Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sleepless on Kaveri Express

Before long, the train chugs into the station and slows to a halt. We labouriously manage to pull all five suitcases into it and open the door to the air conditioned compartment… only to find ourselves in pitch darkness. The AC is working alright…it’s just the lights that aren’t. The only light that filters in is the light from the station through the windows.

We somehow stumble to our berths, tripping over a few people in the process and arrange our baggage and ourselves and settle down to sleep. Before long, the ticket conductor comes and wakes us up by pulling on my toe. Groggily I show him our ticket and settle back down to sleep, but somehow, sleep evades me.

I take out my phone and start playing a game of Sky Force. In the darkness of the compartment, the light from the phone seems like a beacon in the night. I realize that my phone battery is almost out so I switch off the phone and peer out the window. I recognize some of the places we pass…East Station… the level crossing that’s been under construction for the past year… the ITC factory….the short cut that I used to take to go to college…ring road….White Field…. After that, there were only fields and no more to be seen outside. I may as well try and get some sleep.

Just as I’m drifting off, I hear a put-put-put sound. Actually, it’s more like a Harley-Davidson engine roaring to life and I wake up with a start. In the darkness, the sound seems to be omnipresent. I slowly pinpoint the source – the man sleeping on the berth opposite mine. His snoring is loud enough to wake the dead….but apparently not the rest of the passengers in close proximity, who seem to be sleeping peacefully.

Living in a hostel dormitory, I’m used to sleeping among people who snore loudly, but this was absurd! It wasn’t even a rhythmic snore which could be soothing under some circumstances. It was more like irregular machine-gun fire that dies down after sometime and starts up again when a target is in sight. In this case, the target must have been me.

I jam the pillow over my ears and turn the other way. It helps to a certain extent but just barely.

A loud BANG right next to me has me almost jumping out of my skin and the compartment begins jerking violently. It’s a wonder that nobody else wakes up to this. The compartment continues jerking and the train begins to slow down. The banging noise next to me continues with each jerk of the compartment.

I mentally picture everything that an AC compartment would have and recognize the noise as the food tray hitting against the wall of the compartment. Just ignore it and you wont notice the sound after some time, I think. But the bloody banging noise combined with the machine-gun snoring was a bit too much and I gave up any hope of sleeping.

I sit up and push the curtain aside to look out the window. We’re approaching a station – Bangarapet. Great, I think. One hour down and five more to go before we reach Chennai. I watch the people milling around on the platform. Even at 1 am, the place is bustling with life.

The train moves on and the banging noise begins again. By this time, I can feel one hell of a headache coming on. Just then, my leg hits against something which I recognize as one of our suitcases. I drag it out from under the berth and jam it up against the food tray. The noise promptly stops. Wish I could do the same thing to machine-gun man opposite me.

I somehow manage to doze off, but my sleep is highly disturbed. It’s just one of things where you’re aware of all your surroundings but you know that you’re asleep. I dream of Harley-Davidson’s and sub-machine guns and war. (To be fair, the dream about the machine guns could have been because of the game Sky Force that I had been playing earlier.) But still, suffice to it say, it was one rotten night.

I wake up a few hours later to loud voices. The machine-gun man had woken up and was having a loud discussion with someone else. I check my watch. It was 5.45 am and nearing daylight. No sense in going back to sleep so I sit up and start checking the names of stations. We’re nearing our station but we’re not too sure which station it comes after so we haul our bags out from under the seats and drag them to the door.

Standing near the open door with the early morning breeze hitting us is refreshing but it still doesn’t make up for lost sleep. My head is still throbbing and I’ve developed a crick in my neck. We stumble out of the train thankfully and head home. Once we reach home, I tumble into bed and sleep the sleep of the dead.

Honestly, I really envy people who can sleep while traveling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anti - Social Behaviour

“Excuse me, Sir,” I say, knocking on his door.

“Yes?” he says, arranging a pile of papers and standing up. “I have a class now so make it quick.”

“Good morning, Sir. I’m doing my Ph.D. in Psychology and I was wondering if you could help me out with something.”

“Sure,” he says, looking at his watch and then at the door. He seems like he’s in a hurry so I come straight to the point.

“Since there are not many studies done in the area of my research, I’m developing my own questionnaire and I was wondering if you could take a look at it and give me some feedback as to whether it is a valid and reliable tool for this particular study.”

He stops arranging the papers and looks at me. “Do you know the difference between a psychologist and an ordinary person?”

I shake my head. Was this a riddle?

“A psychologist has the social skills to ask a person how his health is.”

Was this the punch line? Was I supposed to laugh?

“I’ve met you three times before so you don’t have to be so formal with me. You can at least get a little personal with me.”

Huh? Did he mean “personal’ or “informal?” One usually doesn’t get “personal” with the H.O.D of Psychology of the University….let alone your future external examiner.

“Maybe you can take the time out to ask me what I’ve been up to or how I’ve been doing. You’re a very intelligent girl, but you lack the social skills that psychologists generally have.”

