Thursday, December 14, 2006

Short Story - Last Man Standing

Another wicket fell. Sunil Singh walked in.

At 34/3, India was looking down the barrel yet again. And for the umpteenth occasion, the barrel turned out to be one bathed in yellow-green hues. With each passing game against the Kangaroos, India was taking predictability nearer perfection. For the Indian supporters, the scores and the result had long become matters of mere academic interest. The actual point of discussion lay more and more in the margin and the shamelessness of the defeat.

The day had started, yet again, with most things going right for India. The pitch at Eden Gardens had looked as good as any other for batting, the sun shone brightly in a sky shorn of even the tiniest hint of cloud cover, Australia’s best bowler, Shane Warner was out with an injury and they had managed to win the toss. The decision to bat was one that even the dumbest character on the planet would’ve considered a no-brainer. The execution so far was not turning out to be very different either.

The Kolkata crowd had swarmed into the ground with an enthusiasm that belied the team’s recent performances. They had looked on expectantly as the match referee, the two captains and the mandatory and totally unnecessary television commentator had wandered out towards the pitch for the toss. They had roared in unison with a zeal that would’ve put a tsunami-infested ocean to shame when the massive scoreboard informed them that India had won it and had then proceeded to outdo themselves when the opening batsmen had emerged from the dressing rooms. They had produced a stunned silence when the first wicket fell off the first ball, looked on in despair as their team had poked and prodded its way to double digits in the seventh over, had resorted to an angry booing when the second wicket had fallen which had become even more vociferous when the third had followed suit and were on the verge of hysteric mass destruction when Sunil Singh had walked in. In an instant, even as the stupefied fielding side took in the incredulously fickle and chameleon-ic ways of them, they had discovered new vigor and resorted to delirious chanting again. Other than the fact that it had looked and sounded quite ridiculous, it had also made Sunil look like a messiah, second not even to Christ himself.

Sunil Singh was the best batsman India had produced in the last two years. His rise to superstardom within six months of his debut was attributed as much to his cricketing exploits as to his ‘Greek God’ countenance. His bat had talked for those months. And since then he’d talked more than the bat. Endorsement offers had rained upon him from every known quarter; insipid and oft-repeated interviews were aired more frequently than he scored his runs. Thankfully, however, his bat had managed to hold its own against the competition from these verbal devices, and he had continued to demolish oppositions and mesmerize spectators around the world.

The first two deliveries saw Sunil unleash two exquisite square driven boundaries. The average human being, in most cases (the generalization tends to become a tad more accentuated where the un-fairer sex is concerned), is not allocated a significant quantity of that intangible commodity known as intuition, which someone with an obviously well developed numerical intellect and a retarded sense of the beauty of English language alternately also termed as ‘Sixth sense’. But there are those rare occasions when this commodity does lend itself favorably to a very large chunk of the populace, and this was one such occasion. Everyone intuitively felt that they were going to witness something out of the ordinary. A murmur of subdued but hopeful anticipation went around the ground. The buzz in the stadium was back. Sunil Singh acknowledged this refreshed vigor with another imperious straight drive. The contest had begun.

For the cricket enthusiast and the players themselves, the Eden Gardens is, undoubtedly, the best stadium in the world, comfortably outshining its nearest rival for the exhilarating experience it offers. It is a ground which lives the game. Every blade of grass seems to resonate with an intensity that is unmatched till it remains unseen. The seats might perhaps have been less taxing on the human posteriors, but that hardly matters; the human posterior hardly has occasion to descend on the seats.

One man, however, was continuously refuting this tradition and had been doing so for quite sometime. Seated right above the dressing room (A location that afforded one of the best views of the proceedings), he sat in rapt attention, and watched the game unfold.

Sudhir Vyas was generally a likeable character. At forty four, he still carried a juvenile sense of humor, which though lacking in maturity, was gratifyingly well endowed in quality. His wide traversal of the planet had made him fairly knowledgeable in the ways and charms that various parts of the world held which, intermingled with the aforementioned sense of humor, ensured that he was a good sort to be with. His profession, however, left a lot to be desired and was one of the chief reasons why, among the living, those out to get his arse were to be found in decidedly larger quantities than those out to get his camaraderie.

Sudhir had been a betting man for as long as he could or cared to remember. His formative years in the art had been fairly successful. More importantly, however, they had been shorn of possible harm to anyone else except him. His chief pleasure, during those days, had been the excitement of the game itself – undeniable qualities of the quintessential gambler. With time, however, the glorious abandon of youth had begun to fade away and had given way to more worldly desires and aspirations. That is when he had graduated to ‘fixing’.

Finding the right contacts for this diversification of operation had not been very difficult. It was almost as if the shift in outlook had been blessed and urged on by God Himself, which is amusing, for we all construe Him to frown upon anything ungodly and perhaps He too not infrequently purports to be similarly inclined, but as matters suggest and have suggested since time immemorial and indeed immaterial, this probably is not a very reliable assumption to make.

In any event, Sudhir’s stint in his newfound profession had been dazzling and he had soon made it to the big league. And that is where he had continued ever since. There had been periods of unrest, when a couple of incompetent accomplices had spilled more beans than were affordable, but he had managed to wiggle his way out of the situation largely unscathed, barring of course the financial ramifications.

But the scuffle had had its impact in other quarters. The brief drop in guard and subsequent weakening of his financial muscle, in the fiercely competitive industry, had allowed other players to move in and cover ground. Most notably among those, had been Utkal Mehta.

Sunil Singh was in total control of the game. He had moved to 42 off 35 deliveries and had pushed India’s total to 92/4. At the other end, Anupam Goel was battling away in as unwatchable a fashion as possible. To his credit though, he was hanging on where quite a few of his teammates had failed and nobody had expected a vastly differing performance from him either.

Mehta had risen to the top at a pace that had mystified everyone else. His rise had been fuelled by a cunning that was unmatched and a complete disregard for ethics and morality. En route, he had forged alliances, used them and finally destroyed them with ruthless impunity. Till all else had been rolled over and only Sudhir remained.

Sudhir had foreseen the day and had prepared his trenches for it, but he had not foreseen the ferocity and the deviousness with which Mehta had come down upon him. Stakes had been raised so high that Sudhir had given them up as foolhardy and self destructing to indulge in. But Mehta had, somehow, managed to cling on. For a while, they had both bled. After that while, only Sudhir bled.

As matters stood on this day, Mehta’s decimation of Sudhir was all but complete. In a space of three years, Sudhir, from being a multi billionaire, had been pummeled past bankruptcy and into a state of perpetual debt, running into millions. His meticulously built network had been reduced to rubbles. The point of no return was a hair’s breadth away.

The carnage had destroyed the business but it had not destroyed the man. The will to fight had survived. Sudhir, with every lost battle, had defied rationale and gone on. Every blow Mehta had inflicted and had hoped to be the last, had been risen back from. Sudhir had hung on, waiting for that one window of opportunity which would bring him back from the dead. The day had finally arrived.

Another ball disappeared into the crowd. Singh moved on to 59.

Today was Sudhir’s final roll of the die. The risk was reason-defying. But there was no other choice. Sunil Singh hadn’t been the easiest to conquer but he had, after seven long months, managed it. A dismissal on 99 – that was the deal. And Sudhir knew that it didn’t even all depend upon Sunil. A stray unplayable delivery, one mistimed shot somewhere, and all would be lost. If he won, he’d erase all his deficits and be back up on his feet again. If he lost…He knew he couldn’t lose. The .38 Automatic felt cold against his right thigh.

India – 145/5. Sunil Singh batting on 83. Singh’s progress to the moment of truth had registered only dimly in Sudhir’s consciousness. But nevertheless, the progress had been registered and the realization of the closeness of the moment had not escaped detection.

The crowd watched in a trance as Singh went past 90 with a stunning drive through Point. Two balls later, another shot went past a diving deep midwicket. Singh moved onto 96. Australia was visibly rattled and for once, their cocksure captain was at a loss of ideas. His repeated consultations with the bowler and changes in field had not helped matters in the least. Sunil Singh guided the next ball to the right of the fielder at Cover and set out for a single. He caught the other batsman napping. Halfway down the track, he found he still had a little more than halfway to go to shake hands with the non striker. Panic ensued. Singh turned back towards the crease. The ball was already out of the fielder’s hands and making its way towards the stumps. Singh’s lower limbs frantically attempted to reach safety, but he saw they weren’t fast enough. He dived.
The third umpire took a long while. Every eye in the stadium and in television sets all over the world was riveted to the digital screen, where the decision would eventually pop out. It took eternity. And then the green bulb appeared onscreen. Not out. Sudhir loosened his grip on the .38.

Three pokes and prods here and there took Singh to 99. At the beginning of the next over, he was back on strike. The first two balls were outside off stump and Singh played them straight back to the bowler. The bowler slowly made his way back to his mark. Sudhir felt his stomach tighten.

The ball was outside the off stump again. This time, Sunil Singh flashed hard at it, a reckless and needless shot to all eyes except the ones that knew. The ball took the outside edge and went towards the wicket keeper, Jack Howard – a simple catch by any standard. The keeper moved slightly and nimbly to his right to cover the ball. Singh turned and looked behind with wide open eyes. The bowler raised his arms up in the air…it all happened with such precise unision as to seem orchestraed- a picture perfect moment that remained frozen in time for a split second. And then the bowler's arms slumped.

The ball didn’t even touch the keeper’s gloves. It flew past him and rolled away to the boundary. The crowd erupted.

The shot was never heard amongst the din. No one noticed the man slump in his seat.
Three rows behind, another man chuckled to himself. He got up slowly, reached into his shirt pocket for his cell phone, gave a high five to the kid in the next seat and moved out, presumably for a leak. Once in the restroom, he dialed a number.

“Deposit Seven Million dollars to Jack Howard’s account.” he said.

Utkal Mehta emerged from the restroom and made his way into the crowd again.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Another insipid attempt at rhyme. Decided to try my hand at generating song-type lyrics. Not the stuff legends are made of, quite obviously.


