Sunday, May 29, 2005

On Heroes

Another Sunday afternoon, another visit to the bookstore, as i walked idly through the rows and rows of books, I saw something that made me gasp, it was Boris Becker's autobiography, something I had not know to exist. Literally grabbing the book from the shelf, I hurried my way to the check out counter since I knew that nothing else would attract my attention beyond this point. Even with my past experience with autobiographies have been rather bad (e.g., McEnroe’s Serious! Ugh!) I wasn't the least bit perturbed since I knew this one would be special. I've been a Becker fan since 1985 when he was a 17 year old kid making his way through to the finals and I was a 11 year old who was watching his first ever tennis tournament. All we had at the time was a five-year-old Solidaire, which wasn’t very clear. I remember what I thought when I saw Becker for the first time (this was during his semi final match against Anders Jarryd) it was that I couldn’t see his face, because the TV wasn't exactly very good and this guy was so fair that his face blended in with the background. All I could see was the t-shirt and the hands and they were moving mighty quickly around the court too. For a kid who had to endure a slow Kevin Curran vs. Jimmy Connors semi final match (please remember I was 11), this was a revelation. What was a passing curiosity started getting rather lively; it wasn't about deft touches but about raw power, which was more appealing. Plus this 17-year-old guy I could identify with was taking on the big guys in their own turf, fodder for a overactive 11 year old brain. He was jumping and diving around and get back up as if it were nothing. Even if the balls were clearly going wide, Becker would be lunging for it like his life depended on it. I had found a hero. I think that wimbledon final defined Becker's life and changed it beyond his or anyone's comprehension.

After that day, I made sure that I watched all his matches as I could, trying to imitate his serve, the way he walked etc. Year after year, one grand slam tournament after the other I would hope Becker would reach the semi finals (we had only one channel on TV and they would show a grand slam from the semi finals only), he rose to the occasion most of the time, I would sit tensed up, watching my hero play, grimace when he screams, laugh when he joked around, pray when he played and cried when he lost. I watched him change from a boy wonder to a mature tennis player, watched his animated laughing face turn into one filled with a touch of steel. Between all of this, there was another international personality who had a tremendous impact in my life, someone who was exactly the opposite of Becker, this was a little man they called Diego Armando Maradona. By 1986, the world cup fever was in full swing and I was swept away in that wave. I watched one country play against the other and I was fascinated at this team event. With players like Maradona, Socrates, Zico, Platini and Schumacher around soccer was eminently facinating, plus for some reason these names also rolled off my mouth so very well. It was a thrill to be able to recite the names of the players in the various teams in school; this ability was looked upon with awe and jealousy in an equal mix. Maradona was in his peak, he was a proud (little) peacock strutting around, immensely confident of his ability and toying with his opponents at will. He was unstoppable and always managed to carry around this image of a little man who was trying to survive against much stronger opponents, while in reality, his opponents were no matches to his wizardry. During Italia '90, the second world cup in which Maradona was the captain, each opposing team had two defenders marking Maradona, a rare tribute given to only the greatest of the greats. Though he was bogged down by this he nearly pulled off the improbable world cup victory by reaching the finals with a clearly less talented team, he was ably aided by the lightning speed of Claudio Cannegia and a young goalkeeper who's ability to block out penalty kicks at will was earned him near cult status, Sergio Goycocheya.

Becker and Maradona retired from the game in the mid to late nineties, it was then I realised that I wasn't a kid anymore. The 17-year-old fresh faced boy from Leimen was this bearded, tired looking Superstar struggling with his game and his personal life and the little man from Buenos Aires was a pale shadow himself, growing fat, his brain consumed by drugs. These were very defining moments for me. Childhood was over.

The lucky person that I am, I've had two other people I could look up to, my parents. Now, every kid holds his or her parents in awe but when we grow up our parents become more human and more fallible. Keeping this in consideration, for a 31-year-old man to say that he looks up to his parents and would never be able to be like them, would either mean that I still haven't grown up (which can be partially true) or it could mean that I have grown to admire them with a fresh adult perspective. Dad is a professor of Zoology and Mom the Principal of one of the largest colleges in South India. Both of them, like all good parents gave up a lot of their pleasures to ensure that I and my sister went got through our education without any problems but always taking care that their high standards at work were maintained. When my mother went through breast cancer treatment in late 2000 no one was really sure that she would ever be able to work again, just the sight of her lying in her bed with her energy totally zapped after chemotherapy was extremely saddening sight. But true to form, she was back in office in six months time and what more she managed the overnight journey to her college with ease, not bothering about living away from home on week days and returning back on the weekends. In fact she made it look easy and I have no doubt that she enjoyed the experience too. Despite the passing of years I still remember sitting with her outside the principal’s office of this highly rated school, in the mid 1980s to ensure that the school gave me an admission that it had earlier refused. She sat calm and collected, waiting patiently for days to meet the principal. I think it took us 4 days to finally meet the man and he having seen us wait for all those days was so taken in that he immediately offered admission. If I have to look for courage and determination, I don't really have to look very far.

