected to the other in some or the other way? Why cannot one character be unaffected by another’s action or reaction in a hindi movie? May be in a three hour movie everything cannot be shown? Isn’t three hours enough? Haven’t we had some mind blowing movies of half that duration?

May be, if the movie was named Relations in a Metro or “Rishtae on Rastae” or something like that as most of the movie was on the roads of Mumbai, I would be a satisfied watcher. It is a well edited movie, though. Whatever shown was entertaining. But, walking out of the movie hall, the only connection which I could feel with the movie, was the music. All songs are well written, ‘rocking’ compositions and amazingly placed in situations in the movie. It’s a refreshing change to watch the real performers on screen along side the actors.

Temptations are in every walk of life. Be it the new car which your neighbor bought, new house your boss purchased or the new girl friend your already married colleague acquired. Everyone wants something new. Everyone wants change. Variety is the spice of life, goes well as a saying. But how many other famous quotes have we taken as seriously as this one? I am not blaming just men. If men get into an illegitimate relation, 95% of the times it is with a woman. Variety is what makes life spicy. Control makes life worth calling it, life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Option to Choose

In all circumstances in life, we have only two choices. We decide either of the two. And life changes. I tried looking for a situation where we may have one choice or more than two choices. Analyzing a little more, all cases trimmed to be, two boxes, saying tick one of them! Life becomes what we choose it to be.

My “two choices only” theory struck me when I was caught by a traffic policeman for over speeding. I was well over 50 kms per hour when suddenly I realized I need to slow down as too many vehicles are crowding together ahead. At the speed I was driving, by the time I actually slowed down, and came near to the spot where other vehicles were, I came to the maximum speed limit actually allowed. No doubt, I screeched to a halt and was greeted by smiling traffic personnel. Now, I had only one choice, apologize. Or did I? I actually had another. I asked him what’s happening here? Very naturally, he replied, “we are trying to nab offenders”. I smiled back and said, “oh, that’s nice”, and kept a straight face. He then, very politely asked for my driving license. I took it out in a snap and handed it to him. He took the card, and started writing something in his note pad he was carrying. With a quizzing look I asked him, “What are you doing with my license?” It was then that he told me, I was over speeding and he is making a challan! Now, I had just one choice? Or did I? I could either argue and pay up eventually or pay up quietly. I asked him how much is the penalty? He gave me an amount which luckily I was carrying. I did not utter a word. He tore the challan, and requested me to sign it. I signed, paid him the amount and then asked him, “what is the speed limit?” He said, “Sir, it is 40 kms per hour”. I could just reply that I thought it was 50 kms per hour. He responded that I was much over my ‘thought’ speed limit too. He kept smiling during the whole conversation and in fact, all this while, he addressed me as Sir, in each and every sentence. I drove off the barricade slowly, murmuring I don’t remember what.

I was driving to Office early morning. My drive is a one hour drive if there is normal traffic on road, which on most days isn’t. I actually take atleast 75 minutes to 90 minutes on most days. I leave home well on time so that I don’t need to drive rash and high. This day too was no exception. However, early morning, driving to office, being stopped and asked to pay up, I should have been mighty irritated and cursing everyone around; the traffic rules, the traffic policeman, the people who made these traffic rules, the government (the only entity which is accused, abused and maligned for everything happening with our lives). And I had almost started doing just that. At that moment, my theory was born. I started thinking; I was at fault and was penalized for it. I always knew there is a speed limit (the actual figure was a mirage). And at that speed I knew I was over speeding. Once caught, I could have in no way avoided this situation. I had to pay the penalty. But I had two choices. Either I ruined my day by starting it in a pissed mood. Or, I realize my fault; accept it and forget it. The thought soothed me a little. I was feeling better.

I started generalizing my theory now. In academics, in marriage, in career, in writing, it applied everywhere! I did argue a bit with myself that I can choose to write in English or Hindi or any other language that am proficient at. But then, it struck me, the decision is to write or not. Once I decide to write, languages become options and not choices. The same was for marriage too. I decide to get married. God forbid, if something goes wrong in the relationship, it is not because of the other partner, it is because I decided to get married. The other person is one of the many options I had to get married to. My decision is the reason for all good (or bad) happenings in my life and never someone else. May be, that is the difference between options and choices.

