Saturday, November 29, 2008

Days

Days, these days, pass in a hurry. I remember how I reluctantly woke up early this Monday to reach college on time since I desperately needed to be where my books were. And before I could notice, it’s Friday and I am back at home. It tells me that I am more at home now, when I am in the hostel. For a major part of my first year, Mummy used to send me off to college every Monday with myriad Do’s & Don’t’s as well as with a very heavy heart, as though I was leaving for war. And truth be told, a part of that did seep into me and I, although completely aware that I was going to be back in a matter of days and in any case it’s just around forty odd kilometres away that I was going, would too feel sad about it. In retrospect, I think it was a most childish thing, and everyone ought to grow up so much so as to be willing to change shelters for education or profession. It’s remarkable how things are better now. Mummy gets up, wakes me up, I pack my big bag for hostel and my small bag for college, do the routine, have my breakfast and leave, that occasional forgetting some important file at home notwithstanding. Of course, this is only what happened even then in the initial days, but it has acquired a sense of mechanisation to it, as if all of us are programmed, like Robots are, to do what we do. For instance, I am always at that very point on the lane from where I have to turn right when Mummy comes to the balcony just in the nick of time to wave a final bah-bye to me, time after time after time; it’s incredible precision-programming in action.

*******

I am done with Semester Seven now, which means I have now known seven-eighths of what I needed to know to be called an engineer. On the face of it, I know nothing. All I know is how to cram before the exams, write the exams so that I get a decent enough score and just get away. Yes, that’s all I know. And yes - I also know how to destroy all evidence that I tried for it, in case I don’t actually get the decent score I aspired for!

*******

Had I not been deep sunk in a meaningless muddle of my own back then, I’d have loved to come up with farewell eulogies for both Jumbo and Dada. Call it fixation, but I fear that as my own heroes of Indian Cricket fade into the oblivion of the sidelines, my own love for following the game will peter out sooner than later. No Dhoni can be Dada, no Bhajji ever Jumbo; and even as we’re doing very well to rip apart the Aussies and the English one after another, I seem to miss the memories of those passionately fought draws that these men of lesser luck always seemed to end up with. Apart from that, I sense a somewhat intricate feeling of oneness with big-day chokers, being one myself. I know, I know that’s a weird justification to place their losses before these victories, but I guess there’s no harm in justifications being weird as long as they be truly-felt ones.

*******

I’d also have loved to write about the exams, and that’s almost a ritual for this blog – I see I have a specific Exam-post for each of the exams I have taken over the last couple of years, but then so much has been said about them already that it makes no point really. ‘All’s well that ends well’, is all I guess I can come up with.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Bell Curve


There's only so much you can smile in solitude; it doesn't quite qualify as celebration.

It was the ecstasy that naturally follows those long longed first-conversations which end with warm goodbyes and implicit assurances of getting back to each other. Heck! It wasn't just that. It was mad euphoria, there's no other word for it. The slightest attempts to downplay the surge will, I am afraid, distort the story.

An important exam had gone awry beyond consolation in the morning. And the floating remorse of it still managed to vanish into pleasantest surprise with the first traces of an elongated 'Hiee' hitting the eardrums. It had to be special. The lad had been wishing to hear it for months, but somehow every time he would try to find lame excuses for striking a chat, that's what they invariably turned out to be - excuses which would be really lame.

The remaining exams hardly demanded his attention. Rather, he could hardly give it to them. The days that ensued saw him narrate that eventful day to his friends over and over and over again, a fresh perspective each time; each subsequent narration brought forth a previously unhighlighted intricacy; each one of them bringing out a shinier glint in his eyes.

* * * * * * * * * *

Then there are some realisations you think you'd have been better without. The one that was soon brought home to him had surely been brought home to him only too soon. It hadn't sunk, the hysteria. It sank, the realisation of its sudden demise.

Perhaps all things that pervade fast subside superfast. This one did - like an acute illness as against a chronic one. Abruptly, unanticipatedly, cruelly, the news of that other guy was somehow soon broken to him - the news of that other more-important guy.

'Luck... lucky' he mumbled wistfully between explosive plosives.

