Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...Bhagwaan ke liye hi to hai

Four weeks of continuous pestering and I found myself waiting for a Volvo bus to Shirdi with my buddy Bobin. I guess the motive was to get out of Mumbai...have some good time travelling around over a weekend. I still cant figure out why he chose to have a pilgrimage. But I was up for it nonetheless. I have heard a lot about Shirdi. I think we need more saints like Sai Baba since he caters to people belonging to different religions. So there I was, waiting outside Dominos in Vikhroli. NEETA Volvo was the chosen travel agent. We had already smoked one joint...waiting for the Volvo at 11.30 pm was easier that way. I had a back-up for our return journey. Apparently our bus was late. Two buses passed by giving us the same info.

"Bhaisaab, 11.30 ki Shirdi waali Volvo yehi hai kya?"
"Nahin, woh peeche aa rahi hai"
The third bus was a sleeper, we wanted to get on it anyway but that didnt happen either. God works in unknown ways. We had a back up joint. It was 12.30 already and the bus promised to get there in 45 mins...which meant anything between 1-2 hours. We were left stranded there, with a stray dog whom I named 'Dawg' with us. Bobin took his seat on a nearby motorbike. I was trying to get Dawg interested to do some movement to amuse us. He didnt budge. Dawg preferred to sleep very close to the 1st lane of the highway...which was his prime timepass as well. Everytime a car or autorickshaw passed by, Dawg would be disturbed because there was a fear of being run over; Dawg would get up...move around for a while and again settle at the same position. This manouvre would go on for the whole night. Dawg.
Bobin and I made a healthy diplomatic decision to light up the second joint. This would give us some necessary comfort. An hour later we were on the bus. After settling down inside, we found that the AC regulator in the Volvo wasnt very effective, it was running in full swing. I was prepared for this eventuality...many bus rides in Malaysia with screwed up Aircon controls had taught me this. Bobin was caught unaware...he used his towel to save himself from the extreme weather conditions. The rest of the people inside were also troubled by this. Some were hiding under the curtains. The driver didnt respond to anyone's request...kept driving like a madman. He managed to hit all the potholes between Vikhroli and Shirdi.
It was a great relief to alight from the bus. At 6 am we reached Shirdi. There was a lot of hustle and bustle. The earliest darshan starts at 4 the area around the temple is awake by 3.30 am. We hired a room for an hour for Rs.30 for the morning chores. It was the most beaten hotel room ever. I was not very bothered until I saw the bathroom. The anglo-indian commode didnt have a toilet seat...the indian way it would be. I tried mounting on it...and to my fell to one side. I jumped away. I wondered how it has been used by people before me. Finally I mount it like a gymnast on parallel bars. Some exercise after a chilling bus ride. I warn Bobin of the commode situation. He manages without a murmur.
The Darshan
The temple complex is surrounded by roads on 3 sides and a small by-lane on the fourth side. There are a lot of shops selling holy merchandize on this lane...sugar balls, nuts, sweets, saffron cloth, coconut etc. The devotee (Bobin and me in this case) has to pay exorbitant price for these items since there is no bargaining with a franchisee of His Holiness. Any attempt to get a better deal comes with a warning of sorts -
"Le lo saab, Bhagwaan ke liye hai."
So we paid Rs.130 for a packet full of such items and marched towards the main temple. Any such shrine in India also is surrounded by other smaller deities with their own little story. There was a DwarakaMai Mandir in the same complex where a lot of people had queued up. Supposedly, it used to be a Darga before something happened and it was converted to a temple. We moved on to the entry gate.
The recent terrorist attacks have made such places a little more sensitive towards security issues. There was a gaurd with a metal detector. He asked us to use the Mobile Cloak Room and not carry it inside the temple. We moved to the Mobile Cloak Room and back. The Mobile Cloak Room was across a 40ft Road. There were a lot of people selling their SaiBaba merchandize again on this street. Also, it was the chosen spot for various travel agents to park their Tata Sumos, Tempos, Trax etc. and look out for passengers. There were frequent instances of 2 Tata Sumos negotiating a U-turn simultaneously on different parts of the same street with other private vehicles waiting to pass through. Welcome to the Indian Traffic Situation. Gutkha-chewing drivers swearing at each other...making the toughest manouvres with the least tolerance...staring at some hot chick...spitting with derisive contempt on the street...yelling at the same time at some prospective customer
"chala..Shingnapur chala.."
