Friday, August 22, 2008

Citizen Kaun?

August 15th 1947. Independence Day. It means different things to different people. Just like the word independence.

One weird guy woke up at midnight, bought a entry ticket to the Red Fort, climbed to the top and said things like “Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny…. blah blah… and India discovers herself again.” Another guy, a kid, wore a white shirt with blue flaps (Edison House rules!), white shorts and white shoes and tried to imitate the Travolta-in-Greece like IDIOT* in front of him. Of course, I have to narcissistically conclude with me (R@hul) in the present (2008). I woke up late, to the cochlea-annihilating ring of a phone, picked it up and what I heard made my eyes as wide as saucers and my lips as curved as The Joker’s(viz. Heath Ledger’s).

No. I didn’t win a 10 day 11 night vacation on Star Cruises. But close enough. It is thus…. Once upon my grandpa’s age ago, a man had fought against an authority (which liked evening tea, biscuits and cricket – The British) with his silent protest. He won his war on August 15th 1947. 61 years later, on the same day this year, I won my 22 year struggle against a similar albeit tougher authority (which also liked free chai, free biscuits and cricket matches – The Govt of India). Hear me out completely. I have finally…. sniff… (author wipes his tear-stained cheeks on his left sleeve)….. I have finally been recognized as a citizen of India!!!

Folks… Of all its children till date, I am Mother India’s most-unwanted. My existence has been as graciously acknowledged as Bush accepted that he f***ed up in Afghanistan. I’m not exaggerating. Even as careful a document handler as my ex-banker mom accepts that my Birth Certificate was probably made of paper recycled from rejected cow feed. I knew then… My road to universal adult franchise would be exactly like the stretch from Borivali to Bandra after a Mumbai monsoon. It was no cake-walk getting a 2 wheeler driver’s license. Read THIS to understand why. To get my PAN card, I had to secretly get an engineering degree and then join a famous IT company and stash my PAN card application amongst 30 other regular normal children of India. Only then was it overlooked by the that white dhoti-ed, betel-red lipped, topi wearing Govt.And my passport… oh boy…!! Remember Zidane’s face after 2006 World Cup final? I’ve had that expression for the past 2 years. I hold the Guinness for filling the max number of valid passport applications (four) with different addresses within the shortest time (2 years) and still not having a valid passport till date. As a veteran, I can tell you that filling up the form is the easy part. Then comes the exhaustive list of documents to be enclosed with the application (including the dreaded address proof). Due to a banjara lifestyle, I never held an address valid for more than a year. Govt of India insists that this translates to me into a passport-unworthy criminal. In any case, the A.P state EAMCET-like choice (answer 2 Qs out of 8 and pass) of documents was of no use. I had to choose one mandatory document out of the 14 and the only thing I was eligible for in this life or the next was the Voter ID card (EPIC). I applied for the “Free home delivery EPIC by Govt of AP” card... 2 months passed… 6 months. No sign of the EPIC or the Govt of AP on my doorstep. Then, one day… on our I-Day, I got the call. My sister’s passport-procurement agent (another story there) discovered my rotting EPIC in a moist-walled, 0-watt bulb-ed narrow corridor in (guess where?) a Mandal Revenue Office!!!

Irony No – 1: Rahul has no intentions of leaving Mother India in spite of her step-motherly treatment.
Irony No – 2: The entire passport fiasco is being borne by Rahul just so that he can write GMAT and join… the ISB in Hyderabad. Multiple irony there.
Irony No – 3: And the grand finale….. Rahul’s EPIC was intended as documentary evidence that he was born, alive and living at a certain address. It should suffice to say that the legendary Murphy himself typed the address on Rahul’s EPIC.

* Don’t assume I use the word IDIOT lightly. I’m pretty sure this kid was born deaf and had no idea what the school drummer’s function was. This damned anti-Achilles was also born with high density carbon-steel plated heels which tried to murder my legs every year during the march past.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gautami and The Rain