Ah, well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Culmination


On Being Judgemental


Cross-culturally, being non-judgemental has come to occupy the high-ground of sophistication. Very often, we get to know of people being criticised for being too judgemental. So much so, that their criticism often has in its subtext allegations of clumsiness, insensitivity and the likes. At this stage of cultural evolution, hasn’t it become necessary to ask ourselves whether anything of any constructive value has ever been created without forming a set of judgements in the first place? Filmdom comes to the fore of my memory when I think about the attack on being judgemental. As though it were a ritual, the preachy-quotient of new films is discussed with alacrity by critics all and sundry. When all other aspects conspicuously fall perfectly in place, it is then that that film runs a great risk of being labelled as preachy or judgemental. Being opinionated is treated like a sin, unfortunately, in a profession which is in many ways only a portrayal of opinions. Now someone told me being judgemental hasn’t got anything about making judgements, it is about criticising people too quickly. The way I see it, I see people being disapproved of for being judgemental per se, without a heed being paid to the opinion they took and why and how they took it. The way things stand then, isn’t being anti-judgemental being judgemental too?


*******************************************************************************



An Idler's guilt


I guess I should unzip the veil to confess that I have lately been susceptible to evaluating myself all too much. Too much is fine by me, really; only the evaluation should reap pleasing results. Only, it never does. Frankly, when you are in this mood, you tend to find a meaning out of every inconsequential thing randomly taking place around you. In one such event, I noticed I don't take nicely to being the only one online in a chat-tool list, while all other of my friends are offline, even the exponentially greater number of those who are more adds than friends. Being the only one isn't nice, even when you didn't really want to talk to anyone in any case. It fills me with defeating feelings of being a useless layabout whiling away his time in the most unproductive of things while others must be exercising, studying, reading, watching films, having ice-creams, going on dates, playing cricket, writing codes. From a logical construct however, what difference should it make if one of those umpteen would have been online at the same time? Nothing. But that saves me this self-defeating thoughtless mental ordeal. Now that I considered the logical construct as I was writing, I also feel illogical now. Eeeeeh.


*******************************************************************************


Clutching at Straws


I have a weird manner of classifying my posts as happy posts and sad posts in my head. Once every few weeks, I come back to this blog and scroll a bit, trying to gauge how days have been. Since days haven’t been exactly smooth of late, I came back a few days back, with a specific purpose this time. I was trying to see the posts of around that time when things were particularly hunky-dory; everything was falling into place, almost as though by a divine intervention. I tried to take note of how I thought, wrote, lived and reflected in those days when everything was going so well that it sometimes occurred to me that I could make no mistake, even by mistake. I saw that I had quoted something by Muhammad Ali back then, thought for a moment about my present state of mind which is in starkest contrast to it, and cursed myself for the transition of decline. I made up my mind, did a bit of that self-motivating, psychological catharsis that all men of aspiration must have some time or the other done in their lives. I was banking heavily on it to bring about a difference.

It didn’t.

Now, I have one more chance before the real day. A chance to redeem old, forgotten reputation; but more importantly, a chance to regain old, forgotten confidence.


*******************************************************************************

"I never expect to lose. Even when I'm the underdog, I still prepare a victory speech." - H. Jackson Browne

Shamelessly or otherwise, I have, again.

Hallucinations

Sauntering through metro-stations
I have these strange hallucinations

That one discerning pair of eyes
With intentions though free of vice

Follows every movement of mine
From how I spit to how I dine

But since I also harbour inklings
That every damn appraisal brings

More bad than good to the fore
I fear culpability all the more

Although these fears I often hide
Miss Nonchalance ever by my side

With twilight they come out of hiding
And until dawn are with me, fighting

And end up victors more than often
No folded hands can make them soften

Mornings spent trying to start anew
Watching the birds, feeling the dew

Just when the fears I am done forgetting
Are re-sown their seeds - those eyes, riveting

Incomplete Fiction


The Try
(incomplete here, complete in the head)


Preface


To the part 1, I had got a comment which said girls were more of backstabbers and jealous than perhaps boys. I don't completely approve of that generalisation myself, and would in no way want that such an inference be drawn from this story I wrote. In fact, for the kind of B-grade storytelling it is, I wouldn't want that any inference of any kind be drawn from it. But now that that comment had made me think a couple of things, I'll ensure that this sequel belies any such notions - boys can be schemers, after all. Simultaneously, I also feel B-grade storytelling shouldn't be met with contempt, the likes of Chetan Bhagat mustn't be trashed the way they are. Why? There's reason. You need B-grade to really value the worth of A-grade. Hideous, yes, but judgements, even if aesthetic, invariably rely on contrast. With this intro, I have cleverly (or so I like to believe) ensured that not much is expected of this mumbo-jumbo written primarily with the aim of assuaging academic monotony.
[Part 1 + Part 2] follows :



Yesterday, Sagar made a startling revelation to all his buddies, including me.

