Thursday, March 06, 2014

When the lump gets cleared

Plagued by this


Ron woke up to a lump in his throat. “Oh boy! What a night! What a dream! Would I have a bad day?” He frowned. He hesitated to rub his eyes and see the morning light. He got off his bed and dragged his body to the bathroom. He looked himself in the mirror and saw blurred flashes of the day he would live.
“I am coming over. I have to talk. Are you back from your nighter?” he asked Rob. “Yes. Come. I no sleep. Bad time. No problem, you come. We talk,” Rob said.
Rob has been one of Ron’s closest pals. They hailed from the same town but grew up in different cities until 25 years later when they happened to bag jobs in the same city. Rob has had relationship troubles and spent time mulling over what went wrong. “Nothing. I perfect. Girl nice but don’t know,” he always told himself.
Ron knocked on Rob’s door. “Come in,” Rob said.
“Isn’t it funny, Rob? This was the exact same place where I tripped over and fell off my bicycle and crashed into your door the last time I was here. “
“Looks like that hurts still?”
“Yes. That’s why I got a Vespa,” Ron said with a straight face.
“Not understand. Anyway, what’s up?”
Ron walked into the kitchen and made a cup of tea for himself. “Black’s better.” He explained to Rob why tea without milk is perfect to face a longish day especially when anxiety preempts well-made plans.
“I not understand. Anyway what’s up?” Rob asked again.
“I woke up with a lump in my throat,” began Ron.
“Oh, need medical attention?” Rob asked.
“You really don’t understand, do you? It means I’m bothered by something.”
“What’s problem?”
“I don’t know!” Ron was troubled , again, by Rob’s simple ask. He fell silent and continued to trouble himself. Rob continued to have his tea with skimmed milk.
“I leave you alone.” Rob walked into his bedroom and began searching for his favorite book The Plague by Albert Camus.
“It is here.” Ron came in later with the book in his hand. He didn’t mind showing his moist-eyed face to Rob. “I picked it up from her.”
“I gave her?”
“Yes.” Ron said. “’I know that man is capable of great deeds. But if he isn't capable of great emotion, well, he leaves me cold.’” 
"'For who would dare to assert that eternal happiness can compensate for a single moment's human suffering.'" They exchanged quotes. “Great book, no?” Rob said. Ron agreed.
“But you two talk?” Rob was desperate to know about Ron’s equation with her.
“No. Just yesterday she asked me to hand this over to you. I didn’t talk to her about you.”
“Why?” Rob was mad at Ron. “I miserable. She must know.”
“Rob! When you have no clue why you two aren’t together, she doesn’t have to know.”
“Exactly no. I mean no reason, that is why I sick feeling like this.”
Ron’s phone buzzed. He checked his phone. He stepped out of Rob’s bedroom and came back in after exactly one minute.
“I lost my job,” Ron told Rob.
“Oh my god! You OK? Why?”
“I finally cleared my throat,” smiled Ron.
“I not understand.” Rob was confused.
Ron began. “I’ve had a few altercations with a few colleagues at work. I tried thrusting my beliefs and ethics on to those who didn’t believe they existed.
“And every time I tried hard to make them believe, I was convinced that I was being morally right and that they were in the wrong place, doing those wrong things that will eventually ruin their own lives.” Ron poured himself a glass of water. “I preached. To an extent that I worked less and invested time in teaching this set of unfits a lesson.”
“Sorry, Ron. I not understand. You preached what like?” Rob asked.
“I fell in love with a colleague. I never talked to her. Never went close to her. But there’s a set of people, her friends, who take advantage of friendship and make moves, you know what I mean? And they are my friends, too!”
“I get it. But what we got investing emotion in telling them a lesson? What prompts this? Your feeling for the girl alone or strong belief in ethics?”
“It’s both. I wanted her … wanted to strike something with her … but I didn't want them to create a situation where the inevitable is only embarrassment for them. And what’s wrong with both my feeling and the urge to prove someone wrong when what they practice is actually wrong?”
“Wrong according to you, not them, no? And this situation wrong enough for office people to fire you, not them!” Rob said. Ron fell silent again.
The next day, Ron woke up, troubled, again. He telephoned Rob, “When I met her to take your book, I didn't want to tell her about you because she looked sad, too. I can’t say for what, but she was.”
“Thank you. What you do for the office colleague? Need number of her?” Rob asked Ron.



