Monday, May 30, 2011

a smokers right to life !!

Please, I am tired of 'non smoking' zones. Bloody hell, it seems every  place other than my home, I should resist the itch of my lips to find solace curling around a cigarette.  At least here in Hyderabad the law enforcement being so very much nil, I could light up a cigarette everyplace. When I am back home, cops and cigarettes is a deadly combo and it definitely means you are a minimum of two bills with the Father of Nation imprinted less in your wallet, after the experience. The experience is worth paying though. I meant, witnessing the bigheartedness of the majority of cops, helping you, accepting  two instead of  five, without the charges wrote or a paper receipt of course !!

I have lost it more than a couple of times, but then my ego had his juice to drink when I made two cops watch me finish a whole cigarette, with the jitter of the rail in the background, standing near the door of  a train bound to Cochin. Nothing in the law says, what is to be done when the person just keeps smoking all the time, until he hands over the money and the ones who caught me just knew that much. Charges admitted, fines paid, but then that was all they thought they could do. Lady luck do ride with me during hard times!! Charge me once and then could begin with a number of charges starting with "obstructing a public servant in doing the duty of his office.."

A public interest litigation in the High Court of Kerala, was what actually started the onslaught. Then as always, some one living higher up in the National Capital felt, he could get his share of lime light or maybe his share of good for the world (one never knows these days) and came up the big dictum, putting an end to smoking in public places. The pun is, the tobacco giants are so bloody huge, some nations are sponsored with their Green Bills and even India did have her fair share of tobacco, giving out the musk smell and loads of bills as well, to almost all the higher ups in all levels and forms of the Government.

All this on smoking, because Indian Constitution says, 'none shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty, except through a procedure established by law'. My smoking hurts your life and so I shouldn't do it in public. Sounds nice, I admit. But then what about me, the poor smoker? Don't I have the liberty to smoke a cigarette sitting at a beach, watching the sunset and blow the smoke circles I learned to make finally? Is your life so very much dearer than my liberty. For me the narcissist, NOT AT ALL. But the tolerant inside me reasons, "come on please, be just to me, what harm does my smoking do, if I am alone in the beach or standing a respectful distance away from people or even am standing in a group and none has a problem with it."

A non-smoker will never know the happiness a smoker finds when his lips curl around the tobacco and slowly inhales the smoke in. I wouldn't say smoking or tobacco is man's best friend. But then adorning the wall in the family home, next to some older folks never kept me away from trying things or even making them a habit.

In the world I visualizes or rather I fantasizes, there is no greater respect to 'human life' than 'human liberty'. The essence of 'human life' is not just breathing and going about business, but to live it with liberty. The man knows, when he is not supposed to do a thing and he knows, when it is an acceptable mode of conduct (the noble savage and not the beast). So a law which forbids him from doing an act which gives him pleasure, not at the risk of imminent threat to anyone else, is just another way of showing that man is not the noble creature, but only a beast.

I don't light up my cigarette when I am surrounded by strangers, not because the law says so, but because I know someone might be there in the group who might not be a fan of the tobacco smoke. I don't smoke when I am next to kids or a pregnant woman and similarly, almost all scenarios, I know when it is acceptable to smoke and when it is not. And my reason and logic tells me, please a carta blanc ban on smoking at all public places is not what is required, but something much more liberal, giving the man the option to smoke, if the other beings with him are not troubled. If they have a problem, sure they could ask him to throw the butt out and he has to oblige. That is how the law should be and it shouldn't ever have been the end of a smoker's liberty.

NB: The lawyer inside me did a very conscious  effort to keep out the law and the judgments, but rather write it up from my heart, capturing the disgusted feeling and the thoughts that comes rushing, every time I see a non-smoking sign.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Muscle Juice !!

Blessed with 15 hours everyday, not to bother about earning the bread and butter, I been fathoming all that I should be doing to make use of the time. I never used to crib much about having to 'do nothing' earlier.  In-fact, back while in college, a day I had nothing to do, no one to meet was considered a bliss. But, times have changed, I find myself on the shores of an old empire ruled by a filthy rich Nizam, who  had the wealth to help the British with their First World War efforts, while people in his Empire were dying of famine, with no social life apart from people in office and huge loads of time to 'do nothing'.

The toughest part is the evading sleep, because your limbs have always been used to long tiring days and loads of hunger abuses, but now with everything falling in order, attached with a time line to it, the body refuses to quit, even when the mind says, "dude, hit the bed. At least that will mean you will not be painstakingly made aware how slow the seconds hand moves in a wall clock."

After having ignored my body for almost all my existence on earth, pampering with booze, smoke and even some adventurous amazing things from Pushkar, I felt the need to do something I haven't ever bothered do. Join the gym and do some weight training, not to have bulging biceps like Arnold, body builder turned movie star turned Governor, but to make sure I don't pant every time I have to climb the stairs and also to make my limbs so very tired, that they beg for rest.

It has been a week since I joined and thankfully, the limbs have started praying for rest and the evading sleep started smiling at me as well. Now, the panting part, I am not sure how long that will take, but I do plan to make that work as well. Hang on a minute, it doesn't mean I cut off everything that the good world has to offer. The number of cigarettes have gone down, yeah sure. No more binging on weekdays, but definitely I plan to make use of the weekend to make up the deficit supply of booze to my system.

haa haa i just remembered today is the beginning of yet another weekend !!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Art of Lying

"Truth will set you free." (John 8:32), a phrase from the Bible which struck a chord the first time I read it. There definitely will exist something very similar in other religious scripts as well, after all, it is all about 'Nirvana' in different perspectives.