We create options, but we make choices.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chennai Connection

It’s called “walking down memory lane”. For me it was almost literally true. Chennai does not have too many wide roads, now that I compare them to Delhi roads. Hence, would call most of them as lanes. (No offence to any Chennaite. I love Chennai myself and would love to settle there if situation demands).

Getting back to Chennai after a gap of almost two years had an amazing feel to it. Although, I landed almost at mid night, courtesy on of the low-cost, no-freebie airlines, the city hugged me instantly. The biggest surprise was, the moment I got into the cab, I was talking to the cab driver in the same broken but understandable Tamil I used when I left Chennai, early April 2005. What an irony, I married a Tamilian but still I had not spoken Tamil since I left Chennai. But once inside the cab, it was as if I was out for a day or two on an official trip and getting back to the Bachelor’s Den (where I stayed with friends in Chennai before I moved to Delhi and finally got married). The other astonishing fact was I remembered each and every turn to take to get to my destination even in the dark night. I was pleasantly surprised but the driver was upset. He must have thought he will take a littler longer and confusing route and then ask for extra money for roaming unnecessarily for such a stupid address in the night! My instincts didn’t let that happen. He was visually miffed while in I was getting down. I was so happy by now that I tipped him some extra bucks on my own even though it was a pre-paid cab. He gave that special smile which the cab driver gave who I tipped when I was leaving Chennai the last time. I knew there was some connection.

Our real intention of visiting Chennai was attending two morning weddings of my B-school batch mates and their evening receptions falling on the same day. Also, since for a couple of months, my wife and I have to stay in two different cities, meeting each other was at a premium. This was an occasion which was satisfying all needs. The weddings and reception events were attended and enjoyed by one and all. Meeting old friends gave instant gratification and brought back campus time delights as discussion topics. A funny photo session followed. Since, there was a gap of about 6 hours between the weddings and the evening reception; someone suggested all of us go for a movie. Lots of movie names came up which ranged from English to Hindi. I suggested we go for a Tamil movie which was lapped up by all. Tamilians would love that and non-Tamilians (read as North Indians) would no get another opportunity to watch one any sooner. And what a movie it was 3-hours of 100%, non-stop and fantastic fun for non-Tamilians. I was told during the interval and finally when we were walking out of the hall that the movie is trash! Who cared, as long as we all enjoyed together. We clapped, whistled, danced and shouted till our voices were hoarse right through the movie. I was one of the people who was over excited. I knew there was some connection.

We attended the reception in the evening. Now, down south, receptions start at about 1830-1900 hours and dinner is over by 2130. Which meant we finished dinner and were left with nothing much to do by 2200 hours. We had the whole night to us even after attending two weddings, two receptions, a thrilling movie show and atleast 3 hours of driving through the Chennai traffic on full working day! Isn’t that an amazing feat? So, we decided to celebrate the same the best way possible, boozing till dawn! This connection was well known to all.

The next day, once we were back to our senses, all the people in the house decided to take a trip to Mahabalipuram, a small beach town about 55 kms from Chennai. Actually, the discussion started with visiting Pondicherry but then it made no sense for all the sensible people discussing this to go and again loose our senses so far away if we had an equally better option closer to Chennai. We started after lunch and were there in about an hour and half. Since, we did not get an accommodation booking before we left for Mahabalipuram; we looked around for a decent hotel and in between visited a top-of-cliff cave and a temple too. Finally, we went to the beach and spent a good hour sitting and taking in the fresh and salty sea air before checking into a hotel for the night. We were physically tired, but mentally ready to start a rave party. So, after a while of talking some non-sense, we decided to become non-sense! We commenced another sitting with the “gin(ie) in the bottle”.

