Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Love That Never Was...

   The Love That Never Was....

She was born in his mind.She was a precocious product of his fertile imagination and frustrating loneliness. He had wanted to carve her out perfectly-the artist in him pushing him towards perfection. Yet somehow,there was something which told him that it was her shapeless, floating presence that would serve him better. He, afterall, wanted a companion who was perfect. Her being shapeless was as perfect as it could get.

She would be with him-always. She would be only with him- the best part. He could talk to her. Only he could talk to her. He could walk with her. Only he could walk with her. It was companionship at its best.
No..he didn't want to call it a relationship yet. He was getting to know her slowly. Only when he was sure that they would click-would he start calling it a relationship. But what if he found she didn't suit him?
Well...he would probably create a better person,erasing the flaws.

But that she wouldn't suit him was a remote possibility.He had created her. And none of his creations had failed-not just yet! Slowly, he started filling her with the values and qualities he cherished. And he cherished too many for any real world girl to have all of them. He had searched one for too long-and  had decided that creating his own was the best choice he had.

He mixed and matched the qualities like a kid would play with his toys,yet with the precision of an expert. The right amount of humility,yet that little streak of pride. That earthly touch of simplicity, yet that delicate dash of vanity. She was a bundle of joy, yet personified the depths of melancholy....he never felt such control over anything he had created so far.

They would talk for hours together.(He conveniently forgot that his mind was the one framing the replies all the time). And her replies would be just what he expected and wanted to be.She would start conversations too..and they would proceed just the right way. He was falling for her slowly-like he had always wanted to.

The artist now missed something in her. She wasn't lacking anything-but he felt he could enrich her presence in some way. He would give her a voice. And a wonderful one at that. It would be his first acknowledgement   of her physical presence- something he never wanted to happen. But he wanted to hear how she would sound-when she was happy,when she was sad,when she was angry and most of all,when she was at her lovely best.

It took quite sometime for him to find that perfect voice. And when he finally did,the pair of them talked through the night. The charm in her voice,along with the sense of emotional connect that she brought to him drew him closer to her. They were inching towards the obvious.He now wanted things to happen sooner rather than later. Somehow he restrained himself. Not that they never got into conflicts- she being more vocal now with a voice for her opinions, but they always had a meaningful outcome.

She isolated him from the outer world entirely.His obsession with her grew. She personified perfection for him and he wanted nothing less,after all the flaws he had seen in the mundane world.He stopped thinking about other girls.Some time later, he stopped speaking to them. He found a weird sense of solace in her voice that was tailored for him. But, he found that he couldn't stop looking at other girls. Not that he meant any harm, but there was something about physical form that no amount of shapeless imagination could compensate for.

He was in a fix. On one hand, he had vowed never to give her a physical form in his mind. On the other, the whole exercise seemed pointless without her physical presence- he would always be distracted by others. The battle raged on. He asked her if she wanted to take shape-and she was as confused as he was. They finally decided she would take form.It wouldn't hurt to have a presence in the mind,was their mutual justification.

And when he gave her the form, the artist drained himself completely for what seemed an eternity. She simply had to be the most beautiful girl that creation would allow. There was no point if there was someone more beautiful and attractive-he would obviously be distracted again. She would be the crown of all his creations; the envy of all women; the dream of all men.The process of giving her a shape was tedious and they fought many a time over issues like the shape of the eyes or the length of her hair. The artist even wanted to design each strand of her hair-but she would hear none of it. Both bore the ordeal for a long time till one fine day the artist declared her complete.Their happiness knew no bounds.For him, it was the triumph of his creation. For her, it was the triumph of her Creator. 

" Have a look at yourself in the mirror dear-you'll know how perfect you are" he said.
"I don't need a mirror..your eyes serve just as well..Thank you" she replied.
The reply took the artist by surprise.He was sure he hadn't prepared this reply.It was too romantic a reply even by his standards. He felt all the barriers melting away. All he now wanted to do was confess his Love.
Without thinking twice, he did it. It was a soulful confession, honest and direct-something he had wanted to say a girl in the real world, but never got a chance. 

And suddenly,she came to life. It was as though his confession had breathed life into her. He could see her form-solid. He could feel her presence. He could sense her breath. "Thank you" she said. He could hear her voice too! This was too good to be true. He inched a step closer- an arm's distance away now. He wanted to hold her hand and..never let it go. And at this thought- she simply started walking away. He tried to catch up with her. But inexplicably, he could not. She was always only a step ahead-yet there seemed to be a world between them.

The artist gave up on following her. His rationale was that if she was his creation, she would have to come back to him sooner than later. She did. But did so in the strangest way. A week after the whole episode,the artist thought he saw her in a crowd. On a closer look, he found that it was someone with a similar pair of eyes. The next day again he thought he spotted her; but it was just someone else who had that single strand of hair in front of her eyes-just like she had. A few days later he thought he saw her crossing the road. It turned out to be someone who had that wonderful grace he had given her. And when a saleswoman called him over phone,he went all the way down to the company only to find that the saleswoman only had a similar voice.

His vision of perfection was crumbling in front of him.And reality hit him hard. The perfection he imagined was utopia. It would never exist. The world thrived on flaws-for that was what being mortal was all about.
Perfection was an act of God-if at all he existed. Had he tried to play God, by trying to create her? He shuddered at the thought. Come to think of it, all Gods he knew had some or the other flaw. What was he doing then,confining himself to that claustrophobic compartment of perfection? He had to agree that she was too perfect to belong to any mortal in the real world.

The moment he faced this reality, he could see her form on his horizon. There she was, walking towards him, just as perfect as she was when she had left. He knew what to do. He smiled at her and captured her form in his mind's eye. The next moment she vanished. He went back home and painted her as he had seen her.
Only this time, she had a squint in her right eye.

                                                                                 -22nd December,2012.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Student of life...A Student for life

                                    A Student of Life...A Student for Life

Enrolled in a class for life
To which the right is birth;
Each day is a lesson in itself
While you are on Earth.

Be it the innocent joys of childhood
Or the tempting pleasures of youth;
An adulthood filled with responsibility
Or old-age when dawns the wisdom of truth.

From the battles fought all alone
To the tender charm of love;
From a hundred friends along the way
To those who no longer exist now.