As dawn breaks through the mist, a golden glow lights up the sky
A fresh-dew fragrance in the air, as earth and wind ally
The whole world seems just so right, a moment frozen in time
Fear and agony grip a man, the irony sublime…

A room on an attic dark-lit, the curtains drawn close to hide
A solitary ray breaks through a slit, falls on broken pride
Tormented he lies in a corner, the messianic red mask on his side
A hundred feet scurry on the wall, labyrinthine cobwebs preside
When Spiderman had Arachnophobia

Haunts him his greatest strength, shivers run through the spine
The boon turned to morbid bane, as years of pain combine
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, the predator dwells within
Poisoned is the mind and blood, every breath becomes a sin

When Spiderman had Arachnophobia

They will all know the savior strong, not the man inside
They will still wait for him to come, be not by his side

Yes, when Spiderman had Arachnophobia

Hopes and dreams will slowly fade away, to demons turn servile
Life itself will cease to be, graveyards of golden memories compile

Friday, November 24, 2006

Memoir of a distressed birthday boy

I celebrated the completion of my 23rd year on the planet day before yesterday. My friends, however, managed to celebrate it a whole lot better than me. Seven rounds of butt-walloping is about as much entertainment as anyone can aspire to get out of somebody else’s birthday.
It is widely believed that the number of kicks on your arse is directly proportional to your popularity in the vicinity. If that is anything to go by, I most certainly, am one of the most sought after. Everything comes at a price, they say. This, is a heavy price to pay.

The genesis of the concept of birthday bumps continues to befuddle me entirely. Beyond the fact that it is good exercise for the perpetrators’ lower limbs and restricts the freedom of movement of the perpetrated, it does not seem to serve any useful purpose. After much deliberation, I have hit upon, what I consider to be the most acceptable explanation, if one exists, to this heartless ritual

When a newborn first makes an appearance in this world, there ensues, what doctors consider as an elementary testing of the baby’s various faculties. Apparently, even with all the progress medical science is purported to have made through the years, slapping the unsuspecting little characters, quite mercilessly, on the butt is the most efficient method of doing so. The ear-shattering wail that follows establishes the child’s sense of ‘feel’ and vocal competence.

Perhaps, bumps are fallouts of this ingenious human device, an attempt to simulate, as closely as possible, the immediate ambience of those first few moments. And perhaps, also to run a recheck on our continued possession of the faculties mentioned above.

In any event, after having being beaten black and blue, literally, and having absolutely no chances of vendetta anytime in the near future, I found my recourse in rhyme. It is reproduced here for everyone’s benefit. Any comments on the crassness of it shall not be entertained!

A thousand kicks on the butt
Two mountains on the verge of ‘merge’
The aperture that leads out, all but shut
How painfully comes the surge!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back...after a while

Been gone for a while. Reasons to be explained in the not-too-distant future. What follows, can best be described as half baked. Its pretty amateur-ish in most parts, but then, something's better than nothing!

The meadows of bliss, the prairies of sunshine
The sweet smell of desires unfulfilled
Yearnings out of reach, hopelessly mine
In them, my Dreams life filled

Beyond the clutches of Wakefulness
Where the Earthy and the Ethereal reconcile
Life’s despairs into joy harness
The gentle might of Fantasy’s guile

With open arms, I embrace
The ecstasy of that surreal world beyond
Saviors all, have another face
To sanity loses sanity – that which I owned

Caresses that breathe lust into the Soul
Pierce like glacial rain
Every tryst pushes its addiction nigher ‘whole’
Into nothingness recedes the mind; just the embers remain

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The idea of independence is second to none (perhaps only to religion on occasions) in its influence and power to drive otherwise perfectly sane people to feats of maniacal outrage. To ignite a passion so intense, that it commands, seeps and eventually consumes those infected with it.

Throughout history, no single idea has united people so much, has cut through barriers as effectively, as has independence. Equally true however, is the fact that no other idea has caused gorier massacres, accounted for more bloodshed than it has. And yet, the idea of independence is such a farce, actually.

What is it that we are trying to conquer? What were the million fights for freedom already fought, trying to conquer? What will the zillion fights for freedom, that will be fought, try to conquer? Where do we finally see this culminate? Does anybody actually see where this will culminate?

Isn’t independence just an idea? Just another element in that magical vision of utopia that everyone dreams of and no one will ever get to? Is there any such thing as pure independence?

The mistake we make is confusing concession with freedom. All the freedom, all the independence, to any extent, at whatever level, is actually nothing more than a tolerant concession that we have been allowed, so that we remain largely dormant and harmless, and the task of ‘herding’ us in whatever direction is desired, becomes comparatively simpler.

Take for example our freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of action et al. Think about it. Are we actually free to exercise these rights we have been so graciously granted, in whatever way we deem fit? Aren’t there ‘catches’ in some form or the other that infest every nook and corner of the ‘freedom’?

Pure freedom cannot have any catches. A freedom thus defined, is a paradox unto itself.

No country on this planet is independent in the true sense of the word. Every nation has to depend upon dozens of others for resources ranging from petty grocery to mission critical nuclear armory.

The planet as a whole is dependent for its existence, on the continued zeal of the Sun, the continued aversion of delinquent ‘greater than peanut sized’ celestial objects to cross paths with the earth and other obscure happenstances dependent on the whims and fancies of various Newtonian principles.

The point is, there’s no such thing as independence. And never has been.

The more important point is, we are probably better off without it. Complete independence is never going to do anybody any good. Because, complete independence translates into complete, all-pervading power. The day an entity frees itself of all dependence; its existence too, will have ceased to depend on the existence of any other entity. And once that happens, the feeling of its own superiority and that of futility of the all other entities will only be a matter of time.

It is not the freedom and the rights allowed to the people that make the world a reasonable, logical and largely livable place to be in. It is the limits to them that do.

Independence and Freedom in the Dictionary:
The state or quality of being free from subjection or from the influence, control, or guidance of individuals, things, or situations.
A state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restraints or restrictions
The condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints, exemption, immunity from an obligation or duty...
Quite ironic, that thoughts so profound, meanings so complex, to find expression, are themselves slaves to words so trivial, so bland.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Frustrated. And How!

One mundane evening, nothing much to do
Exams start the next day, I ain't got no clue
Goin to get the 'screw'
Feel just so helpless, races past the time
What the heck! I don't care, I'll sit and rhyme!
Oh shit! Can't find a word that ends the next line...
In no mood to keep trying
Reason be damned, I'll just write 'Slime'

Flash of inspiration! Slime reminds of crime
Crimes that we commit over a lifetime
We hurt hearts, a million eyes left cryin
Why do we do it then?
Oh, its so bloody satisfyin!

What am I doing here, with my demented mind?
My brain's worth as much as many a folk's hind
Logic's lost, can't nowehere I find
Fight till the end they say,Yeah! I'll survive the grind!

I sit here, blog inanity
Inside the clock, the hands keep whizzing by
Let me get down to some work and fast!
Or else, gotta kiss my grades goodbye!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Art of Criticism

Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic. ~Jean Sibelius

A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs. ~John Osborne

Quite apparently, critics aren’t the most endearing creatures to be found in this part of the universe; the underlying motivation for such dire emotions against them are not very difficult to understand. We, the living, have never really been able to submit ourselves to the irrefutable fact that our remarkable achievements and readiness to use technology have not necessarily rubbed onto our Maker, who still continues to be much retarded in technology-comprehending intellectual faculties and insists upon sticking to the age-old rudimentary processes of manufacture, which, of course, take ‘perfection’ completely out of the equation.
Going back to the three quotes that flagged off this article, I’ve got a question to ask about them. What exactly did these men of influence and eloquence have in mind, when they made such sweeping statements about this much maligned fraternity? Are these statements any more profound than just blatant ‘criticisms’ of the critics? A classic case of not managing to practice what is being preached, eh?

Truth be told, there’s not a soul in this world, and never has been, who has at some point or the other, not dabbled in the joy and soul-stirring satisfaction of unrestrained criticism. We all do it. And when other people do it, we criticize them for doing it, and then continue doing it anyway.

Critics, I’ve decided, can be classified into two broad categories. There can be numerous other methods of classification, I accede, but for the purpose of this discussion, this one will do just fine.
1. The ones that do it with enough arsenals to cover their arses.
2. The ones that do it with all the exuberance and energy they can muster, but forget to zip up their own pants in preparation.

There is another category of critics; the kinds that’ll perennially crib about the taste, flavour and quality of the ice cream you so kindly bought for them, and eventually end up losing their rights to savour un-self-earned ice creams for the rest of their lives. This category is its own nemesis and therefore, we shall not spend time discussing their plight in the after years.

The former bunch, those that are well informed and battle-ready, are the ones that derive the pleasure of the game to the fullest. And they manage to provide considerable entertainment value to those around them too. These are the people, who make the criticisms as pinpointed, and often the most embarrassing for the critiqued, as they can and offer the most well thought insights to the most mundane events. Whether the insights are indeed of any value whatsoever, is of course an entirely different issue.
There cannot be any doubt, that such people have an inborn flair for the art. What varies, however, is the motivation. Some do it with honest sincerity and a genuine desire to aid improvement; some do it to take their inner frustrations out on unsuspecting victims and some do it just for the heck of it.
This sect can be as devilish or as helpful, as it chooses to be.
On the whole, the world needs them. Because, they are the ones that find faults where most others can’t. And finding faults in the prevalent best today is the first and, perhaps, most important step towards finding a new prevalent best for tomorrow. Yes, when all’s done and dusted, no one remembers their names, but that doesn’t make their contribution any less important.

The other, more abundantly available and generally more trigger-happy bunch is not half as potent. Their most significant contribution to society often turns out to be making a fool of themselves and being a source of amusement to the rest. You ask for their opinion on, lets say something you’ve written, and they’ll come up with such pathetic responses as “I don’t know, it somehow doesn’t feel right” or “I can’t really put my finger on it, but it just doesn’t seem to connect” or worse still, “Oh! What utter crap have you written!” You need not fear this species; it doesn’t take long for the world to figure out the true source of the ‘crap’.

I shall end here. Don’t let yourself believe for a moment that I ended so abruptly because I couldn’t figure out a better way of doing so. Its just that I want to allow everyone an opportunity at criticizing my work, for once, and to show how much I appreciate and encourage criticism.

Note: The objective of this exercise is to educate the reader on the benefits of accepting criticism from knowledgeable quarters and take no notice of those that come from other quarters. And not to take these matters as personal affronts. And treat them as friendly evaluation meant to help in the continuous betterment of skills.

And yes, I belong to the first category.

