Saturday, December 20, 2008

काला पाणि पार

I am going across (1/7th of) the seven seas. See you next year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 5 : Flicker to Flame

Part 3
Our days in Anzarle were typically spent with early morning walks on the beach, a late morning dip in the sea followed by a refreshing and invigorating bath at the water-pump next to the well in the courtyard of the beach house, an afternoon siesta and trips to places of interest in the evenings. We especially liked to sit on a cliff high above the beach, a place we’d call the ‘Sunset Point’ and gaze at the setting sun, the myriad hues of the evening sky drifting in layers from crimson richness to ethereal blackness. We’d sit there in silence, each engaged in deep contemplation on God-knows-what, with the strong, salty sea-breeze providing a haunting score to our thoughts. As the end of our trip drew nearer, our conversations began to be tinged with melancholy at the thought that this perfect escape from the routine of our lives had to be so short-lived. But with the Rotaract year ahead, and with our new found camaraderie, we rejoiced at the thought that a new phase in our lives was due to begin, one we would engage in together.

I had carried my guitar with me on this trip. Seema and Nishita had both seen me play at Aarambh, and of course, Ruksana had been a part of the Orchestra. I figured that it would come in handy if we ever got bored. I had been working on a song for some time, trying to base it on my feelings about Maya and about life post our breakup. I’d gotten the first four lines down earlier, and the music of the song was more or less ready. But, the song being in Hindi, I was having trouble coming up with the lyrics (us Bongs are known for our Hindi deficiencies).

One afternoon the girls asked me to play something on my guitar. I dished out my favourite Euphoria numbers, and once I’d gotten them swinging, I decided to try my song on them. I played the song, singing the first 4 lines and humming the rest. They liked the sound of it. I explained that it’s a song on loving and losing, and that I was having trouble finishing it. Ruksana, in her playful manner, joked that maybe it would help if I thought about that girl I’d fallen for in school. I smiled away her little dig; by now the others new well enough that I’d had such feelings for Ruksana back in school. But the idea bore some merit. So when the girls went in for their afternoon nap, I sat with my guitar in hand, closed my eyes, and went back to someday in July 1998. And the course of my thoughts went something like this:-

‘A daily ritual, observed religiously for years and years, seemed unfamiliar today. The usual precursors to the ritual were present well enough: the strange, contradictory combination of a monotonous, yet crest and trough like speech of the science teacher (who, in this particular case, only ever sounded fun while describing vectors, because she'd always say in her south Indian accent, "Vector Oh Yay" indicating vector OA), the weary sighs of my co-sufferers, the occasional, yet increasingly frequent yawns and the equally occasional, yet equally increasingly frequent churns of empty stomachs. The glances at my wristwatch were reflexive, intuitive even. Over a decade of expectation unfailingly made an imagined dopplerised bell ring in my head, even before the actual one echoed through the air, a clarion call of salvation for the hungry and bored. Lunch recess was here, as it had been all these years, again. But what was wrong? What was the dampener of the joyous gasp at freedom?
I saw it as the others began walking out of the class. What was this? Who were these people? What the hell were they wearing? Don't they look at themselves in the mirror in those, those hideous shades??? How can they bear to... My thoughts trailed off as I looked down at myself; peach shirt, ugly brown trousers, the letters VB embroidered onto the breast pocket, brown socks, tan shoes!! Not leather, but plastic, all-bloody-weather!!! Where was my white shirt, the white trousers, the white socks, the black shoes?? The navy blue tie with the Marian insignia pinned thereon?? What happened to the paint on the walls?? Shit, what happened to the walls??!!
Oh yeah, right... This isn't my school... No, wait a minute, this is my school, it just isn't my… No, no, no... Right, I got it! This is my school, now! It's not these people or the walls that are strange… Here, I'm the stranger…
That's what it was, wasn't it? It was yet another lunch break, but it wasn't a familiar lunch break. I wasn't going to charge down the marble staircase into the senior assembly hall, and start munching on the usual rolls from my tiffin box while chatting with Manik and Adnan, or showing my face to Drumeel so that I could be in one of the teams for the usual lunch-time football match. Nope, today I was going to climb down a narrow flight of stairs onto what is known as a 'Quadrangle' and walk onto a playground with two football goal-posts at either end and a most detestable, incredulity inspiring, enthusiasm rogering, scorn raising, and, to put it in plain English, completely fucked up "no playing in the lunch break" rule!!!!! Yup, this was my unknown, unfamiliar reality. No wonder it didn't feel right.
New school, new guy, day 2. It was the first time I'd put on the school uniform, And the sight of all the brown clothing (and red hair bands on the chicks… Goddamit, chicks!!!! [I was in a non-co-ed school before this. This is not an exclamation of joy, but one of agony {feels freaky to be stared at but so many unknown women because you're the new guy}]) made me feel weird as hell! Having been in one school for the better part of my academic life had made me thoroughly institutionalised. I wasn't quite used to being stared and pointed at like a circus freak!! But it was a position I'd resigned myself to accept. I mean what the heck, makes it easier to get to know people when they're curious enough to come to you as if you were a museum piece or something. Although it gets a little fucked up when they talk to you like you're dyslexic.
I grabbed my tiffin box and walked down the stairs after most of my class-mates had already gone. I did what I usually did when I had to eat lunch without Manik and Adnan around, by walking on the “play”ground, munching on the rolls. Once again, in my mind, I cursed my present situation. What the fuck kind of school banned playing on the playground??? Who the hell were these weird kids eating their lunches, sitting on the playground!!!!!! From post to post, sitting on mats in circles of various sizes, groups of students eating lunch, chatting away like they were in a goddamned banquet hall. Bloody hell, this was a football ground for Christ's sake!!
And then it happened... It was the single, most inexplicable thing... It was a voice, I know it was a voice... But there was something ethereal to it, like nothing I'd heard before... If you can imagine yourself to be an emaciated skeleton with your skin clinging onto the bones, and dehydrated to the point where your liver and kidneys begin to push against your body, and in that state you hear the gentle gush of a waterfall into a brook marking the entrance to Shangri la, you might understand what I felt in the few moments that it took me to turn around and face the source of the sound. The vision was blinding… No, actually that's not what it was. There was an implosion of light, 120 degrees of visible area suddenly contracted into one concentrated space, and in that space there was only her... Nothing else existed, nothing else got through. It was only that space, only her, her eyes, her face, her smile, and her voice... A voice that made every part of me quiver (perhaps, I fear, too visibly), yet one that numbed me to a point where the sound seemed distant, hauntingly enchanting, like the strains of the Siren's lute. Her smile was a constant through her speech, and her pearly white teeth flashed at me every now and then, teasing me like some infernal will-o'-the-wisp. "Hi, I'm Ruksana. You must be the new boy..." That and the rest of her words flowed out of her lips like the most symmetrically tantalising poetry! There was no question of resistance, no time to put up a guard… The cherub with the bow flitted around me, laughing joyfully as he shot arrow after arrow at me, piercing into my heart as incessantly and determinedly as a deranged battering ram.
For once, for the first time, and unquestionably at the first sight, I was in love...’

I opened my eyes with a start. It had been years since I had thought of that moment, and all of a sudden something that had lain asleep deep within me stirred ever so slightly. I knew I had to disregard it, and the guitar in my mind gently reminded me of the object of the reminiscences. I began playing my song, and after I’d finished the first four lines, the words just came to me –

Woh pehli baar jab tumne mujhse baatein kit hi,
Aisa laga ki aasmaan se Pari aa giri thi,
Un gehri aankhon mein ek sharaarat si dikhi thi,
Woh sunehri muskaan dekh meri sansein tham gayi thi

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 5 : Flicker to Flame

This one may seem somewhat chauvinistic, but what can one do? :)
Part 2
Anzarle is a sleepy little fishing village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The approach route is tedious but scenic for the city slicker; a grueling bus ride from Pune through lovely countryside to a place called Dapoli in a State Transport Bus (famously and ubiquitously known in Maharashtra as the ‘Lal Dabba’), followed by a sweaty and hardly fragrant drive in an overcrowded Tempo Trax from the Bus Stand to something of a very small port, and finally a suitably relaxed and gently swaying ferry ride across a short expanse of backwater to the first stretch of beach in Anzarle. The entire journey, which may take no more than 5 hours without mishap, seems like an odyssey, and can be an excellent way to get to know ones’ traveling companions. Or so I gathered as I heaved bag after bag from our little ferry boat onto the beach while Ruksana, Seema and Nishita (names changed) jumped off the boat and stretched their weary bodies languidly, with appropriate sound effects.

The beach house was a little 3 roomed cottage with a delicious rustic charm. The only signs of modernity lay in the solitary black and white television set in one of the rooms, an ancient refrigerator fortunately in working condition, the electric lights of the household and a powerful electric water pump meant to draw up water from a well in the courtyard on the hind side of the cottage. Beyond the cottage stretched what is known as a wada (a large garden) in which grew all kinds of trees, principally coconut, mango, jackfruit and papaya. The wada stretched for about 25 yards from the cottage to a wooden fence with a gate, and beyond lay the beach and the ocean (well, the Arabian Sea really). The inhabitants of the cottage were a quiet little family consisting of the caretaker, his wife, one son and two daughters.

Our first night in the cottage was rather entertaining in an unexpected manner. We had one of the rooms to ourselves, with mattresses laid on the floor and table fans all around the perimeter, serving to provide us some relief from the sultry atmosphere as well as from a cloud of assorted insects. My companions had carried some reading material, but the same being mostly restricted to several issues of Cosmopolitan magazines, I felt somewhat shy to join them in their researches (there, I said it!). I contented myself to reading an Archie and Pals double digest in low speed. Fortunately, the girls had decided to take full advantage of the fact that I was the lone male in the equation, a situation which they (erroneously) expected would make me uncomfortable. Their discreet and sporadic whispered communication between themselves notwithstanding, I presently became aware of their plan of exploiting the wolf-sheep role reversal. A roguish grin and slight nod from Ruksana signaled that the games were about to being.

