Miserable

They cut up the mango tree. The one just outside my window. The nice tree that gave us so much shade, mangoes every summer, where squirrels ran around, where the cuckoos sang from, the tree the occasional monkey paid a visit to.

Gone in about two hours. Leaving me a blubbering, sobbing mess.

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Memo to the MPs

(This was a post I wrote on July 30, 2009 and for some reason forgot to publish)

Here’s a suggestion. Instead of training your guns and frothing at the mouth at Sach Ka Samna and how it is destroying the moral fibre of our society (whatever that might mean), why not look at regulating reality shows involving children? How about imposing a minimum age limit to participate in shows?

What a consenting adult wants to do is none of your business really. If a woman or a man comes onto the show and wants to reveal all about her or his intimate secrets, it’s none of your business. He or she knows what they’re getting into.

Do spare a thought for these tiny little children who’re pushed into these shows by their parents, doing these suggestive thrusts and raunchy moves, being ticked off by swollen headed judges as not being good enough, even being told that they’re not selected by the most sensible and sensitive of judges in front of a huge crowd, with their pushy parents looking on. There have been cases of children having a nervous breakdown on the sets.

I don’t think I’d have liked to be subject to this kind of a thing and never in a million years will I subject my child to anything of this sort. Why not do something about it. I know kids ought to be taught how to face disappointments and how to handle losing something. But this is simply not the way.

What adults subject themselves to is out of bounds for you, what they subject their poor children to is perhaps within. Why not sit up and take notice?

Updated on August 16, 2009

Not long after I wrote this, came along this piece of news of a new reality show, “Pati, Patni aur Voh” and it really left me gasping for air. I quote from this article:

The couples will spend an entire month in a closed environment, monitored by cameras 24X7 which will capture their journey as they embark on a new life of discovery as first time parents.

“Their journey will be divided into five stages, starting with pregnancy, when the women will be made to wear empathy bellies similar to that of a woman who is 8 months pregnant and will have to attend pre-natal classes.

Then, a newborn baby will be handed over to the couples and they will have to take care of its every need, including feeding, changing nappies and erratic sleep schedules. The toddlers come in next, with their own set of demands and tantrums. Then come the pre-teens and teenagers, in the rebellious years when parents need to learn how to discipline children, without alienating them. Life comes a full circle with the arrival of the elderly and the couples will need to show maturity and understanding in dealing with them.”

Now this means the realm of reality TV has now expanded to include infants, toddlers and really young children. What kind of vile parents are these?

“The children taking part in the show are infants, toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers drawn from real life. Their parents will be behind the scenes 24×7, monitoring their child and the couple, through the cameras, in close proximity.”

They are not too much better than the parents who abandon their children in dust bins or outside churches or temples. Sick.

You’ve got mail – Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II

He didn’t quite know how to respond. Millions of questions were swarming around his head – where was she coming from – what had caused a change of heart, when exactly did she fall in love with him especially since they were totally out of touch. What did she mean she was in love with him?!

He wanted to speak with her. That very instant. 24987321. That used to be her phone number, he did not even know if this number still existed. She must have a mobile phone now and it was way too late to try calling on the landline. There was no way in which he could respond by email, what could he say that wouldn’t sound contrived? He could email her asking her to call him, he decided, especially if she was up at this time, sending him this email. What could have been going through her mind, he wondered. Did she have to summon up courage to do this? Did she wait till it was late to press that send button? Why did she not add her mobile number to the email?

“Hi Varsha, we really need to talk. My local number is 98315 56892. You can reach me on this till tomorrow afternoon and I leave for Hong Kong then. Do call me or email or text me your number.

Bye, K”

Bye or Love he wondered. He didn’t want to put on this email how he felt about her, it just didn’t feel right to him. “This is it”, he thought, “Go away email, you modern day pigeon”.

He swore loudly, the damned internet connection. It seemed to be totally dead now and a quick call to the reception confirmed that.