That relentless pursuit of a beast called success
While escaping the jaws of failure;
That constant struggle against our inner demons
And all the wrong routes that allure.

A conflict between dreams and values
And the path to take to the sky.
Do you take the ladder or the rocket?
Or simply learn to fly?

Enrolled in the class of life
The lessons you learn decide how you fare.
A student of life-A student for life
As long as you're there!

                                                                 -13th November 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Software Diaries

                                                           Software Diaries

A collective sigh of stressed relief was let out as each of the buses-trailing behind a lucky leader-headed out of the campus. The buses were full no doubt. Yet there was someone in the background waving frantically,for he was late by a couple of minutes. He was perhaps held up by a last-minute requirement,a last minute call or a last minute meeting with the boss..the bottom line being he would have to wait for the next set of buses. This gave him time for some useful(less) introspection.

Even as the buses moved away,he could sense the sweating minds of those inside,already gearing up for the challenges next day. He could sense those hoping hearts-which had been relegated to just hoping for quite some time now-for a secure future and a life of their dreams.He could sense trillions of neurons-all belonging to individuals with razor sharp intellect-trying to write lakhs of lines of code consumed by the giant industry everyday.

His was as smooth an entry into this world as possible. Above average academics,below average economic background and the keenness to get his household out of that rut got him into the industry. He could still remember himself exhorting the interviewer to give him a job telling "I'm ready to work on anything,anywhere." He had not meant it..but they had entirely meant the question.

Months into the company,he was transferred to a different city. No amount of cajoling or convincing to revoke the transfer would do. The economic condition of his home had barely improved and he now had to maintain almost two households. He went through the whole process,for he was scared to lose the job,or worse,be asked to warm the bench.

How he hated the term "bench"! He had always been on bench when he was part of the college cricket team. There it had been a matter of pride. Here it felt helpless. The paycheck,however large,was a small consolation for being benched. The sense of inferiority,insecurity and that dreaded intellectual inertia made him accept whatever project came his way.

He had reaped the rewards a couple of years later. The company had transferred him back to his hometown;promoted him;offered him a payrise. Everything seemed to go right. He dismissed the now frequently occuring thoughts of quitting the company and decided to stay on. And after that,he was forgotten again.

His chain of thoughts was interrupted by a burst of laughter some yards away. It was a group of young guys and girls,probably trainees.Their carefree attitude was evidence enough.He too had tried carry his college attitude through, but the industry had tamed him. He had desperately tried to make friends "who would last"
when he entered the company,but sooner or later found out that colleagues could make friends..but not lasting ones. He was not much lucky with girls either.
" Never hit on a girl in the same project"-some senior had told him. He had taken it too seriously,for whatever reason. And all the girls he found interesting seemed in some way connected to his project. He resorted to finding out the details of an old crush who he knew had entered the company. He was still trying to find out. At any rate,it was more interesting than his work!

An array of cabs entered the campus. Each of them carried an other set of employees who were to work through the night.His feelings for them were always a mixed bag. One the one hand, he could see a brigade of motivated professionals who were determined to work under any condition so they could sustain their living,support their kin. One the other,he saw a pool of talented intellectuals aging themselves away by working hard for an other country-a sort of surrogate brain drain.

He felt a tap on his shoulder. It was a cabbie. The guy had been his regular cabbie for a couple of years now.He offered to drop him home,sensing he had missed the bus.

As the cabbie drove him home,he could see the vast change that had occurred in the city in a few years. Sky high apartments,eateries,movie halls,malls,lifestyle outlets and many other material comforts that seemed so out of reach for the average citizen in the country a decade ago had now become an integral part of the city.
"I earn 350Rs per drop saar" the cabbie was telling. And then the thought hit him. The industry meant more to the people who provided these peripheral services than to the professionals themselves. He remembered the hundreds of workers who maintained the offices,the watchmen who secured the buildings 24/7,the cabbies who ferried people across the city,the petty shops selling cigarette and snacks. If each of these supported a family...he could imagine the millions who were sustained by the industry. The relationship between the industry,the society,the economy-it went too deep.Deeper than he had ever imagined.

And then, he felt a wave of relief wash over him.Who was he after all to crib??
The industry had given him a lifestyle-and lifestyle was life. His home now had a TV, a fridge and soon an AC was on the cards. He would not have time to enjoy all this..but then, when he eventually married and had kids,they would enjoy all the comforts. Theirs would be a childhood vastly more comfortable than his.
And then,he would secure his grandchildrens' future. He resolved to work harder. Hard work meant better appraisal. A better appraisal meant a greater hike.And a greater hike meant...

He was travelling on Old Airport Road.He felt a little jovial.
"Do flights still land here Ramu?" he asked, as if to test him.

"Oh yes Saar.."the cabbie replied. "Flights do login and logout at times."

The industry's influence was complete.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Soldier's Spirit

                                                    The Soldier's Spirit.

Narayanajja, we called him. The smell of local arrack never left him. Yet he was always as sober as you and me. He was nobody's kin in particular, yet the whole village called him Ajja. All children in the village, whose parents were busy during daytime, were left in his care. It was difficult to find someone in our generation who didn't know that thatched hut of his from a very young age.

Part of how he managed us was with his stories. Comical ones which had us in splits; tales from mythology which he would narrate when he was high(higher than usual, I mean).I can safely say we watched our first plays and movies in his eyes. Yet the best were those spooky ones-the ones that made our hairs stand on end.

We were never tired of those stories. That was why a few us went back last summer to meet Ajja and listen to one of those tales again. He obliged us, after charging us for a week's arrack. He narrated a story we hadn't heard before...

"Our Naagi's real name was Nagesha. Very bright kid. His father died early. His mother sold flowers near the temple. Naagi used to walk seven kilometres to his school everyday. He studied hard. He used to come back from school and help his mother. 

Then after a few years, those military people came to our Taluk for recruiting young kids. They conducted an exam. Naagi passed it along with....I forget his name. Anyway,Naagi passed the exam. His mother cried a lot when sending him away. But we consoled her,telling he was the the pride of our village and she should be proud herself.

Some years later,Naagi returned-in a uniform and many badges on it.He had become an officer I guess.He used to address everybody as Sir,Madam and talk in English with the school-going kids. His mother was very happy.She married him off to a girl I don't remember the girl. She was from a different caste though.It seems Naagi insisted on inter-caste marriage.And Naagi bore all expenses of the wedding.It was very different.