Bobin and I were walking barefoot on that street with blobs of spit lying around. After all this, I am sure we can easily cross a field laid with visible landmines with least damage.
The re-entry to the temple complex took us inside a big hall that was designed to provide a roof to a long queue of people waiting for Darshan. That was the first bit of organized effort towards temple maintenance. The queue was long and took us around 1 hour to reach the finish line. The hall had been divided by horizontal rows of steel railing. We had to be careful about the people behind us every moment inside the hall...every turn had a scope for overtaking. Bobin and I strictly gaurded our position. There were frequent attempts by this Uncle behind us..we named him Schumacher. Now Schumacher Uncle had his own strategy. We thought that he had been in the game for a few years now...not ready to retire though. He kept up the pressure when the line was slow moving...and made his moves only when there was a gap ahead of us. He was successful also but we were no novices either. There were others who were following lane discipline and every once in a while we had some Aunty coming with a baby in hand...moving along passing everyone as if she was the Safety Car in the race...a wailing baby made her passage easier. There were a few who didnt want the pressures of this race and just jumped the railings. Two of them were caught and were asked to start afresh by the security gaurd at the end of the line..Mr. Ecclestone.
Bobin and I managed to keep a good position all through but that turned out to be only a race to get the Pole Positions. After this hall, we were guided to a staircase onto first floor where there were a few hairpin curves too. We lost a lot in this phase because of low stamina. Schumacher Uncle stepped on it somewhere before the staircase and we could see him drifting across the finish line...chilling. The last bit also had the most resistance and chaos. The gaurds kept yelling on people who took more time in front of Sri Sai Baba. Every person was allowed a contact time of 2 seconds in front of the statue...
Bobin and I left there quickly in disgust. All this for a 2 second moment with Shirdiwaale Sai Baba. We moved out of there..back on the street with irate gutkha-spitting drivers. I negotiated a deal to go to Shingnapur and back. It was 85 kms away and as per the driver's calculations, it would take around 4 hours for the whole trip. We got on the Sumo. The other seats were taken by 3 Aunties..and a group of 5 people who seemed to be from Haryana but staying around Delhi. We named them - Delhi Thugs (read De-lee). As soon as the journey started and the Delhi Thugs got busy talking about all the big cars that they had seen on Delhi streets. Bee-um-dublu, Mer-si-dis, Lambur-ginis etc. Delhi Thugs went on about all this for the next one and half hours till we reached our destination...after which they paused to get off the car and started all over again.
As soon as our car double-parked in a make-shift parking lot, a man with a saffron tika on his head came by and hung a few saffron lungis by the car window.
"Yeh dhoti pehen neka..aur wahan par nahane ka. Fir hi tum darshan ke liye ja sakte ho. Gaadi main sab saaman chhod do..koi tension nahi hai"
He was also offering a 250 gm packet of mustard oil. All this even before we got off the car. Delhi Thugs were halfway to the temple already...they were fast. Bobin and I decided to disembark. An old man came rushing towards us...searching for my wrist. He had huge strands of saffron thread around his neck. The idea was to tie a bit and then charge me for the service. It was a battle of persuasion. At last, he spoke - "Shani Bhagwaan ka ashirwaad hoga. Apka pariwar sukhi hoga..." I moved away and Bobin said - "nahi chahiye." He left. We won our first battle. I went back into the car to get some water. As soon as I came back out, the man came back to us charging again. The same battle ensued...and this time, I delivered the victory dialogue - Nahi Chahiye. The man left again to find some other car. I had the Mantra to swim across all the Holy Rivers and not be duped by a single Godman.
We didnt take the lungi and free bath offer. Bobin was disinterested to come to Shingnapur in the first place. We were hungry. The only food that we had had since morning was a cup of tea and a Batata Wada. We still moved bravely to the main temple. All along the way, I was greeted by locals and asked to take a bath before entering the temple. At the temple, there were two entrances, one for ladies..and gents who didnt want to wear the lungi...and another for the lungi clad men. I walked around the temple using the former line. There is a big rock at the centre of the temple where people pour the Mustard oil. It is supposed to be a ShivaLing. I offered my prayers and left the place.