Kanishk banged his laptop shut. There was pretty much nothing he could do right now. He had to get some sleep as he had to attend an early morning meeting and an afternoon flight to catch. But the sleep refused to take over. His mind was hyper, a million thoughts encircled his brain. He wondered if he should postpone his flight and travel to Madras instead.

He tossed and turned. He suddenly felt a fit of hatred towards Varsha, he didn’t appreciate that she felt she could just breeze into his life one fine day and expect him to welcome her with arms wide open. The issue was he was desperate to do that. The sense of longing was so ingrained in his fabric, he had gotten quite used to living with a sense of wanting her love in return, wanting to hold her close, wanting to have long conversations with her, wanting to run his fingers through her hair.

She couldn’t have known, he had never told her that he loved her and thankfully he hadn’t confided in any of his friends either. So unless she was a mind reader, there was no way she could have known, she couldn’t have found out by the way he behaved either, simply because so much time had flown under the bridge. What had caused her to feel this way, old photographs, a conversation with old friends, sudden realisation of what had taken place then? At some point he dozed off, Varsha, school, tuition classes, cycling alongside each other, her beloved Beatles wove in and out of his dreams.

He woke up with a start. It was 8 am and the meeting was scheduled for 9 30, thankfully the venue was within walking distance and he did not have to endure the crazy traffic.

He looked at his face in the mirror as he shaved. He looked tired and for some reason he did not feel the exhilaration he thought he would feel at this point, perhaps it was because what he had wanted for most of his adult life was within striking distance. She must have changed so much. He had, he knew that. He had specific memories of her, but would he have to get to knowing her all over again now?

There was no time for breakfast as he wore his tie, grabbed a jacket and ran for his meeting.

At 11 45 he was done. He had to quickly decide whether he wanted to travel to Madras or go ahead with his plans of getting home. He figured he needed access to his emails first. He wouldn’t travel to Madras he thought, he needed to speak to Varsha first and he did not want to look like a needy puppy. He had to find her number, he could get that from his old classmates, but he didn’t feel like speaking or explaining anything to them. He could try her old landline number.

He called the number. “Hallo”. It was a loud, shrieky, unfamiliar voice. “Varsha please” said Kanishk, He felt strangely calm, like there was nothing extraordinary about the moment. “Office le irukanga. Yaaru?” It was servant maid. He asked if she would give him Varsha’s mobile number, she immediately became suspicious, so Kanishk hung up quickly. He was left with no choice but to email now.

He made his way to a cyber café and there was another email from Varsha! Was she giving him her number he wondered.

“Hey you guys. Sorry about the mail you received yesterday. My account seems to have been hacked into and that email was sent out to all my contacts. If any of you married men got into trouble with your wives – I’m sorry! And girls did I send any of you into a tizzy wondering about my sexuality – or wait yours!?! Do tell!!

Sorry again, I think I will be discarding this address, will send out my new address soon. Change your passwords people!

Ciao!”

He sank back into his chair and tried to sort out his thoughts. He smiled. It widened into a big grin, a guffaw escaped from his lips. Was he going mad he wondered? Soon he was laughing loud, the guy manning the cybercafé seemed alarmed. “What is the matter with you Kanishk?” asked a voice in his head.

He paid up and walked out. There was an extra spring in his step. A smile played on his lips. He was finally free.

You’ve got mail – Part II

Continued from here

Kanishk closed his eyes and drew breath sharply. It was like someone thrust a knife into him and twisted it around. He whooped. “I am in love with you”….”And I do not even know how you feel”….he repeated these words.

“Damn right girl, you so do not know how I feel, how I’ve felt all these years”, he thought.

“Varsha”, he spoke the name out loud, carefully pronouncing it. He’d never really liked the name; he felt it sounded way too harsh for a girl like her. He smiled as he visualized her. Delicately beautiful, soft brown eyes, shoulder length wavy hair. When she wasn’t in their boring school uniform, she loved to dress in ethnic Indian clothes. She loved wearing skirts and loads of kajal. While the other girls in school routinely got into trouble for experimenting with ugly black nailpolish, she got into trouble for wearing lots of kajal.