Friday, November 01, 2013

Miles to go

Off to...

It was a long stretch. I drove and was desperate to see the road come to a halt…a dead halt. I was tired to my last drop of sweat.

This is an endless wait for that place that is supposed to be a paradise for the hopeless! What is this place and why would it be so far away in fantasy, as far as the farthest star?

The light of the day dimmed and I drove further into the falling moonlight. I was unsure of the minutes I had to count before I entered the gates of the magical world. Dry wind dried my hair that was wet with sweat and the agonizing wait.

What if I hadn’t agreed to this? Would the love for me diminish? Is this a test of my strength?

I was hit by the deafening silence of the night. My ear befriended the whoosh of the wind, and nothing around me mattered to the mind that was engrossed in an exchange of thoughts and feared silence as an answer for the lingering questions. I was being driven to the dumbness of the life around me.

What if we drove back into the warmth of the sun? The night could just get colder with no end in sight.

I gave up. My foot maxed the gas pedal and my eyes flung to close. I risked ending the quest, although the start of the pine forest and labyrinthine road kicked my spirit and the journey into new life.

The shadow of this tree could just be the place where rest could mean something. Shall we? Could you talk now? Am I halfway there? At least…?

No. That was the first time she spoke in more time than I could imagine. I eventually resorted to keeping my hope of fulfilling her dream alive. I relaxed my tired feet and asked for some rest. I held myself to hear her speak. She didn’t.

I succumbed to the crack of my muscle.

This isn’t the end.

I woke up to her voice. It was a whimper that fueled my concern.

This isn’t how I would like to see my dream. I could be on this drive, be by your side, and be surprised as we go along. Would you be up for it?

I am up for it. But what is that dream if it is only a never-ending chase? My voice trembled with fear. But that was the closest I could get to conviction.

What is quest if it is not without hope and the confidence of the company that could make it happen? I sensed the promise she could have made to herself. It was implicit in her deceptively pleading voice.

This place is the farthest in fantasy, yes. That is where all hopes see light, and to that, I’d like the company of your belief. This isn’t any test of your strength. This is merely the path to strengthen my belief that dreams can be realized. Even if it means seeing a million cycles of the Sun and the Moon. 
She meant it. And I had to keep myself going, with questions unasked.

Perhaps it is her faith that lets her wait to see what she would want to. Perhaps it is the confidence in me that instilled that unshakeable faith in her. Perhaps I could be part of it and experience what a dream would be in the real world.

I picked myself up. Off to our next mile.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Imagining reality


Chai at A bar

Rob made chai for himself, placed it on the handle of his chair, and sat with his laptop on his lap. He typed away frantically. His sweaty palms slid along the black surface of his brand new Lenovo. He sweat profusely. His typing came to an abrupt halt. He burst into tears. He tried to blind his sight to a few photographs on his screen, which slowly surrendered to his copious tears. He sat upright, breathed heavily, and slapped himself hard. He picked up his phone to call his best friend. “Yaar, you come. I wait at Angel’s street,” he requested. “Angel, my foot!” he banged the phone down on his chair and cracked his Catwoman phone case. His chai cup fell off the handle.

In a show of renewed spirit, he unlocked the doors of his swanky new yellow Volkswagen Beetle. His phone rang again. “Where do you want me to come? Where on Angel’s street?” Ron asked. “I saw place called A bar yesterday. New place, I think. You come. I wait. New place good for topic I will tell,” he replied. 