Then one day, war was declared. Naagi went to the border and never returned. Someone sent a letter with a  parcel to Naagi's mother. When the post master read it, the letter said that the parcel contained the ash from Naagi's burnt body. His wife and mother were shocked and in grief for a very long time. After a few days we suggested that they disperse the ash in the Kaveri River. They refused. They said that they wanted to keep it in Naagi's memory. That was when all the problems started......

Initially we thought it was some illness. Naagi's mother started becoming very silent as full moon approached. She stopped sitting near the temple for selling flowers three days before full moon. Some weeks later, she started demanding non-vegetarian food. She was a vegetarian for life. And even when Naagi had come back from the army and demanded non-veg one day,she had sent him to the miltary hotel in the next village. This new tantrum of hers made us doubt. After those 4-5 days around full moon, she would be normal.

We didn't bother too much as she didn't cause any particular concern to anyone. But later on things worsened. She would start wandering in the dead of the night. She would tie a piece of cloth on her head like a soldier. She would knock on someone's door. The startling part was she would speak perfect English
'"Officers, the enemy is not far from here. We will attack at dawn"' We never knew her to attend school of any form, let alone speak English.

After a few weeks, she lost her normalcy completely. I was sure she was possessed by Naagi's spirit. But then the rest of the village sent her to a mental hospital. Naagi's wife temporarily shifted the house to the hospital almost. It seems even when she was dying, Naagi's mother wanted some biryani. And when she died, there was a huge black mole on her neck, at the back. That mole was there on Naagi's neck only. How did it appear suddenly on his mother's neck??

Naagi's wife returned to the village. She continued her mother-in-law's job of selling flowers near the temple. Everything was normal. We thought that she was unlucky to be widowed at such a young age .But in a village,there are good people and bad ones. The Gowda's son tried to misbehave with her one day. And she taught him a fitting lesson. His right hand had two fingers missing when he returned home. But what worried all of them was when he said that a large black mole, similar to Naagi's had appeared on his wife's neck as well! And he swore there was a masculine prowess hidden somewhere in her that defeated him.

The next day, we went to talk to her. But she was as normal as ever. Selling flowers to  the women-folk, bargaining the prices and trying to please them. What was more, there was no mole on her neck that the Gowda's son had described!

A silent alarm went through the village. Though there were no outward signs of abnormality in her initially, the village developed a silent fear for her. As expected by most,she too started eating non-veg a few weeks later. The flower-selling came to a  halt.She would stay locked in her house in the morning.Some used to say that there was a smell of burning clothes every now and then. In the nights,she would roam the village streets.It was safe for her-for nobody dared to touch her after knowing what happened to the Gowda's son.She would knock at homes in the dead of the night. Only nobody would open the door. She would scream in impeccable English-though she had studied only upto Class 4.

Someone in the village with genuine concern for her suggested that the problems were because of Naagi's ash that was present in her house.If that was removed, things would return to normal gradually. Some person took the risk of removing it,after making sure Naagi's wife was roaming in some other part of the village.

The next day,she went missing. Nobody need have bothered. But there is something about bonding between villagers that doesn't allow them to keep quiet. A search party was sent to look for her. They found Naagi's wife in the Taluk bus-stand. She had got a hair-cut. Her hairstyle looked like a boy's hairstyle-or a military officer's hairstyle. That thing you call an army cut or something. And she was wearing a shirt and pant.Ofcourse, there was a mole on her neck. The search party was bewildered. However, since there were 5-6 of them, they overpowered her and brought her back to the village. It seems throughout the journey back, she was shouting in English.

Back in the village, they confined her to her home. And suddenly she became all meek and subdued. Some woman from the neighbourhood would bathe and clothe her everyday. Someone else would leave a plate of food next to the window. The rest of the times, Naagi's wife was locked away from the outside world. Occasionally, there would be a smell of burning clothes or a high pitched voice speaking English. But nothing much else.

After a couple of years, she died. Apparently she tried to light fire to the clothes she was wearing and burnt herself to death. And when her remains were being buried, all of us noticed the mole on her neck again. And that part of her body had not been burnt at all...."

It took us time to realise Ajja had stopped narrating.We had to come out of the trance he had put us in to.Ajja went inside. I started looking around. On the window sill was an old parcel. Hesitantly,I took it in my hands. It was half open. I looked inside. Inside it was ash-the shade of grey was unmistakeable. I showed it to my friends.

Presently Ajja returned.He had a vessel of lime juice and steel tumblers for all of us.
"Please have a tumbler of juice while I go for a walk .I'll come back soon."he said. As he walked to the gate,I noticed something. I alerted my friends too. There it was-it was too evident to miss. 
That mole on his neck!!

To add to the mystery, Ajja who went out for a walk, never came back again.
                                                                                             -4th July 2012
                                               -Inspired by a an incident I heard;written with a liberal dose of imagination.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012



I pronounced myself dead for the world
So I could live in this room.

The room was lit with hope
And peace washed it with light.
I had only to light a candle 
Before the darkness of night.

I stuffed the keyhole with my confidence
I would never need it again.
I was here to stay forever
The world outside was insane.

Then suddenly a window closed
I woke up with a start.
My reverie had been jerked awake
Worry filled my heart.

Minute by minute the windows closed
And darkness drained my peace.
Even as I tried to open those windows,
They resisted me with ease.

I couldn't try to venture out
My confidence no longer there.
I had to spend the night in darkness
A deed I couldn't dare.

A small crack of light in the crevice
An other one beneath the door.
I tried to signal the world outside
To a world I had failed to adore.

Confined I was to a room of darkness
Closed were the windows of hope.
Was darkness hope or hope darkness
'Twas a fact I failed to grope.

The darkness in the room devoured my mind
And hope the rest of me.
The candle I never lit burnt me alive
It was an act of Destiny.

                                                                  -27th June 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To a Cliche called Love...

To a Cliche called Love...

His seventh proposal had been rejected too. He was feeling low,obviously. Yet there was a light-heartedness with the low. He felt rather good. Did he want a yes in the first place,he wondered.Or was proposing and getting rejected his way of moving on..? He searched the contacts on his phone.Not one girl who had rejected him was on his list.