Whatever the scriptures says, I can vouch, if 'truth' is the only one thing that sets a man free, then I wont ever be a free-man. Because deep down inside, I know, I have lied, I am lying and I will lie. By lies, I don't mean only the big scandalous ones, but the small every day things. From the nod of the head, when asked by mom, whether I cleaned my hands, the days I crashed on to the dining table straight from the school ground to going of for a three month tour of the Indian Capitol, in pretext of an internship. The people to whom I lied in this scenario, my folks. Now, my folks are not the only ones to whom I twist my words.

I do the same to the lady who sells cigarettes outside my office, after buying one cigarette and giving a Green Gandhi in exchange. She asks for the 5Rs, I have a ten inside my wallet, but I nod my head and say 'No'. The same gets repeated in different scenarios, different places, but the nod always the same.

I think, I  lie to get around a thing, without actually having to address it or face it, maybe to make life easier, maybe not to hurt a loved one, maybe just to fool a foe, but the bottom line is, I LIE. My lies are not to hurt anyone, my lies don't deal much with anyone else, it doesn't in the normal course of action becomes detrimental for another being, but everything said, I STILL LIE.

Another fact I realized was if the people concerned are dear ones, then the lies comes all the more naturally with a flow. With just acquaintances and mere friends, I speak blunt, not caring about hurting them with my callousness. But for the much loved ones, twisting a line to make it pleasing for them is my specialty. I don't give bad-information to people, but I am an expert in omitting a line which might disturb a character I love. All said, I still am clueless why I lie, but I know, I DO LIE !!

The Nose that Matters

A friend of mine as part of his new plans to climb the ladder that people keeps talking about in a corporate world, tried implement a 'praise all, make all feel proud' thing across all ranks. With time and effort he conveyed how inspirational people above him were and how help-full people below him were. Riding the wave of goodness, that one feels when you know that you have royally made someones day, with a slight twist of your tongue, he kept telling me about the progress he been making.

Couple of evenings back, my friend is sad, sitting with a long face, ignoring the beer in front and staring at the television. I join him and respecting peoples space, I don't trouble him with the reason as to the gloom. He shoots, "do you know Cleopatra?"
I tell him, "yeah, the one whose nose determined the history of the ancient world. Why her?"

He looks all the more dejected and says, "as part of the 'please-all' plan, I told a colleague of mine, a member of the fairer sex with a very long nose, who in all probabilities should have been mighty pleased on a positive remark about her personal appearance, that she has a nose like Cleopatra's." She twisted her eye-brows in a doubtful manner and asked "what is that thing, Cleopatra?"

He became silent for a moment and then added, "Cleopatra is a thing and so Cleopatra's nose shouldn't matter, but the one that touches the bum of the guy standing on top of the ladder matters. And for the pay check at the end of the month I am forced to lie about the entrepreneurial skills a Female Manager has so similar with Indira Nooyi and the nose of Cleopatra. From where do they hire people?" It was an anguish in his voice.

I couldn't resist myself from taking a dig, "the same place they hired you !!"

elusive sentries

Last Sunday, returning back to my flat, soaked in beer, early in the morning by about 5:30 AM, I had this urge to secure my internet accounts. Mind you, I probably wouldn't have been able to stop myself, even if I had tried, the urge had something so very natural about it, like the 'natures call'. Changing the passwords of e-mail accounts, internet banking accounts, social networking sites and many more, I felt elated about the good progress I been making. Even basked in the feeling about that sense of added responsibility, that I have suddenly acquired from the void. One moment, I was the douche bag drunk and the next, I was sitting straight with the lap-top spread on my lap as the name suggests and busy making my 'online' world and avatar more secure.

The passwords that protected my 'online avatar' has become old, I could see the grey in the hair and realized the imminent threat that it posed to my existence in the world wide web. The old guards were replaced one by one and eventually in about an hour I had a complete new set of soldiers guarding my google, fb, banking and many other accounts. Like a proud Emperor, who knows that his fort is strong, slept in the feeling of assurance.

I wake up and try wear the 'online status' again, it says 'nope...the password is wrong'. I try again and it again says wrong. I try get online on a different application, the message keeps repeated.

After 2 hours of trying to remember the names of the new guards I appointed, all I could remember was the name of the chap who guarded my face book account. With the grace of God all my banking account passwords, I don't remember and it took me 4 days to figure out the google password. Guess, after the formalities, the banks wouldn't mind giving me a new set of guards.

All this because tuborg made me look at things with more caution and prompted me to be safe. Can't blame the beer, but the bigger ass 'Ousu' !!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ice-Cream, Religion, Politics and Losers !!

The news reader's voice was what welcomed me to the morning of the 13th of May 2011, announcing something about Assembly election results of my home state, Kerala. With the cigarette lit and not even bothering to brush, I sat on the bean bag, trying to read the tiny scroll going below the screen. I am not a political enthusiastic, nor believe much in the form of democracy India has been practicing, at the same time, I do like compiling the information on politics for fun.

The scrolls showed signs of landslide in Tamil Nadu, Assam and Bengal. Kerala was neck to neck, good, I thought. It will be fun watching the faces of everyone involved, the flashes of emotions which one gets to witness very rarely, the inclinations, political in nature. The game between the ruling faction lead by the Communist Party and the Congress & Allies were on.