Just as most people visiting a beach town would discuss, we started our evening deciding to see the sun rise on the beach the next morning. We fixed on a time to wake up, put alarms and as a ritual kept the “final decision” aside. Our topics for the evening ranged from being friends discussing our married and single lives, to B-school batch mates comparing our salaries and perks, to brand ambassadors of our respective organizations glorifying the current initiatives. In all these conversations, one thing was common. All seemed to speak sense most of the time. I realized, we had surely matured with age. Needless to say, the sun rose at the right time. We switched off our alarms at the right time too. But we did not, or to correct myself, we could not wake up to watch the sun rise from behind the waves. The sun would rise everyday. We would not get a chance to catch up on each others’ lives soon enough. We had slept barely a couple of hours before sun rise. Hence, all gave sunrise a miss without much guilt. We visited the beach after breakfast though. We spent a good amount of time. We did want to loiter on the beach a little more before rain killed plans. We ran back to the hotel, got ourselves a fresh start to the day and checked out. On our way from Chennai to Mahabalipuram we had crossed a lake where wanted to do boating. On our way back to Chennai we satisfied ourselves. It was fun.

Once we were back to the city, watching the people with serious faces and worrying looks running around on the streets brought the feeling of getting back to work the next day. Till that moment, we had forgotten Office, colleagues, work. There was no mention of tension. This connection too was well known to all.

During all these chaotic ceremonies, events and travelling, I stole some special moments with my lovely wife. We had an amazing time “together alone” and together in a group. Infact, some of the best times we had before and after our marriage.

But one thing was certain. There was something mysteriously familiar yet unknown which kept me thinking if and whenever I was alone. There was definitely a connection between the city and me. Only when I was back that the facts unfolded. Chennai was where I started my first job, initiated my second love story, received my third promotion in one year and learnt my fourth and most important language, Tamil. It was following a sequence. This city was an indispensable part of my life.

The Chennai connection now had a clear network. All signal bars were up and personal.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Fly High

Am not a frequent flier with any particular airlines. Infact am not a frequent flier at all. Once in two months, sometimes three, is my frequency. But whenever I do, its fun. With these no-freebie-low cost airlines coming in, prices have dropped and people don’t think twice before booking a ticket. But then there are some who tend to have an air around them and even on flight, when all are in air, they want to maintain that air! Hence, they fly only certain airlines and proudly flaunt their frequent-flying, privilege passenger cards on airports, many even before entering the airport and some long after they have checked out of the airport.

My last visit to the airport was pretty interesting. I had a flight of events flying all around. I took a cab whose driver was a regular driver, dropping people to the airport. The moment he took the second gear, his monologue on people going to the airport began. His recitation ranged from the way people talk on mobile while on his cab, as if they are going to catch the flight to Greece and not Gandhinagar, the way they keep checking their baggage zips as if they are walking through a crowd and not sitting alone inside a cab to the way his passengers keep looking at the watch knowing well that the distance will not shorten any which way they look at it. His final statement was a winner. He said, “I too have a passport, so what’s the big deal in flying”? I almost laughed on his face, through the rear mirror ofcourse, but controlled.

At the entrance, courtesy the online booking and ‘print your ticket’ option, a passenger was quarrelling with the security guard who was not letting him enter as the guard could not read the print out! I was allowed in, even though I too was on a ‘print this page’ ticket, but my page was more legible than the other guy. I could not find that poor soul inside the airport even after sitting for 20 minutes, so I really don’t know if his print out kept him out!

The best part is always the flight. Since, its winter time, fog is an inevitability in my part of the country. I was surprised that none of the passengers actually raised his/her voice over the 20 minutes delay in the take off. I guessed, most of them were pretty tired. Oh, I am sorry, I did not tell you I was taking the last flight of the day. So, most of the people on board were half asleep. I assume most of the air-hosts and hostesses too. There were no freebies to be distributed, but then there was no hospitality shown towards passengers finding it difficult to find their seats. They stood with a stale smile, so (un)welcoming at almost mid night. Now, here comes the clincher again. The moment the prettiest among the ugliest group of air hostesses I ever flew with, finished the ritual safety instructions, I heard clapping from the rear side of the plane. Most of us turned back to see who it is. A gentleman with loosened tie and a light blazer on was standing in the aisle and clapping. He paused momentarily, and finally said with a wavering voice, “very good performance, very good. Amazing”. (Pretty much Boman Irani style in Khosla ka Ghosla). I think there was no one on the plane who did not roll in laughter. Except the gentleman, ofcourse. He stood for a minute or so, confused why people are laughing?

Only later we came to know, we were only flying high. The gentleman was ‘high’ on the flight.