Do I dare mention that he’d been in too much of a hurry for me to get “personal” with him? Come to think of it, I don’t think I would have asked him about his health or what he’d been up to even if he hadn’t been in such a hurry. Oh well. How anti-social of me.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Shireen, may I see you for a moment?”

Oh no, it was HER again. “HER” being the human blimp who is the senior-most Psychology lecturer in my college. In fact, she is so senior that she’s never ever been the H.O.D. or anything more than well, the senior-most. A fact that has been a sore point with her for the past thirty-odd years and has, to all appearances, caused her to have a mighty big inferiority complex. Well, actually it’s caused her to have a might big REVERSE – inferiority complex…. Considering the fact that she covers it up pretty well with her over-inflated ego.

Here’s an example. She comes to college in a chauffeur-driven car. Not a big deal by some standards, except the poor chauffeur not only has to wear a full uniform complete with hat and full sleeved suit in the Chennai heat, he also has to carry up Her Highness’ handbag from the car to the second floor staffroom – all this while Her Royal Highness ambles slowly to the teacher’s lounge, reads a newspaper and misses her first hour class EVERY DAY.

Another example would be her picking fights with everybody who crosses her path, including teachers. It’s not the fights themselves, because nobody would dare argue back with the senior-most lecturer, but the subject of the fights. She once called a teacher and yelled at her for an hour because she hadn’t told Her Royal Highness that she was pregnant. She then rang up the same teacher nine months later and yelled at her for another hour for not informing her that she had had a baby girl.

Like I said, her fights were not limited to just teachers, but extended to students as well. Some of my juniors were told off for not saying goodbye to her when they went home for the holidays. Another student was given a two hour lecture for not inviting her for her wedding. Another one was yelled at for talking to another teacher in Her Royal Highness’ presence.

Inferiority complex at its best.

Unfortunately, today wasn’t my day. I had been chatting with two MPhil research scholars when I got the summons.

“Shireen, may I see you for a moment?”

Rolling my eyes at the MPhils, I climb the steps to where she was standing. Being all of 150 kgs, she had managed to climb up to the first floor landing before she ran out of breath. Unfortunately, I had happened to be sitting right there when she was taking a breather.

“You know,” she slowly continues in her fake British-Mallu accent, “Two years ago, when you were sitting in the H.O.D’s office, I happened to pop in for a moment and you wished me…but you didn’t stand when you wished me.”

I look at her incredulously. I don’t even remember what I did (or didn’t do) last week, let alone two years ago.

“This kind of anti-social behaviour is not acceptable in a psychologist, especially a senior.”
Wow. Being called anti-social twice in two days by two different gas bags was quite something.

“This is not acceptable,” she repeats, shaking her head, all three chins wagging. She takes a step up, pausing to continue. “The last time you met me, you were inviting me for your wedding so I didn’t say anything, but you must have noticed how I’ve been ignoring you for the past two years.”

You were??? Can we try that again for the next two years?

“Every time you wished me, I’ve ignored you. You know why? It’s because you didn’t stand up and wish me two years ago.”

You were ignoring me? I don’t seem to remember you ignoring me the last time you bit my head off. Let’s see, that was about a year ago when my previous course ended. You said that I was a bad Christian and an even worse psychologist for not saying goodbye to you. I personally don’t see what our profession, religion and farewells have to do with each other, but there you go. Inferiority complex and low self esteem logic.

She continues yammering on about ill-mannered students etc but I had already tuned out. If she wants to feed her ego off students and other teachers, she could go right ahead. By that time, she had reached the second floor and was continuing on to the staff room without realizing that I wasn’t behind her.

I think I should take my guide’s advice. Just keep nodding at all the shit that’s being dished out and one day, when I’m out of college and people like these don’t have any more jurisdiction over my certificates or marks, do something that’s never been done before – tell them off.

So much for anti-social behaviour.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lost

Another lost soul wandering in the desert. Searching for love. Searching for happiness. Searching for peace. Contentment. Fulfillment. Ever searching, never finding.

All around him, shadows glide by. Amorphous. Intangible. Surreal. Other wanderers...lost souls. Each in search of their own requisites. Facing their own demons. Ever passing, never meeting.

He walks on. The arid desert sands scorch his feet. Heat from the boiling sand rises off the earth in shimmering waves, like fingers reaching for the skies. Dried bones, picked clean by vultures lie around, scattered. Lost forever. Grim reminders of what he would be should his quest fail. He carefully steps around them and walks on.

The desert sands stretch forward and roll on to eternity. In the distance, a shape materializes. He shields his eyes from the glaring sun and begins to walk in that direction. What could it be? An oasis? An answer to his questions?

He walks on, keeping the mysterious shape in sight. But though step turns to stride and distance turns to miles, the shape remains a constant, ever evasive. Illusionary. Distant.