Seema rolled the dice first. “Bikram,” she said in her Basanti-being-playful tone, “We’re just going to talk of some things about women. You don’t mind, na?” Ah, so that was to be the entertainment for the evening!

“Hey, no hassles. Go ahead,” I replied, as the realization of where this promised to go sunk in like a gentle high.

What followed made up for any slight disappointment I may have felt for not reading those Cosmos myself. The three ladies most graciously began to read aloud the Cosmo version of the Agony Aunt section, which is like reading a graphically detailed set of FAQs to bad porn. If this was their idea of scandalizing me, they weren’t doing the best job. I gamely pretended not to notice their recitations for the most part, but one or two glances at them conveyed to them, to their evident delight, that my interest had been aroused (I know it’s unbelievable, but no puns intended!).

But unfortunately, their nefarious plan at evoking a titillated blush out of me encountered an unexpected roadblock. I have found it quite the engaging past-time in acquainting and familiarizing myself with the workings of the female anatomy (I figured that if I can’t understand their minds, I should focus on their bodies, which are at least initially more interesting). It appeared that the girls didn’t share my interest. When it came to Nishita’s turn to join the fun, she began reading aloud the next giggle-worthy question, but trailed off midway, evidently confused with the reference of the anatomical portion therein contained. Seema and Ruksana leaned over and found themselves similarly confounded, and began guessing at what a “ruptured hymen” (my apologies) could possibly mean. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity at some payback!

I then proceeded into a lengthy discourse on female sexuality that, I feel certain, might have made Alfred Kinsey smile approvingly. Presently, my somewhat clinical descriptions of such rather embarrassing subjects caused some delicate ruddy tinting of the girls’ faces, most notably their ears. The discussion would be almost somber if their increasingly shy reactions hadn’t sent me rolling on the floor!

A couple of weeks later, Seema was to write me a flattering testimonial in a social networking website, describing me as “just a book in his own self.”

Veni. Vidi. Vici.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Chapter 5 - RCPG 1 - Flicker to Flame

Dear readers. I apologise for not have posted anything in a while. My head was pretty messed up over the terror attacks in Bombay. No, no one I know was hurt, but I felt horrible just the same. Finally, after my head's cleared somewhat, I've started on this once again. RCPG was to orginally be Chapter 3 in my original essays that I'd starte writing as a goodbye gift for Karan some years back. But that was before I decided to overhaul the whole damn thing and start posting it on my blog. In those old writings, I'd stopped at Chapter 3. I won't stop this time :)

Part 1

She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child but
She’s always a woman to me
She’s always a woman to me” – Billy Joel

I’m here. This is it,” I thought, standing outside the green bamboo gates. The security guard eyed me curiously, but I didn’t make a move. A kaleidoscope of memories had assailed my consciousness, some happy, some sad, some vitriolic. But the dominant thought was that of a promise, one I’d made to myself as an angry teenager standing in the same spot over 4 years earlier, that I would never walk through those gates again. The sentiment had long since lain dead and buried, and so it should have remained until that moment, when Fate shoved a shovel into my head and exhumed it all. Logic and emotion were playing a tug-o-war in my mind, and my inert body and a small degree of false pride hung in the balance.

It’s been more than four years since I last met her properly,” I thought, “I’m not pissed off anymore. So what’s the problem?

I promised never to go in there, that’s what,” came the reply.

Yeah. But that was different. I was being dumb and unfair.”

Maybe so, but I had good reason.”

What reason? That I lo… felt for her but could never have her? So what? She’s not even relevant in that sense anymore. I loved Maya after that, didn’t I?

But she was my first love, have I really gotten over her? Plus, I’ve only recently broken up with Maya. This is dangerous.”

Oh, please, she’s history! First love… blah!

The raging debate in my head was suddenly interrupted by a voice, “Bikram! Hiii!! Come in ya, why’re you just standing there?”

The images cleared, and I saw Ruksana flashing her trademark smile at me. But something was different. Not in her, but in me. I had been mildly apprehensive at the prospect of spending time with her alone, when she’d asked me to come over to her place a couple of hours back. That apprehension had since been growing. But now that she was in front of me, I felt… nothing. That was pretty encouraging, really!

“Hey,” I replied, “I was just thinking about how long it’s been since I was last here.”

“Join the Rotaract Club and you can make a habit of coming here,” she said cheerily.

I chuckled as I walked through those bamboo gates, thinking how the idea of such a “habit” might have appealed to me back in school. We went into her room, and she spent the next hour telling me about the Rotaract Club of Pune Ganeshkhind. The dynamics were something like this –

1. She was to be the President, and I a Director on her Board of Directors. That would make her the woman behind the wheel (battle of the sexes alert!).

2. An ingenious marketing strategy - “You’ve done so many things in college ya,” she said to me, “all your debates and things. You play the guitar and sing. If you’re in the Club, so many young people will know that there are achievers like you who are of their age! It will be really motivational for them.”

3. A position of supposedly high importance – I was to be the Director for Professional Development, which is apparently the most important avenue in the Rotaract.

4. A call for suggestions for the Director for the avenue of Club Service, supposedly the one who has to maintain the fun element of the Club (Karan Singh received a call from me 2 minutes later)

We talked about what kind of projects I might take up as a Director, and then of MUNA and Aarambh and presently our conversation veered towards old times. I’d once written her a particularly vicious hate mail, and she seemed to love to make me keep apologizing for it. School days were discussed, old friends, funny incidents, strange happenings, Aminesh (her former boyfriend and my former best friend), and others. Finally, as it drew close to calling it a night, she asked me if I’d like to join her and a couple of her friends for a trip to her beach house in a little village in the Ratnagiri district. Her friends were to be in the Board of Directors of the Club too, and it would be a great way to break the ice between them and me. True that I hadn’t spent that kind of time with Ruksana before, and that we had hardly resumed contact long enough to warrant a getaway together. But there were some definite, inescapable pros to her proposition – The beach, the waves, the breeze, the sunsets, the beach house, three women, and me.

The holidays this summer promised to be rather interesting…

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 5

Love me now, for I may wait no longer…”
Something I came up with

Karan’s calls became far less frequent after that glass of Coke in the Great Punjab. His responses to my calls were laconic and vaguely apologetic – “Sorry, dude. Can’t meet you today. Gotta take Akruti to a doctor,” – and the like. I couldn’t complain, after all I had an idea of what the guy was probably going through. Of course, the time away from Karan allowed me to try and concentrate on my books (although as my Semester 6 marksheet would suggest, it wasn’t nearly enough).

One of the unique features of Symbi Law (and there were quite a few) was it’s insistence on conducting semester examinations approximately a month prior to all other faculties. That way, we got to curse our luck when we’d be nose-diving into our books while others would be making party plans in the NCC Canteen, and conversely, we’d be playing up the fact that our exams were long over by the time the others got their respective GPLs (full form loosely translates to ‘kicks in the posterior’). Fortunately for me, I was what was derisively referred to as a ‘localite’, with a home and family in Pune, so the effect of having to study while others continued gallivanting was far less on me than for my unfortunate peers whose hostels presented no entertainment or seclusion. And so it went on till the last day of my exams.

After my final paper, I sat chatting in the NCC with one or two batchmates, amidst the throng of smoking law students getting set for the all-night ‘booze-n-more’ parties. The prospect of puking my guts out at 4 a.m. was never a cause of much excitement for me, and somehow the charm of having women around, dancing and moving as only women do, would quickly and drastically diminish at the thought of them puking their guts out at any hour. At that point I was really looking forward to shaving off a hideous goatee that had managed to grow onto my face, a product of a few weeks of no shaving, and a good night’s sleep after ages. I was suddenly reminded of Karan (whose shaving habits were highly irregular) and I gave him a call.

When he answered, his voice had some of the cheerfulness of old. That was a relief, as ever since his conversation with Mo so many days earlier, he had always sounded rather strained. We decided to meet at Scorpio Net near Akruti’s place.

When I saw him, his face looked somewhat weary, but he greeted me with his usual enthusiasm. After the obligatory general chit-chat, I asked him about Akruti and was relieved to know she was doing quite well of late. She’d stopped assaulting herself, and was hanging out with friends, doing routine things again. Karan was still spending a lot of time with her, but she was a lot more stable now.

I then asked him about MJ. He looked at me with a wistful smile and said that she was fine, although he hadn’t seen her in a while. He had told her about Akruti’s condition, and she’d asked him to do what he had to do. I felt bad for him, but I wasn’t sure of how deep his involvement with Akruti had become of late, so I didn’t say anything. She was, after all, an object of intense emotions for him. Perhaps, if they were to ever be together, this was the starting point.

One often spends large amounts of time with a person without ever getting to know his true feelings on something that might affect him. We spend years with our siblings, our friends, maybe even our spouses, thinking we know all there is to know, and all of a sudden, something happens that opens a whole new aspect of their minds to us, one that might catch us completely by surprise. Several years later, I was to find Karan’s battered old notebook in which he used to write poetry, prose and thoughts while still in college, lying buried somewhere amidst other nostalgic paraphernalia. On one page were written the following lines in his handwriting:

“Karan, I’m glad I never said ‘yes’ to you. You showed me that I still can’t trust men. But you also showed me that I can’t expect someone to wait too long for me to say ‘yes’ - MJ”

Below it were written the words “No failures, no regrets”.

But the two “No”s had been scratched out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

This next part is only somewhat based on facts. It has been recreated from bits and pieces of stuff Karan told me years ago. Since I wasn’t there when the following stuff happened, I have had to give it a largely fictional touch.

Part 4

Karan stood outside Akruti’s bedroom door, staring at the chipped off paint near the door knob. He was turning over in his mind everything Mo had said to him just a couple of hours earlier, and the look she had in her eyes when she let him into the apartment five minutes ago. Mo stood behind him, a few feet away. They said nothing. She just looked at him, and felt the pain of a lump in her throat. She liked Karan, she’d always thought he was a nice guy. And she was glad to see him now. It was all she could do to deal with the situation herself, and she didn’t know how much longer she could go on alone.

