Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The joker's tears

Another day at office was threatening to turn into a really hard one when Mr Singh materialized in front of me, a sheaf of papers in his hands and that gentle smile plastered on his face as always. He is a simple, easy going man, rare virtues which most of us lack. I have known him for the last seven years and have hardly found him complaining about anything or anyone. And his collection of jokes is simply amazing, every one of them will make you laugh riotously, even though sometimes there are repetitions. So when I saw him this morning, I started getting ready for a refreshing break, albeit for a few minutes.

He sat down in front me, made some small talk. I ordered tea and waited eagerly for the joke of the day. He seemed withdrawn, may be he is not in the mood today—I thought. Then he started abruptly-

“You know what my son told me yesterday?”—he asked, the smile in his face seemed distant.

I was all ears. He said—“Let me tell you from the beginning. Actually my son’s B. Tech final year result is out. He has done pretty well. He scored 46 out of 50 in control systems. They tell me it is the toughest subject. Is it so?”

I smiled. “Singhda, for me all subjects were equally tough. But yes, as far as my memory goes, electrical guys were afraid of this subject.”

“Right. I was pleased, you see. Only son and all that. So I asked him-what do you want? You know what he said?”


Mr. Singh covered his face with both hands and his body started shaking. I was stunned. The man was laughing like crazy, but where was the joke?

Then he lifted his face and I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. He was sobbing and in a choked voice gave the answer to his earlier question—“My son said--please cure my mother.”

He told me about his bedridden wife and the diabetes, which had eaten up her eyes and livers, about the sleepless nights when he and his son stood helplessly while his wife writhed in unbearable pain and the agony reflected in the weathered face.

He calmed down after a few minutes, apologized needlessly, and started discussing about the papers he brought with him. I glanced at his face, and surprisingly, the smile was back. He took another cup of tea, lit a cigarette, and then started, this time with a mischievous expression in his face—

“Did I tell you this joke about the RPF man trying to catch a smoker in a running train?”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Marriage, a catalyst of change

So, you want to change the world, eh? What bothers you my friends? Does the sight of poor, hungry people, dirty rags barely concealing their orifices, bite your conscience before you take a bite of your Chicken Lollypops? Or does the news of a policeman taking bribe boils your blood? Oho, you hate corruption and have been trying your best to wash it down the drain by lighting candles, the fiery words on your Tommy Hilfiger T shirts burning bright in the candlelight. Hunger strikes, blogs, speeches, tweets and genuine anger in some cases---all these require a certain fire in your belly, arising out of hunger for either food or fame, but nevertheless pressing enough to catapult one to an unbelievable degree of hyper activity as demonstrated by our countrymen over the last year or so.                

I am however lucky enough to be fattened by a reasonably paid job which takes care of my ever expanding girth. So however much I try, I cannot bring myself to realize the curse of hunger. And I am too lazy to roam around with candles in my hands, and burning ones at that. Moreover, an inborn cynical outlook, nurtured by an unusual interest in history, has rendered me incapable of hating either the government or the reformers. But insignificant though it may sound, I too have an idea, a dream.

Imagine an Indian society wherein matrimonial ads stop looking for brides/bridegrooms belonging only to the same religion/caste. For a change, let’s imagine that the Hindus don’t think twice before marrying a Muslim, the Muslims start tapping the Christian reserves, the Christians start dancing bhangra with their Sikh relatives and so on. Imagine a Brahmin not bothering to check the caste before solemnizing a marriage, a Gujarati not frothing in his mouth after hearing his son’s humble wish to marry a Tamil or a Tamil not using coconut cooking oil because his Bihari in laws are coming for dinner. Such cases do happen, but are exceptions rather than the norm. What if we Indians finally realize that marriage is between two individuals and everything else is a mere afterthought?

Now you may ask-What will be the great change if inter caste/religious marriage becomes as popular as Kolaveri Di? Can’t you see fellas, our prejudices will melt away between sweet nothings and tentative kisses on the first night itself. Will someone, however sinister he is, be able to incite hatred in a father’s mind against his children’s mother? When one’s grandson speaks for the first time, will the language matter? Will one be able to bash up North Indian cab drivers if his sister is happily married to a Bihari? Nah, I don’t think so.

This might seem like a weird idea, but it will close the gaps faster than reservations and laws, manifestos and TV debates. It will be much easier to unlock the doors we have created around each of us if we know where the lock is. There is no touch like the human touch.

Easier said than done—yes, agreed. But you asked me to dream and I have obliged. Now that the dream is over, the sweet taste of it lingers in my mouth and I want to taste it for real.

Our time starts now..