6:50 pm (1850 IST, 4S3-02 TCS, 24 km from Ground Zero): I poked at the keyboard and toyed with the mouse impatiently. 7 o clock sure came lightning fast in the mornings, especially when I was in school. That evening, it seemed to have lost its way after 6:40. I’d already told the project manager in the afternoon that I had an appointment at 8 o clock and had to leave at 7 sharp. He had lowered his head and nodded his assent so generously that it took me quite a while to realize he was sleeping. Heavy lunch, middle age and 3:00 pm. Anyhow, 1 hour, I had calculated, was more than enough to reach my destination. Even in Hyderabad’s lane-driving-is-for-the-blind traffic. 6:53 pm. There was a low rumble. True, I was hungry, but the noise was from outside. The generator kicking in to ensure I had AC for the remaining 7 minutes? Fat chance. The rumble rose steadily. Higher and higher. I whirled around to see my manager looking outside our 4th floor window at the source. He slowly turned towards me, grinned wide and asked me, “So, how will you go now?” I looked out. I understood then why he grinned. I grinned back at him, thinking, “you smug little !@&#”.
On any other day, these 3 words would have made me run around in circles and chase my own tail. The Romans had been generous. 365 days in a year is a lot. Apparently Mother Nature didn’t agree. She had to say hello on the very day I was to meet Gautami. I picked up my bag, leapt down the stairs to the ground floor and… Oh alright! I slowly huffed and puffed down the stairs stopping at every floor to catch a much needed cotton-lungful of breath. Ting! “Lobby floor. The time is 6 57 pm. Have a nice day.” said the elevator-voice. My elevator companions (2 good-looking girls, I noticed) smiled at me and then at each other. That, believe me, was that day’s high note. Everything from there went downhill. There was a huge crowd jostling at the entrance. That noise from the tinted window hadn’t prepared me for what I saw. It was raining not just cats and dogs but the entire cast of Animal Farm.

7:00 pm (1900 IST, Lobby floor TCS, 23.8 km from Ground Zero): A rainy Friday doesn’t change much in 3 minutes. Jagged lightning. I turned skywards. Fine. You want to play. Let’s play. I tightened the shoulder straps of my bag. 3 2 1 and I stepped out. 4 seconds later, I was wet. At the gate, I spotted an auto with difficulty and got in. 3 people in the back and 2 on either side of the driver. Yes, Indians are highly accommodative. As the auto chugged along, the 3 girls in the back (I’m unaware of their looks) giggled as the inevitable raindrops made their way into the auto once in a while. I managed a smile. I liked the rain. A flashy rain-washed Toyota Innova went past us. Of course, splashing into a puddle. I hate Toyota. My T-Shirt and jeans greedily had their fill of mud flavored H2O. Sigh. Like I said, downhill all the way.
7:10 pm (1910 IST, Hi-Tech City Junction, 23 km from Ground Zero): A crossroad with amber blinking in all directions. For Hyderabadi traffic, the color amber has always meant slow down to 1st gear, look left, then right, wait until a pedestrian decides to cross the road and then.... run him over. Vehicles hurtling across roads to reach the nearest pubs (It’s Friday, remember?). Glistening rain-washed roads that rival Monaco's F1 track. And yours truly... trying to cross the road. Morbid entertainment for the Rain God? Whatever. I reached the other side with my heart doing at least a 300 bps. I ducked under the awning of HDFC ATM which was already home to 30 odd IT Oruncles, Wimpros and Deloitterers. I imagined hearing Gautami’s shrill voice and shuddered. At that instant, a Toyota Innova stopped and a voice said the magic words “Punjagutta?” Perhaps, several others sensed the magic too. But eventually, the rain and my constant rib kicking managed to dislodge the software softies from the Innova’s doors. Hah! And we were off. It was a new car with a new driver. As we waded across lakes, ponds and even a waterfall that had formed on the road, I looked out of the window. Motherly Maruti WagonRs, fatherly Ford Fiestas, hen-pecked Hyundai Accents, and even a Madame Mercedes. All of them were gurgling water... The rain God had reached up to their necks. But, the sun-tanned Tata Safari, high-heeled Honda CR-V leapt from puddle to pond in a graceful ballet leaving the pedestrians wet with emotion. Literally. Quite a number of these pedestrians had been demoted from 2 wheels to 2 feet after waving good-byes to their sinking Splendors. I managed to change the SIM card from my new yet-to-be-proven Nokia N95 into my old dropped-into-a-water-bucket-twice Nokia 2600 while smirking at people whom my Innova purified with sacred splashes of gravel flavored H2O. I love Toyota.
7:45 pm (1950 IST, Punjagutta Junction, 15 km from Ground Zero): 2 flyovers crisscrossed overhead. Last year’s monsoon had flattened one of them. Against all odds, the beaver-like Roads & Buildings dept had it rebuilt in time for this monsoon. I got out of the cab and walked under the flyover, shielded from Mother Nature. Kishore Biyani’s Hyderabad Central came into view. Surely, his school English teacher had dozed off after “Make hay”. I crossed the road and frantically looked for a means of transport. The sight that greeted my -3.something powered vision made me feel like an intruder into the Amazon Rainforest. There were numerous watering holes (courtesy: Sewerage Dept of Hyd) swallowing slippers, shoes, pieces of thermocol, plastic covers and occasionally human feet. There was an unending line of animals (as big as Metroliners and as small as bicycled-kids) on a ghostly safari through the incessant downpour. Sigh. They honked, roared, screamed, swore but didn’t move. My 30M water-resistant Titan glared an angry 7:55 at me. There was only 1 option left. Forrest Gump. I ran. Everything was a blur. For everyone else too, I was blur. A green-t-shirted, dark-green-jeaned, flashy-blue-white-shoed blur. People waited on the pavements, under shop awnings till the Mother had mercy. Hah! Not today. I ran amidst those mechanical animals, those wet-skinned curses, the watering holes… and kept running. The road divider was like a dyke. Waves crashed over the top from the left lane to the right. Suddenly, I found an empty auto! Wait... Don't say 'God sent' yet.
Rahul: Secunderabad aate?
Autowallah: Idhar gaadi ka hilna hi mushkil ho raa… secunderabad kya hawa mein jaate?
Rahul: Aate ki nai bolo miyan. Fizul ke baata nakko.
Autowallah: Acchi baat hai, baitho.
Rahul: Kitna lete? Meter pe 60 hota nai?
Autowallah: huhuhahahahaaa…. (Read: Robbery under progress)
Rahul: Hmm… Accha meter ka 1.5 times detun… chalte?
Autowallah: Teen sau(300) letun.... chalte?.