Monday, September 04, 2006


‘Why do you write such depressing stuff?’, ‘Why does death figure so prominently in your work?’, quite a few people have asked me in the last few days.

The matter has been duly contemplated and discussed with a friend of mine, Raakesh. By the way, do visit this fellow’s blog – Some of the stuff on it is simply awesome. Don’t ask me what that name means. My ignorance on the origination and essence of it is rivaled only by my ignorance of the temperature on Alpha Centauri in 1763 AD.

In any case, I was talking about this enchanting discussion I had with Raakesh. Now, enchantment of the reader is not the objective of this piece of literature and therefore, I’ll refrain from going into a word by word account of the conversation. The crux can be put forth as simply the following statement:

Involving death in anything related to life is not a matter of choice. It is in fact imperative in its presence. Any discussion on life and its philosophies must find its logical closure in death.

However, in the interest of diversity in my blog, I’ve decided to write on an issue, slightly removed from death.

‘Nature is all powerful.’

So we’ve been told. I respectfully disagree. Or I don’t agree to it in totality, at any rate.

Nature is so hopelessly powerless in its ability to protect its own self against the perpetrations of men, and yet so astonishingly powerful in its ability to exact remorseless vengeance on them.

Interestingly, the same can be said about Mankind too.

That basically throws the ‘more powerful-less powerful’ theory safely out of the window. The battle is indeed, between equals.
Even more intriguing is the thought that the adversaries are so completely dependent on each other for each other’s existences. With the fall of one, the other must fall too. Some might argue that Nature will last beyond life. The argument is not incorrect, but then, what’s the point of nature’s being, if there’s no life?

‘Mother Nature loves us, cares for us, blah blah blah…’

Raakesh and I touched upon this issue too. And while we held diametrically opposite points of views, both our views were equally diametrically opposite to the one mentioned above.
For all the geometry-obsessed characters who’re jumping out of their seats in agitation against the apparent impossibility of this statement, here’s a clue: Go 3D. Go ‘Sphere’.

Raakesh feels that Nature just doesn’t care. It is in fact, entirely incapable of emotions. It is just a non-living, inanimate entity. Now he might be scientifically true to an extent, and perhaps even completely so, but as long as he’s not able to produce proof, I can allow myself certain creative and philosophical liberties and come up with an alternate interpretation.

I feel, Nature actually does care, but it cares for its own self esteem far more than it does for such mere trivialities as life.

Perhaps, it derives a strange sadistic pleasure out of its own destruction, by the living. For it knows that as it is pushed, inch by inch, towards its end, Mankind too, hurtles towards its own annihilation.

Just thoughts these. We’ll probably never know the truth of the matter.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An attempt at poetry, again.

Battered and bruised, O fallen knight
Gaping wounds and pain, thy life they tore
Embrace thou, the divine light
For thou can't fight no more

A tear, loved, shall drop
A pyre shall burn
The funeral, soon adjourn
The river hungry, shall carry thy forgotten urn
The war shall just go on

Evermore shall follow
The glory of gore set free
A day shall come, of judgement hollow
What will it matter to thee?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Life & Death

The biggest problem with life is, it has to be lived. Through joy, through sorrow, through the tough, through the mild, it has to be lived.

Every moment lived is a never ending battle for the continuation of existence in the next moment. And it has to be lived as if it is all for eternity. As if everything that is here, will continue to be here forever and beyond.

The palpable irony of it is, that we will ourselves to walk on, to keep fighting, knowing fully well that our minds can never be fooled by this illusion of eternity, that deep down inside, the knowledge of the futility of it exists in all of us.

And yet, superficial as the illusion is, it is our heart that so willingly embraces it. Its every beat is a cry of defiance, a sad battle waged, to prolong the illusion, to push back that which must arrive. Sooner or later.

Every moment passed by is a moment lost in time. Never will it come back again. Why then do we spend most of these moments in apparent disregard for its preciousness, for its uniqueness?

Because, disregard it is not. For, every human being on this planet, somewhere in the deepest recesses of his/her heart, yearns for that one moment of glory. One moment under the sun when the world, and sometimes the sun itself, touch the tips of their imaginary caps to acknowledge the value and beauty of the moment.

We all strive for it. Some strive harder than the others. Some strive with a passionate insanity that awes and eventually, overawes us. But the point is, we all strive.

And when that moment does arrive, all the effort, all the pain, all the moments of failure and apparent disuse, come together and erupt in a celebration of their importance to us. In that one moment, we become ‘forever’, we become immortal in death. We bask in that glory till the end arrives. And arrive, it must.

But the moment continues to live long after we have stopped.

The tragedy of death is not that we cease to exist for the world. It is that the world ceases to exist for us. That all that we loved and hated, all that we created and destroyed, all that we ever did, is taken away from us. And left in its wake, is the vast, unconquered kingdom of ‘nothingness’.

I’ve often wondered how death will feel like. Will I feel my funeral pyre when it consumes me? Will it be any different from the unconsciousness of sleep? Will I ever dream in death? Science will deny the possibility; the mind dreams and with death, the mind dies. But then, there lies the line that separates a science built on logic from a logic that is built by the unburdened optimism of the human heart.

The heart never lets go; we never let go. Till the very end. That perhaps, is the essence of life.

But we always lose. That perhaps, is nature’s ultimate manifestation of supremacy over humankind.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Electronic Commerce: Framework, Technologies and Applications – A book review

If anyone’s looking quizzically at this and trying to map the extent of insanity that my mind has reached to be reviewing a book such as this, I must tell them that their most dire estimations will fall woefully short of the truth. Although other parts of my brain continue to function as they’ve always done, the IT part of it has taken a turn for the positively maniacal off late. Thanks to the very book that is now set to be reviewed.

Electronic Commerce: Framework, Technologies and Applications is the definitive book on how to ‘globe’ on a subject which you’ve got some idea about and which you know most other people besides you, have absolutely no idea about.

Written in a rambling fashion that has nothing but utter disregard for punctuations or paragraphs, this book gives you every reason why you shouldn’t read it. Every chapter, be it five pages or fifty, is one single mammoth paragraph; the words inside are so crowded and their proximity to each other so proximal, that you start losing track of which line you were on, almost as frequently as a new Ram Gopal Verma movie release. I don’t know whether the knowledgeable author of this book harboured any illusions of writing an immortal classic, for those are the only books which bear similar printing performances and still manage to get away with it.

You never really understand why the book was written in the first place. The absence of proper audience analysis is painfully evident. If it was meant for technically bent minds, it is too superfluous and simple to excite them. And if it was meant for the not-so-technically bent ones that need to get acquainted with the basics of ecommerce, it is too elaborate and jargon-heavy. The jargons of course, are left completely to themselves and their explanation to the layman has not been considered of any importance whatsoever.

Then again, most of the content in this book interests and amuses you for all the wrong reasons. Some of the content is downright howl-arious. Sample these:

1. There’s this magnificent first chapter which introduces (?) the reader to ecommerce. It is a 43 page chapter and when you finally grumble and groan your way to its end, you find that it took the author 42 references to compile it.

2. Some of the references used are striking in their absurdity. Take for example – For the blissfully uninitiated, this website is India’s answer to Google. I briefly contemplated the ramifications of some of us putting Google as a reference in one of our project reports; the contemplations were hardly encouraging.

3. This one must take the cake for the funniest line ever written anywhere. In its attempt to enlighten the reader to the advantages of wireless transmission, it tells you in absolutely clear cut terms

‘The advantage of wireless networks is that it doesn’t require wires’

Speechless, I was.

There are other glaring errors to be found aplenty for the more technically discerning. Radio waves being omni-directional, for example. Now I always thought it was the transmitter and the antenna that decided the directional attributes of a signal wave. Perhaps, I was wrong.

Not stretching it too far, let me just put it this way:

For everyone who wishes to have an inadvertently funny book to add to his/her collection, this is a definite recommendation.
For everyone who wishes to learn anything remotely relevant, reliable and usable about ecommerce – Please! Don’t even think about it!

In the end, this book tells you almost everything that you need to write a good, solid subject oriented book. By doing exactly the opposite.

Note: The identities of the author and the publication have not been disclosed on purpose. Humour is the sole intention of this post.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Nightmare

I see myself walk into a room. Bleary eyed, hair disheveled, what I’ve worn (I have refrained from using ‘Shirts’ and ‘Trousers’ for fear of being sued by those communities) looks as if its never known the existence of trivialities such as detergents and irons, my face (that otherwise handsome, charismatic face!) bears a striking resemblance to a particularly haggard bulldog.

The line of perception, for some strange reason, rotates a whirlwind 180 degrees and I see what I in the dream can see. The suffocating trauma of looking at as pitiful a creature as myself in the just described predicament, immediately vanishes, and is replaced by a queer mixture of barely controlled desperation and an even more pitiful sense of sympathy for the ‘me that is in the dream’.

The feeling is almost exactly replicated by those that I see. There in front of ‘me in the dream’, sit those seven magnificent specimens of men and women who, off late, have been so generous and unwavering in the creation of pain in my arse. My profs for this term.

I’ll not name any names here; I accept my duty of preserving the identities of such splendid people from the bottom of my heart.
I always find it amusing when people wish something from the bottom of their hearts. Isn’t bottom the place where all the filth accumulates?

Nevertheless, I’ll take the literary liberty of identifying this illustrious bunch of gentlemen and women by their initials and their tormenting specializations, so that the ensuing narrative becomes infinitesimally easier to present and childishly simple to comprehend (Phew!!! We writers have a tough job!!!). So here goes:

SCB – Management Accounting
HM – Economics
SS- Behaviour in Organisations
AB-Quantitative Analysis
DS-Legal Aspects of Management
BB-Information Technology in Management
NP-Communications in Management

They slowly draw closer to me, which I take, in the profound sleep-ridden clarity of my mind, as an indication of my dream-twin (we’ll call this fella, Bampi from now on) moving towards them. Presently, they rise a few notches on the screen. No symbolism involved here; apparently, my twin has found his way into a chair.

Oh shit!!! My mind suddenly fathoms the gravity of the situation. These guys are going to interview me! Why they should suddenly take time out to do so, is of course beyond the purview of the simplistic world view that I have been endowed with.

NP (With that perpetually encouraging and sympathetic smile on her face)- Good Morning!

Methinks- Oh! Its morning!

Bampi-Good Morning Ma’am!

