Friday, December 14, 2012

A memorable walk

Each step on the cobble stone street, seemed to pull out a whiff of the past.

Known voices, forgotten faces, giggles that were gone and mild scents that lingered but refused to be recognised …not by a fraction …not for any olfaction.

Every step I took was as though I was walking on a giant piano, whose keys tugged the silky strings deep below on which little memory gnomes sat . With each tug they leaped off releasing the memory bubble they sat on. Each bubble had a story …. Some burst ,some unfolded and yet some still mum.

These cobblestones and old city must have seen so much in the past that it was hard to believe they haven't stopped making memory bubbles, they were still interested in new and fresh stories and people . Storage capacity and Archieving  dint seem to be an issue to them.

Hauptstra├če ( Main Street) , set in foot hills of Heidelberg in Southern Germany is quite a bustling place. Many a time I would rush through the pedestrians , passing by street performers, missing pedicured and pampered pet doggies , ignoring hawkers selling exotic fruits, aged yet sprinkling fountains,glancing at latest shopping lines and dodging large tourist groups mostly Japanese. And there have been times , less hurried when I took to a relaxed walk with no agenda, just enjoying the unfolding sights and scenes. With the ancient and modern coming together on this picturesque lane , it wouldn’t be surprising if anyone got sucked into a beckoning sight , store or Inn.

Having spent some good times here with my friends and also having made a some friends right here many years ago , this road was special.Was recollecting all of this and wishing I could be accompanied by my wife this time, in my lonely walk done the Hauptstra├če this time.

After the routine uphill clamber to the Castle overlooking the Neckar, was about to get square with my lonely feeling and cheer up. The Neckar behaved and was silent which is probably why I could hear more than the waves and ripples, this was like the song of the river, i could hear faint yet distant, vague but soothing, I started to move faster in its direction.

It was not far away, felt like I was in the right direction. A few gasps and steps later i was there, I had taken the bait.

Swaying gently with some deliberation, with a sweater over his shoulders , standing in on the side of the bustling street , head slightly titled to the left and left chin grasping the instrument .He was creating magic , magic of melody.

When the bow in his right hand , which oscillated over the strings of the wooded violin he held in his left, the sweetest of notes flew off the strings ... the natural harmonics of the violin and soulful rendering by the violinist had a crowd almost enchanted and immersed in a tracelike state. For once everyone had forgotten their purpose, they were in a different world altogether.

The warmth of the music was slowing melting the cold insides of a lonely me. A certain sense of well being and happiness sprouted with each melodious note.

An old violin casket lay , mouth wide open like a starfish stretched out on beach, multi national coins and notes seemed to line the inner part but not many. Not enough.

Heard of the saying ‘Best things in the world truly come for free !’.

This was not the first time, I had seen a street performer . What fascinated me usually was looking at how people react just as the performance gets over and its time to drop a few coins. They usually remember that they are late or busy and rush away. What would happen here? Would people just start to leave before the performance is over? Glance away from the performer, Pick up their cellphones or just look busy , non impressed and walk away?

I took a seat by the garden beach just a few meters from the musical treat, reached out for that unfinished Novel and started to read the final chapter, with an ear to the music. Thought I could sit back and enjoy reading the book much better in this ambiance .

Contrary to what I thought the brains highways don’t actually let thoughts move like a well mannered traffic in Germany, in lane , in queue… It was more like traffic in the bursting roads of Bangalore. Where Buses claimed the centre, Cars the sides and Auto rickshaws , motorcycles anywhere in between these. Where Cycles, Motor cycles and Pedestrians manoeuvred themselves on the footpath.

Its not clear if it my brain knew where it was , was it at peace or at war

As now the book seemed so interesting that It wasn’t ready to share any mind space with the music. A conflict of interest.

A truckload of questions made me close the book, couldn’t read any more.

Who is the musician, where is he from?

Is he a student? Where does he live?

After playing here, will he go take the money and go for some drinks or go home?

Does he play here every day?

That’s it, I will follow this guy and find out more!

My mind decided without even asking me if I was free or had any other plans.

The music was still playing, but now I was so impatient I wanted him to stop playing and do what he would so next.

So here I was , stuck due to my own madness.

I could no longer appreciate the place , the book or the people. All I wanted was to kill my curiosity.

When will he stop?

( to be continued)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Little Hearts ..

Chalo, I’ll open it!”

Ashwin looked up , he was exhausted trying to force open this new brand of biscuits.
Unlike the regular Bourbon or Parle-G biscuits this was packed in a air-filled plastic packet. Red , shiny and pumped up the plastic pillow was not ready to give up its contents easily.

“Ok catch!” he flung it to Manish who almost dropped it, only to grab it by the ear before it toppled from the balcony.

“That kari karadi*!” Manish cursed the P.T. Master, as he tried to rip the plastic apart with his fingers.

His favorite little finger nail was no longer there , the two inches that made such a huge difference in his life. ‘Chotu’ as he called fondly called it , was gone.

Just as knifes were prohibited on aircrafts , Chotu didn’t get past the spot hygiene check , led by P.T. Master Edwin alias kari karadi . What saved Manish was urgent nibbling manicure he had to conduct cut Chotu into shreds.

Chotu had been like a human Swiss army knife , be it digging for nuggets in his nose during a boring history class or morsels of food stuck between the tooth in the after lunch science class. Chotu had always handy, he would be missed.

“Fussssssh”, the packet popped open. Thats to the marked perforation on the edges, which gave in easily.

