Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beating the Retreat!!!

I must admit beating the retreat is a bit too fancy. An old fashioned Auld Lang Syne would be enough . But then a writer should be allowed some poetic licence. Besides I am a bit vain!
Yugesh started the retreat by leaving for Doon yesterday. It was a bit melodramatic by our standards. We have legendary communication skills. We call it chatting. After the first hug, each is confined to his or her bedroom . We LOL when we want to laugh and if it is hilarious maybe A ROFL or a LMAO. So what if we are in the same house. We all are happily there with our laptops with each camping in his or her bedroom. Laptop is almost as important part of our life as our ears and eyes and internet as important for our survival as the air we breathe.
So naturally I was expecting he would be expressing his sadness with one of the familiar emoticons we are comfortable dealing. So I was a bit taken aback when he came to my room and said that he was feeling sad and may perhaps shed a tear or two if his mom cried.
Now this was something years of training as a ‘Chacha ‘hadn’t prepared me for. Just a few hours back he had given me the ultimate compliment any uncle can expect. He called me his friend ! ( Again that was on orkut! And not personally to me). what more can I want. I think probably I did some things right when he was growing. Now the age of being uncle was over.
So I gave him the best advise I could give as a friend.
I told him that there was no shame in crying. And if he wanted to bawl like a baby whose bottle of milk has been snatched, be my guest. Only tell me in advance so I can sit in the car before this lachrymose moment.
Luckily nothing of that sort happened and we left for the station pretending happiness. The train was awfully late and by the time it arrived there was only one emotion left – sleep.
Today it is my turn. I will sing the Auld Lang Syne just as we did one wintery night in Glasgow , Scotland. I will remember all those lovely people holding hands and singing in a circle as they bid me goodbye :
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trustyfriend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
I am going to Kolkata , the city of my birth. This time I shall be there for three days , time enough to explore. Maybe I will look for "Purano shei diner kotha" (Memories of the Good Old Days) composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, he drew inspiration from Auld Lang Syne and wrote this beautiful piece.
All good things have to come to an end. And so is this time. All that will be left are memories!
Hope that Yugesh regains his humor once he is back and amongst the exciting world of books, sessionals and practicals things we lesser mortals cant enjoy!
Hope this brings a LoL on his face or better still LMAO!
But as for me tonight, I cant guarantee. I may be bawling like a baby! I have seen stranger things happening.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tarantino, Kebab House and a patiala peg!

“ Now if you will excuse me I will go home and have a heart attack.”
Yugesh and I almost fell on the floor laughing as John Travolta delivered this dialogue in a very dead pan manner. He had taken his boss’s mistress on a date and she had almost died of drug overdose. His boss is a Mobster.
We were watching the magic of Quentin Tarantino. The movie was “ The Pulp Fiction” and I was just a decade and a half late in watching it. Not bad since I am not much into movies! In the evening Onal fished out a rather stark and raw yet very moving Tarantino again “ The inglorious bastards.” This time I am almost contemporary. Tonight probably we shall remove another anomaly as I am being forced to watch the 3 idiots. People look at me strangely when they hear that I still haven’t seen it.
But I am positive no one in the world can make me watch My name is Khan. I like watching Shahrukh songs. He is very vibrant and entertaining. But watching him act is a sheer torture. The guy can’t act to save his life!
These two days have passed like a dream. Yugesh’s father had ordered a package so we could watch the exciting India – South Africa Match. But during one of the commercials we switched channels and saw Pulp and we remained glued. He is an exceptional director. This Tarantino. He extracts brilliant performaces from his talented cast. The dialoges are taut. And the speed of the movie is breath taking. Not a moment of boredom. The banter between Travolta and Jackson and Jackson quoting the bible is simply outrageous. The non linear depiction adds to the overall madness. We laughed till our stomachs ached.
My brother , the ever generous soul, brought a bottle of scotch for me. And Yugesh, the ever generous hog is seeing that the various food joints in Bhopal don’t starve of business even as we over feed ourselves.
Life couldn’t be better.
Tomorrow the party will end. Yugesh will leave in the North direction and I in the South. I need a map to explain to Tanmay where is everyone. However there is no answer for his “why don’t every one stay in my house?” For that he just has to grow.
He had warned me not to come without his Ben10 pencil box. It took some exploring but finally did get one. Cost a whopping Rs. 200. He is one high maintenance guy. I was left wondering about how times have changed. My entire year’s supply of stationery wouldn’t have cost that much when I was in college. And this kid is just in second class!
It’s time to leave and yet this time I couldn’t visit Gwalior. It kind of bothered me. Last night I woke up at 2 am and suddenly saw dad smiling from his huge portrait. Again as I went downstairs to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water and walked up to my bedroom , mom was staring from another big picture in the gallery.
I felt comforted. I can feel their presence everywhere in this house.
I guess my parents have moved in with dada!
Anand Madhav , a very old and regular reader, commented that I am not as old as I sounded in that post and that he can relate to me even though he is from the new generation!
Thanks Anand. You did make me feel good.
But the credit for that is all yours and not mine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A honey dipped Sakharpuda!