NP-Let’s see if you’ve been practicing all that I’ve been telling you. Analyze your audience here.
Bampi: Uh-Oh! Umm….

SCB (With a voice and accent and overall demeanour that can be best described as, indescribable) -Why are you mumbling? What is the issue?

Bampi: I, err… I was just…

SCB- No. You’ve not read the case! You should be thrown out right now.

Methinks- Oh, please, please do it! I couldn’t be more grateful!

Bampi: No Sir, I… (And then better judgement prevails and he shuts up)

SS (With that fabulous Bih-inglish (Bihari English) accent)- Whai are you naat speaking? No caanfidench at aal! You are abviously naat a type A personality!

NP- No! No! He speaks well. I’ve seen him presenting…

SS- Oh that must just be a put aun! I am sure he ij in deep emotional labour when he prejents!

BB (With the forced US accent and a touch of hopeful contribution to his voice) - Perhaps, he doesn’t have the token and therefore can’t transmit right now, yes? (Looks around him at the blank faces and shuts up)

AB (Flashes a mischievous smile at Bampi) – No comments!

SCB- Why are we wasting time? We have a marathon session today. Let us be fast.

HM (With the customary meekness in voice and flexibility of the neck) – I mean! I mean, you see, we have to make it clear to him. He needs to answer. He needs to answer. He needs to answer. Right now his production possibility curve is practically zero.

AB- That is called limit tends to zero.

NP – Yes, of course he needs to answer.

AB – Then let the poor fellow answer

At this everyone starts looking at Bampi as if he’s about to drop either a priceless pearl of wisdom or a pellet of dried cow dung out of his mouth.

Bampi: Err…but what was the question?

HM tries to say something but SCB beats him to it.

HM- I mean...

SCB- See! He doesn’t know the issue! He has not read the case!

SS – He never doej. I haave alwayj faund him completely blank and frequently dojing aoff in class.

AB – Now that is not completely correct. His performance in my class is as follows
· He never sleeps
· He keeps looking here and there
· He never answers and has this enlightened smile on his face as if he knows everything
· And thankfully, he never missed class for a BIO quiz!

SS – Whaat are you trying to say here? BIO ij naat impaartent? You can never succeed withaout it. EQ ij more impaartent than IQ!

Methinks – I expected you to say that. After all, EQ is all you have.

DS (Fidgeting in his chair all this while, itching to say something but failing to form a coherent sentence…and finally!) – I do not know. It is written nowhere in the laaw.

Methinks- Did anybody actually ever write anything worthwhile in the law?

SCB- Please…please don’t waste time with all this. This…this is not the platform for this discussion.

NP- Alright. Let the boy speak. I am sure if we allow him to, he’ll come up with a ‘Yes’ presentation.

Bampi - ……..

BB- He’s just hopeless. Don’t think he’ll be able to state even A to Zee properly. His IP settings are all messed up. Too many collisions. Perhaps his brain uses ALOHA.

DS – IP? Does he even have any Intellectual Property? I do not know.

SCB – It was such a beautiful case and you didn’t read it! You are not fit to be in this place. Which idiot allowed you admission here anyway?

Methinks – One of you. Who else?

AB- If we take X to be the random variable for the number of times he’ll speak correctly, the probability will be zero.

Bampi – But…

SS – Naaw he want to put tha blame on as. It ij tha self-sarving bias.

NP – You had developed so much ethos, Kushal. You’ve let me down now.

SCB- He’s just trying to make stories here. He should be thrown out.

Suddenly, I hear a scuffle, find the bunch falling a few notches and then whoosh!!!…I am out of myself and can see myself in the dream again. And I see myself running for the door…

Somewhere in the background I hear this…

Last thing I remember

I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
Relax said the nightman, we are programed to recieve
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave
(From Hotel California – Eagles)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Of Anxiety and Stress

They finally made me do it. Write a blog on life@L.

My initial disinclination to write on the subject stemmed from two impeccable pieces of logic.

1. Half of the population in this part of the world has already had something to say about it. Blogs on life@L, are literally, all over the internet. And the good for nothing bloke that I am, don’t think I’ve got enough grey cells hidden amongst the abundant hay and dung (people prefer to call it ‘Bhoonsa’ in Hindi) inside my brain, to be able to infuse any perspective that can be perceived as even remotely fresh.

2. I write crap. And even if crap is dressed in Manish Malhotra designer wear, it still continues to be crap. Take ‘The God of small things’, for example.

Be that as it may, now that I have willed myself to take the plunge, might as well do it as well as I can.

Life here is tough. Any alternate opinion can be confidently tossed out of the window without the addition of any undue weight on one’s conscience.

It actually started off quite innocuously. The first week wasn’t really too bad; at least for the ‘A’ section, where I’ve incidentally been dumped. We were prepared for the worst and the worst didn’t arrive. It was a classic case of bracing yourself for an imminent collision with a truck@60 miles an hour and finding instead, a bicycle@ 0.60 miles an hour.

However, the other sections had a slightly un-rosier picture painted for them. Suitably relaxed that I was, I found ample time and devoted ample thought to the predicament of those children of a lesser God, whose workloads were steadily and undeniably northward bound. Curiously, the situation reminded me of something I’d read all those years ago in 'Three men in a boat' (Hilarious book, that)

'I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.'

The ‘Children of a lesser God’ theory didn’t stand the test beyond the first week. The next week brought to my attention, rather painfully, that there wasn’t much of a difference between their God and mine, beyond the fact that their God had a more profound understanding of the theory of equitable distribution.
A fortnight into the term, Mr. Sapan Oza, a very good friend of mine, asked me - "What's the difference between anxiety and stress?"

"Anxiety is the fear of stress. And stress is that which shows you that the anxiety wasn't entirely misplaced.", I told him.

The sleep-less nights have begun to gradually degenerate into sleepless nights. There are assignments and presentations and projects and quizzes and tasks all over the place. But for the kind soul who included Quantitative Analysis in our first term syllabus, I would’ve struggled to find an appropriate term for the amount of work I have got to do. Now I can tell you that it is ‘Countably infinite’.

Let me end with some ‘Gyaan’. Amongst all the haphazard, crazy and seemingly arbitrary running around, this place does teach you something very important, something that helps you all through the rest of your life – Work is fun if you’re prepared to look at it that way. In fact, if you can’t think that way, you just cannot survive here. Or anywhere, for that matter.

‘When the rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it.’


Just a thought - If the theory of rebirth is true, if we're truly just reincarnations, if its the same set of souls being recycled until they reach Nirvana...why does the population of the planet continue to increase?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Short Story - The Game of Life

Kick off!

The loud piercing shriek from the referee’s whistle signaled the beginning of the most significant ninety minutes in Subroto’s life; the Final of the Nation-wide Under Grad College Football Cup was underway.

It was a pleasantly sunny December afternoon. A beautiful cool breeze blew in from the sea. The stadium was packed to capacity with supporters of both sides in equal attendance. Well, almost equal attendance. The home team support, Ogilvy’s College – Mumbai, perhaps enjoyed a slight advantage over the visiting Sterling College –Kolkata, Subroto’s team. But only just. The noise was intolerably exhilarating.

Game on.
Subroto found himself a solitary figure, barring a couple of guys from the opposition who kept him vigilant company, and out of work for most of the first quarter of an hour. The ball seemed to have made up its mind to stay comfortably out of reach of his feet; if indeed that was the case, it wasn’t without reason, for Subroto had been absolutely remorseless with his kicks off late. No wonder he’d scored seven times in as many matches, two more than Ogilvy’s Jackson, the next best striker in the tournament.

Ogilvy’s College had assumed a position of absolute dominance very early in the game. And the tempo it had built up wasn’t showing any signs of diminishing in the near future. The game, for all its hype and hoopla, was turning out to be hopelessly one sided and confined for the most part, to Sterling’s half of the field. But, Sterling continued to cling on, Ogilvy continued to be denied. Half time – Goal less.

Subroto had never had it easy in his life. Born into a poor fisherman’s family on the outskirts of Kolkata, he’d been exposed to the cruelty and toughness of life very early in his life. His earliest memories were watching with sleep-ridden eyes, his father go out to the river at dawn, waking up to the shrill abuses of his mother, fooling around with the other children in the mud and slime of the riverside, and coming back home, dirty and nauseatingly smelly, to the faithfully unwavering spanking from his mother. And sometimes, father too.

The mood in the dressing room was understandably gloomy. The players knew they were being outplayed and that the absence of a goal was more a case of delay than denial. The coach, industriously mindful of his duties and completely oblivious to the lack of attention he was getting, continued to blabber some incomprehensible, but apparently motivating, gibberish into everybody’s ears. None of the players really heard, nor did they actually care to hear.

Subroto went to the neighbourhood school till the fifth grade. It was a decrepit little building, he recollected, and the filth within and without was matched only by the repulsive quantities near his own home. But he studied hard and he studied well.
He went to better schools after that. Not because his father suddenly thought it to be the proper thing to do, but because Subroto managed to win the President’s scholarship award that year.

The only visible difference the second half had ushered in was the confinement of the game to the opposite half of the field. Sterling’s were at the receiving end again. And Subroto was as forlorn and out of luck as ever. Standing near the half line in ever diminishing hope of a breakthrough pass coming to him, he had ample time to contemplate the result and after effects of the game. The goalkeeper, Bhaskar, was doing extremely well, he noted. So were the four lion hearted defenders. But for them, they’d be 3 goals down, he figured. But the menace of Jackson continued to torment them.
“Its only a matter of time”, he said to himself for the hundredth time.

Even a permanent place in the football team had not come easy to Subroto. When he’d expressed his desire to participate, he was ridiculed and shooed away. Despite his brilliance in all activities, academic and otherwise, he still remained a poor man’s kid and a complete misfit in the up market college that Sterling was. But he fought on. He trained harder than ever.
And one fine day, his chance came. The then regular striker, Ranjit, suffered a broken leg and he was allowed to play. Subroto scored twice in that match, and was never dropped after that.

