Thursday, April 19, 2018
I have just finished dinner and getting out of the place. On the right is a CCD that is empty and to the left is a petrol pump that's also neatly empty. A car comes to a stop in front. A girl comes out of the car. Her parents come out after her. She would be about 22. She looks around quite agitatedly and again looks at her mobile as a message dings in. Instinctively, I know there's a boy somewhere. Oh, he's certainly there. About fifteen metres away. Under the shade of the CCD awning. He's appeared from nowhere. He's managed to raise a hand from hip to chest level. Meekly. And swiftly has taken it down too. The parents are oblivious. The girl is irritated. So, I try and guess what's happened thus far. He is an ardent "one sided" admirer. He lives in the town. She's done well in studies. And then gone over to the city for further studies. And now she does not really want him around. Him, now the small town boy who does not have much more than empty handed love. But can the boy really forget? Lonely. Scratching his arm. Jeans and Tee shirt. Tee shirt with Mahindra Holidays imprinted on right side. Trademark yellow. Shirt standing out more than the man. Desolate face. Crumpling by the minute. A few last hopes and possibilities extinguishing by the second. In a jiffy she will be boarding the bus parked behind in the lot. She's moved ahead, already in the shadows, her parents talking to her. He cranes his neck and stands on his toes. She may wave. She may. Or so he wishes. She may. A hope. Fervent. I want to go and pat the boy. But then, he has to face rejection chin up. This will make him a man. He faces. Keeps looking at the bus for a while and when he knows there's nothing else for him in the offing at all. He walks away. Into the dark. The walk is loose and faulty in the beginning but he gathers pace. He regains strength. It's why he is a man, he is facing it, like all of them before. But women, it's not really fair, is it?
Saturday, April 14, 2018
The call is from very far away. Miles away. My name is being called. Twice. Thrice. I respond. I hear my own grunt. Sleep laden. The voice goes on. And then suddenly, from being miles away, it is just near the bedroom door. Missus. Tea is ready. Get up. I stagger to where we would have tea. Like people do when they are walking in a fast moving train, maybe an Inter City express. She's already half way through her tea and messages before I lift my cup. But my mind is not on the tea at all. Yesterday was a tough day and I had been looking forward to some music before sleep. A song just came about from the playlist I was poking into. Jiya laage na, tum bin Mora. Sona Mohapatra singing. I quite like what she sings. Very powerful voice and usually gets her pitch very perfect though I don't get to hear her often. This song has a couple of lines: Paas hai jo sab chhod ke Door ko paas bulaaye. At many levels, these lines struck me. Firstly, if this is about love, then this is about abandoned love. Left alone at home, a lady would pine for her spouse. If it is not about love and it is about duty or ambition, then the whole thing enters a new dimension. Does the spouse or the loved one fathom how engaged or possessed one is in chasing his or her dream? We know of instances all around us. A man leaves home and becomes a hermit. Another leaves home and decides to be a political worker. A sportsman leaves home as a boy and finds it highly uncomfortable fifteen years later when he actually gets married to a lady after all his success. Yet another leaves home, gets an education abroad, works there and the lonely parents sit on park benches and recount his faraway exploits to uninterested passersby and birds. We all seek comfort in the chase of a mirage while we have the dear ones waiting for us, back home. Though one cannot condone exploration, that should happen. If one doesn't seek, he isn't complete. But at the cost of everything else? My reverie stutters. Missus is asking me about someone. I have a tough time connecting name to a face. I can hear my brain creaking. The wheels and screws cranking into place. Okay, I get a face to the name. Last seen in a lift weeks ago. It's where we have come to. Spotting each other in lifts. A meek "Hi". A half hearted stab at social grace, we graceless wonders.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
