Friday, July 25, 2008

Kumaran's Secret (Part 1)

Once upon a time in the land of the Pandiyas lived a rich trader by the name Kumaran. Apart from his immense wealth, which he built on his own, Kumaran intelligence and wise. He was often called upon resolve disputes and issues, that were seemingly unresolvable.

Kumaran was one of the most well traveled men of his time and as such it is said that even the King took his advice from time to time on matters of international importance.

Kumaran had three children, two sons Murugan and Veeran and a beautiful daughter Thyla. He doted on his children and they looked up to their father. In short it was a very close knit family.

The enduring sadness of Kumaran's life was the loss of his wife Kamala during the birth of Thyla. This brought Kumaran closer to his children; he started spending more time in raising them than in his travel. Every day he tried to instill good values like valour, bravery, chivalry and kindness in his children.

As a man of stature Kumaran had many acres of land upon which he employed thousands of workers to conduct farming. In his farms, Kumaran used techniques he had learnt in far off places like Siam and Rangoon which were hitherto unheard of. He also brought experts from those places to train his farmers and hence the yields of rice and coconuts from his farms were the best in the land.

As the years grew, farming made Kumaran even richer. He eventually gave up his trading business and settled down to become a gentleman farmer.

Along with Kumaran and his children lived his two brothers Kumanan and Kandhan and their families as well. Kumanan and Kandhan had lived under the shadow of their impressive brother all their lives and unfortunately did not possess his charisma or his wisdom or kindness. Yet in true patriarchal tradition, Kumaran took care of his brothers and more than once turned a blind eye at their excesses.

As the years passed, the children grew to be young adults and made Kumaran proud of their achievements. Veeran and Murugan had grown to be strong young men, aware of the world around them, always ready to take on any challenge offered by their father. And Thyla, known as the brilliant one in the family had grown to be a very smart and beautiful young woman. Kumaran noted with pride that her power of reasoning to be far superior to anyone else he had encountered.

The years had not been kind on Kumaran's health though. His once impressive frame grew weaker every year and he could feel his strength ebb away slowly.

Eventually, Kumaran's wise doctors concluded that he did not have long to live, there was pandemonium in his house. His children and the farm workers were deeply saddened.

Kumaran's brothers though saw an opportunity to grab a big share of their brother's wealth. They began to constantly harass Kumaran to give them control of the estate, so that they can run it when he was unwell.

When they found that Kumaran was unresponsive, they began their work on Murugan and Veeran, trying to create a fight between the two brothers. While their efforts were in vain, it worried Kumaran no end.

After a lot of thought he decided to write a will to protect his children. It took him weeks to think things through and by the time he finished it, he was bed-ridden. His illness had almost consumed him.

Kumaran entrusted his will to his friend Sambandar who was an important man in the Pandiyan Palace.

Kumaran's instruction was two fold, one was to read his will only after he passes away and the second was that 10 years after he passes away there had to be a feast celebrating his life where 10000 poor people should be fed and at that time the benefactors of his will should be there to receive instructions on finding his secret wealth, his most valuable possession.

Kumaran's brothers devised many means to find out the contents of the will but their efforts went in vain. Yet they plotted day and night to somehow capture the whole of Kumaran's wealth.

One sad morning, Kumaran died his body unable to handle the ravages of his illness.

A month after the death ceremonies were completed, Kumaran's family gathered for the reading of his will. His sons now strong and handsome men stood behind their sister. Along with them were Kumaran's brothers, Kumanan and Kandhan, and their wives and their children.

Sambandar opened Kumaran’s will and read it to the group. It read,

To my dear son Murugan, you who love the stories of my travel and have a curiosity of the world that far exceeds mine. I leave you my stable of horses, I wish you wonderful times and many great adventures.

To my dear son Veeran, you of strong will and a stronger body, I leave you my sword and my armour. There is no man braver than you my Son. The King needs men like you.

To my darling daughter Thyla, you're intellect competes only your beauty. I leave you your freedom. You will not be forced to marry anyone as per our custom but you will have the ability to pursue any course of knowledge that your hungry mind seeks. Sambandar would be your guardian and would ensure that my wishes are fulfilled.

To my thousands of farm workers, I give you the freedom to till your own land. One half of my land shall be divided between all of you.

Finally, to my brothers, I leave the rest of my farming land, properties and all the wealth accrued from my businesses.

There was hushed silence in the room. Kumaran and Kandhan could not believe their good luck, their wildest dreams had come true!

Sambandar then told the gathering about Kumaran's last request of a feast after 10 years and that Kumaran's secret possession would be revealed then.