The silence was eerie, broken by the measured ticks of a wall clock hanging directly above the door where Karan stood. He was afraid to open the door, afraid of what he might see. He was suddenly aware of Mo’s presence just behind him. He could hear her breathing. He tried to concentrate on the faint whiff of the perfume she was wearing, as if his mind was shutting out the impending task by focussing on trifles. She put her hand on his shoulder and he shuddered. He looked back and saw tears in her eyes. “Please,” was all she could say.

Karan turned the knob and pushed the door back. As he stepped into the room, a wash of an acrid odour hit him like a pillow in the face. He froze, realising with horror that the stench was only too familiar. He hadn’t smoked hasish since he’d gone into rehab, but the memory takes its time to die out. The room was dimly lit, and was filled with the smoke of several joints. As his eyes focused in the gloom, he could discern a half eaten barbequed chicken pizza, several empty cigarette packs and a few photo albums littered all over the floor, and numerous empty bottles of alcohol. In the far corner of the room, next to a messy bed, sat a figure all huddled up. Her hands were wrapped around her knees which were drawn up to her body, and her head was on her knees, hiding her face from view. She was rocking restlessly, and her breathing was short and erratic.

Karan looked at Akruti, hardly able to believe that it was her. He knew her to be very tidy and hygienic, but the macabre atmosphere in the room suggested something very different. “So, what I’ve heard about her is true, then,” he thought, “She has gotten pretty fucked up.” He took a few steps towards her, and stopped at the sound of broken glass that crunched under his shoes. At the sound she looked up, and he saw her face for the first time in six months. Her eyeliner had streaked all over her cheeks with her tears, and her skin had taken on an anaemic whiteness, which made the contrast all the more gruesome. She gave him a chilling smile, and set her head on her knees once again.

“A… Akruti,” said Karan, hardly above a whisper. “What have you done to yourself? Why?”

For answer, she giggled like a school girl who’s noticed a boy’s trouser zipper open.

Karan found his voice. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you bloody crazy? People are worried sick about you. For God’s sake, look at yourself!” She stopped rocking, but kept her head down. Karan decided to take a more tender approach. “I can’t bear to see you like this Akruti. None of us can. We all care for you, ya. Come on, you’ve got to get a hold of yourself.”

“You care, huh?” she said without looking at him. “You seemed to care a lot more about her yesterday on that bench outside the canteen.” Karan remembered sitting on the katta outside the Symbi Food Court, laughing with MJ and holding her hand. He realised that Akruti must have seen him and MJ together. And it had been Valentine’s Day. Fuck!

“Does it feel good to hold her, Karan?” she went on. “Does she make you feel warm all over?”

“Don’t be like that, Akruti,” said Karan, “it’s not like that.”

“Oh, really? Then who is it, if it isn’t her,” her voice hardened. “Tell me, Karan. You can’t be alone, so who is it? Is it me?” He could hear her softly sobbing, but he felt powerless to stop it. His voice was dry, strained, “Nobody. There’s nobody, Akruti.”

“Why didn’t you call, Karan? For so many months, why didn’t you call?” she sobbed.

“What did you expect me to do, Akruti?” Karan cried out, “You treated me like shit! You knew how much you meant to me, yet you refused to be mine. In front of all my friends in the NCC canteen, you flung lemonade into my face. You embarrassed the fuck out of me that day. Did you expect me to come crawling back after that?”

Her sobs became uncontrollable now. Karan stopped; he realised that it wasn’t the best time for either of them to be reviving painful memories. He walked up to her and crouched. “Look,“ he said, “just forget all that. Right now you have to snap out of it. I…”

Suddenly Akruti lunged at Karan with a small pen-knife in her hand. The move took Karan completely by surprise, and before he could grab her hands, she had cut him on his chest. In a state of shock he held her hands tightly by the wrists for a few minutes. In the dimness, he saw a malevolence in her eyes, while she screamed, “You don’t love me, you love her!” When he came to his senses, he realised that she wasn’t putting up much of a fight, that she wasn’t trying to cut him with the knife anymore. He looked at her arms and saw all the places where she had cut herself. Her wrists were bandaged, and the wounds seemed to have reopened. “Drop it, “ he said, and the knife plinked onto the floor. The hate in her eyes was replaced by a look of utter remorse and she collapsed into his arms, weeping pitifully and continually saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

He held her to himself, and he felt like he was holding a complete stranger. This shivering, weeping maniac was not his Akruti, the one he had fallen so deeply in love with. But he knew she was in there somewhere, and that only he could get her out. He felt he knew what he had to do, even if he hated to bring himself to admit it. He had to be by her side, see her through this mess. There was no telling what she would do next.

He held her tighter and closed his eyes. “No,” he whispered, “I’m sorry.” But he realised he hadn’t spoken to her. In his heart, he knew that he had just apologised to MJ.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 3
February 15, 2005. It was Ruksana’s birthday. Two days ago, on February 13, it had been Maya’s birthday. Two women whom I have loved tenderly, passionately, in whose memories I have revelled, in whose company I have lost and found myself, in whose essence I have felt the meaning of love. Perhaps it is ironic that a day of love finds itself between their birthdays, neither one seeming any less important than the other, the day before and the day after. Some might call it poetic, and some might say I’m just a sucker for romanticism, either way, Valentine’s Day was a day full of emotion for me. And this time, the Day brought cruel tidings for another.

Karan had asked me to be there next to him, while Mo told him about Akruti’s condition. I felt distinctly awkward, and I knew I had no business being there. I didn’t know Mo, and my idea of Akruti had been limited to Karan’s sporadic reminiscences. I, therefore, chose to shut out whatever was being said by Mo to Karan, and endeavoured to pass the time in happy thoughts of Maya, and to a lesser extent, Ruksana (my break up with Maya had only happened 2 months earlier). But the mood was sombre, and there was a suggestion of a crisis in Karan’s body language as he spoke to Mo. Time was beginning to drag itself, and my position was becoming a very difficult one. At last Karan stood up and said, “Please tell her to stop being… like that. Call me once you reach over there, okay?” His words were somewhat broken and he was quite visibly shaken up.

We said our goodbyes to Mo and headed for the Great Punjab restaurant down the street. Karan walked in a daze, his eyes fixed on the pavement as if the road would show him the meaning of it all. We sat down at a table in the restaurant, and I ordered a Coke for him, his favoured beverage. The waiter placed the bottle before him, but Karan made no move to pour himself a glass. I poured one for him, and as I pushed the glass to him, I said, “Dude…”

Karan looked up at me, and I saw in his eyes a torrent of heretofore alien emotions. There was fear, there was pain, there was doubt, but more than anything else, there seemed to be despair. “She called me yesterday, Da,” he mumbled, “on Valentine’s Day. She asked me why hadn’t I called. She asked me if I was with her, with MJ. She… she asked me if I still cared.”

I caught a drift of hysteria in his words. His whole aspect suggested something vaguely horrible. His charming, carefree demeanour was dissolving into a morass of confusion and terror before my very eyes. This was a Karan Singh few would ever get to see.

“She said she hates me, Da,” he continued, “hates me for having loved her. For having dreamed of her. For holding her hand, for the flowers last year. She hates me because Mo and Rose keep talking about me, and she hates me because she keeps talking about me to Mo and Rose. But why, Da? Why does she need me now? I asked so many times, she always turned me down. There were times I felt like I was a clown doing a juggling act on a unicycle just to make her smile, but she hardly seemed to care. And now, this? Why now, Da? After I’ve finally begun to leave her behind, after I’ve become so interested in MJ, why now?”

The answer seemed obvious. “Because you’ve become so interested in MJ,” I replied.

He looked at me with that pained expression. “She’s cut herself, Da,” he cried, “she’s been pulling off pieces of flesh on her arm with nail clippers. She’s nearly slit her wrist!”
This was bad. The matter seemed on the verge of getting out of hand. For the first time in my life, I felt confronted with a problem whose solution gave away no hint at itself. All I could say was, “Holy shit!”

“What should I do, Da?” he said, “What the fuck should I do?”

But I could say nothing. The woman sounded crazy, but now wasn’t the time to venture a psychoanalysis. I said in a dry voice, “I don’t know man. Maybe you should tell someone in her family about this.”

But he wasn’t going to do that. I knew it, he knew it. It might have been the intelligent thing to do, but it might mean he would lose her forever. Even if he felt he might never have her, he still wanted to hang on to some sense of hope. He closed his eyes, and in a few minutes his face hardened, his lips setting into a thin line. When his eyes opened, there was a look of painful resolve. For the first time he noticed the glass of Coke in front of him. His fingers slowly curled around and gripped the glass, and as he took a swig of the drink, it appeared that his mind had found an instant of sanity. As he set the glass down, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but she needs me…” And with that he stood up and walked away.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 2

"With every silver lining comes a black cloud of despair"
Archie Andrews

Karan had often spoken of Akruti. From that very first day when we met after the MUNA training session, and throughout our continued association, if Akruti’s name wasn’t at the tip of his tongue, it would most certainly be at the back of his mind. He had often described his impression of her when he’d first seen her. On such occasions, he would sit back with a dreamy look in his eyes, and the suggestion of a beautiful memory or two would descend around his face like a luminescent mist. He would tell me, speaking more to himself than to me, perhaps, about how she had seemed to be a woman with just the right level of attitude, arrogance, solidity, stolidity, strength and femininity. Of how he had once told her that her red bandana made her look like a pretentious ‘wannabe’, and how she would be so much cooler if she’d just be herself. Of how they spent several months seeing each other without seeing each other, and how he could never really have time alone with her because either Rose (name changed) or Mo would be hanging around like some kind of chastity and propriety ensuring neo-Nazi chaperone.

But Karan was in pain. I could well empathise, for I knew how harrowing it could be to love fruitlessly. For more than half a decade I had often found myself in a melancholy reverie of my intense and largely unexpressed feelings for Ruksana, the unhappy circumstances that led to our fallout, the innumerable occasions when my heart was bursting to tell her so much! Perhaps that is why Karan and I felt so comfortable together. I’ll lay it down as an axiom right now – the leading cause of male bonding is women.