“Ashwin, Its open da…. !!”

“Areyee……! But it’s not full ! ”, Manish could not believe his fingers as they groped inside the red packet .

“Manish, see inside na properly” . Ashwin was beginning to get impatient

“Really its full air , only few biscuits “

They looked at each other , a rainbow of emotions , surprise, despair ,hope ,anger and accomplishment all at once. The rainbow lasted for about 10 long seconds.

“It’s ok da, come let’s try one” said Manish .

“ Macha, its six rupees da, we could have had three full packets of yummies !”

“Ashwin this is special man, like chotu , three small fingers nails can never add up to him.”

They grinned as they downed the ‘Little hearts’ .

Little hearts was a rage , when this new savory pastry was launched in 1993. One of the pioneers to pack foods in air-filled pouches , preserving the freshness. It won many little hearts due to a fantastic taste, but I know two kids who were really cross at first. One was me and one was Manish.


*Kari Karadi – Black bear


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Smile Away

We still had three full blocks to cover and it was already Tuesday.

“We’ll do it for the whole of Passbal “ I had said, seeing the eagerness of my team and already getting the feeling that we might just me able to pull this one off too. They had quickly huddled into an un-booked meeting rooms , after Jacob shared the brilliant idea with me I had to share it with my team.

Hey Kris, we are thinking about gifting the housekeeping staff on the occasion of Christmas and New Year with a gift. We are doing this for our building; can you help in collecting money for this from your team and help us?”

“Sure Jacob! “ I had readily agreed, later when it struck me that he had planned this initiative for the house keeping staff of only one building of the four buildings that housed the workforce of Passbal. It occured to me that remaining housekeeping staff might feel left out if we dint gift them too.

That’s when i took it up “We’ll do it for the whole of Passbal “.

The next few days flew in sending mails across teams in Passbal , finding volunteers and then going for a floor to floor campaign. The housekeeping and pantry staff was the silent force that helped us keep the cleanliness, washing coffee mugs, maintaining the restrooms etc, giving them a gift; a token a love to start the new years with a smile sounded brilliant when I heard it.We dived head first to make this dream come true.

“A pant piece and shirt piece for male housekeeping staff and Saree for female housekeeping staff” rang the message. The mails and the campaigns did generate a good response, there were even teams that stood up and applauded as we went about the campaign.

The IT workforce is really a mixed bag, it was a real enriching experience to notice how differently people reacted and responded to the same message. The expressions on the faces, the body language of the colleagues …

As soon tapped them or caught their attention and said “ Excuse me , Sorry to disturb you , could you please give us two minutes for your time for a short announcement we need to make, Thank you ”

The Magic would start, first the face which was totally into grim looking straight into a computer screen would suddenly become blank, and then the element of curiosity would dawn on them.

“Who the hell is this? What do they want? What announcement?” We could see all these questions run amuck in their minds .Then the rise of their inquisitive eyebrows and slightly open mouth would signal that they were ready for us to proceed.

Some would stand up, some would just bend backwards from their seats, some would already be contemplating how to discuss this with their colleagues as soon as we are done, some thinking they might just be able to find the topic of the coffee break discussion.

Once we were done with the announcements, we requested someone in the audience to help collect the money from that small group and hand it over to us.

Delivering the message was easy and I loved doing it as each time I did it, I grew more and more passionate about the cause. The response was also triggering us to go beyond our capacity. We had close to 33 floors to cover, each floor would require close to 7-10 announcements, a need for close to 250 to 300 such announcements. Don’t ask how we managed that.

Then came the “the” challenge, I had imagined that the campaigning, rounding up of volunteers, keeping track of the inflow of money and making the process transparent would be the challenge. Or achieving the target of 50,000 Rs required to gift the 170 housekeeping staff would be tough, but the challenge we faced was bigger and more lethal.

It was handling the contributors and their suggestions.

“Why don’t we give branded clocks?”

“How about giving them gift coupons?”


“You can buy clothes from Tiupur “;

“I know this person in so and so garment company; we should take it from there”

“Why don’t we include security personnel as well?”

“Hey Steel utensils would be more useful for them, isn’t it”;

The list went on, we the three to four initiators of this campaign knew that someone somewhere is bound to be hurt that his/her idea has not been implemented. Every suggestion came with a good intention, a person or group wanting to make a difference, or use this platform for the best possible use. We realized that it was almost impossible to implement everyone’s suggestion or to make everyone happy. The irony was we set out to make everyone smile with this initiative.

We had set aside five days for the collecting the money and campaigning. It was morning of Day 4 and we had only achieved 27,000 Rs and almost half of money yet to come in. We just had a day left.

“Ho Jayega Na, Aaj already Thursday Hai?” ringed Divya’s voice.

“Hmm, Hahn Hahn, Ho Jayega Friday Tak time Hai Na !” I reassured her not letting her notice that, the ‘use in case of emergency glass’ was broken and switch to activate turbo mode of my system was pressed. Time to boost up had come.

That’s when we started out to campaign more aggressively. Most of the volunteers were a moving crowd; some would turn up on Day 1 and go missing the rest of the days. But the good thing was someone new would turn up on Day 2. We did manage to complete the campaign in the remaining floors on time. It was a very heartwarming feeling to have wished so many strangers a very Happy New Year and having to spread this feel good campaign.

Day 4 Afternoon,

Like a Miracle, two volunteers turned up with 13,000 Rs collected from their floor, Then came another 7,000 Rs , then a 4,500 Rs, then 10,000 Rs… and it was barely two hours from the time Divya had said we just have 27,000 Rs !. We started dancing around when we saw the figure in the collection excel cross 50,000 Rs!!