Even as he looked for the names of those girls he had proposed,he saw the names of those he had come close to doing so,those he wished he had,those he had dreamt he had..and the numerous others whose faint memories lingered on in his mind. He took out his note-pad and started listing. He wanted a count today,no matter what.And then he would write a book-he was now experienced enough to do that.

"When did love first strike me..?"he wondered.Class 9...or Class 10??. Unable to decide,he settled down on the holidays between Class 9 and 10.Yes that must've been the time.For it was then that they had gone on a school trip.She had smiled at him and he was nervous to react. He thought he was being mocked. Then she cornered him...and smiled again. He had to respond in kind! Then an other smile... and an other one. It had taken 432 smiles(on one side)  for him to understand that the smile had been only for him all the time. And by the time he realised that,Board Exams interrupted those smiles and he was heartbroken for the first time. More so when he saw her smiling at his friend after the results.

Not that he had been innocent in school.He wanted to speak to a short girl when he was in 9th..but came to know that she was already in 10th.The one girl he thought was good-looking suddenly started wearing huge glasses after winter holidays.The other who spoke great English was a little too arrogant for his liking.And by the time he realised that someone was smiling at him..that girl had moved on.

He sighed. There were already 6 names from school.He drew a line to demarcate and wrote a fresh heading. "College" he wrote. He had a mammoth task now.He had definitely been overambitious in college. But it had not been his fault entirely-he defended himself. You can't help if girls who looked dead boring wearing uniforms suddenly transform themselves once they step into college! His neck used to turn left,right and right about-360 degree if required. He would want to talk to this girl today...and that girl tomorrow. The classical singer impressed him today..and the compere at a fest next month.The nerd used to be his all time favorite-specially if she wore glasses( inexplicably,his preferences had changed). Then there were girls at tutorials who were from different colleges. He had had a tough time.

Admittedly,he had been impressed by many,but thankfully didn't come close to liking the lot. He wrote down 24 names. Then paused. The 25th had to be special. She had been.

She was always bubbly and cheerful.Never did she overdo her act though.They had been instant friends.He never noticed her probably because she never tried to get herself noticed.Even when their eyes kept meeting at all the right moments,he never gave it a second thought.And when he finally recognised what he felt for her,her father had got a transfer. "We'll always remain friends. Keep in touch" She had said. He had never heard from her again.He still remembered her face vividly-and all those times she had patted his head in innocent affection.

A cool breeze brought him back to the present. After her,pre-university had been a breeze. He didn't notice too many-unless you count that girl whose perfume made him follow her;that girl whose fingers looked weirdly beautiful;or the other one whose hair did all the talking. He finished pre-university with a count of 38.
He circled three names-those three girls would stand out,when he eventually wrote the book.

When he entered B.E.,he wanted to make sure he was more choosy.He wanted a higher probablilty of succeeding.He preferred the more outgoing type here-nerds were history.Yet he was careful about what outgoing meant. Being simple was the first criterion. Frank and broad-minded the second...he had spent days  
listing these criteria and then tried to match it with the girls he found would remotely suit them. Ofcourse there had been times when he just wanted throw that sheet containing the criteria and follow his instinct. There had been this girl who seemed to follow him wherever he went. Her friend had been more attractive. There was a  girl whose eyes were his only point of interest.There was an other whose eyes didn't even matter to him.

But then there was one who had to stand out. She still brought out a sense of genuine disappointment in him. Even after all these years. The way they got along with each other had been thoroughly natural-almost instinctive. No fuss,no noise,no mistake. It had been smooth-probably too smooth. They enjoyed each other's company for two years. When eventually he had brought out those obvious lines that evening,she had blushed and gone home.And he could never speak to her properly after that.He never saved her number..but memorised it. Sent an odd message even now..hoping against hope for a reply that never came.

"Well..."he thought aloud,thinking of some explanation for that episode,but none came out. It had been that episode that changed his perspective completely-his views had been more philosophical after that(atleast he thought so). Whenever a girl thoroughly impressed him and the urge to like her overpowered him,he would propose,knowing the obvious rejection.....and move on.

Today's had been the seventh one. She had struck him by being silent. None of the aura of being boisterous. No attempt to grab the attention.Nothing significant-and that had been most significant to him. He started getting to know her. Established a fairly decent rapport.He began hoping again. Somehow he had felt this time he wouldn't be rejected. At last he would settle down to explore the intricacies of a relationship.He made up his mind.Put all his previous disappointments away and told her those lines he had rehearsed infinite times last night. She smiled. His heart told he had won. She then said "I'm just so sorry.I'm already engaged."
He didn't know how he plucked the courage to congratulate her-but he did.

No 50-he wrote next to her name. She deserved that number,he chuckled to himself. 50 names were probably enough to pen a book. He wrote a grand title on top of that page "To a cliche called Love....." 
Supposing 50 was not enough?? 
Well,there was always that girl on the bus whose face he had never seen and longed to; and then that mutual friend of a mutual friend to whom he had sent a friend request on Facebook last night..just in case!!

                                                                               -19th June,2012
  P.S:Blogger causing problems at the centre. Don't mind it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kotreshi Calling.....

Kotreshi Calling.....

He was popularly called Kotreshi, ever since a Kannada movie of  the same name had been released.
His original name Krishnamoorthy never left that stack of hay he used to rest on when he was a boy.
Even the police constable who came to verify the address as a part of his passport process had been very skeptical when the name read Krishnamoorthy, instead of the popular Kotreshi. Kotreshi's father was the village headman and his joy knew no bounds on the day the flight ticket for his son's journey to the US arrived by courier. Infact, he had almost sent the postman back-saying there was only Kotreshi and no Krishnamoorthy.

Soon, Kotreshi left for the US.He was an ambitious young lad,whose vision thankfully stretched beyond the realms of his village.He had studied hard,topped the Taluk, had gone on to study that coveted BE (though his father never wanted him to eclipse his record of passing second PU.He was very proud now-a different issue altogether).Now Kotreshi was doing what none from his village even dreamt of dreaming-set foot on foreign soil!

He settled down and after a few days of correspondence through phone,he wanted to video chat with his kin.He missed his family,his house and his to be wife-his aunt's daughter,Saavitri.He instructed his brother-a reasonably tech-savvy Vishnu who was not as talented but intelligent all the same-to set up a video call on such and such day at such and such time.He gave out a veiled instruction too "Ask everyone to be present..I mean everyone" He hoped Vishnu got the gist of it.