Yet, now that he has some aim, some destination, in this barren land, he forges on, ever keeping his goal in sight. His weariness dissipates to hope. The hope to stay alive. To reach his goal. To find his answers. It is this hope that fuels him onwards, on the one true path to what he thinks is knowledge.

Relentless as the glaring sun and the scorching sands, he continues onward .......

.....lost no more.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Hazey Shade Of Purple

(This is a somewhat longwinded but sincere apology to The Wabbster. Sorry!)

We were already a pitcher down when he arrives. “He” being one of my school buddies…not that I knew him very well in school. After all, he was two years senior to me and it was taboo for seniors to talk to juniors!

My earliest memory of him was when I was in Std 1. Our class teacher had called him in to monitor our class. We were all wondering why he was scrunching one eye shut when he told us, “I was asked to keep an eye on you so…”

Okay okay, sorry for the PJ but that’s the kind of guy he was in school. Simple. Religious. At times a pain in the ass but…sweet. Times change and people change. We’re down two pitchers when he comes back to his favourite topic. Women.

“Man! It’s not like there are no hot women in my office. There are! But what to do? I’ve done them all!!! I’ve done….hmmm….nine girls in the past four months alone!” He takes a long drag from his cigarette and exhales into my face. Damn it! I’ll die of passive smoking by the time I turn an hour older.

I flinch at this and look over at Wabby. He smiles and nods – his standard gesture when he hasn’t heard crap of what you’ve said. In this case he was lucky. He didn’t have this ass sitting next to him and boasting about the number of hot women he had “humped and dumped.”

“Man! But that girl I dated way back in Jan really did a number on me.” Another drag of his cigarette and he exhales into my hair. Damn the seating here!!! “I broke up with this chick and she just would not let go of me! I mean, let’s face it. I’m an attractive guy. No doubt about that. But I told her, I told her, “Honey? We just ain’t happening, you know what I’m saying?””

I look at him blankly and nod and smile, trying to look as uninterested as possible.

“She was pretty hurt, I can tell you that. But then, I think she came up with this plan. You know how women get when they are rejected right? She wanted my attention man, she really wanted it. So she went out and slept with about a hundred other guys hoping to hurt me into coming back to her. Ha! Hurt me! Doesn’t she know me by now? Me? Hurt? Ha!”

Sure dude, then why are you still talking about her seven months later? I mentally tune out and tune into the music and my beer. Wabby’s technique of nodding and smiling does wonders and he rattles on, pausing only to take another drag or go bottom’s up on another mug.

Three pitchers down and the music is finally getting interesting. Now I think Purple Haze plays the best music ever…and that’s the main reason to come here…listen to music, chill with friends and (my fav) head bang…..not to have an impromptu counseling session over deafening noise levels.

I can feel the music washing over me, when there’s a tap on my shoulder. I turn back and he leans in closer. “You know what I’ve finally decided? I’ve decided to stay single from now on. Who needs women anyway? There’s only one use for them…and how many women can you hump anyway? Gets old after sometime. I think it’s time I settled down now anyway. I mean, five years of humping women’s brains out …and here I am. Burnout. That’s what it is. Burnout.”

He shakes his head sadly as if to say, my life is over now. Sigh. Sex is the death of me! And I'm actually living to tell the tale!!! Woe is me.

Wabby kicks me under the table and makes a face at him. I swear. This is the last time I come out with this guy. School friend, not Wabby. Small tip for you though Wabby – act obnoxious enough and I’ll probably swear to not hang out with you as well. No wait, I’d probably just kill you till you die from it. Er….

He now turns his attention to Wabby and leans across the table. “Man! These two hot bitches wanted to come with me today but I said, ‘No! I’m going to meet my old friend and its been ages! So, sorry honeys…you’re out of luck tonight!’”

Standard response from Wabby. Nodding and smiling. But this time, he adds a high five to the deal…which encourages him to elaborate.

“You know, I used to be desperate once but look at me now! I’m perfectly fine! Who needs hot women now anyway? They only cramp your style, don’t you think so?”

Nodding and smiling. “Yeah, I used to be your age once too. Those were my desperate times where I just needed to lay anything gorgeous. Hormones and what not! Man! Those were the days!” He smiles reminiscently and leans back, blowing smoke in my hair again.

Another kick under the table and Wabby looks like he’s like to lunge across and choke him. “I hate this guy!!! WTF??? Hormones???” I pat his hand and smile. Only an hour more to go and we’re home free. Literally.

Four pitchers down and still going strong. When the fourth pitcher arrives, Wabby shakes his head and covers his mug. I let mine be filled. Lost count of how many mugs I’ve had so far. They all seem to mysteriously fill themselves up every time I take a sip.

Just then, they start playing Judas Priest at full volume and School Friend gets up to bow down to the big screen tv. Enter Sandman starts playing after that and he turns around and extends his hand to me. I promptly hunt around for his sweater thinking that’s what he wanted. He gestures again and I realize he wants me to go stand near the tv with him.