Friday, April 6, 2012

Time, an insomniac and his future wife

X is a funny guy. His favorite pastime is to dive into the molasses of his memory and analyze his decisions, to find fault in each of them and then to decide contentedly that he had been utterly wrong every time and would decide upon a completely different course of action if the situation presents itself again. Being a fickle minded chap and already in his mid thirties he has still got a lot of decisions to ponder upon. Till now, through undaunted concentration spreading over a number of sleepless nights, he has, to his utter delight, successfully leveled most of his past decisions stupid. Some were easy to dismiss, like visits to a certain ice cream parlor, not once, but innumerable times, when ice cream was the last thing on his mind, which led to twenty four hour phone calls, with occasional but inevitable breaks and finally tears and more solitude. X could easily look back and say that there was something wrong in that ice cream shop and it was a mistake to go there. Some decisions, however, couldn’t be dismissed so easily, there were inherent contradictions. Like becoming an atheist first and then turning into a believer some years later after realizing the fact that religious belief and identity in our society are like roads and potholes, you simply cannot separate one from the other.

No one knows why X is so fond of losing his sleep over such inconsequential whims. One would think that he is waiting for a time machine which will take him back and give him another go at everything, even condemning his fresh set of decisions with relish in the friendly silence of his rented apartment.

Now X has taken another decision, a momentous one at that. He is going to marry, not very shortly though. The world may end this year and he has a lot of thinking to do. If the world survives, then next year would be ideal, preferably a cold November day, with a little rain of course.

He doesn’t know it yet, but his life partner will be a charming lady Y. She is quite unlike X, sleeps like a cog every night, doesn’t think about the past, or for that matter the future. She doesn’t allow old memories to spread their web inside her head. She takes few decisions and sticks by them. One of these will be her ‘Yes’ to X. And no, the world won’t end this December. I can already feel the suspense in the air, will X regret this decision too after a few years? Or will X start sleeping again? Will Y start doubting her decisions for the first time after spending a few days with X? I know the answers of course, but won’t tell, no, not even a single word.

How do I know? Because I am the keeper of the ineluctable destinies of all of you, the connector of dreams and memories, hope and knowledge. I am time. Someone like X, who was tormented by his memories every now and then, wrote about me in despair-
Time marches, memory stays
Torturing silently the rest of our days..

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A proud sinner

Yesterday morning, I was discussing over phone the prospect of an afterlife with a genius friend of mine. I wondered aloud what I would be born as in my next life when he laughed raucously and suggested the fascinating possibility of being reborn as a lamb. He also predicted as a good measure that I would be slaughtered at a young age on the joyous occasion of a fresher’s feast in an Engineering College. He even tried to imitate the guttural cry of a lamb being slaughtered, though it sounded suspiciously like a groan of pleasure to my ears. You see, this friend of mine always believed in multitasking.

But this discussion made me think about what I have done in my life till now. Hinduism believes in ‘Karmafal’, which basically means that I will have to suffer in my next life if I am not too careful of what I do in the current one. By that philosophy, I am a goner. I have committed almost all cardinal sins advertised by my faith. And being the kind of man I am, there is every possibility that I may complete the full quota of sins before meeting my maker. Also, as all religions have a somewhat similar notion of sin, changing my faith is not going to help me either. Terrifying thought, guys! There is simply no way out!

So, where did I go wrong? I lied, yes, and it saved my skin a number of times. Should I have told my father that I had spent my pocket money buying the latest issue of Debonair? Nah..that is a scarier proposition than being born as an animal marked for slaughter. I am jealous of my intellectual friends and why shouldn’t I? How easily they can post two different words in facebook, having individual meaning but meaningless when put together, and then get numerous likes on their status! I smoke, drink and lust after comely females irrespective of their caste, creed and ahem..marital status, without any degree of success though. Is trying to have a good life a crime now? The list is endless. To sum it up, I think live in relationship is pure fun although I couldn’t persuade anyone to indulge in one with me. Perhaps I smelt badly. So, I had to clean myself up and get married.

I want to believe in God. I think he is understanding enough to get my point. If not, then good luck to him and his cohorts. Let me live my life to the fullest.

Even if I am born as a lamb in my next life, as my dear friend had so joyously predicted, I am sure to get a better life after being turned into delicious lamb chops. After all, a lamb cannot sin. So, the only way for me will be up and up only. It is far better than living like an ass whole life listening to other people’s diktats.