It was funny, he mused how he recalled the kajal of all the things.

Kanishk had been the quintessential good boy in school, one who was liked universally by the teachers and his classmates alike. He did well at his academics, was a strong debater and was moderately good at sports as well. The problem was girls of that age didn’t go for guys like him. They wanted excitement; they fell for the bad boys, the ones who talked back at teachers, the ones who sneaked in cigarettes, the ones who had bikes on which they could speed, those who congregated at the beach each night. They had no use for boys like Kanishk who were for sure “good friend” material. Varsha and Kanishk were good friends, he bailed her out often as she always told her mother that she was with Kanishk studying when in reality she was out with her boyfriend Navin.

Funnily enough Kanishk was excellent marriage material now. He had gone on to study at IIT and then graduated from IIM Ahmedabad. He now worked with an investment bank based in Hong Kong, but had requested that he be relocated to India. He was now transitioning out his responsibilities at Hong Kong and working partly with the India operations. He was in a brief relationship with a classmate from B school, but his heart was never fully in it and they broke it off soon enough. Varsha had spoilt him. She was the yardstick he measured women by and no one measured up.

He was never comfortable with Varsha’s relationship with Navin. Apart from the fact that he was in love with Varsha, he knew that she was way too good for Navin, she deserved better than him. He continued making excuses for her against his will because he still wanted to remain her friend, hoping that one day she would realize how he felt. But one day he found Navin cosying up with another classmate and he could take it no longer. He told her what he saw and the move entirely backfired. Varsha accused him of being jealous of their relationship and things were never the same again. School ended and they went their own way. He did hear from common friends that Varsha and Navin did break up eventually.

They met once at a theatre. It was a strained meeting, they exchanged email addresses and scurried away, eager to break the awkwardness that seemed to have taken over their once easy camaraderie.

And now this.

(To be concluded)

You’ve got mail – Part I

Note: This is my first attempt at writing fiction. I love to write, but I don’t think I have much of an imagination and I don’t really see myself writing a book or dreaming up fiction. But this germ of a story came to me following a conversation with KT and I was itching to write it. So here it is…would love feedback, lurkers do delurk!

Kanishk ran his fingers through his hair and kicked the foot of the table in frustration. He was just about to get into bed when his client called him and wanted some changes made to the documents they had been working on. The work had been completed and he was trying to mail out the documents when his internet connectivity started to falter.

He had tried calling the reception of the hotel he was staying in but given a polite but not so helpful response, “There is a problem with the internet connection, but we’re working on sir”.

In what seemed to be the hundredth time he clicked on the send button, the annoying error message did not flash on his screen.

“Hallelujah”, he said and texted his client to check if he had received the files. He stepped out on to the tiny balcony he had attached to the room. The lights of the city flickered in the distance and he could make out the majestic lights that lined the Marine Drive, a sight that always gave him pleasure. His mobile phone beeped bringing him the message that the files had indeed been delivered to the client.

“Time for bed”, he muttered to himself and turned off the lights with a flourish. Kanishk walked over to his laptop to shut it down. He had received a new mail. It was a long tiring day, of arguing, talking, negotiating and he really wanted to hit the bed and dreaded what this new email was going to instruct him to do.

He rubbed his eyes and sat down to read it. He recoiled as if he’d received an electric shock.

Varsha Shetty. He stared at the name. The message was an innocuous “Hi”. Whatever could she have to say to him now, especially now after all these years. His hands trembled slightly and he felt his mouth go dry. He hated himself at that instant for allowing her to have the kind of power she seemed to have over him. He clucked impatiently, the page was taking was taking an eternity to load and the aggravating message appeared “This page cannot be displayed”.

He cursed and checked the time. It was 2 am, there was nowhere in which any cybercafé was going to be open at this time. He sent up a little prayer, took a deep breath and tried again. Finally the page loaded and he could feel his heart pounding loud and he felt this strange sensation in his stomach.