With the background of his stop-go deal with Akruti and the toll it used to take on him, I was quite happy to see Karan’s nascent interest in MJ beginning to grow into a full fledged ‘thing’. There was a new glow to his usual cheerfulness, and his brimming energy found excellent expression in his interactions with her. There was something indescribably cute about the two of them, and most everybody who knew either of them (and between the two of them that meant nearly everybody in the Arts and Commerce college) were abuzz with the gossip that Karan is totally hitting on MJ. For the most part, the news spread with smiles galore, and even one or two other admirers of MJ resigned to their fate and congratulated Karan for being the closest to the ‘chosen one’ in her life then. Frequent references to MJ’s hanging out in the RSI Club and Karan’s oft expressed desire to be her slow-dance-in-the-spotlight partner became a favoured topic of discussion. Many people eyed me curiously, wondering who exactly I was, sitting on the same table as Karan and MJ. In the process, my popularity as ‘the unknown quantity’ made its own small place in the scheme of things, and I was often prodded by complete strangers on the latest goings-on of the ‘couple’.

But with the crest there comes the trough. Isn’t it so typical? Just when we thought things could only get better from then on, Karan’s cell phone rang. His expression betrayed some little confusion as he looked at the flashing name on the screen and answered, “Hello?”

“Karan? It’s me, Mo. Listen… I don’t know how to say this… It’s Akruti… She’s… You’d better see me right away.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

“The way you make me feel,
The way you turn me on,
You knock me off my feet,
My lonely days are gone...”
Michael Jackson

Part 1

Another semester of law school was drawing inevitably to its close. The crowd in the college campus had begun to diminish, and within a few days, the law faculty declared a study leave. But impending exams were never a dampener to Karan’s spirits, especially if it were someone else’s exams that were looming near. By then, Karan and I were regularly hanging out together, and every morning at about 9 a.m., a call to or from him had become a staple. I was a little too carefree about the vast portions of my subjects to be covered for the exams, and somewhat too liberal with my fibs to my folks about getting notes from classmates when what I really wanted to do was share some puffs and laughs with Karan. Life was easy, reduced to a series of walks from the Symbi campus to the NCC and back, with intermittent smoking pit-stops that left my wallet lighter and my conscience heavier (I was, after all, supposed to be studying, and smoking is a bad habit). Then, when there were no longer any women on campus for Karan to talk with, we’d push off to his apartment, where he lived with his roommate Dilawar, and the incredibly sweet couple of Tandon bhai and Pede. In the evening, when I’d decide to push off home, Karan would walk me to the nearest tapri for yet another smoke, and (without fail) would ‘borrow’ one Rupee for a phone call. And so, our days continued.

Karan’s love-life was somewhat seasonal. A new crush would materialize sometime in the months of spring, lazy afternoons would be spent dreaming of cosy days with the said crush in the summer, arm-in-arm walks under a quaint old-fashioned curved-handled umbrella during the monsoons would follow, by autumn there would be signs of something of a rift, and by new years eve Karan would have had either a glass of lemonade flung in his face, or his girlfriend would go for another guy because she couldn’t take Karan seriously, or, if he was lucky, she’d break up with him without any unnecessary drama or intrigue. I guess he was just unlucky, or maybe he cared a little too much for his women. Whatever be the case, and however unfortunate the heartbreak, Karan always managed to scrape his heart off the floor and give it away again. This spring, his ephemeral heartbreak healer was a young 'army-chick' called MJ (Clarification: At least one of her parents were serving in the armed forces).

MJ had been one of the ‘models’ in a college fashion show in Aarambh. She was pretty cute, and was probably fun to talk to (Karan did most of the talking, as always). My role, or rather the role I took for myself at such times, would be that of an observer. However, small-talk between the sexes usually bored me, and I’d often find myself fighting off humongous yawns so as not to embarrass the cooing couple. That is not to say my silent vigils went unrewarded. It was always amusing to watch Karan trying to impress MJ, and her playfully stoic resistance to his efforts were admirable. In the presence of MJ, Karan would often become rather magnanimous, and a nice chicken sandwich, or at the very least, a cup of coffee would often find place on the table before me. A pleasant trade-off for the daily ‘one rupee’ offerings! My favourite moment remains the time we were sitting at a table in the Symbi Food Court, and Karan, while expressing genuine admiration for the entire feminine sex, declared, “I really love women; they have so much grit!” while clenching both his fists at chest-height at the precise point of saying “grit”! Despite my temptation to view the incident as a glorious illustration of a Freudian slip, I am inclined to believe that the hand-gesture was in fact an innocent faux pas (or am I?). But, although I laughed till Karan was red in the face and MJ was beginning to have an inkling that something embarrassing had just happened, I could not deny that Karan was genuinely interested in MJ, and his intentions, like most everything about him, were honourable.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : Chapter 2 (contd.) - Aarambh - the Beginning

Part 4

“O maajhi, aeka kaeno kothai jaash, nodir aar saagorer tane-tane (O boatman, where do you go with the waves of the rivers and the seas? And why do you go there alone?)”
A song called “Nauka Chole” (the Boat sails) that Karan and I performed in the show

The feeling was electric indeed. The curtains were closed, and the auditorium was abuzz with the audience relishing the prospect of trading boring lectures with hopefully less boring stage acts. On stage, the performers of the day were milling about with the confusion so typical of nervous first timers; I know, I was one of them. The Orchestra performance (with 20 or so people about to sing and play, calling it a ‘Band performance’ would be overdoing it) was to kick things off. Wires from microphones and guitars snaked all over the stage and disappeared under the curtains. Shaunak met me in the wings, all charged up. He had practically left the guitar department entirely to me. He was going to play of course, but on a plugged in acoustic guitar. He pointed towards an electric guitar lying on the stage, and informed me that it was to be my instrument for the show. Now this was unexpected!

As I picked up the electric, I once again marvelled at how such a relatively small looking guitar could feel so damn heavy. I took out my pick, closed my eyes, tilted my head back, and did a single slow strum of the six strings, trying to get a total ‘I’m feelin’ that shit’ look. Unfortunately, any cool rockstar effect that my posturing with the guitar might have produced was quite likely obliterated by the very uncool ‘duh…’ look of confusion that now appeared on my face. The guitar had made no sound! Not on any amplifier, and not even otherwise. I spent a few moments picking at the strings while re-evaluating the basics - Let’s see now; hold guitar pick/plectrum like so, bring pick/plectrum to string, pluck string with plectrum and listen to sound. It seemed simple enough. But Step 4 (listen to sound) kept eluding me. I tried a variety of methods; picking the strings with increased pressure, holding the guitar in different angles, checking if the plug-in chord was securely plugged-in, and finally praying that the damn thing is not broken. Fortunately for me, JD noticed my fervent efforts and, with a classic look of disgust on his face, flipped a switch on the guitar, turned a knob marked ‘volume’ and said, “You have to turn it on first!” Ah, of course. I quickly played the chords of Summer of ’69 to ward of any excessive embarrassment, while quietly adding a 5th step to my mental “How to evoke sound from a Guitar” manual. No wonder JD wanted to throw me off the stage! To all and sundry, the next time you’re trying to play an electric guitar, do switch it on.


We’d gotten off to a somewhat shaky start. One of the girls who was to sing solo on a Shubha Mudgal number had started off on a very wrong scale, and the laughter of the audience wasn’t too encouraging. She did end up singing the song well enough though. Our first success was on the song ‘Khamaj’ by Fuzon, where Sam and a girl named Shruti did a little duet. But it was the next song that was to ultimately alter the course of some of our lives.

We all knew it; this was definitely going to be our best song of the day. At least we hoped it would be that way, if we didn’t mess it up. And for this song, I had quite the bit of responsibility. Rono had a single monitor speaker near him, which apparently wasn’t loud enough for him to judge the tempo of my guitar. So he’d asked me to be near him as much as I could while playing the song. Ruksana on the synthesizer had an important ‘flute’ solo to play in the middle of the song, for which she insisted that I be next to her to help her with the tempo. Sam and Jeetu wanted me to be in between them to keep them on the right scale. Thankfully, the guy playing the tabla made no similar demands. Nevertheless, the requests of the others required me to be pretty much on the move for most of the song.

The success of the previous song had shifted the momentum in our favour. Getting the song right was crucial. There was some initial confusion in starting the song as, apparently Ritesh Deshmukh who was the Chief Guest of the day had made his entrance, and was taking his seat near the stage. But if the crowd were interested in getting a glance at the actor, who at the time was more the Chief Minister’s son than a Bollywood star, they certainly forgot about it when the sound of Sam’s silken smooth voice burst out of the speakers, singing the intro verse of one of the most popular Indian songs in the last decade. The roar of the crowd was brief but incredibly intense, and the sound coursed through me in an electric spasm. It was followed up by rhythmic clapping as I took off on the intro lead guitar portion. And when Rono kicked in with his drums midway into the song with a mind-numbing crash of the cymbals and his lightning fast drum-rolls, the crowd were absolutely blown away by this completely unexpected development. They’d never heard of the drums being played on this song, since the original was filled with percussion like on dholaks, but no perceptible drumming.