NOT! He wanted to frikkin slow dance to Metallica!!! Er….? Hello? Uhm. Ukkaaay..?

The next thing I knew, I was kneeling on the floor wondering what the hell I was doing there and he was flat on his back shouting, “Who the fuck pushed me!!! If I ever find you…”

I slink back to my seat, trying to hide my face and hoping people would stop staring sometime in the near future. Wabby has an amused grin on his face and I shrug back helplessly. Damn it! Why hadn’t we stuck to plans? Then this moron wouldn’t be here and we’d actually be having a way better time.

Moron throws himself on the seat beside me, still explaining his temporary loss of gravity. Then he orders a pint. Half hour later, closing time, he orders two more pints and guzzles them down quickly. By this time, he’s completely out for the count and can’t even focus straight.

The music stops with Nothing Else Matters and the house lights come on. Purple Haze is eerily lit now and without the music, its just not haze anymore! One more pint to guzzle down. That’s four pitchers and three pints down on a total. I look at my watch. It’s 11.10 and my parents have already called twice to find out where I am (I was supposed to be home at 10).

He pays the bill with his credit card, scribbling something that resembled his signature and then got up and tripped out. Wabby and I sigh and pick up his sweater and bag and follow him. He’s outside on the landing, trying to pick a fight with some guy who had told him that he was a sexy dancer.

We somehow make it down the two flights of stairs and start walking towards my car. Half way there, we realize that Drunk Moron is no longer with us. We backtrack and find him leaning on a tree, trying to pick a fight with it.

Wabby and I manage to pull him away from it but he protests loudly, saying that he’ll follow us and not to worry. By this time, both of us have seriously had enough of him so we head on down the road. When we reach the car, we turn back and he’s no where in sight. Great! I think, now I’ll have to go back to look for him.

I drive slowly past Purple Haze looking for him, dropping Wabby at his bike on the way. I don’t see any sign of him. I call him. He picks up and goes….shweeeeetheart, I’m right here!!!

Er…. “Here” apparently is a matter of perception. I slowly start reversing and find him glaring at every parked bike until he stumbled across the car. He somehow manages to get in and I lean over and close the door. Man! Is he stinking of booze or what!

Halfway home, he begins yelling at the top of his voice for me to stop. Apparently no girl has ever dropped him home and never will cos he’ll never allow it. I quietly engage the central locking. Never know what he’d try to do in this mood although….if he jumped out, he’d put an end to his misery and mine in one shot. Hmm…interesting…

Still, it’s hard to drive when there’s someone banging on the door screaming, “Let me out!!!” (And no, it wasn’t because of my driving) and I would have dearly loved to shove him out myself.

I did get the opportunity to do so when we stopped in front of his house and he refused to get out. “No! no! Not home! I wanna go to Taveern. I neeed some more beeeeeeeeer.”

“You’re not going anywhere tonight but home. Out! It’s getting late!” Just then my phone rings and I see its my dad. He NEVER stays up late waiting for me to come home. I panic. He must be really pissed off with me now.

“Moron, I really really need to get home NOW! Get out of the car!”

“Noooooo. I don’t wanna!”

Sigh. I’ve never done this before and hopefully I’ll never have to do it again. I lean over him, push the door open and shove him out. He lands clumsily on the footpath and begins wailing about how he actually let a girl drive him home. Blah. And as Wabby would say, Bleh to him. I hurriedly throw his sweater and bag out after him and close the door before he even thinks of getting back in. Thank God for central locking!

I say a quick goodbye and head on home. Sure enough, my dad is raging at me coming home late. Before I can explain, my phone begins to ring. It’s him. I pick it up warily and say hello. “You left meeee and went awaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!”

Gosh stop whining! I make some excuse and disconnect. At least he’s home safe, the drunk.

Sigh. Wabby, I promise this won’t happen again. Next time, I’ll introduce you to some slightly saner morons. Maybe.

Look at the brighter side though…

…At least you got some entertainment value out of tonight ;-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

He sits on the spare bed, watching her sleep. Next to her, a machine rhythmically beeps her heart beats. He laughs a low growl. Not long now.

In her sleep, she is dreaming. Dreaming of soaring higher and higher. Dreaming of a better life. It is a slumber that is as deep as any. It is a slumber she will never wake from.

He watches her with amusement. Tapping into her dreams is easy enough. He watches as she soars in ecstasy. Not long now, my pretty, he thinks. He quietly reaches out and touches her dream.

In her sleep, she frowns. She is in an arid desert. The heat is killing. All around for miles and miles, there is nothing but sand. She tries to fathom where civilization might be closest. South, she decides. She begins to walk. Hour after hour and still no sign of life.

All of a sudden, the dry sand in front of her cracks. The crack extends and boiling hot fumes erupt. Her skin begins to chap and peal. It’s hailing. Hailing sulphur. Her skin begins to slowly burn. God help me, she cries.