The ex-minister of industries of Kerala, affiliated to the Muslim League, who been involved in not just one but many an ICE-CREAM scandals, Mr Kunjalikutty won a landslide and my flat mate commented, "that is a strong Muslim constituency." I nodded, I knew that. Though the said person was accused in not one, not two, but three crimes registered in Kerala, sexual in nature. But then, he was only an accused and the epitome of justice in India, the Supreme Court gave him a clean chit in one of them and asked the agencies to not to further investigate him. The other two cases, I lost track and so did everyone else.

Crooks in crime fought over the spoil and one came blaring guns at the other. Our beloved ex-minister's, co-brother came live on television revealing many a thing that they did together, from the un-due favors to bribing of the much acclaimed epitome of justice. Accusations and reply-accusations later, Congress went ahead with the alliance with Muslim League, the bandan since ages and the televisions lost interest slowly. People didn't.

The old veteran rattle snake Communist leader, the Chief Minister, VS Achuthanthan had the second strike on the form of a Public Interest Litigation and goes behind the bar, for the first time ever in Indian History, an ex-minister proven guilty of corruption. Congress did try back with dirt back on the communist veteran's son and the game went on.

Couple of months later with the results showing 72 for Congress and Allies, 68 seats for the Communist & Co, I wonder, who did eventually lose?

After all the accusations, Muslim League bagged 20 seats out of the 24 contested, some members of the allies vanished, while some won. While all that Congress has is 38 seats for itself and now the Government is going to be all about its existence than peoples welfare.

Ask me and I would say, Religion, Corruption and Timing decided this elections. Everyone predicted Congress, but none ever dreamed this close. All the dirt later, the accused leaders of Congress Allies showered and stood in front of their brothers in religion and the faithful took care of the them. But what about Congress, none did and the usual upper caste Christian and Hindu votes, that always made it on to the 'Palm' went some other place. The fools thought for themselves, and voted against, because, they felt Congress was carrying too much dirty linen and even worse in its Allies.

My take, yours may differ !! Democracy comes handy at times :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

the nuisance of a break-up

People who were close for long, who shared not just the bed, but many a secret together, couples tied in the knot of matrimony, young lovers who rejoiced in the bliss of their youth; the same ones when things go adrift, comes out with a pile of junk no one else knows about. They have so many things to say about each other, not the pleasant ones now that they are going different ways. Earlier they always had so much to talk and do to each other and the only change is that the 'to' gets replaced by 'about'. Saw it happen in the sanctity of marriage, when many a thing personal gets announced out to the world in a Court room, saw it happen in the longest and so called truest of romances.

I have had my fare share of trysts with romance and most times I just walked out silently after the bye. I have been dumped and I have dumped. Guess that briefs it the best. Never really bothered to get back at the person or try do anything about it. It has always worked for me and a couple of females I used to see are my very good friends today. Maybe, it is just because I walked away, never really bothered to trouble and they grew more in confidence about me as a person to be trusted. That is my only logic. I guess I have been the lucky one for having met people who never really troubled me after the break-ups.

Not always you stays lucky and this time I am bearing the wrath of a break-up last October. With the nature of work, we require to be in the vicinity of each other for 5 days a week and I always doubted she would crack up eventually and start of with the 'throwing dirt' part, because of my nagging presence. She has every reason to be upset about me and I withdrew into a shell, so that she gets more space to live. I am not a fool, not to realize when I have been heartless and at least try not hurt the person more. I wouldn't say I haven't ever spoken about her. Yeah, couple of times I mentioned about how she cramped me with her questions and at another time I said she bored me with her banter. Once I even spoke about her  family, how same all three people in the house thought and how narrow it felt for me. Our parents knew about our relation, mine wasn't happy, hers weren't either, then eventually being up close with each other we weren't happy, I did the honors, said bye and walked away heartlessly.

Then when you get to hear people ask you questions which only she knew, secrets about yourself, your loved ones, it doesn't feel great. And when more people ask you more questions and you are forced to think, what is to be done. Hurt her, no that is not me, I know that. Leave her and not be bothered, it doesn't feel right. Now this is the feeling of vengeance in me speaking, but I know, I will get over it and the questions and walk away.

When will people learn not to throw dirt after the break-up. For the sake of an old love, when for some moments they felt special with each other, for that memories, cant people restrain from the art of throwing dirt. Haa haa who am I to ask, I can practice and not talk what I just wrote. Maybe the shaved head and resemblance to a Buddhist Monk is making me think in terms of Nirvana rather than the drunken brawl of joy my ego gets in hurting her :)

then my alter ego shouts out loud, Some people are not worth even the vengeance !! ((good old chap, he never gives up and nirvana is the last thing in his mind))

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Faces in my Life

It has been a long time since I ever tried describe people I am with, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors. Some years back, I found it amusing, making short descriptions about people I am with. It always used to come with a warning that, it is my description of a person and for others that individual might have a different face altogether. The people who surround me everyday has changed, and I feel that sure gives me a chance to describe more people. Not everyone, but only those whom I feel wouldn't mind it if I have a thing or two bad to say about.

Rubin Brenda ( The Big Mommy, The director) : She knows everyone by their first names, the entire whole group and I feel she knows much more than the first names as well. I haven't ever heard her speak Hindi, but I am quite sure she follows it beautifully. She was the one who interviewed me and  we seems to share a good rapport almost, thanks to philosophy :)

Sun Christine ( The Visiting Delegate of the Research Group, The Manager) : She works from the California Office and I feel the closest any visiting delegate has ever been to the group. Happy in her little world of tax returns and sales tax queries. It is her second visit to India and she believes that knowing India is by tasting it, mind you she wouldn't eat much. But she tastes the 'chat' and the 'chaais' and the 'rotis' and almost everything, just to get a feel of the land I guess.