He reached the place early. When he got down, he noticed that one of the car’s headlamps failed. He kicked to blow the other one too. He smiled. “Same now! All girls same,” he told himself. He walked up to a paan shop and bought a Marlboro. He lit it and fished his phone out of his heavy pocket. Along came chocolate wrappers of ChocOn and The Dark Knight Rises ticket stubs. He put them on fire and checked his watch. It was 0000 hours.

Ron arrived on his yellow Vespa. “Such a beautiful drive, this!” he said while locking it. “OK, so...what’s wrong?” he asked Rob. “Dude! You look totally spent. Are you alright?” Rob hugged Ron and said, “I end it...OK... I tell full happened story.” 

They walked in together into a place that seemed old and deserted. There were four bean bag chairs around a short table and there were just four such tables spread across the huge hall. The walls were painted black. The paintings were hanging loose. There wasn’t anyone at the counter. “Weird. I think I know this place,” Ron told himself. A man in black arrived at the table, “Anything for you misters?” he asked. “Yes...” “No. Wait. You drink means you no listen to what happened. I too drink after,” Rob interrupted Ron and requested the waiter to give them some time. The waiter obliged,”I’ll be inside. Asleep probably. With my earphones listening to Sinatra. I’ll be happy to be disturbed to help you guys.” Ron asked, “Let me have a drink. Never mind. Go on. Your story.” Rob began.

“Like you know, I engaged last month. I happy and confident like that Joker in the movie. Yesterday itself both saw movie. She got lot calls in between movie. I felt disturbed with people looking me not her while she talking in phone. I suspected fishy.”

Ron broke his narration, “OK, let me guess. She was talking to some guy and tried her best not to let you know. So, you checked her Facebook account and realized that she’s having another affair. Is that it?”

“Yes. But not full story. Hear me,” Rob replied.

“Go on.”

“So...movie over and I dropped at her friend place. She requested me like that. She had worrisome face. I got enraged and upset. She did not bye me.” He paused. “I want drink now. I call waiter.”

“Wait.  And?”

Rob walked into the waiter’s room beside the kitchen and woke him up. He was curious to know who Sinatra was. He got one of the earphone buds and listened to ‘Strangers in the night.’ The man in black rubbed his eyes and said, “May I help you?”

“Nice  tune. Stranger night. Can I get one glass Rum?”

“Sorry, mister. We don’t serve alcohol.”

“Why? What? I sad please please,” Rob pleaded the waiter.

“I’m afraid I cannot get you alcohol, mister. I don’t serve it here.”

Rob shed more tears. Ron walked in, looked at the waiter and said, “Vince. Vince? Vince, is that you? Oh, good lord! I knew I knew you. What is this place? Familiar but...have I come here before? What are you doing here? Isn't your restaurant down on Paradise road?”

“Do I know you?” Vince asked.

“Yes, you do. I was  a frequent visitor to your restaurant Ambar. OK...mmm... French toast, my favorite food?” Ron tried to stir up Vince’s memory.

“Yeah. Right! Man...Phew! Am I old already?

“Yeah. I sold that property. Rough weather. Prices in the area have gone up. Couldn't break even. Not a paradise anymore. So, I very recently got this. Fair deal. Got some plans to turn it around, decorate this place and restart all over. I plan to call this Chai at Ambar,” Vince explained.

Rob butt in, ”You know both?” He wiped off his tears and lit another stick. “Vince, never mind. I take Ron for personal work.”

“Sure. Can I get something for both of you?”

“OK. I want grab some buds," Rob asked.

“You know what...Never mind, Vince. Can you get us some chai?” Ron asked Vince.

“Ron, chai at a bar? I want kick off worry with Rum.”

Ron and Vince smiled.

After a heavy round of convincing, Ron got Rob to have a cup of chai and promised him a glass of Whiskey at his place. The three of them had masala chai together. Rob lay quiet and tried to clear the cracks of the case off his phone. Rob and Ron left Vince for some Whiskey at Ron’s.