'I love her, guys. I am the Next.'

'Whom?' we asked in chorus, as if rehearsing for some third-rate, forcibly-make-believe street play. Though I never used to get his unnecessary jargon I did get a hint of what his 'next' would be about.

'Aastha, you dumbos.' I heard from him and thought 'who's the dumbo?'

For a second there was the silence of confusion. I suppose all of us were ten percent happy and ninety percent amazed at his courage. Happy for his face was lighted with cheer, a face that had just barely managed to smile mildly for a second when he got a cent in his Numerical Analysis paper, and then made up for it by yawning for a minute. Amazement, was even more obvious. Aastha had dozens of aspirants dreaming of her, and half of them were listening to Sagar at this moment. Though the amazement was at his imagination that made him believe he could win the race. The other day a seminar on 'Heights of Imagination' was arranged by the cultural society people. We never knew he had attended it even as he told us he's going to his room to sleep. Now we were sure he did.

Probably he attended it sitting on the front bench. That is his trademark. Sagar isn't a stud, apart from his grades. But no one knows about his grades. Yes, I forgot to add he's unknown too. Half the class wouldn't recognise him on phone, because they'd not have ever heard his voice.

'Its DCE mate! Where every girl with two feet and a nose considers herself an Aishwarya Rai and all of us some Rajpal Yadav duplicate. And you're talking about the best goddamn material there is.', yelled Abhay. Pretension was never Abhay's forte. But he could have done without this one, I thought. So I went ahead to mend matters so that Sagar doesn't get depressed.

'Great Man! Who knows, you might not even talk to this funny Abhay once you're done. You know what I mean.' I added with a superficial smile and followed it with a wink of an eye that didn't come naturally with the mood either.

'What the hell! I thought you guys would be happy on hearing this. You guys are no friends. You are hopeless.'

None of us said a word, and we agreed to him partly. Apart from Vaibhav who chuckled, 'Better be hopeless than a hopefool!' and then laughed loudly and raised his palms before mine hoping I'd clap my hands to his. That was a tough situation for me. I had already resisted laughing out along with him, but now I had to refuse his clap too. I couldn't resist the temptation. On the spur of the moment, I clapped my hands against his, and then immediately looked back at Sagar and winked an eye at him indicating to him that it's Vaibhav who's the fool. Sagar looked foolishly confused.

After about an hour of conversation in which most of us were hell bent towards pessimism, Rajat finally agreed to help him out. Rajat had a better track record than all the others, so that made Sagar all the more bullish on his chances of success. Though I'd still call the bullishness, pure foolishness, but they were both very proud of their optimism.

Rajat has got this better reputation than all of us, all for nothing I believe. I have never believed his tales about his sky high feats. And none of those feats had been achieved in front of our eyes, we were just told about them. By none other than Rajat himself. All I held about him was that he is my friends' friend who knows nothing better than occupying one computer centre seat all the time and never taking his ass off it, however important the waiting guy's work on the computer might be. He was as happy about his fanlist on orkut reaching two hundred as Mika might have been at the Rakhi Sawant pappi. He is known to have more than a thousand friends there, and doesn't forget to mention at the slightest provocation that he has more people in his fanlist as you'd have in your friends' one. The addict that he is, I wouldn't be surprised if he answers his exam sheets starting with a 'u there?' and putting a :) following correct answers, a :( following presumably incorrect ones, brb before his 'may I go to toilet/drink water' breaks, and gtg at the end of the exam. That might as well be the case infact, coz hiz marx r a bl8ant p8h8ic. He is a humble guy though, lolzz.

Anyways, I went back to my room then, my eyes already strained by the excessive winking.

Sagar came to my room in the evening, and even though I was a million nautical miles deep in my ocean of dreams, his noisy bangs on the door jolted me awake. Unlike in the morning, he was very no-nonsense-goes this time around. He expected from me an estimation of his chances, to which I tried to comfortingly remark that, my forecast simulation project wasn't so advanced just as yet. But like I just said, Sagar wasn't here to hear jokes; bad ones like these - not at all.

Like a formula that clicks just when the viva-voce question is put up to you, the evil thought of fabricating a story to turn him off Aastha crossed my mind. The story seemed to me the quintessence of a necessary-evil, deserving of dethroning Friction. It was, if I may add shamelessly, a Eureka moment. Conscience tried its bit to reject the unworthy idea, but expedience had embedded it oh so rigidly. I told him to check his email the first thing tomorrow morning, while I'd meanwhile get around talking to some of my friends common with Aastha. I was, in fact, buying time for preparation. He left after a while, hopefool.