Needless to say, I dutifully fulfilled my role of being next to Rono, Ruksana, Sam and Jeetu at the desired points in the song. At the end of the song, one which held such an emotional significance in my heart as it did (and does) for millions of others, I could not help remembering how many times I had in the past thought of Ruksana when I’d heard the song. Towards the end of song, as Rono played a haunting shimmering sound on his symbals, I stole a glance at her, while Sam and Jeetu sang the words right out of my heart - “Ab kya karoon, kaase kahoon, he Maeri…”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : Chapter 2 (contd.) - Aarambh : The Beginning

These writings are, as far as possible, chronological. I am not planning to go for a day-by-day account, of course, but I do intend to capture as many incidents, events, happenings and the like as possible which occur to me in my recollections while writing these posts. This next post is a continuation of Chapter 2, and I’ve indulged my imagination in this one, because Rono had requested something earlier. Let’s see how this turns out.
By the way, I haven’t posted anything here in sometime because I’m on vacation. Did you miss me?? ;)

Part 3

“Dude… Rono… don’t play the drums for this song. It doesn’t have any drumming man,” I say to Rono, while we are getting set to practice what I hope will be our best number in the show. “Ok Da,” he says, drumsticks in hand, but I suspect he’s planning on giving it a go anyway. I have to dissuade him; he’s much too excited now that Shaunak’s asked him to play for us. Obviously he hasn’t had a chance to play a drumkit for a bit too long; his hands are itching to whack it for a while. I notice the matka lying around, and it hits me that a matka in addition to the tablas might produce an interesting percussive effect. I put it by him; after all, he knows percussion a lot better than me. He goes for it, and I’m relieved to see the drumsticks leave his hand. The kid’s great, but if he keeps playing those drums that loud, the singers will scream themselves hoarse trying to hear themselves singing. Can’t have the singers losing their voices before the show.
I strum the first chord on JD’s purple Ibanez electric guitar, and Sam takes off with the intro verse. Midway, I suddenly hear the crash of cymbals, and Rono starts off a rocking beat, something I’d never imagined we can do to the song. It sounds amazing, and we’ve all begun to lose ourselves into it. We reach a crescendo point in the song, and it happens. A loud and hardly melodic “twwooiing” sound reverberates in the amplifier to which my guitar is connected, and everybody stops singing / playing. I can feel everybody looking at me as I look down at the guitar and see my fear confirmed. The G-string, broken, again!!
Goddamit, why? Why, every bloody time? Why does it have to happen in front of everyone? We were all sounding so great, and now it’s all wasted, because of me!!
JD’s pissed of course. He comes to me, looking at his beautiful Ibanez missing a string and he asks, “Why do you have to play it so hard?!” I try to sound nonchalant about it in my reply, “Sorry man. This song gets me all josh-ed up. I feel I can’t play nearly as good if I don’t give it my all”
“Guitar ki to maa chud jaati hai na, mamu!” he says.
God, what if it happens on stage! What if, when I’m up there for the first time ever, my string breaks??!! God, we’ll have just one electric... no replacements!! I can’t let the show be wasted because I play uncontrollably hard!! I can’t let it be ruined!! I.. I…

I woke up with a gasp. It had all seemed too real, but then, it had happened. I remembered that day in the Vishwabhavan garage. I remembered Shaunak’s firefighting, telling JD he’d get him another string. I remembered feeling like crap.
I sat up on my bed, stunned for a few minutes, feeling a cold sweat envelope me. In about 5 minutes, the alarm on my cell phone went off. It was 6:30 a.m., already. I’d had a late night, having had dinner with Karan at Chaitanya’s. MUNA had ended the previous evening, but in my early morning fuzziness, it already seemed like some distant dreamy recollection. Today was a new challenge: Aarambh. I had to pull myself together if I was gonna play in a few hours. I slid off the bed and headed off to the bathroom. As I looked at myself in the mirror, with the brush building up a furious froth of toothpaste in my mouth, one line kept ringing in my ears – “Guitar ki to maa chud jaati hai na, mamu…”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Freakish Faithful: Chapter 3 - RCPNE MUNA

People tell me that on my blog, I have the freedom to say what I want, how I want to. That may be so for general and random posts, but one becomes a little cautious and far less contemptuous of the perceived inadequacies of others when one is writing a story in the nature of the one in my recent posts. When I thought of this next part, my first impulse was to jump into the proceeding conversation and show the female character herein in the light that she appeared to me in my mind then, which, I say with some regret, was not very positive. But, given the background that she had won an award in my Council for a reason I am as yet to understand, and I had won no personal award myself in MUNA that year, my initial disdainful thoughts of her are neither warranted nor fair. The conversation that occurs in this post did indeed substantively happen, but I urge my readers not to pass judgement on the girl in the manner that I did. Do remember, that in the end, neither you nor I know her beyond the ambit of the following post…


I remember noticing Sadia on only two occasions throughout MUNA. The first was in my Council, when I had thwarted an attempt by her to speak by raising a motion to close the debate (I wanted to move on to the next part of the proceedings, which was favourable to me). The second was in the bus ride from AIT to the drop-point at Null Stop.

I had chosen a seat at the front of the bus for some reason. I guess on that evening I was, shall we say comfortably numb. An awesome euphoric lightness had enveloped me, and in the darkness of the bus ride the vision of the awards and closing ceremony of MUNA kept flashing in my head again and again. I could see it then, as vividly as I see it now; the impish grin on the announcer’s face, the swelling tension among the delegates, the calls for guesses as to the winners of the event, the gratifying suggestions of team North Korea by so many delegates, the sound of my heartbeat growing louder, the encouragingly expectant looks from Karan, the announcement, the standing ovation, Merin’s ecstatic congratulations, Sairakha’s dramatic declaration that if Nikhil, Ray and I hadn’t won, she would have cried, Kuldeep uncle’s hawk-like countenance breaking into a warm smile, Harsh’s cryptic suggestion that next year I would be on the ‘other side’. In between these dizzy scenes, I kept looking around at the delegates in the bus, pretending to take in their evident awe with dismissive carefreeness. It was truly a high, one that I’d heretofore never experienced. An in the midst of one of my sweeping glances, my eyes once again fell on Sadia.

In the Council she had worn a hijab as part of her costume, which, in the manner of most Islamic nations, had been decidedly unflattering. But tonight, with her hair let down, her restrained delegate-ish manner having dissolved back into the energetic animation of a student, the moon shining on her face and her natural smile restored, Sadiya Bahidi was beautiful. My evaluation was evidently echoed by Karan, who had decided to take a break from smoking at the back of the bus, where the Best Team Trophy was unceremoniously serving as an ashtray. He joined me at the front, and sometime in between our conversation, he overheard Sadia mention that she was from Welham. His interest was immediately piqued, and, as I was to understand and often be reminded of thereafter, there was a deep chemistry between Welham Girls and Doon School, Dehradun, where Karan had done his schooling.

The mention of Doon School had a curious effect on Sadia. The name had only to be uttered by Karan and all of a sudden, it was as if the world had disappeared for the both of them. Her friends looked towards me, and I looked towards them, and we both realized that we had been discarded by the hoity-toity Public School society. In the course of the preliminary chatter between them certain facts stood established: her name was Sadia Bahidi of Sahrangpur and she had graduated from Welham Girls about the same time as Karan had graduated from Doon. Whatever else was spoken initially was lost on me. And then came the faithless freak’s bullshitting streak.

After a good long discussion, Karan suddenly exclaimed, “Hey! Hold on! You’re Sadia?”
“Yeah?” she replied with a curious look.
“Sadia Bahidi form Sahrangpur?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said with wide-eyed amazement, as if a gypsy had just told her a fundamental truth from a crystal ball.
“Oh my God!!!!” went Karan, “Oh my God!!! I can’t believe this!!! Sadiya Bahidi of Welham’s!!! Right here in this bus, talking to me??? This is unbelievable!!!”

What was unbelievable was her response – “But how did you know I’m from Sahrangpur??”

I have to hand it to Karan, he was certainly putting on quite a show.

“Arre, who doesn’t know you, ya??” he continued, “You were like the most sought after female in Doon!!”

Eureka!! The gates had fallen and the horse was through. Gameplay basics: Lesson 1 – if you want to get her attention, you tell her that she’s a centre of attention (women, correct me if I’m wrong here). And he didn’t stop there. He pulled me into the conversation.
”Dude, do you know who this is??” said he with an expression of total amazement, and I almost felt like clapping at his performance.
“Um… Sadiya Bahidi of Sahrangpur??” I said with a hint of sarcasm. But the sarcasm had quite the opposite effect. Her eyes grew even wider when I said her name and named her native place, and any doubts about her supposed popularity completely vanished at the mention of these details by another total stranger. Gameplay basics : Lesson 2 – after successfully attracting her attention, you rivet her attention and arouse her fascination by spreading the word on her supposed stardom and evoke favourable responses from unlikely quarters (women, don’t bother here).

And so it continued, with Karan saying that he would email the Doon School students newspaper and all online Doon school e-groups that Sadiya Bahidi had been found, and all kinds of other things. We got off the bus at Null Stop, and Sadiya said that her friends were heading off to F.C. Road for dinner. Karan and I decided to have dinner at Chaitanya’s, evidently to the joy of Sadiya, who celebrated by suggesting that we walk from the drop-point to our respective destinations. Outside Chaitanya, Sadiya turned to say goodbye to Karan, with overt indications that she would have loved to stay and continue their most fascinating conversation but for her friends. Numbers were exchanged, and as she walked away, she gave the clichéd glance back at Karan with the suggestion of lovely possibilities.

Karan turned to me and said, “Well, dude?” I said, “Dude, you sure as hell can bullshit!!” And then we burst out laughing…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : CHAPTER 3 – RCPNE MUNA

From this point on, things have begun to get tricky. The original Chapter 3 went straight into another phase of Karan and my lives, but it bypassed a lot of events that happened in between. Karan messaged me today about how these little recollections of mine are catching on in terms of reader-base. I was even surprised to see a comment from one of the incidental characters in my post which was Part 2 of Chapter 2 (thanks Yudi!!). Karan wants me to go into a lot more detail about several more events than I had originally planned. That might be an interesting thought. Also, these writings might be incomplete without a somewhat greater tribute to MUNA. So, here goes nothing…


By February 2005, my life had taken a thorough turn-around. I was going to play the guitar on stage for the first time ever at Aarambh, and I was about to participate in what had to be the biggest debating event in Pune, the Rotary Club of Pune North East’s Model United Nations Assembly. What was interesting was that I now had trouble with adjusting my schedule. Hold on, now I actually had a schedule!

The concept of Aarambh, as it then was, was that it was to happen on two days. The whole programme would happen on one day for a portion of the Arts & Commerce Colleges, and would be repeated for the remaining students on another day. The Vishwabhavan auditorium wasn’t big enough to accommodate all faculties, which was just as well. I remember that Aarambh day 1 was to happen on 5th February, 2005, and Day 2 was on 7th February. Unfortunately, MUNA was happening on the weekend of 5-6th February. So the issue was that Karan and I would be missing day 1 of Aarambh. We weren’t too kicked about that, but I was pretty excited about MUNA.