I continued to run. The Nokia 2600 rang suddenly.
Sis: Hello?
Rahul (huff-puffing): Ya.. bolo…
Sis (angrily): How long will you take? (threateningly) If I don’t reach Gautami…
Rahul (splashing 5 litres of water onto an old lady nearby): No… (huffing) I’ll reach soon… I’m 5 minutes away.
Sis (still angry): Come fast no..! Can’t you take an auto or something?
A pause. (Rahul’s rare, momentary loss of words.)
Sis: Hello? Still there? Move…!

Rahul: Ya ya....

8:10 pm (2010 IST, Anandnagar Colony, 10 km from Ground Zero): I reached home, directly got into the waiting auto(that my resourceful sister managed to secure) and covered the remaining distance in peace….. or as much of it that my sister let me have during that 50 minute ride. Anyhow, Gautami hadn’t left. In fact, for the first time in its history, the bloody Gautami Express(railway anouncement pause) from Secunderabad (pause) to Kakinada (pause) scheduled to depart at(pause) 9(pause)15 left 20 minutes late.

Smart Alec once said “When Murphy and Mother Nature are tag team partners, send your Lady Luck into the ring.” Unfortunately my Lady Luck was sipping tea and sharing a joke with
Alec. The theme was surely Yours Truly.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Just finished 'Hannibal' by Thomas Harris.
Dr. Lecter. Gentleman, Genius... and of course... Cannibal.
Scared the living hell out of me.

Word of advice: Safer to watch the movie(Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster). The book forces you to look inside the doctor's head, which is, believe me, as scary as hell. Literally. (hmm... notice the lethal pun here). (Another pun in the pun.... damn.. Make me stop.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The comeback

Pre-Post warning from the author: If you are an emotional girl (a.k.a. not Rahul’s type) or a sensitive guy (a.k.a. non-straight) you have 2 options, (a) Hit the next blog link that I’ve arranged in collaboration with or (b) Go directly to the Summary at the end of the post.

I lost her sometime during October 2007. The two month search for a reason although intensely investigative led to an intestine wrenching dead-end. She was gone and it was completely my fault. I had to accept that, adapt to that and live on. I had to. Period. Chance events, completely unrelated ones even, sometimes reminded of her. Every free second I had, I thought of her. But there weren’t enough seconds. Someone said it gets easier to forget with time. And to heal. It was ironic. She’d left because I didn’t have enough time for her. But futility, they say, is invisible to oneself. And so, I never gave up hope. One day, I knew she would be back. One day.

And she did. After 8 months spent in a hazy fog of unknowing, unfeeling, I found her. And I owe it partly to Microsoft. Yes, THE big bucks Billy’s corporation. You see, I had actually known where she was all the time. Yet, the urge to talk to her, to listen to her never came. Perhaps, I was waiting for a signal. And Microsoft was the traffic cop who waved his green lighted baton at me. It happened rather unexpectedly. I was at work and had upgraded my MS Office to Office 2007. I opened Word and started typing. Suddenly the long neglected thought hit me. I stopped. Then, my fingers slowly did a CTRL + A and then a DEL. Soon, other words began to flow onto the screen. Words that had never seen daylight or cubicle-light. Words that lay shivering in the darkness of my mind. Suddenly, the chatter around me seemed annoying. So, I stopped typing. And with the image of my would-be action and its consequences clear in my mind I smiled.

That was three days ago. Today, as I write these words, she smiles back at me. I’ve brought her back. She is with me now. This sounds like an oft told tale. A tale of lost love. Doesn’t it? Well ya, it is. It is a tale of my love for words. It is the tale of the return of my desire to blog. And I’m relishing it.

(In summary, a sizeable shrapnel of my sarcastic self that seems to have subtly survived several months in solitude is seductively suggesting that surrender to it is the sole solution. Therefore, as clich├ęd as it may sound, I’ll still say it. “Stay tuned, there is more to come shortly.”)

Post-Post(sic) warning from the author: If you think I was being serious or will ever be, please refer to the blog title.