The whole volunteer team was happy that now the dream would be a certain reality.

By end of Day 4 we had made 80,000 Rs.

We all had a good night’s sleep as whatever collections due to come to next day was only an excess.

Then came new suggestions, my email inbox was just flooded. The money contributions were racing with the number of suggestions…both were way beyond our expectation.

“We can use the extra money for donating to education of poor kids!”

“We can also give cash along with the clothes!”

“We must save the rest of the pooled money to gift them next year as well!”

“We can donate the money for electrification of rural parts of our state!”

“Now we can also give sweets along with the clothes!”

We could hardly hold our breath as we crossed Rs.1 Lakh during morning half of Day 5. We had achieved double the money we wanted to collection. We were just delighted. The old ideas kept rolling in to with slight re-packaging...

“Why don’t we give branded watches?”

“How about giving them gift coupons?”

”Imported Blankets?”

Plato seemed to have figured this out long back when he quoted:

“Excess generally causes reaction, and produces a change in the opposite direction, whether it be in the seasons, or in individuals, or in governments.”

The volunteer team quickly huddled up, unable to take in all this sudden inflow, of money, of suggestions, of emails, of calls from teams who had pooled in money, we were short of time and people to retrieve the collected money. We had to also diligently update our collection excel and consolidate it. Counting hard cash and handling that was also something none of us were used to.

Day 5 Evening.

We couldn’t control our excitement as we were about to reach 2 Lakh Rs!! We eagerly took photos of the colleague who handed over the 100 Rs that would make the collections tip over to 2 Lakh. The response from the employees of Passbal was truly overwhelming .We, the core volunteers were in a state of mind which we had never experienced before, a heady cocktail of happiness, blankness and awe, our bonding was getting stronger each second.

We had to quickly decide on the vendor as on Day 6 we had to go and purchase the clothes. We got many contacts, many ideas from the volunteers and contributors. We decided to first execute our initial plan to gifting the clothes to the housekeeping staff and later think what to do with the rest of the money.

Now figuring out if it was good quality was the latest challenge, we desperately tried to find reliable contacts. Each had their own suggestions where to buy from and what to look out for. How would we figure out the quality? Now we could afford good quality clothes but wanted to make sure we also don’t get duped. The words Fabric, Quality, Colour, Texture and Brand were doing a ringa-ringa-roses around our heads now.

That’s when my mom called me
 “Listen, Can you meet this girl whose alliance we had received last week, she is in Bangalore for a short while?”

“Mom, I might be busy in the weekend have to go to Chikpet or somewhere to buy clothes , I told you before… ”

“Your uncle and cousins, liked her profile, you liked her photos as well …”

“Ya ya, ..What does she do? I forgot…”

“She has done her degree in textile engineering….from,,,”

I dint understand a word after textile engineering.


Friday, December 31, 2010

Shark tales

The local fisherman arrived at the back door with a seemingly heavy bucket, Ammu was very inquisitive and wanted to have a good view of inside of the contents. She had just given birth to three kittens and was out for her morning catch.

Rameshan dug his salty , fish scale studded hand into bucket , back in a flash dripping wet with finger sized white prawns that he quickly flung over to Ammu. In a quick dash Ammu was grabbed them and was on her way to the old house with prawns held in her mouth for a family breakfast.

My aunt thanked Rameshan and placed some orders for the next day. I began to wonder how he could catered to this customized order , how he could catch some king fish and some tiger prawns , does he know where find them in the sea ? Do fish of a scale school together too? This kind of home delivery right from the sea and at very nominal prices was something we never get back in the city.

That’s when it struck me.
We reached the tree lined bank of the coconut tree lined backwaters, just a stones' throw away from my grandparents place. My eyes were sinking in the eternal greenery , the dropping coconut trees, the gentle flow of the river .There was a bit of caution for the grazing white cow which had been tied with a long rope to the wooden stump.

“Will we catch a Shark?” asked Pachu with eyes filled with innocence and determination.
“May be , But how will be take it back?” I asked him.

Pachu ,Appu and Ammu my two little nephews and one little niece were silenced by this question, they got into deep thought wondering how they would get the shark out of the water and get it back home.

I remembered a Tom and Jerry cartoon , where Tom cat went fishing and he used Jerry mouse as the bait. Our fishing equipment was simple. Fishing strings or Tangis about five meters in length, with one end tied to a short stick that we picked up on the way, the other end with a small U shaped metal hook whose pointed end had a smaller wedge to prevent any fish who took the bait from swimming free. We had tied small stone just inches away from the hook, in order to add some weight for us to throw the full lengh of string farther into the river and also to allow it to sink into the water.

Now came the part where we need to take position, fix the bait and swing far into the water for some luck. The fixing the bait part was something I dint like much, as usually the baits used were earthworms, we had to dig up some wet patches and find the wriggly red worms. It always used to give me a very yucky feeling to touch there creatures especially when you needed to pierce their mid section onto the fishing hook. On the other hand the kids enjoyed playing with the freshly dug out worms, sometimes torturing the poor things.

This time round, Appu had smuggled some of the fresh white prawns to be used as bait, saving us the trouble of looking for the farmer’s best friend. Using prawns as bait had never occurred to me, prawns and that too the size we had got today would have burned a huge hole in the pocket back in the city, here it was just a catch away.