Balachandran ( Manager in Town, The New Manager) :  We always seems to go well, without getting under the skin of each other. Probably must me because, being the few lawyers around I don't work for him. If that was the case, he might have had a different thing to say or maybe I had something else to say. He seems happy and I have a feel even marriage aint far.

Komal Gupta ( My Immediate Senior) : One person who never really bothers me with anything. I tell her, I aint sure how it is done and she sits and completes it for me. Haven't seen many people stare at the laptop at one stretch as much as her. I sometime have a feeling she might cry if I shout or something, but then don't think such a thing will ever happen :)

Aditya Arora ( My Equal and we work for the same people) : He is one happy Punjabi guy I have met. I dunno, I guess I have something against the turban then. He does his work and I do mine. we have a very good policy in place, live and let live. No unhealthy competition, no ass kissing very much free to pursue our own course of action.

Visakh Vasudevan ( My Flatmate and Colleague, senior in college much before that) : He wants to do too many things all at one go. Always confused before taking a decision, calculative and shrewd, but then of the good kind. One guy, whom I have seen do a proper research before buying a thing, from a levi jean to a car. Cherished dreams of Indian Civil Service back in his initial years of college and had worked hard for that, but lost the passion mid way and been confused ever since.

Tejomahi Rajaram Bangalore ( My Friend and Colleague) : The word "Bangalore" in her name is not a typo. It seems her grandpa or someone before that were the initial settlers in Bangalore and hence the surname "Bangalore". Teetotaler yet you could find her drinking fruit punches amidst drunken crowds. Hates crowds as much as I do, but then she not an inside home person while in Hyderabad like me. So we avoid the parties together, she and her friends makes me some nice food while they home on some evenings and calls her when I feel like going to a old steak house to get drunk. Knows, she could drag me back in an auto if i ever drink too much. A thing about her is, he would be a fool, who ever trusts her with a trip..she would chicken out at the last minute..she once did and I had to spend an entire day swimming in a pool with loads of people from office..and resorting to beers the whole day..

Anil Kaswan ( My Old Friend) : Haaahaa haa what do I say about him. We seemed to go pretty well, but then something sparked of the Jatt in him and the Keralite in me. I guess you can say it as a very silent cold war about the superiority of the races and being the racist I am, which I quite honestly admit, I don't think I would ever give it up.

SO that very much sums up the faces in my life here in Hyderabad. I aint sure whether a big firm like the one I am working has a law against saying something about colleagues in an open forum, not sure. What the hell, the mongrel is born to bark and so will he do :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All in a Days Work

I look down from my small balcony and find the old house completely vanished, instead broken concrete and bricks been laid out all even and a flat new surface it looks. I can relate to that, after tasting the spicy andhra curry, I have returned back to base, burnt, brown and roasted. No complaints, I will have more than enough cool air in the cold environs of office to take care of the burns. There has been so many new beginnings and junctures in my life. At times I faltered, at times I came through, learning all the way though.

I find happiness in the face of 7 couples, digging pits at 7 places on the land. Must be for the pillars or the basement, my tryst with architecture tells me this much. One digs on, while the other collects the mud and throws it out with a spade. They are working together and by the look of it, I think all must be married. There are kids around, the big ones helping the couple in the pit and the smaller ones watching the whole from the shade of a tree, with a bigger one in watch.

A tiny little guy caught my attention. He seems the smallest of the lot, must be about 2 years. He is sitting right at the side of the pit and says something in his baby language. The mother says something back to him and then to her husband. The work stops for that team, they climb out go to the shade of the tree nearby. Cleans their hand and she opens her blouse to feed the boy. He is happy suckling from his mother, while she gets a huge steel box out and two more follows. The lunch is set and the family eats. No one around is bothered about them nor they seem bothered. I felt prying, but the amazing graze with which the lady fed her child and got the food for her husband at the same time, made me feel a knot.

It has been three weeks since I spoke with my mom. Nothing bad has happened between us, but some how the one phone call becomes the elusive one. Right now she is in Chennai for some official stuff and being her, she would be very brief and we not actually really talk. Her reasons are not official mind you, she always the family woman. Hers will be roaming charges of all things !! Ask a lady who runs a middle class family and she might tell you many a secret behind the recipe of their life. Mine believed completely on Bentham and his Utilitarian approach for money. Spend money as per use and not spend it to spend.

My finances doesn't seem to be all that good at this moment. Been a bit careless with the plastic cards, tax evading meal coupons and even our good old Gandhi at times. Misplacing and not keeping a track, a mistake, which would be like a cardinal sin for my mom. I am paid decent enough for a young guy living in India, and to top it, there are no commitments as well, no choking education loans or any brothers of the same breed; but still my wallet is getting thinner as the month ends and mind you, it is just the 10th of the month. I wonder how my parents and people of their folk manged a home with the fixed salaries they got. Did they limit their dreams? I am not sure. Maybe they always wanted something like this.

Then the biggest banker for me, my elder sister will be troubled yet again this time I feel. This is a one way thing, she pays me money every time I am short and I tell her, I will give her back when I have it. But then, she has always been my banker from childhood. For the rubber balls to now travel and booze, she has always said an yes and never asked anything back. I am not a shopper, I might buy a book or something if I need it and clothes been what I get as gifts from Dad and Sisters ever since I started working. With Dad's money, I guess I used to buy more frequently, but now that has almost become one branded SWEATER in an year, when it became cold here last november.

