Monday, October 30, 2006

The race

There was a race at Mohali yesterday.

The spectators were trying to leave the stadium before Aussies finished the game.
The Aussies were trying to finish the game before the spectators left the stadium.

The Indian team lingered on till both left. Ask them who won.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Teachers of a different kind

All through our life we learn from teachers. And then as we stumble along, we get other people from whom we learn - friends, colleagues, mentors, apprentices. Me? I have learnt from room-mates.

The first is a guy who has the cleanest heart and the simplest mind one could have. A thought with an ulterior motive will probably never germinate in his mind. A guy who maintains a birthday calendar and wishes everyone at the stroke of twelve. He can never say NO, and hence is often found doing someone else's dirty work. He sees joy in the smallest of things - a simple meal of rice, a hit Telugu movie, a boundary in a cricket match - almost to the point of being child-like. He is often moody - sometimes revelling in little things of joy, sometimes going into a thinking mode and becoming silent, sometimes thinking about work and related stuff - which has led to us dubbing him senti, but nonetheless, he has great character. Oh, and yes, he is a wonderful cook, and he is insistent on keeping the kitchen clean - a bit Monica-esque.

He is our local interest-free loan bank, he always manages to arrange money when any of us is facing the crunch. From him, I have learnt to save money for a rainy day. From him I have realised that I want to be in a position where I can lend money at short notice. (Oh basically that means I want to have surplus money, and not just make ends meet). I have also learnt to take life seriously, to plan for the family. He does not do anything special - just the things a son would do, or a big brother would do for a kid sister - but for a guy like me who has not stayed with his parents for the last 13 years, it sure seems great.

As much as I have learnt to take life seriously from the first, I have learnt to let go from the second. In all the two years I have been with him, I have seen him lose his temper only once. A miniature version of him would look like the toy in the song - "aaDisi noDu, beeLisi noDu". He even rocks the same way when he laughs, holding his stomach. He takes everything in his stride - the only thing that comes out is a hearty resounding laugh. He is a master of parodising songs - he will twist the lyrics to his whims and fancies, and sings as if the bathroom is soundproofed. He has a strange obsession to puffed rice. He has this knack of conjuring up recipes with puffed rice. He will soak them and use them as a substitute for rice in chitranna. He will chop tomatoes and make tomato-puri in minutes. As a cook, he is second only to the first above (and that's because the rest of us would not be able to tell the difference between saarina-puDi and huLi-puDi)

His best quality is the ability to laugh at himself. He is invariably the butt of our jokes - we create and laugh at a joke on him, in front of him, and all he does is laugh with us. Every waking hour, he is poked fun at. We have poked fun of probably everything he does - his eating, his sleeping, his talking, his clothing and accessories, his hair, his voice - anyone else would perhaps been offended, given us a piece of his mind and changed rooms. But not him. He is a punching bag. He will take all your blows and never hit back. These two qualities of his, I would like to take back with me.

While the second taught me to let go, the third showed me how. Funny to the core, this guy is almost like Chandler, in dishing out one-liners and puns. He finds joy in the antics of Homer and Bart. I will perhaps, take back the most from this guy. Even though I knew him for years before he became my room-mate, I cashed in only in the last couple of years. Coming from a no-cable, no-loud-music background which, like the typical Indian Middle Class, favoured marks over runs or goals, I never had varied interests in English music, or movies, or sports. I imbibed most of my decent knowledge of sports and music from him. He explains to me, even today, in great detail, the different genres of music - and the best in those genres. He is an amazing database of statistics and reels them off the cuff. He points out to me, the intricacies of football and tennis. He tells the most inspiring anecdotes of sportsmen and musicians. Some of the best movies I have seen have been his recommendations. He has, arguably, the most impeccable dressing sense among the non-celebrities I know.

I shall probably remember him most for introducing me to Friends. I have since become a fan, something I share with another person close to my heart, and I have spent nights watching season after season on my laptop.