All set we flung the stones tied to the Tangis as far as we could into the water. My fishing string was just about two meters in length as I had donated most of the long string to my younger cousins. As a result my fishing area was very close to the rocky bank. The water flowed smoothly just a few feet below from where we were perched.

“Kitti! Kitti! “ Appu exploded in excitement when he felt a tug on his string.

We quickly pulled it up, an empty hook sign of the half prawn that was the bait.
Appu showcased a serious look on his face , he quickly reloaded the bait and this time threw the stone even farther into the river. He would avenge the stealth of his prawn.

All four waited again with baited breath. Two fisherman passed by us in their wooden canoe , their swirled with the nets just like in the discus throwers in the National games and cast their blooming nets like spiders web into the river. Appu seemed unmoved by this activity, Pachu however was interested in the kingfisher that had just swooped in the water and was out in a flash with a small fish in its sharp beak. Perched on the rotten branch of a tree, it was preparing to swallow the fish head first. Ammu was getting a bit impatient and was occasionally looking back at the cow that had by now stopped grazing and was rubbing itself against the rough side of a the coconut tree.

“Pambe , Pambe!” screamed Appu as he some snake like creature in the water very close to where my bait ping ponged in the water. It was a snake indeed. A very small one the size of my arm and maybe just an inch wide. It was green and black with a pointed mouth.

All the kids clambered from their seats and rushed towards me. I moved the bait closer to the snake. I felt like a puppeteer using the string to control the prawn in the water. The snake moved very close to the bait, looking for something between the rocks on the bank. And bang! In one quick dash the my prawn disappeared into the snakes mouth. I felt the tug immediately.

“Pull it up, Pull it up!” yelled the kids in excitement.

I moved sideways and one quick jolt the snake was out of the water onto the sandy bank. All wriggly and struggling to break free. It kept twisting and turning so much around itself that I feared it would knot itself. That’s when I realized it was not a snake, it was an Eel.

Appu was all set to beat it to pulp with a wooden stick, Ammu and Pachu we clinging on to me in awe .The shiny scaly skin of the eel was getting dirty in the mud and leaves. The eel was getting ready to give in, unable to spit out its last free meal.

To Appu’s despair I swung the string back into the water. The eel was clean again, then like a miracle it pulled itself free and shot for the gap between the rocks. Its head emerging out , probably cursing us for attempted murder or for thanking lord for its saved life.

The kids were back into action. We wound up in some time, heading back with an empty fishing bag but with the heart full of pride of having caught an eel.My aunt was standing at the doorstep when we returned. Looking at the new breed of fishermen who had returned from their mission, she asked.
“ So where’s the shark ? we have invited the whole village for lunch!”
“We caught a big eel, this BIG”
said Pachu extending his arms wide open and eyes almost popping out,” but this Chetan let it go!”.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Me a Butterfly

2:00 P.M
A time we all clock by every day, but something magical happens to most us at this particular time on a particular day…like a butterfly trying to knock the insides of the dark cold cocoon…our restlessness starts. The thick heavy eyebrows that are arched across the temple start to ease and relax. Like the LED that starts to blink when an electronic timer is switched on for the first time…..our internal clock triggers its own timer that starts its countdown to 5:00 PM.

Yes it’s has to be a Friday and almost every working soul experiences this rush. There is a complete transformation from the white collar blackberried boy to the straw hatted , tropical flower garland bearing beer belly boy . By 5:00 PM all the cocoons are broken open, the butterfly stretches its wings the first time, gently flaps it open , displaying the ornate and vibrant wings that are put in place for this special moment , puffed up with life, off they flutter away…flying free and feeling lighter ……

Most butterflies land up on advertising flowers that emanate mesmerizing fragrances and serve up the most savory nectars. We too head to the most popular waterholes with the best draught beer in town.
On one such Friday , I got a call from a friend.
“ Macha, come to Mysore ! “
“Dai, I am in office da….but wait a minute I think I’m coming! ”

11 P.M Friday

“Lets catch the sunrise at Chamundi hills !!”
“We can drive down or hey why not take the steps all the way up?”
“What time are you guys looking at? 8 Am ?? “.
That was Chandu.
5:00 A.M Saturday

“Wake Calvin Up, he is in the other lodge right?”

Three alarms and three snoozes later it was Chandu who was up and ready to drive up to hills. All the five jumped into the car parked outside Relax Inn.

We were cruising past the dim lit streets of Mysore , Calvin was giving us the directions. For it was almost a dream run to get all five awake, ready and in the car before Sunrise.
It was then that we suddenly came to a bustling junction , there were people all around with sacks of vegetables, empty bags, fresh leaves , fruits all swarming the road. I was finding it hard to drive as even my headlights were not able to pierce through the market crowd.
Some reversing, some honking, some swearing finally got us out of the stubborn vegetable market, Phew! All I hoped was that we still remain as fresh as the fruits we saw …..

A winding road, a few sharp bends and we almost up the Chamundi .
Now the challenge was to find the best spot to see the sunrise.

“Sunrise is always on the east, so let’s stop somewhere on the right of the road!” Calvin advised.Since we had many more brilliant advisors we went from spot to spot asking which place is the best to stop and watch. We finally zeroed in, stopped near the hillock with a small temple like structure on top, what we called the mantapa.

Five of us ran up the steps and yes it was indeed offered a great view. The mantapa looked quite old with moss patched stone pedestal with four stone pillars and a small dome. The structure was surrounded was a small wall. The SLR camera’s were out and clicking.