Excess of anything is bad. Be it food, travel, work out or appreciation. I almost gave up my job because I was doing, well, excessive of nothing and receiving excess of appreciation. Looks contrasting? Read on…

There was a time when I was out of work. I mean, not exactly. I had a job but no work. Sounds like heaven, right? I mean what’s better than a paid holiday! So, I shall not self loathe and shall put it as, I was low on the responsibility sheet in Office. There were a fixed number of tasks I had to perform to earn my daily wage. I needed ways to keep myself occupied in Office. (Generally, in Offices, one needs to look busy more often than actually being busy). For people walking across my workstation I would have to look busy and for myself I needed to actually keep myself occupied.

Being Internet-savvy and the prolific number of networking sites online, it should not have been a problem. But then, too colorful a webpage on my computer would attract visitors to my corner. Also, ours being a technologically advanced company, most of the sites which would have been (un)productive to me were blocked. (Hence, no messengers too). After whiling away many days on one of the networking sites, I grew bored of it. I needed something more inspirational. Something, which could hold my attention span, which was reducing, just as days were getting shorter as winters approached.

I believe, my right-brain was always more active than my left-brain. I loved music, art, creating and telling stories. I used to write sometimes too. I had good imagery. So, I decided to start jotting down what came to my mind in a more articulate manner. With the first few of my writings, I was actually impressed by myself. I received positive responses from my initial readers too. People said I have ‘the talent’. Starting with simple happenings from my past, with a twist of humor, I graduated to writing fiction. And I was certainly getting better. But my strength was short writings. However, with a little more patronage, applause and (un)wanted suggestions, there came a time when I actually started imagining writing a book. I mean, if a fresh pass out from IIT can get his novel published and become a best seller, why can’t I? But how much ever I tried I could not go beyond a page on any topic. It was not as if I had no imagery left. But I was restricted by words. And I still had a short attention span, I guess.

The longest documents I had ever written in my life (except exam papers, which needed to be filled) were the one and a half pages weekly letters to my parents when in hostel. I did not detest writing letters. I hated writing. I had a miserable handwriting, goes without saying. In my last year in school, the first computer was installed. Arrow(s) and the space bar were the only keys we could operate. We only knew to play games on a computer. To keep the burner alive in the kitchen you got to use your fingers in more ways than one. I can now boast of being able to use almost the whole suite of MS Office, the maximum being the MS Word. After a lot of trials and mental tribulations, I was convinced of my strengths. (or was it my weaknesses?)

Everyone reaches his or her level of incompetence, one day. Make the journey as slow as possible. May be some day I do write a novel. I shall take it slow for now.

Make life a marathon, not a race. You never win, anyways.

Early Birds

The moment I told my friends my wife will be out of town by virtue of her profession, there were some real mixed reactions. Some commented, “Lucky guy!! Now you can do whatever you want.” Some said, “Amazing. It is so relieving, getting some space.” There were some counter to these, mostly from relatives, like “So, who will cook for you now?” “How will you manage your laundry?” Frankly, I was confused. I did not know how to react? I mean, ofcourse, I was depressed that even before a year of our wedding, there came a small, but substantial time period when we would not be together. Knowing my wife for 5 years before finally getting married, she was a habit to me by now. Bu there was a secretive joy too. I don’t know why.

Also, she was the one who was the early riser in the house. The maid comes at 0630 hours sharp and I would probably go and open the door only to slump back under the quilt, once a month. I would pull my quilt, push my wife and kick the mattress to do that. Now, she not being there, I would have to pull all my strength, push away the quilt and kick myself to get out of bed and open the door for the princess!