During all of my mother’s illness and her absence due to work, managing a family, a house and three dogs were my dad’s first priority but he somehow found the time to head the committee that wrote the biology text books for school students in my state and ofcourse to do justice to his teaching commitments. To give you a perspective, his books are being read my more than a million students across the state; he never talks about it, not a word. When both of them got an opportunity to take voluntary retirement a few years ago, an option that would have been much more financially remunerative than to work the entire term, they chose to work, a decision I could not understand at that point. I realise now that the joy of teaching outweighed anything else for them, an act against which i now weigh all my decisions. Tomorrow, 31s of May 2005, they retire at the age of 59, after more than 35 years of service, slipping away into their private world unnoticed by anyone. Not all superstars retire to a standing ovation and international recognition, do they?

Our personal heroes have a large part in molding our lives. They give us great joy; they leave us with their own bit of magic and some of them are people we know and love and are living examples of what great lives are all about.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The middle finger saga

This is a topic that has been hugely discussed over the last few days on the internet; it seems that Indra Nooyi, the President and the CFO of Pepsico addressed the graduating class of Columbia business school a few days ago (in her own words it was a ‘snooze before booze’ speech) on the 15th of May. In her speech, she had also likened the North America to the middle finger to illustrate a point on how one part of the world affects the other. She started by likening each finger to a continent, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. To quote, she says "Africa, you see, is the little finger, because while it has yet to catch up with her sister continents when it hurts, 'it affects the whole hand.' OK", then she goes on to liken North America to the middle finger by saying that it anchors every other function, that it was the key for all the fingers working efficiently and effectively and she goes on to conclude that if this middle finger was used inappropriately, it could convey a negative message and get into trouble. In the last few hours I’ve seen quite a few blogs, websites and columns written by very upset folks wanting her to do a multitude of things, among which the printable ones were either to apologize or to quit or my personal favourite, get back to India and rear cows (I'd love to this sometime by the way, c'mon babies, say MOOOOOO).

In my opinion the speech was unimaginative and lacked a sense of occasion, the analogy in question was down right stupid. Don't get me wrong Ms. Nooyi; if someone had likened India to his or her middle finger I would have been upset too. I though would have walked away after a few shakes of my head and not start a campaign against Pepsi (I don't really use any of Pepsi's products in the first place) further accusing it of leaning towards other parts of the world like Asia and Europe, neglecting its parent country the US. If protests were about the harmful effects of aerated drinks, I am all for it, this sadly wasn't the case. I found the patriotic comebacks against this rather forgettable statement pretty stunning, how could these words belittle the many achievements of a large nation? Now modern patriotism is an incredible thing, doesn't take much to stoke and once evoked, it can cause a lot more damage than it can create. I'm sure you would agree with me that being proud of one’s country is one thing but to rub that in everyone’s face at every opportunity is whole different kettle of fish, would the keepers of national pride across the world take note? If you are wondering, we in India do have more than our share of such keepers and so do most countries.

There seems to be a lot of wounded aggression waiting to pounce around this world these days and it takes horrifying proportions at mere words. Its almost like we have become word warriors, people who only talk about things or react only to words. In any case, this issue would not have been as big this if Ms. Nooyi weren’t of Indian origin. If you read the transcript of the speech, Ms. Nooyi says, “Although I'm a daughter of India, I'm an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country. This land we call home is a most loving and ever-giving nation -- a Promised Land that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that, if used for good, can steady the hand -- along with global economies and cultures.” Why wasn’t it viewed as an American citizen expressing her views one wonders.