1976. Behind the Cordite factory community Hall stage, there's a green room. That green room had a big black telephone back then. After a particular performance on stage that I wasn't involved in, my father was, I found myself beside that phone with no one beside me. Pushing aside all the stage clothes, make up boxes and a suspicious looking whip, I sat beside that phone. Picked it up. The receiver. Heard the dial tone. Put the receiver back. A thrill went through my like current passing. Quick survey to see if anyone was around, I again got back to the phone. Picked up the receiver. I knew that I had to move the dial from every number to the steel pin on the anticlockwise left. I tried that for one time with a three digit number. Guess what was the number. Consider me to be as much a pulp film or comic or book fanatic. You guessed? It was 100. Then I kept the receiver back in the cradle immediately. Because I thought someone had picked it up at the other end. I had not thought of an answer if someone did oick up. So, I thought of plausible answers to say if people really picked up. What would a nine year old come up with? Uncle, is my father there? Uncle, are you Anantharaj's father? Hello, is it the hospital? I had the capacity to understand that the homes had no phones except the higher level officers. So, many like us did not have access to this instrument. The public service places had phones. I naturally, thought of a hospital. You'd think I then furiously dialled up all the possible numbers and troubled the entire town. No, wrong. I randomly rang three numbers and then because the tone was like improper Morse code, I just kept the phone back. Then I sat there weaving stories around it. Immersed myself in a Hardy boys story. Then a Famous Five mystery. And kept using the phone. In my Imagination. I didn't actually pick up the receiver. It was a thrilling evening for me. Sitting and conceiving things beside that phone. Now, we desolate souls still sit beside phones, look at the screen and imagine things. Job offers, mails from interested parties, love messages, messages from kids or even long lost friends. We still conceive, conjure and vacillate. We are so happy when things actually happen on the phone. The ding of that message. The tick of that mail. We are still the same imaginative but lonely souls. "Khaali haath aaye the hum..khaali haath jaayenge"
Sunday, April 08, 2018
TV is a no no these days. But between Commonwealth Games, IPL, EPL and Champions League, it has been a day yesterday. Few important things: Ken RO has a great marketing strategy. Hema Malini in diaphanous blue saree. Last year it was Hema Malini in aquamarine blue saree. For extra strategy Kent had Hema with Esha and Ahana. Year before that, it was Hema light blue saree. So on. Dr. Fix it has Bachchan telling us about the five types of leakage. So, he has a guy half buried in a floor and a wall, well, leaking, not blood, water. Suspiciously pissing from his arms and stomach. I guess they made the ad when the writers and the makers had been kept hungry in a retention cell for four days. Bachchan is telling a lot of things, like encyclopediac uncles do. He warbles some punch line that I couldn't get. I guess they were working within his stated limits of Rs. One crore for a day of work. Bachchan again was there in another scooter ad. TVS. He's standing in showrooms and near roads and advising us about these good bikes. Again unintelligible. Immediately after, we see him at the ground too, with Mukesh Bhai. Mukesh Bhai was very happy when Markande took wickets. Yeh investment bhi safal ho gaya Bhai. The Airtel girl is back. Again she was trying to teach people about some data stuff that I couldn't retain in the head. Only remember that she waved her hands and danced a lot in the end. Basically, you can buy Airtel and dance funnily ever after. Zoozoos are back. This time they were suddenly pulling out mobiles when playing cricket. And looking at some updates. The ad screamed "mediocrity". Jio has made Deepika, Dhoni and a couple of his guys and Rohit and a couple of his guys dance. Dhoni dances well. Deepika's dress reminded me of those Sridevi dresses from Roop ki Rani choron ka raaja days. Jio has not been able to create a single memorable jingle till date. This is the lowest period for jingles in India. Amazon Fashion has a girl and a boy on a holiday and to have a better holiday they order for fashion and accessories from Amazon fashion. The first question I got in my head was "Delivery ka address Kya Diya hoga?" There are no blue chip advertisors other than the mobile phone and the data guys. Where are all the FMCG and the retail guys? Lastly, I remember the bad Bachchan Dr. FixIt ad the most. It's so bad that it's memorable. Maybe that was the idea. It even has faulty set lighting.