Rob gulped his whiskey and resumed his tale of sorrow, “I went home and opened laptop. I saw Facebook and sure that she not fair to me.” He had several more rounds and fell asleep. Ron, though worried, was confident that there was nothing fatally wrong between the two. He logged into twitter and checked his timeline:

@F1winner Raikonnen gets pole. Catch the action live tomorrow.
@duderoy Massively drunk. Joker rules! Screw Batman.
@desiladka Winked at a woman today! \m/
@memaya Home finally! Two close friends split up. What's this world come to?! On the flip side, spent an amazing evening with @robme. Thanks, honey!

Ron smiled to himself and made himself a drink. He typed an e-mail to Rob:

Rob, you piece of sh!t. You know they say ‘Sh!t happens’.’ Exactly. You got yourself into a huge misunderstanding. Maya just tweeted that she got home and her close friends broke up. She probably got a few calls from them while you were at the movies. She even tagged your crazy handle mentioning that she spent a great evening with you. You, retard!

When you see this e-mail tomorrow, go out and fix your damn phone and car. I have never e-mailed someone who’s right beside me, sleeping with his ass showing in my bed.

And the place is called ‘Chai at Ambar’ not ‘A bar’ as you said. Those letters just fell off! Probably.

Chai at Ambar!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Asterix-Tintinix Comix

I was reading The Adventures of Tintin - Red Rackham’s Treasure this morning. I was thinking about about HergĂ©’s brilliance more than Tintin’s search for the treasure. I really wanted to draw the Belgian master reporter again and searched for Tintin, Haddock, and Calculus in one frame. When none satisfied my hunger for strokes, I dropped the idea, and surfed online for a good picture. While I searched a few, I thought, “Why Tintin alone? Let’s ‘innovate’.” So, I got Asterix and Tintin in one (page) frame.

It wasn't difficult to do this. I obviously replaced Captain Haddock with Asterix. 


Take a look at one of my old Tintin Drawings.

P.S: Oops, I forgot to mention little Snowy. I put the white furry canine in the middle, beside his master. I should have got Dogmatix in this, for his company. Hmmm!

OK! I’m off to investigate why I am attracted to Belgian people. Here’s another Belgian genius I drew a long time ago.

Did you know HergĂ©'s actual name is Georges Prosper Remi?

Au Revoir!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Misters of Cricket


Those Men. This Man. Their Management.

The next few paragraphs don’t just reflect agony or pain but refine my expression; my opinion about some Gods and their subjects.

When I tuned into the match between India and South Africa in the recently concluded — a conclusion for India — ICC World T20, I had my eyes on the Indian batting lineup and, in particular, Virat Kohli. I must say I didn't have my hopes high on the sluggers or the sluggish in the team. Minutes before the game, I spent a quiet moment with myself trying to raise the heat in my debate with my alter-ego. I strongly believe that the players who make the composition — for the paper and for the competitors — mighty and ruthless are, in clouded reality, deep inside a cocoon fighting their beleaguered and distraught spirit. My alter-ego, on the other hand, ridiculed my belief and expressed confidence like never before that the team is just like a fast ageing mouse. It crawls fast on young legs, but, all along its life, is surrounded by the fear of getting caught. I let the sound of the debate fade into questioning silence and waited with bated breath to get a glimpse of the young emerging Virat Kohli.

Virat walked in, like he always does, with unparalleled charisma. His determination and commitment was evident in the way he played his first shot through the covers. It didn’t have to result in a boundary but it had the mark of genius and characteristic brilliance that is often associated with his much older teammate. Weird, we wait for runs to be scored but we underestimate what stroke-play or defensive steadiness can present us! And I quote his commitment only because it carried the weight of truth and patriotism when he spoke to Rameez at the India-Pakistan post-match presentation.