A particularly severe shot on goal by Jackson jolted Subroto out of his reverie. For what seemed like eternity, but was actually not even one second, he followed the ball’s searing path towards the goal with his heart in his mouth. He saw the goalkeeper dive with his arms outstretched and the ball going past him.
A roar from the Ogilvy’s section of the crowd, then silence, and then a roar from the Sterling fans.
Fortunately for Sterling and heartbreakingly for Ogilvy’s, the ball ricocheted off the left bar and founds its way into one of the defender’s feet. Intuition, something that had been honed by hours on the field, told Subroto that the chance had finally arrived. The defender lobbed the ball over the ring of players towards Subroto. A ten meter sprint forward and to the left, and the ball was at his feet.
Everything was a blur after that. Twenty yards into his run, Subroto encountered the first defender, side stepped him with magical elegance, before dribbling his way through two others. The crowd had become deafeningly still, they sensed something special in the air; a surreal feel hung over the stadium.
But Subroto didn’t notice any of this. He had managed to outrun the last defender quite comfortably and was screaming into the penalty area, even as the terrified goalkeeper moved forward to cut the angle. Subroto saw the goalkeeper coming forward, allowed him time to lunge, and then raised his left foot to shoot…
And then, the pain shot through his legs. He screamed in agony and…

He woke up with a start, wet with perspiration. His heart sounded like it was beating with a Dolby surround enhancement module. The image took a while to clear but it eventually did. He’d been watching the Football World Cup final, he recalled. And he’d fallen asleep. The television was still on.

He also recalled that day. The finals - His bike tire deflating - The rush to the garage – The frustration as he stood waiting - The tearing drive after that. And the truck.

On the television, he saw the Italian team lifting up the trophy. He banged the table in front of him in disgust. He had supported France. The initial fury passed and he sighed.

He picked up his crutches and helped himself to his solitary left foot. Slowly, he hobbled his way to bed.

He had never had it easy in life.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Tale of Epic Survival

There are times when you are inspired to write. On such occasions, the thoughts flow and the words flatter.

And there are times when you write for want of anything better to do. On such occasions, what flows is trash.
This is one such occasion.

Our preferences and un-preferences continue to evolve over the years. Every new experience adds, substracts and supplements to it. In my short stay at IIM hel(L), I've added a significant entity to my list of un-preferences. Organisational Behaviour.

The lectures on the subject are un-attendable and attendance is compulsary. The professor doesn't improve the situation one bit. Indeed, he actually contributes quite generously to making the lecture quite un-survivable. And therefore, one must find ways of sitting through the lecture with what apparently looks like rapt attention but is actually a farcical blank look of abject cynicism and supreme boredom.

This tried and tested facial expression and body posture failed me forty minutes into the lecture today. And to replace it with something acceptable, I started scribbling in my notebook. The result is this post.

Please forgive me for wasting so grossly your valuable time, for something as pathetic as this!

In the deepest recesses of the Human Mind
Brightness of the Hopeful Sun does Shine
Why do the shackles of the unseen then Bind?
T'was Us who cowered
And t'is Us who must rise against, The Combine

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Near Death Experiences

Was just going through this month's issue of Reader's Digest. Came across yet another article on Near Death Experiences (NDEs). - Spirited Away by Randal Sullivan (June 2006)

The article talks about how an 'out of the ordinary' patient motivated Dr. Melvin Morse to dedicate the rest of his life studying NDEs and search for a plausible explanation to the hitherto, enigmatic phenomenon.

The interesting part of the story is that his researches and experiments have been chiefly revolved around children. Quoting him -

"The adult NDE is cluttered by cultural references and contaminated by the need for validation. But in kids, its pure. Kids don't repress the memory or fear the ridicule that might come from talking about it."

Over the next ten years, he studied 26 children who came close to death and therefore whose visions could be qualified as NDEs.What he found refutes one of the standard beliefs held by most - That most NDEs are more or less similar in nature and follow the same pattern broadly. Morse found that NDEs were in fact quite idiosyncratic.The article goes on to talk about how he concludes the authenticity of these strange visions/hallucinations.

However, what I found amusing, were some of the visions that some of the kids talked about. Quoting from the article -

'Eight year old Chris Eggleston, who had been trapped inside his family's car when it plunged into a river, recalled going into a huge noodle and entering an animal tunnel where a bee gave him honey and took him to heaven'

'Michelle Wilson emerged from a diabetic coma to describe finding herself abroad a rowdy school bus where two tall doctors showed her a green button she could push to wake up'

'Seven year old Chris Davis, who was rescued from a collapsed tunnel on a beach, reported that a wizard, all dressed in white, came to him and said "Struggle, and you shall live."

Now, honestly speaking, those didn't sound like NDEs to me. Did they to you? Much likelier explanation would be that these were just a creation of the fantasy loving minds of these children. I am not saying they were lying, they in all probability had genuinely had these visions, but accepting them as NDEs is slightly difficult.

Of course, Dr. Morse would counter that these experiences happened when there was absolutely no brain activity in these kids and therefore, couldn't have been dreams. Well, in that case, how do you actually establish that these visions occurred within that period? Couldn't they have had those visions after their activity was restored and before they regained actual consciousness?

The food for thought, however, is what can be inferred if these experiences were genuine cases of NDEs. The visions, you'll accept, are purely juvenile in nature. Noodles and wizards and school buses don't sound very grown-up-ish to me.

And if these visions were indeed from the beyond, then maybe, just maybe, The Almighty, The Creator, GOD, is actually, a child! And maybe all this universe is truly 'Child's Play'!

And that, could be the worst joke on all humankind. Or maybe, humankind is a joke anyway!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Orkut Community

Logged into Orkut as of today. Rather late in the day to be waking up to this phenomenon, but then I am a bit slow in the head anyway!
What struck me within the first half hour of navigation was Orkut's astonishing demonstration of the relavence of the 'Six degrees of separation' theory.
The Six Degrees of Separation, of course, is the famous Stanley Milgram theory of how people on this planet are connected. Milgram conducted numerous experiments to arrive at his conclusion. Those, however, are unimportant in the present discussion. What we're interested in, is his final conclusion. And this is roughly how it can be inferred as
'Any person in any corner of the world can be tracked/found/communicated with by another person through a chain of intervening individuals in a maximum of six steps.'
As an example
I have a friend called Jay Parikh living in the US of A. I don't have any information of his whereabouts other than this. How will I contact him?
I'll start with finding out someone who I think might know Jay or somebody related to him. This could be another friend, lets say Pratik, who studied in the same school as Jay. I hand over to Pratik, my letter addressed to Jay. Now maybe he doesn't know the exact location Jay is in either. In that case, he'll pass the letter onto somebody else who he thinks might know.
The theory is, that the letter WILL reach Jay in a maximum of six such steps. On most occasions, the 4th or 5th step is sufficient. The key, of course to the whole exercise is, that the letter must be handed over to someone who you think might be connected to Jay. Handing it over to a passer by or any unknown person isn't going to work.
Coming back to the point, Orkut shows just how true this theory is. I was connected indirectly to over 20 million people in the community by the time I added a 2nd friend in my 'list'. What further corroborates the theory is the fact that the addition of three other friends subsequently didn't register the smallest change to the larger number.
Its unusual how one can find solutions/ideas to concepts to something while attempting to do accomplish something entirely different

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trip to Bengal - Consolidated

The destination of my last pleasurable trip before I walk in through the doors of IIM Hel(L) turned out to be Kolkata.

Kolkata, not for its sights, but simply because it houses a substantial chunk of my relatives on earth (the numbers are quite substantial too!) and my parents wanted badly to visit the place with me one final time. Their assumption of this being the last 'go together' trip is not entirely absurd; the next two years will be almost completely devoid of movement for me and nobody really knows what life holds in store after that. And so, I acceded.

It started on the 21st of May in the afternoon. The flight from Ahmedabad to Kolkata takes close to two and a half hours. And it was thoroughly enjoyable while it lasted. I'd heard tales about the quality of the service on Kingfisher Airlines, and I was not disappointed. Fantastic seats, personal audio/video channels (some excellent music), good food and yes, beautiful hostesses too. Dr. Vijay Malya's reputation for having an eye for err... details, is certainly not the result of mere psychophancy.

Ahmedabad is terribly hot. Kolkata is unbearably humid. The temperatures never rise to Ahmedabad-ian heights, but that hardly matters. Sweat flows faster than The Ganga.
But there wasn't much we could do; it was the worst time to be visiting the city and we had selected it of our own accord. First stop at a paternal aunt's in Dumdum. The place is quite close to the airport. The taxi drivers are a crooked lot, though. 200 Rs., one of them tells us. In my dad, born and brought up in Kolkata and a seasoned campaigner, they are up against a formidable adversary. After some haggling, the fellow comes down to 150 Rs., making it sound as if it was a bigger favour than if Arjun Singh decided to shut his mouth and drop his ideas. But his adversary, us, turned out to be a trifle more knowledgeable than he'd estimated. In the end, he lost the customers. Another taxi wallah agreed to charge as per the 'meter'. The ride cost us 35 Rs.
That evening and the day after were largely uneventful. Spent most of our time visiting the near and the dear. Boarded the train to Puri on the second night.

The trip to Puri happened in the company of the maternal side of my relations. Puri is undoubtedly one of the best seasides in the country. It might not match up to the beauty, in and out of the sea, of the beaches in Goa, but it has a charm that is its very own. The waves are higher and frothier than anywhere else and the beach is one of the best kept. The facilities are largely well maintained too. In short, its a pleasure to be spending time by the sea in that part of the world. The weather was as difficult as in Kolkata, but the scenery more than made up.
Puri also houses the famous Jagannath temple. For the uninitiated, Jagannath is an arm-less deity. Why people should worship someone with no arms and therefore, quite incapable of any favourable activity, remains a mystery. In any case, there's the mandatory myth that surrounds this physical incapacity. Apparently, the sculptor who built the idol, did so behind closed doors. And before he set out to do so, he warned people not to disturb him. If someone did barge in while he worked, he'd stop wherever he was at that point of time. Now this fellow, took longer than palatable, to complete the statue. In sheer desperation, people peeked in to se what he was doing. And in accordance to his warning, he stopped sculpting. He'd sculpted everything except for the arms. And that, is the cause of Jagannath's predicament.Built over a sizeable expanse of land, the temple is well planned and nicely architectured. The beauty ends there. The Pandits, purohits and pandas within, are anything but. Disgusting in their physical appearance and detestable in their mental schemes. If you come out of the place without significant damage to your pockets, you've done commendably well. Me and my Dad skillfully dodged the robber-istic aspirations of the men and so did most other males in our group. The female species weren't as half good though. They offered the 'Pujo' and more importantly, offered the Pandas enough dough to last them a week. In return, they returned with the holy 'Prasad'. The God's blessings can't be valued in money, they informed us.
We spent two days in Puri. And then, were back in Kolkata. Spent another day in the city visiting more nears and dears and pushed off for Behrampur.