On a moderately frigid Saturday morning on the 5th of February, KS Nikhil Kumar, Abhishek Ray and I, Team North Korea, reached the Pizza Hut opposite Balgandharva on J.M. Road for the 6.30 a.m. pickup. As the sun began to creep over the buildings and peep at us in between the leaves of the trees, the rays glistened off my well gelled spiked hair, the fruits of a then relatively expensive haircut at a fancy-ish men’s saloon (by 2005 generic Pune standards) on the previous evening. Karan had gotten a hair cut there too, and a shave that gave him an interesting upmarket Waziristan look. Dressed in his cream coloured pathani salwar jhabba suit this morning with his half-smoked Classic regular in hand, Karan, the delegate of Pakistan, was ready to go.

The venue: AIT College of Engineering. The time: 9.30 a.m. The mission: Stay awake through the Chief Guest’s speech. The ammunition: Pretty women and a comparative analysis of Karan’s and my tastes thereof. In costumes no less! Fortunately, the sights were pleasing enough, and our Secretary General, the venerable (soon to be reverend) Merin Mathew Zacchariah (spell-check requested) gave an inspirational speech and opened the MUNA. The seating arrangement revealed that Pakistan was to be seated right behind North Korea, which was good since Karan and I were to be in the same Council. Felt good to have some backup of sorts.

The debating was fantastic and well worth the effort Nikhil, Ray and I had put in into our preparation for the event. But a lot of interesting things happened outside the Councils as well. The participants, or delegates, were all charged up in their roles as diplomats and would almost continually discuss issues, resolutions, operative clauses, treaties, and each other. A truly inspired Press Corps kept publishing some hilarious Bulletins which were as amusing as the deep discussions on foreign policy by delegates at the urinals. The tension levels were high, and every recess in between the sessions found several of the delegates at the designated pantry area negotiating with the coffee and chai machine. Unfortunately, the Nescafe dispenser seemed to have its own agenda and revolted against the representatives of the comity of nations by spewing cup after cup of coloured semi-heated water in the name of tea. Several of the delegates lost their role-playing composure and adopted the uniquely Indian solution of banging the machine into submission, to no avail, however. There wasn’t much left for it, and after watching his third cup of muddy water fill to the brim, Karan rendered the final verdict on the machinations of the infidel West by declaring Jihad on the coffee machine! May the vengeance of a thousand screeching PMS-ridden wenches rain down upon that bilious beverage brewer!!
Despite his usual garrulous nature, Karan had been rather silent throughout the event. His most vocal responses had been limited to his outburst at the coffee machine, and a fitting censure of the Chairpersons in our Council because they had dared to read a message chit sent by him to Lenold, the Chairperson of another Council. His frequent threats of Holy War had earned him the (till date lasting) nickname of ‘the Jihadi’, and his enthusiasm on the dance floor in the social evening on day 1 had in all probability attracted some female attention. But it was the bus journey from AIT to Null Stop which saw Karan in his true talkative element. And the catalyst of his renewed enthusiasm was a girl named Sadia Bahidi (name changed to a badly masqueraded alternative), of Welham Girls, Dehradun.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 2: Aarambh - The Beginning


I’d seen Rono around on campus before. He was completely nondescript at the time. I’d even confused him to be someone else the first time I spoke to him (Sorry Rono, but you and Ronnie John almost looked the same to me at one time). The only thing I’d noticed about the guy is that he was into drums. I’d seen him one day in the Symbi Cyber Café, glaring at high res pictures of elaborate drum-kits. If one thinks that might be an uncommon preoccupation, one might have found it even more out of place since Rono was sandwiched between two bloodthirsty Counterstrike enthusiasts at the time (No Rono, not even the hint of a pun intended). I’d never given him a second thought until he walked upto me one day and asked about all the drumming coming out of the Vishwabhavan parking lot in college. He knew that I was part of whatever was going on and, as I was to later find out, the sharp chatter of a snare, the subtle thunder of a bass drum, a lightening roll on the toms and a shimmering crash on the cymbals did wonders for his confidence (right Rono, didn’t mention the hi-hats); enough for him to walk up to me and speak to me practically for the first time.

By this time, practice and moved out of the AV Hall and had moved into the acoustically promising Vishwabhavan parking area. I told Rono about the band, actually the ‘orchestra’ performance that was to happen at ‘Aarambh’, the Symbi Arts and Commerce Annual gathering programme. He begged me for a shot at the drums, and so I asked him to hang around for practice and I’d see what I could do. By now I was no longer the ‘band consultant’, I was actually gonna play the guitar in Aarambh!

Shounak was pretty worried about the drums department. The only college drummer he knew of seemed to have mastered the loud and unflattering beat one may hear in a marriage band, and in the process the latter had possibly sacrificed any desire to actually play the drums with any versatility. At one point a guy from BBA had come into the scene and had given a rather powerful demonstration of his skill with the sticks. He was admittedly impressive, and leagues ahead of the earlier guy. Shaunak was about to as the BBA guy to play for Aarambh, when Rono came upto me and asked if he could have a whack at those drums. Shaunak was cool with it, as he generally was with everything else. Rono took his place behind the drums, picked up the sticks, and brought the goddamned place down in the next 5 minutes!! Holy Mother of Christ, this kid was good!! No one in the vicinity had even the slightest doubt of the obvious fact – Ronojoy Basu had arrived.

And somewhere at the back of my mind, while jamming to Maeri, me on the electric guitar, Karan, Sam and Jeetu on vocals, Rono on the drums, and yes, Ruksana on the keyboard, an idea began to tear away the cobwebs from the deepest recesses of my memory and dimly began to take shape. It was idealistic, somewhat seemingly impractical, yet beautiful nonetheless. And it seemed that I wasn’t the lone dreamer. After a successful show at ‘Aarambh’, Shaunak proposed that we form a proper band. He could’ve been reading my mind!

As Karan was to later put it, one man’s dream became everyone’s obsession.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freakshly Faithful - Chapter 2: Aarambh - The Beginning


Karan jumped off just as I parked my bike in the parking lot of a building behind Kamla Nehru Park. He told me that we were going to the apartment of this guy named Shaunak who stayed in the building, and that the band would be practicing in the apartment. Shaunak answered the doorbell. He was a tall-ish, bespectacled guy with a long face and a pleasant smile, and a curious tendency to drag his words somewhat. He welcomed us both in and saw no problem in my watching practice.

Shaunak’s bedroom wasn’t exactly cramped, but it sure was packed. There were a bunch people sitting on the two beds that were set adjacent to one another, and another three or four more on a mattress on the ground. As we entered, I noticed three guitars reclining in a corner, one big black matka and a small study table cluttered with tapes, a player and random stationary. The ‘band’ seemed more interested in idle gossip, and practice didn’t seem to be on the agenda. I could tell that Karan found the setting and the people almost as new as I did, and that was a comfort for me. I was quite the introvert back then, and I’d already run the gauntlet of meeting Karan that day. It wasn’t easy for me to take in my surroundings so suddenly, but Karan’s presence and the sight of a guitar at arm’s length was reassuring.

It wasn’t long before I realised that there wasn’t going to be any practice happening after all. Shaunak was trying to prepare a song-list, and people were suggesting a bunch of Hindi songs. Karan quipped in with one or two; a song called ‘Creep’ by an artist I can’t remember. My ears perked up when someone mentioned ‘Maeri’ by Euphoria. I wasn’t much of a guitarist back then, but I’d shredded a few picks before then trying to play Maeri. I turned to a guy named Jeetendra, or Jeetu for short, and asked him if anyone knew the chords of Maeri. Jeetu turned to Shaunak, who said no. Here was a chance as good as any to be of some use, so I said, with more confidence than I felt, “I can play Maeri on the guitar.” “Really,” asked Shaunak, “can you show it to us?”

He handed a guitar to me with a pick while everyone turned expectantly towards this new development. There’s something to be said about being the centre of attention. One may not be too proficient at something, but once in the limelight, one often begins to speak like the thing’s second nature for him. “I usually play this song with a capo on the 7th,” I said, “otherwise the scale’s too high for me.” The look on Shaunak’s face indicated with sublime clarity that he didn’t have a goddamned clue as to what I was talking about. Having achieved the desired effect, I went ahead and sang the song.

5 minutes and some vocal chord – wrenching later, the spotlight was completely on me. Shaunak made me dictate the lyrics of Maeri to Jeetu and I wrote down the chords for him. The guitar stayed in my hands now as everyone started turning to me, asking me what other songs from the playlist I knew. Unfortunately, at the time my knowledge of songs on the guitar was only slightly better than my French, which isn’t saying much. Before long, everyone more or less returned to their chatter, and I continued my dictation to Jeetu.

After a while, a guy named Sameer, or Sam for short, picked up the matka and began slapping it with some serious enthusiasm and good rhythm. Something about that rhythm registered in my head, and I looked towards the matka for the first time with a tingling sense of possibility. A little concentration on the rhythm, and I had it. Yes… it could be done!

I asked Sam to maintain the rhythm, held a G major chord on the guitar and without preamble began strumming the intro chord rhythm patter of the song Wonderwall by Oasis. The strumming merged beautifully with the sharp taps on the matka, and Karan joined me in an enthusiastic rendition of the song. Therafter, Karan took off into one hell of a classical aalaap, and I was stunned at his voice. It was one of the best I’d ever heard, and for the first time in my life, I appreciated an aalaap. The near magical strains of his voice had everyone mesmerised, and when it was over I realised that Karan, Sam and I had just created a fusion version of Wonderwall, and it had sounded fantastic! Shaunak, who was in the other room when we’d started the song, and who’d walked in midway, added the song to the list as soon as we’d ended. He also called it a day as far as practice was concerned, and invited me as a special ‘consultant’ to all future practices of the band. They were to begin the next day in the AV hall of the Arts college. The practice timings clashed with my lectures in law college, but who gave a flying fuck about classes anyway? A band was asking for my help, I couldn’t possibly say no. Karan, who was obviously pleased to have found me, put his arm on my shoulder and said the words that I have heard so often ever since, “Let’s have a smoke.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 1

For new readers, there is a prologue that comes before this chapter. for continuity's sake, please read that first and then read this post. also, i'd like to start an interactive exchange with my readers. if you feel that any particular part of these posts can be better expressed otherwise, please give me your suggestions in your comments. the suggestions have to fit into the subject matter seamlessly. if i don't accept your suggestion, it's only cuz i feel that it may not be appropriate or not in tune with my way of writing. but if i like it, i'll put it in and credit you. i'd love it if you can be a part of his endeavour, by giving me your comments, and recording them on this blog instead of giving me your feedback over a chat or email...