The day arrived.Vishnu had executed the instruction to the dot(the way he thought his brother had meant). The entire village was present to watch this technological marvel- a video call. Those who'd passed 10th recently knew a little about it. Vishnu had practised it 23 times with a friend living in Bangalore so that he was not embarrassed in front of the villagers.He prayed to God and set the call up upon receiving a missed call on his phone from Kotreshi.

The next moment,the whole village-crammed into the headman's home-let out a cheer.There he was,Kotreshi,their favorite son, live from America! He looked as though he had had a huge makeover. Gone  was the sacred ash from his forehead.He sported an empty forehead. His hair was no longer cropped and he was no longer clean-shaven.

The villagers were slowly noticing this and whispers broke out. The headman noticed this and even before greeting his son,started off "Kotreshi,where's your sacred ash..and what is this stubble you have now?And your hair looks like it's been bitten off by rats at night time..what's this son? Where's our culture? The whole village is watching you!"

Kotreshi was aghast.The whole village watching him??!! Then slowly realisation dawned and he understood how Vishnu would have interpreted his instruction. He couldn't ask that the villagers gathered be evacuated so he could talk privately to his family. He tried to be diplomatic "Appaji..there're not many temples here.The sacred ash you sent got over. Hair cut is very costly. I do it to my room-mate and he does it to me-so it's a little bad.And I haven't had the time to shave this week.Studies."

At this point a babble broke out again. "So our headman's son has gone from here to America to learn to be a barber. Our kids are better.They atleast become something better than barbers." said an old man.
"You speak as though being a barber is a bad profession.Imagine how bad you'd look without my father's saloon here.Look at what Kotreshi has become without my father tending to his hair"argued Ramu,the barber's son.The headman cleared his throat loudly and the babble died down.
"Leave it at that. Kotreshi, next time I want to see you like what you were here.I don't want people commenting unnecessarily."

Kotreshi's mother intervened. "Leave that kid alone. Kotreshi how's everything? How's food? Have you been using the lime-pickle I sent you? You've become thin..your face is no longer round.You're missing my food and father's've become a little black too. Why?"she blurted in a single breath,wiping a small tear from the corner of her eyes.Most women in the crowd were moved at this motherly outburst.
"Food is ok Amma. I miss your Raagi mudde.The lime pickle got spoilt.Sorry. I have to prepare my own food. Too much of work.So I've lost a bit of weight.

"Preparing Raagi mudde is easy Kotreshi.Take some ground Raagi and mix it with salt....."his mother began,trying to give out the recipe for the dish but was intervened by the arrack shop owner. "Kotreshi,have some beer.You'll put on weight.I've heard American beer is cheap and tasty.I heard you won't even it true?"Kotreshi might've volunteered some opinion.However,the headman shouted
"Kotreshi..if I get to know that you've touched a drop of beer,I'll commit suicide here." 

Kotreshi then called out to his brother Vishnu  "Vishnu,I asked you to call everybody. Where's everybody?" he asked. Vishnu didn't get it. 
He merely said "Everybody is here.Only the corner house people and the temple priest's family are not there."
Kotreshi then asked in a different tone-a little more desperate "That's ok. But where is everybody?" He particularly stressed that last word. Vishnu was clueless. 
Kotreshi knew the time had come to be more direct. "Where is your aunt?" he asked and then everybody knew who "everybody" was. The villagers unabashedly waited for the online romance,as though they were watching a movie at the local tent. Even the older men exchanged toothy smiles and winks,while the teens squealed silently,anticipating the next moment in curious anxiety.

Saavitri knew the call was for her.She walked to the system,with her head bent-as though it was the first time she was seeing Kotreshi. She had styled herself for 2 hours for this moment.She had put on a salwar suit for the first time-trying to please Kotreshi,the American now.As hundreds of eyes followed her,she stood in front of the web-cam.

"Saavi is that you?" asked Kotreshi in surprise.
She simply nodded.
 "You look very nice in this dress.Wish I was there.I would have...."Kotreshi checked himself just in time. But the message had reached the crowd.
"Your new hairstyle is nice"said Saavitri,not once looking at Kotreshi.
"'d you haven't even looked at me. My eyes are starved without looking at your face" This was a little too much for the crowd.Some of the women walked out embarrassed at this sweet-talk.
"Look at what I've got for you." Kotreshi now said,showing a beaded neck chain."I worked hard to earn the money for this. Do you like it?"
"Anything you buy for me is a gift Kotreshi..." Saavitri said,still looking at her toes.

"What did you buy for me?" his mother butted in. 
"Amma I shall buy you a better one soon..."Kotreshi was looking to cover up now.
"So this girl means a lot more to you now. No wonder you've become thin.You must be slogging day and night to get this girl that chain. I don't know how well she'd take care of you tomorrow! " She made sure the sarcasm was absolute in the last sentence.

Saavitri burst into tears. She ran outside the house even as Kotreshi shouted her name,asking her to come back. The crowd was thrilled at this climax. The speculation about what would happen next would be the talking point for atleast an other fortnight. The gossip was offered to them on a platter and they accepted it gleefully.

But the drama wasn't over.Even as the crowd looked on,the headman asked his wife and his sister to perform an Aarathi to his son. Kotreshi protested but was left with no choice. The two women performed the Aarathi as some women in the crowd sang. In the end, the women even applied vermilion to Kotreshi's forehead visible on the monitor.At this point Vishnu wanted to protest..but could not obviously.
This was followed by each of the villagers walking upto the monitor to say hello to Kotreshi.

Kotreshi waited till the last villager said hello to him,hoping that someone would come back. He soon realised his wait would be futile,cut the call hoping his next video call would be a lot more memorable.
                                                                                       - 6th June,2012.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Straight from the Saloon!

Straight from the Saloon!

The barber smiled a toothy smile as I entered the saloon. Snapping his scissors violently, he asked me to sit in a corner as he tended to other customers. I counted I was sixth in the queue. Loads of time.

Getting a hair-cut (and a shave at times) has always been an intriguing experience. It is a potential time for introspection, enlightenment…and entertainment ofcourse. New acquaintances, old acquaintances with a new hairstyle, latest gossip on a platter…these make me look forward to a hair-cut each time (though we always end up giving hair along with money).