Behrampur lies in about 200 kms north of Kolkata. Its a place of some historical imprtance, being a critical city in the kingdom of Siraj-ud-dualah. Plassey is a stone's throw away. Spent the first day and the ensuing night with another paternal aunt. Next day, set out for Farakka, aunt and her family in tow. Farakka, commands its importance for two reasons.1. It houses a mammoth NTPC plant2. The famous dam over the Ganges and the bridge over it, has been built here.We put up at the NTPC guest house for the night (incidentally my aun'ts husband happens to be one of the many legal/tax consultants of NTPC). Its a magnificent place. Surrounded by unrelenting greenery on every side, the guest house is as good an example of 'Prakriti ke goud me' as any. The summer seems to belong to another planet, to another time. The dam itself, is a gigantic structure. The bridge which takes you over it and on the other side is as fascinating to see, as it is to travel on. I've found most of nature's geniuses difficult to express in words, or in photogrpahs for that matter, and this is no different. You just need to be here to understand.Next stop, Siliguri.

North east West Bengal is one place you just have to experience once in your life. Its a travesty that the WB government has been unsuccessful, and indeed unheedful, of its charm and tourism value.The gentle slopes of the Himalayas, the tea gardens, the moist earth smell round the year...its intoxicating to the senses.Some distance from Siliguri, on the foothills of the Himalayas, is a place called Sevoke. The journey for those who wish to climb higher, starts here. We had no such intentions though. Our destination was a place only a half hour drive up the road. Must say, even that duration is enough to give you the chills. Heart stoppping roads, those! The river Teesta reaches the plains at Sevoke. And that is where we reached. Its a smallish river in terms of its length, but having just made its way downhill, its a terrifying sight. The current is unbelievable and any juvenile ventures into anywhere close to the middle can end only one way. Even on the banks, the force of the water is positively threatening. All you can hope to do is dab one foot into the ice cold water while the other holds you to dear solid land. The scenery is hauntingly beautiful and in my mind, unparalleled.We took an alternate route on our way back. One that passes over the famous Coronation bridge. Sometime ago, this was the only connection between the north eastern regions of the country and the rest of it. My aunt informed me that some serious scuffle took place for possession of this bridge between the Indian and Chinese army during the war of the 60s.Our day ended at my eldest paternal aunt's place in Jalpaiguri, some 40 kms from Siliguri.

In case you're getting fidgety about the number of paternal aunts turning up at every nook and corner, I'd like to tell you that my father had 12 other siblings, six male, six female. The eldest Aunt; she's called Didi by all her younger siblings; at 76, is an astonishing woman. The grace could easily compete with the best of those with royal blood. Flowing jet black hair (never dyed), the flaming red sindoor in the hair parting, majestic white saris with red 'paars', she's just awesome. You cannot help but bow down at her feet and submit to her all conquering charisma. Her speech too, is as royal as her appearance. She could probably hold an audience of hundreds with her sheer class if she wished to.From Jalpaiguri, we made a weary way back to Kolkata. The constant travel for almost a week had had its toll. But time wasn't to be found in abundance, and a lengthy rest was out of the question.

Another two days of hectic friend/relation visiting followed. In the midst, had the time to have lunch at Sourav's Pavilion on Park Street. Aestheticallly, its extremely rich and soothing to the eyes and senses. Classic music plays continually in the background, adding to the effect. Some portions of the walls are adorned by elegant black and white portraits of Sourav. The food is delightful too. The prices, of course, are a tad high.

That was that. Took the plane back to Ahmedabad on the morning of the 2nd of June. Kingfisher again. The hostesses were slightly disappointing this time, though.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The common man's reservations about Reservation

The term is Special Reservation. SPECIAL Reservation.

For most of my time on this planet, I've understood 'Special' as being an entity, that is slightly out of the ordinary. And by logical progression, an adjective. that does not get conferred on every second object in the immediate vicinity.

After all this time, dear Mr. Arjun Singh tells me that this infact, is a mistaken notion. The 'Special' category can indeed be as massive as 50%, he declares. Now, if he means that 50% of this country's population is deserving of the 'special' tag, then I believe there's something seriously wrong with his understanding of the word.

Lalu might counter saying that a massive percentage of the seats on his trains, much higher than 50%, are 'specially' reserved. In that case, I'd like to point out, the reservation is generally dished out not to the poorer, but to the richer.

I accede that there're classes in India who do need the help. Classes that might never be able to aspire to greater objectives, if the help is not given. And I also accede that these classes exist as more than just 'one here and one there' quantities.

But the point is, there's a line that needs to be drawn somewhere. The Deprived must be helped, buy surely not by belittling and making a mockery of the Deserving.

Increasing the number of seats is not a solution. It will only mean that the number of the sub standard will increase by as much. And that is exactly what everyone's protesting against - increase in the non-saleable quantity and subsequent decrease in the overall saleable quality.
My conversation with a man who falls into 'The blessed' category

Me: So bhaai, what do you think about the issue of the Reservation?
He: Woh kya hota hai Saab?
Me: Arrey Reservation bole to Arakshan. Aaj kal kitni charcha ho rahi hai uspe!
He: Arrey Babu, hum gareeb log hai, hame isse kya matlab. Arakshan karne ke paise kahaan se laaye? Hum to hamesha biwi-bachcho ke saath 'General' dabbe me hi safar karte hai!

Short Story - Rain

And then, it rained…

For six interminable days it came down in sheets. When it finally relented, land had all but ceased to exist - at least in the limited visual capabilities of human eyesight.

The day had begun like any other. The alarm clock had accomplished its task of creating intolerable noise and failed in its task of awakening Varun. Like ever, it was the ’10 ‘o’ clock sunlight’ that succeeded. Making its piercing way through the 9th floor apartment window, it settled on Varun’s handsome face.

Freshening up activities had never been a problem with Varun. In twenty minutes, he had brushed his teeth, completed his toilet, bathed himself clean of overnight grime and had made his way to the dining table for breakfast.

‘Good Morning Mom, Good Morning Dad’

His parents made a suitable reply. By that time though, he was already too engrossed in the newspaper to notice what they’d said.

‘God, 43 degrees yesterday!’. Quite apparently, Varun was reading the weather report for the previous day.

‘You got to be nuts to go to college in this kind of weather! I mean, how can you sit in those rotten wooden benches below with one miserable fan above, moaning itself to further misery, in the entire class?’

‘Its summer, so it has to be hot, I guess’, his father tried to be helpful.

‘Hot! You call this hot! Dad, this is bloody….uh, er...uh…’ Varun was trying to find a appropriate word, ‘this is…uh…hottest!’ His vocabulary had apparently found its limitations.

‘Son, you need to be practical. Bunking college because its hot to sit in class and then riding away to glory on your bike in the middle of the afternoon is not my idea of beating the heat. And it shouldn’t be yours either.’ Varun Sr. could be stubbornly persistent at times.

Varun’s mom, who had bustled out sometime ago, bustled in with a tray carrying three cups and a flask which presumably contained tea. A thin, dark and bespectacled lady in her mid forties, her chief priority and only interest in life were God.

‘Arey beta, this is all the wishes of the One above.’ His mother had a rather shrill screechy kind of voice, certainly not the kind that she could thank God for bestowing upon her. ‘This is his way of showing his anger. He wants to remind human beings of all the evils we’re perpetrating on the planet.’

‘Yeah, yeah…He moves in mysterious ways…he is omnipresent…he is the just One… and what not!’ Varun’s atheism was the stuff legends are made of. His mother thought it was the stuff idiots were made of.

‘Beta, don’t be so rude. He is very kind, but He too has limits to his patience.’

Varun’s limit of patience was already stretching itself to snapping limits. He stifled the urge to answer; continuing the discussion could only worsen the situation. He changed the topic instead.

‘See! Seven people dead in the heat wave! Poor souls…all of them beggars and destitute…’ He almost went on to add – I wonder what wrong they’d done to deserve such punishment from Him, but restrained himself again.

‘Maybe some karma from a previous birth.’ His mother mused. ‘I have decided to go to the temple and make an offering of two coconuts today. I will ask for forgiveness on behalf of all of us and I will pray for our wellbeing. And I will pray to him for rain…’

‘Yeah, do that. Listen Mom, I have decided to skip college today. Too hot. Let me check if Harish is free today, we’ll plan an afternoon movie’

‘There you go!’ Varun Sr. triumphantly eyed Varun with a See-didn’t-I-tell-you look.

Harish was free that day. In fact, Harish seemed to be free almost everyday. The afternoon movie was planned; some obscure Akshay Kumar-Sunil Shetty starrer. Varun and Harish were the ‘mindless action movie’ types.

They were just settling themselves into their seats when Varun’s mother called.

‘Arrey beta, your Dad also decided to skip office today! He’s feeling unwell. He’s sleeping at home. I am at the temple, beta. I have offered the coconuts to Lord Krishna. And do you know what happened?’,
Varun didn’t particularly want to know what happened but he didn’t have much of a choice.

‘Met Shilpa and Roshni there. The three of us have decided to organize a special Aarti in the temple in the evening. You’ll see, everything will turn out alright.’

‘OK Mom. The movie’s started Mom, I’ll call you when it ends.’

‘OK, take care beta.’ his mom was perhaps a bit put off by Varun’s need for speed in ending the call.

The movie was ‘solid’ in Varun’s terms. That an unarmed man thrashing twelve others armed with sticks without as much as a scratch didn’t fall into the category of ‘possible’ didn’t matter to him. His adrenalin was pumping and that was all he cared for. Sunil Shetty was roughing up the quintessential bald heavy set villain when it happened.

It was imperceptible at first, but gained in intensity rapidly. In a matter of seconds, the whole theatre was shaking like the Titanic in its final few moments. The noise of the rattling seats was shattering.

‘An earthquake! An earthquake’ someone screamed amidst the racket.

‘Run, Run! Get out of here!’ someone else added.

It was a wasted statement really, for by that time every single living being inside the theatre was doing exactly that.