“I smoke to kill time; and because I’ve met a lot of interesting people over a cigarette.”
- An oft repeated line of mine

Fest ‘O Comm 2004 was over. I’d had a decent run in it. I’d won ‘Best Speaker – Against’ in the purely moronic excuse for a parliamentary debate that was one of the events in the fest. I daresay I made a fan or two in that competition. Specifically, there was Neha, from Symbi Arts & Commerce. She informed me about the Model United Nations Assembly, or MUNA for short. Training sessions for MUNA were on from December. I went for my first session on a Saturday in January. It was fun, and totally different from what I’d grown used to in terms of debates. I even met Ruksana (name changed to protect identity) there. It was the most I’d seen of her in four years. She’ll figure in the scheme of things later in these writings. But for now, I’d like to talk about what happened in my second training session.

On a cold Sunday morning, I once again rode to the BMCC College, the venue of the training sessions, for another round of frenetic debating, wada pav and chai. Any thought of the seasonal chill thoroughly dissipated in the heat of the arguments, and finally, four hours later, we were done. While the place was clearing out, I overheard a guy speaking to Neha. He was talking about getting a smoke. I was eager to make some new friends in MUNA, so I worked up my courage and did something completely uncharacteristic of me – I spoke to someone I did not know, without being spoken to first.

“Hey man,” I said, “you smoke?” “Yeah,” he replied. “Great, I could use one myself.” “Arre great! There’s a tapir outside campus. Bye Neha!”

I started walking alongside my new companion, feeling pretty good about myself at the fruitful negotiation of interests, so to speak. Turning around to wave goodbye, I almost didn’t notice the slight look of disapproval in Neha’s eyes. I barely knew her, but a woman’s instinct is a powerful thing. It was impossible to tell whether it was the thought of smoking that she disapproved of, or my companion. With not a few misgivings over my hasty attempt at being affable, I sighed inwardly, looked to my new companion and said, “By the way, I’m Bikram.” “Karan Singh,” came the reply. We shook hands, and there it began.

Within the next two hours, I knew all about Karan’s past drug problems, rehab, Akruti (name changed to protect my hide), the works. He in turn came to know of my recent break-up with Maya (name changed to what I wish it would have been), and the old chestnut about Ruksana back in school. We found ourselves in quite a comfort zone, two strangers confiding in each other, finding unity in the sorrows of our miserable pasts. A connection, often loosely termed as male-bonding, was formed, and I could sense that this conversation was a prelude to much more. So when he got a call at around 3:30 p.m., asking him to go for band practice, I didn’t hesitate to ask if I could watch. “Yeah, sure dude,” came the reply, and off we rode into a new phase of my life.

Freakishly Faithful - Prologue

Who is a friend? What is a friend? Take a step further, what is a good friend? One may have come across posters or forwarded e-mails or even refrigerator magnets saying a friend is this and a friend is that. But does one keep such criteria in mind when making new friends? Do the words on some laminated piece of cardboard hanging in Archies spring to mind when a friend does something for you, or a supposed friend stabs you in the back?

I can’t think for others, it’s hard enough to think for myself. But for me, friendship is a feeling. All those sweet quotations about who or what is a friend are better left in the Hallmark one might give his pal on the latter’s birthday because he’s too lazy or too late to think of something original. And I suppose we’ve all been there, at the giving and receiving end.

So, who is a good friend? Heck, I don’t know, somebody who makes a difference in your life, perhaps? Or maybe it’s someone you’re hitting on, but you want to show her that you’re ‘good friend’ material, that you can be trusted, that you want to take things slow, keep her comfortable. Dammit, loving someone often involves such a load of pretentious horseshit!

But not with friends, really. Why pretend with a friend? What’s the point? Keep the bullshit to a minimum, make allowances for the occasional eccentricity that he might throw at you, and chill with one another. Straight and easy; no games, no hassles. That’s one way to tell a good friendship.

There are certain people who come into your life, people who suddenly take up a position of significance, if not downright prominence. It could arise out of necessity or sheer chance; whatever be the reason, all of a sudden one friend stands out from the rest. The one guy you want to hang out with, regardless of whether it’s to the exclusion of all others. Someone who opens new avenues for you, shows you a world you never knew existed, or were too afraid to be a part of. Someone who sticks by you, however temporarily, and changes your life. It is hard to come across someone like that very often, damn near impossible to find more than a few like that around in a lifetime, I’d say.

Karan Singh is one such guy.

Freakishly Faithful

Dear all, 

I revisited this page after quite a while, and although my page at is somewhat stylised with all kinds of neats gadgets, I could not escape the charm of the simplicity of the good old blogger standard black page. I have decided to start a new strain of posts on this blog. Once upon a time, I had started writing a little book about one of my best friends who has effectively changed my life in several ways. I didn't get very far, stopped midway in chapter 3 I believe, and never got back to it. I did, however, receive a very flattering response when I read what I'd written to my friends, including the guy for whom it was being written, along with earnest requests to complete it (I'm prepared to believe that although I read it out to them in Apache while we were having beer, and there was a lot of loud music playing, they all heard it right). The requests, of course, were not echoed for very long, yet my desire to continue the book lingered on. I do not hold any illusions of the book being published in any manner on a commercial scale. It is simply a record of my recollections of various incidents involving my friend, various others and me. Hence, with the wonderful opportunities presented by the internet, those recollections may find themselves expressed in my humble blog. I will be surprised if I can write as much as I want to of the book, but it is my hope that the attempt will be worth it. It is my earnest hope that when I begin this ambitious (and hopefully not abortive)  project, I will have your support and feedback, and primarily your interest in my journey.   


Friday, September 12, 2008

New Look, New Feel

Dear all. thanx for all your support, feedback, comments, idle viewing, and on occasion, flattering references to my blog on your own blogs, or as inspirations to start blogging yourselves. This is not a goodbye or anything, but a mere detour. I shall now be blogging on from hereon end. It's got a new but old-school feel to it, plus I get to use a bunch of cool features there that haven't crept into blogger yet. Do visit me on my new blog and keep me interesting in doing this blogging thing! This current page will continue to exist for sentimental reasons. Or maybe I'll start on a whole different line on this blog, start writing about some other stuff that I didn't feel would be appropriate on this blog in light of the earlier posts. Or maybe I'll do that stuff on the other blog. hehe... Let's see.. do I look like the kinda guy who has a plan?

Friday, August 29, 2008

the un in the usual...

from the earlier post, it may have occured to some that i seem to be in a nostalgic mood these days. i realised that while writing this one... this one deals with something i'm finding difficult to think of these days.. guess it's always best the first time around...

a daily ritual, observed religiously for years and years, seemed unfamiliar today.the usual precursors to the ritual were present well enough: the strange, contradictory combination of a monotonous, yet crest and trough like speech of the science teacher (who, in this particular case, only ever sounded fun while describing vectors, cuz she'd always say in her south Indian accent, "Vector Oh Yay" indicating vector OA), the weary sighs of my co-sufferers, the ocassional, yet
increasingly frequent yawns and the equally ocassional, yet equally increasingly frequent churns of empty stomachs. the glances at my wristwatch were reflexive, intuitive even. over a decade of expectation unfailingly made an imagined dopplerised bell ring in my head, even before the actual one echoed through the air, a clarion call of salvation for the hungry and bored. lunch recess was here, as it had been all these years, again. but what was wrong? what was the dampener of the joyous gasp at freedom?
i saw it as the others began walking out of the class. what was this? who were these people? what the hell were they wearing? don't they look at themselves in the mirror in those, those hideous shades??? how can they bear to... my thoughts trailed off as i looked down at myself... peach shirt, ugly brown trousers, the letters VB embroidered onto the breast pocket, brown socks, tan shoes!! not leather, but plastic, all-fucking-weather!!! where was my white shirt, the white trousers, the white socks, the black shoes?? the navy blue tie with the Marian insignia pinned thereon?? what happened to the paint on the walls?? shit, what happened to the walls??!!
oh yeah, right... this isn't my school... no, wait a minute, this is my school, it just isn't my.. no, no, no... right, i got it! this is my school, now! it's not these people or the walls that are strange.. here, i'm the stranger..
that's what it was, wasn't it? it was yet another lunch break, but it wasn't a familiar lunch break. i wasn't gonna charge down the marble staircase into the senior assembly hall, and start munching on the usual rolls from my tiffin box while chatting with manik and adnan, or showing my face to drumeel so that i could be in one of the teams for the usual lunch-time football match. nope, today i was gonna climb down a narrow flight of stairs onto what is known as a 'quadrangle' and walk onto a playground with two goal-posts and a most detestable, incredulity inspiring, enthusiasm rogering, scorn raising, and, to put it in plain english, completely fucked up "no playing in the lunch break" rule!!!!! yup, this was my unknown, unfamiliar reality. no wonder it didn't feel right.
new school, new guy, day 2. it was the first time i'd put on the school uniform, and the sight of all the brown clothing (and red hair bands on the chicks.. goddamit, chicks!!!! [i was in a non-co-ed school before this. this is not an exclamation of joy, but one of agony {feels freaky to be stared at but so many unknown women cuz you're the new guy}]) made me feel weird as hell! having been in one school for the better part of my academic life had made me thoroughly institutionalised. i wasn't quite used to being stared and pointed at like a circus freak!! but it was a position i'd resigned myself to accept. i mean what the heck, makes it easier to get to know people when they're curious enough to come to you as if you were a musueam piece or something. although it gets a lil fucked up when they talk to you like you're dyslexic.
i grabbed my tiffin box and walked down the stairs after most of my class-mates had already gone. i did what i usually did when i had to eat lunch without manik and adnan around, by walking on the 'play'ground, munching on the rolls. once again, in my mind, i cursed my present situation. what the fuck kinda school banned playing on the playground??? who the hell were these weird kids eating their lunches, sitting on the playground!!!!!! from post to post, sitting on mats in circles of various sizes, groups of students eating lunch, chatting away like they were in a goddamned banquet hall. bloody hell, this was a football ground for Christ's sake!!
and then it happened... it was the single, most inexplicable thing... it was a voice, i know it was a voice... but there was something ethereal to it, like nothing i'd heard before... if you can imagine yourself to be an emaciated skeleton with your skin clinging onto the bones, and dehydrated to the point where your liver and kidneys begin to push against your body, and in that state you hear the gentle gush of a waterfall into a brook marking the entrance to shangri la, you might understand what i felt in the few moments that it took me to turn around and face the source of the sound. the vision was blinding.. no, actually that's not what it was. there was an implosion of light, 120 degrees of visible area suddenly contracted into one concentrated space, and in that space there was only her... nothing else existed, nothing else got through.. it was only that space, only her, her eyes, her face, her smile, and her voice... a voice that made every part of me quiver (perhaps, i fear, too visibly), yet one that numbed me to a point where the sound seemed distant, hauntingly enchanting, like the strains of the siren's lute. her smile was a constant through her speech, and her pearly white teeth flashed at me every now and then, teasing me like some infernal will-o'-the-wisp. "Hi, I'm _______. you must be the new boy..." that and the rest of her words flowed out of her lips like the most symmetrically tantalising poetry! there was no question of resistance, no time to put up a guard.. the cherub with the bow flitted around me, laughing joyfully as he shot arrow after arrow at me, piercing into my heart as incessantly and determinedly as a deranged battering ram.
for once, for the first time, and unquestionably at the first sight, i was in love...