Saturday, April 07, 2018
Retired Dads are a complete anti-thesis of what they were during their working days. Only they don't know that. They feel or pretend or have closed their mind to the fact that it's different. My father in law used to get up early in the morning, freshen up, wear a nice official looking shirt, put his pocket book into his breast pocket, shove a pen in beside and go off to get milk. Why milk? Milk can come home. But he needed to do that just to meet a couple of morning walkers and exchange some hellos and news. Mainly news. Mainly neighborhood news. Over that half an hour, he gleaned facts that surprised most of us. I didn't even know that kind of stuff existed. Oblivious working men that we are. Like, if you buy spinach from Garia market instead of the Bansdroni market, you get it Rs. 3 cheaper per bunch. Who keeps track of spinach. But they do. And that's how the household gets bigger bang for the buck. Yesterday, a friend came over. Her father who I know well has a problem with Bangalore markets. Everyone would have, if he is from Kolkata. The spinach looks insipid. The pumpkins look like faded parchment. The lauki looks like it had been hung out to dry. The snake gourd looks like someone has used it to beat a political drum. The parwal looks like pellets for a gobar cake stove. He takes a bag and goes off to the local market near Marathahalli. Now, Marathahalli is a misshapen nowhere town in the middle of concreate shanties of large sizes. Whitefield and it's towers, glass and grime on one side. Bellandur and it's towers, glass and smell on the other side. Marathahalli is like the guy in the middle seat of a local train. Smell on one side. Grime on the other side. He's trying to edge up front and keeping his nose right out there so as to avoid sight and smell. He's wacko. He just has to know he's sitting right there and he can't do anything about it. He can't get up and go too. He will be called a loser. Ask a guy in Marathahalli whether he knows a market nearby and he will ask, what market? As it is 86.84% of the people here stay in PGs. And they eat in the 654 joints that crowd around two sq km space on both sides of a wide road called very ably and enthusiastically, Outer ring road. So, they don't know where any market is. But he, my friend's father has found out. He goes there everyday. He gets increasingly dismayed. He announces the abysmality of the situation everyday after he's back. He even tears down orange peels to show how pathetic it all is. And then he goes back the next day. Uncles need to understand this part of Bangalore. It's like South Mumbai without the private planes and the French perfumes. Noses are up in the air. There's not much touch with reality. WhatsApp groups here discuss black dogs that have come into the complex. Big Basket does four rounds in a day in each tower. Two times with big vans. Sometimes, a service lift is stuck with the blue bins and the Big Basket delivery guy for over an hour. Then Amazon and Flipkart take over. Who knows what's the quality comparison of spinach or cauliflower. Cooks cook what they are given. For all tasteless cuds of worry, there's oil and ghee. Put more and watch fun. Uncle needs to reboot when in Bangalore next. He should do uber things. Like football coaching, chess games with the computer, astronomy or Bitcoin trading. Kaddoos are so can't do. Do be do. Do be do..
Thursday, April 05, 2018
Missus barges in through the bedroom door. I have just come in and am in a chair looking at the ceiling. Men, at such grey junctures in life, look at the ceilings. She hollers. I come out of the grey. Naturally. She is showing me something on her mobile. It is a picture of a craft project her student has done some minutes back. Let me bring you in on this a bit. Some weeks ago she asked me if she should take in students for summer craft classes. I know her hand at all this. And I also know that she handles children very patiently. Even in other cities where we lived, she used to do these painting classes that were quite popular. So I said that she should do it. And she did advertise in those WhatsApp wormholes that we have. She got in some numbers. Then she was told that they are going in vacations. Post that they would come in. One student was agreeable to start right away. So be it. I saw the result of that student's work after the second class. The boy had turned in awesome work. Told me one thing. All children with the right energy and support of a teacher, can turn out gold. All children. And the younger they are, the better they can get. Missus, of course, is very calm, energetic and can converse very well with children. I see the results through the year. Then, later I saw Christiano Ronaldo's back flip goal again. And I began to wonder. This man couldn't have been this crazily talented if not for a succession of coaches who kept tweaking his talent to this supreme specimen that he's become. Monitoring his sleep, regimen, food, endorsements, his entertainment and rest so that he gets this far. This people are unnamed but they handhold the champion to such levels. Then I hear of how Saina Nehwal had to threaten to walk out of Indian team if her father wasn't let into the games village. And then the IOA relented. All the while saying that they had to do it because she threatened and she does not need her father. Every Games time we hear of such things. Some weird guy, usually a friend or relative of an IOA official who waltzes into the games village and has a gala time at the expense of us, the tax payers. Then, on the other hand, deserving coaches and support staff who needed to be there to make the athlete perform, are asked to stay back in India. See on TV and communicate by phone, they are told. Then we also see some weird doctor with an MBBS done a couple of years back with a needle in hand nearly finishing India's name even before the Games began. Every year. First the good Russians came with their tablets and needles. Now our own good coaches and doctors. The medical shop outside SAI hostels will tell us how much they make selling needles and steroids. And we still don't allow the personal coaches who keep these demons away. One wrong pill can break a career. And athletes are not doctors themselves. So you see how a bad system kills talent? However, glad to say, Missus is unaffected by bad support staff. That's me, if you were wondering. She's also cooked an enormously brilliant UP mutton masala curry yesterday. It's got whole garlic pods in it that you have to suck on while you eat the meat and the curry. It's done on slow flame. It's got over a dozen red chillies in a portion for two. Take that. If this curry is served to angry Dalits, the andolan will subside. Believe me. So don't break stuff and burn stuff. Have this curry. Be happy. Go home.