The first day was not so bad. Or that’s what I thought. We had to get up by 0430 hours for my wife to get ready and for me to drop her to the airport. I came back, made some tea for myself and waited, as it was almost time for the maid to arrive. After a long time I was up by this time. I was missing my wife too. What would I do without her for the number of days she isn’t around? I started recounting activities and routine jobs around the house, which we did together that appeared special now. The ‘Miss You’ list of things started getting bigger and longer. There is a Motel across the street. As I walked out to the balcony I saw the room service boys running around, the cleaners almost done with the outside cleaning of the premises, the cabbies cleaning their cabs. And it was still dark. I was wondering, my day had not begun yet, theirs was half way through. I was drowsy; they were as active as athletes. Thinking of athletes, my mind started asking; who will win the race to my home, the maid or the newspaper boy? Well, ofcourse, it was the maid. She rang the bell thinking we are fast asleep and kept ringing so that we wake up. The bell noise was deafening. On most mornings, I don’t even hear this noise! I ran to open the door. While entering, the look on her face confirmed the fact that she was not only surprised to see me awake but with a cup of tea in my hand. I told her that my wife would not be there for some days. Before I could even think, she herself suggested that she will come a little late from tomorrow. I was impressed by her intelligence for a moment. Then it daunted on me, she was actually ridiculing me. She was hinting that I could not get up early and open the door for her! The boys out there in the Motel had not finished pulling my esteem that this lady had lofted my character out of the balcony. I did not know how to react? I could not reply in positive, as I did not agree to her. I could not respond in negative, as what she said was after watching me for so many months. She was right in all ways possible. I did miss my wife. But this item was not on the ‘Miss You’ list!

Our forefathers were real experienced and evolved beings. One of them said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy and wise”. I became wise that morning, for sure. The other two, we shall tackle in another story.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pillars of Life

With New Year, comes the New Year resolution time. Everyone from the Page 3 party mongers to the clerk in the government office makes one. Some say they will start doing something. Some promise to stop doing something. Intentions are sincere and profound. Chubby people want to reduce. Skinny people want to gain weight. Lonely people wish to make (more) friends. The (more) social ones aspire to be more diplomatic. The shy ones boast of becoming extroverts. The out spoken make a silent wish not to embarrass themselves more than the other as often as last year.

All start sincerely too. But somewhere down couple of months (sometimes even weeks) the magic perishes. Life is back to normal. Habits die hard. Good or bad, is a very subjective issue. All is well if done in quantum.

Many men swear to quit smoking. I salute Saif Ali Khan that he did. Few men want to give up drinking. I salute the ones who actually do. Couple of my ‘rowdy’ friends (as described by my parents and wife) announced to the world at large that they would give up smoking or drinking this coming New Year. One of the audacious friends’ threatened to give up both! I was mighty impressed by their declarations. Only those proclamations were short lived. Time period of my awe to their resolution was shorter. The very next day, my friend who had declared he would not smoke from 1st January ’07 got news that his cousin was coming from the US of A. He quietly ordered him to get a carton each of Hawaiian cigars and Marlboro sticks! Once the word was out, he said they are to gift people on New Years’. That was a good one. The pal, who swore not to booze anymore in 2007, drank so much in his office New Year party that he could not find his residence that night. He slept in his car all night. His statement the next day was, “since I shall not drink any more; I wanted to finish my quota”. This was a better excuse. But what really brought the true resolution to a halt was the one who had the courage to state that he shall never kiss a cigarette bud and gulp alcohol. This pal stopped smoking totally. He did not even drink in the New Year party. He started chewing pan masala saying he needs a ‘soft’ alternative to give up smoking and also to distract him from picking up a cigarette. Within a fortnight of New Years’, he is consuming 10 sachets of masala everyday! Needless to say, not boozing doesn’t matter. Guess, he has a new resolution already in mind.

I smoke. I drink too. It never crossed my mind to quit either. My father caught me red handed smoking when in College. He reprimanded badly and broadcasted that if am caught the next time, he shall disown me. I never got caught. The same day he took a step further and declared the day I wanted to start drinking, it should be with him and bought by my earnings. Ofcourse, he had doubts that I have already tasted blood. But this was a good way to give me a matured thinking. We sat the evening I received my first pay cheque. I did not want to get disowned. I was not sure about my job. But I was sure about my father’s words. In no way I was better than anyone of the above. Although, I never made larger than life statements and then had my foot in my mouth. But I did have a streak of hits and misses. Hence, I decided to build my life on a structured framework.

