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.