We waited for the next 45mins at the car. There were two more instances of the saffron thread man attacking us during this period. The Delhi Thugs were not to be found. I was sure they sat down to have a heavy lunch somewhere...not caring about the fellow passengers. Frustrated, we took another vehicle back to Shirdi. It was an tempo ride back that I chattering co-passengers...sugarcane fields stretching upto the horizon. We were a little tensed since we were faraway from Shirdi and our bus would leave at 4 pm. We asked our co-passenger...a calm Marathi Manus who was sitting with his family -
"Aur kitna time lagega Shirdi pahunchne mein?"
"Aur dus minute"
We relaxed the next ten minutes only to find that we were nowhere near. I asked him again and he said calmly -
"aur dus minute lagega"
I couldnt help but laugh. I tried hard but I could not come up with a name for my fellow passenger. He was a simple man..working at one of the shops around the temple selling holy merchandize. I asked him how much a plastic bag full of prasad would cost...he said around Rs.50. I told him that I paid Rs.130 for it this morning. He smiled and said -
"Bhagwaan ke liye hi to hai..."
We waited for 30 more minutes to reach Shirdi at around 4.10 pm. The bus had decided to leave at 4.30 pm. We thanked the Lord for saving our day by delaying the bus.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meanwhile II

Mr. Stranger sits quietly at his desk...punching a keyboard. All these months of frenzied financial activity in the US has taken a toll on his health. He has been working extra hours for no extra reason. In the times of Global Meltdown, his mental breakdown was certain due to the extra pressure. Although he had managed to start working in a 9 to 5 pattern rather than 24 hour shifts, the sane work timings brought in more exposure to business hours and hence more stress. He has lost a lot of hair recently. Reluctantly he gets up to make himself a cup of some distasteful organic chinese tea. What prompted this decision was an article somewhere that he read about anti-oxidants in organic tea. While strolling lazily to the cafeteria, he was reminded of his last appraisal meeting. His Manager told him that although there was no complain about Mr. Stranger's work, his shabby dressing and lazy demeanor whilst walking around office was not a very exciting sight. Mr. Stranger straightens up and marches down the corridor to the cafeteria only to be called back in the next moment, someone from some other part of the world wants to speak to him. How the benefits of Organic Chinese Tea would never be felt.

Mungesh Rohan hadn't touched his guitar for some weeks now. His single room in a co-ed hostel arrangement in Amsterdam has failed to light up his life. The dirt inside his head troubles him so much that the unhygienic room conditions donot affect him anymore...or maybe he was always distanced from human hygiene. Charity begins at home...cleansing must begin at the head. In a bid to shed off some office stress, he shaved his head recently. But that, like so many other things in his life, has had only a temporary effect. The job is taking so much time and energy that his daily routine beyond office is getting affected. There is this urge to just quit...spend some time in oblivion. The money is good, but how better?
KhambaMan pours his last drink for the day. A plate of hot dal tadka and Jeera Rice await as the main course. The waiters at Govind Garden know this since that was the routine for quite a few weeks now. He thinks of better times spent in the past. A good salary and a better office donot gaurantee a better life. He is angry at this betrayal. He curses..lights up a cigarette and finishes the last one in one gulp. This was the most dramatic moment of his day. He pauses to think about it...only to order for another quarter and repeat the act. The stage is set. Dal Tadka and Jeera Rice can wait.
Taurav Siwari rides back from work. Its one traffic signal to another in a beautiful yet smoggy Pune evening. He recently experienced the biggest jolt of his life. The moment came like a raging Mumbai down-pour that lasts 10 mins...something that manages to drench everything under it within split-seconds and move on. He reaches the Resort and finds it empty. He knows where KhambaMan is. Also knows that Politburo must be also on his way back. A month ago, he would have joined KhambaMan for the 8 P.M. After the recent turn of events, he knows that any habit as such would only make things worse. He understands his friends...and wants to be there.
Bhai wakes up from his slumber. Its time to go to work. In an efficient routine, something that he has perfected over the months at the Resort, he gets ready to work without glitches. He takes the 9 am Metro to his workplace so that he is out by 5.30 pm. Life is peaceful. No more traffic signals. There is good Scotch Whisky at home which he sips leisurely after work; benefits to live among Englishmen. All day long his eyes pry for some new material to assimilate from the world of internet. The only time he felt lonely was when the Bollywood Big-wigs were having a strike against the Multiplex Owners Association causing an indefinite delay in new movie releases. His God was watching him during this time of peril; two movies of his favorite Cinemaman - Anurag Kashyap - were released back to back. What could be better. Maybe he will read about wonderful qualities of Organic Chinese Tea today.