The lunch is over and the kid resumes his position at the side of the pit and watches his parents toil hard in the sun. He too is sitting not in the shade, but in the sun. What dreams does the couple have for the young boy? Maybe they look up and see me standing their and they want their son to have all that I have. Will I be willing to exchange my life with the boys? I don't think I am that good a saint now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

AFRAID in a Candle's Light



The temple town was dull with nothing that held our interest, the 'Siva' and 'lingam' were huge, but then I always failed to appreciate things by its size and so this was no different pious object. After having checked in at an inn, which only the temple towns in India offer, we felt bored having our dinner at 7:30. The entire ride after the octopus viewpoint, I have been talking with Rohit about the feasibility of spending the night at the viewpoint. He knew it was in my mind looking at the smile, when we made it there in day light. He didn't object to it till then but was not very sure as well. Now being forced to do nothing, it didn't take much time for him to tell me, "go buy your candles, lets go to that damn place you been wanting to."

We were going to make a visit again to the view point, this time not at the safety of daylight, but in the darkness of night. There are scores of laws in force, which prohibits even the presence of humans in Reserve Forest, and most of them non-bailable. Then the danger posed by the wild animals at night and to top it, the greatest danger was posed by the renegade Naxals who been resorting to abduction of late in that area, from what the internet tells me. We knew the dangers, but then the wanting to really do something truly wild, gave in the push required to set us of tearing down the roads back into the jungle, a good 30 kilometer back the same road we took.

The stretch was dark, but the markings on the road were highlighted in the moon-light. It was a summer night and the stars plenty. We found the sign board once again and stopped at the entrance of the beaten old trail, which leads to the view point. There was no light on the ground from the moon or the stars, the little trees made sure the underbush never saw anything of the moon. We were hesitant, I got down from the bike and slowly walked into the clearing in the head light and asked Rohit to follow me up close, so that the light would be the guide and we cover the 300 meters to the watch tower almost together.

Walking the path in the head light, I could feel the rate of my heart beat increase. I was not feeling alright, but yet I went walking forward, in pitch darkness till the view point. The sign of it was a welcome relief.

Struggling to light a candle in the strong warm wind from the valley, I told Rohit that my heart beat has increased and he told me that he is not going to switch of the light until I light the candle. I finally manage to fix a candle at the bottom of the stairs of the watch tower and lit the candle. Rohit switched the lights of and the darkness that came in was absolutely different. The candles light seemed bright, but not really re-assuring. With the lighted candle held in my hand and nothing else to defend against man or beast, we climbed the spiral stairs up, half expecting to see some wild animal come down from the tower.

The wind blew away the light and in the darkness, at an un-guarded watch tower in the core area of a tiger reserve, I felt afraid. If you ask me whether I was afraid of the beasts lurking nearby, I was not. I was afraid whether the light might have caught the attention of some rogue man, looking for an easy victim for ransom. But fighting the growing sense of un-easiness inside me, which I realized as fear, I lit the candle again and lit my cigarette from it. I was afraid, but I was not game to leave from there. The view of the basin in moon-light, with a million stars illuminated, with a sense of overwhelming danger lurking and the eerie sounds of night which coupled with silence, gave everything for me to stay the night there.

An hour goes by, nothing happens and we get used to the eeriness and from no where hear a sudden rustling of leaves and a cry from very close, as if from very near to the watch tower of an animal in pain, under attack. We listened silently not daring to make a sound. If we could climb the nice spiral stares of the watch-tower so could any animal, if it chose to. And, in case of men who wanted to harm innocent travelers, we were sitting ducks. Rohit, couldn't take it much longer and he said we will go back. I had to agree, for the fear have been growing inside me as well. The man inside me taunted me, made fun about the feeling of fear, but deep down inside, I knew I was scared and required a reason to go back.

Silently we climbed the stairs down and Rohit quickly started the bike and the head lights. I walked a meter up front, in the light, volunteering to be the one to move the shrub or looka round for any signs of movement. We heard twigs breaking and that brought in springs in my foot and I walked fast, grabbing a log and beating it on the ground with my every step. We finally made it back to the opening to the main-tarred road and of we went riding back, knowing fully well, it was not something that both will be sharing with parents.

Sitting on the bed at the place we rented after getting back from the ride a little past midnight, I knew it could have been a close call for all its worth. But the risk, worth taking for just the view and the awesome sounds that only a jungle can bring.

"aapka khushi ke-liye"



This lean old guy was the first to come running when we got closer to the coracles at Sreesailam dam. I asked him the rates in hindi and he said 50 for one.
Me: tho 100 one ride? for hum 2..
He: haan..100 pura dam.. and he started saying something in telugu and showed gestures of round the dam.

Climbing on to the coracle, I over heard him say to another guy, "30 for ek..60 ka do..." and thought smart chap made a profit of 40 on us.

In the middle, after doing a  wonder spin of the coracle he says, "aapka khushi ke liye, dedo.."..."woh union wallah ke samney nahi dena..and some telugu again". I give him the 100 rupees as agreed. Then he smiles even bigger and asks us for more spins and we say no. We had a wonderful ride alone in the coracle and didn't wanna spoil it with another spin. I saw him drink water from there with a glass and I thought poor guy must be thirsty. I extended a bottle of good water that I been carrying for over a 200 kilo meter to quench his thirst and the guy empties it down in to the river. Then, he fills ma bottle with the river water. I just didn't have words and said "bhai hum wapas". He nods and takes us back.