It taking thoda time, Bhai Saab…” the barber said, in his customary broken English. I looked at him and smiled an approval. He always looked forward to my approval of his English. I wanted to keep him happy(I wanted him to listen to my precise instructions during the hair-cut).

I looked around casually, seeking old faces or new ones willing to enter into a conversation. "Sachin Bhai will play the next world cup”-an elderly person, around 40years was saying. “But then there was no necessity for him to join politics now…”he continued. I wanted to interrupt and correct his line of thought, but decided against it.

But uska hair-ishtyle pukka politician jaisa-correct saab?”said the barber and winked at me. I remembered how he told anyone who cared to listen that Sachin had had a haircut in his shop in his pre-national side time. And how his look(and luck) changed completely after that.
I want Sachin haircut” said a young one to his father, excited by the conversation and the whole shop burst into laughter.

Vaise that Sethji’s younger daughter is coming up for marriage” said a bald man who made his way to the “barber’s throne”. I wondered why he’d come here of all places.  "I need a hair-cut" he then announced. “These small strands of hair keep disturbing me…” .I watched him with all intent as he instructed the barber to cut every little strand of hair he could spot, for a whole half hour. He chatted about the Seth’s household all the while and how much they were willing to pay as dowry.

Some 25 lakhs in cash…atleast 300gram gold..” he said pompously. He said his commission for finding the right groom was a lakh. “I need to look my best .Haina…?”He asked all of us in general. I saw the barber then proceed to cut the strands of loose hair that hung from the bald man’s nostrils. I vowed I’d never let him use the same scissors on my hair. They didn’t deserve it. 

At long last it was my turn to occupy the throne. I’d waited two hours for this moment. “Welcome Sirjee..”the barber said with a show of courtesy and a mock bow. I smiled uncertainly. This part was the most uncomfortable. I could stay on the side-lines for an eternity, but I was always unsure when it actually came to the hair-cut part.
“  Medium short..Thoda leave hair”I said uncertainly, accompanied by a liberal dose of gestures.
Maalum saab”the barber said. “Customer ko jaante hain” he smiled that dreaded toothy smile again.

He sprayed water on my head and wrapped my upper body in a cloth. “ Royal saab!” he said. It was a taunt no doubt. But I was at his mercy. He snapped his scissors and started his job. After the initial jitters, I began to relax. I even started enjoying the retro music being played on the old radio, as old as the shop itself.

He was probably midway when the tea-wallah came in. I cursed his entry. It would  mean 10 minutes of an unnecessary break. “Bhai Saab tea..?” the barber asked, fully knowing that I had to refuse as both my hands were under the cloth-again I felt I was being mocked.
The tea-wallah spotted the bald-old man(now balder) sitting in the corner, rummaging his bag.
Oye Sirjee..aap yahaan? Woh Sethji ki ladki bhaag gai…..”he said and left the shop.

It took a couple of seconds for the information to sink in. Then a babble broke out.
Aapka commission saab..” the barber said mischievously at the bald man. He probably shouldn’t have said that.
Sab teri vaje se. I shouldn’t have come here for the hair-cut. This shop is very unlucky for me…” he said angrily. The barber ofcourse couldn’t understand. He merely said “Zara Hindi me bolo saab….English thodi na aata hain..”The bald-man simply stared at the barber and walked out of the shop.

I pitied my good old barber. May be I shouldn’t have. He asked me what the bald man had meant. I told him clearly, without trying to be diplomatic. He was obviously enraged. But then, what mattered was that he took it out on me.
Saab aaj hum haircut kar nahi sakte..”he said with a tone of finality. I couldn’t even protest, with that look in his eyes. I paid him up the full price(I didn’t want to take a chance) for a half hair-cut and walked out of the shop, cursing my lack of tact.

“Regal Hair-Ishtyle”the name on top of the shop read. I shuddered at the thought of how Regal I’d actually look when I had to inevitably look into a mirror later that day!
                                                                                                May 5th 2012.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Of Moments...and more..

                                             Of Moments...and more..

He felt he was 62 years old.The sense of spirit ebbing away..the feeling that he hadn't done anything big in life thus far choked him each moment.He felt 61 birthdays come and go....each more routine than the last.
Tomorrow would be his 62nd,if he didn't act fast.He saw the cake-a dull chocolate brown with two candles,6 and 2 placed next to each other.

On the other side of the table was all that he had managed in his life-3 photo albums and a dozen diaries.The albums contained his childhood.The diaries,his life as he had seen it since he'd been advised to keep a diary by his English teacher during his high school.

The first album contained his pictures from his kindergarten school days.Nothing eventful at all...he thought as he browsed through.Then the moment hit him hard.He would've lost his life-well it was a remote possibility.
At most it was stupidity.Nobody asks you to push a piece of eraser up your nostrils because you're bored in class(He was six then)!He remembered the drama that unfolded.Vaguely,he remembered the forceps being inserted into his nostrils...

The third album contained a picture of him wearing a king's dress;a play he had acted in class 6.He remembered the lengthy dialogue he'd delivered(it was 4 lines long).There was huge applause that turned to laughter the next moment-his pants were halfway down his legs..and he couldn't pull it up for he had a sword in one hand and something else in the other that he couldn't quite remember.

A small smile flitted across his face."Two moments!"he told himself.He looked at the candles and the cake.
He started reading his diaries one-by-one.

March 21st Year,Tuesday
I helped my friend pass his lab today.I've never done such a thing till today.I was very scared of that Chemistry ma'am.What if she'd caught me!But then my friend promised me a movie. So I lifted my hands off the paper and he saw what he wanted to.Only 3 answers.
God please forgive me for my mistake.But I was helping my friend.I shall leave 3 questions in my theory paper as punishment!

He felt lighter.That was in class 8.Okay,he had done something out of the rule-book-he could proudly tell his friends when they came over at mid-night.

June 23rd Year,Thursday
It was my first day in college.It was a very different experience.I adhered to the college dress-code,wearing the checked formal shirt and black trousers.But almost none of my friends did! I don't know why.They called me a "nerd"-need to look that up in the dictionary.And college is full of four-lettered slangs.
I hope I don't get into the habit of using them.Need to ask Dad for a mobile.Will be left out of the group otherwise!