So sharpen your knife butchers. Here I come!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rumble in Heaven

God was listening to Pink Floyd. He was fed up of hip hop and wanted to relive those golden days when he was..er.. exactly the same! Dave Gilmour was singing—“What do you want from me?” and God could identify with this sentiment wholeheartedly. He made a mental note of asking the record keeper when this Gilmour fellow would die so that he could have an exclusive show for himself in heaven. His reverie was interrupted by a soft knock at the door.

He sighed. Only one person was allowed to visit him at this hour of the day and a call from him usually brought bad news.

“Come in, Monty”, he called out irritably. The man entered and one look at his face confirmed God’s fears. 

“What is it Monty? Spell it out”, he said slowly, already anticipating a long night ahead.

“Sir, The Joint Union wants an audience with you”

“The Joint Union?”--asked God incredulously. The Joint Union means the combined associations of the residents of heaven and hell. Only dead humans are allowed membership. Angels, demons, fairies etc. are not allowed. Normally hell and heaven unions are forever after each other’s asses. Only extraordinary circumstances bring them together. For example, a few years back they came together and demanded to see a Sunny Leone starrer.

What the hell happened now which warranted such a communion, God wondered.

“What is the matter Monty?”, he asked.

Monty hesitated. He knew God was not going to like this. But he had no option. Too much was at stake.

“They are upset over your decision to let the master blaster score his 100th century. They think they had similar chances of excellence in their lives, but you denied them the opportunity”

“Do they now?”, asked God. A wave of indignation swept over him. How dare these morons question his decision?

“Who is going to represent The Joint Union?”, he asked testily.

“Sir, as the matter is related to the game of cricket, I have chosen Sir Don Bradman from the heaven side. It was not easy to choose hell’s representatives as all known and suspected match fixers apart from Cronje are still alive. Cronje, as you know, has confessed and hence he is in heaven now. Finally, I had to choose both Hitler and Stalin from hell union. Had to choose both, otherwise another world, I mean, hell war would have started.”—explained Monty patiently.

“Hmmm. Bring them in. Let’s not waste any time”

Monty departed and after a few minutes the Joint Union representatives sauntered in. God looked at them with weary eyes and conjured up three arm chairs for them to sit on. Bradman sat in front him, Hitler to his right and Stalin to his left.

“Well gentlemen, to what do I owe this pleasure?”, God asked gently.

None of them spoke for a while. Then Bradman started-

“Mate, I always had the highest regard for you. All my life, I attended mass on Sundays and never spoke a word against you. I expected a fair deal from you. But you always broke my heart. You didn’t allow me to score those four runs. Then a short brown chap named Sunny broke my record. As if that was not enough, a curly haired kid from India scored a few centuries and people started to compare him with me! Me, can you imagine?”

God wanted to say something, but Sir Don interrupted-“No, please let me finish. This Indian chap then plays on for ages. He is old enough to be a commentator, but still you let him continue. Now, for the last year he had been shamelessly pursuing one century and people had finally started to realize who the greater man was. But alas, you have also allowed him that elusive century today. And look at that half bred pommy Nasser Hussain. He has already declared gleefully that I was great, but that joker from India is the greatest!”

There was pin drop silence in the room. God looked towards Stalin.

Stalin growled—“Look Comrade”. God winced, but let him continue. “I do not understand cricket. But I think this bloke has a point. I mean, I was about to purge my fatherland of all rubbish—anti revolutionaries, Jews, poles, Taziks etc. I could’ve completed my mission but you didn’t allow me to live.”

Hitler started babbling—“Same here. I had planned and built such marvelous institutions like auswitchz to get rid of vermin. But I couldn’t even finish 25% of my job. You forced me to commit suicide. And on top of it, the bloody Russians keep on dropping vodka every other day on my skull at Moscow. I mean, you could have given me a few more years, like you have given my Aryan brother.”

Sir Don sadly shook his head—“Do you see what you have done. Because of you, I have to share the same platform with these monsters”

Both Stalin and Hitler glared at Sir Don and asked together—“Sure you are not a Jew, eh?”

God realized it was time to interfere. He said gently—“Gentlemen, it all depends on constituencies. You know very well that I run a democratic system here. I listen to the majority. Stalin, let me start with you. You never had a chance actually. You and your lot didn’t believe in me. You never prayed. But the people you were trying to kill prayed to me day and night. So, you understand, it was only a matter of time.”

“Adolf, half of your countrymen and the rest of the world prayed for your death. So, you get the point”

“Now Sir Don, I think only a dozen or so guys prayed for you to score those four runs you talked about. Others didn’t give a damn. They loved you anyway. On the other hand, the whole Indian sub continent along with the pommies wanted Sunny Gavaskar to break your record. Again, your countrymen were not bothered about it, hence they didn’t pray for you. The same thing happened in case of Sachin Tendulkar. This time, all other cricketing nations including your own joined in the prayer. Because they wanted this guy to continue so that India keeps on losing. And the billions of Indians wanted him to score that century. So, you see, I had no other option. I had to give in.”