Wednesday, April 04, 2018
It's a perfectly normal thing to do when you are meeting someone unknown or when you want your people to find you most easily in any location. I will be standing outside Starbucks. You will find me below the Gandhi Statue there. Father will be across the road in front of CCD. Things like that. Many years ago, this occurred. 1991. Am young and working in Calcutta (note the pre Kolkata name and milieu). There was a lady who wished to meet a relative of mine and the said relative didn't want to be meeting her without my presence to advise him on said person and whatever that should happen later. I went along. The monument was a big clock in Howrah station and he was to meet the lady below that clock. You have to understand this correctly. You enter Howrah station from the Hooghly river side and then look up to your left. There's this old clock, Favre Leuba or Alpha Swiss, I don't remember exactly, white and black. Black hands. Cobwebs behind it. Dusty. But the most well known landmark used by commoners. They used to say in Bangla "Bodo ghodi'r tolai". Below the big clock. So, we reach. Many people standing. We didn't have mobiles then so that we could ring and see which lady is answering the phone. It's why he's taken me along. He wants to see the lady before he actually goes across. There are many ladies standing there. My relative is in his late twenties. He did not have any girlfriend till then. So, he could be trying to befriend anyone. It's that stage of life, you see. I start patiently screening each lady standing. Lady with ration bag, not possible, no one will come on a date with a ration bag. Lady with large spectacles and clearly married, maybe not. Lady with grey in her hair and white saree, maybe not. So on. Actually, this is confusing as we could still be choosing to home in the very wrong lady. It's not done. I want to be out of there. I say so. My relative is hell bent that I should help him out with this. He's holding my arm so that I cannot run. In desperation, I continue to shortlist. I keep asking him questions as to her statements over phone. Turns out she's not given him much information except "I will know when I see you"! Ridiculous. How the hell will she know. Has she seen him before? I question. Negative, he says. Then I say that he should do an exploratory round by just walking in front of the waiting citizens. Just an easy walk and I will stand afar and see which lady is looking at him with attention. That will make a shortlist and then we will take decisions. He agrees with this idea after much distress. He moves. I watch. He goes up to the waiting citizens. He gives a cursory "searching but not so much as to be ogling" look around and keeps moving till he disappears from my sight into some crowd. I try to quickly see if some ladies have followed his walk. Four candidates. One, the married one. Second, a not so young lady who's not worn her saree even properly. Third, a young lady in Hawaii chappals and specs. Fourth, the decidedly much older lady with grey in her hair. Here, I would like to point out that those were days in Bengal when many women, though they worked and provided for households as the men could not find work, missed out on marriages at the apt time. Their parents knew that they would stare at poverty if the lady married and went away. So they never attempted the proposal thing at all. The girls simply aged. It's very possible that it was a lady from that background who was trying to meet my relative. And on the phone you'd never know. You could not pass on selfies. There were Facebook profiles. My relative comes back. He looks at me expectantly. I give the sanest possible answer. "Let's go home, man!". A year later. He's proposed to the young lady with the Hawaii chappals. She turned out good for him. She had a job and she took good care of her family. Well, like they say, all's well that ends well. So, I waited for the day someone would meet me below that big clock. Never happened. We met at the world's most unromantic spot. Beside the card punching machine in the workplace time office. I am still punching my time everyday. Present madam!