He remembered the day he got his first mobile.That feeling,when he sent the message "Hi! This is my new number... :)"was unforgettable.He had got all his friends back truly that day.

May 12th Year,Saturday
Lost the inter-class cricket match.But I managed to play well-well almost.I picked up four wickets.
Then in a rush of blood,I asked the best batsman of the other side to "Charge me!" and later got carted all over the park.I deserved five wickets though-even my captain admits it! Too tired to sleep!

He was grinning now.Cricket had given him so many memories.He would make it a point to write them somewhere soon...before he forgot.

October 31st Year,Monday
I'm on top of the highest peak of this state now.It's such a wonderful experience.I'm alone in the tent.All my best friends are out-side,in front of the camp-fire.This moment of peace right now is the most profound moment of my life.I feel I'm discovering myself in a whole new way today.I'm glad I signed up for this trip.

That trip had kindled a passion for nature and trekking in him.He had travelled to a lot of places from then on and still planned to.

January 1st Year,Sunday
Missed my diary-entry last night.Wasn't in a position to do it.Still hung-over actually.It was my first time..and my last-it is a promise to myself.We had a great time last night nevertheless.I remember all of us trying to stand straight as some idiot had the cheek to play the national-anthem.I was the only one who was able to do so-almost.It was difficult see..with all that I had in my stomach at that time!

He grin widened.That sure was the last time he had drunk so much.He still didn't mind a shot or two.
But had never tried to be close to anywhere where the national anthem would be played."Moments"he said to himself.

August 22nd Year,Monday
Reported to my first job today.It is indeed a day to remember.My parents are very happy.Got dozens of wishes and congratulatory messages from friends,relatives and well-wishers.Bought many new pairs of clothes and two pairs of shoes for the occasion.It's a new life starting from today and I hope to excel in it!

Ah yes! That indeed was one of  'the days' in his life.He could remember each moment to this day.His chest swelled with pride even now.All the sense and non-sense one had learnt through school and college had some meaning if you could land in a decent job.He thought he had landed in one that day.

February 15th Year,Friday
How I wish I had enough courage yesterday!I should've asked her out yesterday.May be there was a chance she would've agreed.I've got only myself to blame! I vow never to make the mistake with the next girl I find interesting!

He burst out laughing.He remembered how his feet had trembled when he had approached her.He could remember the excitement before asking her..and the disappointment he felt for a whole week after her rejection.He could remember that smile on her face...
He took a pen and wrote a line below that entry

"It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!"

He felt stupid he was consoling himself even after so many years.

September 13th Year,Wednesday
I resigned from my job.I just couldn't take the non-sense anymore.I'm not someone who's going to do work  if my heart is not in it.I don't care for the salary,nor the power this job gives me.Yes my parents are unhappy with my decision right now.But I'm going to achieve something in life and show them that I was thinking right.
I shall decide my destiny from now on!

That day was the day,the moment when he had come of age.He felt proud of himself that today he was in a much better position than when he'd resigned.

The clock neared midnight.He closed the diaries.He looked back at these moments and the innumerable ones that came flooding back to his mind.Yes,his life lacked those extreme highs and lows-those milestones.It had been very commonplace and that was the  best part of it.He had moments that he could take back to his grave.

Grave....?? What was he thinking?He looked at the cake and candles now.The chocolate was looking yummy.He shifted the position of the candles so that it now read 26.The next moment his friends rushed in to celebrate his birthday.

And as though mirroring his thoughts,one of his friends presented him a plaque that said

                                "Life is not about milestones,but of moments"

                                                                    -28th April 2012

This my 25th post in this space.

If you're visiting this space for the first time,thanks a lot!
If you've been here earlier,thanks for reading the posts I make.It feels good and motivates me to do better.

Hope you find reading the posts enjoyable and feel like coming back often as I write atleast!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roommates Only!

  Room-mates Only!

I stepped out of the auto trying to pull my suitcase out.It weighed a little more than 24kgs.The auto-driver was willing to help me.But not Nikhil.He stood there,oblivious to my plight,texting away on his cell.And to think I was going to share my room with this guy! To my relief he paid up his share of the auto-fare without my asking him to look away from his messages.This guy could multitask when he really wanted to..

Not that we really knew each other.We just knew each other.We were from the same college;knew each other by sight...and that was it.We were posted to this place on our first job along with an other guy who'd join us soon in our room.We had no other choice but to come here.And be roommates because we had no one else to turn to.

When Ajith arrived,it had to be in style.I had heard about his heroics during my college days,and got a first hand experience that day.
"Hey...I lost my wallet..could you pay the auto-guy??"was the first thing he said on seeing us.
No..Nikhil was not multitasking this time..I had to pay on my own.No longer had we settled down on our single beds for some rest after a hectic morning,Ajith interjected "Guys I can't seem to find my phone!".Nikhil and I looked at each other-clueless of what to do.We were room-mates now.We had to help-irrespective of how long we knew each other.We rummaged his bags,searched the whole room...and after a whole hour when we sat down tired,all he said was "Chuck it! It was just a dummy know...for emergencies.."I would have killed him if he was my friend..or even my enemy...but he was my room-mate.And room-mates couldn't kill each other...

I woke up next morning before the other two.I had planned this part well.I had to be the first,if I wanted to occupy the toilet as long as I wished to.I had decided I wouldn't compromise on that part-come what may.
Half an hour later when I came out,all Ajith could do was stare at me...Nikhil was busy with his phone again.
I had drawn first blood!!

Each of us wanted to set a trend by doing things his own way-so that the other two would follow.We couldn't argue with each other see.If I used the toilet first,Nikhil would use the bathroom first.Ajith arranged his clothes in the only cupboard..and politely asked us if we would like to share it(fully knowing we would say 'it's ok' and leave the cupboard to him).Nikhil had to make most use of the only charging point in the room.I would've offered to buy a spike-buster...but then knowing neither of them would share the expenses,I resorted to charging my phone in that first half-hour of the day I had monopolised.

