Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Joke is on you

Me: There are mistakes that you dare commit while giving unnecessary information to a group that is drinking tea.
Myself: And those would be?
Me: Don't look at a Cathay Pacific that is flying over the building in front of which you are having tea. If you have looked, don't mind anyone who read out loud "Cathay Pacific".
Myself: If you did?
Me: Don't add anything to it.
Myself: If you can't keep your mouth shut?
Me: Well, at least don't tell them that you have traveled by Cathay Pacific.
Myself: What if someone asks, "To Kuwait?"
Me: Don't correct them, or else just correct them and leave it there.
Myself: Why?
Me: Maybe because some guy might ask you what is the uniform of the air hostess, for which you might have to say, "Dude. I traveled when I was in first grade. How would I remember?".
Myself: Yeah. So, whats the problem.
Me: Now the guy who asked you would respond. "Maybe because you traveled at an age you did not bother" and shut up, but can you?
Myself: If No?
Me: Then, at least don't say that when you were getting off the flight, they gave you two nice dolls. Everyone (or someone) might starting laughing loudly.
Myself: Oh the idea of a guy liking dolls? That you were very small then? Doesn't that count?
Me: You wish.
Myself: No recovery then?
Me: No no. You can recover from that.
Myself: Then whats the problem?
Me: They might not be laughing for the whole doll thing?
Myself: What else?
Me: Well, You never know. You might realize it late.
Myself: Late?
Me: Yeah. Maybe, when you can't recover anymore.
Myself: How does that work? Why would they laugh then?
Me: Because you made an impression of holding two invisible dolls, one in each hand.
Myself: Now, why is that funny?
Me: It is funny when you hold them pretty close to each other, with considerably open palms and at a certain height from the ground level. :(
Myself: Ooooooooooh!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Murphy strikes. Music saves the day.

November 19th 2010. I selected this date from the calendar box of my online CAT application, after consulting my official calendar, to be sure about taking off for a couple of days around this date. This was back in the second week of September. Right from then, I knew it was going to be an important day in my life. For what I should have either developed the habit of being a genius from my childhood or focused for the past couple of months, two days off from work is no solution. I comfortably put the blame on work and "no-time" and was aware that all my hopes lay on channelizing my focus during the mind-boggling 135 minutes on the big day. So, the two day leave was all about keeping my cool and going with a clear mind. I was partially successful in doing that and since it was me, that's a BIG achievement. Kudos to me. But, wait. Little did I know that Murphy had his plans for my big day, clearly charted out.

I should have guessed when, a couple of weeks ago, I saw that Colonial Cousins were performing on the same day in Chennai. My exam was scheduled till 6:30 PM in Sriperambadur and I would have to drive down 40 kilometers to the concert in Chetpet close to 30 kilometers through the thick of Friday Chennai traffic. Now, why on earth is a concert so important, one may ask. To know the importance, you have gotta be me. :) Though I was almost about to give up on the concert (which is a freakishly generous sacrifice), I just couldn't resist it. So, amidst little anxiety about the exam and total excitement about the concert, finally, 19th November 2010 dawned.

We had to be at the venue by 1:30 PM. The pain-in-the-a** planner in me started by 11:30 AM and I picked up a colleague who was also taking the test. Twenty minutes into the drive, fortunately or no, when we were still within the city limits, first strike of the day - puncture. We found a shop that was named, "Punjar kadai" (Puncture shop), close by. It was a small shop with a neighboring welding shop and a two-wheeler mechanic garage. I called out for the guy and a balding, more than middle-aged man came out to tell me that he can mend it, but would be doing it patiently. I had no much choice and with my approval, he started work. Murphy just opened up the showers from His sky.

We never knew that patience meant completely unaware of what is called mending puncture. He knocked the tyre off the bike with a hammer after unscrewing some nuts and bolts. We never knew doing it slowly meant fighting with the tyre to get the tube out, as if he was delivering a baby. After half an hour of "war" with the tyre, he pulled the tube out and examined it for 5 minutes. He neither filled air nor immersed it into water to find out if there was a puncture, but he knew for sure that we needed a new tube. I wanted to yell right away, but with tyre-less bike and the idea of this "skillful" soldier mending the puncture, I preferred to put a new tube and get the hell out.