The four pillars of my life are my wife, Gold Flake, United Breweries and the strongest, my father’s words.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

India Pois(on)ed

We all woke up to a brand New Year. We had wished all our near, dear and fear (bosses, in-laws, wives etc) ones a very blossoming and prosperous New Year the evening/night before. As far as I can remember, this New Years was my best one. My wife and I drove off to Nainital. She had a long awaited, much deserving and very badly needed break from office, domestic chores and TV aka the lazy ‘yours truly’. A TV freak as I am, I was glued to the TV on New Year’s night. Many like me, after watching Mallika Sherawat do, what she does best, live on news channels, am sure, started hoping the current year is ending on a super ‘step’ and the New Year will usher in ‘dancing’ like her. I was simply amazed looking at the guys standing right below the stage who were pinned to their places, posturing like Netaji - right hand index finger pointing to the future. Only it was their mobile cameras recording every step Mallika made, capturing the passing year in the form of oomph.

The first day of the New Year, an amazing morning with a brand new feeling suddenly halted on a blank. CAS was operational. All my favorite channels (except ofcourse FTV, which is FTA) passed away with the passing year. I only had the news channels and the Aasthas and Sanskars of the world for my satsang! The first couple of days did not hurt, though. Infact, they were a boon in disguise. Big Boss was not bothering me. I was among the lucky people who were spared watching India loose amazingly to South Africa. As I mentioned, I had FTV to my rescue. I still had a travel channel, which took me to atleast 10 places in 24 hours, sitting in my room. There was a music channel, which actually aired the latest bollywood songs much before the established music channels. To keep me amused, there were these special programs on news channels, which tried to create ‘sansani’ and ‘tehelka’. They were equally adept at making me laugh, as The Laughter Challenge although still funny is getting predictable. I was still having fun.

As the number of channels had reduced to almost a single digit, my wife was ecstatic that I was actually entering the kitchen to give her a helping hand in cooking, without her shouting at me and snatching the remote to switch off the TV. In these two days without a set top box, I had actually learnt to cook dal, a simple capsicum vegetable and even make chapattis!! (OK, chapattis was only visual learning). But CAS had actually prepared me decently enough to eat well and sleep well when my dear wife was not around in town. For this, I should certainly thank the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

But 48 hours later, it became really painful. It actually got torturous. Any button I press, any channel I view, I could only see the face of Mr. Surinder Koli and his Mr. Moninder Singh Pandher. It turned ugly, then cruel and finally down right disgusting. They were murderers, then became serial killers and finally turned man-eaters! If not the monsters, there were scenes of killings in Assam, lathi-charge in West Bengal.

I was left wondering, what’s new this New Year? There was no respite from the demons of society, the evil actions of humans around and atrocities coming to us much faster than ever before, thanks to the ‘sabse tez’ news channels, showing everything almost live.

They say, India Poised, Your Time is Now. To me it looks like, India Pois(on)ed, Your time is Over.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Let Go

A strange thing happened with me. I realized at that instant, there was no correlation. But it did strike me. While watching news channels and then reading the newspapers with Shane Warne’s statements on his retiring from Cricket, I was reminded of my dormitory “Warden” in school. Old guy was past his prime. He knew that. But he would just not accept. In an attempt to hold his losing grip on boys, he made more efforts than usual. Hockey, our passion during school, he was always on the wrong side of the boys. It was just a matter of time when boys would swing their stick. One fine day, rather late evening, they swung.

Boys had been tolerating him and his tantrums for a long time. But then, he had spent his entire life as a Warden. He was aged and did have his share of charm. He was part of our growing years. However, boys were waiting for the last nail to the coffin. “Warden” as we used to call him, struck it himself. He hit a senior class boy infront of some juniors. In school, we used to fear only two things. Seniors, and their eyes. If a senior passed by without looking at you, you were blessed. We would be praying down our breaths till the time he actually crosses us and went atleast 10 steps before we uttered the first word. Ofcourse, that was an ‘adjective’ suiting him. Still, it was terror. Just imagine, in that environment, if a senior is slapped infront of a junior. Terror unleashed. Unfortunate juniors in the vicinity where first taken under the ‘black and blue’ clouds. I am sure most of us remember the rains from those clouds. I do. That whole day was like walking in a dark street with hammers and swords at each step. For no fault of yours, you were slapped, punched and kicked. The tension was mounting. There had to be a vent. The vent opened only on “Warden’s” chest.

Elaborate planning went in making sure how “Warden” will start walking down the stairs where Vaseline would be applied in full measure. He should not have one inch to step and not slip. While he is falling from the steps, some boys will run wrap the falling body into blankets and cover him totally. He should not identify anyone. He would be picked up, will be thrashed non-stop on his way to the bathroom. Once inside he will be thrashed even more and finally will be left under the cold-water tap. Did I mention it was the month of February? I apologize; I think I also missed mentioning my school is in Mussoorie.