That’s when we noticed, we were not the only ones there. Two more people were looking away from us and onto something they had. Tea ! I thought imagining a steal can and plastic cups …It would be just perfect to sip on hot tea , early in the morning on top of hills.

As soon as I stopped hallucinating, I realized they were not tea sellers but probably students, very young students maybe just entered college. Maybe they were lovers who came here for a special morning dose.

That’s when the girl spoke “Excuse me, it’s my birthday , please have a piece of cake!”
As we wished her and dug ourselves into a cream cake, all my sympathies for the boy who must have planned a very special birthday for his girlfriend. Was also equally appreciative of the next generation, he had actually managed to get his girlfriend out early on her birthday on top of hills on his wiry bike. Just that we had barged in and stole their privacy.

Before the cake was over, the couple was galloping off to the next stop on the wiry bike, the princess strapping her arms around her romantic prince.

Legend has it that the demon Mahishasura was done to death by goddess Chamundi right here, luckily the demons that gate crashed got away with a piece of cake!
7:00 A.M Saturday

“English breakfast at Lalith Mahal Palace?” I asked
No one was interested in a five star breakfast on a low budget trip, but they did cave in after some amount of persuasion and Lo! We drove past the majestic gates of the Lalith Mahal Palace.

The While house like building shone in the morning sunlight like while clothes that are freshly washed in Ujala, the great Indian liquid blue. I had imagined breakfast by the poolside or on the lawn, but here the restaurant was the main Durbar hall. So somehow I too dropped the idea of having breakfast here. It wasn’t difficult to spread the feeling too.

We did lighten ourselves at the Royal Maharaja Loo before we left.
As they say some believe in the best , some relieve in the best!.

7:30 A.M Saturday
As we drove out of the Lalita Mahal Palace , we saw a few men playing cricket in the open ground. Open grounds that are free on a weekend? Yes it is still true in Mysore. Back in Bangalore it is almost impossible due to the high population, most of the kids are grounded without grounds.I always carried a cricket bat in the dickey of my car, maybe this is when I would really some into play.

Do you have an extra ball? Or else do you want to play a match with us?”
The captain looked at me , seeming to know that none of us might have played cricket for a long time.
“We are five, and I guess are five too, what say? “ i asked.
“We are almost done, we were about to wrap up”
“Just one quick match, 5 overs each, single side fielding ?”
i smiled
That was it, we won the toss and elected to bat….
I think with age I have grown patient as I cannot imagine not starting to bat from the first ball when I was the captain and had elected to bat. In fact I was not even getting impatient when my team was not losing wickets early on. Then I did my turn.

Managed to hit some singles and one straight four, feeling all good.
My team did pretty well even though we lost the match, it was fun to play.
This time with your feet close to the ground.
8:00 A.M Saturday

You would mistake this place to be a just another shop if you passed by , there were no significant boards, no winding queues, no parking problems….. I guess its to do with the time, the sleepy city was just to wake up to think about breakfast.

The small unassuming hotel has a small cash counter at the entrance and two rows of tables. The small wooden tables have equally small chairs. Once the rush starts people await their turn four hours to fit themselves into the little space left between the chair and the table. We had to distribute ourselves to two tables as each table could fit only four and we were five.

Dosas and idlis arrived at our table in a jiffy, the dosa was a bit smaller in size than then masala dosas that we get in the Bangalore darshinis, they were also just fried till they got a slight golden shine not the golden brown we were used to. There was a piece of unsalted butter simmering on top of the dosa. It gave away easily as I broke up a piece using my thumb, index and fore finger. It melted almost evaporated when I placed in my mouth.

Man this was truly the best dosa I have ever had. The coconut chutney adding its sting to the otherwise bland potato masala of golden roast dosa. The idlis were also very soft and fluffy but it came a second best to the ones I have had.

I requested the waiter to be shown inside the kitchen from where this magic was being born. We did take in me proudly to a a dim lit room, the metal stove plate they used to roast the dosas were over 50 years old , they used the wood to fuel the fire instead of LPG, probably this gave them the best heat to roast the dosa. The dosa mixture was a well kept secret , the cooks eyes shone as he mentioned the words “ idhu secret saar!”.

We sipped aromatic filter coffee sitting on the small step outside the restaurant….looking at the city beginning to wake up now, the hotel had also started to get we were sinking in the goodness of food, we saw a kid running behind her mom. She happened just turn towards us and i thought she had a smile on her face. I could give it back with the same innocence…for a moment was as happy as she was.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Magic Machine

Magic MachinePart 1
Talk about it ….

Accessibility and Privacy, two independent aspects of life that came well packaged in the small hand held device. It swept many people off their feet at the start of the new millennium. It was the irresistible mobile phone.

Unlike the youngsters today, who flamboyantly flaunt them or playfully punch in sms’s with expertise of a programmer, it was neither accessible nor acceptable in my household. Even, when I was close to completion of graduation.

I set my eyes on it first when my uncle, got one of them home. It was not merely a device; it was a status symbol that most of the elite and techno-savvy carried around. My uncle claimed he needed one as fast communication was the key to our family business. In those days, the mobile phone was just marginally smaller than the regular cordless phones, quite off heavy and boasted of the two line display and a protruding antenna. One got a leather pouch to carry it. The pouch could be strapped on the trouser’s belt. It was highly priced; both incoming and outgoing calls were billed.