He went into the shop and brought a new tube. After breaking open the cover, he checked if it was the right tube and I was not going to let him decide. While I made sure that its the right one, he was checking the tyre for any nails or whatever and that being the only work he seemed to know, he repeated it for so long and after I raised my voice telling him to stop checking, he started the war all over. This time it was to get the air nozzle into the tyre's hole. He'd push it out and pull his hand out of the tyre, when the nozzle goes back in. This went on for about 10 minutes when I lost patience and took charge to put it out myself and initiated the tube fitting process for him, which took him another 15 odd minutes. Finally, we reached the stage of fitting the tyre back in its place - in the bike.

With me helping him to hold the bike, push the rod that held the tyre, and after trying to fit it the other way round once, he wasted more time than was left to reach the venue. I felt it was time to request the worker in the mechanic shop for help and he came to the rescue. The rest of the fitting process was done in 2 minutes. I paid the "labor charges" and for the tube and started. It was already 1:20 PM and we had to travel another 20 kms. My Hunk made up for the mishap and I sped at 100 kms/hr (once again my personal best), without even constantly checking it my colleague was still sitting behind or had flown off. We reached the venue close to five minutes past the scheduled time, and I was all touched up with grease and dirt. However, all thoughts about the test I was going to take up had been lost along with the air that went off the tyre.

The next two hours involved formalities for half of it. A security check that involved someone feeling us up. My colleague had a better anecdote to share after her check which I am cutting out here. Our finger prints were recorded, identities were triple checked, our belongings were seized and sealed up in covers, which left us with one and half hours of silence in front of the allocated system. My family would have loved to see me sitting there with nothing to do and still keep quiet. But, I had fun, as an even more restless colleague was sitting next to me and my entire office would have actually paid to see him sit silent for one and half hours. He was sitting and virtual typing on the keyboard (only he knows what it was) - TOTAL FUN. :P

Sharp at 3:30PM the exam commenced and I did the mistake of taking up a tutorial that taught us how to use the mouse, click and double-click with it. I sped past through it and clicked on start exam. It took 5 minutes and some anxiety to finally look at that first question. The next 135 minutes passed like in movies where they show two shots of the clock. It was 6 PM and was much earlier than I thought. So, good news was that we needn't miss the start of the concert. Me and the colleague I picked up that morning left as fast as possible. Oh! I forgot. The exam went okay I should say. I don't think it would help me get an admission in any of the colleges I have in my mind (including but not confined to the IIMs). Other comments reserved till Jan 2011.

Then followed a 40 kilometer odd drive. I was not sure about the route to take (there were many and I had no clue which is the shortest). Somehow or the other, I ended up taking the correct route and as we approached the venue (close to 7 PM), we realized we were so hungry and took a quick frankie bite from Nilgiris, Chetpet and refreshed with Limca (you know how refreshing that drink is???). I guessed that the concert would anyways start at least 15 minutes late and so we took our time to eat and at 7:30 PM, we set upon the last five minutes of our journey before we stepped into heaven, or so we thought. :(

We got stuck in the signal just close to the concert hall and had to take a U - turn in a never ending stretch and when we got to the U turn, we had to wait for four cycles of the signal, to get out of it. We reached the hall by 8:05 PM and exchanged the online receipt for the tickets and rushed to the balcony. When I handed the passes to the guy at the door, he said, "Sorry sir! There are no seats. People are sitting on the steps". "What the hell!", was my exact response. After arguing for few seconds, I realized we had no more time and with our backs completely gone, our seats pricking badly from the long ride, a completely bad opinion about the hall and a banal concert in our minds, we stepped in.

"Deemtha Dheemtha Dhirana..." (Indian Rain), the music magician's voice echoed around the most wonderful concert hall I have seen till date. We sat down on the clean steps between the neatly arranged seating system on both sides. There were no one in front of us, which helped adjust our posture every two minutes. I couldn't feel my torso because of the pinching back ache and was a bit restless at the start. They announced that the next song was the one they had always hidden because the record companies did not like it at all. I was dumbstruck when Hariharan started with, "Vakrathunda Mahakaaya...". Which bloody record company did not like that song? Till date, I have not met anyone who doesn't. I made a mental note to call up my cousin Srinath as soon as I got home. We had performed that song once on stage; and that's what you call timing, when my mobile rang and it was Srinath calling to ask me how I did my exam.