Later, I scratched my head for half an hour over why I was going to do what I was going to do, despite full confidence that I was going to do it anyway. A slight compunction reminded me of that famous Lalu Yadav one-liner targeted at the Left during the N-Deal debate: Tum agar mujhko na chaho to koi baat nahin, tum kisi aur ko chahoge to mushkil hogi. At the same time, I also felt a little bit Othello-ish. Okay, that last pseudo comparison is only to console myself.


I sat to write him an email. The longest of my life. I made sure I diluted and dilated it with a lot of fondly reflective undertones, and gave the crux a secondary treatment, to give it that guise of ingenuous credibility, to sustain his oblivion of the slightest vested-interests I may have.


___________________________________________________
To: sagartempo@truckdriver.com
Subject : hiii
_______________________________
Hi Sagar,

Here you go.

Last year, I worked for a couple of NGOs. Service was more of a by-product, adding stuff to polish the resume the prime motive. If that makes me sound like a hardened utilitarian, all I can say is No-I-am-not and be wishful that my word be taken for it. Anyway, there was a fabulously good-looking girl working with me in both of them who'd remind you a lot of that 'Swades' actress Gayatri Joshi. A month ago, she erupted out of Sagar, that much-loved South Indian restaurant, while I was chewing on paan outside it. Languishing in a rugged old pair of bermudas, it was almost as though I was caught off guard while she shone in one of those impeccable neo-Patiala-suits. I recognised it as an opportunity to latch on to, but these bermudas repeatedly made me want to slink away. After a fleeting dilemma, I realised I might just get too late. I stood up, put on a calm, nonchalant expression, ruffled up my hair - you know the way they give that SRK-effect, and shouted 'hi' looking at her. 'Hi', she smiled and I began blabbering, without losing a second about how she had slimmed since the NGO days. She nodded in welcome agreement for a while to whatever I had to say. Soon, monotony set in. I longed to come up with something cute and endearing, or at least cracking witty, but for the life of me I have never been able to exude useful charm, particularly when I am itching to. As her sister picked up Tinkle from the magazine-stand, she started telling me how nothing quite matches up to Calvin & Hobbes. I cursed myself for never giving it a try, despite desultorily going through the whole ruckus about it wherever I landed on the internet. A cursory glance over one of its petty pieces and I knew I could go on about it in the most engrossing manner; you know that too, don't you? What a small price to pay for having her listening to me intently. Goddamnit!

I saw Harry-Potters lined up against the pavement. Then, for five minutes I went on unabated about how I had still kept immune to the great Harry Potter mania. I tried my best to convince her of the gravity of the bad times we're in that such frivolous fantastique is adulated as masterly. I lacked conviction in what I was saying but I made sure none of that was palpable. Alright, it was a somewhat despicable attention-mongering exercise, for the kind of attention all things unusual must have. Anyway, I knew I was taking a risk, maybe even clutching desperately at tender straws, but I had to. Did I have to? No, she was already taken. Also, she probably loved Harry Potter more than she loved the guy she loved; I would soon discover through a long, animated carp.

But leave that for later. And anyway how does all that bother you! And yeah, soon came out from Sagar, who, Aastha! Yes, and goodness me, she was with her! Although, what you might want to know, is that she was with him too. Her guy. They were settling the bill while my NGO wali girl had come out to buy her kid sister some comics. You won't believe it, but then do you really think I have the kidneys to contrive such a complicated story?

Now that guy is handsome, Muscular with a bold, italic, capital M, and drives a Pajero. You know what kind of guys drive a Pajero at our age? The prodigal Bad-boys. Ok, you think I am prejudiced. I am only a well-wisher, dude. Go ahead! By the way, I was told his Dad's a political bigwig. Also, I don't think Aastha is as naïve as my NGO wali girl to love a novel-character; or a book, actor or soft-toy for that matter; more than that guy she likes.

Top secret it is that I have revealed to you bhai. But then, what are friends for! Keep it like secrets are kept, though. And wish me luck with the social-worker!

Bye!

___________________________________________________



With that last exclamation mark put, ecstasy overcame me. The only hindrance to this bliss was that I couldn't share it with anyone. Happiness, to sustain, needs to travel. Haven't you noticed that the most hilarious movie in the world seems boring when you don't have a friend by your side to keep passing off those comments on? Those comments that you believe are funnier than the film, after cracking each one of which you swell with self-importance. That I couldn't share this wicked genius with anyone was a slight spoiler, I tell you. Slight, I repeat. The bigger spoiler was waiting to happen.