He withdraws his hand in pain. Where had that come from? She is much calmer now. Hailing sulphur? Ha! She better get used to that. Where she is going, there is nothing but sulphur and heat. Loneliness and pain. He extends his hand towards her again.

She is on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Cool breeze blows through her hair. All around for miles and miles, there is nothing but water. She tries to fathom where civilization might be closest. South, she decides. She begins to row. Hour after hour and still no sign of life.

All of a sudden, a giant wave batters her raft. She is immediately hit by another wave on the opposite side. The sea that was calm just a minute ago is suddenly roiling and churning. The water becomes fire. Flames engulf her. Batter her. Consume her. Her skin begins to burn and char. The pain is excruciating. God help me, she cries.

He withdraws his hand in agony. Funny how fire soothes and yet the one name he was terrified of can burn. He watches, silently, as her dreams return to normal. She looks peaceful. The end is not far, he smirks. What you saw was just a whiff of your new home. Enjoy the calm while you can.

It is time. The end is not far. The beginning is close. The machine by her bedside begins to beep at faster intervals. He reaches out his hand once more.

She is on a grassy mountain. Multicoloured butterflies flit about her. The mountains look inviting. She would love to see the world from the top. She begins to climb. Hour after hour and still no nearer to the top. She decides to rest a while.

She sits on a boulder. All of a sudden, the boulder shifts and she is in a cave. The cave is pitch black. She is not alone. Gossamer wings lightly touch her and move on. Somewhere overhead, a bat screeches. A quiet voice whispers, it’s not too late to get out. Get out of the cave. The tunnel. Go back to the butterflies on the mountain slopes. Don’t walk towards the light.

The light? A ray slices through the darkness. She ignores the voice and continues walking. It is easy for her to do. She’s been ignoring that voice all her life.

He is there, walking beside her. Leading her.

The ray thickens and widens. Beckons, almost. He stops in the darkness. Rules are rules. It’s still not too late. The choice is hers to make. Brilliant light or grassy mountains?

She turns and for an eternity, gazes at the dark tunnel behind her and the peaceful plains beyond. She turns and looks at the brilliant light ahead. He hold his breath. She is still uncertain.

The machine beeps in staccatos. Faster and faster. And suddenly deadpans a single eternal beep.

She is free now. Free to make her decision. In the darkness behind her, he watches. Watches as she chooses her fate. Her destiny.

He knows that all that awaits her on the other side is oblivion. Brimstone, sulphur and fire make the light brilliant. Mortals always had a flair for romanticizing the deadly. Stupid mortals. Believing that the light at the end of the tunnel was their reward for being good. Stupid stupid mortals.

She takes an unsteady step towards the light. Her next step is more certain. Hadn’t mamma always talked about moving towards the light? She is more certain now. She has made her choice. She begins to walk faster.

And in the darkness behind her, he smiles.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Exposed!

Low-waist jeans, though they look hot when worn, are probably the bain of the unfortunate girls who wear them. Sure they look hot....when you're standing...but when you're sitting, it's a whole new different story.

Take this unfortunate girl, for instance. Probably about sixteen years of age, slim, tall with never-ending legs. She just happened to be sitting in front of me at a food court. As can be expected, her low-waist jeans had ridden even lower and now she was showing quite a substantial amount of cleavage at the back. I burst out laughing when I saw the brand-name of her jeans.

EXPOZAY.

I rest my case.

Needless to say, she was, quite literally, the butt of all jokes for the rest of the day. Pun intended.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Beginnings of a Rant

It was a hot day. No, wait. It was a scorcher of a day. Driving to college with the air conditioning on full didn't really help at all. Meandering our way through the Chennai traffic was frustrating enough. Getting stuck behind another car that was moving in a drunken fashion across the road so that we couldn't overtake was still worse. The heat and the frustration the car in front of me was causing, made me want to just walk up to the driver and throttle him.

I did something worse.

I rammed into his car. My first fender-bender. And it involved three cars! Mine, the drunk in front whom we shall name Farquad and another car in front of his. He had applied sudden brakes and I had rammed into him before I could stomp on the brakes.

Farquad gets out and surveys the damage. His maruthi 800 looks intact. Except for its plastic bumper which is now cracked and hanging loose and a broken tail light.

"Look what you've done!" he thunders, pounding my window and gesturing for me to lower it.

"I'm sorry," I said, "but you're the one who braked suddenly."

"No I didn't!"

"Yes you did!"

By this time, we had caused quite a big traffic jam and the sound of horns was irritating me no end. Also, by this time, we were joined by a traffic cop.

"Move into a side lane" the cop instructed us.

Traffic was held up as all three cars were signaled into a side lane.

The driver of the other car in front of Farquad's said that he didn't want to press charges and left. Only Farquad stayed behind, glaring at us.

The cop, after restoring some semblance of order on the road, joined us. "Do you want to press charges?" he asked Farquad.

"Of course I do!" sputtered Farquad. "These girls would have been distracted by some boy on the road and banged into me!"

