Thursday, July 27, 2006


Winning is so good isn't it?

Last weekend saw me playing badminton after a long time, and with a new partner. I usually tire out after three back-to-back games, there is only so much an amateur can take. It was raining, so there was not much of a rush, courts were relatively free. Usually getting to play three full games is a big thing in itself. But Saturday, I played, in a row and won all three. Heh heh heh.

I had almost cooled down and ready to leave, while my partner called me for another game he was playing with a different set of guys. Needless to say, we won that match too. All this after a cardio workout at the gym, and on one red mug of Nescafe Classic. In retrospect, I think I should have bought a lottery ticket too, that day. Nothing seemed to go wrong at all.

On Sunday, everything was as usual. I lost my team more points than I gained it. Heh heh heh. I played with different partners, and ended up on the losing side. And mind you, after the second loss, I didn't feel like another game. That in itself, was instrumental in losing the third game.

Like I said, winning is so good. It goads you on and on, and you feel so unstoppable. Monday morning saw me with a blister on my right hand. Time to change the grips on the racket, I guess.

Unless I win, in which case of course, the racket is not what matters, talent is.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What would you do?

I'm usually not bothered by mood swings. I do feel down sometimes, because I spend some time alone brooding on things past, present and future, but its not something that affects my daily routine. But once in a blue moon, I really get pissed off at things, and feel low - down and out - for no apparent reason. And when I am like this, I am best left alone. Those who attempt to talk to me, are either snubbed "I don't want to talk" or get the cold shoulder. Very rarely does someone actually succeed in probing me enough to get to the root of it all. Usually its the pent up feelings of not being able to do something, or something which fizzes out like a no-brainer, when I was very eagerly looking forward to it.

A particular Sunday was like that. I was acting very cranky. Silly thoughts wandering in my mind, and the whole of that weekend, all the forces of nature seemed to have conspired to make me feel miserable.

It was then that she called. And I'm glad she did. For the first time in many months. Even though we don't speak often, I cherish the conversations I have had with her. That day she chose to speak on Ayn Rand. Given the mood I was in, philosophy was the last thing I wanted to discuss. I kept looking at a tree from my window, while she was going on...and the conversations took an inane turn.

Her: "What are you doing now?"
Me: "Looking at a tree."
Her: 'Are there any birds?"
Me: "No."
Her: "Oh, they must have gone to find some food."

We spoke like this about the birds, trees and the sky, till she brought up "Bruce Almighty". And popped a question - "What would you do if you were God?"

My mood was out, and I was looking at the ants walking in a line on the windowsill, and I had no spontaneous answer. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I ventured, " I don't know. I've never thought of it before. Being God....hmmm" and trailed off. Then I asked "Tell me, what would you do?"

Her answer stumped me and shook the bad languor of my mood.

"You know what," she said, "I wouldn't do anything. I'm happy the way it is now".
"But, surely you would want something. If not for yourself, wouldn't you do anything for others?"
"No. Because I don't need supernatural powers to do that. You don't have to be God to do something for others. You can do it being yourself, too."
"Tell me, why would you need to be God to help others? What prevents you from doing it now?"

I could only nod, while I listened to her, and looked at the ragpicker rummaging for something in the dustbin on the road below. What prevented me from helping him. Nothing.

She changed the topic soon and we were again talking on mundane topics like the trees and birds, but the question still lingers on...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And the day after

Eighteen hours after the first bomb ripped through strategic points of the western line, which connects Churchgate to Virar, Mumbai has bounced back admirably. Schools, Colleges and Offices remain open, and people are keen to put the tragedy behind them and resume their routine.

Once again, the spirit of Mumbai triumphs over the tragedy, and like in the floods last year, people did not care or wait till the government machinery started rolling its wheels. One for all, and all for one, they showed the human face of Mumbai, televisions were flooded with images of people offering biscuits and water, volunteers were searching high and low for information which might help the persons next to them, citizens rallied around donating and appealing for others to donate blood, and for once, the media is not showing the gruesome tragedy, but the way the people overcame it.

In all tragedies, waiting is worse than knowing. Knowledge breaks the heart, so that it may begin to heal, but waiting rends the heart over and over again. And in order to counter this, Mumbai Help came up with a mindblowing idea. They set up this post, which served as a forum, and people all over posted their name and number as well as the name and number of the persons they wanted to contact. Mumbai Help contacted these persons as and when they could, and reverted to the next of kin who posted the messages. More than a hundred fears were laid to rest this way. They used all the means they could - telephones, cellphones, texting, and sometimes in person.

They have now set up a wiki for the same, and a train schedule as well.

Try as we might, we cannot fill the void left in the lives of those who lost their loved ones, but we pray for their souls to rest in peace. We wish the injured well, and hope they get back on their feet soon, and let the scars heal. Bravo!!! Mumbai Help and Thank you, you have contributed in ways more than one, to help Mumbai bounce back the way it did from the face of tragedy.