Murugan, Veeran and Thyla could not understand their father’s decision but they accepted it nevertheless as they were taught.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Polygamists Please Note

While exploring a holiday at Malaysia I ran into this charming offer

Deluxe Suite - RM4880 nett per room-maximum 4 persons.

I shall say no more.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Morning After

A ray of warm light bathed his face. Stairway to Heaven?

A dark figure between the light, looking down at him. God? St Peter? Dad?

As the clouds cleared slowly in his throbbing brain, reality kicked in. It was the damn cat standing by the open window again.

Mr Ming was his Siamese cat from hell.

It was the cat's breakfast time otherwise the cat never sought his company. It had a habit of staring at him till he took care of its needs. Just sitting there and staring, too good to miaow like a normal cat. Cold fury in it's eyes.

He turned his back to the window and pulled the covers over his head. There was no way he was getting up just yet.

As he lay there, his mind started running over it's usual Sunday morning check list, How did he get home? No Clue, is this home? Of course, where else would the fetid feline be. Did he change for the night? He slowly felt down only to be comforted by the warm familiarity of his pyjamas.

Was Susan there with him? He looked around, didn't appear so.

Wait a minute, his pyjamas didn't have a pocket in the front. Slowly reaching back he realised that the bloody thing was back to front. At least he'd worn it. A smile played at the corner of his mouth. He wasn't so successful the previous week.

His tired brain started focussing on his body. His head hurt, he needed more sleep and then a nice long cold bath. His mouth felt like an ashtray, dry. The muscles in his right leg felt a little sore, dehydration of course, no cramps yet though. No nausea.

All in all, negligible damage.

Good, so he didn't get so drunk the previous night after all, he thought.

It had been a good saturday night, started late and ended really late. Well it was good till Susan walked out of the bar. She was awfully crabby last night. Wonder why, he thought.

Waves of sleep hazed up his thoughts.

He really couldn't remember the conversation last night but could vaguely remember her flying off in a rage after calling him a rotten name. Uncharacteristic. Did she slap him?

Must call her later. Much later. Need to sleep now, he thought.

He caught the cat walking past the bed slowly, swishing it's tail slowly, throwing him a look that could only mean instant painful death.

No dice, Ming the bastard wasn't going to get his breakfast anytime soon.

The cat was a remnant of a past relationship. The ex-girlfriend wanted to get far away from him, so she did, to Paris. She loved the cat but not that much, so it remained with him. Why him? Why not her pimply sister? Probably because she thought that the cat would irritate him the most.

Ming and he lived in a barely tolerated truce. It had been two years this way and two years can be a long time between a man and a feline he hated.

His throbing head reminded him of the need for sleep.

He closed his eyes resolutely, Susan came into focus again. Sweet Susan. They had a great relationship, if you can call it that. Known each other since high school, friends through their early 20s, lovers through their late 20s and now a comfortable amalgamation of both. She
understood him or at least she didn't judge him. Nice girl.

Her eyes were a little puffy last night, wonder why.

Sleep slowly resumed it's embrace. His mind was shutting down quickly, one light at a time.

A baby! That was she said last night. She was going to have a baby! His eyes flew open. Susan was going to have a baby. BLING. All the lights in his head went on in a flash!

Was it him? he thought. Ofcourse it had to be him. Susan was way more loyal to him than he ever was to anyone.

That his memory was very fuzzy, the music and the booze don't make for a good listener. What did I tell her? What do I do? he thought. The dull throb in his head became a more sharper pain.

A kid? Have I had a hand in creating a kid? his mind screamed. He sat up. Everything around him seemed to freeze. He felt like he could even hear the cat swish it's tail in slow-mo. A baby? A father? Me? I can't live with a damn cat! How can I manage a little baby! If there was a panic button in his head, his brain was jumping all over it.

The headache was relegated to the background, instead his mind was busy, did he have the money to bring in a child? What would he teach the kid? Did he have to marry Susan? OMFG! Marriage? How?

Heavy thoughts weighed down on his every move. He felt trapped like Houdini with a memory problem right in the middle of an escape act.

A little voice in his head said, of course she has to abort. How can she think of keeping this baby? But then he knew Susan, the girl has been waiting to have a child ever since she was 15. No way she was going to back out of it.

His Catholic parents, may they rest in peace, seemed to frown at him from right near the ceiling. His dead grandfather seemed to laugh at him from somewhere below the floor.

He stepped off the bed and slowly made his way to the window. What did he tell Susan? He must have really upset her. An unusual feeling ran through his body, remorse. Is this how it feels like?
As he stood there random moments of his life came into sharper focus, he knew that sometime in the future he would end up with a family, just hadn't thought about it a whole lot.

Somehow he'd like the idea of being a father kept growing on him as he stood there.