Hariharan said "I hate this list man. Right after SaNiDhaPa, I have to sing Teri Meri Ankhon Mein", and the audience went "WOoooooooooooooo". After that, Hari took a break and Lesley commented, "He is much older than I am". He took up the stage for a while during which time, a blessed seated couple decided to leave and the good man signaled to me that their seats could be taken. I thanked him for the gesture and we rushed to the seats. Its one of those thanks where you really mean it. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh", I sighed loud as my back hit the rest of the chair and my colleague gave a little laugh. Lesley performed few of his compositions (out of Colonial Cousins) including 'Pal' (from the first Indian Idol), a funky (as he called it) version of 'Kannum Kannum Nokia' (Anniyan) and the song he composed for the maiden album of KayKay. All of them were good, but the crowd loved Hari more and when someone shouted, "Hareeeeeeeeeeee please take over", Hariharan came in again.

What followed was one of the best moments of my life, when he sang his ghazal 'Ye ayine se' (Kaash) in a Blues format (Aaromale style), which was top notch. After many people shouted for 'Tu Hi Re', he sang the Tamil version 'Uyirae'. I don't know why they ask him for it. He always kills the song on stage, which he did again, but the flute saved the day by playing a beautiful interlude in between. Then followed the exquisite 'Feel Alright' for which percussion was amazing and the beautiful rendition of a ghazal of Ghulam Nabi Azad and few more of their tracks. The concert ended with 'Krishna Nee Begane' (with an awesome Tabla thani avardhanam at the last interlude before Govinda Bholo Hare) and 'Khal Zhala' (which I was hearing for the first time). Almost everyone were sad that it had ended but did not hesitate to give a standing ovation to the duo that had swept us off our feet and kept us in the air for a while. I came back to senses. Except for the information about the song I passed on to my colleague when the song started, I was totally imagining an empty hall with only me in it. I loved it.

It was 10:00 PM and we walked up to the bike, our hearts filled with I-don't-know-what. Well, you just read about the electrifying day we had. As I dropped my colleague off and drove home, my mind went about all that happened and I knew I had something huge to write about. What a day! :)

PS: When I said you have got to be me to realize the importance of the concert, I did not mean that, if I had missed it, I'd have cribbed about it all my life. :)

Friday, November 05, 2010

For old times

It wasn't a normal day at work. Laughter echoed out of the number of empty cubicles. Half of them who had come to work seemed overjoyed and work couldn't have been more banal even to the most enthusiastic lot. It was a pretty different day for me too, because, we had ordered lunch from Subway. As we were sitting in the cafeteria and munching the delicious Corn & Peas sandwich, we heard the sound. It was loud, rhythmic, went on for sometime and gradually muted down. The until completely unaware mind, that was only thinking about packet processing, Ethernet frames, housing loan interest rates, RBI directed amendments and confirmation of my return ticket from CBE realized something. The last time I celebrated Diwali was in 2001.

Typical Diwali Month
I was brought up in a house where every festival from a low profile Aadi Friday to a high profile Diwali mattered a lot. Every single occasion was celebrated the typical, traditional way. So, the hype and hoopla around Diwali needs no mention. Almost as soon as the excitement of Navaratri (and all the sundal) started to fade, the Diwali rush would begin. Almost three weeks prior to Diwali, the neighbors would have started complaining about hearing gun shots from our house. Srinath and me would have started our Diwali celebration with cape guns, the first of our Diwali purchases. This would go on till the week before Diwali or until probably my mom gains resistance to my pleas of, "Amma, just one more gun. I'll not break it this time".

As for the new dress, I don't remember caring to ask for one. My mom knew our tastes really well and all I knew was that on the morning of Diwali, I'd have a new dress to wear. So, the important factor - Crackers. Swathi and myself would sit together to put up a list of crackers. Dad was not a big fan and Mom would seldom suggest more than few of her colorful favorites. She loved the beauty of the colorful ones though. Once the crackers reached home, we'd sit and assort them in two cartons, one for Swathi and the other for me. No crossing territories. We were sure that, upstairs, with the same kind of a division Srinath would be coming up with one such box as well.

The next excitement would be the TV programmes. Unlike today's torrent world, the only way to catch our favorite movies, after in the theatre, would be for festivals like Diwali/Pongal when each television channel would compete with each other for movie and time slots. This set up our itinerary on Diwali day (temple going, relative visiting etc). So, with a check on crackers, new dress and TV schedules, what next?