Friday, August 22, 2008


i really don't think i have done justice to this one... simply because it means so much to me, but i am in a state of serious writer's block.. still, i wanted to put something down, and took a while to write this... so what the heck...

the alarm of the phone went off, and as always my eyes opened with the sound of the
phone's vibration that immediately precedes the ringtone. i picked up the phone and
looked at the time, blinking at me as if the phone was playing peek-a-boo.7:00 a.m.
time to get up. goddamit!! an early morning after a late night is one hellava
bitch!! but i had to get up today... i wanted to get up today... i had to put
yesterday behind me, forget the gargantuan fuck-up, prove to myself that we're so
much better than that... today, i, we, had to redeem ourselves..
a familiar pain in my eyes, the one i usually get on my late night-early morning
routine began to magically dull as the adrenaline started pumping, the same
adrenaline that made me keep checking the clock on the phone almost all night, the
same stuff that made me wonder why it's taking so long for the damn alarm to ring!!
i got out of bed and put the kettle to boil, and then checked my suit of armour for
the day... the cuirass lay on the bed in the other room, black as night, and next
to it my greaves blue as the ocean (clarification: my black kurta and blue jeans).
I opened the front door and picked up the newpaper, but my eyes refused to focus on
the words. a myriad of sounds were clashing in my head, hundreds of shining eyes
flashing down on me like a deluge of flaming arrows, stabbing at me with
relentless, remorseless glee, peeling away flesh from bone, mutilating me to a
point where anger, frustration, even shame meant nothing. the jeers, the sneers,
and our vain attempts at taking the battle to those eyes, all echoed in my head
like a ghastly symphony that would make sweeny todd cringe.
the whistle of the boiling kettle managed to break into my macabre reverie. i
prepared two cups of tea, grateful for the distraction, grateful to get away from
those eyes, those noises. i was aware that there would be many more eyes today. was
i ready? were we?
i took the tea to where karan was sleeping. he had suffered the ravages as i had
yesterday, and his sleep looked anything but peaceful. i woke him up, kidding him
that i was benevolent enough to wake him only after i'd made tea. but our moods
were far from cheery, as the thoughts of the next few hours continued to churn in
our minds.
Timecheck: 8:00 a.m.
we'd told the others we'd meet them at base-camp (read: ncc) by 8.30. it was time
to move, head out of the safety zone, consort with our brothers-in-arms. The cool
wind swept past us as we rode towards the ncc, stinging my eyes and causing a few
tears to bleed out and fade into oblivion. there was a comfort in listening to the hum of the engine, a constant that served to dull out some of the noise in my head. we did not speak, though karan stopped to pick up his morning smoke. we reached the ncc and found the others brooding, the swirls of the cigarrete smoke playing around over their heads like wraiths. i could feel the strange sensation, called butterflies in the stomach i believe, while wave after wave of anticipation coursed through me sending shivers down my spine and quickening my pulse. 8.50 a.m., and it was time to head to the war zone. head held high, weapons in hand, we walked towards it, karan, jeetu, sam, rono, niki n i.
the battleground lay more or less as we left it, except that today there were some
people putting a few more machines into the picture. we tested our weapons, our
hopes once again pinned on the people we could not control, the ones infusing life
into our weapons, the ones who had let us down yesterday, forcing us to suffer a
humiliating defeat. for now, we were satisfied, things seemed to be in order. ahead
of us lay a wall, behind which lay the eyes. but there was still time...
9:30 a.m.
sounds... growing louder... they are arriving, the eyes, behind the wall... but
something strange began to happen to me. i looked around at the others, seeing the
trepidation in their movements, but somehow, i suddenly felt no need to feel
nervous... i think karan understood.. we needed to get the jitters out of
everybody's systems, fast! we did our best. niki and jeetu were sneaking peeks at
the gathering hordes on the other side of the wall. "there are so many more than
yesterday," said niki, as i took her in my arms and promised her that yesterday
would not happen today. we took up our positions, bracing ourselves for the
impending assault... each of us counted the seconds, hearts pounding loud enough to
almost block out the noise on the other side, which was nearing a crescendo... an
observer from the sidelines gestured that the time had come.. we took one last look
at each other, taking in each other's appearances before the ravages begin... but
something was there in our eyes... i swear i saw it... the dilation of the pupils
receding into a contracted mass of fierce determination.. our breathing no longer
erratic, but measured, in unison, rhythmic... jaws no longer clenched, palms no
longer sweaty, the butterflies dissapearing as if incinerated in one scathing wash
of resolve... as we began to realised the true power of our combined energies,
there were no longer any thoughts of failure, no furtive glances at the nearest
exit. the curtains opened and we were blinded momentarily by the lights that made
us such easy targets. but today, we were ready to rock that audience outta their
As Tyler would say, carpe diem, baby.
Long live Ehsaas...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You flip, I'll call...

They say life is full of choices, ones we have to consciously make... they never warn us of the impasses now, do they? but they do come our way, the impasses... and then you ask yourself, whatcha gonna do when they come for you... i get the feeling this one'll not go down easy... for some, anyway...

Heads or tails? This or that.. black or white... door no. 1 or 2? the options are usually simple enough, in all probability one option is favourable. then again, if neither option presents a sunny side up, then atleast one will be the lesser of two evils. but the deal with a coin flip is that one option is favourable to both/all parties concerned. i win, you don't.. you win, I don't... a series of transient spins, trasforming a simple coin into the flapping wings of some intangible butterfly, with a dopplerised ping, accompanied by the collective gasps of those whose future course of action, or for all we know, whose fates hang in the balance. then of course, seeing as the stakes are so high (even if/when they're not), there are ground rules to the coin flip. it can't touch anything on the way down.. if you catch it in your palm, you can't flip it over onto your other palm, cuz then "you've seen it" (i get the feeling stevie wonder might get away with this, soon as he masters catching the damn coin in the first place. the piano doesn't fly). So a 'safe' coin flip predicates atleast 2 parties, who stand to lose/gain in respect of some third party/subject/object based on the result of the flip.
but what if the guy flipping the coin is also the guy making the call, cuz there is no one else to make a call? the guy's got two options, and naturally either both are bad, or both are good (otherwise he wouldn't have to flip for it). but both can't be had, for whatever reasons. maybe cuz he's a good guy, or maybe cuz he can't handle the pressure of juggling both options. you take your pick. if he's honest, he probably won't be able to deny his internal struggle between his haloed effeminate angel and his horny, curvy-tailed devil. i'm sure what probably pisses him off the most is that the two work in tandem! for the most part, the angel keeps him from rambling, but now and then (and the ocassions may be few and far between, but still) ye ol devil injects a quart-full of aphrodisiacal ideas into the guy's head (both of them), and viola! he finds himself in situations where the angel and devil are having a scream-match, the one going, "what in God's name are you doing??" and the other going, "Why in fuck's name aren't you doing it??" I'm guessing that, in the neck of such situations, when the screams are at their loudest, the guy is somewhat engaged in the party/subject/object causing the screams, carrying on the 'nefarious' activity that has lead to such a debate. so basically, at such a time, he cannot exactly pull back and say, "time, please. i gotta flip a coin!" or maybe he should pull back, and just walk away. the hell with the coin, just do what's 'right'. yeah, i'm sure, and the guy'll just have bought his ticket to his cozy lil' castle in heaven, first class all the way. he can almost see it now, a golden boarding pass, no luggage (or maybe i should say 'baggage'), radiant smiles all the way, and all of a sudden, there's an announcement, "Attention passengers, this is an urgent message for the loser about to board the Heavenly Express. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, DICKHEAD!!! signed, your devil." and pop! the guy comes out of his 'morality'-based reverie, looks at the party/subject/object in front of him, and the screams continue.

Then again, there's option B, the other party/subject/object. the coin if flipped, might be for the reason of his picking one of them. but god, how he misses the simplicity of no supply (and then he thinks, "um... not really!"). when both options are good, you just know that picking either one is bad! but then thinking on these lines is selfish (and then the devil within asks, "SO??!"). selfless or selfish, now there we have flippable options! but what about green grass on both sides? nah, i don't think that's a good enough analogy. how about playstation on one side and x-box on the other (fine, it's childish.. i'm a guy!!!)? goddamn man!!! what the hell kinda options are these???
maybe the guy should just flip to decide whether to flip for it.
short straw, anybody?