“Hey! I know this is totally out of the blue but I have something to say and couldn’t hold back. I suppose this isn’t the best way of doing this, but will do it anyway. I am in love with you, have been for some time now. I tried telling myself that this was just a passing feeling and that this isn’t the real thing…you know. And I do not even know how you feel, so this may not be the smartest thing for me to do. But I couldn’t just hold back.

I really hope I will hear from you.

Love

Varsha”

(To be continued)

Bailouts

I’m not a big fan of these bailouts that are happening left right and centre across the world these days. This request from our very own King of Good Times takes it to the next level:

“Air India is government owned but it is the taxpayer’s money. In our case it is the shareholder’s money; the shareholders are citizens of our country. If Air India deserves help in opinion of the government, why not private airlines,” Mallya told CNN-IBN on Wednesday, the day his company announced its quarterly loss has increased and it may delay salaries.”

Some logic this is huh? First you start fare wars to capture market share and charge bizzarely low fares that are in no way sustainable, then you make losses and run to the government for a bailout. And you claim that shareholders are citizens of the country. I’m really impressed with your sense of humour Dr Mallya.

Fasten your seat belts

Yesterday was a very interesting day. A day on which two people in the family were on international flights – my uncle was leaving for a short holiday and KT’s brother came down for his break.

Nothing unusual or interesting there you say? Yeah for the regular family. In our parts while foreign travel has lost its charm (in the sense that we don’t have uncles and aunties and grandpas and grannies queuing up at airports with garlands and bouquets either to receive or send off people, but we’re not chilled out enough to just let the traveler be.

At this stage I will make two small disclosures, the uncle is hard of hearing, but he is incredibly smart and he has all his life demonstrated that he is very independent and can find his way around. He has travelled overseas once before but it for a conference when he was with a group of people from work. The brother in law is one of those genius types (yeah when he wins the Nobel Prize, you can all claim you know me!) and can be a little lost at times (you could be in the same room and shout out his name and not have him react – though I suspect he does this only when he is trying to avoid doing what you are asking him to do and worse he does math problems for fun), but then again he has done this trans altantic journey several times now with no problems whatsoever. And he is the baby of the family.

The Uncle Diaries

Now the travel date was fixed taking into account auspicious dates, avoiding the solar eclipse, the tsunami and a whole host of unfavourable events, this meant that there was just one day in the whole week that he could travel. I offered to book the ticket and I did so on the date I was told. Turns out that there was a miscommunication between my grandma and my uncle and while she meant that the “good day” was the night of 23rd of July, he ended up telling me that it was wee hours of the morning. So all that careful date deciding went out of the window. The second confusion presented itself when the airline decided to combine a few flights and change the flight timing. The new flight number was no where to be found online, so conspiracy theories came fast – it was a hoax call, there was overbooking so they’re trying to bump us off by giving misleading information, no one is travelling on the terrible day of the solar eclipse etc. It took a couple of calls to some incredibly stupid call centre agents (I even put on a mallu accent because I was pretty sure that I was routed to the same agent twice for me to convince the family that there was no conspiracy involved.

There was then plenty of lecturing on the process (by erm the much travelled me – veteran of three and a half trips abroad). First get boarding pass – clear customs – clear security – well you get the drift. Mild confusion ensued between Step 1 – get boarding pass and Step 4 – board the flight and intense worry broke out on whether he would miss the boarding call as he wouldn’t be able to hear the announcement. KT did helpfully point out that the way announcements are made, even people with normal hearing faculties can’t quite understand them, but no avail, so the decision was made that my mother would hang around till the airport till the boarding call was given and send him an sms asking him to board the flight. The Madras airport is hardly like a Heathrow and it’s a little difficult to get lost in the slightly larger than 10000 sq feet departure terminal! And then came the big question, hold your breath: To declare or not to declare his diamond ring at the Customs. By this time I had no patience left to answer anything and I just guffawed. My mother indignantly retorted saying she didn’t want him to go to jail like Sheetal Mafatlal! To which I just guffawed louder and she hung up on me.

The ending was largely anticlimactic and the airline staff offered to accompany him to through the processes and I know he could have managed just fine without help even.

To be continued: The Brother In Law Diaries