Things changed soon and by 2003, the common man found it far more comfortable buying the latest sleek models of Nokia 3315 mobile series with a pre-paid sim card. It was cheaper, faster, and lighter and had become a must-have device for one and all. Doctors, Cab operators, Businessmen, all welcomed it into their homes. The Student pool was also showered with special offers on youth sim cards and slashed prices, the mobile was now truly within reach for anyone.

Some used it for consulting, some for exchanging a joke with their loved ones, some to spread the word faster, some to check on their spouses and children, some to close business deals and some even to call the plumber. It was truly a Magic Machine, connecting people irrespective of location, at any time!

Like any youngster in early 20’s, I too wished I had one of these gizmos. I could receive calls from friends who were from the opposite sex, without having them to go through the preliminary introductory interrogation at home by mom and save me from the routine debriefing session after hanging up. I could receive life changing information about new job opportunities even when I was not at home, as I was in my final year and securing job while in campus was my goal, at least at that time. Moreover with the mobile, I would never miss any unplanned party, movie, trip or treat. If not anything, it would get me an entry to the club of well connected!

“No! Absolutely no! , concentrate on your studies and try to get a job! “, “This is the only thing that I left to distract you! “, “Did we grow up with mobiles? “
My mom was strongly against my idea of procuring the irresistible device. She seldom was so adamant; students misusing the mobile phones had been on the top of the gossip list of the local ladies I guess. Even my plea that it would be helpful in getting me a job was turned down.

Being Adamant has been attributed to my character since childhood. Seeing my mom being that was an eye-opener. I must have been such a mess to deal with!

I dropped the idea, not because mom dint support it, I dint have the money to buy it by myself.

Part 2
Dream about it ….

Like an uncontrolled epidemic, more and more of my friends and relatives went down to the temptation of a mobile phone. Now with it being clearly black listed in my house, it looked more attractive, more sleek and more worth dying for. This was one outbreak you wanted to be part off.

The last time, I fell victim to desire was for a Bike. This was promptly approved and was driving my dream within a few months since I fell for it. Alas, the mobile did not fall into the good books. What use is the bike if your date can’t call you unless you are at home?
Which interview can you attend unless you get the information real time? How will mom find out that I am safe on the trek unless she can call me? Why doesn’t she understand?

Soon, my piggy bank started to swell. Thanks to the numerous fests that offered cash prizes, my T-shirt design and sell venture in college. I think I had just about enough money to buy a mobile phone from the black market. The original show room would be at least 30% higher, but would give me a valid bill and a 1 year warranty. Well who needs a warranty; I just need a mobile phone.

19th of September, 2003

With my techno adviser and negotiator, Mr. Santa. I set out to the city’s imported goods black market - National Market. A new age building housing many small shops trading imported clothes, perfumes, shoes , electronics, chocolates to mobiles , set in the buzzing centre of the city which houses the Main city railway station and Main bus terminus. This is one of the oldest parts of the city .With one main road and a network of small by lanes brimming with people - Pedestrians, Street hawkers, Police men, Beggars, Businessmen, Shoppers, Tourists, Pimps, Laborers , Fruit sellers, stray dogs, cows …All of them at their own pace , flowing like a flooded river with debris along narrow passages in both directions. Together they represent the pulse of Bangalore. The pulse, that keeps the city alive.

Mr.Santa was a true techno freak, be it automobiles or just mobiles. He was the man for job, update with latest trends, prices and models , gifted with very good bargaining skills. All he needed to know was how much money I was ready to shell out.

After several discussions across many shops , Mr.Santa sealed the deal.
3700 Rs for a Nokia 3315 mobible handset. I was a novice in handling the cell phone.
Mr.Santa helped me store all the mobile numbers I needed and even taught me a few shortcuts in the application. I thanked him very much and treated him with his favorite, Kerala Parota and Beef curry hotel near Dayananda Sagar College of Engineering.

There was a sense of fullness.
Happiness, in my heart.
Delight, in his Tummy.
Rage, of my mummy.

Yes, my mom was fuming over my decision to buy a mobile on my own.
I had gone against her will and done what I felt was right, with not a bit guilt.

She was very cold for many days, looking after my tasks mechanically, not even taking a look at my dearest and latest possession. I dint give in too, rather the mobile kept me very busy in my own world to give much attention.

As a few days went by, the cold war was called off, how exactly I do not recollect. Now.

Part 3
Fret about it ….

Now a member of the “I too have a mobile “ club , maximum usage of the mobile was usually aloud in public, I used to flash my brand new fashion statement whenever I could, I was now living a dream.
I was rudely woken up from this dream.
Less than 10 days after I had bought the blue shaded handset from the black market,
It blacked out! My life blacked out.
Did I see a sly hidden smile on my mom’s innocent face when I told her this news that day? Am not sure.

27h of September, 2003
With no warranty, no piggy fund, no intention to ask mom to pay for the repair, I was now stuck. No more mobile..
I decided to take it to the Nokia care centre, which would have done the job for free against my warranty had I bought it from an original store. Mr. Santa has been using black market phones for quite a while and never has reported any such danger. Guess it was my luck.

With Mr. Kind and Mr. Small, My all time buddies I set out to the Nokia care centre on Richmond Road. I looked like a battered soldier carrying his injured kid in his arms, to a Red Cross centre. The Nurse took in the patient. She asked me if I had insurance (warranty) and the birth certificate (Original bill). I had to tell her that he was an orphan (cell from the black market) and had no one to take care off.