As soon as we come on shore, another guy comes in asks for 60 rupees, and he has got a receipt and our coracle driver tells me "60 rupees inko do..aapka khushi ke liye and something in telugu...". I knew this guy out smarted me with the language. I didn't want to fight and I paid the other guy with the receipt. We started walking and then  our coracle chaps follows us and says in broken not the worst english I have heard, " give me some money...show... or ..err.. the union man find out...my job go..." The guy pleads and I give him another 10 rupees and he adds "aapka khushi ke-liye".

He fooled me hands down, he knew english and hindi and made me pay him a "aapka khushi ke-liye" token almost double the actual rates fixed by the Govt or some local public sector undertaking. 60 for the ride and 110 for the love, the pun in that happening to me. Hope the extra "aapka khushi ke-liye" today don't lead to a broken rib of a neglected wife :)

Octopus View Point



The roads weren't as hard as the ones we been before. It sure was ghat, but then the curves a lot less sharper  than the ones in our ghats back home. The jungle a different kind, the feel eerie, but not dark like the ones in Western Ghats. I am not a specialist about jungles, but I like to travel through them. I like the feel of it, of seeing a wild animal on close in its territory, so my limited knowledge makes me compare the new thing with all the kinds I have seen before. This one was dry, with boulders, the size of a pebble to the size of a basketball, yellow dried grass as under bush, trees not huge nor big, of medium built and the leaves green, a dusty brownish green.

We were in the core area of a tiger reserve and as from what I compiled about the place after my travel, the biggest tiger reserve as far as area is concerned. That had sounded "hhmm what ever.." as a thought in my mind the time we had began. But this seemed just as great as always, the road, the jungle, the lonely villages, the beaten down eateries ((minus the pig though..we made sure there were no black pigs in the small villages we had our food. And surprisingly on all our way to Srisailam, I guess, we saw pigs in maybe ten or twelve towns and villages..quite surprisingly few for Andhra..maybe some one ought study the reason about their decline.. haa haa )), the smoke breaks, and this time we added water breaks as well. Everything felt the same, and we were in harmony with the lonely road.

Close to some where when the mile stone to Srisailam read 34 KM, we passed a sign board with the painting of an animal. Since I been a big collector of sign boards of all my travels, we turned back to the sign board. It was a watch house, in the core area, from the road about a 300 meter. There was nothing about the entry or rules of access to it, but we stopped and got the bike on to a walk way in jungle and then thought the ride was risky for the bike, so pursued the course on foot. The trail wasn't bad, on a bike, with a single rider, could do it, we had a discussion. Straying from the road, in the core of a tiger reserve, it never got registered, and we still talked about the condition of the trail, as if we both been married to it.

The watch tower looked abandoned, though not older than ten years. It was on top of a hill over-looking the Krishna basin, on some side with the hills around and green jungle. The view point was over over looking a water source which resembled an octopus with the long tentacles. The forest was greener and we spotted a group of deer on the steep banks.

The watch tower was definitely safe with spiral steps and the only possible animal that could harm would be an elephant or a tiger or leopard, but even that could easily be snubbed, lighting a fire. Saw cigarete buds, some broken beer bottles, mans means of marking his presence. But from the items on display, this seemed like a spot visited by the young groups for a drink, but then not really visited. The trails suggested people been there, but not really when and how many. Everything suggested very few been there.

I lit the smoke and stood watching down at the valley and the deers far off below, wishing that the one of the tigers the reserve supposed to have, close to 50 of them in the core, would pounce, just like in the National Geographic. Maybe I should stop there for a month and I might get to see it, but then it might be an year as well. I am not that kind of traveler, so without troubling the good golden colored beings we walked back to the road. This time, I definitely had a smile and Rohit knew what I might come up with. He knew, though the view of the basin, not something known to many nor seen much on the net, was beautiful, there was more behind the smile, about that he was almost certain.

The Wonder Falls


The road seemed good, once we got of the city limits, exiting from a signal after the Charminar. Normal state roads, not something fancy like the express ways, but good enough for easy bike navigation. The sun was being merciless, but then we held steady our course.

In not much time the mile stones turned beneath the 100 KM and we saw this beaten track on to the left side, with an old sign post about a water fall 8 KM away. Didn't expect to see anyone around and we rode in. Miraculously a guy jumps in wearing some kind of uniform and we pay him the entry fees. We go on, not expecting to see anything much and a sick tale of a water fall, which got dried in summer. The road is brownish-red in color and seemed not to be used much. There were no signs of human settlement, a dry brownish terrain, with small trees and dry under-bush.

Turning a corner, finds a clearing in the forest and it turns out to be a field. And then more follows, some thatched houses and some beasts of labor grazing aimlessly with no complaints. There were no signs of electricity, forget electricity, we had a feeling they wouldn't have even heard about Hyderabad. I have been through many villages in the South of India, but nothing as remote as this one. Remote not from human settlement or technology, but remote from life.

Another village followed after another 6 kilometer and this one was even worse. Four thatched houses, 3 bullocks, 8 goats and 3 dogs were all that I got to see there outside. I wondered about their livelihood and soon the sign post read water falls.

There were  hardly any tourist present and the odd 5 of them present were leaving.  The moment I saw the foamy water, my mind knew, this was what I came riding. To shower under the fall, all alone as my personal belonging. I didn't expect the journey to bless me with a wonder-fall in Andhra, but I expected adventure and this sure was one. Definitely a welcome one in the sun. Stripped down to the boxers in moments and with the back pack secured at a dry place, I climbed through the slippery rocks to the bottom of the falls. There was not a great deal of water, only a little, from a distance. But then, getting closer I knew there was water enough to kill me, if I lose my grip while climbing. I didn't care and I climbed, Rohit followed closely, we always were people who behaved like the three musketeers, "all for one and one for all".