*******************************************************************************





The Brothers
( Incomplete .. hazy in the head too)

Kishen started out on the morning paddy inspection very early today. Dawn hadn't broken when he bent over his head to face the chilled handpump water on his head, the gush of cold almost sweeping his head away, but he was enjoying it. Truth be told, he had been enjoying everything for some days now, even the most mundane routines. As the winds blew more and more turbulently, he found his clothing more and more a hindrance to the fun he could have had. He had been like this ever since he was a child. When he was still not an adult, he would accompany his father in the mornings, and occasionally took kid Mohan along. Unlike father and Mohan, who remained glued to their blankets as they walked, he was always tempted to throw away the blanket and run through the winds. With age, that enthusiasm had shrunk, and his jump and jabber filled morning rounds increasingly became reluctant compliances of obligations. For the last few days though, he was reliving old times. Mohan is going to come back after completing his college studies, we hear he is a qualified computer professional now. The last time he was here more than an year back, the occasion didn't call for reunion induced merry-making. Their father had passed away back then, and after a week of sharing the grief, Mohan had gone back without a goodbye, only informing them by a phone call after his arrival at his college, that he had to leave to take some exams. Kishen was furious at him then, and Mohan had started to remain more aloof from them subsequently. His phone calls decreased from daily to weekly to hardly. Letters became far out of question. For Kishen, the guilt had become overbearing. He would curse the day he screamed so madly at him on the phone. 'What could he have done here anyway?', he must have asked himself a thousand million times. In a dramatically pleasant turn of events, Mohan had resumed writing to him now. The last three weeks had witnessed Kishen receiving five of his letters. Why he still wouldn't call them up, was what kept Kishen thinking half his waking hours. 'He's still shy. He always was. Can't call, huh. But writes, just a matter of time before he'll crack his voice on the phone.', Kishen gladdened himself by telling his wife daily. But wait, forget the phonecall, he's coming! The latest letter, recited to him by his eight year old son Vaibhav, reads,

"Bhaiya, it has been long since we talked. I remember you every day, and remember that you couldn't wait for me to come back home from my school in the adjoining village, and never failed walking miles from the fields just to make me those bajra-rotis for lunch that I particularly loved from you, right at the time I was supposed to come back from school. What a chef you were, you'd any day put to shame the five stars here. How do you manage now? Must have got used. I have got a job here. And I'll be back home for two weeks. Meet you on Sunday.


*******************************************************************************


Born to Stand Out, Trying to Fit In
( incomplete would be an exaggeration)

The boy rose from his bench, the fan still running. He asked his Dad if he could go out for a movie with his friends. He knew Dad wasn't accustomed to thrusting his opinion on him, and wouldn't object. Expectedly, he was allowed. Still, there was a tinge of guilt as he stroked his hair back, and tucked his shirt in at just the right parts, leaving the rest untucked. It was a little discomforting to peep into his wallet too. He wondered if he should be asking for more money. He took five hundred the other day, which he ought to have saved so far, at least nowadays. The guilt would overbear him, he thought and left. At the gate he noticed the tank of his motorcycle empty. He started his mental calculations. Calculations didn't help. He walked to the main road, hoping to catch some bus. He didn't know about which bus to take, asked someone on the stand, misunderstood, boarded and on realising that, got down somewhere.

Somewhere was a dark place. Somewhere was stark dark at One in the noon. A small kid half his age was holding ten sugarcane sticks by his left hand, and fondling an ice filled container with his right, with a grinder making irritatingly scratchy sounds between them.

A man in his eighties knocked a coin on his table, and the small kid's hands started working even more quickly, as though that served to charge the battery of his robotic hands. In seconds he served him the juice, even as the old man looked on, understandably dull on reaction at his age.

The small kid insisted a friend of his to take charge for a moment, while he returned from one seemingly ultra-important assignment of his. Our boy-lost, who stood in the shade of this shop, was in the middle of a useless conversation when the call abruptly ended. An sms followed that informed him his balance had crashed. He was furious, even though at no one in particular. The small kid returned chewing guthka, and out of courtesy had brought one for his friend who sat at the shop. He didn't take it. He nudged him again, to no avail. Visibly, he too was happy that his gift wasn't accepted. He immediately emptied the other pouch also into his mouth. His friend wanted a glass of juice for having been there, to which the kid straightaway refused. His friend ran out snatching two sugarcane sticks from the pile. Our boy,

(I leave it, it'll get way too wayward)