I often have this discussion with my brother and my friends about how India is meeting its past — although it is making frequent visits to the unsatisfying times. My teenage days in the 90s remind me of how heavily dependent the country was on the legend and how we, despite occasional brilliances from the team, end up looking at the scoreboard to see x-runs-to-qualify-for-the-final. Latest praise and accolades poured over Virat’s improving brilliance suggest that we have a young legend who has the blood of a warrior and does not mind using his wrists and fingers — sometimes just one of them — to make a statement. And, most will agree, how he is today’s equivalent of those old days!

I vividly recall Sourav Ganguly’s opinion that this-pressure-is-bringing-the-best-in-him. True, if that means he has the stamina to carry a billion hopes along with his own. (Yes, even Nike’s #BleedBlue ad begins with Virat waking up to attend to the country’s hopes.) And he does possess the ability and magic that nobody else in the team has yet unleashed. He did talk about “carrying the burden” referring to Sachin whom he carried on his shoulders after last year’s World Cup victory against the lankans. The teary-eyed legend(s)’ comments stood out then and are slowly turning out to be true. His pain and disappointment after India’s loss to SA, like Harsha Bhogle said, is not something you can do for the camera.

While I write this in sincere admiration and subdued haste — for the fear of losing a budding genius — I constantly think about the group and the system the man is a part of.
With every passing day, my respect for MSD, the Indian captain, has only been growing. He, like nobody else, possesses the power of spitting truth in the face of cameras and counterparts and making bold moves that are sometimes termed “tricks” or “blind strokes” by people who have little knowledge of facing the heat of the post/sport. I will, however, admit that the captain panics and tries to play defensive or unconventional but he is a man aware of his responsibilities. I am sure he knows he is accountable for India’s poor form to the Indian people first and then to the management that manages him. The management, now, is a legend in itself!

I was reading a few articles and websites online that have called India’s failure to make it to the semis of World T20 a direct consequence of the cash-rich IPL and that that the team hasn't qualified even once since its inception. I am a huge fan of the tournament, of the format, of the players, and of the sport. But the bug is breeding in the system where the lords have their eyes set on future seasons of the premier league with miniscule attention given to the formats that breed players and grounds that build skill. Grounds aren’t just a platform to perform but a platform that also provides feedback for the players. If Ishant Sharma isn’t hitting the deck hard, the problem is not just in his ankle or his weak arm throwing the ball at a mere 130 kmph. Our pitches just aren’t good enough to make friends with live grass or the curator who complains of half-cut paychecks. Improvement begins with addressing the first mistake rather than taking a leap to show the world that boys in the country can travel the world and fight budding cricketers from New Zealand or Australia or USA. There is money that can be spent on giving the talent the atmosphere to perform. Most of the A-league players have seen enough of the world to travel places!

At the end of it all, I just wish to come to terms with all debates around the M’s. Or just shake hands with my alter-ego with whom I have had quite a tough time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rapping


First Fall

My shoe, caught between the cracks of the rocks, was turning into a raddled burden. My backpack got heavier with different colors of rocks I was always fascinated by. I sensed the danger in my hunch. My grip wobbled. My white shirt turned transparent from perspiration. Sweat trickled down my temple giving me an itch. I had to resist the urge to wipe my face with a shoulder-stroke. I wouldn’t want to make a fatal move. The weight would become a weightless fall, eventually.

I looked up in the sky. Huge dense clouds gathered to sound my thunderous fall. The forest beneath – with parched dry trees – was awaiting season’s first rain. A slip meant death from piercing!

I was already wet from the sweat and the slow dew.  My grip on the slippery cleft was weakening. My shoe refused to come out. I was past the point of praying for help. I couldn’t ease the weight on my back for the rocks were meant for a study. And, ironically, for my life. They had breakthroughs hidden inside them.

Help! Help! Help! Shit, not a rerun of 127 hours!