Flag waving and righteous indignation would always continue but I urge you reader, to look beyond these petty arguments and moral high grounds and worry more about the important issues that need worrying. God knows that there are enough things to worry about, global warming, economics, poverty, reduction in educational standards, nuclear (pronounced Nu-kiler) weapons, corruption, drugs, teen pregnancies, split families etc, the list is endless. Otherwise we would be forever caught up with these mindless arguments over some silly words that take our time and our energies and leave us nothing but bitterness in return. Please remember that true patriotism reveals itself not in words but in deeds. It draws appreciation universally and not scorn or fear.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Great Divide

As i walk into my office, I think of my pet peeve, the hot sun. Cursing the weather, charting out a plan for the day, i fire up my computer. The first thing that I usually see is a mail from Anu (Anuradha Bakshi heads ProjectWhy a Non-Profit Organisaton, which to quote Anu is "a busy planet where so much happens", you would enjoy visiting her blog When i read her emails my carefully insulated existence develops a few cracks in its walls. How would it be on the other side I wonder? A world where the work profile is not to make more and more money to feed a big corporate machine, a world where the most important career goal is not a promotion and self-satisfaction doesn't mean a more expensive car. Simply put, a world far away from the rat race, from four meetings, fifty phone calls and few dozen emails a day.
Those of us who live in the corporate world, work hard & late hours, feel a sense of satisfaction from what we have gained. We walk up the beaten track, trying to outdo our predecessors, aiming for the next level when we reach a particular level. Where would this end? What do we gain out of this? What have we created? What is our legacy? Who have we benefited? What have we given back to the community? Its a difficult time when confronted by these thoughts, the answers that I get out of my life are unsettling. This makes me wonder even more as to how it would be on the other side. I do not carry a romantic notion of how things would be for people like Anu. I am very sure that every day is a struggle and the pay off paltry. Frustration must flow along with the dozen cups of tea everyday. I wonder though, how it would be to sit under a tree and educate a poor child or to better someone's life by increasing their awareness levels or to help save another human life. As I write, my thoughts run throught the past 10 years, can't remember a day when I have spent in trying doing these things.
What burns the most now is surely not the hot sun but a troubled conscience.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Note: I wrote this piece initially 1 am in the morning after a few cups of coffee and armed with a shocking lack of inspiration or imagination. Due to my vast technical superiority with computers i seem to have erased the post as i was tinkering with it and hence I have had to reconstruct the same to the best of my ability and knowledge.

What is the purpose of our existence? This is a question that that all of us ask ourselves sometime or the other. The answer that we get from life either causes satisfaction or leaves us confused and dissatisfied. More often than not it would be the later since, if we were happy and satisfied (with life and the answers it gave), we wouldn't be sitting alone and asking ourselves questions we would be out having a ball. Extrapolating this theory, I would have to assume that most philosophers were extremely unhappy people, since they sat around and questioned various aspects of existence. A quote of Socrates comes to mind "My advice to you is to get married. If you find a good wife, you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher" he said (It is a chauvinistic world, isn't it? I don't think it has changed much over the last few thousand years. Maybe it’s because we do not want it to change).

I have successfully deviated from the question that started it all so I shall take a full U turn and go right back to it. A popular theory which that is said as the reason for existence is that of procreation. This theory maybe construed as the most plausible answer that we would receive. There is nothing wrong with that, we are in a split level world, there are no universal truths nor is there a big mistake. Having said this, I would differ from this theory, if we were to live only to create other living things, then what is art? And what is technology? Why have we created so much? (Often at the cost of other living things too) Of course once these questions are raised the achievers among us smartly point out that its not just to procreate that we live but to leave a personal mark in this earth. As decades and centuries roll by the number of people remembered become fewer and fewer. After a point, the mere handful of achievers who have stood the test of time cease to be remembered as mortals and become myths. With the bad track records of those who wished to leave a lasting mark, this theory too doesn’t seem to hold water. Then there are those who say that we exist to continuously better the living standards for ourselves as well as the people we love, interesting, sounds like one of the pillars on which capitalism stands proudly, a concept which I love and hate in equal measures. My opposition to this view is predicated by a gut feel really, a feeling that this theory is culled out of an advertisement for an expensive car or an apartment building. The feeling that this idea is not our own but planted by a smart marketing executive, doesn’t seem to go away.

I am sure by now you would be very curious as to what my theory would be. Would it be able to buck favourites like procreation and Mercedes Benz, you ask. Well, my idea is that we exist to satisfy ourselves. I can almost hear you sucking your breath but hold on, before you brand me a selfish person I hope you would listen to my argument. A fair trial is all I ask. I believe that there are two kinds of satisfaction that we derive in life, direct and indirect. Examples of direct satisfaction could be, earning the money that we want or a hard day’s work or a very well cooked meal or creating a work of art or writing a passage or two. Hence, it could be termed as acts by us which results in a sense of self satisfaction.