“Moreover”, God continued, “I have a soft spot for this guy.He utters the word ‘Aila’ so cutely. I simply love that ad where he says ‘Aila’ and eats a biscuit”

The Joint Union members were about to protest when a sexy lady in lingerie entered the room with a cup. One look at her and the union members were thankful to God for offering them each a chair to sit on. It would have hugely embarrassing to remain in a standing position.

Only when the lady placed the cup in front of God that the union members could see what was written on it. Suddenly, everything became crystal clear to them. Then they looked at God who was smiling like a kid who had just opened his Christmas presents. He took a sip from the cup and declared in a joyous voice—“Boost is the secret of my energy!”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dear Mr. Rahul Dravid

The heat was sweltering. Starting from March, the weather in this part of the world is inhospitable, to say the least. But that was least of your problems that day almost a decade ago. You and your partner were alone, gladiators facing a team of hungry beasts who had tasted blood, knowing fully well that if you perished the final frontier would be breached. The opposition was anticipating a meek surrender. Beer cans were ready to be opened. Nobody believed you could turn it around, not them, not us.

But you were not just another brick in the wall. You were the wall itself. You and your partner blooded the beasts and won us the battle. That match in Eden Gardens is now part of cricket folklore. And we, dear friend, felt proud to have denied the great general Waugh his ultimate dream-‘The Final Frontier’. After all, what is there in sports other than pride?

But more pride was in store. In 2002, at Headingley, Nasser Hussain probably thought that a green top and clouds would be enough to terrify you lads. You proved him as well as a number of pundits wrong, scored a century in adverse conditions and gifted us another win. By now, I couldn’t imagine an Indian team without you.

Then came that day at Adelaide. I can still see Sourav loitering by the boundary line, waiting anxiously for a win. And most fittingly, it was you who wielded the axe to get us the final runs. A victory against the toughest gang at their own backyard! You scored 233 and 72. No doubt it appeared to Justin Langer that you were meditating, not batting!

I know you have done a lot of other things too. You took outstanding catches, donned the gloves, even captained the team. You played some fine innings in one day cricket. On a bright sunny day, at Taunton, you and Sourav belted Muralitharan for so many sixes that we lost count.

People say you played for the team when others chased records. I consider it somewhat insulting to your great brothers in arms. You, along with your fav teammates, gave us many moments to cherish, helped garner an undying love for test cricket within a generation of Indians.

But I was ardently hoping that you retire and not because you had a bad series down under. I didn’t want to see you getting out anymore to in swingers bowled by greenhorns. I didn’t want to hear half-wit former players calling for your head before every team selection meeting. Simply, I didn’t want  to find my hero getting slain by dwarfs. Moreover, as Van Halen had sung—“There is a time and place for everything. You can push with all your might, but nothing’s gonna come, nothing’s gonna change!”

No, I was not worried about new players not getting the chance to play because of you. They don’t want to play tests anyway. I think ICC may have to introduce cheerleaders in tests to get their mojo going.

So, when you announced your retirement today, I felt happy. Like you, the country too bid you farewell with sadness and pride.

Good bye mate and thank you. Have a great life ahead...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An evening of elections, channels and chicken

Went to colleague’s place this evening to attend his kid’s birthday. After the candles and the cake, I started flicking channels while my colleague’s wife busied herself in laying out the dishes. I stopped at ‘Aaj Tak’ where one of the many pundits was analyzing the UP elections. He was speaking about the ‘Rahul Gandhi Effect’ or the lack of it. I could barely listen to him for a minute when my host barked out-

“What the hell are you watching, Mitra? If you want real news then you got to stop watching this bullshit. These guys can only talk gibberish. Let me show you where to find quality stuff!”

He almost snatched the remote from me and whizzed past a horde of channels before settling for a well known English news channel.

“Now watch this. Although it is not as good as CNN, at least some sort of a standard is maintained here. This is the best we can hope for. CNN, after all, will hardly analyze UP elections”—He guffawed.

I started watching dutifully and immediately noticed that there was a similarity between what was being aired here and in Aaj Tak. It was the same analyst and he was speaking on the same topic.

There were two major differences. The language was English and my dear colleague was watching the discussion intently, as if his life depended on it.

One piece of information, my friend understands Hindi very well.

It was, otherwise, a very enjoyable evening. My only regret is that I forgot to ask the hostess about the recipe of that wonderful chicken dish she had prepared.