The plan was executed flawlessly. No action could be taken against any boy. It was ensured that no sharp tool was used. Only full bodied blows making sure there are no marks on his body. He could not identify and name even one boy. The senior he had slapped in defense of his falling glory, had been ‘hospitalized’ a day earlier for severe stomach ache. You could not raise a finger.

He did continue as our Warden for sometime after that incident. Not for long though. During his last few days, he had calmed down. But he was hurt, more psychological than physical. You could feel his pain in his eyes. His voice had broken and his fingers trembled when giving directions.

You need to let go at the appropriate time. You need to realize, what is yours today, was someone else’s yesterday and will be someone else’s tomorrow. Nothing in this world is for keeps. This appropriate time does not depend on age. Ian Thorpe and Shane Warne only confirm the inevitable.


Sitting Pretty

Not that I was one is the reason that am writing this. But over the years, most of the people I have met have been one. It’s only now that I realize that if most of the people I have met were really back benchers, who was sitting on the front benches(seats)? There can be only two situations. Either there is something about the backbenchers that at the sub conscious level they connect sooner and better than others and hence form a norm group long after they have left the aisles of schools and colleges. Or there is something about them that makes everyone aspire to be one and hence whenever there is talk of old times, all declare themselves to be from the alleys of the dark.

With backbenchers, the psychology is the same. The interests are the same, mischief. The discussions are the same, the next misadventure. The aspirations are the same, to beat the other in the next mischief mongering, sneaking into class coming late, eve-teasing comment etc. Is the same psychology working with the front bench occupiers? I guess so. The reasons are also pretty much the same. The interests are the same, books. The discussions are the same, the upcoming exam. The aspirations are the same, to beat the other in the next test, exam, appraisal etc. So, I guess, they do form a norm group of their own. There exists a force keeping the two groups away. And it’s much more than just different interests, discussions or aspirations. But then, how is it that most of the people you meet are from the ‘notorious’ norm group? Why do they want to be identified as the ‘infamous’ ones rather than the ‘good’ ones? There has to be some real solid reason.

I believe, the ones who are remembered over time are the ones who make a mark. Not just on the desks where they sat and compassed their names, but on people. They create a name on people who stay back in school/college long after they are gone. It is the bearer outside the principal’s office, the gardener, the bellboy, the matrons and wardens and ofcourse the teachers. Except the teachers, the other people would have never even heard the name of the person who stood first every year. Even if they did know the name, they never could put a face to the name. But the backbencher always had a name and a face to it. He was omnipresent; in the garden, outside the principal’s office, at the playground, on the roof, everywhere. These people keep the names alive by carrying stories over batches and years, of their mischief resulting into a ‘whacking’ session for the whole batch, their acts of annoying the Maths teacher so much that s/he almost fell from the first floor running out of the classroom, their (mis)adventures into the girl’s hostel, getting caught half hanging on the toilet pipe etc. The batches coming later got to hear of all the backbenchers did. They did not have a face to the name. But they knew the name and searched it on one of the desks, walls or books. The frontbenchers never had a face to their names and never managed a name for themselves either. This is why people always take a ‘frontspeak’ to call themselves ‘backbenchers’. This is what most people crave for.

There can be only a set number of front seats and back seats. It is impossible not to come across even one person who was not on the front seat. In reality, I have come across some of them. There certainly is something about them, which is repelling. I can’t pin point what. But I believe, the front parkers take life a little too seriously. They want to create an air of superiority around them. They desire and finally become ‘the one’. Not realizing, its not others, but they themselves who become ‘untouchables’. They never gather many friends.

Having said that, I do have very good friends who were frontbenchers, are doing amazingly well in life and still are my good friends. Not only I, they too have made all efforts to keep the relationship alive although, their social circle, lifestyle and thought process is different from me. But taking a percentage, I can safely say only 1% of the frontbenchers I knew, are in touch with anybody I am in touch with of my class in school or college.

I am sure they are sitting pretty, wherever they are. But it never was a pretty sight watching them, then. It is an ugly sight still.