To illustrate the indirect kind of satisfaction, let me as you, have you ever shopped for hours or created something nice for someone you love? Or have you fed someone who was incredibly hungry? Or have you spared your time or money for a just cause? I’m sure you’ve done all these things in the past and would readily agree with me that the pleasure you derive on doing these things gives you a glow that lasts days! I remember the time that I had bought my dad a sweater, this was when I was in my engineering college and we had got for a tour to Shimla (a hill station in north India). Since I was a college student, the money I used to buy the sweater was my Dad’s but then that was the first gift that I had ever bought for my all providing human being, the pleasure I derived that day could not be described in words. 12 years hence, I still remember that feeling vividly. Hence by this logic, if giving is a form of satisfying oneself, isn’t caring itself a selfish act? (It really isn’t but I’m being argumentative here). I think the experts say that these acts satisfy our self actualization needs; hence we have to realize that there are certain needs within us to care for others. Would dying for one’s country be a form of satisfying oneself? I’m not sure, since we really wouldn’t be around to talk about how we felt, would we? This in itself would be big enough to merit a discussion of its own.

When we do not derive satisfaction, out of life we resort to things that simulate the same (this could mean a night of drinking or philosophy or chocolate and some us swear by Nintendo). Whatever we resort to could only be short term in nature and often leaves residual baggages i.e., hangover, nightmares, calories etc (One can assume little or no side effects from Nintendo).

When we feel that we have achieved everything that we’ve wanted to but there is still a piece of missing in our lives, it is quite possible that though we have satisfied our direct needs but have neglected our indirect needs. I’m sure there is always someone or some cause in this world that would appreciate our care, thereby giving us the satisfaction we crave. Well anyway, after re writing this piece, I still feel unsatisfied with the effort and what more, I nurse a bad feeling that the previous effort at 1 am in the morning a was much better than this one, anyway, I rest my case, your opinions and ideas are solicited.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A day in the mind of a travellng executive

Wrote this on a whim. None of the events here are true.

6:10 Am : Flight to Mumbai, delayed. Expected departure 7:30 Am. Curses! Sipping coffee at the waiting area, trying to ward of sleep. Bloodshot eyes. The late dinner wasn't helping.

7:15 Am: Boarded the flight. Jammed between a snoring old man and a cute Exec. Nice perfume! Whoa angry stare!

7:55 Am: The plane finally moves out for take off. Hope it’s a smooth flight. Hate flying. Cute airhostess, nice legs. Firing up the laptop, start customising presentations.

7:56 Am: Cell phone rings loudly. Boss' number flashing. Airhostess sternly requests it be switched off, images of a steaming hot Boss flashes in my mnd, switch the phone off anyway. Grin at the cute fellow passenger, Whoa, angry stare again!

8:13 Am: Breakfast. Croissants made in the previous decade. Smelly eggs. Whoops, air pocket. Egg patterns in the tie. Grin at the Exec. Permanent Stare. It's PMS (Permanent Mad Stare).

9:34 Am: Landing in Mumbai. Fresh tie, same grin, same old stare. Go away witch! Hot sun beating down. Hot already?

9:40 Am: Spotted the driver. On my way, relishing the AC in the Ford Ikon. Looking out of the car. Cute Exec sweating it out on non-AC rickety taxi. Grin again. Enjoying her expected response. Look up skywards! Nice one dude!

10:41 Am: Late for the first meeting. Mistake in the presentation, must remember, its Mr. Sharma and not Ms. Sharma, early morning meeting blues, words and thoughts not flowing. Survival time! Pull it off in the end. Lukewarm response. Big surprise.

12:00 Noon: Second meeting, reached on time, customer late. Big office, bad decor. Play SnakeII on the phone. Could use a coffee!

12:31 Pm: Looking around nervously. Big meeting, no client. Pace the reception. Client arrives. Good meeting. Very interested, though long way for sale to close . Hunger Pangs.

1:45 Pm: Crazy heat. Lousy restaurant. Spicy food. Must eat quickly.

2:34 Pm: 4 minutes late for the most important meeting of the day. Customer waiting. Hope to close sale today.

2:49 Pm: Price negotiations! This customer is a shark! Haggle on bravely. Stale coffee.

3:16 Pm: Sale Closed! Contract signed! Phew, touch and go.

3:45 Pm: On the way to the airport. Running late. Remember vada paos. Stop the taxi near a roadside vendor. Hmm..Stuff made for the soul. Rush back to the taxi, chewing on the vada pao.

4:23 Pm: Reach airport. Ticket waitlisted. Turn on the charm at the counter girl. Wait for a few minutes. Got a ticket. Yay! Just Remembered to return boss' call. One angry boss coming right up!

4:31 Pm: Getting chewed by the boss. Give him the good news of the sale. Get chewed again. Hey, the cute Exec walks past. Same perfume, fresh as ever. How does she still look perfect?