“You think you know the place?” the director of my research project asked me. “Yes, I do. Deep inside the jungle,” I said confidently but with a whispering “maybe” at the end of the statement. I was excited at the thought of getting him the stones. And visiting the haunted hills to prove that science heeds no myths. “You do know that this project is no secret and…” I cut him short, “Yes, I do. Could you just let me go?”

There was a legend around the jungle that said, “Natives of the place treated the valley as the home for the angels who brought dead men back to life. Strangers to the place, on the contrary, would be cursed with a life of nightmares.”

I thought it was true. I was living a nightmare. My limbs played the game of opposites: my leg wanted to let free, my hand wanted to hold tight. Rain came. My mouth went dry. A tiny stone plunked onto my head. A girl was rappelling down; to help me perhaps. “Hand...” I called out. And then I passed out.

“You got yourself into this without any gear?” she asked when I opened my eyes. I was dressed in brand new whites. I was caught in a shock; in awe of her beauty.

 I could have made a perfect poster! Instead, I was being photographed by the Gods! And then she got there in time to save me. 

It was derisive madness. The place was no haunted. It just helped me fall into something.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Of deprivation

On a false night


She called him in the dead of the night. "Here. Right now!" she said. "What? Why? It is three in the morning," he replied. "I want you here in 15," she retorted. He cleared his eyes drooping heavy with sleep. "Damn! How does she expect me to meet her now?" he thought. Last night's heavy dose of sleeping pills put him to sleep so deep that days of insomnia seemed to take leave.


He put on his trousers, torn and faded; reminding him of borrowing a new pair from his friend. He spent the last few months of his life living off his friend's pocket, and paying his huge visa bills with his savings. He could lose his wallet and not fear losing sleep!


He drank a bottle of water before he stepped out. It felt like the Sun left his heat with the Moon. The night temperature hovered around 32 degrees. After a day in the Sun doing market research, he now has the night to travel 10 miles. But how...


He locked the door to his 2-room apartment for which he pays a useless 3000 every month. Now left with how-to-travel question, he began walking cursing his shirt wet from sweat. He walked into a treeless street in the night's dead silence. He walked and waited for her call; his phone felt lighter with zero balance, and enjoyed a healthy battery for over a week. He walked past a 24/7 restaurant that flaunted a shiny board of 'all night pizza'. He walked in and took a glass of water. But he wanted more along his long walk to her place. "Pennyless," he recalled. Attempting to forget his misery, he decided to walk on singing Sinatra's 'Strangers in the night...'. 


"Excuse me, Sir," asked a blind old woman. It sent him creeps but replied, "Yes, how can I help you?" He suddenly felt the exchange of words like a role reversal of his job. "I need some water," asked the blind woman. He walked in to the restaurant, handed her a glass of water. And then bought a bottle of coke for himself. 


Heavy breeze began to blow across the street. Trees swayed with a whistling sound. He leaned on her friend's door and knocked on it several times while he waited for her to open it. "What the hell are you doing here at this time of the night?" she opened and yelled at him. "What? You called me a while ago, remember?" 
"When did I?" she replied.
"Half-an hour ago. I thought it was something urgent so here I am. And you say what and why and when?" he asked in frustration.
"No. You called me a while ago from a pay phone. Twice. I gave you directions too. And why did you even ask me the way here? You've visited me several times. Just when I asked you this, you disconnected the line," she said.
"No. I didn't. I didn't even call. And when did I visit you...ever? What are you talking about? Look into my pockets. I have not a single penny. How would I have called you at all?" he said in a fit of anger. "Look. Why are we arguing over this? I am drop dead drowsy. I need to get some sleep. Can you please tell me the reason you called me?" he asked calming his nerves.
"I did not call you and how in the world did you buy coke if you had no money" she asked.
"Look at this. This is your number," he showed her his call records.
"What? Wait. How do you know I had coke?"


The breeze got heavier and closed the door behind them.