My fourth roomie is no longer a room-mate in the physical sense, he sold his girl and moved out five days short of completing two full years with us. The conversations are more on phones and reply-alls now. This guy is fiercely close to his parents and shares with me, a love for Mysore. Along with my third roomie, he has also helped in increasing my repertoire of english music. They always had topics to talk on, and I have picked up a lot of things being a silent observer to their conversations on music and sports.

Though we are all close-knit, there is a tangible closeness among some of us. Like the first and second are often dubbed "brothers" because of similar backgrounds, similar families, and a similar tongue of speech. But we are all equally fond of the fourth. A thing he mentioned to me in the days before he left will be the lesson I take back from him - that good fences make good neighbours.

So there you stand introduced to my four room-mates, who have shared time, space and life with me, over these two years. Not everyone is fortunate enough to get such roomies - I have friends who have room-mates for reasons purely financial, I know of people who are not happy with their room-mates - but in my room-mates I've got teachers of a different kind.

Guys, I know you will read it sometime now - no, I was not feeling senti (though I bet I made some of you senti). It's just that we're all kinda drifting apart, what with two of us here, two in UK and one in Bangalore, and with the possibility of living under the same roof again getting farther and farther away, I realised I have never thanked you guys. Hence this post, to thank you for being there, for making our stay in Pune that much more comfortable, for weaving together strands of your life into the fabric of mine.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Diwali

So its Diwali, a time for the whole family to come together and rejoice. A time when sons return home to be with their parents, a time when daughters get busy helping their mothers set the sweets aside, a time when kids light up crackers all over the place.

I remember, as kids, we used to heap together all the crackers our numerous aunts and uncles got from their Lions and Rotary Clubs, and from various cheeTi vyavaharas. Two days before, we used to spread all the crackers on a newspaper, and put them in the sun to dry, so that they would burst in a bang, and not just sputter in front of the neighbours.

I don't really know when I began to appreciate Diwali more as a festival of lights than sound, even though over years, Diwali has become just the opposite. I guess we just miss what has left us.

Like Thatha, for example.

I'm in Mysore this Diwali, like every year, but for Thatha's annual ceremony.

I've been very busy for some time now, and there are other updates as soon as I return to Pune, but till then, wish you a happy Diwali...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The journey of 40 kms ...

... begins with a bus.

Those who know me know I love travelling. Now, you know too. :D Alright, it was a dud joke.

Anyway, I have no special preference for the modes of travel, but somehow I had never had special affinity for buses. When my dad was in Andhra, we used to come to Mysore for the annual summer vacation. My tiny brain (at that time) registered very little of those journeys. I remember that before I fell asleep, the bus went in a long straight road which had eucalyptus trees on both sides, which gave way to dry fields bordered with parthenium and other thorny shrubs, and by the time I woke up, the bus would be descending a big jaaro banDe. Any guesses what the jaaro banDe was? Well, I'll let you Bangaloreans guess this, before I give the answer in the comments section. Muhahahaha. In any case, that was all I remember of those bus journeys.

Or bus-journeys in general. Until I joined engineering.

I have travelled in buses for the entire four years of my engineering, from Mysore to Mandya. The normal red ones - whose conductors allowed us in without a whimper; the special red ones, which claimed to be interstate buses, but whose conductors surreptitiously changed the board as soon as they entered Mandya from Bangalore - these conductors had to be fought against, because they barred us students to attract instead, passengers who would pay for their tickets; and the real interstate ones - in which students were not allowed - we have on occasion paid on these buses - sometimes in cash, sometimes in sheepish smiles.

The first year, it was all so new. And fun. Counting the number of hand-rails and pillars, walking up and down the aisle in the name of getting ragged, magnanimously allowing a bus to pull away because the seats were bad (yeah, I used to "drop" buses until I was late for an early class one day), flashing the bus-pass into the face of the conductor like it was the ID of a vigilance officer - you name it I had done it.

By the second year, it had become routine. The big gang of "fresher friends" had broken up into small groups - branch wise, class-wise and time-table-wise. We now had a specific bus to catch - Ghati Subramanya - because it had a lady conductor. And also because it made the 40 km distance 15 minutes earlier than the other buses, which took an hour. And those 45 mins were pure bliss. That particular bus was superbly maintained. Save for the occasional brake to save the stray dog from its suicidal death, it was pretty much a jerkless journey.