4:50 Pm: Board the flight. Exec sitting in the adjacent row. Great! I'm sitting next to a Mom, her 7 year old and her life sized doll. Trouble!

5:01 Pm: Flight takes of, Mom grabs the kid, kid grabs the doll, and the doll grabs my face. Did the Exec just smile?

5:21 Pm: Refreshments served. Open novel. Look at Exec. She looks back. Grin at her, she grins back looking at the book, then turns her head and closes her eyes. Felt good. Look down on the book. Shit, it’s upside down. Glare at the Exec. Witch!

6:26 Pm: Land back in Bangalore. Big queue for taxi, Exec in the end, bag in tow. Wink at her. Walk over to the parking long. Drive my car, cross the foyer, the Exec still waiting. Thinking hard about stopping. Drive away past her, feeling reckless, send her a flying kiss.

7:10 Pm: Getting ready for the first dinner at the boss’ house, meeting his wife. Awesome! irritating Boss, boring wife. Sigh.

8:01 Pm: At the Boss’ door. Door opens, standing there is the Exec from the flight. Holy Crap! Perfect!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A day in the life of Bunty - The dog extraordinaire

My first real attempt at fiction, short or long. Let me know how it is.

"Bunty! Here boy!, BUNNNNNNNNNNNNNTYYYY", I woke up to this yelling, shaking the sleep from my eyes, stretching my body slowly as I looked around, holy crap it was still dark! I peeked into the living room and i saw Shiv tying his shoelaces, I groaned, the boy was on his fitness regime again. He gets this urge once or twice a year, he wakes up early in the morning, goes for a walk or run by the beach all in the name of fitness. Of course the extended breakfast our man has after that is all in the name of fatness, buuut I can't complain coz that’s the part I love, he is generous with his food, i love that kid!

As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself; I'm Bunty and as you may have gathered by now, I’m a dog. Not an average dog mind you, I'm the heart and soul of the Saran family, I'm someone who they look up to, their darling , i keep them safe and they never let me forget how important I am. "Bunnttyyy you lazy bum!! Come here!!" Was the cry from Shiv, oh well; don't mind him that boy is such a kidder. Anyways, to quickly complete my introduction, I’m a Labrador by birth, I'm a thinker and a liberal by choice but don't let that fool you coz I’m a killer too GRRRRRRRRRRR, hehehe just kidding! I'm fun around kids and a devil with them hawt doggie mamas! Well thats enough about me, though I’m sure you would love to hear more, I hauled ass to check what Shiv wanted. He looked at me with his blood shot eyes and said "There you are you lazy mutt", I grinned at him and retorted "Oh I’m fine thank you and how are you today?". He silently snapped a leash on me, a big problem with him; he just likes to keep up with me with wherever i go, so he insists on tying himself to me. That boy sure needs a life! Sigh.

Shiv parked the car by the beach and then grabbed on to me as we start walking. I yawned , too early I thought, its too darn early! Just the thought of dragging this lump of human flesh around was irritating, hey, he ain't heavy; he's my brother, right? I roll my eyes. Then I saw the sunrise over the sea, what a sight, I looked around at all these people walking around, not enjoying this beauty, then that moment I just felt like running! You always know that exact moment when you feel like running or using a lamp post, it just comes to you. I broke into a run, poor Shiv wasn't holding on to the leash tightly and consequently let it slip. As I ran, I said to myself that I would have to get that boy later; the thought of him wandering around on his own was scary. At that moment though I just focused on my run, the wind in my hair, the sun's rays caressing me, a child crying, a dog growling. Wait a minute, a child crying? a dog growling? I looked around and see this little girl, crying as this mean little mangy mongrel was growling at her. I did what i had to do, I stepped right in, looked that dog in the eye and took care of the situation. One look at me and that mongrel was history. I looked at this little girl in her summer dress, some parent's idea of a morning walk i presumed. "Hey, pretty girl, don't worry, where are your folks? wanna sniff the sand with me? D'ya like flowers and bugs?" I asked, as I was making these pleasant enquiries, I could hear my name being called "BUNNNNTYYYYYYY come here this minute!", I looked around to see Shiv wheezing and panting after me and I yelled out "Hey bro, good you got here, but I’ve got the situation covered", he yanked my leash and yelled "BUNTY! Bad dog!! trying to scare that little girl!", I looked at the fat genius and sighed, when is this kid ever going to learn, I thought. The girl's parents who were apparently in search of her arrived at the scene that very moment and scooped that little thing in their arms. Shiv and I retreated apologising for each other. I know, I know, different people, different points of view, its a free country and all that stuff, right? Sigh.