The silence outside the massive door was deceptive. But as I opened the ornate door and entered the elegant banquet hall , there was a sudden hush. People looked curiously at me. I suddenly saw that I was wearing a half suit with only a towel wrapping my loin. Suddenly a child giggled. As if on cue , the whole banquet hall broke into laughter.
Fortunately nothing of that kind happened. And this incident remained just what it was – a harmless nightmare.
But embarrassment and me go hand in hand and I didn’t want that to happen at least on Onal’s engagement. So we decided to reach the venue much before .
As we alighted from the car, I noticed guests already arriving. I entered the hall beyond the coffee shop behind them commenting to my brother that it looked small. My brother whispered that he didn’t find a single known face. I whispered back that our mom was right. We had lost touch with our own relatives. A group of ladies stared curiously as I tried to make myself comfortable on a chair settling the gifts and puja material on the other chair. Just when my rear was about to hit the seat of the chair I looked in the front, I froze. there was a huge heart shaped wall paper with the name of the couple on it. Whoever was getting engaged didn’t call herself Onal. We had entered a wrong venue!
I had managed once again to snatch embarrassment out of thin air. A kindly elderly man smiled in an avuncular way and asked if we were guests. I cheerfully nodded.
There goes a saying in army. Don’t ask embarrassing questions and you will get no lies.
Luckily the rest of the day rolled liked a well oiled Ferrari. Probably because I was not involved in the arrangements!
Onal's in laws have exquisite tastes. Everything from the location to the décor, the ambience had simply one word written all over it – Elegant.
It was a coincidence that her engagement was falling on the Valentine’s day. The kids had ordered a beautiful cake. It was all fun once the priest was done with the solemn rites. They even made the couple dance with them and Rohan and Onal were pretty sporting.
Indore can , in my opinion be rightfully called as the food capital of India. The food there is simply from another world!
I stood alone in the corner soaking in everything. Huge drapes covered the large windows. I opened one slightly and looked at the traffic milling around. A beam of golden sunray stole and slanted its way inside. I closed my eyes happily. For once I wanted to believe in God.
I was meeting some of my relatives after ages. But there was no disconnect. There was one neighbor from Gwalior. He had seen me in school. We were now meeting after over twenty years. Age had taken its toll. Yet he and his wife looked so dignified . They brought a lump in my throat. Cousins I had seen as kids with runny noses now came with their own children!
Normally I am allergic to huge crowds. But here I was wishing that time froze.
As the party ended we had to drive back to Bhopal. But there was one very important chore. Meeting the most important member of their family. Their lovable and massive German shepherd Danny. We went to meet him in their home.
He was so excited to see everyone. He jumped , slobbered and kept us on our toes. We were glad we went.
Sadly it was time to leave.
As the car sped into the night, cutting the darkness with it’s sharp lights, we all sat gloated with very little to say. I grudgingly conceded that Onal was going to a better family than ours and all laughed happily and accepted readily.
Here I was in the car with all my loved ones. We were adding some new members who had already taken a place in our hearts.
All I could think of was a couplet :
"If there is a Paradise anywhere on earth, its Here, its Here, its Here"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Three Idiots; Nah just one!