Diwali Eve - School
Most of the Diwali eves, except if Diwali fell on a Sunday/Monday, it would be a working day. Studying in Lisieux was the best thing that happened to me till date. When Fr. Xavier took charge as principal, he started celebrating every festival (religion bar) with grandeur. So, Diwali eve meant lots of bunking classes, the previous day, for choir practice. A pretty decent function with usual readings from all sacred texts (Bhagavad Gita, Quran and The Bible), addressing and the choir singing the good old 'Jothi Dho' bhajan. Eventually, we ourselves had gotten so bored of singing the same song, so we changed the trend and sung 'Krishna Nee Begane' (Colonial Cousins) and 'Eshwar Allah' (Earth) once.

After the morning assembly celebrations, we'd retire to our classrooms where they'd distribute a packet of mixture and a packet with a sweet. The best artists in the class would have decorated the board with their depiction of Diwali - an excuse that we would use later, so that, no teacher touched the board, except for an occasional mean staff who would heartlessly erase it and resume classes. When its almost 2:30 PM, the crackers buzz would start when the watchmen (Rangasamy anna and Balu anna) would be setting up the grand 10,000 LAR in the basketball court. As soon as the bursting starts, I'm sure each and everyone around me felt that same pumping excitement kick off. I'd cycle home with extra speed where lovely aroma of sweets/savories would be awaiting me at the gates, with a grand welcome.

Diwali Eve - @ Home
As I entered the house, I'd already be guessing around I-don't-know how many items. Almost all the sweets would be in their finishing stages and the kitchen would be the heaven for people who love food. Typical sweets would be chocolate/cashew/badam cake and on the salty side, pokada/murukku/muthuswaram etc. The routine son-touching-the-sweets and mom-slapping-the-hand telling him to wash his hands would follow. The biggest wonder to me would be how could she have possibly pulled off all this in the matter of few hours. I'd soon get ready and raid the upstairs kitchen to taste Periyammai's snacks as well. After all the tasting and helping to pack sweets that would have to go out that evening, we would bring out our cartons as darkness falls on Alagesan Road, Coimbatore.

Lighting up the candles, seeing that first spark of the first sparkler (kambithiri) only to see it burn till the end and that confusion of where to start marks the beginning of the crackers session. Once it started, there would be no looking back. We'd burst through the limit for the night and keep the rest for the morning - small counts of Flowerpots, Changu Chakram, Red Forts, Rockets and a 1000 LAR. Compared to the families opposite house, ours would be a very minimal share and would be over in no time.

Once we are done, we'd go and lock the houses tight and assemble in the balcony to witness the moment of the Diwali Eve. The big shot of the locality would lay down sacks and sacks of 'Ola Pattasu' that he imports from Trissur every year. It would run through most of our street, for kilometers long. Traffic through the streets would come to a halt for sometime and so much hoopla would surround the start of the fireworks. Trust me, it used to be a such a treat to watch. Man! He had taste. They used to light it up from both ends. The crackers would have burnt out in some time, unlike the buzzing sound in our ears that would take sometime to cease. And no matter, how much caution we'd taken, a ventilator pane or the balcony tiles or the TV or something would have been damaged. It happened for years together, but I don't think anyone complained because we knew we enjoyed it more than he did.

And the Diwali eve is not over yet. Some of the years our aunt (Dad's sister) in Palakkad would surprise us by coming over. The usual brother's excitement of seeing his sister would bubble up which means we all get to go for a ride with Dad, in and around Coimbatore and we would halt to grab whatever crackers is left in the last of the closing stores. By the time we reached home, we'd be exhausted and would hit the bed only to await the alarm at 3 AM.

The Diwali Day
Considering the enjoyment mentioned till now, one would guess that Diwali would be a fun-filled day, but the best part is definitely over. On Diwali, it used to be pretty much the same stuff. Oil bath, bursting of crackers, going to the Vinayagar Temple nearby, distributing sweets around the locality, Idlis for breakfast (upstairs or downstairs) and by around 10 AM we would have settled in front of the TV to spend the rest of the day there, except for a quick jumping out during the news break to exhaust the leftover crackers. Sometimes, we used to retain the stock for upcoming Kaarthigai. The evening would slowly come about and one more exciting Diwali would have come to a close, as the last of the movies for the day puts up credits. The only excitement left would be to wear the new dress to school one the first day after holidays.

Here I sit, listening to the occasional tudat-padat-zurrr-ziyumm sounding outside my window. Dad has tried to keep the aroma living with the super hot molagootal that is getting ready in the kitchen. I know its Diwali. I got calls from those friends who knew why they should talk to me today. I have more than many awesome reasons to call this Diwali a good one, but that's just there. So, I took my time out to relive the amazing life we lived in Coimbatore. After all, going over the past helps you shape the future. Cheers!