Meanwhile Nedumpa and Shenon ride to another beach in Goa...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Big Bang Theory

Pune City has funny named places in it. I went to one such place - Pimpale Saudagar. The friends that I visited called the place - The Resort. A Resort it is indeed, for obvious reasons. Bhai had once given me the description of the top floor flat with its terrace opening up to Pune heights. The description did fit in beautifully...albeit a bit smaller in size. But the personalities I met therein were astronomical. They are the caretakers of the Resort now until it withers away into our glorious past.
Chomko and his friend - Derry - decided to drive down to Pune and were kind enuf to let me hitch a ride. At first I met up with BluesMan Tom aka Prem Chopra. We offered our prayers to the Gods and went on a musical trip. BluesMan being a man from the hills has maintained the quorum of his flat to be people from his region. The Yamaha guitar and the desktop with good speakers and a broadband internet connection. It was a good four hour trip with the bluesman. I left for the Resort in the evening.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, we got delayed and the people at the Resort felt all the stages of anxiety...ending in hopelessness. But finally we reached our destination. Chomko is a good driver. KhambaMan was already halfway thru his daily quota at Govind Garden Bar. Chuzukee and Politburo were at the Resort - chilling. We didnt quite settle down there...made our way to Govind Garden. A momentous bonding session ensued. KhambaMan at the head of the Table, me and Chuzukee on the two sides. Politburo beside me. Chomko and Derry taking their place beside Chuzukee. We took our turns to congratulate each other for making it to the table. It was perhaps my first session ever with Politburo. Even the others took notice of this. I named it - Gatbandhan.
We have all matured into pretty seasoned being the worst of the lot. Chuzukee was giving me company for his own reasons. Chomko being the wine Baron, took responsibility of getting everyone pissed drunk. KhambaMan volunteered even before the event had started. Politburo kept his composure...maybe expecting a new move from the opposition. We spoke about how far we are from College. It was around 4 years...
Everyone of us is like a particle travelling outwards in space...ejected at the moment of culmination of the REC Durgapur life. We took different directions, but were part of the same wavefront. Every event in our lives altering our direction. But we were all still moving outward, faraway from each other every moment. Every such Govind Garden moment is like an explosion. A contraction followed by an expansion...where a few of us manage to converge to a point...spend a moment together..only to comeback to our original positions in the next instant or maybe diverge again. The College life then, KhambaMan and I agreed the next day, was the Big Bang that caused this entire creation. If it hadnt been for the Alma Mater, this would never have happened. And this is just one way of looking at it.
By now I have managed to meet many of the people from my College life. The trip to college - Shani is not doing well. He is not interested to work anymore and seeks solace in a bottle of Bangla 60. There are too many bitter memories of people who are no longer with us. Particles which just vanished/burnt away. KhambaMan also mentioned about the Lost. Chuzukee later told me that Politburo has had his share of outbursts.
KhambaMan has become a premium customer at Govind Garden. His appetite for alcohol has increased several fold. I could see my alcoholic Uncle in him...drinking his daily dose..eating food and sleeping like a baby...waking up next afternoon to some whisky and soda. Food at 3pm and sleep again. In between all this, talking about his likes and dislikes..eventually losing control and sense.
KhambaMan posed the question - What is Life? - and all its variants. Being the smartass that I am, I tried answering it to the best of my capabilities, that is, quoting a lot of facts from wherever...and eventually saying - I dont know. It is then that KhambaMan also said -
A lot of things still remain unexplained. And every now and then all u can do is just look up and heave a sigh,"Kya baat Hai!!"