End of a week which decidedly had ‘evil’ stamped all over it. Nothing went right.
Tanmay banged his cycle into a gangly kid, I accidently sat on kc’s reading glasses, the dentist pulled out the wrong tooth ( or so I thought) and my reservation for going to Bhopal wasn’t even confirmed till 12 at night. With the garangutan bags I had I couldn’t even dream of flying. The penalty would have added to more than the ticket.
I worried stiff the whole day for the poor kid. I stared at my computer screen but all I could see was the ugly gash on his knuckle. I worried if he was alright. Maybe he broke a bone. Or the dust may have inflamed the wound. What if he was allergic or worse haemophiliac. I thought of that moment when the accident happened. Tanmay was so miserable that he hid behind me like a frightened mouse. I looked at him wistfully and felt like hiding behind him. I worried for the kid and myself. Luckily the crowd wasn’t hostile. So I and Tanmay were safe but extremely worried and sorry for the kid.

I felt enraged when Tanmay had already forgotten about it by the time he returned from the school and chided him for being rude and lectured him on ettiquettes.

So the next day armed with some candies and cookies we went to apologize to the kid.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I saw the kid playing. I enquired if he was ok. To my horror even the kid stared at me blankly as if I was asking him something a month old. There I was expecting him with a swathe of bandage wrapped around his knuckles and both his palms. But The wound was as visible as the kid’s memory. Looked like I was the only one who remembered about the accident.
To add insult to injury Tanmay playfully rolled the packet of ‘good day ‘ on the bench and pointed his forefinger to the kid who had already admonished me for disturbing his game. I swear I could see a hint of sarcasm on the face of the eight year old boy. I sheepishly told him to enjoy it himself. The devil gave a cheerful grin.
Luckily the ticket in the first class in AP Express was confirmed at 12.30 am and then I started the packing. When I reached the station it looked like my house was on fire and I brought everything that was at home. I barely had my suit, two shirts and a few clean underclothes and three pair of socks. Rest all belonged to onal. She had left Hyderabad for good and I ever the chivalrous, was keeping my promise of bringing her things. Ah God! Why did you have to make me so good.

Inside the cabin, My things were every where.One suitcase was so excited that it even refused to go below the seat. It lay there in all its pregnant glory in the aisle. I never felt so embarrassed.
Fortunately the co passengers were charming people. One old couple and one young boy.
The journey was pleasant. I was carrying ‘The Kite runner’ by ‘Khaled Hosseini’, a sweet sad tale of two boys against the backdrop of war ravaged Afganisthan. I had reserved this novel in the Miami Library and each time the queue was 40/42. Luckily onal had purchased this one. I walked through the trouble torn alleys of Kabul as the writer skillfully weaved the tale.
A friend had gifted Chetan Bhagat in USA. I could barely read a few pages. I found it pedestrian. I find it hard to believe that he is india’s most successful story teller. All the rushdies , arundhati roys and seths. My apologies! This genex has very different tastes in reading.
The young boy in the next seat jumped on seeing the book and requested if he could borrow it. I cheerfully offered it as a gift. He asked me to write something on it . I wrote ‘ Life is a Journey. To my young journey man with the best wishes that he rides the train to success.’ From a fellow passenger . camp : Kazipet station.
He was impressed and insisted that I write my real name. also he wanted my gtalk. He introduced himself. He was doing his graduation from IITD. I flinched. I explained I was too old for him and I take the word friend very seriously unlike his generation and can claim barely four or five people as friends. He looked at me contemptuously and said he expected more broad mindedness from someone living abroad. I tried again.I lied that I don’t chat. He said we can exchange emails. I tried my charm. Told him that he was a very smart boy and kind of intimidated me. He was silent. I thought my flattery worked.
When I woke up chetan bhagat was lying next to me. The young man was pretending sleep.
I sighed and kept it back in my back pack.
Perhaps I am wrong. This time I will read the whole novel. I must stop seeing the world through my prism.
Also my apology to the young man. You live in another world. You live by your own standards. They don’t necessarily agree with mine. The chasm is too deep. Past experiences can validate that. Also the loss is totally mine.
I have no illusions .
There is just one idiot. And that is me.

Tomorrow the D Day. Indore and the grand engagement.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Rip van winkle wakes up - Finally!