Okay. Now that was pushing it. The problem was, I was in Chennai and my buttler tamil was not enough to make myself understood. Also, by the mention of "pressing charges" I was more than a little terrified. Being held in a local chennai prison was not my idea of fun. Besides, by this time, Farquad and the cop were best buddies. They were talking to each other in rapid tamil and even laughing and slapping each other on the back.

To make everything worse, I kept thinking about my dad and how he would react when he found out that i had banged up someone else's car while driving someone else's car. At that time, he was just thinking of whether or not he should get me my own car and this incident would definitely make his decision easy. Far too easy.

The cop turned to me and asked whether I'd be willing to pay for the damages rendered to Farquad's car. If I didn't, he explained, he definitely would file a case.

I agreed. I definitely did NOT want my name to be on any police file.

Farquad was, by this time, assessing the damage done to his car. The tail light was broken on the left hand side and the bumper was cracked. "This bumper is plastic and cannot be repaired." glowered Farquad. "You'll have to buy me a new one. Also, the tail light will have to be replaced."

"Er...okay."

"And you have to go to my mechanic's shop and he'll give you an estimate about the bill."

"Right."

The cop stepped in and said that i had to write a letter saying that we waived the right to press charges and he took down my license plate number and disappeared.

After the cop had gone, Farquad turned to me. "Do you know who I am?" he said, trying to look intimidating but failing miserably. The word "pompous" flashed across my mind. "I am the manager of Triangle Transports." He looked at me expectantly. What, did he expect me to applaud him? I'd never even heard of Triangle Transports. "I'm a very important person there," he clarified.

"Oh...kay...."

"I just got promoted, which means I'll be getting a company car soon. I was going to sell this one anyway. It's a piece of junk and the tail light was already broken. I just wanted to teach you a lesson. That's why I called the cops. Just remember, if you refuse to pay for my car, I will file a complaint against you. And who are the cops going to believe? A college student or a manager? Ha! Come now, we'll go to the garage and you can pay the mechanic straight. I'm an honest man, see? I don't want your money. Just give it straight to the mechanic. Follow me now."

So saying, he got into his car and started it. In all the confusion, I’d completely forgotten to check my aunt's car for damages. I was speechless when I saw the front bonnet. It had been bent so badly that you could see the engine from outside. Also, all the parts had been pushed inwards by the impact. So when I got into the car, the AC vents and the dashboard had moved inwards by a few inches. I groaned. Getting Farquad a new bumper would be cheap compared to the repairs that this car would need. And it wasn't even mine, which made it all the worse. How was I going to explain this to my aunt? One thing was for sure. I would NOT be telling my dad about this particular accident. The best thing for me to do was to pay off the money quietly and hope none of my family members would be the wiser.

I followed Farquad to his mechanic's garage where they said that the cost of a new bumper would be about twelve hundred rupees and plus garage fees and a new back light casing, the total bill would be about three thousand rupees. Daylight robbery, in my opinion. But then again, the faster I paid, the faster this fiasco would be over and Farquad would be gone forever.

I left the garage, three thousand bucks poorer and mad as hell. Mad at myself for causing an accident. Mad at myself for being careless while driving someone else’s vehicle. Mad at myself for being bullied by Farquad into paying for a car that was already broken. But mostly, just mad at Farquad and people like him who thought they ruled the world JUST because they were louder and bigger than everyone else.

I bet that if I had been a 300 pound man, he’d be paying for my car. Just goes to show that size does matter. Size of the ego. Size (or lack of it) of the self esteem. Size of the prey. Excess of chauvinism. Oh yes, and excess of pompousness as well.

Bloody coward

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Dream

I dreamed of you once. It was the strangest dream. You were helping me find a lost key on the railway tracks. Mortal that I am, I kept looking around to see if a train was on the way and whether I’d be road-kill soon. Angel that you are, you offered to flit around the tracks and find my key. After all, as you said, nothing could harm you anymore.

I let you search, just enjoying being with you. Watching you. Observing the contours of your face. Your dazzling smile. Your long surgeon’s fingers. The way you turned around and winked at me reassuringly every time I heard a train approaching.

You found my precious key and we went to a road-side cafe. You said you had loads of things to tell me. You told me to tell your mother to stop crying for you. After all, as I could see, you were alive and kicking. Just not with us. You told me to tell her that you were happy. Then you leaned forward conspiratorially and asked me if I wanted to hear a secret. I said yes, of course. You looked around to make sure no one was listening. Then you proceeded to tell me the formula. The formula of how to die. It's quite easy, you said, pulling a napkin toward you. I'll write down the equation. All you have to do is balance it.

You wrote down the equation and passed on the napkin to me. Just as soon as you learn to balance this equation, you can join me, you said. And then you smiled such a dazzling smile that I couldn't look at you anymore. And then you left me. Again. Just as you had three months ago.