He was sure that he'd be an awful dad, but he realised there was a need to be a dad somewhere deep inside that seemed to make it's presence felt.

He felt a little calmer.

A rueful smile played on his lips. What do you know? He knew his life would change. Change was not a stranger, he had experienced it when his parents had died when he was 17. From then on, he had dodged his way through every twist and every turn life had to offer. He'd adapt.

He had to call Susan. He had to tell her that he was with her all the way. It was time. Time to settle down, time to grow roots. Somehow he felt a little free, a little like the time his parents were around.

He sat down on his bed and reached for his phone.

The phone rang for what seemed to be eternity. She finally picked up.

Hey you, Up pretty early for a Sunday aren't you, she said brightly.

Hey, he replied. Not sure how to read the sunniness in her voice.

About yesterday, he began. What about yesterday? she asked.

Well about the baby, what did the doctor say? his voice seemed to be coming from a deep hole in the ground.

Well, the doctor is saying that the baby is due next April, she said, Why whats the hassle?

Susan, he said, taking time to speak, as if gathering his courage, I'm sorry for yesterday, I'll support you in any decision you take.

There was a pause in the other end of the line, the Susan said What decisions? What are you talking about?

He was confused, It's about our baby, you mentioned it last night and I said something that upset you so much you got up and left!!

Again, there was a silence then suddenly he could hear her rumbling laughter. He was even more confused. Do hormones make women do this? he thought.

You drunk asshole! I'm not pregnant, I told you my sister was going to have a baby!, she hollered, then added, Now I know why you kept blabbering and asking me if it was yours! And you Moron, I didn't leave because I was upset but coz I had to go pick up my sister from the airport early in the morning, remember? Of course you don't!

He felt like someone had punched him in the gut.

Oh Ok then..I'll call you later he mumbled.

As he kept the phone down he could still hear her laughter and could feel the blood rushing to his face.

He slowly leaned back on the bed. Fucking Martinis! He closed his eyes slowly as he felt the dull pain in his head surface again.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

In Traffic Today

The hair in my neck stood up, my head immediately swivelled left. Instinct.

A cop was purposefully making his way towards me, I knew I was caught. I looked ahead, the traffic was bumper to bumper. No way I was getting out of this one.

As seconds turned to hours, realisation suddenly stuck, I still had my cellphone up near my ear. The damn conference call! The reason for my current situation! Using a cellphone, even in a traffic jam was banned.

The cop was now next to my car. Should I put my phone down now? I thought. Did seem silly to log off the call, especially when I knew I was going to pay a fine or a bribe anyway. I offered a weak smile, pretended to put the phone down, I hadn't switched off.

The cop waves me to move to the side of the road. Yeah right, like I could. The traffic had sealed me tight.

I smiled again and shrugged. I tried my best I-never-do-this-ever look. And gave me his Yeah-right-show-me-the-money look. Frankly, his was more convincing, experience pays.

There we were, me imitating a a cornered rat and him imitating a status, the one with it's arm pointed somewhere, in this case towards the side of the road. Did I mention seconds moved like hours?


On the opposite side of the road an Indica Taxi had rammed into the back of a Santro. No one appeared hurt, it was just the usual late breaking manoeuvre that happens in traffic all the time.

The cop looked at the melee while I look at the cop. This was a window, for sure, but would it be big enough for my escape?

The two drivers across the road get out of their cars and begin their ritual, It-was-your-bloody-mistake routine. Tempers were frayed, voices were raised and a insults had started involving a few generations.

The Cop slowly begins turned in their direction his movement was measured and reluctant. He had to step in. The crash wouldn't net him much plus it's a whole lot of work and not to mention two angry assholes to contend with.

He looked back at me and I looked at him. Our impasse had passed. He knew it. On cue, the traffic ahead of me started clearing up.

I moved my car along and slowly put the phone back in my ear. Whaddya know, no one had even noticed my absence.

(This is just an exaggerated version of an event that took place over a period of 2 minutes today at 11 AM. I know there must be some of you who would object to my assumption that the Cop came over to ask me for money but after two decades of travelling on the roads of Chennai where I've been stopped by traffic cops atleast a two dozen times for some minor violation or the other but have been ticketed only twice, so you work the stats!).

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Impossible is Nothing!

No this is not about Adidas but the story of Van Phillips the inventor of the Cheetah Foot, a carbon fibre prosthetic leg that helps an athelete like Oscar Pistorius, who doesn't have both his legs, to aim at qualifying for the Beijing Olympics! At one point Oscar was nearly disqualified for having an undue advantage over the other contestants!

Whether he competes in Beijing this year or not, I think, Van Phillips has achieved something spectacular don'tcha think?