Varun and Harish had been seated pretty close to the Exit and managed to get out into the open before most others. It took them almost a minute to do so and a further minute to regain their sense of coordinates. The earth, by this time, had ceased to shake. The two of them hadn’t.

The scene outside was utterly chaotic; it fell just slightly short of Armageddon-ish proportions. Throngs of people were still pouring out of the theatre, most of them screaming and thrashing wildly at an imaginary enemy. A large chunk had decided that mere escape from the theatrical confines wasn’t sufficient, and had prudently formed small huddles at what they considered as a safe distance.

The neighborhood high-rises had also been deserted in record time, and the occupants found paradoxical shelter on the open road. The traffic on the roads had come to a virtual standstill. Clusters of people had got together and were engaged in animated discussions amongst themselves. Every now and then, they expectantly looked up to the rooftops, almost as if they had a premonition of one or two of the buildings to rumble and groan their way to dust. Nothing of the sort happened.

The sky bore a grayish look, a far cry from the dazzling blue summer sky a couple of hours ago. A thick veil of clouds had gathered, adding to the surrealism of the moment. It was almost as if the quake had affected the skies and beyond. Or maybe it had happened the other way round. Or maybe both.

Harish found his voice first.

“Oh, man!! What the hell was that?? Uff…the thing scared the shit out of me!”

Varun shook his head. Horizontally from side to side. He apparently disagreed. He too, had had his heart in his mouth for a while, but a sense of bravado had seeped in, in the last couple of minutes.

“Nah yaar! Pretty weak one, I think. Don’t think it would’ve dislodged a pebble even. Must have been 1-2 on the Richter.”

His comments were as amusing as they were annoying.

It didn’t inspire too much confidence in Harish. He looked quizzically at Varun and started to say something, then decided to keep his thoughts to himself.

A new kind of commotion had surfaced meanwhile. The exuberance of the youth had finally started to break through the initial terror and they were out on the roads by the dozens on their bikes, looking for some whiff of eventfulness and adventure around.

One of the early bird groups had already struck gold. Racing their bikes way beyond the limits of speed and the bikes and shouting so as to make themselves heard amongst the din, they arrived as the first messengers of the grimness of the situation.

“Mansi has fallen! Mansi is down!”

A shocked speechlessness followed as the news sunk in. Mansi was one of the better residential complexes in the city. And then momentary silence gave way to a second wave of pandemonium. Frantic phone calls, people running in all directions not knowing what they sought, some had started to cry… even as news of other buildings collapsing around the city filtered in.

“Yaar, let me check if everything’s alright at home.” He said, taking his mobile phone out of his trouser pocket.

When the call was not picked up after numerous rings, Harish started to get fidgety.

“Nobody’s picking up the phone at home yaar…”

“Arrey silly fellow, do you expect your family to sit pretty in their flat after all this? Call on your Dad’s mobile blockhead! How can you be so dumb?”

“Cut out the wisecracks, Varun. I am just so concerned”

Wisecrack or not, Varun was right. Harish’s Dad picked up his mobile almost instantly. A hasty and terribly garbled conversation followed, at the end of which the wellbeing of both sides was established.

Varun decided that it was time he called and checked up his family too.

His mom’s mobile continued to ring for a while but wasn’t picked up. Undeterred, he tried again. The mobile stubbornly refused to stop ringing.

“Damn!”, he muttered to himself , “Looks like she’s left the mobile at home and run down without it. Let me try Dad’s number. He’s at home today.” He continued half to himself and half to Harish as an explanation.

His trials on his Dad’s mobile didn’t offer an alternate result.

“Lets go home and check, yaar. No one’s picking up.” The fear in Varun’s voice had started to manifest itself very apparently.

The ride back home was almost totally devoid of conversation. Along the way, the scenes were heartrending. They passed by several huge piles of debris, where once great tall buildings had stood. The painful wails of rapidly scurrying ambulances and firefighting vans broke through incessantly. But even more painful were the wails of human beings. Human beings in mortal agony and human beings in inconsolable grief. Almost in perfect sync with the mood, the sky had darkened further.

Even before they’d turned into the lane leading to it, the absence of the familiar view of the rooftop had announced the fall of ‘Bell-View’. Varun’s home had ceased to exist
The swarm of people that had gathered around what remained of Bell-View’ gently parted to allow Varun and Harish in. The building had collapsed almost vertically. The angry dust that had bellowed out, almost in an attempt to escape the weight of the spiraling structure, hung lazily in the air. The air smelt dusty and asthma-inspiring. The weakened Sun cast a pale gloomy glow on the scene. Already, some of the people who had managed to reach safety in time and those around them were climbing onto the debris in search of the less lucky.

Varun had remained uncomfortably silent. He had slowly edged his way through and reached the outer boundary of the destruction. He located someone he recognized and made his way to the man.

“Sharma Uncle”

The man turned round and looked at Varun.

“Varun. I…I…” he faltered, and then picked himself up. “Your Mom and Dad were…are inside. I am sorry.”

Varun turned and slowly moved away from the man. He walked across to the other side of the road and sat down on the ground. His expression was deathly frigid. His eyes had a faraway look in them. He was not crying.

Harish sat down beside him and put his arm around Varun. Varun didn’t look at him. Harish didn’t speak. The two just sat there for a while. Then Varun spoke.

“Everything’s gone…” his voice was sickeningly steady, “Everything’s gone. My home, my parents, everything.”

“They…they might still find them. They might still be alive.” Harish winced at how unconvincing his own voice sounded to himself.

“Shut up”

The day flashed past Varun’s eyes. He buried his head between his knees. His Dad, Mom, breakfast, the conversation, the movie… What was it that his father had said to him last? Something to do with his not going to college, he couldn’t quite remember.

And his Mom? They’d talked about the summer and the poor people and The Almighty. Then She’d called from the temple, he remembered. Something about coconuts and prayers summer and relief for the distressed and rain, she’d told him. Funny how all his conversations with Mom ended in prayers and God. God.

He looked up. Two crystal clear tear drops slowly wove their way out of his eyes.

His Mom, whose supreme faith in God was probably unsurpassed, whose sole purpose of life seemed to be the appeasement of the Almighty…and this had happened to her. This was how her prayers had been answered; her years of faith had been repaid. This was God. These were His mysterious ways.

And now, alone on the planet, no one to take care of him, no home to go to…

And then, it rained…

The Da Vinci Code Movie Review

The movies are seldom as good as the novel they're made out of.

And that holds true for The Da Vinci Code too. An honest attempt that falls short of imagination. And in the end, Expectation.

The movie sets a fast pace and manages to maintain it throughout. However, it does seem a trifle too fast at times, not allowing the viewer, time to collect his thoughts and understand the plot. Its a movie that'll probably leave you clueless if you haven't read the book. And that's where its problem lies -
The ones who've read the book can't appreciate it.
The ones who haven't can't understand it.

The complex codes, the seemingly innocuous verses, and the logic behind decoding them, the most critical aspect of the story, are somehow lost in the flow of events. One brief pan down on the texts are hardly sufficient for any ordinary mortal to memorize or comprehend. And subsequently, when they are interpreted for what they truly stand for, we are more muddled than ever before. Maybe there was a case of 'Watermarking' those verses on the screen as Langdon and Sophie tried to decode them.

Then again, some of the vital parts of the story have been omitted. The part of the story when the police find the hidden transmission and recording room in Teabing's house is not shown anywhere. All of us will remember that this was the moment in the book when Fache starts to doubt his inferences and starts looking for an alternate solution. The fact that this isn't part of the movie, makes the cause of Teabing's eventual arrest extremely unclear.

The one part which I truly appreciated though, was the lengthy explanation session in Teabing's house. The complex ideas have been very well explained, helped by some excellent virtual imagery on the Last Supper.

To be fair to the makers, this was a movie that could probably never have justified the hype, however well it might have been made. But, a little more time and thought on the screenplay might have produces better results.

The film does not require any supreme acting talents. Tom Hanks is earnest in a role that hardly requires much else. Audrey Tautou comes does nicely too. Jean Reno as Captain Fache does not get any scope really. Nor does Alfred Molina as The Bishop.
Paul Bettany as Silas is very good. He is successful in bringing out the dark and complex shades of the character. One of the more appreciable performances in the movie.
Ian McKellen as the typically English Sir Teabing is brilliant. The inflections in tone, the facial expressions, the mock sarcasm in his dialogues, they are superbly done.

In the end though, when you come out of the theater, you feel, the book was much much better.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Short Story - Too good to be true

“Where?” asked the man.

In seclusion, the ambiguity of the question would have rendered the possibility of a pertinent answer, a human impossibility. However, having being asked on a bus, the target being a passenger and the source happening to be the conductor, the question became childishly clear.
The target of the question in question however, apparently didn’t hold the same opinion.


And then suddenly dawn dawned. “Oh I see, Park Street”

“Seven rupees”

“Here you go”

The money-ticket transaction, thus safely maneuvered, Mr. Ghosh, the passenger, relapsed into his troubled daydreaming again. Not that he was certifiably into the profession of daydreaming, but then, this wasn’t a certifiable situation either. Three nights with virtually no sleep and four days of absolute torment don’t make for positive effects on the peace of the human mind. The unkempt stubble on his chin, sunken cheeks, bloodshot eyes and overall haggardness in countenance made his thirty one years look closer to forty one.
The intoxicating morning mist of a wintry Kolkata, hung somberly and beautifully all over. The vision reduced to the barest minimum, still had a special enchantment attached to it. Having made its confident way well out of horizon’s reaches, the Sun still appeared to be singularly incapable of generating either heat or light of any formidability. The unique smell of the nearby Ganges filled the air, something that is beyond the powers of language to define and can only be understood by one who has ever lived in the city for any length of time. The chill in the breeze, which in more accommodating circumstances might have been deemed pleasurable, was palpably disconcerting. The wide open green lawns of Esplanade and Maidan stretched out on either sides of the road. The horns, squeaks and screeches of the myriad vehicles and the general mayhem on the road, though in stark contrast, curiously, didn’t seem out of place at all. In fact, without it, the ambience would have been very incomplete.
However, Mr. Ghosh appeared to be untouched and indeed immune to all of this. His red, sleepless and disturbed eyes stared blankly into the distance. His mind obstinately refused to traverse any path, other than the one that it had chosen for itself. He mulled over the occurrences and the possible repercussions that he might face because of them. Yes, he had been greedy. And he had also been very foolish. And these two attributes put together, never make for too much joy in life. And yet, the unjustness of it all appalled him. What else could he have done? When your Boss tells you to do something on conditions of irresistible wealth or irrevocable disaster, however against your ideas of moral conduct it may be, you don’t disagree.
It had all been so simple at the beginning. The smuggling out of a few company letter heads and stamp papers from the tens of thousands available, over a period of two weeks, had seemed absurdly uncomplicated. He had scarcely known what use those letter heads would be put to and he hadn’t dared to ask. He wanted to kick himself on the backside for not having done so, but reasoned himself against it: Hindsight is always 20/20 and kicking yourself on the backside isn’t within the bounds of human flexibility. In any case it didn’t matter now. What did matter though, was that the harmless bunch of papers, with a few lines of black ink added to them, had been converted into something so hideous, as to be beyond his comprehension. But unfortunately, not everyone shared the limitations to his intelligence, and someone had comprehended. And that was the end of that.