We didn't care about the buses by third year. We didn't care about the classes either. So we waited in the bus-stop, "dropping" bus after bus, until the whole "travelling" strength of our class assembled, and then we all crammed into the same bus. Unless of course, the lecturer who was supposed to take the class saw us waiting there. Yes, our lecturers travelled from Mysore, too. We would generously offer the seats in front to the normal passengers and occupy the last seats. And let the antics begin. We had more fun there, anyway. How many days we forced the government (forced the government??? $%&*%$* Ah!!! Youth power!!!) to run buses from Mysore to Mandya, without a single ticket collection. Yes - A bus full of hooligans, singing their way along. God forbid a fresher getting a bus like that in his first sem.

This was the year we enjoyed the most, I guess. The bus-stand had almost become our home. I even had a newspaper-wallah, who would hand me the paper at 7, when I came in and I would settle his accounts weekly. Till 7-15, we would scan the paper, waiting for the class to assemble. Yes, here. Our class assembled in the bus-stand. And then board any bus which had the last seat empty. We would reach Mandya by 8-15, catch an auto to the college a mile away, and storm into the canteen for a tea. We walked in the first year, enjoying the superb weather, but then, who wants to get all sweaty and tired before a class. An auto preserved the early morning drowsiness, which proved helpful in the class. ;)

The return journeys were more fun - in fact. It was the Mandya bus-stand that saw us wait more. Mysore was a terminus. We always got seats. But in Mandya, we had to wait for the buses which came from Bangalore. No sooner did a bus come in did the great collegian huddles run into a frenzy, throwing bags and hankies around. Usurping the whole last seat was the general aim. There have been times where the bus took just a bag, and the owner collected it from the cycle-stand. We all invariably parked at the Wellington Stand on Irwin Road, and the owner recognised almost everybody by face. I sometimes wonder about the life of these people - every year, they get a different set of people, and they establish a close relationship with everyone of them who chooses to say Hi to them. Amazing how tough bonds can become, even though they involve only saying Hi twice a day for four years.

Yes, four years. The final year was mostly of nostalgia. We had made sure we had only one theory subject for the final semester, so there was no need to come to college. Yet, once or twice a week, we found ourselves gathering in the bus-stand. We've taken photos inside the bus, making people wonder whether we had seen buses before. In these four years, I have memories of sitting in EVERY seat of the bus there is. So much so, we have an online group here.

It was a blissful time, and it appeased the travel-bug in me, so I have nothing to complain of. Even the seats - they taught me to appreciate the kind of seats we now have in Volvos. It can't get worse than having a mishmash of a plywood sheet, a threadbare cushion and a rexin cover bouncing aorund in the last row for a seat, does it? Now, I hear the college has employed buses to pick up students from the highway - from where we used to take an auto - and I wonder whether the kids now have as much fun as we had cramming five-six people into one auto and haggling with him for the fare.

I have no special preference for modes of travel - as long as the "travel" is there. I like to bike around - remind me to make a post of how we rode down to Mulshi on bikes - and drive cars, but I enjoy them more when I'm the one in the driver's seat. But now, I have an opinion of buses. I love them. And all the more because they take me to Bangalore in 16 hours flat. The train takes twenty.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Braking the break

The break did not do me any good.

Not writing has not helped me one bit - I'm still the same. Pangs of doubt and uncertainty hit me every now and then. I keep thinking of how to make it a win-win for all concerned, but I lose my way midway and think on what might happen if things would not work the way I want them to. I know there is only one outcome. But I just can't bully my way in there. I just don't want to hurt others on my way there.

Not them. Not after all they have done.
Not them. Not for believing in me.
Neither them. For no fault of theirs.

If only I could make others see my viewpoint and set everything right with a flourish of a wand, I would. Alas, I am endowed with no such powers, and I will have to undergo the uncertainty of it all. The dark clouds meandering over me shall pass to yield a brighter light. But the stream cannot stop till such time. The stream has to flow, lest it develop algae, in its stagnation.

I am back.