I was in total agreement.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A sojourn

Riding on an a/c taxi from Changi Airport to my residence I was surprised to see the superway that looked new. On inquiring I found out that the look was changed to promote Singapore tourism. 'New plantations and flowers. This will make people like you to come to Singapore more la.' I was struck with an amazement that lasted a whole one hour. The median had been taken off and colourful flower baskets were laid in its it a very pleasurable feel in the 10 o'clock sun...probably at any hour of the day. The cars on the road followed strict lane discipline. Every 500 m there was a signboard giving directions, speed limits, time required to reach the prominent destinations nearby...a clear understatement - welcome to Singapore..we are a developed country and we would like you to feel at your comfortable best while you are here. 72 hours earlier I was rushing in a fiat taxi to Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport to get the earliest flight to Kolkata. 6 hours prior to that I was drinking from a bottle of bourbon with a mission to accomplish - to the last drop. I was drunk and the 6 am breeze gave me the warning signs of the Mumbai madness that will soon follow as the day proceeds. My taxi was not a/c and at a erroneous traffic signal made the driver bawl out 'Bhenchod, na khud jaate kisi ko jane dete hain' My sombre self let out a smile thinking about the reaction of my co-passenger. It was my Dad. The man had come to Mumbai 35 years ago and learnt its ways. He sat there unflinchingly...the comment meant nothing to him...the indifference took away my smile. Sushil - the taxi guy - was my father's regular airportman. When you are in Mumbai and have to get around, you need such kind of point men who can answer your calls at any hour. We had called him at 5 am. I saw him rushing down the main road of Vashi and jerk to a stop...and in that quick motion throw out a passenger and his luggage...get back in and pick us up. It took him not more than 23 seconds. We were in time for the Jet Airways flight. The domestic terminal had been recently renovated. Its design will definitely evoke the Shanghai dream among all who plan to see Mumbai there. A quick check in and even quicker take off told me that the bourbon was good. Everything moved fast around thing I remember is staring from the last seat of the airbus to a mega crowd of mostly bengali chatter excited to celebrate Holi in the city of their birth...or something in that effect. I dozed off. Arriving in Kolkata airport has always been a rejuvenating experience. Even the conveyor belt reflects the laziness of the staff...of the taxi unions...of the city. The whole of Kolkata wants to sit back and sip at their cup of tea and filterless Capstan while the world kills itself by running on a mega environmentally unfriendly treadmill. And the airport is a multi-holed veil that fails to mask this image completely. Outside, as the warm and humid Kolkata air played with my sweat pores...the bourbon began to fade. On an ambassador taxi that couldn't do more than a 60 kmph...we were riding through the empty streets streaked in vermillion red and occasional greens and purples and whites. There were people out there willing to take a shot at coloring my solemn face but the driver had warned against rolling down the windows before we left the airport. It was Holi (Dol in bengali) and I was riding my blues. We were on our way to a town 65 km away...and the taxi steadily moved at sixty. It was an old cab and made a lot of creak and whistle. None of the indicators worked and if the driver's hand would be off the steering wheel for 4 seconds...we would be off the road. But it kept riding like a surfboard made out of plywood on a rusted steel surface. There were frequent dents on the road and even if there weren't any...the taxi would have made us felt otherwise. We were on our way to a funeral. There had been a death in the family I had not seen them for more than 3 hardly meant anything to me. I was there for my father but my indifference towards the demise was evident. To me it was a joyride before I got back to my professional lifestyle 3000 miles away. It was important for my father to see the last remains of his elder brother..I could feel that much. And I was willing to go to any length to make that happen...but as it has always been..we are all slaves of time...and I felt helpless like so many times before. We passed through shacks and railway crossings and more shacks and dilapidated buildings and more such and not in that order until my eyes met one of the highlights. I have always been overjoyed at the sight of lush green paddy fields...spreading beyond my horizon. Each square meter of paddy alongwith the hardworking farmers and the shrimps in the thin hand-dug canals and that occasional tree amidst every 30 acres of land said to me in unison - 'Welcome back to the great gangetic plains. Hope you have a safe journey.' I nodded mildly as if acknowledging their message. There were a few songs that I would like to listen at that moment and they moved back and forth in my head...browsing through them...I felt at peace with the lack of my mp3 player because there was music with me. When you are riding on a beat up taxi out on the small towns of rural India...of all the things you are blessed with...there is music somewhere. A lot can go wrong but the music is never over. I glanced through the empty dashboard of the taxi...the beat up knobs and meters. At one of the toll stations that the driver stopped at...he pulled a knob from a row of 7 knobs and the engine died. I was amazed to find this obsolete system still in use...him