Made it to the big boulder some twenty feet above the ground, on which the entire water gets poured as if from heavens and then sprays down. Watching the miracle that water and sun light makes, rain bows form in front of ma eyes, layer after layer, all around, everywhere, ice cold water falling over me and washing of the scent of the dry road, I knew I was blessed. The heavenly shower in deep dry jungle in a secret green adobe, with the whole place to us, I truly knew, I was blessed.

Spicy Andhra

I didn't feel alright, my stomach been burning since couple of days and I have been throwing up often. Inactivity doesn't suit me, but then if I don't really do anything I might stop eating as well. So many more, need grub much more than I do and to really do something and not just to feel weak and tired in the summer spent on a plateau. I am not a weakling, I am much more stronger than that. I have survived the scorching heat of Delhi, as a supposed to be intern, who canceled two months of his internship out of the three and set of discovering Delhi the old way. On foot with a good Eicher city map, figuring out the circles and chowkis for two months, with the sun smiling on me.

Called up Rohit and he was there as always, ready to hit the road. He was spending some time in Madras, the old city he grew, away from his rubber in Northern Kerala. That is the best thing about Rohit, ask him any time, he is game to hit the road. Thus my crazy tale of savoring Spicy Andhra over the last week end happened.

Being an unplanned venture, except the bare essentials like helmets and bikes and clothes, we set of with almost nothing of real use in a tough spot. No torch lights, no puncture kits, no sleeping bags, no candles, no extra petrol, no charger for the camera nor the phones and the list of 'no's keeps going until it ends finally at NO MAPS. All we had in the back pack was clothes and a loads and loads and loads of water. When we set of on the Saturday warm morning, both me and Rohit were clueless, what all to expect. All we knew was, we were un-armed, had a little money and loads of water to survive for a day at least in the scorching heat. Our aim was to complete a circle through Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as the base, to Sri Sailam, the core area of Project tiger and then from there to Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. The few travelogues, I got to read talked about the renegade naxals being present in the Sri-Sailam Project Tiger Area and abducting travelers their latest resort to livelihood. But then, nothing confirmed it and yeah, if some thing like that happens, then I would possible be more happy rather than feel fear.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baldie

04/ May / 2011 Wednesday, 16:15 HRS

The noise of metal on concrete and the scorching heat of the summer sun, made sure I woke up scratching my head and wandered aimlessly as if drugged, to the bathroom to stand under shower and, shut out the heat and the 'thummb thuuuub'. I slept late last night, after watching Christiano Ronaldo take on Messi, the many jumps and dives later, Barcelona won on aggregate and the thirsty me drank from Voltaire before sleeping. Electricity has become a rogue guest these days, pursuing a course of his own, never telling anyone the exact plans about his presence or absence. "Maybe we should develop more nuclear power plants. To hell with radiation and all the side effects," the inconsiderate, irritated me wanted the basic comfort of a fan at any price.

Sitting in the hair-dressing saloon, giving the guy directions to shave the entire hair off, I feel confused. Am i doing it right? I don't remember ever doing it or any one in my family and extended family ever do it. Such conservative, Samsons we all are. As if the strength came in from the hair, another example of a custom said to be prevailing because of the Semitic presence in us; some people in my extended family prefer to say this these days, over the claim that we were converted from Brahmins, which been circling in all Syrian Christian homes in Kerala from the time I care to remember.

The hair gone, being a baldie, all I can take in is the feel of freedom, of the sun baking the scalp and the wind caressing the skull, bringing in a sense of natural justice. Not the natural justice said in audi alteram partem, but something much beyond that.

Seeing me in this new avatar, the poor folks working with me, who been subjected to many a tantrum of mine, from looks to ideas, looks surprised and then some drops in to give me a piece of their wisdom. "This is looking cool", a friend who sits right opposite me said and then after some words like 'cool', 'nice', 'summer style', I opened my eyes a bit wider, when I heard, "rapist" . It seems for the friend I mentioned in my early blog, the teetotaler from Bangalore, whose opine I consult regularly and perhaps my greatest acquaintance here in the plateaus, for her, the baldie me seemed to bring forth memory of a rapist in some movie she watched.

If only some one would have added the tag 'serial' before the 'rapist' !!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing !!

I always wonder about the differences people have in their personalities and yet everyone craves to do everything together, from traveling to drinking and almost everyone builds up a new family as well, to be always surrounded by humans. I had promised a friend of mine in Bangalore, that I will plan a road-trip of mine considering hers holidays as well and out of a sudden feeling of not really doing anything, I called her up and we finally decided the independence weekend of August seems to be a nice time of the year and Coorg a good, easy option for a weekend drive from Bangalore. Then, the next question came up. Who all to be invited? And we both decided to invite almost every friend of ours with whom both of us would get along well. So, if the group becomes big and a lot many strangers, what the hell, it would be fun, scaring a wild boar in return. That was all I thought.

I spoke about this long term plan (for me any plans made for periods after 8 weeks are all long term plans) to a colleague in office and that set of a chain of events, I couldn't quite understand. We said it to some people and a lot of them seemed interested, suddenly someone said, 'august is long way to go' and then it became 'june end ya july first week', some people said yes, some said, gotta think and then someone said, why Coorg, let us go Suryalanka (that is a beach here in Andhra and I haven't been there) and all a chaos. I quite retired, because it was getting hard for me to understand everything everyone was saying and keeping a tab on the suggestions and the actual possibility of it happening.