I woke up in tears, trying to clutch at the fragments of your entity. I didn't want to let you go. Not ever. Not again. I tried going back to sleep just so I could see you again, if only in a dream. But it didn't work. Nothing I did could bring you back.

Ever.

(In memory of Deepak. 16.Aug.1982 - 20.Jan.2003)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Alliterations

College was always fun....specially the English classes. After doing Shakespearan plays in school, Robin Hood was a hoot in college. Too easy. And generally when things are too easy, they tend to get boring. And that's exactly what happened during English.

My friends and I soon took to writing poetry about teachers and some of the students we didn't like during English class. This used to amuse us no end and once we started circulating them, it was even more fun. Then came the English Criticism class where we learnt about alliterations and our so-called writing careers took a drastic turn from poetry to alliterations.

Alliterations are sentences that have similar sounding letters right through them. For example, "Lovely, luscious lips." Get the picture? Poets like DH Lawrence used alliteration (when the "S" sound is repeated, it's called sibilance) to illustrate their poems better. He wrote an entire poem on a snake, constantly using words that had the "s" sound in them to illustrate the hissing of a snake.

We, of course, found this highly fascinating and alliteration and sibilance became the order of the day. Here are a few alliterative prose that we wrote. Although they didn't make much sense (and still don't) they were nevertheless fun to write.

When will this witch with a wasted classful of wishful girls wind up and wedge a Wellington watch from Warsaw into her wide mouth? (This was about the most boring teacher in the history of teachers and written just before lunch)

Sapna saw Solomon swinging sorrowfully, sulking sillily and singing somethng she thought was sweet and sending sour sonnets about the seas and the sunshine and smelly stinky sewers in a sad state of sorrowful sanity in the sweltering sunshine of the summer son in South San Fransisco.

Dumbo ding dong Dolly doted on dates drooling dreadfully, dreaming daringly and defying death only to drool in the doldrums and doze dreaming of dating dashing guys dressed in drag and demolishing such dreams that don't delay dumbo dongs who dated Dolly.

Ruthless Rebecca rambled on and on to the restless rueful girls, raking in the rest of their rapt attention with rusty remarks and reasons and ruminerations, requiring the remaining girls to render their rumbling stomachs to roast their refridgerated brains and render them unconscious.

"So sweet," says Solomon, slurping a sinful sundae which was also a sparkling soda, "is the babe that lies in the softly sunlit sauna amidst a swarm of sexy butterflies and the Tyranosaurus Rex and the brontosaurus, the two of which fell in love with the cephalothoraxx of the rhino's back, which was stung by a super big scorpion and kissed by superman and Scooby Doo who longed for Scooby snax for Shaggy and Scrappy and also for Pierce Brosnan's sexy eyes which stung with tears cos Supergal was sleuthing in the Bahamas with Spiderman and the Ghostbusters, singing "Sweet for my sweet and sugar for my honey."

Dr Faustus fell for Florence Nightingale of France for he felt that if he didn't fall, he would fracture his fibula or his femur and then fall at Mephistophilis's feet for forgiveness and fruit salad.

Did the dumb dead duck dive deep into the depths of the dreamy dark damp ditchwaters of Denmark?

Gorgeous groovy guy gave gay girl a golden gondola to gambole to Goa.

Okay okay, so i'll stop with the bad literature. Hope you had fun reading this. Bye bye.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Alvirah's Blunder

This story was written for WaterfallMist (because he was complaining that i didn't write "happy" stuff) but mostly it was written in 1999 for the Christ College intercollegiate writing competition held in honour of their new library. It always amuses me to see how my style of writing has changed over the years.

In a distant land far away , the only building that stood in my way was an old library. As I entered, I tripped over something and fell flat on my face. I gingerly picked myself up and sought the culprit of my fall. It was a book! Of course! What else would you expect to find in a library?

I picked up the book and read its title. “Witches and Warlocks,” it said. I looked around the tiny foyer. It was deserted. I carried the book through the foyer and into the main library…and stopped, shocked.

The whole library was in a complete state of disarray. None of the books were on the shelves. They were all lying on the floor or falling off the tables and chairs that lined the bare walls. Books were scattered everywhere. There were actually piles of books that reached up to the ceiling! The place was a total mess!

Suddenly, I heard a noise. No, it was more like a sob. I surveyed the whole room but could not find the source of the noise. Then I heard it again. It seemed to be coming from behind a pile of books on the far corner.

I waded through the numerous books that blocked my passage. On the way, I read a few more titles – “Curses and Spells” read one, “Cults and Groups” read another, “Salem” read yet another title. I realized that all these books had something to do with the supernatural!

I heard the sob again and made my way to the corner. There, I saw a real sight for sore eyes. For, there in the corner, surrounded by a pile of books, was a pretty, young girl of maybe sixteen or seventeen. She had long, golden tresses and wore a long flowing gown. She looked like she’d just stepped out of the Elizabethan Age. Her head was buried in a book and her whole body was racked with sobs.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, stepping up to her.