She then gave him some sedative (Switch off), and turned him upside down. In the lights of the operation theater (Workshop), she took off his clothes (cover) and gently lifted his heart (battery), she then could see that his nerve connecting his brain (Circuit board) and eye (LCD display) was twisted. This was OND Opta-Neuro-Disorder; it required immediate transplant surgery (replace connection) or the eyesight (LCD display) would be lost forever. Even though the kid was in safe hands, the surgery had to be done immediately as now the diagnostic (inspection) procedure was way a too much intrusive way to head back. It was eyesight no not.
The care estimated that this complex operation and transplant procedure would cost upto 1250Rs. Time was running out and we had no means to pay up such a hefty bill. Even Mr.Kind and Mr.Small were helpless.

Seeing our dilemma, The Nurse tried to stop the diagnostic procedure and hand over the kid to us. The kid’s fate was sealed; he would not see the outside world. To the horror of the nurse, the twisted nerve gave way and got severed from the brain, in spite of the delicate handling. She quickly called for help and swung into action in the Intensive Care Unit. (ICU) I was close to breakdown; the kid was destined to die a premature death.

After a tense wait for 15 long minutes, the nurse appeared from inside the ICU, in her arms was the kid. Looking straight into my eyes!
This was a moment of silence; I could trace the moments I wanted to see him, the way Mr. Santa picked him up the first time, how his step father bargained for his price, how happy he made me and how my mother never even took a look at him. Poor thing had gone through all this till he was injured and here he was in the arms of an Angel, she had saved him!

The jubilant angel told us that she had done a transplant surgery for our kid, he could now see even better than before. She also told us that she had beared all expenses of the surgery as she was responsible for severing the nerve during the diagnosis.

I was filled with Awe, I picked up the kid and gently cuddled him with love and my eyes were moist. Mr. Small and Mr. Kind too were amazed with the whole incident. I looked at the eyes of the angel, thanking her for her kindness. I would always be grateful to her.

Then I looked at him, my kid. No more an Orphan. I sweared ,to take care of him and save enough money for his insurance. He looked so much alive , suddenly he went off into a fit and started blinking and shaking all over. I picked him up and held his heart close to my ear “ Where are you? Am trying to reach you from an hour! “ that was my mom.

My take on this : Wherever you go, your network follows.
Remember : You are answerable only to your parents and your mobile !

Passports's for Passouts

Part 1
Who is the genie?

A valid passport is among the most optimistic and pious documents that one tires to secure, on the verge of getting placed in the final year of graduation. It is a sign that one is looking forward to be among those who were going to “go places “.

Unlike my childhood days, when all one needed was Aladdin’s Magic carpet. Which on my command would have taken off with me, up above the Big Pepal Tree outside my house to nearby “Sandhya stores” for a packet of crunchy “Yummies “!!, Or to the Toy train at Bal Bhavan, Cubbon park within seconds, Take me Far far away from School, tuition and homework to maybe “Gulf “, where all my uncles were making lots of money to buy me presents. Alas! No more Genies, No more wishes …..No more Magic Carpets, in the final year of my engineering graduation, I would need a passport! And I have to get it by myself.

Wait a minute! Talking about Genies, I do have a Genius if not a Genie to help me.
Known for his,” ahem, sorry! “ Heard for his voice , which generates mega decibels laud gyan and never stops bombarding ones eardrums until night fall. Neighbors and friends knew he was approaching miles away .In fact, we even think that a percentage of sleep disorders in the US were due to him being awake and talking in India 12 hours away on the time zone.

His earthshaking arrival to college on this modest moped Luna reminded everyone of the Hindu God Ganesh traveling on his mouse (Mooshaka – vaahana). His unlimited talk time and activated roaming did help him connect very well and he became the one stop solution for any problem with his arsenal of friends, contacts, information and smart tips. So I did earnestly rub my telephone mouthpiece as I dialed to connect to my genie, who was more than willing to come to the passport office himself with me the next day.

25th of August, 2003.
A long queue was ahead of my genie and me on the Monday morning, outside the Passport office in Bangalore. All, including the care taker of the two-wheeler parking woke up on our arrival there, thanks to my genie. We were approached by a lot of middle men who offered their service in getting a passport for a hefty fee of course. My genie was quick to turn them down; he was the man who knew this process in and out. In fact this was the 3rd or 4th time he was our here to help his friends with the passport process.

In return, all one had to do was to listen to his philosophy and experiences the whole time. There were no techniques yet to ward of the laser like speech rays, no way one can switch off mentally, he had one gifted, deeply penetrating voice.

The queue did move quickly, we managed to get the Passport application form, now i needed to get a few photographs clicked. “Yes, passport size!” This was the term I used every time I needed a photo for any application right from school time, finally I get was about to get passport size photos for my passport. So we ran off in search of a photo studio nearby, on a rather sunny day.

We did find one ,about two blocks away on Brunton road. Little did I know that this photo was one that would be stuck to me , as my main identity proof for years to come?
As luck would have it, that day I had sported a funny hairdo, worn a blue jean shirt and an carved an awkward French bread, to add to that, I let out a goofy smile while my picture was taken. Thanks to a funny heroics of my genie behind the cameraman. I filled in the application form and stuck the photos with great care and concentration, while my genie was ,for a change quietly gulping down a vegetable sandwich and sipping on the Cappuccino at the Coffee day outlet Prestige Towers, M.G road. We returned the application at the passport office with all the documents, stopping on our way home for a game of snooker. That was half the task, now I needed to wait for a call from the local Police Station for an address confirmation and then the passport would arrive home.

Part 2
Who is Aladdin?