A week passed and all of us lived together separately.Yes..that's the best way to put it.There wasn't any argument-probably because we avoided it.I'm sure we hated certain things about each other.I hated Ajith's habit of listening to music into the night.He hated my waking up early and doing a bit of  studying-he envied my being a little more intelligent than him you see.(I hadn't told him I had flunked a paper thrice in my BE-we were room-mates only for heaven's sake!)Nikhil hated Ajith's habit of losing things(wallet,phone..a girlfriend was the latest on the list).I hated Nikhil because he was constantly in touch with his girl-texting and calling her 24x7.We shared our breakfast,lunch and dinner-or rather the bill.I would pay exactly 22 rupees for my Idli,Vada and Tea-and walk out of the hotel first.Thanks to my roommates.I learnt eating fast!

A fortnight happened.Things were getting a little frustrating in the room.We had shared nothing more than expenses so far.No stories,no histories,no experiences,no jokes.The only progress was that we had become friends on Facebook.Talk was business-like.We missed a genuine rapport going for us.

We woke up one Tuesday morning Nikhil was awake already.He looked a little tense.I could guess why..but wouldn't ask.We were room-mates only.Ajith probably noticed it too..but again we wouldn't talk of it.It was a taboo to share personal info,between room-mates only.We got dressed and left for office.
Nikhil was on the brink of tears."I'm not supposed to ask"I told myself firmly.
Breakfast was silent even by our standards that morning.

We were travelling to office in a bus.There was a crowd as usual and all passengers were clinging to each other.Suddenly I noticed a guy trying to pick Ajith's pocket.Ajith didn't notice it as usual.The guy took his wallet out in a flash and got down.I shouted at Ajith and Nikhil and we got down from the bus as well.
The guy started running.We chased him.Nikhil ran the fastest.He caught up with the thief.Ajith and I pinned him down and wrested the wallet from him.I could see Nikhil thrashing the thief with all his might-possibly taking his pent-up anger and frustration on him.

Ajith was treating us in the afternoon.All barriers seemed to have broken down in a single moment.We were reliving the incident,moment by moment,again and again.Ajith praised my observation.I praised Nikhil's speed.And Nikhil,Ajith's generosity in treating us.I quietly asked Nikhil why he was upset since morning and the poor fellow poured his heart out in 10 minutes.It seems he hadn't called his girlfriend the previous night,and she hadn't replied to his messages since morning.
"Hmm.." was all Ajith and I could manage,not being experienced enough to laugh or sympathize.

We finished our dinner.Yes.It was our dinner.Each one of us would take turns and foot the bill each night.So it was like a treat each night."Bonding Exercise"-we had decided to call it.
We were returning to our room when Nikhil went to attend the all important call.We hoped for the best.But the worst thing happened.....Nikhil and his girlfriend had reconciled,leaving Ajith and me staring at our single status.

Nevertheless,we had a group hug.Nikhil promised a huge treat the next day-which we rather looked forward to.We were Room-mates now.We would last....

                                                                                -18th April 2012 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Writer's Woes -2

                                                    A Writer's Woes -2

"Think in a straight line...think..."He motivated himself. He had a weird way to do it though: putting your head between your crossed legs is not a pretty sight.But then he was at dead ends everywhere. His thought process was constipated. What had looked like a subject a couple of months earlier looked so mundane.What had looked like mundane a couple of months earlier seemed almost oblivious!!

He was not that someone who could stretch himself to write.Subjects came to him.He never went to them.
His idea of writing was simple: an idea would form in the heart,germinate in the brain and terminate with the hand.
"So always write with your heart...."he would recommend to budding writers.Writing had to have a soul.
"You should connect with it first"-his Guru had said.Only then would someone else connect with it.
"And as long as you connect with it,nobody else really matters."

This was the founding principle on which he based all his writing.Yet his situation at present was one he wasn't accustomed to.A deadline was approaching and he wasn't even able to pen a paragraph in the last few months.Half-formed ideas,disconnected ones swam in his mind.

"Life."He wrote. The word seemed a world to him. It has such simplicity to it-on first thought.Then the profoundness hit you with all force.He had this peculiar feeling that it was not just the living things that had life..
He looked at his watch that he had worn every single day in the last 7 years.If it didn't have would you describe the attachment?Even some of his friends hadn't lasted so long... 
And people sometimes behaved as though they had no life at all...he remembered his previous boss who was worse than a machine.He wondered how that guy got into the writing field.

"Life."He wrote again.This time it brought to mind all those people who led (followed..??!!) their lives just because they'd been given one.No path.No ambition.Just wishful thinking. They dragged themselves through the day..they dragged themselves through life..Surprisingly they were the happiest in the world.They never expected they never got anything as such.Yet they never really bothered.

"Life." He wrote again.It was a surge of ambition this time.He was reminded of people who thought they were here on a purpose by birth.Or people on whom a purpose was thrust upon by birth.He was for a fraction reminded of all the great people who achieved a lot in their lives and to whom mankind owed a lot.
He then looked out of the window.
He saw a labourer-boy of not more than 12 years carrying a can of water to a nearby home.He had met that boy before.He took care of a mother and a sister.Would the boy ever be recognised by the society at large in his life? He had a purpose in his life...yet he would probably never be great. 

 The writer sighed."Life."He wrote again.This time two words started forming beneath the word Life: Luck  and Destiny.He wondered.Was life a matter of good and bad luck?
Yes said a corner of his mind.How else could you explain him running out of ideas at such a crucial time with a deadline approaching?
No said an other voice in his mind.He didn't get ideas because he didn't look for it.Waited for the ideas to come to him.He had to go for it...
Slowly an other word started forming on the paper.Opportunity."Ah..yes."he chuckled."Lesson learnt"he said aloud and was almost sure that the sheet of paper had chuckled as well.

He was folding the sheet of paper when a line appeared
"This is your Destiny" it said.

He took his pen out and with a fluency that reminded him of his own,scratched the line that had appeared and wrote: "This is my Choice." 

He went to a world where an ocean of ideas waited for him......

                                             -3rd April 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Coming of Age

                                                         Coming of Age...

The thin veil parted
But I could not go back yonder
I'd come of age,they said
And could not stay there longer.

My world would be a different one now
And I couldn't stay the same-they said.
It would be work,toil,responsibility
It was on free advice I was fed.

A billion dreams of the world around me
Along with a million ones of mine
I had to fulfill each of them they said
I had to win!I had to shine!

I paused...I wondered should I lead a life
Where I am always on the run??
Then I hit upon my line for life
"I'd be myself...I'd have great FUN!!!"
                                     -Alok Simha KJ