“Get out of your seat, Man!”

The speaker of these words of immense cordiality was a heavily set, black as coal, bald specimen of a human being. His red T-shirt had turned dark red with sweat, which was quite extraordinary, considering the condition of the weather. A glimpse at him made this seeming anomaly clear. The bulging chest and arms of the man would’ve made it plain to the dumbest donkey that he had just spent a good many hours in the gym.

“Why the hell would I do that, Sir?” Ghosh enquired with timid defiance.

“Because I told you to”

Ghosh didn’t press the matter any further. He got up with the forced nonchalance of one who has little else to do by way of choices. Standing didn’t make any significant difference to the state of his mind though. It picked up from right where it had left off.
The last few days had been the most trying of his life. Faced with inevitable disgrace, if discovered, his Boss had made the perfect vault-face such as only Bosses can make. And he had been left as the unwilling heir-apparent. His Boss had put forth two very clear options to him. He had known that the options would be as unpalatable as the ones on the previous occasion, but he had forced himself to hear them out. He had been right. A resignation or a permanent posting in Nagaland, that’s what he got. The man had been kind enough to say that if he did resign, his misconduct wouldn’t be made public. It was hard to choose the lesser evil, Nagaland wasn’t heaven on earth. In fact it was probably a sure shot way of reaching heaven from earth. After much thought, he had decided on the former option. He reasoned, and reasoned correctly, that a poorer job in another company in Kolkata was the saner option any day.

“What the hell? What do these fellows think they’re doing?” someone beside him muttered.
So engrossed he had become in the dwellings of his mind, he had failed to realize that the bus had ceased to change its coordinates for a good part of ten minutes. The reason didn’t become at once clear to him. He could see a sizeable number of vehicles stretched out in front of the bus, and that none of them were making any significant progress either. On stretching his line of vision a bit farther, he could see the crossroads just ahead. And curiously enough, the traffic on each direction suffered a similar predicament.

“Silly Idiots! Why do these fellows have to do their worthless stuff just at this time? For God’s sakes, its peak office hours!”

Ghosh couldn’t locate the exact source of this fresh grievance, but it drew his attention to the cause behind the current predicament of the bus. From the road arriving or departing to or from the left of the crossroads, whichever way you looked at it, a continuous trickle of characters were jogging their way to someplace known only to themselves. They were appropriately dressed for the occasion, the mandatory sweat shirts and shorts could be seen in their rightful places. That they were jogging was only part of the truth. As true was the fact, that most other two-legged creatures could’ve set a positively brisker walking pace than them. The industrious bunch was either in no real hurry or was making an outstanding job of concealing that fact. Presently, he realized that it was the latest bunch of blue eyed NCC cadets, exercising every muscle in the body except the one that God had ordained exclusively for the human species.

The exasperation of the occupants of the bus, and probably of those on quite a few other buses, was evident. Most of the people had started fidgeting in their seats. A courageous and short tempered few had started discussing and reprimanding in tones and languages that were miles out of the realms of social acceptance. But just at that moment, society was demonstrating a commendable degree of acceptance. Apparently, everyone shared similar sentiments.

Ghosh was distraught. Like the defence-less hunter who comes face to face with two man-eating tigers in the middle of the forest, and knowing fully well that his chances are pretty much non-existent, vents his frustration by devoting his final moments to killing as many powerless mosquitoes around as possible, Ghosh found refuge in this seemingly inconsequential incident.

“Now that’s the last thing I wanted” he fumed, “All of this on my head and on top of all that, I am going to be late!” It didn’t seem to occur to him, that being early or late wasn’t going to improve his position in the least.

Amongst the utter chaos that had gradually built up inside the bus, one individual with his head firmly on his shoulders, set forth to dilute the situation.

“Never mind folks. Ten minutes, not more than that.” He appeared to be one of those God’s chosen few who have been gifted with foresight and enlightenment on everything under the Sun.

The procession lasted half an hour.

Finally, with a rapidly thumping heart; either or both of running up eight flights of stairs or the sense of impending disaster could’ve caused it; he entered office. He looked around with what he thought to be the most dignified demeanor one could muster under the circumstances, but which was actually his most apprehensive to date. No one seemed the least interested in him. All were engrossed in whatever work or pastime they had chosen to pursue for the day. Not even a single sign of acknowledgement came his way.

“They’re probably getting used to not seeing you around anymore” his sinking heart told him.

Someone taped him on the shoulder. Not too gently.
“Ah, here you are, Ghosh. I thought you’d never turn up!”

In any case, his conversational talents weren’t what they used to be. The sight of his grey haired fifty plus Director didn’t help matters at all.
“Uh..Huh, Sir…actually I was..”

“Oh, come now. Never mind! I know everything. There’s nothing to fear, Ghosh” The joviality of the tone was positively disconcerting. “Come into my cabin, my dear fellow. We’ll set you right!”

“Here we go” thought Ghosh to himself. “He’s trying to make it as cordial as he can, saving me from disgrace here amongst everyone.”

He allowed himself to be half cajoled, half dragged into the Director’s cabin. Inside, he was placed into a chair with an elaborate geniality that made him sick in the stomach.

“Tell me Ghosh, what would you like? Tea? Coffee? But first you must drink some water. You look terribly sick!”

Virtually on the verge of delirium, Ghosh didn’t care much for old world courtesies.

“Sir, please. I..I don’t need anything, Sir. Just tell me what you want me to do. Please!” he croaked.

“Oh dear! Look at you! My God, how you’ve suffered! OK son, I’ll not keep it from you any longer. Listen Ghosh, I know everything. Absolutely everything. Your conduct is not appreciable, Ghosh. It has come as a shock to me, this…this revelation.”

That did it. Ghosh burst into tears.

“I..I am sorry, Sir. Please, please…just let me go, Sir. I can’t take this any longer. Just…just go ahead, tell me. Are you, are you firing me?”

Ghosh’s voice carried a combination of despair, anguish and uniquely enough, some semblance of hope somewhere deep down.

“Well yes, its the logical way to do it, isn’t it? Just throw you out. Yes, the option has occurred to me.”

“Yes, I know, yes…I…I, Sir I didn’t know…” the ‘hope’ element in the voice had made a rapid disappearing act.

“Shut up. Just listen to me, Ghosh. I told you I know everything. Everything. Didn’t I? I know exactly what happened. With due respects to you, I knew your challenged intelligence could never have envisaged something of this sort. Here’s news for you. I’ve fired Chatterjee.”

Chatterjee was Ghosh’s industrious Boss.

“What??” Ghosh couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. “You did what? Er...Sir. You, you know? You know? Oh yes, you know! You know! Oh yes! Oh God”

The number of expressions his voice now carried was beyond the counting abilities of mere mortals.

“Shut up, you silly idiot. Why didn’t you come tell me at once, you fool? It would’ve saved you and me and a hell of a lot of other people so much trouble! Yes, your conduct is appalling, but your intelligence even more so! You thought it wouldn’t be discovered? Didn’t you even have the sense to think why that man was paying you that kind of money? What did you think Chatterjee wanted those papers for? To light up bonfires?”

“I…I didn’t know…” Ghosh clutched wildly around for some meaningful vocabulary, but failed miserably.

“That’s the problem, Ghosh. You seem to know so little!”

“I am so sorry, so sorry for what I’ve done. Please, please forgive me Sir. Please do,” pleaded Ghosh, “I promise I’ll never fail you again”

“Oh do keep quiet, you moron! Nobody is firing you. Get that straight. NOBODY is firing you, OK? Just stop blabbering, for God’s sakes!”

It took some time to sink in. At first, Ghosh thought he had imagined it. He looked across at the smiling man in astonishment. There was a gentle, kind smile on the Director’s face. His body numbed. And then, relief flooded in. The immense burden that had been on his chest, that had reduced him to this disgusting, despicable caricature of a man, had suddenly been lifted. He had an irresistible urge to just get up and start prancing all over the office, shout at the top of his voice, just go berserk. But some form of sanity still prevailed in his head, and it kept him on his chair. Only barely so, though.

“I…I don’t know what to say, Sir! I am, I am just so, so overwhelmed. Its, its just too good to be true, Sir! Oh thank God! And thank you! I’ll forever be your slave, Sir. I’ll do whatever you tell me to, I’ll just put myself at your feet…I’ll…”

“Yes, yes, take it easy, man!”

The raving and ranting thus suitably halted, the Director continued

“I am a very generous, God fearing man, Ghosh. And I am a forgiving man. I’ve let you have this second chance because I think you’re a good man and you’ll not let me down. Ever. Just keep that in mind.”

“Oh yes, of course, Sir. Most definitely. I’ll never ever do anything of the sort in my life, Sir. You’ll not regret your decision, Sir. I promise you!”

“I better not, Ghosh. I better not. Alright, time to get back to work. I wish you all the best, my good man. Just give your best shot, Ghosh. Give your very best shot. There.”

Whatever else they do, abrupt release of severe pressure and tension don’t make a dumb man intelligent all of a sudden. Ghosh didn’t get it at first. He frowned, a perplexed expression on his face.

“There? Sir?”

“Er…What?” the Director didn’t at once seem to realize what was being asked of him. After a couple of seconds, he smiled.

“Oh, I am so sorry, Ghosh. I am really getting so forgetful these days. Silly of me! Just forgot to tell you, you’re getting transferred. They need a hard working man like you in Nagaland. Good luck, Ghosh”