We reached back home, I had worked up an appetite by this time, maybe the beach wasn't such a bad idea, good exercise and I saved a damsel in distress so what more could a dog want in morning, eh?. There it was waiting for me, a bowl of milk, mama was always thoughtful, God bless her. After slurping down the milk I meandered around, checking if everyone was ok, then I woke up little Priya, Shiv's little sister, she does sleeps in way too late. There’s nothing like a lick on the face to wake up to, huh? That lucky girl! I got a pillow projectile aimed at my head at a brisk pace for my effort, that girl sure loves to play! Anyways, the day looked like it was going to be a good one, people started leaving home, so I went around helping them on their way, they love me when I do that. "Bunty you idiot! Get out of the way! I’m going to drive over you if you don't! Shanta..hold this dog!!" that’s Dad, I help him get his car out everyday, but he has his off days, see. The dude was grumpy in the morning; the man's got a heart of gold though. I smiled cheerfully as dad and then Shiv and Priya left. Don't ask me where they go, I think they go out to eat food outside, no accounting for taste, I tell you! Hey, I can't complain coz I’ve got mom all to myself! Good food! a back rub...ahhh....this is the life!

I walked back in to check on mom, well, to be honest I wanted to be sure she had my food on the stove, yes she did, great, now I needed a nap. I settle down in the living room, thankfully they had left the AC running, ahhhh, I rolled on my back, my feet up..ahhhh nice...this heat is a killer isn't it? hmmm, yaaaaaaaawn.

A rustling noise woke me ears picked the noise from the dining room, I walked in there stealthily, not wanting to leave anything to chance. I looked around and see a rat running on the shelves. I bark! Yeah I forgot to mention that I’ve got a mean bark, some say it has a nice royal ring to it, I can vary the tone too, you'd love it! I’m digressing. Getting back to the story at hand, I had the rat covered in my radar, I waited for the right moment to pounce. I got my window of opportunity and took it. I leapt gracefully; the rat had seconds to live. CRASSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHH..Uh huh. I couldn't find it. I saw mom coming in through the door, i told her "Mom, cover the door, im gonna get this guy for sure!", she replied "BUNTY RASCAL, look at what you've done! i leave this place for two minutes and you've upset everything". I looked at her incredulously, "what? Me? Upset?", then I look around, "well a little upset maybe but i had a window of opportunity with that darn rat mom!" I said. She prodded me out of the room with a broom, Ouch that hurt! As I walked out, I looked back inside the room with anger, that is one dead rat walking I thought, I tell you, a dead rat.

Things were quiet afterwards, nice food, good rest etc. I woke up to the sound of distant barking. I walked out to the front it was a false alarm. My thoughts went back to the incident earlier; I can only shake my head and how that rat escaped. Well it’s a rat that’s got my name written on its wrinkly forehead! Sigh. I saw that someone had left the compound gate open; I think it must have been mom. I looked around for her, an open gate was too much to resist, a walk down the road would cheer me up for sure, Mom likes me when I do my cheerful puppy routine! (I know all the tricks in the book baby! And a few that aren’t there!) I sauntered out thinking maybe I could catch the eye of Ella, that cute retriever down the road, she is such a hottie! I set out, greeting people I remembered on the road. “WOOOORFF WOOORF” I looked around, that was mad Maxie, a nice enough fellow mind you, just a little crazy in the head. “Hey Maxie! Hows is going dood?” I shouted, waiting for Maxie’s obvious response of “WOORF WOORF”, I wasn’t disappointed, coz that’s the only thing Maxie uttered. I walked on pleasantly smiling at the world at large. I oozed over to Ella’s house and hung around. Boy she’s got a big garden, I thought. After a brief wait, I could see her looking at me from the door near the garden. She has eyes that make me melt! What a cutie!!! I grinned “Hey Ella bella, what’s up? Wanna rub noses Eskimo style?” I asked. “Drop dead you stinky mutt!” she said candidly as she walked around, swishing that fluffy tail (This routine of ours goes back more than a year now). I swear I could see a glint of attraction in her eyes this time. That very moment, I saw something moving in the shadows of her garden. It was a snake!! It was a big one too, slithering towards her from the swampy area behind her house! “ELLA RUN!!!!” I cried, I was caught on the other side of the gate, I dearly wished I could get in and save her. Ella saw the snake and barked. I barked my guts out too, then I spied a break in the compound wall, I squeezed through and got between my quivering cutie pie and that vile snake. “GERROOOFFF" I yelled, but I wasn’t feeling very brave now. I kicked dirt around, as I barked, don't ask me why, it just looked like the best thing to do at that moment. All this time I was wondering which would be the appropriate time to pick up and run. If that snake thought id die for any Golden haired hottie, it could kiss my furry brown (that’s tan to the purists) tail, this was the fear talking, I realised.