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. Somehow the creative juices just stopped flowing. But many loyal readers kept requesting. I am grateful to them and bow to their wishes.

Yesterday was just another day. I was waiting for Tanmay to come and snuggle beside me in my bed in the morning. His mom keeps cribbing in a monotonous way which we blissfully ignore. Its only when her voice goes up a few decibels , we know its 7.15. Time to wake up. Ritually, we hop to the basin like Kangaroos and I splash water on his face to rudely wake him up commado style. Else he misses the bus. Yesterday he half opened his eyes as I splashed water and whispered that he can see shining stars. Saying this he splashed some water on my face and asked me if I saw them too.

Sadly all I could see was that I was getting late for my appointment with the dentist.

My overdrawn vacation is coming to an end and its time to leave. There is so much to do. Oral and medical check up, shopping , Drying cleaning the suits and most importantly attending Onal’s engagement.

I remember that time on the South beach in Pattaya, Thailand. A few kids were carrying tiny birds in their cages. I asked one if he was selling them. He replied that for 20 Baht, you can free them. It was an ingenious and harmless way of making money. My heart went out to the kids. After setting all the birds free, we watched them soar happily. Later we sat on the beach and ate their favorite thai foods- prawn fritters, barbecued meat, succulent melons and mangoes, tasty papayas. I wished that even these kid could soar happily like the freed birds. But all I could do was buy them one day of freedom and happiness.

Soon onal would be leaving too. Just like the birds. She’s lucky. She is going into a family where laughter and love flows like an eternal fountain. The delightful family doesn’t know of any differentiation between a daughter and a daughter in law.
But she will leave a big hole in our lives which would be hard to fill.

Also there is the added joy of meeting Yugesh. We haven’t been able to meet because of our preoccupations. He is a chip of the old block. This lad.
The last picture he sent was with a giant python wrapped around his whole body. His mom almost fainted!Must say weirdness runs in the family.

What am I going to carry with me to the USA? Some delightful sights and sounds. I didn’t travel much as I would have loved to. Couldn’t visit my favorite Haridwar. Nor Dehradun. But I was lucky to visit the one place which I always wanted to visit the most.
My birth place Kolkata. Strangely I never ever could visit it as an adult. Sadly it was just for a few hours. Reached by the morning flight and returned by evening. A garrulous couple sat next to me in the flight. They were chatting in non stop Bengali! I smiled at myself. These people do not even know that I too can claim a tiny part of the heritage of their beautiful land. When some one sings the timeless Rabindra sangeet in her melodious voice, she would tug at my heart string too. Every time I pop a sweet rosgulla or enjoy a mishti doi, the language barrier wouldn’t come in the way.
Chennai was also brief .one day flying visit. I was visiting after a decade or so. I deliberately skipped the pre paid cab and went out to bargain for fun. I thought I had struck a brilliant bargain outwitting them clever drivers only to be told by the security man at the hotel where I was lunching with a friend that I had been ripped by at least Rs. 150. so that’s one score I would have to settle the next time I visit Chennai.
I am borrowing this interesting youtube video from Yugesh’s orkut- Parota catch.
Its amazing how the cook’s toss and catch without dropping a single parantha. Its from a dhaba in Chennai. Admire his skill. The south zone dropped five catches of Yusuf as he plumelled their attack. Maybe the talent scouts can try these guys!

Reminds me of the chaat bhandar on Bada in Gwalior. We used to go there to not only eat his spicy and mouthwatering chaats but also to watch him toss the potato cutlet high up in the air and expertly catch it in the plate before mixing the other ingredients. I grew up watching him and wasting my money ordering plate after plate, each time wishing with a perverted mind that he would drop once on the floor. I am still waiting.

These and many such sights and sounds shall go in my bag.

An old class mate from school suddenly surfaced after almost 30 years. He is successful, has a huge house, happily married and well settled. He asked me about me.
I have nothing.

Just a suitcase and a passport full of visa stampings from across different parts of the world. He earnestly enquired when I would settle. Next year perhaps. Or maybe the year after!

Till then my bohemian rhapsody continues.

Thanks dear readers. I wouldn’t be here without you!