and the rest around him never felt the need to upgrade and so was evident across the state of Bengal...just the essential. There was a plastic idol of Sri Ramakrishna stuck in the centre of the dashboard. The driver was accompanied with a sidekick. His job was not to speak...just look out on the road and other things on it. Never to complain about anything and learn the way the driver had mastered his skill of driving that tinbox of a car. For all I could see, he was a good student. He had dropped in some jarda at the corner of his mouth when we started from the airport...and all through those 65 odd kms...he kept sucking in satisfaction. At once the driver ordered an agarbatti for Sri Ramakrishna. The sidekick moved in lazy moves to find the box of incense sticks and matches...the driver guided him to the compartment in front left. Out came the box...2 sticks...a strike at the box...2 agarbattis were lit and stuck to the dashboard at some crack. Older agarbattis had left their mild burns on the pleathery surface. 'Atleast pray to the Lord before you that baba...what to teach these young generation,' the driver quipped. The sidekick took the two agarbattis out and moved them around the idol in small circles and stuck it back...disinterestedly went back to his juice of satisfaction and his dull Holi morning. I guess he was thinking about the glass of bhang that he didn't finish before leaving...or maybe he was already stoned. Whatever it was...he didn't choose to bother others with his state. Suddenly my Dad's cell phone rang and the voice at the other end inquired about our current location. He said that the family was moving to the crematorium. They could not wait any longer. It was close to 11.30 am and were still 30 mins away. My Dad couldn't say much to stop them. He was anyway falling short of speech...away from the mild hustle bustle of taxi ride. He was riding his wave of memory with his elder brother I guess. And the lush green plains outside his window were the best screens to project from the celluloids of his memory. When a close one dies...all you care to see at that moment is the body. The Bhagwat Gita talks about the soul being immortal and the body being 'Maya'...but when it comes to the death of a loved one...we want to see the body and not think about Maya...or soul..or Bhagwat Gita..we leave that for 2 weeks after the death..when the sorrow is at a point where we need to choose between it and the pressures and committments of our own lives. I was cursing the lack of upgrade in the entire state...had it been would have increased our chances to get there faster although we were doing a constant 60 given the empty roads. We reached just in time at the crematorium and saw the last of a loved one. There was an air of sadness and stench all around. In a grid of 3x3 there were 9 bodies of the very poor and helpless. My uncle was a well known Vet in the town and so had the precedence over others. All others had to wait. The longer you wait before a dead body..the harder it gets to stop the stop the images of better times in our rest the abrupt end of our promised better times. We are so populated as a country that even our dead have to wait in a queue before their last rites.

Monday, February 18, 2008

All in a cup of tea

Sharmaji sips his morning cup of tea..ciggarette in hand outside his office building. Its been a year and half since he has been following the same routine in the slick industrial area of Gurgaon. This is the ICICI building. He sees fresh faces joining the workforce..smoking their first hundred ciggerates with their first salaries..planning evenings then weekends at local pubs...together they represent the proletariat of new age India. The rupee is getting stronger...the salaries are rising higher...the sensex is doing better.. But all this does not matter to Sharmaji. He has been there done that. He does not want to be held together with the yuppy faces in front of him. He has lost his exuberant self longtime ago. This is not his kind of crowd...he remembers of a similar setting from his youthful times. He remembered a similar time with tea and ciggeratte in hand...days were spent in a shack outside his college campus. Oh they were wonderful times. There was a mishra, a pandey and a tripathi somewhere in the crowd. Sipping innumerable cups...thinking what the future would be like. There were limited pleasures, like the occasional beer from the money saved from the mess bill. And that one night that his hometown buddy Srivastav had managed to flick some biscuits from the Mess hall which lasted for an entire week in his bag. The two of them sharing 2 each at the midnight canteen tea. Those were the days. A year and a half back, he was working in Mumbai...the city that does not sleep...and it didnt let him either. He left it to find a cure for his insomnia. But the three months there with Pandeyji proved to be worthwhile. He has seen the dark sides of that city. He can proudly say - he has seen life. He remembers one of his numerous bus journeys back from work where the thin man sitting one seat ahead in the 351 ltd BEST bus talking to his unknown neighbour. Apparently the thin man's elder brother was an alcoholic. Thin man had to provide for his little 1 BHK household. The members - his aging parents, one alcoholic elder brother with family..and his own little family. How thin man wished to get away from his ordeal...get a better job with a better pay...but he was a low skilled workman. The thin man never could arrive at the possibility of leaving the city itself. But Sharmaji had chosen and that made him feel empowered. All this could have changed if the cute girl working in his office had complied to his advances. Destiny.