Then something miraculous happened, the kicking of mud was working! The snake started slithering off, it was leaving, and that got my spirits up! I barked for all glory! So did Ella, I looked around to those soft eyes, which had a look of glazed hero worship in them. It could have been abject fear too, but hey, I think it was hero worship. People came running, Ella’s dad among them, I pointed in the direction of that slithering snake! It was gone though. “Oh its that stupid dog again!” shouted Ella’s dad, as he picked up a stone and came running at me. I bade quick and loving farewell to my dazed doggie doll and made my way through the hole and rushed my way home. I hear that there were complaints later; I was too busy in the terrace (I wasn’t hiding! No way! Take that thought out of your head!). Oh well, I guess, this the prize of being a hero, I shake my head.

Evening came and my family returned home. I usually love this time of the day, Dad looked at me and mom and asked “So what happened all day?” I was full of news, but before I could start mom said “ Bunty has been a pest all day! Upset a shelf in the dining room, split half the stuff there, created havoc at our neighbor’s house, everyone in the street is complaining about him”. Dad looked at me sternly, hey what can I say, indignation swelled in my heart. Mom goes in to the kitchen to get coffee for Dad as he settled down in his sofa and opened his paper. I walked by tentatively; sit next to him, sadness choking me as I put my head with weariness on the arm of his sofa. Sudden, something happened Hey, whats that? I wondered, It was Dad’s hand and it was caressing my head, hmmmmm felt very niceee… “Bunty, you bloody rascal! When are you going to be a responsible dog!” my Dad admonished, but I could see the smile on his face. I sighed all was well after all! I grinned happily, enjoying the attention.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Of a walk across the road...

I usually don't go for narratives, since what’s interesting in my life could be and must be incredibly boring for someone else, but this incident has stayed in my mind for the last two days and i just had to write about it.

We decided it was time we had nice fish fries and fish curry for lunch that afternoon and started on our quest. The car's Air Conditioner wheezed, trying to suck out all that heat from within and not being very successful at it. It was when i was adjusting the vent of the AC that i saw her, an old lady not more than a little bundle of bones, sitting on a very busy intersection, reaching out to the sea of people walking around her, in a silent plea to help her cross the road. People hurrying along around her took little notice and some of them misunderstood her gestures as that of begging, which wasn't a big mistake since that’s what she was, a roadside beggar. Some dropped a few coins and some patted their pockets to demonstrate that they didn't have change, she was steadfastly taking in the money, putting them in her dirty yellow bag all the while gesturing for one of them to help her cross the road. I rushed out of the car, over to her side and asked her if she wanted to cross the road, that poor dear could only nod and raise her feeble hand.

I held her coarse hand and she heaved her frail body up, with her back bent she managed to move when i told her it was ok to do so. All this while i could see her struggling, we make slow progress as cars and other vehicles now wait for her to move across. My mind was debating whether I should carry her but her grip was strong and the walk determined though feeble. After what seemed to be an hour, while i think only 10 minutes elapsed, we reach the other side. I sit her at this new intersection under a tree, a brief respite from the unbearable heat. As she settles down she gently waves me away, i give her some money and that was the first time she looks at me, a feeble thank you was uttered and she gave me a slight smile. I knelt in front of her and I asked her where she wanted to go, she pointed across a larger road, i gaped and then collecting myself I asked her if I could take her across, she just shook her small head and said "I’ll go after a few days", Tamil is a funny language i think that’s what she said, she might have meant that she would go after awhile too.

Where was she going at 1:30 PM, this frail old woman? What was so important? What would she do in this incredibly hot sun? Does she have a family or a shelter? I wondered. Yet, she seemed to have her destination in her mind. All she had in the world seemed to be in her dirty little yellow bag. I walked away from her as she waved me away, not knowing what to do, feeling that i had let her down somehow by being clueless.