She immediately jumped out of her chair and whimpered down in the corner like a frightened kitten. “Oh! I-i th-thought it w-was h-her,” she stammered, relief obvious on her pixie face.

“Who?” I asked.

“Y-you know…..her.”

“No, I don’t know. But you’re obviously frightened of her, whoever she is. I mean no harm.”

“Y-yes. She might k-kill me or throw me into the Bottomless Pit or the Hell of No Return if I don’t finish reading all these books by tonight,” she said, gesturing to the whole library.

“You have to read all these books by tonight?” I expostulated. “How many have you finished?”

“Oh, about three,” she replied. And then she burst into tears again.

“Maybe I can help you. Do you mind telling me why you have to read all these books by tonight?”

She sniffed and dabbed at her face with the hem of her petticoat. “Well, it’s like this. See, tonight is the Night of a Thousand Moons.” She looked at me expectantly. When she saw my blank expression, she continued. “One night in a thousand full moons is set aside by us witches and warlocks to wreak havoc upon the world. Tonight is that night and I have to find a spell to stop it or else…or else….” She broke down in sobs again.

“Okay…” I said, hesitantly, if a little dubious.

“You don’t believe me?” she shreaked hysterically. “Your whole future depends on tonight and you don’t believe me?”

“Okay, calm down.” I said in a soothing voice. “I’ll help you. Just tell me what to look for.’

“Shhh…she’s coming!” she said, eyes round with fear.

“Who? Who’s coming?” I asked, starting to panic. I could actually feel her, whoever she was. The hairs on my neck were standing on end.

“M-my Aunt Al-alvirah,” she stuttered. If she finds me here, she’ll definitely kill me or…or…worse….she’ll throw me into the World of Dry Oceans and Wet Air.”

Before I could make sense of this last piece of information, I heard a crack of thunder and the pile of books nearest to me began to smolder.

“Sssooo…” a voice, nastier than rat’s feet on dry paper thundered. “My little niece defiesss me, eh?”

I didn’t want to turn around. Couldn’t. The girl was cowering in the corner like a petrified rat. I didn’t want to turn around, but was compelled to.

There she stood, between a pile of books, a manic look in her eyes. Hair flying in the whirlwind that circled her. Bolts of lightening flashing around her head. Or were those just the evil sparks in her eyes? Her teeth were bared like a hungry wolf about to feast on its prey.

“You certainly should be punished for thissss, ssssilly girl,” she hissed, as the whirlwind around her swirled even faster. “Hmm…let’s see…I think the Hell of Burning Water would do just fine. Assss for you,” she said, turning to me, “You will also be punished for helping this….thisss…..wench.”

The whirlwind around her began to swirl in larger circles until it engulfed both the girl and me. Suddenly, the back wall of the library disappeared into nothingness. Books began to be sucked into the gaping hole. I grabbed the nearest bookshelf that seemed to be attached to the wall.

“Hold onto something!” I cried as I felt myself being lifted off the ground and being pulled inexonerably towards the vortex. I twisted around but could not see the girl.

Suddenly, the shelf I was clinging to, heaved – and then disappeared. I was flung feet first into the vortex, still trying to grab onto something solid.

Then I blacked out.

I woke up yelling. In my own room. In my own bed. I looked around at my room and smiled. “Just a dream,” I thought, lying down again. Phew! It had been such a vivid dream that I could still see the lightening cracking as I was sucked through the vortex.

Something wasn’t right though. I looked around my room again. Funny, I thought. I had just thrown away this blanket. And hadn’t I changed the wallpaper a few months ago?

Just then, the doorbell rang. I noticed slight changes in my living room as I walked through it to answer the door. I was sure that I had changed those curtains and didn’t I pull down that wall to make the living room larger?

My jaw dropped when I opened the door. The girl. In my dream. Was standing on my front porch. Holding a pile of newspapers. She smiled, handed me one, and rode away on her bicycle.

If I was shocked to see her, I was even more flabbergasted to see the headlines in the paper. “Kuwait Oil Rigs Bombed.” was the main headline. The sub-head was what caught my eye. “Thousands of Sea Animals Die As Water Ignites.”

Water ignites? I thought. Burning water? Of course! The oil rigs were at sea! I checked the date of the newspaper. 1996? Boy, things were really beginning to fall into place now. My house, for one. 1996 is three years ago. Well, from today, that is. No wonder things in my house were different. I’d recently renovated it. Well, recently as in 1999.

I glanced at the headlines and burst out laughing. Aunt Alvirah, the witch had mistaken Earth for the Hell of Burning Water and had sent us back, without even knowing it. “Well,” I thought with some remorse, “this is as close to hell as we’ll ever get in this lifetime.”

Taking a deep breath, I went back inside my house. Sure, I’d have to live the three years all over again but then, these three years were a gift and I was going to enjoy it every darn minute possible. Besides, I’d have three years to help the girl find the right spell. Thank you, Alvirah!