Yet I know, I will keep my promise to the friend and go to Coorg the second week of august and also agree to any other plan some of my colleagues in office, with whom I asked about joining me to Coorg in the first place will make. So much for human company, with all the differences present.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Equality - Social, Economic and Poltical

Standing at the small balcony of my flat, smoking a cigarette outside, as per the dictum of my flat-mate, I watch 2 men, toiling hard with two big hammers against a wall. They are trying to break the concrete and get the door from the old house in the next compound. I need to leave in one hours time to office and I woke up listening to the 'thummm thump thummmb', the sound of hammer on concrete and had cursed a million time, the source of the noise.

The men were sweating profusely and continuing on with the hammering, while all I was thinking was about getting back into the flat from the torturing heat after quickly finishing the cigarette. I am lucky to have the option to get back into the shade, while my fellow country men, don't. Irrespective of whether the thermostat goes above a 100 degree Fahrenheit, the two men needs to sweat and grind their muscles the whole day, demolishing concrete from an old house.

They too have the same rights that I have, but yet they toil hard in sun, while I complain about the monotony of the work I do. Thinking about it, I wonder, "wouldn't breaking concrete be a monotonous job?" and all ma reason says yes, yet I find them happy going about their business in the sun.

The preamble of the Indian constitution speaks about Equality, social, economic and political and we have reservation policies in place, supposed to bring about the equality envisaged. But yet, the equality always a dream. I feel sorry, I feel pity, I think about myself as this complaining conceited fool seeing the men work hard in the sun and yet I complain about the equality that I haven't got. Maybe I should think about equality from the perspective of the men i saw in the morning, I might be better informed.

Office after the Virgin

25 April 2011, Monday; 14:15 Hrs
Sitting in the supposed to be air-conditioned bus at the Airport at Hyderabad, to get to the place I have rented, I was lost pretending that I didn't wanna fly back. I knew eventually I will, but it didn't happen this time and I think I owe my not vanishing act to one person in Office. I am obliged to let her know, the day I finally decide about quitting. She had been very good with me, straight from the days of my interview, much higher up than me in the corporate hierarchy, but yet still my friend and we discuss life and philosophy amongst all things at the weirdest hours at the least expected places. The buzz in my head was, this is just a vacation doing something and earning a living and not resorting to booze straight from the wee hours of dawn, until the puzzle fits into place. I was not sure, how it will and how long it would take. But yeah, definitely it will and make this chance down here at the Deccan Plateaus a bit more worthwhile.

2 May 2011, Monday; 11:34 Hrs
No one in office seemed to have missed me. Work was limited and I felt a bit too floated. Must be the conceited self, nevertheless, the feeling is awesome. My flat mate mentioned about my ex-girl and the second sentence, I tell him, "aahh maybe you shouldn't. I feel way much above these worldly things and ub-productive banter". He looked shocked and had the expression, someone just forced his balls down his throat. I was never the one, not to listen to a thing. I always listened, maybe never told anyone or never bothered. But I listened, but this time I was feeling too very superior like the Gods, I didn't even want to listen to mundane simple things. But, the good part is, if you don''t want to listen, you in the first place don't have to talk and I was doing that. Nothing beside business in office and it seems to be working all the more better.

There was this Manager who is down in India, wanting to make the research group more focused and we had a meeting. She was a friend the last time during her visits and we did have some nice time gripping whiskey necks, but this time she was just the boss because I am in love with Nietzsche and Voltaire is keeping me busy, so didn't feel like sharing my time with mundane talks. I think, she expected me to make a mockery of the hierarchy and my indian seniors, the callous personality, she had judged me. Surprise was written all over, when I said about it like a columnist-consultant, speaking what I thought will be in the best interest of the group. Instead of breaking the shackles, I was speaking more about integrating the complete group and making it more hierarchical. She was left searching for words and she knew, we were no longer friends, not even acquaintances, she knew nothing about me or my abilities, apart from that I get my work done.

Saturday evening, I had this feeling to get some cold beer and pamper myself with some nice bites and a good crowd to watch. I didn't wanna make the journey alone and then thank god, for an amazing friend I have down here hailing from Mallya's City and yet a teetotaler , who don't mind sipping fruit-punchs and watch me get all foamy with the beer. I dropped in at the place she stays with some other nice people and then they made me realize what an amazing phenomenon the whole thing called females are. I was a bit hungry and the girls fix me up pakkodda in 20 minutes, just like what Amma makes. Boy, if things were always like this, then no wonder a lot of guys get married. Must be for the ease that women know to make of mens dietary needs. Pakodas over and the women not wasting much time for getting dressed up, we set of to a nice joint nearby. I am not a big fan of the discs, likes the old pubs and steak houses more. I guess this place was the closest we get to an old steak house here in Hyderabad. Couple of beers, listening to a guy play hotel california with his guitar and feeling thrilled about identifying the song just with the guitar finally, everything seems nice. I still feel like a tourist, visiting many a pub and eatery around here, trying places, people, knowing fully that I will go back to the serene green of my home town.

But this time, there is a peace inside me. I am going to have the best of my stay here, pamper myself with beer and road. Do the work, spend the 8 hours in office, but live actually outside it. Till the time, my pieces fall into place, keep doing what ever gets to my plate. And actually this feel nice as well. When I hear another friend make a complaint about a Manager, all I say is, 'she mus be having a tough time', usually a series of abuse follows and so do an attempt to get on logger heads with the said person.

Am I an escapist or an opportunist ?
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