Farewell my fellow traveler, i hope you reach your destination, i hope you find your shelter. We live in a country where we care little for our seniors; there are many of your age ignored by us, walking resolutely with just their pride and a little bag. I belong to the kind who drive our cars and shield our eyes and think that all is well with the world. You took that shield away that day and made me see things for what they are.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ten Questions on Life

I thought to myself, if I had ten doubts to clarify on life, what would they be? These came to mind:

1) Is there God? Isn't there God? Which question would lead me to the right answer?
2) Is truth subjective? If something so powerful is subjective, is there anything that is universal?
3) Is there a perfect life? Will I ever live a perfect day? Or did I sleep through it?
4) Is pride a good thing? Being proud of one's country is good but pride goes before what do I strive for?
5) Are some people luckier than others? What is luck? Who decides who is luckier?
6) Am I really a better person than another human being? Is there someone better than I am? Or is this subjective too?
7) Que sara there a destiny? Is there a pre-written path that I follow? Do I have no control?
8) 59 dead in Iraq .. One dead in Kashmir, today, who do I mourn? Do I mourn? How do I remember them beyond just a number? Would i be one such number sometime too? a mere number?
9) What is being fearless? When most of existence is sculpted by fear?
10) Is there heaven and hell? Or a soul within the body? Or a life after death? do I imagine these to help my day to day existence?

I probably have to ask another question...Will i ever find out the answers? Would i comprehend the answers? All they already with me?

(I have a friend to thank for pointing out that i seem to have exceeded the 10 questions by clubbing multiple questions togather. I would like to point out an entry in the Writer's Rule Book Chapter III, Secion 2.5.1 (iv) Addendum B1. "Its a writer's previledge on what he/she writes when he/she is not paid for what he/she writes". I hope that amply clarifies my position)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The ramblings of a book lover

I happen to be one of those people who visit bookstores with no specific intent but to walk around and waiting for a surprise to come up. A habit that a lot of my friends find funny as they go in with a specific book or books in mind and walk out once their objective is met. In the least they know exactly the section they want to hit. I admire that, don’t get me wrong, but i for one always feel like a kid in a toffee shop every time I walk into a bookstore.

As i meander through various aisles it is always nice to meet old friends, prim and proper, arranged alphabetically in their shelves, waiting for someone top pick them up and make them their own. Some of them urge me to stop to pick them up and go through their pages, most often to revisit the moments that one always remembers vividly in that book, for instance i can never pass a copy of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, without reading the page where Doc Daneeka explains what Catch 22 was to Yossarian, in my opinion those are funniest lines ever written. Often these books also transport us back to the times when we had read the book for the first time, the first impression it had on us or at the very least it reminds us of those precious moments tucked away in a corner or that long journey which till then had been relegated to the trash can in our minds.

I do not really have a single method of selecting a book, sometimes I’ve picked a book just because the cover was attractive or the title or the author suited the mood of the moment. Unfortunately, books that i pick up often ceases to be this wonderful journey after just a few pages, not because it wasn't written well, but because the powerful expectations in our minds and the words in the book do not match. Often though, there always is a book that comes along and creates magic in its way. For me, one such book this year was the Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, i honestly didn't expect much from this nondescript book, having had a conviction that most translated books stink. I was so pleasantly surprised that I had discovered a book that I would cherish for a lifetime. As i read this book I felt that I was a silent character in the book, always looking out for something new at every turn, thoroughly enjoying it when quest was rewarded. There was a downside though, after I finished reading this book, most other books I might have enjoyed normally appeared very boring. This seems to me like life itself, we go along our path, when something or someone wonderful comes along, creating magic in our lives. When they do go away, there is this vast emptiness that takes time to fill. Unlike, life though, books can be reread, the magic may not be the same but any book lover would agree with me that there is this almost childish glee when one encounters an interesting scenario or a subplot one had forgotten about after the first reading. I encounter these in nearly every book I reread, even the ones that ive read more than a dozen times previously.

Life and other such events

Here it goes, my first venture into writing anything. One does have many random thoughts that one feels very strongly about writing, but when those thoughts need to be penned into words, there is an immense silence, now i know how writer's block feels like. Well, this is my page atleast whatever is in it is mine, good or bad. I would like to take this opportunity, to write about this world as i know it. As i sit in my office, i wonder, do i work to live? or live to work? the former seems the more appealing of the two but when i think about it the latter is the one tht seems to have precedence. My life is organised around my work, not that it is bad, but ive come to realise that while this work that i do rates among the most important things, ironically though the company i work for would not be impacted in any way good or bad by my work, its too big. 10 years ago, i would have scorned at this thought and gone on happily in my belief that i do make a change and i am geared for greater things. Now reality bites, i know anyone, not even the CEO of the company can change a whole lot.

Then what am i doing? Do i strive for creating value, bettering things around me or am i scrambling for existence. I think i finised B School, with dreams of the former and now that im in my thirties im slipping to the latter. I would reckon that this is a common feeling that would appear to most employees of big monoliths. Maybe this is midlife crisis that i hear about.