Now as most people my age, I too had a crush on one of my batch mates. A real cute gal, whom I had come to know pretty well. She was now in our group of friends, we all used to hang out a lot. (At that point of time at least). She had denied any feelings for me a few months ago but wanted to be my friend as always, always. All I needed was some time with her to convince her of my undying love for her etc etc…all I needed was an outing with her; a date was too much to ask.

I happened to tell her that I had applied for my passport the other day. And Bang , she sprung into anxiety “ I too need to apply for one, can you help me please ?”. Who else could see the flame of hope in the eyes of Jasmine, than Aladdin himself?
I am Aladdin

29th of August, 2003.

Aladdin was up and ready to go by 7:30 am, a full night’s wait was about to bear fruit or at least passport. Aladdin called up Princess Jasmine to inform he was flying off to the Magic carpet office i.e. the Passport office. The princess as usual arrived at the Magic carpet office much later than her slave lover Aladdin.

Aladdin though all excited about meeting the princess was very nervous. Aladdin feared the thought of bumping into his Genie here. Then the Genie would take away all of his tasks and Aladdin could easily forget his private time with the Princess, as the both would have to listen to Genie tales.

Luckily, nothing of that sort happened. Aladdin went guided the cheerful princess through the routine process. Applications , Photos , documents all followed with a clinical precision. The Application had to be submitted at the office upstairs by the princess herself. Here Aladdin was required to wait outside all alone. In what seemed like a wait for Cauvery water in CMC layouts, Aladdin waited.. and watched.

A gal dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt was swearing at the gatekeepers. Oh no , then it seemed like she was talking to herself, then she was again cursing the timings. Apparently she was late to the Passport office and was not to happy about the system and timings in place. She a girly red watch with a thick red strap that caught my attention. She provided some entertainment in the self proclaimed Aladdin’s wait for the Princess Jasmine. Finally the gal realized that she was now the centre of attraction, she smiled sheepishly and left , I caught her attention for a split second , in an eye-to-eye glance where we quickly exchanged an empathetic look, to be cut short by both of us looking away with raised eyebrows and zipped mouth. Her, Aladdin decided to christen as Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood.

Aladdin had not told his mother that he was going out with Princess Jasmine and she would think he was in college as usual. Nor had he told his Genie. Even as thoughts to getting time out with Princess excited Aladdin, his non disclosure to mom and the genie disturbed him. Aladdin was brought back to the busy street outside the passport complex from his day dreams, as Princess Jasmine stepped out in a hurry to cross the road.

Now he was hopeful, she was thankful.
As they took a walk on the busy streets, cracking jokes , exchanging views , giggling …. Aladdin had his passport to paradise. Sheer Bliss !
As they strolled by the possible eateries on M.G road, Canopy, Ebony it reminded Aladdin was he was on a fast that day in remembrance of his dad. Also that he had to wind up from paradise and reach home soon.

Part 3
Who are you?

Aladdin calls up his Genie, to tell him that he too has now mastered the Magic carpet skills. His Genie although happy to have him as an apprentice, was curious about whom he had helped out. Aladdin told that it was Jasmine as though she were just some gal and diverted the Genie with the funny tale of Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood. Aladdin also added a bit more elaborate description of her mannerisms, her red watch just to engage his Genie fully in this topic. Far far away from Princess Jasmine..

Aladdin is me.

After the phone call , I was exhausted but content. Was happy about the whole day.
All I had to do was have a quiet entry and good nights sleep.
At that time, I lived in a building that housed 7 apartments and a Music school.

The owner of the building was a musician with several interests like construction, travel, quality leisure and sports.He had installed a brand new table tennis stand and three seated Iron swing with soft cushions , in front of our house on the ground floor for common use for all the inmates of his building .

That night as I pulled open the Huge Metal Gates of the building to get in , I saw my mom at the door about 10 yards from the gate , chatting with a lady who stayed upstairs .
I casually closed the gates behind me and looked to the right, beyond the table tennis stand.
I simply could not believe my eyes, sitting right in the centre seat of the Iron swing, swinging in a mellow rhythm, with eyes locked on me , the intruder ,was none other than Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood!!

“Who are you?” She asked.
I rebutted, “What are you doing here? I stay here”.
“She’s my niece, do you know her? “said the lady who stayed upstairs.
Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood quickly added “Oh I am sorry!”

I had to sum up all my senses, the red watch!!
My eyes were searching her arms for the red watch, if its her then she will have the watch.
And there it was , the fancy red watch , with big red strap on a pretty wrist. It was indeed Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood.
My mind was brimming with questions.
Did she need a passport to come to my place?
Does my mom know i bunked classes and went to the passport office that too for my friend?
Who gave her the stupid watch?
Am I hallucinating?
Is mom going to be cold and angry with me?
Will have to fast the rest of my life?
Is this gal a spy?

“Do you know each other?” My mom cleared my mind with this final question.
“Yes, I think I saw her at the passport office “, I looked at her with my eyebrows begging her to add some lines…
“Yes yes,” She added, then she introduced herself to me and left with her aunt bidding us goodnight !
Phew that was a close shave.

I took excuse of my mom, ran non-stop for about 200 meters to the local telephone booth, had to shout my lungs out about the appearance of Ms .Little Red Rowdy hood to my Princess and my Genie know about the strange twist in the story. Both of them were very excited and surprised with the coincidence. My Genie was along strangely quiet, letting the reality set in.

My take on this: If you don’t stay in a lamp, then leave the job to a Genie!