Update: Hospital-wise list of dead and injured people here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Re-tying old strings

The first school I ever went to was Chaitanya Central School in Mehboobnagar, Andhra. I left it in Class 5, and had I been a bit older, I am sure I would have apprehensions on leaving the school. I loved every bit of it.

We lived in dad's factory quarters at Pillalamarry Road. The old campus of the school was in Rajendranagar. My sister used to attend classes there, but I dont remember visiting that campus once or twice, to get sis's paperwork done or when Dad had to meet some official. All the memories I have are of Yenugonda campus. Even at that point of time, the campus was a sprawling one. The bus would enter from the city, crossing an unmanned railway line, and through muddy roads until we saw a milky white building emerge. There was a paan-shop, selling sweetmeats at the entrance.

The building's entrance opened up a few steps ahead, bang in the middle, flanked by rows of classrooms on either side. When you walked up the entrance, you could see a flight of stairs going up to a landing, and TWO flights of stairs doing a right about-turn to the first floor rooms. These rooms were used by the residential students, and faculty members. There was a collapsible door, which prevented students from trespassing there during class-hours. The landing had a plush room, which was the principal's office.

Back to the entrance, when you stood facing the principal's room, you could see that the room to your right was the library, and then the higher classrooms (IX, X). Further to the classrooms, there was an open handwash-plaza, if you can call it that. Basically it was your kitchen sink extended into a L shape, with 5-6 taps on each leg. Beside that was the field. This was where the buses would pick up the students, and during classhours, would be parked. There were two buses - Blue bus and the Yellow Bus as we called it. The Blue bus had a driver with a flowing goatee, and we would call him "Pilli gaddam" (roughly, cat-beard)

Beyond the buses was the playground, for as far as the eye could see. Towards your right hand side was a rudimentary cricket pitch, and to the left was a mildly sandy football ground. It must have been a full-sized football ground, because by the time we took the ball towards the other goal, it would have been end of PT period. Enough of soiling your shoes, come walk back with me, as I go towards the library.

Again, I stand facing the flight of stairs, and suddenly it strikes me that the national anthem was sung here every evening before close of school. My sister was in the choir, and her classmates used to play the drums and cymbals. To my left now, were classrooms again, until we reached the end of the block, and there was again a small staircase, leading to that paan-shop through a passage in the bushes. There was a toilet complex too, if you went this way. But if you took a right, instead of going into the staircase leading down, you would reach another block perpendicular to the entrance block. Now, this is an elevated platform we are walking on, with the classrooms on one side, and the ground a couple of feet below on the other.

All the classrooms were named after scientists. I remember my sister's classroom named "Niels Bohr", and each room had a wooden plate with its class and section painted in white. The last room in the block we are walking is the Lab. Both Chemistry and Biology were inside. I dont know what Physics was doing. At the end, again, there were steps to get off the corridor, onto the ground. Again, if you took left, you could reach the toilet complex behind.

To the right of this block, which would mean, right parallel to the entrance block, we had the primary section. This was not on an elevated platform, but was on dear old terra firma. ( Maybe they thought we had enough head weight already, so no need of elevating them further ). My time in this school was entirely in this section, but I had the special privilege of walking on the corridors, whenever I went to meet sis.

Next to the primary block was a canteen, which was used by the residential students. I never ventured inside, as mama used to pack lunches for me and sis, but I could see the black stone gleaming inside. Sis was in the hostel once for a week, when Dad, Mom and me had come to attend an uncle's wedding in Mysore. I remember eating my lunches on the ground, furthermore right to the canteen, in the red hard mud, which served as a court for net games. (And before you think why you need a muddy ground to play a game on the PC, let me clarify, those net games were games which needed a volleyball, badminton, throwball and suchlike). Sis used to sit further ahead, with her friends, in the soft sand near the football ground.

Now I have given you a rough quadrangle of the school, the only thing I have missed is the dais. The dais was behind the flight of stairs which led to the Principal's room. You could reach it through the corridors, and this was where the teachers would stand together, with few chosen students, who did the morning prayers and read the day's news. And from where the dais started, we kids would stand, classwise, section-wise, height-wise, and the last person would almost reach the primary school block behind. Mikes and speakers would be out every morning and evening.

And as I write this, I have made a sketch of how the school looked, on a sheet of paper. It has been 14 years since I left that place. And yet I remember it so vividly. It must have changed a lot in these 14 years, and I dont even know how it looks now. Now I feel I have to go there and visit it, just to relive those days. I missed that school so much. As I said earlier, if I were a couple of years elder, I would have preferred to stay in the hostel, and never leave the place. A visit to Hyderabad is on cards for a long long time, and when it materializes, I will go to Yenugonda, too.

Why this post, you wonder, I came across my school community in, and I found an old friend too, but inspite of the minutest details I gave him of our time together, he could not place me. I also came across a beautiful girl, who I knew was my teacher's daughter. How, you ask? My maths teacher's family had unconventional Sanskrit names - the girl's name is Snigdha (In Sanskrit, it means fair, which I remember she was), her brother's name was Veda Vyas. Their mother's name was Adyasree.

More on this school and town, later.