If it wasn't for this bright opportunity at Gurgaon...he too would have been left restless by the Mumbai madness. The yuppy faces in front of him don't know what life is. How nice it would be to have all his friends working in Gurgaon...such enjoyment...such possibilities.

Sharmaji takes his last puff of ciggeratte and dumps the remnants of his tea cup inside his mouth...nods at the shopowner..the bill will be cleared in the evening. Takes another look at the new joinees and heaves a sigh..and walks back to his office.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Mr.Stranger wakes up to a flash of lightening...a lazy look out the window..its raining. Thirty minutes later he is off to work. Its a Limo-taxi...super decibel ride..with the only sound of some meak volumed 90.4 FM stereo and the click of the wipers at the edge of the windshield. Its 6.15 am and still dark...the street lights coming thru the windshield...polarized by the droplets. Soon the shades of the night will be lost to the twilight. And soon the day will be lost in a blink. This choice of the early-to-rise life has taught him the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Amidst the shaded glow of sodium vapor streetlights...he still feels a discomfort in the smooth embrace of the bucket seats of a limo-cab. Meanwhile, on another side of the globe, Shotgun Vilas drives back home after a day of work. He is living his American Dream. The GM car, the Gucci Shirt, the planned vacations, the unplanned weekends, edeals on iphone, Thanksgiving Sale...hidden grief and strife...packaged in a Walmart Life. He wishes to sip a beer before getting to his house chores...before dinner...before he goes to bed. But the beer can wait..atleast for the next couple of days..until he hits the friday. It is this wait that keeps him motivated towards his choices. Long ago he used to sip a chilled beer at 6 am in the morning...and now he chooses not to remember this part of his life. Back home in Mumbai, AsExplainedbyaJunkie moves his lazy ass from his bed to the kitchen for his occasional blues penguin walk...contemplating..and more importantly..articulating some new antidote from the mixbag of issues gathered from his scattered life...and at the same time searching involuntarily for some morsel to chew on... He has managed to keep his life to the simplest form and is still clueless about the cause of his dissatisfaction at this hour. Fully knowing the futility, he lights up another cigarette and ponders on. His posessions area at a bare minimum..mostly because maintenance of posessions is not his forte...and a bar to his wants that would puzzle Sigmund Freud. But then again...even Shotgun Vilas' persona would baffle Freud. Around the same time, in a lesser known town of Madikere, in the picturesque district of Coorg, Bomanna wakes up to the thunder of a ligthening strike nearby...only that it is the 23rd time this night. Its been a rainy week in Madikere. Even the Dussera celebrations were not blessed with a dry spell. His vacation of a little over a fortnight has been plagued by bad rainy weather. Even his trip to Bangalore was eclipsed by dark clouds and continuous drizzle. It puzzles him that it was raining in Singapore when he left there a week earlier...and its been raining ever since he landed in his hometown. For a moment, in the dark space in front of his drowsy eyes this night, he thinks that its raining all over the world. God has strange ways. There are a million lives stuck in this moment. Meanwhile...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries

Feb 21, 1 am. Phone rings. Hello. Is this Jack? Yes. Do you know Dean and Jimmy? Yes. What happened? Where do you stay? How do you know them? I am at Canton Hill. We are friends from the same college. There has been an accident. Please come to Magnolia Hospital immediately. I am Inspector Sawhney calling. This is my number. Get here asap. How bad is..... The line goes dead. Earlier that evening. Dean finalises an apartment where he is supposed to move in next week with Jack. Jimmy and Dean go out to celebrate. They have Jack’s motorcycle. Jack reaches the hospital thirty minutes later. Emergency ward. The police waiting. None of his friends are to be seen. More questions follow. After 10 more minutes of interrogation, Jack is told that Dean is dead. Jimmy is in critical condition. They were run-over by an SUV. Story: No witnesses. The driver of the SUV fled from the scene. Police first said they brought the two to the hospital. The hospital Journal says differently. The police version keeps changing over the hour. This is the first time Jack has encountered the police. There will be a lot more first times in the next hour. A Report is lodged against the duo for reckless driving the next day by a Doctor who also fled the scene. I am Jack. This happened 2 years ago.